“Affirmation has helped me realize that I am loved by many and by my Father in Heaven, regardless of my sexual orientation. The scholarship was a great help in coming to this realization.”
By far, though, the most significant question we will face as a Church will be pastoral: how should we as a religious community treat our legally married gay members? Most people I know think that this is an easy question. The problem is, about half of them think it is easy in one direction while the rest think it is easy in the other. Actually, it is a very difficult question. But it is also an extremely important one, as it may determine the nature of our community for the next hundred years.
The Bishop finished reading the letter. Placing it to the side…he wept. Humbly he began to bear his testimony. He spoke of his lack of understanding. He didn’t understand why things happened the way they did. He didn’t know what God eventually had planned for all of us. But what he did know…was that God asked us to love each other. Unconditionally. He bore his testimony of his children…two of which are gay. He said he looked forward to the day when his family could be together at Church. When his gay children could feel welcome to bring their partners with them and feel the love surround them. He spoke of how unfair it is to expect someone who is attracted to someone of the same sex to spend their lives alone. After his sweet testimony he opened up to everyone else to discuss.
Affirmation held a virtual meeting of LGBTQ/SSA Mormons, Families & Friends in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage and the First Presidency letter responding to it. Participants shared experiences of family, friends and Church members and leaders responding to these events. The purpose was to learn from both positive and negative experiences, and to discuss ways to deal with stress and conflict and to engage in constructive dialog.
“I was relieved to see that the lesson did not directly attack gay relationships as a source for “the attacks on the family” but that it focused primarily on HOW to create a successful marriage. I think the teachings in this lesson are very applicable to my same-sex marriage and look forward to sharing my perspectives in Church this Sunday.” (This is part of a series of perspectives and resources for LDS Church teachers and participants who are looking for ways to teach and learn that invite LGBT individuals, their families and friends to liken the scriptures unto themselves and apply the gospel in their lives.)
‘Religious liberty’ has never meant the right of a majority religion (or religions) to impose religious practices or religious rules on non-adherents. In America, we can be sure that Catholics can’t make birth control illegal, even though they are the largest religion. We can be sure that if Muslims become a dominant religion in any community, they still can’t require all women to cover their heads or impose Sharia law. We can be sure that if Amish are a majority in some community, they can’t impose their lifestyle on non-Amish living there.
To many individuals, phrases like “strengthening and preserving the family” or “defending the family,” sound like a commonsense invocation of concern about the well-being of one of the fundamental building blocks of society. Of course we should strengthen, preserve and defend the family. However, to most gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people, and to their families and loved ones, such phrases often sound menacing and demoralizing. We are accustomed to hearing people describe the very existence of LGBT people as a threat to the family.
There are a variety of ways that folks are responding to these situations. Some are skipping lessons that have a potential to open up hurtful class discussions. Some are attending Church and finding positive ways to participate in such discussions.
One mom of a gay son has responded by writing a letter to her Sunday School teacher, urging him to take into account the effect that negative comments about homosexuality would have on her son and her family.
A year after getting divorced and not attending church, I auditioned for and got a role in the production of the San Francisco Broadway Tour of The Phantom of the Opera, and was invited by my LDS ward to return and present a musical fireside on a Sunday evening. As I prepared the songs I realized there was one particular piece that stood out in my mind as being far more personal than I’d previously realized. The song is called “Unusual Way” from the musical “Nine” in which I had the opportunity of playing the lead in a local production. Every word and every line, every phrase seems to echo my exact emotion and feeling about my sojourn through Mormonism.