Thank you all for being here today. I can tell you that it means the world to your LGBTQ friends and family that you were willing to come. We realize for some, this might be WAY outside your comfort zone for you to be here, which makes us love you all the more for making the choice to be uncomfortable. It speaks volumes as to your love and support. Thank you again.
You’ll hear from many incredible people from the Mormon LGBTQ community today. I am not one of them. My son affectionately calls his dad and I “disappointingly straight”. I keep telling him that’s a good thing or he wouldn't be here. ;-) Everyone speaking today will share their personal experiences and thoughts with you, as will I. I’ll be speaking to you from my own perspective and experience - that of a Mormon mother to a gay son.
If someone would have told me 6 ½ years ago what my life would look like today and what I would spend most of my free moment doing, I would have thought that reality was a place they didn’t visit too often. My husband, Tom, and I both come from very orthodox, believing, conservative, multi-generational Mormon families. We were married in the Los Angeles Temple in 1995. We have 5 children. Tom and I were raising our children in much the same way we were raised. Our lives have ALWAYS revolved around our family and our faith. We willingly and happily did anything and everything the Church asked of us. Never questioning, never doubting.
I was hurled out of my safe and comfortable boat on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday 2012. Learning that my then 13-year old son was gay set me adrift. It utterly unmoored me and shook me at my very foundation. It was never a question of, “Do I still love him? Can I still accept him?” It was, “How do I do this as a Mormon? Am I going to have to choose between the God that I love and the child that I love?” This is an impossible choice.
Then came feelings of overwhelming grief and pain. I mourned for my son, yet he was still this beautiful, vibrant, very much alive child. I sobbed. I raged. I bargained with God. I prayed. I fasted. The intensity of my emotions scared me. I didn’t know I was capable of feeling emotional pain so deeply that it becomes physical pain. These feelings were confusing, guilt-inducing things. What mother mourns a living child?! Me. I did. (We Mormons do guilt so well, don’t we? We can’t even mourn without feeling guilty about it.)
Looking back, I realize that I was grieving the life I wanted for Jordan. I was grieving the Mormon boy path – deacon, teacher, priest, elder, mission, BYU, temple married, father, etc. His whole life that had always been laid out before me seemed to evaporate overnight.
It took me a couple months to realize that I was mourning MY path for him; not HIS path.
I DIDN’T RECOGNIZE THAT MY SELFISHNESS WAS DRIVING MY PAIN.
These were some of the darkest days I have ever experienced. I threw myself into learning all I could about homosexuality and how (or even if??) that fit into the Mormon world. I read everything I could find by LDS and non-LDS authors.
The next few months were critical as I searched desperately for accurate information in the polarizing world of LGBTQ issues. One thing that was repeated in multiple priesthood blessings I received during this time was that I would be blessed with the power of discernment and I would know truth when I found it. So as I researched and read through MOUNTAINS OF MATERIALS, I knew almost instantly if what I was reading was true and would benefit my son, and I also knew if something wasn’t right and would be a detriment to him.
This happened to me again and again. Some might think it was intuition, critical thinking, using my brain. But it felt like something more to me. I felt like I was being led. We for sure haven’t done everything right, but I would have been utterly lost without the divine help I feel like we received.
This bring me to an important point. The answers to SO MANY of our hard questions lie in our ability to be open to truth when we are presented with it. One of my favorite quotes on this subject is by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He says:
“Church members are wonderful in their desire to be obedient and follow the Lord. But sometimes, in spite of our good intentions, we delay doing what we should do or we misunderstand what we were taught. As a result, inspired words of counsel might not have the promised effect. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t seek revelation or answers from the scriptures because we think we know the answers already. Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. HOW OFTEN HAS THE HOLY SPIRIT TRIED TO TELL US SOMETHING WE NEEDED TO KNOW BUT COULDN’T GET PAST THE MASSIVE IRON GATE OF WHAT WE THOUGHT WE ALREADY KNEW?”
There was so much that I THOUGHT I already knew about homosexuality, and about who my son needed to be and how he needed to live to be happy. I was wrong on so much of it. The Spirit couldn’t help me until I was willing to listen and be guided.
Being guided in this way allowed me to literally flip a switch from being a Prop 8 supporter in California to being a fiercely proud Mormon mom of a gay son whom she unconditionally loves, protects and fights for; as well as becoming an LGBTQ ally and advocate. The organization, Mama Dragons, was founded by myself and 6 other LDS women 5 years ago. We saw the desperate need for support and love for our own LGBTQ children, as well as so many others who don’t have family or community support. There are now over 1,700 Mama Dragons across the country. If you or others you know need support, help or even just a hug, PLEASE reach out. We are here for you. And we love you.
I feel God in my work as an LGBTQ ally, and as I advocate that these beautiful voices be heard. Some of my most profound spiritual experiences have come as I have marched in Pride parades and attended Mormon LGBTQ conferences like Affirmation and ALL Arizona. I see God in the eyes of these sisters and brothers. The WORTH OF SOULS IS GREAT – straight souls, gay souls, transgender souls – ALL souls.
Many things have changed for my family regarding our faith and beliefs. But one thing has remained constant. I believe in Christ. I love Him. He is very real to me. More real to me now than he was before my son came out. He has carried me through some of my darkest days and helped open my eyes to the beauty and diversity that was right in front of me - that my ignorance was blinding me to. JESUS IS THE ULTIMATE TEACHER OF LOVE. He showed us how to love fully and how to love well. When He was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, He said: Love God and Love your neighbor. He asks us only to LOVE and leave the judging to Him. He is infinitely more qualified than we are.
If you only remember one thing that I say today, let it be this: I know you love your LGBTQ children. BUT PLEASE DO NOT MAKE YOUR LOVE FOR THEM CONDITIONAL ON THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, CHURCH ATTENDANCE, OR EVEN THEIR MEMBERSHIP. Love them as God loves them - wholly and completely, exactly how they were created. Love them. Love them. Love them.
Church can often be a deeply hurtful and even toxic place for our LGBTQ loved ones. Some can stay and make church work. Some cannot. Some leave and come back. Some do not. Regardless of THEIR path, please love them without conditions. This is how you will keep cherished relationships intact and model true Christlike love for them. It is not an exaggeration to say that your love often has the power to keep them alive, healthy, happy and whole.
I want to end by sharing one of my favorite scriptures. It comforts me when I think of my son and the pain that can come from being both gay and Mormon.
The reference is Romans 8:18. It says,
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Yes, there are sufferings happening now, and it is heartbreaking. BUT IT WILL NOT ALWAYS BE SO. The suffering of our gay and trans members and our suffering on their behalf will seem small and incomparable with the glory that will be revealed in us. I have seen glimpses of the glory of my son’s soul, and it is MAGNIFICENT.
I cannot wait for the day when the rest of the Church can see and share in this glory. Until then, I will be here with all of you – working to make this beautiful dream a reality. To me, this is what heaven will look like.
I’m a better person for having a gay son. What some have thought was such a burden has actually become one of my greatest blessings. He is such a gift! Such a bright light in this world! Blinders that I didn’t even know I was wearing have been taken off. I judge people less. I love people more.
MY RELIGION DIDN’T TEACH ME HOW TO LOVE.
MY SON DID.