Sunday morning—’80s music—so arrogantly positive and shamelessly dramatic—is perfect for a run through the woods behind my flat. A ‘flat’? Yes, we are in the U.K. But this morning the air, while humid, is surprisingly warm and makes me feel like I’m back ‘home’ in France.
I’m glad I went for a run. And It feels good to be outside. I had a fight with my boyfriend. He knows something’s on my mind. As I’m running I think about him, and I think about a conversation I had. The light in the woods makes me think about Joseph Smith’s First Vision, ¹ and I think about my conversion too.
1—Who I am; where I am; why I’m writing this blog.
1—Why I can never let go of my religion. Why I cannot stop being gay. I sometimes feel like I’m running with what I can’t keep up with. It is what it is. But there are times it’s hard to deal with and to accept.
“How’s your spiritual life going?” That was yesterday over lunch. My friend Andrew is relocating to the south of England and we met in town one last time. I knew he’d ask. There aren’t many people with whom I feel I can discuss this topic. I told him it was not going great. It’s down to circumstances: Being so faraway from Fundamentalist communities as well as being openly gay—and now in a relationship—often feels like running up a gigantic sand dune.
Some people ask: “Why don’t you just let go of religion?” If I could, I would. Not believing in God would make my life much easier!
Some people ask: “Why don’t you just let go of religion?” Why don’t I just let go of homosexuality instead? Worried, they reply that I did not choose to be gay. They are right. But I tell them that unlike some people I did not choose a denomination—and then choose to leave it—because of the congregation or the minister. I believe there is a God, and that there is a divine plan for mankind. I can’t turn my back on what I know in my mind and in my heart to be true. If I could, I would. Not believing in God would make my life much easier!
Andrew’s a Christian and never asked that question. He was raised a Presbyterian and attends a Baptist church in this town he is about to leave. He’s a married man in his early fifties, well-read, thoughtful, devout in a typically dignified, British, Presbyterian kind of way, and very humble despite being a published author. I have always enjoyed discussing religion with him. He knows the Scriptures well and, more importantly, he’s the best kind of believer: strict with himself yet devoid of judgement towards others.
We discussed the ‘gay situation’ again. “Of course that complicates my ‘spiritual life’, even more so now that I’ve decided to be in a relationship,” I said. It’s not a decision I took lightly. In the end, I just didn’t want to go on being lonely. Having no fellowship with other Mormons and no partner no longer seemed viable to me.
Andrew said he understood. But as I’m running, I wonder if I have failed; if it means that I did not ‘sacrifice all things’ as we are required to? ² I know many other Mormons will say I have, indeed, failed. Sometimes I believe it too. And yet, there are times I believe I may have a special purpose and something valuable to learn from this unique set of circumstances: Alone, Mormon, Fundamentalist… Gay.
It’s either full fellowship with the promise of exaltation—to a certain level—or the romantic relationship. It can never be both. There are times it’s hard to accept.
Some people ask: “How about finding a religion that’s more accepting?” It’s a natural question. After all, it’s relatively easy to find an ‘inclusive’ church if you live in a city nowadays. There even is a ‘gay church’ where I live. But hearing, “God is not the mean God of the Bible: He or She or It loves you” doesn’t do it for me. I am glad there are so many churches and denominations out there that cater to an immense variety of people. But they’re not for me. I tried in the past.
My problem is that I care about doctrine. I am not interested in a church that’s politically correct. Religion has to be spiritually correct. If God has a plan, I want to follow that plan the best I can; taste true knowledge; learn the best method; read the map to the top—whether I make it or not.
I could go to the LDS church as a back-up option. It’s still ‘Mormon’ enough. And sometimes I do miss it. But at 41, there are too many unwelcome—or unasked—questions whenever I sit alone on those pews. Going on your own may also be awkward in a Church that’s so family-centred. The mums, dads and kids that fill an entire row are unconscious of their stressing the fact that I’m ‘single’, deficient and therefore not fitting in. It’s different back home in France where I can sit among old friends.
I miss the fellowship of like-minded people but I don’t need a church to worship God. Besides, being the only Fundamentalist in the area offers great advantages—Mormons attend church meetings for 3 hours every Sunday. I get to decide the day and time, the readings or the themes when I worship. Not to mention that I can stay in bed later. Yet worshiping alone can easily make you become lukewarm in the faith or slow down your progression. Church meetings allow members to be challenged by other interpretations and to be sustained by their presence.
One thing I know for sure, and told Andrew, is that in my situation it’s either full fellowship with the promise of exaltation—to a certain level—or the romantic relationship. But it can never be both. It is what it is. But there are times it’s hard to accept.
I hate fighting with my boyfriend. Especially if it’s because my standing before God preoccupies me and makes me irritable. And what if being gay—and in a relationship—could actually help me become more understanding, more patient, and to put him—others—first? I felt impressed with that idea last night as I prayed.
“Do you feel isolated?” I nodded. You don’t fully belong anywhere. Despite your utmost efforts, you remain trapped between two worlds. Most people here don’t understand. Andrew does. I will miss him for that.
Another ’80s song comes up and I start running a little faster.
I’m not out of the woods yet.
² The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life” (Lectures on Faith, comp. N. B. Lundwall [Salt Lake City: N. B. Lundwall, n.d.], p. 58).