Many LGBTQ/SSA members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not feel welcome or comfortable in church meetings, leading some to become inactive or even denounce their faith in the Church. But here are a few of the many ways you can help your ward and stake leaders make your home, congregation, and community more safe and welcoming to your LGBTQ/SSA brothers and sisters.
A simple gesture would be, instead of saying “nothing” every month when our home teachers ask what they can do for us, have an article printed out or video link at the ready for them to read/watch at their convenience. For example, you can give them the Families Are Forever video to watch or refer them to videos on the Church’s Mormons and Gays website. Another month you can share your favorite blog or online video. This is not about trying to prove anything or trying to trick anyone. It’s just about sharing good things with the good people assigned to get to know and love us.
More examples of things you can do…
Giving a talk in Sacrament meeting is an excellent opportunity to share you feelings about making your ward and stake a safe and welcoming place to your LGBTQ/SSA sisters and brothers. Click through to read an example of just such a talk.
Share this guide with your leaders – “Where the Church Stands: LDS Resources on Homosexuality” — One of the most important things allies and LGBT people can do to build bridges with the Church is to be a resource to local leaders – bishoprics, stake presidencies, Relief Society presidencies, quorum leaders and young women and young men leaders. Sharing your honest thoughts and feelings, in a tactful and respectful manner, can do a great deal to help educate leaders. To help with this endeavor, you can share this handy one-page compilation of quotes from the Church’s websites that address SSA/LGBT issues. These statements address some of the big questions and misconceptions that leaders and members may have, such as: whether being gay is a choice, how we respond to LGBT family members who choose a path outside the Church, and the Church’s counsel on a gay person marrying someone of the opposite sex.
Send a letter to Ward and Stake leadership making them aware of LGBTQ/SSA issues – You can send a letter to your local leaders making them aware of your feelings about these issues and drawing their attention to the concerns confronting LGBTQ/SSA youth and their families. You can also share with them resources that already exist to help families under their stewardship work through any concerns they may have. Here is a sample letter you can use in this effort.
Send a letter to your Bishop inviting him to discuss LGBTQI/SSA issues — The third hour of any fifth Sunday throughout the year is set aside for local Bishops and Stake Presidents to identify topics of special interest to discuss. Wouldn’t it be great if you contacted your bishops and suggested that you discuss homosexuality and how we can create a welcoming space for members who are LGBTQ/SSA? This link provides suggestions and a sample letter for inviting your local leaders to use their next 5th Sunday lesson time to discuss how to make your congregation more welcoming.
Share sample letter from Bishops inviting members to attend a special LGBTQ/SSA sacrament or priesthood/relief society meeting — 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.
Share Personal Stories — You can share and discuss personal-story videos of faithful Latter-day Saints wrestling with love, doctrine, and acceptance.
Listen to and share this podcast: a conversation with former bishops, all of whom are faithful priesthood leaders who feel they experience same-sex attraction (or SSA). Their candid insight is certain to help other leaders gain a better understanding of this issue.
Learn how to make your ward a more welcoming space for LGBTQ/SSA members: Dr. Roni Jo Draper is a professor of multicultural education at Brigham Young University. From this background she has researched best practices on how to create more welcoming environments in the church for LGBTQ/SSA people. In the linked video, Dr. Draper details several ways we can help the LGBTQ/SSA community feel welcome in our ward meetings. Dr. Draper has also prepared a handout “A Friend Loveth at All Times” as a simple guide for making LDS wards and communities LGBTQ/SSA-friendly. This handout may be useful in initiating conversations with your ward and stake leaders to work together to create more safe and welcoming spaces.
You can pin a rainbow ribbon to your clothing or scripture bag and wear it to church every Sunday to show solidarity with LGBTQIA youth and adults – letting them know you will provide a safe, non-judgmental space for them and that you support them unconditionally. You can also give a rainbow ribbon to LDS friends and family who you know are sympathetic, have faith in more inclusive days ahead, and are looking for something they can do to help.
Here are a few ideas from Church members around the world:
“I had a wonderful conversation with my Bishop yesterday. I am going to wear a rainbow pin to church, as the gospel doctrine teacher, I wanted to take a minute to explain to the class what it was and what it stood for and be very clear. I ran it past him and he just shrugged and said “why wouldn’t that be a good idea?” He suggests I wear it for a few weeks just to see if people even notice and then point it out and explain it all to them. He thinks 90% of them won’t even have a clue what it stands for. If anyone gets offended, it’s usually because they are looking to get offended. Why should showing Christlike love to others be a problem? He’s also open to a 5th Sunday meeting after our current lineup if it’s something the ward needs.”
“Had a conversation with a member of our Stake Presidency who wants to brainstorm ideas on how to better serve the LGBT people in our area. One idea was to create a billboard in the chapel with a simple heading like “I’ll Walk with You” and then invite a core group of a dozen or so members to post pictures of themselves embracing their LGBT relative, friend or neighbor. As word spreads, others would add their pics until the board is filled with personal photos, becoming a conversation piece helping members connect and share their stories with others.”
“During Family Home Evening tonight my husband gave the lesson about pioneers. We talked about the pioneers who crossed the plains to establish a community where they could live in peace. And we talked about modern day pioneers, those who are fearlessly fighting to make the church a more welcoming and loving place for LGBT members.”
“Our Stake President has been meeting with my husband and I for several months about ideas to help members do better in loving and including LGBTQ individuals. Recently the Stake President assigned his two counselors to speak in the different wards in the stake on this topic. Sunday was our ward’s turn. The First Counselor in the Stake Presidency spoke in Sacrament Meeting for about 40 minutes on the topic.
His talk was excellent and approached the topic head on in a way no one would misunderstand. He stressed that kindness, love, inclusion, etc are part of our doctrine. He used the story of the Good Samaritan in a beautiful way I’ve never heard. My heart soared. I saw many in the congregation with tears in their eyes. Many talked about it after the meeting. His talk spoke love and peace to everyone there. I am so very grateful for our Stake Presidency.”
“A friend of mine, who is a former member, called me today. He told me that the missionaries had called him and said that it would be great if they could start up a MBB in his city and join the Pride Parade. He was somewhat surprised to hear that from the missionaries, and so was I. But I liked what I heard.”
“I teach Relief Society every fourth Sunday. Today’s topic was from President Eyring’s talk “Where Two or Three are Gathered”. I wore my rainbow skirt. We are all God’s children. Let us live and learn and love together.”
MORE TO COME…WHAT IDEAS DO YOU HAVE?