The Latter-day Saints (Mormons) as a group are not known for being particularly accepting of LGBT people. What happens, then, when a young person in a Mormon family comes out as LGBT? The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University, which has long studied and addressed the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health and mental health of LGBT youth, has just released a new faith-based family education resource to help guide Mormon families in supporting their LGBT children.
Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Latter-day Saint Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children was written by FAP Director Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker with nearly 40 years of research and practice experience on LGBT health and mental health, and Dr. Bob Rees, a former Mormon Bishop who teaches Mormon Studies at Graduate Theological Union. Along with other FAP materials, the booklet has been designated as the 1st “Best Practice” resource for suicide prevention for LGBT people by the national Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention and is the only such resource for Latter-day Saint (Mormon) families.
Dr. Ryan explained that the booklet deliberately does not set up a conflict between supporting one’s LGBT child and maintaining one’s faith, saying, “Many parents and families think they have to choose between a gay child and their deeply held beliefs—a choice no parent should ever have to make. We wrote this booklet to show Mormon families what our compelling research has found—how families react to their LGBT children really matters. This booklet provides critical, specific information on how to support LGBT children and youth, how to build their self-esteem and well-being, reduce their risk for suicide, substance abuse, HIV and homelessness and keep their faith. Our hope is that every Mormon parent, bishop, and religious leader reads it and uses it.”
Dr. Rees said the booklet “will save lives, keep families together and give Church leaders a resource for helping families support their LGBT sons, daughters and other family members. This booklet and the research that supports it mark the dawning of a brighter day for Latter-day Saint families and congregations.”
Most strikingly, though, two Mormon parents of a gay teenage son have written a piece for HuffPo in which they state:
As parents, we think this pamphlet could be the bridge between these two impossible choices—a bridge that connects the LDS church to information that could save the lives of LDS kids like Will, in a way that is accessible and meets LDS families where they are, instead of from a place of judgment.
Supportive Families, Healthy Children for Latter-day Saint Families is available for download at the FAP Web site. Printed copies are available upon request, and FAP will provide guidance and training on using these materials and other FAP resources and tools.