By Jody England Hansen
I appreciated Elder Holland’s talk the Saturday of the October 2015 General Conference. He spoke openly, over the pulpit, about a gay young man serving worthily in the church. He said clearly that in all the support extended to this young man, no one expected to change him. He spoke of the importance of parents offering love and support, especially when things don’t go as planned, or a child is not who they expected. And he gave full acknowledgement of Heavenly Mother, as well as great women in our heritage, none of whom meet the description of “traditional family” roles. I appreciate this very much.
To me, this is all a very important message to hear at General Conference. I hope it is a first step in more acknowledgement of complex journeys and complex family relationships. This talk acknowledged another of the countless types of families in the world, in the church. It is one not mentioned before, and I think it is an important step.
I also think it is important not to feel failure if we share some, but not all of the circumstances described in his talk. It would be impossible for him to address every condition and circumstance and possible outcome for any complex family situation. I am sorry for the pain that comes for many because of that.
I hope that parents of LGBT children will not assume that their love needs to be the kind that keeps their children active and serving within the church community, or that they have failed if that is not the case.
I hope that parents of LGBT will not assume that if their child (LGBT+ or any child that does not follow the expectations of typical active LDS), that somehow means they did not love them enough, or in the right way.
I hope that anyone who did not follow a specific expectation they think their parents had of them, won’t assume they broke their parents’ heart.
I hope that anyone who is LGBT+, or who follows a less orthodox path, who did not have a parent who supported and loved them through their dark nights of the soul, or who did not accept them, or who tried to change them, or who will not let go of expectations and are holding the image of “You are breaking my heart” over them…please don’t despair. There are those who love you now, who will help you through, who will remind you that you are loved, by many, and especially by God. You trying to deny who you are to fit an expectation which might deny you a strong, fulfilled life where you can feel individual guidance, even divine guidance for you, will not lessen anyone’s suffering. And please be patient with your parents. All of us need time to open our hearts and gain greater understanding.
If you desire to remain active and serving, and feel guided to that path, bless you. Elder Holland just made it clear that church leaders and family members are to support and help you with that.
If you feel that the still very painful and ever present messages that there is a different standard for you concerning family life, or worthiness, is too destructive…if you feel that God loves you as you are and wants you to live a fulfilling life that will, for now, not fit within the structure of the church, bless you. There are those who love and support you and your parents, wherever you go.
If you, as a parent or a child, are in the midst of those dark nights of the soul…bless you. Please do not think there is no hope, or that it has to turn out only a certain way.
I hope you will just open your hearts to love – now and unconditionally.
After my son came out, I had those many days of pleading and praying and despairing. Yes, I regretfully and painfully admit that I thought it would be best to try to keep him within what I thought could be a supportive structure of the church community – until I was finally willing to see how often he was hearing the messages of “we love you, but…you are inherently wrong, unnatural, unworthy, you will never be accepted by God, you need to change” …these messages were overwhelming the message of the gospel, that God loves all of us, now, as we are, and we are to love one another – and he could not be safe and alive within this structure.
I am grateful for the very clear guidance that came from God, when I was finally willing to let go of the expectations, when I was finally willing to see how trying to fit within those expectations over really seeing who my child is, was putting my child’s life at risk. That is when my heart broke. Not because of my child, but because of my own awareness. Then I could be willing to listen for how God loves my child. Only then could I begin to experience the incomprehensible love God has for my child, for all of us. Now and always.
I hope we can try to offer that to each other, and support each other in having a strong fulfilling life, no matter what that might look like. For myself, I have come to realize that the best way for me to prepare to meet again with God, with Christ, with my own father, and loved ones, …is to realize that Eternal Life can be now, Heaven is here, that hearts broken by fear, and pain, and guilt and regret, can be healed when I create that experience in this moment of love.