Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Process of Change

There are a few things on my mind I want to share.

1) The process I went through to come to a place where I felt peace in living authentically, in choosing to date and ultimately marry the one I love. That process isn't clearly outlined in this blog. It seems I went from stalwart, faithful member, to choosing to throw that all away in an instant. It didn't happen quite like that.

2) How I've come to find peace outside the confines of a religion that defined all I was for 40+ years.

3) Where I am now, and the continuing lessons and learning I see before me.

This is all too much for one blog post. And probably too much for my soul and emotions to process in one sitting. So I will just do what I can over the next few days to work through these points.

So, the first thing on my mind:

If you have read through my blog, I hope there is no doubt about how deep and real my faith and testimony in the LDS Church was, and especially in the Lord. Everything I did, said, thought, reflected on was colored by the lens of the LDS Church and its teaching. And I loved that. I found hope and peace and comfort in that. Even as I worked through the conflicting challenges of being gay and Mormon, I sought the clarity, answers, hope and peace by living as I believed I should. As, in fact, I KNEW I should - according to the gospel standards.

And I did find a measure of peace in living that way. There was peace in living exactly as I believed the Savior wanted me to, even if the result of those actions didn't always bring hope or peace. If that makes any sense.

So my life became a roller coaster. Hope and peace as I recommitted to living with faith. Followed by the underlying hopelessness coming back to the surface - no hope in ever not being gay. No hope of falling in love with a man. Not allowed to fall in love with a woman. Followed by pulling myself out of that pit and recommitting to living faithfully, and finding hope and peace in my life from obedience. Then finding myself in despair and hopelessness again. And on and on. 

However crazy that roller coaster of life was, I couldn't see any other path. Staying in the church, with all the rights, blessings and privileges that came with it was my only path. It was, in my mind, my only option. I just had to white knuckle it through. Had to keep choosing obedience as I knew it. Had to endure to the end. 

Then, one day, something shifted inside. I found myself faced with the decision to choose solitude and celibacy, or choose to pursue a relationship, no strings attached. Ultimately it came down to what I believed would help me find the most lasting peace. What would fill me with the desire to continue on in life. What would bring me the most hope. The Lord and I had a very long conversation. In the end, I felt assurance, comfort and peace from Him in letting go of my own expectations for myself, and living a life that would bring me intimate human connection, regardless of where that path would take me in relation to the Church. Though I knew, without a doubt where it would take me, I trusted what I felt from the spirit that night and many subsequent nights. I knew I would loose my calling, my temple recommend, and probably also my membership. Yet, I still felt peace and assurance in that decision. 

It was confusing to me. I wasn't sure how to have a close relationship with the Savior outside the confines of what I had always known. But I trusted in His process for my life. I committed to Him that I would keep Him close through it all.

I didn't leave the Church at that point. I continued to attend, because it was still my connection to the Lord and His gospel. However, as I pursued my relationship with  my now wife, I felt less and less connected there. Less and less welcomed there. I began seeing and feeling more and more of the subtle and outright rejection of who I was by the Church and too many of its members. It wasn't that I was losing my testimony of the Savior and His gospel, it was that I was beginning to feel, more and more, damaged by the policies and practices of the Church. 

By the time I was excommunicated (for getting married), I was almost done trying to attend. Which, after a few weeks, I did. The quiet rejection was almost worse than the outright exclamations of how my life was an abomination, and apostate. Members of the church who were once so open and friendly, suddenly stepped back. Stopped talking to me. Or if they did talk to me, it was with a forced, "its what is expected of me" kind of feeling. Like I had suddenly ceased to be their friend, and was now their project. It was their duty to reach out to me, and help me feel welcome. But that kind of "reaching out" feels anything like a welcome. And it was obvious and painful. 

So I stopped attending, physically. But emotionally, I felt a deep loss. I longed for a faith community. I longed to be a part of a gospel congregation. To find acceptance and love. And to learn of the Savior with other like-minded people. So I sought out other churches. And enjoyed attending them. Enjoyed the love and acceptance I was shown, without reservation. I felt genuinely accepted and wanted.  And the discussions were all about the Savior. I never felt worried about what I might hear over the pulpit. 

But I do feel overarching peace, and hope, and joy. I am content in where I am. I still have questions about where to find meaningful service and connection opportunities. But I am finding them. There are wonderful, amazing people in my life. And it feels full.

So from here, I'm not sure where I will go regarding a church community. I am finding that I am enjoying my relationship with the Savior - just between He and I. Not filtered through a church. But pure and simple. He brings me peace. I don't have all the answers. I don't know if I will ever return to the LDS Church. Right now, I have no intention to. But I do keep my options open, and my heart open to the Savior. I will try to go where He leads. For now, I will simply walk with Him and find my peace through Him directly. 

For Christmas, Kim bought me this painting. This. This is where I turn for peace. Where my soul finds stillness. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Knitting a Soul

(Initially put to paper July 8, 2015)

I know I need to write. I just don't know that I have the words for it.

I feel deep loss. I have been depressed for the past 3 or 4 weeks. I was doing fairly well for about a month after my excommunication, but then I began to feel myself sinking into a place of hurt. Soul loss.

I am having a hard time finding connection, on a spiritual level. I am having a hard time finding meaning and balance in my life again. What once was my stability, my guide, that with which I weighed and measured my life is no longer a part of it. I know I am more than my church. But for my entire life, it was the lens through which I saw the world, found value and purpose - through the guidance, teachings and directions my membership in the church pointed me.

There are things within the church I would be happy to give up, and things I need and want to hang on to. But if you were to ask me to name what those things are, I'm not sure I could. Familiarity? Community? Tradition? Stability? I don't know how to hang onto the good, and let go of the hurtful.

I wish I could just make a clean break. Push it aside and away from me. Let it go. But I'm not ready to do that. There is something holding me here. Something I can't let go of.

I worry I will get bitter and cynical. Those things don't look or feel good on me. But I feel I could easily slip into those feelings.

My loyalty is to my Savior. I've just never had to try to experience Him separate from the LDS Church. I fear letting go of something (the Church) that might, at some future time, be what I need it to be for me again. What it once was for me. But I am also appreciating the feeling of  not worrying about or answering to an organization. Answering only to myself and my Savior. What does He want from me? What do I want from me? If I cut ties with the church on an emotional and physical level, will my relationship with my Savior suffer? Will I lose more of myself than I have already?

How do I find myself outside of the confines by which I once defined myself? How do I move to find myself without losing myself?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Less of Me

My meeting on Sunday with the Bishopric has come and gone. It went about as expected. The Bishopric sat and listened as I read them my thoughts. When I was finished, they sat quietly and considered for a good three or four minutes before asking just four questions. All regarding the Law of Chastity, Temple covenants, and my intentions going forward.

Ultimately, the decision was excommunication....My heart is broken....

While it wasn't unexpected, it is still very painful. There truly is a little less of me.

Over the past two days, while I've been distracted, I've dealt with this okay. However, today, I found myself without any distractions, and I sobbed. My broken heart sobbed. I drove up one of our beautiful canyons and sat looking out over the views while I cried and thought.

I have been excommunicated. Ripped from my community. It's extremely painful, hurtful. Removed from my community because of who I am. Who I love. Who I choose to spend my life with. I have been removed from the church because of love. 

While my relationship with and feelings about the church have changed over the past few years, it's still my home. The place I have gained so much from and given so much to. I hurt and mourn as if I've lost a loved one. Lost part of myself. Because I have.

I've been told that this doesn't change who I am. But it does change how I feel, which does/can change who I am. But I hope, ultimately, the change is for the better. That I become a better person; more compassionate, understanding, gentle, kind. More giving. More loving. More aware of others and their needs, hurts, feelings. More Christlike. Closer to my Savior simply for the sake of my relationship with Him, and not because it's expected of me to strive to become so. More focused on giving of myself to others. Not because I've been assigned to serve them, but simply and purely because I love them.

If I can become a more caring, honest, compassionate person because of this, then, perhaps it will have been worth it.

If I can come closer to my Savior because of this, then perhaps the hurt and pain can be turned into peace and joy. Hope and comfort.

"Less of me", then, could also be expressed in the lyrics of the following song:

Let me be a little kinder
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me
Let me praise a little more

Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me

Let me be a little braver
When temptation bids me waver
Let me strive a little harder
To be all that I should be

Let me be a little meeker
With the brother that is weaker
Let me think more of my neighbor
And a little less of me

Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery
Let me serve a little better
Those that I am striving for

Let me be a little meeker
With the brother that is weaker
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me

-Glen Campbell

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Disciplinary Council

The night Kim and I returned home from our honeymoon, the Bishop stopped by with a letter inviting me to a disciplinary council the following day. This wasn't unexpected. I knew it was coming. So I jotted some thoughts down to share during the council.


What does the hand-book say? If my situation does not fall under one of the "shall be excommunicated" situations, then please look on me with your heart. Look on my heart, soul, desires to serve my Heavenly Father and my testimony. Look on me and the person you know me to be. Consider my love for the Savior. Consider my desires to stay active and involved, and a part of this church and congregation.

I'm not asking to receive a temple recommend. But the questions asked for a recommend are not questions for church membership. Many people who cannot attend the temple are still members, some inactive with no desire to serve and be a part, some active and still serving with the desire to do so. That is my desire as well; to stay involved and serving however the Lord desires.

Perhaps you are under the assumption that gay, married individuals cannot remain members of the church, or serve in callings. But consider the Bishops in other wards and locations - they have individuals who have same sex partners and spouses who are still members, and who are serving in various callings. Because their Bishops are more concerned with the individual and the desires of their hearts to serve their Heavenly Father, then they are with interpreting policy.

Leaders of the Church are calling people to "come back", "we need you", "we want you here". But then this is what they face if they answer that call. Are they saying "we want you here, but you must not live/be your true, honest, authentic self"? Or are they saying "we want you here regardless of where you are on your path/journey"?

Those of us who want to be here, who strive to stay active and involved are being removed, punished, disciplined, while those who have left of their own accord are being left alone, or being called to come back. But at what risk?

Again, I am not asking for a Temple recommend, just to retain my membership. So I remain part of this community, able to serve, able to do family history and prepare names for the Temple.

Finally, again I just ask if the hand-book does not say my situation "shall" be excommunicated, then I ask you to look on my heart, who you know me to be, my desires to serve my Savior. And then decide if there truly is no place for me here.


More to follow. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What It's Really About

Several months ago I read a couple of really insightful articles about what to do if your gay loved one invites you (a Christian with traditional values) to their wedding. These spoke to me, as I had recently announced my engagement to my partner of 11 years. And while most of my family and friends responded in loving and supportive ways, not all did. Some have some very real concerns and fears, and are torn as to what to do. They aren't sure they can support me in this decision, and therefore not sure they can attend the wedding. Because wouldn't that then mean they supported same-sex marriage?

As my wedding day is now only 2 months away, these articles came back to my mind as I thought about my family and friends who may still be struggling with their feelings and wondering how to respond.

For those individuals and anyone else who may be interested, I've linked two of those articles here.
Good article here, and here. They are both very well written and encourage readers to ask the hard questions and offer some suggestions on ways to respond.

I have many family and friends who have looked deeply and have asked some of those hard questions. I'm grateful for their openness and willingness to realize we may never know the reasons and answers to every question, but they can still love me where I am.

As an example, while attending church several weeks ago, a woman approached me and Kim and said: "I hear congratulations are in order for you two. How exciting! I'm happy for you." At church. She didn't say 1)"I feel sad about your decision", or 2) anything about how she views gay marriage. When I see her, I won't say "There's someone who supports gay marriage" cuz she never said that. I'll say "There's a friend" because nothing more needed to be said.

And then, just because it makes me giggle, I share this quote:

"Gay marriage - I am so against it because all my gay friends are out. And if they get married, it will cost me a fortune in gifts." - Joan Rivers

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Christ-like Love

The past several days I have been experiencing an existential crisis. Truly. It was so convoluted that it was making me crazy. At times, I was so full of despair that I couldn't think of any way out except ending my life.

To try and make sense of it all, I sat down last night and typed three pages of thoughts. Back and forth, spiraling thoughts. Nothing felt more clear after three pages of trying to find clarity. So I just quit writing and decided the only thing I could do was to try and live in my heart. Try to let my heart sort out what my head certainly could not.

Today was better overall, but still questions. This morning the root of my real struggle occurred to me. I texted Kim: “I don’t feel unconditional love from the Lord.... I feel “I love you, but...” I feel “I want to bless you, but...”

That played in my mind and heart all day. I was amazed that after all this time, my entire life, with so many amazing experiences with the Spirit, that deep down, I still believed God’s love for me was based on my performance, my attempts at obedience, etc. In thinking about praying to Him and asking for help, in the back of my mind, I thought “He can’t/won't help you. You aren’t living the way He wants you to.”

My entire life I’ve based my worth and other’s ability to love me on how well I was living up to their expectations. If I felt any kind of disappointment from them, it would wreck me inside, and I would do all I could to fix the situation. And that idea carried over to God as well. 

So all day, I pondered on that. This morning I listened to a couple of recent conference talks. While driving around for work, I listened to Christian music on the radio. Just trying to get my heart right in order to find some kind of peace and answers. 

Later this afternoon, I watched an “I’ll Walk With You” video. In it, the mother was talking about her interactions with a lesbian woman who was in a relationship with a woman. And this mother was so concerned. She intended to talk to her and exhort her to a different path. But one day she hugged this other woman, and was immediately touched and filled with the spirit that expressed to her that the Lord loved this lesbian woman purely, perfectly and deeply. And that was all. No feelings of disappointment, or encouragement to this mother to try and change her. Just pure, deep, unconditional love.

That video touched me.

When I got home, the sun was just beginning to set, so I decided I would drive to a nice open spot to watch it. I started pulling a few weeds first from the front rock garden, and as I did I was taught. Just as the Lord absolutely, perfectly, and purely loved this lesbian woman, He loves me. All of the “I’ll Walk With You”videos that feature parents with gay children – all of them, every one that turned to Lord to know what to do, received the same message: Love them. Why? Because God loves them absolutely, and perfectly.

And He let me know, right there, pulling weeds, that He loves me the exact same way.

As I got in my car and began driving to the causeway, other thoughts came to my mind. The Lord has a purpose in all He does. And one of His purposes for me is to help teach other people, other followers of Christ specifically, how to love more deeply and more unconditionally, more Christ-like. Simply by being me, being who I am. Gay and Mormon. He loves others as much as He love me. And He wants to help them learn how to love as He does. It’s my job to Love as Christ does. To serve His children. And to give them an opportunity to turn to Christ and practice loving in return.  Its my job to love those who struggle to love me.

So when someone has a hard time with who I am, or the choices I make, that’s just all part of the process. Rather than take that to heart and make it about me, I realized today, it's just part of their journey. And to love and be so glad they have the opportunity to grow and stretch, and that I can be a part of that.

Every one of us has our own journeys. To compare mine to someone else's is not only not helpful, but just plain wrong.

It’s my job to be who I am – confidently. And to allow others their journey of learning to embrace the pure love of Christ.

So, truly and honestly, everything really will be okay. My path is my own. It is unique. It is not spelled out in church doctrine. But it is real, true, ordained of God, and mine.

I cried with joy as these realizations filled my heart. God is so good.

Dear Lord, help me remember.