Sunday, February 01, 2009

Excommunication Looming

I don’t know, somehow I thought I would be able to avoid it; that I would somehow be able to walk both sides of the fence indefinitely; but it appears that the inevitable is looming: I think it is very likely that I will be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints soon. To write that seems almost inconceivable. I have been a member of the LDS Church my entire life – nearly 38 years; and to suddenly know that this important part of my life will be removed on some level breaks my heart and I feel as though my stomach has sunk to my bowels. I almost feel nauseous at the thought. I thought I was prepared for this event, but I don’t know that I truly am. How can one be?
I met with my bishop last week to talk about my commitment ceremony and where I am in life right now. It was a good talk, but it was also clear that I wasn’t willing to repent of what I’ve done and that I would have to meet with my stake president. I actually thought that would happen today, so I was somewhat surprised that my bishop wished to meet with me again. Today’s meeting was much more difficult. My bishop basically made a last-ditch, heartfelt, earnest plea for me to turn back before it’s too late; that he was having an enormously difficult time watching me sacrifice my exaltation for a brief moment of happiness in mortality; and that he was giving me a last chance to change my mind. It was so hard to watch this wonderful man’s face as he realized I wasn’t going to give him the answer he wanted. I actually felt like I could see things from his point of view: watching someone you deeply love make a mistake that you feel they will eventually regret.
I didn’t know what to tell him. I wanted so badly to say, “You’re right. I’m making a huge mistake,” just to be able to relieve him of his anguish for the well-being of my soul. But I couldn’t.
Oh, it will break my heart to lose my membership in this church I so deeply love; but I don’t know how to do better than I’m doing and still maintain my sanity and emotional well-being. It is not as though I haven’t tried. I have done everything I was ever asked to do by my church leaders and counselors, to little avail. How much more praying and fasting and receiving Priesthood blessings and magnifying church callings and counseling and dating women and enduring to the end would I have to do to be able to do what has been asked of me? I can't go back to feeling miserable and unworthy and guilty and repressed and suicidal and depressed and sad and lonely, and I can't give up the wonderful relationship I have with Jonah. I just can't.
Am I making a huge mistake by choosing Jonah and being true to who I feel I am over my covenants with God through the Mormon Church? I can't say. It hasn’t felt like a mistake thus far. I still maintain that I am happier, more well-adjusted, and more fulfilled than I ever was when I was trying so hard to fit in the box that the LDS Church has asked me to fit into. Maybe exaltation just isn’t in my destiny.
In the afterlife I may regret the choices I have made in this life, but in my limited mortal perspective, I don’t regret them. They have brought me a happiness and well-being that I never thought I would attain, and hard as it may be for some to believe, I believe my meeting and falling in love with Jonah was divinely inspired. Being with him has brought me a joy I once thought was out of reach.
It’s not as though I am out killing people or selling drugs or stealing other people’s property or molesting children or raping women. There are far worse things I could be doing than what I am. My sin is that I am guilty of being in love with another man, and I still have a hard time comprehending why that is such a terrible thing. How can love be wrong?
I do not know what the future holds. I told my bishop that I would pray about what he has asked me to do, which I have; but I do not see how I can do better than I have already done. If excommunication is my consequence, than I have no choice but to accept that.
I guess we’ll see what happens. My neighbor wrote me a nice note. One thing she said was that although I can be excommunicated from the church, no one can excommunicate me from God. Jonah said essentially the same thing. He gave me a lot of great comfort when I told him about it and said I could use my church court as an opportunity to share a different kind of testimony with the brethren and show them the good that exists in gay couples like us. He made me feel so much better. I am so very lucky to have him. And like my mom said when I discussed it with her, “Well, it’s not as if you didn’t try, and you’re obviously happier now.” She’s right.
Still, it will leave a hole. I have written a statement I am going to share should a church court be held. I will not share it here because it is too personal, but I hope it creates a better awareness and understanding of the issues people like me face.
One thing I will say: no matter what happens, I still believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true. I found it ironic that today's Sunday School lesson talked about David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses. He was excommunicated and never rejoined the church, yet never denied his testimony. He was well-loved and well-respected. The LDS Church has made me as much who I am as my sexuality has. Some of my greatest values, attributes, and blessings have come as a result of my membership in this great religion. I will continue to defend and love my religion. As Jonah said (and I'm paraphrasing somewhat), "You may be excommunicated, but you will always be in a Mormon in your heart no matter what." He's right.


Scott said...

I'm glad that you and Jonah have found each other and are happy together, and though my church would disagree with me, I believe that God is glad about it too.

Another way of looking at excommunication is to realize that it's entirely an administrative procedure, initiated and executed by men who have been put in positions of authority in the Church, but who are still men and therefore able to make mistakes. They can remove your name from the records of the earthly organization that is called "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", but unless they are truly exercising their authority in accordance with God's desires they cannot strip you of the Spirit or of membership in Christ's Church.

Only two people have any say in whether you'll qualify for exaltation: you and the Savior. Stay close to God and do your best to do what you feel He wants you to do and you'll be okay.

MoHoHawaii said...

A sin is being committed here, but not by you.

From what I can see, you have acted with integrity at each step along the way. You have overcome many obstacles and chosen a path that allows you to fill your life with love and commitment. If that isn't fulfilling the measure of your creation, I don't know what is. The alternative offered you by the church is not a life-giving path; it is a path toward personal destruction.

I understand the need for respectful disagreement. The church is free to hold any beliefs it cares to. However, many thoughtful members of the church see excommunication as an aggressive, barbarous remnant of earlier times. This comes up from time to time on the LDS blogs. Whether you choose to validate the process by attending the formal proceeding is up to you. I like your idea of using it as a way to educate, but I see other dangers.

I wish you the best of luck and much, much happiness in the future for you and Jonah and your family. (Your mom sounds great.) I admire the moral courage you are showing in the face of unrighteous dominion.

Kengo Biddles said...

I second what Scott has said. You haven't approached this decision lightly, and I believe you're doing what's best for you.

The Faithful Dissident said...

My heart breaks for you because I know that this is something that has always been a dark cloud looming on the horizon for you.

I've tried to imagine what it must be like and what I would do in your situation. I'm trying to imagine all the thoughts and emotions that must be weighing on your mind.

I don't want to say what I think that you should say in a bishop's court. Only you know what feels right for you to say. I can only say what I think I would say in your position, realizing that I'm not and will never really understand what it's like to be in your shoes right now.

I think that you are, in a way, fighting for your life. We discussed a while back in my blog what it must be like for those who feel they are trapped in the wrong body and are miserable and suicidal until they have a transgender operation, only to be excommunicated for it. As you said, you did all that you could in terms of praying, fasting, dating women, and remaining as faithful as you could, just as I'm sure that many of those transgenders would have done. I think it would be dangerous to underestimate the power of the loneliness and suicidal feelings that you described having before meeting Jonah. If you feel that your very life and sanity are at stake here -- which I think you do -- then your life has to take priority. I just find it impossible to believe within myself that the Lord would rather see you in a downward spiral of depression and possibly even suicide instead of being in a loving relationship. I could be wrong, but I just can't imagine it.

I think, if it were me, that I would focus on all the many ways that I feel that I am committed to living the Gospel. I would venture to guess that you are living the Gospel better than most members. Your sexuality aside, you are probably even temple-worthy. I think that if you are summoned to a bishop's court, that they may be surprised at what they hear. I think that there are probably few members who are facing excommunication who have the faith and can bear the testimony that you just did in your post. I've never met you, but through your writing I've never sensed any haughtiness or pride about you. You love the Church and even if they see fit to excommunicate you, they will not be able to excommunicate your testimony. I wonder what sort of impression it will make on them to see someone in such an impossible situation: so dedicated to the faith and with every intention of continuing to live it in every way you can, despite coming up short in terms of your sexuality and desire for companionship. I expect that the brethren will be bound to enforce the laws they have to uphold, but I can guarantee you that those who are in tune with the Spirit will sense that you are not some "prideful sinner" who refuses to repent, but someone who is genuinely spiritually and emotionally torn. Even if they do feel compelled to excommunicate you, I would be surprised if they do not feel very torn about it themselves. In fact, I hope that they do feel torn, not because I think they're just a "bunch of meanies," but because it would show that they appreciate the extremely complex and heart-wrenching situation that you find yourself in.

I think that you are in a unique and, dare I say, important position. We have seen homosexuality evolve in the Church over the years. It hasn't been able to keep up with what's happened in the outside world, but progress has been made in some ways. We've been able to go from teaching that being gay is a choice, to accepting that it's not, and even seeing openly-gay members attend the temple. I believe that more progress will yet be made in terms of homosexuals in the Church. I'm not exactly sure what it will entail, but I think that change comes from within. I think that you will play a role in that change, simply by staying humble, doing all that you honestly can do, whatever percentage that may be, and then leaving the rest up to the Lord.

We have an interesting discussion going on right now on my blog here which has morphed into a discussion about how to stay in the Church in order to "be the change you desire."

I think that Jonah was right when he said that you will always be Mormon in your heart no matter what. And David Whitmer probably would have said the same about himself, since he never denied his testimony. Surely that will count for something in the Hereafter.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Thank you all for your words of encouragement and support and for your advice. I truly appreciate it.

I, too, believe that ultimately I am doing what is best for me.

FD, thank you so much for your thoughts. You've reaffirmed much of what I've thought and stuff that Jonah has suggested I do, too. Your counsel was extra helpful to me (although I appreciate everything everybody has commented on).

I'm hoping to get a chance to read the conversation going on in your blog soon. I've been so incredibly busy lately, I haven't had as much time to read others' blogs, let alone update my own. I'll check it out as soon as I am able. I'm sure it's interesting and insightful.

Thanks again, all.

Beck said...

"...It’s not as though I am out killing people or selling drugs or stealing other people’s property or molesting children or raping women. There are far worse things I could be doing than what I am. My sin is that I am guilty of being in love with another man, and I still have a hard time comprehending why that is such a terrible thing."

This really hits home to the issue and how blown out of proportion this is.

Use your disciplinary council experience as an opportunity to bear your testimony of the Church and of Christ and to show them your love you have for both. And help them to see the love you have for Jonah. You never know who you will touch, even if it's a forgone conclusion of the end result.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.