what the bishop said


Although my brother will no longer come to church with me,
and neither will my sister (notwithstanding that respectively
they gave, until a certain point, their time, their money, and their hearts—
their open, open hearts—their tender, nascent, fledgling, open hearts),

there is some consolation in the fact that, if my brother pushed his way
along the pew (why are these benches so insanely close?) to sit with us, Jay
(his spouse, his husband of six years) and he would be quite welcome.
Or so the bishop said. With open arms, he said, they would be welcome.

If my sister were inclined, I was assured, to come and sing the hymns
she sang when she was young, she could do it. She could push past limbs
squeezed tight against the bench in front of us and make a space and sit
there with her girlfriend. She is not inclined. But if she were, they could sit.

That is what the bishop said. To be accurate, this was some time ago.
But when he said it, I could see he was sincere. His opinion, you know,
was that there had been a recent “softening,” which I thought was to his credit,
at the time. He’s a kind of fellow traveler, and many things are to his credit.

For the record, both of us were off the mark about the nonexistent welcome mat
the church was on the verge of rolling out for all the gays. Pretty wrong about that.
Lots of people learned that they were wrong, last November. But the bishop said
that my family would always be welcome. That is what the bishop said.


Emily HB is a hausfrau living in Utah with delusions of grandeur & survival, a writer of books, a hoper of all things and a believer in several of them.

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20 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    Of course they are welcome. Everyone is welcome. You can come if gulping drink, smell of alcohol, cheat on your spouse or any of a host of other sins. Whether you can become or remain a member however depends on living according to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, just as it has always done.

    • EmilyHB says:

      Sort of want to be patient with you, Andrew, but I sort of don’t. If you’re not a gay person who has come with your same-sex significant other to worship at an LDS service and felt very, inarguably, indisputably NOT welcome, please re-consider your claim that “everyone is welcome.” Fair enough?

      • Andrew R. says:

        I am someone who has welcomed such individuals. I do however understand that not everyone is welcoming, but that is not the same thing.

        I know that members can not be welcoming, and not just to those with same-sex attraction.

      • In the many, many statements church officials made recently explaining why they would choose to punish children of gay parents as a matter of policy, a recurring theme was that this was a “loving” way to discourage such families from attending Mormon churches, so they wouldn’t be exposed to the hostile rhetoric about them that we will continue to support within those sacred walls. Intentionally setting up policies to keep people away and working to make an environment conducive to hostile rhetoric is the opposite of welcoming.

      • Ria says:

        Andrew, you’re clueless

      • Spunky says:

        Ria, our comment policy forbids name-calling. If you have a disagreement, then please state it without name calling.

      • Ronkonkoma says:

        Living in a homosexual lifestyle is incompatible with the gospel. Latter Day Saints should not lend support to people living this lifestyle. You risk your own exaltation by doing so.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Ria, thank you so much for your assessment. One of the reasons I come here and read the posts and the comments is so that I may have more of a clue. It would seem counter intuitive to drive people like me away as we would all remain clueless, which doesn’t really go anyway to helping the cause of feminism in the Church. And also the cause of those minorities that perhaps do not get the love they should from members.

    • AuntM says:

      There is a world of difference between being allowed to come and being welcomed.

  2. spunky says:

    This is powerful, EmilyHB. I think the whole “what the bishop said” goes to most Mormons– Mormons like to say that everyone is welcome, but when odd individuals are there, they stick to the church routine, distracted by children and callings are hardly whisper a breath to anyone out of the circle. When I was a new immigrant, church members stayed far, far from me. I left Relief Society early a few times, then stopped going. No calls, no visits, still no hellos before or after sacrament or Sunday school. About 6 months later, I noticed the Visiting Teaching roster in the hall. My name was marked as “visited” for the month, and the month before. I was floored! No one had been to my home, or called me. You know what it was? They saw me at church, and because I was there, they presumed I felt loved and welcomed. They were wrong.

    That was the last straw at the time, and I stopped going to church. When the bishop finally made contact and asked why, he promised he would do something, that we were welcomed. The Relief Society president called and when asked what she “could do”- I said I wanted real visiting teachers who sat by me and spoke to me. She *yelled at me* for asking for something like this, and said that my home country had terrible visiting teaching, therefore, she didn’t need to send “real” visiting teachers my way. We were welcomed, but no one needed to say hello to me or– gasp!- visit teach me. But we were welcome. Ya know. To go, sit alone, never speak to anyone, go home, never speak to anyone during the week, but– to feel some sort of metaphysical welcome mat that existed in the minds of the people in the ward.

    If this was my experience as a new immigrant– where people congratulate themselves for being open (i.e. tick the box of contact when no real contact is made) but really offer no warmth or welcome in the least, then I can imagine the crushingly inaccurate “welcome mat” laid out for those who are gay. My heart bleeds for these beautiful souls, and I pray that one day I can enact the welcome that so many Mormon congratulate themselves for being, yet presume someone else is doing. I’ve felt the loneliness, but mine at least was temporary– till we moved wards. For someone who is gay, this is rarely the case.

    Beautiful and heartbreaking, EmilyHB.

    • Ziff says:

      I’m so sorry about your awful experience with being ignored and chased out, spunky.

    • EmilyHB says:

      spunky, your comments (thank you!) shot through my heart like arrows. I’m sorry you went through that. I feel like I’m on notice to do a better, more genuine job of being present for people. again, thank you.

    • spunky says:

      You are so sweet! But I really didn’t mean to make it about me, rather that we — as a community, say a lot of things, but either don’t mean them, or can;t enact them– based on policy, personality, apathy or otherwise.

  3. Ziff says:

    Wow, EmilyHB. This is excellent, and so very sad. Thanks for sharing it. I hope your bishop ends up being right in the long run. Perhaps after the Church presidency has passed down a couple of men.

    • EmilyHB says:

      Ziff, I think my my bishop *will* be justified in his opinion, in the long run. that is, in the *very* long run. on a personal note, I believe he would have preferred for November’s policy not to have happened. of course, bishops don’t set policy. but they can establish a welcoming tone, and I do give him credit for that. ON THE OTHER HAND (!) people often get credit just for not being total bigots, you know?

  4. Em says:

    I feel like this highlights how contradictory the word welcome is for us. Everyone is welcome in that we won’t bar the door. But you aren’t welcome to volunteer for our organization. Callings are volunteer opportunities. You’re not welcome to work for free on our behalf. You’re welcome to sit in the back of primary to hear your kid talk but your family group will never be depicted or discussed, and will be conspicuous in its absence from all celebration of families and family roles.

    We’re fond of asserting that faith is an action. Well, so are actual verbs like love and welcome. If you aren’t actively welcoming then the absence of jettisoning someone doesn’t count.

    • Olea says:

      Yes, exactly this.

      Do we allow everyone the opportunity to give, out of their broken, open hearts?

      Do we ask them to serve us, with what talents they can offer?

      Do we look for, and carry out, acts of service that will show them that we love them?

      This is difficult, even with friends on a good day. But this is the work of the church, the gospel and the Lord.

      EmilyHB, this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Ms. Reynolds says:

    Emily, I read the poem and thought what a gorgeous thing it was and then I saw your picture and realized my beautiful friend had written it. How I wish our church was better.

    • EmilyHB says:

      We could be better, couldn’t we? This is such a humbling thing, to realize how far we (as an organization) are from being the best we could be. Hugs and kisses to you!

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