In February of 1999, I awoke at 2 am, picked up the phone, and heard two male voices, one of which was my son’s; obviously talking to someone he had met online. In my forty years as a devout, very proud, 5th generation Mormon, I cannot recall ever being taught how to deal with this situation. I was horrified, devastated, and angry! My ‘knee-jerk’ reaction was to storm down the stairs to shake some sense into him.
Here I was in the midst of a horrific divorce, having recently fled our small town in Idaho, literally lifting my children from their beds at 4 am to escape a volatile situation, while at the same time fighting a life threatening brain tumor. How could Tyler do this to me?
Throughout my 18-year abusive marriage, Tyler was my right hand, my rock. He was kind and tender to the younger children. He was bright, talented, an over achiever, and excelled in everything he did. He was a model child, what every mother would hope for in a son. I knew he was different. He had an amazing spirit and I was sure God sent him to me as my angel. I honestly believed he would be the prophet of my church someday.
In my moment of terror, I fell to my knees. “God, help me find the words. Please don’t let me screw this up. Do not let me say the wrong thing. You better intervene here because I just want to tear into him!” I was reeling; my body was shaking as I made my way down the stairs. The instant I opened the family room door, he turned, his face full of fear as he abruptly hung up the phone.
I motioned for him to come to the couch. As we sat down a peaceful feeling overcame me. I felt loving arms embrace us both and I heard someone else’s words saying, “I love you. It’s okay. I love you.” We sat together, with what every fiber of my being knew was God, enfolded in His arms. We cried. Engulfed in the purest love I had ever experienced, that moment lasted for hours, with the only words spoken, “I love you, it’s okay, I love you”.
I wish I had I completely transformed in those moments, with total acceptance of my son’s homosexuality. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Tyler endured days, weeks, and months of me probing, bombarding him with questions. “Are you sure it’s not a phase? What about your girlfriend? Is this because of your dad? On and on I tried to make some sense of it, to make it fit, but there was no place in my religious reality for it to go. Yet I kept remembering Gods words, “I love you, it is okay.” He knew my son in entirety and now, so did I.
I am forever grateful God let me know that Tyler was exactly as He had created him to be. While the LDS church had a very different view on homosexuality, I didn’t feel a need to choose between the two. I felt God would sort it out one day.
Two years later Tyler’s sister Amanda confided to me that she was gay. Thankfully, this time it was not a surprise, and certainly not a struggle to deal with, only a blessing that I could be close to both my gay children and cherish them, as with my other children, for the unique individuals they are.
It is every Mormon mother’s dream for her child to marry a “Returned Missionary” and Tyler did just that on June 17, 2008 in San Francisco. I did not realize how that would drastically change my life. Soon after, the Mormon Church made the call to its members to donate ALL of their time and means for the passage of Proposition 8. I was shocked and sickened as I watched the church insert their power and money to fund a propaganda campaign full of misinformation and fear, using their members’ devotion to obedience. I was heartbroken to find that my brothers donated thousands of dollars to the “Yes on 8” campaign. Though they agreed that this was a civil rights issue, their response to my pleas was, “The thinking has been done. I have to follow the prophet on this one.”
In that following October, my husband Steve, and I, with our married son Jeff and his wife Bonnie, drove to Salt Lake City to be part of a small group delivering petitions and letters pleading with our prophet to stop this blatant anti-gay agenda, which was tearing families apart.
We pulled up to the corner; saw the TV news cameras and media of every sort, our hearts were pounding, knees shaking. With tears in my eyes, I turned to my husband, “Are we ready for this?” We were naïve not to realize that wearing posters, “Proud of our Gay Kids,” that of course the cameras would beeline for us.
We refer to this as our coming out, on national news. We could not stay silent any longer and watch the church of which we once held as the ultimate light of truth, draw a line in the sand that forced parents to choose their child or the prophet. For me the choice was clear. I became “an accidental activist” that day. I vowed that I would stand up and be the voice for all the mothers of faith who feel conflicted and silenced by their churches.
We resigned from the LDS church not long after that day. This brought with it a great deal of pain as we were alienated by parents, siblings, children, friends, and business associates, that feel we are bashing the church by being vocal against its practices on this issue. My hope is that in time, love will prevail in honoring and establishing equal rights for ALL.