HRC Blog

Family Acceptance and the Church of Latter-day Saints

This post comes from Sharon Groves, Director of HRC’s Religion & Faith Program; and Ellen Kahn, Director of HRC’s Family Project:

Dr. Caitlin Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) are pioneers in the research on family acceptance. Their groundbreaking work has for over a decade shown educators, social service providers, families, and more recently faith communities, how family acceptance irrefutably transforms the lives of LGBT young people for the better. 

Their success in bringing well-tested and scientifically-thorough research to communities that have traditionally been hostile to discussions of the needs of LGBT kids stems largely from their deceptively simple premise: parents—all parents—love their kids.  As simple as this statement is, it has revolutionized how researchers and family advocates approach our collective mission of creating more accepting families so that young people can flourish.  FAP refuses to begin a dialogue from a place of shame or moral condemnation.  Because of this they have been able to make surprising inroads with more religiously conservative families, as we see with their newest resource, “Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Latter-day Saint Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children.” Contact to obtain printed versions and for information on consultation and training. 

Like FAP, HRC’s Family Project and Religion and Faith Program seek to foster deeply respectful dialogue among parents, educators, health providers and faith communities about how best to support our LGBT children.  Because of our commitment to culturally competent resources in this endeavor, we are most grateful for this thoughtful booklet which will deepen our work with Latter-day Saints (LDS) families.  Written by Dr. Ryan and Dr. Robert Rees, a former Mormon Bishop who teaches Mormon Studies at Graduate Theological Union, “Supportive Families, Healthy Children” provides culturally relevant material that resonates with Mormon families and we believe will be of value to other religious families as well. 

As with FAP, our programs increasingly have been engaging the Mormon community and we know first-hand the urgent need for resources like “Supportive Families, Healthy Children.”  Just recently our new President, Chad Griffin, visited a youth drop-in shelter in Utah and saw the devastating results that family rejection can have in the lives of young people.  In Utah alone, 42 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT and, while all of these youth do not identify as Mormon, many come from Mormon families. We see a clear and pressing need for LDS-focused resources to help keep kids off the streets and to promote good health, mental health and well-being within their families, and we applaud FAP's pioneering work with the LDS community. 

HRC recently conducted a survey of 13 to 17 year-old self-identified LGBT youth, and received an unprecedented 10,000 responses from across the country.  The findings were published last month in “Growing up LGBT in America: HRC Youth Survey Report” which offers even more evidence for the critical need for such work.  For example, LGBT youth are less likely to be happy, to feel that they “fit in” in their community, or to have an adult they can talk to if they are feeling troubled. 

As Latter-day Saint President David O. McKay is quoted saying in the booklet: “Parenthood . . . should be held as a sacred obligation. There is something in the depths of the human soul which revolts against neglectful parenthood.  God has implanted deep in the souls of parents the truth that they cannot. . . shirk the responsibility to protect childhood and youth.”  We congratulate Dr. Ryan, Dr. Rees, and the good people at FAS for creating such a resource that provides Mormons with the tools to parent LGBT people better without sacrificing their faith in the process.  We intend to use this resource regularly in our own programs and recommend it heavily to faith leaders, educators and LDS parents.  With such resources we believe Mormon households can become ideal places for LGBT daughters and sons flourish. 

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