Today was a really good day at church. As you may imagine, I have been somewhat concerned about my possible excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I asked Heavenly Father in my prayers last night to help me feel more easy about it and asked that I would get some message in church that would reaffirm that everything would be okay.
When I arrived for Sunday School, initially I felt a sense of trepidation because the lesson was on the three degrees of glory, and of course, since I am not sure what my eternal fate will be, I thought the lesson might be a downer. But on the contrary, the lesson lifted my spirits a great deal and I felt so strongly that not only is Heavenly Father deeply aware of my situation and the intents of my heart, but I felt a great assurance that no matter what the outcome is of my church disciplinary council that God knows I am doing my best and that this is satisfactory.
The teacher who taught the lesson read three quotes that particularly impacted me. The first was a quote from John 14:1-3, which I, of course am well acquainted with, but this time it seemed to have greater meaning:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Heavenly Father was telling me (and I felt this in my heart more than what the words actually say as I reread them now) to calm down and know that all is well. He knows my heart and my devotion to Him and he has a wonderful place prepared for me that I will be happy with, so there is no need to fear.
The second quote was from a talk that Boyd K. Packer gave on May 7, 1995 called “The Play and the Plan.” In it, he said,
“Remember this! The line “And they all lived happily ever after” is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right. The Apostle was right when he said, ‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.’ (1 Corinthians 15:19.)
“Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of this great drama, you won’t make much sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much, some in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering, premature death even of innocent children. There are the brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and the brutality of man to man. We’ve seen a lot of that recently.
Do not suppose that God willfully causes that, which for His own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven.”
“You will learn that the Plan is fair; however it appears, it is fair.”
What this quote helped me feel was that it is impossible for any mortal to understand the whole perspective of God’s plan. It’s impossible for me. It’s impossible for the members of the high council who will be delivering judgment on me in two weeks. I think it’s even impossible for the Prophet, simply because he is mortal. We all may get snatches of understanding, but the only being who understands the plan in its entirety is God himself (and perhaps Jesus and the Holy Ghost).
I do not know why I am gay, but I know I am, and I know I am happy being so and I’m happy in my relationship with Jonah. I cannot go back to the life I lead prior to coming out and prior to meeting and falling in love with Jonah. I can’t, nor do I want to.
On the other hand, because of my own spiritual experiences, I have been assured by the Spirit that the LDS Church is true, and this is something I couldn’t deny even if I wanted to. It happened, and it changed my life for the better in many respects, and it was such a powerful revelation at the time that I would fear to deny that it happened.
The seeming incongruity between my belief and knowledge that the LDS Church is still true and my knowledge and belief that I am gay and that there is no changing that and that I’m happier for having come out and married my partner is hard to explain and can be frustrating. In spite of it, I know I am doing my best, and I know God knows that, and whether or not I am excommunicated in two weeks, I know that the only judgment that matters in the end is between my Father and me. Today I felt strongly that I could face Him with a clear conscious no matter what church leaders decide to do regarding my fate.
Which brings me to the third quote, from The Teachings of Harold B. Lee. It says,
“Son, all you have to worry about is that you are doing your best in the place where you are today. That is all you have to be concerned about. You are not going to be judged by how you measure to someone else… The only measure by which you are going to be measured is, How will you compare with what you had the capacity to do? That is the measure the Lord’s going to measure you by, to see whether or not you have done, to the best of your ability, whatever came within your hands this day, and if you can answer the same honestly day by day. And the only day you have to worry about is today. There is nothing you can do about yesterday but repent. That means if you made mistakes yesterday, don’t be making them today. Don’t worry about tomorrow, because you may have no tomorrows. This is the masterpiece you ought to be thinking about today. And if you can always witness honestly that whatever you did, you did to the best of your ability, and next day try improvement on that, when your life’s end comes, of you it can be said in truth, his was a successful life because he lived to the best that was in him. That’s all the Lord expects of any one of His children. We are all born with different capacities, some to do one thing, some to do the other, and all He asks is that we do our best; and that’s the measure by which we’ll be judged when the time comes.”
I found this quote to be perfect in my own personal situation. It reassured me that I am doing my best and that this is acceptable before the Lord. I believe I am doing the best of my ability according to my own personal cirsumstances, and I feel I could honestly face God and tell him that. I believe that being gay is part of my own mortal journey. There is nothing I can do about it, nor do I want to. I don’t know how I fit in God’s plan as I currently understand it, but I feel that God is pleased with me and with Isaias and with our relationship, and so that’s all that matters right now. How it is wrapped up in the afterlife is God’s business and none of my concern at this time.
The day continued to get better during Sacrament Meeting. One of my former primary kids, who is now a deacon, was the youth speaker. When I taught him in primary several years ago, he had a terrible stutter. My sense was that he was an incredibly smart kid whose brain simply worked faster that his mouth. I remember being exceedingly patient with him and letting him trip up while reading various scriptures or thoughts, and just let him read no matter how long it took until he was finished. None of the other kids or I ever let him feel bad or ashamed, nor was there any reason for him to feel that way. He simply had a stutter.
Today he gave a nearly flawless talk, and I felt so proud of him and felt such admiration that he has turned into such a fine, young man. Both he and his brother, who are the sons of our current bishop, are such good young men, and I admire them.
As I watched one of my former and grown up primary kids give this great talk without skipping a beat, I couldn’t help but wonder the influence I had on him. Perhaps I had none, but I’d like to think that I had a positive influence on him, not just concerning the stuttering issue, but in his upbringing in the gospel. I will never know for sure, but I felt the Spirit confirm to me that I have done much good as a member of the Church, and that I should be pleased and proud of my contributions because my Heavenly Father is. It’s easy to succumb to feelings that I have somehow failed to be a “good” member of the LDS Church because of my living my life in a manner which is incongruent to its teachings.
Don’t misunderstand me. I do not in any way regret my choices to come out or to have a relationship with Jonah. I feel I am doing nothing wrong in that respect. But my whole life I have been taught to live a certain way within my religion, and on one level, I have failed to do that, and being the perfectionist that I am, this has concerned me. I just felt a great reassurance that God is pleased with my efforts, and so I should be, too.
After another talk, a sister sang, “Abide With Me.” While there is a small chance that I may not be excommunicated, I have felt that I will be, but that there’s no need to fear it. As I really listened to the words of this song, I felt the Lord tell me that nothing would ever cause Him to leave me. Not that I feel he would, but it is always nice to be reassured. But I just felt that no matter what happens, all will be fine.
A little baby from the row in front of me crawled my way during one of the talks, and I held her, and it felt nice. I don’t particularly want children, but I like children, and holding her made me feel good.
Later a guy gave a talk about his mother telling him that parents need to give their kids the “roots of responsibility, but the wings of freedom.” I liked that. That is what God has done with me.
I heard a speech that Ellen Degeneres gave at Tulane University recently. In it she said,
“Really when I look back on it, I wouldn't change a thing. I mean, it was so important for me to lose everything because I found out what the most important thing is, is to be true to yourself. Ultimately, that's what's gotten me to this place. I don't live in fear, I'm free, I have no secrets. and I know I'll always be ok, because no matter what, I know who I am. So In conclusion, when I was younger I thought success was something different.
“…But my idea of success is different today. And as you grow, you'll realize the definition of success changes. …For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity, and not to give into peer pressure to try to be something that you're not. To live your life as an honest and compassionate person. To contribute in some way. So to conclude my conclusion: follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow anyone else's path, unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a path, and by all means you should follow that.”
I am following the path I need to follow; the path that makes me happy, and I have felt that God knows that, and that all will be well.
As I talked to my mom after church, I received a phone call from a friend on the high council informing me that he needed to deliver the letter requesting that I appear before the High Council in two weeks. After I hung up, my mom asked me who it was, and I explained to her what it was about. She understands my choices and knows I am happy and loves Jonah, but she is also saddened by the fact that I may be excommunicated. We talked for a bit about it, and she asked me when I first knew I was gay and how long I had held all the bad feelings inside. I told her I felt I was gay since early childhood, but never fully admitted it to myself until high school even though I struggled with it for years. I pulled out my old journals and read some entries to her from that period in my life. I also read her a letter I had intended to give her confessing my homosexuality (this was before I gained a testimony about the church and ended up going a mission). It was a beautiful letter, very well written (although a bit melodramatic in some places, but still very much what I feel). I would reprint it here, but it is very long, and I would have to retype it, which I don’t have time to do today. Maybe I will post it some time in the future, if I am able. And even though my mom has long since accepted my homosexuality, it was nice to read it to her, and we cried together (in a good way).
In the middle of all this, two high council members arrived, both who I know very well. They were both in my bishopric years ago when I attended a singles’ ward. It was nice to be handed the letter by two good friends who have known and loved me for some time. At the same time, I could tell that delivering such a letter was not on their list of fun things to do. But it is good to know that they will be on my council along with other men I know and respect and love. I’m glad I don’t have to do this in front of a bunch of strangers.
The letter says,
“Dear Brother [Cody],
“The Stake Presidency is considering formal disciplinary action in your behalf, including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, because you are reported to have participated in conduct unbecoming a member of the Church.
“We have scheduled the High Council Disciplinary Council for Sunday, June 14, 2009, at 6:40 a.m. in the High Council Room at the _________ Stake Center….
“You are invited to attend this Disciplinary Council to give your response, and if you wish, to provide witnesses or other evidence in your behalf.
“Please let me know if it is your intention to participate in the council proceedings. Should you have questions regarding this Council action don’t hesitate to contact me at __________.
[My Stake President]”
It’s so surreal. Had you told me ten years ago I would receive a letter like this, I would not have believed it. This is where I am, though, and in a way, I feel it’s where I need to be.
As I’ve told family members and a few close friends about this, I have received much support and love, for which I have been grateful. This was a letter I wrote to them:
“Just a note to let you all know that my disciplinary council will be on June 14, in a little more than two weeks. [My stake president] called me personally this evening, and we had a really nice conversation. He told me what to expect and also told me he wants me to bear my testimony along with anything else I might want to say because he has felt a strong spirit when I have done so with him and wants the others to feel it, too. He also conveyed his love, and I did the same. He really is a good man and a good friend. I know this is hard for both of us, and I also know this will be hard for you as well. I've said all along during this journey that I never wanted to hurt anyone, and I hope this news will not pain you too much.
“I do not know for sure (nor does [the stake president) that I will be excommunicated, although it seems likely. I am aware that my choices have brought me to this place, and while I am not looking forward to the prospect of losing my membership in the Church, I still maintain that my life with [Jonah] has brought me so much joy and happiness, and I do not regret choosing to be with him. I love him with all of my heart, and he has made me a better person for it. Throughout this journey, I have also felt so much love, understanding, compassion, and mercy from Heavenly Father. I know He knows my heart. I imagine this message will cause pain and concern for my eternal well-being, and that is understandable, but I have felt Heavenly Father's love so much, and I have felt Him tell my spirit that things will be okay, whatever the outcome. Please know that I love all of you so much, and I love this church and all it has given me a great deal. I have been so thankful for your love and support. I know that perhaps my reasons for doing what I have done do not make sense in the eternal scheme of things, but I feel I need to be where I am right now even if that merits my excommunication.
“All I ask of you, my dear family [and friends], is that your thoughts and prayers will be with me. I do not wish to be excommunicated, but if that is what is meant to be, I am prepared to face that. I just ask that whatever the outcome, I will feel peaceful about it. That's what I ask you to pray for on my behalf.
“Thank you. I love you all.
My sister wrote:
“Thank you for this. We all knew that it was coming. I think it's a lousy birthday present on my part. [I told her the day after her birthday.]
“Love you. And I do understand the sacrifices. I really do. You and I have never shared in the glory of God's kind. You can still attend Church as an excommunicated member, can't you? You haven't taken the Sacrament for so very long. I am bothered that they may excommunicate a strong member like you who has one flaw - though it be a large one - still you are a better example of Christ than those who's pride swells so loud that there's little or no breathing room for the people close at hand. We all need to learn - and excommunication (even if it were possible) would not help those prideful people.
“And the possibility of excommunication will come only because you are active. Thousands of inactive names continue to be on the rolls because of inactivity - and some of them have sins so great - they probably wouldn't even understand what removing their names would mean - though I think the Church would benefit a lot more to remove the inactive from the roles. But excommunication (I once heard) is done out of LOVE - pretty ironic, huh?
This one from a good friend who was also excommunicated:
“Thanks for your email. I have been thinking about you and wondered what your status was. I will continue to pray for you during this time. I know both the enormous strain and the incredible calm that can come from this process. If you need to talk about anything or even want advice, please give me a call. I will talk any time you need to. I know that the men on your council will feel your spirit and they will do what is right for you. I pray that you will be able to touch them and help them feel compassion for gay men in the church. I have long felt that a different approach from the church is needed. (And also better times for the meetings--6:30??)
“Anyway, I love you and I KNOW you are doing the right thing.
A dear neighbor, who lives across the street and who has known me since I was born, wrote:
“My heart did a stutter step when I read your most recent post. I guess we are all through waiting for the ‘shoe to drop.’ I hope there is still a miracle out there, but no matter what happens I think in the eternal plan you are and will be alright. Even the Church can only work on its current level of knowledge (and that has certainly moderated over the last 25 years.) It is also true as we have discussed before that any organization has every right to do whatever ‘boundary maintenance’ it thinks it needs to do, but nobody or nothing can excommunicate us from God except God Himself, and I just can't imagine that is in the cards for you. I hope you are offered the opportunity to bear your testimony and I hope you take it. You have more bravely ‘stood as a witness’ and a defender of the faith in more difficult circumstances than virtually anyone else I know.
“I think you will still have the Spirit to guide you in the years ahead and I hope you continue to seek and follow it. Dear [Cody], you are and will forever be my dear friend.
“I don't know if the following offer would even be desired, but if you would like, I will wait outside to be there when you come out. I would be honored to do so. I want to stand with you in any way I can. This is doubly so if your mother would like me to wait with her.
“With love in Christ--
My brother-in-law sent a long email from which I will post some highlights:
“Hi [Cody], I don't have any kind of advice for you, just an observation.
“It seems that we all come from our heavenly father with a set of challenges to deal with while we are here on Earth.
“I look at this journey in life as being on a long train where the last stop is the gate of Celestial Glory. A train that never strays from its track and always on a forward course, never going back, just forward, following the great circle of life. If you missed the train, there will always be another stop up ahead, but it was up to you to get to the next station. I have seen people getting on and off this train all the time.
“I have noticed that you are on the same train. There will be stops that will be good, some bad ,some stops that will haunt you... Whatever happens, whatever you decide, the conductor always welcomes passengers.”
This afternoon, my brother and sister-in-law and their kids came over, and we talked about it. I told them about my amazing day at church and expressed my belief that excommunication is an act of a loving Father and not a punishment, as many people see it.
We had a good talk, and my family members expressed their love and support. It was clear there is concern and pain as well, but I feel good about where I am in the journey. I feel prepared to face whatever is next, and feel very sure that God is preparing me to do.