(Editor’s Note: This is the third “Gay” Gospel Doctrine Class, this week’s lesson (#6 in the GD Manual) being prepared by Clive Durham, who blogs at Against the Wall. Each guest “instructor” is at a different “place” in his journey with respect to the LDS Church, and this place will obviously influence how he approaches a lesson. The thing all of the instructors will have in common is the fact that they are gay and that they have been or still are – to one degree or another – LDS (although I may also invite some who have never been LDS to participate). None of these instructors – including myself – will be advocating one view or position or another and – does this really need to be stated? – in no way purport to be speaking for the LDS Church, but simply presenting their personal thoughts with respect to the scripture passages that are the subject of that week’s lesson. I (we) hope that these thoughts may be of use to some, to whatever degree and in whatever way makes sense for each individual. ~ Invictus)
When I mentioned to a straight LDS friend that I was preparing a Gospel Doctrine lesson from a gay perspective, he expressed shock. This friend, open minded and gay-friendly as he is, asked, “Don’t you think that’s sacrilegious - that you’re pushing things a little too close to the edge?”
[Editor’s Note: Clive has blogged about this and another experience here. I’d recommend that you head over there after the lesson to read what he has written, as well as the comments. Clive summarizes his post with this sentence: “It seems to me that despite the openness and acceptance of these two wonderful friends, down deep, they still believe homosexuality is innately reprehensible and in and of itself will taint the sanctity of the Restored Gospel if viewed through the same glass.” Suffice it to say that this is precisely the main reason that I have started this “Gay Gospel Doctrine Class.” We have a different perspective on the “Gospel” and, in my view, it’s about time that we allowed ourselves the freedom to express, affirm and celebrate that perspective. I will write at some later point about the subject of dogmatism, but suffice it for now to point out that that the emblem of the gay community is a rainbow, symbolizing a variety of vibrant colors, not a plain black and white banner. If that statement needs explaining, you’ll just have to wait for my post. ~ Invictus]
As recently as 2007, Elder David Bednar said in General Conference, “The basic principles outlined…in scripture are essential for us to understand and apply in our lives.”
This is good counsel. I, in fact, would assert that one of the most important things we gay Latter-day Saints can do is to study the scriptures. By learning and knowing the scriptures, we secure wisdom and perspective that helps us remember mortality’s fragile nature and avoid the decadence and superficiality that ultimately robs life of its meaning.
If, as Elder Bednar advises, we are also to apply the scriptures in our lives, it is essential for us as gay men and women to apply them from a gay perspective. I would suggest that this is what makes holy writ especially meaningful for us. Without studying the scriptures with the intention of learning gay truths that can enrich and uplift our gay lives, we are not utilizing this divine resource to its fullest.
With this in mind, I found today’s lesson particularly replete with analogy and metaphor that provides significant guidance to us gay Latter-day Saints as we struggle to find balance. Although the title of today’s lesson in the Gospel Doctrine Manual is “They Straightway Left Their Nets”, I would like to focus on one aspect of the lesson which I would more appropriately entitle “Coming Out.”
The scriptural background
This lesson finds Jesus at the conclusion of his return journey following the first visit in his formal ministry to Jerusalem, where he had celebrated Passover. He traveled slowly, without haste taking every opportunity to teach and heal along his route. Because of his teachings and the miracles he performed, Luke states that “there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.”
Finally, perhaps as somewhat of a prodigal, Jesus returned to his home village of Nazareth. Those dwelling there, primarily all family and friends, were anxious for his return. Because of his purported miracles, they were keen to satisfy their curiosity about this carpenter who had grown to manhood in their midst. As Joseph’s son, known to them all, they were skeptical about the gossip that preceded him.
As was his custom and practice on the Sabbath day, Jesus with most of the men in the community gathered at the synagogue to read scripture and worship. When the yad was passed to his hand, he stood and loudly proclaimed the words of Isaiah found in chapter 61, verses 1 and 2:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn…”
Then without pause or equivocation, he utter words that shook the congregation to its core. He meekly, yet powerfully declared, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
Christ “came out”.
He boldly and unequivocally acknowledged for all to hear that it was he to whom Isaiah referred. That he in fact was the long promised Messiah, the savior for whom Israel had yearned for centuries.
In response to his declaration of truth, the congregation seized Jesus, hauled him out of the city to a nearby cliff, where they attempted to throw him to the deadly rocks below.
Somehow, miraculously, he escaped from the angry mob and returned to Capernaum to preach and perform miracles and begin to establish his Church.
Our Coming Out
Reading this story of Christ, I can’t but think of my own journey from Jerusalem to Nazareth.
Like Jesus in the desert of Judea prior to his Jerusalem visit, I struggled for my forty days and forty nights to come to terms with my identity, with who I was and why my nature was so different than what I had been taught was acceptable.
Like Jesus, I too felt the Comforter envelop me with the sweet understanding that I am a son of God with unique gifts, talents, and mission.
Like Jesus, I too gained confidence that my nature, though different, was divine and whole, and good.
Like Christ, with enlightenment and understanding, I returned to God to worship, to give thanks for who I am and for the special gift with which I have been blessed.
Like Christ, I was met with disbelief and occasional rejection by those family and friends who I thought I could rely on most for support and loyalty.
Like Christ, when I have been confronted by opposition or hate, I have been miraculously born away to a place of peace and of safety.
Coming out and proclaiming who he really was, was not easy for Jesus. Coming out of the closet was not easy for me. But coming out of the closet was as essential to me, my life and my mission, as it was to that of the Savior.
In the end, coming out of the closet made me whole.
Heavenly Father loves all of his sons and daughters, especially those of us who are gay. He is no respecter of persons. He is there, through the Holy Spirit of Promise, to guide our steps, wipe our tears, and set us back on the path to happiness. He will not forsake us, just as he did not forsake the Savior in the desert or in Nazareth.
To those who are wavering, to those who fear, to those who lack faith, let me say with assurance that “men are that they might have joy.” If you do not feel that joy that Heavenly Father wishes for each of his children, it’s time to move. I believe that if you are prayerful, earnest, and brave, you will have the courage to do the impossible, to do what you know to be right.
For many of you, coming out of the closet will set you free and make you whole.
(Editor’s note: I have taken the liberty of adding a song by David Cook here that I think nicely compliments the message of this lesson.)