Faith and Feelings: A Gay Mormon Story

On December 18th a group of friends and I at Brigham Young University-Idaho launched a peaceful demonstration to show love and support to our LGBT peers called Pure Hope. We asked that students, queer or not, to sport something white.  A Facebook event was created, a video slapped together and posters plastered on every social media site any of us were currently members of.

I decided that since we couldn’t advertise on the BYU-I campus that I’d go through my contacts and spread the word as far and as wide as I could. Then something interesting happened—notice that I say interesting and not surprising here.

An invitation was sent out to a friend of mine, whom I hoped against hope would realize that wearing white wasn’t a political statement. Hours after having sent her the invitation I received a curt response that said: “Thanks for the invite, but no thank you.”

I remember sitting in my bed, MacBook in lap, reading that and wondering, “What is it that makes you think the way you do?” And needless to say I felt a bit disregarded and unimportant.

For some time now I’ve pondered that response. I’ve pondered why it is that mainstream Mormons seem to wish to not be reminded that some of their brothers and sisters are LGBT.  I’ve concluded that because this issue doesn’t directly impact them they don’t care to research the issue typically. Thus they know little to nothing about what people like myself confront.

So I want to correct that, simply and quickly by asking a question to gage where you are.

What do you understand about what it means to be gay and Mormon?

 

Coming Out 

I’ve done it, and many of my friends have gone through this ‘right of passage’ as well. This has to be the most stressful situation to be placed in. Why? Because you have to destroy your own public image. You are literally walking out and committing self inflicted sabotage. Extreme? Yeah when you put it like that it does sound extreme but think for a second.

How would you feel not knowing if the people you love most would still love you anymore?

Or to know that once you’re out your world will never be the same?

That in essence is the stress of coming out.

Friends, family, acquaintances; in a moment they could all be gone from your life for no better reason than for your sexual preference. Disowned not because you killed another person, but because you killed the future you they always imagined you’d become.

Most kids like myself are depressed, because we know and we understand this truth. It haunts us daily and yet we can’t show our depression because then people will dig into us to try to solve a problem we can’t dare let them discover.

Choice Roulette

Harkening back to another conversation I once had with this same individual, when I told this person about my sexuality I remember being given the counsel: “Keith, I love you. You may not have chosen to be gay, but you choose how to act on those feelings.”

In the mind of my friend who has a very LDS based thought process, this all comes back to being my choice; that I have the power to make my own decisions—and I very much so do.

Therein, however, is the problem. What are my choices?

Option 1: Life Long Celibacy

Option 2: Partnership

Option 3: Marriage to a Woman

Option 4: Throw My Hands in the Air and Wave ‘Em Like I Just Don’t Care

Ok so maybe not Option 4, but those in a nutshell are the basic layout of options for any given Gay Mormon.

In my case I can mark off option 3, it just isn’t going to happen with a lady. So that leaves me with two monumental choices, either I live alone, or as another friend once suggested, with a roommate, or I go skipping off into the sunset with the man of my dreams. Either way I lose one thing I wish I didn’t have to do without. On the one hand I lose love, and on the other I lose my faith.

Contrary to popular belief I’d rather not leave my religion. I chose to be Mormon and I’d like to think that was a choice I made intending to stick by. But most hetero couples don’t understand the double-edged decision the LGBT LDS community has been forced to make. There are no copouts. You’re either in, or you’re so very out.

Culture Clash

 

Regardless if you’ve made a choice yet, you’re probably still going to church and trying to do the whole “good Mormon” thing, meanwhile your whole social network now knows your sexual identity.

Some members will come up to you at random at ward events, parties or random social gatherings to tell you how non-judgmental they are and how they love you and reassure you. This is nice, but in part it’s sad because you wish that it didn’t have to be told to you, you wish that you could just assume that of everyone.

Others you’ll see and all you’ll remember, no matter how much they try to assure you of the contrary, are all their homophobic statements. How they thought all gays were gross, or child molesters. Part of you will always wonder what they really think of you now.

A few will be outright rude. They’ll try to tell you that all you need is to find the right girl or boy. That if you pray enough God can fix you or simply remind you to chose the right, meaning the Lord’s side. They don’t of course mean to be rude, but their sermons aren’t welcome nor were they asked for and they’re totally overstepping their boundaries.

Here and there, however, one or two curious truth seekers will approach you wanting to understand and they’ll ask you how you reconcile your faith and your feelings. You’ll do your best to answer them with the response you feel they’re hoping to hear, but what you really want to say is: I can’t reconcile a lose-lose situation, I can only compromise. Once you answer they’ll then counter by asking you how you live without that one thing not knowing you’re wondering the same thing.

Eventually, however you’ll get used to living like this and people will forget about you like old news and you’ll just be So-And-So who is ______________.  But therein again is the issue. You’re no longer who you were. You were always LGBT, the entire time, but now  that they know  suddenly you’ve gone from A to B.

Living With Your Choice

Finally you’ve made your choice and now you have to live with it. If you bring home a partner there’s a chance your parents won’t let you stay the night. There’s a chance the entire extended family will stare or that the whole ordeal will seem strained. You’ll have to live with your family’s constant reminders that you’re not right with God, and trying to play Match-Breaker for the entire duration of any of your relationships.

The other possibility is that your family is ok with your partner and doesn’t do that above-mentioned things, but then your family comes under attack for being too liberal with you. Your parents are deemed unsatisfactory because they obviously aren’t fulfilling the requirements mapped out in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

You’ll fall out of sorts with some of your more pushy LDS friends who try to tell you out rightly or by example that your lifestyle choice is substandard or subversive. Other’s you’ll stay close with but you’ll always know deep down they don’t fully approve of your life and you’ll have to live with it. In the end you’ll probably reach out to more accepting social circles because you just don’t fit in anymore.

Or you’ll live alone or possibly in a rare scenario be married to a man or woman. If you’re alone, you’ll have to go to church and deal with being in a religion focused on having a family. You’re going to have to reconcile your solidarity then. Your friends will support you while the world nags at your heartstrings.

But no matter what choice you make you’ll always wonder how things could have been had you decided differently.

That’s what it means, nutshell concentrate style.

I realize that a blog post this summarized can’t make anyone an expert on what it is someone like myself goes through on a daily basis nor can it touch on every experience perfectly. It’s but a glimpse and maybe that vision will be enough to start a few on the path to greater understanding and that’s my hope.

So to you, the heterosexual who reads this, please listen to our stories…because we love you and we need to you care.

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Comments
19 Responses to “Faith and Feelings: A Gay Mormon Story”
  1. Shauna says:

    I am a Mormon from Idaho, and that this story could be written in Rexburg gives me hope for the future. I know I’m an optimist, but I see shifts and changes toward greater acceptance of LGBT in the church. God bless you and guide you in whatever choices you feel inspired to make. I can’t believe God would want anyone to live a lonely isolated life.

    • Mary says:

      No but there are wonderful Mormons who choose to live wonderful warm lives and still keep the covenants they made to be chaste.

  2. Jacque says:

    I’m a hetero, LDS-woman and my former best friend is gay. (I use the word gay as a reference to a male with same-sex attraction who has chosen to live the lifestyle, not one who merely has the tendencies) When he “came out” to me, he told me that he didn’t want to practice and that he’d need mine and my friends help to remain happy in his loneliness. I told him that I loved him and that it didn’t matter to me because I didn’t define him by his sexuality and that he’d never be alone with us. Not long after, he stopped going to church and began to live the lifestyle. I believe that God gave us agency and that we are the only ones who can judge how we use it. So I respected his choice and I continued to love him but my best friend didn’t respect my choice to remain faithful in the LDS faith and tried to shame and guilt me. Needless to say, this hurt our relationship and it was ended when I testified to him about my belief in agency and he told me he hated me.

    I tell you this because it is a thin line that we tread. We, who love and support our brothers and sisters with same sex attraction. I do not believe that sexuality defines a person and don’t believe that a homosexual lifestyle is within gospel standards. But I do support those with the tendencies. It’s hard to say I support LGBT, because I don’t support the lifestyle. (Just as much as I don’t support Alcohol Consumption, cohabitation of heterosexual couples, etc.) LGBT is a term that connotates the “lifestyle”(as I mentioned above).

    Ask yourself, are you asking your friends to support you or your tendencies? If it’s the former, I know that your friends, who love you, won’t hesitate to support your whole being and all that they have come to love and define you as. Probably, a brilliant, loving, fun and vibrant child of God.

    Be patient with this friend and share this article with them. As you say, not many people have had the notion to deal with this sort of thing. Help them to know what they believe. Also Oaks and Uchtdorf have some loving words they’ve given on the topic. http://www.lds.org/manual/god-loveth-his-children/god-loveth-his-children?lang=eng

  3. Michele Vroom says:

    (#2) And also, even in biblical history.. there are LEGIT polygamist groups, and then there is unauthorized and sex hungry polygamy with prostitutes and mistresses left and right. The same exists now.. sincerely devout polygamist groups. And polygamist power hungry monsters. True gay and lesbian men and women… and a mockery of homosexuality with the intent to harm, that more intelligent political powers desire to use to fuel moral demise & therefore control. But yes. I know God does not plan to deny you the right to enter home because of being gay, living with a boyfriend, or marrying a man… I have known too many gay men far better than I who are too close and who I could not imagine God disposing of, ever.. those who judge and hate will probably be shocked to find out they are the ones struggling to get in the gates. Love yourself, and stay close to God, and YOU will know what will make you happiest here… but most importantly, that you are allowed to have it. 🙂 ❤

  4. Michele Vroom says:

    Keith, Matt and I just love you!!! These posts are so powerful, and this was beautiful. It hurts to think that those who condemn or judge LGBT simply do so because they have no experience and refuse to learn, yet when it hits home they are suddenly humbled. I honestly believe someone who cannot relate to the measure of an experience and individual has to face, has no place to judge.. at all. First and foremost then, NONE of us have the right to judge the Savior.. cause he went through what every one of us has. However, those who reject or politely decline your friendship or identity are in turn declining the Savior.. they do not care to understand you, and effect, they do not care to understand Him. I think it is.. AS simple as this. I am happy because I have Matt.. when I was single, I wanted to be loved. To be married. God is happy for me. WHY then, would God be unhappy for a gay or lesbian who wants the same thing? It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem fair. Whether it is a sin or not to act on it in reality, the fact is- the desire for individual happiness in mortality is STILL fueled through a desire for companionship. That ‘sin’ could simply mean it will be sorted out in the NEXT life.. but that does not mean God wants you unhappy here. He loves you and knows you, and you ARE His Son. If you need to experience a few relationships with men, if you fall in love and commit to a man… I think, as your FATHER in Heaven, that God not only understands that joy.. but WANTS it for you. Would he rather his son or daughter commit suicide over loneliness, or be loved? BE LOVED. That is the plain truth right there and the peace and acceptance you feel from your Heavenly Father DOES encompass any choice you make. I feel that the church holds to a strong stance not to fight gay marriage- but to fight political powers who seek to demolish the entire structure of society. However, though their intentions mean to keep society intact and preserve the nation from the same downfall as Nephites & Lamanites, the tact is not there and it does appear offensive and even hurtful to those who are LGBT. Again though, I think that the constant warning of secret combinations USING gay marriage, polygamist marriage recently organized in Utah and other social issues as tools to slowly turn a democratic nation a totalitarian one.. If marriage becomes unpopular and overrated in time it will be looked down upon all together and soon children will be owned by the government, and the commencement of the Second Coming will take place- with all of the wars, everything etc taking over. Lamech, son of Cain, had two wives. In Moses 5 it says that he slept with men pretty much- NOT because he was gay, but because of power. Because Satan saw that as a means to an end- an end to the human race. In Greece the nation fell because homosexuality was practiced for power- again, NOT because of true gay and lesbian women. Basically the essence of what I am theorizing that I am seeing, is that there ARE power hungry individuals who will willingly violate any code of morality.. (in my high school days I dated guys who would sleep with other guys often- but weren’t gay) there are a lot of those in the world. Perhaps the church is making an attempt to fight against that, to show that they still did fight the gradual downfall of our nation to the Lord- even if they knew ahead of time any petition they put forth would be overturned. Yet I do believe the observance of gay and lesbian individuals, true ones and their individual realities was somewhat put underneath in this, and it can easily be seen as a fuel for those mormons who are already anti-gay to ignorantly proclaim. What I am saying in long winded summary is: I think you have every right to fall in love. I think you have every right to get married to a man. I in fact would be happy for you and Matt & I would try to make it to your wedding!!! I think there are higher powers, secret combinations in every society, that use social issues as tools to.. exaggerate.. to give more reign to those who ALREADY have no morals, to the many who are straight yet sleeping with the same gender, to the many who seek out these things for POWER.. that the church is fighting against that, yet it is at the cost of seeming to hurt so many true gay and lesbian souls in doing so, and fueling close-minded hateful members all the same. (They haven’t said anything on polygamy I assume, even though it is part of the agenda in allowing greater moral demise to spread through generations, because polygamy was instituted in church history and they want to save face, or the fact that the legalized polygamy IS a branch of the early church itself that broke off) On a smaller scale, Matt and I have made a decision to get surgical sterilization because I want to adopt, and have many traumas regarding pregnancy. Prophets historically have said and even recently that doing so is a crime against nature, etc.. YET.. when I prayed, when I talked to My Heavenly Father- I felt His love.. and when I got a priesthood blessing, it said ‘God would not force you to do anything you do not want.. He desires to give you blessings in this life, and even more in the next. Every child on Earth is a royal child of God. You can receive children through adoption, or whatever means’ or basically even none at all if I wasn’t the type to want children. (I do, but just never birth.) So the mainstream message is- continue to multiply and replenish the Earth, but don’t stop your ability to. YET.. I’m an individual. And the mainstream WORKS for the mainstream, but God as my Father works with me how I was born.. cause baby, I was born this way. And baby, the mainstream is told gay marriage is dangerous- and they don’t question why, but again I only think that message is there for the rampant power hungry immoral… not for a wonderful son of God like you. I think the message to you is that if YOU feel right, find the love of your life, and marry his face off. : )

  5. idahogie says:

    One small consolation — you have gained new friends who do care about you and who will not judge you in any way! I hope you know that.

    Also, while reading your post I was struck by the thought of how it must feel for those who leave the LDS faith. They also risk losing their friends and even their family members. The stress of just being themselves is probably very similar. So you have to wonder — is the LDS faith (or any similar faith, really) at fault here? I have to think so. It is structured to demonize and ostracize certain people.

    Even if the LDS church comes around on LGBTQ equality (and they most likely will, eventually), it will still treat atheists and post-Mormons the same way — forcing those people to either remain silent or to risk losing their families.

    Is that really a belief system that is worth supporting? Because faith — unlike orientation — is 100% chosen. By remaining a part of that system, you are saying that treating people that way is acceptable.

    It is harsh of me to make this point. In effect, I’m asking you — a gay person who just described how the choice of coming out is very stressful — to consider making another risky decision with some of the same potential consequences.

    But at some point, you have to realize what the source of the problem is — and to question why you want to continue belonging to an institution that forces people into such agony.

    • Mary says:

      I don’t and never have felt that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints is the “problem” of any choices we make, and I have certainly made my share of bad ones, and wasn’t an active member for over 20 years.
      I do NOT judge you or anyone else for any choices you make. That’s not only wrong but only God can judge and judge “perfectly” . I also know from experience that I also can’t choose the consequences of the choices I make. There would be no reason to be here on earth if it were any other way.
      Every Church has its own set of tenants and I have always believed that if you believe these tenants you follow them and if you don’t then you find a church that has the same beliefs that you do, or, as I did, I just quit going. It seems so simple to me.
      I have had dear friends who no longer go to the Church because of their sexual preferences. I still love them. I also have good friends who are faithful to the covenants of the Church but who aren’t married or are divorced and would love to be married and they come to Church and wait for the Lord’s time. I also have family and friends who have quit coming to Church because of the choice they made. I have no idea if they have had their names removed from the Church records or not and it doesn’t matter because it would make no difference in my feelings for them.
      Please help me understand why you think the Church of Jesus Christ should change their
      position on their tenants. It makes no sense to me. I really would like an answer to that question.

      • idahogie says:

        Please help me understand why you think the Church of Jesus Christ should change their position on their tenants. It makes no sense to me. I really would like an answer to that question.

        The LDS church should change its tenets because they are wrong. Your church was wrong about blacks back in the 70s, and it changed to become more moral. Now it is wrong about LGBTQ equality, and it should change. It also treats women as second-class beings. It should change that.

        There’s no reason at all why your church should stick to outdated, immoral positions. Your church’s leaders can change those tenets if they cared to. But they are mostly old, white, straight men who are hanging onto their power and privilege. Same as any other man-made institution.

        That’s the thing about religion. It asserts truths that it cannot prove (that’s why it requires faith). And religions — unlike science — have no way to correct themselves. There is no correcting mechanism, like there is for science. Blacks suffered the mark of Cain — a silly, unprovable statement. And it was true right up until the church decided that it was hurting them to keep that tenet. So they changed it. Just as they will with gay equality.

        Frankly, I don’t know why anyone would continue belonging to an organization that makes people feel as described in this column. I have more love for my fellow humans than to support such an institution.

      • Mary says:

        I am sorry you feel the way you do about the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ but you certainly have every right to. I know that I am a daughter of God and knowing that I also know that he knows and loves me perfectly, that he loves everyone and knows everyone perfectly. I think your answers show you have very little knowledge of my religion so we will just agree to disagree.

      • idahogie says:

        No, Mary — you don’t “know” any of the things you claim. You really want to believe those things, but you don’t know them the way that you know other things about the world. Don’t confuse the two. Also — don’t assume what I know or don’t know about your religion. I know how they make my LGBTQ friends feel, and that makes me wonder why anyone who feels bad about that would continue to support such an institution. You put up with the pain that Mormonism causes to others just because you really want to believe in it. And you don’t have to support it, but you do.

      • beattybat says:

        I am trying to recover what I think I just deleted

      • beattybat says:

        Idahogie You seem to want more dialogue with me and that is fine but I need to ask a few questions so I know where you are coming from. Are you a member of a church, or a church goer who believes in Jesus Christ? Have you ever attended a service of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints? have you ever listened to a session of conference or read and studied anything from the church magazine called the Ensign ?

      • beattybat says:

        Hi this is Beattybat I was Mary and then it was confusing with the other Mary

      • idahogie says:

        Sorry for the delay, beattybat. For some reason, I just recieved the notifications of your comments today. In answer to your questions:

        I have been an atheist for my entire adult life (measured in decades rather than years). Atheism means that one seriously doubts that any deity exists (i.e., the chance that a deity exists is less than the chance that the Tooth Fairy exists, because I have some small evidence of the existence of the Tooth Fairy). My doubt is based entirely on the fact that nobody can provide any evidence to support such a belief, and the knowledge that if one really, really wants to believe something, then our brains are powerful enough and predisposed to provide fake confirmation for those beliefs. In other words, if I wanted to beleive in UFOs, then I would be much more likely to actually experience them. And if I had been raised in the Middle East, then I would easily be convinced that Allah was true. Religious belief is transmitted solely through indoctrination rather than through evidence or reason, and confirmation of the truth of religious beliefs can only be gained by committing oneself to the religion first..

        I was raised in a Christian, although we were not very devout. I have lived in Idaho Falls since 1985, and am very familiar with Mormon culture. I married an ex-Mormon, and have attended many LDS services — weddings, blessings, funerals, etc. And I could not bear listening to conference — what a horrendous waste of time.

      • Mary says:

        Hi Idahogie Thanks for the reply. I really don’t think we have any base for much discussion except that we are fellow human beings.
        I do have one son who says he is an agnostic and I kid him all the time. I wish he felt different but it has no bearing on our love for each other. We are very close and always have been.
        There is one thing that I would like to put up for your consideration. There is nowhere in the LDS faith said, written, or otherwise that I have heard or read that we hate homosexuals, bisexuals, etc. I believe and know that we are all children of God. I do believe however that we have every right to our opinion as to how we feel about the acts themselves. I have often wondered why the “other side” won’t accept this. Is it because they want to feel justified in what they are doing? It just seems to me they are always accusing us of not having compassion, sympathy, or caring and yet they are the ones calling us names.

      • idahogie says:

        Sorry, Mary. But you cannot belong to the Mormon faith — which actively worked for the bigoted Proposition 8 in California — and also claim that there is nothing anti-gay about your religion.

        Just like you cannot hide from the fact that your religion was actively racist until 1978.

        It’s funny. Churches are supposed to be bastions of morality and decency. Yet they appear to be just like any other man-made institution. It’s almost like the Mormon leaders don’t really have any connection with any moral god.

        I mean, it’s EXACTLY like they don’t have any connection with any moral god.

  6. Mary says:

    I’ve gone through the same thought process and I’m still deciding on which path is right for me. Do I get married to a man for the sake of the church and my patriartical blessing, live a life of celibacy, or find the woman of my dreams all the while trying to be LDS at the same time. It’s not an easy feet to accomplish. Many doubts will cross our minds many times over. All I can say is whatever path I chose Heavenly Father has already known which way to go (for me) and I will trust in him and not those members at church who think they know what’s good for me just because they’ve never had to make a decision like this. Am I being a little naive not knowing if they’ve made a touch decision or not. Maybe, but they should not judge base upon what they see and not what they hear.

    • Mary Beth says:

      Mary my name is Mary also and a number of years ago I was sitting in the Celestial Room in the Temple after having done a session. I prayed hard for a while and listened even longer my prayer was Father guide me to what I am supposed to do. Like I said I was there listening for a response for a long time. I eventually got my answer be who I made you be true to yourself and me your Heavenly Father. Within three months I contacted the Bishop of the new ward that I had moved to and had never attended asking for my Church Council result excommunication. But to be honest I have never been more happier have better spiritual relationship with my Heavenly Father and some may say it was easier for me as a convert but I say it can still be hard. So go find yourself a quiet place and speak to Father he will give you the right answer for you. Love Mary

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