For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
– Matthew 18:20
When more than 300 Latter-day Saints marched in the Utah Pride Parade it became clear that for many active committed Mormons the time had come to publicly reach out to their LGBTQI/SSA brothers and sisters. But as exciting as that morning was, it was really the next day that the real work of Mormons Building Bridges began. We had committed ourselves to making our wards safe and welcoming for LGBTQI/SSA people–now, we asked ourselves, what would that work look like week to week and month to month in our congregations?
At its best and its worst, an LDS ward is like a small town. Everyone can really know everyone. The sheer number of hours we spend together gives us the opportunity to know each other’s back story. The ethic of service runs deep. There can be the unpleasant baggage that goes along with small town life too: suffocating conformity, judgement, grudges held for years. But I remain a huge fan of this imperfect yet oftentimes very effective way of building a Christian community. I’ve lived in twelve wards in my life. What each experience has in common is that I arrive as a stranger, am embraced by people with whom I only share a geographical boundary and a commitment to the Gospel, and immediately take up the job of working out my salvation with them. This is powerful stuff. I have seen it break down class and racial boundaries, I have seen it soften hearts. I have seen it bring about A Mighty Change in myself. People I have judged and disliked have become my friends, not because they changed but because I did. So can we use the power of our wards to start a conversation of love and empathy about the experience of our gay brothers and sisters?
Think about it, if you are known to your bishop as a faithful home teacher and you ask to be assigned to an inactive gay couple in your ward, might he be receptive? If you and the Sunday School teacher were the only ones who showed up to clean the meetinghouse on Saturday morning, might he in church the next day support you when you point out how hurtful someone’s homophobic remark is? If you wrestle with a sister’s unruly toddler for two hours every Sunday in the nursery, isn’t she likely to listen when you share your experience of being a gay Mormon? If you share with a visiting teaching companion your experience at an LGBTQI/SSA support event, might not she be willing to open up about her son coming out to her? If we are model ward members in traditional ways and at the same time are marching in parades, coming out, bringing our gay brothers and sisters to church, working on LGBTQI/SSA firesides with our Stake President—In all these small, humble ways can we not prove the larger point that acceptance of LGBTQI/SSA people is a logical extension of gospel principles?
Mormons Building Bridges embraces this proposition. At this website and on our Facebook page we strengthen each other by sharing these person-to-person, heart-to-heart experiences that are the building blocks of change. The words to Lead Kindly Light have always given me great comfort. They describe the lonely journey of the pilgrim following Christ’s Light through the encircling gloom. It is His light that we see straight ahead. But there is also strength in looking to our right and to your left, and realizing that we are not alone. Welcome to Mormons Building Bridges: it is a place where you can feel safe as you begin your journey toward LGBTQI/SSA understanding. It is a place where we look for the light within each other.