From the Pulpit
Sam Wolfe Bears Testimony in Sacrament Meeting
"I am thankful to God for this difference that has been a great blessing in my life”
On June 4, 2006, Sam Wolfe came out in testimony meeting in the Washington, D.C. Third Ward. This is what he said:
Today, exactly seven weeks since Easter Sunday, is when many across the world observe the day of Pentecost when Jesus' chief apostle, Peter, echoing the words of the prophet Joel, stood up before a congregation not unlike this one and lifted up his voice and said:
hearken to my words: . . . And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and [listen sisters] your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams : And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 1:14-18 (emphasis added throughout).)
Peter tells us that individuals "out of every nation under heaven" were assembled that day. (v. 5.) From where I stand it looks as though, like on the day of Pentecost, we have individuals assembled here with origins from "every nation under heaven." This is beautiful and is a testament that despite our various differences we all can be united as Children of God.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of graduating from law school not far from here. In connection with this honor, I have been thinking about Jesus as an advocate. The apostle Luke tells us of Levi, a publican. (St. Luke 5:27.) Of course, publicans were most despised and considered most unworthy by the majority of that time. Levi, the publican, prepared a great feast for Jesus and "there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them." Who were these "others"? Whoever they were, the scribes and Pharisees had made up their mind about them. They "murmured" against his disciples, saying, "Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?" (v. 30.) "Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (v. 31-32.) Of course, the scribes and Pharisees would not consider that they had any need of changing their perspective or of repentance.
I have a testimony that Jesus is our advocate. He was an advocate to the abused, the oppressed, the despised, and the outcast as well as to publicans and sinners. He caused the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk. Jesus is my kind of advocate.
As an advocate, he also believed in being honest; and so do I. Several weeks ago, I was sitting in this congregation when a high council speaker from this pulpit looked over the congregation at me and said, "I hope that all of you feel welcome and that you belong here; you are welcome here." I appreciate his saying that to me.
But some of us are not so sure that we are welcome here or belong here because of who we are; because of who we love; because we are different in one way. I am different in this way. I am gay. And I am thankful to God for this difference that has been a great blessing in my life. And I would like to say that I am thankful and have the greatest admiration, respect, and love for the countless gay and lesbian Mormon missionaries, who like me, have served, or are serving, out of selfless love for others and because of their belief in the potential of every person to progress toward greater understanding, light, and knowledge of God and reach for a happy and full life. This is a beautiful service by these missionaries. And I am profoundly thankful for my mission.
I hope that you will not be surprised to hear me say that, like Jesus, I also believe in being chaste. What does it mean for those non-heterosexual members of the church and followers of God to be chaste? Church leaders are right that it does not mean for gay males to dishonor and disrespect women by marrying them. Such marriages can be terribly unchaste. It also does not mean as too many gay and lesbian Mormons have tragically concluded, as did my brother Stuart, that suicide is the way out from the contradiction between their very real experience of their identity and orientation with what they have learned since tender ages about the meaning of that identity and orientation. The self shedding of blood is not chaste. Being chaste also does not mean the lonely life of a solitary monk like that followed by my brother Jon. Our church does not have a tradition of a celibate priesthood or of a monk class; that is some other church. Finally, it does not mean a life filled with decadent and destructive relations that are empty of light, love, and devotion. None of those four paths are the road to being chaste for those of us not in the heterosexual majority. There is a better way. And we have to find it.
The Prophet Joseph Smith established this church because he had a vision. He could not deny his vision and neither can I. I have a vision, brothers and sisters, of a church that makes room for all of its children including those who are like me; a church that is filled with compassion one for another as Jesus is filled with compassion for you and for me unto the laying down of his life for us; and of a church filled with members who believe and act as though they truly believe in "being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and in doing good to all men," (Thirteenth Article of Faith), - including, and even especially, doing good to those who include and are like the marvelous gay men and women who are seated with us in this fast and testimony meeting today.
I say these things in the name of my advocate and the advocate of all those who are like me and like you, Jesus Christ, who
sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God,
He, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood. (Come Thou Font of Every Blessing.)