Note from Mary: Bridget is a well-loved member of our Social Group, the straight mother of a gay son. She has been a blessing to us all.
Disclaimer from Bridget: This is what I believed at one time, however my beliefs have evolved, and I am no longer a member of the Mormon Church.
When our youngest child, Johnathan, was around 16 years old he suddenly took a dramatic turn that was very disturbing to my husband and I. Jonathan was a very kind and loving child growing up. He was always well-behaved, cheerful, and optimistic. He was a very spiritual young man who loved the Lord. He never swore and he always got on his friends' case when they were swearing. He wanted to be a missionary when he turned 19.
All of a sudden he became angry all the time. He started swearing, and no longer wanted to go to church. He began saying that he no longer believed in God and started losing a lot of weight. He also became very depressed. It really scared me and I begged him to tell me what was going on.
One Sunday, unbeknownst to me, our son had been in a Sunday School class where a college student substituted. He had taught a class on morality to the 16-17 year olds. This teacher mentioned that homosexuality was an abomination in God's eyes and that all gays were going to hell. Then he laughed and added that "of course, in this church no one has that kind of problem." Well, you can imagine how my son felt as he was already beating himself up for having a same-sex attraction. He was privately praying that he would not be a fag, and that God would take this away from him.
So, as we were driving home from church that Sunday, I again begged Johnathan to tell me what was going on with him. He said, "I can't tell you mom, except for I know I am going to hell." I was totally shocked and said, "What did you do, kill someone?" He laughed and said no, but it was really bad. My husband and I were really worried about him and told him that if he could not talk to us, we would pay for him to have counseling because we felt he needed to talk to someone. So we got him a counselor that he liked, but he still would not tell us what was going on.
One night, soon after that, I went to bed with this horrible headache. I had been praying so hard to be able to know what was wrong with Johnathan. I woke up at 1:48 a.m., as I had looked at the clock to see what time it was. Suddenly, I noticed my headache was completely gone and I felt wonderful. It felt like warm water was flowing all over my head and body. Then, I heard a voice in my mind say, "I will tell you the truth about Johnathan." I thought "Wow" this is the Holy Spirit". I was then told to wake up my husband and go in the computer room to check the computer. My husband wasn't too thrilled about being woke up but he came with me. There we found on the computer screen, an email my son had sent to a 20 year old gay Danish youth he had met in a chat room. In the email, my son was telling his Danish friend how he was planning on 'outing' himself as gay to a guy he had fallen madly in love with at his high school.
We were shocked at the least, but now we knew what was going on and why he had been acting so strange. It was a relief on one hand, but so upsetting on the other. We hardly slept that night and I was a nervous wreck. I just couldn't believe it, as I thought Johnathan had liked girls. I also wondered how we were going to approach Johnathan with this information we had just learned.
My husband and I decided it would be best for me to do it, as Johnathan and I had always been very close. So the next day when Johnathan came home from school I asked if we could talk a minute. He said, "Sure mom", as he threw himself on his bed. I said, "Johnathan, would you ever dump your good friend Joe, just because he is real fat?" He said, "Of course not mom, why do you ask?" I then told him that we had discovered a problem he was having but we would never stop loving him because of this. Suddenly, he got really nervous and sat up straight. I pulled out this church magazine and showed him the article that just come out on same-sex attraction. I said, "I think you have this problem." Well, then he got really nervous and denied everything. He was very upset and ran into the bathroom and locked the door. I continued talking to him through the door and told him we knew about David. He said, "How do you know about David?"
That is when I told him about my spiritual experience the night before and how we were told by the Holy Spirit to look on the computer. I told him we had found this email he had written this guy in Denmark about outing himself to David. Well, then he was all upset and got angry at us for reading his email. He locked himself in the computer room and immediately wrote his friend in Denmark.
To make a long story short, I eventually started writing to this young man in Denmark. I was very much like Mary Griffith in the book/movie "Prayers for Bobby," if any of you are familiar with it. I became involved in ex-gay ministries, and did everything to try and get my son to change. What I had to learn of course, is that it was "Me" that God wanted to change, and I wrote a powerful ending to my book.
My book "Prayers for Johnathan' is a compilation of my letters between this Danish young man and myself. His name is Soren Jensen, and he was working so hard to answer all my questions and help me accept my gay son. We wrote day and night for two years and I was trying so hard to get him and my son to change and understand the parents' side to this. Soren and I both have unusual senses of humor, and loved verbal sparring. Johnathan and Soren allowed me to write this book to show those on opposite sides of this issue how to be respectful and loving, even when strongly disagreeing.
For those of you who read my book, I want to make a disclaimer. This book is where I was twelve years ago, and a lot of the information in this book is out-dated, and I do not agree with anymore. So, for those of you who will read my book, it may make you angry, or irritate the heck out of you at times. But, I hope you will be understanding and forgiving. I was just doing what I thought was best at the time. God has a way of teaching us that His ways are not our ways.
I would like to end with a statement from a gay man who wrote me:
One day you may well learn that it was a great gift not only to your son, but to you, that he is gay. There are things as parents that you will only be able to fully learn by having this experience. Sometimes I think we gay ones are not the ones being tested at all -- no, we're the great test of you straight people: can you REALLY truly love "the least of these" who are considered outcasts in God's kingdom? I suspect it's not HIS salvation on the line at all... but yours.
We gay ones are created as we are for a purpose. And that purpose is never limited only to ourselves. You have an opportunity -- a huge opportunity -- to actually live what "unconditional love" is all about. And I think you are already well on your way to truly living it with your SON.
Questions and Answers About Mormonism, Homosexuality and My Son
Question 1: Did your church leaders know about Johnathan being gay, and did he see counselors or therapists in the LDS Church for this?
Answer 1: When we first discovered our son's same-sex attraction we did not want anyone in the church to know. We feared they might be judgmental or think we had been bad parents and raised him wrong. Because Johnathan was no longer attending church our bishop did ask my husband one Sunday why he wasn't coming to church anymore. My husband broke down and told him why.
This bishop was very kind and said that his dad thought he was gay once because he was so shy with girls. He told us about a LDS counselor in our area who had experience with this, and we contacted him. He was a very good counselor and our son saw him a few times. Johnathan really liked this counselor but decided not to go further because he did not feel he could change. Johnathan also attended some ex-gay ministries like Evergreen International, supported by the LDS Church, and a local Exodus meeting.
We lived in Davenport, Iowa at the time. He was not offended or pressured to attend these meetings and he rather liked them, but did not feel they were for him as he did not believe he could change. He had done enough of his own praying, fasting, paying tithing and getting a priesthood blessing by the age of 19 that he had pretty much lost his faith in God.
Those in our LDS congregation who know about our son's same-sex attraction, including our minister, were nothing but loving and nice to him in general. He had visited with a new bishop (comparable to a minister) a few times, and this bishop asked him a dumb question like how could he know he was gay if he had never had sex with a guy. My son turned it around and asked him how he knew he was heterosexual before having sex with a woman. He got the point.
Question 2: Where is Johnathan today with his beliefs in the Mormon church and God? Does he consider himself Mormon, or Nazarene, or just general Christian, or none of the above?
Answer 2: Johnathan left the LDS Church when he was about 19, which is about 10 years ago. He lost his faith in God which was hard for him. He felt God had abandoned him since he did not cure him after so much praying and effort.
Today, Johnathan still tells me about the good parts of being raised Mormon and what he misses. He is glad he was raised with good values to be honest, caring, to live the health laws in the LDS Church of not smoking, drinking, etc. He also still likes many of the LDS teachings of people not going to hell just because they did not accept the gospel while on earth, and that there is more than just heaven and hell.
He still reads the first four gospels in the New Testament and watches YouTube videos of atheists who have had out of body experiences who came to Christ afterwards. He likes the teachings of Christ but does not have a faith that He is the Son of God. He still seems to fear that God does not approve of homosexuality and of being accepted by God as he is.
Question 3: What do you think about the Proposition 8 that the church was involved in?
Answer 3: I disagree with them. I believe any church can have the freedom of religion to believe homosexuality is wrong and whether gays can hold callings in their churches, but to intercede in basic human rights civilly is actually against some of their own scriptures.
Here is link that explains that: http://www.gaysandthegospel.org/
Question 4: What are the beliefs of the Mormon Church on homosexuality today?
Answer 4: This is taken from a recent book called Gay Mormons? Latter-day Saint Experiences of Same-Sex Attraction by Brent Kerby - a young gay graduate of Brigham Young University who accepts the Mormon teaching that all sex must be confined to marriage, and therefore, as a gay man, anticipates a life of celibacy. His book is not endorsed by the LDS church.
"Now, we have gays in the church. Good people. We take no action against such people -- provided they don't become involved in transgression, sexual transgression. If they do, we do with them exactly what we'd do with heterosexuals who transgress.
We have a very strong moral teaching concerning abstinence before marriage and total fidelity following marriage. And, regardless of whether they're heterosexuals or otherwise, if they step over that line there are certain sanctions, certain penalties that are imposed."
1. LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, Interview, 2004
Many ask, why are some people gay? Is it a choice? Can they change? And what exactly does it mean to be gay or same-gender-attracted? These are challenging questions which might not have simple answers.
Most of the people in this book describe being drawn to others of the same gender, loving them, and yearning for intimate companionship with them emotionally and physically. Many have never experienced attractions to the opposite gender, even after years of prayers and efforts. Others describe a degree of fluidity in their feelings, including at least a limited ability to connect romantically with the opposite gender.
Many have followed the Church's teachings from a young age but have experienced feelings of isolation and shame as they realized they were different. Some, feeling worthless and condemned by God, have taken steps to harm themselves or even end their own lives.
Current Church Viewpoints
In a 2004 interview with Larry King, when asked if being gay was something people were ''born with", President Gordon B. Hinckley replied, ''I don't know. I'm not an expert on these things. I don't pretend to be an expert on these things."
In a 2006 interview with Church Public Affairs on same-gender attraction, Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated:
"The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations ... Those are scientific questions -- whether nature or nurture -- those are things the Church doesn't have a position on.
In the same interview, Elder Lance B. Wickman acknowledged that ''one's gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person." At the same time, he encouraged people not to place undue emphasis on this one aspect of their personality: ''Find fulfillment in the many other facets of your character and your personality and your nature that extend beyond that."
In a 2006 media interview, Elder Marlin K. Jensen stated:
"It has created a lot of pain for me just because I've known some of these wonderful people who have these feelings ... I've sat with those that have tried for years to transition to a more traditional way of life and who haven't been able to produce those feelings in themselves that would permit them honestly to marry ... [Their] choice has to be to live a celibate life. That is a very difficult choice for the parents, for the young man, the young woman, for whoever's making that choice, and my heart goes out to them. I think we're asking a tremendous amount of them ... We, again, as a church need to be, I think, even more charitable than we've been, more outreaching in a sense."
In 2007 the Church released a pamphlet, ''God Loveth His Children", addressed directly to members of the Church who experience same-gender attraction: "You are a son or daughter of God ... God does indeed love all His children. Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer ...
Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father's children desire to love and be loved ...
Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant."
This was followed by an Ensign article by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
"Although I believe members are eager to extend compassion to those different from themselves, it is human nature that when confronted with a situation we don't understand, we tend to withdraw. This is particularly true of same-gender attraction. We have so little reliable information about it that those wanting to help are left feeling a bit unsteady ... [R]ecognize that marriage is not an all-purpose solution. Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. We are all thrilled when some who struggle with these feelings are able to marry, raise children, and achieve family happiness. But other attempts have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes ...
[S]ome members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them -- and the Lord. The Church is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love."
Controversy and Clarification
In the October 2010 General Conference, LDS President Boyd K. Packer stated:
"Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?
Many members interpreted this as saying that God would not allow someone to be born gay, that anyone could choose to be heterosexual. This seemed to run contrary to the official Church teaching that even faithful members ''may not be free of this challenge in this life", as ''same-gender attractions may continue". Ten years earlier, even President Packer himself had acknowledged, ''That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life." When the talk appeared on the Church website and in the Ensign, the word ''tendencies" was replaced by ''temptations", and the question ''Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?" was omitted.
President Packer's talk came at a particularly sensitive time, as the media had been extensively reporting on a nationwide string of suicides by bullied gay teenagers. Critics argued that President Packer's statements could feed into anti-gay bullying. The Human Rights Campaign delivered 150,000 petitions to the Church, claiming that the changes to the talk did not go far enough, and asking the Church to make a full correction.
In response, the Church issued the following statement:
"My name is Michael Otterson. I am here representing the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to address the matter of the petition presented today by the Human Rights Campaign.
"While we disagree with the Human Rights Campaign on many fundamentals, we also share some common ground. This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different -- whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.
"This Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society's leaders often seemed disinclined to help. Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ's second great commandment -- to love one another.
"As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down.
"Further, while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.
"The Church's doctrine is based on love. We believe that our purpose in life is to learn, grow and develop, and that God's unreserved love enables each of us to reach our potential. None of us is limited by our feelings or inclinations. Ultimately, we are free to act for ourselves.
"The Church recognizes that those of its members who are attracted to others of the same sex experience deep emotional, social and physical feelings. The Church distinguishes between feelings or inclinations on the one hand and behavior on the other. It's not a sin to have feelings, only in yielding to temptation.
"There is no question that this is difficult, but Church leaders and members are available to help lift, support and encourage fellow members who wish to follow Church doctrine. Their struggle is our struggle. Those in the Church who are attracted to someone of the same sex but stay faithful to the Church's teachings can be happy during this life and perform meaningful service in the Church. They can enjoy full fellowship with other Church members, including attending and serving in temples, and ultimately receive all the blessings afforded to those who live the commandments of God.
"Obviously, some will disagree with us. We hope that any disagreement will be based on a full understanding of our position and not on distortion or selective interpretation. The Church will continue to speak out to ensure its position is accurately understood.
"God's universal fatherhood and love charges each of us with an innate and reverent acknowledgement of our shared human dignity. We are to love one another. We are to treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters and fellow children of God, no matter how much we may differ from one another.
"We hope and firmly believe that within this community, and in others, kindness, persuasion and goodwill can prevail."
FOOTNOTE: Brent Kerby's book Gay Mormons?: Latter-day Saint Experiences of Same-Gender Attraction includes the personal stories of himself and 23 other young GLBT Mormons.
Copyright Â©2011 Bridget Night. All rights reserved
To get Bridget's book, Prayers For Jonathan, please Click Here.
Please see Part I of Bridget's Presentation: The Basics of Mormonism