This past week I met with my Bishop. We've been meeting since March last year (2014) and we try to get together monthly however scheduling conflicts and the end of year craziness made it difficult to catch up during the latter part of the year.
The last time I met with him was September, I remember I called him and wanted to speak to him because I had just gone on a date with a guy whom I liked very much, (we subsequently dated for about 3 months). So really, lots has happened since our last meeting.
I got to the chapel 10 minutes early and ran into the senior couple missionary serving in our ward. We made small talk but man those missionaries are forward! He starts off asking me if I was a member to which I answered 'yes'. he then said 'oh, I've never seen you here before'. Right... this has gotten a bit awkward... because I sort of have been there most weeks. Either way, Bishop turned up 5 minutes later and rescued me from an awkward conversation.
We made some small talk and general banter about how our Christmas' were and the time we spent on holidays. He then asked the big-vague-can be interpreted in anyways-all encompassing question: 'so how are things going?' I knew what the question was referring to of course so out came my life in a nutshell over the past 4 months; falling in love, beginning a relationship, breaking up, coming out to my family, coming out to my friends and being somewhat inactive.
It was during this talk with him that I came to a profound self realisation. I have been happy. Despite not living the commandments of the Church, not attending Church regularly, praying or reading my scripture, I have been the happiest I have been in a long time. Even after my relationship ended (minus the grieving period right after the breakup), I'm still happy. I feel like there is hope is my life, hope for the future and for more happiness. This was an important moment for me because I was always fearful that my life would be miserable without the Church and while there are aspects I do miss in the Church, I am overall satisfied with life the way it is at the moment.
What Bishop went on to say gave me hope that perhaps one day, gay Mormons growing up in Church will have it easier then those that have past. Bishop reassured me that this happiness I've found is great. He went on to tell me that he'd been thinking a lot about the topic ever since we started meeting and that it has opened up his eyes and mind to this topic. He told me that he's been thinking about whether or not being gay and being in Church had to be mutually exclusive. He told me that it was good that I wanted to find fulfilling relationships in my life but did that mean I had to throw away the Gospel that I obviously still hold onto. He then proceeding to tell me an experience he'd had over Christmas when he met with a friend who was also a Bishop elsewhere. They got talking on the topic of homosexuality and this other Bishop told him that there was an openly gay couple in the ward he presides over. Members of the ward knew about it and just welcomed them in as anyone would. Bishop did acknowledge that it would be difficult and did not know exactly how it would work but he just emphasised that everyone should be welcomed into Church regardless - everyone is a sinner and sin differently so why should one be judged over another. Bishop certainly didn't say this is what I had to do but simply expressing thoughts that had been going through his mind.
Sure the process isn't that straight forward and I know there would be a lot of challenges but which path in life doesn't have challenges? I didn't feel like he was preaching to me one bit during our talk but simple empathy, understanding and love.
I am hopeful that Church members can emulate those Christlike attributes of love and acceptance as my Bishop so wonderfully showed me this past week. I hope the future of being gay and Mormon won't be as difficult as it has been for generations past.
Hope is a powerful thing and so long as we can continue to hope, there will be happiness.