Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blessing: What God Has Cleansed

This is another in the Gay Gospel Doctrine Class series of posts that takes a lesson from the LDS Church’s (Adult) Gospel Doctrine class and presents it from a gay perspective.  Today’s lesson is based on Lesson #30 in the Gospel Doctrine Manual (“God is No Respecter of Persons”) and was prepared by yours truly.

The 10th Chapter of the Book of Acts contains an account of a revolutionary development that changed the course of thousands of years of God’s dealings with the Israelite people: Peter received a revelation to take the gospel to the Gentiles – a people whom the Jews had heretofore detested as being of no worth in the sight of God – impure and unnatural, as it were.

Yet, when Peter did the unthinkable and visited the house of Cornelius the gentile, the Spirit spoke to his heart and mind, causing Peter uttered those now-famous words:  “In truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”  Peter learned that all are alike to God, and he no doubt thought back with new insight on the words of the angel in his dream the night before:  “What God has cleansed, that call thou not common.”

I believe these sublime spiritual truths are applicable today to our Heavenly Father’s gay sons and lesbian daughters, but many are blinded to this truth and continue to call “common” what God has “cleansed.”  Such persons may be those who have struggled with feelings of same-sex attraction and have developed a loathing of that part of themselves; also included in this group may be family members of these persons, as well as those who have been called to provide spiritual sustenance and direction to such persons.

All such may be suffering from what has been referred to as “Bible abuse.”  This term has been defined by writer Micah Royal as “a form of spiritual abuse … [in which] religious beliefs or practices are removed from the context they were intended for and used as tools of discrimination or oppression of others” [such as the infamous passages from Leviticus, the story of Sodom and the oft-quoted passages of Paul in the New Testament]. 

In an article found here, Royal refers to a 12-step program to recover from spiritual abuse and makes some salient observations points that are, I believe, extremely relevant to gay Mormons:

“It is important, for your own healing, to admit to yourself and to others that you have been marginalized and … admit the role Bible abuse has had in the abuse you have faced. This may sound like an easy step, but realistically for many this is difficult. Years of Bible abuse can lead some people to internalize the prejudice and bigotry that has been heaped upon them so much that they cannot admit their status as a victim of prejudice. This may lead them into a lifestyle where they are afraid of being found out for who they truly are, where they espouse the traditional claims of their religious upbringing, all the while looking at themselves with self-hatred and shame …

“Why are some people so willing to endure so much for beliefs that they know, deep down, simply don't work in their lives? … The religious traditions we are brought up in give us the self-assurance that, by following the rules they give us, we can be counted as "safe" and "secure", certain we are on the inside and not the outside of God's good graces. Many times, the religious leaders in a community will present themselves as more well-informed than us "regular folks" and closer to God than other people, leaving members of that faith community with the sense it is better to blindly give up control of their relationship with God to intermediaries like them than to think for themselves and study Scriptures on their own … Most of all, people fear a loss of their connection with God …

“Fearing the loss of both a community and a relationship with God holds many people back from admitting their woundedness and seeking healing. For many, the only concept of God they have is the image of God given them by their religious upbringing and tradition, which includes false images of God that are the result of Bible abuse.

“If we let them, these false images of God can wrench control of our spiritual lives out of our hands, leading us to place control of our relationship with God into the hands of people who may be misusing Scripture to marginalize us, to oppress us, and to abuse us. These false images of God can have such a strong hold on some of us that it can make it seem that the only options before us are abandoning the concept of God altogether or giving into religious systems that marginalize us and really believing we are abandoned by God and destined to an eternity of fiery torment.

“A key way to combat this common result of Bible abuse in your own life is to refuse to accept other's depictions of God as who God really is and instead to embark on a personal relationship with God for yourself, letting the image of God you hold to be one defined not by what others say, but by the relationship you develop for yourself with the Divine …

“Instead of finding that God values certain types of people (gay or straight, able-bodied or disabled, male or female or trans-gendered) over others, Scripture promises us that we will find God to be no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Scripture assures that, though some may claim otherwise for God, God does not judge by externals like outward appearance, sexuality, and gender, but by who we are in our heart of hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). The Biblical image of God, as opposed to the image of most Bible-abusers, is that a God who doesn't play favorites or discriminate based on outward qualities that don't define your character, your spirituality, or your faith …” [emphasis added].

I had read and was pondering over these passages and their application to the lives of gay Mormons when I received an email from Utahhiker801, who has become a good friend.  He didn’t know I was preparing this lesson, but simply wanted to share a YouTube link to a song he had grown to love. 

As I listened to this song, I found myself crying.  “Blessing” speaks of a gay man hoping that his family will eventually accept him and give him their blessing to live a happy authentic life.  As I sat in the privacy of my room, listening, tears came to my eyes, then something washed over me and I found myself practically sobbing. 

For a moment, I wondered why I was being so deeply affected by this song.  Then, just as quickly, I knew why. I realized that this song was reaching deep down within me and touching that part of me that wanted my Heavenly father’s blessing on my life.  I wanted to feel that God accepted me, loved me, looked upon and loved my heart, that He had “cleansed” me and views me no differently than He does his heterosexual children. 

I needed a confirmation of what I have felt and experienced before:  that I am accepted and loved for who I am.  I wanted to feel His blessing.  And that yearning was released by this song, as well as answered.  I felt again His love, learned again that He is no respecter of persons, that he has “cleansed” me.  I had, indeed, received His blessing.  And that is why I found myself sobbing.

So I conclude with this video.  My hope is that, perhaps through it, others may feel that Blessing.

~ Postscript ~

Just a reminder that I will be speaking today at 5:30 at First United Methodist Church in Salt Lake.  I look forward to meeting some of you!


  1. Instructive, insightful, inspiring - thanks!

  2. Joe, thanks for taking time to prepare these posts. I look forward to reading them and gaining new insight. I appreciate you!!!

  3. Invictus, I think your message today is spot on. I firmly believe that just as God is no respecter or persons, he has great love for all his children, gay or straight. And thank you for including this is a powerful song with your lesson.

    Some of the lyrics which stand out to me are:
    “Cause I couldn't remain living inside this lie,
    Every day that I did more and more of me died”

    I have felt that particularly strong lately, although I’m not quite sure what to do with those emotions. I’m still trying to work that out.

    Good luck with your speech today at the First United Methodist Church. I wish I could be in attendance.

  4. Thanks. This is what I needed to hear today.

  5. Trey and Steve - thanks for your comments!

    Utahhiker801 - Like you, I can/could powerfully relate to those lyrics. I am in a different place than you, but poignantly relate to where you now are. I feel as though, as I have previously expressed, the rose is now blooming in the springtime. Thanks for your best wishes re my talk.

    Alex - I am *so* glad. Every time I hear from someone, it is like a testimony to me that what I am feeling/thinking is "true", i.e., it's not just me. Thanks for the feedback. Have a wonderful day!

  6. I was visiting a friend's ward today and they used the time in sunday school to talk about 1978 when the blacks were finally allowed full fellowship in the church (this is also close to my family because my little brother is black). And I was sorely disappointed that they only spoke of the past.

    I wish I had had the courage to speak up (even though it wasn't my ward) and ask - with intention - who the church might be shunning nowadays that it needs to let in...