Okay, so, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, I feel in my heart that certain things are true. For example, I believe in modern day revelation, in listening to the counsel of living prophets and Apostles. I believe in the Book of Mormon and the Bible as the word of God. I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and through Him I can be saved from my sins if I repent, or turn, unto Him.
At the same time, I am gay, I know it, and I have finally come to a point in my life where I can accept that. I don't suffer from any terrible malady except the misfortune to love unconventionally. And, in the way that we say things in the Church, I have a testimony of that, too.
So I come to a quandary, something that I knew would happen eventually in the future, but today I was faced with it on a more personal, direct level. It came in response to Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk during the Centennial Seminary Fireside, I think.
Now of course, we gay Mormons pay special attention to anything Elder Packer says, piecing it apart for references to our standing with the Church. In a very real way, he has become our prophet, the Apostle who represents us.
(I don't mean to include every gay Mormon in my statements of course. There are always exceptions to every blanket statement, but my point is that their has been a lot of discussion going on.)
I'm not like many who believe Elder Boyd K. Packer to be a homophobic old man, out of touch with reality. I think he has a very real grasp on reality, and that he aches in a very real way to bring comfort to us, comfort that he cannot give. All he can say is the official Church stance, and hope that that is enough.
Just so we are clear, I love being myself. I feel that being gay has blessed me with opportunities, abilities, talents- or rather that through the experience of being gay I have been blessed with these things- there is some kind of correlation going on- anyway, I accept myself, and I know that God loves me just the way I am.
So I have seen a couple of critical remarks about Elder Packer's statements, and I wanted to defend him in some way. I didn't feel that he was nearly as critical and homophobic as he could have been- scratch that, I felt that even if he thought what we are feeling is a sin (and their is no denying that he and the majority of the Church do feel that way), he has tried reaching out to us in the best way he knows how. It just hasn't been what we need.
So I felt like actually looking up the talk to see what he said... not the whole talk, just focus on the one issue that concerned me most. Most of what I heard concerned this statement:
We know that gender was set in the premortal world. “The spirit and the body are the soul of man.” This matter of gender is of great concern to the Brethren, as are all matters of morality.
A few of you may have felt or been told that you were born with troubling feelings and that you are not guilty if you act on those temptations. Doctrinally we know that if that were true your agency would have been erased, and that cannot happen. You always have a choice to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and live a morally pure and chaste life, one filled with virtue.
Now, I don't really see anything wrong with this statement if we look purely at what was said verses what we feel Elder Packer was implying. According to the Brethren, gender (which, it is implied, includes sexual orientation) was set in the premortal world. I don't have any problem with this, but of course I feel that gender is more complex than a mere male/female binary system. If it was so simple, all men and all women would be alike, and we are not so. This even plays out in our physical bodies, with some small percentage being born with both male and female sex organs. I don't have a problem with people who believe they are born the wrong sex either: sometimes people are born without legs, or with six fingers, or some such other phenomena. To me this is only to be expected in a mortal, imperfect world.
Maybe I'm wrong in feeling about gender this way, but if I am I am sure I will learn better eventually. The next part, about feelings that we have, is a little more complex, but I believe it essentially boils down to this: it doesn't apply to me. Why do I feel that way? Simple: "May have felt or been told you were born with troubling feelings". My feelings are many things, but they are not troubling. How I feel about my feelings is troubling, but that's a different matter. Also, I have no illusions that merely being born with an inclination to certain temptations allows me licence to sin. Sin is sin, no matter what circumstance. If such temptations did give a licence to sin, then agency would indeed not exist as we know it. Also, I find heartening the fact that even I, with my unconventional love, can aspire to follow the Holy Ghost and live the gospel, so that I can return to my Heavenly Father.
Now, I know that part of the reason so many were outraged is because they were concerned for the gay youth who heard those words, "and their delicate hearts were pierced as with many swords". Concern for others is a good reason for outrage, but until a church-wide change in culture happens, we will still suffer these tragic losses. Is that not why we write? To help those going through this cultural hell, who need help and have the courage to seek it. To say in the high places "You are okay, don't listen to them. You are a beloved child of God, no matter what they say," So that maybe, just maybe somebody who needs it can find some of the healing they are looking for.
So Elder Packer's words do not upset me, and looked in a certain way I believe they could be helpful. No, what was like a brick wall to my face was this quote from President Hinckley:
“People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves … gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have temptations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.
“We want to help … strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.”
So-called same-sex marriage. I know how the church feels about one of my deepest desires. But this brought home to me, reminded me forcibly that if the entire world were to pass laws sanctioning same-sex marriages, that would mean nothing to the Church, until and unless God commanded otherwise. It was that way with polygamy, it was that way with the priesthood, and it will be the same with this. Until God, through his prophets, gives the go-ahead, LDS gay marriages for all intents and purposes do not exist.
Even "upholding and defending" same-sex marriage, by this statement, is a cause for possible reprimand and even Church discipline, which means that talking about or supporting it could jeopardize my very real desire to attend the temple. But, with the way I feel, how can I not?
What do I do when I know that, eventually, I will have to choose between loving my fellow man and loving my God? That's what it feels like sometimes. I am told repeatedly in my Patriarchal Blessing to put the Kingdom of God (which I interpret as the Church) ahead of all other things.
Right now, I feel like I am doing what God wants me to. I'm out of the closet, I'm meeting other same-gender loving individuals, trying to be a good example, loving them for who they are, loving the Church, trying to do what is right. I have so many pressures and challenges, but I am happy, working and doing things I love with people who love me. I see the hurt so many have felt, and I want to help them.
But I saw that someday in the future I would have to choose. I have compared the choice to Adam and Eve, leaving the garden or staying in innocence. I've compared the choice to Nephi, who listened to the Spirit in all things, even when it was frightening or when it seemed wrong to do so. Can I have the faith like them, to step outside the bounds? Or should I instead wait patiently in the Church, hoping that someday I will get one of my fondest wishes, to have a family with a man I love... do I dare hope for a celestial relationship with a man? Because in all honesty, if such is not possible, it would be better, I think, to not love anyone, than to love someone so intensely and then lose them for eternity. Maybe, in that case, it would be better to never get married.
The Church is meant to be experienced in the family context. The oldest scriptures speak of the family of Adam, of Abraham and Isaac and Israel. The Book of Mormon speaks of Lehi's family.
Gay people are the only people in the church counselled to not get married- or rather, to wait to find the "right one". We are the only ones for whom eternal celibacy is encouraged. Others may hold out the hope for companionship, but not we. We are the exception to the rule, and we should not be.
So, I don't know. I guess I will just have to wait in faith.