The park where the missionaries and I were going to meet was about ten minutes by foot from where I grew up, but I'd never been there. I went a day early to scope the place out. Lots of trees, but nowhere really to sit. Not very busy, but a little loud from a large street on the other side of the wall on the far side of the park. On the day of, I brought a blanket big enough for the three of us to sit on and a few bottles of water.
Between my first meeting with the missionaries and the second, I read the Book of Mormon every day, writing notes all up in the margins. Reading it, my mind was busy and uncomfortable. Some of this is undoubtedly because it was put down in English nearly two hundred years ago, and the written style of the times definitely left its mark, as did the King James Bible.
As I read, it seemed pretty clear to me that even if the Book of Mormon is a divinely aided translation of an ancient record, the record's original weaknesses and biases are still intact. Growing up I took it for granted that when Mormon says "if there be faults [in his record] they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault," [link] he was speaking from modesty, not because there might be actual faults. Now, I think it would be a mistake to say that just because something is written in scripture, it's true--even if the book as a whole is 'true.'
For example, parts of it strike me as extremely biased, like this one:
"When Lachoneus received this epistle [from the Gadiantons] he was exceedingly astonished, because of the boldness of Giddianhi demanding the possession of the land of the Nephites, and also of threatening the people and avenging the wrongs of those that had received no wrong." [link]
Maybe this is true. On the other hand, the story is fabulously short of details, and if there's one thing I've learned from being gay and Mormon, it's that there are multiple sides to every story--and these words of Lachoneus remind me strongly of modern Christians who moan about persecution from the gays. According to them, they're blameless, and their narrative represents that honest belief; honesty and earnestness aren't necessarily a safeguard against awful flaws. We've discussed this.
I didn't bring this up with the missionaries, though. To them, I talked about how, as I read, I slowly came to the conclusion that I do believe in God. Just . . . maybe not the Mormon version.
It started, perhaps predictably, with Satan. The idea of Satan as a personage has for many years seemed unnecessary to me. Everything that people traditionally explain with Satan seems to me more appropriately addressed as a natural impulse that ought to be controlled than as the result of a spirit bent on making us miserable. We don't need any help in that department, I think, and in 3 Nephi there are parts (6:17) that make Satan seem like some kind of mind-control alien à la Stephanie Meyer.
|You can see the Satan in her eye.|
Of course, gayness came up when we were talking about this.
Elders H (odd voice) and M (redhead) and I were sitting on the blanket I brought, sipping the water. I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around. No one said anything for a second, and then Elder H said, "I think you should keep doing what you're doing."
He gathered his thoughts and continued. "We're only accountable for the knowledge that we have, and for whatever reason it seems like God hasn't given you a confirmation of the church. It seems like you're really looking for truth, and I really believe that the church is true, but God has his own reasons and his own timeline. I think you should hold on to what you know is true, and don't worry too much about the rest."
I asked Elder M what he thought, and he gave a textbook testimony, capping it off with his knowledge that God would give me a witness of the church's truth sooner rather than later.
(I kept it to myself, but I didn't believe him. He sounded like he was reading from a script.)
We shook hands and said goodbye soon thereafter. I said they could put me in the area book and visit me now and then as an inactive member if they'd like, but that I didn't want to set a specific appointment. For now, I'm a nonbeliever. Even so, I've recently (two weeks on, as I post this) found myself wanting to read more of the Book of Mormon. Not necessarily to find answers, but just because it's the book of my childhood, and the book most of my family believes. Maybe it will lead me to believe someday, long after Elders H and M have gone home.