Brandi Walton recently caught attention in and out of of the Latter-day Saint community when she shared her feelings about the recent changes in Church policy regarding children living in same-sex households. Brandi’s mother and father divorced when she was one, and at the age of three, her mother started dating women. Brandi’s personal experience growing up in a family with same-sex parents gave her opinions weight to those following the heated discussion regarding the policy change. We had the opportunity to interview Brandi and I quickly learned she is a strong, faithful follower of Christ, and his servants on this earth. Her story about growing up with lesbian parents and conviction of the Church will inspire you.
Q. How did you find the church?
A. Religion has always been a part of my life – my mother never kept it from me. When I got in high school, I became disillusioned with teachings that I was being taught at my church and had many questions that were never answered. I eventually fell away from the church that I went to. For several years I bounced around and was eventually introduced to an inactive member of the Church. We began dating, and when he told me was Mormon I was devastated. I didn’t believe in being married outside of my religion and our religions were very different. I realized I was going to have to stop dating him. During conversations about religion, he answered every single question I ever had. I didn’t understand all of the answers, but he answered them. It really made an impact on me.
Q. At what point did you start talking to the missionaries?
A. My now in-laws “tricked” me into meeting with the missionaries. They invited me to dinner and the missionaries happened to be there. The missionaries were great. They let me drill them with questions for hours. Eventually I told them I was finally ready to start taking the discussions, but by that time they had already taught me everything that I needed to learn to be baptized. They asked me to pray about getting baptized, I did it, I got nothing and I was devastated. Over the course of the next 2 weeks, I felt this nagging to pray about it again. I prayed again and received an undeniable testimony that it was true. Everything I had gone through and searched for had been given to me. All the prayers – he had heard them. He was aware of me. I was quickly baptized after that, and two weeks later received my patriarchal blessing, and a year later was sealed in the temple.
Q. Did any of the questions you had about the church relate to same-sex marriage.
A. As a small child in the Baptist church, I was taught that my mother would be sent to hell for something she felt she was born with. I couldn’t reconcile a loving, merciful god with this teaching. I learned through the Church that the person was going to be judged for their knowledge. When I realized that there was a mercy extended to those individuals then it reconciled to me this God that I was supposed to love. I came to a greater understanding how loving and merciful Heavenly Father is when I learned about the plan of salvation.
Q. What is it like living as a member of the Church with same-sex parents?
A. It’s difficult believe it or not. My mother was open to religion, but even though my mother feels welcome at their ward and and they have attended functions there, my family at large, who are all predominantly Baptist, do not agree with my religion. Because of the statues we follow and the choices we make, they feel like I have gone from middle ground to extreme ground. It’s very touchy at times.
Q. Do you have any other family members that are members of the church?
A. No. I’m the only member of my Church in my immediate family.
Q. What struggles have you faced? Have you had any internal conflicts?
A. I have never and don’t agree with the way I was raised. My parents divorced when I was one and between ages three and four my mother started living the lesbian lifestyle. I saw in the homes of my friends who had a mom and dad that I was missing out on something and that having a second woman in the home could never replace having a father. When my parents divorced, they had a typical custody agreement and my mother basically told my father to leave and never come back.
Q. Did you ever suffer an identity crisis? How did you pull it through?
A. Yes. I had moments where I wondered if I was gay. I went through moments where I wanted to be like my mom. I thought it would make us closer. I thought she would accept me more, or that we would have a better relationship. It was a lifestyle that I was accustomed to even if I didn’t like the consequences of it. But the fact that I wanted to marry a man and create my own family was stronger than any other thought or urge I ever had. At the end of the day, I liked boys and it was undeniable.
Q. What advice you would give to people in your situation?
A. You have to be honest to your feelings. There are so many children that refuse to talk about it. They are suffering because they don’t want to lose their families. They need to be true to themselves and their feelings; true to their hearts, and wants and desires and needs, and not feel that their emotions need to be diminished because of their situation. Know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. They aren’t being punished for the situation they are being put in – they are not. I think that all of our situations we are growing up in are meant to make us better and meant to teach us things that we otherwise might not have been able to learn. The trials that we go through can either break us or lift us higher than any other thing we can experience. What the Church is doing is not a punishment, but a blessing.
Q. How did you feel about the policy change when it first came out?
A. I was dumbstruck. I was laying in bed about to go to sleep flipping through Facebook and saw the news. It literally took a good minute to register what I was reading. There is initially this alarm that goes off and then I started asking myself why would they do this? I asked myself, “What is the point and purpose of this?” Through talking to my husband about it over the next few hours I realized why they had done it. I received a testimony that it was a benefit, not a punishment.
Q. What is your take on the Church’s policy change?
A. It was very well prepared, thought out, through what I believe is revelation. So many people are online claiming that this is just a policy change and revelation had nothing to do with it – I completely disagree. I feel that it is very timely because of the changing dynamics of our society. It not only protects the children and their families, but it also protects the Church. I think so many people are missing that concept. We want to think that everyone is loving and kind, and doesn’t do things out of spite or malice, but the reality is that is not true. It would be very simple or easy for someone to take advantage of the Church. How can we ask an 8-year-old to understand the dynamics with a homosexual relationship in contrast to what they are being taught in Church and ask them to disavow that relationship?
Q. What brought you the most comfort?
A. The one thing that brought me the most comfort was knowing that I could find the truth if I chose to. If I searched for it, I would be given personal revelation as to whether or not it was divine or not. I could receive revelation for myself.
Q. What advice would you give to members that might offended by the policy change?
A. Pray and fast. It’s simple and it sounds too simple sometimes. We want things to be complicated and harder than they should be. At the end of the day, Heavenly Father doesn’t want any of his children to live in darkness, He wants to give us that light, but He can’t give us light without asking for it. Until we do that, we are left to our own devices. If you are not centered on the potter’s wheel, you are going to get thrown off. Your life has to be centered on Jesus Christ.
Q. What advice would you give to a teenager wanting to get out of an environment with same-sex parents?
A. The scriptures tell us to honor our parents. If honoring your parents means staying until you are legal age to leave, then honor your parents. Don’t do anything to jeopardize your future if you’re not being abused.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you were a child that you know now?
A. That everything would be okay. That I would find a man that would love me regardless of my family situation. That I would find confidence in myself. That it’s okay to talk about it. You get to a point that you make decisions for yourself, you can take care of yourself and you are going to be able to do the things you want on your own terms.
Brandi also wrote the popular article, “I Am the Daughter Of Lesbians, and I Am a Mormon” and “The Kids Are Not Alright: A Lesbian’s Daughter Speaks Out”.