Written by Linda: When we first learned about our son having same-sex attraction, we were scared and confused. How did this happen? What would this mean for his life? What would it mean for our family? How would homosexuality fit into our LDS belief of eternal families? At that time, I had no idea how much I needed to learn about unconditional love, Jesus Christ and the atonement. Perhaps this is the experience I needed to help me learn things that I could not have learned any other way. Having a gay son has been a blessing in my life.
Craig was our second child and first son. He was always kind, loving and wanted to do the right thing. Craig was a very easy child to raise. School was important to him and he was placed in the GATE (Gifted and Talented) program in the third grade. He had many wonderful friends that also excelled. He advanced in the scouting program to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout and sitting through awards ceremonies for him became commonplace. Craig always loved his fellow classmates and family members and he got along well with everyone. When he came home from school, he was the only child that would ask me how my day was. He was truly kind and compassionate, to know him was to love him, everyone loves Craig. We never worried about this child. He was always where he should be, doing the right thing at the right time.
One day when Craig was in high school, I was routinely checking the history on our family computer. To my shock, I found sexually graphic images of men. My heart sank. I couldn’t imagine it was Craig’s or my husbands. When I was able to pull myself together from the shock, I went to Craig’s room and confronted him. He didn’t even try to deny it and admitted that it was his. He curled up in a ball on his bed and started to cry. I think he was relieved that I had found it. A secret that he had been hiding was finally out in the open. I was scared and confused at what was happening, but I also had so much compassion for my son for what had been going on inside his head that I hadn’t known anything about. This was the beginning of our journey with homosexuality and our son.
At that time, Craig was firm in his belief that he was not gay. I was naïve enough to believe him and started to do what any other good LDS mother would do – I started praying for the same-sex attractions to go away. He willingly started meeting with our bishop and an LDS counselor. We wanted him to have someone to talk to that he could be completely honest with. Craig continued to excel in school and church and be the all around great kid that he always had been. I was naïve to think that everything was under control. Over the following months, I began to see Craig slide between periods of excessive spirituality to emotional lows that would end with him curled up in a ball on our bed crying. During Craig’s first semester at BYU, we continued to see the highs and lows and decided to bring him home where we could be more of a support to him. We didn’t know if we should push the mission idea, but decided to leave it totally up to him. Craig decided that he did want to go on a mission. The call came – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What a joy, my son was going on a mission! Craig’s mission was a wonderful experience for him. He was on a spiritual high and had no problems during his mission whatsoever. He loved the people and his mission president. He loved serving the people and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He would often write his testimony of how important it was to live worthy of the spirit and what a blessing that was to him and the lives of the people he taught. We continued to pray that the same-sex attraction would go away, but this was not the case. Shortly after returning to BYU, the same-sex attraction returned.
By this time my husband was serving as the Bishop of our ward. As the wife of a Bishop, I was able to see some of the struggles that other families were dealing with including drugs, health issues, adultery, and mental illness. I became painfully aware that all families have hardships that they must live with and learn to overcome. This is when I made my deal with the Lord. I just flat out told the Lord that if this challenge was going to be part of our life, I was going to need to feel more than I had ever felt before. Gratefully, that prayer has been answered many times. As I have poured my heart out to the Lord, he has wrapped His arms around me many times and enveloped with the most overwhelming feelings of love that I have ever felt. With the Lord’s help, I knew that He was aware of me and all of the things that I was worried about. But, more importantly, I knew that He was aware of my son, who was His son first and I didn’t need to worry about him – I just needed to love him. I knew that I could do that.
During Craig’s years at BYU, we watched a slow progression from “I am not gay” to “I am gay”. First he had one friend who also experienced same-sex attraction, then two, and then he started to go to the Matis Firesides for anyone struggling with same-sex attraction. Then he made even more friends who were experiencing similar feelings. This all came as quite a shock to me, as I had no idea there were so many families in the church with children who were dealing with the same issue. Why weren’t we talking about it in the church? How many youth in our wards were suffering just like Craig, too afraid to tell anyone. Afraid that if they were honest, they would be rejected by their family and church. This was extremely distressing to me. I had never had any church leader offer me any assistance of any kind with this. I felt totally alone, but yet, so many people were trying to figure out how to deal with it.
During my son’s years at BYU, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why my son was gay. I read everything I could get my hands on. I read many conflicting theories, but none of them seemed to apply to Craig. Fortunately, I was able to come across a website (Northstar) hosted by LDS parents that try to help those dealing with same-sex attraction as well as parents, friends and leaders. They have an on-line Google group where I could talk to other parents and see how they were handling homosexuality in their families. This group has been life saving for me. These women reached out to me and totally understood my feelings of love and conflict with my son and the church. These women were able to speak with me mother to mother. To have these women care and completely understand and validate my pain was overwhelming – I just let the tears flow. I was finally able to talk to someone without the feelings of shame that are so common in the church when it comes to homosexuality. Finding these women was just one of the Lord’s tender mercies that have become so common for me. The best advice that I have ever received came from one of these sweet women, “Stop worrying about the ‘cause’ or the ‘cure’ and love you child”. I could do that.
Not long after Craig ‘came out,’ I decided that I wanted to try and meet some other LDS families with gay children. I decided to introduce myself to the local Affirmation group. The group decided to meet and invited me to attend with Craig. This meeting had a very profound affect on me. There were not any other family members, just wonderful LDS young men and women that had to navigate homosexuality in the LDS Church. I was overwhelmed at how welcoming this group was to me. After all, I was an active member of the church that I knew they had all felt pain growing up in. I had to wonder if the roles had been reversed, if they would have felt such overwhelming love from their Relief Society or Elders Quorum brothers and sisters if they had arrived alone to the meeting, not knowing anyone. One by one they all shared their own heart breaking stories of coming to terms with their sexuality in the church. I will be forever grateful for these wonderful people sharing their very personal stories with me. When we take the time to get to know someone and their “story”, it is impossible to not love them. I also felt like they each had a longing for the church that was once such an important part of their lives, but it was impossible to live a gay life in the Mormon Church so they had to separate themselves. I would love for these wonderful men and woman to feel like they DO have a place in our church as disciples of Jesus Christ because they could offer us so much.
With this experience and new perspective, I see things that I didn’t see before. The story of the Good Samaritan has taken on new meaning to me. We have many men and woman in our families and wards that suffer from things that we don’t always understand or are even aware of. Sometimes it is just easier for them to leave and separate themselves. As faithful members of the church trying to follow God and do our duty in the church, we don’t always see them, or want to see them, or know what to do. We don’t see how our words and actions can be hurtful. As true disciples of Christ, we should be striving to offer love, empathy and compassion to all of God’s children, even when there journey is different than ours and even when they take a different path for their lives.
Over time, I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet other men and women just like Craig. They are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They have so much compassion for others. Perhaps because they know what it feels like to be one of the ‘least of these’. I have learned more about love from this experience than I could possibly have learned any other way. My son continues to be an exceptional human being that excels in everything he puts his mind to and people love him because he truly cares about them. He has great compassion for others and we continue to learn from him and his example. He continues to be a wonderful blessing in our family.