It's been two weeks since I was excommunicated, and things have been good. I did receive the letter today. I knew it was coming, but it was still hard to read. I won't post the entire letter, but I'll just give the highlights.
I was told that I had been excommunicated and that I could appeal the decision if I felt there were errors or unfairness in the ruling. Then it said:
"You are no longer a member of the Church and do not enjoy any privileges of Church membership. You may not wear temple garments or pay tithes and offerings. You may, however, attend public Church meetings if your conduct is orderly, but you may not give a talk, offer a public prayer, partake of the sacrament, or participate in the sustaining of Church officers."
I think this was the hardest part of the letter for me. Even though it's been two weeks since the decision was made, and even though life has gone on just as before, and even though I do not regret the decisions that brought me to this point, to see it there in black and white somehow made it seem so final and, admittedly, left me with a profound sense of sadness. I was not sad because I felt regret or remorse. I was not even sad out of a sense that I had failed in my duty as a member of the church. I was just sad that I'm no longer a member of a church I still love very much. It just hurt to know that I've been "kicked out of the club," so to speak.
Look, don't get me wrong. Whatever your attitude towards the Church and its stands on same-sex relationships; whatever your attitudes towards homosexuality, the fact is that as it stands right now, I violated the covenants I made. I broke the rules. Am I happier than I was when I was living according to those rules? Yes. But I did break the rules that were set before me, and so I do not fault the Church or its leaders for the decision to excommunicate me. I'm not a member because of my own choices. There are those that say that the Church needs to change its rules regarding homosexuality. That's not for me to say, nor do I know what the future holds as far as this issue and the Church are concerned. I just know that as it stands now, I did something that merited excommunication. So I am blaming no one. I'm simply saying that after years of belonging to something and working hard to live true to that, it just made me feel sad to know that I am no longer a part of it officially (although as I've repeatedly said, no one can stop me from belonging to it in my heart, nor do I think it's possible for me not to belong to it).
The letter next said,
"Let me reassure once again that this council did not reach this decision lightly. The Lord’s plan of salvation provides a way for all of Heavenly Father’s children to regain his presence, and to that end there are covenants and commandments governing our conduct in this life that all are expected to follow. For reasons you explained at length during our counseling together and during the council’s hearing, you have chosen to go a different way and have thereby become subject to the consequences outlined in this letter. This is a necessary step in the process of repentance, and a spiritual protection for you as you struggle with these feelings. We still love you and consider you our brother in Christ..."
I think that's all valid. Next I was encouraged to keep doing the things I've always done such as read my scriptures, pray daily, maintain contact with my leaders, continue to have faith in Christ's atonement, etc. I was also encouraged no to let this experience embitter me, and my Stake President made the comment, "This has clearly been a long and exhausting struggle..."
I was also, of course, encouraged to repent and do those things which would enable me to come back into full fellowship again. This was to be expected. As I've said, if that means giving up Jonah and the happiness I feel with him, I simply am not willing or able to do that. I can't go back to the way life I was pre-Jonah nor do I have the desire to.
And then, of course, my Stake President told me I could call him any time if I had any questions or needed assistance or counsel. He's a good man.
I actually felt inspired to write him the other day. I wrote:
"I felt impressed to write you a letter. First of all, I want to thank you for all the help and counsel you have given me and, most of all, for your friendship. I also wanted to apologize for the difficult position in which I must have put you and the other high council members at my disciplinary council. I know just as it wasn’t easy for me, it couldn’t have been easy for you or the other men in that room. I know it was a hard position to be in, and as [my neighbor], my mom, and I commented to one another while we were awaiting the outcome, we were not at all envious of the position you were in. I know my actions are partly to blame for that, and so for that I apologize.
"I want you to know that I love and care about you very much, and I feel the same from you, and I want to assure you that that will never change. I also wanted you to know that I am doing very well. The week after my hearing, I went to church as I usually do, and I felt such a reaffirmation from my Heavenly Father assuring me that He is well aware of my individual situation, that He knows I am doing the best I can, and that I need not fret about my future at this time. I have felt an enormous amount of love, peace, and happiness.
"I will admit it is strange knowing I am no longer considered a member of the church on record, but nothing can ever stop me from being a Mormon in my heart, and as you and I have discussed, nothing can excommunicate me from my Father in Heaven, my Savior, or the love they have for me.
"I cannot explain to you just why I feel I have to make the choices in life I am currently making while still maintaining a testimony as to the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I can’t really explain it to anybody. But I have felt such a happiness in my life since making these choices, and I have felt an assurance that this where I’m supposed to be in life right now. I know my Father knows my heart, my testimony, and my spirit, and thus I am at peace. I do not know what the future holds, but this is where I need to be right now.
"You are a good man, [President], and I consider you a friend. I’m sure as someone who holds stewardship over a great many people, including me, you worry about your 'flock.' And that’s okay. That is appropriate. I just wanted to tell you that I hope you won’t let my situation weigh too heavily on your heart. I also hope you won’t put any blame on yourself for what has occurred. I don’t know that you do; but if you do, I’m telling you not to. I don’t know why things are the way they are, but I feel that both you and I have done the best we could do as far as this particular circumstance is concerned. Most of all, I just want you to know that I am doing fine. I’m still doing all the things I’m able to do. I had a great day at church on Sunday (even though I was expecting it might be awkward or uncomfortable; it wasn’t at all).
"Please be assured of my love and my appreciation for all you have done for me. I know the Lord is very proud of you and all you do in His service.
"All my love,
I do not know what his reaction was when he read it, but I did receive a call from his executive secretary today saying he wanted to meet with me. Unfortunately, I am not able to meet with him today as he was hoping because of work conflicts, but I'm hoping to meet with him soon. I want him to know I am well, and I also want to know that he is well.
Anyway, just thought I'd give you all an update.