Not all LDS men who have same-sex attraction desire gay sex, a speaker said Thursday during the opening session of a meeting of Mormon apologists. Many want to follow church teachings either to marry or remain celibate.
"Just because somebody is gay does not mean they need a same-sex relationship. We may not choose our attractions, but we do choose our behaviors," Joshua Johanson told hundreds of people gathered at Sandy's South Towne Expo Center for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research. "My attraction is [toward men], but my desire is to be faithful to my wife. I am here to act and not to be acted upon."
The two-day gathering, which concludes Friday, includes 14 sessions relating to Mormonism ranging from controversial topics such as feminism and racism to traditional apologetics about Mormonism's founding scripture, The Book of Mormon.
"The first day has been lively and informative," FAIR President Scott Gordon said.
About 350 people are attending, which Gordon said is more than last year.
Johanson detailed his approach to the conflicting messages coming from his church and the culture.
"I was never attracted to girls, until Alyssa came into my life. â¦ The more time I spent with her, the more we fell in love. Then, I started wanting to kiss her, like a lot. I wanted to do more," Johanson said. "I had never had those feelings for a woman before, and she remains the only woman to whom I am sexually attracted."
The two were married in the LDS Oakland Temple and now have a young son.
But they don't feel supported by activists, even in the church, Johanson said. "The gay-rights movement no more represents me just because I am gay than the feminist movement represents my wife because she is female."
Critics presume that attraction naturally leads to a desire for same-sex relationships, but that is not always the case, he said. "There are many faithful Latter-day Saints who have overcome their desire for same-sex relationships. LDS Family Services estimates there are four or five members in every ward with SSA, and about half have a temple marriage and kids."
It's not about "changing your attractions," Johanson said in an interview, "it's about managing them."
After the speech, many attendees shared their stories people who are married to someone with same-sex attraction, someone whose son has it, and others.
In a separate FAIR session, Neylan McBaine described changes the LDS Church could make to enhance the participation of its female members.
"There is a tremendous amount of pain among our women regarding how they can or cannot contribute to the governance of our ecclesiastical organization," said McBaine, founder of the online Mormon Women Project and associate creative director for LDS Church-owned Bonneville Communications, which produces the "I'm a Mormon" campaign. "The pain is real."
McBaine cited a 2011 survey of 3,000 Mormons who had left the church, which reported that 47 percent cited women's issues as a "significant" reason for their loss of faith. Among women respondents, that percentage climbed to 63 percent, and 70 percent for single Mormon women.
"Denying this pain or belittling it," she said, "is an all too common occurrence among both our men and our women."
McBaine suggested shifting the model from a hierarchical to a cooperative one, where men and women work together but not in identical roles. She offered several suggestions for increasing women's stature and visibility: consistently using the title "president" when referring to women leaders; having local women leaders routinely sit on the stand so congregants know them; inviting female leaders to speak monthly as men on the stake high council do; quoting women's speeches as often as men's; allowing women to be the last speaker in Mormon services; and inviting girls to participate in the Pinewood Derby.
McBaine's great-great-grandmother once was described as a "prophetess and revelator," McBaine said. "Can you imagine using such language of empowerment to describe the female leaders in your wards?"
Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research
O Learn more about FAIR at fairlds.org.