Friday, November 6, 2015

Unrequited: My Love Affair with the LDS Church


Four years ago, I fell in love with a man. Deeply, madly, profoundly. What started out as infatuation developed into something much more meaningful. I’d never felt so deeply for someone and even now, I question if I’ll ever feel that way about someone else.

I got to know this man more and more and we became close friends. But alas, he was taken. Still, I would do thoughtful things for him. I’d send uplifting messages and gift him gifts on special occasions. While he never reciprocated much with these kinds of gestures, he was remarkably kind and sweet. He allowed me access into his world and we shared some experiences that I’d never experienced before.

And then the message was delivered: “I don’t feel that way about you, Nate.” I was fully aware that he wasn’t exactly on the market, but I was still devastated. Knowing that we couldn’t be together was one thing to accept. But knowing he didn’t view me in the same light that I viewed him was crushing to my soul. It did a number to my self-esteem and I’m still not sure I’ve recovered.

Besides health problems, financial stress and losing people you love, I’m not sure there is another form of pain that rivals the ultimate agony of feeling so deeply for someone and knowing that those feelings can’t be returned. It may sound like high school, but really: Unrequited love hurts like hell.

As I reflect on my deep affection for this man, I’ve come to realize that I’ve never been so hurt by someone in my entire life. However, the object of my affection doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. I would take things very personally. If he didn’t return gestures or if he couldn’t find time for me, I’d take it as feedback. To him, he just simply didn’t have the bandwidth to give what I was able to give. The furthest intention from his heart was to hurt me. But that was the result.

Intentions vs. results.

Since then, I’ve recognized that my tendency to hold on was leading me to a very sad place. Who knows? In another world, another time, maybe we could’ve worked or been a good fit. But all of my hopes and wishes were ultimately wasted. This man didn’t hurt me. My hopes and expectations of what could be hurt me. Thinking of what I could do for him and what he could do for me over the years. Gone in a second.

I’m seeing a parallel between my experience with this man and my experience with the LDS Church. I fear more and more that it’s a classic case of unrequited love. I’m never going to get back what I give.

I was dealt a double punch to the gut on Thursday, November 5th. I became aware that new policies in the church handbook would deem members of the church in same-sex marriages as “apostates”. This wasn’t too surprising. After all, married people tend to have sex. Straight married sex is not sinful and gay married sex is grounds for excommunication. But to add “same-gender marriages” to the list of offenses that deem someone as an “apostate” is pretty hurtful.

Can you imagine being called a bigot? Or a racist? When you know in your heart that you love all people and you strive to be Christ-like, being called a word like that takes away from everything you try to stand for. And so it is with the word “apostate”. Can you actually imagine having a deep love for the church to the point of giving your life to it and then being dismissed as an “apostate” simply because of who you love?

So, later that night, I began to see a flood of posts directed at the church and assumed that it was because of this whole apostate thing. Then it became clear that a second bomb had dropped: Children of same-sex couples don’t get baby blessings and can’t be baptized until they turn 18. Even then, these children must move out of their parents’ homes and disavow all same-sex relationships. In a sense, they must turn against their parents. Plus, approval from top leadership in the church is required.

Initially, I couldn’t help but feel angry, confused, attacked, misunderstood, judged, shut out, uninvited, etc. A flurry of texts, private messages and other gestures came my way by family and friends who knew this would be a painful thing for members of the church in my boat. So much love at such a low time. I was an emotional wreck and just needed time to sort my thoughts and feelings out. After all, the church hadn’t even commented yet on the new policies. But would the way I felt change at all after a statement was made? To me, the damage had been done. The message was already delivered.

Anyone who has followed my blog has seen that I have tried my best to speak well of the church. Entry after entry, I’ve been honest about some of the difficulties that come along with being a gay man who still wants connection with the LDS church. I’ve defended the church at times because it is filled with people I love. People who are so good and who are so loving and so quick to show compassion. I’ve explained why I wish to stay aligned. I’ve shared my testimony. I was even planning on posting a new entry with “The Top 10 Reasons I’m Still Glad to Be a Mormon” as an uplifting message to my brothers and sisters in the church. I wanted them to see that we really aren’t that different.

I felt my balance was good and that more and more people were open to having a conversation. I saw progress in the church and found a period of peace where I knew that things would take a while, but hey, things were progressing. I was getting mostly positive feedback from my blog and was humbled by the notion that being so open and honest might actually be affecting some change.

Thursday’s news stopped me dead in my tracks. I am reminded of a man I loved very much. I gave and gave and would’ve done anything for him. But he just wouldn’t (and couldn’t) love me back. He wasn’t mean or unkind. He just didn’t have the ability to return my feelings. To give myself some semblance of peace, I’ve let go of him. In some ways I will always love him. But I recognize that holding on is causing more pain.

Similarly, I have loved this church. I loved singing at the top of my lungs in primary. I loved passing the sacrament and collecting fast offerings. I loved leadership roles as a young man. I loved playing the piano for the kids in Primary. I loved doing countless musical numbers over the years. I loved leading Gospel Doctrine classes in thought-provoking and meaningful discussions. I fought hard to serve a mission. I loved and taught the people of England and Wales with everything that I had. I put aside my own needs and desires for companionship for 20 years of my adult life because I wanted to abide the law of chastity. Even now, as I’m ready to date and consider companionship, I am trying my damnedest to affiliate with the church and have a place at the table. While I don’t feel I’m getting that back, I have to ask: Is the church trying to hurt me deliberately? I don’t think so. At the end of the day, that’s the result.

Maybe it’s time to let go. Maybe holding on so tightly is causing more harm than good. Maybe I’ve been a fool to think that I could one day marry a great guy and raise children with the principles and teachings we learned in the LDS church. Maybe it’s time I admit that I should’ve known better.

Since Thursday, the debates on both sides have merit and deserve consideration. But I’m just not in a place where I can accept most of them. One guy wants to compare this to children of polygamy and suggest that “this is nothing new” and I’m supposed to be comforted by such thoughtless sentiments. The next guy wants to bash the church and suggest that it’s responsible for suicides and tearing families apart. While some of that may be true, I am not ready to join his fight against the church.

I am, however, ready to question and ready to express that I am hurt by what the church did, once again. I’m down for the count and will need some time to reassess whether I still want to be a part of this church. I know that will hurt some of my friends and family very much. But I’d ask them to consider the rollercoaster this ride has been for me. I want to get off that ride for a while because I’m sick to my stomach.

While I have no plans to resign and pull my records from the church, this whole experience has shaken me. I feel like the church is saying the same thing to me that a man I once loved said: “I don’t feel the same way about you, Nate.”

Unrequited love hurts like hell. Especially when you’ve given so much.

For a time, I will not be turning to the church for direction or answers. But I will continue to turn to God and pray for peace and understanding. For clarity and for hearts to soften. Thanks to all of you who have reached out. It’s the one thing that kept me going and gave me the courage to post this.

UPDATE: I posted the following in response to the church-released statement from Elder Christofferson of the Twelve to my Facebook page on 11/07, thought I'd include it here:


With a humble heart, I wanted to quickly express my response to this video. I've already shared how I feel on my blog before the church released any kind of statement. But many of my dear LDS friends have made comments such as this: "It's too bad people are overreacting to the policy being leaked to the press by an apostate. Wait and see what the church has to officially say before you draw any conclusions." Some have added that this video helps them feel peace and understanding. With love and respect for Elder Christofferson, however, I must say that watching this 10 minute clip did not comfort me or magically change the way I feel. I wish I could report that it did. Some would say: "Church haters are going to continue to hate, no matter what." Fine, some will do just that. But the majority of people I know who have been rocked by this recent news are not haters of the church. They are not lacking in spirit or failing to exhibit faith. They are simply devastated by these changes. I'm willing to entertain the ways in which children could be spared confusion and humiliation with this strict policy. Unfortunately, I strongly believe that this change will affect children in many more negative ways than in positive ways. It will break what semblance of "family" the gay members of our church have. I do not wish to be divisive. I don't enjoy hurting the feelings of church members that mean a great deal to me. But I needed to express that copying this link with a quick command to "watch this and pray before you condemn" did not have a changing effect on me. I'm still hurt. I still disagree. And I will still turn to the Lord for further understanding and peace. I'm not a rebel. I'm not an apostate. I am a gay man who loves the Lord and with humility, I continue to question this change in policy.

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson


39 comments:

  1. Don't know you to well Nate, but Marriage of a man and women is what the Church teaches and is the right way. Don't fully understand how you can dream of same sex marriage and raising a family in the LDS Church. Same sex marriage is bad and it's not Gods plan. I'm also sure there is a reason why this policy of children being blessed, etc. Thing's must have been happening for them to take this stance.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Anonymous.

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    2. Nate... My heart breaks for you.... As someone who has been raised with same sex relations all around me, I can certainly understand why your so upset. It doesn't make you less human or have less importance than anyone else. I am a STRONG believer in "humans are imperfect" they all are. Everyone of us has faults. Not just you and I, but the leaders of the church as well... I love them, and I sustain them as my leaders and what they teach to me and my family. BUT they to are human. They I'm sure... Came out with that because they want the line to be clear. As someone who has served, as you have. I'm sure you know where they stand and have always stood. I also believe that you have a testimony of Christ and know that he loves you... Life is hard. Gay, straight, sick, troubled, addicted, etc... Everyone has hard trials. And the church helps me through mine. I hope with your knoledge and faith. You can and will receive help through yours...

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    3. And what was the purpose of this comment "Anonymous"?? I'm gathering that "mourning with those that mourn" doesn't come easily for you. The statement you made above was not only unnecessary, but cruel. Try taking the "comfort those that stand in need of comfort" route next time. It might come off more Christ-like.

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    4. Thanks to the Jensens. Wish I knew which Jensens. And to Kelly, thanks. I am amazed that I can be so open and vulnerable, and then people get to say mean things in response without having the courage to share their name. I generally don't put much stock into what Anonymous people say because it's not a true point of view until one's name is attached.

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    5. You only hear what you want, and YOU NATE are as guilty as what you blame others. I know you well enough to know you only appreciate those with the same views and "lifestyle" and label everything that goes contrary to your view as mean. You argue to win not to build, give me an F-ing break, I heard you just the other day and now here you try to come off guiltless. I think you're great great but damn dude there are times you are so damn hypocritical, easily offended over everything, EVERYTHING! You look to find argument. I love you and have tried to tell you and you have been a great friend, but for once get back to being the NATE I know. It's like you cant talk of anything else, you always play the victim when in F-ing reality you have so much to be thankful for. I stay anonymous cause I enjoy our friendship but I'm so tired of hearing your constant bitching and you cloaking all your insecurities. Look at how many people love you already, at how many people cherish you. PLEASE PLEASE as a friend (tough love) just shut up and think about it. Your f_ing sexuality shouldn't define you, what defines you is all the people you have already touched. So again SHUT YOU MOUTH and be thankful and stop pointing fingers whether your right our wrong disagree or agree. Can someone please give me a HOLY SHIT!!!!

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    6. Slow clap. You seem to post a vitriolic comment every single time I post. The best part is, you don't have the courage to sign it. The purpose of this blog is to speak of my experience of being gay and wanting to remain connected to the LDS church. Clearly, there is a lot of other things to talk about, but as you can see, many visit my blog to relate, to understand, to be understood and to draw strength. All your anonymous comments do is attack and criticize. I don't think you're even taking the time to read what I'm writing. The content of my posts are so inconsistent with what you're saying. Do us all a favor and stop being a troll unless you can back it up with your name. I actually have a pretty good idea who you are and if I'm right, it makes your comments hold zero weight based on how hateful you've always been toward me. I can handle your hate and I will leave your comment posted for all the world to see that you're just a scared troll who needs to attack someone who is actually trying to do some good. Congrats once again, Anonymous. You're helping me accomplish my purpose.

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  2. So much love and respect for you my friend...my soul aches for you and others. I am not LDS, but was raised here, and so many of my closest friends and mentors are LDS, and I respect them very much. It was with a heavy heart that I read the "Breaking News", and I have avoided most of the conversations surrounding it. My own soul just doesn't have the room for any more hateful words, whether they directly or indirectly impact me or my loved ones. So know this, I love and support you, I love and support my family, I love and support my friends...This is MY testament... *hugs*

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. I really appreciate it!

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  3. Nate, I just wanted to reach out and say I'm so sorry for the pain you are facing as you try your darndest to hold onto the things you hold dear. I respect you and support you. These posts are awesome and you are loved.

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    1. SueZan, I really appreciate this coming from you. Thanks for the kind words.

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  4. You are a wonderful man, to have given so much of yourself. I myself have chosen to step away from the LDS church recently because of its current views; however much of my family are still active members. I loved the teachings it taught when I was little, and pray someday it will welcome everyone. I want you to know that I fully support you. May God bless and keep you.

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    1. Thanks so much for the support, Sandi!

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  5. Thank you for your post. Although I am not gay I am a proud member of the church and a big supporter of the LGBT community. I too felt hurt by this new change, but I also know God loves all of his children and will continue to bless them as they follow his path. Your testimony in God and his prophets will never change, and you know his plan.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Thanks for acknowledging that I know His plan even though I struggle with certain things about the church.

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  6. Hi Nate. I love you and the progress you have made. I know that you love the church but I think that it is time that you read the CES letter and the research mormonthink has done. Specifically about blacks and the priesthood. I think it would soften the blow a bit. You are loved and cherished.

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    1. I've read the CES letter, interesting. But it probably didn't have the same effect on me as it does most. Thanks for your kind words of support.

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  7. I love you Nate just the way you are. Please know that even straight people as myself are also very baffled by this decision. I have family members in your shoes also and it hurts me so much to hear this as it does you. Please know how much I love you or I should say we love you because you are loved and respected by so many people because of your beautiful soul. I will respect your decision and I completely understand. Please know that you and your feelings are not alone. I am and always will be here for you. Love you so much!

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    1. This is Robin Matejka. I know that Amanda feels the same way too.

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    3. Love you, Robin! Thanks again for the encouragement. ;)

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  8. “Be believing.... be happy, don't get discouraged. Things will work out.”
    ― Gordon B. Hinckley

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  9. Nate I am a deep thinker but very simple in my opinions and explanations. I try to be a person of few words and offer well thought out straight forward advice when appropriate.

    I feel it is time to walk away my friend. Giving too much of yourself and getting beat down repeatedly is extremely damaging. I am the stereotypical mans man and reading your words I felt pain, my heart sank. I can't imagine the suffering you are going through. So, again it is time to walk away and grow in a different light.

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    1. Hey, Todd. Thanks for your comment. It is damaging. I'll be weighing everything out, that's for sure. But yes, it's a personal decision that I'd have to feel good about making. Anyway, I appreciate you stopping by and sharing. It's appreciated!

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  10. There are many beliefs within the church that the outside world sees as quirky, crazy, or just down right dumb. And I'm okay with all of them..... except two. I'm comfortable talking about the belief in a heavenly mother, Joseph Smith's first vision and even "magic" underwear (lol). But I become very uncomfortable, irritated and drawn in when the topics of polygamy and blacks barred from the priesthood come up. With this new policy, there are now three things that I will be very uncomfortable talking about.

    Feed them milk before you feed them meat. I was about 100 hamburgers into my progress in the church when I started to really learn and understand the events surrounding polygamy and black members being denied the priesthood. If I were a grown adult prior to joining the church and feed this up front, before any milk, there is no way I would have joined. No sane person with any measure of intelligence could believe these two events occurred under the direction of a loving God, without first being brainwashed and eased up to such beliefs. (When members say feed them milk before meat, whether they know it or not, they are suggesting brainwashing.)

    When I started to really grasp what had occurred with these two events, there was no amount of rationalizing that I could muster to make the church’s version ok. Did I lose my testimony at that time? No, I took my thoughts and feelings about these two events and buried them deep inside, where hopefully I could delay and put off the day that I would need to reconcile the events with how they fit into my testimony of the church. By that point, I had invested way too much into the church for me to have one of the possible outcomes be to leave. Further, as a Utah Mormon, I wouldn’t just be abandoning my church, but I would be abandoning my family, friends, everything that I have ever come to know as “life”. (Not by my choice of cutting those relationships off, but because I was certain they would cut me off.)

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  11. Over time I have been playing out scenarios in my head of how things could be reconciled. It turns out, there is a way. Pertaining to these two events, if the church were to come out and say, “We effed up! We were wrong and these were not divinely guided events.” A huge burden would be lifted off my shoulders! But wait, if the church is fallible, then doesn’t that negate the entire premise of our beliefs? No, because even though God communicates through the Prophet and Apostles, that doesn’t mean that everything they communicate is from God. If they are at a restaurant ordering a hamburger, it is they who are placing the order, not God. Their bodies deteriorate just as our bodies deteriorate, they die, just like we die. They are men, they are fallible, fallible men say stupid things.

    Many members in the church either don’t know about or dismiss the incident with Mark Hoffman. Mark Hoffman was a professional forger that sold, what he claimed to be, were authentic documents from the early beginnings of the church, even documents from ancient Egypt. Here’s the kicker, he dealt directly with and sold the documents to Gordon B. Hinckley, who was in the First Presidency at the time. It wasn’t just a onetime sale, but rather a number of documents, over a number of years. How could an Apostle of God not know that these supposed “church” documents were forgeries? How much insight does a seer and revelator have if he doesn’t even have the intuition of a lay person to consider he’s being duped? To add insult to injury, some of the documents he sold were out of blackmail. Some documents were purported to be unfavorable for the church, showing the succession was not properly bestowed upon Brigham Young, but rather Joseph Smith III (Reorganized LDS church). This would have negated all the church’s authority. So what did President Hinckley do? He purchased them so that he could deliberately keep them hidden from the public. A man of God, with deliberate intent to carry out deception.

    Hoffman got greedy and needed more money, became sloppy, even resorting to murder and got caught. Of course this was all over the news at the time and one would have anticipated a mass exodus of members leaving the church…. they didn’t. They had eaten so much “meat” by that point that they were just fat and happy. The point here being that a member can really only conclude one of two things- either the church isn’t true, or the Prophets and Apostles are human and make mistakes, even grievous ones. (lying)

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  12. I personally have reached a point where I know I’ve been brainwashed, none of it is true and now I need to carefully time my exit. My children have had too much milk and have been moved on to meat, but are still too young for me to just pull the plug and walk away with them from the church. It would be a shock to their system (family and friends too). I feel that I can present these things to them slowly over time and then as adults they will be able to make their own choice.

    That being said, the church is a great organization in other aspects, from family to strong community. That is why I would be okay with staying if they would admit that they too have effed up. But with these new policies, it looks like they will continue to make mistakes and use God as their justification. It is clear that members have had a shock to their system with these new policies and the church is rushing out glasses of milk to help the meat go down. It’s funny how I see members posting Elder Christopherson’s recent interview as the, “This makes everything better.” resolve. No, no it doesn’t. He didn’t clarify anything. He simply restated what we all had already read. What many of us believed had to be a mistake. Turns out, it wasn’t a mistake, we read and understood it correctly, according to Elder Christopherson’s statement.

    The fact that the church has survived the events surrounding polygamy, Blacks and the priesthood, and the Hoffman incident, I have no doubt the church will survive this newest debacle. But I still would like to throw in two more cents worth about this latest development. I came across this glass of milk and can only see it as an insult to my intelligence. http://lds.net/blog/buzz/lds-news/myths-on-new-mormons-and-gays-policy/

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    1. I'm assuming that the last 3 comments came from the same person. Thanks for sharing your perspective. It took time and effort to share it and I appreciate it.

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  13. Myth #1 These Changes Punish Children

    “…There is no degree of punishment that exists in these new changes… All children, of course, continue to be welcome at all church activities, including primary, and Sacrament meeting.” The premise that these children are still welcome to attend all these activities as softening the blow, shows ignorance about children. Not only would this not soften the blow, it would compound it. How would a child feel that has been banned from being ordained to higher priesthoods all the while his peers move up? How would a child feel being passed the sacrament from his best friend and classmate, yet knowing he is banned from passing it himself? How would a child feel on a Saturday when all of their friends are at the temple doing baptisms for the dead, but the child has been banned? “No degree” of punishment???

    “In most places in the United States, if one parent tries to destroy the relationship of their child with the other parent it is considered “custodial interference” which is grounds to change the custodial agreement. Because the Church continues to affirm that heterosexual marriage is the ideal, there could potentially be judges in the United States—perhaps, even, very many judges—who would categorize a child joining a church that rejects their parent’s new relationship as custodial interference.” It’s absurd to think such a premise would ever stand up in court. If this were the case joining any religion would be grounds custodial interference. A father is Baptist so the wife joins a Lutheran church, teaching the child that dad’s beliefs are wrong.

    “While a parent in a same-sex relationship could theoretically approve of their child’s baptism, questioning their motivation to do so would be prudent since they have so prominently rejected the teachings of the Church.” Under this logic no child should be “trusted” to be baptized, questioning the parents motive unless the parents were LDS. Obviously anyone who is not a member of the church, rejects the church’s teachings! So the motives would be just as questionable. But to the contrary, there are many LGBT raised in the church that LOVE the church and their motives couldn’t anything but love for the church. They just happen to have one sin that is extremely difficult to overcome.

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    1. I am keeping this comment live, but I deleted all of the other comments because what this "Anonymous" poster has done is a copy/paste job from an article title from LDS.net. Click this link if you want to read it. Can I just say that I appreciate comments from people who actually share their own point of view and not rely on links to do the talking for them? Also, I'd suggest simply posting the URL for the link you want me to review (which I've already seen and read) instead of flooding my comments section with individual copy and paste jobs. I respect your voice and will include the link, but I'd challenge you to share in your own voice. As far as these myths are concerned, I'll just state that I disagree with most of them. Here is the link "Anonymous" should've just shared: http://lds.net/blog/buzz/lds-news/myths-on-new-mormons-and-gays-policy/

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    2. Oops, forgot to include the title: The 9 Facebook Myths About the Church’s New LGBT Policy. To me, it was written by someone who doesn't understand the gay Mormon family experience at all. Some members of the church will take comfort with this article, it'll make them feel better about the church. To me, it's just an ineffective article. But out of respect to the poster who copied and pasted it, I'm keeping it in the comment chain.

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  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  17. Oh no! Is there a way you can re-establish the comments that were removed? The poster wasn't just copying and pasting, they copied one or two lines from the article and provided a rebuttal, which I thought were excellent. That's why I've come back, because I didn't think to write them down, but now I see most of them are gone.

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    1. Oh, I didn't realize! My bad. I'll see if there's a way to recall them.

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  18. A few more interesting articles / perspectives I thought I'd share:

    Bro. Christofferson's gay brother:
    http://www.wheatandtares.org/19470/tom-christofferson-transcript/

    and this well-written perspective on Church governance:
    http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/gods-human-delivery-system-sustaining-living-prophets-seers-and-revelators/

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  19. Roomie! You are so brave. I am with you 100% and always will be. I am honored to call you my friend.

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