Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Life Story: Perplexity


"There is nothing you could tell me that would shock me," my dad would always tell us as we sat as church youth groups under stars at Lake Powell or in A-frame cabins at Young Women Camp. My dad was the bishop of our ward for five years of my middle teenage years. He would encourage us to come into his office and talk to him about our thoughts, worries or sins. His greatest outreach as a bishop was to be for the youth, the impressionable minds navigating values and morals in a world that didn't support such things.

Every time he said this to us, under stars or peaked roofs, I'd feel pride in my father. There was no shame in the way he spoke to us youth, encouraging us to be comfortable as complicated humans with complicated hearts. Even when he wasn't a bishop, I was the closest to my parents when they presented me with an open-minded view of the world.

Then I'd think of all the things I could tell my father that wouldn't shock him,

"Dad, I drank a beer."

"Dad, I shoplifted some clothes."

"Dad, I'm pregnant."

But even though I imagined such sins, I knew I was a good girl who followed the promises I made at baptism and--seemingly more important--kept all the rules of my culture. I went to every church youth activity, sometimes as a youth leader and sometimes as an obedient follower. I showed up and enjoyed myself, mostly because I liked flirting with the young men and impressing the adult leaders with my self-important charm.

Then one year my dad asked a recently-divorced, twenty-one-year old neighbor to be one of my young women youth leaders. She was unlike all the other adult leaders, in many different ways. She moved to Utah from Hawaii where she had lived for a few years as a newlywed. She liked sports and crafts and had lots of friends who would camp out at her house, always coming and going, eating and celebrating. And her smile was this huge entity that filled up her face when she was happy or proud of us.

We all loved her. We took to her like thirsty girls, showing up at her house to hang out, wanting to spend the afternoon, like her older friends, lounging about laughing and talking. Most of the leaders we had experienced in our lifetimes were more conservative, young married women who shared their time at BYU and quiet nights with their husbands. We liked those leaders too, but they didn't enchant us as much as this leader. She was a promise that life--no matter how old we grew--could be evolving chapters of excitement.

After a summer spent with our leader, camping on church trips, learning to tie knots and build fires, I cultivated an especially close bond with her. I desired more and more of her attention, and she was really generous with her time. When high school started I'd wake up early to meet her down the road where she lived, we'd walk the neighborhood and after school we'd meet back up at the park to play tennis. Sometimes she'd let me drive her car, a green Subaru with a sticky manual transmission, good practice for my upcoming driver's license examination.

On some days I'd show up at school and find notes from her in my locker, enthusiastic words always punctuated by slightly smeared smiley faces. Some nights we'd go to dinner, just the two of us, laughing and building our stash of inside jokes. This attention made me feel so incredibly special. I thought about all the girls in the ward who wanted this friendship, I was so special, look at me, driving her car, being fed, notes in my locker.

High school had been a disappointing transition for me. My friendship group split in two, several of the girls started dating the older boys and went to parties (worthy of a bishop's visit!) I made a terrible mistake by admitting my crush on a jerk who returned the favor by calling me "Shamu" daily as I walked red-faced down main hall. I never understood how my petite frame--curvy as it was--could be compared to a huge whale, but I got the message. Loud and terribly clear.

My leader never cared about the shape of my body, she always complimented me on being smart and clever. She was the sunshine in the dreary days of adolescence--her kindness filled the craving I had to feel important. Our age difference (which was only five years, but seemed so much bigger in our respective places) never mattered to her. Plus, she wasn't like my other friends who sometimes seemed more like competition than comrades.

Then one day it occurred to me that I was in love with our leader. I thought about her all the time, at night I imagined sneaking out of my house, running down the yellow-lit street to her blue house, into her room to sleep next to her. And I knew if I did this, if I ended up knocking at the window in the dark of the night, my voice identifying my shadow, she'd let me in. She wouldn't turn me away, I knew it.

Soon after this realization, while on a walk with her through the white-washed family housing on BYU campus, I was so overcome with love for her, I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. She turned to me and laughed, like it pleased her, but surprised her too. Immediately I felt shame--like the crossing of a line, part of me wanted to run away with her and part of me wanted to go back home and be a little girl again, the girl on the morning of my baptism who promised to never do anything bad.

"Dad, I am in love with a woman."

How would that not shock him?

Though they also loved my leader, my parents understandably wanted me to engage with friends my age, share the same experiences, go to dances and have a social life. With their encouragement--sometimes heated in its portrayal--I picked up my former social habits. The boys my age were becoming more mature, more respectful almost. I made some new friends, loyal girls with wider views and better ideas. I stopped wanting to sneak out at nights, I forgot about wanting to run away.

But I always thought about her, I always wished I were older and things were different. My learning to move on from the relationship with my leader broke my heart and I was sad for a long time about it.

By my junior year in high school my leader had moved from our neighborhood, I went onto AP classes, social clubs and my most coveted editorial position with the school newspaper. By winter I was mesmerized at the charismatic boy who'd soon become my high school sweetheart. I suppose love leads you to a safe spot and leaves you when you are unsafe. When my relationship with my leader was no longer safer than my relationship with the boy, my heart went with the boy.

I remember being surprised by the discovery that attraction isn't necessarily a linear experience, but instead a fluid one, that comes and goes, that takes forms and shapes you can't always control. I never examined my sexuality--which way it leaned--because it just came to me and I let it in, and when it grew heavy, I let it out, like it was the most natural thing in the world.

And I am grateful I had parents who didn't operate on fear as standard procedure.

It wasn't until five years later, when I answered the ringing doorbell at my parents house, a college sophomore home for an afternoon of refueling, I saw my leader again. She appeared on the doorstep, a bandanna on her head, sandals on her feet, short hair, almost unrecognizable from the youth leader I knew years before. There was just a subtle hint of the sunshine she was to me, barely there when I searched her face.

"My girlfriend had to work at the hospital in Provo today. She said she'd be here for a few hours, so I thought I'd come down and say hello."

We went for a drive, she told me had met her partner ("She looks just like Hugh Grant") after she moved from our neighborhood. After years of deep struggle both emotionally and spiritually, she was out. We talked about our friendship, the feelings she battled too at that time. She explained her past, abuse and pain, hurtful, terrible experiences I didn't know before, and even if she'd told me, I wouldn't have understood. I thought about my dad on that car ride, how you can live in a world that no longer shocked you, how compassion and retrospection replaces perplexity.

"I had women relationships long before I met you," she told me. "I tried to be straight, I even married a man to prove it, but I couldn't do it. And now I won't go to heaven for this lifestyle, but at least I am honest with myself."

I will never forget her saying that, how she won't go to heaven for being honest.

I'll never believe it.


282 comments:

1 – 200 of 282   Newer›   Newest»
Brett Merritt said...

Fantastic.

lauren said...

This is probably my favorite thing you've ever written. You have such a great heart.

Jennifer Lange said...

I loved this. So powerful. It made me cry.

Lisa said...

Beautifully written.

Nora said...

Beautiful.

Kristin said...

I understand this. this is perfect. It might be the most flawless, perfect thing you have ever written.

I just have one question: How in the hell do you and Stephanie come from the same family?

Azúcar said...

Perfect.

amy said...

I've read your blog for years and years and have loved many, many things you've written. This is the first I've cried at. Incredibly beautiful and touching. Thank you.

Vanessa Brown said...

That really was perfect.

Daily Photo 2012 said...

Wow. That is one of the most beautiful things you've ever written!

Scene Sister said...

Incredibly honest story, too. I commend you for sharing it. I love it. Thank you.

Rosarosita said...

Better every time. How do you do it?

Melissa said...

Seriously amazing.

I love all your writing, but this post is so perfect for so many reasons.

AmericanBridget (Jones) said...

I've never posted on your blog, but I read your every post. Well written and your last line is so well-stated. Those four powerful words show what an amazing person you are. I'll never believe she won't go to heaven for something she didn't seek out, but is a part of who she is. Good for you for writing this piece.

Fresh Hell, Texas said...

This made me cry with gratitude and a mother's heart.

Thank you.

Rae said...

Thank you. So, so, so powerful, strong, and good.

tiffany said...

Brilliant!

Cheryl said...

Breathtakingly beautiful. So much so, that any longer comment would be superfluous.

speechchick said...

That was moving, honest, and awesome. It is nice to know that you can be that real.

speechchick said...

That was moving, honest, and awesome. It is nice to know that you can be that real.

Becca said...

you are amazing. And I wish everybody in the world could read this.

shansbox said...

Thank you for that post. So powerful.

Jillian said...

I, like so many others, never really comment. But that was perfection. Made me tear up. The God I know, the God I love, I think she will be there one day. I heard this line on a show the other day and it really struck a chord with me. "You don't have to BE anything. You just have to be you."

tam said...

Been trying to decide what to write. Totally agree. From the love keeping us in a safe spot, to the leader going to heaven. Wish more people understood- for so many of us,our religion does not define our thoughts on these issues.

kristinanne said...

Wow! Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!!!!!

Sarah Jane said...

You rock. I so look forward to this "life" posts. Keep 'em coming!

mccxxiii said...

You just officially became my favorite Mormon ever. :)

I am LoW said...

So many questions I could ask about what you mean.

Do you believe that our church leaders are inspired, that they teach the word of God?

Our church does not say that those that have sex outside of marriage will go to hell?

Exactly how is that being honest?

tharker said...

One of the most beautiful things you've ever written!

Darcy said...

Just wonderful. Made me cry. Thanks for doing this hard work of writing and sharing with us.

Erin {pughs' news} said...

Thank you for sharing this story, Courtney. It was beautifully written, and that last line made me tear up. You have completely changed my idea of what it means to be a Mormon. I can't tell you how much I admire you for your honesty and your heartfelt writing.

Julie said...

Greatness! Well written and perfect!

La Yen said...

Loved this.

Chelle said...

Your bravery is incredible. Bravo.

Jennifer Bowman said...

So beautiful and so true.

I love this.

LAM said...

My heart kind of seized up in my chest at your bravery.. I agree, I'll never believe it.

Susan said...

The BEST post I've read of yours. PERIOD. I have a new found respect and love for you, CJANE!

MJS said...

I'm a long time reader, and I've never commented, but I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing and publishing this compassionate and big-hearted post. Good for you, and thank you so much!

Becca said...

Calm down, IamLoW, just because it's what Courtney believes doesn't mean what you believe is wrong. The true beauty of the world is that there are so many shades of gray.

kelly said...

What a beautiful, honest piece of perfection. I get it completely and I truly admire your ability to be so vulnerable and honest in this public forum. I thought your hourglass theory was my favorite but this just took the lead. :)

Sugar Knickers said...

Thank you for writing this, it is pure awesome.

~Christine~ said...

Great post and so honest! Thanks for sharing! I love your blog!

Caton said...

one of my favorite pieces so far!

Emily Heizer Photography said...

That last sentence really did just make me cry.

I'll never believe it either.

3 veehills said...

i don't believe it either.

you're the best around (the karate kid song is running through my brain right now)!

Rach said...

Wowee. That was amazing.

I don't believe it either.

tara said...

My favorite thing you have written.

Morgan said...

Oh Courtney, I absolutely loved this. I agree with Becca that I wish that everyone could read this.

I've really been loving reading your story. I believe so strongly in the power of our life stories. It seems as though everyone is searching for truth. The more that I think about it, the more that I realize that the greatest testaments of truth that we have are our stories. The stories of our own lives are just as important and just as powerful as those of the men and women who we read about in the scriptures. I thank you so much for sharing your truth.

Meaghan said...

Wow! This was touching. You have such a way with words! Also, I love the picture of you as a teenager. Super cute!

mandbrid said...

Beautiful!

I am LoW said...

Becca- Calm down?

What did I say wrong? I am genuinely curious, not so sure if I understood what she meant by some things.

Amy said...

Wow. I don't think I've ever commented, but this is the kind of authentic, freeing, smooth and true writing that enables, empowers, HAS to be written.

Thank you.

Enjoying Our Journey said...

This spoke to me in a very personal way. Thank you for helping me understand something I had wondered about something in my own past. Suddenly it is clear.

Heather said...

long time reader, first time commenter!

This was beautiful! My favorite part:
"I remember being surprised by the discovery that attraction isn't necessarily a linear experience, but instead a fluid one, that comes and goes, that takes forms and shapes you can't always control. I never examined my sexuality--which way it leaned--because it just came to me and I let it in, and when it grew heavy, I let it out, like it was the most natural thing in the world.
"

While I suppose this isn't the case with everyone, I have found it to be true. Appreciate your honesty and your candor.

kennan said...

you are my favorite blogger, ever. thank you for being real. so brave.

i think you are fantastic.

melanie said...

I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved this. I wish I could sit down with you for an afternoon to talk about it. Thank you so much.

Darcie said...

Wonderful.

Sara*P said...

Wonderful and so very brave.

SuiGeNeRiS Speaks said...

Love your memoirs - and more specifically, your honesty. Thank you for having the courage to share the deeper parts of yourself. If every one wasn't so fearful of exposing their vulnerabilities and shared themselves more....I am sure we would have a more connected, loving and compassionate society.

sarahsteinlubrano said...

Thank you. This is wonderful. Brava.

sarahsteinlubrano said...

And brave. So brave.

Charmaine said...

So freaking beautiful. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Jordan said...

Like everyone else I also appreciated this post. It also made me feel introspective as I have been the "fun young" young women leader at times but there is a major line she crossed as a leader. Maybe church leadership is more aware now days of how inappropriate relationships can so easily happen when when we are spending huge amounts of time serving in our callings but I could feel in your post when from a good healthy leader/girl relationship to a fuzzy line. I am not making sense but I am grateful you wrote this on so many levels.

iminindiaandyourenot said...

You don't know me. It doesn't matter. Thank you for what must have been a gut wrenching writing experience. I appreciate your honesty. You wrote about a tough topic with sensitivity and grace. Thank you.

CTW said...

Simply beautiful.

DaNelle said...

Can I just say I love your Dad and I don't even know him ;) And loved this post thanks for writing it!

DaNelle
www.weedemandreap.com

Camille Farias said...

Hands down the bravest thing you've ever written

Morgan Lee said...

Good stuff, Courtney.

Alison said...

This probably isn't going to be a popular opinion, but here goes anyways.

I can't figure out why yesterday everyone was bashing your drama teacher for behaving inappropriately, but no one has anything to say today. Clearly she was a lesbian, she knew she was, and she still spent an inordinate amount of time with a very young girl.

If a sixteen-year-old girl was being taken on tennis and dinner dates, allowed to drive the car of, and generally encouraged to spend as much time as possible at the home of a 21-year-old man; how would any of us interpret it other than that he was behaving inappropriately? Even IF his intentions towards her were purely friendly, it would STILL be inappropriate.

I think this leader abused her position of authority and took major advantage of you. It is honestly no wonder you were confused. I didn't think this was a beautiful story at all. It gave me the creeps in the exact same way as the story of your drama teacher did: it was an adult taking unfair advantage of a child.

CMS said...

This hit my heartstings, Courtney. I just went to a conference about LGTBQ members of the church. I am a straight ally, and I am very concerned with how "we" treat this community.

Could you read it?

http://allaboutmylifeandmore.blogspot.com/2012/04/washington-dc-circling-wagons-mormon.html

Laura said...

Who knew there was so much complexity in a mormon girl from Provo UT? I don't think I have ever examined my own life as deeply as I am examining yours! I don't always agree with your views (yeah, I think that leader really crossed a line), but I can recognize a good writer when I read one. Use it well!

Kirsty said...

I loved this. I love that your story is not tied up with a neat little bow. Beautiful writing, keep it up. And thanks for being so brave and so honest.

Mary & Marc said...

Brilliant in every possible way. Your honesty is a true gift. Carry on with it~

McEngland like the McCountry said...

Can I just tell you that I love you for this? Because I do. I have to believe that our generation of Christians (regardless of denomination) will lead our respective Churches in a more loving, Christ-like and accepting direction. In my heart I know that Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father don't give a flying flip about who/how we're born to love just as I seriously doubt that it matters to them if you hear the message best at the Mormon Temple and I hear it best during Catholic Mass (Just as long as we're listening, right?). They just want us to love each other mightily and leave the judgement up to Them.

Deb said...

This is awesome.

Terri said...

I so relate to the things you share. Thank you.

Samantha said...

Wow, this isn't a criticism of your writing, it really is beautiful, but I'm with Alison.

I don't care one whit if a person is gay or straight. No judgment from me for sure.

But inappropriate is inappropriate. I'm shocked that everyone (rightly) was appalled by yesterday's drama teacher, but today it was just fine. I'm thoroughly confused.

Truly and sincerely, I'd be grateful for an explanation. Not because I'm annoyed or angry, but just because I can't figure out what is different.

Thanks in advance.

Samantha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DeeAnna said...

I'll never believe it either. Such a sweet and honest post.

Unknown said...

I agree with Allison and find it strange no one else has mentioned how inappropriate the YW leader was.

Lidia Lavonna said...

My Instant, verbal reaction: "Wow. That was amazing." You're honesty is beauty. True, soul-deep beauty. We do no service to others by hiding ourselves, our struggles, our realizations, our lives behind opaque glass. You inspire me.
Lidia Lavonna

a28087a8-8e72-11e1-9829-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Ditto Allison, et all. Very disturbing. And I don't agree with the final analysis, either.

Brandie said...

I've read your blog for years but have never commented.

I just have to tell you, this is my favorite post so far <3

Melissa said...

Thanks for a beautiful post.

Allison said...

C jane...I haven't given you the credit you deserved. I assumed because you were mormon and studied the bible your beliefs were different. Thank you for showing me the light.
Beautifully written...

Katrina said...

Its been a long time sine I've read your blog regularly and even longer since I've commented. But I had to after reading this. So beautifully honest. I loved it all. Thank you for sharing such a tender story with us all.

Allysha said...

I agree with Alison. Your leader took advantage of you. It was an inappropriate relationship. She was young as well, but she was wrong. And a five year age difference at those ages is big.

The adolescent years are a time of intense feeling and hormones that are easily influenced, often confusing, and sometimes manipulated.

The truth about heaven is that everyone has their agency, but we have to make correct choices, or repent and right those choices when we are wrong. Everyone has things they struggle with; everyone still has to make the correct choice at some point and choose to be reconciled to God if they want to be in heaven. Being honest with oneself isn't enough.

You are brave to tell this story, and it may be important to tell, but I don't agree with your conclusions.

kblev-r said...

“a book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us.” --franz kafka. your post was exactly that. bravo.

Kate said...

dear courtney: my favorite post yet. honest and lovely.

Kelly L. said...

Coming out of lurkerville to say thank you. For making me laugh. For making me think. For making me try to remember how you worded that perfect phrase while I'm driving to pick up my kids from school. Thank you.

Holly said...

I love your description of fluidity. It's within all of us.

NML said...

To those who are saying this relationship was inappropriate, why? The Youth Leader did not take advantage of Courtney. Yes, there seems to have been a mutual attraction, but she never acted on it. Spending time with youth seems to me to be what a Youth Leader is supposed to do. You think this couldn't or wouldn't happen with a young man? It could, it would. And if he acted on a mutual attraction, then sure, you could say that it was an inappropriate relationship. But this seems altogether innocent.

Perhaps what you are really suggesting is that somehow the Youth Leader manipulated Courtney into her youthful crush. If so, then in my opinion what you have is a classic case of homophobia. That whole "they'll be converting our children thing" can be spotted at twenty paces.

Courtney, loved this piece. Keep it coming. The more I get to know you, the more I like you.

melissad said...

I've never commented on your blog before, but I read it every day and I LOVED this post. You such a powerful writer, and so honest. I can imagine having these same feelings, but I'm not sure I would have the courage to write about it. Thank you for this story, it makes me feel like I have a kindred spirit out there.

Lyndsay said...

Perfect post!

Katie said...

I loved the last sentences but this touched me the most.

"I thought about my dad on that car ride, how you can live in a world that no longer shocked you, how compassion and retrospection replaces perplexity."

Put just beautifully.

Also, maybe it was inappropriate of the leader but at this point does it matter? Courtney is telling her story, what she felt. Does it matter at this point if the leader is wrong? Does it change the experiences or the impression they left on Courtney? It's her story, should she not share it because some people deem it wrong? It still happened. It's still her story.

Dana Burmeister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FindingMyWay said...

Courtney, I wanted to tell you how important your words are to so many of us. After 34 years of confusion and experiences, as well as three children and a husband, I discovered I am a lesbian. I am also a life-long Mormon.

The thing I would like to say is that after reading your post and all the comments, I am saddened to report that yours is a rare attitude and belief. The majority of members do NOT believe that I, we as gay members, have a place in God's Kingdom, if we choose to "act" on our homosexuality. The God I believe in will accept me with open arms. We, in the gay Mormon community, need your voices (CJane and most who have commented). We need your voices desperately. So many of us are losing the battle and need to hear this type of encouragement.

There is a huge gay Mormon community out here and we're trying our best to remain faithful and loving and believing... but it gets to be so hard. I encourage you all to open up your hearts and share those feelings/beliefs with everyone in your wards. It might just be that no one wants to make the first move but they feel the same way you do. We need you. I cannot express adequately how much we need your support and encouragement... and your simple, yet profound belief that we will be accepted by God and into His Kingdom.

Spread the word! All of you who have agreed with her, just speak those words to your neighbors, to the brothers and sisters in your ward, to your leaders, to your family and friends. It may seem as though it's common sense that people should believe that way, but the fact is that the majority do not. We need your voices.

Thank you, Courtney, and all who have commented positively. My heart has been touched indeed.

FindingMyWay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dana said...

wow. this actually made me tear up. its beautiful and you have a beautiful and compassionate heart. and that is what is most important in our short lives here on earth.

Nama said...

"I remember being surprised by the discovery that attraction isn't necessarily a linear experience, but instead a fluid one, that comes and goes, that takes forms and shapes you can't always control. I never examined my sexuality--which way it leaned--because it just came to me and I let it in, and when it grew heavy, I let it out, like it was the most natural thing in the world."

Absolutely brilliant, Courtney. That's the best thing I've read all day.

Thank you so much for being vulnerable enough to write and share this experience publicly. It takes a lot of guts to be this open and honest, not just with yourself, but with the internet. :) And I wholly appreciate that and find it incredibly refreshing.

Tina said...

Nothing short of amazing, Sister Kendrick.

Lauren said...

Brilliant C Jane. Well done.

Corinne said...

That was a good read. Nice flow to it. It was especially poignant, as up here, in a neighbouring province a running potential politician said the exact opposite of your last line in a radio interview...he lost yesterday "luckily".

phancymama said...

Amazing.

Love this line "I remember being surprised by the discovery that attraction isn't necessarily a linear experience, but instead a fluid one, that comes and goes, that takes forms and shapes you can't always control."

Thank you.

nielsons*love*family said...

FindingMyWay

there are more mormons out there than maybe you think that will love and accept you!

and courtney, thank you for your voice in this matter, it was beautifully written and needs to be heard.

Jeannie said...

Beautiful and necessary! Thank you for this, thank you for opening up an important dialogue. Very moving!

Jenny Hatch said...

I am really sorry that you were seduced by a female predator at such a tender age. This has obviously left you sexually confused to the point that you feel comfortable writing Lesbian erotica and standing publicly for sexual immorality being OK with Heavenly Father.

Sad and disapointed.

Jenny Hatch

Andrea said...

I agree completely with Alison & others. This post had me cringing.

I wish you would participate in the discussions on your posts. I think your blog could benefit from interaction with your readers. It's missing that.

Sarah said...

Outstanding! You write with the perspective, self-respect and awareness of an 84 year old woman! How do you do that?
Thank you for being vulnerable and open with us! We're privileged to read this!

Trevor said...

Simple. Elegant. Powerful.

Yeah, the relationship with the YW leader was inappropriate, but I don't think that's the point of this post at all.

Thank you, C. Jane.

Jessica said...

So, I really wish Courtney would expand on this, because I am confused. I am a big fan of honesty -- lying is actually pretty much my least favorite thing in the world -- but I don't think being honest about what we think or feel has to include acting on behavior that is wrong. I can tell you honestly that sometimes I want to be lazy and selfish and mean and critical and judgmental, but the fact that I honestly feel or think that way doesn't mean it's okay for me to act that way. And when I do act in accordance with my far-less-than-perfect feelings and thoughts, I must acknowledge that I have sinned and seek repentance through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Within each of our natures is the propensity to do things that are not in line with truth and each of us will give in to that natural man repeatedly throughout our lives. The folly is in rationalizing bad behavior because the person who engaged in that behavior is someone we love (including ourselves).

I fully support the Church's stance on this issue -- same-sex attraction is not a sin, acting on those feelings is. I also want to emphasize that having same-sex attraction does not define a human being, that is not their identity. The core of our identities, each one of us, is that we are children of God.

There is a lot more I want to say, as this subject is very close to my heart. But I fear I am rambling.

Morgan Lee said...

@Allison and Samantha,

I think your question is fair. Why would a certain behavior be inappropriate for CJane's drama teacher, but a similar behavior is not inappropriate for her YW leader?

I answer only for myself when I say that the relationship with the YW leader (as CJane has described it) may indeed have been a little inappropriate -- not as creepy as Mr. Drama Teacher, but perhaps a little out of bounds.

But that is not because she was a lesbian spending time with a girl. Rather, because she was an adult with a child. I am biased on this issue, though. I used to teach high school and I have witnessed similar kinds of relationships. Every school has a few teachers who want to be "friends" with their students, in the same way that peers and other equals are friends. This is not the purpose of teaching. You and your students (or YW group) are not your equals. I've seen teachers cross the line -- socializing with students outside of school, exchanging personal emails, Facebooking, even going to unchaperoned parties at students' houses. Often these teachers are young, with no sexual interest in their students whatsoever. It is their desire to be the "cool" teacher that clouds their judgement.

To me, this kind of friendship between an adult and child, particularly when the adult is in a position of authority, is just generally a bad idea. It blurs boundaries that should be crystal clear. When students see their teachers and mentors as their equals, well, trouble ensues. And contrary to some of the statements, it is often the children taking advantage of the adult, not just the other way around. So adults who have leadership positions over children should be friendly mentors... but not friends.

Anyway, in that sense, I think the YW leader exercised bad judgement in helping to nurture such a close friendship with a minor. I know not everyone agrees that these kinds of boundaries are necessary, but it is something I feel strongly about.

But none of that is the point of the post. Courtney was drawn to this girl during a time of need, and probably the reverse was true as well. Unless CJane is withholding info, this YW leader never made a pass at her, and the most important lines were never crossed. This post isn't about the cool YW leader. Not really. It's about CJane having compassion and understanding for someone whose needs and struggles during that time exceeded even her own. That's why people like this post.

jenifer said...

great post!
i'm with alison though... so many people were ready to crucify the inappropriate middle school boy but say nothing about an inappropriate church leader. ??!!

personally, i think your mother, the middle school boy, the drama teacher, the young women leader-- these are all just faces of LIFE. life is imperfect but so instructive and shaping.
we don't need to waste our time judging the players of our past. (does it make any difference?) we need to spend time evaluating our own experience and learning from them.
thank you for sharing your story.
learning from your story helps me learn from my story!!

Johnson-n-Johnson said...

When you kissed your YW leader on the cheek and felt immediate shame, that was most likely the Spirit warning you that you were turning a relationship that had been supportive thus far into one that would become destructive to you. I'm sure you probably loved your YW leader, but love is a big word which encompasses a wide range of emotions and attractions.

Morgan Lee said...

I am confused by the people (Allysha, the person with the nonsense handle, etc.) who take issue with CJane's conclusion that the YW leader will probably go to heaven.

My understanding of Mormon doctrine is that virtually everybody goes to heaven... maybe not the Celestial Kingdom, but one of the two lower levels of Heaven at least. It is one of a few surprisingly liberal things about Mormonism (I should clarify for my fellow Utahans that the word "liberal", used by me, is almost always a good thing). Am I wrong? Are you guys who are disagreeing with CJane on this saying that the YW leader is headed for "Outer Darkness"? Or are you saying that she just won't go to the highest level of heaven?

My husband holds pretty orthodox views, so I asked him (after reading some of the comments here) if homosexuals who act on their feelings go to Outer Darkness (according to Mormon doctrine) and he said absolutely not. "Not even murderers go to Outer Darkness," he said, "so of course a gay person who's basically good wouldn't go there either." Then he showed me something from the Church's website to back that up (sorry, no link).

So, those of you who disagree... are you Mormon? What am I missing here?

I am LoW said...

Morgan Lee- My concern is that people that are not LDS are going to think that the LDS believe the leader WILL go to outer darkness and as you said,that is not true. That is not what we believe.

artemisandollie said...

bless you, courtney.
-cwc

Beth Allen said...

I love this, Courtney. Every word. I don't think that most of us can wrap our minds around what mortality really is- but this seems to open some little crack of insight. Beautiful and above all brave. You are amazing.

Morgan Lee said...

@IamLoW -- I didn't have your comment in mind when I typed mine, but since you mention it, if I understand you correctly, you think CJane's post will mislead people? I don't...

OK-- I see what you're saying. When CJane says she doesn't believe that her YW leader will be kept out of heaven, you're concerned that some people will interpret that to mean that Mormonism teaches the opposite. And you want people to know that that's not true. I gotcha (I think).

A few things, though: Maybe when the YW leader said that she wasn't going to heaven, she meant the CK, even though that's not a perfect synonym for "heaven."

Also, I think you may be right that many non-LDS folks probably don't realize that CJane's closing sentences are 100% consistent with Mormon teachings. On the other hand, there are a couple of LDS commenters here (e.g. Allysha) who seem to think CJane has it wrong somehow.

What to do?

Pol said...

So many women remember their young crushes. And so many women, happily married mothers, remember that their crush was on a woman. A teacher, a leader, a friend. Whether the crush is acted upon or not, it remains a powerful memory, of the overwhelming nature of young love.

Monica said...

Write on...

FindingMyWay said...

Nielsons*Love*Family -

Perhaps I didn't express myself properly. I know there are people who will love and accept me, and my gay brothers and sisters. There are so many wonderful neighbors and ward members that truly love me. What I'm talking about is the kind of support that is more than "I love you even though." It's the type that doesn't turn us away when we have a same sex partner. The type that will stand up for us in meetings when negative and hurtful things are being taught from pulpits and in classrooms. The type that will not condemn us for loving and "acting on" our homosexuality. The type that will not be afraid of us because of who we love and how we love. The type that will believe we'll be accepted into heaven (all degrees of glory) depending on our good works, EVEN IF we are no longer able to endure this "struggle" that has been given to us and end up having a same gender partner in life.

I believe that Heavenly Father will love me, bring me into His arms, and accept me as I am... which is a Mormon woman with a girlfriend. I do not believe for one second that I will be kept from my children in the hereafter because I love and "act on" my love with a woman. It's all about love and good works. I believe there are many things that need to be taught about this subject and although the majority of people love me and want to see me happy, they believe that happiness has to come in THEIR form. That is NOT acceptance. That is based on conformity, which is not acceptance at all.

Just continue to be aware of us and love us, as Christ would and does. That means dropping judgments and expectations and just loving us.

Krista said...
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Krista said...

I loved this, CJane. You outlined my theory on human sexuality beautifully: it is a spectrum. This line, in particular, was a stand-out: "I remember being surprised by the discovery that attraction isn't necessarily a linear experience, but instead a fluid one, that comes and goes, that takes forms and shapes you can't always control."
Thank you so much for writing these words.

Maggie May said...

I agree, the best thing you've ever written. I'm SO PROUD OF YOU. For being so damn brave, and for writing like this.

carolbaby.com said...

I am so dazzled by the direction your writing is taking of late.

Would that we could all be so introspective, honest and raw.

Amy Hackworth said...

"I thought about my dad on that car ride, how you can live in a world that no longer shocked you, how compassion and retrospection replaces perplexity." I especially like that because that's what I feel happening to me as I grow up.

Such an honest and introspective post, Courtney, and so well written. Reading and thinking about this, I feel the bar raised for my own work, for what I think I want my words to do. It feels like a dauntingly high bar, so I'm somewhat begrudging grateful for the push. But really, you're inspiring.

Azúcar said...

Your lesbian erotica is the worst I've ever read, Courtney.

Heidi said...

This is important.

Thank you.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I am relishing Courtney's eloquent, moving posts, and honor her for trusting us in her vulnerability.

Yet, I am confused about some of the comments in today's post, particularly when reflecting on comments on yesterday's post.

Maybe I can use an example, to illustrate what I mean, as a I draw parallels between the comments on both posts.

I should begin by saying this: Certainly, women's value in society should never be based on the size of their waistline. Our outrage at bullies who demean women on the basis of their appearance is justified. I do not want to seem that I am condoning anything like that -- I am not.

I have just been thinking that we have been taught that our bodies are temples. Yet...
- Diet and inactivity cause the health care system and economy more than many preventable diseases combined.
= Our eating and activity choices not only impact the body God gave us, but they influence the health care resources available to our neighbors. Obesity diverts scarce health care funds away from health research, prevention and treatments for other diseases (like autism, breast cancer, and post-partum depression). -- Our family members and communities are burdened with the need to care for those who experience the ill effects of excess weight caused by health problems.

Again, no-one's value in society should ever be based on the size of their waistline. That's not what I am getting at. However, it is interesting to reflect on how we treat the bodies that God created in His image;

-We sometimes prefer to satisfy passing cravings, or try sincerely but unsuccessfully to resist them.
-We sometimes succumb to the desire for leisure, or resist the discomfort of activity, when (and if) we have the opportunity to engage in few minutes of exercise.
-We sometimes feed our families food that does not nourish their minds and souls, but readily satisfy some of the unhealthy desires of their tastebuds.

I do all these things myself. I definitely have a extra few pounds that I would like to lose (someday, when I have more time, less stress, etc......)

Of course, we would never consider denying basic human rights to people people who do not have a healthy BMI, even if that lifestyle is a consistently proven recipe for health problems for them, for the family members who share their lifestyle or are faced with the burden of caring for them as their organs and joints grow weary; for the society who must divert health care funds to them; to the economy faced with an increasingly unhealthy workforce.

We do not issue blanket decrees that deny them life-saving health care. We do not deny them sick leave benefits for the myriad preventable illnesses that are linked obesity, diet, and inactivity. We do not ban them from bakeries. We do not take away every child whose parent gives them an unnecessary and unhealthy taste for donuts and sodas.

We do not suggest that God will not allow them into heaven for vandalizing the bodies that he gave them. For spray-painting their corporeal temples with avoidable cholesterol levels and glucose scores, and for polluting God's creation with unhealthy sweets, comfort foods, and fast foods.

Yet for some reason, we feel justified -- even righteous -- when depriving legal rights to a large segment of society because of who they love.

It is interesting that we say that it is okay for "those people" (who love people of the same gender) to " have feelings," but it is not appropriate for them to "act" on them...... as we unpack the bags we purchased at the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant. And feed the contents to ourselves and to our delighted children.

I wonder if God truly delights in his creation....or despairs.

Unknown said...

FindingMyWay - your comments are eloquent. Thank you for your ability to extend love and compassion so graciously towards so many people whose hearts are yet unbound from feelings of judgement and discrimination.

Dee said...

i wonder if you will truly know how many people this post has touched. incredible. you are amazing. thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Amy said...

There's a lot to learn from your post today. And it's funny how one little essay can show so much more about a person.
I believe God is Love. The most perfect form of Love that we can not trully understand, but by faith except.
What I got from your post today was the importance of being a parent that my children will be comfortable coming to with anything. I think that will give them strength and self confidence. I was raised my parents who promoted fear of being me and making choices that I felt to be right or good.
Thank you for sharing this stories about your precious life and family.
meanwhile, I am not a Mormon and have never really understood or thought much about Mormons. But between you and your sister I have learned so much and appreciate the Mormon views and the Love you have for God.

God Bless You,

Shannon said...

I'm a bit frustrated with this post, partly due to the inaccurate line at the end. We do not believe that those who live a homosexual lifestyle will go to hell, so why is Courtney so "brave" for saying she doesn't believe it either? And, I've grown tired of the whole "Yes, I am a practicing Mormon, but I am oh so much more intellectually advanced and progressive and socially accepting of gays/lesbians than the prophet and apostles. I believe in their divine authority in all other spiritual matters, but in this matter, I know much better than these men who have committed their whole lives to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

I am LoW said...

Exactly, Shannon!!!

Vanessa said...

Amen. Thank you for sharing your stories. This one was particularly breath taking.

Carly said...

Well put Shannon

Cook Crew said...

You are amazing. Truly amazing.

Jessica said...

@Morgan Lee -- I think the final bits are pretty misleading about what Mormons believe. The fact is, most people don't know about our more complex beliefs about the afterlife. But more than that, the Church is pretty clear that we are not in any position to make judgments about what level of glory another person will attain after this life. I, for one, am very comfortable with that being God's job and not taking it upon myself in any way.

But I think you can also tell from the comments that a lot of people are interpreting this to mean that Courtney does not believe homosexual behavior is a sin. Finding My Way clearly thinks that is what she means. I don't think that is necessarily the case. I love words, but they can be frustrating in their ability to be interpreted in so many different ways.

Megan said...

I have always been taught that as a follower of Christ it is not my job to have an opinion on where anyone else will end up. Jesus said my job is just to love my neighbor as myself regardless of their choices. How simple does that make it? Sometimes it is still hard but it is certainly simpler to leave all judgement to our heavenly father and just love everyone.

Whimcees said...

Hello!

Thank you for taking the risk of sharing - you are a true writer, with the skill of bringing the reader to where you are. God Bless you. You should re-think your decision to not write a book. Wishing you a happy day today!

Hugs,

Barbara Diane

springrose said...

Thank you Shannon! I believe some try to make grey out of what is black and white. Why are we here? And where are we going? Do we believe the Prophet is called of God? Are his Apostles called of God? If so are we following the council we are given. Or do we only agree with what we want to? This isn't a pick and choose religion. It is a follow the Prophet and in so doing follow the Lord.
I agree with many comments, I found this creepy and saw how so many youth can be lead to think they are lesbian or gay or start to actually have those feelings, and how confusing for them! I also feel like posts like this might put those ideas into their heads. If Courtney started to have those feelings, maybe I should try them out. I admire her. All the more reason this church is not grey, but black and white. Gods commandments are not grey!

springrose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
min said...

C Jane,
I love the posts about your life. I thank you because these really could have filled a book and your decision to share them on your blog instead is a generous one.
I am not Mormon but was raised Catholic and the Catholic stance on homosexuality is similar--it is ok to be gay but not to act on it. I find that view completely cruel and repressive. SOmeone posted here--I have bad thoughts that I don't act on that is just what we are asking of gay people. I think it is a lot different to try and repress our desire to lie or gossip or be unkind than our desire for a loving physical relationship, a partnership, a person to share your life with. THe Churches are asking gay people to completely shut down that part of their life. It is quite dismissive to compare it to the act reminding ourselves not to be too give in to some of our human weaknesses. Love is not a weakness, it is a need and a force of good.
Both the teacher and the youth straddled the line of what is appropriate behavior --I don't think Courtney made a distinction between either.

Raychel said...

Just beautiful, Courtney.

I've loved this life series so much. I wish it could go on forever!

I am LoW said...

Min- I have a sister who is pushing 40 and has yet to marry. She may never marry. What applies to her is the same as to what applies to anyone who is gay.

sunrabbit said...

Shannon, I didn't get the impression that Courtney considers herself above church leaders. And honestly, I think the prophet himself would treat the struggling woman in this story with just as much, if not MORE, compassion as Courtney does. This story is not about whether or not acting on homosexual attraction is a sin, it's about recognizing our own complexities and struggles, and having compassion for the complexities and struggles of others. The YW leader is certainly not perfect, but neither is any of us. It is not for us to judge her or decide her eternal placement. As humans and followers of Christ, it is for us to love her and have compassion. Christ himself spent much of his time in the company of those who were despised by others (which is not to say that gay people are undesirables--but only to say that many people treat them that way). Personally, I think he would not shun homosexuals, but rather would love them and try to help them know their worth. This story was beautiful, heartfelt, and honest. Thank you, Courtney.

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

Well written . . . just my thoughts . . .for what it is worth. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I love and believe our doctrine, as stated in the Proclamation To The Family . . . That marriage is between a man and a women. That our doctrine clearly defines that sexual relations are to be kept in the bounds the Lord has set and those bounds are between a man and a women who are legally and lawfully married . . . anything other than those bounds set is clearly sin. No one is judging anyone. I am clearly stating what our doctrine is and it is up to the individual to decide it they want to follow that doctrine.

We all make our own choices in life and there are consequences for our choices. If I have sexual relations with a man or a women who I am not legally and not lawfully married to that is sin.

Just because someone chooses not to live the doctrine of the church does not mean they should be belittled, bullied, hated, ridiculed and not loved. Christ loves everyone we are all his children. We all need his MERCY, love and forgiveness so we should be willing to extend it to others.

No one is saying those who make this choice are going to HELL which would mean OUTER DARKNESS. There are specified kingdoms of Glory and it is for God and the individuals to decide where they go based on YES THEIR love and WORKS and works would include obeying the laws of God on earth and through eternity. Obeying all his laws and one of those laws would include his laws about marriage and chastity. Even when we don't agree.

Right now as it stands Gods laws are clearly stated and it is our choice if we will obey, love and follow even though we may not understand those laws.

There are specified blessings that people will receive in each kingdom of Glory and it is our choice what blessings we will receive depending on our faithfulness and righteousness (including repentance of mistakes and sins we commit in this life). It is well worth studying and reading to know what blessings we can receive in each kingdom of glory. Again something worth noting that relationships, being married, continuing to have children and having intimate relationships are blessings we receive living in the Celestial Kingdom . . . . all clearly outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants and I am so grateful to have this knowledge and understanding.

I believe Courtney was showing compassion and love and holding back any judgments for her leader/now friend . . . she clearly was stating she does not believe that she is going to HELL for making a choice to have a relationship outside the bounds the Lord has set. Because the leaders of the church and myself and our doctrine does not believe that either.

Christine said...

Courtney, you do write beautifully. No arguments there.

I do agree with others who felt that your leader stepped out of bounds.

Bottom line for me is this: the Savior commanded us to love everyone, and he didn't differentiate or put qualifiers on that. I don't have to judge and I'm glad. Still, our leaders have spelled it out for us...same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on the attraction is. Convincing oneself that acting on it is just "being honest" is one of the tools of the adversary used to help us justify our actions. We all do it everyday in some form or another, whether it's to justify our dishonesty, our hate, or our judgments. The danger in justification is that it can get so easy that we don't realize we're doing it.

funderson said...

You are amazing...

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

just a little PERPLEXED, if this is an open forum to share thoughts, feelings and opinions why are some deleted by the author. i just want to know how you decide which ones to keep and which ones to delete?

Amy A. said...

Deleted by the author of the comment, not the author of the blog. If you see down near the publish button you, also, have the power to remove something you might want to retract.

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

oh thanks Amy for that clarification!!

Morgan Lee said...

@Jessica -- Fair enough. FTR, though my husband is LDS, I am not and never have been. I have no testimony that there are three levels of heaven, let alone any belief about which level any particular person is headed for.

But as clear as the Church is that it is not ours to judge or presume someone's destination (I'll take your word for it), let's face it: Mormons do that all. the. time. (mostly online, I'll grant you). And they are MOST comfortable doing it when talking about themselves. How many active, temple-married Mormons are positive that they're headed for the CK? I'd venture quite a few, guessing from all those who express certainty that they will be with their families forever.

I used to know someone who was an active, temple-attending Mormon who also happened to be a monumental jerk. Seriously, he was a narcissistic, self-absorbed, entitled a-hole. But guess what? He could give honest, proper answers in the temple recommend interview, and has since been married in the temple. I am sure he's certain of his own future exaltation because whether they mean to or not, the Church makes exaltation read like a checklist. If all your boxes are checked, you're in! I know that the church does not officially make any guarantees of exaltation even for those who are sealed in the temple and stay active (and kudos to the Church for that) but they DO outline requirements for entrance into the CK, and in doing so they create a list that essentially acts as a de facto contract between member and God. If you uphold your end, God will uphold his. Right? That's how many LDS see it anyway.

And that's why I am under the impression that most Mormons actually DO believe that they can at least make a pretty good guess as to which level of heaven someone will wind up in, or if they're headed for Outer Darkness. And going off of the church's own writings, I made the conclusion, as have others here, that doctrinally, the YW leader is not headed for OD.

And to be clear, I know that speculating on the spiritual destination of ourselves and others is by no means a uniquely Mormon pastime. All religions do it, and understandably.

I am LoW said...

@ Morgan Lee-

Most LDS know that families CAN BE forever.

And most LDS only hope for the Celestial Kingdom. I have never ever heard anyone EVER say that is where they will end up.

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

@ morgan lee . . . thanks for your thoughts and feelings!!! I am so glad the Lord ALSO along with judging our thoughts, words, deeds and LOVE he also judges our hearts . . .I am glad judgement is between him and me and no one else. I am his daughter he is the ONLY one who truly knows me.

Morgan Lee said...

Also, re "FindingMyWay" -- she interpreted Courtney to mean that homosexual relationships are not a sin because that's what she wanted to see. It's what she herself believes, and since Courtney did not explicitly state otherwise, FMW has projected her own desired interpretation onto Courtney's words.

Now, I have no idea what CJane actually believes on the matter. But I do know that nothing she did say violates the teachings of the Church, not even their teaching that homosexual behavior is a sin. And it wouldn't matter what she wrote, everyone would bring their own interpretation to it anyway. So if I were LDS, I would probably try to worry less about whether one of my fellow members was being as crystal as she could be. It's a lost cause. You can't control anyone else's interpretation of anything.

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

@ Morgan Lee. after reading your last statement. I hope the majority of MORMONS including myself don't think that just because ABC are met we are automatically in the Celestial Kingdom. Nothing is a guarantee but we know that as we fullfill the AB and C we are a lot closer to attaining such a worthy goal. There is a check list that we can certainly follow (but repentance is not a checklist and although we may get baptized, get married etc and check those things off, but it takes a long time in this life and in the next to work out ALL THINGS. wow I am so glad LIFE IS LONG and ETERNITY is Long for us to figure out all we need to in order to receive that glory if we are so fortunate.

Laura said...

Somebody needs to clarify the church's stance on this issue. I am not an Apostle, but I do know that our church does NOT believe that gays and lesbians will go to hell. We do believe that all people come to earth with challenges that will test us to our limits. Some of these can be drug addiction, sex addiction, food addiction (my personal favorite), the inability to find an eternal companion, severe health problems, infertility, and yes, same sex attraction is one of those too. These challenges help us rise to a higher level of being as we work our way through them. And if we keep trying throughout our lives, then we will be just fine in the life to come. We will be judged perfectly fairly by a judge who loves us with a perfect love. We are not qualified to judge anyone else on this earth, therefore, we should be treating everyone with kindness and love. As the bumper sticker that President Uchtdorf quoted in his last conference talk said, "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you." We should all be cheerleaders for each other. "Keep fighting the good fight! You can do it!" I could use that every day.

Morgan Lee said...

@I am Low -- I agree that the church only teaches that families CAN BE forever, but I have a hard time believing that you've never heard an LDS person express with easy certainty that they WILL BE with their families forever.

I know that I will be with my family forever = I am going to the CK.

Do I have that wrong?

@Iowa City -- I agree with everything you've said. I am just not convinced that in practice everyone behaves that way, abstaining from judgement of others. In fact, I know they don't.

Morgan Lee said...

@Iowa City -- just saw your second comment. Thanks.

Sorry, my toddler needs me...

Patrina said...

cjane,

I LOVE this post. so much even that I shared it on my facebook wall.:)

I love your willingness to write openly and honestly with such beauty about a topic all too often seen as taboo within the church. It saddens me to read comments of people who are clearly narrow minded and judgemental in their views of your former yw leader.

Thank you again for writing with such honesty, it is truly refreshing to read your thoughts and get to know you better. I agree with your final analysis.

Patrina

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

@ Laura you are exactly right!!! Loved your comment. The Church, it's leaders and I would dare say most mormons DO NOT BELIEVE GAYS AND LESBIANS WILL GO TO HELL just like a man and a women who live together, are not married and have sexual relations won't go to hell . . . hell in the Mormon religion is considered to be OUTER DARKNESS. the 3 kingdoms of glory or not considered hell, they are kingdoms of GLORY.

Trish and Greg said...

I am enjoying these posts. They are complicated, and show how universal some of our challenges are. That said, I did have some thoughts that I would like to share:

@ Megan - I agree that it is not our place to judge where someone’s final glory will be after the resurrection. That will be left to God. However, it’s interesting that the most frequent comment about judging is that we should not do it. This is not correct. We must make judgments all the time. This is necessary and allows us to make course corrections for ourselves, so we can follow the straight and narrow path Christ taught about. We must judge, but doctrinally we are advised to “judge not unrighteously that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment.” Matt 7:1 JST

@ Shannon – Very good point. Mormon doctrine does not include the commonly held belief of a physical place known as hell, with people forever burning but never consumed, in lakes of real fire and brimstone. In our doctrine there are only varying degrees of heaven and outer darkness (which is reserved for Sons of Perdition, those few people who actually know for a certainty that Christ is the Savior, and still deny Him.) The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “A man is his own tormentor and condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 357). So, the “lake of fire and brimstone” will be our exquisite disappointment.

@FindingMyWay – I know you are searching for acceptance. I hope the people you are with can be a support to you. I hope you feel your Savior’s love. You have a hard cross to bear. I offer no judgment. However, I believe that this attraction you have for a woman is as strong as the feelings my single adult daughter has for a man, yet she is counseled not to act upon it. There would be consequences if she were to violate it. This is the Law of Chastity. Living the law of chastity is the same, whether it is for people of heterosexual persuasion or it is for people of homosexual persuasion.

@CJane – my feeling is that you are lucky that the YW leader did not respond to your crush and your naïvely given expression of love. Your journey in life would likely have been very different if she had.

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

@ Morgan . . . I do agree with you about IN PRACTICE they don't live the way we should . . . easier said than done right? That is why I loved LAURA's statement from this last general conference from Pres. Uchtdorf's amazing talk on just this subject. He first said "stop it!" than said "don't judge me because I sin differently" so someone may decide to sleep with someone before marriage, someone may give into their sexual desires and step outside the bounds the Lord has set regarding chastity, marriage, word of wisdom you name it, they make a choice that are against the laws of Gods and for that there are consequences. But those sins of judgment, hate, bitterness, anger, abuse are in need of repentance too and that is why it is important to remember just because you may not break the law of chastity you may break other laws and that is why the LORD judges on the hearts of individuals.

Ashley said...

Bravo Courtney.

Your honesty is priceless!!

As a mormon woman, I truly believe that we are attracted to people, not genders.

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

@ Trish and Greg . . . beautifully said . . .your comment to FINDING YOUR WAY . . . it is true and I believe that with all my heart same gender attraction is just as strong and passionate as those of us who are attracted to different genders and we have been counseled to heed and live by the Law of Chastity no matter who we are and if we don't there are consequences in this life and the next.

ClancyPants said...

Authentic and honest. Thank you for the light you are in my life.

I am LoW said...

@Morgan Lee- If you put it that way, okay, however I think that some aren't thinking about or realizing that they need to make it to the Celestial Kingdom for that to be.

nicole said...

Couldn't help but comment. This was obviously such a thought-provoking post. I think Courtney's final comment, though, was written to express how personal of a belief it was to her...perhaps even creating a bit of ambiguity on purpose. She stated that she wouldn't believe that someone wouldn't go to heaven for being honest. The act of being honest isn't what caused this YW leader's demeanor to change over the years. Being honest and understanding herself and her challenges weren't the things causing the difference Courtney noticed. There are plenty of other changes and actions that caused that to occur. I'm not "siding" either way here, but in an effort to stick to her literary intentions, perhaps Courtney really meant what she said. Honesty isn't going to keep anyone out of Heaven.

spacegirlpeanut said...

Wow! I loved this so much.. honestly I love you! (OK I'm straight, married and Jewish but still!!)I've been reading for ages but this drew me out of the shadows because your honesty is contagious, inspiring and habit forming. Thanks so much for sharing so much!

Ben and Robyn said...

Great discussion. I am continually intrigued by the current wave of homosexual tolerance within the Mormon community. I’m reminded specifically of the “It Gets Better at BYU” crowd. I’m not totally clear on their stance which is maybe why I’m so intrigued lately. When they say that “I’ve accepted who I am and know that God loves me for who I am”, are they saying that it is acceptable to have those feelings or that it is acceptable in God’s sight to *act* on those feelings?

It’s clear that FINDING MY WAY believes that having those feelings AND acting on those feelings are both acceptable to God.

I would just add two things to the discussion. First, I believe that any attempt at comparing homosexual tendencies and behaviors to any other type of “struggle” or “weakness” is futile. To live a life with homosexual feelings, is unlike anything else. To ask a homosexual to simply abstain from acting on those feelings is not the same as telling a single daughter that they must not act on their heterosexual attraction until they are married. What we are saying that God requires of these people with homosexual feelings is that they forego much of what this mortal life offers. To do without one of the basic “needs” in this life – to love and be loved (as long as they are homosexuals). Marriage down the road is not an available option for these people. So let’s be clear about what God is requiring of them.


Second, homosexuality may be unique in its difficulty to abstain, but the Law of Chastity is no less black and white than any of the other commandments that the Lord has revealed through his prophets. I sympathize wholly with those who have a testimony, feel the Lord’s love for them, and want to live their life in a way that is fulfilling to them while pleasing the Lord. I am assured that the Lord loves everyone dearly and is well acquainted with any trial that we are going through, no matter how unique and unbearable it may seem. But the clarity of his commandments help to remove any grey on the issue. Christ atoned for those who had succumbed and ever would succumb to homosexual tendencies. To convince oneself that Heavenly Father has a place for us in the Celestial Kingdom regardless of our acting on our homosexual tendencies is to dismiss the very atonement that He sent His Son here to perform on our behalf. To act on homosexual tendencies requires repentance – repentance made possible through the love and mercy that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for all their children.


As brothers and sisters, it is our job to fully and unconditionally love everyone regardless of their orientation. We are all beggars and all in need of His atonement. If anything our homosexual brothers and sisters need MORE love from us as they continue to strive to live a life, void of the companionship that we enjoy, while seeking the close companionship of our Savior.

I am LoW said...

@Ben and Robyn- I wouldn't compare it to a YSA waiting until they are married but to our brothers and sisters who never marry.

Ana Shaw said...

Thank you, thank you. I'm a longtime casual visitor, suddenly loving you a lot more than I ever have before.

Commenters who are trying to shame Courtney for sharing her experiences and true feelings, I hope that soon you have true personal motivations to re-examine your prejudices. God's children are beginning to understand each other better than we have before. That can only be a good thing!

Laura said...

My first crush was on the cartoon character Mighty Mouse--honest, it was;
second crush....my 2nd grade teacher, Miss Smith; she was so pretty, so kind, so perfect.
Those crushes are only a tiny fraction me--not really who I've become, who I am; I identify more with Mom to 3, wife to a man, sister, aunt, student.
You are brave to put your heart and soul out there for others to comment on and pick apart.
I thoroughly enjoy your blog.
May I be a bit snarky and say readers comparisons to your sister's (or anybody's blog) show lack? So many things lacking?

Jen said...

Best post ever. You rock Courtney!

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

@ ben and robyn . . . well stated . . .

Alice said...

This is a beautiful, heartfelt post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

I've come to the conclusion that we see through the glass darkly. There are a lot of things where we think maybe we have all the answers, but we really don't. I think as we continue to learn and grow, and become more what our heavenly parents want us to be, we'll learn a lot more about loving and less about judging.

s + b said...

I think this post was REALLY misunderstood. And I have a feeling that Courtney will be clarifying some of her views tomorrow.

Trish and Greg said...

@ Ben and Robyn - Thank you for your comment. However, I must ask, is it necessary to know the age of my single adult daughter to validate her feelings of incompleteness and loneliness and yearnings for close physical contact (albeit, in her case, a heterosexual relationship)? She is not young anymore, especially in our culture. She's seen all of her peers marry or pair off. Suffice it to say that she is of an age that she may not ever marry, but still continues to live the Law of Chastity. Along with my daughter's situation, my single sister in her 50's and my close friend turning 60 have both remained single and live the Law of Chastity. They have experienced great loneliness that I can empathize with. They have relied on their various support groups and the Savior to feel whole. In my eyes they are whole, wonderful women, though they have not had the same intimate experiences I have had.

Bottom line: I think it's very appropriate to compare their feelings/struggles to those of someone who battles same sex attraction but still refuses to act upon them because it will break the Law of Chastity.

The Law of Chastity applies to both genders, all ages, and all sexual attractions.

Cortney Chambers said...

Regardless of sexual orientation/attraction, what you described in this post is called grooming.

Ben and Robyn said...

@ I am LoW - Homosexuals are similar, in terms of the Law of Chastity, to those that will never marry, only in that sense. However, it's very different in the case of a mating homosexual to be told that you can't have a lifelong relationship with someone who is ready to have that committed relationship with you. The 40 year old woman that will never marry may be in despair, but it's for a different reason. She is in despair, not because she *can't* have that companionship, but simply because, for whatever reason, she knows she *won't* have that companionship in this life.

The mating homosexual has that companionship available to them and is compelled to turn away from it.

Imagine a rule that said you can have milk chocolate but no dark chocolate. The equivalent of the 40 year old woman may be sad because she has no access to chocolate at all. The mating homosexual has abundant access to both kinds of chocolate, but has a compulsion towards dark chocolate - the kind that they are forbidden to consume. Two different kinds of pain.

And again, my illustrations are crude at best, given the uniquely difficult nature of homosexuality.

Ben and Robyn said...

@ Trish and Greg - you're point is well taken. The age of your daughter probably doesn't matter and I sympathize with her situation. I hope you didn't sense any disrespect in my comments.

As her situation may relate to those who are older than her but in her same situation, please see my reply to I am LoW regarding the difference between the woman who will never marry and the mating homosexual who has to *choose* to never marry someone of the same gender.

The nature of the challenges are different. I don't mean to say that one situation is more difficult than the other. Only that they aren't analogous. I think our attempt to offer love to those who are trying to overcome the challenge of homosexuality is somewhat defeated when we benignly try to liken it to something that bears some similarities but is still significantly different.

That said, I completely agree that the Law of Chastity applies to all people regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.

Trish and Greg said...

@ Ben and Robyn - sorry to beat this theme to death, but I feel I must disagree: the heterosexual single adult has the SAME problem as the homosexual adult. In the case of the 3 women I know (daughter, sister, and friend) they each could have an intimate physical relationship if they chose to violate the Law of Chastity.

Fresh Hell, Texas said...

"She's seen all of her peers marry or pair off. Suffice it to say that she is of an age that she may not ever marry, but still continues to live the Law of Chastity..."

But there is always that hope. I know straight people who married for the first time in their 70s!

You are asking something far different from gays and lesbians. You are asking them to live a life free of hope of finding someone to love, to be loved by, to marry, to have children with.

Please, don't pretend that having hope and being hopeless are the same thing. They are very much not.

I am thankful, more than thankful, that I grew up in a household that accepted homosexuality as part and parcel of the human sexual experience. It enabled me to give the gift of HOPE to my gay son. I don't know if he will find a true love but I know that the hope remains alive for him, as it should.

Fresh Hell, Texas said...

I also want to add that the Mormon church has made huge changes over the years. From dropping poly marriage to extending the priesthood to men of color. It just does not seem outside the realm of posibility that once again the Mormon church will catch up with the law of the land when gay marriage becomes legal in all states. And that is absolutely a "when", not an "if." Thank goodness!

stephanie said...

I have never commented here but just had to today. I think this was very brave and very beautiful.

Although, I do agree with Azúcar... you must be new at this whole lesbian erotica thing. :)

Shannon said...

Getting back to one of the main points, I think it's important to reiterate that what people thought was "creepy" or "weird" by the drama teacher in the previous post is suddenly considered "beautiful" when you switch out the male teacher for a lesbian church leader. It seems that right and wrong are thrown out the window in the rush to show how open minded and accepting you are.

Lindsey Harris said...

C. Jane, I really loved this post. I hope some of these comments don't shake your faith.

All I have to say is that I am so glad Jesus Christ is our advocate before the Father, and not any of us flawed, imperfect, prideful beings.

I highly doubt C. Jane has the attitude that she is more progressive or more intellectually advanced as the leaders of our church, as someone described in a comment. It's truly sad that you would suggest that when C. Jane has time and time again showed all of us how she is a faithful member who sustains our prophet and apostles.

Here is a key thing, we do not know everything. There are so many things that have not yet been revealed to us. I appreciate C. Jane stepping into this gray area and expressing her opinion.

Gosh, I'm young and single (please, go ahead and call me naive, and I will agree), and I really hope I never turn into a snappy, snarky mom who comments on the same blog post over and over again trying to force my opinion on the blogger. Let go, people. Realize that we all have certain experiences that shape our views of the world, and C. Jane bravely shared her own. What good does it do to bicker over this issue?

Again, C. Jane, thank you for this wonderful, refreshing post with us.

Jennifer said...

Well said @Ben and Robyn

Ben and Robyn said...

@ Trish and Greg - This is a good discussion. And we are welcome to disagree. I don't feel like you are beating anything to death.

In response to your claim that the three people that you know could have an intimate physical relationship with someone outside of marriage, I would just point out that there is much more to a relationship than the physical aspect.

This is supported by the fact that even married couples that have a strictly emotional affair with someone outside of the marriage, still are taken through a repentance process in the proper channels. Additionally, I know a homosexual who has a partner and two kids with that partner and attends church weekly. She would be a convert if the Law of Chastity didn't include homosexuality. In order for her to be baptized, she would not need to merely cease the sinful activity. She would need to end all aspects of the relationship, move out, etc. There is much more to a relationship than just the physical aspect.

Thankfully the ward still welcomes my acquaintance each week, includes them in every activity and asks them to participate in every allowable way. Hopefully wards do the same for women who are dealing with the different, but similar challenges that the three women you know are faced with.

mom keck said...

It is called a school girl crush and so common that leaders and teachers of youth have ethical guidelines to prevent taking advantage of young people during their I-M-in-love-with-my teacher(male of female) phases. both your drama teacher and this YW leader did not follow these ethical standards. where was your father/bishop who was responsible for both you and the YW leader?

LeAnn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

I think I love Courtney's writing the most because of her understanding and accepting heart. Her willingness to embrace diversity and experience life. That being said, the 'debate' on whether or not Heavenly Father accepts homosexuals is ridiculous. I am a conservative Mormon convert with 6 young children, coming from a liberal family of Irish Democrats.
Growing up, my family had several friends who were gay, and I made several of my own over the years, who are very dear to me. They truly believe they were born that way and it is not a 'choice', and I wouldn't be in a place to contradict them.
However, I would compare that to my brother who was born with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, and spent half of his life suffering from its effects, or my young neighbor who was born with a heart defect and slight brain damage. Heavenly Father allowed them to be born into difficult circumstances, with issues they will struggle with their whole lives.
BUT, he still expects us to do the best we can at what he asks of us. If we struggle, and fall short, (such as choosing to abandon the commandment of chastity because of our need for understanding, companionship and love) we need to make sure that we understand - WE have compromised our standards, but Heavenly Father hasn't changed His. No matter how much we want Him to, or feel that it is just. He asks us to do things that are hard...all of us. And it is difficult to watch people you love when they are suffering. We think that Heavenly Father wouldn't want people to suffer - and He doesn't. But he will also allow suffering for each of us, and if we do our BEST at following his commandments, he has mercy for our shortcomings. But wanting things to be other than they are doesn't make them so.
(And no, I am in no way implying that homosexuality is akin to brain damage, just that we are all born with struggles and usually they aren't 'fair').

min said...

I am LoW
This is Min responding. I think your sister's situation is different. No one is telling her she can't act on her feelings. She hasn't found her mate yet... maybe she will maybe she never will but it is clearly different than finding that person and being told you can not act on your feelings. As another poster wrote--the situations are not analagous. No one has created a rule preventing her from finding a mate.

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

I don't think anyone said Heavenly Father does not accept Homosexuals. He accepts and loves all His children. The rest of what you said was well stated. I agree.

I am LoW said...

@Ben and Robyn- I disagree, because my sister has had members not of the LDS faith pursue her... but because she wants to be obedient and marry in the temple, she (like those with same gender attraction) has had to choose to be single instead.

Heather said...

Also, while it is SO important to be understanding and accepting of who they are as people (including their sexuality, though it doesn't/shouldn't define them) that is different from CONDONING behavior that is purposefully contradictory to the commandments.

I don't believe gays are wicked, evil, or corrupt. But if they choose to violate a commandment (knowingly, on purpose) I can't say that it is right. But I still love them, and hope their situation gets easier, and let them know they have my support and friendship. It is not our place to judge, but neither can I rewrite Heavenly Father's commandments to say it's okay to do something he said not to do (violate the law of chastity, regardless of sexuality). I have tried to teach my kids there IS a difference between right and wrong, and you can't change it to suit you, but you have to take responsibility for your choices - not absolve yourself by saying it was never wrong in the first place.

Courtney is amazing at acceptance, and sharing her heart, I think that's why her posts resonate with so many of us. We can certainly be inspired by that!

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