Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Doubt Your Doubts

Göran and I have had a rough year.

It started with me still recovering from brain surgery to treat a subdural hematoma. Last summer, after a sudden, frightening decline in Göran's health, we learned that he was experiencing kidney failure, and we needed to start him on dialysis and start the process of getting a kidney transplant. (That process has ended up being longer than I had ever imagined it would be. He won't be able to get on the transplant list until next month at the earliest.) Then there were family worries. My mom's decline in health, with Alzheimer's-like symptoms. Our loss of our foster son. A few weeks ago, learning that my sister has been diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma that does not respond to chemo or radiation therapy.

Then, last night, Göran came home tired, wanting to take a nap. At about 7:30 he got up complaining about a sudden, severe headache. I asked him to rate it on a scale of 1 - 10, and he ultimately rated it at 10. He said that it was a "strange" headache -- at the back of his head and neck -- and there was a "strange" pressure. I rushed him to the nearest emergency room. (Fortunately, we live six blocks from one of the best hospitals in Minnesota, Abbott Northwestern.) When I finally left the emergency room at 1:15 a.m., they were keeping him overnight for monitoring and more tests, and they were talking about meningitis, and as I write this post he's consulting with a neurosurgeon, though as of right now (10:51 A.M.) we're still not sure what it is.

That is the latest in a series of events that explain why I haven't been blogging much the last few months... It's been one family crisis after another. But that's not why I'm blogging now. Certainly not to complain.

Still, when bad things happen, I think it is natural to wonder. Or I should say, I have wondered.


Rhetoric in the LDS community has gotten increasingly vitriolic over the issue of same-sex marriage, which has made this all that much more difficult. Let me see if I can explain this.

I know the Church is true. That has been my polar star the last eight years of my life in trying to navigate a way forward. I've discovered -- partly by following very personal spiritual promptings, as well as through some very special priesthood blessings received from my bishop, from my father, from home teachers, and last fall from an apostle of the Lord -- that I have a unique earthly mission. In order to fulfill that mission, I have needed to stay close to the Church and to exercise a certain kind of faith.

I also know my relationship with my husband is true. That has been the ground beneath my feet, it has been the horizon that has made following that polar star of my Church testimony meaningful. The journey of making sense of my gayness and eventually finding and committing to my husband is a journey I have been making from the time I was old enough to be aware of my sexuality, and old enough to begin to figure out the nature of my yearnings for relationship and family. (Since I was roughly 11.)

Last October there were some strong statements issued over the pulpit by leaders I totally in my heart sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, even though I am excommunicated and don't have the right to raise my arm physically to sustain to them. They made very pointed statements about same-sex marriage. And those statements invoked a chorus of pointed "amens" from Church members. I've been reading a chorus of very pointed statements on-line from LDS Church members.

All I can say about these statements is that they feel very "dogmatic" to me. Let me explain what I mean by "dogmatic." They seem to me to be made in order to sustain some doctrinal point which Church leaders and members feel is at risk here, but it's all speculation made at a very theoretical level, that doesn't take into account the full range of real, lived experience of real people. There are a handful of individuals whose experiences are being taken into account, but they are a small minority within the gay, lesbian and bi community. It's not clear to me that we're not talking about a handful of bisexual people who are projecting their experience on gay men and lesbians. And the experience of the majority is being excluded a priori from consideration. Many have been driven from the Church. And the end result is I hear a lot of people "telling" me about my life, about the meaning of my life, and about the nature of my relationship, and what they are telling me makes no sense at all to me. It doesn't resemble at all my experience of my own life. It doesn't feel respectful. It doesn't feel as if people really want to hear me or know me at all because to do so would threaten some doctrinal commitment they think ought to override everything else. Instead of listening to and ministering to real people, there's just talk being generated as grist for a misguided political adventure.

Because, bottom line, despite all the smoke and noise generated in the debate over marriage, nothing is being taken away from heterosexuals. No rights have been denied. No religion has been trampled. And I am a human being. I have intelligence. I have agency. I have sought and received guidance from God in my personal decisions and in my life's journey. And, bottom line, I have not just a right but an obligation to seek knowledge and to live my life according to the best light I am able to obtain. And, by the way, I am also a citizen of the United States and I have a right as a citizen to seek rights and protections for myself and my family, to seek equal rights and equal protections; to demand freedom of conscience, and the freedom to pursue inalienable rights endowed on me by my Creator, rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Nevertheless, when very pointed statements are being made by Church leaders I sustain, and by members of my Church, I listen. I honestly believe in their love for me. I have had occasion for doubts in the past year; and those kinds of doubts loom with a particular urgency when you are experiencing a series of health and family trials.


So last night, I slept alone in my bed because my husband was in the hospital. And these were some of the kinds of thoughts I was having in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours of a cold Minnesota winter: How serious is this? Is he going to live? If he dies, what does it mean for us? Do I commit to be celibate the rest of my life and try to get my Church membership reinstated? What does this mean about our relationship? Was it all a mistake? Were we misguided to get legally married? Am I paying some price for this wrong decision? Will we be eternally alone in the next life?

So I got up this morning after about four hours of sleep. I got on my knees and I started praying. And here is what God said to me: Do you remember after you got legally married in California, in response to my direct commandment to you to do so, after you returned home to Minnesota with your husband and your son Glen, and you were praying alone in your room, and I told you that because of your obedience to me, you could now call upon the powers of Heaven as a husband and as a father -- as a head of your family -- to bless your husband and your son? And do you remember last night, when you were weeping in the emergency room and praying for help, and I told you to do the same, and you doubted it, because you thought it could not possibly be right in light of the statements by Elder Oaks and Elder Nelson at the last conference? I'm telling you now: You and your family are blessed and protected by me. Don't worry about what other people say. I will deal with them in my own way. I'm telling you again: you may call on the powers of Heaven on behalf of your family. And now is the time for you to do so on Göran's behalf.

So I prayed, and I was filled with a warmth as I did so. I prayed that he would be completely healed of whatever affliction currently has him stranded at the hospital; and I prayed for health and vigor to return to him; and I prayed for him to have a long, happy life. And I saw certain things. I saw Göran and me growing old together, and spending our old age in service together. To me we looked like missionaries; though all I can say for sure is we looked old, and we looked like we were engaged in community service to others. And I saw that there was not going to be a long period of time on earth when I was separated from him by death; I saw that I would spend all but a very small portion of my life on earth united with him. And I saw us in the next life too. I saw that in the eternal kingdom we were part of a large, extended family that cherished us; that both our families -- my husband's family and my family -- all cherished us; and that Göran and I were the link between our two families. I saw that gay couples in the next life were considered special, and that a family considered itself very lucky to have a gay couple as part of their family; and that those families that had cherished and cared for and loved their gay family members received blessings and glory not available to those who hadn't. That's what I saw.

When I got up from my knees, I realized my face was wet with tears, and I was filled with this incredible warmth that radiated from my inmost being and filled me up. And I felt the Spirit prompting me to write this all down, which I did in my journal.


The last year and a half has been tough. I feel like we've been wrung through some awful mill, and I'm not sure it's quite done yet, though whatever we have to face, I'm willing to face it with patience if I know God will be with us, which this morning I can unconditionally say I know he will be.

None of the major decisions that I've made in my life have been made without seeking guidance from God. It was God who led me to resign my Church membership in 1986. It was God who led me to open myself to the possibility of a relationship with a man in 1988. It was God working in Göran that brought us together in 1992. Göran always "knew" we were "supposed" to be together, and he has been the guiding light in our relationship. It was God who led me to come back to the Church in 2005; and when my testimony of the Church and the seeming conflict between that and my relationship with Göran led me to question myself, it was God who reminded me in 2006 that I must commit to Göran. It was God who led me to insist that we get married at the first opportunity that marriage became available (in California, the summer of 2008). It was God who paved the way for that by helping us find his long lost birth certificate, and with it, his long lost family in Memphis, Tennessee (all of whom are busy praying for him right now). It was with God's help I fought for our marriage here in Minnesota last year, in 2013. These are all things I know.

And yet, I still worried, wondered and doubted... Because of health and family trials, some of which have been more painful than I can really recount here. And because of a vitriolic debate that is creating deep pain among LGBT Mormons, and much pain, anxiety and doubt among members of the Church.

When I prayed, when I turned to God, I was always comforted. God kept reminding me that this was an opportunity for my faith to be strengthened. I was still afraid. At some level, I understood. That's the nature of many of life's trials. Sometimes we have to feel our way forward on our hands and knees in the dark and cold.

But this morning, I did remember those kind, generous words of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, that we must doubt our doubts, not our faith.

There's no faith that's meaningful or possible if I doubt myself or my ability to hear God's voice or if I doubt that God has delivered me and my husband from adversity before, or that he will deliver us again.

Some day, the faith and the stories of the many of us that the Church refuses to hear right now will be heard.


Anonymous said...

I hope you both will be in good health. However, the best gift you receive in the sickness is the mutual support and love you can share with each other. Cheers.
Armando Bravo

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Armando, thank you.