Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Makes A Hero?

The other day I was chatting with a friend and he told me that he felt I put him on a pedestal and thought of him as a hero and that this made him feel uncomfortable. He added that long as I thought of him as a hero that we could never really be friends that he wanted me to think of him as an equal. I told him we could compromise on this. What I really should have explained was how I define a hero. Super heroes to me aren’t really heroes. While they are fictional, the concept is that they have these extra abilities that allow them to do all kinds of cool stuff like fly or bend things with their minds. For me the definition of a hero is a normal person who uses the abilities they have, the talents they have to do extraordinary things. Super heroes are just using the abilities they have to do things they should be able to do by virtue of their powers. Is this really that spectacular? For me a hero is someone who falls down and gets back up. It's someone who knows what is right and does it. It's someone who may make a mistake and realize that their actions hurt someone and apologizes, not for the sake of repenting of their deed with God, but in making it better with the person they hurt. This will make it right with God, but the intention is selfless and not motivated by a desire to fix things for themselves. A hero is that person who stands up for what is right when it seems like it’s not the PC or the accepted thing to do. He's the guy who may not show up on time to speak in Sacrament meeting but if he doesn’t it’s because he stopped to help someone change a tire on the way to church. They may not be perfect but they understand that perfection isn't about a state but a process, it’s about becoming complete and they are trying. They may not be able to recite scripture word-for-word but their lives are an example of the Gospel in action. A hero to me is someone who may not write a book, who may not ever grace the cover of a fashion magazine or look good in their jeans or whatever. But they are an example and a reflection of what they believe. They may be the last to finish the race, but they didn't give up. They may fall down on their climb to the top and sometimes they may have to stop and sit for a while, and ponder if they really do want to keep climbing, but they do eventually get back up and look down only to see how far they have made it. They may not always spell everything correct. Their ties don’t always match their shirt. Their hair may not always have product in it. They may have bad breath. They may not even be able to lift their own body weight. Heroes for me are the ones who realize that sometimes holding on to the Iron Rod is possible only if they are holding and supporting someone who is also doing this. They aren't afraid to hold on tight to someone else while they cling desperately with their other hand. They don't give up on people, they forgive; try to see the best and the potential in someone and they love like Christ would. Heroes don't stand on their pedestals, they get off them and they do something extraordinary with what they have. That is what makes the ordinary extraordinary.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Worst Human Trait

Today on North Star someone asked what they thought was the worst human trait. I have been talking with someone who has been open to being my friend while we don't agree on a lot of things. This has been refreshing because I see a chance to see things through another perspective. This led me to respond with this post.

Honestly I think selfishness is the worst human trait there is. I also think intolerance bred from ignorance or from reacting to other peoples prejudices. I see a lot of this in the world but I also see a lot of it in the church. My institute teacher often says the only place gossip and gospel are close to each other are in the dictionary. I've also seen it within the LDS SGA community which is really sad because this should be the one place where we can turn for support from people who do really understand. Within the so-called Moho community that has come to mean guys who have an LDS background but don't always live it, it often manifest itself in hatred, resentment and intolerance towards anyone who does hold to the faith in the church as it is presented by the Lord through the prophet, and yes faithful members who struggle see their actions as apostate or trying to rearrange the gospel to fit their needs. It's funny because there is enough contention between these two sides that any kind of conflict between both of them and those who don't struggle seems sort of relative. I also think that even among those of us who struggle with this, just trying to stay faithful doesn't change some traits that I more and more think may be inherent in all of us. Things like being over emotional, over judgmental of anyone who may disagree with us, sometimes over concerned about things like age, looks, and status and judging a persons worth on those things. I don't think those are "gay" traits per say, but I do think they tend to be over emphasized withing that community. I think both cultures are in some way obsessed with different types of perfection that often seem like unobtainable goals. I think the major difference is that worldly perfection and eternal perfection are total opposites. One is prideful and has to do with being "better" then someone else and the other is only met by stripping ourselves of pride. I think when when I begin to see others the way God see them, then I may start to wonder if blocking that person, or ignoring that person was really the Christlike thing to do or if the things that annoy me about someone are just things that I see reflected in myself that I don't want to see and so I try to hide from them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Can I be the change?

Been thinking about something today. Sorry this is a bit rambling but I’d really like some input. This morning a friend of mine tweeted that article about the Matis family that I posted yesterday. As a tag he complimented them and said that they must be good people. I knew he was from Utah and that he struggled with SGA and I texted back "You really need to meet them. They are wonderful people." He texted back that he knew them, he just didn't want to out himself. I wrote back that I understand and felt the same way. I did end up putting it on my profile but I struggled with it. He added that he really didn't want to be labeled by the misconceptions that such an association might bring.

I can't say that I don't totally understand and also struggle with that myself. I'm not really open to a lot of people. I am in this group and its 165 people and a couple other secret groups. But at work and at home and in my ward not really. I'll confide in people if I feel that it would be beneficial for me and also to them to know so they can better understand me. But in general I don't want to be defined by what I struggle with or worse be branded by stereotypes.

I know this is going to upset a lot of people. I'm sorry. I thought about this all the way to work. Part of me really thinks that these misconceptions and stereotypes in some respect are justified by what people see, but I also wonder if maybe I'm also at fault because I'm not brave enough to stand up and say. Look not everyone who struggles with this, is that way. There are some of us who choose to stay faithful to the church and our temple covenants. Who don't do the things that those who define themselves as gay do. But even saying that in the realm of this group may piss a few people off because they will jump to the conclusion that I think people who use their agency to act out and live that way are bad people. But the fact is that a lot of people judge the whole of the group of people on both ended of the spectrum rather we want to like it or not by the actions of a few extremes.

Who do we identify with? Who do kids see as examples? Are we providing them with good examples of good people?

What kinds of role models do youth growing up in the church who deal with this have? Ty Mansfield and the Matis Book is really one of the only books I can think of. Are there really any positive examples of faithful SSA guys who are public? So where do our youth look for people "like themselves?" The world and look at the message it gives them. I think that is sad. The recent "It gets better campaign" for instance may provide some comfort but what is their real message? It gets better when you get older and act on your feelings and put behind you all that you've been taught? I think a lot of people see religion as hatred because popular culture has used it as a scapegoat for a few hateful bigots who do use religion to bully people. But isn't that just as bad as saying all gay people are like those guys in their underwear or leather chaps and boas at Pride festivals?

Maybe our youth do need examples of real people who are trying. Who do make mistakes but who are doing their best. Most of us believe what we say in our testimonies right? But still sometimes while we may believe something our actions may not reflect that. Does that mean we don't believe it? Most of the time no, most of the times we are just being human and making mistakes and we need to repent. But are we telling kids that that's okay. Not so much that it’s okay to sin. But it’s okay to make mistakes. Do we put the fear of not being perfect in the way of their desire to repent or worse not give up?

Because of this I also think we need to be very careful about what kind things we align ourselves, I was reading some posts in another group, one member has posted that he felt that if the "gay agenda" could align themselves with groups like churches when it comes to things like suicide prevention that they could get the message out that this isn't just "those people" but it’s their kids too. Now yes, I believe this is true. That these are our kids too. But what is their underlying motive here? Is it to prevent these tragic deaths or is it to change the accepted beliefs of those religions by shaming them in order to do so? Have you ever noticed that these groups will laugh at you when you say there is a "gay agenda?" It's there, it's real and one of Satan's biggest tricks is to convince you it's not. So while I do think something needs to be done, I'm very careful about who is doing it.

On the flip side, are our best efforts maybe backfiring? Are our youth afraid so afraid of being imperfect that they hide stuff, repress stuff. Afraid that if they do confide in their parents or church leaders about how they feel, that they will be subject to church discipline and family shame? Just for those feelings? Are they so afraid of disappointing us that they don’t reach out. I honestly do think this is why teenagers do turn to things like drugs or seek out groups that provide the kinds of supports that make them feel better about themselves while advocating things that we know are wrong. This creates further conflict within the young person. Perhaps if we had some programs that we could implement or taught our parents things that they could do or say BEFORE their kids turned to these websites, chat groups or other sources of alternative information we could save a lot of kids from feeling this way.

I wonder if I'm failing to "be an example of a true believer?" I think I need to ponder that. I don't think it should be "be an example of a true believer" who is perfect. Because I’m not perfect and if you want an example of perfection don’t look at me. I love our church leader and General Authorities, but that's often how the come off. Our youth need examples whom don’t seem so far off and perfect that they are unreachable. Maybe I need to do more to be an example of the person I'm trying to be. Does anyone understand what I'm trying to say? Let me know. I think the real answer is that we need to be the change.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Unbinding our Tongues

This weekend is Stake Conference here, one of the visiting speakers talked about one of Satan's biggest tools in thwarting the Lord's plan. He reminded us that when the Prophet Joseph Smith wanted to know truth he asked in faith that he would receive an answer. Later when he put that faith into practice in the Sacred Grove, before he got received the First Vision which would change the world as he knew it, Satan attacked him full force. Lucifer's method of attack is one that he commonly uses on us today. What he did to the young boy was what he often does to many of us. He attacked him which such fear so as to bind his tongue and prevent him from speaking.

How many times have I been in a similar situation? Where I allowed fear to "bind my tongue" and prevent me from speaking? How many times have I been in a situation where I knew what was true but out of fear of sounding politically incorrect or bigoted or intolerant because the world has made those of us that do have standards based on the gospel and not the world out to be? Isn't it ironic how when we attack wickedness we are labeled wrong, while when they promote wickedness they are politically correct? He added that one of the Brethern's greatest concerns for the youth isn't so much to isolate them from the world but to protect them.

I thought about that in view of recent events. I honestly don't think the Lord wants passive aggressive saints. While it is true that we can't allow pride to fuel our efforts, we can be confident and in fact we need to be bold in doing so, The fact that as the boy prophet was told not to join any of the other churches because they were incorrect, didn't make him any better then any other Christian at the time. But that doesn't change the fact that they were wrong and the Lord gave him clear directions to follow. When we follow the prophet we have the Lord's endorsement behind our efforts as well. Just like Joseph faced ridicule and persecution because he refused to deny his testimony of the truth even when it pitted him against the people in his town, state and in some cases family, while it estranged him from even his in-laws and eventually lead to his martyrdom, he didn't back down under pressure from other church denominations, civic leaders, and mobs. He stood for what was right and even at his death he stood for what was the will of the Lord. He sealed his testimony wit his blood. He did this with love, tolerance and even forgiveness for those who disagreed with him, but he never wavered in his conviction to the truth.

Brothers and Sisters, we can't be ashamed or apologize for the gospel, and again we can't be prideful or puffed up, but at the same time just because the world or Hollywood or those who claim to be more "tolerant" or "socially open minded and progressive" think we are closed minded because we do follow Christ and not market research. We know we are right! Does the Pres Monson go around apologizing for the truth? We don't have to go about this with at martyr type attitude either. We have nothing to be ashamed of or need to apologize for, we have the greatest gift the world can ever have, we have what most of the world is searching for in desperation. What more we aren't being selfish with it, we want to give it to everyone. We know the truth, we can be happy about it. We should find comfort in it. We need to share it. We need to let that light reflect in us. Honestly our testimonies are least effective if we confine them to testimony meetings, while its a good thing to share them there, they can only really be effective in sharing the gospel once we leave the chapel doors.

For those of you who like Christian music there is a song that I've always kept as a personal statement of faith. I'd like to share the lyrics at the close of this post. It's called "I'm Not Ashamed." by The Newsboys.

I'm not ashamed to let you know
I want this light in me to show
I'm not ashamed to speak the name of Jesus Christ.

What are we sneaking around for?
Who are we trying to please?
Shrugging off sin, apologizing
Like we're spreading some kind of disease
I'm saying "No way. No Way."

I'm not ashamed to let you know
I want this light in me to show
I'm not ashamed to speak the name of Jesus Christ.

This one (said) it's a lost cause
Save your testimonies for churchtime.
Other ones state you'd better wait
Until you do a little market research
I'm saying "No way. No way."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Detox and Diet for the Soul

I've been on a diet/cleanse deal, not so much to lose weight to "look good" but more because I've realized that I'm not healthy. I found myself getting winded doing things that shouldn’t wind me and there are other family health issues that I want to avoid. I also discovered that in holding my friends kids at church I was rapidly losing my lap. So it was time for a change.

I think that its a big mistake to allow how the world perceives us or defines us to shade how we define ourselves if that isn't really what we are. But too often I think that's the case.

A few months ago my brother got onto facebook and went photo wild, he started to post pics that were decades old of me when I was in college and post mission. The funny thing was that at the time I really thought I was huge, like really fat. Now looking at the pics I'm shocked at how sickenly thin and gaunt I looked. Growing up I was made fun of because I was the fat kid in school, I wore glasses and I was the only Mormon. So yes, this opened me up to all kinds of persecution. Because I didn't participate in all the partying and sex talk in high school I was defined as a fag. Looking at those pictures now and seeing that I wasn't anywhere fat makes me wonder if I've also allowed those people to influence my SSA, because honestly I don't remember a time before school when I felt that way.

I have a good friend who is pretty into the whole gay scene and who is for lack of a better word what a lot of us would define as hot. However while there isn't an ounce of body fat anywhere on him, he is constantly on one fad diet after another to lose weight. I know that it’s because he has immersed himself in a club culture that does put more value on age and body appearance then what is really important. I know that he is covering up real issues with these body issues. Part of it comes with having people around that love you for who you are not what you are. I feel so bad for him because he says he's happy but I can tell he isn't.

I think that part of our mortal struggle is to balance who we are with what we want against what we believe. I think at times when what we want is over shadowed by what we want at the moment we run into trouble. Again my doctor explained to me that appetite is of the mind and is an emotional need but real hunger is of the body. We need to feed the body to nourish it. When I started the cleanse I went cold turkey and stopped eating surgery, refined and processed foods and other things like that. Almost immediately my body rebelled and I went through four days of the worst headaches ever. After that though, I felt a lot more energy. But those four days were horrible.

Isn't it funny how the things we crave can attack us if we don't bend to them? I think there is a moral lessen there. I know that the natural man is the enemy of God and that we need to strive towards the eternal and put away the natural man. But it’s not always easy when on one hand you really want to be faithful but on the other the sugary stuff really is good and will satisfy us for a short time. But in the end look at what it does to us. In the end it’s the stuff that provides the real nourishment, not the empty calories or the sugar rush that makes us healthy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

When "It Gets Better"

The other day I was at home watching "The Office" when this ad came on. It was paid for by google and it was all about how "It Gets Better" for teens struggling with SSA as they grow up. After watching it I was left feeling empty and sick.

I find nothing comforting or uplifting in something that may encourage a young person to turn their back on the gospel and pursue a lifestyle that will lead them away from Heavenly Father.

So much has been said about the evils of "bullying" what hasn't been said is that these kind of messages, on the surface they seem good. We all want to ease the pain and the suffering of those who feel alone and isolated. But is the remedy that is being offered really the cure? Will this really lead to happiness? No, and this is how Satan uses the appearance of "good" to do "bad."

In reality these messages add to the conflict which many point out lead to confusion, pain and teen suicides. If parents of a teen struggling with SSA are doing everything they can to love and support their child but are doing it within the gospel then these messages do conflict with that effort. What these messages are saying is that the only way for it "to get better" is to embrace your sexuality, make being gay part of who you, part of your identity, and act on it. This does run counter to the gospel, and so anyone who opposes that idea is now suddenly guilty of being a bully for advocating the opposite. Parents are now the bad guys because they don't "accept" who their child is. The church is now the bully because it rejects who they are. And anyone who believes that acting on it is a sin is a bully as well. On the other hand, if the child tries to stay faithful to the church and its teachings this group will attack them as not being true to themselves or being repressed.

You know, Elder Holland spoke about how “it does get better,” at the last General Conference and this is the message we should share with our friends who struggle. He was right. When we accept that it is the gospel that makes us happy, not what the world or Google tells us, it will get bettter. When we accept the fact that we children of a loving God, it gets better. When we accept that our true self is eternal, it gets better. It gets better because of the atonement. It gets better because we know the truth of the gospel. Those are the truths that make everything better.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reaching out for the right kind of support

Support is a tricky word and it can mean a lot of things to different people. From personal experience I've learned that before I look for it, I need to first decide what I want it to be.

Within the church it's often taken to mean unconditional love and encouragement to stay faithful to the doctrines and commandments. Forgiveness of our weaknesses while at the the same time encouragement to keep going. Understanding and comfort. This is all good and is what I consider support to be. To walk next to and hold up a friend. Someone to talk to and trust and confide in. In theory this should be easy to find within the church. In practice its often not.

I sometimes see myself falling into that trap. It's hard to find support when everyone around you seems perfect and able to stand on their own. In a culture that holds perfection as our goal, reaching out often feels unconformable because we feel unworthy to ask for help or worse we feel those who are striving for perfection may not understand or worse reject those who need help. And those who struggle with SGA may not want the world to know of their struggles so they suffer in silence afraid or unwilling to bear to their burdens to others because it would mean having to admit them. Ironically it means putting on the facade of perfection where people look at you at you and feel the same way.

Support from the world outside the church can be just the opposite, and at times the short term pseudo positive effects feel good. This is really dangerous when we are weak and searching. For some support means helping someone step away from what they view as repression. Helping someone "be themselves," helping someone be "true" to who they really are. Removing the conflict. Isn't that what gay pride is all about? To them this means leaving the church and acting out. This can often come from people who have little or no knowledge of the church other then what they have heard or seen in a movie or how the church is portrayed in the gay media. This is almost always bad. Because they have never had the real effects of the gospel they only see the rules and commandments, they don't understand the blessings. They only see someone who is not happy because of what they are denying themselves to make others happy and for them the pursuit of happiness is the goal of life. For them this is being a true friend is helping the person be happy.

Now right off the bat I want to state that some of these people are genuine and well meaning. In their hearts I feel they think they are doing good because Satan has deceived them and they do feel that those of us who are trying are repressing ourselves. Part of this is the loss of the influence of the Holy Ghost that confirms truth to them. Lets face it, its hard to make a good choice when you don't have that anymore.

Next to support, the term Safe is also one that can be misused or twisted. It's tragic but also telling when people who are in the world so to speak say they feel "unsafe" in environments that truth is taught and the Spirit is strong. Are they confusing the feeling of unease with the Holy Ghost? Ever attend a FHE or a Sacrament meeting, walk away full of strength and enlightenment and then hear or read a blog later from someone who also attended who felt "unsafe" and "attacked?"

There is of course one type of support that is the most dangerous and that is support from someone with an agenda. It's most dangerous when it coming from someone who is a former or ex member of the church who has an ax to grind and sees bringing down another member as a way of striking out at something they feel has hurt them. Often times these people still deep in their hearts love the church, but have been hurt and want to punish or hurt it as badly as they feel. They often have horror stories about how badly they were treated and how unsafe they felt in church.

A few years ago I came across a guy like this that had grown up in the ward north of me, I was feeling alone and searching and found myself on one of those websites. I started chatting with this guy and found out he was LDS or used to be. I thought cool, he'll get it. And at first he was very nice, very supportive and very cool with the church. But then he started to hammer away at it, just a little bit at a time. I was also happy to find out he was LDS and thought that maybe I could help him come back home.

After a while he started to tell me horror stories about how terrible he had been treated and how he was almost violently kicked out of the church. I don't think he knew that I was familiar with the ward he was talking about and knew many of the same people. Out of curiosity I asked some these people and found out that they had bent over backwards for this guy. He had been baptized when he was was in his late teens. Members literally gave this guy everything he could ask for in order to help "bring him up to speed" so to speak in the gospel. Even to the point of offering to pay for his mission and his schooling. He had several members families who loved and supported him and even opened their homes to him.

The truth was that the horror stories occurred when he choose to turn his back on the church and started to act out and he soon became a really negative influence on the other youth. Of course the parents where concerned. He had also developed a fascination with anti-Mormon items and was always in the mood to debate things and share them with others at times when it wasn't appropriate like in lessons. Apparently after talking to some of those involved the bishop asked him to cool it and he took that as rejection and moved in with a guy in the next town who was much older and started a relationship. There is always two sides to every story. Since then he's been really active in anti-Mormon, pro-gay groups and acts against the church as much as possible targeting those who are in search of support. To this day he works with a group in the next largest town south of me that serves as an outreach to young gay teen Mormons. For him its a ministry.

Of course when I found this out I knew I had been called to save him. But sadly, once he found out that I wasn't going to be converted to his way of thinking he didn't say goodbye, he just wrote me off. I found myself rejected as a friend and blocked on his social networking deal. And I found out that he had bad mouthed me to mutual friends to try to discredit me. This hurt, but I also realized that after a lot of prayer that the Lord would never expose me to this kind of stuff when I was weak in order to save someone else. Yes, I guess I could have been a good influence on him, but when I tried it seemed to chase him off. I never preached to him.

From personal experience the fact that I even met that guy online shows that to me how easy it is to find bad support. Brothers and Sisters, it is out there. Don't fall for it.

Yes, the internet is a powerful tool, I've learned to be very careful about the places you look to make friends. A good rule is that you will almost always find the type of friends in the type of site it is. I know I always try to convince myself that there may be just that one other guy who is there to find friends, but that's also self deception and justification. I should know if I reach into a snake pit, I'll more then likely end up with a handful of snake.

I also know that when we are down and low we often sometimes loose our judgment because we want to be around someone who understands so its easy to fall for these wolves in sheep clothing. We often will resent those who are really trying to help, we may lash out at those who have our best interests in mind and justify it by saying they just don't get. This has taught me a great deal. Real Christlike support will never end up with one person getting hurt or losing their faith. It will build not tear down. That's a good thing to ponder.