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'Battle is within': Live standards, receive blessings

Conference emphasizes spirituality, self-control

While many questions about same-gender attraction might never be answered in this life, said Elder Douglas L. Callister, "The more secure we are in our faith, the greater is our willingness to leave unanswered questions for another day."

He observed that "the great battle for those with same-gender inclination is not with society, or parents, or the Church. It is within."

Elder Callister of the Seventy addressed a gathering of several hundred people at the Evergreen International Conference on Sept. 22, held in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City.

This organization, in its mission statement, "attests that individuals can overcome homosexual behavior and can diminish same-sex attraction, and is committed to assisting individuals who wish to do so.... Evergreen sustains the doctrines and standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without reservation or exception, but is not affiliated with the Church. Evergreen welcomes all people who wish to participate in the pursuit of these goals."

In the past few years a General Authority has been invited to address one of the sessions of the conference.

In his address, Elder Callister emphasized that while many of life's questions remain unknown, eternal principles are simple and known. He encouraged those of this affinity, knowing these principles, to take control of themselves through their prayers, their fasting, their partaking of the sacrament, and their thoughts.

"I stand before you in admiration for your courage in the face of challenges," he said. "Life is not always as we dreamed when we were little children, or as our parents dreamed for us that it would be. Perhaps none listening today anticipated the very real challenges for self, or a loved one, associated with same-gender attraction."

The first eternal principle he listed is that "God is literally our Father. Our relationship with Him ... is the intimate relationship of parent and child. He has chosen for us to address Him as 'Father.'

"When some unwisely say that 'homosexuality is what I am, not what I do,' it is a gross misstatement," he said. "What we really are is a son or daughter of God. This is what defines us."

The love of God for each of us is a miracle, and "God knows, loves and remembers us individually." Even when Heavenly Father and our loved ones are disappointed in us, "God's love for us is too great to ever end."

Immortality, a gift of the Atonement, assures of the unendingness of time.

"Because time has no end, we are very short-sighted if present decisions fail to contemplate eternal consequences," he said. "The desire to 'be happy now' must not disregard the significantly more important desire to be happy forever. This knowledge sometimes gives us strength to say 'no' when we need to say 'no."'

God's plan offers the obedient the largest reward imaginable — to live like God, Elder Callister noted.

"God's plan does not contemplate rewards or punishments, as much as it contemplates consequences," he continued. "Truly, a man will reap as he has sown. The law of consequences suggests that often, when we make a correct decision, we pay our price first and reap the reward later. When we make an incorrect decision, we often reap our reward first, but pay our price later."

This plan is centered on the continuation of families. In the end, "the reward is so great, and eternity is so long, that (a union between a man and a woman) is worth waiting for, even if it is not imaginable, attractive or possible at present. It is not conceivable that Heavenly Father would dictate these requirements as part of the plan without the positive assurance that in a time of His choosing all the proper inclinations will exist so that this family life will be a complete joy to all family members."

Control of self is the true yardstick of spirituality, and self-denial is essential for happiness. Elder Callister observed: "In general, the sinner is not the man who sets out in life to be wicked.... The sinner is the man who cannot say no."

Regarding prayer, he said, "Choose carefully just a few things to talk to Father about. Be certain to include things for which you are grateful. Then, in the language of Isaiah, 'Reason with the Lord."'

"If you are struggling to be the master of same-gender inclinations, talk to God about it, but do not let it become an obsession or the sole subject of your prayers. Do not be concerned that the list of prayer subjects is brief.... Much may be omitted. It is not the purpose of prayer to draw to God's attention that which He may not have observed."

In the quest for fasting to aid spiritual growth, he quoted Elder Melvin J. Ballard, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve, who said that fasting tells "our physical bodies — 'You can do without these two meals; it will not hurt you, indeed it will benefit you, and though my head may ache and my body may feel faint, I will not die, and I am bigger than you are and once a month I will show you that I am master.... I will not have this body defiled; it is my servant and it must be kept clean."'

In partaking of the sacrament, we should "concentrate our thoughts solely on the Savior, His ministry, His words, His plan, the consequences of an empty grave, and lessons from His life" and "we should re-read, as the emblems are shared, the words of the sacrament hymn just sung. Some of the great doctrinal messages of the gospel are richly interwoven into the text of our hymns." This experience "is not a time to let our thoughts wander."

Thoughts must always be controlled, he said. "Impure thoughts would be wrong, even if God had not condemned them, because of what they do to one's inner self. When it comes to thoughts, there are no innocent victims. Just as spirituality is the knowledge of victory over oneself — of self-mastery — even so, licentious thinking is the realm of indulgence, of yielding to all that which is base and of a lower plane. The heaven-decreed consequence of impure thinking is withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord.

"On the other hand the Lord has promised that righteous, controlled, garnished thoughts will result in the Holy Ghost being our constant companion and guide and that our confidence will wax strong in the presence of the Lord."

Elder Callister concluded that "the spiritual giants, both here and in the life to come, will not be those who faced life without trial, temptation or sorrow, but rather those who courageously stepped forward to take control of their lives, trusting to another day and the Almighty God the provision of answers which are now withheld."

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