‘They are not a mistake’; former LDS bishop shares message of love, support for LGBTQ Mormons

Former LDS church bishop Richard Ostler shares his experiences with coming to love and support LGBTQ members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George, Utah, Aug. 29, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A former bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has embarked on a mission to spread love and understanding between LGBTQ Mormons and other members of the church.

“Being a Good Latter-day Saint and Supporting God’s LGBTQ Children” was the name of the presentation given by Richard Ostler at Dixie State University Wednesday evening. Ostler, the founder of the Listen, Learn and Love website, an online Mormon LGBTQ resource center, shared his experiences and those of others during the 90-minute presentation.

The presentation is not affiliated with the LDS church.

Former LDS church bishop Richard Ostler shares his experiences with coming to love and support LGBTQ members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George, Utah, Aug. 29, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Ostler introduced himself as an active member of the church who sustained the church’s leadership and was not on a crusade to see church doctrine changed. Instead, his goal is to share experiences that could foster a change of heart in how church members could approach the LGBTQ church and family members and friends.

Read more: Mormons preach love for LGBT members, but no doctrinal shift

“It would be better if LGBTQ people were up here sharing their stories instead of me, but I just felt impressed to do this,” Ostler said, noting he spoke from a position of privilege being a straight white man who was also a Mormon in Utah.

While serving as the bishop of an LDS young single adult ward, Ostler said he met with members of the congregation who confided in him they were members of the LGBTQ community.

As he listened to their stories, Ostler came to realize he had picked up beliefs about the LGBTQ community during his life that were “not correct.” This resulted in Ostler doing what he called a “hard drive reset” in regard to those beliefs. He would wipe the slate clean and start over as far as his understanding of the LGBTQ community was concerned.

I felt impressed to go talk to LGBTQ people. And God said, ‘If you want to get to know my LGBTQ children, you probably should go talk to them, and then you might see them as I see them.’ So that is my story of how I connected to that space.”

Read more: FamilySearch database to begin accepting same-sex couples

Ostler’s time as a bishop came to an end in 2016, and he has since created the Listen, Learn and Love website and has been a noted presence over social media promoting loving those who live differently or have different beliefs and not seeing them as “the other.”

Ostler quoted various church leaders during the presentation, including M. Russell Ballard, a member of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles:

Please don’t preach to them! Your family member or friend already knows the Church’s teachings. They don’t need another lecture! What they need, what we all need, is love and understanding, not judging. Share your positive experiences of living the gospel.

Ostler used the quote in relation to how family and friends in the church can respond to those who choose to step away from it due to LGBTQ-related issues or other matters.

Some members of the LDS faith carry erroneous notions with them about LGBTQ people as he once did, he said.

Among those beliefs is that LGBTQ people choose to be the way they are, which is false, he said; they were born that way.

“No one should feel shamed for how they are created inside,” Ostler said, adding that LGBTQ individuals “are people too… They are not a mistake.”

God does not create mistakes, he said.

Ostler estimated there are 780,000 LGBTQ people within the LDS church.

Read more: Apple CEO, Imagine Dragons at Salt Lake City music festival for Mormon LGBT youth

“We’re all of the body of Christ,” he said. “When you extend kindness to the more marginalized among us, they’ll talk to you.”

Former LDS church bishop Richard Ostler shares his experiences with coming to love and support LGBTQ mFormer LDS church bishop Richard Ostler shares his experiences with coming to love and support LGBTQ members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George, Utah, Aug. 29, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

During the presentation, Ostler gave examples of how his words and interactions over social media had seemingly convinced LGBTQ church members who were having a crisis of faith or considering leaving the church to continue on.

Currently, LGBTQ members of the church may remain active and in good standing provided they follow the church’s rules regarding chastity and do not engage in a homosexual relationship.

The church’s stance toward the LGBTQ community appears to have softened over the years, though it remains opposed to same-sex marriage and will not allow the children of same-sex couples to be baptized until they are adults.

Read more: LDS Church spokesman addresses ‘incomplete news reports,’ clarifies policy affecting kids in same-sex homes

Despite that, Ostler stresses the need for love and understanding.

“I think, as we love people who are different than us, that we have less fear of them and we can find common ground.”

Ben Martinsen, an LDS bishop who presides over a ward in Washington City, attended Wednesday’s presentation. He has been following Ostler on social media for a while now and agrees with everything he’s said.

Martinsen said he’s had members in his ward who told him they were LGBTQ.

I told them, ‘We love you. What can I learn more about you to serve you better?’” he said, adding, “There’s nothing in church doctrine that says we shouldn’t love people. It doesn’t matter – love everybody.”

Linzee Hickman, also an LDS church member, said she liked the common theme of loving others.

“It was very Christ-centered. We could all express more love to those who are different around us or who may not think or believe as we do.”

Ostler has shared his presentation in parts of northern Utah for nearly a year and will be taking it to Boise, Idaho, in September.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Craig August 31, 2018 at 9:18 am

    I’m not sure exactly what he means by a “mistake.” Is diabetes a mistake? Is God deciding who gets diabetes, who gets heart disease, etc? No.

    We can care for or love someone without agreeing with their lifestyle. That does not imply support for their lifestyle. Some need psychological care, like transgender people. Gender is not a choice; thinking you are the opposite sex is is psychological disorder, just as diabetes is is physical disorder. Both need medical care.

    • Scott August 31, 2018 at 10:17 am

      I understand where you’re coming from, but that line of thinking — that they are abnormal– is what creates depression and suicide in LGBTQ youths (and adults)

    • Steve August 31, 2018 at 11:06 am

      Sorry Craig, but most psychologists and therapists strongly disagree with your opinion. They know that you are truly foolish yet!

  • Mike P August 31, 2018 at 10:20 am

    Of course they have love & support for LGBTQ Mormons. There’s an estimated 780,000 of them. That’s a lot of money coming in, don’t want to lose it.

  • 42214 August 31, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Was the LDS Church in California a few years ago spreading love and support for gays in their efforts to block a ballot initiative? Which side of their collective mouths are the speaking through today?

  • Happy Commenter August 31, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Former bishop Richard Ostler and his Listen, Learn and Love website are not affiliated with the LDS church and is not officially speaking on their behalf, just so you know….

  • John August 31, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    And God said, ‘If you want to get to know my LGBTQ children, you probably should go talk to them, and then you might see them as I see them.’ So that is my story of how I connected to that space.”

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