The spiritual adventures of a gay man recently returned to Mormonism
Since I have some experience being Mormon—and a great deal of experience being gay—several friends have asked me what I think of the new website http://www.mormonsandgays.org.
After reading through it and watching all of the videos, I think it’s wonderful! I have read many of the criticisms levied against the site: that it fails to change the church’s underlying position, that the message of basic Christian love is one the church should have been teaching all along, that the church is being disingenuous or hypocritical or is trying to have it both ways, or that this message is “too little, too late” to erase the enormous pain the church has caused gay people and their families and allies in the past.
I truly understand these criticisms. They are validly held. For me, the site’s message consists not only of what it is saying, but how it is saying it. The church’s position has not changed, but the tone is significantly different. Here apostles and others are modeling for church members how to accept gay folks in families and in congregations as friends and fellow children of God. How to suspend judgment. How to listen. How to place gay people in the “us” category and not in the “other” or “them” category. This will have an immediate impact on church leaders, church members, and gay Mormons. The gay Mormon experience will change significantly because of this website. The lives of many gay Mormon youth in particular will be substantially better because of this website.
For those who, like myself, are left doctrinally unsatisfied, I say: the perfect is the enemy of the good. I would love to see a revelation tomorrow in which God clarifies that homosexuality is just as much a divine gift as heterosexuality, and that gay couples can now marry in the temple. But just because mormonsandgays.org isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent step in the right direction. I like to give credit where credit is due.
With regard to the deep pain the church has caused gay members and our allies: I know that pain. That’s why I left the church 12 years ago. Speaking only for myself, I now know that the church was able to hurt me because I had unrealistic expectations of it—admittedly fostered by the church’s own rhetoric of following the leaders and prophets never leading anyone astray.
I returned to the church not too long ago. I believe I have grown up a good deal spiritually, enough to realize that the church and its leaders are just as imperfect as I am. Why does this not bother me? Because the church is not my ultimate source of spiritual strength. I have an unmediated relationship with God, who is my nurturer, my lawgiver, and my judge. I know unreservedly that my sexuality is a gift from God and not any more a “struggle” or a “challenge” than anyone else’s sexuality. The church is simply wrong, and that’s okay.
Instead of viewing the church as my infallible conduit to God, I view it as a sibling, since we were both created by God. My sibling hurt me, but since I am imperfect and need God’s forgiveness, I feel compelled to extend that same forgiveness to the church. If it will be patient with me on my journey toward divine wholeness, I will be patient with it as it finds its way out of homophobia. I choose to engage fully with my sibling despite our imperfections because we love and enrich each other. To paraphrase Carol Lynn Pearson (in her delightful new book, The Hero’s Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon), I am a gift to the Mormon Tribe, and the Tribe is a gift to me.