Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration, grew up in a time of great religious fervor. In his hometown the various religious sects—Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian—were engaged in a great effort to convince the masses to join their religion. While the clergy of each sect professed to allow each person the right to “join what sect they pleased”, as converts began to join the various congregations, “priests [contended] against priest, and convert against convert” (JS History 1:6). A general sense of chaos and confusion ensued which Joseph described as a “war of words and tumult of opinion” (JS History 1:10).
A Modern-Day War of Words
I think that those words—“a war of words and tumult of opinion”—very accurately describe the response and dialog I have seen in society today regarding the topics of homosexuality (same-sex attraction) and gender identity. Recently, these topics have been in the forefront of our news cycles—the United States Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, the JONAH trial, the Caitlin Jenner story, and the Boy Scouts of America’s new policy regarding gay leadership. As each of these stories broke, it seemed that my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded with conflicting “facts” and opinions. Sadly, in many of these discussions I’ve observed much harshness, even hatred.
Like Joseph, as I’ve watched this chaos and confusion unfold I asked myself, “What is to be done?” (JS History 1: 10). For quite some time I pondered and struggled to understand who was right and who was wrong. As a leader within North Star I felt it was important that I had a “clear stance” on the subject. I began to get very frustrated as it seemed my prayers to God were going unanswered.
I decided that maybe I was approaching this topic from the wrong perspective. Instead of focusing so much on who was right, maybe the better question I should be asking was “What is my role in all of this?” It turns out the answer to that question has changed my life and informed my view of what I believe our Heavenly Father would have each of us do as members of the North Star community, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the world.
Our Role as Peacemakers
My dear friends, the world desperately needs the eternal perspective of the plan of salvation. Within the context of the LGBT community, these beloved children of our Heavenly Father need to understand that God is real, that they are His sons and daughters, that He has a plan for their lives, and that this plan will bring them eternal joy and allow them to reach their divine potential. Without this perspective and vision there is no motivation for these precious children of God to make the positive changes in their lives that lead to a deep and lasting relationship with Him.
These sons and daughters of God need a safe, welcoming place where they can begin to learn these important truths. That is where we come in. I feel passionately that there should be no place safer, more loving, more welcoming than the home of a Latter-day Saint or a LDS chapel. When a gay or lesbian couple feels the desire to connect with God, their Mormon friends should immediately come to mind as a place they can turn to. They should be able to look into our eyes and see the image of Christ reflected in our countenance.
Realistically, we have much work to do in order to accomplish this vision. Many members of the LGBT community have felt marginalized, attacked or judged by professed Christians. The way forward is clear. Our Savior taught us the following:
Blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. […] Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. […] Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (3 Nephi 12: 9, 13, 16)
Surely we as God’s children with a unique, personal understanding of sexuality, gender identity and the gospel of Jesus Christ should be at the forefront of extending light, love, compassion, and mercy to all of God’s children—especially those in the LGBT community. As we extend this love, the Holy Spirit of God will begin to heal hearts and enlighten minds.
Two Principles of Love
I want to share you with two key principles that we can begin working on today that will help us extend love and light to God’s children.
(1) Learn to love those who have different beliefs or opinions than you.
Article of faith eleven states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.” One of the core tenants of our faith is agency. In fact, it was so important that it was at the center of the war in heaven that was fought long ago. It is through the exercise of agency that we can grow and progress toward our eternal destiny.
That means God has given to each of His children the opportunity to form their own beliefs and value system. Sometimes, the beliefs of others (whether religious or political) will conflict with yours. That is completely okay! Some of the most meaningful relationships I have in my life are with people who believe very differently than me on various topics. I have learned how to appreciate their perspective and look for the core principles we share—even when we disagree on how to live those principles.
(2) Learn to love those who make different choices than you.
When I think about the Savior’s life, it always amazes me how much time He spent with people who were marginalized and ostracized—people who the religious order of the day deemed as “sinners”. The Savior knew how to make people feel loved. That love inspired others to be their best selves.
Personally, one of my most freeing experiences was when I decided to leave judgment to the Savior. He knows the minds, hearts, and experiences of God’s children personally—He suffered individually for each of them. I know that with my limited knowledge and imperfect perspective it is impossible for me to completely understand someone’s actions and life choices. My focus has transitioned to loving people and leaving judgement in the Savior’s hands. This shift has led to many rich relationships which bring me great joy.
In summary, it is my sincere hope that we can rise above the “war of words and tumult of opinions” to a higher cause. I believe that God desperately needs us to shine forth a light of love within the North Star community, our wards, and the world at large. He needs us to learn how to love those who may believe or act differently than we do. As we extend Christ-like love to others, the Spirit of God can descend upon those with whom we associate. That Spirit can provide an eternal perspective which helps others see their worth and develop a closer relationship with God the Father.
May we live the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that inspires God’s children to be their best selves—especially those in the LGBT community. I testify that miracles await as we go forth to accomplish this noble mission. Hearts will be healed; relationships will be mended; eternal destinies will be altered. I love you all so very much, and I look forward to joining with you in this noble effort.