Local Story: Cindy Jensen | Oct 24, 2016
Cindy first presented this story live at TOFW as our local presenter for the 2016 One Heart, One Faith tour in Sacramento, CA.
In March of 2009, I received a life-changing phone call from my oldest daughter Courtney, who was in her last semester at BYU. She told me that she could no longer live a lie and she was done hiding who she was. You see, my daughter is a lesbian. She then told me she was dropping out of school and moving to Oregon to be with her girlfriend. As you might imagine this was very hard to hear and process. I couldn’t help but wonder how this had happened and what should I do now?
All of this was very heartbreaking for me and my family. I feel like I cried an ocean of tears and I never prayed so hard. I really had to do some serious soul searching to make sure I really believed what I had always said I did. Sometimes I felt like I had to choose between my daughter and the church I loved. It was especially difficult when eventually Courtney chose to marry her girlfriend, Rachelle.
During this time, I attended the temple searching for answers and for some peace. I was praying to know what to do and I was really hoping the heavens would open and I would be handed some kind of manual like, “What to Do When Your LDS Child Is Homosexual.” But that never happened. I kept getting the same prompting, but it was so simple that I had a hard time accepting it as my answer. Eventually, it came with enough regularity that I couldn’t ignore it. I needed to love my daughter and I needed to love Rachelle (Courtney’s wife). And more specifically, I needed to pray for Rachelle. Despite the clarity of the instruction, I kept questioning if it really was the answer because it seemed too easy. It just didn’t make sense to me.
I guess because I am human, I didn’t even want to like Rachelle let alone love her. Loving my daughter was easy. I loved her so much and that’s what made this all so painful. How do I look forward to an eternal family without one of my children? This wasn’t part of the plan! We ALL have to be together. It was easy to put the blame on Rachelle for my broken dreams and to think that if she just went away, the “gay problem” would be solved. My head knew that wasn’t true, but my heart wanted it to be true.
The spirit continued to prompt me to love and pray for Rachelle and I determined finally to follow that prompting. Eventually, I even made a trip out to Oregon to visit Courtney and Rachelle. I was so nervous but I knew it was the right thing to do. And to my surprise, I discovered that Rachelle is the kindest, loveliest person. She is truly a beautiful person inside and out. After spending some time with her, and getting to know her, I realized that I could love her as I love my daughter. And a light came on...or maybe the spirit was sharing a secret with me: Rachelle could be the key to Courtney coming back to church. Now that I felt true love for Rachelle, I started praying earnestly that somehow Rachelle’s heart would be softened and that she would want to learn more about the church.
During these years I also prayed for my husband’s heart to be softened. He had still never met Rachelle and refused to even talk about her. Though Courtney sometimes came home to visit us in California, Rachelle never came with her because she knew what we believed and didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. But in September of 2014 our youngest daughter Ciara was getting married in the Sacramento temple. Courtney and Rachelle were both coming. This would be the first time they had come to visit together. At this point, Rachelle and Courtney had been together for 4 years and my husband was still having a really hard time with the whole thing. His heart was broken and he didn’t know what to do either. He wouldn’t even say Rachelle’s name. So, you can imagine how awkward, uncomfortable, yet important this gathering would be.
This was when a miracle occurred. We were all gathering after the wedding to take a big family photo together. Rachelle was standing off to the side because again, her tender little heart didn’t want to offend anyone. I saw her and tried to get her attention when my mom walked over to her and said, “I want you in the picture. I’m the grandma so what I say goes.” The picture turned out beautifully, but the best part is something you can’t see by looking at it. Rachelle and my mom were holding hands the entire time. This was huge!
Something else amazing happened in that moment. My husband was also witnessing this interaction between Rachelle and my mom – and his heart opened. After the picture, he pulled Rachelle aside and apologized. He said he was sorry for how he had been acting. He told them that he loved them both and that it was not their fault it took so long for them to meet, but his. They shared in a group hug and a few tears. I watched this moment from a few feet away and though I couldn’t hear what he was saying, I knew I was witnessing a miracle. Here was the father who couldn’t even say Rachelle’s name now hugging her and telling her he loved her. From that moment on we truly were a family. This is what true unconditional love looks like.
I feel like our family was healed at that moment and the only thing that had changed was us and our hearts. Courtney and Rachelle were still married, but we knew that showing them love, although we had our differences, was right. We simply loved them and left everything else up to Heavenly Father.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in his 2009 October conference address, “Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family...Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families … Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.”
This Christ-like love has made a huge difference for our entire family. Because we acted on the promptings Heavenly Father gave us, He was able to bless us beyond anything I could ever imagine. He gave our family a true miracle of healing.