Monday, January 21, 2008

Dwelling with Saints

I wrote this as a letter to a friend who was struggling with being faithful, fitting in and finding out that we are all, even Mormons human.

Brigham Young once said, “To dwell with the Saints in Zion, oh what a glory, to live with them on the Earth, that’s another story.”

I know how much it hurts when you are treated badly by people who know better. Not just “should know better.” I would think, as much time as we spend in sacrament and testimony meetings, tearfully testifying our love for everyone in the room that we really mean it. At times I think we say it not so much because we do love everyone, but because we are taught Christ loves everyone and since we are trying to be like Him, we also say we love everyone to feel like we are being like Him.

Nothing hurts more then when we go to Church, the one place where we should feel loved and accepted. And find we don’t. Even worse when we feel rejected because we struggle with something that makes us feel like we aren’t worthy and that something isn’t something we choose to feel. It hurts even worse when we find those who struggle reject us.

One thing Latter-day Saints have in common with the rest of the world is that we are human. In the context of the Church we have a culture fueled by the quest for perfection. In the gay culture perfection is also a goal. In the Church we try to be perfect, meaning complete. This is often misinterpreted as doing everything right and “looking good” while we do it. In the gay culture perfect means without blemish, young, and thin. One should be a refinement of spiritual things and the other is a standard based on worldly criteria. Both are concepts of perfection, and both really unreachable goals to some extent and both a harsh ruler to judge one self by.

I have also found that while a lot of LDS SGA guys may strive to “live the gospel” this often only translates to “not acting out” it doesn’t mean that they don’t avoid the traits or actions that are prevalent in the gay culture. It just means that they avoid going far enough that their actions are considered sins or simply put, that they have to see the bishop.

I also know that what determines if a guy is too needy or clingy most of the time has more to do with what the person who is the object of the attention feels about the person. If the guy who is trying to be friends is attractive then a lot of times this extra measure and desire for friendship is welcome. “Wow the cute guy who is struggling need my help and support.” However if the guy isn’t, they are often branded as being “too needy” or “two clingy.” It’s funny how a person’s worthiness of love or attention and even support can so easily be based on their appearance. I guess we can say jokingly ask “how gay is that?” But honestly, how gay IS that? When the cute guys fall we excuse them, and are ready to make concessions for them, its “he’s not a bad person, he’s just made a mistake.” If he isn’t attractive to us it becomes, “He’s crazy stalker.”

Being one of those guys who fall into the less then perfect category, I’ve felt this kind of judgment first hand at LDS gatherings. I’ve felt ignored and sometimes worse included only because someone its “trying to be Christlike” to me by including me in their otherwise very select group. And when I tried to move further along or form some real friendships it was quickly made clear to me that I was overstepping the kindness being granted to me by those who deemed themselves more worthy then me because of their perceptions of me. And yes you don’t find out about this directly, you read about it in a blog or you call a number given to you that turn out to be a fake one. Or someone accidentally lets it slip what someone really thinks about you or a friend just stops talking to you when they find out another more attractive friend of theirs sees you as less than worthy.

But I’ve also have had to come to the conclusion that I can’t confuse feeling accepted by members of the Church with me being accepted by God. The gospel is true. The church is true. Jesus is the Christ and he won’t reject me and he doesn’t care what I look like.

Brandon, the plain truth here is simple. If you read anything in this post read and remember this. His atonement is as effective for me at 260 pounds as it is for the cute guy with the faux hock and Hollister hoodie. God loves you as much as he does the guy with the blonde highlights and the A&F t-shirt. He listens to your prayers as much as he does anyone else even if you don’t go to the gym everyday.

It’s hard because yes, we all wanted to be loved and needed. We all want to be desirable. And yes we all are trying to be faithful and none of us want to think we are motivated by anything other then pure intentions when it comes to our interactions with others BUT we are all guilty of it. There are times when I found myself not happy with the friends I did have who did like me and wanted to know why those other guys don’t like me. In so doing I forgot the ones who did. There are people who no matter how hard we try do annoy us. And there are people that no matter how much we try we may not really care for. Do I think that we are better people if we try to work through those feelings to find good in them? Yes. But I think for the most part, we need to first find the better part of ourselves before we try to do that in others because the way we treat people and who we accept is a reflection of what we often desire for ourselves.

But regardless of how others may or may not accept us has nothing to do with the Church being true. Its more a matter of us being true to the things the Church has taught us. Its like a math problem, the answer is the same and correct but those doing it may be doing the math wrong. It doesn’t change the answer or make it incorrect. Remember that.

Some of these issues are issues that others may have that are really symptoms of their own struggles, they may crave being accepted by others who make them feel loved because they are “normal” or they “fit it.” Some crave having “attractive” people around them because they feel insecure if they don’t. They want to feel pretty and lets face it “pretty is as pretty does.” Just love and forgive. But if you do choose to love and forgive. Love for real and forgive for real. Don’t just do it to be like Jesus, do it because you do love them and you do forgive them otherwise its just as fake and phony.

There has been some good advice posted here by other people as well. Consider it, ponder it, and pray about it. In the end the only person you will ever need to be accepted by already accepts you. Now its just a matter of showing your love to him by being obedient to him and his commandments and yes forgiving those people. Never ever let those who should know better be the ones who help you determine how you spend the eternities by leaving because they don’t accept you. Don’t give them that kind of power over you. Shine on, be yourself and be who you are. Your real friends will see it and love you for it and you won’t have to be anything but who you really are. Just be you.