Sunday, 5 June 2016 “a group of Mormons who are allies of their LGBT+ brothers and sisters will be launching an initiative to show their support and love by wearing rainbow ribbons to church (or wearing them on Sundays if they do not attend) and posting photos of themselves online” (See the HUFFPOST RELIGION article here). I cannot say with enough conviction how important Rainbow Mormon Initiative is and how important it is for everyone to participate in it.
In my early professional career, I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people, most of them students. Back in January, I read a blog post by Jeff Benedict, who happened to teach at the same school I teach, Southern Virginia University (SVU), which, according to their website, “provides the finest undergraduate, liberal arts education in a Latter-day Saint environment.” What I admire most about Jeff is that he uses his position as a writer to help and support others in as many ways as he can. In the referenced blog post, Jeff writes about his most recent book, Make a Choice, but what stood out the most was the following:
“[M]y wife and I recently held a dinner at our home for LGBT students at Southern Virginia University, where I teach. About 15 students attended, most of whom are supporters. They came because they care about those in attendance who are gay. After a home-cooked meal with my family, the students listened to an inspirational message in our living room. Helpful resources were discussed. New friendships were forged. We decided to make this a monthly occurrence. Two of my all-time favorite students – recently engaged Colin Smith and Lauren Hafen – are our point persons for organizing the dinners.”
My heart applauded, and I longed to participate, offering whatever support I could. Not five minutes later, I received a Facebook message from Colin, whom I advised while he attended SVU (he recently graduated):
“Hey! So we are getting ready to have our next meeting for LGBT+ students and allies at Jeff’s house. It is going to be on the 14th. Valentines day [sic] A great day for showing love for everyone! I’m going to be talking about ways to be a good ally. Things not to say when someone comes out to you, how to engage in healthy discussions with family, stuff like that.
“We would love to have you and your family if you are interested in coming!”
Ten days later, my wife, Leah Marie, and I participated in the absolutely wonderful experience. Like the January meeting, allies outnumbered LGBT+ students, but I hope that made them feel loved, feel the support we all anxiously offered. I met some amazing men and women that night and heard some heartbreaking stories then and in the weeks that followed. I could not say the last time I had felt as rejuvenated as that gathering made me feel. I rode a high for the next two weeks. In fact, the meeting inspired me more than anything had in a long time. It inspired me to do something I had not been doing regularly for more than a year, attend church services.
I am a straight, white male in America. The stench of my privilege wafts far in every direction. I knew that a good ally needed to be someone who was not afraid to speak up, to stand between the persecutor and the persecuted in every single situation. In her own blog post about the Rainbow Mormon Initiative, my wife invokes the beautiful baptismal covenant spoken by Book of Mormon prophet Alma in Mosiah 18: “and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light. Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things.” While I have taken upon myself to be a voice when and where I can, one need not speak loudly or say anything to show support. That is what makes the launching of the Rainbow Mormon Initiative such an important event. We are not all wired to speak up, to handle the possible conflictive aftermath, but we can all quietly near and from afar, from within and from without show our love and support. I implore you to take the time to think about your LGBT+ brothers and sisters and reflect on the way Jesus Christ sees them. Then get yourself a ribbon and show your LGBT+ brothers and sisters your unconditional love for them and your support for a safe, judgement-free zone, anywhere and everywhere, but especially “where two or three are gathered together in [Jesus’] name” for he will be “in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). RSVP and found out where to get your ribbons HERE.