Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sin and Suicide: the Message We Should Be Sending

I feel as though I'm belaboring a point, but Carol Lynn Pearson's recent opinion essay in the newspaper helped me realize that I should expand on a topic I mentioned in my previous post on Proposition 8. One of the most common concerns with the Church's stance on marriage is that those who self-identify as gay are more prone to suicide because of it. I don't believe this is true. I feel that a more accurate statement would be to say that those who self-identify as gay are more prone to it because of the way they are treated.

In my experience, suicide is often more about being isolated than it is about being different. Those who can be different but still participate in a social network are not (in my experience) the ones who suicide (barring some other, more physiological reason.) I also feel, however, that Carol Lynn Pearson's approach to helping our gay friends and family feel accepted isn't the best way. It seems that she would have people compromise their moral beliefs in order to accept people for who they are. I think it is possible to accept a person without that compromise.

As a disclaimer, I'm writing this from a base assumption that homosexual acts are sins, and that the situation includes someone who has gone beyond mere homosexual attraction. We have been admonished to forgive all men their trespasses, and that should we fail to do so, we stand condemned of greater sin. This includes homosexuality. Should we revile or shun a person because they are homosexual, we are sinning greater than they. Whether or not the Lord forgives them is up to the Lord, the person, and those priesthood wielders with stewardship over that person.

That being said, I want to reiterate that forgiveness of a person includes loving and accepting that person as a child of God. It does not have to accept their behavior, should they be preaching their ways as the right ways. There is a line between a sinner and an antiChrist. We are all sinners, but if we should begin preaching our sins as righteousness, we cross that line.

Christ demonstrated this love of a sinner when He forgave the woman taken in adultery. At the time, adultery was punishable by death. Christ taught that we are all sinners, and have no right to judge another. His defense of the woman, however, did not mean that He condoned her behavior. His "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more," perfectly demonstrated the blend of forgiveness of a person without tolerance of a sin. The woman at the well, the parable of the Samaritan, Christ's supping with publicans and sinners all demonstrate how we should behave towards those whose sins we see.

While those who do not understand homosexuality must mold their actions more perfectly after Christ, so should those who are sympathetic to homosexuality realize that much of the fear comes from ignorance. Many people have neither met nor befriended people with same-sex-attraction. If they have, they have not been gently and lovingly taught or educated about the subject. So often, bigotry is a symptom of ignorance. This is where Sister Pearson's works can help. But if you ask people to accept something they feel is harmful, you only widen the divide. Plead, therefore, for understanding, not for acceptance. Acceptance of a person's self will come with understanding, even if acceptance of a behavior never comes. Christ loved everyone, even if He did not love their behavior. He even lovingly taught the Pharisees. Many did not listen, but some did. As you seek to educate those who do not understand, remember that most have good hearts and would not wish to cause extra pain to anyone. We are all children, here, trying to work out our salvation together.


  1. We founded this country in protest against taxation without representation. How well are gay Americans’ interests being served by a government that takes their taxes but won’t issue them a marriage license?

    Denying a group of Americans their right to equality before the law certainly sounds like "isolation" to me. "Separate but (not quite) equal" is clearly an isolating tactic. As such, per your own thesis, you'd expect such a tactic to lead to suicide, wouldn't you?

    Wanna start helping? Come out loud and strong against Prop 8.

  2. SilverRain, thanks for this post.

    Chino, it's important to note that marriage is not a right that is granted for being a taxpayer. It has never been something on which all people in the US were (or are supposed to be) 'equal.'

  3. But note what she said in her post. It's important to reach out, be kind, etc. But it's important for those who support gay marriage to understand that in all our desire to be kind, we cannot be expected to violate what we believe is right in principle. It's hard not to conflate the two, but kindness should not be equated or demanded in the form of violating one's principles of right and wrong.

  4. What interests me is that in looking at the suicide of these people, nearly everyone focuses solely on the LDS Church.

    Where is the focus on the the gay rights lobby, who has issued dire (and in at least some cases, demonstrably false) warnings that "you can't change it"? Where are the outcries against bodies of scientific and psychological professionals that have deliberately blackballed those researchers who seek to develop methods to assist those trying to overcome SSA? Where are the demands of accountability for the liberal Mormons who shatter the foundational tenets of these individuals' beliefs by telling them that "it's not sinful" and/or that "the apostles and prophets have misled you"?

  5. I guess I don't understand what is meant here by being kind. You mean, that you personally feel that the gay person is an evil sinner, but you're big enough to, what? How is the kindness expressed?

  6. djinn—I meant that we are all evil sinners and all inheritors of a divine birthright, should we choose to accept it, and therefore should have compassion to those struggling with sin, homosexuals not excluded.

    Chino Blanco—I have to agree with M&M and add that I think the Church has just as much right to fight for what they believe as any organization, so long as it is within legal bounds.

    JimD—you have a good point, one I had not noticed. Thank you for point it out.

  7. ... not to come in late to a conversation or anything...

    But if you ask people to accept something they feel is harmful, you only widen the divide. Plead, therefore, for understanding, not for acceptance.

    I very much agree with this.

    Unfortunately, attitudes such as the one presented by Chino Blanco are creating a lot of damage to the efforts of those of us who are trying to plead for understanding instead of acceptance.

    That is to say, words parallel to Chino's create an atmosphere where whenever is heard anything concerning gay lifes, liberties, and pursuits of happiness, one almost automatically becomes defensive and protective, closed off to almost anything being said.

    It's an atmosphere of "Your beliefs be damned; you have to accept my choices and my beliefs."

    I know when I went to my family to beg for understanding they did not hear, "Please try to understand where I'm coming from; just hear me out..." but rather "Give up what you believe and take upon yourselves what I believe." (Which the latter is not a belief I hold what-so-ever.)

    Of course, the mal atmosphere isn't completely to blame. Latter-day Saints have a very stringent (best word I could think of right now) duty to ignore any stereotyped atmospheres and to sincerely listen to any sincerely presented message.

    After all, it's what is expected of non-members when it comes to listening to the LDS church's doctrines.

    Unfortunately, however, the attitude I have most often met when speaking with Latter-day Saints is the same as the Baptist (... not to resort to stereotypes or anything...) saying to the LDS missionaries at his door, "I already have the Gospel of Christ; what you preach is blasphemy seeped directly from the lips of Satan."

    For me, perhaps the most difficult thing to do -- and the thoughts that precursored [sic] my deepest feelings of suicide -- was knowing a good portion of my family was going to believe that my choices are not rooted in a sincere desire to do what I feel are the counsels and directions of the Holy Spirit, but that my choices are rooted in desires to be fulfilled in a physical or temporal way.

    That is to say, it was, indeed, misunderstanding (of my motivations, of my experiences, of my prayers, of my beliefs, etc.) that made me want to literally run a dagger through my heart.

    It is this misunderstanding that causes me a lot of anxiety and heartache even now.

    And I honestly don't care if my parents and siblings ever end up believing what I believe (to be blunt, such an understanding is not vital for them to hold pertaining to their eternal salvations -- as it is for me). I don't care if they accept what I believe as truth.

    What I do care about, however, is that they understand where my beliefs are stemming. What I do care about is that they understand what my motivations in life truly are, without listening to any other source but me. What I do care about is that they simply understand.

    ... not to write a twelve page essay on your blog or anything...

  8. Chedner—Thank you. I believe your comment illustrates what I mean very nicely. It is a hard thing to love someone without agreeing with them, but it is what Christ has asked us to do.

  9. Well written article.

  10. One would have to be near to brain dead to see Siver Rain's comments as anything other than beyond cruel. Nice. "[We] should have compassion to those struggling with sin, homosexuals not excluded.}" You're born gay, too too bad.

    I'm assuming here, prove me wrong, if you wish, Ms. Rain, but I bet if any gay family members dare raise their head you treat them with something other than loving kindness unless they grovel sufficiently to prove their sinful nature; or they could just lie through their teeth to you. I bet that's the choice they pick.

    Beware the family party, Ms. Rain, assuming you don't take offense to the specific honorific; who knows who will show up?

  11. djinn,

    Hey, now. Play nice. Silver is a good friend of mine...where you and I have been is not where you and she need to go. She's also actually quite a reasonable, not boring person. (wink, wink)

  12. Djinn, although I would normally try to address your concerns, I hope you can understand that your angst and animosity is not my top priority right now. I hope you find the peace you obviously need.

    M&M—Thank you, my friend. I really appreciate that.


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