It’s been nearly exactly a year and I’ve still held anger and resentment towards the Mormon church. This week’s “de ja vue” vote in Maine did not help. Sunday, during my daily 3 mile walk, I had the occasion to reflect a lot on why I am still angry. What brought up the occasion? We were invited to a Mormon “Fireside” which I recount in a second installment. I didn’t want to go. In fact, I loathed the thought of going. We had good friends and their three kids that evening over for dinner and we have a new rule in our house that we reserve Sundays for home, family and friends. But on top of that, I swore after Prop 8 I’d never set foot in another Mormon building again. But Guy wanted to go and used the argument that this would be one of the few chances to make any difference in a future battle for our rights. I very reluctantly agreed. Even though I agreed, even putting aside the frustration of interrupting my quiet family and friend-centric Sunday, I felt angry at the thought of going. I used my walk to help myself articulate the specific cause of that anger and resentment. We ended up going to that meeting, and I’ll describe my observations soon, but first let me explain what I articulated for myself on that walk.I joined the Mormon church at 18 after some quite spiritual experiences. Though I knew I was physically, intimately and emotionally attracted to men, and though I couldn’t hold the priesthood due to some distant African ancestry, I became a devout and active Mormon, completed work as a missionary to Korea, held church leadership positions and more. All along trying valiantly to change through therapy, prayer and the devout adherence to the precepts. Nothing changed concerning my orientation.
Along the way, I grew to not only accept many of the underpinnings of Mormon belief, but to deeply internalize them, that God speaks to all peoples in all times, that truth can be found in many places, that the divine is both male and female, that giving of yourself and loving all people as yourself regardless of judgement is the greatest good.
And one of the precepts that I internalized greatly is that it is in our relationships we can find our way to God. Mormons are taught, and I still believe on some deep level, that we can not be ‘saved’ without our families. That the pure joy of God cannot be found in the next life, or even this one, without the love and devotion we find in and struggle to give t our spouses, our children, our parents, even our ancestors and descendants. It is what gives meaning to all those things Mormons do: thework for the dead, genealogy, journal keeping and so much more. Divine joy, salvation, is found in our relationships. I embraced that belief, finding knowledge and understanding in genealogy, struggling with relationships, trying hard with varying levels of success to strengthen my ties to family and friends, writing journals for future generations so they might learn from my own mistakes and triumphs, it has been the overriding theme of my life.
By the time I was 30, I came to realize through prayer and effort, that I would never be able to change my orientation. I came out (which is another story), but decided to remain in the church a single and celibate, but out, gay man. I did so for 5 years. But as time wore on, my struggle to reconcile my belief with my sexuality got only more difficult, not less. The precept that I had internalized and believed, that it was through a relationship and love of a soulmate that we would find joy and the divine, was crashing up against something else I had come to know, that I was made to love and share that joy and relationship with a man. I was losing hope.
So, I finally realized that for me to follow the precept I so deeply believed, I’d have to leave the very faith system that taught it to me.
And 13 years ago, I found my soulmate and soon thereafter was excommunicated from the church.
I was not angry at the church. In fact, on the contrary, I was at peace with it. I loved it’s people and still held to many of the precepts, if perhaps in a less literal way.
So, I left the church and built a life with my soulmate. We built an ever growing community of close friends, our ties to our families became more and more close, we adopted an amazing child, are building our family still and have created a deeply joyful family life. We’ve created a life for ourselves that is rich and fulfilling.
We have, through our relationships with each other, with our children, with our families and friends, found that very joy of God that the Mormon church so pointedly taught us about. It’s not been easy, at times it’s been a painful struggle, but it has always been joyous, in that divine joy that I have never felt until the last 10 years. I’ve never been closer to God, to my family, to my friends, than I have here and now.
In that time, in our struggle to strengthen our family and relationships, we have worked hard to be recognized legally as a couple and a family. Though some might say it’s ‘just paper’, those who most protest the importance of marriage are the first to admit that in both the word and the legal sanction, marriage is very important. We’ve had failures along the way, and still do. But last year, finally, we were able to obtain for ourselves that word, that all important word, marriage with all that is in both meaning and in law. It was a big step in extending and strengthening our relationships. We were obtaining everything the church had taught us was so important.
Then came Proposition 8 and the Mormon Church. The church was not content in saying a few words against it, or even just letting it go. The Mormon church became instrumental in financially funding it and getting out the all-important volunteers, organizing thousands across the state and beyond to snatch away the legal rights and the meaning we fought for so diligently.
It was as if, after taking to heart what the Mormon church taught me and finding it for myself, that very church reached directly into my family and life to try to steal it away. It was the church that taught me how important it was, it was the church that showed me the way to joy…
and now it was the church that was saying “oh, but that joy is NOT FOR YOU” and they did everything they could to snatch it away. They couldn’t just let me go my own way, but instead followed me right into my family and my life.
In the end, they can’t take it all away. I still have my soulmate, my children, my family and my friends. My love. If anything, those relationships are closer, deeper and my community greater for it. I am closer to God, not farther. And, in spite of their best efforts, we are still married, legally, at least in this state. And I truly believe there will be a day, sooner rather than later, when that right will again be extended to others here and elsewhere.
But, it did destroy my relationship to my former faith. I lost faith in the goodness of the LDS church and lost my hope that the ‘good faith’ of many of it’s people towards me is sincere. Where before there was no anger, no resentment towards my former faith, even after being denied the priesthood, even after aversion therapy, even after excommunication, through struggles and reconciliation I came to let of of resentment and anger. But now they made it personal, the were betraying the very thing they taught me and a year later, I was still angry and resentful. It has affected my view of the church, it’s members, members of my own Mormon extended family and friends, and my view of the very things the LDS church taught me and I still held to.
For that I am not sure I can ever forget or forgive the church, I wonder if there can ever be reconciliation. Mormons, like this one writing an interesting article at Pam’s House Blend touching on both blacks and gays and Mormons, are trying to understand (justify?) themselves. I wonder if I can ever understand now.
And that is how I entered that meeting on Sunday evening, still holding anger and resentment. I’ll recount that in the next installment.