Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gay Gospel Doctrine Class: Our Divine Inheritance

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 #36 in the Gospel Doctrine Manual (“Be Ye Reconciled to God”) and was prepared by Trey Adams.

Purpose: To remind class members that they are children of God and to encourage them to live worthy of their divine inheritance.

Consider the opening words of this Primary children’s song:

I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.

As I read and really think about these words, I find myself wondering how some boys and girls feel who sing this song while sitting among their young peers in Primary conscious of the fact that their parents are not “kind and dear”; kids who return home from church to face the emotional weight of unhappy homes or abusive situations; kids unsure of God’s love for them given the conditions of their earthly home.

Or, or what about the 14 year-old boy who sits silent and alone in Priesthood meeting painfully aware of the sick feeling forming in his stomach as the instructor outlines what is required for boys to be noble, worthy sons of God’s – a status he fears is hopeless for him because of his unintentional attraction to other boys?

It is not my intent to discredit the song nor do I suggest that secular and religious ideals should not be taught and encouraged.  I am concerned, however, through personal experience that doctrine taught during singing time and in church classes may unintentionally relegate a segment of the impressionable young and the sensitive mature alike to a lower status of love and acceptance, not only among peers with whom they sit and interact, but among the favored family of God.

In his letter to the Romans (Romans 3), Paul teaches the doctrine of justification which is essentially understood to mean that one must be “reconciled unto God”.   How does this doctrine apply in the tragic case of the 14-year old boy sitting in a Priesthood class?  How does it apply to the thousands of others like him, or to me or you?

Milton wrote Paradise Lost to "justify the ways of God to men” andelucidate the conflict between God's eternal foresight and free will.” ("Paradise Lost: Introduction". Dartmouth College.)
Later, the poet A.E. Housman penned these famous cynical lines in his poem Terence This is Stupid Stuff:

“And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.”

Is life the hopeless tragedy Housman implies and are we victims trapped by our circumstances in irreconcilable conflict with God: the 14-year old boy, the unfortunate Primary age children, you, and me?

For me personally, I was not able to reconcile myself to God until I understood that His true character is not what I was unwittingly taught in Primary class or as a confused, anxious 14-year old boy in Teachers Quorum.  Not until I cast off that tragic concept and opened my heart to the real God of love, and not until I was able to begin accepting and loving myself the way God created me, did I feel His confirming love, acceptance and support for me and for my desire to develop my true God-given character. 

There are many who have felt this reconciling relationship with God after wrestling their way out of the God-limiting and the self-limiting cultural and social fetters with which they were bound.  With implied permission, I will take the liberty to include Invictus’ and others’ own such personal accounts published in a Gay Gospel Doctrine Class lesson earlier this year. 

The children’s song continues with these words:

Lead me, guide me
Walk beside me
Help me find the way

From Dante's La Commedia Divina comes this strategic, life-changing epiphany that many, if not most of us, have felt at a critical point along our path to self reconciliation:

In the middle of the road of my life
I awoke in the dark wood
where the true way was wholly lost

I pray that all who have lost self in the dark and fearful woods of cultural anonymity may awaken, find the true path, and reconcile the true self to God.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I have been thinking a lot lately about the concept of mindfulness (which can be loosely defined as bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, or, living life in the moment and being conscious of one’s surroundings).  A year ago at this time, before the soul-shattering Boyd K. Packer talk at General Conference last October, I was also thinking about mindfulness.  I had started meditating every morning on my back deck, I was doing some reading about Buddhism, and I was really trying to live in the moment.

I was poorly equipped at that time to begin a journey into mindfulness.  It was only after coming out that I was able to see just how much I had lived most of my life – since childhood – as an actor on a stage.  This started when I was a child, when I tried to dissociate myself from the abuse and dysfunction that surrounded me.  The real me – whoever that was – was mummified in layers of protective gauze until I had successfully enshrouded myself so that I was beyond the point of not only hurting but also of feeling anything at all, of knowing myself and of being in touch with any of my emotions.

This process continued as I hit puberty and came to realize that I am gay.  It was at this point, I think, that my mummified persona became entombed in the concrete vault of the closet.  When I joined the LDS Church as a young adult, my fate was sealed – at least for the next 28 years.  I swallowed the Church’s line, hook and sinker, that I could be cured of my gayness by living the Plan of Happiness and through marriage to a righteous young woman.  I married, believing that I would find happiness and joy through doing so, through siring and welcoming children and through righteous priesthood service.

In doing so, my true persona – whatever that was, was entombed even more securely within the walls not only of the closet, but of the expectations that I placed upon myself in order to make my Mormon Plan of Happiness thing work.  I became an actor on a stage – more so than ever – in order to fulfill the expectations of those around me.  I made a determination to “get through life” in order to prove that I could do “it” – that I could be all that Heavenly Father had intended me to be, even though in the process, I had to deny the most integral parts of myself in order to do so.

In coming out, which has been very much a process, rather than an event, I have gradually broken the walls of the mausoleum of the “Plan of Happiness.”  This has been followed by destruction of the vault of the closet, and I am now working on stripping away the layers of gauze that has mummified my Self for years and years and years.

And this is where mindfulness comes in.  I am practicing the art of being mindful, of being in the moment, of knowing who I am and allowing my Self to breathe the air of authentic life.  This process is gradually stripping away the mummification of the self.

It is a difficult transition.  I have much to learn.  But I have begun. 
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gay Gospel Doctrine Class: A Thorn in the Flesh

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 #35 in the Gospel Doctrine Manual (“Be Ye Reconciled to God”) and was prepared by Utahhiker801.

This lesson covers 2 Corinthians. In chapter 12, Paul discusses that the Lord gave him a “thorn in the flesh” and despite asking for it to be removed three times, the Lord saw fit to leave it there to humble him in order to make him more dependent upon the Lord, and therefore ultimately stronger.

Back in my Evergreen days, this was a popular passage to cite.  All of us there viewed being gay as a thorn in the flesh which, despite asking multiple times, was never taken from us.  Paul never clarifies for the reader what exactly his thorn was, but most of us there thought, in an intensely ego-centric perspective, what else could it have been?  Maybe Paul was dealing with the same issues we were struggling with.

Looking back on that now, I chuckle somewhat at the way I looked at everything.  Now I really don’t consider being gay a “thorn”; the thorn I do see is the way that many fine, outwardly or inwardly religious people treat people who are gay.

When I was in college, I had an English professor who was also a writer.  He wrote a short story about a young man who was an LDS missionary in France.  This elder was dealing with the realization that he was gay and understanding the challenges it would create for him in his life.  The story never gave the impression that he had made any decisions one way or the other about the future of his life, just that he had come to recognize, or at least acknowledge, that he was gay.

The elder ended up taking a train into Paris, and he found himself visiting the Louvre.  One of the first paintings he came upon, was entitled “Trinity.”  It showed God the Father, Christ being crucified, and the Holy Ghost as a dove.  In this painting, as God the Father was looking down upon this scene, he had a calm expression on his face, as if he understood that his Son had to go through this suffering and that it was all part of a much larger plan.

As the elder continued through the museum, he came upon another painting entitled, “Trinity.”  This painting contained a similar scene, but with the difference that God the Father had an expression of rage on his face, angry that mankind became so evil and corrupt that they would crucify his only begotten Son.

The elder continued further and came upon yet another painting entitled, “Trinity.”  This painting of course, contained all of the characters required of a painting with this title.  However, the difference in this painting was that God the Father was neither stoic as a result of his great understanding, nor angry at the wickedness of mankind, but he was weeping for the suffering of his Son.  The young missionary came to the realization that as we suffer, God is also weeping for the pain we go through.

Now it’s been several years since I’ve been in college, but this fictitious short story has stayed with me.  I’ve retold it several times, usually leaving out the part that the missionary’s struggle was with being gay.  I leave that part out most of the time because that part of the story is mostly important to just me.  And I think that everyone has at one time or another suffered through trials and wondered if God was mindful of them. 

When I eventually came out to my parents, I retold this story to them but this time with all of the details.  My mom’s response? “I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this alone for so many years.”

I think that God weeps for us when we suffer.  And I think that we in turn have the duty to reach out and help others who may be suffering.  It helps keep us from ever having to say, “I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this alone for so long.”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Simply Saturday

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

~ William Shakespeare

I would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”

~ Billy Joel

The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals
and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. 
That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. 
It's just that they need more supervision.”

~ Lynn Lavner