Susie Augentstein | I was asked once by a leader if my support of my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters stopped me from sustaining church leaders and it’s doctrine. I told him that sustaining doesn’t mean I have to agree with what some of our leaders say or do. I told him that I sustain our leaders by daily praying for them to seek further light and understanding for all God’s children.
In sports a FOUL is defined as: an unfair or invalid stroke or piece of play. When I used this definition in my own life I can definitely say I have committed many fouls which have been unfair and have inflicted pain on others. Church leaders have also caused Fouls during many times in our church history. Why wouldn’t they, being human and all. Our church lessons are filled with the wonderful things church leaders have done which is great , but we don’t learn by only looking at the good, we also learn from looking at the mistakes that have been made. Progress comes from examining all of our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them.
I remember my first year at Ricks College. The year was 1988. I knew of one black girl who went to Ricks and she lived three doors down from me. She trusted me. I wished she hadn’t because I hadn’t yet developed the strength or ability to think for myself yet. She took me aside one day and wanted an honest answer from me. She asked, “what are your feelings about me dating and marrying a white man?” I’m so embarrassed to reveal what I said to her. Without a hesitation I told her everything I had heard and been taught in the church about that question. I told her that a mixed race marriage would be so difficult on her kids, that the cultural differences would be too hard and that the church frowned upon that. Immediately after those words left my mouth I immediately knew they were wrong, but I was so young and so insecure that I didn’t know how to fix it. The look on her face of rejection and sadness was too much for me to handle. After this she created a lot of distance between us and I was horribly sad about it. I never got a chance to apologize to her. I committed a foul on a dear sister who didn’t deserve it and from that day forward I made sure it never happened again. In fact that foul caused me to spend years praying and studying for my own further light and understanding about black members, the priesthood, and race issues in the church. Maybe that was because my Heavenly Parents were preparing me to adopt my black children, Lincoln and Abi. They knew what I needed to learn and understand in order to be the best mother to them.
As I studied I was also able to call a foul on Brigham Young. I’m not going to bash Brigham. He did some great things but he also said and did many things that were harmful to our black brothers and sisters. Due to his own inner prejudice he basically undid everything that Joseph did to try and create equality. It took decades for members, knowing his actions were wrong, to pray for their current leaders to seek a revelation to make this wrong right again. Brigham was wrong just like I was wrong. We both fouled those we should have embraced and loved. Finally in 1978 our black brothers and sisters were brought back equally into the fold. There was still much work to be done even after this and even now, but the prayers of the members were finally heard and this foul was corrected.
My second personal foul had to do with our LGBTQ members of the church. I know that some of my word and actions early on could have hurt my closeted LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I know of several times that I could have stopped someone else from saying something horrible in a lesson but I was too scared and uneducated on this subject that I felt was too taboo to talk about.
When I was the Laurels leader I knew in my heart that one of our young women was gay. I watched her slowly drift away during her Mia-Maid years and I somehow convinced myself that she wasn’t my responsibility since she wasn’t in my class yet. I didn’t try and connect with her until it was too late and at that point she wanted nothing to do with the church anymore. I felt prompted during this time to learn everything I could about what it was like to be LGBTQ or a parent of an LGBTQ child. After several years of heavenly tutoring I started to really speak out about LGBTQ in church, my young women’s classes, and in any other conversation where someone was willing to listen. By knowing better I started to do better, but that sweet girl in my young women’s group wasn’t there to hear that. I was too late for her and I call foul on myself for that. Since then we have become friends and I know she trusts me now. I wish she could have trusted me then.
Today a few of our leaders have also been a part of over 30 years of damaging action and statements that has affected the progress of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. They are directly fouling some of our Heavenly Parent’s most precious children and are doing the same thing that Brigham did to our black brothers and sisters. This doesn’t mean that these same leaders haven’t done great things, but those great things also don’t take away from the foul that has caused pain to our LGBTQ loved ones and their families. Just like the members who prayed fervently for our black brothers and sisters, many are now praying just as fervently for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. They have received distinct personal revelations and they know that this is another wrong that needs to be made right.
As members we have a right to talk about and discuss these concerns even if it makes others uncomfortable and especially because it makes others uncomfortable. If I can humbly call a foul on myself then is it also possible to call a foul on some of our leaders knowing they also make mistakes like the rest of us. I will also continue to forgive and sustain my leaders through my prayers and hold out on the hope that this will be rectified during our leader’s lives and not 100 years after. I’m guessing after Brigham died he probably wished he would have done a little more soul searching and asked God the right questions about the equality of God’s children rather than imposing his personal biases. I’m sure he wished he would have been more a part of God’s solution rather then causing God to have to now lean on a backup plan. The good news is that God ALWAYS has a back up plan when we or our leaders fail Him.
One can hope that we won’t have to repeat history in the same way today and that we can learn from the mistakes of early leaders in the church. If we don’t learn from those mistakes then we will have to rely on God’s backup plan. This back up plan will most certainly come because of the prayers of those members who are pleading and praying for the right leader who will go with the right questions to the Lord so that further light and understanding will come.
Sometimes….well a lot of the time, I can convince myself to leave my church. Many people near and dear to me have left and I don’t blame them. I still have a little energy left in me to fight the good fight and be a part of the solution so that more don’t feel pushed out, unloved and abandoned. I feel a little like a man named Edwin who had the following conversation with Brigham Young. Brigham Young said to Edwin , “Now, Bishop Woolley, I guess you will go off and apostatize.” To which Edwin rejoined, “If this were your church, President Young, I would be tempted to do so. But this is just as much my church as it is yours, and why should I apostatize from my own church?”
Everyday I say to myself, this is my church too and while I have the strength I will use the personal revelation God has given me to make it a little better for those that are still marginalized. I will stand with them until the needed changes occur that will bring all of God’s children equally into the fold. I will do this for those who have left, for those still trying to stay, and I will especially do it for those who are not yet willing to recognize that this is even a problem or concern. It’s not going to be comfortable, but I’m pretty sure our growth doesn’t come in times of comfort.
It is never comfortable to call you own FOUL but when you do, God won’t have to use His backup plan.