In a comment on another thread, Robert asked a question that I wanted to respond to. As I started thinking about a response, however, the subject seemed to warrant it’s own post. It’s a theme that I’ve been chewing in my mind for some time.
Stating that he perceives my “calling to be alone, celibate and dedicated to God in your Church”—something that he is “certain you have arrived at…through prayer and meditation”—Robert then asks: “Do you believe that every gay person should be subject to this calling, even if it brings profound unhappiness? Is there no choice in the matter?”
I think this is a fair question. The following is my poor attempt at an answer, as I understood the question.
First, I want to clarify what I understand my “calling” to be. At one point when I was wresting to understand my place in the Church, discouraged about the prospect of fulfilling marriage and a “normal” life in the LDS community, I had a clear and powerful spiritual communication that whether I married in this life or the next was less important, and that I was simply to live my life in commitment to gospel/Church teachings, taking things one day at a time. As I recommitted myself to the gospel, I did so with the expectation that I would NOT marry in this life and that I would live a life of celibacy. I felt a huge relief, especially given that I was still attending a student ward in Provo at the time and the barrage of marriage and dating talks proved to be more than a little discouraging. But, as I became ever more determined that I would not marry in this life, I was one day rebuked by the Spirit. It was communicated to me that if I were to have genuine faith in the Lord, it was not my decision to make that I would not marry in this life. Rather, I was to actively prepare myself spiritually and emotionally for the opportunity of marriage, seeking to follow the will of the Lord daily in my life, and then to trust in Him that I would be blessed with that opportunity “according to the Lord’s own will and pleasure” (Mosiah 7:33)—again, whether that be in this life or the next.
Any time I have ever spoken on this issue, I have never stated that I’m striving to live as a “celibate gay.” Those are ideas that are projected onto me. As a matter of sincere faith in the Lord, trusting that He knows me better than I know myself and will lead me aright, I firmly reject the idea that commitment to gospel teachings is to be equated with living a lonely, celibate, monastic-like life. I certainly experience times that are lonely—I would suggest that even all married or coupled people do—but I have no concept that those times are any more or less than anyone else who is human. All in all, I feel my life is extremely rich and blessed, and I feel deeply grateful for the connection and intimacy I experience on multiple levels with many other men and women, family and friends. “Lonely” or “celibate” is in no way how I view or experience my reality. Sexual abstinence until I marry is obviously a commitment, but even if marriage happens to be in the next life, I don’t view my choice as “celibacy” in the same way as those who would sensationalize the Church’s strictures on sexual behavior to make it seem as though same-sex attracted men and women are being unfairly and cruelly deprived of all that brings true joy and fulfillment.
Second, and concerning the heart of this post, do I believe that every “gay” person should be subject to this “calling,” even if it brings profound unhappiness, and that there is no choice in the matter?
No. Partly because I don’t believe anyone is “subject” to anything except unchanging, eternal law—and partly because there is always choice. We are agentic creatures, and I’m gaining a deeper appreciation for the truth that not only do we have power to choose our behaviors, but also to choose our attitudes in any given situation, including our happiness. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl writes,
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of?human freedoms?to choose one?s attitude in any given set of circumstances, [and] to choose one?s own way [of life]” (p. 104)
My belief is that the Church of Jesus Christ has one concern: to witness of eternal realities and celestial possibilities and to invite the children of God to come unto Christ and to partake of those realities and possibilities—specifically, the truth that it is God’s work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39). If people do not want to strive toward a celestial light and life, then they need have no concern for Mormonism. Period. The Church’s responsibility/mission, as I understand it, is to teach what *is* concerning pre- and post-earth cosmology, and to teach and prepare those who desire to live according to celestial law—with particular emphasis on preparing God’s children who desire to realize the exalted fullness of that law.
Apostle John A. Widtsoe wrote the following:
Now the concern of the Church is to bring all men into the celestial kingdom. It has no interest in the other, lower kingdoms. Every doctrine, principle, and item of organization within the Church pertains to the celestial glory. The manner of entrance into this the highest kingdom, is therefore made clear. Any person who wishes to enter it must have faith and repent from his sins. Then he must be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by one who has divine authority to perform such ordinances. There are principles and ordinances which in their entirety belong peculiarly to the higher kingdom.
After having laid the foundation for his claim to celestial membership and association, he must, to receive all available blessings of this kingdom, comply with the many requirements of life within the Church. He belongs to “those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind should take the opposite course.” All this having been done, he is qualified to enter the celestial kingdom. Indeed, he is then, even on earth, in the celestial kingdom of God” (Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 200-01).
So, again, should everyone be “subject” to this calling? No. But it is the eternal offering to all those who desire it—who are willing to exercise the faith necessary to live for it. For those who don’t desire it, there will be kingdoms and glories equal to the light and law they are willing to live according to—be it the honorable and noble of the terrestrial or the base of the telestial. I can only assume there will plenty of “gays” and “straights” in both, though the men and women of these glories will no longer be “gays” or “straights,” but “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (D&C 132:17).
I’m not convinced that those in same-sex relationships who seek to live decent honest lives, but who have little or no interest in living according to a celestial law, will be any different in the next world than those of opposite-sex relationships who are the same. The honorable men and women of the earth, those who receive “the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father,” and those who are not valiant in their testimonies of Jesus (see D&C 76:75-79), these will all receive a lesser glory in the afterlife, according to the light they are willing to live according to. President Brigham Young taught,
“The kingdoms that God has prepared are innumerable. Each and every intelligent being will be judged according to the deeds done in the body, according to his works, faith, desires, and honesty or dishonesty before God; every trait of his character will receive its just merit or demerit, and he will be judged according to the law of heaven as revealed; and God has prepared places suited to every class? How many kingdoms there are has not been told to us: they are innumerable. The disciples of Jesus were to dwell with him. Where will the rest go? Into kingdoms prepared for them, where they will live and endure” (JD, 8:154).
For those who come unto Christ and who are no longer under Christ but who receive with Him all that the Father hath—who are declared to be “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him” (Romans 8:17)—the gateway covenants and ordinances are those associated with eternal marriage. It is only through this gate that men and women can reach their ultimate eternal potential. It is here that men and women become gods. Elder Erastus Snow taught that
“there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way. I have another description: There never was a God, and there never will be in all eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female” (JD, 19:270-71).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds the divine commission to teach these eternal truths and to invite men and women to come unto Christ so they can become efficacious in their lives. But that realization must be strictly according to the agency of the individuals involved. As the hymn goes,
Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be,
For this eternal truth is given
That God will force no man to heav’n.
He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
(“Know This, That Every Soul Is Free” Hymns, no. 90.)
Again, one last time, do I believe that every “gay” person should be subject to this calling, even if it brings profound unhappiness, and that there no choice in the matter? Absolutely not. Not if they don’t desire it. To recognize an eternal law and degree of light and truth and to state that one does not want that, or isn’t willing to pursue it because they do not believe they will find happiness there, is one thing. Counter-claims concerning ideas about truth as relative and that one man’s truth is just as good as the next is something I flatly reject. To say, “That may be true, but I do not want it” is one thing, and entirely valid. To say, “That isn’t true,” or “It may be true for you but not for me,” is something else.
We can only seek to know the Truth, and then own our desires to receive or reject that Truth.