Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What we do need to do more as a Church

I was asked the other day how can the Church do better with the whole SGA issue. I looked back to my life growing up and how I felt and what I believed. I think there may have been some confusion on my part about what was doctrine and what wasn't. A lot of times growing up I did feel alone and isolated. I did feel unloved and confused and scared to ask for help. But I also think it was because things weren't explained. I do think its getting better now.

This is the one area in which I will agree that the church can do more. I do think that it is time for the church to teach or provide guidance to leaders of youth about this topic. I do think that including support material in future editions of "For the Strength of Youth" would make this material more readily available.

I know that I had friends who bought "In Quiet Desperation" removed the cover and read it as if they were reading a dirty magazine making sure to hide it when they left home. I think when young people feel they have to resort to measures like that we do have some issues.

I know how I was raised. I know I was told that homosexuality was a sin and that it was a choice. That people choose to be this way not that people choose to act out. What I wasn't told was that it was "acting on it" that was the choice not the feelings. For a long time I believed that since it was a choice if I wanted it to go away I could choose for those feelings to go. They didn't. Growing up I often felt as if I was the only guy in the church who felt this way and to make it rough I was the only Mormon in my high school so I really didn't fit in anywhere.

It didn't help that I was overweight, wore glasses and was socially awkward. I didn't like sports and was into art and stuff like that.

Many times I would have loved to be talk to someone I felt I could trust. But I always felt that if I did tell someone how I felt that I would be deemed perverted and evil and that I would be excommunicated. And yes while those feelings and a lack of anyone around that I was aware of, kept me from acting out. I did feel really alone and isolated and at times would come home from school, going into my room and begging God to take me away and let me die. Many times all I craved was a best friend.

I went to EFY and that made me realize that I wasn't alone and I made a promise to God that if I served a mission he would help me deal with these feelings.

So my mission came and when the bishop asked me all those questions about "had I" I could honestly say no. But at the same time I felt that because I "wanted to or had wanted to" that I was just as bad. So I felt I had lied my way into the field.

One evening I woke up, there were supposed to be 8 people in our dorm rooms and I realized I was alone. This was odd. But I was feeling troubled. I got on my knees and plead with God and said "I don't know if I should be here or if in serving unfaithfully I'm damning myself, but I have a willing heart and I want to be an instrument in this work, so if you want me I'm yours." I can't describe the peace I felt at that point. I stood up and walked over to the window to see the Provo Temple seemingly floating in the nights sky. I then realized that I was alone and went to find all the other elders in my district. I found them, in the bathroom all crying about how unworthy they were and how they all needed to go home. I spend the rest of the night comforting them, hugging them and getting them all built up. This was one of the most meaningful experiences for me because all these Elders were sure they were unworthy and all of them really were, they just doubted themselves.

So I served, did my part. Hope that I did some good. Came home still liked guys. But I had gained something I didn't have before I left. A real testimony of the gospel and the atonement not just a belief in God. I understood what was real and what was and what wasn't a sin.

In some ways I was grateful that I didn't have the influences of the internet growing up. I know I may have found support like North Star but at the same time I fear what I would have also found when I was desperate to feel loved and accepted. I think the net is a double edge sword.

A few years after my mission I happened upon this yahoo group (pre North Star) and it was the first REAL exposure I had had to those who struggled with same gender attraction who wanted to be faithful. Before that I didn't know they existed. This has been a great comfort to me.

I am grateful for the things that the church has developed since I was a youth. I hope that the leaders can start using them to reach out to those who are struggling before these young people reach out to groups with other agendas who provide information and support that does try to normalize it in their minds. When someone feels alone and unaccepted they will go to where the comfort is.

I think this is one area that those of us who have been there or who may now even be there can reach out and support and love.

So now I'm 36, still overweight, but a lot smarter. I know what I believe and I know what is real. I have a testimony of what I need to do. I try to reach out the best I can to those whom I can. I am single. I am opinionated but my heart is in the right place. Now all I can do is be an example of what I just said. I can try to be part of the solution.


Sean said...

I agree with you on a lot of points. The Church needs to do more. I think more people who are feeling this way would come out if there was more open discussion of the topic and if the leaders of the Church helped clarify the issues. I know it won't get cleared up immediately, like when blacks were able to receive the priesthood, but the Church needs to start somewhere.

Forester said...

I've thought for some time now that there should be more instruction and more materials available to our youth, and even to adults in the church. I have yet to talk to any of my kids yet about SGA, but my oldest is nearing the age where we will need to talk about the birds and the bees. Part of me wants to shelter my kids from SGA. I don't want them to have to deal with it, whether straight or gay, but I guess avoiding it will do more harm than good. I wish that kids could remain innocent in every way and never have to grow up. Maybe that's because I wish the same for me.