LEHI — Five years ago, Becky Mackintosh's son Xian sent her and her husband, Scott, a private Facebook message telling them he was gay.
At that time, Becky Mackintosh, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, saw others in similar situations pressured to choose either their child or their religion. Neither option sat well with her, and Mackintosh began the journey of learning how to love and be devoted to both.
"I would never change what we’ve experienced," Becky Mackintosh said, "because of what we have learned and what we have gained and the testimony and the love that has grown because of this experience."
Scott and Becky Mackintosh now share their experience at firesides, youth conferences and Relief Society gatherings. Most recently, they were featured in a video released by the LDS Church.
She's often asked about sending the wrong message to her younger children and grandchildren. But for Becky Mackintosh, it's about showing love no matter what.
"The kind of message it’s sending is you love and you care for others," Mackintosh said. "That there’s no possible thing a family member can do that will put them outside of the family circle."
The family's journey, however, did not always have as bright a future as it does now. Xian Mackintosh explained that his family initially tried to intervene by sending scriptures and talks to read. What his family didn't understand, Xian Mackintosh said, is that he had made a personal effort to seek answers.
"Every single church publication or article that ever said the word 'homosexual,' I had read it," Xian Mackintosh said. "I had fasted, I had prayed. .... It was kind of frustrating to go through this fix-it stage, but at the same time I needed to allow them this time to process it."
Xian Mackintosh would read the talks or scriptures sent to him by family members. In return, he would ask them to read other books that would help them understand him.
For Scott Mackintosh, the initial news came as a surprise, and he was angry. Although his first interaction with his son was kind, Scott Mackintosh explained that he was judgemental and upset for a time.
"I’m not a very patient person," Scott Mackintosh said. "I would raise my voice and yell and get a little bit crazy and my son would stop and say, ‘Why do you have to yell? Why can’t we just talk about this?’ He would keep me grounded. ... He was able to keep me in a happy place where the Spirit could be there and let me know, 'Hey, listen. Listen to your son and what he’s going through.’ And it was just a change of heart to be able to keep calm instead of fighting."
For Becky Mackintosh, she had several concerns, including the influence on her younger children at home and grandchildren. She initially told Xian if he decided to take the route of dating, that he could not bring someone home. However, as time went on, she made an effort to understand.
"Loving is not condoning, it’s making a person feel that they have value and that they do belong," Becky Mackintosh said. "My fears went away and I became more concerned about Xian and knowing that he was loved and safe at home and around our family than what others may be thinking."
In 2014, two years after they had learned of their son's homosexuality, Becky Mackintosh approached Xian about creating a video detailing their family's experience. They both recognized that other families could benefit from what they had learned.
"I had this strong impression that I needed to come out and talk about my experience of choosing to love my son or daughter no matter what their choices — and to stay in the church," Becky Mackintosh said. "I needed to be open about that. That I was a Mormon mom with a gay son, and to talk about that because it was an uncomfortable subject. ... In order to make a difference, it needed to be talked about in a positive light."
They received several messages after publishing their video on YouTube, including one from the LDS Church looking to do a video. The video, "The Mackintosh's Story," was filmed last year and was published in March of this year. In both videos, the Mackintosh family shares that Xian's homosexuality does not have to change their family dynamic.
"We just treat him normal," Scott Mackintosh said. "We’ve always been a close family before and after he came out. It doesn’t really change the fact that family is everything, so we just try to create opportunities to spend time together."
Participating in the video for the LDS Church was something the whole Mackintosh family supported and something especially meaningful for Becky Mackintosh as she hoped to help others find the same happiness and love in their families as she has worked for in hers.
"I was really looking forward to help those families out there that are in a similar situation to see that they’re not alone," Becky Mackintosh said. "You continue on as a family and you just love each other, you just trust in God’s plan. You follow the Savior, who has showed us so perfectly how to love and be kind. For some reason, it’s kind of difficult to learn that. But I wanted families to see that it was possible, and it’s OK to talk about it and be real and that nobody is perfect but you can be perfect at trying to be loving and kind."
As for Xian, the greatest blessing in his life is the fact that his family is always there for him.
"I know many individuals whose families, they come out to them and their families no longer talk to them, they were kicked out of their homes, they’re no longer going to family dinners or family events," Xian said. "It’s scary that that so easily could have happened to me, but it didn’t. That my family loved and recognized me for who I was, and it wasn’t immediate, but it’s something that took place. I know my family always has my back and that they’re there for me and that they love me."