Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hastening the work, the Church of Missionary Work

I used to think I belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ, but I have discovered this past year, that I actually belong to the Church of Missionary Work, or as it's more affectionately called: Hastening the Work.  Unless you've been living under a rock I'm sure you've heard of it too.  A year or so ago, while I was then serving as the Young Women's president in our ward, our Stake President began a new program called, Hasten the Work of Salvation. Which was a focus on missionary and rescue efforts in the wards, being led by the auxiliary leaders.  From what I remember, it was kind of a flow chart with the general idea being that, each leader was to bring 2 names from inactive or part member families that the missionaries could teach, so they could meet their 20 lessons per week goal.  Our weekly Ward Counsel meetings were now going to alternate each week with a Ward Missionary Counsel meeting, where plans for the activation of these individuals were assigned, also our weekly presidency meetings were supposed to include these missionary efforts.

Next I began to see an increase in missionary topic sacrament meetings, by a large measure. To the point that, it seemed that was all we were talking about.  All of this missionary effort made me come to a few conclusions.  One that struck me immediately was that as the Young Women's leader, I was never asked if I was willing to head up this new missionary effort in the ward. If I had been, I would have told the Bishop that I wasn't.  Not because I was fearful of it, I just basically don't believe in it very much.  Second, as our focus turned to missionary work in Sacrament meeting, I didn't hear much about Christ, even though Nephi says, we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ.  You would think you would hear a lot about Christ, if you are talking about converting people to him, but surprisingly no, there wasn't!  My husband and I were gone to Idaho for the summer, the first sacrament meeting that we returned home, the High Councilor spoke on, you guessed it, missionary work! Again, not much about Christ in that message either.  It was mostly a recount of a bunch of failed missionary attempts.  I wasn't sure if his stories were supposed to be inspiring or "don't let this happen to you" examples.  

The thought has occurred to me on more than one occasion as we talk endlessly about missionary work, that if there really happened to be an investigator at church, wouldn't they begin to think that they were one of these people that everyone is being "encouraged" to bring to church to convert, and wouldn't they want to run for the door.  Not only that, but if there was an investigator there, they certainly weren't being fed the gospel of Christ, they were getting an extra helping of the gospel of The Church of Missionary Work, and who would want to join that?  I have always thought that if we just talked of Christ, rejoiced in Christ, and preached of Christ, as Nephi said we do, the missionary efforts would increase on their own without the new man made programs.  We would be better people, we would serve and treat others out of love, and per chance that someone did enter through our doors looking for a church that taught about Christ, they would find one. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I really want to believe, but the Essays won't let me!

I don't believe that this church is what it says it is; I want to, I really do, but their own essays (essays the church put out this year to explain some of the problems with its history, who knew, huh?)  won't allow that, because the church is saying in them, it's not what it says it is.  I can't help that, I didn't write them, they did; at least I think they did, the essays are not signed by the author(s), but they are posted on the Church's website.  So going back and pretending everything is the same as the way I was taught in Primary, Sunday School and Seminary just doesn't work.  It's not my fault, I was the faithful spouse, I always remained true and never lied, I was faithful, always working in behalf of, supporting, and defending my "spouse" (the Church).  I didn't know my "spouse" had a dubious past, I didn't know it covered up and changed it's history, I didn't know, I swear I didn't know!!  And just as an unfaithful spouse will tear your world apart, cause you to fall to your knees in tears, rip at your very heartstrings, cause angst and threaten your family structure, so do you dear church "partner, spouse."  You have caused tears, sleepless nights, confusion, anger, regret, distrust, confusion, and confusion, more confusion, did I mention that already? I don't know I'm a little confused!

In my youth, attending Seminary, I was just a little "sponge" absorbing all the wonderful things that were being taught, like:

Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon using the golden plates and Urim and Thummim.  I was told it occurred just as the church's pictures show, Joseph reading from the plates to the scribe, translating through the power of God with the use of the Urim and Thummim, that was "kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord" for this very purpose.   From the Church's essay I learn that Joseph found "in the ground...a small oval stone or 'seer stone'..." which he used "to look for lost objects and buried treasure." Joseph "often translated with the single seer a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument."  Emma "described Joseph 'sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stones in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us."  There was no mention of a hat in the lessons I was taught, or that Joseph used his own seer stone that he had found years earlier and which he used to look for buried treasure.  Why would the Lord go to so much trouble to hide away the Urim and Thummim for this purpose, just to have Joseph opt to use at times, his own stone? I didn't get to ask that question in Seminary because this scenario was never taught. Why do the pictures show Joseph translating from the golden plates, and not from a seer stone in a hat?  This good and faithful spouse would like to know, so I won't be so confused. 

I was taught that the Book of Abraham was translated by Joseph Smith from ancient Egyptian papyri, which the church bought, that was written by the hand of Abraham himself.  In the Church's essay on the translation and historicity of the Book of Abraham it says, "None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham's name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham.  Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do no match the translation given in the book of Abraham...Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies.  These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived."  But I was never taught that in Seminary, so I couldn't ask how Joseph Smith could have claimed the papyrus were written by the hand of Abraham since they are from the wrong time period, and why the characters on the fragments do no match the translation in the book of Abraham. This good and faithful spouse would like to know so I won't be confused.

In Seminary I remember being taught the reasons for blacks being denied the priesthood. They had been less valiant in the preexistence, and they were from the lineage of Cain, who was cursed with a black skin after killing Abel, and that this was doctrine from God.  From the Church essays I learn: "During the first two decades of the Church's existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood...There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith lifetime."  "In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood...Even after 1852, at least two black Mormons continued to hold the priesthood. When one of these men, Elijah Abel, petitioned to receive his temple endowment in 1879, his request was denied.  Jane Manning James...similarly asked to enter the temple; she was allowed to perform baptisms for the dead for her ancestor, but was not allowed to participate in other ordinances." The essay goes on the say that,"Today the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else." Wow, that's quite a lot to absorb!  This good and faithful spouse (me) believed my untruthful spouse (the Church) when he said that blacks could not hold the priesthood because they were less valiant in the preexistence and were from the linage of Cain, which had a curse on it disallowing them to hold the priesthood. What about the revelation? I was told it was doctrine from God and we get our doctrine from God through revelation.  When Brigham Young publicly announced in 1852 that blacks can't hold the priesthood, did he just come up with that on his own?  My untruthful spouse didn't explain to me that blacks had been given the priesthood by Joseph Smith, my "spouse" withheld that information from me.  So I didn't know to ask, how that could have been?  It's all very confusing. 

I remember learning about polygamy, oh thank heaven, I do remember being told about that!  This can't be a cover up, I know I learned about that, and there were really, really good reasons for it, I remember that.  Maybe because I'm a woman and had a vested interest in knowing that there was a really good reason for polygamy (just in case there was a day when I would be asked to share my husband with another woman) I would only want to do that if God really, really needed me to.  And there were really, really good reasons for it. And there were lots of reasons I learned in Seminary, such as, the Church had to grow so there needed to be lots of children. Also, there were a lot more women then men, something to do with women being more righteous, so of course there would be more of those people in the Church.  And this was the fullness of times, so everything had to be restored, including polygamy, even though the men really didn't want to do that, really they didn't!  But Joseph asked about it, and if the Lord told him, he was then bound to obey it (That concept really lodged in my teenage spongy brain, don't ask God anything unless you are seriously going to live it) In fact, Joseph was so hesitant to marry another woman that an angel had to come and threaten his life with a sword. And not only that, if that weren't enough, their entire salvation was at stake!  Okay, I get it! Death, salvation, God is very serious about this, this is the Mother of all doctrine, no pun intended. You just can't be sleeping with all these women and be in God's good graces unless he told you. Which he did in D&C 132. Of course, in D&C 132 it says the women have to be virgins, which would mean they had never been married before, and that wasn't the case in many of the plural marriages, and that the first wife had to consent, which didn't always happen, especially in Joseph's case, where Emma didn't know about most of his wives until long after the marriages.  So again I turned to the Church's essays  to clear up my confusion.  It says "During the years that plural marriage was  publicly taught, all Latter-day Saints were expected to accept the principle as a revelation from God"  That's a bit toned down from what Joseph experienced, the angel threatening him with a sword and all.  They don't mention that part. But they do mention there was a revelation, so there you go, even though they don't quote from it.  But hey, its sourced once in the footnotes, so I know they know about it.  And even though sharing your husband with other women is a really big deal, the essay does offer this warm comfort: "Church leaders recognized that plural marriages could be particularly difficult for women. Divorce was therefore available to women who were unhappy in their marriages..."  Oh that's good, because divorce certainly wasn't a difficult circumstance to endure, especially in the 1800's, out in the West away from everyone, yeah, it's a good thing that was available. And the fact that the Church's main identity is 'families are forever', divorce really cuts at the heart of that, I'm glad the Church made divorce "available" for women, that makes polygamy so much less confusing. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Conversation with a gay return missionary - Part two

Welcome to part two.  In this part we will cover his beliefs about salvation, good things that he believes comes from being a member of the church, harm that he believes comes from being a member of the church, and happiness and the church.  Please enjoy this second part of my conversation with a friend: 

Part Two:

What would you say to a mother or father that is Mormon, or born again Christian (because I think they would have a similar view point) who is worried about their gay child's salvation?

I would probably prefecit by saying it's not the end of the world, you may initially be afraid of what that means, what the term "I'm gay" or "I'm coming out" means because I think its different for everyone.  But I think over time they would come to love their child regardless. I think the initial reaction is that we live in a world where anyone that is different or stands out is not accepted.  And like for my own mom, when I told her that I was coming out, that I was gay, her reaction as well was that we live in a world that is so cruel, and my mom, even to this day worries about me, worries about my safety.  I don't necessarily know that she still worries about my salvation, but when it's all said and done, I know that the Lord understands where each of us is at in our lives, and I really think he takes into consideration, not only our intent, our pureness of heart, but how we treat other people. I don't necessarily think its going to be salvation based on being straight or gay or black or white, or Mormon or sinner, non denominational or Catholic.  I really think it going to depend on who we are as a person, as we ultimately leave this earth life, so yeah, I think my view point has changed in regard to salvation.  Before I thought you had to do certain things, where now I don't believe that is the case; because we are all given different opportunities and we have so many different circumstances. It's impossible that we can all be judged according to the same things. Yeah, I just believe that our salvation is worked out, whatever that means, I think it's probably different for every one, but I think ultimately its between us and the Lord and he will decide that in our own time, and that it's not something that I necessarily worry about myself, but I can see where it would be alarming for a parent that was a Mormon or Christian or Born Again, or whatever they classify themselves as.  I think because the Bible teaches us that it's a sin or the Mormon church teaches is that marriage is between a man and a woman and not a man and a man or woman and a woman, that it defeats the whole plan of salvation, I think that's the initial worry.  But I think of it so much different now. 

What about the fact that a lot of people think it's plain in the Bible that it's a sin?  Can you address that a little bit more?

Thinking back as myself as a missionary, and kind of using my missionary answer that I used back then, is that there are so many interpretations to the Bible, that it's so hard to distinguish what is a sin and what isn't a sin.  Even though it clearly states that it is a sin, I would just put back on them, "thou shalt not judge"  if that person is judging me, they are just as much at fault for being a sinner then I am, being attracted to a man.  I know it may not have the same degree, but I think that, and again my view point has changed so much, where I don't allow the viewpoint or the judgment of others to effect me to the point where I loose sleep or be worried about my salvation.  In that case, personally, it wouldn't have the same effect on me as when I was a member of the church. 

When you stopped going to church, was there ever times that you wanting to go running back, back to that doctrine?

Oh Yeah, I don't necessarily think I want to run back to the doctrine, but I think even to this day there are times that I want to run back to the comforts of the social aspects of the church, because it was so safe.  When I first moved to SLC, I didn't have that instant network, I didn't have the safety net of being able to go to a place where there were people my age with similar interests that I could instantly bond with.  So having said that, I had to start over, I had to find my own social network. I don't want to necessarily run back to the doctrine because that's not really what I think about, I think more of the social aspect of the church, that's most appealing to me so in that case you know there are still times when I think it would be so easy and I would have so many more friends, it would be such a safety net if I needed help or just needed someone to be there, I still often feel that and I don't necessarily know if that will ever leave.  Because I think it is such a safety net, its something so comforting that I had for so long, I think that's what's most appealing about the church.

Are you still a member?

I've never technically had my name removed from the records of the church or been excommunicated and I certainly know that if I went back I would be, but it's really interesting I never really felt that it was necessary or appropriate to allow another man or the church to have that kind of power over me, I never wanted to sign a piece of paper or have someone say to me, this is your last chance, you can go to church court or you can choose to refuse this or fight this, whatever they say.  I just never felt that my leaving the church should be on someone else's terms, I wanted it to be on my own terms.  So while I'm not practicing and haven't been for 6 years, I never felt that I needed to end it that quickly and abruptly, so I guess technically I still am a member, but in my head I'm not.

I'm going to ask you, off the top of your head, if you had to make a list of the harm that the church brings into peoples lives, if any, what would you say it is?

I think back to testimony meetings as a young kid, watching all those young kids stand up and say verbatim what their parents say, I think that is harmful, it doesn't allow kids in the church to think for themselves or to ever really question, so I think as they get older in the church that continues to evolve, I think it goes back to the conversation we had a few weeks ago of not being allowed to question someone's beliefs or a doctrine that is taught in church.  I would say that has to be on of the most harmful, it is in a way brainwashing, it's repetition, it's something that's taught at such a young age, it doesn't allow the freedom to think and to believe how you would choose when you're older.

I think second, the knowledge that we are the only true church, that if you are not baptized into the LDS church you're not going to be saved, I think that is very harmful.  Having served a mission and having taught that for two years, I still don't know if I necessarily believed that portion of what I was teaching, because I always felt in the back of my head that there's no way that that is true, because there are so many good people out there, and even now, my circle of friends is 99.9% non LDS and they are some of the best people, and they have never been LDS.  And I can fathom that they wouldn't be saved.

Three, and without going into too much depth, the temple ceremony was always very strange to me.  I remember very clearly when I went through for my own endowment before my mission, I remember leaning over to my dad and asking "is this our church?" It was so foreign to me, just so out there to me.  I don't know if that's damaging, but for me it raised a lot of questions even before my mission.

I look at a lot of members of the church and they are so judgmental, so closed mined in the way they perceive other people, and I did the same thing.   I remember teaching a lady that we baptized on my mission, and one of the baptismal questions we have to ask is:  Have you been involved in a homosexual relationship?  And she hesitated and was like, "yeah, I have an attraction to women and I have been in situations where I have been with another woman"  It was so funny to me,  that in the back of my own head, I thought to myself, well how can I tell her that that's wrong when I have felt the same thing almost my entire life.?  So that basic believe of judging other people and telling them that they are wrong when I know a lot of members probably struggle with the same thing just are afraid to admit it. 

I see a lot of pride in the LDS church.  I see a lot of pride in its members of them being better then everyone else. Those are probably the main things that come to my mind. 

If you had to list the good that comes from being a member of the church what would you say?

I would say the core value of family, the basic belief that the family is eternal.  Because I would certainly like to that I will be with my family forever, whatever that means and to whatever degree. That to me is probably the most important believe that I still hold true to is the concept of family, in that can still be with my family after this life is over, that's probably the most important thing that I still carry with me as far as values go.  

The word of wisdom, the law of health.  Just being honest in your dealings, I think having standards and morals and treating people with respect.  I think that that was always very well taught growing and to this day those are still core beliefs that I for the most part remember and hold true to.  

I think the level of commitment on any level that the members have is something to be admired.  Members of the church seem to be very wealthy and very successful, education has always been pushed.  And the sacrifice of all these young men and these couples that take18 months or two years out of their life's to leave home and learn a foreign language and to work with and be companions with someone that they have never met. I think that's something to be admired, just the sacrifice that the members of the church put in day in and day out.  I think that's very respectful.

Do you think the church is family oriented?  They say they are, and that's one of the things that you mentioned on your list of good that comes from the church.  Let me ask it another way, do you think the church is destructive to a family or is it family oriented?

Let me answer the first part of the question, do I think the church is family oriented?  I do believe that it is, but I don't necessarily believe that it's with a husband and a wife,  I believe it can be a family with a man and a man or a woman and a woman.  I don't necessarily think that the structure is so defined, like the church teaches.  I really do think a family can even be a single parent. I don't think a mother should be looked down upon  because she doesn't have a spouse.  I think my belief in what family means has changed, versus what I used to.  I used to think that as the church taught a family is a man and a woman and children. But now I don't know that I agree with that, nor do I believe that.  I believe that a family can be two people without any kids, it can be me and a single guy.  If that's my opportunity, then that's my family.

On the second part, yes I think it can be very destructive.  I think about the push for marriage at such a young age, is very destructive.  I believe that my mission president telling me that 6 months after completing my mission I should be married in the temple. Well, I think its very destructive, giving that pressure to young men and women when they are so young  and have not even experienced life, I think that is very harmful.  I think its also very harmful that fact that women are taught to be stay at home mom's and to not necessary get an education, but to raise children in the home.  I think there is a lot of pressure on mother's in the church to have kids at such a young age and to have many kids. I think Utah is one of the highest states for depression and I really think that's because of the pressure that the church puts on families to be so perfect, to be better than their neighbor or to have this and to have that, or to look a certain way or to be perceived a certain way.  I really think the pressure to be the perfect family is a huge flaw in the church. I also have known a lot of really young couples where the husband has struggled with pornography, I think that whole stigma of pornography, and sex outside of a healthy married relationship, can be very damaging,  I know its an evil thing and I'm not promoting it by any means, but I think the shame that a Bishop or Stake President can put on someone is damaging.

When you left the church is had nothing to do with the history of the church, or anything like that; but somewhere along the line you must have become acquainted with the problems with the history of the church, did you?

To be honest with you, that's something that I have never really gotten into, so I can't answer that either way.  And I don't necessarily know now that if I knew the history of the church if it would make me feel any different, because I am so far removed from the church, does that make sense?  I think that if I were still active and I studied those things it would have a huge sway in the way I felt or viewed the church, but that doesn't really matter to me, it just doesn't matter.  I left, not because of what I knew or didn't understand, but because of my orientation and the person that I was and them not accepting me as a person. 

I was talking with someone who told me they left the church unaware of the historical problems, but simply because it wasn't making them happy, would you say that is closer to your experience? 

Yeah, that reminds me of a time when I had first come out and I had just lost my job and I was wondering what I was going to do with my house and with work and my sister happened to be at my house, and I will never forget that she said, "you know, maybe if you started going back to church and living the commandments and seeing the Bishop, maybe you wouldn't be so unhappy, and maybe life would get better for you."  I still to this day can remember in my home, where I was, where she was standing, the look on her face, the tone that she used, what I was thinking at the time.  I love my sister to death, but I literally had to pick her up off the floor and set her outside my door step and say, "if you are going to treat me like that, you are not welcome in my home until you can treat me with equal respect, then you can come back." It's so funny that the importance, like you said, that we allow it to have on us being happy.  I know so many sincerely happy people that are not members of the church.  This is probably one of the happiest times in my life and I'm not a member of the church, I'm not reading the Book of Mormon, I'm not going out with the missionaries, or seeing my Bishop, or going to Sacrament meeting and bearing my testimony or attending Elder Quorum.  I'm not doing any of those things and honestly I'm so much happier, because even when I was doing those things, the guilt that I felt and the wanting to always be better, or thinking I read my scriptures for 30 minutes today, I should probably read them for an hour tomorrow.  There was always that "not good enough mentality" verses now I know that what I am doing is good enough.    

End of Part Two

We will wrap things up in Part Three

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Conversation with a gay return missionary: Part One

This is an interview I had with my son's best friend from high school; he's a return missionary, gay, and living with his partner in SLC.  I think you will appreciate his sincerity, his struggle to live his religion, and the events that lead to his leaving it.  I hope you will grasp the internal struggle as he honestly recounts his experiences, and no matter how you feel about gay issues, especially Mormon gay issues, I think you will be touched and maybe surprised, at the depth of his commitment to his upbringing, but that holding to those beliefs were leading to feelings of suicide.  He'll tell us the advice that changed his life and allowed him to believe that being who he is was not a sin. This conversation is helpful to any Mormon to better understand the life of a gay member, and especially if you are dealing with this issue in your family.  I've known him more than 15 years, he was a delight to have around our house when he and my son were growing up.  I still find him very delightful and when I was done talking with him, I just had to tell him that I thought he was an intelligent, thoughtful, moral person.  I think you will agree. 

Here's Part One:

Returning home from your mission, what were your hopes, dreams, and desires?

At the completion of my mission, I had an interview with my Mission President, one thing he said to me was, Elder ______, you served an honorable mission, now you need to get an education and get married within six months. I knew I was gay, I'm focused on this one thing: You have to find a wife and get married in the temple. I didn't want to sin, I wanted to be active in the church, I was feeling the pressure to get a wife.

I had suppressed my gay feelings for two years, my biggest fear was that those feelings, to be with another man, would be waiting for me as soon as I got off the plane.

And were they, were they waiting there for you when you got off the plane?

Oh yes, they were everywhere. As soon as I was released as a missionary, I kind of felt liberated in a way, I could go to the movies, hang out with friends, I can listened to "worldly" music. I can feel normal again. Absolutely, the temptation was everywhere, from movies to music, it was so strong it was unreal.

So you're in a really bad situation right, you don't want to sin, you want to be active in the church, so how do you play this out?

I'm really active in the church, I'm the ward mission leader, I'm going out with the missionaries four to five times a week, if I wasn't working I was hanging out with the missionaries, taking them grocery shopping.  I'm doing everything I possible could to not be who I was, to fight the urge. To not "sin" because I didn't want to sin. Little did I know that me wanting to be myself was not sinning.

So anyway, I went to the Singles Ward, and this is another thing that really stands out about the members and how they accept diversity. I always knew in the back of my mind, when I would leave a function at church, people were questioning if I was gay. "Why doesn't he come out, why doesn't he just admit it." I knew that, that was my biggest fear of going to a church function is that I knew people were talking about me. There was one night when I was playing church volleyball and I came out and someone had written "fag" on the hood of my car, in the church parking lot. That was a very defining moment for me when I realized that these people don't love me. And you know the church always teaches acceptance and charity, and the love of Christ. They have no love for me, they have no pure love. If I did come out, they wouldn't accept me.

I hit a very, very low point in my life. I became very depressed, I was suicidal. I eliminated myself from that group, that social life. That's when I really started looking outside the church for friends.

I had a friend, he was an investigator. And maybe this is something that you won't understand, as a gay man you can tell another gay man; you just know that you both are, without having to say the words. Anyway, when I first met him I knew that he was, there was this instant chemistry and attraction. While I never acted upon it, I just always knew there was something about him that was attractive to me. This was a couple of years past my mission, I had never acted upon any of my feelings. I had been attending the temple. So one night he invited me over to watch a movie, just the two of us, and we fell asleep. And we were talking and something just same over me, I said I really like our friendship, I like the idea of our friendship, I would just like to take this one step further. I would like to explore what you and I have together. And that was the first time ever that I had admitted to myself out loud that I was gay. From then on, it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was like four o'clock in the morning, I had just told another guy that I liked him, that I was gay. Even though I knew that he knew that I was. I had taken that first big step in exposing myself to everyone. I had crossed over that threshold of "coming out" and I can't go back.

I left his house, I'm sitting in my car, I'm thinking this is my chance to tell my parents. So I'm sitting there, I dial my parents phone number; I'm thinking to myself, is this something I really want to do, am I ready for this? Am I ready for what's about to take place in my life, because everything is going to change from this point one.

So I call my parents, my dad answers, he says "hey what's going on?" I said, "I know it's late, I'm sorry if I woke you up." He said, "you know your mom and I have been sitting here watching TV, we have been awake the entire night and something told me you were going to call." I don't know if that was the spirit, but I honestly believe that when I was willing to take that risk, when I decided to be true to myself--I really felt it opened the doors for my family to accept what I'm about to tell them. So I really do believe that it was the right time and the right place to come out to my parents.

I pull up to their house, I stopped the car and I'm thinking, okay you haven't actually told your parents that you're gay, you don't have to tell them, you can say something else in your life is going on, that your not very happy, if you don't really want to do this. So I go into to my parents house, they are both sitting there, I'm sobbing, my mom is saying, "what's wrong, what's going on?" I tell them, "there's something I want to tell you, but I don't know how to say it." She's saying, "please just tell us." Literally every time I tried to tell my parents that I was gay, the words just wouldn't come out. It was like those dreams where someone is chasing you and you are trying to scream, but you can't scream, that's just what it was like. So I sat there saying "I have something to tell you but I don't know how to say it," probably 20 or 30 times I said, "I don't know how to tell you." Finally my mother grabs my arms and says, "whatever it is, just say it, we will still love you." So I sit there with my head in my hands, I'm so ashamed, and I say, "I'm gay."

The first thing that my mother says is, "how do you know?" And at that time, it was so new to me, how was I going to explain me knowing that I was gay to my parents, I didn't even know what that meant. I've never kissed a guy, I've never held hands with a guy, I've never gone on a date with a guy. Did I even know myself what that meant to be gay?  I don't think that I did. Even to this day, having been several years after that, I'm still trying to figure out what that means to me.

So, my dad says, "we'll get you the best treatment, you need to see a doctor, is there some kind of therapy we can put you in? We need to set you up with a counselor, we need to call LDS family services, we need to contact the bishop, the stake president, we need to start you on something so we can take care if this. I think members of the church think this is some kind of a disease, not who you are as a person.

So my parents set me up with a counselor at LDS family services, I'm talking to this guy, I will never forget him, I actually think that he was gay. Anyway, the counsel I was given is that I needed to force myself to fall in love with a woman. That I needed to force myself to go on a date with several different girls every single week. And force myself to develop emotional and sexual feelings for a woman even though they were never there.

Implying that you can force yourself to change your sexual orientation, because it's supposed to be a man and a woman, right, and if God sent you here that way, that wouldn't be fair, so you have to be choosing this, right? 

Yes, I remember very clearly, my therapist, he would take the family proclamation off the wall in his office and he'd have me read it over and over again. And we would say, "anywhere in the proclamation do you see where it says it's supposed to be a man and a man, or a woman and a woman?" And I was just like, "well no." He was like, "well then that teaches us that living a gay life style is sinning against God. It's not what he created us to be, he wants us to be a man and a woman, and to be able to procreate, and to be sealed in the temple. Anything that doesn't fall into that is against what God has taught us to believe. So here I am, I had just come out, I don't even know what that means to come out, and they are already teaching me that I am going against God and that I'm sinning and even though I hadn't acted upon those feelings, I was still sinning.

And here's another kind of thought to that, I don't know if you know much about, SSA or SGA, the church doesn't use the word homosexual or gay, they use the term SSA which means same sex attraction, or SGA, which means same gender attraction. So basically, SSA is that you have the attraction, but you have never acted upon it. So if you have never acted upon the attraction, you are not considered gay, you have SSA. Isn't that interesting?

So, here they are trying to classify all the righteous members who only have the attraction, but have never acted up it, they aren't gay, they only have the attraction. But as soon as you act upon it you're gay. That's how the church differentiates the terminology.

So my therapy is to force myself to kiss a woman, to go out on several dates with them. I thought this was interesting, my therapist says, "I want you to go out this next week, and do activities that are considered masculine." Isn't that so funny? So I said, "well can you clarify that, I don't know what you mean" He said, "I want you to go out and throw a football with one of your straight buddies or I want you to go to the gym and play basketball with all the guys at the gym." And I'm thinking, this is going to help me be straight?

But I'm still a member of the church and I'm thinking, if I'm going to beat this, I have to have faith that what he is teaching me is going to help me not be gay. If I have faith in what this man is telling me to do, I will be on a road to a cure. I thought, I'm going to the temple and if I'm reading my scriptures, and I'm fulfilling my calling as the ward mission leader, if I'm helping the missionaries, if I'm serving other people, and I'm forgetting myself in the Lord's work, he's going to take care of the rest. I fully believed that.

Okay, when did that fall apart for you?

As I became more and more ingrained with my therapist from LDS services, it just became more and more apparent, every single week, that this was doing nothing for me. I was more confused then I already was, and I thought to myself, why can't I feel that what he is telling me is best for me? Something inside of me, just my own intuition, me knowing me as a person, everything he was teaching me was fighting against who I was, and who I knew I wanted to be.

I never told my therapist, that I was going to find a psychiatrist that wasn't LDS, so just on my own, not telling my parents, not telling my bishop, I found a therapist that wasn't LDS, that was very liberal, very gay friendly, I started going to see her and she was actually a lesbian herself. So a couple of weeks go by, I tell her I was so suicidal, because the therapist from the church is telling me to date girls, and I'm trying to date as many girls as I can, but I guess I'm not feeling it, I'm not attracted to them, and I can't get myself to follow along. I keep thinking, I'm having faith, I've been going to the temple, I've been going to the temple, once if not twice a week. So I'm thinking to myself, okay, something is going to happen. Then I would think, well maybe I'm not going with enough faith, maybe I'm not going with an open mind. And maybe I'm not listening carefully enough to the temple ceremony, or the endowment session, maybe I'm doing this wrong. I kept beating myself up thinking, if I hadn't received an answer by now, if the Lord hasn't taken my attraction to other men away from me, I'm obviously doing something wrong.

I was literally beating myself up, I was so unhappy, I made the decision then and there that I was going to stop seeing the LDS therapist. And I was just going to continue to see my therapist that wasn't a part of the church. So I go to her and tell her, "you known, this church teaches me that I am a sinner and I'm this horrible person, me wanting to be with another man is going against God and I'm going to hell, and I won't be sealed to my family in the temple if I live my life this way."

She said, "you know what, all I'm going to tell you is you are at a very vulnerable time in your life, where you really have to decide, am I going to listen to other people and have them tell me how I should be and how I'm going to live my life? Or are you going to listen to your own heart and follow that." That's when I really said, "I'm not going to listen to anyone else, I'm not going to a therapist any more; I know who I am. I knew I wanted to be in a relationship with a man, have a family, that is what I want."

So that's when I stopped going to church and stopped going to the temple. That's when I decided to explore going on dates with men, and having a healthy relationship with a man. That's when I decided to really explore that side of who I was.

That's when you decided to stop going to church, was that hard to do?

Oh yeah, my bishop was wanting to meet with me every week, he wanted to know what I was doing. And I gave him that respect and I went in and saw him. He said the church doesn't have any doctrine or advice for a bishop for dealing with someone who is having trouble with homosexuality. There is no training, there is no teaching, he said at this point, I really don't know what to tell you anymore. I don't know what to say, I don't know what's right, I don't want to tell you something that's wrong. That was almost 6 years ago, I don't know what a bishop would tell a young man today, I would be curious to know what the church tells a young man or woman now, compared to what I was told back then. So that was the very last time that I saw my bishop.

How did you feel about your bishop?

I think he was sincere, I really appreciated that he told me, "I don't even know what to tell you. I don't want to tell you one thing and have it be wrong." I really felt that he was sincere in saying "I don't know what other counsel I can give you." I felt right there, that was enough of an indication to me, that the church was not prepared for this. They don't know how to deal with this. There are no teachings that I have heard of even to this day of how a bishop is counseled to deal with this.

So, the stake president's secretary had been calling me for months, after I had told my bishop that I was gay. He wanted to meet with me, he wanted to make an appointment with me. My last visit with my bishop, and this is something I will never understand about the church, he wanted to know how far I had gone with another man, what I had done. And I told him that was none of his business. Then he said, "are you willing to change? If you are willing to change then we can certainly work with you; but if you have no desire to change-- then I have no choice but to excommunicate you." I said, "well if you think you have that kind of power over me, then I'm leaving," and I got up out of my chair, and I walked out and I have never been back since. That's the last time I have ever been to church.

What is your faith, and how does it shape your life?

You and I were taught that in order to be worshipping, you have to go to a church building and worship with other members of the church. I don't believe that in order to worship God or have a relationship with God, I have to sit for three hours at a church building. I don't believe that at all. I believe me having a relationship with God, is me being a decent person, having healthy relationships with other people, being honest, respecting my parents, just being a good person. That to me is more of a relationship with God, than sitting in a church every Sunday. Even just going on a hike and appreciating the beauty around us, that to me is my relationship with God, it's not having to read the Book of Mormon for 30 minutes everyday. It's not having to read the Bible. It's all around me, it's not in a certain place.

BYU has now come out and said, we accept those that struggle with SSA, we welcome you with open arms. You are worthy to attend our university. But if you act upon it you are no longer allowed. Well, you know, someone who has the attraction is still gay, whether or not they have acted upon it. So now that I have lived the life style, I'm no longer worthy as opposed to those who only had the thought in their heart to be with a man. That's the differentiation, that's what makes them better I guess, better than I.

My mom once asked me, kind of just thinking out loud, "if the church ever allowed you to have a partner, to be in a relationship, to have a calling and have a temple recommend, would you ever come back?" I said, "No, why would I want to be a part of something that's based on conditions, why after all these years that they didn't accept me, why would I want to go back? Sure it would be great for other members of the church, but I just would never go back. I would still have the feeling that members would look at me and think, oh he's one of them." Not like, hey we welcome you to family home evening, to ward temple night. Not that I think that will ever happen, I just would never want to associate myself with something that has excluded me for so long for being who I am.

Did your mother ask you that because she is worried about your salvation?

Oh, yeah for sure. She's worried that I'm not going to be sealed to them and that she won't be my mother after this life. She worries about that all the time. But I also know that now that my mom has seen me not have to struggle with that and struggle with that fight. That's the point I was going to make, I think for the very first time I have seen my mom kind of question the church. Not that I ever think she will leave, because I don't think she will, but I think she is struggling with the fact that she loves and believes in something so much, but they hate my son. So I don't know how she works it out in her mind, if she does, but that's in her own time, her own schedule.

Even being downtown, so close to Temple Square, the members of the church here are so much more liberal, and accepting in their thinking, but as you get closer to Provo, it's like night and day.

End of Part One, of a three part series.


Saturday, August 16, 2014


This Blog is for individuals or families who unexpectedly find themselves in a Mormon faith crisis. Either you or someone close to you accidently discovered some of the historical facts of the church that have been covered up, or by listening to one of the apostles or the prophet in an interview you heard them disavow doctrine that you have been taught from your youth, or perhaps you have stumbled onto the fact that the church is a multi billion dollar corporation that owns many businesses, including City Creek Mall in SLC, or maybe you have just had your gay child "come out" to you. Now you're faced with the decision of how you are going to react to this information, who are you going to put first, your child, or the church and their doctrine?

Like I said, this is for the person who was happily content in their faith, when suddenly they find themselves with additional knowledge, that is now trying their faith, or that of a family member.  This blog is to help you through the beginning stages of this.  Trust me, I know what it's like to feel your world has been swept out from under you.  My goal is to help keep families in tact, that should be everyone's goal, including the church's.  Don't let a faith crisis destroy your family, keep it the most important thing above every thing else.  You can always have a change of mind regarding a matter later, your may come to new conclusions in time, but you can not get your family back once you've let it dissolve. 

I've thought about people who left their spouse years ago because their spouse didn't believe in the church.  How must they feel now?  Especially in light of all the new information about the church, even the church is turning away from a lot of it's doctrine in their new essays, click here.  Imagine having left someone, just to find out years later that the church was in error on many accounts.  What a sad thing!  Please don't let that happen to you.  Everything is changing, if you are not aware of the changes, it doesn't mean they aren't happening, they just aren't being broadcast over the pulpit. 

Hang in there, the directions you take are decisions only you can make, but I do know that family comes first, FAMILY COMES FIRST!