Friday, April 17

Why I Stay


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.]

15 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post.

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  2. I concur. With the bulk of this entry. You rock again, Mark.

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  3. Mark, I agree with so much of this post. I can relate with each of your points. As J-G-W has proved, it is possible to stay even in a gay relationship. I admire him for that. I admire you for taking remaining even though it is difficult. I admire your character.

    There are many who find it too difficult to stay, and I too do not judge them. Each is different and only God can judge the true thoughts and intents of our hearts.

    You are a good man. Good luck on your journey.

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  4. Mark, I wanted to post this quote of Apostle J. Golden Kimball. You may have heard of it. I is my creed as well. "I may not walk the straight and the narrow, but I sure in hell try to cross it as often as I can!"

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  5. "There are many who find it too difficult to stay, and I too do not judge them. Each is different and only God can judge the true thoughts and intents of our hearts. "

    This statement made me cringe. There is so much judgement in such few words, regardless of what was said after it. To say, "There are many who find it too difficult to stay," says those who do not stay in the church are weak. It is to say,"Those who do not stay in the church are not as strong as me."

    For some leaving is the more difficult thing to do, but because of their experiences or faith they do. Even though their families will abandon them and those who claim to follow Christ will judge them they do what they believe is right.

    I could make the same statement, "For some it is too difficult to leave, some are just to scared to stand up for who they are." This statement regardless of who it is targeted at, those who leave or those who stay, is laced with the type of judgement that is detrimental to all.

    To dismiss those who leave as weak is to rob them of the actual legitimate concerns about the church that they hold. Many in the church like to do this so they dont have to acknowledge that sometimes the Gospel fails you, sometimes God fails you. Sometimes people with testimonies leave the Church. And sometimes they dont leave it because they are weak, sometimes they leave it because they are strong.

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  6. Kurt, Thanks for your perspective about the sentence I wrote. I caused me to reflect how I word my thoughts. I also appreciate your comment about how leaving can be more difficult for some than staying. I have a good friend who thinks I am weak for staying. He may be right. For me, although it is often difficult to stay because I question some doctrines, don't agree with how the church avoids controversial aspects of its own history, and feel uncomfortable around some bigoted members, it would be more difficult to leave than stay because of my familial circumstances. If I truly felt it were the right thing to do, I hope I would have the strength and courage to leave.

    One problem with blogging verses speaking directly with people who know and understand each other is the opportunity to be misunderstood. I do not consider those who leave the church to be weak in any way. Maybe if I had expounded on all the reasons it could be "difficult," it would have helped to clarify my thoughts. It can be difficult to stay or go for a variety of reasons that are personal and unique to each individual.

    I apologize if I have offended you or anyone who has left the church. I admire anyone who thoughtfully makes decisions they feel are best for their lives and then remain true to their convictions.

    Thank you for prompting me think through this.

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  7. Kurt, that was a profound analysis of a common statement.

    Mark, I've always thought that every moho in the church is always one man away from leaving. Why not stay if you aren't dating anyone anyway? It can only help us all by providing the church with some insight into what homosexuals are actually like.

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  8. "All the good in my character is because of my baptismal covenants."
    FALSE! With all due respect, I mean I don't know you and I'm not all that familiar with your blog as I just stumbled upon it recently, but I want you to know that you are good because of you. You don't need any outside source to validate your existence. You are enough. You are whole... it's the remembering and embracing of such knowledge that makes it so.

    I'm glad you're doing well. I hope you continue to hope for a completely guilt-free and angst-free existence whether in the Church or out of the Church.

    Thanks for sharing your blog and thoughts with others. I think it's great!

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  9. Thank you for this. It is amazing and so uplifting.

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  10. I'm not an expert, but if you ever have questions about what leaving (legally) is like, feel free to ask.

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  11. I left the Mormon church almost thirty years ago because of their murderous philosophy regarding gay people, and because of my murderous family's adherence to their church's mindless bigotry. I see no reason to change my views: they have, if anything, intensified their aggressive hatred against the gay and lesbian community over the intervening years.

    In reading your posts I perceive that you are doing yourself much psychological damage by stating your case the way you have that you are ensuring the destruction-in-advance of whatever happiness you might have been able to find in your future life. Please don't imagine that many, many, many people have not thought the same things you've written about and tried to find a way to reconcile irreconcilable differences: we have. The longer one attempts to do what you are attempting, the deeper and more pervasive the psychological damage becomes.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with you. You don't need anyone to intercede between yourself and whatever you perceive to be a higher power. Neither you or anybody else deserves to have to live under the crushing weight of guilt and self-hate that the Mormon church delivers on the heads of gay and lesbian humans.

    I won't lecture you, and I certainly have no intention of sermonizing or engaging in a public debate with you on this issue. But I beg you to reconsider your life, your future, and the happiness you can have as an authentic person without the burdens the Mormon church places on you and tells you you must bear.

    I'll end this with a bit of dark humor: if you desire further light and knowledge, you're more than welcome to email me.

    Best wishes.

    flattopSF@yahoo.com

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  13. I'm a former Mormon who is also gay. I'd just like to offer a couple of thoughts. You may be lonely and have had negative homosexual experiences because you are simply single. Heartbreak, heartache, alternating highs and lows are just part of the experience of finding the one that finally works out. Also, I'm not sure that the Mormon community is the community that will be most supportive to you, emotionally and spiritually. I managed to find an amazing queer community, but it certainly didn't happen over night. I had to take risks and leave spaces that were comfortable but not fulfilling my needs. Maybe the Church needs to see active gay men, but not at the expense of your happiness. And, maybe the Church needs to see gay men openly declare why they are leaving. Are you still living in Seattle? Let me know if I can try to help you get in touch with a supportive and loving queer community. Also, Family Fellowship online is great. Best of luck to you.

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  14. I hate it when gay members who have left the church feel need to try to sway people who write posts like this. The conviction you write with makes me a bit uncomfortable because I don't feel as strongly (even though I AM married, with kids, and in therapy and trying to make it work) but I feel no need to try to sway you away from your convictions. Sheesh.

    This was a concise, well-thought out post. Very honest and eyes-wide-open, I thought.

    I think you and I would get along well, Mark.

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