Friday, October 3, 2014

The Excommunication Address

On October 2, 2014 I was called to a disciplinary council where I was excommunicated. For years I thought it was the worst thing that could happen, and now that it has, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. The council of 15 men did what they thought was right, given the circumstances and what they know. What follows is what I had to say: trying to do the right thing, considering my circumstances and knowing what I know. 


I have known this moment was coming for six years. Now it is here, I have only two questions. Why am I in this disciplinary council? And what is the intended outcome? I want to share my thoughts on the answers.  

Why am I in this disciplinary council? 
You tell me because I am breaking the law of chastity, not because I am gay. We agree that I am not keeping the law of chastity and, like a straight person guilty of the same offense, I am violating covenants made in the temple. Where we disagree is that I believe loving a man undeniably factors into why I am here today. 

If being gay had nothing to do with this, I could marry my boyfriend Henry and have sex without breaking covenants like straight couples are capable of doing, and this council would not be happening. You tell me the choice is celibacy or disciplinary action. You, as straight men, are not faced with the same ultimatum. The option to share your sexual desire within the bonds of chastity exists, and in parts of our history, hasn't even been limited to one partner.

Often church members compare my choice to the ultimatum rapists or pedophiles must face. If they give in to their appetite, they should be removed from church (and really society). Rapists and pedophiles do not share their sexual desire, they force it upon the unwilling or unknowing. All of you in this court had the opportunity to share your sexual desire with an able and willing partner who loved and supported you. I am not going to deny myself the same joy because you do not understand why I want that with someone who is male.

Gay couples can find the same joy you have. You asked that I read Second Nephi, looking for the nature of God and life's purpose. Chapter two pertains most to this meeting. Opposition in all things, but there is also beauty in between. It is not just joy and misery, good and bad, life and death, heaven and hell. If we believe in varying degrees of heaven and all are part of God's glory, then why expel things here on Earth that still have good? Christ taught that there is a perfect and an imperfect, but we are all connected because we are somewhere in the middle and therefore incapable of defining others' place on that spectrum. 

Just as exaltation is made possible for individuals despite our imperfect nature, so can families be exalted that do not meet the ideal. I may be imperfect as an individual, but God sees my love for people and life. I may live life with a man, but God knows my goal is a family. When my partner and I die, we will be two souls who move on to the next part of the journey. I make no apologies to you for whom I love and take with me. 

So I am here because I am breaking the law of chastity and because I do not agree with the Church's position regarding my sexuality, nor will I apologize for that. This brings us to the next question - what are you trying to achieve with disciplinary action?

What is the intended outcome? 
You tell me that disciplinary council is a mechanism to help me realize my departure from God's path. This meeting is intended to bring me closer to God. We disagree regarding my place along God's path. Where we agree is that disciplinary council has ultimately brought me closer to my maker. 

Here is what I know of God's path. God sends good souls to us when we are ready to learn more about the path. Eve was sent for us to learn wisdom exists in the mistakes. Life is pain and that often comes from disobedience, but the same pain allows us to recognize higher joy. Moses was sent to teach us that God's people respect life's joy by living true to a common code. Jesus taught us that the common code is less detailed, yet more difficult than we thought - love God and love our fellow beings. Buddha helped us learn to connect with each moment, both within ourselves and with those around us. Mother Theresa showed us that even if God is lost to us, we can find God in compassion for others. These are just a few examples of people who continually show us our path. 

Joseph Smith helped us learn our relationship with God must be a personal one. We should live according to God's personal revelation because every church on the planet could be wrong. The Mormon Church is not exempt because it was founded by the person who delivered the message. I do not have to be a person of color to know it was wrong denying them the priesthood until 1978. I do not have to be female to know it is wrong refusing women the choice to remarry in the temple, while males can marry as often as they please. You do not have to be gay to know it is wrong revoking membership of committed gay couples. God is no respecter of persons and does not isolate power, agency, or love to white males who are straight.

Just as I know you cannot accurately judge me for my imperfections, I know I cannot condemn the Church. I proudly continue my association with the Church, despite our flaws. I may not be an exemplary person; I make mistakes. I certainly do not know everything or have all the answers. However, God knows I try my to live worthy of life and the truth it shares. I do not feel so far from the path to warrant this meeting. 

Disciplinary council has brought me closer to God. No matter what you decide today, this moment has brought me closer to my maker. It has highlighted some imperfections I want to work on, although living my life with a man is not one of them. This council also brings me closer to the message Joseph Smith died teaching us. A Church is led by humans, and humans are always not God. Never be afraid of questioning Church because we think it means losing God. Often, that is the moment God comes into clearer view.

If you think my behavior is unbecoming, and I should no longer be counted among you, then deliver your discipline. Until you remove "Visitors Welcome" from that door, I will continue worshipping among you, bothering no one and seeking to understand God. From this moment, I will sit in sacrament a little nearer to my maker. I know my relationship with this human Church is a benefit but was never a necessity in finding God. 

Your judgment aside, I await the judgment of divine understanding, with grief for my abuses and gratitude for my time here. I say these things in the name of all good souls who lived and died teaching us more about our path to God. Amen.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Rough times and loss lessons

I've been through rough times in my life, just like anyone has. My childhood on the dark farm, butchering animals or dealing with idiot hunters, wasn't by any means an easy one. With 10 siblings, middle child syndrome would have seemed like a picnic. Then my "awkward stage" lasted the better part of a decade. My adult life and coming out as a gay man in a Mormon world were equally uncomfortable, although puberty finally set in. Thank God.

I've dealt with loss, just like anyone has. Friendships have ended and I've felt the pain of exclusion from an entire social circle. In college, my dad almost died and was only saved because someone else wasn't as lucky, but was selfless enough to donate their liver. Friends have passed on from cancer and suicide. A year ago, I lost a relationship I truly believed would last my lifetime. You'll notice I equate loss with loved ones and not stuff. I can buy a new couch or house, loved ones... not so much.

My tendency is to analyze the deeper meaning in these situations. My brain is this way for a reason and it doesn't work for me to just "go with the flow."  I don't just go with the flow; I want to know why the flow is. More importantly, why I was placed in the flow to begin with and what I'm supposed to do once in it. Just keep being because that's all we can do is a bullshit answer to me. Something is to be learned and I want to know what that is so I can feel my time here was worth it. Also, I apologize if the word flow is conjuring images of periods. I couldn't think of another phrase. Sicko.

Right now is a rough time in my life, and I'm dealing with loss. Work stress, financial struggles, isolation from moving to a new place, and the gross world of dating are what make it rough. The loss I'm feeling, and the impetus of this blog, is my dog Geneva. I've said to myself these last few rough months, "I've always got my family I can call on, and Geneva to love when I get home." Losing her so suddenly, on top of all the rough stuff, is almost unbearable. She was a truly remarkable being and I'm lucky to have been her dad. She made me a better person and (hopefully one day) a better dad to my kids.

So what's to be learned from all the rough stuff I'm dealing with? In other rough times, the lesson has been to believe not all times are rough.  This may sound like going with the flow, but it takes more responsibility. Going with the flow implies a passive existence in the negative and positive. In the universe of possibilities, positive and negative outcomes are equally likely. Why not actively work towards the positive one? If one falls in a river, it's a good idea to call for help, reach for passing branches, etc. rather than laying there and seeing what happens (or worse, purposely giving in). Unless you're a jerk. Maybe you should lay there and see what happens.

Finally, what is to be learned from the loss? With all the other loss I've experienced thus far, the first lesson seems to be "love until it hurts, because it's going to hurt anyway." At one point, we are all going to have to miss each other. Whether it's distance or death, everyone is missed and others will miss us. That hurt is inevitable, loving in the mean time is the optional (and enjoyable) part.

But that answer applies to all loss and doesn't satisfy right now. I want to know why Geneva in particular had to go at this particular moment. What's the lesson in adding loss to rough times? Maybe her passing means I'm ready for another part of life to begin. My years with her were some of the most uncertain, scary, and sad. When I was terrified no one could accept me as a gay man, she was my constant. Now I know who I am and ready to start my family. Maybe the lesson is that moving past the rough times means saying goodbye and being grateful for what got you through it in the first place. Geneva was one of the greats, and I'm going to believe in the positive possibility that's the lesson she was here to teach.