In last week’s Come Follow Me lessons in the New Testament, we read:
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.Acts 10:34-35
In my Come Follow Me study group comprised of several people of all different walks of life, I was startled at a question left hanging for more than four days, “Peter came to learn that the blessings of the gospel are meant for people everywhere. The Church today is composed of a variety of people from many different backgrounds. How are Church members blessed by such diversity?”
I can tell you that it has been an incredible blessing to me and my Testimony in Jesus Christ, to have met a pioneer of diversity in our time, Brother Dennis Schleicher, and spoken to him about his love of our mutual church, Heavenly Father, and what it is like to find his church home.
Dennis Schleicher is a gay man. Dennis has known he was gay for most of his life. When he joined a network marketing company and saw members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were his superiors acting in a way that he admired, never judging, always edifying God and the people who worked for them, he asked them what religion they belonged to. They replied they were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This kept happening to Dennis. The people who he admired, who treated him with love and friendship and welcomed him into their lives in an excited manner, were members of The Church and bore their Testimonies gently but constantly in their actions and words.
Dennis would ‘steal’ a Book of Mormon from a Marriott hotel (before realizing that the Marriott chain is the largest distributor of The Book of Mormon, having them in each hotel room for their guests) without really knowing why. As he told me in our interview, he “took the thing and shoved it in [his] bag.”
The supposed thievery was short-lived because he blurted out a confession to 8 missionaries at the airport about stealing the book, then proceeded to take a selfie with the missionaries and the ‘stolen’ Book of Mormon. At the time he had no clue, thinking it was all in fun, but the sparkle in the eyes of those gentle servants of our Heavenly Father show they felt his testimony growing.
His network marketing friends would invite him on a trip to go to Palmyra, New York and they suggested he read Al Carraway’s book, More than a Tattooed Mormon, but Dennis was confused and thought, “Why would I want to read about some tattooed woman, I’m afraid of needles!” It would be another year before he would relent. But he did read the stolen Book of Mormon and quickly gained a testimony.
Dennis knows what it is like to be the victim of brutal hate crimes, having been attacked as a teenager, and found empathy within the stories of the history of Joseph Smith Jr. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just as he had found a friend in Jesus Christ through his faith in our Savior. Before too long, he had received the impression from the Holy Spirit to follow his Testimony to the waters of Baptism.
On August 19, 2017, Dennis was Baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His baptism was remarkable for many reasons, but not as miraculous as the next year would be. Dennis would receive First Presidency Approval to attend and receive his Temple blessings on August 11, 2018.
After over a year of hearing the suggestions to read Sister Carraway’s book, Dennis relented and downloaded the audio version and began listening to it. “This woman is telling my story,” were Dennis’s first thoughts. His second, after finishing her book, was to write his own.
Dennis subsequently had a conversation with an unnamed General Authority who stated, “Son, we need more LGBT children in the House of the Lord and in this church,” then asked Dennis what his LGBT+ friends say when he tells them he converted to The Church.
Dennis answered, “They say ‘Is he NUTS?! Why would a gay man become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?!”
The General Authority then stated, “There’s the title of your book.” And it was so.
Although Dennis states emphatically that he “did not become a member of The Church to write a book,” I can’t imagine a better medium for this exuberant and joy-filled missionary-minded member to spread his love of Jesus Christ and for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Is He Nuts?: Why a Gay Man Would Become a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ comes out on Cedar Fort books in a few weeks and is available for pre-release ordering from Amazon. Dennis is traveling to Utah and Arizona for the book launch and to meet Al Carraway, who also wrote a forward for his book.
During his travels to Colorado, Utah and Arizona, Dennis will be speaking a fireside in Holladay, Utah on August 4th, the week before his book launch party in Provo, Utah on August 13th and then a book signing in Orem, Utah on August 16th. Please follow the links for those events for more information about them.
With all of this excitement surrounding his upcoming book launch, I wanted to ask Dennis what message he wanted to leave other people who were struggling with their part in our diverse church, and this is what is said:
I bear your burden with you. You are still a fellow brother or sister to me. This is my story, my journey, it is what is working for me.
Please don’t judge me – know that I love and care for all of you. We are all loving children of God.
If you’d like to hear more of Dennis’s testimony in his own words, please listen to this podcast in which Richard Ostler interviewed Dennis this spring:
(Photos courtesy of Dennis Schleicher)