President Oaks’ comments on gender and identity

President Oaks made the following comments regarding the Proclamation on the Family, sexuality and gender identity on Wednesday:

President Dallin H. Oaks
In a continuation of the teaching given two weeks ago by President Nelson at Brigham Young University, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, offered remarks about the eternal nature of God’s children, His plan for them and the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors.
“While God’s commandments forbid all unchaste behavior and reaffirm the importance of marriage between a man and a woman, the Church and its faithful members should reach out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same sex or whose sexual orientation or gender identity is inconsistent with their sex at birth,” President Oaks taught. “We do not know why same-sex attraction and confusion about sexual identity occur,” he continued. “They are among the challenges that persons can experience in mortality, which is only a tiny fraction of our eternal existence.”

President Oaks spoke of three fundamental doctrinal truths that God has revealed:
First, … that God created ‘male and female,’” and that this “binary creation is essential to the plan of salvation.”
Second, modern revelation teaches that eternal life, the greatest gift of God to His children, is only possible through the creative powers inherent in the combination of male and female joined in an eternal marriage (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:19). That is why the law of chastity is so important.”
Finally, the long-standing doctrinal statements reaffirmed in [The Family: A Proclamation to the World] 23 years ago will not change. They may be clarified as directed by inspiration.” For example, “the intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation and as used in Church statements and publications since that time is biological sex at birth.”
“When counseling with any members experiencing challenges related to their sexual orientation, Church leaders should affirm that God loves all His children, including those dealing with confusion about their sexual identity or other LGBT feelings,” President Oaks said. “Such members and their families have unique challenges. They should be offered hope and be ministered to as directed by the Spirit according to their true needs, remembering the admonition of Alma to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (see Mosiah 18:9).”
“Because we love God and understand His great plan of salvation and the significance of His commandments, we manifest our love for our neighbors by helping them come unto Christ, repent, and keep His commandments. This is part of bearing one another’s burdens that they may be light.”

(I added the bolded emphasis above).

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

25 thoughts on “President Oaks’ comments on gender and identity

  1. The fact that there are no comments on this post is telling. My hunch is that many active and faithful members are uneasy and wish Oaks would simply stop talking this way. Most of us now have openly LGBTQIA friends or relatives. We realize that our lived experience with our beloved gay/trans/queer friends isn’t consistent with the views expressed by top church leadership. The church is nearly at the tipping point where membership is declining instead of growing. By continuing to talk this way, Oaks is hastening our arrival at that tipping point.

  2. If our only option for growth is unbelieving people who feel doctrine is at the mercy of acquaintance with other people who don’t wholly believe in it, then shrink we must. Though I beg to differ with such a strident interpretation, in any event.

  3. I will be the first to post my disagreement to Eric’s comment. I do have many gay friends and I love and appreciate their contribution to our friendship and to our society as a whole, but it doesn’t make me uncomfortable to hear the prophets reaffirm God’s laws and doctrine.

    Yes, truth can be hard for some people in the Church when their own personal opinions have taken them away from truth. But after all, “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cuts them to the very center.”

    Sometimes we have to change our opinions. Trust in the Lord. Love our LGBT brothers and sisters, but don’t let that love overshadow God’s truth.

  4. Eric you couldn’t be more wrong.

    1. This was only posted this morning, give it time for the comments to roll in.

    2. There are many faithful members who love when prophets speak boldly and without apology, I am one of those people, the other contributors here at Millennial Star are also those people. We have hundreds of readers every day who also support the prophets. We support Pres. Oaks and the doctrines taught in the Family Proclamation — without question and without hesitation ,because we know those doctrines come from the Lord. We also firmly believe what it says in D&C 1:38, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” Do you believe that Eric? Do you believe that when Prs Oaks or Nelson or any other other apostles, get up they are speaking for the Lord? When Prs. Oaks gave this talk he was the mouth piece, this is what the Lord has stated, and re-stated. This is doctrine. The Family Proclamation is doctrine, period.

    3. Many of us here at Millennial Star, and in the church at large, have a gay friend or relative so we understand and have observed the struggles people go thru who are burdened with same sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria. We have seen the heart break, the heart ache, all of it. We have cried and pled with the Lord on their behalf, we sorrow when our friends and family have stepped off the Covenant Path to seek temporary happiness in the world. We pray for their return. We pray that they will be blessed by the Holy Spirit and to have their hearts softened to return to the fold of the Church. We pray for ourselves to have patience and charity towards them as well.

    I have a gay brother. What frustrates me more than anything with him are other members of the church, or those who are disaffected, who constantly pound the drum of victimhood in his ear because he’s gay. It’s not faithful members or the leadership that push the “you are less than” narrative in the church, or who are harming LGBT members. It’s the ally community and those who are critical of the Church’s stand on chastity, morality, sexuality, and marriage. The best thing you can do to help an LGBT member of the Church is to help him or her keep their covenants, support them as they keep the commandments, serve in their wards and in their families, make them feel welcome, help them see their value and worth, and mostly help them understand and have a testimony that if they keep their covenants and the commandments they will have more blessings than they can even fathom.

    4. The Church is never going to adopt the standards of the world. I know that will cause some people to leave, and that is their choice, and has been the case whenever truth is being taught since the beginning of the world. We all have the choice to walk the Covenant Path with the Lord or walk the way of the world. In the end, the Celestial Kingdom and Celestial laws are the easiest to live and obtain. It’s the way of the world that will be the hardest in the end.

    The work of the Lord will not stop. You can choose to be part of it, and to support the prophet and the doctrines of the Church, which are the Lord’s doctrines, or not. But this is what I know, as we sustain and support the leadership, as we seek to live and love the doctrines presented in the Family Proclamation, and help others to do so as well, we will be blessed and strengthened, as will they. I look forward to more bold declarations of the truth this weekend at Conference, and I hope you will to Eric.

  5. Eric, I can think of lots of possible reasons why there were no replies until yours; and I, for one, appreciate leadership that follows principles rather than populace. More than that, I agree with the principles El Oaks is teaching, I believe them. I note that the Bretheren have tried to be very deliberate in teaching ‘the why’ of our stance on same-sex marriage. All my best to you as you try to navigate these difficult times with family and friends.

  6. I have a child who sometimes pushes boundaries. Because they are “differently abled,” it is clear when they are just trying to yank chains.

    Perhaps I am not correct to do so, but at times I see similarities between what my child does and the strident activism of LGBTQIA activists.

    An example of pushing boundaries is the letter Giddianhi writes to Lachoneus (3 Ne. 3):

    “It seemeth a pity unto me…, that ye should be so foolish and vain as to suppose that ye can stand against so many…. I [know] of their unconquerable spirit [and] of their everlasting hatred towards you because of the many wrongs which ye have done unto them…. [Yield] up unto this my people…, rather than [that] destruction should come upon you.” (see 3 Ne. 3:3-6)

    My child will sometimes proclaim that I am a terrible person. And then I attempt to patiently explain that when someone pokes me hard between the eyes with their fingernail, this is not actually acceptable behavior. Or when they slam a door 15 times and it turns out they were simply trying to bother me. Or when they move as though they plan to toss a glass of milk in my face.

    I love my child. And yet some of my child’s actions are not conducive to calm enjoyment of a shared life.

    I have numerous acquaintances who fall within the LGBTQIA spectrum of otherness. When they act like reasonable people, I have absolutely no problem. But there is an occasional individual who acts as though they have a right to metaphorically poke me in the face with a nail. And that isn’t OK.

  7. Eric, the only things I find uncomfortable about that discussion are:

    * The potential for activists to attempt to ruin my life/career/friendships if I ever attract attention to myself “saying the wrong thing”.
    * How quickly all good will goes out the window by said activists and I become an enemy.
    * How delicately the tightrope of “don’t say anything that could offend” must be walked at all times by me, but never by them.
    * How self destructive and societal destructive behaviors must be viewed as normal and good, when is clear they are antithetical to our biological and spiritual reality.

    I could keep going, but that’s basically it.

    Not interested in walking that tight rope by people who tell me that unless I insist that dress does not make them look fat, they or someone else will kill themselves.

  8. Eric, the majority of active faithful members would absolutely disagree with you.

  9. Frankly, when I saw what Pres. Oaks said, I reacted in the same way I reacted when the Proclamation of the Family was first introduced, with a bit of a shrug. It seems like such an obvious statement of the teachings of the Church that there really wasn’t much to react to. Pres. Oaks may as well have said “water is wet.” It is simply an obvious statement of obvious truth.

    Now, I recognize that there are many who will disagree with the Church on this, but that’s hardly news either. Since when has the Church said anything about lgbt issues without the clamoring minority of activists losing their collective minds?

    So, yes. My reaction was decidedly ho-hum. I suspect that a great majority of the active membership of the Church feels precisely the same way. The only reason I am commenting now is because of Eric’s questionable hypothesis.

  10. I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some noise about “now that they are letting any member serve as witness for ordinances, it is clear that all accommodations anyone has ever requested will soon be granted.”

    I am not sufficiently clear on when and where President Oaks spoke to be certain that his comments occurred before or after the announcement of policy changes related to witnessing. That said, he clearly knew the announcement would be made.

    Regarding the witness announcement, I was like “cool.” Someone else (female) was like “COOL!” Another person (male) was like “this impinges on the perogatives of priesthood. Several of us (female) were like “The very first witness of a proxy ordinance on behalf of a deceased person was female (and aged and riding a horse in the middle of the river).”

    Every statement is heard by millions of ears, and it is rare that each hearer perceives the same implications. I suspect there are various echo chambers where Eric’s views are proponed at length. But as evidenced by other comments above, Eric may not be correct in his views.

  11. Eric, we get a lot of posts here with no comments, but you will notice that when you start questioning the prophets, this is one blog where you will get some push-back.

    When a prophet or apostle says something that I don’t agree with (which happens very rarely, but it has happened), I try to look at my belief system and see what is wrong with it and how I can bring it more in line with the servants of the Lord. A true follower of Christ is humble and willing to admit when he or she may not have the entire truth based on our experiences on the Earth. That is why we are grateful to hear from prophets and apostles — they help us know how to follow God’s will, because it isn’t always obvious what is the best route to take.

    As for the supposed declining membership of the Church, anybody who has studied church history knows that membership will go up and down in the short term (think about the 1830s) but up world-wide in the long term. Most members are outside of the United States these days, and I can tell you that they don’t give a hoot about the people in North America and Europe questioning the prophets. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Most of those members in North America and Europe who decide not to accept the teachings of Elder Oaks will eventually talk themselves out of the Church, and it will be to their everlasting regret.

  12. Thanks for the post. Love Elder Oaks courage to continue to stress that this doctrine of two eternal genders, and exaltation only for two of opposite gender sealed for eternity, is immutable. It cannot change. Any alternative makes no sense at all.

  13. Thanks to all of you for your kind responses. (I mean that sincerely.) The church’s official position on sexuality and gender issues has moved quite a bit in the last few years. Like many church members, I grew up believing that being gay was purely a choice. This belief was reinforced by the teachings of prophets and apostles, especially Spencer W. Kimball’s “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, which is no longer in print. Boyd K. Packer’s famous “Why would a loving Heavenly Father do that to anyone” statement has been removed from the official conference transcript for the October 2010 general conference. Thankfully we seem to be moving beyond these “choice” beliefs and accepting the reality that most who identify as LGBTQIA didn’t choose these aspects of their existence and journey.

    I suspect that the church’s teachings on this topic will continue to evolve. Thank goodness for continuing revelation. I’d love to reconvene this discussion with you all in 5, 10 and 15 years. I’ll enjoy reflecting on the journey and the evolution of doctrine, policy and culture within the church. In the meantime, let’s pray that our gay and trans members, especially those who are young, will be comforted. Far too many of them suffer with severe depression and suicidal ideation. Sadly some of them are no longer with us.

  14. Meg, Pres, Oak’s remarks were in the same meeting as the announcement on the change for witnessing ordinances. I’m assuming Prs. Oaks probably spoke after Pres Nelson, at least in every summary I’ve seen in the last 24 hours, he has been listed second.

  15. President Oaks’ comments clarifying the eternal and binary nature of gender used to be common sense. Perhaps that is why there aren’t many faithful members commenting on it, other than to sustain his words.

  16. It is interesting that most of the other reports of this leave out entirely his comments on love and acceptance and support and focus only on the definition of gender. This is not a new thing. He is merely clarifying what the current understanding is as it applies to church policy and practice. He also points out that he and the other church leaders are certainly open to revelation with additional understanding or application. Thanks for supplying the context around this quote.

  17. On the comment about gender being indeterminate, I hear people talk like that, but with DNA one either has at least one Y or one doesn’t have any Y.

    That said, my kids were raised so they felt free to do anything they wished. A lot of the angst and rebellion I’ve personally witnessed has emerged in reaction to micro cultures that are rigid in forcing individuals into strict behavioral stereotypes. Leaving folks free to be what they choose works best. Free agency… who knew?

  18. I applaud the leaders of the church for their continuing support of God’s truth. Contrary to Eric’s statement, I don’t see the church “moving” quite a bit on this issue at all. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Period. Homosexual relationships are not accepted. Gay marriage is not part of God’s plan. The proclamation on the family is still the doctrine of the church. Period.

  19. “Thankfully we seem to be moving beyond these “choice” beliefs and accepting the reality that most who identify as LGBTQIA didn’t choose these aspects of their existence and journey.”

    In many cases they were forced on them; a kind of societal public pornography.

    While it’s not something anyone woke up and said as a 14yr old, “today, I chose to get angry easier, or today I chose to have a skin disorder, or today I chose to be attracted to women or men….” it’s plainly obvious from the gospel perspective of agency that we chose to be here and we could see that kind of world this was.

    I take issue with the eternal perspective of they didn’t choose it. What if God told you, you did choose to be born into a time and family with various issues, but you did so with faith in yourself and knowledge and hope that though you’ll have periods of immense darkness and struggle in this moral probation that you’ll ultimately rise above it all through Christ’s atonement?

    How does that Reality change things.

    It’s a logical fact if you believe in agency and the pre-existence. Otherwise, you’d have to believe at some point you said, “you know what, that world looks too screwed up, there’s no way I’m going down there,” and God forced you anyway.

    There’s great power in knowing you choose to step into morality knowing that God loves you, trusts you, and has provided for you, regardless of what happens physically.

    Consider the lilies of the field. If God has made them so glorious, even though they have a fleeting existence and burned with the grass by men without a thought, will he not provide even more so for you? Don’t be of such little faith.

  20. Anyone who has had the opportunity to observe, perhaps even live with, a child as young as 2 or 3 who already displays gender identity issues knows that this is not a choice or a cultural problem. Regardless of one’s belief prior to the experience of observing and living with such a child, it can be both life and belief changing. On the one hand, this experience can be looked upon as a challenge from God to the person having the experience (i.e., a growing experience), while on the other hand, it can be looked upon as a challenge to those who are observers to recognize that what they have previously believed may not be true and that adjustments in one’s beliefs must be made. The closer one is to the experience (such as a parent) the more likely it is that one’s previously held beliefs are going to be challenged. Regardless, apparently good people having the same experience, either first or second hand, are likely to interpret it differently based on their current beliefs.

  21. The idea that some one is ‘born that way,’ that it is ‘natural’ for them is not an excuse before the judgment bar of God, as we learn in Mosiah 3:19;

    “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

    God did not create us from nothing, before we were his spirit children we existed as intelligences that possessed features allowing each intelligence to be differentiated from one another. When our Heavenly Parents descended from on high and organized us into beings of spirit those features remained. Some of those features were strengths, others were weaknesses and flaws. The only one of us who was truly flawless was the great Jehovah who would become Jesus Christ.

    When we are born into the physical world we are innocent because the natural flaws have not yet emerged or matured, but as we age these flaws come to the surface as our natural inclinations to sin threaten to overwhelm the potential our Heavenly Parents saw in us. In short all save Christ will grow up to become a ‘natural man,’ and if we want to reach the divine potential our divine parentage gives us we must turn to Christ and put off the ‘natural man’ we grew into.

    What is this ‘natural man’ we must put off? It is different for each one of us, as all of us are different. For some it is an attraction or lust for those they should not feel such things for. For others it is complacency causing them to ignore the needs of their brothers and sisters. Others may posses a bundle of anger that is easy to misplace and unload on the innocent.

    There are many forms of the ‘natural man,’ and all of them make us an enemy to God. Fortunately the Atonement of Christ allows us to put off that ‘natural man’ and become that flawless child our Heavenly Parents saw when they raised us up from the masses of unorganized intelligences.

    And that’s what really grinds my gears when people talk about being ‘born that way.’ In the end it is a denial that Christ’s Atonement can change us, a denial that the ‘natural man’ can be put off and that we can become more then what we are right now. And if mankind cannot go against their base nature then there is nothing separating them from the beasts who are not children of God.

    But we are children of God, and so Christ’s Atonement can change us, and we can put off the ‘natural man’ we became when we grew up.

    I hope that rant helps,
    Sift Green.

  22. Tom, anyone who looks a child of 2-3 and has the words gender identity issue cross their mind is making a mistake. Did you base this gender identity issue on the fact that said child likes dolls or dresses?

  23. “Pride cometh before the fall,” is always an ominous saying. Isn’t it interesting that the word “Pride” is paraded as the embodiment of the LGBT community and those that support their political ambitions. Pride overtook the Nephites in capacity that was we do not exactly know but I would not be surprised if that was the case similar to our own. I have a dear friend from my mission that is in the middle of this and had many dark days of confusion he went through but he came out of it still faithful to his covenants in the Lord’s House. The Apostle Paul gave some of the greatest advice 1 Cor. 1:25: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” We need to be mindful of what we say that feels good or sounds wise may utterly end up as false because it runs counter to God’s commandments.

  24. Is there a source for Pres Oaks’ full text, rather than just the snips posted in the press? The snips leave some ambiguities.

  25. I had a treasured friend, who on or initial meeting informed me he was gay. He had been in several relationships over the years and was now essentially alone. I became a friend, but not a “lover”. He had repented enough to get a temple recommend. He was getting himself together and problems arose. He lost a long term job.

    I helped him find another and we visited and communicated be he moved on, then became ill and returned to the US. Then a few months later I received an email from his brother, thanking me for being his “only friend”.

    I pondered on the lonely hell be had lived in and the spiritual witness came to me, the has had changed and repented in this life and went to “paradise”. I expect Christ met him there and the eternal healing continued.

    At my age I may get to look him fairly soon.

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