I have an unwavering testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true church on Earth. That means that I accept all it's doctrine, including the belief that marriage is a sacred bond that should only be shared between a man and a woman. However, I find myself having to reconfirm this belief constantly.
My 100% backing of the anti-homosexual idea was first shaken in 2008 during the Proposition 8 movement. It was a very heated topic at Lancaster High School, as I'm sure it was throughout all of California and across the nation. I was very well known as the Mormon kid in school- although I wasn't the only one- and since the LDS Church had taken such a firm position on the issue, I was thrust into the middle of debate quite often. I argued relentlessly that gay was a choice. People were not born with a gene that made them attracted to the same gender. Such a concept was unfathomable. Then one day at lunch, a group of students gathered on the outdoor stage holding high a "No on Prop 8" sign. An LDS senior (I was a freshman at this time) pulled out of his back pack a "Yes on Prop 8" sign and we went to stand as a contrast to this first group. While standing there, we gathered a small backing, and one young man that chose to stand behind us screamed, "F*** the gays!" I cringed, and at the very moment my body tensed up a thought traveled up my spine and into my brain, a thought that scared me a little. I knew that being gay was not a choice. Nobody would choose to be the target of monsters like the young man behind me. I had to make sure, I was standing behind the right sign.
I continued to show my support for Proposition 8. I would go stand on the corners, and I would continue to debate my friends at school, but I knew the debates were pointless. I was never was going to convince anybody to support Prop 8 if I wasn't even sure why I did. But the season came and went. The voting happened, Proposition 8 won, it was a victory for Christians everywhere.
Although the issue never left my mind, it kinda took a back seat. My sophomore year was not a great year for me, and I kind of blocked it out, I don't remember much of what happened that year, but I know that I wasn't politically vocal about the issue, although it hadn't lost focus in the media, much was being done to reverse the vote of the people of California. My junior year I caught a break, they put Marijuana on the ballot. Now I could be politically vocal about a very heated topic, and not have to worry about my doubts. But something funny happened.
I started having an increasing amount of friends, coming out of the closet. None of them came out to me, they were more of acquaintances, but they were people that I would talk to regularly, and they knew where I stood on the issue of gay marriage. I thought, "Well, we can have civil discussions, and laugh together, so things are ok." And my approach was to just kinda ignore the fact that they had same gender attraction.
Senior year was upon me. It was a great year. I loved my classes, I got to play varsity volleyball, and I had made some extremely close bonds with amazing people. I was also taking piano lessons. I had been doing this for some time, but now I was on home stretch. I knew I'd be leaving for college right after the summer, and so I was preparing for my final piano recital. I had developed a wonderful tradition of performing a duet at each recital, with my very dear friend Julia. She was an amazing pianist, and I figured that if I played with her it would make me look better. We were doing a particularly difficult piece for our final hurrah, and so we were practicing together a few times a week. I had a question for her at school one day, and so I went to find her. As I walked up to her hangout spot I was able to witness her being asked to prom. The only thing was that she was asked by another female. I suddenly had a knot in my stomach. I wasn't going to be able to just shrug this one off. Julia was a very dear friend, and someone I associated with regularly. And yet, I had no idea what to do.
I was at a church dance. In the Lancaster/Palmdale area, there are 18 LDS dances each year. It's a little overkill I think, but I still went to most. At this dance I was hanging out with a group of friends. One of them, a young man I'll call Jimmy, began to tell a story about scout camp. He recounted how there was a scout in one of the other troops that acted like he was gay. Jimmy told how this scout tried to talk to him, and the scout may have said some things that hinted even more toward his homosexuality. Jimmy then let out a slur of derogatory comments, and while others in the group chuckled, I was filled with anger.
This was another big development in my mental process, of figuring out how I really felt. I truly believe that had I not been good friends with Julia, I might have been chuckling with the other insensitive jerks in the circle.
One final experience I'd like to mention is the biggest one of all. By this time I was a freshman at Brigham Young University. I loved it there, but still had a lot of friends back home that I liked to keep in touch with. One young woman in particular, I would talk to a lot. We were skyping one night and the discussion of homosexuals came up. I laid out my feelings on the issue and the next words she said were, "Don't hate me, but I have a girlfriend." I almost cried. Not because she was attracted to the same gender, but because she began with, "Don't hate me". This was the defining moment for me.
After all these experiences, I still stand by my faith. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. However, my goal is to create a circumstance where I can have that belief, without having my gay friends start a sentence with, "Don't hate me..." It may not be possible to reach that fully, and I understand that. It's not fair for me to say, "I think your relationship with the one you love is sinful, but don't hate me!" I have a wonderful friend Natalie who is very open minded. I showed her a video that explained why I believe being vegetarian is better for you, and she disagreed. But instead of arguing with me, she decided to remove meat from her diet for a few weeks. What a perfect example, of walking a mile in someone else's shoes. Sadly I can't be attracted to men for a few weeks. There is no way to tell my homosexual friends that I fully understand their perspective. I don't, and I never will.
I am preparing to serve for two years as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As a missionary, we have principles that we are supposed to teach . The very first and most basic principle in the LDS faith, the one that is told to every missionary to be the foundation of our message, is that we have a loving Heavenly Father. Truly thinking about that really astounds me. I'm going to ask any readers that are not Mormon to pretend that you believe the LDS Church is true, therefore agreeing that our system of teaching is inspired by God. So God told us that the very first principle we teach, the core of our message is that we have a loving Heavenly Father. He didn't teach us that we have an all-powerful Heavenly Father, not that we have a perfect Heavenly Father, but that we have a LOVING Heavenly Father. If our goal is to be perfect, and become like God, and He feels that his most important characteristic is that He's loving, then what does that say about how important it is for us?
I can't recall everything I've ever said to my gay friends, I know I haven't hid my beliefs, but I want them to know that I love them. I hope they know that, and I feel they do. The couple stories I shared, I got permission to share, and they were more than happy to let me talk about them in this post. It made me so happy. They know what I believe, where I stand on the issue, but they did not doubt me one bit when I told them I was writing a blog post about homosexuality. They were excited to see what I say, and I believe it's because they can somehow understand that I love them. Like I said earlier, I know it's not possible to ask them to not hate me for my beliefs, because they have every reason to, and yet they don't hate me. If they are able to love me as someone who so strongly condemns their love, then what excuse does any straight Mormon have for not loving homosexuals? There is no excuse.
Mark 12: 28-31