I was feeing emotional. All the comments I read on social media were compounding and I couldn't handle it anymore. Doubts I had long suppressed were bubbling up again. I text my bishop.
"Bishop, can I meet and talk with you this coming Sunday?
"For Sure! Could you meet with me at 2:40pm?
It was set. I set my own appointment with my bishop to discuss gay marriage.
As the days progressed, I lost the raw emotion I felt the night I asked for the meeting. I started to wonder if I should just cancel it altogether. But I still had these doubts and serious questions in my head.
Sunday came and I was sitting in Sunday school wondering when the 1st Presidency letter would be read aloud. I text my friend saying I think I am going to cancel the meeting. He counseled me not too. I listened. In Elders Quorum, the ward secretary text me to confirm the appointment that afternoon. I confirmed.
My Bishop has always been very welcoming and loving to me. He has known since the first day I came to church that I am gay.
Finally the meeting came and Bishop welcomed me into his office. I sat down and I told him that I was very emotional when I first requested the meeting, and much of that had passed over time. But there were still three main things I questioned or had issues with. He invited me to share.
1- How can the church preach of a traditional family as being A man and A woman, when the church's own history has the dark and hushed past of polygamy?
The main point he gave me was that while God can and has instituted plural marriage in the past, the main structure of the family is one man and one woman (even from the time of Adam and Eve) and that is what the church is to preach. When God declared plural marriage the law in the past, the church taught it. But plural marriage is no longer active and thus, the church teaches one man and one woman.
Bishop also said that children can only come from the intimacy of a man and a woman, but in todays world, a family can be more than that. A family, my Bishop said, can even be roommates who have bonded over friendship. He shared his own self described "dysfunctional family" and that he never had the "traditional family". His point was that today, the world sees many different kinds of families, but the main role of producing children is still within the relationship of a man and a woman.
The Bishop didn't really answer my question, which he admitted to, but he give me some things to think and ponder about. After he finished, he stated that I had mentioned three things I wanted to talk about. After I noticed the Bishop's usual twenty minute appointment time had expired, I responded with, "I don't know how much time you have?!" He told me he had scheduled a full hour for me. He must of knew something big was coming if I requested a meeting.
2- Regarding the church giving the Priesthood to blacks, Bruce R. McConkie stated in a BYU Devotional, that everything stated before the new revelation (1978) by an Apostle or Prophet, even himself, should be ignored (see background info and link to source). How then, can I not assume the same might happen for the church's stance on gay marriage?
My Bishop had quite a bit to say on this. He is an Institute teacher and has been prepping for a course on "sensitive" church history. He quoted Ruben J Clark, who said to a young Mission President named Thomas S. Monson, that "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable answer. Bishop went on to say that McConkie and other apostles and prophets attempted to answer a question (blacks not having the priesthood) with no real knowledge, when they should have just said, "I don't know". Thus, they then had to deal all their previous statements which were incorrect. In their attempt to answer a question whose answer they did not know, their own biases were stated and became incorrect doctrine.
I interjected at this point, saying, "that causes a lot of doubt in my mind then, when what the Prophets and Apostles say today doesn't match with what I personally believe on this subject". He said, "that is a fair point."
Bishop also said, that members still do this today. They state things in church as doctrine when they really have no idea. I nodded in agreement.
When it came time to address the third issue I had I prefaced it for him. I stated this thought and idea had only come to me in the last month and it can come off as quite blasphemous. He said, not to worry, that I would be safe in sharing it with him.
3- If Jesus' plan in the pre-earth life was to allow all of us to make our own choices, and Satan's plan was to force us all to choose correctly, then isn't the church trying to legislate doctrine just like Satan's plan?
My Bishop leaned back in his chair and sincerely said, "That is a great point—what a good question."
He said he could absolutely see where I was coming from with that thought. Bishop explained that the church is trying to find the proper balance between getting involved in politics and preaching morality, of which gay marriage is a moral issue.
I clarified that there is a difference in preaching doctrine to the world and advocating for legislation dictated by doctrine. But again there is a balance that he thinks the church is struggling to find. He, my bishop, certainly agreed that he does not want doctrine legislated. He even began to list some "ridiculous" and "silly" laws Utah has that had been attempts to legislate doctrine, such as the Zion Curtain.
Conclusion of the Meeting
We ended our meeting with me thanking my Bishop. I let him know how much it has truly meant that he has been so welcoming and loving to me being in the ward. I told him, I know many people who do not have a Bishop like you. In fact, I told him, I had one friend today I was texting with, that left church crying because of the hateful things his Bishop and ward members were saying Sacrament meeting. My Bishop stated, "I don't want anyone to leave church crying. I don't want anyone to leave church at all".
He told me, he sometimes cringes when there is a "redneck attitude" and comments are made that can hurt or offend. He said he would be reading the 1st Presidency letter next Sunday, and he urged his ward council this Sunday to earnestly pray that the correct spirit would prevail when it was discussed. I let him know I had read the letter before hand so I knew what would be said, but I was anxious to hear what the members would say.
Other things said, but I cannot remember when during the meeting
The story of the woman who was brought before Christ to be stoned was brought up by my Bishop. He stated that the purpose was to actually stone Christ but after all the men left, because they were with sin, Christ said to the woman,
"...where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?" - John 8:10
My Bishop said, "Christ didn't condemn her either, but urged her to better her life from then on." He said it hurts when members say condemning things. He again stated how much he doesn't like the "redneck attitude" that sometimes prevails in members.
I am so thankful for my Bishop. I only hope, everyone had a bishop like mine. I know that attitudes of these leaders can be the last straws. They can cause so much hurt and sadness. But I also know, a good Bishop can save many souls and help those like me feel of the Savior's love. Thank you Bishop!