Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thoughts on Church

A friend and I recently had a quick discussion on going to church.  He asked where I stood in regards to having to attend church in order to be a student at BYU.  I told him that, for me, I don't get much out of going to church.  I only end up feeling bad about myself and it increases my feeling of being in a place where I don't belong.  Last year, I only went to church in order to maintain my Ecclesiastical Endorsement.  For those who do not know what I am talking about, BYU students are required to be annually endorsed by his/her bishop.  This "endorsement" tells the University and the Church that that student is worthy to attend BYU.  Because I am in my last year at BYU, this was the last endorsement that I would have to get. So, I went to church almost every week until I had my interview with my bishop (in which, of course, I was not completely honest about my life - I never told him I was gay) and I got my final Ecclesiastical Endorsement.  After that, I stopped going to church completely.  I do not think I have stepped foot into a church building since that day in the middle of March.

Church has always been hard for me.  I used to (and still do) dread those three painful hours every Sunday.  I never knew what someone was going to say that would be another blow to my self-esteem.  It was almost like a constant barrage that would never let up.  Every week, thoughts like "You are not worthy" and "You are a sinner" would pervade my mind.  I would count down the minutes until I could escape.  But because I was supposed to be the example of a good, Mormon boy, I put on a brave face and got through it.  Almost every week, I came home even more defeated and down on myself than before.  And trust me, I am not the only one who has and does feel this way.  How can something that proclaims to be so good for everybody cause so much despair and anguish?

I recently had a conversation with my mother regarding how I feel about the church and their stance on homosexuality.  I told her what I wrote in the last paragraph, and then told her that in the LDS church, they put so much emphasis on what you should not do, that it causes young men and women to develop a distorted mindset about those who live their lives differently.  The LDS church teaches it's members to not drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, get tattoos, or be gay, among other "no-no's."  After this has been ingrained in their minds long enough, anyone with does any of these things becomes the epitome of sin.  I used to see the world through these eyes as well.  Growing up, if I would ever see someone smoking, that person was a "bad person."  Those people standing in line at Starbucks were "bad people."  That motorcyclist with tattoos up and down his arm was a "bad person."  I had no idea who these people were, but because of what and how the church teaches, I was trained to believe that these people were naturally bad and not worthy of what I had.

The same goes for gays, lesbians, transgenders, etc.  Because somebody is gay, that automatically makes them not worthy?  But who is to judge who is worthy, and who isn't?  I believe that is the sole responsibility of God.  No man should ever judge another because he or she may live a different lifestyle.

That is why I feel that I do not belong in the church.  I am not saying that all members of the church are this way, but it is a highly prevalent ideology among Latter-day Saints that anyone who is different is a sinner.  And when a high-ranking Church leader basically says that atheists and homosexuals would bring about the end of world and organized religion altogether, it only allows this mindset to fester and further develop among members (Click here for the church's reporting on that talk - check out the last bullet point, and here for a gay perspective).

I am gay and not a sinner.  Let me say that again.  I AM NOT A SINNER!  I am worthy of whatever anyone else is worthy of receiving in the next life.  If I was born with an attraction to men rather than women (and, YES, you are born gay - it is NOT a choice), it does not make me a "bad person."  It just makes me different.  And as far as I am concerned, if I am in a relationship with another man, that is between me and him.  No one else.  Period.

Do not get me wrong, I do not hate the LDS church.  It is just not for me.  And I completely understand that for some people, the Church is what they need.  I try to be respectful of those who do need it.  I recently moved in with my aunt and uncle, who are very active in the church.  I participate in their family prayers when I am present for them, and I still respect their wanting to keep the Sabbath Day holy, and, out of respect for them, I have removed all my rated R movies from my collection and put them in my room.  My aunt and uncle are wonderful people and I love them very much.  They were incredibly understanding when they found out I was gay.  I am so grateful for them letting me stay with them so I can save money.  For them, the Church is everything, which is perfectly fine and I understand it.  But as for me, I do not foresee me going back to church anytime soon.