Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Faith and Desire

This week in seminary we learned about Enos. While hunting wild beasts in the forest, Enos relates that his "soul hungered" and he knelt and prayed for forgiveness. His prayer continued throughout the day and into the night, until he heard a voice, saying: "Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed" (Enos 1:1-5).

What we can learn from Enos is that faith, by itself, is not enough. We must couple our faith with desire - as Enos relates when he said his "soul hungered". Faith + Desire leads to action - and our actions lead to results.

I've previously blogged about a spiritual crisis I'm going through. After reading Enos, I am starting to realize that my crisis is not one of faith - but of desire. I still have faith in God, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon - the whole enchilada. But, I've lost my desire to move forward with my faith.

A few months after I finally came to terms with my own homosexuality, the LDS church published a pamphlet titled God Loveth His Children. While I did not see that pamphlet as where we need to be as a church - it did seem like a definite step in the right direction. It was a sign that our church leaders were starting to "get it".

Then, a year or so later, the LDS church announced its intentions to fight proposition 8 in California legalizing gay marriage. They asked the members in California to donate of their time and means to help pass proposition 8 - which resulted in, at least, 50% - and possibly as much as 75% - of the total donations to the "Yes on 8" campaign - not including the countless hours of donated time going door to door, passing out yard signs, etc. That coupled with statements by respected church leaders that amounted to little more than fear mongering without any substance and a (hopefully) unintended consequence of the actions of the LDS church where it has become politically correct to publicly bash homosexuals in church meetings - a problem that is more prevalent in some wards than in others. I say "hopefully unintended" because I've seen no evidence of any church leaders seeking to counter this attitude. In fact, I find myself wondering if the timing of the release of "God Loveth His Children" was all part of a carefully orchestrated plan - first we tell them how much God loves them so that we don't come across as just being mean when we fight their efforts to have their relationships legitimized.

Even though I am not in a same sex relationship and don't see myself as ever being in one - it still has been difficult for me. I feel like I"ve been lulled away with "God loves you" = followed by a sucker punch to the gut! God really only loves me as long as I keep pretending to be straight. It feels like, as a church, we've gone backwards. As a queer Mormon, I feel less welcomed than before - or, more accurately, I feel like I am welcomed only so far as I keep hiding the queer part of me. And, this has lead to decreased desire to move forward in my faith. I feel stagnant. I still go to church regularly - but my heart isn't in it like it once was. I still try to fulfill my callings - at least somewhat, my home teaching effort has been virtually non-existent the last few months. I no longer actively participate in lessons as I once did - I just sit in the back row. I feel like I'm gradually becoming invisible at church - wondering if I'll become one of those whom are occasionally remembered with "whatever happened to ... oh, he got 'offended'" - the proverbial response thereby absolving the church, and everyone in it, of any wrong doing.

And, I don't think I'm alone in this feeling. As I was working last week on putting together the MoHo Directory, I reflected on all of the people I've met here in the Mormon queerosphere. I've interacted with some of you more than others and have gotten quite close to a few. In fact, I can truthfully say that my closest friends are here in the Mormon queerosphere. I used to be able to point to a number of blogs by people who were earnestly seeking to remain active in the church - or, at least, maintain some connection to the church. That's what attracted me to the queerosphere in the first place. However, the number of such blogs has dwindled in the last year or so. And, I can't help believing that to be a direct result political actions of the LDS church and the negative impact it has had on the Mormon queerosphere.

In the church, we talk a lot about increasing our faith - but how do you increase desire? Telling me to pray about it implies a certain amount of desire - but what if that desire is nonexistent?


Goldarn said...

It's not just gay mormons, although they certainly have it worse that I did. I am a questioner—as long as I can remember, I was coming up with the wrong answers to church questions, or asking follow-on questions that made my teachers uncomfortable. I knew all the "right" answers to bishop's interviews, but I was clearly not good mormon material.

I was even a Democrat, of all things.

The only way for me to be loved by God was to pretend to be something I wasn't. As long as I gave "them" the answers they wanted to hear, bore my testimony of the right things in the right way with the right words, and didn't ask any probing questions about doctrine or history, God loved me.

The problem is that I have no desire to be that kind of person. If you don't have the desire, what do you do?

Chester said...

Started posting something here but it got too long, so I just did a post on my blog.

Scott said...

From my perspective, you have desire--it's just not focused where some would say it should be (and so perhaps even you don't recognize it for what it is).

Your desire isn't to become more intimately involved with the church--you feel too hurt and betrayed to be comfortable with that idea. But the fact that you've been agonizing over this situation for the last few months indicates that you do very much desire to do what's right--to do what God wants you to do.

The trick, then, is to determine whether God's will for you does indeed include what you've been assuming it includes. If you've had it spiritually confirmed to you that you should attend church and remain active, then He will also help you to muster up the desire to do so. But is there any possibility that He does not require that of you? Only you can answer that question (through prayer).

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

As I read this post, Abe, I couldn't help but notice how my path in the Church has been in some ways similar to yours. I was an extremely active, serial Aaronic Priesthood QP, generally regarded by the ward as one of those practically perfect future-Peter Priesthoods. I bore my testimony regularly in Church, I was an active participant in every lesson, and I could be counted on to come to nearly every YM activity.

...You definitely are *not* alone in your 'desire shortage'. That's what it is for me, too--your 'self-diagnosis' of sorts really resonated with me. I have been increasingly disenchanted with the Church, and I find myself in very much the same place as you: I have faith, but I'm sitting on back row now. I feel like more and more of an outsider, and in fact don't go to Church as often as I used to.

Some would hypothesize that this lack of desire is due to sin. But I am striving to keep the Commandments of God and the standards of the Church. Basically I relate with Goldarn's comment--I can parrot the "right" answers, but my frank questions tend to unsettle my teachers. And where are the frank questions coming from? From the MoHo experience--seeing and feeling first-hand the very things that inspire "probing questions" in the first place, questions that many other members have little cause to ask or fret over.

In short, while I do have a desire to be close to God, as Scott pointed out, I am not sure that means I will always be as close to the Church.

Quinn said...

I'm probably one of those blogs that is following the church... (at least I hope that's how it comes across). I tend to make my voice loud, and most importantly clear.

I wonder if there are more in my situation who choose to not blog...??

I learned something about Enos a month ago I never knew. He wasn't a horrible evil sinner. He was a prophet, who like all of us, need God's help and needed to cleanse himself of sins. That really opened my eyes to see him in a new light.

robert said...

Have you ever known of a gay person who was not already IN the LDS church seek to become a member?

Quinn said...

I have known a few, yes.