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Our Lives Are a Gift – to Us and to the World

John Gustav-Wrathall, President

This past weekend about 150 LGBT Mormons, their families, friends and allies gathered in Los Angeles. All the pent-up emotion, the heartbreak, the yearning so many of us have been feeling since the release of the LDS policy on gay families and their children found a place of release, a place where we could weep together, hug one another, thank one another for the beauty that is each and every one of us. We are beautiful. We are a gift, to ourselves and to the world.

I led a workshop where people had a chance to discuss the new policy and its impact on their lives. There was a gay brother there who shared that he is now in his seventies. His wife died when he was thirty, and he subsequently found a male partner (whom he eventually married), and the two of them raised their children in the LDS Church. Their children are now all grown, active in the Church, and raising children of their own. One of their sons is a stake president. Since the policy, this man had been distancing himself from his children because of his fear that his status as “apostate” would affect their membership status.

The day after I got back from conference, I got a call from an Affirmation member who has been dealing with all the difficult emotions related to the finalization of his divorce. He has wrestled mightily in his life, struggling to make good choices, the best choices. As Mormons, we don’t believe in anything less than perfection. We don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes. So he has wrestled with every decision, every move. And after much heartache he knew that the divorce was the right thing, the best thing. And then the policy announcement came, and it sent him into a tailspin of doubt and fear. Toward the end of our talk, he wept. He didn’t know what to do any more. I said, “You have been through the most heart-wrenching discernment process imaginable. You have not taken any of this lightly. And you made the decision that, in spite of the heartbreak, you knew was right. What has changed about any of that?” He said, “Nothing…. But… They said…”

There was a sixteen-year-old gay youth who attended the conference. He had just come out to his parents literally days before the conference, and his parents dropped everything to drive from Utah to LA with him. It brings tears to my eyes as I remember seeing the light in this young man’s eyes, and listening to him talk about how strong we need to be. Yes, we have had to be strong. But so many of us have buckled and fallen under our burdens. It’s not acceptable that, as one conference participant shared, there have been at least 32 documented LGBT Mormon suicides since the release of the new policy. Our strength can only take us so far. There is no strength in us so strong that it can’t be overwhelmed, unless we have one thing. And that one thing is love. We need not strength, but love. We need each other.

Our LGBT elders must not end their lives fading into loneliness. They deserve to be surrounded and buoyed up by family and friends and community. Our LGBT youth must not see only a future they feel too weak to face. Those of us in between youth and old age must not live our lives paralyzed with uncertainty, unable to believe in our ability to discern the right path, to choose the good. We have brains and hearts and hands for lives lived with hope and confidence and service and love and family. Lets use them. Let’s live our lives. That’s what God gave them to us for.

Everywhere I  looked around me at conference, I saw beautiful people of all ages, of all sexual orientations and genders. I heard stories and testimonies. I witnessed love in action, love reaching out, offering comfort. I saw a mother, Christie Frandsen, talk about the beautiful “rainbow thread” God has given her in the life of her gay son, to weave into the fabric of her family. We each are gifts to each other. We are each beautiful threads of every color imaginable woven together into the rainbow fabric of the great human family.

How much poorer would we be for the loss of any one of us? Infinitely poorer, because within each of us there is an eternity, a soul of infinite worth. Every life we save is a gift to the world, a child of God, a being of light, who is utterly unique and whose gifts are needed in the world.

We owe it to one another and to the Creator to take better care of one another than we have been. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s love one another.

12 thoughts on “Our Lives Are a Gift – to Us and to the World

  1. I am the father of the 16 y/o youth John referenced. I am deeply grateful to John, Affirmation, and the amazing participants for sharing with me the most moving and inspirational conference I have ever attended. Genuinely.

    Simply put, words cannot describe what I experienced. And for my son? A miracle indeed. Allowing me to personally witness a week of miracles — spiritual miracles that no true child of God could deny — as I saw my son rise from a place of confusion and turmoil into pure Christ-like love and Christ-empowered light. Opening my eyes to a whole new world I can’t wait to be a part of, right next to my son, for the rest of my earthly and eternal existence.

    As for any supposed contradiction between “the Gospel” and the LDS LGBT community, I can honestly say that through my son and the amazing individuals at conference, I learned more about the Savior’s teachings — and personally experienced more of the Savior’s unconditional love — than ever before. In its purest form, there is no contradiction. Anyone with an open heart will discover this and, like me, just might feel a light and spirit that leaves an undeniable impression on their soul.

    I apologize if this somehow sounds like an “advertisement” for Affirmation. It is not. It is simply a reflection of the very deep and humble gratitude I now feel for the leaders and beautiful individuals associated with Affirmation and the LDS LGBT community.

    I thank you all!

  2. A few of these are a little hard to believe and/or not based in fact.

    For example, the gay personin their seventies distancing himself from his children because he is concerned that it may affect their membership. I call BS! I have a gay sibling, and there is zero risk to my membership.

    Also it is ridiculous to state “As Mormons, we don’t believe in anything less than perfection.” Mormons who understand the scriptures and the atonement, know that perfection cannot be achieved in this life. Plus, why would the Church’s policy effect his decision to finalize his divorce?

    It is a tragedy if there truly were “32 documented LGBT Mormon suicides”, but given how emotionally charged this artilcle is and based on questionable hearsay, I again call BS!

  3. One of the most love filled articles ever. At the age of 12, identifying as gay, I left the church, and the brainwashing my mother was subjecting me to. I walked away from the mormon cult, held my head high, and took on the world. I never looked back, and to this day, feel very strongly, that taking children to church is child abuse.

    I married, raised 3 daughters, told every one, I will never take you to church. IF you need it because of peer pressure, or any reason, GO TO THEM ALL, study, learn, and then choose one if you still feel the need. Otherwise, truly open, healthy minds, will ultimately choose freedom of thought than the dragging chains of religion.

    I tell my flock, me and my dyslexic DOG, the only brainwashing I accept is plain old love. I only teach about plain old love. No judgments, no ridiculing, no suicides, just plain old love, with this mantra: ” You are the most important person in your life ! When you forget that, you have diminished yourself !”

  4. I’m curious about the comment on the 32 documented suicides, as one conference participant shared. Can you send me info on that? Who did the study or research? How did they measure the factors?
    Thanks

  5. It is absolutely heart breaking and discouraging to know that there have been 32 suicides. How do we reach them?! What can we do? I want to shout from the rooftops, gather all LGBTQ together, and protect them from the church and themselves. We need intervention. We need education. We need to be louder and prouder so we can reach everyone who may make that ultimate mistake and end their lives.

    Please remember, it gets better. Contact the Trevor Project before you consider self harm. IT GETS BETTER.

  6. Just curious where the number of LGBT suicides post policy comes from. I would like to use it, but I need to know it is credible. Thank you!

  7. Do you have any validating info on the 32 suicides mentioned in this article? A lot of people would really like to share that information out to make sure that people understand this is happening.

    Thanks so much for the article!!

  8. Thank you again! This message was meaningful and uplifting. I need your support and words in very lonely desert. I live in St George Utah, do you know of someone I may contact here to star a conversation? I have some maturity and experience I can offer along with good friendship and support. Do not make my name and email public, I rather make the initial contact myself.
    Thank you.

  9. “We are a gift, to ourselves and to the world.”

    I heartily agree!

    My youngest (of six) son John (now 31), is gay and musically gifted and truly a gift to all who hear him play his violin and sing. He has great potential, but I am concerned that he is now isolated in Las Vegas, where he recently was in rehab, but has now relapsed. Is there an Affirmation group in LV that I can refer him to?

    BTW, some weeks, if not months, ago I wrote to Affirmation about my correspondence with Howard E. Salisbury and wondered if anyone in your organization would be interested in it. Todd answered after many weeks to say they were discussing how to respond to my offer, but I’ve not received any further word since.

    I believe Howard was a prime mover in getting Affirmation started in the early or mid 1970s, perhaps at BYU, if not at Rick’s, where he had been chairman of the Fine Arts Department before his excommunication in 1963. I can give you the name of the young man who is credited with writing an anonymous letter that gained wide circulation leading to the formation of Affirmation, but which was actually written by Howard. I may have some of these facts skewed, but if we can work together, I think Howard’s letters would exemplify the gift you speak of.

    Sincerely, Eugene Kovalenko

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