For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
- Mosiah 3:19
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Resources of Courage
The past few days have been contemplative and moody, to say the least. I have not made an decision on the path of righteousness; I continue to stand at the crossroads. I look down each path. I try to imagine what's at the end of each path: how vexatious each might be; how tormenting each might be; which is the path of least resistance (for mortality and for eternity). I realized that doing so, the questions I ask presumes pain and torment are a given in each path. Perhaps it is, but the reality is I don't know.
Last night I talked with another dear friend of mine. He was my Bishop after I returned from my mission (eleven years ago). I told him about how I was struggling with the greatest question of my life to this point: do I leave the church and find a loving committed relationship with a man?
He was very concerned and empathetic. He listened and then proceeded to tell me that the church is growing; it's dynamic. The position the church, in relation to homosexuality, has changed and will continue to change. He told me the reality was if I were to stay in the church, then that part of me that yearns for a deep and intimate connection will never be fulfilled, rather I will be tormented throughout mortality. If I were to leave the church, then I could experience the happiness that comes from being in a committed and loving relationship, but that my relationship with the church would take on an eternal character. That is, neither God nor intelligent people would condemn me for leaving. That in the eternities, all will be sorted out in relation to homosexuality. In other words, he advocated that I quietly go inactive, if I felt I could not muster the necessary courage to move forward with the inevitable torment connected with being gay in the church.
I listened. This certainly gives me hope, in an odd way. Or rather, let me re-phrase, it provides me an option to believe that I will not be wholly condemned if I decide to leave the church. This line of reasoning is so very tempting, alluring, and persuasive. Yet, my immediate gut reaction was: "What about my covenants? Did I not covenant to obey God's laws as he gives them to His servants? Did I not covenant to sacrifice all things, even my own life, to follow God? Did I not covenant to live the law of the gospel and apply the atonement? Did I not covenant to be chaste in every way, and implicitly covenant and agree that any relationship outside of a man and woman is not of God? Did I not covenant to consecrate everything I have and am to God?" These covenants necessarily bind me to God in so many ways. These covenants bind me to heaven and eternity. The covenants have shaped who I am today, they structure my interactions with people inside and outside of the church, it structures my relationship to God. It is the foundation of my character.
Had I not made these covenants perhaps the option presented to me might be more compelling. Yet, these covenants are my reality. No matter what line of reasoning is presented to me, I would have to stumble and crawl over these covenants on my way out of the church; slipping into inactivity would not be so silent as these covenants are so loud and present. If I were to leave I will have to pretend they are insignificant. If I were to leave or quietly go inactive, then any semblance of integrity I think I have will be gone. I will make a willful mockery of all God's laws. Because of this I will be tormented in one path, as I know what I must to do to "quietly" leave. I'm not sure I have the courage to live with that torment.
The other path however, is the path of righteousness. As I trudge this path, I will be turning my back on the deep and yearning need to be connected in intimate and profound ways with a man. I will never know what that feels like. I will have to sacrifice that part of me on the alter of God. Yet, I fear, I will not be able to make that sacrifice. I fear, I will be forever tormented with weekly reminders of the things I may never have (a loving relationship that I so desire). I fear I will be condemned to a life of loneliness in the church; granted I acknowledge I may find love, but that love may not be the type of love that I so desire and need. It may be filling, but not fulfilling. Courage and faithfulness to know and accept the unknown...
I talked with a good friend last night and she indicated to me that I have faith; I qualified her observation by noting that while I have faith, it is not sufficient to be faithful to God. As I though on that my mind was drawn to the Doctrine and Covenants.
I'm beginning to appreciate more deeply Joseph Smith's trial with the lost manuscript. In D&C 3, the Prophet petitioned the Lord twice to allow Martin Harris to take the translation of the first part of the Golden Plates. The Lord refused the Prophet's request; however the Prophet approached the Lord a third time and asked. The Lord then allowed the Prophet to let Martin take the manuscript. Martin lost the manuscript, and Joseph exclaimed, "'Martin, have you lost that manuscript? Have you broken your oath, and brought down condemnation upon my head as well as your own?'
"'Yes; it is gone,' replied Martin, 'and I know not where.'
"'Oh, my God!' said Joseph, clenching his hands. 'All is lost! all is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God. I should have been satisfied with the first answer which I received from the Lord; for he told me that it was not safe to let the writing go out of my possession.' He wept and groaned, and walked the floor continually.
Once the Prophet returned to the Lord, he was severely chastised:
"Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble."
Verse 8 caught my attention. It is illustrative and comforting, that despite the Prophet having a theophany he still struggled with faithfulness. He was mortal and weak, as I am. But he struggled with being faithful! He struggled with being faithful! Faithful!
Jonah the ancient Prophet, likewise struggled with faithfulness. He fled from the presence of the Lord.
Thus, as I look down both paths, namely the path of righteousness (i.e. right with God), I know I struggle with being faithful, not with having faith. In other words, I struggle with the courage to act on my faith.
While this certainly does not alleviate the burden of my decision, it does provide something satisfactory and comforting to my soul and mind.
This has provided, at least, a framework to help me see myself in relation to God and to the decision that weighs upon me. I can move forward knowing that I am mortal and that all good people no matter their station or calling struggle with faithfulness.
This is comforting.