Sit with Me a While

Salt Lake City temple during a winter inversion.

 

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.

 

Salt Lake area road during a winter inversion.


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

Comments

  1. I love you, Christian, and I’m sitting with you. Also, may the blech pass soon!

  2. Susan W H says:

    Your post touched my heart. I grew up in Salt Lake City and I remember clean air and bright skies. I loved the mountains, but I couldn’t live there now. I don’t understand the policy and I believe it is wrong. The 1950s seemed like a simpler time, but I also remember racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, as well as cruel jokes about anyone who didn’t fit the mold, and all on the part of church members.

    So today is my birthday. I love that it is Guy Fawkes day–some day I want to be in the UK to celebrate. Fawkes was considered a traitor, but in time he was regarded as more of a revolutionary, a heroic fighter against discrimination by king and parliament. I’m sad this year because I hate it that it is the anniversary of this policy. I hope that this day will also mark the beginning of a transition to an acceptance of a family of two people who genuinely love one another.

  3. I remember when I first learned of the policy, I cried for a week straight. My parents, who were serving a mission in New Zealand at the time, learned I was struggling and called to try to strengthen my faith in the Brethren. But I could not make faith-promoting sense of it, I could not be reconciled to it. I still can’t.

  4. Matthew73 says:

    This is beautifully written, Christian. Thank you, and God bless you.

  5. RockiesGma says:

    Feel better soon Christian….I, too, suffer as you do. Wears me out so.

    I remember last year too. My stunned disbelief. At my age nothing much stuns a body any more. But glory be, that surely did. I spent weeks wondering how I had believed the Spirit had guided me to a loving understanding and acceptance that gay folks could love marriage, family and the gospel same as straight folks do. I had felt through dreams and ponderings that there was beauty and joy in marriage and commitment, rather than my foolish assumptions of perpetual debauchery and promiscuity in “gayness”. I have dear gay friends in solid and faithful relationships. Seems cruel to tell them they can’t hope to fall in love, can’t marry, can’t have children….that they are required to live separate, celibate and alone. Straight folks always have hope of falling in love and such tomorrow or the next day with all that that entails. But gay folks have no such hope. Life’s been hard off and on over my years, but I don’t know what I’da lived for if I’d been told I had to be celibate and alone, or heaven forbid I fell in love but been told I couldn’t hope to have a relationship with my one true love. I thought these things I’d gleaned over the years taught me some key things about being one, and being Zion….about Love. But in church for weeks and months I’ve heard polar opposite preachings and doings that make me wonder how foolish an old woman could be. How could I be so far off the Brethren’s mark? God’s mark? My heart burned with sorrow. Now there’s just embers and ashes left and no Zion to be found. Still….

    My church grieves me on this….it surely does. Thank you for your thoughts Christian–they’re a comfort to me.

  6. What if the smog that’s ailing your soul was partly self-induced? Just as the individual members of society around you each contribute to the pollution along the Wasatch Front, so too do your own sins contribute to the blood and sins of this generation which separate you and others from God.

    Praying for a change in the policy the Lord’s servants prayerfully put into place is like telling the physician to heal himself. Sadly, you don’t accept the prophets in your own town.

    Freeing yourself from the sins of this generation can only come from looking to the Lord’s servants and receiving them as they receive the Lord. Denying they are receiving the Lord and are therefore ineligible to be trusted in these matters reflects your own failing, not theirs.

  7. it's a series of tubes says:

    Christian, when you originally posted your “Where Can I Turn for Peace” talk last year, I thought it was one of the most powerful things ever posted here at BCC. Reviewing it a year later, my opinion hasn’t changed. Thank you for sharing, and thank you more for staying. Your perspective is desperately needed. I, for one, greatly appreciate it.

  8. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

  9. D Christian Harrison says:

    God bless you, RockiesGma. Sometimes Zion happens despite our leaders… like in the comments of a blog post.

  10. D Christian Harrison says:

    GSO… The POX had no origins in God. Nothing virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy came from this careless act of violence.

  11. D Christian Harrison says:

    Thank you, it’s a series of tubes. My perspective has been hard-won… and it’s a perspective hard-kept. It gives me courage to hear others find it enabling.

  12. @RockiesGma, don’t give up that beautiful vision of love and humanity you shared. It felt familiar to me; the spirit taught me those same beautiful truths about all partaking in the gift of marriage and family. That is of God. I, like so many, wrestled and ached and received my own personal answer: I see no God in this. Not my God at least. I believe we all can receive different answers; God, life and all of us are complicated. I can only speak for myself. And I say, I’ve had several spiritual confirmations that this policy is not of Heavenly Father but of men. The apostles and prophets are fallible men, subject to the paradigms they grew up in. I love them. I forgive them. But I do still believe the church is in error and I will stay so I can help those on the outskirts that so desperately need Christ like acceptance and love unfeigned so much more than justifications to support unquestioning obedience to authority …. especially when those on the outskirts (LGBT and their allies and families) are the ones being sacrificed on the altar of justification. We have been instructed to pray for our own confirmations when our leaders speak. Why would they bother to instruct us to do that if we shouldn’t have the option to dissent? If we are supposed to never dissent, why bother with a vain prayer?

  13. Hard to believe it has been a year since the news broke on this. Thanks for the ongoing perspective. I have spoken little about this policy, but I remember the first I heard of it was a middle of the night call from my daughter-in-law overseas who had just heard of it, and because of a busy day, had not seen the floodgates of the bloggernacle and Facebook opening.

    I remember thinking as I looked online at the details of the change, “Is this a deal-breaker for me?” It is literally the first time that I had ever had doubts about the Church, despite long recognizing that the leaders of the Church, like me, were ordinary people with faults, like me, trying to to the best they can, and mostly getting things right. This just felt so wrong to me.

    I remember praying about it, and the immediate impression that came to mind was to cling to the things that I already had a testimony of: The Book of Mormon, the reality of eternal life and that I had family there waiting for me, and a long history of the goodness of priesthood blessings and shared struggles in the gospel trying to fulfill callings. And then, peace. There were no answers for me about this new policy, and yet I knew that I could not turn away from the Church I have known all my life. I don’t know what the final outcome of this will all be, but I know that despite the obvious pain and difficulty of the here and now, “where else would I go?” These are my people, and this is my place. I know no other way, and so I continue, with hopes and faith of a better tomorrow. Today is not the end.

  14. Damn, you made me cry. Again.

  15. Single Sister says:

    I remember when Black men could not hold the priesthood. I knew that the policy was wrong. But I had faith that somehow, some time it would be put right. And it was. I don’t like this policy either, especially for the children of Gay parents who want to join the church. However, I’m holding on to the raft having faith that this policy (I will never think of it as prophecy) will be changed. Personally, I think that the Lord punished the church for not allowing the Priesthood for Blacks through various ways until the Brethren were humble enough to accept His Will. I think that this will also happen with this policy. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I have faith that it will happen. In the meantime, I think the church is in for a rocky ride until we get this right. Just my thoughts.

  16. Leonard R says:

    Will sit with you as long as needed, Christian. Though my reasons are not the same, nor as immediate, I appreciate the company.

    And RockiesGma… may we all be equally blessed with such humble wisdom, even when it leaves us feeling bewildered…

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