The latter part of this month I have been greatly affected by the continual data coming to light concerning Mormon youth and young adult LGBT suicide.
I felt extreme pressure and discomfort as a gay teen in the 80s. But I cannot begin to imagine the added pressures to the LGBTQIA+ youth of today in our church in a post policy world.
My great great great great grandmother Ann Jewell Rowley walked 1300 miles from Iowa City to Salt Lake City in 1856. She made the trek pulling a handcart as a widow with her seven children.
She was a member of the Willie Handcart company that was caught in a terrible winter blizzard in Wyoming.
At one of the lowest and coldest points, when all seemed lost, Ann watched her oldest son John (my great great great grandfather) fall frozen at the side of the trail.
She later recalled that moment.
“John being the oldest boy, had born the brunt of the hard work. I was grateful for my faith in God, for it was only through this faith, that I was able to carry on at all. I confess, it seemed at times, the Lord had deserted us. I watched John, so cold, drowsy and sick, want to lie down in his tracks, never to rise again. I had to stand helplessly while Captain Willie whipped him, to make him go on. Gladly, I would have taken the whipping myself.”
This seems particularly harsh to whip a boy to make him stand and go on. We now know better in modern times how to overcome hypothermia, but the pressing reality of hypothermia is that once your core body temperature falls significantly you become disoriented, sluggish, and tired. Once you become stationary your body temperature rapidly plummets. As you lay in the freezing cold, you stop shivering as your body reflexively opens the peripheral blood vessels in a last attempt to warm the extremities. Paradoxically this makes you feel warm and euphoric as you loose consciousness.
Captain Willie saved my great great great grandfather that day. The only way to not freeze to death was to keep going. The warm euphoric hypothermic state is certain death.
So you… you keep going. When you feel deserted, keep going. When you want to lay down at the side of your trail… Keep going. When you are tired and feel as if you cannot rise again… Keep going.
You are loved.
Hold to hope.
You are worthy of your destination.