Members of North Star International addressed an audience of young LDS men and women Saturday about hope and healing for Mormons who experience same-sex attraction.
The fireside comes on the heels of two major Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, stimulating widespread curiosity about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ official stance on homosexuality. The LDS Church heavily promoted Proposition 8, a legal measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman, in California in 2008.
North Star is a volunteer initiative that was put together for Latter-day Saints who struggle with same sex attraction and wish to continue living an active Latter-day Saint lifestyle.
“The mission of North Star is to provide a place of community for Latter-day Saints who experience homosexual attraction, as well as their family, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders,” its website reads. “North Star serves those who desire the spiritual and social support that strengthens faith, builds character, and empowers men and women to live in joy and harmony within their covenants, values, and beliefs as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Nathan Gibbons, therapist at LDS Family Services, and James “Jimmy” Merrell, online community coordinator for North Star, spoke at the fireside held at the Manavu Chapel south of BYU campus in Provo.
“I speak to you today not as a therapist, but as a father, husband, brother and friend,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons addressed the flawed thinking that leads some to ostracize and shame those who have sinned into silence. He told those gathered that they should fill their need for approval by seeking God’s acceptance rather than other people’s.
“If sins smelled, our chapels would smell like a junkyard,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons then quoted Doctrine and Covenants 97:8, which reads, “All among you who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice — yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command — they are accepted of me.”
Gibbons said it would be difficult for members of the Church to have a constructive dialogue about homosexuality if that dialogue isn’t centered on Jesus Christ.
“If we’re rooted in shame, we produce ignorance and we are hyper focused on how others react to us. If we’re rooted in Christ, we produce love and understanding,” Gibbons said.
Merrell spoke about the danger of focusing on spiritual wounds for too long, warning that it can isolate individuals who dwell on them excessively. Those who do so tend to remove themselves from others and, ultimately, from Christ, he said.
Merrell also taught those gathered that the Hebrew basic word for atonement means “to cover” and in Arabic, “a close embrace.”
“Just as we would cover a physical wound with a bandage, we would cover spiritual ones with the atonement of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We need to let Christ into our lives and help us heal from wounds we experience.”
Ty Mansfield, author of “Voices of Hope: Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Same-Gender Attraction,” and North Star vice president of online outreach and communication, said the best thing a loved one of someone with same sex attraction can do is listen.
“You don’t need all the answers to their questions to be a support. You just need to be willing to love and to listen. Put the ball in their court and ask them how they need you to support them,” Mansfield said. “Ask questions like, ‘What has this been like for you?’ ‘What’s the hardest part?’ And never stop loving them.”
Merrell advised BYU students or anyone else experiencing same-sex attraction to “reach out and find support.”
“No one should struggle alone, so don’t do this alone,” Merrell said. “Find support in different mediums — family, friends, support groups such as North Star — and ultimately, in Christ.”