Monday, February 21, 2011

Gay Gospel Doctrine Class: Touch the Hem of His Garment

This post continues yesterday's class, covering Lesson 7 From the Gospel Doctrine Manual. Of the many touching stories of Jesus’ miracles, one of the most interesting is that involving the woman with the “issue of blood” as recorded in the fifth chapter of Mark (New Living Translation):

24   Jesus went with [Jairus], and all the people followed, crowding around him.
25   A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.
26   She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.
27   She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.
28   For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”
29   Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.
30   Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
31   His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
32   But he kept on looking around to see who had done it.
33   Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done.
34   And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

I pondered over this story.  Something about it “spoke” to me.  I thought of this woman, upon whom had come this affliction which she certainly hadn’t asked for.  Along with the physical discomforts and weakness that the condition would have caused, it also rendered her ceremonially unclean, a pariah in Jewish society.  Everything she touched would have likewise become unclean.  She had desperately sought to change, to find a cure for her condition.  She had tried many things and had consulted many doctors, but nothing had worked.  Her condition persisted, draining her of health, money and hope.

Finally, hearing that Jesus was back in Capernaum, the woman had risked banishment to go out into the streets to seek him out.  She knew she had little hope of actually talking to Jesus, but she believed that if she could simply touch the fringes of his garment, she could be healed.  In this, she was successful; as soon as she touched his robe, she felt herself healed.  Jesus had not spoken a work to her, had not touched her, yet her faith had drawn healing power out of Him.

In likening this story unto us, I could not help but see a few parallels.  Like this woman, gays and lesbians find themselves with a “condition” which renders us pariahs in many areas of society, including our own wards and branches.  Many of us have tried desperately for years, while trying to remain “faithful,” to find a “cure”, but always without success.  Then, as a last resort, we have turned to God, and many are the accounts of being “healed,” of being blessed with the knowledge that we are accepted by God just as we aregay – and from that moment, we are “healed.”

Below are just a few of the accounts I have run across on the web.  If you have experienced something similar, I invite you to share it in a comment for the benefit of others who may read your account.

Michael writes  that he struggled – “an enormous battle of epic proportions” – with same gender attraction since his youth.  He tried all of the standard counsel in order to overcome the attraction, but without success.  Like many others in his position, he nevertheless became engaged to a woman who knew about his attractions.  Try as he might, however, he could not feel at peace about his decision.

 “I was still unsettled by the delicacy of this situation,” he writes, “so I took to prayer, fasting and temple attendance. While processing the situation in the Provo temple celestial room I sought the Lord's validation in pursuing this marriage. I was surprised at what came next; I had not anticipated such a vivid response. I envisioned myself several years down the road. I was unhappy, my wife was unhappy, which affected the happiness of our children. This unhappiness led to the destruction of lives. I was impressed that this unhappiness was inevitable if I persued this marriage … When I resolved that it would not be right for me to marry a woman, I was filled with a peace of mind and heart that I had not before felt concerning my future … Yet [I thought] if I don’t marry a woman I shall be alone.

“After I had made my concerns known to the Lord, it was as though I heard a voice saying; ‘Michael, because you are true and faithful to my word I shall grant unto you the righteous desires of your heart, for it is not meant that you should wander this state of your probation alone: Therefore, I grant it unto you that you may choose a companion, one who is pure and walks uprightly before me, even one who is male. And he will bring you joy and happiness and he shall be a blessing all the days of your life.’ (Personal Journal 2006-2007)

“I had never heard or thought these things before this; for they seemed different from the things which I had been taught. I knew these things came from the spirit, because they brought peace and joy to my soul. I knew they did not come from me, because up until that moment, I had never thought these things … These were indeed, glad tidings to my soul because I knew that the Lord had not forgotten me, nor had he forgotten the relentless suffering that I had been inflicted with throughout my life. And because he remembered me, I wept with joy.”   

Musician David Naylor, composer of The View from Here, described his struggle with coming to terms with his sexuality and the peace which ultimately came to him:  “Most of us know too well the conflicts we felt growing up LDS, always feeling at odds with the establishment, never quite fitting in. In order to truly appreciate the view from where we are, we need to be at peace with who we are and have the strength to live authentically, whatever that may mean ...

“In the mid-90s, before coming to terms with the gay thing, I did everything I could think of to prove I was worthy of God's love. I couldn't get past the idea that God had destroyed two entire cities filled with people JUST LIKE ME. I thought that God must somehow hate me too because of this gay thing inside me! So I went out of my way to be uber-faithful. I know it's silly, but I made all kinds of promises with God. I studied, I prayed, I fasted, I did my home teaching, I attended the temple, in fact my time singing with the Tabernacle Choir was the result of one of those promises. Finally, one night, in an effort to find some solace, I read that infamous chapter in Spencer W. Kimball's “Miracle of Forgiveness” and I was overcome with new wave of shame and revulsion. I did not want to go on. I would just be better off dead! So I knelt by my bed that night and begged God to take my life. I don't know how long I knelt there, but by the time I was finished praying, I was convinced that God would take me during the night. So, I cleaned the house, wrote good-bye letters, wore PJs (so no one would find me in my underwear) and even left the front door open so nobody would have to break down the door when they came in to find me dead.

“When I woke up the next morning, I was still here. What a huge disappointment that was! But a good thing came from all the drama. I learned that God is not going to change me, so I'd better start coming to terms with being gay!

Horizon wrote: “ … [I] pleaded with the Lord to change me so I could live up to His … expectations of me. I cried myself to sleep most nights thinking that if only I were better I could be made whole. I read my scriptures, went to church and went to the temple regularly, all searching for the answers I desired. I was still avoiding my feelings, keeping them hidden and secret. I didn’t understand, I still don’t, the “whys” of the attractions I feel.

“ … Within my conflicted nature, I felt so alone … I felt like I could never be accepted. I felt rejected by the church. I felt lost and confused and went to the only place where I knew I could attempt to sort things out before anything rash occurred:  I fled to the temple out of concern for my own well-being and safety. Once there, I fell to my callused knees and prayed harder than ever before for the Lord to remove my burden, to be changed so I could be normal, so I could be free from the pitiful, rejected, pathetic, unlovable, deplorable, wretched, unwanted outcast I was. I cried, my heart broken, no longer wanting to be me, no longer wanting to fight, no longer wanting to live.

“Not receiving an answer, in my frustration and anger at myself, I asked the one last question I could think of, a question that I had never thought to ask before. I had never asked this question out of fear of the answer, of myself, of being rejected by my very Creator and thus doomed to exile and outer darkness which would have been too much for me. But I had come to a point where it was the only thing left to ask.

“I asked if He accepted me as I was: gay.

“That very instant, I felt such a sense of overpowering love from on high that I was overcome with emotion and almost collapsed. I felt the spirit and the love and the acceptance of God so strongly that it was tangible, like an embrace of a broken child who finally understood. Upon feeling that heavenly acceptance, the relief that washed over me felt like pure joy, a sensation I had long forgotten. I cried uncontrollably with happiness at the revelation I had just received.

“In that moment, I had a divinely inspired epiphany, a fundamental paradigm shift that I could be my gay self and still be loved and accepted by God. This completely new way of thinking and believing changed my whole outlook on life. I didn’t have a reason to hate myself. I didn’t have to be someone who I wasn’t. I didn’t have to hide. I was not alone.”

Beck wrote:  “The other evening I found myself in the temple… I walked into the endowment room and there sat in the row directly in front of me was the most beautiful, cute, innocent-looking, gorgeous guy I’ve seen in a long time. He made me quiver all over as I sat quietly and reverently. At first I scolded myself for even having this mini-attraction reaction.”

Thereafter followed an imaginery conversation in Beck's head about looking at the guy.  Beck berated himself, calling himself hopeless. “‘No you’re not hopeless,’ a calm voice came over me. This time it wasn’t me talking to myself. It was another voice, maybe it was more of an idea, or thought, but nonetheless, words were tangible and I “heard” the message. All at once, I was overcome with the desire to look and behold. I started studying his hazel eyes, the line of his young sideburns and the way the hairline at the back of his neck was cut square and true; the spikiness of his blondish brown short cropped hair, the glow in his smooth face … ‘It’s okay to look,’ the voice said. ‘I understand.’ ‘You do?’ I questioned. ‘You heard me thinking?’ ‘Of course I do,’ the voice responded.

“At that moment the lights went out and the film presentation began. I was confused. But a very strong sense of calm and peace came over me. As I thought of the pre-existence and the creation, of being a spirit child and even an intelligence before that, I kept pondering on the fact that we are co-equal in our existence with God. The essence of who I am – that fundamental essence of my thoughts and my being ME – has always existed. It wasn’t created. I am ME! ... I was overcome with the feeling that the Father really does know me, and loves me for who I am, INCLUDING my attractions that are an integral part of who I am ... ‘That is good,’ the voice whispered ... I pondered how for the first time I felt that God personally knows and loves me for who I am even with or even because of these thoughts of attraction going on. I have always been this way. And it’s okay! All the pent up emotions of guilt and shame and disgust inside me flowed out of me. I was free of shame for being so oriented in my attractions. I was overcome with peace ... "

Finally, I’d like to share again an experience that I had on my mission, after I had been struggling intensely with sexual identity issues for weeks.  It was after struggling with these thoughts and emotions that swirled around me for a number of weeks that I had a dream that was unlike any dream I have ever had, then or since.  It was so palpable, so real, so revelatory.  Without going into all the details, I dreamt that I saw a person in a large room filled with people dressed in white.  His presence seemed to tower over the others.  As I made my way to the front of the room, my eyes became locked with His and He beckoned me to come to Him, to take His hand and embrace Him.  As soon as I did so, we were transported, just the two of us, to another place, where we sat and talked about my fears and joys, the deepest corners of my soul – and my ultimate secret.  My gaze never left His countenance, and in His beautiful eyes, I saw love such as I had never before felt.  In those eyes, I saw no judgment, no guile; only perfect, total understanding.  His very countenance radiated such intense purity that I felt as if I would faint from bathing in such exquisite peace and love.  In this setting, enveloped in love and light and truth, He told me that it was ok – my “attraction” – and that He loved me just the way I was.  And that was the message I woke up with.

To conclude this lesson, I have included below a video clip featuring Sam Cooke singing “Touch the Hem of His Garment.”  Sam Cooke was an African-American gospel, R&B, soul, and pop singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur, considered to be one of the pioneers and founders of soul music. He is commonly known as the King of Soul for his unmatched vocal abilities and influence on the modern world of music. His contribution in pioneering Soul music led to the rise of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and popularizing the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown. [Source:  Wikipedia]


  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this important story in the NT, but more importantly for sharing other people's confirmations and your own about knowing that you are not seen as unworthy of God's love or of human love. These experiences that you have had are gifts to hold on to during difficult times. I hope that they will always give you comfort.


  2. So many times I prayed that God would grant me the miracle of "change." I teach a sunday school class, and I remembered preparing that lesson about all the times I read about the miracles on mymission, with such faith that God would just change the gay right out of me. He didn't. That's not the miracle he wanted for my life.
    I've come to accept that. I've come to accept that I'm gay and that's ok. But God was trying to tell me years ago the same message. Rather than write it all again, I'll link to my post about my experience.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Alex, and thanks for the link to your new blog.