Most of my life, I have been told and taught that I have a Heavenly Father, who is not just a Heavenly Father in some ethereal way, but who is really the Father of my spirit. It is said that he is the father of my spirit in the same way that my temporal father is the father of my physical body. In fact, that tenet --- that I have this very real Heavenly Father --- stands paramount in the LDS religion I belong to. I didn't get that teaching, at least in so far as I can remember, from my parents or grandparents. I got it from the culture and the institution I was raised in, primarily, from the LDS church I have attended from my earliest youth, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
My parents were not religious people either in practice or in attitude while I grew up in their household. I can remember them attending church only on the most rare of occasions. For example, they did attend a sacrament meeting I spoke at when I left on my mission. However, in spite of them not being religious, I believe that they believed most of the tenants the church taught were good --- like being honest, obeying and honoring your parents, and doing good to others --- and would help me be a better individual.
They sent me to church. When I say "they," I am more inclined to think it was the doings of my mother rather than my father. (My mother had been baptized into the LDS church, and she had even graduated from seminary. My father always called himself a heathen, although it never seemed to me he acted very much like a heathen, but maybe I just don't know how heathens act.) Part of it might have been simply to give my parents a break from having us kids around on a Sunday morning. I'm not exactly sure how it happened that I started going off to church. I do know that our family lived directly across the street from a man who was in the bishopric of the LDS church --- perhaps he was even the Bishop, I don't remember --- and it is likely that he or his family invited me and my siblings to go to church with them. I have a vague recollection of riding with them in their car to an old chapel on the west side of the tracks in Clearfield, Utah to church. It is my first recollection. I don't know how old I was then. I do know that I wasn't nine yet.
Anyway, I kept at it, going to church, even though my two siblings didn't keep going as they approached maturity, and, insofar as I can tell, have had nothing to do the church in adulthood. I have kept at it, though, throughout my lifetime, pretty much practicing the whole gamut of the LDS faith. And all of that time, the notion that I have a Heavenly Father has predominated my thinking and relationship with God. I've always liked that notion, believed in it, and practiced my faith as if it were true. It makes God more approachable, in my experience. I can relate better to God that way, because, just as I had been able to work with my own temporal father, to live with him, to learn from him, and to talk with him, I experienced myself having a relationship with my Heavenly Father in those same ways.
So this is the way I see God: as a father who is approachable, willing to listen to me, willing to give me insight and to touch me in tender ways in order to let me know what is right and what is wrong. Not only is He approachable, willing to listen, and willing to give insight to me and to touch me, but He does so from time to time. This has led to a problem, however. It is a problem, because I find myself touched in a tender way by Heavenly Father that differs from the teachings, policy and declarations which predominate in the LDS church on the issue of same-sex attraction and the rights of gays and lesbians. It is not unlike earlier feelings that I experienced during the civil rights era and the era when the church denied blacks the priesthood, although, during those eras I just let it go.
My conscience doesn't want me to bury it this time.