Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm Not A Mormon...(But I Am)

Recently a comment was left on my blog which basically said that since I've been excommunicated, I no longer have the right to refer to myself as a Mormon and that until I repent of my sins and am rebaptized, I should stop doing so.

Another ex-Mormon acquaintance basically told me that I can't claim to be a Mormon because unless I agree 100% with Mormon teachings and policy and abide by them, I am not a Mormon and, therefore, can't claim to be. For him, it's all or nothing; there is no middle ground.

This has caused me to ponder what it means to be Mormon. Well, obviously, the true definition means that one belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. By that definition, I am not a Mormon. I have been excommunicated (going on almost two years now), and so, yes, I have lost the privileges and rights that come with being a member of the LDS Church, and I surmise that one of those privileges is to call myself a Mormon.

Yet, there is another part of me that can't help but call myself a Mormon. I don't do this to be deceptive. I am pretty upfront with people that I no longer belong to the Church, but I also share my love for the LDS Church and many of its values and how important they still are in my life. I'm quick to defend the Church when I feel it needs defending, and I'm honest about my activity (limited as it made be) in the ward I attend. The point is, most people who know me know that I am not a member of the LDS Church, but that I still live many aspects of my life as though I still am. So I'm not trying to be dishonest when I refer to myself as a Mormon.

I guess I still continue to call myself a Mormon because I feel like I still am (even if it's only in my heart and not in an official capacity). When people ask me if I'm Mormon, I generally say that I grew up Mormon and leave it at that, but I cannot seem to bring myself to say, "I used to be" even if it's true.

Look, when one is a Mormon for 38 years of the 40 one has lived, and when Mormon culture and religion is the only way one has lived for the majority of one's life, it's hard not to identify oneself as a Mormon even if one is not officially a member of the Church. Mormonism is as intrinsically a part of who I am as much as my gender or race or sexuality is. I spent many years of life trying to claim I was straight, but that didn't make it true. Likewise, it's hard for me to claim I am not Mormon even if I'm not. It's a very big part of who I am and how I came to be the person I am.

I'll bet if you were to ask the majority of the members of the ward I attend (and grew up in) if they regarded me as a Mormon, they would probably say yes even though many of them know I am not. I think my family would react similarly even though they all know I am not. My friends still think of me as Mormon even though they know I no longer belong to the LDS Church. Again, I'm not being deceptive. They all know I was excommunicated. They just think of me as a Mormon because of my attitudes toward the LDS Church and how I live many aspects of my life.

Yes, I am in a gay relationship, and, yes, that is a big sin according to the doctrines of the LDS Church, so, yeah, in that respect I am falling very short of living Mormonism. But I still attend church, I still pray, I still read and study my scriptures, I still have a testimony of the church even if I feel unable and unwilling to live by its precepts as far as my homosexual relationship is concerned. I still believe Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw; I still believe he translated the Book of Mormon; I still believe the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are scripture; I still believe the leaders of the Church are inspired men while also believing they are imperfect. I don't drink or smoke. I try not to swear. I never take the Lord's name in vain. I have a very good relationship with my Father in Heaven and with my Savior. I still feel the Spirit. My spirituality and Christian upbringing still take great precedence in my life. I feel very blessed of the Lord.

Jonah and I are monogamous. I have never cheated on him and never would. We have great trust in our relationship. We didn't consummate our relationship until after we had our commitment ceremony. If he were a woman, there would be nothing in our relationship that the LDS Church would find unfavorable.

I have one friend who is also in a gay partnership (and has been for some time), but he went inactive in the Church quite some time ago. He has never been excommunicated. His name is still on the records of the LDS Church. Technically, he is still a Mormon, although he has little connection to the LDS Church these days. Does he have more of a right to call himself a Mormon because he is still officially a member?

I have another friend who is still an official member of the church, but now considers himself an atheist and hasn't practiced Mormonism in years. He doesn't believe in Mormonism anymore, but has never officially left the Church. Does he have more of a right to call himself a Mormon because he is still officially a member even if he has little connection to Mormonism anymore?

What about the active member of the Church who is sinning behind closed doors? Does he have more of a right to call himself a Mormon because he is still a member?

I lost my membership in the LDS Church because I was sinning against its doctrines, but was completely honest with my leaders about what I was doing and felt unable to repent of it because it did not feel wrong to me (and still doesn't). I could have hid my life and my sins and retained my membership. Would that have given me a greater right to call myself a Mormon?

Just because I am no longer a Mormon, does that mean all my Mormonism has been erased and nullified? No wonder people who have left the church or who have been excommunicated suffer an identity crisis at times.

I guess what I'm saying is that you can take the boy out of Mormonism, but you can't take the Mormonism out of the boy. Yes, I've been excommunicated. Yes, I am no longer a member of the LDS Church. Yes, I am no longer officially a Mormon. And anyone who knows me well knows this about me. But I am Mormon (if nowhere else but my heart), and no one can ever take that away from me!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cast Unity

So I think I've mentioned several times in my blog that I am not the most social person in the world. I would much rather sit in my room and read a book or watch a movie by myself than go to a party. I would much rather have a quiet lunch with one or two close friends than have a group meal, even if it's with people I know and love. When I do go to restaurants, I much prefer a booth in the back away from from everybody rather than being seated near a lot of people. When I do go to the movies, I would much prefer it if there aren't a lot of people there (ideally, there would just be me and perhaps a couple of close friends (provided they aren't too chatty during the movie)).

I'm not big on noise. I very much value my quiet time. Parties and crowds, loud music and people talking over one another make me a bit antsy. I have spent days in a row before without leaving my house because unless I need to go out, I'm perfectly at ease entertaining myself. I am not one of those people who is afraid of being alone, and even people I love dearly, like Jonah and my mom, can attest that I do not require spending every waking hour with them (and, in fact, am quite content to be by myself at times).

At my place of work (which is a theater (I am an actor, after all)), I work with a very tight-knit group of actors and actresses. There were only two people in my group of of employees with whom I had not previously worked, and there is no one in my group that I dislike. Several of these people are close friends.

In an effort to promote cast unity, the cast often wants to do stuff together outside of our rehearsals (social activities, meals, etc.) I have worked for this theatre company several times now, and it's always this way, and that's fine. I get it. And everybody who knows me knows I am not the most social guy in the world, so they tolerate my lack of desire to sometimes participate in these activities. And I do try to make an effort to be social.

One of our activities during the rehearsal period is "potluck Saturday." These are often "themed" lunches (example: salad bar day, Mexican, potato bar day, etc.), and we are each responsible for bringing an item or items to share with all (so on salad day someone will bring lettuce, someone else will bring chicken, another will bring kidney beans, I bring avocados, etc.) It's a fun time for all, we share a meal together, we socialize, it's all good. Except one thing: I don't much care for potluck Saturdays.

I love these people dearly, honest I do; but after rehearsing four hours straight with my cast mates, what I want most at lunch time is to find a quiet corner off by myself and decompress for a bit until we start back up again. The last thing I really want to do (no offense to any of them) is have lunch and socialize with them. This honestly isn't a reflection on them; it's me. It's what I need at that time. I love them, and they know I love them. I just greatly value my alone time at the one time in my rehearsal day when I actually have the power to be alone.

There are also some personalities in this particular cast that are very loud and energetic. This is not a bad thing, but after four hours (and knowing that I have three more hours of it after lunch), it can be a bit much at times. I just want a place where I can think or read or do whatever I need to do in peace and quiet.

This cast is no exception. I'm this way with all my casts of all my shows, for the most part. While I do make an effort to join in an occasional social activity (especially with casts I particularly like), it is more rare than not that I will actually go bowling or out to eat or to a party at someone's house or on a hike or whatever social activity has been planned. It's just not my thing (and even when I do actually show up to a social activity with my cast mates, I don't tend to stay very long - make an appearance to show that I do actually care about these people enough to come, and then get out). I find I am more willing to be social with smaller casts. I was in a show with four other people (all of whom I liked very much), and it's easier for me to be with a smaller group of people (when I'm in a full-scale musical with 30 other people, I tend to vanish).

My other reason for not liking potluck Saturdays, is that there is one individual (one of the organizers of the event) who is a little militant in how she assigns who will bring what and how it needs to be done. She's a lovely person, and I actually do like her, but she can be a bit of a "Potluck Nazi" at times, and it makes the potluck a less enjoyable experience that I already feel it is.

While it's not a great deal of money, spending money every Saturday on items I don't already have in my kitchen does add up. And because I don't go out much (other than to work and occasionally out to eat or to an occasional movie), it seems like an extra annoyance to make a special trip to the grocery store for whatever item I need for that particular Saturday's potluck item. It just feels like more trouble than it's worth. And yeah, I get to share in a good lunch with a good group of people, but honestly, I would just rather bring and eat my own lunch than participate in the potluck.

I know, I'm a party pooper (at least inwardly; outwardly, I do my duty and bring whatever is required and share in the meal with my fellow cast members, all the time kind of secretly resenting it and wishing I had more time to myself). I don't want to be a party pooper. On the surface, it seems, everybody enjoys the potluck Saturdays and enjoys the social time and having lunch together. I don't want to be the guy who puts a damper on it by not participating. (It was nice, the last time I worked for this theater, that there was a fellow cast member who shared my feelings and attitude towards potluck Saturdays; but he isn't here this time - I'm alone in my sentiment, I think).

So I plug on. Jonah encourages me to make the effort; to create memories with my cast mates that I can look back fondly on. I'm trying, as I always do, to be more social; but I'd be lying if I didn't say that, secretly, potluck Saturdays just aren't my bag.

Later, when we open the show, potluck Saturdays will end, and we'll have two-show days when the cast will want to out and eat in between shows. I usually draw the line at that. First off, it gets expensive (especially depending on where everyone wants to go), and then waiting to order, waiting for everyone to eat, figuring out the bill, all the loud conversations, etc. makes me crazy and also makes me feel that my lunch time has been eaten away. I either bring a lunch from home and eat by myself at the theater or go to a cheap fast food place and get something and then return to the theater and take a nap. That's how I like it. I usually make an effort to go out the week we close our show, and maybe one other meal during the run (or, in the case of last time, just go to lunch with the other anti-social cast member in the group), but that's all I can muster.

Does that make me a bad person?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Book of Mormon Musical: An Afterthought

So about the same time I posted my reaction to the soundtrack of The Book of Mormon musical, I came across someone else’s reaction. He called the show “pure garbage” and was mystified at how “some so-called ‘Mormons’ and supposedly ‘Active Members’” could praise it.

He also said “The fact that so many people, including members of the church, have given it such glowing reviews simply manifests how desensitized these people are to vulgarity and blasphemy, and how far their hearts are from God.” He called the message of the show “Anti-Christ” and said there was “absolutely nothing uplifting, edifying, or virtuous to be gleaned” in seeing or listening to it. He called it “spiritual anthrax” and “anti-Mormon.”

He said that “Latter-day Saints should distrust anyone, member or not, who praises such wicked doggerel.” (“Doggerel” is such a great word.)

I agree with other points in his diatribe, such as the way the names of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are thrown about so casually in the musical makes me cringe or that the song “Baptize Me” is offensive because it contains innuendo that equates baptism with the first time two people have sex. There is also a lot of language and situations that are offensive. However, to say that the show has absolutely no redeeming value at all, I think, is a bit disingenuous. I also don’t feel the show is anti-Mormon. If anything, I think the creators have a certain amount of amazement and admiration for Mormons even if they are completely bewildered by them and their beliefs.

I think in order to appreciate the good qualities of the show, one has to step outside of oneself and try to see the musical from the creators' points-of-view. I think Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and Robert Lopez all think organized religion is a bunch of bullcrap, but I also think Stone and Parker have a certain admiration and maybe even envy for how people (Mormons, in this case) can believe in crazy stuff (in Stone and Parker’s view) and yet how it can change people’s lives for the better.

I had a dear college friend who was an atheist who was absolutely perplexed by my sure knowledge that God existed and loved each one of us individually. Some of the Mormon beliefs he found absolutely weird or wrong. At the same time, he admired the fact that my belief was so sure and strong and even envied it in spite of the fact that he didn’t fully understand it or know how to achieve it himself. I kind of get the feeling Matt Stone and Trey Parker are coming from a similar place. (Side note: my friend, while still unclear on who God is, now does believe in a higher power of some kind).

Yeah, I do think one of the messages of the show is that religious beliefs are absurd and crazy and probably made up, but that if it does good, isn’t that a good thing? But I also think that’s the place that Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and possibly Robert Lopez) are coming from, and so I think it can be valuable to see the world from their lens, from their point-of-view.

Having served a mission myself, I knew people just like Elders Price and Cunningham; the former being the cocky missionary who thinks he knows it all and is going to change the world, and the latter being the green guy who’s thrown into a world he doesn’t understand and is unsure of himself.

While I fully agree that the musical is filled with a lot of filth and obscenity, I also think it portrays Mormons as good people, full of optimism, spirit, and good works (and, yes, maybe some naivety and over-assuredness). The actions they do bring good to the people whose lives they touch (even if, yes, those actions are the result of some falsehoods – but I think that’s part of the point: since Stone and Parker think religion is kind of a crock, they’re simply illustrating that what they regard as fantastical and far-out beliefs can still alter people’s lives for good).

Yeah, the show makes fun of Mormons and Mormonism, but don’t Stone and Parker mock everybody? I think they're equal opportunity offenders. And disagreeing with the writer of the blog post I refer to, I do think Stone and Parker do have positive feelings towards Mormons even while mocking them, so I think it’s a stretch to say that the show is anti-Mormon. After all, the Mormons are the heroes of the piece. In the end, they win out. Elder Cunningham gains confidence, Elder Price overcomes self-doubt, and the Ugandans’ lives come out better because of the Mormon missionaries’ influence in their lives.

And while there are some blasphemous passages in the show, I do think it also contains passages that celebrate Mormons’ sure knowledge in what they believe and touches on Joseph Smith’s martyrdom in a manner that even pays tribute. In the song “I Believe,” none of the doctrines Elder Price claims to believe in are doctrinally incorrect. The history of the LDS Church in the song “All-American Prophet,” while seen through the skeptical and mocking lens of Stone, Parker, and Lopez, is pretty accurate as seen from an outsider’s point-of-view. And we also know in the song “Making It Up,” that the stuff Elder Cunningham is espousing is not actually the stuff Mormons believe.

My biggest complaint with the blog writer’s post is how judgmental he is of those who could possibly find anything redeeming about the show. He can’t fathom that somebody who likes aspects of the show could possibly be a believing, faithful member of the Church. Of course, by his qualifications, my opinion doesn’t matter anyway; after all, I’ve been excommunicated going on almost two years now. But then, in his words, someone like me is “desensitized” and my heart is “far from God.” I don't feel that way about myself, but the blog writer seems to have a monopoly on righteous judgment, so who am I to believe myself (tongue firmly planted in cheek, by the way)?

Don’t get me wrong; there is a lot about the show, based on my own listening of it, that I don’t care for. There is much about it that is offensive and blasphemous. But to say that there is “absolutely nothing uplifting, edifying, or virtuous to be gleaned” from the show seems very biased. All I’m saying is that from an outsider’s point-of-view (or even an “insider” Mormon who actually has a sense of humor about himself and his religion), one might actually find something of value in it. Who knows? The show may even get people who know nothing about Mormonism to explore the religion further. I don’t know. But if it does, is that a bad thing?

My general assessment is that there are things about the show that make me cringe and are uncomfortable, but I do think the show makes some accurate points in a satirical way, and I do think that although it may make fun of Mormons and what they believe, it also considers Mormons to be good people even if they seem weird. And after all, aren’t we a “peculiar people?” I still maintain that it’s a “love letter” of sorts to Mormons from two atheists.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Book of Mormon Musical

So I finally had a chance to listen to the score of The Book of Mormon on NPR. (Warning: If you do give it a listen, there may be material you find objectionable - seriously.) Obviously, there's been some controversy about the show and also the show has received a lot of great reviews and accolades.

While not always a fan of the crass humor that Matt Stone and Trey Parker exhibit on their television show, "South Park," I do think they have a gift for satire and are sometimes quite clever. Often they push the envelope too far for my personal taste, but I guess that's what satire is often about. I don't watch "South Park," and I've only seen the tail end of a few episodes while waiting for "The Daily Show" to come on. Some of what I've seen has offended me, but some has made me laugh, and often points are well-made in a satirical, but crass manner. I guess what I'm saying is that I actually appreciate some of the things Parker and Stone have to say; I just don't always appreciate the way they say it. And I'm sure that would be the case if I ever saw this show (which, I do not hesitate to add, I would do if given the opportunity - I don't think you can really judge the value of a show without experiencing it yourself).

I have not seen the show, and my comments are based only on the songs I've heard and what little of the plot I know. So here's my assessment, for what it's worth:

"Hello" – It’s a catchy tune. I actually quite like it. The doorbell stuff is clever. I think it typifies the way Mormon missionaries behave. I'm not to keen on how Jesus Christ’s name is interspersed in a somewhat flippant way. It comes off a bit blasphemous, to my ear. I like how the character of Elder Cunningham is introduced. There are some really good voices throughout the score, and this song is a nice introduction. "Burn in helloooooo!" is a clever lyric. I like the “hello” chorus at the end. One lyric is "This book will change your life," which I think is true (isn't that what the LDS Church said in their statement about this musical?).

"Two By Two" – I think it captures how a lot of missionaries feel when receiving their calls. The spirit, the enthusiasm. Not exactly accurate on how it’s done, but it’s forgivable. I like the joke of The Church of Jesus Christ with "of Latter-Day Saints" squeezed in. I really think the performers vocally capture some of the naivety and good-heartedness of Mormon missionaries. I think when they get called to Uganda, it also captures the disappointment missionaries sometimes feel on not getting the call they were hoping for. I love Elder Cunnigham’s naivety of not even knowing where it is, but still feeling good about it. It's a peppy, fun song. I like the rhythmic breakdown.

"You and Me (But Mostly Me)" – I knew some missionaries like Elder Price. I think this captures well the pride that some missionaries carry. I also like how this captures the initial relationship of Elders Price and Cunningham. I think it’s got some very funny moments. I also like how this captures how missionaries feel as they’re going into the field vs. the reality they often face. This has a very “Defying Gravity” sort of essence to it, which probably was intentional.

"Hasa Diga Eebowai" – While I like the “Hakuna Matata” spoofiness (not a real word, by the way) of it, I have a hard time with anything that takes the Lord’s name in vain nor do I care for the F-word, so some of the lyrics grate on my nerves. The tune is catchy and very Lion King-like. I do get the sentiment. Life for some people is pretty terrible and often unfair, and there's an amusing juxtaposition of the Ugandans’ very serious daily life problems with that of the Mormon missionaries’ far less consequential "problems." I can certainly understand that there are people out there who feel, due to the injustices of life, towards God the way these characters do, so I can appreciate the message of the song; but the song is too crass for my taste. I also appreciate the relation of where the characters are in their journey in this song and where they end up later in the show.

"Turn It Off" – I think this song, sadly, does portray very well how some Mormons behave and repress their feelings or mistake “keeping the world out” with not allowing themselves to explore issues or feelings they might find distasteful. It certainly touches on the Mormon attitudes towards homosexuality. The melody itself is kind of repetitive, but is still kind of bouncy and has a nice tap section. Again, good male voices. Nice parody of big showstopping number.

"I Am Here For You" – This song reminds me how endearing I find the character of Elder Cunningham. I like the idea of how when missionaries are discouraged, there’s still that underlying optimism and spirit. The song is actually quite endearing.

"All-American Prophet" – Nice illustration of how “American” the Mormon religion seems. It also illustrates why a lot of people who aren’t Mormon sometimes find our beliefs a bit weird or why people are skeptical of the Mormon faith. There are some funny moments in this song. Nothing is particularly doctrinally incorrect. It basically tells how the Mormon religion was founded and propagated. It's a nice poppy number. Actually, it is even kind of nice tribute to Joseph Smith’s martyrdom.

"Sal Tlay Ka Siti" – Kind of a fun “Part of Your World”-style number about this Utopian version of Salt Lake City as seen through the eyes of a Ugandan girl. I like the optimism and hopefulness of it and how different this girl’s reality is from the vision she has of what Salt Lake City is. I like the lyric about how she bets the citizens of Salt Lake City (in her idealistic view) are “open-minded and don’t care who you’ve been” and how she wants to “fit in” with those people. Kind of a nice irony. It’s a nice ballad sung very well.

"Man Up" – Not my favorite number in the show. I actually like the comparison of the example Jesus gave us to follow with what we must to do, but again, the throwing his name around in vain and portraying his crucifixion in a kind of flippant, light-hearted way bothers me. I’m assuming this is the Act One closer. That’s how it feels to me. I like how the characters are facing where they are in their own personal journeys. I also like that Elder Price is dealing with doubts.

"Making Things Up" – I’m guessing this is Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and Robert Lopez’s commentary on why organized religion exists and how it's created to help people, but can often come across as meaningless, silly, and absurd. There is some language in the song that I find distasteful, but I do get the point (at least how I interpret it) that the things Elder Cunningham is telling the Ugandans is helping them better their lives even if they aren’t true.

"Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" – This is fun song which I think illustrates the guilt Mormons put on themselves, and how the need for perfection sometimes causes us to judge ourselves too harshly. I like how what Elder Price has done is just as horrible in his mind as the far worse actions of others. Mormons often do that, I think. I know I did. Some language in the song is not to my liking, but the song has its amusing moments, and is a good illustration of the demons Elder Price is wrestling within himself.

"I Believe" – I think this is my favorite song in the show ("Hello" being a close second). This song is quite touching actually. I like Andrew Rannel's voice, too. Nothing in the song is doctrinally unsound, and yet it is also clear why outsiders find the Mormon religion kind of odd. I like this idea that Mormons just believe what they do because they feel it is true. I even sense the creators of the show admire and maybe even envy that quality even if they don’t understand it.

"Baptize Me" – Because I do think of baptism as a sacred ordinance, I don’t particularly like the sexual innuendo that the song contains. But I do like the idea of how exciting the baptism is for both the new convert and the missionary who has never baptized anyone.

"I Am Africa" – An anthem-like song about becoming one with the people one lives with as a missionary. I think I really need to see the show to get a better sense of how this song fits in.

"Joseph Smith American Moses" – This is very reminiscent of “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” from The King and I. I appreciate the parody, but the song contains too much of F-word and treats Joseph Smith and Brigham Young in a somewhat blasphemous way that it isn’t to my liking. I do, however, like the point of how kind and polite Mormons are, and I know that Matt Stone and Trey Parker have often said that even though they find Mormon beliefs hard to swallow that Mormons are some of the nicest people they've known. I also get the point that even though the story is ridiculous, how enamored the Ugandans are of this religion that has bettered their lives. And maybe that's a point the creators are making: organized religion can be very ridiculous, but still help people.

"Tomorrow Is a Latter Day" – Nice closer, and everyone’s life is better and brings us full circle as these Ugandans’ lives have improved as have those of the missionaries who taught them. I actually believe Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s assertion that in spite of any crassness or blasphemy, this show really is a kind of “love letter” to the Mormon religion even if its doctrines are not fully understood or relatable to the two men.

In short, the score was basically what I expected. There is some fun, clever music to be found and some valid points to be made, but some of the material makes me cringe. I think the message is good. Like I said, I would see it if I had the opportunity, but I don't think it's a show I would be at all comfortable taking my mom to.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


Yesterday I received an email from a friend I used to work with. This friend knows I'm gay and wanted to share something with me. In part, this is what his email said:

...Since you last [worked with me], my son...who is now 21, came out. I love and support my son. Since then, I have struggled with the same issues you've had to deal with for so long: How do I reconcile my faith in the church with having a son who is gay?

I've have come to the conclusion that there is more to be revealed on this subject. It is my feeling that this revelation will come when the members of the church are ready to receive it--when they are willing to love and accept their gay sons and daughters. I have found that the perceptions of church members are changing as more of them are finding out they have close relatives who are gay.

I want you to know that you have my love and support. I know that God loves you. I admire you for keeping your testimony.

I was actually quite grateful to hear from this friend. When I worked with him, I suspected that his son might be gay based on things he told me, and I feared my friend's reaction because he had real issues with it and could sometimes come off as homophobic in his attitudes. I’m pleased to see he has softened somewhat since I last worked with him. I wrote him the following response:

I was very pleased to receive your email.

I always wondered if your son would come out. I remember when [we worked together] you would tell us things that made me think he was probably gay, and I always wondered how you would end up reacting to that. I am, of course, glad that you continue to love and support him. Some stories I hear of how some parents treat their gay children break my heart, especially when those parents are supposedly espousing Christian beliefs.

As ones who come from the Mormon faith, it is a struggle knowing how to reconcile one's faith in a church that one believes to be Christ's church on earth with the issue of homosexuality, which is clearly (at this time, at least) contradictory to what that church teaches.

As for myself, I know with all my heart that I tried my very best to live according to the teachings of the church (as far as this issue is concerned) until I simply felt unable to, and I know as sure as I know anything that my life has been much happier and fulfilling since I found my partner and since I came out. And yet I still do maintain a testimony, and I still continue to attend my mother's ward here in Utah and another ward when I am home... I don't know how it will all work out, and I don't even know that it matters.

What I am sure of is that God knows my heart better than anyone, and I feel very at peace with the decisions I have made, and I feel the Lord is happy that I am happy. He continues to bless my partner and me very much, and I have felt his love in great abundance.

As I was telling my partner about your email, he said that as children of God, ours is not to judge or waste time wondering why things are the way they are or wishing things could change; ours is simply to love...our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our neighbors, our enemies. We can't live in fear of the unknown; we can only do our best to live the most Christ-like lives we are able to live under the conditions mortality has afforded us. God knows our hearts and intents and will judge us accordingly. I take great comfort in that.

Like you, I think there is far more to God's plan than we realize, and perhaps you are right - that we will receive further knowledge on this subject when we are ready for it. But whether or not that happens, I think it's important for members to love and accept their gay children, their gay siblings, their gay friends, etc. After all, that is what God already does with each and every one of us - he loves and accepts us for who we are, warts and all, and his Son's atonement takes care of the rest.

Thank you for your love and support. It is greatly appreciated. And I'm sure your son...feels the same way. Like you, I know God loves us very much.

Remain well, my friend, and thank you again for your very kind words.



My friend responded with:

Thanks for your response. I'm glad to hear that you are at peace with your decision and that you are happy. That says a lot to me. If we believe what we read in the Book of Mormon that "wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10), then by the current Mormon definition, we would expect you to be unhappy, because you are "living in a state contrary to happiness." (Alma 41:11) The fact that you are the happiest you have ever been tells me that God made you the way you are and accepts you for following your nature. That lends credence to my theory that there's more to be revealed on this subject.

I share the opinion of your partner. When I talk to other Mormons about [my son's] sexuality, I say: "I've come to the conclusion that it's not my job to judge him. It's my job to love him. I'll leave the judgment up to God."

Best wishes.

I was just mostly glad to see that love triumphed over dogma in my friend's relationship with his son. I think that's how it should be.

Also I met with my former Stake President last Sunday. He just wanted to see how I was doing and asked me how my fellow ward members (many of whom know I am gay and excommunicated) have been treating me. I said they've been very loving and kind. I haven’t experienced any negativity. He said he was glad to hear that and stressed that as long as he was Stake President, if anyone ever offended me or treated me negatively, he wanted to know about it, and he would deal with it. I thought that was nice.

While he still feels like the doctrine of marriage being between only a man and woman is an eternal principle, he also stressed to me that he does not judge me nor does he know how all of this will work out in the afterlife. He believes (and he said this was simply the doctrine according to him, personally, - not as a representative of the LDS Church”) that he believes Christ’s atonement will make up for anything I have lacked in mortality and that he liked to believe that Christ would be my advocate in letting me receive the greatest rewards heaven has to offer.

I know he was trying in his own way to tell me that he believed, in spite of what he still sees as a sin, that God would treat me fairly in the afterlife. I wasn’t offended or bothered by anything he said (although I think Jonah was when I later recounted the events of my meeting with my Stake President - Jonah basically said, "If he believes that as a person, why should he have to quantify it?"). I know my relationship with God is good. I know that I’m happy. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. But I know his words, as awkward as they may have come out, came from a good place. I know that his heart was in the right place, and I honestly didn’t feel any judgment from him even though his words might have been seen by someone else as judgmental. He’s working with what he’s got based on the knowledge he has as am I.

I think he hopes I’ll rejoin the Church someday, but like Jonah says, I’m already there, and as long as the Church teaches me that I can’t be an active Mormon and be with Jonah at the same time, it’s a no-go for me. And I’m truly okay with that.

Every time I meet with my Stake President, he tells me about this other guy that he was friends with who was excommunicated from the Church for similar reasons as I was. This young man, however, has become antagonistic towards the Church, and even though he still considers my Stake President a friend personally, because he’s a Stake President, the young man asked that he stop contacting him because it was just too painful. My Stake President thinks about him a lot and wishes he could talk to him the way he talks to me, but because of his attitude towards the Church, it does not seem possible at this time. My Stake President says he often feels like calling the guy to see how he’s doing, but always feels prompted not to. He says perhaps when he isn’t a Stake President anymore the time will be right.

It always makes me sad when I hear him talk of this young man; sad that both men have lost that relationship because of where they stand with the Church; sad that the young man has “thrown the baby out with the bathwater,” so to speak; and sad that My Stake President cares so much about this guy, but can’t seem to do anything at this point in time to reach him.

I don’t feel the time is right, either. I feel it is likely the young man will lash out or react unfavorably and end up hurting my Stake President more. But I do think the time will come when he and this young man can have a healthy and good relationship again.

My former Stake President expressed his love and friendship to me. His biggest fear was that when I was excommunicated, I would go the way of so many other people and become angry, bitter, and disenfranchised. I told him I still have a great love for the Church and many of its values, but still maintain that I had to do what I had to do and have no regrets in doing so.

He said he knows I am happier. He says when he used to talk with me there was this cloud hanging over me all the time, but since I’ve found Jonah and come out and been excommunicated, he can see a brighter spirit in me without my even having to say how happy I am. And he’s pleased I still attend church and share my spirit with others.
It was a good meeting. I guess you really had to be there.

Anyway, those are some thoughts I wanted to share today.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Feeling Strange About Bin Laden's Death

I preface this post by saying that these are the feelings I am feeling right now, and I don't wish to be attacked for feeling them.

I recently learned the news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed. My first thought was "Finally!" but as I dwelled on it and as I read some of the comments of my friends' reactions on Facebook, I had another thought: while there is some comfort in knowing that a man who committed evil acts and was continually interested in our downfall is no longer on this earth, at the same time I found myself having a hard time sharing in the glee that many seem to feel over this man's death.

Please don't misunderstand me; I think the world is a better place without Osama Bin Laden in it, and I truly hope this can bring some closure to those who lost loved ones on 9-11. The man did some terrible, unconscionable things, and I can understand that people are happy that he's dead. I just have a hard time myself celebrating another human being's death even if that human being did some horrible things.

I guess what I'm saying is that more than relishing this man's death, I feel sorry that he felt he had to cause injury and death to so many innocents for what seems an unworthy cause. Yes, I can be happy that justice has been served in a way, but I don't feel like it's right to be so gleeful about it. Again, these are my feelings and mine alone. If others want to be gleeful, that is their right. It just doesn't feel right for me to be feeling that way.

At the very core of it, if I believe what I claim to believe - what I believe Christ taught as I understand it - every soul is valued and loved by our Father in Heaven. That certainly doesn't mean he condones wicked actions nor does it mean justice shouldn't be served if a soul has done something that merits it. Therefore I have to believe, though it is often difficult in my mortal state to do so, that Heavenly Father loves a Bin Laden, a Charles Manson, or a Hitler as much as He loves a Gordon B. Hinckley, a Gandhi, or a Mother Theresa, for example. I don't imagine Heavenly Father is feeling much joy over the things Bin Laden did with much of his life, but nor do I think He feels much joy in celebrating how that mortal life ended.

In the end, God is judge of all: you, me, Hinckley, Lincoln, King, Stalin, Hitler, and Bin Laden alike. We are all his children, and even if I don't fully comprehend the kind of unconditional, all-reaching love He has for each and every one of us, I believe in that love. I know it exists and I know it sees every facet of the human heart, even a Bin Laden's. I don't feel like celebrating his death even if I hope at the same time that the world may be safer without his presence (and even that I am not sure of).

Again, I am not defending the man or his actions; I'm just choosing not to be gleeful over how his life was lived and how it ended.