By Tom Christofferson
The recently-concluded Affirmation Conference in Salt Lake City was remarkable in many ways. One was the wonderful presence and spirit of transgender brothers, sisters and parents, who generously shared their experiences and insights. Another was the presence of so many families, attending the Conference together with their LGBT child, sibling or spouse. And another was the participation of church members and friends who don’t themselves have an LGBT family member but who feel that lending their supportive voices and their love is a particular calling at this moment in time.
A few days ago I had a conversation with a particularly gifted and committed sister, Rachel Manwaring, where she shared her fervent belief that the gospel of Jesus Christ is inextricably linked with an outpouring of love for her LGBT/SSA sisters and brothers.
The night before speaking with Rachel, I had been reading one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 17), and it was very much on my mind.
“And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled these little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.” (3 Nephi 17:24)
Through the experience of the Affirmation Conference with so many extraordinary allies present, as well as the warmth of the welcome I feel in my own ward, and the many other ways each of us receive strength from those who choose to walk this path with us, I feel as though we as LGBT/SSA daughters and sons of God are likewise seeing the heavens opened and are being encircled by angels — our allies. It is not always apparent to us the price these angels may pay in having their motives misunderstood, or their faithfulness questioned by fellow church members or friends, and yet with us they stand, determined to express their charity, the pure love of Christ, generously and without precondition.
Their example to us is profound. And it beckons us also to stand on higher ground.
Can we also be more expansive in our own circles of love, including evidencing greater charity and a desire to impute more love-filled motives to leaders of the church with whom we may have felt estranged? Can we extend the loving support we feel from our magnificent allies even to family members who have sought at times to exclude us from their circle? Can our first thought be to find something to praise, rather than a cause for offense, as we listen to General Conference or read statements from local leaders? Can the added strength we receive from our angel-allies be fresh impetus to “go forth in so great a cause” that we need not wait for others to open arms and minds to us, rather we can engage those who share our desire to serve the Lord but whose current understanding differs from our own, to engage them with our unconditional empathy and charity and seek to serve together, with patience that what the Lord may yet reveal will be in His own time?
A member of the Affirmation Board of Directors, Tom Christofferson lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, with his partner of sixteen years.