Bravery Bulletin: Quietly leading with Love
Bravery Bulletin blog posts acknowledge regular people behaving in ways befitting a disciple of Christ that are powerful in their quiet ease. Those spotlighted in the Bravery Bulletin are often chosen because of their gentle and seemingly simple acts toward LGBTQI/SSA issues and people.
This past Saturday, I was hiking in Provo with a few friends. They were heading up to the summit of Squaw Peak, but my allergies were tiring me out, so after an hour of hiking, I headed back down the canyon while my friends continued on. On the way down, another hiker asked me to take a picture for him. We were both headed down the mountain, so after I took the picture, we struck up a conversation.
He told me that he is a bishop in a Southern California ward. I told him I am a student at BYU. He asked me what I was studying and what I wanted to do when I graduated, and without any particular effort to steer the conversation, I came out to him and we ended up talking about what it’s like for LGBTQ church members and BYU students. He listened as I told him about some of the frustrations of being at BYU and the difficulties of being active in the church and bisexual. He told me there were some openly gay members in his ward, some of whom were celibate and one of whom had a partner. He expressed his thoughts about gay members dating (he was positive about it) and recognized the incredibly daunting requirement of celibacy or mixed-orientation marriage that church policy currently demands in order for LGBTQ members to stay in full fellowship and he was very understanding of those who chose a different path. He said that he thought that all gay members should be able to find love and intimacy, and that if one of his eight kids came out as gay, he would say “great! Bring your boyfriend over for Thanksgiving and let’s make him part of the family.” He very poignantly said that, as a father, he would do anything to nurture a strong relationship with his children and make sure that his home was a place they could always come back to. Without saying anything contrary to the scriptures or current Church teachings, he testified that he really believed that God wanted as many of his children to return to him as possible and that there is way prepared, whether you’re gay, straight, Mormon, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim or anything else.
Whenever I speak to straight members about my experiences and those of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, I am so accustomed to explaining, justifying, correcting, and just plain talking to help members understand my point of view. What a change it was to talk with a straight member who had thought and learned enough about our story that he could talk about it with compassion, empathy, and ease. Never once in our conversation did I feel that he was judging me or labeling me as apostate or weak of faith. It was really amazing to meet a bishop who was so fair-minded, supportive, and open. He radiated with Christlike love and renewed my hope for a bright future of positive changes in the church. With bishops like him quietly leading their flocks with love, LGBTQ Mormons will always have a place in the church.