So, I'm sure most of you know, the first sunday after the June 26, 2015 SCOTUS decision led the church to read the official statement that the church put out regarding the decision in each of the wards during the priesthood/relief society block. I knew this was coming, and my nervousness and fear was palpable. I texted a friend in my ward to make sure she was going to church so that I didn't have to face that alone. I walked into sacrament meeting and took my seat in the center section of the pews alone. Though I did know people in the ward, I wasn't comfortable sitting next to or befirneding any of them at that time. My nervousness was too strong and I needed time for introspection during sacrament meeting.
I watched the people begin to flood into the chapel, trying to catch the face of the friend that was going to accompany me during the meetings. I saw many faces that I recognized, even some people that knew I was gay. I wondered if they knew or could comprehend how hard it was for LGBT members of the church to show their faces on this day. I tried to keep my chin high, and an intimidating air so that I could be left alone. It worked.
The bishop stood and called the congregation together and we sang the first hymn, then down to business. He announced the various callings and releasings that are typical to a sacrament meeting and then announced that the relief society and priesthood meetings would be combined in the cultural hall due to an important message from the first presidency. A lump formed in my throat and my stomach sank. I had to wait for another two hours for this letter to be read. Why not just rip off the band aid and get it over with?
We sang the sacrament hymn and partook of the sacrament, which was a reverent and peaceful meeting regardless of the coming message that I was dreading. Once that was done, my mind turned to the testimonies that were to be borne for the next 45 minutes or so.
To be honest, I was really worried about the testimonies consisting of all the young stalwart single adults ripping the SCOTUS decision to shreds, which to my surprise and pleasure, isn't what happened. There were several heartfelt testimonies, and not one mentioned anything of same-sex marriage.
Also to my surprise, I felt that burning feeling in my chest to go up and bear my testimony. You know, it feels like your heart grew 10 times larger, your arms are shaking, and chills raking your skin with goosebumps. An undeniable physical manifestation of the spirit. I felt the Spirit whispering almost loud enough to hear, "You need to get up there." But because of my nervousness, the fact that many in the ward already had knowledge of my sexuality, and fear of judgement, I stayed plastered in my seat until about the last 10 minutes.
Once I clambered out of my seat, I felt incredibly self-conscious as everyone in the congregation stares at you as you walk up to the front of the chapel. The speaker said his final "amen" and it was my turn to walk to the pulpit. As I turned around to face the mike, I realized how many people there were in the congregation. People I knew, people I didn't know, and people I would eventually get to know. My nervousness spilled over as I shouted "HI!" in the microphone and practically burst everybody's eardrums. I covered by using my charisma and making everybody laugh, and I'm going to summarize the basis of what my testimony was.
I testified of the church because of the principle teachings of Jesus Christ: Love and Service. I expounded by emphasizing the importance of family.
WHAT? A gay person baring their testimony on family? Preposterous!
Let me explain. Family doesn't only extend to the traditional sphere of marriage between a man and a woman and rearing children to do the same. No, family includes all family members. Those that fall away, those that don't have the same beliefs as us, those that make decisions that we deem as morally wrong. Not all of our family members, our very own brothers and sisters in our homes, fit the "Mormon Mold." That is what family is supposed to be about. Not just traditional marriage, family.
I sat down and listened to the rest of the tesimonies that were being shared in sacrament meeting. Sunday school went by, and then came the dreaded combined priesthood/relief society meeting. We all filed into the cultural hall and my friend and I sat down somewhere in the middle. The bishop stood up and called up together and we sang a hymn and said a prayer. He again stood up and announced that he was reading a letter from the first presidency about the new same-sex marriage ruling along with some other compiled notes and documents. He read the documents first and then he read the letter.
I hope that you all know that I have no problem with the beliefs of the church. The church can have its standards, that is not my issue. My issue is when you don't put a person behind the issue. There are thousands of people in our congregations silently suffering as we hear the messages that who we are is wrong and we don't fit into the plan, that we need to live our lives in loneliness or a marriage that we can't give our whole heart to.
And that is absolutely NOT true.
Our focus doesn't need to be gay marriage. We know the doctrine by heart. We hear it every sunday. We see it on social media. We see it every day we get a marriage announcement. We see it every time someone posts about their baby and their small eternal family. We see it. We know it.
When the bishop read the letter and documents, I was frustrated that there wasn't a greater emphasis on love, inclusion, and family being the vital focus of the church. Christ doesn't leave anyone out of his circles. He ate with publicans and sinners and he scolded the "righteous." That is what our church should be modeled after, not leaving people out of our circles. They are our family whether they are following the church standards or not.
That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Love.