By Jared Johnson
(Address given at ALL Are Alike Unto God Conference April 26, 2014)
When I was asked to talk – my wife asked me if I would talk – and that she and I together would have ten minutes to talk, I just naturally assumed that she would go first and take about nine minutes and so that I wouldn’t need to have much to say! But, now I’m first so my challenge is to not take 9 minutes so that Vicki has a few minutes to talk! When I was a kid, when it was time to give a five minute talk in church, my mom would usually write it for me and I don’t have my mom to write it for me this time, so forgive me if it is a little bumpy.
I guess I’ll echo the sentiments of what some of the people have said today about the conference itself and about last year. Last year was the first conference and it so happened to be the very first event or thing that I went to. So my wife Vicki asked me to come with her to the conference, and I was a little suspicious – I was wondering what the ‘agenda’ was, but I came to the conference and I was almost immediately just blown away with the love and emotion that I felt. Just the insightful comments that were made by the panel members during the panel discussion and how many things I learned from the panel last year. And how many things they said where I went home and for the next several months thought about the things that were being said and kind of went on a little journey myself about where my mind was at regarding this entire issue and where it needed to be.
Our journey started a little bit before the conference – about a year before the conference our oldest son came out to us. He was living in California at the time, and he had move to California from Arizona. Over the course of the time that he was there, we started hearing less and less from him and it kind of really felt like he was closing himself off to us – like a wall was going up between us. So, when he came out to us, my first reaction was relief. I literally wiped my head and said “few!” I said to myself is that it? You’re not a car thief, you’re not on heroin or something? It was a big relief to know that he was gay. I was thinking that’s it? Well, I can handle that! That is what I was thinking, but what I told him on the phone was that I loved him and that nothing could change that. That he was my son, and that he would always be my son and that I would always love him. And I could just see that little child, that little baby boy of mine and I couldn’t imagine that there was anything wrong with him, and so how hard is it to love him. And so that gets me to the topic of my talk which is simple; its love one another. The scripture that that comes from is in John 13:34-35 where the savior says:
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over this last year. What does it mean? It’s simple – that sounds so simple; love one another. And it is, but it is also so complicated and so deep. I was not known through my early years as someone who loved everyone. I was kind of crabby! But the thing that being associated with the All group and the All conference and getting to know so many of the people that are here, my heart and my mind have been opened to the concept of love one another and it stretches – the thing about it is, it isn’t love one another but only if you are an ally, or only if you are LGBT / SSA, it means everybody. It means even those people at church that say things that might be hurtful, or do things that might be or are hurtful, or not as accepting. I need to love them as well and sometimes that’s a challenge. So, there are lots of levels, lots of challenges involved. One of the things that I learned from my son that was hard for him was that he feels sometimes like he is being looked at (not necessarily by people in the church, but just people in general) or picked on or being judged in some way. And it may be true. So, there is this scripture that we want everybody to know in Matthew 7:1 that says: Judge not that ye be not judged.
In our family we have kind of turned that around a little bit, because sometimes its “I feel judged by so and so” and now without wanting to, I am going to start judging so and so. So we have turned it around in our family and we try and remember to: be not judged, that ye judge not. That way, we do not let the judgment happen because to me that is the key to love one another. Unlike the Savior, we don’t have the tools, the capability, or the right to judge one another – just to love one another. So, after this conference was over last year I went home and I said “I free myself; I liberate myself from the burden of judging other people”. Because I have enough to worry about with myself and it’s a big enough challenge for me to have the heart to love one another, and so that is what I continue to work on and I have a hope that all of us can leave this conference and go into our daily lives with a new earnestness to love one another and I leave these words with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.