Monday, March 18, 2019

You Are the Resources

My dad asked for a rainbow tie for Christmas.
Ginny and Buzz Schilaty are the best resources in the Church.
Last week I spoke at a workshop on how to minister to our LGBT ward and stake members. During the Q&A I was asked by a bishop what resources the church has for same-sex attracted members. I mentioned the mormonandgay.lds.org site and then was about to say that the Church really doesn’t have many resources. In an unusually clear moment of inspiration, I knew exactly what to say. I was prompted to say something I’d never said before. 

You are the resources,” I said. “The Lord has placed you in your callings so that you can be the resource for any member who feels marginalized.” And then I requoted a line that I had shared a few minutes before from counselingresources.churchofjesuschrist.org: “The most important thing you can do after a member discloses feelings of same-sex attraction is to listen and help them feel welcome.” The resource I’ve needed the most in my life is to be heard, validated, and understood. 

Another person asked me what I thought the Church’s next steps would be regarding its LGBT members. I said that I had no idea and that it wasn’t my job to say what the Church should or shouldn’t do (and thank goodness for that!). Then I said, “What church leaders do is outside of my sphere of influence, but there is so much I can do within my sphere of influence. And I’m going to work as hard as I can to make my ward and congregation the Zion that it is meant to be and the heaven on earth that I know it can be.” We can all labor in our spheres of influence to build Zion by building up the people around us. 

Here’s a simple example. A few months ago I shared my testimony at church. While I was sitting on the stand waiting for my turn, I felt a small prompting to say, “Good afternoon, sisters and brothers,” and invert the typical “brothers and sisters.” Such a small thing, but I did it. When I sat down a dear friend texted me saying that that gesture had meant so much to her, to know that in the eyes of her Heavenly Parents she doesn’t come second. Such a small thing, but it helped to communicate the message the Holy Ghost had for her that day—we are all alike unto God. We can follow small promptings to assist the Holy Ghost in teaching eternal truths.

The desert is the first place I allowed myself to be me
I’ve been back to visit Tucson a number of times since I moved away in 2017. I rarely went to his house when I lived there, but I always make sure to visit my old stake president when I’m in town. As my stake president, he listened and helped me feel welcome in remarkable ways. With no hyperbole, I can say that he changed my life. The details aren’t important, but the effect for me will be eternal. And so, I make sure he knows what a difference he made in my life by acting in his sphere of influence. I always get emotional when I thank him in person, but I’m compelled to thank him every time for being the resource I needed. 

Another person I always visit and thank is my former Institute teacher. In 2015 he asked me to speak at the weekly Institute devotional about my experiences as a gay Latter-day Saint. That was quite a courageous thing for him to do. As I spoke I said something that I had never before articulated: “I used to think that the Atonement of Jesus Christ would make me straight, but instead it healed my broken heart.” I needed that message that day, and so did other people present. Had Brother Bauer not acted in his sphere of influence to tackle a tough topic, many of us would have missed out on that healing moment. 

A year later I moved into a new ward and was asked to give a talk. Almost no one in the ward knew me. I asked the bishop if I could come out in my talk and he said, “I don’t see why that would be a problem.” So I did. A few hours after church I got an email from someone in the ward I’d never talked to before. It said in part: “I am glad to see your optimism, and your testimony has helped strengthen mine. You will not be forgotten if you stop coming to church. I will miss your presence. If you ever need to talk or hang out or just grab dinner, you are always invited into our home.” I cried as I read those words from a stranger who became a brother. Hyrum was the resource I needed that day. Such a simple thing to send an email to a new member of the ward, but it was exactly what I needed that day. 

I don’t know what you should do in your sphere of influence to be a resource to those who feel marginalized. But God knows. And I can’t think of a prayer that He would be more anxious to answer. I didn’t realize at the time how much I needed that ministering from my friends in Tucson, but I know it now, and our Heavenly Parents knew it all along. That’s why They inspired them to do what they did. I hope we can all have the courage to act in our spheres of influence to be the resources that others need. 

3 comments:

Adelle said...

Hi Ben! I am not sure if you remember me, but we grew up in the same ward together in Everett. My dad and your dad are good friends! Dell Holman. This is Adelle, and I love your blog! You are amazing and I am so happy that you are so open about all of this. It takes so much courage and you've got it! Just wanted to say hi and I appreciate your blog. Janelle (Jex) Leonard shared it on her Facebook feed and I am so glad she did. Would you tell your parents that Adelle (Holman) Giles said hi? Have a great day! :)

Bryan Tanner said...

Ben, there was a time when my love for my sisters and brothers was clouded by my disapproval of some of their “life choices.” (I was afraid the ideology of SSA was somehow contagious and that listening to others’ stories would shake my own discipleship.) However, when I did begin to listen, I realized that SSA wasn’t necessarily a choice, and it changed everything for me, cracking open my culturally indoctrinated mind and heart. I eventually realized that, even if people were gay by choice, everyone deserves unconditional positive regard—especially those who may be unwisely exercising their agency to avoid greater pain.

As a neophyte in true Christlike discipleship, I have been praying—this week even—for ways to increase my capacity to receive and act on God’s revelation. I genuinely feel like your invitation here is an answer to my prayers. Thank you, Ben, for being an amazing example for me.

thOtherMom said...

Thank you for sharing your message in Pleasant Grove this morning. You are a treasure in the Church! As you continue to share your message of Christ-like love and dedication to living the Gospel, you will bless & change many lives! I wish I would have had someone like you to talk to when my son came out to me 16 yrs. ago. When he asked me, "What are you going do, Mom?" with a terrified look on his face, I just put my arms around him and said, "I'm just going to keep loving you like I always have." We have always been close and he knows that my love for him is always there & unconditional. I just wish I had known what else to say or do other than pray for him. After the policy that gay married couples could not have their children baptized, he was so angry that he asked to have his membership removed. His anger continues and does not allow me to have conversations about it with him. He lives with me & is very supportive of me and my activities in the Church, even driving me to & from my day to serve in the temple. Some conversations have opened a little crack in the door during those times. I continue to love him & PRAY for his heart to be softened so that he can feel the Spirit & Heavenly Father & the Savior's love for him.