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LGBT Mormons and Families Talk about the New LDS Policy

By John Gustav-Wrathall

At the recent Los Angeles Conference for LGBT Mormons, their Families and Friends, a workshop was conducted exploring participants’ relationships with the LDS Church, specifically in light of the new policy released in early November 2015. I facilitated the workshop along with Laura Skaggs Dulin and Ron and Sue Raynes. Recordings of all three sessions of the workshop are available on Affirmation’s YouTube channel.

The workshop was attended by roughly half of the 150 or so conference participants. Participants were LGBT and straight, active members of the Church and ex-members and individuals questioning whether to leave or stay. Each was invited to share three words that summarized their feelings in reaction to the new policy on same-sex couples and their children. Participants were given the option of passing if they did not want to share. Half (50%) of the participants shared words conveying mostly negative emotions (like shocked, betrayed, rejected, angry, scared, sad, disillusioned, confused, resigned). Eleven percent (11%) shared words conveying mostly positive emotions (like listening, peace, hope, love, confident). Thirty-nine percent (39%) shared words that expressed a mix of both positive and negative emotions. The most commonly expressed negative emotion was “confused.” The most commonly expressed positive emotion was “hopeful.” (See Appendix, below.)

After feelings had been shared, participants were invited to discuss their feelings or ask each other questions in greater depth. A gay man in his seventies told his story, of how after the death of his wife, he had found a same sex partner, and the two of them had raised their children in the Church and continued to believe the Gospel and attend regularly despite being excommunicated. After the policy came out, he stopped going to church, and found himself distancing himself from his children for fear that they might be penalized for associating with an “apostate.” A number of individuals stated that they had stopped attending Church or were wrestling. One individual told how he had been released from his callings in his ward because he had expressed opposition to the policy. A straight woman worried that continuing to attend church would be interpreted by her LGBT friends as rejection. LGBT participants in the room urged her to keep going to church and find other, more positive ways to express support for LGBT people. Those who had expressed feelings of hope were asked why, and they cited reasons such as that they believed the policy was spurring a lot of discussion and they had seen Church members reaching out to LGBT individuals in love. Some LGBT individuals told how, even though individual church members were very loving, that their sense that the Church rejected them and that the Church’s theology had no place for them weighed more heavily.

Participants reported that the conference was a great source of emotional and social support in a time when many individuals within the community of LGBT Mormons, their families and friends have been experiencing extreme stress. One parent of a gay 16-year-old wrote of the conference:

[Our son] was deeply impacted by Elder Nelson’s talk, texting me saying, “I hurt so bad I can’t breath and it scares me to fall asleep … What do I do? I just want to leave this place and leave my life, just for a little bit.”… But then he asked if we could attend the Affirmation conference.… Anyone questioning the LGBT community, or anyone “struggling” with a loved one who is LGBT, simply needs to attend one of Affirmation’s conferences. It will change their perspective, heart and likely life forever…. And for [our son]? A miracle indeed. He went from a place of confusion and torment to a place of peace, understanding and pure Christ-like love…. I am so blessed that our Heavenly Father sent [our son] to me and am now deeply grateful that [he] is indeed a “Gay Mormon” who is one of the most pure disciples of Christ to have ever walked this planet (I know … I am a very “proud dad” but those words are true).

____________________

APPENDIX

ANALYSIS OF POLICY REACTIONS

VICTIMIZATION (total 17)

abused

attacked

betrayed (5)

broken

demonized

hurt (4)

kicked

pain

punched in the gut

targeted

 

ISOLATION (total 12)

alone

disconnected

disregarded

distance

excluded

exclusion

mistrust

misunderstood (2)

ostracized

rejected (2)

 

ANGER (total 22)

angered

angry (7)

disappointed (6)

frustrated (5)

outraged

pissed off (2)

 

FEAR (total 4)

apprehensive

scared (2)

worried

 

UNCERTAINTY (total 17)

at a crossroads

confused (13)

don’t understand

why

wonder

 

SADNESS (total 26)

depression

discouraged (2)

dismay/ed (5)

grief

heartbroken

hopeless (3)

mourning (2)

sad/ness (10)

sorrow

 

SHOCK (total 14)

disbelief (2)

shock/ed (8)

surprised (2)

unsettled (2)

 

FAITH LOSS/CRISIS (total 9)

disillusioned

embarrassed

in complete contrast to love felt in her ward

mistake (but correctable)

policy dismantled

resigned (from the Church)

sorry I’m out

that’s not my God

uninspired

 

WITHDRAWAL (total 4)

kind of said whatever

meh

resignation

taking a step back

 

HOPE (total 25)

appreciative (because it’s a catalyst for conversations that we need to have)

authenticity

cautiously optimistic

confident (2)

excited

hope/ful (15)

optimistic

positive outlook

resolute

resolved

 

FAITH (total 13)

assured

consistency

faithful (2)

have a testimony of the church and the prophet

patience

peace/ful (2)

testimony

trust in God

try to keep faith

waiting (2)

 

CONNECTION (total 5)

compassion

love (2)

loved

service

 

OPENNESS (total 11)

here to listen

learn

listen/ing (2)

need to learn

open

questioning

searching (2)

understanding (2)

 

ENCOURAGED BY AFFIRMATION COMMUNITY (total 4)

feel a love here

grateful to be here

happy to be here

really felt the spirit this morning

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