Sunday, April 14, 2019

Vol 2 Issue 4

Pic of the week 

I somehow lost the key to my scooter.  I mean, I know that I'm a little scatter-brained sometimes, but I've had that key for 8 years, and it was attached to my other keys - which I did not lose.  Anyway, turns out you can't just cut a new key for my brand of scooter.  You have to replace the entire ignition switch.  So, I did a little YouTube searching and it looked like I could do it myself - which would save me about $200 in towing and labor costs.  So I ordered the part online (which was less than $100, surprisingly), and aside from having to disassemble more of my scooter than I thought I'd have to (which wasn't hard, just involved keeping track of a lot of screws and where to put them back in), it was a really easy process.  And my scooter is back in action and works like a charm!

What's going on?

I'm 36, y'all! This birthday was honestly one of the best I've had.  I did my annual beach bonfire at the beginning of the week and it was as delightful as always.  Plus, look at this cool log!


I got a few gifts from people and without exception they were thoughtful and perfect.  I spent most of the day rehearsing for our Story Pirates symphony show and honestly, Story Pirates is the thing I love doing best, and my SP friends are among my favorite people in all the world, so I don't know that there's really anywhere I'd rather be or anything I'd rather be doing (Except, perhaps, Disneyland, cuz I'd always rather be at Disneyland).  I started the day with a KILLER breakfast and ended with dessert and friends and the whole day was filled with laughter and light and love and good news, and I honestly don't know how I got to be so incredibly, unbelievably lucky.


What I'm drinking
I saw that they'd made this and wanted to try it out.  The grocery store only had a 12-pack, so I said, "What the heck! It's my birthday!" So I've had a lot of orange vanilla Coke this week.  It's good.  I still prefer regular, or vanilla, or cherry, but this is good.  Mostly I'm looking forward to introducing my Story Pirate friends to the joys of Fiiz.

What I'm listening to

These four songs on repeat, cuz they're the ones we're doing for the symphony show:




Sunday, April 7, 2019

Vol 2 Issue 3

Pic of the week 


This week we had our big benefit shows for Story Pirates.  They're our one big fundraiser for the year, so we go all out.  As much as a non-profit arts/education can go all-out. This year I - and my friend Mia - played pizza agents who are out to take revenge on the hot dogs. We win. Here's the song!  It's super fun - though I don't sing on the recording.

What's going on?

Story Pirates!  Tutoring!  Reading!  Napping! Trying to eat more healthy foods!  Not always succeeding and eating more healthy foods! Jogging!  Look at this view from my jog!:


In the top picture you can see Downtown Los Angeles there in the distance.  In the bottom picture, that thin blue line along the horizon is the ocean.  It was such a beautiful day.  Though it's honestly been that nice all week.  I also spent some time building this:


My roommate thinks it's a little creepy, but I love it.  Plus, I learned how to rewire a lamp! How cool!  It's now hanging on my wall.  I had intended for it to be my bedside lamp, but it kind of overpowers the little cart I use as a bedside table, so it's now a wall sconce.

We are officially one week out from our Story Pirates Utah tour!!! I'm ridiculously excited for it.  We're performing twice with the symphony, and also once at an elementary school, and once at a bookstore.  And other than that, we'll probably do a bunch of exploring, and eating desserts, and generally enjoying springtime in Utah!

What I'm reading

Responses to The Church's announcement this week that they're reversing their policy from 2015 that labels people in gay relationships as apostate and bars children of LGBT couples from priesthood ordinances.  I'll pause right here to say that this is gonna be long, and I'm about to say some things you might find uncomfortable, but I think I might be done with avoiding uncomfortable topics.  You're my family - by blood relation or otherwise - and I think you deserve to know how I feel about these kinds of things.  Happy to have discussions about it.  Now, if you're not in the loop about LGBT topics and the church, I might first admonish you to get in the loop, and then I'll tell you that the response to the policy reversal has been mixed.  My personal feeling is that it never should have been a policy in the first place.  I don't believe it was a revelation from God, and so I'm quite happy it's been relegated to the annals of history.  I do think the fact that church leadership is apparently listening to the membership and decided - relatively quickly - to end the policy is worth celebrating.  However, the policy also caused a lot of pain and heartache.  It split families and caused some people to take their own lives - which is an utter tragedy.  The leadership's lack of acknowledgment of that pain and loss is at best callous, and at worst abusive.  Their lack of apology for it is unsurprising, but ultimately insulting.  I am more willing than most to let the leaders of the church be fallible.  I don't expect them to be perfect.  I am willing to grant that they will make mistakes.  But when I make mistakes, I am expected to acknowledge them, apologize for them, seek to make restitution where necessary, and move forward striving to be better (Which I honestly try to do - with varying degrees of success).  I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the same of men who ultimately ought to lead by example.

I found this to be interesting and representative of many feelings in the LGBT community (someone in the Mormon LGBT community wrote this.  I saw it a couple of times, but couldn't trace it back to the originator):
I’m so happy for the LGBTQ community!” This is verbatim of what has flashed across my screen on multiple social media platforms from multiple people today in response to the LDS policy change. What’s fascinating is that the greatest outcry of happiness I’ve seen has been from straight/cis people. So that brings the question, is this really for LGBTQ people? And the answer, in my opinion, is no. This is actually a change for the benefit of straight/cis individuals. A change to absolve the guilt faithful members may feel in participating in the LDS church and a change to keep fringe members from leaving. Let’s be clear that a policy change for the benefit of the LGBTQ community would not only rescind the previous policy in full, but it would go further AND, most importantly, would acknowledge personal wrong doing, fault, and the hurt that the church actively caused. So, to my straight Mormon friends, it’s understandable to feel good and relieved by this. But recognize that this is for you, not for us. In fact, what I see is an abuser trying to maintain control and draw back in recipients of the abuse in a fashion that is fairly universal of abusers. Because that’s what the LDS church has been to many of us. An abuser. I know that can be really hard to hear about something you care deeply about. It’s possible for something to be abusive to some and helpful to others. That’s the reality of the world. And unfortunately, the LDS church has been abusive to many queer people. So I’m not going applaud this, because it’s the work of my abuser. It’s the work of the abuser of my friends. There’s no apology. No recognition of wrong doing. This isn’t a step forward, it’s just backtracking and you'll have to excuse me if I'm not keeping my eye out for when the other shoe drops... again.
And to me, this is what Christlike leadership looks and feels and sounds like (from a gay member named John Bonner):
What They Could Have Said:   "Three and a half years ago we implemented a policy regarding the LGBTQ members of our church and their children. In our Handbook of Instructions for ecclesiastical leaders, we stated that same sex couples are to be considered “apostate.” Historically, apostasy was defined as being “an enemy to God.” In the modern church, apostasy has been defined as “open, public, and repeated opposition to the church and its leaders.” In the policy, we recommended that disciplinary councils be convened for church members living in same sex relationships, with the potential outcome being excommunication from the church. We went on to specify that children living with a parent who was in a same sex partnership would not be able to be baptized or confirmed, receive other church ordinances, attend the temple, or serve full-time missions until they reached the age of 18. We further imposed the condition that upon turning 18 they would be required to “specifically disavow the practice of same gender cohabitation and marriage” in order to become members of the church and enjoy the blessings inherent in church membership. At that time, Elder Christofferson said of the policy change, “This is about family; this is about love and especially the love of the Savior and how He wants people to be helped and fed and lifted, and that’s the whole motivation that underlies our effort.” On January 10, 2016, President Nelson declared: “Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. “And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.” Over the course of the subsequent three and a half years, we have witnessed the effects of this policy in the lives of our LGBTQ members, their families, and loved ones. We have read the accounts of the despair it has caused -- even contributing in some tragic cases, to the devastating decision by some LGBTQ Latter-day Saints to end their lives. We recognize that myriad factors are involved when it comes to suicide, including underlying depression and anxiety, possible alcohol or substance use, physical ailments, strained or distant family relationships, pervasive feelings of loneliness, rejection, and hopelessness. We also recognize, because we have been listening, that a deep sense of shame and unworthiness stemmed from this policy and the majority of the church’s rhetoric which preceded it on the subjects of sexuality and gender identity. We now know that such feelings of shame and unworthiness can become the treacherous underpinnings of life-threatening despair. We can no longer, in good conscience, continue to perpetuate the sense of shame and despair created and reinforced by our past policies, practices, and teachings. Effective immediately, the policy change which first came to light on November 5th, 2015, has been revoked. No part of this policy will continue to be implemented. We wish to express, unequivocally, that we were wrong and we are sorry. We realize how woefully inadequate those words are in the wake of the unfathomable pain, grief, and loss which arose out of this policy, but we hope they can offer a meaningful place to start. Our hearts go out, above all, to the parents, partners, siblings, and friends of the beloved LGBTQ Latter-day Saints whose lives were cut tragically short. We are aware that nothing we could say would ever fully assuage your pain or atone for our past ignorance and misunderstanding.. If you will allow us to, we would welcome the opportunity to sit down across from you, face-to-face, to hear your stories and bear witness to your pain. Our doors will remain open to you for as long as it takes to find some healing amidst the heartache. We hope you will continue to share your stories with us until we can begin to forge some way forward, together. We are learning as we go. We implore your patience as we seek to do so. You are our teachers. Our hearts have been changed and will continue to change. We believe a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow is in store for our church and its diverse membership across the globe. We are invested in never returning to the limited understanding, bias, and faulty assumptions of the past. We will be offering counseling services at no charge through available mental health professionals in your area to any who may benefit from having professional assistance in working through the pain behind by this policy. We will be donating a considerable amount of our time, financial means, and other resources to help create safe spaces for LGBTQ individuals throughout the world who have been made to feel unwelcome in their homes, places of worship, and communities. We invite other religious institutions to join us in seeking to create welcoming spaces for all. To our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, please forgive us. We have hurt you. We have wronged you. We recognize that any process of reconciliation and restitution will take time. There are not words sufficient to address the anguish you have experienced. But we wish to express again, to each one of you, that we are sorry. We hope we will have the opportunity to tell you that in person. The halls of our meetinghouses and pews of our chapels have been less vibrant without you in them. We have missed your vital voices, your presence, your unique and varied perspectives. We welcome you to come back and worship with us. And we will understand if you don’t, or can’t. But we want you to know you have a place here. You are beautiful children of Heavenly Parents who love you unconditionally. We failed to see that before. We see you now. You are worthy. You are loved. You are enough, exactly as you are. As we strive to entreat you in building beauty from ashes. We promise to never forget that.
Sorry this is so long, but it's been on my mind for the last few days, and I wanted to say something about it, but it's complex and layered and nuanced and hard to distill into a few words.  It seems like this whole experience is just another example of how the leadership of the church is quite terrible at knowing how to communicate and interact with the LGBT community in general, and especially inside of the church.  I know they can't please everyone, nor should they try to, but it seems they could and perhaps should be much better at it. Again, happy to have a conversation about it.  Feel free to email, text, call, snail mail, messenger pigeon, Facebook, etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, I don't really want to end on such a downer.  So.  Here's a GIF of a baby giraffe meeting a peacock.

 
via GIPHY

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Vol 2 Issue 2

Pic of the week 

I got a new bike! He's beautiful and perfect and I'm so happy to finally have a bike again, because I've missed zipping around town and riding down to the beach of a Sunday to watch the sunset. :)

What's going on?

I took a class last weekend about audio book narration.  I think it's something I'd be good at and would enjoy doing, and the class confirmed that.  However, it turns out that getting work in the world of audio books is even more of a hustle than getting acting work.  And though there are many things I enjoy and am rather good at, hustling is not one of them.  So.  Now I have to decide if it's something I really want to pursue.

Lots of Story Pirates happening right now.  Several weeks of straight Story Pirates, in fact.  This week we had a couple of big shows at a local performing arts center as part of their family series.  Funny moment - after one of our shows, we had a little Q&A session.  One little kid - probably 8 or 9 years old stood up, kind of gathered his thoughts while holding his hands prayer-style in front of his face, and then said, "What. Just. Happened?"  It was hilarious.

This coming week will be spent preparing for our big benefit show.  It's our biggest show of the year, and our annual fundraiser.  Show-stopping musical numbers, special celebrity guests, pies being thrown in faces.  It's a lot of fun.

What I'm reading

Admittedly, I'm only about 15 pages in, and also admittedly it's a bit woo-woo, but I'm already hooked. A friend of mine recommended this one.  It's about embracing the "dark" parts of being human as part of being your whole self.  I really liked this quote:
Perfect love is to feeling what perfect white is to color.  Many think that white is the absence of color.  It is not.  It is the inclusion of all color.  White is every other color that exists combined.  So, too, is love not the absence of emotion (hatred, anger, lust, jealousy, covertness), but the summation of all feeling? It is the sum total.  The aggregate amount.  The everything.
I think this idea brings a whole new, and interesting dimension to the idea of what the scriptures talk about when they talk about "love."  And also what it means to be perfect, or complete, or whole.

What I'm puzzling



It's huge.  And beautiful.
What I'm listening to


On Being is a podcast of interviews with religious, spiritual, philosophical, and though leaders from around the world.  One I listened to this week featured an interview with a rabbi that I thought was so interesting.  He gives an analogy of our relationship to God using circles that I thought was so beautiful.  Plus, his ideas about mysticism and the role of chaos in spirituality/religion are something I've had on my mind for a while.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Vol 2 Issue 1



Pic of the week 


Sunrise started just as we started our decent into Istanbul, so I got to see the sun rise over the horizon 3 different times.

What's going on?

Hey everyone! I've now been doing newsletters for a whole year! Can you believe it?! And so I decided it was time for a little change. Simplifying a little, and going to a format where I can include direct links, and also something that'll be a little more permanent and easily accessible for myself. Kind of like a little journal of sorts. I may futz with the formatting etc. for the next few weeks until I find something I really like. I may not. It's all a grand mystery!

Anyway, I'm finally home from Egypt. Our last week there was pretty chill. We did a little bit of chilling and a little bit of sight-seeing: a palace and a few mosques. Beautiful places. In one of the mosques we basically got the first discussion of Islam, and it was really interesting. I got a pamphlet on the Islamic faith, and even a copy of the Quran (which I had to leave in Egypt cuz my bags were FULL). It was interesting to notice, though, that our church tends to be much better trained in this sort of thing. The girl who talked to us was very sweet, though. And I actually loved visiting the mosques. They tend to be much more open and warm and inviting than traditional Christian churches - which is a setting that I find more conducive to connecting with God.

Always nice to be back home after a couple of weeks, but jet lag is no joke. And I also just love being on vacation, so I'm kind of ready to go back! 😂 But also ready to hit the ground running tomorrow. Always a million things to get done. Gotta get an eye exam, buy a bike, reply to a bunch of emails, you know, live life. *sigh*.

What I'm reading


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Stories from his life growing up in South Africa. It's funny and heartwarming and a tad raucous. He has some really interesting thoughts and perspectives on the privileges of race.

What I'm watching


This was delightful. Just four old actresses sharing stories from their lives on stage and in film.

What I'm listening to

The Kind World podcast. Short, heartwarming stories that let you know there is still some good in the world.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dear Mom, the book was different, is all.

Dear Mom,

Here's something I've been thinking about: you know how people get up in arms when a movie doesn't 100% match the book?  I used to be that way.  When I went to a movie of a book, all I wanted to see was the book on screen.  The exact story brought to life before my eyes.

But a friend of mine posted something this week about someone doing a Harry Potter mini-series that actually tells the story of the books.  And I thought, "The films did tell the story of the books. Maybe just not exactly." And that got me thinking that I don't think films of books should just be the book.  Cuz...that's why we have the book.  Also, and perhaps most importantly, there are things in a book that don't, nay can't translate to film.  Though writing and filmmaking certainly have similarities, they are two different forms of storytelling.  It's like telling two different artists to draw a tree and then getting mad because they don't look exactly the same.

I don't know.  I think I just want to make more space for book-movies to be their own thing that happens to be based on a book, rather than expecting it to be the book.  Because if we've learned nothing else, it's that if you expect a movie to be a book, you'll be disappointed every time.  Just go into the movie maybe being excited to see how a particular director or producer or actor interpreted the story and the messages it shares. 

No one gets mad at people who reinterpret Shakespeare.  That's the beauty of art, I think.  Using a story to communicate a message means that things will be different from person to person.

Anyway.  I'm just rambling about this, but it's something I wanted to write down and hopefully remember.  I'm currently reading "A Wrinkle In Time" and I know there are some high expectations for the film, but I'm going to approach it from a place of being familiar with the story in the book so I can compare it to the story in the film and see where the differences are and be surprised and delighted by things that were brought out in the film that maybe the story missed and vice versa. 

I'll let you know what I think.

Love you,

Greg

Friday, January 5, 2018

Dear Mom, I'm resolving to resolve.

Dear Mom,

It's 2018.  I'm riding the wave of societal good intentions and I've set some goals for myself for the year.  They are:

1 - Do something creative each morning right when I wake up - even if it's only for a couple of minutes.  Whether that's writing in my journal, coloring in a coloring book, practicing a song, reading a script, just something to start the day with some creative juices.

2 - Learn a song on the guitar every month.  I know a couple of chords, but find motivation fleeting and elusive.  This will give me something to work toward.

3 - Go on an Artist's Date every week.  I got this from a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  The idea is to do something with just you and your inner artist once a week to foster that part of yourself.  Being that I am a career artist, I think it's pretty important to keep that part of me well-fed.  Artist dates can be anything from making pottery to seeing a movie to a simple walk on the beach.  For me, it's one more dose of deliberate creativity.

4 - Most relevant to this post, I want to publish something online every week.  That helps with the motivation factor.  It'll keep me in the process of creating things.  So, you'll probably be hearing from me a lot more, though not necessarily every week.  I have some plans for some videos and maybe an art project or two that I want to put out there.  Writing to you is an easy way to create something and put it out in the world, though, so you'll be getting lots of letters.

The theme of my year, as you may be able to tell, is creativity.  I want creativity and creation to be a bigger part of my life.

I also have plans to make goals for each month because it seems that yearly resolutions or goals are easy to put aside after a time, but having a reset every month, I think, will make achieving those goals more realistic.  I don't have the whole year planned out, but January is focusing on physical health:

1 - Only drink water.  (I fudge on this one a little with post-workout protein drinks on occasion)

2 - Plant-based diet.  AKA I'm going vegan for the month.  (I've fudged on this one a tad, too.  But only because part of my motivation for going plant-based is to reduce waste and I had some leftover chicken broth I needed to use)

3 - No added sugar (the protein drinks, again, sort of fudge this one).  Which basically just means no treats.  I eat too much candy, dessert, pastries, cake etc.  I'll probably go back to eating them, cuz, duh, but I just need a reset for a minute.

3 - Exercise at least once a day, six days a week.  I got a job at Flywheel a few months ago - it's an indoor cycling studio - and one of the perks is free classes at a number of different gyms, so I figure I might as well take advantage of that as much as I can while I can.  I get a MUCH better workout when I take a class than when I'm trying to do stuff on my own.

4 - Intermittent fasting.  This is supposed to help train your body to burn fat better.  I tried it a couple of months ago and didn't really notice a huge difference, but want to try it out in combination with everything else and see what I see.

We're on day five, and I'm still feeling pretty motivated with all of this stuff.  I know it seems like a lot, but it's almost helpful for me in a way.  Having so many goals to keep up with helps me to keep up with them all.

Anyway.

Love ya,

Greg

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dear Mom, I spoke in church today.

Dear Mom,

 I know I just did a whole thing about not going to church, but the leadership of the YSA ward asked me a while ago if I'd be willing to participate in an LGBT-themed sacrament meeting, and I had no problem saying yes to that. Here's the talk I gave. You can listen to it, or read an adapted version below.



I've known I was gay since I was about 12 years old. I grew up in a pretty typical LDS household and had wonderful parents and leaders who were loving and supportive, so I never felt depressed, or suicidal, or like God hated me. My story is pretty atypical in that regard, and I feel very blessed because of it.

To anyone who identifies as LGBT, know this: You are loved, and important, and valuable. You have so much to contribute, and you are not alone.

Will and Sarah are going to have some amazing thoughts for you, but I want to focus on everybody else. The 90 and 9, as it were. I want to share with those of you who fit comfortably into the straight paradigm some thoughts on how you can help create a safe space for those of us who don’t. I will be speaking as a gay man today because that is my experience, but I feel safe in saying that the thoughts I share apply to anyone who finds themselves outside the norm of sexuality and gender.

I reached out to some people I know in the gay Mormon community to see what they’d want to hear or see from our straight friends and allies. Two themes emerged. I’d like to address them both.

First. It seems that despite the church’s efforts to clarify its position on the subject, there are still some false ideas and misinformation going around about the issue of homosexuality.

This is not something we chose. Nor is this something that needs “fixing”. In fact, most of us probably wouldn’t change it if we could. We are not broken1. There is nothing wrong with us. I’ve had numerous conversations with people who used phrases like, “Well if you just have enough faith,” or “If you just pray hard enough”. I want to be very clear about something here. The doctrine of the atonement is powerful. According to the scriptures, the atonement is infinite and all-encompassing. The atonement has the power to change. But I think in this situation it’s meant to change our hearts, not our attractions. The atonement is there to cleanse, heal, lift, comfort, and empower - which can happen regardless of sexual attraction. Besides, what happens to that young man or woman who is told to just have enough faith, pray enough, read the scriptures enough and these attractions will go away, and then they don’t? Do you understand how damaging that mindset is? The fact is, my sexual preference for men has no more bearing on my eternal salvation than my decorative preference for mid-century furniture.

Apparently, there are those among us who think that if someone is gay, that automatically means they’re disregarding the law of chastity. Being gay doesn’t mean we’re breaking the law of chastity, any more than being straight means you’re keeping it.

We are not depraved. We are not perverted. We are not broken. We are whole, beautiful, complex people - just like all of you.

I know that for most of this stuff, I am preaching to the choir here. But the fact is, you are all part of larger communities where harmful thoughts and ideas like these are still prevalent, and so now your challenge is to stand up for us when we can’t stand up for ourselves. You will be in family gatherings or leadership positions where your words can have an impact. Please have the courage to spread love and understanding. Don’t stand idly by when people spread fear.

Secondly, and overwhelmingly the message I heard from my LGBT brothers and sisters, and that I feel myself, is that we - like all people everywhere - want desperately to be a part of the community. And more than that, we deserve to be part of the community, just as you do. We want to feel welcome at church. To serve in meaningful ways. To love and be loved by those around us. To work out our relationship with God without the fear of hatred and rejection.

I want to be very careful about what I say here because I recognize that it might trigger some defensiveness. In the past few years, the men in the top leadership positions of the church have said things and implemented policies that have been quite hurtful to a lot of people. And this isn’t about sustaining leaders, or following the prophet, or where you might stand on gay marriage. What this is about is recognizing that there are real people feeling real pain. And the fact is, if someone says you hurt them, you don’t get to say you didn’t.

I think now would be an excellent time to talk about empathy. Brene Brown is one of my favorite researchers and speakers of the last few years and she shares some powerful thoughts about empathy. She describes empathy like this:




The shortest scripture in our entire canon is perhaps also the most powerful scripture we have. Lazarus had died, and when Jesus was coming into town, Mary and Martha went out to meet him. They cried to the Lord and said: “If you had been here, our brother wouldn’t have died.” The scriptures say that Jesus saw Mary and Martha weeping and all of the Jews that had come with them, and he groaned within himself, and then in John 11:35 it says, “Jesus wept.” He wept. He didn’t try to comfort them with platitudes, or silver linings. Even though he knew he could and would raise Lazarus. Instead, he practiced perfect empathy and sat in that pain and sorrow with them and wept with them.

With that in mind, I’d like to remind you of the promise you made when you were baptized. When Alma was preaching to the people in the wilderness by the waters of Mormon he said: "Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort..."

I want to reiterate that I don’t think being gay or dealing with SSA or however you want to say it, is a burden. Again, we are not broken. Nothing needs to be fixed. However, growing up LGBT in the church can often be accompanied by depression, self-loathing, and a very real sense of grief over love, marriage, and family that may never happen.

So, brothers and sisters, if you are willing to help bear those burdens, to mourn with we who mourn, and comfort those of us who stand in need of comfort, here is what I would encourage you to do: Listen to the stories of your LGBT brothers and sisters. Really listen. Stories of those who are choosing to live lives inside the church and its teachings, and stories of those who are not. Resist the urge to prize or value one of those situations over the other. If you are hearing these stories in person, you might say, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I know it’s not always an easy thing to talk about.” Then go home, and on your own follow the advice of the children’s primary song - search, ponder, and pray. Start with the church’s website: mormonandgay.org. Look at organizations like Northstar, Affirmation, or I’ll Walk With You. Reading up on this subject may bring up some questions. Don’t be scared to ask them. But also don’t be scared to sit with the answers and practice empathy. The important thing is not that you get everything right, or that you agree with everyone. The important thing is for you to help create a space and a community inside the church where people feel safe to work out their relationship with God - wherever that may take them. It is not your job to offer judgments, shoulds, or spiritual prescriptions. Your job as fellow travelers and followers of Christ is to provide love and understanding. To say, “You know, I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but when I encounter hard times in my life, here’s something that helps me. If that also helps you, that’s great. If it doesn’t, I’d love to help and see what we can discover together.” And understand that someone’s journey may take them out of the church. But please. Please don’t abandon them. Church activity should not be a stick against which we measure someone’s worthiness as a friend.

Tom Christofferson, the brother of the apostle D. Todd Christofferson, was in a committed gay relationship for many years. He recently returned to church activity. He shares this story from early in his journey: “One night, Mom and Dad asked all the boys and their spouses to put their kids to bed and come into their room to have a family meeting. We had prayer together, and then our dad talked about his concern that we would be unified as a family and have loyalty to each other.” Christofferson remembers, “Mom told us, ‘I’ve realized that there is no perfect family, but I believe we can be perfect in our love for each other.’ And then she turned to my brothers and sisters-in-law and said, ‘The most important lesson your kids will learn from the way that our family treats their Uncle Tom is that nothing they can ever do will take them outside the circle of our family’s love.’

Now, for a couple of other practical suggestions:

Give plenty of hugs. Research shows that hugs lasting at least 6 seconds optimize the flow of mood-boosting chemicals.
Guys, host a guy’s night. Girls, host a girl’s night. Make an effort to include us socially.
Have discussions in Elder’s Quorum and Relief Society about things you can do to help the LGBT members of your congregation, and solicit their advice. And not just in the YSA ward, but as you move on to the glories of the family ward. This may seem like a lot to do for such a small percentage of the population, but when compared with the number of marriage lessons we’ve had to sit through, I think it’s merited. In fact, when preparing those marriage lessons, take a second to think about how that’s going to affect those who may not have hope for that in this life. Don’t let the burden of “likening the lesson” always fall on our shoulders. Further, don’t offer dating and marriage advice.

There may be some discomfort around this issue for you. Lean into that. Be open about expressing your discomfort, but also be willing to find out how to grow out of that discomfort.

I’ll leave you with one last story. When the president announced that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military, a friend of mine on Facebook, who doesn't identify as LGBT, but is very active in the community, posted something along these lines, "I know today has been a hard day from some of you.  If you need anything, let me know and we'll make it happen.  I'll be having pizza at my house.  Feel free to come over.  If you can't come to pizza, let me know and we'll take care of you."  She accepted donations from anyone through Venmo and PayPal and anyone who needed some comfort and kindness that day received it.  Whether it was pizza, a movie, a new blanket, a haircut, or a kind word.  She didn't dole out judgments, or scriptures, or pronouncements.  She simply served.  It was one of the most Christlike things I have ever seen and it brought me to tears.

May we all create spaces of safety and refuge where we can work out our relationship with God and learn how to grow closer to Him.


1I know. We're all broken. We all have things that need fixing. That's the whole deal with the atonement. My point here is that being gay is not what's broken. It's not the thing that needs fixing.