Is homosexuality a sin or a biological fact?

Although not a General Authority, Daniel K. Judd currently serves as the First Counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was the chair of the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. Brother Judd has a Master’s degree in family science and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from BYU.

He is a consultant with LDS Family Services and a member of the Know Your Religion Faculty. He has published much material and is the author of “Hard Questions, Prophetic Answers,” and the editor of “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Religion,” as well as “Religion, Mental Health, and the Latter-day Saints (video here).”

The list could go on and on, but the point I wish to make is that I believe him to be most eminently qualified for his material that I am about to present on the very difficult subject of homosexuality. He has been a bishop and a Stake President, and has been intimately involved in providing family counseling for many, many years on this very topic.

Why I write about homosexuality

I raise this difficult subject only after much thought and prayer. It comes up as a natural progression of my blogging activities lately which have touched upon same sex attraction and defining marriage here in the State of California. I have had much dialog with those who feel the pull of same sex attraction but do not participate in homosexual activities. I also have had some conversation with those who are openly involved in the gay lifestyle.

To state my position up front: I am not gay. I have never experienced same sex attraction to any degree. I am passionate about marriage and family and believe it to be a source of some of my greatest happiness. I have never suffered abuse as a child or an adult and have always felt loved and cherished as an individual of worth by my family and by my Heavenly Father. My desire in writing this is simply to understand another point of view.

The source of the essay from which I take my quotes today can be found in this article on the Deseret Book site. It was published in 2004 but is just as pertinent today as it was back then. It is prominently referenced on the Evergreen International site under articles. I was profoundly impressed with the depth of compassion and understanding exhibited in the essay, apparently a chapter from his book on Hard Questions, Prophetic Answers.

God did not intend us to be homosexual

He recites a letter from a young man announcing to his family that he is gay. Says Brother Judd, “He believes he is homosexual and has found some seasonal peace in being ‘honest’ about who he believes himself to be. The real tragedy of this story, as well as the doctrinal reality in it, is that this young man has been deceived into being honest about a lie.” If you have never heard or read this before, please continue on before jumping to conclusions. This is important.

“He has come to believe and act upon the false notion that being homosexual is the way God intended him to be and that change is not necessary or even possible. Although this young man may have a biological predisposition for some of the physical and emotional characteristics that sometimes accompany the homosexual lifestyle, it is both a doctrinal truth and a scientific fact that his biology does not force him to engage in homosexual relationships.

“This young man may indeed be more susceptible to homosexual temptation than many other young men his age, and he may not have capriciously chosen to think and to feel the way he does, but the doctrinal fact is that he is “free to act for [himself] —to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life” (2 Nephi 10:23). The focus of Brother Judd’s writings, and indeed the position of the Church is that we are free to choose our behavior.

Born that way – how is that possible?

In a previous post I had a fascinating dialog with someone who pointed me to several resources that helped me tremendously in understanding more about this subject. I confess that I at one time thought it was very simple. I wrote that it could be dealt with just as with any other temptation such as pornography, through self-control and through redirection of passion into a more positive channel. I still feel this is a valid approach.

The point that was new to me is that some are suggesting that Elder Wickman’s choice of words in this interview means that the Church has changed its position. In the detailed interview, Elder Wickman used the words, “…one’s gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person…” Unless I misread it, this apparently meant to some that being gay is simply the way they are and that there is nothing they can do about it.

I note that Elder Oaks did not use the phrase “core characteristic.” I have thought long and hard about this. I do not believe that Elder Wickman meant to imply that we were born to be homosexuals. I hope nobody uses this as a justification to engage in any kind of homosexual behavior by concluding, “Well, if a General Authority says I was born this way and there’s nothing I can do about it, then why not just give in to these feelings?”

Elder Oaks teaches correct doctrine

Elder Oaks wrote, “Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and ‘lifestyle’ we engraft upon them.” Choice is an essential part of our existence.

Brother Judd wrote, “The Lord and His prophets have taught that God did not create His children to be gay or lesbian and that for those who suffer with this affliction, change is possible. Also, contrary to what the young man in the story found in his own research, reliable scientific research supports the doctrinal truth that change is possible—someone who experiences same-sex attraction can work towards, and in time experience, a change in sexual orientation.”

Elder Oaks explained, “We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.”

Homosexuality is a temptation

I maintain that homosexual behavior is a temptation. Putting it in the same category as pornography may have been a bit simplistic but not far off. There are many men in the church who have been devastated by their addiction to pornography and masturbation. It is my observation that those who struggle with same-gender attraction suffer the same if not even more powerful pull of the temptation to engage in homosexual behavior.

I appreciate the education I have received that same-sex attraction may indeed be a part of our biological makeup. But I can’t believe that we were sent here to be anything other than the gender that we possessed in our pre-mortal life. The prophets teach that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” I don’t believe that a woman is born into a man’s body or vice-versa.

We teach as a Church that the source of temptation is the adversary. I think that we are sometimes hesitant to clearly identify that the adversary works through the spirits that followed him from the pre-earth life to here. He also works through those who have died addicted to the flesh and remain here with the intent to use the mortal tabernacle of those who will give in to their suggestions and temptations to engage in homosexual behavior.

Summary and conclusion

Let’s focus on the hope that is in Jesus Christ. He is the source of all hope and all power. However, that hope and power is dependent upon our exercise of faith in Him. He has the power to heal us. He has the power to bless us and help us as we struggle through the temptations of this life. He is the only one who understands perfectly the whisperings of the adversary that tempt us and try us. He was also tempted but gave them no heed.

As Brother Judd concluded in his article, we may not know all the reasons or explanations for same-sex attraction. Although I do not feel this pull, I know there are those who do, and perhaps are more susceptible to it because of their biological makeup. Some things we may not know until we pass through this life and are educated when we get to the other side. We may also never be fully healed until we are no longer subject to mortal bodies.

There are members of the church who have unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction and have to deal with them everyday. For others, it is something that they have overcome but must be constantly vigilant. Some have not accepted the doctrines as taught by Apostles and Prophets and have given in to the temptations. So is homosexual behavior a sin? Yes, it is. Is same-sex attraction a biological fact? Yes, I now believe that this may also be true.

Additional information

1. LDS Family Services
2. Evergreen International
3. LDS Resources
4. God Loveth His Children
5. LDS Newsroom Interview
6. NorthStar
7. Northern Lights
8. Elder Oaks on SGA
9. Elder Holland on SGA
10. Daniel Judd’s article

15 thoughts on “Is homosexuality a sin or a biological fact?”

  1. Nick Literski

    I appreciate the education I have received that same-sex attraction may indeed be a part of our biological makeup. But I can’t believe that we were sent here to be anything other than the gender that we possessed in our pre-mortal life. The prophets teach that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” I don’t believe that a woman is born into a man’s body or vice-versa.It appears that you are confusing two very different issues. Homosexuality is not an issue of what gender a person is. Being a gay man is not the same thing as feeling that you are a woman born into a man’s body. While there are a very small number of homosexuals who also experience what therapists call “gender dysphoria,” the two are very distinct conditions. As a gay man, I certainly am under no impression that I have a “female spirit,” nor do I in any way, shape, or form, want to be a woman. I like my parts just fine, thanks.Therefore, the LDS teaching that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” has no bearing on the issue of homosexuality. Rather, that statement addresses those who consider themselves transgendered.

  2. “that for those who suffer with this affliction, change is possible.”I am not sure that Brother Judd’s 2004 conclusion is still a teaching of the Church, at least to the extent it implies that any person’s sexual orientation can change during this life if a person just works hard enough at it with enough faith. In God Loveth His Children, in nuanced language, the Brethren write:”In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender. While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life. However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children. “Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing.”I do agree that it is possible to be celibate in this life from all sexual activity. I question whether it is possible for everyone to change his or her sexual orientation in this life from feeling an attraction toward one sex to feeling it for another. I do not think the Brethren teach that it is necessarily possible for any righteous person to change sexual orientation, and that is part of why they implicitly bless a decision by a gay or lesbian member to refrain from marriage to a person of the opposite sex for whom they feel no sexual attraction.DavidH

  3. it maybe hard and difficult and painful and harsh, the Church through the Living Prophet make a stand, and just like in times of old, we can choose to follow or not to follow. I know, and I feel the pain of so many others out there, but as for me and my family, we will side with the Lord.

  4. The truth is that members of the church who wholeheartedly commit themselves to the Lord will give to him every part of themselves. This includes our thoughts, actions, and yes, even our sexuality. It doesn’t happen in an instant. It takes a lifetime.Sometimes we, as church members, become focused on the mormnorm progression: grow up, serve a mission, get married, bear children, serve in callings, die and go to the Celestial Kingdom. In truth, no one’s life truly follows that outline, and the components of that time-line are peripheral to the purpose of this life which was to come to earth and be tested.Each person’s test will be different. Some will seem more difficult than others. Some will be less understood than others. All will be tested to the utmost, in the hopes that in the end we will yield every part of who we are to the Lord and allow him to shape us into the best person we can become.Interestingly, we weren’t given our tests in isolation. We were placed on the earth together so that we might help one another along the way. In the process, it’s easy to become confused or side-tracked.My thanks to you, Brother Malone, for trying to understand a very difficult part of our lives, and for not running from or ignoring something which for many within the church is highly uncomfortable. Those of us with SSA have often felt invisible, and that our agony is not worthy of discussion or acknowledgment. Thankfully, our General Authorities are talking about it, as are caring members of the church who wish for us to be included in their congregations.One more thing–thank you for including uplifting resources not sponsored by the church in your list of additional information. There is very little, as of now, available to us, and many bishops and other leaders are lamentably unprepared to help us deal with the stress of living with SSA. I think, I hope, that with time this could change.

  5. I know this is random, but I’m writing a paper from Germany and I need some help with a few points. The title of my paper is “A Peculiar People: How Mormonism Both Fits and Denies Classification in Lambert’s Religion in American Politics.” Can anyone help me with these things? I’m posting these questions on my blog as well, so I’ll take replies there. think my main problem is that I know things I’ve learned from a life as a Mormon, but I don’t know where to quote them from. The secondary problem is that sources from here in Germany are limited. Some things I can find online, most not. So, here are the things I need some help finding sources for:-I know that Mormons have historically also been Democrats and (correct me if I’m wrong) it was because Republicans renounced slavery and polygamy as the two worst evils. Have Mormons changed parties another time?-In the 1840s, a lot of Catholic Irish immigrants came to America. How did this affect the Mormons? Do we have any documents about this? Was there as much preaching in Ireland as in England?-Where can I find a full copy of the text of Boggs’s Missouri Executive Order 44 (Extermination Order)? (I can find the image, but can’t read it.)-What was the church’s reaction to the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925?-I know about the shift from The Uniform System for Teaching the Gospel to Preach My Gospel. Have there been other shifts in preaching methods?-What did Mormons think about the dropping of the atomic bomb? (I would look on Desnews, but their archives only go to 1988 online.)-Did Mormons see a special need to spread the gospel to communists during the Cold War?-I need a lot of information about the Civil Rights Movement from the Mormon view. I know that the Church was against the ERA (although I still need Church documentation thereof), but better rights for blacks? Did they feel a need for that?-When Jimmy Carter had “National Family Week” in 1979, he upset the evangelists because he also invited alternative families, including gays. Were Mormons also invited? What did Mormons think about it?-There are a lot of different statistics for levels of education and income for Mormons on the internet, are there statistics somewhere a little more . . . respectable? I know there’s a reference book at the library in Salt Lake, but I don’t recall what it’s called.-Where can I find all the proclamations and letters that the Church has sent out? Is there actually a place?-In what years did the Church adopt a website, email, satellite technology, etc.?Anyone who helps me out will get a free copy of my paper sent to them when I’m done. If they want it. Ha ha.

  6. sweetisthepeace

    Hi up there, Samantha. I’ll second what she said about placing everything on the altar of sacrifice. That’s always the first step.I’d also like to offer a different perspective. I am not same-sex attracted, but I do have strong and persistent gender dysphoria. The reason I bring this up is that you seem to indicate that temptations from Satan are the source of SSA. I don’t agree with that. I think some people really are pre-disposed, to one degree or another, to be attracted to members of the same sex, just like some people have genetic dispositions to alcoholism. That doesn’t excuse homosexual behavior, but it does mean that some of us could show more tolerance and respect for those who face that particular challenge. Who among us wouldn’t be ashamed to show his face at Church if all of our secret weaknesses were laid bare? In my case, my first stirrings of gender dysphoria started when I was very young. They are part of my first memories—well before the age of eight. The important point is, when I was 4 or 5 years old, Satan and his minions had absolutely no power to tempt me. But I still hid in my mother’s closet and dressed up in her clothes. I still felt very strongly that I wanted to be a girl. I felt all these things very strongly even when Satan had no power to so much as whisper in my ear to suggest them to me.As I grew older, I went through all of the normal stages of Mormon life, including Aaronic Priesthood, mission, marriage, and having children. And all along the way, I dealt with my feelings as best I could without really understanding them (sometimes more successfully than others). Ultimately I had to learn to trust the Savior, and believe that He could heal me. It was only after I committed my trust to Him that I started to gain some spiritual insight into my condition. Very recently, I have started to gain some very specific understanding of my feelings, and how they fit into God’s plan for me. I now feel much more at peace than I ever have, and the Spirit has flooded me with knowledge. I feel like I have been healed, but not because the feelings have gone away. They haven’t. They’re as strong as ever, and I no longer ask for them to go away. They are a part of me. To destroy them would be to destroy a part of my identity that plays an important role in my eternal nature and purpose. The healing for me is in finally seeing how my feelings fit in with the teachings of the prophets, which I have always known to be right. I do not believe that Satan would or even could cause a condition that has turned into such a positive experience. I think that like many things, Satan has learned to recognize predispositions and exploit those feelings for his own twisted purposes. Satan would have had me forsake my Priesthood covenants, abandon my family, have surgery, and hold myself out as a woman. He knew that my particular feelings were ones he has often successfully exploited to that end. But that doesn’t mean he is the source of those feelings. Rather, he is the source of perversions of those feelings. I have learned, instead, that my feelings stem from something sacred. I can trust that what the Spirit has taught me about them is true, because it motivates me to greater trust in the prophets and an increased desire to follow His will for me. If we lean upon the Lord and trust Him, He can turn all things to our good—even seemingly ugly things like SSA and GID.

  7. Hi sweetisthepeace,I hoped the conclusion of my essay expressed clearly that I have changed my opinion of the source of SSA feelings or other kinds of sexual attraction. I accept that they may indeed be biological, which I had not considered before.To clarify my point in the third paragraph under “Homosexuality is a temptation,” I believe that the adversary can work though unseen spirits to tempt us to engage in homosexual behavior.The original feelings of SSA or of gender dysphoria may indeed be biological. The temptations from the adversary are to act in ways that are not compatible with God’s commandments to be morally pure.I feel strongly that sexual feelings are a normal part of our mortal existence. For most, these are attraction to members of the opposite sex. Some experience the feelings very strongly. Other experience them very little. Some do not experience them at all.For some, those feelings may be SSA. For others, they may be gender dysphoria. Certain actions, on the other hand, are to be resisted, and will make us stronger in the process of so doing. I hope that clarifies my viewpoint a little.I enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the dialog. I’m honored. I especially appreciated your last paragraph. It is inspiring.I also enjoyed reading more about you on your blog. Thanks for providing that link on your Blogger profile.

  8. Samantha,I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile. I am impressed with your intelligence and your clear writing style. I am also very moved by your courage in sharing all you have been through, especially with the most recent revealing essays about things that happened to you in your childhood and youth. Thank you for your kind comments here. I hope you can feel the love and prayers on your behalf from this blogger to you. Cheers!

  9. Hi Tim,I’m catching up on my reading of your blog. One of my favorites blogs, by the way.Your series on SSA has been helpful to me. I’m trying to understand this phenomenon.By the way, I just received “Shaken Faith Syndrome” and started to read it.

  10. I disagree with you on one thing. We don’t know yet how much we are born or not with this attraction (or not). To me it is extremly presomptuous to be firm in this subject. I want to use two examples.WhenI was going to unsiversity I became friend with a medical student. she told me that in her country she attended the opening of a corps for a class and when they came to the brain…they found out something odd. This body was male and yet hiw barin was one of a woman. They knew from his file that this man was gay.YET!!!!!I have seen this short documentary on the net of identical twins. One was gay and not the other one.We don’t know yet what it biological and what is not and I suspect it to be a mix with different percentage for each of us of both education and biology.Saying that God did not intend anyone of us to be homosexual is obvious to me. But denying the biological possibility of it is to me to early I think.But let’s say that it is 100% biological, it still does not change the fact that it is against the law of chastity. Biology, family history are explainations, not excuses.

  11. Thanks Gwennaëlle,In addition to that, see this short essay from Steven B. I have had a lot of off-line dialog with many individuals presenting me with scientific evidence to support what you are saying.I hope I have made it clear that I have been seriously considering the possibility that some gay people are just born that way. This has been a most enlightening discussion for me between this and several other essays on the subject. But as I think most have agreed, it does not justify breaking the law of chastity, as you stated. Thanks for stopping by again. Cheers!

  12. Thank you so much for writing this. I have struggled with same-sex attraction for over two years now and thought it was just part of who I am but now I know I can get over it.

  13. Hi Anonymous,Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. As much as I would like to agree with you, I’m going to suggest that it is not just as simple as “I know I can get over it.” Actually, I do not believe that those with SSA can just “get over it.” In fact, I am convinced that “it” will be with them all their mortal lives. The “it” I am referring to is their own human sexuality, which in some cases, apparently includes SSA.I can’t explain it because I don’t experience it, but I am convinced that SSA is real, and may indeed be something with which an individual has been born. This is still a hotly contested issue. I have moved over to the camp that says you are born with it. I do not define “it” as gender but as same-sex attraction. So in my mind, gender and SSA are distinct.Likewise, SSA and homosexual behavior are two distinct things in my mind as well. The one can be controlled and the other can’t. I know that’s a radical thought and many will disagree with me. But I remain convinced that some individuals will have to deal with SSA all their lives and it cannot be eliminated. I’m not sure if it is healthy to do so.Just as I must deal with strong heterosexual sexual urges all my life, some individuals must deal with strong homosexual urges all their life. It doesn’t seem fair, does it, that I can express my urges while those with SSA can’t. Well, I said I don’t understand it. I wish I lived in Utah and had time to go to the Evergreen conference this weekend so I could learn a lot more about this issue.In any event, thanks again for stopping by and leaving your comment. God bless you as you deal with this challenge in your life, that frankly, in my opinion, is an integral part of who you are. So to suggest that you can “get over it” may be setting yourself up for disappointment. I say embrace the power of SSA in a positive manner without engaging in homosexual behavior. I hope this is understandable and helpful.

  14. I am shocked at the lack of education on the subject of sexual orientation! I have been doing research for months on Intersex people , Transgender peopleand sexual orientation. How could any rational human being come to any other conclusion then there is a biological basis for these people! Seriously, it’s time for us Christians to uncover our eyes, unplug our ears, and open our hearts to this minority of people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes not all are innocent, but WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE? Just look up Intersex people… If we cant even tell who is a man or a woman, how can we tell who is sinning! Wake up Christians!!! Are we now modern day Pharisees, more concerned with breaking Moses law then GODS HEART? Stop the ABUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am a CHRISTIAN MOM, STRAIGHT, AND MARRIED TO A MAN… WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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