Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

On Genes, Homosexuality, and Free Agency

The debate about homosexuality and genetics will heat up again with one recent study claiming to have found evidence for genetic predisposition to homosexuality. Some previous studies making strong claims for genetic origins of homosexuality were found to be highly questionable, but this one may have a better basis. If genetic factors do influence homosexuality, is it somehow unfair to call homosexual behavior a sin?

I would suggest that many external factors outside our choice influence our lives and the temptations we face. Whether it is biology, upbringing, peers, climate, sunspot activity, astrology, fluoride in the water, or a host of external factors, we each face different temptations and challenges that we must overcome. Some are easy, some seem to take a huge toll on us. Rather than share too much about my own weaknesses, let me give an example related to the Word of Wisdom, but one that can be applied to much more personal parts of our lives. Personally, I think I might be genetically predisposed to adore coffee - the aroma of some brews drives me crazy with desire - but for the cause of Zion and my own spiritual welfare, I must not yield to that temptation. Now that may seem like a pretty trivial thing compared to sexuality (not so, according to some coffee connoisseurs), but avoiding sexuality outside of marriage is asked of all of us, and for some, that has meant never experiencing physical intimacy - and it almost always means delaying that beyond what the world considers "normal."

Many heterosexual men and women, adhering to high standards of morality and high standards for a potential spouse, end up remaining single throughout their lives, though they wished to marry. For those who feel homosexual orientation and do not seek marriage, the standards of the Gospel still apply, and can be lived. We are each unique, and God knows and loves each of us - and will give us strength to abide by His commandments. He doesn't change the laws He asks us to live - but can change the hearts of those willing to live them.

Regardless of its origins, it is critically important to understand that homosexuals can change: for some, the change to heterosexual life in the confines of marriage has been possible and successful; for others, the change has been one of gaining self-control and resisting temptation, though the inclinations may remain. In no way am I declaring that all homosexuals can completely change and never feel homosexual inclinations, but for many, dramatic change has been possible. See my page, "Responding to Gay Activists: Homosexuality Can Be Changed." An excellent resource is DrThrockmorton.com, with lots of excellent material, including information about the documentary, I Do Exist. I bought a copy of that DVD and found it to be fascinating. Gay activists insist that no homosexual has ever changed, but this is simply an incredible lie. Not easy, but for those who wish to - and there are many - change is possible. And with God's help, I firmly believe that dramatic change is possible - certainly power to resist whatever moral temptation may come our way, regardless of genes and environment. That's good news for some.

Temptation may always be with us - I wish I could completely eliminate the lure of my own temptations that remind me of just how mortal I am, and how great the need to always be cautious and seek strength from the Lord to overcome temptation each day. As Paul put it so well, we must "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (that's from Philippians 2:12 - a verse that has been removed from many modern Bibles, it seems), and "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest ye fall" (this oft-deleted verse is 1 Cor. 10:12).

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Prior to my conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I habitually masturbated. I know this is a touchy subject, but it is something most humans face in their lifetime. When I made the decision to be baptized, I ceased this practice. We all face temptations of a sexual nature, but they can be overcome and must be overcome. I am single and if I remain that way, I will never again have 'sexual' gratification and that is not only okay with me, it is a joy.

I say this because I have the experience to say it and mean it. When I was young I was promiscuous so I have experienced these things. Since becoming a Christian and having all of that washed away I can say with utmost conviction that there is no greater feeling in this world than knowing you are living a pure and chaste life. And a person will never know this joy unless they do it.

These temptations can be overcome and many do live a single, chaste and joyous life. I am one of them.

Clark Goble said...

It would be more accurate to say that some people who've engaged in habitual homosexual acts have changed. That doesn't entail that all can change.

I think the problem is that we as well as many in the homosexual community see this as an all or nothing situation. Either you can change or you can't as a whole.

However if sexuality is a complex biological function, partially determined by gene expression, and partially determined by the development and wiring of the brain combined with ones environment, then things likely aren't so simple. It may well be that there are many homosexuals who biologically can't change their desires. (Which says nothing about actions, of course) There may be many people who could easily have desires for either sex and who could change much more readily. There are many, probobably most, who simply can't imagine a relationship with the same sex with any level of desire.

This notion of a continuum in sexual expression and desire along with the complexity of human sexuality seems overlooked in all this. Simply answers would be convenient. But a one size fits all solution is almost certainly wrong.

nshumate said...

I love it when Clark gets wherever I'm going before me. Then I rarely have to type anything.

Mormanity said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mormanity said...

In saying that "homosexuals can change," I did not mean to imply that all homosexuals can simply become heterosexual. The pages I refer people to for details, including my own on the topic, do not make such claims. By way of clarification, I have added some clarifying language to my post:

"Regardless of its origins, it is critically important to understand that homosexuals can change: for some, the change to heterosexual life in the confines of marriage has been possible and successful; for others, the change has been one of gaining self-control and resisting temptation, though the inclinations may remain. In no way am I declaring that all homosexuals can completely change and never feel homosexual inclinations, but for many, dramatic change has been possible.Yes, there certainly is a continuum in all matters of sexuality, and this applies to the issue of "change." For some change will be exceedingly difficult, and the change may be regaining control over behavior in a daily battle to live the Gospel. For others, a complete "cure" can be and has been found. But I believe that no one should ever despair and feel that God has abandoned them or that they cannot possible live the Gospel. God does not ask the impossible of us - but he sometimes asks all we have, and it may be easy for us to feel that our personal lot is more difficult and painful that the lot of others - and it may well be. But He is mindful of us, and will not forsake us, if only we will trust Him and move forward with faith.

Anonymous said...

There is overwhelming evidence throughout the world since the beginning of time that many people have natural tendencies to prefer in themselves the opposite to what they are. I truely believe that men desire to be women because they have the desire to be. where did that come from? One man who has no such desires may say,"Well I don't have any such desires therefore they must be creating the desire in themselves". My question to that is who told you so? How can you judge the matter if you have never been there? This is the truth: There are people of both genders who from a very young age desire sex with their own gender, whether you believe it or not. I know for myself that it is true.Where did that come from? The homosexual can overcome? Really? Consider Gorden B. Hinkley,s remark to Larry King or Mike Wallace when asked if homosexuals can be forgiven if they overcome- Hinkleys reply was,I believe,"Yes, but can they overcome?" Which implies that it might be next to impossible for them to overcome. I personally believe and I only speak my own oppinion, that God put that on people to pay them back because they in their hearts were angry at God for kicking lucifer out of heaven. Again that is just my oppinion, but there is evidence that God does pay people back. Some people are more favored than others in this life, that is a fact.

Anonymous said...

To the one who masterbated before being converted,How do I know you're not just making this up to put in your way of thinking? Every two out three people have masturbated. It is perfectly natural. Even members of the church masterbate believe it not. I know of some who have masturbated in the week and then took the sacrament on Sunday without giving it a single thought. I don't understand why anyone should be punished for sexual doings so long as they never forced themselves on others. If it is so bad then why do we have such strong feelings to do so? That is a gamble on us. People are simply more happier when they have sexual satisfaction than otherwise. People, especially women become exceedingly evil and mean spirited when they don't get satisfaction.I would tell all those self righteous mormons to abstain from sex as long as you can from your spouse until you absolutely can't stand it any longer and then you'll get an idea of what others go through who are not able to get a spouse.Yeah, easier said than done!

Anonymous said...

I don't think God "punishes" us with temptations and weaknesses. He allows us to have these trials to test us. I think the bigger the trial, the greater the opportunity for growth and strength for us when we do overcome. So in a way, if we face unsurmountable trials and can rely totally on the Lord for help, we are humbled and are blessed to overcome... which makes weak things strong. I think those with great trials, are given them because that is what they specifically need in order to grow; not because they are punished in anyway. It is up to them (or us) to take that step to rely on the Lord, which we should all do constantly.