Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Dream

Even though I am now completely out in my life, and although most people who frequent this blog know who I am, I have to admit that I have maintained a certain level of anonymity for posts like this one. It is very difficult at times, and sometimes unwise, to discuss extremely personal, powerful spiritual experiences – but doing so anonymously seems a bit more practical.

When I was 14 and praying about why I should remain a member of the church, I remember having a very vivid dream. This dream is just as vivid to me today as it was the day after I had it. In it, I was show certain possibilities – things I think I needed to see at that point in time. When I woke, the feeling I had was intensely spiritual. In fact, I had never had similar feelings in my entire life… until a few nights ago.

The details of that first dream are now slightly irrelevant to this conversation, and were so personal that I won’t innumerate them here, but I do need to say that although this dream was inspiring and powerful, I now know it to mean something completely different than what I thought it did originally.

But this most recent dream… it is significant, and very applicable.

I dreamt I was at a mission reunion. Two of my very mission friends know about me and my partner Adam (in real life). They were there in this dream, as well as the hundreds of other missionaries I had the chance to serve with, to welcome into the mission field as an office missionary, and even the ones I didn’t know, but recognized their faces. The mission reunion was interesting in my dream, and although I felt at peace there, I was not comfortable.

At first I blamed this on the fact that I knew I was gay, and here I was, at a mission reunion. I thought my discomfort was because I was a sinner in the eyes of all these people – but it soon became apparent that my discomfort stemmed from something else.

I walked up to a sister companionship who were talking by themselves, only to hear them talking about me as I approached. I couldn’t hear everything, but I distinctly remember hearing the word “gay” in their conversation.

I froze, and wondered how they knew.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by all these good members of the church. They had fear and loathing in their eyes. The two friends of mine stood a little ways back, with compassion. It almost appeared like they were begging for forgiveness. Suddenly I realized that they had spilled the beans, and that everyone at this reunion knew I was gay.

On cue, one of the most flamboyant Elders in my mission field yelled “Is it true you are gay?” right in front of everyone. At first I was mortified, but then suddenly found myself in a teaching situation. I had the opportunity to explain what it meant to be gay.

Then my dream skipped, as they often do. I found myself on a barren street (one I recognized… it is the street that led to my house). No one was out, and the streets were empty. I set off home, pondering the events that took place during my “mission reunion.”

I was asking myself questions I have asked myself in life many times. “Why me?” “Why am I gay?” “Why do I constantly have to explain myself and clear up misunderstandings and misconceptions?”

In my dream I prayed, and asked God these same questions.

I admit I was surprised when a booming voice answered. Strangely, although the voice was loud and overpowering, it was also recognizable and calming. “Because I want it that way,” it said.

And then I woke up.

I must admit that I have drifted from the church over the past few years. I’ve allowed myself to make excuses to not go, and specifically have avoided places where I knew I would feel the spirit, because I was afraid of feeling guilty.

But the moment my eyes fluttered opened I felt that same, intense, overwhelming, screaming spirit I had only felt once before – when I was 14.

I don’t know why I have to go down the path I am going down. I don’t know, exactly, what it was about the experience of excommunication that I’m sure God wanted me to discover and learn from. But I do have one more piece of the puzzle. I know, beyond any doubt, that I have a job to do – even as an excommunicated Latter-Day Saint.

I am to tell my story, to teach, to explain, and to clear up misunderstandings and misconceptions.

The desire I have had to go to church, partly to just “stick it to the people” who would not want me there is not borne out of hostility. My Father wants it that way.

It was good to feel the spirit again and know that I am on the right track. It is good to know that somehow, my mission in life – whether changed from that vision of long ago or not – is somehow still being fulfilled. It is good to know that I am still capable of being a tool in the Lord’s hand.

I think I need to make a better effort to go to church… because somehow, somewhere, it is going to lead to a teaching experience. And a learning one too, I’m sure.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Respectful Group Discussion

Recently I have had the opportunity to sit down with a group of LGBT and LDS people, who have come together with kindness and respect, with hopes of building bridges, dispelling rumors, spreading truth, and, as an absolutely amazing woman put it, “just get everyone to love everyone.”

Participating members include someone from Equality Utah, a gay dad of two children, me, an active LDS husband and wife whose husband is gay and not secretive about it in his ward (although not sexually active with other men, just his wife), an ex bishop and his wife, the church lobbyist, a stake relief society president, and one of the directors at Planned Parenthood.

As I type all those people out, you would probably assume our meetings are politically charged and emotional. Strangely, they are not. In fact, the discussion moves rather fluidly, and understanding is at the heart of it.

I think the thing I am most proud of about this group is how well we all get along, and how successful we have been at presenting ideas that could cause actual change – not in doctrine, mind you, but in the way people think and approach the subject of homosexuality.

The church lobbyist has been of particular interest, because he was heavily involved in prop 8. Also, since he works in church PR, we often get the inside story, and a refreshing view of the church’s stance on a lot of issues.

For example, the recent news has had a lot of stories about the gay couple cited with trespassing for kissing on the church owned (yet public) Main Street Plaza. According to the lobbyist, the couple, indeed, was engaging in behavior that would have been questionable for either heterosexual or homosexual couples in public. He was also told that there is no video tape of the incident (contrary to many public naysayers who claim to have personal connections to church security members).

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is how important it is to have respectful dialog with people of opposing views. Even though I know there are people in this group that fundamentally disagree with me regarding issues such as marriage and family, I have no doubt that they have grown to love and respect me. Had it been me on the plaza, and one of these group members as church security, I have no doubt the outcome would have been different, and much less news worthy.

We all need to commit to discussion. We are all a member of the human family, and as such, cannot keep demeaning and vilifying those unlike ourselves. And the only way to stop the other side from vilifying you, is to discuss with them the fact that you exist… and that you love.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Big Doctrinal Question

I would think that the LDS church would have the easiest time with accepting gay marriage. Church doctrine already defines two types of marriage: a civil marriage, which is performed here on earth until “death do you part,” and a celestial marriage, performed by the priesthood in a temple that seals a partnership and their children together for eternity.

Growing up, I understood this doctrine extremely well. It is the heart of the church. As a missionary, I used eternal marriage to bring people to God – and since most of them have heard of God before, and already had a relationship with him, the eternal nature of the family was the only distinguishable, desirable difference between our church and theirs that made it easier for people to accept the gospel as taught by the LDS church.

As I looked into and studied the subject, the doctrine became rather simple: Men, because they were given dominion over the earth, had a right to bind things together for this temporal life. Only the priesthood could bind things afterward (“what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven” only with the proper authority from God).

This is why a couple married in a civil ceremony are not breaking the law of chastity – because we, as men and rulers over this world, have the power and authority to bind a couple together during this life.

But that is also why the temple and the priesthood are so important, so that the things bound together in this life can continue onward in the next.

If you ask any member of the church which is better, a civil marriage or an eternal one, I guarantee 100% will see a difference, and answer that an eternal marriage is better.

Which brings me to my point. Gay couples want nothing more than the marriage that the church already views as lesser anyway. By doctrinal definition, civil marriages performed without the benefit of the temple will be meaningless in the next life.

So why do Mormon’s have such a difficult time with gay marriage?

I can see why other churches, whose doctrine is not so clear, perhaps those who believe that marriage is not given in heaven as per scripture, would believe there is only one definition of God-ordained marriage – but the LDS church should know better. By doctrinal definition a civil marriage is not ordained of God. In fact, he recognizes it only as a temporal occurrence, bound only by the authority of men. By this reasoning, I have the same authority to bind here on earth as any other man born on this planet. Priesthood authority is not required in order to perform a civil marriage.

So why can’t I have what the LDS people see as a lesser, non-God endorsed form of marriage? And what is the big deal if gay people do get married, in the eternal scheme of things.

I actually understand other church’s view of this better: They might consider it doing me a favor to deny me marriage. After all, can you imagine what would happen if I got to the judgment seat and was actually STILL BOUND to another homosexual (and I have discovered that most religions believe these bonds persist after death even though the words in the ceremony might specify otherwise). In this case, there might actually be GENUINE concern for the welfare of my soul.

But the LDS church doesn’t have such an excuse. It won’t make a tiny bit of difference in the eternal plan whether or not I was married in this life, or just a homosexual.

Except, of course, unless marriage can be used to prove the intent of my heart.

But if that is the case, then you would think the LDS church would be front runner in establishing marriage for gay couples. That way, in the afterlife, God could quickly see whether I was a bad gay or a good gay. At least if I were allowed to be married, I would be following his laws as taught by the church as closely as possible. At least then every time I had sex it would be within the bonds of marriage, even if it IS still a sin. The intent that I TRIED would have to mean something, right?

So it seems that by not allowing me to marry, according to LDS theology, I will actually be WORSE OFF in the next life. And if that is the case, and the church still fights against same-sex marriage, then I must take issue with the claim that their stance is God-inspired.

Are there any LDS members who might be able to provide insight on this? I have searched scripture after scripture to find some other explanation as to how civil marriages can be ordained by God but not recognized by him as binding. I can think of no other ordinance where an “imitation” of the ordinance is good enough to be binding in this life but not the next. I can’t even find an example of a civil marriage verses an eternal one!

If I could figure this out I would be able to justify the church’s stance to myself. Until then, it appears that they, indeed, wish for me to be in an even worse place at the judgment bar of God, and the only reasons someone would wish that on another human being would have to be rooted in pure hatred.

And that is a scary thought.

Please email me with comments, suggestions, reading material, your ideas and thoughts.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Secret

I know it has been a while since I’ve posted. I think that is because after my excommunication, it has taken me a while to get into the mindset of feeling like I want to continue opening up and sharing. Today I’m going to go a little backwards, and give you what I believe to be the secret to staying in the church as a gay Mormon. Hopefully this will help bishops, councilors, and etc. up the chain know how to handle people who might approach them with this situation.

It is just too bad I had to leave the church to realize it. The thing I’m not to sad about, however, is the fact that I met my amazing partner – and now I can’t/won’t leave him.

So here it is: You are a gay Mormon. These are two very real and very large parts of your life. They might not seem like they go together at first – but trust me – they can.

If you are still in the church, then you have embraced, fully, your Mormon side. Good for you. You don’t have to let that go, but you do need to embrace your gay side. You can’t just starve it away. It never dies.

Instead, you need to accept it, recognize it, and love it. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and act on your desires, but instead, means you should prepare yourself for full disclosure. To survive in a family oriented church, with or without a family of your own, is going to require that friends, family, church leaders, ward members, everyone knows that you, in fact, are gay. There will be plenty who won’t understand, perhaps some that will shun you, but there will be more who will appreciate your strength in remaining faithful to the gospel.

You are always accompanied in the room by a giant pink elephant. You can’t and shouldn’t hide it. Doing so just makes it worse. Parade that damn elephant around – because there is nothing wrong with a giant pink elephant.

The gay community has a word for this: pride. You should have it for both your gay side, and your Mormon side. I do (and my partner sometimes doesn’t understand it), even though I’m no longer a member of the church.

Coming out is an important psychological step for all gay youth. Just because you are religious, that doesn’t mean you get to avoid this step! You have to do it. It is not fair to yourself to not. You can be an out-and-celibate, or an out-and-married Mormon. This is the only way your relationships with members of the opposite sex can work. This is the only way your relationship to a church who doesn’t understand you can work. You must make this topic less taboo. You must talk about it. The amount of strength that will be required to live such a life will be a redirection of the strength you are currently focusing on you homosexuality. That’s right – avoiding the pink elephant is feeding it. You cannot “white-knuckle” it forever. There is no amount of strength on the planet or in the heavens for that (this is a rephrased quote from my LDS counselor). That energy must be refocused.

If all goes well you will have accepting and loving ward members, leadership, and neighborhoods, and hopefully change a few minds regarding the struggles of same gender attraction along the way. You can finally be a complete person, by embracing all of the goodness in your person – you can even help your sister color-coordinate her wardrobe. Trust me, you’ll be doing everyone a favor =)

Friday, January 23, 2009


If you haven’t been lucky enough to run across the name Carol Lynn Pearson, I would highly suggest you Google her. She is an amazing LDS woman who has written many books on the subject of homosexuality. I subscribe to her newsletters, where she often describes something she calls “synchronicity.” Synchronicity is where seemingly random events in life all converge to form some greater meaning.

As I have read Carol’s experiences with synchronicity, I started looking for such events in my life. Unfortunately, I never found anything that inspired a great story, or even made me feel more connected to the human race or to God – that is, until January 11, 2009.

January 11, 2009 will be a day I will forever remember. It was the day I was excommunicated from the church. As I prepared for the proceedings, I clung to Carol’s book (that I recently purchased), No More Goodbyes. I decided to take it with me, so that if I was asked why I never “attempted” marriage as a possible cure (a question I am constantly asked), I could refer to Carol’s words. I needed them to hear where she told her bishop, “It isn’t that you are asking our gay young men to not marry, but you are asking them to marry me, and you are asking them to marry my daughter.” I think that was, perhaps, the strongest response I have heard to that question to date. I use it often.

But that was not where I noticed the synchronicity. As I was preparing for the court, I found the passage I wanted to mark, and reached for an old piece of paper that I had on my desk, just one that I could use to bookmark the page. I hurriedly shoved in the bookmark, as I needed to seek out some other scriptures and things I wanted to share with my soon-to-be judges.

When I was sitting in the Stake offices, waiting with my sobbing mother, I wondered if I had made the right choice in having the court instead of just removing my records. I wanted these men to hear what I had to say... I wanted to promote understanding and love at all costs. I wasn’t going to be brazen or prideful; I just wanted them to hear my story. But the pain I felt as I watched my mother's body roll with emotion was horrible. I almost changed my mind. I almost got up to leave. I could just tell the stake president to remove my records. I could just draft a letter. Surely my mom didn’t have to experience this. Surely I didn’t either. But then I noticed the little piece of paper sticking out from where I had marked Carol’s conversation with her bishop. I was drawn to it because it had writing on it; something I had not previously seen. I opened the book, and the piece of paper had one word written on it: Learn.

This one word reminded me of every reason I was there that day. I was there to learn from the church and from God. I was there so that the members of the high council would learn from me. I was there so my mother could learn. I was both student and teacher, and both roles were so important.

My mind then immediately applied this word to the meaning of life. This is what we are here to do: Learn. Learn what? Love. Whether it is to love deity or human, this is our task. I am so glad I had that book with me. I’m so glad Carol wrote it. Because of her I had that little piece of paper, and that little word that I needed at that time.

After the excommunication I had a member of the high council run up to me. He informed me he worked for the church in PR, and had been heavily involved in proposition 8. He expressed empathy for my situation, and thanked me for helping all at the table understand a little better the struggle of homosexuality. He promised to be more understanding. He wanted to speak with me more on the subject, and I agreed to let him be my home teacher. I don’t know where our conversations might lead, but somehow, somewhere, I’m sure someone will learn something from it.