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.
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.
“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.
“Why don’t you just let go of religion?” 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.
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).
I loved this post SO much. I have so many things to say and discuss with you about it.
First though- I wish I had a friend who would sit down and point blank ask me- ‘How are you doing spiritually’. And then have it be someone who I feel comfortable being transparent with about where I’m at! What an amazing gift you have in that friend!!
I admire you so much! Your dedication to doctrine, your faith, and your drive to live the gospel amid your own circumstances.
I have often thought about the sacrifice aspect of the gospel and feel that I’m falling short. I’ve sacrificed my time to serve others in the church and the youth, I guess I sacrifice to pay tithing, following the word of wisdom seems like a sacrifice sometimes. But I don’t feel I have ever had to really give up something so big, to live my religion. Maybe it’s just the norm to sacrifice the things I sacrifice, but then that doesn’t feel much like a sacrifice to me. But maybe I don’t understand sacrifice? In my mind I need to be suffering and overcoming my natural man to do without whatever it is.
I know the situation you are in is completely different from mine. And I don’t want to sound insensitive to yours by bringing mine up. I don’t have any awe inspiring answers for you but the thing that I always go back to when I struggle with understanding doctrine is my relationship with God and how I feel about where I stand with him. He knows the struggles of my heart. Just like he knows yours. And I always feel at the end of the day if I’m striving to live the truth to the best I can and the best I understand- God knows my situation and what I’m capable of and if I feel at peace with his love and my efforts then I’m OK. And I keep living and working and striving to be more but I don’t put as much concern on the area I was struggling with.
Does that even make sense? I tend to ramble when I explain things. I think you are doing an amazing job living your truth and balancing the gospel and your faith all together. You are on a hard road. One I don’t understand fully. But for what it’s worth- I’m here.
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Thank you so very much for your support, Wendy, and for taking the time to write! Life can be a struggle and we all have to make sacrifices. More often than not, I fail to sacrifice even what I know I should be sacrificing. Even little things.
I hope I didn’t seem to be implying that my path is harder than other Mormons’. We all have our struggles and I would not compare my burden to yours or any else’s. I don’t know what it’s like to be in anyone else’s shoes. I just want to share my story and let others see what it can be like for gay Mormons/Fundamentalists. If in turn I can help others or inspire them, then I will be happy.
Speaking of ‘happy’, I also hope that my posts don’t come across as self-indulgent and about self-pity. The Gospel has brought me and does bring me so much joy as well as confusion. I am eternally grateful for it and for the many Mormons who have crossed my path or are part of my life. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Your words were encouraging and inspiring. You are right about the importance of maintaining our relationship with God and find peace knowing He loves us and that we do what we can. It is the most important thing. If we live up to what we believe is right, and do the best we can in our own circumstances, while accepting that there is so much we don’t understand and fail to accomplish, all will be right. Your words echoed what I once read Brigham Young say on the topic.
I believe sometimes we must be strong and sometimes we must be weak to progress and to be instruments in God’s hands.
Thank you again for your comment and thank you for being here.