LGBTQ members discuss experiences as current, former members in the LDS Church

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“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation” (Luke 20:46-47). Here the sin is not the audible nature of the prayer but its pretentiousness. Jesus condemns the hypocrisy of pretending to have a relationship with God while oppressing the very people He loves.

Then in Matthew 6:5, Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Again, Jesus is not condemning the fact that people prayed aloud, but that they were putting on a public display for their own benefit. Their motive—to be seen of men—was the problem. Such prayer is not real prayer, but empty words meant for the ears of other people (Hebrews 10:22). Proverbs 15:29 says, “The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

In Ephesians 5:20, Paul instructs the church to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Communal prayer is one way a local church worships God and encourages one another. What Jesus condemns is arrogance and hypocrisy. For someone who is clearly disobedient to God to lead a public prayer as though he or she had much to brag about is the kind of hypocrisy that Jesus denounced. To use public prayer as a means of showing off or impressing others is wrong. But sincere prayer from a humble heart is always welcomed by God and can be an encouragement to those who hear it (Psalm 

“I was ecstatic — it was a huge change,” said Kole Pei, a transgender man who is a member of the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints, referring the church’s recent policy change allowing children of LGBTQ parents to be baptized members of the church.

Pei was one of five participants in a panel held at Weber State University Wednesday night called “Rainbow to Heaven.” The panel explored the experiences of people who identify as LGBTQ and are current or former participants in the Latter-day Saint faith.

The event had been in the works for the past two months, well before the church’s policy change. Two Weber State students — April Skeem and Brooke Cowley — planned the panel discussion as a project for their senior course on macro policy in social work.

Pei said he came out twice, once as a lesbian and later as a transgender man.

“Coming out as Kole, it was harder,” Pei said.

“Everything’s in steps,” Pei continued, discussing the policy change later in the panel discussion. “Being transgender is something that it will take time for people to learn about … with this policy, I’m so sorry the church doesn’t really address the transgender community. Honestly right now, what I’m focused on is the change in general.

“I’m happy for my friends that these policy changes do affect, and I guess you could say I’m just hopeful that in the future that something will happen … and the fact that it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t affect my relationship with God because he validates me every day.”

Pei is a practicing member of the church who chose to stay, he said, because when he almost left, the most love and support he received was from friends and relatives who are currently members of the church — some were part of the LGBTQ community, and others were not.

That’s not to say the road was easy. He struggled in his relationship with his mother. At one point, his mother asked him, “Just give me a chance.” Pei said he had been hard on others because he assumed they wouldn’t accept him.

Carson Tueller, another member of the panel, also faced difficulties with his mother, who was sitting in the audience.

“My dad was really loving,” Tueller said. “I specifically went through hell with my mom, especially with the policy … that really put a wall up between us because I really put conditions on how my mom loved me.”

Eventually, Tueller said, he sat down with his mom and told her, “I’m just going to love you no matter what.”

Telling her this “freed her up to love me in the way she needed to love me,” Tueller said. “That was the year she came to Pride with me.”

Conversations between mothers and their LGBTQ children ran throughout the panel.

One other panelist, Jen Bastian, talked about when her son came out to her. She cringed looking back on asking him if he thought it was “just a phase” and if he was interested in counseling.

Bastian praised a mother in the audience who asked how to best support her 19-year-old daughter, who had come out five months before and was sitting beside her.

LGBTQ members of the panel said that eventually they look forward to full participation in the church.

“I feel like if there is going to be an end goal, the policies would have to change,” said Nathan Winterton, a gay man who left the church after experiencing gay conversion therapy and a suicide attempt.

“In my opinion, (this) is not so far fetched just because the church has done it with other things in the past,” Winterton continued. “They’ve done it with race. They’ve done it with priesthood … and I feel like my end goal would be, if I had to join the church again, that me and my hunk of man can get sealed in the temple because that’s equality … that is what I will always hope for.”

The Pharisees accepted the written Word as inspired by God. At the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, this would have been what we now call the Old Testament. Unfortunately, the Pharisees gave equal authority to oral tradition, saying the traditions went all the way back to Moses. Evolving over the centuries, the Pharisaic traditions had the effect of adding to God’s Word, which is forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:2). The Gospels abound with examples of the Pharisees treating their traditions as equal to God’s Word (Matthew 9:1415:1–923:523:1623Luke 11:42). Jesus applied the condemnation of Isaiah 29:13 to the Pharisees, saying, “Their teachings are merely human rules” (Mark 7:7).

The Pharisees taught the following doctrines:

1. God controls all things, but decisions made by individuals also affect life’s course.

2. There will be a resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6).

3. There is an afterlife, with appropriate reward and punishment on an individual basis. The Messiah will set up His kingdom on earth.

4. The spiritual realm, including the existence of angels and demons, is real (Acts 23:8).

Many of the Pharisees’ doctrines put them at odds with the Sadducees; however, the two groups managed to set aside their differences on one occasion—the trial of Jesus Christ. To accomplish the demise of Jesus, the Sadducees and Pharisees united (Mark 14:5315:1John 11:48–50).

The Pharisees were responsible for the compilation of the Mishnah, an important document with reference to the continuation of Judaism beyond the destruction of the temple. Rabbinical Judaism and modern-day synagogues owe their existence to the Pharisees’ work.

In the Gospels, the Pharisees are often presented as hypocritical and proud opponents of Jesus. The Lord stated it bluntly: “They do not practice what they preach” (Matthew 23:3). As a general rule, the Pharisees were self-righteousness and smug in their delusion that they were pleasing to God because they kept the Law—or parts of it, at least. As Jesus pointed out to them, however scrupulous they were in following the finer points of ritualism, they failed to measure up to God’s standard of holiness: “You have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (verse 23).

Of course, not every Pharisee was opposed to Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee who rightly considered Jesus “a teacher who has come from God” and honestly sought answers from Him (John 3:1–2). Nicodemus later defended Jesus before the Sanhedrin (John 7:50–51) and was on hand at Jesus’ crucifixion to help bury the Lord’s body (John 19:39). Some of the early Christians were Pharisees, as well (Acts 15:5).

The apostle Paul was trained as a Pharisee, and his credentials in that group were sterling (Acts 26:5). Paul called himself “a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:5–6). But Paul found that his performance of the Law could not produce true righteousness. After he placed his trust in Christ’s finished work on the cross, he desired to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (verse 9). No one, not even the strictest Pharisee, is justified by keeping the Law (Galatians 3:11).

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