Sunday, March 28, 2010

My spiritual state

A couple of weeks ago a young man, who was leaving to serve a mission, spoke in church.  I know this young man well, having been his youth adviser.  As he spoke the thought occurred to me - wondering if I will still be sitting there in church when he returns back home in 2 years.  As I sat there pondering that thought, my eyes started to well up and tears started to trickle down my cheek - upon the realization of the possibility that I may no longer be an active member of the LDS church within two years.

I really do not have any desire to leave the LDS church.  In fact, it saddens me to even think about it.  Over all the church has been good for me and my family. But the harsh reality is that the path that I am on no longer lines up with that of the LDS church.

The obvious answer is that I should repent - that is, I should make adjustments in my life so as to get back in line with the LDS church. But, that's easier said than done.  The LDS church teaches that the first step in the repentance process is to recognize that you have sinned; and, I just can't seem to get past that first step.  Mind you, I'm not trying to claim that I don't make mistakes.  But in the events that have led up to me being on a diverging path - I just don't see where I've made some sort of grand error.

About 3-1/2 years ago I finally ended a lifetime of denial and accepted the fact that I am gay - and that set into motion a series of events that brought me to where I am today, including starting this blog, making new friends, and reexamining where I stood on gay related issues.

During this same time period, the LDS church took steps to solidify where it stands on gay issues.  They released a pamphlet telling me that God loves me and that it's OK to be gay - so long as I don't have gay sex, don't think about gay sex, don't exhibit gay mannerisms or flaunt my gay characteristics and don't have gay friends.  And, while not specifically addressed in said pamphlet, they really do not want me to call myself 'gay' - preferring that I 'struggle with same gender attraction'.

On the issue of gay marriage:  I started out opposing gay marriage but supported civil unions - and I've evolved into being a firm supporter of gay marriage.  While the LDS church has made it abundantly clear that they consider gay marriage to be the biggest threat to 'traditional' (i.e. male/female) marriage in the world today.  They have also claimed that societal acceptance of gay marriage threatens their free speech right to oppose it.

The bottom line is:  The LDS church and I just don't see eye to eye anymore.  With mormonism being an "all or nothing" sort of religion - that's a problem, a very big problem.  Once I start questioning the LDS church in some things, it leads me to question it in other areas as well.  For example, how do I resolve an account of the creation that puts the world at a few thousand years old with scientific evidence that it is, in fact, millions of years old?  Gender is supposed to be an eternal characteristic; so, what about those who are born with both male and female genitalia and whose gender is "assigned" by doctors?

On the subject of gay marriage, consider two hypothetical situations
A) A gay male couple have been together for years and live in a committed monogamous loving relationship
B) A heterosexual couple get married in Vegas in a drunken stupor
According to LDS teachings, God is OK with couple B having sex but not couple A.  I'm sorry, but I just don't buy it.  It does not compute.  As I ponder this in my mind, the LDS position only gives me stupor of thought.

Don't get me wrong, I still think the LDS church, overall, is a force for good in the world.  I fully support its commitment to family - where we disagree is what constitutes a family.

Nor am I suggesting that my leaving the LDS church is a foregone conclusions - I'm just saying that the path that I am on is diverging from that of the LDS church and, if nothing changes, eventual separation will be the logical outcome.  I also realize that if anything is to change this direction - it will have to be with me as it is highly unlikely I will see any major changes in the LDS church philosophy in my lifetime.

There is a difference between doing what is right and doing what is easy.  The easy thing would be for me to reject my own thoughts and feelings and just accept the LDS church, and what it says, at face value.  The easy thing would be to go back to my old life - living in denial.  But is that the right thing to do?  Or, is the right thing to follow my heart?

Most TBM's (True Believing Mormon's) would tell me that I've got this backwards - that the easy thing would be for me to follow my own feelings and that the difficult path would be to follow the church - but those people do not know me!  They have not walked in my shoes.  They do not understand my commitment to my own family.  In many ways, going back to my old way of thinking - pretending that this gay thing was just a phase, a mid-life crisis - would be the easy thing to do.  But, could I look at myself in the mirror every morning?

I continue going through the motions.  I attend church every week, I sing in the choir, I stay after the block of meetings to help put away chairs and clean up the building.  In private I abstain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea, I abstain from eating two meals on Fast Sunday.  We pray together (although private prayers and scripture reading have gone by the wayside).  My wife, who handles our finances, writes a tithing check every month which I give to the bishop.  From all outward appearances I am a good Mormon - but only in body, not in spirit.

My heart yearns to worship with others who will accept me for who I really am - not who I pretend to be.  I want to commune with brothers and sisters whom I don't have to worry about making unkind and untrue homophobic comments and who don't consider my very existence to be a threat to their families and way of life.

I'm tired of sitting in a crowded room - and feeling all alone.

16 comments:

Ned said...

So here's a thought to try on, Abe:

While you are sitting in your meeting feeling alone, think of the others who in this worldwide Moho community are also sitting in their meetings, or have been or will be on any given Sunday.

If only one half of one percent of the church's 13,508,509 members of record are in our shoes, that's still a staggering 542,545 others like Abelard, Ned, Serendipity, Beck, Christian, etc., who are also sitting in their meetings, hearing very similar things to the things you're hearing.

With varying degrees of belief and commitment, with broken hearts or hearts of gratitude (or most likely combinations of things that leave a heart both full and empty at the same time) they too are taking the sacrament or refraining from it. They too are hearing the prayers and talks and lessons and saying (or not saying) their amens.

So as you attend, my dear Abe, whether full of faith or doubt, you are not alone. I am with you. So is Beck. So are so many others. (Yes we may be a few miles away in distance, but we can be close to your heart.)

We're not in church because we or the church are without flaw, but we go and we hope that there will be something or someone to lift us, or that we will have an opportunity to lift another, and on many a Sunday we are immediately blessed in this regard.

Big Beck-like hugs, my brother!

Troy said...

Hugs to you Abe!

playasinmar said...

I need to know you understand the celestial reprecussions of what you are saying:

You are saying that you, Abe, may soon recieve a kiss...

...and like it!

Anonymous said...

I think that you may not feel so alone if you would take out time every day for yourself to pray, and read the scriptures, and do it consistently. I notice a difference in my life when I am doing that vs not doing it. It works.

Reina said...

((((((HUGS))))))You put into words exactly the struggle that I think many of us face. I think that much of what you said applies to ANY person who has struggled with and questioned the church.

The challenge seem to be deciding whether or not the good that you can see inside of the church outweighs the cognitive dissonance that you feel.

me said...

I agree with Ned on this one. He hit it eactly right on. And, I agree with anonymous, too, that reading scriptures and praying every day helps. They are the two things that HELP me make it through each day.

And, I agree with Beck's comment from a post or so ago, to keep on trying to become a math teacher. We need good male math teachers and you would be GREAt! You could share your photography with them, and your life experiences, and how you used math in your other work.

love always! slp

wreddyornot said...

I lurk regularly, hopefully in no dark way. I'm mostly curious to see the phenomenon of this issue in your life develop and play out on a personal level, but also as I see it in the wider context of Mormonism.

I wondered and worried at your recent lapse in making more regular entries. I couldn't help speculating about it. Although I am not directly impacted by the Church's position relative to homosexuality since I'm straight, I am nonetheless impacted by it because of matters of conscience and the whisperings of the spirit as to it over against Church policy and practice.

Your anticipation of a potential separation saddens me, although in reading about it I can see in myself this very same alienation, although in very different ways. Plus, I see it's evolution effecting my perception over against other ecclesiastical issues. However, I have no intention of leaving the Church, even if the Church chooses to leave me. I do see myself exercising my own form of internal dissent relative to this issue, however, effective or ineffective, subtle or more provocative.

So bottom line: you and others facing your trials should know of others like me who try to empathize and stand with you. I am so sorry the road is so rough. I hope we can get it repaired and repaved and better maintained. If not, my belief is still at least we're on it, heading for a better place.

D-Train said...

I have had these same exact thoughts as you have had. I think the thing that I agree with most, is that it is easiest to just keep "playing along." Certainly I did not have as much invested in that religion as you do (no wife and kids), but the easiest thing for me was to keep living the lie. The hardest thing and the most rewarding thing I have ever done is leave Mormonism.

Best wishes to you in your journey.

El Genio said...

"I want to commune with brothers and sisters whom I don't have to worry about making unkind and untrue homophobic comments and who don't consider my very existence to be a threat to their families and way of life."

I think a moho ward is what it would take to get me to come back at this point. Pretty unlikely.

Beck said...

I went to a stake priesthood leadership meeting yesterday morning. The whole time I sat there wondering why I was there, that I didn't fit, that what was being said was so generic and of no value, and I left unfed and feeling quite apathetic. I just didn't care!

I went to the block meetings later and a couple of brothers overwhelmed me with hugs and real concern for me (especially from last week's priesthood temper-tantrum)and I began to feel not just the "going through the motions" brotherhood, or the "playing along", but something more. I began to feel something...

Then, I remember something Ned challenged me to do - reach out to someone that needed my hug, my touch, my "hello" in a genuine and authentic way (no "playing along". This thought consumed me.

During Sacrament Meeting, I prayed for inspiration to know who to touch, to be prompted and to have the courage to act on the prompting. After the meeting, I lingered, I received impressions, I responded, I hugged, and then it was like they were lining up (mostly older sisters, but some brothers, too...) It was incredible - a huge hug fest! What a different feeling and change of spirit from the morning's leadership meeting.

I'm not sure why I'm sharing this or exactly how it is applicable, but it is what it is.

Sometimes just "keep, keepin' on" is enough. Sometimes it isn't. Just as you were "there" to slam the door behind you for ME, remember that I am "there" for you!

Big hugs to you, too.

That Guy said...

Abe, hang in there.

Go back to reading your scriptures and individual prayers. I think it will help.

Because lets face it...if you leave the Mormon church you'd just be a Ho, not a MoHo ;)

-That Guy

GeckoMan said...

Abe, know that I'm sitting there in Sacrament & Priesthood meetings with you, sometimes feeling like I'm on the outside looking in. I too may not endure with the homophobic rhetoric or hardline actions of church leaders, especially if impacts me in unacceptable ways. Leaving is always an option.

But I seriously doubt I'll be out of the church in two years. Here's why--I love the Lord and I love the people of his church. I know the priesthood is real, which is the one thing in my experience with the church that uniquely empowers and distinguishes us from the rest of our good Christian brothers and sisters. The other reason I don't see myself leaving is the repeated feeling I've received to not get all twisted up over things I don't really have all the answers to. People are not perfect in their understanding or living of the Gospel, and forgiveness is a virtue to be practiced, not philosophied with. The Spirit whispers to me to not over-complicate my church life with frustration and throw the baby out with the bathwater. The words of Paul ring true to this direction, "Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." There are also many wonderful passages to be searched for in the Bood of Mormon where prophets plead the same sentiment.

Last month I took a few steps to change my feelings of estrangement--it was time to renew my temple recommend. I informed my Bishop and Stake Presidency of the change of heart I'm feeling. How can church leaders begin a shift of attitude led by the Spirit, if they're in a vacuum of experience with faithful self-professed gay members? They need faces and hearts to connect the dots, to make it more than just 'us versus them.' So my action was a calculated risk and it was hard coming square, but I did my best. I offered my broken heart and the sadness I feel because of the Church's position of little tolerance with anything 'Gay.' As another lone voice in the wilderness, I'll just wait and see if my words go anywhere. I actually found my local leaders to be open and sympathetic and affirming of who I was as an individual.

I serve as the ward music chairman in my ward. I love to sing and love the music of the church. I lead the choir. Over the past year I feel I've made a difference in music appreciation within my ward. Hopefully I've begun to change attitudes concerning music--that it is a vital form of our worship and spiritual experience. I've worked with the Young Men on conducting, and have born my testimony to them about the power of music when embraced by the Spirit, as a form of personal revelation. If I weren't acting in my ward with the talents I've been given, to effect such change of heart towards music, things would probably just continue to slog along in mediocrity and with little affect on the lives of members. The Lord uses those of us with a purpose and willing hearts to turn the hearts of others. Stepping out of the circle means one less tool in the Lord's hand to help his saints to become 'of one heart and one mind.'

Abe, find your heart and give it away in the best ways you can. The Lord and others need your humble influence and talents.

Anonymous said...

Abe,

I'm not a particularly religious person so keep that in mind.

After coming out, I experienced several years of questioning my beliefs and experimenting with my beliefs,

Afterwards, I found I still pretty much held the same beliefs I always had except I had expanded my beliefs to include gay people.

The litmus test became whether I was treating people the same regardless of their orientation.

And the only time I made exceptions to my values was when the playing field was not level and I found myself having to look at things on a case by case basis.

I have been accused of being prideful and a "cafeteria Catholic" but what others think of me concerns me less than my relationship with God and being able to live with my actions and decisions afterwards.

Regards,
Philip

Kengo Biddles said...

Abe, part of me wants to talk with you at length about this, because some of your concerns seem more based in the local religious climate (creation, for example) than others.

And I'm not diminishing your concerns - I think you're right to have them, but I'd love to visit with you, see if my perspective on things help.

I think we all struggle with feelings of distance from the church, and I think we all have to work toward unity of faith (and I mean, ALL, as in, not just the MoHo community.

J G-W said...

I guess my take on this would be...

Why do you have to be on the same track as the majority of Mormons -- especially on an issue as contentious as gay marriage -- in order to love them?

Why aren't you entitled to feel and think what you feel and think, and to be what you are? Isn't building Zion all about different people becoming one?

If others don't love us the way they should, shouldn't we still try to love them the way we know we ought?

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Ugh...I feel sorry for you, Abe, because I'm going through many of these same emotions -- and it sucks. Hang in there, Brother Enigma :)