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.
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: