Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Church's Little Monsters

I am attaching an essay written by one of my good friends. I thought it was absolutely beautiful while reading it. I hope you enjoy it as well. His blog is http://keeptreadingwater.blogspot.com

Enjoy the essay!

“What chiefly struck me was the gentle manners of these people, and I longed to join them, but dared not. I remembered too well the treatment I had suffered before...and resolved, whatever course of conduct I might hereafter think it right to pursue, that for the present I would remain quietly in my hovel, watching and endeavoring to discover the motives which influenced their actions” (Shelley 128).

There are those among us who hide themselves in their own hovels, watching others as they pursue the dreams and aspirations of a normal, healthy lifestyle. To those who are hiding in the hovels of despair, in their own personal closets, this paper is dedicated to you: The homosexual member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Published anonymously by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in 1818, Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus brings up several points, actions and feelings that are strikingly similar to those that homosexual members of the Christian religion feel. These feelings are wide and varied, and cannot be compiled into one short essay. However, for the purpose of this essay, we will focus on the feelings of shame, loneliness, and joy and how they are similar to the feelings of Frankenstein's monster and those of gay members in the Church.

Gershen Kaufmann, Ph.D, writer and publisher of Coming Out of Shame, describes the almost damning role that religion has on those who struggle with homosexuality or who describe themselves as being gay or lesbian. He says, “While religion has been generally viewed as offering relief from the burden of sin (shame), religion in fact has more often been the cause of further shame...” (89). This shame that Kaufmann mentions so blatantly can come from a number of different things. His book does not focus on religion as being the source of shame, but it is a component. Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are no strangers to this shame. Most cannot pinpoint a defining moment when they “knew” they were gay. They have just always simply known. We can describe this foreknowledge as either an innate desire, struggle, or burden. However, we read in The Book of Mormon that God gives His children weakness (Ether 12:27). Some members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community who are religious and devout members of the LDS faith attribute their homosexuality to be given to them by their Creator. We must believe that this is true with our knowledge of the scriptures and modern day revelation. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of the Mormon faith said, “The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build spiritual strength...” (Liahona, Mar 1996, 14 emphasis added). If God gives men weaknesses, and the Church defines homosexuality as a weakness, then it must be given to men and women. However, this challenge or blessing creates unnecessary shame and guilt. The monster of Frankenstein felt a similar shame for being created as well. From secretly watching the lives of others, the monster knew that he was different. He knew that he was not created equally as others were. This shame slowly began building inside of his soul until he pitifully cried out, “Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why…did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed?” (Shelley 162). He only wished to know the reason for his plight, and as he cried out into the darkness at his Creator, he received no answer. His cry to be relieved from his pain was unanswered and fell onto silent ears which only added to his deep feeling of shame.

Not only is the feeling of shame almost constantly present in their lives, gay members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also feel terribly alone. In the pamphlet entitled God Loveth His Children, we read that even though some may “...overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life” (4). Simply put, those great and spiritual men and women may never have the opportunity to be loved by a companion. The pamphlet also states that many of God's children will “...not have an eternal marriage in mortal life...many adults who, for a variety of reasons, [will] remain single” (Children 3). Being created in this wise gives way to feelings of depression and loneliness, much like the pitiful creature in Frankenstein. “I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me...my companion must be of the same species and have the same defects”(Shelley 173 emphasis added). The monster needed someone with whom he could associate. He needed a companion who shared the same “defects” as he. He was lonely and he had no one to relate to. Imagine the added pain and suffering the monster would have had to endure if he was forced to love someone who he never could? The same is with members of the Church who have homosexual feelings. In 1971, Spencer W. Kimball who was at the time, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “They [homosexuals] can be cured. Your problem can be solved...all can overcome it” (New Horizons for Homosexuals, Kimball 5, 15). These words grip the heart with an icy fist. Gay members of the LDS faith have shed buckets of tears, prayed for hours on end, read the scriptures for years, and still...they are not “cured”. Some members of the Christian faith believe that, if a gay person prays hard enough, they can simply “Pray away the gay” and be attracted to someone of the opposite gender. While this tactic may work for some people, it is more commonly known that prayer does not suffice. Most homosexual members of those faiths consign to either live alone or live happily with a companion who shares the same “defects” as the monster so quaintly described.

Even though the cursed creation of Frankenstein felt emotions as strong and painful as shame and loneliness, he did feel happiness and joy. The same feelings can be experienced by those who are attracted to their same gender. Rob Killian M.D, a gay member of the church has found that happiness. He said “I [found] joy in my creation. I [stopped] hating myself” (Gay Mormon Stories, Killian). The monster, as wretched as he was, found happiness during his travail on the earth: “I felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure, that had long appeared dead, revive within me...I allowed myself to be borne away by them, and forgetting my solitude and deformity, dared to be happy. Soft tears again bedewed my cheeks, and I even raised my humid eyes with thankfulness towards the blessed sun, which bestowed such joy upon me” (Shelley 168). Oh, the joy and love he must have felt in that moment! He allowed himself, regardless of the trials and temptations that did so easily beset him, to feel the joy and exquisite happiness around him. Even if that moment was fleeting, he did experience some joy in his miserable life. As time ticked slowly away, his yearning for happiness did not stop after that one moment. He roamed the land searching for meaning to his damned creation. Upon finally meeting his Creator in a dark and icy wonderland, the monster cried out to him, “...the picture I present to you is peaceful and human, and you must feel that you could deny it only in the wantonness of power and cruelty” (Shelley 176). He spoke of being granted the opportunity to love another just like himself, to share in joy and peace the rest of his life. He knew that he could only continue to experience happiness and peace if he could share it with someone who would love him back. He refused to walk the earth sad and alone, eternally in search of his companion. However, his wish was never fully granted. Sadly enough, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints only wish for true happiness in their lives by sharing it with a partner but are denied that wonderful earthly blessing.

The world and the Church may become more tolerant and accepting of those little monsters that have been created differently. We read, “For with God nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37). This paper is not intended to discourage the readers testimony nor encourage behavior that is contrary to the teachings of most Christian faiths. It is meant to be a message of hope and love. It is written to show gay members of the Church that even though they feel like they have been abandoned by their Creator, there is still the possibility of love, companionship and happiness on this earth. God wants all of His children to be happy and do the necessary things “...that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). It is surely possible to both be gay and be happy.

The most important message that can be retrieved from reading Frankenstein and comparing it to homosexuals in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the ability to overcome the feelings of shame and loneliness. Members who are homosexual must learn to realize that just because they are different, doesn't mean they should wallow in their self-misery. Frankenstein's monster never truly understood that concept. Even though he tried to reconcile himself with his own Creator, he never forgave him. Right after Frankenstein's death, the wretch looked over his body and said, “...my agony was still superior to thine...but soon, I shall die, and what I feel now shall no longer be felt” (Shelley 277). Gay members of the church should never have a similar attitude. They must realize that their Creator has given them the wonderful blessing to be different and to learn from it. As hard as it is, the Lord has promised that He will help those who have heavy blessings to bear. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Despite the lack of love and appreciation that Victor Frankenstein showed to his creation, we must always know and rely on the love of our Savior.

As time goes on, other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have to learn to love their homosexual brothers and sisters. They must provide them with opportunities to grow as they all strive to become better sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. It took years for Frankenstein to finally accept the creation of his own hands. Homosexual members should not have to wait that long to feel acceptance and love from their Creator and fellow members of the Church. A great prophet of old said these encouraging words, “...I do not know the meaning of all things, nevertheless...I know that [God] loveth His children” (1 Nephi 11:17). Even though the feelings of shame and loneliness creep into the lives of homosexual members, they must and should always remember that their true Creator, their Heavenly Father, made them just the way they are and He will always love them unconditionally.

As an update in my life, the job is quite difficult. The kids like to push my buttons to see what I'll do and if I stick to the rules or not. I'm a softy. I have a hard time sticking to the rules so I'm working really hard to set accurate and doable boundaries for these kids. Their new nickname for me is "gay harry potter". To be honest, it really hurts. I'm going to confront them about it tomorrow so I hope that goes well. I hope I can adjust to this new job and not take things so personally. When a kid told me to f-off and then flipped me off, it didn't phase me at all. But this nickname is too much. I guess it's 'cause I am still ashamed of who I am. I am unhappy with where I am in life and in my sexuality.

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