When I was about 15, my bishop gave me some horrible advice. It was the kind of generic advice you might give to a teenager that in many situations would be harmless and probably even positive. But if he had known more about my personal situation, I’d like to think that he wouldn’t have said what he did. Unfortunately, he didn’t just say, this is something you might want to consider. He said, God is telling me that you need to do such-and-such thing. Because I’d always heard that bishops could be inspired on your behalf, I took him seriously. I did what I was told, and it was awful. And most awful of all was the message that it conveyed, which was that God didn’t actually care about my needs or experience. It reinforced destructive messages I was already getting about myself and some of the situations I was dealing with. My relationship with God was already full of landmines, and it added to the chaos.
There are plenty of scriptures I’m not crazy about. But I don’t think anything else is as gut-wrenching and sickening as D&C 132. I don’t like it when Paul says that wives should submit themselves to their husbands, that the woman was created for the man and not vice versa, and so forth. But, thankfully, it’s in the voice of Paul. D&C 132 is in the voice of God. It’s God who is talking about women as parcels to be handed out to righteous men. It’s utterly horrifying. When humans are abusive and oppressive, you can appeal to God. But what if God is the one behind the dehumanization of certain groups of people? Where do you turn then?
I don’t have the words really to describe what it’s like to hear an account of a profound spiritual experience in which God reveals to church leaders a policy that paints you as less of a person. It cuts to the core, leaves you gasping for spiritual air. It’s a wrenching juxtaposition: the beauty of the Spirit testifying in sacred spaces, with the message that God is willing to throw his LGBT children (and even more poignantly, their children) under the bus. I find myself reeling, unable to put the pieces together.
I’m not 15 anymore. I’m not as quick as I once was to assume that those who say they are speaking for God are in fact articulating the will of the divine. These days I simply reject D&C 132, because it clashes both with my experience of God, and my experience of myself as a full human being. I didn’t get there easily, but I got there.
It’s a loss, though. It’s a real loss, if you grew up believing that all scripture is inspired and God is clearly speaking today and will cut through all ambiguity, to confront the unsettling possibility that even prophets can be terribly wrong. And I find that my reaction to Elder Nelson’s recent assertion about the new policies being directly from God is one of tremendous grief, because it’s hacking away at a faith that I used to have with such confidence, because I’m losing more and more the vision of the church that has so shaped my life.
Of course, prophets can also be terribly right, even when you desperately want them to be wrong. What if this is in fact God’s will? Can I reject it just because I find it so unpalatable? As a believing member of the church, I feel like I have to in fairness wrestle with that question. It’s a bleak, a terribly bleak possibility. Contemplating it makes me feel like the walls are closing in, like I have nowhere to go because even God has decided that I am collateral damage. My faith in God has kept me going through so much. That I might lose that connection is beyond heartbreaking.
I’ve been told repeatedly that it’s incredibly arrogant, not to mention spiritually dangerous, to set yourself up as knowing more than the people whom God has chosen to lead his church. But I find that for me, it comes down to this. When it comes to my own experience and my own life, I am in fact the authority. And my experience of being gay is not an experience of brokenness, of something in need of fixing—or, crucially, of something that God is rejecting me for. When the General Authorities talk about the burden of same-sex attraction, I don’t recognize myself or my experience in their descriptions. And that makes it hard to trust, I will confess, in the decisions they are making.
My attachment to the church runs deep. I’m not ready to give up on it. I’ve had too many powerful spiritual experiences there. But I do feel more distant from it, perhaps more than I ever have. Some might see that as increased enlightenment; some might see it as increased apostasy. I don’t really see it either way. For me, it’s just sad.