It feels extremely difficult to capture what I feel in words, but I will try.
I just spent eleven days in Chile and Argentina with a group of LGBT Mormons and their families and friends. Four of us were norteamericanos (gringos in Chile), two of us were from Mexico, and the rest of us were native Chileans and Argentinians. Oh, and one very special friend who is puertoriqueña, and only an honorary Mormon, but someone who makes me very proud to include people of all faiths in my extended family circle.
We spent plenty of time there socializing, just hanging out eating (I put on 10 pounds down there), seeing sights, talking, laughing, singing (!!!)... Our last night in Chile, Roberto, our dear new friend and brother in Christ, invited us over to his apartment and played his guitar for us and serenaded us with songs about the love of God, and the tears ran down my face, as they are now, just thinking about it. He looked us right in the eye and sang to us. Beautiful! Gringos don't know what it is to wear their hearts on their sleeves, until they have gotten to know a few South Americans.
We also, of course, spent time gathered in Jesus Christ's name, praying, singing hymns and telling each other the stories of our lives. Some of us gave formal talks, but we all, every single one of us, shared from the heart. The vulnerability was incredible. We told stories about what it means to be gay or lesbian or bi and Mormon, and we laughed and cried and hugged and kissed, and just were together, in the kind of beautiful silence that allows the Spirit to shine in our hearts.
Our first night in Argentina, as we were sitting and sharing our stories, as we were listening to Roxana Lopez, the Affirmation Argentina coordinator for years, share her story, my husband, who does not understand much more Spanish than "gracias" and "¿como estás?", leaned over and said, "I don't know if I should tell you this. It is kind of weird, and I don't know if you will believe me." And I replied, "You can tell me. I will believe you." And he said, "I see auras around the people." I asked him what color the auras were, and he said: "They are all white." And then, nodding at Roxana, he said, "Hers is huge. It's rising up like a flare."
My husband Göran is not from the land of Woo. He is not the kind of person who has spiritual experiences, or the kind of person who talks about them if he does. But that happened.
Our last night in Argentina, as we were sitting in another more informal circle talking, a young man who had arrived late to the conference because of the demands of work shared his story with us. There was just a quality of brightness about him. I don't know how else to describe it than that. Something that I could discern only spiritually. As soon as he started to speak, I could tell there was something, very, very special about him. He described his conversion to the Gospel as a youth, how he went on to serve a mission for the Church in Nicaragua, and then his heartbreaking struggle to come to terms with his sexuality since his mission.
(Such a typical gay Mormon path -- deferring dealing with this aspect of ourselves until after our missions! And, by the way, yes, gay people have to come to terms with our sexuality, especially in this heteronormative society, but our sexuality is not the sum total of what it means to be gay!)
And at this point, he is facing a disciplinary court in the Church and is likely to be excommunicated. He has told his Church leaders that he simply can't feel that he is supposed to live single just because he is gay. It's a truth so self-evident to him that the only choice remaining to him is to be excommunicated, given the Church's position on this. But he loves the Gospel. He still believes in it, and he has the sweetest, most bright testimony, which he bore at the testimony meeting we held Sunday morning, a few hours before Göran and I boarded our plane for New York.
This young man said he was was wrestling with the question of whether to attend his Church court or not. Everyone turned to me, I guess because I was the only person in the room who had been excommunicated, and they asked me what I did. And I said I did not attend my Church court. I might have, if I hadn't been a poor student, and if the plane tickets from Northern Michigan to Massachusetts (where my court was being held) hadn't been so expensive. Though at the time I didn't see any point. But had I known then what I know now, I think I would have attended. And that is what I said to him and to the group. I thought, they need to see the light and the beauty and the brightness in this young man as they contemplate doing this.
We wept as we hugged each other goodbye. We've chatted on Facebook since and he's promised to keep me posted about what he decides and what happens with the Church court, and I've promised to keep him in my prayers. But whatever happens, I know he is well cared for by our Heavenly Father. Angels will bear him up.
At our testimony meeting on Sunday I bore my testimony too. I bore testimony of what I had experienced in Chile and Argentina. The Spirit had been present in a particular way during those ten days, and it had been engraving a particular message in my mind and heart. And that message was that we -- LGBT sons and daughters of God -- are blessed. There is some special plan that God has for us, that he is reserving just for us, that only God knows.
And in the meantime we should be of good cheer. We should live our lives with every ounce of love we can muster. We should be bright. We should shine. God put us here to bless not ourselves, but others. We have this chance to do this, even or especially when others don't see the special in us. When they see us as dirty or less than our outside of the grace of God. That gives us that special opportunity to love without asking anything in return.