Updated: May 18, 2021
I’m about to celebrate 17 years as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. During this span of time I have seen the good my membership has brought me. In the spring of 2004 I was working at home when I noticed two young men in suits knock on doors along the street I live on. I thought to myself “ they might knock on my door “. After about 15 minutes they were on my doorstep. They introduced themselves as members of the Church, but what caught my attention was that they were here to share a good message. I invited them in for a conversation. They invited me to attend church and to meet regularly to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I attempted to go to church that first Sunday, but was not given any directions about where the church was located. I made my way up the hill to the next neighborhood, but knew I would get lost or that I would be late so I turned around and went home. They came by after church and invited me again and offered to have someone from church give me a ride. The following Sunday I went to church. It was clumsy and awkward but at the same time it was comfortable. I met with the elders for weekly lessons and attended church every week. I was invited to be baptized at least 45 times during the time I was being taught. I told them I would move forward when I knew that I would commit for the long haul .
At about 80 days into my lessons I drew closer to a baptismal date. My turning point was when I truly recognized the spirit for the first time. I felt the love of the Saviour and of Heavenly Father. I knew that they knew of me in a very personal way. They promised to support me and encourage me in all things if I was willing to progress and be baptized.
After my baptismal interview I came out to my missionaries and told them that I was gay. They informed they would speak to the mission president and arrange a special meeting for me to meet him. Within the first three minutes of meeting the mission president, he asked me “Who molested you to turn you gay ? “ I was horrified by his thoughts and line of questioning. I told him I was born this way and knew from my early childhood that I was different. I could have easily called off my baptism and throw out my interest in the gospel. I spoke to my bishop about this and he said that he would protect me. He reassured me that this was not part of the teaching or beliefs of the Church .
After I was baptized I asked my bishop if there was a LGBTQ member who has been able to navigate their way through the gospel that I could speak with. He said there were, but none were willing to come forward to help me out. I’ve since taken on this task, helping both the young and the old find their place in the gospel.
2005 Same Sex Marriage Bill
In 2005 Canada passed the same-sex marriage bill. It was the topic of discussion and teachings at church throughout Canada that Sunday. It was a tough Sunday to attend church.The sacrament talks were based on messages sent from the first presidency indicating how wrong and sinful gay marriage or relationships were. I quietly wept as my heart was breaking from hearing how the church felt about gay people. The messages continued in our Elders Quorum meeting. One of the instructors had asked a hypothetical question, “Why is it that the vocal minority is being heard louder than the quiet majority when it comes to the same sex marriage bill ?” I took a deep breath and raised my hand to respond. I felt a strong impression to share more about myself to the brethren and come out. It could have gone in any direction. Fortunately, the spirit guided me in the words the men were prepared to hear. I told them that some of you have gotten to know me a little in the past year. Some had come to love me during that time, but there was more I wanted them to know. I told them I was gay. I told them I loved the gospel. I told them it was challenging to be part of this church. I told them it had been a tough day so far. I told them I had been crying all morning without letting anyone see me cry . I shared with them that those who are choosing to be legally married by this new law have put the same amount of thought as you have when you decided to get married. I had their undivided attention. Many thanked me for speaking up.
For the most part my experiences at church with bishops and Stake Presidents have been positive. They saw that I was willing to serve in the callings they extended to me. I was in leadership and missionary roles from the beginning. I served with all my love and admiration for the gospel. I am privileged to know my local leaders as friends instead of people who fellowship me. There is a difference.
In 2005 I had my first temple recommend interview with my friend and Stake President Duane. When he asked if I associated with any group or organization that is contradictory to the teachings of the gospel I came out to him. His response was “ you can’t be gay I know you “. I explained to him that he only knew that part of me that I felt he could understand. He thanked me for being honest and approved my temple recommend.
Our church community changed in November 2015. The policy update regarding children of LGBTQ parents were being denied the right to be baptized at the age of 8 years old. The Church felt they were protecting the children. The response from the community was they were hurting families and challenged their decision to remain members of the church. Many have walked away.
In December 2015 I took a deep breath and decided to speak up and try to make a difference. I approached my Stake presidency to talk about the response and impact on LGBTQ individuals and their families. They were receptive to my request. I shared with them the positive and negative messages I have received at church over the last decade. They were concerned about the effects of the policy update. They appreciated my honest and direct approach to discussing this subject. They felt their bishops needed to have sensitivity training on LGBTQ issues to better minister to their members, whether they be youth or adult.
Over the last 6 years I have found great success in meeting with stake presidencies and bishops in Calgary, Canada about the experiences of LGBTQ church members. I have had meetings with 6 of our 8 stake presidencies in Calgary. They have invited me to teach bishops training in 3 stakes and stake wide auxiliary leadership training in another stake. I cast a wide net here in Calgary and for that I am grateful.
I have often been asked how can I be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and still be true to myself. I respond by saying I carry myself with dignity and understand the varying levels of acceptance in the Church. I am out and visible in my stake and broader community in Calgary. I know who I can trust and who I can confide in. It’s not easy but I pray for patience and strength to hold tight.
I currently serve as the Mandarin Branch Elders Quorum president, Family History consultant and Calgary Temple Ordinance Worker. I have a great relationship with my Stake President who I can be my authentic self. We talk openly and honestly about LGBTQ members and the situations they face at church. We have talked about marriage equality and the use of the term queer. He truly cares about me as a real friend.
My hope for our Church and it’s members across the spectrum is that we can be kinder, patient, empathetic and understanding with one another. That we acknowledge that everyone has a place in the gospel. Our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother love us each as individuals and as their children. This keeps me motivated to speak up and make a difference where I can.