Inspired Events: How A Negative Sunday School Experience Becomes a Beautiful Mormon Experience

By Kathryn Hueth (a proud mama dragon)

The Sunday prior to Christmas 2013 will be forever remembered because of an experience we had at church.  After returning home, having had time to calm down and share feelings with my family, I felt prompted to post the following on my Facebook page.

I have been looking forward to today so much not just because of it being Christmas Sunday, but because it would be the first time in a very long time that I would have my whole family together in church. My heart was full as I watched my adult son and daughter drawing on each other’s backs during Sacrament Meeting. Memories came flooding back of the 19 years our family has spent worshiping and participating in activities in that building. I persuaded my son to stay for Sunday School because I wanted our time together to continue in that environment. He made a funny comment that the lesson better not be about the recent change in legislation regarding same-sex marriage. I assured him it would not – it would be on Christ’s life and teachings with it being Christmas Sunday.

I could not have been more wrong. I am not going to elaborate on the teacher’s comments or those of a couple of class members but suffice it to say my gay son turned to me and said he could not endure listening to any more and politely excused himself. I then noticed my daughter in tears sitting on his other side. I turned to my husband and we all stood and left. We found our son walking home in the cold. This sort of occurrence is unfortunately happening in thousands of church buildings around the world – families striving to live the Gospel to the best of their abilities while supporting and loving gay family members, sit silently dying inside as their beloved family members are disparaged by other’s comments. No one should leave a church meeting where we profess to be learning about Christ’s teachings in an effort to more fully follow him, feeling less loved or valued because they are different in ANY way. May we all remember what is at the core of Christ’s teachings – LOVE.    (End of post)

As we exited the classroom, a few of our ward members standing in the hall asked what was wrong, and through a veil of tears, I announced that Kyle was gay!  I explained that we had left because of the offensive comments that were made, and by the way, Kyle is more Christlike than half the people sitting in that class!  This was exhibited when at home, he said he was not angry and knew their comments were made out of ignorance and fear, and didn’t want us to be angry at anyone either.   He is an amazing, generous and loving person and I am so proud to be his mother!  I am not sure what transpired after we left the building or how the word got around, but it certainly did!  Within a few minutes of the block of meetings ending, we had several ward members on our doorstep, and others calling and texting to express their disgust at what had occurred and to express their love and support for Kyle and our family. We also received a heartfelt apology from the teacher and came to know and love him more because of some things he shared with us. My Facebook post received an outpouring of support, shared stories of similar experiences, and most importantly, an awakening of people’s awareness to this situation that is so prevalent throughout the church.  Here are just a few of the comments shared -

*  I would say that some very valuable lessons have been taught and learned through you and your families beautiful words. May this be a reminder to ALL of us to remember Christ’s teachings of love and acceptance of EVERYONE And especially this Christmas season as we celebrate His birth! Loves and a very Merry Christmas to you and your cute family! Xoxoxoxoxo

*    Some of the best sermons are never preached from a pulpit. Thanks!

*   Wow Kathryn, I REALLY can’t agree more with what you said here. You are amazing and so is your family. I especially like the end of your post – the last sentence beginning with ‘No one should leave a church meeting where we profess to be learning about Christ’s teachings in an effort to more fully follow him, feeling less loved or valued because they are different in ANY way…” You are ‘spot on’! Hugs to you my friend!

*   Ohhh Kathryn… I am sooo sorry! There is NO pain that hurts more, mental or physical, as the pain a mother feels when one of her children are hurting! Please try to look past this experience and know Kyle is loved by so many, most importantly our Heavenly Father and Mother. My love to you and your family. Xoxox

*   Kathryn, I very much appreciate your comments. I commend you as you likely had to exercise great strength in taking the high road as you expressed your feelings. I too struggle when it comes to casting judgement on people for not thinking or acting like I think they should. I think how much heartache I could have avoided if I would have had more respect for another’s difference.  I welcome the day when a couragous LDS gay couple shows up to church with their adopted children because they want them to someday be baptized, receive the priesthood and get sealed in a temple. This is not at all inconceivable. Collectively this could help us to exercise greater sensitivity as we speak and act inside and outside of church. I thank you, Mark, Kyle and Megan for your grace in sharing this experience and reminding us of what the Babe of Bethlehem represented. Merry Christmas!

The story continued when on Christmas morning, our doorbell rang and one of the ward members who had made some of the offensive comments in class was standing there and expressed a very real need to talk with all of us. After expressing regret at his choice of words while expressing some opinions in class, he showed us a framed picture of two women with two small children. One of the women in the picture was his gay daughter. The silence in the room was deafening. I was so stunned I didn’t know how to respond. He explained that he had never really known how to deal with this in his family and had called her for the first time in a very long time and had a wonderful talk.

This experience indelibly imprinted on my heart the importance of being honest with one another concerning our circumstances in this journey we call life on earth.  We all have burdens, pains and challenges and we need not attempt to navigate through this difficult path alone.   Ignorance, intolerance and fear will always be part of this life, but should most certainly not be a part of a church professing to contain the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’m afraid that His teachings are often lost amidst the misguided self-righteous interpretations of man.   Because we know how fully and unconditionally our Father in Heaven loves ALL of His children, are we not then required to do the same?  After all is said and done, I truly believe that man will be judged most on how their love or lack of love impacted other’s ability to grow, develop and reach their divine potential.

I am so very grateful to have been given the unique opportunity to be a mother to a gay child. It has provided me with the opportunity to push through walls in my heart and mind and develop a depth of love and empathy of which I did not realize I was capable, and now have such a profound desire to share with the hope that others with gay family members will come to this same realization that they are in a unique and truly blessed situation through which they too can learn to love in a way far beyond what they thought possible, thereby forever impacting lives, even saving lives, as a result!

14 comments for “Inspired Events: How A Negative Sunday School Experience Becomes a Beautiful Mormon Experience

  1. LeAnn
    May 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Kathryn,

    Thank you for sharing your’s and your family’s experience. As a lesbian LDS member who finally figured out that I am gay about 2 years ago in my mid 40′s, I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with my gayness and my ward and stake. Since before Christmas I had been becoming increasingly less comfortable in Church,not so much due to active comments, but due to my perception of the general attitude towards LGBT members. I had been becoming less active in going to meetings as a result of my discomfort. Your post has helped me to understand what I need to do with respects to Church.

    I especially appreciated your point about being honest about our life circumstances with respects to our journey in mortality. Part of my discomfort is that I feel like I have to hide this part of myself at Church. I don’t feel that I’m being honest when I do that. I don’t flaunt my orientation, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m “passing” as a straight woman, which I’m not. So, I just need to decide how I be honest with other ward members about this part of me so I can be fully comfortable with me at Church.

    Your son is so blessed to have a family like yours. Not only your family, but your ward family as well. Thank you again for sharing. :)

  2. penny
    May 5, 2014 at 6:38 am

    The Lord has been pretty straightforward about how he feels on the subject we Love the sinner and hate the sin. There is no gay gene her son chose to go against what the Lord wished for him. I have had adult children make mistakes that caused them to be uncomfortable they are LOVED But their choices are something they have to resolve with the Lord

    • Daniel Parkinson
      May 5, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      The Lord never did say “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” (actually it was a catholic pope). What the Lord clearly did say is not to judge others because we all have sinned. Elder Ucthdorf was inspired by this when he said “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you”. Our job as Latter-day Saints is to love and welcome others. Not to exclude them or judge them. I fully agree with you that it is between each of us and the Lord.

    • Kathryn
      May 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Penny – I respect your belief on this issue as I hope you respect mine. I have watched my son struggle with his identity as a gay man and how he fits into the plan he has been taught his entire life as a member of this church. He is 24 years old and while he is now comfortable with his identity and maintains a testimony of the gospel, it is still a source of pain to him knowing that he doesn’t really have a place in it if he wants a full life with a family. I would never in a thousand years want him to spend his life alone and I am confident neither would his Creator. He knows my son’s heart – I am at total peace in that knowledge.

    • Joel
      May 6, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Penyy I hope you by now have learned that most gay folks do not CHOOSE to be gay, and that a ‘straight’ person such as yourself is definitely not the source for why or how a person becomes gay. Science is evolving and discovering more and more about what may cause homosexual tendencies in all species, not just man. To state unequivocally that ” there is no gay gene” is utter nonsense and does nothing to help our fellow brothers and sisters with their sexual identity crisis. Better to follow Christ’s example as described by Kathryn in her letter above — no danger there at all :-)

    • marcia
      May 6, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      You, my friend, have missed the point and are part of the problem. You are full of fear, and where there is fear, there is no room for love. JUDGE NOT, lest ye be judged. It is not for you to choose hate, whether hating the sin or the sinner. Jesus hung out with homeless people, prostitutes and criminals, some of whom chose to be that way. The people he rejected were people like you–people who believed they were qualified to pass judgment, who flaunted their holiness in public. Have fun with that, because that’s as close to God as you’ll ever get.

      • Seeking
        May 8, 2014 at 2:57 am

        I imagine you are frustrated at people who you feel don’t get it, but comments like this do nothing to increase understanding.

    • Teresa
      May 7, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Penny, I understand your view. I’ve shared it for many years. It’s based off of quotes from the prophets in the past and continued church policies. I’ve read the “Miracle of Forgiveness” and there is a section in there that talks about how evil gay relationships are. He says he suspects that they are even worse than having an affair (which can’t be true since an affair includes lies, deceit, breaking of covenants, betrayal, etc…).

      My views have drastically changed over time, and I no longer agree with their view, and here are some reasons of why:

      President Hinkley explained what it’s like for a prophet to receive inspiration. It’s actually exactly like it is for the rest of us. They get small promptings and feel the spirit and stuff. I had always thought they were literally talking to God. But he makes it very clear that something like that very rarely happens.

      My conclusion became – prophets, while they try their best, much of the time their views and policies are from personal opinion, personal interpretation of feelings, and society that they were raised in. I certainly believe some times it is clear direction from the Lord, but I no longer believe that is the case with EVERY SINGLE THING that comes out of their mouths (a simple evidence of this is to compare the things that Brigham Young used to say about polygamy vs what the current prophets say about it).

      So, I stopped taking prophet’s quotes AS doctrine. And I started looking AT actual doctrine.

      People talk about the bible and it’s views on gay people. Firstly, it’s rarely mentioned in the bible. Many other topics are repeated several times (such as loving one another).

      But, the Bible does still mention it. It’s true. In fact, it says:

      Leviticus 20:13 “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

      Seems pretty clear, right? So, why don’t I believe or support this part of the bible? Because of the surrounding versus. I believe they are more of a history of the society of their times than it is actual gospel (I believe the bible is filled with stuff like that! Things we take as gospel when it’s really just how the writers of the bible viewed their world).

      Some examples:

      Leviticus 19:19 “…neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.”

      Okay, so we shouldn’t wear two types of fabric at the same time? Weird. Clearly we don’t obey this.

      Another verse:

      Leviticus 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”

      So, we should kill people who commit adultery?

      It could be argued that while we don’t believe in killing people for adultery, we still view adultery as an evil sin…like being gay.

      But I still don’t feel convinced that this section of the Bible is a good reference for what is morally right or wrong.

      There’s this scripture:

      Leviticus 25:44 “Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bond maids.”

      You can look that up in the KJV…or in normal-people-speech, this is what all the other versions say:

      Leviticus 25:44-46 “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. (45) You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. (46) You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”

      So, according to the morals in the bible, slavery is just fine.

      Yeah…not believing it. Clearly this view is the society of the time and not God’s word.

      So, I ask myself why I would believe this ONE verse that talks about gay people when so much of the surrounding verses are either nonsense or immoral or flat-out evil (like slavery)?

      So, I look to my heart and God. I take the fact that I’m going to be judged for my treatment of others incredibly seriously. I have to face the reality that I don’t believe there is enough information ANYWHERE to convince me that being gay is a sin or that living the gay lifestyle is a sin. Prophets have been wrong repeatedly. It’s clear that their opinions play a role in their decisions/counsel. So, I do not blindly obey them. And, as I explained, the Bible, while it says it in there, it also says that slavery is just fine and that it’s okay to kill people who commit adultery. I simply can’t look there for guidance on what is morally right or wrong…is a sin or is not.

      So, I look to the people who are gay, to my heart, and to God. I have several gay friends, and they are truly some of the most amazing people I know. I think it’s sadly because they know what it feels like to be judged and ridiculed, and they refuse to do the same to other people. They know how important it is to love and accept people just as they are…and so they end up even more Christlike than most.

      It very likely is a genetic thing. Just as some people are left handed, some people are gay. And it doesn’t make them evil. It doesn’t make their “sin” (if it even is) worse than all of our sins. No where does it say that in the bible, but yet, everyone acts like it does.

  3. stephanie
    May 5, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Thank you for sharing your touching story with us. Love is the message of the Gospel, and we seem to forget that sometimes. Your family helped remind a few people, and that’s a really good thing.

  4. Brian Hadaway
    May 6, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    There is a new generation of pioneers among the LDS church. This post was shared with me today because of it’s timeliness and how it directly relates to my family. We are a same sex male couple raising two biological brothers in the LDS church. This past Sunday both boys received their blessings. It was an event that brought tears to myself and many congratulations from fellow ward members.

    We’re blessed to be embraced and loved by our ward members. We only hope to be able to give as much as we receive.

    • Teresa
      May 7, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Brian, I can’t tell you how happy that makes me feel to read this! What a beautiful, beautiful thing. I hope this keeps happening…that things keep changing. What a blessing that you live in the ward that you do. I hope more wards become as accepting.

      But I hope, especially, that the church looks deep into the doctrine and changes things when they realize there is little basis for it. So many people point to us that it’s in the bible, but those scriptures are surrounded by verses that we now see as immoral, cruel and/or pointless…and for us, the harshness/policies against gay people/couples/families falls under that.

      I’m a straight momma of five kids, married to a wonderful man, and we pray for the day that more members are accepted in their gay lifestyles without being treated as sinners.

      Thank you for sharing! Hugs to your family.

      And to the OP, I cried reading your post. My heart goes out to you deeply. I’m glad this turned into a positive thing, but it saddens me that this type of hurt continues. Baby steps to making it better. Hopefully our children will see a much better world.

  5. Seeking
    May 8, 2014 at 3:07 am

    I am here because I am seeking to understand. There are also other blogs I have been reading through. I definitely see why open discussion is critical. I hope if the opportunity presents itself to me that I will be loving and compassionate to God’s LGBT children. I do have a question, though, in the eyes of you who read and comment on this site, can I be loving and compassionate while maintaining my view that marriage is only between a man and a woman? Because ad long as that is the Church’s official stance, it had to be mine.

    • ken
      May 11, 2014 at 8:47 am

      It is possible to love someone without condoning their behavior. My dad was a pedophile. Obviously I could never condone his sexual orientation, and I certainly expected him to not act on his desires. I had to struggled to believe he could ever repent of what he did to my family. Then Elder Packer said “Repentance is like unto a detergent: even ground-in stains of sin will come out.” That helped me with my own feelings of SSA, as well as my difficulty in accepting my dad. I doubt his feelings ever changed- sexual feelings are powerful and often they don’t change. But at least he never tried to excuse what he did.

      • Daniel Parkinson
        May 11, 2014 at 9:44 am

        It is NEVER ok to compare homosexuality to pedophilia. Pedophilia has victims who can’t consent to it, and who are permanently damaged by it. Homosexual relationships are between 2 consenting adults, and in the case of my marriage, two consenting adults who love each other profoundly, and share everything. Our love includes caring for each other through sickness, supporting each other and even supporting each other’s families including economic support. Our relationship also includes spiritual guidance from God.
        There are destructive relationships both straight and gay, but neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality should ever be compared to pedophilia (or alcoholism).
        I think pedophiles like your father deserve compassion, and they must control their sexual urges because others are damaged by them. This does not apply to gay or straight people with normal sexual desires for their spouses/partners.

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