by David Matheson
In a recent address at Brigham Young University, Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discussed several topics, but two, in particular, caught my attention. First, according to an LDS Church News article by Sarah Jane Weaver, President Nelson discussed the November 2015 Church policy, which restricted ordinances for the children of gay and lesbian parents and defined same-sex marriage as apostasy. He also discussed the recent reversal of that policy. Then he repeated the Church’s positions that “God has not changed His definition that marriage is between a man and a woman. God has also not changed the law of chastity.”
It was this first topic that prompted me to write this post because I know that each time a leader of the Church goes there, a sizable group of people affiliated with the LDS Church experience substantial distress. I hope to say something to encourage those people.
But the second topic that caught my attention is the one I really want to discuss. That topic is what we Mormons call “personal revelation.” President Nelson said, “My dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to seek earnestly a confirmation from the Spirit that what I have told you is true and is from the Lord. … In my capacity as president of the Church, I invoke a blessing upon you, beloved young adults, to be able to discern between right and wrong, between the laws of God and the conflicting voices of the world. I bless you with power to detect the adversary’s deceptions. I bless you with greater capacity to receive revelation. And I bless you to be able to feel the infinite reach of God’s perfect love for you.”
To me, these are beautiful words. I strongly believe in personal revelation. And the invocation of an increased ability for personal revelation seems sweetly apostolic. I am a prayerful person. I feel very connected to the Spirit and have a clear sense, as I have throughout my life, that I receive divine guidance in response to prayer and careful listening to the Spirit.
But the answers that come in response to certain of my prayers run in a very different direction from what the Church teaches about how I should live my life as a gay man. It has become very clear to me, through my interactions with the Spirit, that God approves of the future same-sex partnership for which I hope and seek. It is equally clear that, in His foreknowledge that I would be gay, God did not intend for me to live the entirety of my life in a heterosexual marriage or alone and celibate. There is much for me to experience and learn in a loving bond with another man and God intends for me to have those experiences.
I understand that, in the eyes of the Church, and of many members, what I’ve just said is naked heresy. If pressed, they would say these answers are from the Devil, not from God. Yet the process and feelings that convinced of these things are the same as those by which I became convinced of the truthfulness of the gospel of Christ—prayer and the clear, peaceful, and repeated whispering of the Spirit.
Were I to agree with the Church that I have lost my way, my spiritual life would be dead. If I choose to believe now that my spiritual process is leading me wrongly, how could I ever again trust the workings of the Spirit? And how could I trust all that the Spirit has heretofore taught me? Furthermore, if I were to agree that because I am dating a man I am unworthy of spiritual guidance, why would I ever again bother to pray and seek clarity regarding the dilemmas of my life?
The simple facts are that I am gay, I’m dating a man, I have a very rich spiritual life, and I feel God’s guidance and approbation. God, I now see, is bigger, more loving, and less of a “respecter of persons” than what I was taught at church.
My message to LGBTQ people is two-fold. First, don’t allow any religious body or authority to define the parameters of your relationship to God. Let God define that with you. And second, God truly is there. You have not been abandoned by heaven even if you feel abandoned by your church. God waits for you, longing for you to receive all the blessings designed for you.