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I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 06 Sep 2013, 14:21
by turinturambar
I am meeting with my bishop on Sunday. I haven’t chatted with him for a while, and I feel that it could be productive. A little background on him: he is a young guy with a large family, a few years younger than me. He is very humble and has a big heart. We’ve chatted many times over the past three years since I moved to -- , mainly on my angst about the church and how I can possibly make things work as a gay person. The first year he helped me pay for therapy through LDSFS, mainly with the goal of sexual orientation change (although, if I’m honest with myself, I stopped believing orientation change was possible around five or six years ago). That was my stated goal, BTW, not his. He was just happy to help in any way he could. We’ve met less and less often, as I’ve begun to realize that he has absolutely no way to help me, and it just seems to pain him when we talk (he’s very empathetic). My scheduled meeting with him is to define some boundaries for my participation in the Church so that I can benefit the most from it and maybe move it from the “trial” column into the “blessing” column for me.

I am deeply depressed. Work is the only thing that gets me out of bed lately, and I feel like I’m about to burst into tears at any given moment. The more I think about the Church’s institutional policies and doctrinal positions (and lack thereof) RE homosexuality, the more hopeless I feel that I will ever be able to live a happy life—that is, without charting my own course well out of the bounds the Church claims the Lord has set.

I feel like the Church and my baggage with it is preventing me from being a happy, well-adjusted adult and getting closer to Christ. Growing up in northern UT in the 80s, I was taught a very sexually repressed and judgmental version of the Law of Chastity that included heavy helpings of guilt around even occasional masturbation. I also learned, from SW Kimball, BR McConkie, BK Packer and others that being gay is the absolute worst thing a person could be unless they were a murderer. The message was, “If you want to be with the Saints, don’t be gay, and don’t masturbate.” The pressure of decades of efforts to avoid these things has ripped my heart apart and left me a shell of a person. I no longer believe occasional masturbation is an “actionable” sin, and I mourn over the lost decades of my life believing I was a bad person because of it. I used to believe that my most crucial spiritual task was to change my sexual orientation. I know that whatever my status was before this life, I am currently gay, and God loves me anyway.

Sometimes I feel when I spend time in church meetings, it’s like going back into the same emotional battleground and having to fight the same emotional battles over the same turf. Somebody turns on the guilt or shame, or says something uninformed and judgmental about gay people and it just reopens the wounds and triggers me. It makes me wonder if I just need to limit my time with church meetings. I’m very sad about this. I just didn’t think it would ever come to this—me putting distance between myself and the Church for my spiritual growth and personal sanity. It seems something the TBM I used to be would never be able to understand. I still think there’s a lot for me to gain and give from being a member of the Church. I’ve just got to figure out what to do about my EQ Presidency calling and forgiving the institutional church for all those years of personal torment so that I don’t become a bitter, hateful, unhappy person.

What should I tell the bishop? All of this? None of this? Parts of this? I didn’t even get into how my belief system has changed as a result of all this stuff. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 06 Sep 2013, 15:06
by On Own Now

Well, first, please know that you've got friends here and we are hoping for the best for you. If there is any support you feel I could provide, please PM me. I'll be thinking of you Sunday.

On depression, I want you to know that I understand. I went through debilitating depression, but was able to get past it a few years ago. Of course, my depression was for different reasons. People that haven't experienced it just can't understand. I used to think people with depression just needed to "snap out of it", sort like when I'd get hurt playing sports as a kid and the medical advice was to "walk it off." When I sank into depression, I found that it pervaded every aspect of my life. Everything took enormous amounts of effort. Just deciding to get up and walk to the refrigerator required reaching down into depleted reserves. You know what I mean. But I can report that I was able to overcome it. I feel great now. It took a while. I saw a counselor (not the LDS kind) and that helped me. There is no simple answer for how I was able to get out of it, and even if there were, your situation is unique to you. But the "therapy" slowly helped me to get a handle on it. I think that for me a major catalyst in the recovery was just being able to talk about it out loud. With that in mind, I think your meeting with the Bishop is a good idea.

As for what to tell him, I will simply say that I don't find anything in your post that would be out-of-bounds for such a discussion.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 06 Sep 2013, 16:20
by Jazernorth
We had counselors proclaimed religious (LDS and not LDS) and not proclaimed religious (meaning they didn't push religion into their sessions). We loved the non-religious sessions much better. Now when we see a counselor and they even mention pray or god or religion, we leave. I already know about the praying and religious part of getting help, I didn't need it from a counselor too.

My suggestion, find a great counselor that isn't about religion and they will most likely help you with your goals (whatever they are). When I say goals, I mean your goals. Not the church, not the bishop, not your parents but yours and yours alone.

Hope you find some good help, life is meant to be happy.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 06 Sep 2013, 17:32
by Curt Sunshine
I love your Bishop about as much as anyone I know. He really is a good, sincere, humble, empathetic man. If all Bishops were like unto your Bishop . . . (Please tell him directly that I said that.)

My advice: If you are willing to be more open with others, tell him that I told you I believe you should put it all out on the table and ask him if he can support you in being more open about your sexual orientation, your experiences and your testimony with other members of your ward and stake. It won't be easy, but tell him I think the membership needs to understand this issue in "real" terms involving good members. Tell him that is the only way you possibly can stay in the Church and have any degree of happiness and spiritual health - that you simply can't keep living in a suffocating closet.

Also, tell him he always can call and talk with me, as well. He has my phone number.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 07 Sep 2013, 12:15
by DarkJedi
My perception of the Church's attitude towards gays has changed. It seems to me that the church leadership is much more openly accepting and understanding these days. At the same time, I know that statements such as declaring celibate gays worthy does little to avert the feelings you have where marriage and rearing children is an emphasized part of the culture. You have described your bishop as a loving and understanding man. I think I would not be shy about sharing with him what you have shared with us. From what you have said here, I see no reason for you being treated any differently than a single sister.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 08 Sep 2013, 05:00
by SilentDawning
My approach would be to bring the meeting with the Bishop to a soft landing. Leave it open that you will contact him for the next visit, be appreciative, and then stop the meetings. They appear to be triggers for unhappiness.

Then, go about finding your own way in Mormonism with this challenge.

On the other hand, I understand the feelings of depression, and also the unhappiness excessive guilt the church can bring when presented by heterosexual, judgmental leaders who lack empathy (not your Bishop, but the talks you refer to).

I have had to do the same with my own unorthodoxy and commitment issues. So, although I do not have the same issues as you, I empathize partly with the sense of not-belonging and on the outskirts of church community.

Also, I personally like to quietly, and through implication, help the priesthood leaders see the warts in their policies and church stances. No challenging, but to help them realize the limitations the church has in spite of its claims. For example, in your case, to quietly, and gently and kindly send this kind Bishop the message that the church really does not have effective means of helping a sincere gay man -- in spite of their resources, divine commission etcetera. If nothing, you may have influenced the thinking of at least one priesthood leader about the efficacy of our policies.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 08 Sep 2013, 22:12
by Riceandbeans
There are things about how the church has treated the thorny problem of sexuality that I've had to just drop, saying "people have got it wrong." Like saying it's such a terrible sin to wank sometimes - that's about as clear a strategy of emotional manipulation as I've ever encountered. Sometimes a well-meaning commentator will say that sex should never be used as a weapon between couples. But society has always used it as a weapon. The church is no different.

It's ironic that we hear so much glamorization and glorification of sex within marriage. I've come to the (provisional) conclusion that leaders of the church don't understand sex any better than the rest of the world. "Sex cannot be understood because nature cannot be understood," wrote the sex-positive pagan lesbian Camille Paglia, and she's right - about that anyway. It's a messy thing whose daemonic character vindicates its four-letter referent of choice as brilliantly appropriate, and it's stupid how Mormons think that getting married is going to not only make it into a holy sacrament but to give them the right to look down their noses at anyone who has to suffer under the tyranny of sexual urges in a way that doesn't offer them the same sanctioned release.

I should shut up, but I hope your meeting had a good result. My prayers are with you.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 09 Sep 2013, 13:06
by turinturambar
So I went to church yesterday for the first time in three+ months. I arrived too late for the sacrament (which is my favorite part of church). The talks were about consecration. And they were heavy-handed. Essentially:

• you’re not doing enough
• you’re not giving enough
• you aren’t worthy enough, etc.

I want to consecrate because my heart is full of generosity, not because of duty or guilt. It bugged me a bit. The messages were a little tough for me to hear.

Anyway, I met with the bishop during the second hour and laid how I was feeling on the line. How gay people are in a hopeless position in the church. How I’ve felt that I’ve been jerked around emotionally by the reparative therapy efforts I endured in Salt Lake through LDSFS. How I have a hard time trusting the brethren, because they’ve been so wrong so many times on things that are of extreme importance to my life and my happiness. How I feel I don’t belong, and I’m alone all the time. My bishop was kind and empathetic throughout it all. I cried for an hour.

He said something to me that’s been on my mind for a few weeks now. I’ve been agonizing over macro-level problems in the church RE homosexuality, and it has been giving me an ulcer (figuratively). It occurred to me that since I have sympathetic and kind leadership and ward members locally, so I should just focus on that and make the best things possible happen on a micro level. He suggested that I do just that, and that he would help me as much as he could, although he admits he doesn’t know what to do. I know that he genuinely loves me, and that he will do what he can.

After church I sat in on a PPI with my EQP and a relatively new member of the ward. He started spilling his guts about how he and his wife haven’t been reading the scriptures or praying, and that he hasn’t been doing his home teaching, AND that he feels guilty about it and a failure as a priesthood holder. He’d been socialized into thinking that’s what a PPI is all about. I was floored! My EQP is a good guy, but he was just letting this guy beat himself up. I couldn’t take it any longer, and jumped in. I said something like “In the Church we sometimes have a culture of beating ourselves up over not praying or reading scriptures, and end up feeling guilty or bad about it. But I’m positive that’s not what Heavenly Father wants us to feel. These things are tools for building our spirituality. We don’t feel guilty about not using a screwdriver when we need one—we just open our toolbox and take it out, and use it. We don’t need to feel guilty about not praying or reading.” Something like that.

After church I went to my EQPs house and we did some quorum business. I felt good about what we were doing. He told me that he’s missed me and he genuinely needs me. I think if I can focus on the local, find some way to tune out the guilt trips, and help change the culture little by little where I am I might feel much better about the church. I know things could change in the future—I could have an unsympathetic bishop, for example. But maybe I need to take advantage of the good while I can.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 09 Sep 2013, 14:28
by Curt Sunshine
maybe I need to take advantage of the good while I can.


Thanks for the update. I think you really do have a chance to make a positive impact in that ward.

I'll let you know when I'm in that area, so we can attend church together.

Re: I have some major decisions to make

Posted: 09 Sep 2013, 16:48
by Ann
I have no advice, but I've always been impressed with how you approach things. I'm glad you're here.