02 February 2009

A Letter to Mom

Dear Mom

I hope this won't disappoint you but I don't know if you know everything going on in my head so I'm writing it out so you can see, I hope.

If you've been watching me then you know about all the changes in my life over the last five months or so. I wonder if you always knew. These changes were inevitable, I just couldn't hold the floodgates shut anymore against this part of me that's always been inside. I don't want to be with a woman anymore, I tried it and it didn't work. I did love her sincerely as best I could and was doing what the Church always told me I should do, following what it said I should want. If she hadn't left I would still be there. But she did, and now it's time for me to be honest. I don't want to try it again. I want to be with a guy. This is what I really have always wanted but have been too scared to say. But not anymore. I'm not focusing on sex here. I'm talking about every aspect of a complete intimate relationship: the emotions, the love, the caring, the support, the trust, the roughhousing and playing, the tenderness, the holding, the knowledge that someone will be there for me and I for him. Just the thought of it is more fulfilling in some ways than the reality ever was with a woman. It feels right. It feels like home. It feels like where I belong. I lie in bed at night or early in the morning and dream about how wonderful it would be to cling to each other, to be completely vulnerable and safe with him. Holding nothing back. I always had to withhold part of myself with her. I don't want to do that ever again.

It's taken me a lifetime to work up the courage to actually say stuff like this, but I'm there now. I know I dated girls and liked several of them very much and even married one. I managed to be adequately happy because I was doing what I'd been taught was essential to get where I was told I ought to aspire to go in the eternities. But you know what, Mom? It never felt completely totally 100% unreservedly right. It was never a 100% fit. And you know what became of the marriage. If women are capable of doing what she did, and obviously they are, then the thought of being married to a woman for eternity is no longer my idea of heaven. I would never feel safe, could never trust again without reservation. If that's wrong, then God will have to change me later, because I can't change myself. Honestly, I don't even want to. I like where I'm at. I'm finally being honest with myself and with God about who I really am and what I want.

This puts me in a terrible dilemma. I've served enough in the Church to gain a testimony of the gospel. Yet the deep desire of my heart is contrary to what the Doc. & Cov. says is an essential requirement for the greatest eternal blessings. I have no idea how to resolve this. I don't think it can be resolved from what we now know. I can't help what I feel, and I can't change what the book says. They clash, end of story. There's no way to reconcile them. One of them has to yield. Thank God we believe in an open scriptural canon, and I cling to that hope because I just don't see myself ever being able to change what I have been my whole life.

Unfortunately, at present the Church as an institution and culturally is very hostile to people like me. It has no idea what to make of us or how we should fit into the organization. It says we're welcomed, but most gay Mormons will tell you otherwise, once their "special status" becomes known. My sense of personal social connections to the Church has almost completely disappeared. I don't participate in any ward or stake social activities, why would I? Nobody there is like me, nobody has a clue about what's really going on in my heart. I feel nothing in common with anybody in my ward except for job connections, and that's not enough to create or sustain real friendships. I've read the Scriptures countless times and think I know them quite well. I pray every day and do my best to live my life in accordance with gospel standards, to keep the covenants I've made. I don't have all the answers to life's questions but the institutional Church is certainly not capable of giving me any answers to what's in this letter.

My life is moving into uncharted waters, Mom. Nobody in the family has a clue about any of this or can give me any advice. Nobody in the Church is equipped to do that either, other than to say You must deny and stifle your feelings, live a life of loneliness and celibacy from here on, as the price of—well, of what? Nobody in the Church knows what happens to God's gay children in the eternities, not even the prophet, and he doesn't seem to consider the question very important. I don't believe the latest new theory that sexual orientation will vanish at death. I see nothing in the Scriptures to justify that. I think it's just a convenient dodge to avoid explaining what is otherwise unexplainable in current Mormon belief: how could God create or allow to exist such a core characteristic that leads those who have it to want, hunger for, ache down to the very bottom of their souls for something that they feel is good and natural for them but the Church says will bar them from exaltation? I don't buy the Church's line about "one standard of morality for everyone." There isn't one standard, there's two. Single heterosexual Church members at least always have the theoretical hope of being able to marry in this life and the Church encourages them to pursue it with vigor. Single gay members of the Church not only have no such hope, they're told they must never act in the slightest on even their most innocent feelings of attraction if they hope to stay in the Church's good graces. No hope. No hope, Mom.

To resolve this conflict, either that characteristic or LDS theology has to change. And most Mormons, though they claim to believe in continuing revelation, have shown that they are still like the Saints of Joseph's time, when he complained that getting any new ideas into their heads was like trying to split hemlock knots using a pancake for a wedge and a pumpkin for a hammer. So the idea of sexual orientation being "fixed" or disappearing in the next life is a much more convenient deus ex machina than to concede that there might be gay people in the eternities. Horrors! That would mean lots of people would have to abandon their precious prejudices, wouldn't it? After the Church rose like the proverbial Royal Army in the hymnbook and singlehandedly financed the passage of Prop 8 in California because Pres. Monson summoned them to, there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that he would reverse himself and say Oh never mind, we now accept gay members in full fellowship. So I am not going to see any resolution of my dilemma in my lifetime.

And that is so profoundly, deeply depressing I can't tell you. To realize after years of Church service and study and faith and testimony that this deepest desire of my heart, this part of who I've always been, which I never chose, will never be satisfied while I live and that if I follow it and seek out the same love and companionship most people take for granted, I would be knocked out of being with you and my kids in the eternities—that is just too painful to contemplate. Yet that's my situation, IF the Church's current position on homosexuality is fixed and doesn't change.

The gospel is supposed to give us hope, not despair. But the more I think about this horrible, unavoidable choice between my church and my heart, the less hope and the more despair I feel. I can't change the feelings of my heart. I've been trying to do that my whole life and it hasn't worked. I didn't choose them. One day they were just there. I was never abused or molested or exposed to anything that current theorizing says might trigger this. So I have to conclude that this is just part of what makes me me. Like my other talents that you said emerged when I was very small, I wonder if I just brought it with me. But the origins aren't as important as the fact that this is who I am, here and now. Wherever this came from, it's part of me. It ain't goin' away.

What makes me angry is that the Church treats this as a "burden", an affliction, a handicap, a "struggle." I really resent that. I feel patronized. I don't feel guilty in the slightest about these feelings or think I need to be "fixed." I'm tired of reading blogs by gay LDS guys who moan and groan on and on as if they're St. Sebastian, tied to a post and shot every day with arrows of pain and anguish and wallowing in the Scriptures trying to pray away the gay. Yeah, being gay really stinks in some ways but why does it have to? When I imagine myself with a guy who is my soulmate partner I don't feel afflicted or burdened, I feel elated, exultant, ennobled. Every feeling of love and attraction in my heart feels good and pure and lifts me up and makes me want to be a better person in every way that the Saviour taught, for the sake of the guy I love. Imagining him calls up every virtuous, romantic, wonderful, giddy, loving, enrapturing feeling that any heterosexual person feels for their own significant other. Why are those feelings suddenly bad just because the gender of the other person is the same as my own?

For me, all this rhetoric from the Church is like Shakespeare's Romeo said: "they jest at scars that never felt a wound." They just can't believe I'm not suffering and struggling because of this. Well, fact is that I do suffer, a lot, but not for the reason they think. I suffer because of their externally imposed opprobrium and shame and guilt trips and Sophie's Choices and judgments and ostracism and efforts to shoehorn me into a one-size-fits-all-for-salvation template which I don't fit and their assumptions that never never ever in the eternities would God permit me to have what I really want and their lectures about "abandoning my eternal potential" because of something I never chose, never asked for, which I can only explain by believing God placed it in me because it feels good and right for me and I can't deny that any longer. What kind of crazed idiot would choose this or stick with it voluntarily, in such an environment? If all that hostility would stop, I could be as elated outwardly as I feel inside. I refuse to think of this as an "affliction." The affliction is in being made to feel such shame and fear over having feelings that to me are good and pure and natural. THAT is the burden.

Now that I'm breaking away from the old fears, I don't feel "afflicted," I feel liberated. Lighter by half. Like I'm finally out of the shadows and into glorious light. Yet the Church to which I've devoted most of my life and faith now tells me that if I follow the deepest desires of my heart and proceed on this path that has so far been nothing but wonderful and liberating for me, I will be kicked out, all my blessings and privileges revoked, my sealing to my kids nullified, and my eternity damned.

No! I say. That can't be right! My heart cries out to God: How can you allow this? Is there no relief? How can the price of eternal blessings be to give up all hope in this life? Where's the joy in that, the joy which the Book of Mormon says is the purpose of our creation? How could you make me want something that the organization claiming to be your true church tells me I will be damned in the eternities for pursuing? What if I really and truly don't want and am not capable of what the Church says I have to want and do in order to qualify for the highest blessings? What if I don't want to give up this part of myself, as Lance Wickman theorizes will happen at death?

If I ever did consider marrying a woman again I would have to be completely honest with her about this part of myself. What LDS woman would want to marry such a guy? And honestly I don't want to marry another woman anyway. OK, since according to current Church doctrine, heterosexual temple marriage is a requirement for entrance into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, the real and honest desires of my heart now shut me out of that possibility, at least as far as we now know. In which case, why should it matter if I pursue a temporal relationship and even marriage with another guy for the rest of this life? I won't be capable of anything else anyway, and the reasons don't seem to matter much, because that's the end of the equation. If I don't have a temple marriage in this life, I don't have a temple marriage. It is what it is. I'm knocked out of the running there. I don't say this lightly. I know the doctrinal implications full well. But I can't pretend anymore for the sake of outward compliance with others' expectations, I have to be completely honest about what's in my heart. I don't want to be married to a woman, now or ever, and temple marriage at present is possible only with a woman. End of analysis.

So my choices are either (1) stay celibate and lonely for the remainder of my time on earth because the Church says I should although it's really vague as to why and what I could hope to gain by doing so, or (2) since I can't sustain a temple marriage anyway, go ahead and find a guy with whom I can have the happiness and comfort and companionship I have always longed for, at least for this life, and let God sort out the eternities. He knows that I have an infinite amount of love and caring in my heart to give to my family and friends and others, that I want so much to be His hands in this life and beyond, and that I want nothing more than to be part of an eternal family unit, together with my parents and my children forever. He also knows that my heart just isn't capable of what the LDS Church says is an absolute requirement for that last bit.

There is no way to resolve this conundrum in this life. Yet if the Scriptures are true that He will reward us not only according to our deeds but also the desires of our hearts, and he knows I can't honestly sustain the temple marriage requirement in this life, why would I be shut out of all celestial blessings later on, even if I did marry a guy just for this life only, knowing it wouldn't last in the eternities? Or would it? Joseph Smith said that even the apostles would kill him if they knew what he knew about how heaven worked. He must have known some stuff that would have been violently repugnant to everything even the apostles thought they knew about God and heaven. Could anything be more objectionable to "traditional Christians" than the thought of eternal same-sex marriages? I may be totally off base here, but if we truly believe in an open scriptural canon and the 9th Article of Faith, wouldn't it be presumptuous in the extreme for us to say absolutely no doubt never never never would God allow such a thing?

I have a testimony of the Savior and the atonement. I have seen and exercised the power of the priesthood in my own and others' lives. I don't want to abandon the Church or my faith or the influence of the Holy Ghost in my life. I don't want to give any of these things up. And I don't want to be straight, either. I'm sorry, Mom, but that's the truth. I tried my best to be that way for a long time because that's what the Church said I should want and do, and I ended up in a marriage that went so wrong that I know I could never do it again. I have no energy left to try to maintain the facade like I did before.

No doubt many in the Church would say "well, you should still remain faithful and active and keep all the commandments and be chaste and celibate because you'll be able to stay in full fellowship with the Church and go to the temple and have the Spirit in your life and your faithfulness will be rewarded in the next life and your 'burden' will be removed then." To which I say: what's the point? I am already incapable of reaching for the brass ring. I don't want to marry a woman, now or ever. I tried it because that's what the Church told me I should want, and it was a disaster. If the same spirit that occupies our bodies in this life will be unchanged in the next world, as the Book of Mormon says, why should I expect this part of me to change just because spirit and body separate for a time?

The whole point of all the compliance and endurance and denial and frustration urged on me is to achieve the blessings available only in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. If I already don't qualify to get in there because I can't ever imagine wanting what the Church says I have to want and have, why should I care about meeting the other requirements for top tier celestial glory? According to current Mormon doctrine it's not going to matter anyway. Why not be happier in this life, accepting that I can still live at a standard that should qualify me for a wonderful future nonetheless, since I'm shut out of the top level already?

My marriage was adequately happy for a few years but never in my life have I had the true, unreserved, unqualified intimacy and fulfillment that I crave and I think every person wants. I'm finding that no other pursuits in life can compensate for its absence. And now even after being set free from that marriage, the Church tells me that the price of vague blessings in the future is that I give up all hope of ever having that in this life, even as there are signs that the Church itself is slowly changing its former "doctrine" on homosexuality and who knows if it might not do so again and in some future day that might not be the price of those eternal blessings after all, in which case I will have wasted my life for a myth?

I don't even want to change in the eternities what the Church says makes me ineligible now. I can't imagine not being gay in the eternities, I wouldn't be me anymore. And I'm pissed off about this conundrum forced on me because I don't see or feel anything wrong with what's in my heart. What if the Church does end up being wrong about this and the problem right now is just that the Saints are still too "bound down by the traditions of their fathers" to accept new revelation that will upend their prejudices? I can't see that attitude changing for a long time, certainly not in my life, but I don't think we can say absolutely never it will never never never happen. So I'm being asked to give up all hope of true happiness and intimacy in this life maybe because other people are just too bigoted to accept new instruction? I have to live a lonely, single life because somebody else can't stop being narrow-minded, and that's the price of my eternal progression? Letting someone else's flaws set the boundaries for my life's choices and my path after this life is over?

I have no intention of abandoning my faith in the Savior or the gospel, or my efforts to live my life according to His teachings. If I leave any of this behind, it will be because the Church forces me out. But the feeling is growing stronger that I do not want to live the rest of my life as an LDS monk. It is not good for man to be alone, said God. Yet the Church tells me that I must do just that--the thing which God Himself said is not good--if I hope to qualify for . . . well, for what? The Church can't really tell me. I've heard all the vagaries about "every blessing available to everyone". Huh? What does that mean? Does it mean I'll suddenly be transformed into a heterosexual and be married by proxy to a woman after all, so that I can qualify for the celestial kingdom later on?

But I don't want to be straight, now or in the next life. I like me just the way I am! So the prospect of being "fixed" is no incentive whatsoever. This is how God made me. If He's truly "no respecter of persons", would He make me in such a way as to automatically shut me off from all blessings He's said are available to all? I can't believe that, it sounds totally Calvinistic. I'm sure it's not what the LDS Church teaches. Am I wrong for saying I don't want to be "fixed"? Who knows. The only thing I know is that that's what my heart says right now. Could it change? I know, never say never. But I can't imagine it ever would, not after all the years of praying and worrying and sweating and laboring like Hercules to keep the real me buried out of fear. It didn't work. My gay side is not going away. It's part of me. If it's so strong, so intrinsic, how could I imagine being otherwise, ever? How could I expect this would fade with time? Why would I even want it to be taken away? I don't!

Try as I might, I just don't see this as a flaw. I've heard others compare this "struggle" to other "burdens" that some people have, like a propensity to pedophilia, or alcoholism, or anger, and solely because of that comparison they conclude that like those other things, being gay is also dangerous and wrong, pernicious, and can be "cured" by the Atonement or can even be overcome with "treatment" in this life. I don't believe it. It's a false analogy. All those other things, if acted on, hurt other innocent people. For the life of me I can't see how feeling or acting on an emotional attraction and attachment to someone of the same gender hurts anyone, if done within the same bounds of propriety as for a heterosexual marriage. If two guys, or two girls, find each other and bond, love each other and want to commit to each other, and remain faithful and true and loving and supportive, just as any heterosexual couple would, how does that hurt anyone? Doesn't that help not only them but society as well?

I am not interested in any other kind of relationship with a guy. Promiscuity is indefensible regardless of the genders involved. I am not interested in some hedonistic, sex-crazed, gender-bending substance-abusing irresponsible self-indulgent life. Even if I were outside the Church, I would still keep its standards, including being chaste. I have no interest in "the gay lifestyle" or its bed-hopping. The thought revolts me. Like I said before, when I imagine being with a guy who is my partner, the one I love above all others, every feeling of my heart is pure and noble and uplifting. I want to be with him not just because he's a guy, but because he's the guy. I want to be better because of him. I want to help him be better too. I want us to live our lives together pursuing everything that is good and true and praiseworthy and charitable, supporting and caring for each other and reaching out to share the pure love of Christ with others. Just like any heterosexual couple would.

The Savior said we should judge all things by their fruits. The fruits of what I want are nothing but good. I want a guy to be with, in this life and the next, for all the right, good, true, loving, pure in heart reasons, and to spend this life and the next with him pursuing all that is virtuous and praiseworthy and bringing to pass much righteousness. Is there any bad fruit there? No. Yet the Church says I can't do that and retain my membership, the right to perform priesthood ordinances for my kids, or the hopes of being with them and the family I love in the eternities. Why? Why? The Savior may have stood at a door and knocked a long time ago, but now it's me banging on the door till my knuckles are bloody, pleading for answers. And all I hear is silence.

Oh God help me. Mom, pray for me. I don't know what to do.

Your Son


Chedner said...

There's no way to reconcile them.

I'm assuming you're talking about D&C 132.

Go back and reread it, several times, slowly, paying careful attention to conditionals and scope (if I may use computer programming terms).

There is actually a great deal of reconciliation that can be found.

Not that I'm saying they are necessarily *correct* reconciliations, but I'm saying there is a way to do so.

But on the whole, I think one would be hard pressed to find a gay Mormon who hasn't poured out these thoughts at one time or another in one form or another.

And as I am typing this now, I feel a comfort that would have me believe that the Lord hears each and every plea, that He sees each and every tear, and that He feels each and every anguished drop of blood.

I strongly believe He is working to end the agony and bring joy to the pleading.

Of course, He won't force anyone to do anything -- so we must rely on our own personal relationships with him... and from what I know of you -- well, you've got that one in the bag.

You're a good man, and I know whatever you do, it'll be with a pure heart, desiring to do good.

And that's what's most important... at least from what I can tell as I read what Christ, Himself, taught.

Sarah said...

I don't know if Scott told you, but when I bore my testimony on Sunday, I did not cry a drop. The spirit helped me to say what I needed to say with confidence, letting the ward know that I am strong and happy. Not crying while doing so is EXTREMELY unusual for me.

Then I sat down and read this letter to your Mom that you had sent to Scott previously. Tears rolled down my face and I was extremely touched, sad for how something as beautiful as the gospel is shrouded by something as hurtful as the church that it could cause so many of you so much turmoil.

Thank you for posting this. Many will benefit from your view and the spirit in which this is written.

You are an inspiration and one of my heros. Thank you for your strength.

Bravone said...

Alan, The issues you discuss with your mom are so complex based on current church doctrine. You have so thoughtfully worked through the various implications of the decisions that face gay members of the church. I don't pretend to know God's thoughts on the matter. I do know that I don't have a clear understanding of his will or how we fit in the eternal scheme of things.

I do know, however, what I have decided my role to be concerning these issues. I will seek the guidance of the spirit in my life to direct MY course of action. I will love unconditionally others in THEIR quest to seek, find and follow the promptings of the spirit in their lives.

Given my limited knowledge, my duties as a disciple of Christ, and being true to the feelings of my heart, I can do no other.

You are a good man and I am confident that whatever you decide, you will live a life of integrity, and I will always be grateful for our friendship.


Beck said...

If I were in your situation, this, too, would be my letter to my Mom.

I feel every word and line of what you express - the main difference is I'm still married and trying to make that marriage work for some eternal consequence. If I were not, and who knows what the future brings, I would feel as you so deeply expressed with heartfelt passion.

I can't help but believe that the Celestial Kingdom is more than just married folks in the top bedrooms and everone else taking care of the grounds and servants quarters. There are many mansions - not just three - and not just three divisions within the Celetial realm. We are individuals of unique spirits with unique wants and desires that I believe never go away. We do not all magically become the same - even if our hearts become celestial in charity and perfection thru the atonement. So, if that's the case, could there not be room for many other scenarios of folks in the Celestial Kingdom? Including same sex couples, and single folks who are not reduced to the role of message runners / angels? There is little if nothing said about the other two levels of the Celestial Kingdom. Such things are never discussed - why? Why divide the Kingdom within levels and then not discuss the other possibilities that are out there - and then unique possibilities and combinations after that? It just seems so ridiculous to believe that we all will be identical in our righteous desires of our hearts in the end. How can one say that one's righteous desires aren't as righteous as your righteous desires? How can one say that your righteous needs are greater or less than my righteous needs? And how heartless is it to say that we are eternal beings with our intelligences existing even before our spirits giving us a unique package of identity and that somehow we all forget that into the eternities?

I'm rambling, but I'm thinking there just has to be more to the story and until the Brethren and the Saints are willing to receive the further light and knowledge He promises to send, it ain't going to happen, even if that possibility exists and is open to us from a righteous and loving Father who wants to grant us our righteous desires.

I'm rambling and I apologize, but this means a lot to me. Thank you for expressing your feelings in this way.

Big hugs,


Mike said...

This is Mike's wife. I hope you don't mind me reading and commenting on your letter to your mom.

I want you to know that my heart broke into a million pieces reading this post. I empathize, although I am sure that barely scratches the surface of what you are going though.

I am going to make one suggestion, assuming you have not done this already.
You articulate your emotions so well that I feel you are describing what many members feel. I feel that it is important you send a copy of this letter to The First Presidency. Tack on anything else you feel important, and ask for further direction and revelation on behalf of the many out there suffering with similar agony. We will send one as well. We need to unite and communicate as beautifully and plainly as you have with your mom. Please.

Whatever you do, I hope that you will make every effort to be a pioneer in helping these issues be brought to the attention to the leadership of the church. And, I pray that our actions will lead to a better world for our children.

Thank you for desiring good and striving to work out your salvation, what ever it may be, that you will reach the peace you are searching for.

D. said...

Thank you for sharing. You phrased everything very well. I hope I can convey that the love and understanding to my dad if/when I tell him about my life. I hope it all goes well!

Love ya.

Bror said...

Thanks for the letter to your mom. It says so much so well.

Z i n j said...

Powerful....We have a deep love for you and wish you the best.

Gay LDS Actor said...

I found this post from a link you left in a comment on Faithful Dissident's blog. I just want you to know that as I read this so much of what you said could very well been coming out of my own mouth. We're not in the same exact situations, but so much of what you said resonates with my own heart. I always like connecting with people who understand what it's like on our side of the fence. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks for posting this link on my blog. I'm glad I read it and hope that others will too. I like the suggestion made by Mike's wife about sending it to the First Presidency. One can wonder whether they plead for direction and inspiration in this case as much as they did with things such as the priesthood ban. Are they asking and imploring to know how to help gay members of the Church? Or are they satisfied with what they know so far? I guess we can only speculate.