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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

peace i give unto you



Something popped in my head last night. The thoughts came literally out of left field as I was wrapping presents, go figure.

Many years ago as I was preparing to serve a full-time mission with the LDS Church, leaders announced that any YSA (young single adult) who had broken the law of chastity could no longer serve a mission. I felt so ashamed and wanted to hide. I remember leaving church that day feeling absolutely defeated. There I was trying really hard to prepare for a full-time mission and fulfill my patriarchal blessing and then out of nowhere I was branded and told to my face that it would never happen for me. It seemed like life just got worse from there. 

The next few years I became pretty reckless, depressed, and even suicidal. In a lot of ways I felt abandoned by the church and by the world, but I don't necessarily blame either for those feelings. In between all of these years were bouts of increased faith and spirituality as the cycle continued.

Finally, in 2005, I had enough of trying to be something that I clearly was never meant to be. I asked to be excommunicated during a meeting with the Bishopric and they granted my request. The night before I had a dream about being excommunicated and I cried in my sleep, but when I woke up I felt a huge burden lifted from me and I felt peace, comfort, and solace. 

Months later I found out I was HIV-positive and I wasn't shocked, but it still hurt. I wasn't ready to face the consequences of my actions, but in time I knew I needed to start taking care of my physical body, as well as my spiritual one. So I made the decision to go back to church and for one last time try and get my act together to be re-baptized. I tried in vain for about seven years, but a few years ago decided to just stop. 

No matter what I did, there would always be something that just didn't fit. I grew up enjoying being a Mormon. I love my Mormon friends, I love Mormon music, I love a lot of what Mormons believe in and stand up for, but I've made a decision to take care of my emotional and mental well being and to stay away from the church. 

Now back to last night. My thoughts were about whether I'd ever consider going back to church and trying to be re-baptized. It didn't take long for me to answer no. By the church's current standards and policies, to be a member in good standing I'd have to end my relationship with John, despite our almost 2-year relationship. I'd have to remain celibate for the rest of my life or marry someone of the opposite sex, which to be fair is the same guideline for heterosexual members. The exception being that heterosexuals can go on dates, kiss, hold hands, etc until they're blue in the face and still be a member of the church, as long as they don't have sex. A heterosexual member would also generally face less punishment even if they had sex of some kind. And of course, even if I wanted to be a member of the church, I'd still end up being labeled an apostate. 

So, just in case anyone in the world thinks there's a chance of me rejoining the LDS Church...well, there's the answer. 

My point isn't to spread a message of negativity, especially around Christmas, but to say I'm happy I've reached a point in my life where I don't get lured into thinking I need to be re-baptized at the cost of my personal well-being. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts/suicide are not a joke. The pressure of fitting in at church is not worth it when it leads to an increase of mental and emotional instability. Then add being LGBT and/or HIV-positive. 

I am thankful for Mormons who have touched my life and who have remained my friends despite all that I have gone through and all they know about me. One of the greatest gifts God gave to me was the reassurance that He still loves me and that I do not need to be a member of the LDS Church to receive that love and His blessings. Knowing this gives me peace and comfort much like the feelings I had the day I was excommunicated and I felt the love, peace, and comfort of my God. While there's always room for improvement, God loves me just the way I am. And He loves you too.

 Merry Christmas and Have a Happy New Year!

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27

You have been caught Jey Walking!

2 comments:

Trevor Wilde said...

I really appreciated reading this today. Though I am still an active member, I have struggled so much with my faith lately. I don't know what is best for me, stick it out, or step back to preserve my mental health and energy. Anyways... Thank you.

Jeff "Jey Walker" Gladstone said...

I learned that I have to take care of and protect myself. I don't think there's one answer that fits everyone's situation. I wish you the best, it's not an easy choice to make whether you stay or leave. Take care!