James F. Cartwright
Second Place, 2002 Affirmation Writing Contest
By James F. Cartwright
I began coming out in 1990 when I attended the Mormon History Association meeting in La'ie. I didn't tell anyone at that time; I didn't even acknowledge this reality to myself at the time. What I did do was visit the books and journals table and found - again - Sunstone. Suddenly I felt as if I had been fasting - starving - for years. Reading something intelligent about the Church and Mormonism was sitting down to a banquet table. Reading was a spiritual joy.
I selected two issues and re-subscribed. One issue I selected because it contained an article about a family's dealing with their son getting and dying from AIDS. An editorial comment next to the article indicated that the father of the family, Wayne Schow, would be co-editing a book, Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation, expected to be published shortly. I knew I needed to read that book. The following summer when I traveled to Salt Lake City, I went to Signature to buy the book. When I arrived at the old Oquirrh School, I was sure that everyone in the office would stop and stare when I asked for the book, that everyone would suspect that they had a homosexual in the office. I felt immense relief when they treated the request as an everyday occurrence.
Sometime in the ensuing months, I awakened one morning and the thought came to my mind as powerfully as if I had heard a voice: "Men do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles." I realized that my life was rich in the fruits of the Spirit. While I had felt discontent in the amount of the Spirit directly blessing my life in recent years, I recognized the richness of the Spirit in those aspects involving others; my teaching was rich for the students and rewarding for me; when giving blessings I felt guided in my words to others. I realized that morning that God loves me as I am - was - at that time, a homosexual man. God did not expect me to become something else, did not withhold love, approval, blessing, joy until I changed. If God loved me and considered me part of that creation God said was good, I should love myself as the Creator made me.
My reaction to my insight was I felt I could float down the street. I wanted to shout the news out to everyone so they could rejoice with me. Yet I was wise enough to realize that most would not so rejoice and I would not be safe doing such. Nevertheless, in spite of my knowing most would not rejoice with me, I experienced a shock when I came out to the bishop of the Makiki Ward. To understand the impact, I return first to my earlier experiences.
These past experiences include both numerous spiritual experiences and an awareness of my being attracted to men. Though I had long been aware of attraction to other men - in retrospect even while in grade school - I first recognized my attraction to other men as "homosexual" during my freshman year at BYU. In winter quarter that year, I fell in love with D. K., a friend in K. O. Club. The morning after I realized I loved this man, I fled to the Counseling Center at BYU to get "cured."
The counselor assigned to me was Mr. Arthur Slater. According to him, if I remember correctly, he was a "psychiatric social worker." I no longer remember with certainty how long I continued in therapy with Mr. Slater, but my memory is I continued on into, if not through, the following academic year. During the first spring I was in therapy, the General Authorities announced a change in the age for calling young men on missions from twenty-one to nineteen. Suddenly all my friends my age faced a potential change of plans. Most opted to go on their missions at the end of that year rather than continue on in college. I had just started therapy. I knew I hadn't yet been cured; I was still homosexual. I felt I could not face the additional challenges of being homosexual as well as a missionary. I had already told Mom and Papa that I was in therapy and why. Papa especially talked to me encouraging me to go on a mission.
I made an offer to Mom and Papa to resolve the issue of a mission. They would come to Provo and meet with Mr. Slater; we would follow his advice on a mission. I set up the appointment for them. I wanted them to be free from my influence and just meet him, so we did not arrange to see each other.
When they returned to Draper, they called me. Papa was on the phone first. I remember his words, "Jim, you don't have to accept everything that man says." I exploded, feeling betrayed by what seemed to me Papa's reneging on our agreement concerning the mission. I did not make a good listener when angry.
Mom got on the phone. I bombarded her with my feelings that they were trying to go back on their agreement that they would follow Mr. Slater's advice on my going or not going on a mission. "That's not what your father meant," Mom said. And I started off again, and she reiterated, "That's not what he meant." Sullen, hearing her words but believing they would still pressure me to go on a mission that spring, I quit arguing and resolved to go to Bishop Adamson.
I telephoned Bishop Adamson and asked him to give me an appointment when I could meet him on a week night at the church when no one else would be there. I specifically told him I did not want my parents to know that I was meeting him. At our meeting, among other things, I told him I was homosexual and in therapy at BYU. As a result, I said I did not think I could go on a mission, certainly not at that time, maybe never. I asked him to help me face the pressure my parents were putting on me to go by agreeing that I would come to him if and when I thought I was ready for a mission. He agreed. I left the church and drove back to Provo.
I continued in therapy without a successful resolution: I remained homosexual. After my sophomore year at BYU, the remaining friends my age returned to their homes to prepare to go on missions. I went to San Francisco. In retrospect, I understand much more Papa's concerns over my decision. The day the family took me to the Rio Grande station in Salt Lake City to catch the Western Pacific train to San Francisco, Papa asked in our family prayer that the Lord would bless me to know that I was always welcome in our home regardless of what happened. At the time I was offended because I realized that Papa thought I was throwing over the Church and leaving for San Francisco to live a life of sin. I stayed at first at the YMCA; I saw suggestions of what I could obtain written on the walls in the restrooms and though very interested, I did nothing with any other man. I found temporary work at two places, one after the other, and rented a terrible apartment, week by week. After a month or a month and a half, unable to find a summer-long job, I purchased an airplane ticket to Salt Lake City and telephoned home to tell them I was returning. Mom suggested I cross the Bay and attend Berkeley for the rest of the summer, but I had already purchased the ticket and Mom's suggestion didn't especially appeal to me. I was not ready for Berkeley.
Later that summer in Utah, I shared my frustration of not knowing what I should do with an artist friend from Arizona. His words, "Why don't you go on a mission," caused me to feel as Atlas must have felt when Hercules relieved him. I knew that is what I wanted to do. I went to Bishop Adamson and began the process, which included an extra interview with a General Authority while in the Mission Home in Salt Lake City.
During my mission, I had numerous spiritual experiences. One of the most motivating for me occurred after I had been in Phoenix about four months. I had taken second year Spanish at BYU, had good pronunciation, could understand the missionaries moderately well, but I could not understand the people when they spoke to me without asking them to repeat their words. One night we met with a young family recently come from Mexico, presenting what was then the fourth discussion. The meeting proceeded as normal: we had an opening prayer; my companion presented the discussion and the man in the family answered the questions fully; we had a closing prayer and then my companion made an appointment for our next visit. In the car afterwards, I realized I had understood not only both prayers clearly, but also our investigator's answers. Then after the closing prayer I receded back into my present command of Spanish. I understood this experience as a promise: I would master Spanish, would be able to communicate fully with these humble people. I knew this would be the gift of tongues from the Spirit. When I left the mission field and returned to BYU, I took Spanish 321 along with four missionaries, including my cousin Burk, who had just returned from Uruguay. Two of them got A, two A-; I got an A. My command of Spanish learned in California and Arizona was as strong and thorough as the best from Uruguay.
During the mission, the mission president did assign me as companion with some elders who presented me with severe challenges. I was not always successful with them. One of my companions asked, and was refused, to be transferred to the California Mission and two weeks later asked to be sent home; I obviously did not help him. Near the end of my mission I was assigned a companion as "trunky" as I. It was horrible. On the other hand, several of my companions were a joy. Twice during the months as senior companion, I had an elder who had previously been my companion reassigned as my companion. Of the thirty months I spent in the mission field, in twenty-nine, my companion and I had at least one baptism. Although the record did not stand for long, when I left the mission field I had more baptisms of new members than any other missionary in the West Spanish American Mission.
After returning to Utah, I went back to BYU. In the years following, realizing that the promise extended to me that a mission would cure me of my homosexuality had not been answered, I again entered therapy. The first time after my mission, I went to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City to Dr. Burgoyne, who had treated Mother for her depression. He recommended the outpatient facility at LDS, where I went for several months, participating in group sessions. I bore the financial costs myself. When the group began to disintegrate, I quit going; I had gained nothing. Later, while working at Weber State College and dating J. S., I realized the issue was becoming critical. Our bishop, her family and undoubtedly some friends expected me to propose. I knew I was still homosexual. I sought help from Dr. Nelson, my personal physician since returning from Texas. He offered to send me to Dr. Nyla Cole, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah Medical Center and one of the top specialists in sexuality in the West. I said yes. I visited Dr. Cole weekly for several weeks without the benefit of insurance. In the meantime, Dr. Nelson cautioned me that if I were to engage in sexual activity, I was to use extreme caution because there was a disease in the gay population, apparently sexually transmitted.
In the meantime, J., intuiting something wrong, had ended our relationship. She drove to Ogden to see me where I was living while working at Weber State. After she left, I called Mary Jean and broke down in tears, not so much out of love for her but from frustration in my failure again to match the expected norm. That night I knew in my heart that I would never marry; afterwards I occasionally acknowledged that feeling to others. Nevertheless, I did not completely quit trying; even after moving to Honolulu, I dated some.
The last visit I made to Dr. Cole, she indicated that she had done essentially all she could for me. Then she said that I didn't have to act upon my homosexuality. She said that both my family and the Church were very important to me and that acting upon it at that time would estrange me from both and tear me apart. What relief I felt. I didn't examine all the ramifications of her words: that though I may refrain from acting upon my homosexuality, I still was homosexual; that the fulfillment one normally receives from intimate, committed relationships could be replaced by closeness to family and church and that if these faded, I would still have choices I could make. All I focused on at the time was that I didn't need to act at that time.
After I left the Salt Lake Stake and moved to Millcreek Stake, I did not talk to Church leaders about my attraction to other men; I had not acted upon my attraction. Throughout these years, I continued to participate in the Church, serving in numerous positions, even in some which usually only married men hold: counselor and president of the elders' quorum; assistant to high priests group leader. Frequently I held more than one position. Although I had been promised, both before and after my mission, that obedience to the Lord would bring about solution to my homosexuality, it did not. I remained as attracted to men and disinterested in women sexually as I had always been. Then one morning in Honolulu, I began to realize in my heart genuine self-worth. I was not going to be changed since the Lord had made me the way I was and had spoken of that creation, saying "[I, God] saw that it was good."
The morning in Honolulu I felt the Spirit indicate that I was acceptable to and loved by the Lord was not the end of my journey but a significant beginning. I remember feeling so relieved of a burden; I could accept myself as I was. I found reference to Affirmation somewhere, but, paranoid, I feared a church leader may have had the local number. Realizing I could safely contact Affirmation in San Francisco, I decided to attend the American Library Association's annual meeting there. ALA had scheduled the annual meeting on the same weekend as the Gay Pride celebration commemorating the riot at Stonewall in 1969. In San Francisco, I went to United Nations Plaza on the day of the celebration, where several organizations had booths. I met two men from Affirmation and told my story for the first time. They told me about the annual meeting in September in Santa Cruz. At Affirmation, I decided I would come out to my Mormon bishop. It seemed to me to be a clear cut situation. I would tell my story and that would be that.
I made an appointment with my bishop for some time on a Sunday afternoon in September. I told him that I had worked on this throughout my life, dating women and praying for a change within me. I had always asked the Lord to bless me with an attraction to a woman or, barring that, to bless us with sufficient understanding that I could tell her I was attracted to other men before we got married. I wouldn't be dishonest with the woman and get married without her knowing of my homosexuality; I had heard of far too many tragedies based on that dishonesty. The bishop promptly told me that I was not gay, I merely lacked faith - to marry a woman without telling her of my attraction to men - and that I should get married and have children.
I wondered at the time if he were really willing to sacrifice his own teenage daughter that way, having her marry a gay man without knowing he was gay. Yet at the same time, I took his words as I had been trained to do: as the word of the Lord. In the weeks and months that followed, whenever I tried to accept his word, prayed for strength to follow his advice, darkness enveloped me. Whenever I remembered the Lord's blessing to me, making me aware that God loves me as I am, light broke in upon the darkness. Training to obey blindly works well - it lasts a long time and exerts a powerful influence.
After four months of fighting this despair and darkness more often than was good for me, I telephoned the Kaiser mental health facility and told them I had to see a therapist. So, once again, I entered therapy over this issue. I told the person on the telephone that I was homosexual; I also specified that I wanted a straight therapist - I didn't want anyone with an "agenda." I met with the woman twice before requesting a gay therapist. Though I changed therapists, it was not because she had failed me in any way. She helped significantly in two important things. She had me work on reconciling myself with Papa, telling me to imagine being in a special place and inviting him to come and spend some time with me. I went through the exercise and felt Papa came to share time with me. I found peace of mind and comfort concerning Papa's understanding and accepting me. Secondly, she helped me see myself as important. The day I last went to see her, I asked to have a gay therapist, "if that is all right with you." She promptly said that it was not a concern for her, it was my decision; I didn't need to have permission from anyone to seek out what I felt I needed.
I began meeting with Alan in February, five months after coming out to my bishop. For the first several months when I met with Alan on Thursday afternoons, I cried every time. I would enter his office, sit down; he'd ask a question and I would break down into tears, sometimes sobs, trying to answer. I looked forward to Thursdays with my whole being. I lived for Thursdays. A year or so later, Alan described me during those early months of therapy as suicidal; I was shocked and said I knew that in November I had bordered on suicidal, but by February, I thought I had recovered. He said, "Jim, you couldn't say a complete sentence without breaking down into tears." I realize now that my living for Thursday afternoons was dangerously suicidal: only my tears, my expressing my anger at the betrayal of church leaders who had promised in vain - and apparently in contradiction to the Lord - my gradual self acceptance, these things saved my life. These things and one other.
Throughout my adult life, I have almost always had one very close woman friend. It has never been an "eligible" woman; except for the period of time when that friend was Mary Jean, the others have always been married. Linda Hunter Adams, Yaeko Oki, Peg Pierce at Weber State, Donna Keslin at Cal, and finally Carol Langner in Honolulu. Carol is a librarian in the art department at UH and attends Lutheran Church of Honolulu; I don't know when I first met her or how. I had known her through the evening music concert program at LCH, however, before I came out. After attending my first Affirmation Conference in Santa Cruz, we saw each other one Saturday morning in Sinclair Library. In the course of our conversation, she commented that LCH had had an intern from seminary who was gay and the year had been such a positive experience for the congregation. So I came out to Carol and told her that I was planning on telling my bishop the next day. Two weeks later, I attended the first evening concert of the season at LCH. When Carol saw me come into the church, she walked across the church to ask me how my conversation with the bishop had gone. I sobbed and she held me. Carol has been my savior on Mt. Zion; she has kept me alive through her love for me. I will be eternally grateful for her.
I continued active in the Mormon Church. For eighteen months after telling my bishop, I attended every meeting, continued as counselor in the high priests group, received a call to teach Gospel Doctrine (the Doctrine & Covenants), continued as choir director and conductor of the hymns for sacrament meeting. For months I did not talk to anyone else about being gay. Finally I talked to the second counselor, a PhD student at the University in one of the biological sciences and the counselor over the Sunday School and the choir. I intuited that others would not accept me if I talked about being gay. I continued to feel frustrated that I could not be accepted as I genuinely knew myself to be, and as I knew the Lord accepted me to be, by the members of the ward. Simultaneously, the Church began leading the intense effort in Hawai'i to deny lesbians and gays their civil rights.
In related ways I also felt frustrated. I could tell from reactions in Gospel Doctrine class that many members did not care for the questions I asked. They did not want to think about the gospel subject; they wanted the simple pat answers given in the lesson manual. They didn't care what actually happened in Church history. I found the silence, both concerning actual Church history and about gay and lesbian civil rights, oppressive; it seemed that they all felt that if everyone were silent, the issues would go away.
I found the attitude of Church leaders and members towards other gays distressing. At best, this attitude was indifference towards gays they knew; at worst, absolutely hostile. Several months after coming out to my bishop, I met Sam Tacuban, a Mormon who was HIV positive and at the time, hospitalized. Sam grew up on O'ahu in a Mormon home. He was small, slight, effeminate, gentle and shy upon first meeting him. When I met him, he was about twenty-six. When he was seventeen or eighteen, it came out at home that he was gay. His father told him to leave and never come back. He lived on the beach for a while, then a gay man from Metropolitan Community Church met him and provided him a room in his home until he could find a job and get on his own feet. Some time during the ten years, the Mormon Church excommunicated him. While he was in the hospital, his grandmother would disobey his father's instructions and telephone him. Sam's first question to me was, was I an elder and would I give him a blessing. I did. Sam told me that he wanted to be rebaptized in the Church. Knowing how some of the leaders acted, I did not know if they would allow Sam to be rebaptized. I tried to encourage him to work towards knowing Christ's acceptance of him while he worked on getting rebaptized.
As Bob Morris and I left the hospital the night Bob introduced me to Sam, Bob said that this would not be Sam's final trip to the hospital; he weighed too much. In a week or so, Sam was released and returned to the place where he lived. No one there knew he was gay and he felt it necessary to keep it secret for his own safety. Because his home was not easily accessible via bus, he had access through a health program to transportation via taxi. It meant he could come to gatherings and I could see him then, but it didn't allow me to visit him at home. Five or six months later, he was able to move into Gregory House, a home for people with HIV/AIDS where they could live safely for as long as they did not need to be hospitalized. They had visiting nurses, and one could even obtain twenty-four hour nursing care. The goal of Gregory House is to make it unnecessary to move into a hospice or hospital if possible.
Slightly more than a month before moving into Gregory House, Sam was rebaptized in the Mormon Church. Gregory House was between the University and where I lived, so I frequently stopped by to say hello on my way home. Moreover he was now in my ward. On weekends, I'd run errands for him if he needed something his Life Foundation buddy had not been able to get. We frequently made plans for me to stop by to pick him up for Church, but he never felt well enough. After several weeks in the ward, I asked the second counselor if we could arrange for someone to go with me to give Sam the sacrament.
"Sam? Who is Sam?" The second counselor in the bishopric had not even heard of him, though Sam had recently been baptized and certainly needed fellowshipping into the Church. Shortly afterwards, on the last Sunday of March which was fast Sunday, the high priests group leader told me he had been asked by the bishop to go with me to give Sam the sacrament.
He tried to disguise his knowing, asking what Sam had. I told him he had AIDS, to which he promptly replied, "Well we shouldn't condemn the sinner, just the sin." I said nothing. I could tell from other comments that he was concerned for his safety. I told him that I was much more concerned for Sam's safety than for his; he was not going to catch AIDS from giving the sacrament to Sam, but Sam could catch deadly pneumonia from the sneezes the high priests group leader was having.
The high priests group leader's comments raise several questions, still unanswered. If Sam's disease was punishment for sin, what sin? Using drugs with shared needles? Having sex with other men? Is it a more serious sin to use drugs and share needles than to use drugs with individual needles? If it is a sin for men to have sex with other men, why are not all men who have sex with other men - or at least all Mormon men - not punished with AIDS? If AIDS is a punishment for sexual sin, why do babies get it from their mothers? Are not men punished for their own sins? Sam was just baptized. Does baptism not work for all people? If the baptism cleansed the sin, should it not also cleanse the effects of sin? Why then was he still sick with AIDS? Sam did not have sex after his baptism; he hadn't had sex for months before his baptism; he was too sick. Does repentance not really work for some sinners? If such is true, should they be baptized?
I would like to have had the courage to ask the group leader at least some of these questions. I did not. I doubt he would have been able to answer the questions thoughtfully, thoroughly. If he answered at all, he would have given a trite easy answer, not looking at the inconsistencies.
I was so disgusted with the ordeal, I determined I would give Sam the sacrament on my own from then on. I did so, for the first two Sundays of April. On Friday, 15 April, as I left work in Sinclair Library about 5:50 p.m., the thought occurred to me, "Sam died today." I answered, "No he didn't; the staff at Gregory House would have called me." I caught a bus going home, got off at the stop closest to Gregory House and walked up the street. From the street I could see that the door to Sam's apartment was open. "See," I said to myself, "Sam's door is open; everything's fine." I walked up the stairs and entered his apartment, at about 6:00 p.m. The nurse in the kitchen said, "Sam died about ten minutes ago. Do you want to go into his room and say goodbye?" I entered his bedroom, sat on the bed, put my hands on Sam's wasted body, cried, told him I loved him and said goodbye.
I didn't tell anyone at Church; I didn't want his family to come over the Pali and claim his body for a Mormon funeral. I need not have worried. Sam's service occurred about a month later at Gregory House. It consisted of a catered meal for all who came; a lei for each person, a trio of musicians singing Hawaiian songs and an opportunity for all there to "talk story" as we say in Hawai'i - chat, reminisce. The day before, the man Sam had appointed to take care of these arrangements, scattered his ahses off Waikiki. In direct disobedience to his father's command, his grandmother and mother came to the service.
On Sunday, 17 April, according to prearranged plan, I was released from all my LDS church callings. I had discussed this with the second counselor over the previous month or so. He asked me during this time if a openly gay man could stay active in the Mormon Church. I answered that I did not think so. I believed by that time that a gay person would have to be living the closeted lie in order to stay active in the Church. At the end of choir practice, I told the choir why I had asked to be released. After my brief statement, I sat down on the closest empty chair. The man sitting next to that chair turned his back to me while the closing prayer was offered. That afternoon I got a telephone call from one of the single women in the ward who said I was making a big mistake. My roommate, Daniel Kanahele, and Kala'i Aila, a single woman in the ward, get together with me for dinner or chat on the phone from time to time. Brother Pasesu and Sister Dolly Williams, Brother Joseph Ho'opai, and to a more limited extent, Iamelo (Yama) Kaio, continue to greet me, talk to me, when we see each other. Bob Andrus sends a Christmas card. After New Years 2001, another woman recently divorced wrote a note to me. All these people, except Bob Andrus, are Polynesian. The rest of the church members have avoided me.
In the eighteen months during which I continued active in the church after telling the bishop I was gay, I received one home teaching visit. The first counselor in the bishopric - not my friend to whom I had talked earlier - and the bishop's teenage son came to visit about nine months after I told the bishop. I chatted superficially with them, but didn't address the issues I had. They in turn had nothing for my needs. After I quit attending church I had one or two visits while still living in the ward; both came from the former high priests group leader who lived upstairs in the same condominium where I rented. In April 1995 I moved into my condo in the neighboring ward. Eighteen months later, I received a telephone call from the bishop of this new ward asking to come by to home teach. I set up an appointment and he came with his counselor, a Samoan man. In the course of our conversation, I asked if he had talked with the bishop of my former ward; it seemed logical that they would converse: I was an inactive member and their offices at the Honolulu Tabernacle were about fifty feet apart. He said they had not talked; though I found that difficult to believe, it demonstrates Church leaders' indifference to the needs of gays. I told the bishop I am gay and proud to be honest about it, that I know God knows and accepts my being gay and loves me as I am. When asked if I would receive home teachers, I said yes they could come if they called and set up an appointment beforehand. Since he had not heard of either Peculiar People or of Robert Rees' No More Strangers, I loaned him my copies with specific instructions that I wanted them back when he had read them; especially I wanted the latter, since it was out of print and I could not readily obtain another copy.
About a year and a half later, since I had not heard from him, I called the bishop to ask for the books. He said he had given away the pamphlet (the one by Robert Rees) and had loaned the book. He would check to see if he could get it back and would call me. At another time, I got a call from a member of the ward clerking staff to update membership information. He indicated that my membership was flagged "Does not want home teachers." The bishop had taken the easy way out of a situation in which an open and happy gay man would present challenges to typical Mormon home teachers: don't send the home teachers. The bishop visited in September 1996. I telephoned the bishop about the loaned books early 1998. He has not returned my telephone call or the books. What saddens me more, he most likely didn't read either, but merely passed them on to higher authorities. I have not heard from anyone in the Church in an official capacity since.
For several months before quitting attending the Mormon Church, I had also been attending Lutheran Church of Honolulu regularly. The contrast between the two places was dramatic. Several people at LCH welcomed me. To begin with, several gays attended regularly, some as couples. All were welcome and welcoming. LCH has two services, one at 8:00 a.m. and one at 10:30 a.m. The latter service is a traditional choral liturgy service, leading me to choose it. The choir was impressive. Every Sunday they sing a psalm between the two readings; an alleluia before the reading of the Gospel; a motet, or chorale part from a cantata at the offeratory and another at communion.
Carol's husband, Fritz Fritschel, is totally unassuming and humble. When I made several comments about theology, he was very gentle; only later did I realize he was associate pastor. Fritz has continued to study theology and psychology beyond his seminary training; until his recent retirement, he was the chaplain for Hospice Hawai'i and so has dealt with the dying and their families on a regular basis. He knows literature well; his favorite poet is Gerard Manley Hopkins, which makes an additional bond for me.
While I found the intellectual milieu wonderful, I also felt the love abundant and the Spirit powerful. Especially at communion, which I began to take early, I felt the Spirit of the Lord. When the minister puts the consecrated host in one's hand and says, "The Body of Christ broken for you" or "Become what you hold in your hand, the Body of Christ," I feel so grateful for God's abundant love and almost overwhelmed by the comfort. I know that God loves people from all churches and traditions; I know the Holy Spirit abides in many denominations. I know the truth of the psalm which we sing frequently, especially during the Christmas season: "Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est," "Where charity and love are, there God is." Lutherans at LCH showed me God among them through their love for one another.
I wish to counter one of your probable arguments. "Of course," you may be saying, "you cannot feel the genuine Spirit because of your sins and so mistake their caring for you as God's Spirit." Except, up to that time I was still active in the Mormon Church and I had not had sex with any person, man or woman, since prior to living in Arizona as a freshman in high school. Learning I was gay and accepting that, living as an open, proud, gay man did not mean that I was having sex; I was not. The Spirit of the Lord was clear, unmistakable. Not only did I feel it powerfully during the difficult months following my coming out to the bishop when I accepted the individual inspiration I had been blessed with, I also felt it humbly and gratefully at communion in LCH.
Just prior to traveling to Utah for Christmas the year I had come out to the bishop, I was set apart as a teacher of the Gospel Doctrine class. The bishop did not attend the setting apart and blessing. After church, he cornered me and asked me into his office. I was hesitant; I remembered well the pain I had experienced in the months since his previous "blessing." He insisted. In the blessing he gave me in December, he said "The desires of your heart will be answered when you enter Christ's presence." I realized this was as much apology as I would get for his having given me counsel contrary to God's revelation and contrary to the current policy of the Church.
Afterwards I walked to the bridge over Makiki stream in the Tabernacle complex. As I stood on the bridge, I said, "What I want is a man. If I can have a man when I enter Christ's presence, I can have one now." I knew I needed to learn as much as straight men do from living the day to day compromise and giving of a relationship. If it is not good for a heterosexual man to live alone, neither is it good for a gay man to live alone.
During the years I went to Alan for therapy, I heard that when a person is desperate for a partner, the person gives off an aura of desperation. Those who are healthy feel the warning, almost smell or taste the wrongness of such a relationship. When one gets his life in priority, when one realizes that life is whole with or without a partner, then such a person becomes ready to build a healthy relationship with a partner, whether the relationship is same-sex or opposite-sex. I saw the truth in my life. While I was desperate, others knew it. One night I went country western and line dancing. I danced that night with a tall, handsome man. Throughout the week I just went about my life; it was no big thing. Earlier, I would have been mooning for three days and the next three days would have been desperate for Tuesday and dancing night again. But that week, I realized the significance: I was not moonstruck. What bothered me then was I did not know what I had done to "earn" this blessing, it just happened. I wanted to know what I had done, so I could do it right always. Sorry, the blessings of God are given, not earned; they are grace freely bestowed. Some weeks or months later, I don't remember how long, I remember realizing how good my life was and how challenging it would be to have a partner. I remember concluding, "I don't think I want to have to do all the changing I would have to do to have a man in my life." That must have made the difference. Shortly afterwards, Sunday, 14 September 1997, I met Wally. We both knew that night that we had found something very significant for each of us. We still have that assurance.