Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Spoke Too Soon

We were just about to leave for a Little League game yesterday when we heard a knock on the door. I peaked through the side window and saw two men in white shirts, ties, and dark pants. It was them. It was the missionaries from my last post I thought would probably never actually come and visit. They drove out to our neighborhood and stopped by our house unexpectedly.

I told Brian I would get the door because it was the Mormon missionaries. I took a breath and opened the door. "Hello! How are you guys!"

I stared at two guys. One looked to be your typical young Mormon straight from the motherland in Utah: short blondish-brown hair, tall, pale skin, thin, perfect white teeth, and blue eyes (like me, but more of that Utah glow I suppose). He seemed nervous and I could tell he must have been a greenie. The other, obviously the senior companion, was a bigger guy, black, shorter than his companion, and probably not from Utah.

"Hi! Is there an Evan here?"

It wasn't a scripted response. I noticed their silver car parked in front. They weren't just perusing the neighborhood. They wanted to see me.

"Yes, that's me."

As Brian was holding Shadow back in the hallway, they introduced themselves to me.

"Hi, I'm Elder A___ and this is my companion Elder T___."

I shook each of their hands and said it was nice to meet them. Then there was a little bit of an awkward silence. I couldn't invite them in because we were about to leave, so I was waiting for them to say the next thing so I could explain that we were just about to head out the door.

"We were just checking in and wondering if we could talk with you." 

"We are about to leave actually, but I would not mind visiting with you guys another time."

"Sure, we can do that. When are you available?"

I looked back at Brian. "When is our next free date?"

Today (Thursday) we are going to a birthday dinner for one of the boys. Friday we may be going to a playoff game. There is another game on Saturday and that is the day we also try to catch up on everything around the house and spend time with friends we never get to see. What about Sunday? Do missionaries even do this kind of thing on Sundays? Maybe not.

After thinking my schedule out loud while looking at Brian, I eventually responded. "How about Monday. I get home around 5:30 everyday. So any time after that is fine."

"Sure. Is 6 okay?"

"Yeah, that will work. It was good seeing you two."

"Ok. I hope you have a nice evening. We'll see you next week."

As they walked back to their car, I noticed how hot and humid it was outside. That poor greenie from Utah is definitely not used to this weather.

"Do you guys need a bottle of water or anything?"

"No we are fine. Have a good evening."

I closed the door and looked at Brian. "I can't believe they drove out this way without giving us any warning. I feel bad that they wasted their time."

"Well, they probably should have called ahead of time. Should we hold hands next time they visit?"

 I never went on a mission, but I would go out with the missionaries to talk with potential converts a few times in the past. Seven years ago, I could not have pictured myself being on the other side of the door.

I am not sure what I am going to say to them or what they want to say to me. I will probably respond with a simplified version of my last post. But outside of that, I am not sure. I do not want to shove my issues in their face, but I do want to be honest. And no, Brian and I won't be holding hands.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Families Are Together Forever, Unless...

I was with the boys and Brian getting in the car after having some frozen yogurt when they called. My phone started ringing and I pulled it out to look at the number displaying on the screen. All I recognized was the Houston area code, but I decided to answer anyways.


"Hi, is this Evan?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. Who is this?"

"The missionaries. How are you doing?"

The kids were joking and laughing with each other in the back, which proved to give me difficulty of hearing the man speaking on the other end of the line.

"I'm doing well. I'm sorry, who?"

"It's the missionaries. We were just in the neighborhood and wondering if we could stop by."

"Oh, cool. I'm actually not home right now, but you are welcome to come over another time. I have moved a few times in the last couple of years. What address do you guys have for me?"

They repeated the address of the apartment I shared with Brian in Greenway Plaza. Two thoughts came across my mind when I heard this:

  1. I don't remember ever updating my records with this address. I am almost positive I never did this myself. 
  2. Were they really in the area? Greenway Plaza is mostly just office space with a handful of apartment complexes thrown in. I doubt these complexes allow solicitors. But maybe they were visiting a member in the area. Because I have never been a missionary, I wonder if missionaries tend to say these sort of things for the sake of making their visits appear more convenient.

I gave them my new address and they said they would check in with me another time. 

I still struggle with my Mormon identity. This faith upbringing was what my life growing up was centered around and it is something I just can't throw away or forget. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like attending regularly again, but for the last few years, every time I go I feel more out of place. If these missionaries actually decided to visit with me, how would I present myself? What would I say? So as I was writing this entry, I made a list of multiple reasons why I struggle to be an active Mormon. But there was one reason in particular that was so glaring to me and I believe this is the root reason why I have a hard time going:

Some families are together forever.

There is this church video from the nineties, "On the Way Home," about the conversion of a family who had a young daughter who died in a bike accident. Was I the only one that watched it dozens of times to the point where I could at one time recite the lines?

 So the entire premise of the the sweet and syrupy film is that a family, who are struggling to get over their daughter/sister's death, begins taking the discussions with the missionaries. This eventually leads to the entire family being baptized and the film ends giving viewers (especially potential converts) hope that they can be with their families forever.

During one of the discussions the family is having with the sister missionaries, one of the sisters states:
"Family relationships don't have to end in death. Through prophets, God has restored the knowledge that a husband and wife can be married for eternity. And God has promised... that their family relationships can endure forever. Not just death till you part... You can see your sister again!... I know you will be with your daughter again."

The concept of the eternal family really is beautiful. This a very core belief found in the Church and I believe it is a very valid reason for Mormons to cling to their faith. In fact, I still believe in the concept of eternal families. But I just cannot come to terms with the Mormon thought process on how God judges the make-up of families.

There are a lot of conditions where an entire family unit cannot qualify as an "eternal family" in the eyes of Mormonism; some families deal with divorce while others may have a parent or child who leaves Mormonism behind. Sure, in the eyes of the member, these families still have hope in the long run. A family member can return to the fold or a divorce could be fixed or could essentially work out for the better. But what about family units with same-sex parents? They certainly exist and good examples can be found here, here, and here.

In "On the Way Home", what if the family was headed by a gay couple? Would the dialog from the sister missionary change? Would the sister missionaries even bother to teach the family? Would there be no hope for the parents and their kids to see their deceased daughter again? There certainly are many same-sex headed households with children. According to the Mormon faith, it is impossible for these families to be together forever, even if every member of that household is more righteous than most members of the church,  even if the couple vowed for lifelong celibacy, and even if the same-sex headed family did convert to Mormonism. It won't happen. They will not go to the Celestial Kingdom as a family unit. As far-fetched as this sounds, how is this fair to a non-LDS same-sex couple interested in converting? How is it fair to their children?

I can get over some of the weird historical claims found in Mormonism. I can get over the fact that I have had to deal with less-than-kind members who justify their attitude because they think Boyd K. Packer says it is okay. Although it is still an open wound, I know I can get over Proposition 8. But I cringe and cannot get over the empty pit I get in my stomach when I see the Proclamation to the Family. Unless I were to do an about-face on the direction of my life and somehow justify the expected depression and self-loathing I would later deal with, there is no hope for me to be a part of an eternal family in the eyes of Mormonism.

Out of all the blog posts I have read and out of all the Facebook discussions I follow in these progressive Mormon groups, I have never noticed this hypothetical situation brought to the table. Maybe I am just weird and the only one who thinks about it. Am I the only one? I know there are some active Mormons who are in a same-sex relationship. Don't they worry about how the LDS Church defines a family?

Whatever the case, I believe in a fair and just God. I feel like in God's eyes, the gender make up of a couple means little to Him and what matters most is the love displayed within that family unit. So in the eternal perspective, I am not worried. :-)

(Edit: Two months later and the missionaries still have not called me back.)