Saturday, June 16, 2012

Some Personal Refelections

I'm 41 now. I've tried my best to be faithful my whole life, I often feel overlooked or not included in a lot of church things. Recently in CA there has been a big push for a Mid Single group for people 30 to 45 in the church. I think this is great but I wonder why this couldn’t have happened back when I was 30 and not four years from being graduated from it. I want to be married; I'd like to be a father. Most of my friends are. I know that if I was to look at them and compare myself to them I'd feel as if I had failed.

At one point I realized I had three choices. I could throw in the towel and "be happy." This wasn't an option. Two, I could try to "adapt" the gospel and "adapt" a gay lifestyle so that they could fit together in a way that I felt I could justify them. You know, have one of those non-sexual type boyfriends, go to clubs "just to dance" etc. But I realized that living with one foot in the church and one in the world would end up with me not being a whole person. I know that if I was honest to myself I'd realize that this would: A. Make me feel guilty while I was in the world and B. Make me not feel the spirit when I was in the gospel. At any rate I would always end up doing one thing to spite the other, kinda like serving two masters? My third option was to stay strong and live what I believe. This hasn’t always been easy but I have to have faith not only to as the saying goes “Not only Believe in Christ but to BELIEVE Christ.” This isn’t always easy socially; there isn’t a “program” for me to fit into socially, no dances or firesides etc. I used to try to fit into the Student Ward group but after I turned 35 I felt out of place etc.

I also need to never make the mistake of comparing myself to others who seem to have it easy. I can’t look at people who are good examples and start to resent them and say “why me?” I also can’t look at people who choose to do the right thing and feel like it’s an indictment of me. I remember reading some of the really cruel things said and posted about Ty when he got married. I think a lot of the hateful stuff was an attempt to deflect. Now suddenly doing the right thing was seen as being “judgmental of those who weren’t” even saying it was the right choice was wrong and some people delighted in saying things like “well, let’s just wait a few years and see how happy they are.” I need to never make that mistake of seeing another person’s happiness as being attack on my own.

I also know that if I was to allow myself to become cynical or bitter, to feel like I was owed something that God gave me the short end of the stick etc. it would be very easy to let my guard down. I can’t ever do that. I need to be responsible for myself, that’s why I have agency. I know that the struggle is part of how I am to grow, life is just that. Everything I am learning, feeling and doing weighed against what I believe and have faith in. I have to put it into practice and have faith that it will work out no matter what. I trust God and His promises and I know that in the end He will come through in a way that will be more amazing to me than what I could come up with to make me happy.

"What Paul Said . . ."

This morning I was reading the first chapter Romans. First off I know that this is the book often used as the most condemning about the practice of homosexuality. And yes it is hard to dispute some of the languages "men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another" etc. But leaving those verse for a minute what occurred to me was the the rest of the book.

I think most people need something to be "proud of," to identify with. This helps them feel justified. I think some people whom like have been said use the scriptures and avoid the very appearance of evil, which is good advise, but feel justified in it. It also says that man isn't "justified in the law," but through obedience. And that's the key.

I think when people need to fly a flag in order to declare who they are, they need to really think about what they are aligning themselves with. For the most part I think the more close we become to the spirit the less and less we need to find these worldly things to identify with and the more sacred things are what we find definition in. And I don't think having an interest in music, theater or dance makes you gay or is a gay thing. I think that assigning those things to a "orientation" is wrong. But I do think there are aspects of the "gay culture" which are also in the hetro-culture that are just as bad. Paul writes of things like "unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, spiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful."

The other thing that hit me in this section of Romans was that Paul writes that in order to obtain the fruits of the gospel a person needs to be obedient to it. He writes that there are those who have had or have heard the gospel and may have even claimed to have had it but have not used it in the way that God would have them do. He writes that we shouldn't be ashamed to preach it, to stand by it and to proclaim it. I take this to mean that this would be the flag we fly outside our houses. That is should be what we proclaim, not proudly but with love and hope that they will come to the truth. Yes we need to tell people that "God loves them." But then we also need not be afraid to tell them the rest of the story.

Telling someone that "God loves you just the way you are" implies that that God is bound to save them no matter what they do. This removes any need for obedience because God's love will save them. I think this is what Paul was saying when he wrote: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.

Choosing to do what's right

The whole purpose of us being here on the Earth is to test us to see what we will do on our own given the correct principles. Satan's plan would have compelled us to "ACCEPT the right." Agency is a gift that allows us to CHOOSE and show our love to our Heavenly Father in "Choosing the right."

I think you can judge a disciple of Christ by that persons actions when not commanded in all things given a knowledge of right and wrong.

If we accept the that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored Church of Christ, led by Christ with a Prophet at the head, then we have to also accept the power and authority that He along with the other prophets and apostles have when speaking "officially" for the Church and therefore the Lord.

Yes, I may not have wanted to flee Babaloyn myself. I may not have wanted to leave Jerusalem, it may have been a fun place to hang out with lots of fun people. I may have not wanted to flee Sodom and Gomorrah, it was probably fun also. I may have been perfectly happy in Egypt. I may have enjoyed myself and not have wanted to leave the comforts of my home to trek west with the Saints. But in all those cases, following the Prophet, while hard and while I may have not wanted to and even personally disagreeing with the choice to go, following the Prophet was the same as following God. I wonder if I would have been one of those who argued or murmured? Would I have looked back and longed for the things I felt good doing? Would I have resented Moses, or Abraham or Brigham Young?

I also know what the Book of Mormon says about societies that turn their back on God and that turn a blind eye and even accept things that are immoral as natural and even encouraged. These societies eventually went so far as to accept other wicked things such as murder. I wonder if we were to ever vote on the legality of this that if someone would argue that the prohibition against murder comes from the Judeo-Christian law and we should separate church and state. So therefore its not a moral issue it too is a political issue. Sounds ridiculous? One only needs to think about the debate surrounding abortion to see shades of this.

I know that we are ask to be good citizens and help participate in the process of government. This means standing for whats right. I also know that this is a moral issue that has been politicized.

For the most part the Lord doesn't very often "command" us to do anything. When He does we should know He is serious. Yes, we have the Ten Commandments. Yes, because of those who would have us remove them from all public places, we may have to look extra hard to find them, but lets be honest here, We are free to choose to obey them. We aren't free to choose the effects of them or the consequences that follow.

No, the Lord or even the church hasn't "commanded" us to vote or to think a certain way. But we have been taught correct principles, we know the plan. We know what is right and wrong. We know the gospel. We know the end result of what will happen to those who choose not to. If we apply them obedience would be the natural progression, if we honestly have a testimony of the truth of it.

Being faithful to the Lord doesn't make us blind sheep or ignorant. It doesn't make us hateful or bigoted. Yes, when we attach hate and animosity to our actions it does and that isn't being Christlike. Yes, we need to keep it from going that way. We can stand for whats right without hating those who choose what's wrong. But on the other hand those who do fight against the church and its teachings aren't the most tolerant people either when it comes to acceptance of those who disagree with them. Who is normally yielding words "bigot and ignorant" as weapons? We can stand for what's right without being disagreeable. And if we know what the Lord has said is standing for it honestly being ignorant?

I look at it this way. The Prophet has ask us to do something. I know what the Lord has said to be right and wrong. I have faith that if the Prophet in acting as the Prophet AND is directed by the Lord to ask us to do something then its not because he (the Prophet) wants us to do it, its because HE (the Lord), the one who is doing the directing wants us to do it.

I don't know the exact reasons WHY this is such a big deal to them. But it is and that should be a sign no matter how I may personally see it. But like in all other things I have my own agency to choose what I will do and who I will follow and I will be judged accordingly.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Something I Need to Work On

I’ve been pondering writing this for the past week. This past fast Sunday I prayed and fasted that I could be a better friend to my friends. When I was done one of the impressions I had was that one thing that I need to work on this year is to allow people into my life that want to be there and try to stop trying to appeal to those that I have to fight for attention, acceptance approval from. This also applies to racking my brain about how my beliefs, opinions, appearance, perceptions, and actions are perceived by others and how in turn it affects other's opinion of me. Also how I can be a better friend, when that’s all I’ve tried to be from the start.

I don't know where in my childhood I ever picked up “people pleasing” but if I could stab it in the heart I think a huge burden would be lifted don't you? Maybe it's that I never moved past the pain of feeling like I was the "only one" (LDS) in high school or “the only one at church” (with SSA) Who knows? I know part of it is a constant battle between trying to be Christ-like and accepting and loving and tolerant vs. being co-dependent and needy. In the end I feel alone a lot as if I haven’t done enough.

I also know what is often perceived as needy by some is often more a reflection of that persons lack of desire to be friends with me or some issue within themselves, maybe my issues mirror their own too much and I'm a painful reflection and most of the time I need to realize that it has very little to do with who I am. I need to stop allowing the acceptance of others to fuel my own self-acceptance. Maybe my opinions offend them. Maybe it’s just a personality thing. I need to stop obsessing over it and wanting to make it right if my efforts just make it worse and the other person is unwilling or perhaps unable to be open to it.

I know my heart is in the right place when I try to make friends and offer support. I also know that sometimes these attempts are unwanted and seen as a violation of boundaries or protective walls. I need to respect others, and also accept this is more “them” then “me” and step away. I've been hurt in the process of trying to make friends and have often felt rejection in my efforts but I also need to realize that my friendship is just as valuable as that person’s acceptance and their rejection isn't an indication of a lack of my worth as a person. This isn't an easy lesson, but I think it’s one I need to work on applying to my life.

In the end I think we are all going to feel a lot of sadness and regret over the things we wasted our times stressing about. I often worry if I’m wasting my time focusing on one thing when I need to put my energy towards something that is worth my time. If I’ve tried to reach out to someone and for some reason they reject that, I think the Christ-like thing to do is to not close the door, just don’t stand by the door waiting. I need to keep on my journey and if those people ever do want to be my friend they can come find me. The important thing is that I don’t close the door but that I don’t waste time in my own progression waiting.

Sometimes the only way we can be close to someone is by praying for them. But I know that I need for my own emotional well-being to stop judging myself by the way others see me and start seeing myself as the Savior does and that is someone worth knowing and loving.

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.