Education Week: Understanding, loving and including LGBTQ Saints

Becky Borden shares six different perspectives that can help Church members understand, love and include LGBTQ Latter-day Saints. “There is a path to joy for all Saints — LGBT Saints included,” she said during Education Week Friday. (Dallin Wilks)

Editor’s note: Education Week coverage can be found in this section of the website.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should love, include and respect their LGBTQ siblings, Education Week participants were reminded Friday morning.

This message came from a voice with a unique perspective — Church employee Becky Borden. She and her husband Bennett previously lived most of their adult lives in relationships with same-sex partners. The two got married and rejoined the Church.

Borden works in the priesthood and family department where she manages content on Church websites focused on LGBTQ issues and life-help topics.

“I have infiltrated the mothership,” she joked, prompting laughter from the audience.

Borden shared her experience coming back to the Church while stressing the importance of loving, including and respecting LGBTQ people. “There is a path to joy for all Saints — LGBT Saints included.”

Six key perspectives helped Borden and her husband understand and respect LGBTQ Saints as well as progress on their own journeys. Borden outlined these perspectives intermixed with her personal experiences.

Focus on your feet

The adversary works hard to paralyze God’s children with fear, Borden said. In the face of unanswered questions, she recommends bringing one’s focus inward — “focus on your feet.”

She said bringing her focus within helped her get off the “hamster wheel” of questions that could be paralyzing. When the adversary spins up fearful questions, Borden said she focuses on the present and gospel truths she knows. She didn’t have to have all the answers at one time for her to move forward.

One basic habit to focus on in the face of paralyzing fear is reading scriptures. She shared an experience she had with her husband before they got married and rejoined the Church. Bennett suggested she and him start reading the scriptures “under the assumption that it’s all true.”

Borden had read the scriptures in the past with a “skeptic’s eye,” she said. “The promises that are in the Book of Mormon don’t work the same way when you’re skeptical and when you’re kind of side-eyeing the whole thing.”

Reading the Book of Mormon with a new assumption had a different impact, Borden said. If someone can just do the little things and bring focus in, Satan will have less power to paralyze them with fear.

A path to joy for all Saints

There is a path to joy and a place in the gospel for all Saints, including those who are LGBTQ. “Everyone’s journey is different, and every path is handcrafted by the Lord and you can trust in that,” Borden said.

One of the greatest challenges for Latter-day Saints who identify as LGBTQ is feeling like they don’t fit into the typical “successful Saint story line,” Borden said. “You know, the one that has all the check boxes on it? That one.”

Satan gives a false dichotomy that the only two choices for these Saints are staying in the Church and being alone or leaving the Church and finding a relationship, Borden said. But there is a path to happiness for all of God’s children.

LGBTQ Saints have wonderful qualities, Borden said. “They have gifts from Heavenly Father that we need in this kingdom.”

She emphasized that these Church members need opportunities to serve and be involved. “If you don’t know any LGBTQ people very well, you are missing out. I promise you that.”

“The key is to become aware of the unique attributes that people have and be grateful for them,” Borden said. “Figure out how to employ them joyfully in the gospel.”

LGBTQ Latter-day Saints should also figure out what gifts Heavenly Father gave them and how He would have them used in His kingdom, Borden said.

Sexual attraction doesn’t override agency

Borden urged Education Week participants to remember that God’s children can act for themselves and are not acted upon, referencing 2 Nephi 2:26. “We have the opportunity to use our agency,” she said.

No matter what someone’s sexual attraction is, it isn’t stronger than their agency, Borden said. “I’m not saying you can pray the gay away. That is not how it works. Believe me. Many have tried.”

But if people follow the commandments, then God will consecrate their experiences, she said. “Every experience you’ve had, He will consecrate for your good, and nothing overrides your agency.”

“As I have loved you”

Church members should also show Christlike love to LGBTQ Saints. Borden shared an experience she had with her husband making a spreadsheet to document all the interactions the Savior had with people in the New Testament. She noticed that Christ did everything in love while interacting with others.

“That’s what he did, and so as he did that for us, we are to do that to others,” Borden said.

No influence without access 

Instead of saying “love the sinner, hate the sin,” Borden takes a different approach — “Love the sinner, invite them to dinner.”

Everyone needs to have a place where they can feel the Spirit and love of their brothers and sisters, Borden said. Church members don’t have a responsibility to condemn or condone behavior — that’s the Lord’s job.

Nobody can have influence without access, Borden explained. She shared experiences with her family and friends who were supportive while she was in a same-sex relationship, even coming to her wedding.

Borden also had the opportunity to feel the Spirit when she went to her friends and families’ houses, which helped her decide she wanted to feel that way again.

As LGBTQ people are included by Church members, the more love, impact, compassion and opportunity for the Spirit to minister to them they will have, Borden said.

The concept of being a fellow-journeyer

Borden used an example of marathon runners to show how Church members can be “fellow journeyers” to LGBTQ Saints. When someone’s running a marathon and they’re tired at the end, people run alongside them and hand out food and water, helping them to finish.

This, she said, is being a “fellow journeyer” and respects agency. People might just need help along their path, rather than judgement or for others to wonder why they made a certain decision.

“All your job is is to back up and be a fellow journeyer,” she said.

Borden closed by telling the audience to make their homes and local congregations a place of “grace and space” for God’s children.

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