Overcoming Pornography – Individuals

What can Individuals do to overcome a Pornography Addiction? 

Main Idea: Individuals can focus on abiding by five principles that include: finding hope and strength in Jesus Christ, being humble, honest and seeking truth, connecting with others, making a plan for change and remaining accountable to others. 

Principle 1: Find Hope and Strength in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ

  • “As we exercise faith, it’s an expression of our moral agency. Faith is not just wishful thinking; faith is a principle of action and power. As we act in accordance with the teachings of Christ, the power of the Spirit comes into our lives to do and become what we could never otherwise do or become. There is hope, through the Savior, for us to be clean and to again have a brightness of hope.”

Principle 2: Be Humble, Honest and Seek Truth

  • As we turn to Christ in humility, He can help us overcome our sins. Pride leads us to hide and deceive, but humility leads us to be open, teachable, and willing to seek help.
  • Denial, deflection, minimization, rationalization, hiding, blaming, and lying are all forms of deceit—first to ourselves, then to others. Honest living begins with a determination to end patterns of hiding, living double lives, deceiving our loved ones, and putting up a facade of being OK when we’re not.
  • Humility and honesty lead us to seek truth and help us dispel darkness. We can also be free from the lies of the adversary as we study the Atonement and Repent.

Principle 3: Connect and Build Relationships

  • Satan attempts to discourage us, wanting us to believe there is no hope of rebuilding. He would have us be alone and separated from those we love.
  • You need to rebuild your relationship with Jesus Christ and with others.  Inviting the Holy Ghost into our lives draws us closer to the Savior.
  • Through the guidance of the Spirit, we will be gently directed as to how to rebuild the relationships that may have been damaged through our choices. Rebuilding relationships takes time, effort at restitution, and patience

Principle 4: Make and Adjust Plans

  • While setting goals to stop bad behavior is good, our lifelong goal is to be changed through the power of Jesus Christ. This type of change is deep and lasting and impacts our whole souls.
  • Engage fully in the repentance process including expressing faith in Christ, feeling godly sorrow, confessing, forsaking, making restitution, forgiving others and then keeping all God’s commandments.

Principle 5: Be Accountable

  • We become accountable by taking full responsibility for our choices and actions. Accountability also includes regularly reviewing and measuring how well we are enacting our plans.
  • This includes recognizing the pain our bad decisions may cause others and doing our best to make restitution and alleviate that pain.
  • Rather than measuring our success by sequential days of abstinence, we can measure success by how consistently we turn to Christ for guidance, strength, and help and how diligently we strive to follow Him. Christ is our greatest source of encouragement and strength. He will never make us feel ashamed as we strive to improve.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I feel like I am a bad person. You are not alone in your struggles as many people understand you and you are not too far gone to be forgiven.  You are worthy of love and belonging regardless of your weaknesses.
  2. Why do I keep doing this? Acknowledge that the natural man is attracted to the behaviour and part of you doesn’t want to change.  There is no quick fix but simply a process of living true principles that lead to a change of heart. Be humble, honest and submit to the guidance from the Spirit.
  3. Can I do this on my own? Pornography use flourishes in isolation and secrecy while opening up can help us find emotional support and connection. You can open up to Bishops, Spouses, Close family and friends.
  4. What should I focus on? Train yourself to be aware of feelings, thoughts, and influences that lead you to use pornography. Develop plans to change these unhealthy patterns.
  5. How long will it take? Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were. He cares that we keep on trying” (“Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying.”)
  6. Do I have to tell others about slipups?  We’re taught in the scriptures that “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Hiding the truth separates us from those we love. Pornography habits often thrive in isolation and secrecy and hiding the truth can make us feel more shame.
  7. Where do I turn for help? God, your bishop and if you are married, your spouse. We may also seek help from Church leaders, professionals, our families, and other trusted individuals.
  8. How do I prevent relapse? Accountability to yourself, God, Spouse and others. Take responsibility for your beliefs, behaviors, thoughts and choices and continually assess yourself.

Resources

Addressing Pornography Handout – Individual

Understanding Gender Dysphoria – Mark Yarhouse

In this post, the Book: “Understanding Gender Dysphoria” by Mark Yarhouse is summarized. The Main Idea of the book is that Gender Dysphoria involves an incongruence between one’s biological sex and gender that causes intense distress.  It is understood through three frameworks: integrity, disability and diversity.  The best framework integrates all three.  Christians need to do a better job of not shaming those who are trans-gendered.  Treatment usually involves decreasing cross gender identification, watching and waiting, facilitating preferred gender identification or sex reassignment/puberty blockers.  Most mental health professionals facilitate preferred gender identification.

Key Terms

Biological sex: As male or female (typically with reference to chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and internal reproductive anatomy and external genitalia).

Primary sex characteristics: Features that are directly part of the reproductive system, such as testes, penis and scrotum in males, and ovaries, uterus and vagina in females.

Secondary sex characteristics: Have no direct reproductive function, for example, facial hair in males and enlarged breasts in females.

Gender: The psychological, social and cultural aspects of being male or female.

Gender identity: How you experience yourself (or think of yourself) as male or female, including how masculine or feminine a person feels.

Gender role: Adoptions of cultural expectations for maleness or femaleness.

Biological sex Male or Female    Male –> Intersex <–Female

Gender identity Man or Woman      Man –>Androgyny <– Woman

Gender role Masculine or Feminine   Masculine–> Outside cultural norms <–Feminine

Gender dysphoria: The experience of distress associated with the incongruence wherein one’s psychological and emotional gender identity does not match one’s biological sex.

Transgender: An umbrella term for the many ways in which people might experience and/or present and express (or live out) their gender identities differently from people whose sense of gender identity is congruent with their biological sex.

Cisgender: A word to contrast with transgender and to signify that one’s psychological and emotional experience of gender identity is congruent with one’s biological sex.

Gender bending: Intentionally crossing or “bending” gender roles.

Cross-dressing: Dressing in the clothing or adopting the presentation of the other sex. Motivations for cross-dressing vary significantly.

Third sex or third gender: A term used to describe persons who are neither man nor woman, which could reference an intermediate state or another sex or gender or having qualities of both man/woman in oneself.

Transsexual: A person who believes he or she was born in the “wrong” body (of the other sex) and wishes to transition (or has transitioned) through hormonal treatment and sex reassignment surgery.

Genderfluid: A term used when a person wants to convey that their experience of gender is not fixed as either male/ female but may either fluctuate along a continuum or encompass qualities of both gender identities.

Genderqueer: An umbrella term for ways in which people experience their gender identity outside of or in between a male-female binary (e.g., no gender, genderfluid). Some people prefer a gender-neutral pronoun (e.g., “one”).

Drag queen: A biological male who dresses as a female (typically flamboyant dress and appearance) for the purposes of entertaining others. Such a person may not experience gender dysphoria and does not tend to identify as transgender.

Drag king: A biological female who dresses as a male (stereotypic dress and appearance) for the purposes of entertaining others. As with drag queens, such a person may not experience gender dysphoria and does not tend to identify as transgender.

Transvestism: Dressing or adopting the presentation of the other sex, typically for the purpose of sexual arousal (and may reflect a fetish quality). Such a person may not experience gender dysphoria and may not identify as transgender. Most transgender persons do not cross-dress for arousal and see transvestism as a different phenomenon than what they experience.

Intersex: A term to describe conditions (e.g., congenital adrenal hyperplasia) in which a person is born with sex characteristics or anatomy that does not allow clear identification as male or female. The causes of an intersex condition can be chromosomal, gonadal or genital.

Common Biblical Teachings

There are four common scriptures from the bible that reference transgender practices. These include:

  1. The Effeminate: “Neither the effeminate . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10)
  2. Emasculation: “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. (Deut 23:1)
  3. Cross-Dressing: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5)
  • These passages likely were about preventing the Israelites from taking part in Canaanite rituals which involved swapping of sex roles and cross-dressing.
  1. Eunuchs: “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Matt 19:12)
  • The eunuchs in these contexts were most frequently either court officials or slaves and not gender dysphorics.

The Four Acts of the Biblical Drama

Sex and Gender can be understood through the four acts of Biblical drama that include: The Creation, The Fall and Redemption.

Creation: Adam and Eve lived as different gendered person and this enabled the “one flesh” unity that God commanded.

  • “All of the research on gender differences in various personality traits, cognitive abilities, and preferences consistently shows that, even when there are statistically significant differences between women and men, these differences pale in magnitude beside the variations among women and among men.”
  • Ontological Sex: Human beings are ontologically (and not merely in appearance) male and female. God deliberately separated into female and male in the creation of humankind as a way of structuring into creation a basic need for us to be in relationship.

Fall: We are all disordered before God so Gender Disorders can be seen as a natural consequence of the Fall.  Some of the disorders that have resulted from the fall include:

  • Klinefelter Syndrome: The person has an extra sex chromosome (XXY)
  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome: The person has external female genitalia and an outward appearance as female but XY male chromosomes.
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH): Can have many outcomes but could include a person with XX chromosomes but male external genitalia. CAH is “the result of an enzyme deficiency and “is inherited as an autosomal recessive disorder.”
  • Essence vs Culture: How much of what we think of as essential is acculturation as male or female? Sometimes rigid gender stereotypes are culturally based and not essential.

Exceptions: Recognizing that there are exceptions to binaries is not the same thing as saying the sex binary is arbitrary, socially constructed or oppressive.

The Culture War: The current culture war is between those who view sex and gender as arbitrary oppressive social constructs that need to be deconstructed and those who view sex and gender as essential aspects of being human.

Redemption: God doesn’t want us to stay fallen and intends to redeem us through Jesus Christ.  To glory in our fallen conditions is to reject redemption.

Frameworks of Gender Dysphoria

There are 4 major frameworks through which Gender Dysphoria is understood:

  1. Integrity Framework: This lens views sex and gender in terms of “the sacred integrity of maleness or femaleness stamped on one’s body.” Cross-gender identification is a concern in large part because it threatens the integrity of male-female distinctions.
  • Same-sex sexual behavior is sin in part because it does not “merge or join two persons into an integrated sexual whole”; the “essential maleness” and “essential femaleness” is not brought together as intended from creation.
  1. Disability Framework: Gender dysphoria is viewed as a result of living in a fallen world in which the condition is a nonmoral reality. The causal pathways and existing structures are viewed by proponents of the disability framework as not functioning as originally intended. It is compared to depression or schizophrenia and seen as nonmoral.
  • “While the fall into sin has created distortions in how femaleness and maleness are experienced and expressed, living in the time of grace means that we must seek to redeem gender and sexuality in harmony with God’s intentions.
  1. Diversity Framework: A third way to think about transgender issues is to see them as something to be celebrated, honored or revered. There are those who wish to recast sex as just as socially constructed as gender.
  • Those who advocate for the strong form tend to be academics who are proponents of the scholarship of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and others.
  1. Integrated Framework: Gender Dysphoria may result from a disability and is not just the result of wilful disobedience. We need to be sensitive to the integrity of fundamental doctrines of gender contained in scripture.  We should help manage gender dysphoria in the least invasive way possible. The weak form of the diversity framework can validate a person’s experience.

Dealing with Shame  

 Most transgender people hear in the church that they are fundamentally flawed, and it is their fault which leads to shame. The diversity framework gets at meaning, purpose, and sense of self, identity and community.  If people just get shame from the church they will turn to the diversity framework for meaning, purpose, sense of self, identity and community.

  • Author says not to embrace the integrity paradigm at the risk of gender diversity being rendered meaningless—as merely an unfortunate form of suffering that will ultimately be erased in eternity.
  • My Own Notes: Maybe etiology doesn’t matter, as it is an expression of the fall. The only thing that matters is where one’s heart is at in submitting to the revealed will of God.  Offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit and work towards being “born again” and overcoming the fall, not rationalizing staying fallen. We have no guarantees about outcome, God may not take this away but he does expect humility, submission and effort in complying with His will.
  • Christians can benefit from valuing and speaking into the sacredness found in the integrity framework, the compassion we witness in the disability framework, and the identity and community considerations we see in the diversity framework. No one framework in isolation will provide a sufficient response or a comprehensive Christian model of pastoral care or cultural engagement.

What Causes Gender Dysphoria?

The most concise answer to the question of causation is this: we do not know what causes gender dysphoria.  It’s not the incongruence between sex and gender that is thought of a disorder but the dysphoria that results from that incongruence.

How vs Who Distinction: Some people will use transgender to describe how they are (“I am a person who is transgender, by which I mean I am a person who experiences gender dysphoria”) while others will use transgender to describe who they are (“I am transgender, a member of the transgender community”).

Brain-Sex Theory: The idea is that there are areas of the brain that are different between males and females (sexually dimorphic structures). “Brain sex” refers to ways in which the brain scripts toward male or female dispositions or behaviors. It is certainly true that the brain is the most used sexual organ of the body.

  • Two distinct sexual development processes: the presence of testosterone in utero leads to the development of external male genitalia and to a male differentiated brain. But these are two distinct processes; they do not occur at the same point in fetal development. Sex differentiation of the genitals occurs much earlier leaving a time period where disruption can occur.  This means someone could theoretically experience male genital differentiation and then female brain differentiation later.

a.) Prenatal hormonal hypothesis: Gender dysphorics are more likely to be left handed than right-handed and left-handedness is known to relate to prenatal hormonal exposure.  Finger-length ratio is a marker of prenatal hormonal exposure to testosterone and transsexual males show the same ratio as females do. The more the testosterone the more the ring finger grows.

  • However, women born with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia who produce more testosterone on average and have somewhat deformed genitals do not experience more gender dysphoria.

b.) Neuroanatomic brain differences hypothesis:  The stria terminalis (BSTc), an area of the hypothalamus, is similar in transsexual males as it is to biological females. This comes from the Jiang-Ning Zhou and colleagues’ study. However, the males in the study had been acting in cross-gender roles for years and were all on feminizing hormone therapy so we don’t know if nurture modified the brain structures.

  • In another study by Wilson Chung and colleagues it was found that the area of the hypothalamus was indeed different among men and women but this difference didn’t appear until later in life challenging the idea that the difference was apparent from birth. The brain structure did not become sexually dimorphic until adulthood.
  • Limitations: Several limitations of this research should be noted. These limitations include (1) small sample sizes, (2) post-mortem samples in which transsexual persons frequently used hormone therapy, and (3) emphasis on morphology rather than a range of other considerations.
  • Beyond morphology or structure, there are also issues with brain activity, connectivity, load (thickness) and efficiency (speed) that often go overlooked in a nearly exclusive focus on structure.
  • Identity is known to exist within the frontal cortex and not the hypothalamus so it’s unlikely this is the explanation.

c.) Biased Interaction Theory:  We identify with role models that we think we are alike.  Most males identify with boys because they act alike but for some males they identify more with feminine role models.  This leads them to think they don’t “fit in” with boys and that they therefore may be girls.

Blanchard Typology

In one typology, transgender people are differentiated into five different types that include:

  1. Male to female androphilic type: Males who transition to females but are attracted to males and are therefore homosexuals. They tend to transition earlier in life, recall being more feminine and are unlikely to get married or be parents.
  2. Autogynephilic type: The biological male finds the idea of himself as a female sexually arousing. They typically transition later in life, have sexual experiences with females are more likely to have married and to have become biological parents. They recall less childhood femininity but are more aroused by cross-dressing.
  3. Female to male: They are female at birth but believe they are psychologically male. They tend not to be attracted to males and are more attracted to females but want those females to accept she is really a male.
  4. Bisexual Type: This type has shown attraction to both males and females in the past.
  5. Asexual Types: person has shown no arousal patterns.

The fact that there is an observable typology based upon sexual attraction/orientation suggests a more complicated pathway(s) for the etiology of gender identity concerns than is found in the brain-sex theory.

Meyer-Bahlburg Risk Factors:  These researchers discovered that prenatal hormone exposure, feminine appearance, inhibited/shy temperament, separation anxiety, being late in birth order, sensory reactivity, sexual abuse and insecure attachment in boys are all risk factors for developing Gender dysphoria.

  • Parenting: Associated risk factors related to parents include preference for a girl, parental indifference to cross-gender behavior, reinforcing cross-gender behavior, encouragement of “extreme physical closeness with boys,” insufficient adult male role models and parental psychiatric issues. Gender dysphoria is not the result of a failure to identify with the same-sex parent.
  • Peer Group: Boys show preferences for cross-dressing and cross-gender play. Fear of and avoidance of other boys which leads to rehearsal of female roles in play.

“If you know one transgender person, you know one trans-gender person!”

  • Equifinality says that there could be multiple pathways to the same outcome which appears to be the case with transgenderism.
  • Multifinality says that a group of people could have the same factors as part of their history but have different outcomes.

The experience of true gender dysphoria is not chosen, nor is it a sign of willful disobedience, personal sin or the sin of the parents.  However, engaging in cross-gender behavior may be more volitional, and the motivations are different.  Are those motivations about sexual arousal or about self-expression?

 Phenomenology and Prevalence

DSM V Criteria in Children

  • A strong desire to be of the other gender or an insistence that one is the other gender.
  • In boys (assigned gender), a strong preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; or in girls (assigned gender), a strong preference for wearing only typical masculine clothing and a strong resistance to the wearing of typical feminine clothing.
  • A strong preference for cross-gender roles in make-believe play or fantasy play.
  • A strong preference for the toys, games, or activities stereotypically used or engaged in by the other gender.
  • A strong preference for the playmates of the other gender.
  • In boys (assigned gender), a strong rejection of typically masculine toys, games, and activities and a strong avoidance of rough-and-tumble play; or in girls (assigned gender), a strong rejection of typically feminine toys, games, and activities.
  • A strong dislike of one’s sexual anatomy.
  • A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics that match one’s experienced gender.

Ideology kills: The book “As Nature Made Him” documents the case of a baby boy who underwent a botched circumcision and who was raised as a girl at a time when some experts were quite confident that social learning could trump biology. The boy, John, was actually unable to sustain an identity as a female (Joan) and transitioned to male in adolescence. Tragically, as an adult he took his own life.

Rates of Persistence: According to the DSM-5, Gender Dysphoria persists from childhood to adolescence in only 2.2 to 30 percent of biological males and 12 to 50 percent of biological females.

DSM V Criteria in Adolescents and Adults

  • A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).
  • A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex character-istics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).
  • A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender.
  • A strong desire to be the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).
  • A strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).
  • A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

The DSM-5 includes early and late onset as specifiers.

  1. Early Onset Male to Female: There is often a history of social exclusion and harassment with high social anxiety and few social skills. They often hide their transition history if others aren’t supportive and are more vulnerable to addictions and survival sex work.  This is the more common presentation though it is likely to resolve itself in most people.
  2. Late Onset Male to Female: They grew up with more traditional masculine childhoods and have “fit in” most of their lives. They often experience great losses of employment, community and family when they transition.

Prevalence Rates: The DSM-5 estimates that between 0.005 percent to 0.014 percent of adult males and 0.002 percent to 0.003 percent of adult females have Gender Dysphoria.  Findings from other studies put the prevalence estimates in ranges from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 13,000 males and 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 34,000 females.

Male vs Female: Gender Dysphoria as a diagnosis and the broader experience of gender dysphoria along a continuum appears to be more common among males than females, with a ratio of at least 3:1.

Transgender vs Gender Dysphoria: More people identify as transgender than experience Gender Dysphoria.  In one study, between 1 in 215 and 1 in 300 people identified themselves as transgender but most would not meet the criteria for gender dysphoria.  Certainly, gender dysphoria can exist without the desire for hormonal treatment or surgery.

Male vs Female: Gender Dysphoria as a diagnosis and the broader experience of gender dysphoria along a continuum appears to be more common among males than females, with a ratio of at least 3:1.

Cross-Dressing: A person could cross-dress but not experience gender dysphoria; they might cross-dress because the act of cross-dressing is itself sexually arousing.

  • Most cross-dressers either only wear underwear of the other’s sex (about 68% of all who cross-dress) or only wear other sex clothing at home (21%). Essentially, Kinder’s estimate is that only one out of three hundred persons who already cross-dresses would want to transition to the other sex.

Early Onset Male to Female: often a history of social exclusion and harassment with high social anxiety and few social skills.  They often hide their transition history if others aren’t supportive and are more vulnerable to addictions and survival sex work.  This is the more common presentation though it is likely to resolve itself in most people.

Late Onset Male to Female: They grew up with more traditional masculine childhoods and have “fit in” most of their lives.  They often experience great losses of employment, community and family when they transition.

Prevention and Treatment

There are 4 major interventions: i.) Resolution through identifying with birth sex, ii.) watching and waiting, iii.) facilitating identifying with preferred sex and iv.) Puberty Suppression.

1. Resolution of gender dysphoria through intervention to decrease cross gender identification: Emphasis on resolution of Gender Dysphoria by decreasing cross gender behaviors and identification.  The known emotional and social correlates of gender incongruence—issues like family and peer conflict and ostracism, as well as depression, anxiety, school aversion and school drop-out—provide a rationale for intervention. We expect that we can diminish these problems if we are able to speed up the fading of cross gender identity which will typically happen in any case.  There are four major interventions for identifying with birth sex that include:

i.) Behavioral therapy encourages the same-sex parent (or grandparent or mentor) to spend more time and share positive play experiences with their child while also avoiding criticism of the child. The parents are coached to essentially ignore cross-sex-typed behavior if possible and identify strategies to redirect the child to behaviors that reflect more that child’s gender. In following an operant conditioning approach, parents praise the child for any gender-appropriate activities or play.
ii.) Psychodynamic approaches (psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy) based on object relations, self psychology and other conceptualizations take a developmental perspective, explore identification with the same and opposite sex, and intervene more “within” the child (than through the environment).
iii.) Hybrid or “third way” model: They extend the treatment beyond simple behavioral reinforcement by providing therapy to address a child’s gender incongruence and identity from the “inside out,” while also setting limits and providing education to address gender identity from the “outside in.” Parents are also provided assistance in identifying activities that facilitate a same-gender identification, and there is typically a significant increase in time spent with same-sex peers (milieu protocol) that has been shown in research to be associated with “more typical sex-differentiated behavior.”

iv.) Meyer-Bahlburg Protocol: This is a protocol for intervention to facilitate the resolution of gender dysphoria among biological males. That protocol focuses on the following:

  • Fostering positive relationship with one’s father or male caregiver or role model
  • Fostering positive relationships with one’s male peers
  • Fostering gender-typical habits and skills
  • Facilitating male peer group interactions
  • Facilitating positive feelings about being male
  • To reduce stigmatization, the protocol focuses on services to the parents who work with the child rather than work directly with the child.
  • For example, a National Public Radio report on the topic cited the Portman Clinic’s treatment of 124 children since 1989. The approach taken at the Portman Clinic is to have children live in a way that is consistent with their birth sex. It was reported that 80 percent of the children chose later as adults to maintain a gender identity consistent with their birth sex.
  • However, most children whose dysphoria resolves report that they have a homosexual or bisexual orientation as they enter their teen years. Among those children whose gender dysphoria desisted, a range from 63 percent to 100 percent of biological males and 32 percent to 50 percent of biological females identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual in adulthood.

2. Watchful waiting: Take a neutral approach that allows for cross-gender dress and role adaption while avoiding reinforcement. There is not an a priori assumption in place that functions as a goal for the child’s gender identity.

3. Facilitation of the gender identity of the preferred sex in anticipation of an adult identification. Psychosocial facilitation is considered “affirming” insofar as it practices out of several assumptions, including that “being transgender is not a mental illness.” According to Olson et al., “Affirmative approaches actively promote exploration of gender identity and assist adolescents and their families in learning about and engaging in appropriate gender transitioning interventions.”

  • The elements involved in psychosocial facilitation could include “adoption of preferred gender hairstyles, clothing, and play, perhaps adopting a new name.”

4.Puberty Suppression: Intervention to block hormones until a child (now a teen) can decide about gender identity in later adolescence.

  • Children between the ages of ten and thirteen are prevented from entering puberty by receiving injections of hormone blockers that keep the gonads from making estrogen or testosterone. This, in turn, prevents the expected changes at puberty, such as girls developing breasts, starting their menstrual cycle, and so on. Boys will not grow body and facial hair, nor will their voice deepen. The idea is to then allow time for the child to enter into adolescence and for the teen (at around age sixteen) to eventually decide whether to develop a gender identity in accord with their birth sex or with their preferred/psychological/phenomenal sex.
  • At 16 the children are then given the option to take the opposite sex hormones or they can transition back into their biological sex.
  • It is also important to explore whether the dysphoria is a negative response to homosexuality/ same-sex sexuality rather than an actual desire to change one’s sex.

Reversibility of Interventions

  1. Reversible Interventions: The reversible steps include adopting cross-gender hairstyles, clothing and interests, as well as perhaps use of a preferred name.
  2. Partially Reversible Interventions would be cross-gender hormone therapy (testosterone or estrogen depending on the direction of preferred gender identity).
  3. Irreversible Interventions are surgical, of which there are a range, and I will discuss these under treatment of adults. Currently, most surgeons in the United States will not provide surgery until the adolescent turns eighteen.

Outcomes in Adulthood

When we look at outcomes for adult experiences of Gender Dysphoria, Carroll notes four typical outcomes:

  1. Unresolved outcomes: Unresolved outcomes simply reflect that there is a high attrition rate—estimated at up to half of clients who seek service.
  2. Biological sex and gender role acceptance: Others come to accept their biological sex and gender role (path 2). They may feel gender dysphoric, but they live as their birth sex and adopt a lifestyle that reflects that. Psychological resolution appears to be more likely among “a subgroup of cross-dressers with gender dysphoria” who view the problem as a fetish or paraphilia and treat it with CBT interventions.
  3. Engage in cross-gender behavior intermittently: This is the most frequent outcome. According to Carroll, “the majority of these men are heterosexual, often married, usually vocationally stable or successful.”
  4. Adopt cross-gender role through sex reassignment: It is strongly recommended (but not currently required) that a person then undergo a period of psychotherapy. If a person were to reach a point at which they were a candidate for surgery, it is recommended in the Standards of Care that they live for a year in the real-life experience of living full time as the desired gender.

Decision Making Strategies Around Sex Reassignment

  1. Awareness: Characterized by distress related to Gender Dysphoria
  2. Disclosure: Sharing with significant others one’s diagnosis and experience of Gender Dysphoria.
  3. Exploration: Initial exploration of options for one’s identity and identity label along a continuum.
  4. Transition: Further exploration of body modification.
  5. Integration: Synthesis of identity in light of transition.

Sex Reassignment Surgery

  1. Biological Male: Vaginoplasty or the creation of a neovagina (with a penectomy or the removal of the penis and orchiectomy or the re-moval of the testes). Male hair can also be removed, and corrective surgery can be performed on the larynx. Surgery to enhance the breasts (breast aug-mentation) can also be performed.
  2. Biological Female: The breasts, uterus and ovaries can be removed. Some patients will also request phalloplasty or the creation of a neophallus. If the patient has an enlarged clitoris (sometimes as a result of taking male hormones), it may be cut loose in a way that it can be experienced more like a penis (metaidioplasty).

Low Rates of Regret: A recent study that examined outcomes over a fifty-year period in Sweden (1960–2010) indicated a 2.2 percent rate of regret for both MtF and FtM transsexual persons.

  • Gender: What we know at this point is that those with a female-to-male conversion report adjusting better, on average, than those whose conversion is male-to-female, although again there is great variability.
  • Age: Older persons pursuing reassignment do not report having as favorable outcomes as younger persons.
  • Autogynephilic cases appear to be at greater risk for regretting the decision to pursue sex reassignment.
  • However, most people who experience gender incongruence in adulthood do not undergo surgery. Most cross-dress intermittently either as an expression of their sense of gender identity or they use cross-dressing as a way to manage their dysphoria, among other possible motivations.

Increased Suicide Risk: Although previous research on follow-up of transsexual persons tended to be rather favorable, researchers tended not to follow the person over a long period of time. A more recent study that provided data on long-term follow-up reported increased risks for suicide attempts, death from suicide, and psychiatric inpatient care that are “considerably higher risks” than the general population.

  • This study found substantially higher rates of overall mortality, death from cardiovascular disease and suicide, suicide attempts, and psychiatric hospitalizations in sex-reassigned transsexual individuals compared to a healthy control population. Even though surgery and hormonal therapy alleviates gender dysphoria, it is apparently not sufficient to remedy the high rates of morbidity and mortality found among transsexual persons.

Sex Reassignment as delusional beliefs: It is not obvious how this patient’s feeling that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body differs from the feeling of a patient with anorexia nervosa that she is obese despite her emaciated state. We don’t do liposuction on anorexics.  Why amputate the genitals of these poor men? Surely, the fault is in the mind not the member.

  • The transgendered suffer a disorder of “assumption” like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists. With the transgendered, the disordered assumption is that the individual differs from what seems given in nature—namely one’s maleness or femaleness. Other kinds of disordered assumptions are held by those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight.

Toward a Christian Response

Narrative Therapy: Narrative approaches are often used with marginalized groups whose “story” has been written by a dominant culture: “On a larger level, entire groups of people could have their story about themselves completely overtaken by a more dominant group story about them.”

  • Mainstream Narrative: Most mainstream, secular narrative approaches to gender dysphoria would posit that it is the sex and gender binary that is oppressive to the person who is gender dysphoric.
  • Scripts: A script is a cultural expectation for behavior and meaning making.

The Transgender Script

  • Gender dysphoria reflects a naturally occurring difference among types of people (transgender rather than cisgender).
  • Your gender dysphoria as gender incongruence suggests who you are (“who I am”) rather than how you are (“how I am”).
  • Gender dysphoria points to a community of others who experience a similar phenomenon (“I am part of the transgender community”).
  • Your gender incongruence points to something at the core of who you are, something that is central to your identity. A person often receives the message that they are born this way.
  • The dysphoria may signal who the person “is”—that is, “I was born in the wrong body; the person I am is inside of me, and I need to express that.” The person has a sense of identity (who I am; I am transgender) and a sense of community: “I am part of the transgender community,” which could mean different things to different people.

The Christian Script

  • This is a spiritual matter; this is sinful.
  • Fulfillment comes from adopting a traditional gender role that corresponds with your biological sex.
  • The failure to find worth and purpose and meaning in traditional gender roles and expressions is a mark of willful disobedience.
  • Cross-gender behaviors and roles are unacceptable as they undermine the truth about who you have been made to be.
  • gender dysphoria itself were a sign of willful disobedience.
  • Ultimately, these messages communicate shame to the person navigating gender identity concerns. Shame is the psychological and emotional experience of believing yourself to be inadequate in ways that lead you to reject yourself. It hides itself from others on the assumption that if others knew this about the person, they too would reject them.

Integrated Script

  • Experiences of gender dysphoria are part of my reality (that is, “how I am”).
  • I did not choose to experience gender dysphoria or gender incongruence, and I honestly do not know the cause.
  • Perhaps being transgender is part of my identity; however, I am a complex person and am more than gender dysphoric.
  • I do not know how I came to experience gender dysphoria, but I can consider what it means to me today and where I go from here.
  • There are probably a dozen different directions for any experience of gender dysphoria, and I plan to consider many of them, and may select some of them, considering the least invasive steps when possible.

Mapping Gender Identity

  1. How does the person experience his or her gender identity concerns? This involves gauging a person’s experience of gender incongruence, as well as a person’s sense for how they are managing that incongruence.
  • The gender identity concerns, while important, may not be the greatest concern in this person’s life.
  • A person can identify ways in which gender dysphoria has influenced him or her, as well as how the person has influenced gender identity concerns. Probe for ways the person has managed the dysphoria and ways that the person is exacerbating it.
  • On a scale from 1-10 ask the person how gender incongruent he feels and his current ability to manage it.
  1. Join the Person on an Attributional Search: How does the person make sense of his or her gender incongruence? From an integrity point of view the incongruence reflects the fallen world we live in, from a disability point of view it is a non-moral reality of the fall and from a diversity point of view it is something natural to be celebrated.

Telling Others:  I try to assure them that they are not alone in the sense that I know and will not leave them, and I will work with them on finding others who can provide support.

  • Proscriptive constraints regarding gender identity communicate the following: “Discussions about gender identity are not welcome here.” This message comes from individuals and communities for whom the topic is so threatening that there is no discussion to be had.
  • Prescriptive Constraints communicate the following: “Discussions about gender identity can and should be discussed, but we only discuss it in this certain way.” This can make discussing gender identity concerns difficult because the person who is struggling initially feels welcome to disclose but then is quickly told that there is only one way for them to actually think about their gender identity.
  • Sometimes distinguishing “how you are” from “who you are” may be helpful when sharing experiences of gender dysphoria with another person.
  • Not your fault: I also tell those who experience gender dysphoria that if the person they tell reacts with anger, disbelief, rejection or hurt after they tell them about their experiences, it is not their fault. I usually reiterate that they did not choose to experience gender dysphoria; they found themselves experiencing gender dysphoria, and this is not an issue of blaming but of realizing there may be negative reactions for different reasons.

Critiquing the Christian Response

Correct the Sinner:  Many are simply overwhelmed by something they do not understand or do not wish to investigate outside their religious doctrines. That is, “if you don’t correct the sinner, you’re complicit in the sin.”

Traditional Church model: It has been observed that a traditional evangelical church focuses on behavior first, followed by belief in Christ and a sense of Christian community. It essentially looks like this: BehaveàBelieve àBelong

Missional Church Model: instead belonging comes first and then faith in Christ and then we don’t know what you become.  BelongàBelieve àBecome.

  • Inwardly missional Church: Focuses on clear teachings for those who are within the community. This kind of church places greater emphasis on the integrity framework. It is a church that sees as its mission the communication of a faithful, biblical witness about sexuality and gender to those who reside within. Such a church may risk not being as hospitable to those on the outside.
  • Outwardly Missional Church: Focuses on being missional to the local, broader community in the area surrounding the church itself. The emphasis is on reaching out, inviting in and creating a sense of belonging,

Criteria for Inclusion:  The terms of inclusion from the local church are that a person fit into the male-female binary and experience congruence between biological or birth sex and psychological and emotional experience of gender identity.

  • Are Christians prepared to support transgenders without the condition that the person manages that dysphoria in a way the Christian community would support?
  • One impulse is to convey the integrity framework to the exclusion of the potential benefits seen in the disability or diversity frameworks.

Prevailing Treatment: The prevailing view within the mental health field is to address the dysphoria through cross-gender identification and expression, supported in the context of therapy, and with the possibility of additional steps to facilitate a transition.

Resources

PDF Summary

How to be Virtuous – Temperance – Chastity

Chastity is a Christian virtue concerned with sexual purity.  To be chaste is to obey the Law of Chastity.  The Law of Chastity says that we restrict any form of sexual relations to man and wife in marriage.  The Law of Chastity is a law that is concerned with protecting the integrity of families.  It stems from one of he first commandments that God ever gave Adam and Eve. God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage and commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28). The Law of Chastity stipulates the bounds within which this commandment is to be fulfilled.

In the following posts, issues related the law of Chastity will be examined:

  1. Chastity: An Overview
  2. Overcoming Pornography
  3. Abortion
  4. Same-Sex Attraction
  5. Transgender Issues

Same Sex Attraction – Clinical Guide

Guidelines For Assessment

  • Determine the motivation for therapy and set goals.
  • Ask Client to write a personal history and think about who to share it with.
  • Assess sources of the client’s distress.
  • Review the clients sexual history (contact, abuse, fantasy, pornography, masturbation, sex drive, romance).  Probe for impact of sexual history on current feelings without jumping to conclusions.
  • Set goals for how client wants life to look in the future.  Help bring about that reality, grieve losses and adapt to other options.
  • Teach distinctions between attraction, arousal, aversion, desire, intention, orientation, behavior and identity.
  • Use a Genogram to explore family of origin relationships ,attachment, strengths and resources.
  • Identify discrepancies between ideals and reality.
  • Teach about cognitive distortions to identify false beliefs about identity.
  • Teach acceptance of where they are and taking action to move to where they want to be.
  • Address comorbid issues of pornography use, relationship issues, depression, addiction, perfectionism, grief, trauma etc…

Honoring Covenants

  • Merely turning away from same-sex attraction can make it stronger.  See the emotionality of the attraction and not just the sexuality of it to help the client develop healthy same-sex friendships.
  • Encourage healthy disclosure to safe individuals on a selective basis to avoid being stereotyped by a label.
  • Assess capacity for opposite-sex attraction.  Help those considering celibacy to explore romantic and companionship needs and grieving losses or getting needs met in a different way.
  • Assess relationship with God and move from one based on fear, guilt and shame to love, compassion, openness and forgiveness.

Spouses & Parents

  • Encourage spouse to not accept responsibility for partners attractions or behaviors.  Don’t personalize it.
  • Encourage not to punish, threaten, bribe or preach to their spouse as it isn’t healthy.
  • Encourage spouses to connect with supports and talk to people they trust.
  • Encourage forgiveness if necessary.
  • Identify how spouse can meet emotional, physical and spiritual needs.

Parents

  • Love, empathy and support for the child is vital.
  • Family members will go through an adjustment period to deal with stigma, stereotypes, disclosures, emotional processing and resolution.
  • Encourage family to ask questions and just listen with an intent to understand.
  • This one part of the family member’s experience shouldn’t dominate the relationship.
  • Don’t preach, threaten, shame, blame or alienate.
  • Explore how family will negotiate including same-sex partner in family activities.   Don’t alter practices or values to accommodate behaviors in conflict with the gospel.

Missionaries

When prospective missionary has SSA must probe for:

  • Understanding of the SSA (self-awareness and meaning making)
  • Coping strategies (thought and impulse control)
  • Escape plan for compromising situations.
  • Level of Connection to own gender.
  • Experience with and ability to connect with same-sex peers in healthy ways (love, acceptance, connection, identity).

In-Field Missionaries

  • The presence of SSA doesn’t make them unworthy to be on a mission.
  • Focus on what is currently preventing functioning as a missionary.
  • Make a plan around what resources and supports the missionary will need when going home.

Same Sex Attraction – Gospel Topics

Gospel Topics

In this section, talks are selected from church leaders that teach us church doctrine concerning same-sex attraction.

The Scriptures

There are three major scriptures that deal with same-sex attraction:

  1. Leviticus 18: 22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”
  2. Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
  3. Romans 1:27: “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

Choose Your Destiny – President Nelson

Principle 1: Keep Your Temple Clean

  • Weaknesses are given to make us humble. Stellar spirits are often housed in imperfect bodies. Look at your body as a temple for your spirit because how you treat it will determine your eternal destiny.
  • “Most temptations to stray from God’s plan of happiness come through the misuse of those essential, God-given appetites.”
  • “A strong human spirit with control over appetites of the flesh is master over emotions and passions and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital to the spirit as oxygen is to the body!”

Principle 2: True Change Occurs Through Christ

  • “Our very desires can change…there is only one way.  True change can come only through the healing, cleansing and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

Principle 3: Keep the Doctrine Pure

  • “Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fulness of life on earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued. Not if you want true joy.
  • “Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed. Remember: sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God!”
  • “While we are to emulate our Savior’s kindness and compassion, while we are to value the rights and feelings of all of God’s children, we cannot change His doctrine. It is not ours to change. His doctrine is ours to study, understand, and uphold.”

Same-Gender Attraction – President Oaks

Principle 1: Exaltation Requires Marriage

  • “Our eternal destiny—exaltation in the celestial kingdom, is made possible only through the atonement of Jesus Christ 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.” (D&C 1-4; D&C 132)

Principle 2: No Blessings  are Lost to the Faithful

  • “Through the merciful plan of our Father in Heaven, persons who desire to do what is right but through no fault of their own are unable to have an eternal marriage in mortal life will have an opportunity to qualify for eternal life in a period following mortality, if they keep the commandments of God and are true to their baptismal and other covenants.”

Principle 3: Impure thoughts are less serious than Immoral Behavior

  • “Although immoral thoughts are less serious than immoral behavior, such thoughts also need to be resisted and repented of because we know that “our thoughts will also condemn us” (Alma 12:14).

Principle 4: “Gay bashing” is obviously sinful and condemned by the church. 

  • “Our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called “gay bashing”—physical or verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior.”

Principle 5: LGBT terms describe thoughts, feelings and behaviors and not identity. 

  • “We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage.”

Principle 6: How to respond to Uncontrollable Feelings

  • “All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.”
  • “Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and “lifestyle” we engraft upon them.”
  • “Perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice or fault, like the unnamed ailment the Apostle Paul called “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Cor. 12:7).
  • “Most of us are born with [or develop] thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.
  • “God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Ne. 2:2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’
  • “… Beware the argument that because a person has strong drives toward a particular act, he has no power of choice and therefore no responsibility for his actions. This contention runs counter to the most fundamental premises of the gospel of Jesus Christ….We are responsible, and if we argue otherwise, our efforts become part of the propaganda effort of the Adversary.”
  • “The law does not excuse the short-tempered man who surrenders to his impulse to pull a trigger on his tormentor, or the greedy man who surrenders to his impulse to steal, or the pedophile who surrenders to his impulse to satisfy his sexual urges with children.”

Principle 7: Avoid Oversimplified models of Causation

  • “We propose an interactional model in which genes or hormones do not specify sexual orientation per se, but instead bias particular personality traits and thereby influence the manner in which an individual and his or her environment interact as sexual orientation and other personality characteristics unfold developmentally.”

Principle 8: Calling Transgressors to Repentance

  • “Consistent with that direction, Church officers are responsible to call transgressors to repentance and to remind them of the principle the prophet Samuel taught the wicked Nephites: “Ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head” (Hel. 13:38).
  • “Consequently, if transgressors do not respond to calls to repentance, the shepherds of the Church flock must take disciplinary action in fulfillment of their God-given responsibilities.”

Principle 9: Balancing Love and Law

  • “Sinners, as well as those who are struggling to resist inappropriate feelings, are not people to be cast out but people to be loved and helped (see 3 Ne. 18:22–23, 30, 32). At the same time, Church leaders and members cannot avoid their responsibility to teach correct principles and righteous behavior (on all subjects), even if this causes discomfort to some.”
  • We are promised: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

He Heals the Heavy Laden – Dallin H. Oaks

Principle 1: Jesus Heals all afflictions (including SSA)

  • To each of us our Savior gives this loving invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11: 28-30)
  • He Healed them ALL: “Jesus healed many from physical diseases, but He did not withhold healing from those who sought to be “made whole” from other ailments. Matthew writes that He healed every sickness and every disease among the people (see Matthew 4:23; 9:35). Great multitudes followed Him, and He “healed them all” (Matthew 12:15). Surely these healings included those whose sicknesses were emotional, mental, or spiritual. He healed them all.
  • His Atonement reaches and is powerful enough not only to pay the price for sin but also to heal every mortal affliction. The Book of Mormon teaches that “He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11; see also 2 Nephi 9:21).

Principle 2: Sometimes Jesus strengthens rather than heals

  • “Although the Savior could heal all whom He would heal, this is not true of those who hold His priesthood authority. Mortal exercises of that authority are limited by the will of Him whose priesthood it is. Consequently, we are told that some whom the elders bless are not healed because they are “appointed unto death” (D&C 42:48). Similarly, when the Apostle Paul sought to be healed from the “thorn in the flesh” that buffeted him (2 Corinthians 12:7), the Lord declined to heal him.
  • “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a “healing” cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are “healed” by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”
  • “The people who followed Alma were in bondage to wicked oppressors. When they prayed for relief, the Lord told them He would deliver them eventually, but in the meantime He would ease their burdens “that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses … that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:14). In that case the people did not have their burdens removed, but the Lord strengthened them so that “they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (v. 15).”
  • The healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ—whether it removes our burdens or strengthens us to endure and live with them like the Apostle Paul—is available for every affliction in mortality.

Healing Those with Same-Sex Attraction – Elder Holland

Principle 1: Don’t Distort Identity

  • “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.”

Principle 2: Accept the Limits of what can be known

  • “When an angel asked Nephi a question about God, Nephi answered, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). I too affirm that God loves all His children and acknowledge that many questions, including some related to same-gender attraction, must await a future answer, perhaps in the next life.”

Principle 3: No Blessings Denied

  • “For various reasons, marriage and children are not immediately available to all. Perhaps no offer of marriage is forthcoming. Perhaps even after marriage there is an inability to have children. Or perhaps there is no present attraction to the opposite gender. Whatever the reason, God’s richest blessings will eventually be available to all of His children if they are clean and faithful.”

Principle 4: Some will overcome SSA and some will not. 

  • Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may overcome same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life.”

Principle 5: Feelings are controllable:

  • “Such feelings can be powerful, but they are never so strong as to deprive anyone of the freedom to choose worthy conduct.”

Principle 6: Advice for Parents: 

  • But love for a family member does not extend to condoning unrighteous behavior. Your children are welcome to stay in your home, of course, but you have every right to exclude from your dwelling any behavior that offends the Spirit of the Lord.”

Beware of False Prophets – Elder Ballard

Principle 1: False Prophets Have Arisen in the Church

  • President Joseph F. Smith gave wise and clear counsel that applies to us today:“We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the Priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. … And the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan, and render themselves liable to become servants of the devil; they lose sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed; they step outside of the pale of the kingdom of God, and are on dangerous ground. Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 41–42).
  • “However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church.”
  • “Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are selfappointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal wellbeing of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).

Principle 2: Same-Sex Attraction and False Prophets

  • “Now let me give you a few examples of the false teachings of those who read by the lamps of their own conceit, who, though “ever learning,” are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).”
  • “False prophets and false teachers are those who arrogantly attempt to fashion new interpretations of the scriptures to demonstrate that these sacred texts should not be read as God’s words to His children but merely as the utterances of uninspired men, limited by their own prejudices and cultural biases. They argue, therefore, that the scriptures require new interpretation and that they are uniquely qualified to offer that interpretation.”
  • “False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God’s immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.”
  • “False prophets,” according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “always arise to oppose the true prophets” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 365).
  • “The family is not just the basic unit of society; it is the basic unit of eternity.”

God’s Standard of Morality – Elder Callister

Principle 1: The Lord only needs to Speak Once

Some years ago my father, an attorney, was trying a lawsuit. For his authority, he cited only one case a California Supreme Court case issued many years before .  His opponent cited a number of lower-court decisions of more recent vintage.

The judge said to my father, “Mr. Callister, don’t you have a more recent case than this?”

My father looked at the judge and replied, “Your Honor, may I remind you that when the supreme court speaks on a matter, it only needs to speak once.” The judge nodded with approval. He was reminded that the supreme court trumps all lower-court decisions, however numerous or recent they may be.

So it is with God our Father.  He needs to speak only once on the issue of morality, and that one declaration trumps all the opinions of the lower courts, whether uttered by psychologists, counselors, politicians, friends, parents or would-be moralists of the day.

Principle 2: Eternal Doctrine not Policy

  • “The family is not just the basic unit of society; it is the basic unit of eternity.” –M. Russell Ballard
  • “Some would have us believe that the Church’s stand against same-gender physical relationships is a temporary policy and not an eternal doctrine. Such a belief would be at odds with the scriptures, with the words of modern prophets, and with the plan of salvation, all of which teach the necessity of eternal marriage between a man and a woman as a condition to exaltation. A same-gender relationship is inconsistent with God’s eternal pattern that husbands and wives not only have children in mortality but also have eternal increase in their exalted condition.”
  • “Those with same-gender tendencies have a duty to (1) abstain from immoral relationships and (2) do all within their power to avail themselves of the refining, perfecting powers of the Atonement.”

Those who are Different – Elder Jensen

Principle 1:We need to be sensitive to those who do not have the ideal

  • Ideals are judges: “The desired outcomes of a gospel-centered life are held up as ideals for which we are all encouraged to strive. Although such ideals are doctrinally based and represent desirable objectives in our quest for eternal life, they can sometimes become sources of disappointment and pain for those whose lives may vary from the ideal.”
  • “As we work to resolve these challenging situations, it is important to recognize that the solution isn’t to eliminate or even lower the level of the ideal.”
  • “Even when they are worthy, members whose lives don’t fit the ideal and thus are considered different often feel inferior and guilty. These feelings are heightened when we as their brothers and sisters fail to be as thoughtful and sensitive toward them as we ought to be.”
  • None of us live the “ideal”: “We all have our failings, and our lives vary in some ways from the ideal. We are all different! This is a humbling but helpful recognition.”
  • “Seeking to keep all the commandments—even if we sometimes fall short of the ideal is something within the power of each of us and is acceptable to our Heavenly Father.”

 

Chastity – Same-Sex Attraction

The Following is a summary of the content found on:  https://mormonandgay.lds.org/

Section 1: Stories

Story 1: Becky- This story attempts to answer the question: “What do I do when my son comes out?  Her initial Reaction was “Why did you choose this? What did I do wrong? How do I fix this?” She ultimately resolved to let it go and lay it at the savior’s feet. She realized his attraction wasn’t a choice and stopped trying to fix him but left it to Christ.

The Main principles to learn from Becky’s story is that Unconditional love doesn’t mean condoning.  You can maintain a relationship while having differences. Resolve to let it go and lay it at the savior’s feet. Realize the feelings aren’t a choice and stop trying to fix your gay child but leave it to Christ. Don’t shun your child.

Story 2: Jessyca- Jessyca was attracted to women since she was young but didn’t admit it until after her mission. She experienced deep shame as suicide seemed like a better option than living celibate or breaking her covenants.

The Main principles to learn from Jessyca’s story are that listening, seeking revelation and “coming out” were all healing experiences.  She had help from her aunt who listened and didn’t give advice but just loved her. Feeling love gave her the motivation to stay within the church more than a scripture would.  She was prompted to fast and pray about what God thinks about being attracted to women and she felt God said she didn’t choose this and it wasn’t her fault.  She heard the words: “Stay with me just a little longer.” Coming out was healing because she didn’t need to make up excuses for not dating.  God wanted her to keep her covenants and fill her life with other things that made her happy.  He also wanted her to share her story, educate members and help other LGBTQ members.

Story 3:  Laurie’s Story: Laurie dated women in college and it felt right to marry her girlfriend but she felt God didn’t’ want her in that life.  She was suicidal because she was conflicted between a same sex relationship and what she thought God wanted for her.  She decided to leave her relationship and even started dating men.

What Helped?It didn’t help to hear that the church would change and accept same-sex relationships.  What helped the most was an understanding bishop.  When she messed up the bishop would increase his patience, long-suffering and love unfeigned.  The Bishop concentrated on righteous actions she could do rather than unrighteous actions she couldn’t control yet.

She then met a man who wanted a relationship so she gave him a book detailing her life as a lesbian.  He still wanted to be with her and she eventually felt one with him and they were married.  She said: “It doesn’t matter how comfortable, how convenient or how contented your lifestyle is, if it doesn’t bring you closer to the Savior, it doesn’t matter where else it is taking you.”

Story 4: Ricardo’s Story: Ricardo is the father of six children.  He prayed to God that he would meet the person he was supposed to marry.  He met his wife when he got back from a mission and was attracted to her even though he was attracted to men.   He learned to talk about his same-sex attraction in a non-shameful way.  He learned to include his wife and kids in this journey.  His perception of himself as being unworthy for having same-sex attraction blocked his relationship with God. He concluded: “I can acknowledge an attraction and move on with my life.”

Story 5:  Tonya’s Story – Tonya’s son Andy is gay.  She sought answers but didn’t get any. The  Question she was asked to focus on was: “How can I be the mom this child of God needs?”    She gives the following advice to parents:

  • Take it day by day as you can’t know how you will feel in the future.
  • Focus on loving your children. She experienced “pride-based grief” over not being able to have the stereotypical Christian family.
  • Andy says that he thinks he can live a happy and fulfilling life as a single person.  However, he is open to the idea that he could be attracted to someone in the future.
  • It’s not a mental illness or a choice but the stigma is real.

Section 2: Teachings

1. God Loves all of his Children

The Church is the body of Christ and the body needs people who struggle with SSA.  The church needs the gifts and perspectives of SSA.  True diversity teaches us what is true doctrine and what is cultural. God loves us not because of our resume but because of our identity as his children.

2. Balancing Love and Law.

Latter Day Saints are inclined to insist on the law in an unloving way.  The law and the commandment to love one another can come into conflict.  We can love the individual without giving up our commitment to the law.  We don’t lead with those we disagree with by focusing on differences but we seek to understand first. “What’s important to us is to stay on the path to eternal life.”

Jesus sacrificed himself for us and reached out to the one.  This is how we should love those with SSA.   What does it mean to love one another? Love cares. Love listens. Love includes. Love inspires.

President Oaks teaches us that we need to balance love and law: “In so many relationships and circumstances in life, we must live with differences. Where vital, our side of these differences should not be denied or abandoned, but as followers of Christ we should live peacefully with others who do not share our values or accept the teachings upon which they are based.” (Dallin H. Oaks)

3. Focus on the One

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the only way of being is the way that you know.  Divine love does not excuse sin—“I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance”—but is anxious to forgive—“nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (D&C 1:31–32). In like manner, we should yield no ground in living and defending the commandments of God, but to mirror fully the love of God, we must also love one another so openly and completely that no one can feel abandoned or alone or hopeless.

4. Christ Understands

As we seek answers and direction for our personal journey, we can trust God and the power inherent in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world, He also experienced every pain and affliction any human being might experience. In Alma 7:11 we read: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.”

5. Feelings of SSA are not a sin and we can choose how to respond.

We Don’t know the Cause of same sex attraction.  President Oaks taught: “The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction” (Interview With Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman: “Same-Gender Attraction”, 2006).

While having an attraction to the same sex is not a sin, acting on that attraction is: “Let us be clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that ‘the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including [those with same-sex attraction]’” (“The Lord Needs You Now!” Ensign, Sept. 2015, 29).

6. People Who Live God’s Laws Can Fully Participate in the Church

Those who feel same-sex attraction can still be worthy members of the church: “If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 21.4.6).

“We love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Oct. 1998 general conference).

7. Keep the Doctrine Pure

In the Family Proclamation we read: “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”).

Sexual relations between a man and woman who are not married or between people of the same sex are sinful and violate one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws and get in the way of our eternal progress. “The Lord’s law of chastity is abstinence from sexual relations outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Adultery, fornication, homosexual or lesbian relations, and every other unholy, unnatural, or impure practice are sinful” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 21.4.5).

Section 3: Understanding & FAQ

1. About sexual Orientation

For some, it is helpful to distinguish between sexual attraction, emotional attraction, and identity, rather than grouping them all together as “sexual orientation.”

i.) Sexual Attraction – Who you find sexually attractive.
ii.) Emotional Attraction – Who you find emotional intimacy with.
iii.) Identity – Do not conflate what you are attracted to with your identity. Your primary identity is as a child of God.  Some call themselves gay, lesbian or bisexual but this shouldn’t transcend your divine identity.

Same-Sex Attraction is the preferred term because not all who are attracted to the same sex make that their identity. Nevertheless, calling yourself “Gay” is not against church doctrine.  Sexual orientation is different from sex and gender and the vast majority don’t experience gender dysphoria. Sexual desire can be fluid and changeable so don’t rush to permanent judgments about what you will always feel based on how you feel now.

2. Should I Come Out?

Don’t yield to pressure to “come out” but prayerfully consider who to tell. It can be liberating if it does away with feelings of shame.  Others should treat you with kindness, respect and patience.

3. Will my feelings of SSA go away?

The intensity of same-sex attraction is not a measure of your faithfulness.  Some people report that their attraction changes over time while others report that it does not despite prayer and obedience.  A change in attraction should not be expected or demanded as an outcome by parents or leaders.  Asking the Lord what you can learn from this experience can focus your faith on an outcome you can control. Turning your life over to God is an important act of faith that brings great blessings now and even greater blessings in the world to come.

4. Will the Church change its doctrine?

No, the church has reaffirmed what the scriptures teach:“As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.  Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 21.4.10).

5. 10 Tips for Parents

1.You will never regret saying “I love you.” Embrace, Listen & Understand.

2.You Have been Entrusted wit ha precious soul.  Don’t manipulate them but respect agency and be honest with how you feel as well.

3. Don’t overreact to a child coming out: It’s one moment in a lifetime if you did and it’s never too late to apologize.

4.Finding out: Don’t take it personal if your child didn’t tell you, it is very confusing and scary.

5.It’s natural and okay to grieve:  You may grieve the loss of the “perfect lds family.”

6.Don’t blame yourself: It’s nobody’s fault.

7.When praying try not to focus on “why?” or “take this away now.”

8.Focus on praying about “How can I help?” How can I be the mom/dad my child needs?

9.Surround yourself with uplifting people who build you up. Some people attend support groups.

10.Seek priesthood guidance and blessings and seek revelation.

6. Seeking Professional Help

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has noted, professional help can sometimes be just as important as spiritual help (see “Like A Broken Vessel,” Oct. 2013 general conference). When one seeks therapy, the Church recommends approaches that respect “client self-determination.” In other words, the individual has the right to determine desired outcomes, and therapists and counselors should respect his or her wishes.

While shifts in sexuality can and do occur for some people, it is unethical to focus professional treatment on an assumption that a change in sexual orientation will or must occur. Again, the individual has the right to define the desired outcome. “LDS Family services assists individuals, families and church leaders as they respond to same-sex attraction.  While LDS Family Services therapists do not provide what is commonly refereed to as “Conversion Therapy” or “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts,” for clients who self-determine to seek assistance for individual or family issues associated with SSA< our approach is to help them “come unto Christ” (Moroni 10:30), honor their covenants and strengthen and develop healthy emotional and spiritual patterns of living.

People with SSA are at higher risk of depression and suicide.  Seek professional help if you are depressed.

7. Self-Mastery is the Goal

Learning to master our bodies is an important part of becoming like our Heavenly Parents. Mastery takes time, practice, and patience, but it has eternal consequences. God has commanded us to “bridle all [our] passions, that [we] may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). “Here is … the Savior’s promise: ‘Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God’ (D&C 121:45)” (“Trust in the Lord,” Apr. 1979 general conference).

“Where schools have undertaken sex education, parents should seek to ensure that the instructions given to their children are consistent with sound moral and ethical values” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 21.4.11).

In his October 1993 general conference address, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained:“Outside the bonds of marriage, all uses of the procreative power are to one degree or another a sinful degrading and perversion of the most divine attribute of men and women” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” Oct. 1993 general conference).

Chastity violations can be healed through the repentance process made possible by the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Ministering Guide for Leaders

Step 1: Understand: The member may feel shame and fear rejection for having these feelings.   Acknowledge the faith and courage of the member and reassure them of God’s love. Express your desire to spiritually and emotionally support the individual. Ask: How can I help you? What is your experience like?

Step 2: Help the Individual – Show empathy and compassion, listen to understand, teach true doctrine, nourish trust in God and minister to needs before disciplining (if necessary).

  • Help identify individual strengths, talents and resources and to seek revelation from God on life mission and the purpose of  these experiences.
  • Teach repentance and forgiveness if the member has acted on these feelings.  Treat it the same way you would treat a heterosexual who has violated the law of chastity.
  • Don’t promise that these feelings will go away with more faith or service.
  • Don’t recommend marriage to reduce same-sex attraction.
  • Help the member make meaningful contributions to family and community.
  • Help the member identify trusted individuals to share experiences with.
  • Strengthen healthy nonsexual relationships with same gender.

Step 3: Support the Family – Determine the impact on  the member’s family and seek to address the issues.

  • Help process strong emotions of shock, fear, anger, betrayal and guilt.
  • Help the family move beyond blaming selves or others and focus on nurturing relationships.
  • Encourage family members to love and accept the individual.
  • Encourage counselling if necessary.

Step 4: Use Ward & Stake Resources – Create an environment and culture for all members to feel loved.

  • Discuss the issue in a fifth Sunday lesson or in ward council.
  • Address myths and stereotypes: being around gay people will not make you gay nor does being gay increase chances of pedophilia.
  • Utilize LDS Family Services if necessary or other resources.

For a deeper look at Same-Sex Attraction see this summary of Gospel Topics.

Resources

Ministering Resources: https://providentliving.lds.org/leader/ministering-resources/same-gender-attraction?lang=eng

Mormon and Gay Website:  http://mormonandgay.org

Gospel Topics: Same Sex Attraction – https://www.lds.org/topics/same-sex-attraction?lang=eng#_

Voices of Hope (LDS): https://ldsvoicesofhope.org/about/

The Family Proclamation: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/the-family-a-proclamation-to-the-world?lang=eng

My Battle with SSA (Article): https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/08/my-battle-with-same-sex-attraction?lang=eng&_r=1

Becoming Whole Again (Article): https://www.lds.org/ensign/1997/01/becoming-whole-again?lang=eng&_r=1

Same Sex Attraction PowerPoint

Chastity: Abortion

Abortion is the practice of murdering a child in the womb and is a clear violation of the command: “Thou shalt not kill.”  (Exodus 20:13)  From a Latter Day Saint perspective, abortion is a vile and evil act that is prohibited by the church.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “Abortion must be considered one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day “we oppose and abhor the damnable practice of wholesale abortion and every other unholy and impure act which strikes at the very foundation of the home and family, our most basic institutions.”

In his address at Brigham Young University on 1999‐FEB‐09 Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reaffirmed that an abortion is permissible, after “counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation” if any of five grounds existed:

(i)The life of the mother is seriously endangered.
(ii)The good health of the mother is seriously endangered.
(iii)The pregnancy was caused by rape.
(iv) The pregnancy was caused by incest.
(v) The fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

Elder Oaks justifies a woman’s access to abortion in cases involving rape or incest by quoting a letter that he had received from a fellow LDS Church member. It said: “The woman’s right to choose what will or will not happen to her body is obviously violated by rape or incest. When conception results in such a case, the woman has the moral as well as the legal right to an abortion because the condition of pregnancy is the result of someone else’s irresponsibility, not hers. She does not have to take responsibility for it. To force her by law to carry the fetus to term would be a further violation of her right. She also has the right to refuse an abortion. This would give her the right to the fetus and also the responsibility for it. She could later relinquish this right and this responsibility through the process of placing the baby for adoption after it is born. Whichever way is a responsible choice.” http://www.religioustolerance.org/lds_abor.htm

However, our prophet, President Russel M. Nelson has cautioned us not to allow these “exceptions” to become the focus of the abortion debate.  He says: “But less than 3 percent of all abortions are performed for these two reasons. The other 97 percent are performed for what may be termed “reasons of convenience.” (Russel M. Nelson‐ Reverence for Life)

President Nelson also warns us not to use “quality of life” as the criteria for which we would get an abortion.  He says: “Consider another individual weighing the
consequences of her pregnancy. She was beyond the normal age for bearing children. She announced to her doctor that her husband was an alcoholic with a syphilitic infection. One of her children had been born dead. Another child was blind. Another had tuberculosis. Her family had a history of deafness. Finally she confessed that she was living in abject poverty. If this true historical situation were posed today, many would recommend abortion. The child born from that pregnancy became the renowned composer Ludwig van Beethoven.” (Russel M. Nelson‐Reverence for Life)

And finally, President Nelson warns us against adopting the “pro-choice” argument for abortion: “But once an action has been taken, we are never free from its consequences. Those considering
abortion have already exercised certain choices. To clarify this concept, we can learn from the astronaut. Any time during the selection process, planning, and preparation, he is free to withdraw. But once the powerful rocket fuel is ignited, he is no longer free to choose. Now he is bound by the consequences of his choice. Even if difficulties develop and he might wish otherwise, the choice made was sealed  by action. So it is with those who would tamper with the God‐given power of procreation. They are free to think and plan otherwise, but their choice is sealed by action…The woman’s choice for her own body does not validate choice for the body of another. The expression “terminate the pregnancy” applies literally only to the woman. The consequence of terminating the fetus therein involves the body and very life of another. These two individuals have separate brains, separate hearts, and separate circulatory systems. To pretend that there is no child and no life there is to deny reality. (Russel M. Nelson‐Reverence for Life)

President Nelson then teaches us about when life begins: “When does life begin? It is not a question of when “meaningful life” begins or when the spirit “quickens” the body. In the biological sciences, it is known that life begins when two germ cells unite to become one cell, bringing together twenty‐ three chromosomes from both the father and from the mother. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. In a marvelous process involving a combination of genetic coding by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are established, a new DNA complex is formed. A continuum of growth results in a new human being. The onset of life is not a debatable issue, but a fact of science. Approximately twenty‐two days after the two cells have united, a little heart begins to beat. At twenty‐six days the circulation of blood begins. (Russel M. Nelson‐Reverence for Life)

President Nelson also warns us against using “population control” as a valid justification for abortion: “Another excuse some use to justify abortion relates to population control. Many in developing nations unknowingly ascribe their lack of prosperity to overpopulation. While they grovel in ignorance of God and his commandments, they may worship objects of their own creation (or nothing at all), while unsuccessfully attempting to limit their population by the rampant practice of abortion. They live in squalor, oblivious to the divine teaching—stated in the scriptures not once, but thirty‐four times—that people will prosper in the land only if they obey the commandments of God. “I, the Lord, … built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide. … But it must needs be done in mine own way. … For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.” (D&C 104:14–17; italics added.) (Russel M. Nelson‐Reverence for Life)

The spiritual consequences of Abortion are severe and serious for those who commit such a heinous act.  President Nelson, leveraging his apostolic authority states very plainly: “Now, as a servant of the Lord, I dutifully warn those who advocate and practice abortion that they incur the wrath of Almighty God, who declared, “If men … hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, … he shall be surely punished.” (Ex. 21:22.) (Russel M. Nelson‐Reverence for Life)

President Ezra Taft Benson taught the same principle when he said: “In all seriousness..you who submit yourselves to an abortion or to an operation that precludes you from safely having additional healthy children are jeopardizing your exaltation and your future membership in the kingdom of God. ‐‐‐‐Ezra Taft Benson

 

Justice – Fairness as a Character Trait

According to Psychologists Martin Seligman & Christopher Peterson, fairness means treating everyone the same and not letting one’s own personal feelings or biases override the rules.  To be just is to be fair, impartial and to follow the rule of law. If a leader is not just then he is capricious, partial, corrupt or unfair. An organization needs leaders who are just and who will distribute rewards and opportunities fairly. There are few things that will cause discontent in the organization so much as a belief that things are not fair. When people believe leadership is not fair they lose a sense of control over their lives and will either give up or look elsewhere for better opportunities.

Just leaders also ensure that rewards or dues are not withheld from those deserving of them. If someone is performing much better than another but is not receiving the same rewards, they are likely to feel mistreated. Ensure that compensation matches performance and that there are clear rules that underline how rewards are distributed in the organization. Similarly, just leaders distribute rewards, opportunities and punishers in a proportionate manner.  Even if someone broke a rule, imposing too harsh of a punishment can be unjust as can giving too much of a reward for a minor achievement. People are very sensitive to being treated fairly and expect consistency from their leaders.

One group of researchers from Georgia State University, seeking to understand why this sense of fairness is so central to the human experience, studied a group of primates to find some answers. They gave different groups of monkey’s different rewards for completing the same task and observed the effects. The group of monkeys who received less actually refused to continue doing the task and became irritated. They also did similar studies with other types of animals and found that only species who required group cooperation to survive developed this sense of fairness. The researchers theorized that we have developed an innate sense of fairness because that is what is required for long-term cooperation in a group. Any organization relies upon long-term cooperation of its members and a fundamental threat to that cooperation is to begin distributing rewards unevenly. Like the monkeys who refused to continue working and who became agitated, many people will respond in the same way if injustice begins to permeate the culture.

In summary, there are 6 key behaviors that just leaders engage in:

1. Just leaders give people their proper dues and do not withhold good from those who deserve it.
2. Just leaders do not punish those who do not deserve it.
3. Just leaders apply the rules of the organization equally to everyone and ensure the rule of law.
4. Just leaders do not pervert judgment by taking bribes or other favors.
5. Just leaders implement proportional rewards and consequences.
6.Just leaders base their judgments on an adequate sample of facts.

A fair society is based on the “rule of law” instead of the “whim of a dictator” or an individual’s personal biases.  Fairness is the foundation of criminal justice systems that most societies have.  People value fairness in others, especially in those who hold power. Abuses of power are usually violations of fairness.

Seeing fairness in others is satisfying while witnessing injustice is deeply disturbing.  The Opposite of fairness is injustice, bias and prejudice which are all undesirable.  Those who are not fair discriminate based on irrelevant criteria such as race, gender, wealth, attractiveness etc…Fairness is a rare trait indeed as most people are partial and biased.

One’s capacity to be fair appears to be related to Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Reasoning.  Kohlberg’s model has largely been validated in the research literature.  According to Kohlberg, there are 6 stages of moral reasoning that include:

Preconventional Stages (Stages 1 and 2): Stage 1 involves judging moral good in terms of self‐interest or what avoids punishment and/or earns rewards. These are the egocentric focus stages. Stage 2 of this phase involves a morality of exchange and probability as you help others because they might help your or because you may be punished if you don’t.

Conventional Stages (Stages 3 & 4): The next stages involve judging whether an action conforms to social laws, rules and conventions. Stage 3 involves judging right or wrong at the interpersonal level. Right is seen as that which will nurture relationships and wrong is concerned with what will harm relationships. In Stage 4, right or wrong is based on how a behavior
affects broader social units such as the family or society as a whole.

Post‐Conventional Stages (Stages 5 & 6): The most advanced form of moral reasoning involves using abstract principles of fairness, justice and care to decide what is right. Advanced moral reasoning also involves a balanced consideration of the moral claims of all stakeholders in a given issue based on universal moral principles of justice. In Stage 5 something is seen as right if it conforms with duties we have to society but allows for revision to the system. In stage 6, people adhere to universal principles of justice.

Fairness is often understood in terms of two different ethics: care and justice.  Justice is primarily about weighing principles to determine moral rights and responsibilities. It is objective and “blind” to individual characteristics.  Care is about a compassionate determination on how to meet people’s needs. It takes into account the needs, interests and well‐being of all those involved.  Some research reveals that it is hard to separate the justice from caring ethics and that they are interwoven for most people.

Correlates and Consequences
There are 5 main benefits that developing a sense of justice and fairness confers upon people.

i.) Moral Identity Formation: With advanced moral reasoning abilities comes strong personal moral beliefs and adherence to those beliefs.
ii.) Relational Problem Solving: Advanced moral reasoning leads to exposure to alternative interpretations of reality and an increased ability to solve problems in relationships. This is because you need to be sensitive to relationship problems, assemble facts, make determinations about morality and decide what to do about it.
iii.) Self Esteem: A strong moral identity and acting in concert with it leads to increased self‐esteem.
iv.) Perspective Taking: As you increase in the ability to engage in moral reasoning you increase your ability to place yourself in other people’s shoes and can better understand their needs and perspectives. Those who focus on justice emphasize general role obligations people have while those who focus on care emphasize affective knowing states such as empathy.
v.) Self Reflection: As you come to embrace and understand universal principles of fairness your own self-knowledge increases. As you take other peoples perspectives you become more aware of your own perspectives and are better able to contrast and refine them.

Preconventional moral reasoning is associated with greater delinquency, cheating, dishonesty, risky sexual behavior, drug and alcohol use, bystander apathy and aggression. Work and family values are about pay, hours, promotions and material benefits for families. Family problems are solved through shouting, demands and making concessions.  In one study, increasing moral reasoning abilities led to less post‐release recidivism.

In contrast, Post-conventional moral reasoning is associated with cooperation, whistle blowing, leadership, civil disobedience, altruism and political participation. Work and family values center around social ideals and justice. Family problems are solved through considering other perspectives.

Moral reasoning abilities are enhanced by cognitive development, authoritative parenting styles, peer discourse about conflictual moral issues and participating in caring institutions. Peer discourse called “transactive discussion” involves reasoning about other people’s moral reasoning and attempting to understand and operate on it.

Justice – A Spiritual Perspective

Justice: A Spiritual Perspective

While the above focused on justice as a character trait, Justice can also refer to an abstract spiritual concept.  According to the “True to the Faith” manual: “Justice is the unchanging law that brings consequences for actions. Because of the law of justice, you receive blessings when you obey God’s commandments (see D&C 131:20). The law of justice also demands that a penalty be paid for every sin you commit. It requires that no unclean thing be permitted to dwell with God (1 Nephi 10:21).”

The law of justice determines what blessings we receive.  In D&C 130 :20-21 we learn: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

Justice has also been referred to as the law of the harvest which Paul summarized in Galatians 6:7 which reads: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Justice is often at odds with mercy because mercy is an overruling of justice.  Mercy means absolving a person of the consequences for breaking a law which is, by definition, a form on injustice.  Thus, God balances mercy and justice and warns us that His mercy cannot overrule His justice.  In Alma 42 :11-15, Alma explains this principle to his son Corianton:

11 And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.

12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;

13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.

14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

Since we know that justice requires that a penalty be paid for sin, the only way to appease justice is to pay the penalty.  Jesus Christ is the mediator between us and justice and since he paid for our sins he can extend to us mercy without violating justice.  Thus, God can be both just and merciful because He has personally paid the price for sins.    He sets the conditions through which we obtain this mercy and these conditions are outlined in His Gospel.

President Boyd K. Packer summarized these principles in the following way:

“By eternal law, mercy cannot be extended save there be one who is both willing and able to assume our debt and pay the price and arrange the terms for our redemption.  Unless there is a mediator, unless we have a friend, the full weight of justice untempered, unsympathetic, must, positively must fall on us. The full recompense for every transgression, however minor or however deep, will be exacted from us to the uttermost farthing. But know this: Truth, glorious truth, proclaims there is such a Mediator. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim.2:5)

Through Him mercy can be fully extended to each of us without offending the eternal law of justice. . . .The extension of mercy will not be automatic. It will be through covenant with Him. It will be on His terms, His generous terms, which include, as an absolute essential, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. All mankind can be protected by the law of justice, and at once each of us individually may be extended the redeeming and healing blessing of mercy.” (CR 1977 Apr:80)

Mercy only exists because of the atonement. Without the atonement, there is only Justice.  Bruce R. McConkie explained it this way: “As justice is the child of the fall, so mercy is the offspring of the atonement. “Mercy cometh because of the atonement,” Alma says, “and mercy claimeth the penitent.” If there were no atoning sacrifice there would be no mercy-only justice. (The Promised Messiah, pp. 244-45)

The Gospel has been described as “merciful” and not necessarily fair. Lance B. Wickman taught: “It really isn’t fair that one person should suffer for the sins of others. It isn’t fair that some people can commit horrible crimes and then be completely forgiven and cleansed without having to suffer for them. It isn’t fair that those who labor for only an hour will get the same reward as those who labor all day. (See Matt. 20:16.) No, the gospel sometimes isn’t fair, but that is actually part of the good news. It isn’t fair—it’s merciful, and thank God it is so, for no human being can stand acquitted before the demands of absolute justice.” (Friends again at last- Lance B. Wickman)

While the Gospel is merciful, it still cannot destroy God’s justice.  In his talk: “Love and Law” President Dallin H. Oaks teaches us about how God balances His love and His laws.  President Oaks says: “The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love. The same should be true of parental love and rules. (Dallin H. Oaks- Love and Law)

President Oaks continues: “The effect of God’s commandments and laws is not changed to accommodate popular behavior or desires. If anyone thinks that godly or parental love for an individual grants the loved one license to disobey the law, he or she does not understand either love or law. The Lord declared: “That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still” (D&C 88:35).

As D&C 88:35 states, we cannot make up our own laws and reject the laws of the creator.  God has assigned different laws for different kingdoms and whatever law we choose to obey is the kingdom we will receive. We read in modern revelation, “All kingdoms have a law given” (D&C 88:36). For example:

“He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
“And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
“And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory” (D&C 88:22–24).

In other words, the kingdom of glory to which the Final Judgment assigns us is not determined by love but by the law that God has invoked in His plan to qualify us for eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).

Blessings

Justice means we receive prescribed rewards when we obey the law attached to the reward.  However, it also means that we receive prescribed punishments when we disobey the law attached to the reward.

President Boyd K. Packer taught:

“Each of us, without exception, one day will settle that spiritual account. We will, that day, face a judgment for our doings in mortal life and face a foreclosure of sorts.  One thing I know; we will be justly dealt with. Justice, the eternal law of justice, will be the measure against which we settle this account.  Justice is usually pictured holding a set of scales and blindfolded against the possibility that she may be partial or become sympathetic. There is no sympathy in justice alone-only justice. Our lives will be weighed on the scales of justice.The Prophet Alma
declared: “Justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:22)

I commend to you the reading of the 42nd chapter of Alma. It reveals the place of justice and should confirm that the poet spoke the truth when he said, “In the course of justice [only] none of us should see salvation.” (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, IV. i. 199-200) Boyd K. Packer (CR 1977 Apr:78-79)

President Packer has recommended that we all read Alma 42 and understand the principles taught within this great sermon on justice.   Eleven Principles found in this chapter include the following:

Principle 1: Life is a temporary probationary time to repent and to be reconciled with the Laws of Justice by entering into a covenant with God and serving Him.
Principle 2: As we are cut off from the presence of the Lord we are free to act according to our own will.
Principle 3: Mercy can only come about through repentance otherwise it would destroy justice and God would cease to be God.
Principle 4: Repentance implies that we are under condemnation or are suffering punitive consequences for our actions which need to be relieved.
Principle 5: Sin implies that there is a law that has been transgressed. And a Law implies that there are consequences for breaking that law.
Principle 6: The punishment for breaking a just law is remorse of conscience unto man.
Principle 7: If there are no laws that restrain behaviour we must live in fear and lose protection.
Principle 8: Justice only exists where law exists. Justice is the equal application of that law to all who are under its effects.
Principle 9: In reality there are certain laws that when transgressed bring about punishment. Mercy can come upon those who repent and the rest justice claims and executes the punishment otherwise God would cease to be God.
Principle 10: The atonement brings about the resurrection which causes men to be judged by their works according to the law and justice.
Principle 11: Mercy cannot rob justice. If it did, God would cease to be God.

President Dallin H. Oaks has warned us that God’s love will not overrule His justice and that the ultimate fate of those who transgress God’s laws will not be good.  He said:

“Some seem to value God’s love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws. In contrast, those who understand God’s plan for His children know that God’s laws are invariable, which is another great evidence of His love for His children. Mercy cannot rob justice, and those who obtain mercy are “they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment” (D&C 54:6).

We read again and again in the Bible and in modern scriptures of God’s anger with the wicked and of His acting in His wrath against those who violate His laws. How are anger and wrath evidence of His love? Joseph Smith taught that God “institute[d] laws whereby [the spirits that He would send into the world] could have a privilege to advance like himself.” God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is. For this reason, God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love. Every parent knows that you can love a child totally and completely while still being creatively angry and disappointed at that child’s self-defeating behavior.

However, some gifts are given to us unconditionally and do not depend upon our obedience to law.  President Oaks taught:

“The love of God is so universal that His perfect plan bestows many gifts on all of His children, even those who disobey His laws. Mortality is one such gift, bestowed on all who qualified in the War in Heaven. Another unconditional gift is the universal resurrection: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Many other mortal gifts are not tied to our personal obedience to law. As Jesus taught, our Heavenly Father “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) (Dallin H. Oaks- Love and Law)

Just as God gives some things unconditionally, we also give some gifts unconditionally as well. For example, parents provide many benefits like housing and food even if their children are not in total harmony with all parental requirements. But, following the example of an all-wise and loving Heavenly Father who has given laws and commandments for the benefit of His children, wise parents condition some parental gifts on obedience.

Antonyms

Sometimes we understand things by contrasting them with their opposites.  Three opposites of justice include:

1. Injustice: violation of the rights of others; unjust or unfair action or treatment.
2. Discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.
3. Prejudice: an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.

Citizenship – Overview

Citizenship Overview

According to Seligman & Peterson, Citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty, and teamwork all involve a sense of obligation to contribute to the common good of a group that one belongs to.  This strength involves identifying with and believing one has a duty to the groups to which one belongs: family, coworkers, community, church, nation and even the human race. This sense of duty to contribute is internally driven rather than externally forced. Citizenship entails loyalty to one’s group and obedience to the duties one has to the group.

Family pride, school spirit, esprit de corps, and patriotism all feel intrinsically good.  The cliché “There is no I in team” demonstrates how valued contributing to the team or group is.  Citizenship is a virtue because by definition, it is about positive contributions to others.   The opposite of citizenship is selfishness and egotism which are undesirable traits in other people.  Those who lack citizenship are completely selfish or traitorous to the groups they pledge allegiance to. They are universally despised, and treason even carries the sentence of life imprisonment in the USA.

A citizen is a member of a political community entitled to the rights and bound by the duties of membership in that community. It is membership in the group that gives the person those rights and duties. A good citizen has a sense of duty and responsibility to the common good of the nation to which he belongs. Every right granted comes with an attendant responsibility.

Good citizens have a sense of social responsibility which is a set of beliefs and behaviors around helping others even when there is nothing to be gained from it.  They are also loyal which means that they have an unwavering commitment to another person or group, its principles and cause.  They are patriotic and are loyal to their nation without having hostility towards other nations.    Good citizenship is essentially good teamwork.  Teamwork refers to one’s ability to work with others in a group towards a common purpose through collaboration and cooperation.

In Rousseau’s Social Contract, citizenship included ideas of autonomy, consent and reciprocity. Since the citizen has a voice in shaping the principles the nation follows he/she must commit to those principles. With the rise of capitalism and liberalism the emphasis shifted to rights instead of responsibilities.

De Tocqueville defined citizenship as “self‐interest properly understood” and involved a commitment to preserving public goods everyone held in common.  Some studies suggest that even when people are anonymous, ¼ to 1/3 of people refuse self‐gain at group expense. This means there seems to be a stable “citizenship” trait that some people have.   The Liberal tradition emphasizes civil rights and liberties while the republican tradition emphasizes the virtue of social responsibility.

Individuals who are socially responsible are, by definition, more involved in the community, have higher levels of trust and a more positive view of human nature. They score lower on measures of alienation and ethnocentrism.

Families that emphasize the importance of attending to others needs are more likely to adopt values of social responsibility and citizenship. Some research suggests that involvement in extracurricular activities outside of sports also correlates with more civic and political involvement in adulthood.  Females are more likely than males to be engaged in voluntary work or community service.

A Spiritual Perspective

From a spiritual perspective, citizenship is about being devoted and loyal to the Kingdom of God.  In his talk entitled “Loyalty” President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke about the importance of being devoted to the Gospel and Church of Jesus Christ.  President Hinckley said: “I think of loyalty in terms of being true to ourselves. I think of it in terms of being absolutely faithful to our chosen companions. I think of it in terms of being absolutely loyal to the Church and its many facets of activity. I think of it in terms of being unequivocally true to the God of heaven, our Eternal Father, and His Beloved Son, our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We show our loyalty to God by making and keeping covenants with Him.  President Hinckley continues: “Loyalty and dependability are essential qualities for members of the Church. At our baptisms and in the temple, we make promises with Heavenly Father. Keeping those promises blesses our lives and the lives of our families.” Gordon B. Hinckley

President Dallin H. Oaks emphasized the importance of showing loyalty to our families as well.  He said: “The cultural tides in our world run strongly against commitments in family relationships. For example, divorce has been made legally easy, and childbearing has become unpopular. These pressures against commitments obviously serve the devil’s opposition to the Father’s plan for His children. That plan relies on covenants or commitments kept. Whatever draws us away from commitments weakens our capacity to participate in the plan.”

In the same talk, President Oaks also taught about the importance of what he called a “tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime” as opposed to a short-lived zeal that some experience.  President Oaks said:

“What we need “is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”Some people live the gospel with “short, frenzied outbursts of emotion,” followed by long periods of lapse or by performance that is intermittent or sputtering. What we need in living the gospel is “the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”This steadfast standard requires us to avoid extremes. Our performance should be the steady 100 percent of a committed servant, not the frenzied and occasional 120 percent of the fanatic. A willingness to sacrifice all we possess in the work of the Lord is surely a mark of dedication. In fact, it is a covenant we make in sacred places. But this must be carefully confined to those sacrifices the Lord and His leaders have asked of us at this time. We should say with Alma, “Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?” (Alma 29:6). Dallin H. Oaks- The Dedication of a Lifetime

If we are loyal and devoted to the Kingdom of God then we are promised that one day we will have eternal life.  In 3 Nephi 15:9 we read: “Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.” (3 Nephi 15:9)

Measuring Citizenship 

Citizenship is measured in various ways.  Self‐report measures of citizenship usually focus on behaviors such as voting, campaign work, getting together with others in  the community to address issues, contacting public officials or making contributions to political causes. Other behaviors measured include signing petitions or joining protests. The most common measure is engaging in volunteer work. Other measures include the: Loyola Generativity Scale which has a subscale measuring community contributions and the Active and Engaged Citizenship scale.

From a spiritual perspective, citizenship and devotion would be measured in the following way:

  1. Devotion to one’s covenants is measured by abstaining from behaviors prohibited by such covenants and by engaging in behaviors encouraged by such covenants.
  2. Devotion to family is measured by setting aside family time, keeping the law of chastity and fulfilling all family responsibilities.
  3. Devotion to the Church is measured by church attendance and magnifying one’s calling.
  4. Devotion to one’s country is measured by civic participation.

The Hierarchy of Responsibility

Citizenship is related to fulfilling the duties one has to groups that one belongs to.  It can be expressed in the form of a hierarchy of responsibility. The hierarchy suggests that some roles are more important than others though time spent in each role has differential diminishing returns. All roles need to be balanced, though aren’t all equal in importance and in optimal time devoted.

1. Duties to God (Spiritual Responsibilities)

  • Understanding and Fulfilling God’s Will
  • Communication with the Divine
  • Involvement in spiritual communities

2. Duties to Self

  • Balanced and Healthy Eating: Plan meals in advance so that food guide recommendations are followed.
  • Regular Exercise Routine (Developing the Body): Plan a weekly exercise routine.
  • Proper Sleep & Rest: Plan a consistent sleep and waking time consistent with NSF guidelines.
  • Personal Development (Developing the Mind): Create a personal development plan to learn new skills and ideas every day.

3. Duties to Family

  • Spouse Duties: regular dates, regular intimacy, family planning, chores and errands
  • Parent Duties: Educating kids, spending time with kids, providing for kids, errands for kids
  • Child Duties: Obeying Parents
  • Extended Family: Spending time with family, providing service when needed.

4. Duties at Work

  • Job Role: Pick a field and specialize to become world class to be able to provide for your family and contribute to society. Set goals to continually improve job performance.

5. Duties to Community

  • Civic Duties: Voting, Volunteerism,
  • Community Development: Nurturing friendships and other social relationships, Nurturing communities

We can use the hierarchy to plan how we will fulfill all our roles over the coming year. Use your smartphone to set automatic daily, weekly or monthly reminders to fulfill a certain role responsibility. Plan it out in advance so that you aren’t just making things up as you go.

Source: Character Strengths and Virtues Handbook 

Resources

AEC Test