My Life as a Mama Dragon

ev11

Neither dragons nor eagles, but the first image of winged beasts I found in the media library.

Today I am pleased to share a guest post by my mother, Christie Frandsen. Christie is a gifted teacher, leader and speaker, and has taught early morning seminary, Institute, and adult scripture classes for many years in Southern California. She has also been involved in Girl Scouting for decades in many significant leadership capacities. She is the mother of eleven children and grandmother of eighteen.

 

Last weekend in Provo, Utah, I attended the Annual International Conference of Affirmation, a support organization for LGBT Mormons, family and friends. This was my second conference, so I already knew it would be a weekend filled with an abundance of informative workshops, deeply inspirational stories, great music (you haven’t lived until you have sung Come, Come, Ye Saints with an auditorium filled with gay Mormons), too much delicious food, and not enough sleep. I knew I would be creating and renewing friendships with good people from all over the country who find ourselves in this community none of us asked to join, sharing a journey none of us expected to take.

What I was NOT expecting was the feeling which overwhelmed me as I received my conference name tag, with an attached turquoise ribbon boldly identifying me as a “MAMA DRAGON”.*  The “Mama Dragons” is a name taken by a group of mothers of LGBT sons and daughters who, in their short history, have already become legendary for their courageous work in rescuing at-risk LGBT youth who are ejected from their homes when they come out to their parents, who find themselves in such dark despair and profound loneliness and self-hatred that they attempt to take their own lives. The Mama Dragons give compassionate support to the victims of ignorant prejudice; they give hope and love and Christlike succor to “the least of these” in our midst; they give voice to the voiceless – and what a voice it is!  That Mama Dragon voice is a roar of indignation at the mistreatment of our gay children and a fearless and penetrating cry for eyes to open and hearts to change.  Mama Dragons are fierce in their protection of all the LGBT who have been victimized in any way, and they are insistent in their demands for change NOW.  Take my advice – you don’t ever want to cross a Mama Dragon!

So as I put on my conference name tag, by rights I should have been filled with pride (the righteous kind, of course) at being a Mama Dragon. Instead, what I felt was something half-way between shame and guilt as I heard a little voice in my head whispering “You’re a fake – a pretender – you are NOT a Mama Dragon and you know it.”  And that voice was right.

I am not a Mama Dragon, although I love my gay son with intense unending love.  I would give my life for my son in a nanosecond if that would help him to love himself and reach the tremendous potential that he possesses and feel enduring peace and happiness.  My son’s heart has become my heart and his mind my mind, so that when I hear “those” talks in Church or Conference or read articles in the Ensign, I know immediately how he is reacting, and I feel hurt too. I have been permanently changed by my gay son – and I believe that change has made me more like our Savior, has helped me to know our Father’s pure love more profoundly.

And yet, I am not a Mama Dragon.

I do not roar my indignation on social media, or even in private conversations, at the focus in the Church on doctrines and policies that make LGBT Mormons feel forever “less than.”

I have not marched in any Pride Parades, though I have supported my son and fed and housed his many friends who have.

I do not own a rainbow t-shirt or skirt or have an Equality bumper sticker on my car.

I have not requested from my Bishop or Stake President opportunities to speak publicly and educate my fellow-members about LGBT issues about which many are woefully ignorant.

I have never even stood in Testimony Meeting and publicly expressed my deep love for my gay son.

Just once in a Gospel Doctrine class I spoke openly about the challenges of gay Mormons – and then I immediately regretted having spoken out, fearing that I had not really been understood.

No, I am most definitely NOT a Mama Dragon.

But I am something – and in my own much quieter and less visible way, I believe I have been a strong advocate and ally and I hope that I have done much good for the cause, maybe precisely because of my quieter and less visible style.

We live in a polarized world where good people on both sides of every divide spend too much time demonizing and calling names and drawing lines in the sand and entrenching differences and creating victims and bullies and making demands, instead of making friends and creating dialogue and understanding and working together to solve problems. This happens between rival political parties and religious groups; it happens between advocates and opponents of every social issue in our world; it happens even in such unlikely places as PTA and AYSO and yes, even in Affirmation.

Last weekend I heard articulate, impassioned declarations that “the Church needs to do this” and “the Brethren need to stop saying that.”  I heard good people firmly declaring what Jesus would or would not be doing and saying if He were here.  I heard much certitude about doctrinal and policy changes that should be made in the Church right now. It was sincere and it was persuasive – I remember last year when I was so new to the world of LGBT Mormons, I remember feeling convinced that everything I heard at the conference was the Truth.

Families who are new to the LGBT Mormon community are desperate for answers and direction to steady them after the solid foundation of doctrinal certainty instantly washes away when they discover that they have a gay son or daughter. Everything they once knew to be true about God’s great plan of salvation and happiness is suddenly called into question. To me it felt like I had been thrown into a tumultuous sea and was drowning, desperate for anything to hang on to. I was so vulnerable and needy – those clear and confident voices that I heard at the Conference telling me that the Church simply has to change and that the Apostles simply have to get rid of their outdated homophobic attitudes – those voices were powerfully persuasive and compelling. Only weeks later did I think to wonder if what they said was true.

I have sensed among the Affirmation parents a troubling discontentment with the Church that I fear is profoundly undermining the faith of many of the young LGBT youth whose faith is already so fragile. And I worry that even if and when doctrinal changes come, many of our young LGBT sons and daughters would not choose to be active in the Church, ironically because their faith was undermined by their very own Mama Dragons. While we save their physical lives, let us be very careful that we don’t destroy their spiritual lives, their faith. What a tragic loss to them and to the Church.

I also worry about the tendency to see and hear and share only what supports the comforting position that love, God’s and our own, is the only consideration. Recently a beautifully designed meme spread through the online community of LGBT Mormons featuring a quote from Joseph Smith that reads:

Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive.

It’s a beautiful quote, one I know well and have in fact quoted often in the classes I teach. There’s only one problem – this is only half of the quote!

Joseph Smith goes on to say:

and at the same time [Heavenly Father is] more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be.  

It’s not surprising that this part of the quote was cut, of course.  But I worry that screening out the more challenging teachings of the Restoration, however comforting and well-intentioned the motive, does a disservice to our ultimate goal.  Jesus is Love and Mercy, yes, but He is also Law and Truth.  And only His Truth, His whole Truth, brings Life. Not partial truths or my truth or the Mama Dragon’s truth.

This year I am not as sure that any of us can be so certain that we have the answers and the Truth, God’s truth.  And THAT is what I am interested in – discerning what God believes and wants for His LGBT children. I already know what we all believe and want for our LGBT children – I want to know what God wants.  And I humbly suggest that no one knows that yet, not even the most passionate Mama Dragon. And I believe the best way to get those answers, the true answers, is to work together as a Church, as the body of Christ, and show Him that we all, gay and straight, lay members and leaders, are learning how to love and respect each other, and that we are ready for the answers to come, whatever those answers might be.  I have spent my life studying the history of God’s dealings with His children on this earth, and our quest to discover truth.  A dominant theme emerges from all that study: we never know as much as we think we do. And that should make us all profoundly humble and compassionate toward each other as we await God’s revelation.

And meanwhile, until that revelation comes, I would like to invite a greater variety of voices at our meetings – not only voices of activism and change, but also voices of faith and voices of hope and confidence that the Lord certainly knows what is happening in His Church and in the lives of our LGBT sons and daughters. Perhaps even voices who help us see how we can better follow the counsel of our leaders and not just challenge or criticize them.  Being strong advocates of our gay daughters and sons does not mean we have to become enemies of the Church.

I invite a little more humility, softer voices, more patient and faithful understanding of and appreciation for the tremendous burden our Apostles carry in trying to keep this Church Christ’s Church and not a Church fashioned after the image of man or Mama Dragons.  I call for humility and compassion, for everyone.

What I am NOT suggesting is that Affirmation and the Mama Dragons stop in any way the work of saving lives and succoring victims – that is truly Christ’s work and He has commissioned us to do that tirelessly and ceaselessly.  And no one does that better than the Mama Dragons.

What I AM suggesting is that there is more than one right way to be a strong and effective advocate for our gay children and friends. In this life-and-death cause, it does not have to be “either/or” – you are either a Mama Dragon or you don’t love your gay daughter or son. There are other right ways to love and support – it can be “yes/and.”

I will always feel a deep sisterhood with the Mama Dragons, an instant bond that springs from the formative experience of loving an LGBT son or daughter. I am not a Mama Dragon, but I can be a Mama Eagle.** There is no fire coming from my mouth – I teach my Seminary and Institute classes without anyone worrying about what “false doctrine” I might be spreading. And by doing that, I am able to continue to influence hearts and minds and attitudes. Because I have maintained strong relationships with my Bishop and Stake President, they regularly attend the Affirmation gatherings in my home – giving hearts and minds and attitudes a chance to change.

And all the while, I will quietly circle high in the air, above the fray, watching intently for anyone who might be falling to earth, in need of being lifted up on my strong eagle’s wings and carried back to the nest for a season of nurturing.  And when those eaglets are strong enough, I will stir up my wings and lovingly push them out of the nest, and watch with confidence and pride as they soar to heights I never knew.

I am a Mama Eagle and I invite all of you out there, who may not feel that the role of a Mama Dragon is a good fit for you, to join me.
*The inspiration for the name “Mama Dragon” comes from this passage in the Book of Mormon:

And it came to pass that the people of Limhi began to drive the Lamanites before them; yet they were not half so numerous as the Lamanites. But they fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight.  –Mosiah 20:11
**My inspiration for the name “Mama Eagle” comes from these passages in the Old Testament:

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead him and there was no strange god with him” -Deuteronomy 32:11-12

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint. –Isaiah 40:30-31

44 comments for “My Life as a Mama Dragon

  1. Thank you for sharing this. We need dragons and eagles and probably mice and grasshoppers and every other creature in God’s creation to support these precious kids. I hope Affirmation asks you to speak next year.

  2. Brava!

    I once had to write a “This I Believe” essay, and one of the most fundamental beliefs I discovered in myself is faith in mothers’ love for their children, in all of its many-splendored forms and varieties.

  3. Thank you for the guest post. Perhaps you are a dragon-in-waiting.

    You said, “I have been permanently changed by my gay son – and I believe that change has made me more like our Savior ….” That’s a great argument in favor of big-tent Mormonism. By steadily narrowing the range of opinion and conduct acceptable within mainstream Mormonism, we have unwittingly shrunk the range of LDS understanding and love for our fellow Mormons and for the balance of humankind.

  4. Thank you for this. I was moved to tears. You beautifully articulated what so many of us with gay family members feel. I hope and pray every single day of my life that I can love in a “yes/and” kind of way. That I can find my wings.

  5. What a beautiful and inspiring post. Thank you. That we are yet ignorant is a truth of which we frequently need reminding.

  6. ” Perhaps even voices who help us see how we can better follow the counsel of our leaders and not just challenge or criticize them. Being strong advocates of our gay daughters and sons does not mean we have to become enemies of the Church.” If only all bloggernacle LGBT advocates followed this admonition.

  7. Count me in. Though I don’t have a gay family member, I do have family members who are so hurt by the divide that they chose disassociation. Another casualty of this time in life. I want room at the table for all of us. I try every week I can to make a comment that is Christ centered. My goal is that if we fill the life well with Christ, we may find our own better natures, and with those natures we can rise up on eagles wings.

  8. I sincerely enjoyed this article on many levels, but there is one glaring part that I find requires addressing.

    “I have sensed among the Affirmation parents a troubling discontentment with the Church that I fear is profoundly undermining the faith of many of the young LGBT youth whose faith is already so fragile. And I worry that even if and when doctrinal changes come, many of our young LGBT sons and daughters would not choose to be active in the Church, ironically because their faith was undermined by their very own Mama Dragons. While we save their physical lives, let us be very careful that we don’t destroy their spiritual lives, their faith. What a tragic loss to them and to the Church.”

    To lay at the feet of members of Affirmation and/or the Mama Dragons that they undermine the faith of their own children is victim blaming. The untenable situation of LGBT youth suicide, homelessness, depression and the broken and challenged faith of everyone who truly studies this issue lies solely on the Church. To frame the burden of the poor apostles who have such a hard time trying to figure this all out while mormonsandgays is still just a blip on the radar of Church leaders, excommunications and hostile Church environments exist in the majority, and parents (ie Mama Dragons, etc…) are left to forge their way through the moral morass of current doctrine alone.

    I fully reject that the parents of LGBT youth are responsible for the religious outcomes of their children when in every ward and stake I have been in, I have to teach the leaders the Church’s own doctrine on the subject (FYI – It is not in Miracle of Forgiveness). I have to beg for a safe Church environment for my son. Just once, can a Church leader/member take ownership for the devastation that has been wrought on generations of gay and lesbian Mormons.

    I love Christine, but to lay that charge at the feet of the wounded, the rejected, the marginalized and defeated – is wrong. Be a Mama Eagle, but don’t blame the discontentment on the mothers while the Church (collectively and individually) mistreats and abuses their children. That discontentment has been earned.

  9. Tom, thank you for this response. It deserves a more thoughtful reply than I have time for right now, but please know that my words in no way exonerate the truly horrific behavior of some Church leaders and members whose treatment of these youth have done terrible damage both to their testimonies and to their souls. But I am worried about the possible unintended damaging consequences to our children who are caught up in this conflict. My words are offered with the greatest of love and support for our common goal. We are on the same side! I am voicing caution, NOT condemnation! More later…

  10. Rosalynde – I have met with, photographed and interviewed over 73 different women who love their LGBT+ child beyond comprehension. Some are very vocal, some are very quiet. Plenty are at many points in between. I completely understand your desire to be a Mama Eagle. It is a beautiful idea and I would rejoice in you soaring the winds in support and love for your child. That is your right. That is your role as you see fit. I would love to sit down and have lunch some time and get to know you better. I love your article and love that you felt compelled to write it. It takes many, many voices to paint a complete picture. Yours adds to the rich story that is to be told. Thank you.

  11. I failed to realize that the author of the article is actually Christie Frandsen and not Rosalynde. My sincere apologies. I’d also love to sit down to lunch with you too Rosalynde. You seem like someone to get to know better as well. Thank you for providing a place to share Christie’s article.

  12. Christie, that was completely lovely and uplifting. My wife and I are right there with you, quietly modeling love for all including our LGB/SSA children, while looking to Christ for hope, guidance and salvation. Thank you for speaking out in this forum — How refreshing!

  13. I sincerely hope that as a Mama Eagle you will someday enjoy walking in a Pride parade (a profoundly spiritual experience, IMO), offer to help your fellow ward members understand LGBT issues, and speak up a little more in classes about the challenges of gay Mormons. You have an eloquent voice and wonderful, deep faith — and I think that with your personal experience, the body of Christ needs you to add your perspective.

  14. Christie, thanks for your article and your participation in Affirmation. I would just like to clarify for readers that Affirmation as an organization does not take positions on church doctrine, yet recognizes the need for parents and all participants to share their own feelings and experiences with openness and authenticity. We appreciate the efforts of all parents and their diverse approaches to helping their LGBT children and living their own faith.

    I know many Affirmation parents who share your perspective but are often not as vocal. Affirmation invites all voices and perspectives and hopes that as we each share our stories we can fully appreciate others’ stories without making one perspective more right than the other.

    Randall Thacker, Affirmation President.

  15. Christie, I left the Church for 19 years. During that time, my parents never wavered in their testimony of the Gospel. Once they had come to a deeper understanding of my situation, and what it means to be gay, they also never wavered in their uncompromising support for me and my husband. They adopted my husband as their son-in-law, they insisted on attending our legal wedding in 2008 even though I told them they didn’t have to.

    When I returned to Church activity in 2005, I found myself indescribably grateful for my parents’ testimony of the Church and of the Gospel, which remains unshaken today. In many ways it was a lighthouse beacon to me. I don’t know if my mom ever would have identified as a “Mama Dragon.” (She is entering the final stage of Alzheimers, but still recognizes and fiercely loves her gay son.) It was incredibly painful to my parents to endure certain things they periodically heard at Church; they found their own constructive ways to engage that have made a difference. I am incredibly proud of them.

    I am grateful for all LDS parents who unconditionally love their LGBT kids. I am especially grateful for LDS parents who find ways to do that without ever compromising their LDS faith, as I feel my parents did. I am grateful for your testimony expressed here, and I yearn for that attitude to flourish. I hope you’ll stay active in Affirmation… There are many others there — both parents and LGBT folks — who share your concerns. I yearn for Affirmation to be a supportive place for people with testimonies of the Church (like me).

    Parents don’t own their kids faith… My own story proves that my parents’ faithfulness couldn’t stop me from leaving the Church for a long time. I think Tom rightly points out that LGBT individuals face impossibly difficult choices in relation to their faith and their life. The difficulty of that situation is what produces the responses we see so often (across the spectrum of faith and sexual/gender identity). There are no ideal solutions for LGBT Mormons, though many of us, through much heartache, discernment, and hard decision-making (and many bumps in the road) have found our own personal resolutions and happiness. How this looks will vary dramatically from person to person!

    As I’ve encountered other LDS parents, it is heartbreaking to see their heartbreak. Many fear that their kids will mistake devotion to the Restored Gospel for rejection of them. I don’t own their faith either! But I am most, most grateful for yours.

  16. A few days ago my daughter’s early morning seminary class went over Sodom and Gomorrah with the typical anti-gay slant. My liberal-minded daughter said she got into it with the seminary teacher and was so upset that she wanted to storm out. But she calmed down and stuck around and tried to focus on the things she liked about her teacher. Perhaps she’s moving in the directions suggested here.

  17. The ONLY requirement for being a Mama Dragon has clearly been met by you–to love and fight for the healthy and safety of your LGBTQ child. And we all do that in very different ways. And that is beautiful and valid.

    Some remain completely faithful to the LDS church, its doctrine, and leadership while loving and fighting for their child–protecting their child from bullying and rejection in the community. Protecting from depression and suicidal desires. Making sure that child KNOWS that he/she is deeply loved and known by family and by heavenly parents. And this is a beautiful and wonderful thing. And so important and so essential. And does not make someone a greater or lesser Mama Dragon. Simply an individual Mama Dragon fighting for her individual family.

    Another Mama Dragon might follow her own heart and fight in a different way. Maybe stepping away from the church or fighting in a more public or a more political way. That is also beautiful and essential and doesn’t make her any more or less of a Mama Dragon.

    Right now there are about 575 Mama Dragons participating in some level. And I assure you that as they reach out and communicate with me that they REALLY REALLY REALLY come in all shapes and varieties and simply want to love their children and help them have the best chance at a healthy and happy future. As they best understand that.

    So, if you want to identify as a Mama Eagle or Mouse or Aardvark or whatever–that is wonderful. For real. I know your son and I think he is amazingly blessed to have a mother who loves him unconditionally and who fights for him to know that he is loved. And I think that you are equally blessed to have such an amazing son.

    Jen Blair

  18. As the parent of an LGBT child who is still an active member after 3 years and still seeking refuge in what is now our 3rd ward, I wanted to add that part of the problem is the significantly different experience LGBT families experience across the Church ranging from love and acceptance to being shown the door or even the pursuit of excommunication. Church discipline/love should be a process of years yet I often hear cases that are held and judged in an afternoon.

    While acknowledging the volunteer basis of Church leaders, the experience of either being wanted in a ward or excluded and shamed makes a massive difference on a family’s ability to stay. A hostile and rejecting ward will see their LGBT members leave. Faith will be crushed and destroyed – both the LGBT youth’s and the parent’s. Meanwhile an accepting, loving ward will foster patience and understanding and the space necessary for what Christie describes in this article. When the answers aren’t available from the Church, Church leaders need to give the space necessary for individual revelation and faith to flourish. I love the idea of Mama Eagles – but recognize that they can be shot out of the air and endangered quickly in a hostile ward.

    Perhaps my wife and I are too critical of the Church and its leaders to be in the category of Mama Eagles, but as Randall Thacker said recently at Affirmation, “You have hurt me.” We have to manage the pain tolerance we can handle and protect our child while balancing out whether we can be in the Church. I know dozens of others who because of the spiritual, emotional and social harm they have endured, should stay far away from the Church. There is a mandate that the Church first and foremost be a safe place for LGBT families, and until that mandate is fulfilled, they will continue to lose LGBT youth, their parents, their siblings and those that care for them.

  19. Speaking as an actual LGBTQ person, I have a hard one with this post. No, you don’t have to be a mama dragon; be whatever you want. I don’t love the mama dragons myself. But for many LGBTQ people, the church and its doctrine IS actively harmful. It’s horrible. And your LGBTQ kids are more than entitled to step out of and away from the culture of they want to. Sure, you can promote faith in Christ and you can love the church if you want to, but this post comes dangerously close to supporting a church system that actively damages our queer youth. Can you be Mormon and a good ally to your queer kids? Probably. But supporting church doctrine because you’re worried about damaging the faith of your queer kids makes it sound like there isn’t a way for them to be spiritual outside the church, which isn’t true, or that there isn’t value in letting kids step away from a church that actively seeks to curtail their happiness and wellbeing.

  20. This really makes it sound like you privilege the church over your children’s health. I’m guessing that’s not what you intended, but that IS how it reads. And that’s horrible. You do you, but the church doesn’t need protecting–vulnerable youth who hear hateful messages over the pulpit need it. And again, it’s possible to lead a fulfilling spiritual life outside the church. You don’t have to chose that, but you need to know that forcing kids to stay in the church if they don’t feel safe there can be more spiritually detrimental than letting them leave.

  21. Christie: I have some sincere but rather pointed questions which I will be criticized for even asking. You are obviously uncomfortable associating with this organization for a variety of reasons. Why associate with a group in which so many attack and denigrate the doctrines and leaders of your church?

    Can members of this organization honestly answer the question asking if they “support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church” and still get a temple recommend?

    Thank you in advance for your response. Your post was very thoughtful and made me think.

  22. Old Man, why don’t you answer your offensive questions yourself? Why would a parent belong to an advocacy group? Surely you can come up with an answer.

    And, to turn the second question back on you, do you affiliate with any political party or business entity or government of any country? If so, how can you honestly answer that question and still get a temple recommend?

  23. I’m a bisexual church member. My dad shared this article with me today, and while I think I understand what he wanted me to get from it, I couldn’t help but cry as I read it, and for all the wrong reasons.

    Am I selfish for wishing that my parents would be indignant and vocal and angry about the emotional abuse I have suffered at the hands of the Church? Am I asking too much to want them to loudly defend me to their peers? Sure, they love me fiercely, and I have no doubt about it, but because of their (in)actions (which closely mirror yours), it sometimes feels like they love me IN SPITE of my sexuality.

    When I call my mom in tears because of the weird looks and people telling me that they’re praying for me that I receive here at BYU, her loving, well-intentioned advice is just to keep my mouth shut and not make it a big deal. But it IS a big deal for me. And keeping my mouth shut makes me feel like I’m suffocating. Silence isn’t an option for me.

    I respect your efforts to stay on good terms with the Church throughout this, but I have to agree–it strikes me as prioritizing your place within the Church over the safety and health of LGBTQIA.

  24. Dear Kee – And I couldn’t help but cry as I read your response to my essay but I believe my tears are for all the right reasons of deep and sincere compassion, and fervent yearning that there will be no more pain and hurting of each other in this Church. I am not naive enough to think that bad things do not happen in this Church and that members do not fall far short of the high standard of Christlike behavior that we all ought to be striving for. And where there is mistreatment and harm being done, all of us need to be Mama Dragons or Mama Eagles or whatever we can be to rescue the hurting and to call out those who are inflicting harm. I thought I made that clear in my essay and I thank you for giving me this opportunity to clarify that. You are not selfish to want your parents to defend you, and I do not know your parents, but perhaps their quieter style is more powerful than you realize in changing hearts and minds in their circles. I know the situation at BYU can be especially toxic. My own son is there right now struggling with the same things you are. I will tell you that I do not believe any of the seminary students who were in my classes over the past many years are among those who are doing those things. I believe and hope and pray that if we all do what we can, in whatever way we can, wherever we can, things will get better. Not soon enough, I know. But they will get better. May God bless and keep you, Kee.

  25. Christie, I appreciate your thoughts. I’m very much in sympathy with the notion that different forms of advocacy are valued and needed. And yet I found myself troubled by this essay.

    “And meanwhile, until that revelation comes, I would like to invite a greater variety of voices at our meetings – not only voices of activism and change, but also voices of faith and voices of hope and confidence that the Lord certainly knows what is happening in His Church and in the lives of our LGBT sons and daughters. Perhaps even voices who help us see how we can better follow the counsel of our leaders and not just challenge or criticize them.”

    This is where I have a hard time with this. On the one hand, I do appreciate voices of faith and hope. But the fact that the Lord knows what is happening in the church and in the lives of his LGBT children is cold comfort when surely the Lord also knew what was happening when church leaders were using the language of abomination, prescribing heterosexual marriage as a cure, and BYU was basically torturing people in an effort to change them. As an active, believing gay Mormon, I find that I have a hard time trusting church leaders on this subject simply because the track record of the church has been so very questionable.

    I appreciate your acknowledgement that some leaders and members have caused terrible harm. But I think it’s a mistake to frame it as a problem of individual members, as if the church itself were generally benign. What do we do about the reality that it’s not just problematic individuals, but in fact central church teachings, that so often throw LGBT youth into despair? I too would like to see people being advocates for their LGBT sisters and brothers without having to be excessively antagonistic toward the church. I very much hope that that’s possible. But I don’t want to be too quick to smooth over the difficulties involved in navigating those waters.

  26. #24: “Can members of this organization honestly answer the question asking if they “support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church” and still get a temple recommend?”

    Anyone who supports or affiliates with the BSA should surrender their recommend.

  27. “And meanwhile, until that revelation comes, I would like to invite a greater variety of voices at our meetings – not only voices of activism and change, but also voices of faith and voices of hope and confidence that the Lord certainly knows what is happening in His Church and in the lives of our LGBT sons and daughters. Perhaps even voices who help us see how we can better follow the counsel of our leaders and not just challenge or criticize them.”

    I was also at Affirmation and I was thinking about this comment.

    The main speakers were:
    Tyler Glenn, Randal Thacker, Sara Jade Woodhouse, Sam Woolfe, Kate Kendall, Laura Dulin, Michael McLean, Tyrell, and Fiona Givens.

    I would sincerely ask how it could be humanly possible to get a greater variety than THIS??

  28. # 28: “…perhaps their quieter style is more powerful than you realize in changing hearts and minds in their circles.”

    Yes. Loud and quiet voices can compliment each other. It’s productive to have both a military and a diplomatic corp.

  29. Joel (30):
    Because militaries and diplomatic corps are so good at establishing lasting peace and unity between human beings in the world today? I agree with you in that a portion of this organization is militant. Social groups which define themselves as “dragons” and “eagles” sounds eerily similar to other organizations which spans the spectrum from military units to athletic teams to gangs. I’m sure that some will claim that this is because these people feel threatened. That may be very true for some. Families with gay children do feel very, very vulnerable. But others are waging an ideological war within and without the church, and these hurting families are an excellent source of recruits. We should remember that human beings establish peace only when they themselves become peaceful. Many within this organization propose practices and doctrinal changes contrary LDS doctrines. They propose that it is the Church which must change. They clamor for a “revelation” which most refuse to define, because they know it would reveal their antagonism to the core teachings of the LDS Church.

    I have worked with LDS youth for most of my life. Some of my gay students have confided in me. I have sought to bind their wounds and also teach the rest of my students to value the goodness they find in a broad variety of human beings. But I can’t be so naive to believe my gay LDS students will find salvation and exaltation in overly permissive and humanist world views of those who take very real efforts to subvert the work of the church and its leaders.

  30. Suleyman,

    I hear you. And I am certainly familiar with the notion that, in a church led by effectively infallible men, the status quo is necessarily the divine order, by definition. I also recognize that it’s blasphemy to percieve that the church is or ever has been moved by grassroots voices.

    Rest easy, you and the other youth instructors have not failed to make that clear.

  31. In my point of view the church does not support gay individuals and does not treat or view them as equals to heterosexuals. I could not have a gay child and stay a mormon-it just does not compute. That being said, I would like to hear how these moms remain in the church in an effort to understand how it does make sense to them. FYI- I was raised a TBM until my late thirties, and am now a post-mormon.

  32. First of all, I thank you for all of the thoughtful and articulate comments on my post – I loved the many expressions of support and agreement, of course, but I especially appreciated the challenges, which gave me an opportunity to think more deeply and grapple with my own beliefs, which is always a very good thing to do! Secondly, I apologize for the delay in my response to your comments. I have been preoccupied with a terrible tragedy that occurred in our Ward family last week with the death of one of my Seminary young men. I hope it is not too late for my responses to be meaningful.
    First, let me summon my boldest Mama Dragon voice and hereby declare that when the time comes that the history of the LGBT community within the Church is written (and that story will be written and it will be a magnificent story!), at the top of the list of the greatest heroes of that story will be the names of John Gustav-Wrathall and Randall Thacker and Tom and Wendy Montgomery. They are pioneers and their courage and vision and devotion is nothing short of heroic. I love and respect them deeply. I believe the Church is a better place because of them. I know I am a better person because of them.
    Secondly, Randall makes a very important point which I want to emphasize: ”Affirmation as an organization does not take positions on church doctrine, yet recognizes the need for parents and all participants to share their own feelings and experiences with openness and authenticity.” I should have been more careful in distinguishing between Affirmation as an organization and its wonderfully diverse membership – just precisely as I want us all to distinguish between the Church as an institution and the behavior and attitudes of some of its members.
    And third, I think might have been overly self-deprecating when I listed all the things I have NOT done as the mother of a gay son. One of you understandably questioned my right to even call myself an advocate, given that impressive list of everything I haven’t done in support of my son! So, here are a few of the things I HAVE done: I opened up our home and heart (and refrigerator ?) to Affirmation gatherings every month for a year, welcoming a veritable rainbow of LGBTs as well as our Stake President, Bishops, and many straight members of our Ward and community who wanted to learn more. More times than I can count, I have spoken up to clarify facts and correct ignorance and defend LGBT rights and human feelings in private conversations with family members, friends and even with strangers. I have done everything I can to educate and influence family and friends by sending articles and answering questions. My classes (until this fall I was teaching seminary as well as Institute at USC, and I still teach 2 adult religion classes) are well known to be “safe havens” for open discussion of every manner of “taboo” subjects including troublesome aspects of Church History, doctrinal doubts, and LGBT issues. Steve Fleming, I would love to have had your brave daughter in my class! And most importantly, I have given my time, money, tears, heart, and soul to helping my son in any and every way possible as he struggles to find himself and create a life he loves. So yes, I think I qualify as an advocate!
    The point I was trying to make, obviously not clearly enough, is that BECAUSE of my quieter style, I strongly believe I have been even more effective in changing many hearts and minds in our area than if I had been more strident in my approach. There is a place for introverts as well as extroverts in this cause!! And Sue Bergin, I am absolutely not ruling out the possibility of even someday marching in a Pride parade, proudly sporting a rainbow tie-dye t-shirt!
    And now for a few individual replies –
    Tom, I am not claiming that parents are solely responsible for the religious outcomes of their children. Of course they are not – our children have agency (sometimes more than we wish!) and they are deeply influenced by teachers and peers (for good and for bad), thus all the resources that go into the YW/YM program in the Church. But attitudes and words from parents have a profound impact on children. And my experience is that young people hear negative words and attitudes far louder than they do the positive – including criticisms directed toward others. So I just urge us all to be extremely careful when we speak critically of the Church and the Apostles in the presence of our children, if we have any desire for them to stay in the Church. I think/hope we can be passionately supportive and protective of our children, even call out local leaders and members for bad behavior, and not throw the entire Church “under the bus.” Which leads me to my next response –
    Anon, of course people can find a rich and satisfying spiritual life outside of the Church, but if this Church is, in fact, Christ’s true Church (even if it is not yet perfect!), I for one want to do everything I can to give my child every chance at holding on and staying strong, in what we all agree are extremely difficult circumstances as an LGBT young person. You wrote that “the Church doesn’t need protecting, vulnerable youth do.” By not attacking the Church, I am not “protecting the Church” but in fact trying to preserve my son’s faith in the saving doctrines and covenants. If you do not believe this Church and those covenants are true, than I would wholeheartedly agree that there are far easier churches to belong to! And by the way, Lynnette, I feel pretty sure that we haven’t yet received all of the doctrine that Christ wants us to have – “many great and important things” have yet to be revealed. THAT is why I will still stay loyal to this Church while supporting and protecting my LGBT son.
    And finally to Old Man, I am not the least bit uncomfortable in associating with Affirmation and have not the slightest worry that my affiliation might jeopardize my temple worthiness. My only concern is with some attitudes of some people who are also affiliated with Affirmation. You can love the organization and not necessarily agree with all of its members – as we all know who are members of this Church!!
    And if you read this clear to the end, then God bless you!

  33. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss in your family ward, my thoughts go out to you and the family of the young man.

    I admire your loyalty to your faith, goodness and your level of support of gays. Reading your response makes me think that when you are in the church you are free to follow you own conscience until you bump into the wall, that wall being what the current prophet says. At that point, you are to disregard what your heart and conscience say and follow the will of the prophet and his boundaries even if they do not sit well with you. I no longer believe in Joseph Smith so it’s all crumbled and now only I dictate how I follow my conscience and to what degree.

  34. I have to agree with previous posters that it is the church that is destroying our LGBTQ children’s faith, not their mothers. I have a very good friend whose RM daughter recently married another RM — a girl. This daughter was beyond faithful for many horrible years. She has now left the church and found happiness. Her mother told me that it would take an angel coming down from heaven to get her daughter to go back to the LDS church — she has been that damaged by it. Meanwhile, her mother is still a faithful member. I have two LGBTQ children, and I often wish that we had not been members of the church while they were young and impressionable — I feel that they have been irreparably beaten down by it. Both of them became much better people with much better mental health when they left.

  35. I don’t know if anyone will actually read this. It’s perhaps a few too many days after the initial wave of conversation to be relevant. However, as Christie’s gay son (without me, she wouldn’t ever have written this article), I want to say a few things.

    First of all: to those who had concerns or disagreements with the ideas expressed in the article and who articulated their critiques in a civil way, thank you! That’s not easy to do, but that’s the kind of discourse we need.

    Second of all: to the many people who disagreed with the content of this article who resorted to personal attacks, shaming, and cyber-bullying, both in the comments here but primarily on the Facebook groups where this article was shared, please examine your own discursive behavior. To respond in such a mean-spirited way is hypocritical and inhumane and I am disappointed in vitriolic reactions I saw. Not only were many people not careful enough to even try to understand what my mother was getting at, many didn’t even read closely enough to get her name right. In a movement that is concerned with protecting the right to self-identify and elevating and celebrating those identities, to treat someone’s humanity so lightly as to not even look at her name when it’s written on a page is an act of erasure that is inconsistent with our values. If I am too harsh in this assessment, please forgive me. I can’t not be emotional when I see my mother victimized by a compassionless onslaught of online commentary, especially when the one critical element of her piece was not at all framed as an attack. I know that discussions of any issue connected to the LGBTQ Mormon topic will be fraught with emotion, and I understand why passages of this piece elicited strong internal responses for some readers. That response, however, does not justify the kind of abusive treatment that my mother received in the wake of this article. There’s more I would say about that treatment, but that’s not my story to tell.

    Third: let me actually talk about my mother. Her style of advocacy may be quieter, but she does it as effectively as anyone I know and from the moment of my coming out, she has supported me impeccably. I’ll elaborate on her parental support: even before I came out (after she had figured out I was gay but before I told her) and every day since, she has made my health and empowerment a priority. She has prioritized my own self-determination and agency by constantly assuring me of her unconditional love and by giving me the emotional space to make life decisions free from pressure. She never once told me what kinds of relationships I should or shouldn’t pursue–she simply made it clear that she would always love me and that what she desired for me was health and happiness, however that looked. During those intense few months following my coming out as I transitioned from still trying to date women, to giving up on that and despairing in the prospect of a life alone, to finally opening myself up to the possibility of dating men, she constantly reaffirmed that. Her voice was a strong counterpoint to the internal voices of self-loathing and confusion that I struggled with at that time. As I came out publicly, she supported me. When members of my home ward questioned her, she defended me. She has hosted many LGBTQ events at our house (even before I came out, she hosted a presentation on the Family Acceptance Project). In her classes she has talked about LGBT issues and in so doing, ministered to her queer students (and she’s had a few). She is quite well-known in the greater LA Mormon community and has never for a second expressed any concern about how my being out and vocal might affect her reputation. She has used her reputation in our area to change hearts and open up conversations and dialogues–this is effective grass-roots work that has made a difference in our ward and stake and empowered other straight members to be more open about their support for LGBT people. She has spent money and time to attend events with me. She has invested emotional, temporal, and material resources to making sure that I got the mental health care I needed when I was most vulnerable. She has acted as a sounding board for me as I make decisions but never once imposed upon me any choice. When I have at times critiqued aspects of her allyship, she listens and adjusts without getting defensive. She has never made any kind of insistence about my involvement with the church. She has at times invited me to participate in church activities, but never pressured or manipulated me into it and on the occasions when I declined those invitations, she respected that without question. On another occasion, when I was particularly angry with “the church,” she made sure I knew that I could take a break from or leave the church with her blessing, if that’s what I wanted. She is a believing Mormon and lives her life as such, but her active and apparent love for me has never been predicated on my participation in the church. In fact, her parenting actually prepared me to navigate changes in faith and to view Mormonism with openness. While my siblings and I were growing up, she taught us about the good and the bad of church history. She taught us about other non-Mormon and non-Christian religions. She and my dad filled our home with books and art and countless issues of “Dialogue.” Their role as hosts of a monthly Mormon intellectual lecture series exposed me to a variety of views within and approaches to Mormonism and quickly took me past a point of simplistic, Sunday School orthodoxy. I say all this because my mom, while she loves the church, is certainly not trying to defend the church at the expense of queer people and would never dream of attempting to coerce or persuade anyone to stay in or return to a toxic environment (which she recognizes the church to be for many LGBT people). Her relationships with the many LGBT people she knows (those inside the church and outside, single people and people in a variety of relationships) have never been established on anything other than love.

    This comment is far too long. I doubt anyone will read it. To conclude I wish to reiterate what I said before. If you take issue with the actual ideas in my mom’s piece, that’s fine. Join the conversation! Talk about the ideas civilly. If you perceived my mother’s piece as a personal or collective attack on your allyship or parenthood, I’m really sorry you felt that way and I’d invite you to reread the piece more closely and to try a bit more to understand what my mom meant. If you have called my mother’s allyship into question or attacked her as a person or parent, then you simply do not know her. She’s neither perfect nor beyond reproach, but she is good and her heart and actions are on point.

  36. Please do not encourage people to follow this lifestyle. It will only end in unhappiness.
    Members who encourage others to pursue the path of homosexuality will jeopardize their own exaltation.

  37. I’m brand new in taking a look at all this, just never had a reason to. I’ve been reading everything I can find for 2 days almost non-stop. I’m wondering if it is all about youth with sexual identity issues, and hoping it is, because I believe once a person is mature they realize everyone will be challenged throughout their lives with things that go to their core, it’s the way it is. If everyone spent as much time on each issue as is spent on this no one would have time to get anything positive done and satin wins. Please teach the youth to expect a hard life but turn to the Lord, He is the light for each path and each is different. As soon as you get a break from your pain and get your breath, use it to turn and help someone else keeping in mind most pain is unseen. Let’s not focus so much on the pain itself or what causes it, but on the relief that only can come from Christ’s Light. If it were a contest of who’s pain is the worst, we all think we would win. I promise it will all be taken from you to your glorious surprise when you choose to hand it over to Christ.

  38. Amen and amen to everything you said, Mary – this divisiveness and focus on all the problems and pain are EXACTLY what Satan wants and promotes. I love how you put it – we should all “get a break from the pain and get our breath” and then look around to see all the good that we can do in this troubled world. You have done good today with your compassion and wisdom. Thank you.

  39. Thank you Christie Frandsen. Thank you Christian Frandsen. (And Rosalynde Welch for bringing this.) I don’t have to agree on every line and detail (I don’t) to agree wholeheartedly with the tone and desire and overall purpose (I do).

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