In November 2015, in the days after the policy regarding same-sex marriage from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became widely known, I had many conversations with friends and members of my congregation who were unsettled by the idea a couple who had chosen to be married rather than simply live together were now considered apostates, and especially that saving ordinances would be unavailable to the children of same-sex parents until such children reached age 18 and repudiated that marriage.
In the past few days, I have had a number of conversations with friends who feel joy and relief that the original policy has been changed but who are confused by the expressions of pain and anger they are hearing from many of those who felt personally impacted by the policy over the past three and a half years.
I have encouraged my friends to listen to the experiences of those who feel hurt: individuals whose personal moral compass would not allow them to continue church activity while the policy was in place, those who were excommunicated for apostasy, those whose children were impacted, those who have a family member who felt excluded from their church community and for whom that may have been one of many causes resulting in suicide.
I am grateful that removing the earlier policy reflects, to me, a continued wrestling by church leaders with the many unanswered questions affecting our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer brothers and sisters. I also feel that this change reflects a unity of the prayers by members of the body of Christ and his prophets for greater light and knowledge, and that all of our hearts will be prepared for what he may choose to reveal in his own time.
I believe that, especially as we celebrate Holy Week and in our desire to follow Jesus Christ, we must do more to love as he loves. In John 8:2-11, we read the teaching of Jesus in the experience of the woman caught in adultery. As you recall, her accusers intended to stone her according to the law until they were challenged by Christ that only those who themselves were without sin should carry out such punishment. Gradually, the accusers slipped away until only Jesus and the woman remained. He had saved her life. In his comforting yet exacting words to her, he indicated that he did not condemn her and invited her to forsake sin going forward.
Following his example, we also have an opportunity to save lives among our LGBTQ brothers and sisters: we can ensure especially as young people identify themselves to us that they are met with love and acceptance by their families, their peers and their congregations. We can become more aware of suicide prevention steps we can take and of the organizations who help those who are at risk.
We also acknowledge that we do our very best to live according to our understanding of God’s words and commandments, and encourage others to do the same. In doing so, we especially focus on his commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can talk about our love, but how much more powerful it would be if every individual we encounter could feel by our actions that we love as Christ loves.
We can ensure that everyone with the courage to push open the doors of our chapels finds a place of welcome and acceptance. I love the ward that threw a baby shower when the male couple attending their ward became dads. I love the ward that mourned with and supported in every way possible a woman whose wife had suddenly been killed in an automobile accident. I love the ward where Primary leaders and teachers ensure that the children of gay parents are at ease sharing the experiences of their family. I love the ward that welcomed me and my male partner Sunday after Sunday, year after year, when neither of us were members of the church and didn’t expect ever to be.
In this Holy Week, with renewed hope, as leaders and members of the church we can make a special effort to reach out proactively, with love and compassion, to those who have felt injured by the previous policy. Our joy at Easter this year can be sweeter and deeper than ever before.