FAIR conference, talk number one: ‘Joshua Johanson, Navigating the Labryrinth Surrounding Homosexual Desire’

Joshua Johanson, married, one son. Lives in San Diego. Wrote “Gay Mormons? Latter-day Saint Experiences of Same-Gender Attraction.”

He discussed the difference between having homosexual desire and having SSA.

He was never attracted to girls until Alyssa, his wife.

He was married in the Oakland temple, currently has a sexually fulfilling relationship.
Compared the feminist movement to the gay rights movement – “the gay rights no more represents me than the feminist movement represents my wife.”

We make our own sexual choices – they are not predetermined by birth.

Just because somebody is gay does not mean they need a same-sex relationship. Study – most men with SSA – 60 percent – have never acted upon it. People who identify as gay have had gay sex. The silent majority do not identify as gay and have not had gay sex. This may be one reason why our church leaders warn us about identifying as gay. We may not choose our attractions, but we do choose our behaviors.
Pres. Kimball says homosexual behavior can be changed. Pres. Kimball says we can overcome this tendency, just as we can overcome the urge for fornication. Straight men overcome through the atonement of Jesus Christ, the same applies to people with SSA. There is a difference between having SSA and desiring gay sex. Our desires are up to us.

Joshua says: “My attraction is different than my desire. My attraction is SSA, my desire is to be faithful to my wife. I am here to act and not to be acted upon.”
He says he really likes apple pie. “If all I do is eat sweets, I don’t feel good. I have the attraction to sweets, but the desires to feel healthy.”

Why do people have the temptations they do? He does not take a position on this. We do not choose our attractions. The focus should be on living the law of chastity. If we submit ourselves to God, He can save us. It is not like straight people can be saved where they are at, why should gay people be saved where they are at.

Teaching the commandments of God is a very, very loving thing to do.

It is the desire to view pornography that needs to change, and it is the desire to have a SS relationship that needs to change.
There has not been a major change in doctrine in the last few decades.
In every ward of the church, LDS services estimates that there are 4 or 5 with SSA. But they marry in the temple and do not act on it. Joshua says: “Many people like to pit us against the Church. Faithful members of the Church with SSA are rarely ask to speak to the media. There are plenty of places I could go if I could give in to my lusts, but I want a church that helps me overcome my lusts. “
“We need help. We need people who understand our issues. We need people who are willing to bring us in, mourn with us and help us overcome the natural man. “
For some, marriage is not an option. Many of us are willing to sacrifice SS relationships so we can have the peace the Gospel brings. Many men with SSA are sexually attracted to their spouse. There are two types of attractions – the initial attraction and the one that develops over time.
2 million men with SSA married to women in the U.S. 29 percent have had gay sex in the last year. The majority are faithful. The minority gets the attention – being faithful to your wife rarely makes headlines. More men with SSA are committed to women than men with men. Men need women to be complete.
Not having gay sex is a great way to prevent suicide.
19 percent of men who have sex with men were infected with HIV. HIV seems to be increasing. Increased risk for other STDs. Programs focuses on safe sex – no government program helps people leave the gay lifestyle if they want to.
“I think it is more loving and more pro-gay to discuss these issues (gay STDS and gay celibacy).”
Joshua promotes several groups, such as Evergreen, Exodus and North Star.
SSA may never go away, but we can change behaviors, values and identity. “SSA may never go away, but we can still live the law of chastity.”
The gay rights movement refuses to support the option of celibacy. “The gay rights movement thinks my lifestyle is dangerous. What we want is no long discussed. Those who support us are painted as anti-gay. They worry that heterosexual marriage and celibacy are damaging to the gay movement. But they are trying to push their position on us.”
LDS leaders have spoken out against bullying, employment protection, AIDS prevention and housing protection. Individual members are not as supportive. He is disappointed with the lack of support from individual members. Members shy away from being loving and supportive of gay people. “We must love our gay brothers and sisters. To truly love people, we lift them up. We continue to love and support them even if they choose a different path. The Gospel is the most pro-gay and welcoming organization again because it teaches us what we must do to live with God again.”

He gave a great testimony of the truth of the Gospel. His greatest joy in life is his wife and son and the Church.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

20 thoughts on “FAIR conference, talk number one: ‘Joshua Johanson, Navigating the Labryrinth Surrounding Homosexual Desire’

  1. About loving people . . . it’s a lot harder if they aren’t ready to be loved.

    I know that I have been strengthened by fighting against my instincts. When I have been victorious over my body, whether it is through fasting, through living the law of chastity, the Word of Wisdom, or pushing myself to exercise when I don’t want to, my self esteem increases, and I become more comfortable with who I am, not less.

    I don’t believe that suicides come as a result of people who don’t accept homosexuality, but from people who don’t understand Christian love, who feel like the only way to accept someone is to agree with their choices. When we learn to love even if someone doesn’t agree with us, and to be respectful of others’ agency, we are able to love despite differences.

    And that cuts both ways.

  2. Really a great topic here. The Church used to endorse a method of intervention/brainwashing to have those with SSA be converted to an attraction to women. Now, to understand that the man with SSA does not have to be attracted to all women, but perhaps control his natural desires and someday be attracted to one woman, is a huge step forward. Joshua shows that there are real options for those with SSA, which do not include caving into the flesh.

    I hope this becomes part of the national discussion, and not just on a few LDS discussion sites and seminars.

  3. It is interesting that more and more married LDS with SSA are “coming out” and telling their stories. We have Josh Weed of Club Unicorn, Ty Mansfield of North Star, and now Joshua Johansen.

    There seem to be some differences, and I’m a bit confused about the particulars. When Josh Weed “came out,” he left little confusion about exactly how he defined his situation. He claimed that as a homosexual, he does not feel sexual attraction to his wife, only to men (although he says sexual attraction is not necessary to have a fulfilling sexual relationship with a woman.) So I can assume that Josh is a pure homosexual, (not a bisexual), who has, through his commitment to the gospel and to love of family, transcended his sexuality.

    But it’s harder for me to understand exactly where Joshua Johansen is, and how he feels about SSA. He says that many people with SSA are actually sexually attracted to their wives. Does this mean they are bi-sexual? He also says that “attraction is different than desire. My attraction is SSA, my desire is to be faithful to my wife.” He also says that “there are two types of attraction, the initial, and one that comes over time.”

    So I’m left wondering if Joshua is bi-sexual, and experiences sexual attraction to his wife, or if he hopes to develop a future sexual attraction to his wife over time, or if like Josh Weed, his spiritual desires transcend his physical ones, and he never expects to be sexually attracted to his wife.

    These questions are important, because they help us understand just what kind of challenges homosexuals face in the church. Is their challenge the equivalent of me, as a heterosexual, being encouraged to marry another man, and overcome my heterosexuality? Or is their challenge more minimal, simply a “tendency of one sort or another” just like everyone has, but which we can all overcome?

  4. Nate, Joshua describes himself as a man with nearly exclusive same-sex attraction. He says he is always attracted to men but has only been attracted to one woman, his wife. He says he has a sexually fulfilling relationship with his wife.

  5. Courageous discussion. Sexual desire and shame go hand in hand so that many things that ought to be discussed cannot be because they would be too self revealing i.e. shameful. We ought to be able to speak more candidly to youth about sexual desire and our own struggles with the proper channeling of such desire.

  6. I enjoyed this talk a great deal. I think a great deal of church culture is reacting to the more militant element of the gay movement. We see this currently in the reaction to Chick fil A but also in the rather vociferous and sometimes violent reaction to prop 8. To show how much more broad the gay movement is, and its non militant side helps break down the negative impressions many church members have of SSA issues. It helps to promote more discussion of these issues and break down the stereotypes. If the discussion is done as the speaker did here, I think we would be surprised at how progressive and inclusive the church really is. We saw this at a recent discussion at BYU where gay members spoke about their lives.

  7. This is such a good conversation. I agree completely. I am attracted to men. That does not mean that I have to desire sex with them. That is something that is learned or “fed” over time and can develop. If we feed those thoughts of desire towards men, they will only grow larger and become a bigger part of us.

    I am attracted to men, yes. And a part of me has a desire to have sex with men. But that part of me is growing smaller, because my desire to follow the commandments of God is stronger. I choose to feed that part of my soul and it has brought peace and happiness, more so than any homosexual relationship could.

    I have a true testimony of how turning to the Savior Jesus Christ has truly helped me change my desires to more righteous ones. I am still attracted to men, but my desires are more righteous. Thank you for commenting on that distinction!

  8. Mormonandgay, thank you for having the courage to speak out on this issue. I know it is not politically correct, but it is a viewpoint that should be heard.

  9. I am grateful for people like Joshua Johanson and MormonandGay who are charting a path of heroic fidelity to the gospel in the quiet routines of their daily lives.

  10. mormonandgay, I think you rightly demonstrate the simple path to overcoming. I have things in my life that I have had to work on for a very long time: overcoming thought patterns, behavior patterns, and desires for things that are temporal and unhelpful. They follow exactly the pattern you describe: slow waning of one natural man inclination, slow growth of the self-sacrificing. I don’t think it’s a path we can force on anyone, but when people choose that path of voluntary submission and sacrifice, how noble and inspiring!

    My father was a convert to the church at age 28. He had already been an alcoholic and chain smoker for a long time. He gradually accepted many things: first, serving; then, tithing; then finally, the word of wisdom. It was a gradual thing, so it took 5 years for my parents to be ready to go to the temple. There were so many changes to make in our family, we barely hung in there with the gospel some of the time. He received a blessing shortly before they went to the temple in which he was promised that if he never again chose to take a cigarette, the desire would forever be taken from him. He embraced that blessing after years of trying to quit, and he never once talked himself into a cigarette. He quit cold turkey and never had a desire for it again. In fact, he developed a powerful allergy to cigarette smoke. He was a hard man and had many things that never softened towards me, but he was a hero to me for his courage to stay true to the covenant that was offered to him.

    To me, although the same thing is not offered to all, obedience given as a full-hearted choice is not only beautiful, but saving. Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. MormonandGay, you are so great! And you are a great example of letting the Lord turn a weakness/trial into a strength. Thanks for your example. :)

  12. Morgan, I read about that panel, and was so glad it occurred, even though some opinions didn’t fall in line with current church position. But for the most part, it was so good about erasing this whole taboo, and this feeling like we can’t talk about it or we might somehow be infected by thoughts that may be contrary to what we believe. When in truth, we CAN and SHOULD talk about it, and should support our fellow SSA members, strengthening them in their desire to be righteous and not give in to their SS attractions. And for those who decide for whatever reason that they want to live a gay lifestyle, we continue to talk to them and love them all the same, just like Jesus sat down and truly enjoyed those who weren’t the orthodox “righteous” by following the rigid letters of the law instead of the spirit of it.

    Al, I appreciate your comment: “Sexual desire and shame go hand in hand so that many things that ought to be discussed cannot be because they would be too self revealing i.e. shameful.”

    I have four boys, the oldest 13. This is why I talk openly (but age-appropriately) with them about things of a sexual nature. I think that preparing them to understand WHY we believe in saving ourselves before marriage, and being specific about how wonderful that sexual act is in marriage, when framed in a loving, committed relationship, helped me intrinsicly “get” why I wanted to stay celibate until I married, and then to be able to happily embrace that part of married life when I reached that point.

    Even though it isn’t exactly the same for SSA individuals, it still IS important to be able to talk about what to expect, how to approach their temptations much like I talk with my son about temptations for m—. If it’s out in the open and he knows the feelings that are awakening in him right now, and can prepare for and gain a testimony of the sanctity of the sacred power of procreation and marital sexual intimacy, it will help him want to wait to share those feelings with his future spouse.

    However, I do think it’s so much harder for our SSA members because while we ask all single adults to abstain, SSA single adults aren’t able to be encouraged to seek a companion in this lifetime that would fit their orientation/attraction. They can’t even date, hold hands, etc if they want to remain chaste, whereas we have entire singles wards dedicated to encouraging hetero members to date and marry.

    My only concern about the above, and about Bro. Weeds, and the BYU panel member who was sealed are that I do NOT believe these are the norm. For most SSA members, I have read many statistics that attempting to do this, to “cure” or ignore their SSA and marry the opposite sex did much, much more damage than good. I don’t think it’s fair to the bride/groom or the SSA individual themself. Bro. Weeds pointed out that he told his wife beforehand of his SSA, which I think is crucial. They both felt that they could marry and make it work even though he isn’t physically attracted to her on that level. This article is even more rare, where a very homosexual man is attracted to one female.

    When any of these cases work for both involved and their children/families, I think that’s wonderful. But I DON’T think we should be pushing these articles on our SSA mormon population as though marrying the opposite sex would somehow fix things even if they weren’t trying to deny/ignore/cure their SSA by doing so. I think these are individual cases, and that every case should be individual to the the person/people involved. It’s between them and God what works for them in their life, and how they feel they are able to obey God’s commandments and choose broccoli over apple pie. : )

  13. Hey, btw, M&G, J. Max Wilson, who you see in the comments (who applauds you) is the one who linked me to this article and to the northstarlds group to which you already subscribe. He’s my cousin-in-law. : )

  14. “My only concern about the above, and about Bro. Weeds, and the BYU panel member who was sealed are that I do NOT believe these are the norm. For most SSA members, I have read many statistics that attempting to do this, to “cure” or ignore their SSA and marry the opposite sex did much, much more damage than good.”

    What I’m hearing more in the stories and testimonies is an underlying desire to live the plan of salvation and the standards of God. I think all those who have spoken and are married have acknowledged that it may not be right for all with SSA to marry someone of the opposite sex, but it is always right to keep the law of chastity and trust in God’s promises. Either way, it requires a faith in God’s power and promises, a desire to be true to covenants, etc.

    To me, there is a great unifying truth in all of this — that no matter our struggles, the Atonement is there to help us through. No one’s trial is outside the reach of the Savior.

    I’m so grateful for our brothers and sisters who are faithfully facing their trials, whatever they may be. And I’m grateful that some who face the trial of SSA are sharing their faith.

  15. “No one’s trial is outside the reach of the Savior.”

    So true. Beautiful.

    And for the SSA members who do marry and it works out, I’m glad for them living the plan of salvation in whatever way brings them closer to God. And for those where that just wouldn’t be helpful, the Savior definitely works with them on their level.

    That’s what I love about the gospel. While we preach to the ideal, the gospel is also an extremely individual gospel; that is why we are entitled to personal revelation that is tailored to our unique trials and blessings. In conjunction with scriptures, church leaders, prophets’ counsel, Ensign articles, etc, we also have our own tailored iron rods through personal prayer, where the Holy Ghost can whisper to us and guide us in how to make our lives work within the ideal that we strive for.

  16. This is a must-read article by anyone, not just members of the church. Intellectual, yet plain with truth. I, for one, am better for having read it. Thank you, Bro. Johanson for enlightening me!

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