The Mormon Church has released a new pamphlet on homosexuality:
Not long after, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued "God Loveth His Children," a treatise that said same-sex attractions themselves are not sinful, even though homosexual activity is.
Leavitt, who is no longer married or a member of the Mormon Church, says the pamphlet seems to signal a softening of the church's stance on homosexuality, even if its strict prohibition on homosexual conduct remains intact.
"It's don't ask, don't tell," he said. "If anybody (who is gay) wants to stay in the church, that paved the way for them to do it. You can come out 80 percent of the way. Anybody would be hard-pressed to initiate (excommunication)" based on same-sex attractions, he said.
I know several people who left the LDS Church over its inability even to acknowledge that sexual orientation doesn't just change because someone wants it to along with its inflexibility on any such issue. It's not like certain Protestant sects that allow individual churches to set their own policy on who can show up, creating "conservative" and "progressive" incarnations of similar theology, or like the Catholic Church, which generally looks the other way for people who want to attend mass; the LDS Church can be pretty strict about what a person can say or do regarding her sexuality.
And just like I said about Muslims yesterday, a change in theology is going to have to come from within:
For Mormons, homosexuality presents a particular challenge because the church's emphasis on marriage carries eternal consequences. Mormons believe heaven is organized by families formed on earth; having a family is necessary to reach heaven's highest ranks.
"For a lot of Mormons it's unimaginable that you could be gay. You probably feel like you need to deny it because it just can't happen" said Boyd Petersen, coordinator of Mormon studies at Utah Valley State College.
Homosexuality challenges basic tenets of Mormon doctrine, said Scott Gordon, president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, a California-based organization that defends the church against criticism.
"The core of Mormon theology is the family unit. The Declaration on the Family (a key church document) says marriage is between a man and a woman ... and family is eternal," he said.
But the spiritual violence that's happened based on the Church's teaching (violence that won't stop as a result of this change) can be pretty shocking:
"With that thought came so much self-hate because I thought I could be gay," said Leavitt, now 46, who grew up in a small predominantly Mormon town in Alberta, Canada. "If I would've faced it, it would have been too difficult to deal with that."
Now, not only is Leavitt facing it, but so is the church.
Like many gay Mormons, Leavitt tried to ignore his sexuality and married a woman. Last year, he was excommunicated after telling church authorities he was attracted to men, even though he was faithful to his wife and wanted to stay married.[...]
Leavitt, who was the organist for his Florida church before his excommunication, said he kept waiting for his same-sex attractions to disappear, even after he got married.
"The church told me, and everyone like me, that this was a social construct, and that if you got married (you would be attracted to women). I was 44 years old and it hadn't gone away," he said.
Can you imagine losing 44 same-gender loving years of your life over a church's inability to deal with reality?
But that's part of what faith is - trust that someone else knows better. And the LDS Church just got a step closer to meeting the needs of that trust.