If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
This beautiful declaration is probably the most relevant scripture for any LGBT Mormon. The basis of our belief in Mormonism is personal revelation and the spiritual confirmation of truth. As LGBT Mormons, it is critical to make that primary in our lives. The answers offered by the church don’t automatically make sense in our lives, and we often have personal knowledge and experience that calls into question some of our basic beliefs. Meanwhile, we are only occasionally reminded that the church’s doctrine is evolving and periodic revelations are needed to correct misunderstandings about the gospel. We are only rarely reminded that the church members and the church leaders are not perfect and that God sometimes withholds truth until his people ASK for it and are ready for it.
If any of you lack wisdom…
Well, if anybody lacks wisdom it is LGBT people growing up in the church. The experience is confusing to the core, because sometimes we are told things that we know are not true, and because we find beauty and goodness in things that others think are evil. Even more problematic, is that many of us come to the conclusion that we are evil, and that God hates us. Our best hope is the promise written in James, the same promise that led Joseph Smith to pray and receive the first vision.
Let him ask of God. that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not…
There are a couple of important points in that scripture. God gives to all men liberally and doesn’t upbraid or rebuke. This means that God allows us to ask him any question, and we are promised an answer. Upbraid means to find fault, or rebuke or scold. God won’t do that. We can ask him anything.
Mormons are all told to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, but then many of us are led to believe that our answer to that question applies globally to every thing that was ever taught by a church leader. This is problematic for all Mormons when they discover that since the restoration, leaders have taught many contradictory things. This is especially relevant to LGBT Mormons because the church has taught many things in the past about LGBT people that we know are false. For this reason the personal revelation is essential. We need guidance to determine which of these things are essential.
Let’s walk through this in detail. Suppose I pray and receive an answer that Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Book of Mormon is scripture. What does this mean? Well we haven’t asked all the questions. Like Joseph Smith, we still must ask “should I join the church” and even ask “which church should I join?” That question wasn’t automatically answered when we learned the Book of Mormon was true. So we have to study and ask God. But then our duty is still not done. We have to ask God specific questions about issues that impact us throughout our lives. For example, if we hear contradictory instructions in General Conference about ‘tolerance’ vs ‘limits of tolerance’, then we need to ask for our own confirmation of what is true. If we hear an apostle ask “why would God do this to anyone?” we might need to ask “why did God do this to me?”
Most Mormons think that homosexual relationships are wrong, and that homosexual inclinations are of the devil. They will declare that “God has spoken”. We have very personal experiences that make us doubt, and so we are entitled to our own revelation about that. If God hasn’t spoken to us personally, we should ask. God won’t upbraid us.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering…
Most Mormons interpret this to mean: you must have faith in what we are taught by the church, and then the spirit will confirm this for you. However, that is not what the scripture is saying. In fact, that interpretation won’t help you arrive at truth, because to receive truth you need to be open to God and his limitless possibilities. By counting on a single answer, you are denying God the joy of giving you HIS answer. This important scripture tells me that I have to have faith that God will tell me HIS truth. This also means that I have to be open to ANY possibility. We have to come to God ready to give up any notion we have about what the answer will be. We can study and ponder our question, come to our own conclusion, and even have a hope or a desire that our belief is confirmed, but in the end, God can’t respond if we won’t accept one of the possible responses. For example, if I go to God asking him to confirm the Book of Mormon is true, then I need to be open to the possibility that he might say no. If I am not open to that, I am not giving full faith in God. The same is true if I ask God any question about my sexual orientation or my life path. We have to open ourselves up to hear an answer that we might not expect.
Our most basic expectation is that God will confirm everything we heard in church. That makes sense from a Mormon perspective, but when you are LGBT you really have to be open to different possibilities. This is hard for an LGBT person, because many of us have grown up with so many negative messages that we internalize them as self-hatred. This can make it hard for us to be open to God’s love and God’s guidance. This becomes a barrier to the faith that we need to show in God. The faith has to be a willingness to accept his answer. It has to be a willingness to accept your unique journey. It has to be a willingness to accept that what you learned at home, at school and even at church might not be completely correct. In order for this promise to be valid we really have to turn it all over to God, with no preconditions.
Testimonies are important, because they help us learn from other people how they were able to receive guidance from God. As gay people we need to hear the experiences of other gay people who have asked these questions. I have been doing interviews for GayMormonStories.org, and I have been hearing many testimonies of the saving power of God’s love. I have heard how people have put their lives in the hand of God, and how surprised they were when they received an intense, unquestionable experience of affirmation. This affirmation helped some of them accept themselves as LGBT people. It helped some of them accept their LGBT children. It led some of them away from the church. It led some of them back to the church. It confirmed to some of them that God wants them to stay in their committed same-sex relationships. It confirmed to others that God wants them to prepare for a same-sex marriage. They haven’t received details of how it will all work out in the plan of salvation, but they have received confirmations that the plan of salvation includes them, their partners, and their families.
A typical Mormon might say: “if it goes against the teachings of the church then it is from the devil and not from God”. I disagree with that conclusion. If Joseph had gone to God with that kind of attitude he would have never been told to ‘”join no churches’”. If Spencer Kimball had gone to God with that same attitude, then Blacks would still be denied the Priesthood. We are entitled to our own revelation about our lives. We can’t second guess any other person’s revelation about their life and tell them that the answer they got was wrong. We have to live according to our own dictates, which we should base on this promised guidance from God. The only way to be sure is to take the leap of faith. If the same voice that tells you the Book of Mormon is scripture, then tells you that it is ok to be gay, then you have to accept it both times or reject it both times, because that is the foundation of your testimony and the foundation of the church.