Monday, December 31, 2007
I had a job I to accomplish by a deadline, two sets of legal documents that I needed to file with the patent office on behalf of the CEO of our law firm. There were very few people there to help me complete the filings, and I didn't have all the information I needed at first, but through persistence I gradually had everything ready to go.
In order to complete the filing, it was necessary for me to eat two insects, one for each filing. The insects were enormous and dark brown like cockroaches. The front halves of the insects were like praying mantises, and the back halves were like millipedes. They were completely disgusting, but I was determined to accomplish the filing, so I began to eat.
I bit off the head of the first insect. It was crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually kind of good. I bit off more: the thorax, then the abdomen, then the hind quarters with the hundreds of millipede legs. Finally I ate the whole thing.
I went on to the second insect. This one seemed less happy to be eaten. It was squirming around unpleasantly. I bit off its head, but this one was different. Instead of being crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, this one was tough on the outside, rubbery and gamy on the inside. It continued to squirm and struggle even after I had bitten the head off. It was difficult to chew and swallow.
I wonder which insect the new year will be like?
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Glen has holiday homework assignments, including a Victorian-era novel to read. He will eventually need to write a paper about the novel, and he needs to have some understanding of British literary history in order to write the paper. Since he's entered class in the middle of the school year, it was my task to tutor him. We sat down together and discussed the British Neo-Classical, Romantic, and Victorian literary styles. This was some of the most fun I've ever had in my whole life. (Who'da thunk my honors humanities seminar from my Sophomore year at BYU would ever come in handy?) Glen had a good time too, I think. At the end of our tutoring session, he said he was looking forward to more.
As Glen and I were in the midst of discussing why "Romantic" doesn't necessarily mean "Romance," the phone rang. It was "Sister Smith". She was calling, A) to ask why she hadn't seen me in Church lately, B) to ask me why I had not yet ditched my partner, and then C) to lecture me on the subject of temple-attendance. When he picked up the phone, Göran made the mistake of mentioning that I was busy helping "our foster son" with his homework. So the usual lectures were then followed by expressions of disgust, and a scolding about how, in my present circumstances, I am clearly an unfit parent. "You think a child should be in that kind of environment?" she said. Göran and Glen both listened in silence, while I calmly explained that, No, I haven't left my partner yet, and Yes, I value the temple, but Yes, I also value love and family and commitment and that's what my relationship with my partner is all about. I chose not to discuss my qualities as a foster parent with her. She finally backed down and said goodbye.
After I hung up, the tension in the air erupted with Göran angrily vowing that the next time she called, she would get a piece of his mind. Glen just frowned after hearing my account of her half of the phone conversation and said, "That's horrible." I managed to calm them down, and made Göran promise to just let the phone ring the next time her name showed up on the caller ID.
Later that evening, we went over to some friends' for Christmas dinner. Like most liberal Minneapolitans, these particular friends love discussing politics and religion, so that's right where the dinner conversation went. Our friend Alex who loves to bait us with extreme polemical statements just to see how we'll react, said he felt that if humanity was to evolve, all forms of belief must be banished. His mother and Göran were nodding in agreement. Religion was bad, all of it, every kind.
I debated whether to speak up or not. They all know my opinions on this subject, and I felt no need to argue. But finally, after thinking it over, I said simply, "You seem to think that belief is about assent to intellectual propositions. It is not. It is about trust. It is about commitment to moral propositions, the most fundamental of which is love."
"Ah, but..." they protested, citing all of the many examples of religious intolerance and hatred.
I replied, "That represents a failure of faith, not its expression. Those people are angry because they are insecure. They feel the foundations of their faith are being threatened, so they feel the need to fight. That's not faith, that's lack of faith. Those who truly have faith are able to live with and accept a certain level of ambiguity and uncertainty. They move forward in trust, based on loving commitment."
The conversation rolled on in other directions.
This morning, I read Isaiah 42. And though this text is often read as a messianic text, I could not help but read it as a call to each and every one of us. For even if these words describe the Messiah, isn't he the pattern we ourselves should follow?
He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth (vss. 2-4)
And in fact, after the Messianic text comes this gem:
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.... And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them... Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. (vss. 6-20)
This is the path we are called to follow: blind in the sense that we trust to things we cannot see, that we do not always trust the things we can see. Here I am, caught again in the middle, condemned by believers and non-believers alike. To the left and to the right, I say the same thing: Have faith.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
First of all, our foster son comes into a religiously divided household. This is my fault. We used to be a religiously united household until I started going to the LDS Church.
I don't expect anybody else, much less our teenage foster son, to do what I do: attend one church in the morning with my partner, and three more hours of another church in the afternoon with me.
We both do want him to attend Church with us as a family, which means he comes with both of us to the United Church of Christ. He is welcome to attend Church with me at the LDS Church if he wants. I have a feeling he won't want.
In our conversations over the last two weeks, when the discussion has ranged over into things religious, our foster son has gone quiet. I've immediately sensed a desire on his part to change the topic. I understand there are reasons for this. He has had his own history with Church which has been less than positive.
Today is my first full Sunday with our new family. And I must confess, the thought of departing for four hours is unbearable. Deep down inside, the thing I want most right now is to bond with Glen, and to spend time with him and Göran all three of us together as a family. Deep down inside, I also feel a strong pull toward Church, toward the place where I first received spiritual promptings that opened me up to becoming a foster father in the first place. Toward the place where I find the weekly grounding I need to grow into the kind of person I most want to be. If I go to Church, do I send Glen the message that I don't want to spend time with him, and that I don't care about him? If I stay with Glen and Göran, do I send the message that spiritual things are not of ultimate importance?
I prayed about this this morning, and I felt a kind of clarity about this. I realize I do need to communicate to Glen my most deeply felt values. I need to at least explain to him how important my testimony is to me, and how important the community of the Saints is to me. And I need to show him this through my actions as well. At the same time, in order for that communication to be meaningful, he needs to understand how much I value him. I need to communicate this verbally, but also through my actions. So as hard as this choice is for me, I will choose for our starting place to be time spent together as a family.
So much of this journey for me has involved cultivating patience through these kinds of hard choices. Waiting for the growth that needs to take place so I can move from a place of lesser good to greater good. Making choices.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Isaiah shows up at the palace of King Hezekiah, who is deathly ill. He has a prophecy to deliver: "Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live" (v. 1).
Hezekiah is not pleased. But instead of taking it up with Isaiah, he goes directly to Isaiah's boss. "Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord." The king reminds the Lord of his faithfulness in the past, how he walked before the Lord in truth and "with a perfect heart," and had done what was good in the sight of the Lord. After that, he had nothing more to say, but simply "wept sore" (vss. 2-3).
After Hezekiah's prayer, "then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years."
Now, some might say there's nothing astonishing here. If you believe in prayer, then why not believe that in response to Hezekiah's heartfelt prayer the Lord chose to heal him? We utter such prayers (and see them answered) all the time.
But what got my attention was the fact that Hezekiah "wept sore" specifically because he had received through Isaiah a definitive revelation from the Lord telling him to set his house in order because his death was imminent. Lacking such a revelation, Hezekiah might at least have hoped for a natural recovery. He might reasonably have prayed for recovery. Once he had received a definitive revelation from the Lord (Isaiah said "Thus Saith The Lord"!), wasn't it impertinence on his part to ask for another revelation? Wouldn't the faithful thing to do have been to obey the word of the Lord by "setting his house in order?"
I love the imagery of verse 2: "Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall." It is a startling image of refusal to accept this seemingly inevitable, divinely ordained fate.
Did God punish Hezekiah for his impudent refusal to accept his definitive word, as delivered to him by his mouthpiece, Isaiah? Far from it! He rewarded him threefold! First he rewarded him by granting him healing from a deadly illness. Second he rewarded him by revealing to him the length of remaining life he would have (fifteen more years!). Third, he rewarded him by promising him that Jerusalem would not fall to the King of Assyria (vss. 6-7). How puzzling it must have been to Isaiah to have to return to Hezekiah with this new prophecy, shortly after prophesying his imminent death!
What exactly happened here? How do we interpret these two prophecies? Did the Lord change his mind as a result of Hezekiah's prayer? Or let me rephrase this: Is it possible that there are blessings that the Lord is only willing to give us if we ask for them in faith? That seems one valid interpretation of this text.
But if that was true, why send the prophet on a special errand to announce to Hezekiah that he was going to die? Perhaps the Lord was testing Hezekiah in some way. If so, this is what I find most startling. The Lord expected Hezekiah to refuse to accept his definitive word. He expected Hezekiah to persist in hope of something he had explicitly denied him through his prophet.
In any event, the text suggests a high value on free agency in the divine scheme of things. The Lord forces no destiny upon us -- even something as seemingly inevitable as the natural course of disease and death. There are blessings the Lord waits to bestow upon us contingent upon taking the initiative to ask; or, better yet, the Lord expects us to achieve a kind of higher consciousness that can only come from faithful perseverance even in the face of denial.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Sunday, our morning flight was canceled, so I had to call Glen and let him know we would be three hours later picking him up than we had initially planned. We were literally counting the hours that last day. We arrived in the Twin Cities around six, got our car rental, dropped our stuff off, and then headed straight for the home. It was a joyful reunion.
Monday morning we took him to school to get him registered. We met with the assistant principal. I arrived at work late. Göran took the day off so he could take Glen shopping for school supplies. They came by my office, and I took them around and introduced him to my co-workers and supervisors.
Tuesday was the beginning of my new routine. Up at 5:30 a.m. so I can be at work by 7:00 a.m., and home by 3:30 p.m. Göran stays on his old schedule, and is at home late enough to see Glen off to school. Then I'm home shortly after he arrives home from school.
Göran and I were on pins and needles that whole day. We knew Glen would do great in his classes -- he's an A student. But we knew how important it would be for him to find new friends and feel accepted. He confided in us that he was nervous. This school has a student body ten times the small-town school he last attended. They have a rule at the school banning the use of cell phones, so I just had to wait the old fashioned way till the end of the day to hear how everything had gone.
That night Glen reported that the students at his new school were very open and friendly, and on his very first day he'd already met a girl who wanted to introduce him to her whole circle of friends. By the end of Wednesday there were other new friends, and no more nervousness or pins or needles. By the end of today, he produced a note another new friend had been passing to him, a girl with an obvious crush.
Last night, I had to take Glen to a meeting. Later, we talked about a youth group he wants to get involved in. Today I stopped at a book store to pick up Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, for an over-the-holidays English assignment. When I arrive home from work now, I get new reports about classes, homework, new friends. Göran and I are planning weekend activities for our new family. Life at home now revolves around meals, bedtime, school.
I've had less time for blogging. I'm in bed every night now by 10:30 p.m.! Work has required a special, new kind of discipline in order to coordinate projects on my new schedule. Most of my spare time is spent gearing up for teaching in the spring.
Somehow I once would have thought these changes unimaginable. Now they're reality. I'm amazed how incredibly happy I am -- we are. This is our new life!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Göran and I have spent the past three days getting to know and bonding with our first foster kid. Eating meals with him. Washing dishes with him. Having long conversations about his life up to this point, about our lives. Being amazed and in awe at the courage that's gotten him this far. Taking him to see the movie The Golden Compass. Getting him registered at the local high school. Buying new clothes for him. Taking him downtown to show him where Göran works. Playing video games, and laughing like fools at funny cat videos on the Internet.
I thought I was happy until three days ago. Suddenly I have made the shocking realization that our former happiness was a shadow of our present happiness. Nothing compares to seeing a kid smile at you and tell you that the last three days have been the happiest days of his life. Nothing compares to the realization that we can make a huge difference in a kid's life. Nothing compares to the realization, now that he's at the group home for four days until we return from my grandma's memorial service in California, that life just seems drabber and emptier.
When we dropped him off at the group home, he hugged us tight, and didn't want to let us go. He was almost in tears, but he kept up a brave front. We didn't. We got home and looked at our pictures of him, and cried.
Suddenly, parenthood seems like the only thing in the world that can possibly matter. Suddenly, I understand why bloggers like Chris, Scot, and Mr. Fob write about their families with such warmth, with such untarnished satisfaction. Suddenly I'm so much more interested in everything they have to say on the subject!
Maybe my life will go back to feeling the same way it did before, once he settles in, once we adjust to the dramatically different new routines. But I can't possibly imagine how.
This changes everything.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
DOROTHY: Oh - will you help me? Can you help me?
GLINDA: You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas.
SCARECROW: Then why didn't you tell her before?
GLINDA: Because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
--The Wizard of Oz
I have always wondered about the "veil of forgetfulness," ever since I was taught about it as a child. Why would loving Heavenly parents purposely plunge us into a state of amnesia? Why would they want us to forget about them? Aren't the scriptures full of admonitions to "remember"? Why wouldn't loving Heavenly Parents want us to remember them, remember all the things they have done for us, remember all the promises we undoubtedly made to them in the pre-mortal existence, remember what is needed in order to come back to them?
Gradually, wrestling with the complex moral choices I have had to wrestle with in my life, including the choices surrounding my gayness/same-sex attraction, I have come to the conclusion that it was our Heavenly Parents' intention that the mortal probation be a test of character that involves seeing how we would act on our own, what choices we would make if we thought no one was looking over our shoulders. This is one reason I am not so concerned about making sure that everyone has the exact same beliefs I do. Is this mortal probation invalidated for Presbyterians or Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs, Baptists or Catholics or Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses or even Atheists? Far from it. The fact that we've each developed our own interpretations of the meaning of this existence, the fact that we've interpreted the guidance of the Spirit or divine revelation differently, the fact that we've received seemingly divergent revelations (or no revelation at all)... This is just part of the grand test. Every religion or philosophy seems to be moving us toward the same higher law Christ taught: Love. So there is unity even in our divergence, and I am certain that a key part of the test for all of us is to see how effectively we are able to find that true underlying unity that should unite us all as brothers and sisters.
But there's another aspect of this test that seems even more crucial to me. That is, to see if we are able to find the "divine spark" within each of us. So in fact, we have been plunged into a state of forgetfulness literally to see if we can begin to remember on our own. This is why I love the Latter-day Saint notion of progressive knowledge. As we hear and obey the Spirit, as we exercise faith, our capacity to hear the Spirit increases. It is like a seed that grows if we nurture it, and that dies if we deprive it of sun or water. The more we practice love, the more capable we become of loving. And the more loving we are, the more we will remember and know of the God the Evangelist calls Love.
In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has what she needed to find her way "back to Kansas" all along -- the ruby slippers she inherited from the moment she first entered Oz. We just saw The Golden Compass yesterday, in which Lyra, a Dorothy-like character, is given a golden compass that can teach her all truth if only she can learn to read it. We all have our own ruby slippers, our own golden compass.
We had to forget, I believe, partly in order to learn what is within us. Our Heavenly Parents could have told us what was within us. In fact they probably did. But how could we believe it, until we had experienced it for ourselves?
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Göran is always the life of the party at these events. He's an amazing dancer, and so there's usually a line of women wanting to have a turn dancing with him. At my sister's big fat Greek wedding, all the Greek grannies were begging him to give them dance lessons. Last night was no different. At one point, everyone on the dance floor just stopped to stare at his performance. At the end of the number, they all burst into applause, including the band!
I on the other hand have the proverbial two left feet. I've always been kind of physically awkward. Learning to dance was painful to me as a youth, despite the special, personal lessons I got from a Young Women's leader who took pity on me. I basically learned to dance because it was a social requirement of Mormon youth. My only "B" at BYU (dragged my GPA to 3.98, darn it!) was the ballroom dance class I took.
After I came out of the closet, I took more of an interest in dance as a way to get to meet guys. For a while, I had a crush on a guy I used to go to Country Western night with. (After he and I stopped dating, I promptly forgot how to two-step.) The first thing Göran and I ever shared together was a dance, at the Gay Nineties, a downtown Minneapolis gay bar. While we were "courting," we went out dancing about once a week. Once we moved in together, however, I lost interest in dancing. I'd found my man, no more need to dance. At the annual firm holiday parties, I usually indulged him for a couple of dances, and then tried to figure out how to convince him to go home as soon as possible.
But last night was different. When the dance music started, I felt a certain kind of itch. As usual, the women started lining up, taking Göran out to the dance floor. And I realized... I wanted that dance. Before long, to his surprise, I cut in, and he was all mine for the rest of the evening. We danced fast dances, slow dances. He was still the star, I was still the stumbling fool, but I was having fun. I couldn't get enough. Finally, he was the one who had to beg for a break, so he could go take pictures and mingle with some of his co-workers. But soon enough I was dragging him back out the dance floor again. We were there until 1:00 a.m., when the very last dance was played.
I realize something has shifted for me. I have found a new balance between body and spirit. It's not just that I don't drink alcohol or caffeine any more, which I've noticed helps me sleep better and leaves me with more energy. It's that I have begun to pay more attention to important boundaries in my life. I respect the intimacy between me and Göran by paying more attention to my thoughts and my sexuality. I have cultivated the habit of listening to the Spirit, which in turn has taught me to listen to people, to listen to Göran, and helped me be more in tune with his needs. And that has drawn us closer together. In regular Church attendance and prayer and scripture study, I have dwelt on and received witnesses of God's love for me, of the forgiveness of my sins, which in turn has given me patience and confidence and happiness, which in turn has turned me outward to others. I feel better than I have ever felt in my life before. And it makes me want to dance! It makes me feel incredibly lucky to be madly in love with (and to be loved by) one of the best dancers in the Twin Cities!
As we danced from Saturday night into early Sunday morning, I wondered for just a fleeting moment about the propriety of dancing on the Sabbath. I promise, it was just one fleeting moment, because as soon as the thought entered my mind, I thought of Brigham Young and the Saints dancing into the wee hours of the morning in the Nauvoo Temple. Dance at its best, at its holiest, is a magical interplay between body and spirit. It is where those two aspects of our eternal souls both rejoice at the same time. That is what it was for me, at any rate. I thought, I'm glad I'm a Mormon and not a Baptist! I'm glad I hold a faith in which all things are sacred to the Lord, where no laws are temporal, where perfect joy comes in the union of body and spirit forever and ever.
Fortunately, my ward meets in the afternoon, so Göran and I were both able to sleep in together. After rising, I enjoyed my morning routines with renewed appreciation. Prayer is a physical act of kneeling, bowing one's head, holding one's body still. Eating breakfast and taking a shower are spiritual acts of caring for the temple in which my spirit dwells. Putting on a shirt and tie and suit (which I don't wear to our "business casual" workplace!) helps me prepare mentally and physically to enter the sacred space of worship. So does bundling up and walking a mile and a half through the snowy cityscape, across unevenly shoveled sidewalks to the ward meeting house. There are half a dozen ward members I could call, who would gladly swing by to pick me up and give me a ride. But I need that thirty-five-minute walk in the morning. I need the prayer and preparation and peace that it affords me.
As I walked that walk, I remembered our dance. Body and spirit, perfect joy. I am blessed.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I read the email. I called Göran and read the email to him over the phone. I called the social worker and we discussed the placement some more. Göran and I talked more and agreed, he was perfect. We are so excited. We hope that we can be "perfect" for him, and that we can provide the kind of supportive, nurturing environment he needs right now.
We're meeting him on Monday for the first time. Then, if he feels comfortable with us after the initial meeting, he has a pre-placement weekend visit. Then if everyone is still comfortable with the arrangement after that, he moves in. It's not a done deal yet. A lot will depend on how he feels about us.
I will not be sharing any details about any of our foster kids on my blog; I want to respect their privacy. But I have wanted to share my feelings, and the aspects of foster parenting that relate to my own spiritual journey, which is really the topic of this blog.
Peter has been reflecting on the role of gay people in eternity, and I've found his speculations fascinating. Personally I imagine it to be something like this. We can be healers with special gifts for those who need special healing, gatherers of those who've been lost, guardian angels watching over those in special or difficult times of transition.
I don't know how to describe this other than that I've felt this kind of creeping elation. Just this growing lightness of spirit, this sense of delight, this profound happiness. I think of him, and I break into a smile. The more I think about it, and the more I think about him, the more I feel a kind of delight and gratitude. I feel this is the best thing Göran and I have ever done in our lives. I'm not sure there's anything else that can compare to this. I don't know him yet, I just know about him. But I truly love him. I so want all of the good things of life for him. I know this won't be easy; I expect it to be heartbreaking at times; I expect there to be struggle. And he's not ours, he'll never be "ours," except for a time. But a very, very important time. And I hope and pray that this time can be a total gift to him, that it can always be something he will look back on and find strength that will sustain him for the rest of the journey. I hope he will know how much good we want for him, how deserving he is of all life's best gifts, how utterly important he is, how infinitely valuable.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
So recently another Moho brother whom I love emailed me to tell me he was recently thinking about suicide, just working it out in his mind how to do it in a way that will be less traumatic for his family.
He says he's OK now. I think I believe him.
But this has to stop.
He explained to me the mathematics of it. When suicide is a more attractive option than trying to live with all the remaining options, we go with suicide. For some folks, when the only options are: suicide, marriage, or life-long celibacy, suicide looks like the best choice. In suicide we preserve our purity. The Church can forgive us for suicide. In fact, Church manuals specifically state that suicide is a tragedy, not a sin. The Church can forgive us for giving up in just that way. It won't forgive us for loving a man. Giving up in that way is unforgivable.
I don't think I can stand to read any more denials about how gay Mormon suicide is a problem. How it's not real, how it's a statistical fabrication, how gay Mormon suicides don't have anything to do with being gay and Mormon. Please, no more arrogant statements about how guys just need to have more faith and everything will be just fine.
OK, maybe the Church can forgive us for committing suicide but I can't. I refuse. I cannot accept this. I will never forgive you for giving up in that way. I love you too much. God loves you too much. Your life, here and now, is of infinite worth. You are of infinite worth.
This is not what God made us for.
God made us for love.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Right now I look outside my window and I see the entire street, sidewalks, all my neighbors' houses, trees, cars, everything covered in a thick blanket of snow. It is like a metaphor for the world we live in: cold and blank and living things all gone dormant, hiding in the darkness.
As oppressed as this world is, as far as this world has fallen from the fullness of creation God intended for it -- for God intended a creation bursting with joy and life -- that intention still lives as possibility. It lives, vibrant, full, untarnished within each and every one of us. It is quivering in our flesh, in the divine spark which is our spirit. It is waiting to burst into being.
It is all there for us: life, love, communion, brotherhood and sisterhood, family, eternity.
Don't be afraid! God is Love, and Love is greater than the darkness of this present age. Nothing can separate us from that Love, Love that brought Christ down among us and persuaded him to die for us. Just listen and be patient and follow that Love.
Our choices take us down different paths. They seem to separate us from one another for a time. But do not fear! Have faith! Listen, and follow Love where it leads you, how it leads you. If Love is nearby, it is impossible to be permanently lost, to each other or to God. Find Love in your path, whatever that path may be, and be true to it. We will all find each other again.
Life is good and full of possibility!
Sunday, December 2, 2007
One of the questions he posed was: "What if, at some future point, the Church evolved toward some level of acceptance of monogamous, committed same-sex relationships?" Of course this is a big if.
(Parenthetically, I'm not big on speculation about what the Church might or might not do at some hypothetical point in some hypothetical future. On this particular issue, I see contradictory trends within the Church. Institutionally or hierarchically, I see tremendous efforts to draw a line in the sand over this issue, and if anything movement away from any institutional acceptance of same-sex relationships. That's one reason why my last post explored ways to make celibacy more feasible or sustainable. However, when we look at the grassroots LDS Church membership, I do see growing acceptance of same-sex relationships at least as a practical, mortal-life response. I do not see many Church members at the grassroots particularly relishing the notion of forcing same-sex oriented individuals to be alone for their entire lives. And BOTH hierarchy and membership seem to be embracing the notion that pushing same-sex oriented individuals into marriage is just plain wrong. But this extended parenthetical observation is neither here nor there in terms of what might become institutionally acceptable at some unknown future point.)
But let us imagine a slightly adjusted Church reality in which, say, monogamous, committed same-sex couples could be baptized and enjoy at least some blessings of membership, maybe even the ability to hold the priesthood and participate in temple work. But let's assume that the Church holds the position that such relationships could not be sealed in the temple.
I would still consider this an enormous boon! Even if I were prohibited from having the priesthood or holding a temple recommend, just being able to be a member, partake of the sacrament, and perhaps even hold certain Church callings I would consider a tremendous blessing. Ability to hold the priesthood and go to the temple would be even greater blessings.
But under these circumstances, I would need to consider: Would I want to strive for a full temple marriage to a woman (in the next life)? (For me, this-life marriage to a woman is something I find incomprehensible and unthinkable. I know myself well enough to know that I am simply not wired in a way that would make that remotely possible.) OR would I settle for a this-life-only marriage to a man? (In many ways, this is already the choice faced by single LDS women or men who might have the opportunity of marrying outside the Church.)
Or another way of framing this question is: How do I understand my relationship to my same-sex partner in the framework of eternity? All things being equal, and Church membership not being at stake or an issue in the equation, would I still choose to be with him even knowing that this could not be an eternal marriage?
As I began to pray earnestly for guidance about my relationship with the Church, one prayer I prayed went something like this: "Father, I am not worthy of exaltation. I will likely never marry in the Temple. But I love you. I want to do whatever I can to build your kingdom, to spread the gospel, to be an instrument of peace and love and hope in the world. Whatever I can do to serve you in whatever capacity, I will. And if my destiny is nothing more than eternal service to those who are destined for a greater glory than I can ever be worthy of, I am still eternally blessed beyond measure. Because service in your name is an eternal blessing. I offer myself to do whatever I can, no matter how minor or menial."
My Father in Heaven answered that prayer, and continues to answer that prayer, which is an on-going prayer of my heart, with a rich outpouring of love, and a super-abundance of the Spirit. Never in my life have I felt such a continual and joyful sense of the Spirit's presence and blessing, as since I have made that prayer my whole life's intent. Through the Spirit, the Lord has promised to use me in ways that will richly bless the lives of others. And I have seen remarkable opportunities for service open up. I have had opportunities to bear my testimony to people and in places and in ways I might never have had if I were a full member of the Church. Am I content? I am more joyful and content and blessed than I ever possibly could have imagined. I am so blessed, that I simply cannot find it in my heart to envy others, regardless of their place in life, their priesthood callings or status in the Church, or their rights or privileges or status as legally married couples, etc. My blessings, the blessings the Lord has given me make me so incredibly happy, it no longer enters into my heart even for a moment to dwell on what others have that I do not have.
So how do I envision my relationship with Göran in light of eternity? I envision our role as companions in service. And so this life, in a sense, becomes an opportunity for us to train ourselves, to prepare for ever greater and greater service, eventually eternal service. Our goal in life is to chip away at selfishness, hardness of heart, and pride; to whittle these things down until they give way to perfect love and unselfishness and humility, and a willingness to do whatever we can to build the Kingdom of God, here below and beyond the veil. My role as a partner/lover is to foster in Göran that love, hope and faith that will prepare him for service. His role is to do the same in me. In order to be a good partner to him, I have had to learn to be unselfish and faithful, so our relationship has been a training ground for me to be eternally unselfish and faithful in relation to God and to all others I will serve. And as I anticipate the major life decisions we are making as a couple -- decisions about foster care and community service and involvement -- I want to see us move as a couple toward ever increasing service to others. This will prepare us for our roles in the next life.
Some people will say, "Are you really content to settle for less, when you could have a marriage for eternity and eternal increase?" My only answer to that is that the depth of joy I find in my love for Göran feels eternal. I would not want to be with anyone else. I love him and no one else. Our love is rich. It is multifaceted. It is growing. It blesses me and it blesses him. It will continue to grow throughout this life and it will continue to grow in the next. And we may not be "married" for eternity and we may not have "eternal increase." But I have nothing to mourn or be ungrateful for. No, God has blessed us beyond measure, and through the Spirit we have a promise of even greater blessings if we are faithful.