Judy Finch’s Talk at the Affirmation 2013 Annual Conference (Transcript)
Judy Finch’s story is featured on the LDS gays and lesbians websites, it’s the most affirming video on that website, and actually the one that I’ve watched, I asked for a preview first. Uhm She is also an affirmation board member; she has a gay son and two gay grandchildren. She’ll speak to us about how it’s no mistake to be gay. Uhm she has a private psychotherapy practice currently from her home in Oakland Hills, Judy and her husband Richard have lived with their six children in 6 states, soon to be 12 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. After Judy speaks we will be treated by a performance by the [inaudible] Binchard winner, 8 time undefeated swing champion, current creative director for American Idol, America’s Got Talent and Dancing With The Stars, return missionary and single Judy Finch.
Enter Judy Finch
Wow, what a beautiful sight. On our way back from lunch today, my husband who’s wearing a nametag that says “Mr Judy Finch” (laughter) and I we were talking about what a beautiful experience this weekend has been and I said; I never felt more accepted and loved in a group and in an environment. So I’m going to toss my prepared remarks and at least some of them and just. First of all, in the woman’s room, before I came into this room tonight there were a group of women talking and that’s where you hear [inaudible] (laughter) and everyone of us agreed that, that the was the finest testimony meeting. Thank you so much to each one of you who choose to share your thoughts with us tonight. It’s been a hard act to follow, let me try.
More than you know, I am grateful to be here. It feels like, probably the biggest honour of my life and I can’t even think of what I could have done to deserve it, nothing actually. I’ve very much enjoyed the beautiful thoughts we’ve heard from our poet Carolyn Pearson. In reviewing that, really each one of us is on a hero’s journey and affirmation as an organisation is on a hero’s journey and each one of us is on a different place there.
I met a girl here a couple days ago who is a mother of a young man who has just come out, so she is very new in this process. Opposite of that, I’ve been dealing with homosexuality in one way or another for 50 years. I think many of you have seen, actually I would love to see how many of you have seen my video on Mormons and gays? Thanks, uhm the video that started about four and half years ago when my state president asked if I would be willing to be interviewed to uhm for a video that is up for a possible church website on Mormons and gays and shortly after that Mark [inaudible] videographer showed up at my house, and my 17 year old grandson, Simon, was living with us at the time, so he spent almost a day with Mark, he was just asking questions, filming and when he was finished he said he would call me when he had it finished uhm, so about a month later he called and said that it’s done and it turned out great, I can’t let you see it because it belongs to the church, and I don’t know whether. So two and a half years later, I get an email from someone at my work and he says oh I enjoyed the video, by then I’m thinking; what video? I kinda figured it out, so my husband and I watched it and totally blown away and Mark [inaudible] what a genius, he just knew all the right questions to ask and his editing is pure magic, he made us sound a lot more intelligent than we really are and we looked much more beautiful than we really are.
So how does Judy, a non-Mormon who was born in Oakland California in 1939 end up in a video for Mormons and gays? How can that happen on that websites? Well hmm, growing up in a non-traditional family, I was naturally drawn towards all kinds of people, the more unique a someone was, the more I felt attached, and I don’t know if it was the result of that or what. Some of my closest friends and high school teachers were gay.
Uhm When I was 26 years old, my children’s dad and I were converted to the church. I was very resisting investigator, however uhm I believed that it was true and so I did join the church and I remember on the night of my testimony about baptism, in the Open Stake Centre, I was still wearing my wet baptism clothes and I knelt to pray in the dressing room and I [inaudible] that was I was doing was correct and that this was a testimony of the church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints.
So with my husband and our two children, at that time we started a life of activity in church and we had another child, for 8 years we were fully active and uhm during that time we started to notice that our uhm older son, Jeff, was different. We kind of knew uhm what, his dad had been a boy, and we were expecting that he would be like that but he wasn’t. He was very different, extremely artistic and when I say exclusively sensitive and uhm just not interested in boy pursuits. We were feeling very unhappy about that and uneasy and guilty and wondering what had we done and what were we doing wrong. This just shows you how things were that long ago, he’s 54 now.
Uhm, it was such a painful thing for us that I honestly do not think that I don’t ever remember us having a conversation about it. We ultimately divorced and then shortly after that I became active with my three children and member of the church. I had always maintained my testimony fortunately and I believe that eventually reactivate but didn’t know how or when. I honestly had no idea that it would take me ten years, but I did reactivate.
As my daughters children grew uhm we noticed, with some dismay, that her older son, Paul, was following in Jeff’s footsteps and like his uncle, he had no interest in the usual boy things, he was extremely artistic and, and that was the direction that he was going. It was pretty hard for Jennifer and me to think about going through this again, Paul was just such a treasure, such a [inaudible] boy. I remember one day when he was visiting by our house, my husband said something and I said “oh Paul you are such a sweetheart” how did you get so sweet? And he said “it’s love” I have lots of love, it’s from heavenly father.
Jennifer realises that there was something different in her parenting between her three children and so she really believed, as I had, that her son had come to her exactly as he had been created by his heavenly father. When he was about three, we were in a department store, and among 100 pairs of shoes on display, Paul found the pink ballet slippers in the twink thing, he had his own shoes off and the pink ballet slippers on, whirling and prancing and twirling in complete ecstasy in the isles. Well, I remember the anguish for all three of us when Jennifer removed the shoes from his feet and replaced them with his own that simple gesture meant everything, it meant; you can’t do what you would love to do, you can’t be who you are. We struggled to accept.
Jennifer did some consultation with a therapist in Utah who specialised I working with young boys. She followed his suggestions without success. Later I learned what was known as reparative therapy is known as illegal in California and many other states. In high school, Paul came out, and became really proactive. Before that, poor Jennifer, Jennifer’s vision went down wordless and ex-communicated all the gays. So she realised what an impression that and what a message that was communicating to her son, so she, with her three children, she became inactive. I respected her decision and I do now.
About four years ago in my state I’m going to talk a little bit about Jeff. Jeff went to high school in the 50’s and what our whole family experienced at that time was the economized, on the one hand Jeff was just iconized for his artistic pursuits, including clothing designs, and at the same time, oh and he did an impersonation of Elton John at the piano which earned him celebrity status. So there was all of this sort of glory stuff going on for him on the one side and on the other side he was starting to be treated badly, he was teased and ridiculed and uhm and he begged me not to tell anybody and I didn’t and he was hit so hard in the school hallway that it cracked his molar.
But things have gotten a lot better in our culture, we uh even celebrating that today. So about four years ago, from the podium I heard my state president say gender preference is innate, I thought; I don’t think I heard that correctly because I was sure would never hear that from state, but later I did think check with someone who was there, and she said that she had heard the same thing that I did. It was very hard for me to take that in at the same time it felt marvellously reassuring, here was someone in my church state president telling me that my grandson and son were born this way or he believed.
And from that I interpreted that it wasn’t wrong to be gay, it isn’t a sin to be gay and it’s also not wrong or a sin to be a parent or a grandparent of a gay. I believe then and do now that people are born gay. Part of my hero’s journey has been my psychotherapy practice, things are pretty [inaudible]. When I am one with these beautiful young people who are agony due to being gay or talks to me about all the things that they have tried not to be gay and they can’t change, I assure them that it’s not their fault, they haven’t done anything wrong, they’re not at fault, their parents are not at fault and although I do not really understand it and I understand it a little better now, but I am saying that I will always reassure them that I am convinced that they are the way their heavenly father created them. I try and give them advice, but I urge them to try and make their choices as urgently and as honestly as they can.
I grieved recently with a mother of four, who sees in her three year old boy, non-traditional gender acts and behaviours. She believes and knows that her son is a provocation of our heavenly father and she just cannot rectify that he would be denied marriage temporarily or eternally, she can’t bear the pain, and for herself she sees serious questions as a member of her church. In my role I provide hope and reassurance and encouragement. [inaudible] asked me a question in her [inaudible] about having hope. I replied, of course I have hope, we’re given absolutely everything that we need, intelligence, sensitivity, creativity, experiences in the counsel of prophets, [inaudible] of faith says we believe all that God has revealed, and we believe that he will reveal many more great and important pretending to the kingdom of God. Of course I hoped for continued change, I think we were seeing it, an improvement of days. In the meantime we must continue to pray and advocate for them. Prayers called; the heart’s sincerest desire, I pondered the countless heartfelt prayers offered over the years to change gays straight, what I heard about it and the lot of this [inaudible], and saw that earlier in Daniel Parkinson’s beautiful video. From my thoughts and images of all of these [inaudible] prayers, which I envisioned stacked from earth to heaven and beyond; I have some questions, why have these prayers remained unanswered if God loves us? What if such prayers cause our heavenly father some dilemma? What if we’ve been praying for the wrong thing? We are taught we are created in God’s image and likeness, would any of us who is a parent want someone in treating us to change one of our precious children? Could it be, and I do leave this that our heavenly Father loves all our gays the way they are, exactly the way he created them, what if he looks at gays, the same way he looks at heterosexual children? The pure delight, pride approval, love acceptance and once for them has found the very same experiences that he wants for the rest of us. What if he wants our GLBT’s fully within his Gospel plans without restrictions, due to gender preference?
What if the law of chastity can be extended beyond a male and a female? I think it’s clear from our own experiences and from testimonies , on Daniel Parkin’s video, earlier. That prayers do help gays change to straight and know. Brothers and sisters even from the unfathomable despair resulting from thousands of our young men taking their lives, sometimes on the stairs of our church buildings, God says no.
So this must mean that we need to reconsider and redirect our petitions instead of intruding our heavenly Father to make our gays straight, we should ask for God’s knowledge of our will with respect to our gays and how we carry it out. We need to insure ways to keep our GBLT youth alive. We can never rectify or change that Utah have the greatest, highest number of suicides, in America of young men. I know that this is heart-breaking for our heavenly Father and for their families and friends. Let’s pray for respectful, loving ways about how to advocate the changes in the church. I don’t want to detract on how much improvement we have been enjoying, partly because due to the members of the family and people in this room. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that we see improvements with our church and homosexuality. I think this is directly part of God’s plan, his own doing, sometimes through those of us in this room on a hero’s journey.
I’m [inaudible] in two or three states and now I ask you, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us, can you tell? Behold I answer for you, for our brethren we are in darkness, yea even in the darkest abyss, but behold how many of us are brought to behold the marvellous light and this is the blessing which has been bestowed upon us that we have in the instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work. Sounds like Elma could have been describing our Hero’s journey being towards the light, being shed on our GBLT Mormon issues. We’re taught that things happen in the Lord’s own time. Personally I’ve been dealing with these issues for 50 years, 40 years strikes of horde; we envision Moses and his people wondering the desert for those 40 years before being promised to enter the Promised Land.
I believe that the likelihood that during that time, those people made improvements and showed personal growth. I believe that in my 50 years struggling in the wilderness with homosexuality, I’ve shown progress with the gay issue. As I improve the way I relate with the GBLT community, I am led out of the wilderness of prejudice, towards the Promised Land of acceptance [inaudible] and love. It’s been a year now since the Mormons and gay’s website and each of us can identify positive changes that are. It would be impossible for me to even highlight half of the positive things accomplished by people in this room. Well I would like to tell you about a couple of changes for the good that I have identified in my own life, all lead to the positive relationship that I now have with Drew, who also joined LDS, all our families are happy for them. Paul and Drew’s position to share a light to the other seems to be consistent with their purpose in this life. I will read you this quotation from president [inaudible] Packer “romantic love is not only a part of life, but ultimately a dominating influence of it. It is deeply and significantly religious, there is no abundant life without it,” I feel fairly certain within it He wrote that describing a traditional male and female relationship. But as President Packer identifies it as a dominating influence, I believe it applies to the whole human race. It makes absolutely no sense to me that it applies to either the male or the female. In our family it includes Paul and Drew. In my ward it includes several gay members, one of whom [inaudible]. And this past 4th of July we had a new member join our 4th of July celebration, of uhm two gay men with their little son.
My son Jeff has recently accompanied my son and me to our ward and he also has a sight set on [inaudible], he has gone to high priests which he really enjoys, partly due to how well he is received there and partly for the things that he learns and even more fun, our [inaudible] society has a number of specialised monthly activities. Jeff is now a paid up and active member of the open first ward relief society [inaudible]. It is a highlight of his month, they all love each other and they love their astonishing creations. My state has a gay man serving on their high council and he asked me to mention his name, and he regrets that he couldn’t be with us here tonight. From southern California, I received a Christmas card from a former Mormon family, client family and the photo showed a picture with their parents and their 12 children, six kids, 5 hers and one theirs. Enough time has passed that some of these kids are married or have partners, every one of them was smiling in the picture taken in front of one of the Mormon temples. Their letter described their activities and accomplishments and said there had been two siblings and one marriage of her daughter and her gay partner.
They were also standing in the same picture smiling. Everyone knows that each year, across the country, we have a [inaudible] weekly and pride parades, for the past two years, a group from the [inaudible] have participated in Mormons for marriage equality. It’s hard to describe the love that comes to us marching up Margaret Street and those hundreds and thousands of people waving, blowing us kisses and I’ll try it next year. Just last year we loved a Yahoo [inaudible] and Michelle McClain reading on her son’s Facebook page that he came out bisexual. She wrote back and wrote the greatest person she knows and confessed her love forever. She added that the only complaint she had was that she had a lot of empty soda cans and teacups on his bedroom floor. Compare how much more healthy and happy that coming out experience was for this mom and her son than for me with Jeff. I look forward to such times and mentioning, and won’t even need mentioning. It’ll just be part of what’s going on and it won’t need highlighting. Things headed in a positive direction with respect to gays and America, we have same sex marriage in 13 states now. Let’s now read the enormous effort for collective effort of our hero’s journey for changes for Mormon’s and gays. Looking out I see courageous women and men familiar with emotional pain, betrayal who know abuse abandonment, self-loathing. I see humans who have confronted their deepest beliefs and longings, who examined the meaning of life and who faced the most meaningful and significant [inaudible] of their existence. This room holds Mormons, individuals and friends who fit outside the notions, established notions of being Mormons despite the devastation of exclusion from the unaccepted norms; each person struggles to stay a part of our cherished religion. I see people who strive for essential change and firmly established positions within the church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Misery is free of going with the flow and don’t make waves. We join each other in our hero’s journey that’s trust the pace and timings of our adventure. Looking out I see tremendous power and striving for good, passion for forging new ways, practice the pure love of Christ. Being in this affirmation conference this weekend has been one of the highlights of my life. I’ve experienced what feels like real commitment [inaudible] circumstances to the teachings of our church. It’s an honour to know you and it’s an honour to be with you and I appreciate so much the kindness that you have shown me and my husband. Although I was a resistant convert, once I did it I really held true the testimony that I had, that Joseph Smith restored the Gospel and the restored church. I have believed in my heavenly father that he lives and in Jesus Christ that he lives and atoned for our sins. I believe that God will reveal many great and important things on our hero’s journey. I give you my testimony and my gratitude, my joy and optimism in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.