Yesterday I went with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece to the open-house for the Draper, Utah temple. I've only been to one other open-house in my life, and that was the Jordan River Utah Temple back in 1978 or '79 (which would have made me 7 or 8 years old). Even though I was young at the time, I do remember some things about it. I remember having to put these booties (along with everybody else) over my shoes so we wouldn't leave marks on the carpets. I also remember seeing the baptismal font and the mirrors in the sealing rooms. I also remember how clean and pristine everything seemed to be and that it was pretty. Mostly, I remember being there with my family and enjoying it. Those things really stick out. Strangely enough, I don't particularly remember seeing the Celestial Room or even the Endowment rooms, though I know I must have.
As a temple-goer I certainly saw the inside of the Jordan River Temple many times and also have been inside the Salt Lake, Logan, Provo, and I believe (once) the Manti Temple.
I actually had been wanting to visit the Draper Temple open-house because I knew, based on my current actions and standing in the church, it would be a rare occurrence for me to see the inside of a temple again.
The temple itself is located in a pretty wealthy area from what I can tell. My brother-in-law, who is a realtor, said one of the houses right across the street was originally priced at $2,000,000, but now, because of economic challenges and a bad housing market, is selling for $770,000 (talk about a bargain! (if you actually have that kind of money)) Before we took a bus up there we parked our car at a local ward house and watched a kind of orientation video, which gave a bit of information about the temple and temple work. One comment made by Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the Apostles, was something akin to "I can't imagine heaven without my wife. It's more than just being about someone you love. Heaven just wouldn't be heaven without her." He said it so earnestly and sincerely, and it made me sad. I thought to myself, "Why is my love for my partner so much less valued simply because we're of the same sex?" I do not understand it.
The bus ride up to the temple was nice. I was actually surprised at how small the temple was. It didn't seem very big compared to the Jordan River Temple, for example. Maybe the expensive real estate factored into that, or maybe demographically they don't expect as many in the area to attend. The temple, itself, was very beautiful, as was expected, and the people who acted as hosts and ushers were very nice. I thought the chandeliers, in particulr, were quite lovely (Jonah would have liked them, too, I think)
One of the first things we looked at was the baptismal font. I remembered how much I enjoyed doing baptisms for the dead (partly because I enjoyed getting wet). But as I went through the endowment rooms and the sealing room we were allowed to sit in, I also remembered how much I never really enjoyed going to the temple. This is not to say that I didn't think (or still don't think) that temple work is valuable nor does it mean there weren't times or moments when I enjoyed going to the temple, but overall, my temple-going experiences were never joyful ones. I mostly went to the temple out of duty rather than because of a want or a desire.
I know people who absolutely love going to the temple, who find it a truly joyful, spiritual experience, and who are very dedicated to it and happy to be so. I envy that. I really do. Because I, myself, never really felt that way. Going to the temple often made me feel lonely and out of place. I always kind of felt like I didn't belong there. And I always felt like I should have been having some big spiritual experience or at least feel closer to my Heavenly Father in going. I had hoped that some of my big questions or struggles would have found enlightenment in the temple. I also really tried hard to go with a good attitude (although, admittedly, I often didn't, and maybe that was part of the problem). I also sometimes wondered if I really even worthy to be there. It wasn't like I was acting on my same-sex attractions at the time, but just having them made me feel like I wasn't supposed to be there even if my church leaders tried to convince me otherwise.
I remember one time going to the temple (and I don't think I'm divulging anything inappropriate here) and entering the Celestial Room and feeling so, so alone. And I remember thinking to myself, "If this is supposed to represent the Celestial Kingdom to me, I have very little to look forward to." That is the way I felt. I didn't want to feel that way, but that was my experience at the time.
There was in sign in the Draper Temple that said something along the lines of, "Only those who are morally righteous and worthy may enter the temple." I am totally paraphrasing, but I know the word "moral" was in there. I thought that was interesting. Nobody's perfect, and so I know that the temple is filled with imperfect people. I remember going to the temple one time when I had long hair and getting a few disdainful looks from some of the older temple-goers, and I remember thinking, "If I can't even come here without being judged, where can I go?" On the other hand, there have also been people who have treated me very well at the temple, so I know that that kind of hypocrisy is dependent on individuals, but I still find it hypocritical nonetheless.
The last room we went to was a sealing room (where couples are married for time and all eternity). A very nice couple said they had been married for 17 years and talked about their own eteranl family and the importance of eternal families in God's plan, and I was again reminded about how hard it is for a gay man to fit into God's plan as it is taught to us.
The irony for me was that the whole temple open-house experience was probably designed to invite the Spirit and make me feel good, and yet what it did was remind me how miserable and closed-off and alone I felt when I was an active temple-goer. It reminded me that I wasn't as happy as I am now. I was telling Jonah that in a way it reaffirmed to me that the choices I am making now in my life are better for me than going back to that. Ironic, huh?
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not knocking the temple. As I stated before< I wish I could have felt the way about the temple as so many people do. I see the glow of married couples when they attend the temple together. That never seemed (nor does it currently seem) a reality to me. I've never fit into the Mormon mold, try as I might. I think temple work is very valuable and important, and I am sure that the things one does and learns there are far beyond my mortal comprehension. I'm just relating my own personal experiences on how the temple made me feel.
I was really impressed at my niece's ability in staying quiet and reverent (she's quite hyperactive in day-to-day life). After we visited the temple, we took a look at that $770,000 house just for kicks. I don't know why a person needs that much room. The thing had three floors, seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, a four car garage, two kitchens, and plenty of storage space. I actually found it a bit obscene. Even if I had $770,000, I wouldn't have wanted to live there (and I certainly didn't feel it was worth $2,000,000). I was also disappointed that it barely had a backyard at all. If I were ever to buy a luxury house, it would not have been that one (plu I don't think I would want to live right across the street from the temple).
I told my mom about my feelings about the temple. Strangely enough, she seemed to understand where I was coming from.
In other news, I've basically been disfellowshipped (which means I can attend church and am still a member, but cannot do things like give talks, public prayers, bear my testimony, take the sacrament, or make comments during Priesthood or Sunday School; I have been permitted to stay in the ward choir (for now) and, of course, I can privately pray and testify all I want). It is a bit odd not being able to actively participate. Of course, I haven't attended Priesthood or taken the Sacrament for some time now, but I do enjoy reading scriptures and commenting on certain topics in Sunday School, and I've always enjoyed bearing my testimony. It's weird knowing I'm not able to now. Of course, not being able to bear my testimony in Sacrament Meeting doesn't mean I don't still have a testimony nor does it mean I can't bear it anywhere else; and even if I can't share comments in Sunday School doesn't mean I don't still have them nor does it mean I can't actively learn things or even share things outside of church. I guess the hard part is knowing I'm not allowed to do something I've done most of my life. But such are the consequences.
I did get the dreaded call this morning. I am meeting my Stake President on Tuesday evening where I am sure we will talk about where to proceed from here. I imagine that my excommunication is likely inevitable at this point (although, who knows, a miracle could happen). It will be sad, and in some ways I'm sure it will be a difficult transition, but at the same time, I just don't know how to do better than I'm doing. I feel a strange peace and calm about the situation that I hope remains with me.
Having never been excommunicated before, I'm not sure how things will proceed once I've met with my Stake President. He may deem it necessary to convene a church court, and then I gues we'll see where things go from there. I will certainly keep you all apprised. However, I do know at this point that the choices I'm currently making are the right ones for me right now.