My Prayer for Conference

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.

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5 thoughts on “My Prayer for Conference

  1. Thank you for your words. They’ve helped me see this issues from another perspective, one that is clearly filled with love and the desire to understand other people’s feelings. Many times we only see facts, not people and feelings so is important to express our feelings especially when we are misunderstood.

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  2. You are a wise, articulate and truthful follower of Christ. I am really proud of you, I admire you and you are so worthy of all this life has to offer, ALL of it. Remember, love always wins.

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  3. I struggle with paying tithing and I don’t whine because the general authorities of the church don’t sympathize with my struggle during a world wide broadcast. Their job as general authorities is to deliver the word of God and give counsel, advice, and revelation. That sympathy and personalized talk that you require is the responsibility of your bishop. That is his calling. The general authorities aren’t here to make us feel understood and warm and fuzzy with our weaknesses. They call us to repentance.

    In my example of struggling with tithing, I have never heard a talk, let alone a sentence, where a general authority acknowledged the possible difficulty of being commanded to pay tithing.

    All struggles and weaknesses are difficult and we all have them. We were all born with different things that we find difficult or commandments we have a hard time following. It isn’t fair to think that you are the only one that possesses a weakness and that the prophets and apostles are bad because they don’t acknowledge your struggle.

    Again, we all struggle with following one commandment or another. Your life isn’t any more difficult or impossible.

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  4. I feel sad you didn’t get much out of Conference. I’m not sure there will ever be a talk focusing only on same sex attraction. I am a heterosexual, but that isn’t all that I am. I am also a mother, daughter, sister, wife, granddaughter, and friend. I am not solely defined by anyone of these alone. I also know there are many people dealing with being lonely, misunderstood and unloved seeking help and guidance.
    I reviewed the talks and came up with some things I thought might be strengthening to you and hopefully you will feel nourished, and uplifted by their words of love.
    Elder Whitney Clayton

    All of us will, at some time or another, have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own rugged emotional journeys. In those moments, however dark or seemingly hopeless they may be, if we search for it, there will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief. That light shines from the Savior of all mankind, who is the Light of the World.

    Every day each of us faces a test. It is the test of our lifetimes: will we choose to believe in Him and allow the light of His gospel to grow within us, or will we refuse to believe and insist on traveling alone in the dark? The Savior provides His gospel as a light to guide those who choose to believe in and follow Him.

    Elder Dale G. Renlund

    Our theology does teach us, though, that we may be perfected by repeatedly and iteratively “relying wholly upon” the doctrine of Christ: exercising faith in Him, repenting, partaking of the sacrament to renew the covenants and blessings of baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost as a constant companion to a greater degree. As we do so, we become more like Christ and are able to endure to the end, with all that that entails.3 In less formal terms, God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were.4 He cares that we keep on trying.
    God’s desire that Latter-day Saints keep on trying also extends beyond overcoming sin. Whether we suffer because of troubled relationships, economic challenges, or illnesses or as a consequence of someone else’s sins, the Savior’s infinite Atonement can heal even—and perhaps especially—those who have innocently suffered. He understands perfectly what it is like to suffer innocently as a consequence of another’s transgression. As prophesied, the Savior will “bind up the brokenhearted, … give … beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, [and] the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”9 No matter what, with His help, God expects Latter-day Saints to keep on trying.

    Elder Quentin L. Cook

    If the grim realities you are facing at this time seem dark and heavy and almost unbearable, remember that in the soul-wrenching darkness of Gethsemane and the incomprehensible torture and pain of Calvary, the Savior accomplished the Atonement, which resolves the most terrible burdens that can occur in this life. He did it for you, and He did it for me. He did it because He loves us and because He obeys and loves His Father. We will be rescued from death—even from the depths of the sea.

    Our protections in this life and for eternity will be in individual and family righteousness, Church ordinances, and following the Savior. This is our refuge from the storm. For those who feel they are alone, you can stand resolutely in righteousness knowing that the Atonement will protect and bless you beyond your ability to fully understand.

    We should remember the Savior, keep our covenants, and follow the Son of God as the young sunflower follows the sunshine. Following His light and example will bring us joy, happiness, and peace. As Psalm 27 and a favorite hymn both proclaim, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”

    Elder Jose A. Teixeira

    I believe that as we deepen our understanding of the Savior, we will have an increased desire to live joyfully and a conviction that joy is possible. Consequently, we will have a greater ability to go about each day with more enthusiasm for life and for keeping the commandments of God, even in challenging circumstances.

    Elder Robert Hales

    Some are offended when we bring our religion into the public square, yet the same people who insist that their viewpoints and actions be tolerated in society are often very slow to give that same tolerance to religious believers who also wish their viewpoints and actions to be tolerated. The general lack of respect for religious viewpoints is quickly devolving into social and political intolerance for religious people and institutions.

    Elder Kevin W. Pearson

    Each of us experiences periods of darkness and loneliness. “When life gets dark and dreary, don’t forget to pray.”3 Follow President Heber J. Grant’s example. Pray for strength to endure to the end. Ask Heavenly Father, “What more would You have me do?”

    Elder Neil L. Anderson

    As you keep the commandments and pray in faith to see the Lord’s hand in your life, I promise you that He will open your spiritual eyes even wider, and you will see more clearly that you are not alone.

    Elder Jorge F. Zeballos

    These, then, are the main responsibilities that our Father has assigned to us: seeking our own salvation and that of others, with the understanding that in this statement, salvation means reaching the highest degree of glory that our Father has provided for His obedient children.3 These responsibilities that have been entrusted to us—and which we have freely accepted—must define our priorities, our desires, our decisions, and our daily conduct.

    Elder Russell M. Nelson

    Make the Sabbath a delight by rendering service to others, especially those who are not feeling well or those who are lonely or in need.20 Lifting their spirits will lift yours as well

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