I run a small online program called Sons of Sacrifice, which is a Christ-centered sexual self-mastery and addiction recovery training program tailored to the needs of same-sex attracted, believing members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About a year ago, I wrote a blog post titled, “We don’t have that in our ward! Acknowledging and Loving LGBTQ Members Around Us” where I present a long list of reasons why most wards probably have five to ten closeted gay members.
These are active members of any ward, who look and act like any other member, but are in a degree of personal misery as they are gay and scared to death to tell anyone about it.
Shortly after I posted the blog, I received a response from a man who is active in NorthStar, an organization for believing LGBT Latter-day Saints. His comments confirmed, that in one ward at least, there were several active gay members of the ward. This is the message I received.
“Several years ago, I was asked to represent North Star at a combined Priesthood/Relief Society lesson at a ward somewhere in the Ogden, Utah area. The bishop said, “While we don’t have any members who personally deal with this issue, I still think it’s good that they are aware of the issues.” He had a great heart and pure intent.
After the presentation was over, many people came up to talk about how much they had enjoyed our presentation. A few people hung around until this very end and asked if they could talk with me privately — the thrust being that they had been secretly grappling with “same-sex attraction” as they called it and had no idea how to tell anyone.
One of those was a counselor in the elders quorum presidency; another was the Relief Society President; another was a senior getting ready to graduate from high school and was fearful his “feelings” would prevent him from going on a mission.
I talked to each of them privately, gave them my best advice for their situation and then went to meet with the bishop in his office.
“That was great!” he said. “I think the members learned a lot. Now they’ll be better prepared if we ever have anyone who deals with this issue in the ward.”
“Bishop,” I said. “You have a lot of people in this ward who ALREADY deal with this issue and they are miserable.”
He was stunned. “Why would they not trust me enough to tell me?” he wondered, his eyes filling with tears.
I responded, “Maybe because your advice to them would be to ‘pray, read the scriptures, and go to the temple.’ Don’t you think they’ve already tried all of those things in hopes that these feelings would just go away?”
“What should I do?” he asked.
I responded, “Next Sunday, talk a little bit about the presentation today and tell your congregation IN SACRAMENT MEETING that, if anyone wants to talk to you about this, you want them to know that you love them and that you are here to help them however they feel that they need along the way.”
The next week, I got an email from him after church that said, “Five people came to talk to me today about this. I told them I loved them. We cried together and I hugged them as they left. It was the most spiritual day of my entire time as a bishop.”
This experience bears witness that ward leadership in many wards include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer members. They desperately want to be loved and accepted as they are, without judgement or a repentance agenda from anyone else in the ward.
Open the door to make it okay for these people to confide in you as you make comments in Relief Society, gospel doctrine, or priesthood meeting, or even in young men or young women’s, by causally mentioning the subject of LGBTQ members, and your understanding and support for their need of a place within your ward community.
You may be surprised by the results.
Warren Bittner is a certified Life Coach and Addiction Recovery Coach at Life Changing Services and the founder of Sons of Sacrifice. If you would like to schedule a consultation with him, please CLICK HERE.