Is it possible for a person to be born into the wrong gender body?

Is it possible for a person to be born into the wrong gender body?

Question

 

Gramps,

I have been a member of the LDS church all my life and believe the doctrine stating that our spirits had a gender before we became mortal.  I find myself pondering the possibility of an imperfectly gendered body.  Hermaphrodites exist, and there are any number of possible things that go wrong in forming a human body.  Is it, or could it at all be possible for someone really to be born into the wrong gender of body versus their spirit gender?  I honestly don’t know for sure. Thanks.

Lisa

 

Answer

 

Lisa,

It is hard not to ponder such a question given the current events going on around us.  The Church has clearly proclaimed that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” in the Proclamation on the Family.

There are some who state simply that “God does not make mistakes” as if that ended the discussion.  While I agree God does not make mistakes, I don’t agree that ends the discussion. God’s perfect plan is to test us imperfect people with imperfect bodies living in an imperfect word to see if we will overcome our challenges and do his will.

This plan with its imperfect bodies is not a mistake.  Many of us have to deal with physical, mental, and/or emotional problems whose root cause might be caused by something going wrong in these imperfect bodies.  There is no reason to believe that the apparent gender of our physical form is an exception to these kind of potential problems.  You mentioned one such problem (Hermaphrodites).  Medical science is full of such cases; even our chromosomes can be messed up.  Instead of the standard XX for female and XY for males, one might have Turner Syndrome (XO) Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY), Triple X Syndrome (XXX) and XYY Syndrome.

Given what we are still learning about how our physical bodies develop, I think it is also way too soon to rule out the idea that some kinds of imperfections could alter the brain structure and brain chemistry that effect a persons thoughts about their gender identity.

While there is a lot we don’t know, we do know some very important things.  We are here to see if we will follow God’s commands.  Whatever challenges we face, no matter the reason we face them, we still need to seek out and follow God as best we can.  We need to love our brothers and sisters (everyone) and try to help them also seek out and follow God the best that they can, no matter what trial they might be facing.  All of us need to seek the Spirit of God, ponder the scriptures, and have the support and guidance of trusted leaders, families, and friends as we struggle to overcome all our imperfections and follow God.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

Where do I turn for Priesthood counsel regarding sexual abuse?

Where do I turn for Priesthood counsel regarding sexual abuse?

Question

 

Grandpa,

I recently confided in my sister. I told her that I was in therapy trying to heal my chronic pelvic pain, PTSD which resulted from sexual abuse that I never dealt with.  What am I missing? I’m very familiar with the atonement. It’s not like I haven’t poured my heart out asking for deliverance from this pain. I believe that through Christ, I can be healed, but I also know it hasn’t taken place. What do I take away from that? I haven’t asked enough, or correctly?

A family member, in another bishopric told me that I should be meeting w/ the Bishop regularly for council.  I don’t want to beg for an appointment. but after reading Ensign talks on healing from sexual abuse, (which is what I’m trying to do), the talks imply that the Bishop should be quite hands on if not the Stake President.

Where do I turn for priesthood counsel?

Jeanette

 

Answer

 

Jeanette,

My heart goes out to you.  Someone close to me is working through the same process of healing so this is a topic close to my heart.

I would like first to address your question about why healing takes so long.  First I would like to reassure you that it isn’t your fault.  Healing takes time.  It is natural to want the healing to come now, and the pain to stop, but some wounds take time. To illustrate this point, I’d like to share some quotes from Sis. Cheiko Okazaki’s talk on “Healing From Sexual Abuse” and Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s talk, “Like a Broken Vessel”. First you may not be alone in wondering why healing takes so long.  Your friends and family, while sincerely wanting to help, may ask the same question. Sis. Okazaki speaking of this said:

“Often when we acknowledge a problem, we want it fixed quickly. We think a few visits to a therapist, a few priesthood blessings, a few tears shed, a few hugs should make everything all right. Not so. The process of healing may be more complex than I realize, different for each survivor, but let me share with you again what my friend says: ‘ . . . I am in so much pain that I will do anything to pass through this as efficiently as possible.  A lake cannot repent of its pollutants; it can only submit to being dredged and flushed of its debris and poisons. I am learning that the pain is not an end in itself, but it leads me to what I am to learn, and with each lesson, I get more of my life back.’”

How much time will it take you might ask.  The answer will vary for different people.  I don’t want to discourage you, but to reassure you that if your healing takes a long time, it does not mean that you have done something wrong. About this Sis. Okazaki said:

“The sixth message I want to share is that healing from sexual abuse is a very long and very painful process. According to one study that included LDS women, being able to reach the ultimate step of forgiving the perpetrator and moving on took an average of fifteen years . . . Let me borrow an image from a sensitive bishop who works hard to help members of his ward who have been sexually abused. He urges leaders, family, and friends to realize that their loved one, a ward member, has been injured, just as if he or she had broken a leg that had never been set properly. Even though the person can walk and may have forgotten about the injury, true healing and true strength cannot return until the injury is acknowledged, the bone rebroken, and the leg set correctly. Please recognize and realize that someone who has been sexually abused has been deprived of part of her or his free agency. The individual cannot get it back except through the long and difficult process of healing from sexual abuse.”

Again I hope you will not feel overwhelmed or discouraged by that.  According to those I have talked to, it does get easier.  The process takes time, but the pain becomes easier to bear as you become stronger.

People who sincerely want to help may encourage you to “forgive and let go.”  But I caution you, forgiveness also takes time.  It is an important and beautiful principle, but it is not the first step of healing. Sis. Okazaki addresses this as well:

“Third, do not try to rush or short circuit the forgiveness process, but continue to work towards it as you can. Wendy Ulrich, a psychologist in private practice, talks about the need to balance both justice and mercy during the process of coming to forgiveness. She writes, ‘The principle of justice requires an honest appraisal of our current systems and the realities of our pain. To forgive prematurely can close doors to the important realities that pain can open. Justice requires that we not assume responsibility for sins we have not committed, that we not assume power to control decisions we cannot control, and that we not exonerate others’ actions when they are dangerous and destructive. To attempt to be merciful in the absence of justice is to deny the characteristics which make God God. The principle of mercy follows the principle of justice but cannot rob it.’”

When the path of healing is long and painful, we may wonder why our prayers have not been answered.  Addressing this Elder Holland said,

“Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.

I’m so glad that you said you are in therapy Jeanette.  Both Sis. Okazak and Elder Holland talked about the importance of therapy. Sis. Okazaki said:

“Now the third message I have is that women and men who have been sexually abused probably need professional help and certainly need personal support. In the vast majority of cases, they need professional help because sexual abuse, and particularly incest, attacks the very foundation of their identity.”

Elder Holland agrees. Speaking of serious depression (which is common among survivors of abuse), he said:

“If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.”

You asked about priesthood guidance.  I would counsel you to remember that Bishops and Stake Presidents are generally not trained in counseling, and should not be expected to replace your therapist.  However, there are ways that a priesthood leader can help.  One way is priesthood blessings.  Another way they can help is if you find yourself struggling spiritually while on your healing journey.  This is not uncommon.  Sis. Okazaki addressed this too (though I won’t quote it here, as this is long enough.)  Those I have talked to have expressed having difficulty in this area as well.  Priesthood leaders can be helpful in reassuring you in spiritual matters.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help or make an appointment with your Bishop.  People who have not experienced abuse don’t understand how intense the pain can be, or how much support is needed.  You may need to reach out to them and let them know that you are struggling and need help.

Jeanette, while healing is a long, painful process, I promise you that healing is possible.  I have seen this in my friend who is dealing with this issue.  Christ will help you.  I’ll close this with a final quote from Sis. Okazaki speaking of her friend who was working through this she said:

“Now the closing words of her most recent priesthood blessing assured her ‘that Christ not only sorrows at my suffering, but suffers with me as I suffer. I am amazed at the love he offers me. I also lose what hope I had of escaping my pain any other way than by experiencing it. I wanted to be otherwise; then I remember Alma’s great testimony that Christ will descend below all things that he may succor his people according to their infirmities.’”

He will be with you every step of the way, Jeanette. That I can promise.

Some additional sources:

Jeffrey R. Holland – Like a Broken Vessel

Other helpful resources:

Hope and Healing in Recovering from Abuse – Sarah E.Miller

 

Gramps

 

 

Can physical intimacy and spirituality be compatible?

Can physical intimacy and spirituality be compatible?

Question

Dear Gramps,

When I am reading my scriptures or saying my prayers, I have no interest in physical intimacy with my spouse.  And when we do come together I become very carnally minded and completely lose interest in saying my prayers, reading my scriptures or in being “spiritual”.  Are the two mutually exclusive or incompatible?  Or am I doing something wrong here?

Concerned

 

Answer

Concerned,

The two most definitely are not mutually incompatible. But you don’t need to be overly concerned about this. Sex is one of the great and profound gifts God has given us, but the purpose of sex isn’t to get us to read our scriptures.

As they grow in age and spiritual maturity, many couples find that the physical union of husband and wife takes on a deep, rich, and — yes — very spiritual dimension. But if that’s not where you are at in your progression right now, that doesn’t mean you are wrong. I encourage you not to overthink this. Enjoy your relationship with your spouse in all of its facets — spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Do your duty to God and to your spouse in all things, and as you live your life, you will find all the seemingly disparate areas of your life woven together in a magnificent divine tapestry.

Ever the hopeless romantic,

Gramps

Is masturbation something I need to confess to my Bishop?

Is masturbation something I need to confess to my Bishop?

Question

Gramps,

If you have masturbated and have repented and in a temple recommend are asked if there is any sins that have not been confessed, is masturbation something that has to be confessed to priesthood authority in order to repent of it?  Thanks gramps, love your wisdom.

Jim

 

Answer

Jim,

A quick answer to your question is yes.

A useful article on the role of a Bishop in repentance, and when to see him–Why and What Do I need to Confess to my Bishop states:

“Some mistakes, especially those regarding immorality, require confession to the bishop before you can receive the Lord’s forgiveness.”

Masturbation would fall into this category.

Now, one of the things about masturbation is that it’s very addictive and hard to stop once the habit has been developed.  Often times people fall, repent, are good for a few months, and then fall again.   If you’re trapped in this cycle, I would advise you to get help.  That is what a Bishop is for.

If you have confessed to your Bishop, truly repented and ceased this behavior, then Jesus says:

“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42)

If God Himself isn’t going to remember a repented sin, then why should you?

 

Gramps

Can one be forgiven of incest?

Can one be forgiven of incest?

Question

Gramps,

Recently a discussion was going on about sins that are forgivable and unforgivable.  It was mentioned that incest was ranked as an unforgivable sin.  Can one be forgiven of incest?

Kathryn

Answer

Kathryn,

Great question.  We are taught that the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.  According to lds.org, unpardonable sin is defined as: The sin of denying the Holy Ghost which cannot be forgiven.

Even Christ said that all sins can be forgiven except for the denying of the Holy  Ghost.  We read this in Matthew 12:31-32:

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

As you can see in Christ’ words, He doesn’t state that denial of the Holy Ghost and incest are both unforgivable.  He only mentions the denial of the Holy Ghost.

Gordon B. Hinckley had this to say regarding incest:

“There appears to be a plague of child abuse spreading across the world. … I am glad there is a hue and cry going up against this terrible evil, too much of which is found among our own. Fathers, you cannot abuse your little ones without offending God. Any man involved in an incestuous relationship is unworthy to hold the priesthood. He is unworthy to hold membership in the Church and should be dealt with accordingly.” (Ensign,May 1985, p. 50.)

While the disciplinary action the Church and brethren take are quite explicit, is there repentance and forgiveness?

Spencer W. Kimball once said in a talk the following:

“The dictionary defines incest as “sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry.” The spirituality of one’s life may be severely, and sometimes irreparably, damaged by such an ugly sin. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have determined that the penalty for incest shall be excommunication. Also, one excommunicated for incest shall not be baptized again into the Church without the written permission of the First Presidency.”

This tells me that there is hope for those who have committed this horrible sin.  It will take longer to go through the repentance process and requires a much higher approval from the First Presidency. But there is hope, and it is possible to be forgiven.

I hope this answers your question.

 

Gramps

 

Can my husband and I get sealed in the temple even after our past?

Can my husband and I get sealed in the temple even after our past?

Question

Gramps,

In trying to make this short, I will just start by saying I have a question to a very complex situation. Basically, my question is if my husband and I can be sealed in the temple? Just a quick background. My now husband and I met at the end of our previous marriages. We were both in very bad relationships and in bad places in our lives. We made grievous mistakes, and ended up having an affair with each other. We ended both of our previous relationships (he was married in the temple, I was not) and we ended up living together before getting married. Both of us knew better, as we were both returned missionaries, though justified our actions at the time because we were both hurting (and I will admit, both rather bitter) in our respective relationships. I know that this sin is almost beyond repair, and worry, beyond forgiveness. We are both working very hard to make things right, he has been excommunicated, I have been disfellowshiped and are truly working towards repentance, though it has taken years. But, I also feel maybe it is pointless for us because we will never be able to be sealed and truly be forgiven of our sins, as it seems we have to keep repeating our transgressions over and over. Sorry for the long explanation, but any thoughts on the matter would help my limited understanding of forgiveness and temple ordinances. Thank you, and thank you for such a helpful site!

Vaami

 

Answer

Vaami,

My heart aches for the pain you are suffering. As you admitted, you and your husband have made some bad choices, the effects of which will take some time to overcome. At this point, I need to separate out forgiveness from a future sealing and discuss each. As far as forgiveness goes, we are taught repeatedly in the scriptures that Jesus descended below all things so that He can rescue us from our alienation from God (D&C 88:6). You have not sinned to the degree that the Atonement cannot work in your behalf and make you clean and pure again. Forgiveness is well within reach. It may take some time and consistent spiritual effort, but if you are diligent, you will be able to receive full forgiveness for your sins. Consider Mosiah 28:4 referring to Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon:

And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners. And the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them; nevertheless they suffered much anguish of soul because of their iniquities, suffering much and fearing that they should be cast off forever.

The last phrase sounds like what you are going through. I can also say with certainty that you can have the same result they did through your spiritual effort and diligence in keeping the commandments.

The sealing question is a little more complicated. I am not aware of any doctrinal reason that you and your husband cannot be sealed together at some point. You will need to accept the counsel and judgment of your ecclesiastical leaders and be patient. Your patience may need to extend into the next life. You can be certain of one thing, the God who knows you better than you know yourself and can see the end from the beginning will bless you with everything you need. No needed blessing will be withheld from you, including sealing, if you are faithful and diligent. It occurs to me that one way to ensure and accelerate the process will be for you and your husband to act as though you have a celestial marriage already. You should be praying together as a couple, personally and as a family. You should be studying scriptures the same way. You should be holding family home evening, repenting regularly and doing service. Your faith, diligence and endurance will merit the blessings of heaven and you will again enjoy the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit with all of its associated powers and functions.

 

Gramps

How do I support my husband who has a porn addiction?

How do I support my husband who has a porn addiction?

Question

Dear Gramps,
My husband of 5 years is addicted to pornography. He told me about it while we were dating but I thought it would be a non-issue if we married because then his needs would be met within the marriage. It didn’t even occur to me that this would carry on into marriage.

My husband has not viewed it in months. He has been advised to talk to me because a wife can be an addict’s best support. But when he tells me deep pain comes with it. I feel greatly betrayed, heartache and sorrow to the point where I can’t hide it while he is opening up. He feels anger and resentment towards me for not supporting him. I want to support him in all his righteous efforts but I feel so much pain from it. I don’t understand how I can support him on something that is hurting me so much. I don’t know how to not be hurt. Do you have any advice?

Jennifer

 

Answer

Jennifer,

I am sorry that you and many others like you are hurting because of a spouse’s addiction and/or habits with pornography. You have asked how can you not be hurt and that is a very hard question to answer in the limited space we have. I would recommend that you try to find a support group for people whose spouses are struggling with this issue. In such a group you can begin to understand that you are very much not alone with this problem and see how others are handling it to get better ideas and understanding.

I will seek to address but one issue of the many that are present here. You need to understand that your spouse’s porn use is not about you. Let me repeat that. It is not about you. You think it is. You thought that marriage would make the problem go away. It did not and so now you take every relapse of your husband as a personal failure with you. You assume that if you were only sexier, more desirable, more skilled, or whatever, then your husband would have no desire for anything else. This is the wrong messages to be telling yourself and I believe it is a big cause for why it hurts you so much.

But it is not about you, you can not make this magically go way for your husband. If he is addicted then he has re-wired his brain chemistry to respond and seek out the stimulus of porn. It was done before you met and it will most likely take professional help to undo it.

If it is not at the level of addiction, then it is most likely that your husband has turned to it to cope with stress and feel like he has some measure of control over his life. Add to that a strong sex drive and your husband has a habit whose underlying cause is masked. The need to deal with stress and feel like you have some control over your life many times become even more important after you are married then it was before. If this is the case then your husband has poor coping skills and needs to learn new ones before the problem can really go away. Because in times of stress he will turn to what he knows works until he learns a better way.

Hopefully as you learn that your husband’s faults in this issue are not your fault you will be able to gain the insight needed to be less hurt by your husband’s struggles. Then when your pain is much lesser and you understand it is up to him and not you, then you are in a better position support him in his effort to break free. Encouraging scripture study, prayer, both individually and together, plus just being there for him can go a long way to help him get free of this problem, but you need to have a better understanding of what it is you can and can not do for him.

Gramps

How does one overcome lustful thoughts?

How does one overcome lustful thoughts?

Question

Dear Gramps,

I have a lusting problem. Fortunately, I don’t have a pornography problem. I have tried and tried and tried for over 30 years now to overcome looking with lust at immodestly dressed women I see in public. I am no closer now to overcoming it than I was 30 years ago.  Church leaders counsel people trying to overcome pornography to avoid it. But, short of living the life of a hermit, how can I avoid seeing these sights everyday out in public? I am so discouraged.

Fabjan (more…)

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