How do I Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin?

Yesterday I found out that my profile on Mormon.org was approved and this morning I woke up to a question that is a very common statement made by many members of the Church. Essentially it comes down to How can I love and support my brother without supporting his lifestyle, specifically a same-sex relationship. This is the reason I asked Abelard to have this month’s theme revolve around the how we help willing members reach out and do better by their peculiar brethren. Below I have the first email and my subsequent advice:

I added you as a friend because of your Mormon.org profile. I wanted to ask you about being a gay member of the church, specifically what, if anything, I can do to help a family member who is gay and LDS. I want him to know that I will always see him as family, and that I love him and want the best for him. He and I have disagreed quite a bit over the Prop. 8 battle in Callifornia, and it was through this dialogue that I found out he was gay, so it is a pretty recent discovery for me. Do you have any advice on how I can help support him without condoning same-sex relationships?

First of all, thank you for reaching out to me and asking for help and guidance. That takes a lot and I am grateful that you had the courage to do so. When I see this question asked by my own friends and family members I turn to one talk from last conference. President Uchtdorf’s Sunday address entitled “You Are My Hands.” I recommend going through and reading this talk with your relationship between you and your family member in mind, but for now I will excerpt some of it. President Uchtdorf begins his address with this profound lesson:

When I think of the Savior, I often picture Him with hands outstretched, reaching out to comfort, heal, bless, and love. And He always talked with, never down to, people. He loved the humble and the meek and walked among them, ministering to them and offering hope and salvation. That is what He did during His mortal life; it is what He would be doing if He were living among us today; and it is what we should be doing as His disciples and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. … As we emulate His perfect example, our hands can become His hands; our eyes, His eyes; our heart, His heart.

President Ucthdorf then continues to tell the story of the Büchsen Mormonen, or “Canned-Food Mormons” as an example of many members who often feel they don’t fit in and subsequently leave. He shares this hope with us:

I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand. Let us bestow upon our brothers and sisters in the Church a special measure of humanity, compassion, and charity so that they feel, at long last, they have finally found home. … In truth, we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We are all in need of mercy. In that last day when we are called to the judgment bar of God, do we not hope that our many imperfections will be forgiven? Do we not yearn to feel the Savior’s embrace? It seems only right and proper that we extend to others that which we so earnestly desire for ourselves. I am not suggesting that we accept sin or overlook evil, in our personal life or in the world. Nevertheless, in our zeal, we sometimes confuse sin with sinner, and we condemn too quickly and with too little compassion. We know from modern revelation that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” We cannot gauge the worth of another soul any more than we can measure the span of the universe. Every person we meet is a VIP to our Heavenly Father. Once we understand that, we can begin to understand how we should treat our fellowmen.

One of my favorite passages to describe this comes from C.S. Lewis’ sermon entitled “The Weight of Glory” Lewis talks about the fact that each of us has the potential to become gods and goddesses and as such

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit…. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

Back to Uchtdorf who stated

With this in mind, let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master, we are called to support and heal rather than condemn. We are commanded “to mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”

We should stand open to the positive and recognizing that we are not worthy to throw the first stone.

[Christ] not only taught but also showed us how to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” Christ knows how to minister to others perfectly. When the Savior stretches out His hands, those He touches are uplifted and become greater, stronger, and better people as a result. If we are His hands, should we not do the same? The Savior revealed the perfect priorities for our lives, our homes, our wards, our communities, and our nations when He spoke of love as the great commandment upon which “hang all the law and the prophets.” We can spend our days obsessing about the finest details of life, the law, and long lists of things to do; but should we neglect the great commandments, we are missing the point and we are clouds without water, drifting in the winds, and trees without fruit

I love this address by President Uchtorf because out of almost all the addresses last conference, this one taught and uplifted me the most. I felt the spirit so strong as I listened and harkened unto his voice. Essentially I have used his talk to help me illustrate that you can and should fully love this family member with all your heart.

You do not have to support same-sex relationships, but you aren’t under any obligation to tell get into harmful discussions with him either. Listen to and trust in the loving spirit of Christ to guide you. You already accept the sins of others in your love for them, simply extend that same love to your family member. It will grow your relationship with them and with God. If you have any questions just let me know. ~David