"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
November 5, 2014
The New Talk
by Emily S. Jorgensen

I imagine everyone remembers when his parent sat him down and gave him The Talk. Sometime in those awkward tween ugly-duckling years, hopefully some trusted adult sat you down and told you about the birds and the bees. And, if you were raised in a Latter-day Saint home, it likely included additional instruction about waiting until marriage to explore these miraculous capabilities of our bodies.

These days, child psychologists and Church leaders alike (for example, see Linda S. Reeves’ April 2014 Conference talk, “Protection From Pornography — A Christ-Focused Home”) recommend not just one Talk, but several, beginning quite young, and being revisited many times over the years as your child develops.

Children and teens need to know the lines of communication are always open with their parents and that parents are the best source of advice and information when it comes to relationships, sexuality, substance abuse, and the other land mines of growing up today.

I am all on board for this. We’ve discussed maturation, where babies come from, modesty, the Word of Wisdom, basic dating guidelines, and everything else we can think of with our children whenever the opportunity presents itself.

However, I admit there is one subject I have been kind of avoiding.

I had to face this recently with the release of the final book in a series I have been reading. Allow me to explain.

I sometimes think I have the literary taste of a 12-year-old boy. I once admitted this to Obert Skye, author of the Leven Thumps series, when he asked to whom he should make out the inscription at a book signing and I sheepishly answered, “Um, me….” The vast majority of the other mothers there that day were buying Christmas presents for their 11-year-old sons.

And so it is that I frequently lend out juvenile fantasy fiction books to my students, just for fun, because we like the same books, and I being an adult can afford to buy them. A few of my students and I have been waiting with great anticipation for the final book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. It came out this past month, and was a worthy end to the 10-book saga.

However, it was with some trepidation that I lent out this particular book after I read it, and would only do so after speaking to the parents of the student who wanted to borrow it.

Because in this book, one of the main characters is gay, and it is an issue that is inextricably woven throughout the story.

Seeing sixth graders around me read this book, I realized I had never broached this subject with my children. They are not quite old enough for Facebook accounts, or I am sure I never could have gotten away with this. But, between this book and seeing gay couples be affectionate at the secondary school we carpool to each day, I knew I really needed to talk to my children.

Turns out all I had to do was discuss this with my husband and one of my eavesdropping children beat me to the punch.

My nine-year-old asked me at the dinner table yesterday, “I know it is wrong for a woman to marry another woman, but why would they want to do that?”

This was the perfect opportunity to explain both my feelings on the subject and reiterate what the Church’s position is.

I have several people in my life, including extended family members, who experience same-sex attraction, so I have made it a priority to be educated on this issue. These are people I love and care about.

I absolutely know their feelings are as real as mine, and that they didn’t choose to experience this. It’s how they came. However, I also know that if they wish to obey the commandments of God they must make some gut-wrenching decisions about how they will live their lives.

I know one person who served an honorable mission and then chooses to live a celibate life so he can keep his covenants. I greatly admire his sacrifice. I am not sure if I would be strong enough to choose that, were I in his shoes.

Then I know another who clearly still believes in the basic tenets of the Gospel, but has chosen to take a same-sex partner and hopes one day the Church will recognize that relationship as valid.

There are still others in my life who have dealt with the issue by renouncing or leaving the Church. This breaks my heart, but I can see their point of view.

These are all things I discussed with my children yesterday. I want them to know that I love these people regardless of their choices. I want my children to know I would also love them if they found themselves confronting such a life-changing issue. And, I want them to understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone, but it can require tremendous sacrifice to live it depending on one’s circumstances.

Homosexuality was rarely discussed as I was growing up. Now it is a prevalent issue. As parents and youth leaders, we cannot just put on blinders and hope the issue doesn’t come up in our family or our group of youth.

It may benefit everyone to review what the Church has said about same-sex attraction. There is an entire website run by the Church and dedicated to it: www.mormonsandgays.org.

In a recent stake conference I heard someone say over the pulpit that “homosexuality is against our religion,” and I cringed. I wondered how many people — especially youth — in the audience that day experience same-sex attraction. I can only imagine such comments being hurtful.

As mormonsandgays.org states on the first page, “Same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is.” If we are to be best equipped to help any young people who are in our sphere of influence who may cope with this reality, then we must get our story straight.

We need to look to what the prophets are saying about it right now. We need to make peace with our own feelings about homosexuality. We need to decide to love our fellow brothers and sisters without reservation. And, we need to get over ourselves and talk to our own children about it.

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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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