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Spencer Hyde: Can We Be Both? Bringing What You Have and Who You Are to Your Membership in the Church

I often overhear people talking about their fears of being more than one thing. One side of the conversation regularly goes something like this: “I can’t be both _____________ and a member of the Church.” And if they’re not saying it about themselves, they’re talking about somebody else. Sometimes it comes in the form of a question: “Can you be gay and still be a member of the Church?”

Now, maybe you’ve had these same questions. These questions may not be said outright in the manner offered above—you might simply think Can I be in good standing with the good Lord if I am gay? If my Sabbath day observance differs from others? If I am mentally ill? What if my mental illness doesn’t allow me to participate in certain Church activities or even feel the Spirit during the sacrament? What if I have sinned? What if I have differing political views? What if I just had an abortion? 

The Double-Slit Experiment

These are all gripping questions, and common doubts. As Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “There lives more faith in honest doubt,/Believe me, than in half the creeds.”

The doubt, the questions, are they not part of allowing yourself to be both human and spirit, both body and soul? Are they not what allow you to exist as a human with a spirit longing for something higher, something truthier than the truth you can absorb right now with your limited understanding?

I’ve been zigging a bit, so allow me to zag.

Have you seen Avengers: Endgame? At one point, Scott Lang says, “Have either of you guys ever studied quantum physics?” Natasha Romanoff replies, “Only to make conversation.”

I’m a bit that way.

The concepts stick with me, absorbing ideas that seem to sit at my feet like a loyal dog. I can’t shake them or tell them to go bother someone else with their slobbery, sagging tongues, nor would I want to.

For example, one idea in particular has consumed me for years. It’s called the double-slit experiment. In modern physics, this experiment shows that light can act as both a particle and a wave. So, light has characteristics of both particles and waves, and these natures are inseparable. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It exists as both.

I study these ideas not just to make conversation, but also to help my understanding of a very complex great plan of happiness.

Bring It with You

This idea of people, like light being both one thing and another, didn’t truly start in my mind until I heard a talk by Gordon B. Hinckley years ago. President Hinckley was speaking to a group of people in Nairobi, Kenya, about truth—about adding to what truth each individual has already obtained. He said, “We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it. That is the spirit of this work.”

That line has stuck with me for decades.

Have you found solace in meditation? Bring it with you. Have you found comfort in prayer beads? Bring them with you. Have you found that your journey with mental illness has allowed you to understand the gospel in terms not often discussed in your local church building? Bring that with you. Are you gay and find that has brought you closer to understanding what it means to be a son or daughter of God? Bring that with you. Have you found that your study of quantum physics allows you to understand that the world is simultaneously a lot smaller and a lot larger than you originally thought? Bring it with you.

None of that will detract from the truth. No, not one bit. In fact, all of those ideas will allow God to show all of the glorious dimensions of His masterpieces.

I like to imagine stumbling upon these ideas, upon these bright spots in an otherwise hazy journey, and God smiling, knowing we’ve stumbled upon something more—that we’ve come upon more knowledge and now understand better what it means to exist as a spirit and a human, as a body and a soul, and can now appreciate what it means to be both.

Existing as Both

The first subatomic particle was discovered in 1897—the electron. Next? The nucleus of an atom in 1911. After that? The neutron, in 1932. There was even a particle discovered as recently as 2012. And the world keeps getting smaller.

Have you heard of the Laniakea Supercluster? It’s home to the Milky Way—your home—and over 100,000 (!) other galaxies. In Hawaiian, this term means “immense heaven.” Isn’t that beautiful? This immense heavenis over 520 million light years across. And this supercluster is only part of a larger network of superclusters. And the world keeps getting bigger.

I sure feel small when considering that I’m in one galaxy among, potentially, millions of others. I also feel small when considering that someone sitting next to me in church thinks that their understanding of what it means to be both does not fit with mine, that somehow what they consider to be true of the body and soul does not fit with my understanding of what it means to be both human and spirit. But that’s not the case.

I know that light acts as a particle and a wave and that those two natures are inseparable. I know that we are all both human and spirit, both body and soul, and that those two natures are inseparable. I know that our minds work on both doubt and truth, and that those two natures are inseparable.

But don’t feel that doubt makes you small. It doesn’t. It helps you ask questions that lead you back to the good Lord and to understanding that you exist as a human with a spirit longing for something higher, something truthier than the truth you can absorb right now with your limited understanding. It helps us all to grow, so bring it with you.

When God said “Let there be light” and there was light, don’t you think He understood that light was more than one thing? That it was both? So, do we have to choose one or the other? No. That’s small-souled thinking. Take what truth you have and see if you can add to it. Let’s see if we can’t map out a little more of this immense heaven granted to us by a loving God. Let’s see if we all can’t start thinking a little bigger and allow others to be both.

Lead image from Getty Images
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Spencer Hyde

Spencer Hyde’s novel Waiting for Fitz released in March of 2019. Spencer is currently at work on his second novel about four teenagers figuring out what it means to be both. He teaches creative writing and literature at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he lives with his wife Brittany and their four children.

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