Saturday, January 11, 2014

stepping into light

It's fascinating to live in a time when I feel a very important part of history is unfolding.  Not knowing where it will end up, but perhaps having a vague sense.  The unexpected twists and turns that in the moment are assumed to be more telling and final than they probably will actually end up being.  The twists and turns that aren't given all that much attention or importance that will probably end up being pivotal and historic in hindsight.  

Sometimes I lose patience because what's unfolding, being hotly debated in courthouses, and statehouses and churches is such an intimate and powerful part of who I am.  It’s what has opened me up to living, loving and to feeling a sense of the power and mystery of the Divine.  Accepting it and listening to what it has to say about who I am has shifted life from drab gray to color.  I feel more love, compassion and understanding for others, even if I’m not always good at outwardly expressing it or often let the aforementioned lack of patience color it in ways that can serve to diminish it.  My heart more easily breaks open though to give and receive love. 

These days it seems that rather than being a very obvious heavenly transmission of specific information, revelation starts more as a vague sense of a thing.  Reactions follow based on that vague sense, with adjustments along the way, until gradually something beautiful emerges from dark into light.  That initial thought or impression might be headed towards something holy, but has to be gradually and patiently coaxed from the shadows so that it’s full shape, texture and color can eventually be seen.  As it slowly emerges, the temptation is to jump to conclusions after seeing only part of or one side of the truth in half light. If then stubbornly held to, these premature conclusions can pause or slow the emergence of the full and complete truth, leaving broad swaths of people feeling orphaned by the plan proposed to save them.

I wanted to have the family that was prescribed for me.  I wanted my life to unfold in the way I thought it would and that everyone around me expected it to.  It didn’t though, and it couldn’t.  As heartbreaking as it can be to have my hopes and dreams unfulfilled, it’s helped me see that they were only ever the hopes and dreams of others.  It helped me see that although living towards those goals wasn’t necessarily bad, living towards them in the way that was expected of me was like living in half light.  Dating women left me ultimately feeling empty and numb, even if I enjoyed the friendships.  Looking back, I’m guessing the women I dated might report feeling a similar lack of something in the relationship. 

Coming to the realization that marrying a woman couldn’t happen for me is when I felt like a cosmic orphan.  But like I hinted at before, becoming that orphan is what opened me up to living in a way that felt more aligned with who I am.  It’s when my life started to emerge from the shadows and began to have resonance and rhythm and spirit.  That moment when it feels like you’ve lost everything can be the moment you realize you can create anything.  I began to realize that I could create a life and a family that could allow me to give and receive love and be challenged to learn and grow in ways that the life and family that was expected of me couldn’t.  It’s when I took a few more steps into light.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

acceptance that leads to freedom

I had a thought yesterday as I was doing accounting on a Friday afternoon. I think viewing homosexuality as a pathology that can be changed or managed or diminished can keep people trapped in other issues not necessarily related to homosexuality but that can result from not feeling accepted as a gay person (low self esteem, depression, body image issues, addiction, etc).
In some Facebook groups, a lot of guys will talk about these issues as though they result from having same sex attraction or like they are all part of the disorder of same sex attraction.
If you attach those side issues to your same sex attraction, I can see how it would be difficult to eventually work through them and arrive at a healthier place because the same sex attraction never goes away. It might ebb and flow, but it's always still there.
I feel like once I was able to accept my sexuality as a normal and God given part of me, it freed up emotional energy to work through all my other issues that I thought were all part of struggling with same sex attraction but were actually completely separate issues. Accepting my sexuality freed me from a whole lot of unnecessary struggling that was actually keeping me from doing real work that led to actual results and changes that made me happier and healthier and freed me from the demons of low self esteem, depression, addiction, etc.
This is exactly the opposite of what I thought would happen. I assumed accepting that part of me as something good and healthy and worthy of expression in healthy ways would enslave me. Instead, it ended up freeing me.

Monday, May 13, 2013

what i wished i'd said at a party

Last night I went to a birthday party. I could be wrong, but I think everyone there was Mormon and most attend a young single adult congregation that I used to attend. At some point early on, the conversation turned toward what had happened that day in Relief Society. (If you’re not Mormon, that’s the meeting at church where all the women gather for a lesson.) Apparently, the woman giving the lesson veered away from the assigned lesson which she didn’t feel comfortable teaching and which I think was about families (or maybe mothers since it was Mother’s Day). It sounded like she veered the lesson towards a discussion of ways one might feel offended at church and what to do about it. Judging by the discussion of the women at the party, it was not well received, at least not by them anyway. One woman said that she made the comment that if you feel offended at church, then it’s the influence of Satan. Several congratulated her on her comment and said she was spot on and they all (or least those who were vocal about it) seemed pretty dismissive of the teacher and the lesson she chose to give.

It was around about this point in the conversation that I tried to keep my head from spinning around in 360 degree circles on my neck with steam pouring out of my ears. A couple of caveats before I continue though. I realize that I was hearing this all second hand and that you are hearing it from me third hand (unless of course you were at the party and present for the lesson, which is entirely possible because I know some who were present might read this), so it’s entirely possible that I am completely misinterpreting what happened. However, there were some ideas expressed, that taken alone made my head spin.

Here’s the thing about Satan. If you say that someone feels or behaves a certain way because of Satan, it’s really hard not to take that as personally offensive. Also, Satan makes for a really great scape goat sometimes that prevents us from digging into ourselves in an effort to more fully understand our own emotions and behavior, or the emotions and behavior of others. Feeling offended at church or like you don’t belong? It’s Satan’s fault! Having a hard time breaking your porn habit? Blame Satan! Having a hard time forgiving the person who sexually assaulted you? Satan has a hold on you! Can you see how using Satan as a scapegoat is maybe simplifying things a little too much? Or how it might not be helpful or empowering to tell someone Satan has a hold on them when they are already feeling down or depressed or hurt?

Having grown up in the church and being gay, I can say that there are some pretty legitimate reasons to feel offended at church. Sure, we have some say in how long we carry that with us, but some hurt doesn’t just wash away overnight. It hasn’t been uncommon to hear the homosexuals blamed at church for the deterioration of the family and therefore society. It’s hard not to take that personally. Ernest Wilkinson said the following in an address to the entire student body of BYU in 1965:

Nor do we intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you has this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the University immediately after this assembly…we do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence.*

Again, it’s hard not to take that kind of stuff personally. Sure, you could say that was almost 50 years ago, get over it, but that attitude permeated Mormon culture and arguably still exists in some pockets. I don’t mean to make this post all about me and the issue that I care about and that affects me directly. I guess my point is, we all have our own issues that we’re sensitized to for whatever reasons and we all too often dismiss the issues that concern others.

I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is that just because I don’t have the same concerns as someone else, doesn’t make their concerns invalid or not worthy of my attention or consideration. Just because something doesn’t offend me, doesn’t mean it’s not offensive. Part of learning to mourn with those that mourn is having the patience and the curiosity to seek to understand another person’s pain, even (or especially) if it doesn’t immediately resonate with me.

*This address by Ernest Wilkinson is referenced in this keynote address given by Taylor Petrey at the 2012 Compassionate Cause Symposium at the University of Washington.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

painful progress

So I'm lying here in bed listening to this guy speak in 2000 from the Vermont house chamber about his experience of being an openly gay Vermont legislator when Vermont was debating a civil union bill.  This is part of what he said:

"There remains afoot in Vermont prejudice against gay men and lesbians. ... I have been called names in this chamber, in this building, the likes of which I have never experienced in my life — my personal life or my political life. And I've watched come true what I have always known to be true. That those who stand beside gay and lesbian people as their allies ... they get targeted, too...

"I've had members of my committee say, 'I couldn't sleep at night; I've had knots in my stomach.' I wouldn't have wished this on any of them."

Then I started thinking about how in spite of all the good progress that's been made in the church on the topic of homosexuality, I'm finding it hard at times to engage or celebrate the progress.  I think that in part it's because there are still lots of conditions in place and an air of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) condescension towards those who are gay.  Sure, before nobody even attempted to parse out the "sinner" from the "sin" in order to love the former and not the latter (a mantra I despise).  The "sinner" and the "sin" were wrapped up in one neat little package to loathe. I'm glad we've moved on to softening the language and being more inclusive.

The fact remains though, that there are conditions and condescension still in place that were born of that original disgust and disdain.  A disgust and disdain that led Ernest Wilkinson to say the following to the entire BYU student body in the 60's when he was president of BYU:

"We [at BYU] do not intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence."

And this is just one instance of countless.  And I guess that's why lately it feels hard for me to celebrate any progress.  Because I feel hints of that original disgust in all the conditions and condescension. The hateful things that have been said aren't far enough in the past to be able to separate them from the hesitancy that exists in the current outreach.  The calls for love and inclusivity ring hollow when the church is silent on the issue of the BSA ban on those who are LGBT, or silent on a statewide nondiscrimination bill in Utah, while at the same time being all too eager to jump to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court.

To be sure, the gradual shifts are welcome.  I think the pace of the shifting when considered with the history of outright disdain and disgust just reminds of how far we have yet to go.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

working out our own salvation together

The following is a post I did for Far Between.

I recently had the opportunity of describing my experience of being gay and Mormon in a stake leadership training meeting. My stake president has been wanting to change the atmosphere in our stake to be friendlier to gay and lesbian members, and as a step in that process he called this meeting and invited bishoprics, relief society presidents, young men’s and young women’s presidents as well as the heads of the corresponding stake auxiliaries and the high council. The first 20 minutes or so the stake president used the church’s new website to talk about what the church’s current doctrine and stance are on the topic and to also talk about the importance of reaching out with love to gay members.
The rest and majority of the meeting was a panel consisting of Josh Weed and his wife Lolly, Josh’s father, me and another gay man in the stake. We each introduced ourselves briefly and then opened it up to a Q & A with those in attendance.
The meeting went about as well as you could expect it to considering it was a stake leadership meeting and the topic was homosexuality. I’ve lived in the stake for almost 10 years and so there were lots of familiar faces in the meeting, some of whom already knew I was gay and others who probably didn’t. It felt good to talk openly about my reality in a church setting with some friendly and familiar faces. Part of what made it feel good is that I was there to contribute to the meeting in a significant way by sharing my experiences and answering questions and therefore having an influence on the messaging surrounding the topic at hand.
Typically when homosexuality has been addressed in my experiences with various church meetings, it has been straight priesthood leaders telling me how to live the gospel or what the experience of a same sex attracted member should be, and it’s often boiled down to a very simplistic “be faithful and it will all turn out in the end.” (Even though what feels like a fairly core aspect of myself seems to directly conflict with core aspects of the gospel.) These men mean well, but their counsel and advice has often felt like I imagine counsel and advice would sound from a man telling a room full of women what to expect when they’re expecting.
I guess a shorter way of saying that is that it felt good to be included in a way that gave me the opportunity to contribute to greater understanding of the group by sharing what my experience has been instead of having someone tell me what my experience is or should be. The former feels empowering and soul expanding; the latter feels incredibly frustrating and demeaning.
I’ve been fortunate in that I have a pretty great bishop and stake president. Both know that I am dating a man and neither one has directly tried to talk me out of the relationship. My stake president teaches the doctrine in general terms, and when it comes to me specifically he reaches out with love, admiration and encouragement. My bishop is genuinely curious and asks appropriate questions and listens a lot. He has told me my boyfriend is welcome to join me at church. A couple of Sundays before the stake leadership meeting, my bishop and stake president gave me a blessing. I won’t go into the specifics of what was said during and after the blessing, but it was pretty clear to me that my stake president has gone through his own conversion process on the topic. He’s really taken the time to humble himself and study and pray and listen and admit that he doesn’t have many answers, things that anyone wanting to approach this topic successfully will benefit from greatly.
The stake president has now started traveling to each individual ward in the stake to do a combined priesthood and relief society meeting during the third hour on homosexuality. There are also plans to do a youth fireside, although the details for that have yet to be worked out.
Now, lest I lead anyone to believe that I live in a stake that has gone rogue and celebrates homosexuality, let me assure you that is not the case. My stake president sticks very closely to the material on the church’s new website. If you’ve seen the church’s website, then you probably have a pretty good idea of what’s being said in the meetings in my stake. He uses a lot of the videos from the site. Some of you might think that’s just fantastic and some of you might be rolling your eyes.
I think it’s good that the messaging on the issue from the top on the website is moving away from condemnation and more towards inclusion, that family members shouldn’t be ostracized for making life choices we don’t agree with, that we should trust people in knowing what their feelings are, etc. I feel a little bit frustrated that most of the subtle changes in messaging can be boiled down to essentially a message of treat homosexuals like you would any loved one. I get a little bit frustrated thinking that that’s the progress we’ve made, that we’re just beginning to understand that the golden rule actually also applies to people who through no fault of their own feel and experience a very real and profound attraction to people of the same sex. They are baby steps, but those baby steps are progress and will hopefully pave the way for more progress, whatever that ends up looking like.
My other larger frustration is that we’re still not talking about what I believe are the most important questions. Reaching out with love will make a big difference and will be enough for some people, but there is still no clear and satisfying articulation of what role homosexuality plays in the plan of salvation, other than to say that it won’t exist in the hereafter, which is a convenient and comforting answer if you’re straight. If you’re gay, the answer can feel unsatisfactory and dismissive of the harsh and deeply felt realities of this apparent conflict. There’s still not much there to entice a person to invest heart, spirit and soul to sticking around and being patient with the church. As I said in a previous post, dangling eternal heterosexual marriage as incentive is like telling a child that if they behave, they’ll be rewarded with liver for dinner.
I believe there is much to be gained by exploring and mining this issue thoughtfully and carefully: greater understanding of the role and importance of gender and what attraction is and how our experience of it might inform what it means to be sealed together, what is family and what is its role in this life and the next. Without a clear articulation of some of these issues and how homosexuality fits into it all, many will still feel estranged from and rejected by a gospel that is meant to be inclusive of everyone, no matter how much outreach there might be.
The temptation for some is to say we have the truth and it’s up to those who feel at odds with the truth to conform. But how? Is it that all these subgroups that don’t fit perfectly into the plan need to find a way to conform or could it be that we don’t actually have all the truth there is to have on these matters? I wouldn’t claim to know for sure, but I do know that the quickest way to not find out is to not ask questions and to assume that since this is the way it’s been for many years that this is the way it’s supposed to be.
I applaud the increased outreach and understanding and love. Let’s continue with that. If there’s ever a question of how to approach a situation or a person, the answer should always be with love. Let’s also continue to ask the hard questions and explore and work out our own salvation together.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

going to church with my boyfriend

Last night, the choir I sing with put on a concert at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Portland (pictured above).  After the concert, Ryan and I decided it would be interesting to attend Sunday services.  A big part of the reason for me wanting to attend is that it's a gorgeous church with a fantastic organ and beautiful stained glass windows.  I kind of wish Mormon churches weren't so cookie cutter and utilitarian.  There's something about worshiping in a beautiful space that's so much more appealing to me.  Another reason for wanting to attend is that it's a progressive Christian church and is up front in its messaging about being LGBT friendly.  As I've thought about it, it's interesting (read: sad) that churches need to specify that they are welcoming to diversity.  I'm sure the LDS church would say that it also welcomes diversity, but maybe doesn't realize how some of their actions/messaging speak louder to the contrary.

I haven't really attended many other church services in my life.  I went to a Catholic funeral in high school and I went to maybe one or two evangelical church services on my mission in Brazil, but that's about it.  Possibly one of the my favorite parts of the service was singing happy birthday to Agnes, who turned 95 today.  Agnes was beaming and held up both hands and waved at everyone.  Completely precious.  The music was also so much better.  Having a professional play a real organ with guest musicians playing Vivaldi and Dvorak in a string quartet didn't hurt.  It was also nice that any time politics crept into the shared messages, it was politics that I agreed with.  I'm used to cringing or bracing myself any time politics comes up in talks or lessons at church.  It was also just nice to be at church with my boyfriend.  My (Mormon) bishop has told me that Ryan is welcome to come to church with me, which is nice, but there's something about the idea of being there with him and knowing that many or most of my fellow ward members would consider the relationship inherently broken, unhealthy or sinful that doesn't sound appealing.  It was nice to be with him in a church setting that sees the relationship as just as good and healthy as any other relationship.

I suppose it sounds like I'm ready to ditch Mormonism for the UCC.  I wouldn't say that.  There is some bizarre (and perhaps masochistic) part of myself that enjoys swimming upstream in Mormonism.  I also think there is some richness and mystery to Mormon theology that isn't present elsewhere.  I guess my approach to truth could be summed up in the following excerpt from one of Joseph Smith's sermons: "Have the Presbyterians any truth?  Embrace that.  Have the Baptists, Methodists and so forth?  Embrace that.  Get all the good in the world, and you will come out a pure Mormon."

Sunday, November 25, 2012


"A strong community helps people develop a sense of true self, for only in community can the self exercise and fulfill its nature: giving and taking, listening and speaking, being and doing. But when community unravels and we lose touch with one another, the self atrophies and we lose touch with ourselves as well. Lacking opportunities to be ourselves in a web of relationships, our sense of self disappears, leading to behaviors that further fragment our relationships and spread the epidemic of inner emptiness." -Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

It's not uncommon for people to ask me why I still go to church (As though I even understand all the reasons. I like the question though because it causes me to revisit and rethink). I think this quote explains in part why I go. 

I realize that it's possible to find a "web of relationships" in a multitude if places that challenges me and causes me to grow and develop, but in the church I'm able to find a web that helps me wrestle with things that are important to me: my spiritual life, the growth and development of my soul, the connection between my mortal existence and whatever is out there that tells me what more there is to me than just a collection of skin and bones. 

Again, I could probably find those opportunities elsewhere but I suppose it all comes down to the fact that Mormonism has formed my foundation and so in spite of its annoying cultural eccentricities, it still feels like home.

Monday, November 19, 2012

relationships as a mirror

The benefit of having a blog that is at times a journal is being able to go back and see snapshots of where I’ve been. About a year and a half ago I wrote a post about how I decided that I wanted to go to vulnerable places. Based on limited experiences I’d had being in a relationship with serious romantic undertones (it was a romantic relationship but it wasn’t because I wasn’t allowing myself to have those), I knew how much I’d learned from it and I knew that even though there was a lot of pain involved, I wanted to do it some more. I said, “Based on my limited experience, being in an intimate relationship with someone you are completely attracted to stirs up insecurities like nothing else can. It takes you to the most vulnerable of places and provides opportunities to learn about yourself and grow as a result, in a way that nothing else can. I want to go there.”

And I did! Five months to the day that I wrote that post, I told a cute guy with big brown eyes that I liked him and he said he liked me and we decided to give it a shot. In another post (which I won’t link to because it’s one of those posts that you write when you’re in love and then are kind of embarrassed about it after the fact), I said the relationship was liking walking into a dimly lit room and having a vague sense that the room is beautiful but it’s confirmed as the sun rises and light floods the room. (Give me a break, I was trying to explain what I was experiencing and it was all fairly new to me.)

Anyway, the relationship over the better part of the last year has been fairly easy, to the point that I half wondered if a good relationship wouldn’t include vulnerable places. (HA!) Probably part of the ease was because we’re both really nice guys who tend avoid confronting difficulties or tensions that arise in a relationship. Not that we ignored them altogether. It’s just that we’re both kind of new at this and we probably weren’t giving them the attention they needed. And now after a year we’re more comfortable, or see the need, to push back and stake out our individual places within the relationship, and address aspects of the relationship that we feel need addressing.

Enter, for me, the vulnerable places. I think Eugene England once compared relationships to a mirror. I couldn’t find what he said exactly, and to be honest, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the first or the last to make that comparison, but that idea resonates with me. Being in close relationship with someone to whom you are wholly attracted and with whom you are honest, has a way of teasing out insecurities and unresolved issues. A year and a half ago I asked for vulnerable places, and I got them.

Fortunately for me, I have a team of a handful of ladies who have much more experience than I do to consult with, my Relationship Board of Directors, as my friend KaRyn once called her own team of consultants. These are ladies who listen and ask questions and send me Walt Whitman poems and generally get me back to home base. They help me remember that these issues aren’t best approached with fear but with mindfulness and awareness of and patience with what I’m experiencing.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

the result of being big in a place of tension

I believe that when we keep in mind the ideas espoused in the following quotes, constructive conversations like this can happen.

"By size I mean the stature of your soul, the range and depth of your love, your capacity for relationships.  I mean the volume of life you can take into your being and still maintain your integrity and individuality, the intensity and variety of outlook you can entertain in the unity of your being without feeling defensive or insecure.  I mean the strength of your spirit to encourage others to become freer in the development of their diversity  and uniqueness.  I mean the power to sustain more complex and enriching tensions.  I mean the magnanimity of concern to provide conditions that enable others to increase in stature." - Bernard Loomer

"From international relations to what goes on in the workplace to raising a teenager, we find ourselves living between reality and possibility, between what is and what could and should be.  But if we are willing actively to "hang in there" with a country, a colleague, or a child - holding the unresolved tension between reality and possibility and inviting something new into being - we have a chance to participate in the evolution of a better reality.  Standing in the gap is challenging, but the alternatives are irresponsible.  One is to fall out on the side of too much reality and into corrosive cynicism.  The other is to fall out on the side of too much possibility and into irrelevant idealism.  Both take us out of the action.  But if we are willing to stand between the poles, refusing to fallout, we have a chance to play a life-giving role in the development of a new child, a work-place, or a world that needs to grow into "the better angels of our nature." - Parker Palmer

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Confronting What We Don't Know

Have you ever stopped to consider the enormity of what you don’t know?  Or what about the things that you don’t even know you don’t know?  Overwhelming, right?  There’s a certain amount of comfort that comes with believing I know much more than I actually do, in being able to wrap difficult and complex issues up into neat and tidy little packages.  Our minds often tend to gravitate away from ambiguity and towards resolution.  What happens though, when we move towards resolution too quickly, before we’ve allowed ourselves to more fully explore something?  What truths do we end up missing out on by not remaining suspended in a space filled with the tension of two opposing ideas, not knowing, asking questions, as opposed to immediately gravitating towards one side, towards resolution?  And how can a failure to patiently hold and consider the tension of two opposing ideas lead to breakdowns in conversations with those who see things differently?
Historian James Harvey Robinson said, “Partisanship is our great curse.  We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other.”  What happens if instead we allow ourselves to remain suspended between perceived sides, drinking in what good we are able to find in each one?  What if we approach our conversations with others less like a zero sum game of winner takes all and more like a process of discovery?  How can our mutual willingness to question and explore together rather than merely state our opinions as facts lead to greater truth and understanding?
Dieter Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expressed the value of this questioning and exploratory state in a talk he gave at a recent leadership training conference:
Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit.  Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things.  We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us.  How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?
In a recent post, I made brief mention of some scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants about studying things out in our minds and also about not being compelled in all things, but acting.  I talked about how we have to proactively go out on our own spiritual journeys, much like Joseph Smith did, and seek truth.
It occurs to me again and again that the reconciliation of homosexuality with spirituality and our conversations about that process is one of many areas that could benefit from an approach of openness, patience, humility, courage and thoughtfulness that comes through in the scriptures and quotes I’ve mentioned above.  Taylor Petrey is someone who has contributed in such a way to this reconciliation conversation and process.  Petrey is assistant professor of religion at Kalamazoo College and recently gave the keynote address at the Compassionate Cause symposium that was held last month at the University of Washington.
In his keynote address, Petrey laid out a pretty thorough exploration of the LDS Church’s approach to and perception of homosexuality throughout its history, with a more specific focus on the past 50 to 60 years.  His remarks seemed important to me because I think we often assume that current attitudes and approaches are as they always have been.  We too easily forget where we’ve been, how that has contributed to wounds and divides that exist today and how we’ve evolved.  Historical context is important to more fully understand what we’re faced with today as we study these things out in our minds.  You can read his remarks, or if you’re more the type that likes to watch and listen, you can do that here. (Or you can knock yourself out and do all of the above at the same time!)
Petrey also wrote a very thoughtful paper for the Winter 2011 edition of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thoughtentitled “Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology.”  As he says at the beginning of the paper, it’s meant to be a thought experiment and not a statement of church doctrine or even a suggestion of what church doctrine should be.  As I was reading it, it felt very much like he was loosening and tilling the hardened soil of what we think we know about not just sexuality, but also about gender, gender roles, procreation, the purpose of relationships, etc.  Sometimes we project the way we experience our mortal lives onto the heavens and eternity, instead of seeking to inform and enrich our mortal experiences with instruction from heaven or the divine.
We live in a fallen world, don’t we?  Is it possible that we don’t understand all there is to know about gender and its eternal role?  Is how we experience attraction in our limited physical bodies an accurate representation of how we’ll experience it as glorified and perfected celestial beings?  And what role will that play in how we experience relationships with others?  What physical characteristics will follow us to the next life?  Will women be in a constant cycle of gestating spiritual baby after spiritual baby every nine months?  To how many women does that sound appealing?
As you can see, the questions begin to mount.  I know, I know, just put them on a shelf and trust in God.  How long is that a viable and effective strategy though?  What are we missing out on by not allowing ourselves to wrestle with these questions?  Can we expect God to just hand us the answers if we’re not willing to wrestle with these questions ourselves and together?
Again, if you’re more of the listening type as opposed to the reading type, you can also listen to a discussion of Petrey’s paper on this podcast from Mormon Matters.  The host, Don Wotherspoon, moderates a discussion of the paper with Petrey and Kristine Haglund, Dialogue editor.
This excerpt from a recent press release from the LDS Newsroom also sums up beautifully how we can not only benefit from exploring and wrestling with the realities faced by those who are gay and Mormon, but also how it is incumbent upon us to do so:
Mormons welcome truth from whatever source and take the pragmatic view that where religion and science seem to clash, it is simply because there are insufficient data to reconcile the two. Latter-day Saints approach such tensions as challenges to learn, not contradictions to avoid.
This productive tension can enrich both mind and heart. All understanding, whether spiritual or rational, is worked out in constant questioning and discovery. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.”  Latter-day Saints do not expect God to simply hand down information. He expects us to wrestle with the complications of life through prayerful searching and sound thinking. “You must study it out in your mind,” Mormon scripture teaches, and then answers will come. This pattern of inquiry opens Mormons to expanding spiritual possibilities.
I’m convinced that there is more knowledge and understanding to be had with regards to these important topics that will come to us if we will allow ourselves to sit with the seemingly dissonant identities of being gay and being Mormon.  If we sit with the tension with a spirit of humility and curiosity, instead of jumping quickly to conclusions, I believe our conversations will improve and the knowledge and understanding will begin to flow more easily.  We just need to be willing to thoughtfully hold and listen to our own as well as each other’s stories and experiences and carefully explore and talk about the reconciliation between sexuality and spirituality with open hearts, well tilled soil and iron gates thrown wide open.