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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guest Post: Lessons from The Tree of Life for a Gay Mormon

BKH is a gay Mormon. This has been cause of much anxiety, depression and frustration. It has made his dating, family life and education at BYU somewhat difficult. He is trying to figure out how to reconcile what he believes with how he feels, but doesn't know what he's doing most of the time. These thoughts came as a result of a series of days where he had a major freak out about all this.

In the Book of Mormon, a man named Lehi had a dream about the Tree of Life -- a tree whose fruit brings life and happiness.

I have recently fallen in love with this story again because of its simple power in portraying what we want in life, regardless of our spiritual persuasions, or lack thereof.

In the dream, Lehi see a tree with beautiful fruit, fruit he says is "desirable to make one happy." It makes sense he'd want that fruit, right? If I found a tree with fruit that could make me happy, I'd be all over that. Lehi sees a lot of other things -- a rod that leads to the tree, an intense fog, a big floating building, and hoards of people going towards the tree. His son Nephi wants to understand the symbolism in this dream, and so he prays about it. Pretty soon, an angel appears to explain the dream of Nephi's father.

The angel shows Nephi the tree and asks, "What do you see?"
"A tree … (awkward pause) ... with fruit that … (awkward pause) ... makes people happy."
"Perfect," the angel says.
"Do you want to know what it means?"
"That's why you're here, right?"

This is not exactly a scriptural account, but pretty much how it would go if I were Nephi.

So, the angel tells Nephi that the tree of life represents the love of God. People were trying to get to the fruit to taste of the love of God. They wanted to feel loved.

Nephi also learns that the rod represents the word of God. The fog represents confusions, questions, doubts, and concerns. The building is full of mockers pointing fingers at people eating the fruit. It represents the pride of the world, the condemnation of those who are trying so hard to get to a place where they can feel love. It's floating because pride has no foundation, mockery no base, and condemnation no justification.

Now my thoughts are about to get really vulnerable and intense. Just a disclaimer.

So, the tree represents the love of God, and its fruit is desirable to make one happy. In the dream, numberless amounts of people push towards the tree. Why? Because they want to feel love. They want the one thing that is so elusive in this life -- love that lasts outside time and space, knowledge that life has a purpose. They want happiness. And so, they ceaselessly press on. Meanwhile, people in the building are making fun, deriding their choices, and laughing at the idea that some fruit is really going to make them happy.

What does all this have to do with being gay?

You see, in my pursuit of the fruit that makes one (i.e. me) happy, I have found two great and spacious buildings full of people mocking and deriding me—one filled with Mormons, and the other with the world's LGBT community. The Mormon side (which comes from the rank and file, not the leadership for the most part) questions the reality of my attractions, suggesting I "pray the gay away" or just date more girls, sometimes even refusing to acknowledge that I (and other gay Mormons) exist. This proves a great stone of stumbling, both to me and to the faith to which I subscribe. The second building laughs at my dedication to my faith, hearing the Mormon mockery and willingly pointing it out to me.

What do the fog and those mists of darkness and confusion mean for me? Those are my own thoughts, doubts, questions, processes, anxieties, and concerns. Sometimes, those mists get really, really thick. To say that I have no questions about my identity or my faith and my place in it would be a lie. There are lots of questions that have no foreseeable resolution. Frequently, my answer to questions about the future has been, "I don't know," and that frustrates both the inquirer and me. I hate not knowing, not having control over outcomes. With no immediate resolution, I continue to walk through the mists, clinging to the limited things I do know.

All I want is what anyone wants--love, happiness, and acceptance. I want to know that God loves me, is aware of me, and wants me to be happy. I want to feel something, anything. It's not about what others want or think anymore. I have to know that God knows what He's doing, that He's okay with who I am, and that I can have a meaningful relationship with Him in whatever circumstance I choose. And so, like countless others, I press on. Hoping, pleading, crawling towards something that is the fulfillment of everything I want.

Sometimes, all I can do is just breathe. So often, I find myself face-to-face with the idea that I can't have happiness, no matter the direction I take in my life. There have been countless times when I have looked up into the sky and screamed at God, "WHY CAN'T I HAVE HAPPINESS?!?" That's a real feeling. Sometimes, it doesn't seem worth it to keep pressing on, seemingly against a raging current. At times, recent times, ending everything – committing suicide – seemed the viable solution to ending all this dissonance. The appeal of nonexistence, or at least being unaware that I exist, is a tantalizing desire. That's a real feeling, a scary feeling, and a vulnerable feeling.

I don't want accolades or praise heaped upon me for "enduring" in such a difficult setting, for "suffering" through my same-sex attraction. I don't want criticism for not talking sooner, or for talking at all either. That's not why I'm doing this. This glimpse into my world is to help you grasp the difficulty that comes with being a gay Mormon. I am hoping that you now understand the anxiety, depression, and confusion inherent in these contradictory worlds. It's hard, damn it. At times, it seems too much to bear. At other times, I think I catch a glimpse of the happiness I want. I am hoping that you'll no longer make it so hard for people you care about who are caught in this sometimes hellish place, torn between two competing worlds in a search for happiness.
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BKH is a grad student at BYU who hails from the Gem State. Also, he's gay. So, please stop trying to set him up with your daughters. It's not going to work out. BKH loves the outdoors, and can be found hiking, camping, running, or exploring more than he can be found in the classroom. At least he wishes it was that way.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gif Image credit: Damir Krivenko.

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