This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Please do not judge, sentence, cast out or denigrate your gay child, relative, friend or their contributions to the LDS Church because of a label in the handbook or subsequent pronouncements regarding the LDS policy on gay marriage.
Over the past few months, I have had many conversations with gay LDS friends who are now experiencing a disturbing increase in harsh, unkind and in some circumstances violent treatment by their straight LDS parents, family members and friends.
Many church members, both gay and straight, are struggling to understand the LDS Church's new policy in light of the potential for irreparable physical, emotional and spiritual separation within families.
There seems to be an overarching inevitability, in the minds of some, to this separation as if a surgeon determined that the arm was diseased and too damaged to be saved, thus recommending amputation. Being gay is not a disease that requires amputation. Essentially, this would be severing a perfectly healthy arm, depriving us of rich, loving, and expansive experiences.
Unfortunately there have already been some tragedies associated with this issue, including suicides since the LDS Church's policy announcement in November 2015. My heart and soul hurts as I mourn the suffering and abject hopelessness those individuals must have experienced and for the families of those whose lives are lost. These kinds of tragedies, and senselessly unkind treatment by certain members, are absolutely unacceptable, terrifyingly abhorrent and have prompted me to speak out.
Many of God's gay children possess incredible talent, compassion, vision and the ability to draw from a very deep well of love and service for all of humanity.
Some LDS members may now be inclined to diminish or negate the contributions made to the family, the church or the world by gay people because of the perception that their works and offerings are tainted with the automatic association of the apostate label.
My parents and family always encouraged me to develop, nurture and express my talents. I never believed that because of my nature I would be compelled, as I am now by recent circumstances, to re-evaluate my intrinsic worth in a society that I have loved and served and where now I might be shunned.
I spent many years earnestly and honorably producing artworks for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The fact that I am gay was never a factor in my ability to accomplish these assignments.
I grew up active in the LDS Church, was raised by honored parents, attended Brigham Young University, graduated with an art degree and spent 25 years using my talent serving the Lord by creating well over 30 major paintings for the church.
I have painted portraits of general authorities, illustrative paintings for church magazines and media, scenes of everyday life of members keeping covenants and many other paintings and illustrations. My works of art hang in church office buildings, the Family History Library and Church History Museum. Images of many of these works are in church books, library materials, stake and ward houses, mission homes and homes of church members all over the world. My heart was, and is, always drawn to performing these tasks by the fervent desire to use my talents for the "building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth."
These pieces are my sincere contributions to the church, and they are now the Lord's. My heartfelt wish is that these works remain as valued after my public acknowledgment as a gay woman as they were before that acknowledgment.
The Savior said, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Consider and celebrate the fruits and contributions of your gay children, brothers, sisters, friends and relatives and please abandon the harsh judgment and condemnation of others. Labels have implications. Actions have consequences.
One of my most well known paintings is a 7-foot-by-23-foot mural entitled, "The Eternal Family Through Christ," which hangs in the lobby of the Family History Library. This mural has a large depiction of Christ in the center with hands out-stretched, gathering in all of God's children. Christ is standing in the middle of intersecting circles, symbolizing the convergence of heaven and earth.
We are all God's children yearning to be enfolded in the arms of our Savior. We all exist in this world together, gay and straight. Labels are temporary. There are no labels in heaven.
Parents, family members and friends of gay persons, please know that God loves His gay children! They are, after all, His creations, as are all of God's children. Please allow them to come unto you, as He, the Savior of all, allowed them to come unto Him, and please love them as He loves them.
Judith Mehr currently lives in Salt Lake City and works as a freelance artist.