Today marks the start of Pride month. As my day has unfolded, the beautiful faces of all of my queer friends have been on my mind and heart in a way that has been unexpected and powerful. And I realized I have some words to say to these amazing souls, especially to those who share or have shared my LDS faith.
I want to acknowledge, with deep, deep sadness, that the vast majority of our LDS congregations are not safe spaces for you. I know that this isn’t news to any of you, but I want to say it nonetheless. Not for you, but for all the active members who may read this and be under some delusion that we are doing a great job. We’re not.
I want you to know that I see you and I ache with you. Over the last few months as we have begun to come back to church after worshipping in our homes, my heart has been pierced repeatedly at the number of insensitive, alienating, and unkind comments that have been made at church about LGBT+ people. It has happened multiple times nearly every week. I guess I was living in my own hopeful fantasy that things were getting better, that we were evolving in our ability to love, and it has been so painfully disheartening to realize that we are not. Or if we are, it is at a maddeningly glacial pace. I want you to know that I’m grieving with you.
I want to say I’m sorry for all of the times that I have sat silently through church lessons and talks where you have been “othered,” and made to feel that you don’t belong. Where you have been treated as less-than, and where you have been scapegoated for all that is wrong in “the world.” Far too often I have allowed these comments to hang in the air without being challenged because I didn’t want to make a scene or make people feel bad. I will do better.
I’m sorry for all the times that I wasn’t paying attention. When I didn’t notice the hurtful and hateful words because I was wrapped up in myself and my life and my privilege.
I want you to know that I see the way you love, and it is astonishingly beautiful. My queer friends are some of the most powerful examples of love and light that I have witnessed on this earth. I see your faith. Because of the unorthodox circumstances of your life, you have not been allowed to stay at the surface of things, resting in platitudes. You have had to find your way through the perilous deep, often while being heckled by those who are culturally safe and spiritually immature. And still, I see the grace that you offer those who mock you and fail to offer you the dignity that you deserve. And I am astonished again.
In our LDS congregations, how I wish we would step down from our weekly rameumptoms, where we love to bask in our sanctimony while lamenting all that is wrong with “the world.” But then, what would be left but for us to examine our own hearts and our own failings and do our own repenting? A terrifying prospect indeed. And if we stop focusing our “strengthen the family” energy on the perils of same-sex marriage, we may have to turn our attention to our own families and get real about how we are treating each other in our homes and how we are showing up in our relationships. It is so much easier to talk about what we perceive as everyone else’s weaknesses; it’s so uncomfortable to do real spiritual work and examine our own.
What words do I wish we said at church? I wish we said “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong” and “I’m still learning,” and that we could show up brave and brokenhearted instead of proud and pious. I wish we had the courage to ask probing questions instead of peacocking around with tail feathers full of answers. That we could look inside and ask ourselves, honestly and sincerely: What is lacking? What would Jesus do? How do I need to change?
I would trade every “us vs. them” monologue I’ve ever heard to hear a sincere answer to any of the following questions from queer saints: What has your sexual identity taught you about God’s love? How can I best nurture the queer people in my life? What do I need to change so that I don’t unknowingly hurt those around me? What has your life’s journey taught you about families? How can I be a good friend? How have you felt the power of Christ’s Atonement in your life?
You have so much to teach me. To teach us. But instead, we have been reckless with your hearts and we we have driven you out. And we are all the lesser for it.
Many years ago, I prayed to God to know where my heart needed to be with relation to the queer people in my life (more here). It was a sincere prayer, and it was promptly answered with a powerful witness of divine love, specifically for God’s children who identify as LGBT+. My heart was opened and overwhelmed; the love I felt was pure and potent. It was a “come exactly as you are” kind of love. It inspired in me a desire to love in that way, as well as a desire to be loved in that way. Since that time, I have heard of many other people having similar spiritual experiences. I believe that God is changing hearts, one by one. It is hard for me to be patient with this process.
I wish that our congregations could live up to their potential right now–that we already knew how to make Zion instead of bumbling along like this, hurting each other. And so while we endeavor to do better, I wish for you all of the abundant love that this life has to offer. I pray that you will find community in many different forms all around you, lifting you up. And most of all, I hope that you will know, to your core, how utterly, perfectly, dazzlingly miraculous you are.
For more, check out When Niceness Isn’t Nice.