My first crush was in the third grade. She sat across from me with a giant fro of beautiful, dark, curly hair that gave her some kind of power. She would stretch her legs across her desk with such attitude, like she owned it, like she owned the world. I was instantly thrown for her. Our teacher may have been bothered, but I was infatuated.
Just recently, I found the children’s book she gave me that year before moving away. As I read the note she had penned in her third-grade handwriting, I was overwhelmed by a sudden mess of emotions – nostalgia, deep affection, regret and sorrow for my childlike self who would face years of depression and anger over something I didn’t even fully understand. I wish I could go back to my 3rd grade self and just hold her so close and tell her it will all be okay. Because it really wasn’t.
I am here for our youth. I am here because the suicide rate among gay Mormon youth is 10x higher than the national youth suicide rate. That needs to stop. Families and church leaders of these LGBT girls and boys need to know that not only is it okay to love them, but it is imperative. We need to be the loving arms around these youth. We need to be the strong hearts protecting those who are too vulnerable to believe they are worth protecting. We need to be the unwavering voice assuring them that they are loved – and that there is no exception to that love, no prerequisite to that love. That they are perfect and deserving of our unconditional love.
In the words of poet Diane Ackerman:
I imagine a place
where the divine agency of love
will have mattered in the end
more than faith, call, reward
or a vein of panting stars.
Each one of you here today came out of bravery, out of compassion, out of empathy. Many of you are here for yourselves, in the hopes of beginning to heal the hurt. Many others of you are here for a daughter or son, a niece or nephew, a sibling, a cousin, a parent, a grandchild, a friend or a member of your congregation. Thank you. Thank you for being so brave. Thank you for your good hearts and your willing love.
There is nothing more Christlike than that.
To reference the scripture for which our conference is named:
"He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; [for] all are alike unto God." (2 Nephi 26:33)