Of Hope and Gethsemane

This is amazing. A voice of hope. Blake is an old acquaintance/friend of mine, and I love his remarks in this video. What I take from this is that hope comes not from a belief that SSA will someday disappear or become a non-issue in their desires to marry (for a great many, in never does), nor from a belief that the same-sex marriage or relations will one day be viewed as morally permissible by God (something that is unlikely, considering gour cherished doctrines taught in the Proclamation on the Family), but from a belief in Jesus Christ and His grace, mercy, and Atonement.

Grace is the enabling power of Jesus Christ, and He can grant us lasting peace and happiness, even as we experience the pain and loneliness of our own personal Gethsemanes. Christ has been through Gesthemane, and in that experience He was comforted by a messenger from God. Christ can and will be the angel that comforts us as we experience our own dark nights of despair, suffering, and loneliness.

“And [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. … [A]nd he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” —Alma 7:11–12

While many of us understand and preach the joy that can come through marriage, and the sacredness of that institution and the ideal/template it sets for our lives, there are a great many of our brothers and sisters (both those who experience same-sex attraction AND those who *don’t* experience same-sex attraction but who never find someone to marry) whose lives haven’t fit into that template. They often despair at the implication that they might miss out on the lasting happiness and peace that Christ offers to each and every one of us.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ promises lasting peace for all—not just those who end up marrying in this life. Following His teachings, heeding the words of His spokesmen, and becoming and example of the believers can bring lasting peace to all—whether they experience the unique blessings and opportunities of marriage or not. This doesn’t mean that there are not long nights, weeks, months, or years of struggling patiently through Gethsemane. But Christ has promised to watch and pray with us and on our behalf as we do.

I’m reminded of the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who said (slightly edited for context):

“I am convinced that [gospel living] is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe that it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that [each of us] have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. [Each of us] have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

“Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that [each of us], to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price. …

“If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, ‘Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,’ then little wonder that salvation is nto a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot great and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.”

Each of us—whether we experience SSA or not—will have those moments, months, or years of our lives in which Elder Holland’s words will suddenly ring truer than we ever imagined. But I’m grateful for people like Blake who stand as reminders that to every Gethsemane Christ sends comforting angels (the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s representatives, our friends, our families, and sometimes total strangers) to help, assist, and comfort us. And I’m grateful for these reminders, for those who need it, that SSA does not cancel out the peace that comes through living chastely in mind, body, and heart.

In summary, I appreciate this excellent reminder of the importance of (1) acknowledging the inherent worth of each and every individual, regardless of their unique challenges and experiences, and (2) recognizing that while marriage provides unique and sacred blessings, and is a righteous ideal to collectively strive for, the blessings of Gospel living extend to all who follow His precepts, regardless of their marriage status, and that there are a myriad of reasons (only one of which is SSA) why someone might find it difficult to marry and follow that path.

I suspect that there are far more single Latter-day Saints who haven’t married for reasons other than SSA than there are Latter-day Saints with SSA (married or unmarried) combined. We can do a better job reaching out to them. We don’t have to cease holding marriage as an ideal, or even talking about the unique privileges and blessings of marriage as often as we do (I believe that there are strong cultural counter-winds against marriage that are leading many young Latter-day Saints to question its value to themselves, which makes such discussion relevant and important), but we can certainly better recognize, acknowledge, and testify of the peaceable things Christ offers to all people, regardless of their marriage status. We need to.

7 thoughts on “Of Hope and Gethsemane

  1. Amen! Thank you so much. I was an older single for along time before I finally met my husband (not in the single’s ward either!). I cannot express how frustrating it was to always be constantly hit over the head with the “get married” mantra. None of us were less loved by God because we were single, but it sure felt like it sometimes. I’m thankful and happy to be married to a great man now, but I know I would have been happy and fine had I remained single. I also have a SSA sibling and he is a great person who is contributing a lot to his ward and in his ciricle of friends. Recently his bishop asked him to help reach out to the members of their ward who struggle with SSA. It’s been a good experience for him, and for these members who have not felt the fellowship of the saints because of their trials.

  2. Blake is very honest and humble, and his testimony is beautiful. It’s sad that he entered each priesthood interview like he was going to a public excecution, and was always so suprised when his leaders showed him love rather than rejection. What was it about his cultural upbringing that promted such awful intimidation?

    Typical of many LDS youth, Blake was very goal oriented. He had been taught that through righteous living, he could achieve a certain “blessed” lifestyle, which included temple marriage, going on a mission, getting an eagle scout, having children, and of course financial success as well. All blessings are predicated upon obedience to laws upon which they are predicated, Joseph Smith taught. Blake no doubt heard this a hundred times in his seminary classes.

    Blake probably thought that the many ideal Mormons he respected and admired had been blessed for their righteousness. He probably didn’t consider that the success of these ideal members might have had more to do with extraordinary advantages they had been given in life: birth to goodly parents, far greater access to both spiritual and worldly knowledge than 99.9% of all the other people on the planet, heterosexual desires, health, non-schizophrenic brains, and a million other graces and advantages. Rather than the subjects of grace, he saw these people as deserving of their blessings because of their works.

    So Blake probably bought into the karmic thinking that achievement of the ideal LDS lifestlye is because of righteousness. It’s also hard not to assume the opposite: that lack of success comes because of wickedness. Hence his trepidation at confronting priesthood leaders with a serious problem which threatens his ability to achieve the standard of success in the church.

    Then he heard the mindblowing thought from his counciler at BYU: “What if you never get over this problem?” At last, Blake stepped away from his works-oriented philosophy, and considered that actually, he had zero control of the outcome of his life. His righteousness and works were meaningless. They would never save him, nor give him what he wanted. All that he had, or didn’t have, was of grace, or lack thereof. “There but by the grace of God go I.”

    Thus Blake had to renunciate himself and his desires for the ideal Mormon lifestyle, and wait upon the Lord as Job: “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” As Paul, who repetedly petitioned God to “take away his thorn in the flesh” but who never did, and never married as well. Blake waits upon the Lord in a more complete and humble way that most members of the church, and that in itself means more than all the outward trappings of LDS success, marriage, children, wealth, etc. And for Blake, God has this message through Isaiah: “Unto the eunuchs will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters.”

  3. “Blake waits upon the Lord in a more complete and humble way that most members of the church, and that in itself means more than all the outward trappings of LDS success, marriage, children, wealth, etc.”

    I have numerous problems with this sort of judgment/comparison.

  4. Michael, I don’t think its necessarily wrong to express a kind of “holy envy” of the courage and humility God requires of others, against whose trials ours seem to pale in comparison.

  5. None of us can really ‘know’ the other. I don’t know what thoughts occupy your mind, what kind of temptations you face, how severely they impact you and vice versa. I’ve handled tens of thousands in cash, and been around others who when they were within hands reach of a small fraction of that they took it (and that they almost couldn’t control themselves) This is just a small example to illustrate perhaps the larger point.

    I’m not trying to be dismissive, because this person obviously demonstrates its a real issue that affects lives. I think when all is said and done we each have to attempt measure up to Christ in a sense as we strive for true discipleship. No one in the world has an easy time of this, and if they do, then they don’t really grasp discipleship to begin with. SSA is in vogue because of our cultural climate and obsessions. We spend so much time hand wringing over this issue when we already know what the Lord asks, what he’s always asked, and what the way is.

    I do think its good to have more voices representing an attempt to seek out the Lords way on this issue. I just feel so sad that this issue (among many these days…even something as boring as reduced tax burden based on employee compensation which ignited a firestorm on FB) is so highly charged, polarized and politicized

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