Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Leaving the LDS – Mental Health and Same-Sex-Attraction

Bear with me: if you’re interested only in my experience and thoughts regarding same-sex-attraction and the LDS church, just skip down the post a bit.

After years of agonising over my involvement and membership with the LDS Church, making the final step to cut ties is both scary and freeing. What has allowed me to finally feel relatively safe in doing so is the work that I have done over the years to meet my needs outside of the church.  I’ve intentionally invested my energy in creating local community through neighbours, friends, informal social groups, a relevant music society, and other volunteer work. I’ve intentionally worked with my mind to help stabilize my mental health and manage challenges in increasingly wise ways.

Recognizing the destructive influence of the church in my life and how it essentially mimicked the years of anorexia that I lived with had become increasingly obvious. In learning to replace anorexia as a way to cope with life with other more helpful way, I also learnt to apply this strategy to my spiritual life and overall wellbeing. Leaving anorexia and leaving the church in many ways required many of the same kind of challenges – working out how to meet my needs in healthy and life-giving ways rather than relying or the prescribed rigid guidelines of the church or of anorexia to help me feel safe. I learnt to live with the grey in my life, loosening my grasp to the “black and white”.

Leaving them both behind – seeing them for what they were and realising that I didn’t need either of them anymore has required much courage but has been incredibly freeing. These days I meet with a small group of individuals in our “not church” – we are Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, and Buddhist. We meet fortnightly and talk over coffee and breakfast. We are each welcomed and respected for who we are and for the individuality of our journeys. Ironically, I feel the presence of God and the Spirit in my life and in this world that I ever did when I was involved with the church.

Through letting go of the intense desire to be “worthy”, to be “righteous” (in the eyes of the church), to follow the rules to the letter, and instead learning to be flexible and more comfortable with the unknown has been incredibly challenging and at times terrifying, yet it has also been incredibly freeing. Today I live with an increased level of integrity, striving to live a moral and ethical life that is free of the guilt that came with trying to live with one dictated by (false) doctrine.

For the most part I’ve never had a problem with being same-sex-attracted. I do feel like the LGBTIQ community can do itself a public disservice in the image it can perpetuate about our lifestyles and values (which are as diverse as any other large community). Personally I’ve always been rather conservative in dress and behaviour, and I’d far rather a cup of tea and an early night than some club or parade. The queer folk that I’m friends with display gentleness and love, and are living in or seeking to live in committed, loving relationships. For the most part, our “gay agenda” (that some like to allude to) is making sure we have milk in our fridges, getting essays in or work done on time, spending time with friends or family, and in many cases, working hard to raise children in loving and wise ways.

The only times that I’ve struggled with my sexuality was when it really hit me that I’d never have that imagined ideal of wedding, kids, and white picket fence. Yes, I could still have family, but the journey toward it would be much more challenging and require planning. Obviously, it is far rarer for same-sex couples to conceive “surprise” children.

The only period of my life where I’ve felt intense guilt and shame over my sexuality was when I was part of the LDS Church. Despite a loving and wise Bishop and even friends in the church who knew about my inclinations, I knew that a) I could never be in a same-sex relationship while in the church (meaning a life of singledom), b) that I would never have a temple marriage, and thus c) that I could thus never be worthy of obtain the ordinances to one day be granted entry into the celestial kingdom.

I did what many in the church try do or are told to do when they share with anyone their same-sex-attraction; I prayed fervently to change, I tried dating guys, hoping and praying that if I just tried hard enough, I could change or at least make it work. I tried to accept that my life would be one of singledom. I tried really, really, hard. It didn’t work but it was soul destroying.

Like many I was given the line that even if we are born gay, that we are all given challenges in this life, and that how I chose to respond to my same-sex-attraction was what counted; endure. If I didn’t act on my feelings, if I endured to the end, if I lived righteously (aka by the teachings of the church), then I would be rewarded in the next life, and that in the next life I would be “free” of these “temptations”.

At times I sincerely wanted to believe this, and shelved all that I knew to be correct and contrary to these teachings, and yet I still struggled with immense guilt and shame, and always had to keep such an important part of my being secret within the church. I always had to hide. Compared to many members raised in the church, I was lucky enough to have friends and family who didn’t give a toss about who I was attracted to – they were far more concerned that I’d become involved with the Church to begin with (to their credit, they actually stuck by me through that choice… and were still there for me when I left. Bless ’em).

Even when I wanted to believe (so I could then believe in the rest of the package and promises), I never was quite able to. I knew that people with same-sex-attraction are born as such, and I knew so many loving and committed individuals and families – who I could see were not a danger to the values and fabric of society – but often upstanding citizens who were living well and for some, raising beautiful children.

To anyone in the church who is LGBTIQ? I would say:

  1. You were born this way. If God created you, he created you (as anyone else) in His image. He didn’t make a mistake and he didn’t give you your attractions as a challenge. You are okay just as you are.
  2. Having trouble believing in God at the moment? You were still born this way, and your sexuality and how you choose to respond to it have nothing to do with your value as a human being.
  3. Interestingly, same-sex-attraction occurs not only in humans, but countless animal species. Google it, it’s fascinating! While you’re at it, Google “gay penguins” – you’ll find wonderful stories of committed same-sex penguin couples successfully raising other chicks that have been abandoned by their birth parents!
  4. No amount of prayer, “conversion therapy”, trying “hard enough”, wishing or hoping, can change your sexuality. It can, however, intensify you level of guilt and self-hatred over something that you have no reason to feel guilty of ashamed of.
  5. You are okay just as are, just as you were made. You are just as worthy of loving and being loved as any other human, regardless of sexuality.
  6. You can live a healthy, happy, righteous life (not in the LDS church’s eyes, but in the eyes of a loving god and / or the world) while being queer.
  7. This is who you are and that is okay.

For those considering leaving the church I’d have you ask yourself:

“Am I living with integrity?”

“Is the Church helping or harming my spiritual wellbeing?”

I’d recommend seeking out support or social groups for those with same-sex-attraction (on-line or in person) before making that so very difficult step of actually leaving. If possible, work to extend your network of friends outside the church (even simply on-line through places such as ‘exmormon.org’ or ‘post-mormon.org’) and (if possible) accepting family. Explore joining non-church related clubs, sports, or social groups. If you decide to leave the church, however you do it, it needs to be your way, though. Whatever path you take is okay. If you decide to stay, then peace be with you in that path, too.

In a nut-shell: there is nothing wrong with you. There is much wrong with the church (there is already much literature available regarding evidence of the un-truthfulness of the church and the false doctrine, so I won’t repeat it here). I hope and pray that one day you, too, can see things for more of what they are, and have the courage to pursue a life of freedom and integrity, whatever that looks like for you.

It is never easy. It will never be easy. It is, however, worth it.

Peace be with you,

Johansen X

LDS Church – Official Resignation

At the very end of 2009 I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). I was severely depressed and suicidal, willing to grasp at and try to believe anything with a promise of some kind of peace or better life. I was desperate for community, for love, for belonging. I was desperate for some kind of, any kind of hope.

From the beginning I knew it was a crock. I shelved this knowledge and tried and prayed so hard for it to be true, to be able to believe.

It really was an odd choice of church for a same-sex-attracted quasi Christian / Buddhist / agnostic soul.

I came and went over time. I alternated between trying to set aside my lack of faith for the possibility of hope and community. Each time I went back, my experience of cognitive dissonance grew by the hour, along with my personal guilt for not being “worthy” (in the eyes of the church) and for knowing in my heart of hearts, that I simply did not believe. Each time I left, these feelings had driven me to the point of breakdown. Each time I left I did so, somewhat ironically, to save my own life.

Eventually I learned that the church and its teachings were never going to be my saviour. I learned that I’d never be able to really believe. In all my time in the church, I was never able to “testify” to or attempt to recruit other lonely and lost souls. It didn’t sit with me – I knew deep down the potential ramifications of joining the church.

Throughout my time in the church, I stayed connected to and supportive of other queer friends, and even kept participating in a social group for same-sex attracted Christian / ex-christian / post-christian women. A number of these women are still dear to my heart and so very important to me. These women were more my saviour than the church could ever be. With these women, and with a supporting church, I could be and was accepted for myself – through my ups and downs, through my involvement with Mormonism, through the trials and joys of life.

To me, “officially” leaving the church is still a difficult thing to do – it feels like cutting ties with a safety net that I could always run back to, like some kind of drug. This net for me though is woven with barbed wire, and this drug for me, is one that has the potential to kill – my spirit, my soul, my faith, my body.

I didn’t mind being an “official” (though “inactive”) member of the church. I like to drop in to the occasional service, and I have friends I hold dear that are faithful members.

For me, the tipping point in offically resigning, has been seeing and knowing the unimaginable damage of the church’s teachings around same-sex-attraction. These teachings that create division in families, ostracism of good souls, and the damaging beliefs held individuals that they are sinful and unworthy to the core, simply for living the way that they were born to live. I don’t want this membership of mine – of just one  – to be counted among the official numbers of the church and thus inadvertently be aligned with such harmful teachings and false doctrine.

Today, I posted my official letter of resignation to the church. Actually, I posted it to three people, having had my last request ignored.

People within the church often say that the Church is perfect, but naturally, the people within it are only human and thus will always be less than perfect (as we all are). I believe the reverse is true – despite the false foundations and doctrines of the church, it still has many, many good souls that are a part of it. I hope that they, too, regardless of their beliefs, are able to stand up and halt the harm that the teachings of the church cause.

Love. Love without condition, without judgement, without expectation. Just love.

Johansen X