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.