This is my sixth letter to Anonymous. (There will be one more.) For those who may not have read the previous posts, these letters were prompted by an individual whose comment, posted on my blog last week, struck me as representative of thinking among most members of the LDS Church with respect to being gay. Even though Anonymous subsequently identified himself as “Bryan” in a follow-up comment, I have continued to address these letters to the many anonymous Mormons whom I believe hold beliefs similar to those underlying Bryan’s comments.
The following was Bryan’s comment (the gist of which being that that I should go back into the closet because 20 years of “sowing wild oats” was not worth giving up “exaltation”): “Sincere question for you here … Assuming you're 45, and will live to be 76, you're approximately 60% of the way through your life. Up to this point, you've been a faithful member of the Church, paid your tithing, etc. So, you've only got 40% of life to go and if you can just keep on the path for that last stretch, you'll very likely receive exaltation and be together with your family, as the LDS Church teaches. On the other hand, if you choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, you've got, on average, 31 years (assuming you're 45) left. Keeping in mind that after 65 you're pretty much "old" (no offense intended) which brings the "wild oats" years down to roughly 20. Are those 20 years worth it … [i.e.,] worth what you're giving up?”
Today’s letter addresses Bryan’s final question: “Is [being gay] worth it?”
I am finally going to answer the question you posed in your original comment. In fact, I’m going to provide you two answers.
Implicit in your question is a false dichotomy. You imply that I will be giving up my “exaltation” if I “choose to live a homosexual lifestyle” during the next 20 good years I have left. (For purposes of this discussion, I will assume that what you meant by choosing to “live a homosexual lifestyle” is that I will live openly as a gay man, which would include experiencing the gamut of emotional, romantic and sexual emotions and experiences typically associated with life as a heterosexual.)
A “false dichotomy” has been defined as “a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are other options.” The false dichotomy in your question is this: either I can deny who I really am and gain exaltation (by staying in my heterosexual marriage) or I can embrace who I am and lose exaltation.
The Perverse/Queer Faustian Bargain
My first answer to your question accepts, for the purposes of discussion (only), your false dichotomy, i.e., your premise that I will lose “exaltation” if I choose to live the rest of my life as a gay man. Having accepted this premise, the short answer to your question as to whether or not it is “worth it” is
Or, perhaps more directly put:
Why would I make such a decision? Because to do otherwise would result in a perverse (or, one might say, “queer”) Faustian bargain, in which I (continue to) sell my soul, i.e., my integrity or who I really am, in exchange for “celestial favors” (instead of diabolical ones). You know the story? The legend of Faust, as told for example in Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s play, tells the story of a scholar who, in his desire to acquire even more knowledge and wisdom, signs a pact with a devil, Mephistopheles, to serve the Devil in the post-mortal life in exchange for the Devil’s agreement to serve Faust throughout his life.
Similarly, put perversely, a queer Faustian bargain would require me to agree to reject, hate and despise my true self and live a lie throughout mortality in exchange for what the Church teaches is the ultimate purpose of human existence, i.e., to gain eternal exaltation.
I have lived by such a bargain for the past 25 years. I am no longer willing or even able to do that. My reasons are the same as those expressed by others who commented on my original post. As Trey Adams commented, “hanging on to misery and living an anguished life of deception and pretense is not part of God’s plan of happiness.”
“A mere twenty years? Time,” continued Trey, “is very relative. Twenty years lived well is a life-time; twenty years lived in misery is an eternity. If you haven’t experienced hunger you cannot relate to the hungry; if you haven’t known defeat you cannot fully appreciate victory. Please read the following Dickinson poem:
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of Victory,
As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.
This same commenter went on to write, “You hold up the Celestial kingdom as incentive for hanging on for a mere twenty years more. You don’t understand that a Celestial Kingdom is a disincentive for some of us. I personally have no desire whatsoever to go to the celestial kingdom if that means living with a woman, let alone my wife.”
I echo those sentiments, though I love my wife and always will – but not in a way that is natural between a heterosexual male and a heterosexual female.
"Nor past nor future now the soul employ,
The present only constitutes our joy."
The present only constitutes our joy."
~ Goethe, Faust
I suppose I would ask you, Anonymous, whether you would be willing to live your entire life living contrary to your nature, living a lie, constantly hiding, being taught to hate yourself because of who and what you really are, constantly feeling “unworthy,” constantly striving but never truly “hitting the mark” – all in exchange for a promise that, if you do these things – if you give up who you are for who you may be – you will inherit a condition in the eternities that is also totally contrary to your true nature, i.e., über-heterosexuality forever.
I don’t know whether you’ll be able to wrap your brain around these concepts, but if you try, you might come to understand why to me being openly gay is “worth it.”
A Different Paradigm
Anonymous, I told you I would provide you two answers to the same question. Here’s the second answer:
You will of course note that this answer is the same as my first answer, but I arrive at it by a different approach which rejects your false dichotomy and is based on the following beliefs: one’s sexuality is innate and not a choice; living one’s sexuality is a natural and God-given expression of self; being gay is not only about same-sex attraction, but about living a whole gamut of natural human emotions; gayness is a God-given attribute and, as such, is “good” in His eyes; God wants gays to fill the measure of their creation and to find joy in this life; and, lastly, in the many mansions in our Father’s kingdom, there are undoubtedly many with same-sex households.
[I remind my readers at this point that these letters are addressed primarily to those untold numbers of anonymous members of the LDS Church with beliefs similar to those expressed in or underlying Anonymous’ original comment.]
When I first joined the Church, one of the things that appealed to me about the “restored Gospel” is that it rejected the traditional Christian concept of heaven and hell. Joseph Smith cut right through that Gordian knot that has flummoxed theologians, philosophers and humanists for centuries, shedding light on various statements by Jesus and Paul and creating a new framework in which to view the eternities.
The composite picture that emerged depicted a loving Heavenly Father and Savior whose purposes are to bring about the immortality and eternal happiness of men and women. It depicted, among other things, a system of eternal “rewards” that reflects the eternal love, justice and mercy of God by creating an eternity that is perfectly and individually suited to each one of Heavenly Father’s children. (If you’re skeptical on this point, you may wish to re-read, for starters, Sections 76, 88, 130 and 131 of the Doctrine and Covenants.)
The elation with which I first greeted this doctrine faded over the years of my membership in the Church as I saw it mutate into something that looked very much like the standard Christian dichotomy of heaven/hell: exaltation vs. everything else. This dichotomy became part and parcel of the Great Mormon Dichotomy (the subject for another post at another time) in which EVERYTHING is placed into one of two piles: one labeled “Good”, the other labeled “Bad”; one white, the other black; one “right”, the other “wrong”; one “correct”, the other “incorrect.”
Well, I reject the Great Mormon Dichotomy and choose instead to embrace the principles enunciated by Jesus and Joseph Smith. I believe Jesus when He stated that in His father’s house are many mansions and that He was preparing a place for me. I rest in that. I don’t know what that place will look like, but I’m satisfied that, if Jesus is preparing it, it will suit me just fine. Meanwhile, I’m going to get on with the business of living this life – the only one I’ll ever have.
"He who strives on and lives to strive
Can earn redemption still."
(Act V, 11936–7)
I look into the window of my mind
Reflections of the fears I know I've left behind
I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I am on my way …