Yesterday was stake conference, and ever since the week before when sacrament meeting was all about the sanctity of marriage I felt an ominous sense of foreboding. I tried to dismiss it by telling myself I was just being paranoid, so I went to both the Saturday night and Sunday sessions trying to keep an open mind.
The Saturday session wasn’t bad. It had a heavy focus on “hastening the work,” something I’m not particularly enthusiastic about, but there were some warm fuzzies when a recent convert shared her conversion story.
The Sunday session started out fine. The Stake President even said “usually these meetings are about getting you people married, but we’re going to give you a break this time.” I was even enjoying it until Elder Porter of the Quorum of the Seventy took the pulpit. As soon as he said “on January 10th the First Presidency sent out the following letter” my heart dropped into my stomach.
It got worse from there. He went on to say that same-sex relationships in any form are the greatest tool that Satan is using to derail the Plan of Salvation. He mentioned a recent survey of seminary students in Utah where some of them indicated they were in favor of same-sex marriage, which shows that we as members of the Church are failing our youth by allowing them to have opinions so contrary to the gospel. “We must remember to love people who experience those feelings,” he said, “but that should never be taken to mean that we accept their behavior or agree with their attempts to redefine traditional marriage.”
I understand that the Church is made up of imperfect people, and I try my best to shrug off insensitive comments made by Church members. However, when a general authority comes from Salt Lake to tell my stake that people like me are trying to destroy the gospel, and that their love for LGBT members should be conditional upon our adherence to Church standards, it becomes harder to swallow.
The meeting ended with the hymn “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.” The jarring conflict between the message of the hymn, one of unconditional Christ-like love without judgment, and Elder Porter’s talk made me ill, and I would have fled the room right then if I hadn't come with my roommate.
I got a text right afterward from my home teaching companion asking if I was free to make some visits that afternoon. Since I was wondering if I even wanted to keep my name on the records at that point, home teaching was the last thing I wanted to do. I texted back “I’m really sorry, but after this morning’s session I’m not in a mental/spiritual state where I can represent the church right now.”
He responded a couple minutes later. “Not a fan of anti-gay rhetoric, huh? I can sympathize. Want to talk about it?”
What did he mean by “I can sympathize?” He couldn’t possibly... I laid it all out, how I truly believe in marriage and what a great blessing it can be, but I will have to leave the church if I ever want to experience it.
“It’s very frustrating, I agree. There is no easy answer for guys like us.”
Well, that confirms it. In some ways I shouldn't have been surprised. I mean, statistically speaking, there’s probably a very good reason why an active, 30-year-old RM with a great job is still single. He’s so Mormon, though, and is the last person I would have expected to be a “guy like us.”
He asked what I planned on doing with the Church. I told him I still intend to go to church most weeks, but I’m going to ask to be released from my calling. His response was that he wants me to be happy, and he will support me in any path I believe will bring me joy. By the end of our conversation he had convinced me to go home teaching with him. “I’ll give the lesson,” he promised. “I just need a companion.”
It wasn't bad. In fact, it was one of the few times I've gone home teaching where it didn't feel like a tedious formality. Some of the people we visited seemed excited to have contact from the ward, and I started to think maybe being Mormon wasn't so bad after all.
I used to think that any gay Mormon who held out hope for a traditional marriage or planned on lifelong celibacy was hopelessly deluded. I don’t think that’s the case for him. He has a genuine testimony, and it is enough to sustain him as a single, 30-year-old gay Mormon. Just as he is willing to support me in whatever path I follow, I will support him in whatever he chooses. Who knows, maybe he’ll be one of the extremely rare guys who manages to make a mixed-orientation-marriage work. It would be great if he did, because the Church needs guys like him as bishops, stake presidents, and general authorities.