Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mormons Building Bridges

A short time before the Salt Lake Gay Pride celebration, I was added to a Facebook group titled "Mormons Building Bridges". Within this group the plans for marching in the parade were organized and finalized. But now that the parade is over, the conversations continue, and people are posting about their wonderful experiences from pride, but also about other experiences and interactions within their LDS church buildings and/or with their friends and ward members.

This week, one man named Nic posted this beautiful experience that must be shared:

"Today at church in a Father's Day talk, a member went off about how society is going down on the backs of the iniquity of homosexuals everywhere, gays are no better than animals and gay marriage will destroy families and gay parents destroy children, how evil homosexuality is and how ashamed they should be for corrupting things God intended otherwise.

Given my internal compass I am not offended by this but I looked around at everyone and wondered who else could be gay and hearing this. I tried to be cured and was in a hetero marriage that ended in divorce but I am a Dad as well. After sacrament I took this brother--he is a good man btw--in the hall and talked with him. I just told him I was gay and started testifying of the deep struggles I had for years trying to be cured. How much I love my kids and try to be the best Dad to them. How I did not choose this and I have an undeniable testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ including a strong relationship with them. And an even deeper testimony that they have always known I was gay, have never treated me differently and loved me even though I am gay.

His face turned more and more pale white as I talked. I looked up at him to notice at the end tears streaming down his face. This is a brother I have befriended, helped through struggles, helped with his house and moving, helped him anytime he needed it and always smiled and asked how he was doing. He said, "I just can't stop crying I feel the spirit so strong right now. I am so, so sorry. I, I, I didn't know I mean you have kids, I mean I need to repent so bad. You're gay? That entirely changes everything I have ever felt or been taught about gay people." He hugged me and kept crying. And apologized several more times. I told him even more than me I worried about others who heard it and their thoughts and feelings. He said "I will go to the Bishop and ask him how I can correct this, so I can share what I have learned and my apology." So he did.

Contention comes from one place, not God. We too easily politicize everything but souls are not political pawns to be played with. They are beautiful, intrinsically worth it children of God! Miracles happen as we reach out in love and understanding ONE soul at a time! I know this works as we have the courage to be ourselves and testify of true principles!"

In the group, we asked Nic if the branch president had addressed the issue at all. Nic shared the following details:

"The branch president stood up and interrupted the talk to end the meeting. His son had come up and grabbed his hand (a toddler). I got up and approached the brother asking him if I could have a word with him in the hallway.

The branch president asked everyone if they could stay in the chapel. I don't know what he said exactly but my piano teacher in the ward said he bore his testimony about growing up an anti-gay bully and bigot. He told them how he counseled a person who had struggled so much and been through so much as a gay person. He prayed and fasted for them. He was filled with the love Heavenly Father and the Savior had for this gay child of God. He told them how he had a complete change of heart, shed tears over how much he loved this person and they are still best friends to this day.

That's the short version but apparently there was not a dry eye in the place. He didn't name me but that gay person is me. He has had a complete and miraculous change of heart. He is so loving. I love him dearly. He has taken heat from those who know I am gay who have called him a "faggot sympathizer." He is truly one of my best friends. He has given a 5th Sunday lesson on loving and embracing gay members of the church that I wrote for him called, "The Worth of a Soul."

Unfortunately, the brother giving the talk was gone. But all things in their time and this turned out to be a great lesson for everyone involved. When Elder Holland visited my mission in North Carolina he told me something when I spoke to him I will never ever forget. He said, "Most people do not experience miracles because they do not live out where miracles happen." I determined I would be a person who lives "out where miracles happen." Anyone else can choose to do the same. Nothing special about me!
I always operate on love. I can't hate people; I love them too much! I see them as Heavenly Father and the Savior see them and feel their love for them too strongly. I have even been beaten and harmed for being gay. I don't feel sorry for myself. I just feel sorrow for those who did it and how much they must struggle inside to be able to do that to someone. I forgive and hope Heavenly Father and the Savior love them, heal them and give them peace."

Someday I hope to be as calmly vocal and as forgiving as Nic is, so that I can feel comfortable going back to church regularly and build bridges like he has. I told him that I would love to chat with him sometime about how to begin forgiving leaders and family members. In response, he shared a link to this talk by President Faust, which I plan to read soon.

God bless our leaders and other members to open their hearts and truly feel the spirit of love in the message that many of us have to share. Bless us to calmly stand on the side of love and avoid contention and be non-judgmental and forgiving as we do!

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