Many years ago, my wife approached me and wanted to purchase flower baskets to be placed around our home to add color and beauty. At first, I was a bit resistant when she told me the cost, but as is usual in our home, I relented and quickly appreciated them for many reasons. It became my responsibility to care for these flowers and ensure that they received the water they needed. One day, my wife made a specific request. She said, “George, please remember to water the edges of the baskets. If you don’t, the flowers will die.” Little did I know how profoundly her comments would affect me.
On June 27, 2016, my world changed in a most significant way. It was the day that my gay 17-year-old son took his life.
Watering the Edges
Just after his funeral, I was out in our yard watering those same flower baskets, and her words came to me with such force that I began to cry. Those precious flowers on the edge of the basket were my son, as well as others in the LGBTQ community—put on the edges, marginalized, and even abandoned. But they weren’t put there by our Father in Heaven or by His Son, Jesus Christ.
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As I composed myself and took a deep breath, I thought more about the significance of the flower basket. It was beautiful—all of it. It was filled with many colors, all adding to the beauty of the whole. I began to think how often we believe—myself included—that others must change to be more like us. I thought how drab the flower basket would be if all the flowers were the same color, having no variation. Just like my flower baskets, we all need water, nourishment, love, kindness, and appreciation. We are all a part of a divine design. And just like my flower baskets, there is great beauty and benefit in differences. We are created with differences for a grand and divine purpose. He created us with identities, after His holy image. And I am a firm believer that Father doesn’t make mistakes.
Stockton Powers (photo courtesy of the Deussen family)
As much as this is incredibly difficult, I have gained an understanding of what my son felt, and I have learned through this tragedy how vital belonging to a community is. This experience has moved, motivated, and inspired me to reach out and to look at each person as I would look at my own child. The loss of my son has ultimately provided fuel to raise my words and deeds, seeking to create a safe place and encouraging a community of deep love.
Going After the One
The parable of the ninety and nine is one of my favorite parables, if not my favorite. I love the message that our savior, Jesus Christ, sees each one of us as precious and important. We are important enough that He would come after us. It also says to me that we are truly never alone—that He is and will be with us always. This parable is truly the Atonement. All that we are, all that we might struggle with, anything that weighs us down—sickness and infirmity, rejection, and abandonment—He knows these things because He bore them, because He loves us more deeply than we can fully comprehend. I also strongly believe that He is sending us all a message: “Be even as I am! Go after the one. See all around you as precious and beautiful as I see them. Don’t reject anyone because they are different. Go find them, love them, lift them, minister to them.”
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Today is the three-year anniversary of my son’s passing; an anniversary that brings a great deal of pain and grief; an anniversary that reminds me that each one of God’s children is precious and loved by Him. It is also a powerful reminder that when God commanded us to love, He did not put conditions on that love. I challenge all of us to get comfortable with loving those who we think we can’t love. I too have struggled with this, and because I have taken the challenge, my life has been blessed. Getting to know and love the LGBTQIA community has been one of the greatest and most cherished gifts in my life.
In the spirit of reaching out to one another, may we all better enjoy our own flower baskets—the world that is around each of us. May we all love without boundaries, appreciating and celebrating the differences in each other.