Thursday, May 29, 2008

Some thoughts on suicide

This is something I wrote in response to a post about a young man who took his life who struggled with SGA.

It is tragic. And a topic that needs to be dwelt with with love and compassion.

Suicide is never the answer. I think anyone who has a basic grasp on the gospel and the atonement knows that. I think when someone gets to that state where they believe that it's the answer there are other issues that needed to be dealt with.

Elder Ballard writes about speaking at the funeral of a friend who took his life: "Peace came to me only when I recognized that only the Lord could administer fair judgment. He alone had all the facts, and only He would know the intent of the heart of my friend.",11275,2875-1---71,00.html

I believe that now the young man is in God's arms. But I don't believe he is at peace any more than anyone who has died without accepting the gospel. He still needs to make a choice. People don't just die and automatically become saved. We do baptisms for the dead yes, but they have to accept it. However that is now between him and God, as it was here.

We are now left with those who he has left behind and they are the ones who we need to be concerned with, to love, to uphold and to support. We can continue to pray for our friend. But we also have to realize that agency is a personal thing and that all we can do is love. This is a really hard thing to cope with. It is my personal belief that while we may take with us our desires, lusts and addictions so to speak. We don't take our bodies with us so we are free of any emotional, physical or psychological issues that may cloud our judgments. That last part is just my own opinion.

Taking ones life is never the answer. The sad fact is that death doesn't change what is right or wrong, true or false.

A discussion of what is worse Spiritual death vs. temporal death should never end with the misguided notion that suicide is better then a life of sin and disobedience to the Lord and his commandments. We didn't create our lives and we don't have the right to decide when they end. We don't choose our trials and we can only choose to act or react on them.

But I also think we have to look at this from the eternal perspective and realize that we lived before we were born and when we die its only part of the plan. We will live again. In essence we never stop living. Death is progressive. While I will miss my friend for the rest of my mortal sojourn, I know he has moved on and will be there when its my turn.

What we do in this life does have everything to do with how we spend eternity. I also know that the trials and addictions we have in this life we take with us into the next and it is only through obedience to the commandments that we overcome them. Part of that is wanting to overcome them and having the desire to work on overcoming them.

Now would I rather a friend kill himself or live a gay lifestyle? Well I would never want him to take his life. But I would also feel that his choice to live the lifestyle is in essence spiritual suicide. The third option is of course I'd rather him submit to the Lord and live the gospel. But thats his agency and he has to choose. I have to love him no matter what his choices are. If he did kill himself I would feel bad that he didn't feel the love of the gospel that could save him and comfort him. But I also know that this struggle is a hard one. I would be happy that he was in the arms of his Savior so to speak. But I would also know that he would still be accountable for making a choice in the sprint World in if he would live to follow God.

Killing yourself isn't the easy way out. I think thats probably the cruelest reality.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Gay Marriage in CA - Thing heat up fast

It will be an interesting next couple months. I predict a few things will come of this. Some very positive and yes some very negative.

I don't know yet how the Church will respond, but I do recall one positive of Prop 22. For years Latter-day Saints, Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Baptists etc were all divided among denominational lines. For the first time that I could recall these churches stood together for one moral cause. They were working together and not just spending time telling the other that they aren't Christian. Later this helped foster members of the these church working together informally on other community issues. Ministers met with bishops, joint service projects were planned and activities held.

In northern California, the part above Sacramento, this feeling of unity has continued. In fact while in the rest of the country when Mitt Romney was running for president and everyone was saying how it will be the evangelicals in the south that bring him down, a lot of his volunteers in NorCal, were evangelical Christians. One of them who was head of the NorCal campaign was someone I had worked with during Prop 22 who was a member of the largest Evangelical Christian Church in the area. We had met during Prop 22 and have worked on common causes in the political realm ever since. He serves as chief of staff to our assemblyman and has told me on numerous occasions that Mormons make the best volunteers.

Of course on the negative side, those inside the church who would argue that we not get involved would argue that the church shouldn't get involved in political issues, forgetting that this is a moral issue and we have a mandate not only scriptural but also from our prophet to fight for moral causes. Outside the church I'm sure that if the church gets involved again we will be painted anti-gay and homophobic. The church will again be blamed for unhappiness and hatred. No one will take the time to try to understand why the church stands for protecting families and such and we will be lumped together with groups that advocate things that are unchristlike and hateful.

This is a very poloraizing issue. One that does make those who struggle uncomfortable. Its one that does tend to draw people off the fences and pull them to one side or the other. I think that in someways its time for those of us who struggle but who have chosen to follow the path that God has set for us to stand up and show that the sin is in acting on the urges and not just having them. That you can have feelings of SGA and be faithful. In someways this could be a chance for fostering understanding. But we may need to take the lead.

I only hope that those on both sides, who are fighting for what they believe in their heart to be right will remember Pres Hinckley's statement that we can disagree without being disagreeable. I also hope that those within the church will remember that the Prophet wouldn't ask us to do something as the Prophet if it didn't come from God and he is only asking us, he isn't commanding us. We were never commanded to vote a certain way, we were asked, we were urged. Our agency was never taken from us.

Honestly if I could choose, I would like to see people be able to be happy. I don't think we should take away peoples agency and I don't know if doing things that prevent people from living in a way that is socially moral is helping. Do I think a majority of gay couples who want to marry are bad people. No I don't. This is a hard one because I do have friends who fit into this category, friends I do love and cherish.

But on the other hand I know what the First Presidency's has said and I see this as one of those, "Well God has commanded me to leave the city, I don't want to leave the city, I like it here, but its what God has asked me to do" type things. Do I have the faith to "leave the city" or do I stay and take my chances with whatever happens to the city ignoring his warning to leave. Do I follow Lehi and his family? Or do I stay and enjoy the last few days before the city is destroyed knowing that it will happen. Or do I decide that because I like the city that the warning was a false warning, then act surprised when the city is destroyed?

An interesting side note, the court not only overturned Prop 22, but it also overturned the 1978 "one man one wife" amendment. Given what is happening with the FLDS church in Texas, I wonder how this will play out here now that all forms of marriage is protected in California.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm not a mean person!

I know I can sometimes come off as judgmental and mean. What I think that a lot of people forget is that I struggle just as hard as the next person. I have my issues. I'm not perfect. A lot of what I say are things I need to hear myself.

Someone told me the other day that I sometimes go about it the wrong way. I thought about that, what is the right way?

Thats a hard one. Its one I've been pondering. Its not easy. I think sometimes however perception is what determines a lot of what we think is persecution. Its like the difference between a sermon and kind advice from a friend who has been there. I think again its the way we take it.

People talk about support. What we consider support is a funny thing. Support should hold us up as we grow, not enable us to make mistakes and feel okay with them. Real support is firm and sometimes not always what we want to hear if it goes against what we want. Then it becomes preachy and we don't want to listen.

Its ironic how many of the more gay friendly bloggers can offer support such as: "Be true to your self and your feelings, stop letting the church control your life, the church has it wrong, its just old men who don't understand, God wants you to be happy and being gay will make you happy." And its okay. Its not preachy, its supportive.

But if someone stands up for what they believe is Gods side. The side they believe is true they are often attacked. Told not to judge, to take the beam out of your own eye, its not your place to judge, etc. etc. etc.

The problem is that if you do care about someone you don't want them to be hurt and you know that some things will hurt them. I honestly do care about people.

I think we sometimes like to isolate ourselves from feeling bad. I am terribly sorry if I've ever come off as mean or hate filled. That isn't the case. I feel bad if people think that. But on the other hand I won't be the sort of friend who tells you what you want to hear just to make you feel better about yourself if I know in the long run it will lead you to falling away. I won't be party to that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Following the Prophet

After the death of the Prophet Joesph when the Saints were left on their own to follow "in faith" instead of following "by example" so to speak, there were many who had stepped up to "assume" the mantel.

When Brigham Young encountered a meeting of the body of the Saints that had gathered to hear Sydney Rigden preach that he was the prophets chosen spokesperson and therefore he should lead the Saints, Brother Brigham stood and addressed the body which included the quorum of the Twelve.

Instead of asking at first who the saints should appoint as their next leader, he said something really interesting. He told the crowd that no matter who they picked, the quorum who he believed now held the keys or Rigden, who claimed to be the prophets successor - they better follow whomever they pick as they did Joseph and not just follow until they are told something they don't agree with and change their minds.

Later he would say that it takes more then a belief of testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church or the prophet. Just having those makes us no better then Satan and his angels who not only have a testimony of those things but an actual belief based on knowledge which is something we don't have, we only have faith. If they didn't they wouldn't be working do hard to destroy it. Its takes actions. It takes putting your actions behind that faith and doing.

He also said that no matter what it is the Spirit that matter most. No matter what it is the Spirit that will confirm truth of all things.

If we choose to follow the Prophet only when we agree with him, what is the point of having a prophet? God does not require blind faith as some would say following the prophet implies. He does expect complete faith not half hearted faith when it sounds good. He expects us to try our best. That's the key. He expects us to pray, use the Spirit and try our best. Yes, we need to pray about things and yes we need to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost in doing so, but if we have a testimony of the restored gospel then part of that is in the calling and sacred duties of the prophet.

When the Prophet speaks as a man he is a man, for instance I'm sure there are things Pres Monson likes that I don't. Just because he likes a certain flavor of ice cream or something like that doesn't make it the inspired choice. But when he speaks as the Prophet he speaks for the Lord.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sometimes the truth hurts

Yes, Heavenly Father love us no matter what, but that doesn't give us a blank slate to draft our own set of personal commandments. And yes we do need to be tolerant to other faiths who may believe different then us, but that doesn't make them right. And we do have to respect the agency of those within our faith who either choose not to follow them or who mess up. You can do this without lowering your own standards.

Moral standards are sets of guidelines based on commandments of God and if lived they ensure that we keep those commandments. Yes, there are sometimes difference in the commandments and standards of the church and the cultural hedges we put up around the commandments. But when it comes to homosexuality its pretty set.

I was thinking about this. I think that sin as defined is anything that separates us from God. So it really doesn't matter what the sin is. I think part of why self lothing becomes an issue is that we begin to dwell on it and our happiness more then we dwell on our desire to live in such a way that pleases God. There is a gradual slide between wanting to believe that we can be happy and a good person and live a lifestyle that is sinful. And since we are good people how can we do evil. God knows our hearts right?

This fosters the whole "my relationship is with God and not the church" when we start to feel that since we are good people, what we want to make us happy is what God approves of because God wants us to be happy. Then pride takes over.

To throw out a standard because its too hard to follow or because its caused pain for the person who is unable to cope with the reality of it is rather shortsighted. Now yes we need to be Christlike and loving and understanding and help those who do struggle. When something is of worth it is often hard. What if someone who doesn't struggle has issues with not waiting to have sex before he is married. And has sex then feels guilty about it and kills himself. Do we blame God for saying that sex before marrige is a sin and its what caused his guilt and pushed him to kill himself? Yes, suicide is tragic and my heart goes out to those who have ended their lives, but its not an excuse for removing moral standards set in place by God. Only God can do that and he does that through his prophets.

We all want to be happy. But sometimes the hard cruel reality is that what we want and what the Lord wants isn't the same. He loves us and wants to bless us. He doesn't want to be separated from us. I think when we look at that as the real reason He has commandments, to prevent us from doing things that would separate us from Him and less as restrictions we can see that He does love us. When you factor in the atonement all He's done his love is abundant. He hates sin not because He doesn't want us to be happy or enjoy life, but because He knows the end results, He knows what will hurt us, what is real and what isn't and He knows that there are certain things we can do which if He is to be just, divine law dictates that there is justice and the last thing He wants is to be separated from us.

Its His work and His Glory is to bring to pass our eternal life and for us to inhareit what he has. He knows our actions can prevent that. So he has done everything in his power to warn us and protect us. He does this out of love and not vengefulness. He knows sometimes we want things that we think will make us happy but he knows will rob us of our eternal potential and thats why they are sin. Not because he is a cruel God who doesn't want us to be happy. Our happiness is in us becoming like him.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My Brother - Some Clarification

I think perhaps a little more explanation is in order. I have received a couple letters asking me if perhaps my feelings are based more on jealousy then anything else.

Thats an interesting question. One that I think may have been yes at first but not so much anymore. Yes at first I think it would be fun to act out, but then I see the results.

The more and more the years pass I see how more and more he is unhappy with things. he makes a ton more money them me. But its all in an effect to be happy. Going from one religion or philosophy to the next. His house looks like a shrine to every no Christian faith out there and never really finding what he had once. I also have noticed something. My family while very argumentative is largely accepting. He has been able to bring his "roommate" home for dinner at times. Its not that he isn't "accepted" its that he is trying to be unaccepted so he can have something to be upset about.

When we have dinner it is normally him who baits conversations to try to start conflict. We are all trying hard to get along and we smile at his comments and change the subject but he continues to push buttons until someone gets upset and flairs up. Its not normally one of us who does it or provokes it. I have actually met some of his ex's who have asked me why in some ways we are so similar but the spirit about us is different. That I don't seem to have this vindictive streak and all I can say is that while I struggle I'm not bitter.

The worst thing in the world is to be bitter about not having anything to really be bitter about. I like to think of it as the "Poor Upper Middle Class White Boy Syndrome, the activitist of the month club." He is largely accepted by everyone in my ward, when he comes, yes they think what he is doing is wrong, but no one has ever turned their back on him. He has home teachers in his ward and they visit him and he is being fellowshipped. He is welcomed.

I do love him. I do feel sorry for him. He is still my brother. I can't say that I would ever really choose to be his friend if I met him socially and we weren't related. But I think I would try. It is hard to be friends with someone who is always trying to "out" you or attack the Gospel you hold dear. It doesn't feel good when you are constantly called a blind sheep.

To wrap both of these items up into one and to thank Kam for the love and concern he has expressed in his heartfelt post let me just say this. Thank you.

Finally, there are many good and wonderful things in this world. There are many good and wonderful situations we can place ourselves in. There are also many good and wonderful people we can try to associate and be friends with. We also have our families and wards and such. A lot of this is what we bring into these situations, friendships and environments. A lot of what we take out of them has to do with what we are willing to invest in them.

And yes there are places that the spirit doesn't dwell and we should avoid and people who will drag us down who we should also avoid. But in all cases we should always be willing to love. Sometimes we need to look deeper into their motivation. Is it perhaps pain that is causing it and will loving them help? Last week in priesthood someone pointed out the difference between being friendly and being a friend. You can go to church and have everyone be friendly and still leave lonely. Sometimes we need to leave our groups, make room for one more and actually be a friend.

People often quote the KJV of the Bible in saying we shouldn't judge, I think we need to sometimes. The JST clarifies this in saying we should never condemn. We do need to judge what is best for us. Is this selfish? I do think sometimes we confuse selfishness with looking out for what is best for ourselves. We need to do this. Its imperative for our own emotional health. If we don't do this we can never really help others. We need to be okay with ourselves and our feelings before we can ever try to help another person do the same. Sometimes and I'll admit maybe in the case of me and my brother, I see too much of myself in him to want to reach out because its painful. And yes I need to get past that.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My brother

My brother is gay. I say gay because he has embraced his attractions as who he is and has boyfriends etc.

Of my two brothers I think him and I are the most similar but we are also the most poler oppistes. He is as liberal as I'm conservative and as far as the church goes he sees it as something that controls you and thinks for you. Ironicly he also has tried every form of religion to be spiritual because I think he in his heart misses the truth that he knows is in the gospel but doesn't want to accept the restrictions of the commandments.

The thing I've noticed about him is his extreme bitterness and how he is sure that everyone is a closet case. He's wanted to out me for most of his life and refers to me to his gay friends as his "older gay brother who is repressed." I think what keeps me from being totally honest with him is that I can see a lot of who I COULD be in him if I was to give up.

I feel bad because on one hand I know that I could be a good friend and support to him but on the other I don't know if thats what he really wants.

Its been hard on my family. Who are denial of it. I sometimes wonder if my mom knows about me. I've opened up to my bishop but thats about it.

I do have a testimony of the restored gospel. I don't hide in the church. For me the Church is a reality not a way to repress things. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to be happy. The temple is the only way to secure the blessings of eternity and that living the commandments is the only way to do that. I'm not deceiving myself. This isn't my culture telling me this. This isn't my way of hiding. I know its real. I don't believe that when it comes to commandments from God that one thing is right for one person and another wrong. God is no respecter of persons. We have a prophet and he is the one who God reveals truth through. Not my own lusts or will. I don't think allowing myself to do what feels good to be happy is really following the Lord.

I wish I could be more loving towards him but when I'm around him all I feel is bitterness. I know that one day I need to overcome this. I know that God loves him as much as he loves me. But I feel like he thinks the church is some cute little way that I hide from reality. I feel like he is mocking something I hold sacred. I don't see the benefit of opening up to someone who is just going to go and use it as a weapon against you in his quest to be happy. I don't know if that makes any since at all.