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.)