LGBTQIA Voices – Bethany Roth

 “I met my Father, the mender of all cups, while sitting in the dusty, dark, ruins of my own home. I have since learned that they are the same place.”

My Mended Cup

My cup broke a while ago. A thousand pieces of heart and soul left bleeding on the ground. I originally thought I had to enter a physical place, a holy place, to see if it was mendable.  But, I found the way blocked and the price of entry too steep for my slim wallet. I read the “ No Apostate’s Allowed” sign on the door a thousand times before my eyes finally widened with understanding.  There would be no mending of my cup in this place. I would have to meet my Father elsewhere.   

It has been over a year now since I sadly turned and walked away from the Temple’s doorstep.  I had wiggled the door handle and knocked loudly despite the nasty signage.  The new church policy that labeled LGBT Mormons “Apostates” if they married and barred their children from membership changed everything. More specifically, the pile of dead LGBTQ LDS children that came after the policy change, changed everything. I was initially so busy obsessing about my own crisis of spiritual welfare and obligation that I didn’t notice the bodies piling up around me. When the Mama Dragons shared posts on social media about the true cost of the “policy,” I finally woke up.  I woke up and screamed.

I’ve had over a year now to reflect on the Church’s policy change that labeled me and many of my brothers and sisters unfit for Temporal or Celestial duty, caused a drastic increase in LGBTQ LDS suicides, and doctrinally severed our eternal connection to our beloved families.  My conclusions are as follows:

  1. The policy is not of God.
  2. The policy causes harm.
  3. I cannot change it.
  4. I must act according to my conscience.
  5. I cannot support policies that harm the innocent and the vulnerable.
  6. I have a duty to protect my family and myself from harm.
  7. The church does not have the authority to judge my worth, my worthiness, or my relationship with God.
  8. God is my friend and He will not betray me, even if His church does.

My wife and I recently watched the first few episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale,”  a television series based off of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel of the same name. In addition to a multitude of other horrifying offenses, the totalitarian theocracy in power classifies homosexuals as “abominations.”  Identification as such by the authorities is punishable by death or, for the less lucky, genital mutilation.  I was shocked by how familiar the story line was.  I, too, stood accused, my once-trusted friends and leaders as the accusers. The jury substituted  “apostate” for “abomination,”  “celibacy” for genital mutilation, and “spiritual death” for physical death as they passed judgement and read the sentencing.  

The fact that the church had been on a trajectory to being more inclusive before slamming the door shut was incredibly disorienting to those of us in the LGBTQ LDS community.   On reflection, I realize that while atrocities towards LGBTQ individuals are hardly rare today, my lifetime has seen the rise of a newly minted “golden age” for gays in various parts of the world.  Up until recent years public support for, and apathy towards, abusive treatment of LGBTQ people had been the status quo.  I recognize that I currently live in the most tolerant environment for LGBTQ people the world has ever seen.  I am legally married to my wife, I have the love and support of friends, neighbors, and relatives.  I can walk down the street holding my wife’s hand and show her physical affection in public without fearing for my life or liberty.  Yet, in the many centuries the world and it’s queer population have been spinning, this golden age is a mere 1-ish decade old.  It is a single heartbeat in time compared to the millenia sprawling backwards into the horizon of our sad heritage.

My life, however stable and secure it may seem, is at the cresting wave of a society whose attitudes wax and wane like the moon.  Humanity rarely marches directly upwards to higher evolved expressions of inclusion.  My stable, happy life sits on a rocking boat on a wide and unpredictable ocean.  Assuming things can only get better is naive.  Human empathy and acceptance is as fragile as an empty glass in my hand.

After the devastating policy change, enacted by my spiritual government, the fickle nature of human sympathy was reinforced by my temporal government.  I remember the night of Donald Trump’s election.  My then fiance, Krista, and I clung to each other in our bed, wide eyed with a sickly chill that shook our insides and outsides.  I said to her “ I’ve never been scared before.  With all the previous elections, I’ve been frustrated, angry, disgusted, disappointed…but never scared.  I’m actually scared now of what they might do to us.” I felt like I had lost both church and state.  We acted quickly to secure our legal marriage in the event Trump followed through with his threats to overturn the supreme court ruling granting us this precious right.

“The wise man built his house upon the rocks”

Before the policy change I thought I had built a strong house, on the rocks, with a hand-me-down blue print said to be drawn by the Lord. I built a house using pillars reinforced by years of sacrament meeting attendance, scripture study, prayer, and obedience to the tenets of the church. Despite my best efforts, after the policy change,  one by one those pillars came crashing down.  The weight of the betrayal was too much for my foundation.  With the mortar crumbling away from the brick, I watched my pillars of Trust and Obedience bend and break.  I watched the church leadership and membership betray its own, tossing their religious integrity into the same waste bin as the children it diagnosed as “temporally burdened” with homosexual appetites… An affliction to be endured with unwavering celibacy all the days of our lives and ultimately cured after death. The quiet acceptance of this injustice and cruelty by the majority of the membership terrified me far more than any of Trump’s threats.  I stopped going to church.

Only one pillar remains now.  My pillar of friendship and connection to God. My love of prayer remains.  My desire to turn to Him when I am sad and scared remains.  And from the ruins of my old house, among the pillars that are bent and broken around me, I have found that “I now own a better view of the rising moon” (Mizuta Masahide). With the help of compassionate friends, and my patient wife, I have come to realize that I am now free.  I am free to claim my full endowment of self worth, to redefine my “worthiness,” and to embrace my power to choose what manner of woman I wish to be.  I am now free of the obligation to follow the “Lord’s will” as it is dictated by others.  I follow the will of the Lord by exercising my right to create my own happiness.  At 36 years old, I am finally shouldering full accountability for my life.

The Lord’s will for me is:

  1. To trust my heart.
  2. To practice kindness always.
  3. To do as my Christ-like father told me, “to stop crying and go be happy.”

The many Sunday School lessons I heard on listening for the Spirit have served me well during this time of upheaval.  Because I listened, I was able to hear the still small voice in my heart saying:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack, a crack in everything,

That’s where the light gets in.

(Leonard Cohen)

I spent much of my life letting others decide whether or not I was “OK.”  I gave tremendous power to my church leaders to judge if I was “worthy” and therefore “worth anything”.   The loss of my church identity and subsequent destruction of my sense of purpose in the world has removed this problem.  My search for the perfect act of religious prostration has ended. I have discovered that it is me standing tall, with my broad shoulders squared.  I never would have guessed that my God wants me to stand before Him, not kneel.

My broken cup was mended, but not in the beautiful, gleaming Temple of the Lord, whose heavy door was shut to me.  I met my Father, the mender of all cups, while sitting in the dusty, dark, ruins of my own home. I have since learned that they are the same place.

 

May all gentle things find you,

Bethany