Saturday, September 7, 2013


Matt here.

I went back to Sacramento over the weekend to visit my family, and I had a great time. If I were to give colors to the things that happened, they were mostly yellow and blue and white, with one purple exception.

My parents and I were having a little picnic, and it was gorgeous. I was telling them about life and my recent dates and then we got to talking about my younger brother. When my dad got up to throw some stuff away, Mom talked about a conversation she'd had with the little one. (The little one is 20, but I'll persist in calling him the little one until . . . well, probably always.) The little one seems to be spinning his wheels and not being too concerned about it, or anything. A while back Mom had a sitdown with him and said that she felt his life wouldn't turn around until he started getting back into the church for himself instead of going as a condition of living at home.

Predictably, he brought up the "But Matthew" defense: Matthew doesn't have anything to do with the church anymore and look at him! He's doing great.

Mom's counterattack surprised me. She pointed out that although I'm a-Mormon now, I was quite into the church until I was, I dunno, eighteen or so. She said she'd never seen someone with such a strong testimony, and if I weren't into dudes, I'd still have that testimony now.

When she told me this, I responded with a "hm," and moved the conversation along. (Because how awkward, right?) It made me think of my youth in the church, though, like I haven't in a long time.

Coming from a wholly Mormon family and being homeschooled through junior high and high school, I didn't know anything but Mormonism. By nature and nurture I was quiet, thoughtful, good natured, and--above all--earnest. In fact, while I don't know if I had "a testimony," when I was a younger man I was full to bursting with faith and trust and self loathing. I can see how that might come across as a testimony if you call the last bit "humility." Being as well in touch with the loathing as I was, my first instinct was to judge my mom and to be hurt that she misunderstood my childhood so thoroughly.

My second thought was, what if she's right? What if the loathing is just my current interpretation of what actually was humility or . . . something. Or what if the loathing was incidental to the earnest faith and trust, which are the actual components of testimony? I guess you could see it that way and not be horribly mistaken and out of touch. In that sense, sure, I had a phenomenal testimony.

What I worry about with that interpretation (or whatever variant of it that my mom has) is that it could easily be twisted into a way to discredit me, my thinking, and the person I am now. It could be quite the tool for patronizing: "Well, you _would_ think that (you're into dudes!) but that's okay, it's not your fault, you knew what was right before your struggle corrupted you. Run along now and let the straight people talk."

I don't know if this is a widely held attitude or not, but it frightens me. I feel strong and confident most of the time, but then things like this happen and I realize that there really are a lot of ways to see the world, and not all of them play nice.


  1. I think I can relate pretty strongly to what you're talking about here. I've thought quite a lot about the divergence my life took as I began accepting that I'm gay. I find it highly unlikely that I would have ever left the church if I hadn't finally gone down the path to telling the truth and figuring out who I am. What does that mean? Does it just mean that I really believe and I'm quitting on my testimony? Or does it mean that I would have just blindly set aside the doubts and whatnot that have accompanied this situation and led me to no longer wanting to participate in the church? I tend to think the latter.

  2. Very interesting point, and I can see somewhat of my own mom's thinking in there. And at the same time, I wonder if a part of it isn't true.

  3. Huh, interesting. I didn't know you were homeschooled through secondary school; was your whole family?

    Ha ha, I love the term "a-Mormon."

    I must admit I was a little surprised to see your almost immediate reaction to your mom's interpretation as being potentially "discrediting" of who you are now. I don't quite see that; probably because I see myself as being fully _into_ the Church if I were straight but don't think that would be a negative thing. Our realities are our realities. If I were straight and brought up how I was and was a strong Mormon, I don't see how that would be any sort of reflection of inferior character if I derived happiness and purpose from it, why not? In the same vein, my surprising reaction to your evaluation probably came because, again, in my case my reality of being gay made that not happen, and I don't think that's an "inferior" reason for not wanting to stick with the Church, even if not being so invested with the Church has other benefits I would not have enjoyed otherwise.

    I read your hypothetical "Well, you _would_ think that (you're into dudes!) but that's okay, it's not your fault..." as patronizing, sure, but not in a really troublesome way. I mean, your mom would still believe in the Church and that it's best for anyone regardless of what you do or your reason for disengagement. I guess, though, that would be frustrating and troublesome regardless of your reason if you never felt like your mom thought your differences in religious reality were not stemming from substantive or respectful personal decisions... hmm.

  4. Graham,

    I probably would have stuck with the church too, and I tend to think it's because without the gay, I doubt I would have had a reason to ever really consider giving up Mormonism. It's too comfortable, and I'm too trusting.


    I assume we'll always wonder that, to some extent. But let me quote Ayn Rand, with whom I have a love/hate relationship: "There are no evil thoughts except one: the refusal to think. Don't ignore your own desires. . . don't sacrifice them. Examine their cause. There is a limit to how much you should have to bear."


    My older brother and I were the only ones (out of five) who were homeschooled, me after elementary school and him after junior high.

    If you derived happiness and purpose from being active in the church, that's great, much in the way that some people gain happiness and purpose from LARPing. Who's to say one person's fantasy hobby has more worth than another's?

    I think being patronized is always troublesome. But that's probably because I have too high an opinion of myself.

    Thanks for commenting, everyone!