Seeing Through My Tears

I live about two hours from the Los Angeles Temple.  Recently, I made my first trek there since my son came out gay about almost three years ago.  I have always instinctively kept my temple recommend active and remained worthy of it, but I have not been able to motivate myself to make the trip. My wife has gone three times for sealings of friends and family, but each time was a devastatingly hard journey for her.  Perhaps I feared it would be likewise for me, so unconsciously I stayed away.

I am sure there are those who see our lack of temple attendance as confirmation of ‘not following the Prophet’ or falling away from the Church.  I will admit that I have endured a crisis of conscience and struggle with my faith.  I feel a cognitive dissonance with some current teachings of the Church and struggle to reconcile some things in Church history.  But I still find strength choosing the Church in its imperfections.  If the gospel can make use of imperfect people to further God’s purpose, then perhaps he can make use of me as well.

The event that brought my wife and me to the temple was a family member going through the temple for the first time.  As circumstances would have it, Wendy was already in LA speaking at an LGBT continuing education conference for teachers and school counselors (EDGY).  So I drove down by myself.  As I listened to a mix of songs that inspire me, I heard ‘He’s My Son’ sung by Dallyn Vail Bayles (originally by Mark Schultz).

He’s My Son –

I’m down on my knees again tonight,
I’m hoppin’ this prayer will turn out right.
See, there is a boy that needs Your help.
I’ve done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired,
I’m sure You can understand.
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand,
And she tries
Not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow.
See, he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep,
I dream of the boy he’d like to be.
I try to be strong and see him through,
But God, who he needs right now is You.
Let him grow old,
Live life without this fear.
What would I be
Living without him here?
He’s so tired,
And he’s scared
Let him know that You’re there.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place some how.
See, he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow.
See, he’s not just anyone.

Can You hear me?
Can You see him?
Please don’t leave him,
He’s my son.

Ah, the agony and pain I felt as a father praying for his son and family.  I could not hold back the torrent of tears.  Not two days earlier, I heard that a friend of mine’s son had died from suicide. His son was gay and had faced many of the same challenges my son currently experiences. Hearing the statistics that there is a gay suicide every week in Utah is hard and sad; but to know that individual and to have a face to the name is devastating.

My mind drifted back to my mission. I served in Washington DC in 1991 and my first area was in Southeast DC.  There were 482 homicides in Washington DC in 1991 which led the nation in homicides per capita. As missionaries in that tiny 10 square mile area, we truly felt like we literally couldn’t teach the gospel fast enough to save lives.  Society was broken.  There were few fathers in the homes. Our little branch had a handful of men reinforced by a half dozen missionaries. A few months previous to my arrival, a young black (male) convert had been stabbed to death by his ex-wife’s boyfriend as he had tried to get his daughter to come to Church.  The tragedy only reinforced the urgency we felt.

Not since my mission have I felt the urgency and necessity to affect change to save lives.  But now that change needs to happen within my own faith.  On it reads, “There is no change in the Church’s position of what is morally right. But what is changing–and what NEEDS TO CHANGE (emphasis added)–is <how> Church members respond…when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere.”

How many gay youth need to die while their parents cry out ‘Can You hear me? Am I getting through tonight? Can You see him? Can You make him feel all right?’

All this was swirling in my mind as I arrived at the temple.  With mixed success I composed myself enough to go in.  The endowment experience was much as I remembered, but I was changed.  Never have I approached the throne of God with more of a broken heart.  Not necessarily for my own sins (which has happened), but for the pain of the world.  The pain in my family.  The pain and loss I felt for my friends and the loss of their gay son.  The pain and trial of every parent of gay children striving within the largely anti-gay LDS culture today.

I had never entered the temple more personally aware of my own suffering and the suffering of those around me. As I sat down just before it began, I noticed to my annoyance that my glasses were not clean. As I took them off and examined them, I saw that in my haste to compose myself, I hadn’t noticed the spray of now dried tears on my glasses from my drive down. So I watched the endowment ceremony for the first time through my own tears.

As I watched, a passage from Moses 7 of the Pearl of Great Price came to mind.  In it, God has a conversation with Enoch.

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the Mountains?

29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency.

33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.

What I wouldn’t give to see the passion and tears of God portrayed in the endowment film!  It speaks to an element that I had not considered in my previous experience in the temple.  We are often focused on the symbolism and story of the endowment. This time there was something more.  As I looked through my own tears, I realized some messages that I had never considered specifically relating to our LGBT brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

  • With the extent of the planning and pre-planning and execution of the creation, there is no way that our Heavenly Father is not aware of the experience and significant number of his LGBT children. While we have no clear answer whether the origins of being gay are spiritual, genetic or environmental, the fact remains that our Heavenly Father knows many of His children would have this experience.
  • The paradox of being given conflicting commandments and being put in morally disadvantaged positions is part of our life experience. Life is from its conception not fair.  The childlike and innocent Adam and Eve were placed in the garden knowing Satan at his fullest capacity and influence would be free to try them. God’s purpose is an environment for the full exercise of our agency (Not to execute a protective Plan of Happiness).  As such, He created conditions that limit his power and influence while freeing us.  And He weeps because of it.
  • From the beginning, Heavenly Father new the price for this plan would be the sacrifice of His only begotten son (Plan of Salvation). Every piece of symbolism in the temple points to this.  Sometimes we get caught up in believing that our own obedience and/or covenants will in some way qualify us to return to Heavenly Father. But there is no personal sacrifice, level of obedience or covenant that will bring us back to God save Jesus Christ dying for us.  And our Heavenly Father would need to endure the words, “My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?” from his only perfect son.  And He would weep.
  • There is no solace in a plan which only has to offer the consolation that you will be fixed after you die. This is the death of hope.  If we can’t give direction, love and hope in this life, we have failed to understand God’s purpose for our LGBT brethren.  Let’s be clear about what we know, and equally clear about what we do not.
  • For many the temple provides a road map back to our loving Heavenly Parents. And yet, very few will take out their own endowment while they yet live.  How is this fair or just?  This brings us back to the instructive narrative of the endowment: no facet of this life is presented as fair.  As if to reinforce this idea, my brave, understanding and supportive Uncle Bill sat in the temple lobby just as celebratory as anyone else (Uncle Bill is not a member.)  He was an important reminder to me of significantly good men in the world who are just as worthy and important to God.

The purpose I saw through my own tears is for us to take on Heavenly Father’s own work and weep with him.  To feel the urgency He feels to make the lives of our families, friends, acquaintances and every son and daughter of God with whom we meet better.  The endowment reveals enough of the plan to encourage us to take our own role in this story.

I think this is why we take out our personal endowment just before a mission or marriage.  We are encouraged, empowered and shown the urgency of God’s own work.  Our own introspection should be toward what role can we can play in this grand scheme of life?  How can we ease the suffering of ALL of our brothers and sisters?

The temple did not answer my questions regarding the place of my gay son or the larger LGBT community in the Church.  It did give me assurance that He knows the plight of all His children.  It fanned the flame of urgency I feel that significant change needs to occur within the hearts of members and leaders in the Church, so that we can better know and serve our LGBT brothers and sisters.  They are part of the family of God and He has not forgotten them.  The Savior’s sacrifice is inclusive of them and we should be also.


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