Understand, love and include: 6 perspectives on the LGBTQ Latter-day Saint experience

PROVO, Utah — One way to understand, love and include LGBTQ Latter-day Saints is to strive to make one’s home and local congregation a “place of grace and space” for all Heavenly Father’s children, Rebecca Borden said.

Borden, manager of LGBTQ and Life Help resources for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, quoted the words of Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders as she taught BYU Education Week attendees on Friday, Aug. 20, about loving and including those who identify as LGBTQ.

“[The Savior] entreats us to make His inn a place of grace and space, where each can gather, with room for all. As disciples of Jesus Christ, all are equal, with no second-class groups,” Elder Gong said during the April 2021 general conference

Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham has taught that words have power to both build up and tear down. “One of the most significant ways we can develop and demonstrate love for our neighbor is through being generous in our thoughts and words. … Choosing to say only that which is positive about — and to — others lifts and strengthens those around us and helps others follow in the Savior’s way,” she said. 

Latter-day Saints should be at the forefront of expressing love, compassion and outreach to those who experience same-sex attraction, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said. “They need to be part of the family circle.”

Borden, who identifies as gay and lived most of her adult life with a same-sex partner before marrying her husband, Bennett Borden, who is also gay, offered six perspectives on the LGBTQ Latter-day Saint experience. 

1. ‘Focus on your feet’

The adversary works hard to paralyze LGBTQ Latter-day Saints with fear, Borden said. Instead of getting lost in the “hamster wheel of questions,” focus on the present and “do the little things.” 

“If you can just read your scriptures and say your prayers and do the things that you know will [keep] you focused in, Satan has so much less power over you to paralyze you with all of the ‘what ifs’ in your life.”

During her journey back to the Church, Borden said she struggled with finding answers to all her questions. Then she realized she didn’t need to have all the answers at the same time to move forward. “I knew Heavenly Father loved me and I knew that He gave me commandments because He loved me. … And so if I don’t understand how [a commandment] applies to me, that means there’s homework that I have to do.”

2. ‘There is a path to joy and a place in the gospel for all Saints, including those who are LGBTQ’

One of the greatest challenges for LGBTQ Latter-day Saints, Borden said, is that Satan presents a false dichotomy that there are only two choices: stay in the Church and be alone or leave the Church and find a relationship.

“But we know that there is a path to joy for all of God’s children because He has told us that,” she said, referencing Mosiah 2:41. God promises that all who keep His commandments and hold out faithful to the end will be received into heaven and “dwell with [Him] in a state of never-ending happiness.”

Borden encouraged audience members to become aware of and use the attributes and talents of those who identify as LGBTQ in their congregations and families. “They have gifts from Heavenly Father that we need in this kingdom. … These Latter-day Saints need opportunities to serve and to be involved,” she said. 

Rebecca Borden, manager of LGBTQ and Life Help resources for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches a class titled "Understanding, Loving and Including LGBTQ Latter-day Saints" during BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah, on Aug. 20, 2021.
Rebecca Borden, manager of LGBTQ and Life Help resources for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches a class titled “Understanding, Loving and Including LGBTQ Latter-day Saints” during BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah, on Aug. 20, 2021. Credit: Sydney Walker

3. ‘Sexual attraction doesn’t override agency’

The scriptures teach that because of the Savior’s Atonement, all of God’s children “have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:26). 

Borden emphasized the role of agency in aligning one’s will with God’s and trusting that by keeping His commandments, everything will be OK. 

“He will consecrate every experience you’ve ever had for your good. … You’ll speak a special language born of hardship that will allow you to minister to the brothers and sisters around you,” she testified. 

4. ‘As I have loved you’

The Savior didn’t say, “Love one another because I have loved you.” He taught, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). The key is “as.”

How did the Savior love? “Unfailingly, when He crossed paths with anyone that He talked to or ministered to, He did it in love,” Borden said. “He did it in support. He did it in teaching, and lifting up the hands that hang down and comforting those who were in need of comfort. … That’s what He did. And so as He did that for us, we are to do that to others.”

5. ‘You cannot have influence without access’

“Love the sinner and invite them to dinner,” Borden said. “Everybody needs to be in a place where the Spirit is present. Everybody needs to be in a place where they can get a good, hot meal, where they can feel the love of their brothers and sisters.”

She spoke of her family’s constant love and support when she was living in a same-sex relationship and how ultimately, it was the Spirit she felt when she was with her family that touched her to come back to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“It took me 20 years to put my finger on it, but I finally realized that it was the gift of the Holy Ghost, that it was having the Spirit in my home that I didn’t have. … And I’m willing to do whatever it takes to have the Spirit with me again in my home because that is more important to me than anything else.”

As she and her husband both learned from personal experience: “The more that you include the LGBT people in your life, in your ward, in your stake, in your community, in your lives, the more love and impact and compassion and opportunity for the Spirit to minister to them they will have,” Borden said.

6. ‘Be a fellow journeyer’

Primary songs teach, “When we’re helping, we’re happy” and “‘Give,’ said the little stream.” 

Like runners of a race who turn back to help a fellow runner cross the finish line, or a bystander on the sideline who jumps in to help, “that is the idea of being a fellow journeyer,” she said. “You will see people from time to time that just need help. They don’t need you to preach to them.”

The Spirit of the Lord will never lead one astray, she testified in closing. “Seek the guidance of the Spirit in all things — before, during and after everything you do.” 

Borden pointed audience members to resources in the Life Help section of Gospel Library and the same-sex attraction and transgender sites on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Counseling resources for same-sex attraction and other topics can be found in the Bishopric section of Gospel Library under Handbooks and Callings, Ward and Branch Callings.