They come every summer to our singles ward and swell the membership rolls by around fifty or so. “Bug Boys”, they are usually called, although they usually refer to themselves as “Summer Sales” guys. This army of young men (and a few women) flood neighborhoods during the humid months of June, July, and August selling pest control, alarm systems, satellite dishes, and whatever else their Western-based company is hawking. Some are making money for their missions, some are trying to pay for college, and some are looking to expand their dating pool. Occasionally, a few of these guys successfully integrate into the ward and there are several “it” members of the local social scene who originally arrived as bug boys. Most often they stick to themselves, their shore-leave style attitudes putting off most of the locals who are ingrained with southern gentlemen and woman sensibilities.
When the Elder’s Quorum instructor posed the question, “How can we see a shift in values in the world today?” it was one of the bug boys from Utah that raised his hand.
“Homosexuality,” he responded.
“How so?” the teacher pressed for clarification.
“The world says it’s okay to like dudes,” the bug boy succinctly said. The teacher remained in a stoic silence and the bug boy continued talking. My friend shot a glance over to me. I rolled my eyes and sighed deeply. I found myself being frustrated at the words being spoken, which were laced with a tone of disgust and anger. I wanted to raise my hand, out myself, and tell this young guy that he didn’t know what the crap he was talking about. I wanted to see the look on his face when he realized that one of those homosexuals that he hated so much was sitting in the same room with him at church. But I didn’t. The problem was, there was a lot of truth mixed in with his comments. Extraction of the doctrine from the bigotry would require time and a calm surgeon and at that moment, neither existed. The instructor deftly steered the conversation in another direction. I looked over to my other friend, who was also gay. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders in a “what are ya gonna do?” sort of way.
The rest of Church passed pleasantly and the week moved on. While passing a lull at work, I navigated on over to CNN.com and found a story about the persecution of homosexuals in Iraq. Being gay in Iraq can be a death sentence which death is carried out only after days of torture and rape. A shaved chest can be all the proof that some militias need to murder those suspected of being gay. I recalled the Iranian prime minister when speaking at Columbia University callously (or ignorantly) remarking, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals.” I felt a familiar anger rise. Did that bug boy think the same thing? “In the Church, we don’t have homosexuals.” I envisioned him in a group of Boy Scouts in Utah when he was younger, humiliating the queer-acting kid.
And then I stopped.
I realized that I was as guilty as the bug boy. Actually, I was more guilty because I really knew the outcome of such anger and its source. I was taking my anger at the Iraqi murders and associating it with a young man that was not guilty of such atrocities just like he was taking his own personal discomfort (and perhaps experience) and using it to cloud his judgment of all homosexuals. We were both wrong – but I more so. Because I knew better.
I am not a patient person. In my desire to change the world and create safe places where everyone can grow spiritually, I sometimes let my personal frustrations get in the way and I have to fight the desire to call people out on their own personal hypocrisies. But how can one fight ignorance and intolerance without creating a hypocrite of himself? The God Loveth His Children pamphlet provides some insight when it advises, “Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.”
It was obvious when I thought about it. We can never change someone else. We can change ourselves, the example of which can prompt other people to reevaluate their own lives. If we try and force people to change through anger or public scorn, then we become just as hypocritical as they can be (if not more so). That is what we gay members of the Church have to do. We have to be the bigger person. We have follow the example of Christ as closely as we can, focusing on serving others and truly growing spiritually in spite of the attitudes around us. Basically, we have to turn the other cheek. If people still think that we are evil, they will be judged according to their beliefs and it is out of our hands. After all, Jesus taught:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
I have a feeling that I will fail miserably sometimes. I am not only impatient, but proud. In the end, it will likely be my pride the Lord requires me to sacrifice. But, hopefully, by trying to be the type of person God would have us be, we can all manage to help this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live up to its divinely-inspired name.