As I've observed the Moho blogging community over time, I've noticed a tendency to bifurcate between two extremes.
Either we follow the course of straight-arrow obedience as mixed-orientation marrieds or celibates, and stay active and in good standing in the Church. Or we pursue same-sex partnerships and drift away from the Church. Most folks in the latter category, it seems, insist that they want to hold onto some form of Christian faith. But untethered from the familiar moorings of LDS faith, it seems many of us struggle to define just what that means. Some of us come to feel "burned" by faith in general and end up embracing an agnostic or secular humanistic view. Some of us find our way into some form of liberal, gay-affirming Christianity, or into more radically affirming New Age spiritualities. Many of us nurse anger and feel an enduring, vivid sense of betrayal in relation to the Church.
I've lived both those extremes. My first 23 years, I was the good Mormon boy. The following 19 years I was the angry gay ex-Mormon. The last two or so years I have tried to walk something like a middle course between these two extremes, a middle course I came to only after many years of unsuccessfully seeking spiritual fulfillment away from my LDS roots. But I don't see much evidence out there of others like me who have found affirmation both in their committed same-sex relationship and in some form of active LDS faith. Why is that?
Obviously the Church does not make a path like mine easy. To openly embrace a same-sex relationship means excommunication. For most folks, that fact alone makes the relationship between same-sex partnered individuals and the Church an open and shut case.
But in the course of my own journey with the Church, here are all the reasons why I think this is not an open and shut case:
1) If we have a testimony of the Restoration, our personal status -- in good standing or excommunicated -- doesn't change what we know. Doesn't it behoove us to make some effort to come to grips with our testimony, even when our personal circumstances make a testimony inconvenient, or when our testimonies make our personal circumstances inconvenient?
2) The LDS notion of truth includes the idea that this side of the veil our understanding is always partial. It is only natural that here we will frequently encounter contradictions between the partial truths we hold, and reality as it unfolds. Revelation is a process. Doesn't it behoove us to have patience, even when everything doesn't fit together as nicely as we would like it?
3) All LDS are in a process of growing from lesser light to greater light. As I understand Church history, we as a Church failed to live the higher Law of Consecration. So the Lord withdrew that law and gave us instead the lower Law of Tithing. Just because we can't live every law doesn't mean we should not try to live some law. Doesn't it behoove us to live what principles of the gospel we can live, in preparation for receiving more?
4) Although Church policies deny us membership, Church members genuinely love us. As a Church we are commanded to love one another unconditionally. Doesn't that offer us a context for growth? Why not take advantage of that context, and learn what our Heavenly Parents want us to learn from it?
Part of what militates against accepting a middle path is our own perfectionism. We can't believe that we are less than perfect, or we can't accept a situation that seems less than perfect. Perfectionism contributes to both extremes. We commit to celibacy or marriage, because that's what a "perfect" Mormon does. Then, when we find ourselves succumbing to loneliness or depression, we reject not just the celibacy or the marriage, but the whole belief system.
Part of what militates against accepting this kind of middle path is also, frankly, ego. Men especially in the Church tend to get validation by advancing through a series of ranks, rising in priesthood authority, privilege, and prestige. We advance from primary student to deacon, to teacher, to priest, to elder, to high priest; from baptism to priesthood to temple endowed to temple married. We receive priesthood callings with ever greater visibility and authority. Accepting the intimacy and companionship of a same-sex relationship leads to getting busted back to rank zero: non-member. If all our self-image and sense of validation has come from that external climbing of the priesthood ladder and from our place in the hierarchy, our ego can't take such a demotion. But if our self-image and sense of validation comes from service to others, regardless of rank, being stripped of priesthood status can't ultimately take anything away from us. And isn't this kind of "self-less" (i.e., "ego-less") service, with an eye single to the glory of God (i.e., not an eye to our own glory) the basis for true priesthood power? Is it possible that being expelled from the hierarchy is a blessing in disguise, if we can learn to approach it the right way?
I can't speak for anyone else. But looking at things this way certainly helps me to understand my own anger and sense of betrayal in relation to the Church over the years, as well as the powerful sense of integration, wholeness and peace I've experienced recently, once I was able to understand how this dichotomy of "perfectionist Mormon" vs. "gay rights crusader" worked in my own life.
Part of me wonders if, to look at it another way, I could ever really stop loving the Church. My anger was just the flip side of love. Once I acknowledged the love again, it opened the door to peace. I would rather live with the apparent contradictions and chaos of being a same-sex-partnered gay Mormon man with a testimony and have peace in my soul, than to live a nice consistent life outside of the Church but have a soul smoldering in anger.
I can't accept a nice, liberal Mormonism either, a Mormonism free of mystery, a nice, rational Mormonism that can't tolerate the intellectual offense of miracles like golden plates and angels, the atonement and the resurrection, eternal increase and and the star nearest the throne of God. The spiritual experiences I have had have been too powerful, too transcendent, too undeniable to frame in a nice, rationalistic, liberal framework. I know that Jesus Christ, the real, living human being who walked in Nazareth and Galilee and Jerusalem, lives today. I know that all power to accomplish the entire work of salvation -- from the creation of this Old Earth until the New Heaven and New Earth -- has been delivered into his hands. That truth is greater than the vicissitudes of my poor life. I can't judge that truth. I can only accept judgment in light of it.
At the same time, I have come to accept the parameters of my creation. I don't know how or why, but I am made in such a way that if I am to find intimacy and life companionship, I must do so with a man. I'm only human. I'm not superhuman. I can't make it through this life without a journey companion. I tried it, couldn't do it. I've found such a journey companion and I love him as deeply as I love my own soul. So I've accepted that limitation. I don't despise myself for it. I don't blame God for not making me something or somehow else. To do so would be horribly ungrateful. I'm happy for who I am. I love my partner. I love my foster son. My life is more full of joy than I ever could have imagined possible.
So for me, this middle path is the only thing that can possibly make sense.
Is there anyone else out there who thinks so? Anyone?