To See The Face Of God

By Ellen Koester (also published at her blog http://the-noncommittal-philanthropist.blogspot.ca/)
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How many of you have heard a story of a family kicking their kid out of the house because they found out their son or daughter was gay or transgender? How many stories have you heard about a teenager or young adult committing suicide… And finding out that the primary reason was because they were gay?

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How many of them were Mormon?
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The more I ponder this horrendous trend in the culture of my faith, the more I ponder this question: How can the “true church” of Christ, with their beliefs, practices, and doctrines contribute to so many suicides and homeless teenagers?
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There’s really no good answer. A lot of Mormons I know would answer with something like this, “The Church is true, but the people are NOT!” In it’s most simplistic form, this statement would be correct. But the problem appears when we notice that it has become culturally acceptable to interpret the statement, “I know the Church is true,” to mean “I know the Church leaders and membership are always perfect.” They are far from equivalent.
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So the question really is more like this: Is it the doctrines of the Church that contribute to suicides and homelessness? Or is it the culturally accepted beliefs of the members and leadership?
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While the Church’s doctrine and beliefs are not directly to blame, it is dishonest not to acknowledge that the Church has policies about LGBT people that have caused deep despair, as well as emotional and spiritual harm. Add in the human interpretation of these policies, and you have a very unstable mental and emotional compound.
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We are taught that the family is the foundation of the Plan of Salvation, and that the only place more sacred than the temple is the home. Yet parents are cutting their kids out of their families in the name of purity and righteousness, and are using these doctrines and policies to justify their actions.
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The Church came out with the website mormonsandgays.org in late 2012. While this is far short of what most LGBT Mormons and their allies need from the Church, it is the first small step towards love, acceptance and equality for the LGBT Mormon community.
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While I have mixed feelings about the site in general, I have pulled some good out of it. Elder Quentin L. Cook has a video interview that’s towards the middle of the page, and he says some really great things. This quote warms my heart, “[As] a Church nobody should be more loving and compassionate. No family who has anybody who has a same-gender issue should exclude them from the family circle. They need to be a part of the family circle. [Let] us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion, and outreach to those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender. I’m sorry, I feel very strongly about this as you can tell. I think it’s a very important principle.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson also does a video interview, near the top, about the purpose of the website, “You’ll see in these experiences that some people state what you could call the position of the Church – it coincides perfectly – and others not. But again, they’re all very authentic, and as we listen to one another and strive to understand, things can only get better.”This quote stood out to me because he is acknowledging that there are people in the Church who have chosen a different path than what the Church teaches, and he acknowledges those experiences and feelings as authentic.
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This is coming from the mouth of two men we sustain as Apostles of the Lord, and personally, two of my favorite General Authorities. But because mormonsandgays.org  isn’t listed on the Church’s official website lds.org, no one knows about it. So can we place all of the blame on the members and local leadership for the hurtful rhetoric they teach? No. Because no one has taught them otherwise.
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As members of the LGBT community, and as allies of this community, we need to bring attention to the site (even with all its flaws). We need to tell people in our Sunday School classes, Relief Society, Elder’s Quorum, Young Men’s and Young Women’s to cut the crap when they talk badly about homosexuality and gay people. We need to correct them, and tell them about the Church’s website when they believe that Church doctrine and policy allows them to hold such hurtful opinions. We, as the membership of the Church, need to speak out about against kicking children out of their homes. We need to reach out to those who are marginalized, and hurt. We need to offer a hand of friendship to those in need. We need to consciously ask ourselves in every situation, “What would Jesus do?”
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Because when we love another, we see the face of God.
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Ellen Koester is a university student studying political science and communications. Born in DEfiance Ohio, she converted to the LDS Church after moving to Utah. She finds peace and comfort in the Gospel, but struggles to find her place in the Church at large.

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