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
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Reacting to my Truth
I’ve noticed a typically common reaction to my truth among members of the church, both left and right leaning. Most often it begins with an acknowledgement of how difficult the “burden” I carry is, then it immediately mutates into an empathic didacticism. This is usually accompanied by some presumption that I have not confronted the tension of being gay and Mormon (if one exists!). Consequently, I sit and listen to “straight” members of the church who often begin their thoughts with “Just don’t act on it…”
As I’ve contemplated that phrase, I’m not entirely sure what that means anymore. I realize, contextually, it refers to not acting sexually on my feelings. But I have to believe that for both (right and left leaning members), it means something more. Yet, for many members of the church (at least the ones I’ve encountered, though there are exceptions), being gay is nothing more than simply having sex with men. Being gay is more than just sex with men (in my case); as being heterosexual is more than having sex with their opposite sex. Thus, when the adage, “don’t act on it” is put forth, as a loving and empathic response, it is simply a naïve ignorance and denial of who I am, and a desire for me to be something other than who I am – someone that they feel is compatible with the gospel (as interpreted by their peculiar cultural constructs); yet, who I am is who God loves – this I know.
As I tell others, and receive the typical response, I acknowledge simultaneously, their concern and the bias embedded within what they say but within the realization that they may not know what they say. This has aided me in being patient with them - I suppose a lesson I’ve learned from being a non-white member of the church.
After their declaration of “just don’t act on it,” they often proceed to tell me that having the feelings is not a sin, but acting it is. They go on to talk about the hope of the resurrection, and continue to “preach” to me, as if I’ve never thought about these things. I recognize that what they say comes from a place of concern and love, but often I get frustrated as the elementary level at which they talk to me. I’ve studied and researched, and labored over this topic for years, I’ve made intellectual and theological sense of this issue. But I go to them, not to be given an elementary Sunday School lesson, but for fellowship in re-building my spiritual foundation – reconnecting my heart to my mind.
I’m learning to be patient, as I come to understand why people respond the way they do (at least to me). I had dinner with friends on Sunday and I candidly shared with them my struggles of faith. They were surprised, but concerned. They then said, “Be careful who you share this with, you’ve been such a vital pillar of faith to this ward and community for so long. People still see as such, when you share, they get flustered and start thinking, ‘If Enduring is having this struggle, what about me?’ “
I appreciated that perspective. The implication was, when I tell people they don’t know how to respond and just start repeating what little they know about the subject, thinking that I’ve lost all faith and knowledge. Perhaps I need to start practicing more patience and brotherly kindness to those who (I feel) know so little.