Monday, September 17, 2007

An unexpected small miracle...


I wrote this yesterday. It's long, but if you make it through it, I'd be very interested in your comments:



Today I participated in and witnessed a mighty miracle. For some of you, this may be “too little, too late” but for me it was tremendously significant and brings me a great and enormous sense of strength and personal hope for the future, for my personal future, for the future of the Church, for the future of all MOHOs.



This entry may be long, and you may not make your way through it all… That is okay for I write today, not so much for you, but for myself, for me to remember the feelings I had and the miracle that I was a part of. In a real sense I saw the enlightenment from on-high descending to inspire and uplift, to motivate and bring hope for the future generations of this Church!



All year I have dreaded the day that Lesson 17 of SWK be taught in Priesthood. In anticipation of this year’s instruction, knowing Pres. Kimball’s past teachings on the abhorrence of homosexuality, I was fearful of what may still be included in this “official” church publication. Sure enough, page 181 came glaring out at me. I knew that sometime in September that lesson would be taught and I had fear of what my fellow High Priests would have to say about the nature of homosexuality. Last week was supposed to be that lesson, but they switched for some reason and today ended up being the feared lesson.



I came to church highly charged and prepared for what may come and I told myself that I wasn’t going to say anything, but observe what was said by my quorum brothers. Needless to say, my quorum is prototypical of those along the Wasatch Front – about 45 to 50 active brothers attend each week, most being over 60, grandfathers mainly, many great-grandfathers as well, most empty nesters, most seasoned in the gospel having been bishops, stake leaders, mission presidents. These are a very knowledgeable and very conservative Utah group.



Before settling into the lesson, I was asked by a father of one of my home teaching families to assist him in giving his wife a blessing. We quickly ran home to administer to her (which was a sweet experience in and of itself) and then I hurried back to the meeting hoping to have not “missed the juicy parts” of the lesson. Because I returned late, the lesson was already underway, so I slipped into the rear of the chapel, having missed the setup to the instructor having a brother read from page 181 and then asking “So what about homosexuality?”



“Good!” I told myself… “Perfect timing!”



The discussion started treading along the lines of conventional wisdom (how it is a sin and a choice and should be condemned etc. and how the “gay agenda” of propaganda should be fought against such things as “gay marriage”). I could have predicted it. I was disappointed that the instructor was going to leave it at that…



And then, a small miracle occurred. A highly respected older brother raised his hand and humbly and lovingly started offering the most kind and gentle confirmation of love he feels for his grandsons who are gay. He went on to say that he doesn’t think it is a matter of choice and that these young men are wonderful and loving young men and should be given the chance to have love in their lives. Though he doesn’t understand their attractions, they don’t stop him from loving them and wanting them to be happy, even in their search for companionship.



I was floored right then and there! My heart jumped out of my chest. The instructor proceeded to argue that it is a choice (not just a choice of actively pursuing homosexual relations, but orientation, too) and that participating in any form of homosexuality is a grievous sin. A few predictable “stalwart” brothers were all “here, here” and “to hell with them” kind of attitudes.



I couldn’t take it! I raised my hand and in the calmest but direct voice asked the instructor: Did you choose to be heterosexual?” (I wanted to burst out and say: “Don’t you realize that I’m one of those you are labeling as a sinner? Don’t you realize that I’m GAY?”) My heart was swelling but I bit my tongue.



There was silence in the room for a few seconds. The instructor couldn’t believe I asked such a question. He stammered and finally said something to the affect that we are here to create eternal families… but he understood my point as his face was one of fluster and confusion.



And then the unexpected miracle of enlightenment enveloped the room. Ten hands shot in the air! For the next half hour there was the most warm and kind and loving response. One brother talked about how the Church has gone out of their way to help those who have suffered the affects of divorce due to adultery and how we rally around them when this is widely known and accepted. But, he pointed out, when it comes to SSA, we not only don’t rally, we shun, we push away, we discriminate and show openly our bias, disdain and prejudice against such feelings and such persons – and that such members are ostracized to the point of leaving the church and we say “good riddance” under our collective breaths. He called us to repentance and told us that if ever there was the case for increased love, for seeking out the one, for fellowshipping and bringing into the fold, this is the one!



And then another brother spoke up about how the Brethren are softening their stance in helping those with SSA to be loved and understood and that we should do the same and show increased support instead of hatred and disgust.



By this point, the instructor was fully frustrated and visibly irritated! You could tell he didn’t want this tolerance-speak to go on any further and wanted to move on with the “real point of the lesson” which was unchaste living is a sin – but no one disagreed with that point and hands still wanted to be heard.



Another brother spoke of the upcoming Evergreen Conference at the Joseph Smith Building and that General Authorities will be speaking there and that there is something to this “understanding process” we need to learn and not be afraid of.



And another brother, a social worker by profession, said that he didn’t feel it was a choice, nor that this SSA could be overcome in this life and that we should not judge anyone for having such feelings.



And finally another brother, a previous bishop, said… “We all know the stance of the Church against homosexual relations and I don’t need to repeat that. But this discussion began when Brother “Y” spoke of reaching out in love and support for his grandsons with this orientation. Brother “X” spoke of reaching out to the men in our ward that we may not even know about (at that point I started visually crying) who need our tenderness and kindness and acceptance in helping them to feel loved and needed and valued. That is the point of this lesson!”



By now I was bawling. I felt such compassion from the Spirit. Fortunately I was on the back row and I rested my head on the bench in front of me and tried to gain my composure. I don’t remember much about what was said next, as my thoughts went to the following:



1) If these old conservative Wasatch Front codgers of men could have this much love and compassion as their comments were showing (I would say about half were in this camp) then what tremendous HOPE FOR THE FUTURE I started feeling for the changes coming WITHIN the church. (NOTE: Jason Lockhart on Northern Lights addressed this in his recent post. When I read his post, I couldn’t see it happening anytime soon – I couldn’t see the winds of change in attitude, the softening of hearts, the erasing of years of prejudice. But I did see it. I did see it!)


2) And if even these few old buggers were that far along down this road, then how much we have hope in looking forward to the rising generation!



After the meeting, and after I regained my composure, I went up to each of the brothers who spoke out and personally shook their hands and thanked them for the courage they showed in voicing their love for their fellow brothers. One brother, a good-ol-boy from Wyoming cowboy stock, noted that if he had said twenty years ago in a priesthood meeting in Wyoming what he said today, he would have been physically removed from the church and thrown out the door! We chuckled and I pointed out that that comment shows me in and of itself just how far we’ve come.



Is this a small miracle? Maybe not. For me, however, it was. Or at least it was a Nephite “tender mercy” from the Lord for me. I wasn’t expecting this kind of reaction. I needed to hear it. I was warmed from head to toe to know that such feelings exist among my own Wasatch Front brethren and I’m encouraged to continue the dialogue and to improve the perception that we are ALL brothers, and that if ever there is a brother that needs our “seeking out the one” with increased love, this, our dear SSA brother, is the one!

23 comments:

J G-W said...

Thank you for posting this story!! I was riveted from beginning to end. You are right, this is a miracle. Thank you for sharing it.

I have a couple of thoughts...

My parents told me they were not sure they were going to attend Priesthood and Relief Society meetings in the month of September, because they were afraid of what might be said. My dad said he didn't want to lose respect for some of his fellow high priests in case they said anything of an uncharitable nature. I encouraged them to go, and told them I intended to attend every single priesthood meeting in the month of September. Now I have to call them and ask them how it went, because I think they were a week behind, like your ward.

Almost every Sunday I go to Church, I am aware of my "outsiderness," but I also experience what you described in this story: a very powerful sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit pouring out love on me and assuring me and reminding me that this is the place to be. I have experienced this especially in situations where people say negative things about gays or lesbians (as I experienced in my parents ward) or when people behave in a way that makes me feel somewhat excluded (as occurs occasionally in my ward, though there are folks who do their best to make me feel included too). This is what keeps me coming back to Church Sunday after Sunday. I know that if we hang in there and stay as faithful as we can, the Spirit will be there with us every step of the way.

In my elder's quorum (last week), the minor miracle was that nobody said anything about homosexuality. The EQ president gave the lesson, and he just focussed on the principles of chastity -- the meat of the lesson -- and skipped right over the Kimball quote on homosexuality. I was actually hoping to hear what people had to say about this. I had no expectations about what would be said -- either positive or negative. It was a bit anticlimactic, but I was grateful in my own way that a decision was apparently made not to take this to a place that would potentially be hurtful to me. In my case, I am out to my EQ presidency and I wondered if they deliberately kept the discussion away from this topic for my sake. I hope not, but in any event I am grateful for the loving way in which they have always treated me.

Abelard Enigma said...

I usually meet with the Teachers quorum and haven't attended a Melchizedek PH meeting in years. As luck would have it, all of the teachers were absent yesterday (we only have two who attended regularly). So, I went to HP quorum - and guess what lesson they were having? What are the odds? The only MP lesson I've attended in years - and it's THAT one. I made sure to find a seat in the back away from anyone else as I wasn't sure how I would react.

When the instructor got to that part of the lesson, he first stated that there are parts of the lesson that he is not comfortable talking about, this being one of them. He then proceeded to read directly out of the lesson manual the quotes from President Kimball regarding homosexuality. And then he moved on to the next topic before anyone else could say anything.

The entire lesson was really very quiet - I don't know, maybe they were all asleep or something (they are old, after all). The only topic that generated any discussion whatsoever was pornography - and then only a couple of comments were made.

I'm grateful that there were no negative and/or homophobic comments made - that could have been difficult. But, I'm also disappointed the lesson wasn't a bit more lively. If this is how all HP meetings are in my ward then I'm thankful I get to meet with the aaronic priesthood :)

Beck said...

John: Maybe passing over it "for your benefit" was truly a sign of love and respect for you. However, it's too bad that you couldn't hear what the EQ had to say about it like my HPQ did. I was convinced they were going to skim over it and was blown away at the response.

I really am full of hope, mainly because if this came from the older generation, I have to guess that it would come even moreso from the younger generation - that is why I would be very curious if any EQ experiences were had out there!

Beck said...

ABE: I am sorry that your HPQ skipped over it. I would have loved to hear that my experience in my HPQ was not unique. I sincerely hope that it wasn't!

Elbow said...

Of course it was a small miracle! That's amazing. And for you to be there and have the spirit touch you the way it did, I'm so happy that that experience occurred and that we are able to blog about it.

Love and acceptance are key! That's what every member of the Church should be talking about and searching to understand. Instead of concerning ourselves with "endure to the end" and "struggle = sainthood" it's time to just love and accept. And as rudimentary as it sounds. The reason why people can't love and accept others is because they can't love and accept peices of themselves that they are ashamed of.

I love you so much, Beck. I truly care for you and have a vested interest in you well being. You are a choice man and I'm honored to know you and to have been in association with you!

Thank you for that post!

Marmoreal said...

thanks for posting about this experience. it's encouraging to hear of loving attitudes

santorio said...

no, not a small miracle, a big miracle.

now i'm waiting for an anti-war lesson, at which point i will pack my bags and mapquest missouri

playasinmar said...

I agree. It was a genuine miracle. Not because of what they said and who was saying it but because it was what you needed.

It was a miracle just for you.

gentlefriend said...

I taught priesthood that Sunday and SGA was on my list of topics. I started them off discussing what is OK sexually between a husband and wife. That was a lively discussion! I then brought up pornography and that was a lively discussion. We ran out of time just before I was to bring up SGA. But never fear, I am a creative teacher and I'll work it into a future lesson and report back. Also, I'm trying to figure out how to work into a lesson the SWK anti-war statements I included on my post on world peace. I pray that the Spirit will guide me to do both appropriately.

Thanks for sharing, Beck. I hope that my guys are just as compassionate.

Switch said...

Whoah.

and

Wow.

Thank you for sharing this.

MoHoHawaii said...

I found your story to be very encouraging and personally gratifying. Thanks for sharing it. I am so grateful to those grandsons of that highly respected older quorum member for coming out.

Coming out is the single most powerful way to change the attitudes of society. Your experience in Priesthood Meeting could never have happened without it.

We owe a great debt to the radical members of our tribe, from the Stonewall rioters on, who stood up and were counted. We are the beneficiaries of their courage.

Gay LDS Actor said...

That is an excellent miracle. Thanks for sharing.

Ron Schow said...

Beck

I am grateful for how this has built up your spirits and for the kindness in your quorum. I am also impressed with your courage to speak up.

It seems to me we all need to get more copies of "God Loveth His Children" and begin to distribute them within our wards so our brothers and sisters can see and understand that the leaders of the Church are in a very different place than when Pres Kimball wrote what he did so many years ago.

I find it interesting that none of you have mentioned that any of the instructors referred to the new pamphlet. A few weeks ago my Branch President gave me and two other members of the Branch Presidency copies of the pamphlet he had received and said he was ordering more. He also gave me a chance to speak and share any insights with the brethren present in our meeting. He has read our "Guide for Latter-day Saint Families" which was sold at Deseret Book and has watched our films. He understands the Church position has changed in that SSA "attractions alone do not make you unworthy," and that marriage may need to be "deferred" and that some will "not be free of the feelings in this life." The Church has really turned a corner, but many of the Saints still do not know that.

I need to work on finding some more copies. I hope they have a lot of them available when I go to the Evergreen fireside and ecclesiastical meeting next Saturday.

Elder Holland's October Ensign article should help a lot.

Ron Schow said...

I just called the Church Distribution Center 1-800-537-5971. They were very willing to send me 20 copies free to my home address. The pamphlet is on back order so it may be a while before I get these. Others may want to do the same thing to share with friends, family, and ward members on occasions like this lesson.

Abelard Enigma said...

I find it interesting that none of you have mentioned that any of the instructors referred to the new pamphlet.

I suspect that is because most members of the church don't even know it exists. Some bishops may not have even received a copy yet - my bishop just received his copy a couple of weeks ago. He mentioned that it was available in ward welfare meeting; but, when a member asked for a copy to read, he said no, it was only for people with SGA and their families. He also read the cover letter that came with the pamphlet - I don't recall exactly what it said, but I remember thinking that I could understand how people could interpret it the way he did. Also, the wording of the pamphlet is directed at people with SGA. So, I suspect that attitude is probably prevalent among local church leadership.

But, I agree with you - it is a pamphlet that all adult members of the church should read. Perhaps what we need is a corollary pamphlet on same gender attraction that is aimed at the general membership.

Kengo Biddles said...

I'm slightly grateful it didn't come up in my ward, and that instead they focused on porn, instead. I think my ward may well have responded as well as yours did, Beck, and I'm very, very grateful for you to share that with us!

Ron Schow said...

If you go to www.ldscatalog.com and then to Gospel Study Resources and then to pamphlets, booklets and brochures--- God Loveth His Children is at the bottom of that list. When you pull it up it says. "This booklet provides counsel for individuals who experience same gender attraction. It is also helpful for their priesthood leaders and family members as well." When I called 1-800-537-5971 to order it, the male clerk was very pleasant and it did not require a unit number or credit card or anything else except an address where he will send the pamphlets. They are free and the shipping I assume is free also.

I suggest any time we get a chance, like in such a lesson as this one, it would be a good time to pass out a copy to everyone present. I intend to keep a good supply on hand and look forward to receiving my 20 copies.

Abelard Enigma said...

I suggest any time we get a chance, like in such a lesson as this one, it would be a good time to pass out a copy to everyone present.

Being firmly entrenched in our closets, as many of us are, makes that kind of difficult :(

Ron Schow said...

Abe

How would it be to put 20 (or whatever number of) copies in an envelope without a return address and send it to your quorum instructor????

I can supply anyone with copies if you want me to be the middle man so you don't have to contact the distribution center...

Beck said...

Ron: Thanks for your encouragement and methods by which we eternal closet-dwellers can spur the discussion forward with fellow brothers and sisters in the gospel.

That is the question on my mind... from this positive and hope-giving experience, I want to be more proactive and yet, like Abe, how can I be more open when I'm hiding in my cobweb encased corner?

My quiet and consistent example of who I am only goes so far, and remains just that... quiet.

Some Like It Hot said...

Thanks for sharing. Kind of wish I hadn't been missing Church the last little while. Would have like to have heard it at Church.

Beck said...

Some like it hot: That was the miracle... this didn't happen in the hallway or as a sidebar conversation among understanding friends - this was flat out with old-timers right in the chapel in the middle of priesthood meeting! Cool, huh?

Thanks for checking in and commenting. I appreciate it.

Original Mohomie said...

Impressive. Thanks for sharing this. It's always good to hear about people softening their hearts and actually trying to understand.

And that picture at the top is extremely pleasant, I'm not gonna lie. *right-click, Save Picture As, Hotties, Save*