By Matthew Greene (originally posted on his blog matthewonbeingmormon.blogspot.com)
I was twenty-three years old the first time I let myself tell a girl I loved her. I fumbled around for a bit, talked in circles, and generally made a complete idiot of myself but eventually admitted to the young lady in the passenger seat that my feelings for her were strong enough to justify those three scary words.
What I didn’t tell her at the time was how changed I was, how profoundly different I had become as a result of letting myself love someone that much. Sure, it didn’t hurt that she was beautiful and we were at the outset of an exciting romance. But I’d been with plenty of girls under those circumstances and had never felt the urge to use the l-word before.
The difference, of course, was this l-word itself. It wasn’t that I was “into” her, or that I had “fallen” for her. The admission, as we sat gazing at the stars through my sunroof that Sunday night, was that I felt something powerful toward another human being, something the likes of which I’d never felt before, something that made me feel vulnerable and helpless, but at the same time magnificently enhanced.
I don’t think there is a greater testament to the existence of a Higher Power than the individual’s capacity to love. Love transcends ordinary experience. It doesn’t make evolutionary sense, doesn’t seem motivated by any biological instinct. I don’t mean to sound “creationist” but Love exists on a higher plane than we can readily understand. It’s divinity for dummies, godliness in bite-sized pieces given to strengthen us and bring us closer to the God who exemplifies perfect Love in all its glory.
That’s what I believe. That’s what I was coming to learn a few years ago when I let myself love. This beatific emotional breakthrough transformed me from an infatuated college student into a being capable of feeling what God feels. It made me better, not just in that relationship but in every aspect of my life. I tapped into a grand transcendent source of light and was able, for a little while, to let that light infuse my whole being.
Time would pass, this relationship would end (twice), and we would both move on. I don’t harbor any of the romance or the deep emotional connection I once felt for this girl, but I will always be grateful for the lesson I learned from my first real experience with Love of that magnitude. It’s a lesson I’ve been contemplating a lot lately.
I’ve hesitated to add to the chorus of voices speaking about marriage equality over the last few days, if for no other reason than a desire not to become white noise in the ongoing debate. I’m privy to a lot of strong opinions on either side of the issue and I can see how deeply felt it is on both sides. Where this issue is concerned, I’m certainly more liberal than your average Mormon, but I don’t want to get into the nuts and bolts of my personal politics at the moment. I want to talk about Love.
The long and the short of my message is this: Love makes us better. It’s my deeply-held spiritual belief that we are eternal beings capable of eternal progression as we continually strive to improve (read: become more loving). A scripture in the Book of Mormon says that “the pure love of Christ…endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni: 7:47).
I’m not in a position to force anyone to change his or her social/political views. I’m not even advocating for any particular political course of action; it’s not my place to do so. I only want to say to my fellow Mormons that it is unfair, dishonest, and (dare I say) blasphemous to discount the Love that LGBT individuals feel for each other. Yes, that’s Love-with-a-capitol-L because I don’t think there are distinctions, categories, or types of Love. The God I know hasn’t branded his Essence differently for those of varying sexual orientations. And whenever a human being makes the choice to cultivate divine feelings for another human being, to give selflessly, to value unconditionally, to care for, to honor, to love…that human being grows closer to God. Regardless of the circumstances. Regardless of other choices being made. Regardless of laws, traditions, or ideals one might believe in. Loving always always ALWAYS makes us better.
And so here we are, embroiled once again in the debate over marriage equality. Many members of my church will come down in opposition to gay marriage and maybe will have their reasons. Maybe you believe certain sexual practices are taboo, maybe you believe a family should be defined in a traditional way, maybe you believe children should be raised by parents of both genders. But please please PLEASE start to consider the fact that the same ideals of compassion, trust, affection, and selflessness you strive for in your own families can be found in abundance in many relationships you may be quick to dismiss as immoral.
I don’t presume to tell anyone what they need to believe but I do feel compelled to share this truth: we all believe in Love. It may be the one commonality we all share. And I wonder what it would do to this ongoing debate if we were able to acknowledge that fact.
Three years ago I fell in love and it made me a better man. That love didn’t lead to marriage or baby-in-the-baby-carriage. But it was Love. I’d probably be better off if I fell in love more often or more deeply when I did. We probably all would.
Matthew Greene is a playwright from Sacramento, CA who currently lives in New York City. He received his Bachelor’s from BYU in 2010. His latest play ‘Adam and Steve and the Empty Sea,’ touching on issues of religion and marriage equality, received its world premier at Plan B Theatre in Salt Lake City earlier this year.