Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Change of Heart / the Spirt at Work

Six years ago while visiting my parents in Utah, I attended church with them, only to be treated during Sunday School to the most homophobic tirade I had ever heard in any LDS congregation.  I was about to get up and walk out, I was so upset.  Instead, the Spirit spoke to me very clearly, reassuring me that the brother who was saying these things didn't have the full picture.  He didn't know what he was talking about, and his ignorance was no reflection on me.  The Spirit reassured me that God was very pleased with me, that I was doing what he wanted me to do, and I was where he wanted me to be -- in Church.

The presence of the Spirit was so sweet and so reassuring, and filled me with such peace, not only did my desire to leave evaporate, I actually felt grateful that I'd had this experience.  This experience taught me that there was nothing anybody could say that could hurt me, because I knew who and what I am, and I knew where I stood with God.  I knew God's love for me, and that was all that mattered.  I immediately and completely forgave the brother who had said all these things.  I recognized -- or I should say, the Spirit helped me to recognize -- that he was not a bad man.  He was a very good man who was ignorant.

This week I am visiting my parents in Utah, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary with them.  As I always do when visiting my family here, I attended Church with my parents.  And it so happened that today the brother who had made all these homophobic comments six years ago in Sunday School was the person giving the priesthood lesson.

At one point in the lesson, this brother was talking about the fact that even though we have the full, restored gospel in the Church, still there are many members of the Church who believe in "false doctrine."  In light of his comments years ago, I was more than a little apprehensive about precisely what false doctrines he worried were prevalent in the Church.

He didn't leave me in doubt very long.  False doctrine, he immediately explained, was whatever caused us to be exclusive, to make the Church less accessible, to view anybody as "less than" or to think of ourselves as better than others.  He then proceeded to say that many members of the Church need to be more open to all those we've often been closed to, including those who are gay or lesbian.

I literally almost couldn't believe my ears.  It took a minute for his words to sink in.  This brother who, six years ago, had been railing against gays and lesbians, was now announcing to the High Priests' Quorum that an understanding of true doctrine in the Church would open us up to receive and learn from our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.  As the reality of what I'd just witnessed sunk in, I felt the warmth of the Spirit inside.  Tears of amazement and gratitude welled up in my eyes.  This was quite simply a miracle.  I realized that I was literally witnessing the Spirit at work in the Church, teaching the Saints true doctrine, opening and changing hearts.  That was, quite simply, the best priesthood meeting I've ever attended.

After we met my mom outside the Relief Society room, as we walked out of the Church toward the car, Dad immediately commented on it.  "Do you remember Brother ___?" he asked me.

"Oh, how could I forget him?" I replied.

"Do you remember what he said in Church a few years ago when you were visiting?" he asked in amazement.

"Oh yes! I remember!" 

We told the whole story to my mom.  Then we went home and told Göran and my sister Anne, who had stayed at home baking while we were at Church.

Tears came to my eyes as I told the story again, and then as I recounted to Anne and to my parents the experiences I'd had during and after Twin Cities LGBT Pride, marching with a Mormon contingent.  Dad said, "You know, after Bro. ___ made those comments years back, I didn't know if I could ever feel the same way about him."  I reminded Dad that all of us have had to work through our homophobia.  None of us could claim that we all started out enlightened on this issue.  So it shouldn't surprise us as others who've expressed these kinds of attitudes in the past begin to see and understand and have a change of heart as well.

The talks in Church today focused on the theme "Judge not that ye be not judged."  I realized that what the Spirit told me all those years ago was true.  This man was not a bad man.  He was a good man whose understanding was incomplete.

I feel so humbled by this experience.  In what ways is my understanding incomplete?  And what kind of fellowship will we be able to experience in the Church some day if we give each other half a chance?  If we can find it in our hearts to be patient with one another, and forgive, and trust that this is the Lord's Church, and that he is at work in it today teaching us and perfecting us and preparing us for Zion?


Dana H. said...

This is just beautiful! Thank you for sharing! I'm a Mormon ally, and I've had the same spiritual confirmation that, yes, God intends for my heart to be open and loving, and His intention is to have ALL of his children be in active, loving church fellowship. It's a beautiful thing. <3

Anonymous said...

I think back on where I was six years ago, and I, too, can recognize many changes for the better, many hearts that have softened, and many new opportunities that have opened up. My six-years-ago self probably wouldn't believe me if I told him.

Trev said...

:-D ! Fantastic!

Matthew said...

I love this. It is so true, we do all have to start somewhere. It is easy to make that snap judgement and to write a person off as a hopeless case, but it is so important to not do that, but rather allow everyone the chance to grow and to change.