Latter-day Saint Life

A Mission President's Beautiful Response When a Missionary Came Out to Him as Gay


After Cal Burke wrote his heartbreakingly honest story about the moment he first told someone he was gay on Twitter, it immediately began making an impact. Receiving nearly 1,000 likes and over 100 retweets, this story about a mission president's beautiful response to one missionary's worries demonstrates deep love and compassion worth emulating.

As President M. Russell Ballard taught, “We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home." He continued, "I want anyone who is a member of the Church who is gay or lesbian to know I believe you have a place in the kingdom and I recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s Church, but you do."

Elder Quentin L. Cook added, "As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion, and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.” 

No one said it more clearly and simply than President Gordon B. Hinckley, “People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God.”

Here is Cal Burke's story:

"People have asked me how I first came out. Here it is.

"The first person I ever came out to was my mission president. 

"It happened eight months or so into my mission. 

"I was really struggling. I had never told anyone, and I would barely ever think about it myself.

"I was struggling with feelings toward another elder at the time, and I thought that was going to mean I was going to be sent home. I was so nervous. I felt like an abomination. I had prayed and fasted and begged God to change me for years, and it wasn't happening. 

"I had poured so much energy into being the perfect kid my whole life (grades, athletics, grooming, seminary, eagle scout, etc) in order to cover up who I really was, in order to not be cast out by family, friends, and church.

"I knew that I needed help. I also knew that if my family found out, they would disown me (my family is a whole other story). But I needed to tell someone. I needed help. We had our interviews for our zone with our MP one week and I was really struggling. But I had to be honest, and it only made me feel like I was perpetually dying. 

"I walked into the room, sat down across a table from my MP, and put my head in my hands, and said, 'President, for as long as I can remember, I have only been attracted to other boys. President, I'm gay.' I started weeping. Cause I couldn't believe I had said it out loud. 

"My mission president darted his hands across the table and firmly grabbed onto mine. 'This is who you are,' he said. 'And we love you. We love you. We would never think any less of you. We love you.' And I was sobbing, and I couldn't stop. 

"And I remember not being able to tell if I couldn't stop crying because I had finally told someone, or because somebody I loved and revered was finally seeing this part of me that I had hated for so long, and this person loved and revered me still.  

"I just kept weeping, and he kept saying that over and over. 'This is a part of who you are. And there is so much hope for you. There is so much hope.' I'll never forget the incredible amount of love I felt from my mission president. Didn't wind up getting sent home, obviously.

"The impact of my MP's incredibly warm and positive reaction was important because it prepared the way for me to be able to handle the incredibly, overwhelmingly negative reactions I would get from... every... other... priesthood leader... and family member I came out to after. 

"But that little interview was the beginning of something so much bigger. I had other challenges I needed to face and overcome before I'd be able to completely sort out my sexuality, but my MP's positive response saved my life. I know that. He is still one of my heroes. 

Please friends, if any of your friends or siblings, or family members (ward or biological) trust you enough to come out to you, please follow the example of my mission president. You will be remembered by them forever. Please make the decision to love and support them. 

"Epilogue:  The love I felt from my MP helped me later come to understand and know my Heavenly Parents. They are love, mercy, and grace personified. I still have an intact testimony in large part because of the loving response and example of my MP.  I know Them. I love Them too."

People have asked me how I first came out. Here it is. (Thread) The first person I ever came out to was my Mission President. It happened eight months or so into my mission. I was really struggling. I had never told anyone, and I would barely ever think about it myself. 1/ — cal burke (@calvinjburke) August 24, 2018

Lead image from Getty Images

Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content