Letter to a Family Member
By D. W.
(The following is an excerpt from a letter written in response to a family member who recently learned that the author was gay.)
It is difficult for me to know how to respond to your letter. You asked that I "return to the teachings of my youth." I'm sure you would be pleased to read that your words of concern have greatly impacted me and that I am ready to do exactly as you implored. That is, however, not the case, and anything short of that deserves some honest discussion between us.
I recognized that I was homosexual at the age of fourteen. I spent the next fourteen years trying to avoid it, deny it, hide from it, and convince both myself and the world otherwise. In the process, I learned self-hatred, self-loathing, and how to be a very good actor. Indeed, that's about all my life was—an act. God saw me playing my act and could not answer, for God can only respond when people approach Him in truth. Since then, I have spent eight years unraveling and unwinding the "teachings of my youth." I have learned that I am not awful, not ugly, not terrible or horrible or wicked, and not an enemy to God. In short, I am not any of the things the teachings of my youth taught me that I was because I was homosexual. Frankly, the teachings of my youth had nothing but lies, misinformation and bad advice about the most perplexing and overwhelming issue of my life. Why would I wish to return to them?
The awful irony in all this is that the church's current statements on homosexuality are dramatically different from those which it declared as TRUTH when I was in my youth. Today, general authorities no longer teach that homosexuality is chosen. They concede that the attempts of the last three decades to change or "cure" homosexuality have failed. And they candidly admit that they don't understand homosexuality at all. Yet, when I was in my youth, they claimed to know all about it: what it was, why it was, and what to do about it. And I, of course, believed them.
Now you ask that I "come back to the church and live the way latter-day prophets teach." I ask you: What exactly is that way? How would the church have me live? Both I and the church now recognize that I am not someday going to change miraculously into a heterosexual (as was promised to so many young men for so many years). So what is my path now according to the church? Shall I marry? Shall I live a life of pretense? Shall I dupe one of God's daughters into living the lie with me? Would God want that for one of his daughters? Would you have counseled one of your daughters to have entered such a marriage? If I decide to marry, should I tell my intended wife who and what I really am? Or shall I forever keep that most intimate part of me a secret from the one person who is supposed to be my most intimate companion? If I entered into a marriage, would I really be able to pull it off? For how long? What sort of estranged relationship would we have when she cannot fulfill my needs for emotional fulfillment, affection, companionship, intimacy and bonding? You see, that is something most people fail to recognize: "homosexuality" is a very poor word for describing a whole constellation of personality traits that have very little to do with sex. It's really "homo-affectionality," "homo-emotionality," "homo-intimacy," "homo-bonding," and so on. Forgetting the sexuality part, none of these other aspects would be fulfilling in the context of marriage. Without them, what kind of marriage would it be? Could it really be called a marriage at all? Two people living out two hollow lives under the same roof. Imagine the kind of environment that would be for children to grow up in. What kind of emotionally devoid adults would they become? Actually, you don't have to imagine any of these things. You have only to look at the lives of so many men who, following the counsel of the church, did exactly this. Their common experience is empty promises, broken hearts, angry wives, failed marriages, and children without fathers. Surely you would not urge me to live this way!
Let us consider my other option according to the church: a life of celibacy and solitude. Your primary objection to homosexuality was that it did not fulfill the admonishment received by Adam to "multiply and replenish the earth." That is obviously true of a celibate life as well, yet the church regularly condones and recommends it to homosexual members. A bit of a double standard here, don't you agree? I presume that in the church's way of thinking, a life of celibacy will at least allow an individual to reach death without committing some heinous moral crime, and that a sin of omission is somehow preferable to a sin of commission—or is it just more palatable? What is insupportable is how a society and theology built on the premise of committed, covenanted relationships can turn face and deny to one-tenth of its members the only kind of primary relationship that is intrinsically meaningful to them. Unlike Catholicism or Buddhism, there is simply no place for a solitary life within Mormon theology. Even ignoring the theological emphasis, you have to ask yourself: Is a solitary life really a healthy way for a human being to live? Don't we grow and mature, get our needs met, learn empathy, learn to give and share, learn to care for another, live fuller, richer lives all by being in a relationship? Would you really deny me the richness and fulfillment of such a relationship simply because it also has a sexual element; a sexual element which, by the way, enhances the communication, the commitment, the tenderness, and the bonding of the relationship—a sexual element which, though you may not understand it, is the only kind that is authentic and genuine to me? Where is the reason in that? No, a solitary life cannot be upheld as the model here either.
So where does that leave me? Simple. The church has no answers for the homosexual. It never did. This is not to say that the Gospel does not have answers: I believe it does. But the church has barely begun to ask the questions. During the last three decades the church has displayed nothing but arrogance on the subject. That arrogance has resulted in bad counsel and broken lives. Now at last, finally, the church has admitted it doesn't understand homosexuality. That, at least, is a starting point. But what shall I and eight hundred thousand Mormons like me do in the meantime? How shall we live our lives now that the church has proved itself incompetent on the issue? Where do we turn for truth, for direction, for peace?
How shall I live my life? Eight years ago this was a question I asked and pondered and prayed about over and over and over again. I am sure you have wrestled with the Spirit at times in your life. Do not imagine that my struggle was any less fervent or honest than your own. There was only one place to go for answers and that was to the Source of all truth deep within myself. Now you may object here that the Source of truth lives in the heavens above, and that is true enough; but He speaks to me in the language of the heart, and in dreams, and in the peace in my own soul.
And this is what I know today: Homosexuality is not categorically wrong. That it may be used in inappropriate, unproductive and immoral ways is true; but that, of course, is true of heterosexuality as well. In and of itself my sexuality is just as beautiful, just as virtuous, just as Godlike as your own. And it may be used in those ways. My sexuality is God-given as surely as the shape of my nose, my love of art, my intellect and my ability to weep for another. How any of these came about—whether through genes, or biochemistry or fetal development or children experience—is unimportant. As such, God intended it to be for my good. I was not given this as some special cross to bear. He intended it as a blessing to be received with joy and thanksgiving and to be expressed in the same. I will not hide it. I will not be embarrassed by it. I will not deny the gift of God that is mine nor will I throw it away and wish for some other gift. To do so would be to dishonor God and attempt to frustrate His purpose for my life. I am gay because that is precisely the perfect condition for me to learn exactly what it is I came here to learn. As the parable teaches, it is by using our gifts—not hiding them—that we earn our reward.
Joseph Smith wrote: "That which is wrong under one circumstance may be and often is right under another. This is the principle upon which the government of heaven is conducted: by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed." This is my circumstance. Even the church now recognizes it as an unalterable condition of life, yet many still call it "abominable" because, in Joseph's words, they "understand the order of heaven only in part." No, I do not claim to understand the order of heaven in full. No modern person but Joseph has claimed that, and he was killed before he could complete what he saw. But I do know how to live my life. Finally, I know how to live my own life. That much is given to me. I cannot do otherwise.