He became an LGBTQ ally while serving as an LDS bishop. Tonight he’s speaking in Rexburg.
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REXBURG — When Richard Ostler was asked to serve as a Latter-day Saint bishop of a singles ward in Salt Lake City, he felt the need to understand every member of his congregation.
He realized there were LGBTQ men and women attending church every Sunday and, rather than avoiding them, he made it a point to get to know them.
“I felt the responsibility to understand their road and the difficulty of their road,” Ostler tells EastIdahoNews.com. “Rather than having straight people tell me how to feel about LGBTQ people, I asked LGBTQ people to tell me. It was the first time in my life that I really listened to them.”
Ostler says it changed his life and even though he was released as a bishop in 2016, his mission to spread understanding of LGBTQ Latter-day Saints has only grown. He created a website called Listen, Love and Learn and travels the country speaking about how members of the LDS Church can be active in their faith while still showing love toward those who are not straight.
On Wednesday evening, he will share his message at a free event from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Romance Theater in Rexburg.
“I am not proposing or advocating for changes in the church’s policies or doctrines. I’m an active married Latter-day Saint with six children and I’ve always been active. But I am committed to facilitating meaningful, loving and productive dialogue about LGBTQ children,” Ostler says.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes same-sex unions and married gay couples are considered apostates. The Church teaches it’s ok to be attracted to those of the same gender as long as members do not have sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage.
Many LGBTQ Latter-day Saints struggle with the church’s teaching and Ostler says it was the suicide of a gay teenager that made him realize he needed to do something.
“I felt an impression from the Man Upstairs telling me I needed to help fill the gap between the church and LGBTQ members. I needed to fully minister to these people. Not as an activist, just as a way to help others understand,” Ostler says. “We are all the same human family and God has taught me to be a good listener.”
The married father of six began saying kind things on social media about LGBTQ members and before long, gay Latter-day Saints were reaching out to him. He’d ask to hear their stories and they would confide in him things they had never told anyone.
Ostler launched a podcast and was invited to speak at church meetings across the country. Last weekend he spoke in an LDS Stake Conference in California with a gay member of the church.
“It’s taken a long time to talk about this subject to many traditional Latter-day Saints. It’s a hard subject to talk about. And I want to be clear that I don’t represent the church in any way. I’m just a member of the church who felt impressed to talk about this subject and let people know that you can be a faithful Latter-day Saint and still say kind things and love LGBTQ people.”
Hear more from Richard Ostler on East Idaho Newsmakers with Nate Eaton this coming Sunday on EastIdahoNews.com.