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."
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.