The Best Sacrament Meeting Ever
As of Wednesday, I am "temporarily laid off" from my job for the foreseeable future. As of Friday, the governor of Utah has initiated a "Stay Safe, Stay Home" policy. So when I'm not going to the grocery store or taking yet another aimless walk by myself, I'm supposed to be at home alone, all day, every day, until at least the middle of April. I live alone. I love living alone and I haven't changed my mind about that and I will always prefer too much solitude over too little. However, I need balance like anyone else, and I needed the precious little social interaction I was getting. This really, really blows. If the damned virus kills me it will be an act of mercy.
With normal church meetings discontinued, members of my ward were doing the sacrament (communion) in groups of fewer than ten. Thanks to the governor's directive that's also over until at least the middle of April. Still, I'm grateful for the unparalleled experience I had with it last week. It concerns my neighbors Calise and Talease, the ones I swear I fully intended to write about just the one time and never again, but who have had a lingering impact despite avoiding me completely. So this is what, the fifth time? Sorry about that.
In the immediate wake of what they did to me, I was too broken, deflated and tired to even think of being angry at them. That changed over the following days as I slowly regained some will to live. As time went on and I availed myself of gossip from various mutual acquaintances, insights from other friends who read my initial post or listened to me spill my guts, and my own hindsight and introspection, I came to understand that one of them is quite literally insane as a result of brain damage incurred in a car accident that wasn't her fault, and that the other, her best friend, is naive and gullible and swallows everything she says without question. The insanity bit probably comes as no surprise to anyone who read the post. The surprise, rather, is how I could have been so stupid as to not realize it sooner. All I can say is that as long as people aren't harming anyone, I believe in their right to do their own thing without explanation or apology, and I don't believe in stigmatizing mental illness by jumping to blame it for everything bad somebody does. Obviously my open-mindedness bit me in the butt this time.
In this light, though, I was finally able to reconcile what I thought I knew before about my neighbors' character with their childish, ridiculous and deeply hurtful actions. One was simply not accountable, while the other was carried away by personal weakness that I can relate to, empathize with and even find kind of adorable. They were both victims as much as I. My heart softened toward them and I forgave them. Except when I didn't. Because every time I thought for more than a few seconds about that hemorrhoid in a police uniform coming into my apartment and bitching at me, the trauma resurfaced as fresh and raw as ever and my anger rose with it. So I went back and forth and experienced cognitive dissonance over this several times a day.
The whole thing, the mere fact that this thing happened that should have been a nightmare but was in fact real and irreversible, weighed on me almost constantly whether I was thinking about it or not, an ever-present burden subtly but unmistakably squeezing the joy out of my life. I broke through it for one day when I learned that I'd been accepted to graduate school and that my sister is pregnant. I can announce that now. My sister is pregnant. I don't know the baby's gender or whether it's still legal to force a certain gender on a baby, so I don't know yet if I'll be an uncle or an aunt, but it's thrilling nonetheless. The burden returned the next day though. Friends started telling me I should see a therapist which, yeah, they were right. But what does this have to do with the sacrament?
Any priesthood holder in my ward was authorized to administer the sacrament, but a handful in particular coordinated to do it in their homes and let fewer than ten people show up for it. I knew which group I wanted to join because I literally have two friends in this ward. I realize that's my own fault and the price I have to pay for not wanting to put myself out there more and answer the question "Where are you from?" eight hundred more times, but it is what it is and I wanted to go where I knew Katie would go because she was friends with the guys doing it. The trouble is, I knew Calise and Talease would be there too for the same reason. And they wouldn't want me to be there and maybe they would complain to the one guy in particular, David, whom they previously fled to when they were afraid of me for no reason - and I've heard that he agrees with everyone else that they were being childish and ridiculous, but nonetheless he supported them in their own time of trauma and I'm grateful for that. But I figured if they said they weren't comfortable with me there, he would side with them and not let me come even though he knows I did little wrong.
So yeah, I got pretty angry just thinking about that possibility before anything even happened, which just made me feel more defiant and determined to give him a piece of my mind if/when this scenario did happen. Eventually I realized that this was a bad attitude not conducive to what was supposed to be a sacred spiritual experience. I decided, out of respect for my neighbors' completely misguided but nonetheless real feelings, to not go and to just do the sacrament privately with my other neighbor and friend Steve instead. So when David asked if I was still planning on coming, I told him that.
Oh, but his roommate was out of town and he needed someone else to help with the blessing...
A few moments earlier I had felt compassion and legitimate concern for how my presence would affect Calise and Talease; now, however, I couldn't help laughing to myself for several minutes as I thought, They're really not going to like this. I wasn't sure why I was laughing. Not to be intentionally derisive, but all the stress I'd been through just made this development inexplicably hilarious.
As the time approached, though, I just felt nervous. I nervously showed up a few minutes early and nervously made some small talk with David. It was like my second time talking to him but he remembered things and asked me about graduate school and that was nice. Then the sources of my nervousness arrived. DUN DUN DUN!
T was super awkward. The entire time, she kept her eyes pointed in literally every direction except mine. Calise was her usual awkward self. They greeted David, and then she looked at me. I looked at her. It was very important to me to just act chill and not like I had something to be embarrassed or ashamed or scared about. It was the first time I made eye contact with her since before the disaster, and she spoke to me for the first time since before the disaster. Her face typically blank, her voice typically monotone, she said, "Hello."
I almost said "Hi" before I remembered that the hemorrhoid in a police uniform warned me in no uncertain terms not to talk to her. So I just mouthed it. To an unfamiliar observer I must have looked like I felt too embarrassed or ashamed or scared in her presence to speak.
My neighbors took a seat on the giant beanbag across from me and perpendicular to David. As Talease found a dozen fascinating things to look at besides me, Calise chatted with David, but occasionally shifted her gaze to me as if to include me in the conversation. I felt fully included, for example, in her recommendation not to buy peanut butter in Germany. (Apparently it's bitter.) I also caught her looking at me a couple times when I wasn't looking at her until I looked at her because she was looking at me. That gave me a sense of satisfaction, a sense of Ha, you can't be upset at me for looking at you because I wasn't looking at you until you looked at me first so that's on you, not me.
Looking into her eyes was quite an introspective experience. There are times when she has this smile that lights up her face like a Christmas tree and leaves little doubt as to her mood, but the rest of the time it's anyone's guess. Her blank expression gave virtually no indication of sapience, no hint of any gears turning behind those eyes whatsoever. And yet I knew that wasn't the case. I knew she was thinking something, that a process was ongoing on her mind to which I had no access. And the best part? I knew my expression was the same way. I've learned from experience that I can be impossible to read, even for women who are supposed to be experts at that sort of thing but aren't. I knew she couldn't read me any more than I could her. Two blank stares, two inscrutable minds locked together. I can't explain why that's such a profound concept to me but it just is.
As I sat across from this beautiful awkward woman who probably still hated me, though, my nervousness was displaced by inexplicable joy. What I wish I could have said with my eyes is this: "Calise, I am not upset with you. I forgive you. I love you. I am not a threat. You have nothing to fear. I'm so sorry for causing you to feel otherwise." And because the words were in my eyes, she would know they were true.
Katie arrived, and for better or worse she was the last of us, so we got started with a hymn. I requested "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty". That seemed agreeable to everyone, but Katie needed to know what page number was it on? "Um," I said, wracking my memory, "sevvventyyy... twooo?" For a moment of silence, everyone else looked it up. I didn't bother because I know all the words. When the silence became unbearable I asked, "Is it actually seventy-two?"
"Yes," Katie said, "good job."
"Wow," I said. Then I hastened to add, "I mean, of course I knew that."
It wasn't hilarious or anything, but Calise laughed. I don't mean laughed the way a normal person laughs. She made this little "Heh" noise that most people wouldn't bother to make unless they were being sarcastic. I've made her laugh like that before, and I've also made her actually giggle a few times, and I don't know the determining factor between those options but this unexpected bit of levity was nice regardless.
After that I had the privilege of helping administer the sacrament to my de facto enemies. It could have gone either way for them - it could have been a really uncomfortable experience to accept this sacred ordinance from someone they believe to be an evil stalker, or it could have been a cathartic experience to mutually humble ourselves and put aside the considerable tension between us for a few moments. I know it was the latter for me. I'm so grateful that I was able to do this one nice thing for them after they forbade me from doing almost anything nice for them. Calise used to like it when I did nice things for her. When I left her a bag of Tootsie rolls, she announced to the world that she "couldn't be happier". And then the hemorrhoid in a police uniform cited those Tootsie rolls as a reason why I'm an evil stalker. But I'm getting off-topic.
The point is, the joy I felt that evening lifted my burden entirely. Maybe I'm jinxing myself, but it's been gone for a week. I don't feel weighed down and I can think about what happened without experiencing PTSD. Of course, I would still very much like for them to both grow up and wise up and rectify this unfortunate situation. Especially now, when I'm stuck next door to them almost 24/7. Being able to at least text them again would make the soul-crushing boredom and isolation of the foreseeable future a bit more tolerable. But whatever. I really do feel better, I swear.
A "Come Follow Me" lesson followed the sacrament, but as soon as the latter was over, Talease said she wasn't feeling well and practically ran away. Calise stayed a few more minutes for the cookies Katie brought, and then before she left she thanked David and me for administering the sacrament, looking from him to me to include us both in the statement.
I almost said "You're welcome" before I remembered that the hemorrhoid in a police uniform had warned me in no uncertain terms not to talk to her. So I just nodded.
The word "therapist" caught my attention because I once attended a Sunday school lesson taught by a therapist and it was about depression and stuff and it was great. Based on that one experience I assumed this one would also talk about something more interesting and worthwhile than the advertised topic would seem to indicate.
I barely knew Sister Dymock but I was familiar with her husband, the stake president. Before President Dymock was a stake president, he was a mission president in Washington, and before that he was director of the Logan Institute of Religion. And I'm old enough to have known him back then. I first became acquainted with him when I emailed him to complain about my institute teachers bashing on evolution. I took two institute classes per semester back then, and something seemed to come up in every one, ranging from an offhand derisive comment that "We didn't evolve from slime off a rock" to a solid ten minutes of embarrassing pseudoscientific attempts to refute the theory. He told me I was correct that the Church had no position in evolution, that he had already told the teachers in a meeting over the summer not to say stuff like that, and that if I told him the offenders' names he would discreetly remind them and not mention me. And I thought that was pretty swell of him.
But after it happened a few more times - this occasion being the final straw - I decided that despite President Dymock's best intentions, we were clearly dealing with a systemic problem too large for him to handle on his own. So I called church headquarters in Salt Lake and tried to reach Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy, Commissioner of Church Education (who recently made the news for the infamous "clarification" of BYU's Honor Code changes that he inexplicably sent two weeks after the fact). I left a message with his secretary and then the next time I called she said he had suggested I talk to this other guy whose name I forget, but he was in charge of seminaries and institutes for the world and I didn't understand the difference between that and Elder Johnson's position but now I realize that of course Church Education encompasses a bit more than seminaries and institutes.
This guy listened patiently to my story, taking notes, asking questions for clarification. He asked how I would handle the topic of evolution in church settings, praised me for being so polite and deferential, and asked if I had served a mission. This experience of being so listened to and validated by an adult (which I technically also was, but at age twenty, I felt like it even less than I do now) has been replicated few other times in my life, mostly by therapists and Bishop Paul Fjeldsted, who incidentally during this time was receiving my updates on my crusade against creationism with obvious support and amusement.
A few semesters later I was in President Dymock's own Mission Prep class. We got to the "Preach My Gospel" section on the Creation, and he pointed out how deliberately brief and vague it is. Then he said this: "You know the reason for conflicts between science and religion? Bad religion."
I think that's a slight oversimplification, but even so, I looked at him like
The next time one of those incidents occurred, I walked out of the class in question and never went back.
Anyway, his wife began her remarks by advising us to ask God to help us get what we needed out of them. Beside me, my friend said, "Help me to not hate men." I thought that was a bit harsh. I don't hate women. I just sort of see them as being like Klingons. Almost exclusively evil, but not quite, and I'm not going to discriminate and be like "No, Worf, you can't join my crew because you're a Klingon."
True to my expectations, Sister Dymock spent most of her devotional not talking about dating per se much at all. She talked instead about mental health. Of course the connection is obvious - if you're not mentally healthy enough, nobody on God's green Earth will want to date you - but it has so many other applications and is just a better topic in general and it should have been the title of the devotional but nobody asked me. She said it's important to be "well-differentiated" and I don't remember what that means but it's important. For maybe the last twenty minutes or so she did talk about dating specifically, and she called up her husband to stand with her and she talked about how they met and fell in love and stuff. This is always iffy territory because unless your love story is really freaking interesting, I'm happy for your happily ever after but I really couldn't care less how it happened.
The story itself was nothing special, but one line justified the entire price of admission. Brother Dymock said something to the effect of, "I would later find out that she was well-differentiated. But at the time, I just thought she was well-defined."
Cue riotous, shocked laughter that he dared to say such a thing in a church setting. My respect for him increased tenfold. It reminded me of a Sunday school class in my home branch several years ago. The branch president was sitting in and I don't think it had any relevance to the lesson but the teacher decided to ask him what first drew him to his wife. He thought about it seriously for a few seconds and then said with great confidence, "She was hot!" I'm sure that's not the kind of response the teacher was going for, but honesty is important.
Sister Dymock mentioned, as many others have, that according to no less an authority than Dallin H. Oaks' granddaughter, a date can be defined as "planned, paired off, and paid for". You know it's true because alliteration. As it happens, I had a date the very next day after this devotional. It had been planned well in advance and postponed a couple times. I paired off with a student at the Weber State University Department of Dental Hygiene to clean my teeth. Then I paid for it. See, this is a joke because what I just described perfectly fits the given definition but is nonetheless not what most people would consider a "date". In all complete seriousness, though, it was one of the best dates I've ever been on. She was very, very cute and nice and enjoyable to talk to. Real shame about her marital status but the definition doesn't say anything about that.
People like to quote that bit from then-Elder Oaks' 2006 devotional, and sometimes they quote other bits too, but nobody except me ever quotes the very best bit and I have no idea why. This was a game-changer for me. Quote:
"Now, brothers and sisters, if you are troubled about something we have just said, please listen very carefully to what I will say now. Perhaps you are a young man feeling pressured by what I have said about the need to start a pattern of dating that can lead to marriage, or you are a young woman troubled by what we have said about needing to get on with your life.
"If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance.
"I will explain why I can’t offer much comfort in response to that kind of letter by telling you an experience I had with another person who was troubled by a general rule. I gave a talk in which I mentioned the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' (Ex. 20:13). Afterward a man came up to me in tears saying that what I had said showed there was no hope for him. 'What do you mean?' I asked him.
"He explained that he had been a machine gunner during the Korean War. During a frontal assault, his machine gun mowed down scores of enemy infantry. Their bodies were piled so high in front of his gun that he and his men had to push them away in order to maintain their field of fire. He had killed a hundred, he said, and now he must be going to hell because I had spoken of the Lord’s commandment 'Thou shalt not kill.'
"The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said. As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.
"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, 'I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.' In what I have just said, I am simply teaching correct principles and inviting each one of you to act upon these principles by governing yourself."
Close quote and proverbial mic drop.
Sister Dymock mentioned and tried to address a few questions and concerns that people have about dating. One of them was violence and rape. I have never heard anyone in a church setting be candid and honest enough to acknowledge that this concern exists. Alas, she didn't really address it, but how could she? Telling people (mostly but not exclusively men) not to be violent or rape is kind of pointless because everyone freaking knows that already and either cares or doesn't, and telling people (mostly but not exclusively women) how to protect themselves is victim-blaming. It's a lose-lose.
Another question people have, according to her, is how can you politely tell someone you're not interested?
"Call the police on him," I deadpanned.
Beside me, my friend laughed.
Sister Dymock didn't have any solid easy answer to that one either but she suggested as a general principle that you should try to leave the person better than you found them.
"Yeah, Calise," I deadpanned.
Beside me, my friend doubled over and spasmed as she fought to restrain her laughter. Beside her, her other friend started laughing too, though the look on her face suggested that she wasn't sure why. And this continued for so long that I started to think they must both be laughing at something else altogether until my friend gasped, "'Yeah, Calise!' I'm dying!"
Toward the end, Sister Dymock threw in a shoutout to LGBT people and their unique challenges in the church, which was nice, though I doubt many bothered to show up in the first place.
The devotional was only tainted by trace amounts of the banal sort of advice one gets everywhere else. President Dymock drew on his mission president expertise and suggested that the "Preach My Gospel" manual has great guidelines for dating as well as missionary work: "Talk to everyone, get referrals..." Cue everyone else laughing and me rolling my eyes because it wasn't that funny and I'm an introvert, thank you very much. Okay, he's not perfect but I still love him.
Another piece of advice that stuck with me, which seems as good as any to end my post on, was Sister Dymock's suggestion that after we've been severely hurt we can pray for the courage to try again. I'm sure this is great advice for some people and some scenarios. But I'll be damned if I'm going to take it. That would be like asking God to help me stab myself thirty-seven times in the chest. Or worse. Actual footage of me after the last time I fell in love:
Hmmm, let me think, do I ever, ever, ever under any conceivable circumstances want to open myself up to the possibility of experiencing anything like that ever again?
Anyway, what I got out of this devotional is that I need to just focus on myself and my own improvement and relationship with God. That's really very liberating. Now I'll have no one to blame for my constant failures and setbacks but myself.
Are you sick (no pun intended) of the c-word yet? I know I for sure am, but what else am I supposed to write about? Somehow this latest in an eternal series of unfortunate events in the news that heretofore have kept a respectful distance from me is turning out to actually be a big screaming deal right here in the U.S. of A. It's like nothing I've ever seen in my lifetime and frankly scares the crap out of me, but I suppose it's overdue. Why should I go along feeling like calamities on this scale are only supposed to happen to Liberians or Venezuelans or Australians or Italians or whomever? We're not exempt, I'm not exempt and I suppose there's nothing for it but to take a deep breath (not literally) and ride out the storm we have coming. It can't be stopped, it can only be delayed long enough to protect our already broken healthcare system from being completely overwhelmed, which is the point of all these closures and cancellations that conspiracy theorists and self-proclaimed experts on the internet are calling an overreaction.
As it happens, I know someone in Italy. She was an exchange student at my high school. Today she told me that everyone is locked at home and it looks like "zombie land".
I don't think for a moment that most of the people who are suffering and will soon suffer have done anything to deserve it, but collectively as a people this seems like a needed dose of humility. We think we're such a big screaming deal with our civilization and our technology and our infrastructure, and it's all brought to its knees by the tiniest organisms in existence (if a virus can technically be called an organism, which is debatable, but you know what I mean). It reminds me of The War of the Worlds, in which Earth's militaries are totally impotent against the Martian menace, and all hope seems lost until the latter is (spoiler alert) "slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth."
I've given some thought to my odds of not surviving this. On the one hand, I'm obviously very young and seem to have a better than average immune system. On the other hand, I do have a pre-existing respiratory condition of sorts. Six years ago almost exactly, I had the most brutal cold of my life and the coughing aspect never entirely went away. Coughing for no reason is literally just a part of my life that I take for granted now. I did go to the student health center after a month or so, and they said my throat was harmlessly inflamed and gave me some medicine that tasted like motor oil and didn't do anything, so I just got used to it even though it's stupid and annoying. Now it might make me too weak to recover.
You never know and it never hurts to be prepared. So consider this an official request: in the event of my death, my surviving sisters, if any, may do what they see fit with my worldly possessions. The meager contents of my bank account are to be divided evenly between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Doctors Without Borders. Please donate my body to science, burn whatever they don't want and sprinkle the ashes over Glens Falls, New York. The Spotify playlist I prepared some time ago for my funeral can be found here. If you never reached out to me while I was alive then please shut the hell up about how much you miss me. Oh, and I have a letter on my laptop that I wrote to my neighbor C for no reason other than to sort through my own tormented thoughts and emotions. I can't give it to her and had no intention of trying but if I die and she doesn't, I would like for her to read it. Someone please ensure that she gets it. She may file a restraining order against my corpse, but I can live with that, or not as the case may be.
Truthfully, though, I think God is having too much fun abusing me to let me die just yet. The real question is how much it will suck to be infected and for how long. And whether I'll be able to find sufficient food. And how many others I'll infect because I can't afford to skip more than a couple days of work. #capitalism
Today, in fact, is the two-month anniversary of that day which I now realize was the worst day of my life. I -
Yes, of course, thank you. I wasn't sure at first, because I've had plenty of contenders for that position, but two months later I can say that not one of them individually has had such a persistent negative impact. It turns out I'm not as strong as I thought I was and I haven't really moved on. The raw, soul-shredding trauma of the event is easy enough to forget if I don't think about it in any detail, but it nonetheless remains a constant weight on my psyche every day. I've been trying to pray every night for those who wronged me. I was just saying empty words until I learned more second-hand information about what makes them tick and why they might have done something so immature and uncalled for, at which point my words took on heartfelt meaning. I want them to wise up and be happy. Yet sometimes my pride reasserts itself and fills me with animosity toward them, and I struggle back and forth on that sometimes multiple times a day and it's a real joyride.
On the plus side, I spoke to the good roommate about getting my book back from the pathological liar, and she spoke to the pathological liar about giving my book back, and the pathological liar left my book on the doorstep along with a few homemade cookies that turned out to have nothing poisonous in them.
This guy I've seen at church a few times killed himself recently, and though I barely knew him at all, I knew him a tiny bit which is more than I've known any of the other locals who have killed themselves over the years, so it's kind of a weird feeling. He was good friends with one of my good friends who's already been dealing with a lot of crap she doesn't deserve. He did it on her birthday, no less. I feel really bad for her and even though I know better, it's tempting to think he was selfish and insensitive. Actually, he had a rare form of incurable and untreatable depression. If I had known him better, been privy to these things and wanted to stop him from killing himself, what could I have said? That it would get better, knowing full well that it wouldn't? That I wanted him to stay alive for me, knowing full well that every day of the rest of his life would continue to be hell? So I feel bad for those he left behind, but I honestly don't see that he had another viable option. I have every confidence that he's happy wherever he is.
I'm not at that point and I have a lot to live for and a lot to do. Unless the beer bug takes me after all. That possibility hasn't become really real to me yet even though I've been thinking about it for a week straight. I admit that in addition to my very real fear, I also feel a childish and sick kind of thrill that the suffering is still too far removed to dissipate. As I said, it's like nothing I've ever seen in my lifetime, and it's the closest thing I can imagine so far to a zombie apocalypse. Walking through campus and seeing the event signs with dates scribbled out or the word "CANCELED" plastered over them, or through the grocery store and seeing the empty shelves, gives me an unreal and indescribable feeling that brings to mind this most underrated of Koji Kondo compositions.
"Tired" is my default state of existence, but Daylight Savings Time screws me over even worse for at least a week. So I'm going to cheat and mostly use someone else's words today. I don't have much to say personally about the recent snafu with BYU's Honor Code change regading "homosexual behavior". I think it was very poorly handled, that someone should be fired for how poorly it was handled, and that the firestorm of negative publicity and protests is both warranted and deserved for how poorly it was handled. I think it worth noting that the sentiment in Elder Johnson's letter of clarification (inexplicably published two weeks after the fact), that behavior which "cannot lead to eternal marriage" is "not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code", if truly believed and enforced without hypocrisy would also lead to crackdowns on opposite-sex pity dates (a bane of my existence when I used to date) and non-committal makeout sessions (a phenomenon by no means limited to BYU, but nonetheless so pervasive at BYU that I've literally never heard that particular term or its acronym NCMO in any context that isn't BYU.)
Not mentioning the current controversy by name, but clearly catalyzed by it, a blogger at By Common Consent published this post that I find very, very relatable: "My Holy Horcrux"
To fill up the remainder of space, I repeat some words posted to "Mormons Building Bridges" on Facebook today by John Gustav-Wrathall. I won't offer any specific commentary as it's not my place to weigh in for or against the validity of anyone else's faith journey, but I like what he said. It comforts me a little.
"I did a fair amount of dating when I was at BYU. All members of the opposite sex. There was no romance involved at all. At the time I had no concept of what romance might even feel like in a relationship. In all my dating, there was never a moment, there was never a special someone, with whom I felt a deep yearning to build a life.
"That fact became a pivotal component in the personal crisis that led to a deep depression and severe suicidal ideation in my junior year. That and the fact that when I finally did feel that romantic spark, that powerful magnetic urge to be with another human being, to love them and to be loved in return by them, and to build a life together, those feelings welled up in me in relation to another guy. I discovered romance at BYU, just not the kind that I was supposed to.
"When I was with him, I felt alive. I felt deeply happy. And when I was not with him I dreamed of being with him, and I felt deep sadness at the thought of not being able to be with him.
"The following summer, I resigned from the Church and I left BYU forever. My crush left too, following several suicide attempts.
"It was a heartbreaking end to my relationship with Brigham Young University. There were few BYU students more idealistic and passionate about their faith and their testimony of the Church than I was. As I matured sexually, it became increasingly impossible for me to see a way through the conflict between my faith and my gayness, which is why death became an increasingly appealing option to me.
"Ultimately I survived because God revealed himself to me, and he showed me something about me I’d never been able to see or understand or accept. Also because he promised to go with me on whatever exodus I needed to go on. And God has kept his promise.
"I abruptly quit BYU just before the beginning of my senior year. I found another school that accepted all but my BYU religion credits, and I graduated and found myself free to explore what it meant to be gay, including whether to be in a relationship, and if to be in one, how to be in one. I ultimately met and committed to the man who has been my husband, teacher and soul mate for going on 29 years.
"In 2005, nineteen years after I escaped that dark place where suicide seemed like my only option, I felt called to go back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was crystal clear, it was powerful, and it was frightening at first. I followed the prompting of the Spirit, and the result has been 15 years of activity in the Lake Nokomis Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ, despite being married to a man and excommunicated. I have learned and grown so much from affiliating with the Saints, from studying the Gospel with them, feeling the Spirit among them, serving and being served by them, and receiving ministry and blessings through the restored priesthood.
"I am so grateful. Most importantly, I know I am where I am supposed to be, and I know that the journey that I am on is only just barely beginning in relation both to my husband and to the Church. I know to a lot of people that sounds crazy, but I know it deep inside from a decade and a half of knowing that the Gospel is true and almost three decades of knowing my marriage is true.
"My wish for LGBTQ BYU students today is that they could have a safe place to learn and grow in their faith and to learn and grow in their self-understanding, as they grow intellectually and prepare for their various vocations in the world but not of it. I wish BYU could be the place where they could do that. BYU was not that safe space for me. It almost killed me. I don’t know that it has become safe yet for LGBTQ students today, though it is getting better as the Church continues to learn and grow and struggle to understand these issues better.
"Here’s what I know in this situation. The Lord is at work in all of this. The Spirit is present and is at work teaching us in and through all of this — through the angst, the heartache, and the struggle, and through the moments when all of that provides a context for us to really practice charity with one another.
"As we continue to bear with one another, hard hearts will soften, confusion will give way to clarity, and at some point, the Lord will finish the work in a way that we will know it was him and nobody else who has done it. That is my testimony.
"In the meantime, I strive for gifts of patience, faith, hope and the pure love of Christ."
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.