Being an advocate for gay individuals in Utah’s bubble can have consequences, yet no one can take away from us those things that matter most
by Yvett Zobel
I live in a beautiful place in Utah that is known as the bubble within the bubble. Living in a bubble means that the majority of people in your community think, look, act, worship, and vote in a similar manner. A double-bubble is an extreme version of that. I really knew I was in the double-bubble when a girl bore her testimony about the entire high school drill team doing baptisms for the dead. No kidding! A year ago an apostle visited our double-bubble. He told eager open ears at our stake conference and in another special meeting that we are the ones who will stand up and fight against gay marriage…”Like a steadfast rock in a stream of rushing water…we must be immovable!” Our ward and stake has been vocal in being obedient to what this apostle said. The “gay issue” has come up quite frequently in Sacrament meeting, Fast and Testimony meeting, Relief Society, Sunday school, Priesthood, and even again in another Stake Conference.
As an advocate for LGBT individuals and a mother of a gay son, this year was fraught with frustration and pain, but also punctuated with joy and gratitude. My bishop is getting well acquainted with me. He gets educational emails from me regularly. We visit in person quite often. My most satisfying moments have been when we practice conscious empathy. I acknowledge that I don’t expect him to be where I am at with this issue. He acknowledges that even though he tries, he will never completely understand what it is like to the parent of a gay son. He does not feel comfortable addressing the entire ward with a a 5th meeting Sunday, but we have a good working relationship.
December was a particularly brutal month with church lessons complete with fear mongering and harsh judgments towards gay individuals. I expressed emphatically to my bishop how harmful and isolating this type of language is to LGBT individuals and to those that love them. He spoke to the priesthood brethren about remembering the great commandment to love our neighbor, especially in these politically charged times with strong opinions and emotions. I appreciated his words.
I have visited with my stake presidency. They were very united with the apostle who visited our stake, and were unable to be empathetic, even as I spoke of LGBT homeless youth and suicides. They had not heard of the church website Mormons and Gays. I introduced it to them. I gave them a Family Acceptance pamphlet. I have found out that even if I do my very best, other people may not respond in the way I would like. But at least I planted a seed.
I have spoken out in lessons about loving gay individuals, and about being kind. I bore my testimony on a Fast Sunday about our baptismal covenant to morn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. I told about a gay youth I befriended who was suicidal and challenged them to open up their hearts a bit more, because gay individuals are all around us. I have received both positive and negative feedback every time I have spoken out. There are those with open hearts and those who feel my words are somehow a threat to them. It has been a great challenge for me to try to show others that we can and should reach out to our LGBT brothers and sisters.
A week ago a in a neighboring bubble stake a good friend and her husband were shocked to find that a “friend” had turned them in for mild internet posts in support of marriage equality. They love their gay son and they love their religion. Always faithful members of the church, they were abruptly released from their callings and and cautioned that they could lose their recommends.
Their experience validated to me that loving our neighbor often gets mixed up with rule keeping. Sometimes fear takes precedence over love and tolerance. Being an advocate for gay individuals in Utah’s bubble can have consequences. But no one can take away from us those things that matter most: the love we share in our families, our commitment to what is right, and our relationship with God.
With gay marriage pending in Utah, I feel uncertain of what I can expect from church members in word, action and deed. My husband has given me advice that helps me as an advocate for LGBT individuals and as member of the church. He tells me to just take one week at a time….sometimes one day at a time. This does help me.
I love this scripture in 2 Corinthians 12:8. I think God is telling us that even though some experiences can be difficult, as we trust in him he will give us strength: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This is my testimony of why I do what I do here in my neck of the bubbly woods. These few sentences are taken from emails I have sent to my bishop.
“….. my testimony of the savior and of my heavenly father’s love and guidance are real, and something I pray for constantly. God loves me and is guiding me and I know it. He loves his gay children, and because I love them he is using me as a tool. I know this to be as true as anything I have ever known.”
“As a mother and a steward over my family I go pleading before God for my directives, because the risks are too high to be blinded by religious dogma that doesn’t feel right in my heart and in my gut. Religion has killed many a gay son. Not mine. ….I believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ which is to love thy neighbor, to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. That is why I take the sacrament. I never, ever, take the sacrament and think how grateful I am that the Church is saving me from gay marriage destroying my family! That is not part of my baptismal covenant. And personally I think my family would’ve been destroyed a long time ago if this were true…. Gay people are among the noblest people that I know! My heart has expanded and my life has become much richer because of my association with gay individuals. The shackles have fallen off my eyes.”