I just finished reading “Love Boldly” by Becky Mackintosh.
Quick Take: A great read for any parent whose children have taken a path other than what they had envisioned for them.
I began reading books on the relationship between the church and those with same sex attraction because a member of my ward announced he was gay. After reading 4 books I figured I was done this educational journey. But for some reason I feel a compulsion to continue. So, here’s another.
Becky Mackintosh is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a mother of 7. In “Love Boldly,” Becky tells the story of how her son Sean’s decision to be openly gay has affected her family.
“Love Boldly” is a short book (I read it over a weekend). It was an enjoyable read but is limited due to it just covering the experiences of this family. “Love Boldly” is quite different from the other books I have read on the same topic. The previous books were written by gay members trying to balance their membership in the church. Whereas, “Love Boldy” is written from the perspective of a mother trying to uphold the standards of the church while at the same time support her gay son.
My favorite thing about this book is how open Becky is with the mistakes they made as they tried to walk a unique path that was at times painful for everyone involved. She gives several examples of how their sometimes misguided attempts to educate, “fix”, and even love Sean, led to hurt and pain.
Here is a list of my favorite take-away’s from the Mackintosh’s journey:
For most gay members of the church, their first inclination is to hide their same-sex attraction. Objectively they know their family and friends love them, but they also feel certain that if they “knew the real me” there is no way they would continue to love them.
“I remember I was 13 years old when I first had the idea of killing myself. I felt so alone and isolated, I couldn’t even feel my family’s love, because I felt that if they knew the real me they wouldn’t love me anymore. I was sure nobody could love the real me, not even God could love the real me.” -Sean Mackintosh
It can be difficult to know how to separate loving and condoning. As church members, we have a duty to stand against those things we believe are against God’s plan. But God’s 2nd great commandment is to love our neighbour (Matt 22:37-40). This will always be tricky to balance.
“I will never never ever turn my back on my son. And I will never never ever leave my religious faith. Period.” -Becky Mackintosh
“Some people think that because we love our gay son we must have distanced ourselves from the church. Loving unconditionally doesn’t mean leaving the church because of what a child might be going through. Other people think we must not really love our son because if we did we would not still be in the church. Becky and I have found that living the gospel is the best thing we can do for Sean and our family. The core of the gospel is love. … For us turning our back on any family member would be in fact turning our back on the Savior.” -Scott Mackintosh
Loving parents can be quick to blame themselves when their children make mistakes. While there may be times your actions as a parent lead to choices you do not agree with, who they are attracted to has nothing to do with you.
“Some parents feel great shame upon hearing one of their children is gay, as if they are somehow at fault. It is nobody’s fault. It is part of the mortal experience that includes many stalwart saints.” -Becky Mackintosh
“Your love for your fellow man will not turn your children gay. It’s not contagious. It is not something you can make happen or keep from happening. It’s part of their journey in this life. Why? We don’t know why. It’s not our job to know why. It’s our job to love.” -Becky Mackintosh
When dealing with a new situation mistakes are going to be made. The best-intentioned comments can still hurt. It is important to be patient with yourself, but it is equally as important to be extremely intentional in the words you choose to speak.
“I spoke what I thought would be words of comfort and hope. Instead, I was unintentionally shooting dagger after dagger into my dear son's heart. … At some point, I finally realized the more I said the more Sean was sinking deep into the couch. His spirit was sinking too. My best intentions, those things … I thought would be so helpful were actually making him feel worse. Upon realizing my mistake, I dropped the preaching and had a real soul-to-soul conversation with him.” -Becky Mackintosh
Ensuring your children see your home as a safe place is one of the most important steps in being able to influence them positively.
“…we have to love and embrace our children and their boyfriends, otherwise they won’t want to be here or have anything to do with us. Their boyfriends won’t want to come here or ever want to learn about our church if the very people they see as churchgoers are some of the most judgemental and cruel. … if we want a relationship with our children we need to respect their agency.” -Becky Mackintosh
How being gay fits into God’s plan is something we do not currently have a complete answer to. For this issue, all we can do is trust that God has things under control and continue to love everyone.
“One thing I have come to know is that when we do not fully understand, if we like Peter will set aside our fears, our doubts, our limited understanding, and follow him in faith, things have a way of resolving themselves. An inspired insight, a revelation may shed light on an issue. I remind myself that the restoration is not an event but it continues to unfold.” -Becky Mackintosh
There is no “one size fits all” answer. The best thing we can do is to ask others what type of support they need.
“Resist any impulse to give counsel unless it’s being requested. Simply be willing to love and listen first. … You don’t need all or any answers to questions in order to be a support. Put the ball in your child's court and ask them how they need you to support them.” -Becky Mackintosh
Recognize and be thankful for the good things in your children's life. They may not be walking the path you want for them but take joy in all successes they achieve.
“As I sat there with one arm around my unwed pregnant daughter and my other around my gay son, gratitude filled my heart and the tears began to flow. Two of my children were with me at church and had come on their own accord. I had a wonderful husband. Seven grown children. Four of which were married and raising children of their own. And a son on a mission.” -Becky Mackintosh
We need to work hard to make everyone feel loved and accepted.