Approaching Understanding

Today, after much thoughtful consideration, I am going to come out of the closet. I am very seriously perplexed about homosexuality.
Not that I don’t see how a woman could love a woman, or a man love a man. Rather, why I shouldn’t be happy for them. I am caught between how I should feel, and how I naturally feel (though I always cringe to use the word natural in a gospel-centered discussion on account of our much-applied phrase “natural man.”) I understand that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Fine. No problem with me there, however, what about love? The care, happiness and progression that occurs when you are deeply committed to another being is among this world’s (and perhaps the next one to come) greatest experiences.
I support our church leaders when it comes to the sacredness of the family. I need help understanding why these types of human relations impact my family. How to come to terms with the homosexual person versus the homosexual threat.
Perhaps I could relate to her my lesbian-friend sprinkled past.


ONE
There was Lara who had loads of red hair and freckles. She found me at Girls Camp my second year. Lara was several years older than me, which explains why I followed her, and her shady friend, in to the woods to watch them smoke joints and quote Pink Floyd lyrics. Never having even smelled, fresh marijuana (I am a Provo girl my friends. Provo!), I was scared out of my head! She tried to coax me into the woods again–for yet another séance–but thank my guarding angel for warning my mother, who came running full-speed out of her tent, just before I disappeared into the thick of the Forrest.
For months after that, Lara would come to my house, play her guitar and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A couple of times she slept on my neighbor’s lawn. I knew this because the next morning she would call and tell me what time I turned off my bedroom light. This all ended one night when Lara showed up at my front door late asking that I get I hurry and get my belongings. She found a ride to California, but she didn’t want to leave me. I hugged her goodbye and didn’t hear anything until she sent out announcements for a love celebration involving Lara and her girlfriend.
I don’t think Lara was ever in-love with me, I think she felt comfortable around me because I was naive enough to believe (Provo girl!) that she was just like everybody else I knew (but with a smoking problem. . . tsk, tsk.) Her being a lesbian was news to me the day the announcement came.
TWO
The next year at Girls Camp my camp leader fell in love with my friend’s camp leader and six months later, as I was over babysitting my camp leader’s children, I heard them discussing how they like their eggs done. This was important info as they were planning on moving in together.
I remember feeling really happy for them, although it weirded me out as a young fifteen-year-old. They were both near forty, one never before married, the other had gone through a miserable divorce, and there they were discussing eggs. And they both agreed sunny side up. Now, how often does that happen?
THREE
My third year at girls camp I met Tia. We all loved her and after camp was over, we spent hours and hours at her house hanging out and eating treats. Tia and I became especially good friends and she let me drive her car around the neighborhood. My parents began to worry when this hanging out became a twice-daily ritual. Soon after I started my sophomore year they told me that I couldn’t hang out with Tia anymore, I needed to be with friends my own age. Tia was very upset. She stopped coming around.
Years later, as I was getting ready to go on a mission, Tia showed up at my doorstep, unrecognizable. She was a man. Her girlfriend, who looked just like Hugh Grant, was working at the UVRMC, she explained. She decided to come around and look me up.
Tia said that the whole experience with me had really angered her. She stopped going to church, stopped trying to feel holy, quit asking progressive questions. Although she had been a practicing lesbian for years before she was our camp leader, she felt like she was making an active attempt to become a mainstream Mormon. When my parents forbade the relationship she felt defeated. She said to me,
“I knew I wasn’t going to the Celestial Kingdom, so I decided to just live as best as I could until I eventually died.”
I never heard from Tia again.
I went on to serve a mission and came to know, with a quality understanding, the many facets of Jesus Christ. He took the responsibility of judging away from us so that we could focus on loving. And in the end, when applied to my friends, it makes the most sense.
How does it make sense to you?

26 thoughts on “Approaching Understanding

  1. It doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve had many of your experiences and I relate to your puzzlement. I think your friend might be very pleasantly surprised. I have to just leave this issue in God’s hands.

  2. I don’t know the answer. I don’t even know the questions to ask. I do know that God loves all of us. I do know that He has slated me to deal with my own laundry list of problems, and I can only assume that every one of us has our own unique laundry list of problems to deal with.

    I do know compassion is required of all of us, toward all of us. I also know that the Lord’s commandments aren’t suggestions. Who knows.

  3. Same stories, different names.

    Same exact conclusion about the judging vs loving. He definately gave us the easier part of the equation. And for that I am eternally grateful.

  4. “Everybody needs friends. No one wishes to be without them. But never lose sight of the fact that it is your friends who will lead you along the paths that you will follow.”
    —President Gordon B. Hinckley

    Just saw that on the church’s website. Thought of our discussion.

  5. It’s tricky to unconditionally love another person while maintaining clear personal moral boundaries. I don’t think most people ever really master that. I know I haven’t. Where should the lines be? Say my friend is a lesbian. Fine with me. Say she lives with a girlfriend. Fine with me. Say she wants my family to attend their committment ceremony. Say she asks my daughter to be the flower girl. Say she buys my daughter the book Heather has Two Mommys so she can better understand their situation. Say she wants me to explain how I can love her and her partner but attend a church that teaches they cannot be sealed in the temple. All of that moves outside the realm of black and white. Maybe that’s part of the reason we struggle with how to best relate to those who do not follow our beliefs. I think Elona Shelley got it right in her spring Segullah article, You Just Have to Love.

  6. Loving someone and having a relationship with someone are two different things. I can love a gay friend completely without her doing a thing in return. But I can’t maintain a friendship with her unless there’s mutual acceptance of differences. If I’m not going to try to change her, I need the same respect in return.

  7. I agree with you here, wholeheartedly. Having a sister and an aunt who are both lesbians, I know what it is like to love someone and not agree with what they do. I love both of them dearly, and my sister’s partner Penny is like a sister to me, so how can I feel upset that they is living that lifestyle?
    I have asked myself many times how I could ever pray that my sister will realize her actions and come back to the church, if in doing that we would lose Penny as a “member of the family”.
    Relationships/love/life are all hard.
    I am just glad that in the end I know I won’t be condemned for loving all of the amazing people in my life, reqardless of their sexual preference.

  8. I grew up in a home where life was not always good nor bad, but where change was the last thing one expected. Stability was a higher value than many other good (and bad) principles. Because of this background, I have a hard time expecting or assuming that what everyone else (and even myself) needs to do is change. So, the issue of homosexuality is an equivocal thing for me to deal with. I don’t want to assume that others need to change and yet, I do believe in the existence of right and wrong. Not as some flying, mystical belief in the universe but as a principal that leads to action in a very real world.

    I agree with those that have commented about the need to love our friends, family, and neighbors of different beliefs and choices. I agree with those that feel there are lines in the sand that maybe one shouldn’t cross. But, I also think think those lines shift and move and can be confusing to those deciding where to draw them. It seems that the more answers I get, there are at least 10 more questions that follow.

  9. I attended a family wedding over the weekend. The matriarch and patriarch of this very large family are good ol’ farm folk in their seventies. They are also the parents of two grown gay children. I watched them reach beyond the stiffness and unacceptance of their generation and embrace both children AND their partners. I also watched them sit quietly back and listened to them talk about the Lord’s plan and how it relates to their gay children. I listened as they tried to make their children’s sexuality make sense to them and perhaps to those of us listening. I watched and listened as they shrugged their shoulders in submission to the Lord’s plan for them. Watching this elderly couple both love unconditionally, despite the foreign-ness of it all to them, was truly bittersweet.

  10. God doesn’t make every bad choice feel pleasureless. Otherwise no one would ever exercise their agency to chose something so undesirable. The truth is that we LIKE our sins. That is what makes sin so tempting. Sometimes we even feel happy when we sin. Wise use of agency considers all the consequences of sin. The consequences are addiction, loosing the companionship of the spirit, and not experiencing the joys of the atonement. Sad losses indeed.

    My uncle who is gay has given some interesting insight into his life choices: He said to my father, “Look at all the blessing you have in your old age. You have built a family of children and grandchildren for yourself that will bless you until the day you die. I have none of those things.” I mourn for him indeed.

  11. “He took the responsibility of judging away from us so that we could focus on loving.”

    Yep, that’s the part I feel is the only thing I really need to worry about. My socio-political feelings on the matter are a completely different topic. The same goes for people who make other choices that are different than those that I would make.

  12. When I was 18 years old my beloved older sister and I were trying on bras at Mervyns. She started bawling and yelling, “I’m a lesbian! I’m a lesbian!” over the wall into my stall. I said, “I know. I’ve known for a long time.” I had already come to better terms with it than she had. I guess she just needed to say it aloud….uh…very loud. Now, almost twenty years later and having another younger sister who is also a lesbian, I’ve learned quite a bit. I have seen the pain that has evolved from being once active members of the LDS church (even a missionary) to where they are now. It was courageous of them to make the choices they did knowing what they had to face and will yet face. For them, it was the only way to make peace for themselves. For me, an active Mormon (yes, I have also made that choice), I had to face my own prejudices head on. I judged them harshly and told them so. Mostly I was angry that I had to explain to my little kids at a very early age why their aunts lived with other women and their children had no Daddy. After this experience, I had a strong impression from the Holy Ghost that I was wrong in judging them and that it wasn’t my place. It was more than a strong impression…I was chastised by the Holy Ghost. I called them both and apologized and asked their forgiveness. I was very humbled and felt true shame.
    So, homosexuality and Mormonism…difficult combination…but, I have grown from the mixture of the two in my family. I feel grateful for what i have learned from my two sisters. I feel grateful for the increase in compassion and genuine love unfeigned.
    So, we are all entitled to our opinions, but to the woman who was “totally grossed out” by the essay, you might want to take a look at yourself a little harder. You might find yourself “grossed out” at something else. I know I once was.

  13. B.–what a perfect example for those of us still floundering on how to handle the divisions caused by this issue.

    M.–Heather H brought up an insightful point about missionary work during the discussion surrounding our first post at the Segullah blog. She said something about how we don’t form friendships with people in order to convert them. In fact, the friendships we form are the reward (sorry Heather for the shoddy summary). And I think it’s very true that our friendships with our family are important, even more important than either individuals’ belief systems or choices. The relationship is the reward. Now, if only I could learn how to apply this….sigh.

  14. So I’m LDS and have a six year old son who I think has some “tendencies”. Sorry if that ‘grosses you out’, Stephanie. If my hunch is right about my son (who knows, it could be age appropriate or I could be wrong- only time will tell), why in the world would I continue to associate with people who are ‘grossed out’ (intolerant) of him. This hits very close to home for me. I think we’ve done everything “right” with him. I tend to think that I will not continue to subject him to that kind of intolerance, which is prevelant in the church. Kids commit suicide over this, people! Now, I know there are plenty who are trying to have it all make sense in a gospel context, but what about the others who in the church will villify my “sinner” son? Like I said, I don’t know what the future holds– it could be a bunch of worry for nothing — but please remember that there are real people who read these blog posts, and it hits close to home.

    Courtney, this was an interesting post, I appreciated it. Thanks.

  15. like all of you my mind is now trying to wrap itself around all of this… i agree, there’s no room for closemindedness anymore, not in the world we live in. However, maybe we should take all of this to the next level.
    Do you believe in homosexuality… sure people claim that they love another of their same sex, but are they just misled… is this another challenge that they have been given to overcome? Is it something that they COULD overcome with counseling or whatever?
    How far does love go. Some of the coolest people and personalities (aka Rosie and Ellen) are the coolest, most openminded,insightful, loving people that i know- HOWEVER can a person claim to love/accept their homosexual friend, and disagree with same-sex marriages?
    I THINK i know how i feel, but am having a hard time arguing the other side… please help

  16. One of my great friends in college was gay. He was out, and completely happy about it. He knew how I felt about it, being an active member of the church. but we just got along so well, neither wanted to give up the friendship. So we didn’t. We both respected each other’s right to feel how we did, and we just left it at that.

    I think it’s ok to stand up for something, if for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do. But that in no way gives any of us the right to withhold love or compassion from another of God’s children.

  17. I truly apologize to all I offended by my comment. I did not mean to hurt anyone. Since Courtney is my sister, I was referring to her and our childhood stories. I suppose it was inside joke. It has nothing to do directly with those who deal with homosexuality.

    Again I apologize for being so insensitive!!

  18. What a thought-provoking essay. I’ve learned a lot from the comments and especially Elder Oaks’ and Elder Wickham’s remarks. I see there are many like me who struggle to reconcile what we see as the church’s stand against homosexuality and not judging and being able to show love to those friends with same-gender feelings. I also feel for “P” who worries about his/her son’s tendencies. As parents, we want to protect our children and church is where they should be safest. Unfortunately, there are so many good LDS people who don’t deal well with this issue. I just hope for your son’s sake, that your ward is able to accept and help him. Maybe if we all felt accepted no matter what our problems, we would be better equipped to deal with them and even avoid temptations because of that support.

  19. P, I empathize with your concerns about your son. I would just urge you not to jump to any premature conclusions. He’s only six years old. I’m not sure what you are basing your hunch on, but a substantial number of six-year-old boys love to play with dolls, experiment with make-up and fingernail polish, and even dress up in frilly costumes. Doesn’t mean they are homosexual. You are right, though, to worry that others in our very homophobic society might give your son a hard time if he’s “different” than most males. Unfortunately that happens far too often. In fact, I believe that this very inability of our culture to accept differences and to withhold judgement often leads boys who may have tastes and interests more in line with what we have defined as “feminine” to question their own sexuality when they needn’t. Just because a boy prefers music or art over football doesn’t mean he’s homosexual. Even most transvestites aren’t homosexual. They just like to dress up! :-) Anyway, enjoy your precious son and celebrate his individuality. The more secure he is and the more accepted he feels, the less likely he will be to wonder if there is something “wrong” with him.

  20. One of my two best and long-time girlfriends is a lesbian. It’s almost funny how completely opposite our lives are in some ways– she lives a big city lifestyle with a high-finance job and her partner is a Hollywood VFX producer–I’m non-traditional Provo (older, self-employed, childless), but still very much Provo all the same, ’nuff said? Courtney, I run into hard questions like the ones you idenitified on an almost daily basis and my feelings swing like a pendulum from angsty hand-wringing over what my role is as her best friend to feeling utter calm and assurance. All I know is I love this friend intensely and often feel overwhelmed by the depth of love I sense the Lord has for her. When I start getting lost in questions and worries it helps me so much to remember this quote by Preseident Spencer W. Kimball:

    “Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings.”

    Sin springs from deep unmet needs. I believe that. Thinking of that helps me refocus on a bigger question: Is there something I can do to help a need be met?

  21. You’ve succinctly stated what I’ve been questioning for years. Especially this line “I support our church leaders when it comes to the sacredness of the family. I need help understanding why these types of human relations impact my family.” I’ve also enjoyed reading so many great comments. Life used to be so black and white, but then I have known of people who have struggled to the point of wanting to commit suicide rather than face homosexual tendencies. I don’t know the answers. But you’ve asked many good questions. I think that the best we can do is pray for personal understanding and direction with those who directly cross our paths and affect our lives.

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