The following address was given by Karen Penman at the fireside, “Of One Heart and of One Mind: A Faithful Conversation on Race, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity,” on Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
My name is Karen Penman. I am the mother of 3 kids and our middle child is transgender, born female and has transitioned socially to male. Transgender individuals have a disconnect between the brain/perceived gender and their natal gender. This disagreement can cause great anxiety, depression, and possibly suicidal thoughts and actions. After the North Star Conference in 2014, I felt the need to start a monthly family home evening group for transgender LDS people and their families. I have learned so much in my association with these dear brothers and sisters in the gospel. They truly are spiritual giants. Some, sadly, have been cut off from their families after telling them that they were transgender. This makes me really sad. This is what I’ve chosen briefly to discuss with you tonight, but I’d like to talk about a time in the Book of Mormon, where gathering together was for the good of the people.
“In the Book of Mormon, after the people saw the signs of Jesus Christ’s birth, they began to be less astonished by signs, and they hardened their hearts. Many of the people rejected further signs and wonders and increased in wickedness. As a result, the Gadianton robbers grew so strong that Nephites and Lamanites were compelled to take up arms against them. The converted Lamanites joined with the Nephites and became known as Nephites. Lachoneus, the chief judge of the Nephites, called on the people to repent and prepared them for battle” (“Lesson 117: 3 Nephi 2–5,” Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2012)
“…He sent a proclamation among all the people, that they should gather together their women, and their children, their flocks and their herds, and all their substance, save it were their land, unto one place. And he caused that fortifications should be built round about them, and the strength thereof should be exceedingly great. And he caused that armies, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites, or of all them who were numbered among the Nephites, should be placed as guards round about to watch them, and to guard them from the robbers day and night.” (3 Nephi 3:13-14)
“Because of their repentance, their faith in the Lord, and their diligent preparations, the Nephites triumphed over the Gadianton robbers. Following their deliverance, the people acknowledged the power of God in their preservation” (“Lesson 117: 3 Nephi 2–5,” Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2012)
After the Savior came to visit the Nephites, with the foundation that Lachoneus’ people had established, this is what the scriptures say happened:
“And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. Surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (4 Nephi 1:15-17)
I invite you today to include others. Parents, if you have a child who you don’t understand or who is making choices in life that you don’t agree with, I ask you to keep them within the fold, the safety of your fortifications and within the circle of your family’s love. Preach less with words and more with actions. Seek less to “be right” and just to show forth love.
“Now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in.” (Mosiah 18:8-9)
Overcome your differences and strengthen one another against the fiery darts of the adversary in these last days. I know that at times, especially when there are differences of opinion, our first reaction might be to cut off a child, a loved one, or a friend. I ask you to please reconsider and just love as the Savior loves.
(The spark for choosing the story of Lachoneus and drawing the parallels to parents of LGBT kids or any parent who struggles with a “wayward” child, was an essay by my dear friend Laurie Lee Hall about becoming Zion. I hope this essay will soon be published so that all can read it.)