Saturday, January 22, 2011

I believe in the Gospel of Joy....

Invictus Pilgrim posted an essay today that has left me troubled. While I appreciate much of what he wrote and find that many of his thoughts ring true, what to me is a core issue was assaulted and left me empty. Hence, this post of my own.

First, let me say that Invictus Pilgrim has become a dear friend, someone who I have only recently come to know, and yet already love and admire. His quiet company and thoughtful perceptivity are comforting. His wisdom and intellect, stimulating. His openness and honesty offer candid insight into the heart of a good man trying to find his way from the dark to the light. Much of what he says and writes rings true at the deepest level.

Despite the similarities of our journey and the beginnings of a friendship that in the end, I'm sure, will be lasting, he and I have one fundamental difference.

The difference boils down to a matter of faith.

At the risk of over-simplification, we middle-aged Mormon gays seem to come in two flavors.

There are those of us who choose to remain in difficult marriages because of our covenants, commitments, and honest love for our wives and children. This route all too often results in loneliness, isolation, and a life devoid of intimacy. We credit the anger and heartache we daily endure as a sacrament of suffering and the cost of someday receiving "eternal happiness."

The second flavor involves those of us who finally hit the wall. We realize that living a life of duplicity and artifice not only begets unhappiness and sorrow, but is the antithesis of the joy that Heavenly Father actually wants for each of us.

As we hit the wall, our lives actually shatter. The individuals we thought we were no longer exist. We are left in pieces, attempting to find order, stability, and hope in a world that is new and at once beguiling. The thrill of feeling utter freedom for the first time and the relief derived from honesty and clarity are overwhelming.

And yet in this new state, we seem to harbor a sense of betrayal. The teachings and principles that have guided our lives, albeit unsuccessfully, are not only called into question, but are all too often rejected, annihilated, and ultimately vilified, frequently with pleasure and even pride.

The result is that there are few openly gay men who choose to remain active in the LDS Church.

I believe there is a third way.

Let me first say that regardless of the choices I make in my life and the appropriateness of these choices from an orthodox Mormon perspective, I know--yes, know--that the GOSPEL is true. Joseph Smith restored principles dealing with the eternal questions of man's origins, mission, and future home that transcend mortal manufacture. I have felt the hand of God and have heard his voice. I continue to seek his guidance and receive it.

My primary disagreement with Invictus is the same disagreement that I have with most who follow the second way. To me, the GOSPEL and the Church are not synonymous. While I am reticent, because of covenant, to speak ill of the Lord's anointed, I recognize that they are men, men with the same challenges, foibles and weaknesses as I. They receive guidance and revelation for the Church in the same way that I receive guidance and revelation for me and my family--to the degree that I am willing to accept it.

That is why it is incumbent on me to learn for myself through spiritual channels the truth of what they speak. As George Albert Smith taught, to do otherwise would undermine agency, the first principle of heaven.

The fact that a member of the Twelve can stand in General Conference and preach what is recognized through intellect and Spirit as false doctrine emphasizes this truth. The fact that he would be publicly corrected should reaffirm, not undermine the devotion of the faithful.

A second concern I have with Invictus' post is that while he believes that the doctrine of the restoration "ultimately boils down to the union of a penis and a vagina," I believe the lynch pin of the gospel is Heavenly Father's desire for all his children to "ultimately" find joy (2 Nephi 2:25).

Recognizing that we are all different, "joy" in a mortal and eternal sense means different things to each of us. Heavenly Father, who knows and loves us individually, has acknowledged that. Of all his children he has said, "they shall return again to their own place, to enJOY that which they are willing to receive (D&C 88:32)."

For many, the opportunity to unite with a woman in love to create worlds and enjoy eternal increase will bring that bliss that eternity affords.

For those of us who were created by God to love a person of our same gender, our joy will be found in different paths.

And that to me is the beauty of the restoration. It is a recognition that although we are all God's children, God ultimately recognizes our differences and through his love, still desires for us happiness. He has created for his children no eternal hell, no place of eternal suffering, but only a place where each of us can find joy.

While because of my nature and my choices I may not desire exaltation (just as I neither desire great wealth nor national prominence), I have testimony built on faith that when I stand before Christ and account for my stewardship, I will feel his arms around me and receive a fullness of joy intended only for me through his infinite love and universal grace.

That to me is the fundamental truth of the restoration. It is the knowledge that in the end, all will be well and I will be at peace.

With that in mind, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to do as so many of us gay men searching, and throw the baby out with the bathwater.

11 comments:

  1. Just as I have strongly stood for "another way" for a gay man to find his way without throwing marriage, family, and Gospel out with that proverbial bathwater, I, too, firmly believe that the "third way" you describe is a viable and real option. Though much less frequently blazed, I pray that you'll find JOY on your way along this path!

    Thanks for this post of faith...

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  2. I agree with much of what you've said. I went through a very similar process as that described by Invictus Pilgrim. I also asked exactly the same question he did: "If they were wrong about this, what else might they be/have been wrong about?" I investigated that question thoroughly as my professional training taught me to do. The answer to that question" "Much." So much, in fact, that the loss of trust in LDS leadership which I experienced during the Prop 8 campaign only expanded, both in scope and in time. The balance tipped permanently.

    I retain my faith in God, the Savior and the Atonement, nothing makes sense without that. But for reasons I won't explain here but did lay out for my bishop and SP, I could no longer accept that the LDS Church was what it claimed to be. If it works for others such as yourself, then I join Beck and sincerely hope you find what you seek. For myself, I believe my decision was confirmed as correct when my SP, hearing my story, said he saw a light and a change for good in my countenance that he had not seen before.

    Best of luck on your path.

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  3. A lot of food for thought. Thank you!!

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  4. Yes Clive, we long-time, heterosexually married, but nonetheless gay or bisexual husbands and fathers face some degree of loneliness and isolation. However, most straight and gay couples, and straight and gay singles, also deal to some degree with this most common of human conditions.

    But we also have the great blessing of being involved in the day-to-day lives of our children and wives (not that I'm polygamist, not yet anyway, but it could happen in the hereafter, not only with a sister wife, but perhaps with a brother husband. Ah, to dream...)

    The Mormon MOM life is not easy. Add to that varying degrees of belief in a restorationist church (which our of natural-man and/or child-of-God, and/or chosen or unchosen states will we be restored to?) and you have a prescription for anxiety and depression.

    But more than followers of some religious traditions, we do have a solid tradition of ongoing prophetic and societal change in our Mormonism, our Mormon do and don'ts, our Mormon dues and offerings. (The perpetual emigration fund eventually morphed to the perpetual education fund. Maybe there's something in the offing for those of us males who are perpetually inclined to embrace our brothers.) We not only believe in the 9th article of faith, we have seen it in action throughout church history.

    Suffice it to say that I, too, am a believer in seeking the illusive third pathway. Ain't that right, Beck?

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  5. Thanks for this post. I can't deny the spiritual experiences and blessings that have come from the church. I can't just walk away, but I had to come to grips with the differences between what I felt and what I heard over the pulpit. I too believe there's a distinction between the gospel and the church. The church is a tool, imperfect like we all are. It doesn't mean that it isn't effective. So I still attend, and try to learn. I learn from other sources as well. I don't get very excited about each new program change, or whatever. I hate all the extra meetings, and get out of as many as I can. And I admit that I probably won't accept a leadership calling again. I still look forward to baptizing my kids and doing many things with them that they will experience growing up in the church.
    I know it's not easy being in a MOM, but it's not this place of despair and lack of intimacy. It would tear me apart to separate from my wife. We have something special. Yes, not all my needs are met, but can that be said of any marriage? Maybe, but I doubt it. This is a hard path, and what gives me hope is what Ned said, a brother husband would be awesome in the next life to compensate for the loneliness and heartache that I at times feel. My wife doesn't like that idea at all, but I'm not giving up hope yet.

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  6. you are so right. Know that you are loved at accepted.

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  7. Wonderful post, eloquently stated. And I must agree.

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  8. Thanks, friends, for the great comments. We all are struggling to find our way and the path may be different for each of us. The important thing to me is that each path, ultimately, will lead to joy.

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  9. The "baby/bathwater" thing bothers me a little bit (not your use of the idiom specifically, but the frequency with which it is applied to those of us who have severed ties with the church)...

    The phrase invokes a sense of carelessness: "Oh, there's a bit of dirt in the water, so let's dump out the entire washtub [with nary a thought about the baby we're washing]". My own exodus from the church has been anything but careless--if anything I spent too long analyzing and studying and agonizing and deliberating and considering and meditating and... well, you get the picture.

    I can't extend the metaphor to make it more applicable without some disturbing imagery, so let's change it to "throw out the dishes with the washwater" for the rest of this comment...

    What if, on noticing the dirty water, one looks more closely at the contents of the tub and discovers that the dishes themselves are chipped and cracked from years of mis-use, the glaze worn thin and the pottery stained and discolored?

    One might examine each piece meticulously to determine what can be salvaged. Some pieces may have sentimental value and be deemed "worth keeping" despite some cosmetic flaws. Some might still be in good condition, still perfectly usable. But many will be determined to be of no more use, having served their purpose through the years. These will be thrown away.

    This culling of dishes may require that a new set of dinnerware be purchased, and one might put considerable time into the task, searching for the pattern and style that best fits his dining room. The new dishes may bear no resemblance to the originals, or they may match perfectly in many ways, while still having their own unique characteristics.

    Yes, there are some who throw the entire set out and dine on paper plates for the rest of their lives. But I think that far more of us are careful to keep the good dishes as we discard the bad--we just might have a different outlook on what's worth keeping than others in a similar situation.

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  10. BTW-- I might be a younger, unmarried blogger, but I appreciate the insights of everyone who's taken part in this discussion. It helps me better understand my own condition.

    Also, great metaphors, Clive and Scott.

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