Eden Part I

A biting April chill blew hard as the morning sky caught fire. The entire expanse was covered with long clouds that looked more like finger painted smudges. I stood at the cross walk at 2nd West and 3rd North looking at a tiny little cabin arrayed in bright, vibrant blooms. It was a quaint home, made entirely out of logs with handmade glass panes in the windows, equipped with a cottage-esque front porch and of course a handmade log bench. It was a miniature Eden in the desert.

When I was new to religion the Creation story was my favorite to study. To read about the methods employed in the organization of the universe fascinated me. Maybe it was because therein existed some kind of magic reminiscent of my childhood that maturity had robbed from me. But reading about paradise and how perfectly God worked gave me hope that somehow I did have a place in this world. But lately I had begun to lose that.

It never fails that every argument over homosexuality always comes back to the point that God created Eve to be with Adam. The magic once contained in the Creation had come to feel more like a curse as the anti-gay advocates and the traditional marriage propaganda throughout the country tainted what I considered holy writ. I felt thrown out of the paradise I called Christianity, not by God, but by humanity, and thrown into the dark and dreary world to fend for myself.

The crosswalk clanked and I turned away from the cozy cabin and continued on my way towards campus. Around me apartments were drenched in dawn and emboldened with gold lined shadows. There was a fresh feel to the first day of school as I passed fields of sprinklers, and joined in the pilgrimage of my fellow scholars through the maze of cream-colored buildings.

There was a reverent splendor about campus as the bell chimed with the melody of the hymn, “The Morning Breaks.” In the distance stood the ivory white temple triumphant and glorious upon the hill like some sort of holy sentinel watching over the sea of fresh minds as they parted into smaller currents in search of knowledge. I watched as some students entered one brick building while others entered one across the way, and in that moment I realized I was connected to this living ocean. I was now in part, linked to a larger entity than myself with both a destination and a purpose in mind. However, I did not feel in my heart to be part of this stream of consciousness but rather like one on the outside looking in.

I suppose it could be argued that my forbidden fruit had made me an unclean man in an immaculate environment. But when I had chosen to partake of this fruit? Eve chose, even if beguiled, to eat, but I hadn’t chosen to be gay, it just happened. As far back as I can remember I’ve always liked men. If being gay is a choice, then isn’t being straight? So where in time did I go wrong then? If I could have chosen to be straight where in time was that choice? Where is it for straight people? When did Todd, or Ann, or anyone of my straight friends choose to be straight while I chose the contrary?

Now you the reader may be wondering why the heck am I boring you with such vivid detail? Why not just jump into the bulk of the story? Well for one, details are important in my world, and two many who read this story don’t know squat about Rexburg other than it’s reminiscent of a 1950’s television show, or even myself since till now I’ve never stated on my appearance. Which for your information I am a handsome 160 lb. man with an immaculate Norwegian skin tone, haunting blue eyes, and thick brown hair that has a natural Clark Kent curl to it. Plus if I may say so, I did a pretty good job above and I want to show off.

As a note for all those who already know the inner workings of BYU-Idaho most of what I’ll be talking about in these first few parts will be redundant. Sorry, not sorry.

Anyways, so there I was seated in a dimly lit classroom with twenty something dual screen computers at seven in the morning in my first college class: Landscape Architecture and Design. Ann picked it out for me—since I didn’t have a clue as to sign up for classes—with the hook: “It’ll be an easy A, Keith.” A bald, beady-eyed man in his forties dressed in a blue button up dress shirt sat at the front of the class on a barstool and lectured.

“As Elder Bednar stated, here at Brigham Young University-Idaho we’re here to make you into disciple leaders,” explained Brother Jackson as he paraphrased his own syllabus. “We do that by not simply giving you a secular education, but by also teaching you those things that pertain to the Spirit,” he smiled and when he did the skin at the corners of his brown eyes wrinkled. “And to do that we’ll always start class with a prayer to our Heavenly Father.”

I have to admit, it was bizarre to walk into a class and have the teacher sit down and ask one of the students to offer up a prayer, but even more awkward to hold candid conversations about God in class. I felt as Luke Skywalker had when he crossed the threshold into the bar, or Dorothy when she entered Oz.

Here we didn’t address our teachers as professor, but rather as “brother” or “sister” as we would at church. Here there was no such thing as separation of church and state, but rather the church was the state. Here the outsider was the “non-member,” not the “member.” I wasn’t in Spokane anymore.

To be completely honest with both you the reader and myself, however, I must admit that I wasn’t in the least bit upset about my new surroundings. I was still riding my post-mission spiritual high and the idea that I would be surrounded by thousands of other people who believed just as I did was exciting. I didn’t have to put up with the daily battles that I had had to put up with back home where I was the only Mormon in my family.

Brother Jackson pulled up a presentation on the projector. “Alright guys, I want you all to close your eyes and imagine the Garden of Eden.”

Now for you to continue reading this story you have to understand something. I knew I liked boys since kindergarten, and I knew I was gay when I joined the LDS faith, but I thought I could change that. And what better place than this to do that? BYU-Idaho was the Lord’s school, and anything God could teach me I could learn, and I wouldn’t forever be a ‘menace to society.’

Now calling myself a ‘menace to society’ may seem like vividly strong language, and you’re right, it is, but that phrase isn’t mine to claim. You see when young lads like myself get off our two year missions there’s this dogma within the LDS culture that men are expected to make marriage their number one priority in life, otherwise we’re a ‘menace to society’. Within the LDS faith the family is always the core value at the center of every line of doctrine. There’s a reason why Mormons are seen to be so family oriented.

Simply put, the Eden of Mormonism is found within the family, and the family as any savvy member would tell you is defined as consisting of a father, mother and children. It follows the model that Adam and Eve established in the garden. So based off that definition where do I fit in? My family isn’t Mormon so based off doctrine we wont be a forever family, and I’m gay so therefore based off that definition I can never truly have a family of my own.  How am I, or any gay person supposed to feel about that?

The short answer is: good. The eternal perspective is what one should remember and possess in times of hardship such as Same Gender-Attraction. And normally that would be fine for any gay Mormon born into an already sealed family that would forever be together. But I didn’t have a family go through a temple to be sealed for time and eternity. My family would not be forever, and I would not be having a family of my own to have forever. My dilemma was different. And no matter how hard I tried to feel good about it I just didn’t.

It was like the time my father “accidentally” punched my mother in face when they were arguing in the kitchen after dinner one summer. I remember the blood freely falling from Mom’s nose as her hands instinctively rushed to the wound. It’s a strange thing to watch a parent make the other bleed out of spite. And I remember the surreal feelings I had as my father drove me to my friend’s house to stay the night.

“Keith, what happens in our house stays in our house. We’re a family. No one needs to hear about what we do or talk about. You understand me?”

I knew what happened wasn’t right, but when you’re a kid what right do you have to challenge your father? And when you’re a sheep what right do you have to go against the shepherd?

If the prophet tells you something is right, then it’s right. If he says this should make you feel good, then it should. That was the ultimate law of my faith. The prophet will never lead you astray. So when the prophet says all young men should be actively pursing to receive a temple marriage in order to begin their own forever families, then that’s what all young men should be doing, including gay young men like myself.

Now I’m going to take a moment to explain something to those who either don’t know anything about LDS temples, or think they know about LDS temples and really don’t.

Temples are another testament of the focus on the family. They’re sacred places different from regular church buildings in that you don’t go to a temple to partake of the sacrament or attend regular church meetings. Rather, you go to these Houses of the Lord to make covenants or promises with God in order to receive greater blessings. For example, we in the LDS faith believe families are forever, and one way we obtain for ourselves this blessing is by going to the temple to have our families sealed to us. There are no animal sacrifices, no nudity, and no weird languages being spoken. You won’t find anything crazier in a temple than you would in a regular LDS church meeting, except maybe less screaming babies and more elderly folk reverently whispering.

It had been my dream since I first learned about the doctrine of forever families that one day I would walk into those marble halls to be married for time and all eternity to the girl of my dreams, but only briefly had I realized that that girl would always be a phantom and I would always be a ‘menace to society.’

Continue to Eden Part II

 

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