Thursday, June 20, 2019

Excommunication Anniversary

Six days ago was an anniversary that I almost let slip by without realizing it: ten years ago on June 14th I was excommunicated from the LDS Church. It's hard to believe that much time has gone by.

I recently re-listened to a podcast interview I gave almost two years after I was excommunicated. Although I no longer attend LDS services regularly, many of the feelings in the interview about the LDS Church and its influence on me remain the same.

I was born and raised in the Mormon religion. I tried very ardently for a good portion of my life to follow all of its tenets, including fighting against and suppressing a huge part of who I am: my homosexuality. I reached a point in life where I no longer felt I could do that.

The last day of 2008 I made a firm choice to be with the guy I love, my now-husband Jonah. That turned out to be possibly the best choice I have ever made in my life, certainly one that has led me on a path to greater happiness, fulfillment, and emotional well-being.

It is also a choice that eventually cost me my membership in a religion that I loved and revered. It's definitely a weird feeling to lose that when it's been your whole life for so long.

My late mother as well as my dear friend attended my church discipline hearing, and their support has always meant the world to me. I am forever grateful that Mom got to see me build a relationship with Jonah before she passed. I'm glad she got to see how happy this relationship has made me. I'm glad she and Jonah became like a mom and son.

When you are told your whole life what a negative impact excommunication will have on your eternal soul, you fear the consequences (at least I did), and while the first year or two were an adjustment, I can honestly say that life and God have been very good to me these last ten years.
I truly can't imagine life without Jonah. He has made me a better person, has helped me see life and people in a different way, and has enriched my life greatly.

I hold no bitterness or anger towards the LDS Church. I know some of my gay friends who were raised Mormon do, and justifiably so, but my interaction with the LDS Church was largely positive and I still maintain that many of my best traits and values come from what I was taught there and what I was taught by parents who adhered to that faith.

I do think the LDS Church has a lot of work to do in how it deals with and treats its gay members and former members. The place where we should be able to find the most refuge and support often does the opposite and pushes people away.

I was lucky. The leaders and members I personally dealt with on my own journey were kind and compassionate for the most part, although occasionally an unkind or ignorant remark or action would be made. For others (too many), the ignorance and unkindness was the rule rather than the exception, so there is still work to be done, bridges to be built.

I don't know all the answers, but I am convinced that being gay is something that is unchangeable (for me, at least, and for the majority of gay people I know). I know of a handful of gay people who seemingly have made marriage with a member of the opposite sex work for them. Kudos to them if they are truly happy. For most gay people I know, however, including myself, that just isn't a viable option.

Gay won't go away, whether you think it's wrong or sinful or not. We have to learn to love and support each other, regardless of perceived differences. We have to learn to find common ground.
What I am sure of is that I am happier outside of the LDS Church than I was inside. That isn't a slam or a smear on the LDS Church. It does so much good, but like any institution, it isn't perfect. I just learned that although it may bring fulfillment and joy to many, for others like me, it was a box I simply didn't fit in anymore.

I am grateful (truly I am) for all it gave me, but I am equally grateful that I have found a path that has given me more.

I love and adore my Mormon friends and family. They are still my people and always will be.

What have I been up to these last ten years?

Well, I’ve worked for the same theatre company for nearly the last seven, but I shall be quitting that job in August to pursue my acting career again, which I have missed a lot. It’s scary to leave my comfort zone and give up a job I have, overall, enjoyed as well as give up a decent salary and good health benefits. And at my age (48), it seems foolhardy to start anew. But God and the universe have been pushing me to make this decision, and so I am taking a leap of faith and trusting that I will be taken care of. I haven’t felt this strongly about anything in a while. I’ve had strong impressions to do things during my life, such as my decision to go to grad school (which is how I met Jonah), my decision to be with Jonah, and my decision to put my acting career on hiatus for a bit, and those all led me to good things. Now I feel prompted to get back into acting and to give up this job that is no longer bringing me joy. I feel like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade when he takes his “leap of faith,” but in the end it is worth it.

I actually had the opportunity to be in a play in October, but I had to turn it down because Jonah and I are taking a very important trip together in September, when the rehearsals happen. Still, I know that theatre company is interested in me for future projects. Yep, I’m scared but I am also excited for the future.

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