My Integrity Won’t Allow Ignorance (A Mormon Daughter on Having Gay Father)

By Hannah Stewart (also published at her personal blog and at feministmormonhousewives.org)

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A lingering question that takes up a lot of thought and pondering in my mind is how much of my real life to filter.

Sometimes I want to only share a pretty memory “book” that focuses only on the positive. Sometimes I want to stop writing anything personal at all, and just ramble, maybe even under a pseudo name so I can say whatever the heck I want and no one will know that that is how Hannah really feels.

It’s so easy to only write and say the things that I think others will accept and not reject me for.

But the truth is, there is so much of my “real” life that I don’t talk about. Real struggles that I’m facing, real pain that I’m feeling, because the truth is that this is a difficult time in my life. The happy moments I share aren’t lies, because I do try my very best to find the goodness in this life, but they’re just not the entire story.

My dad is gay. My parents are divorced (not solely because of that fact), and now my parents have two separate households, one of which my dad shares with his partner, Mark.

Though it’s been an adjustment and a huge learning process, accepting the reality of my life and my family, I’ve grown to be comfortable with my dad and Mark. I obviously love my dad very much, and I also love Mark.

I watch my dad and Mark interact with each other, I see love, respect, kindness, loyalty, and dedication. I watch my dad and Mark interact with my siblings, and I see the same things. I see my little brother come over and sit on Mark’s lap and Mark intently listen to what he has to say, whether it’s about his lego set or his little sister that is bothering him. I hear him tell my six-year-old sister that she looks so beautiful in her new outfit. I see the joy in his eyes when he sees the my siblings laugh and play.

Mark and Dad are good parents. Obviously my dad has always been my dad, and I’ve always loved him for it, but it’s been amazing to me to see Mark come into our lives and be another loving parent to me and my siblings.

There is a peaceful spirit I feel when I am at dad and Mark’s house. It is calm, simple, and beautiful. I don’t feel like there is anything amiss, or missing, though of course I always miss both my parents and all of my family members whenever we are not all together.

I guess I am saying all of this as a back drop to my feelings I want to express in this post.

I’ve been taught at church to think that what I experience at my dad’s house is “wrong.” That it isn’t natural, right, healthy, or good.

Well I’ve come to the point when I just KNOW that is not true. I believe it, I feel it, I know it.

I feel peace in that recognition, but then I turn to the beliefs of my childhood and feel confusion, despair, hurt, anger, and more hurt.

Because it doesn’t make sense.

It terrifies me to admit that. It scares me that I could potentially lose my temple recommend as I think back to the interview I had with my Stake President before I got married, him telling me that I could love my dad but not support him in who he “is” or what he’s “doing”. Him telling me that there is a fine line I couldn’t cross. Ultimately, I could only “love” him as much as the church allowed.

It terrifies me that I feel betrayed by an organization that seems so good and beautiful and that I wish more than anything in the world, I could’ve never learned to doubt.

It terrifies me that I find myself filled with anger all the time when I have NEVER been an angry person. I’m angry whenever I hear someone from my faith say something horrible about gay people or gay marriage, I’m angry when the sexism in the church is glaringly obvious, and I’m angry that I feel so much negativity in my life that is affecting my relationship with myself and those around me.

I’m terrified that I will be rejected by those of my faith because I have “doubts” and because I vocally state my opinion about issues in the church.

I’m terrified that I will lose my friends if I am not silent.

I’m terrified that people think or will think that I am not a good person, that they will think it necessary to stay away from me because I’m an “apostate”.

I’m desperate to share with others a message of love and acceptance, so maybe, just maybe I could make a difference and someone I know will think or act differently towards gay people in their life. But I’m also desperate to not “cross that line” because I really do want to do what’s right.

That’s the thing I keep finding myself sobbing to my DH “I really do feel like I’m a good person…but I just can’t do what the church is telling me “God” says is right…I don’t want to be a bad person…I just want to love others and teach others to love…I don’t want to be a bad person…”

I find myself feeling jealous of other Christian sects who don’t claim to have a latter-day prophet (aka all of them) because they still have the freedom to think and act for themselves, to believe that maybe homosexuality isn’t a sin. It isn’t a sin for a woman to teach or to not veil her face, after all…The Bible was also just a secular history… Jesus came to end false traditions and beliefs, to teach love… They can still believe in God and feel justified in their feelings, because God isn’t telling a group of old men in their church that homosexuality is a sin and gay marriage is wrong.

In a moment of frustration, DH said to me “You need to stop looking for then negative things about the church!” But I know, and he realizes now, I never looked for any of them. They all found me.

The Mormon world is a beautiful, happy, wonderful one. I never wanted anyone or anything to ruin that for me. I WANT to be a part of that world. But my integrity won’t allow ignorance anymore.

I’m never going to stop trying my very hardest to be the very best person I can be, I’m not going to stop going to church, because that doesn’t feel natural or what’s best for me. I’m never going to stop seeking truth and light, but I just CAN’T live ignoring the truth I’ve already discovered.

I also realize that a lot of the reason controversial and confusing things in the church are so incredibly painful for me to deal with right now, is because they are all tied to what has happened in my family and personal life. When I feel the sting of the cold, insensitive statement the church released this past Wednesday about the recent court rulings, it also triggers the staggering pain of every time I’ve seen one of my loved ones cry because, as someone said to me just two days ago, my family is no longer an eternal family.

12 comments for “My Integrity Won’t Allow Ignorance (A Mormon Daughter on Having Gay Father)

  1. Eamerica
    July 1, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Thank you Hannah. I feel your pain. I like how you express the torment you have in your heart between what you learn in church and what you experienced.

  2. Anonymous
    July 1, 2013 at 9:01 am

    So much of this post resonated with me. There is so much good in the church–but so much that is wrong. There is no room for difference, whether it be simple difference of opinion or difference in sexual identity. I feel like so much of what the church does has nothing to do with Christ’s mission. The gap between the “church” and the gospel seems wider and wider. And what is a person supposed to do? If you speak up, you are judged, scolded, shunned, called into the bishop’s office, called into the stake president’s office. So I sit on my hands, bite my tongue and let the blood run down the back of my throat. Church causes pain, every single week. Some might tell me to leave, and believe me, I think about it all the time. But what good would that do? One more inactive member, labeled as prideful and stiffnecked. And I’m left without any sort of spirituality in my life. So I keep going. And I pray for change.

    Thanks for this post. I feel less alone. Thank you for being willing to speak up, when I am not.

  3. Amber Cosgrove
    July 1, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I agree with all that you said, and I completely support you. Thank you for this, I needed it. Makes sense of how I have been feeling lately.
    -Amber

  4. Jen
    July 1, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Thank you for writing this. It isn’t hard to say things like this, but it meant a lot for me to read it. I am really struggling with the dissonance between the church and the people in it and the gospel and the teachings of Christ, who loved all men and women regardless of their status (and, apparently, he even healed the partner of a gay roman soldier). I feel so mixed and torn between it all, and I wonder if one day the church will actually change its policy like it did with blacks and the priesthood but that we just aren’t there yet. I really don’t know.

  5. Perla
    July 2, 2013 at 2:21 am

    Dear Hannah …. I read your story … which in all its expression, with your pains and joys is beautiful … just full of love … and that will never be or come from a bad person … quite the opposite of a person with an immense capacity to love and accept life as you play live.

    You’re not alone … LDS we are many who just want to love our families and friends gay … are much the sometimes expect more …. of faith in which we have believed and have grown … many of us expect gestures and signs of our leaders …

    I want to share something with you … I am an LDS person since my birth my father is member the church from 15 years … therefore has a lifetime of being a man fanatically LDS are 5 siblings and my loving mother … when my younger brother returned of complete a mission full of honors …. a great emotional crisis came to he ….. then told my parents and family that he was a gay man … he was felt very ashamed to be, but he had already made way too and nothing had changed.
    Very soon it became known in my church and soon my brother went from being a great young …. to a young man that ought to be separated aside to avoid contamination to others …

    you know what it feels like to see how your parents have spent nearly 40 years of their lives living with people now judge them and condemn them? the space that was once pure and close … now was hell and within the were a strange … I have to add that my father was the bishop and it was in the church for 10 years until that distant time

    One night after watching my brother mourn because of painful hearsay … my mother decided to take a series of pills to sleep and never wake up … Thanks to the timely ability of my father my mother did not suffer any harm …. she is now fine and completely loving my brother … But that day I fill me with hatred, anger, and frustration …. My whole family loves my brother … and we support it at all …. he seeks his happiness and we have ours … one day after seeing mourn long my father told me “I hope that God gives me the answer … for now I’m just going to love my child what more I can”

    Now I am healing wounds …reconciled me with the church, learning to live with my conscience and my own way of loving … and be close to God every Sunday and every day… Thanks

  6. Em
    July 2, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I don’t know what area of the country you live in, but I’m assuming that it’s an area where the church has a really strong presence (like Idaho or Utah). I don’t want to generalize, but I find where there is a large population of members (and I mean extremely large), the members and leadership almost tend to lean on the letter of the law instead of the spirit of it. I’ve never read the bishop’s handbook (but I might now, since it’s online and available to everyone) but I’ve never heard anywhere it say you can’t support your gay family in order to maintain a current temple recommend. In this time of history, I thank God I’m in an area where the leadership of the church realize that, in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have never been asked specifically that I not support my gay friends in order to keep my recommend. There is one question about if I am in and support a group that seriously goes against the teachings of the church, or government (I think the government one they actually care about more), and never once has being in a Mormon/LGBT allied group been recognized as one of those groups, at least out here in the Bay (or even NorCal in general). So this example of how people and leadership in our church are acting saddens me and disturbs me, because I know that the church in other areas of the world it’s not like that. We have gay members of our congregations out here, that are completely open and hold callings. True the double sided edge to that is that they can only be in that position if they are not having sex (or even dating, of course the sex thing applies to straight people as well), but the fact they can be open about who they are to themselves and open to everyone else in their ward and still be in full fellowship says quite a lot. So I’d say hold on there, maybe some day your area will begin making those changes also. I mean I no the church will never recognize same sex marriage within the church, at least not in my lifetime, but they may come to terms with it in the secular sense sooner rather than later, so hang in there.

  7. Mungagungadin
    July 2, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Thank you for writing this.

    Our official church position to exclude gay people from happiness and family and to declare their relationships perverted/sub-equal leaves victims everywhere. And all who “righteously” continue in their judgment are made less humane as well. This is hurting absolutely everyone.

    We need to embrace the truth that all God’s children are included — as is– in His Plan of Happiness.

  8. seekingtounderstand
    July 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I am a life-long member of the church – very active and I have a strong testimony of many, many principles of the restored gospel. I am a little confused as to why Hannah feels all the fear, anger, and angst. If the Spirit has confirmed to you that your dad and his partner are living a life that is good, then you are in a wonderful place to be able to just move forward, in love and embrace fully your dad, his partner and their life together. Just because others in our faith have not had that confirmation of the Spirit in their lives, why would that make you angry? There are many, many things I have spiritual confirmation of that others, even in my faith, do not. Things like having it confirmed to me that some of the doctrines, as they are taught, are not exactly spot-on (like the way many in the church view homosexuality), and that we need to ask in faith, and we will learn more about the truth of it, and it will become more clear as more revelation is given. More revelation is given as more and more saints (and others of course) open their hearts, are humble, and request of the Lord an understanding. I am watching this process happen to myself and many around me, and it is such a wonderful, peaceful experience as the Spirit bears witness that personal revelation is such an amazing gift that will teach us the truth of all things. But there is no reason to be angry. Just feel sorry for those who are not yet on this journey with us – even if they are church leaders in your local congregation or stake. They are all on a learning path, and you will be able to help them move further down the road if you exemplify and focus on the peace and joy that your understanding has brought to you. That will be most persuasive, I believe. Thanks for the post!

  9. Hannah
    July 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings about my post. I appreciate the support and feedback:)

    Anonymous- Your words echo so many of the thoughts I have…

    Em- I grew up in Utah and the Stake President I dealt with before I got married was in Utah as well. I now live in Canada, and though it is a much more diverse place, there are still many members in my area with much of the same attitude and culture that exists that I was surrounded by in Utah. It is hopeful to hear that there are out gay members in your ward and they are accepted and loved, I hope that attitude continues to spread throughout the church. Though it is still sad to me that these people cannot “live” who they are and still be treated the same way in most cases.

    seekingtounderstand- I guess my testimony is not in as a secure place as yours is, I wish I could not have my faith in the church shaken. For whatever reasons that are personal and unique to my situation, I find my testimony of the church itself being questioned as I keep facing incongruences in it’s teachings. I wish that weren’t so, that I could have such a strong faith in certain principles that the church teaches that I could still have complete faith in the church itself despite knowing that some of things it teaches are wrong. But, again, for whatever reason, I just can’t.

    I don’t feel angry because other people have not had “spiritual confirmation” that I have had. I feel angry because I feel as though the teachings of the church have hurt those that I love and have caused pain and heartache in my life. Again, I wish I wasn’t angry. I am trying every day to let the anger go and forgive, focus on constantly softening my heart and just allowing it to be broken. Because it is.

    I feel confused because the LDS church teaches that it is THE true church. That the voice of the prophets is the same as the voice of God, and what the prophets are teaching and allowing to happen in the church is wrong, in my opinion.

    Again, I wish that I did not feel these negative emotions. I wish that I could be above them, and only feel peace in my life. But this post comes from a very real, raw, and hurting place in my heart. It is what it is.

    Though I agree with you that I need to continue to focus on what joy and peace IS in my life, and do my best to let go of the negativity.

  10. christer1979
    July 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Sister. Thank you. Thank you sister, for letting me know I’m not alone in trying to encourage love and wanting to do the right thing and wondering the entire time why so many people insist those are conflicting goals. For whatever small amount it’s worth, if I were in your ward, I would greet you each Sunday with a hug and want nothing more than to join you in your radiant messy human questioning and questing for more love and more truth. Please don’t give up on either venture–I won’t give up either.

  11. Alder
    July 2, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    I know your pain and dissonance personally. Ultimately, I had no other choice that held integrity for me than to resign my membership over the policies and doctrines that spurred political activism against the LGBTQ community. They are my friends. Little did I know that a year after leaving, and in my quest for support as my family of origin struggled to be kind to me in the face of my decision, I met an amazing Transgender also ex-mormon man. I am so lucky to have him in my life as my legal husband. Unfortunately some of my family refuses, because of the doctrines of the LDS church, recognize our legal marriage or his transition, that happened long before we met. Because of what they have been taught, and despite of our gushing happiness, they cannot reconcile our relationship as anything other than “Immoral” and “lesbian” and we are not allowed to stay at their homes when we visit from out of town, nor will they visit our home. In the name of all that is sacred, it breaks my heart to see this issue and the doctrines that surround it create such pain in families.

  12. John Merzweiller
    January 26, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I do not know you and can not first hand know your life. However, have you considered that you seek the Mormon religion because in a way it brings an escape from the life you had before it. You say that your parents are divorced, your father gay. And there were likely other issues going on that put you in a place that you were not happy. It is not uncommon for people put into a situation I’m describing to then seek out religion and community for something to lean on whether that be a person or belief.

    Why do I have any reason to write any of this? Because the way I view things and life and my standard is that I will only do something if I know it’s a good thing and it is true. And by that I mean that I won’t be part of something if there’s deception that’s part of it or similar to that. This would sound like the talk of someone of some religion, but really I don’t believe in any religion. I do believe something created the universe and all that exists. But I do not believe it was any of man’s (manmade) religions.

    Now this is the part of my comment that’s going to cry of anti-mormon. I’m only bringing up these points because maybe you could make that life changing decision to leave what you likely found once brought you hope and happiness.
    You speak of ignorance, but there are many ignorant mormons of the real truth of the religion. Ignorant in either they don’t know of it, or they don’t believe it, or they simply disregard it. Those that disregard it are simply saying to the world that “well, I don’t really believe the religion but I like the values and the lifestyle”. However, anyone in the Mormon religion knows just how much you really are supposed to believe it all. Wholeheartedly.

    In the end, Mormonism captures so many minds because of the way it is brought on to people. It’s extremely enticing to those seeking “the good life” when they need a guide, but once you become a Mormon, so much of your life is spent learning about it, praying, and just existing in the society of other Mormons <—-and I do consider it a society because the church regiments the social gatherings and stuff which thus creates a society through it all. This all boils down to simple psychology. A person that is surrounded by something more and more, to the effect that both it internalizes in the mind, and then you gain these social connections with other people(this you speak of that you do not want to leave the happiness of the church…because if you leave the church, then who do you have? you would leave so many people behind? you would feel shame from them?).

    In a way I experienced this myself and personally witnessed it in others. And all it took for me was when I went on a Christian retreat back in middle school. In a way, I felt like I had "experienced God". However, looking back on that now I feel stupid about it, and frankly immature. Granted at the time, I knew I was half lying to myself. But I can only imagine how easily one of the Mormon religion feels these moments with God granted the amount of time dedicated to the religion. Think about what going on a mission will do to most people. Half the people I've talked to who went on a mission had said they were sort of halfhearted believers, but going on the mission changed them. Well of course it did. If spending all your time almost alone and dedicated to one purpose for a couple years doens't change your view of what you know and believe then I'd be kind of surprised.

    This is all very personal to me because my sister had become a Mormon a few years ago. I personally feel she did so, because she's quite the introvert(like myself) and during college, she experienced a breakup and fell into a hard depression. Classes and school didnt go well, when she was a honor roll type of student. The only people she had previously been close too were my cousins, who are mormon. She of course really like the family vibe coming from them and as such she very soon became a Mormon after all of this happened. I think she knows it too that she did it to feel happy with life. Then as a means to feel like she had done her dues for the church, she went on a mission for the last couple years. Of course she came back a very strong believer.

    The other thing that bothers me is whats socially acceptable in the church. There was this guy mormon who had wrote her the entire time she was on the mission. He wanted to meet her at the airport….She said, "No id just like to see my family first please". He showed up anyway… I hadn't really met him but when he finally did, he of course spent several days trying very hard the way a lot of Mormons will do to warm up to me and learn some of my interests and then to try to invite me as well into the mormon religion. The things that bother me are when I'm around him and the other mormons at some social gathering, and my sister is not there. They would often ask him (not knowing who I am yet) "Are you getting married soon?". In a way that's gossiping, it also bothered me how casual they were of asking about it, yet I could see his awkwardness about answering it because he could tell that this was strange behavior for humans to be doing and it didn't help I was there either.

    But it's fairly clear at this point that I'm pretty openly against the church. I realize now in writing this that it's my sister I need to talk to about this if I really care about her.

    Of course though, it's up to everyone to choose their lives. But remember the world sometimes tries to choose for you. Hint hint :(

    I know that becoming Mormon might make me feel more accepted and sociable, but my problem is the entire time I would feel it was a fake blanket of security and that I was living a lie. After a while I'd either start to feel I was just a sheep blending in, or I might become the type to take advantage of the fact that people are so manipulated to their beliefs.

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