This post is a promised complement to the paper I recently delivered at a religion conference. This, however inelegantly, captures the essence of the profound impact participation in that conference had on me. Possibly more on this later.
As I clearly established in my previous post, Jesus is an ascot-wearing, mimosa-sipping, gay Mormon intellectual. It follows, then, that to be like Jesus, we’ll all need to get out our ascots and matching capris. That is the manner of Mormon we ought to be.
Regrettably, I don’t own a pair of capris. As a gay intellectual, I am not particularly bothered by this lack, but my Mormon-ness is mortified. Mortified, because it falls short of the gay Mormon intellectual Jesus who embodies and defends my mixed up, messed up identity. Jesus, in his unlimited grace, lets me be gay, lets me be intellectual, lets me be Mormon. And since it was as a Mormon that I first encountered that grace, the least I can do is own a damn pair of capris. The least I can do is accept that grace from the one who has fully accepted me—from the one who has fully accepted me as a capris-clad Mormon, not as a helmet-and-nametag-wearing Mormon.
That was the redeeming and sanctifying revelation of this last conference: Only as a gay intellectual (and heretical) Mormon could I do the will of a Mormon Jesus. As a closeted, orthodox Mormon, I was only capable of doing my own will—a godless ambition based on lies and self-loathing. I knew the moment I disassociated myself from the Church that I could no longer do the will of God wearing a suit and tie. But it was not until I attended this conference that I realized that I could do the will of (a Mormon) God at all. So obsessed was I by the apparently irreparable rift between me and the Church that I didn’t realize a tie would bring me no closer to deity. I didn’t know that some of us can only serve God in capris. That a fervent, desperate prayer, whether lisping or not, still somehow makes it to heaven.
Before coming to the conference, I thought that being gay prevented me from being Mormon. I left the conference knowing that being non-Mormon made me a much better Mormon. As a gay apostate I was a much better servant of God and the Church than as a lying orthodox. I left knowing that there was a place for me at the table. I left knowing that I had something yet to say, something yet to give, something yet to bring to that holy table.
The conference solved my problem of pronouns. “They” or “We”? Though I consider myself to have a competent grasp of the English language, I could not seem to figure out how my subjects and verbs agreed. Are “They” Mormon or are “We”? While I affirmed clearly to my associates that I was not Mormon, I found that when actually talking about Mormons, I invariably slipped into “We.” Was I an insider or an outsider? Was I a double agent or unfaithful to both? Whatever peace I thought I had carved out for myself as a post-Mormon was under constant assault by grammar.
Pronouns are uncompromising prophets. I learned from them that I could not stop looking backward because I had failed to collect all the pieces of my broken heart. But at the conference, I discovered I didn’t need to, I didn’t want to. When I concluded my talk, when I said “All is reconciled in Christ” and lowered the page, when I saw my tears and my hope, my love and my loss reflected in the eyes of this rather eccentric bunch of muddled Momons, then I realized that I was one of them, revoked membership be damned.
I still don’t know whether to say “We” or “They” but I am delighted by the ambiguity, delighted that I can live in the space between insider and outsider moving fluidly—moving happily—between these worlds. I exult that I am muddled and messy. I have learned that my two identities are not in conflict, are not pulling me apart. That, indeed, there is, as there has always been, only one identity. I just didn’t know what it looked like. I needed a community to show me what I looked like. I found one.
I think I have found reconciliation. And I think I will purchase a pair of capris. Maybe even wear them with a suit and tie, however unfashionable that might be.
What Manner of Mormon Ought Ye to Be? A Muddled Mormon. Even as Christ is Muddled.