How LDS Folks Can Support LGBT Friends
Sunday, April 10, 2016
This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately, so I thought I'd go ahead and open up the discussion here on my own blog :) A friend of mine recently approached me with some great thoughts that she had on the subject, and she actually wrote a whole blog post about it. With her permission, that very blog post is what you see here:
Did you know that people in the LGBT community are more likely to have to deal with depression and bullying? They’re twice as likely to struggle with addiction, and I think it’s safe to say that almost every LDS person who struggles with gender identity or same-sex attraction has felt ostracized and excluded by fellow members at some point in their lives.
Elder Quentin L. Cook points out that there’s no reason for this to be. “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”
Questions of gender identity can be sensitive and diverse, and oftentimes it seems easier to simply not worry about it… until it’s a question that determines your own relationships, responsibility and testimony. So, how can members of the LDS church be more caring, and loving towards their LGBT friends? How can we reach out in compassion and connection? Is maintaining a relationship with someone who lives a lifestyle that you believe is wrong something that counters our own testimony and knowledge of the truth?
The answer is: absolutely not! This article will share a few tips that might help people know how to navigate this tricky topic, but the most importantly, we need to remember the example that Christ set for us thousands of years ago. Every day, he conversed, served, and ate with those who were ostracized from society because of their lifestyle. He didn’t put conditions on their interactions, or say “I’ll only eat with you if…” He always led with love first. That doesn’t mean that He endorsed sins, but rather that He understood the true divinity and potential in each person that He encountered. His harshest criticism was reserved, rather, for hypocrites and false leaders who didn’t acknowledge their own need to repent and be forgiven.
A great resource for how to approach these relationships can be found at the church’s website for this specific issue: mormonandgay.lds.org. On this website, Elder Christofferson addresses the need for resources that teach understanding and enable interaction. “Our only real hope in addressing these very sensitive and difficult issues is that we are civil and listen to one another and try to understand… It’s important that there be love, and that there be hope. Love is not to say acceptance or endorsement, but it is to say inclusion and not ostracism. We want to be with you and work together.”
Here are some tips that can help you approach a relationship with a loved one who deals with same-sex attraction with care and compassion.
Acknowledge your own struggles, and weaknesses. It doesn’t have to be with same-sex attraction, but you surely still have your own experience in struggling to come to terms with the commandments of God. Instead of this issue dividing us, it should remind us that we all have our own internal battles. We all have problems that need fixing through the atonement of Christ. We all have more in common than we realize. Always approach this issue with honesty and let your friend or family member know that they’re not alone in their struggles.
Respect your loved one’s right to conduct their own life. Newsflash: you don’t have to agree about everything in order to be friends with someone! You can disagree about vital, important things and still keep the channels of communication open and be involved in each other’s lives.
Set boundaries if you need to. If you don’t want to talk about their love life, or if you guys know that the conversation gets patchy if you’re talking about current events in Utah, that’s okay. Set up boundaries, but acknowledge that the relationship is more important than your personal preferences.
Focus on the most fundamental parts of the gospel. When you do, you won’t have as many points of disagreement as you think. The fundamentals will probably include some of the following: God knows and loves each of His children, and wants us to be happy. Christ suffered for all of our sins and is the author of our redemption. Go to the heart of what you know, and don’t get caught up in details and technicalities.
Remember that sexual orientation is only one aspect of a person. This individual is still the same person you’ve always known and loved. This doesn’t define them or rewrite everything you know about them.
Remember that eternity is a long time for things to change, and that the Savior’s atonement is universal. In the end, who’s to say that they won’t be better off than you? Don’t judge just because their struggles are more obvious than yours.
Reflect on your own testimony and bring your questions to Heavenly Father in prayer. Christ asks each of us to have a change of heart in order to enter His presence. We must turn over all our sins, everything we have, and come to Him with a broken heart. Take this opportunity to build your own testimony of God’s love, healing, and divine plan for each of us.
Posted by Maurine Dashney