Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's Been A Year

I published some reflections on the policy change and the anniversary of my coming out on Facebook. I've decided to repost them here.

A year ago yesterday was the policy change, which many are calling the Policy of Exclusion. As I watched the controversy unfold over Facebook, I saw many good people, who I care about, say things about LGBT members that I knew they would never say to the face of someone they cared for. I saw many members claim that the policy was fine, because "those LGBT people" didn't want to be a part of the Church anyways, and this policy would make clear to the righteous that they weren't to be led astray by the rebellions of "those people."

And so a year ago today, I came out of the closet as bisexual. I had many reasons for doing this, but a major one was to show people that LGBT people are not this nameless, faceless, vaguely threatening group of "those people." We are people you know and love. We are in your wards. We hear what you say and write about us. And for those of us who have been born in the Church, many of us want very badly to be a part of it.

I have been fortunate, in that I was never forced to choose between having a family of my own and being in good standing with the Church. For the vast majority of LGBT members, an opposite-gender partner is not a viable option. I have tried to think of what it would have been like for me if I were forced to choose between my family and the Church. From the moment I met Mason, I knew how much happiness he would bring me. Would I have been able to glimpse that happiness, and turn away from it in favor of fifty years of celibacy? Would I have been able to deny myself a family while attending church week after week, a Church that constantly teaches that true happiness can only be found in families? I honestly don't know if I could.

I don't write this to try to convince anyone to change their mind about Church doctrine or even the policy. I write this to ask straight members to have empathy for the incredibly difficult sacrifice that the Church asks of its LGBT members. It is not the same as being as single straight member. Single straight members are encouraged to date. They are encouraged to pursue people who interest them. They are encouraged to hope for marriage. LGBT members are asked to suppress their feelings and wait until the next life to somehow figure this out. It is not the same. It is isolating and lonely and difficult.

Because of this, it is no surprise to me that some LGBT members eventually choose to pursue same-sex relationships in some capacity or another. This does not mean they don't want to be a part of the Church; indeed, many of them continue to try to continue to make our religion a part of their lives. And that's part of why this policy hurt - many felt like the Church was saying, "We don't want your efforts to continue to be involved in some way. You can stay and be lonely, or you can leave entirely."

I have seen many straight members claim that if LGBT members feel unwelcome, all they have to do is keep the commandments and they will feel welcome. This is an easy way to absolve the Church and its members from the hurt that LGBT members feel. It is comfortable to feel that you are not complicit in anyone's pain. It is comfortable to feel that there is an easy solution to pain.

I have two things to say to that. The first is that as a commandment-keeping, temple-married LGBT member, who doesn't even have to deal with the loneliness that most LGBT members experience, I can tell you that that isn't true. Simply keeping the commandments does not suddenly make the Church a welcoming place. There are plenty of things that have been done and said, from comments made in Sunday School all the way up to things said in General Conference, that have made LGBT members feel unwelcome, regardless of the status of their temple recommend. I am not referring to simple teachings of true doctrine. I am referring to hurtful things that have no place in the Gospel of Christ and no need to be said, ever, by anyone. And I am referring to the silence that implies agreement in the wake of those comments, the silence that says that we are not important enough to stand up for.

The second thing I have to say is, if possible, more important, and it is that as members of a Church that bears the name of Christ, we have the responsibility to do all we can to make sure that everyone feels the love of Christ through us, regardless of the commandments they are or are not keeping. Christ ate with publicans and sinners; He didn't do as the Pharisees did and wait for people to attain a certain standard of "worthiness" and then come to Him on their own. While teaching the Nephites after his resurrection, Christ taught:

"And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name.

Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up - that which ye have seen me do. [...]

And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whoseoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation. [...]

Nevertheless, ye shall not cast [people not keeping the commandments] out from among you, but ye shall minster unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name [...] ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them." (3 Nephi 18)

The Savior makes it clear that it is not enough to simply passively say "Well, everyone is welcome at church if they really want to be there." We are supposed to *minister* to people. We are supposed to *actively work* to welcome them, just as He actively left the ninety and nine and sought after the one.

As a missionary, I brought all sorts of people to church and saw members make an effort to welcome them. People with prison tattoos. People reeking of cigarette smoke. People who were clearly not living the gospel. And I saw members go out of their way to make them feel loved and welcome. I saw members fellowship the same investigators for years, making them feel welcome and not judged while they explored the often complicated path of reconciling their life with the Church.

So don't tell yourself that LGBT people will feel welcome if they'd just keep the commandments, because there's no reason that they should be the exception to the fellowship that exists in Christ and has the potential to exist in each one of us. I have seen it in action. It is wonderful. It is healing. And every one of us LGBT members, whether we are keeping the commandments or not, needs that healing, because there has been so. much. hurt.

At minimum, I beg of you all to be very careful to not add to the burden that LGBT members carry, regardless of their activity level. But we are not a church that asks for the minimum. Don't settle for not adding to our burden. Please, help to bear it. Don't tell us that we're not doing enough to bear it on our own; all too often, those who are perceived of not doing enough have simply collapsed under the weight of it. Don't wait for us to come to you. Come to us, seek after us, welcome us, lift our burden upon your back, and help us return joyfully together to the peace of Christ's fold.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this. It encouraged me to minister more. Sometimes the difficulty is that we lack the courage to extend a hand, because of our own self-doubt and fear, and your words helped me see that what matters is simply showing love. I hope you continue to write more.