But Jesus: A Conversation

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A confession. A coming out. A come-to-Jesus.
One mother’s walk alongside her son.

At 3a.m. one night during the quiet shade of the pandemic, a 17-year-old boy entered his parents’ bedroom to reveal a truth he’d been navigating alone for years. In his confession, he not only came out as gay, but also conveyed the depths of the mental health struggles he’d been battling as a result of conflicting messaging he’d endured in the religious institution in which he’d been raised. Autumn McAlpin’s haunting literary memoir, But Jesus: A Conversation replays the various conversations that emerge during one family’s coming out story—interchanges with loved ones who lean in and those who pull away, the back-and-forth with various LDS church authorities, and the quiet (and not so quiet) pleas of a mother as she petitions the higher power she believes in—one who offers unconditional love and hope for all.

But Jesus: A Conversation takes us on a journey of a family deconstructing with the use of a compass and their conscience, and reconstructing with the salve that will help bind them most of all: love. With stunning cover art by J. Kirk Richards, this book is intended to offer an open shoulder for all families who find themselves at the intersection of the LDS and LGBTQ+ conflict, and for the loved ones trying to understand the complex choices they face. All proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to life-saving therapy programs for the LGBTQ+ community through 501c3 nonprofits Encircle and Flourish.

Praise for But Jesus: A Conversation

“Encircle has worked with thousands of LGBTQ+ youth. Tragically, most of them struggle with mental health issues and suicidality. Let’s be clear—these issues do not exist because these children are LGBTQ; it is because of the negative, harmful and dangerous messages they grow up hearing about themselves. This dangerous and destructive narrative must stop. Kids are literally dying. When these precious children are within the circles of our families’ and communities’ love, they will thrive, and we will all be better for it.  Within these pages, we see a family fully encircle their LGBTQ+ child in unconditional love. Each line unfolds the pain, joy, growth, and complexity of a family’s courageous journey. This book will serve as a compass for thousands of families.” 

-Stephenie Larsen, Founder and CEO of Encircle

“Decided to read one or two pages before rushing out the door. 20 pages. 30 pages. 60 pages. Brilliant, disturbing, comforting. A significant gift to those who are—or will be—facing the LDS/LGBTQ dilemma. A powerful indictment of—and invitation to—those who choose judgment over love.”  

-Carol Lynn Pearson, author of No More Goodbyes; Goodbye, I Love You; Finding Mother God; I’ll Walk With You; The Love Map

“Autumn McAlpin’s poetry shows us the heart of things. The heart of a thorny doctrinal debate, the heart of our most anguished spiritual yearnings, the heart that is wounded by betrayal, the mother’s heart that will fight for her beloved child. If you have a queer child or know someone who has a queer child (and you do), read this book and pass it on.”  

-Amy McPhie Allebest, podcaster, Breaking Down Patriarchy

“Filmmaker and storyteller Autumn McAlpin’s vulnerable memories pull the reader into the aching heart of a mother trying to raise a healthy gay child while reevaluating all she’s been taught as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But Jesus: A Conversation invites the reader to better understand the precarious balance between Church and child, walked by so many families today.”

-Allison Dayton, founder of Lift + Love

“I’m grateful for the courage of my friend Autumn McAlpin for sharing their family story of loving and supportive their gay son Gavin. This is a beautiful family love story. It’s also a story of how we can do better to love, support, and value our queer family and friends. I wish I had read a book like this earlier in my life as an active Latter-day Saint. When we know better, we do better. I encourage you to read this book and then consider what you can do in your circle of influence to better support queer Latter-day Saints and their families as we work to create Zion. A Zion where we all are needed and should feel a deep sense of belonging.”

-Richard Ostler, podcaster and author of Listen, Learn and Love

About the Author

A graduate of BYU’s English Teaching and USC’s Master of Professional
Writing programs, Autumn McAlpin is an award-winning writer, producer
and director. Her feature films include Waffle Street (MarVista, 2015) and
Miss Arizona (Cinedigm, 2018), and her stage play In Front of the Children
won USC’s 2015 Writing for Stage and Screen Competition. Autumn
penned The Orange County Register’s humor column “Cracking Up” for a
decade and she is the author of the best-selling graduation gift book, Real
World 101: A Survival Guide to Life After High Schoo
l. She currently writes the weekly family profile stories at Lift + Love, a site that serves as an
intersection for LDS and LGBTQ+ families, and she is actively engaged in
Encircle, which provides safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. Autumn lives in
southern California with her husband and five kids.

Photo by Johnny Beutler

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