Monday, February 11

Recent Reads

I ordered a bunch of books a few weeks ago and it was like Christmas when they started arriving! They were all books I'd had on my reading list for quite some time and the library on base didn't have them.

The first one I cracked open was the children's book "Mirror" that I just wrote about. The kids really enjoyed it!

I now own the kindle, audio, and hard copy of "The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life." I love it that much. Highlighting our understanding of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I love the short and concise literary examples of conflicting explanations for the timeless conundrums of where we come from, why are we here, and where are we going. It's easy to pick up and put down, but start in chapter 3.

A friend is the fabulous instructor for our ward's "Teaching the Gospel" course the 2nd hour. As one of her visual aids, she had Beverly Campbell's book, "Eve and the Choice Made in Eden" as a visual aid. I'd heard of this book and asked to borrow it. I'm not very far into it but wanted to see how it fared to the Givens' description of our understanding of Eve and the Fall.

But the book I couldn't put down this weekend was Carol Lynn Pearson's "Goodbye, I Love you." I knew her name because she wrote the lyrics to the LDS musical I grew up listening to on a record, "My Turn On Earth." It has my favorite lullaby ever. I'd never known her story at all until recently listening to her tell it on a very long podcast.

The back cover summary of the book says:
Gerald Pearson had been honest with Carol Lynn about his homosexual past, but both of them had faith that marriage and devotion to their religion would change his orientation. Love would conquer all. Then, after eight years of apparent happiness and the birth of four children, Gerald was no longer able to deny what he considered to be his essential self. Carol Lynn was shattered, her self-esteem all but destroyed. Their divorce, however, could not erase a lifetime of love and mutual support. Carol Lynn courageously stood by her former husband's side. Even when he contracted AIDS -- and came home to die.
Carol Lynn is/was a much sought after speaker for LDS events. The Pearsons were married in 1966 and this book was published in 1986, a few years after Gerald passed away. Carol Lynn came to notoriety in Utah and across the LDS US with a book of her poems Gerald self-published because he believed in them so much. They sold like wild fire, and poetry books don't typically do that. Ever. She really is gifted with words, the book flows effortlessly and it's a pretty quick read.

I really loved how honest she was about her pain as everything unfolded and her journey coming to understand and love Gerald despite how his choices hurt her to the core. I really appreciated how she articulated her struggle to understand the place of women in the LDS church and elevate understanding. I've had many of the same questions she sought answers to. Because of the heartaches she suffered, she became more empathetic and aware that there must be many walking wounded around her who also bore their silent sorrows alone. I can attest to this from my own experience although my trials have been  different. All the while, she has clung to her faith in the gospel and remained active in the Church. I was moved to tears as she shared how her ward family came to her aid in Gerald's final days like we Mormons strive to do.

With all the current publicity of civil rights for the LGBT community and same sex marriage initiatives in recent years, this book is a great introduction for Mormons and others of faith to understand a little of  the agony someone experiences when they come to realize that their gender and/or orientation don't fit the mold. This is obviously more on what she and other loved ones go through as well. My heart breaks for those who realize that their hopes for the future, those that their culture and their faith prepare them for is not happening for them for whatever reason. I can only attempt to fathom what that must be like, but I am trying to tap in with empathy, sensitivity, and compassion to their stories. And this doesn't just apply to gay people, there are so many whose life circumstances aren't panning out as they envisioned.

When these issues were first brought to my attention over ten years ago through loved ones and public policies of the day, I based my most of judgements on a lot of fear and not enough empathy or desire to be empathetic. While I still don't know what the best solutions are when it comes to various public and church policies, I do believe everyone deserves to be treated as a child of God, welcomed in our circles with love and respect. I think and hope civility and empathy in the discourse from all sides is improving but still has a long, long way to go.

Carol Lynn Pearson when asked why she's taken up this cause rather than continuing her focus on the status of women has simply replied that women aren't attempting and committing suicide because of their struggle, gay members have and are. If we alienate these anguished souls, we throw them to the wolves. I am grateful for the growing wealth of resources for those like me trying to sort this out. I am now starting Pearson's followup book "No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones." I don't agree or haven't decided what I think about everything Pearson hopes for the future, but I am enjoying the questions I am asking myself and the discussions Ryan and I are having as a result.