I know that a lot of outside people looking in feel bad for me. Many of them blame Scott, from mild disappointment to outright "he is consumed by evil spirits" judgement. But the hard part has not been the change in my relationship with Scott--most of that actually happened last summer when he moved downstairs. (Our 15th anniversary was much more difficult for me than our 16th will be.) The hardest part is the change that has come over the past year with extended family. I gave the book "Gay Mormons?" to all of our siblings and to our parents for mother's day. One of my siblings (and spouse) told my parents that they did not plan to read it at all. That spurred on a conversation between them and me that ended with me saying that I didn't want to talk until they were willing to read and learn and talk about the elephant in the room. Things have obviously been very quiet and awkward between us ever since. Meanwhile, in Scott's family, some family members that were accepting at first have become unacceptable, some that have been quiet have remained quiet, and some that were making great efforts have now hit an impassible brick wall.
What is the impassible brick wall? Church "doctrine". Doctrines like the word of wisdom and the family proclamation, "scriptural" quotes like "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God." For a year or a bit more, since Scott started dating guys and drinking occasionally, he has been very uncomfortable hanging out around his family. They have treated him nicely and made every effort to appreciate and include him, so they don't understand why it isn't enough.
Two or three weeks ago he wrote them a letter telling them that he is done associating with them unless they are willing and able to make changes to how they act and feel about our situation. The straw that broke the camel's back was his brother's unwillingness to tell his daughters (ages 10 and 13) about "Uncle Scott". There was a family BBQ while this brother and his family were in town, and Scott refused to attend. I expressed to my in-laws that I did not want to have to answer everyone's "Where is Scott?" question. So the brother sat down with his girls and told them that Scott and I are separated and getting divorced, to which the girls asked why, and the parents lied and said, "We don't know exactly. Things like this happen sometimes."
Scott was livid, and thus he wrote a letter. (Maybe I will get his permission to post it, or ask him to put it on his blog.) He and I talked about it again last night over dinner, because I have been with his family enough to know how much they are hurting from missing him, and how helpless they feel. They are at such a loss for how to handle it and what to do. I've told them a lot of things about how Scott is feeling, but I really don't know how to help if they are convinced that the church is never wrong. And part of me wishes that he could just let their disappointment roll off his back and continue to associate with them anyway.
But he helped me last night to understand. I am not him and cannot personally feel the pain he is feeling, but if he says distance from his family is a necessity for him, how can I judge that? His comment to me about it last night was, "Until they agree that the church is wrong with the gay issue, I cannot be around them, because regardless of how much they say they love me, there will always be a "but..."
I still feel like church is the place for me to be. I have good friends there. I have opportunities to learn and grow from interactions (and help others to do the same.) But of course my feelings for the church and my place within it are up and down, and I have realized that there is no way I can predict where my church attendance and membership will end up. I sit through the lessons, occasionally touched by a sentence or a feeling here or there, but trying not to be hurt or offended by things that could easily hurt me, like the last few lessons on eternal marriage. (One of the teachers said she couldn't get me out of her mind while preparing her lesson and hoped that she had been able to teach it without it being too hard on me. The worst part was realizing that when she said "some of us marry goobers" that she was thinking of Scott as a "goober." I do not blame her for her good intentions, but I do get tired of people making Scott out to be the "bad guy.")
So there I was today, doing my best to recognize that the correlated lesson material comes from the church, quotes from church leaders etc., in which many members place their unquestioning faith. The lesson today was on the law of chastity, and the following quote was read:
So, sitting through that bunk was hard enough, but then the first words out of the teacher's mouth after the quote was read was something having to do with following the prophet.Like other violations of the law of chastity, homosexual behavior is a serious sin. Latter-day prophets have spoken about the dangers of homosexual behavior and about the Church’s concern for people who may have such inclinations. President Gordon B. Hinckley said:“In the first place, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. We believe that marriage may be eternal through exercise of the power of the everlasting priesthood in the house of the Lord.“People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.“We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 91; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).
I got up and walked out. I was calm. But I knew if I stayed, I wouldn't stay calm, and I would either turn into a pile of mush, or I would say what was on my mind. Either option would not be pretty or appropriate for the meeting. Walking out was the better option. The Relief Society president followed me. She tried to hug me and said she was sorry that the lesson was hard on me. I responded that I could not deny support of my gay friends to marry. She shrugged and said something about church doctrine or teachings or something. I told her I was alright and just had to leave the situation for a bit. Then I left her and went outside and took a walk around the building. Then I came inside and took another walk around the inside air-conditioned building. I needed/wanted to go back, but I had to get it out of my system first. Should I call Scott? No... I know! I will post it on Facebook. That way people in the ward will even see it. Family will see it. And they will see where my loyalties lie: with love, with God, and with my friends.
Here is my post:
"I have to say what I couldn't say in Relief Society. (Instead I walked out.) In my heart I know that my gay friends' marriages are approved by God. I've been in attendance at them and the feeling of happiness and hope was similar to attending a temple marriage. I don't give a sh* what the effin prophets say."
With that post and resulting accolades from LGBTQ friends and allies, I was reminded of three years ago when my struggle was to understand God's position on gay rights. I kept praying and praying, and the answer finally came from my patriarchal blessing: "You have been given the talent to believe and accept truth." As I think of that again today, I feel confidently that God was and is telling me to trust my heart. If I believe that he approves of gay marriage, and I accept that belief, and I have a talent for accepting truth, then logically it must be truth.
I'm not sure this fits in this blog post, but another thing that occurred to me recently is that maybe leaders and general conference talks are pushing the topic of "Following the prophet. Follow your inspired leaders." because someday many church members may have a hard time following and agreeing with new church policies regarding homosexuals. Who knows? :)