Monday evening—I feel different—happier—since the prayer in the woods. It’s as if I’ve gone from being in a ‘dead zone’ to being able to FaceTime God. And I’ve felt impressed to do something. One Scripture came to me when I prayed last night: “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.” ¹
1—Who I am; where I am; why I’m writing this blog.
4—Where’s the place for gays in God’s many mansions? Is Mormon doctrine that clear about it? Why holding on to this religion? I know I have my part to play in this world.
I’m home from work now, writing to the Mormon Fundamentalist who re-baptised me that “I imagine it will rub many people the wrong way but it’s a story that wants to be told.” I spell out my intentions: a blog that could help dispel misconceptions about Mormonism; bust myths about Fundamentalists and correct misunderstandings about same-sex attraction. “I would also like to help gay Mormons see they can retain and nurture their faith.”
But doesn’t Mormonism teach that gay people are sentenced to Hell? Mormons don’t believe in places like Heaven and Hell. We may use those terms but we actually believe in degrees of glory—or kingdoms—that all humans will be assigned to at the resurrection.
The top one is a three-tier ‘Celestial’ kingdom (which I’ll compare to a black-tie dinner in a swanky place, and God belongs in that sort of place); then the ‘Terrestrial’ kingdom (that I’ll compare to a nice pool party in the suburbs); and the ‘Telestial’ kingdom—that Mormon leaders of the past compared to this world in which we live (and which I’ll compare to an evening watching Netflix on the couch).
I’m not saying that being gay is something which leads to exaltation, but I believe this is an issue far too complex for an ‘all or nothing’ approach.
Mormons believe we will receive the degree of glory we deserve and—we often forget this part—the degree that we are able to abide. The kingdom of glory we will be assigned to should not necessarily be seen as some punishment or banishment from God, but rather as the ‘place’ that will suit us best—depending on our preparation and personal disposition.
Indeed, some people might feel uncomfortable at a black-tie dinner and enjoy the pool party more. It could also depend on how hard it is to get there—and if you’re anything like me, on who the other guests are! Besides, who would want to attend a black-tie dinner wearing swimming shorts?
I suppose most Mormons believe all parts of the Celestial kingdom are off-limit to homosexuals. That separation from God is what we refer to as ‘Hell’ and ‘damnation’. But it is not Hell in its usual sense. Because I can accept those limitations, some people call me ‘self-loathing’. I am not. It’s not about being gay. Exaltation comes after the fulfilment of higher laws.
A good, straight, married man cannot expect the reward of exaltation any more than I can if he doesn’t fulfil all the conditions and doesn’t comply to all the requirements thereof. That decent man won’t go to Hell (as people see it), but to a lesser kingdom (which could be a better place than this world—or in other words: Heaven).
One of the essential requirements of exaltation is going through the sacred masonic-style temple ceremony of ‘taking out one’s endowment’. It consists of a series of washings and anointings mingled with teachings, oaths and tokens. I wanted/want to take out my endowment, not only for its highly dramatic form, but because I believe it is as essential as baptism. Yet I never did go through it for fear of not being able to keep the covenants I would make. I didn’t want to make a mockery of God and make it worse for myself.
Some people argue that it’s different for a straight man who can always convert and go through all the rites and practices. True. But even if he does, as with baptism, there is no guarantee that he will ‘make it’. There are rules and conditions attached. As a Fundamentalist, I believe one of those conditions is (successful) plural marriage. So, again—no man in the country where I live is on better footing than I am!
I am not talking about revolutionising or changing doctrine at all. But I—and others like me who strive to live the Gospel—have a place and a part to play.
Most Mormons will also say that being in an homosexual relationship also bars access to the pool party in the leafy suburbs. But that’s up for debate. I’m not saying that being gay—and in a relationship—is something which leads to exaltation but I believe this is an issue far too complex for an ‘all or nothing’ approach.
Some Mormons believe God will set things ‘right’ for gays in the resurrection, provided we remain faithful to the Gospel—meaning, if we deny ourselves of love and companionship in this lifetime. This could indeed secure me an invitation to the black-tie dinner. I respect and admire those who choose that path. It never works out for me.
I am not barred from God now. I feel the Spirit whenever I pray and read the Scriptures. I have felt His guidance and received personal revelations like ‘worthy’ Mormons do. I believe those are than invitations to change, more than God keeping giving me chances to repent.
I often think about the women and the children that the Apostles in the New Testament kept pushing away from the Lord. Jesus rebuked his Apostles and let women and children come to him. The women understood things the Apostles didn’t understand. The women knew what the men the Christ himself had appointed did not know. ²
I carry on writing to my friend: “I don’t know what you think of it, but is it foolish to think I could minister to those in a similar situation? Of course, I wouldn’t pretend to have keys I don’t have. I am not talking about revolutionising or changing doctrine at all. Just that I—and others like me who strive to live the Gospel—have a place and a part to play.”
I click the Send button. I came out to my Fundamentalist friend in the first email I ever sent him, and to others in his community before I was re-baptised. Last year—after a few months of dating—I sent them all an email. Some reiterated their position on the issue—and I respect them for that. They stand for what they believe is right—just like I do. But all these Mormon Fundamentalists offered their support and their love. I’m blessed to have them in my life.
If Mercy cannot rob Justice, Justice cannot rob Mercy either. Who’s to say that I cannot be at the black tie dinner in some capacity, even serving the distinguished host that I love? Even if I were not to be at the black tie dinner, I believe I can FaceTime God from the pool party, or email him from the apartment where I am watching Netflix—and get an answer.
If I end up in a kingdom where God is not physically present, I can still have His love and feel His presence. Distance prevents me from being with friends and family in France. I miss them. But the U.K., although generally cooler and wetter, is a place that suits me better.
And it is possible to travel to France. Who’s to say that I cannot go to the black tie dinner after the pool? It has been said that progression from one kingdom of glory to another was possible. It makes sense to me given that we profess to believe in eternal progression. ³
I didn’t expect such a quick reply: “There is no one better qualified to do this work than you. You hold the priesthood. You hold even the apostleship. It’s not a work that I can do, because I’m not in the same situation as you. I think you’re in a far better position to reach people who are seeking truth and seeking to understand who they are than anyone I know of. Perhaps this is your work. I think often of you and your baptism. I know that it wasn’t a mistake that we met.”
There is so much we don’t know. As always, I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I’m going.
Lo and behold: A French teenager looking for true religion, and a boy called Joseph Smith. That’s a new series of posts starting in 2 weeks.
² John 12:1–7 and Mark 10:13–15
³ “He [Brigham Young] thought they [those in lower kingdoms] would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial glory but it would be a slow process.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, August 5, 1855, Church Historians Office).
“[I]t is said that those of the Terrestrial glory will be ministered unto by those of the Celestial; and those of the Telestial will be ministered unto by those of the Terrestrial–that is, those of the higher glory minister to those of a lesser glory. I can conceive of no reason for all this administration of the higher to the lower, unless it be for the purpose of advancing our Father’s children along the lines of eternal progression . . . Thus: Those whose faith and works are such only as to enable them to inherit a Telestial glory, may arrive at last where those whose works in this life were such as to enable them to entrance into the Celestial kingdom.” (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God 1:391-392).