by Joel McDonald
In this episode of Latter Gay Stories, Paul and Susie Augenstein discuss why and how they became allies of the LGBTQ community within the Latter-day Saint community as active Mormons without any immediate family members of children who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Paul was the bishop of their ward. Their journey led them to volunteer with Encircle and to organize a 5th Sunday conference focused on sharing the stories of LGBTQ Mormons with members of the ward. The meeting was inspired by President M. Russell Ballard’s counsel for members of the Church to “listen and to understand what LGBTQ members are feeling and experiencing.”
In an effort to continue to share these stories and increase the understanding of members, they launched the Facebook page Let’s Love Better to provide a forum and community or people to share their stories and for others to better understand the experience of LGBTQ members of the Church and their families. They also started hosting game nights and dinners, opening their home for the LGBTQ community. They recently started a weekly LGBTQ Sunday school class focused on the characteristics of Christ, attended and taught by LGBTQ people.
Their advice to those wanting to be allies is to start small and open up the doors for people. Get to know LGBTQ people in your area, share what you learn with others, and be understanding with people who don’t understand at first. Try to “meet people where they are.”