Monday, September 21, 2009

Peace

After two and a half days at the Affirmation conference, last night I was feeling more peace than I have for a long time, especially in the last 3 weeks. I found myself humming the melody of the hymn "Do What is Right". When I got to the chorus, I subconsciously started singing the words, and then realized how appropriate the message was:
Do what is right, let the consequence follow
Battle for freedom in spirit and might.
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.

God will protect you; then do what is right!

(I just realized that I have actually blogged about this hymn before!)

One of the mothers I met at the banquet Saturday night (the one who is active LDS and had to fight once to keep her recommend) said a few words to the entire group when accepting an award. One thing she said is, "You are my people. I love being with you, the gay and lesbian members of the church." It was amazing to hear these words out of the mouth of a straight, white-haired, 80 (?) year-old woman. I felt the power in her words, because I agree with them whole-heartedly. I was reminded of a scripture from the Bible:

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. (Ruth 1:16)

Carol Lynn Pearson also spoke at the same banquet. She spoke of her Stake President and the effort he is making to help the members of the stake understand homosexuality. Here is her explanation of that from a newsletter that she emails to anyone who wishes to get it:
A NOTEWORTHY HAPPENING IN MY LDS STAKE.

Last Sunday and the Sunday before, my stake presidency--three of the finest men you're going to find on the planet--gave presentations to all the adults in every ward in our stake in the "fifth Sunday" time slot they frequently utilize. In the words of my stake president, Dean Criddle:

"All of our remarks throughout the presentations were anchored on a statement drawn from a 1991 letter from the First Presidency encouraging 'Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding' to those experiencing homosexuality. We also focused our Stake members' attention on similar, supporting statements included in articles by Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in 1995 and 2007 issues of the Ensign, the 2007 pamphlet, God Loveth His Children, and the interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Lance Wickman posted at the LDS Newsroom ('Same Gender Attraction') on the Church website. Some of our major points were:

1. Our sexual orientation (which gives rise to unbidden feelings and impulses) does not appear to be a matter of choice, nor does it call for blame.
2. Heterosexual marriage is not a 'cure' for homosexual feelings.
3. Members of the Oakland Stake must be sensitive to the unusual burdens placed on members of our Church who experience homosexual impulses and not contribute to a hopelessness that drives some to despair and even suicide.
4. Parents especially are called upon to show love and support for a child who brings them the news that he/she is experiencing homosexual feelings.
5. A Church member who experiences homosexual impulses but is willing to follow the Church's code of behavior is entirely worthy to hold high positions in the Church.
6. Our responsibility and opportunity is to show Christlike love and respect for all of our brothers and sisters----in our families, our neighborhoods, our places of work and our Church.
7. Without condoning conduct inconsistent with the teachings of the Church, members have a duty to show love even to those who choose other life paths.

"The instruction we gave included nothing new. It was just a gentle reminder that all Church members at baptism covenant to 'bear one another's burdens, that they may be light.' (Mosiah 18:8-10)"

A member of each ward participated, sharing life experiences that added to the impact of the event. From members of my own ward and other wards, I have heard nothing but very appreciative comments about this important counsel--"Such a healing experience for our family"--"Absolutely right on--we all needed that"--"A very large step in the right direction."
Back to the banquet...She also spoke of small gatherings she has begun having in her home with members of her ward with one of her gay friends in attendance to help them learn and understand. So far, the results have been very positive. This coming week she has invited the Relief Society Presidency.

The main message that she ended with was that we should each follow a path that leads us to peace and happiness, whatever that might be. She repeated it with passion, and I felt it pierce my heart and soul. I have been so unhappy since trying to obtain a new temple recommend. It has been about as far from peace and happiness as I can be. Maybe another path is in order? (Dare I say that on this blog? Honestly, I'm not sure I care any more.)

Sunday came some of the neatest experiences ever. We attended a devotional (again, part of the Affirmation conference) and were privileged to sing "I'll Walk with You" with Carol Lynn leading it. I've mentioned it in a previous blog post, but she was asked to write this primary song for children that don't always fit in, and as she wrote it, she thought of children that will grow up in the church and figure out that they are gay. It was a sweet experience to hear the beautiful voices of gay and lesbian Mormons (and former Mormons) and family members that love them, with Carol Lyn standing before us.

The entire devotional was wonderful. It included several songs, including one commissioned for the conference, and some beautiful scriptures, Moroni 7:42-48 and Matthew 5:1-16. The best part, though, was the closing hymn. A soloist sang the first verse of "God Be with You Till We Meet Again" and then the congregation joined in on the 2nd verse. By the beginning of the 3rd verse, people began to stand up. By the last chorus, we were all linked hand-in-hand and many of us were balling our eyes out. It was an incredible experience.
God be with you till we meet again;
When life’s perils thick confound you,
Put his arms unfailing round you.
God be with you till we meet again.
God be with you till we meet again;
Keep love’s banner floating o’er you;
Smite death’s threat’ning wave before you.
God be with you till we meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet,
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.
The last thought we heard last night before we decided we needed to leave to get home to our children was at a "Family Fellowship" meeting (a support group for members of the church with gay family members). A few parents were paying tribute to their gay sons and daughters. The love they showed was incredible. The mother that was speaking right before we left said something to the affect of "Many say that they are against gay marriage because it is a moral issue. But I have a different idea of what is immoral. I believe it is immoral to push gay people to the point of suicide. I believe it is immoral for me NOT to stand up for the rights of my gay child."

Amen to that.

I believe that I am following the right path. Peace is a sweet feeling.

6 comments:

Gail said...

I must say I felt much peace this weekend at the conference. I think I was more spiritually uplifted this week end than I have felt cumulatively for the past three years at church, since my wife came out to me. Thanks for your thoughts Sarah.

Gail

Sarah said...

Gail, it was so good to meet you. You and I seem more on the same page than any other straight spouse I have talked to. Scott just helped me join the Family Fellowship yahoo list, so we can stay in touch (at the very least) that way.

Thanks for your comment.

Jenz said...

I'm glad you found peace. Great post. Thanks so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I have only commented a few times, but Sarah, you are an amazing woman! I read your blog regularly and I have such respect for you and everything you are doing and learning. Your open heart is what enables you to take this day by day in such a loving way.

I am part of the staff for The Passion of Sister Dottie S Dixon and I hope you and Scott will come to see the play as we venture again during the month of October. I know you will appreciate the humor and emotions that are so lovingly portrayed. Check out tickets at Arttix. If you come, please let me know so I can hopefully get to meet you! I have emailed you before so you should have my info!

Judy Ball

lanabanana said...

Sarah...you have SUCH a better memory than me! I loved reading your recollection of the conference highlights. To me, it was one big uplifting blur. Must be age.

Ditto what Judy said about your open heart being the key to your ability to adapt along your journey. Keep up the good work, and I'm glad you are feeling better.

Alanna

Sarah said...

Since I was once called to task on "announcing" a blog post that not everyone can read, I am just going to announce it in a comment instead. I have finally written a post that tells a little bit more about the Affirmation conference and an impression I had while I was there.