Building Bridges Step By Step

Giant tears welled up in my eyes and streamed down my cheeks. As I prepared to step forward, I could hardly see where to place my foot. The tidal wave of emotion washing over, around and through me was so huge – so completely overwhelming and unexpected – I could barely breathe. Here I was, experiencing one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life, and I wasn’t attending a church meeting, or worshiping in a temple, or singing with the choir (all the usual places I feel the holy spirit). This time, I was standing in the middle of a street.

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About one year ago, I met a group of Latter-day Saints who promote acceptance and provide support for our LGBT population. Mormons Building Bridges is a grassroots community of average, good people – comprised of both Mormon and non – straight and gay – coming together to build a bridge of understanding between all different viewpoints and life paths – striving together to create safe spaces with unconditional love and respect for those who identify as LGBTQI and those who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.

“The MBB community asserts that all our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers are inherently worthy of love and belonging in our homes, congregations, and communities – no matter where their life path may take them…

– from Mormons Building Bridges mission statement

“This bridge building is inspired by the testimonies of gay, transgender, and straight Latter-day Saints who seek a Christ-centered life. In other words, this community exists because of our faith, not in spite of it!”

Within the rest of this post, I have included some quotes from Latter-day Saint leaders that have inspired the work of MBB.

For Good

My husband and I have been uplifted, inspired and edified each time we’ve had the privilege of associating with this community of amazing brothers and sisters. We stand with them as trusted friends and allies, and all are welcomed.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” – D&C 58:27

mormons-building-bridges-retreat

Utah has experienced the highest increase in youth suicide among all 50 states in our nation. The suicide and homelessness rate among LGBTQ+ youth is disproportionately greater within the statistics. This is a heart breaking situation, and particularly sorrowful in an area with so many who have made covenants with Jesus Christ.

quentin cook lds apostle

“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach.”

– Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (MormonandGay.LDS.org)

I have wept over the stories of shame and hopelessness our dear youth (and adults) have felt, and the terror of what could happen when “coming out” to their family. Blessedly, many are being embraced and encircled in the arms of their families. But sadly many more have experienced crushing rejection, even to the point of being cast out of their homes. There is difficulty for them to find a safe place in our community, and their feelings of despair are compounded with losing the unconditional love and acceptance they previously felt from their families, friends and religious community before coming out.

elder ballard photo

“If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times… The Lord expects a great deal from us. Parents, please teach your children and practice yourselves the principle of inclusion of others and not exclusion because of religious, political, or cultural differences.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Actions Speak Louder

One of the ways that MBB actively show their love, support and bridge building is by volunteering at the annual Pride Festival – walking in the parade, and manning a popular booth where anyone is welcome to come over and be “Hugged by A Mormon” (and there’s stickers) 🙂

hugged by a mormon sticker

neill f marriott lds

“This [LGBT rights] movement arose after centuries of ridicule, persecution and even violence against homosexuals. Ultimately, most of society recognized that such treatment was simply wrong, and that such basic human rights as securing a job or a place to live should not depend on a person’s sexual orientation. […]

God is loving and merciful. His heart reaches out to all of His children equally and He expects us to treat each other with love and fairness.”
Sister Neill Marriott Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency and member of the LDS Church’s Public Affairs Committee

My Choice

In May, I was invited to come and join the MBB events at Utah’s June Pride festival. My heart immediately leaped up, yearning to go! But, the parade is held on a Sunday, at the very same time as my choir commitment.

What should I do?

The easy, “logical choice” was simply go to choir. After all, wouldn’t I be serving others on Sunday by singing and fulfilling my calling? Of course. This was a perfectly good and honorable choice. And yet, for some reason, it didn’t feel like the right choice for me. I wrestled back and forth inside and spent much time in prayer asking my Heavenly Father to guide me. As the June date drew closer, I felt increased anxiousness. There was a pressing need to be at choir not just for attendance but also for an extra tour rehearsal. And yet, still this unrelenting feeling that I should participate with MBB.

A Prophet’s Voice

On Friday night June 1, 2018 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a world-wide event called the BE ONE CELEBRATION. This concert/devotional commemorated the 40th anniversary of the priesthood ban being lifted for all blacks in the church. The program was broadcast LIVE and tape delayed from the filled 21,000 seat Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City. I watched it online, and it was a beautiful program (available to watch any time). It’s all good. But, if you don’t have time for the full two hours on the video feed, I recommend scrolling forward and just watching the final power-packed 15 minutes; this is when the incomparable Gladys Knight gives her powerhouse solo of “There’s a place For Us” with the Be One Choir, and then our prophet Russell M. Nelson gives his closing remarks.

Be One Celebration Images
Gladys Knight singing (left), President Russell M. Nelson Speaking (right) – Photos @DesNews

And when President Nelson began to speak, that’s when I got a powerful, personal answer to my prayer.

“Ultimately, we realize that only the comprehension of the true Fatherhood of God can bring full appreciation of the true brotherhood of men and the true sisterhood of women. That understanding inspires us with passionate desire to build bridges of cooperation instead of walls of segregation.

Russell M. Nelson, Be One Celebration, June 1, 2018

build-bridges
BUILD BRIDGES instead of Walls!

The Spirit of God clearly witnessed where I needed to be on Sunday morning – and very unexpectedly, my answer came directly from the mouth of my prophet!

He even included a special blessing, with additional confirmation:

“It is my prayer and blessing that I leave upon all who are listening that we may overcome any burdens of prejudice and walk uprightly with God — and with one another — in perfect peace and harmony.”

In Perfect Peace

Once I decided to go to the parade, I finally felt peace! I honestly didn’t know what to expect since before Sunday, I’d never attended a Pride event. I am not gay, and as an active Utah Latter-day Saint woman, I’ve lived five decades in a very insular community of comfortable [if rather boring] ‘sameness’.

Until recently, the thought never occurred to me to attend a gay pride event. From time to time I’ve certainly been curious, but overall I wasn’t sure I would “belong” or be welcomed.

However, President Nelson’s powerful message gave me courage to “overcome ANY BURDENS of PREJUDICE and WALK…”

On Saturday I made my poster that I would carry. I chose a favorite scripture from a beloved Book of Mormon prophet (words oft quoted during Friday’s Be One celebration):

“All Are Alike Unto God.” – 2 Nephi 26:33

On Sunday morning I donned my “church clothes” with 300+ other Mormons to “walk uprightly with God – and with one another – in perfect peace and harmony” for our LGBTQAI brothers and sisters.

It was so cool to see everyone’s posters and smiles as we lined up in our assigned “holding area”! Click on my colorful photos to enlarge & scroll through them!


Worshiping On Our Feet

We began our event with a small devotional. First, we sang an opening hymn

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An opening prayer was offered, and an inspirational quote was shared:

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“We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home where their brothers and sisters love them and where they have a place to worship and serve the Lord.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

With Faith In Every Footstep

The parade was huge (over 150 entries I think), excellently organized, and peaceful. There was so much love, generosity, inclusion and kindness everywhere I turned. (of course there were some protesters, but they were being lovingly ignored) When we turned the corner and started walking on the parade route, a tremendous cheer rose up like I’ve only heard in a stadium for a football touchdown! It was incredible.

We’ve reached the moment I found myself sobbing in the middle of a street.

MBB_Pride Parade SLC
Photo credit Salt Lake Tribune @sltrib

As I walked, shouts of “We Love You!” and “Thank You!” were called out over and over. I saw so many people wiping away tears. I was truly overwhelmed with how appreciated this simple offering was – and how fully welcomed I felt by this beautiful, sweet community of souls. And it was a very LARGE community – with a record number of 100,000 in attendance!

dallin h oaks

“…we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or non-belief and differences in sexual orientation.”
— Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 4, 2014 LDS General Conference

Not everyone is going to feel comfortable marching in a pride parade. That’s OK! Who am I to judge? It took me 50+ years. This is certainly not the only nor the most significant way to show goodwill and build a bridge of love and kindness. This event was simply what I was able to do in this moment, and where I needed to be.

I truly believe the Lord will bless and magnify all our efforts and give us personalized direction and opportunities.

I will treasure forever the gift of inclusion I received from my LGBTQ+ pride community last weekend! In the words of Dr. Seuss, my heart “grew two sizes” on Sunday.

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Photo credit Deseret News @DesNews (hey…looky there!)

I felt the Spirit of God and our Savior’s Love at the Pride Parade, and I will joyfully join this event again, and any others I can to help build bridges of love – and especially to keep growing my heart. – MoSop

P.S. I moderate all comments. Please be kind.

10 comments

  1. I love this. I marched with MBB with my 10 year old son this year. We marched last year but on our own. I am transgender and honestly have been struggling with the Church lately. I cried walking with MBB this year. I felt the Spirit more strongly than I have in ages. It was a beautiful experience and renewed my desire to be visible within the Church. Thank you for being there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post made me cry. I love the way everyone who participated was non judgemental. That’s what God would have us be. In the Bible, it says Judge not, lest ye be judged. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be judged. And, thanks to Jesus, who took my sins on Himself on the cross, I don’t have to be judged. He died for everyone’s sin.

    I was an Interior Design major in college, and at the risk of type casting, all but 2 or 3 of the guys in the program were openly gay. They were very nice and good friends. I don’t know why people are different like that, but I’m sure God knows. Some people say it’s the way they’re born, and others say it’s a choice. I have no idea. It’s not up to me to decide, it’s just up to me to love them.

    Matthew 22:36-39 says: 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    That makes it pretty clear. You made the right choice. Love you Holly, Lynne

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Holly this is an absolutely beautiful story and I am so grateful you shared. What a magnificent moment and tender mercy for you and all those who were there to experience the true pure love of our Father in Heaven for all His children. Thank you for your example.

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