Thursday, October 24, 2013


I've been traveling a lot this year. Three trips to Utah. Two trips to Washington, DC. Two trips to Chicago. A drive to Iowa and then St. Louis and then Memphis. Camping on the borders of South Dakota. A weekend in New York. Is that for real? No wonder it feels lately like home is this stopping place in between trips.

Much of this travel has involved spending time with LGBT Mormons and allies, building and strengthening a once very fragmented and scattered community now at a seemingly pivotal juncture. The LGBT Saints are gathering. Last weekend I was in Washington, DC because of work, but I spent Saturday evening at an Affirmation Family Home Evening at the Washington Temple Visitors Center, I attended the Washington DC 3rd Ward Sunday morning, and then spent the rest of the day meeting and planning with Affirmation leaders. Monday morning was an opportunity to answer emails and finish some long overdue Affirmation-related work. At one o'clock, I tore myself away and I permitted myself to go on pilgrimage, first to the Holocaust Museum, then to the World War II Memorial, then to the Lincoln Memorial.

Monday night, I'd invited myself to stay with friends and fellow Saints James and Chip at their apartment in Arlington, VA. They kindly accommodated me. It's hard to adequately describe my feelings during this visit.

James is part of Affirmation's International Leadership Team. He's active in his ward in Arlington and has a strong testimony of the Church, and he and Chip have created this amazing, loving partnership. James had organized the Saturday Affirmation Family Home Evening, and he and Chip both showed up. Chip is not a Mormon. (It seems that gay Mormons in relationship with other gay Mormons is the very, very rare exception, not the rule. Gay Mormons in same-sex relationships tend to be ecumenical and intercultural in their relationships.) But Chip is incredibly supportive of James' involvement in the Church and in his work with Affirmation. Because it was Monday night, I was invited to participate in their "family night" and Chip offered a closing prayer that would have melted any missionary's heart.

Chip had to work late, so while we were waiting for him before family night, James and I had a chance to talk, sharing stories and reflecting on what it means to us to be gay and Mormon, and to discuss our work in Affirmation. James shared spiritual experiences with me that had confirmed to him that he and Chip were meant to become a family, that being together was where God wanted them to be. He said to me: "I prayed about this, but it was very clear to me."  (Chip later confirmed that he felt the same way -- he had been praying for years to find a particular kind of life partner, and James had been the answer to those prayers.)

And yet, James has a testimony of the Church. He knows the Church is true. He knows its leaders are called by God, and that the priesthood keys they hold are real. I understood well the dilemmas and the awkwardness and the power of holding these things simultaneously. James and I both participate in a rapidly growing group organized under the auspices of Affirmation called the "Prepare" Group, which includes individuals in every region of the country who have testimonies of the Church, are staying active, and who are also in -- or seeking, or supportive of -- same-sex relationships.

After Chip arrived, we spent our family night on an outing to the Martin Luther King Memorial and the FDR Memorial. I told them about what I'd seen at the Holocaust Museum, and we talked about what the American Dream meant to us: freedom and interconnection; unity and diversity. We each shared our sense of faith. We finally retired to their place, played with their cat Frankie, had ice cream, and ended the evening with prayer. 

The Spirit was present in a sweet, powerful way.


That night I had a strange dream. I recorded it in my dream journal:

I was attending a new ward in some Midwestern city. I was invited to attend a session at the temple. At first, I was a bit confused. I was not sure how I could be allowed to enter the temple proper. I arrived at the temple, and I entered a large sanctuary area. I felt a bit reticent about entering, but my bishop, a woman, was accompanying me, and as we found our seats she reassured me that it was OK. The sanctuary area was shaped like a square, and there were rows of wooden chairs ascending in stadium fashion up all four walls of the sanctuary. I asked my sister bishop how it was possible that I could be allowed in the temple, and she said to me, “Look, see? It's OK for you to be here. Even these Jewish brothers are here in the temple.” I looked up and saw an entire section where there were orthodox Jewish men, dressed in black suits, with beards and hair in the orthodox Jewish fashion, and black, broad-brimmed hats. When I saw them, I set my mind at rest.

The temple ceremony began, and it was a dance. We stood up and moved into the center area of the sanctuary which was a great, open, square area. We were standing in concentric circles, and we began to dance, our arms crossed, and our hands clasping the hands of those on either side of us. The dance involved stepping side-to-side, back and forth with one foot crossing the other as we went side to side in a great circle. The dance steps seemed a bit complicated to me at first, but I was watching the others and doing as they did, and I was able to learn the dance fairly quickly. We were dancing to heartbreakingly beautiful music played by a klezmer band, and as the pace of the music slowly picked up we kept up with the rhythm, dancing faster and faster. There was great joy. People smiled and laughed and cried tears of joy. I asked myself, How could it be that we are dancing in the temple? How is it that dances are allowed in the temple? And then I remembered that the Saints danced in the temple in Nauvoo in the early days of the Church with Brigham Young. They danced and danced each night until the small hours of the morning.

My sister bishop and I eventually left the temple. She asked me to help her run some errands in the ward. The streets of the city were beautiful: broad streets lined with trees and small, white houses. The streets were arranged in a grid pattern around the temple. My sister bishop led me to the home of a widow who needed some sort of assistance. We arrived at her home but no one was there. The sister bishop said it was OK, we just needed to pick up some bills that needed to be paid. She knew where they were, and she had a key to let us into the widow sister's home.

I accompanied her inside, and was meditating quietly as the sister bishop found what she needed to find. I was still marveling that I had been allowed to go inside the temple. 

That was when I woke up. I recalled the dream with force and clarity. It filled me with happiness and peace. I knew I had to write it down right away. I climbed down out of bed and found my cell phone and looked at the time: 3:51 a.m. I turned on my computer and started writing the dream, and as I wrote, tears flowed down my cheeks.

I climbed back up into bed. (The bed in the guest room was the top of a bunk bed.) I still couldn't sleep. I felt prompted to pray. So I started to pray, and as I did, I realized that the Lord had given me -- in a dream -- a vision of Zion. I was very humbled, very aware of my many deep, deep imperfections and flaws, but aware that part of faith in the Atonement is to go forward in spite of one's flaws, trusting in God more than we fear our imperfections.

I felt so excited, I wanted to go right away and wake up my hosts and tell them what I had dreamed: that I had caught a vision of Zion, and that I -- that we! -- would be there, in the temple, dancing with the Saints.


In the past year I have gotten to meet many LGBT Latter-day Saints with strong testimonies. When I say "strong testimonies," I mean that they know the Church is true and they are willing to live that truth in some way that requires making sacrifices or facing fears and challenges. These are individuals who are transgender, who are living the gender they know they are. These are gay men and lesbians who are in the same-sex relationships they know God intended them for. We are praying, studying, living the Word of Wisdom. We are going to Church. We are serving in various ways in our wards, usually very humbly and without formal callings, because many of us are not permitted to hold formal callings, or if we are allowed callings we are allowed only the humblest of callings. Some of us are excommunicated, and some of us are allowed to keep our membership. Many have started going to Church despite strong fears of rejection or misunderstanding. We are laying down  weapons of self defense, and going back, hoping that we will be received by the Saints as Saints. We are looking for Zion.

I was born in 1963 and grew up in a generation when LGBT people were accustomed to being subjected by members of the Church to a series of shibboleths. What I mean by that is being told, for instance, "If you're in a same-sex relationship, you're not following the prophet and you're not really a Saint and you don't belong here." And we have been subjected to a series of humiliations and have experienced forms of rejection that literally broke us. We usually experienced this rejection in its most intense form from those who ought to have understood us best -- our closest friends and family. Often we pushed those who ought to have known us best furthest out, because we ourselves feared what was in us; because we assumed that to be fully known would mean to be hated; because we ourselves found it impossible to believe that we ought to believe in ourselves.

Our Church leaders remind us again and again that "the Church's doctrine is not changing and will not change." Two of our leaders reminded us of that again at the most recent General Conference. But fortunately, what is changing is the attitudes of the Saints. Not always. I'm still hearing all too frequent reports of the old shibboleths. But with stunning frequency I'm also hearing growing numbers of reports of LGBT Saints who are going back, and who are being told, "I'm not here to judge you. If you want to come back, and you want to worship God with us, you are welcome."

What we know in our heart of hearts doesn't always seem to line up with every utterance of the brethren. Often, we are the ones who feel most confused about that. Our fellow Saints don't know how that works and neither do we.

What we do know is that it's for us to move forward the best we can, in faith.

The Lord has a place for us in Zion. It's not a separate-but-equal place. It's not an inferior place where we get to be lonely and everybody else gets to be fulfilled. It's a place in Zion where we are valued and we have family and we will be blessed, just like everybody else. That's what Zion is.

But it takes faith to get there. And we have a long journey ahead of us.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

'Just Be There': BYU Students Discuss Suicide

This is a beautiful video. I know some of these men and women, and am so grateful for their courage in sharing this important message.

It seems only appropriate to link here to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's beautiful talk on depression from last weekend's General Conference. As a former sufferer of depression, and as someone who almost committed suicide in my junior year at BYU, I felt extremely grateful to Elder Holland, not only for the advice he offered about how to approach depression in a compassionate, nonjudgmental way, but also for his courage in discussing his own struggles with depression.

Both of these videos make me so proud to be a Mormon!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why the Conference Talks about Gay Marriage Are Steps Forward

Would anybody have believed on Wednesday, November 5, 2008 that Prop 8 was actually going to propel the movement for marriage equality forward in unprecedented ways?

I certainly didn't, though in praying and seeking comfort from God about this, I got a very simple, quiet prompting from the Spirit saying, "Forgive. Be comforted. I will make this right." That prompting enabled me to let go of whatever anguish I was feeling at the time and trust that God was moving us collectively in the right direction, even if the results from the polls in California seemed to be indicating the opposite the day after the election.

At least one very palpable reason Prop 8 did in fact move things forward is because it forever shattered the taboo in LDS circles on speaking openly about homosexuality. And we saw the proof of that in General Conference this past weekend: not one but two conference talks openly discussing same-sex marriage, and introducing, as a topic for discussion, the legal, moral and spiritual ramifications of same-sex marriage.

Now very many people may not like what was said in those two talks. I for one liked what was said very much. Not necessarily because I agree with everything was said (though I agreed with much that was said), but because I think the statements that were made implicitly opened up questions that very much deserve to be discussed.

Elder Nelson in his talk, for instance, discussed the importance of self-mastery as a gateway to the highest virtues. He used fasting as an example of a practice that allows us to master our appetites in favor of a greater cause -- care and concern for the poor. I was deeply inspired by what he said about this, and absolutely agree with him about the essential role that self-mastery plays in schooling us for the very highest human virtue of love.

But to me, if you are going to introduce this point in the context of same-sex sexuality, then you invite a discussion about whether the conventions of continence and commitment that come with marriage ought not to apply to gay and lesbian individuals. Aren't gay and lesbian individuals who desire the rights and responsibilities of marriage essentially saying, "Yes, we agree! Continence, commitment, self-mastery, which includes reserving sex for the right time, is something we want!" Can anybody really say that desire to link our sexuality to a framework of love and commitment is a bad thing? And don't we undermine the value of marital commitments in the eyes of our youth if we say one standard applies to heterosexuals but another standard applies to homosexuals?

There were very many fundamental spiritual principles that both talks presented that I agree with 100%. I agree with Elder Oaks that "cultural and family traditions," "political correctness," "career aspirations," "material possessions," "recreational pursuits," and the search for "power, prominence and prestige" can be idolatrous. I agree with Elder Oaks that the starting point for all discussion about painful, divisive issues must be to emphasize God's love for all and the equality of all before God. God is no respecter of persons! Many I have spoken to in the days since conference have commented on the fact that Elder Oaks' strong statements about "moral courage" and standing up for what one believes in regardless of what others think about them has inspired them to engage with this issue more -- not less -- deeply.

As a Latter-day Saint, I found tremendous comfort in Elder Nelson's comments about the importance of learning as a central aspect of our experience in mortality. I have learned so much wrestling with this whole issue of homosexuality and the challenges LGBT experience has posed for the Church. I believe it is teaching us the value of charity, empathy, patience and unity. I was comforted by his assurance that every single one of us is created in God's image. I experienced a spiritual confirmation of his witness that every stage of life -- including death! -- is a sacred and necessary component of the plan that will enable us to achieve eternal happiness.

There was only one thing that did not resonate for me, but I felt grateful that both talks introduced this question which can only continue to be discussed as we collectively wrestle with this issue.

This had to do with the presumptions of both speakers about the etiology and nature of homosexuality in particular and sexuality in general. Both speakers either implied or directly asserted that homosexuality did not exist in the pre-mortal realm and that it will not exist in the post-mortal realm, and that in the mortal realm it is best understood as a "temporary" (temporary meaning, only through the course of mortality) condition or "affliction." Elder Nelson in his talk spoke of "imperfect bodies," addressing the challenge of physical or mental disabilities. He didn't directly say homosexuality was a "disability" per se, though I doubt that he introduced a discussion of physical imperfections in the framework of this talk by chance.

I am extremely doubtful -- just from studying what we know about the prevalence of homosexuality in all higher species, and uniformly throughout humanity in every race and culture we know of -- that homosexuality is a mortal "flaw" or "imperfection." To me, it appears adaptive. In human societies, it functions well as a tribal/familial survival mechanism. It provides social benefits, even as it surfaces in ways that do not hinder the transmission of a family's genetic inheritance. To me, everything I know about homosexuality militates toward it being an intended and functional part of creation.

What I know about LDS theology in terms of the relationship between spiritual creation and physical creation to me militates against the notion that something functional and positive in creation wouldn't have existed before spiritually, nor continue to exist after spiritually. If I understand Mormon scripture and teaching correctly, those aspects of ourselves that we experience as most core to who we are -- including things like sexuality and gender -- are also eternal aspects of ourselves.

Now this is why lesbian, gay and bi people experience such anguish when we are told that our sexuality is "flawed," or "sinful." We experience this anguish even if we are not acting on our sexuality. I've witnessed this time and time again. I know so many faithful LDS gay, lesbian and bi people who are living all the standards of morality taught by the Church, but who find themselves deeply wounded when the suggestion is made that this aspect of us is wrong, a flaw, evil. I think it is because we experience this as a core aspect of who we are.

I have frequently reflected on my own encounter with God on this subject in the summer of 1986 after I had nearly committed suicide, and I felt prompted to pray to God, and God spoke to me very clearly about my homosexuality. God spoke to me clearly in specific words and phrases that have always stuck with me since: "I know this about you, because I know you from your inmost parts." I have often turned that phrase over in my head, "from my inmost parts." My inmost parts are those parts of me that are most eternal, that existed before I was clothed in a body of spirit or, in turn, clothed in a body of flesh.

Over the years I have encountered increasing numbers of LGBT people who have had profound spiritual experiences with God in which God revealed to them something critical about their own natures. I'm aware now of hundreds of individuals who have had these experiences.

I am aware of certain SSA individuals who have had very different experiences; who have had spiritual experiences confirming that their SSA is not a part of their eternal nature. I have no more reason to doubt their experience than I have to doubt my own experience with this. I think it's very likely that there are different kinds of homosexuals.

But all of this is critical data! It cannot and should not be dismissed!

Will it be discussed as we continue to wrestle with this issue? The fact that it was discussed not once but twice at General Conference assured me that we will. I remember that notorious talk that Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a few years ago that caused similar upheaval and upset. I remember feeling comforted -- not upset! -- by Elder Packer's talk for the same reason I have felt comforted by these talks. He posed the question, "Why would God do this to anyone?" That, I believed then and I still believe now, is the question that needs to be asked.

There's one final reason I was comforted by these talks. I have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ. I am comforted by the sense of burden I hear expressed by leaders of the Church to the effect that this is not their Church and not their doctrine to mold or shape as they wish. I would want no part of it if it were. I believe our leaders are doing the best they can with the information they currently have, and I believe that until they are authorized to do so by revelation from God, they have no choice but to teach what they teach. I personally take comfort in that.

I know that many do not take comfort. Many continue to experience anguish about this. I wish people didn't have to feel anguish about this. A friend of mine messaged me through Facebook recently and described to me how her response to this situation was to go to her knees and seek comfort directly from God. And she found the comfort she needed! Others don't find comfort in prayer. I say, find comfort from others then. Do whatever you need to take care of yourself and be reassured that you are good and that you are entitled to figure this out and make your own decisions about what is best for you.

In the meantime, I hope we will all take comfort in Bishop Caussé's talk at the Priesthood session. Bishop Caussé expressed the same notion that Elder Oaks did, that "our wards and quorums do not belong to us, they belong to Jesus Christ." And he used that principle to remind us that "no one is a stranger to our Heavenly Father," and "in this church there are no strangers or outcasts, there are only brothers and sisters." Like Elder Oaks, Bishop Caussé reminded us that God is no respecter of persons and that "in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him." And he reminded us what kind of righteousness Christ will hold us accountable for at the final judgment bar.

"I was a stranger, and ye took me in." (Matthew 25:35)

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Am Not Offended

I am not offended by the words people speak.

If their words are true, then I would be a wise man to listen to them and take them to heart, even if to do so causes inconvenience to me. In fact, the more inconvenient the truths, the wiser I would be to listen.

Inconvenience creates emotions like stress or anger or hurt. And those kinds of emotions cloud my ability to see truth. So if I hunger for truth I need to find a way to calm those emotions. I must try not to be offended.

If the words someone speaks are false, there is no power in them. I have no need to be offended. I would be wise to ignore them.

Spoken untruths may inconvenience me for a time, especially if they inspire others to act in a way that is harmful to me. But I cannot stop that from happening by being offended. I am better served by trusting that the truth is larger than words.

I'm not super human. I'm just me, a man, with all the mixture of weakness and nobility that implies. I do not know all things. I do not regard myself as better than any one else. I feel good will toward all, and would prefer that we wrestle together to come to an understanding of the truth, than that we make each other enemies because one or both of us takes offense.

So I am not offended, because my hunger for your fellowship and for the truth is greater than my fears.


This morning, I woke up in my husband's arms just as the grey sunlight was starting to filter through our window shades. It was still very early, and he was sound asleep. He was clutching me tighter than usual, breathing heavily. In the background I could hear the hum of the dialysis machine he is connected to each night as we sleep. Life is fragile and precious.

My mind was filled with beautiful memories from the weekend. Beautiful sessions of conference that left me feeling inspired and deeply, deeply happy. Special promptings from the Spirit that filled me with hope and confidence, that I jotted into the little notebook I keep with my scriptures. A ward potluck in between Saturday sessions where I stuffed myself on Relief Society-produced delicacies, including the best collared greens I've ever had. A rare opportunity to bear my testimony. I love the Church. I know too deeply in my soul to ever deny it that the Church is true.

Sunday afternoon, a lot of people were upset by a couple of conference talks. I spent a lot of time on Facebook and on the phone. I was not -- I am not -- offended, either by what had upset people, nor by the fact that they were upset. But when I finally fell asleep after midnight, I was exhausted.

I woke up in my husband's arms filled with warmth. The Spirit was there in our room, luminescent almost, brighter than the filtered grey sunlight coming in through the shades. I felt deeply happy. As my husband clutched me, I realized how precious he is to me, what a gift our love is to us, what a gift is our mutual life, even with the disappointments, even with the difficulty, even with the dialysis machine humming in the background. It is our commitment to each other -- expressed in rituals and in legal documents hard fought for, but also expressed in the way his whole life intertwines with mine -- that gives everything in my life meaning and direction.

"I love you," I told him as I kissed him on the forehead while he slept on blissfully.

That truth is larger than words.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Spiritual Challenge in Mormon Political Support for Gay Marriage

It is a relief that leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are now publicly encouraging members of the Church to study out the issues, make up their own minds, and act and vote according to the dictates of their own conscience, in relation to extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. This occurred most dramatically in recent letters sent out by the LDS stake presidencies of Hawaii that acknowledged in a non-stigmatizing way that members of the Church stand on both sides of this issue. It is also a relief that Church leaders are now publicly acknowledging that even in California during the Prop 8 campaign, when letters from the First Presidency of the Church were directing members to contribute time and talents to ensuring that Prop 8 passed, support for Prop 8 was not a litmus test of faithfulness. In other words, we are now made to understand, members of the Church have always had the right to support marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, and have always had the right to determine how and where to invest their time and talents on this political issue, and to vote according to their conscience. What a relief.

I listened carefully to the letters read over the pulpits of Minnesota LDS wards in 2012 during the campaign related to Amendment 1 (a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in Minnesota). These letters urged members to study the issues out, make up their own minds, and decide for themselves how best to get involved in this political issue. I know many Mormons who opposed Amendment 1, and who worked in the campaign to defeat it. These members were clearly following the counsel they'd received over the pulpit from Church leaders every bit as much as members who supported Amendment 1.

I remember, though, how gingerly members of the Church approached this subject. Many assumed, based on what happened in California during the Prop 8 campaign, that support for marriage equality might be considered lack of faith or disobedience to the Brethren. I could quote to them verbatim what had been written to the contrary in the letters read over Minnesota pulpits, but many members of the Church still worried and wondered if "studying the issues out" really meant that as members of the Church in good standing they weren't still supposed to draw the conclusion than that marriage equality for gay couples should be opposed.

I spoke to one member of my ward about this issue, and he shared a painful story with me. He told me how he had taken the counsel of the First Presidency during Prop 8 to heart. He personally did not like the idea of voting to deny marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. But, he reasoned, the Brethren may know things about this issue that I do not. He took it as a matter of faith. And acting in faith, he voted against his conscience. He believed that after the election, following a well known LDS principle of faith, he would receive a confirmation that he had done the right thing. Knowledge comes after we exercise faith. That's how he reasoned.

He told me, however, that after the election, after Prop 8 passed, he did not receive a confirmation that he had done the right thing. Quite the opposite. He said he felt sick to his stomach. He felt disgusted with himself for doing something he believed to be wrong, something that now was going to harm thousands of his fellow citizens. And he vowed to himself, "Never again. Never again will I do something just because the Brethren tell me to do it, when doing so violates my conscience. It's not worth it." He committed himself from then on to support marriage equality for all families -- not just heterosexual families. No matter what Church leaders said or did.

There has been much discussion about the "cost" the LDS Church paid for its political support of Prop 8. There's been discussion about the financial cost (decreased giving to the Church, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars spent on a campaign that ultimately failed important judicial tests of fairness), the impact on membership (members leaving the Church over this, painful divisions that turned family member against family member and ward member against ward member, prospective members refusing to talk to the missionaries and refusing to join), and the social cost (protests against the Church in California and elsewhere, and the harm to the Church's public image).

But there hasn't been enough discussion, in my opinion, about the moral cost. The spiritual cost. The cost in Church members' feelings of betrayal after Prop 8. My friend's story poignantly illustrates those costs which in my opinion are far, far higher.

I should add that, while we can all -- Mormon and non-Mormon -- draw a sigh of relief that the Church has affirmed the principle of separation of Church and state, it must surely be disquieting to many to consider how many Mormons would readily have embraced a denial of this principle, how many Mormons -- whether or not they were sanctioned by Salt Lake -- did make political opposition to marriage equality a litmus test for faith. That the Church is now officially saying they were wrong to do so should only partially alleviate whatever disquiet that might inspire.

Nevertheless.... It is a relief that LDS Church leadership is slowing backing away from this political issue. I am glad that the news is slowly but surely getting out that Mormons may support full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples and their families.


Yet and still... I am not satisfied with where things stand. And here is why.

I think the best way to explain it would be to say that if I were an atheist, I would be quite happy and completely satisfied with where things stand. Because if a Mormon says, "I believe that there is no marriage equality for gays in Heaven; but so far as matters are concerned in the political realm here on earth, I support marriage equality," if I were an atheist I would say, "Well, Mormons support me in the only realm that matters."

But I am not an atheist. I am a believing Mormon. And to a believing Mormon, a statement such as the one I've given as an example is not comforting at all. In fact, it is as disquieting and as discomforting as any statement possibly could be. First of all it is discomforting because to a believing Mormon it is the same as saying, "Here in the temporal realm -- the realm which is really just the wink of an eye in the span of eternity -- I support your equality; but I believe that where and when it really matters -- in eternity -- you will not and never can be equal." And it is disquieting because, again, from the view point of a believing Mormon, if you are my brother or sister and you really care about me, you must care about my eternal welfare. If you really believe that there's no good place for a same-sex married couple in eternity, I'd rather you be honest about it here in this realm where there's opportunity to do something about it. I would say supporting politically in the temporal realm something that you see as disabling in the eternal realm means you have not very carefully thought out the full implications of your beliefs.

What about a more nuanced statement of belief? What if our hypothetical Mormon supporter of marriage equality justifies their support in this way: "I believe that God does have a special place in his plan for heterosexual couples; that plan is clearly spelled out in scripture and in the teachings of living prophets. I'm not sure how gay and lesbian people fit into this plan. I know that gay and lesbian people exist. I know that many have discerned -- often at great personal cost -- that the best thing for them is to be in committed same-sex relationships, and that marriage is an enormous benefit to them in their efforts to live moral lives and protect their loved ones. I know they are God's children, and I know God loves them just as much as he loves his heterosexual children, and I don't believe in a God who would make people a certain way and then punish them for building happy lives that are harmonious with the way he's created them. So even though I'm not aware of anything from scriptures or the current teachings of living prophets that explicitly tells us what place gay and lesbian people have in God's eternal plan, I trust that they fit in there somehow, and just how they fit will hopefully sometime soon be revealed to us. And in the meantime, I trust their individual discernment process; I honor the sanctity of their lives and their right and ability to make decisions that they've determined to be best for them. And I think it's wrong, therefore, to treat them unequally under the law. And that's why I fully support marriage for gay and lesbian couples!"

That more nuanced statement I personally live with very comfortably. I think it is a good statement of my own position.  Yet I recognize that even here there is still stress and struggle. For many gay and lesbian Mormons, not knowing is a luxury they can't afford. If you are a believing Mormon, eternity means everything, and to be on the wrong side of eternity is to lose everything of value that this life -- even this temporal life -- has to offer.

I personally have found a way forward that works for me, partly because God has spoken to me very clearly about the course I should pursue in my personal life. I am very comfortable where I am in my relationship with God, in my testimony of the Church (which includes an understanding of how truth unfolds line-upon-line, and an understanding of how a key part of our Heavenly Parents' plan involves delegation and agency), and in my relationship with the Church (which is challenging because of my excommunicated status, but nonetheless a blessing to me).  I'm finding a way forward in the way of faith, hope, charity and patience those relationships both with God and with the Church teach me.

But I'm also gradually becoming aware that my way forward cannot and should not work for everybody. We speak of the Church as the body of Christ, and we understand each member of that body having diverse gifts -- some of us having gifts of knowledge and others of us having gifts of faith; some of us having gifts of community and others of us having gifts of the courage to go it alone; all of us having unique ways of knowing what we know, and varying abilities to live with ambiguity or cognitive dissonance.

Some of us are in deep pain because of the dogmatism of those who claim to know things about the eternal realm that I think they actually don't know. But far too many of us are also in deep, deep pain and suffering because of the not knowing. We are getting better at addressing the suffering of the former, but are still not adequately addressing the suffering of the latter. I have to say that regardless of how nuanced your position, therefore, saying "I believe X about eternity, but I'm willing to take position Y in relation to temporal, political issues" must still be unsatisfying if you are concerned about that suffering.

I would say, as a Latter-day Saint, if you take your baptismal covenants seriously, you cannot be unconcerned about that suffering. And I would say, if you are concerned, as I am, there are three things we can do.

First, pray.

Second, be with those who suffer. Bear their burdens with them. Make them know that as long as they suffer, you cannot be fully at ease in your soul, and that you will do what you can to alleviate their suffering.

Third, do something to alleviate that suffering. Talk. Ask questions. Listen. Share. Connect. Build community. Make sure that the voices of those who suffer are being heard.

Third, pray.