The ward boundaries cover a large chunk of downtown from 300 East to 400 West, and 500 South to 1300 South. Within the ward is a homeless shelter, multiple low income housing projects, and retirement communities. There are people with obvious mental/developmental handicaps and mental illness. And I don't think I have seen so many tattoos on as many people ever, much less in church. The ward welcomes everyone. Not just the Molly Mormon, Peter Priesthood "True Believing Mormons", but everyone.
The bishop is fantastic. He is a retired mental health professional, which makes him uniquely qualified to be called as the bishop of this ward. I have no doubt that his knowledge and background has assisted him in ministering to his ward. These are some things that really stood out for me...
- He is completely fine with me being gay, and believes that I was born this way. This is extremely uncommon for members of his generation.
- He is not concerned that I am living with my ex-girlfriend. He invited her to come to church with me.
- He is not concerned that I have yet to (and most likely never will) form a testimony that celestial marriage is between a man and a woman only.
- He is not concerned that I am a feminist, a liberal, an intellectual, or a homosexual... All of the things that Elder Boyd K. Packer warned were the "present dangers of the Church" in 1990.
- He will jot force me to go through the repentance process. He will be there when I am ready, but until I am ready, he wants me to attend the ward.
- He is bending over backwards to help me get my membership records moved into his ward. Since I do not live within the official ward boundaries, there are certain steps that need to be taken... One of which may have to be approval from the First Presidency. He wants me in the ward.
All in all... I feel good about where I'm going. It's not going to be easy... Especially if I decide to go through with the repentance process to prepare to go to the temple. But I have a bishop who judges no one. He welcomes all. He doesn't care about your past, but only about your future. And that's a special thing. It's special indeed.