Thursday, April 20, 2017

But What If...

True worship begins when our hearts are right before the Father and the Son. What is our heart condition today? Paradoxically, in order to have a healed and faithful heart, we must first allow it to break before the Lord.
Sister Neill F. Marriott, October 2015 General Conference

This Easter season has been a rather special one for me.  There are some things that might not be appropriate to share, yet I had an experience (well…a culmination of experiences) that I feel might be an important help in bridging gaps of understanding.  I’ve been exploring areas of my heart that I had unknowingly been numbing for years.  I’ve learned many important things about the Savior’s love for me and that the worth of every soul is truly great in the eyes of God (Doctrine & Covenants 18:10).  Yet, as can be expected with any time of growth, it has been coupled with some intense pain.  In a way, I was forced to a crossroads, and I think I needed it.

I’ve had to ask myself, “What if I did decide to be with a man? Granted, I still believe that being with a man could mean a few different things, both in and out of full fellowship in the Church.  But what if I did decide to share life with a man, even if it did involve behaviors and actions that require church discipline? What would happen in my family?  Would I still be loved and accepted in my own faith community and people who are already there for me?  Or would I have to go elsewhere?  I reckon I’d still feel uncomfortable around negative attitudes toward the Church, and I don’t want that.  How many people would “unfriend” me?  Would my love for my partner be accepted and cherished, even just out of a matter of respect? Would everyone be afraid that I want to promote or teach their kids “homosexuality?”

I can only speak for myself, but I still don’t feel like I’d try to make my relationship “the same as” a marriage between a man and a woman.  I feel like I’d still understand the Church’s position on it and I wouldn’t be one to believe in or advocate for a change.  Believe it or not, I still have some deep feelings about the institution of marriage.  Yet with that said, I still honor and respect others who do choose to enter a same-sex marriage, and I treat their relationship as such (by using such terms as “husband”).  I don’t think love of any kind has to be seen as “less than,” even though it’s expressed in different ways, sometimes by way of commandment.  This why I agree that “love is love,” but it doesn’t match what we hear in the political realm.

Anyway, all these considerations opened my eyes to what it might be like for others.  It helped me to have more compassion in my heart, even though I’ve tried to be respectful otherwise. The reconciliation of these feelings with faith is very difficult, and I can’t say I’m done with my own reconciliation either.  I can’t say I intentionally put myself in someone else’ shoes.  It’s more like…this could be me, and these are the things I’d be concerned about.  For me, I wouldn’t be “leaving the Church.” It’s more like “I want to stay, and I just can’t keep this commandment right now.”  That really describes the vast majority of us.  Homosexuality just tends to be the biggest, stigmatized one.

Let me just say that I understand.  I understand the desire of others to be reassured that I’ll stay where I am…or perhaps that ingrained desire for control.  I want to validate that.  I still have hopes for when I see friends come out.  I can’t help but hope that they’ll stay with me in the Church (I still think it’s a hoot to go to the temple with gay people, I mean really…who would have thought!).  I still enjoy cultivating brotherhood and sisterhood with those who experience this and do try to stay.  It’s OK to own and process our grief when we see loved ones step away (in fact, I’d be worried if we didn’t experience these feelings). And hopefully after that, we can allow it to be healed and then show forth greater love.

Sometimes it’s fun to be heralded for choosing what I choose.  But under all that I do have the “but what if” question.  My path of discipleship is ultimately between me, the Lord and my priesthood leaders.  I don’t need to be reminded of the consequences of choosing this or that.  I am fully aware and I know how important it is to consider those.  Yet common fellowship and ministry shouldn’t be dependent on those.  I want to continue to share perspectives from within a gospel framework.  I hope they help with understanding not only those who remain in the Church, but on a larger scale in the LGBT and faith communities.

On a more personal note, Sister Marriott’s quote above has been floating around in my head.  I did have to allow my heart to break.  I did have to acknowledge my desire for affection and companionship and that I’m simply wired for men.  I had to look at that part of myself and love it…because the Savior does.  He just knows.  He knows the desires of my heart and He loves me unconditionally.  If he can do it, I can learn how to do that for myself and others.

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