At the Table

Living with the belief that gay people have a place at the table of Christ.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Familiar Spirit

The year is 1975. I am a young Mormon missionary serving in Northern England, where a cheerful minister's wife has walked us through the door of a small Anglican church, as an ecumenical gesture of kindness, just so that we can see the interior. Immediately I sense something very familiar and very powerful--the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is unmistakable. I know it well from years of participation in the Mormon faith, and from my experiences as a missionary. And here it is again, so thick you could cut it with a knife. "But how can this be," I wonder; "How can the spirit be here in a church that is not the TRUE church?" I am troubled. The only way my youthful mind can reconcile the event is to conclude that the feeling is actually a "counterfeit" spirit.

Fast forward twelve years. I am stark naked lying in bed with a friend of the same sex with whom I have just been "intimate". There it is again; the spirit with which I am very familiar. Why would the spirit be blessing this moment? There is a knock on the bedroom door and a housemate pops his head in to say good night. My buddy calls out, "Be sure to read your Book of Mormon and pray before you go to bed."

1989, I arrive at a dear friend's birthday party held at a restaurant in Emigration Canyon. Everyone at the table appears to be gay. Except for one familiar face. To my surprise, seated there is a lady from the Blackpool, England ward, where I had served as a missionary. She is now living in Salt Lake City and knows my friend from their association at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), which, I am aware, is a congregation of primarily gay people. My friend tells me that she attends the LDS church, but also regularly goes to the MCC "because she loves the spirit that is there."

2002, I am listening to another close friend relate a spiritual experience he had while struggling to reconcile his faith and his homosexuality. "Dear God, please forgive me for being gay," he had prayed. And then he heard an audible voice, "Who told you it was wrong to be gay?"