It’s been said that sons are put on this earth to torment their fathers. I think most boys reach a point in their lives where they choose to embrace something they know will aggravate the hell out of their parents. As I entered this phase in my youth, my rebellion, funny enough, was to be as active in the church as possible.
My father converted to the LDS church after he married my mother who was a lifelong member. I doubt it was more than a year or two after they were sealed in the temple that my father settled into a casual relationship with the church where, for him, staying only for sacrament meeting was OK, drinking coffee was fine, even occasional smoking and drinking wasn’t that big of a deal.
Starting around 13 I began my aforementioned “rebellion”. Instead of spending time with my family on Sunday, I would lock myself in my room because I didn’t want to watch TV on the Sabbath. I refused once to go to Sunday brunch with the rest of the family even though uncle-so-and-so was in town and wanted to take us out; and instead I stayed home and read scriptures. I would silently chide my father in my journal for not taking me to complete our home teaching assignment every month, or for never holding family home evening.
Now as I look back on those years I feel my father unwittingly gave me a lifeline. What if my father was the man I wished he were when I was a teenager? Would he have been nearly as accepting of me when I came out last year? Would it have been as easy for me set aside my religion when I finally did? Probably not. The alternate-universe scenario I can’t shake from my head is one where I live celibate and devout into my late 30’s, and ends when I take my own life. In this way (and I hope this makes sense) - I think my father’s coffee habit saved my life. Thanks for the safety valve dad.
I won’t pretend it wasn’t hard for my family when I told them I was gay and that I had just started dating someone. It was hardest on my mother, but both my parents have been wonderfully respectful and understanding of my decisions.
I believe there’s an unspoken pragmatism at work within some members of the church. Whether on a conscious level or not, they understand that despite the “only true church” tenet that drives nearly everything Mormons do; people understand happiness in life is more important than anguish in devotion. Likewise, there are those of us within the GLBT community who are trying desperately to keep sight of what is good about the church in spite of recent actions the leadership has taken against us; and why our friends and family continue to believe in it even as they fight for us.
In a few days it’ll have been exactly one year since I came out to my family. My fiance and I regularly drive to my parents’ house for Sunday dinner. Dad, now in the high council of his stake, usually enlists me to help him take extra dinner plates to a couple widows he home teaches in his ward. Usually, we swing by Starbucks before going home.