I am in California visiting my boyfriend Sean and my family. Sean and I spent several days at my parent's house. One of those days was a Sunday. My sister was giving a talk, my dad was teaching Sunday School and my mom was teaching a special class on raising kids. So I guess there was no getting out of church for them. I usually prepare clothes so that I could go to church if that is what people were doing. So, despite my parents knowing my intentions to leave the church, I brought my clothes. I really don't have anything against sitting with my family at church every now and then. For me, it is more about family than it is about church.
Anyway, Sean and I decided we would go to Sacrament Meeting to hear my sister's talk. The meeting had the same familiarity as always. It was a little weird being back at my home ward with my boyfriend, though I'm not sure how many people knew that was who he was, or even if they know I am gay. The first speaker was my sister, followed by a recently returned missionary referred to as the "junior companion" to the last speaker who was a member of the high council.
The meeting was a bit torturous. It was uncomfortable because I didn't want to make my family uncomfortable by being comfortable with Sean at church. I mean, we held hands while sitting in the pews, but it was very discreet... practically hidden. The talks were boring as usual, but this time they were especially bothersome because I could see right through them. The return missionary was being groomed and prepped for "great things." Traveling from ward to ward with a member of the high council talking about his mission... six months after returning home. Nothing he said was really of any substance... but I could see why he was in front of us speaking.
He felt important. Local leaders were praising him publicly. He had an audience who listened (whether they wanted to or not). He had stories he loved telling. I experienced this on my mission. I felt important. I had a duty and others looked up to me and expected me to be great and they praised me for it. That is a pretty good ego builder and it feels wonderful. In many ways, I think it is kind of addictive. When you don't have it, you get depressed and feel unimportant. But as long as you keep feeding the addiction, you are living high.
So even though this return missionary was feeling this great sense of importance and success, he really had little to say. If I remember right, the climax of his talk was when he recounted how he gained a testimony and would never doubt it again. The story went something like this: He was having a hard time in the bible belt were he served. He felt discouraged because it seemed that all anyone wanted to do was prove him wrong. But then he found this scripture in the Book of Mormon that talked about going and preaching to the wicked Lamanites and how those missionaries were blessed by God and righteous by every standard. That scripture spoke so strongly to him about what he was doing, that he will never again doubt the "true church."
When I was young, I would have nodded my head and added this story to the endless list of special spiritual experiences missionaries have. But now I sit wondering how all this adds up. How does relating a scripture to your perception of your current situation equal undeniable truth? I mean the missionary viewed himself as going out against all opposition to take the truth to the "wicked Lamanites" and somehow that means the church is true. It just doesn't add up anymore.
My dad also made some comments that revealed his real feelings about me being gay. While we were getting ready for church he said, "you're not going to take the sacrament though right?" When my mom objected to the question he said, "well is he supposed to?" I had no intention of eating a piece of bread and tiny cup of water, but the message my dad was sending with his comment was clear. Obviously he thinks that I am "unworthy" in some way. Otherwise that comment wouldn't have been made. He said some other things suggesting that things in the water (or other source of food or drink) might have been the cause for me being gay and also that gays change all the time from being gay to being straight.
My dad is friendly enough to me and Sean, but when you see that someone perceives you as unworthy or broken or as just going through a phase, it doesn't provide a very welcoming atmosphere.
Although the rest of my family is much better about the whole situation, I think that they still have a ways to go. It still feels like their might be some level of discomfort for them. Not in seeing me with another guy, but in the way they don't talk about it or mention it to people in general. I mean, I know people ask about me. "How's Jonathan doing? Is he married yet?" And instead of responding in a transparent way, responses are given that don't let on to the fact that I am gay. On the other hand, if someone were to ask about my sister, the response would give plenty of information about who she is dating and how serious it is, etc.
Some day I hope that I don't sense any of that discomfort. In the meantime, I will give it time and I will live my life un-apologetically.