In my daily scripture study, I search for thoughts to write down that are usually for myself, but sometimes are musings upon the human experience. A few days ago, I stumbled across this beautiful gem:"I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them." (Hosea 11:3)
In context, this scripture partly illustrates how Christ has taken care of Israel since it began, and speaks of how Christ knew they were surrounded by idolatry. But, to spiritually preserve them, He taught (or revealed to) the tribe of Ephraim to go, or flee. To accomplish this, He also took them by the arms, like a father guiding a blindfolded child by the forearms. But unlike the child who obviously knows it's their father leading them, Israel did not know that Christ had healed them by leading them away from idolatry. They were not aware of His power, hand, personal touch, etc. If you study the Old Testament extensively enough, you'll realize the truthfulness of what I'm explaining. By this time, they were steadily heading into apostasy, notwithstanding all that Jesus had done for them in directing their steps towards salvation and abundant life. It's sad to read, and causes us to sometimes become angry and ask, "Why? Why did they do this?! The Lord is there, but you're not getting it." I have been guilty of this, both with reading the apostasy of Israel and of the Nephites. I think sometimes it reflects how I've spoken to myself in the past...
Yet, how much different are we, my rainbow-hearted friends and fellow children of God? True, we are not forging idols from silver and gold, nor are we building up lavish altars to place them upon. But I believe that if we look through modern eyes, we may find valuable insight from these scriptural accounts. Now, before you stop reading, know that I am not about to preach a sermon on figurative idolatry, as in condemning the evils of placing things before Christ and whatnot. My thoughts are heading elsewhere, so stick with me for a little longer. To continue, let's break this scripture down into chunks. The first phrase states, "I taught Ephraim to go," but instead of "Ephraim" insert your name there. Has Christ taught you to "go" or, flee, in the face of certain dangers to your spirituality, testimony, conversion, etc (all of which are different things)? Indeed He has, through the prophet, apostles, other servants of the Lord, the Proclamation, friends, family, relatives, church members, and more. I am not making the asinine assumption that just because you're surrounded by lots of virtue, that automatically plants a knowledge and dedication to truth inside your heart. We all have our struggles, and for some, they struggle with believing in and/or trusting the priesthood, dysfunctional families, a lack of Christlike friends, or whatever else. My point in listing those things is to handpick one, two, or whatever number of examples to show that you've felt the guiding hands of Jesus Christ, enough to see then or now it was Him there. But, I do recognize some are not as fortunate as others to have felt that abundant outpouring of typical Mormon support. That ties into my later thoughts.
Next, we read the phrase, "Taking them by their arms". What an intimate, beautiful statement. Most certainly I can view this from my earlier example of a father guiding his child while grasping their forearms. But, I personally choose to see it more intimately. I see the Savior, in my life, coming close up to me almost chest to chest, firmly but lovingly grasping me by the shoulders and quietly telling me the best places to step. He doesn't tell me where to step, but the best places to step. And when I want to cry and stop for a little bit, I really do believe that Christ stops with me, lets me rest me head on His chest and cry for a while. And He holds me, too, until I'm just strong enough to keep moving forward. I think that sometimes, as LGBT+ people or families and friends of the same, we suppose that the Savior our Church teaches and preaches about isn't this same person, the divine but infinitely tender and compassionate One who deeply understands our pains. Sometimes, I have seen myself and others proclaiming that the Law of Chastity, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the Church's social stance on LGBT+ issues and more are the Lord telling us what to do. I don't believe that, not anymore. I look at an all-loving, all-knowing Savior who is also perfectly filled with justice, and, while balancing mercy and justice, issues commandments that reveal the best pathway for everyone. While it is true that not everyone executes the gospel in the same way, the faithful still obey God within the Spirit's directions. There's not justifying of this or excusing of that. If something has been spoken as sinful, it remains as such. Justifying oneself is always indicative that deep down, you know it's wrong. Thus, I see no long-term purpose in breaking the commandments and disobeying the counsel of God's servants. I see the greatest joy in letting my Savior guide me with that beautiful intimacy and close love in mind. That is why I love Him more than any other man.
Now, for the most important piece and to tie it all together: "But they knew not that I had healed them." Hosea could have said, "that He had healed them" or "that the Lord had healed them". But, Christ spoke out in first person to emphasize the personal relationship there, which Israel was no longer aware of. In our time, with so many voices telling LGBT+ Mormons or other Christians how to live, it is often difficult to discern which are speaking truth. But, if we simplify the messages of those voices, it becomes much easier to wade through all the confusion and into spiritual clarity. Moroni and many others in the Bible taught that if something persuades us to love and serve God, and to do good, it comes from God. It's that simple. Now, it's true we have people who have taught us where the danger is, and a loving Savior who takes us close and shows us the best stepping stones. But for anyone, including those who lack resources and/or struggle with faith, I believe that it's still possible to move forward successfully in our conversion to Jesus Christ. We just have to look each day, in small and simple things, how Christ is healing our lives - including by giving us hard things to handle. For it is only by passing through mortal hell with grace that we can finally place our hand into His and walk peacefully & joyfully into the celestial kingdom. A deep, intimate, and love-filled relationship with Jesus Christ will teach us where to go and where to step, but not in a way that steals our individuality. I believe that He rejoices in how I presently express my sexuality, because I do it with cleanliness and humor at the same time. I honestly believe that Jesus laughs at some of the things I say about being a gay man, and smiles at my quirky way of doing things in it all. But more than anything, I know He loves me and is well-pleased because I strive to follow Him. All we gotta do is try to be a little better each day, my friends. That's all He wants, for us to come home again. Until next time... Love you guys!