We can find opportunities to spur increased love, questioning, pondering, conversation, and understanding in our wards
by Sam Noble (Also posted at Affirmation.org)
The past two Sundays, I’ve been given opportunities at church to share about and discuss being gay with other Latter-day Saints. For anyone who agrees with me that GLBTQ issues should be brought up more regularly during church meetings, I hope my experience will somehow be of benefit to you.
Last weekend I visited some extended family with whom I am very close, they being among the first people I came out to several years ago. My cousin, the teachers quorum advisor in his ward, asked if I would assist with his lesson. The 14- and 15-year-old boys regularly teach him, acting as if they are missionaries and he an individual investigating the church. He comes up with increasingly difficult but realistic issues for them to discover and deal with. I agreed to play the part of a gay investigator during a lesson on the law of chastity.
During the discussion, once my sexual orientation was out in the open, I began to ask questions that challenged what they were teaching me. I asked why the love and commitment between a gay couple is necessarily less than that between a straight couple. When procreation was suggested as a reason to bar gay marriage, I asked if they would approve a ban on straight couples who are too old to have children. One of the boys, in particular, was open to further understanding the issue. He shared his belief that the adoptive gay couple raising his niece loves her just as much as any straight couple loves their own child.
When the lesson ended, we talked about what was done well and what could be improved. Then I shared with them that I actually am gay and how much I appreciated their trying to understand and being empathetic, rather than simply pretending to be the experts on the matter. My uncle, the bishop of the ward, had been sitting in on the lesson. He proceeded to share his love and support for me, explaining how insufficient our understanding of this issue within the church still is. As a judge, he is eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter and looks forward to increased openness from church members towards gay and lesbian family, friends, and neighbors.
I left church that day quite excited at what had just happened. Aside from continuing the ongoing conversation with my cousin and uncle, I helped begin it with a few of the young men in that ward. I envision church leaders and teachers of both youth and adults worldwide bringing up similar examples with their classes and peers. Whether the topic is missionary work, community service, bullying, agency, compassion or tolerance, discussion of GLBTQ issues can be very appropriate during church meetings.
Considering what transpired last Sunday, all of this week I hoped for a similar chance with my own congregation. I am open enough in my personal life that very few, if any, members of my single adult branch are unaware that I’m gay. My branch and stake president are well-informed about me, and we have had several edifying conversations about the issue. However, I had still never spoken openly about it during a church meeting. Despite how conversant and forthcoming I am with it in most other settings, my romantic orientation remained somewhat of an elephant in the room on Sundays.
During priesthood meeting, we were asked to share examples of trials faced at some point in our lives. Realizing this would be an ideal opportunity to bring it up, I raised my hand and explained that shortly after my mission, I faced what was, at the time, the biggest trial of my life as I came to grips with the fact that I’m gay. Sharing that was a bit nerve-wracking but extremely liberating. It was hurdle I needed to cross in order to open up future dialogue and understanding. Members of my quorum have thanked me for what I shared, and after the meeting I received a bigger-than-normal hug from a member of the branch presidency.
By bringing up homosexuality during church meetings, others will subsequently feel more comfortable following suit. Pray for opportunities to speak up (whether that means proclaiming love and support, coming out, or simply promoting increased awareness) and for the wisdom to know how to most constructively do so.
My hope is that the things I’ve shared will be a catalyst for the young men in my cousin’s ward and the members of my branch, spurring increased love, questioning, pondering, conversation and understanding of not only this but other important matters of truth.
I’ve been completely up front with my branch president, sharing with him my desire for a partner in the future. I feel his concern and love for me, coupled with a willingness to further comprehend this issue. Serving in our family-esque branch brings me much fulfillment, and recently I gratefully accepted a calling as a counselor in our elders quorum presidency.
There is very real change happening right now within the Church and among its members pertaining to LGBTQ matters. I choose to continue my church activity in part so that I can more directly play a role in this change. Serving in Affirmation connects me with others who share similar goals and empowers me as I hear of their experiences.
One final and most important point. Regarding Paul’s exquisite discourse on charity (1 Corinthians 13), without this spiritual gift, any of our efforts – our words, our faith, our understanding, our knowledge, our service, our sacrifice, our obedience, our work and our accomplishments – even those meant to help others – mean nothing. In all our efforts may we each be given the charity to succeed.