Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My new intro

I thought I'd write a new introduction. I've sorta outgrown the last one. And so in an attempt to get to know people better here goes. It's a bit long, but I wanted to touch on a few things and hopefully foster some understanding and if I needed to clear anything up maybe this will help.

I'm 34, an RM and live in Northern California. I have a testimony of the Savior, the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, the church and the Prophet.

I'm also attracted to guys.

I know how hard it is to believe something and to feel something else. The contradiction is painful. I think that it's healthy to be honest with yourself, it's the first step in trying to face it and overcome it. And yes, I said overcome it. That doesn't mean deny it or pretend it doesn't exist, it means "I choose to act not be acted on." I believe that my struggle is part of the "natural man" and I need to overcome the desires to live by the flesh and my lusts and live the way God wants me to live. That also means feel love the way God wants me to love. I also know God gave me this struggle to test and refine me, I know in Mormon culture we like to call our struggles gifts, but I do think it is a tool to teach me and to give me things I need to have to become who I am to become. I also know I need to acknowledge the way I feel as real.

I know so many guys who repress it and when they finally do cave, it turns them into really mean people who end up bitter, cynical and sarcastic towards the Church, God and anyone who is trying to be faithful to it or who may in their attempts to be faithful make them feel guilty.

I am so grateful to Elder Oaks for making it clear that I am not to use my feelings or attractions to define who I am and that it is my actions not my feelings that I am accountable for. I am not really out. I mean I've talked to my bishop. I've never really told my parents. I tell people who I think need to know. But I don't see it as being something that I need to "come out proud" about. That's a worldly concept. I am who I am, I am me first and foremost.

As for me personally, I've been to the temple and I've taken covenants that "I won't have sexual relations (notice the word relations and not sex, I believe that means things like making out, kissing and whatnot), with anyone expect with the person I'm married to." And so the bottom line is at least in this respect, I know what God's eternal purpose is for me and I can't reach that in a homosexual relationship. It's really that plain and simple. I can fight against the pricks so to speak and drag my feet and cry about how unfair it is. I can curse God and try to come up with reasons why I am the exceptions to the rules. But if the church is true and that is the doctrine, then I have to accept it if I want to be faithful. God is no respecter of persons and he doesn't give Personal Revelation that would counter what we know is true. I know he can give us revelations to help us individually be faithful and that isn't always the same as he would give
others but its always about how we can stay on the right path. Its more like a GPS system then being given a different map altogether.

Now having said that, I do believe that there can be real love between two guys. It just can't be eternal as much as I want it to be, or hope it could be. If what I believe is true it will have great eternal consequences. This is the hard part because I know that love can be just as real right now and that love can trap someone into not wanting to accept the truth and keep them bound to something that will eventually have devastating effects on their eternal lives.

At times I've thought I could make a compromise with God, if I could be with a man I love, I'd forgo sex and just live with him monogamously, coupled but celibate. And at times I've also wondered how God can keep his promise to me that if I'm faithful I can marry someone I love when I've never liked girls. And yes I've used "attraction" as an excuse not to pursue dating saying that "it's unfair to the girl." But I've also come to realize those aren't the real reasons. They are good excuses that make me feel better about not doing what I know I should. Because while I say I want to, I really don't and it really does come down to what I want and what I'm willing to do. I can believe God or my own doubts. Both are powerful forces.

These are hard questions for me and while I don't know the hows, I believe I know the answers, it comes in being faithful and following the Prophet. Its just hard to follow the Prophet sometimes when you feel like the answers are general and don't take how you feel into consideration. But then I also have to hold onto the fact that as far as Christs atonement is concerned, the pain He felt was very personal. He not only suffered for my sins but He also suffered and endured my pain so He knows how I feel. So if His servants give me a commandment from Him, while that servant may not fully understand it or give it with the verbiage that I feel shows understanding, I have to have faith in who his master is and that He loves me and understands me.

I've been "the only" for a long time. Growing up in the church in a small town meant facing being the only LDS guy at school and being judged according to those standards. Then add feeling like I was t"he only" one at Church who was different. I've never felt like I've fit in. And of course growing up in the Church being "gay" was a sin. No one ever told me that I could have those feelings and it wasn't my fault. It wasn't taught but it was implied that "I choose to feel this way" I knew I didn't, so I felt as if I was some sort of mistake. I went on a mission, and developed a strong testimony, but I cam home still attracted to guys. But all of this has made me stronger.

It also has unfortunately at times made me very head strong. I've joined some of the "moho" groups, again I use that term only for clarity, I think its a bad term which turns us into "ites." Personally, I reject a lot of the ideas that come from this community. We are all flawed people. These flaws are tools that God uses to teach us. I think a lot of the new philosophies out there serve to make us feel unbroken and fixed. As if there is really nothing wrong with us. That we need to "accept ourselves as we are if we are to be happy" and that change isn't possible and even a sin to consider. While I'll agree that change means more of a change of heart then change of feeling, I believe it means humbling ourselves to His will and not insist on Him accepting ours and then trying to mold the gospel around it. I believe that in order to be true disciples we have to mold our will around His. We are ALL broken and need fixing. That's what the atonement of
Jesus Christ is all about. That's the whole point of mortality. To overcome those things that do hold us back.

I think sticking to these ideas have led in part to me failing in my attempts to make friends because I can come off as preachy or over zealous or clingy or whatever emotional issue people want to use to make themselves feel better about judging me and distancing themselves from me.


I've tried reaching out to some in the LDS gay or SGA community and have found that to be honest with you those who are struggling can be just as mean and hateful as anyone in the gay community. But I also need to accept that a lot of it comes as a self defense mechanism. Its a product of self loathing and double life they are trying to lead. They don't want to feel bad, they want support. I may remind them of something they see in themselves that makes them feel unconformable or I remind them of something they want to block out. But support needs to hold up not justify or enable. They can also be just as judgmental about things like a persons age and physical appearances. If I am saying some harsh things, remember these are based on my own personal experiences.

And yes, while I know this may be making an unfair "generalization" I think there is some truth to it. I can't really "gay it up" at Gossip or some other gay club or bar on Saturday and than pass the Sacrament on Sunday, as if I'm visiting Sodom on a day pass. I can't than get mad at someone and call them judgmental who may point out the inconsistency. I can't use the "the Savior said not to judge me" card knowing that he also said "go and sin no more." BUT and I admit, I'm also very good at graying the area and saying "I just go to be with my friends and dance" but I know the other reason is that in some ways I crave being in an environment where I can let my hair down, "be who I want to be right now" and forget who "I'm trying to be," I can be "myself." These places normalize what I know is a sin but wish I could partake in without sinning. But I also know that the Sprint is miles away from those places.

Its hard when you don't fit in into either camp. And ironically some of my closet friends, those who have encouraged me to stay faithful have been LDS guys who are in gay relationships. I don't really know how to explain this other then to say that while I do believe what they are doing is wrong, they are living with honesty and not living double lives or trying to hide stuff. I also think deep down they know what they have given up and they don't want to see someone else go that path. I've also realized that these guys, while inactive aren't bitter or hateful towards the church. I've found that that comes mostly from those who are trying to lead double lives.

I've also learned a few lessons about making friends.

One thing I have learned is that I can't take the rejection of an offered friendship personally. I can't take what someone thinks about me or how they react to me as an indication of my personal value or worth as a person if my offer of fellowship or friendship was given with good intentions and honesty. There are times when that rejection has nothing to do with me and more to do with another persons emotional issues. Perhaps I remind them of something about themselves they are trying to avoid or forget or maybe its just an outward sign of there own inward struggle. When we are trying to feel normal we often attracted towards those we consider normal.

One final thought. I also can't let the way I've been treated by a few color the way I treat others. I do need to maybe listen more and talk less. Not be so free with my advice or opinions but I also need to be more forgiving. The hardest part of being forgiving is being able to forgive when someone hurts you and won't acknowledge it or apologize. True love will allow you to forgive that person and accept their flaws even if they refuse to do the same for you. I don't know why some people react to me the way they do. But I need to love them anyways and be willing to accept them as they are. I don't by to the notion that you can only have a few real friends. I think the power of love is insurmountable and there is always room for one more friend. Forgiveness needs to mean something to the person we are forgiving. It can't just be done to make us feel better. It has to be real. And sometimes its not accepted, but as long as my attempt is genuine then
that's all that matters.

The Internet is a tool for keeping in touch with friends, not a substitute for friends. But I also think its a good way to move beyond you local social network and reach out to new people and make new friends.

If I turned my back on everyone that I think is sinning I am making a mistake. I think also trying to project the "I love you even if you are a sinner" mentality can also be patronizing. I am honesty trying as hard as I can and being as faithful as I can. And that's something. I'm not perfect. But I need love and friends to. When I don't post for a while it would be good to know that people miss me or wonder how I am. We all need this. There are a lot of LDS guys who struggle with this who have given up. I think that those of us who are here are making an attempt no matter how strong or weak that attempt is to hold to something. I don't think we will ever get to the Celestial Kingdom fighting alone.

Honestly there are times when I can only be as faithful as I have the strength to be. These are times when I need support. If this is true for anyone else. If the church is true there will be a time when if I am trying, than I will be more fully converted.

Again if I have offended anyone in the past I'm sorry. I hope you will forgive me and give me another chance. I'd like to know what I did and be given a chance to fix it. But I also refuse to dwell on it past this. I'm extending a hand and an apology. I'm willing to move it further if anyone I've hurt wants to. But I won't force it. I'm sorry if my efforts to reach out have bothered anyone. They were done with the best intentions. I was only trying to be supportive and show love for those who struggle also. I have so much respect for those of you who are trying and I feel for those of you who feel like giving up. I've been there so many times. I understand. If you need a friend or someone to talk to I'm here.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Letter to a friend: The Gospel, The Church and The Culture

This is a comment I left on a friends blog. I think it addresses some key issues. I wanted to share it here.

The more and more I read your blogs the more and more I want to point out that I think your biggest problem is that you have confused the culture of the church with the doctrine.

If you or your friends, including ATP and who else may be reading this reads this comment and if I can say one thing that you will take serious and ponder, I ask that you read this. I will repost it to my blog and I seriously would like to have comments on it. Please know that I'm am trying to write you with true love and reassurance. I feel I know your heart even if we don't see eye to eye.

A. The doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way that we will ever come to the Savior. It is true. It is THE ONLY way to gain exultation and salvation. The atonement is the key.

B. The Church of Jesus Christ is true. It is divinely led by inspiration. Christ is at the head of the Church. It is led on Earth by men who are inspired but who are also NOT perfect.

C. Mormonism is a culture. There are many good and wonderful things about this culture. But there are also many things that are dogmatic that aren't true. And yes a lot of the culture is at odds with the doctrine. You can be as good a Latter-day Saint living far off in the littlest branch with not the slightest bit of Mormon Culture. As long as you live the doctrine and keep the commandments.

There are three parts that I've spoken about. I want to make it clear. They are connected. But only the first is Eternal. The second will lead you to and keep you true to the first. The third is only a product of both, but in itself its worthless. That's why being culturally Mormon won't save you.

There are things that are true that are doctrine that to be honest are hard to accept because they go against our own personal desires and wants. There are things that we are ask to sacrifice in obiendence. There are things that we need to accept as true in faith. And there are things that aren't really that important.

There are things like Pres Monson said in the Priesthood session are like little strings that we carry in our pockets that will keep us from the things that are really important.

There are things that keep people from being friends that shouldn't. And yes there are people that if you listen to them will convince you that things that are true are false and that a key element of agency is the ability to choose without fear what is wicked and what will rob you of eternal blessing and that because we aren't to judge others we have a license to sin with out any consequences.

But there are also those who some would call monsters who are just wounded souls needing love and acceptance and tolerance. Most of all they need to feel like they are children of God and not spiritual orphans. I know I need to forgive some of those people who may have offended me as those who are simply lashing out because of hurt in their own lives.

I don't know what else I can say. I accept you as a friend and brother. It's up to you to accept me. I can't help what you think of me, but I have all the power over what I think about you.

I wish you would realize that the gospel is true. That the church needs people like you to help those who do struggle. You can be the most faithful member of the church. You are a smart guy, you know the difference between culture, dogma and true doctrine.

Keep the faith, pray, stay close to the Spirit. Reach out. A friend of mines mother once gave him good advice about choosing friends. If you are spending time with people who you know are are doing things that are wrong. Just be careful. If your good habits rub off on them, awesome. You may be the only light they have in their life. But if you risk having their bad habits rub off on you then you need to be careful and may need to step back.

At any rate, everyone needs love and acceptance even people like me. I'll keep you in my prayers and I will always consider you a friend.