So do you remember the
guy in yesterday’s General Conference session (April 2017) who shared the
ultimate “Flirt to Convert” story? The guy who was surprised the girl
told him “No” because he thought he was a good catch? His name is
Elder Costa. Last year he came to my stake. I’ve shared that story before, but
would like to do so again in greater detail since many of you now know who he
When a Seventy comes to stake conference there are some extra
meetings. There’s one on Saturday that’s like the kick-off mtg. It’s just the Seventy, the
stake presidency, the stake clerk and me, the stake executive secretary.
He had us sit in a circle by order of our rank. I thought Elder Costa would sit
at the desk and we’d be in a semi-circle in front of it, but he had the stake
president sit at his own desk. In front of the desk, to the stake president’s
right was his first counselor, then the second counselor and the stake clerk.
Everyone outranks me, so I’m last among our group, which means I was seated
next to Elder Costa, who was in the first chair to the left of the stake
He asked if everyone was married, and of course, I’m the only single person out
of the six of us in the room.
I was dreading this moment because so many times
when someone higher up finds out I’m single I get a lecture about it being my
priesthood duty and I need to be married in order to be exalted and it’s my
responsibility and there are sisters who cry themselves to sleep at night.
Elder Costa does none of that.
I’m certain that at most of these meetings everyone in the room is married, so
this was unusual. He had brought a message for the married men, and he
proceeded to give it, but as I was sitting next to him, he kept patting my leg,
my knee, my arm, like he was letting me know it’s alright. It’s sort of like by
his actions he was conveying one message to me, even as he was speaking a
different message to the rest of the room.
Afterwards I was in the clerk’s office
following up on some things. From where I’m sitting, I am hearing Elder Costa &
the stake president speaking (everyone else has already left the stake offices)
and then I heard a door close and a voice
in my ear said, “You have 15 seconds. Go talk to him.” This was odd as I thought they’d both just walked out of the stake offices. I turn around in my chair and
there is Elder Costa standing framed by the office door.
I walk over and thank him for how gently he treated me in the
earlier meeting, and said the reason I’m not married is because I’m gay. He
reacted so quickly I didn’t have a chance to say anything further. He threw his
arms around me and pulled me in as he said, “Dear brother, the Church has much
to offer you. And you have much to contribute to the church.” He squeezed me
and then let go of the hug, and just as he took a step back, I heard the door
open, it was the stake president. He’d gone to the restroom (there’s one in the
stake offices) and out the door they went.
After the Priesthood Leadership Mtg, he held a
mtg w/the stake presidency, high council and bishops. As they were about to begin, Elder Costa sent
one of them to fetch me. He hadn’t been specific that he wanted me and the
clerk to be at that discussion, but he was looking for me, and when he recognized I wasn’t at the table and
sent for me.
That night in the adult session, he made the point that same-gender attraction
isn’t a sin, and members who speak otherwise are incorrect and unkind. It wasn’t
his main point, but he included it in his presentation.
On Sunday morning, I was already in the stake
offices when Elder Costa arrived with the stake president. He asked what I was
working on and told the stake president he was lucky to have me, that I keep things
running smoothly. During the Sunday session of stake conference, he spoke about 3 sentences of how he’s spent time with the stake president and he’s a
good man and the same is true of his
counselors. And to my great surprise, he followed that up by exclaiming with a big smile, “and
they have the GREATEST secretary!” 😊 My phone immediately blew up with people
writing to say they’ve never heard a secretary recognized like that, and people
all around reaching over to pat me on the back.
At the conclusion of the Sunday session, we had
a wrap up meeting. Once again we sat in order of seniority of our positions,
which meant I was next to Elder Costa. He turned to me and asked where were my
assistants? I said that the stake clerk has assistant clerks, that there aren’t
assistant secretaries. He said that’s funny, seemed I did the work of 3 people.
At the meeting’s conclusion, we knelt and he prayed. After the prayer he sprung
up, and as I was standing he put his hands on my arms and pulled me towards him. He wrapped me into a tight
hug, chest on chest, his cheek against mine, and says “I love you” three times
in my ear. 😇 I have tears in
my eyes, it’s as if Jesus spoke those simple words to me, into my heart.
He held that hug for a little bit, then he
went to shake the other’s hands. The stake clerk who’d been sitting next to me,
thought we were all getting hugs, so he put his arms out for a hug as Elder
Costa put forth his hand for a handshake. There was an awkward moment, and we
laughed at that, so he gave them one-armed side hugs while saying it was good
to meet them. 😂😂😂 They’re all looking at me, like why
did he get such an embrace, but they don’t say anything because they can tell something just transpired because
I was wiping aside tears.
In those small and simple ways, Elder Costa ministered to me. I didn’t even
know I needed to be ministered to, but it really was good for my soul. Normally
the mention of homosexuality in church is accompanied with a list of
restrictions. Instead, he reacted with love and kindness. I believe most LGBT
Mormons know the Church’s positions in these matters and what would most
benefit them are messages of hope and love. It’s unusual for us to feel
accepted and wanted.
I have a great deal of respect and love for Elder Costa and smiled broadly at
seeing him speak in General Conference.