Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Unrelated to my last couple of posts, I want to share an experience that happened last week in church...
On Sunday, I was placed in a position of authority and a situation where I was teaching a class in church that was structured as an "open forum" of sorts for tough questions. I enjoyed the challenge of stimulating thought and discussion, something that unfortunately is rare in church settings that follow the "curriculum" approach of manual reading.
Some great questions were asked, and good discussion followed...
Then this series of questions was asked: "Why does the Church persecute the gays? Why are gays hated? Are gays damned?"
I felt a chill slither down my spine. I was thinking of how I was standing here before this group of saints as an "authority" of sorts and was supposed to "toe the line" and say what the other authorities / manuals / handbooks would say. Yet, there was so much that I wanted to say that I couldn't say because of not being "out" and also being in this "position of authority" in an official church meeting - not a sidebar "off the record" one-on-one conversation. I took a deep breath and then let it rip...
I mentioned how silent the modern scriptures are on gays, how silent the early church teachings are on gays, and even Christ's teachings, and how the teaching of "hatred" or "damnation" of gays evolved during the 60s and 70s as a result of other cultural world view shifts. I mentioned how the brethren have changed their opinions and policies in the handbook of instructions, how from once even admitting to same-sex attractions being viewed as a sin, is now being emphasized that same-sex attractions in and of themselves are not sinful, nor to be ashamed of, or feel guilt (wow, did I really say that?). I mentioned that this generation of leadership is changing and with another generation (as well as evolving world views) more acceptance will undoubtedly follow - that sometimes continued revelation comes when one is willing to ask the difficult question and be prepared for the answer. I noted that we are individuals, co-equal with God in our unique characteristics of what makes us who we are, that one of those core elements is who we are attracted to, heterosexually or homosexually, and that there are some things that we just don't know the reasons why things are the way they are. But, I testified that Heavenly Father loves me for who I am, that he loves each of his children as surely as I love my own, and that gays are not damned for being who they are, and that the Plan does not damn anyone for who they inherently are. I testified that we are here to do the best we can with what we've been given, among other things...
After the meeting, a couple of sisters came up to me in tears. One sister admitted that her adult son (that I do not know) is gay, that his patriarchal blessing promised him a wife and children. She asked me what was she to believe about those grandchildren she will never have?
I stared into her eyes and told her that I believed that the Plan was just as valid for her son as for anyone else, that Heavenly Father knows him and loves him and knows the promises he has been given, and that who are we to say that he won't receive "all that the Father has"? I told her that I was not willing to condemn or judge her son and that she shouldn't either, and that hope for what is best for him is never lost, and that I was convinced that Heavenly Father has a plan and promised blessings to be fulfilled for her son. I then emphasized that just as God's love is unconditional, her love for her son should be just as unconditional.
I didn't know if I did well or not. I know she wept in my arms and I tried to offer her strength and encouragement. I don't know whether I succeeded or not.
After the meetings, I saw her later in the foyer and I pulled her aside and she said: "What, you're going to make me cry again?"
I replied: "No, I just want you to know something," as I stared intently in her eyes. "I want you to know regarding what I said that I know from whence I speak".
She stepped back for a moment in kind of a shock but didn't say anything.
As I walked away, I added... "you understand what I'm saying?"
She nodded and smiled.
After I walked away, I realized what I had just did (or somewhat did). I had come out to this sister in church, and all of a sudden, a chill returned, but this time it was a chill of panic. What was I thinking? What had I just done? Why did I just say that? What if that gets around? What if the Bishop finds out? What if it comes back to haunt my family of what others might speculate from that statement?
All of a sudden, I didn't feel as confident as I did at that moment. But since then I've decided that what happens, happens and I will not deny what I said or believe.
So now what? So far no call from the bishop... So did I do well? Or did I screw up? Did I go far enough? Should I have gone farther? What would you have done in my position? Do you think I should be in trouble? Do you even care? Do I ask too many questions?
Okay... I'm going to disappear again...