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.”

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