Guest Post: What is a seat at the table costing me?
Guest Post by BYU AluMom
What is a seat at the table costing me?
I have a child who is gay. A lot of people do. For me, it feels particularly unfair right now because he is at BYU. Let me be clear, the unfair part isn’t that he is gay. The unfair part is that as he is blooming into the person his Heavenly Parents created him to be, he is also being saddled with shameful rhetoric not just from his ecclesiastical leaders, but from his professors as well.
This mix of shame and inadequacy that splashes him on all fronts of his life by being there could drown him. It won’t because he is strong. Because he has an extremely supportive network of peers who reached out to him in the aftermath of Holland’s painful words to check on him. It won’t because he has parents who love him as he is and meets him where he is at and helps him find joy in the journey. He also has a really great therapist who understands both being gay AND being a Latter-day Saint.
But I can’t help but stop thinking about the boy he dated briefly. The boy who doesn’t know anyone else in Provo who is gay. The boy who is alone because he and my son broke up just before the address was given. I can’t stop thinking about all the peers he has met with over lunch, serving as a listening/sounding board to others on campus, who do not have a supportive network. Others who do not have parents who love and accept them. These are the children who weigh on my heart.
I check in with my child daily, particularly in the aftermath of the hate acts that are becoming more commonplace on campus. I need to know he feels loved and validated every day while he simmers in this unfriendly, unwelcoming climate. (Ironically, I think there is a true desire among much of the leadership to make BYU a more welcoming space, but they too are being quashed.) He tells me a couple of his friends from his mission have really been supportive and reached out. But others have, instead of just letting it go and saying nothing, have actively been antagonistic towards him. This is one of things I can’t wrap my head around: the need to poke and prod these profoundly hurtful points of contention. He found himself asking his presumed friend, “Do you think my love is sinful? Do you think, if I ever get married, the love between my husband and I will be wrong? Sinful? Ugly?” He gets the retort, “The apostle says…” My son pressed, “No, but what do you-you who know me so well-what do you say?” Eventually he was ghosted.
I don’t know how to move forward and show my son I love and support him but I do not support and sustain leaders who are chosen to be the Lord’s anointed when they don’t speak words I believe God has anointed.
I regularly tell him, when we talk about why his dad and I stay in the Church (but why I totally understand why he needs to leave) is, “If not us, who?” I validate our seats at the very busted up and broken table with the notion that we must remain to use our place of privilege to defend those without a voice, to fight for those who don’t have the strength or interest to fight for their right to simply exist. But sometimes I wonder if it is worth it. How do I know when its time to quietly stand up, push my chair in, and walk away from something I love when it can’t love my child?
My son and I were talking the other day about how so many individuals he knows, as they wrestle with what they know is right in their heart versus what the Church is telling them about this issue, cannot separate the idea of Heavenly Parents and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are one and the same for a lot of people so the separation feels insurmountable. I wonder what disservice we are doing to our youth by not teaching more about Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Parents without tying them to the Church?
All my life I have been taught that we can’t be “cafeteria Mormons.” We can’t just pick and choose what we want to believe. If we have a testimony, and have things we struggle with, we bear down and pray for humility for our hearts to change. But I wonder if that is the wrong approach because people like my son, who have a testimony of Jesus Christ, Heavenly Parents, the Atonement-the things that matter-feel pressure to just walk away from it all because they can’t pick and choose without getting labeled as not faithful enough.
I have a friend who will not attend the temple because she does not feel it reflects our doctrinal beliefs about Heavenly Mother. She is a faithful Latter-day Saint. She is the primary president in her ward and her bishop and stake president respect her opinion about the temple and know she can still serve as a great disciple in God’s kingdom. But I have another friend who shared concerns about the temple with her bishop and about Heavenly Mother’s absence across the board and she was released from her callings until she “figures it out.”
Some bishops on campus allow for chaste gay dating. Others say that if anyone even outwardly identifies as gay, they are breaking the law of chastity. So much of it boils down to “Bishop Roulette.”
With such HUGE gaps in revelation and response from leadership, it seems like there would be more room for acceptance and growth. More acknowledgement that maybe we don’t know everything, and we accept not knowing. Maybe we are missing some knowledge, and until we get it, we will let everyone be who they were made to be? Maybe we focus on loving more than we focus on judging. But so many aren’t willing to do that, to sit in the space of unknowing and their hearts are turning to hatred. In the meantime, what is the cost to our gay children? And are we willing to pay it?