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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Coming Out as an LDS Parent of a Gay Child

Guest post from a new--and very amazing--friend, Bryce Cook. This article is so wonderful it doesn't even need an introduction, other than to say I am blessed to have Bryce on this path with me.

You can reach Bryce directly at brycercook@yahoo.com or leave a comment for him here. 

Enjoy.

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To all our friends and family, we feel that it’s time to be open and honest about something that we have kept silent for a long time. Many of you already know this, or may have heard secondhand, so I want you to hear it directly from me (and Sara): our oldest son, Trevor, is gay. You may wonder why we would share this information publicly (and of course it’s with Trevor’s permission). I will tell you why, but first let me share our story.

“Mom and Dad, I know this will come as a shock to you, but I am same-sex attracted.” Those were the words in a long letter Trevor had written to us when he was 18 and a freshman at BYU. “Shocked” did not adequately express how we felt when we read those words.  How could this be?, we thought.  We were a faithful Mormon family, we had regular family prayer and scripture study, we had a very positive, loving relationship with our children. And how could this happen to Trevor, a young man as honest, upright and moral as any young man I knew? It’s just not possible!

As I continued reading, I saw the great turmoil he had gone through over the last four years while trying to come to grips with this – the feelings of guilt, self-loathing, failure, shame. So strong were those feelings that he couldn’t even confide in his parents. Why didn’t he tell us sooner?, I wondered. Why couldn’t he tell his own parents? We always had a very open and loving relationship and could talk about anything with him. My wife, Sara, remembers a particular time when Trevor was a young man in high school. She saw him in his room looking very down and distraught. She pled with him to tell her what was the matter, but all he could do was look at her and cry; he couldn’t – wouldn’t – tell her about his secret because he didn’t want to shame us. He wanted to bear the burden alone, to spare us the grief.

He was also afraid.

Afraid to disappoint us, to admit he was a “failure” as a son, to acknowledge that he was one of those “awful gays” he had heard me talk about. Yes, sadly, I must admit that up until that time, I was homophobic and had very un-Christlike feelings towards gay people. Even worse, because of my attitudes and feelings, I had probably unwittingly contributed to the silent agony my son had suffered for so long and made him afraid to tell us for fear of hurting us or not knowing how we would take it. By the grace of God, he had not been driven to suicide, as too many gay LDS youth have. The one outlet that perhaps kept him from reaching the breaking point was his decision to tell our Bishop one summer when our family were all away on a back packing trip that Trevor had to miss due to work. While this good Bishop couldn’t answer all Trevor’s questions, he at least assured Trevor that he was not a bad person, that God still accepted him and that he had no reason to feel any shame or guilt. As long as he didn’t act on his feelings of attraction, he was still worthy in the eyes of God and the church and could still go on a mission and serve in any church calling.

From that point, Trevor began to accept himself as he was. He was able to forge ahead with more confidence in himself and continue to plan for college and a mission. When he finally came out to us in that letter almost nine years ago, we were shocked and saddened; but we let him know that no matter what, he was our son and we loved him. We also secretly held the hope that somehow, some way, he might be able to change.

The change, however, occurred in us.

One thing that changed immediately was our attitudes about gay people. We knew that if someone as honest, moral and committed to the gospel as Trevor was could be gay, then pretty much everything we thought we knew about being gay was just plain wrong. So the first thing I did was to educate myself on the subject. I studied some of the scientific research on it. I read church leaders’ statements on same-sex attraction, which in recent years have evolved significantly. And I read and listened to the experiences of numerous LDS gay men and women. These stories – like my son’s experience – are what particularly changed our hearts. From all this study and from my discussions with Trevor, I would like to share with you some of the important things we have learned:

(1) Being gay is not a choice. Science and psychology have recognized this for a long time, and even the church has come to recognize this in recent years. I have read some of the scientific research (mostly from Bill Bradshaw, a BYU biology professor and former mission president), which is quite compelling. But more compelling than the science is the experience and testimony of numerous faithful LDS gay people, including my own son. They sincerely tell us that they never chose to be attracted to the same sex; in fact many have tried in various ways to ignore it, fight it or change it – but it doesn’t go away. Moreover, why would an honest, faithful young man or woman ever choose to be gay in our church and suffer the shame, guilt and rejection that too often come with it? Those who doubt this proposition should ask themselves, did I ever have to make a conscious decision to like and be attracted to the opposite sex, or was it natural and instinctive? Likewise, it is natural and instinctive for those who are attracted to the same sex.

(2) Sexual orientation doesn’t change. Again, the experience of numerous faithful LDS gay people can’t be ignored. As Bill Bradshaw observes, “honesty compels us to consider the experience of a very large number of LDS gay people, who in spite of exhaustive, lengthy, and totally sincere efforts have not been able to change the fact of who they are sexually. A testimony of the gospel, faithful church activity, fasting, prayer, missionary service, temple service – all of these are important, but none, in any combination, has been able to alter sexual orientation.” Any doubters should ask themselves, is there anything that would cause me to lose my feelings towards the opposite sex and be attracted to members of the same sex?

(3) Being gay is not just about sex – any more than being heterosexual is just about sex. Gay people are no different than straight people when it comes to relationships. Like all human beings, they desire emotional, spiritual and physical attachment. They feel the same compulsion to fall in love, find a companion and share their life with someone. The desire for physical intimacy is just one aspect of the spectrum of feelings and emotions that humans, whether gay or straight, experience in a relationship.

As we learned these things, we became comfortable with who Trevor was; and we no longer felt a need to hope for things that were not to be. As for Trevor, he served a great mission, graduated from BYU and is now on his way to China, working for the U.S. State Department. He is still an active, temple-going Mormon – and of course he is still gay.

So now we come to the part where you may be wondering why I feel the need to share this with everyone. As I learned more about my gay brothers and sisters, actually met them and talked with them, I came to love them. I also gained great empathy for them. I have seen too much pain and suffering, mistreatment and rejection – all because of ignorance, fear and misunderstanding. As long as this subject is taboo and people are too afraid or intimidated to speak about it, then young gay people in the church will continue to suffer as Trevor did. There will be bullying, fear and self-loathing – even suicide. We will continue to lose too many wonderful gay men and women (and often their families) because they feel unwanted and unwelcome among us.

This should not happen in the church. This is why Sara and I have decided that we can no longer be silent, closeted parents. We don’t want to be a part of the problem. We want all gay people, particularly that young man or woman in our midst who is silently suffering with nowhere to turn, to know that we love them and support them. We are there for them and for their family if they need help, encouragement or understanding. The church at this time has no official outreach or instruction on this subject, other than a few statements over the years and a pamphlet. Local leaders are mostly left on their own on how to counsel gay members. Among other things, my wife and I have spoken with our local church leaders about our willingness to be a resource to help educate fellow members and especially to help individuals and families who just need someone to talk to. As we have begun to reach out and be more public, we have been able to help other LDS people dealing with this issue. Here is a personal note I received a few days ago after sharing this story in another post:

I thought your post on the Mormons Building Bridges website today was AMAZING!!! As a member of a bishopric of a ward in [withheld] with many gay members, I have a handful of young men who struggle with the feeling that it would be better to take their own lives than to have their parents find out. I have shared your story with them in hopes that it will give them the courage to talk with the people that love them most and that the response will be as loving as yours was.

The next day, I received a follow-up message that made me gasp, and reinforced how important it is to be more open about this topic:

I have a 23-year-old returned missionary I have been trying to help for the past couple of months wrestle with this issue. So far, I had been the ONLY person he had told and he had been agonizing over when/if he should tell his parents. Early yesterday afternoon, I sent him your post from the MBB wall. Soon thereafter, he sent me an email back, confessing that, just yesterday morning, he had gone out and bought a gun because he had convinced himself that that would be a better option than bringing shame and disgrace to his family. However, after reading your post, he resolved instead to tell his parents and hope they would be as understanding as you were. I totally see God's hand in the timing of this sequence of events to reach down and use the tools at his disposal to save the life of one of his hurting children. When the stress of that conversation was over, I couldn't help but weep at how many OTHER people there might be out there now, contemplating a similar fate, with no one to turn to.

Now there is probably a tendency to believe that we don’t really have that many gay people in our church here locally, so why all the fuss? Sure it’s an issue in Los Angeles, the Bay area and other urban areas, but not in our conservative, religious community, right? I think you would be surprised if you really knew. We know because we have met a number of LDS young gay men who are from here. These are wonderful young men who have served missions, who are talented, kind and loving and who have so much to offer the church. Sadly, the majority of them are outside the church, even those who still believe and identify as LDS. Which brings me to my final point.

To be members of the church in full fellowship, gay members must make a sacrifice of supreme proportions. They are not allowed to fall in love, show physical affection, or be married to those to whom they are naturally attracted. They are required to be completely celibate. Some might argue that their situation is no different from people who are handicapped or who never had the opportunity to marry; such a comparison is not accurate. Unlike those who lack the emotional/mental capacity or people to whom the marriage opportunity never came, gay people are just as capable as heterosexual people of having a loving, monogamous relationship.

To give it a personal perspective, if you were told that you could not marry or that you had to give up your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend in order to retain your membership in the church, how would you choose? Thankfully, most of us don’t have to make such a difficult decision. But most gay people do. And because falling in love and having someone to share your life with is such a major part of our earthly experience (and a major focus of the church), the great majority of gay people at some time or another choose that path.

My only purpose in bringing up this point is so that we might have an extra measure of empathy and compassion for our gay brothers and sisters. So that we might welcome them with open arms into our congregations, without judgment or condemnation, but with love and acceptance, no matter their status or circumstances. I’m simply asking that we love them as the Savior does. That, my family and friends, is my plea.

While this has probably been too wordy already, there are many things that have been left unsaid. If you have any questions, please feel free to talk to me, Sara or Trevor.

With love, Bryce and Sara Cook




51 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Thank you so much. Thank you for your bravery and honesty. You are needed.

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  3. I am so touched by the Cook's I have had the opportunity of meeting with them in their home, I am a gay member from Mesa, AZ and let me tell you that the Cook's are the greatest example of Christ-like members!

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  4. I LOVE you, Bryce and Sara Cook! And I love your sweet son, Trevor! We, too, have a gay son who came out to us at 13. We have reacted much the same as you have, with complete love and acceptance. That being said, we have experienced so much heartache and fear for him. For what the world will throw at him and the shunning he will most likely feel from Church members. This should not be! But it took my husband and I realizing we had a gay son to see we were unknowingly contributing to the problem. It seems people don't think too deeply on this issue until it touches them in a very personal way, like with their own child. Thank you for your bravery and sincerity in sharing your story. With each story that is shared, more lives are touched and more hearts and minds are opened. All we need to do is love each other, and leave the judging to the Savior. Our hearts and prayers are with you.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing this and for being vulnerable. I'm glad that there are people who are willing to be open and loving. Your son deserves all the love the world has to offer.

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  6. Thanks Bryce for that amazing personal journey to understand such a pervasive issue in the Church. Same sex attraction may never be completely understood but your story certainly helps me see it with new empathy.

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  7. Thanks for sharing your story. You are an inspiration for families dealing with this. You put your son before anything else. He's a lucky boy to have you for parents.

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  8. Bryce - WOW! Thanks for sharing. Hopefully as more and more people adopt a truely Christ-like attitude (like you and your wife,) the church will become a place of welcoming and refuge for ALL of God's Children.

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  9. Thank you for this life giving message. A gay member reactivated me into the Church in New Jersey many years ago. I love when people seek the Spirit and live the gospel. This was a spiritual experience.

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  10. Brother and Sister Cook, I extend you and your son Trevor my absolute deepest Love. I have worked as a Marriage and Family Therapist for 20 years. Very early long in my career, I knew I had to fully research, and come to complete understanding of this topic, and the church, as I knew I would be confronted by it. I am in complete agreement with the conclusions you have reached. It is incredible the suffering that is endured by same attracted members and their families. I have been too aware of suicides, and just the plain lack of knowledge and understanding of the general church membership. At the time I was researching the topic, a current article I found that helped me so much was written by the bishop of a ward in the CA Bay area. He presided over a ward which contained about 50% gay members, many of which were temple worthy, including his two counselors. I will never forget how he recommended his counselors as men of God, who were so full of the Holy Ghost. It was then I began to realize it was not the same sex attraction that was a sin; this is something they did not have control over, but their behavior they did. They were under the same covenant to live the law of chastity as all members. All these years later, I have come to realize that everyone of us is given enormous spiritual burdens (crosses) to carry as we refine our discipleship. Who can explain why one gets one and other person gets another. But, we endure by faith, remaining true to the covenants, and believing in a Loving God and that all things will be for our good. Something’s may seem unjust or unfair now, but we must resist the temptation of looking at eternity through a straw, as so many choose too. May the Lord bless your family and Trevor more especially, that he will be strengthened in his commitment to be a man of the covenant. And my greatest prayer is for the members of the church that we may be more loving, tolerant, understanding and full of Christ like love for those with same sex attraction. We must love with that same love we hope to be given on the Day of Judgment.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your experiences. This, and other similar stories have caused me to radically change my beliefs about homosexuality. I feel I am more enlightened now.

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  12. He will be ok, because of the love he receives. I think it's so important to remember the judgement is left to our Lord and Savior, and to just love all those we come in contact with. They are all children of our Heavenly Father, and our brothers and sisters. I struggle to teach this to my four sons who have grown tremendously in patience and love for people of all faiths and walks of life.

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  13. I just want to say thank you for you post! It really touched me! You are amazing parents and I commend you for your understanding to your son!

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  14. I have a brother who is gay. He was a very strong and well-studied member of the church until about 6 months after his mission when he decided to live the "gay lifestyle" outside of the church. My brother is one of the best human beings I know and I very much respect him and his decisions. Thank you for including the last bit about the fact that they must choose between retaining membership in the church and having a loving marriage with a member of the same sex. I love in your post that you point out we just need to love our brothers and sisters. I think that is ultimately what we have to do in every situation.
    "As I have loved you, love one another". We should strive to give Christ-like love to all of our brothers and sisters, no matter their sexuality, race, religion, or other circumstances.
    Thank you for the post. I really enjoyed it.

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  15. Bryce and Sara,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I have a dear friend who is gay and I have learned so much from him, his love for people, his compassion and his love for his family. One of our daughters has a few gay friends who have been very good to her through some of her own struggles. You are wise and loving parents and will help many people as you are open and honest and caring about it. The truth always supports us and I support your family and your son! My eyes were opened years ago when it became personal for me through my dear friend and I love the open heart I have gained and continue to learn from having friends and loved ones from all different walks of life. We are all on this earth love and help each other. Bless you all, our dear neighbors and friends.
    RF

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  16. When I was working accross the street from my house on a Landscape project I saw the Missionaries Walk up to my front door. I KNEW if I was home, I would have opened the door but, i wasnt so I laughed and jokeingly said softly....ha ha nobody is home. After an hour to workingrk when the Spirit prompted me to " be honnest, now turn around... OOPs it was The Missionaries. WE talked for an hour... I am VERY INTERESTED IN THE CHURCH ...I remember the spirit said be honest, so I said I cant be a member of your church because I'm gay....The Lord the spoke throught this you Elder and said " Um, You know What?...GOD (PAUSE) LOVETH ALL HIS CHILDREN.....I am not a Temple worthy Priesthood holder...
    Kenny Jimno

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  17. Thank you so much. This is so similar to our staory and I would love to talk to you more and join with you in being a voice for our children and all those others who deal with this issue.

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  18. another case where LDS, Inc 'isn't ahead of the curve', but Sadly could have been. Led by a 'prophet', or by the people?
    Civil Rights
    Clean air & water; ridding the SLV of pollution
    polygamy

    others?

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  19. I am glad the Church is making progress on this reality. While I am no professional, I do believe it is largely genetic. The one thing I do know is that in the name of Christianity abroad many have broken God's heart many, many times over this topic. It strikes me funny how such a persecuted people we have always been would be silent for so long. I do really appreciate this youtube by the Church.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsR9HPhsjJ4

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  20. What a great article. I love the love, compassion and understanding of this father. I also love his honesty about how is views changed before and after he learned his son was gay. This is a great model for everyone how to have the Savior's unconditional love.

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  21. I am so touched by your openness and honesty about this subject. I just heard about a new pamphlet they released on better ways for LDS parents to parent their LGBT children, and I was disturbed by the quoted responses of some LDS therapists. They stated that they thought it harmful to "label" them as it might "go away" (at least one of these therapists insists he overcame his homosexuality through faithfulness), and they stated that it was a choice to identify as LGBT.

    I don't believe that I choose to identify as being Korean any more than someone might choose to identify as being in any one of these categories. I've seen too many friends who went through so many hardships because of the unaccepting responses to their being homosexual (not always in the LDS church). Unfortunately, I've also seen a family member of mine who finally came out immediately tell family members that she had "repented" of being gay. I think as people, we still have a long way to go, in or outside the religious community. But glad to see that there has been some progress and you're trying to keep helping.

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  22. Thank you, Kel. Here is a link to the research we launched from the Family Acceptance Project last week: http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/publications

    It's interesting that you should bring up the identity and labeling factor. One of the key findings in the research tells us that failing to identify or validate your child's orientation is experienced as harmfully as physical violence. Children view that as not just rejection of their orientation, but as rejection of them entirely. And we also know that this level of rejection is an extreme factor that actually increases the risk of depression and suicide.

    Sadly that commentary from LDS therapists, I think, discounted much of what the research proved and demonstrated at best a lack of understanding of science, and at worst, a propensity to ignore it.

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  23. Wow. So beautiful, powerful, honest and compassionate. I am so grateful to have read this and been educated and moved by it today.

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  24. As someone who has struggled with the shame that comes from being both a recovering addict and LDS I am so grateful for this perspective of loving acceptance. My good friend who is homosexual will appreciate this as well.

    God bless you Mitch for you love and kindness. God be thanked for His son Jesus Christ who I believe is guiding and helping us to share His compassion online.

    I would love to read the research that Bill Bradshaw did, that Bryce mentioned in his post. Is that the same link you mentioned above or is there another? Or should I email Bryce myself?

    Thank you.

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    1. Robert, check below. I posted the links you asked about.

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  25. Thanks for asking about this, Robert. A good article by Bill Bradshaw that summarizes his research and findings can be found here: http://ldsresources.info/professionals/bradshaw.shtml

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    1. Is there an updated link for this? I'm getting an error code.

      Not Found. The requested URL /professionals/bradshaw.shtml was not found on this server. Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request. Apache Server at ldsresources.info Port 80

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  26. Hi Robert- Here is a link to a summary of Dr. Bradshaw's presentation: http://ldsresources.info/professionals/bradshaw.shtml

    The entire podcast can be found here: http://mormonstories.org/byu-professor-bill-bradshaw-on-a-biological-origin-of-homosexuality/

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  27. I feel this article is full of compassion for our gay brothers and sisters and I was thankful to find in

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/official-statement/same-gender-attraction

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  28. This came across to me as (understandably) an emotional plea. I think it's important to site the scientific and psychological evidence (and not just from one person who is a professional) if you are trying to convince others of your point of view and persuade them to consider a different perspective on homosexuality. It is very confusing to come across those who had once claimed to be homosexual (take Anne Heche for instance), to now claim that they aren't and have been or still are in happy relationships with the opposite gender. I personally have come across these people so to read "being gay is not a choice" is at the least, questionable and at the most, confusing. When I had conducted my own personal research, most of the scientific studies and research were conducted by homosexuals which comes across to me as biased...coming into it with their minds already made up and trying to find any shred of evidence to justify what they had already concluded rather than basing their judgment upon the evidence after it was conclusive. Even now, I find myself on the fence, struggling to fully understand or make a judgment about homosexuality. I deliberately find myself staying neutral. Having said that, I do believe that we do need to be loving regardless of what evidence is or isn't out there. I will say that I have witnessed the rejection and criticism extended. It's very sad and I feel it's wrong.

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  29. Help me understand. I'm having a hard time believing that it's not a choice. Help me.... I have a loved one with this feeling of same sex attraction. The people that "I" know tell me their stories and it all comes from a choice they made. A few have been molested, some mostly the men are/were overwhelmed with the responsibility of the expected roles, of their gender, some have gay parents or relatives. Some have been raped by men. Some have had parents who had open marriages. Iam genuinely trying to understand. Then there's transgender, bi-sexual etc.. what is gay , I am really confused. Men that dress like men and are attracted to other men whom have typical men qualities etc. who are attracted to each other , to me I think that is Gay. Men who dress and act like women to attract men and the men who like them dressing like women to me, is not gay. Same goes for women . What is gay? I know what straight is because I'm straight. I can't help a loved one with something I clearly don't understand...help please.

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    1. Choice!! I wake up and decide what I want to wear. If I don't like it..then I can choose to take it off! You don't choose to be attracted to the same sex and you definitely can't turn it off. It's the most shunned upon relationship world wide... People don't choose this life..just because!! I have a nephew who is a trans and his journey was he physically felt like a woman..so at the age of 17 he knew...that's a huge step and extremely hard. To be gay is hard enough, but wanting to be a female is extremely hard. He didn't choose this life... What he chose to not be was suicidal, depressed and fake. Now he is happy and truly in his element. I am a straight woman, married. But I do not judge not on religion, race or on someone's experience on why someone is gay...because being gay is not easy... It's so hard. I have been a support person as a aunty, friend, cousin, sister and a mum...

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    2. I have totally changed my views on this topic because of my son who is gay. He is one of the most perfect humans I have ever known. He is full of love and has been all of his life. He was 10000% active in the LDS church and planned on serving a mission and would have been a AP Missionary and grown up to serve in high level leadership in the Church. He fought his orientation all of his life (like most LDS kids) and knew that if he read his scriptures...prayed...attended seminary...served a mission...got married in the Temple...he would be "healed" of this curse. He would fast every month...write in his journal...and was/is truly one of the most spiritual people who loves God with all of his heart, mind and strength. So...if he could choose differently he would a long time ago. But he could not deny his orientation and even after praying about it and asking sincerely he feels it is who he is and he has embraced that fact. He still loves God and his relationship with God has not changed. But his relationship with the Church has. Although he still has good friends, he is not active in the Church anymore and has worked through the fear-based ramifications of that and is a very well -adjusted happy man. Good luck to you all working through this tough issue. Please deal only with unconditional love. We've lost too many to suicide needlessly.

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  30. Thanks, sisters, for your honest questions. Asking questions is a good thing--don't stop!

    Are you familiar with www.mormonsandgays.org? That's an LDS church resource in which our leadership clearly state that being gay is not a choice. While imperfect, there is some good information to be found there.

    Take it one step at a time. The best advice I ever got when it came to understanding anyone's sexual orientation is this: If someone tells you they're LGBT, just believe them.

    (BTW, I knew I was gay when I was 6. The idea that it stems from being molested or exposed to some kind of sexual impropriety is a myth. Happy to tell you more but the blog comment section is not the place.)

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    1. All, I'm saying is what some have said to me. I don't believe that all people who are gay , have had some sexual impropriety. I am stating that information giving to me by gay friends and family has stated this. The questions and statements that I have are from said conversations with members LGBT. My loved one is 13 female who has been molested by a very strong overpowering male. Her dad and I separated when she was 6 months. My current husband has been mean and very aggressive, whom is a stepdad. She is 13 and black in the LDS community and typically the boys like white girls not black . She has found girls who tell her that she is wonderful, and beautiful and that they will love her and protect her. Last week she yelled and stomped her feet and demanded that I except who she is. She now dresses like a boy and cut off all her hair. She says that she wants to be a boy because women are weak. People are encouraging her to be a lesbian, yet I am to understand that you are born LBGT? My daughter today says that the 2 boys in our ward are handsome....???!!! I'm confused. My friends have ALL been in hetrosexual relationships. My friends are all now LBGT? I'm so confused. Some are born this way , and some or not? Some have gone back to hetrosexual relationships. Confusing.. so when my 13 year old pounds her fist and says she's LBGT, I'm gonna question that!

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    2. Chanel, email me directly at mitchmayne@gmail.com. I think there's a lot more going on here than sexual orientation.

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  31. Stunningly good. Love is ALWAYS the answer :-)
    I don't know if this helps, but my thoughts are these; why would a loving God require such hardship of His children? There's no official answer, but I know I am required to spend the rest of my life without my son, George and that my mother was required to spend over half her life alone because she didn't find a new love after divorcing my father. Perhaps it has to do with whatever is needed to test our faith; in the 1800's it was plural marriage for Latter Day Saints. I wonder if we can point at the incredible strength of today's youth and how hard it is to truly test them?

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    1. Thanks, Helen. I've heard some people make the comment that perhaps the greater test is faced by straight people and how they respond to LGBT people. Of course that doesn't minimize the many challenges that our LGBT brothers and sisters face growing up in our faith. If we as a church were more understanding and empathetic, our LGBT members wouldn't have to face as much hardship.

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  32. But if they marry the opposite sex but are not attracted to them its not fair to the spouse whose self esteem will dimish over the years and always wondering who he really wants. Its just heartbreaking.

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  33. My son and I were just having a conversation about this the other day. He has a hard time with things that aren't black and white. I am going to share this post with him to help explain and expand his understanding. Thank you.

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  34. Excellent article. I have been blessed to know and love several LBGT members of the church and have been pondering many of these things in my heart. I agree that it isn't a choice. The hours of praying, fasting, pleading with God to please miraculously make them heterosexual, to help them fit the mold they know they should fit, to please take this away have definitely proved to me that it isn't something that was ever chosen. It just was something that was.

    I don't have any answers. I don't have any predictions for what the future will bring for LGBT members of the church. All I have is love. All I have is an open seat at church next to me and an open heart that says, "Come sit by me. Let us be friends."

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  35. Thanks for your comments Chris, Stacy and Mindy. I've found as I have gotten older that life isn't nearly as black and white as I used to think when I was young. Certainly, the greatest answer is always love and kindness.

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  36. Taking the above 2 paragraphs regarding the "sacrifice" gay members make, i. e. not being able to fall in love, marry etc., where exactly is the Christ-like love and acceptance that is spoken of?

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  37. With respect to the paragraphs describing the "sacrifices" gay LDS members make, i. e. not allowed to act on their attractions, fall in love, or marry the one they love, where exactly is the "Christ-like love and acceptance" so many of you speak of?

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  38. Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart.
    I myself have been the subject of much ridicule and prejudice's for different reason. Mainly because I am Native american AND LDS in a community that is VERY vocal in the way they treat First nations both in and out of the church.
    I served my mission in the south where, yeah these attitudes still exist.
    However, until recently I kind of just hid my head under a rock and pleaded with Father in Heaven to help me remain strong and steadfast in my testimony and my faith. Oft times it has been a VERY long lonely road.
    Things became a little more REAL for me...if you will when my baby brother came out of the closet. Even before he did people would often joke and ask what I would do if/when he came out of the closet, what would be my reaction. As it has been, I will ALWAYS love my brother no matter what he chose to do with his life.
    However on the flip side of a loving family, we have all gone through the heartache of addictions, abuse and whatever else the adversary could stand to throw at us.
    In and out of foster care. moving from town to town and family to family.
    Thankfully my little brother came years after all was said and done.
    Thinking that he was in the clear and did not have to endure such struggles, as my parents loved him and quite frankly, spoiled him rotten, my dear sweet baby brother still had to endure the pains of this harsh world and was subjected to abuse and introduced to a world of drugs and alcohal at a VERY young age.
    Now I could speculate as do alot of people that he is gay because he was abuse as a child. However, like you pointed out, we will never REALLY understand where this same gender attractions comes from.
    The reason I am responding is a hope that yes we do open our eyes, our hearts and minds to those in need. Whether it be for this issue or other issues. Like abuse, race, or what ever obstacle keeps us from truly feeling the unconditional love we are required to have for our brothers and sisters.
    My parents STILL have a hard time understanding and accepting my brother for who he is.
    Just recently my brother found himself literally living on the streets of Vancouver, selling himself on these same streets to feed the addictions in order to free himself of the shame and guilt of being accepted for who is REALLY is. Never in a million years would I have thought someone in my family, especially my little brother, would have to endure such horrible circumstances.
    My hope is that my folks...mainly my dad would open his heart and mind to information such as this.
    We are now on a LONG road to recovery. I hope you continue to do your work you were called to do. That is to spread these words of love, encouragement and understanding to a people who mean well but are "Blinded by the subtle, cunning, craftiness of men".
    Thank you again for sharing your story.

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  39. I really like what you said but i disagree with one thing. I have a sister that is mentally handicapped, to say she lacks the mental/emotional capacity to desire a companion is narrow minded. She has strong desires for companionship and would love to be in a relationship. Is she capable of having a normal relationship as most of us have the opportunity to experience, no. Unless she finds a companion that has a lot of patience and would be willing to overlook some of her short comings due to her mental handicap. I do full heartedly agree that the faithful gays of this religion suffer a great burden and i would not even wish this burden on my worst of enemies. I pray for them that they will have all the strength that they need to overcome any temptation that might keep them from living with our Heavenly Father.

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  40. What a great post Bryce, thank you. I think the Lord will do anything needed to change our hearts, even in the ways we didn't know they needed changing. We as a church are still very stiff necked and.....well, we mirror the Jews pretty much. I include myself in there as well. It just is what is. The scriptures were written for us about us to show us us. I will though that labels are to be used to communicate but not identified with. Someone was saying how gay children feel rejected when their orientation isn't recognized- with a label I presume, I would say the same about a fat person who's parent denies they are fat. But it is the child identifying with their condition that causes this- the parents denial never helps though- I feel. We are all more alike than different, let's focus on that, not to live in denial about differences though. A gay person that lives a woe is me life is not worse off than someone who isn't and lives a woe is me life. Pain will come, suffering is optional. I personally believe same sex tenancies have been put on some of use to teach us a lesson, both those with the tenancies and those without. I have a paper on my bedroom wall that reads "Did I Learn To Love" in bold lettering to remind me a large portion of what this life is about. A gay person can struggle with love and acceptance just the same as everyone else. I don't believe in victims, I believe in lessons. Everyone struggles to love and accept. I do believe though that there is a strong message from above that is sent to us via all the "different" people of this earth. Truth is, we all have our weird differences but will we love and accept anyways? We can all be challenges for one another. Will we love and accept anyways. I will fully admit though that I am still ignorant and don't know the why of all things, even regarding this topic. But I do know that I am being called to love and accept so that I can become more like my Father. The details aren't to be stumbled on. It is Christ's church, it is Christ's world, leave the details up to him and love and accept as we gain understanding.

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  41. It is a very difficult but admirable situation for the support they have given to his son, the love of family is essential in situations like this.

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  42. Your experience, reaction and charity brought me learning and greater understanding. thank you

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  43. Thanks for the post and the learning, insight and charity that helped my understanding as well. May your family continue to grow in love

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  44. Thank you. This topic has been on my mind a ton. Especially in how it might be for one of our youth, whom I work with, to be gay, but not out, and no body ever talking about it unless it is to condemn is as a sin. I'm going to do something about it, I just need to decide what. Your article helps. Thank you.

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