Today I participated in and witnessed a mighty miracle. For some of you, this may be “too little, too late” but for me it was tremendously significant and brings me a great and enormous sense of strength and personal hope for the future, for my personal future, for the future of the Church, for the future of all MOHOs.
This entry may be long, and you may not make your way through it all… That is okay for I write today, not so much for you, but for myself, for me to remember the feelings I had and the miracle that I was a part of. In a real sense I saw the enlightenment from on-high descending to inspire and uplift, to motivate and bring hope for the future generations of this Church!
All year I have dreaded the day that Lesson 17 of
I came to church highly charged and prepared for what may come and I told myself that I wasn’t going to say anything, but observe what was said by my quorum brothers. Needless to say, my quorum is prototypical of those along the Wasatch Front – about 45 to 50 active brothers attend each week, most being over 60, grandfathers mainly, many great-grandfathers as well, most empty nesters, most seasoned in the gospel having been bishops, stake leaders, mission presidents. These are a very knowledgeable and very conservative
Before settling into the lesson, I was asked by a father of one of my home teaching families to assist him in giving his wife a blessing. We quickly ran home to administer to her (which was a sweet experience in and of itself) and then I hurried back to the meeting hoping to have not “missed the juicy parts” of the lesson. Because I returned late, the lesson was already underway, so I slipped into the rear of the chapel, having missed the setup to the instructor having a brother read from page 181 and then asking “So what about homosexuality?”
“Good!” I told myself… “Perfect timing!”
The discussion started treading along the lines of conventional wisdom (how it is a sin and a choice and should be condemned etc. and how the “gay agenda” of propaganda should be fought against such things as “gay marriage”). I could have predicted it. I was disappointed that the instructor was going to leave it at that…
And then, a small miracle occurred. A highly respected older brother raised his hand and humbly and lovingly started offering the most kind and gentle confirmation of love he feels for his grandsons who are gay. He went on to say that he doesn’t think it is a matter of choice and that these young men are wonderful and loving young men and should be given the chance to have love in their lives. Though he doesn’t understand their attractions, they don’t stop him from loving them and wanting them to be happy, even in their search for companionship.
I was floored right then and there! My heart jumped out of my chest. The instructor proceeded to argue that it is a choice (not just a choice of actively pursuing homosexual relations, but orientation, too) and that participating in any form of homosexuality is a grievous sin. A few predictable “stalwart” brothers were all “here, here” and “to hell with them” kind of attitudes.
I couldn’t take it! I raised my hand and in the calmest but direct voice asked the instructor: “Did you choose to be heterosexual?” (I wanted to burst out and say: “Don’t you realize that I’m one of those you are labeling as a sinner? Don’t you realize that I’m GAY?”) My heart was swelling but I bit my tongue.
There was silence in the room for a few seconds. The instructor couldn’t believe I asked such a question. He stammered and finally said something to the affect that we are here to create eternal families… but he understood my point as his face was one of fluster and confusion.
And then the unexpected miracle of enlightenment enveloped the room. Ten hands shot in the air! For the next half hour there was the most warm and kind and loving response. One brother talked about how the Church has gone out of their way to help those who have suffered the affects of divorce due to adultery and how we rally around them when this is widely known and accepted. But, he pointed out, when it comes to SSA, we not only don’t rally, we shun, we push away, we discriminate and show openly our bias, disdain and prejudice against such feelings and such persons – and that such members are ostracized to the point of leaving the church and we say “good riddance” under our collective breaths. He called us to repentance and told us that if ever there was the case for increased love, for seeking out the one, for fellowshipping and bringing into the fold, this is the one!
And then another brother spoke up about how the Brethren are softening their stance in helping those with SSA to be loved and understood and that we should do the same and show increased support instead of hatred and disgust.
By this point, the instructor was fully frustrated and visibly irritated! You could tell he didn’t want this tolerance-speak to go on any further and wanted to move on with the “real point of the lesson” which was unchaste living is a sin – but no one disagreed with that point and hands still wanted to be heard.
Another brother spoke of the upcoming Evergreen Conference at the
And another brother, a social worker by profession, said that he didn’t feel it was a choice, nor that this SSA could be overcome in this life and that we should not judge anyone for having such feelings.
And finally another brother, a previous bishop, said… “We all know the stance of the Church against homosexual relations and I don’t need to repeat that. But this discussion began when Brother “Y” spoke of reaching out in love and support for his grandsons with this orientation. Brother “X” spoke of reaching out to the men in our ward that we may not even know about (at that point I started visually crying) who need our tenderness and kindness and acceptance in helping them to feel loved and needed and valued. That is the point of this lesson!”
By now I was bawling. I felt such compassion from the Spirit. Fortunately I was on the back row and I rested my head on the bench in front of me and tried to gain my composure. I don’t remember much about what was said next, as my thoughts went to the following:
1) If these old conservative Wasatch Front codgers of men could have this much love and compassion as their comments were showing (I would say about half were in this camp) then what tremendous HOPE FOR THE FUTURE I started feeling for the changes coming WITHIN the church. (NOTE: Jason Lockhart on Northern Lights addressed this in his recent post. When I read his post, I couldn’t see it happening anytime soon – I couldn’t see the winds of change in attitude, the softening of hearts, the erasing of years of prejudice. But I did see it. I did see it!)
2) And if even these few old buggers were that far along down this road, then how much we have hope in looking forward to the rising generation!
After the meeting, and after I regained my composure, I went up to each of the brothers who spoke out and personally shook their hands and thanked them for the courage they showed in voicing their love for their fellow brothers. One brother, a good-ol-boy from
Is this a small miracle? Maybe not. For me, however, it was. Or at least it was a Nephite “tender mercy” from the Lord for me. I wasn’t expecting this kind of reaction. I needed to hear it. I was warmed from head to toe to know that such feelings exist among my own Wasatch Front brethren and I’m encouraged to continue the dialogue and to improve the perception that we are