Diane Oviatt (right) with her son Ross
LGBT Mormons, Stake President Attend Bay Area Event
by Diane Oviatt
Our second gathering of Bay Area LDS LGBT friends and allies on July 28 was somewhat smaller here during the height of summer vacation. We had mostly straight allies this time and a handful of LGBT friends, two of whom are now engaged in the wake of the brilliant move by Supreme Court of the United States here at the end of June (Bravo!). One friend was just called to serve in his elders quorum presidency. The two with impending nuptials are not currently active in the Mormon faith, but after our meeting, they may be contemplating making an occasional appearance, thanks to the surprise arrival of an incredible guest.
As hostess, I was mentally sizing up the room, and figuring that all who were likely to come had arrived. The next thing I knew, our dear friend and Stake President, Dean Criddle appeared on the scene! I was thrilled to see him, as was the group of young straight allies from the Berkeley singles ward in our Oakland Stake who had come to learn and lend support. (I love this upcoming generation!)
Our speaker, Clark Pingree, did a brilliant job of filling everyone in on the details of his journey as a gay Mormon from a very devout family, who loved the church, served a mission and tried desperately for a while to change his orientation over ten years ago. Although a private person by his own admission, he was candid about his struggles, his family’s reaction, and his feelings about the church and God, both then and now. He entertained many questions, mostly from our young allies, in his straight forward, eloquent manner.
Clark was honest about the pain that the passage of Prop 8 and the involvement of the LDS church had caused him, citing this as pivotal to his decision to end his activity in the church. Though currently not participating, he did recall some fond memories, and gratitude for what he has gained from growing up in an LDS family. The discussion lasted over an hour, and could have probably continued, had he not had an early plane to catch the next morning.
Throughout the evening, President Criddle listened and nodded while he ate his cake. Toward the end, he raised his hand and asked to say something. He then proceeded to thank Clark for his words, and to let him know that he considered him part of the “tribe” of the Oakland Stake, and always would, whether he actively participated or not. (This is the same stake president who gave a brilliant talk last year in Stake Conference about the dedication of our Stake to practicing “big-tent Mormonism” wherein all our welcome, just as they are, wherever they are at in life. Also, my husband and I consider his response to our son’s coming out 6 years ago, lifesaving, testimony building, and absolutely Christ-like).
I think those in attendance who are not active members of our stake were amazed by the presence of this great man at our little gathering, and his humble, caring contribution. I definitely felt that bridges were built and hearts were warmed that night. It was a testimony to me of how important our efforts toward reconciliation, love and unconditional acceptance are and will continue to be as we press forward in faith.