By Susan Dortsch Mikesell
For The Salt Lake Tribune
Coming up on a year ago, I found myself not only attending the Pride Parade for the first time, but doing so as a participant. More than 300 marchers behind the Mormons Building Bridges banner included active Latter-day Saints of different viewpoints, experiences, and levels of involvement in LGBT-allied groups.
What we all had in common was a commitment to reach out to our LGBT brothers and sisters, both within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and without, in friendship, love, and support. It was an unforgettable moment of goodwill coming from all "sides."
Over the past year, while MBB has received accolades, we have had our share of criticism. Some have questioned individual members' commitment to the LDS Church, its doctrine, and our support of its leaders. There have been others who have criticized our approach as being too soft, our motives suspect. We actively supported the anti-discrimination bill that made it past the Utah Senate committee this past year, where one of our members was invited to testify. We also support lifting the gay adult ban in the Boy Scouts of America. Nevertheless, some believe we are not vocal on the most divisive issue: marriage equality.
Many remain confused about the LGBT experience. A number are convinced it is a choice, a sin, and are hesitant and even fearful about any point of view that calls into question those opinions.
Meanwhile, LGBT Mormons are significantly more at risk for suicide and youth homelessness. Rejection runs high, and many remain silent within their families and their ward congregations, afraid of the consequences that may come from merely being who they are. For these reasons, Mormons Building Bridges has chosen to focus on the simple commandment Jesus Christ gave us to love one another and accept people as they are, practicing kindness with dignity and friendship with respect.
Caitlyn Ryan's research (http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/) illustrates that when family members show their LGBT loved ones even moderate acceptance, risk for suicide, homelessness, drug use and other dangers plummets.
Anyone can be a part of MBB: LDS or not, LGBT or straight. We welcome stories of personal experiences. We believe conversations with our leaders and friends advance learning.
This past year I have become friends with some of the wisest and most generous-hearted people I have ever known. I have found humor, grace, and compassion in abundance within all of the LGBT, family, friends, and allied communities I am acquainted with.
This year we hope even more Mormons march. Whatever the banner behind which we individually choose to march, the overarching message remains clear: We are brothers and sisters, all alike unto God. Please join in.
Susan Dortsch Mikesell is the mother of two teenagers, a writer, and a member of Mormons Building Bridges. She lives in Park City.