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Scott Mackintosh and his wife Becky live in Lehi, Utah and are the parents of seven children, including their son Xian, who came out as gay at age 24. Scott is currently a bishop in a YSA ward at BYU, and Becky is on the board at North Star International. Chris and his wife of 18 years live in Overland Park, Kansas with their four sons, ages 7 through 17. He experiences same-gender attraction and began to talk about it after serving as a bishop. Travis Steward and his wife Margaret have been married 32 years and have six children and grandchildren. Travis is a former bishop, mission president (Houston, Texas), and has served in stake presidencies. He has experienced same-gender attraction throughout his life and finally began to talk about it a few years ago. In this podcast, we talk about how we can be better leaders week-to-week for the LGBT members in our wards and communities.
- 7:30 Chris’ introduction and how he became involved with North Star through coming to terms with his same-gender attraction
- 12:00 Scott Mackintosh’s story of his son coming out, and how that led to a change of heart for him and a conversion to love and empathy for everyone
- 18:00 Travis Steward’s introduction and his experience as a man who experiences same-gender attraction but buried it for most of his life and struggled through shame and his own inner stories
- 26:45 How Travis came out to his wife and openly acknowledged his same-sex attraction and began to deal with what he had held inside for so many years
- 30:55 Chris’s experience coming out to his wife and church leaders after he had served as a bishop
- 35:35 Scott’s realization that he needed to look at the experience of others instead of focusing on himself, how his son’s experience helped him realize how much shame is involved, and how it changed how he leads
- 42:40 Proactively creating an open, safe, compassionate space to have these conversations and diminish shame
- 48:00 What am I doing as a bishop to make sure that people would trust me and be willing to share the most personal, painful issues in their life?
- 51:00 Bishops don’t have to know everything
- 53:00 We need to be prepared so that when someone comes to us we can get it right the first time
- 1:04:00 What to say or not say as a leader
- 1:17:25 These are principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ that are applicable to everyone
North Star Conference leadership session registration
LS: Today I’m sitting down [00:05:30] with, both in person and through the magic of the Internet with a Travis Steward, Scott Mackintosh and Chris. How are you, Travis?
Travis: Good, Scott, how are you doing?
LS: Excellent. I have all sorts of names going through my head and Chris, you’re joining us from, uh, from Kansas City. Is that, right?
LS: The reason for this gathering here is to hopefully promote a message of love and
also make leaders out there [00:06:00] more aware of resources that are available to them as they strive to enhance their leadership ability, especially in the context of our LGBT brothers and sisters that, hopefully are finding a place in, in our congregations and our wards and in a place that they feel comfortable and they can worship with us there. It’s, uh, those that have listened to, to Leading Saints for quite some time. Know that we have a, a beautiful relationship, a connection with the North Star, which is another non-profit. And I’ll have Chris speak to that in a minute, [00:06:30] but they have a conference coming up in March that I can’t stress enough the importance if you are in within a day’s drive or can afford a plane ticket to Salt Lake or Provo. Where it’s held in Provo. That, that you absolutely get there with as many members of your ward council and spouses, whatever it is and participate if not in the complete conference, in thee free leadership session that they offer, I’ve had the opportunity to participate last few years and it is life [00:07:00] changing and it will change the way you lead and to guide the members of your ward no matter what the orientation or background that they have. So, let’s go around and just get to know an individual here. And Chris, why don’t we start with you since, you are not that you’re necessarily on the board of North Star, but you definitely work closely with them and, help with some of the marketing of the conference. Tell us a little bit about you and, you are no stranger to the Leading Saints podcast. You are a former guest.
Chris: Yeah. And it’s great to be back in this context as well. So, I am Chris, [00:07:30] I live with my family here in Kansas City in a suburb and I have followed Leading Saints for a long time and really appreciate the work that you do, Kurt, and the value that you bring to church leaders. So, I have been married for 18 years, my wife and I met at the University of Kansas when we were both working on our undergrad there. Then we have four sons that range in age from 7 to 17. And so, a pretty busy life there. I served several years ago as [00:08:00] a bishop a and I’m serving currently as the state director of public affairs in our stake and how I came to be affiliated with North Star was about three years ago. I started to come to terms with understanding my same sex attraction and what it meant to be a gay Mormon.
Obviously, it’s an interesting dynamic being married and raising a family and the gospel. But the resources that I was able to find through North Star were really invaluable to myself and to my wife and our extended family [00:08:30] and by association with people in our ward and our stake that we’ve been able to share our experience with and sort of walk this journey together on and so I am really grateful for the resources. We are grateful for the resources that you are able to put out. Not only in general church topics, but especially on this topic of sexual orientation and gender identity. Just a quick bit about North Star is a faith affirming resource for Latter Day Saints who either themselves or [00:09:00] experiencing same sex attraction or, dealing with gender identity issues or their families all who are really desiring to live a life in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and sustaining and following the doctrines of the church.
LS: Awesome, give us just the details of the conference coming up. I know we’ll mention it and link to it in the show notes, but a when is it, and how can individuals learn more about it?
Chris: Sure. So, the conference is March 15th through the 17th. It’s held in Provo. The 15th in the evening is an [00:09:30] opening social and that’s free. It’s open to anyone. We’d do a light dinner. And a service project is a great opportunity to mix and mingle and meet new people before the conference starts on Friday the sixteenth. We have two full days, Friday and Saturday where we have dozens of breakout sessions. We have really great keynotes planned for this year. Some of the keynotes, so far, this year are Matt Townsend who probably a lot of your Utah based listeners are familiar with, he runs a broadcast. We have a [00:10:00] Dr. Mark Yarhouse, who is not all LDS but understands the aspect and comes from a Christian perspective and is really an expert in the area of gender identity. On Saturday morning, we have a special session for any and all church leaders who are interested in coming. This is free registration and I’m sure you’ll link to that on your website later, Kurt, but it’s a free morning for church leaders. It could be bishops stake presidencies, young women’s presidencies, anybody who [00:10:30] has interest in learning how to better minister to LGBT members of their congregations. Our keynote speaker on Saturday morning, that’s included in that Church leader session is Stephanie Clark Nielsen. Who I think most people are familiar with, Elder Holland has shared her story in his general conference talk and then a special musical guest on Saturday afternoon is David Archuleta, so he’ll be performing after the Saturday afternoon Keynote. Again, that Saturday morning session is free registration to [00:11:00] all church leaders. We do need have people to actually register through the website so we can anticipate capacities if someone’s interested in Friday registration or sticking around for Saturday afternoon, there are discounted rates available that you can find on the website as well.
LS: Perfect. Nice. David Archuleta, you guys know how to party over there at North Star, so that’s great. That’s great. Scott let’s move over to you. I think individuals, leaders, if they have visited the, Mormon and Gay website that the churches is produced, [00:11:30] they may be familiar with your story a little bit more, but tell us about you and your background.
Scott: So, I’m Scott Mackintosh, I live in Lehi. I have seven children and my third child is my reason to be here. He’s my gay son and he came out at age 24. He’s 30 now. He came out to us, to my wife, Becky and Becky is a does serve on the board of North Star, has done for quite some time and [00:12:00] just loves that. But uh, yeah, our son came out to us and told us that he was gay and that was tough. I never even suspected it, and I know a lot of parents say, oh yeah, we kind of thought that might be the case, or we saw the writing on the wall, but I never suspected anything and so it was met. I don’t know, I was a different person at the time. Uh, originally when he came out to us, he was not there. He sent me a message via [00:12:30] text message, but all through Facebook and it was a message sent to my wife and I at the same time. And it was about, it was 11:11 PM on the night before he was leaving to go back to BYU Hawaii. And when he told us that I just went livid. I mean, I just went freakazoid if that’s a word we can use and uh, started saying some very mean things and some hurtful things that I’m very glad now that he wasn’t there to hear My wife heard them. Um, [00:13:00] we’ve never brought them up again. The things that I said, but it was bad. And then that’s where our journey began because he came home and by the time I had time to think about it, all I did was put my arms open and gave him a big hug and told him I loved him and that’s all that was said. And then for a couple of years we just avoided it and I did, anyway. He kept wanting to talk about it. He’d bring it up and I’d bury my head in the sand and say let’s leave this alone because when he finally fixes this or realizes that he’s not and this [00:13:30] was just a phase, you know, the same thing that so many parents go through then no harm, no foul, nobody will know anything, let’s just try to hide it. And so, but finally he really wanted to talk and he cornered me on a, on a road trip. We had four hours in the truck together and I couldn’t go anywhere but sit and talk. And so we had a really good talk and that’s where I made a turn in anyway, so that’s where I became the person I am today, where I feel like I’m an ally, I feel like I’m a strong voice for people who feel [00:14:00] differently in any situation, in any walk of life, where before I wasn’t near as tolerance and, and I, I just realized that we just, there’s just so much we can do as far as just loving people and letting them know that somebody cares about them. They’re not looking for me to fix them, then I’m not looking for me to do anything like that. They just want somebody to care about them and let them try to figure it out on their own. And so that’s, that’s kind of where I’ve gone. But since then I’ve been called as a bishop, so I’m a bishop at BYU. So, if you wanted to know more information [00:14:30] of those types of things and I’ve coming up on three years with that and in April it’ll be three years, scares me to death, to think of the kind of bishop I would have been before this. I think there’s a lot of people in my ward who are very blessed that I made the change that I became converted to love, if that seems oddly enough as a, as an LDS person that we need to be that. But, my son has changed. My heart has changed my eyes. He’s changed everything about me when [00:15:00] I’m dealing with people who don’t seem to feel like they fit in and anyway, it’s been a blessing to be a bishop. Greatest Calling ever.
LS: I agree, you mentioned this term, you know, converted to love and I liked that it’s not necessarily that you didn’t love before, but there was maybe some lack of, of understanding that you had to come to. You mentioned that kind of that Shell shock moment where a lot of emotion came out, but over time you’ve, what would you say it’s understanding of what, what would [00:15:30] you credit this conversion to love?
Scott: My biggest, a way to explain that as is I loved people, but I didn’t love everybody. I didn’t feel that those who brought pain upon themselves deserved it. And I was very harsh that way. And in my mind, the gays and lesbians and transgender, all those people had made a choice. And this choice was to live a life that wasn’t in line with the Saviors teachings. It wasn’t, I’m not, I’m just trying to say the nice ways of what I [00:16:00] thought. And, when I, when I realized that, oh my gosh, they did not make this choice, this is who they are and that these are people I care about. When I made it more human and realize that these are people that are close to me. And I realized how many more people were close to me that, yeah, they’re not bad people. They didn’t make these evil choices. These are people who I love. And then it was amazing to think [00:16:30] that the empathy, the compassion of Christ, like abilities, that I had to realize that this was something that I had made it worse for them. I didn’t make anything better for them. And I vowed at that time that I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to make life harder for people who already feel that life is hard enough. And so that’s, that was it.
LS: It’s going to be the theme throughout this that I think as a leader, the best way they can gain more empathy for the situation or this topic [00:17:00] is to create relationships with individuals that are in the LGBT community or in your situation that relationship a sprung itself on you. You weren’t necessarily going to find it, but there was. Right. And the more you’ve had those relationships, the more empathy you found, the more love you found. And again, there’s going to be a lot of shameless plugs here for the North Star conference, but what the North Star conferences has done for me as a heterosexual LDS leader, it has totally turned the tables [00:17:30] where instead of a gay individual walking into an LDS ward and, and feeling like they’re the only one in the room that is like them. You get the opportunity to walk into a room and be surrounded with members of the LGBT community and the love you feel there that you can shake hands and get to know these people. And really that that’s done it for you.
Scott: They have become my heroes. I mean, I promise a hundred percent that they are my heroes and, and when you put it to that next level, oh yeah. It’s just [00:18:00] amazing.
LS: Even if you don’t learn anything, which is impossible, but even if you just come for the association, it’s well worth it. Travis, tell us about, about you and your story.
Travis: Well, I’m the Newbie here today guys. I recently accepted an opportunity to work with North Star specifically with their church leader outreach program. So that’s really what pulls me here today, kind of pulls me in from the sidelines. I’ve kept my personal journey with SSA, very private but throughout [00:18:30] my life I’ve kind of come to this crossword roads where I just feel like I can’t sit on the sideline anymore and watch a lot of a really great people suffer unnecessarily and at the same time watch a lot of great people that I love to do some really stupid things and say some really stupid things that I just don’t think they understand and know what they’re doing. So, this will be a bit of a surprise for those who might know me. This is kind of stepping out there saying, OK, I, I’m, I’m going a bit, somewhat of a reluctant [00:19:00] voice but I just feel strongly that I can’t, I can’t not jump on the bandwagon here. We’ve got to do better to help. I’m married, I’m Provo here. I’ve been married 32 years. My wife Margaret and I have six children. We’ve got a couple of grandchildren. My personal journey with same sex attraction, really has been a somewhat difficult road for me, mostly because I’ve chosen to just a very deeply, I’m, you know, [00:19:30] in my mid-fifties. And so, I come from an era where, you know, a fate worse than death to be gay. And I learned that very quickly. I came from a home with five older brothers and realized early on that I was different and I was different in ways that I realized were not acceptable. And so, I just, kind of filed that away and set on it and, um, and set out to make the best of my life. Not really understanding what it really meant. [00:20:00] I’ve had a great life, a wonderful rich experience, but a constant undercurrent of shame and self-doubt and a worry that if anybody really knew this about me, that really, I would lose those people in my life. I have, worked hard to have a happy life. The Gospels meant a lot to me. It’s been a great strength to me, a great strength and, [00:20:30] has given me focus and purpose probably throughout most of my marriage. The issue of same sex attraction kind of ebbed and flowed great blanks of time where I felt like, what was that all about? And then other times where it became difficult in, as I talk about difficult, it really. I mean, it was the things in my head that, where the greatest struggle with things that the stories I told myself about what it meant and unfortunately [00:21:00] buying off unbelievable stories that were just really, really unhealthy. Really the same sex attractions, not been the problem. It’s been really a lot of the situations around that that have made it an interesting, an interesting journey for me.
LS: Crucial point that we’ll dig into here as we talk that you know a lot of people. I think without much education, if we are coming from a very orthodox conservative background, it’s easy. I think we’ve gone through this phase in the church [00:21:30] and maybe some people should be going through where they think that, well, this orientation can be fixed and it’s not about fixing that, but what can be fixed is the level of shame that we indirectly invite into these interactions and if we remove that shame that can be faced. It’s amazing what can happen
Travis: Exactly Kurt and there’s so many sources of shame. Shame can come at you from every direction and not necessarily that people shame you. I find that I’ve been really great at shaming myself through the stories [00:22:00] that I’ve told myself. I’ve built the scenarios that have created and fed me the shame myself. You know, I take a lot of responsibility for that. There’s a lot of good meaning people that didn’t realize some of the things they were saying, how they would be interpreted by me not particularly picking up on some of those things younger me and then kind of being alone with them in my head for years creates some really crazy sad, unfortunately very believable stories to me that [00:22:30] I’m just untangling these last couple of years that I’m just shocked at some of the things I bought off on in my head.
LS: Some of your unique background, you’ve served as a bishop but also as a as a mission president and had some opportunities of leadership.
Travis: Yeah, right. I’ve had the chance to serve in a couple of stake presidencies, mission president for three years with my family, bishop a couple of instances, a high counselor. In fact, in the 32 years of marriage, I think I’ve been away from the family [00:23:00] probably 28 of those really great opportunities of growth and in a way those kind of had their own area of shame for me because you know, in callings in the church, we don’t ask for them. We don’t say, Hey, pick me. I was always the person in the back saying, man, they won’t pick me, and man, if they picked me, oh my goodness, surely what would that mean if they knew, and so I just went along doing the best I could. Accepting assignments to serve [00:23:30] always felt best. Being busy and engaged. I love people. I love to be engaged with them in service and so it was really a great path for me in, in lots of ways. I felt like it was kind of the Lord saying, this is how we’re going to do this. I need you and you just keep going. And I thought, well, OK, I can keep the commandments. I can serve, I can do this. And a really those negative thoughts never really came from, from God. They were just stories again [00:24:00] that I told myself and sometimes that made it pretty tough. As you consider yourself, you know, because we really put leaders on a pedestal, you know, bishops can do no wrong, you know, mission presidents talk about a pedestal there, but I never put myself on a pedestal. I was always the least. Always have felt the least in any calling that I’ve ever had, but you step up and you do the best you can, and I always knew that even though others didn’t know this about me, God knew this about me. [00:24:30] So God calls leaders. God inspires people to call leaders. And so, if God didn’t think I was worthy of this or I should be doing this, God would have made sure it didn’t happen. But he allowed it to happen in many ways. It was a great, great blessing for me. And so, I think I come from an interesting perspective of kind of being on both sides of the table, having been in the leader seat and now a later in my life working with other [00:25:00] individuals who struggled to some degree or another with the issue surrounding the Same-sex attraction. I’ve found myself sitting across the table from my priesthood leaders looking for encouragement, looking for compassion, looking for help. And it’s, um, it’s been an eye-opening experience from the other side.
LS: You talk about this, this point where you felt like, you know, just, let’s just bury this is as deep as it could go and I’m going to take this to the grave and, you know, because where [00:25:30] 15 years ago, beyond that, coming out was more of like I’m coming out and going this direction in this lifestyle, you know, a homosexual lifestyle. And that’s, that’s where now, because I think a lot of people will see your situation and say, well, why didn’t you just not tell anybody and just keep going because you have no, I mean, you want to continue with your covenants. And Chris, you could probably speak to this as well, but it’s learning from your experience. It sounds like there’s, that wasn’t really your choice, but you felt this, this encouraging from the spirit, from your Father in Heaven that whether you [00:26:00] like it, this is, this is going to be talked about and you’re going to reconcile this. You cannot bury this anymore.
Travis: Yeah Kurt. I was, I was sure I would make it to the grave with this. And, you know, even the prospect of maybe I’m not a long life might have been great, if I could make it into my sixties and go down, that’d be, you know, they’d probably be OK, but God had a different plan and a one that I have not liked to a certain degree. I’m still kind of wrestling with in that, hey, wait, we had [00:26:30] a kind of a deal here all these decades that we’re just going to keep this between us and help me get through it. A couple of, few years ago actually just kind of started growing in me. This thought that I just love my sweetheart so much that this was the secret between us. I had never told my wife about my same sex attraction. And even back when we got married, I don’t know what I would’ve said. I didn’t have words for it. And even I couldn’t even describe what I was [00:27:00] feeling or what I experienced. But I did love my wife. She was my best friend. I wanted a family. You know, nobody was telling me to get married. Nobody, you know, I just feel like I lead a somewhat sheltered life from whatever was being talked about or promoted regarding Same-sex attraction or the gay community and I just went forward trusting that, hey, this is what I’ve always wanted and here’s this great person that I love and here we go, but a [00:27:30] few years ago it kind of just started growing in me that this was a thing between us and I couldn’t abide that. It was like, man, how can you have this person so close to you and have this thing that they don’t know about? And so, I just kinda kept working really hard to shut that thought down. It was like, yeah, what are you thinking? Go Away. You know, we’re not, we’re not going there, but it just, it grew over several months and it grew to the point where it was just going to come out of me whether, I was willing or not. In fact, I became [00:28:00] really quite panic that literally in any moment the words would just come out. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in my life, and that’s exactly what happened. On Sunday morning, I woke up and rolled over in bed and it came out, just came out and as it was coming out, I couldn’t believe that it was actually coming out of my mouth. And, that began an opportunity, you know, I thought, wow, here it [00:28:30] is. I’m getting this off my chest and my, my sweetheart could not have been kinder, more generous compassionate tender and has remained. So, as we’ve talked more about it. And she’s been dragged along on this journey as well now, but it opened up, it opened. There was a, what I call the crack in my damn. I had suddenly, I, for the first time in my life I’d spoken the words, I had acknowledged it to someone and for every bit that I thought that [00:29:00] would be a relief, it was actually a huge panic that kind of just a set off a lot of everything that I had worked so hard to contain and hold and maintain. And now there had been a breach in that. It was just getting away from me and I wasn’t prepared for the fact of how much that would panic me and upset me and, kinda threw me into an ok, we’ve gotta we’ve gotta work on this and uh, it’s been a bump a couple of years. [00:29:30] These last couple of years is I’ve really had come to terms with it, look at it, talk about it, dissect it, frightening. In fact, I often referred to not only is my cart been tipped over, it’s been annihilated and I’m off on a new, a new venture. God’s got a new plan and I’m reluctantly starting to come along and see what he’s, where he’s taking me. But, but I do know that there is the divine in this, [00:30:00] that God’s saying here we go and it’s time and we’re just hoping we can, um, we can do whatever he needs. He needs us to do.
LS: I appreciate so much about your experience and your story is that I think there are a lot of times when an individual maybe steps into a bishop’s office, that Bishop’s first inclination like yours was, is that let’s try and control this information like for so many years you able to keep it in this box, file it away, and just go on and live in your, your covenant keeping happy Mormon [00:30:30] life. Right? But at some point, God took it off the shelf and said, no, no, you need to look at this and reconcile it. Right? And so, I think it’s important to realize that as an individual comes with bishop, they are not going to. You can’t just assume you’re going to have control on this information or how it should come off or put a plan together about okay, well let’s not tell anybody or those things is. And we’ll talk about kind of the negative effects of that. But Chris, I want to go to you from your experience. Obviously you, you have been a bishop and you sort [00:31:00] of were in the same point, right? Where you felt like you had it filed away, you didn’t necessarily need to talk about it and you could just go on living in your, your happy life.
Chris: Yeah, for sure. A lot of what Travis talked about is familiar to me as well. From a very young age, in fact, as I think back in second grade, I remember sort of thinking about boys differently and just always kind of pushed that down. I was raised Catholic and joined the church right after I graduated high school and you know, I think the [00:31:30] thing that about the gospel and the church that appealed to me the most was the prospect of an eternal family, and that’s something I always wanted, and so I think because of that, that was another reason that I just pushed those thoughts and those feelings aside, you know, and, and like Travis, I didn’t disclose that to my wife when we were dating or married. Really three years ago, shortly after I was released as bishop that I just out of the blue felt that I needed to, to address that and face this part of my life and [00:32:00} better understand Heavenly Father’s plan as it related to the role of this in my life. Fortunately, my wife is amazing and it’s really been an opportunity for us to come closer, to learn more about what Heavenly Father has for us and for our family. My church leaders reacted amazingly. We spoke to them just about a week after I talked with my wife and shared this with her. They didn’t jump to conclusions, they didn’t, you know, go into damage control, any [00:32:30} of that. Um, having been a recently released bishop, I can certainly understand why they could have, but they didn’t. They just expressed how much they loved us, that they will do anything that we need in terms of support. And really got behind us and since then and because of their attitude about this, we’ve had the opportunity to be more open in our stake and in our area, you know, as far as doing firesides and some surrounding stakes. [00:33:00} And we get, we get calls from parents who, live in our area and are looking for resources, as well as individuals that liked me and Travis had thought that we would take that to our grave and dealing with all of that shame throughout our life. There is some hope. And so, I say all that with the caveat that it’s not easy. It can be extremely difficult. There’s a lot of pain associated with these things and things that we still carry and have to work through, but I can tell [00:33:30} you that I’m in a better place now having faced this and started to address it in good ways. It’s helped me come closer to the Savior, it has helped me better understand that there is a unique plan for me, that there is joy in suffering. And I say that with some caution because while this did cause a lot of suffering for me throughout my life, I’m not in a place where I feel like I am suffering because I’m gay. I’m able to understand that there’s a role for this in my life and I find a [00:34:00} lot of joy in having conversations with other people whose stories might be similar and learning from people like Scott who see it from a parent’s perspective. The other thing that I’ve learned is just to put things into context and that all things are relative and that, you know, having good church leaders around me that I can call when I need support or just somebody to listen to without jumping through judgment or trying to be preachy has been maybe one of the best resources that I have. And so that’s why I think [00:34:30} all of us in this conversation today are so passionate about making sure that all church leaders know. First of all, that the church does have resource the mormonandgay.org website that Scott was talking about, as well as resources that are offered through North Star to help church leaders better understand how to minister and some of the unique opportunities that having gay and transgender members in their congregations present to them. There’s a lot of ways that individuals can bless the lives of other people, even [00:35:00} if they’re not in the position to serve in a calling at that point.
LS: Obviously there’s various approaches we can have in this conversation and I encourage people to check out my similar conversation in past episodes and we’ll link to all those, but even as far as three years ago, or you’ve talked with other former bishops who experienced same gender attraction, Ty Mansfield was a part of that as well. And we cover everything from you know, labels to what words to use [00:35:30} in these things. So, we may not cover all that, but one topic I wanted to cover, and Travis, I’ve learned so much personally from experience that when it comes to this idea of shame. Scott, why don’t we start with you with this conversation is, you know, you mentioned what a blessing it was that you had this interaction with your son, with his coming out, with you personally reconciling your perspective there. You’re grateful that happened before you were a bishop. And why is that?
Travis: Well, there was, [00:36:00} whole thing about that. When you talk about the shame, I can honestly a hundred percent promise you that when my son came out to me, I never went to thinking about him and what he’s been going through his whole entire life. I immediately went to me. What are my neighbors going to think? What are my friends going to think? What’s my family going to think? You know, I can’t even raise families. You know? And you started going through this guild of you must’ve done something wrong as a parent. And so, the shame [00:36:30} I get that, I get that part of it, you know, when I got to the point where I realized the struggle and the fact where I came from, didn’t really matter, that I needed to worry about other people a lot more than I worry about myself. And when I started seeing the outreach, when my wife and Sean put out a video that wasn’t the one that was on the Mormon and gay website, but they just did the one on their own. They just did a YouTube video that Becky felt strongly that she needed to do, and she needed to come out of her own closet [00:37:00} as a Mormon mother of a gay son. And she put out a video that just opened this whole journey. And when I saw all of the outpour of love, that’s where I’m ashamed now. That’s when I jumped on board as far as being open to talk about it. Before I was wanting to hide everything. And when I realized that there was a lot of good out there, a lot of good people. That the shame, I didn’t need to fill any of that. I needed to feel love from other people. But going from that moment there [00:37:30} where I was able to turn the corner and realize that if my son had dealt with so much of that, if he had always felt alone, if he had felt like he was the only person that was going through that same scenario, he didn’t realize there was a whole zillions of people on earth that were feeling those same emotions. And he was ready to end his life. Many times. He even said to the point where he didn’t want to leave a note, because if he left a note, then we’d [00:38:00} know. If he didn’t leave a note, we would all wonder. We’d think, ‘gall he was such a good kid what happened?’ But that’s where it would end. And we would never know that secret about him. He didn’t even want God to know it, is what he’s told us. And there was no way he wanted us to know it. And so, I realized as a bishop now that if he felt those things and he felt so alone, he’s not the only one. That each time one of these young adults comes to me, and opens up a part of their heart, I’m often the first [00:38:30} person that’s ever heard it. They’ve never shared it with anybody. And I need to be compassionate and loving and I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to turn that corner. That I’ve really honestly in my heart, have love and genuine compassion. When you talk about going to the North Star conference and seeing all these people in one room. I just got a smile on my face because I can’t wait for that to happen again. The hugs are amazing okay, as a heterosexual person, I love the hugs at a [00:39:00} conference of the North Star. Even when I go to some other conferences of other groups, I’ve become good friends with so many of them. And it’s just a good place to be. And that’s the thing I would send out to any leader, a young women’s leader, a relief society leader, a bishop or a young man’s, anything in any situation. Always be understanding that there are several in your congregation that are probably going through something like that, whether they understand it or not, or fully comprehend it, or are willing to talk about it. It doesn’t [00:39:30} matter the things we say still matter. And to be around, to be past that spot where I don’t worry about what people think about me anymore, but I worry about the people in the room. It’s another conversion.
LS: As a bishop, you mentioned being compassionate and loving. In that scenario, in the bishop’s office, someone comes in and regardless of if it’s related to LGBT things or not. What does that loving, compassion look like in that moment?
Travis: In that moment when somebody comes out to me, and they have, as soon [00:40:00} as they finished telling me what they’re talking about before I give any input or anything like that, I just stopped the conversation and I say, can I give you a hug? I’ve never had anybody turn me down and I walk around the desk and I give them a big hug. And it’s a warm, just spirit to spirit embrace that we are now on the same level. We can talk, we can discuss, we can feel the spirit by just having an open conversation. And I don’t want anybody to ever leave my office not feeling [00:40:30} that I was an extension to their savior’s arms.
LS: I would imagine most of the members of your ward are aware that you have a gay son. Do you feel like individuals are more likely to come talk with you because you had a point of reference as far as understanding?
Travis: I think so. Before the Mormon message came out though, it was probably when I had by far more people that came out and talked to me. We were very open. My wife and my very first week this last [00:41:00} August when the fall semester started, we had, we had a hundred and sixty people in our ward. A hundred and forty of them were brand new. You know, we go through this every year, a whole new group. And the very first Sunday I met together with them in a, in a setting and we all go through and tell who we are and a little bit something unique about ourselves and I always bring it up. I say, you know, rather than you google about me or anything like that, let me just tell you where I stand. I’m a safe place. This ward is a safe place and I talk about all [00:41:30} those situations that I don’t want to feel that there’s something. They have to be shamed about it. They have to hold inside, that they can talk to me about anything
LS: What I gained from that. But as far as what I gained from that as a leader, I think it’d be easy for a leader to say, well, I don’t have a gay son or a gay daughter. You know, maybe I don’t have that, you know, personal experience. But again, another plug for the conference is, this is in this. I learned from Joseph Stiff who you can listen to on past to recordings [00:42:00} that we’ve done, but this is what I would do if I was a bishop. I would go or any leader, you go to North Star conference experience it. He learned the best you can and then the next Sunday you go home and you meet with your youth. You meet with, you, meet with the maybe the elder’s quorum or relief society going and say, I’ve just been to this conference. I know something about this and I just want, you know, if anybody wants to talk about it, I know something about this now I’ve learned some things and I’m hoping to talk about it. I think that such a, a bridge-builder when the individual knows [00:42:30} the bishop has actually considered these things and thought about them and is ready to respond in love.
Scott: Another point that I just thought of while you were mentioning all that is, is that many of these leaders feel that they don’t have a gay son or anything like that, but the statistics are. It’s like one in 20 or one to 25 to 25 that this person has same sex attraction, so if those are the statistics, it’s a lot closer than they [00:43:00} think because you’ve got to realize that Chris’s father, nor Travis’s father had a gay son either until three years ago, even though their whole life they were. There’s many out there that are not willing to come out and say something. We’ve got to create an open space to where this can just be a conversation we have.
Chris: We’ve all probably been in situations where we can at least understand how frightening that is to go in and talk to the bishop or the stake president [00:43:30} when something’s amiss. So whatever that is, imagine something that is perceived as just being the worst thing that can ever happen to a person. Hey, I think I might be gay or dealing with, you know, gender identity issues. So, for that person to go and talk to their priesthood leader or any church leader is gotta be. It is one of the most frightening thing. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done next to talking about this with my wife, but the reason that I was able to go and talk to my bishop and my stake president [00:44:00} cause I knew them and I knew that there safe people and I knew that they weren’t going to immediately jumped to conclusions for judgment because I had a relationship and a connection with them partly because I’ve worked with them, but also because of how I had seen the minister to other people and by observing how they ministered to their ward or branch or stake, I knew that they were compassionate people and so just everyday things that that church leaders do is being observed by everybody right [00:44:30} in that unit and so by people observing those acts of compassion administering and people will get the idea whether or not that safe person for them to talk to and confide in.
Travis: I would like to just add to that, shame can come from a lot of different sources. It can come from everywhere and I think it’s kind of difficult to try and control all shame. Like I said, most of my shame was in my head, but there’s an awful lot that church leaders can do to minimize [00:45:00} the shame that someone might be trying to take upon themselves. For example, they may feel like they can approach their leader, their leader knew, and that in itself is a shame. But if church leaders were able to diminish shame, not knowing whose shame they’re diminishing through kind acts and words and talks and such flux shooting. I’m flux, shooting I’m saying some things out there and hopefully the people who need to hear him or hearing them and its blessing them [00:45:30} and diminishing the shame. I have a good friend who, who told me the story of just being so worried about approaching his bishop that it was excruciating and one on for some time, but there happened to be a time when the bishop was speaking and sacrum meeting and he was talking about a friend of his. The bishops friend who had passed away from aids and the Bishop talked very fondly of this gay friend and it sparked. It just, It had such [00:46:00} an impact on this individual hearing the bishop talk in reference to this type of an issue with same sex attraction of a personal experience that it just wiped away any fear that he had approached me because he, he sensed and felt how this bishop felt about this issue which opened the door for him to be able to go right in and you know, there’s a lot that the church leaders could do that way of opening the door sacrament, meeting with him the youth in a lot of situations and then think about [00:46:30} the opposite of that thing was that they might say that actually are closing that door and creating potential pockets of shame bags of shame that someone’s going to pick up and run with. And I think I find that being one of my struggles as I hear things and I’m in things, meetings and such. Not that people are necessarily outright derogatory, but some of those things hit close to home. And for someone like me who the shame master, [00:47:00} I can turn anything into shame for myself. So, like Chris said, I think it’s just that sensitivity, listening, being kind, compassionate in that knows every church leader who just makes sure that whatever they’re saying, whatever they’re putting across however they’re coming across with their youth, with ward members, that this is a person who could hear anything and handle it and be filled with love and compassion.
LS: Yeah, and I think this [00:47:30} is what I’m learning about all this as I I’ve interacted with each one of you, is that we can’t assume that the bishop’s office, that the default position of the bishop office as a safe place. We talk about how important it discussing these things are in a safe place, but just because you have a picture of the savior on the wall just smile a lot and they call you bishop that well, why do they think I’m not a safe person to talk to you, but it really is a proactive thing. You have to do. Like you mentioned your friend, he standing up and talking about these personal experiences, right? He was in front of people [00:48:00} articulating some of this. So, they knew that, OK, I think I could come talk to him and he’s going to respond in love.
Travis: Yeah. I don’t know. As a bishop I ever thought, what am I doing specifically to make sure that people would want to come and see me with the most personal info, hard issues in their life. What, am I doing and what can I do to invite that. I don’t think that thought ever crossed my mind. Sadly, it has a million times in these last couple of years. [00:48:30} But in the church culture, the culture is, is that you just go to the bishop, you know, we, we hear that, we preach, we teach that, that this is the person who will solve all your problems and that’s an awful lot. Not only to lay up on a bishop, but it’s an awful lot to lay up on individuals in the church who are struggling with issues and who are afraid to approach their bishop because a, you think about it just because this person is been designated by [00:49:00} someone as the person who can handle anything. Does that mean I throw away my fears, I mean good heavens, I’ve been married for, I’d been married 30 years before I talked with my wife, the person I trusted the most, the person closest dearest to me than it took me 30 years to get it out to her, but somehow, I’m supposed to approach someone that maybe has been this person, this leader of mine for a week, a year, [00:49:30} three years. I may know them, I may not know them and I’m supposed to just come and unload the deepest, darkest, most painful parts of my life. I don’t mean to put that on bishops of you’re not getting it or you’re not doing it well enough, but personally as a leader in the past, I surely didn’t appreciate probably to the degree that I should have what the church is really asking these people to do. In trusting me.
LS: When they do [00:50:00} come in and leave and they feel like, oh wait, that was supposed to work, that was supposed to fix something or, and it didn’t. Then that causes further discouragement and shame.
Scott: I had an ah ha moment and I’ll let Chris touch on this as well. Just as of late, I thought I’ve been so busy I don’t start interviews at 12:30 and I don’t get home till 8:30 its straight interviews, straight through and I just thought I’ve never had many people with this many issues in my ward before and I’ve been [00:50:30] doing this three years and then I finally realized that it’s not them that’s changed. It’s me that has changed and they finally trusted me. The issues were always there. I just didn’t have enough people felt like that I was a safe place to talk to and just being that person, being that open person explained to the sharing parts of me, you know, in open settings of who I am and being able to get emotional and, being on their level and crying with them. I think they’ve [00:51:00] learned to trust me that I can talk to him now. So yeah, if you don’t want to be busy as a leader, then don’t do that. Chris, or did you have that same type thing as you became a bishop towards the end?
Chris: Yeah sort of along those lines. You know, with church leaders to feel just this immense amount of pressure that they have to know all about this topic, I know is when I was bishop, you sometimes just never know what people have set an appointment for. Right? And then you sit there and you listened [00:51:30} to them tell their story and are their woes and thinking, oh my gosh, I have no idea. Like I was called as a bishop at 34 and I like pretty young and inexperienced. And so, there were certainly situations where I just didn’t know what to say. Like I’ve never heard some of these things. And part of what I learned in interacting with my church leaders as I’ve worked through my own things is that it’s perfectly ok to say, you know what, I don’t have the answers, [00:52:00] but I’m really glad that you trusted me enough to tell me this and to bring me into this part of your life and hopefully you’ll allow me to learn along with you. Help me to better understand these things because I want to. I want to know more about your life. I want to know what this is like and I want, I want to learn not only so I can be of some help to you hopefully, but if somebody else were to come and have something similar that I can be a little bit more educated, I think, you know, there’s also a responsibility on our LGBT members [00:52:30] to not go in to talk to a church leader fully expecting that they will know anything or everything about this, about how to help them or what to say. And so with that, I think it’s perfectly fine for a church leader to say just that I don’t have the answers, but thank you for bringing me into this. Can you help me learn alongside you? You know, and I think that does a lot to show, you know, humility and compassion and empathy and a willingness to be a partner in that person’s life and helping them come closer to the [00:53:00] Savior.
Travis: If I could maybe add on to Chris I am totally in agreement with what you said there, but I’ve had this thought that this is such an interesting time in history and in the history of the church. We have so many young people and of course this is a, this whole, you know, LGBT issue is just out there in everyone’s face. Everyone it’s, it’s a deal. It’s a lot of, a lot of talk, a lot of issues, a lot of controversy, a lot of opinions [00:53:30] and with that comes the opportunity for a lot of our younger people to feel more comfortable addressing it, which I’m just thrilled. I’m just thrilled. Nobody’s waiting 40 years say something, but as those young people decide that they want to talk about it, we got to be not only have we gotta be ready when they come to talk about it, we gotta be inviting them to come and talk about it because if we’re not proactively out there saying, hey, we’re here and we [00:54:00] can help, then they’re probably gonna go somewhere else. Or they’re only going to come to us once. Maybe they’ve crashed and burned or we don’t want them to come when they’re desperate and so we can’t afford to get it wrong as church leaders, now, I don’t wanna heap anything on the bishops and stake presidents out here out there who are hearing this because obviously you don’t want to get it wrong and you don’t have to get it wrong because you can get it right by [00:54:30] right now, today, tomorrow, getting out there and figuring out what it is that you’ve got to say and do and learn and feel and know so that when it does come, you are going to get it right because it’s going to come bishop, it’s going to come president and you can be ready for it. You don’t have to be afraid of it. You don’t have to be afraid. I’m going to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. We got to pay attention to this issue. We’ve got to do our due diligence. We’ve gotta do our homework. We’ve got to get on the church’s website. We [00:55:00] got to talk to people that we know, we can’t stand on the edge and be uncomfortable anymore. We’ve got to dig in and learn it, pull it out of the closet, look at it, touch it, understand it, embrace it, and then you’ll be ready when it comes because it’s, it’s, it’s gonna come and we need to be prepared to hold onto this generation and we need to hold on to them when they come and we need to. We need them to see that they can come, they can come to us and I think that’s what [00:55:30] you’ve done, Scott. You’ve created an environment where they can come to you and not, not just with, not just with LGBT issues, but with any issue which we’d hope anybody in the church would come. Whatever it may be, that they could come to the church, they could come to their bishop, is preparing and trying their very best. And really, maybe you’re so busy you don’t have time to, to learn and study a lot of stuff in a really great by that last year to, you know, right before your [00:56:00] got a great missionary. By the time you go home, right about the time you go home, we can’t afford that though. We’ve got to help our bishops and maybe present stake presidents hearing this. Who am I to invite you, but man, think of what you could do to help your bishop’s right out of the gate as a brand-new bishop in whatever training you can get after them on. This is one again, that we just aren’t doing well. We’re not doing great. Personally. I’m 0 for four with my priesthood leaders. It’s been a, it’s been a rough. It’s been a rough [00:56:30] ride for me now. These are men that I love. I know they love me. I know they would do anything for me, but they’ve not been prepared for me to come and ask them for their support and their encouragement.
LS: Their good intentions have sort of made a mess of things.
Travis: It kind of made a mess of things and initially that that was pretty painful, man. It was the time when I was really, really raw and really, really all I needed was someone to [00:57:00] tell me it would be ok. I needed a hug on the other side of the desk and I needed someone to say, yeah, you’re doing good, you’re doing right to keep going and it is going to be OK, Travis, it’s going to be ok. But they weren’t prepared. They weren’t prepared for that. And it was initially, it was pretty rough, but I’ve kind of, I’ve kind of come to realize that there are a lot of people that came to me in my leadership callings and I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t do very well. So, I’m calling myself out here, [00:57:30] but what I’ve come to feel like is that I’m kind of like a crash dummy. I liked this testing. I’m throwing myself out there and to see if I can hold up and where I expect to have the support and the help sometimes it’s not there in an earlier on that was a bit more difficult. Now I just kind of say, oh man, I sure I sure didn’t want to be the person that this person to me needed to learn some [00:58:00] things about this issue from. I was hoping they could have learned it from someone else so that when it was my turn, but I realize I don’t, I don’t have that, I don’t have that blessing, I don’t have that gift. I’ve got to get out here and I’ve got opened my mouth and quit sitting on the stands or on the sideline watching the other crash dummies, throw myself out there and let some people learn from us. Then I’ve, you know, I’ve toughened up a bit and I realized, Hey, these are good hearted people. Really doing [00:58:30] their best and by talking about it and by doing things like this with you, we can help them do better. We hope, I hope.
LS: Yeah. And that’s really what we’re trying to accomplish. As you say your test crashed dummy. We have, we brought you in here, so your 0 for 4 in your experience. But maybe leaders listening will be 10 and 2 or 20 and 2 and you’re hopefully help other leaders that way.
Scott: But, but I think, I mean, Travis, when he told me his story originally, I mean that was one of the most compelling heart felt [00:59:00] stories on. And I just hurt for him, but I think there’s some reason behind this. I think that the fact that each one of us has a voice here today means that each one of us are willing to do whatever it takes to get the word out there on how to the things we’ve learned. It’s not that we know everything, but the things that we’ve learned, we think would be helpful if there’s church leaders who would like to have a stake. The stake presidency can put together a bishop’s training one night and even bringing their high counselors in and even the relief society have [00:59:30] everybody there, young man and young women’s, their leaders, their whole leadership and invite one of us to come to a fireside with them to talk about it, to talk about the elephant in the room, to open up and ask questions, I think would be. That’s why. That’s why he’s compelled to tell his story. That’s why he’s not taking it to the grave is because he has a voice that people can learn from. When Becky came out with that video, her and Sean originally, I wasn’t still, I still wasn’t a full a [01:00:00] spokesperson, right. I’m still kind of hanging back and I had a friend reach out to me and he said, Hey, I just saw your video, your family, his video, and he said, I can see that I’m doing things wrong. He says, my son came out to me four years ago at the dinner table. I told them to get up, get away from my table, and I never come back. I didn’t want to see him again. He says, has been for years and I’ve never spoken to my son one word since then he says, I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to do something better. And I said, does he have, do you know [01:00:30] his cell phone? And he says, yes, I do. And I said, will you text him and just say I love you? Oh Wow. He says, I should do that. And I say, yeah, you should. And he says, ah, he’s, I’m going to, I’m going to text him as soon as we’re done here, I’m going to text him and tell him I love him, but if he wants to come to our home that he can’t bring his boyfriend with him. And he was, oh, just a sec here. I say, you text him and tell him you love him. That’s it. Yeah, we’ll, but needs to know that, you know, we’ve got kids in our family and [01:01:00] all these things. NO, you send him a text that says I love you. That’s it. He said, OK, I’ll do that. Those types of things are the things that we can help people understand because we’ve heard these stories. We’ve, we’ve been through this Mormonandgay.org has a wonderful website. Which doesn’t get resourced enough in my opinion. There’s 10 tips for parents that are amazing. And like I say, there’s parents out there who have no idea that their children are gay. That doesn’t change the fact that [01:01:30] they are or are not, OK? Those parents, every parent needs to be familiar with this. They’ve got nieces, they’ve got nephews, they’ve got children that they’re going to be confronted with sometime of what to do, leaders, they need to know these answers there on the Mormon and gay website. 10 tips for parents there, some amazing tips. Just learn them.
Chris: We’ve all been in leadership positions to where we’re hit left and right every other day. There was an email about some new policy or guideline or something we need to be aware of in the [01:02:00] church and so this is one more thing. So, for anyone listening who might feel overwhelmed that you know, we’re suggesting you need to just become a subject matter expert. That’s not the case at all. I think if anything comes out of this conversation is just to get the word out that there are resources available when that time comes. I mean, if someone has time and interest now and wants to study up, fantastic, but if anything, when that time comes to where someone does visit with them, Hey, I’m dealing with this [01:02:30] or a family members dealing with this or I want to know more about this, that they know that the church’s website, Mormonandgay.org, which is an official church website. I think there are still those who are hesitant to go there because they don’t believe that it’s a church website. It’s a marvelous resource. There are videos out there from members of the quorum of the twelve and general presidencies and families. Stories like Scott, tremendous, tremendous resources in addition to the things that are offered at North Star. So again, just knowing that there are [01:03:00] resources. You know, when I was bishop, I certainly knew what I was feeling. I knew that there was something there that even though they, you know, I wasn’t facing that. I knew that those resources existed, but I was afraid to go look at them because I didn’t want to address my own issues and I wish now that I would have. I know a few times there were opportunities for conversations around this, this issue when I was bishop, but those conversations were scary for me because of what I was [01:03:30] dealing with personally and I wish now that that I would have been brave enough and interested enough to go and seek those things out.
LS: I want to put it into context because this subject can be so vast that you’re sort of speaking generally about all sorts of things, but going back to the context of the bishop’s office of that individual coming to their priesthood leader or maybe their relief society president and seeking direction and help because of leaders just now that we’ve sort of put pressure on them, which is fine, but we’re also saying with these resources is going to be easy to remove [01:04:00] that pressure. You’re going to do fine. Right? So, when if a bishop was asked, what should I say or what should I not say? I love Scott’s example of, of stopping and not saying anything and just hugging them, but from your experience, what has been difficult to hear? Sometimes when, again, these good meaning leaders, we’re trying to just relate to you and help you, but they were just piling on shame, which wasn’t helping.
Travis: Unfortunately, the list of all the things not to say is a lot longer than the list of the good things to say. And I know they [01:04:30] come from places of well-meaning I think they also come from places of ignorance. Again, that’s why we got to do, we can’t afford to be ignorant in any of the situations that come into a bishop’s office. So, you know, we do our best to learn about all the issues that come in there. You know, if there’s marital issues, you know, all of the different things that come through an office. You know, I agree with Chris. You can’t, you can’t know it all and you can’t, you know, be prepared for every single thing that comes in. But [01:05:00] there are some standard things, you know, on one hand you can pretty much count on. This will be, you know, one of the top five maybe that might come in there so you can be prepared. So it really quickly, just the really, really tough the bishops have a, if anything, you know, if you’re not prepared and you don’t know what to do, please don’t say things like you just need to date more girls or you need to spend more time with girls or have you been to the doctor? [01:05:30] Maybe you just need more testosterone. You probably need to play sports because sports are going to fix that right? GO Hunting or, or you just need to hang out with more guys and that and that will fix that. There’s just a, there’s just so many things that are just super sensitive on that other end.
LS: That’s like coming from never ever, ever come from a fix-it mentality. Exactly. Bishop’s office in there to fix things. Christ [01:06:00] will fix our issues Christ or about why the bishop’s office isn’t there. You should never come up with the fix it attitudes.
Travis: Right and probably one of the number one. And, and I, I saw this recently with a friend of mine in a while, say stake actually with the stake president. Don’t tell them what they are and they aren’t. Don’t tell them no, no, you’re not gay or no, you’re not experiencing same sex attraction, or don’t use that word. Don’t say that. Oh No, you’re not. They’ve gotten up all of this [01:06:30] courage. I mean, just think of what it’s taken to. Get them in there and then they get in there and someone just immediately just invalidates everything that they’ve just said. So in a best case scenario, just listen, listen, listen, give them a Scott Hug and express your love and express your gratitude for them, having the courage to share that with you and that you feel privileged to receive such a sensitive saying they need to know that this hasn’t freaked you [01:07:00] out and I think anything you can do that can express that, that compassion, that true compassion, which you know hopefully is there, but it may not be because maybe you as a leader, you’ve had situations or issues that this is a little tough for you to take you. You’re not filling it. Listen, they just need to be heard and just listen and let them. You don’t. You don’t have to agree or disagree. Let them get it out. [01:07:30] Let them unload it and let them do it the way they need to do it because sometimes I feel like there’s often a misconception that the fact that they’re telling you that they’re gay in and of itself as a confession, which is a huge shame thing. They shouldn’t feel shamed. That directs them into your office to confess the fact that they’re gay. They’re there shouldn’t be anything wrong with the fact that they’re gay. So, if they [01:08:00] come into your office to tell you that they’re struggling this way or that, that they’re gay, make sure that whatever your response is, is that ok and know that’s. I’m appreciate you telling me that you know, thing that you might do that might, might bring shame of, Oh, I’m so glad you came and told me this. I needed to know this. Oh, well, yes, you should have told me this. This is something that I did need to know. All of those types of statements are just shame, you know, [01:08:30] fertilizer.
LS: Yeah. You’re basically saying you’re broken in some way.
Travis: Yes, and you did need to come and tell me this.
Scott: I like the approach of, wow, thank you so much for sharing that with me. What would you like me to do to help you?
Travis: Yeah, how, how has that been difficult for you and how can I help you with that difficulty? I think Kurt, that we always jumped too, or too often. Not always. We too often jump to some type of connection that if you’re gay you are sinning or you’ve sinned and
LS: or because you’re in the bishop’s office [01:09:00] because you’re in the bishop’s office, there is a confession coming
Travis: As a bishop office, there is a confession coming. Well, I better get on with what I’m here for. I’m the judge in Israel and this is where people come to confess and say, all right, so what have you done? And we may even start right into a list of possibilities
LS: That seems like such a I mean, as, as a bishop, that seems such a logical thing to say, well, what have you done? Let’s talk about that. Have you done anything? But from your perspective, there’s the shame that comes with and removes love [01:09:30]
Travis: Yeah. It’s all about the fact that, oh, well, if you’re gay than obviously you’re sinning, which is not true, and I think being able to divide or distinguish between those two parts of whatever might happen in an interview, one I’m gay and two possibly I’m sinning, but let’s let them, let’s let them lead that lead us to that conversation where they need to go instead of potentially shaming them into that and maybe you have several [01:10:00] interviews. In fact, again, talking about other friends and another friend talked about how that it took multiple interviews with his bishop before he could finally talk about the fact that he was gay. He came in on the sins because that’s what you’re supposed to do. And so we talked about sins, but he wasn’t specific about the sins in the gender involved with him and the Bishop jumped to the conclusion that he was heterosexual and [01:10:30] that obviously whatever these sins entailed, they were possibly with someone of the opposite sex because it was all about that. That he decided with all of the concern of the bishop about sins that his being gay would be. That was a game changer. It didn’t matter what he might have been looking at in pornography. The fact that he might have been looking at gay pornography was going to be a big game changer. That just takes that sin is a whole another level because [01:11:00] the gay part of that is a sense. Does that make sense? More Shameful, so I just would invite bishops and stake presidents to let them get it out and maybe it’s gonna take multiple visits for them to come back and bleed out this pain and the suffering of just the shame and that burden and then when they’re ready and they want to talk about healing, what are some of those things that. What are some ways that maybe they’ve lost the spirit because of some of [01:11:30] the ways they may have acted out and then move into that. Let’s, let’s not jump to conclusions, which I feel like too often a lot of the stories that I hear, everybody was too quick to kind of jump to the conclusion that there are some serious in part and it goes right over the fact of the real pain. The root of the real issue that being a gay or lesbian.
LS: As I listened to what I’m learning from that is that really getting the state of, of letting them sort of set the pace of those [01:12:00] discussions that you’re not there to, uh, you know, let’s not talk about temple recommends and whether I’m going to take it on and let’s not talk about your worthiness. Let’s just talk about how can we get on the same level of understanding. Wow, I appreciate that you’ve shared this with me. What is, what are some things you’ve been going through? You know, how can I help with that? You know, what, what’s some things that I’m missing that maybe you came here seeking for? You know, I’m definitely not going to fix this and I don’t know everything and I’ve got some resources here, but regardless of that, I can’t imagine what you’re going through or help them. Help me understand. [01:12:30]
Travis: I think one of the ways that this is a bit different is, is mostly in, in most sins, it’s a choice we’re making. We’re choosing to. Sin Is certainly an individual experiencing same sex attraction. Can sin and do, but in that fact that they haven’t chosen to be gay, kind of, you know that that part of. I have nothing to confess here because it’s not a sin because this is just something that’s a part of my life. If a bishop can help, you know, [01:13:00] pull back and reinforce the fact that yeah, there’s nothing here to confess. That’s not a sin. There’s nothing wrong with that. If we can establish that, because certainly if a heterosexual came in and talked about maybe some of their sins or issues, they’re not having a conversation about whether being heterosexual was right or wrong. Does that make sense? I don’t know if that’s a fair comparison.
Scott: I agree. I think what you’re saying is very true and I [01:13:30] think even when they do come in in any situation, whether it’s lesbian, gay, well first of all along those lesbian, gay type thing, if they say they’re gay or if they are same sex attracted or same gender attracted, let them determine the awards they like to use and don’t jump to conclusions that if they are same sex attracted, that just means they have an attraction and if they say they’re gay, that that means they’ve done something. Ok. Because it can mean anything, you know, in that same field. But along those lines of when they come and they they’ve shared something so [01:14:00] deep and so dark and whatever in any situation, especially if they’ve done something that is sinful, I often asked them, so how do you feel about the Gospel? How do you feel your Saviors love at this moment? And a lot of times they’re very withdrawn and a lot of times they’re like, I’m not sure that this is true. I’m not sure about any of this anymore. And so I’m not gonna sit there and say, OK, well I need you to read this, this and this, and you do your scriptures and all these things. Those are important things, but that’s not where we’re at. I need somebody [01:14:30] to heal. So, I will ask them. I’ll say, well, you quit apologizing where you quit doing the, I’m sorry, will you kneel down tonight where you just kneel down and in prayer, just ask Heavenly Father, are you there? Are you there? And then ask him if he loves you, if you can determine that he is there and that he loves you, will work on all these other things. K, let’s get to those later. That’s not today’s meeting. Today’s meeting. I want you to know that your Savior [01:15:00] and that he loves you. And I think those things are so important to just be in tune with those people of what they’re going through and that they’re not there to be fixed. They’re there to be loved and fill those arms of their saviors or savior around them again. And, and when you do that, then we can build on anything
LS: That you’re not there to remove their burden, but you’re there to help support it.
Scott: We’re called as a judge in Israel. But oh my gosh, I’m not there to judge them. Ok, I am not there to hang [01:15:30] things over their heads. I am there to get them, love them, breath into them to get them in a strong place to get them to where they can build their own testimony to bring themselves back into the gospel because when they’re feeling guilt, the last thing they want to do is be around something that’s going to make them feel more guilty. They want to avoid. They want to get away from that. We’re all like that. That’s just human nature and so to get them feeling loved, no matter what they’ve done, that they still know they’re loved. That is so critical. [01:16:00]
Travis: I think we get stuck on the behavior and really behavior. I think behaviors are symptoms of the real problem, and if we’re not careful, we get stuck up on behaviors and we’re not really getting to the hurt. Like you said, the core of what’s really going on here, let’s let them. Does God, did God do this to me? Does God love me? What does this mean to me? What am I supposed to do with this? Running down the road with sins? We don’t even have the foundation to deal with. Why I’m even needing to repent [01:16:30]
Scott: And there’s often anger against God. Why did you make me like this?
Travis: Those are some very hard, hard, deep soul searching tough things and if we can just break a little bit and come back and make sure that that’s established and what can we do there, we’re sure going to get a lot further down the road in helping blessed and ultimately in handling whatever behaviors might not be in harmony with their governance.
LS: What I’m learning is when that individual walks [01:17:00] into that office, the first couple of appointments have nothing to do with the person being gay, it’s all about the shame that they’ve dragged into the office with you and so that the bishop’s role is how could we defuse that shame and get rid of it? Because that is the real enemy.
Travis: That is Satan at his best.
LS: That’s his strongest tool. The Shame
Chris: Yeah. I think with all of these things we’re talking about, the one thing that’s come to mind is this is not an LGBT specific conversation. All of these things [01:17:30] that we’re talking about that as leaders in the church we can do to minister are applicable across. I mean fill in the blank. Someone’s dealing with alcoholism. Someone has lost their job. Whatever is compelling someone to come and seek out a church leader. These are principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is how Christ would minister to us, I think, and so there’s really nothing new. I think that we’ve said in terms of how to approach situations when someone comes to seek [01:18:00] out. So you know, as a church leader you’re feeling like, you know, yeah, I can deal with pretty much any situation that somebody would throw at me except for this. It’s not that different. I mean, if someone’s coming in, they want someone to give them the hug. They want someone to just listen to them and encourage them and let them know that, you know, we’ll figure this out together. So it’s, it just because we’re talking about this one particular issue today, it’s not that unique from a ministry perspective in my opinion. [01:18:30]
LS: So Chris, maybe you can help us out here as we, as leaders are out there listening and they, they sort of, they have a deeper understanding of these things. They know they probably need to be much more proactive. Maybe we’re going to through some resources. If you were a bishop again and maybe didn’t have the background you did or the perspective you have, where would you start? Where would you push people in order to really start to study and gain a deeper understanding about this? Obviously, the conference North Star where else?
Chris: Again, the church’s website is phenomenal. A lot of rich content [01:19:00] in terms of videos and questions and answers. Mormonandgay.Lds.Org and this, this website. It had been around in some form for a while, but it used to be called Mormons and gays, which to a lot of people I think was separative, right? Uh, well there’s the Mormons and then there’s the gays, but the church has, I think was very wise and in renaming it Mormon and gay that, that you can be both and the fact that the church is using the term gay is pretty amazing I think. And so [01:19:30] that’s maybe the first place to start is just go there, listen to the stories and then like you mentioned the North Star website, northstarlds.org and then on the conference website, which you can get from that northstarlds.org or you can go to conference.northstarslds.org and there is a page specifically for church leaders that has some, some have FAQ’s there, it’s got information on what would take place on during the conference for church leaders. And then also there’s the free registration.
LS: Perfect. Just in closing, [01:20:00] you know, it was mentioned a little bit that that is not our intention to put added pressure to already very high stress calling and responsibility, but nonetheless, I think of, you know, using a sports analogy is the fourth quarter, the clock is running down. The coach calls a time out and of course coach is going to pull you over the sidelines and he’s going to put pressure and look in the eye and say, OK, you’re the quarterback. This is, you’ve got to, you’ve got to execute on this play, right? But then he follows that up with some direction, ok, look for this, this, and here’s our play and this is the [01:20:30] direction we’re going. So that removes the stress. And so, as we sign off here, I want to just have everybody have a last chance to just give some final encouragement. If you’re in a room full of bishops, relief society presidents, what would you say to them and closing from your perspective, and let’s go to Scott than Chris and Travis.
Scott: If I was speaking to a group of bishops or stake presidents right now, I would just tell them that you cannot be too compassionate, you cannot love too much. If you will, just put yourself in their shoes for a [01:21:00] minute and just absolutely listen with an open heart and an open mind. Have a spirit to spirit connection that you will not go wrong. The Lord will speak to you. He’ll help you to determine the best thing for this individual that is going to be a just like what we learned from elephants. It’ll be a lot more with big ears and little mouths, so less talking and more listening.
LS: Chris, what about you?
Chris: First of all, I’m just. The fact that you’re listening to this podcast I think is amazing. It’s a place to start and shows [01:21:30] that you care and how some interest and there too. I had to learn as a bishop to set aside preconceived notions I had of whatever x, y, and z meant to me and just listen to what that means to the person who was who was there seeking help for that and this. So, whatever you may think that being gay or transgender means to you, set that aside and as Scott and Travis has done so well, just listen to them and ask them about their experience and was. There’s a lot that we can learn. [01:22:00]
Travis: Well, I just want to say a leader, and I know we’ve talked specifically about the bishops and stake presidents, but I know there’s a meeting, a young women and young men leaders, relief society presidents, Quorum leaders that are listening here and really bless all of you. It’s just remarkable to me in this church that the things that we ask people to do or that the Lord asks us to do through his servants is just [01:22:30] stunning. And I know what it’s like and what it feels like a, like many of you to sit in some position in some chair and, some core or meeting and feel completely, completely inadequate of the tasks that are put before you. I take great comfort in, in the whole process of being set apart in callings. And, I bank a lot on that. I for one, feel that I’m duly authorized to [01:23:00] try because I’ve been set apart to do that and so don’t get too caught up on my inadequacies because I didn’t ask for it. Somebody else thought I could do it and they authorized me to do it so I could spend all my day on all my time worrying about everything, whether I’m capable or I can just get after it and I know you will get after it, but bless you. I hope if I made any of you feel that you weren’t doing amazing, remarkable, including my own priesthood. [01:23:30] Leaders will have tremendous love and respect myself in my even my church, current church calling. I know I can do better. I know I can do more, not just in the issues of LGBT, but in a lot of things that are out there. There’s never enough compassion. There’s never enough kindness. There’s never enough of listening. We can never overdo any of those. And, I, honor your efforts and the honor your responsibilities [01:24:00] in your calling for all of you and, and, we’re here. If we can help in any way, you’d be thrilled to help in any way bless you.
Way to go Travis! He was my mission president!
Excellent. Compelling. Authentic. Timely. Courageous. Heartwarming.
These are some of the most needed and pertinent conversations for members — and especially leaders — to hear at the present time. Great stuff. Should be mandated listening for every ward council. Thanks for being bold enough to bring all this to light.
Excellent. I do wish, though, that it included someone who is gay and not in a mixed-orientation marriage to show that a mixed-orientation marriage isn’t the right path for all gay members of the church. Some leaders in my stake believe it is the right path for ALL gay members, and I’m concerned this podcast will just confirm their belief.
I love the advice given in this podcast for Bishops to talk about same sex attraction in their wards so members will feel comfortable opening up to their Bishop about their own attraction. In a future podcast, you might want to address that talking about it won’t cause people to be gay. I think some leaders are afraid that if they talk about same sex attraction, they’ll cause the members to question if they are gay. They think if they don’t talk about it, they won’t question (I actually heard one of my leaders say this about the youth, as if leaders can prevent kids from being gay!).