The Flourish Point Pride event had a significant turnout on Saturday, including a small group in protest. The self-named Family Values for America group stood across the street from Porter Park in front of Deseret Book holding signs dictating their beliefs about traditional family and faith regarding sexuality and relationships.
The group held planning meetings prior to their protest in which they discussed the prospect of reading “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” through a megaphone at the event. The group ultimately decided against this. Members of the group who were interviewed by Scroll predominantly chose just to supply first names.
Meghan, the facilitator of the Family Values for America group, explained her reaction to hearing that Rexburg would host its first Pride event and the reason she felt motivated to protest.
“I was a little shocked because this is such a predominantly LDS community,” Meghan said. “I felt like we had lost our meaning on what the Family Proclamation is and I wanted to remind, mostly just the other church members, that this is what we stand for. I wanted to bring back those traditional family values.”
When advocating for support of her counter-protest group, Meghan described the difficulty to spread the word and get people on board through social media. Most requests for support were shut down.
Some Pride event participants shouted at the Family Values group from across the street in disfavor of their signs. The group members showed little reaction to any outbursts and remained peaceful, standing alongside the street holding their signs.
“It makes me feel a little sad when people are shouting at me because I know they don’t quite understand why I am here,” Meghan said. “They think I am here to be hateful. I don’t hate them. I don’t like the lifestyle, but I can still like the people as individuals.”
Despite the opposition, several drivers passing the park honked in favor of their signs and gave gestures of praise through car windows. Meghan said these simple gestures helped her feel like she wasn’t alone in her beliefs.
Jason, the co-organizer of the Family Values of America group, also explained what he would tell to Pride event participants who did not understand his motivation for standing in counter-protest.
“I would tell them that we believe in the words of the prophets and the laws of God,” Jason said. “I’d tell them that the laws of God are unifying, they’re loving, and they’re created by an almighty, loving Father. He created them so we can be happy. It is not a protest of condemning individuals on the other side. It’s a protest condemning actions, sin itself, rather than the individual.”
The Family Values group of about seven participants was conscious of how heavily outnumbered they were compared to the Pride event turnout, but all still felt a responsibility to stand and represent their traditional values.
Tember Harward, the facilitator of Beacon Ministry for Same-sex Attracted Latter-day Saints (SSA LDS), brought a unique perspective to the family values group as a man who has dealt with homosexual attraction all his life.
“I think that the group standing for truth is always smaller than the group of those who are not,” Tember said. “I wanted to show that as a member with same-sex attraction, individuals with SSA or gender dysphoria can be happy and have joy in the Church. It’s not contradictory to be an active Latter-day Saint and deal with those issues. It’s possible to have both.”
Harward understands firsthand the process of balancing homosexual attraction and gospel faith. He recognizes the challenges and encourages individuals with same-sex attraction to persevere and find hope in understanding their eternal identities.
“I know from personal experience and from many other gay members who’ve left that lifestyle that it doesn’t create happiness,” Harward said. “It creates this temporary satisfaction but ultimately leads to misery and not fulfilling your eternal identity. There’s an eternal identity that you have, and if you strive to fulfill that, it’s going to bring greater happiness than the temporary fulfillment you’ll receive from gender transitioning or living an open homosexual lifestyle.”
As a leader of the SSA LDS group, Harward understands the need for group support and outside help in discovering or re-discovering eternal identity and life purpose. He emphasized how Church members and leaders should take care in sharing opinion versus doctrine over the pulpit and in private settings, especially when handling sensitive topics like homosexuality. He also urged Latter-day Saints with same-sex attraction to not let the ignorance of others discourage their efforts to remain faithful.
“I don’t think living in the gospel you need to live ashamed and guilty all the time,” Harward said. “I believe that God is our loving Heavenly Father and he’s given us certain commandments that help us to be happy. You can live a happy and joyful life in the gospel and what that takes is truly surrendering your will to Christ. All you can really do sometimes is try your best.”