I’m gay. I fully identify as homosexual. Every blue moon, I find a guy attractive and would happily date him, but the reality stands that there is a 99.9% chance I will marry a woman. It’s just how it is. I make no apologies for who I am. Maybe the world will be shocked when I have a temple marriage with a guy, but so far… That’s just not in my make up.
Secondly, I am Mormon. I am Mormon, because I believe whole-heartedly that the Book of Mormon is true. I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I believe in this Church and its leaders. I sustain them proudly. But when I sustain them, I sustain that God loves us enough that He uses us despite the fact that we fall desperately short of His perfection. These men are no exception.
I want to move the conversation away from what I feel to be overly critical components and to speak to key, fundamental truths that have been the case as this Church was formed including prior to the Restoration.
Joseph Smith was never above reproach. In fact, there were key moments in the translation of our scriptures, the leading for the Latter Day Saint people, and the writing of Doctrine and Covenants where Joseph Smith was chastened through the reproach of the Church. He was not a perfect man. And we do not look to a perfect prophet currently. President Monson is a good man, but he is a man not unlike Brother Joseph. They both have moments where they enact or do things that are of men, because their leadership cannot be perfect. It would do us well to remember this truth, because it begs us to both call our Church leadership to reexamine their faults as well as demands that we have the same grace for them that we beg for for ourselves.
Brothers and sisters, I beg of you: Please hold these men accountable, but do it with the love of Christ. Christ is the Man who healed the ear of His captor that was arresting Him for the cross. Christ is the Man who rebuked Peter so that he could one day lead the Church. Christ is the Man who took all of me: My sin, my victory, my weakness, my strength, my sorrows, my pains, my struggles, my questions, my answers, my joys, my triumphs, and even my sexuality on His shoulders in order to atone it as He died on a cross. He became Shelby Brooke Jones. He understands my heart fully, because He was me as He hung there and died. He literally became me and took my place. If we are to come to appreciate that sacrifice more, we best understand that sometimes, it requires the same patience with others that He has with us.
On a different note, I want to speak of the suicides that keep coming up.
This is personal to me. I’ve had two suicide attempts since the policy change. They’ve been kept pretty private matters, but I feel that at this time, it may be best to bring them to light in order to help someone else. The first one was a close call, but I walked away from it without much physical damage done. The second attempt was exactly a month ago today, and it landed me in the ICU for a week. Had time lapsed even moments later than they did before being found, it’s possible that I would have not made it.
The pain being caused the members of this community are real. They are serious. The lives that are being lost are not small. Even one person found in a grave too soon is too much. In fact, even one person being so incredibly hurt by things that they attempt to leave this world is too great a cost. But the reality is that I didn’t do what I did simply over Church members or leaders or policies. I did what I did, because in my moment of pain, I didn’t know who to reach out to. I was too scared of being inconvenient to ask for help yet there are many who love me. I have friends and family. I have support. But the people who are going into their graves are not just hurt by the Church. They feel that everything is so burdening and huge that they cannot reach out. In order to get the support that they need, they need someone else to reach in.
Many allies and members of this community alike have those that they support and stand by. One person cannot tackle the world nor this problem alone. But there are nearly 6,500 members in this group, and if each person took on just one person to check in on every couple days, that’s 6,500 people who are having someone seek to make sure that they’re okay. That’s a whole LOT of good.
I want to ask each person in this group to do something. Make checking in on just one person within the LGBTQIA+ community every few days a goal. In fact, make it a goal to check in, and to be someone who is consistently saying to those around you, “I don’t know who every LGBTQIA+ person is around me, but I sure want those around me to know that I’d be a hell of a lot without if I were to lose one of them.” This assures even the hidden people who are in pain that someone cares and is there. I can promise you that no one who commits suicide does so for the sake of being selfish. It is done thinking that no one will be inconvenienced by the loss of life save for a small moment in time. Encourage others’ to take on these same goals. We cannot change someone else’s heart if they do not want to be changed including the leaders of this Church. But we can help safe guard a people if we choose to become an instrument in God’s hands. I cannot imagine a more Christ-like nor demanded thing at this time. I can promise you with full confidence that if we do this, we will see a difference in the loss of lives.
by Shelby Jones