Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Personal Email from a Good Friend

I got a message on facebook from a good friend of mine. We served together in the mission field in the early 1990's. For the non-LDS reading this, you've probably seen Mormon missionaries around your neighbourhood at some point, that was me :-)

My friend sent this message through this past week. I've removed his name for his privacy.

First of all, I've been thinking about this on and off for years, so I hope you understand that I wouldn't write this with the intent of being flippant or... I don't know. I've never written something like this, don't know how to address it, so I'm stumbling a lot.
Anyway, here goes. I have been reading a book recently, but over the past few years, for some reason I have been really engaged, almost "driven" to learn, read, ponder, and pray about issues with sexuality. I would think that a person would be more interested if they were experiencing/dealing with personal issues on the subject, but I have sometimes felt "impelled" to try and understand this topic more. I am grateful that in recent times, the leadership of the church has also been inspired to address this issue in their public statements, and express compassion about the difficult struggle and nature of those who deal with same-gender attraction.
So I'm continuing to ramble. This is the thing. I know I shouldn't assume, and I don't even know if I've created the sense for those around me that I am trying so hard to understand, empathize, and be a listening ear to others who live in a world (the church) where they feel as an outsider because of deeply set feelings that they struggle to understand. I want to be; I can't relate to them personally, exactly, but I can appreciate the depth of despair that I could imagine would come to someone in a situation like this.
Again, rambling... Derek, are you gay? I hope this question doesn't offend you, and I sincerely apologize if it does. The book I'm reading discussing a mother's experience with her son struggling with this, and eventually taking his life because he couldn't reconcile a life in keeping with his faith, and continuing to have the feelings and urges he had. I don't want anyone to have to feel that alone that the decision to take their life would be the only option they felt that they had. So I'm taking a risk with you, a dear friend to me despite our geographic distance. If I'm wrong, I hope you'll forgive me. If this is an issue for you, I want you to know that I love you, you are my brother, my friend, and if there is anything I can do to... well, whatever, please let me know. I don't have any answers, I'm not sure I know what I could do to help, but can tell you that I respect you a lot, you're are and have been a great example to me, and I think the world of you. That, to me, defines you far more than an issue like same gender attraction--it's really irrelevant in my mind in the context of you as a person, though I realize that in the practice of your life, it may be a constant issue that you have to address, so I don't mean to minimize it.
Okay, so it's out there, and again, please forgive me if I'm totally wrong on this--but I can't bear to think that anyone should have to suffer alone, in silence about this issue, and I hope to be a part of helping others in and out of the church to be more empathetic and compassionate towards others, and creating an environment of true love within our church so that anyone can feel accepted and loved within our faith, and truly feel that it is a place where they can find not judgment and scrutiny, but love and healing, or at least some measure of peace and solace.
Love you,
A Friend.

You see, there are good Latter-day Saints and other Christians out there who try to live their faith. I think we need to have a little more faith in our Christian families and friends.


  1. Amen. Thanks for sharing. What a great friend!

  2. Derek,

    You don't have to be "closeted" about me. I'm Thad, Thad Barkdull, and I'm your friend who wrote the letter. I just caught up on your life through your blog. What an experience. Your journey should be one that helps others to appreciate what frustration and pain comes from a world where we teach our children to hate.

    I've always loved the scene in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (I've read the book, the movie is equally stirring) where Scout makes fun of a little boy for putting molasses on his food. Her surrogate mom, Cal, played amazingly by Estelle Evans, says to Scout, "That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear? And if you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen."

    I'm bummed that I was so dimwitted that I didn't talk to you sooner. I feel a little guilt in knowing that I might have helped you, and I didn't. I feel no guilt in knowing that you're my friend. You probably don't remember taking me to see the mission president when I was a 1 month old missionary, home sick, spoiled and naive, angry because I wasn't getting what I wanted. You never judged me, even though I knew you would have likely talked with poor Elder Read, and were aware of what a punk I was being. Life or anything else doesn't change that kind of compassion.

    I wish that you could have been embraced for all of who you were. Most of the attributes that you attribute to your "gayness" in my mind were the things that made you a fine emissary of the Lord when we were pounding the streets of Queensland. I hope you're able to find a way to reconcile who you identify as, and the son of God I know you are.

    And you never have to think that you need to hide my identity because I might not want to be associated with you. I'm hardly like Him, but I know Christ was never ashamed of being with those that "others" proclaimed to be sinners. Heck, he even hanged out with the Sadduccees alot!

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