By Chris McKenna
January 2012 was when I decided that I needed to figure out what these homosexual feelings were all about. I had just finished watching the Australian Open Men’s Final and part of the champion’s victory celebration involved him ripping off his shirt and screaming in triumph. You can fill in the blank as to what happened next as I watched this. The very next Tuesday I headed down to the support group that the ‘access and diversity’ center holds for people that are LGBT at my university. After I introduced myself, my experience watching tennis came out. It felt so good to be able to talk about it openly with people that understood what I was going through. For the next few days I felt like I was walking on air. I felt like my life had meaning and purpose, even the songs on my phone meant different things to me than they had days earlier.
Eventually, however, I did come down from cloud nine as I realized what this means as a member of the church. Everyone knows what is expected of young men we grow up go on missions, find a women and get married in the temple, raise a family, and so on. All of the sudden, one part of me fit somewhere and the other didn’t. I still consider myself openly gay. All of my close friends, coworkers, and most of my family know about my sexuality. As I have accepted this in my own life I have become more and more selective about who I tell. There have been multiple types of reactions to my beliefs on the way homosexuality is dealt with in the LDS church. A very dear friend of my who I love like a brother actually asked what it was like to be gay after I told him while we were having breakfast at our college cafeteria. To which I responded “I can look at a women and think she is beautiful, but it does nothing for me sexually.” A second incident occurred with this same friend as I was having an emotionally rough evening and he had taken time to come comfort me. I vented; he sat and listened and said “I will stand by you, whatever you choose.” Months later as I reflect on that experience tears still come to my eyes as I think about the love and acceptance we feel for each other.
Some Church leaders have been equally positive including my former bishop and stake president. They see the need for love and understanding that people in my situation need and they give freely. Others are not so charitable. I was having another difficult day when this life altering decision weighed a little more heavily on my mind than it probably should have. I decided to go to the institute building for a blessing because I needed help fast. The gracious attendant in the office got a bishop and a teacher that I was familiar to administer the blessing. What happened instead was a force feeding of scriptures about eternal life and testimonials of how “reparative therapy” works and other harsh phrases such as my being “too proud” to receive a blessing because I did not feel like any repairs were needed. I was also told “It is the duty of all Christians to stand up and tell homosexuals that they must change or go to hell.”
I am writing this article as a plea for understanding and love from the Mormon community. As a gay man I don’t want anything different that other members of the church want. I want to settle down, have family, raise children and be genuinely happy. However my definition of a family is a unique one. In Matthew chapter 5: 46 -50, the Savior is teaching and he is interrupted by one of the people speaking and the following conversation occurs.
Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my amother and my brethren!
This combined with the experiences that I have mentioned and some that I haven’t leads me to believe that disciples of Jesus Christ were his pupils, supporters and in his mind family as well. So I look at the family as groups of people coming together being willing to support each other
I am currently no longer attending church because knowing that those mentioned in this article and others that have treated me in a downright cruel manner can still attend the temple without thinking twice is too much for me to handle right now.
My boyfriend and I had our one year anniversary this past December and we hope for many more years to come. I just have two questions for the brethren. What is immoral about my relationship? Secondly, why is absolutely despicable treatment of gay members and their allies allowed to continue? Reading Thomas Montgomery’s piece Christmas Cards made my blood boil. Denying a 13 year old boy the opportunity to give you the sacrament because he is open and honest about who he is really how is that in anyway Christlike.
We need answers, where is our place? How do our relationships harm the ideal you are pursuing? Every time I would talk with a member inevitably they would respond with ‘I don’t know’ by the end of the conversation. Well its time to find out because we are losing members over this issue I personally know three people who left the church either solely or in part because of the churches attitudes towards the LGBT community, and they are some of the sweetest spirits I know. We need answers for the missionary who wishes those hugs from his district leader will last a little bit longer than he dares talk about. We need answers for the parents who don’t know how to react to hearing that their child is LGBT.
Due to life being complicated I didn’t get the chance to listen to or read the talk “Protect the Children” by Elder Oaks (April 2013) until after conference but one paragraph of the talk in particular shocked me: “…We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender. The social science literature is controversial and politically charged on the long-term effect of this on children, principally because, as a New York Times writer observed, “same-sex marriage is a social experiment, and like most experiments it will take time to understand its consequences.”
I understand the concern of the brethren on the issue. The well-being of my generation’s children is a very serious matter. As I have interacted with people in the gay community, I have also seen and felt their pain. In many instances this has come at the hands of well-meaning church members that are concerned for the temporal and spiritual welfare of their loved ones. I sincerely appreciate those that have extended a hand of fellowship and understanding to me as I have explored these feelings. I fail to see the disadvantages of two people, feeling the way my boyfriend and I feel about each other, coming together in marriage and raising children, especially if we are both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The principles of the gospel are universal; they apply to all of God’s Children. The Prophet Abinadi taught in Mosiah 15:31 “The Lord God hath made bare his holy in the eyes of all the nations and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
I consider homosexuality a blessing because of the lessons it is teaching me. Patience is definitely first and foremost on this list because I have endured a lot of negativity over the course of the past year, but I need to keep in mind that more often than not the people either do not know me personally and are not attacking me. They see what they perceive to be a danger. Those that do know me personally are acting out of love mixed with a whole other complicated cocktail of emotions that was custom brewed by God for them to learn from .
Patience can bear fruit. My grandparents have been by my side since I came out to them in early February. At one point after I told my grandmother that Salt Lake City was voted one of the “gayest” cities in the country by a pro-gay magazine poll she replied that “Satan must be working extra hard on people there” and she was at one point willing to fund my “reparative therapy” once it fit in my school schedule. After conversations with me and reading the book “No More Goodbyes” by Carol Lynn Pearson she no longer encourages therapy and is in favor of gay marriage. This blessing has also given me the confidence and the courage to love myself and stand up for my beliefs.