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.


  1. Your words are certainly moving and resonate within me. I recall times when I felt that I was never worthy of receiving guidance from God because I hadn't done enough for him to condescend to listen to my pathetic whimpering pleas.

    I love the morals that I was taught and treasure many of the friendships that were given me. So your words are very true. I'm glad that you have found peace in not stepping foot in the church since. Yay you :)

  2. The "I AM NOT A SINNER!" dialog reminds me of my life about a year ago. It seemed like the only was to get away from that at points was to actually sin. At least I'd not be conflicted anymore.

    Fortunately, I arrived at a similar conclusion rather than doing anything I'd regret immediately.

  3. Thanks for the post.

    I'm trying at the moment to reprogram my mind when it comes to looking at people who act and/or look different from what Mormons think/are taught to look like and act. Sometimes I still see someone with a tattoo and a thought jolts in my cranium that that person is bad or should not be associated with. I hate that thought process and must reject it. It's not a very christian way to think.

    I hate Elder Nelson's last bullet point. I really do. I don't hate him, just that last thing.

    I'm glad that your aunt and uncle are kind enough to receive you. I hope everything goes well there.

  4. "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."

    Amen brother!

    I have seen in my life friends and family who act like someone who drinks, smokes, has more than one earing, is gay, ect. must be a "wicked" person and treats them like they are leprous.

    Where is the Christlike attitude towards all mankind in that choice? The whole reason we are here (according to LDS doctrine) is for each of us to make choices for ourselves, not to project judgments on others we deem less worthy.

    I'm proud to say as well, I AM NOT A SINNER!

    Kudos to your Aunt, Uncle, and you. :)

  5. I hate to be the one to tell you that you might need to still be attending church - especially when it is so toxic for you. But, I recently read up on the EE requirements for a gay friend of mine who is attending BYU...

    I just thought you should know the following:

    "A student's endorsement may be withdrawn at any time if the ecclesiastical leader determines that the student is no longer eligible for the endorsement."


    "Students who are not in good Honor Code standing are not eligible for graduation, even if they have otherwise completed all necessary coursework."

    Those quotes are from:

    I'm not trying to be a jerk. I fully support you in not wanting to attend church but I also don't want you to reach your graduation date and find out that it's been taken from you. You might want to do some minimal attendance to make sure that your Bishop doesn't withdraw your EE.

  6. I do not believe that the church will bring the most happiness to ALL. I feel like if we were to receive pure truth unaltered by cultural norms and customs, the principles would have the potential of making individuals as happy as they could be.

    But because we are given truth in a way that excludes other forms of truth, the feelings you described develop and we are left to wonder why we feel so stuck.

    There are good people that can't be in the church because the guilt they would feel from not living ALL those principles would eat at them constantly. This is not their fault nor the churches. It is how our minds work. Those good people may do better in another religion or even without religion. The important thing is to maxamize good works and happy feelings. After all, that is the penultimate teaching in our church. We were made to have joy.

    Wow, I hope that all makes sense...

  7. There are churches out there that are inclusive (i.e. LGBT friendly) and I would suggest finding one when you get out of BYU (or at the very least talk to the pastor of one).

  8. Sorry but ya can't just disregard Mormonism and seek a more peaceful place. Mormonism is build on certain powerful truths including the restoration of the gospel...among many other things. Should a person walk away from that if it doesn't in its present form bring us spiritual fullfillment? Tough question I know. We know now that Prophets are great worthy men but men indeed who make mistakes. Although the church won't admit it the black problem was a blatant huge mistake that set the church back for generation and far from the Church that Christ himself had restored. Now the gay issue is that all over again. Brother Packer and others rule with a conservative agenda squelch any attempt otherwise to humanize the church. . Huge B. Brown was silenced by Harold B. Lee and Joseph Fielding...sad but true. Blind faith, coersion, fear motivation, and bland curriculum...yet an amazing history, a refreshing plan of salvation and the giving caring members. If we leave will change ever come? Who will stand with the young who die that slow death of conflict and guilt? I know each of us have to find our own way. Its about survival sometimes. Yet there is so much sweetness there if we can only stand up for what is right and true and good. We must not lose our voice and hope. I know it may be a weak aguement but I keep hoping.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I actually relocated to Provo to attend grad school at BYU. I'm also gay, but thought I could do anything for 2 years. Wrong. I couldn't stomach it at all. I can relate to your feelings.

  10. Your post strikes home. I haven't attended my ward for about a month now. It just makes me too sad for the rest of the week. Who needs that? Not that any of those happy families in my ward are gonna notice that the nice single guy who sits alone isn't coming to Church anymore. Even my bishop seems to do all he can to avoid me. The Church really hasn't the foggiest idea what to do with their active homosexual members. It just makes me sad.

  11. just a thought...we are all sinners...we have to accept God's grace in order to be freed from our sinfulness...

  12. There's nothing wrong with being gay and being a member of the church. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I don't think a lot of people understand this point. A lot of people stereotype the church by looking at Utah. It may be where we're headquartered, but it doesn't mean the culture is a direct reflection on the gospel. You aren't a sinner by any means, until you sin. However, the sin comes in acting on those feelings. That's where many homosexual members struggle. How to live your life with the gospel as an outline is up to you. Do you go to church for others or for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? I know it's a struggle, but I know that They will help you through your trials.

  13. Why should one feel bad at church if he or she hasn't done anything wrong? However, I think almost everybody, including myself, sins daily (or more), but usually in small ways. Even with those sins though, there's always repentance, which the sacrament is part of, and there's always another day, a fresh start. Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn the world but to save it. Going to church used to be a chore for me too, but now I get through it by listening to the Holy Ghost, not necessarily the speaker or teacher, and by serving the others in my ward. I have found service to be a great way to become happier in any social setting.