“My heritage is a complex mix of Mormon, non-Mormon, and atheist background blended together in a mix of post World War II American and Utah culture, with a dash of Southern spice.” So I wrote in a Pioneer Day post that honored my heritage.
I spent my first twenty-three years as an active, believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I spent the next eighteen years being challenged in my faith. I spent the most recent fifteen years as an inactive member.
Leaving the church was a slow process, like the extrication from a wrecked car. I had a spiritual accident. I was trapped in a mangled mess of opinions, doctrines, and experiences. I could not be yanked out of the metaphorical car without losing a spiritual limb.
I was afraid I would lose my connection to God. I still prayed. I wondered if He would listen and answer. He did.
A few times the responses were not related to anything I had asked. I received promptings to do things I had not considered. There weren’t a lot of those promptings, but they came often enough that I felt confident I knew who was speaking.
Several years after leaving church activity and in conjunction with my divorce, I learned something in counseling that shocked my world. I was gay. I wrestled with the teachings of the church in which I no longer participated. I examined my personality and learned my predominant personality type was solitary. I did not need a lot of interpersonal contact to be fulfilled. I made a conscious decision to stay in the closet, single and celibate.
I worked hard. I threw myself into pet adoptions. I traveled. I shot photos. I kept busy in a life that many people would envy. I took early retirement and started focusing on a second career. I expected to remain in the closet, single, and celibate.
On the last Friday evening in March an unexpected, unrequested, and unwanted premonition came forcefully to my mind: “You should have a companion, and that companion should be a man.”
I was scared. I did not know how to respond. How was I supposed to pull this off? I was not young anymore. Still, I had heard that voice before, followed its directions, and knew that the prior decisions were correct.
The premonition was followed by two additional thoughts. I needed to come out of the closet. I needed to resign formally from the church.
It took four weeks before I was ready to start coming out. The process was slow. Time and again I feared for the reactions. Time and again I was surprised at the acceptance. It took another month to submit my resignation.
A month later, I was out to around 200 people. I knew others were hearing the news. A death took me from my home in the south and put me in Utah with my extended family for the first time since coming out. I had not come out to all of my extended family. I knew some people who I had not spoken with were aware, but I did not know who else knew.
Before the funeral a cousin handed me a sealed white envelope. Inside was a book – my 95 year old uncle’s personal history told through recollections. I am one of the family historians, so my uncle wanted to me to have a copy of his history.
I read it that evening. It filled in details on stories I knew about. I enjoyed the stories I was not aware of. I loved the photographs.
I finished reading my uncle’s book around 11:00 p.m. I called the next morning. I got my cousin’s voice mail, so I left him a short message thanking him and my uncle for the book.
I turned off the sound on my phone while visiting with family that afternoon. A message from my cousin came into my voice mail later that evening.
“I got your message. My family and I were talking about you and we all commented on what a high quality individual you are. I don’t know if you are getting that message in your current circle of friends. I want to make sure that you know your uncle, your aunt, and your cousins all love you and are proud that you are a member of this family.”
I had not spoken with anyone in this family about my coming out or my search for a partner. I wondered if some had heard the news. I called my cousin. He answered and said he was at his parents helping them get ready for bed. He said he would call back once he returned to his home.
I answered his call about forty-five minutes later. He said something very interesting before our conversation began: “I’m not sure why, but I feel a strong need to tell you that I think your best days are ahead of you.”
What followed was a ninety minute long discussion. No, he was not aware of me coming out. That did not change how he felt about me. He did not think it would change how the rest of his family felt about me. We talked about my resignation from the church. We talked about his period of inactivity and return to the church. He repeated what he had said as the call ended: “…your best days are ahead of you.”
I am on a journey of faith, trying to figure out how to be a gay man who has a partner in direct conflict with the teachings of my former church. An unexpected spiritual experience started this journey. My cousin’s comments were another unexpected spiritual experience that confirmed I should be looking for a male partner. I am not there, yet. Those unexpected spiritual experiences keep me moving forward.