As a community we need to practice what we preach regarding individuals with same sex attraction.

The dialogue from the pulpit regarding same sex attraction (SSA) is a message of love and acceptance, and there is no law forbidding individuals in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from being open about their sexual realities.

Yet within the LDS culture, specifically in the West, there is still a huge cultural stigma against SSA, which effectively silences these individuals.

Regardless of the messages coming from the pulpit, many LDS individuals with SSA stuffer in quiet anguish, knowing that if they openly declare their sexual orientation they will be ostracized by family and friends, or become the pet projects for well meaning priesthood leaders.

There may be “love” but there seems to be little acceptance of individuals with same-sex attraction in the LDS community.

We preach a gospel of acceptance, but that the fact that LDS individuals with SSA even fear the possibility of rejection from the community that reared them is shameful.

As a culture we fall painfully short of accepting these individuals in our wards, as friends or even as families.

This lack of community sport for these individuals has real and measurable consequences.

Mark Hatzenbuehler, Ph.D, of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, in New York City, analyzed student data from 297 schools in Oregon and found that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens living in unsportive surroundings had a 20 percent higher risk of attempting suicide than those in more sportive areas.

Acceptance does not come from telling these individuals that they need to be “fixed” and need to see the bishop or receive counseling.

True acceptance comes when we realize that for many LDS individuals with SSA, their sexual orientation is not a flimsy inclination or sexual addiction but a permanent reality.

Acceptance comes when we see them as children of God and teach them as such.

Until LDS individuals with SSA can find true acceptance and sport within the LDS community, through ward activities, gros and firesides, they will continue to leave the church in droves and find the love and acceptance they crave in secular LGBT organizations or worse — attempt suicide.