I sense that many people are pleased to see the new website the Church has created that brings a more open and kind conversation about our LGBT brothers and sisters, www.mormonsandgays.org. And I also sense that many people are thinking, “So how can we use this in a practical way?”
Here is one idea.
My own Oakland Stake has been in the forefront of good work on the subject. In fact some of the people in the videos in the new website are members of our stake. For a summary of the good work we have been doing for several years, see the link on the front page of my personal website www.clpearson.com. You will find in this document the front page article the Salt Lake Tribune ran, as well as a lot of very helpful information.
Recently my stake sponsored a multi-stake fireside for Young Adults, focusing on the themes in the new website of better understanding and loving those in our families and wards who are gay. The fireside had as the main speaker Judy Finch, a member of our stake, whose video on the website I found to be very moving.
One of the priesthood leaders who organized the event wrote to me, “I felt it was a very productive evening. We had an excellent turnout–about 175, which is double what we usually have. This shows me that there is great interest in this issue among our young adults. Judy took some questions from the audience when she was finished speaking. Several hands immediately shot up. It was clear that we don’t talk enough in our meetings about this topic and the young people were relishing the opportunity to have some dialogue. I thought it was a great success.”
I queried some of the people who attended to see how they felt about it. Here are a few responses:
To me the fireside was very informative. I was able to imagine what it would be like to be LDS and be experiencing same sex attraction, which gave me insight as to how I can be more Christlike and reach out and love my gay friends.
The thing I probably appreciated most from Judy Finch was her incredible candor. It was so helpful to hear someone simply giving her honest opinions and experience. Too often people in the church tread so lightly with this issue, afraid to offend anyone on any side of it, that they hardly end up saying anything at all. Sister Finch went the opposite way, straightforwardly describing her early struggles with homosexuality in her family (a son and two grandsons) and giving her honest opinions about the state of dealing with homosexuality in the Church today.
In a way I kind of dreaded this fireside, because (not knowing Judy) I was afraid that it would be full of platitudes and little pat statements and strategies for “dealing with” homosexual people around us. The truth is that there is no easy resolution to this issue and there are no short answers that will satisfy everyone. What Judy did so well was just put forth opinions and ideas, tell her own story, and then leave it to the rest of us to discuss things and come to our own conclusions.
Personally, I’ve never faulted a gay Mormon friend for becoming a gay ex-Mormon friend, especially when it’s clear that our doctrinal demands cause them a huge amount of distress. I have friends who went from suicidal to healthy and well-adjusted due to their decision to leave the Church. I also know gay Mormons who’ve chosen to stick with it, or partially adhere to the standards of the Church, or who continue to attend despite being disfellowshipped or excommunicated, and I really admire them as well. There are times when I feel like a coward for not siding more zealously with either my gay friends or the Church institution, but I keep thinking there must be a way to resolve the two. As much as I’d like an easy answer, I think for now we’re all stuck muddling through.
My friends and I had some good conversations afterward.
It’s revolutionary that we would have a fireside on homosexuality in the first place. If we were in any place but the Bay Area, I don’t think it would have happened, but I hope other stakes follow suit. Our Heavenly Father is a God of love and understanding, and that was what this fireside aimed to highlight. It is our Christlike responsibility to love our gay brothers and sisters, to make them feel welcome in our pews, and we have done a horrendous job over the years. The apostles have called for a change, not one of doctrine, but of spirit, that we may treat our gay brothers and sisters with the respect and compassion they deserve.
I taught a gay less-active and his partner with a pair of Elders last night and felt better prepared because of the fireside, not because I didn’t have the information before, but because I could tell these men that the Church was doing something to make them feel more welcome and loved and know that I was telling the truth.
And my friend Judy Finch’s comment to me was–
What a thrill for me to see those beautiful young adults and feel their keen interest in Mormons and Gays! Seems like things are changing, doesn’t it?
I am excited and grateful to part of all this. Thank you, everyone.
So, everyone out there who has been wondering how to help things along–here is one example. Sadly, you don’t have Judy Finch in your stake, but you may have more experts than you are aware of. And you could also select some of the videos on the website to share. It is now easier than ever to start conversations.