September 15, 2012

I Choked

A few weeks ago my stake had a special stake meeting. Elder Rasband the Senior President of the Presidency of the Seventy came to visit our stake. I live with my folks and have been going to church for the past couple of weeks. My father is Stake President. I was aware that it was possible that Elder Rasband would come stay at our house, or come for dinner, or some other interaction with him was highly possible.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband,
Senior President of the Presidency of the Seventy.
The special stake meeting came, and Rasband did not stay with us. However my father drove down to Eugene, Oregon to pick him up, and brought him to our stake in West Salem. My dad signaled me before the meeting to come over to him, and said Rasband asked that my mom and myself go with him and my father to the airport.

One hour after the meeting, when the line of members wanting to shake hands and greet him ended, we met Elder Rasband and left for the car. I sat in the back seat with Rasband, as he insisted my mother sit in the front (though she offered to sit in the back). After the comments on how well the meeting went, Rasband turned to me, put his hand on my knee and said, "Trevor, tell me about yourself." I told him of my schooling, my intended career path, and my new job prospect.

My mission came up and I told him I served in the England London South Mission. He seemed interested and asked when I served. I told him February 2006 to February 2008. He seemed more interested and asked who my Mission President and his wife was. I told him their names. He was pleasantly surprised and said they were good friends of his. He put his hand on my shoulder and said he would make a point to call them and tell them he met me and I was doing well. I told him I had just visited with my Mission President a week previous (which was the meeting were we discussed my being gay).

We arrived to the airport to meet Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Bishop Stevenson of the Presiding Bishopric. They were to board the Huntsman jet with Elder Russel M. Nelson and some other members of the seventy.

We arrived to the airport nearly an hour ahead of schedule, and my dad got out to find which building served as the gate (mind you this is a non-commercial, small city airport). My mom and I sat in the car with Rasband. He said to us, "Well, since we have some time, do either of you have any questions you would like to ask me?"

Instantly, questions of being gay and the church policies, acceptance in the church, or prop 8 all came rushing into my head. I choked. More candidly, I chickened out. I could have told Rasband that I am gay, and would like to know if the church is doing anything better to accept me. I could have asked what the church is doing to help those who are happily gay be more welcomed into the church. I could have asked Rasband hundreds of questions. But I didn't. I choked.

My mom was quite shy as well. Finally she came up with a soft ball question, "What was his favorite thing about meeting with members all over the world".

I finally did find a "suitable" and "non-confrontational" question to ask him relating to Mitt Romney's candidacy and how the church is handeling different aspects of it. His answers were completely expected, but interesting nonetheless.

Then some how the topic of Prop 8 was mentioned. I think it came from my mom asking about the church's intervention on social issues but not political campaigns. Instantly, I grew quiet, started looking out the window, somewhat uncomfortable with the response, though it was all to expected.

Bishop Stevenson arrived a short while after with his ride from the Eugene, Oregon Mission President and his wife. We all walked in to the gate building and sat in the lounge chatting. Shortly after, Elder Neil L. Anderson arrived. We all introduced ourselves. He too asked me later in the conversation about myself and what I was doing. Again, I mentioned school and my intended career path, while leaving out my sexual orientation. (I am not and never have been the person to freely pronounce my orientation to every person I meet so I thought it would have been out of place, awkward and unnecessary to out myself).

Waiting outside the Huntsman Jet
for the ok to go onboard for the tour.
The Huntsman jet landed, and Rasband said he would like to show it to us, and needed to ask permission from Elder Russell M. Nelson and the pilot first. We all walked out on the small runway outside the plane. He popped his head out of the airplanes door and gestured for us to come aboard. We got a quick tour of the jet and met Elder Russell M. Nelson, and two members of the seventy, who I can't remember.

As I was exiting the plane, Elder Rasband shook my hand and said goodbye. He also said to me, "If you ever have any questions, or need to talk, please don't hesitate to call me, or if you are in Salt Lake, please come visit me." Im sure he says this to a lot of people. This might be my imagination, but I like to think he sensed in the car my changed demeanor when prop 8 came up and knew I was gay. I said thank you, and reminded him to say hello to my Mission President for me. I did this in hopes he would call him, and my Mission President would tell him I was gay, and Elder Rasband would be so shocked that this person he met was gay and going to church (wishful thinking right?!).

Looking back at the experience, I wish I had the courage to bring up with Elder Rasband the struggle I felt in the church being gay and feeling accepted. I wish I could have discussed that with him, so he could have a better understanding of MoHo's. He could have learned that there are gay mormons and they are good people. I wish I didn't choke. I wish I had the courage. I wish I have another chance, and if I do, I hope I use it well.

P.S. Elder Rasband was a nice guy, I enjoyed talking with him. I do have to admit, watching him in General Conference, I always assumed he was tall, like 6'2ish. He isn't. He is more 5'10ish. I don't know why I thought he was taller, but that made me laugh.

P.P.S. Sorry for all the name dropping.


  1. Don't choke next time... But a cool experience !!

  2. That is indeed an interesting experience. I can totally imagine myself doing the exact same thing, and feeling terrible about it and just wishing I could take full advantage of the situation. At least you'll be ready next time to leap on the opportunity, right? That's what I always tell myself when I feel like I miss out on an opportunity through inaction, at least.

    I think, if you feel comfortable, you should really take him up on his offer to speak with you. The Church leadership need to hear from as many people like you as they can.

  3. @ Recover and Thrive - I know right!

    @ Trev - I would like to think I would act on the opportunity next time too. I travel to Utah about once every other year, so I don't think that's feasible unfortunately.

  4. The next time can be this week. Just print out this blog post and mail it to him. Maybe with a little note that you'll definitely call him next time you're in Salt Lake City.

  5. Given the time constraints and circumstances, I don't think you choked. Ned has a good idea if you feel strongly that to need to talk with Elder Rasband. I think he was sincere in his offer to talk.

  6. @ Ned - Definitely a possibility.

    @ Dean Scott - I would be curious if that is an offer he extends to all young adults he meets, and if not, why he extended it to me. If only I could read minds.