Lesson 8: Gender and Eternal Identity

The Eternal Family Teacher Manual, 2015


Introduction

Our gender was established before we were born into mortality and is an essential characteristic of our eternal identity. Church leaders distinguish between same-sex attraction, which is not sinful, and homosexual behavior, which is considered sinful because it conflicts with Heavenly Father’s plan for our exaltation. This lesson will help students see the prophetic basis for this distinction and also recognize that all of God’s children are equally beloved and deserve to be treated with love and civility.

Background Reading

  • Robert D. Hales, “The Plan of Salvation: A Sacred Treasure of Knowledge to Guide Us,” Ensign, Oct. 2015.

  • Jeffrey R. Holland, “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 2007, 42–45.

  • Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 7–14.

  • Gospel Topics, “Same-Sex Attraction,” lds.org/topics.

  • “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction,” mormonsandgays.org. If students raise questions about the Church’s policy regarding homosexuality, please refer them to this official Church website.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 76:24; Moses 2:27; “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”

Gender is an essential part of our eternal identity

Ask three students to read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 76:24; Moses 2:27; and the second paragraph of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129). Invite the class to consider what these sources teach or imply about gender.

  • How would you summarize what these sources teach about our eternal identity? (Students should identify the following: Our gender is an essential characteristic of our eternal identity and purpose.)

  • Why is it helpful for us to understand that our gender existed long before we came to earth? (As students respond, you might share the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith [1876–1972]: “In Genesis we read: … ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.’ [Genesis 1:27; italics added.] Is it not feasible to believe that female spirits were created in the image of a ‘Mother in Heaven’?” [Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. (1957–66), 3:144].)

  • How can understanding the eternal nature of gender help us to live in harmony with Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness, even when society sometimes condones very different standards of behavior?

To help address the above question, share the following doctrinal statements by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Consider reading each paragraph individually and discussing what it teaches about how homosexual behavior is in opposition to Heavenly Father’s plan for the exaltation of His children.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“The purpose of mortal life and the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to prepare the sons and daughters of God for their destiny—to become like our heavenly parents.

“Our eternal destiny—exaltation in the celestial kingdom—is made possible only through the atonement of Jesus Christ (through which we became and can remain ‘innocent before God’ [D&C 93:38]) and is only available to a man and a woman who have entered into and been faithful to the covenants of an eternal marriage in a temple of God (see D&C 131:1–4132). …

“Because Satan desires that ‘all men might be miserable like unto himself’ (2 Ne. 2:27), his most strenuous efforts are directed at encouraging those choices and actions that will thwart God’s plan for his children. He seeks to undermine the principle of individual accountability, to persuade us to misuse our sacred powers of procreation, to discourage marriage and childbearing by worthy men and women, and to confuse what it means to be male or female” (“Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 7–8).

Doctrine and Covenants 59:6

The Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and homosexual behavior

Give each student a copy of the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Invite students to study the statement, looking for principles that Elder Holland teaches about those who are attracted to people of the same sex and how to respond to them with love.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“A pleasant young man in his early 20s sat across from me. He had an engaging smile, although he didn’t smile often during our talk. What drew me in was the pain in his eyes.

“‘I don’t know if I should remain a member of the Church,’ he said. ‘I don’t think I’m worthy.’

“‘Why wouldn’t you be worthy?’ I asked.

“‘I’m gay.’

“I suppose he thought I would be startled. I wasn’t. ‘And … ?’ I inquired.

“A flicker of relief crossed his face as he sensed my continued interest. ‘I’m not attracted to women. I’m attracted to men. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings or change them, but …’

“He sighed. ‘Why am I this way? The feelings are very real.’

“I paused, then said, ‘I need a little more information before advising you. You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings. Do you violate the law of chastity?’

“He shook his head. ‘No, I don’t.’

“This time I was relieved. ‘Thank you for wanting to deal with this,’ I said. ‘It takes courage to talk about it, and I honor you for keeping yourself clean.

“‘As for why you feel as you do, I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. But knowing why you feel as you do isn’t as important as knowing you have not transgressed. If your life is in harmony with the commandments, then you are worthy to serve in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the temple, and receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement.’

“He sat up a little straighter. I continued, ‘You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you’” (“Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 2007, 42).

  • What principles did you identify in Elder Holland’s counsel?

Write the following bold principles on the board as students share them, and discuss them with sensitivity:

  • We can feel God’s love when we focus on our identity as His sons and daughters.

  • Being attracted to people of the same sex is not a violation of the law of chastity, but acting on that attraction is. Consider sharing Doctrine and Covenants 59:6: “Thou shalt not … commit adultery … nor do anything like unto it,” pointing out that “anything like unto it” refers to any sexual intimacy outside the bonds of marriage. Homosexual behavior is a sin, just as heterosexual relations outside of marriage are sinful. Anyone who participates in any type of sexual sin can be forgiven through repentance.

  • Regardless of the reasons that some people are attracted to those of the same sex, all people can choose to live in harmony with God’s commandments. Emphasize the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “There is so much we don’t understand about this subject, that we’d do well to stay close to what we know from the revealed word of God. What we do know is that the doctrine of the Church, that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married, has not changed and is not changing” (“What Needs to Change,” mormonsandgays.org).

  • When we live in harmony with God’s commandments, we can enjoy all the privileges of Church membership and the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement. Even though individuals may not choose to be attracted to people of the same sex, they can choose how to respond to that attraction.

After listing these principles on the board, ask:

  • In what ways can these principles provide hope to those who experience same-sex attraction?

  • What other principles do we learn from Elder Holland’s statements?

Matthew 7:12; John 8:1–11; 15:12

We should treat others with love and respect

(Note: As you teach this section of the lesson, be sure to emphasize that those who are attracted to people of the same sex without acting on that attraction are not sinful like the woman taken in adultery. However, Christ’s actions toward the woman are an example of how we should treat all people—whether or not they are participating in immoral behavior.)

Tell students that the Apostle John recorded an occasion when the Savior was faced with a very sensitive situation. Give students a few moments to study John 8:1–11, looking for how the Savior treated the woman taken in adultery. Help students liken this account to their own attitudes and actions toward those who engage in homosexual and other immoral behavior by asking the following questions:

  • What do the Savior’s actions teach us about how we are to treat others? (Although He did not condone the woman’s sin, He treated her with kindness and respect, not with cruelty.)

  • How can we apply the Savior’s example to our own attitudes and actions toward our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, regardless of whether they have participated in immoral behavior? As students respond, write the following principle on the board: We follow the Savior’s example when we have empathy for all of God’s children and treat them with sensitivity and kindness. (See also Matthew 7:12; John 15:12.)

Consider displaying the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and asking a student to read it aloud:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“The Lord obviously did not justify the woman’s sin. He simply told her that He did not condemn her—that is, He would not pass final judgment on her at that time. This interpretation is confirmed by what He then said to the Pharisees: ‘Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man’ (John 8:15). The woman taken in adultery was granted time to repent, time that would have been denied by those who wanted to stone her” (“‘Judge Not’ and Judging,” Ensign, Aug. 1999, 8).

Students might benefit from learning that, according to the Joseph Smith Translation of John 8:11, following her interaction with the Savior “the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name” (in John 8:11, footnote c).

Display the following statement by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:

Elder Quentin L. Cook

“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender” (“Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction,” mormonsandgays.org).

Invite students to evaluate their own attitudes and actions toward people who are attracted to the same sex. Are those attitudes and actions in harmony with the Lord’s teachings and example?

  • What would you do if you were in a group where derogatory comments were being made about people who experience same-sex attraction?

Testify that if we will show greater love and kindness toward our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, lives can be changed, families can be healed, and people who feel alienated from the Church can feel more welcomed by Church members. Remind students that the blessings of Jesus Christ’s Atonement are available to anyone who seeks to keep the commandments and remain true to gospel covenants.

Invite students to think of individuals they know who are attracted to the same sex and ponder what they will do to be more compassionate toward them while holding true to the Lord’s law of chastity.

Student Readings