Friday, November 27, 2015

Leaving in droves?

Gay Mormons and those who support gay Mormons are not leaving the church in droves as is being posted on Facebook.  At a recent rally in SLC fewer than 1,000 signed a petition to have their name removed from the church records of the LDS faith.  

Now, I look at those 1,000 people and I feel horrible for the hurt feelings, pain and suffering these - and others - have gone through and are continuing to go through. I have been in a few of those pairs of shoes, and I am currently dealing with my own issues inside and outside of the church.

While these thousand people are humans worth more than casual consideration, 1,000 people from various states of membership and church activity does not constitute a mass exodus. So, add those 3,000 from the lawyer we read about and then double that. That's 8,000 ish. There are still plenty of gay Mormons not leaving  the church. 

I am one of them.

The scriptures predict -- or prophesy, that there will be those who choose to leave Christ's church. If it isn't over this, then what tasty tidbit will cause more than thousands to leave?

I will not be leaving the church, and I can bet you there are more difficult times coming. The distinction between those who believe and those who do not will become even more cavernous.

Those who have had a problem with the church will see this as an opportunity to take action. There will be those currently on church records who have not seen the inside of the local LDS meetinghouse in years.  They will use this as their reason to leave -- and I understand where they are coming from.  Many of them will be belters. Facebook will be full of them. 

While I don't agree with them, I have family and friends who are belters, and they are still my friends. They make fun of me for following blindly and I make fun of them for finding the reason they have been looking for all along. We are still family and friends. 

Is this a test of faith?  No, I do not believe that this was created to be a test. It will have that effect to be sure. Or, maybe everything is to test our faith and our ability to be kind even through extreme differences. I don't know.

Here is an excerpt from a blog with an interesting POV:

"Todd Richardson, 31, an out gay man who belongs to a ward in New York City, said the policy, “broke my heart,” adding, “this hit me harder than any other one thing.” Richardson said his community is accepting, but that “the church has never been affirming by any means.” The current situation has proven difficult for him: He plans to get married and start a family, and the church’s decision has made it clear how hard that will be. He told me that this is the first time he’s ever really questioned leaving the church."

"But Richardson is choosing to see the church’s decision as a hurdle, rather than an exit point. He prayed on what to do, he told me, and said he “got this profound feeling that this is a hard thing, and for whatever reason that it’s happened it’s been allowed to happen. And the savior is asking me if I’m going to walk way… and I decided that I’m not going to.”"

"Christian Harrison, who lives in Salt Lake City, also described a deep connection with his faith. Harrison told me that he grew up within the church, and that it’s been far from easy. “I was called an abomination growing up,” he told me over the phone. “I’m used to having people that I revere as men of God hurt my feelings.” But these interactions with clergy didn’t prevent him from having “a lifetime worth of spiritual experiences that are too sacred to share.” These experiences, he said, have “knit my soul to this church.”"

"For Harrison, the misguided opinions of LDS leaders aren’t reason enough to stop doing the spiritual—and charitable—work of the Mormon church. That work includes fighting for change from within the LDS. He’s concerned that if people abandon the church in protest at this time, only its most callous members will remain. “When the tender hearted all leave, where does that leave us? Where are we as a faith if we scare off everyone that is sensitive to the needs of our minority groups and those that are vulnerable?”"

Here's another quote:

"Einbender fears that he and Mickelson, despite their ward’s sympathetic bishop, will be excommunicated. There’s “a lot of local leadership that have no desire to excommunicate anyone,” he told me. The Handbook gives local leaders enough autonomy to allow them to look the other way from gay marriages if they choose. But, he said, it’s not that easy to find a gay-friendly bishop. Bishops aren’t permanently placed within a ward; they swap after five years. So finding someone who won’t excommunicate you is a gamble—as Einbender says, “bishop roulette.”"

It’s possible to practice as an excommunicated Mormon. John Gustav-Wrathal, a senior vice president (along with Richardson) at Affirmation, a group for LGBT Mormons and their allies, was excommunicated in 1986. He’s participated in the church as best he can: He attends prayers, participates in charitable missions, sings in his ward’s choir, and describes himself as a “believing Mormon.” Like the others, he feels accepted within his congregation.

Gustav-Wrathal told me that he left the church when he was excommunicated, but returned nearly two decades later. “I am very compelling, very powerful personal spiritual experience.” Gustav-Wrathal told me. “I felt God telling me that it was time to go back.”

At the end of the day, the gay men who are sticking with Mormonism don’t believe that the church leaders have the authority to dictate their relationships with God. As Harrison told me, “This is my church."*

*Excerpts from: "Meet four gay Mormons standing by the church that wants them out" by Danielle Wiener-Bronner on FUSION

Friday, November 20, 2015

Gay Frankenstein

I saw a bad movie last week that was part horror, part mystery, part thriller, lot's of action and reeeeaally bad. It ends with a voice-over by Frankenstein's monster about why he is what he is. There he stands on a rooftop in a Gothem-like setting and he slowly articulates: "...I, Frankenstein."  Very dramatic. 

I thought I would use his technique here to nail down what I am and how I feel about it. Here goes:

I... gay Mormon dude.  

I have always been a homosexual Mormon man, though the specific age has varied – man child, young man, college man, taxpayer man, and now sorta old ma... never mind. 

The nails... please watch the nails.

By the same token, I have always been a Mormon of the “dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through” variety. I was born into an LDS family and through pain, pride and prayer I have always come back to my Church - sometimes from a great distance, sometimes not. 

I am so proud of my religion that I don’t care what others call it, Mormon, LDS, or Latter-day Saint, nor do I care about the popular misconceptions. I was once asked on my mission if I was embarrassed that the Spanish definition of Mormon in the dictionary was “a polygamous sect”. 

No I wasn’t embarrassed. I was a Mormon, and I knew what it truly meant to be a Mormon.  I was proud of my heritage – regardless of what others thought. With that foundation established it was easier to handle being asked about my wives, responding in a friendly way to "hey you J-dub", or “Hola CIA.”  I even had local ruffians who asked me to put 100 bucks on Honduras in the World Cup with my bookie back in the states.

I have even responded to "that F-ing Mormon" or "F-ing fag" Call me anything these days – as long as you call, and I will tell you how vital to me my membership is in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

By the same token, my homosexuality – like my religious beliefs, has never been a question for me. I am tall, I am a Mormon, I am slightly arrogant, I like tangy taffy and I am homosexual. My sexual attraction -- regardless of whatever popular semantic has been assigned to it -- has been such from the beginning.

I am proud of who I am. However, you may have noticed that I am writing this blog, and an upcoming book, anonymously. Why do I go by Calvin Thompson and not my real name?  

Frankly, I haven't gone to great lengths to keep my identity private, and anyone who wants to put forth the effort could figure it out in a hurry. Several have figured it out and they keep it to themselves. 

The reason I keep my pseudonym active is because of my family. Family is the reason I don't come out and say that I am gay. I am married to a woman and I have kids and I am faithful to my wife and the covenants I made in the LDS temple.

And yet, I am gay and proud to be what I am -- what god made me. 

I have not always been proud. When I was in college, after serving an honorable mission, I started acting on my urges. For those new to the blog, this means that I had gay sex. I had a lot of gay sex. I could not come to grips with being gay and a Mormon. I thought I had to be one or the other.  

There was no one to advise me and I did my best with what I had. I slept around. I quickly found the underground gay scene at BYU and I became the homecoming queen. I say that with a little laugh, but it almost did me in. 

It's taken me 20 years to function as an adult male in the world. I write this blog so that others in my position -- those who are gay and Mormon and want to keep ties to the LDS church and their religious beliefs -- can do so without the duplicity that would have killed me.

My wife is OK with me writing this blog.  She doesn't read it, and I don't ask her to. Once I have put my book out I will back out of the gay Mormon writing scene altogether. My job will be finished - as far as letting those in my position know that there are options available.

There are, by the way, options available.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Answer the dang phone, people

I feel compelled to find a way to explain the recent adjustment to LDS church policy. I don't represent the church, but I am a believing member, and I have family and friends who are as well.  

I also have family and friends who do not in any way believe like I do. In fact, it always blows me away when I think about just how different our belief systems are - and we are still familiar and friendly. I hope to continue that.

One of them reminded me that "Friendship that insists upon agreement on all matters is not worthy of the name".
I once wrote a mother's story about when she had been a bit abrupt with her small child after she found him playing in the road in front of the home. The theme was that this mothers actions may have appeared to an outsider to be mean and un-provoked. How dare she swat that kid on the behind and scold him. It sure didn't seem like a Christian thing to do. However, the mother was trying to teach the child to stay out of the road for obvious reasons. She was looking at the big picture. 
It’s a lovely story, but it doesn’t quite work in this case. There is a better one.
"What would Jesus do?"
There is a biblical account of our Savior and how he treated different ethnic groups... well, differently. He personally spoke to, taught, and ministered to all groups. However, He very clearly included only the Israelite people as members of His church, the Church of Jesus Christ. 
The policy to baptize only Israelites was not a new policy, but one that had been around for years before Christ’s birth. He continued the policy. Several people have tried to make sense of the policy that excluded non-Israelite's from being members of Christ's church, but there is no information that clarifies or explains. Later, it was revealed to the prophet, Peter, that the then current policy of exclusion should be discontinued. If he knew the reason why, he did not explain it to anyone who wrote it down - not that I know of.
This current policy adjustment at first look (even a second look) appears to exclude children of same-sex couples just as the policy in Christ's time excluded non-Israelites. It looks like that because it does exclude them. This could be due to custody issues or harmony-in-the-family issues --as has been explained on-line by several Mormon apologists that are smarter than I am. 

If you look at the policy -- and you may need to wipe away a few tears to do so -- it allows these children to be baptized with intervention from the priesthood leaders, who will look at each case individually to insure safety for the child. It’s a big picture scenario. It is also a scenario that includes the distinct possibility that god knows more than we do. No decent man would have thought this up on their own. I believe the General Authorities of the LDS church are, at very least, decent men.
It boils down to this. This policy was adjusted under the direction of the prophet. Does the prophet speak for God, or not? Is the Savior leading this church or not? If he is, as I believe, there is faith and compassion involved -- faith that He leads his church and has everyone’s best interest at heart; and compassion to all everywhere regardless of their belief, political involvement, religion, age, sex, nationality, race, or --fortunately for me, IQ.
Are children being punished for the sins of the fathers? 
Suffer the little children to come unto me, and keep them safe from all danger.
First, it is not my place to identify same sex partners as sinners. There are judges in Zion and I am not one of them. 
Second, no. Children are not being punished. But it appeared like it when I first read the news. It seemed like someone was saying "Go ahead and get married to whoever you want.  Now take this...!"  I am sure that is not the case.  But there is a consequence for actions in and out of the church -- clearly -- for same-sex marriage as far as family is concerned. Creating personal conflict between a child who wishes to be baptized a member of the LDS church (which is crystal in its support of family and man/woman marriage) and parents in a same-sex marriage is not prudent for anyone – mostly the children.
Additionally, there may be custody issues as well. All that is needed is for one parent to agree to baptism, as has been the case for years. If there is a disagreement concerning the baptism and one parent agrees over the wishes of the other parent, that parent may sue over custodial interference and change the custodial status.
Bringing it home
I received a letter from someone who had been invited to a child's baptism this weekend. My friend does not want to support the LDS church because of this policy. Regardless of my own belief, I support my friend and his decision. I believe that he is taking a stance because he cares. I would encourage him to support the child regardless of his personal belief concerning the child's religious affiliation. Would he support a child being baptized into the Seventh Day Adventists or Catholic church -- whose policies he does not agree with either? Sure he would. 
One last thought:  
A saying on a church bill board said, "Don't care how tough you think you are.  When a two year old hands you a toy phone, you answer it." 
Regardless of policy perception, answer the dang phone, people.