I feel like most Mormons want to be good people. They want to be Christ-like, kind, and compassionate. Lately I’ve been speculating that when you see a good LDS person behaving in a completely inappropriate and insensitive way it is often due to ignorance (or at least I hope that is the case!)
This past weekend, I had several conversations with different LDS people. The first was with a friend in my ward. She told me that reading Josh’s coming out post helped her to see the issue of same sex attraction with a new understanding. She said that she trusted Josh and so she believed him when he said that people do not chose to be homosexual but they can chose what they do with those feelings. She said that before reading his post, if her son had come to her and said he was a homosexual, she might have thought it was her fault or that he was doing it to spite her.
The next conversation was with a woman we met while visiting Josh’s parents’ ward in Portland. She and her husband approached us and told us that they were grateful for Josh’s coming out post. She said that she had read it shortly after she had had her firstborn son. She expressed the relief that she felt when she realized that it was okay to love her son, no matter what. That if he ended up experiencing homosexual feelings, she could still love him.
Now, this reasoning—that homosexuality is not a choice, that it is nobody’s “fault,” and that loving a child who is homosexual is not a betrayal of God and religion—might seem clear to some, but for a lot of religious people these conclusions are not obvious. Because this is the case, those of us who have experience with this issue need to share our voice with love in appropriate ways. This weekend, I was so grateful to be able to participate in an event that I felt accomplished this goal.
Photo attribution here
Josh and I were invited to participate in a panel for the leadership of the Beaverton, Oregon Stake. They also asked Josh’s parents to participate along with two other gay LDS men, Jordan Jantz and Jon Hastings.
I almost started crying before the meeting even started. It was amazing that this meeting was stake sponsored and presided over by a stake president (who was an amazing man, by the way.) The meeting was for bishops, priesthood leadership, and the youth leaders. As the room filled to capacity with the leaders of this stake, I was filled with so much hope. It was amazing to see the leaders of a stake congregating with the sole purpose of learning more about homosexuality. There was no sweeping of the issue under a rug. There was no “this is inappropriate to talk about.” There was only a desire to educate through the Spirit so that the leaders might be properly prepared to assist the homosexual members of their congregations in appropriate ways.
As the meeting began with a presentation by the stake president, I was so grateful and excited to hear him share information in such a loving, kind, and accurate way. He talked of ministering to the one, and walking with those who need love. My heart was truly touched. He shared effective methods of assisting homosexual members (like simply loving and listening) and ineffective methods (such as suggesting that reading scriptures and praying hard enough—or increased righteousness—will be effective in eradicating homosexual feelings). He also shared the Church’s new website, MormonsandGays.org, and spotlighted some of the videos there.
Then the meeting was opened up to the panel. The stake president said he wanted most of the meeting to be open for the leaders to ask questions, even if the questions were uncomfortable to ask. There were so many wonderful questions asked by these great leaders who were there to genuinely serve. I was impressed by the nature of every question. Here are some examples of questions that were asked:
- Our tendency is to try and ‘fix’ a problem. How can I help an individual with SSA without trying to ‘fix’ it?
- I’ve heard some people say that the term ‘SSA’ is offensive to them. What term do you prefer and why?
- I’ve heard some people say some insulting and mean things in church in regards to homosexuality. How can we help the culture of the church become more educated in regard to this issue?
- What does therapy look like for a gay LDS individual?
The entire meeting was amazing for me. I saw many individuals crying as we discussed these important issues. People want to understand, and want to help. I saw hearts that were open and learning. We were taught through the Spirit. I was so grateful for the opportunity to participate. I wish every stake in the entire Church would have meetings similar to this one, but hey, I’m chalking this one up to major progress! Way to go Beaverton, Oregon Stake!
I’d love to hear people’s thoughts regarding the answers to any of those questions in the comments.