Another way that you can help make your congregation more welcoming to LGBTQ/SSA members is to invite your bishop to hold a special sacrament meeting or priesthood/relief society lesson to which he invites members of the ward who may have felt alienated from the congregation because of hurtful things that may have been said in the past about LGBTQ/SSA people. Bishops around the world have been making an extra effort to invite such people to attend these special sacrament meetings or priesthood/relief society meetings in which they address the need to be more Christlike in showing love, compassion, and acceptance. Here are some sample letters you could share with your bishop as you invite him to make this effort. As you have this conversation with your bishop, please consider sharing your experience in the MBB Facebook group for others to learn from.
— sample letter #1 – general invitation to LGBTQ/SSA members —
Dear (Ward Member),
As Bishop of the (ward name), I often work with ward members to improve our ward by making it a place where all who have the desire to attend can do so and feel welcome meeting with their fellow saints and drawing closer to our Savior.
One area where we would like to improve is in creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to LGBTQ/SSA members within our ward boundaries. I understand that many who are LGBT might have felt alienated or unwelcome in the past. We want to change this situation by inviting all who are interested to attend a special sacrament meeting meant to welcome LGBTQ/SSA members in the ward.
If you were once active and have a desire to explore returning to some level of activity in the church, or if you are currently active, we hope you’ll consider attending this special sacrament meeting. (Details about the time and place of the meeting)
— sample letter #2 – special sacrament meeting—
I believe that I am your bishop here in ________ . Welcome to the __________________ ward.
I would love to personally make your acquaintance. While we may not know you, we consider you an important part of our community, and we invite you back to reconnect with us. We are all children of God, with unique paths and unique challenges to our faith.
Some faith challenges I have personally seen include: •Those who were subjected to insensitive remarks about race, gender, sexual orientation or other issues •Those who are gay or lesbian and struggle to understand how they fit within our faith •Those who have issues with the Word of Wisdom or tithing.
Regardless of your reasons, I want you to know that I’d like to personally welcome you back. None of those reasons — or any other — should keep you away from the faith that you once called “home.” Our ward includes members from diverse backgrounds and experiences. We would love for you to add your personal experience to ours.
We believe that there are many gay and lesbian individuals in our boundaries. As it can be intimidating to return to church when there have been painful past experiences, we are taking an approach of “strength in numbers” by inviting you to attend a special service. On Sunday, ________ __ at ____ am/pm, our sacrament meeting will focus on how we can be come together in love and understanding. Our address is: _________________
Our hope is that by attending church, you will see how many brothers and sisters you have in the gospel of Jesus Christ living near you. If you know of some whom we may be unaware of, please, invite them too. There is a large community of members, gay and straight, who have yet to meet each other.
Please come join us. Your faith and your fellows need your strength, your testimony and your unique perspective on our gospel. You will be valued and welcomed as a part of our ward family.
In the meantime, if I can do anything for you, don’t hesitate to call or text me at __________ or my counselors, _______________________, __________________________.
— sample letter #3 – priesthood/relief society combined lesson—
Dear Ward Member:
As bishop of the (ward name), I often work with the members in the ward to find ways to improve and help our ward become a place where all who have the desire to can attend our meetings, engage in fellowshipping one another and ultimately draw closer to our Savior. One area where we would like to improve is to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to LGBT members within our ward/stake boundaries.
I understand that many who are LGBT might have felt alienated or unwelcome in the past. I also understand that this is a fairly new topic of discussion for members of the ward family and some may have questions or concerns.
We want to improve this situation and address some of these questions and concerns by inviting everyone in the ward to a special combined priesthood and relief society meeting during the third hour on (date and time). Too often discussions on this topic can become heated or political. Our desire is to focus on how members from various backgrounds and life experiences can come and worship together and seek to understand and love one another in all of our varied and beautiful differences.
We hope you’ll attend this special meeting, whether you are currently active, or were once active and have a desire to explore returning to some level of activity in the church.