I keep hearing about how gay and Mormon just don’t go together, and in actual practice they often don’t. But my dear friend—we’ll call her Rachel---is a testament to the arbitrary and unnecessary division between those two camps.
I’ve been impressed with Rachel for a long time now, mostly because we can sit and discuss hotly debated and controversial subjects like gay marriage, gay adoption in Utah, artificial insemination, LDS doctrine and history, and transgender individuals as self-expression or mental illness. In the course of each of these conversations, and they do tend to recur as you might imagine, there has never been a scintilla of impatience, judgment, resentment, or anger.
Come to think of it, it reminds me of my friend Gregg who baptized me, who discussed a whole variety of other controversial subjects (polygamy, blacks not holding the priesthood, chastity, Adam and Eve, and women not being bishops) also without any impatience, judgment or anger, at least on his part. And I was a lot more hostile with him, being younger and less refined by fourteen years of gospel living, than I have been with my young gay friend.
It was exactly Gregg’s intellectual honesty and dignity that spoke to me of the quality of his character, and moved me enough to listen to what he had to say about the Church. And it is exactly Rachel’s equanimity and composure that speaks to me of her quality of character and intelligence. I’ve had far more difficult conversations with straight people who had no vested interest in my opinions (see The Ideal That Offends). Then there’s Rachel who is personally affected, one could say injured, by the ramifications of my beliefs, and she shows the grace and graciousness of a Nelson Mandela.
My belief in upholding traditional marriage directly affects her ability to marry her partner of seven years and their ability to bear or adopt a child in Utah. Whether or not you agree with lesbians having children, any woman with half a heart aches for another woman who is unable to bear or adopt a child of her own. We with our own children know that it is the “mission.” the “calling,” the “purpose” for which no other may be substituted. Don’t talk to me about “choosing the right”: I’m already on that team. All I’m saying is here is this young woman, thirty no less, and I don’t recall being particularly sanguine or wise at thirty, who is able to cope with the lack of what most women want more than anything, and still afford me—a tangible representation of her deprivation—absolute Christ-like love.
Since I’m old now, nothing goes smoothly. Had a little surgery, had a little complication, had a maddening going-on-eleven-day-stretch of absolute bed rest (I admit the anti-anxiety meds have been helpful in keeping me from ripping out my hair and other medical implements as I lay here day after day).
I have the best friends in the world and have had meals, flowers, bread, books, essential oils, DVDs, flowers, visits, texts, phone calls and everything else anyone can think of to keep me docile and healing. But do you know who stands out? Rachel? From the get-go, she has offered to bring me crossword puzzles, cookies, anything I want, and she lives more than an hour away. I kept putting her off because it’s such a long drive, and I feel so uncomfortable being nurtured anyway. But finally, along about two o’clock on Friday, after nine days of watching That Girl reruns, I had a moment of weakness. In my plaintive, partly anti-anxiety medicated state, I asked her if she would come watch a movie with me.
And after an hour drive, and rearranging their Friday night, there she was, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in hand, with her girlfriend to make it even more special. And yes, I’m still worthy to go the Temple, and no I didn’t have a Book of Mormon in my back pocket. No one had any agendas. It was pure Christ-like love (which I call friendship). I’ve cried over that in buckets (not in front of her of course).
What did she have to gain from that? I’m not changing my mind about any of the topics that personally thwart her in the life she chooses to lead. And she wouldn’t ask me to. She saw a friend in need and served me. Isn’t that what Christ sent us all here to do?
I think about my neighbor down the street, my “wardie” who can’t even have a conversation about homosexuality and homosexuals. I am not judging my neighbor because I understand the context and background and personal factors that have influenced her position. But the sadness I feel that my “wardie” would never meet Rachel, would never know what a precious daughter of God she is. So okay Rachel’s value is not far above rubies if you want to go totally by the book (Proverbs 31:10). But it’s far above emeralds and sapphires and diamonds.
Rachel epitomizes to me everything a--*gasp*--gay non-Mormon could be. That’s why she’s my friend. I feel honored to have someone of her caliber in my life. Gregg, my baptizer, epitomizes everything to me a Mormon could be. That’s why he’s my friend. I feel honored to have someone of his caliber in my life.
I know if I put Gregg and Rachel in a room together, they would be their best selves, their most honest, uncompromising-their-values-selves, their striving-to-do-what-they-think is right selves even if those values have very little overlap. The reason I know this is that they are two of the most Christ-like people I know. I would bet all I have that Christ is fiercely proud of both of them. I know I am.