Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gay Gospel Doctrine Class: More Stately Mansions

Thank you, Invictus, for entrusting me* with your readership while I offer my personal perspective of this week’s Gospel Doctrine subject: The Kingdom of God (Lesson 9 in the GD manual).  Today’s discussion from Matthew chapters 6 and 7 is a continuation of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.  I have chosen to develop my thoughts around three teachings:

1. Take heed that ye do not your alms before men . . .” (Matt 6:1)
2. “No man can serve two masters” (Matt 6:24)
3. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God . . .” (Matt 6:33)

Take Heed

For most of chapter 6, Jesus describes and cautions against arrogance and self-righteous behavior.  “Take heed”, He admonishes, that ye do not practice otherwise good social and personal habits for the wrong reasons.   

Taking a bit of interpretive literary license, I believe the underlying message is relevant to so many of us who have made a show of our lives in order to be accepted and respected in a life-style alien to our true nature.  Personal fulfillment and satisfaction is a result of genuine action, and thought.   This idea is poetically recorded in the Gospel of Shakespeare, book of Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

From personal experience and through observing and participating in the lives of emerging friends, it appears that there is a limit to the psyche’s ability to allow and endure pretense.  We are naturally driven by our life-force to be true to our nature.  We deny and resist for as long as we can while the inner conflict hammers silently and destructively away on our emotional and psychological well-being.  Only when we begin the journey toward truth do we engage the power to achieve our purpose and destiny and find ultimate fulfillment.

Myself I hid lest sparrows knew
And told the trees my pain,
Then love and trust unhooked my tongue:
Sublimest anodyne!    [ ga]

The soul beneath the façade is elegant, godly, and beautiful and possesses the power and potential to influence for good.  Others will naturally be drawn to one’s inner strength and beauty.  It is not necessary to repress the authentic and pretend or act in order to have respect and influence. 

Two Masters

In a related scripture, Jesus philosophizes that we cannot live two lives.  Many of us have experienced the inner conflict as we try to mesh and interconnect the two.  We battle a self-destructive secret inner war from which there is little rest.  I believe God would prefer that we make a choice, and then make the most of our life. 

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  
     - Rev: 3:15-16

Seek God’s Kingdom

It seems a natural course among gay Mormons who leave the closet to also leave the church.  This is not surprising given the church’s position on the subject.  However, it is not necessary to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water and abandon God also.  In other words, God should not be identified with a particular religion, and should not be left back in the closet.

His love is unconditional. (Unlike many with whom I am acquainted.)  He is accessible and available to all and loves to bless.   We should take the admonition of the Master literally and seek God first, turning to Him when faced with difficult life challenges, social and family crisis, change, all part of stepping from the closet into the unknown and attempting to reconnect with self. 
Chapter 5 ended with the injunction: “Be ye therefore perfect”, meaning, complete, finished, and fully developed. The Sermon on the Mount is, in part, about becoming – becoming the best of who we are.  This implies that we need to know ourselves first, and make choices that will lead to our full development, including expanding the intellect, enlarging our appreciation for beauty, art, music, and connecting with and blessing those within our circle of influence.  Paraphrasing Paul, we need to aspire " to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13, English Standard Version).

 Build Thee More Stately Mansions

Our assignment in this life is to make our lives extraordinary, building one day upon the next, making the authentic most of our time, talents, and potentials. 

In this regard, we can profit from the amazing sea creature, the nautilus.  The Chambered Nautilus is a magnificent creature with an extremely unique shell. The shell is divided into "chambers" or sections that increase in size as the animal grows. As the nautilus outgrows one chamber, a new chamber is developed. The entire creature then moves to the new chamber and closes off the old chamber. As this process is repeated the beautiful spiral shape of the Chambered Nautilus shell is formed.

This process builds an architectural wonder of nearly perfect equiangular spirals within the shell, and in a way combines art and architecture within one single purpose. Its structure evokes imagery of architecture, beauty and holistic design.

The equiangular dimension of the chambers occurs in a successive ratio of 1 to 1.618034 and is known as the golden ratio or the golden number. This phenomenon occurs often in nature and can be derived through the Fibonacci number series. 

This creature inspired Oliver Wendell Holmes to write a poem entitled “The Chambered Nautilus,” applying the symbolism of the growth phenomenon of this amazing creature, to man.  I will end with a dramatic reading of this poem, which contains one of Holmes’ most famous lines, “Build thee more stately mansions, O My Soul”:

 * This lesson was prepared by Trey Adams.

[Ed. Note:] “With its rich imagery and ringing verse, "The Chambered Nautilus," by Oliver Wendell Holmes, is one of the most enduring nature poems of the mid-nineteenth century ... Holmes compares the nautilus to a "ship of pearl" sailing through enchanted but dangerous waters until it is wrecked. The speaker or narrator of the poem uses the nautilus as a metaphor for the human soul, stressing that its example provides a "heavenly message" of how people should grow and develop through their lives. At the end of the poem, Holmes emphasizes the idea that humans expand their horizons [throughout their lives].” [Source]

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sail the unshadowed main,–
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,–
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn;
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:–

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!


  1. I'm really glad for this series. It reminds me of the quote to "be the change you wish to see in the world." Rather than merely hoping for or complaining about the lack of a better environment for gay Mormons, creating a positive, faith-based, customized forum I believe has the potential to strengthen faith, lives, and hope.

    Thanks for this lesson, Trey- I may use some of it in an affirmation conference I'm speaking at next month.

  2. Thanks, Brad. You have precisely articulated the purpose of these lessons and what I hope they will accomplish. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. My current theory is that hetero men have suppressed gays & lesbians because subconsciously they realize that when given full freedom and recognition we simply blow them out of the water with our talents and insights. That means heteros are relegated to being simply breeders and providers. Then they become jealous that LGBT people add magic and sparkle to mundane lives.

  4. @Al - An interesting theory, which I think has more than a little truth to it. Thanks for sharing!