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Heterosexuality isn’t ‘a choice’, neither is Homosexuality

A concerned therapist’s response to Meridian article “Can we teach our children to choose heterosexuality?”

As a mental health therapist, a wife, mother, a niece, and aunt, a daughter, a friend, a neighbor, and sister in the Gospel I felt a responsibility to respond to the article published yesterday in Meridian Magazine  titled written by JeaNette Goates Smith, “Can we teach our children to choose heterosexuality?” Thankfully, Meridian has removed this article from their website. The title of the article, in and of itself, is extremely problematic because it implies that sexual orientation is a choice. Even LDS Church leaders have acknowledged that  it is not a choice.

I don’t ever remember choosing to be heterosexual, although I do remember having serious crushes on boys by the time I was five. The belief that attraction is a choice has contributed to a sense of worthlessness, hopelessness, and high suicide rates among LGBT church members. Perpetuating this belief is very harmful not only to LGBT individuals who are once again receiving a message that they are “less than,” that they are a “mistake”, but also to their family members who may, through the article, believe that they can help their gay child choose heterosexuality by modeling a happy heterosexual marriage, by telling boys fairy tales so they look forward to fatherhood, by  helping them understand that by living a gay lifestyle they will be giving up an eternal family.

[Author’s note added 10/1/15 9:15am– I want acknowledge that Meridian Magazine and JeaNette Smith have only positive intentions and are motivated by a desire to help Latter-day Saints and their families. I hold no ill-will or contempt for either party. My response  was written only to address some of the article’s content that may further contribute to a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, shame, and blame among of LGBT church members and their families. I hope to open up a dialogue that acknowledges how little we know, how complex this issue is, and how painful it is, and how sexual attraction can’t be reduced simply to “a choice.”]

There are a couple of parts of the article that I do agree with—for example, the point that shame is damaging.  However, I have selected excerpts from the Meridian article in block quotes that I think are especially damaging and have provided my responses below.

Today most members of society treat homosexuals with courtesy, whether or not we agree with their lifestyle. However, being treated well by society does not necessarily mean that all the drawbacks of homosexuality will go away.

In the paragraph above and in the entire article the author makes it sound like gays and lesbians are “those people.” This serves to further alienate our LGBT brothers and sisters. Gay and lesbian individuals are our children, our aunts and uncles, our parents, our neighbors—not “those people over there with that lifestyle.” They are of equal value and worth and they are not separate from us. They are a part of us.

A husband and wife who bear children together can look at their progeny and exclaim, “She has your nose, and my mouth,” or “Our daughter got her musical talent from her mom and her sense of humor from her dad,” or “Look at this gorgeous child. She’s the best of both of us.” A husband and wife can celebrate posterity that will last through the eternities. Their union, sanctioned not just by the government, but by God Almighty, can last forever.

In my twenty years of clinical practice I have worked with dozens of heterosexual couples who struggle with infertility and who aren’t able to have biological children. Does that mean that their families are not as valid as couples with biological children because their child doesn’t resemble them? Anyone who chooses to adopt will not be able to see a genetic resemblance. Does that devalue the parent/child relationship? No, it does not. Using that reasoning is not only harmful to gay and lesbian families but also to all adoptive families.

We can be kind to gays, and we can grant them legal privileges, but we can’t combine their genetics and create a human being. Therefore, an individual who finds themselves attracted to members of the same sex must make a choice. “Will I choose this lifestyle that the world has made possible for me, the lifestyle that feels good, the lifestyle I feel I have a right to choose, even though I will be sacrificing an eternal family?”

You say, “the lifestyle I feel I have a right to choose (italics added)” but they actually do have a right to choose. I think it is extremely important for our LGBT brothers and sisters to know that they do have a choice in how they live their lives, and that it is a valid choice. And do we know for certain how things will end in the afterlife? Do we know how God will judge each individual? Can we know for certainty that they will be sacrificing an eternal family? I don’t know that. I can’t know the mind and will of God and His plan for His individual children.

When a young person understands (as well as is possible with their limited experience) the ramifications of choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle over a heterosexual lifestyle, one would imagine he would pause long and hard before choosing to give up an eternal family.

I know of many LGBT individuals, personally and professionally, that have attempted to have and maintain heterosexual relationships in order to have an “eternal family.” And as far as I know they have all failed, and have hurt many more people in the process of trying to live a “heterosexual lifestyle.” I would never suggest to an LDS client or to one of my children that they should enter into a marriage with someone that they weren’t attracted to and didn’t love just so they can have the possibility of an eternal family. That suggestion is archaic and unfounded. This hearkens back to the era of leaders counseling gay men just find themselves an attractive woman and everything will work itself out.

Sex is a privilege not an inalienable right. It is a privilege God has reserved for husbands and wives within the bonds of marriage.

Sex is a biological drive and considered by most psychologists to be a fundamental aspect of an healthy functioning adult. Sex is a privilege and a right. The plan of salvation hinges on agency and we all have the right to choose how to live our lives.

The biggest obstacle to those with same-sex attraction who wish they were heterosexual is the belief that they can’t change.

Can they change? Show me research, statistics, etc. where a gay or lesbian individual who wished they were heterosexual has successfully transitioned to become heterosexual. All of the mental health professions have denounced reparative therapy because it is so damaging.

Heterosexuality isn't a choice

Once they become convinced they are “born this way” they accept their situation and try to persuade everybody else to accept it too.

Most heterosexuals would assert that they were “born this way.” Your entire article is about trying to persuade everyone to be heterosexual and to help his or her children choose to be heterosexual. Ironically, the sentence can be equally applied to heterosexuals. Once the heterosexual becomes convinced they are “born this way” they accept their situation and try to persuade everybody else to accept it too.

[Author note added 10/1/15 9:00am–My understanding is that sexual development is generally a complex process and can’t be reduced to one single factor. At this point in my understanding of sexuality I think it is accurate to say “I developed that way.” My personal experience is that from a very early age I have been attracted to males an by age 12 was sexually attracted to males. What struck me about the above sentence was not that I think everyone is born with their sexuality fully developed but that the sentence was ironic, given the theme of the article.]

For youth who do not have a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, but choose homosexuality for other reasons, we can help them choose heterosexuality if we simply make heterosexuality more appealing to them…When the only heterosexual relationships available for an adolescent to model are miserable, a child or an adolescent may decide they want “anything but” that type of relationship…. As homosexuality is currently in vogue, particularly among adolescents, he or she may decide to experiment with this type of relationship. If a child is to choose heterosexuality, it is very helpful for him to have happy, loving heterosexual role models.

Who are these youth who do not have a genetic predisposition? How can we know? And for what other reasons are they “choosing” homosexuality? Because it’s vogue with those teenagers? Really? So, choosing homosexuality is a like hairstyle or a fashion fad? I give our youth a lot more credit than that. Additionally, the assertion that if we make our marriages seem happier we can persuade gay kids to choose heterosexuality is preposterous! So you are suggesting that bad and unhappy marriages are leading or causing some children to “choose” homosexuality? I. Am. Speechless.

Boys are afforded fewer opportunities to visualize their bright futures as fathers. I’ve seen little boys put a doll to their chest, as if to nurse the baby, only to have a parent snatch the doll away as if the action were evil. Boys can be as tender and loving as girls if we will let them. Why don’t we help our boys look forward to becoming fathers just like we help our girls look forward to becoming mothers?

I know a woman who would tell her sons a bedtime story about themselves every night. “One day you will grow up, and fall in love with a beautiful young woman whom you will take to the temple, and you will be married forever and ever and you will have children that climb on your back and ride on your shoulders and they will adore you and you will be so happy.” The story began as a fairy tale for a small boy, but the little boys believed in the fairy tale and made it come true.

I’m all for encouraging boys to engage in nurturing play and encouraging them to become nurturing fathers…so they can become nurturing adults, not to help them “choose heterosexuality.” And what on earth does telling boys bedtime stories about beautiful young women, temple marriage, and kids climbing on you and adoring you have to do with sexual orientation? I think that has the possibility of further shaming a young boy who is attracted to boys because he doesn’t live up to his mother’s fairy tales.

There is so much we don’t know about sexuality and about God. Please stop trying to pretend we know how to encourage our youth to “choose” heterosexuality. What I do know is that: 1) sexual attraction isn’t a choice and 2) that God is all-knowing and all-powerful and more merciful than we can imagine.

As the mother of four children my goal is to help them to become who they want to become. Several months ago I asked one of my kids if they “liked” or had a crush on anyone at school. They replied with a sheepish grin, “Yes.” To which I asked without thinking, “Boy or girl?” I want my children to be honest with me, open with me, and know that I love them no matter what. My kids already know my spiritual beliefs and my life choices. My job isn’t to mold them into a mini-me, but to help them become more of who they are and to create the life that they want.


(c) Can Stock Photo

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.

Comments

Katie

I *love* this article, and am so glad you pushed back, and even more glad the original article was taken down!

“I know of many LGBT individuals, personally and professionally, that have attempted to have and maintain heterosexual relationships in order to have an “eternal family.” And as far as I know they have all failed, and have hurt many more people in the process of trying to live a “heterosexual lifestyle.””

I know personally of two who are currently successful:
Josh & Lolly Weed – http://www.joshweed.com
Lucas & Wrylon Jones – http://findingstrengthofwill.blogspot.com/

I would think there are others, but I think the percentage who can be successful at a mixed-orientation marriage is very small.

churchistrue

Thanks Dr. Hanks for this article. Your advice was helpful to me and my wife during my LDS faith crisis. This is great advice for families or loved ones of LGBT church members.

Kristen

Thank you so much for this article. I was born into the church, raised in Utah, and was a fully believing and active member until my mid-thirties. My crisis of faith began when my then six year-old son, during a conversation about Valentine’s Day, told me he had crushes on boys and not girls. That led me on a long journey that ended with my resignation from the church, but only because I truly no longer believed, not because I had a gay son. I’m now not only raising a gay teen son, but a bisexual young adult daughter, who are both as well adjusted as they can be for their ages and circumstances, and who know they have the full support of their parents when it comes to their sexual orientation.

My six year-old did not “choose” to be attracted to other males, my daughter did not choose to be attracted to the person more than the gender, and I can only imagine how messed up either of them might be emotionally and in terms of self worth had we tried to “course correct” them as children. Fortunately they have had a good example of a strong relationship in their parents, now happily married for over 20 years. My husband and I only desire supportive, healthy relationships for our children. We don’t care about the gender of our children’s partners, but only about the quality of human being that they are.

JS

Frankly, I’m ashamed of you and the way you contort what are otherwise simple principles to conform with an agenda. Throwing your hands up and saying “we don’t know the mind of God” when revealed doctrine/policy doesn’t jive with your field of research is immature, and ill-advised.

Further, it never ceases to amaze me how people like you accuse anyone willing to express a more socially traditional/conservative belief as fit to be shouted down in their expression of their opinion, lay or professional. The fact you couldn’t allow the writer of the previous article her own peace, and instead rile up a mob to protest the source-website’s publishing of the piece, and then take satisfaction in the removal of the article demonstrates how narrow-minded you are in your profession and beliefs.

No gay gene has been found. The Lord hasn’t recanted the law of chastity in the face of a disconcertingly changing moral environment. For as much as you claim the previous article’s assertions are unfounded, yours are even less so.

As stated, I am ashamed and almost insulted that you could twist simple doctrines through the lens of social science to basically justify an “eat, drink, and be merry” attitude amongst those struggling with SSA, both in society generally, and particularly within the Church.

Maybe now I’ll publish an article online demonizing your personal opinions and decrying your life experiences, rather than taking up counsel in private.

blueeyesinutah

I realize this is a sensitive subject but I giggled at a previous responders obvious butthurt gut reaction to your own thoughts on the previous article and his hypocritical whining about not leaving it alone. There is always one who will try to shame you, judge you, and cry foul when presented with a differing viewpoint. Their holier then thou sense of entitlement to reprimand you and attempt to instill their personal interpretation of what God says or does simply comes from an ignorant heart and an overwhelming urge to martyr themselves for a cause deep rooted in hate, misunderstanding, and contempt for anyone less their stature.

Bravo to you for taking on this subject and using your education, your experience, and your spiritual promptings and standing for truth, reasoning, and common sense. I left the church once before because people like JS. I allowed their personal attack agendas convince me ours was a church of hate and that God was a spiteful being. Upon coming back I have since learned that God is my Father. I am his daughter. And my salvation is a covenant and deal that is between Him and I. The test isn’t if gay is in vogue. The test is did we love each other as He commanded us to.

Dr. Julie Hanks

JS, I am not challenging any doctrine and policies. I am well aware of them. What I am saying is that I don’t know how a person’s life story will end, what they will choose next year or in 50 years, and what kind of growth and learning goes on after this life. I don’t know what factors God will take into account in the final judgement.

I have no problem with conservative articles. I have written some. I have a problem with poorly-written articles that promote something that is not only harmful to individuals and families, but is against the Church’s stance. Please go read Mormonsandgays.org

I’m not sure how I could be responsible for “riling up a mob protest” to get the article taken down. I didn’t post this response article until after the Meridian article was taken down. The original article riled up the mob protest because they were disturbed by the article. I write for Meridian, too. I am disappointed that they published the article and I don’t have anything against the writer of the article. I have not demonized the author or her personal opinions and life experiences, however I have disagreed with several aspects of her article. I have several problems with the content of the article as I’ve outlined above: talking about LGBT individuals as “others,” implying that happy marriages will help your child “choose” heterosexuality, that telling bedtime stories about future bride, temple, and family life will help them “choose” to be heterosexual, suggesting that people with SSA try to choose a heterosexual lifestyle, and that you choose who you’re attracted to.

I didn’t claim that a “gay gene” has been found. What I said is that being heterosexual or homosexual isn’t a choice. My understanding is that sexuality is a complex process, not a simple matter of choice. That said, we all have a choice regarding how we choose to live our life.

I do not claim that the law of chastity has been recanted. I believe in it and I teach it to my children. I can choose my beliefs, how to live my life, what I teach to my children.

I am not saying “eat, drink, and be merry”. I am saying that all human beings should be treated with dignity and worth no matter who they are attracted to and what they choose for their lives, even if it is different from what I chose for my life.

And honestly, it’s hard to take you seriously you have the word “prophet” in your email address.

D

@JS

Your belief system has a systemic suicide problem among its gay youth. That alone should challenge everything you believe, because in no way can a religion that is truly led by a loving God yield such a violent and useless epidemic. There are no excuses, and there is no other way to look at it. Innocent children end their lives because of the horrific things you personally believe in.

So let it be known that I am ashamed of you, and I openly point my finger at your rump sticking straight up into the air, supported by that head of yours in the sand.

Also, SSA is a made up term used by people that are unwilling to look truth directly in the eye. It fits into the LDS vernacular wonderfully.

Clint

I have supported freedom of speech (which is a component of free agency) since before I was born, and will happily die protecting America’s constitution for it. It’s an eternal freedom. Thus, JS and Dr. Hanks, I respect and fight for your freedom to expound on the subject. Further, I know my stance on this topic, and believe God has defined marriage. I believe we as mortals are wrong when we attempt to change what He has declared. I will happily live and, if I must, die for that belief as well, because it is also eternal. (Apologies for any grammatical errors.)

Schott Taylor

JS,

Thank you so much for speaking so clearly, and standing in support of those who love the gospel and desire to live by its precepts and partake in the blessing of doing so.

Rob R

To JS,

You need to read the introduction to Dr Hanks’ post more carefully. The article she’s responding to has the potential to do immense harm to many of the youth of the church, some of which could result in the loss of life.

Frankly, I’m surprised at you for choosing to defend someone who contradicts the church’s current policy as stated on their website, mormonsandgays dot org , that explicitly states that people don’t choose their orientation. The title of the article you have chosen to defend makes it very clear that the author is contradicting the church’s position.

Summary: You’re defending someone who is harming LDS youth and who is defying the church’s current statement on choosing their sexual orientation. Think about that while you write your “demonizing” article. (Your word, not mine).

Sister in Zion

As we do with other matters of importance, let us look at parallel situations to better recognize truths.

You say, “My understanding is that sexuality is a complex process, not a simple matter of choice. That said, we all have a choice regarding how we choose to live our life.”

Wouldn’t you say that the skill of “marriage” is also a “complex process”?. Suppose one decides to bail out at the “freshman level” of marriage (year one). One then might always consider himself a “freshman” in matters of the heart, and this could affect his entire life, and his eternity. Is he correct to choose this label, because it is his first experience?

Or let’s look at anger management; another complex process. Suppose one is raised in an environment where he sees that being loud, pushy and rude gets him what he wants. He then is likely to continue that behavior, given that it feels “comfortable” to him – maybe even self-identifying that he is simply an “angry” person. Again, is this a correct label, given no other experience?

Sexuality is indeed a complex process, and for you to pooh-pooh JeaNette Smith’s attempt to help mold it (by encouraging more heterosexual behaviors) makes YOU appear to be the uninformed one.

Also, as a professional counselor, how can you NOT know that little boys can and do develop crushes on other little boys and big boys; without any aspect of the crush being sexual? Little girls, as well, can develop crushes on other girls, and this, too, is never “sexual”. This is normal development for children; but in the hands of a misguided homosexuality-advocate could cause the first mis-labeling to occur of a child — particularly in a day when some seem to not just accept homosexuality, but to celebrate it.

Finally, you claim: “I am saying that all human beings should be treated with dignity and worth no matter who they are attracted to and what they choose for their lives, even if it is different from what I chose for my life.”

Would that include the pedophile who today claims that he is “born that way”? Or how about the person who today “chooses” beastiality? Dignity and worth extended to THESE folks, eh; but NOT to the commenter above who has the word prophet in his email address??

Rebecca

Great article Julie! It really made me think about how I can truly show my children I love them, and others, no matter what. Clearly you have a much deeper understanding on this topic than the people criticizing your opinion! This is at the heart and soul of what you have dedicated your life to! I do know personally of a couple, Danielle and Ty Mansfield, that have a successful marriage although the husband has been attracted to men. (I think their story is still profiled on mormonsandgays.) They are close friends of mine and if you haven’t read Ty’s book ‘In Quiet Desperation’ I highly recommend it! However, they do not recommend their path to everyone in similar circumstances. Like you said, sexuality is so complex and there’s no blanket answer. Thanks for writing this article, it explains and points out things that I feel but didn’t quite know how to put into words. It also pointed out to me some of the subtleties that the author in the Meridian article used that I wouldn’t have realized would be less that loving and accepting to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

cwd

The use of Dr before you name Julie is very pretentious and makes me wonder if you need that crutch?
To say or infer that no one chooses their sexuality, is naive. Many prisoners choose homosexuality. Did the entire city of Sodom have the homosexual predisposition? I believe I could choose homosexuality or bisexuality right now.

So let people choose and then respect their choice…embrace their choice. Life is too short to judge or condemn others or oneself.

Dr. Julie Hanks

Hi CWD, The use of Dr. before my name is because that is my professional title.

If you read the article again you’ll see that I make a distinction between sexual attraction and sexual behavior. Of course we choose how to express those desires.

I am not condemning anyone. I am adding my voice and perspective to an important issue.

Dr. Julie Hanks

Hi Sister in Zion,

Yes, I would say that marriage and emotions are complex processes but I’m having a hard time seeing their relevance to this discussion. If a person experiences his or herself as an “angry person” they may consider that a part of their identity, or if a person gets divorced and feels like a failure and lets that define him or her, they certainly have the choice to experience themselves that way. I don’t see it as a matter of being “correct or incorrect,” I see it as part of identity development and their journey of life. My point is that we don’t choose who we are attracted to, but we choose how to live given what we’re dealing with.

Would that include the pedophile who today claims that he is “born that way”? Or how about the person who today “chooses” beastiality? Dignity and worth extended to THESE folks, eh; but NOT to the commenter above who has the word prophet in his email address??

Again, my understanding of sexual development is that it is a complex process that can’t be reduced to one factor. And yes, dignity and worth extend to all human beings. Early in my therapy training I worked with people who have committed sexual crimes, some against children. While I abhorred their abusive and destructive behavior I was able to experience them as human beings on an extremely painful journey. I was able to treat them with dignity and worth without excusing their behavior and without removing the consequences – legal or otherwise – of their choices.

I believe I treated the commenter JS with respect by respectfully responding to his comment.

I recognize that all childhood crushes are generally non-sexual, however, the pattern of those attractions throughout life informs our identity development.

Cool Cool

I wish people would stop reading the Meridian times, or at least stop giving it so much attention. It’s a terrible magazine that represents the views of a fringe group of Mormonism that takes radical views on nearly everything. I view whoever writes articles in the Meridian Times as what the Tea-Party is to moderate Americans.

I feel that Mormons (and even Mormon leadership) are much MUCH more accepting generally than the Internet gives them credit.

cwd

Your distinction between attraction and behavior is flawed because attraction changes over time. My attraction to certain types of art, music, friends, religion has been all over the place.

What is wrong with choosing homosexuality? Shouldn’t we own our decisions? Does it validate my sexuality to say it is inherent? If I choose a lifestyle, I hope others will respect my choice. If sexual attraction is other than my choice then I am a victim and have no control.

Choice is good. It doesn’t diminish me. Others should respect who I am regardless of how I got there.

RMT

While the Meridian article was simplistic and insensitive, your response suffers from similar flaws.

You dismissed the experience of many people with same-sex attraction who are happily married to people of the opposite sex. You are absolutely right that no one should marry someone to whom they are not attracted and do not love. But some people with same-sex attraction say they do feel attracted to and deeply love their opposite-sex spouse. They claim they have healthy marriages. See the Voices of Hope website for examples. Who are you to suggest this isn’t possible?

You state that sex is “considered by most psychologists to be a fundamental aspect of [a] healthy functioning adult.” Clearly you agree with this sentiment. However, not only is this grossly inaccurate, but it is also offensive to me—a single, straight, celibate 40-something–as well as the thousands of other celibate, single Latter-day Saints, gay or straight, who are actually healthy and functioning. Thank you for feeding into this damaging stereotype. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it is unhealthy.

You state emphatically that sexual attraction isn’t a choice. But it isn’t that simple, just as it isn’t as simple as the author of the Meridian article made it seem to be. I suggest that you become familiar with the work of Lisa Diamond, a professor at the University of Utah who is one of the best-known researchers into sexual fluidity and is a lesbian herself. She has found that many self-identified gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (and even heterosexuals) do report experiencing some change or shift in their attractions over their lifespan. And she acknowledges that for some people, sexual attractions and identity do involve a degree of choice. This does not mean that sexual attractions can be altered at will, but environment and individual choice can play a role. It’s a complex subject, and your post did not address this nuance well.

Dr. Julie Hanks

RMT, Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. I agree that my article is oversimplistic and I can see how you can see some of my responses may have come off as insensitive. I sincerely apologize.

I recognize that some people have made marriages work where one spouse is attracted to individuals of the same gender. My comment was that I have not worked with anyone as a therapist or in my personal circles who has made a marriage work in that situation. I didn’t mean to imply that it’s not possible.

To clarify, sexuality is an important aspect of adult identity — it is normal to have sexual desire and attraction. I didn’t mean to imply that choosing a celibate life means you can not be a healthy functioning adult. I have much respect and admiration for you and others I know who live a celibate life and remain fully active in the church.

I am familiar with Lisa Diamond’s work on sexual fluidity and I agree that my response didn’t address the nuances very well. I was writing a response to the other article and my goal was to question the themes that were concerning to me. I can see how addressing her reductionistic framing of the problem and I may have done the same in my response. My primary concern I hoped to address in this article article was to challenge that we can alter our children’s attractions in ways that the author suggested. It does not represent the entirety of my views and understanding. I think this is an important conversation and I thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Dr. Julie Hanks

CWD, Yes attraction can change over time but my concern is that the article seems to suggest that we can change somehow change our children’s sexual attractions. My point is that it’s not as simple as saying, “I want to be sexually attracted to women today.” How you choose to live your life is up to you and yes we should own our decisions, including how we choose to express our sexual attractions.

Dr. Julie Hanks

Rebecca, I sure appreciate your kind comment. I am aware of the Mansfield’s story and I have so much admiration for their willingness to be open about their situation. I think it is an important to show a variety of possible paths.

Dr. Julie Hanks

Schott, thanks for entering this discussion. To be clear, I love the Gospel and try to live by it’s precepts and partake of it’s blessings. In our home we teach our children to do the same. We also teach them that other people do not believe in it and to respect choices that differ from the values taught in our family.

Dr. Julie Hanks

Kristen, I appreciate your willingness to share your family’s story. Your children are blessed to have you as a parent. Your demonstration of love and acceptance and your modeling a healthy, strong, long-term marriage relationship is truly a gift to them.

Zoe Brain

“Further, it never ceases to amaze me how people like you accuse anyone willing to express a more socially traditional/conservative belief as fit to be shouted down in their expression of their opinion, lay or professional.”

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions. No-one’s entitled to their own facts. Statements such as “The Earth is Flat”, while traditional, are not matters of opinion, and critique of such views is not “shouting them down”, but answering them.

“No gay gene has been found.”

No. Several have – if you define “gay gene” as meaning “having it significantly increases the chances of being gay”.

Maybe this abstract might help explain some of the issues here.

Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.

What the religious and dogmatic consequences of such facts are, or should be, for any particular religion, I’m not qualified to give an informed opinion on. But the facts themselves, yes, with references, evidence, MRI images and the rest.

Becca

I was disappointed with the direction this article took and the lack of professional clarity. Although I *think* I understand what the author is trying to portray as well as her point of view, the underlying tone of moral relativism misguided (though it may be well intentioned) ruined the credibility, especially in the last paragraph. The point of this article, with the assuming intention to not guide concerned parents reading a “professional religious authority” to jump on a moral relativism bandwagon, could have come across much better with a more succinct professional & Christian worldview.

Dan Christensen

Thanks, Julie, for addressing the flaws in Smith’s article. I was very alarmed by it because, as a young person, my family brought to bear all the dynamics the author espoused. The result was that I learned to ignore and/or hide key life forces meant to give a person self direction and confidence. Following that prescribed program led me into a wonderful marriage but, by my mid-forties, I had reached a dead end. “Obedience” would have been easy. I was very well practiced at that. But there were no rules for what I needed to find within: Who was I as the offspring of God and can I trust the inner connection between myself and Creator?

The marriages that are working a decade or so between straight and gay spouses–that have been brought up in the comments–have an advantage that Smith’s program leaves out: Acknowledgement and most likely, validation of the attractions of both. Hiding, being ignored by the significant people in your life, pretending you’re not gay–deadly.

Laurie Campbell

I really liked this article, although I also have a little problem with saying all the marriages fail when in a mixed orientation marriage (LGBT married to a heterosexual). I have been in such a marriage for 22 years. Sometimes it does work. I am married to the only man I could ever be married to, I’m sure. It is a mistake to say to all such people that a mixed orientation marriage is doomed to failure. Tricky, sure. And for two people to marry if they aren’t romantically and emotionally attracted to their partner would be a bad idea under any circumstances.

Kris Plummer

Thank you Julie. I applaud your ‘bravery’ in responding to this article. You are right on. I will copy and share with those with whom I work.

A Fisher

Dr. Hanks, I understand your points, and agree with many of them, but I’d rather hear your thoughts independent of ruthless dissection of another’s point of view. It would lend more credibility to your own thoughts. I appreciate that you stated your lengthy list of qualifying titles, but those don’t mean a whole lot if someone else’s name is not safe in your mouth…or on your social media. This article rocked my view of how you deal with people. I would not feel safe confiding in you because apparently “the one” is not sacred to you – especially when you disagree with her.

Year in Review: 2015 | Out of Obscurity

[…] relationships. The article received strongly negative responses (see here, here, here and here). The editors initially changed the title to “Can You Help Your Children Choose […]

DG34

Of course people can change. It happens ALL the time (in either direction actually, though for some reason on is shunned and ridiculed and silenced by society while the other is celebrated as someone “being who they truly are”… double standard clear to anyone else?). Why are people allowed self-determination in so many ways except this one?

No, people don’t choose to be straight any more than people choose to be male or female. You don’t choose to be something that naturally ensures the propagation and progression of your species. Homosexuality may not always be a conscious choice (though some readily admit it is), but it is definitely not genetic, biological, inborn, innate or immutable. To insist the opposite is true is what’s really the hopeless philosophy going around today — that change is impossible, whatever the topic, and that we have no power over our thoughts, feelings and actions. Even putting the false doctrine issues of that aside, geez, what a miserable worldview.

Vilate Van Leeuwen

JS
You say “let it be known that I am ashamed of you, and I openly point my finger at your rump sticking straight up into the air, supported by that head of yours in the sand.”

If that is true, and you “openly” point your finger, how ’bout you use your full name.

Reta

I think that this post was written with well meaning intention, but I find myself frustrated as this does not describe my situation at all.

And I’ve listened to so many stories like mine.

It’s true you can’t narrow these feelings down to choice. I can’t tell you one reason why I struggle, but ultimately I chose everyday what to do with my feelings.

If I could add some responsible clarity,
I have POURED prayer and thought into my feelings for countless years.

I come up with a completely different conclusion.

The culture of homosexuality as a whole is laced with iniquity and depicts the worst of the most horrific sexual practices.
Hetero or homo
It is vile
The culture and gay community is pushing grievously incorrect and evil practices

My own struggles feel nothing like this and feel very “God Given”
I walk with Him daily in my struggle.

I don’t identify with gay culture though I’m gay.
Never have
But homosexuals are shamed by their own community into grievous sexual practices and gut sickening perversion.

I hate how hijacked and laced with sin it’s become
If you say anything you are met with spewing hatred and intolerance from the group who claims to need the most love and from a group that screams tolerance at every turn.

My struggle, though very real, and I know God is in it, brings me step by step closer to Him
Every single day
Some days are easier than others
Some days my longing for the type of love with another woman that I understand has to take a backseat to finding joy in the journey today.

I don’t feel like a freak
I feel like that is an overused and political push of teaching others how I must feel if someone doesn’t understand me.
This nature or nurture debate is irrelevant, irresponsible, and incorrect.
It is a red herring.

I am not a victim.
I am blessed.
It is how I grow closer to the Lord.
I have blessed and cherished beautiful relationships with women whom I dearly love and God handles my disappointments, deep losses, and meets me half way.

My blood family is not family to me.
I will not chose to be with them in the eternities.
My friends are and always have been my family.
I know The God I worship will honor this and has opened my mind to a greater love than any of us could imagine.

In the meantime I’m currently married – to a man. Have four children whom are amazing –
Couldn’t be happier in my heterosexual relationship. And I’m gay.

Kristian

I recently stumbled upon your response to an article ‘Can we Teach our Children to choose Heterosexuality’ written by a JeaNette Goates Smith in the Meridian Magazine. In short, your response was simply, “Homosexuality isn’t a ‘choice’ and neither is Heterosexuality”…

I ‘STRONGLY’ stand in firm opposition to your observation. With all due respect, the collective ideas that you’ve formed from the opinions, views or experiences and studies of others while adding your own perspective, using the platform as a ‘Sister in the Gospel’ or as a a ‘Mental Health Therapist’ I’d like just to add my perspective within the ‘Market Place of Thought’.

As a Priesthood holder and Brother in the LDS Gospel, I’d like to lightly touch on just one of our LDS principles in our Gospel Doctrine, ‘The Plan of Salvation’ as it relates to ‘free agency’ or ‘choice’ and how, only by this, may we attain a True Knowledge and Receive a ‘fullness’ of ‘Joy’.

It is important to understand that we’ve come here to this earth so that we may have the opportunity to receive ‘OF’ a fullness, Not a ‘COMPLETE’ fullness at first, but ‘OF’ the fullness.

I don’t think its just coincidence that in the beginning of the Book of Mormon in Nephi’s teachings, that it is ‘Necessary’ to learn the ‘opposition of all things’ or for us to come to this earth so that we may learn through experience, a True knowledge and understanding of these differences between Joy and Misery. Its within Nephi’s teachings, that we learn about this part of the ‘Plan of Salvation’ which is Riveted on a ‘free agency’ to choose Right from Wrong, Good from Evil, or more precisely put, a difference between “Joy from Misery.”

A commonly known motto that the LDS use, is ‘Choice and Accountability’ and that is reflective of these principles of Agency or Choice with ‘Experience’.

‘Free Agency’ is exactly that,.. ‘FREE’–
(D&C 98; 8) When the Lord makes you free, you are free indeed, and His Law makes us ‘free’

The ‘Veil’ between Heaven and Earth is to separate us from any remembrance of pre-existing with both The Father or our Spiritual Peers. It is there to assist us in making ‘free’ choices without influence of embarrassment, shame or temptations of pleasing either a group of peers’ or trying to please our Father. It also makes us free from the coercion or pressure from those who ‘chose’ to relinquish their first estate by choosing not to come to this earth or spiritually elite beings with which we co-existed.

Now, made free from disappointing our Spiritual peers or The Father, it allows us to experience a vast array of our own ‘Choices’ by failure and success without a lasting eternal punishment. This does not however, eliminate judgments from peers, family, authority figures, Gospel Laws and Principles nor the long lasting consequences for eternity of any choice we make here on earth.

The Atonement provides a ‘free’ experiencing of both sides of these Laws without punishment to Satisfy the Law. Then blessings of ‘change’ through the process of repentance can afford us an opportunity for ‘knowledge’ without the punishment of transgressing the Laws of the Universe. Experiences we may ‘freely’ choose on earth give us a clear ‘choice’ for our eternal future by simply learning now about long lasting consequences of either or both. Experiencing the Apple, Cherry or Banana Cream Pie we are made ‘free’ to choose what WE will ultimately want to live in for eternity.

The Lord would be ‘unfair’ and ‘unjust’, if he demanded that we choose in blind lack of understanding, and it would be impossible to make free, clear choices without some understanding, in fact it would not be free ‘Agency’ at all,.. it would be.. “Free ‘Guessing’ and Unfair.

Let me appeal to your love of music by referring to two sets of lyrics from two prominent LDS hymns in our latest LDS Hymn Book. Both are right next to each other (Pages 237 and on 239) ironically mended together by a hymn written by Parley P. Pratt on 238. The Hymn ‘Do what is Right’ from the ‘Psalms of Life’ and ‘Choose the Right’ by Joseph L. Townsend. Within these two Hymns you can feel the difference between “DO” what is Right, and peaceful feeling of “Choose” the Right. By no fault, the first carries the subtle
pressure of urgency and coercion, and the second carries the spirit of peace and love, that Jesus Respects our free choices.

The center Hymn binds together those who need the ‘Spirit’ to guide them to follow what brings them to the ‘Perfect Day’– (D&C 50) particularly verses 24 and 35. ‘…power to overcome all things which are not ordained by him.’

Scriptures teach that the Lord himself gives us our ‘weaknesses’ and that we are drawn away by our own desires and then enticed by one side or the other. I like to think of these as ‘Motivators’– like God “dangling a carrot in front of the horse”. This motivates us to ‘move’ and experience any or different choices that we are ‘free to make’. Not only do some of our choices hurt others taking away gifts and freedoms, but in many circumstances takes from our own. The beauty of evoking the consequences of both Joy and Misery helps us ‘Choose freely’ either to enJoy what God knows as ‘pure Joy’ or eliminates things from the ‘fullness of the Joy’ that he enjoys. We are free to choose “of the fullness” until we stop progression or continue to receive light and truth until the perfect day when we ‘Know all Things’. Guide lines of Gospel Principles keep us as free agents to finally Receive complete “FULLNESS” of Joy.

Innate drives within us as Humans help keep this plan in place. There are a few that are essential for our Survival. Love, Importance, Food and Shelter, Touch or Social interactions and Sex, plus even Recreation are prerequisites for human Survival. I do not mean to undermine the strong drive of Sexual Attraction by stating that these other drives, can be just as strong or stronger than simple sexual attractions. They’re absolutely essential for our survival which include our sexual preferences.

Human Sexual Attraction is an innate part our genetic makeup. Our Sexual Attractions are fundamental chemical reactions within us that draw us toward another who hold a very specific set of ‘indicators’ that are sent from another human being. Examples of these are visual symmetry in the face and body, specific body shape and curves, and even specific scents that might signal deficiencies or cross balances between weakness and strengths in each of our immune systems. Social behavior and status also play a part in our attraction to other human beings indicating long lasting healthy coupling of two human beings that is mainly for pro-creation of healthy offspring. These indicators set off chemical reactions creating a strong sexual feeling or draw toward another human being for our survival. In fact the whole of the animal kingdom is all based on these fundamentals.

Since indicators are not all ‘gender specific’ they may send the very same chemical messages to those of a same sex or gender. This strong magnetic draw to and from same genders may send confusing message or feelings to another of the same sex. However sex is ultimately geared as the innate drive for the continuation of our species.

These innate genetic Laws instilled in us by God may be used correctly when we apply our Gospel standards of Law, but can prove to be unhealthy if used outside the confines of Gods Laws. The plan is to keep our environment safe and healthy to ultimately become like God or Deity, that we might continue with these Standards creating spirit children and bringing immortality and eternal life to those who will.

Temporally we are chemical beings and our feelings come from chemicals, God asks us to put down our ‘natural man’ or temporal side and acquire spiritual feelings by recognizing and following the spirit. Where there’s a TRUE sense of the Spirit of Truth and Light their is no such thing as ‘Spiritual fatigue’ but it lifts us up and creates energy of soul. The chemical feelings within us keep his plan moving forward, while trying to instill other traits and standards toward a Spiritual existence.

Obedience to These Laws ensure our confidence in attaining Joy and Glory that we might obtain, compromises to these Laws risk integrity, self esteem and character which Jeopardizes levels of self assurance toward receiving this spirit which leads us to Joy and Glory.

I do agree however, that it is NOT the place or right of others to Judge, coerce or disrespect choices that we as human beings make. This is for our experience and learning to help us understand that concise and clear decisions are actually being made as the “ultimate choice” we are required to make during the days of our ‘Probation’. To be accountable for everlasting consequences we desire.

Without temptation or ‘motivation’ we would never experience what our first earthly parents or heavenly parents did to become Deity, therefore we’d never learn to choose for ourselves that level of misery, joy or Glory that we want to attain. This is one of the sole reason for our existence on Earth.

The Latin root for consequences, has a specific meaning ‘con’- ‘sequenze’… Or ‘With- Sequences’ so results of choices are the consequences. In almost every choice there comes sacrifice of one kind or another. Temptations to compromise one gift or another, for a need, want or desire, face us each day. The Lord has given us a Diversity of gifts with our weaknesses, for his wise purpose, and that purpose is to receive a fullness of Joy– The statement should in No Wise send the message of ‘Guilt or Shame’ but should encourage us to seek the TRUTH of what the Lord’s definition of happiness truly “IS”.

Once my Dad said that happiness is in the ‘eye of the beholder’ to which I had to reply, “There are those of us who are happy doing what we like to do, but if we don’t know what we’re missing, its difficult to have a True opinion of what True happiness is.” If we consider the Lord to be the greatest Counselor of all, I think we should hear him out. One thing he says in scripture is “…because they’re not willing to enjoy that which they ‘might’ enjoy.” Therefore as the Prince of Peace, and the Counselor of Truth, he works tirelessly and endlessly to try to persuade us to experience, as he puts it “of the fullness of Joy” If we continue to only accept that it is NOT a CHOICE, then we don’t allow ourselves or others the option of the “FULLNESS” of Joy but we instead, only receive a ‘part’ of the Joy laid out for us.

Since we are all here to ‘experience’ of both Misery and Joy, so that we might KNOW or UNDERSTAND the difference between them (as Nephi Taught) we’d lose opportunity to learn opposition or alternative choices. To just have the same sex partner might be fulfilling or satisfy different needs or wants, but it will never afford us the opportunity to have the eternal Joy creating spiritual children and future families for eternity. Since there will be no option for having children in eternity, (or for adoption) it would be unfair of the Lord to ‘take our choice away’ add Laws, consequence or punishment If we cannot overcome. In the Lord, all things are possible, but we aren’t willing to learn and enjoy it here. it would remain as a compound in one, neither knowing Joy nor Misery.

With God all things are possible (Matt 19;26)

Partaking of that same fruit that Adam and Eve had taken, or from the tree of “Knowledge of good and Evil” we then are given ‘free’ choice to receive that which we are ‘willing to receive’ simply by experience and choice.

Its not choice to receive cancer or other trials in life, but it IS our choice to live by the Laws of Liberty or in bondage of sin. By choosing to obey his Laws here on earth we may attain a fullness.

All of us are privileged to receive the same gifts, under the shelter of the Atonement. It is God’s Judgment that each individual Judge ‘themselves’ by their own choices. How both he and the individual work out their own salvation is clear, “come unto me”.

The Lord does not punish us like he did in Old Testament times when mankind was ‘younger in the gospel’ in fact he tells us NOT to fear “for in my father’s house there are many mansions”. The Lord has laid out In (D&C 88) that our choices are followed by consequences adding ‘free’ choice is free of all of his punishments if we ‘Repent’ but that consequences for an eternity should be accounted for and that some “…are (just) not willing to enjoy that which they might enjoy”.

In (D&C 88;32-33) he explains that he himself does not rejoice in giving a gift that the receiver doesn’t want. Then in contrast he uses certain phrases like, ‘Eternal Punishment’ and an ‘Endless Torment’ sounds harsh but in (D&C 19;5-12) he reveals that they are ways he motivates man to ‘choose’ the right, explaining that when he uses phrases like ‘endless’ or ‘eternal’ doesn’t mean that it lasts forever but that he calls it ‘Eternal Punishment’ simply because his name is ‘Eternal’ and ‘Endless’ so the punishment is ‘his’, but he calls it ‘Eternal Punishment’ only to make it ‘more expressive’ to men.

To be more precise, it is his ‘play on words’ to get our attention, but in this verse he explains that it doesn’t mean ‘punishment that will last for Eternity’ but it is ‘HIS’ punishment and makes it sound like it will last for an eternity as to be “more express to the children of men” to motivate them.

In Love and Respect, I still choose to try pointing out to my children and others that even if you adopt children as same sex couples here in this life, you might suffer more deeply in the next world to come, knowing that the Joys of Raising children will not be continued through eternity in same sex marriages.

Having said all that, I believe that the Human development is complex and a many faceted process with very highly dynamic diversity that gets clouded in our ever changing environments that surround us. Therefore I don’t believe homosexuality or heterosexuality is a genetic fault, but an environmental issue that we can work to understand.

The typical confusion can come from all sorts of environmental influences that effect our definitions of Love and slants on Acceptance and sexual preferences.

In short, if we eliminate our ‘choice’ to be ‘Heterosexual’ or ‘Homosexual’ then we must also eliminate that its ‘choice’ for any other sexual preference such as Bi-Sexuality, Trans-sexuals, Pedophilia, Rape, Beastiality, infidelity unfaithfulness to a spouse or any other type of sexual drive or preference even those viewed as a perversion or illegal practices in our mainstream society today. Acceptance of a changing society, without ‘choice’ and Accountability, we could also once again embrace (as the Greek society once did) older men to have sex with young boys as a training to Sexuality and Manhood. To change the Rules here, does not in any way change the Laws of God.

No matter how we want to change the ‘Rules’ in our society, the Natural and Universal ‘Law’ to creating children for eternity is between a Man and Women. Until we change the Universal Laws of Procreation (Babies gestation in a Box) or LDS principles of religion, that God councils us how to receive a fullness of Joy and attaining Glory by “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”, then the Laws he explained are simple. Therefore under the Laws of an everlasting covenant or union of Men and Women for eternity, plus Universal Laws of procreation that only exist with a Man and Woman it is an unchanged Law that you can only attain Highest Glory and a fullness of Joy by marriage to opposite sex partners. Which in no wise would eliminate a ‘part’ of the Joy or receiving ‘of a fullness’ but complete Joy and Glory will never be attained.

In direct conflict to your compassion of others who might be dealing with the judgments of others, shame or feeling shunned, we should help them deal with a more perfect understanding of ‘Choice’ or our free Agency to choose with the Consequences that follow.

Blessings are attained by obedience to that law which it is predicated upon.

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