I feel like most of 'us' leave the Church.
And let's be honest, a day hasn't gone by since my mission that I haven't thought about leaving--about saying goodbye to all of the hurt and frustration being gay and Mormon has caused. Throwing in the towel and finding a different, happier path. The desire to leave can be powerful and overwhelming and often it feels like both the rational and the right choice. Yet for all the reasons I have to leave (and believe me, there are many) still I stay.
Don't get me wrong, just because I stay does not mean that I don't stray. I am not a 'strong' or altogether faithful member of the Church--but, like Paul, I find no shame in confessing that though I am "less than the least of all Saints" (Ephesians 3:8), I am still trying to follow both Christ and His commandments.
The reasons I stay are varied. They are not wholly noble. They are more 'personal' than 'doctrinal'. They change constantly. But for a variety of reasons I feel compelled to share them:
- The Church needs to see active, 'gay' men. Most gay men struggle for so long in secret, pleading in the quiet of their closets. They try and they try and they try. And at some point they reach a point where they are pushed to the breaking point and everything comes crashing down. They decide to "come out" and leave the Church at the same time, in the same decision. The Church hasn't seen their faith and effort in doing all they can to live the Gospel. They haven't seen the brokenness that results from the inability to reconcile homosexuality with the Church. And they need to. All most of them see is actively gay men, they need to see active, gay men.
- All the good in my character is because of my baptismal covenants. I am sure of that more than anything else in my life. When I stood in the baptismal font on my eighteenth birthday, I promised God (and I promised Him with all of my heart) that I would mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. I have failed more than I have succeeded, but trying to fulfill that promise to God has made me the person I am today. Every good piece of me is because of that promise--both through my own feeble efforts, and through Him 'making up the difference.' There is power in covenant-making and covenant-keeping.
- I haven't found the right man yet. Let's be honest, Mr. Right hasn't come along yet and until he does, I really won't know all that I'm actually sacrificing. And when his hands graze mine, and our hearts beat together, and he laughs at my jokes, and I can't stop smiling just because he's in my life things might suddenly change. I don't doubt that they will.
- I see purpose in this trial. Every aspect of it. Every single one. The Church not knowing what to do. Members not understanding. The absolute loneliness of it. The unanswered questions. The unanswered prayers. The feelings of worthlessness and failure. How hard it is. How difficult it is to see light, to have hope, to feel peace. I see purpose in it--and see the better person I am because of it. And though it is painful, it is beautiful.
- God is absolute good. I want to be like Him--exactly like He is. And you don't become like him by not watching rated-R movies. You don't become like Him by doing easy things. He is not a God of convenience. To be like Him requires us to sacrifice everything and to do the things that He did. And let's be honest, the things He did are impossibly hard. Just like this.
- My own experiences with homosexuality have been varied, but overwhelmingly negative. I do not think this is an accurate representation of the gay lifestyle. I'm sure that many people find happiness and contentment. But for me, its been a whole-heck-uv-a-lotta heartache. Acting on my own homosexual desires has hurt many of the people closest to me and has left me with a broken heart that hasn't yet been made whole. I don't know if it ever will be.
- I have received support from His children. Not everyone is as lucky to have the privilege of the love, support and acceptance that has been extended to me by so many people in my life. My friends, ward members and priesthood leaders have grabbed hold of me and held me. I'm sure I take for granted the effort that is extended by them to me--someone so flawed, so indecisive, so dramatic, so uneasy to love. They have paid high prices to try to understand the struggle that I go through. It is not easy to reconcile homosexuality and the Gospel--not for 'us', not for 'them'. But so many--more than I could have asked for--have made that effort, in large part because of the love they have for me.
[As a footnote, I would add that I do not judge those who leave, who stay, who marry, who try to find some compromise between homosexuality and Mormonism. Each of us is trying to find our way, to do our best and make the most of the situation we've been given. This blog is not meant to condemn anyone that has reached different conclusions than myself.]