Not too long ago, I flew to Boston to speak at a public affairs conference. When I finished speaking, I had the opportunity to shake hands and mingle with the great people who had attended. As I was getting ready to leave, a man came up to me in the foyer, shook my hand, and introduced himself as a gay man. I told him it was so great to meet him and he proceeded to tell me a bit about his background. I didn’t say much because I know that this can be a sensitive topic for many people, and so he did a great deal of the talking. I just wanted to keep my mouth shut and listen to this brother’s story…
We hear a lot about people who have been raised in the church but who subsequently “come out of the closet” and are trying deal with the associated familial, social, and ecclesiastical pressures of being gay. But this man’s story was very different. I listened intently as he explained to me that he did not grow up in the church. He told me that he was a convert to the church in one of the most liberal college towns in the United States, Cambridge Massachusetts. I was sort of shocked to be honest. With all that is going on with social media, a gay Mormon convert seemed like last person I’d run into while speaking in Cambridge. I’m sure he could read the surprise on my face as he began to tell his story. We sort of joked about how much of an enigma he is inside the church. A gay man… converting to Mormonism?! How?! But what he told me next… I’ll never forget.
This good, kind man said this:
I believe that there is a place for gays inside of the Mormon Church. The doctrine of the church tells me that I have a place here. Nothing I have learned inside the church tells me that I don’t have a place here. It is the media and those that are critical to the church that persistently tell me that I don’t have a place here… but the doctrine tells me otherwise.
When I heard this, I just stood there. I felt the spirit so strongly standing there in that foyer with this brother. This gay Mormon man… a recent convert… just spoke the truth, and the spirit testified of it to me. Homosexuals need to know that they absolutely have a place in the church. They should have a place among us just as much as anyone else. Members of the church need to know this. Critics need to know this. And the world needs to know that prophets and apostles continue to back it up, even from the pulpit in general conference. “We cannot” as Elder Ballard said, “stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches.” The church teaches inclusion. It is at the core of our doctrine.