When my wife’s little sister Tanya, the baby in a family of mostly boys, was 8, I started dating her sister. I was 17, and a Sr. in high school. On Sundays I would wander over to the Petersons. Her mom would usually feed me. Then the whole neighborhood would gather in their enormous back yard to play football. It was a rag tag group of kids from 8 on up. Tanya was always on my team, not as a charity thing. She was good. She could catch, run, and pass better than the boys. I went on a mission, came back and married her sister, and she instantly became an in-law. Her Sr. year of high school she didn’t want to move to AZ with her parents so she lived with us and our four littles. She was a standout on her basketball team that went to state. We followed her the entire season. She was also first singles on the tennis team. I loved watching her hit the ball, because no one hit ground strokes harder. She went on to play tennis in college and we still followed her. During softball season, she would hit the ball over the guy’s fence during co-ed games. I was always so proud of her abilities.
She became my little sister in almost every way including sibling spats. She thought I was too rigid and black and white in the way I viewed things and I felt like she was way too liberal in her views. We were perfect for each other.
She and her tennis partner from college bought a home together. So here she was late 20s, loved and excelled in sports, wasn’t really attending her ward anymore, and lived with her best friend of the same sex. You would have thought that we would have opined, “could Tanya be gay?” If it did cross our minds, we didn’t dwell on it. Tanya and her partner went on family vacations with all of us for years. You would have thought we would have wondered....Nope....Well, kind of. Finally, after playing a tough doubles match in league play together, my wife decided to broach the subject over lunch. Tanya looked at her after she had asked that infamous question, ARE YOU GAY? And said, “I thought you’d never ask.”
What changed at that point in our lives relative to Tanya was…nothing. Lori’s family is remarkable I will admit, but they aren’t saints. They just love their little sister. I’ve thought many times as I’ve considered the controversy that has swirled around the LGBT issue, has my children’s association with Tanya been a hindrance to them spiritually or in any other way. Actually, it’s been just the opposite. Tanya completes our family, because her love is so incredibly pure. She and I have conversations about the Savior and His love for His children. In these conversations she is the teacher and I am the student. Her knowledge and understanding are not based on, ‘book learnin’, but on personal experiences and communion with God that can only come when one submits oneself to truly understand His nature.
Would the members of her ward be blessed if she worshipped with them? More than they will ever know.
I believe the key to our whole situation here lies in a question and an answer that was posed and answered in this very room three months ago. Thomas Wirthlin McKonkie was speaking to large group regarding, among other things, his book titled, Navigating a Mormon Faith Crisis. He explained how, when he made the decision to leave the Church as a teenager, most of his family turned their backs on him or judged him quite harshly. He expressed the hurt and pain that it had caused him, but when asked how he views these family members years later after he has begun his journey of reconnecting with the church, He said, I hope that they will forgive me for many of my un-Christ like reactions to the honest mistakes that they made. So think about this, I’m not sure if I know personally of a collective group that has experienced more heartache, more betrayal, more pain, and more hurt than you here. It’s impossible for one like me to even consider what you’ve been through. When Tanya talks of love and forgiveness, when Thomas spoke right here of forgiveness, when we consider forgiveness there is only one font from which springs the source of understanding. I would submit to you that when the Savior said “Come unto me all that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” that He did so with your pain in mind.
It takes a little doing to find a story of remarkable woman in scripture, because the scribes of the canonized writs, men, love to talk about themselves. 4000 years later not much has changed.
Story of Abigail and David
So I’m going to make a long story short and hopefully explain a principle in scripture that supports the acts of Tanya and Thomas. In an Old Testament account, Nabal, the impulsive husband of Abigail, our heroine, did and said some things that totally incensed David, who was basically the baddest in the land as far as destroying anyone who went against the King and kingdom. So because of Nabal’s idiocy, David and his men were on their way to wipe out him and all males in the house of Nabal. Abigail loaded the asses with all types of food and gifts to hopefully head off David from his destructive path. As they went out, she saw him coming in a thunderous cloud of dust from the pounding hooves of David’s army. She got off her mount and went to the front of her group of servants, bowed before David and his men as they arrived and said:
"Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be," she begged him.
"Upon you be what iniquity, woman?" David's tone was belligerent.
"I beg for my house, yes, but for thee also, my lord, that this shall not be an offence of heart unto thee, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself…….So it ever may be so, my lord, I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid."
"Woman, what is your name?" His tone now was kind.
"Abigail, my lord."
"Rise, dear Abigail."
She arose and looked him in the eyes, and David said:
"Who am I to withhold forgiveness from one such as you? Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me and which has kept me from striking you. And blessed be thine advice, and blessed be thou, dear Abigail, who hast kept me this day from sinning against the Lord.”
I love what author James Ferrell says this about this story:
"The story of Abigail suggests that the atonement is as much for the benefit of the sinned against—the victim of sin—as for the sinner. But her story goes beyond even that. It suggests also that one of the effects of sin is to invite those who have been sinned against—David, in this case—to become sinful themselves, and that the atonement provides the escape from such provocation to sin. This is David's story here. What Abigail provided for David was a way of escape from his sin of sinning against a sinner!"
You've heard of individuals in scripture typifying Christ. Abigail is a perfect example of this.
Brother Ferrell went on to say:
"When Abigail knelt before David with all that he needed, her purpose was to redeem David from his sin……when people think of the atonement, they most often think about how the Savior filled in the gaps for their own sins, which he surely did. That is, we are all sinners, and someone had to bridge for each of us the otherwise impassible chasm between us and eternal life that we have created through sin. So normally we think of the atonement as something that Christ has done for us—for ourselves. But Abigail invites us to look at the atonement from a different angle—not from the perspective of how Christ has atoned for our own sins, but rather from the equally true perspective that he has atoned for the sins of others. And part of that atonement, Abiga