Dear Mormon parents, tread lightly, your gay kids are listening.

Dear Mormon Friends,

I appreciate your loving, compassionate words and the way you have reached out to me. I love you and will always love you. I understand that for someone who loves the church and has a kind heart like you do that this is a hard thing. You have been posting responses to mine and sharing blog entries that emphasize a loving perspective while remaining true to your Mormon beliefs. You have to believe your leaders are right because they’re prophets. If they’re wrong, what does that mean? It’s scary and you trust them, so you try to find a way to bridge the gap. I get that.

Let me just say this: I have a gay child.

I left the church before I realized she was gay so that has nothing to do with why I left. But I was an active, believing Mormon raising a child that I didn’t know was gay. And I was living in California in 2008, so the Proposition 8 battle was raging. We sat in the pews every Sunday as our bishop read a letter from a prophet telling us to give everything we could to the cause of righteousness. Week after week testimonies were born of how hard everyone was working to stop the “gay agenda” and how they knew they were following the prophet and God. We heard talks on the sanctity of traditional families and why only male/female households fit into the plan of salvation. We heard how gender was an essential characteristic and each gender had a divine role that could not be changed by the whims of society.

Each ward member was assigned a list of people in the community to call. My list was several pages long. I was not asked if I would participate, I was simply given an assignment that I was expected to fulfill as I “heed[ed] the prophet’s voice”. I took that list home and stared at it for days.

I didn’t really know how I felt about same sex marriage. I’d never thought much about it before. I’d always heard it was wrong and that homosexuality was not part of God’s plan, but something in me didn’t feel quite right about what I’d been asked to do.

I pushed forward anyway.

I called several people on my list before I gave up. I hate making phone calls and I hated doing something that felt inexplicably wrong. It was if my heart was whispering to me, but the whisper was small and being drowned out by the voices I heard every Sunday at church.

I spent long hours after my Wednesday night Young Women’s activities with a fellow member of the Young Women’s presidency and talked about the issue. Neither one of us was comfortable. Neither one of us knew where we stood.

A few days before the ballot I agreed to participate in a demonstration outside my daughter’s elementary school. During morning school drop-off we would be highly visible. My daughter was in the first grade at the time and was excited to see what mom and the people she looked up to from church were doing, so she stood by me outside and helped by holding up a sign that said “Vote YES on Prop 8!” My green-eyed, freckle-nosed first grader. Of course she asked what we were doing and I explained it to her in the kindest terms possible.

Six years later I remember sitting in the living room of our new house in Texas as those same green eyes looked uncomfortably into mine before they quickly flitted to the side. In a quiet voice she said, “Mom, I think I might be gay.”

Now, we’d left the church at this point and I’d long since regretted participating in any way in Proposition 8. But over the next few weeks as I learned more about what she was feeling and how I could help her, the memory of that day outside the school returned to my mind. Over and over I pictured myself standing there, looking down on her as her brown hair reflected the golden light of the sun, mother and trusting daughter doing what our prophet asked of us, oblivious to what it really meant to both our futures. And I cried. Not just tears leaking from my eyes and gently rolling down my face, but big, ugly, heaving sobs that made me grateful all my kids were in school and my husband was at work. I could not believe that I had fought to banish equal rights for gay couples with my gay daughter standing beside me. Shame on me. Shame. Shame. Shame.

The LDS church’s approach to people who are gay, bisexual and transgender continues to hurt her. She’s tough on the outside and doesn’t show it to others much, but I know and love this beautiful girl and I see how it hurts her, even though none of our little family believes in the truth claims of the LDS church. It hurts because Mormons have always been our tribe and because we have so many family members and friends who still believe in the LDS teachings. It hurts because kids don’t understand nuance and so the message they turn back on her is that being openly gay is a sin. They tell her gay people shouldn’t get married. They tell her if she spends her life alone then god will reward her in the next life by fixing her so she’s not gay. Teenagers only hear the underlying messages and those are coming through loud and clear. She is wrong. She is other. She is broken.

I guess I just wish for believing Mormons to say, “You know what, I love my prophet and I love my church, but they’ve been wrong before and they’re wrong this time too.” Maybe that would soothe my heart a bit.

And remember, dear Mormon friends who are parents, and aunts, and uncles and grandparents, that child listening to you and learning from you might some day come to you and say the words that are terrifying them, “I think I might be gay.”

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe those words won’t be able to make it out of their mouths because they’ve heard you and everyone at church talk about the “gay agenda” and the “attack on the family” and “love the sinner but hate the sin” and they won’t be able to make those words come out. And then they might stew in shame and self-loathing, praying for god to fix them so they can be the way they’re “supposed” to be. And maybe it will be too much. Maybe they’ll seek some way out from the pain and shame they feel for being gay or transgender. Don’t make me say what can happen then because I worry about it. I know the statistics for LGBT kids. I know what can happen when teenagers feel shame and rejection and don’t see a way out. I worry about it all the time.

Please, dear Mormon friends, it’s easy to dismiss someone else’s pain, but it’s so hard when that someone is your child and you just never know. I never guessed I would have a gay child. Honestly. Never. Watch your words. Be careful what you justify. Take care with those little hearts.

Sincerely,

Your friend Cherry

25 Replies to “Dear Mormon parents, tread lightly, your gay kids are listening.”

  1. Dear Mormon Estranged ones, (from more than just other faiths it sounds like to) hehe

    You should just learn to do what feels right for you. You will never ever be happy until you learn to live your life for yourself and not others. salvation can be found in your own hearts and minds without external interference if your meditations are regular enough.

  2. Hello Cherry, and thanks for your post. I am a 14 year old male who goes to church, and I believe I am bisexual. Recently, I have been reading up on what the Church and the people think of gay & bisexual peoples, and what the Scriptures say about them.
    I have learned that almost all verses that condemn homosexual marriage and relationships, whe read in context, are not usually referencing consensual /”normal” gay relationships, but are more often than not talking about rape.
    This, at least, has made me feel better and come to better terms with my sexuality, but unfortunately, I, at this time, do not have nearly enough courage to come out.
    I know that coming out will be a somewhat hard process, so I am waiting until I am at least old enough to support myself. I am a very anxious person who always fears for the worst so that will prohably be the best time for me, but may not be for someone else.
    -Tarm

  3. Dear Cherry,
    Thank you for your letter. Your experience is closely like mine. I was a person who denounced homosexuality. I told my children that it was evil and that people chose to be that way in order to be rebellious. My husband told gay jokes in front of the kids. We were awful. Then I started having experiences that made me doubt my attitude and I came to realize that I was wrong.

    When my son turned 19 he told us that he is gay. He was prepared to leave home because he was pretty sure we would kick him out. That made me so ashamed! I would never disown my child! But our attitude for most of his life made him so afraid that we would.

    We assured him that we loved him and accepted him for who he is. We welcomed his friends into our home and family. It was hard, believe me. I was angry – not at my child but at God and society. I raged at God in my prayers for betraying me. I had raised my children in the church! This was not supposed to happen! It took years for me to understand that religion is the problem, not God.

    I didn’t leave the church because of this, but other things in the history and doctrines of the church had bothered me all my life. After much study, research, and prayer I did stop attending. A year ago I wrote my resignation letter. I didn’t send it in because it upset my husband. When the recent policy about children of gay parents was announced, I finally sent it in. Being out of the church is hard because it was my whole life and history of my family. But wild horses would never make me go back. Shauna Tanner

  4. I feel sorry for you all people. The scriptures say, If ye know is the right thing to do and still not doing it…it is a sin. Our Prophet Thomas S. Monson, a seer and revelator, was praying about this matter. So, whatever the outcome, we got to face it. Obedience is the key to success. If you let your child do wrong, thats not love. You are not helping her/him to reach next life. Talk to your child and reminded them the plan of happiness. The blessings we get by listening and obey our leaders. Cherry, think ahead. I hope you will humle your heart and pray again. Ask heavenly Father if this is true or not. He hears and answers our prayer.

    1. Spoken like someone too afraid to think for themselves… Obedience is the lack of courage to do what is right despite the consequences. Anyone can obey. It’s the easy way out. Don’t feel sorry for ‘us people’ when the only thing that makes you moral is blind obedience. Feel sorry for your own conscious, the one you pounded into submission because you are too afraid to stand up to your leaders when they are wrong.

  5. I’m so sorry for your pain over this subject. It must be very heavy to carry indeed.
    The only thing I can say is the new policy is not there for keeping children away from the church. They are still welcome & will be supported & loved just the same. They will be free to be baptized into the church when they are old enough to be on their own & not be pitted against their parent by doing so.
    I do not think for one minute that the prophet enjoyed making this policy. I do believe he & the brethren cried, likely big sobs & lots of tears over this. Still do I imagine.
    I pray that you & your family find & feel peace in your hearts.

    1. When my son came out I looked to the church for any kind of comfort and guidance. Everything and everyone was so harsh. I don’t believe for one minute that our church leaders sobbed and cried over this.

  6. Hi there,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think it’s absolutely important to be careful what is said to your kids, and how you raise them. I am a member of the LDS church and just had one question about your post. When you said “I love my prophet and I love my church, but they’ve been wrong before and they’re wrong this time too.” I’m just curious – at what point have the prophets been wrong since the restoration by Joseph Smith? I’m wondering because I have never heard this and haven’t ever known of them being wrong before. Thanks!

    1. Amanda, thank you for your comment. At the time I wrote this I was thinking specifically of the priesthood ban for blacks until 1978, which denied the priesthood to black men and didn’t allow anyone black to receive temple ordinances. Here is an article about the subject in the Salt Lake Tribune, following the release of an essay on the subject from the church. A link to the essay on lds.org is included in the article.

      http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/2602930-155/on-37th-anniversary-of-priesthood-bans

      The LDS church leadership had been opposed to the civil rights movement, characterizing it, as many white Americans did during the McCarthy era, as a Communist-led movement designed to destabilize the U.S. and enable a Communist takeover. The following is a link to one conference talk by Elder Benson (at the time) on the subject of Communism and civil rights.

      http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1569&era=yes

    2. The list of wrongs is long and varied. But most people in the church don’t know about these things, or refuse to believe them. You have to do your own research to learn this. If I told you all of the things I’ve discovered you would accuse me of being anti- mormon. But I’m not. I love all of my LDS family and friends and understand why they love the church. I don’t share my reasons for leaving the church because I don’t want to hurt anyone. The only thing I share is my knowledge that the church and all other religions are wrong about homosexuality.

  7. I am Mormon and I don’t want to leave it but I don’t accept this policy. My children are too young to tell and I want them to grow up not doubting if I would love them, however they may turn out to be. This policy hurts and I feel in my heart that it’s wrong. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Heather, thank you for your comment. This policy feels wrong to a lot of faithful Mormons, and in turn it feels wrong to question or doubt the church leadership in any way.

  8. Amen. I grew up with a kid in my home ward who had militantly anti-gay parents. At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, his dad was the kind to say AIDS was God’s way of ridding the earth of gays, etc., the kind who would say he’d rather see you come home in a body bag from a mission than return early on account of transgression, etc.

    This boy was their only child. They adopted him from birth. They clearly loved him and had wanted a baby to love, cherish, and raise when they adopted him. But the parents never realized that he was gay. He grew up listening to all this hateful rhetoric, all the while hiding his soul-consuming secret. He hanged himself in his early 20s, maybe 15 years ago or so. It was so tragic and so unnecessary.

    1. Tina, heartbreaking stories like these are exactly why I wrote this post. The more people both inside and outside the church vocally disagree with these policies and teachings, the more gay kids and young adults will feel supported and loved. Maybe that will help assuage the shame and self-loathing this ideology can create in our LGBT brothers and sisters and help save lives.

  9. This is pretty much my story too. I’ve told my two gay children that if they feel the need to denounce me for raising them Mormon, I’ll certainly understand. I also did that kind of crying when I finally realized what I had done to them, and why. I continue to wonder where the church thinks all these little gay kids came from. Cuz good Mormons never have gay kids, right?

    1. I have apologized to my daughter for supporting Prop 8 in any way and for taking her to that demonstration. Hopefully it helps her learn that even good people make mistakes and when they do they can ask forgiveness of the ones they have hurt. It’s an important life lesson.

      I think she has forgiven me. I’m still working on forgiving myself.

  10. Thank you for this. I am one of those active Mormons who doesn’t agree with the policy. I would be against it anyway, but with a bisexual daughter, it hits even closer to home. Thank you for speaking out.

    1. Mary, you’re in a tough position! My new mantra is “People over ideology”. When in a position to choose between ideas that could prove wrong (even when I’m 99% certain I’m right) and harming the 100% real person in front of me, I choose to care for the person rather than the idea.

      This goes both ways. In my emotional reaction to the policy change and my fears for the LGBT people in the LDS church I let my emotions get the better of me and shared too much of that emotion with my very loving, very faithful LDS mom. I realized in the aftermath that she had felt attacked and possibly that I doubted her love for me and my daughter by still remaining in the LDS church. With that realization I apologized, very sincerely, for doing that to her. She is as supportive and generous as any parent could possibly be and I choose that going forward I will care more for her as a person and less for sharing my thoughts on what is wrong with what the church is doing. People over ideology.

      1. Sherry O.
        I love this…
        People over ideology.
        I am going to make this my mantra as well.
        People over ideology 100%
        Thank you…
        Dwight

  11. I am glad you told your story.Hopefully that will give some readers perspective.I to be honest don’t see what the big to do is over sexual orientation(gay if you will which meant something entirely different when I was growing up).Honestly does it matter to anyone but the person involved.No body cares if I like peanut m and m more than chocolate ones but everyone gets in your face if you say your gay,transgender,bisexual etc.I ask myself why.Does how you share intimate time with another human being define you as a person or is it how you act and treat others that you might believe are not equal to you(for some silly reason us humans always measure ourselves and others by looks,status,money,position,occupation etc).Human logic is quite fascinating and often times myoptic.I really hope your daughter accepts who she is as there is no shame in that and is in fact liberating.The Lds church will for the foreseeable future be blind and ignorant to humans(as will all other religions) and be probably the last to accept humans for what they are and also for what they are not.I am quite appalled by the behaviour of the Lds leadership but not surprised.They after all are the ones in need of enlightenment not us.

    1. Thank you for leaving a comment, Andrew. My daughter is doing very well and seems very comfortable in her identity. Family members comment to me that she looks happier than she ever has and I agree. A weight was lifted from her shoulders when she finally told us she was gay. We love her just as she is and wouldn’t change a thing about her. (Although a little less teenage surliness would be nice.)

      1. I glad she is doing well.Funny thing when we are honest with our feelings we feel better who knew.As far as surliness goes well good luck with that its all part of the growing up thing.Just tell her that as she matures she will become as dumb as thinks her parents are cheers.

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