Matthew Gong, son of apostle Garret Gong, talks about being a gay member and his relationship with his family. It doesn't make his activity level clear but does indicate he has a good relationship with his family and that he has (or has had) a boyfriend.
While I do think his story is typical of some gay members I don't think it works for all of them, and that's in part because of their families and their church relationships.
His mother, an avid gardener, once explained the difference between flowers and weeds.
“Weeds,” she told him, “were plants growing where they weren’t wanted.”
His queerness, the opposite of his religious ethnicity, “was something I was born with but not into,” Gong says in an LGBTQ Affirmation conference speech, “I had to discover it, like a secret birthright.”
And thus he came to see his gay self as a “weed” in the Latter-day Saint garden.
When the senior Gong took his place for a lifetime appointment in the faith’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the younger Gong thought: “Today is the day I lost my father. His life isn’t his anymore, and we are on opposite sides of a great divide.”
His fear was that “people would politicize me and my dad. That our interactions would be nitpicked to brand us as avatars of ideologies,” Gong writes on a Facebook post. “... It didn’t matter if we agreed about everything; we’re still family. So, when I talk about ‘the Church,’ I mean ‘the Church.’ When I talk about my father, he’s just my father.”
Though Gong’s relationship with his parents got off to a “rocky start” after he came out — not for lack of love or rejection but for miscommunication — they are now as close as ever and talk almost every week.
When asked in 2018 if having a gay son had affected his views on LGBTQ issues, the apostle replied, “We love each member of our family. We feel the need to be compassionate to all. Even though there are many things we don’t understand, we know in God’s plan there’s a place for every person in [the church].”
If Gong hadn’t come out, he says, “I would have fought in the war till I died by suicide.”
(I think a lot of us can relate to that one.)“I experienced confusion, sexual assault and rejection as I stumbled through my new life,” Gong says. “I struggled to find meaning in the spiritual void left by having been a flower growing in the wrong place.”
He hated that God “had been taken from me,” he says. “I had won the war in coming out but was left as broken as the battlefield.”
And he still didn’t know how to love himself.
(In the thread where people talk about letting go of the guilt and fear, I think this is what some of us mean.)He began to heal, until there was one final battle: to face institutions and people who had harmed and abused him.
“I held my ground … and I silenced their rage with my story as I spoke with my own voice. ‘I forgive you,’” he says. “They hadn’t earned my forgiveness, but I had.”
In doing so, he gave himself the chance to extend grace to his past selves.
Though Gong still claims aspects of Mormonism in his spirituality, he has added theistic Taoism, Zen Buddhism and any parts of a religion “that seem resonant — civility, care, forgiveness, treating humans with dignity and compassion.”
He learned those principles from “growing up Mormon,” he says, “but they are not unique to the church.”
The church’s “patterns and behaviors of abuse,” he says, “don’t have to be there; they are not inherent in the doctrine.”