Last night the Stake Executive Secretary called and asked me to meet with the Stake President this afternoon. I said OK. Then I spent most of the day Sunday, before the meeting, thinking about what he might say and imagining up all sorts of stuff. It has taken him 6 months to get back with me so I was sure he had been talking with headquarters in SLC about what to do.
I don't enjoy confrontation. I know some people do, like my dad for example. But I've never been one who enjoys verbally pummeling people, even when I completely disagree with them. Nevertheless, I was prepared to give him some thoughts if he brought up the standard LDS gay comments. It's somewhat strange that I was nervous because I don't think there is anything else the Church can do to hurt me and I've resigned myself to the fact that they are what they are and while I may change a few opinions I'm not going to be able to change the Church. Years of interview conditioning, I guess.
I was wrong to worry and I was actually amazingly impressed with what he had to say. He said that he had taken to heart what I told him during our last meeting about the anguish and pain the Church causes it's gay members and about the high rate of suicide among gay Mormons. He said that after thinking about it for some time he decided that he needed to train all the Bishops in the Stake in how to respond to gays with love and compassion. He didn't try to probe into my life. He asked about my kids and wife with genuine concern. He didn't make any demands on me he just expressed that he appreciated my honesty and that he felt he was a better leader because of what we had talked about.
I was very touched with his obvious love for me and for the other gay members of our Stake. He had purchased copies of "In Quiet Desperation", the book written by the parents of Stuart Matis, a gay member who committed suicide, and by Ty Mansfield. This is probably not the book I would have suggested, but hey, any progress is good. The Bishops of the Stake are studying it together. The President said they have had some "stimulating" conversions.
He asked if I had read the book, I said I was familiar with it but had not read it. The President gave me a copy and asked that I read it and that we could meet again and I could give him my thoughts. The book is published by Deseret Book and so it has a very LDS perspective on being gay, with a particular emphasis on living a celibate life in the Church. The President knows that I disagree that this is even possible or the best option for many gay members. In the early chapters of the book, Stuart Matis's parents acknowledge that they pretty much knew that eventually he would kill himself over being gay in the Church. How can anyone believe that suicide in the Church is better than leaving the Church and living with a same sex partner? It will be an interesting discussion when we get back together.
Overall, I was touched that he took what I said to heart, was not pushy or judgmental toward me, and that he was determined to do better as a Stake. I commented to my wife when I got home that if he kept that up he might win me back into activity.
I really wish the General Church were more active in combating homophobia in it's leaders and members. It's too bad that it takes one or more members essentially going over the edge to get their attention. Baby steps...