Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Conversation I Wish We Were Having

I spent the last week in Cincinnati grading Spanish AP tests. My week was spent hanging out with friends, exploring the city, endlessly grading papers, and watching people cast figurative stones on the internet.

On an evening stroll in downtown Cincinnati
I wasn’t on social media much this past week, but when I did get on I saw the same video pop up again and again of a 12-year-old girl who came out to her ward by reading some prepared remarks during testimony meeting. A priesthood leader asked Savannah to sit down before she finished her testimony. This video has been extremely polarizing. I’ve seen people casting stones at the leader for not allowing Savannah to be her authentic, courageous self. And I’ve seen people casting stones at Savannah and her parents for doing something that they feel was inappropriate. The media reported on the story largely painting the church in a bad light while Fair Mormon posted an article highlighting everything Savannah did wrong.

I’m not at all interested in debating the rightness or wrongness of what happened in that meeting here. The finger pointing, the blaming, and the stone throwing are unproductive. Blaming is easy. Pulling people down is easy. Finding fault is easy. Let’s be better than that. I wish that instead of all the blame, that as a faith community we could discuss the heart of the issue. Consider the following questions:

Why would a church member who experiences same-sex attraction want to share that information with their ward family?

Can a ward benefit if a member comes out to them? 

What is the appropriate way for a gay person to come out to their ward?

How should ward members respond when members publicly disclose feelings of same-sex attraction?

I’d like to share three stories about how I came out to three different wards. I don’t offer these as examples or templates, but they can illustrate how things can go right.  

Elders Quorum

When I was 30 I posted my coming out post on my blog. A few days later I was teaching Elders Quorum in my singles ward. When I began the lesson I had no intention of telling my quorum that I was gay, but I felt prompted to say something so I did. I awkwardly blurted out “I’m gay” towards the end of the lesson without much build up. The unexpected way those words came out must’ve been jarring for some people in the room. I shared a few stories, ended the lesson and sat down. I remember feeling the comforting presence of the HoIy Ghost as I bore my testimony at the end of the lesson and contemplated what had just happened as I sat in my chair. I was recently talking to one of the bishopric members who was present at that lesson. He said that what he remembered most was watching me sit down. He said, “You looked lighter and more relaxed. You looked so relieved. It was evident in your body language that you felt a burden had been taken off your shoulders.” He is exactly right. That’s how I felt. I had been lying to people and hiding an important part of my life story from my quorum and it was such a relief to just be honest and not have to hid anymore.  

Spanish Branch

Not long after this lesson I turned 31 meaning that I graduated from the singles ward without honors. I started attending a local Spanish branch and retreated back into the closet. It was awful. Members of the branch couldn’t understand why I was single and when they tried to set me up with their cousins, nieces, and friends I would always say I was too busy with school to date. I hated lying to them, but I didn’t feel comfortable telling them the truth.

That June same-sex marriages became legal nationwide and each LDS congregation was asked to spend the third hour of a meeting in July reviewing some materials about marriage sent from church headquarters. I had been home visiting my parents the first week in July and had had that lesson with my parents in their ward. The next week I was back in Tucson and they had chosen that week for the marriage lesson. I almost went home after Sacrament meeting because I didn’t feel like having that lesson again, but I stayed anyway. As I walked into the Relief Society room I said a fervent, silent prayer. I told Heavenly Father that I wasn’t going to make any comments, but that if He wanted me to say anything He’d have to make it very clear.

About halfway through the meeting the Branch President asked if there were any comments and without even realizing it my hand shot up in the air. I said, “This might be sharing too much information, but there are a lot of gay members of the church who want to keep the commandments and stay active and I’m one of them.” I then talked about the need to love everyone and how the love and acceptance of family and friends had helped me to stay active. Earlier in the meeting we had talked about “the gays” as if they were some group apart from us Mormons, but after my comment the tone shifted. I wrote the following in my journal: “The rest of the meeting was great. The overarching theme was loving everyone as the Savior would. The Branch President mentioned through tears that his daughter is a lesbian and has left the church. He pointed to me and said that he loves me and he loves us all. It was very touching and I just felt enveloped by love. These people who I barely know felt like my family.”

Tucson Temple open house
I remember in that meeting we sang Families Can Be Together Forever. I didn’t always feel like I fit in in the Spanish branch, but as we sang that song the Spirit spoke to my heart and told me that they were my family. Two weeks ago I was volunteering as an usher at the Tucson Temple open house and a number of people from my old branch came through. They greeted me as enthusiastically as a person could be greeted and I got handshakes and hugs from people I hadn’t seen in quite some time. They know I’m gay and they are still my family.

Campbell Ward

Towards the end of 2015 I started attending an English-speaking family ward. In January 2016 I was asked to give a talk about the purpose of the church. Before the meeting I was speaking with the bishop who barely knew me at the time. I asked him if I could mention that I was gay in my talk. He said he didn’t see why that would be a problem. In the talk I shared how difficult it has been at times to stay in the church as someone who experiences same-sex attraction. I shared the story of Kevin and Allison’s sealing and how that experience encouraged me to stay. I wrote the following about that talk in my journal: “After the meeting about a dozen people thanked me for my courage and commitment. I was grateful to be so well-received. After church Hyrum Allen sent me an email. I’d never talked to him before, but he told me that he and his wife will be there for me whether or not I stay in the church. He also invited me over to dinner. I feel like that’s what Jesus would do. It feels so good to be open with everyone.”

The year and a half since I came out to my whole ward have been awesome. The Campbell Ward has become my spiritual home and the people there have become my family. It feels incredibly freeing to be open and honest with everyone. I don’t mention being gay all the time because I don’t want that to be my thing. There are other important parts of me (like my penchant for dad jokes and puns). I do, however, often mention being gay in lessons or when I bear my testimony if it’s relevant to my spiritual journey, which it often is. And I have felt no pushback from ward members for being so open, only love and gratitude.

Looking Forward

In Mosiah 18 the prophet Alma explains that when we are baptized we covenant to bear one another’s burdens. Keeping this covenant, I feel, is essential if we want to become like the Savior. But how can we bear one another’s burdens if we don’t know what they are? Verses 21 and 22 explain, “And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another. And thus he commanded them to preach. And thus they became the children of God.

I think these verses are just beautiful and they speak to the kind of community that I want to help build. A community where our hearts are knit together and where we can become something divine together. I have sensed a lot of anger related to this video of Savannah’s testimony and I validate those feelings. I also felt angry reading comments where people with different viewpoints were quite unkind to each other. We can use this anger to tear others down or we can channel it into productive energy to build something better. And so I invite you once again to consider these questions:

Why would a church member who experiences same-sex attraction want to share that information with their ward family?

Can a ward benefit if a member comes out to them?

What is the appropriate way for a gay person to come out to their ward?

How should ward members respond when members publicly disclose feelings of same-sex attraction?

I am 100% in favor of gay members being open with their wards if they want to be. I know from personal experience how healing it can be. I have experienced an increased measure of love, acceptance, and wholeness as I have been honest with the people in my congregations. I wish that everyone could experience those same feelings. So let's talk about how we can make that happen. 


61 comments:

Joleen said...

You look so good in that picture with the temple. So hot, Ben!

Ben said...

Of course the handsome picture is the one from far away.

Kincaid said...

I've had a lot of non-Mormon friends repost that video with a lot of harsh words about the censorship. I appreciate your insight into this phenomenon and I hope that the questions you ask get answers through civil discourse, meditation, and future blog posts.

Joleen said...

Ha! It just allows us to see that incredible physique you've been working on.

Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing! I loved the questions you posed. So much better than mud slinging. Let's focus on the matter at heart, with our hearts.

Dia Darcey said...

This is a beautiful article with good questions. Thank you!

Becca said...

Thank you!!

The Love Birds said...

You don't know me, but I happened upon your blog post via Facebook and am grateful for your thoughts. My brother is gay and has left the church due to some harsh feelings. I am grateful to hear of the brotherly kindness out there. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You mention that you soufht the bishop's approval to mention in a talk tbat you are gay. I suspect that had this young sister sat with her bishop beforehand, explained her feelings to him, and asked direction, he would have guided her as to how she could share her testimony with the greatest positive impact. As it was, it seemed a bit of a 'gotcha' event. It was the 'how' not the 'what' that caused the stir.

Anonymous said...

I have a genuine question from someone who does not have same-sex attraction but am an inactive member of the church. I have always struggled with the stance the church and religion in general takes on being gay. Life is so difficult as it is. All any of us truly want is to find that person we can connect with one hundred percent. To love, care for, have physical intimacy and everything that being in love means. To have that one person to walk by our side through all the crazy this life has to offer. I do believe in Heavenly Father, but I can't for the life of me believe he would expect people who have same sex attraction to go through this life forfeiting being truly in love..to have that one person by their side. How could he possibly expect that of you? People might say a relationship with Christ is enough. I call bluff. Yes, is a relationship with heavenly father and Christ powerful and does it bring peace and comfort? Absolutely! But even that relationship cannot take the place of a physical, romantic, and love like finding that helpmate to walk through life with. I just can't make myself believe it. Yes you may be "right with the church" and maybe believe you are right with God. But are you truly happy withstanding something you must want so badly? Is it all truly worth it? And do you truly believe it is absolutely expected of you in order to feel right with God when you pass to the other side?

Ben said...

And you'll notice from reading my post, I'm not interested in discussing what she did right or wrong, but I am interested in discussing how we can do things better. I spoke with my bishop beforehand in only one of the three stories I share her. So let's not blame Savannah for doing something wrong, but let's focus on how we can be more united.

Ben said...

These are great questions and I will not be able to answer them to your satisfaction here. What I will say is that I go not judge people for being in same-sex relationships and I will validate that path if that is what they choose. I'm living my life the way I feel called to live and I feel really good about the current course of my life. You should an article I posted on May 5, 2016 called "Goldilocks and the Gay Mormon Paradox." I don't think it will convince you, but it will give you an extra view into my life.

Christine Anderson said...

Thank you Ben for you serious and loving comments. You have helped more than you could possibly know about same sex attraction. My son is doing great and he is loved unconditionally in our family! He went through the Tucson Temple with me last week. It was so special!! I see him as the good man he is and how he appreciates how he was raised. I pray your new indexers will bring you success and joy.

Anonymous said...

I loved this article. It's hard in the church because the exposure to homosexuality is so limited. Often we grow up around other members and they end up being our primary social group our entire lives. Perhaps some of them have been gay, but too afraid to come out, so we would never know. That being said, it can be somewhat of a culture shock. I have found myself really awkward in some encounters with gay friends (probably overcompensating trying not to be awkward). Moving forward with the love of Christ is always a given to strive for, but are there any specific things you can identify to avoid when fellowshipping a member of the church who is gay?

Ben said...

I would recommend asking questions and just listening to them share their experiences. Don't tell, listen.

Taylor Froebe said...

The most powerful moment of my conversion process was at my first Fast and Testimony meeting. I heard a gay Mormon speak to the ward openly and honestly. He bore his testimony as strongly and inspirationaly as any I've ever heard. He was not ashamed or fearful. He was just his own awesome self. Across the ward I saw nothing but nodding and smiles. The talk had everyones attention and without exception I saw love and acceptance. I was really looking too. After; the hugs and handshakes tipped the scales for me. I, like many nonmembers, had some preconceived notions about how this church would treat it's gay members socially.
To see that our Church's high moral standards do not exclude loving, supporting, and giving equal respect to a gay members was a shock and such a wonderful suprise. I knew right then, at that moment, that this was the church for me.
Thank you buddy.

Anna Kendall said...

I don't know you at all but wanted to say THANK YOU for this post and your courage in all things. My husband and I were just talking this morning about how we wish the conversation around this event was far less polarizing and there was more love and sympathy - on both sides. You put it all into words beautifully, and your personal experiences speak truth. Thank you again.

Alicia said...

Great article! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. You recieved what I would all would in your position...love and support.

Taylor Froebe said...

The most important moment of my conversion process was at my first Fast and Testimony meeting. There, I heard a gay Mormon speak to the ward. He bore his testimony as strongly and inspirationaly as any I've heard to this day. He spoke honestly, and openly without fear. Without exception (and I was really looking) I saw nothing but love and approval on the faces, row after row, across the ward. The smiles and nodding during the wonderful talk, but more so the flood of hugs and handshakes afterwards, struck me like a gut punch.
I, like many nonmembers, had some preconceived ideas about how gay Mormons are treated socially.
The universal love and support for my friend, to be who he is, and to be equalled respected and honored speaking, was the moment when I KNEW this was the church for me.
Thank you buddy.

Lindsey Heath said...

You are pretty much my favorite person right now. I love the way you write and your positivity. Thank you for sharing your experiences. People who have never experienced same sex attraction(myself included) can gain so much insight and wisdom from your posts. We really are all in this together and I hope that you always feel loved and included. I can't imagine being in the middle of such a hot, debated, polarizing issue(not the right word-but you get my point). It is interesting that so many people have such strong opinions but very little understanding or experience with being gay. I am blabbing, but I seriously wish you were in my ward and that I could know you personally. ALL THE BEST! Lindsey

Mer said...

Fantastic article! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences in a kind and non combative way. It's not our place to judge Savannah or the stake leader. All of us are simply trying to do our best to return to our Heavenly Father.

James Bell said...

First off, good luck in your life. Secondly, I'm also LDS and have a guy brother.
Look, I'm a NRA member but I don't talk about guns in church. I'm also a Republican, I don't talk politics in church either.
I was at a church meeting one time 40 years ago when a High councilman started talking politics. Despite the fact that I agree with his position I hated his talk.I did not come to church to hear about politics.

I don't want to hear about pornography masturbation adultery or any other sexual experience.

I care about your testimony of Jesus Christ.
Within limits no one is prevented from getting in front of the entire ward and professing their beliefs, but it is not a gay forum or a political forum.
Out front it says the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visitors welcome.
Love ya brother.

Audrey said...

Thank you for your post.

Emily Yetter said...

I think it's interesting that humans think they need physical love and emotion to be whole on this earth.... kind of animal like thoughts. If you remove yourself from the here and now that really is such a small part of our lives here on earth you will realize that it isn't always a necessity. Yes, it's nice to feel that and enjoy that but really is life not complete with out that??? NO! I am married to my best friend who is paralyzed from the neck down. So if you can imagine never being touched, held and physical through our whole marriage here on earth, should that be a deal breaker, absolutely not. There is so much more to marriage and life with your spouse. In another life all of that will be there and that's all I need to know. Life is so much greater if you can realize those things in life aren't a necessity. I'm so grateful for my husband and the eternal strength and bond we share as not the here and now. Just my thought to the anonymous person above.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing. Very inspired words. You must be living a righteous life that allows you to be worthy of the true promptings from the spirit. I wish your post could receive as much attention as the video has. You are a great example for not only the church and what we believe and should stand for but of Jesus Christ himself and how he would handle these situations that sometimes cause contention. I'm also so happy to hear how loving and supportive your wards have been as you've shared your personal story.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your willingness to be open to your ward family and others. You will definitely help others with same-sex attraction be strong in their belief. I wish my son had the same experience, but instead he was shunned by his church peers and leader and thus saw no benefit to stay in the LDS church if there was no support. I truly believe that the more you and others can share your positive experiences, it will help so many others who are struggling with how they could possibly stay involved in the LDS church. Thank you!

Erin Willson said...

This was wonderful to read. My daughters are both part if the LGBT+ commubut I. They are both active and have strong testimonies. I love you comment about not wanting to have being gay be your "thing." Amen! I teach my girls to lead with other things about themselves and bring up their orientation when it's pertinent. I LOVE those questions! That really is what matters. My girls know Savannah from a youth group, so we have discussed this at length. My 17 year old came out last year to her Mia Maid class. That expanded a group at a time. I think coming out to a ward in testimony is perfectly appropriate if it pertains to faith in Christ or other basic elements of a testimony as we have been instructed by general church leaders. I think SSA people want to come out to their ward because they want to be seen and loved for who they are. They want to feel safe and cherished and validated. This is common to us all. It is especially true of young people who are in the stage of development where they look to their peers more than their family for acceptance and connection. Love them. Give them an extra measure of acceptance and validation. And treat them as you would any other person because they ARE normal, regular folk.

Anonymous said...

I touched on much more than just the physical aspect of a relationship. Obviously the church also condemns same sex marriage or any other form of a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. As far as referring to wanting a physical relationship with someone you're absolutely in love with as an "animal like"? No offense to your sensitive situation with your husband, but that's absolutely ridiculous! It is an incredible experience of bonding and sharing love which has actually been referred to as a kind of "sacrament" by church leaders to fully explain it's power in sharing love. And a gift from God. The love my husband and I share through physical intimacy is nothing close to or could ever be minimilized to be described as animal like. My point is, those of same sex attraction whom choose not to act absolutely miss out on such am incredible experience of falling in love, physically AND emotionally.

McRae Family said...

In our local SW Idaho area the local news FB post ran this little girl's story, I am sure for the reaction it would get. 99% of the comments were from people who hate Mormons. The same was true in the comment section of the Huf-Po post where I saw the story originally. A few weeks ago my 12-13 yr old Sunday School class asked me about gays. We talked about how every person struggles with different things in life for many different reasons and the gospel of Jesus Christ is for every single person regardless of those struggles.
Thank you for your perspective and sharing your testimony.

Anonymous said...

I can not reconcile the LDS church message about eternal marriage and teaching gay members to remain celibate. Obviously, being gay is more than "same sex atteactuon," just as being heterosexual is more than "opposite sex attraction." It's about intimacy, commitment, partnership, and love. Why would loving Heavenly Parents deny this essential thing? The LDS church wants to have room for diversity, but it us so invested in correlation and protecting image, it is really not possible to fully embrace people who don't fit the cis-hetero-patriatchial ideal. I'm glad Savannah felt she had a ward family and it appears this was a visiting Stake President who interrupted, not her bishop. While I can't personally reconcile the LDS policies regarding gay marriage and the baptism exclusion policy and my belief in a loving God, I am glad that this conversation is happening. I think many of us have witnessed local congregations embrace diversity. I just wish the teaching matched that message of love and acceptance.

Erika said...

As a democrat (moderate) mormon I really hate people talking politics at church! One meeting we were actually compared with Laman and Lemuel. I nearly flipped out at everyone in Sunday school!

I think the difference is if gay mormons are open with it, we come to understand that the person themselves are not sinners or evil. That they are gay yet still living the same principles as the rest of us. If you "came out" as a gun owner or republican, you wouldn't have members assume you're apostate, as many do about homosexuals... Or democrats! 😉

Nick and Christine said...

Thank you for being open enough to share this! It takes a ton of courage and I commend you for that. I hope this encourages others to be brave enough to also come forward so we can show our love to them instead of wondering if and who will judge them.

LadyKathryn said...

In a church where marriage and family are such focal points, I hope you will not consider someone sharing a valid reason for their not marrying in this life as being "political" or "sexual." Would you object to someone sharing how a trial at work or with their health deepened their relationship with Christ and impacted their spiritual experiences? Being gay impacts many areas of a person's life and it absolutely will be a major factor in their Christian experience. It is important to share - especially for how this sharing strengthens others. Several members of my ward share in their testimonies their experiences with depression. I am grateful for this especially for how it helps others who have been feeling ashamed of their own depression and hiding it; it lets them know that they are not alone and that they are in a safe place where we can support each other. It is the same for those who have experienced the death of a child or any other life-changing hardship. I agree with you that our Sacrament meetings ought not become political playgrounds, but there are topics that must be discussed if we are to become one as the Savior has commanded - even if those topics may not (on the surface) seem gospel related. We need to be free to talk about anything that might hinder us from coming unto Christ and how we have overcome those things - or how we are struggling, but striving to do right.

Colette Steele said...

Thank you. I was thinking something similar. We ALL have ideas, beliefs and behaviors that define, in part, who we are. There is definitely a time and place when we should share and shouldn't share how we feel and what we think about any given topic. We've all been in wards where fast and testimony meetings can be uncomfortable because we don't know who will say what. We've certainly also all been in a spot where we've said something in the wrong place and at the wrong time. My father says I sometimes have a case of TMI. ;) The key, I think, is trying to speak with the Holy Ghost, and always trying to respond honestly and with love.

Karine Clark said...

Hi Ben! Just happened to come upon your blog on facebook. I read your goldilocks and the gay mormon post as well. Love it! You seem like an amazing guy and a great example! Just want to say WOW!

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for writing this!

Dolly Wilson said...

you are one amazing human being...thank you for sharing. There's always love and hate, good and bad in all stories and experiences in the story of life. We should keep looking forward and not so quickly pointing fingers at others no matter what they believe. Mutual respect and unconditional love doesn't come easy for everyone. We are all on the same journey but at different points.

Jennifer Leigh Mustoe said...

I love all you have to say. And your questions are valid. However, I think there is a huge difference between you, as an adult, asking your bishop if mentioning you are gay to the congregation in a talk is different than a 12-year-old girl going in blind and then being shut down. Whoever thought this was a great idea didn't understand parenting. Yes, I am blaming the parents. Their daughter is brave, but ended up being braver braver than she needed to be. How about talking to her YW leader first? The bishop, with her parents? Talking to some of her friends who could rally around her?
As a Democrat, I get a lot of crap for my politics. But being a Dem is a CHOICE. Being gay is not. We need far more information, compassion, and openness for the dialogue that gays need to be in the Church and WE NEED THEM to work. How nice it would be if someone could go to the pulpit, meaning me maybe, and say, I am a survivor of incest. I used to self-harm. Again, the abuse was not my choice. But that is a delicate subject and under the right circumstances, should be addressed over the pulpit. But it needs to be 'prepared.'
Good on you for being so strong and brave and faithful. You're an example to us all.

David Frey said...

That's the opinion of a woman. If you would ask a man if physical intimacy is absolutely necessary for a happy life you might get a very different response.

Sarah said...

Thank you for sharing this. I completely agree!

Jill Alvarado said...

OMG, I love this article so much! Thank you for being a voice of loving kindness and clarity in this often confusing issue! <3

Amanda Harbison said...

I am so grateful for your supportive words. I think as a church membership we have a LONG way to go in terms of accepting people where they are and loving without strings. As a fellow Tucsonan- I am proud to join the group who support homosexuals right to be who they are, regardless of what that looks like.

Anonymous said...

The best perspective I've read oon this topic in a long time. Thank you for your example and testimony.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Drew said...

This entire post has everything to do with the culture of the Church and nothing to do with the Gospel of the Church.

"Gay" is a description of thoughts and behavior, not an identity.

Anonymous said...

It is good to hear hear that your experiences of coming out to your ward have been so positive. Sadly, not everyone lives in a ward where the people are so understanding. It may partially be a difference of Utah Mormonism vs. other places. In my experience many of the wards in Utah can be extremely unforgiving to people who question the faith, or don't live the lifestyle "perfectly". I wish everyone could have the positive experiences you have had.

Anonymous said...

Why are you so focused on proclaiming gayness in every talk you give? People who are addicted to drugs and pornography don't mention in their talks about how they smoke weed or watch pornography constantly. They seek help and allow the atonement to change their lives to overcome their problems. Are gays so afraid of Jesus Christ and his atonement that they are not willing to place their burdens on the Lord to help them overcome their difficulties? Are we not all accountable before the Lord for our actions and behavior? If I accept the doctrine of Eternal Marriage wouldn't I do everything in my power to follow those principles? I'm not denying you have these feelings, nor am I preaching hatred. All I am saying is that the atonement can help ANY of us overcome our burdens and that's what we should be working towards.

Heather Nicole said...

Drew, maybe this message can further clarify the gospel's place in the LGBT... community
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd8LkJt9iPI

Jessie said...

"What is the appropriate way for a gay person to come out to their ward?"

What is the appropriate way for a person with adulterous feelings to come out to their ward? Why do we put members with SSA on a pedestal, but those of us who struggle with attractions to people other than our spouse are shamed? I can't control it. I haven't acted on it. Do I come out to people as an adulterer and claim that as my identity? Will people celebrate my diversity? I'd like to see if I'll be shamed in this forum like others

Crystal Davies said...

Your post is wonderful and exactly how I would want any member of the church to feel. Even better are responses in the comments! Well done!

Ben said...

The Lord defines Zion in part as a people that is of one heart and one mind. If we build Diane, we need to understand what is in each other's minds and hearts. Being open about my experiences as part of the ways that I let people into my heart and build Zion. To further answer your question, I do it because God told me to. I invite you to watch all the videos and read all the messages on mormonandgay.lds.org. If you're still feeling uncomfortable with me talking about my experiences being there at church, send me an email and we can talk more. benschilaty at gmail dot com

Ben said...

I would hope that no one would put me on a pedestal for being day. That would be a really weird thing for them to do. I also hope that we wouldn't shame anyone for their sins, even if they are adulterers. I hope you will take some time watching the stories and reading everything on mormonandgay.lds.org. It took me about four hours to go through all the content. Send me an email with your thoughts when you're done. benschilaty at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this post. I have gained a new perspective because of it. My answers to your questions were much different after reading your story than before.

Marginally Here said...

Thank you! I loved this!

LezFan said...

"Why would a church member who experiences same-sex attraction want to share that information with their ward family? "

Because LGBT youth are being thrown out of their Mormon homes and many end up with terrible lives. They often turn to prostitution to survive and often turn to drugs to escape their miserable condition and, sadly, many commit suicide.

DavidPaystrup said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I really enjoyed it. Your questions were ones I was trying to share. I think the Fairmormon.org article attempts to answer what is the appropriate way for it to be addressed. But it doesn't ask the question.

Also anti-Mormon groups are having a field day with this as you mentioned which has been very distracting.

N McC said...

To Anonymous, who can't believe God would want anyone to be alone throughout their life: I wouldn't say that He does-- but I know there are a great many people who are, and same-sex attraction has nothing to do with it.
My aunt was born with a fusion of her upper vertebrae, and her chin protruded from her chest, because her head sat directly on her shoulders, and she had no neck. Her ears were where others have the base of their necks. Her spine was so malformed that she could never stand up straight. No one was ever interested in her romantically, and she never had even single date -although she did have 2 or 3 friends throughout her adult life. And I mean literally, 2 or 3 over the thirty years after she moved out of my grandparents' house.
I also have a daughter with Down syndrome. She is not one of the ones who will have self esteem building careers as actors or models, full of recognition and praise. She was not born with the pronounced appearance of Down syndrome, and I thought she would be one of the highly functional ones. But as time went on it became apparent that that would not be the case. She was so unfunctional, in fact, that I was grateful that she would probably never be aware enough to realize that other people fell in love, got married, or had children. I prayed that she would always remain unaware of those things, and never feel the heartbreak of knowing that others had those experiences, but that she never would, especially as her sisters are all likely to have husbands and children. But now, it doesn't look like she will be spared that. In the last year, even though she still doesn't really understand it, she has started talking about 'love' and 'marry' when she sees young couples. Even though she can't grasp that my husband and I love each other and are married, she does realize that young people pair off and get married. That really breaks my heart for her.
A couple of years ago, a highly functioning teenaged boy with autism, fell madly in love with with our 4th daughter. He asked her out, constantly, and would tell her that one of the other young men, whom my daughter felt an immediate mutual affinity for, had a 'bad aura' and she should never go near him. The 2nd young man will be home from his mission in six months, and it still looks pretty likely that that relationship will become permanent. But what about the autistic boy? He was heartbroken, and hated the other one, when it became obvious which one our daughter preferrred. Because he knew enough to develop strong emotional attachments to cute girls, but can't understand why they don't return those feelings. At some point, he might meet someone who does, but I don't think anyone thinks that is very likely.
Regardless of whether Heavenly Father is really "wants" some of His children to always be alone ... some of them will be. We each have trials, burdens, and tests, and some of us just won't ever experience the type of romance you have described. Even some married people, many from the last (or second last) century never experienced that kind of romance. Life really isn't all about sex or romance. It is about growing, learning, being obedient, changing and overcoming the natural man.
My aunt died when she was 56, a few weeks after my youngest cousin's wedding. She had lived with or near their family for twenty ish years, and once Amanda was married, I think my aunt felt like she didn't have to worry about 'her baby' anymore. she died very very shockingly suddenly one night, but decades before, she had been told in a blessing that SHE had chosen to have the trials that she did, before she was ever born, because without those extra burdens, this life just wouldn't have been enough of a challenge for her. If that was true of her, I can't see any reason why it should not be true of any other person who remains alone throughout their time on earth. Kind of gives you new respect for those people, doesn't it?

Debbie said...

Hi Jessie, Your questions are fair and actually very thought provoking. I'm not going to pretend to have a profound answer, but what I truly appreciate about this post is that it is trying to help us think through things before we just react. Before we just REACT to someone sharing an experience with us that we may initially think is perhaps not appropriate, pause to think about what it is that person really needs from us and from the Savior.
And so, even though you pose your questions about being an adulterer as what I can only assume is in an 'obviously I would never share that' sort of way, I think the point of this post is that yes... you should be able to share that and receive the love and support of a church family that is there for you and ready and willing to help you work through that to come closer to Christ.
I think a key factor would be sharing your story appropriately and in settings where it IS going to help you to be better and draw you closer to Christ. That would likely mean you would share your story in a setting with your bishop--as he would be one that could help you to draw closer to Christ through that experience. Others might include close friends that can help be a support as well. That is, I presume, the way that those with SSA would also hope to benefit from sharing their experiences as well. They would like to be surrounded by those that will help to support them as they try to use their experience to draw closer to Christ.
The danger (and I'll use that word loosely... maybe 'caution that needs to be considered' is better?) with sharing openly with everyone and anyone (and perhaps the reason it makes many people nervous to have such experiences shared so openly?), is that other people may use your experience as an excuse to validate their own--even when they might not feel the need to draw closer to the Savior from it and instead would prefer to just do/act on whatever they feel they want to. That is presumably the same with any temptation and a reason we don't just 'share' all of our experiences with temptations and/or sins haphazardly. All of our trials and struggles can help bring us closer to the Savior if we allow them to. But not everyone will allow them to.
I'm not sure I'm stating that the way it's making sense in my head, nor am I sure it is truth across the board. But hopefully it makes sense and sheds a little bit of insight on your questions.
I have a great respect for people who recognize their struggles and trials as opportunities to come closer to Christ. I try to do that with my own trials, but I am far from being perfect at it (or even semi-perfect). So when I see others who can do it, it gives me courage and strength to try to be better myself. And that's just it. We're all here to learn and grow and try harder to do better each day. As well as helping others along the way. :)

Day said...

Ben, you said this "I would hope that no one would put me on a pedestal for being day. That would be a really weird thing for them to do." at 8:38 on June 22. I want to begin by saying you aren't Day, I am! So quit being Day.
On a more serious note, you are an example of how to live true to both yourself and our teachings. I tried to be courageous and came out to my bishop. All I said was "I'm gay" and he said, "No, you're not!" He didn't mean to hurt or be negative; and as I read all these posts, I realize we need to find ways to have the conversation, without hate or arguing. We have a long way to go. You are much like a pioneer and many of us are following. Thanks for not giving up!

Makailas Grandma said...

In think if you can live life that way. More power to you. I could not. I left the church. I am happy. I have a wife. We have been together 21 years. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed reading this.

Teri (aka TLC) said...

Ben, thanks so much for your insight. You said exactly what I've been thinking but didn't know how to verbalize. I think the questions you brought up are valid for any issue that someone feels like they want to share with their ward in a testimony. Gracias amigo por tus sentimientos tan lindos!!