Friday, January 16, 2009

An Open Letter To Family, Friends, Etc.

Dear Relatives and Friends,

I cannot properly express the amount of time I have spent in contemplation, heartache, and prayer so I may write this letter in accordance to the Holy Spirit and so you may also be open to what I write. I know some of you will not receive this as I intend it. However, I feel an overwhelming drive to at least try and give an opportunity for proper communication; my conscience will not allow me to do otherwise.

Nearly ten years ago I came out as a gay man. In the time since I have struggled to find my way through life in relationship to society in general, my LDS upbringing, and with you collectively and individually. I thank those of you who have been supportive and worked to actually hear me and understand what I have done in my life. For those who have been dismissive, I only hope one day you will open up to truly hearing me.

I have already written much in regard to my sexuality, especially in relation to the LDS Church and my personal relationship with the Savior. This latter relationship in particular has been a difficult point for many of you to understand. Many people have tried to gently call me to repentance by saying things like, “I just want you to remember your Primary days … you ARE a Child of God. I know that and I hope you will always remember that,” or telling me all I need to do is accept Jesus Christ as my Savior to be “cured” of my homosexuality. To those who tell me such things, or want to, I think you perhaps assume too much. I admit the first years of being “out” were spent away from God and the fundamentals I learned in Primary. However, the past few years that has not been the case. So many encourage me to turn to Christ, offering myself entirely to His will, as if I have not already done so.

What I went through was not a simple prayer one day, as some have assumed. I spent days, weeks, months in prayer and fasting. I did everything I could think of to make myself open to the Still Small Voice of the Holy Ghost and be able to hear it clearly. When I received an answer I checked it against everything I had ever learned from the Scriptures, church lessons, Seminary and Institute classes, General Conference talks, anything approved by the Church that was out there to know whether it was right or wrong. I even continued in prayer, fasting, church attendance, and Institute classes after receiving very powerful, direct answers to my prayers to make sure what I experienced was not just a defense mechanism telling me what I wanted to hear, or that it was the product of psychological dysfunction. I have dug deep into my psyche and soul and found layers of understanding most people never even consider. I continue to probe ever deeper and have no desire to stop.

Over the years my spirit has been touched in ways and my mind opened to things I consider too sacred to share here. What I will say is I know God accepts me embracing my homosexuality and even seeking a male partner—“husband”—to share my life with. This is not a carte blanche on my sexual behavior or a statement on how others have dealt with their issues of sexuality and marriage. Also, although my Spiritual experiences have been nearly entirely about what is best for me, part is also the need to discuss this issue with others--e.g., this letter--to open up more dialogue and understanding on both sides of the issue. This is not to say I know all the answers to the questions these answers from the Holy Ghost bring up. Much has yet to be revealed to me, and I doubt all of it will come in this lifetime. What I do know is I have received profound guidance for this life and I cannot turn away from it. As it says in Joseph Smith—History (1:25), “For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.”

Some have taken the struggles of my life over the past years as evidence of being wrong about my spiritual experiences. The struggles I go through are against those who would have me go against what God has reveled to me by insisting I must do as they think God wants me to do. I am at peace with Heavenly Father and the Savior, not with the world around me. I think it better to struggle against man for the space to do as God has told me is best for me than go against Him to appease those around me. I did it once before, believing those people knew what God wanted. I doubt many of you truly understand what my mission experience was like; I will only say here it nearly cost me my life and my relationship with the Savior.

My desire to write this letter comes from the great difficulty I have experienced over the past year. At the end of 2007 my last Bishop made it very clear I was not welcome in the ward if I was not going to agree with whatever was said at Church meetings. I have mourned the loss of community and Spiritual uplifting I gained from attending. However, I know what my Bishop insisted on would be more damaging to me spiritually than stepping away. Also, the turbulent debates and demonstrations caused by California’s Proposition 8 have left me feeling I live in a world gone mad. Both sides of the argument have overstepped lines and acted less than appropriately. In many ways I feel threatened physically, socially, and spiritually. In regards to the LDS Church, I have been particularly disappointed. Much of what the Church said and posted online officially over their involvement struck me as rather disingenuous and even unethical in their use of arguments and supporting documentation. Over Christmas I got into a very heated debate with an uncle over the issue. Like my uncle, many have tried to defend the Church in its involvement in Proposition 8, or other issues about homosexuality. It quickly becomes apparent they are completely unaware of what has actually been said or has happened over the issue. Some don’t even seem to understand what homosexuality actually is. I strongly ask all of you to take time to educate yourself on the issue*--if not for me then for those you will discuss it with in the future. As Cloy Jenkins writes, “Those who insist on speaking out on homosexuality should first know what they are talking about.”

Ryan Hollist

* A good source, which covers many of the basic and key issues, is Prologue by Cloy Jenkins, et al.

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