- “If I’m Accepting of My LGBTQ Child, Exactly What Am I Accepting?”
by Becky Mackintosh
Love Boldly (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, 2019), 41. Courtesy of Cedar Fort, Inc. Used by permission.
“Do I love and support my church?” or “Do I love and support my child who has a same-sex partner?” We can do both.
—Elder Dale G. Renlund
Several years ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks received a letter from an upset parent. What deeply moved him the most was when the parent said, “After I found out my son is gay . . . I forbad him to come to our home, and I cut him off and said he’s not my son anymore.” Elder Oaks replied, “That’s just not acceptable behavior on the part of a parent, and in a loving relationship, and even in the public square.” He then encouraged that parent to repent and reestablish a loving relationship with the child.
It’s one thing to imagine how you might react if one of your children started dating a member of the same sex and wanted to bring him or her home for dinner. It’s quite another to actually get a text from your child saying precisely that.
I’ll never forget the day my son texted me to let me know he was dating a guy. And not just any guy. This was someone he really cared about. Someone he wanted to bring over for dinner to meet the family. Our family! I was well aware that Sean might try dating a guy at some point in his life. Of course, I held out hope he might avoid such relationships. I also hoped he might try dating women again. (As if those attractions would magically appear.) I didn’t know Sean had been dating, much less dating someone he cared about enough to invite to family dinner and bring into our home.
The possibility I’d been cloaking with deniability was suddenly exposed with a blinding flash of reality—a reality for which I was so inadequately prepared. The dizziness hit just as surprisingly. The memory from two years prior came flooding back when I had told our kids that if Sean started dating men, he would not be allowed to bring the date into our home. I was so concerned about the example he would be setting for my kids and grandkids.
Now it was a reality.
I read Sean’s text again. Then I got upset. Really upset. I thought, How could Sean do this to me? Why didn’t he prepare me? And how can he tell me he has a boyfriend in a text?
I said a quick prayer. “Please, Heavenly Father. How do I handle this? What should I say?”
Objecting would be hurtful. But accepting would be, well, accepting. I repeated a similar prayer several times because I was perplexed by the answer. It was the same message I’d been getting all along: “Love him. Love him no matter what.”
Impatiently, I argued back, “This is different. He wants to bring his boyfriend into our home.” Again, a kind and patient response: “Love him. Love him no matter what.” I knew what that meant. I knew it meant that I should tell Sean that anyone he loved was welcome in our home.
I had so many questions that weren’t being answered. Or so many answers I didn’t want questioned. I searched for peace as I considered many of the ramifications of “allowing” Sean to bring his boyfriend to our next family dinner. Still, the Lord blessed me with a clear answer, so I moved forward with more faith and less fear.
I took a deep breath as I texted Sean back. “Yes, of course.”
I sent out a group text to my other six children, letting them know Sean was bringing a guy—someone he really cared about—to our family dinner to meet the family. Unfortunately, when the hypothetical discussion about Sean dating other young men became a reality, the concerns of some family members intensified—in opposite directions. One of my children and their spouse insisted that if we were to include Sean’s boyfriend that would be setting a bad example. Kids and grandkids would think we were actively supporting gay relationships. They reminded me that I’d held this same point of view, and now it felt as if I were betraying them and God. They felt I was choosing Sean’s boyfriend over my own grandchildren. That one really hurt. However, I could not deny the witness from the Holy Spirit that Scott and I needed to love and include all of our children as best we could.
The morning of the family dinner, I was busy preparing dinner in the kitchen when I heard Sean pull into the driveway. I nervously went into the family room to greet him and his boyfriend. As Sean introduced his guest, my initial thought was, “What a nice young man.” He was polite and gracious. After dinner, we played games until late in the evening. I hugged each of my children and Sean’s date goodbye as they parted for home.
Not once did Heavenly Father tell me to shun, shame, or show disapproval of Sean. I did anyway, more times than I care to admit. Needless to say, it never turned out well. Contention would creep into my thoughts and then my heart. Wedges would form. Defenses would build. Trust would dwindle.
The next summer, Sean and his boyfriend moved in together around the same time our youngest daughter moved in with her boyfriend. Though these changes were not a complete shock, they were two hard pills to swallow. Scott and I couldn’t help but feel we were failing as parents. I wondered, “What’s happening to my eternal family? Where is the joy in family life?”
My emotions were all over the place. I felt anger, sadness, and grief. My mind whirled with questions for God: “Who has the greater sin? My son or my daughter?” Once again, we were desperately trying to navigate uncharted territory. I was getting seasick and wanted to help steady the ship but didn’t know how.
As a mother and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my hope has always been for the welfare of our children. I wanted them to walk the gospel path, the one path that has brought peace to my soul. Yet, I have spent many nights unable to sleep, tossing and turning with worry for my children. Oftentimes I’d get back up and fall to my knees, seeking guidance and comfort through prayer, or seek solace and answers in the scriptures.
My heart was softened as I thought about each of our children and their significant other. I felt an overwhelming desire for all of us to be together as a family, united in love. I also thought about Lehi and his vision, when he partook of the fruit of the tree of life and “began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit” (1 Nephi 8:12). Scott was having a tough time wrapping his mind around our children’s living arrangements. He was pretty upset, so I reminded him, “Scott, you know we have to love and embrace our children and their boyfriends. Otherwise, they won’t want to be here or have anything to do with us. Their boyfriends won’t want to come here or ever learn about our church if the very people they see as churchgoers are some of the most judgmental and cruel.”
I quickly added, “We have to love. Our children know our values. They know our perspective. But if we want a relationship with our children, we need to respect their agency.” Scott agreed. He knew it was our best chance at bringing our family closer together and keeping them that way.
As time went on, some of our children still chose not to attend certain family gatherings. They were greatly missed. Family gatherings weren’t the same. It was a stressful and pain-filled time. I prayed and pleaded with God for answers on how to bring my family together in spite of differences.
When I visited with my children who were opting out, they continued to tell me they did not approve of our decision to open our door to all. I tried to say things that might soften their hearts and create more unity. I even shared articles and scriptures—I suppose in a manner similar to how I’d been sharing with Sean after he first came out to us. That often led to more division and hurt feelings. At some point, I realized I’d been trying to change their perspective and how they lived their lives. Yes, sharing such things might be good in some instances. However, I soon learned to be more prayerful and circumspect. I quit insisting on my own point of view and sending articles that supported what I thought.
I sought personal revelation through frequent trips to the temple and constantly being on my knees, which brought peace and reassurance that it would all work out. I didn’t know how things would work out, but I had to trust that God did. I was doing my best in the best way I knew how.
We continued to extend the invitation for all of our children to be respectful toward anyone who chose not to attend. When I was finally able to step back and look at things with a more objective and inspired perspective, I realized that all of us were coming from a place of integrity—that which we felt was best for our individual families.
One evening, after another family gathering with empty chairs at the table, I was feeling especially frustrated and discouraged because I couldn’t seem to find the right words to say or figure out how to say what I thought without creating bigger holes in the knitting project that was my family. After everyone went home, I sat down at my computer to check my emails, and a subject line from LDS Living magazine caught my eye: “Pres. Monson Gives Important Caution for Latter-day Saints.” It read in part:
We’ve all felt anger. It can come when things don’t turn out the way we want. It might be a reaction to something which is said of us or to us. We may experience it when people don’t behave the way we want them to behave. Perhaps it comes when we have to wait for something longer than we expected. We might feel angry when others can’t see things from our perspective. There seem to be countless possible reasons for anger. . . .
To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.
This article came at the perfect time. It shared an example of a family divided that over time was able to come to a place of understanding, a place of forgiveness, and join together in loyalty and unity. It was just what I needed, and it turned out to be just what our family needed also. I sent the article to my kids, telling them that it had touched my heart. I received a heartfelt reply the next day: “Thank you for sharing this article. I didn’t know if things would ever be better. But after reading our Prophet’s message, I know it will be better. I love you too, Mom.”
The Prophet spoke gospel truths, and the Holy Ghost confirmed those truths, allowing them to sink deep into our hearts. We loved each other and wanted to be together. We sought to turn to Christ and reach for the healing power of the Atonement. Where there was anger, there began to be greater understanding and a renewed desire to open our hearts and our homes. The hearts of each family member was softened and strengthened in the Lord’s timing.
Scott and I learned to respect our children’s agency and choices—whether it was Sean choosing to bring a date to a family event, or other children choosing to avoid the family event altogether. We have always encouraged our children to be mindful of different perspectives and respond to one another with respect and kindness. We emphasized that our door would be open to everyone—each member of our family—and extended family had the same invitation to our gatherings. While we hoped all would come, we knew some would not. It hurt when anyone was missing.
I am grateful they all walk through the door now with love and respect. I have learned to turn a great deal more over to the Lord than I used to. The older I get, the more I realize how comprehensive the principles of faith and sacrifice truly are. Through our trust and faith in the Lord, we are willing to put everything at his feet, including that which buoys us up, and that which seeks to drag us down. The Lord is always there, waiting to help us along.
 Dale G. Renlund, Western Regional Conference, February 14, 2016
 Dallin H. Oaks, Tribtalk with Jennifer Napier-Pearce, January 29, 2015
 Thomas S. Monson, “School Thy Feelings, O My Brother,” Ensign, November 2009.