by Sue Williams
In this article, Sue Williams, a grandmother of a gay Mormon, shares the much prayed for miracle for her family she witnessed while attending the 2017 Affirmation International Conference in Provo, Utah, September 22nd through the 24th, 2017.
Sometimes in life we just go along, caught up in the busyness and routine; occasionally forgetting how wonderful our lives are and how very blessed this “routine” truly is. So when an unexpected “bump” in the road arrives, it jolts us back to our basics – family and faith.
Such was the case in January 2012 when Wendy told us that Jordan was gay. I remember sitting there, holding her through her sobs and thinking, “I don’t even know what this means”. Nothing could change the tremendous love we had for him. As she explained how she and Tom found out, it was evident that she had followed a prompting from the Lord, who felt that the time was right for this impactful discovery to surface; so that all could rally around Jordan with the love and joy we always felt for him.
I couldn’t sleep that night and so I prayed – really prayed – and soon had a few feelings that have stayed with me. First, the Lord is in charge! Period. Why and how this happened didn’t matter. I didn’t know then, and still don’t know now. But I do know something I have felt from that first night – everything will be okay. In my feeble finite mind, I don’t know why and how. I just know that the Lord is in charge and everything will be okay.
I watched as Wendy threw herself, 24/7, into finding answers, suggestions, and help – whatever could give her direction. The more she looked, the more she did not find what she wanted and needed. Then began insensitive hurtful comments and actions that would cause tears and pain for Jordan, and anguish and anger for his parents and siblings. Eventually, Wendy found people who offered her help, hope and direction.
Soon she became the one that other tearful frightened mothers turned to. As these mothers bonded and supported each other, “Mama Dragons” was born – a group of moms who thought being a mama bear to protect and care for their cubs was not enough – “they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight” (Mosiah 20:11). This awesome, powerful group of moms now numbers 1,500 and is still growing.
Over the years, I was able to attend some local events for LDS LGBT friends, along with some of my children. Each time I learned more about the faith and pain of this noble group. Wendy always talked about an organization called Affirmation and that she loved their conferences and her associations with its members. I always wanted to go, even talked about going, but never went to the “main event,” their international conference, held in Utah each year. Events shared in Wendy’s father’s article caused us to realize we needed (and really wanted) to go this year.
Because of past experience, I had a general idea of what to expect at the conference. What I couldn’t foresee was how my dear husband would respond to what he would see, hear, and feel. Because of our age and life experience, this has been a very difficult issue to navigate – and it seemed to be especially hard for him. I think it was so difficult for him partly because he was the dad and was supposed to fix everything and not let his little girl hurt – or her family. As time grew close for the conference, he would say, totally out of the blue, “I don’t know if I can do this! What if I make things worse?”
I know this man’s heart and what he wanted to do – heal a fractured relationship. But I also knew of the struggle this had caused him and some of the unfounded, preconceived ideas he had. Knowing what I did, and what was at stake, I knew exactly what to do – pray for the miracle we needed. Over the years my family and I have been blessed with many “tender mercies” and answered prayers that testified of our Father’s love for us; but I really, really, wanted this to be a wonderful, healing, loving experience for all of us. I could not have been more amazed, moved, grateful and thrilled with our experience at the conference.
As we went to our first group session, my heart was pounding. I watched Dennis as we heard people share why they were there and what they hoped for. Sitting next to Wendy, I could feel her apprehension as my terrified heart just about beat out of my chest. But, almost immediately, I relaxed.
After a few comments, I could see his countenance change and I knew he was feeling the Spirit like I was. By the time we’d gone to another class or two, I knew that my miracle was happening. As we drove back to our son’s (where we were staying) that first night, he just kept saying, “I had no idea”.
He wrote about his feelings in his article so I won’t repeat a lot of our experiences that weekend, except to say that it was a remarkable experience for me to watch a transformation that I didn’t imagine possible. We met such fun, wonderful people, many of whom Wendy had told us about. We really, truly enjoyed ourselves, and repeated to ourselves often, “I’m so glad we came!”
For me personally, I had some awesome “take aways” that I’ll share. As I mentioned, watching my husband’s heart soften and his understanding increase was amazing. Seeing Wendy’s smile as she realized that her old “stick in the mud” parents were there – loving what she loves – was incredible. Seeing Jordan so happy that we were there, thanking us multiple times for going, was amazing. Being surprised by Jordan who, on his own, bought me two outfits as a “thank you” for going was unbelievably awesome.
But the very best, most memorable, and heartfelt event happened right after the closing prayer of the last session. Wendy, Dad and I fell into each other’s arms and sobbed, really sobbed.
Thank you, Wendy and Jordan, for your love and patience with us. We love you so much.
I would invite anyone who is struggling with this sensitive ‘hard to understand’ issue to open their hearts and give Affirmation a chance. I am so grateful we went and caught a glimpse into the hearts of some of our dear brothers and sisters and their struggles. Families need each other, at times like this more than ever. But where there is heartache, there can be healing.