…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Why Should We Mourn?

Or Think Our Lot Is Hard?

By Rex Goode

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I’m not Mormon Pioneer stock like a lot of Latter-day Saints. My grandmother was the earliest convert, although one ancestor before her was married to a Mormon. Yet, as all Latter-day Saints, I owe gratitude to the pioneers who fled persecution in the east to settle in the Salt Lake valley and establish a refuge for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to allow it to gather strength and become the beacon of faith it now is.

Like most of my faith and generation, I grew up hearing and singing the great anthem of the Church, “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” Out here in Oregon, at least in my area, it doesn’t get sung that much, but I remember it very well.

Obviously, there is much that attracts me about the Mormon faith, else I wouldn’t have made such a great effort to remain faithful to it. Even though I am not the descendant of Mormon pioneers, I have a deep admiration and respect for pioneers. My wife is the descendant of Oregon pioneers and I have done a fair amount of reading about them.

What really stands out for me in the lyrics of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” is in the beginning of the second verse: “Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so; all is right.” This has always really spoken to me, particularly in recognizing that my lot as a child was definitely hard.

Yet, as hard as it was, I didn’t think of it at the time as being hard. I still don’t. If I relate all of the things that happened to me, just about anyone would say that it was hard. The truth is, I love my life, past, present, and future.

I often hear one form of a certain assessment of  the difficulties of being a gay Mormon that is married to a woman. The exact words vary and it is all well-meaning. It has been said to me something like, “It must be hard to be gay and expected to stay faithful to someone of the opposite sex.  I know I couldn’t make it if I was told I had to develop an intimate bond with someone of the same sex and was expected to make it work. I just couldn’t do it.”

I suspect they are right, but not because such a statement is universally true. Certain elements need to exist in order to make it work. In my case, the most important element is a spiritual witness from God that I am doing what He expects of me. Without that, I doubt I could do it either.

It also helps to love my wife and family and be completely committed to them. There are many other things that make it work for me and without that golden combination of factors, who knows whether I could continue to make it work.

Another important factor has to do with that word, “intimate.” I think it’s really sad that in modern parlance, intimate=sexual. Most dictionaries that I have seen don’t define “intimate” as having anything to do with sex, but people still use the i-word when they mean the s-word.

Though, as a man who experiences homosexual feelings, I may have some fleeting desires related to sexual relations with men, I find that I enjoy male-to-male intimacy far more than I ever enjoyed male-to-male sex. It’s a lot nicer for me to feel emotionally close to men than the ways I always tried to get close in my previous life. I’ve got some pretty stellar male family and friends. I don’t feeling like I’m missing out on anything.

Recently, when confronted with one of those “I don’t think I could do it if the tables were turned” statements, I thought about it in a political sense, probably because the person making the statement is a fairly political person.

You see, I’m pretty much politically conservative with occasional libertarian leanings. I’ll even admit to some occasional liberal sentiments, but I can never quite get into the liberal mindset. I’m a rarity, as a social worker, because most of my colleagues lean quite a bit to the left.

What doesn’t resonate with me about liberalism is that it all seems based on the Conflict Theory of Karl Marx. It’s all about class distinctions, class conflict, and, frankly, a victim posture. Despite everything I’ve been through and how very different I am than people in the mainstream, I find it hard to think of myself as a victim of any kind.

Back in my youth, I really admired the Black Pride movement, because it sought to counteract the notion that Caucasian traits were inherently more attractive than African traits. Rather than a victim stance, it encouraged people of African descent to view themselves as beautiful as they were. Even today, there is a notion that straight hair is preferable to Afro-textured hair.

Recently, a schoolmate of my mixed-race granddaughter asked her why she didn’t straighten her hair. Although it wasn’t meant to be a slam, it shows that there is still a bias about hair types.

Any system that encourages people to choose a “pride” or “empowerment” attitude over a “victim” attitude has my respect. People think that because I have chosen a “straight” lifestyle that I don’t appreciate my gayness. I think of my same-sex attraction as somewhat of an asset. Those straight people who say they couldn’t live a life contrary to their orientation are probably right. I can and part of why I can is because I think it is easier for gay men to do hard things like that.

I think it’s a lot easier for a gay man to be successful in a heterosexual relationship than it is for a straight man to be successful in a homosexual relationship. I could be wrong. I know lots of men doing the former and no men doing the latter.

Mostly, I just think that adopting an “empowerment” attitude over a “victim” attitude serves ourselves and humanity better. A victim posture weakens and paralyzes a person. Happiness comes from accepting the lot we have been dealt and building on it. To me, all negative experiences are more than just lessons learned. They are the building blocks of strong character, but only if those negatives experiences are embraced and accepted as what we have been given to work with.

As a survivor of child abuse, this is often a hard thing to wrap my mind around. It’s a difficult thing to accept that being molested, beaten, and terrorized were the basis of the strong individual I believe myself to be today. It’s almost like accepting that those things happened is like saying it was OK. I look at it this way. I don’t excuse the abuse, but I refuse to let it break me and dwelling on it as a perennial victim is how it would break me.

Life continues to be full of challenges. I feel like a pioneer, trudging every single inch through obstacles and hazards meant to provide me with the excuse to give up. Yet, that is the design of this earth life. It’s supposed to be challenging, so why should I mourn or think my lot is hard. ‘Tis not so; all is right.

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