Unlike just about every other Mormon blogger out there, I did not write a post covering the initial story about Josh and Lolly Weed, coming out as a mixed orientation marriage. I'm sure you remember the post I'm talking about. It seemed as though just about everyone I know was sharing it on Facebook, etc...  Some celebrating their 'coming out', others critical of it.

I happened to be in Hawaii at the time, and had committed myself to refrain from the online world, for at least that week. I was definitely connected, but not responding.

You do know the story I'm talking about, right? Josh Weed, a Mormon, who has same-gender attraction, married his best friend Lolly, who knew, and for the past ten years they have been raising their three beautiful daughters in what appeared to most everyone, from the outside looking in, as a normal, active and faithful Mormon family, which they are -- mostly.

It's no surprise that with all the national attention currently being given to Mormonism, and as controversial as same-sex marriage is, in relation to the Mormon faith, mainstream media would jump on this story. 

Last week Nightline ran a segment on the Weed story: Gay, Mormon and Happily Married with Children-- and interviewed Josh and Lolly. (See video below) I particularly loved what Lolly had to say as she tried to explain the kind of love that she and Josh share. Clearly she sees herself as the recipient of the very important choice that Josh made -- to not act on his homosexual tendencies, but instead honor God. When Josh was asked about ever acting on his gay feelings, he explained that to do so, in comparison to what he had now with Lolly and their children, would never be an option for him. To me, it is clear that this faithful couple have an eternal understanding of marriage, and desire all of God's choicest blessings in these regards -- which to me, makes their story so beautiful.

If you haven't read Josh and Lolly's open letter, posted on their personal blog, I would encourage you to do so, HERE. (Warning: It's long) From what I can tell, they were very careful about what they said, and how they said it. Writing about anything gay and Mormon, is like navigating a minefield. You never know when something you say might set someone off - unintentionally. If you use the term 'gay Mormon' you offend many faithful Mormons. Mormons have been counseled to not attach sexual orientation to personal identity.  If you say 'struggle(s) with same-sex attraction' you offend a lot of people who deal with homosexuality, or those who believe being gay is not a choice, who claim that they don't struggle at all -- it's who they are. But mostly the latter response is by those who are actively engaging in homosexual behavior.  Even using the term 'same-sex attraction' is regarded, by some, as a slur toward the LGBT community. Needless to say, it can be a very sensitive issue to approach. (I'm pretty sure I've already blown it -- sigh.)

Anyway, it's pretty evident that Josh and Lolly did their very best to address the many concerns and criticisms that would inevitably come their way, by putting themselves out there. And most importantly, in telling their story, they emphasized that their story is just that, theirs. Josh is quick to explain that his lifestyle choice, as a person with same-gender attraction, and a Mormon, to have a heterosexual marriage, is not intended to judge another Mormon with SSA, insisting that his way is the only right choice. 

To be honest, I'm a bit hesitant myself to blog about their story, because I sincerely don't want to misrepresent their intentions for telling it. However, from my perspective, as a faithful latter-day Saint who desires to see safer spaces created, within the church, to be a faithful Mormon with homosexual tendencies, this is a very positive story in moving that direction.

I feel that it's important for Mormons with same-gender attraction to know that they can safely and freely explore their options to live faithfully, within the Church. A mixed orientation marriage is certainly not for everyone, but as Josh and Lolly tell their story, clearly it can be a positive and viable  choice for some.  In telling his story, Josh is very honest that even though he is in a heterosexual marriage, he is still physically attracted to his same gender. Josh has not denied his sexual tendency, but he has denied acting on it for that which he believes is greater -- his love for God, and Lolly. I think that is very key in the discussion of mixed orientation marriages. This component, in all healthy marriages, is essential to develop as one spiritually matures. In some way or another, every person that makes covenants with God is, in essence, agreeing to give up selfish desires to obtain promised blessings.

I feel that Nightline did a reasonable job in presenting Josh and Lolly's story. I think they asked fair questions. However, one disturbing aspect, or comment, made in the Nightline segment really bothered me. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that some would have a hard time believing that such a marriage is possible, but considering the comment came from another member of the Church, it did. Said John Dehlin, who presents himself as an authority on Mormonism, and feels that the Weed narrative is damaging to other members with same-gender attraction:
"Using religion or spirituality as a way to manage your sexual orientation, you know, by being extra righteous, or extra faithful, as a way to sort of suppress those feelings, or control yourself, is the most damaging way to cope or deal with your same-sex attraction.
When I heard that comment, it just floored me. My immediate thoughts went to various teachings of our modern prophets, in applying the power of the Atonement, that Mormons believe can and will eventually enable us to overcome all things -- and presently endure all things. Because this comment was taken from a larger discussion, not shown, most watching Nightline are left to consider that the Weed's approach to managing same-sex attraction is downright damaging, and unfair to others who experience homosexual feelings.

I can't speak for the Weeds' but I can't imagine that sending the message that one's faith in Jesus Christ, has no place is this discussion, and is the desired result of telling their story. The fact that the Weeds' are faithful Mormons, I venture to say, has much to do with their story. I wasn't comfortable with such an interjection into the interview, without any further discussion or explanations given -- from either perspective. Because frankly, who has the right to say where the deciding line is, for those who experience same-sex attraction, that they could potentially have a successful mixed orientation, heterosexual marriage, or not?

To me, Josh and Lolly's story should give us all hope -- hope that through a deeper understanding of God's Plan of Happiness, and a desire to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, that no matter what any of our challenges in this life might be, including homosexual inclinations, that we can choose to follow the Savior, and keep God's commandments.

I could certainly understand such a comment coming from someone/anyone not a Christian. But for another member of the LDS Church to suggest, or infer, that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has no business being applied to healing and/or managing homosexuality, to me, is just plain astounding.

When Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of the Lord, teaches us that we can seek the Savior's help, even with such circumstances, I believe him.
"Everyone has some challenges they have to struggle with. You’ve described a particular kind of challenge that is very vexing. It is common in our society and it has also become politicized. But it’s only one of a host of challenges men and women have to struggle with, and I just encourage you to seek the help of the Savior to resist temptation and to refrain from behavior that would cause you to have to repent or to have your Church membership called into question."

From the LDS Newsroom, an excerpt from a very lengthy interview between LDS Public Affairs and Dallin H. Oaks, and Elder Wickman, discussing the LDS Church's position on same-gender attraction:

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Is heterosexual marriage ever an option for those with homosexual feelings?

ELDER OAKS: We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: “Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.” To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith.

On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.
President Hinckley said that marriage is not a therapeutic step to solve problems.

ELDER WICKMAN: One question that might be asked by somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is, “Is this something I’m stuck with forever? What bearing does this have on eternal life? If I can somehow make it through this life, when I appear on the other side, what will I be like?”
Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ‘I’m not stuck with it forever.’ It’s just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it’s hard to look beyond the ‘now’ sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it’s only during this season. 2) If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing — including eternal marriage — is and will be mine in due course.
ELDER OAKS: Let me just add a thought to that. There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities.
You can read the entire interview HERE.

From what I can tell, the Weed's story fits perfectly into this counsel, and possibility. And I'm very happy for both of them. Whatever their personal reasons are for sharing their story, I'm glad that they have. I hope that in the future other members who have same-gender attraction, will feel to share their stories of choosing to remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Weed's story is helping many LDS members to better understand the complexities of same-gender attraction, and gives us confidence that no matter the challenges we face in life, that when we choose the gospel of Jesus Christ, happiness follows.

Gay man married to a woman: How does that work? That's how.

Kathryn Skaggs

Nightline Video: Mormon, 'Happily Married' and Gay

Living Faithfully with Same-Gender Attraction:

Gay Mormon Guy

LDS Living: Living with Same-sex Attraction: Our Story Ty and Daniell Mansfield

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