Honestly, I'm not even really sure how to start it – where to begin – by what manner I can hope to have this make enough sense for anyone to understand where I am and how I got here. A lot of it doesn’t even make sense to me. If I hadn’t just experienced it, I doubt I would believe it. But I did. And I do. Just like Joseph,
Which—before I even get into it—I should mention that word, “condemnation.” What I have just lived leaves me wondering how the hell I’ll ever get anyone else to understand it or see the way I see. I am bracing myself for the confusion, the recoil, and the controversy that will surely swirl around this assertion of myself and who I have decided to be, yet do not wholly know how much I can prepare myself for the backlash that will invariably wound me.
“I have actually [experienced this]; and who am I that I can withstand God or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually [lived]? For I had [experienced this]; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (JSH 1:25).
With my recent discontentment on Prop8, I resolved to speak to my uncle—not the uncle I was having problems with (that’s a different Cali uncle), but the one who’s helped me so much in the past. Surely if anyone would understand Prop 8, if anyone could help me know where to go and what to say to respond to my other uncle, if anyone would be able to assist me in communicating with my parents, it was to be this uncle. How right I was.
And how sorely, sorely wrong at the same time.
Interestingly, on this trip to visit him my uncle called me a few hours beforehand to tell me a family friend had called and wanted to take them out to dinner and he invited me along; to which I readily agreed. We went to dinner at a Japanese restaurant. The food was pretty good, but I wasn’t overly hungry since I’d eaten lunch out with Vi, and had breakfast out also.
Somehow Prop 8 came up. I cringed. Felt sick. Got quiet. Didn’t know what to do. The friend’s kids asked about it and the dad emphatically said, “The prophet said we need to support it. That’s all you need to worry about.” Really? Could it be that easy? That mindless? That unthinking? What about reason? The role of agency? Weighing? The opportunity to check your spiritual moorings? Shouldn’t this be just a bit more complicated than he was making it?
I sure thought so. I made that clear with an email opposing Prop 8 sent to people in OTR's ward when they said the same thing:
"I appreciate your sense of duty and activism regarding this issue, but as OTR pointed out, this is killing people we love and I cannot stand for that. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to feel? I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know it is true, and as much as I wish it wasn't sometimes so that this wouldn't be so hard, here I am. Do any of you even understand what it is like to have the same faith that is the source of joy and peace overwhelming you with anxiety and sorrow? No, I don't think so. I'm being asked to support a cause which will only compound those feelings among people who are gay. This type of rhetoric in my opinion further encourages hate and discrimination. I know the Church officially discourages these types of behaviors and I wholeheartedly agree with them, but something has to be said for how the members act and why they apparently feel that it is okay to treat others in the hateful and disrespecful ways that they sometimes do." (The full email is available upon request, but is way too long to include in full, especially with how long this post already is).Dinner ended up being taxing on me, and not just because of Prop 8. That man, who I’m sure is loved and respected by my uncle seemed to me nothing more than a bad father and it was torture to watch him and listen to him interact with and mistreat his children. His son confessed that he’d seen the new Batman movie and he father demanded to know how. He evaded the question and his father asserted his authority, “Answer the question right now, son.” He confessed he’d seen the movie downloaded from the internet. His father replied, “That’s illegal. A sin.” I just listened, said nothing. They harped on their kids for their grades as well, because they weren’t doing well enough. Well, I wonder why not. The kid wasn’t even failing. He just didn’t have A’s.
When that bout of torture ended, another began. My uncle was sitting in the living room and I went down there and he said the time was mine, he had no plans. I asked could we go upstairs, since my 17-year old cousin was there; it wasn’t particularly something I wanted to discuss with her around. He agreed and we went upstairs. I felt nervous like anytime I have a serious, somewhat awkward conversation – how do you just ease into something like that?
So I asked him how he was and he chatted a minute to update me on his life. He took the bait, and asked me how I was. I spouted off about work, about OTR; pretty much everything being great. Oh yeah, except Church. The one place that’s supposed to uplift me, that’s supposed to help me, to heal me, makes me feel like hell. Mostly when they bring up Prop 8. I launched into my feelings on Prop 8, and all the Grassroots work going into it. I told my uncle that this was hurtful, even when/if it didn’t seem like it.
My uncle is incredible, and I hate when he asks questions, because I never have good answers for them. He started by talking about when he thinks. Oddly, the best time for him to think about things is apparently when he is plugged into his ipod and mowing the lawn. Anyway, he’d been thinking the other day about all he’s seen in the course of his life, and then recounted to me many of the things he’s been through in his life, including where he was the day blacks were authorized to receive the priesthood. One of the most significant events for him was the proclamation on the family, which will be celebrating its 13th year this September. Essentially Prop 8 revolves around the proclamation, and the declaration that marriage is between a man and a woman. My mom tried to say that Prop 8 was about defining marriage, I felt it was about restricting agency. My uncle said it was about the family. He then asked me why God created the family? He exists without beginning or end, has been around forever, and has progressed far beyond any of us. So why did he, in his infinite wisdom, in his eternal love, and in his omniscient understanding, create the family? I didn’t have a ready answer. There are many I think. To give kids an environment to grow and become stronger in, to learn to support someone else, and love them more than yourself, to be able to relate to and struggle with other people, the list goes on and on.
My uncle’s answer was Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” This are clearly not the same thing, or they would not be listed together. Immortality = never ending. Eternal life doesn’t. It’s a kind of title. I’m not going to go into the whole proof here, but basically Eternal can be equated with God, so Eternal Life can be understood to mean a life like God’s. God’s life. Never ending life like God. Well how do you achieve that?
Lorenzo Snow felt he understood this achievement when he declared, “As man is, God once was; As God is, man may be” (See Q&A #2)
To achieve his design, his plan, his purpose, you have to have qualities like him. Do you really understand what that means? To be like him? We all understand physical differences between men and woman. But God made man and God made woman. Different designs. He has wisdom, knowledge...trust?
My uncle then likened this achievement to being a part of a grand institution which has prescribed requirements for belonging. IBM, apple, the LDS church, all prescribe ways of living and being to be in harmony with their designated policies. Everybody has to fit inside the box, whether its a group, an organization, or an entire society. My feelings were, I want to. I love my church. I want to fit, I want to be worthy, I want to be righteous, but HOW do I achieve that? How do I change what doesn’t fit to do so? This reminded me of Peculiar Mormon’s old blog entry:
How do you walk that line and not be suicidal? How do you endure that much, for that long?
"I had 'the talk' with Mom this morning before we went to the temple. I'm so sick of crying. I told her how I feel about life right now: that I'm walking on a knife-edge, and I'm damned if I fall either way."
"Right now/knife edge=living celibate...not getting in trouble...only problem is that I feel like I'm really walking the figurative knife...and my feet are cut so badly. I fall to the left, and I live the lifestyle. Maybe I'm damned for eternity for rejecting the gospel, and maybe I actually end up miserable in this life...but from the experience I've had in the past year, going towards that side is the only relief I've had from this blatant self-hatred. To my left is continuing to "fake it" but I won't "make it," I don't feel. If I keep on grinding myself against the wall that is the church, looking for some hole to squeeze through and find my salvation, I'm going to grind myself to paste before finding anything. And by grinding myself to paste, I mean killing myself.
"So it's spiritual death, or physical death...and we only live once. There's not point to living miserably...right? I suppose I could try to live "happy," but I never really know how over the guilt I'd entirely be able to get. That, and the eternal "what if's." Then what if I end up killing myself. I know, I know, cop out. Thing is, I'm scared of effecting more people negatively. I'm scared of the negative influence or affect that I have on anything. I don't want to damage anything else. It might sound like it's ridiculous, but you know how it's not considered murder if it's in war? Or how it's murder to shed "innocent blood?" I don't see myself as innocent blood. Sure my homosexuallity isn't something that I picked, but I feel like it's made me tarnished...impure and imperfectable. I'm hoping that when I do die, I'll be able to fall down at God's feet, and just cry, and hope that I'm enough...hope that I'll be able to be raised up, and hugged, and told "yes, you did well. You're enough, now take some rest. You've done enough." I guess I'm hoping there'll be some sort of grace for my huge faults. I can hope."
My uncle chalked this up to identity, that I didn’t know who I was. Needless to say, I was pretty offended by such an assertion. He’s been onboard with my journey for quite awhile, and you’d think that I know who I am. Since October, without looking back, I have moved steadily and actively forward – I love me, and I’m happy. I have no qualms. I know who I am, and I love it. Where is the conflict in that? Where is the identity confusion? He said he heard me saying I want more than anything to be in the church, but something prevents that, and he asked what. I wasn’t sure how to answer that either so I replied that it was my gayness, and he emphasized that he felt strongly I was trying to live in both worlds. I was a little taken aback with that too, especially since it reminded me so much of my dad.
I was determined to prove my Father wrong. I would be the first. I would find balance where no one else had. I tried it, and it didn’t work. I’d thought I resolved it. But here it was again? The biggest and hardest thing for me at that moment was that it seemed my uncle was saying basically there really is NO place for gays in our church. Seriously. So much for love and understanding! I was pretty much flabbergasted at his response.
Journal Excerpt August 21, 2006: “After reading my essay (my original thoughts on being gay, which was what CLP read and used for No More Goodbyes), I asked my dad what he thought. He said, ‘Well, I’m analyzing (which he wasn’t supposed to do), but it seems like you are trying to have one foot in both places, and that doesn’t work.’ Then he said, ‘But if I say anything else, I’ll be fixing, so I guess I can’t.’ That made me smile. It also struck me. Can someone explain to me that if my life is so completely based on achieving balance, why THIS is the one place I CAN NEVER HAVE IT?! That doesn’t make ANY sense to me! It makes me mad too! WHY NOT???” (vol VII.A, p. 2).
He then went back to Moses 1: 4-9. Here God tells Moses three things:
1. Moses is a Son of God.
2. As his son, Moses is in the similitude of Christ.
3. Christ is full of grace and truth.
In the Bible Dictionary under grace, it says:
Likewise, in D&C 93:24, truth is defined as: “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (p. 182). So understanding these pieces helps you see that you too have a work. What is it? "What is my work?" he asked. I responded, “I believe it’s to help other people. To help them learn and grow and understand and be strong. Change the world in little ways that make big differences.”
“It is through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.” (BD, p. 697).
He went back to verse 7 in Moses: “And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee” (p. 2). Again. God told Moses who he was. Understanding this is VITAL. Who are you vs. who do you want to be? When are you going to make that choice? Take that step? Have that resolve?
My uncle brought up the covenants I made in the temple, asking me a question he’d asked previously: “Do they matter anymore? Do I still believe in them? I said I would be obedient, I would sacrifice, live the gospel, be chaste, and consecrate my time and talents. Am I honoring those covenants? Am I keeping my word? Being true to self?"
I was reeling at this point with the questioning of my identity and who I am. Temple. Promises. Self. Which self? What self? Who self? Do I know who I am? I thought I made a decision to move forward with the church last October. I resolved my identity and moved forward. Maybe not? AGH.
All that aside, what I needed most from him was counsel on how to approach my family. I told him about my other uncle and the family newsletter where his activism for Prop 8 was creeping in, and how I felt obligated to respond. But how did I go about that without throwing bullets?
He asked me do I determine what they think and do? No. Who does? They do. And myself? Who is responsible for what I think and do? Me, of course. Right. The responsibility lies within each of us. I can’t think their thoughts, can’t determine how they will react or think, or be.
He reasserted understanding Christ’s enabling power, that he can do anything and I just sat there baffled feeling like my uncle whom I trust and love was telling me to have more faith and believe more that Jesus could heal me and I could get over being gay. Was this conversation really happening?
He then said, “To get peace you have to get perspective.” I immediately thought, what perspective? Change it to what? Believing I’m not gay? That I have just been deceived/confused by Satan about who I am? That these feelings aren’t more powerful than anything I’ve ever felt? Incredible.
He quoted the scripture, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He told me to pray to know the answers, to know what to say, and to be ultimately responsible for it.
Throughout, my uncle brought up his recent girl’s camp experience where they’d done an iron rod exercise with the girls. They had to wear blindfolds and were told, “Don’t let go of the rod ever.” There was a part where the rod went down some stairs and people were positioned there to say, “Hey, there’s steps here. Just give me your hands for a second and I can help you down.” He was amazed at how many people let go to take the hands and the help...abandoning the rod. They had to take off their blindfolds, go meet with the bishop, and then he could reinstate them on the rod, but they didn’t get their blindfolds back. Those who stayed on kept going, and came to a point where their blindfolds came off as well. Ron’s commentary on this was that at the very end he could no longer tell who had let go and who hadn’t. God treats all fairly and equitably.
My uncle had been up since 4am and was pretty much falling asleep as the conversation went on, so he decided to leave it as it was, and give me time to think; we’d talk again tomorrow. I was left wondering, wanting, and feeling sicker than I had in a very, very long time. What had he just told me? Had he helped me? Why didn’t any of that make sense? I had no words, just a pit in my stomach... how did I begin to make sense of what I’d just heard? The only word I could come up with was staggering. I was staggering.
I had to get away from there. Now. I said I was going for a walk to think about things and called OTR to come get me. She came over and we drove away, deciding to drive the 50 minutes up to the Lick Observatory which we'd talked of doing, but had decided against.
I told her how I felt: Shaken, staggering, reeling, I had no words. I didn’t know what to think, what to feel, how to respond. I was totally at a loss. I told her I thought I was ready to vote yes on Prop 8. I was also more ready to leave the church than ever before. I expected her to freak out about me changing my mind but she voiced that she’d received a prompting about 2 hours earlier telling her when I came back that’s what I’d be feeling. Interesting. She said neither of those made sense, but to me, yes they did. You cannot have both. There is no place for gays inside this church. Voting no on Prop 8 and being a Mormon don’t match up. There is dissidence there people are sweeping under the rug. There’s conflict there people are ignoring. And I couldn’t anymore.
The drive was frustrating beyond belief but I tried again and again to make sense of my conversation. OTR made a very poignant comment and everything clicked for me. I am amazed and flabbergasted that I could be here: “Voting no on prop 8 is easier.” What the f...yes. Yes, it is. It’s just like the people who take the prop at face value, and say, “Prophet said, that’s all I need.” Here, I am taking the stance that this is hurting my friends, it’s hurting me, so I’m voting no. And I breathed in sharply and deeply and couldn’t believe that I could ever be here. That I could ever act like this. That I could ever be so freaking strong. She also continually brought up the fact that when she feels like she did then, she wants to run out and do something bad; she wants to sin on purpose, but knows she never will.
I then likened my place to my decision in October to stay with the church. I know who I am, I’m not confused about my identity, I’m not lost in conflict; I know who I am, and I recognize my attraction for men, and I CHOOSE something different, because that’s how much my testimony matters and how much this church means to me. I fulfill the scripture: “[Obedience] is better than sacrifice” (Samuel 15:22) and I stomach the pain and heartache not having what I want brings, because I choose to want the gospel more. And so now on Prop 8. I realize that I want to vote no with all my heart. I want to oppose it, I want marriage equality, I don’t want anyone to be hurt ever by ignorance and misunderstanding and prejudice, and... I choose my church. Damn my faith. Damn my resolve. Damn my testimony! I never in a million years would have imagined being able to be in a place like this. I am ready to vote yes on prop 8 because the apostles have spoken, I have made covenants, I have reasoned, weighed, and now exercise my agency to show that I have an unshakable testimony that matters to me more than anything else I have. And I’m NOT okay with that! The knots tighten, my tension mounts, and I am drowning in my new understanding.
Staggering. In the other direction. Not only will I not let go of the rod, but now I fear that I may grip it so tightly I will break it. People aren’t supposed to understand like this, aren’t supposed to accept like this...dear God in Heaven, I understand but now in only a matter of moments I have taken a complete 180. I understand and I accept and I believe, but this positions me opposite everyone I love most: my friends and family who understood where I stood before. How in my mission to foster love and understanding do I ever explain this? How would anyone ever understand that faith can be THIS powerful? I’m ready to vomit, and I don’t know how the hell to even start to vocalize this to someone I now call friend who is gay. How to tell my brother who was behind me all the way that I’m now on the same side as my parents, that I don’t want to fight my uncle in California anymore. I want to vote no on prop 8 with every fiber of my being, just like I want to be able to no longer believe in the church that has given me everything... and just can’t. I can’t do it.
This to me is why people leave. This to me is why marriages end. This to me is why I am always alone. Because people’s faith doesn’t run as deep as mine – I didn’t even know faith like this was possible. People just aren’t meant to hack faith like this. They aren’t. It makes me want to stand up to every single person confronting homosexuality and say, run. Turn now, and just run. Get away from the church before your belief in it is so strong and so powerful and so uncanny it’s almost like being enslaved. To truth. What the hell is wrong with me...?
This is what I meant at the beginning: condemnation. The misunderstanding—in the other direction—begins here. To be criticized as a sell-out, a traitor, a turncoat. To hear that I have been brainwashed, that I have been deceived by sly Mormons. Just as in 3rd Nephi when the prophets could not write what it was like when Jesus spoke to them, I cannot in my finiteness begin to expound how I am feeling right now. I tried and tried and tried to OTR. She didn’t get it. Over and over and over she didn’t get it. How do you explain that you agree so wholeheartedly with her saying that voting no on prop 8 is easier that it has taken you to an entirely new and foreign plain of understanding and realization that she cannot hope to join you on because she has not walked your path, not been where you are, and has not formed spiritual moorings like yours? OTR started crying and lamenting feeling like she was left behind. I tacitly and tactfully tried to explain to her that she was being selfish. How dare her try and join me every step of my journey! That’s really how I saw it. She has not walked where and how I have. Yes, there are things she could share, but I have reached and done things she is just approaching in her own self journey. While she strives to love herself, I can join her, for I have walked that road. We go hand in hand and I help her every way I can, so that she feels safe and comfortable and able to continue forward. But when I, far beyond her, take another step into the darkness, and she tries to make an impossible leap to join me, I collapse to my knees.
She is not strong enough, she’s not ready, how do I make her see that she is trying to eschew her limits and attempt a feat that I do not believe she can achieve right now? I suddenly decided that I never should have involved her, never should have tried to bring her along with me, and I needed to leave her behind, which hurt her even more. Either way led to her getting hurt. If I tried to bring her with me into my new understanding and lean on her, I would break her. I know she struggles in her testimony with things like pre-mortal life, and especially life after death. Her testimony is not ready to handle such a beating. I lean on her, and I break her. So I have to leave her. I call this protecting her, but am I just being selfish in my own wickedly twisted right? I have discovered an incredible, baffling strength I never imagined in any right would come to bear as being part of myself, and I jealously don’t want her to share in it?
Language, words, explanation fail me. I am shattered, broken, everywhere. I put myself quickly and forcefully back together, understanding with never before achieved comprehension, but my finiteness prevents me from sharing that with anyone. I did not know I was ready, that this was possible, but it is and I am. I am so strong it’s magnificent and frightening. How do you come to a place where you are ready to oppose everything you moments ago stood for? Does this count as a type of transfiguration? Is that presumptuous? Lofty? Self-righteous? I don’t know any other words in our vocabulary that can reach what I am feeling.
The simple explanation is that my dad and now my uncle were right – there is NO PLACE for homosexuality in this church. This is absolutely confounding. It’s so simple to say and yet it is so so so infinitely more complicated than that! God designed the family and he made man and woman to fit together in perfect unity and harmony and I get that, and I’m willing to follow it, without even attempting to understand how the f**k I reconcile my attractions and actually DO it.. I don’t believe any more than I did yesterday that the way I feel is changeable or that this is a choice. But I wonder if my uncle and so many others continue to bombard with the simplest of messages because it contains locked within it the greatest, most complex, astounding understanding. *You are a child of God.* If you REALLY understand that – on a level where again, language, word, and explanation fall short, then that is the trump card. That is the card that overpowers, dominates, subsumes, extricates everything else. I am a son of God, and that’s the first thing God told Moses, and the last thing I fully capt. Somehow, some way I cannot give meaning to, really seeing how far that goes, how deep that is... it makes nothing else matter. My attractions, my inklings, my desires don’t matter when I understand my divinity. Again, I expect criticism, confusion, and maybe even outrage at my new place, my new position, my new (old?) self. Have I just pierced the veil by the tiniest fraction with my understanding? Or have I plummeted into a new depth or self-deceit disguised as sure truth?
How? How do you get others to see this? To understand this? To be able to ACCEPT this? I have taken a huge step, but I feel like to do it, so much just got left behind in the blink of an eye and now I don’t know how to recuperate that. What do I do to stop and pick up the people who just got hit with a wall of bricks and are now recoiling, crying, hurting...in many cases against me...when I just had their hands seconds earlier?
I have no answers, no hope, no iota of elucidative power.
I balk like Nephi of old: “And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Ne. 11:17)
“[I] don’t know everything, but [I] know enough.” (Neil L. Andersen, October 2008 General Conference, Saturday Morning Session)
That “enough” can be eternally frightening...but I do not worry about the future and the details. Only the now. And that I am strong. And continuing to move forward even though I may be more confused than I have ever been before.
I do not believe in easier. And it makes me want to cry. Really, really, really hard. Hold me.