Please Stay

 

I write this as an activist who is not active in the church. I know that those of you who are are feeling very discouraged after General Conference this week. I know that everyone has reasons to leave the church that they weigh with reasons to stay, but I want to plead with you to please add this to the balance.  The young LGBT people in the church need you at church!

 

I know that you can’t stay for this alone.  But if something is tipping the scales for you, then please remember the young vulnerable youth that desperately need one person in the ward who will accept and understand them.  That youth has parents that will also need support when they learn that their child is LGBT.  If we leave them alone they will be left to the wolves.  Having just a single ally can make the difference of life or death for some of these youth.

 

So I am calling on all Allies.  Your best chance for saving these LGBT teens is from within the church.  Not because you will change the institution, but because you will be an influence for change in your ward. And you will be the person that this despairing youth can turn to when the whole world seems against them.

 

I am calling on parents.  You need to save your children first. If this means you have to leave then you must leave. But if there is a way for you to stay, or if your children are older, then consider staying for the next generation of youth. Your unique perspective will give credibility to your voice.

 

And I am calling on LGBT people. If you have to leave to save your own life then please leave and fast. But if you are in a place of strength, then please consider staying. There is nothing that changes attitudes faster than having a friend or ward member who is LGBT and letting them see your true colors. I know some of you worry about ex-communication, and I ask you to consider letting go of that, and not giving it any more importance. By not caring about excommunication and refusing to attend their courts they cease to have power over you. In fact, as Bob Rees pointed out, if you are excommunicated that actually gives you the advantage of being able to choose a less hostile ward, if the one you live in is unbearable. It also allows you to use your tithing money to promote causes that will help LGBT Mormon youth.

 

I obviously understand those who leave. I left and I can’t possibly go back. So there is no way I can judge any of you who make that decision. As an outsider I can fight for changes, but I can never have the same impact that I would have had by doing it right there, in my own ward, and from within the church. And you must take care of yourself first and your family.  And there really are so many ways to help that it makes sense to do it from a place where you feel loved and accepted. But if you are one of those people who is on the line, and looking for a reason to stay, then stay for the youth.

6 comments for “Please Stay

  1. October 8, 2013 at 1:52 am

    I have felt this way about being an incest and rape survivor, and as an ally for LGBT members, with a special affinity for transsexual members. I am not someone who everyone in my ward knows all of these things about me, but the leadership do, and a lot of the LGBT, incest and rape communities know who I am, and give my name out to people, when they know someone in my area is struggling.

    My husband are waiting to hear back still, but we expect to get acceptance letters to a college in Alaska, within the next few weeks. I have had many people, especially those who have lived in Alaska, tell me that it will be a lot harder for me to be an openly liberal member in Alaska, and that ward members will not be as understanding or as supportive there.

    As I have prayed about it, I have had the clear answer that I will not lose my testimony, but that I will have a harder time finding people in my ward/branch/stake, than I do in Oregon, and that is exactly why the our Heavenly Parents want me there. If it will be a struggle for me, then how much harder would it be for an LGBT youth, their families’, friends, and ward members to feel loved, if they don’t have someone who can show them the way. I don’t expect to change Alaska, but I do expect to help change the lives of a few Alaskans, simply by being me, and standing up for what I believe, in a way that allows those who need a friend like me, to know where they can find me.

  2. October 8, 2013 at 5:27 am

    This last conference was extremely painful, to the point where I’ve started thinking “I don’t wanna be Mormon any more”. I loved Elder Uchdorf’s talk, but, in dealing with members in the past few days, I’m not sure that there really is room for everyone.

    I’m asexual, and stuck in the wasteland of Utah mid-singlesdom. I have extreme anxiety issues that have kept me from church for years, though I’ve tried to stay true to the faith.

    With that being said, perhaps I’m looking at things the wrong way. If I have my records moved to a local family ward, I’d be more likely to help a LGBTQ youth. I’m past the point where I think I can stay for me, perhaps I can stay for someone else.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      October 8, 2013 at 6:42 am

      Maxilu.
      I would really consider that. Initially, I think that it is hard for a single person to find a place in a family ward. Depending on the ward it can be very alienating or very embracing. I hope you will give it a try, and I hope that it can be a good experience for you. It is a beautiful thing to be part of a multi-generational community.
      A little advice if you do feel like a misfit there: Find the other misfits! It will help you and it will help them!
      Thanks for your response.

  3. October 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Daniel – There was some discussion of this question at the Affirmation post-General-Conference discussion: “Should individuals stay so that they can be there as a support for others, particularly for LGBT Mormon youth?”

    The consensus among those participating in the discussion was that we did not think that was a good idea. I agree.

    I believe individuals should stay active in the Church because they have a testimony or because staying active meets spiritual needs. In my experience, people who decide they are going to stick around because they want to help “change the Church,” or because they want to create a more positive environment for others will have a difficult time staying. And they may not really be a positive role model for youth because their reasons for staying will at some level be inauthentic.

    LGBT LDS youth will at some point need to make up their own mind what they believe and how best to live their lives. Those who stay for authentic reasons (i.e., because they have real testimonies and because they find the LDS faith system nurturing and sustaining) will be the best role models for LGBT LDS youth who decide that they too have testimonies and want to stay.

    All of us should work at creating an environment of unconditional love (i.e., love that is not dependent on whether a person decides to stay active in the Church or not) so that if youth decide, at some point, that they cannot stay involved in the Church any more, they don’t have to live with the fear that we won’t love them or accept them any more. Conditional love, I believe, is manipulative and damaging to our youth, and produces inauthenticity.

    I think most people in the Church would agree that we want individuals — both youth and adults — to stay active in the Church based on positive reasons that reflect the Mormon values of agency and listening to the Spirit.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      October 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      I agree with most of your points above John. I think I am writing this because there really are a lot of readers of this blog who are on the fence, and who are really trying to find a reason to stay. I do agree there are few who can make it work if this is their only reason, but everybody has lots of factors that they have to consider. However, even if this is their only motivation, it is certainly a Christ-like motivation.

      I think that there are some who might use this as their chief reason for staying and should be admired for doing so. Maybe other reasons for staying (or leaving) will emerge in the process.

  4. Penny
    October 11, 2013 at 2:48 am

    I appreciate both Daniel’s and John’s perspective on this issue. As a mother of a gay son I have had some serious struggles in my efforts to “stay”. I am angry, heartbroken, feel betrayed by my faith. It has been a struggle to go to church every week without the “emotional glazing” I have learned to engage to survive. But, one day, I read an article by John Devlin that changed my perspective. He pointed out that we are better able to touch hearts and change minds when people know us, when they know our hearts…when they know we care. People respond better when they know who you are, how you live your life, and share that love with them. This is better done within the church. As individuals, our lives serve as our bully pulpits. We can quit, and many of us do, many of have to: I may still have to. As I reflect upon Barb Young’s wonderful talk the other day, I believe that she will sway more hearts and minds within the church and without, by staying within the ranks. It is important for members to see the love we share for our children, brothers and sisters firsthand.

    It is true, that to stay in a religion, you must believe and support its doctrines. My husband says he believes it is pointless for me to go and “hope” for change. He says that, but I see it already. Conference wasn’t depressing to me: it was heartening. And, although there have been no formal changes in doctrine, there has been a shift in attitude, a shift in perceptions. It is a start. It is a new landscape from where things were ten years ago. To all those of you who feel like you care and can stay to fight the good fight: Great courage take. To those of you who feel like you can no longer consider the church your home: God speed. We love all of you.

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