What is Truth: Gays, Believers and Apostates
As has been pointed out by numerous commenters throughout the (relatively short) life of my blog (at http://invictuspilgrim.blogspot.com), a gay (active/post/ex-/inactive/anything in between) Mormons relationship to the LDS Church is often complicated. The reason for this should be obvious (but perhaps isnt to many members of the Church). Many gay Mormons (I use this term to refer to any gay person who is or has been a member of the LDS Church) go through intense agony as a result of trying to remain true to what they have been taught, true to what they believe, yet true at the same time to themselves.
This post is substantially similar to a (media-enhanced) post I published today on my blog that constitutes the eighth and final letter to Anonymous. I started the series of letters after Anonymous posted a comment on my blog that basically posed the question of whether I thought it was worth it to give up my exaltation in order to come out and live the rest of my life as a gay man. Even though Anonymous subsequently identified himself as Bryan, I continued to address the letters to Anonymous because I thought the premises of Bryans comments were similar to those shared by many anonymous members of the LDS Church.
Where Gay Mormons Are At
After going through the trauma of coming to accept who and what they are, gay Mormons often end up at very different places on the spectrum of Mormon belief, from desiring to retain full affiliation with the Church to complete rejection of not only the Church but any belief in God, period. In between these two extremes are many, many places where gay Mormons find themselves, either temporarily or permanently or somewhere in-between.
Many gay Mormons would choose to remain in the Church if they could. But most feel driven out, either explicitly or implicitly, feeling that they simply cannot stay in a place where they are not welcome. (I should probably state, by the way, that I in no way purport to speak for all gay Mormons.)
And it is not only gays who are or feel driven out; in many instances, straight members of their family, such as their parents, feel they can no longer affiliate with a church that condemns their children. I have personally listened to long-standing stalwart members of the Church declare with sincerity and conviction that they can no longer affiliate with a Church that condemns their son or their daughter. I heard, just this past Sunday, such a member ask at a gathering how any gay or lesbian could possibly desire to remain active in a Church that condemns and rejects people because of their sexuality.
At the same gathering, however, I heard another stalwart couple express their love for and desire to remain active in the Church, while at the same time acknowledging that the journey they have been on (presumably because of a gay son or lesbian daughter) has opened their minds and hearts to things they couldnt have previously imagined. It shouldnt need to be said, but I will point out that both of these scenarios involve extremely painful journeys that are almost as traumatic as those experienced by their gay loved ones.
Of course, there are many who would say that the Church doesnt drive anyone out; people choose to leave, or they are asked to leave because their lives are not in harmony with the teachings and commandments of the Church; the Church does not ask people to leave or take away privileges (e.g., temple recommends [see http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/article-13533-man-fired-from-lds-church-for-refusing-to-give-up-gay-friends.html]) simply because they are gay.
The truth, however, is that it does. And despite what the headquarters of the Church teaches, the fact of the matter is that gay members of the Church are handled differently from ward to ward and stake to stake, depending on the attitudes and personalities of bishops and stake presidents. Some bishops and stake presidents are very tolerant and loving of gays; others, less so. Thats just the way it is. Which kind of says something not only about the ability of Church Headquarters to effect change at a local level but also about the conflicting inspiration that these various local church leaders receive concerning the same issues.
So, what happens after gays are driven out of the Church, one way or the other? They end up at these various places on the spectrum of belief and participation. But, as Pablo, a commenter on my blog, pointed out, deciding to leave the church behind is not the path to outer darkness that some in the Church believe it to be. Mormons still grappling with their views about gay people might find some unexpected enlightenment if they open, ever so slightly, the blinds that Mormon culture so often and so unfortunately places on the windows of the church and the homes of its members.
They might learn, for example, about couples such as Trey and his partner. I have a very loving, supportive, joy-filled relationship with a man, Trey wrote last week. To you [Anonymous] that may appear repugnant. Our relationship is every much as beautiful as the best love-at-home Mormon family. We pray together, we go to church together; we live in harmony and mutual support. We feel Gods love and acceptance. LDS people think they have a monopoly on spirituality and on Gods blessings and acceptance. They generally have no idea concerning the breadth of Gods love.
They might also learn that many gays have ended up in a place similar to that where many straight Mormons are found, i.e., a place that recognizes the difference between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church. Without getting into a tit-for-tat discussion that would not be useful, suffice it to say that many Mormon gays believe in the Gospel, but not so much in the Church.
For example, a gay Mormon who is still active in the Church wrote in a comment: I believe that when the Book of Mormon says that men are that they might have joy, it is speaking truth, both for this life as well as for eternity. As a gay man once married to a wonderful straight woman, raising tremendous children, serving in a variety of Church leadership positions, I never understood what joy was. I had happy moments, but in my trial never felt the joy that the Gospel is intended to bring. Since divorcing and actually being true to who I am [a gay man], I have amazingly experienced a fullness of joy EVERY day–joy so profound it often causes me to tremble with gratitude for a Father who loves me for who and what I am and is willing to share His Spirit with me in a profound and immutable way.
It is so easy to live in a world constructed of cultural norms that is in reality antithetical to the teachings of the Gospel of Christ. Because it is easy, too many members of the Church choose to live in such a world of blacks and whites rather than a world of sunshine and rainbows as Heavenly Father intended. I’m grateful that God led me into a world of color and with it, a world of boundless joy.
The Apostate Label: Argumentum ad hominem
Anonymous, the person to whom I was addressing my letters, stated on three separate occasions in follow-up comments that he wouldnt have bothered posing his initial question if he had believed that I dont believe the LDS Church is the Lords true Church, if I disbelieve the Church, or believe the LDS Church to [not] be correct. After all, he wrote, if such were the case, I would have no problem going against [the Churchs] teachings and will likely not believe [Im] giving anything up by doing so.
On the surface, these comments by Anonymous seem, in a (very generous) way, fair and reasonable enough. But something lurks beneath the surface at least in my view. For one thing, he wasnt quite sure where I was at with respect to the Church, and it appears he was intrigued by the concept of me being believing, yet still embracing homosexuality, and he wanted to try to flush me out.
Far more insidious, however, is the apparent attitude that believes that if someone is apostate i.e., they no longer believe the LDS Church is the Lords true Church, or disbelieves the Church or believes the LDS Church to [not] be correct, then anything that person says, no matter how articulate, well-reasoned or substantiated by real experience, anything that person says can be dismissed as being tainted by apostasy; in other words, a classic ad hominem attack. In the Mormon world, if one can label a person on the other side of an argument an apostate, then the argument is over, so far as faithful members of the Church are concerned. Such an attitude is, unfortunately, all too common within the Church today.
But, just for the sake of argument, lets consider his words for a moment. I assume that what he meant by his questions is, do I believe the LDS Church to be true, meaning, presumably, the only true and living church on the face of the earth with which the Lord is well-pleased. Or did he mean that the Church is the vessel of true principles? Or did he mean that the Church is the only organization that possesses, through the priesthood, the authority to act in the name of God? Or did he mean that what the Church teaches is correct, whereas other churches teach that which is incorrect? What does it mean to say that the Churchs teachings on homosexuality are correct or incorrect? Does that mean, do they reflect ultimate Truth?
Like I told Anonymous, I dont mean to be facetious; Im simply trying to make a point:
What is truth?
There is a term that is used in the LDS Church. Other Christians use it, too, but to them it means something a little different that what it means to Mormons. The term: the Pearl of Great Price. In the Mormon world, one tends to use it with reference to a volume of LDS scripture or as a reference to the restored Gospel, usually in the context of someone converting to the Church and accepting the restored Gospel.
Christians, however, typically refer to the term in context of a parable of the Savior: one must actively seek in life for that which is of supreme value (the pearl), and when one has found it, one must leave behind or sell everything one has accumulated to that point and purchase or obtain the pearl, which is extremely precious and costly. In the narrowest sense, for most Christians, the pearl is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ himself.
I would like to apply this parable to my own situation as a gay man who has finally come to terms with his sexuality. I have sought long and hard throughout my life for a cure for being gay, until I finally found the pearl of great price the same pearl that others like me have found. What is this pearl? A knowledge and joyful acceptance independent of any man, church or creed – of who I am and who I was created to be, together with the sure knowledge that God loves me and accepts me just the way I am.
Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be,
is made up of a single moment,
the moment in which a man finds out,
once and for all,
who he is.
– Kahlil Gibran