Shortly after he became prophet, I happened to run into Thomas Monson at Little America. He was escorted, with his wife, to the table next to ours, where we were out eating with our family. Frances, his wife, ordered soup and ate it with single minded purpose, not looking up as people came to talk to her husband. At first, I thought of trying to hide my diet coke, but then didn’t. It was so very… Salt Lake City… to run into the prophet at dinner and to worry about my caffeinated beverage.
But as I watched him talk to people, something changed.
It was a feeling.
I couldn’t pinpoint it.
His words weren’t slurred. He made eye contact. He answered questions. But… something was wrong.
Something was wrong and I felt it, even if I couldn’t name it.
Looking back, I think it was the beginning of his illness. I think, from the very beginning, he was losing a bit of who he was.
For nearly my entire life, I loved Thomas Monson.
I loved that he preached love. I loved that he said people were more important than problems. I loved the stories he told about being kind. Helping the widows, serving the orphans. I loved that his message was always inclusion and love, never exclusion. He called us to gather together, never to cast out.
Which was why Proposition 8 was so painful.
It was a departure.
It was unkind.
It was choosing the letter of the law over Christ’s command to love one another.
When it happened, I remember feeling sick.
And I remember thinking of that moment, in the Little America, when I had been so excited to see a man I had loved for so long and so struck that… something… was wrong.
I am a gay Mormon.
The church’s backing of Proposition 8, the 2015 policy of exclusion, barring the underage children of same-sex spouses from baptism, these represented, for me, the end of my membership in the church.
I am a Mormon. I will always be a Mormon.
But, largely because of policies enacted by Thomas Monson, I have been cast out from my people.
But as a gay Mormon, here is something I know: none of us can escape our biology. We are all subject to the primal forces that cause our cells to cleave, drive our lungs to breathe. We are all fragile creatures, corruptible, imperfect.
Thomas Monson spent most of his life teaching us that God loves us anyway. Even when we don’t deserve it. Even when we know we are unlovable. God loves us, even when we are broken.
And all of us are broken.
It is hard to celebrate someone who is largely responsible for a great deal of my own personal pain.
But I saw with my own eyes his fragility. I felt with my own spirit that this was not right. I know, with all of my own biological imperfections, that God loves me. That god has never abandoned me.
And so I am trying to forgive his brokenness. I am trying to remember what he spent the vast majority of his life teaching me: that, in the end, people are more important than problems. That, in the end, God loves us. That, more than any law, we should love each other.
Love must always be more important.
Let that lesson be his legacy.