EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview is part of a series, “Sisters Speaking Out,” that features Mormon women speaking out on social and political issues. The opinions expressed here represent the speaker, and do not imply endorsement by the Mormon Women Project or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We ask that all readers maintain respect for the views of the interview subject.
Laurel “Lolly” Weed is a wife and a stay-at-home mother to three daughters, but says she has no natural housekeeping skills and doesn’t feel like a typical Mormon mom at all. And she’s okay with that. Her marriage is also atypical; her husband, Josh, is gay. Last year, Lolly and Josh published a blog post about their story. When it went viral, the Weeds were surprised by the resulting publicity, criticism, and outpouring of support. Read what Lolly says she has learned about following the Spirit and leading an authentic life.
In many ways, your story is the “typical” Mormon love story: “Boy meets girl. They date. They get married in the temple.” And then in many ways it’s also quite unique. How is it both?
Josh and I grew up together on the same street in Utah, so we have a lot of history together. And I think that it’s very similar to what a lot of Mormon couples have in that we came together, we fell in love, we had mutual goals, a strong testimony of the gospel, we wanted to do what Heavenly Father wanted us to do. So we were just two kids that fell in love and wanted to start a family, and raise a family to Heavenly Father. But we were definitely unique in that I knew that Josh had same-sex attraction before we got married. He had told me that he was same-sex attracted back when he was sixteen–we were just friends when he told me that–and I fell in love with him after knowing about that part of him.
At the time, it was not really something people talked about, so as I was falling in love with him I was thinking things like, “Am I crazy to do this? Who marries a gay guy? Am I going to be okay?” And so it kind of felt like we were in uncharted territory. That felt very different from your typical Mormon experience.
Tell use a little bit about your courtship and how you came to marry each other.
He was my best friend, and I didn’t think we would ever start dating because I just didn’t think it would work. And I honestly thought he could get married, and that’s what he wanted, but I didn’t think it would be to me! I just thought intimacy in marriage was too important to me. I didn’t think we would work together because of that.
Then he started dating my best friend, who was also my roommate, and I started feeling really jealous! I thought “This is Josh, my gay best friend. Why should I be jealous that he’s dating my roommate?” When they broke up, I started having a whole new mix of feelings: “Could I do this? Could I start dating him?” We talked a lot about it and I told him some of my concerns and he was very patient with me and really kind. We just started thinking “Okay, well, can we have a romantic relationship? Let’s just try it.” And it was really kind of low-pressure.
So we made that shift from friendship into a romance, and it was amazing. He used to hold my hand when we were just friends; he would talk to me and hold my hand. But then when we made that shift and I told him that I loved him like that, then he held my hand and everything changed. I was getting butterflies and I was falling in love with my best friend. I felt like we were going on this journey together, that we were willing, that we loved each other enough and we trusted each other enough that we could work through challenges that would come up. That we were worth it to each other.
So you get married, but for a long time this was just between you. Your family knew about it, but it was not a public fact that your husband was gay. Then your husband wrote a blog post that went viral, and things changed quite a bit for your family! How did you and Josh make the decision to write that post, and why did you do it?
One day Josh was sitting down to write a blog post—it was just a silly humor blog at the time—he was really having a hard time writing it, and things had come up recently that made me think he was wanting to be more himself. It hit me one day when I was talking with him that he wanted to be more real and that he might want to share that piece of himself. We started talking about doing that, and we felt very much like the Spirit was confirming that was something we needed to do, because it hit me out of nowhere.
I was terrified to do it, because I didn’t know how people were going to respond. But I felt very peaceful about it because it was something I knew I had to do. Both Josh and I knew we had to do it. So I wasn’t scared to actually do it, I just was worried about whether I would be strong enough to handle some of the reactions. It took us about a month to write that post. We prayed about it a lot, and we fasted. We sent it out to our family members to make sure that it was saying what I wanted it to say. We felt this was definitely the message that we wanted to share, and that we felt God wanted us to share.
The next day [after posting the blog entry] it was insane because it was spreading so quickly that we started getting calls from media, TV, newspapers. My mind was blown! I couldn’t even understand why people were caring so much because we were just this little Mormon couple sharing something about Josh.
How has it affected your family?
It changed things for us. I wouldn’t go back and change it, though. I would keep everything exactly the same as it happened. I think one of the best things that has come about from it is just Josh being able to feel like he is completely and totally able to be himself. And being able to talk about the issue and helping others to talk about the issue has been amazing. We definitely don’t feel alone anymore. When we first thought about getting married, and after being married, there were times when we thought, “Are we the only people out there doing this?” Since then, we’ve had hundreds of responses from people saying “Thank you, we’re in the same situation. Thank you for representing us. You’re doing great.” Or people calling us or sending us emails or letters—just thanking us for talking about it. And even if it’s been kind of hard at times, I don’t think that it has negatively affected our daughters at all.
You’ve also faced some criticism personally. Some readers assumed you were brainwashed into a marriage like that because of religion, or some saying you’re being delusional because “that sort of marriage never works.” How do you face it? What is your response?
The criticism has been just across the board. We’ve had people that aren’t members of the Church or aren’t religious who accused us of being religious fanatics, and that we’re trying to make statements about the gay community. Then on the other hand we’ve had religious people call us complete liberals and that we’re not following the gospel path. It’s crazy to me that we could be called both right-wing and left-wing extremists by both parties.
We have been criticized for talking about it. People have said, “You should keep this information to yourselves. There’s no reason why you needed to share this.” Which I don’t think is true. Obviously, we were told by Heavenly Father that we needed to share this. When you are same-sex attracted, it’s just who you are, and if no one’s talking about it, no one’s saying, “Hey, I am too,” or, “I know people,” then people start feeling really isolated, like, “I’m the only one experiencing this.” If no one’s talking about it, it creates such isolation.
We’ve been criticized that we should keep it to ourselves and that by talking about it we’re confusing the youth of the church. I completely disagree. I think that the youth want to talk about this issue. It’s very much a part of what they’re living with now, and they want to understand what the Church’s position on it is; they want to know how people are dealing with it in their lives. If you’re religious and you’re gay, how do you put those two together? If we’re not talking about it, then we’re doing them a disservice.
When people say that I married Josh just because I was brainwashed and didn’t think I could get married, that’s just—first of all, it’s kind of insulting!. I always thought I would get married, it’s not like he was the last choice and I thought, “Okay, I’ll settle for this guy.” I fell in love with him. He’s amazing, a wonderful husband, a wonderful father, and an amazing lover. He’s just a great man and I love him, and he’s worth it to me. The whole package that is Josh Weed is what I wanted. You don’t get to pick and choose the qualities you want in a person; they come as a whole identity. And I wanted him. So I definitely was not “settling” when I married him.
You talk a lot about following the Spirit. How have you prepared yourself to learn to speak the language of the Spirit and follow the Spirit?
I feel like Heavenly Father has kind of been training me my whole life to do something this big. My parents taught me from a really young age how to make my own decisions through prayer. When I was a little girl, I had a chance to go to Girl Scout camp, and it was on Sunday. I was really young, a second-grader or something like that, and I thought they weren’t going to let me go because it’s on Sunday. But they gave me the opportunity; they said, “What do you think you should do?” And I took that very seriously. I prayed about it, as a little girl, I was thinking about what Heavenly Father would want me to do. And they supported the decision that I made. I actually said, “I’ve prayed about it and felt like I should go to Church and then have my parents take me to the camp after.” And so they had to sacrifice, they ended up having to drive me all the way to camp! And they didn’t say, “No, that’s the wrong choice.” They trusted me. So I feel like all my growing up years I was doing things like that: turning down jobs because I didn’t feel like it was the right job, and then another more amazing job would come along. I just had all these confirmations that when I follow the Spirit, I am blessed. Even when it might not seem like a logical thing to do, Heavenly Father always comes through for me.
So I’ve kind of learned how to study it out in my mind, and then feel it in my heart. And it is definitely a process. I feel like Heavenly Father has asked me to do things that are hard, that a lot of people would say ,“No, I won’t do that, that’s crazy, that doesn’t make sense.” But He has not let me down. Up to this point, whenever I have done what Heavenly Father asked me to do, He has always come through for me. And then I have that confidence, even when things are hard, and even when people criticize me, it doesn’t matter. Because I know that Heavenly Father is behind me. There’s nothing like that confidence, knowing that you’re where God wants you to be, doing what God wants you to be doing. It’s the best feeling in the world. And it’s something that I can carry with me for years and years and years.
I never questioned myself. And when you’re doing something big, like outing yourself to the world, you have to have that confidence that when people are criticizing you and saying things like, “You shouldn’t have shared that,” I can go back to those moments when I was praying, and feeling that confidence of the Spirit so that those comments don’t shake me. I have those spiritual memories of what God wanted me to do.
I also think that that’s one of the things that drew me and Josh together. Just the way we view the Gospel and our connection with God is very similar. We’re always on the same page about spiritual things. Sometimes we’ve fasted for answers and then come together and have compared our prayers, and they’ve been almost the same word-for-word answers. That is a true partnership; that’s a true marriage; that’s a true friendship. And Heavenly Father is right in the center of that. That was my main thing I wanted in a husband, someone that loves God first and foremost, and that was Josh.
Both you and Josh, when you’re writing on the blog, talk a lot about “keeping it real.” And you practice it. We’ve seen you talk about everything from spiritual promptings to body deformities to the silly ins and outs of not-so-glamorous parenting. Why the blunt honesty?
I think that people tend to feel really alone a lot of times, because we’re not sharing vulnerable parts of ourselves. People don’t want to admit that they’re not perfect. They don’t want to admit that they have struggles. They don’t want to admit that they’re different from what the “normal” person appears to be. We want to be real, so that other people can know they’re not alone.
I feel like you can’t live an authentic life, you can’t really build meaningful relationships with anyone, unless you’re willing to share everything. That includes the embarrassing things and that includes the hard things, but that’s how we build our relationships. We’re not perfect, nobody’s perfect, and to try and pretend like you are is not being true to yourself, and it’s not helping anybody. It’s making other people feel bad about themselves because they think they’re not measuring up.
Just even with the issue of homosexuality in the Church, since Josh has been so open with the fact that that is a part of him—it’s amazing to me how many people have written to talk to us, and said, “Me too.” It’s just not something that people need to be afraid to share. It can go from something as big as talking about homosexuality to admitting that your house is not clean. We’re afraid to admit, we’re always trying to put on this perfect façade, and it’s just not real life. It’s isolating.
What have you come to understand about homosexuality, and what is it that you think more members of the Church specifically need to understand about it?
I think that if people really knew and also believed that it’s not a choice to have same sex attraction—they don’t choose to be homosexual, it’s just something that they are. Of course people can always choose their actions, but no one chooses to be same sex attracted. Having known Josh his whole life, there’s no doubt that that’s just been a part of him. I think that people sometimes don’t believe that’s true. They have these weird conceptions of what made someone homosexual. But if they were to believe that that’s just a part of them, then I think that they might view it a little bit differently. Also, if people were to stop and really put themselves into the position of a homosexual in the Church, really stop and think what their reality is, I think they would have a lot more compassion for their situation.
I have seen youth that have same-sex attraction, who come from really great families—Laurel presidents, Elders Quorum presidents, coming from families where their dads on the High Council—but these youth are afraid to tell their parents because they don’t know how their families are going to react. They don’t know if they’re going to be loved, if they’re going to be accepted. They feel alone. They don’t know who to talk to about their situation.
So I wish people would believe that it’s real, that it’s not a choice, and that they’d think of how hard it can be. It doesn’t always have to be a horrible situation, but if you are alone and you’re being given messages that this is an evil thing to be who you are—that’s torture to think, “I can’t be who I am!” And to not have anyone to talk to about it, that’s why kids are getting so depressed.
You and your husband have talked on the blog about how you don’t prescribe your marriage as the only solution; that your goal was to open a dialogue more than anything else.
Any marriage has its ups and its downs, and anybody who’s been married knows you have to work at it. In order to make a marriage like ours work, we have to be constantly communicating, we have to be vulnerable with each other. We have to be willing to talk about hard things. So to say to someone else, “Hey, this is the answer, do what we’re doing”—that’s just not fair. It might just not be a possibility for someone.
The message I would give to someone that was LDS and homosexual would be to stay close to Heavenly Father, and follow the path that He has for you. Because everyone’s path is different and as long as you know that you’re loved by God, and you are trying to stay close to Him, you’ll be fine. I definitely would not say that what we are doing is right for everyone.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about “the woman behind the blog?”
I think as Mormon women, we should not be afraid to be who we are. We’re not all the same. I for one was not born with housekeeping skills at all! I had to learn how to clean the house, I don’t craft, I don’t like making meals, or taking meals over to people. When I think of the typical Mormon mom, I do not feel like that is me in any way. I would love for that to just be okay.
We can all be who we are and be celebrated for our individual talents, and it’s okay if housecleaning does not come naturally to me. I have other talents. I just feel okay being who I am.
You can go out and you can fulfill your dreams, and that’s something I really want to teach my girls. That they can be who they are, and that they can achieve their goals and dreams. That they can have what they want in their lives and that Heavenly Father supports them being who they are. Because He made them special, and He wants them to show off that individuality.
At A Glance
Location: Seattle, WA
Marital status: Married
Children: Three daughters, ages 7, 5, and 3
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom
Schools Attended: Graduated from BYU with a BS in Geography
Languages Spoken at Home: English
Favorite Hymn: “Where Can I Turn For Peace?”
On The Web: www.joshweed.com
Interview by Lydia Defranchi. Photos from A&W Photography.