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.