Hi everyone, I’m Jonathan Rogers. I’m a straight, cisgender man (he/him/his). My wife, two boys, and I live in Canton, GA, USA. We’ve lived here for a little more than a year. I work as a Business Analyst & Agile Coach on government contracts. I’m the youngest of 7 children.
I grew up predominantly in a very actively involved, conservative, orthodox LDS family that strictly followed whatever was spoken over the pulpit. That way of life became my way of life growing up. To accomplish anything, I just needed to have enough faith and stay away from temptation and people who tried to influence me off the covenant path.
I’ve had experiences of nuance throughout my life without ever realizing it. But what started my current journey began 6 years ago when friends of ours openly supported those that were LGBTQIA+. They also openly had doubts and issues with the brethren and policies in the church. All of these things rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t understand how our friends could be “active” in the church and believe in its teachings and yet still feel this way. I especially couldn’t understand their support of those who were LGBTQIA+. It became a huge wedge in our friendship, because of my lack of love and understanding. We eventually broke off our friendship because I didn’t want their “influence” in our lives. Looking back now, it makes me sick to my stomach to believe I ever did that to another person. I put them through so much pain and shaming. It was awful. They eventually told us to never talk to them again and never approach their family again.
Over the next 6 years I learned gradually to be more understanding and accepting of others whose beliefs and lives differed from mine. In May 2019, another friend of ours posted a picture of them in the Atlanta Pride Parade on Facebook with some of their LGBTQIA+ friends. I knew she was an active church member and an awesome person so I really respected her for it. So I liked her post. The next day she invited Delaney and I to come to the next Rise – Atlanta LGBT+ Mormons and Allies gathering organized by Ian Calk. I was very very apprehensive about it. I fully believed and supported the proclamation and didn’t want anyone to think I was somehow going against the church and against the proclamation. I also didn’t know what this meeting was going to be like. My wife said to me, “why are you wanting to go? Is it just to not disappoint or do you actually want to learn how to be more loving?” So we went to the June 2019 meeting.
And that is where my second life began.
Sunny Smart from Idaho flew down and shared her story and experience as a gay woman in the church and the realities that our LGBTQIA+ siblings experience every day in the church. For the first time in my life, I really truly listened. And my heart broke into pieces. And I literally felt a fog over my eyes wash away and I finally saw all of these beautiful siblings of mine who have been suffering all along.
Watch Sunny Smart’s Latter Gay Stories episode:
Later that night we had a group discussion in the back because I had sincere questions and all of these amazing and loving LGBTQIA+ people ministered to me and took time to help me understand. A white, straight, cisgender guy who was clearly adamant about the proclamation, and they took the time to lovingly minister to me and help me listen and understand. I just didn’t know how I could both love my LGBTQIA+ siblings and also follow the church. They explained what cognitive dissonance was. I explained that I just haven’t seen this kind of treatment at church. Then someone explained: “Don’t you get it Jonathan? You are so far up the chain from persecution and marginalization in the church that you’ve never seen it or experienced it.” And like a lightening bolt, I realized this was true.
I left a different person, now with a heart full of love and compassion that I never had before and my journey in the LGBTQIA+ space began. I found Richard Ostler’s podcast, Listen Learn and Love and it made a huge difference in my life, even to today and I base a lot of who I want to be from what I learned from him and all of the people in his podcasts. I have striven to be an advocate and a voice for all who feel marginalized in the church and in society and created a Facebook page called All Are Alike Unto God to share these messages and stories. Soon afterwards my immediate family became very concerned about me and began to gossip. I didn’t want them to misunderstand me so I recorded my story and shared it with all of my family members and it created this beautiful, vulnerable space where we were all able to open up to each other. It was then that I found out one of my siblings was LGBTQIA+ and I never knew it. This was a beautiful time in my life, but things progressed towards more and more nuance and gray area for me.
Fast forward to September 2019, at this point I’ve researched more into the church’s history and treatment of LGBTQIA+ people and we also had Greg Prince come to a Rise Meeting to share his findings, all leading to my final straw. I just didn’t know if I believed anything in the church anymore besides that my Heavenly Parents and Christ were there and that Christ’s love was the foundation of everything, that fear based teachings weren’t true, and that I had to start from scratch.
Fast forward to January 2020. This was my lowest point spiritually. For the first time in my whole life, I had gotten to the point of not actually knowing if my Heavenly Parents or Christ were even there. It was the darkest feeling. Empty. Lonely. This was because I felt like I had lost my best friend and found out they never existed in the first place. This person who knew me better than anyone may have never existed. It was at that point that I was going to press forward with the love of Christ and loving everyone, even if I didn’t believe in God anymore.
A few weeks later, what I can only describe as a miracle occurred. It was a custom tailored experience that only God could have orchestrated. It involved that friend from 6 years ago. They received a strong and overwhelming prompting in the Celestial Room of the temple to leave the temple and call me immediately. They were so mad at God. They were not happy with me. I had put them through trauma, everything. But they believed God was at play here. So they listened. And they tried calling me 10 times and finally decided to call my wife.
When we saw the call we didn’t know what we had done wrong and almost didn’t answer. When we answered, they said:
“Jonathan, I’m not happy that I had to call you. I’m still really hurt and mad at you. But I want you to know that God gave me the strongest prompting to leave the Celestial room and call you and tell you this message. Jonathan, God wants you to know that he is there for you through whatever you are going through. I don’t know what you’re going through, but God does.”
I was speechless and in tears and sobbed. This friend who I considered almost an apostate 6 years ago was now my ministering angel sent by God to tell me this message that I so desperately needed.
I shared this experience at the next testimony meeting and on Facebook.
This experience for me revitalized my belief that God really is there in some form or fashion. And that they know me personally and love me. I have no doubt about that. But the feeling I had from this experience wasn’t that everything is now magically true again. No, it was instead that I was doing the right things, but that God wanted to be a part of my journey. Also that God is a bridge builder who wants to bring us together. That friend and I are now connected again and are on good terms. It was incredibly healing for me and relieved a burden I had carried for so long.
So that’s where I am now. I’m still trying to figure things out one day at a time while trying to show the world that we are all alike unto God, that we need to seek first to understand others by listening to, learning from, and loving them as they are. Only together can we become the people that Christ would want us to become, and that takes all of us. ❤️🌈
Want to read another story like this one?
CLICK HERE for more!
This In My Own Words story is dedicated to helping people learn to better share love, while fostering an atmosphere of understanding. When we know better, we do better.