To Mourn with Gay Friends that Mourn

When Alma baptizes at the waters of Mormon in Mosiah 18, he preaches to these covenant-makers exactly what they will be promising to each other as a community. In his instructions, Alma says that in order to “come into the fold of God” and “be called his people,” they must also be “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light, “to mourn with those that mourn,” and to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” We love to share these scriptures in Sunday School, particularly when we are aware of fellow ward members suffering from a death in the family, from sickness or unemployment, or if we have a family that needs help moving into or out of a home. One of the things I most love and value about my LDS church family is how we are there for one another.

I have noticed, though, that it is harder for us to be there for the LGBTQ members of our congregations, who are many of them hurting and not understanding what their life inside in the Church should look like. It’s hard for so many of us because we feel defensive. We want to correct and instruct rather than listen and feel. We want to justify and explain rather than acknowledge and validate. I think many church members do not know how to mourn with our LGBTQ friends who mourn.

The Church’s Mormon and Gay website gives church members this advice for when heterosexual cisgender members of the church aren’t sure how to connect or interact with their loved ones and neighbors who identify as LGBTQ:

“You will never regret saying, “I love you.” You will never regret throwing your arms around your child [or friend, or neighbor] and hugging him or her. You will never regret listening. You will never regret trying to understand.”

An active young member of our Church who is also gay gave me permission to share a poem she has written, so long as I posted it anonymously. I post it here not to criticize the Church, nor do I post it here as something that generalizes or represents all LGBTQ voices in the Church. Rather, I post this to help us all better uphold our own baptismal covenants that we mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. This poem speaks the heart of a real person—a hurting person—and what she is mourning. I post this so we can mourn with her. Please be generous and thoughtful in the comments you leave on this post, as the poet will likely be reading your responses. I echo the words by our Church on our Mormon and Gay website: “You will never regret listening. You will never regret trying to understand.”

My friend’s poem:

I love God, but
I am angry at God,
Because He gave me pain
Because He made me gay.
Because of that, I am odd?
God wants me to choose
Choose true love and damnation
Or His religion and salvation
Either way, I will surely lose
I don’t want to make that choice
The apostles tell me my attraction is something I control
That God gave this to me while we’re here on parole
I want someone to just listen to my voice!
God let me fall in love
No one can tell me that I didn’t
But, shh, I had to keep that love hidden
“Those feelings don’t come from above!”
Our religion preaches of the family
So, I decided to tell her how I felt
How every time I’m with her, my heart would melt
If she wasn’t so sweet, I would be met with disgust, profanity
How is God going to make this all right?
My spirit was broken
My words could not be unspoken
I didn’t know how I would make it through the night!
What happens when I do get married?
My wife, our life will be full of bliss
Until death, we lose each other to an abyss
I am vigilant, I am wary
I am so excited to have a family
But my babies cannot be blessed by my father
They don’t get to have that honor
Because two mothers is a too much of a calamity
Am I willing to turn from God?
“Prone to wander”
These thoughts, too consuming to ponder
I never want to make that choice,
Because I love God
But I am angry at God.

—by S.B.

Comments

  1. Thank you to your friend for sharing her heart in this poem. Too many members seem to feel that bearing one another’s burdens excludes the ones they may find morally objectionable. Can I repeat Elder Uchtdorf’s words? “Stop it!” I think reaching out in compassion means sitting with, listening to, and loving our LGBT friends and family – whether it’s in church settings – if they actually choose to participate – AND sharing those moments with them elsewhere when they choose otherwise.

  2. This is what I wish Elder Oaks’ talk would have been on. He could have spent a few minutes reaffirming the doctrine as outlined in the Proclamation and then spent the rest on the “What next?” If this is our doctrinal understanding and our position, then what are the implications of that and how can we as a body of Christ who aren’t directly affected by that support those who are? From my own experience, there seem to be fewer people confused about the church’s position on gay marriage than about what that actually means for them in their day to day lives. The website has a lot of useful information, but the vast majority of members I interact with are either unaware of its existence or unfamiliar with its content.

  3. My heart breaks when I read things like this. God bless S.B. and God help us get this right.

  4. Thank you for this poem. One of the biggest challenges LGBT+ Mormon teens face is watching their friends share secrets about the boys/girls they like and have a first date and have a first kiss and go to prom and homecoming with someone they fancy but not getting to participate in this. If straight kids have it rough, their parents can console them saying, “Don’t worry, kiddo! Once you get out of high school you’ll find your “tribe” and then a spouse and all this will be a distant memory.” LGBT+ Latter-day Saints have no such promise. Methinks “Don’t worry kiddo! You’ll just love celibacy,” doesn’t provide balm to the wounded soul. But let me say, whatever happens in your relationship with the church or marriage (gay or straight), I promise you will find your tribe and they will love you. It gets better, I promise.

  5. Blessings to S. B. Thanks for sharing your words with us.

  6. Thank you both. To mourning with, and loving, and arms around — a big yes.

    About the poem I want to highlight “so I decided to tell her” which to me is the test line, the point at which too many will say that’s too far, that’s action not attraction, and now you lose my support. Mourning with, loving, including, has to encompass those of us who decide “to tell her,” to get married, to make a family. Or it’s an empty shell.

    One note of discord—do you really need the “faithful” adjective? Not meaning to challenge its accuracy at all, to use the adjective feels like suggesting a worthiness requirement for being listened to.

  7. Christian, that’s been bothering me, too. I added the description of this person as “faithful” because I didn’t want readers to accuse the poem as an attack on their beliefs. I wanted readers to understand that this is coming from a person active in an LDS congregation—not someone disaffected who walked away. Maybe “active” is the word I should use instead. It shouldn’t make a difference—we should extend love and companionship and understanding regardless of whether someone stays in the church or leaves, but I wanted to underscore our baptismal promises we make specifically to those we take the sacrament with, which would include this woman.

  8. Thank you for sharing this. That was a beautiful and heart breaking poem. Love is of God, whatever form it takes.

  9. For those in the LGBT community the conversation of sexuality in the church is an ever-present challenge because there is always a voice inside which says “you are an outsider,” “this doesn’t apply to you,” “you will never fit in,” “you are a failure,” “there is no hope,” etc… This voice is impossible to escape because for every lesson about marriage, family, temples, etc… this voice will always prompt the question “where do I fit into this?!” In small and almost imperceptible ways the issue of sexuality becomes constantly present for LGBT people, even in the most mainstream of church discussions.

    Christ reached out to the one. He went after the lost and those who were cast out. Indeed being a minority among your own people must be a trying experience. Because some members won’t seek to understand, many LGBT people stay in the closet, facing their reality in isolation and desperation. Among those whom they claim community, they find the greatest and most painful separation. Painful, in large, because of it’s invisibility to all but the individual.

    So thank you for this message – it is so critical! Christ expects more of us in this regard. We can seek to understand, to love, to do as He would do.

  10. east of the mississippi says:

    as an active member and a father of two gay sons… I cannot reinforce this enough… no matter with who or what the situation…

    “You will never regret saying, “I love you.” You will never regret throwing your arms around your child [or friend, or neighbor] and hugging him or her. You will never regret listening. You will never regret trying to understand.”

  11. Christian Kimball: “a worthiness requirement for being listened to.” That’s a pretty good summary of a key problem in our congregations.

  12. Having issue posting – test…

  13. For those in the LGBT community the conversation of sexuality in the church is an ever-present challenge because there is always a voice inside which says “you are an outsider,” “this doesn’t apply to you,” “you will never fit in,” “you are a failure,” “there is no hope,” etc… This voice is impossible to escape because for every lesson about marriage, family, temples, etc… this voice will always prompt the question “where do I fit into this?!” In small and almost imperceptible ways the issue of sexuality becomes constantly present for LGBT people, even in the most mainstream of church discussions.

    Christ reached out to the one. He went after the lost and those who were cast out. Indeed being a minority among your own people must be a trying experience. Because some members won’t seek to understand, many LGBT people stay in the closet, facing their reality in isolation and desperation. Among those whom they claim community, they find the greatest and most painful separation. Painful, in large, because of it’s invisibility to all but the individual.

    So thank you for this message – it is so critical! Christ expects more of us in this regard. We can seek to understand, to love, to do as He would do.

  14. Suanne Neilsen says:

    ” “so I decided to tell her” which to me is the test line, the point at which too many will say that’s too far, that’s action not attraction, and now you lose my support”
    There’s a saying I’m borrowing, Silence equals death. Where no books or painted canvas are left.
    So i am glad to see this poem written and shared. An action I support.
    To borrow some lines from Yevgeny Yevtushenko (reformer or collaborator?)
    “They perish. They cannot be brought back.
    The secret worlds are not regenerated.

    And every time again and again
    I make my lament against destruction”

  15. pconnornc says:

    In our faith culture, as a whole, we struggle w/ being able to discuss “Gospel principle/commandment X promises blessing Y – and I’m either struggling w/ the X or not receiving the Y – or both”. I’m not sure the answer, but sense it extends beyond our faith culture. I just look at all the perfect people’s lives I see on social media – like a testimony meeting, almost all is way positive.

    It’s a shame though, because the testimony that “I believe/have faith in X even though it is hard and I’m not getting Y” is one of the most powerful testimonies. Any one can testify w/ conviction when it works.

  16. ” the church is an ever-present challenge because there is always a voice inside which says “you are an outsider,” “this doesn’t apply to you,” “you will never fit in,” “you are a failure,” “there is no hope,” etc”

    Please do not assume that this is the only narrative being heard by LGBT members. There are many of us who remain in the Church with hope, faith, and belonging. We mourn with our siblings who mourn and pray that peace may be found.

  17. Replying to Christian Kimball’s point —

    Is it conceivable the liberal membership of the church could just literally, physically move the test-line elsewhere? As a church, we’re deeeep in the mire right now, waiting on the leadership to move the line for us. But taking matters into our own hands, saying to the S.B.’s in our own wards and stakes and families and bodies, that they can be as gay as the day is long and not revoke their right to our love — saying that they can openly express their love and attraction towards others of the species who happen to be of their own gender, without losing our love, and mourning, and comfort, and fellowship —

    To say to our gay members, “your marriage plans and sexual escapades are between you and God, and not your ecclesiastical leaders, so long as no one is actively being hurt by them” is something a lot of mainstream Protestantism seems to be able to say. Mormons are kind of lagging behind the curve here. But that’s just my view.

    I know that moving that line is well beyond the means of the general membership, for the moment. But where else might the “liberal” portion of the membership draw that line, such that there still IS a line, but it permits a lot more leeway and space for our gay members? I am not sure myself, but I think there’s a place to draw it that squiggles right around some of the gnarlier aspects of the doctrine and just gets right down to “You have your sexual privacy, and I’ll have mine, and we’ll all try to be kind to each other whenever possible, and not make holy judgments about who is ‘allowed’ to kiss whom, from a theological standpoint, since that’s all largely God’s business anyway…”

    I started rambling, but I think the seedbed for a new discussion might hopefully be in a reclamation of/expansion of the zone of privacy, especially sexual privacy. Making it a freedom/ agency/ privacy issue rather than a purity/ sin/ redemption would at least shift the discussion slightly, if not the actual policy. I guess I’m suggesting orchestrating an alliance between theological liberals and theological libertarians.

    And then just let the natural desire to be (or be perceived as) kind, loving, and good to others (even gay others) in the moderate/mainstream membership eventually do the rest of the heavy-lifting of flawed-policies for you. Does this make sense?

  18. east of the mississippi says:

    Yes it does make sense, and despite those that deny it is so, most of the change in the church for the last 180 years has come about as a reaction to social pressure from within, and sometimes from outside, the church.

    At the end of the day the church has to serve the people, work in conjunction with the real world, and promote the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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