OREM, Utah — Sister Reyna I. Aburto pleaded with members of the Latter-day Saint LGBTQ community “to remember that we are all children of God, and as such, each of us is loved and valued; we all belong to the family of God; and we can be the means for others to come to Christ, so they and we can receive of His light, His truth, His love, His peace, His hope and His redeeming grace.”
Speaking Tuesday evening, Sept. 14, at the Utah Valley Institute’s LGBTQ+ & Allies Workshop, Sister Aburto spoke with great love to her audience.
Her remarks focused on three foundational truths: First, every person is loved and valued as children of God. Second, everyone belongs to the family of God. Third, each person can be the means for others to come to Christ.
Loved and valued children of God
“In our mortal state, there are many truths we don’t yet know,” Sister Aburto said. “However, there are some eternal truths that God has revealed to us, and one of them is that we are all His children.”
She read many scriptures and said she recognizes the “beauty and harmony of God’s creations.” This includes the fact that each individual has a purpose.
In addition to teaching from the scriptures, Sister Aburto encouraged those in attendance to evaluate their testimonies around the important beliefs of divine lineage, knowing God is aware of each individual’s circumstances, Heavenly Father’s love and empathy, and true belief in Him.
“I invite you to keep asking, to keep searching, to keep trying to receive a witness of your divine nature and origin.”
Sister Aburto taught that nothing that happens in mortality can change these truths. And because God loves every one of His children, He also wants all His children to make and keep sacred covenants.
“That includes all, regardless of any characteristics, including race, ethnicity, nationality, tribe, gender, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religious belief or nonbelief, gender identity and sexual orientation.”
On top of the fact that Heavenly Father wants each person to return to Him, Sister Aburto added, is that each person also has a role to play in building His kingdom today.
“You are important to God, and you are a meaningful part of His kingdom today. Your contributions to His work are needed,” she said.
Belonging to God’s family
“To reach our sublime destiny, which is our heavenly home, we need each other.”
Sister Aburto read from 3 Nephi 11:11 and then reiterated that the Savior has compassion and mercy on all because He lovingly “drank of the bitter cup and took upon Himself our pains and afflictions.”
That was part of His role and purpose. Everyone who comes to the earth does so “to be proved, to see if we would do all things that the Lord our God would command us to do.”
“I feel that one of the purposes of our earthly experience may be for us to learn to love others with the divine love that the Savior has for us,” she said.
That process of learning to love others is not always easy or simple — especially when some people reject or don’t understand the perspectives and experiences of others.
“I have come to believe that when someone rejects us, it is because they do not truly know us and our experiences,” she said.
A story from Sister Aburto’s life illustrated the way getting to know someone can change a personal perspective on a topic.
She shared that her husband and a neighbor served together in a calling. Through their meetings together and visits to the Aburtos’ home, this neighbor gained a new appreciation of Hispanic culture.
He told Sister Aburto that he never had a close friendship with any Latinos prior to serving with her husband. His approach with other Hispanics progressed from simple politeness to getting to know those he interacted with to “become a better person and a better disciple of Christ,” he said.
Likewise, Sister Aburto said, her neighbors helped her to gain a better appreciation of the United States and their heritage.
“We now truly and sincerely consider this couple part of our family,” she said. “Our friendship has grown over the years, and it has helped both of our families expand our vision about life, the gospel of Jesus Christ, our discipleship and our relationships with others.”
Sister Aburto listed seven lessons she learned from this experience with her neighbors:
- Despite differences, as children of God, each person has a lot to offer to Him and to each other.
- Everyone needs wholesome friendships and meaningful connections.
- To connect with others, it takes a little conscious step.
- Sometimes, the shell an individual builds around himself or herself does not allow for relationships to be created. This causes missed opportunities to be blessed by potentially uplifting friendships with others.
- Sometimes being so busy with life means people don’t stop to look around with eyes to truly see people as God sees them.
- Looking at the heart, and not the outward appearance, will teach much more about someone.
- And everyone can seek to create a welcoming society where all can contribute.
“Opening ourselves to opportunities to genuinely connect with others is a great first step. I join with Mormon in inviting you to pray for the love that God has bestowed upon those who seek to be true followers of His Son, Jesus Christ,” Sister Aburto said.
Developing that kind of love, toward others and toward Heavenly Father and the Savior, is a lifelong process, she said.
That process is not always easy.
“I know that sometimes it is hard to find the right words when emotions are high, when we feel hurt by others, when others react or respond in an unexpected way, when we react in an unplanned way, when the unknown fills us with fear, or when we are not truly aware of what is in the heart of another person.”
Overcoming the hurt caused in these emotional moments requires being yoked with the Savior.
“I know that through the enabling power of Jesus Christ that comes from making and keeping covenants with Him, we can keep trying, we can keep loving, we can keep forgiving, we can keep striving to understand how others feel, and we can keep bringing them to Christ so they can feel His divine love and we can too.”
Bringing others to Christ
Through the personal trials that can lead to joy and a strengthened testimony of the Savior comes a desire to share that same joy with others.
Sister Aburto invited listeners to identify the gifts of the Spirit they have been blessed with “to help others come to Him so He can bring about miracles in their lives.”
Those gifts can have a positive impact on the Church as a whole, Sister Aburto said.
“You have the talents and the sensitivity to help all of us be more Christlike. You can help us create a more welcoming culture that fosters deep and meaningful relationships,” she said. “We need your faith, your testimony, your abilities, your talents and your spiritual gifts. You are needed in the work of salvation and exaltation. You are needed in the gathering of Israel during these latter days.”
After reading from Luke 6:38, Sister Aburto explained, “in order to receive in good measure, we need to give in good measure. If we want to receive grace, we need to be willing to give grace to others. If we want to receive compassion, we need to be willing to give compassion.”
Then, pulling from the Book of Mormon, Sister Aburto also read Mosiah 18:21, where Alma invited recently baptized converts to share one focus.
“And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.”
To help foster that unity and love, Sister Aburto pointed out, the Church has published and is continuing to publish resources on same-sex attraction and transgender topics that are available in the Gospel Library app and on the Church’s website.
“It is reassuring to know that we are all a work in progress,” she said. “God is working with us, on us and through us so we can reach our full potential as His children. Let us walk our journey by faith, one step at a time.”
As Sister Aburto concluded, she shared a promise extended by President Russell M. Nelson shortly after becoming the 17th President of the Church in 2018.
“I promise you that if you will sincerely and persistently do the spiritual work needed to develop the crucial, spiritual skill of learning how to hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, you will have all the direction you will ever need in your life. You will be given answers to your questions in the Lord’s own way and in His own time,” President Nelson said.
After sharing that promise from President Nelson, Sister Aburto offered her testimony that every child of God is loved and can be the means of helping others come to Christ to “receive of His light, His truth, His love, His peace, His hope and His redeeming grace.”