Sunday, April 1, 2012

Doing the Right Thing

I spent all day Friday at an organizing meeting for people of faith who have committed to work against the proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would ban gay and lesbian couples from marrying. I was incredibly grateful to be joined there by four other active members of the LDS Church.

So were other folks at the organizing meeting. At the beginning of the day, when folks were invited to introduce themselves and share their religious affiliation with the group, when I and the other LDS folks introduced ourselves as Mormon, the assembly actually cheered. No other religion represented there yesterday elicited that kind of response. For me and others, it was quite emotional.

A former Presbyterian student of mine was present that day. She came to me during our lunch break and thanked me for teaching her about Mormonism. She expressed a very genuine love for Mormons and Mormonism, and asked if she could join me and the other Latter-day Saint present there for lunch. As we broke bread together, she asked us about our beliefs and values as Latter-day Saints, and we answered her questions as best we could. There was an amazing spirit there as we spoke. I want to say The Spirit was there as we talked about our beliefs and our testimonies and why we were there to help organize to defeat this amendment.

I was grateful for the openness and compassion I experienced from so many others present there. At the end of the day, one of the LDS participants expressed a desire to gather with the other Latter-day Saints in prayer. One of the workshop organizers overheard us, and asked if it would be OK if she joined us. We told her she was more than welcome. We found a classroom where we could pray in private. The voice for our little group prayed earnestly, expressing our collective love for our Heavenly Father, and thanking him for all the ways he had blessed us through this organizing event. The Spirit was there, quiet and powerful, making us all a bit teary -- especially the non-LDS event organizer who had come to pray with us! There were hugs afterward, and a beautiful spirit of love and gratitude.

The non-Mormons there were gently curious about what had brought us there, and how we could possibly approach this kind of work in the context of our faith, and so I was forced to try to articulate certain things that -- up till now -- I hadn't really articulated. I was grateful for this opportunity.

Ultimately, I understand and I believe in the Church's theology about marriage and family. I understand that I have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother, and I understand how that fundamental bonding of a man and a woman in eternal marriage establishes the basis for all Creation. I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the principles that have been revealed to us about eternal marriage and eternal family, and about how the work that takes place in our temples is central to the work and the glory of God. I understand all that and believe it and am committed to it.

I certainly don't claim to have any new understanding or any revelation that could surpass or that would contradict what latter-day prophets have revealed about this. In fact, that's part of the rub for me, part of the challenge.

Because the fact is, I do know, with every fiber of my being that my gayness is a fundamentally good and integral aspect of who I am. There is nothing wrong or broken in me on this score. My first coming out was a coming out in prayer to my Heavenly Father, at a point when I felt broken, when I was convinced that the only way forward for me had been suicide. And my Heavenly Father's response to me was clear and unequivocal: You don't need to tell me this about yourself, because I know you from your inmost parts. I created you, and I love you, and you are good. So I know that this is not something I need to overcome, not something temporary or wrong that will be "fixed" at some point.

And I know that my relationship with my husband is good and I know that the Lord blesses it. I entered into the relationship as the end point of a discernment process that included fasting and prayer and earnestly seeking the guidance of the Spirit. And at countless times and in countless ways, the Lord has not only made it clear to me that he blesses my relationship, but he has urged me to ever deeper levels of faithfulness and commitment within that relationship.

I am fighting for the right to be married, bottom line, because I know with every fiber in my being that it is the right thing to do.

Marriage -- even earthly, civil, till-death-us-do-part-style marriage -- is a type and a shadow the kinds of eternal covenants God expects all of us to enter. Which is why people on both sides of this issue must be concerned about the implications of including gay and lesbian couples in the institution of marriage. Far from down-playing the concerns that opponents of same-sex marriage have about it, I want to acknowledge that their concerns are legitimate. Marriage is a central, defining institution, not just in our society, but in the eternities. The eternal aspect of this is an understanding that Mormons bring to this discussion.

So we certainly can't take this lightly. I cringe whenever I hear folks on the pro-same-sex marriage side of this issue say things like, "Oh, why should it matter? People should just be allowed to do what they want to do." That's not an argument. Or if it is an argument, it's an argument I vehemently disagree with.

But I do know, at some very, very profound place within me, that for me and Göran, getting married is the right thing to do. It's a covenant and a commitment we should make if we possibly can make it. That's why, the moment marriage became available to us in California, we went and entered into it. And we will fight to have that commitment recognized here in our home state.

Can I explain why it is the right thing for us to do? Ultimately, no.

I can say that all morality, all love, everything good that we value in life is grounded in covenants and commitments. If I love Göran, my love really only means anything worth giving the name "love," if I promise to be there through thick and through thin, in sickness and in health, in poverty and wealth, as long as we both shall live (and beyond).

I can say that, when I've pleaded with God for understanding about the nature of being gay, about the nature of my relationship with my husband, God has reassured me that we have a relationship that he blesses in this life and that has eternal potential. How does it fit into the divine model and the divine pattern of eternal marriage between a man and a woman? I don't know. But the Spirit has counseled me patience and faith and hope. There are answers to my questions, and we'll receive those answers some day in a way that will be eternally satisfying to everyone involved in this very, very painful, divisive issue.

But do I have those answers now? No. And that's damned inconvenient. But I have no choice but to act on what I do know. Which is that fighting for the right to be married is the right thing to do.


One of my great fears is -- has always been -- that I will be viewed as a "trouble-maker" by the Church. That I will be viewed as a rebel, or faithless, or disobedient.

I love the Church. Everything that I love about my life, everything that I love about myself, are things that have come to me by living principles of the Gospel, principles that were taught me by the Church. I love the leaders of the Church. I love the peace and joy I have felt in the past twenty-four hours, as I've dressed in my Sunday best and joined other members of my ward at our chapel watching live broadcasts of General Conference, listening to the witness and counsel of those who have been called to lead this Church.

I live as many principles of the gospel as I -- in my unique circumstances -- can. It's often challenging, not least because so few people understand or are willing to understand my situation. But I know that the Spirit is in my life because of my willingness to do the best I can. When I live the Word of Wisdom, when I pray, when I study the scriptures, when I apply principles of chastity to my relationship with my husband; when I attend Church and seek to learn, and when I pray during the administration of the Sacrament, and partake in spirit if I can't partake of the bread and water, I am richly blessed beyond my ability to express in words. This is how I know the Church is true. The Church is true.

I have been so richly blessed by the teachings I've heard in the past day. President Holland's message in the first session was probably most powerful for me. I often feel like one of those eleventh hour workers, who's been waiting here since the first call, waiting to be called on, and being passed over, at nine o'clock, at twelve o'clock, at three o'clock... And there are plenty of folks sneering at me, telling me I'll never be called, so why even bother? Why not just give up and leave? But I won't leave, and I won't lose faith and I won't stop being patient, because the Spirit tells me I will be called, even if only as "the last laborer of the eleventh hour." And when that calling comes, how blessed we will all be.

Bottom line: I know the Church is true. And I know my marriage with my husband is true. And I have no choice but to proceed in faith and hope and do the best that I can under the circumstances, even if our knowledge is partial. It's the right thing to do.


Duck said...

(I deleted the former comment because of a very bad spelling error.)

One of the things I most love about you, John, is your genuine and sincere humility as you try to move forward best with what you know to be true. I love this about you. I was also very touched with elder Hollands' talk. His words sunk deep into my heart and I felt the Spirit confirm the truthfulness of that message.

Love and respect, always. Love you! Duck

GeckoMan said...

God bless you, John. Thank you for your repeated right-thing-to-do efforts and your heartfelt testimony.

In this morning's session, I loved Pres. Uchtdorf's talk... now when self-righteous LDS people speak unkindly against marriage equality for those who would value and ennoble family life, I will simply reference his talk and say, "Stop it!"

Matthew said...

I admire your courage and your convictions, John. The experience you related was very heartening for me. And, for me, 1 Corinthians 13:12 is an oft repeated refrain. We truly see through a glass, darkly, and I imagine we will all be tremendously surprised when the glass is removed and we see things as they really are.....

Urmston Mom said...

I have just spent the last hours reading your posts. Thank you for strengthening my testimony in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have many questions that I don't have answers to but the most important question, is the gospel true, I have an answer to and that is what I find strength from. I could feel your pain and I just want you to know that I pray for your peace. Much love, a sister in the gospel.

J G-W said...

Urmston Mom - Thank you so much. Just yesterday, I had an extraordinary lunch with a couple of co-workers. I shared with them the experience I had back in the summer of 2005 that ultimately brought me back to the Church. Because of that and so many other experiences, I can't deny that God is real, nor can I deny that the Church is true. That knowledge has kept me steady in the years since then... I've found a strength I never believed possible. And I am incredibly grateful for it.

Thank you so much for your prayers!