"Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them." - Alma 56:47
Monday, November 19, 2012
Same Sex Attraction: Reconciling Faith & Feelings
This weekend I was privileged to attend a conference put on by the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists (AMCAP) called Sex Attraction Conference: Reconciling Faith & Feelings. It was "the first-ever public presentation brings together anumber of people who have experienced same-sexattraction, including several persons who now havesuccessful opposite-sex marriages. They will offerinsights into how they have reconciled their challenges and their traditional moral values, includingthe teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter-day Saints. Other therapists and scholars willprovide additional perspectives." Before I talk about the conference, let me preface with an apology. This blog post is going to be pretty bipolar and all over the place because I'm going to be copying down my notes from my journal, so bear with me.
I was initially super apprehensive about going to the conference because of my previous experience with Journey into Manhood. Long story short, JIM was not what I thought it was going to be. I was expecting a gospel oriented agenda and spiritual upliftment, which at least for me it wasn't. The cool thing about this conference, it was exactly what I thought JIM was going to be like. It was completely gospel oriented. I felt the spirit the whole time and came away feeling filled and full of hope like most people do after attending the temple or general conference.
There are so many thoughts put forward, I think honestly the best way to go about this would just be to bullet point some important points:
*The key to overcoming same sex attraction is to not make it the central focus in your life. Focus on living the the gospel and as you do you will over come compulsive sexual behaviors. With the gospel as your central focus, your view of SSA will change, you will find joy, you will stop hating yourself, your homosexual feelings will not go away but they will diminish. One of the speakers made the point to say that any appetite that's fed (sexual addictions, SSA), grows in strength. Make SSA your focus, you feed it. Make God your focus, you feed yourself, he feeds you.
*Hope with a capital H is what's most important. The goal for those helping treat those who experience SSA is to give hope. To let them know that there is hope, there is a road, there is a path for them in which their faith and feelings reconcile.
*The most powerful and sustaining type of change that occurs in someone who experiences SSA is the change in one's heart. Having the faith to believe in a higher power and truly be able to say "Thy will be done." Change though is individual and it all comes down to what the individual wants.
*SSA can be likened to speaking english. One wasn't born speaking english. Though one may not remember it, you learned how to speak english. SSA is the same. No one was "born this way." Certain experiences and tendencies led to this place of SSA. Missionaries learn second languages all the time. They still think in English but are able to adapt and be proficient in another language.
*When one first starts accepting and choosing to deal with their same sex attraction, they tend to ask the organizing question "Can I or can't I change my sexual orientation?" Ty Mansfield said that this is a red herring that is presented to us. We don't need to worry about sexual orientation. We should worry about changing our own story! A spiritual change is much more important and key to overcoming this mortal overlay. One speaker noted, "I may like women, but when people ask my orientation, I tell them it is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ".
*"Either I'm in the driver's seat or my emotions are."
*Ty also made the point to say that loneliness and sexual attraction are often thrown together into one when it comes to SSA. He said it was important that they be separated from each other. Those feelings of isolation and emotional starvation need to be treated, so you can be healthy first. In deepening your relationships with people and feeding yourself spiritual and emotional, SSA will be treated as well. Though it is important to note that one can't base their happiness on another person or relationship. We can never learn to be happy married if we aren't happy single.
*Ty spoke on how his SSA is a gift and a blessing. It has taught him so much about the Savior and has given him such great faith and patience.
I would like to close this post with a quote from one of the speakers. Her Bishop felt prompted to say this in sacrament meeting (it just so happened to be her first Sunday back at church in 6 years). She knew when he said this, it was for her and her experiences with SSA:
"My greatest fear is that we get to the other side and realize that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ could have healed us."
I am so thankful for this opportunity I had to attend this conference, to be spiritual fed and reinvigorated to keep moving forward. I'm grateful for the atonement, for a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior who knows exactly what I'm going through.