The Mormon church has a well-documented history of institutionalized homophobia and intolerance that's driven thousands of its members from the organization and often forced those who choose to stay with the church into incredibly uncomfortable positions.
The church's position on homosexuality is one of begrudging tolerance that falls woefully short of acceptance. While the church no longer endorses the use of corrective therapies meant to "cure" homosexuality, its laws and traditions regarding sex and intimacy are inherently homophobic.
The church's law of chastity forbids all sex acts performed outside of marriages recognized by the church. Since the only marriages the church recognizes are those between men and women, acting upon one's homosexual desires is strictly forbidden.
All of that being said, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still wants the public to know that it's totally cool with gay people these days and is trying its best to prove it with a new "Mormon and Gay" campaign and website.
The campaign is meant to highlight the personal stories of queer people who claim to have found a place for themselves within the church, but when you actually listen to what they're saying, it quickly becomes clear that being a queer Mormon still isn't exactly the most ideal in the world.
"There are sacrifices made, lonely nights felt, and sorrow that the eye cannot see," a man only identified as "Josh" claims in his testimony, which is posted on the "Mormon and Gay" site. "But God has blessed me with moments where I emphatically say I am here to stay the course."
Josh goes on to describe his experiences coming out to his friends and family, and how he felt a keen sense of exclusion from others within the Mormon faith. True inclusion, Josh says, felt like a dinner table that he had been uninvited to because of his sexuality. The only way he says he could ever feel welcome at the table was by having some very serious conversations with God.
"The answers for me came when I just kind of shut everybody out and just basically had a conversation with God. It was the solitude of God of—how do I do this? How do I stay at this table," Josh remembers, stumbling over his words. "And it was through those moments where I realized that 'Josh, there are other things. There are other aspects to the gospel of Jesus Christ that's not just eternal marriage."
To be clear, Josh isn't describing how the Mormon church brought him into the fold and was willing to accept him for who he is, he's describing how the Mormon church was fine with his presence so long as he stays celibate.
"This desire to have an intimate, emotional physical attraction or relationship with a man, those feelings are still there and raw," he admits. "And if I focus on that, then yes, I'm like, 'I can't do this, God. This is too hard.'"
Other people who contributed to the site include Laurie, who writes about how she was able to move past her attraction to women and marry a man.
To be fair, the church is candid about the fact that the church isn't really changing all that much and that the campaign is more or less a fresh coat of paint on old codified prejudices.
"There is no change in the church's position of what is morally right," church leader Dallin S. Oaks says on the campaign's new site. "But what is changing and what needs to change is helping church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other church members, or elsewhere."