Dear First Presidency, Apostles, General Authorities, and General Board Members,
At the end of this week, we will be celebrating the 184th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that many of you are planning to speak at one or more of the sessions, and if you have not already finished your talk, I’m sure you’re probably pretty stressed about writing it. Well, I have a proposition for you. I’ve already written a talk for someone to give at General Conference. It’s loving, it’s insightful, it’s doctrinally sound, and best of all, it is a message that so many people need to hear. People are hurting to hear it—some people are literally dying to hear it. Trust me. I am one of those people.
So if you would like a short, sweet, ten-minute talk to give this upcoming Saturday or Sunday, feel free to take this one. With my compliments.
Brothers and Sisters, I come to speak to you today with a heart filled with love. We have heard many inspired and inviting messages from the leaders of the Church, and I hope to add my own voice to the symphony of love, truth, and peace. My message is simple, and in these times, it is absolutely vital for us to hear. Let me state it for you openly:
Same-sex attracted, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual members of the Church: We love you. We are glad that you are among us. We are grateful for your friendship.
In the past, many members of the Church have been confused about how to treat individuals of non-heterosexual orientations. Because of this confusion, friendships have been broken and families have suffered. Members are usually well-meaning in their efforts, but they often lack the guidance to know how to befriend and fellowship individuals of different sexual orientations. I am here today to suggest some basic ways in which we can show an increase of love and understanding to those who need it. For more in-depth guidance, I suggest you visit the Church’s website, mormonsandgays.org. At this website, you’ll find many helpful stories about how other members have used gospel principles to find answers to their questions.
Whenever I am confused about how I should treat someone, I call to mind the saying, “What would Jesus do?” Unfortunately, in this situation we don’t have many concrete details about what Jesus would do. Members of other Christian churches have asked if Jesus would bake a cake for a same-sex couple, or if He would attend a same-sex wedding ceremony. While these speculations are interesting to some, they are only speculations. Let’s instead focus on what we do know. We do know that Christ commanded all people to come to him. And we do know that Christ loves everyone. Most importantly, we know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for all of us—regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation. If we truly want to become like Christ—which, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is surely the end goal of all our efforts here on Earth—we must be willing to sacrifice our lives for our brothers and sisters, regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation. Now, it is unlikely that we will be required to sacrifice our physical bodies for each other, but we should always be willing to give our time, talents, and love to each other.
In past years, the Church has often shared its views on same-sex relationships. While the our teachings about the law of chastity have not changed, “what is changing — and what needs to change — is to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere.” This is what Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said on the Church’s website, mormonsandgays.org. As I thought about what I could do to fulfill Elder Oaks’s request, I realized that I could express my gratitude to these members of the Church that I so cherish and admire:
To the LGBTQIA/SSA members of the Church who attend church and participate in their congregations—in whatever capacity—thank you. We need you more than we know. We are doing our best to understand your needs. Please forgive us when our understanding or compassion falls short. We are grateful for your presence in our wards and branches, and we thank you for your desire to join with us.
To those who have friends or family members who have left the Church because of their sexual orientation, continue in your compassion. To those of you who have maintained loving ties with these friends and family members, thank you. To those of you who have not, I invite you to do so. Extend the hand of friendship to them, and do your best to empathize with them. I pray that you will have courage as you work to rekindle these relationships.
To those who have left the Church because of their sexual orientation, we miss you. We love you and we need you. Even if you feel that you cannot participate in all aspects of Church membership, please come participate in whatever capacity you can. You are welcome here.
Indeed, individuals of all races, genders, creeds, and sexual orientations are welcome in our meeting houses. That’s why all of our churches have signs that proudly declare “Visitors Welcome.” But it is not enough for our physical buildings to be open to visitors. Our hearts must be open as well. We may disagree with the choices that others have made, but this is no reason to bar them from our places of worship. Remember what Jesus said: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
Besides, if sinners were not allowed to attend our Church meetings, our chapels and meeting houses would be completely empty. As Christ said when the Pharisees asked him about the woman charged with adultery, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone” (John 8:7).
Before I close my talk, I must address a very serious issue that has destroyed many families. I am speaking about the disturbing trend of parents kicking their LGBTQ/SSA children out of their home. Brothers and Sisters, this practice is not right. It is not of God. As parents, it is our responsibility to raise our children in loving homes, to protect and provide for them, and to treat them as the divine children of God that they truly are. In the Family: A Proclamation to the World, we read that “husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” Fathers and Mothers, it is your divine responsibility to be the providers and guardians of your children. This is a divine role. It is given of God. Even if you kick your children out of your home or disown them, they are still your responsibility. No power on earth can dissolve the ties of parent and child. God will hold you accountable for your treatment of your children, and for whatever evil befalls them as a result of your negligence.
I understand that having a LGBTQIA/SSA child may be difficult. I’ve had many parents tell me that when their child came out to them, they did not know what to do or who to turn to. I hope I can give you some steps to follow that will help you know how to best take care of your child and your family, while staying true to their beliefs.
1) Remember that the Church does not believe that sexual orientation is a choice. Your LGBTQ/SSA child has not chosen their orientation in an effort to be wicked or rebellious. While scientists and psychologists are unaware of exactly how one’s sexual orientation develops and matures, they do know that sexual orientation is not a choice. Therefore, experiencing attraction to the same sex is not a sin.
2) Take advantage of church, family, and community ties. If you are feeling lost and don’t know where to turn, talk with your bishop, your family members, or a local counselor or psychologist (with your child’s permission, of course). Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are also many online resources for families with LGBTQIA/SSA children. One such online resources is the Family Acceptance Project, which has worked with members of the Church to create material especially designed for LDS families.
3) Do not kick your child out of your home or disown them. I understand that at times, contention in the home can rise to the point that it would be beneficial to both the child and the parents for the child to leave the home. In cases like this, it is the parents’ responsibility to find a safe place for their child to live outside of their home. This place could be at a youth shelter or a relative’s home. In fact, in the Utah area, an organization called Safe and Sound has been created in order to house SSA/LGBTQIA children who are not able to live with their parents. Arranging for your child to live elsewhere should be a last resort—but if you need to make this choice, make sure that you are doing it out of love and respect for your child.
4) Never stop loving your children. You cannot force your children to make the choices you want them to make, and your love for them should not depend on their choices. Our own Heavenly Parent s love us perfectly and infinitely, regardless of our choices. We should do our best to show the same love to our own children.
Brothers and Sisters, I have a testimony of the divine kinship between all members of the human race. I believe that the Lord has a plan for all of his children, and that even if we may not fully understand His will, we can have faith in His divine plan. While we do not have all the answers, like the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi, we do know that the Lord loves his children. If we truly want to become like Christ, it is our sacred responsibility to love as Christ did: infinitely, freely, and openly, with all our hearts, might, mind, and strength. Love is always the answer.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.