Sunday, June 8, 2014

Walking in the Integrity of my Soul

Driving into Salt Lake City yesterday for the Utah Pride Festival evoked strange emotions in me.
I remembered when I left Utah the summer of 1986 with a plan to end my life.
I remembered knowing that despite all my best efforts of the preceding 9 years of my life to fight it, I was gay. I had to acknowledge that fact. And to acknowledge that fact also meant to acknowledge that my life as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was over. The one thing that had given my life ultimate meaning was over. And the only life I could envision in a world where I could not be one of the Saints was a life I couldn’t bear living. So I had a plan to end it.
I wanted to die, not because I hated myself for being gay, but because I loved the Church with my whole soul and I could no longer see a place for myself in it.
Ultimately I am alive today because God spoke to me later that summer, and revealed to me what he knew of me, which included that this aspect of myself was core to who I was as an eternal soul and as his child, and that he loved me in the totality of who I was, and he still had a plan for me. Later that summer, knowing that God existed and that he loved me, I resigned from the Church. In 1986, I still saw no way for a gay man to exist in the Church of Jesus Christ.
When I first heard the news in June 2012 that over three hundred active Mormons had marched in SLC Pride, I was electrified. By that time I had participated in many Pride marches in the Minneapolis, MN under the banners of a variety of gay rights organizations and community groups. But for the first time, when I saw the images of Mormons Building Bridges in the media, I became truly excited about Pride.
When it dawned on me that I could march as an act of faith, as an expression of my testimony of the Gospel, it changed everything for me. I rushed to organize a Twin Cities “Mormon Allies” march.
As much as I have at various times in my life doubted and denied, I cannot deny my testimony. It is written in every cell of my body. I know all about Church history. I understand the problems related to the Book of Mormon. I realize that the Church is not perfect. The fact that a 23 year old young man who loved the Church with his whole soul and had given his life to its service was ready to kill himself in 1986 because he saw no way to reconcile his faith with what he knew of himself is proof that the Lord has not finished perfecting the Saints. But none of it can outweigh what I know. I have experienced the hand of God in my life, and this knee readily bows and this tongue readily confesses him and his work and his glory – to share with us the life that he has.
Believe it or not, I still have one of the shirts I wore as a missionary in the Swiss Geneva Mission 1981-82. I’m wearing it along with a tie and black dress trousers my husband bought for me, and tennis shoes I’ve borrowed from my Dad (practicality is a good thing), and I’m going to march in Utah Pride today with Mormons Building Bridges. What a privilege.
Thank you for bearing your testimony through an expression of unconditional love for your LGB and T brothers and sisters.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to walk in the integrity of my soul.


GeckoMan said...

Have a great walk, John. Thanks for your testimony and all you do. I'll walk with you in spirit, and for real next week, in the Portland Pride.

mandi said...

John- I've taken a very long break from the blogging world, but your truth and light haven't diminished. I can't make sense of a lot of things, but what I always come back to is the basic truths that God loves each of us, that He has given us a path to return to Him, and that our struggles refine and perfect us.
You are such a beacon of light. Thank you.

John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Mandi - what kind, lovely words, thank you. Earlier this evening, I was having a conversation with friends, talking about our spiritual journeys. Things have changed a lot for me over the years in terms of my self understanding and my understanding of God. But I'm grateful now to be able to look back at those changes and see how, as you say, God has communicated love to me (sometimes in ways I only recognized later), has given me a path to return to him, and has used the rough parts of that journey to perfect and refine me! Thanks for sharing your testimony of that in your own life!