Christmas Day. It’s a time when work and school cease and families gather to spend time together. Family values and traditions are reinforced through Christmas rituals, from caroling to decorated trees to favorite deserts. Yet for some LGBTQ people this season, there won’t be a return to a joyous home. Perhaps their parents have banned them from the house because of their “lifestyle choices.” Or they are allowed to return, but everyone, parents and children included, are walking on eggshells around the subject. Sometimes there is a feeling of betrayal of family values, either in terms of religion or acceptance. It can really put a damper on the Christmas spirit.
At the root of all the pain we experience in familial relationships is love. We love our families, so their betrayal cuts the deepest. Parents may feel their child has betrayed the hope they had for an eternal family and the principles of righteousness they tried to instill. Children may feel their parents have betrayed the unconditional love, trust, support and protection they need. Both parties feel like the other has rejected them, and the absence of love feels like a gaping hole in our chest. If we didn’t still love them, it wouldn’t hurt so badly.
As our religious leaders frequently remind us, Christmas is really a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the blessings his sacrifice gave to us. The blessing I want to focus on today for everyone whose family situation isn’t ideal is hope: hope for improvement, hope for comfort, and hope for healing.
The relationship we have with our family is precious. Prophets frequently teach that it is one of the most valuable things to cultivate and one of the few things we can take with us after we die. And those relationships we have are important to Jesus as well. He offers not only healing to the individual, but can heal hearts and mend families. It takes time and effort, patience and humility. I certainly need plenty more of the latter two. But the beauty of the Atonement is that it gives us infinite second chances to make things right.
Eventually people realize that no matter our differences in religious beliefs or sexual orientation, love in our family is more important. Parents might eventually echo Tom Christofferson’s mother when she said, “If we only have Tom in this life, we’re going to enjoy every minute we have with him” (The Universe). Children might say “Even if my parents never accept the person I love, I still love them.” We may never accept one another’s beliefs, but we can come to a place of understanding and love. We can come to a place where our families can thrive again.
If you are in a crisis of faith or no longer hold traditional Mormon beliefs, we have a spirit of common humanity that binds us together. People remember this spirit today more than any other, and there is a wish to mend what is broken and recover what was lost. Love can move us all.
Healing takes time. Maybe this Christmas we won’t make much headway, nor the Christmas after that. But if we keep striving for mutual understanding, to hear and be heard, eventually we will find reconciliation. The Spirit will work in our hearts, and we can heal the bonds of love in our family.
What I want for Christmas more than anything is to see all the hurting homes in my community be whole. I want to see Mormon parents embrace their queer children in understanding and love. As Elder Quentin L. Cook said, “Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender” (mormonsandgays.org). It may take years, decades even, for this wish to come true. But with each attempt at reconciliation, we get closer to the kind of loving families which Jesus lived and died for us to have. So for this Christmas, and every day hereafter, let us strive to have more understanding and Christ-like love in our families.
For this I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ,