Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Affirmation and Priesthood Leader Russian Roulette

So, a lot has happened in the past month. I've moved out of my parents' home in Bountiful, UT and am currently living in Millcreek, UT to be closer to work and school. It's really great because my tank of gas now lasts two weeks instead of one. I love the new place that I'm living in too. It's a 3 floor townhome with 4 other guys and I have my own room for $260 a month + utilities. A screaming deal! Especially because my room is huge and I virtually never see my roommates (not that my roommates are bad. They're great. But it's good to have some room to breathe too). It's almost like I have my own house. It's incredible.

I also went to the Affirmation Conference for the very first time on Sept. 19-20. I was really nervous to go because I wasn't sure what to expect at this conference, but it ended up being one of the most spiritual two days of my life. I heard a transgender woman, a gay man, a lesbian lawyer, a lesbian woman in a mixed orientation marriage, and a father of a gay Mormon speak. It was such a variety of speakers, but they all had very important perspectives to give. When they spoke, their words brought me peace and comfort. Everyone at this conference (a good solid 300 people) has been touched by LGBT issues in the church, and they all understood and could empathize with me. We were all able to empathize and understand the speakers. What a beautiful place to be. There was also a super fancy dinner and then cheesecake after the conference. There was also a dance and a lot of socializing. It was a fantastic and diverse experience.

Sunday morning was an even better session. There was a testimony meeting and that was incredible. There were people who hadn't borne their testimony in years because of church discipline that got up and bore beautiful witness to the church. I was moved to tears and got up and bore my testimony, myself. There was so much self-discovery for me at this conference. I finally got a glimpse at the idea that I was living life in a way that was good, and that was a beautiful feeling. After the testimony meeting, there was a super fancy lunch with salmon, wild rice, asparagus, and fruity cake. It was delicious.

The most important thing that I gained from this conference was a sense of community. As a gay Mormon, I have felt like I lived in a sort of limbo between the gay world and the Mormon world, not really fitting into either. But at this conference, I realized there was a place for me and there were at least 300 people that were a part of my community that shared empathy and experience like my own. What a blessing.

A result of this conference was a deeper questioning about what I want in this life. For the first time in my life I'm starting to face the reality that if I continue to date men, I will eventually be first disfellowshipped, then excommunicated if I don't have the desire to change my course of action. That being said, I don't know if I will change that course of action because of the love, peace, and comfort that I have felt while pursuing a more authentic lifestyle. But to be disfellowshipped/excommunicated from the church that I love so much is incredibly traumatizing to me.

So that's where I'm at.

Another point to bring up is that I just moved to a new ward. I had an amazing bishop when I was living with my parents. Not very many gay Mormons are blessed like I was to have a bishop that was so willing to emphasize the importance of embodying Christ and losing yourself in service when you come out to them. Moving brings a huge complication to the relationship between me and my Priesthood Leaders, because not every Priesthood Leader is as kind.

I have often heard of moving and getting a new bishop being described as Russian Roulette, and I agree. You can have a bishop that emphasizes Christ's love and service when you come out to them, or you can be excommunicated or disfellowshipped without them batting an eye. It's a scary road to walk, knowing that you could be on the brink of having your membership in the church ripped from your hands, and it makes me nervous to approach my bishop with the questions that I have and where I am at my life currently.

Fortunately I have reached out to many people who have offered me incredible advice and thought provoking discussions and I have come to an assurance of a few things:

1) No Priesthood Authority can dictate my relationship to God. They may be able to dictate my membership, but my relationship with God is purely personal. That will never change.

2) I can still have the influence of the Spirit in my life. Perhaps not the Gift of the Holy Ghost as is conferred in the baptismal covenants, but God doesn't abandon his children and leave them without guidance.

3) No matter what happens, I am a good person.

4) God wants the happiness of his children. "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." 2 Nephi 2: 27

5) I have seen by the fruit that my actions have borne, that my life is good and I have good things to come.

God loves all his children and he will not leave us hopeless. There is a plan for each and every one of us.