A Mormon Father’s Journey To Affirm His Gay Sons

There is, perhaps, no stronger feeling of love than the love a parent feels for his or her newborn child. As the child grows into their own unique self, inevitably pushing against the protective bounds the parent has set, that love is often put to the test. But there is nothing quite like the unconditional love of a parent, the love that is modeled on the love our Heavenly Parents have for all of us. It is that perfect love that guides us in the right direction and holds our families and communities together.  

Many years ago, I was not an ally to the LGBT community.

In fact, I’m sad to admit that I had very un-Christlike feelings toward gay people. I have always been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and while I learned many valuable life lessons and truths from my church, I also absorbed the idea that gay people were the worst of sinners and unworthy of God’s love.

Because of this belief, I felt justified in my feelings of ill-will toward them.

That all changed when my oldest son came out to my wife and me when he was a freshman at Brigham Young University. While it was a huge surprise and caused great anxiety initially, the unconditional love we had for our son overcame everything else, and we let him know he would always be a part of our family—nothing could change that.

His experience put a human face to something I had only ever known to be negative and shameful. As I learned of the pain and anguish he experienced as a youth because of the constant guilt and unworthiness he felt, I realized how harmful my previous negative feelings about gay people had been. 

My son was one of the most moral, upstanding young men I knew.

He had a strong faith in God and in his church. He went on to serve a mission for our church and graduated from BYU. Learning that he was gay made me realize that everything I thought I knew about being gay was plain wrong. This set me on an intensive course of reading, studying and learning about the lives and experiences of gay people.

Little did I know how important this change of heart was at that time—because our youngest son, unbeknownst to us, was coming to grips with being gay. He came out to us nine years later, just after returning home from serving an honorable mission for our church. 

Because of these experiences, my wife and I have become active members of a growing group of Mormons working toward greater understanding and acceptance of LGBT people within our church and community. The group that we helped start is called ALL, which comes from the Book of Mormon scripture that says “All are alike unto God,” and is also an acronym of "Arizona LDS LGBT.”

In starting this group, we set out to minister to our LGBT brothers and sisters, but I believe we have gained far more from them than we have ever given. I implore my fellow Mormons to carefully examine their prejudices about LGBT people and come to understand that the greatest response we can have is love.

This is the same unconditional love that binds our families and communities together.

Part of the reason for my activism on behalf of the LGBT community is inspired by a desire to atone for my misguided feelings in the past. I really hope that I would have ultimately reached the same place I am now even if I had never had gay children.

But the main reason for doing this is that I have come to feel a God-given, heartfelt love for all my LGBT brothers and sisters. They are like my family, and I want them to have the same rights, freedoms and opportunities for happiness that I have.

In addition to ALL, we are working here in Arizona to expand non-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity and ensure that no one faces discrimination because of who they are or who they love.

This is what God calls us to do: to love our neighbors and make their lives better, to minister to those who have are downtrodden, to help heal those whose hearts have been broken because of discrimination or bullying, and to fight for the rights of those who are oppressed. 

Ten years ago I could never imagine saying this, but I count it a blessing that I have two sons who are gay.

I would not change them even if I had the power to do so. Their being gay comes bundled with all the other unique gifts and personality traits that make them who they are. Being the parent of two gay sons has made me a better person, a better Christian, and a better follower of Christ. Their coming out proved to be liberating for me. It freed me from ignorance, prejudice and un-Christlike opinions. It reminded me of what it means to have unconditional love—the same love that God has for all his children.

It is my hope that my fellow church members, and people everywhere, will come to see LGBT people as God sees them, to really understand their lives and experiences, and to afford them the same blessings and opportunities we all enjoy.

Family photo provided by Bryce Cook

Comments (11)

I was so pleased to read your story of unconditional love for your sons. As a member of Community of Christ, I was present at our World Conference when our church voted in support of LGBT people. God bless ALL.

thank you for this we need more people like you and your wife iam gay and i dont ahve the support i need to grow and be at peace thank you can you adopt me.

Thank you for sharing!Aw

Eh, I generally don't respond well to I started caring about something only when that something touched me personally stories. They betray a decided lack of empathy in the person and besides that, nobody deserves praise for being minimally decent to other people. Accepting a peraon's innate nature that harms nobody is minimally expected, extra especially from a person that professes christian morals.

I respect your progress and appreciate the changes you have made in how you view the LGBT community. I do have to say that I am also a member of the LDS faith and the church never taught that "gay people were the worst of sinners and unworthy of God’s love" (as you indicated). I have two uncles and a number of cousins who are gay and understand personally the pain you have experienced and the change of heart. That said, I do have to ask, what value is there in spreading falsehoods about the church's position on gays? There is far too much blaming and finger pointing in the world today. With all due respect, your journey is valuable and inspiring without blaming the church. God bless you and your family and thanks for sharing your story!

Clarence if you need support and peace, our family would be happy to adopt you!

THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR DEEPEST THOUGHTS. YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ARE A
GREAT EXAMPLE FOR ALL OF US.

I hear you. I still struggle with the right or wrong of LGBT or whether or not I am one of them. However, the greatest commandment is to love.

Thank you so much for posting such important words, and thoughts, on something so misunderstood by so many. My experience, as a single mother, is very similar to yours. And, even though we have come so far as a society in accepting that the LGBT community are just people, like you and me, and deserve to have the same rights, benefits, and respect as you and I, we still have a long way to go. Your story needs to be shared, and told by others. In hope that we can help our society to understand that the LGBT people are amazingly, wonderful, beautiful, and unque people who deserve all that life has to offer.

What a beautiful story! My name is Dani and I am working on a dissertation on parental acceptance and would love for you to participate. It's confidential and no identifying information is required at all! Please consider sharing, your journey is wonderful to hear about and I'd love it to be reflected I my work! https://uky.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0vPz9H7kDrYF5zv

I would really like to make contact with this writer. I have the same situation in my home and find myself looking for any resources I can find. I love my son more than anything else and yet feel so helpless in what to say at times. This journey has reminded me how completely true it is not to only have unconditional love but to truly show it.

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