Monday, January 17, 2005

I've Found A Reason Why

I loved this email from Bill. I thought I would share it along with my reply. It answers a lot of good questions about the church, and it gives my deeper reason for sticking with it.

Hope you enjoy.

-----------------------


Hi GM,

I was just catching up with your blog and wanted to wish you well. I am sorry to hear about the strained relationship with your father. You are in a unique position because, unlike a lot of gay men who are odds with religious parents, you understand and embrace the same belief system as your dad. You know exactly where he is coming from. I don't know that that helps, other than to help you remember that he is a good man with a sincere faith.

I was interested to read your answers to some reader’s questions. Don't get put off by this, but as a non-Mormon gay man, I totally misunderstood the question about you being endowed. That means something entirely different in my world! But seriously, I am not sure what that means or why you can't go to the temple. I'd be interested in knowing more about this.

I am not sure you'd have to be an agnostic if you came out as a gay man. I realize that you would most likely not be able to be a Mormon any longer, and since you love your church that might seem to be the same as giving up on God. But I just wanted to mention that many gay people embrace a spiritual path. There are many Christian denominations that are accepting of gay people and faith is important in the lives of many gay people. Just as there are many politically conservative gay people, there are also religious gay people.

Does the Mormon Church have a position that says you can be gay as long as you don't act on it? Or does the church believe with the right effort or at the right time you will be healed?
I am not a fan of them, but was curious to know if you have looked into any Ex-Gay organizations?

I'd like to understand the porn addiction issue a little better. Is part of the problem that masturbation in and of itself is a sin? Obviously a person doesn't look at porn and not intend to masturbate. But a person can easily masturbate without looking at porn. Since I don't look upon masturbation as a sin, I may not fully understand this issue.

I completely understood your point when you write: Within the last year or so I have stopped trying as hard to kick the habit. I have been so fed up with my failures that I don't want to fail anymore. I’m afraid. I hesitate to try new methods for breaking the habit because I fear that the methods will fail. I don’t want them to fail; I want them to work! So now, as a “solution,” I avoid possible solutions altogether. I have been in the position where trying to do something wound up being worse than not trying at all. I am pretty self-critical and sometimes I have to avoid finding something else to beat myself up over. I think that is what you're doing in this instance.

When you have so much to reconcile in your life that seems irreconcilable, it is easy to put yourself down. I understand that you believe you were not born gay, but became gay because of things that happened in your life. If it wasn't something you chose, is it still a sin? Since you have not acted on your homosexual desires (other than masturbation) is the sin that you are having homosexual thoughts? I guess I am trying to understand what your options are. To have a desire that you feel is wrong and to not act on it takes a certain degree of character and you should give yourself credit where credit is due. Yes, when you are alone, you might lose one battle. But you have not tried to engage in homosexual acts with other men. You have, in fact, successfully avoided such activities. While you may feel you have things to feel guilty about, I would say the Mormon side of you wins out far more than the Gay side.

Sorry, this is a bit long. If you have an opportunity to write back, or address some of these issues in your blog, I would be interested.

All the best,

Bill

-----------------------

Bill,

How are you? I was very glad to see an email from you in my inbox this afternoon. In fact, I’ve been meaning to reply to the last email you sent about two weeks ago. I knew I would want to write a longer email, so I have been waiting to find a good time to reply.

Anyhow, I’m well. Thanks for keeping up with my blog. I wish I posted more often, but what can you do? This semester will actually be less busy than the last in terms of schoolwork, but I just began another job, so I’m sure things will feel just as busy.

You nailed it right on the head when you said, “You are in a unique position because, unlike a lot of gay men who are odds with religious parents, you understand and embrace the same belief system as your dad.” It really is frustrating sometimes because I can see both sides of the “argument” (maybe “situation” or “issue” would work better). It’s especially frustrating because my father unknowingly makes me feel like I don’t love my religion at times, which isn’t the case at all.

Just so you know, though our relationship is strained when it comes to my sexuality, it’s really not as bad most other times. I was very upset with him after the holiday break, so my blogs at the beginning of the month were a bit negative about him. Those blogs were very emotion laden.

Our relationship has actually evolved quite a bit over the past six years – enough so that I can say our relationship is good now. While I was in middle school and high school, we simply did not get along. One reason is because we’re very similar; another reason is because I know how to push his buttons. It’s an odd talent, but I’m sure you understand. :) After I moved away to college, things improved greatly! The distance helped us build a more solid relationship. We can now laugh and talk without problems; we’re very cordial with one another; and, ironically, one of the cornerstones of our relationship is politics. We both love discussing politics. The only thing we have problems with these days is homosexuality. When that topic comes up, I go on the defensive.

Anyhow, things are much better these days than they were in the past. I talked to my father just tonight, and we were laughing and joking about one of my friends. Neither of us mentioned the controversial email correspondence we’ve been carrying on for the past two weeks – partly because my mother has NOOOO idea that I’m gay. I love her to death, but knowing about my sexuality would send her into deep depression. Plus, at this point there’s no reason for her to know.

Thanks for reminding me that my father is a good man -- he really is. I respect him so much for his faith, commitment, diligence, work ethic, and knowledge. Sometimes I just get too wrapped up in his flawed views regarding homosexuality.

I can’t tell you how much I laughed when you asked about my being “endowed!” Your comment was HILARIOUS! I’m so glad you pointed that out. I forgot that “endowed” has a very different meaning to most people. Any Mormon wouldn’t think twice about it because it’s so commonplace in our religion. Let me explain.

This explanation could get quite lengthy because the temple is a very big subject, but I’m going to try to keep it short. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have two places in which we worship. First, we have our chapels. Much like other Christian churches, we go to church every Sunday for about three hours for worship services. Anyone can attend. They are open to the public. (Even though you disagree with the Mormon church, you should really go sometime just to see what things are like.) Temples, on the other hand, are reserved for members who abide by the church’s doctrines and principles. One must have a recommend for the temple, and members can only attend the temple Monday through Saturday. It’s not even open Sundays. Thousands of chapels exist around the world, but only about 120 temples exist in the world.

Anyhow, inside the temple various ordinances and ceremonies take place. For example, it is in temples that Mormons usually wed for time and all eternity – unlike other weddings where it’s until “death do you part.” Like I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, Mormons believe in eternal relationships, marriages and families. We believe that two married people must be “sealed” in the temple by one having authority to be able to live together with their family forever. Anyhow, that’s really a discussion for another time.

Regarding your question about being endowed, one of the main ceremonies we perform in the temple is called the “endowment” session. In the ceremony we make additional covenants or promises with the Lord, vowing to be more Christ-like, etc. In return, we are promised certain blessings for making those covenants. As members, we believe the endowment ceremony is a necessary ceremony for the life hereafter.

I realize this may seem very foreign to you, but trust me; the temple is really a wonderful place to meditate and worship God. I really think you would like it. Of course, you’d have to be a Mormon and a non-practicing homosexual in order to go through the temple. :) Nonetheless, I think you’d find the temple as a very peaceful and spiritual sanctuary.

Anyhow, I realize I’ve spoken in generalities, but that’s because we really don’t give details about the temple ceremonies outside the temple. They are very sacred to us, and we don’t want people mocking them. Plus, without a better understanding of Mormon doctrine, they are usually confusing and odd to most people.

Wow, I didn’t succeed in keeping that short, and I don’t think I succeeded in explaining the temple very clearly. Like I said, it’s a huge topic. Let me know if I can help you understand more about it. To summarize: because of the “endowment session,” Mormons refer to those who have gone through the ceremony as being “endowed.” It’s just a colloquialism in the Mormon church. That’s why she asked if I am “endowed.” She wanted to know if I had gone through the endowment session in the temple. :)

You asked about the church’s position on homosexuality. A gay member can enjoy all the rights, privileges and blessings of the church and temple attendance as long as he or she is not practicing homosexuality. The church does not view my homosexual tendencies as sinful. The leaders realize that men and women don’t choose these types of emotions, but I don’t think they believe people are born gay. Either way, the church opposes all homosexual behaviors. So, to answer your question, no I am not sinful for simply being gay. I am sinful if I act on those urges. I guess you could compare it to an alcoholic who has urges to drink. As long as he doesn't actually get drunk, he is doing nothing wrong.

The church, however, does regard pornography and masturbation as sinful; therefore, because I am involved in porn and masturbation, I cannot worthily attend the temple. It’s really an “on your honor” type situation, though. If I wanted to, I could lie to my bishop (who is like a priest or pastor) and go to the temple all I want. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that. Though the church is opposed to both porn and masturbation, the pornography is the larger problem. Masturbation, though not good, is not as serious of a sin.

You’re too kind. You say everything I need to hear. I never feel like the Mormon side of me is winning, so it’s good to hear someone else’s perspective on the issue. I, like you, am pretty self-critical. Thanks for pointing out my successes.

You suggested that I might be able to find another spiritual path as a gay man. Let me explain why I really wouldn’t be able to do that. I’m going to get a bit personal/religious, if that’s okay. You see, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a.k.a. the Mormon church – has very unique doctrines and beliefs. We believe in modern-day prophets, eternal marriage, The Book of Mormon, temple ceremonies, and even a health code. We believe that the church we have today is the restored church of Jesus Christ, meaning it is the same one Christ established 2,000 years ago, which fell apart because of corruption. Anyhow, I honestly believe all the teachings of the Church. I believe this is Christ’s true church. I have this conviction because of how I feel. When I read the Bible or The Book of Mormon, learn the doctrines of the Church, pray, or go to Sunday services, I feel warm, peaceful feelings in my heart. I feel a happiness, even joy, that is difficult to explain. I know that these feelings are from God, sent through His Holy Spirit, to enlighten and uplift me. I truly believe these feelings are an answer to my prayers for guidance. He leads me through life by them. It really is a wonderful thing for me.

I know that in my blog I often talk about all the struggles and emotional anguish I experience because of my beliefs; however, the joy and happiness I find through Christ’s church is worth the sacrifice and struggle. No one in life has it easy. This is my struggle. I can deal with it if I have His help.

I hope none of my beliefs have offended you. I would love for you to learn more about the church. You can find copies of the Book of Mormon in many places – and they’re usually free. Also, the missionaries for the church are all over. I realize you’re not interested in adopting the church’s teachings as your own core beliefs, but I think we have a wonderful message worth hearing.

I hope these last few paragraphs helped explain why I want to live a heterosexual lifestyle. It’s like one of my heterosexual Mormon reader’s said a few days ago, “if the world flipped up side down, and heterosexual desires were seen as bad, I think the only thing in the universe that would stop me from being heterosexual would be the light and truth of Christ (and even then it would be incredibly hard).

I hope I never seem too critical or condemning of the Church’s doctrines because I truly believe this is Christ’s restored church. I wouldn’t be trying so hard to overcome my homosexual desires if I didn’t feel that way. It's really the only thing in the universe that could make me want to live the "straight" life.

Thanks again for being such a great friend and for wanting to understand. Please keep the emails coming.

Sincerely,

GM


0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home