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Updating the Ol' Testimony
A journey to finding acceptance in my faith and in myself
By Chris Van Bibber
As a child, when I would wish to bare my testimony, my mother or father would kneel by my side at the podium at church and tell me what to say. I would repeat after them, "I'd like to bear my testimony, I know this church is true ..." and it would continue from there.
As I have lived my life, that has been the basis for my testimony. Serving two years proclaiming to the state of Michigan that I knew this church to be true was one of the greatest times of my life. I sit here as a 27-year-old man, humbling myself as I clarify that I no longer believe that everything that goes on in the Mormon church to be true.
I knew from the beginning that I was different. I knew that I found boys cuter than girls and, even though I didn't know what the term "gay" meant, I felt I needed to keep that part of me a secret. I remember meeting with my bishop when I turned 8 to prepare myself for baptism. My father would sit me down in our family room on our plaid couch with the television on mute (because there was always a game on), and he would ask me about Joseph Smith. He would take me into our front yard and teach me how to hold onto his arm when he'd practice dunking me in the baptismal font.
In the church, it is very apparent how not OK it is to be gay. You are supposed to grow up, get married to a woman and have babies to multiply and replenish the earth. So naturally, when it came time for me to go through the temple before my mission, I continued suppressing the truth and—for lack of a better term—lied in order to receive those blessings.
My time spent lying about my sexuality has fortunately come to an end. When I came out, and even to this day, I have had people tell me that they support me, but they wouldn't vote for me to have equal rights, or that they support me, but don't think that I should be allowed to raise a family or get married. Here's the thing, if you support me, you support me getting married and having a family if I choose to. If you support me, you understand that I deserve love, and I deserve all the same rights that you and your spouse have. If you support me, you also agree that my hypothetical children deserve all the same blessings and experiences that your children will be able to partake in. If you do not support these things, please do not tell me that you support me—for few things make my blood boil quicker.
With news that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has decided to publish in its handbooks that anyone in a same-sex relationship is an apostate and that their posterity—whether adopted or biological—are not allowed the opportunity to be given a name and a blessing upon birth or to be baptized until the age of 18 (and only after disavowing their parents), I find myself at a substantial loss of understanding. Some have argued that this law has been around for years due to polygamist children, and this is nothing new. My argument back is that the church's own 2nd Article of Faith states that "Men shall be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression." Why would any child not be given an opportunity to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost simply because of their parents relationship?
Another question that baffles me is why would my child (again, hypothetical) disavow me in order to receive the blessings of the church, but my temple-attending family members don't have to disavow me in order to keep their recommends? This particular point leads me to feel that the current church leaders are simply fearful that children growing up in LGBT homes may find "gay love" to be normal, and one day when these children become the leaders themselves, laws and ordinances may change because they do not see the problem.
I would never wish ill-will toward another person's child. I have supported my sisters and their kids as much as I possibly can. To think that someone would not do the same for mine breaks my heart. I had always thought that when I have children of my own, I would want them to know the doctrine of the church. I would teach them myself or I would even suck up my pride and take them to church so that they may have those blessings. I am not even a parent, and I can attest that once you have children, your life is no longer your own, and you must make sacrifices for your children.
When I was preparing for my mission, I remember my bishop telling me that I would obey my Mission President without question, even if he told me to go stand on my head in the corner. I disagreed immediately, for was this church not restored through Joseph Smith questioning his local leaders and asking God himself for truth? Is this church not founded upon personal revelation and seeking wisdom for one's own soul?
So, I bear my newly updated testimony knowing that my Father in Heaven loves me and is aware of who I am. He did not make a mistake by making me gay. He knows I did not "choose" to be gay. He knows of the life I live, and that I continue to strive to be a better man each day. I know that the Atonement of Christ covers all of our Father's children, not just straight people's kids.
As my own father sought to take me under his wing and teach me of the gospel of Christ, I know that I would do so with my own children. I know that whatever happens to me on this Earth, I will account for it in heaven. I hope that I will be able to say that I stood for what is right, no matter the cost.
I was raised LDS, and I believe that it is the most true church on the Earth, but I do not believe it has all the truth. It is a church run by men who make mistakes just as I do each and every day. I believe that one day, maybe not in this life, I will have answers to many of my questions. Above all else, I believe that the day will come when my Father in Heaven opens his arms and holds me so very tight. He will hold me to make up for all the times I felt alone or had no one to talk to, for all the times I wished things were different or questioned why?
Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to be gay, for this blessing that has made me have an open mind and has taught me how to be compassionate toward my fellow men. I am proud of how far members of my family have come from the day I told them I'm gay and I pray for those who seem to continue to feel I have a disease. I pray for many things: that all children are given the same blessings from God, no matter who their parents love. That those who are depressed or feel alone in this world know that they are among many others who understand them. I would urge each and every one of you to look at your own testimonies and decide what you believe to be true. Maybe it doesn't agree with what I believe, and maybe it does, but we could all use the refresher. That is my testimony, and that is what I now know is true. Amen. CW
The author grew up in Murray, and is currently preparing for a move to Southern California. You can read more of his words at evenifiwantedto.blogspot.com