Can we stop pretending there is only ONE reasonable explanation for the tragic suicides of LGBT-identifying religious youth?

“We need to be able to hear and express [a question or idea] without the instant commencement of political warfare, without superimposing particular causes and constituencies over the narrative, as if every new development and every next death were a bludgeon to be wielded.” – Frank Bruni after Dallas shootings, “Divided by Race, United by Pain,” New York Times, July 8, 2016

[Formerly titled:  Seven days and 460K+ Views Later, a Question for Tyler Glenn: Did Your Message Make Things Easier (Or Harder) for LGBT-Identifying Youth in the LDS Church?]

The death of one person by suicide is a heart-breaking, shattering outcome – young or old, and no matter the details. On that, singer Tyler Glenn and apostle Russell Nelson (alongside most human beings living outside of terrorist cells) are in perfect alignment.

Where we colorful human beings diverge is where exactly these suicides are coming from – and what kind of a conversation will actually, practically, measurably reduce their heart-wrenching numbers.

Despite entreaties by academics, activists and mental health professionals to follow certain precautions in speaking of suicide…it has remained far too easy for every next death to become an occasion for venting our personal anguish and outrage.

There’s nothing wrong with indignation, of course – which can be a powerful teacher and indicator of what needs to change. And on that level, I certainly don’t fault anyone for speaking out with passion – Tyler included. Like me, they are simply trying to make the situation better.

On another level, though, I join those (including LGBT leaders I know) who are concerned that the current public conversation about youth suicide has inadvertently become an incubator for the very despair, angst and ideation we’re all hoping to alleviate.

For instance, one week ago, Tyler, your public message included a pointed warning to LDS Church leaders that “there is blood of your members on your hands” – insinuating that “how many more” suicides take place was largely dependent on these leaders themselves.

Your followers subsequently echoed and elaborated your sentiments in a thousand directions online:

  • “Russell Nelson, there blood is on your hands”
  •  “These leaders are monsters. I am very upset for you!…I hope you left church! I feel ashamed because I was Mormon member too.”
  • “The LDS church is responsible for creating a culture where…minorities are ‘welcome’ but action dictates that they are not. The LDS church kills.”

Nearly half a million views and thousands of comments later, my question for Tyler (and others making similar declarations) is simply this: Have your messages made LGBT-identifying teens within the LDS community better off?  Farther from suicide?  And clearly in a safer, more stable place? 

I know you think you have done just that…otherwise you wouldn’t be so passionately sharing your thoughts.

But as I imagine the thousands (and tens of thousands) of youth listening in to your message, in particular, I can’t help but offer another perspective on what you said last week. Please understand that I share this for the same reason you and others have been sharing: in hopes of helping make the problem better.

Your concern about these youth feeling like they do not belong is, I think, a starting point that we all might be united on as a likely factor in the despair of LGBT-identifying Mormon youth. How exactly that feeling of not belonging arises is where we diverge.

For me, the most powerful part of your video, Tyler, was when you recounted teaching people about the plan of happiness as a missionary, before adding with pained emotion, “this plan has no space for me…”

My next question, Tyler, is: how did you reach that conclusion?

Did an LDS bishop sit you down and teach you that there is no space for you in this plan?

Have you ever heard this taught by your parents, or mission president or the prophets themselves?

I know that the LDS policy change has been interpreted as a clear signal of No Space by many, but let me ask again: Have you ever heard any Mormon leader teach this interpretation of the policy – namely, that it means there is no space in the plan for those who identify as LGBT/SSA?

We all know that none of these things are being taught anywhere in our faith community. 

If you (or anyone else) have reached a conclusion of No Space, it cannot have been from the teaching of Church leaders. Anyone who knows these leaders appreciates how eager they would be to teach anyone exactly the reverse – namely, their conviction that the pathway to exaltation is open to all who are willing to give their hearts and lives to Christ.

Period.

That is the fundamental message we both shared on our missions – and the same message that (all) children and teenagers grow up hearing in the Church of Jesus Christ. For these youth, the divine possibilities associated with eternal identity as children of Heavenly Parents are a vivid and salient part of their lives – and a foundation for future hopes and dreams until…

Well, until they get convinced that it doesn’t apply to them, right? Until someone persuades them that, in fact, this plan of happiness being taught doesn’t actually work for them – and they don’t actually belong after all.

Last year, a youth in our world publicly declared that he was gay. That same weekend, after years of being loved, guided, taught and relished by our ward community…he stopped attending Church entirely.

He seemed to take for granted that he simply couldn’t be a part of our ward anymore. And couldn’t remain Mormon.

Once again, I have to ask: who is responsible for persuading LGBT-identifying Mormon youth that they don’t belong in their faith community any more? Who is convincing them that their experience of same-sex attraction is more fundamental to who they are than many other things they used to believe?

With all due respect, Tyler, from the place many of us stand, it is messages like yours (and thousands of similar messages) that are responsible. Indeed, by this point, we’ve seen tens of thousands of members persuaded that the doctrine and leaders they once relished are (in truth) disappointingly exclusive and merely “hetero-normative.”

Rest assured, I do not question your motives. I honestly don’t. I know too many others who feel the same way as you, and I can’t deny that they are are simply speaking in hopes of seeing improvement in a community they love. I also understand that from the place you stand, Church teaching and policy does not leave a open path to everyone (as many of us still believe), but instead, signals cruelly to LGBT-identifying youth that “gay children do not belong in the plan.”

If I believed that, I would be angry too. But my main point here is that thoughtful, good-hearted members (and former members) simply don’t see eye to eye on any of this – from identity, sexuality, and the body to mental health, happiness and God…and lots of other things too. [Including, in this case, simply what it means to have “space in the plan” or to feel “welcome in the Church” – e.g., does it mean expanding the covenant pathway to include loving, committed gay relationships or that someone with same-sex attraction can still follow the covenant pathway as currently taught? Thoughtful people really do see that differently. Thanks Megan Matthews Allen for helping me see that oversight!]

While those disagreements may seem obvious enough, I make a point of this because an acknowledgement of reasonable disagreement is hardly ever made in all these post-suicide calls to actions. With each new Facebook post and video, it’s extraordinarily rare to hear any sort of acknowledgement that, in fact, there are profoundly different ways of making sense of what is happening.

Instead, the conflict is more often presented as “sharp, painful dilemma” (FB-CH) that will remain so as long as Mormon leaders continue teaching what they do about sexuality, marriage and identity. THAT narrative, for virtually all same-sex attracted youth in the Church, has become the unquestioned REALITY in which they try to sort out their identity and their future.

And embedded within that narrative, everything becomes pretty hard to make sense of…After coming to identify as gay, one man spoke of the challenge of having “two conflicting identities.” He reflected, “I realized why people get depressed, and suicidal because you’re constantly trying to resolve something that’s irresolvable” (FB-TI). Another added, “It’s hard to even go day by day. Not knowing how you’re going to reconcile this about yourself, how you going to create a life that is happy in any way” (FB-H).

Back to my main question for you, Tyler: Is this conflict and confusion a direct result of teachings within the Church or teachings outside of the Church…or perhaps the result of a jarring interface between the two?! (in which case, both sides would hold a shared responsibility for action)

While disagreeing on the exact origins of the conflict, we can surely agree on how shattering it can feel for anyone to feel compelled to walk away from something they used to trust and love. As one person described the moment of concluding he was gay: “All [previous] teaching about my identity…was WRONG!  I had so many ideas of what I thought my life was going to be like, and who I was going to be, and how I was going to be that for the world and those people that I loved and had grown up with. And as I grew up and as I figured out more about myself and who I was, I began to realize that that person that I had been raised to be was not who I actually was” (FB-KA, italics mine).

Whatever faith someone used to have, whatever joy or peace they used to feel, whatever security they may have known within their formerly beloved faith, these individuals conclude that they must walk away.  Other accounts describe the “dream for me ever since before I was born” laid aside (FB-RU) or walking away from everything they had been taught to value such as a mission, marriage, the Church itself:  “When that happened, the whole world sort of came crashing down” (FB-BE)

Another parent described what many feel in the process: “I had to re-examine everything I had previously thought…It upended my notions of truth, happiness, obedience, loyalty, and in fact all that I held dear, including my perception of the character of God….All of my beliefs have been upended and rearranged.”

What impact does this kind of wrenching upheaval play in potentially destabilizing individuals further – especially vulnerable young people?

I’ve had several grown, adult friends tell me of stepping away from the community they had always known as one of the most excruciating experiences of their lives. Even the harshest critics of Mormonism would agree that this distancing, separation and estrangement…well, it often hurts. A lot.

But once again, why does it hurt?

I’ve done more, I admit, than simply ask you that question a few times, Tyler. I’ve challenged you (and other allied voices), to re-think what your accusations might mean for the very vulnerable youth we’re all trying to help.

For their sake’s, if nothing more, we have to do more than trade accusations that insinuate ignorance, malevolence or hatred.

Those people do exist – but they’re few and far between compared to the masses.What if we acknowledged that – moving decidedly towards a more productive conversation about our actual disagreements, without the toxic baggage of personal attacks. What if we insisted on the kind of wide-ranging conversation of suicide that acknowledged its complexity – and paid careful attention to every relevant perspective?

If we can trust each other enough to make space for that conversation, I think we could make some real progress – including and especially in keeping kids safe.

In the absence of that conversation, however, it’s hard to deny that the angst and despair we are witnessing may spread even further – just like the forest fire we see enveloping our nation’s politics.

Let’s fight this fire together!

I can personally vouch that leaders like Kendall Wilcox, Erika Munson, Vicki Wimmer Johnson, Jen Blair, John Gustav-Wrathall, Jim Struve & Jerry Buie (and their posse), Jay Jacobsen, Sarah Langford, Tera Brown, Greg Harris & Ty Mansfield are all deeply committed to fostering a public conversation where the deepest, most vociferous of disagreements can exist alongside the truest of love and loyalty.

Sounds like a piece of Zion to me?

I trust this group of leaders, in particular, and believe we will be strongest if we chart the path forward together.Will you join your powerful, beautiful voice to theirs, Tyler?

I hope so. As we all know, lives are depending on what we all do next.

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7 Comments

  • Reply Dlri226 July 14, 2016 at 12:34 am

    What part of church policy says that people who are I a same sex relationship or marriage are invited to be part of the plan of salvation unless they are being called to repentance and denying to act on their sexual orientation? There is nothing welcoming or inviting about being labeled as apostate. There is nothing comforting about living alone. And there isn’t anything more painful than being married to someone you aren’t attracted to.

  • Reply McKay July 15, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    The church is never going to openly say that there is no place for homosexuals. But the fact is that if there is a gay lds man who begins to share his love, his life and his experiences with another man, he will be kicked out. The church will tell him to stop such love and they won’t even acknowledge it as love. There is room for them in the plan as long as they force themselves to marry a woman and never act on their biological nature. Flip it backwards. Let’s say the church said every member had to be in a same-sex partnership. Say that in order to reach the celestial kingdom they would have to be married to the same sex within the temple. And that heterosexuals would have to stop heterosexual behavior of any sort. They could not express their love or attraction to the opposite sex, because god said so. In order for them to be welcome to god they would have to marry the same gender. I don’t know if you’re heterosexual, but if you are, could you completely ignore your biological nature to be drawn to the opposite gender? I would wager that no, you could not. It would be the most difficult situation, but the church assures you that you have to do it if you ever want to see your family members again. Heterosexual couples can hold hands an sit with their significant others in the pews with their 8 children. Gay members who would like to have the same right and bring along their believing same sex partner would be denied that. The members would give them strange looks and they would probably told to stop holding hands or even to leave. The church is consistently releasing policies or talks about how same sex relationships are an abomination and sinful above all. As if loving another human being could ever be wrong. You’re right though, gay people DO have a place in the plan, just as long as they dont BE gay. If you would put yourself in those shoes for one second, you would realize just how messed up and emotionally damaging their teachings are. They are making the message “homosexuality is a sin” known clear at every opportunity, when their priority should be “how can we stop the suffering in the world?”

    You probably will disregard all of this, because it’s “anti-mormon” when in reality it is pro-humanity. Pro love.

    • Reply Jacob July 16, 2016 at 1:43 am

      Not sure how I could disregard this. You’ve expressed thoughtfully and without trying to impugn my motives or character. Not only do I appreciate that, it’s really why I’m doing this all (to invite SPACE where we can have this kind of a conversation).

      So thanks. Another reason I do this all is so I can keep learning and exploring. And you’re expressing something I’d like to think more about…(by the way, I made the edit you requested).

  • Reply Jones July 16, 2016 at 4:24 am

    As an LGBT youth who resigned her membership earlier this year, I have to say that I did not feel “pulled” out of the church. I felt like I was pushed. I spent three years as an active member, and also a girl who likes girls, and it was one of the worst times of my relatively short life. I was one of those kids that Tyler talked about, who was suicidal.
    I was thirteen and I wanted to die. I felt like there would never be a place for me in my church or my community. I knew that I would never be able to live my life to the fullest, love myself completely, and be the perfect Mormon member. I knew that every time we had a lesson on the plan of happiness, that this happiness would always be denied to me. The Mormon dream – get married, have some kids, fill your callings, be a force for good – was barred from me. In the church classes where I learned that God loved everyone, and had room for anyone, there wasn’t room for me – and it seemed like God might not have extended that love to me. My patriarchal blessing told me that I would “find that special man” and I was told again and again that if I did not achieve marriage in the temple, I would not make it to the celestial kingdom. In the church who wants everybody, I was not wanted.
    Eventually, I was hospitalized for my suicidal behavior, and spent time in the BHC – and when I was released, I found my only solace in those people outside the church. I was never pressured to leave, and was never told that there wasn’t value in staying – what I was told was that in their eyes, I was valuable, even if I didn’t fit into the perfect Molly-Mormon picture. Taking a step back from the church saved my life. I was finally allowed to not derive my value from what Mormonism thought of me. I was allowed to just be ok, in and of myself, even if the church would not have agreed with that label. I was able to say “Maybe it’s ok if I don’t get married in the temple,” because I wasn’t being lectured every week about how vital it was to be a temple-worthy young woman, and how necessary “temple blessings” were. I was allowed to exist as myself.
    I still stayed, though – my attendance was spotty, and I found myself distancing myself more and more from doctrine, agreeing less and less with my teachers and leaders, but I stayed. I told myself that maybe I could put the fire out from inside the house. I told myself that by staying, even if I wanted to peel my skin off every time they talked about “sexual purity” in the Strength of Youth, I could make a difference. Maybe, one day, I really could be married in the temple, because I could be a force for change.
    Then this policy came.
    I cried a lot that day. I knew I had never been wanted in the church, but I hoped that I was at least allowed. I hoped that I could stand, unwanted, and be a sort of silent protest to the way they talked about me.
    But when they told me that if I was married, I was out, or if I even dated, I was out, and any children I had would also be out – that was when I decided I couldn’t stay. I told myself “They can’t fire me. I quit.” I felt like I had a moral obligation to leave, that I could not, in good conscience, allow myself to be associated with an organization that would deny children what they believed to be saving grace – because their parents were like me.
    I’m seventeen, now – my birthday was last month. Last month was also the month that my best friend, Stockton Powers, committed suicide.
    We met in a support group for LGBTQ+ Mormon teens. We clicked immediately. We texted all the time, and shared some of our heaviest feelings with each other. We would sleepover in his living room, and watch bad documentaries about ghosts. He would share his original music and poetry with me, and I would send him my artwork.
    We went to the zoo together, for an afternoon, a week before he died. We spent an especially long time with the seal tank, because the harper seals reminded Stockton of his dogs. We took pictures for a family in front of the lions. He talked to me about the future husband he wanted, the kids he hoped to have, and the house in Park City he wanted to live in one day.
    It’s been three weeks since his funeral now, and I still keep expecting him to text me.
    So when I see your article, talking about Tyler Glenn’s video (that I watched and cried. I was there. I watched those pictures be taken. I know the fellow LGBTQ+ teens that are carrying his coffin) and talking about how LGBTQ+ kids are being pulled away from the church, rather than being mistreated there, I feel tired.
    I know this article comes from a place of love and compassion, and maybe you really do believe that outside forces are responsible for the unhappiness we feel in the church, but for me, and all the other LGBTQ+ Mormon teens I know, it just isn’t that way. This article makes me feel tired, because Tyler Glenn’s message resonates so painfully with me, and with every other person I’ve talked to about whom it applies. We need to hear voices like these, that are saying “This isn’t right. This is wrong, and it needs to stop.” Those kind of voices make us feel like we aren’t alone. Those kind of voices validate the anguish we feel about our place in the world.
    This article makes me feel tired, because personally? I do feel like some of Stockton’s blood is on the hands of church leadership. I’ve tried again and again to not picture them in such harsh light, but I’m losing motivation to do so. They’ve had chance after chance to communicate with us, to answer our questions, to offer satisfactory cause and explanation for the pain they’ve caused me and people like me, and they haven’t. I’m so, so tired of trying to compromise with the church. I’m tired of wishing I could have said something to Stockton, before he died. I’m tired of imagining his last moments, and wishing someone had been there to hold his hand.
    In short: I do not question -your- motives. But I think that the church can and should be held accountable for the hurt they’ve done to the LGBTQ+ community. I wish they would even acknowledge it – not necessarily even apologize, I just wish they would say “We know this hurts.” But they don’t, and even though I used to think that maybe that could change, I’m not so sure anymore. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go to a sacrament meeting, or listen to a general conference, and not think about Stockton – and I think that this blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the organization that I grew up with, that I loved, and that now I can’t really forgive.
    Thanks for caring about us, though – I can tell that you do. I just think you don’t fully appreciate how damaging the micro-aggressions and not-so-micro-aggressions the church sends our way are. I don’t think you fully understand what it’s like to be the odd one out in a place where no one is supposed to be the odd one out. But thanks for caring.

  • Reply Jewelfox July 16, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Hey there. Pansexual trans woman here.

    Seconding what the others have said. Growing up AMAB (assigned male at birth) and Mormon was confusing and scary. It wasn’t because of those mean LGBT+ advocates saying I should be unhappy there, though. It was because I was told to expect one set of things, about who I am and what would make me happy, and got an entirely different one instead.

    Let me tell you, it’s quite a thing to not know if the person you know online and are crushing on hard is male or female, and to realize you’d have the same feelings for them either way. There aren’t any explanations that make sense, for why the one is sacred and the other is terrible. Not on an emotional level.

    (They turned out to be neutrois, by the way.)

    There is all sorts of “further light and knowledge” on subjects that are confusing LGBT+ Mormon youth. This is stuff that people have already worked out, terminology that’s already in widespread use, and ideas that make everything in your life suddenly make sense. For example: “The reason you feel awful being a guy is because you aren’t one.” That’s not something you can just go back to bed and forget the next day. You can argue yourself out of it, but who benefits that way? You? Your loved ones? Or people who are uncomfortable with the idea that someone like you exists?

    You aren’t taking the problem seriously here. Because if you were, you’d be doing everything in your power to address the fact that Utah has a major suicide epidemic. This is the problem, not your or even your God’s personal discomfort with people like us. The reasons why people are killing themselves are both obvious and widely known, to basically everyone outside your repressive church. And I say repressive because you’re doing the same thing the Mean Christian Ministers do in your own films: People have discovered something that changes everything, and tells them who they are and how they can be happy, and your church is telling them “don’t think about it. Don’t act on it. For heaven’s sake, don’t join the Mormon church, I mean the LGBT+ support group.” And your families are disowning them.

    It’s hard to argue these points with someone that all of this actually happened to. And when there are homeless youth camps across your literally damned state. There are millstones in heaven, waiting to be tied around the necks of everyone who encouraged my family of origin to disown me. And throw me out of the house in response to my being suicidal.

    Please don’t be one of the people who’s forced to wear them. Keeping in mind that you can call Jesus “lord, lord” all you want, and be as polite and socially-respectable as you can be, but it’s not going to endear yourself to the man who’s been having to comfort your church’s dead children.

  • Reply Jeff Beninon July 18, 2016 at 3:35 am

    Thanks for the shout out Jacob! I think that a lot of times when people act out of hurt and pain, they end up creating more hurt and pain, and I feel that’s what we’re seeing with Tyler Glen, and we’re also seeing it on the other side as more and more orthodox LDS are feeling besieged.

    One thing I think some of your commenters are missing is how much the *narrative* is what is doing the pushing and pulling here, rather than people, or even institutions. For example, do we know for certain that sexual orientation is innate and immutable? Certainly people feel it is that way. I would say, to make a comparison that will not be welcome, it is the same way people “know” the Church is true. It is a form of knowledge that is not falsifiable nor provable scientifically (the best science today says we do not know, but it is likely a combination of factors), but still moves to action and belief– beliefs that organize the rest of your worldview. And so yeah, if you believe that your sexual and romantic attraction to the same gender was with you before this life and will rise with you in the resurrection, then you are going to feel there is no place for you in the Church.

    On the other hand, if you believe in Church doctrine, if you “know” it the way some people, alternately, “know” they were born gay, then you can’t help but see same-sex romantic couplings as an eternal cul-de-sac. If you believe (as I do) that the entire plan of salvation is, so to speak, heteronormative, with gendered spirits destined for eternal union with resurrected beings of an opposite gender creating worlds and spiritual offspring without end, then how can you see same sex unions in the hereafter as anything but a dead end? If there is a place in the hereafter for such non-productive unions (I am speaking from the framework of LDS theology, your beliefs may be different, so please don’t take offense), it is an inferior place. For someone who believes in LDS theology, it is the highest form of exaltation to choose such a fate, though with our belief in free agency, we would want everyone to be presented with the opportunity for that heteronormative eternity, while also being free to refuse it.

    I am just hoping to convey the idea that in LDS orthodox theology, to expect that gay-identified individuals would not be capable of this eternal increase is to consign them to a spiritual inferiority that even the most backward LDS believer didn’t consign blacks to at the height of the priesthood ban. Elder McConkie, for example, as one of its most ardent defenders, always said that the blacks would get the priesthood, blessings of the sealing ordinance, *eventually*, though perhaps not until the millennium. To graft the idea of a separate, non-generative afterlife for gays in their same-sex unions into this plan would be to consider gay-identified individuals to be more inferior than even blacks were considered by those who maintained various pseudotheological beliefs about blacks, the curse of Cain/Ham, preexistent absentions, etc. Because at least they, albeit at some future date, would have the opportunities for exaltation, the gays never will if they are incapable of union with an opposite-gendered resurrected being.

    I’m trying to demonstrate that the orthodox belief that gay-identified people can participate in the full blessings of the Mormon afterlife is a *compliment*, and it is consistent with our belief that the blessings are available to *everyone*, in the next life if not in this one (just as not everyone will be able to accept the gospel until the next life, thus necessitating proxy ordinances). In present revealed LDS doctrine, the LDS orthodox are acting consistently and, in their point of view, fairly. To treat gays differently, to exempt them from this, would be demeaning. I get that it doesn’t feel that way to some LGBT and their allies, but what Jacob is trying to do here is create more understanding on both sides. And this understanding of LDS theology seems lacking from many. Those unhappy with the LDS Church’s stance need to realize what a tall mountain they have to climb in dissenting from this. It’s not merely a question of getting the LDS Church leadership to institute a policy change here or there, you’re asking them to upend their entire theology.

  • Reply Doug September 12, 2016 at 4:51 am

    Jeff

    “They would have to upend their entire theology” IS the point. This to make all souls feel welcome. Those of us who were raised LDS, but our whole lives have felt like outsiders can tell you what it’s like.

    Continuing to allow straight persons like yourself to write the narrative of what ‘ normal ‘ and ‘happy’ is for me or others with SSA, is wrong. It is in essence seeking permission from others to simply seek happiness in a way that feels right and authentic. No one needs permission from any man for this.

    I could recount many stories of my growing up where unkind and alienating acts of some in the LDS church made me feel unwelcome. I will not. But I am now decades past this period of life, and happier now more than ever, about who I am and where I am in life. I am a moral and kind individual. I do much to serve in humanitarian service in my community. I am totally resolved about my sexuality and my purposes in life.

    I am continually amazed that straight ( often religious ) individuals feel that open scrutiny of an LGBTQ individuals life is okay; anymore than my right would be to scrutinize theirs. This self righteous gutsiness is appalling — in the name of piety. It is actually unloving and far from the Christlike life they profess.

    Although I am now far from religioun, my personal spirituality has never been higher — and personal. I deeply believe in a loving Father and in the mission of a Savior. I’ve never left my personal faith behind with the newfound authenticity that I’ve found in life today.

    When persons like Russell Nelson claim that revelation has told him that the lives of roughly 18% ( LGBTQ individuals) are invalid and that the orientation of these children of God is wrong and that they are not welcome, it is laughable. My God would not sanction this.

    When real persons, with real names and real faces of LGBTQ children, become part of the lives of church leaders, extended families and neighbors become real, hopefully acceptance and true love will begin.

    It was the irresponsible and unloving actions of Russell Nelson and others who finally helped me stand up with courage and pride to claim the rightful narrative of a happy and productive life for myself, without shame. People like myself are not lepers. And yes, I fully understand that the love and understanding that I would wish, I need to offer to those who do not understand me or other LGBTQ persons.

    Best wishes to you.

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