Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Clarification

There is something I feel it very important to make as clear as possible, so no one misunderstands me. So no one speculates or makes unwarranted statements about something I feel should be crystal clear.

As, at the urging of the Spirit, I began in the fall of 2005 to attend the LDS Church again, I naturally began to wonder about my relationship with my partner. Week after week I was finding my testimony of the Church powerfully renewed, both intellectually and spiritually. And at a certain point, I began to realize that I could not be genuine in my relationship with God if, in light of the Church's teachings on homosexuality, I did not seek God's will as regards to my relationship with Göran.

I put off praying about this for some time, frankly, because I was afraid of the answer. I knew that if God told me it was necessary to leave my partner, I would then be faced with a terrible choice. I knew that once God's will on the subject was made clear to me, for me to resist it or put it off could only result in my estrangement from God. And I had found so much pure joy in my renewed relationship with God, the thought of this was too much for me to bear. So I frequently prayed, "Heavenly Father, please just help me, prepare me to receive the fullness of your will for me." That was all I had the strength to pray.

But time went on, and I began to realize that even this was disingenuous. And finally, one night, as I was riding my bicycle to a bread shop of all things, the weight of it became too much to bear and I cried out to God, "I cannot hold back! Everything I own, everything I am belongs to you. Please make your will known to me. I will do it. I will find some way to do it!"

To my amazement, the crystal clear answer that came to me through all my turmoil of soul was, "Do not leave your partner. Be faithful to him. Honor your relationship with him."

Believe it or not, I actually could not believe this answer was correct. Later that night, in the quiet of my bedroom, I prayed again. I asked again. And again, in a clear, quiet, unmistakable way the Spirit’s response was, "You are to honor your relationship with your partner, be true to him, and stay with him."

Still, I could not believe it. I began to wonder if there was something more I needed to understand about this. Perhaps the Spirit meant I was to love him spiritually or emotionally, even though the physical aspect of the relationship was wrong. Or perhaps the Spirit meant "honor your relationship with him for now." Or perhaps I had not heard correctly because I was deafened by my own desire, and perhaps this answer was the result of wishful thinking. I did not want a "wishful thinking" answer, because I knew (and still know) that wishful thinking has no power to save us, only power to damn us. So just as I had wrestled for three months with the Spirit's message to me to start going back to Church again, I now began to wrestle with this answer. I prayed about it frequently in the following weeks and months.

Finally I received a rebuke from the Spirit that went something like this. "I have given you your answer. Why won’t you accept it? Do not keep asking this question. It shows a lack of faith. You will lose the gift of my presence if you do not learn to just accept this." So I finally accepted it, and I accepted the full, unequivocal, unexpurgated answer. I am to love my partner, be faithful and true to him, honor him, and never leave him. Ever.

This is as clear to me spiritually as anything I can possibly know. It is as clear to me as my testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that the Church is true and that all its leaders have been ordained by God to lead and guide it. I know all theses things. And I also know that in every fiber of my being, God’s creation in me is good. It is not a mistake. God’s creation in me is not flawed.

I have been a prodigal son. I have been angry. I have been blind. I have said and written many, many things I wish I could take back. I have misused God’s gift of sexuality to me and I have done many, many things that I now regret, that harmed me and that harmed others, and that I wish I had never done. I'm sometimes overwhelmed by the enormity of these things. I only have the atonement to heal my life and to lift those burdens, and I can only ever be inadequately grateful for that infinite gift. The only thing I can do to make up for the wrongs I have done is to bear my testimony whenever I have a chance, to try to counteract whatever I may ever have said or done that might have caused someone else to waver or lose faith.

But there is one thing I do not now, nor never can regret, and that is the love I share with my partner. There is no aspect of that relationship, emotional, spiritual, or physical that is impure or unholy or an abomination. The only things I regret in that relationship are the things I did to detract from it or to hurt Göran. I weep sometimes to think of all the things I have done that Göran has lovingly and frankly forgiven me. I may now add to that list, the pigheadedness with which I once doubted that our relationship might be something I should honor. I humbly ask Göran's forgiveness for that, though I hope that in asking the question, I have been able to find a deeper, truer love, on a steadier foundation.

I know that some will find this contradictory. I cannot explain it. If something should ever separate me and Göran – were he to leave me, or, God forbid, should we be separated in death – I do not at the present time believe I would seek out another relationship. I would do everything I could to live my life according to the rules of the Church so I could be re-baptized. I do not claim that my life can be any sort of a rule or guide for others, if only because of all the mistakes I have made. I do not understand how my life or God's will for me personally fits into the big picture, or why I would have such a strong testimony of the gospel and of the Latter-day Church and also have such a strong witness of the goodness and importance of my relationship with my partner – even in light of what is taught about that relationship by the Church I know to be true. I do not understand. But I do not want anyone to misunderstand.

7 comments:

playasinmar said...

Mormons... such fibrous creatures.

Congradulations on having recieved an answer to a prayer. It doesn't happen very often. At least, not so clearly.

J G-W said...

Bless your heart, Playa. There's no moment so happy that you can't make it a little bit happier by bringing a smile to everybody's faces. You will go far, my lad!

Beck said...

Your faith and testimony are awe-inspiring! You have learned how the Spirit communicates with you, and are teaching us with your example that in order to continue to listen and HEAR, we must also follow.

And following isn't always along the same path... sometimes it's a very different path than we would ever think - but we won't know if we don't hear and listen!

There was a time when I couldn't contemplate that the Spirit would tell me to do something so opposite my inculcated thinking of what is "right". Now, I find, through inspirational examples such as yours, that the Spirit can disagree with my conventional wisdom (astounding as that may be) and that those conventional, traditional beliefs aren't necessarily the Spirit speaking. And I realize what beckoning beauty and rich complexity can be found in our common goal to follow the whisperings and come unto Christ.

You didn't need to clarify. We know from whence you come. We can feel it. And we love you because of your 15-year commmitment to a beautiful partnership, not in spite of it!

GeckoMan said...

John,
Thank you for sharing your personal and sacred trial of faith. I have been thinking of you for days, and it has been your humble life example that has caused me to reflect on relative faith and write about it yesterday in my blog.

This testimony of yours gives credence to the seemingly disparate truths of personal revelation versus established doctrine. I have often heard during my 30+ year tenure in the Church that we should pray about the most important and personal items of our concern, to know what is true. What is not mentioned is what to do if your revealed answer seemingly conflicts with what would be the conventional church-approved direction. However, we do have a few examples in the scriptures, like Nephi killing Laban, that go around basic commandments, given the Lord's direction. I've always been very uncomfortable with this story from the Book of Mormon, but now it begins to have meaning to me on a deeper level. Like you, I don't really understand it either, just that I feel it to be part of God's grand love for us.

Bill McA said...

We know Nephi struggled when the Spirit told him to kill Laban. That's the most obvious example in the scriptures that I know of the Spirit telling someone to do something which seems to go against everything they know and believe.

Despite the fact that we have been exposed to the fullness of the Gospel, our understanding of God's plan for us is still so limited. We have a huge advantage over our brothers and sisters who know nothing of it and sometimes that advantage can become a stumbling block.

Wasn't Joseph Smith obsessed with how long he was going to live? I believe the Lord finally told him to "stop asking" about it and move on. Good advice for all of us if we know we've received an answer from Him....

J G-W said...

Beck – With you, no clarification would ever be needed. Some people just understand, and you are one of those lovely people.

The reason I felt it necessary to clarify this is because of the suggestion I have come across in the Moho blogging world that my present situation is maybe somehow a "compromise," that it represents a status that is somehow less than it should be. This doesn’t really fit with my experience or my understanding of how God relates to me in the context of my relationship with Göran.

Geckoman – I saw your post (and saw –L–'s response to it) , and have wanted to reply, but in a thoughtful way.

My short response is that you are very right in the sense that there is no real basis for comparing our own relationship with God to the relationship with God experienced by any other person on the planet. Each relationship is unique, and it is in the individual working out of those relationships that each of us will be saved. And if we expect that the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom will be populated only by heterosexually married Latter-day Saints, I think we may be in for a surprise. But this doesn't mean I see everything as squishy and relativistic. The laws that govern our interaction with God are concrete and absolute as they relate to us, and we can't squirm out of them by saying, "But those people don't follow this law, so why should we/I have to?"

I can't speak to or for anybody else's context, but my context is LDS faith. It is within that framework I must work out my salvation, and the Church is absolutely "the only true Church" in relation to how I must work out my salvation. I know this through personal revelation.

Bill – The story of Nephi and Laban used to trouble me terribly. For many years I saw in it potential justification for all kinds of violence. That is, until I found myself again in a living relationship with the God of Nephi and Laban.

While this story is often cited because it is so dramatic, scripture is replete with stories in which God instructs his people to ignore law, rules and "convention," as Beck so nicely puts it. In fact, the entire thrust of the new covenant established through Christ in the meridian of time specifically sets aside Law as a means to righteousness in favor of a direct, living relationship with God himself. The law is personified in Christ. We become "circumcised" by entering into relationship with him. Law is not intended to be the rule, with personal revelation providing occasional exceptions. Personal revelation is the rule, with Law serving as a schoolmaster to prepare us for the kind of discipline that is required in order to function in a true relationship with Christ.

This is why, in his writings, Paul refers to Abraham as the "Father of Faith" -- because this model of faith, in which Abraham related directly to God without the intermediary of Law, is the true model of faith. Joseph Smith understood this too. In his vision the Church was to be not a community of followers of a prophet, but a nation of prophets, priests, and kings.

But where relinquishment of judgment and the Pure Love of Christ are not the reigning ethics, we are not ready for such a regime. Better to submit ourselves to Schoolmaster Law.

Forester said...

Personal revelation is one of the foundations of our Faith. I don't think any of us are in a position to question your answer. I'm glad you made this post, as I've wondered about your relationship status. I'm always surprised by your incredibly inspired and faithful posts. Your return to the church is incredible, no, it's a miracle. God knows what is right for you at this time in your life.