This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Dear LDS Church leadership,
I have something to say. We are not your enemies. Our spouses are not your enemies. And our children are not your enemies. We are your sons and daughters. We have loved this church, been devoted to it, and we honor the rich heritage it brings to our lives and our cultural and spiritual identities.
There are real enemies out there. Poverty, abuse, famine, war, genocide, human trafficking, climate change, pollution, cancer, Alzheimer's, gun violence, addiction, teen suicide, mental illness, homelessness, global terrorism, and on and on. You are in such a unique position of power to effect dramatic, needed change in the world as we face these formidable foes. You have done so much already to address many of these plaguing issues through remarkably generous humanitarian aid and relief efforts and volunteerism and community organizing and education.
The astounding capacity you possess to organize and create a direct positive impact in the lives of so many is one of the things I love most about my Mormonism. It makes me feel proud. I'm honored to have come from this tradition and prize my deep and abiding Mormon roots. I see in you a community that abounds with more grace and beauty in its home to home and heart to heart expression of true religion and unrestrained Christlike love for family and neighbor than I've witnessed anywhere else. I see that exemplified in my faithful LDS mother and father, and in my dearest friends, and former mission companions, and BYU classmates, and ward members, and co-workers.
Today I saw something different than that. Today I saw fear and discrimination as you rolled out decisions and policy that hurt and exclude and oppress. They don't just hurt me and my fellow LGBTQ members; they hurt the family and friends of whom I spoke who love and support me just as I am, who embrace and welcome me without limits or conditions, who extend to me the gifts of love personified by Christ, in whose name they go about their daily work of living and loving as saints in these latter days.
What they know, because they have stayed with me even as my path has diverged from orthodoxy, is that I am the same person they have always known and loved and accepted into the warm embrace of their fellowship. It is the first call of the Gospel: to love God and each other with fearlessness, with fierceness, and with fidelity. They see me. And I see them, in all the intricate beauty and wonder embodied within their lives of faith.
And so I extend to you an invitation: to see us, to know us, to sit across from us and break bread with us. Because it is only in so doing that any of us can ever come to understand that those we once viewed as our enemies as the strange and suspicious other to be feared and kept at bay or constrained and punished are actually part of the same human family to which all of us belong as vital and indispensable pieces of a beautiful whole. I learned that from you. It may be the most valuable lesson I carry from my religious upbringing. It is written upon my heart. It's what allows me to write this letter to you now, in sincere love and with considerable emotion. Because despite our at times despair inducing differences, I still see you. Please see me too.
John Bonner is a licensed clinical social worker in Salt Lake City and a lifelong Mormon.