An Open Letter to LDS Members and Priesthood Leaders

By Lance Irons (also published at his blog http://lanceirons.blogspot.com/)

This is an open letter to all members and Priesthood Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This letter is about a Young Man that I know who is going through a very difficult time. This is a real person who is going through real challenges. Many people like him have suffered and are currently suffering in the dark. This story is all too common and affects many people and families within the LDS Church and outside the LDS church. I implore you to read this and realize that there are children who are going through the same ordeals in every stake and in a good portion of our congregations. This was specifically written for a particular stake but I think it can apply to almost every stake in Zion.  

To members and Priesthood Leaders,

 
I have recently been in contact with a young member of the church within your stake. I won’t name any names and I have been given permission to share a little of his story. This young man is currently in his senior year of high school. He is a wonderful young man with a strong faith in God. He recently came out to his family, friends, and church leaders as being gay. According to his account of what he is experiencing after coming out there has been very little Christ like sympathy coming from many people in his life. His parents have been un-accepting of him and his father has threatened to kick him out of his home. He has described to me a very antagonistic atmosphere where most family home evenings are spent discussing his sinful nature and his destiny for eternal damnation. He has been regarded as disgusting, deviant, and revolting.

I do not doubt that his family loves him. It sounds like his mother is seeking to understand and trying to seek a greater knowledge. Unfortunately in regards to this issue there is too much misinformation that people have grown up on that is hard to reconcile. For there whole lives they have been taught that Homosexuals would not be found in our congregations and that they were sinful, unnatural, and antithetical to God. His parents have felt that this is a choice that he has made when that simply isn’t true. If they were to realize that he didn’t choose this they would be able to come to a greater understanding and would have a greater compassion for him.
His Bishop has expressed love for him but unfortunately with very little understanding of what he is going through. He has been asked to not take part in the youth program, his bishop says because he has graduated from it, his father says it’s because he is gay. He has described the bewilderment and discomfort of many of the members when he came out. He doesn’t feel comfortable at church and usually wants to leave after sacrament meeting.
Along with what’s happening at church, at school he has been openly mocked and ridiculed for being gay. He has become the victim of bullying many times. Luckily he has a group of friends that are very supportive of him.
This young man because of the pressure and hurt he is receiving has been contemplating suicide. This suicidal ideation seems to be stemming from the constant negative and hurtful comments and feelings that are coming from his home and ward. He has expressed his willingness and want to follow God’s will even expressing the desire to marry a woman if God will’s it for his life.
I am bringing this young man to your attention because of the seriousness of this issue. I do not believe he is the only one within your stake who is feeling the same ostracism, hurt, and pain from the people that should be at the foremost for expressing love to them. I have spoken with many LGBT Mormons, unfortunately most of them are inactive. This isn’t because of their “Sinful nature” or an act of rebellion, it’s because of the ignorance and pain they have felt from the members of their wards. These children of our Heavenly Father have expressed a deep desire and want to come back and sing the songs of Zion with the saints of God. They also want to be open with their sexual orientation while there. I have experienced this as well. When an LGBT, SSA person within our congregations is not open with this part of themselves. They feel isolated, they feel that their relationships are not genuine and that they are living a lie that they are telling through omission. It is a deeply painful and lonely experience.
There is always a constant fear that if anyone found out they would be tossed aside and thrown out for something they had no choice in. There are many young children in your congregations who feel this exact same way. Children who are precious and pure and who love God, love our Savior, and want to follow him.Unfortunately too many times instead of hearing love and compassion from the pulpit the only time homosexuality is mentioned is with negativity, and is discussed as a sinful nature that is antithetical to God. These children are told that they are akin to murderers and pedophiles,  that they are somehow diseased and disgusting. (Yes Priesthood leaders have said this including prophets and apostles). These pure and precious children, some as young as 10, hear this and their souls are horribly wounded. Their precious beautiful souls are afflicted and damaged by these members and priesthood leaders. They become afraid to tell anyone because of the terror that the words of others have created in them.(On a side note I am a worthy and practicing member of the LDS church who completely sustains and respects my leaders. I do know that people look at the world through the lens of their own personal experience and can be mistaken or have a different understanding born of their upbringing or society. And that’s ok, God works with imperfect people and the church has since moved away from those previous statements regarding homosexuals as they have learned more about the plight of LGBT members.)
These wonderful children are those that Christ spoke of when he said that, whoever would offend them it would be better that a millstone be hung around their necks and they be cast into the depths of the sea. A wonderful talk given by Robert A Rees describes the way this hurt and pain can be rectified.
“Part of what it means to be a Christian is that through the grace of Christ we have the capacity to imagine what it is like to suffer as another person suffers. It is impossible to do this if we have anger, hatred or revulsion for the other. Such imaginative projection is possible only within the context of love. Thus, those who revile and persecute homosexuals, who treat them as if they are flawed or have some kind of sinister agenda, cannot possibly take on their suffering, cannot possibly hope to feel what they feel, but those whose compassion is inspired by Christ, can feel, at least to some degree, what it must be like to be anathema to society. We can imagine what it must feel like to be taught to hate our own bodies, to be condemned for feeling what we naturally feel, to be denied normal fellowship within Christ’s kingdom, and to want to blot out our deep soul suffering through suicide.”
Unfortunately, instead of members of his familiy and church seeking to use the grace of God to understand how he feels and the pain he’s going through.He has been met with unkindness, hatred, and revulsion.
I told him to read my blog post of my coming out. He did and asked as well if God accepted him and loved him for who he is. Immediately he said he felt an outpouring of the spirit of love from God completely the opposite of what he has been feeling from members of the church. Never had he been told by his priesthood leaders or parents or members to go to Heavenly Father for guidance in regards to this. Too many times it’s only God who expresses love for these children.
I am very passionate about this because I have felt how he feels. I too am gay and have felt the bitter sting of the words of others. Children should not be taught to despise their God given bodies. A child should never feel that if they were truthful they wouldn’t be loved. The church and the leaders have failed in this regard many children besides the young man I have spoken of have been kicked out of there households by their families and bullied to the point of suicide. And unfortunately many of them are lost to us forever.  All their potential blown away from a barrel of a gun, the bitterness of an overdose, or the shock of oncoming traffic. Their souls destroyed and helpless, left ragged and torn from the words of their priesthood leaders and members of their congregations and families. They feel that God doesn’t love them.These are the words of Mary Griffith whose Son Bobby Griffith committed suicide because of the pain he felt from his family.“ I realize how depraved it was to instill false guilt in an innocent child’s conscience, causing a distorted image of life, God, & self, leaving little if any feeling of personal worth.”
― Mary Griffith
Their souls are precious to God and he knows each one of them. Jesus Christ taught love, compassion, mercy, charity, and patience. He was never against anyone. The one’s who He spoke the most against were those who unrighteously judged the people who were deemed unworthy, and treated others with disdain or enmity. Christ however taught a simple way, Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and love thy neighbor as thyself. Simple, love is the solution.
This love is not a judgmental love or loving from afar. This love requires action, if we are to follow the example of Christ and take upon ourselves his name. To serve others we must hear their stories, learn and listen. Christ takes care of everything else and will lead us to what we must do. This does not mean to briefly mention it during a talk or lesson, this means actively seeking out those who have been hurt and trying to fix the wrongs committed. This means standing up and saying in your meetings not just the words, God loves everyone, which is true and very unspecific, but that God loves all his children no matter what race or creed you belong, no matter who you are, and yes no matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity is. Mary Griffith wonderfully expressed these sentiments in a speech (This is part of the condensed version from the movie “Prayers for Bobby,” and the real speech with no changes from me given years ago. This speech is about her story of accepting her son and his death.
“Homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuals are doomed to spend eternity in hell. If they wanted to change, they could be healed of their evil ways. If they would turn away from temptation, they could be normal again if only they would try and try harder if it doesn’t work. These are all the things I said to my son Bobby when I found out he was gay. When he told me he was homosexual my world fell apart. I did everything I could to cure him of his sickness. Eight months ago my son jumped off a bridge and killed himself. I deeply regret my lack of knowledge about gay and lesbian people. I see that everything I was taught and told was bigotry and de-humanizing slander. If I had investigated beyond what I was told, if I had just listened to my son when he poured his heart out to me I would not be standing here today with you filled with regret. I believe that God was pleased with Bobby’s kind and loving spirit. In God’s eyes kindness and love are what it’s all about. I didn’t know that each time I echoed eternal damnation for gay people each time I referred to Bobby as sick and perverted and a danger to our children. His self esteem and sense of worth were being destroyed. And finally his spirit broke beyond repair. It was not God’s will that Bobby climbed over the side of a freeway overpass and jumped directly into the path of an eighteen-wheel truck which killed him instantly. Bobby’s death was the direct result of his parent’s ignorance and fear of the word gay. He wanted to be a writer. His hopes and dreams should not have been taken from him but they were. There are children like Bobby sitting in our congregations.  Unknown to you, they will be listening to your ‘Amens’ as they silently cry out to God in their hearts.  Their cries will go unnoticed for they cannot be heard above your ‘Amens’. Your fear and ignorance of the word gay will soon silence their cries. Before you echo’Amen’ in your home or place of worship, think and remember… a child is listening.”
–Mary A Griffith

“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender,”
– Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, from the website mormonsandgays.org.

Thank you for reading this letter, I hope this letter can spur others to action as Quentin L. Cook exhorts us to do. I call upon everyone regardless of religious belief or lack thereof to be more active in making our congregations and society a safe place for LGBT people both young and old. So that they may be able to follow the spirit and become the children of God that God intended them to be. Let’s replace fear with love and misunderstanding with compassion. For we are all in need of the grace of God and we are all dependent upon the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made for us.

Thank you for your time and God bless you in your endeavors.

1 comment for “An Open Letter to LDS Members and Priesthood Leaders

  1. Rosie
    March 27, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I was praying last night for help to say the things I feel in my heart, and here you’ve written exactly what I needed! I am so grateful to know there are others that understand how hurtful words can be and how much damage is being done to these young people, often under the guise of “love.” God bless you!

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