5th Sunday Meeting held in Murray Ward….SLC Area
On Sunday, June 29, 2014, a 5th Sunday joint RS/PH meeting was held in Murray. The bishop there organized the presentation which took most of an hour. He divided the presentation into two parts, much the same as the presentations like this in Carol Lynn Pearson’s stake that were organized a few years ago.
The first part was to focus on faithful members who are gay/experience SSA and the 2nd part was a focus on members with family who are gay/SSA. He used several quotes from Elder Oaks, Elder Christofferson and Elder Holland from www.MormonsandGays.org to emphasize that being gay/SSA is not a choice. He then used a film clip from Michael Sandberg, a member of the same Murray Stake who some present knew personally and this clip is part of the voices of hope…NS film project. Michael had a rough teen period and was bullied, went on a mission and now is hoping…for marriage to a woman and a traditional LDS family.
The second part of the presentation was a member of the ward who has a lesbian daughter who came out to this mom about two years ago. This Mom really emphasized loving her daughter and explained how acceptance was a key to maintenance of the relationship.. It was really beautiful how love was emphasized for a daughter who has left church activity.
Love One Another— by Mormon Mom
I have been blessed with the privilege and sacred responsibility of being a mother to 2 beautiful daughters. One of them is gay, and it is with her permission that I am sharing part of our story today.
She was 20 years old, it was Christmas Eve of 2010, and both of my girls were home from college over the winter break. We sat down for what I thought would be a typical catching up kind of chat, when without warning she said, “Mom, I have to tell you I’m gay.” She had to repeat it for it to register. The closest thing I can think of to describe that moment is being hit in the gut with a sledgehammer. My mind was reeling as I tried to absorb what I’d heard. I don’t know how long I sat there unresponsive, but I remember my first coherent thought being “how will I ever protect her?” [Every horrible and insensitive thing I'd ever heard about gays and lesbians was clanging loudly in my head. And most of them I'd heard in church, in my neighborhood, from my friends!] I was immediately afraid for her. After all, she was my baby, my joy, my precious child. Parents are naturally protective of their children; but in that moment I went from being a Mama Bear to a Mama Dragon. I later discovered that this is a term many mothers of LGBT children use to describe themselves.
Of course I had many questions and concerns, and we talked and cried together for some time. I assured her that my love for her was unconditional, and that her being gay would not change our relationship. We stood and hugged each other tight, and as we did every cell in my body was permeated with an extraordinary sensation of peace and love. It was identical to experiences I’d had during my pregnancy with her. It assured me, yet again, that we were meant to be together, and that it was going be OK,
I had selfishly thought, and to my great shame said aloud, that telling me before Christmas would ruin the holidays; but it actually turned out to be the best Christmas. The Spirit of the Lord was so strong, and the feelings of love we shared went deeper and were more intense than ever before. So it felt appropriate to be celebrating the entrance into the world of our Savior and Redeemer whose greatest teaching would be to love one another.
The following months were a painful struggle, and I didn’t talk to a single soul about it. At that time we’d lived in our ward for almost 14 years. We’d only been there 2 years when my husband died very suddenly. The ward members were so kind and compassionate. Their generous service and expressions of love were overwhelming. They are good people. Latter-Day-Saints are good people, and we take the Savior’s call for service very seriously. During those 14 years many friendships had been forged. These peple knew and loved my children and me. But because of some things that had happened previously in the ward, I did not feel safe talking to anyone about my gay daughter, not even the Bishop. I had to protect my child, and my own heart. It would be 7 months before I felt prompted to contact a certain friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, who then told me her youngest son is gay. It was such a relief to finally talk to another LDS parent who had walked the same path and understood. [She also gave me a copy of Carol Lynn Pearson's book "No More Goodbyes", which gave me so much hope, knowing my daughter and others like her had a bold, fearless advocate in the Church.]
But during those 7 months the only person I could talk with was the Lord. Jesus said “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” So that’s what I did. [I poured my heart out to him, shed many tears, and begged for understanding and direction, for peace and healing. I knew that being gay was not a choice; but how did this happen?? Answers didn't come all at once, but over time I gained new insights into some things said in my Patriarchal Blessing, found comfort in some long-forgotten teachings of the Prophets, was led to scriptures that offered new layers of meaning, and felt the Lord's infinite love for my daughter and His empathy for me.] I’d like to share with you some of the things He taught me:-
1. The fact that she was gay was not news to Him. He already knew. He’d always known. [She's not broken, and she doesn't need to be fixed.]
2. To Him this is not a tragedy. He has a plan for her, and it is in His hands. A statement by Bruce McConkie speaks to this. He said “there are as many plans of salvation as there are children of God.” That reminds us that each person’s journey through mortality is unique and personal, and it is not our place to judge, or to think we know what the Lord will put won’t do in the lives of any of His children in order to accomplish their salvation.
3. As to the question of what I could do to help her, the answers were simple and straightforward : love her UNCONDOTIONALLY, keep her close, and keep building our relationship. For several years I had observed what I thought to be an unusual tenseness and irritability in her, beyond what you would normally expect from adolescents as they mature and try to differentiate from their parents. But it seemed to go on too long, and anytime I tried talking to her about it she would become even more irritable, insisting she was “fine”. But after finally coming out to us, being accepted and feeling unconditional love from those who matter most to her, we could see that an enormous weight had been lifted, the light came back into her eyes, and it gave her the freedom and energy to move forward with her life, and make important decisions without the burden of our expectations. Unconditional love is the greatest gift we can give. Jesus said, “By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Even though I’d told her our relationship would not change, I’m happy to say I wrong. The honesty and openness allowed us to deepen and strengthen our relationship in very significant ways.
4. He also instructed me to pray for her well-being continuously, and to trust Him to know what she needed. She is more precious to Him than I can even imagine, and He will not abandon her. I love the words of Paul to the Romans :-
“For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor Powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Romans 8: 38-39). And I see the Lord’s hand in her life, even though she may not recognize it as such.
5. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Meaning, surrender my grief and fears to Him, and listen for a his guidance, and receive His love and peace. This command includes honoring my covenants, and living my life in such a way as to be in tune with Him so that I can receive His guidance, and feel His love and peace.
During those months as I tried to understand, I realized that there were many experiences and people brought into my life, starting in my youth, that had prepared me for this. I was able to connect the dots of seemingly disparate events and people. And that was a tender mercy.
[This wonderful bit of philosophy from Carol Lynn Pearson gives us pause when we're tempted to categorize all we encounter in life as either black or white: "What if things are not always as they appear? What if, in the grand design of things, none of us is finally a victim? What if our Large Eternal Self actually agreed to certain general challenges that our small mortal self would experience in the service of profoundly vital understanding and growth? What if we are each in the correct classroom being assigned the correct homework, and what if the answer to the question on every test is to love a little more?"]
There are many reasons I wanted to speak about this today, but the most important one is concern for our youth. It is a struggle beyond your imagining for kids to grow up in this church and come to the realization that they are gay. Many beg and plead with the Lord for years to take the burden away, committing to be more faithful and righteous, serving missions, bargaining, offering up everything they can just so the Lord will make it go away. But for most, it doesn’t go away. Our homes, our families, our wards and our Church MUST be a safe place for them. Too many are kicked out of their homes, into the streets where they are vulnerable to all kinds of terrible things. And too many take their own lives because they feel so desperate, hopeless, and unloved. To borrow a phrase from Carol Lynn Pearson, “let us circle the wagons around our gay loved ones”, keep them close and make sure they can see and feel our love for them. In our interactions with them, let us be sure they can perceive Christ’s image in our countenances. No “I love you, BUT…..”. Just “I love you”.
[In closing I'd like to share this challenge from Elder Quentin Cook: "As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let's not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their gender."]