Friday, June 09, 2006

Choices, Part II

In the previous post, KK described the journey that has led her to make the choices she has made over the past year of her life. I've written about my own journey of choices in several places on HURRICANE, and I'd like to return to it now.

Yesterday I had lunch with someone I consider a dear friend and one of the very best Mormons I know. He is kind, caring, compassionate, and tolerant. He is faithful, but not dogmatic. As we have talked about difficult issues over the years, I have always felt that he has carefully examined all sides. He seeks understanding for its own sake. He acknowledges that sometimes there are gaps in our understanding or that teaching and reality don't always seem to line up as nicely as we would like.

So it was no surprise to me when he told me yesterday that though he is sad to see me leave the Church and thinks that it is in a very real way the wrong thing for me to do, he also understands as well as he thinks a faithful straight Mormon guy can why I have made the decision to no longer associate with the Church. He then told me that what has been really hard about my coming out is not that I'm gay (which he seems genuinely okay with), or even that KK and I are spliltting up (though he seems less okay with that), but that I have decided to leave the Church.

This puzzles me.

I have heard this from others in comments here on the blog. I have heard it in e-mails from friends and family ("I hope that in time you will return to the fullness of the gospel.") . I have heard it in phone calls ("I know that you have a testimony that the Church is true and I hope you'll return to it one day."). Anonymous Jerk and others have been pointed in telling me that I have broken my covenants and that the path I am on now leads only to unhappiness. "I hope you find what you are looking for, " I hear. "But you won't," seems to be the unspoken conclusion from many.

On one level, I understand this. These are expressions of faith and testimony offered in love and conviction. These comments come from people that I know genuinely believe that the best--and often only--path to true happiness is found within the teachings of the LDS Church, which includes marriage and commitment to covenants.

But mostly I'm puzzled.

To those who think the choices I am making now are wrong and lead nowhere but unhappiness, I ask this, in all sincerity: What should I do?

Each time I ask this question, I get no answer. I'm told what I shouldn't do, but no one seems willing or able to tell me what I should do.

First, marriage. I don't know how KK and I could stay married. We had reached a very unhappy place in our marriage before I came out. And while coming out opened up new (and old) lines of communication between us that restored much of our relationship, I came to realize that I could never feel as though I was free of the self loathing I felt for so long unless I was able to live a gay life (life--not lifestyle). What could we go back to?

I know other mixed orientation couples that are trying to make it work. Those I know most intimately have had tremendous challenges and I think the jury is still very much out on whether or not they can--or even should--continue to try to make it work. I'm acquainted with other gay married Mormon men here in the gay bloggernacle, some of whom seem to be having greater success. Yet even there, there seems to be so much angst.

The research KK and I have done into mixed orientation marriages suggests that most of those that last do so because a) their is openness in the marriage and b) the gay spouse at some point is permitted to pursue same-sex relationships on the side. Are there exceptions here? Absolutely. Is this the life I want? Absolutely not. Is it the life KK wants? Absolutely not.

Next, faith and testimony. I simply don't know how to stay in the Church. The underlying assumption in LDS thinking about homosexuality is that it is aberrant and wrong and must never be acted on. Could I live life as a celibate gay LDS man? No, I don't think I could. And it's not because of the sex. It's because it would require me to think of myself as somehow defective (even if it's not my fault). I feel as though I could only stay Mormon if were willing to accept that my homosexuality is a pathology, akin to alcoholism, compulsive gambling or some other affliction that draws one into sinful behavior. Plus, my faith shattered last year. And as I have put it back together, it is something new, something more symbolic and metaphoric and less literal. Something not quite Mormon anymore.

I've been accused of constructing a new belief system to justify my new identity and (again, largely unspoken, but implied) my sinful behavior. Why then do I feel a sense of integrity I've never had before? Why do I feel fundamentally honest in a way that I never have before? Why do I feel God's love in a way that I never have before? How can what I feel now fit with what the Church teaches and expects of me?

Someone take up the challenge here, because I really want to know. If you think what I am doing is wrong and will lead only to sadness, offer me something better. Share a possibility I haven't considered. Tell me how you think I can be happy (and gay--because that's not going to change).

Let's bring this back to choice. I have choices. Being gay isn't one of them, but what I do with it certainly is. I am making what I believe to be the best choices I can for myself and my family. Are there better choices here?

I await your responses.

23 comments:

wbpraw said...

Hi, Chris and Keri

I wasn't going to get into this discussion, but I have to say your two posts on choices impress me greatly. I feel like I am finally able to understand your side of things a little better. As one's personal testimony of the gospel is dependent on the spirit testifying of it's truthfullness, it cannot be disputed. Therefore, I will not dispute your experiences with the spirit. These experiences are sacred and fiercely personal and extremely hard to justify or explain. They just are. There is a definite sense of integrity in how you've dealt with this turn in your life. I think the fact that you, Chris, went to Keri first rather than "experimenting" says alot about your character. Chris, I'd like to take a stab at some of your questions.

I have no doubt that you and Keri have felt an outpouring of love from our Heavenly Father. He is "no respector of persons" and wants nothing more than for you to be happy. I think you have felt more honest because you rightly took your burdens to the Lord and he has taken them upon himself as is promised by the atonement. I think your next choice has to do with your last question about how does how you feel fit with what the church teaches and expects of you. This is where our viewpoints undoubtedly differ, but since you asked...the Lord asks of us to put away the natural man. This obviously weighs much more heavily on homosexuals than others because what it natural to you is not natural to most. While others must deal with alcoholism, gambling, jealously, etc. as you said, your struggle is to literally put off the natural man and submit to God's will. I think that is what you "should" do. I don't know if that means staying married - it probably doesn't, but that is for you and Keri to decide, not any of us. I do think it means a celibate life outside of marriage. I think it means continuing to lay your burdens on the Lord and to let Him take them up for you. Mosiah14: 4-5 reads, "Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows... the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." No doubt the general membership of the church(myself included) will ever understand the depth of sorrow you two have been through, but the Lord himself does. So to me, your next choice is key. I truly think that if you let your Mormon community embrace you, help you, love you, that you and Keri could raise your family with the gospel and your testimony can be restored. Considering your spiritual journey and closeness with each other, it's actually probably not as far off as we think it is. Obviously you have not been abandoned by your Heavenly Father, but I worry that if you fully embrace this life, the Spirit will no longer attend you and you'll be on your own. I only comment because you ask. Keri, next time we're in town together, I'd love to take you out and get to know you all over again.
Much love, Wendy

free thinker said...

I have a question. What really does being gay have to do with "the Church?" The only conflict I see is a social one -- which is ridiculous. We all have social conflicts with the imperfect humans that make up the organization of the Church. They're just people. But, what does that have to do with taking the sacrament, serving in your callings, attending the temple (if you are indeed celibate), paying tithing, reading the scriptures, praying, and bearing testimony of Christ? Isn't this what the gospel really is? I hate this "the Church frowns on this" attitude. Christ didn't frown on anyone -- but no unclean thing can dwell in the kingdom of God. All the gay people I know are truly exceptional, really. Beyond regular mortals in many ways. I think their orientation is a challenge they've been given to see if their exceptional spirit can choose God while in this mortal tabernacle, because that is the only challenge that is worthy of their strong spirit. I think gay people who leave the church are really more caught up in what people think of them than what the Lord thinks of them. I see no conflict if you are truly listening to the Lord and the Spirit in your journey. That is the test.

Chris said...

Wendy,

It's nice to hear from you. Thanks for your post.

free thinker,

You wrote: I think their orientation is a challenge they've been given to see if their exceptional spirit can choose God while in this mortal tabernacle, because that is the only challenge that is worthy of their strong spirit. I think gay people who leave the church are really more caught up in what people think of them than what the Lord thinks of them. I see no conflict if you are truly listening to the Lord and the Spirit in your journey.

How do I put this...

It seems to me that you are more caught up in what the Church thinks than what God thinks.

By that I mean this. You accept that the Church speaks for God. Or that God speaks through the Church. You therefore accept that homosexuality is something that can't be acted on. It is a "test" or a "challenge" that I've been given. I have to endure it, never acting on it, in order to remain clean and return to God.

Let me ask you this. Will God make me straight in the next life?

free thinker, I don't want to be straight. Finally, I don't want to be. I'm gay. I'm happy I'm gay. And part of being happy that I'm gay means embracing the part of me that wants to give and receive love in a way that feels natural and affirming. I don't have any interest in being celibate. But I also don't have any interest in adopting an "anything goes" lifestyle.

I just want to live a normal life. A normal gay life. And I truly believe that God is just fine with that.

KK said...

I wasn't sure what kind of comments would follow this post by Chris. I guess I hoped there might be something new, something we hadn't considered, but the truth is it doesn't really matter. I was interested in hearing what active Mormons had to say about valid choices for gay people, but forgot that for active Mormons, there is no such thing as gay people. There are only people with "inclinations" toward destructive habits.

Wendy, I agree that one of the reasons we have been so sustained by the Spirit in our journey this year is because we did ask the Lord for help with the burdens we were asked to carry. We began our discussion with a paradox, a contradiction between two truths that we both had witnesses of. The first, that Chris is gay, fundamentally gay, not-overcomably gay, and I believe, spiritually gay. The second, that the Lord had a hand in our courtship and marriage, and that He affirmed to each of us the "rightness" of that step. Trying to understand how these two seemingly incongruous truths could co-exist has been the focus of our life for the past nine months. We talked often about neither giving up on Chris's ability to be himself, nor giving up on our relationship with each other, but allowing the Lord to take His plan to fruition, whatever plan He had in mind when He guided us to each other despite the fact that Chris was gay.

We are still on that journey, and don't know what the ultimate outcome will be. But it doesn't matter to us-- we simply take whatever next step we feel is right, with each other and with God. That's how we've gotten to this point, and I have complete faith that I will be similarly guided for the rest of my life. We both feel quite strongly that we have a larger mission than this relationship, than this family, but that if we follow the Spirit it will guide us in the right direction to both accomplish the mission the Lord has for us, and to preserve our family.

I realize that to most of you, taking the two steps of leaving the Mormon Church and divorcing seem like the opposite of following the Lord and preserving our family. We simply don't agree.

I also disagree that embracing one's sexual identity is not incompatible with putting off the natural man. If we were all meant to shun our sexual impulses because they belong not to the Lord but to the natural man, celibacy would be required of all humans and therefore, there would be no humans. Sexuality is a gift in all its forms, homosexual or heterosexual, a gift to be enjoyed and pursued as the Lord intends. The trouble, as I see it, comes from the lack of interpretation as to how the Lord intends for us to use it. Some of the biggest mistakes I think the LDS church has made in the interpretation of the Lord's will have to do with human sexuality, but that may be the subject for another post.

We can enter into a debate about the purpose of sexuality, but I think most of those arguments have been made, both in favor of the LDS viewpoint and against it. My view is simply that we are meant to walk together on this earth in partnerships, emotional, spiritual, and physical partnerships, and that it doesn't matter what sex that partner is. I think putting off the natural man has to do with exercising self-control, not with repression. You said, "the Lord asks of us to put away the natural man. This obviously weighs much more heavily on homosexuals than others because what it natural to you is not natural to most." This is not a valid argument. It shouldn't matter what is natural to most-- if the natural man is to be put away all together, then whatever your sexuality, if it feels natural, don't do it. This includes any sexual relationship including that with your spouse. Obviously, the Mormon Church doesn't believe this. Therefore, the Church is already dictating what is "acceptably natural" (expression of physical affection for your opposite sex spouse) and what is "not acceptably natural" (expression of physical affection for your same sex spouse).
The Church provides a way for heterosexuals to satisfy their natural sexual urges by encouraging them to find a partner with whom to engage in sexual activity. They provide no such way for homosexuals.

Foxx said...

I think gay people who leave the church are really more caught up in what people think of them than what the Lord thinks of them.

As a gay Mormon who is making his way away from the Church, I must say that my motivation to leave is just the opposite. If I cared more about what people think of me, I would stay in the Church because that is where my family is, and it's where my social foundation has been established since childhood. I have experienced that there is a difference between what the Lord wants and what the Church wants. I care about what the Lord wants, and if that conflicts with what the Church wants of me, I must follow the Lord. And that, I believe, is exactly what I'm doing.

It really is a difficult thing to pull yourself away from the group security you've grown up with, even if you know it's the right thing to do. It is difficult to forge one's own path. For me it is required, and the only way I can grow into the person the Lord would have me be.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to know if there are any lds viewpoints you would be willing to listen to, or if you simply want to argue. Speaking of choices, have you taken steps to officially leave the church? or just in name only?what's the first to go? garments?word of wisdom?tithing? just curious.

Chris said...

anonymous,

I absolutely want to hear any and all LDS viewpoints. I have two purposes in asking. First, I genuinely want to know if there is an LDS viewpoint I haven't fully considered. Second, I want to know where the gaps between where I am now and where many of my LDS friends and family are are the widest. And I want to know that so I know where the bridges need to be built.

I'll let KK speak for herself, but wanting to hear these viewpoints doesn't mean I won't challenge them, particularly if they are viewpoints I feel I have already thoroughly considered.

Thanks for asking.

As for your questions about what goes first, I'll just say this--we continue to try to live many of the principles of Mormonism, though not in the way many LDS do now. For example, we tithed last year, but to the charities of our choosing and not to the Church.

Neither one of us has taken any steps to formally end our membership in the Church.

foxx,

I love you, buddy. Thanks for sharing your experiences here and on your blog.

-L- said...

It's a little late, and I'm away from home and my family. It occurs to me that despite the less-than-stellar sex (and the overwhelming likelihood that isn't going to change), I never want to leave my wife. I wish she were here at this very moment. Our love, I think, is quite like yours and KK's.

My wife has offered to leave me for my own happiness. And I've wanted her to leave me at times... although I think I want it to be a magical blameless separation. She's offered to tolerate unconventional sexual arrangements within our marriage for my sake. It turns out, she loves me so much she would sacrifice her own happiness for mine. And that is amazingly powerful in making a unique situation like ours work.

But I insist, in the midst of my angst and confusion, that things will work out. And they do, little by little. I'm a hater of passive voice fatalism. Things don't "work out" but "YOU work them out". And that's what we'll do. Much like you.

I believe you could choose to stay in the church and stay together and raise your children together and both live lives to be proud of and with sufficient happiness. I'm unique, I know, in my belief that happiness is not something we need in spades, but I won't defend or explain that here.

But that's not desirable or adequate if you don't feel the church is God's church, as I do. But to the extent that your feelings about the church are determined by the specifics of recent events and your views on gay issues, I'd step back and delay final judgement on some of your criticisms of the church. Perhaps indefinitely. Delaying condemning the church has proven to be a good tactical choice for me time and again. I learn something new, gain a stronger insight, clarify what I thought I already knew, and realize I'm very glad I didn't give up on it.

scout said...

Hi Chris from big Scout (and I do mean big now, I'm 8 1/2 months pregnant). I have you to thank for my new addiction to reading blogs--I'm new to this so if I break any rules, cut me some slack?

Since you have a spiritual conviction that you are taking the right steps, I don't want to argue with that or sound like I'm trying to convince you otherwise. You are asking though, what we think the best choice would be.

I don't have the answer, honestly. I do think about what it could or should, or what I'd want it to be (to support the faith I have in the gospel, in God, not simply the church), but as I am not in your situation, I really can't judge whether that choice is doable or "right" either.

The thing that I think about most is that when you were active in the church, you seemed so genuinely sure about its truthfulness, to the extent of convincing those around you of the same. You have also said that you experienced "deep happiness that sustained your family" at this time. I guess I just attribute a lot to that comment, and wonder why that happiness can't continue to be sustained if you continued in the service and faith you had. I do understand that your faith has over a long period of time been strained because of your conflicting feeling of being gay, but at the time you were able to overcome this. For me, I would attribute that to doing what the Lord would have you do, and I'm assuming that you thought that at the time as well (it seems like you've said something along those lines but correct me if I'm wrong). So what made that change? Do you believe God changed this and decided not to sustain you any longer? I'm just sincerely interested in your perspective on that shift.

I know the issue is much more complex than this, with your feelings of how the church views homosexuality and how you do (or don't) fit into that equation. I know I'm not answering your question, and I agree, a lot of people have a lot of opinions without an acceptable solution for you. I don't have a solution either, but I can try to tell you what I would love to see.

First of all, I feel like I've learned a lot from your experience, reading some of your blogs, attempting to understand the genuine struggle of gay people. I know you have a lot of influence this way. The issue has really been on my mind lately as I know it has with many others. I believe the church to be true, but I also believe it to be full of people who are imperfect and not all-knowing, including the prophet and apostles. Also full of people who have no clue what it is like to be gay, or have never had anyone close to them that is gay. I also don't think this is specific to our church--it is evident throughout our whole society. This makes it so easy for people to be intolerant and have such judgemental views. For those who are straight, it is simple to say that "its just wrong" and stick with that conviction (not that thats okay). But what you have done is to increase the understanding for many people of the reality of what it is like to be gay.

The problem with our church, which I'm understanding is a huge reason why you left it, I think could be helped if people like you, who are incredibly respected, admired, and gay, might stay instead of leave, and help us ignorant straight people to be more tolerant, understanding, and make our church be a more open, safe, supportive place for people in your circumstance. Maybe this is too idealistic, and it is 2 in the morning so I apologize, but I really don't think things will change within the church until people with your kind of faith, and personal experience, could help to change things. Since I'm rambling I'll stop now... and really I mean to compliment you for your courage in sharing this personal struggle with everyone.

Thanks for helping us to better understand the path you have taken, and I do support you in taking it if you feel that it is the only way for you to become truly happy and closer to God. Especially if He has made that evident to you. We love you guys and wish you the best.

Scout

Adriana Velez said...

Hey Chris and Keri -- a friend of mine forwarded the url to your blog wondering if I knew you two. I told her Chris was the best bishop I'd ever had.

I've just perused a few posts on your blog but I'm just blown away at how mature, wise, and loving you've both been during this transition. You are both amazing and strong.

Best to your family and hello from some of your long-lost flock in Brooklyn!

Gay LDS Actor said...

Chris,

I've really enjoyed reading about your journey. Only you and God can really know what's best for you.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I have to say this. Feel free to delete it, not post is, whatever.

My parents has a bad marriage. My mother was mentally ill, and while not abusive, she was still very difficult to live with. My dad left when we were young to save his sanity. Soon after, he found someone else to love (a woman).

For years, no matter what anybody said to me, in my brain it was 'dad loves that other woman more than he loves us kids.' Dad told us he loved us more than ever. But he wasn't there. He had joint custody, but I only saw him half the time. I couldn't reconcile his love for us kids with his absence, especially since he now had two households to support and had to work many extra hours to do so.

As an adult, I still have father issues, and my dad was as there for me as any divorced dad could be. But he wasn't there every night. He didn't listen to my bad dreams when they happened, he listened to them on his weekend with us, which I both loved and dreaded because it always took me away from my friends.

Your kids won't care that you are gay. They'll care that you are gone.

DCTwistedLife said...

Personally, I think the implied/ covert disapproval that you've been receiving is typical of Mormon culture in modern soceity. We're supposed to be kind caring people. But we're supposed to be moral too. And it seems that MORAL = MORMON, or at least the most moral = Mormon. Thus the implied sinfulness of your actions.

Some mormons can "tolerate" homosexuality, but since they've been told their whole lives that its wrong, and that the church is the mouthpiece of God, they are stuck in their box believing that there IS only one true church and that following any other way is wrong.

Thats what is so easy about the church. When your life is dictated by all the donts, and very few do's, it makes it so easy. In fact there are so few decisions to make, it becomes easy to just plod along, never having to question or worry about the veracity of what the church claims.

Your friend who you had lunch with cannot think outside the box (as we are trained NOT to at church). So when he sees you stop attending church, he sees you stepping away from the light. He does not realize the possibility of other ways. Mormons are so bombarded with the rhetoric of "We are the one true church" that they cannot comprehend why anyone would want to leave. This man who you had lunch with does not understand what it is like. He cannot fathom it. Period, full stop. Try as he may, he'll never experience the anguish, pain and confusion that these things put together puts on someone. He thinks the right thing to do is to stick with the church no matter what. He probably has not, and probably will not ever be presented with a situation where he would want to leave the church. Mormons are told not to be judgmental, but the inherent perfection that "IS" the religion precludes most people from being able to REALLY not be judgmental.

I realize now, having been on both sides of the table, just how judgmental I was to some of my non mormon friends.

I dont know where I was going with this post.... I did want to say that I am not very surprised at the odd two-faced reactions you've gotten. My main point in this long-winded response is that people are afraid of what they do not understand. And the church reinforces this.

Secondly, I think you are on your way to happiness. You have taken so many steps towards acceptance, loving yourself, all the while staying free of bitterness and ill-will. You seem peaceful. You seem okay. I know you will find your way.

Dont let the nay-sayers bring you down. Please, because you are an inspirtation to me, and to so many others. Dont let the nay-sayers bring you down.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the comment, chris. i'm probably just using your blog to work out my own issues, which isn't fair to you. I guess i should get my own blog for that;)

i do worry about your kids down the road at christmases, etc, but i shouldn't dump on you like that. You have enough right now.

I guess what I'm saying is, TALK A LOT to your kids, no detail is too small to discuss. They want to know exactly what will happen,divorce is scary, even when for the right reasons. General platitudes will not comfort them. statements like 'I still love you' will ring hollow for a while, just know that.

Chris said...

anonymous,

I really appreciate your concern for my children. I, too, am a child of divorce and the prospect of putting my children through an experience even remotely like the one I went through scares me. Indeed, once I had children the prospect of the family "breaking up" was one of the things that kept me in the closet.

But I am also certain than I am a better father now than I was then. And KK and I are determined to do right by the kids, even if it means making sacrifices we might not otherwise ask each other to make. We want the children to know that even if their mom and dad aren't married anymore, they are still a coherent team, a parenting unit that is committed to what is best for them. We know that will take work under these circumstances, but parenting is hard work under any circumstances.

I've been reading a book called Between Two Worlds, which is about the adult children of divorce. There is so much in the book that I identify with. I think simply being more aware of what the experience is like for kids, both academically and from my own personal experience, will help us get through some of the rough patches and will help us be empathetic to them.

Thanks again for your concern.

DCTL,

Thanks for your post, for your support, and for your words of encouragement. It really helps me to know that sharing my experience is helping other people.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Beck said...

I was in Priesthood Meeting two weeks ago and the instructor actually said: "If you don't endure, don't dispair, you can always be used as a bad example".

It was said as a joke, but the meaning is still there. And in my circumstance, not very dissimilar from yours, I felt the mean-spiritedness of the comment.

We are critisized and judged for "not enduring", and thus, are easy to point out as "bad examples".

Just keep enduring the best way you know how, and do all that you can do to find happiness in your family, and God will be with you!

A Troll At Sea said...

Chris and Keri:

only you know what God is calling you to do. Everything else is just static. Follow the "still, small voice" and like Elijah you will find yourself in that company you most desire.

God bless you.
The Troll

sharq said...

I don't know either of you (unlike most of the other commenters), so I can't offer the same kind of support they can. But I do want to weigh in briefly. I've never been able to resist it when somebody asks me for my opinion or for a solution to a problem.

My suggestions:

1. Don't remove your names from the records of the church. It will make things easier for your family members and friends, and you can still choose to consider yourself "Mormon" with whatever definition you want to give that term.

2. If you follow #1, there will be some ramifications you'll have to accept. Accept home teachers. Let active members of the church into your home, and both you and they will be blessed. Most likely, they will bend over backwards to be non-offensive, but in the event somebody starts in on the condemnation track, you can cut them off and let them know it's not appreciated. Sure, it would be awkward, but I think those odds are slim and you will benefit far more than you stand to lose.

3. Occasionally accept invitations to attend church functions. My ward recently made a serious effort to invite a gay member and his partner to the annual high priests' barbecue, and we were thrilled when they showed up. They seemed to enjoy themselves as well. If it seems like these sorts of things would be too painful, you've got to make the call, but I think eventually you'd be able to enjoy something like that.

4. Chris, when you find a partner, expose him to the positive aspects of the church. You'd probably have to do this no matter what, or else he'd never understand you. Have the missionaries teach him the lessons (clueing them in to the situation beforehand). Take him to church at least once, and introduce yourselves to the bishop. He'll certainly have to understand the negatives as well, in order to fathom what you've gone through. But never deny that the Church influenced you in a number of positive ways, and don't be shy about owning up to that.

5. KK, when you remarry, see #4.

6. Live within walking distance of each other. That may be quite a challenge, but there is nothing to compare with being able to visit your mom or dad whenever you want, unfettered by custody schedules, distance, etc. Divorce brings real negative consequences for kids, and it's your duty as parents to ameliorate those as much as possible.

7. Accept that by retaining a connection to the Church, people will occasionally set out to reclaim you. Be patient with these folks. Virtually all of them have the best of intentions. Don't worry about giving them false hope or leading them on--if you are upfront with them about your situation you will be fine. You may win some friends, open some minds, and feel the true love of Christ.

8. Likewise, never worry that you're somehow mooching off the church by accepting the benefits of membership without actively contributing. You've done your time. Let the home teachers move your piano up the stairs. Go to the high priests' barbecue. Read those tear-jerking stories in the back of the Ensign about people who feel the hand of God blessing and protecting them, and allow your tears to be jerked. Anybody who is allowed to serve you in any capacity will enjoy the blessings of God, and your sincere thanks will mean the world to them.

9. Find your own ways to serve. If you're not actively involved in the Church, you need to find a way to get outside yourself and make a contribution. Volunteer at your kids' school. Tutor an immigrant. Better yet, ask your home teachers if they need any help, and give them a hand with their piano. I imagine that if you think back on your best experiences in the Church (especially as bishop), you'll see that nothing is quite as rewarding as service. If will keep you spiritually healthy.

10. Allow your kids to be Mormon if they want to. I bet they love Primary, and they'll probably be invited to attends all sorts of events during their growing-up years. They may get exposed to some anti-gay rhetoric that will be hurtful, but you'll be in the best position to defuse those sorts of crises. Be willing have friends take them to church, and be willing to drop them off when a ride falls through. Attend their baptisms (if they get to that point), and show up when they're going to give a talk or a musical number in sacrament meeting. With any luck, somebody will recognize you from the barbecue and you'll have a pleasant chat before the meeting starts.

Well, I was able to work up ten suggestions, and there are probably a lot more along those lines that you can imagine. In short, don't leave the church even though you stop attending regularly and begin a gay life. At times the remaining connection will cause some discomfort or pain, but don't ever completely sever the connection. Take a break if you need to, for as many months or years as you need to.

Well, that's a lot of advice from a perfect stranger, but you can't say it's unsolicited advice. It comes from a faithful, heterosexual Mormon who will never have to stand in your shoes, so you're certainly within your rights to disregard it entirely. But it also comes from somebody who has stood on countless doorsteps with a membership record in hand, looking to determine whether a new move-in will or will not accept visits. I am always thrilled when the response is positive, and the person is willing to interact with the Church on his or her own terms. The above-mentioned gay brother will likely never return to full activity in the Church, but our association with him been beneficial both for him and for us. Maybe you're thinking "My ward could never be that open-minded." Give them a shot. Ironically, most Mormons are willing to cut an inactive member much more slack than a member who regularly attends the meetings.

Uncle D. said...

Those are excellent suggestions, sharq!

Couldn't put it better, myself.

I think Chris and Keri have chosen to involve themselves in a different religious community, which may mean that they don't wish to have home teachers and they don't want their kids going to Primary.

But otherwise, these ideas of yours (sharq) seem very sensible, a way to make these big changes without burning bridges.

Mathew said...

"I was interested in hearing what active Mormons had to say about valid choices for gay people, but forgot that for active Mormons, there is no such thing as gay people."

KK,
You once considered yourself an active Mormon. Perhaps at that time, for you, there really was no such thing as gay people. Maybe you are privy to the inner thoughts of many active Mormons and thus know that for them there is no such thing as gay people. But I can assure you that there are active Mormons for whom there is such a thing as gay people. You seem committed to trying to understand nuance in so many other areas--don't let your thoughts on Mormons become the area where you fall back on lazy caricatures.

I enjoy the blog.

Chris said...

sharq,

What a wonderful comment. I'm going to respond in a new post today.

-L- said...

...no such thing as gay people...

I recently attended a scientific presentation on homosexuality in which "experts" acknowledged that there are is no commonly accepted definition for "sexual orientation". Same for "gay". Even granting all the complexity in the world for sexual thoughts and behaviors, the church believes anything contrary to God's will can and should be overcome. Personally, I believe the vague nature of the terms involved contribute to misunderstandings about a person's innate identity, the church's expectations, and their seeming irreconcilability.