PROVO — Scott Mackintosh is a self-described Mormon "manly man," a Lehi, Utah, outdoorsman who can fix anything, like the resourceful TV character MacGyver.
Then he tried to fix his gay son.
He spoke Saturday at the 40th anniversary conference of Affirmation, an independent LGBT support group for members and former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In one breakout session, dozens of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals talked about their efforts to reconcile their Mormon faith and their sexual identity. And a keynote speaker delivered a personal plea to gays not to give up on the church.
Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams, who served an LDS mission in England, related to Mackintosh. He said he didn't have a close relationship with his late parents after he came out as gay.
"It was because of this divide, the divide between the LDS and LGBT community," he said. "I know my parents deeply loved me, but they didn't have a language, they didn't have a framework, they didn't have a template for them to reconcile their faith and what their faith taught about homosexuality, and the reality of having a gay son."
Williams talked about working with the late Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other LDS leaders to pass Utah’s 2015 nondiscrimination law. He worked with other church leaders and Republicans this year to pass a bill removing language from Utah’s sex education law that prohibited advocacy of homosexuality in health instruction.
"I'm asking all of you, whatever level of orthodoxy, whatever level of activity you are with the faith, don't give up,” Williams said. "Don't give up on the church, don't give up on the leaders of the church, don't give up on the members."
Williams plainly acknowledged the pain felt in the LGBT community by some church positions. But he said, "Keep sharing your souls," Williams said. "Keep sharing your testimonies. Keep opening your heart. Keep the door open, because the work we are doing is to save and protect families, is to save and protect our kids. Let's keep doing it."
Mackintosh, who spoke on a panel with his son, Xian, and wife, initially was angry with his son. He said the turning point came when he decided to love and support Xian the way he has felt loved and supported by Heavenly Father.
"When I am broken and when I need help, I can turn to him at any time," Mackintosh said. "I want my son to know he has that same relationship with me. That I don't judge him, I don't hold things over him, I let him be in charge of his own life, and when he needs me, I'll be there for him."
The event drew more than 600 people to the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo.
LDS leaders have been clear that Mormons should respond sensitively when they are with gays in their families, in the church or elsewhere, according to mormonandgay.lds.org.
In another breakout session, Christian Harrison encouraged LGBT Mormons to deepen their support networks, including in their LDS congregations.
"Then you afford yourself the opportunity when something really bad happens to turn to someone in your faith," he said.