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.
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 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.