Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.To be "blessed" is not just an abstraction. It is real. If it were not, the phrase "blessed are they that mourn" would make no sense. When Paul described faith, he described it in terms of "substance" and "evidence" (Hebrews 11:1). Just because something is invisible doesn't mean it is not real, not substantial.
In recent years, some of the times when I have been most blessed have been times of worship, prayer, and testimony bearing with other lesbian, gay, bi and transgender Latter-day Saints. Shortly after first session of the Salt Lake City Affirmation Annual Conference, I found myself sitting next to other LGBT Mormons in a choir rehearsal, singing hymns of the Restoration, and I found tears welling up in my eyes. The Spirit was unmistakably present, as it was in so many other moments throughout that conference, such as at the Saturday night Testimony/Spiritual Story Sharing.
Each time I have anticipated another gathering of LGBT Mormons, I have wondered if the powerful presence of the Spirit I felt at the last gathering would repeat itself. I wondered it when Affirmation gathered in Seattle in 2012. I wondered it again before the Salt Lake Conference last year. I have wondered it before each of the leadership retreats we've had, in Potomac, Maryland in 2013, and in Nauvoo just last May. I wondered it before the regional conference I attended in Mexico City last February. I am starting to wonder less and less, though I still approach the upcoming conference in Salt Lake, September 12-15, 2014 with awe. I don't take the Spirit's presence for granted.
But I am coming to believe that, in spite of the rejection and the challenges and the misunderstanding we have faced, in spite of the injuries we've sustained, especially those which would tend to drive us away from our faith, when LGBT Saints nevertheless exercise faith, the Spirit is so much more present. We are blessed.
Faith is exercised in many different ways. It can be exercised in acts of patience and kindness with a loved one -- a parent, a sibling, a friend, a significant other. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. It can be a plea for help in prayer. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It can be studying the scriptures and gathering with others, even in spite of questions and doubt, and seeing what will happen when we gather in Christ's name. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Affirmation conferences have been particularly powerful for me because there's no "right way" to express faith at these gatherings. Some have completely jettisoned the beliefs they grew up with, and are reconstructing a personal faith "line upon line." Some are trying to make things work within the context of traditional LDS heritage, but are open to new ways of looking at things. At an Affirmation Testimony Meeting/Spiritual Story sharing, I guarantee you will hear lots of stuff you'd never hear in a typical LDS Sacrament Meeting, but it is all the more powerful for that. And the Spirit is there. It blesses us. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.