More on Superchastity or Extra-Abstinence

Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous article about Superchastity and Same-Sex Attracted Members of the LDS Church.

I was writing a response to a comment by m&m and it started getting long enough that I figured it deserved to be a follow-up post instead of just a comment.

I have two cousins, brothers, who near the ages of 16 and 17 years were in a terrible automobile accident that left one paraplegic and the other quadriplegic. Both have triumphed despite these great trials. Both have gone on to college and excelled. The younger, paraplegic cousin recently engaged to be married. However, it is very, very unlikely that his brother will ever experience any kind of physical or emotional intimacy with someone to whom he is attracted.

I had a chance to visit briefly with this cousin a couple of months ago when he was in town. Despite what many would call an awful situation, his faith, optimism, and sense of humor are inspiring. He exudes great hope in the resurrection. He, and those like him, are inspiring and deserve praise for their faith and example.

While analogies between such individuals and same-sex attracted members are instructive and helpful, I think that we should acknowledge that in the case of those same-sex attracted in the church, there is an additional aspect that deserves attention:

For those like my cousin, or Elder Wickman’s daughter, their lack of intimacy is an aspect of their lives that is primarily out of their control. They practice superchastity because they are compelled to by circumstance.

On the other hand, the challenge to same-sex attracted members of the church is that such intimacy is relatively readily-available, but that participating in it is contrary to the standards that the Lord’s prophets have established. If they do practice superchastity, it is out of pure moral determination and humble, faithful submission to the Lord and the authority of His church.

The end result for both groups is the same, and the hope they must place in the resurrection and the restoration of their souls to proper form in the next life is the same. But I think that it is appropriate to acknowledge those same-sex attracted members who do practice superabstinence out of faithfulness and not because they are compelled. I think that such an acknowledgment can help encourage them and validate their efforts and accomplishment.

Let me say here that I am very opposed to competitive righteousness. And my article here is not intended in that spirit at all.

I believe that words have power. Framing our struggles with the proper vocabulary can make a huge difference. Too often the words we have to work with in the realm of same-gender attraction place the focus on the nature of the temptation itself. Terms like superchaste or extra-abstinent are useful in that they provide an alternative vocabulary for members to use in the context of same-sex attraction that places the focus on the positive objective instead of on the temptation. They supply positive labels of praise that same-sex attracted members can self-apply and feel good about as well as a point reference to which they can reorient themselves if they have fallen short and are in the process of repentance.

In that vein, let me echo here my comment on the previous article:

Perhaps the term Superchastity causes a little too much confusion in that it gives the impression that it is a different law than than the law of chastity. A better term might be Extra- or Super-Abstinence, to clarify that the law of chastity is the same, but of same-sex attracted members it requires Extra-Abstinence to adhere to that law.

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4 Responses to More on Superchastity or Extra-Abstinence

  1. m and m

    Interesting thoughts. Thanks for responding to mine.

    I hope for the day when someone will feel comfortable enough to share his/her decision to be “extra-abstinent” so I (and others around that person) can give encouragement and rejoice in his/her decision to obey the commandments in faith.

  2. What is the difference between “superchastity” and celibacy? Why invent a new term?

  3. Good question Shane.

    Before I posted my original article, I explored the term celibacy a little, and I fear that its meaning has grown a little too ambiguous. Celibate can refer to either being unmarried or to being sexually abstinent (see the wikipedia entry). I could see how some might claim to be celibate, because they remain unmarried or because they abstain from explicitly sexual behavior, while still participating in emotional and physical intimacy. I wanted a term that would leave no room for pettifoggers.

    As a secondary reason, the term Celibacy is also heavily associated with what are, for LDS members, erroneous Catholic teachings. I wanted something that could be applied approvingly to obedient same-sex attracted members without making any associations to catholic priests.

    I also think that sometimes we need new terms to draw our attention and help us think about things from a new perspective. When we use terms that people are already familiar with they often assume they already know what the author means and only read superficially.

    Thanks for your comment.

  4. Derek

    Thanks for your thoughts. As someone attempting to push through a life of “super-abstinence,” let me suggest just one other distinction between my situation as a member with same-sex attraction and someone who is handicapped, undesirable, or otherwise unable to marry. As M and M suggested, because our affliction is not physically apparent and is generally a hush-hush topic in church circles, those who deal with same-sex attraction usually deal with it very privately and without the encouragement and support of his or her congregation. For me, the secrecy and loneliness associated with my pain is maybe the toughest part of dealing with this situation.

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