‘Over the rainbow, under the temple’

Photo courtesy Chad Anderson

Monday was “Family Homo Evening.”

Chad Anderson writes about the event, in which gay Mormons, gay-friendly Mormons and others sang carols near Temple Square:

That’s where I was married, I thought.

The Salt Lake City Temple loomed in my view as I sang hymns of the Savior’s birth. I scanned the ornate white stone, the spires, the golden statue of Moroni on the top.

I remembered the strange ceremony in the Salt Lake City temple. Kneeling over an altar facing my wife… we had been surrounded by our temple-worthy family members. An older man we had never met had given us instructions, reminding of us our vows, our commitments and covenants with God, and the sacred measures of marriage itself. We had kissed over the altar, then retired to separate dressing rooms. I donned a nice suit, she her wedding dress, white with a bold red sash, and we had stepped outside to cheers, tossed rice, and photographs.

I had looked up at the spires that day as well, at that golden statue, and had thought, as I had a thousand and one times before, that this would be enough to cure my homosexuality once and for all. All it took, they said, was a firm commitment to following God’s will.

And now today, I sang of joy to the entire world at the coming of the Lord. It was cold outside and I was bundled up in a coat over sweatshirt, and jeans over thermal pants, gloves, a scarf, and a hat. I stood among other gay Mormons, most of them no longer Mormon like me, and we sang our hearts out in a deep baritone.

Temple Square was lit up beautifully. Greens, whites, reds, and blues on every inch of every tree. A reflecting pool between us and the temple beautifully captured the images of the temple spires and the Christmas lights. Hundreds of people walked by, families gathering in bunches, posing for photographs, smiling at the lights. Most stopped for a few seconds, some for several minutes, to listen to us sing. Fathers with babies in tight bundles, mothers with strollers, young college-aged men holding hands with 18-year-old girls, an elderly man pushing his wife in a wheelchair, groups of roommates, kids home from college with their parents, families with six or seven or eight children. Everyone bundled up, everyone smiling, everyone happy to be together for Christmas.

We sang of dashing through snow in sleighs and I reflected on trips I took to Temple Square as a child with my family. We would drive for over three hours to Salt Lake City, eat somewhere fancy like Olive Garden, then head over to see the lights. We would walk through the beautiful grounds, step into the Tabernacle to hear the organ play, watch the ornate Nativity scene while the music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir played before a recorded message from the prophet of the church. We would move into the Visitor’s Center and wait in line so we could sit before the beautiful Christus statue, a giant white Jesus Christ in robes, his arms open to show all the world the marks in his hands, the painted expanse of the cosmos stretching in every direction behind him. On the car ride back, we would take turns choosing Christmas carols as a family, singing our hearts out for hours before I would curl up in the back seat and fall asleep. Such happy memories.

And today, we sang of all the faithful coming, joyfully and triumphantly, as I watched the crowd in front of me. One brave gay couple, two young men, strode by holding hands among all of the Mormon families and tourists. Soon after, I saw an older transgender woman walk through the crowd, her eyes turning toward us and meeting mine briefly, and I nodded at her and smiled. It was for them that I sang today.

The irony of us, gay Mormons and ex-Mormons, singing across from the temple on Christmas, was not lost on me. All those years I sang in the church, in plays, in choirs, solo from the pulpit, conveying the beautiful messages of gospel songs with my tenor voice to the crowds before me. Nothing brought peace and love to my heart like singing did. But back then, I had a secret. I was gay, and I couldn’t tell anyone for I wasn’t supposed to be gay. And so I stayed silent, suffering, for all those years.

And today, our ad-hoc choir turned toward each other, prepared for our final number here. Each of these men and women had their own stories, similar to mine yet uniquely theirs. Hundreds continued to walk by, pausing to hear us sing. With smiles in our hearts, we began our final song, not a traditional Christmas carol, but an anthem of love and peace and acceptance nonetheless. We held no signs identifying us as gay, we weren’t adorned in rainbow flags, we only gathered in silent and joyful protest, spreading messages of love and acceptance to all who could hear us. We are here, we are part of you.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a land that I’ve heard of, once in a lullaby.

I looked back up to the golden statue and reflected on the Mormon promises of Celestial Glory, of dwelling with God in the highest of heavens until one day we would become Gods of our own planets, blessed due to our worthiness. I thought of how Earth was supposed to be merely a test, and how any suffering we went through here wasn’t meant to matter, only to prepare us for the next world, where everything would finally make sense, where I could finally be straight.

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that dare to dream really do come true.

I thought of the promises Megan and I had made each other, planning on a marriage that would last into the eternities, forming a bond that we would be Gods together, our children and theirs and theirs sealed to us forever, just as we were sealed to those who had gone before. I thought of how we had entered the marriage, knowing I was gay, so naive and so sure that I could be cured.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star, and wake up where the clouds are far behind me. Where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me.

I think of all those small steps I had taken over the years, each one guaranteeing a cure. Getting the Priesthood, going through the temple, going on a mission, getting blessings, going to therapy, getting married, having children, holding callings, reading scriptures, bearing testimonies, praying non-stop. How none of them ever seemed to work, and how none of them ever could.

Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow, why then oh why can’t I?

I think of the circumstances that lead to me finally, finally, finally coming out of the closet. I think of the panic and pain I’d gone through those first days, the liberation and peace that later came, and the difficult and powerful choice I had made to leave the Mormon church once and for all. I think of how wonderful life has been since then, and how it had never been wonderful before that, not fully. I think of Megan and what she went through with our divorce and dissolution, and the grace and courage she has faced her new life journey with.

I looked at the families, I looked at the temple, I looked at the lights, and I thought of all the other gay Mormons, men and women, grandparents and parents and teenagers and children, so many believing falsely as I had believed falsely, that a cure was desirable, possible, achievable through sacrifice and prayer. I thought of all those journeys in front of all of them, and how they would hurt, and how they would hurt others before coming to the conclusions that I had come to, if they ever did.

I hugged my fellow gay Mormons and ex-Mormons, and I looked up to the temple one more time, and I accepted it as part of me, part of my journey. And then, as I wished myself a merry Christmas, I walked away from the temple and toward my life.


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