As I begin my remarks today, I’d like to repeat the words of introduction that I used in speaking to this group four years ago: “I would make two quick points as we begin: first, as you surely understand I
speak for myself only; and second, my journey is a work in progress, and thus I share my experiences as a means of relating some lessons I have learned along the way, rather than as a prescription that anyone else should follow the same path. To my mind, one of the most wonderful aspects of our theology is the opportunity and requirement that each of us must know for ourselves the mind and will of the Lord for our lives.”
It was a very different time when I spoke here in 2014. My partner attended with me, we were on our
way to my father’s funeral. I had great hope that there would be a way I could be a member of the
church and continue at least the emotional connection I had built with my partner over the course of 18 years. And this group, I think, felt real optimism that families and congregations were becoming more accepting, more welcoming and open to their LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and that with the publication of the MormonsandGays website, and work beginning on what would become MormonandGay.LDS.org,it seemed there was momentum in expanding perspectives at church headquarters. I think of that time as kind of a golden moment.
The following year, 2015, brought changes that no longer seemed so golden: both on a personal level, when my relationship ended about six months after I was baptized, and as a group, when in November the church released The Policy, Capital T, Capital P. Since that time, so many people that I love have felt that a door was closed in their faces, that they could no longer see a way to fully reconcile their personal and religious identities.
In the intervening period, we’ve each done our best to understand the mind and will of the Lord in our
individual lives. And while our paths may diverge, I believe we share the certain conviction that “all are alike unto God”. 1
For me, the past few years have provided new understanding of Christ’s frequent reference to a broken heart and to a new heart. I’ve also thought about the phrase attributed to Enoch, that one mark of a Zion society is a people that are “of one heart”. 2
For me, this Arizona LDS LGBT group is a living example of being of one heart. I have experienced here the feeling that regardless of where anyone is in their journey, in this group all of us find loving
acceptance and support. We feel happiness in the happiness of those who have decided to marry
someone of the same gender, and joy as they create new families; we embrace those who marry
someone of the other gender and work to create or retain vibrant families; we respect choices of
celibacy, and the resilience learned there; we walk in solidarity with those who define their gender as
something other than what may have been apparent at birth; we link arms with those who identify as
asexual or intersex -- here we are of one heart. I believe this community has learned “to bear one
another’s burdens, that they may be light; … to mourn with those that mourn; … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” 3
My hope is that the lessons learned within ALL can be more broadly shared by each us as we go forward in the circles in which we live. A wise and much-loved spiritual leader has taught, “faith is always pointed toward the future.”4 My prayer is that we maintain space in that future for a love of the teachings of our Savior, and even more importantly, a love for Him.
In His parables, in His counsel, in His life, I believe we find a consistent message: that He will always seek us, He meets us where we are.
I love the experience of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. In that time, women of the village would likely have come to the well in the early morning hours, before the heat of day. This woman, though, comes at midday, perhaps to avoid others of her tribe and community. When the woman arrives at the well, she finds Jesus sitting there alone. He asks for water, and tells her that of Him, she could ask Living Water. In the ensuing conversation Jesus reveals His awareness that she, “hast had five husbands; and he whom [she] now hast is not [her] husband”. 5 This woman recognizes that Jesus is a prophet, and then speaks of her faith: “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.” 6 And then, for the first time in His earthly ministry, to this woman, a Samaritan whom the Jews disdained, one likely seen by the self-righteous of her own tribe as the lowest of the low, Christ unequivocally testifies, “I that speak unto thee am he.” 7 We then learn that this wonderful and imperfect woman leaves her water pot behind and takes the knowledge she has gained to share the good news with all in her village, “And many of the Samaritans believed on him for the saying of the woman which testified, He told me all that I ever did.” 8
As author Camille Fronk Olson has observed, “Jesus did not commence the conversation by pointing out what the woman needed to change in order to recognize and follow Him. Rather, he began by opening her eyes to possibilities that exceeded anything she could have imagined.” 9 The realities of her life may not have been all she would have hoped, but when she recognizes the promised Messiah, her entire focus becomes helping others to gain the same priceless understand