Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Role of Trust

I want to describe a gay Mormon phenomenon I think I've observed, and I'd like to hear from others if they've also observed it and/or if they think I'm accurate in my description of it. Then I'd like to reflect on what is behind the phenomenon. I'm specifically talking about what happens when gay Mormons lose their testimonies.

First I feel I need to define what is meant by "testimony" and then qualify the term "lose" in relation to it. Mormons use the term "testimony" to cover very diverse individual experiences and responses to the Restored Gospel. We generally expect that a testimony involves or requires some manifestation or witness of the Holy Spirit -- which can vary in intensity from a sense of peace and warmth, to a more intense "burning in the bosom," to hearing voices, to even more dramatic manifestations such as visions or the ministering of angels. But very many members of the Church (I don't know how many, but I suspect more than most people suppose) never have any kind of spiritual experience -- at least not that they recognize as such. They may even long for and pray for a spiritual witness, but for whatever reason (and often, certainly, not for lack of faithfulness) they just don't receive one. So if they have a testimony, it usually consists in believing on the words and witness of others. But this kind of testimony is no less real. In fact, sometimes the most powerful kind of testimony is the one that is as simple as bearing witness of the blessings one has received as a consequence of exercising faith. No burning bosoms, just results.

Pragmatic as always, Mormons have a tendency to regard the validity of a testimony by the life that it inspires. Thus, whether one has a testimony based on spiritual knowledge, or whether one has a testimony based on faith, if we don't live the faith we can't really say we have a testimony. That sort of leads to the question of what it means to "lose" a testimony. The ways a testimony can be lost are as diverse as the testimonies being lost. We might still accept the reality of a spiritual experience but just feel disconnected from it -- it may just be less important to us than other things have become. Or we might doubt the reality of a spiritual experience because of subsequent, disconfirming experiences. Or we might reject the validity of the experience on the basis of some logical process. ("If C is true, then B must be false. But if B is false, then spiritual manifestation A confirming B could not have been real.") Or (for those of us with the faith-based testimonies), we may lose faith in the community because the community does not seem to be living up to its professed ideals. We may not see the fruits of faith that we expected to see. In any event, it is our disconnection from the community of faith and/or our unwillingness to live gospel principles that constitute the "losing" of the testimony, however we characterize it.

In my own spiritual journey, there was a point when I definitely would have characterized my testimony as not just lost but irrecoverably destroyed. Later on, I realized that my testimony was not so much "lost" as buried. Like the golden plates, I could unearth it and draw on its spiritual riches once again. I could also add to it new spiritual experiences, new testimonies, and new faith that have immeasurably broadened and deepened and enriched my life. What changed was not my testimony per se but the different vantage points of life from which I regarded and interpreted my testimony. It is like walking a mountain path. Sometimes the path sinks low, and you can see nothing but piles of rock all around you; but sometimes the path takes you to vistas where you can see to the ends of the earth...

So to the phenomenon I have observed. I am increasingly aware of individuals, like me, who are in same-sex relationships or who are open to same-sex relationships, who also affirm that they have testimonies of the gospel and who are committed to practicing their faith as Latter-day Saints regardless of how the community at large looks at them and regardless of their membership status. But by and large, this is an anomaly. It seems as if the vast majority (99+ percent?) of gay men or lesbians who come out and who actively seek and/or find same-sex relationships eventually distance themselves from the Church as much as they can. And it does seem to me that in the process, they seem to lose the spiritual experiences and connections that once sustained them.

I think this is a valid observation. But can others tell me if you think this is inaccurate?

The reason this interests me is not because so many follow this path, but because some don't. Some -- a very small minority -- keep the Spirit in their lives. They continue to have and foster spiritual experiences that strengthen their testimonies. They still have a profound faith in God. And they foster a connection to the Church however they can, and they cherish connections with family and friends in the Church. They don't sink into bitterness and anger and combativeness. The number of gay individuals in or seeking same-sex relationships that I know in this category I can literally count on one hand (well, maybe both hands). But they do exist.

In my life, I have been in both categories in my life. At one point I was what I could best only describe as an "angry ex-Mormon." Now I have a testimony again. I am always on the lookout for others who have had this experience, if only so I can feel like I'm not completely crazy. But my experience has given me some insight into the nature of our connection to God.

Why do gay Mormons fall away? Not because we are particularly wicked. I believe it is because of the role that trust plays in strengthening the bond between human beings and God, and because of the impact homophobia within our spiritual community has on our ability to trust. It's like Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee. He was doing just fine until he looked at how big the waves were, and how terribly the storm was raging. When our attention begins to shift toward the monstrous waves of homophobia crashing toward us in the Church, and we correspondingly shift our attention away from the patience, hope, and love that have the power to calm the waves, that's when we sink.

I remember the turning point in my own journey when the Spirit presented me with a painful choice. I had to give up my anger at the Church, even when I saw no signs that the Church had any desire to embrace me. I realized that my anger was my sin. My anger was the big rock on the mountain hike that I needed to get around in order to catch site of the beautiful vistas beyond it. Once I let go of it, I could find trust again.

And I can bear testimony that God has never betrayed that trust.

27 comments:

shaantvis said...

I've often heard from religion professors at BYU that those who "lose" their testimony, never had one to start with. I've pondered about this in my own case as I do feel a distancing between myself and the Church as a whole. Have I ever "known" things in regards to the Gospel?

The whole believing on someone's elses testimony or words bothers me for some reason. The scriptures themselves warn us from not believing on man's words, but to beleive His words. I find it difficult to believe another human being on this planet when they tell me about what God has said, and then I go and pray about it and I then don't recieve any positive or negative response as to whether or not that was true.

My entire life, up until about a year ago, I've hung on to the testimony of my parents. Even on the mission I just presented what I knew what my parents knew, telling people that I knew it as well. Anyways, when I came home and returned to BYU I figured I needed to find out if any of it was real, or true. I prayed, and as you mentioned, got no burning of the bosom. I don't even know if I've seen any results either. Results from faithful living, serving a mission and whatnot. How does one take a step back and look at their own life to objectively recognize those results? And then how does one know what caused those results to happen?

There comes a time in everyone's life, of any religious orientation, to come up and ask themselves "is this true?" It is particularly pertinent in Mormonism with personal revelation. I don't understand why God would give a response to one person saying "yes this is true," that burning of the bosom, while to another give no response, either positive or negative.

I know David A. Bednar several years ago gave a talk on recognizing responses to prayers and he stated that when one recieves no response it means that a person is supposed to act the way they see fit. God will stop the action if it is wrong, He'll never let a person walk down the wrong path. Like I said I have prayed, got nothing as far as a response concerning the veracity of the Church, but I've kept participating in Church. Nothing has really happened. So does this mean God wants me to stay?

Part of me wants to leave the Church and see what will happen. My dad, after talking with him about attending other churches, told me that that will only lead to a life of misery. Really? Would my life automatically go to pot if I left the church, or would it not be that dramatically different? I don't know.

Anyways, for now, I'll keep going on, waiting for God, whoever that may be, wherever he/she/they may be, to interject any response of any kind, to help me make some decision in regards to my religiosity. How long should I wait though, is the question now.

Andrew S said...

I think you're really quite anomalous...because you even admit that you "had to give up your anger at the Church, even when you saw no signs that the Church had any desire to embrace you." But I know this'll seem harsh, but what it really sounds like is that you're suffering from Stockholm syndrome or something and your continued affinity for a church you RECOGNIZE doesn't seem to embrace you exists because you still derive something valuable from it (e.g., when you talk about the profound spiritual experiences you still have). So, you say that in the process of leaving, the ex-es and posts and former Mormons seem to lose the spiritual experiences and connections that sustained them. But I see two different things that are really happening, generally.

1) They aren't really "losing" the spiritual experiences. Instead, they are decoupling them from terms and ideologies that are tainted by their early Mormon heritage. E.g., "spiritual" itself might be a loaded word, so it's no good.

2) They are recognizing that even the spiritual experiences they did/do have don't necessarily mean what they once thought (while using an LDS framework). A burning in the bosom, instead of being a sign of LDS truth, can be an engineered emotion in many cases. However, not being so skeptical, even authentic burnings (or related feelings) are not only present in the church and someone can REALIZE this.

I think the process of leaving or even being disillusioned is inherently a violent and harmful process to the individual who goes through it. So, I think that anger, rage, etc., are not traits that should be held as weaknesses in the ex-Mormon or the doubter, but as necessities for people undergoing such trauma.

These are people for whom their entire culture, their entire lives, their entire frameworks, worldviews, and narratives are now turning against them, and unless they want to risk a personal self-destruction in the rubble or in the fire, they have to somehow decouple themselves from the framework. It is as if they have been wounded to the core (like some blood poison or a deep burn). To cure themselves, they must face a lot of collateral damage due to the depth of the injury.

So anger? Yeah, I think that's natural.

I think that people get over anger eventually. They *do* find trust. The issue is that one size doesn't fit all! You don't need to be in the church to find peace again, just because you happened to grow up there or be there once in your life. The real issue is that most often, we forget about the people who have moved on from anger...because they have really moved on. They don't go to ex-mormon sites or mormon sites because that is so in the past. And yet, these become people who become grounded in peace and patience too.

What I lament are those who *stay* and, because of their staying, they feel they must stay away from the taboo of their homosexuality forever...who continue to view it as a terrible curse and a scourge. These are people who truly seem miserable to me...

I wonder why people like these stay. Is THAT the spirit? If that is the spirit, then who needs the spirit, I wonder? I don't blame them if they can't trust or forgive.

Dave83201 said...

For me the greatest pain is I really do believe. Other gay Mormons I know have been able to leave the Church behind, and I often wish it were that simple for me. I'm in some kind of a limbo where I feel hurt and betrayed by the Church, yet I still believe the gospel.

Jon said...

First of all, thank you for "no burning bosoms". I've noticed the phenomenon of gay men who are either in relationships or open to them and not being involved in the church at all. I think the culture is set up so that it's difficult to embrace any kind of middle ground. If you are gay and want to remain in the church, there is an unwritten but very strong rule that you pretend to be straight and get married. Otherwise, you just leave the church. Also I think there just aren't enough examples of men like you who are in a gay relationship but who continue to involve themselves in the church and gospel. It's uncharted territory. If you wanna take that route, you have to blaze your own trail. Most people aren't willing or able to do that. It requires a firm understanding of who you are and what you believe and a confidence in that. I have explained to my bishop multiple times that that I am 99% sure that I will not marry a woman, but he still has talks with me and asks me to consider dating women and moving towards heterosexual relationships. It can be frustrating. I think growing up in a certain culture...whether it's familial or religious, etc...it's hard to separate yourself from parts of the culture that don't work well for you without completely removing yourself from all parts of the culture. To stay completely devoted to the culture doesn't feel right, and it's hard to exist with the tension of being partly committed but separating to some degree and so I think most just take the route of completely removing themselves. Which is unfortunate, because I think there are some pretty amazing men and women out there who have a lot to contribute and gain from being a part of the church, but being a part of it sems impossible to them.

Bravone said...

John, the topic of this post is probably the one that causes me the most heartache with my gay friends. It tears me apart that so many end up so frustrated and conflicted with the church that they feel that leaving is the healthiest choice for them. I understand their feelings, and don't blame them for feeling the need to distance themselves from the church in most cases.

My prayer is that someday, all will feel the trust that you speak of, that all will feel welcome in Christ's church. I have tremendous admiration for you and others who manage to stay when the environment is often less than welcoming. It takes tremendous faith, the likes of which I'm not sure I possess.

I, like you, pushed myself far away for a while. Coming back has been hard. I hope that I am able to make it fully back. I am grateful for the lessons learned of unconditional love and acceptance of others regardless of their beliefs and lifestyles that I learned in the process.

Hopefully one day we as a church will find a way to hold on to the great homosexual men and women who have so much to contribute to the church.

J G-W said...

Shaantvis - If you want your own answer to prayer -- your own "burning bosom" -- then you need to keep pursuing it until you get it. If you run into a dead end, back up until you find a new path forward. If something blocks your path, then find a way around it. Sometimes we have to "wrestle the angel" so to speak before we can get our blessing. If God doesn't answer our prayers at first, we need to keep asking. We need to rattle the gates of Heaven and demand the blessing that we want. Sometimes God makes us go the extra mile (or extra ten miles!) to get that blessing so we will realize how precious it is once we finally get it.

As for seeking the blessing you need in other churches... Every church in the world has truth. Every church in the world has good people, with hearts full of the Spirit of the Living God who can teach you incredible things.

Sometimes, we can actually learn important truths in other spiritual communities we would NEVER learn in our own, because they speak a different language, they use different symbols, and they have a different perspective that helps put something in a new light for us. So whether or not you cut your ties with the LDS Church, I would encourage you to explore other churches and see what you can learn from them.

But after 19 years away from the LDS Church, I came back because that is where I find the Spirit most powerfully. I believe that the priesthood authority Joseph Smith restored is real. The sealing ordinances are real. The Church has the gift of the Holy Ghost... I want to stay as close to those gifts as I can.

J G-W said...

Andrew - I don't think I'm a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. If I were, I would still be an anomaly, because I was free of my "tormenters" for almost twenty years when I chose to come back.

The blessings I have received from my present activity in the Church are very concrete and very real. Blessings in my work and home life, in my relationship with my partner... I see how the things in my life that I value most right now and that bring me the greatest happiness stem from my willingness to integrate Church teachings and gospel principles into my life.

As for anger... Please don't take anything I said as a suggestion that anger is an inappropriate response to certain situations, or that we are somehow not entitled to feel anger. Anger teaches us important things like every other human emotion we feel when confronted by certain situations. Anger is part of the journey. To extend my earlier metaphor -- if anger is a big rock on our path blocking our view, it is still part of the path, and we still have to pass through it.

But the point is, we DO pass through it. We get to the other side of it and eventually we let it go. If we hold on to it, if we get stuck on the path because we don't want to pass it, well, then it does become counterproductive and destructive.

J G-W said...

Dave - I was once asked by an LDS missionary -- shortly before I returned to the Church some four years ago -- how I lost my testimony.

I said to him, "I didn't lose my testimony, I almost killed myself because of it."

I think there is a danger for gay LDS members that we come to feel trapped. There's some very fundamental part of us that requires nurture and attention. It's the need that we all have to connect intimately with another human being. And if we are gay, we are told that there's NO WAY we can ever nurture that part of our souls. And -- being faithful -- we take people at their word, we take Church leaders at their word on this. And we don't dare deviate one iota from the path we see laid out for us. And some of us consequently end up feeling trapped and going to dark places, like suicide.

So I hope that this "trapped" place is not where you find yourself right now. If it is, I want to humbly suggest that no matter how difficult or dangerous or inconvenient it is to follow the truth, if we are on the right track we will never feel hopeless or "trapped." When we are on the right path, there will always be that light shining ahead of us (even if we're not quite sure how to reach it).

If you're feeling hopeless or trapped -- especially the kind of hopeless, trapped feeling we experience that makes us feel like life just isn't worth living any more -- you may take that as a sure sign that you are on the wrong path, and it's time to back up and find a new way forward.

That way forward can be different and unique and individual for each of us. For instance, I believe that if I had not left the Church at a certain point in my own journey, I would be dead. The Spirit led me away from the Church for a time until I could find a way forward again. Others may not need to go that route.

J G-W said...

Jon - I utterly reject "Mormon culture." Mormon culture is idolatrous. No less idolatrous than the American culture of Wealth and Power. I embrace the Gospel and the restored Church, as I know that ultimately the Gospel is the only sure cure for idolatry, whether it is the Mormon brand or the American brand, or any other brand of idolatry.

EvolvingLesbian said...

I think that testimonies are much more complicated and multifaceted than we usually recognize or want to admit. In the Church, we speak of a testimony as if it is a discrete unit of belief, not the accumulation of spiritual confirmations, acts of faith, inherited confidence, and hope in various principles and tenets.

The simplistic view of testimony is encouraged by the logical framework of the gospel: if you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, then every single gospel principle, teaching, and practice is also true. Period. From that perspective, if you lose faith in/challenge/consciously decide not to believe even one principle/teaching/practice, you no longer have a testimony at all. (My bishop actually tried that one on me last year when he said "If you don't believe A then you don't believe any of the gospel anymore.") It is yet another example of the all-or-nothing attitude that pervades the culture.

However, the scriptures do not teach us to view testimony in this way. They teach us that humans learn "line upon line, precept upon precept." And our own experience teaches us that testimonies are built a little bit at a time, through trial and error, endurance, and blessings.

So, I think it is the ingrained all-or-nothing attitude that leads so many gay Mormons to think that they have to give up their entire testimony in order to be true to their "gay selves." Those who manage to retain their testimonies are probably those who have learned to view their own faith as complicated and multidimensional, which allows them to simultaneously believe in principles of the gospel while not thinking or even living according to the dictates of the church organization.

J G-W said...

Bravone - I love you, and I love your great heart. I hope you know what a blessing you are to me and others around you. Know that you stay in my thoughts and prayers, as I hope I do in yours.

If you -- a faithful man, married and with children who is true to his wife and Church and family -- do not feel "welcome" in the Church, that says something about how far we have yet to go on this issue.

When I wrote about the metaphorical "storm" of homophobia that rages and that causes many of us to sink into the waves, that storm affects all of us gay and lesbian members, whether we are faithfully married to members of the opposite sex; whether we are faithfully celibate; or whether we are in or seeking same-sex relationships. I watch you and others in your situation who are "doing" everything that they're supposed to be doing, but they still find their testimonies slipping away from them.

Again, to me that suggests that the root of the problem is in the soul-poisoning nature of homophobia. And the way forward is to persevere until we find the Ground of all hope, faith and love in God. And the only path to God is in trust. I know that's the hardest thing in the world sometimes, but that's the nature of things.

J G-W said...

EvolvingLesbian - Well, yes. There is an all or nothing mentality that is often used to validate a lot of crap. People will say "If you believe X, you have to believe Y because because Y is part of the whole ball of wax." But very likely, the faulty reasoning is in adding idolatrous cultural tidbit Y into the whole ball of wax, when it really has no business being there.

I do believe that truth is a grand whole, that there is a great chain of being linking all great truths together. And we're all blindfolded, feeling different parts of the same great elephant, and eventually it will all come together and we'll see how everything comes together, and it will be the greatest "AHA!" moment in the history of the Universe. I want to be there when that happens!

So I think there is some value in the notion that truth is a unity. And I also think that there is value in wrestling with apparent contradictions, and in accepting the possibility that just because something seems illogical or false to us from a certain perspective, doesn't make it illogical or false. I think that one of the great things about Mormonism is the way it encourages -- sometimes forces us!! -- to wrestle with inconvenient or illogical truths.

But I also think you are right to insist that the path to truth is always "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little." So it is also perfectly valid for you to insist: "I can accept this, but I won't accept that until I have proven it!"

Beck said...

It isn't "all or nothing" for me. It is much more a "line upon line" principle in action. I trust my past feelings and experiences. I grow as I allow those feelings and experiences to grow within me.

Some may say that I am "homophobic" as I am still a closet-dweller and a "stayer". Yes, I choose to stay in my marriage instead of engage in relationships that would be more to my liking or "taste" or natural inclination because I find joy and happiness and peace and security and hope in so doing, and my experience has shown me that this is the right thing for me to do, despite my sincerest and most authentic desires to do otherwise. I choose to stay in my family and function as a source of trust and faith to my children, though doubt still surrounds me. I choose to stay in this church as I find strength, courage, trust to keep going, even though my doubts are still there.

This discussion of "testimony" is one for me of "remembering". It is when I contemplate and reflect and ponder on the numerous times the Lord has comforted me, assured me, witnessed to me, it is when I remember that accumulation of experiences over a lifetime of struggle, it is that line-upon-line process of building my personal testimony that I gain trust to keep keepin' on.

J G-W said...

Beck - As time goes on, I am more and more in awe of you. You're right on target. It takes tremendous faith and patience, and real strength, to accept that we don't have everything we'd like at the moment, but to realize we do have everything we need.

Jon said...

I completely agree with you about church culture being idolatrous. I guess my point is that not everyone is successful at or even ventures to try and strip away the culture to get to the core of the gospel. For some it's like splitting hairs and so they see the culture wrapped up with the gospel in one package. And if that's how a person sees the gospel, then of course, they will want no part of it. One of the reasons that I still participate in the church is that I've gone through the process of stripping away all the crap. Taking the all or nothing approach is a much easier path to follow.

J G-W said...

I think eventually we all have to do that if we stick with it.

Quiet Song said...

There was an interesting talk given in my ward yesterday. The speaker said she did not experience growth in the gospel, her testimony and her personal abilities until she was willing "to give up her desire to be angry and to ask for help instead."

I don't know what her struggles are that led her to her anger, but I thought it was one of the most striking comments I've ever heard in a talk. This was in the context of a talk on New Year's resolutions. She accidentally said New Year's "revolutions," and, I thought to myself, "her thoughts on setting aside anger were truly revolutionary" and I'm now pondering what I can do next year for one single "revolutionary" resolution to change personally as she did.

This was a great thread, sorry to take it slightly off topic.

J G-W said...

Q.S. - I don't think your comment is off topic at all! Again, as I told Andrew, anger is part of the journey. For most GLBT folks in the Church, it's probably an inevitable part of the journey. We just don't want to get stuck there...

Chedner said...

As I've been pondering my own testimony, wondering what the future holds for me in relation to the LDS Church, a large part of me wants nothing to do with it.

The relationship between the LDS Church and its gay members is unfortunately abusive; gay members can never really be good enough for the church on its terms. Celibacy isn't good enough, and marriage to the opposite gender isn't good enough if one still identifies as homosexual. (It goes without saying that marriage to the same gender is more than just 'not good enough.')

In the recent past, I figured I could perhaps bypass the abusiveness if I returned on my terms... but that just flips the roles around where the Church simply cannot be good enough for me.

Presently, I think I'm realizing that my activity within the Church should not be dependent upon my terms as much as it should not be dependent on the Church's terms. If I return, it must needs be through God's terms.

And I'm thinking such is what is happening with those who 'lose' their testimonies. That is to say, I would postulate that it's less that 'out' gay members lose their testimonies but are rather strained toward a more personal relationship with God, whether they call it God or their own conscience/reasoning or what, and are led to where they need to be right now, according to their personal situations.

Seeing as the Church-gay relationship is abusive, it would stand to reason that, at this present time, most are kept at a safe distance. As a parent, that's what I would do for my children.

I would also say that it's less that there aren't those who are 'brave' enough to blaze the trail, but that the Lord does not deem it all-too wise, for whatever reason, to bring too many in this situation back into the pews yet.

But, I would also assume that He is preparing those (such as yourself, John), who have the essential skills and talents to most properly open the doors to His plan... again, not on any of our terms, not on the Church's terms... on His terms.

MoHoHawaii said...

Beck, I found your comment to be very eloquent. I'm glad you're feeling confident enough to speak like this. To me, it doesn't matter what path a person takes as long as they do it with love and integrity.

(Sorry, J G-W, for the off-topic comment.)

J G-W said...

Chedner - I realize that there is a way in which my post on this topic might be misunderstood, so I want to clarify here...

In the Book of Mormon, when Alma speaks to his son Corianton, one of the reasons he finds Corianton's behavior so blameworthy is because Corianton's arrogant and careless behavior produced unbelief in others, "For when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words" (Alma 39: 11).

I hope it's clear here that I'm not blaming gay people in the Church for losing faith. I see loss of faith as a natural consequence of homophobia and heterosexism.

I don't -- by the way -- blame straight members or leaders either. I see homophobia as a corrupt human tradition -- one of many that exist in a fallen world, and that create pain, division and anxiety. Most straight people caught up in homophobic anxiety are themselves victims of attitudes they were reared in from childhood. I see homophobia as limiting and harming all of us -- both gay and straight.

But I do believe that gay folks have the power to transcend the hurts that have damaged our faith, and in the process we can also help heal our straight brothers and sisters.

I also agree that my present faith and walk are the consequence of a spiritual experience I was not seeking and did not expect or even want. (Though I ultimately chose to accept it.) I can only see the hand of God in it.

Mohohawaii -- Your comments -- on or off topic -- are always welcome. And I share your gratitude for Beck.

Chedner said...

I didn't mean to insinuate such.

I guess what I was trying to say is that I theorize that the reason most lose their testimonies of the Church is for the very reason of healing. (Not to get away from anyone but from the homophobic and heterosexist traditions.)

Granted, often those who leave do, indeed, blame 'anyones,' including God... and I think, in this, God is playing "The Dark Knight" (if you'll forgive a movie reference).

And I also don't mean to imply that "everyone's where they're supposed to be right now, so we just need to sit back and 'enjoy the ride' as much as possible."

... I don't know if I'm really making any sense -- or if I've totally missed the mark of your post...

J G-W said...

Chedner - I think we're on the same page. I agree that when trust has been betrayed and people have been hurt, it takes time to heal and find a new basis on which to build trust.

boskers said...

This always happens. Once I think I'm beginning to understand myself, I see a discussion like this and realize that there's so much more to be thought about.

Recently, I've been having strong desires to distance myself from the church. It's not an easy thing when you live in Provo and attend BYU -- "the Lord's university." So it's not going to happen, at least in the immediate future.

At this point in my life, I'm finally trying to be honest about my testimony. I can describe it as a culmination of "this feels right" feelings. No deep spiritual experiences, no visions, no angels.

The part that drives me crazy is that I really don't know the difference between my so-called "testimony" and ordinary feel-good emotions. It's just really hard to separate and know for sure. I've been conditioned since birth to "feel good" about the Mormon faith. That implanted feeling is what I call my testimony. How do I know it really is this seemingly elusive Spirit?

I don't think that such a whimsical testimony could carry me through my entire life devoid of romantic love and children. However, I don't think I could tolerate the persecution that would surely await me should I pursue both a same-sex relationship and membership in the church. Can you even be a member while being in a same-sex relationship? I always assumed that the second you declare yourself in a same-sex relationship, you are instantly excommunicated/disfellowshipped.

I don't feel angry at the church. I feel sad that I couldn't find the happiness and hope that it provides for so many others. I don't blame the church for that. I now that the church does bring joy and happiness to many people. It also does a lot of good around the world. Maybe once I leave, I'll realize what I had and come running back. I don't know. It's possible.

I think your three scenarios of "losing a testimony" are amusing. Not that I disagree. It's just that, depending on my mood, I could fall into any one of the three categories.

If I am to leave, I don't think I would become an "angry ex-Mormon". But every time I think of the church, I'll definitely feel sad that I couldn't live up to mountains of impossible expectations. And being human, I'd probably try to avoid the sadness, and, thereby, feel the need further distance myself from the church.

So I am not surprised at all at your observation. I admire your determination to stay in the church and stay true to your convictions, despite the persecution and overall awkwardness.

J G-W said...

boskers - Your comment tugged more deeply at my heartstrings than anyone else's...

I began to respond, and realized it was turning into a separate post...

So I posted it here.

playasinmar said...

If it isn't Stockholm Syndrome, then perhaps it is Romeo and Juliet Syndrome; those who stay because they are expected not to.

Anyhoo, the real reason 99% leave is they aren't wanted.

They aren't wanted. They aren't wanted. And they know it.

darkdrearywilderness said...

Wow, tons of comments already and I doubt I have much insight to add. I've thought of myself as an anomaly for awhile...in fact I used that word in my blog just the other day :) I definitely want a gay relationship, no question about that. But I also want the church in my life. I'm not out at church, and I don't have a calling, but I go every Sunday and enjoy what I feel there. I've never really suffered a crisis of faith, and I've never really cared what people at church think of me. I just figure it will all get worked out in the end.