A Seat at the Table

Mormon Family Dinner
Mormon Family Dinner (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Perhaps you have heard the story in church somewhere. It’s about an eternal family in the afterlife. They are at a dinner table with all of the fancy furnishings, the best decorations, and the most delicious food imaginable. Unfortunately, there is an empty seat at the table—a reminder of that family member that did not persevere to the end and earn the same eternal reward the rest of the family enjoys.

I don’t know about you, but I have overheard loved ones discussing this story quietly, and it hurts deeply knowing they consider me the family member that would be missing from that dinner-table seat. I may be kind, generous, and charitable, but I am not worthy of the highest of eternal prizes.

I am a single man, and as church policy currently stands, I will remain a single man until I die. To most casual observers, I am disobeying a big commandment to marry and start a family. It’s a requirement for the highest eternal glory. Many wonder about my “misplaced priorities” and urge me to hurry up and find a nice woman to marry. I tried that for nearly twenty years. I dated, I served faithfully in many leadership callings, and I prayed day and night to find a woman that would fix me. Any emotional connection I was able to make with a woman, however, was similar to how I love my sisters, and I felt my attraction to men grow more intense

I am not allowed at the table because I am a single man.

You see, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that it is my own fault that I am still single. Many well-meaning people have pointed out the wonderful single women who would be an amazing wife and mother. I agree that most of them would, but I also believe they deserve husbands that would love them in a way I am incapable of loving. I gave up on the singles wards several years ago because the intent is to lead every single woman and man in the congregations into the eternal bonds of matrimony. That wasn’t going to happen for me, so I switched to a traditional family ward, where I sit alone in the back of the chapel.

Even though I try to obey all of the commandments to the best of my ability, there is no place for a single gay man at the dinner table.

I want to find an eternal companion just like most members of the church. My wishes, however, would be to find a loving, kind man with whom I could share my life. These desires are selfish according to many faithful saints; such choices will only lead to a life of suffering and unhappiness. A life with a man I love, though, sounds more fulfilling than the life I currently lead coming home to an empty house.

f I choose the path of spending my life with a man I love, I will not be welcome at the table, because I am a sinner and turned away from God.

I don’t know the answers to this dilemma that thousands of men and women in our faith face. It seems as though, according to current teachings, that any of the choices we have to make all lead to dead ends. Do I sacrifice happiness now for an eternal happiness that I can’t possibly earn? Does the atonement of Jesus Christ make up for the requirements that I lack in this life? Where are the answers?

 

I would love to know what others think. Please feel free to respond and share how you have reconciled these conflicting issues. I will open up the comments for others to read.

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A Life Alone?

Lonely Man
Lonely Man (Photo credit: svenwerk)

I haven’t written anything for this blog in quite a while. I guess it’s because I needed to take  a vacation from the topic and spend some time focusing on renewing my emotional and spiritual health. Since I started sharing my story, I have received many comments from readers. In the beginning, the comments were positive encouragement to keep writing. The later posts, however, attracted too many negative comments condemning me, calling me an apostate, and telling me I was going to hell because I was attempting to lead others down that fiery path.

Up until I started writing these stories, my friends and family always complained about how little I shared about my own life. They wanted to know more about my interests and if there was anyone special in my life. I always kept pretty quiet because I was afraid to find out how they would react if they found out my dirty secrets. This fear has kept me from developing any deep and lasting friendships. I think I was conditioned to believe that I was meant to suffer my affliction on my own.

I know I am not alone, and there are many members of the church who have suffered the same isolation and loneliness. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to suffer in silence, and we are made to believe we are broken. If we seek out others who can empathize, we run the risk of falling prey to the false doctrines of men. The sad truth is the church doesn’t have any real solutions or support groups set up for us, so if we want to remain faithful members, we are pretty much on our own.

When we become honest about who we are, we are then judged on a different level of expectations than any other member of the church. If you don’t think we are judged harshly, just browse the readers’ comments on any Deseret News article about homosexual issues. We haven’t prayed hard enough. We suddenly become a threat to the children and youth of the church. We become the weird guy who doesn’t talk with anyone and sits alone in the back of the chapel.

We are looked at as less faithful than the rest of the congregation. We aren’t invited to talk or pray, and our neighbors now avoid us before and after the meetings. Countless personal prayers have been said to lift this burden that we carry, but too often we don’t realize that the only way the burden will be lifted is when we share who we are with others. We need that support group that doesn’t officially exist in the formal LDS organization, so many of us still live solitary, lonely lives.

Letting others know—especially those faithful LDS family and ward members—about our homosexuality is a horrible demon to face alone. We run the risk of losing the most important people in our lives. Personally, I have lost contact with my dearest friends because they can’t deal with my honesty. Forget that I have done my best to live true to those same principals I have been taught my entire life, I am now a sinner because I am attracted to other men. Once we experience the rejection, who do we have to lift us up?

I have had enough time away from this blog to clear my mind and renew my spirit. Perhaps it’s because I have have been blesses this past month to reconnect with some old friends who have also been through similar experiences. While some faithful members of the LDS church may not agree, I believe those people were brought back into my life because my Heavenly Father wanted to remind me that I am not alone, that I am loved just as I am, and that he is concerned about my happiness.