Thursday, November 4
Questions: Have you ever fallen in love with another guy? Is there a moral way to express the love you feel for another man within the doctrine of the Church? How can people use the word 'love' to mean so many different things?
I've been thinking a lot lately about the meaning of the word "love." It's amazing that so many people can use the word and yet present it in so many contradictory settings. The scriptures definitely teach that men should be full of "love"... But what does that mean? And, maybe more relevant here, how does same-sex attraction influence love... if at all?
So what are the things that typify love? A desire to be near someone else, to understand the workings of his mind, to listen to his voice. To see him laugh and smile and to help him solve the problems of life with new ideas or just a listening ear. To see him grow and progress and become the person that God sees in him - and the person he truly wants to be in his heart. And, ultimately, to realize that my vision of that future may not be exactly what God has in mind... Or even what he has in mind, and being willing to help him in any way possible.
Have I ever been in love with a guy? Yeah. So in love that I called him multiple times a week, visited him at his apartment, played sports with him, and found myself thinking about him throughout the day. In this case, I was also his home teacher, which made it easy to see why I'd be interested in how he was doing... but in the Church there is no ban of being a good friend. We never did anything that would arouse passion. This was the only guy who knew that I was attracted to him (that's a long story and circumstances were way too unique to post and keep anonymity). As far as his "returning" my love, it didn't happen. We were friends and that was all - and even then our friendship was mostly one-way. Then he got engaged, fell off the face of the planet, stopped really participating in anything, and I cried for a week. Not because I had lost a lover... but because I had lost a friend.
It would be dishonest to say that part of my mind didn't constantly barrage me with the desire for a much more physical relationship. But I knew where that would take me - if not with him then alone somewhere else with dark fantasies that leave me with nothing worthwhile.
So, the big question: what is love? And what defines its righteous expression, especially among guys who are attracted to other guys?
I think that different levels or types, or expressions of love each have three different facets:
1. A desire for present happiness.
2. A desire for future happiness.
3. A desire for eternal happiness.
Every expression of love denotes a hierarchy among each of the facets.
Now, it's obvious that the right way to express love is pretty simple to see when all of the facets line up. If something you can do will increase someone's present, future, and eternal happiness, then it's an obviously valid expression of love. Man finds woman, they find happiness in being together and want to be happy for all of this life and the next. They're sealed in the temple and spend the rest of life working to fulfill that dream.
But what about when an action requires subjugating one facet to another? In my opinion, that is where different types of love appear... and where the controversy over love erupts. A one-night stand holds present happiness over future and eternal. Gay marriage holds present and future happiness over eternal. These are types of 'love' - but, at least in my opinion, any love that subjugates eternal happiness to the present is not true love. The only true love is where desire for eternal happiness outweighs future, which outweighs present. That's the love that God shows to us, and the love that we should show to one another. He has sent us to a fallen earth, jeopardizing our present happiness, and given us the ability to sin, jeopardizing our future happiness, for the possibility that we will repent and return to Him happier than otherwise possible. He's willing to put anything on the line to help us grow... and He has.
So what are valid expressions of true love? I believe that true love follows true principles, and that anything else doesn't truly show love. True love, or charity, as it's called in the scriptures... comes from valuing someone else's, and my, eternal happiness over everything else. Being willing to sacrifice personal and even future happiness for their eternal wellbeing. Does being attracted to other guys affect that? Yeah. It means that I will never indulge in fantasy with other guys. It means, if I don't find a girl to marry, that I may never get married in this life. And it means that in everything I do, I try to help others be eternally happy - to develop the perspective and knowledge and habits necessary to help them in the life beyond this one. I have plenty of guy friends. We do all sorts of things together. If I'm overly attracted to them, then I have to make sure that I'm careful of what I do for my own sake. But, otherwise, I treat them like everyone else - someone to love, lift, inspire, teach, and comfort through the perils of life... a brother on the pathway to happiness.