Today’s guest post is written by Lori Bolland Embree. Opinions shared on guest posts may not completely reflect the positions of the blog’s author.
Lori Bolland Embree is a feminist ginger from Parker Idaho, raised by a Lutheran father and an LDS mother. She was a high school teacher and debate coach for many years, and now teaches interpersonal communication, public speaking, and communication essentials part time at BYU-Idaho. Lori is a Mama Dragon and sees a huge need for acceptance and assistance for the LBGTQIA students at BYU-I. She is married, has nine children (some biological, some step, some adopted) and seven grandchildren.
This letter was written in response to An Open Letter to Tyler Glenn written by “Stephen.” The tone of the letter is meant to mirror the tone that was found in the letter mentioned above. The intent is not to be disrespectful, but to shed light on what it looks like to write from a certain vantage point from both sides of any given issue.
I don’t know you personally, and you don’t know me. I am prompted to write this letter from my perspective as a Mama Dragon. If you don’t know by now what a MD is, I encourage you to check out our website (www.mamadragons.org). We exist to protect our LGBTQIA children, and provide love, support, service, and assistance to those who are struggling. We also provide education to those struggling with accepting LGBTQIA human-beings.
When I saw your blog pop up on my newsfeed, I was excited. A letter from a fellow fan! And a member of the Church~Surely some Christlike love and understanding would come from this letter for the purpose of being a comfort to Tyler. Tyler needs comfort. We all need comfort.
But when you stated you were shocked at his recent artistic expression, I got sad. I’m not outraged, or indignant, or offended, or even self-pious or righteous Stephen, I am sad. Sad for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, I am sad that while you recognize Tyler is in a place of pain and frustration; instead of mourning with “those who mourn,” you don’t consider WHY he may feel the way he does. This diminishes his reality, and the reality of our dear LGBTQIA brothers and sisters and their families. You then scold Tyler for his emotions and shame him for swearing (in the literal sense of the word), without giving light or focus to the catalyst behind Tyler’s emotions.
You see Stephen, Tyler wants what most of us want: to love and be loved, to enjoy his family–past, present, and future–and to be welcome in the belief system of his upbringing and choice. After all, we do believe that we are free to worship according to the dictates of OUR OWN conscience. This means not your conscience, not my conscience, not even The Church’s collective conscience….TYLER’s. This also means we must allow those within our own congregations to be where they need to be.
I am also sad because you have taken the time in your letter to condescend to Tyler instead of seeking to understand him. To preach to Tyler instead of trying to listen to him. And to remind Tyler of all the ordinances and blessings that you have and can participate in, while our Church won’t allow Tyler, his spouse, or his children to ever have because of the lifestyle you believe he is choosing. Did you consider for at least a moment, that while you were writing about your Provo Temple double shift, and your enlightened spiritual experiences, and the experiences of the people in that temple with you, that Tyler and many other LGBTQIA folks would not be welcome in that temple with you? And you can bristle at that all you want, and say that LGBTQIA people come to temples all the time. But I can tell you that if they do, they are acting (or trying to) act like a heterosexual person. They are either single, naive, alone, or married and trying their darnedest to just be heterosexual. They are currently not allowed to be how God created them to be, and Stephen…it is not a sin to be. Tyler no more chose his sexuality than you or I did.
While you were at the peak of your own holiness at the temple, we Mama Dragons were putting the finishing touches on the first residential support temporary homeless youth shelter in Utah. Utah has the highest number of homeless LGBTQIA teens in the nation. We also have a pretty high youth suicide rate. While you were making eternal bonds with dead loved ones, we were taking care of the needs of the barely alive ones here in Utah and all over the world who are starving (physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, mentally). It is humbling and hard to be on the Lord’s errand.
I’m sorry that you can’t show Tyler’s music video to your LDS friends. My friend Julie knows how you feel. She is sorry that she can’t show Tyler’s music video to her gay son. He took his own life not too long ago.
I’m sad that you and many other Latter-Day Saints will label Tyler as “just another angry ex-Mormon who can’t leave the Church alone.” You mean the church Tyler was faithful to for over thirty years, and served an honorable mission for? The same church that is now literally pushing him (his spouse, and his kids in perpetuity) out of the pews that he sat, served, and was sanctified in?
Your attitude is the last thing we need at a time like this, Stephen. Tyler needs empathy and love. Not pious condescension and judgement. Our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters need us to work towards acceptable space in the pews for them to sit next to us. And we need to include a few more pews so Tyler, and all our dear LGBTQIA brothers and sisters can bring their spouses, their children, and their families.
We are all beloved children of Heavenly Parents who were all created in Their Image. We all have eternal worth, no matter our age, gender, sexual orientation, or background. I hope we will strive to keep remembering that there is room for all at Their Table, and that we can call Home any time we want to for personal guidance, without an operator or interpreter.
I hope we will all learn to fully love and accept (yes fully accept) each other. We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
God has yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God (from 9th Article of our Faith). And because of our relatively new light and knowledge that science has brought to us; this gives me great hope for all of us, including (and maybe especially) our LGBTQIA siblings.
Like a superstition, I will say a prayer for you,
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org. She authors the Mormon Therapist Blog, hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex InfoPodcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.