France, August 2018—Two weeks ago I found myself running in the woods like in my first post. ¹ Just back from America, my head was full of the amazing places and friends I visited there. I saw Mesa Verde in Colorado and its impressive Native American pueblo carved in rock formations with Elder Larson—the Latter-day Saint who taught me the Gospel and confirmed me a member of the Church—and his family. ²
4—Being LDS in France and in the closet
1—Back on the road after a few months and back from Utah where I visited my LDS missionary and ‘my other missionary’ (the Fundamentalist who re-baptised me) and revisited 1996.
We stopped at Lake Powell, in Utah—where I’d wanted to go since the missionaries told me about it 22 years ago. It was 104ºF/40ºC at 8 p.m. and we swam under the moon in the pink sunset—one of those magical moments when you’re aware of making memories. As magical as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon—which wasn’t even on our list. Nothing had prepared me for such breathtaking beauty. We covered five different states in one day, seeing everything, stopping everywhere.
That evening we drove through northern Arizona to get to our motel in Colorado. Sheets of rain in the distance, dirt devils, red rocks, wide open space, buffalos. Lightening too. And Mormon churches in the middle of nowhere. I was so jet-lagged I had only slept six hours in the last 48 hours but I was too excited to feel tired. I almost felt like I did when I was young and America was my dream place.
Mormon women—the first women to obtain to right to vote in the USA, as far back as 1870.
I took a break after writing the last instalment. I knew work would be busy in May and June and since I was picking up a year after the last post, I thought it might be a good move. The break was welcome because I was going through some personal changes. I’m no longer in a relationship. At first my boyfriend’s idea. Then mine. As wonderful as he was/is, and no matter how much I sometimes miss him, there was too much tension, conflict and frustration in that relationship and not enough common goals, similar interests or shared values.
Someone said I could now do all the things I couldn’t do, like going through temple ordinances. Not exactly, because the change is circumstantial. My disposition hasn’t changed. I told Moroni—the Independent Mormon Fundamentalist who re-baptised me in 2012. We were by the pool. It was so hot outside. I asked Martha, Moroni’s wife, if she was disappointed in me. We hadn’t talked much over the last year. “I want you to know that I’m not disappointed in you,” she said. “I love you and I feel extremely connected to you. You do have a special work to do. God will always use you if you are willing to do as the Spirit directs. You are family to me. Don’t expect me to think of you as anything but the good man that you are.” How blessed I am to have so much love and support from such a faithful Saint and her husband!
Together we visited St George’s Mormon historic sites. The temple is a favourite of mine. Dedicated in 1877, it was the first temple completed since the Mormons were forced out of Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1846. The Tabernacle, completed in 1871 was beautiful—we actually were the first visitors since its refurbishment! The tour guide was probing, trying to understand how Moroni could have so many kids. I think she knew!
Next stop, the Jacob Hamblin House. He was a Western pioneer, a Mormon missionary, a diplomat to various Native American tribes of the Southwest and a polygamist. He helped with the settlement of large areas of southern Utah and northern Arizona. The vineyard was a reminder that the Church used to produce wine. At Brigham Young‘s Winter Home, one of the lights was so Stevie Nicks!
We drove through Colorado City on the state line of Utah and Arizona. It’s an FLDS stronghold. Many people have heard of them, they’re the most extreme Fundamentalist Mormon group, with their women in prairie dresses and their houses half-finished in order to avoid paying tax on them.
I got to spend time in Salt Lake City. At the State Capitol there is a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female State Senator in the USA, back in 1896. A physician and a Mormon plural wife, she had defeated her own husband who ran on another party’s ticket. She’s a hero of mine. There’s a painting inside the State Capitol that celebrates Mormon women—the first women to obtain the right to vote in the USA, as far back as 1870. Interestingly, the US government revoked that right in 1887 as part of their plan to rid the territory of polygamy. If the Church slowly disavowed polygamy, plural marriage never disappeared.
I went back to Temple Square. The Temple has always been my favourite building in America. I got my picture taken by the statue of Brigham Young—Pioneer, Statesman, Church President, polygamist and my hero too. I’d share pictures if I didn’t fear getting into trouble at work again for being a Fundamentalist.
Before leaving town, I had to go back to two places: First, my favourite bookstore in the world: Ken Sanders Rare Books. It has entire rows of books dedicated to Mormon doctrine, Mormon history, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and a copy of the Book of Mormon in the Deseret alphabet—a phonetic alphabet designed in the 19th century to help non-English speaking Mormon immigrants. Second, Lucky 13—to savour the best burgers in the world again.
When I left Salt Lake City I drove past many places that were as many memories, good and bad. The scene, over 21 years, of life-changing moments. That city is very special to me. In fact, I’ve fallen in love with SLC all over again on this trip.
I didn’t want to leave America this time. And going for a run after then days of copious amounts of delicious food and gallons of Dr Pepper, Root Beer and Mountain Dew was hard… But it’s as if we have outdoor air-conditioning here. It was warm but not too warm, plus it was raining a little and the sun was shining a little and I love that about Britain.
It’s been an amazing summer. I went to Northern Ireland before going to the U.S. You know, Salt Lake City is my favourite city in my favourite state in the U.S., like Belfast is my favourite city in my favourite country in the U.K. And I realise it’s for similar reasons—the history, the religion, the people, the food, the architecture and the scenery. My Belfast friends keep saying I ought to move there. At least there’s no immigration laws to contend with.
I’m finishing this introductory post in France, in my hometown. It’s funny how everything’s the same here and at the same time so different, and I feel at home (maybe for the first time) while feeling like I’m a foreign tourist too.
How different was my life just over one year after joining the LDS Church.
Yesterday I went to the house of the family that live next door to the LDS meeting house. These two places were my home, everyone there was family. Yesterday was the anniversary of my baptism too. I’ve been reading my old journal from 1996 to prepare this new series of posts. Many episodes drew me in. I was there again. Others that seemed so important I cannot recall.
How different was my life was just over one year after joining the LDS Church! These new posts are about my being an LDS member in France—the time between my baptism and when things shifted—and forced me to deal with my homosexuality or let the Church do it for me. Being back to the scenes I’ve just finished writing is sweet, not bitter—apart from the old pictures on which I look so darn young!
My intention isn’t to promote a lifestyle but to tell my own story, bring some understanding and support others in a similar situation. I was hopeful it would work but I certainly didn’t expect to receive so much in return. The response this blog has got from gay Mormons, mothers of LGBT (ex-)members, regular active LDS members and even some Fundamentalists have been amazing. So, thank you so much. However, someone said I should remove the ‘Mormon’ in my blog title because of the new Church policy. Come on, Fundamentalists stopped caring about policies in 1890!
Now let’s get back on the road to 1996!