I was 20 and closeted during my first time through a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Temple “endowment” is required before serving a mission — an invaluable part of many members’ life paths. The rituals, symbolism and beauty of the Salt Lake Temple filled me with awe. I had received a figurative golden key to celestial glory.
Heterosexuality is assumed of all initiates. Temple worshipers covenant to live the church’s law of chastity that yet holds all gay sex as sin. The endowment ceremony imparts a vision of humanity’s greatest potential. Yet it unwittingly sets up LGBTQ members on a near-certain collision course between faith and sexuality that shatters and cuts in countless tragic ways.
President Russell M. Nelson is a reformer. Recently announced “adjustments” reportedly resolve what some had experienced as sexist aspects of the endowment. Just like that, the anachronisms are gone. An accompanying announcement reminded: “There will be no end to such adjustments as directed” under revelation. Such perspective is of value: Even churches are imperfect and bear refinement toward a goal of perfection.
Just as the endowment ceremony has been rid of sexism, it will one day be freed of heterosexism. That is my hopeful prayer.
How? For all of heaven’s willingness to grant guidance to those who seek, church leaders have not yet related a vision of how sexual minorities’ fit into our Creator’s plan of happiness. Such vision is sorely overdue.
A clear resolution would extend the word “spouse,” used in temples, to same-sex unions. Religious precepts reside within religious freedom and are not for compulsion. Still, awareness about sexual orientation — that God’s creation is wonderfully diverse — teaches respect for spiritual equality of sexual minorities, as with race, and gender.
The law of adoption, formerly practiced in church temples, provides a precedent. During early years of the restoration, men were sealed together in eternal unions. Same-sex sealings may not have been for romantic unions historically, yet the rite manifested an expansive view of sealings beyond the one option offered today.
When? Adjustments evolve from President Kimball’s gay-bashing rhetoric from the late 1960s and later marriage-equality battles to a future of full spiritual equality. The Great Commandments call for greater love for those misjudged as other. The Golden Rule surely extends to granting minority members a similar chance at joyful romantic love like those in the majority.
As a believer in the potential of Joseph Smith’s original visions, I maintain hope in a movement that yet claims revelation. So much, though, has already been revealed through various channels of human progress, like science. Medical knowledge includes that homosexuality is a “natural variation of human sexuality.” That truth bears integration in our religious communities as well as in civic ones.
Spiritual equality means moving past the disastrous notion that for us, the cost of salvation is sacrifice of our sexuality. In truth, salvation is Christ’s gift of mercy, paid in full, for each one who qualifies.
Church leaders are due credit for adjustments nearing clearer vision of LGBTQ souls’ inherent dignity like abandoning conversion therapy, permitting greater diversity at church universities, supporting some LGBTQ civil-rights, and engaging related topics in more productive ways like discouraging family rejection of LGBTQ youth.
Further progress is urgently needed. LGBTQ members are due a respected place within our church families without constraint to conform to heterosexuality—a miserably improbable contortion for homosexuals over the long run. Minority believers need a better way. Our love bears potential to bind together in union, as blessed, and holy, as any other.
Sam Wolfe is an attorney and writer living in Mexico City where he is completing a book about his quest to harmonize sexuality and spirituality as a queer latter-day saint.