At this Thanksgiving time, I'd like to revisit some thoughts written in response to a comment I received last spring with respect to one of my blog posts. The gist of the comment was 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?”
In other words, is being gay "worth it"?
Implicit in this question is a false dichotomy. It is implied 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 (assuming, for purposes of this discussion, that what is 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 the question accepts, for the purposes of discussion (only), this false dichotomy, i.e., the 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 – YES!
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?” continued Trey. “Time 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. 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 loved my wife and, in a way, 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 wonder: would a heterosexual member of the Church be willing to live his entire life living contrary to his nature, living a lie, constantly hiding, being taught to hate himself because of who and what he really is, constantly feeling “unworthy,” constantly striving but never truly “hitting the mark” – all in exchange for a promise that, if he does these things – if he gives up who he is for who he may be – he will inherit a condition in the eternities that is also totally contrary to his true nature?
A Different Paradigm
The second answer to the question remains: YES!
This time, however, I arrive at my answer by a different approach which rejects a 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.
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 (see, e.g., 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)