Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Power of Compassion

By Madame Curie

In the wake of my recent disaffection, I have been much more vocal about my support of same-sex marriage. This cause caused a lot of contention, particularly on places such as Facebook where my apostacy is not so widely known. Tonight, I got to thinking about where my change on this issue occurred. It wasn't so long ago that I seriously started questioning what my response would be if Prop 8 were in Philadelphia, rather than in California. I recall in those days (it seems like ages ago, really) wondering whether it is better to vote your conscience or to vote in accordance with the Prophet. I think I had decided that it was best to abstain from voting, rather than to cause offense either way. Obviously my feelings have undergone a radical transformation. So, what effected the change?

When I was in high school, my best friend Mary* and I fell in love. We meant everything to one another, I believe. We attended prom together, and neither of us dated anyone else while in high school. Our relationship continued through our first few years of college, although we attended different universities. We would travel to visit one another, enormous distances. As our friends married their high-school sweethearts, I remember in my mind thinking of how wonderful it would be to set up a home with my Mary. We would talk about growing old together, no matter where else our life's paths took us, grey and wrinkly on rockers in a cottage by a stream. At times, the situation was somewhat confusing, since I felt that there was nothing at all wrong with our relationship, but she would occasionally feel guilty about it.

When I joined the Mormon church my senior year of college, in my baptismal interview the Elders asked me if I had ever been in a homosexual relationship (this is a standard question in the baptismal interview, I believe). I was a little surprised by this question, as I wasn't expecting it. I answered "no," since I wasn't currently in a relationship with Mary (I had been dating a guy for the past year). However, that question and its implications haunted me for a long time thereafter.

This was honestly the first time in my life that I had ever considered my relationship with Mary to be "bad" in any way. It seemed like such a strange thing, that something so special as the tender love that we had for one another could be wrong. The phrase "harrowed up" goes a long way to describing my feelings for the next several years whenever I would think about myself and how evil and depraved I must have been. Nevermind that when we were dating (although we never called it that), I knew God smiled on us and had sent her to me. I also tried hard to never, ever think back to my relationship with Mary, casting it aside as a confusing and "evil" time in my life.

When Prop 8 hit the scene at the beginning of 2008, and the Church started taking such a strong stand in it, many of the memories with my sweet friend Mary came back to me. It seemed unfair that the Church would try to forbid other homosexuals from marrying, although I frequently told myself that God (through the Prophet) must know better than I. However, as I started seeing myself within the LGTB community, I began to deeply understand where they were coming from, what they wanted, and why it was not only acceptable, but necessary and just. I understood their plight, because it was my plight. Understanding brought compassion, love, and eventually, acceptance - both of the right for gays to marry, and of myself for my relationship with Mary.

Compassion is a powerful thing. It changes a man from mere mortal to something better than himself. Thank God for that.

*Name has been changed


  1. I think only something as powerful as compassion could hope to have a chance against the ingrained thinking of "Follow the Prophet".

    For me the change came when I suspected a member of my extended family might be gay. I'm still not sure he is, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter. But as I considered that he might have an entire life he didn't feel comfortable sharing with us, and the pain and anguish it could be causing him, it brought some radical changes to my thinking.

  2. "I think only something as powerful as compassion could hope to have a chance against the ingrained thinking of "Follow the Prophet".

    I think you hit the nail right on the head, Urban. That's really what it all boils down to for me. For me the change came when for the very first time, I took the time to listen to those who struggle and to hear their stories and perspectives, instead of dismissing their problems as simply crosses that they needed to bear. Didn't those who had compassion for Christ try to help him bear his cross? That's what I would like to do, but even though I don't have all the answers, I realized that dismissing, downplaying, or mischaracterizing their struggles isn't helping them to bear that cross.

  3. I think both of you are precisely right. Compassion - with its sisters charity and understanding - is the only thing that really stands a chance against fear. For when we love something, we no longer fear it.

    I want to make something clear, since I have received a few emails about this topic. My relationship with Mary was romantic and sexually charged in nature. However, it was also all of the things I have described in this post - and so much more. We really were everything to each other. I purposefully chose to focus on the emotional and intimate aspects of our relationship, for two reasons:

    First, the romance was a natural outcropping of our connection with one another - the same way that marital relations are a natural outcropping of my emotional connection with my husband.

    Second, and probably most importantly, I feel that oftentimes Latter-day Saints have a difficult time distinguishing homosexuality from sex. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings, such as the (common and ugly) idea that homosexuals are sexual deviants who just want a newer and greater sexual high. I wanted to focus on the fact that same-sex marriage and love is so, so much more than that. This isn't about sex - its about love, commitment - every good thing that a heterosexual feels for his or her spouse.

    Until and unless people realize that this is about love - internalize it, empathize with it - the fear of homosexuality will continue.