By Patrick Wendel (also published at his blog http://ptrckwndl13.wordpress.com/)
22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
I absolutely love this scripture. I recently attended an Affirmation conference in Salt Lake City. Affirmation is a support group for LGBT Mormons that anyone is welcome to join. I had never even heard of Affirmation until this past summer, after I came out of the closet. An old friend from my ward as a child sent me a link on Facebook, and suggested I look into it. It has forever changed my life. Before attending Affirmation, I was very confused as to where I fit in to society, The Church, and God’s plan for his children. I am a member of the church, but I am also Gay… what now? How am I expected to live? The Church’s advice is to either stay celibate or keep looking for that special woman to marry. Of course, no church leader will ever recommend or advise you to get married. We now know that marriage is not the cure for homosexuality. And yet, you can’t help but feel that as a gay person, people are still hoping that this will all just go away. Just go get married, just stop having these feelings. They are okay to have by the way, but not to act on. Which means you either spend the rest of your life alone, or you marry someone of the opposite sex, and make it work. So me, caught in between two worlds that refuse to yield. I’m Mormon. I’m Gay. Everyone is telling me I can’t be both. Affirmation is the first time I felt like I could.
One of the best parts of Affirmation for me was meeting all the incredible people there. Oh, how I wish I had grown up knowing and interacting with these blessed individuals! This was the first time I had met a Gay Mormon who was so okay with who they were. They loved and respected themselves. They didn’t have a trace of the self loathing, and the tormenting confusion I was going through. They were so at peace, and so very loving, I wanted to be just like them. And then there were the allies. Never have I met people who were more full of love, and passion for a cause than our dear allies! If every Gay Mormon in the world gave up, and decided that they would just follow the prophet without a peep of questioning, I know that there would still be those families, those parents, those brothers and sisters who would continue to fight on our behalf. I am still shocked that they would so willingly, and so enthusiastically, help fight for such an emotionally difficult cause, when they could just as easily say “things will work out…it is all in God’s hands” and leave it at that. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank you dear brothers and sisters enough! There are some of us who cannot fight for ourselves yet, and I love knowing that you are there, fighting for us.
Along with the people, the best part of Affirmation was the incredible spirit I felt there. There was such a powerful feeling of love, that no one could deny that God’s spirit was truly there with us. I have told many people this, and I will continually say it. God is with us in this endeavor. It was at Affirmation that I came to a startling conclusion. It was during the testimony meeting on Saturday. One sister was speaking about how she had received a spiritual witness from God about her relationship with her partner. I was so confused how that could be, since God was having his spokesmen, the prophets, tell us that it is absolutely NOT okay. An old scripture mastery verse popped into my head “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself. And though the Heavens and the earth pass away, My word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled. Whether by Mine own voice, or by the voice of My servants, it is the same.” D&C 1, (I don’t remember the verses…) And yet, there she stood, filling us with the spirit as she bore her testimony. So I quickly devised a test. I closed my eyes, and silently prayed two prayers. The first went as follows:
Me: Heavenly Father, do you love me?
I instantly felt peace and happiness, and the warmth of the Spirit boiling up inside me.
That is an obvious “Yes.” Good, good. Next prayer…
Me: Heavenly Father, is it alright with you if I start dating guys?
I felt the exact same feeling. The Spirit boiling up inside me. The Peace and happiness.
I was floored. God had just affirmed my own desires to not only love those of my same gender, but to date them, to pursue a loving relationship, to hopefully find someone that I am head over heels in love with and spend the rest of my life with that person. I cautiously examined that spark of love that I was currently feeling for a particular guy, and I no longer felt an ounce of guilt. I could still feel God’s loving Spirit. I could still feel his approval. And I tell you, that is one of the happiest moments of my young life.
So now I am home again. Back up in Logan Utah. It has been a week since the Affirmation conference. All week I have been feeling the spirit. I feel like I am bursting with light and love. Naturally, I want to share it. I tell friends about my experience at Affirmation. Some take it well, others don’t. I tell family, ward members, bishops, institute teachers. Less and less are taking it well. I am being told what the church has to say about gay relationships. I have been shown scriptures, conference talks, and the church website. All in an effort to convince me that I am wrong. As I listen to talks, read the words of prophets, I pay close attention to that newly found light and love that has been burning inside me since Affirmation. The words do not add to it. They fill me with doubt, confusion, and darkness. Those are not the gifts of the spirit. (see scripture above.) Before going to the Affirmation conference, I would have listened. I was very confused, and I didn’t know what God wanted of me, so I was easily swayed one way or another. But not any more. If I felt that same fire and light as church leaders counsel me to stay within the bounds the Church has ordained, then I would gladly obey. But I don’t. For me, despite the confusion, my choice makes sense. I feel the powerful love of God and I honestly believe that he is with me. Now, I just endure the times of darkness and confusion, usually brought on by loving church leaders, and hold on to the memory of the Spirit. I will not make decisions based on darkness and confusion. I will follow the path set before me in times of light and love.
I sit and listen to friends and leaders tell me what God wants of me, how he thinks about the issues and what he expects me to do, and I can’t help but smile. Because now I know. None of these people have actually asked. They are just going with what the prophet has said. I commend their faith, but when faith is blind, it can be misplaced. When I try to explain to them how I have been given a spiritual confirmation that what I am doing is okay, they tell me that I am being tricked by Satan. This bothers me, I’ll be honest. Other people have no right to interpret my feelings. It is absurd. Just because they don’t understand it, doesn’t mean I am wrong. They tell me this because it is easier for them, and it is what makes sense to them. But that doesn’t make them right. I know what I have felt. I have been raised in the church. We are trained to recognize the promptings of the spirit. I have spent years and years in church meetings, seminary classes, and institute classes, feeling the spirit and receiving counsel and direction from God. This isn’t the first time it has happened.
I am finding that most LDS people believe that we know everything already. There is actually a quote from President Thomas S. Monson that kinda bothers me. “There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth.” I do not agree with this idea that we, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, know everything. Article of faith #9: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of Heaven.” That is the attitude we should have. So many people I talk to about these issues, won’t even consider the possibility that there might be things we don’t know. There might be more revelation on these issues. They dismiss any thoughts and feelings I present and, bless their hearts, they blindly fall back on “The Church leaders have said…” Someone who hasn’t spent the time and effort thinking about this issue, and trying to make sense of it in their own minds, will not be ready to accept that there might be other answers. It is frustrating, because God cannot give us answers if we are not asking him questions. And any church that already knows, will not be asking. It is my goal to make people question. I am gay. I want everyone who meets me, to feel my love, feel my testimony and my passion for the gospel, and also to know that I am gay. They will hear about dates I go on. When I get a boyfriend, they will know about him. They will see me as this giant contradiction, and they will have to start to question, “How can this be?”
“Hello! My name is Patrick Wendel. I am Mormon. I am Gay.”
I am 21 years old, and currently attending Utah State University where I am studying… school. I enjoy reading, playing the piano, and hiking in the mountains of Logan canyon.