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,
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.