Sunday, August 9, 2015

What do You Want to Believe?

 "Belief and testimony and faith are not passive principles. They do not just happen to us. Belief is something we choose—we hope for it, we work for it, and we sacrifice for it. We will not accidentally come to believe in the Savior and His gospel any more than we will accidentally pray or pay tithing. We actively choose to believe, just like we choose to keep other commandments."

-Elder L. Whitney Clayton, April 2015 General Conference

Logistically, I feel like my life is fairly busy with work, church obligations, addiction recovery, travel, etc.  I have regular meetings and activities almost every night of the week.  Even so, I still have time to ponder about what my life is supposed to be about.  I have a friend who says that he views the gospel and his life through the "lens" of his same-sex attraction.  I suppose I do the same thing.  I know it doesn't define me, but I definitely think plenty about what it means to me, what my life will look like, and how this all fits in to the Plan of Salvation.

And yes, sometimes this includes comparing my beliefs and experiences to those of others (I know we're not supposed to do that, but hey, nobody's perfect).

At the intersection of faith and homosexuality, there is a tumult of differing experiences, beliefs and opinions (and I'd assume the same in regards to other issues that test our faith AND our ability to love others, such as gender identity disorder, gender equality, church history, etc.).  I've been appalled at some of the very stark opposites when it comes to perspectives on the Church and homosexuality.  This is not only within the gay community, but all over the place, even among church membership.

(A) Some say the Church is "anti-gay," has "oppressive policies towards gay people," or is hostile towards gays.  (B) I actually feel at home among most Latter-day Saints.  Gay people are serving in callings, attending the temple, and enjoying full fellowship in the Church (of course, that depends on how one defines "gay," but I've cleared my version up in other posts).

(A) Some believe Latter-day Saints don't think for themselves, that we all blindly follow a bunch of aged men, that we are not allowed to question or think "outside of the box."  (B) I actually feel like our leaders encourage questioning and finding things out for ourselves.  We need personal revelation as to how to incorporate the words of the prophets in our individual situations.  Our leaders encourage diversity, welcoming all people and pleading for their individual talents, gifts and experiences.  Even though we strive to make and keep the same covenants, we're still all very different and we all live the same gospel in very different ways.  Sometimes it DOES take a lot of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to live the gospel!

(A) You can't love another man and be Mormon. (B) WHAAAAAAT? I love lots of men! Some I love very dearly!

It's a little hard to describe, but in summary...there are some viewpoints out there that are the complete opposite of how I view my church.  I'm astonished at some of the things that get said.  I get protective and I say to myself, "Good heavens, I don't want members of my church to read THAT!" But for the most part, I can actually see and understand where these people are coming from.  I sometimes get defensive and I want to fix the situation.  I think, "either I'm wrong, or they are wrong."  I used to mentally accuse them of picking and choosing certain principles and taking them out of context.  But recently, I realized that I might be doing the same thing to further my intents and purposes. 

It might just boil down to this: What do you want to believe?

I want to believe that the Church is gay friendly.  I want to believe that my attractions are not just weaknesses to be overcome or trials to be endured until the next life.  I want to believe that I can bridle them and use them for righteous purposes.  I want to believe that this works within the context of the gospel.  If this is the restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, and if I am a child of God, I better believe there is a place for me in this church!

With these desires in mind, of course I might do a little filtering and analyzing when it comes to conference talks or church teachings.  I look for one-liners here and there mentioning the "exceptions" to the majority, such as those who experience same-sex attraction, or those who cannot bear children, those who are divorced, or those who remain single for other reasons.  Sure, it would be nice to have an entire conference talk discussing same-sex attraction.  It would be nice to have a church-wide rapid improvement event regarding homosexuality (and also gender dysphoria).  I feel like church leaders are understanding, and I trust that there are reasons why this hasn't been discussed more (such as areas of the world that may be hostile to Mormons AND gays!)  But for now, I am satisfied and so very grateful for those little one-liners that remind me that I do have a place and that I am wanted and needed in the Lord's church.

I disassociate gay marriage from the root experience of same-sex attraction.  When the topic is discussed at church, or especially at Conference, I understand they are not talking about gay people, but violations of the law of chastity, the purposes of marriage and many other things regarding the family as the fundamental unit of society.  I feel like I understand the primary purposes of marriage and the powers of procreation.  I do not think they are merely cultural, and it is not up to me to define those.  Nevertheless, there is so much more to same-sex attraction than the sexual component.  Gay people don't need to engage in sexual relations to love and show affection for one another! 

I glory in what is NOT said at Conference or anywhere in the current teaching materials.  Even though we have an eternal perspective, we don't have all the pieces to the puzzle.  Some of us (especially those with gender identity issues) are left up to personal revelation as far as dealing with this life.  I've mentioned in another post that I believe and hope that this experience resembles something like celestial brotherhood, where yes, I'll have a wife and children, but I'll also have many brothers that I will love.  I believe there is a lot that is good and beautiful about the love that can exist between two of the same gender, including those who are gay or bisexual.  Now that gay marriage is legal, I hope we can respectfully acknowledge that there is much that is good about love and committed friendship...even if they happen to be married.

Yes, I want to believe that I have a place in this church and its doctrine, so of course I will share messages that support that belief.