I was having a conversation the other day with an individual in the Church whom I respect and admire. We were discussing my status in relation to the Church. I expressed my profound desire to be a member of the Church. I talked about my testimony, how I know that the Church is true, and how I am blessed by that knowledge.
In fact, prior to having this conversation, I had experienced a renewal of my testimony in sacrament meeting. I had been attending church with my friend Mary, who was baptized in January of last year. And throughout the meeting, and as I listened to talks on the subject of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, I felt the Spirit sweetly present. But it was more than just a feeling of perfect peace and joy and anticipation. I had the experience I've had on occasion which is actually sort of indescribable, but can best be described as an experience of light. And the Spirit was there reminding me that the Church is true, God is real, and there is a light and a truth and a power beyond any we can imagine, guiding us in the strait path, and waiting to receive us if we stay in it. And the Spirit was also calming my doubts, and reassuring me that I am in that path, that I need only be patient and carry on.
I told this friend with whom I was conversing of my profound gratitude for my testimony. I told him I regard my testimony as my greatest gift. But after my testimony, the second greatest gift in my life, a gift that is as much from God as my testimony, is my relationship with my husband.
I have also recently, experienced a renewal in my relationship with my husband. I realize that my relationship with my husband is much like my testimony, in that both require nurture and renewal. My testimony represents my relationship with God, in much the same way as my wedding ring and other tokens like the marriage certificate hanging on our bedroom wall represent my relationship with my husband. Göran and I have been working in the past month or so on some aspects of our relationship that needed improving. It's easy for our behavior in our significant relationships to get into a rut, for us to take certain things for granted, when in fact we can't do that at all. And in every relationship, we go through periods, as we do in life in general, when sometimes we just slide along with old habits, thinking that is enough. And then we realize it isn't enough, and we need to strive and try to do better. And Göran helped me to realize recently that some striving was necessary. And as I've made efforts, there's been a renewal of affection and closeness and happiness in our relationship. It's renewed my "testimony" of my relationship, if it's possible to think of it in those terms. I realize that there is a richness and a goodness in my relationship with Göran that is life-giving and sustaining and that God intends for me and Göran. This relationship is a vehicle through which God gives both of us, his sons, blessings that he intends and wants for us.
I explained to the friend with whom I was conversing that I understood the apparent contradiction between these two things -- these two gifts, these two testimonies. I understood that in relation to the yearning I had expressed to be a member of the Church, there were only two possible paths forward, two possible ways for me to become a member of the Church. One would be that I outlive my husband long enough to be readmitted to the Church as a celibate, single person. The second would be that the Church receives a revelation enabling a transformed understanding of gay and lesbian people and our place and role in the family of our Heavenly Father.
This friend acknowledged that such a revelation was possible, but he felt it was extremely unlikely. I could tell by the way he made that statement that he truly could not conceive of a scenario in which the Church would acknowledge and bless a relationship like the relationship between me and my husband. But I also realized that this individual thought of gay and lesbian relationships primarily in sexual terms, as a sort of giving in to sexual temptation. He doesn't have the experience I have of a relationship that is multidimensional, that is about companionship, intimacy, growth, learning and sacrifice. There is a biblical term that perfectly describes what Göran and I are to each other: help meet. There is a biblical principle that explains why, after much soul-searching, I realized that it was not just unnecessary but wrong for me to be required to go through life single. It is not good that man should be alone.
We should not be alone in any sense of that word. We should not be excluded from the communion, from the loving embrace of the Church. When the Church excludes, it fails in the purpose for which God created it. If we have a desire to build the Church and Kingdom of God, we are called to join. And the only question the Church has to ask at that point is: "See, here is water, what doth hinder... to be baptized?" (Acts 8: 36) Nor should we be excluded from the blessings of family, of intimate connection and relationship that are the core of family. Family, with its joys and sorrows, its celebrations and struggles, with all the work and growth it requires of us, goes hand in glove with the communion we are all meant to experience as members of the Church. No one in the Church sees the slightest contradiction between their commitment to their families and their commitment to the Church. The two reinforce each other. They work together.
And that's how I see it too, with my family.
I realize, after six years of "living the gospel," that there is no contradiction. I experience no contradiction. There is perfect, mutually reinforcing harmony between my faith, my love for God, my hope, my love for my partner. It's all the rest of you out there who think there's a problem. You who think I should quit the Church because it has no place for me; you who think I should quit my partner because the Church has no place for us. But that's your problem. It's not my experience.
I love and respect and am grateful for this friend of mine in the Church. We prayed together, and he used his priesthood power to lay his hands on my head and bless me. And I literally could feel the power of the priesthood as he laid his hands on my head, and I wept. So understand my love and my respect.
I think he could not imagine a Church in which my relationship with my husband would be blessed, partly because -- for all his goodness -- he simply doesn't understand my relationship. He thinks of it in terms of sexual temptation. He doesn't understand yet that the sexual aspect of my relationship with Göran is not unlike the sexual aspect of his relationship with his wife, i.e., one element in a multidimensional relationship that plays an important role in a much bigger picture.
In the Church people use the term "same-sex attraction." Usually that really annoys me, because it typically gets used in a way that implies that in relationships like mine, there's nothing but sexual attraction. That distortion of my relationship in that way is necessary to justify the extreme rejection and exclusion of gay relationships. But the principle of attraction -- of sexual attraction -- is a divine principle. I think the idea of sexual attraction is perfectly described by the biblical phrase one flesh. Attraction draws together what God intends to be together. It unifies what was once separated. There's a reason God put this yearning deep inside of us, and made it so powerful that it is, over the long haul, almost impossible to resist. Because without the laws of attraction, there would be only centripetal forces pushing us apart into our own separate, selfish worlds. God needed there to be a centrifugal force drawing us back together, keeping us in tension between our own selfish needs and desires and our hunger for oneness. Out of this tension is born the struggle and growth and miracle of family. It is our attraction that keeps us coming back and trying again, even when things get tough, even when we fail.
I think if we reflect on the reality of relationships like that between me and my husband Göran, it becomes harder and harder to think of such a relationship as at odds with the Gospel. The illusion of irreconcilable contradiction -- along with the assumption of the need for exclusion -- becomes harder and harder to sustain.