My neighbor and very good friend sent me an email a couple of days ago. She knows about my homosexuality, but didn’t know the full extent of my relationship with Jonah. I haven’t told her not because I don’t trust her or because I feel she’ll judge or condemn me, but because even though she is fairly liberal, she is quite a devout Mormon, and I felt she would not agree with my choices. Anyway, I guess my sister-in-law, who she is also really good friends with, had innocently revealed to her that Jonah and I are getting married in March. I had actually sent a mass email to most of my friends telling them about the goings-on in my life, but I had censored my emails to my bishop and this neighbor and my mission president, for example, and didn’t tell them about my future plans. It wasn’t that I felt they would judge me; I just didn’t want to disappoint people I admire and respect a great deal. Well, my neighbor now knows, and my heart kind of sank. But I am glad my sister-in-law told her what I didn’t feel I had the courage to do myself, and here is an excerpt of my neighbor’s email to me:
Congratulations are your current acting successes...
[Your sister-in-law] just told me that you are planning a March wedding. I am mostly at a loss for words. I hope you will be happy and of course you will always be my friend. I would like to meet your partner someday. From what I have heard it seems he has had many of the same struggles you have had with how “what seems to be” fits (or doesn’t) with a lifetime of teachings and perceptions. I hope you will both be able to stay true to all other ideals you have apparently both been taught. I also hope you will always for your lifetime continue to know that the restored Gospel is true, even as you cannot make sense of how your own compelling situation fits. And for that matter “we all fall short of the glory of God” so I am not going to be the one casting stones
I have become a serious blogger on what is affectionately known as “the bloggernacle”, a collection of Mormon based sites with a bunch of very bright and thoughtful commentators and responders. One of the frequent responders…is homosexual and has been excommunicated, but he absolutely loves the Church and apparently he has a bright and burning testimony on all but that one subject. He has been married and has 5 daughters whom he adores. He is a wonderful theologian and a former Nauvoo Temple worker. I don’t know how it all fits for him, but every time I read one of his posts I think about you.
She ends her email with some stuff that I don’t wish to share because it is personal to both of us, but that is the general gist of her letter.
It’s a nice letter, and I appreciated it. I don’t know why I felt I had to explain my actions to her. After all, I didn’t feel any condemnation or judgment from her letter. However, I felt I needed to, and so I wrote her back. Many of the thoughts in this letter are things I have already stated in past entries, but it helped solidify some of my thoughts, and so here is what I said (and if I repeat what I have already said several times, tough! It’s my blog. Deal with it! :-)
Thank you… for your kind words and for not judging me based on my current choices (not that I thought you would). Yes, what [my sister-in-law] told you is true; I am planning on marrying my partner in March. I wish I could fully explain why I feel this is the right path for me at this time.
This has been a very interesting past couple of years and has been filled with challenges and epiphanies and growth. The irony is that I don't feel my testimony regarding the truthfulness of this church and its gospel has changed. I still believe in the restored gospel; I still believe Joseph Smith saw and did what he said he did; I still believe the Book of Mormon is true; I still believe Gordon B. Hinckley is a living prophet; and I still have a great love and affinity for my religion. If so, one might ask, why don't I continue to live it as I have been taught? There is no easy answer to that question other than to say that I simply can't do it anymore. I wish I had the faith or stamina or whatever to do what my religion has asked me to do. I just don't right now. For so many years prior to meeting Jonah (my partner) and coming out of the closet, I just felt miserable, uptight, guilty, unworthy, repressed, and frustrated with life. No matter how hard I prayed or fasted or magnified my callings or served or read my scriptures, I just couldn't get rid of that negativity in my life. No matter how hard I tried, I never felt I could overcome or successfully deal with my homosexual feelings in a positive way. In my prayers I would often lament my situation and the unfairness of my life or ask Heavenly Father to please just spare me the agony of having to live life with this burden. No matter how many Priesthood blessings I received or how much counseling I got from my leaders and therapists, it didn't change how I felt inside as far as my sexual attractions and desires were concerned. And living a facade pretending I was somebody I never felt that I was or trying to fit in a box that I just didn't seem to fit in was lonely, isolating, and wearying on my soul.
I had determined I was just going to live my life in celibacy and just continue to plod along through life when I met Jonah. We were just friends, but there was something fateful about our meeting; I would even say inspired, and it was clear from quite early on that we were good for each other, although I refused to admit it. I was determined to follow the commandments as I was taught them because I have always tried to do the right thing and be a "good Mormon boy." Jonah never pushed or pressured me to do anything that would pull me away from my faith. In fact, he was ready to let me go if needs be (although he didn't want to, and I began to realize that I didn't want him to, either) because he knew how important my religion was to me.
I didn't want to fall in love with Jonah. I wanted to stay true to what I've always known to be true. But I also was aware that Jonah was making me happier than I'd been in a long time, and I can't quite describe how right it felt to be with him, in spite of what I've always been taught. It certainly felt more right than the past relationships I've had with women.
The decision to be with Jonah was certainly not an easy one nor did I make it without plenty of thought and prayer. Nor has it always been an easy adjustment. But here is what I am absolutely sure of. Since I made it, my life has been much, much happier, and I have been more at peace than I have in a long, long time. In spite of the contradictions, I know these feelings of happiness and peace are fruits of the Spirit. I do not pretend to know why doing something I've been taught is wrong has brought me far more happiness and peace than when I was trying to do everything "right," nor do I pretend to know how this will all pan out in the afterlife, but I know I am much happier now, and I also know my relationship with God is good. In some ways, it's even better than it was. My prayers are no longer filled with self-loathing, unworthiness, guilt, frustration, thoughts of death, or sadness. On the contrary, I consider myself one of the most blessed and happy people I know. I feel like I can finally be myself, and that it's okay. I do not know why this is so. But I trust Heavenly Father, and while I don't necessarily know that he condones my choices, I do know that he is very happy that I am happy, and I do feel he has blessed me greatly by putting Jonah in my life.
Through all of this, I have tried to retain my Mormon values. I still attend church; I still pray; I don't drink or smoke; Jonah and I have been dating for two years, and we are still both celibate; I have tried to be honest and forthcoming with my leaders and my family; even though I am unable to get married legally, I am trying to do my best under the circumstances. Jonah and I are monogamous and spiritual. We each treat others as we would want to be treated. In short, I'm really trying to live my life as best I can under the circumstances life has given me.
I have finally gotten around to reading Gordon B. Hinckley's biography. At the very beginning of the book there was a quote in which he said, "I have done nothing more than try to do what has been asked of me, and I've tried to do it the best I could." When I read these words I felt the Spirit whisper to me that I was doing the same. I am doing the best I can with what I've got, and that will have to be enough. The Spirit has encouraged me a lot during this time, assuring me that I will be okay and that my relationship with Jonah is a blessed and, dare I say, righteous one. Again, I do not know why this is when I am so obviously living my life contrary to what I've been told I should do. But that is what I feel. I do not feel deceived in this matter (although the adversary is very good at what he does, so maybe I am and just don't know it; however I find it very hard to believe that so much good, happiness, and peace has come out of something evil).
In spite of the fact that I am lacking in answers, I know life is better now than it was before, and if I am doing wrong, I would rather do it and feel the way I do now than do what is "right" and feel the way I did then.
I love this church very much. My religion is as much a part of me as my sexuality seems to be, and some of my very best qualities come from having been raised Mormon. It will break my heart if I am excommunicated from this church, which I realize could be a possibility based on the choices I am making. I hope I can somehow avoid that. It hasn't come up yet, and I'm certainly not going to bring it up myself.
I once thought that if I ever came out or acted on my same-sex attractions that my world would somehow implode, that the powers of hell would lay hold on me or something. What I've come to realize is that life has actually gotten better for some reason. My family and friends still love me, and while not all understand, all have been very supportive and loving throughout. I've realized even more how much God really does love me. It's been an incredible and wonderful journey.
I've just finished reading a terrific book by Carol Lynn Pearson called No More Goodbyes which I think every member of the Church should be required to read. Although it contains some ideas that members might find controversial or even objectionable, I think it really puts a human face on this issue and would at least open people's minds a little. At the very least, it would help people better understand what people like me go through. If you haven't read it, you might take a look at it (although you are a very open-minded woman). My mom is reading my copy now.
I love the leaders of the Church. I truly think they are good and inspired men, but I do think the issue of homosexuality is one they have not been able to get a good handle on. I truly think they are earnest and compassionate, but just don't know the answers. But then neither do I. It's a delicate problem. I don't expect Church policy will ever change on this matter; after all, it's Christ who is at the head, not men. But I just can't continue to do what has been required of me. I don't know what the consequences of that choice will be, but it is what I have to do right now.
I certainly didn't mean for this to turn into a sermon. I'm just explaining my actions. It's not that I feel I have to; I just want you to better understand where I am coming from. It's been especially hard to know how to tell or whether to tell my friends who are LDS about my relationship or upcoming marriage, especially those who I admire and respect as ones who really try to live their faith. In a heterosexual relationship, a member of the Church can send out announcements and expect that everyone will be pleased and overjoyed about the news. In my case, I fear disappointment and concern. I've never set out to hurt anyone or cause anyone to worry about my salvation.
Fortunately, my family and friends (including you) have received my news with little judgment and much love. I'm not saying that they necessarily understand or agree with my choices, but I have been uplifted and gratified by the responses I have received. Jonah hasn't been so lucky. He comes from a very strong Pentecostal background, and many in his family have done or said things that have torn him down. I am very fortunate that those around me have shown me much Christ-like love. I pray that Jonah's family's hearts will at least be softened someday.
… I actually have a group of friends on what we call the Blogosphere [or Queerosphere] comprised of gay LDS people (mostly men). Some are still very active, some are married, some are single, some have fallen away from the Church, some are hanging on with everything they've got, some are in same-sex relationships. It's been very interesting and inspiring to read their stories. I always promised myself I would never become bitter or angry towards the Church like some. Why should I? It has given me some of the greatest blessings and opportunities I've had.
I also have a very dear friend who got married and divorced and came out roughly the same time I did. He is also a very good man with a strong LDS background, and it has been really helpful to have each other to rely on as we both go through our various transitions.
…Anyway, I didn't mean for this to be as long as it turned out to be. I appreciate your love and friendship, and, of course, you will always be my friend, too.
I love you very much.
Anyway, there it is for what it’s worth.