A Hand to Hold

This blog post is an attempt to write about something that I keep rather private. It’s an attempt to write about something that is sacred to me. It’s an attempt (I hope the first of many attempts) to write openly about my spirituality and my sexuality.

On Sunday, I went to see a production of Lamb of God. This choir performance sings about the last week of the life of Christ. I attended at a local building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I came away with a lot of feelings.

I sat next to two separate couples. Halfway through the performance, the couples held hands and rested heads upon shoulders. It was intimate and close. Those people had another human who, for that moment in time, was theirs. Those humans had a connection to them that I have rarely, if ever, experienced; within a social setting, they were able to claim and be claimed at the same time. In this world of solitude, they had someone else who they could physically, emotionally, and romantically connect with.

Simply put, they had a hand to hold.

For a gay man in the LDS church, this is not a possibility at all. I’ve been told many times that it is possible to be gay and Mormon. Honestly, I do not see that possibility when one of my deepest desires is to have the connections of those couples that surround me in the church—to have a hand to hold while walking down Main Street or worshipping God. Having an intimate, romantic, physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual connection with someone of the same sex is forbidden in the church. Sure, someone in that type of relationship can attend church and be a part of the community (All Visitors Welcome, right?), but they are excommunicated from the spirituality the church and the gospel it teaches provides. As a man initiated in the priesthood, I am shamed for rejecting my eternal calling of being sealed to a woman and leading an eternal home in righteousness, even though if I were humble and obedient to the Lord and bowed the knee and got married to a woman, I would be destroying that woman’s mortal and eternal life.

The most difficult thing about having been raised Mormon and being gay is that two of the most intimate parts of my life—my spirituality and my sexuality—are put at odds. I want what the church gives: the direction, the purpose, the community, the doctrine. I love the church; I grew up with it and dedicated many years of my life to it. It helped me through dark times and helped me survive an emotionally and psychologically abusive childhood without taking my own life. It’s done great things for me, and I love it and I’m grateful for it. My problem comes when my love of it is equal to the desire for a hand to hold; I want that someone to call my someone and for me to be considered his. But I also want the church and the gospel.

That’s the struggle “Mormon and gay” forces upon people who have grown up in and loved the church, yet find themselves attracted to the same sex. They want both, but one of the two says they do not want them.

Yes, most members are kind and willing to step up and show love. But, institutionally the church rejects its members who want to be accepted in the church community. I cannot sit in a sacrament meeting with the man that I am dating and hold his hand like heterosexual members can with their significant other. I’m sure that many people would be fine with me coming to church with a same-sex partner, but the institution is not comfortable with it, thereby making it a very uncomfortable reality—for what I love and want in this life, I have to give up this other part of my life. For that hand to hold, I have to give up Christ’s hand as provided through the LDS church. And that’s the hardest decision I think I’ll ever make in my life (for the record, I have not made a decision either way).

It’s the reality I face every time I come close to the church—like this past Sunday, when I attended the performance of Lamb of God. I want the feelings that come with the church—the peace from the teachings, the encouragement toward goodness, the community of people who care—but I can’t get past the fact that if I have that, I will never have a hand to hold. As it stands, there is not a place for both. And it hurts, more deeply than you can ever know.