Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Will some parents ever learn...

A friend's mother has been sending him regular emails expressing her disappointment that he has chosen to "practice a gay lifestyle." Her emails, long on repentance and short on love, are beginning to weigh him down emotionally and spiritually. I asked my friend if I might write his mother a letter. What follows is my email to his mother and her quick response.... 

Dear Sister Jones:

Although we haven’t yet met, it seems as though I know you already. Bill speaks often of you and about his love and admiration for you. He is a fortunate young man to have such a mother and much of the good person he has become obviously results from your strong and caring guidance.

While I served as a bishop of a university ward a few years ago, I had nearly two dozen gay men out of 200 students in my ward. I came to love and respect each of them. They all were coping with their individual situations in different ways, but they were each doing his best to come to terms with what is to most an irreconcilable choice—to be true to oneself or to be true to the teachings of the Church.

For the most part, this dilemma caused unbelievable heartache for these young men. A number of them had attempted to take their lives and nearly all had sought help through professional counseling. While the counseling taught some of them coping mechanisms, not one was able to change or even lessen his sexual orientation despite his best efforts and pleas for spiritual intervention. (I was personally relieved when the Brethren finally recognized 5 years ago that homosexuality might actually be innate rather than a choice. I can bear witness that no man—no active Latter-day Saint man would ever choose to be gay if he actually had a choice in the matter.)

The young men that coped the best were those that received the greatest parental support—those whose parents understood that the core principle of the Gospel is family and as a result were willing to accept their son as he was without question or pause. These parents also understood that their sons didn’t need judgment or criticism or lectures about gospel law. As an aside, nearly all of these gay boys had been leaders in their missions who understood the Gospel better than most members. Moreover, these boys had been judging and criticizing themselves to the point of despair for most if not all of their lives. What they needed was not constant reminders of their estrangement from family and God, but that God and their parents loved and accepted them regardless.

These boys who were the happiest and best adjusted had parents that practiced what I call Christ’s woman-at-the-well philosophy…”neither do I condemn thee…” It’s a philosophy based on less judgment and more forgiving. It’s a philosophy that reflects Christ greatest and most powerful commandment—to love. In the end, judgment is the Lord’s anyway and we can’t even begin to understand how universal the universal atonement actually is. By loving these boys and accepting them we are reflecting the example of Christ—a God who sat with an adulteress at the well, who ate and drank with publicans, and spent most of his time opening his arms with love to those who were rejected by the Jewish faithful. Why Jesus did this so easily is understandable when one remembers that Christ is the son of a woman believed by family and neighbor to be an unwed mother. He understood through personal experience the difficulty of dealing with society’s pressure to keep the law.

Now, let me share a few observations about Bill.

Bill is exceptionally kind and considerate. He is generous to a fault and positive in his demeanor. I’ve never heard him gossip or speak ill of another. He is sensitive and tender-hearted. Unlike most LDS gay men, he loves the Gospel and attends Church regularly. He seems to hold no animosity toward the Church. I honestly would have difficulty finding fault with his character and outlook. He is exactly the kind of son any father would be proud of.

I know you love your son tremendously, Sister Jones. That is obvious by the kind of person that he is. But Bill also needs you to be proud of him.

You may not agree with his choices. You may feel that he is choosing to follow the Destroyer rather than Heavenly Father. But if he is, the only way you will have any influence over him and his choices is by holding him and anyone dear to him close to you. Anything short of that will drive him away and that is not what you want nor what Bill wants.

It is however the nature of nearly all parent/child relationships. In my years of church service, I have seen it happen over and over again. A parent is disappointed his or her child follows a different path, a parent rejects the child as a result of this choice, and the child spirals down. To help you grasp the situation generally, over 40% of all suicides of men under 30 in Utah involve gay men whose families reject them.

Let me say that in my opinion, Bill is the last person who would act precipitously, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t yearn for your support. If you will please forgive me, might I suggest that when you write to Bill, ask him about his life, what he is doing, who he is dating, what is he succeeding at, and how he thinks he is falling short. Let him know that your love, like Christ’s is unconditional, not just by saying so, but by showing interest and love, by avoiding lecture and condemnation.

I know you are struggling to grapple with the truth of Bill’s life and it probably seems overwhelming, especially for someone who is as devoted to the Gospel as she is to her family. I can testify, however, that through prayer you’ll feel solace and you’ll gain confidence that Heavenly Father is watching out for Bill and will continue to guide him for good as he always has.

My mission president’s son is gay and has been living with a partner for 15 years. They have a twelve year old daughter who is beautiful, talented, and sweet as can be. Several weeks ago when I was visiting with my mission president’s wife, she said, “Stan and I love all of our children, but we have special love for our gay son, Brett. Accept for his father, he’s the best man I know.” Someday you’ll be able to say the same of Bill. He’s just that kind of guy.

I honestly apologize for being so direct. I hope you will forgive me. I hope, too, that we can become friends. Based on Bill’s comments, you are a remarkable woman.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

With kindest regards,
Allen Miller  

The mother's response to her son...  


I received an email from one of your friends. In the future, please do not give my email address to anyone.

Love, Mother


  1. Perhaps Bill could adopt you as a parent? His mother is indeed clueless...

  2. To be fair, I can see how she could be upset in feeling that her privacy has been violated. The response doesn't necessarily indicate her internal reaction to the letter.

    Maybe I'm just naive and positive, but I think this gave her good things to think about and that she won't be putting it easily out of her mind as she continually relates to her son. Of course, it is unfortunate in any case that she is not more accepting.

  3. Oh, and about your actual letter, I LOVE it. I am saving it in my file of things I like and will probably share it with others. Thank you for your blog and your fearless expression of compassion in this case. If only more people could be more like this.

  4. Frankly, I'd cut mommy dearest off for a few years. If she can only value her son as a straight person, if her influence is so judgmental that she cannot accept a letter such as you sent in the spirit in which it was intended, then she ought to be bereft of a relationship she hasn't yet learned to value. Perhaps going without for a few years would teach her the worth of the son she has been alienating.

  5. Wow, I love your comments. Thanks for your kind words and for your insight. I'll be sharing your advice with Bill. I hope it helps him deal with a very difficult situation.

  6. I'm guessing your letter cut her pretty deep.

  7. Wow. Your letter is so kind, yet direct. I honestly have a hard time seeing how someone could take offense at it. It is so beautifully worded. I think my own parents could use a letter like this. Lol!

  8. This was beautifully written, my friend.

  9. What a beautiful letter. And what a sad response. Thank you for writing it and for sharing it!

  10. Great letter (and sad that Mother responded the way she did). I just have one minor nitpick... :)

    You're conflating two stories from the New Testament: "The Woman at the Well", and "The Woman Taken in Adultery".

    It's true that Jesus showed no judgment to the woman at the well (John 4)—he knew that she had had multiple husbands, and that she was living with a man she was not married to, but beyond letting her know that he knew it (thus demonstrating that he was the Christ), he said nothing else on the subject.

    "Neither do I condemn thee" was his response to the woman taken in adultery (John 8), who faced the threat of death by stoning. When asked how to deal with her, Jesus told his accusers that any who were themselves without sin were welcome to stone her... They all left in shame, and Jesus told the woman that he didn't condemn her either.

    He also said "go, and sin no more", and many people fixate on that part of the story (so that they can feel justified in calling others out on their sins). But the story is *absolutely* about not judging—a few verses after his exchange with the woman Jesus actually says "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me." (emphasis mine). In other words, because Jesus is God, or is with God, he could judge true... But he chooses not to (and so we shouldn't either).

    Anyway—like I said, loved the letter, and this nitpick shouldn't be seen as criticism of its value or message. Hugs! :)

  11. Good for you for being pro-active and showing charity. As we all know, each of us is on our own journey and we all come to truths in different ways and at different times of our lives. Hopefully, this will be accompanied by additional 'notes' of love and hope and truths. Hopefully she'll start seeing the light and allow Christ and Charity into the picture.

    I think a good challenge for all of us this week is to share a good uplifting story (either our own or of someone else) with a friend. The more people know that we are here and that we are working to be better people (like most people in the world AND in the Church), the better off we will be.

  12. I think your letter is very heartfelt and concientious. I think the Mother can't look pack predjudice to hear or feel the truth of your words. They need to "open their ears so they can hear, and hearts that they can understand." Thanks for sharing. I wish someone would intervene and write my own Mother. I don't know what she would say, but it's something I'd consider. I applaud your efforts, even if they weren't met with the same respect and consideration.

  13. Thanks again for all your wonderful comments. I have hope that Bill's mother will see what she is actually losing by pushing here son away. Only time will tell.