Saturday, August 17

Do You Believe That Way about Everyone?

"But do you believe that following the Church can bring everyone happiness?"

I had a conversation this week about being Mormon and gay. I've heard dozens of heart-rending stories of families destroyed because of unfaithful spouses with same-sex attraction. I know people who quietly go through incredible despair as they try to understand it in their own lives or the lives of those they love. I've seen men try to be faithful, leave the Church to live with another guy, and come back again. And I've seen that same struggle in my own life. My younger brother got married this week; my grandfather called me and told me he was looking forward to the day that I could be married and put everything else in my past behind me.

I've heard people talk about this before - a belief that happiness is found in many places... and that, for some people, the gospel isn't the answer. But I had never seen it in real life. And I wanted to respond.

In the conversation it was a simple, "yes." Yes, the gospel has the power to help everyone find happiness.

But in life it has a deeper impact.

A major tenet of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God's Plan of Salvation is both universal and personal... and that the greatest happiness in the long run will always come from following the counsels and commandments of God, no matter who I am or what I face. The promise is that no matter what happens, the gospel will always have the answer and always be the best choice. The gospel makes the claim to be universal, so if it is true it must work for everyone.

There's another reality as well that parallels the gospel. The reality going outside, even just a little, of gospel morals and standards might make my life easier and I could trade one type of happiness for another. I could go find a great guy who is a good person, fall in love, and spend my life with him. And find happiness.

Those two realities, juxtaposed together, offer a few different options of belief.

The first is that happiness is personal... and that true happiness doesn't always come from following God. I have to find my own way, and maybe it will coincide with what prophets teach, and maybe it will be a little different. But as long as it makes me happy... or at least makes me feel more comfortable... that's the way I should go.

The second is that the gospel is true (universal), and that finding happiness will always come from following God.

The beliefs are exclusive - I cannot believe that the gospel is universal and also believe that the gospel does not apply to everyone. 

Watching families disintegrate when people struggle with trials, seeing men and women broken down under the weight of the things they bear... and then watching people find happiness as they understand who they are and improve their self-worth, outside of the gospel, can make it easy for me to say that the gospel isn't for everyone. That's the simplest way to explain someone who is miserable, then happy.

But the easiest explanations aren't always the most accurate. Being authentic and honest with others, inside or outside of the Church, can free people of unneeded guilt and pain. Finding friends who care can help to meet emotional needs. And being close to people who love me can help me feel whole - those are true principles regardless of where they are applied. And if I move from a ward and family that doesn't offer me that opportunity to a gay community that does, I'll see the results.

I honestly do believe that the gospel is universal. I believe that following the words of Jesus Christ, and heeding the counsel of living prophets, will always bring greater happiness than any other alternative.

Yes, the gospel requires me to make sacrifices. Yes, it pushes me to become a better person and threatens to reshape everything I hold dear. But God has always done that to His children. He made them wander 40 years in the desert, and sent curses to remind them of His presence. He sends the wind and the rain, storms and tempests, and puts me in the place I will grow the most - not the easiest or most convenient. And if I look at my life, I can see that happening.

The sacrifice is always worth it. There is always an answer and a reason. God is involved in my life, and He will do everything in His power to lead me to become like Him - perfectly happy. 

I just need to be willing to follow.


  1. Thanks, Dave. You've raised a very important distinction here. Life isn't always easy, and certainly not always convenient, but if we insist on defining ourselves through labels (our race, our sexuality, our gender, etc.) we will be less able to recognize his invitation to come unto Him and allow Him to recreate us in His image. Only there will we find healing, peace, and joy. He has asked us to lose ourselves that we may find ourselves in Him.

  2. The question of happiness is one I dealt with in the novel I wrote; will the Gospel make every one happy.
    Do you believe someone can be perfectly happy outside of the Church?

  3. It depends what you mean by happiness. Can people find bliss outside the Church? Yes. But if I believe that following God is the only way to find true happiness, and that the ordinances of salvation are necessary for salvation, and that the Church is the only organization with the authority to administer those ordinances, then I have to also believe that "total" happiness - the celestial joy and glory that God has - requires participation in Church ordinances at some point in eternity.

    But as far as now? I definitely believe that being in the Church - and having greater access to the ordinances and blessings of the gospel through the Priesthood - gives people a greater opportunity for happiness. Is everyone happy in the Church? No one is perfect... we're all learning to be happy.


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