As to Same Sex Attraction: Condemn the Sin, Love the Sinner

Called Unto Liberty, Dallin H. Oaks, 20th Century Sermons

Each member of Christ’s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding. Sinners, as well as those who are struggling to resist inappropriate feelings, are not people to be cast out but people to be loved and helped (see 3 Ne. 18:22–23, 30, 32). At the same time, Church leaders and members cannot avoid their responsibility to teach correct principles and righteous behavior (on all subjects), even if this causes discomfort to some.

Church leaders are sometimes asked whether there is any place in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for persons with homosexual or lesbian susceptibilities or feelings. Of course there is. The degree of difficulty and the pattern necessary to forgo behavior and to control thoughts will be different with different individuals, but the message of hope and the hand of fellowship offered by the Church is the same for all who strive.

I tried to describe the crucial distinctions in my answer to the television reporter who implied that the Church taught that “these people are somehow pariahs.” I said:

“The person that’s working [to resist] those tendencies ought not to feel himself to be a pariah. Now, quite a different thing is sexual relations outside of marriage. A person engaging in that kind of behavior should well feel guilt. They should well feel themselves estranged from God, who has given commandments against that kind of behavior. It’s not surprising to me that they would feel estranged from their church. What surprises me is that they would feel that the Church can revoke God’s commandments. … To the woman taken in adultery (which is a pretty good precedent for us), … [the Savior] was merciful and loving … , but he said, ‘Go thy way and sin no more.’ He loved the sinner; he condemned the sin. I think the Church does the same thing, imperfectly perhaps, but that’s what we teach our members: love the sinner, condemn the sin.” 21

The struggles of those who are troubled by same-sex attraction are not unique. There are many kinds of temptations, sexual and otherwise. The duty to resist sin applies to all of them.

The most important help the Church can offer to persons who have surrendered to sin or to those who are struggling to resist it is to fulfill its divine mission to teach true doctrine and administer the divine ordinances of the restored gospel. The gospel applies on the same basis to everyone. Its central truth is our Savior’s atonement and resurrection, that we might have immortality and eternal life. To achieve that destiny, an eternal marriage is the divine and prescribed goal for every child of God, in this life or in the life to come. Nevertheless, this sacred goal must come about in the Lord’s way. For example, President Gordon B. Hinckley has declared that “marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.” 22

Through Christ and his church, those who struggle can obtain help. This help comes through fasting and prayer, through the truths of the gospel, through church attendance and service, through the counsel of inspired leaders, and, where necessary, through professional assistance with problems that require such help. Another important source of help is the strengthening influence of loving brothers and sisters. All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness “to bear one another’s burdens” (Mosiah 18:8) “and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us the light and the strength to overcome the obstacles of mortality and to use our God-given agency to choose the behavior that will lead us to our divine destiny. We are promised: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).


Source: Dallin H. Oaks October 1995 General Conference Address, “Same-Gender Attraction.” Dallin H. Oaks is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.