Mourning

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.

26 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you for sharing, Lynnette. This is sad indeed. My heart goes out to you and all of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Hearing the declaration that this was the will of the Lord was sobering. Every part of my lived experience says that isn’t true. How do I reconcile that? This is a hard time to be Mormon.




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  2. Thank you. I have been waiting for someone to speak up about this the last few days. It feels to me like Nelson’s heartbreaking statement has spurred less immediate discussion (probably the desired effect) because, as articulated so well above, for a faithful Latter Day Saint it leads to a dead end. As you say, it’s just sad.




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  3. I can’t watch it. I won’t. I need some plausible deniability – the prophet can’t really mean that God doesn’t want those children baptised. President Uchtdorf is busy, he must have not taken the time to understand. Elder Holland is willing to defer to the decisions of people he loves, in the absence of direct word from God in either direction – these things can take time.

    If I know they’ve prayed sincerely and considered the matter deeply, the best they know how, and this is the result – I can’t handle that. What point is there, then, in me being a Mormon?




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  4. Lynette, in the face of your pain, I wish I could hold your hand and give you my friendship.

    Is there a way to understand the policy and Elder Nelson’s remarks that doesn’t represent a denial of your very personhood? (I understand that you may not like this line of thought, because it may seem to make the policy more palatable. I’m not defending the policy, just wondering if it is properly understood as an attack on personhood.) The policy endangers gay couples’ membership in the church, and it’s a denial of the legitimacy of gay relationships as marriage, and it socially ostracizes gay families including their children. That is a very difficult set of pills to swallow, and of course many have refused to swallow them! But I don’t know if they are best understood as denying the personhood (or salvation) of gay people.

    The policies ought to provoke great sympathy and struggle in any feeling person. But I don’t know there is benefit to catastrophizing them.




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  5. “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.”

    That’s the crux of the matter for so many Saints and their family members who are having deep and personal spiritual experiences that support what you are saying here.

    It’s not possible to brush them off as counterfeit spiritual experiences, because it’s the same spirit that testified to us of the truth of the Book of Mormon, the same spirit that led us to investigators and baptisms on our missions, the same spirit that speaks to our hearts during the sacrament.

    How is it possible to reconcile what’s happening? I am puzzled beyond words.

    I know when I go to church I feel the sweet spirit that accompanies the words of my good bishop. I feel the spirit shared by the congregation as we sing the hymns. I felt it on Sunday three days ago. The spirit is in this work. Why can I not feel it in the recent changes and explanations? What is going on?

    I’ve read the words of people who were initially uncomfortable about the policy change but talked themselves around to seeing a rationale for the changes and don’t seem to mind how the Church seems to be isolating its gay and single members and they just forge ahead defending the family. I don’t feel like I’m losing all trust like Hedgehog said, but I am puzzled beyond words to see the leaders of the Church closing ranks. It is a strange and confusing experience. I need help here.




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  6. I am reading a biography of Martin Luther by Richard Marius and read this today:

    “By Luther’s time the Catholic Church had moved to affirm this sort of reasoning [syllogistic reasoning] to support its own authority, by no means as a substitute for revelation but as a tool to confirm the teachings of the church by demonstrating their unity and perserverance through the centuries. In the controversy Luther stirred up, a Catholic polemicist such as Thomas More would fling the same charge against Luther time and time again. Christ promised to be with his church until the end of the world. Only the Catholic Church could claim unbroken existence from the time of Christ to the present… This Aristotelian logic applied to a Christian assumption, a logic based on the conviction that the parts of a rational whole could not contradict one another. By rejecting the logic and by using paradox as argument, Luther was mentally prepared to reject the claim of the church for its own validity before his overt break with Rome.”

    To Luther, “syllogisms might be useful in bearing worldly burdens, in reasoning about the affairs of this life…but for scriptural study he found dialectic unambiguously useless. We become students of scripture only by listening to an inner voice, heeding enlightenment from above, not by reasoning our way to understanding.”

    I think Mormons use this Aristotelian logic ad nauseum: If Joseph Smith was a real prophet, and he promised the true Church would never be taken from the earth, our current prophet must be functionally infallible. But what if paradox is a better teacher of spiritual truth than logic? Can the Church be “true” and it’s prophets be wrong?

    I am reminded of something I read by C.S. Lewis, which I can’t quote or reference, but it was something like this — who cares about the splintering of Christianity, and the Reformation, and all that? Christianity marches on through the centuries, bigger than it’s component parts, better than it’s individual adherents, the unstoppable, mysterious, holy presence of God on the earth, which will culminate in the sanctification and salvation of every soul. I am no doubt messing that up somewhat. But it was basically that. Mormonism sees itself as apart from that unbroken banner, but is it really? I think other strains of Christianity have bloomed and shrunk and gotten things right and wrong, and why would this church be different? We’re taught it’s fundamentally different, but I don’t think so anymore. I think our leaders are wrong about same-sex marriage, policy-wise and theologically. And I’m rambling now, but I think the component parts of my church contradict one another, and I don’t know what that means. Maybe Mormonism needs a reformation.




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  7. cates, that’s a good question about whether I’m overstating things. I will own to being a catastrophizer at times! 😉 And I’m angry and hurt and sad and quite possibly not at my best when it comes to thinking through things. But I do feel like there’s a sense in which the message being conveyed is that gays aren’t really people (just as I think D&C 132 and other things convey that message about women). This is especially true, I think, in the context of an LDS theology in which it’s ultimately all about relationships. If you’re gay, you can’t qualify to have the same kind of relationship that we are told is part of what makes God divine. That’s pretty serious stuff. And I think the dilemma in which gay members are put–relinquish those basic desires for sexual relationship, or be excommunicated (or bizarrely, have the third option of living a promiscuous life if you don’t want to face excommunication)–makes it very difficult for us to develop our full potential as human beings and children of God, as corny as that sounds.

    That said, I appreciate the feedback. It may not have been the most judicious way to put things. For what it’s worth, I actually meant it more as an experiential statement–I feel like church leaders aren’t seeing me as a real person with real needs that matter–than a metaphysical one. Thanks for the kind words!




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  8. Thanks so much for the comments, all! I’m sorry to hear that so many others are heartbroken about this, but I so appreciate the kindness and support and solidarity that I’ve experienced here and elsewhere in the last few days. As Kelly said, it’s just a very hard time to be Mormon. I have no idea how to work through these wrenching questions, but I’m very glad not to be alone with them.




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  9. Wow. Powerful. I don’t know how you’ve managed to have such clarity of writing throughout the past two months 8 days, but it has been a great blessing to me to hear my own thoughts expressed so lucidly in your words. More lucidly than they were even in my head, let alone attempts to put them on a page.




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  10. In my own pain, which is unique, but mirrored by that of my LGBT brothers and sisters I am so beaten down I can only see three possible explanations:

    1-God is the conditionally loving God Elder Nelson proclaimed him to be.

    2-There is no god and we all make it all up.

    3-god is a bystander who can’t or won’t intervene in the affairs of men.

    Number one is terrifying
    Number two says get out of this hurtful church
    Number three points to a lifetime of suffering.

    Dismal all three

    Surely there is no balm in Gilead




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  11. Emily U, thanks for sharing that. It sparked a thought that was hidden in the pain and sorrow.

    Sean, maybe we’re just really terrible at listening – individually (some more than others) and collectively. That’s my hope.




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  12. Lynnette, I am so sorry. I don’t know what else to say.

    Sean, your fears are mine as well. It’s all so bleak.




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  13. I am so grateful for this safe place of sharing. I have not been able to put into words my own grief. My thanks to those of you who have the ability to do so. I no longer feel so alone.




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  14. Lynnette, this moves me to tears. I am sad with you. I mourn with you. From the first time I read you – and later met you at Rocky Mountain Retreat – I’ve found you to be clear and faithful and true. Those are the words that come to my mind when I think of you. Oh, and also profoundly beautiful. And good. And funny. And smart. I’ve thought of you (and others) more than once over the past month or so. I’m not sure what else to say. Your honesty and clarity cuts to the very heart of the matter. Thank you for this.

    I believe God is good. I believe life is fraught with horror and sorrow. And peace and hope. I wish you a perfect brightness of hope. I don’t know how or where it will come from, but this is my prayer for you and for all of us. God bless you, sister. I love you.




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  15. I am also disturbed by this latest development.
    When the Prophet recieves a revelation there is a process for it’s announcement and it does not seem to be being followed.
    Change the handbook
    Change the change to the handbook
    Elder Christophersons interview, with no mention of revelation
    Elder Nelsons claim
    If there has been a revelation shouldn’t the Prophet be announcing it?
    Will we be given a chance to vote on it in April conference?
    If that does not happen has Elder Nelson lied to us?
    And either way the change doesn’t seem to line up with the Gospel of Christ.




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  16. Thank you for being willing to both remain and to speak.

    I believe it is so important to have faithful – if even that faith is in perpetual struggle – saints share their experiences.

    It would be easy for me to not be concerned – it doesn’t affect me and mine directly. And once those who were affected were “forced” into silence and left. But only because they (you) are no longer silent and no longer leave (though, understandably most do) are we who are not affected… affected.

    You are our brothers and sisters. Because of your collective will, we are starting to hear. Please keep speaking, even when we act like we’d rather not hear it…




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  17. This is haunting, and I am ashamed of my church causing so much pain, which I feel is so unnecessary. I really believe that our theology is more expansive than this, and I still have a small glimmer of hope that we will recognize and embrace it. Thank you for telling your story, and allowing me to witness your pain, because I think that this is the only way to connect ourselves to each other when lines keep being drawn and walls keep being built.




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  18. Lynnette, thank you for articulating this. I too have been so profoundly disappointed in these latest moves by our highest church leaders. I can’t even begin to understand how this new policy (now revelation) reflects the Christlike love and compassion we are told to emulate. It makes no sense, and it is so harmful, as you have articulated here. Know that so many of us stand with you in our hopes for a better, more inclusive, more loving church.




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  19. Gosh. This is beautiful. You are generous and fair and expansive in your writing and thinking. Thank you for sharing so much with all of us.
    Your last paragraph states exactly how I feel and what I am navigating. I feel that distance and that sadness too. It is hard.




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  20. When I was interviewed before joining the church, I was asked if I would follow the prophet, (paraphrased). I replied that yes I would, as long as I ‘felt/knew/believed’ that the prophet and God were in agreement, but were I to experience a difference there, I was going with God. What could the poor elder do? Couldn’t argue with that, and I was baptized. But indeed, the question and answer have proven to be prophetic in this troubling time and development.




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  21. This is so troubling. I do not have a ‘testimony’ of the prophet or leadership of this church, can not turn my responsibility for seeking truth over to them. I do have a testimony of the simple gospel and of the goodness of God. I feel the spirit in my ward, however I can not attend regularly because I allow myself to feel intimidated there, I know that that is my issue to an extent, my role models are those who are able to speak their truth a midst those who might not agree. There are good people in my ward and I could certainly have meaningful discussions, but I lack the courage, and am working on growing the courage. I have come to see being Mormon similar to be American: I’m not always proud of what my government does, but there is good here, and American is what I am. Likewise, I do not support the bigotry of church, but when I seek inwardly if I should leave the church, the answer has always, so far, been no, I am a Mormon. So the question remains how do I be a follower of Christ in this situation? I want to support the questioning members, to affirm my support for the LGBT members who are put in such a ridiculous position. The answer for each individual is prayerfully sought, and I support everyone who dares to follow the path set before them as we struggle to find the iron rod in our own lives!




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  22. Lynette, there is nothing I can do, but my heart is breaking and I am mourning with you. Your words have been a beacon to so many during the last couple of months, and I am grateful for your willingness to share of yourself so deeply.




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  23. Yes, this is a time for mourning. Thank you for what you share, Lynette. And Emily U, thank you for that comment–I find it hopeful and intriguing.




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