When our daughter told us she had decided to live a lesbian lifestyle, my husband and I were devastated. Eight years later we feel great hope for her and for our whole family.
The phone call from the bishop came on what had been a typical Monday afternoon. “Sister Ashby,” he said, “at the youth fireside last night, I couldn’t help but notice the interaction between your daughter Mindy and Beth Jones.” He told me he felt prompted to speak to me about their apparent interest in each other and what he had observed.
My mind was reeling. What could the bishop mean? Was he insinuating the girls had homosexual tendencies? I was in shock. As I hung up the phone and thought about my child, the Spirit confirmed to me that I needed to talk to my daughter. Mindy was just 16. I was serving as the Young Women president in our ward. I loved each of these girls. I could not believe what was happening.
My husband and I had raised our children in the gospel. We loved our weekly family home evenings, even if the girls always picked “Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree” for the opening song. We read our scriptures daily and celebrated together every time we finished a book. We prayed and fasted together. Could our daughter really be going down this path?
After praying for guidance, I found an opportunity the next afternoon to talk privately with Mindy. “I need to ask you a serious question,” I told her. “Do you and Beth have feelings for each other beyond friendship?”
Her bright blue eyes began to fill with tears as she choked out, “Maybe. I don’t know. I care a lot for Beth. What’s wrong with me?”
I gathered my daughter in my arms as she wiped away her tears. Fighting back my own tears, I gently suggested, “Maybe you should visit with the bishop.”
“Yeah, I guess I can do that.” During the next two years, Mindy met regularly with the bishop and had what we thought were very productive counseling sessions with an excellent Latter-day Saint therapist. Despite these efforts, a week before leaving for her freshman year of college at Brigham Young University, Mindy announced to her father and me that she wouldn’t be going to BYU. “I’ve made my decision,” she said. “I have chosen the gay lifestyle. That is who I am.” We found out that Mindy had been seeing another girl, Amy, for more than a year.
My husband and I were devastated. We asked Mindy to still go to Provo, Utah, USA, where she could work and be near two of her sisters. We told her this would give her time to think for a while and be away from those who would persuade her in another direction. She agreed to do this. However, she communicated with Amy constantly, and she stayed in Utah only two months.
We told Mindy she could come home but that she would need to abide by our rules. Amy’s mother, who did not share our standards, offered to let Mindy stay in her home, which she quickly accepted.
Even though Mindy wasn’t living with us, we continued to see her, and when she came to visit, we told her we loved her and that we were ready to help her when she wanted our help.
In the nearly eight years since the time Mindy announced her decision to live a homosexual lifestyle, I have spent countless hours reading articles and books on the topic of same-sex attraction and exploring difficult questions. Although I don’t have all the answers, my husband and I have learned something through time and constant prayer: there is hope. There is always hope. Though Mindy continues to live this lifestyle, we hope that someday the gospel teachings she knows will help her remember that God loves her and wants so much more for her. Although Mindy is not currently involved in the Church—she told us, “I cannot go to a church that will not support my lifestyle”—she has said that she still believes many of its teachings. In the meantime, our hope is strong.
Hope through Sharing with Others
For many years we kept our family’s situation to ourselves. We were optimistic that we could “get through this” as a family. We did not want people to think unkindly about or judge our daughter. We ourselves were wondering how we could help Mindy and how to answer our other children’s questions. What could we possibly offer others in the way of help when there was so much we didn’t know?
As years have passed, my husband and I have—in private, confidential settings— opened up about this challenge to people who are committed to gospel standards. We’ve chosen carefully who we share our story with. Some support groups or even individuals might seek to convince parents to embrace their child’s choices in a way that is inconsistent with what the gospel teaches.
It was such a support to my husband when we talked with another married couple about similar struggles they had with a child. To hear how another father, an upstanding member of the Church, was facing this challenge helped my husband realize he was not alone.
Although we share some of our anxieties in these discussions, we try to focus on the positive. Mostly we talk about the good things our children are doing and about the love we have for them. We discuss the hope of someday being able to guide our children back into the fold. Such sharing with one another gives all of us strength.
Hope in Our Knowledge That the Family Is Ordained of God
As our children were growing up, one of the ways we built relationships was to take time at family home evening to write in each other’s journals about that person from our own perspective: what that person had been doing lately, things we loved about him or her, and so forth. Our children treasure these family notes. Now that Mindy and her siblings are grown, we continue to find ways to stay connected to one another. A family newsletter gives everyone the opportunity to write about happenings, show photos, win a trivia contest, and share our testimonies. Baby blessings and holidays give us opportunities to be together. Gratefully, Mindy still wants to be a part of these family activities.
Of course, not all of our efforts have worked out perfectly, but we have shared some beautiful experiences. Our family continues to communicate about how to best handle our relationships. Our prayers for each other have been constant, and though we may not always have made the best choices, Mindy knows that her family loves and cares about her.
Hope through the Commandments of God
We have found hope in standing firm in our convictions. For instance, regarding her partner, Mindy has told us several times, “I want you to accept Amy and me just like you accept my sister and her husband.” We have told Mindy that we’ll treat Amy with the same respect that we give all of our family’s friends, but when she and Amy visit, the standards in our home will reflect our values. For us, that means an expectation of their sleeping in separate rooms. (Of course, the decision we made to even allow a partner to stay in the home might not be appropriate for other families. The presence of younger children or other factors may make what works for us unfeasible for someone else. Such circumstances vary from family to family and make decisions a matter for individual determination— and, as my husband and I have discovered, very prayerful determination.)
As my husband and I have tried to decide the appropriate course of action in various situations, we have not always agreed. But on two points we have always been united: constant prayer and regular temple attendance. Whatever other ideas we have had to help our child, these two bedrock practices have gotten us through our darkest days. One day I was sitting in the temple chapel before a session and thinking about Mindy and wondering what the Lord would have me do. I opened the scriptures and my eyes fell on this verse: “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17). I shared this scripture with my husband, who suggested we put it on our bedroom mirror. We now strive to cheerfully do all things in our power and then “stand still” and let Heavenly Father handle the rest.
Hope in a Loving Heavenly Father
I have received great hope in praying for each of my children. When I pray for Mindy, I ask Heavenly Father to help her have experiences that will draw her closer to Him. I once told her this. To my surprise, she was not offended but instead said, “Thanks, Mom. I think your prayers work sometimes.” It is comforting to me to know that Heavenly Father is just as concerned about my child as I am.
Often Mindy will ask me to pray for her before an upcoming test at school. She knows Heavenly Father is there and that He can help her. Right now she trusts my relationship with Him more than her own. In time I hope for her to gain that same trust in Heavenly Father for herself.
A few years ago, Mindy and I spent 10 days together on a mother-daughter trip. At the conclusion of our trip, we wrote some parting thoughts in each other’s journals. Mindy wrote the following:
“We’re sitting in the airport at the conclusion of our journey, and though I am tired and ready to go home, I am also a bit sad it is ending. Driving over a good portion of the South—over 1,000 miles—we never turned on the radio and only listened to 20 minutes of our audio book. Mom and I, just as before, never ran out of things to talk about.
“I’ve missed those talks; I’ve missed being open and honest—as in frank—with my mom, but I feel as though we’ve only taken steps forward in understanding one another. I love my mother so much, and as I told her last night, as we fell asleep, I also like her quite well, which only makes being so far away and ‘different’ more difficult. I have only hope for the future at this point. I have only ever prayed to reach a place of acceptance and understanding, and my mother has come through for me. Thank you, Mom; I only ever wanted to make you proud. . . . I love you, always, no matter what. Your daughter, Mindy.”
Living the gospel of Jesus Christ and teaching it to our children does not guarantee that we can sail through this life without hardships and heartaches. In learning to trust Heavenly Father with all my heart and not rely on my own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5–6), I have gained the strength and hope that our family can not only grow through our trials but also learn to love as the Savior loves.
For more information on this topic, please see ChurchofJesusChrist.org/ same-gender-attraction.
Explaining the Church’s Position on Same-Gender Attraction
The following excerpt comes from a Church Public Affairs interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Lance B. Wickman, an emeritus member of the Quorum of the Seventy.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: “At what point does showing . . . love cross the line into inadvertently endorsing behavior? If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?”
ELDER OAKS: “That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer. “I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.”’ “There are so many different circumstances, it’s impossible to give one answer that fits all.”
ELDER WICKMAN: “It’s hard to imagine a more difficult circumstance for a parent to face than that one. It is a case-bycase determination. The only thing that I would add to what Elder Oaks has just said is that I think it’s important as a parent to avoid a potential trap arising out of one’s anguish over this situation. “I refer to a shift from defending the Lord’s way to defending the errant child’s lifestyle, both with him and with others. It really is true the Lord’s way is to love the sinner while condemning the sin. That is to say we continue to open our homes and our hearts and our arms to our children, but that need not be with approval of their lifestyle. Neither does it mean we need to be constantly telling them that their lifestyle is inappropriate. An even bigger error is now to become defensive of the child, because that neither helps the child nor helps the parent. That course of action, which experience teaches, is almost certainly to lead both away from the Lord’s way.”
ELDER OAKS: “The First Presidency made a wonderful statement on this subject in a letter in 1991. Speaking of individuals and families that were struggling with this kind of problem, they said, ‘We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues.’ Surely if we are counseled as a body of Church membership to reach out with love and understanding to those ‘struggling with these issues,’ that obligation rests with particular intensity on parents who have children struggling with these issues . . . even children who are engaged in sinful behavior associated with these issues.” To read the entire interview, visit newsroom.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/oakswickmaninterview.