SALT LAKE CITY (CBS Las Vegas/AP) – Mormon parents defend their gay children in a new video that confronts the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ disapproval of same-sex relationships.
The video, to be released Saturday during a national conference for gay Mormons in Washington, D.C., is part of the ongoing “It Gets Better” project, which seeks to give hope to bullied lesbian and gay teenagers.
In the video, parents recall how they struggled with their faith when their children first came out as gay. One teary mother says she learned her 19-year-old son was gay after he tried to kill himself. A father describes his initial discomfort with gay men. The message is that God wants them to love their children despite their sexual orientation.
“When he came out, I wasn’t quite ready to accept that situation,” said Charles Carver, a father from Utah, said in the video about his son.
“My job is to love. My job is to accept,” he said later.
Another father, Stephen Cohen, said, “There was once upon a time that I told a co-worker of mine that if a gay ever came on to me I would punch him. Now, you know what I would probably do? I would hug him.”
The parents say their children can’t help being gay and don’t deserve to feel ashamed.
“Nobody in their right mind would choose this, nobody that is (Latter-day Saints) would choose to be ostracized by their whole entire family,” says Andrea Carver, another mother who appears in the video with her husband. “I just pray that whoever is watching this that you will learn to love yourself and appreciate who you are as a person.”
The video follows a similar project released by gay students at Brigham Young University last month. In that video, Mormon students say they believe God loves them as they are.
Kendall Wilcox, a gay former BYU employee, produced both videos. Wilcox said he wanted to highlight the growing disparity between the church’s official ban on homosexual activity and its members’ support for friends and relatives who are gay.
“It’s sort of an invitation to Mormons everywhere to come out and say, we can’t be quiet about this anymore. We have to show support,” Wilcox said.
Gay rights activist Dan Savage, who writes a syndicated sex advice column, created the “It Gets Better” project in 2010 after a string of youth suicides.
Gay Mormon youths can face a particularly difficult road after coming out. Mormons who have same-sex physical relationships can be banned from the church, and some Mormon leaders have urged gay members to consider sexual orientation conversion. At BYU, a Mormon institution, straight couples can hug and kiss, while gay couples cannot.
Wilcox hopes the video will teach Mormon parents how to respond to their children’s same-sex orientation. It will be released during the “Circling the Wagon” conference, the first of its kind outside Utah. A similar conference was held in Salt Lake City last year.
“All of these parents are saying nothing anti-Mormon,” Wilcox said. “It’s just, you know: In the end, when I was working through all of this, the message I got from God is that you love your child unconditionally.”
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