"Jesus said love everyone,
treat them kindly too.
When your heart is filled with love,
others will love you."
Despite our difference in political opinion, there is one aspect of homosexuality that Steven and I can wholeheartedly agree on. Just because someone is attracted to their same gender does not mean they should be ostracized, criticised, shunned or treated with any level of discrimination or unkindness.
Fortunately, this past year has been one of great strides for the LDS church and the LGBT community. First, they came out with the website mormonsandgays.org which has as the first line on the title page:
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
From the website:
Where the Church stands:
The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
Hopefully you all noticed the part where it says, "the attraction itself is not a sin" and "individuals do not choose to have such attractions." That's straight from the church's website. So, if you are Mormon and you have thought otherwise up until now, you may now stand corrected. :)
Also, I consider the most important part of this statement to be the final line, reading that "with love and understanding, [we] reach out to ALL of God's children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters."
My journey becoming an active ally for the LGBT community probably really began after reading about Josh Weed and that whole situation.
Josh's story gave me the courage to start being more and more open and courageous about sharing my love for the gays. :D
Somewhere in that time I discovered or was introduced to (I don't remember how it came about) the Facebook group, Mormons Building Bridges.
In case you are too lazy to click on that link and check them out, here is a little description about the group from their site:
"Mormons Building Bridges is dedicated to conveying love and acceptance to LGBTQI individuals. We support all our brothers and sisters - those who identify as LGBTQI and those who identify as same-sex attracted - in their life’s path and work to make them feel welcome in our homes and congregations."
This was the kind of group I could get behind! Nothing political, nothing mean or derogatory, just a safe place for members and "non-members" alike to feel welcomed and accepted despite their sexual orientation.
So anyway...fast forward to a few months ago and the group announced plans to march in the Utah Pride Parade. Members of the group had done so last year, and it had been very successful. Group leaders had come up with the theme "Family Reunion" to promote loving our LGBT brothers and sisters. Families were encouraged to make a family sign to carry as they marched together. Members were encouraged to reach out to family members who, previously, may have not felt included.
I had a strong feeling that this was something I wanted to be a part of. I asked Steven to march with me, and after reading the group description and seeing the positive influence it would have, he agreed. :)
The parade was on Sunday June 2nd. The day of, Steven and I woke up bright and early and put on our best church clothes; another trademark of the Mormons Building Bridges.
"What do we do when we take something seriously? We dress up!"
Another girl had posted on the group wall that she lived in Provo and needed a ride up, so we had volunteered to drive her. The more the merrier!
It turns out she lived literally exactly 4 blocks away from us, had married her high school sweetheart and was just as sweet as could be! Hooray for new friends! She also had never done anything like this before.
(In case anyone was wondering, Steven is the best husband on earth. I am a lucky lady!)
All three of us were excited and apprehensive! We didn't know quite what to expect.
Once in Salt Lake City we found a great shady parking garage that was free for the day, and started following the flamboyantly dressed crowds towards the parade route. We knew the rendezvous coordinates for MBB, and as we neared that corner suddenly we saw a sea of white shirts and ties. We were there. ;)
The group guidelines had suggested we not only wear church clothes and carry family name signs, but if we wanted to carry any other sort of signs that we adhere to a strict guideline of scripture, direct quotes from general authorities or primary song lyrics.
Here are some of the signs we saw.
|Could we.....could we be related???|
|From the mouth of an apostle...|
|This lady's sign was enormous and awesome. The guy taking the picture is her gay son. She is a great mom!|
Another favorite sign from the day was this one:
|This Dad is hysterical. :D|
We wondered if we'd see anyone we knew, and that was quickly answered when we ran into one of Steven's coworkers! Awesome! Small world. :)
Then an older gentleman who was pushing his wife in a wheelchair said we could have one of their flags since they had two. :) Everyone was so nice!
|Happy to be here!|
|Rainbow flag! Also, no, I am not wearing white tights.|
Those are my legs. hashtag:gross.
The website had said we'd start our march at 10, so around 10 we all moved from the sidewalk into the street.
It was HOT!!! I felt really bad for the guys who mostly had long-sleeves! We all milled around admiring each other's signs and taking pictures waiting for our cue to begin. Everyone was restless.
|Here is our new friend Jamie with the sign she made!|
|We were pretty near the front and right in the middle behind the Family Reunion sign|
After what seemed like forever, we sang Love One Another and then we finally began to walk! We all cheered because were were moving...
|Off we go!|
But our cheers were soon drowned by those of the crowd. On both sides of the street those who were sitting rose to their feet. Everyone stood and cheered! People held their hands above their heads to cheer for us! People leaned out of their windows to cheer for us! People held out hands for high fives or even ran into the parade to hug us.
***I'm taking the liberty of stealing some pics from the group and the internet now, because my pics don't really do it justice***
|Don't forget about the donuts...|
|This family was so awesome! I mean, look at that determination!!|
The response was overwhelming! I couldn't help grinning from ear to ear as I waved my little rainbow flag!
The whole way, every corner we turned, we were met with wild standing-ovation applause.
I have three close friends who are gay, two of which live in the Salt Lake area, and another of which I knew was in town for a wedding and was attending the parade. I had secretly hoped that I would see at least one of them as we marched.
I saw all three. :)
|Some saint snapped this picture as I gave a big hug to my friend Bailey. :) I've known him since the first grade!! After hugging me he hugged Steven and thanked us both for doing this. :)|
My second friend actually ran into the group to give me a hug, and then we saw my third friend watching on the sidelines as well and ran over to give him a hug too. :)
It couldn't have been any better!!!
The experience was so spiritual! I of course teared up a lot. haha. It just felt so good to really show what being Christian, and Mormon, is all about. Showing love.
|Can you spot us? ;)|
We were all smiles as the parade came to an end. It had been an overwhelmingly positive experience!!
As we drove back to Provo, and 1:00 church, we all marveled at what a great morning it had been. We also opened up more about what had brought us to doing this, and why we felt it was important. For me, it was about doing more than "Liking" a Facebook status. I really wanted to do something public. Something that said, "I'm not ashamed". Because I'm not. I love my gay uncle, my gay cousin and my gay friends. I'm not ashamed to love and accept them for who they are. I don't want to change them. I just want to love them and I think that's all that God expects us to do for one another. And should any of them ever be interested in the church that I am a part of, I want to do my part to make them feel welcome there.
In the past week since the parade the response from the community has been miraculous. MBB has been featured on abc news, New York Daily, Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News and even BuzzFeed.com! Many people searched out the Facebook group to thank us for our march of kindness.
I just want to end with some of the quotes that touched my heart.
"Today was beautiful! I took my three daughters to the Salt Lake City pride parade. I had never heard of Mormons Building Bridges before. As your group marched the tears welled up in my eyes (I think you were actually the group with the largest representation). As I read the signs people had supporting family and friends, tears continued to flow. My 14 year old said "Dad you're crying!" Yes I was. Later we went to a friends house and he discussed Mormons Building Bridges. I knew what he was going to say, that he cried. Sure enough the words rolled right off his tongue. Of course my daughter piped up and said, "My dad was crying too." Thank you for touching my heart today, and thank you all for the love and support that was shown, and felt today! The love felt so much better than hate and animosity."
"I saw the MBB contingent last year and was very touched...shed a few tears. This year, while I knew they were coming, and expected it, it still made me happy. Then, near the end of the group, I thought 'Yay! I made it! No tears'....until I saw a 70-something grandmother, her daughter, her grandson, and her great-grandchild (in a stroller) all together under the sign "4 generations walking for love". Yeah....tears."
"I have to admit that seeing this group march in the pride parade made me smile, but it wasn't until they stopped for a few moments, right in front of where my partner and I were standing, that tears started to well up in my eyes.
It was the last couple in the group, The Henderson Family as it said on the poster they were holding, that made me feel so emotional. I'm not sure why. They waved and smiled just like everyone else did. They didn't yell or draw my attention with an oversized poster with a witty quote. They simply held a small orange poster that read, "The Henderson Family supports the LGBT Community." I suppose that maybe they reminded me of what I once truly believed the members of the LDS church were like, before I stopped attending.
Wholesome. Respectful. Understanding. Kind.
All while being true to what they believe.
I'm not sure if I'll be lucky enough to have the Henderson family read this post, but incase you do, I would like to thank you. Thank you for brighting up my day just a little bit more. For helping me see that there are wonderful people such as yourselves out there, and groups like Mormons Building Bridges fighting to make a difference for people like me; those who may have strayed, but took with them the positive teachings of the church.
"It was a truly emotional experience to see all of you marching today. My girlfriend and I were both moved to tears from seeing so many of you in your Sunday best marching in support of us. I wish I could have hugged each and every one of you and said thank you. You really exemplified one of my favorite aspects of Mormonism today. What you are doing means so much and is so important. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
"You guys... just wow. Watching all of you march in the Pride Parade on Sunday was the most spiritual experience I've had in a long time. Tears streamed down my face and I felt like if there was ever a place for me among the LDS faithful, this was it. So proud of your who marched. So grateful I was there to capture it."
"I no longer live in Utah but I witnessed the powerful impact you had on the LGBT community through my friends postings and texts. As I have listened to my gay friends and acquaintances tell me over the years how they wanted to end their lives, and how some tried, I KNOW you are not only creating a positive, loving environment for our young people in Utah but you are saving lives. I can't imagine the joy and peace I would feel if I saw my family marching to show their support of me, my partner and our two children. I am so indebted to you for your efforts and your love."
"I am not part of the LGBT community nor am I LDS. Rather, I am part of the HUMAN family. At yesterday's parade I was moved beyond words to see so many people embracing ideals that I have long held dear. That everyone deserves love. That everyone is capable of loving when they open their hearts to truth and beauty and equality above all else. Thanks to all of you that marched for being so strong in your support and your love for the people in your lives that brought you to this path. Your individual stories add up to a collective inspiration as a whole and remind me that there are kind, loving people who hear (and LIVE) christs message everyday."
I am so glad that we did this. I am so grateful for Steven for coming with me. I can't wait to do it again next year and I hope that ALL of you will join and bring your families.
Love, Rebekah and Steven.
ps. For further reading see these links to articles about the parade.
Steven and I are in pictures and video on Buzzfeed!
This is my personal favorite.
Thank you for reading. :) Now go share the love!!