Monday, June 18, 2007

Church Nerves

I went to church today for the first time in about a year. I'm back home with my mom for the summer while working out here in Utah. It felt weird. I was nervous for some reason, mostly, I think, because I knew people would ask what I'm up to and what my plans are now that I've graduated, and I guess I thought it would be a little awkward to tell them I'm planning on buying a house with my gay boyfriend and living with him permanently. And now that I'm back home I feel like church is the one place I can no longer be myself (at least the way I've allowed myself to be for the last year), and that's hard.

I have missed church a lot, but I was also reminded about the things I don't miss about it; for example, boring Priesthood lessons, putting on a facade, and how much the lessons (most likely inadvertently) often concentrate on God's judgement rather than His mercy. But I have missed many of these people as well as the positive messages of God's love. It was so great to see my Bishop. He is great leader as well as a good friend.

I guess the other reason I was nervous to go to church is because I've been putting off the inevitable; that I may have to face a disciplinary council eventually. I do not wish to be either excommunicated or disfellowshipped, but I also allow that one of those two things may be the natural consequence of my actions and choices. The fact is, I am in a gay relationship that I have no intention of walking away from. And while Jonah and I have not had sex yet, it is certainly my intention to do so in the coming future. I would imagine my unwillingness to follow the commandments the Lord has set through the Church would certainly be grounds for either disfellowship or excommunication. I just haven't wanted to deal with it.

I never even talked about these issues in my last ward (when I was going to school). My bishop in my home ward (the one I currently am attending) knows all about my issues as does the Stake President. These men are friends who I love and trust, and while I know that will make it harder if and when I have to face a disciplinary council, I also feel on some level it will make it easier that I won't be handing over my fate in the Church to a bunch of strangers who don't know me or my problems.

But because these are also men I have grown up with, I know it will be much more difficult on an emotional level to either be disfellowshipped or excommunicated.

I recently talked to my friend (you can read about him here). It was funny, he was on his way to Cedar City and I was on my way to Salt Lake City, so we agreed to meet wherever our paths crossed, and we met at some remote exit on I-15. It was just the two of us out in the middle of nowhere, and it was so good to see him after nearly a year. We've gone on similar paths in many ways, and we both just finished graduate school. We're both in serious relationships. Unlike me, he was married before he found his partner. Anyway, I asked him about his excommunication. He said he was very surprised how peaceful he felt after it had happened and how open and compassionate the men on his council were. He said he's very much in love with his partner, and things seem to be going well with him. He also had better closure recently with his ex-wife. Anyway, he said if and when I have to deal with a disciplinary council, he would be there to talk to if I needed it. I was very grateful for that. He's really a great guy. Never in a million years did either of us think we'd ever be where we are today, but I really feel like we're both happier people than we were.

It's so weird. I still maintain that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true. I don't think I could ever rescind that belief. I'd be scared to, quite frankly, based on what I know. But I also am absolutely sure that I am happier now than I was when I was active. Before I came out of the closet, life was just full of torment, loneliness, guilt. I'd wish I were dead and was convinced I would always be alone and unhappy. I lived life as a facade, never saying what I really felt. I was repressed and uptight. Now I have someone in my life who I love dearly, who loves me. I am free to be myself and feel like a great burden has been lifted from me. I am much more relaxed and others have noticed how much happier I seem to be. I do not feel any of the torment and hopelessness that I once did, and I rarely feel guilt about the way I have chosen to run my life. I am at peace and, furthermore, I feel I have a much better appreciation for God's love and a better relationship with Him in many ways than I previously did. I don't know what that all means or what the afterlife holds for me, but the point is, I'm okay with it, and I am truly happy. I guess I didn't expect that withdrawing from the Church would lead that way.

I again stress, as I often do, that the choices I am making now in life are right for me and me alone. I would never presume to dictate how anyone else should run their own life. In fact, I have great admiratiom for those of you who are still "sticking it out." I just realized I could no longer do it, and although there are some things I miss as a result, I also know I am far happier and more fulfilled than I once was. I also have an absolute dream of a man for my mate, and that has made an incredible difference in my life. Jonah is an absolute gem! An absolute gem! He is not perfect, nor am I, but we are, in many ways, perfect for each other. I simply do not believe it is coincidence. I believe we were meant to be with one another. As I have stated in past posts, I am doing the best I can under the circumstances life has dealt me, and I have confidence that it is enough.

I pray for all of you, in whatever choices and circumstances you find yourselves faced with, that you will find happiness in whatever you decide to do. For some of you that means staying true to your testimonies and not acting on your homosexual feelings. For others, it means finding other alternatives. I just pray we can all be wise in the choices we make. I can't even testify that my choices are wise or even righteous, but I certainly feel they are right for me at this time.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The End?

I am considering terminating my blog. Like many of you MoHo bloggers out there, I originally started this blog as a way of working through my feelings, venting my frustrations, and as a way to connect with others who are/were struggling as I was.

Now, however, I'm in a really good place emotionally and very much at peace with where I am in life. I don't write here as much anymore, I don't read other people's blogs as regularly as I once did, and, frankly, I'm not sure anyone really reads mine anymore, either. No complaints about that; that just seems to be the way it is.

I haven't made up my mind yet. We'll see. Maybe every once in a while I'll write when something really important or noteworthy happens. Or maybe I'll just focus my attentions on other areas of my life. I'm just mulling it over right now.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Green-Eyed Monster

This happened almost a week ago, but I have been meaning to write about it.

I don't get jealous very often (and, in fact, the feelings of jealousy I felt last week are already gone), but I was upset with how I responded to a recent situation because it is very much out of character for me.

I have a friend who invited me to see a show he is on staff with. This job kind of fell into his lap; it wasn't something he worked hard to get; and it is a job that pays extremely well.

I have known this friend for three years, and we have worked very closely together. He is someone I care about very much, but he also has a lot of problems. He is lazy, irresponsible, and really good at faking his way through things without actually doing the work. He is also a terrific schmoozer, a talent which I actually wish I possessed. He's very materialistic and status is quite important to him (much more than it has ever been to me). He also has some substance abuse problems.

Anyway, I met him before the show, and he was talking about how excited he was about the show and name-dropping left and right and telling me how much money he was making and how he had just spent a substantial amount of that money on one more extravagant thing he doesn't need. All of this was done very innocently, I believe. I don't think he was intending to be arrogant or a show off; I think he was just genuinely excited about his good fortune. But all of a sudden, these feelings of resentment and jealousy were boiling inside of me.

Because I know him very well, I was annoyed because I felt that if anybody didn't deserve the good fortune he was presently enjoying, it was him. It just reaffirmed my belief that he's just a very lucky guy rather than someone who's earned his place. I was also dismayed that he takes this money he's earned and spends it on things he doesn't need like he always has. This guy is so incredibly in debt, it's amazing. And yet, there was that part of me that thought, "Yeah, he's happy now, but what will happen when this job ends and he still has those huge debts to pay and still has to deal with all the problems he puts off? It's going to bite him in the butt eventually." The problem is I don't want it to bite him in the butt. I really do care about my friend, and even though I was angry at him that night, I feel genuine concern at his mismanagement of money, his alcoholism, his failure to take responsibility for the problems in his life.

But at the time, I was angry. Angry that I don't have his flair for wheeling and dealing. Angry that I'm always going to be working low-paying jobs all my life. Angry that I've worked really hard to get where I am whereas I feel he hasn't. But, as Jonah very lovingly reminded me, I wouldn't trade places with him in a minute. I would much rather be me than him. But I really was surprised at how resentful and jealous I was.

The very next day, I felt none of that. I still don't. But the "green-eyed monster" did rear its ugly head for a few hours last Thursday night.

Come Follow Me

Jonah invited me to a progressive Lutheran church to hear Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy Faye) give a sermon of sorts. Jonah had heard about it from a friend of his he works with.

It's weird going to a different church when you've been a Mormon all your life. I've been to many different churches in my life, and there are many things I like and dislike about the ones I've been to (and frankly there are things I both like and dislike about LDS church services as well), but every church I have been to just reminds me how ingrained Mormonism is in me because none of them feel like home the a way a Mormon ward does.

The music was okay. There was a lot of that kind of Christian rock you hear. I found much of it kind of trite.

Jay Bakker's sermon, however, was quite good and helped me see some things I've always known from a different point of view. He had a great sense of humor (almost irreverent by Mormon standards, but I liked much of what he said). The main theme of his sermon was that Christianity is many ways has become exclusive rather than inclusive, and in many ways, I agree with him.

He talked about several Bible stories which I knew well. Things like asking a tax collector (Matthew) to be his disciple. In that time tax collectors were among the most hated and untrusted people, and if you wanted to be a rabbi's disciple, the norm was for you to ask to be their disciple, not the other way around. Another story he told was when Jesus had a meal with some people that the Pharisee's considered unclean and how many people doubted that someone who would spend his time hanging around the lowest of the low, the biggest sinners, could hardly be the Messiah. Or there was the story of another tax collector, Zaccheus, who fell out of a tree in trying to see Jesus, and Jesus demanded that he make him (Jesus) and guest in his (Zaccheus') house that evening, and people murmured that Jesus would allow himself to be the guest in the home of such a sinner. There was also the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews would go out of their way to even avoid Samaritans, and the woman was at the well at a time when others wouldn't be likely to be there because she was probably rejected even in her own community (some speculation says she may have been a harlot), and yet Jesus was asking her for water when it would have been considered unclean to do so.

The point is that Jesus spent his time with those that the religious leaders of the day excluded. Jay Bakker said something that really resonated with me. He said, "Jesus didn't say 'Come follow me' so that people could feel guilty or bad about themselves or rejected or judged or put upon. He said "Come follow me' because he loved them."

It was interesting. Jonah introduced me to his friend as his boyfriend and told him I was Mormon, and his friend, who is also gay, was interested in attending a Mormon ward because he is still searching for the right religion for him, and I was embarrassed because it occurred to me that if he and his partner were to attend a Mormon ward, they would more likely than not be made to feel unwelcome or at least uncomfortable. I'm not saying there aren't wards out there that would welcome them with open arms without batting an eye, but I think it would be the exception. And that made me kind of sad. Even if Mormonism (or other Christian religions) believe that homosexuality is a sin, I think it is contrary to Christ's teachings to make people feel excluded because of that.

Jay's main message was that he really wants to rally around those who feel like outsiders without judgment and bring them closer to Christ. I think it's a good message. After his sermon, we watched a Christian music video, and the main theme was a woman who had fallen on hard times and was sinning and doing stuff that she knew she shouldn't be doing and feeling lost and alone and wanting someone to reach out to her. It showed her trying to summon the courage to go back to church and being ignored by its members (not even maliciously, but because they just weren't paying attention) and losing her nerve as a result. At the very end, she's at her job (as a waitress) crying at a table that a group of people has just left, and one of the stragglers takes the time to sit down and find out what's wrong.

These things also reinforced in me just how important fellowship is, and I admit that I am not always good at that myself.

I guess my main point in sharing these thoughts is that I see a lot of self-loathing among my fellow bloggers because they don't feel they are living up to some standard they have set up for themselves. They hate themselves or think God must be sorely disappointed in them, and I just want to remind them that God loves them and always will.

One of the biggest ironies of coming out of the closet is that those feelings of self-loathing and guilt and frustration and torment that I felt so often when I was active in the church are gone, and I am happier than I've been in a long time. Now I do not say my choices are for everyone, nor do I even say they are right, and I certainly would never want to be accountable for saying something that might cause someone to veer away from the path towards eternal life. All I'm saying is that one thing coming out has really taught me is that God's love for me has never altered. In fact, in many ways, I feel it stronger. I am absolutely convinced that I am doing the best I can under the circumstances life has dealt me, and I am at peace with my relationship with my Father in Heaven. I have stopped hating myself because I fall short of some ideal of perfection that has been instilled in me. I am still a good person. I still do good things. And God still loves me. I still even have a testimony of the truthfulness of the LDS Church even if I am choosing not to follow some of its precepts. I do not know how all of this will turn out in the afterlife. All I know is that I am happy and very okay with where my life is now. I don't fear like I used to.

Just food for thought.