It's a curious thing, sexuality and religion. You think you have your path figured out, and then whoosh! Someone sweeps out the rug from underneath your feet. Our perceptions change, and so does the direction of our path in direct proportion to that. Your world view is what determines where your feet take you - at least to some reasonably imaginable extent. I view these changes, subtle to mundane to significant as they are, to be beautifully integral to our human experience. Life isn't life without some sort of change. After all, it is what we thrive on. I wish to explore a sort of deviation from these natural ups and downs, these shifts in personal opinion. It arises from a place I believe to be almost wholly governed by emotion, rather than being wisely guided by the voice of reason. This blip outside the boundaries of our everyday battles not only causes needless pain, it also hinders the spiritual development of all who create it for themselves.
To get to the point, I speak regarding those who are journeying with the Lord in the gospel, while identifying somewhere in the LGBT spectrum. At some point, whether it's due to stress, chronic issues with doubt, or whatever else, these individuals seek some kind of escape from their journey. Because of personal convictions, usually, they try to justify sinful or at least erroneous behavior that does not conform with the Lord's standards. Before moving forward in my narrative, though, I wish to offer a sort of disclaimer. Being a gay Mormon man myself, I greatly empathize with the pain and suffering this journey can draw into someone's life, like some kind of toxic magnet. Such decisions to transgress or act foolishly do not come about quickly, and are not made lightly. It's beyond agonizing for those who choose to do so. That being said, let's move on.
I was discussing the fact that these individuals are searching for an escape, and understandably so. Who wouldn't, honestly? In attempting to prevent spiritual compromise that could prove fatal to their testimonies, these people want to experience both, since they believe both are essential to their happiness. I have found in my own experience, however, that it's not really about the form the happiness comes in - though it can definitely seem that way! Rather, it's what the "form" is offering to you. For example, let's hypothetically say I don't want to compromise on my devotion to Christ in the gospel, but I also do not want to feel lonely, separated from my sexuality, emotionally unfulfilled, and so on. So instead, I continue my involvement in the Church and also find myself a boyfriend. Or perhaps I decide to find a man purely to make out with. I'm sure I could offer a number of scenarios, but you get the idea. The point is to find someone I can share some level of intimacy and companionship with. It eases the mental, emotional, sexual, or other yearning I feel, created by my own choice to be abstinent in the name of discipleship to Christ. It fills the void, simply put.
And yet, I observe these lifestyles and I wonder to myself, "Isn't there another way that the Lord could still be pleased with? Surely He never intended for us to be alone and emotionally unfulfilled..." I love to believe Christ when He promised us, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." (John 14:18) I also love to believe Moses the prophet when he testified, "And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." (Deuteronomy 31:8) As the Protestants say, God is good! He is not ever going to leave us alone, in the dark, or even confused indefinitely. Nor will He refuse to give grace to anyone who seeks it, for cleansing from sin, emotional strength, mental clarity, spiritual guidance, and a million other righteous causes! Our Heavenly Father loves us, and has promised us that we can turn to Him, to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." I love that it doesn't just say "come unto", but rather declares that we can come boldly to God's throne of grace! We can ask for things that may seem like bold requests, but God not only welcomes us to, He actually commands it!
In the turbulent whirlwind of inner conflict, faith crisis, depression, anxiety, and worse, what can be done, though? Is it REALLY as simple as praying to Heavenly Father and asking for help? I would submit that it is. Some would question whether it's "God's will" for you to be surrounded by those who truly validate and get you, to which I quote this scripture:
"He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh." - Doctrine & Covenants 46:30
Others might then counter this with, "Well, I don't really know how the Spirit feels, or how its workings are in my own spiritual life." I would cordially reply back for them to study Galatians 5:22-25, which admittedly does not tell you what the workings of the Spirit are specifically for you, but it does give you a very plain, straightforward way of discerning what those workings are in your own spiritual life. Essentially, the whole spirit of this hypothetical dialogue is, "Seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7) Part of finding answers to really, really tough questions like this is seeking until you feel like you can seek no longer for those answers - then, through the grace of God, continuing to seek more until you do. Discipleship to Jesus Christ isn't something you just walk away from when it gets excruciatingly painful - indeed, this is the moment when true disciples of Christ prove themselves on the battlefield, so to speak, by girding up their loins and pushing forward into the battle. At least, that is what the scriptures would say if you cared to give a quick little look. ;)
Bringing this full circle then, we all understand reading this that the battle is appealing to our body or our spirit, one of which is temporary and the other, eternal. The body clamors for romance, physical affection, sex, marital commitment, and so forth. The spirit urges, pleads, and even strongly argues for the spirit to take dominance over the situation, promising that everything will "work out". And sometimes, we doubt that. It's almost impossible to believe, not only because the proof is woefully lacking but also because our life experience has shown us the opposite is true. I think we also harbor a hindering attitude about it all, a black-and-white sort of thinking that says either we must be largely/completely unified with our spirits, or give in to our bodies by default. This is false. It is a lie that I believe Satan at least partially perpetuates among us, to sow discord, discouragement, disbelief, and doubt. Regardless of our circumstances, challenges, or whatever, none of us will ever reach a point where spirit and body unification becomes a total reality. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we know it is possible to "put off the natural man" and "(become) a saint through the Atonement of Christ", as King Benjamin taught in Mosiah 3:19. This creates a state of sanctification (purity through the Spirit), and justification (state of being "not guilty" before God's justice). Knowing that such a spiritual state is possible, then, let's move on to the real solution to the conflict of giving in to the body vs. being changed by the Savior in our hearts.
Speaking from a gay Mormon male perspective, I can tell you immediately there are certain things I need for my relationship with Jesus Christ. To start, I need friendships with men - particularly emotionally close friendships. This need arises from my choice to be chaste and to abstain from romantic involvement with men. It leaves a void in my mind and heart that only emotional intimacy can fill, since I've excluded sexual and romantic intimacy. I also need platonic physical affection in these friendships wherever possible, since I have chosen not to be physically affection in any other way with men. Also in terms of relationships, they absolutely must be healthy - no drama, negativity, toxicity, etc. It's about good boundaries, great times, lots of laughter, and all that good stuff. :) Finally, I have to constantly cultivate a beautifully intimate relationship with my Elder Brother and Savior, Jesus Christ. All of these are still in process, still aspects of my life I work on every single day. I won't deny that there are days when I want to throw in the towel, apologize to God, and start living a worldly, openly gay lifestyle. Why? Because it feels exasperating beyond anything I have ever felt and honestly heartwrenching on those days. It feels unfair, jaded, twisted, confusing, faith-draining, resentment-towards-God-building, and worse besides. I question my Heavenly Father's and Savior's love for me as a child of God, due to these feelings.
But, I can testify that my Heavenly Father and my Savior are the only reason why I currently stand in the blessed circumstances I do. It is because of their love and grace that I currently enjoy platonic physical affection and emotional intimacy with men in abundance. It is because of their love and grace that I presently experience a beautifully intimate relationship with both of them, and wonderfully healthy relationships with others. And, they bless my relationships with all that good stuff I mentioned, also in abundance. Although, as shown, we can ask for anything in the Spirit and it be given to us since it is God's will, that doesn't usually mean it's immediate. Or at all easy. In fact, to deepen our faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ, I strongly believe that Heavenly Father permits our prayers to go unanswered for as long as several years. It tears us apart inside, but ultimately builds us up to a higher spiritual level of conversion and depth of testimony.
These unanswered prayers for what we need to be faithful to Christ - be it platonic physical touch, intimate friendships, or whatever - are not God giving us the cold shoulder or somehow not understanding that we have needs. As Christ taught, "...your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." Oftentimes, things also have to fall into place before your Father will give you what you ask for. He's trying to create the best possible timing so you can enjoy the blessing the very most! :) I had to work for probably 5-6 years after realizing I was gay, in order to establish (through God's grace, of course) a workable, emotionally fulfilling lifestyle. These things don't come easily, my friends - you have to work for them. But before you assume it's a backbreaking process that isn't worth it, I can also testify truthfully to you that my Savior has supported me every step of the way - especially at its most heartbreaking times. I also testify that if you ask in prayer for grace to make it through this process of putting a Christ-centered, emotionally fulfilling life together, the Lord will support you until you get there. And as you wait, I further testify that angels are real, that your family can be an amazing support to get you through, and that you don't have to wait for happiness to attend you. While cultivating this beautiful life that is messy and imperfect at times, you can indeed create a state of spiritual joy that will see you through. I testify with all my heart and soul that it is possible for you to have a close relationship with Christ while also feeling purposeful and fulfilled in your sexuality. Until next time, my dear readers...