A RESEARCH-BASED DISCUSSION OF THE FOLLOWING FOUR IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:
- Will sexual orientation change efforts be successful?
- Is lifetime celibacy a realistic goal?
- Is heterosexual marriage feasible for someone who is predominantly homosexual?
- What about committed same-sex relationships?
What does predominantly homosexual mean? The Kinsey Scale is a simplified way to describe the spectrum of sexual orientation. A person with a score of 0 is exclusively heterosexual and a person with a score of 6 is exclusively homosexual. People in the middle have varying degrees of attraction to both sexes. Those who have Kinsey positions in the mid-range of 2-4 are bisexual, and many can and do marry the opposite sex successfully–most are not even significantly troubled after the teen years (see the studies below for more details). A Kinsey Score of 5 or 6 indicates a person is predominantly homosexual. Although the Kinsey Scale has been criticized for being overly simplistic, it is still a useful framework in a lot of situations. It is helpful to understand that there is wide variation and a continuum of sexual orientation, including homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality. A person’s place on this continuum is very relevant to what options are available to them when answering these questions. The Kinsey Scale is the most often cited scale that quantifies the range of homosexuality versus heterosexuality, and your teen/young adult can begin to consider his/her position on the Scale here. There are other important considerations, a few of which are shared experience/history of the couple, religious values, beliefs, and spiritual experiences. So it should be noted that Kinsey position is not the only important consideration in such a marriage decision. However, if a person’s Kinsey Scale is in the heterosexual or bisexual range, then the issue of dealing with homosexual attractions in a heterosexual marriage are a much different experience than those who are predominantly homosexual.
Will sexual orientation change efforts be successful?
- Lee Beckstead, Ph.D., is likely the most prominent Mormon in the scientific community on sexual orientation. He completed a doctoral dissertation at the University of Utah in 2001 and later published his findings in a series of journal articles and presentations. Lee was a member of the 2009 American Psychological Association task force on the appropriate therapeutic response to sexual orientation. Lee’s dissertation looked carefully at the question of how people in the LDS community respond to formal sexual orientation change efforts. You can find here a summary of his findings for those who felt they had benefitted from such therapy and for those who felt they were harmed (Review of Studies on Sex Reorientation Therapy). You may find this summary easier and nearly as helpful as reading his 400-page dissertation or this refereed article by him.
- A more recent study has now been published in four different refereed articles which you can find at the following links 1. Psychosocial Correlates of Religious Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction: A Mormon Perspective 2. Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Through Psychotherapy for LGBA Individuals Affiliated With the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 3. Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Among Current or Former LDS Church Members 4. Specific Aspects of Minority Stress Associated With Depression Among LDS Affiliated Non-Heterosexual Adults. However, you can find an interesting and useful summary of this dissertation on LDS LGBT individuals (with a sample of over 1600 individuals) by John Dehlin and his advisors at Utah State University and BYU–2011. The summary is here—(Exploration of Experiences and Psychological Health of Same-sex Attracted Latter-day Saints: A Utah State University Research Project)
- Several earlier surveys were done with smaller samples. They show essentially the same findings. These, along with therapist reports, the experience of a bishop who counseled gays extensively, and others with LDS experience on change therapy are linked here. For these five related reports on LDS clients see The Persistence of Same Sex Attraction in Latter-day Saints Who Undergo Counseling or Change Therapy, Ron Schow, Robert A. Rees, William Bradshaw, and Marybeth Raynes. One of these 5 reports is a 1994 Survey with an n=136. A survey with an n=165 can be found at Homosexuality Among Highly Religious Mormons HAHRM Gary Horlacher, 2003 and 2007. scroll down to find HAHRM
Based on the findings by Beckstead, Dehlin, Horlacher, Schow et al, and others, we are persuaded that for adults eighteen and older who feel certain of their sexual orientation, such adult feelings of attraction do not generally go away. You can study this material and draw your own conclusions, but most sources, even conservative sources on this issue, agree with this conclusion that “the feelings do not go away.”
The following are three challenging questions that each person needs to answer for him/her self. Here are some initial thoughts and resources drawing from the science and other reports. You can use internet anecdotal reports on this site to review videos and essays that will help you and, more importantly, your teen/young adult to find what is feasible. Your child will eventually make this important decision so we consider it important that you know there are pros and cons to each of the three choices. We think this will help you appreciate the challenge they face in making this decision and we urge that you help and support them regardless of their choice, once they are fully committed to one of these paths. Their decision needs to be made with a lot of thought, education and self-understanding. What is clear is that this decision needs to be made free of pressure and expectations. A teen needs to feel free to explore possibilities mentally, and try to come to terms with their own reality as far as sexual “orientation” which in the Oaks/Wickman interview is referred to as a “core characteristic of a person.” A teen needs to be supported as he/she dreams of the future and imagines different possibilities with their different consequences. If a teen or young adult feels undo pressure to pursue any single path they won’t be free to assess their own reality and the numerous factors that need to be taken into account.
Is lifetime celibacy a realistic goal?
Once you and your teen/young adult have confronted and pondered the question of change, he or she will need to consider whether a path of celibacy (single abstinence) is feasible. This is a challenging issue, but clearly it is one that must be considered carefully if your child wants to remain temple worthy and is predominantly homosexual. While celibacy is feasible for some, lifetime celibacy can be a sobering prospect, as can be seen by the quality of life measures in the Dehlin study (see PFLAG presentation). However, in the “NorthStar” resources on this site you can view videos of some who speak about their celibacy experience and intentions.
One approach, when a teen is involved, is to simplify this daunting choice: Choose Chastity. Chastity is already the norm and equalizes LGBT and straight youth to the same standard. It postpones the decision of celibacy until adulthood. Such a lifetime commitment would need to be made later in life, in any case. But chastity is already the expected norm in the Church. It gets a child safely to adulthood. It focuses the child on monogamy which is a safer lifestyle whether they stay in the Church or not. It allows them to develop and maintain hope during their youth, and it permits them to serve a mission if they so choose. Most adult LGBT individuals found their missions to be positive and worthwhile experiences, regardless of the path they later chose in life.
Is heterosexual marriage feasible for someone with strong homosexual attractions?
In the “NorthStar” resources on this site you can find videos and essays which describe some of these marriages. You will find there a sample of Mormons who have made such marriages work with reasonable success and feel this is a satisfying option for them to meet their yearnings for intimacy, connection and family that also bring them life-long fulfillment and opportunities for service
Heterosexual marriage in these cases is also covered if you review the change question on the Church section of this site. There Elder Holland notes that such marriages “are not an all purpose solution.” The guidance of Elder Oaks you can read there is quite specific and is helpful as to the times when such marriages are feasible. Among other things, he refers to orientation when he says marriage would be appropriate when an LDS male feels “…a great attraction for a daughter of God…”
What about committed same-sex relationships?
One important final comment in the gospel spirit of this site—is that all three options (celibacy, heterosexual marriage, committed same-sex relationships) are being chosen and that the LDS individuals who choose each of these options need to be supported and helped to maintain their faith and helped to keep the gospel in their lives.