Is it a balancing act?

“So Mom, I forgot. Am I allowed to marry a boy or a girl?” my then 7 year old asked me with genuine curiosity.

“When you’re a grown up, you can marry anyone you want to, sweetie,” I told her without hesitation.

“Thanks, I just always forget that,” she replied flippantly and the conversation could have been done.

I paused and wondered whether I should let that be the end of the conversation. It satisfied her. It satisfied me. I mainly want her to know that her sexuality is not something she should ever worry about. I’ll support her with whatever she learns about herself as she grows. 

But then I worried she might have the shock of her life when she starts Young Women’s and learns the Church doesn’t approve of what I’d said.

I hesitated, then said, “The only thing is that if you marry a girl, you’re not allowed to get married in the temple.”

Immediately she replied, “Oh, that’s fine – there’s lots of pretty places to get married. Like, I could get married in the rhododendron garden.”

OK, all true. But I paused again. This time wondering whether I’d done enough over her life to share with her my beliefs about eternal families. She clearly did not value the temple – a place where I believe I’ve made covenants with God to have an eternal family. On the other hand, I was glad that she knows that I’ll be there for her wherever she chooses to get married. 

Delicately, I said, “True, you can get married in lots of beautiful places. Dad and I chose to get married in the temple because we made a promise with God to be together forever there.”

“Yeah, but I think God would let us be together forever anyway.”

And then she was satisfied and on her way. And…she’s probably right. 

So now the question for readers – for those who do believe that they’ve made covenants with God, but also believe that there are real problems with the way the mortal-led church implements practices – How do you teach your kids? What’s the balancing act you play?

This kid is probably right

Miriam is a Research Associate at the Oregon Social Learning Center where she studies interventions to support marginalized populations. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Eugene, OR.


  1. I think right here you– and your adorable daughter– have hit upon one of the main root causes for people leaving the church. We can’t reconcile a loving God with a God who would make such divisions between people.

  2. I’m fortunate to be able to teach by example, fielding questions and discussions as they turn up. My wife and I have been regular temple goers (me until I gave up my recommend to transition) and that desire to go do work has given them some desire to go themselves.
    Since we were sealed (and hope for it to be honored) any discussions have been more toward sealing to help connect families. We’ll see how things change if/when they start feeling the need to pair with someone.

  3. Any commentary on homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. needs to be informed by the most extensive scientific meta-study done on the topic, written by two of the most respected scientists in the world, who have befriended the LBGQT community. Here is the link. It is lengthy, so if you’re short on time, read the Editor’s Note, the Preface, and the Executive Summary.

    • McHugh, one of the authors, is very much not a friend to LGBTQ+ people, spreading the very unscientific lies about desistence and how all LGBTQ+ people can be “cured” through counseling
      This paper is neither extensive, nor are these two considered respected by anyone but anti-trans, homophobic Christians.

      • Apparently you did not read the Editor’s Note, the Preface, the Executive Summary, nor the Introduction. McHugh was Chief of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University for 25 years, and has been an expert witness in behalf of the LGBTQ community. Lawrence is a biostatistician and an epidemiologist trained in psychiatry, has had full-time tenure for over 40 years, and has held professorial positions at Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and others school of similar standing. This paper – a book really – is the MOST extensive study ever done, analyzing the results of over 1000 studies done on LGBQT issues over the last 50 years. Most meta-analyses include 50 – 100 studies. This report was 10 times more extensive. It’s fine to hold a different opinion, but please do so from an informed position.

        • This doesn’t look like a meta-analysis (which is a mathematical way to calculate the effect sizes of multiple studies together vs a review which is a summary of multiple studies). Instead, this is a review. Important to not confuse the two as they are very different things.

          A meta analysis can also be a review but a review alone isn’t a meta analysis.

          Also, there is a difference between a systematic review and a review. A systematic review systematically examines studies using a specific process meant to decrease bias. A review just looks at a bunch of studies.

          • Thanks, Miriam, for the clarification, and I apologize for not using the correct terminology. Given your explanation, my assumption is that this is a systemic review, given Dr. Lawrence’s biostatistician background, although I’m not finding that specific phrase used. They use “summary” and “synthesis.” However, it specifically states that the purpose of the report is “offered in the hope that such an exposition can contribute to our capacity as physicians, scientists, and citizens to address health issues faced by LGBT populations within our society” and “I have testified on their behalf as a statistical expert.”

          • If they don’t use the term “systematic review” then it probably isn’t one. A systematic review is very structured and they’d tell what the search terms they used were, what databases they searched, what exclusion criteria they used, how many studies were found, how many got excluded, etc. If they did not include that information, it wasn’t a systematic review

  4. Your precious daughter! I love her assurance that all will be well. I believe we will all be together come what may. I do not believe in “sad heaven” where we won’t be with our families. Thank you for putting this dilemma out there.

    • Yes Jan. No sad heaven. I have chosen to not be ruled by fear. I’m not sure behavior motivated by fear is all that genuine anyway.

      • While I agree that we’ll have eternal happiness and be with our loved ones, I keep thinking about this idea of sad heaven. If we never feel sadness, will it be like an awful dystopia where we all have stepford smiles plastered to our faces? Surely we will have all types of emotions in heaven, right?

        I love thinking about God as one who weeps – who chooses to have compassion and weep with us. I love thinking of Christ as one who feels our pain.

        So in our state of exaltation, wouldn’t we too want to have emotions that run the gamut?

        I’m mostly just speculating about things I don’t have answers to, but it is interesting thinking about what heavenly emotions might look like. (And I’m not trying to disagree with either of you as I think we will be together as families and don’t need to be scared, just trying to think beyond that idea a bit)

        • My understanding of “sad heaven” is not the idea that no one will every feel sad in heaven or that they will lack access to the full range of emotions. “Sad heaven” is shorthand for the idea that without each and every family member making and living up to covenants in LDS temples, families will not be together in the next life. Sometimes it’s called “no empty chairs,” as in, no empty chairs at church or at a family wedding in the temple because otherwise there will be empty chairs in heaven.

          I’ve seen the idea of “sad heaven” played out in actual LDS families that when one adult child leaves the church, the active LDS parents cut off that child from the family completely here and now because they won’t be together in the next life. It’s a concept related to enmeshed family systems, where the family unit is enmeshed with the church to the extent that any individual’s failure of belief or practice in the church feels like a threat to the entire family unit. The alternative is families that allow for differentiation – for people to live authentically according to their individual beliefs and practices while still maintaining love and closeness.

          I think “sad heaven” can be a natural outgrowth of the idea that LDS people have the sole and exclusive access to God’s power to the extent that only people who make and keep covenants in the LDS temple (or by proxy later) have access to God’s full blessings in the next life, including family relationships. Not everyone who believes in LDS covenants and priesthood power also believes in “sad heaven,” but I think sad heaven is very damaging to families now.

          I think whether one believes in LDS covenants or not, tolerance for difference and individuation is necessary for healthy relationships now and in the next life.

          • Thanks for the clarification. I actually hadn’t heard the term before yesterday, so I really didn’t know what it was referring to and assumed it meant a heaven with sadness and I feel like we need emotions for heaven to exist!

            I think I’m someone who believes in covenants, but definitely does not believe in that concept of sad heaven. To me, covenants are empowering personally, but not something that eliminates those who haven’t made them.

        • “sad heaven” is from Nelson’s 2019 talk about basically unless everyone is a perfect covenant keeping members they won’t be with their loved ones.

  5. According to Wikipedia, “The New Atlantis is a journal founded by the social conservative advocacy group the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The journal is not peer-reviewed, and covers topics about the social, ethical, political, and policy dimensions of modern science and technology. The journal is published in Washington, D.C. by the Center for the Study of Technology and Society.”

    Upon researching the Center for the Study of Technology and Society, including their own website, it was not clear that they do anything besides publishing The New Atlantis.

    I would be concerned about information that is published in a journal that is not peer reviewed. It appears to me that the New Atlantis exists to help spread certain views in a way that leads readers to believe that it is based on science to a greater degree than it is.

    My guess is that the “most extensive scientific meta-study done” on homosexuality and transgenderism would be suitable to publish in a peer reviewed journal. I guess I’m going to be skeptical about the claims made about sexuality and transgenderism in a journal that is not peer reviewed that is sponsored by an organization that exists solely to publish the journal. There’s better info out there.

    • This reply seems a case of “I don’t like the message and so I’m going to shoot the messenger.” In this instance, however, it looks like the messenger is getting shot before even delivering the message. One doesn’t stay the Chief of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University for 25 years, or be a tenured biostatistician and epidemiologist for 40 years and be invited to teach at 8 of the top medical schools in the country, by doing sloppy, biased work. Others attacked this work as well, and the authors addressed some of those attacks here:

      Their report was written “in the hope that such an exposition can contribute to our capacity as physicians, scientists, and citizens to address health issues faced by LGBT populations within our society.” They also said, “Our paper explored, and found flimsy, any scientific support for popular notions about sexual orientation and gender.” If people are genuine about wanting to truly help and be supportive of this population, simply relying on “popular notions” is not the way to do it.

      • There is a reason Johns Hopkins no longer associates with him and has explicitly refuted his assertions. This paper, and his continued use of it as “the last word” is it. Your appeals to authority don’t help your case.
        There is much, much more research that contradicts this paper, so casually dismissed as “popular notions” simply because they don’t want to see something that contradicts their preconceived ideas.
        All in the name of “we’re just trying to help you”.

        • And if you will dig a little deeper, you will see that reason Johns Hopkins eventually disassociated with him is due to continual pressure and threats to the school by LGBTQ activist organizations….

          • Yes, amazing how anyone who supports LGBTQ only did so because of pressure and threats from activist LGBTQ organizations.
            Cause it couldn’t be that they found science that actually contradicted your narrow view.

  6. I think I’ve tried to balance this for years but am now coming to the conclusion that it’s not really possible. The binary of right and wrong, straight and “struggling with same sex attraction” (gross terminology), all in or get socially ostracized, covenant path or outer darkness yellow brick road, married for time and all eternity or forever doomed to visitation only… all of these make it impossible for balance and demand choosing one side or the other. And my kids are starting to see through it too. Focusing on Jesus and loving the two great commandments just aren’t cutting it on the path to sad heaven anymore.

  7. Miriam – I think threads max out at five comments, so I couldn’t comment above. But agreed! The full range of emotions are important for any place to be heaven.

      • A couple months ago I got a bit freaked out when I read the story of Lot’s daughters who got Lot drunk and raped him. It was considered a good thing because they were preserving their family seed. Is that the Bible message I should teach my kids?

  8. “How do you teach your kids? What’s the balancing act you play?”

    Still figuring this out. Here is what I have so far: I also do not believe in teaching by fear. I believe that covenants are meant to transform us. I share how the covenants I’ve made have transformed me. That’s easy for me for baptism – I think baptism is the new and everlasting covenant. It gets trickier for sealing because for a long time I didn’t set boundaries in my marriage and thought I was stuck because of sealing. I’ve since let go of that belief and am working on a new one around sealings.

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