Let the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit be your guide, and fear not the confusing and un-affirming noise you may hear from those at Church or around you.
Many of those attending the 2014 Affirmation conference in September in Salt Lake City attended the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sunday morning broadcast together. For those of you who have attended the broadcast, you will know that while people are filing in the host announces the names of visiting groups that are attending. We had informed the Church that we would be attending and hoped to be announced with the other groups.
We arrived early and filled up the south middle section of the main floor of the Tabernacle. When the host began to announce the names of visiting groups and asked them to stand, my heart started to pound. I waited with great anticipation to hear him call our name…but he didn’t. As soon as he finished the announcements I felt as if someone had kicked me very hard in the stomach and my heart sank. I turned to those next to me and the 100 other LGBT Mormons, families and friends sitting behind me and I will never forget the sadness I saw on their faces and the tears in many eyes.
I immediately received a few text messages and paper notes from people saying things such as, “We should just get up and leave,” “I can’t believe they didn’t announce us,” and, “I’m writing a letter to the Brethren as we speak!” I began to feel anger and deep rejection, as if I’d come home and my family had deliberately decided to not acknowledge my presence. The pain then turned into sorrow and I began to weep. The person next to me said, “Next year! Just like the Jews, next year we will make it to Jerusalem.”
I could not hear the music of the choir until just before the last number when the Spirit whispered so soothingly to my mind the words from Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget,yet I WILL NOT forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:15-6). I heard the Spirit remind me what I had learned prior to returning to activity in the Church a couple years ago, – “I can ALWAYS rely on the Lord independent of what the Church says and does in relation to my sexual orientation and my life.”
The choir finished the broadcast, the full house lights were turned on and then the host came forward and said, “We forgot to mention an important group that is with us today – Affirmation – would you please stand?” I couldn’t believe my ears – it felt like a miracle had occurred! I stood with the others and turned and looked at everyone else and this time I saw twinkles and tears of joy in peoples’ eyes as the audience applauded, recognizing our presence. I thought, what if we had walked out? We would have never had the opportunity to have this experience. It was very hard but in the end so very worth it.
Friends, sisters and brothers – there is A LOT of confusing noise out there and it will only get louder as we and fellow church members and leaders navigate the transition to an affirming Zion society that values all families. We must be very realistic in our expectations and understand that there is a VERY LONG road ahead for the institutional Church. If we focus on the un-affirming noise or contribute to the unkindness we will quickly lose sight of the sweet peace the Gospel can bring.
Sweet is the peace the gospel brings
To seeking minds and true.
With light refulgent on its wings,
It clears the human view.
I invite you to stay focused on the Redeemer and let the Lord free you to move forward with your life in a way that is productive, affirming, and gives you a positive energy to thrive and live joyfully – whatever that specifically means for you. May your chosen path be sustained by the knowledge that He “WILL NOT forget you!”
P.S. At the 2015 Affirmation Conference we were given VIP seating for over 200 LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends at the front of the Tabernacle and we were announced with all the other groups prior to the broadcast!