Excommunication — Trial by Love, Trial by Fire

Shortly after moving out of the house, I was excommunicated from the church and my wife filed for divorce. After comparing notes with other guys, about their trials, I learned that my trial was far different than most. I really dressed up for my trial and approached the whole thing with the utmost respect and dignity. No screaming. No fighting. No recriminations. No pleading. I had made my peace with God and was determined to take whatever I had coming. I even reached the point in my own mind, and I think we all have to do this, where I was even ready to defy God, if necessary.

The words of the following scripture in Mosiah came to my mind:

2:37. I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.

2:38. Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

2:39. And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.

2:40. O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.

2:41. And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

I didn’t really know at this time how God felt about any of this, but I was prepared to stand before Him and not shrink from His presence, but say: “This is my choice. I know it’s right for me. If you don’t like it, then send me away, and I will take whatever punishment you see fit to give me.” Now remember, this was before I ever sought the mind and will of God of this matter. But, I had made a choice, and I made that startling realization that for the first time in my life, I actually made a choice on my own behalf, and not to please somebody else.

It felt so good to breathe free air that all the pain and hardship up to that point was worth it.

Going into the trial, I didn’t really care whether they excommunicated me or not. I knew I made the right choice for me, and I was fully prepared to walk away from the church or continue with an active and faithful membership. During the trial before the Stake President and High Council, my bishop spoke on my behalf. They asked my wife if she had anything to say. To my great surprise and amazement, she spoke on my behalf and told them what a good church member I had been. Even the night before, we went home teaching together, and I was talking a man out of leaving the church. I had totally forgotten about that incident, but she didn’t.

When they asked me to speak, I told them that I knew there were other men in the church in my same position. I never slept with them, but they needed to be on the lookout for them and help them. They divide up the panel of high councilmen into six who speak for you and six who speak against you. Three or four of those speaking for me did so. I do not remember what they said, but only ONE spoke against me from the other side. He was crying and pleading for them to let me remain in the church. He said I was a good man, and should not lose my membership. But, he said “rules are rules”. This told me that the Letter of the Law told him “yes”, but the Spirit of the Law told him “no”.

I was excused from the room while they took a vote, and then I was let back in. They had voted to excommunicate me. I can’t describe the feeling in the room at that time. I felt like I was at a funeral. There was a lot of crying. Every single one of the men on that board came up and embraced me. Every single one. There was one particular man who came up. I don’t remember seeing him before. He just seemed to come up out of nowhere. He was a frail, little, old man with white hair. When he hugged me, I never felt such love from another human being before in my life.

I still didn’t know how God felt about my sexuality. But I had the strongest feeling from the Spirit that what had taken place was right, and that I was on the right path. If you look back at the passage from Mosiah that I quoted earlier, I did not fit this description. (1) The Spirit was in me, and I knew it. I was not an “unholy temple”. (2) I did not feel the urge to shrink from God. Instead, I wanted to enter His presence with boldness and confidence, not in a spirit of guilt or rebellion.

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