Friday, June 4, 2010

A voice from the past

My daughter called me recently.  Seems she is giving a talk in sacrament meeting on Fathers Day; and, she wanted to talk about my conversion to the LDS church.  During the course of the conversation I mentioned that I had written a detailed account of my conversion in my journal and would make a copy to send to her.  Locating and copying said story afforded me a chance to reread it
[after my 1st discussion with the missionaries]
I took a long walk on the way home.  I was lonely and frightened, yet I felt contented.  I recognized that what I had been told was truth; I also recognized that I could never again be the same.  I knew that a change would have to take place in me - and I was very reluctant to change.  I was afraid to take the second discussion because I knew that it would verify the feelings.  But I was even more afraid not to continue because I knew that I could could not let this out of my grasp.

[after my baptism]
Being a member of the Lords church means everything to me.  I now have something more valuable than anything else in the world.
Whatever became of that lonely and scared 18 year old from so many years ago?

That young 18 year old man child was gay. He knew it deep within his heart at the time - but he was afraid to admit it, even to himself.  The very thought of being gay was the most horrible thing he could imagine.  This was his ticket to a hetero-normal life.  He immersed himself in his new found beliefs.  He was like a sponge soaking up everything he could get his hands on.  Just a few months after he was baptized he even made the fateful decision to serve a full time mission for the church - something that his family was dead set against.  But, he was determined - he needed to do whatever it took so that God would look upon him with favor and take these feelings away.

It would take him three more decades before he could finally accept the real truth and utter the dreaded g-word in reference to himself.

Now, as an middle aged man, who has more years behind him than ahead, he sits at a crossroad - again feeling lonely and frightened.  He reflects on the decisions he made:  To get married - to a woman, to raise a family, to continue to be actively involved in a religion that has since become his way life.  He once believed that if he exercised enough faith then God would take away those awful and shameful thoughts and feelings - for men.  But God let him down.

Just as he once recognized truth when he was 18 - he again recognizes another truth.  He knows without a shadow of doubt that it's OK for a man to love another man - even to consummate such love in a sexual relationship.  It's not bad or evil or shameful - it's just different.  It is beautiful - it can even be virtuous, lovely, and of good report and praiseworthy.  And, while he has no plans to change his status quo - he is OK with other gay men seeking after these things.

But, as a gay man, he also knows that the church, which he once held so precious, doesn't take too kindly to people like him.  Sure, there are words of love - words often tinged with conditions.  But, actions speak louder than words.  He hears his fellow saints refer to people like himself with a tone of disgust.  At best, his new found beliefs would be met with skepticism.  Many would brand him a heretic for daring to think such things. 

He questions those things which he once accepted as truth; but, what about those feelings from yesteryear where he just knew he had found truth?  What about those heartfelt testimonies he bore to others while serving a full time mission?  Can those be so cavalierly dismissed, like throwing junk mail into the trash?  If those things which he once held so dear are no longer true - how can he be certain of his new found beliefs?

Is truth not so rigid as he once believed?  Can truth evolve?  Can truth change?  How long can he hold onto this paradox - these conflicting truths?  Will one truth eventually dominate and consume the other?  Or is he destined to live with this paradox for the remainder of his days?

* * * * * * * *

Sometimes I miss that naive 18 year old boy on the road to manhood.  I miss being able to exercise pure and simple faith, like a child.  Some days I wish things could go back to the way they were.

But, alas, time marches forward.  Those days are long gone.  And now I am faced with an uncertain future - feeling like I have no where to turn for answers - wondering if the answers are even out there to begin with.


Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

Truth doesn't evolve. We evolve to understand Truth at a deeper level. Just as one cannot negate Truth or supplant one Truth with "new" Truth. For all Truth is circumscribed in one eternal whole and is inexcusably bound together.

The Truth 18yo Abe discovered is just as real an important as the Truth the middle aged Abe discovered about himself. Truth embraces Truth regardless of what others may say or believe. One cannot help that they are further along on the Path of Truth, we can only have empathy and sympathy for those less fortunate to have less than the complete Truth.

Rob said...

One of my favorite verses from one of my favorite books: "In much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." (Ecclesiastes 1:18).

And FWIW, I agree with Sean. Any Latter-day Saint who doesn't just pay lip service but really believes the 9th Article of Faith and the principle of continuing revelation must also agree that everyone's knowledge of truth will always grow and evolve. And that includes the Church as an institution.

I had this conversation with a friend yesterday, about how to resolve the conundrum between what his heart knows and what the Church tells him. Personally, I've resolved it as you have, Abe: recognizing that ultimately I'm responsible for me, for seeking inspiration for my own life, and if for whatever reason(s) the Church isn't there yet, or isn't ready, well I'm not going to wait for it or live my one chance in this life in fear because somebody else isn't ready to hear a truth that I'm ready for.

Beck said...

It's not either this or that truth. If it is truth, (and both of your examples are IMHO) it remains truth. And you need to live by BOTH until you acquire more truth... that is the real dilemma before you.

Bravone said...

Abe, as you may know, over the course of several years, I totally lost the faith of my youth. The past few years, I've had the blessing of building/reconstructing faith as an adult. My faith is actually much simpler and yet stronger than ever before.

Some things I once believed or took for granted, I no longer 'know' to be true. I am comfortable admitting that I don't have all the answers, and neither do Church leaders.

My new understanding of some truths requires me to exercise greater faith in my Father.

I understand sometimes longing for the faith of our youth, but invite you to find joy in new faith through a reconversion process.

GeckoMan said...

"But God let him down." Really?

I suspect you're saying this with great irony, realizing that your expectations of what God would do for you were fundamentally flawed, and now this 'truth' learned further down the path is kind of bittersweet. That is where I'm at. But as I see it, God has also held us up, given us great blessings of family, and He is still willing to let us decide what we do with our lives, loving us all the while. Can it get any better than that?

Anonymous said...

Aah- what happened to the MoHo directory? A lot of those blogs no longer exist, you can't tell which one has been updated- help?!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Abe. Whatever you did, MoHo directory has returned to how I knew it, loved it, and could use it. :) Thank you SO much!

Happy night!

Clive Durham said...

Your blog post could have been written by me. Like you, I joined the Church as a young man and found that my faith did not heal the yearning in my heart for intimacy with another man.

Over the years my testimony of the Gospel, like that of most people, has ebbed and flowed. I've come to the conclusion that while the Gospel is true, the Church sometimes is not.

The Lord reveals truth to each of us to the degree we are willing to receive it. This revelation comes to general authorities and other Church leaders in the same way it comes to the rest of Heavenly Father's children--through the still small voice of the Spirit.

If our leaders aren't willing to listen to the still small voice because of life experience, prejudice, lack of information, etc., they will not hear it even though they may be good men doing their best for all of us.

While I might accept their leadership, I am ultimately responsible for my own salvation and must exercise my agency accordingly.

My testimony of the nature of God, the mission of the Prophet, the spiritual value of the Book of Mormon, and man's divine potential is unshakable. At the same time, I may respectfully disagree with the programs and policies implemented by the Church to further the Gospel's cause.

For me, there is no conflict or moral dilemma. For me this approach has brought me peace.