My shopping cart
Your cart is currently empty.Continue Shopping
In my efforts to reach out to those who were less active, I connected with a couple of gay men in our ward. I remember one man answered my Facebook message with, “Let’s meet.” Starting in early 2014 we met weekly for several months as he told me of his life as a gay Latter-day Saint. I felt prompted to do a lot of listening. The Spirit told me the best way I could help him was to try to understand, as fully as I could, the road he was walking. This was the first time I had listened to a gay Latter-day Saint, but it wasn’t the last.
The November 2015 policy statements, particularly the section which denied baptism to children of those in same-sex marriages, were unsettling to me. They seemed inconsistent with Christ’s teaching to “suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16). Prior to the statements, a few YSAs told me of hopes for a kinder and gentler LGBTQ message from the Church, without a change in doctrine. I was working hard as I met with and prayed for them to stay in the Church. The policy statements made my assignment more difficult, and I did have one YSA bring me a notarized letter of resignation a few weeks later.5 All of this increased my desire to better understand our LGBTQ members by talking directly with them and listening to their stories.
My home stake president, David Sturt, hit a ministering “home run” when I expressed my concerns with the policy statements. Though he didn’t share my concerns, he gave me permission to have a “fallen domino or two” as I continued to make my way forward as a faithful Latter-day Saint.He created needed space for me. He didn’t ask me to change my feelings or give me a spiritual checklist of things to do that would somehow align my feelings with the policy statements.
I never gained a testimony of the policy statements. But I have many dominoes standing with deep roots that keep me a believing and committed member of the Church. Some of these dominoes are the doctrine of Heavenly Parents who love me, the plan of happiness, the restored priesthood, a modern-day prophet, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and its ability to help me come unto Christ, the power of temple covenants, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
All these experiences resulted in a deep impression in late 2015 that I needed to wipe my hard drive clean, so to speak, of all my previously held notions about LGBTQ people. I didn’t know which of my conclusions were accurate and which were not. I realized that the vast majority of my conclusions about LGBTQ individuals had come from cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) people, and I should listen to and learn from LGBTQ individuals to see them how Heavenly Father sees them. A cholesterol test gives me specific numbers to inform me about my cardiovascular health.
But there’s no easy way to measure my levels of homophobia or transphobia—attitudes I may have inadvertently picked up—or to gauge how my previous assumptions and resulting actions might have added to the burdens of others. Moreover, as a bishop, I had stewardship responsibility for all members of my ward and knew there were likely closeted LGBTQ members in my congregation. I wanted to say and do things that lifted their burdens and pointed them to Christ. So I decided to start from scratch. Just as we wipe a computer’s hard drive to eliminate corrupt files, I mentally tried to remove everything I thought I knew and decided to learn about LGBTQ people from themselves and through spiritual impressions from Heavenly Father.
In April 2019, the November 2015 policy statements were reversed. The news was covered in an article by the Deseret News, which marked a new and kinder tone toward our LGBTQ members. The remarks in the Deseret News article from Church members and leaders provide insights on how we should treat others: “The very positive policies announced this morning should help affected families,” President Dallin H. Oaks said. “In addition, our members’ efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love should increase respect and understanding among all people of good will. We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today. We are optimistic that a majority of people—whatever their beliefsand orientations—long for better understanding and less contentious communications. That is surely our desire, and we seek the help of our members and others to attain it.”
The Deseret News article continued, quoting Tom Christofferson, a gay Latter-day Saint and brother of Elder D. Todd Christofferson: “‘The big message to me is that this continues to be something that the brethren are seeking further light and knowledge on, and I’m really grateful for that.’ . . . He said his mind was on friends and others who stopped associating with the Church after November 2015. ‘I’m thinking of them today and hoping that they will feel that this removed the impediment that they had seen to their continued engagement,’ he said. ‘I hope many will want to come back and worship with us again.’”
What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments!
** The following was taken from Listen, Learn, and Love. The opinions and views expressed herein belong solely to Richard Ostler and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of Cedar Fort, Inc.