By Lance Irons (also published at his blog http://lanceirons.blogspot.com/)
After coming out to my parents I went to my Spring Semester at school and I endeavored to start coming out to very close friends of mine. This was harder than I had anticipated. Keeping something secret for eleven years and hoping it would go away is hard to talk about. It was a difficult but also transformative process in many ways. I started feeling like I was becoming a more genuine person as I shared this part of myself with others. Not only that but I felt closer to God. I felt God was pleased with me being honest with this part of myself. I began walking through my day to day life with a renewed vigor and hope. I felt like a burden was beginning to be lifted off of me and that the Atonement of Christ was working in my life to lift that self-inflicted burden.
This brought a spiritual healing that I most desperately needed. I felt God prompt me to do small acts of kindness and I felt like I was becoming a better person and closer to God. On a normal day I felt God prompt me in a direction that I had not anticipated. I was prompted to go to a meeting of my school’s LGBTQ organization on campus. This was something that left me confused and nervous. At this time I had only known a handful of gay people and then not extremely well. I had never been taught any overtly anti-gay things. What I had learned was that marriage was between Man and Woman. I also heard the youth make gay jokes making it seem like it was something to be mocked, scandalous, or dirty. This compounded with homosexuality being a taboo discussion in LDS congregations and that no older gay people that I could tell were in my ward. So I automatically assumed LGBT people were sinners that have shunned God and that were devoid of natural love but were lost in the lusts of the flesh. This of course created in me an internalized homophobia toward myself. I hated myself because I was one of those awful sinners. Coming out allowed me the opportunity to push off this burden of self-hatred but I would soon find out that God had so much more for me to learn from others.
Going to the meeting left in me a certain anxiety because of what I had heard about gay people. I felt scared that I would be tempted and be led down a path that would be destructive to my soul. All these things jumbled in my mind and put a fear in my heart. Even with all this opposition I followed the prompting. I went to a meeting and luckily saw a friend there who I was able to sit with. So we sat together and the meeting began.
I was at this point incredibly nervous. Here I was sitting in a meeting with gay people as if it was a disease that I could catch. The thing that I took most from the meeting surprised me. This surprise came from how normal everybody seemed. They laughed and joked like everyone else and we actually talked a little about The Hunger Games afterward. It was an experience that surprised me more than I think I anticipated. These people treated me well and we talked and socialized. I also found out that there were other LGBTQ Mormons like me.
I eventually was led to find another gay Mormon. This experience became the most touching and powerful spiritual experiences of my life. This experience is very private. The fact that I had this experience is one of the reasons I know that God brought me down the path that he did and it truly reinforced my faith and devotion to him.
But God wasn’t done with me yet. I felt very welcome by everyone, much more than I had ever felt while in college. I was invited to parties that actually turned out to be the most moral parties that I had ever seen in college. We ate ghost peppers, played games like catchphrase, and watched movies. The company was wonderful and the food was great. Really for one of the first times in my life I felt like I truly fit in and was accepted. This made a truly stark contrast to what I was led to believe and what I thought was truth in how gay people were. They were normal people who were just as bad or as good as heterosexuals there was nothing sinister or evil about them. However there seemed to be something that was different, something that I knew God wanted me to learn from them.
As the weeks and months went on I was invited to be a volunteer at the Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner. I accepted and was interested to see how the dinner would go. It was going to be the largest gathering of LGBTQ people and allies that I would ever have been too. The purpose of the dinner itself was both a place to commemorate exceptional LGBTQ people in Virginia and also a place for political fundraising toward various causes. It wasn’t the politics or anything so worldly that caught my attention. I still was trying to figure out more of what it was God wanted me to learn. Something else much deeper and richer touched my soul at this meeting.
I felt a powerful love that filled the whole room. It was a unique kind of love that I had never experienced not even in a church congregation. The spirit filled my soul and testified of it too me. Thinking through it later I realized that I felt no judgement from the people in the room. As I thought on this I realized that many of the people sitting at the tables in that room had experienced pain and abandonment from their families. The majority had been forced from their congregations and places of worship for the soul reason of being born the wrong way. These people understood the sharp knife of judgement and hate toward them. They felt the pain of being abandoned left for nothing and treated as less than human.
This treatment from others in my view taught them what love really is. Love is something that is unconditional it is something that doesn’t see sexual orientation, race, or creed. It is something that looks beyond earthly prejudices. It isn’t love the sinner hate the sin. It is pure and simply love that sees no judgement. As I looked out on that group of people. I saw people that are as Christ taught “the least of these.” In God’s great mercies whether they realized it or not. He had taught them through their trials what true love really means.
I had found Christ among them.
Never in any congregation had I felt the same love and lack of judgement as I felt there. It was something that was very moving. The only time I had felt that same type of love was from God himself when I was on my knees crying to him to take this away from me. When I was seeking to accept myself and when God spoke in my heart his acceptance for me.
This was when I knew what I saw that was different in the people I had met and got to know. In a way the people of the LGBTQ community understood better in their journeys on this earth, what love is. Every person I met were in different stages of life and all had there imperfections and challenges, but this one thing seemed to resonate in them in a more profound way than most other people I have known.
A certain scripture comes to mind that connects with this experience it comes from 1 John 4: 18-21 it reads:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
I think the part of Charity that most, if not all there understood was that true love, Christ like love, endures forever. Many had felt the sting of family members taking away their love for them on the basis of their romantic orientation. Many saw religious leaders preach the love of Christ from the pulpit and then tell them they did not deserve his love in private. But God’s love is never ending and never changing and the atonement reaches toward all. They truly have endured all things, and have hoped through adversity.
Judge not, that ye be not Judged. Matthew 7:1
Only God can judge, to us we are only commanded to love and accept our brothers and sisters where they are, who they are, and who they love and want to spend the rest of their life with, they are all Sons and Daughters of God. This is a wonderful video of how one woman learned from God that all she needed to do was to love unconditionally her gay brother and son.
Other good resources,