Monday, December 28, 2015

My Journey Within Mormonism

      Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my readers.  I know that Christmas can be a mixed bag when it comes to the various family and cultural experiences that people have.  Whoever you are and wherever you may be in your life and in your relationships.  I hope that you can find peace and hope both in a religious sense and a secular sense.  Although this blog post will not be exactly about Christmas it is in a way about new beginnings and the growth that comes from the discovery of something new.

       To preface this blog post I recommend reading my previous post about my thoughts on the LDS church's new policy and the experiences that have led me to seek out a spiritual home in the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).  As I listened to the Prophet-President of the Community of Christ I wanted to learn as much as I could about this part of the Restoration.
      Just as a way to help both explain and bring my readers along on my journey, I am going to post a couple of long 1-hourish videos that were displayed on Mormon Stories about the teachings and history of the Community of Christ beginning with Joseph Smith.  It is presented by John Hamer who is a historian and himself a former gay Mormon who is now the pastor of the Toronto Community of Christ congregation.  My posting this is not about converting anyone or saying that my path is the right path.  The path to spiritual progression should always be between the individual and God.  I simply want to share what has brought me peace in the hopes that it may help others or may stimulate a desire to learn more about religious history whether it be purely academic or spiritual.  Here is an introductory video about Community of Christ.  I think many of my readers will recognize the music in the background.

      The next two videos are about the differences and similarities of beliefs between the LDS and Community of Christ.  These were the ones I watched first.  I was intrigued by the similarities and differences between the two.  John Hamer who is presenting also gives the case of how disaffected LDS members or LGBT Mormons may find a spiritual home at the Community of Christ.  These videos are kind of long so if you have spare time I encourage you to watch them.  I personally watched them as I did dishes and chores.  Summaries can be found and additional dialogue here.

       The next four videos follow the history of the Community of Christ.  From 1830 to the present day and how it was shaped in parallel to the LDS church.  The first video covers the beginning of the restoration from 1820-1844.  Most members of the LDS church will recognize this history.  Once again dialogue and summaries here.

       The next video covers more of the divergence and schism of The LDS church between those led by Brigham Young and the scattered congregations who did not travel west, including Joseph's Smith's family.  Many different groups formed their own churches under various leaders including the Strangites, Cutlerites, Rigdonites, etc.

       This next video follows the RLDS church as it is organized in 1860 under the leadership of Joseph Smith 3rd (Joseph Smith's oldest Son). This video covers most of his tenure as Prophet of the RLDS to 1910 as he brings many of the scattered Saints into the Reorganization.

       The final video follows the transformation of the RLDS church to the now Community of Christ using the historical research done in the 1960s and 1970s as a catalyst for introspection and change.  The parts I find the most compelling are how it appears that the leadership in the then RLDS church decided to address historical issues head on.  This is in stark contrast to LDS leadership who sought to keep these historical findings from reaching the general membership.  The LDS church is only now trying to address these issue in public with their release of various essays on the church's history.

       The most interesting thing that I found from these videos was how little I actually knew about the early history of the restoration tradition of Christianity under Joseph Smith and how very little I knew of the Community of Christ.  I deeply regret this ignorance and have since continued to seek more knowledge on the subject.  I will also post a couple of other links below that I have found helpful to learning more about the Community of Christ.  These links will also include the Latter-day Seekers website that is specifically geared toward LDS members who are interested in learning more.

       Thanks for watching and reading.  Hopefully in the next several weeks/ months as my time is permitted I will be writing and sharing more on this subject.   I have appreciated the perspectives and dialogue that I have received over the past several years as an out Gay man and look forward to many more to come.  During this Christmas and Holiday Season I hope peace can be found in your homes and in your communities.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Personal Path From Pain and Confusion to Hope and Spiritual Progression

     I finally have a break to write another blog post.  A lot of stuff has happened since my last post. I am fairly certain that many of the readers of my blog have had many discussions with friends, family, and others around the LDS church's new policy in regards to the Children of LGBT couples.  For me personally it felt like a stab in the heart.  I cannot adequately describe the pain and betrayal I felt at that time.  I had made peace with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was still attending meetings when I found the time to.  I described the pain and the anguish I felt in a Facebook post.  This is what I wrote:

    "The past few days have definitely been incredibly difficult and heartbreaking. I'm grateful for everyone that I have seen who have stood up in defense of the children of LGBT parents and their families during this difficult time. Even though many of you will not be personally effected by this change within the LDS church. Just the fact that you have been willing to listen with an open mind and heart and advocate for others is an incredible blessing. The fact that you have been open to the plight of your brothers and sisters has made a tremendous difference. Your love and kindness has been noticed.
    To those people who see nothing wrong with this policy and the potential damage this will have to so many children I beg you to open your hearts to their stories. Realize how much pain, anguish, and exclusion they are going to feel when they see their friends getting baptized and then being told that they can't because of their parents, who if they are that age probably go to church with them and approve of their involvement. Realize that this policy will make them feel singled out and ostracized. Understand how their parents will feel whether they be from failed mixed orientation marriages or love the church and want their kids raised in the church. Many of them have faced so many hardships and had finally found a balance within their marriage and relationship with the church. Now they're being told that their kids are now considered the other and not worthy because of who their parents are. Imagine how this policy will open old wounds and how it feels that the church is trying to punish them further for their sexual orientation that they had no choice in. Whether it is their intention or not that is what is happening, that is reality.
    Some people may say that these kids can choose when they're 18 and that it will lessen conflict. The problem is the damage will have already been done. Treating a young child like this is harmful to their identity and relationship with their heavenly Father. No matter what the intentions and the belief that this is what is best for the child. The fact still remains that this policy will lead to broken families, heartbroken children, and a culture of exclusion for these kids. Many of these children have been adopted and have experienced abandonment from their previous families are now being told after they have finally found a family that loves them and cares for them that that love is counterfeit that they have to renounce that love, peace, and security they have found. How traumatizing that can be and will be for these children.
    I feel raw and heartbroken, a church that I grew up in and that has helped me develop my relationship with my Savior has essentially shut the door on my family and my future kids. This is how I and thousands of other people in my situation feel right now. People may seek to minimize it but it is there, we are here, we exist, our pain is real. You can either choose to ignore it and brush it off because it doesn't affect you or you can mourn with us and comfort us because many people are in need of comfort right now."  

     (As preface to what I am going to talk about, I have a deep respect for the decisions made by individuals. My thoughts are my own and are neither an endorsement or criticism.  They are merely the thoughts and the pain which I have personally felt.  Everyone's road is different and I can not emphasize enough that people must make their own decisions and should if they feel they are able to make their own decisions with God in regards to belief or non-belief.  That is something I would never deny to anyone, I just seek to share my own personal perspective.)

    My heart was broken and the pain I felt was beyond what I have previously felt before.  I didn't understand why this could happen.  I had felt that progress was being made and that my future children could be welcomed in the faith that I have held dear for many years even if I could not fully participate.  With this policy, the door had been shut and and my heart was broken.  For days I felt the pain and betrayal continue to twist and turn inside of me seemingly without relief.  I felt abandoned and I felt lost.  

    As I struggled through this pain and anguish trying to search for relief, I felt the spirit move me in a surprising direction.  My twin brother had been attending the Community of Christ (previously the RLDS church) for a couple of months.  We had had a couple of conversations about it.   Even with these conversations I had no interest in the Community of Christ because I never felt particularly drawn to them intellectually or spiritually. With the introduction of the new church policy I was seeking to find comfort and solace in my pain.   I found a talk given by the Prophet President of the Community of Christ church, Steven Veazy.  Here it is below 

     As I watched this video I felt a profound peace enter into my heart especially near the end when he talked about Oneness and Equality in Christ.  This peace drove away the pain and the anguish from my soul.  This peace also carried with it a prompting to learn more about Community of Christ.

I watched many other videos which I will post in later blog posts.  

 I still consider myself Mormon in the sense that my own personal beliefs have been cultivated within the LDS church.  My plan is to always leave my heart open to the possibility of me returning if prompted by the spirit to do so.  The culture and the influence the LDS church has had on my life has been profound and will never leave me.  I personally can profess that I have felt the spirit many times in the LDS church.  The spirit has borne me up in hours of need and trial and has offered me comfort countless times.  As I have continued to learn over the past couple of weeks I have developed a deep respect for both the LDS church and the Community of Christ as part of the Restoration Tradition of Christianity that has Joseph Smith as its first prophet.  I have also felt and recognized truth in the Community of Christ faith.  I have found it to be an honest and genuine expression of the Restoration one that I regret not knowing more about until now. 

    I still don't know exactly where God will lead me on this road.  There is still much I need to learn and hopefully many more years ahead.  I have found at this time a place of safety where my husband and I are fully welcome.  At the very least what I do know is that at this moment in my life. I am where I need to be.  

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the Community of Christ 
from a LDS perspective here is a link.


Monday, July 6, 2015

First Anniversary, Marriage Equality, and Preparing for Medical School!

The past few weeks have been such a blessing for my family.  Not only have we celebrated our first anniversary.  We have also celebrated the Supreme Court decision that will help to enshrine the same rights and privileges for us as other couples.  It has been a time of great excitement for some and political angst for others.  Wherever you fall on the spectrum of legalized same-sex marriage.  I want you to know that these rulings are going to effect many people positively.  Not only in regards to legal benefits for same-sex couple and their children.  But also the dignity of being treated equally under the law.

One of my greatest hopes is that all people no matter their romantic orientation will grow up with the hope of a family.  That in the future, laws that allow for the discrimination of others will fade away and be replaced with equal treatment for all.  I hope that in the future, children like myself won't grow up with the shame and fear of how they feel.  That they will see how good life can be.  I hope that they will grow up without the pressure to lie to others about who they are.

This summer before I enter medical school I have had the privilege of working with kids who have been abused and severely mistreated by their parents and guardians.  Working with them each day I have been able to see the child who wants to be safe, who wants a better life but doesn't know where to find it.  I have seen the process of healing and hope work in their lives.  This I hope I can help facilitate for others.  Although I am still not sure what my future holds completely.  I can see myself working with children and young adults in my future profession.  The defenseless and the forgotten.  I hope I can make a difference in at least a few of their lives.  Progress does not come without effort.  Although their have been victories there is still a tough battle ahead.  Each day I see hope for a more just and equitable world.  A world where the least will be considered as much as the greatest.

I look forward with an excitement to the future and a promise of a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Need Him Too

        I recently noticed that USGA at BYU posted up a new video.  Their original viral video provided me with a lot of hope and support during a time that was very dark and lonely for me.  Their stories and encouragement helped me to have hope and faith in God's plan for my future.  After watching this video I wanted to add my own voice with theirs.  

        One of the more hurtful things I have been told before is that because I am gay I can't have a relationship with Jesus Christ or my Heavenly Father. That somehow the atonement does not apply to me. That I am broken, counterfeit, and beyond the reach of the spirit. If my experience with my Heavenly Father is any indicator, I have have found that these statements are simply not true, I have felt and have continued to feel the power of the atonement working in my life. The relationship I have with my savior is stronger now than it has ever been. He has walked where I have walked, and I know he understands the intentions of my heart as I have continually sought guidance from Him for each decision that I make.  I need him too. I need his peace and comfort through times and trials. I need his boundless charity to encompass me in warmth and light.  I need the gentle reminders of his grace as I feel the warm touch of sun on my face, the wind as it blows through my hair, and the peace as a kneel to pray.  

        Through the spirit I have learned and feel that who I am is a blessing. By being gay I have learned what it is like to be at the end of condescension and judgement. I have learned what it must have been like for the outcasts that Christ sat and ate with, who he ministered too, and who he called his friends. The pain and sorrow I felt growing up from the ignorance and judgement of others has made me stronger and has brought me closer to Him. I learned to rely on my savior when everything seemed hopeless. I have learned that human understanding and strength ultimately falls short compared to His divine and eternal consistency.  I have learned that my only source of truth can be from the fruit that is borne from the actions and words of others coupled with the still whispering of the spirit.  

        The diversity of God's creation is not something to fear, each individual difference should be celebrated. The incredible diversity of mankind is a testament of the power of human potential and God's love.  Each individual is precious and none should be forced into a cookie cutter mold of what society says they should be. We all lose out when this happens.  He is mindful of each one of us, He has a plan for each one of us, and He loves us beyond anything we can imagine.  If you feel that you are not good enough or that God could never love you.  Always remember that he truly does love you completely.  His love is not based on condition or standing.  It is unconditional and all encompassing, stay strong, this world needs you to be who you are, an indescribable child of God.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Where I'm supposed to be.

It has been a little over a year since I publicly came out as a gay Mormon.  In that year, I have had many wonderful and humbling experiences.  I have met new people and I have gained a greater appreciation of the diversity and the uniqueness of God's will for each person.  This is a little summary.

Life has been busy.

School has started up again, I recently got a new job at a behavioral health center for at risk youth, and I just joined a political action committee.  Needless to say, I'm expecting a very productive and busy last semester to my undergraduate years.  

Along with staying busy, I have been married to the love of my life now for over six months.  Time has flown by and I often find myself thinking about the path that led me to where I am now.  I came out publicly a little over a year ago and have transitioned to being a true and authentic son of God.  It has been a bit of a roller coaster but one that has brought me clarity and a closer relationship with my Heavenly Father.

I am now an excommunicated member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  My stake president was very attentive to me and I felt the spirit whenever I talked to him.  He wasn't punitive with his church authority and worked with me through everything.  I truly felt his care and his desire to understand and build a bridge with me.  I know this is not always the case, I have heard of people who have had a less than desirable experiences with priesthood leaders around this subject.  After speaking with my stake president over a couple of weeks he decided it was time to move to an excommunication.

What really surprised me and humbled me about the excommunication was the overwhelming spirit that I felt.  This spirit was compounded by the testimony that I bore of my savior Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  It was uniquely personal and very powerful.  I left the excommunication with a feeling of peace and joy.  It was uplifting and completely unexpected.  The experience helped reinforce my belief that as I trust in my Heavenly Father's will, everything will work out.

Another pleasant surprise was and is the continued companionship of the Holy Spirit.  Although I cannot enter into the temple anymore and I can't partake of the sacrament, the spirit continues to help me as I seek to do my Father's will.

There have been times in this past year where my faith has faltered and I have felt distant from God but luckily those moments of doubt have only renewed the strength that God has given me.  I have come to know personally the importance of doubt in faith.  Through this process I have learned to doubt everything and to analyze everything in greater detail.  I have learned to not lean on the arm of men but on the arm of my Heavenly Father.  My love and understanding of the power of the atonement has grown deeper.  My outlook on life has improved and I am happier than I have ever been.

The amount of growth and the outpouring of love I have experience over the past year has been humbling both from members of the LGBT Mormons and Allies and also from my friends and family.  I attend my local ward where a couple of people now know about my husband and I.

Last year I took a leap of faith when coming out publicly.  I have learned a great many things and I know there is still much for me to learn.  Through everything I truly believe and feel that I am where I'm supposed to be.