Sunday, September 7, 2008

Finding Zion

Following is a subject I considered blogging about previously and then decided not to, but based on some recent experiences and conversations that have shed light on it, I now want to put it all together.

On Sunday, August 10 (the Sunday following the week I sent letters to 3 ladies), one of the ladies I sent a letter to was teaching the lesson in Relief Society (she had not taught the lesson the week before).

I felt during her lesson as though some of her comments were directed at me, although since I didn’t know that for sure, I chose not to dwell on it by blogging or otherwise. Now that I know from the bishop that she was the first to go talk to him and was very distraught, I have more reason to believe that my letter was on her mind and that her lesson was influenced by it.

The topic of the lesson was building Zion. She kept saying things like “Everyone goes through tribulations. The best way to get through tribulations is to follow the Lord and follow what the leaders of the church teach us.” I had mentioned in my anonymous letter that I had realized that the leaders of the church are human and not infallible. I wonder if she was trying to give me guidance on this issue.

Also, she talked about how sometimes people close to us will choose the wrong path, but even if it is a spouse, child, sibling or parent, we should remember that it is more important to follow the lord and keep the commandments than to side with the loved one.

She talked about how Zion does not have to be a particular place. It can even be anytime the saints gather, where we can feel peace in the gospel together. I thought at that point that I was not really feeling peace at all, sitting in this gathering place called Relief Society, with the “Saints.”

But then during the closing hymn (I actually chose the hymn to fit the lesson and led it), I felt chills through my body and interpreted it to be the spirit. I’m not sure what message I was supposed to get from that. It was hymn number 47, “We Will Sing of Zion.” Even now as I re-read the words of the hymn, I don’t understand a direct message to me. Maybe I was just supposed to feel peace, and often music will do that for me.

The next day, I prayed to understand why the hymn had affected me. I read through the words. I let my mind wander as I prayed. My mind started going through a script of bearing my testimony in sacrament meeting, sharing with the ward that it might be the last time they would hear me because the spirit had directed our family to leave the church so that we could find peace, or Zion for ourselves, if you will.

After thinking about that experience for the last month, I don’t think I was being directed to leave the church. The spirit was just letting me know that it was an option if at some point I needed it to find peace. And maybe to also help me understand why some people in our situation do chose to leave the church

But I am not giving up yet. Other things have tested me the last couple of years, given me a desire to quit church, but nothing as strong as this. Now, though, I am more determined than ever to stay active.

This morning Scott and I were talking about how important it is for us (and others like us) to stay active in the church if we are to be successful in spreading knowledge, understanding and tolerance about what it means to be gay, and more specifically, what it means to be an active gay Mormon and supportive family. We have to be pioneers of sorts, facing hardships, to pave the way and make it easier for future gay Mormons to be at peace with being active members of the church.

2 comments:

Damon In CO said...

WOW! As I had read "No More Goodbyes" I had a hard time understanding the families who had chosen to leave the Church when dealing with a childs sexuality. Your post made their decision much more understandable to me.

The gospel is true and our members are flawed. If the social organization of the Church makes life unbearable then do you leave or do you stay?

I suppose that would be a personal choice and that only Heavenly Father can judge your decision. This thought process helps me understand their decisions better.

I know you have no intention of leaving your ward etc. However, your post helped me understand those who do. It's a funny thing for me to say since I am not active right now, either. Although I am not, I would never choose to have my family become inactive as well.

I am not active because in my situation I don't know how to make Church attendance work well for me. Moreover I had a similar experience that you had in RS. However it was in Elders Quorum and they were a little more intense in voicing their thoughts and also their hatred. It leaves a lot of doubt for me that I would be accepted into the ward being open about my sexuality. And for me that is the only way to be at this point.

Oh but there are things I do miss about Church...and other things I do not miss at all.

So as odd as it may seem, since I've made a similar choice, thanks for helping me understand everyone's need to find Zion in their hearts.

CTL said...

Sarah,

I can tell you what I think the chills were. I think Zion is much bigger than we let ourselves believe. I think the word "Zion" implies love for all, including those who are ostracized by our not-so-Zion Mormon culture. The tough part, I've realized, is that this includes also loving the folks at church that are frankly, hateful.

My spin is that you're really dipping in to the spirit of Zion. I think the reason we're taught so much and so often to listen for the spirit, is that we are often guided down difficult or frightening paths, away from the crowd. There is tremendous peer pressure at church, to fit the mold. I think it can serve a purpose, but often it's when we're alone that we achieve the most growth. Keep reaching. I think you know what you're feeling.