The day before my wife Lolly and I posted our now-notorious blog post about being married even though I'm homosexual, she and I were on a plane together, flying to Las Vegas. We were going down to celebrate our anniversary. We were nervous. We had made an incredibly terrifying decision: The Spirit had spoken clearly, and we knew that we were to publish that blog post. We were terrified to be taking that step. Our time on that flight was spent finishing the post and talking about what would happen when we pressed "publish."
The reasons for our trepidation were many. Though we had no idea that it would go viral and that the next day our image would be plastered on news outlets all over the world, we were still very scared. We worried about how our ward would perceive us and how other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would react. We worried that old friends would judge us or would be critical of me, solely for my sexual orientation. We worried about our daughters. Would this affect them? We worried about the lasting nature of this choice — once you share something like this publicly, there is no taking it back. We worried because there are just so many people — good, upstanding people — who have never personally encountered the issue of homosexuality and thus didn't yet know how to react to it.
In a priesthood blessing I got before we left, I received a warning and a promise. The warning was that when we did what the Lord was asking of us, we would go through some very hard experiences as a result. The promise was that when we moved forward with sharing our testimonies of the Atonement in this way, our family would be protected through the aftermath, and our story would greatly bless the lives of others. Even with those assurances, we felt like we were taking a step of faith into the darkness. Very few people had been public about this type of situation within their congregations, and there was no guarantee we would be met with kindness as we took that step. We felt alone and isolated, and we felt scared but filled with faith that all would end well.
Even six months later, we have continued, often, to feel alone as we have testified of Christ's love for our little family, as well as of the love he has for all of his children, including his gay children. At times it has felt like isolation is simply a part of this journey: I felt very alone growing up with this issue, and then got married. In marriage, Lolly and I have also felt alone with this issue. And even now that thousands know our story, we have still felt isolated simply because the voices have been so few and the ground still largely unbroken.
That's why when I clicked on the church's new website, mormonsandgays.org, I was flooded with both joy and relief. Here it was! This was the website —the statement created and published by the church — that I had been yearning to see all my life. It contained real footage of real stories of real people whose lives had been touched by the issue of homosexuality, but who also had experienced the joys of the Atonement. It spoke of love, of Christ-like acceptance. It admonished families to reach out to their loved ones, to be inclusive. It counseled ward members to love and above all be accepting. My heart was touched, and I was filled with hope and validation. This was a red-letter day for gays in the church. Even the url said the word "gay" with simplicity and clarity.
Later that day I came into our home office to find my sweet Lolly weeping. "It's just so wonderful," she said. And we sat together watching videos, hearing the touching words of our church leaders as they empathized deeply with our pains and struggles and said, in essence, "It's OK. We love you. You are not alone. We know you are there. God loves you. God loves all of his children."
In that instant, we felt supported, loved and acknowledged in a way we never had before. It was wonderful.
Last Sunday, my father, my mother, Lolly and I (and two other men) presented on a panel about homosexuality. It was the first church-sponsored fireside on same-gender attraction that I had had the chance to be involved in. Slowly, the room before us filled. Church leaders from the Beaverton Stake in Portland, Ore., filed in and sat down. These were good saints, yearning to understand, obviously seeking to comprehend how they could help their gay brothers and sisters more effectively.
The stake president, a wonderful man, showed a slide presentation preceding a question-answer session with the panel. The church's website had been released but two days prior, and he had incorporated it into his presentation. So there we sat — my family and I, who have been walking together with faith through this issue for decades — alongside many members of the church who had had much less exposure to the issue of homosexuality. We watched as Elder Cook, with tears in his eyes, spoke of beloved friends who had died of AIDS, and then said, "As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. ... Let's not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle. ..." We saw other leaders, with compassion and understanding, talk about same-gender attraction. We watched testimonials of good men and women living good lives as gay members of the church. And then, afterwards, we had a conversation. We talked openly and candidly. There was no judgment or fear. Only curiosity and openness. The Spirit was felt in abundance. It was a marvelous experience in large part because the website served as a crucial piece of the conversation, enlightening all of us together.
I'm grateful to live in this day. There has never been a better time to be a gay member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Mormonsandgays.org is helping gay Mormons to feel God's love. It is helping us to feel the warm love of our beloved leaders. It is helping us not feel so alone.