My engagement with Mormonism ebbs and flows. Because of my kids, it’s in my life whether I like it or not. My life is a perpetual attempt at surfing the alternating waves of disgust, compassion, frustration, longing and peace towards my former faith. While I tend to write about the negative stuff here, those intermittent emotions of compassion, longing and peace towards Mormonism still come and go in my life.
I’ve recently hooked up with a wide array of local Facebook groups where the spectrum of Mormons/ExMormons and LGBTG Out/In intersect. Some groups feel like they are practically an arm of the LDS Church, like Affirmation, and others are blatantly thrilled to be free of it. In between there are groups like Mormon Stories where you’ll find active Mormons hanging out with apostates. There are Gay Mormon Fathers and Gay ex-Mormons, LDS LGBT Allies, etc (BTW, I can’t really tell the difference between North Star and Affirmation these days… North Star = live the gospel as taught by current leaders at all costs? Affirmation = live as one chooses but imagine that it’s the real gospel?)
I can feel at home at different spots along the spectrum on any given day. Some of these groups are closed or secret so I won’t be mentioning them by name (but if you are looking for a specific group more aligned with where you are along the spectrum, get in touch and I’ll recommend some places for you).
Trying to fit in, I’ve gone to ex-Mormon parties and Gay-straight ally study groups. I’ve thrown a Gay Mormon gathering myself and I’ve met some wonderfully interesting, fun and loving people along the spectrum.
The one overarching feeling that lingers with me after these interactions is gratitude. I am so grateful that my religious studying, questioning and coming out played out the way it did because I believe it has made it emotionally easier on me than what I witness many others currently going through.
Rather than coming to terms with my homosexuality and then struggling to make my Mormon world fit that reality, I instead studied and reasoned my way through Mormonism to the point that I was able to confidently determine that the LDS version of the world was wrong about so many things that it couldn’t possibly be “true” in the sense that it claims to be. From there, it was an easy and confident conclusion to reach that they are likewise wrong about homosexuality and that I really AM GAY… and that that’s incompatible with LDS doctrine and culture. It is incompatible with an LDS life…unless you contort, squeeze, manipulate and deny.
While some Mormons recognize that homosexuality is not just a choice, a weakness or a temptation, many still feel it is a behavior to avoid (the Bednar fiasco). Early on in this journey I determined that I was more gay than I was LDS. I was born into both, but the gay was unchangeable, the LDS was not. In deciding my path, I had to ask one question:
If you had not been born Mormon but had encountered it as an adult knowing both what you know now and who you know now would you elect to join it?
I had many wonderful Mormon experiences in 40 years, but relishing those puts the cart before the horse in my mind. I never would have had them if I’d really had a fully informed choice.
I don’t even deny the special nature of those experiences but I know that I can’t trust Mormonism to frame the meaning in reality. They were real experiences and yet I can now define them as mine, rather than ones owned by the Mormon leadership or Heavenly Father. It’s frustrating to watch others feel compelled to stay in Mormonism because of these experiences the church has co-opted from them.
In these various online groups I participate in, I witness tortured folks who stay LDS because they “can’t deny spiritual witnesses” but feel that they would rather deny a lot of other more salient truths about themselves and their futures. They fear excommunication even though they’re clearly outside the jagged lines of Priesthood authority. They still speak about prophets and divine scriptures even though they deny or ignore when those holy scepters condemn them. They are dependent on their Church membership for “service opportunities” even though they can’t really define what is actually serviced in their church callings…other than the church itself. They imagine themselves the impetus for engendering compassion in others without being willing to call themselves “tools.”
I’m grateful that I somehow avoided that tortuous route. I never walked the path of creating an imaginary religion that only exists in my head that I publicly call Mormonism but that I inwardly and privately contort and mold until it’s unrecognizable to almost anyone else. I’m grateful that I don’t currently feel the common compulsion to frame my past and present using out-dated language and paradigms.