Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Conundrum


I last blogged about the paradox of being gay and Mormon. Being gay and Mormon makes certain life decisions much more difficult than they are for our heterosexual counterparts.

For example, although the election is long since over, the decision of the LDS church to enter the political fray in California caused quite a stir in the bloggernacle - and a chill through the gay Mormon community. For many, there is no question about their support for the church as they perceive the gay community using this issue to force their deviant lifestyle onto the masses. For some of us, however, it's not so simple - we may be active members, hold temple recommends, even leadership callings; but, we are also in a unique position, because of our own dealing with attractions to those of our same gender. We have greater understanding and empathy for the real underlying reasons behind gay marriage and, therefore, are better able to set aside the political rhetoric.

So, do we follow the prophet? Or do we follow our heart? I don't know about others; but for me, trying to reconcile this dichotomy is becoming a real struggle. The Sunday School answer, of course, is that we should follow the prophet. Unfortunately, simple answers don't always work on complex issues such as this. Having the LDS church jump into this political quagmire has emboldened some members to ramp up their homophobic reactions and comments. We see this in bloggernacle discussions as well as Sacrament, Sunday School, Priesthood, and Relief Society meetings. Following the prophet becomes increasingly difficult when his words and actions cause others to say and do things which make you feel hated and reviled.

For those of us who are not public with our proclivities, following the prophet becomes increasingly difficult when his words and actions cause us to retreat deeper into our closets.

Church should be an uplifting experience; so, following the prophet becomes increasingly difficult when his words and actions exposes us to inappropriate discussions within the context of church meetings; and, puts us in a difficult position deciding whether we should speak up and appear defiant or remain silent, cursing ourselves for not standing up for what is right.

My heart tells me that the church's decision to enter this political battle was wrong; and, I believe it will have long term consequences - which leaves me with a conundrum ...

One of the temple recommend questions says
Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?
I do not support the churches decision to encourage members in California to donate both their time and means in the campaign to help pass a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage; in fact, were I still living in California, I would have been tempted to do just the opposite and donate my time and means to oppose the amendment. At a minimum I would have voted "No".

However, I do support both my local and church leaders in other things. So can I, in good faith, answer "Yes" to the question above? Or, do I need to say "Yes, but ..." and explain my support for gay marriage and my disappointment in the church for getting involved in the politics opposing it? Is 99% support good enough?

Another temple recommend question says
Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
We have gay couples right here in the Mormon queerosphere who are living in committed monogamous same sex relationships and, presumably, are engaging in gay sex - clearly in direct opposition to the teachings of the LDS church. Yet, I affiliate with and support these couples and their families It's not a matter of simply knowing someone who is not living according to LDS church teachings - I approve of their same-sex relationships. I even feel a bit jealous - they are living a life I can only yearn for given the decisions I've made for myself.

So, can I, in good faith, answer "No" to the question above? Or, do I need to say "No, but ..." and explain my relationship with gay couples in the queerosphere?

And, how strong is my conviction? Am I willing to risk foregoing a temple recommend on principal? Or am I so weak as to be willing to lie in the temple recommend interview so as to avoid any such confrontation? Or should I just quietly let my temple recommend expire?

For those of you with temple recommends, are you facing this same conundrum? How are you dealing with it? I have until August 2009 to figure this out.

16 comments:

Scot said...

I'm sorry you're facing these conundrums, Abe. You're a great guy and your support is truely heartening; I just hate that it comes at such a cost to you.

I do appreciate reading this perspective and gaining better understanding of the sorts of questions being faced from within the LDS church. I didn't realize you had to answer such questions. Especially:

"Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?".

That's rough, and really sheds some light for me on the sort of struggle some of my loved-ones are likely facing. Thank you.

Philip said...

Forgive my ignorance but what happens in August?

You say you have until August to figure this out.

Regards,
Philip

Abelard Enigma said...

My current temple recommend expires August 2009

Public Loneliness said...

You're certainly between a rock and a hard place and I'm sorry you have to feel that you have to make a choice.

Is not having a recommend worth all the other hassles (missing future family temple events, not qualifying for callings) that your life will bring for the sake of principle?

We live in such white and black terms in the church that we sometimes believe that it is an all or nothing world, but the truth is that we live in more shades of grey that we are willing to admit. My mother would say: "Just keep paying yout tithing so you can still get in the temple" seems that the principle of the thing is a non-issue to some...

hugs, PL

Scott said...

My recommend expires in November, so I've got a little longer than you to worry about this.

(Assuming I'm still interested in renewing my recommend by the time November rolls around :) ) here's what I intend to do:

I'm not comfortable discussing any of these issues with anyone in my bishopric, and I know that they're not comfortable discussing them either, so for the interview with the bishopric member I'll just answer all the questions with the appropriate "yes" or "no".

Then, when I go to the Stake Presidency, I'll make sure I get to talk to the 2nd Counselor, who is a friend (I was his executive secretary when he was our Bishop), and I'll do the "yes, but..." or "no, but..." with him, and let him decide what to do.

If you don't have a "friend" in the bishopric or Stake Presidency...

Do you feel like you're worthy of a temple recommend? (forget about the specific questions--just consider whether you feel like you are worthy to enter the temple). (That's a rhetorical question, btw)

If so, go to the interview and answer the questions the way you're supposed to to get your recommend. when it all comes down to it, it's all between you and God anyway.

If you're not sure, then go do the interview with the "no, but..." and "yes, but..." and let your priesthood leaders help you figure it out.

Beck said...

I don't know whether I am not taking these questions as seriously as I should, and certainly not as serious as you, but I have no conundrum. I will answer them as I always have.

The reason why is because these questions refer to apostate groups with the purpose of destroying the Church.

If I were to take your point of view, then I could not associate with anyone that is living a life contrary to the church or that believes in principles and teachings contrary to the church. This would include all students at universities outside BYU. This would include all family members that are members or non-members that live together without being married and have kids out of wedlock, or who affiliate with other religions, political parties, social groups etc. that ALL have teachings or practices that are contrary to the church.

Those questions were for specific apostate groups (read "polygamous / fundamentalist" groups) and not people, friends, family, associates, blogger community etc. With your level of thinking, where will this end? You couldn't associate with anyone but yourself... and even yourself is suspect!!!

I think you need to say "am I worthy (not in the old "in every way" clause that was struck several years ago) but simply worthy to be in the temple? And if, as an imperfect person that is trying to do the best you can with what you've been given - you can answer "yes", then say "yes" and be done with it!

The temple is full of imperfect people who associate with other imperfect people. In fact, we are commanded to do so! I am not going to allow my association in this bloggosphere to send me into a conundrum at all. And neither should you!

Lisa said...

I worried about this for a long time, and fortunately my propensity to postpone things helped. Our (my husband and me) schedule at the time our recommend expired was such that it was difficult to make an appointment anyway. Our hesitance only added to it.

Days went by then months before we realized a few things, things like we weren't sure about those questions (specifically the ones you mentioned) but we knew we could overcome those.

Due to some complicated banking circumstances due to a move, we hadn't paid tithing in a while. Eventually we realized that yes, we didn't want to pay tithing.

We were struggling before Prop 8, but it just made it worse and not necessarily just for the direct reasons, though I hate them. I learned things about the Church that made my heart recoil.

So while at first our answers may have been "Yes/No, but..." we came to a place where we just knew there was no but. Not now. We didn't feel comfortable lying to anyone about it or sugarcoating it.

Deep inside I hoped for so long someone would ask me about it, but I'd already been there before with our last interview, the one where my bishop saw and heard my tearful confession that my testimony was waning and told me to subscribe to BYU-TV to fix it.

I wasn't willing to be vulnerable anymore. I didn't believe. I want to so bad, but I don't. Not enough.

My suggestion is that you be honest, but with honesty comes a readiness to accept whatever should come. I still like to think most leaders want to give its members the benefit of the doubt and even without a perfect score on the worthiness interview, still issue the recommend if the person seems willing enough to try (the whole bit about the mustard seed).

If you even get yourself in for the interview, I'd just be honest. Your heart should come through, and in the end I think that's what matters most.

MoHoHawaii said...

As I recall, that question was added to the interview in the 1970s for the purpose of weeding out members of fundamentalist Mormon sects.

If you read the question closely (and consider its history), you can interpret the word "teachings" to mean religious doctrines.

If you accept the premise that the question has to do with religious doctrine (as opposed to polictical causes and church policies), then I think you're safe. As far as I understand the situation, you do not subscribe to any religious beliefs other than those sanctioned by the LDS Church. Therefore, you could just answer "no" with a clear conscience.

Yours is not a doctrinal problem; it's a difference of opinion about policy and politics.

MoHoHawaii said...

Basically, what Beck said.

El Genio said...

I just renewed my recommend last month. As MoHoHawai mentioned, I have always understood that question to refer to polygamous groups or others that directly oppose the church.

That said, I think I have come to the point where I no longer feel comfortable attending the temple. I was asked yesterday to help with baptisms for the dead, and while I usually love helping out, it just doesn't feel right this time. It breaks my heart to think of never sitting in the celestial room again, or working in the baptismal font, but it breaks my heart even more to consider the (future) things I would have to give up to maintain that privilege.

Beck said...

BTW, I'm all for honesty. I'm not suggesting anyone should lie or feel that their answers are dishonest. My heart has to be in it and I want to give the answers that honestly feel right and good and proper and lead me to what I am trying to do as I desire to attend and participate in the temple.

I'm just suggesting you put those questions in context and see that there is a context to those questions that you are adding that isn't there. And if I'm full of it and don't know what I'm talking about, then let me know.

Abelard Enigma said...

Scot
That's rough, and really sheds some light for me on the sort of struggle some of my loved-ones are likely facing. Thank you.

You're welcome

Public
We live in such white and black terms in the church

Yes, another facet of the paradox of being a gay Mormon - we exist in shades of gray in a black&white church.

Scott
Do you feel like you're worthy of a temple recommend?

I guess that's the real crux of the issue - do I feel worthy? But, I think a corollary question is: Do I want to enter the temple? Truth is, lately I haven't really felt much of anything in the temple. I mean, it's peaceful and all; it's a nice break from the rat race - but it's also kinda a hassle. Having to get dressed in my suit, drive to the temple, change again into my white clothes - and then reverse the whole process at the end. I just find myself asking if it's even worth it. Perhaps that is, in part, why I feel this conundrum.

Beck
these questions refer to apostate groups with the purpose of destroying the Church.

That is how I've always viewed these questions. In the past I would answer these questions without even batting an eye. But, in the eyes of many in the LDS church - aren't the gays out to destroy the family which, by association, also equates to the church? By me approving of a relationship that threatens the sanctity of marriage (whatever that means) - aren't I, therefore, supporting the very thing the church is fighting against?

And, I don't think anybody thought you were suggesting dishonesty.

Lisa
my bishop saw and heard my tearful confession that my testimony was waning and told me to subscribe to BYU-TV to fix it.

Oh dear, we have BYU-TV and it isn't working - maybe having Logo counteracts the effects of having BYU-TV. :) Although, frankly, I find the programming on BYU-TV to be rather dry and dull. The only thing I really watch on it is general conference - and then only the Sunday sessions (I've got too much to do on Saturday)

MoHoHawaii
Yours is not a doctrinal problem; it's a difference of opinion about policy and politics.

You're preaching to the choir - unfortunately, I don't think many in the church see it that way.

Alan said...

Having for years worked in the temple and even held leadership positions there, I never thought I would find myself saying I wasn't that interested in going anymore. But that's where I am. I still keep the covenants, heck, I practically have the endowment memorized. But to everything there is a season, says my favorite OT book Ecclesiastes, and maybe this isn't the temple season for me. I think my priorities are elsewhere now; I have a lot of things to try to figure out.

Meantime, Abe, I agree with every perspective everyone else has said above which would enable you to walk back to the presence of the bishop and stake president, being enabled to give them the proper yes answers, and gain your recommend if you want it.

The recommend questions have fluctuated wildly in the past, and their details are comparatively unimportant I think. If you could honestly look the Lord in the face and say I think I am worthy to go to the temple, then you are. Like Scott said, your bishop & SP are just conduits.

Ned said...

My recommend expires tonight at midnight and within the next couple of weeks I'll seek to renew it. I'm glad I'm out to my Bishop. I suspect some of my answers might be along the lines of "yes, and I'm glad we've discussed this before and I appreciate how you helped me clarify what the question is about and that you were willing to talk it through with me."

What will actually happen? I don't know but I'm willing to enter into the discussion with faith that the right things will be said and done.

AmbiguouS One said...

I've been thinking about the same exact dilemma recently, although I have since made a decision...

My family adopted a little girl that had been in our family through kinship care since she was three. She is now five years old.

My family was planning on attending the temple so that she could become sealed to my parents. We adopted her in October and my family wanted to go right away. But I discussed with my parents that I wouldn't be able to answer all the recommend questions in the correct way; that I could not, with good conscience, sustain the leaders of the Church at this time. And that even if I could go to the temple, I didn't really want to right now because of the Church's involvement in politics.

I didn't want to go for myself; rather, I wanted to go for my sister. She will find out someday (at least a decade from now) that I am gay and identify as such. I just don't want her to hold a grudge against the Church because "they wouldn't let Drew go to the temple that one time."

This was on my mind often and until some experiences earlier this month (which I have blogged about) changed my mind about it all. I realized that I was withholding a blessing for her by postponing the date of her sealing and that that was simply not fair. She needs this, and I just have to trust that it is what is supposed to happen and that the Lord will work out the rest.

wreddyornot said...

Thanks for your post on this.

As a straight, sixty-year old male, temple-married for going on 38 years, I identify with your temple interview dilemma. I let my recommend lapse because of those very questions and because I wanted to do something, but I feared being vocal about my position at church or in the media might hurt my wife--even if she agrees with me, she reaps the wind of discontent among the zealots.

I had studied and studied about the issue, reading everything, and prayed and felt inspired--as inspired as I have ever felt--about the appropriateness of SSA marriage.

Then, during the election and Prop 8, the Bishop wanted me to serve in a position that required the renewal of my recommend. I laid my position out clearly to him, and he signed the recommend, conditional on me keeping my opposition to the Church's position mum. Consequently, I decided that I couldn't/shouldn't be gagged like that, even though I had no intention of publishing my belief widely. So I never went to the stake presidency for the second interview and told the Bishop thanks, but no thanks.

I don't know how many people like me there are out there, but when I read your entry and the comments of other, I wanted you to know my position and support for SSA marriage.

I lived through the era of the priesthood ban on blacks and had prayed about that as well. I felt moved that the priesthood ban was wrong. But at that time, I remained mum. I have felt remorseful about doing that.

My best to you and to all that follow the sweet, still voice of charity the Spirit whispers.