A Day of Pride
by Josh Weber
So much has happened since I last posted especially in this past week. I would like to focus mainly on the events of today. A year ago, if you had told me I’d be where I am, I think I would have been rather surprised. With DOMA on the verge of being overturned, I still wasn’t sure where I stood on my feelings towards the LGBT community, much less gay marriage. So much has changed for the better since then.
Today, Lauren, Asher, and I had the opportunity to be part of the Salt Lake City Pride Parade which took place in downtown Salt Lake City. We joined a group called Mormons Building Bridges, a group seeking to do exactly what its name says with the LGBT community. While the LDS community is making significant strides toward being more loving and kind towards the LGBT community, it still has quite a way to go. There lies an ongoing saying within mainstream Christianity as well as Mormonism that it is kosher to “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” I believe that saying has done much more harm than good, unfortunately, particularly towards the LGBT community because just like faith and fear cannot coexist the heart of man simultaneously, nor can hate and love live harmoniously in our hearts at the same time. That being said, Mormons Building Bridges seeks to bridge the gap between both communities and extend a hand of love and fellowship towards all. It was an amazing experience to be with them today. We arrived in Salt Lake City around 9:30, right when we had been advised to do so. I was concerned for a few minutes that we might have passed our group or that they had moved to a different place. After reaching the tail end of the parade line, we finally found them. As we gathered together, we sang a hymn, a prayer was said, and a short devotional was given. We expected to march shortly thereafter, but for some reason, the parade was getting off to a very slow start. We waited, and waited, and waited. Asher got a little fussy at times, but for the most part stayed content in his stroller. At last, around 11:20, we finally began moving. I thought that we were going to have time to take things at a pretty slow pace given that the line was so long and the distance of the parade was over a mile. To our surprise, we were told by one of the volunteers to move as fast as we could so that we would finish on time (as if it was our fault that the parade had started late). We began speed-walking, making our way toward what seemed an endless line of smiling faces and clapping hands. At first, I thought that the cheering was coming from the many people I was surrounded by in our group, which numbered over 300. As I listened closer, I realized it was coming mostly from the people we were waving to on the street. I’m a daily recipient of unconditional love and my heart grows daily in love towards my wife and my son. But perhaps like never before, my heart seemed to grow several sizes in just a few moments watching people in tears wave to me and make the hand gesture for “I love you.” I knew that I would feel great being part of the parade, but I had no idea I would be brought to tears watching some of these people on the sidelines return their love for us as a group. Surely some of them must have been members of the church who may have gone inactive or felt abandoned by the church after coming out. If I could have changed just one thing about my experience, I would have forgotten what I had been told earlier about trying to move quickly through the parade and slow down. I would have taken more time to go and hug more of those people I saw and show them that I meant the words I was carrying on my sign. God truly is love. It is the first principle of the gospel that most investigators of the church are taught if they hear nothing else. It should be the essence of us as followers of Christ.
I did stop a few times to shake hands and hug a few people. To my shock and amazement, I had the opportunity to meet this guy.
For those of you who may not know, his name is Geoff McGrath. He was a Scoutmaster in Washington state who had been in that position for quite some time. Even after the BSA ruled that homosexual men would continue to be banned from participating as leaders in Boy Scouts, he continued to serve as Scoutmaster for his troop because of the good rapport he had with his scouts and the community. Just recently, however, he came out publicly, though his troop and community were already aware. As a result, he was stripped of his position in scouts and kicked out. It amazed me that of all the different Pride parades he could have been part of, he chose to be here in Salt Lake City. He is now serving in the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA), which is essentially a scouting organization without any kind of discrimination towards the LGBT community, and I’d recommend you check it out. It was great to see a leader whom I look up to and wish I would have had as a Boy Scout.
All in all, this was a day not to be forgotten. I would encourage any of you reading this post to participate in a Pride parade where you live with Mormons Building Bridges next year. You don’t have to be pro-gay marriage. You don’t even have to have an opinion on the subject. All you need is an open heart and a willingness to show your love to everyone. That’s all Mormons Building Bridges is about. They have no agenda other than to build a stronger positive relationship between church members and the LGBT community. I know some of you may be thinking, “But, isn’t church more important?” I’m not here to say which of these has greater importance, but I can’t help thinking that even if Christ were on the earth today governing His church, He wouldn’t be spending every minute in a church building. At least for part of the time, He would be leaving the ninety-nine and going in search of the one. My hope that is someday church will be cancelled this one Sunday out of the year so that everyone can go and be a part of this event to reach out and extend a hand of love and fellowship toward all, for truly that is what we preach from our pulpits. While it may not result in greater numbers in weekly church attendance, it will remind those that feel cast off that they are not forgotten and that they are loved.