10 June 2008

Feeling Like the Tares

Matthew 13: 30 "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."

Doc & Cov 86: 3, 6-7 "...the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness. [...]
6 But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
7 Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned."

Sometimes, I feel like I am more inclined to try to engage more fully in church activity and settle into a ward to start developing friendships with ward members and serving in a focused way, through callings and home teaching. Then other times I think I'm being dishonest with myself and with other church members in engaging in such a way.

For example, when I hear someone report on Elder Scott's visit to California, and his assessment that gay marriage is one of the greatest evils Satan uses today to limit people from the opportunity of having an eternal family and uses that as a reason to encourage legislation banning it, I realize that I simply can't, in good conscience, faithfully and fully support the stance of the brethren on this issue in being involved so heavily in legislating morality of this kind. I'm not prepared to say they're flat-out wrong, but I cannot simply sit back and nod quietly and acknowledge that my reservations are subtle deceptions of the devil, despite the fact that I believe I understand that argument and recognize its feasibility. I stated my opinion on the subject some time ago on my blog, and it garnered some debate. My position remains the same. I consider the church's political activism regarding gay marriage to be very troublesome. My ideas, my interpretation of the role of government and legislation are being called devilish sophistry and false philosophy by the men whom I claim to support as prophets, seers, and revelators, simply because I disagree that the church should get involved in these political measures the way it is. I feel I am left with a choice:

a) Continue to quietly bear the chastisement and believe what I will, even though I disagree with the church's position on this, and either chalk it up to human error (on someone's part, whether mine or theirs) that someone will have to be forgiven for, even if it turns out to be me, and just keep my mouth shut to avoid disciplinary action and focus on the points of doctrine which are more harmonious with what I am more sure of.

b) Try to "humble myself" and "realize" the error of my thinking, which could happen over time and has in the past, for sure.

c) Decide that I am hopelessly at odds with the church on a matter they are making such a big deal out of that the only honest course of action for me, at this point, is to sign out until they or I change.

I'm bothered. Yes, this is one of those more rare "emotional" posts in which I do express some of my more rational analysis but focus more on what I'm feeling. I'm sometimes worn out by the ideological dissonance and occasionally lack the motivation to continue trying to reconcile everything when these debates (at church, among discussion groups, or among some of my closer friends) become front and center and serve as a constant reminder of my own apparent deviance from the one true course. Sometimes, I'd rather just wave it all away, dust myself off, and go about my life in ways I have more personal control over.

On one hand, I feel drawn to simply live a more open, live-and-let-live way. On the other hand, live-and-let-live sometimes amounts to devoid of principle and conviction, and I recognize that I have gone through other times when I've been at odds with authoritative declarations (religious, familial, or professional) that I later recognized as wisdom beyond what I saw from my perspective and was glad I "came around". On the other hand, there have been times I've complied and found no benefit in doing so and wished I hadn't compromised my principles to try to embrace something I knew I didn't really believe. So how do you know the difference? I guess this is where that whole "personal revelation" thing we learned about this week in elders' quorum comes in, but I must say that even to accept a revelation on the matter, I would have to turn a blind eye to the violation of principles I believe to be greatly important in the role and function of government and the abuse of "majority rule" in our country and principles upon which I believe the nation was founded. But then, I'm one of those deceived-by-Satan types, so the faithful should disregard what I say and recognize my apostasy as a misguided--even if "good"--person, especially with the help of the clarion calls from those members who claim to understand the gospel more fully than I do, at least regarding this issue.

I'm tired right now, and I'm sick of the debates and the rhetoric, and yes I'm very wary of the risk of lobotomizing myself to comply with an organization run by humans, inspired or not. I've been in the "100% obedient" camp, and while I felt an abiding peace for knowing I was "on the right side", I always felt a slight, nagging sense of sweeping too much under the rug to be cleaned up at some later time, maybe when my light and knowledge was more full, and not knowing if that would ever happen.

The fact is, I understand the attraction of wondering if someday the church might change its stance on gay partnerships or glossing over the teachings of the prophets over the years regarding the issue because the church is still growing in understanding, and who knows how far it will "progress" in time? But then I read people writing that even if we can love people in gay relationships, they're surely, undeniably damned by that choice in the sense that, doctrinally speaking, there ends their eternal progression, and I'm reminded: that's all there is to it! It's simply NOT in the picture, according to the proclamation on the family, or the general conference talks over the years (and I'm not talking about isolated statements but official, consistent declarations over decades), and official church policy is quite plain: man and woman complement each other and were created for each other to procreate and raise children in the gospel, creating a posterity for countless generations through all time and eternity, consecrating their whole lives to the kingdom of God.

And it's a simple and complex and beautiful picture of one huge eternal round and intricately interwoven family of God dedicated to so much more than themselves that the selfish desires of the flesh are swallowed up in the vastness of eternal glory and joy and...anything else is an unfortunate deviance or consequence of living in a fallen world. So I'd better just hunker down and start going to all the counseling and experiential weekends I can and focusing all of my energy on working towards finding a wife because otherwise, "the adversary" has already won by damning my progression by deceiving me into believing that's not what I want. So what in hell am I still doing loitering about the kingdom of God if I'm not in it to win it? I'm just baggage and a distraction and a detriment to the health and growth of the wheat, or I serve as an example of "don't let this happen to you", or I'm an "opportunity" for more faithful members to show forth their great love and charity towards my wandering soul in the hopes of helping me one day see the light more fully and join them on the path to eternal glory.

OK, so AGAIN I digressed. It's all related, I guess. It's just that this debate about the whole California gay marriage decision has brought to the forefront some ideas and reminders of my own reservations and conflicts. More than that, even if I were to be dating a hot girl and ready to marry, I just don't see my perspective on the church's political activism changing. And to be at odds with the brethren on one point is to descend down the slippery slope of the piece-mail gospel. If you don't support them in all things, you simply don't support them. It's a doctrinal fact, right?

So maybe this is what it feels like to be the tares, sifted from the wheat: to have doctrine thrust into my face with the forced realization that I'm simply not sure I buy it and certainly am not able to commit to it in good conscience. That I don't feel the need to pray until I believe it because someone told me it's so. Oh my stubbornness and stiff-neckedness and the foolishness viewed as wisdom, and the wisdom of God regarded as foolishness by those who are learned but not wise. Well, perhaps this is a warning realization, and I should focus on humbling myself more and being more teachable. (Thank-you in advance to those of you who will single out lines like this and quote them back to me with a comment like, "Yes, I think you know this is the right choice, deep down," but please save those kinds of comments for someone else who puts stock in them.) Or perhaps I shouldn't wait around among the wheat just to be bundled and burned at the harvest. Maybe I should pick myself up, gather my roots, whatever there may be, and get myself out to allow the wheat to grow as they need to without my hindrance and go wither in unbelief on my own without polluting the flock with my philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

To most latter-day saints, this is a much darker and more sinister confession than, "I often find men to be very attractive and women only occasionally, mildly so."

No, I'm not generally angry or sullen, so I'd suggest holding off with the reactions like, "See? He's not truly happy because he's questioning the brethren." But I just spent some time reading some of the rhetoric floating around out there about this, and I am sick of the debate, and it's the middle of the night, and I'm crabby. I'm not out to make enemies. I'm just stating how I feel sometimes. You're just getting a bit of O-Mo unfiltered. I know one or two of you who relish in that sort of thing, so here's to you. *wink*


A.J. said...

I don't think you are a tare. I wish I had answers ,I don't. I think it is o.k. to disagree with the Brethern sometimes. They don't even always agree on everything among themselves. I know its hard right now but you are a good person. -A.J.

Ike said...

I, for one, will not be one of those having you think about "the right choice deep down." I'm not always convinced right choices are found in some inner sanctum of the heart--say, the cockles.

You know I'm not servile, so when I say that I completely agree with your post (which, indeed, is often rare when reading your blog), it means that I feel there is something to truth and integrity in what you're espousing. I don't mean to proselytize, but I think you're on to something, and have been for quite sometime (Hell, twas you that put me on to something in the first place, or loving--though unknowingly--plodded me along.) I'm not saying to reject the faith of your fathers so you can live as an authentic gay man, even though that might logically follow. I really see gay and the Church as two separate things. And though being gay did cause me to question and played a large role in my leaving, had I believed it all, I would have stayed a sinner in the Church, trying to do my best and repenting. Also, I don't think a rejection of long-held beliefs also means you are free to engage in lascivious behavior. There is a lot to be said about restraint--and I'm ashamed of the times in which I did not show restraint. So, I would never urge you to reject your beliefs so you could get it on. Once again: gay and god really are two different issues.

Having said all that, I really do wish you happiness in whatever your ultimate decision. I rarely, if ever, evangelize my non-belief, but I suppose if I believe something so firmly, I ought to share it...right? :)

Hope you are well. We still on for hanging out?

Oh, and I'm not proofing this.

Ike said...

One more thing, if you are indeed a tare--though I think you aren't so fatalist as to suggest you have no free will in the manner--than you might as well realize your full tare-potential. Weeds are surprisingly resilient forms of life--and they really only get their bad name from seemingly arbitrary standards imposed by the majority. In the philosophical other-world, wheat could be the nuisance.

Max Power said...

Sigh. I could have written all of this myself... if I had a better vocabulary and greater abilities at sentence structure.

Elder Scott has always been one of my favorite speakers - probably because he was a nerdy engineer like me. But, I'm a little disheartened at his assessment. Follow my logic, but if gay marriage is one of the greatest evils to limiting people, then what are gay Mormons supposed to do? Elder Oaks has made the statement, and it's in the new pamphlet, that marriage shouldn't be used as a therapeutic tool and shouldn't be entered into as a means to an end. Well, if I'm limited in my progression by following Elder Oaks' advice and not getting married just to check something of the "List 'o Things Ta Do In Mortality", how is gay marriage any more limiting than that? Either I'm not getting married to a woman because it's the right thing to do, thereby limiting my progression by not having a temple marriage on this earth, or I'm committed to a man in this life, thereby limiting my progression by not having a temple marriage on this earth.

Sometimes it just seems like there is no good answer for us. Damned if we do or don't.

Original Mohomie said...

A.J., thanks. Of course, the Doctrine and Covenants tell us the Terrestrial kingdom will be full of "good people" who just weren't as covenant and faithful as they could have been. Again, I could be a tare while being a "good person". And there is probably a bit of an iceberg below this tip of political activism. It's not huge, perhaps, but it's enough to make this feel like a bit of a "last straw" sometimes.

Ike, thanks for your...encouragement? *wink* I'll have to get out of you what, exactly, I said that plodded you along, but in any case, though we have not, as of yet, come to the same conclusions, I do appreciate how your mind works. And yes, we're on, baby.

Original Mohomie said...

MP, I guess there's a hope that we'll simply learn to love the Lord with all our hearts and trust in his ability to fill us with his love and a quiet peace, with the assurance that all will be well in the long run, for eternity, if we endure and even thrive in our short probation faithfully and offer service in the kingdom, in our communities, and in our extended family.

And if, along the way, we come to that as-of-yet unseen moment when we find a woman with whom we generally want to build a celestial family, then by our faithful living we are still free to do so and will be ultimately joyful that we remained in a state of readiness and worthiness to take her to the temple, from which point we will begin to see ALL the blessings and happiness we once imagined we'd have, along with the challenges which will help us grow.

If that doesn't occur, then in the next life, we'll get to marry 10 girls who were never snatched up in mortal life and make hoards of babies to make up for lost time! *wink*

Seriously, it's not that I would expect to be able to have a partner, myself, as an active member of the church. If church policy somehow changes someday and proves me wrong, then great, maybe I'll snatch me up the first quality guy I find and snuggle him in sacrament meeting while we take notes together.

But...yeah, like I said in the post, these are emotions I've felt, regardless of what logical arguments I can make to myself or anyone else. There is some rationale behind it, but I don't know how much.

I guess the thing is: it's easier to feel like I'm willing to give fuller church involvement a "go" when I'm not being incessantly and "helpfully" reminded, especially by the gay guys (yes, I said gay, deal with it) I know who ARE fully active and engaged in the church (married or single), that I'm "supposed" to be working towards marriage at some point or that I'm "supposed" to agree with the brethren when they take aggressive positions against judicial judgments I find reasonable and even correct, or that I'm "supposed" to care about what kingdom of glory I end up in.

Hm...there's another blog post in there somewhere. I've already written far too much for a comment. :-)

The Impossible K said...

Well... I know what it's like to write an unfiltered post, so I'll try to give you the benefit of the doubt ;)
Looking back, I don't think I recognized your dissent on this issue even though I share the same opinion. Course, I'm not coming from an SSA bias, but I remember quite well hearing my bishop announce how we should be against gay marriage and visibly cringing.
Ah well. I don't consider myself a tare for feeling this way, nor should you. I'm stating the obvious here, but I must re-state the fact that ALL church members are sinners. Pick your poison. But to use that as a crutch and refuse the blessings that come with church activity? C'mon now...
One last thing before I make this an essay. I've said this several times before and I'll say it again:
Marriage may not be “in the cards” for all of us- and that’s fine. Members should, however, work their hardest to aim their hearts and actions in that direction.
I'm not asking you to find a foxy lady and settle down. And believe me, I know what it's like to approach the mere thought of marriage with trepidation. But God knows your heart. He (and you) can judge whether you're really putting forth that effort to be obedient. He is WELL aware of your sacrifice. And if all this rambling doesn't matter an ounce to you- well, I'll have to think of a better way, cuz I'll be very chagrined (to say the least) if I don't get the pleasure of seeing you with your 10 wives in the CK ;-P

J G-W said...

I disagree that "live and let live" means "devoid of principle and conviction."

It simply means having the kind of principle and conviction that does not require you to browbeat people who think or live differently from you... It can also mean focusing on the power of example...

Original Mohomie said...

J G-W, I agree that it doesn't have to mean that. In fact, I've written a draft about that very topic. Maybe I'll publish it someday.

However, I usually choose my wording quite carefully, and you may notice I said "sometimes". In fact, I believe that attitude often is more about exonerating the live-and-let-live attitude-holder of any responsibility of owning up to standards or principles themselves than it is a deep and abiding understanding of the necessity of respecting free agency even when someone's choices become obviously contrary to what one believes as immutable truth. But I'm really worn out and tired tonight, fighting just to keep my eyes open, so maybe my thoughts are just going to come out as mushy remnants of semi-digested articulation and I should just go to sleep.

Yes, I like that idea. Good night, and thank you for commenting. We appreciate your patronage and hope you'll come backjssss........... *snore*

J G-W said...

I can't disagree with you. There are a million ways to excuse ourselves from doing what we know is right (or trying to discern what is right), and latitudinarianism and relativism are among the million...

Potentate said...


I've always assumed that a gay relationship would limit us more than singlehood because we would have created a real and wonderful relationship that we'd have to end in order to progress. I imagine that would hurt, a lot, and probably forever.

All conjecture, of course.

robert said...

A beautifully rendered account of authenticity, young man. I have been attempting to turn on some lights on Forester's blog, and see that you are coming into your own right here and now.
The rise of gay consciousness in the last fifty years is one of the great challenges to religion. While, of course, people have been behaving homosexually all through history, it is a new thing to claim this as a source of personal identity and to understand it as a source of admirable personality traits. It challenges the old notion that the purpose of human life is to go forth and multiply and subdue the earth. Gay consciousness demands a paradigm shift just as significant--and maybe more so--as the heliocentric universe and the evolution of species. Religion is just managing the heliocentric universe (the Pope has finally forgiven Galileo for being right). The war over evolution is still being fought, though it is inevitable which side will win.

The paradigm shift signified in part by gay consciousness is even more challenging because it affects the meaning of sexuality and the experience of embodiment. Acknowledging that a significant portion of the human race is not driven to reproduce changes the meaning of sex. That there are people who are constitutionally homosexual challenges the notion of a universal natural law. It even changes the way embodiment in flesh and the experience of physical pleasure is experienced.

The religious Fundamentalists deny the reality of homosexuality just like they deny the truth of evolution. And for somewhat the same reasons. They are more concerned with maintaining their authority than with recognizing and responding to the real human situation.

Ironically, the message of religious reformers, like Jesus, was that love and compassion supersede Law and authority. "Love your neighbor" was the commandment Jesus gave. He never mentioned a thing about homosexuality, or about sex in general for that matter. The Golden Rule would certainly not support the Churches' champaign against gay rights. Indeed, to the extent that the Churches rail against gay people, preaching fear and hatred for fund-raising purposes, they reveal themselves out of sync with the One Commandment of Love.

In recent years, a new paradigm has risen. A new scientific discovery has been achieved. This is the awareness of planetary ecology. We now understand that there are forces that guide the development of life on the planet. At the same time, a whole new issue has developed for the planet: overpopulation. There are now just too many people for the earth to sustain. Even if food production can keep up with population growth, how is the planet going to cope with the waste all these people produce. We are exhausting natural resources and polluting the environment because there are just too many of us.
Because I currently live in Vietnam, I am a first hand witness to the issues of which I speak. I regret that those who live in Utah can hardly grasp this understanding in first person terms.

The development of conscious homosexuality may well be an ecological mechanism to call the human race to reduce population. We are the models of contributing, satisfying lives lived without reproducing. We demonstrate that having children is not the primary purpose of sexuality or of life.

Gay culture has certainly not caught up with its role as ecological guide. We are still struggling to find our place. But even as we struggle we are helping the human race in the important step of maturing from religion to spirituality. We are helping force the issue.
Keep up the good fight.