Come As You Are

Posted: November 11, 2015 in LDS, lgbtq, Mormon, religion
Tags: , , ,
The Rainbow Girl (Artist Wishes to Remain Anonymous)

The Rainbow Girl (Artist Wishes to Remain Anonymous)

A lesbian friend in high school was my first exposure to someone who openly identified as homosexual. Her example had a far reaching impact on my life.

She came from a troubled home. She had been sexually molested by a family member and had “anger management issues”. I did not understand her pain then, and I thought I knew how to help her. At that time, I was an active member of the Mormon church, and I believed (as I had been taught) that the message of the gospel would bring healing, happiness, and inner peace to all who studied and accepted it. I saw a friend suffering through a struggle beyond my comprehension, and I thought I had the cure.

I invited her to church…

At first, everything seemed to go well. She attended a Young Women’s activity and enjoyed it enough that she wanted to come back. She started socializing and connecting and making friends with the other girls, and the young men that would join us for a monthly combined activity. Little did I know that the Young Women’s President was not happy about this development. She viewed my friend as a threat to her “flock” and arranged for her to meet with the Bishop of our ward. In that meeting, the Bishop told my friend that she needed to change the way she dressed and conducted herself if she wanted to continue coming to the church activities. She came to me after, told me what had happened, and said that she was not interested in a church that could not accept her for who she was.

She never came back, and our friendship dwindled into memory.

I did not understand then. I thought she was missing an opportunity to learn about this wonderful gospel, because she did not understand it. I thought she’d been driven away before she’d had adequate time to get acquainted with the difference it could make in her life. I thought she had no desire to put forth the effort to change and improve herself, because she had not attended long enough to learn of the blessings she would be missing out on.

I was heartbroken, because I had thought that my church was loving, welcoming, and kind. I was heartbroken, because I still believed that the gospel could cure my ailing friend, and the actions of my Young Women’s leader had driven her away. If ever anyone had needed the gospel, surely it was this girl in emotional turmoil after enduring an unthinkable trauma. This girl in so much pain that she struggled to manage her anger. This girl who’d been so abused by a man that she now considered herself a lesbian… Oh how lost and confused I was then.

How could I possibly understand when I considered sexual-orientation a symptom of trauma? How could I possibly understand when I was so blind… I pinned the blame on that Young Women’s leader and Bishop. I told myself that “the gospel is perfect, but the people aren’t”. But the situation never sat right with me again, and it would come to the forefront of my mind often, resurfacing any time I was exposed to evidences of bigotry and discrimination within my beloved church.

When I heard about the church’s political involvement with Proposition 8, I repeated that mantra in my head over and over. “The gospel is perfect, but the people aren’t”.

When I heard about the electroshock therapy used at BYU in an attempt to cure homosexuality, I repeated that mantra in my head over and over. “The gospel is perfect, but the people aren’t”.

When my parents and siblings expressed homophobic views and distress over my choice to associate with homosexual individuals, I repeated that mantra in my head over and over. “The gospel is perfect, but the people aren’t”.

I continuously wrestled with this contradictory information, and I told myself that I needed to be an example of love and tolerance both to my fellow church members and to those who would see me as a reflection and example of church teachings. I considered myself as following the example of Christ in associating with sinners, and I found myself learning that those I had considered sinful were more moral, kind, welcoming, and tolerant than the members of my church.

And I repeated that mantra in my head over and over. “The gospel is perfect, but the people aren’t”…..

Eventually, my mantra was broken. I realized my entire worldview was mistaken. I realized just how ignorant I had been and how the message of a dear high school friend had gone completely over my head. The Mormon church is NOT accepting of homosexuals. The gospel is NOT perfect. The bigotry I blamed on imperfect people is rooted in scripture, and the teachings I had been relying on to frame my understanding of homosexuality were wrong.

The leaders of the Mormon church are not inspired by God. If they were, they would have known long before any scientific studies were done that homosexuality is an inborn trait that cannot be “cured”, nor need it be. If they were, they would have known their teachings regarding homosexuality would be harmful, as individuals faced an impossible task trying to rid themselves of feelings that could no more be conquered than hunger or thirst. If they were, they would have known that homosexuality will never be eradicated from their membership – not without eradicating the members themselves.

And now we face a very real problem, as homosexual individuals in the church find themselves targeted once again. I hope that those individuals will read this and understand:

You do not need to be in a church that does not accept you for who you are. The church is wrong. You do not need to change. You are not an abomination. I know it is frightening and terrifying even thinking of leaving an organization on which you are so heavily dependent, but there is help. You can escape it’s control. And there are countless people on the outside who will love you and accept you as you are. Let us be your support. Let us help you find joy. Come as you are. And do not change.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s