August 1, 2010

The Epiphany

The follow details the epiphany I had last week:

I ride the bus to work every week day. I have in the past gone through different periods of bus entertainment. iPod listening, following a tale through an audio book, or silently taking in the sights. Last week, I swung into the iPod stage again.

While riding on Tuesday, staring out the window, listening to a song of which I have forgotten now, I had a thought.
"Do I know that God is real?" - YES

"Do I know Christ is His Son?" - YES

"Do I know this (LDS) is his church?" - YES

"Do I know God choose Monson as his living prophet?" - Yes

"Then why don't I do what he says. Even if I disagree. Even if I don't like it. Why don't I do what he says?"

I then made a decision to do what the church says, because I know it is true. Namely, to live a celibate life alone. I knew this would make me terribly lonely, forever sad, but in the "eternal perspective" happy. I called my dear BFF the next day and told her of this epiphany I had had. She was excited and told me to write down how I was feeling at that moment.

Three days after this epiphany, the realization of what I had decided on that day to do hit me, and I once again gave up on the utopian idea. Do I still know the above questions to be true, YES. Do I have the desire and/or will to not pursue a relationship with another man, NO.

This is an example of what I call a spiritual high. Moments in life where I am filled with extra energy to do what I feel God wants me to do. Then I come back down to normality. Ready to follow the path that I want for myself, instead the path I believe God wants for me.

Before you comment, I know many of you will say, that God is ok with homosexual relationships and that the church is wrong, or has gone astray in this teaching. I know you believe that. I don't try to tell you you're wrong in your belief. But I believe opposite. However, I choose to go my own way and not with God on that subject, and I am ok with that.

As I went through this spiritual high, I regret telling my BFF. I regret it because I raised her hopes that I would follow the church, only to let her down again. I am grateful I did not tell my mother and father about this epiphany, because I would hurt them when one week later I retract my decision. I need to learn to wait things out before I share them. Although this is my journey, with hills and valleys alike, sometimes things need time to marinate. 

That was my epiphany. Now it is simply a sign in the rearview mirror on my road of life.


  1. You know, we all do this, all the time, with different challenges and commitments. We say yes we can. We say we would never do or say x. We say we would cross the plains. And on, and on.

    I truly believe we can say anything but its the doing. And its the doing. And then the failing and falling down. Then picking ourselves up again and trying again. I have learned that commitment finds fruition in a series of minutes, hours and days rather than expressing something in terms of an entire life.

    I would not at this point ever say that there isn't at least a possibility that some day you might not need to live a celibate life-as I think it is possible (I give it 50-50) we could see some place for gay married people in the church. But for right now, you know what you are called to do and what you want to do. Go on the day to day plan until you receive further instruction. That's the best any of us can do anyway.

    I am similar to you in some ways, in that the Lord has blessed me in finding some peace as I sail through the contradictions in my life.

  2. Dallin Oaks: ""There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord."

  3. Rob, that's a quote I've gone back to time and time again since it was given. It was quite overlooked because it was given in the context of a much more fun-to-quote-and-have-fun-with talk, but that statement stood out to me, when it was given, as an extremely bold step, something I never expected to hear in a general address, let alone one from an apostle. I suspected many would, if they noticed it, take license from it to ignore counsel rather than truly seek the "will of the Lord", but in my mindset back then, I also knew it was significantly useful to the faithful.

    That said, I'm interested in Trevor's response because he seems quite convinced that there are no such exceptions and that God himself wants him to marry a woman. I also am fairly certain that Elder Oaks would not give his blessing to his statement being used in support of gay relationships in light of other doctrinal framework and prophetic declarations, but the principle of the matter remains: there is more than a black-and-white approach to counsel from church leadership.

  4. Can you give me the link to where this quote came from, Id like to read it.

  5. Rob, that's a great quote, filled with so much common sense, and a call to greater personal responsility in gospel living and reliance upon the Lord in making decisions in a world where the gradations of black and white in decision making grow evermore complex. I am interested in reading the rest of the talk as well.

  6. Trevor, here's the link:

  7. Disclaimer: It's not my intention to convince you that you're wrong about anything you believe. I just had a few thoughts that I wanted to share...

    You apparently equate "what the church says" with "what Thomas Spencer Monson, Prophet of God says".

    Personally, I've never heard or read any statement from Thomas Monson regarding homosexuality. Not a single conference talk or Ensign article attributed to him (that I'm aware of) addresses the issue.

    At best, what we have is his signature (along with the signatures of his counselors) below some statement asking members of the church to support Prop 8, etc.

    The assumptions you appear to have made (and that most members of the church make) is that President Monson wrote that statement, that he was inspired when he did so, and that it does, in fact, reflect God's will.

    I have a good friend who has worked directly with many of the General Authorities (including several apostles and members of the first presidency) as a (contracted, i.e. not a church employee) consultant. He's a faithful member of the church. He attends every Sunday. He claims a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and of a living prophet, and of the restored Gospel and the priesthood authority that the church claims as its exclusive province. (Full disclosure: He's also gay, has been married for years, and is in the process of divorcing his wife so that he can find a partner.)

    In his mind, there's a clear distinction between North Temple (i.e. the Church Office Building, which hold most of the lower levels of the church hierarchy) and South Temple (i.e. the Church Administration Building, where the first presidency and twelve and some seventies have their offices).

    According to him, pronouncements like the one that was read over the pulpit in California, encouraging members to support Prop 8, originate from South Temple--from the desks of the pencil pushers that make up the ogranizational beaurocracy of the church. Often those pronouncements will be sent to South Temple for signatures, but they don't originate there.

    The typical Mormon view of "revelation" is not this bottom-up process. It would be silly to say that President Monson was "inspired" to place his signature on a document that was created by people lower in the hierarchy whose names we don't even know. It's true that he allowed the document to be sent out, and even endorsed it with his signature... But I don't see any "inspiration" or "revelation" in the process, and I'm perfectly comfortable taking this sort of document for what it is--a statment of policy.

    (As far as I'm aware), no prophet or apostle has ever clearly stated, on his own authority as an inspired conduit for revelation from God, that homosexual relationships are sinful. (As far as I'm aware), every statement condemning such relationships either: (1) takes its authority from ancient scripture (e.g. "Moses and Paul said homosexual relationships are wrong") or (2) Justifies itself by highlighting the incompatibility of such a relationship with our understanding of exaltation (e.g. "Exaltation means an eternal male-female relationship, so God must not approve of same-sex relationships").

    I'm curious, then, how you view all of this. Is a statement from "the church" exactly equivalent to a statement from "the prophet", and equally valid as a definitive statement of God's will? Have I missed some definitive "Thus Saith the Lord" statement from a prophet condemning homosexual relationships?

  8. On a different subject... You said that after the "spiritual high" had worn off, you "gave up on the utopian idea". This, I think, illustrates a problem with the church's current policy re: homosexuality...

    The church has acknowledged that, at the very least, homosexuality is a "core characteristic" that an indiviudal "may not" be able to overcome in this life. Through the LDS lens, it's a stumbling block along the lines of a mental (or emotional, perhaps) handicap. It's a condition that might prevent us from marrying (as a "normal" member is expected to do), but we'll be "cured" in the next life and have another chance at taking the steps that we would otherwise be expected (or required) to take in this life.

    But, gay members of the church are expected to "endure" this "struggle" and to remain celebate (i.e. alone). Those who "fail" to meet this expectation are judged "unworthy" of exaltation and relegated to one of the lesser kingdoms (while those who "endure to the end" will be given that second chance).

    Doesn't this completely deny the power of the Atonement? What is the Atonement, if not a solution for those who fail to meet the requirements of exaltation (despite their best effort) due to their own "weaknesses" and the circumstances in which they find themselves?

    Don't gay members get the same coverage? Wouldn't a gay member of the church, firmly believing that "men are that they might have joy" and that "it is not good for man to be alone", and seeking joy and companionship in the manner that comes naturally to him--making every effort to live a good and righteous life--qualify for the saving power of the Atonement?

    That is, if God does indeed frown on gay relationships (and I don't personally believe that He does), wouldn't He still grant mercy and forgiveness, through the power of the Atonement, to someone who enjoyed a (committed, monogamous) gay relationship because he was unable to endure a life of lonely celibacy?

    Some would protest "but the gay man could live celibate--he's just chosen to give up and to not put forth his best effort". You might as well say that any of us could live a perfect, sinless life--we're just not willing to put forth the effort that that would require. And again, you'd be denying the power of the Atonement and setting yourself up as one who doesn't need Christ.

    Look for joy. Pursue your gay relationship, with as much goodness and righteousness and joy as you can manage. Find in that relationship the goodness and joy that you deserve. But don't deny the power of the Atonement. Don't relegate yourself to a lesser kingdom for your failure to be more than human. Find joy, and maintain hope that you can still have all of the blessings God promises to those who (through the Atonement) are pure.

  9. @Rob- While that quote would be a good thing to use for all things the church teaches, I still believe there is a difference between truth and rules. Laws and principles. The specifics of dating, of which this talk was about, was rules, or principles. Not law. Law would be, no sex before marriage. Instead he gave a talk of which he outlines proper dating rules, which may are entitled to follow or not. This is what I believe that quote is referring to. So to use that quote in terms of law or truths I believe is wrong.

    While I say this, I have no problem with dating men. That would be a rule or principle. Not a law. The sex is what is the law or truth that would be violated.

    @Scott - If something was printed, with the church's leaderships signatures and with the church logo on it, it does has to be reviewed and approved by the Prophet. Just because he didn't write it doesn't mean its not revelation. Do you know how many times Joseph was brought things from others which he said were truth.

    So to say because Monson didn't write or say anything specifically is looking for an easy out. Anything the church would put out with its logo on it would be truth. I say this because I believe what Taylor said, God would not allow the prophet to do anything to lead the church astray.

    Quite honestly, your reasoning for the lack of Atonement sounds like the scripture that says God will beat us with a few stripes and then all will be fine. If someone doesn't live the laws yes there are punishments, some eternal. That doesn't mean he wont let you repent and it doesn't mean he doesn't love you.

    Did Christ forgave the adulterer, and then say "go and sin no more". God wont forgive people IN sin, but will forgive them FROM their sins. I cannot expect to go to my mother and apologize for eating her cookies for relief society and then turn around and eat more. That is what I feel you are saying with your comparison. Please correct me if I have misread your statements.

    @Omoho- I never said God wants me to marry a woman. I cannot do such a thing when there would be no love to give. I suppose I need to do a post explaining how view God's view on gay relationships.

  10. I'm sorry, but you're wrong. There's a clearly defined process by which revelation is received--or at least by which it becomes canonical and binding on the church membership. A revelation must be received by the President of the church (not a pencil pusher from North Temple). It is discussed and unanimously approved by the first presidency and quorum of the twelve, and then presented to the membership for a sustaining vote. At that point it is added to the canon (the standard works) and becomes "doctrine".

    "The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church." (Harold B. Lee, The First Area General Conference for Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Munich Germany, August 24–26, 1973, with Reports and Discourses, 69.)

    Teachings not contained in or verified by the standard works may be true, and may be inspired, but they are not doctrine, and are not binding on members of the church.

    "The Church has confined the sources of doctrine by which it is willing to be bound before the world to the things that God has revealed, and which the Church has officially accepted, and those alone. These would include the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price; these have been repeatedly accepted and endorsed by the Church in general conference assembled, and are the only sources of absolute appeal for our doctrine." (B.H. Roberts, First Council of the Seventy and author/editor of History of the Church--still accepted as the definitive history of the early church)


  11. Conference talks, Ensign articles, etc. may also be inspired, but they aren't binding "doctrine".

    "No authority of the Church when guided by the Holy Ghost will ever teach a doctrine that will be contrary to the revealed word of the Lord. He may express an opinion, a personal view, but in doing so he should so declare it. The writings of Paul were not sent forth to the saints in various parts of the world in their completeness as doctrine. There were times when Paul expressed his own opinion. The authorities of the Church have the same privilege..." (Joseph Fielding Smith)

    Joseph Fielding's statement is especially interesting because it tells us that some of Paul's writings (which are in the official, canonical standards works) are "his own opinion". This implies that even the standards works cannot be considered the ultimate authority on revealed truth (and places a greater burden on each of us individually to listen to the spirit in our search for truth.

    "I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost' only when we, ourselves, are 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost.' In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak." (J. Reuben Clark)

    There is no statement on homosexuality from a modern prophet in our canonized scripture. Those statements that do exist include a Levitical prohibition (and as Christians we believe that the Levitical law was "fulfilled" and no longer observe many of its proscriptions), and a couple of statements from Paul (who, according to one of our own Latter-day prophets, at time "expressed his own opinion"). There is no statement on homosexuality that can be considered absolutely the Word of God.

    The church has implemented policies prohibiting homosexual relations, and it enforces those policies at times by excommunication. This is an action of the earthly, human-managed church, and has little to no basis in revealed scripture.

  12. As for our apparently opposing views of the Atonement...

    There's a reason most Christian denominations see Mormons as non-Christians. It has almost entirely to do with our insistence that our works play a major role in our eternal destination.

    Traditional (Protestant) Christianity has concluded that since, no matter how hard we try, we're going to fall short and require the saving power of the Atonement, what we do doesn't really matter at all, as long as we accept Christ's gift and sacrifice.

    The Mormon position is that we must do all we can to be (or become) perfect, and that the Atonment only applies to those who have done their "best".

    The problem is defining "best".

    I'm not saying we can wantonly sin and expect only "a few stripes" and complete absolution and forgiveness. But it is made very plain in scripture that none of us can make it on our own--that we're human and imperfect and we're going to screw up, no matter how diligent we are in our efforts to be righteous.

    It's also plain in scripture that God wants us to be happy--and I don't believe we are intended to strive for eternal happiness at the expense of joy in mortality.

    If I'm wired so that the only way I can find happiness and fulfilment in a romantic relationship (and according to Elder Packer "there is no abundant life without [romantic love]") is with another man, I have two choices: an unhappy (even miserable) life of celibacy and strict adherence to the commandments (assuming I believe that absinance from homosexual relations is a commandment), or a mortal pursuit of happiness with the hope and expectation that the Atonement will compensate for the fact that said pursuit requires that I break a commandment or two.

    Those who sin expecting to receive only "a few stripes" are those who mean to use to Atonement to justify their efforts to gratify their physical desires. You and I both know that a homosexual relationship is not about physical gratification, but rather about a meaningful connection that can bring true happiness.

  13. @Scott - There is a lot of information there and I appreciate that. Let me be quick cause I have a lot to answer in the new post.

    1- While the prophets may have never given a direct "personally orated or written" revelation on homosexuality. They have given revelation in regards to sex in the bonds of marriage. That would, I think, cover all the other "fringes" of things pertaining to sex.

    2- Your point about not being able to find joy in anything other than a gay relationship is a good one. However, our understanding of joy is different from Gods. (this is not an endorsement of gays marrying women, because I am strongly against that).

    However, there is other ways to find joy in a celibate life. While our minds (mine included) see no joy and complete misery in celibacy, Im sure that if thats what God wanted, he would provide plenty of joy in it.