7.21.2009

Sorting Through My Beliefs

Last night was my first time in public as a MoHo (at the Loganside BBQ). I was a little nervous at first, but it really was wonderful to talk to people who understand. I gathered that most of the attendees were those for whom the original definition of 'MoHo' applies: a Latter-Day Saint who struggles with same-gender attraction but strives to live in harmony with the Church.

I had some great discussions, but I had to face something that has been troubling me for some time. I'm not too worried about the future--marriage, relationships, etc.--because I've finally been able to say, 'I'll cross that bridge when I get there--for now, I just need to take one day at a time." I've finally reached a place where my gay-ness (I doubt that's a real word, but 'homosexuality' sounds so clinical) isn't a big deal, and I've realized it's hardest to grapple with when I make it a big deal. Beyond that, though, is my larger struggle of my feelings about the Church. That is what's been tearing me apart. Not the fact that I'm gay. Not the fact that I don't know what my future holds. The fact that, as a gay member, I am in an uncomfortable position with the Church I love.

Yesterday a fellow MoHo blogger shared his feelings about the new Church pamphlet on 'SGA', God Loveth His Children. He had some frustrations that also went through my mind when my bishop handed me the pamphlet, which--though it certainly beats Helping Those With a Homosexual Problem or whatever the previous edition was called--contains some definite snags, for me at least. I gratefully acknowledge that it's a marked improvement from the previous tone of death-is-preferable condemnation, but this pamphlet is still greatly flawed in my eyes.

Of course, they're very carefully-worded flaws like "It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings" (page nine). Translation: don't be yourself, and don't befriend people who are themselves. I hope I'm not being harsh here, but that's how I interpret it. There's also this: "While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life" (pages three and four). Many Latter-Day Saints? In my view, those who have 'overcome same-gender attraction' are in fact bisexuals. Moreover, 'many' means that it is a goal that can and should be accomplished, that change of orientation is an achievable task, like working through an addiction or other problem. Can't you imagine the gay Deacon, Teacher, or Priest who says, "Well, if 'many Latter-Day Saints' can do it, why can't I? What have they got on me?" I know that that was my thinking for a time, and the bottom line is that it's a futile and destructive mindset. Nearly everyone in the mental health field would agree.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me to swallow is "As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children." In other words, we will become straight in the next life, an idea I find...unsettling. Despite the convenience, I don't think I would want to be straight, now or then. Sexuality is a core part of being--I believe, an eternal part of being. There are many like me, too. Would a just and loving God force us to be turned straight? I don't think so. How, then, could "every one of God's children...find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children"?

For me, though, it goes deeper than this. Throughout all of my inner confusion, there have been three things--three sustaining pillars--about which I have not been unsure:
  1. Heavenly Father and Jesus both live and love me.
  2. I need not be ashamed about being gay.
  3. Homosexuality is no more inherently sinful than heterosexuality.
The third point was not a conclusion I reached through logic or research (though reason does happen to back it up: if homosexual attractions are morally neutral, are not homosexual actions as well?). It was something I knew. I knew that over the years the Church's stance on homosexuality has contradicted both itself and the Church's own teachings, so I needed to find out for myself, and I did find out for myself. That was, I think, the main difference between my beliefs and the beliefs of some of the friends I talked to last night. That is also, I think, the main difference between my beliefs and the Church's teachings, though I don't think that makes me a heretic. Keep in mind these two quotes (which I got from the Serendipity blog--thanks, Sarah!):
  • “The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.” - Brigham Young
  • "If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.” - Joseph Fielding Smith. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 3:203–204 ISBN 0884940411)
According to the second quote, I am "duty bound to reject" something I believe is out of harmony with the revelations. It may be bold of me, but I do believe the teachings of the Church on homosexuality are out of harmony. And the fact of the matter is, I would need a strong testimony that homosexuality is wrong in order to live a celibate life or be married to someone not of the gender toward which I am oriented. Instead, I have a testimony of the opposite. Yet I continue to have a testimony of the Gospel's--and yes, the Church's--truth. Seem contradictory? I know it is. I'm not sure if I could explain it, but I am not so dependent on logic that I can't agree that some truths don't make sense. As j4k quoted in a comment on my blog today, "Logic is the beginning of understanding, not the end." (See "Beating a Retreat" for the full comment.)

It's hard for me to stand by and watch the Church's actions on homosexuality and the consequences of those actions. Shock and reparative therapy. Defense of Marriage and Proposition 8. Misleading pamphlets. The Plaza incident. Gay Mormon suicides.

And yet, I can't imagine living outside of the Church. Right now, my family is slipping into inactivity, and it causes me to consider if I really want a life I can't live in harmony with the Church. I look at the many MoHo's (and Mormons in general) who have left the Church and utterly lost their faith--becoming atheists or agnostics-- and think, I don't want to lose my salvation! I don't want to lose my faith! I don't want to lose my belief in God, my ultimate mooring!

I want to stay close to my Heavenly Father, and I don't want to leave (or be dismissed from) the Church. Some MoHo "strugglers" say that SGA is a trial like any other, one that can take us closer to God or take us from Him, but I'm not so sure. I realize that some would say it's a trial that has already taken me away from God. Again, I don't think so. I don't even see it as a burden, a trial, something to overcome. Rather, I see it as a blessing, a part of who I am. This is not a travail I long to be rid of...this is me.

Must 'who I am' automatically remove me from the great I AM?

4 comments:

Bravone said...

Wow Frank. The last sentence is a thinker. I am a bit worn out tonight, so I will gather my thoughts and respond later.

Love you,
Bravone

Alan said...

Maybe the reason I like this post so much is that I could have written every single word of it myself (except for the opener about the fireside). Seriously. Every word. I wish I'd been half this smart when I was in high school Frank.

The answer to your question is no. "I Am" created you to be who you are. I wasted more years than I want to remember fighting that truth about myself and being miserable inside as a result. Feeling like I would never have any peace inside, like my heart would always be shredded from fighting who I really was. THAT for me was the struggle, and it ended when I came out to myself and others.

And when I finally knelt down and said as fervent a prayer as I'd ever prayed, "God, this is me, now what?" the answer was as clear as any I'd ever gotten: "I know what you are, and I approve." Since then, though life's storms continue of course, inside there is calm confidence like never before.

Sadly, the Church's leaders and most members aren't ready to accept that yet. The organization will reflect its leaders' biases and flaws. Fortunately we can go right to the top, individually, and His is the only opinion we should ultimately worry about. Never mind how the Church may harrumph and bluster; I can't imagine that being honest with Him about his own design for you would do anything but bring you closer to Him.

Bravone said...

I totally agree with Alan on the answer to your question. The answer is a resounding NO. What I need to organize are my thoughts on some of the other ideas in your post. I should have made that clear, but alas, I was wiped out at the end of a very long and difficult work day.

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Thank you both. Bravone, knew what you meant, know what you mean. I love you too and await your reaction(!). Alan, thanks for sharing your experience and kindness. Glad you liked my little un-load!