Monday, March 24, 2008

The Pitfalls of Mormon Gay Pride

I still wonder about the wisdom of feeling like you need to tell everyone. I mean I do feel in some ways you are just asking to be labeled. I understand the need to tell close friends and those you want to seek out for support, but if this is beginning to sound like some people want to organize their own little gay pride parades within their wards.

At some point we are just going to have to admit that if we act on our urges it is a sin. Let me repeat it, acting on homosexuality is a sin. Accept it. No we aren't sinners for having those urges. But if we insist on clinging to the labels and demand to be respected for it I think its rather the same as those people who are demanding they be recognized for being gay and who feel its something to be have pride in.

Do people who struggle with other sins have pride in those struggles? No! I'm not saying we should think we a good or bad people because of it it, I'm just saying that we are people, like everyone else and its time we stop trying to let ourselves be defined by it. Are we going to live the rest of our lives allowing our struggles to be what defines our relationship with Heavenly Father? If we serve missions? If we get married? If we stay faithful to the church? And yes if we inhariet the Celestial Kingdom.

Should be stop talking about the evils of drinking because their are recovering alcoholics in the quorum? How about smoking or drug use? Maybe there is a closet chain smoker or pothead that we may offend. Should we not discuss the evils of porn because there are a few guys who are battling an addiction to it? Should we not discuss the evils of divorce because there is a member of the quorum who is going through one. Should we not talk about the evils of abortion and same gender marriage because it is viewed as a political topic and shouldn't be discussed in church because we may offend someone who tends to support the more liberal political parties? It is possible to become so over sensitized that any priesthood lesson on any topic will offend someone so perhaps we should just avoid church all together to avoid being offended.

And yes we do need to be more sensitive and more loving and more understanding. And we need to teach that we love the sinner not the sin, but as people grow and mature in the gospel so does their capacity for that. Sometimes what may come off as homophobia on the part of that sweet sister who says those insensitive words is just the by product of her trying to avoid something that is wicked and that at the same time she has had no real personal expirence with. Maybe she has only seen the stereotypes on TV who knows, she just knows that the Lord wants her to avoid it.

There are some people who no matter what won't understand. For whatever reason. I don't want to become the "gay member of the quorum" or every time a question about homosexuality arises I get called on. I also don't want to be the source of people not feeling like they can speak their minds or feel they have to treat me with kid gloves.

I think we need to enter into all things with wisdom. And no we can't let our fears guide us. But at the same time we need to use some common sense here. This is something that we do need to overcome and control or it can lead us to apostatize and leave the church. This isn't something we should have pride in. No its not something we should be ashamed of and if we have never acted out or if we have and have repented or even if we haven't but feel the urge to do so and are working to that its something we should be working to not let control us. Its something we should control. But its not who we are unless we let it be.

When Answers don't come or the Spirit Feels Far Away

As I get older and older, and as I look back at some of my past mistakes and lessons I've learned I've come to realize that one of my greatest problems in being in tune with the Spirit is often my attitude that the spirit accepts me on my terms.

I can be very rebellious and stuburn, and do things and think things that would distance myself from the influence of the Holy Ghost. But if I'm ever in need and demand that God bless me or the Spirit guide me I often think that I expect the Lord and the Holy Ghost to obey me unconditionally. I think that if they were to be loyal to me in the same way I've often been loyal to them, they would never come around.

The funny thing is when they aren't, I then begin to doubt them and think I start to think I know better. I've learned that sometimes this means I need to step back and accept that maybe I'm the one at fault here and its not them that have distanced themselves from me, but its me who has driven that wedge.

There are times when I need to look at my life. Am I doing things that make the Holy Ghost want to dwell with me. Am I providing an environment conducive to the spirit? Am I reading the things that inspire me? am I dwelling in places that up lift me?

When I see people seemly happy doing things that I've been taught are wrong, and I dwelling on the eternal? Am I visiting the great and spacious building dreading having to go back to holding the iron rod? Do I really want to be happy doing the things that are right? Or am I always going to resent not having what I have to sacrifice in order to obtain what I'm promised. Do I want to be happy?

Do I put the Lord's ways before the worlds ways. Do I put being tolerant and open minded in the worlds way before standing for something on the Lords side? Whose side do I want to be found on when all is said and done?

There are times also when I think that we often would rather take council from our fears because it doesn't take any real faith to do that. We can accept our fears as fact comfortable because it does give us a net to fall into. It takes faith to rely on God and his promises. I think that a lot of times its easier to accept the words of people who help us justify our weaknesses then to accept God's promises that through him weak things can be made strong.

We also need to remember who is the author of fears.

These are things I often ponder when I feel like the Lord isn't answering my prayers. I sometimes wonder if he did would I really want the answer. And sometimes I also realize that I already know the answer to what I'm praying for, I just don't like the answer and want another.

I know this is sorta a different post, but its things I've been thinking about lately. Sometimes instead of trying to change the world I think I need to turn inward and change my heart so that I can accept the things that I already know to be true. I think that sometimes thats the hardest thing to do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Least of the Strays

A few months ago I observed something really interesting. For the past few days this really tiny, malnourished and mangy kitten had been hanging out on our doorstep, much to the chagrin of my cat and dog who try to chase it away. We know it's there at night because it sets off the motion sensors all night long.

When I came home from church that Sunday it was hot and so I put some water out for the poor creature. It immediacy ran away and then slowly came back. A few hours later, I went out to check and it had drunk all the water. I gave it some more.

The next day I went out and this time the kitten would come up to me cautiously and started to meow. He wouldn't let me pet him but he would brush up against my leg.

The next day I found my dad had started giving it Spotacus' left over tuna. Spotacus is “the cat in residence.” Spot is spoiled and won't eat anything but tuna. So the poor little cat outside was getting a treat. At this point the kitten will now let you pet him. And will meow if he sees you walk past the door.

This whole time my dad is saying, "Don't get attached to the cat, we aren't keeping him."

A few mornings later I went outside and my dad was brushing the cat. It was no longer mangy looking. There was enough hair to make another small cat. I put antibiotics on its ear were the other cat would attack it. It cuddled up next to me and purred.

The funny thing was the whole time my dad was out there, my dog Rudy and the Spot paced back and forth inside, Rudy was yapping at my mom as to say, "Do you know what your husband is doing? Don’t you think you should get up and stop him before he’s allowed in the house?" Spot just sat on the table looking out the window indignant and giving off disapproving looks of disdain.

When my dad came in the house, the new improved cat, now about a pound thinner of hair and no longer bony looking sat on the porch the dog ran to the screen door and snapped at it. However, this time it didn't run away. My dad yelled at Rudy and the dog looked my dad and ran to me mom to hide.

I thought about this. I love my dog and cat. I think they are the most loyal and neat animals out there. Well maybe the dog, I think cats are just out for themselves. I think in the cats mind, it owns us. But at any rate I wasn't really proud of how they were treating this new cat. I realize they may just be being territorial, or protective and that's what animals do. I remember how Spot first reacted to Rudy when he came here. That was a less then hospitable welcome.

This poor kitten for some reason or another picked our house over all the other houses on the drive, for some reason it felt safe, even if it was constantly being attacked by Spot and Rudy. We fed it gave it some shelter and it started to trust us. My dad brushed it and it looks like a completely new cat. Now we need to figure out what to call it.

The other two animals don't want to accept it and for some reason or another exclude it even attack it and make no effort to try to include it.

I wonder how often I act like this? I have a loving Heavenly Father, but He isn't just my Heavenly Father He is everyone’s Heavenly Father, even all the stray cats and dogs out there. And yes even those people who may not believe in him.

We show Him we love Him by loving "one another." I think sometimes we instinctively act, the natural man takes over. The difference between us and the animal kingdom is that we have intelligence far beyond these house pets who act on instinct. But even with these we can be very choosy about who we find worthy of loving and showing that same Christlike love. I know eventually the two pets will adapt to this yet to be named new member of the family. But are we always that willing to do the same with each other?

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:40.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Road Kill on the Information Superhighway

I was answering e-mail last night. Picture this, me, 40 or some years from now. I'm sitting there with my grandkids on my lap, I'm a grumpy old man.
I talking to them, much like my dad did to me when he told me how things were in "The good old days."

One of them has just found a cache of old letters and looks at me in wonder. "Grandpa, what are these?" he asked.

"Oh, they are called letters, we used to mail them in things called envelopes with things called stamps," I reply.

That was of course before e-mail and the Internet.

I remember the first time I heard the term "Information Super Highway." At he time it wasn’t a clichĂ©. I was sitting in my mass communication class at Shasta College and my professor started to talk about how it will be the road map to the future.

At the time there was no mention of the "World Wide Web" in my textbook and in the index of my book it went from "interact" to "interest" without stopping at "Internet." Now it seems I get more e-mail then regular mail. And yes it has become a fun way to keep in touch with my friends but it hasn’t come without disadvantages

Last Thursday I turned 36. I remember getting cards in the mail. This year while I received lots of happy birthday “blings” on MySpace and Facebook. I didn’t receive anything in the mail. It was sorta depressing. Of course only five years ago we never had said things like; “What’s your myspace?” or “Okay I’ll add you,” or the dreaded “You are deleted.”

I think the same thing that is supposed to be drawing us closer together as a community has also done the exact opposite.

I always thought it was funny when I walked into the computer lab at Chico State and there were about 40 or so people sitting there at computers, another 40 waiting in line. None of them were actually doing papers, they were either online, answering e-mail or chatting. Most of them were either on MySpace.

The nosy person I am, I took an informal poll once, meaning I actually talked to the people sitting next to me and discovered this person wasn’t chatting with anyone far away, he was chatting with another students in other buildings on campus. This was about the time of Valentine’s Day and he started to complain about being alone. These people seemed to be depressed because they were alone, but none of them were willing to venture past their keyboards to do something about it. Worse, if you attempted to talk with any of them they got upset, because you where interrupting them. How social is that?

I’m just as guilty. I know have a Blackberry Curve, it’s the coolest thing. I can chat, text, check all those social websites all on my phone. Yes, the world is now my Internet cafĂ©.

But technology has also wrecked havoc on more traditional forms of communications.

Call me old fashioned, but there is just something really nice with getting real mail. It’s more personal, you feel like someone took the time to actually sit down and put pen to paper, not to mention correct punctuation. Now we type long paragraphs, sometimes all in caps and spelling is sort of a formality reserved for rare occasions.

And forwards. This is about the most annoying thing this side of a Jim Carey movie. In the real world if I bundled all my junk mail into a big envelope and sent it to a friend they would probably not enjoy it much. I didn’t know I had so many friends who worked for foreign governments who needed help getting money into the country, or that the real answer to my prayers comes from sending the same message to 50 of my best friends.

And phone calls. This new fun little toy is after all a phone. I like talking to people. Now I mostly just get text messages. Today I got a number of messages that said “Hey, LOL! happy b-day, g2g, ttyl.”

Saturday, March 8, 2008

On Building Heges and Fences Around Laws

One of the things Latter-day Saints like to do is to build hedges or fences around laws. We don't watch R-rated movies, we don't date until we are 16. Mission rules are a good example of this and yes even the Honor Code. It is my personal opinion that these hedges or fences mirror those Laws of Moses that were given when the children of Israel were unready or unwilling to accept the law.

Is there something wrong with ALL R-rated movies? Of course not. Are some 16 year-olds emotionally mature enough to handle dating? Of course there are, there are many I think that are more mature than a lot of adults I know.

Interestingly enough when the current version of "For the Strength of Youth" was released R-rated movies was changed to movies that portray themes that are counter
to the gospel.

It has always amused me that BYU would have to rewrite the Honor Code to "make it more clear." What on earth is unclear about the fact that acting on urges is a sin and promoting anything that does encourage doing so is prohibited"

Notice I didn't even mention homosexuality here. I said urges and sin. I think that general statement applies to anything that would lead to sin. Lets change the word urge to temptations. Are there some temptations that we feel we can handle? That general statement should eliminate the specificness that should ALREADY be understood if you understand the Gospel. Avoid temptations that lead to fueling urges that lead to acting on sins. That's pretty simple. But isn't that what they taught us in Primary?

Do I need the church to rewrite the commandments so that I know the letter of the law when I attend a non church school? I would think those blessed enough to attend BYU on a sacred scholarship - BYU is funded by tithing, SHOULD be keenly aware of what is church doctrine. The spirit of the law should be what leads those students to want to be faithful and not look for loopholes. Many of those have served two years preaching this doctrine. Aren't these supposed to be the best and brightest young minds the church has brought up. Why does it need to be further clarified to them? Why do we need to build additional walls and hedges around laws that are already well established?

Or are we like the children of Israel, unready or perhaps unwilling to accept a law for what it is? Do we need the walls and hedges that often become substitute laws and often become what people feel is the law? If missionaries could be trusted to live the law I think except for a few circumstances there would be no need for mission rules. And I think most do. If a few BYU students would just accept the law they
wouldn't need to have the hedges or fences rebuild for them. Do we need to have the law rewritten so that it makes us feel better about ourselves? Why can't we just accept that certain things are sinful and just not do them?

It's the same with this pamphlet. We know what is and what isn't a sin. We really shouldn't have to have it spelled out for us. The Lord gives His children knowledge "line upon line, precept upon precept. What this tells me is that apparently the Church isn't ready for the whole law because we already have issues with the portions of the law that we already have and need these hedges and fences to
keep us from breaking it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

On subtle nuances and poorly worded doctrine

In a recent post someone cited a paragraph from the new pamplet from the church related to same gender attraction. The writer later said he felt it was poorly worded.

"[A]void any influence that can harm your spirituality. One of these adverse influences is obsession with or concentration on same-gender thoughts and feelings. It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings. The careful selection of friends and mentors who lead constructive, righteous lives is one of the most important steps to being productive and virtuous. Association with those of the same gender is natural and desirable, so long as you set wise boundaries to avoid improper and unhealthy emotional dependency, which may eventually result in physical and sexual intimacy. There is moral risk in having so close a relationship with one friend of the same gender that it may lead to vices the Lord has condemned. Our most important relationships are with our own families because our ties to them can be eternal."

I know that some may feel this was poorly written. I couldn't disagree with this more. I think it says what it needs to say period. It couldn't be any more blunt and to the point. I think the more we spend time reading the words and spending time around people who would encourage us to "fall away" to "be true to ourselves" the more and more we stand at risk at doing just that. I know in his heart these people are trying
to be good friends and trying to help us. But they are wrong. And yes I have many dear friends who consider themselves gay. Who think its great that I stay in the church. Because its "for me." But its not "for them." But I will also admit to a certain degree of sadness because if what I or any faithful member of the church believes "it's for all of us." I can only have faith and love them and not give up on them. But in the end unless they don't choose to change they are wrong and I hope in the final judgment God doesn't look to me and say, "why didn't you warn them?"

As for this this pamplet. It was approved by the First Presidency. Had it needed to be rewritten I think the Prophet would have seen to it.

This is one of the most pressing issues in the Church today. I also think this is an issue that weighs deeply on them. I also know this is an issue that they know they are being scrutinized over rather justly or unjustly. You only need to read some of the blogs that are only a link away on the Northern Lights Blog to get a healthy dose of this sort of loyal opposition.

I know our struggles cause them great pain and anguish. I also know that they know that any thing they say will be carefully scrutinized both within and outside the church by both the faithful, those looking for loop holes and those looking for further truth to add to their arsenal against the church. I would say that every comma and every period in this booklet was very carefully worded so as not to be taken anyway other then the intended meaning.

That's why I bristle with the references to "moho's" and "coming out" again I know that language and intent can be nuanced. But I don't think this was Elder Oaks intent, I do think he meant that we aren't to see ourselves as such less we start to think we are doomed to this with no hope.

I think that Satan is a great deceiver. He is able to mask sin under civil rights. I think he even is able to use God's greatest gift of agency to promote it and Christ's own words not to judge as a means to protect it. I think he is able to use some of our smartest men to then stand up and fight for the rights to condone it and accept it and villianize anyone who would stand against it.

No I don't condemn those who may think what I'm saying is wrong. They have their agency to think or believe whatever they want. I'm only going by what I believe and feel. The thing I think we need to remember is that Satan acts with full knowledge. We are react with limited knowledge and opinions fueled by our desires, logic and experiences. Satan can never be forgive for his rebellion because he knew exactly what he was doing. The thing is he already knows he's going to lose and if he can get us to fall even a little bit then we are just a sad consolation prize.

I think we are the ones who need to decide if we are going to have the faith to follow the council given.