The Catalyst

I am the father of a young gay son.  I am also a lifelong member of the LDS Church, a temple recommend holder and the Elder’s Quorum President in my ward.  Having been thrown into the teeth of one of the most challenging moral and religious issues of our day, my wife and I have been spending long days and nights trying to get our arms around the issues related to being a gay LDS youth. While we have survived our first year contending with issues of faith and doctrine, it has undoubtedly shaken us to the core.  We are still searching and trying to plant our feet on solid ground.

Jordan & Tom

Just over four years ago I was passing out flyers and going door to door in support of Prop 8 in California.  The other day, my wife, Wendy, showed me an article I wrote regarding my position (Yes) on Prop 8.  It included language such as ‘serious deception’, ‘great evil’, ‘degrading society’, ‘false reality’, and had a whopping conclusion of ‘Its apples and oranges (temple marriages and gay marriages); or more correctly, the difference between something and nothing.’

Now I am sure in this particular forum, there is enough incendiary language in the above paragraph to set off an internet firestorm; however, reflecting on what I wrote then and the way I feel now, my situation is very illustrative of the miracle of change that can (and needs to) happen today in the LDS Church.

It is also a change that I have found is almost impossible to achieve without a catalyst.  And that catalyst, my gay friends, is you.

Switching Gears

Switching gears for a moment; in the course of my family’s journey over the eon of one year, we have encountered some of the most amazing men and women.  Some are old war veterans who have spent decades fighting political and moral battles and have come away scarred and beaten.  Many have seen death first hand or felt its shadow on their doorstep.  Some have built fortified walls around their besieged closets to protect themselves.  Others have worn the camouflage of heterosexuality and simply hidden themselves in plain sight.  To all that have come before; you have endured persecutions and malice at the hands of your brothers, families and religion.  You have paid a price that I can’t even quantify.  You have received neither justice nor mercy at the hands of your religious leaders and for all those who have left the Church, I can find no fault.  This is the bloody history of LGBTQ people and organized religion.

I have personally felt the weight of theological and cultural conflict. Much of what we thought we knew as theological fact is less clear upon closer examination.  We know far less about these subjects than we think we do.  It is a challenge to sort out what is indeed doctrine and what is simply cultural homophobia.

Little did I know as I was passing out flyers in support of Prop 8, my son was silently suffering as he realized who he was, and that his family surely would not accept him.  Not once did I consider that my actions could be interpreted as hate because I was so thoroughly convinced that I was defending the institution of marriage.  It is an inescapable fact that through my actions in support of Prop 8, I could have lost my son.  It certainly solidified in his heart that he would never be accepted and loved in his family.

So what conditions need to exist to change hearts and minds?  What could possibly be different today to make this process easier than it was in decades past?  Will a light bulb just turn on above people’s heads?  Or can we just expect more of the same?

My Rose Colored Glasses

History is not repeating itself in our family.  Our story, while fitting every distinction of a train wreck waiting to happen, has pulled into the station under the guidance of a very loving Savior.  So prepare to throw on some rose colored glasses and perhaps see the LGBTQ world through my eyes for a moment.  Please do not think I am marginalizing your experiences and/or the battles you have won and lost over the past decades.  But if the past year has not reinvigorated your heart, then I invite you to take a look around and let a flood of hope fill you.

Here are my rose colored glasses:

1)  My son came out to us with my wife’s arms wrapped around him and all the compassion and love that we could muster.  Moments before, I had given him a Priesthood blessing giving us all the spiritual strength we needed.  The previous two weeks had been a series of coincidences (translation: spiritual prompting and experiences) that let Wendy and I know that the Lord was consciously guiding us and leading us in supporting our son.

2)      There are now enough members and leaders in the LDS Church who recognize a cognitive dissonance between what we thought we knew about LGBTQ issues and the truth:  which is we know next to nothing.  Some of the most positive responses we have had with members and Church leaders is simply: ‘I don’t know, but I know that what I believed before is not true.’  This is a very positive development for the LGBTQ community.

3)      Through the fire and affliction of the past, many heroes have risen to help us pioneer this new frontier reconciling LGBTQ men, women and children with their families and faith.  Caitlyn Ryan has given us the LDS Family Acceptance Project Brochure which is a liahona outlining accepting and loving behaviors toward LGBTQ youth.  Without challenging or circumventing one point of doctrine, Dr. Ryan shines light on a very dark subject.

4)      Robert Rees has been a Lehi of sorts, leading us toward a promised land of inclusion and acceptance within the LDS Church.  John Gustav-Wrathall has been a spiritual giant (my Nephi).  I have valued his wisdom and personal example of living his convictions heedless of the storm.  He has journeyed a straight and narrow road between being gay himself and having a burning testimony of the LDS Church.

5)      Mitch Mayne has been our family’s personal Captain Mohoni (Moroni).  This is the story I wanted to tell today.  It takes a catalyst to change from a Prop 8 banner carrier to understanding how the Savior sees our gay brothers and sisters.  I was acquainted from a distance with Mitch’s story before my son came out.  His story had the Spirit working on me long before I knew him personally.  The personal interaction and integrity with which he carries himself opened my eyes.  He gave me my rose colored glasses (although he said they were fuchsia or something like that).

6)      The winds of change are swirling hard right now.  The publication of www.mormonsandgays.org by the LDS Church is a mighty step in the right direction. It is an unprecedented step and is a clear signal that families are to keep close and should love their LGBTQ children.  Mitch recounts better than I could all the unprecedented events of 2012 in an article on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mitch-mayne/the-6-most-optimistic-gay-mormon-moments-of-2012_b_2434570.html.

So my message to the www.nomorestrangers.org audience is just this: recognize that it is a new day.  History is not repeating itself.  I ask you to not turn bitterly away from those who have treated you ill.  It might have been someone like me.  You are the catalyst for those of faith to see.  The Spirit is at work among Heavenly Father’s LGBTQ children.  Take the opportunity to step back into the lives of those who have been negative in the past, and search for the victory of winning them at last to your side.  I can’t promise you every person will get it. But I think each of you stands as a unique individual, in a unique time when the Lord sees the opportunity to make inroads among his own people, and teach them something new about love.

9 comments for “The Catalyst

  1. Anonymous
    January 28, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for this post, Thomas. The love you have for your son comes across quite clearly, as does the anguish you have dealt with since learning about his sexual orientation.

    Can I ask a question? I’m a lesbian, and I came out to my parents over two years ago. While they assure me that they will love me no matter what, I know they would have a hard time if they knew that I was dating a woman. It seems that my parents have reached the point where they understand that I did not choose my sexual orientation, but that’s about as far as they will go. They believe that I should remain celibate if I want to have any hope of salvation. They want us to be an eternal family, and if I have a relationship with a woman, I will have forever ruined that dream for them.

    So as I read stories like yours, and as I look at the new church programs and websites, I feel as though most people in the church are at the same place my parents are in: homosexuality is okay as long as you never have sex. Am I oversensitive? Am I looking through the cloudy glasses of fear and bitterness so that I only see the negative? Are there people out there who would accept me as a church member and as a sexually active lesbian? I am trying to understand. I appreciate SO MUCH the fact that you have tried so hard to understand what gay Mormons go through, and I want to believe that it truly is a new day and that we can actually have a conversation about this. But is celibacy the deal breaker? Is the conversation over if gay people refuse to be celibate, and if Mormons refuse to accept gay sex?

    • Thomas Montgomery
      January 28, 2013 at 10:12 am

      My hopes and prayers for my son are that he will be able to grow to adulthood as a healthy, happy son of God. With the Savior and the Spirit in his life he will make the best decisions for himself. The best and most honest answer to your question is ‘I don’t know.’ It is impossible for me to consign another person to a life of celibacy. Most of my LDS friends and family talk far too casually about celibacy as if it would be the easiest thing in the world and tons of singles never marry. However, the celibacy religion requires seems more like asexuality as no homosexual relationship or expressions of affection are accepted. I for one can not say that celibacy is the only acceptable path. Having said that, I believe that chastity among LGBTQ youth is very important and often not discussed. Over sexualization of youth both gay and straight is a plague in our society. Chastity leads to healthier relationships as adults. How to manage chastity among gay adults, however, is a topic I am under qualified to discuss but would be an excellent topic of conversation.

    • Wendy Montgomery
      January 28, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Dear Anonymous,
      I am Jordan’s mother and Tom’s wife (author of this article). My heart is with you in trying to navigate this minefield. I believe strongly in chastity before marriage and fidelity after marriage, for gay or straight couples. But when marriage isn’t available to you (depending on the state you live in), I guess the next best thing would be a committed, monogamous relationship. It is enormously unfair to ask a person to spend their life alone – with only the glimmer of hope given to them that things will be better in 80 years or so, once they’re dead. No matter how strong your eternal perspective is, this policy makes for a life of loneliness and misery. It’s also a bit hypocritical that the ones who are telling LGBT people to be celibate are usually happily married themselves. My hope is that when gay marriage is legal in our state, the church will look at that as a legitimate civil marriage (separate from temple marriage) and treat it as such – affording gay married couples the same blessings as straight married couples. They should be seen as members in full fellowship and able to partake of the Sacrament, pay tithing, hold callings, participate in meetings, etc. But most of all, I hope that they feel WELCOME there. Our 12th Article of Faith states that we believe in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law. So when gay marriage is legal and becomes part of the law of the land, it will be interesting to see how the church responds. I hope it will respond in a way that is more inclusive of our LGBT brothers and sisters. Don’t give up hope! There are so many who love you and are fighting to make things better for you, and all of our loved ones.

      • Leon D Berg
        January 31, 2013 at 11:27 pm

        ” So when gay marriage is legal and becomes part of the law of the land, it will be interesting to see how the church responds.”

        Legal marriage equality does exist in 9 US states, and DC, and in numerous foreign countries where the LDS church is organized. So far the LDS church leadership ignores that fact and says sex outside of opposite gender marriage is sinful. How many states and how many countries will it take before LDS revelation comes?

    • Anita
      February 4, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      As the mother of a gay son, we too have had to grapple with these issues. One thing I have learned over the last 2 years, is that we each travel this road at our own pace and even sometimes on different roads. My husband and I are even traveling it differently, although we are both moving in a similar direction. For most members, we have been very sheltered from this issue, and have followed the teachings that we have heard, or have been passed down in some cases. So unless it ends up in your front room somtime, many are slow to open to the realities that LGBT individuals face, especially mormon ones. There are many like Wendy and Tom and Myself who have become more vocal and are willing to stnd up and be heard in defense of our children and others. Some are willing to say< "we love them, just hate their sin" ( we know how that makes you feel) but it is a step for them. I would rather have my son be in a happy monogamous gay relationship than to be miserable, or worse yet dead. IT just takes time for people to learn and grow. Some much longer than we would like, but I guess the challenge for all of us is to not judge them on their journey . I pray for families like yours and so many others that we can find joy, and peace, acceptance and love and just leave the rest to the Lord.

  2. EdwardJ
    January 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Your son is an incredibly fortunate young man! And, as I like to remind my parents, having a gay child is also a great blessing. I rejoice in the direction the church is heading, lead by Saints like you and me. A marvelous work!

  3. Tabitha
    January 28, 2013 at 10:13 am

    To Anonymous,
    I can only speak for myself as a heterosexual member of the church and say that for me, the conversation has only just begun. Not only would I accept you as a church member and a sexually active lesbian, if you were my child, I would WANT you to choose a loving, healthy, monogamous, faithful marriage and a life full of love and family, over membership in a church institution. I don’t think homosexual members should have to make that choice however. They should be able to enjoy the same intimate, committed relationships that heterosexual members enjoy, without having to give up their faith and their community. Until that time occurs, know that there are those of us who not only will accept you, but welcome you with open arms, and hearts full of love.
    Thomas- thanks to you and Wendy for blazing a HUMBLE and loving trail that I am certain many other LDS parents are going to follow in their own journeys with their LGBTQ children. You speak from a faithful angle with which many active Mormons will be able to identify, yet are fiercely loyal advocates for your son and are voices of reason and balance in this broad conversation.

  4. Adrienne
    January 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Such a good job, Tom. This is beautifully written.

  5. Diane Oviatt
    January 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Tom,
    Fabulous! Love the honesty and humility. Your journey is similar to my Tom’s.
    He was pretty much a homophobe until Ross came out. Makes me wish everyone could have a gay child, if that’s what it would take to open hearts and minds. For many there is just no getting it until you live it! <3 Diane

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