Note: Many of the blog posts featured here are written by LGBTQ BYU students who are not yet ready to have their sexual orientation known by some friends, family, colleagues and internet strangers. As you read this or any other anonymous post, please take a moment to consider the implications and risks of being publicly queer/LGBT/SSA as a BYU student.
In the book of Matthew, there is a story of a woman from Canaan who approached Christ to have him bless her daughter:
25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. (Matthew 15:25-28)
Twice a year, Mormons around the world gather to hear what we believe to be the inspired word of God’s living prophets, seers, and revelators on the earth. Many approach these weekends with an air of celebration and thanksgiving. There will be messages of hope, messages of comfort, messages that renew faith and inspire.
Personally, I have had some sacred moments listening to Conference, especially since acknowledging my sexuality over the past few years. These powerful moments happened while I was in the conference center listening to talks and singing hymns. They were specific instances when I felt that God was speaking to me through the chosen speaker, the Spirit, or the words of a beautiful hymn. Each time the message was “I’m here. I know you. I love you. Stay with me, and come back to me.”
Sadly, these experiences were sometimes overshadowed by much of the rest of conference where I felt the talks were even more specifically directed at me but not in a loving manner. Time after time, I sat and listened as men who I sustained as God’s anointed used their appointed time to speak out against the evils of gay marriage and the concerted effort to bring about the destruction of the “traditional family.” Of all of those times, I remember only once when an Apostle took the time, just one sentence, to acknowledge the difficulties or being same-sex attracted and a member of the Church. It hurt for me, because while the moments where the Spirit spoke to me were rich and comforting, I needed more. I wanted answers or specific comfort to understand what I was going through and why.
Talk after talk painted a picture of the world as a battlefield, and the church as a castle—but each time, I felt like I had been painted on the outside with the barbarians. Barbarians who were in league with Satan—people consciously and proactively involved in a great plan to thwart the happiness of their families, friends, and neighbors. As the Church of Christ, why couldn’t we spend a little more time surveying the field for casualties and refugees? Not everyone on the battle field is intent on tearing down our walls. Many have run for miles to seek refuge from a world that can be callous and chaotic. How many have we cast out of our castle in the name of culture or righteousness? How many wounds have we left unattended to nock our arrows? How many injured have we let perish to dig our moats deeper? I was alright because I’ve been blessed with a strength and resiliency seemingly beyond my own. But some of my friends are not as lucky.
Many of my friends have used up their last ounces of strength trying to cling to the castle their friends, family, and leaders are throwing them out of. They’ve come home from missions wondering why they’re still same-sex attracted. They have gone through the repentance process and hoped with every fiber of their being that they will be able to marry a young man or woman and have a “normal” life like everyone else. They’ve confided in their parents, only to be met with disappointment or misunderstanding, or even have even been disowned. They’ve sought comfort and guidance and counsel from their ecclesiastical leaders only to be met with ignorance, indifference, and, at times, callousness and injustice, even revulsion. This from the very people who covenanted with God to mourn with them that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. The men who have been called and sustained to represent Christ—in judgment, yes, but also in infinite love.
And so, this is my prayer. A prayer that I offer in vain, I admit, but a prayer nonetheless. A prayer that—instead of another talk, or talks, or even multiple sections from different speakers all pointed towards the legal debate about same-sex marriage in the US—the messages from General Conference will be that God loves each and every one of His children. Without qualification. Without pretense. Without caveat. That, instead of tortured logic and unimaginative dogmatism, they spend their time leaving the ninety and nine, to seek after the one lost sheep wandering in the desert. Not a desert of sin or addiction or self-inflicted misery but a desert of loneliness, of being misunderstood, of a lack of love.
I pray for a talk about same-sex attraction. About the realities, the complexities, the nuances. I pray for a talk that calls for listening more than preaching and loving more than correcting. Surely, at the great table of Christ, in His Kingdom on Earth, in this great and marvelous work, there is room yet at the table and there are crumbs yet left to eat. It pains me to think that such a small and feeble request is even an uncertain gamble. I pray for a General Conference that I can confidently and gladly invite my friends to—where I know they will leave nourished, strengthened, and uplifted. I long for a Conference where I leave being as proud of my Church as I hope it is of me.
Yes I believe. Help thou mine unbelief. Surely there are crumbs left for even my friends.