I have seen many tributes to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin in the last day and a half. I don’t know that I have a lot to add, but I’ll share my few thoughts. I see around me a world filled with hate. We have on the one hand certain right-wing groups that call themselves “Christians” but seem to hate everybody who does not look, think, act, and believe exactly as they do. On the other hand we have the left-wing groups who are vandalizing churches to protest intolerance (intolerance being defined as “anybody who does not share my world view”).
When Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin died, the world lost a much-needed voice of love and compassion. I would like to quote from his penultimate General Conference address:
Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.
Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.
This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children. He does not esteem one flesh above another, but He “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God.”3
. . .Brothers and sisters, if only we had more compassion for those who are different from us, it would lighten many of the problems and sorrows in the world today. It would certainly make our families and the Church a more hallowed and heavenly place.
How different might have been the vitriolic debate over California’s Proposition 8 if both sides had lived this counsel? For myself, those were words of encouragement for one who feels very different in many respects from the majority of my fellow Latter-Day Saints. I recently came across the group North Star, which is a Gospel-centered LDS support group for same-gender attraction (they’re thinking of opening a section for TG/GID—if you’re interested, please contact them and show your support!) I found something on there very interesting. They invite community-contributed articles, and they encourage authors to use their real names as much as possible. The comment was, “ours is not a condition of shame.”
That made me think a little about my own situation. Though I’m not at all attracted to men, gender confusion suffers from many of the same stigmas as same-gender attraction, both in and out of the Church. I wondered, have I chosen to remain anonymous here because I’m ashamed? Honestly, I don’t know. There are some very practical reasons not to use my real name. I work in a conservative profession (liberal lawyers are plaintiffs’ attorneys, and I don’t do torts), and I know that it is very common now for employers to google prospective employees. Frankly, if I apply for a job, I don’t need the baggage. Is it right for employers to judge me on what I write here? Not at all. It has no bearing on my ability to write a patent. But it happens.
Even in the Church, however, I don’t go announcing that I have gender issues. Most of my FAMILY doesn’t know, much less my ward. And I think for now, I prefer to keep it that way. Again, it may not be right for people to judge me, after all, I didn’t ask for this trial. But I don’t need the extra difficulties either. My Church calling is challenging enough without adding artificial complications. So I’m staying anonymous for now.
One thing I’m sure of though—if I had ever been privileged to meet Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, he would have loved me unconditionally. Even if I am a violin instead of a piccolo, and one a little out of tune at that, Elder Wirthlin would have been my friend.