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To Mormon leaders:

As a child, I attended weekly Sunday school bearing a secret, knowing that it was unsafe to tell anyone. I heard only negativity about gay people. Such lessons sank deep: being gay is a "perversion," so I was a perversion.

No visible LGBTQ people existed in my world. Being discovered could mean death — like Matthew Shepard, who a Mormon-raised boy crucified, hanging him to bleed to death on a desolate Wyoming fence one bitter night.

My teenage body became emaciated through fasting and prayer upon dark Pacific seas while an airman fighting what you said was my dragon to slay. For years, I pled for fortitude to overcome what you taught was a temptation. Later, I served two years as a missionary managing to hide my homosexuality for fear of being sent home in disgrace.

At Brigham Young University, I tried conversion therapy in the counseling center modeled from Joseph Nicolosi. His theories deceived many: homosexuality is a developmental disorder surmountable through "therapy" to reach one's "full heterosexual potential." Earlier aversion therapy at BYU hooked boys' penises to heinous contraptions while inducing vomiting when aroused to cure a disease that does not exist.

One night, a brother from the conversion-therapy group planned to leap off a cliff in Provo Canyon to release the pain of your false teachings. We saved him. Yet untold others are lost — including Stuart, whose blood stains the steps of a Mormon chapel, his final plea, a senseless sacrifice, for greater understanding.

Members embraced me when I came out during testimony meeting asking whether there is a place for us. But leadership swiftly convened a court. That stormy night in a room without air-conditioning, 17 men held an appalling trial with false witnesses. By 2 a.m., the stake president pronounced excommunication for "apostasy"— a severing from the church of my pioneer ancestors and eternal damnation — because I showed up at church as a self-affirming gay person.

My story is not unique. More than 500,000 Mormons are LGBTQ.

My parents named me after a Book of Mormon prophet, Samuel, a Lamanite. Lamanites were outsiders to the church that had become corrupted. He famously stood upon the city walls saying what the Lord put into his heart. You teach to liken scriptures to ourselves. Following Samuel's example, the Lord has put this into my heart:

General and local leaders of this church must repent for failing to follow the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule and the First and Second Great Commandments. Samuel asked then as now: "How long will you suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? How long will ye choose darkness rather than light?" Justice cries out:

Wo unto you for professing to lead Christ's church while failing to love LGBTQ people as yourselves!

Wo until you whose hands are stained with the blood of LGBTQ souls!

Wo unto you for spiritual violence against LGBTQ people and our children, while waving banners of "religious freedom" and "family values"— blind to the worth of our families and denying our religious freedom to remain a part of our faith!

Wo unto you for purposeful ignorance to light and knowledge available in plain sight!

I am filled with the Spirit of indignation out of love for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, whom to know is to love, as Jesus has loved you.

Such a love would reveal to you an understanding now proven by social scientists: supportive environments toward LGBTQ people correspond with positive mental and physical health outcomes. Hostile, unaccepting environments yield the opposite result.

Such a love would reveal to you what virtually every reputable organization of mental health professionals globally confirm: Homosexuality is a natural variation of human sexuality. The implications are profound. Our church is ours as well as yours; we are due a dignified place.

You claim the "truth." Truth requires acknowledgment that you were beguiled by the lie that we are inferior to heterosexuals — as you were with respect to African-Americans. We are children of God the same as you. Truth requires acknowledgment of the grave harm you have inflicted. That is needed to begin healing our communities.

Samuel Wolfe is an attorney living in Alabama.