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Drew's Reviews #9 - “A Walk in My Shoes”

I just finished reading “A Walk in My Shoes” by Ben Schilaty.

Quick Take: I finished this the same day I started it. I loved reading the story and unique challenges of a “single, gay, active Latter-day Saint.” Highly recommended for anyone looking to better understand others.

Longer Take:

The relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and gay members is complicated, to say the least. We currently have very few answers for how those born gay fit within the plan of salvation.

For several years I have wanted to improve my understanding of this from both a doctrinal and empathetic perspective. I have read several articles and talks on the subject, but my dedication to this has been sporadic at best.

Recently a brave brother in our ward family announced that he is gay. When this occurred I felt a renewed desire to increase my empathy and understanding. I feel strongly that the ignorance many members of the church have when it comes to the journey gay members walk is contributing to the complicated nature of this situation.

Ben Schilaty is an active member of the church who is openly gay. In “A Walk in My Shoes”, he uses his own experiences to answer several questions that gay members of the church are frequently asked. He is open with his experiences, his frustrations, and with his testimony of Jesus Christ. He does not attempt to answer doctrinal questions but details his struggle to reconcile who he is, with what he believes. This is well written and does an excellent job using autobiographical narrative to teach gospel principles.

Besides, having a much greater understanding of the gay experience within the church, this book has given me increased insight into how difficult it can be for any member of the church who does not fit the “celestial mold.” Many within the church feel they do not fit in. Single, divorced, widowed, without children, gay, newly baptized, doubter, tattooed, introverted, … The list goes on and on. There are so many ways to feel like you are on the outside looking in. “A Walk in My Shoes” will help anyone learn how to better accept and love all members no matter their situation.

My favourite takeaway from the book is the importance of listening to others' stories. We don’t need to fix people, we don’t need to teach them, we don’t even need to make them feel better. We just need to listen.

In a post on his blog, Ben references a line from the Disney movie Pocohantos:

If you walk in the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”

I am grateful I chose to read this book. I still don’t have all the answers I want. But my understanding has increased after “walking in Ben’s shoes” for even a few steps.

Some of My Favourite Quotes:

"We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home..." -M. Russell Ballard

"I used to think the atonement of Jesus Christ would make me straight. Instead, it healed my broken heart."

"...I often get asked the question, “were you're born gay?” I don't think that's the right question. The better question is, did I come to Earth the way my heavenly parents intended me to be?"

"... It hadn't sunk in that I had no reason to be embarrassed about what I was feeling because Christ already knew exactly how I felt."

"I believed if I were just righteous enough God would fix me. ... God didn't change my sexual orientation like I begged him to, instead he taught me how to trust him."

"As I have matured I've seen how my sexual orientation has become my main vehicle through which I share my testimony of the Savior. My perceived weakness has become one of the ways I work to build Zion."

"Occasionally, well-meaning people will insist to me that being gay is a choice. The exact opposite has been true for me as I've tried as hard as I could to be straight."

"I used to talk about how I planned to stay in the church. That phrase made me feel like I was trapped and stagnant because I wasn't able to pursue the kind of relationship I wanted. In recent years I have started to say that I plan to move forward in the church. I shifted my perspective from simply staying in an organization to seeing how I can grow and thrive within the organization. Instead of looking at the ways I have felt held back, I see the ways I have been empowered and inspired."

"Walking different paths doesn't mean that we need to exclude each other from our lives."

"I had been so intent on changing who I was that I missed out on being who I was."

"While I am very content with my life, I would not prescribe my life choices to any other LBGQT Latter-day Saint. We all need to figure out what course is right for us."

"Hooray for differences." -Chieko N. Okasaki

"Telling people not to feel their feelings rarely comforts or lifts. Even with a sound doctrinal explanation. Healing comes more readily when we invite others to share their feelings and then listen and love them as they do."

"There isn't one way to be gay, and there isn't one way to be a Latter-day Saint. I am thrilled to be both gay and a Latter-day Saint."

"I have learned that just like it took me years to explore this reality in my own life, I need to be patient with others and give them time to process their feelings as well."

"Now when I see someone say or do something that would could warrant an "I'm sorry for what I said," I think, "when they know better, they'll do better."

"If we are to build Zion we must create a place where hearts and minds come together, and where everyone belongs. This happens as we respond to the knocking we hear. As we throw open the door and welcome people in."


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