Saturday, February 19, 2011

My brother’s keeper

One of the best parts of doing the kind of writing I do is the opportunity to meet and speak with gay Mormons around the world. Some are firm in both their faith and their sexual orientation; but most struggle with understanding how and where they belong as part of the Mormon Church. When I’m extremely blessed, I get to witness someone take a great leap toward understanding themselves and their place within their faith.
Such is the case with my friend Kevin. 

Kevin is a soft-spoken, intelligent 23 year-old gay Mormon. Like many, he grapples with integrating his faith with his sexual orientation. Recently, he hit a period of great depression and doubt—a time when he felt genuinely unwanted, unnoticed, and even resentful toward the faith that he and his family had practiced his entire life.  And like many, he struggled largely in silence—not feeling safe enough to share openly with his bishopric, or worse, fearing retribution for his honesty. Nonetheless, despite his challenges, he continued to pray and do what he could to stay close to his Savior.

Then it happened.

One Sunday, after missing about two months of church consecutively, there appeared an anonymous, hand-delivered note in his mailbox.  “We missed you again today. We hope you come back soon.” It was a plain, blank note card with nothing remarkable about it—except a powerful message from an unnamed individual who noticed Kevin’s absence, missed him, and most importantly—took the time to let him know.

This remarkable story made me think about all the instances where I’ve noticed someone could use encouragement, and across my mind flashed the idea to do something about it—and I let it pass.

How often have each of us had the prompting to lift up another, but passively dismissed or ignored it because we were pressed with other obligations? How many times have we missed the chance to show a small kindness to another—and thus missed the chance to have a tremendous impact on another’s life—or faith? 

As Mormons, one of the covenants we make with our baptism into this church (and renew each Sunday when we take the sacrament), is to take the name of our Savior upon us. And as part of that covenant, we vow to shoulder the burdens of others, using our Savior as our example. 

We pledge to be our brother’s keeper.

I would argue that this same principle applies to each of us within the human family as a whole—irrespective of faith. By reaching out to help others in small, even insignificant ways, we move beyond our own problems and learn to give unconditionally. Looked at this way, every moment we spend as part of the human family can be an opportunity to serve, and an opportunity to positively impact our own lives—and perhaps, like Kevin’s anonymous friend, an opportunity to change another’s.

When Kevin returned to church the following Sunday, another note arrived. “Hello, Kevin. We were excited to see you at church today. We’re glad you came!” Subsequent weeks brought more notes, each one an affirmation to Kevin that he was noticed, he was loved, and most importantly that he had something that mattered to his church: his spirit. Because of this simple act—because someone was willing to be an instrument in the hands of our Savior—Kevin was brought through a difficult and dark time.

Toward the end of sharing his story with me, Kevin remarked: “Being a gay Mormon has been rough, even in a ward of 400 people. It’s easy to feel like you don’t matter, like you’re invisible, and like you don’t fit in. I was praying for help and guidance through this whole period, and I sincerely feel like these notes were a big part of my answer. This is my Savior’s handiwork. He answered my prayers through other people—and He does want me here!”

I wish to add my voice of gratitude to Kevin’s. To his anonymous friend, I’d like to say, “thank you.” You may never realize the impact you had on Kevin, on me, or on anyone who reads this. Your singular, simple act has been magnified to touch hundreds of lives. What a blessing you’ve been to people you may never even meet—all because you heeded a prompting to do a small act of kindness…because you were willing to be your brother’s keeper.

Today, I will pay special heed to any voice inside me that prompts me to perform a kind act, regardless of how insignificant it may seem. And in doing so, I will bless my own life through service to another, I will do my part to make the world a more peaceful and loving place, and I will let a fellow traveler on this earthly path know they are loved, they are valued, and that they matter.

Will you be your brother’s keeper today?


  1. loved, loved, loved this post - humanity at its best.

  2. I have to say, I've been in the ward I'm in for 2 months now and I'm amazed at how many people tell me they notice when I'm gone. Now granted I'm not a quiet one and I generally try not to speak unless I have something for people to think about, but I've never been in a ward that seems so genuine in their love for me. Thank you Mitch, for your part in helping introduce me to this ward.

  3. We actually discussed in Sunday School today how Heavenly Father often works miracles through us. I believe this is a miracle Kevin was able to witness due to a thoughtful member.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. One of my favorite quotes is, "We never touch someone so lightly we don't leave a mark." That mark can be a hand up, a hug, a high five. And sometimes it can be a bruise, especially if we're not mindful. I try like crazy to remember that I will leave a mark on the people I come into contact with. I'm so glad that someone out there made the effort to leave a good mark for Kevin.

    Have you thought about writing your story for Born This Way, Mitch? I think it'd be great.


  5. Thanks, Casey. I didn't know about the blog...but would like to. I have a book of my own I'm working on so it ties in perfectly! Thanks for taking the time to read, my friend!