Saturday, June 3, 2017

Lyrics, Music and Love

I'm spoiled.  I keep getting blessed with amazing church leaders.  Part of it could very well be how I describe things, and part of it could just be happenstance.  I recently transitioned to a conventional, family ward.  I met with two of my priesthood leaders to get on the same page.  They both had no qualms saying the word, "gay" and were very open to hearing some of my story (or what we had time for).  They affirmed to me that no matter what my choices would be in regards to relationships, I would have a home in the ward.  That is huge.  I think it's that kind of love and understanding (without feeling like they need to adjust their beliefs) that helps me stay close to the gospel. 

Aside from that, I was asked to give a talk in Sacrament meeting and share some of my experiences in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I quickly wracked my brain upon receiving the assignment and warned, "Well you choir story is closely intertwined with my *gay story."  The bishop seemed completely fine with it.  So yeah, I shared what I felt with my ward, and now I'm writing a post about that talk.

I shared my take on what most people want to know about the Choir, such as broadcasts, tours, Christmas concerts, guest artists, etc., but leaving it at that would have made it a short talk and lacking in depth (at least for me).  So I proceeded to talk about my own self-transformation, my own coming to Christ.  I think that's the biggest part of my four years in the Choir.  There have been many times when the lyrics and music have penetrated my soul (especially Mack Wilberg's famous minor 6th chords in the organ bass).  There have also been times when music and my participation in the Choir was the only tether between me and the Church, even between me and God.

This was especially apparent with our Easter concert back in April.  We sang a new piece by Brother Wilberg and lyricist David Warner.  It was entitled "A Cloud of Witnesses," as it featured several biblical stories of the witnesses of Christ after His resurrection.  This concert came during one of my more difficult times.  I was bawling at pretty much every rehearsal leading up to the concert.  I'm sure many other choir and orchestra members had their own personal experiences as well.

The first part of the song refers to Mary Magdalene, how she was the first to see the risen Lord.  The lyrics that spoke to me were...

Then ponder on this witness,
This precious reminiscence:
That she who first perceived Him
By hope and believing,
Received Him in her grieving.
And in our sorrow we will see Him
Soon appear!

Mary received Him "in her grieving."  This spoke directly to the experiences I was having.  For many years, I had unknowingly numbed my pain.  I didn't want to feel it.  I didn't want to acknowledge that I was uncertain about the future, questioning my faith and the spiritual experiences I've had, wanting a boyfriend and trying to imagine how that would work, whether inside or outside my covenants.  In a way, I was wanting Christ to love me conditionally.  I didn't want to accept His love unless I was sure of everything.  Through these lyrics, I realized that I didn't need to keep hiding all this stuff from God.  He just knows.  He knows the desires of my heart.  I can freely lay them out before Him.  He loves me regardless.  His love is simply there whether I'm keeping the commandments or not.  Even when I'm battling bitterness towards others or when I'm lost in confusion, His love is. just. there!  That was a profound realization.

Another set of lyrics featured the two disciples on the road to Emaus.  Christ had appeared to them, yet they did not recognize Him. 

And so they sat at meat, all three together.
And when He took the bread and broke it
Even the bread of His affliction,
And then blessed and freely
Gave it unto them,
They then beheld that it was Jesus--
Saw Him, felt Him, knew Him,
And He quickly vanished!

(The Two Disciples)
"Then it was Him!
Our Lord and Master!
Jesus, Savior, our Redeemer!
Were our hearts not burning,
Souls not yearning?
Though our eyes were not discerning
Of Him?!"

This reminds me of the times in my life when Christ has effectively appeared to me, even though I didn't always recognize Him.  Most often, this has been through other people in many areas of my life.  I've been thankful for people in the Choir who have listened to me, spent time with me, hugged me (the hug quota is indefinite!) and simply treated me like "one of the guys."  I've been thankful for my family, who has been at my side, ready to give aid and unconditional love. 

Most especially, I've felt the love of my Savior through other men (and women too) who are walking this road with me and who have similar perspectives on the gospel.  I've been learning about brotherhood and deep friendship.  Christ had His band of brothers to support Him.  There's something powerful about the love (or in other words, attraction) that can exist between two or more friends who can relate to one another's circumstances and who are doing their best to keep the Savior at the forefront.  I've written extensively about this before, but I can imagine Christ holding my hand, letting me rest on His shoulder, kissing my cheek.  I can't help but feel that within righteous parameters and in accordance with other forms of platonic intimacy, this kind of physical affection with my brothers is very similar.

Anyway, things have been changing.  I feel like I've been starting a new chapter, albeit an uncertain one.  The experiences I've had recently with Choir, as well as others, have helped me see beyond the "gay."  It's important for me to emphasize, however, that this has been through acceptance and not rejection or resistance of my feelings (I wrote more about that here).  I'm not so sure acceptance is on the brain when we try to focus on "eternal identities" in lieu of SSA or another major life situation.  But anyway, I know there are other areas of my life to explore, including reopening possibilities that, for at time, had been closed. 

As an obligatory conclusion, yes, the Choir has played a pivotal role in my spiritual journey.  That pretty much sums it up.

*I'm slowly becoming disenchanted with some of the terminology surrounding same-sex attraction, as I am starting to move on and see more of myself.  But I continue to use it because of the limiting nature of language and also to be relatable.

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