I really like the new website that the church put out this week www.MormonsandGays.org. I have been asked by non-member friends all week what this site means and what its significance is, and at first my reaction was actually kind of indifferent. When I looked at just the text on the website I didn’t see anything all that different from what the Church has been saying for the four years since I have been involved with it. I enjoyed the focus on compassion as well as the clear articulation of the Church’s stance at the top of the page and the plea to parents and families to not shun or disown children, but didn’t really think that this was a big change.
However, because of my busy week with law school finals, today was the first time I had a chance to sit down and really watch all the video clips that were put up and I was pretty impressed with the quality and emotional depth of the stories. Just as with Mormon.Org, the Church seems to be going out of the way to emphasize diversity and variety of member experiences. These people speaking are not cookie cutter members. There are family members that speak about how the dealt with the news that their children and grand children are gay, members that went inactive for years as part of the gay subculture and those that fully remained active never wavering. There one gay guy that is now happily married to a woman of the opposite sex and another gay guy who left his wife before eventually making it back to the church. It’s pretty refreshing to see the church not take a one sized fits all approach to dealing with this difficult topic.
I was equally impressed by the video clips of the Apostles that are featured. These man are so filled with love and compassion as they speak and it is obvious that THEY GET IT. Back when Same Sex Marriage was an issue that almost kept me from accepting Church doctrine this was one of the most important things for me to understand and feel. These twelve men are truly called of God and understand what a difficult topic this is for members and non-members across the world .
Elder Cook movingly talks about his experience as a Stake President in San Francisco during the AIDS epidemic and then adds this beautiful statement:
I think the lesson that I learned from that is that as a Church nobody should be more loving and compassionate. No family who has anybody who has a same-gender issue should exclude them from the family circle. They need to be part of the family circle. Do we teach the Proclamation on the Family, do we teach Heavenly Father’s plan, do we teach the first chapter in the second handbook, yes we do. We have a plan of salvation. And having children come into our lives is part of Heavenly Father’s plan. But let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion, and outreach to those and lets not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender. I’m sorry, I feel very strongly about this as you can tell. I think it’s a very important principle.”
Likewise, Elder Christofferson shares his prayer for increased empathy and understanding:
Our hope is that with this site, and other endeavors we might make, that empathy will grow in families where a member of the family says “I’ve got same-sex attraction we need to deal with this.” And that empathy will grow on that part of that individual as well who can sense what this means for the other members of the family, the distress the parents may feel for example. With time, with love, with diligent effort and listening to one another there can be accommodations made and resolutions found that protect the integrity of the family and each member of the family.
“I think what’s critical is that we try to resolve this in patience and with a divine perspective, not trying to dictate to God how and what His answers will be to our prayers or when and how He might intervene in this situation, but trying to achieve and understand His perspective on things so that everyone’s desire is to do what the Lord would want done, to do it in the Lord’s way, and not one’s own way, and not simply to be thinking of one’s own feelings exclusively. And that might work out differently in one family than another. We’re trying to communicate that our love is inclusive, that we want to have the family remain intact, and the relationships we’ve treasured over the years to remain and to grow. So there will be some work to be done but its work that ought to always be with the question, ‘what does the Lord want, how would He have us do this together?’”
These are beautiful and powerful remarks and I hope that they and this site will begin a transition towards greater love and tolerance on the part of members. I hope that we can take from the example of these servants of the Lord and put behind us or prejudice and hatred in order to become true and charitable disciples of Christ. If we do so, I know that many more members when faced with a difficult trial of faith will feel welcome and loved and be able to remain in the Church and in the Gospel.