I woke up this morning, after a night of coughing and fever dreams. It’s time for my annual autumnal bout of the blech (that’s the technical term)—flu-like symptoms folded into coughing spells so violent, they’ve literally brought me to my knees. I grew up in a house of smokers, with a fireplace roaring each winter. Now I live in Salt Lake City—where altitude, desert air, and smog thick enough to choke out my view of the stunning Wasatch Mountains, conspiring to rob me of the natural and felicitous joy I find living in Zion.
I love this city… but it’s literally killing me.
The cycle has become pretty set: the blech every fall, with the first smog of the season. Pneumonia (or some other acute pulmonary distress) each year as winter begins its slow retreat. I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten used to it… I can’t imagine ever getting used to it. And yet here I am. It’s no surprise, then, when I’m asked—frequently—why I stay.
I stay because I’ve got roots here. Because I’m making a difference. I stay because—when it’s not trying to kill me—Salt Lake City is a bright and beautiful city on a hill, filled with all manner of amazing people.
The trick to staying—which I’m set on doing—is a great deal of self care, and taking the time to bask in the light when it shines.
14:59 MDT, Thursday November 5th, 2015
It’s been a long, long year.
I wasn’t there when Joseph decided to lie to Emma about polygamy. I wasn’t there when Brigham Young decided to deny priesthood and temple blessings to billions of God’s children. But I was there when the Church released the Policy of Exclusion.
Facebook was open, as I was finishing up a late lunch in my cubicle… and at 2:59pm, John Dehlin, of Mormon Stories fame, posted the following to Facebook:
Hearing credible rumor (acknowledging it’s just a rumor at this point) of a new definition of LDS Apostasy that now specifically includes same-gender marriage as grounds for apostasy.
Fourteen minutes later, he confirmed the rumor with a screenshot of the change. In short order, additional details were added, namely that children of such couples were to be denied baptism and other blessings of membership.
And then all heck broke loose.
There was immediate push-back. Swift and sure, came the response: the Brethren would never do such a thing. This has got to be a hoax. And then, like a replay from the big game, where you watch as the player’s neck does something terrifying—something damaging, concussive—the naysayers fell into lockstep: we believe.
God, I wept.
And I wrote.
In the wee hours of the next morning, I wrote my very first post, here at By Common Consent: Yet I Have Hope.
In the days and weeks that followed, countless people called, visited, and messaged me. We sat shiva. I co-organized a candle light vigil. I spoke to anyone who would listen. And still I wept… and still I wrote. Nice days later, I gave the hardest talk I’ve ever given, Where Can I Turn for Peace?.
I remember the media event that was thrown together in uncommonly poor fashion. I remember Elder D Todd Christofferson sitting there, the harsh lights beating him down, a blank and weary visage staring back at me through the ether. You probably know, as I do, that Elder Christofferson has a gay brother… and all I could think was “this is like the scene in almost every gangster movie, where the Don hands a loaded gun to his lieutenant… and orders him to execute a friend or family member, to test his commitment to La Familia”.
I long ago gained a hard-won testimony of the fallibility of our leaders. I embrace their humanity. I embrace God’s use of his flawed children to accomplish marvelous works. I knew they were at times wrong-headed, at times proud. But it never, not once, occurred to me they could be cruel.
* * *
So now I’m laying here, in bed. Wracked by chills and body aches. Eating warm food and snuggling into a rice pillow I’ve put in the microwave for a few minutes—to warm my aching bones and to distract me from my misery. I’m aware how, just a few days ago, I was healthy… and a few days hence, I’ll be healthy again.
* * *
Tomorrow is Fast Sunday.
I’ll pray for a repeal of the policy (and I’ll hope for an apology). I’ll pray for all those who’ve taken their own lives and for their families. I’ll pray for those who’ve left—and for the many more who stay, yet ache like me. I’ll pray that with the appeal, we’ll begin to heal from the violence done to the Body of Christ and his beautiful Gospel
…and I’ll pray for the children of polygamist families, whose similar plight has but been ignored.
If you’re struggling after learning about the new LDS Church policy on children of LGBTQ couples, and you need to talk to someone, please reach out.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
- Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
- Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860