Upon joining the Church, I quickly learned that one of the people who had been most influential in my conversion was gay. He was very active in the Church, coming from a very active, large, mostly typical LDS family.
We bonded over our different marginalizations- me being so new, and him being gay. We both had a deep and sincere desire to be faithful and believing, and we both struggled at times to be so. His friendship was a great blessing to me- I felt that I could tell him anything. I hope that my friendship was a blessing to him as well.
But it’s a tricky course to navigate. I knew that I believed in the Church, which taught that homosexual actions were unequivocally wrong. I knew that I believed in the importance of the family and that gay couplehood did not fit into my picture of ideal familial life. But I also knew that my friend was honestly attracted to men, and I knew that he didn’t choose to be so. I knew that he tried for years to “pray the gay away” (it doesn’t work, FYI). I knew that he was doing just about everything one is “supposed to” when attempting to rid themselves of an affliction or temptation. And, although I professed to believe the opposite, I knew those things would never work. The atonement can heal us physically and spiritually, give us strength, and refine our natures. But it does not turn gay people straight.
I campaigned for California Proposition 8 in 2008. I don’t really care if gay marriage is legal or not, and I didn’t really care then either. But we received a letter from the First Presidency asking us to donate our means and our time to help it pass, and I did what i was asked. For me it was about following the prophet, not about the “sanctity” of marriage. When the Proposition passed, I felt relieved- not because it had been successful, but because then I would be free to go back to not caring about the issue. I don’t feel bad about my involvement in that campaign, but I don’t feel good about it either.
My friend cut ties from the Church a few years out of high school. This was a hard revelation for me, as he had been so paramount in the early development of my testimony. I didn’t want to be Mormon without the support of one of my very dearest friends. It is shaking when people stop believing, or when people stop pretending to believe.
I was, at first, uninterested in knowing about his “gay” life. I still loved him, enjoyed him, and wanted him to be happy, but I didn’t feel like I could love the “gay” part of him. I felt that it wasn’t part of who he really was, and the last thing I wanted to do was encourage it. I found out that he had a steady boyfriend and did not want to know anything about him or about their relationship.
I don’t know what prompted it, but I can still remember the moment that I decided that I was okay with him being gay. I realized that his boyfriend at the time was not the enemy- I realized that there was no “enemy”. I wanted to know about their life together- not because I was in support of their relationship exactly- but because one of them was my friend, and anyone who mattered to him should matter to me. Once I stopped feeling like I had to oppose their relationship in thought, word, and deed, I finally felt like I could just relax.
Even if I believe that homosexuality is immoral, what does it have to do with me if other people are active in a gay lifestyle? If I know a couple who is having premarital sex, I don’t avoid acknowledging the entirety of their relationship, even though I may not support certain aspects of it. And here is, in my opinion, one of our big cultural flaws when it comes to how we see homosexuality- given that homosexuality is sinful (for the sake of argument), we tend to define people who partake in it by that sin, as opposed to other sins, where we see people just as “dealing” with something. For example, if I broke the word of wisdom by smoking pot, I don’t think people would label me as a “pothead”, destined to a life of munching and being mellow. Smoking pot would be seen as a choice, not as a natural result of my very nature. But in the LDS culture, we tend to act as if people who are gay are only gay- that it defines them, and that when thinking of them, the fact that they like other people of their same gender, should be the basis of our attitude towards them. Being gay does not define anybody any more than being straight does.
So I learned about his boyfriend, and then their break-up, and then his new boyfriend. I never was interested in their sex life…but I’m not interested in anybody’s sex life.
I always pictured, though, that my friend would come to me one day and invite me to his gay wedding. I would then be obligated to express love for him, and good-will towards his partner, but decline the invitation. it’s one thing to support people, it is another thing to support a ceremony that is directly symbolic of sin, after all.
Last year I met the man he planned on marrying. And he is so wonderful- his fiance was kind, down-to-earth, grounded, and genuine. He seemed to be not only a great complement for my friend, but someone who would be a great blessing to him. I am grateful that they have found each other.
They were married in July. I didn’t go. I didn’t go because I was broke and was already obligated to take a few different our of state trips. But I very much wanted to be there. After all the years of preparing myself to tell him I didn’t want to be at his wedding, when it came down to it, I found myself tired of “standing up” for something that I didn’t even understand. And my love for him and his now husband had a much greater pull on my heart than my allegiance to the idea of the traditional family.
This is not a proclamation that the LDS Church should redact it’s teachings on homosexuality. It is also not a statement that homosexual actions are morally acceptable.
I do believe whole-hardheartedly in the teachings of the Church. I do believe that God is very serious about the Law of Chastity and that one cannot keep that law while leading a gay lifestyle. I do believe that families are meant to be our source of greatest happiness and that they cannot be formed or maintained with a homosexual couple the way they can be maintained with a heterosexual couple.
But I know that people don’t choose to be gay. And asking them to live a complete life of celibacy seems like an order too tall for anybody to reasonably expect.
So this is my problem- I know what I believe, but the things I believe don’t quite match up right. I think that most compassionate, thinking members of the church have this same problem to some degree- not supporting homosexuality, but also not feeling right away denying the opportunity to find love to those who are gay.
There really are no “good” options for a gay member of the church. Life-long celibacy is not a good option. Marrying a woman for the sake of having a family is not a good option. Living a life of sin is also not a good option.
Whenever I declare that I support the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, I do it with a pang of “I’m so sorry” in my soul.
I have a handful of gay friends who grew up in the church. I have a handful of other friends who I suspect are gay but have not yet admitted it. One thing I want to apologize publicly for is if I have ever made any of these friends (or anybody else) feel like being gay made them less loved, less important, or less valuable to God or to the Church. I don’t want any young man (or woman) to EVER feel “defective” for any reason, including being gay.
All I know is that I have a problem, a “gay problem”, and that I have no answers. I want to do right by God, and I want to do right by my fellow man, and this is the only issue wherein I feel like I can’t quite do both. Help me feel know how to feel like a good Christian and a good person at the same time.