Bravery Bulletin: A Father’s Letter
Bravery Bulletin blog posts acknowledge regular people behaving in ways befitting a disciple of Christ that are powerful in their quiet simplicity. Those spotlighted in the Bravery Bulletin are often chosen because of their gentle, and seemingly simple, acts toward LGBTQI/SSA issues and people.
When a father, who is gay, became aware that his daughters’ seminary teacher had been making “inflammatory ant-gay statements” in seminary class he chose to reach out to her. As a great example of the type of action we celebrate at Mormons Building Bridges, we are honored that Mel Henderson has given us permission to share his experience and hope that we can all take something from it.
“…I want to teach my kids patience and understanding, and that only by staying [in seminary and the church] can they have a positive impact towards change.
I turned to the scriptures and found myself in the book of Matthew, chapter 5, verses 43-48, and there lay my answer:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love they neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect. (Italics added)
The next evening my children and I sat and discussed not only the meaning and significance of this scripture, but also what it meant and how it applied to our individual lives. I confessed to them that I was a poor example of loving my enemy but also committed to try to be better, more loving. Instead of identifying my friends as the true deservers of my love and affection, I should actively seek out my enemies because I am told that it is they who I need to learn to love. And it is by learning to turn my enemies into friends that I slowly familiarize myself with the true character of God.
It was in that spirit that I wrote the following letter.
Dear Sis. ________:
I want to reach out to you in the spirit of love, patience, and compassion, and give you a little insight into my children’s lives and also ask that you consider what I’m about to tell you. Yesterday morning, I received numerous emotion-filled texts during your lesson that caused me a great deal of concern for my children.
I am gay. I am also an active member of the LDS church. I am very happy because I feel the Lord’s presence in my life. I know that not only does he love me, he accepts me. He wants me to have just as much joy and happiness as he wants all his other children to have.
I have not always known this. There were many years filled with self-hatred, loneliness, frustration, and depression. For many years I felt like an outcast and a freak. I was confused and angry with the Lord for giving me this trial. I spent much time praying that it would be taken from me.
I served an honorable mission, I married in the temple, and I gave all that I had in every calling I was ever given. I begged, pleaded, and bargained with the Lord, asking that this be taken from me. If only I were good enough. If only I worked hard enough. If only I was the most faithful and hardest working missionary. The list of “if onlys” was endless.
What I learned after 40 years of struggle was that the Lord was not going to take this away from me, that this is my burden to bear. For some very loving reason, this is what he asked me to endure. While I do consider it a trial, I have come to believe that it also is a great blessing. If this truly were a choice and I could give it back, I would not. It is only since I accepted myself and learned to love myself that I am able to recognize the gift that it is to be gay.
One of my great regrets is that it took so long for me to recognize the gift that Heavenly Father has blessed me with, and I have repented of my oversight of his endless love and merciful compassion.
I may not be my children’s’ only link to the church and the gospel, but I certainly am the strongest link. As you well know, I am the one that gets them to seminary the weeks that I have them. I’m also the one who gets them to church and Young Women.
I plead with my children to be tolerant and compassionate of others when they hear that this is a choice and a sin, and that “wickedness never was happiness.” I fear for them because I see them getting weary of hearing that my life, and by extension, their lives, is unacceptable and wrong. Unfortunately, Sundays have become a practice in patience for all of us. I can endure this because I am firm in my testimony of the Gospel and the atonement of Jesus Christ. But, what of my children? They, who have not fully developed their knowledge and their testimonies. I continually fear for them and find myself pleading with the Lord to intercede on their behalf, that they might have the strength to endure the garbage and misinformation that they hear all around them.
I am also mindful of all the children in our seminary and Sunday school classes who find themselves in my situation. Who, through no choice or fault of their own, are gay and are told that something must be wrong with them. Please remember, those children live with self-loathing, fear, and confusion. The more they hear that they are broken, the more they will come to believe that there is no place for them in the church and they will leave. Worse, LGBT children are much more prone to be depressed and attempt suicide than children who are not born gay.
I ask you to prayerfully consider my words and to be sensitive to my children and the trials that they endure. Please help me as I put all of my efforts into keeping them close to the church and the Gospel.
Are you familiar with the church’s official website regarding this issue? If not, will you take the time to peruse it? www.mormonsandgays.org.
Lastly, I certainly know that your words were not said in malice and that your class feels the genuine love and concern that you have for them. I know you sacrifice much to be an early-morning seminary teacher and that in large part it is probably a thankless job.
Thank you for what you do in imparting the love of Christ and the knowledge of his atonement to my children.