LDS LGBT+ Youth are Watching: A Gay Man’s Reminder to Speak Up

GUEST POST: Growing up in primary, it was ingrained in me that I always needed to live like Jesus because, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was special. People are always watching so we need to be an example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. That lesson has stuck with me. I’ve always tried to be like Jesus, which is hard when the authorities of your church and others who love you tell you living as a gay man is incompatible with discipleship.

I was raised in Salt Lake City. As I grew older, I realized that I was having “evil” thoughts, some would say “unnatural,” about other boys. I became especially careful at about not doing anything that would give away that I was battling “demons” on the inside. After all, people were watching. They’d see. They’d treat me as an aberration and maybe an enemy of the Church. At some point, my actions became less about setting an example and more about not letting anyone know my secret. I was afraid that my community wouldn’t accept me. So I hid my true nature and pretended to be someone that I’m not.

Who am I? I’m a returned missionary and a former branch president. I’ve been a member of Elders Quorum presidencies and bishoprics. I spent over a decade as a gay man in various singles wards. Along the way, I have made many LDS friends, but I hid part of myself. And I watched.

Instead of being the example other people watched, I became the person who was always watching and listening to members of the Church, looking for their example. I listened to the talks during Sacrament, Stake Conference, and General Conference. I paid attention to the Sunday School lessons and comments by ward members. I heard about the gay agenda and gay attacks on the family.

At church social activities, I heard the jokes, and I paid close attention to how people in my circle laughed. I heard how they referred to gay people and others in the LGBT+ community. I listened to find acceptance and a safe space where I felt I could belong. I didn’t hear it.

I stayed in the closet for way too long–until I was 44 years old–because I didn’t feel safe to come out. There were no allies in my world speaking out about loving and accepting people like me. Rather, I heard about conversion therapy, mixed orientation marriages, and other ways of treating this “illness” called “same sex attraction” that nobody could explain. Back in those days, the LDS Church managed gay members by encouraging us to be quiet, to pretend to be straight, to live “as if’ by entering into mixed orientation marriages, and to just pray it away. Basically, stay in the closet because the God who made me gay wanted me there.

The address that Jeffrey Holland gave on August 23, 2021 to BYU faculty is the same message that I heard thirty years ago, but this time it’s packaged as much for the outspoken LGBT+ allies as for gay members.  Be quiet. Embrace a doctrine that you know in your heart is wrong. Stay in the closet. It is so sad to see the Church’s leadership using the same fear they used on me to now keep allies in the closet. When they attempt to silence the voices of our allies, they  take away our safe space and push LGBT+ members deeper into the closet with all the loneliness, isolation and depression that comes with it.   

I have watched the reactions of my friends when the Church changed its policy on baptizing children of gay parents and then changed it back again; I watched the reactions as BYU removed the language on homosexuality in the BYU Honor Code and then, after students came out publicly, put it back; and now I’m watching the reaction (or lack thereof) to an apostle calling for BYU faculty to take up their “muskets” against gay marriage. They can’t “fire” at gay marriage without firing at gay people like me and my husband. I don’t know if it was Elder Holland’s intent to make the lives of LGBT+ members much more difficult, but he did.

After I first came out, I didn’t participate in Pride events. I told myself that I wasn’t one of those kind of gays. I don’t march in parades and fly flags. (This was partly due to the emotional baggage I still carried.) Then I realized that the only reason I had found the courage to come out was because I had seen others before me come out. I had seen the love and acceptance they received from our allies. I had witnessed people just like me with full, happy lives. Now, I fly the rainbow flag every chance I get. I don’t do it for myself. I do it for others that are where I was ten years ago, looking for that safe space where they can be who they were created to be. 

When I decided to live as an out gay man, we had social media, but not the public LDS allies I see today. I knew a community existed outside of the Church where I would be accepted with open arms, but I mourned the thought of walking away from everything and everyone I had grown up with, including my family and friends, if they chose not to accept and respect me. I had to mentally prepare to lose everyone. This was desperation not desertion of principle. Imagine what kind of place you’d have to be in to say goodbye to your family, your friends, your entire community. That was where I was. I didn’t want to lose any of them.

Over the years since I’ve come out, I’ve been repeatedly heartbroken at the perceived lack of support I have seen from my LDS friends and family members. It’s become incredibly easy for people to take a public stand on things they care about. A “like” or “love,” a retweet or share, or even exclamation points or other emojis are all it takes. In an age where people have no problem sharing how they feel about presidential candidates or vaccines, the Church membership largely refuses to directly share their love for their own LGBT+ community.

I’ve seen “friends” be there for me when my little sister died of cancer and then be absent two months later when I got engaged to an amazing man who also has an LDS background. When searching for a wedding venue, my fiancé and I were turned away by the owner because he said our marriage was not part of “God’s plan.”  Only a handful of our LDS friends reached out with their support, but do you know who was there for us? Episcopalians, Unitarians, Presbyterians, atheists and many others, all acting a lot more like Jesus than my “friends” from the church in which I was blessed as an infant, baptized as a child, received the priesthood as a young man, and served continually.   

I heard unexpectedly from other LDS friends who were closeted and in mixed orientation marriages but who just couldn’t keep it in any longer and a friend whose teenage child was outed unexpectedly and then attempted suicide. These are active members of the Church. They are also watching and listening to Church leaders and to the members surrounding them.  We are all watching, listening, and waiting for you to speak up. 

We are not going away. A recent survey suggests that up to 23% of Gen Z members of the Church identify as non-heterosexual.  LBGT+ members of the Church (especially youth) need to see that they have people who love and accept them exactly as God created them, despite what church leaders or society tell them to reject. Our gay youth need allies that aren’t afraid to publicly speak out for them, to accept them as equals, let them know they aren’t broken or a mistake, and give them a safe space where they can live their authentic lives.

I don’t share this message for myself. I am not looking for validation or acceptance. I have found my tribe that loves and accepts me unconditionally and celebrates my marriage. I write these words for your co-workers, for your neighbors, for your fellow ward members, for your extended family members, and for your children. I have been where they are, desperately searching for affirmation and acceptance and only hearing silence.

I understand that it is easier to just go along with the Brethren, but members of the Church have remained on the sidelines on this issue for way too long. Put down your muskets and lift up your voices. Remember what you learned in Primary. You are special, you are an example to the world–a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints–and we are watching.  

Jeff Cannon-Lucero

~~~

Jeff is a finance executive turned real estate investor who lives in Dallas, TX with his husband Aaron, a high school choir director. A descendent of George Cannon, whose sister was married to John Taylor, the third president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints, his family history dates back to the earliest days of the Church. He is an avid tennis player and enjoys traveling the world with his husband whenever school is not in session

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. ~ Matt 25:40

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7 thoughts on “LDS LGBT+ Youth are Watching: A Gay Man’s Reminder to Speak Up

  1. Rob

    Edited by LTD to add a TRIGGER WARNING for bigotry. My policy at LoBoMB is allow comments that are relevant to the topic even if they may be painful and wrong-headed.-LTD

    We should speak up, and we should speak loudly. Our youth today are growing up in an ever growing perverse society and culture where they are being conditioned to shun marriage, embrace homosexuality, and decry against morality. What should we accept? Should we accept the very secular conditioning and acceptance that will destroy our very existance? Living in a homosexual relationship is contrary to all that God teaches. We shouldn’t support anything, nor anybody, who promotes homosexual lifestyles.

    We need to return to God, and returning to God means turning away from the lusts of the flesh and the evil therein which drown men in sin and perdition. The hope of our future lies with our youth who hold fast to chastity, virtue, and sound morals who overcome the great sin of the world.

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    1. I appreciate your reading and can see that you are passionate in your belief. However, you are an unwise servant. The future of the Church (if it is to have one) will be youth who emulate the compassion and the inclusion of the Savior while rejecting the Pharisees who stick to vain traditions. Rob, please read more here and other places. Discover the humanity and the goodness of our LDS LGBTQ people and the inhumanity of how they’ve been treated.

      I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: Two boys are born in the Church. They both attend weekly as they grow up, they receive each office of the priesthood, serve missions, date with chasteness, and marry. One boy is heterosexual and the other is homosexual, both created these ways by God. Each has made the same moral choices. Such a gay son of God is not giving in the “lusts of the flesh” or “evil” any more than the straight person.

      The Church will revisit it’s doctrine or it will die on the vine. It will repent of the damage its done, damage I could attribute to ignorance until the last 30 or so years when the evidence is plain before us. The LDS Church I joined promised me it would accept all truth, no matter where it is found. It has failed miserably to live up to that idea.

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      1. Rob

        God didn’t create, nor purpose any of his sons or daughters to act upon homosexual feelings. It’s an abominable sin to act contrary to God’s moral laws. God must be a bigot too then by your standards.
        We are to put off the natural man. This applies to all forms of immoral sexual relations or acts by anyone, heterosexual, or homosexual. The penalty of giving in to the flesh and the sins thereof is damnation in hell. Two married guys who do not change and repent? The damnation of hell! A husband who cheats on his wife? The damnation of hell!
        There is absolutely nothing godly about any form of homosexual behavior (I’m not saying attraction here). Marriage of two homosexuals to each other is almost the most damnable thing a person can do in the sight of God. The damnation of hell awaits them.

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  2. Aubrey

    1 in 5 youths today identify somewhere along the LGBTQ spectrum. The ones who suffer the most are the ones exposed to degrading and dehumanizing messages from those who use their professed Christianity as justification for hate. You are telling them that you know the mind of God, and that He hates them for something that they did not ask for and cannot change. That He created them for the sole purpose of damning them. I cannot imagine worshiping at the feet of such a malevolent deity. That is not the Father I love, that is not the Christ that I know. I will be forever grateful to be a part of this community, that I was given this child, grateful for the sacred experiences I have had along the way that have shown me how boundless the love of God is when it is not being hemmed in by the hate and ignorance of men. Your words, Rob, will NEVER bring a child struggling with their gender or sexual identity closer to Christ. They will never feel his love for them through your contempt and disgust. I hope that the youths in your orbit who are suffering under the weight of your judgements against them can find the support they need that you are unable and unwilling to give them, and able to feel His love for them even through your hate, because without it, your words could likely have a hand in killing them. And I highly doubt that Christ will congratulate you for that.

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  3. Rob

    TW placed by LTD

    Something that has always interested me the illusory truth effect. The illusory truth effect is the effect a repeated statement has on the mind that convinces one to believe a lie even if they know it to be a lie to begin with. It’s the great tool of the devil- repeat something enough times and people will believe anything.

    Believing that an active homosexual was “born that way” is such an example of the illusory truth effect. It’s been repeated so many times that people adopt it as a truth. Of interest is that we don’t believe, for instance, that an adulterer was “born that way” because it’s never a repeated statement and coupled with congratulations that affirm the illusory effect.

    One Of the main reasons gay people want their unions to be recognized (same sex marriage) is that it bolsters the cause of the illusory effect in creating the effect that since marriage is ordained of God, then they too are ordained of God and as such attain or attempt to attain the high praise we place upon marriage as a crowning achievement in society. If enough gay people get married it creates that illusion of truth effect and pretty soon a lot of people believe that same sex marriage is also ordained of God.

    These are all the devil’s tools to carefully and craftilly lead God’s children down into the everlasting chains of hell.

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    1. Putting Down My Musket

      Rob, Check out the church’s websites on “same sex attraction.” The church acknowledges that our LGBT+ friends do not choose to have their feelings. You are judging unrighteously.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m afraid, Rob, that if you are LDS, you are out of sync with the Brethren on this. What you’ve written here suggests that the president of the church is using “the devil’s tools too carefully and craftily lead God’s children down into the everlasting chains of hell.”

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