I always look forward to the time that General Conference rolls around. Listening to the inspiring words of our leaders lift my spirit and renew my commitment to follow my Savior. My favorite talks are the ones that call me to action. They help me see doctrine in a new light and inspire me to change my life to more fully honor my covenants.
Such was the case with President Monson’s address in the priesthood session. He challenged us to look beyond the stereotype and “see others as they may become”. He shared a story of a successful missionary in a difficult area, who imagined everyone that he met dressed in white, entering the waters of baptism. He talked about a prison warden, who spent his time rehabilitating prisoners, even though many critics argued that such prisoners could not change. He spoke of his own experiences challenging less-active members to step up to leadership roles.
These stories caused me to stop and consider the way I viewed my brothers and sisters. There have been things that I have done in the past that I haven’t been proud of, so why do I limit others by their mistakes? It takes great humility and charity to view everyone according to their potential, and not by their mistakes. I think this is the way God sees us, which makes it so that “his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 5:25)
There are those who say such a hope is futile, that some people were born to do certain things and have no choice in the matter. They may argue that the gospel plan is too hard and too demanding for some people to follow. We know better. We know that Christ came with healing in his wings, powerful enough to save all that would come unto him. Even though we know this, our hope and expectations for our fellow man is all too often dimmed by the negativity of those around us.
We need to revaluate our stereotypes and prejudices and root out any negativity that may have crept in. What is the first image that pops in your mind when you think of a gay person or a same-sex couple? Do you think of half-naked marchers in a gay pride parade? What about suicidal teenagers? How many of us have the image of a son or daughter of God, dressed in white, ready to enter the waters of baptism? How many of us have an image of gay people who are already members as potential bishops and Relief Society presidents?
Granted, a prospective baptism is not the first thing that pops into my mind when I see a same-sex couple either, but perhaps that is why I was so inspired President Monson’s talk. It is an area that I need to improve. Our current culture makes it difficult to have such hope and charity for our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction. Critics argue that our church is anti-gay, that our doctrine is damaging towards those with SSA, and that joy and happiness for people with SSA is mutually exclusive with participation in the restored Church. Recently, one group even took out a billboard claiming that gay people cannot be members of our church. This spirit of negativity is enough to make many members of the church wonder if the church is broad enough to welcome all to come unto Christ. Many may doubt if the doctrines and teachings of the church offer any benefit to our gay brothers and sisters. Some may even question Christ’s ability to bring all people to him.
So how do we gain this hope that Christ can save all mankind? How do we revive our testimonies that the gospel has the power to bring peace and joy through faith and repentance to even those who are currently in same-sex relationships? One of the most effective ways is through personal stories. The claims that gay people cannot join the Church and the doctrine cannot bring happiness quickly unravel as we listen to the stories of men and women with SSA who have found peace and joy through living the gospel of Jesus Christ, including those who were in same-sex relationships.
The Church has recently released a web site dealing specifically with homosexuality, called Mormons and Gays. It includes resources, the loving words of our leaders, and testimonies of valiant son and daughters of God with same-sex attraction, who have found the peace that only the gospel brings. An unofficial web site, Voices of Hope, will soon be launched, bringing even more voices to the chorus of people with SSA who testify of the truthfulness of the gospel.
Through browsing these web sites, you will hear the miracles that happen on a daily basis in the lives of our brothers and sisters who deal with homosexuality. You will read stories of how the gospel has broken the chains of addiction and self-destructive behavior, and given people the strength to leave same-sex relationships. You will hear stories of how the gospel has saved marriages or helped people find fulfillment in celibacy. You will see how gospel has raised people out of depression and increased their confidence and self-esteem. You will also learn that there is still work to be done, that many people with same-sex attraction are hungry for the gospel truths and the fellowship of the saints.
Our gospel is a universal gospel. Christ calls all to come unto him, black and white, bond and free, and even gay and straight. He is full of grace, mercy and truth, and has the power to save us, not in our sins, but from our sins. The question of whether gay people can find joy in the church is not a theoretical question, to be debated through media and parlor conversations. It is a reality that manifests itself in the lives of members of the Church. May we remember the infinite grace of Christ and always have hope and charity for all of our brothers and sisters.