Friday, December 30, 2011

Verse by Verse: Isaiah 56

I've had this post in mind since I began this blog. I finally feel ready to write it.

Sometimes one of the big frustrations for members of the Church who experience same-sex attraction is that while there are great recent materials and modern general authority statements regarding SSA, the canon of scripture seems relatively silent regarding our plight. In many regards this is true, but one of the points of my blog has been to show that the scriptures still offer great support for us. While all of the other scriptures I've shared here so far have great application to members of the Church who experience same-sex attraction, I've found Isaiah 56 very meaningful personally because I believe that it is not only applicable, but in many ways intended for or addressed to our special little demographic within the covenant people. This is incredibly rare in scripture!

Like my similar post on the first chapter of James a few weeks ago, I'd like to approach not only a couple verses, but rather a whole chapter verse by verse. Of course, this chapter is actually much shorter than the first chapter of James, and in fact I'm not even going to touch the last four verses, as they actually belong with chapter 57 and have little to do with the theme of 56. So, here goes Isaiah 56:1-8, considered verse by verse in the same format as that earlier post:

Background: The book of Isaiah breaks down into 2 distinct parts, often considered 2 completely separate books. The first portion includes chapters 1-39, followed by the second half, often referred to as Deutero-Isaiah comprising 40-66. Some have contended that these two halves were actually written by different people--the second being a man decades or even centuries after Isaiah's death. I highly disagree (if you want to debate that subject, email me). But I digress. The reason I'm telling you this is that there IS a distinct difference between the first and second books of Isaiah. The first is rather condemning, the second rather merciful. I could detail a lot of other significant differences, but bear in mind that this chapter comes from the second portion, and is thus filled with great spiritual promises. This is a very happy chapter, and I turn to it often for strength. I hope you find some great strength in it too. Here goes:

1 Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. 
2 Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

Commentary: The chapter begins with a few conditions for the promises about to be expounded upon. Interestingly, Isaiah has not yet explained his intended audience yet, which he usually does right away. I think he's just especially trying to emphasize the importance of these conditions. He's going to spend most of the rest of the chapter unfolding tender mercies and promised blessings, but for now he needs us to know that we have to put forth a little bit of effort to claim all of them. The first verse's message is very simple: "Choose the right! There are good things just around the corner."

The second verse begins to foretell blessings to come, and then takes the time to very specifically mention one particular commandment: honoring the sabbath. I cannot honestly tell you why this particular commandment is singled out, but I can testify that observance of it has very directly helped facilitate the blessings outlined in this chapter in my own life. I live for the sabbath day. I have a very busy life and love having a day that I don't have to worry about homework or work or so many other cares life brings. Those who drag worldly stresses onto the sabbath punish themselves! Preach My Gospel says the following about keeping the Sabbath: "When a community or nation grows careless in its Sabbath activities, its religious life decays and all aspects of life are negatively affected. The blessings associated with keeping the Sabbath day holy are lost" (PMG, p. 74). Notice also the second specified piece of this counsel in verse two to "keep your hand from doing any evil." Many potential applications here for sins that our hands commit. Find one applicable to you.

Now, with the foundation of counsel and conditions, Isaiah is prepared to address his intended audience:

3 Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. 

Commentary: So, Isaiah has revealed a two-fold audience. These blessings and promises will apply to the "son of the stranger," in other words, those born outside the covenant who convert to the gospel. He is comforting them because they feel like they are lesser members of the kingdom, separate from the lifelong members and thus rather discouraged. The second group is much more unique: Isaiah specifically counsels eunuchs who are part of the covenant people. These men are discouraged because they know the role of family in the gospel plan and feel like therefore they can't receive a fullness of gospel blessings because they are "dry trees" incapable of marrying or having children.

Isaiah was perhaps more aware than most if not all of his OT contemporaries the importance of his writings for our day. He writes a lot of things that weren't pertinent to his peers nearly at all, but which are vitally important to us today. Often he has applications for both time periods though, and this seems to be one of those times. The convert demographic is obvious enough in our day, but what about eunuchs? Well, while I don't personally know of any castrated latter-day saints in our day, I do know of faithful singles who, for no fault of their own (just as most eunuchs--who were typically made so at birth) may not have the opportunity to marry in this life. While I certainly hope to marry in this life, what if that just isn't the plan? Couldn't faithful saints who experience same-sex attraction and never marry be easily likened to these eunuchs in their desperate plight, worrying if the blessings of eternal family and exaltation will be withheld forever? What about faithful LDS women who are faithful and don't see marriage in this life, like Sister Barbara Thompson of the Relief Society general presidency? Perhaps the eunuch comparison may sound far-fetched to you right now, but keep reading. I believe that Isaiah wasn't just addressing a similar group of people; I believe he saw our day and wrote this letter to the eunuchs of his own with us in mind.

4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give unto them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. 

Commentary: The conditions of the blessings for the eunuchs are reasserted, including an additional reference to the sabbath day. Then, the Lord makes a beautiful promise: the promise of temple blessings. He has reminded them earlier that they are not "dry trees." They have eternal potential and can receive the same eternal blessings, and to prove that to them, he tells them to take the blessings of their temple covenants as a reminder of what the Lord is willing to give them. By the way, to underscore the relevance of verse 5 to our temple covenants, it's worth noting that the word "place" is an erroneous translation that would be better rendered "hand." Thus, the Lord invites the eunuchs to come to his house (the temple) and receive by covenant a HAND and a NAME. In short, the endowment becomes God's down-payment on the blessings of eternal exaltation including roles in eternal families that go beyond merely those "of sons and of daughters" (implicitly, those of husbands/fathers and of wives/mothers).

By the way, the use of the word "daughters" itself implies an extended audience beyond just the eunuchs he's addressed expressly in these verses, since all eunuchs were male and therefore saying "daughters" (which is rare enough in scripture even when eunuchs aren't involved) doesn't make sense unless others are implied. Remember that while verse 3 addressed both converts and eunuchs, verses 4 and 5 address only the eunuchs, just as the next 2 will address specifically the converts:

6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. 

Commentary: Like the eunuchs, recall that the converts were depressed because they felt like they were unable to be full participants in the Kingdom. Perhaps their past lives filled them with guilt, or perhaps they were mistreated by others of the covenant. Either way, they had thoughts very similar in many ways to those of the eunuchs, and the Lord actually promises them the same blessing! He explains it in a different way, but in verse seven he promises the blessings of the temple as a reminder of their eternal inheritance. The beautiful thing about the Hebrew poetic synonymous parallelism created by verses 4-5 in parallel with 6-7 is that while they say basically the same thing, the different explanations of the same thing expand our understanding. In other words, 4-5 may be addressed to the eunuchs, but the converts actually can directly own those verses because they are told the same thing in parallel. Likewise, the eunuchs may take meaning from verses 6-7. And this "eunuch" intends to. :)

Verse seven contains what is perhaps the most meaningful phrase to me personally from the entire chapter: "their sacrifices shall be accepted." All faithful covenant keepers make sacrifices, and it is very touching to me when the Lord takes time to acknowledge that fact. After all, our small sacrifices mean very little compared to His Great Sacrifice. And yet He cries with us in the pain of the things that are hard for us to part with, but which must go if we are to live with Him forever. When I first read this chapter with a realization of its application to my plight, I had actually been having some rather depressing thoughts. In the first place, I had been unhealthily dwelling far too much on fantasies (non-sexual) of what it would be like to be with a man. The idea was actually (and still sometimes is) so beautiful to me. Of course, it is mingled with lots of other guilt and confusing emotions too, but I fully recognize and believe that temporally I could be very happy living in a long-term monogamous relationship with a man. But I have already made a decision to lay that desire on the altar of sacrifice. That's what I'd been thinking and reminding myself of my commitment to when I found this chapter and read the sweet reassurance that my sacrifice was accepted of the Lord. And do you know what? I am not sad at all about the choice I've made. In fact, I find lots of happiness also in the thought of being in a long-term (that is, eternal) relationship with an elect daughter of God. I truly do desire that very deeply and find happiness in chaste fantasies about that life as well. And what if I don't attain that in this life? Yet will I not say to the Lord that I am a barren tree. I will trust Him and rely on the blessings of my temple covenants as a reminder of the celestial rewards to come. And that makes me happy.

One last verse to tie it all together:

8 The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

Commentary: The end of verse seven talked about the Lord's house being for all people, and the chapter concludes with this similar verse of counsel to the converts and "eunuchs" who perceive themselves as outcasts in the Kingdom. He gathers us too! And He will gather others not yet of the covenant, who also need to be made welcome here. All people are different. All people have struggles. Most people would be blown away to learn some of the trials I've been blessed with in this life. Likewise, if I knew what each person around me struggled with I would probably be equally amazed. There is no cause to "judge another, when I walk imperfectly," for we would do well to remember that "in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see" (Hymn 220). The Lord wants us to make room for everyone in the kingdom, be they convert, eunuch, or anyone else. Begin today to widen the scope of your embrace for God's children. God wants to have all of His children back.

My best,


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Image of God (Genesis 1:26-27)

About a week ago I promised a post on body image issues. Well, here it is!

I think that largely I don't typically seem like the "gay stereotype" charicature figure. However, if there is a way I fit the "mold" we've created in society of what gay people are "like," this is probably the biggest one. I have always been very self-conscious about my appearance. In junior high and high school I had lots of thoughts that were borderline anorexic. Now, I have NEVER even approached the line of being overweight. Sometimes I've been UNDERWEIGHT (like, perhaps right now) but I've never had weight issues. And yet in Junior High I always felt like I was fat. It was less so in high school, but still flared up from time to time. I don't ever really think I'm fat anymore. Now I get concerned about lack of musculature or above all: my face. I have experienced severe self-esteem issues from my face. Most mornings I wake up, leave my room, and look in the mirror. My first thought is immediately how I look that day. 9 times out of 10 I'm disappointed. Every now and then I look in the mirror and like what I look like. But not often.

Sometimes when I'm stressed or have low self-esteem I don't eat very much. It's not because I think I'm fat, it's just something I do. Another behavior that may make me seem kind of stereotype is that I like to dress well to compensate for my perceived lack of comliness. As I'm not super rich and many of my clothes are hand-me-downs (thankfully my older brother has fantastic taste), this can be difficult sometimes. But I've learned that looking good often depends more on HOW you wear certain clothes and put them together. Certain pants and shirts combinations simply don't do! Then I write sentences like that, or more often simply think those thoughts, and suddenly my self esteem goes right out the window again because then I am reminded that I'm fashion conscious because I'm compensating for my perceived ugly face, which is because I have deeply set body image issues. Honestly, I know I'm not actually a bad looking guy, so when I feel that way, I start feeling bad that I feel that way! (Boy this would all be much simpler if I also didn't have a huge propensity for over-analyzing myself!)

I imagine I'm not the only one with major body image issues. From what I've read from others, it seems to go with the territory a bit, though not everyone--which is why stereotypes are dangerous. Honestly, I don't know all the answers with this one yet. I know that it is bad for me to hate myself, and certainly things that deteriorate self-esteem need to be addressed and conquered. I don't know HOW to fix it but I know it needs to be fixed. Or maybe I just struggle with it my whole life like SSA? Who knows. On the one side, there are parts of it that aren't a problem. For example, wanting to look good and wearing trendy clothes is not a sin (once again, my wardrobe isn't really actually that trendy, but I wish it were more so and typically do pretty well with what I have). And yet I feel guilt attached to the feelings. I suppose it is similar to the way I am trying to stop feeling guilty about being attracted to men--something that in and of itself isn't wrong, but which I've been telling myself is for years.

Anyway, while I haven't figured out the solution to this particular problem yet, I do find solace in these verses from the first chapter of the Bible:

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; mal and female created he them.

If ever I feel like my body is subpar, it helps at least in part to remember who it's modeled after. Any advice on this topic would be appreciated. :D

My best,


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One month at War (Isaiah 2:4)

Today marks one month since this blog began. It's come a really long way since then, as have I. This blog has been an outlet, a source of therapy, a forum for discussion, and a chance to connect with new friends. I've learned a lot about myself and have treasured the opportunity to view the scriptures through the unique lens of my trials. Here's a quick rundown of the blog's first month:

Total number of visitors: 927
Total number of posts: 19
Countries read in: 10 (top three: United States, Russia, United Kingdom)

Top posts this month, in order of popularity:
Forsaken (Matthew 27:46)
Love thy Neighbor (Matthew 22:35-39)
Grace and Gasoline (2 Nephi 25:23)

These make sense given how much they've been shared and reshared across the internet by loyal readers. Honestly, I couldn't be happier because if I were to pick three favorite posts I'd prefer to see garner attention, these would be them! (Though I'd probably reverse the order). You should expect  to see yesterday's post about telling my parents top the list pretty soon though, it is already in fourth place after only 24 hours!

Above all things this blog has been so far, it has been my effort to go to war. Of course, as the "Love thy Neighbor" post listed above explains, my warfare is waged in LOVE ONLY. One of the primary reasons I started this blog was to share my blessings, love, and support with others caught in the crossfire. This is a war for the souls of men. I hope no group or individual feels like they are my opponent in it. Indeed, I hope rather to be a comrade to all. The war is on Evil, Hate, Sin, Prejudice, and all other vices Satan employs. I wage the war in my soul every day, but knew that I had insights I could bring to the larger battlefield. Guess what? So do you! As a hymn reminds us:

Then don't stand idly looking on, the fight with sin is real;
It will be long but must go on, put your shoulder to the wheel!

If you have a drop of testimony, please share it. We are all enlisted to help each other draw closer to the God of heaven. I have been incredibly supported personally by other blogs here in cyber-world (see my list of great uplifting picks on the side bar--by no means comprehensive!). You may have the words that can help someone struggling! Sometimes the "(Gay) Mormon Guy" blog or "You Don't Know Me" or "Masked Man" or any of the others there on the side have had just the right thing for me. Tomorrow I might need your input.

War is scary. I haven't had fun every minute by any means! I don't enjoy conflict. I regularly now get threatening emails on account of this blog! But the war must be fought today until that great last day when the prophecy of Isaiah (chapter 2:4) will be fulfilled which says:

"And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

I long for that day. One day peace and righteousness will prevail. In the meantime, welcome to the battle. How are ways you fight?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Telling My Parents (D&C 3:1)

John Steinbeck got the title for his book Of Mice and Men from a poem by Robert Burns. Many people think that it suggests the contrast between the strong and the weak of character. The meaning of the book and the context of the poem suggest otherwise. The lines from the poem say:

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,

(The word "schemes" is often misquoted as "plans").

The poem and the book are both thematically sobering, presenting a pessimistic message that no matter how hard we try, we can't have our dreams. That all our plans will always fall through and we just have to suffer through it. And yet there have been times in my life that I've realized that while the two lines quoted above are often true, they aren't always bad. You see, this last weekend I told my parents about my attraction to men. It didn't go in any way according to plan. It went so much better. Let me tell you the story of my Christmas miracle.

So, for weeks while lying in bed at night as an insomniac I've role-played telling my parents a thousand different ways. There were so many different ways I thought of, but here were the common denominators in all my hypothetical scenarios that I was sure of:

*I would tell them together.
*We would talk when other siblings weren't even in the home and I could be completely private.
*I would wait until after Christmas entirely, so as to not detract from the holiday.

Well, read carefully to see how many of those "best laid plans" came to pass:

On Christmas Eve I was in the kitchen helping my mother prepare a turkey dinner. Everyone else was in the living room watching a movie. She knew something was on my mind. I told her we'd talk about it later. She then looked me in the eyes and asked if I was having same-gender attraction issues. I immediately realized that my best laid plans had begun to fall through. We talked very briefly and hushed so that others wouldn't hear. I assured her that I was temple worthy and always would be. I asked her if she had long suspected it and if that's why she asked. She replied that she had never had that thought before actually. (That was reassuring. I constantly worry about people discovering my secret.) I guess I don't know entirely why she asked. My mom has always been rather perceptive though, and it shouldn't really have surprised me. She always has known when something is wrong with me emotionally, scholastically, even financially. I don't need to delve into every detail here, but she said one thing that was very interesting. She mentioned that since my birth she always knew that I would be given unique trials, and now she knew what that meant. My mom had no problem with it. I knew she wouldn't. She was sad for me, but had no worries. I explained that she couldn't talk to dad--I needed to do that myself. I also explained that I'd already told by older brother before I came out for Christmas, but that I didn't want any of my other siblings to know. She agreed with me and my reasons for wanting that before I even told her that.

Given the time and place our conversation wasn't very long. It couldn't be. I felt bad knowing that she inevitably had lots of questions we just couldn't talk about right away. What about the girlfriends I've had? How do I plan on finding a wife? Who have I told? So many questions. Feeling bad for her, that night I slipped her a note with my blog address, explaining simply that she could find answers to lots of her questions there. She read all the November and the first few December posts that night.

Obviously at this point my paradigm of telling my parents had been quite disrupted. But the job was only half done and my mind began redefining what it would do next. I quickly decided that perhaps the best way to proceed was to tell my father one-on-one, just as I had with my mother. In fact, suddenly this seemed like a better way of doing things than my original plan had been. I also knew that my mom was hoping I'd choose sooner rather than later, since she couldn't talk with him until I did first. Yesterday, at the end of Christmas night, we knelt down for family prayer. My Dad said it, and before he did he mentioned that while our Christmas had been much smaller than usual due to bad financial times, the greatest gifts the he hoped we knew we received from them were those of love and testimony. My Dad always goes up to bed first and reads for a while every night. When he made that last statement before heading upstairs, my heart felt his words almost like an invitation to follow him up and speak with him. I paced in the hallway in thought/prayer for a couple minutes first. I had rehearsed many times a million ways to begin the conversation. With my mom I hadn't had to because SHE did. Now, though, it would be in my hands. All the sentences I'd previously imagined instantly evaporated and I knew what I needed to say. It was a new approach I'd never thought of and which I couldn't have really used if I had told my parents together. And so I knocked on the door.

The first 30 seconds in my Dad's room were 30 of the hardest seconds of my life. Many people with SSA often discuss strained childhood relatonships wth their fathers as related to the root "nurture" causes of their SSA. Some others I've communicated with personally see this as a significant factor. I don't actually believe that to be the case for me personally. I think I've always had a good relationship with my father. Nonetheless, a man's father is a significant figure in his life. Fathers are their sons' measure of manhood. Though I've done a lot in the last month to overcome feelings of shame associated with my SSA tendencies, telling my father was still incredibly difficult. The conversation was beautiful. I'm not going to put too many of the details here. I could tell it surprised him a little bit, but nonetheless, I have rarely felt as loved as I did for those twenty minutes.

Well, if you go back to compare my list above of details I planned on for telling my parents, you'll quickly find that none of my best laid plans came to pass. And yet I've had beautiful moments of connection with my parents. In fact, things went better than the hypotheticals I've been playing in my head for a month now. There's a rather common Jewish proverb which says, "Man plans, God laughs." Once again, as with the poetry quoted at the beginning of this post, this could be negative, but it really can have such positive explanations. After all, among the scariest verses in scripture are those wherein God gets fed up with people and leaves them to their own designs. Things don't typically work out very well when that happens. Sometimes, when our plans fall through it is because God has better ideas for us and HASN'T abandoned us. If we can trust Him, we soon learn that this is a good thing, because we've been told about His plans in Doctrine and Covenants 3:1 the following:

The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.

So indeed, while the best laid plans of mice and men often go askew, those of God cannot be defeated. When those plans are for us, the only thing that can stand in front of their fulfillment is ourselves. I'm so grateful that God loves me enough to have had better plans for me this weekend. And I love my parents. They are fantastic people, who I know have always kept my happiness and that of my siblings at the forefront of their own plans and have trusted the plans of God to help see that goal fulfilled.

I cannot universally recommend telling your parents if you or a friend experiences SSA. I think in nearly every case it probably is more helpful than anything else. However, all circumstances will be unique. I've been blessed with very loving and understanding parents. Not all parents are that way. If yours aren't that doesn't mean they aren't good people though. But you need to love them either way.

I hope you've all had a very merry Christmas.

My best,


Friday, December 23, 2011

A Merry Mormon Christmas! (3 Nephi 1:13)

Sorry for no post yesterday--it was a totally busier day than I anticipated! Anyway, I totally wanted to put up a post on body image issues, as that subject has been on my mind lately, but I think this will be my last chance to post before Christmas, so I wanted to put up a special Christmas post! My day today is pretty much planned out and I'll be driving home for the holidays (finally!!!) a significant portion of the time, not getting in until early morning hours on Christmas Eve. I definitely don't plan to blog on Christmas Eve or Christmas either. :) So, my body image post will have to wait. In fact, it will probably be delayed almost a week, because in the days right after Christmas I'm planning on telling my parents (eek!) so I'm sure that topic is going to consume my blogging time. Anyway...

One of my favorite Christmas stories is the one told in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi chapter 1. The believers of Christ have been waiting the five years Samuel prophecied for Christ to come. When the fifth year arrives without any signs of the Savior's birth, there begins to be some conflict...

5 There were some who began to say that he time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel the Lamanite.
6 And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.

Some people are just waiting for God to be wrong. They relish the thought and can't wait for the slightest bit of proof against God, usually merely to validate their lives lived contrary to His will. I bear no ill will for people like this. If there are some who don't want to be part of my "joy and faith concerning this thing," then so be it. Their loss. I hope we can still be friends. Unfortunately for those in our story, the unbelievers aren't satisfied merely sitting back passively disagreeing. Quite to the contrary, in fact:

9 Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions [the prophecied signs of the Savior's birth] should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had ben given by Samuel the prophet.

Nephi, the prophet, is a little concerned (to put it lightly). He's already had to be patient when the sign didn't come right at the 5 year mark from Samuel's prophecies. Now if the sign doesn't come, he and all his loved ones are going to be killed! So, he kneels down to talk to God about it and receives the following glorious message from the Lord:

13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

That to me is as classic a Christmas verse as the entirety of Luke 2 (and if you've been tracking the scriptures I use on this blog, you've probably noticed that I value the New Testamen pretty highly!). I love how the first words Christ speaks--a message to "Be of good cheer"--echo the sentiments expressed to Mary and to the shepherds in the Old World. I love also the reminder of the reward for Nephi's patience--that God fulfills everything He promises.

I also love the insight this story gives into why God can't solve all my trials for me whenever I want: because the world is a big place and God has other children too! Think about it: it would have been really nice for Nephi and the believers if the signs had just happened on the exact 5 year mark from Samuel's prophecy. But if God had spared them that trial, think about the implications for Joseph and Mary! Who knows how premature the birth would have been or what other disadvantageous circumstances would have come about. I mean, even to scoot the time up by one day would have meant that Mary would have given birth in the wilderness somewhere between Nazareth and Bethlehem. Not ideal. Furthermore, perhaps what the saints in Nephi's land really needed was that trial of patience to make them truly firm in their faith.

I've said it before on this blog, but it never hurts to say it again: living a faithful LDS covenant life with SSA is a game of patience. I have faith that God "will fulfil all that which [He has] caused to be spoken by the mouth of [His] holy prophets." If I live faithful I will find my eternal companion, as has been promised me. It might not be soon. What if it isn't in this life? So be it. I will wait, and along the way I will "be of good cheer!"

To all you faithful readers, many of whom have become great friends though I've never seen your faces: I love you! I wish everyone the Merriest Christmas and will write again to you after Christmas Day.

My best,


P.S. If you want an absolutely absurd Christmas laugh, check out this blog post from what is probably one of the strangest but funniest Mormon blogs out there:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Inner Peace (John 14:27)

So, for a variety of unimportant reasons, I am not leaving Provo to go "home" (meaning where my family lives--not necessarily where I grew up) for the holidays until Friday evening. Meanwhile, nearly everyone in my ward is gone and most of my other friends, so yesterday I was alone almost all day just doing work from my computer. Being inside my apartment and not connecting with anybody can really drive a person mad--and some thoughts in relation to SSA were weighing especially heavy on me and I was kind of an emotional basket case for no reason whatsoever. I've mainly been filled with lots of doubts and skepticism regarding my friendships lately, and so having all your friends leave for the holidays while you are still stuck there doesn't leave one in the best mental state. In this shaky emotional state, I then had an even more emotionally confusing evening, but for you to understand, I will unfortunately have to dig into a painful recent chapter of my life:

This last summer I met a girl who, miracle of miracles, I was attracted to in the physical attraction dimension (for more on dimensions of attraction, see my post from a few days ago on true love). For a little while this last semester we dated. Don't ask me for details about what happened. Suffice it to say that it didn't work out and my heart broke more than it ever had with any of my other short-lived, failed, attempted relationships. Are you a fan of William Yeats? So am I. :P One of my favorite poems he wrote is "The Second Coming," mainly for 2 lines that tend to describe either my life's events or my psychological state at least once every other week. I have them by heart and recite them to myself often. They say:

"Things fall apart, the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

Well, when my short-lived relationship came apart at the seams, that's exactly what happened not only literally to the relationship, but quite personally to me emotionally. She was the first person since a girl in high school that I felt true physical attraction for and I felt like I had squandered the miracle of finding her when things didn't work out. Up to that point in my life, I had very directly refused to acknowledge my SSA in my own mind (ironic since such a direct refusal of recognition is in itself a form of acknowledgment). I kept telling myself that if I told myself I didn't like men long enough, then one day I'd wake up and it would come true! Back in May, before I met her, I had gone into a depressing funk wherein I first began to come to terms with the fact that I was attracted to men (a fact that the back of my mind had been keenly aware since 8th grade with some early remnants perhaps as early as age 4). That's when things first started to fall apart emotionally for me (In May, not at age 4!). I started getting on the internet A LOT and reading things that were the opposite of what I needed. Thankfully I didn't get tangled in porn, but got dangerously close to it many times and did get into a phase of reading gay romance stories, often having to skim through the parts that got erotic. (Wow, I can't believe that I just put that out there. That's actually a huge relief to admit!)

When I met her, it was like a clear answer to prayer. It seemed like I had finally woken up from the nightmare and those years of telling myself I was actually attracted to girls had paid off! When the "center could not hold" and "things fell apart," all of the turmoil returned. I tried desparately to be attracted to just about any and every other girl I saw, but I was actually just finding more and more men than ever that thrilled, excited, and even aroused me. That's when I decided to hunker down and begin my journey of discovering who I was--a story that has been unfolding on this blog. And through it all I've had an emotional roller-coaster. I have never felt so much fear, but neither have I ever felt so much inner peace and confidence! My past posts so far, of course, tell the story of my increase in understanding and being honest with myself and how that honesty has set me free and allowed me to approach my SSA in a healthy and uplifting way. God stepped in to help me with that. If I had returned to and continued approaching this subject the way I was going about it back in May and June before I met her, I can guarantee that today my testimony would be significantly impaired, if still intact at all. I'm almost certain I'd have eventually yielded to pornography and masturbation, and may have already even had some gay hookups. I'm very serious when I say that God intervened with a series of miracles this last semester to help point me in a direction of healthy, spiritual self-discovery so that I could understand this side of myself on spiritually safe ground.

So, with that lengthy preface I return to yesterday. I was, as I said, once again in a state of emotional turmoil, as still happens from time to time for various reasons. Things got even more complicated when a girl from my ward who is also still stuck in Provo asked me if I wanted to go caroling and watch a movie with her. This girl is the one in the ward that every guy wants--super fun, super social, spiritual giant RM, and to most men very attractive. She has quite curiously not been in a relationship this semester, and I think most people have wondered why, especially since nearly every guy in the ward has asked her out. I was telling a friend of mine in the ward the other day that she could probably have her pick of any guy in the ward, and he seemed to agree with me. Those words kind of came back to bite me last night when, while watching "Kung Fu Panda 2" she kept getting closer and at one point started to put her hand on mine. I began to realize that she might have just made up her mind about which guy she wanted to pick, and what if it's me!!!

In many ways I have longed for a steady and happy relationship with SOMEONE for a long time, so the thought of being in a relationship with her is very appealing. At the same time, I just wrote on Saturday on this very blog how I could never marry someone unless I was attracted to her. I also feel like I'd never want to date someone I knew I could never marry because you are otherwise just postponing a painful breakup that will only be worse the longer you put it off. So my mind has been playing a game of trying to convince itself that I'm attracted to her--after all, she actually looks a lot like the girl I recently dated and in non-physical dimensions of attraction, I AM attracted to her. But all of that psychological guessing game garbage will have to be postponed for a later post (mainly because I'm still chewing on it).

It didn't help that the movie was Kung Fu Panda 2. I know that sounds weird, but I hadn't seen it before and therefore had no idea how relevant its themes would be to my life and dilemmas. I'm only slightly embarassed to admit that I cry easily in movies and then feel really stupid when I cry during something as utterly silly as Kung Fu Panda 2. Luckily I'm 90% sure the girl didn't see my tears. Anyway, (spoiler alert) in the movie the protagonist Po becomes hindered in his abilities until he goes on a painful journey of self-discovery to find out new truths about himself that he's been repressing his entire life. By exploring painful truths about himself and his past, he is able to find "inner peace" and master those feelings, using them to IMPROVE his abilities and the person he is. Sound familiar? Yeah--it was like the last emotional 8 months of my life being relived in a CGI Dreamworks film at the end of an emotionally taxing day amidst an emotionally confusing setting of receiving affection from a girl any man would die for but whom I fail to feel physical attraction for!

Needless to say I got home in even more emotional stress. And then God did something wonderful. He made good on the promise Christ gave to his disciples in John 14:27, and which He offers to all His faithful disciples throughout time:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Like Po in Kung Fu Panda 2, I was blessed to once again find the inner peace that God has helped make my companion over the past month of discovering myself since the break-up. God took the trouble and fear from my heart (hearkening back again to the first scripture of this blog from 2 Timothy 1:7-8). He replaced it with peace and patience. To a degree He filled it with understanding, but honestly not much. But He did offer the patiece to believe that understanding is forthcoming. I still have lots of questions. I have no idea what I'm going to do about this other girl (keep reading in the future and you'll probably find out). I am still concerned about pursuing healthy male friendships and some of the complications related thereto. Nonetheless, God has given me peace and I know somehow that things will be all right.

What I love about the verse above from John is the reminder that the ways God gives us peace are not the same as the world's techniques. I get several emails a week from disgruntled readers telling me that I would be happier if I just left the Church and moved in with other gay men and lived that life. And yet, back in May and June when my testimony was more on the brink than it's ever been, I was filled with depression and confusion. The more of the world I let in, the less peace I felt. By contrast, despite days like yesterday the last month of my life has been one of the most sublimely peaceful in many ways. I have truly loved it. Last night I didn't gain inner peace by turning to gay porn or masturbation or by cursing God, as the world would tell me to do to gain peace. Instead, I prayed. Honestly, it didn't immediately give me too much peace. Then, however, I checked my email and read some uplifting messages from some of my new online support-group friends from North Star (if you don't know what that is, click on that link and find out today!!!) who said a few things that I'm sure the Spirit prompted them to that calmed my troubled heart. We're very confidential with what we discuss in the group, so I can't share any specifics here, but I can say that I suddenly felt the voice of the Spirit again, reminding me that God gives us peace in His own way and time. Sometimes it is through others who are spiritually atuned. One email was a very simple message directly to me extended from another member of North Star but not through the discussion forum channels. We have conversed electronically a bit in the past few days and just seeing his friendly note helped me immensely when I needed it last night. (Thanks again--you know who you are!)

Today I am happy. I have lots of peace--I must, because I couldn't have written this rather personal and difficult post without it! Don't let the world sell you counterfeit peace. God's original product beats all the flawed reproductions, and He is willing to offer it gladly to you--but He will give it in His own way and time, not in the way the world or even you may expect or demand Him to.

Thanks again to my friends in North Star. God leading me to you was one of His greatest miracles in this journey yet.

My best,


P.S. If you are having a particularly depressing day and need a more humorous pick-me-up, go to a computer with a web-cam, turn up the volume, and visit the site below, courtesy of the Old Spice Guy, who I hope even straight guys have a crush on. ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Feeling like Abimelech (Genesis 20:6-7)

A couple weeks ago I wrote a delicate and difficult post about my crush on a man I code-named "Methuselah." That was my first post to address the difficulty of friendship for people with SSA, and it only loosely addressed the subject. Perhaps one reason I haven't written much on that front is that friendship is a topic I still get the most confused and frustrated over. But today I'm going to try tackling part of that topic again and update the story of my friendship with Methuselah.

In case the code name "Methuselah" or my own pseudonym Obadiah didn't clue you off, I have a strong penchant for the Old Testament. Today's post is based around a story from the Old Testament that lots of people know, and many people talk about in relation to the lie that is told, but I'd actually like to consider from an entirely different perspective. I'm referring to the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech found in Genesis 20. This is very similar to a story in Genesis 13, substituting Pharaoh for Abimelech, but this second account is more enlightening, in-depth, and useful to my purposes to today. In short, the story goes like this:

Abraham and Sarah are moving south to Gerar where they meet the King of Gerar, whose name is Abimelech. Just as they did in Egypt and other places they've gone, Abraham tells Abimelech that Sarah is his sister. As verse 12 explains, this isn't exactly a lie--the word "sister" denotes more of a close female relative, which Sarah actually was. There is deception, however, in neglecting to tell him that Sarah is also his wife. Abimelech desires Sarah, who is very attractive, and has her brought to him. God then comes to Abimelech in a dream and tells him not to take Sarah for wife or he'll bring upon himself a curse for adultery. Abimelech is stunned and asks God what adultery would be going on. He says he's always tried to do the right thing and has never been an adulterer, and as far as he knew, Sarah was merely Abraham's sister. God gently responds in verses 6-7:

"Yea, I know that thou didst this [took Sarah with intent to marry her] in the integrty of thy heart; for I also withheldthee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee."

Abimelech obeys, returning Sarah and giving Abraham great gifts of livestock and land. His desire for Sarah still somewhat lingers, but it becomes easier to put aside because he knows Abraham and Sarah on a spiritual level. They remain great friends the remainder of their lives. Everywhere Abraham goes, he plays this game of telling people that Sarah is his sister. Sometimes, as with the case of Pharaoh in chapter 13, he knows that to do otherwise would mean risking being killed and Sarah stolen. In each case, by the time it is discovered that she is his wife, the man lusting after Sarah has come to know and respect Abraham on a spiritual level, and their lust isn't strong enough to prompt them to kill him anymore.

Now, what does a very heterosexual story like that have to do with me? I have learned throughout my life that when I get to know someone spiritually it is easier to tame my lusts. Adapting the story to my SSA attraction patterns, I would say that sometimes I meet Abrahams (or "Methuselahs") who I am very attracted to. This attraction can drive me crazy, as described in my earlier post from a couple weeks ago. The worst part is the physical reaction--when even someone's smile can trigger arousal so I go days without looking at them, but then can't keep from imagining them when I lay down at night. I've discussed in other posts ways to keep those thoughts from going too far, and the fact that the simple attraction itself isn't anything to be ashamed of--as long as you aren't trying to arouse yourself because of it. Well, I feel like I had mostly done a pretty good job of handling that attraction and not letting my thoughts stray too often. Nonetheless, I tried a technique that has worked for me in the past with some other men to make even more progress and it worked: I got to know him even better!

I actually ended up hanging out with him in several social settings including a pretty big party I helped organize. One day we just talked about life in general and specifically our testimonies. That's the clincher. Once I get to know someone on that level of testimony, it becomes infinitely easier to keep my thoughts for them chaste. I think this is why it was so easy on my mission to not have many thought problems: I constantly got to know everyone on a spiritual level. I'm not going to lie: I was attracted to some of my companions, and VERY attracted to one of them, but my thoughts could never go to dirty places because by knowing their testimonies they became something sacred to me and my mind wouldn't allow itself to defile them. Think: could you ever think an impure thought about the Savior? I absolutely couldn't. I'm not capable of it! He is too sacred for that. By knowing other people on a sacred basis, I am able to avoid unchaste thoughts about them. I still find "Methuselah" very attractive, but like Abimelech seeing Abraham as holy and letting his spiritual respect overrule his lust, I find it easier now to interact with my friend without my emotions going haywire.

Maybe this technique is just for me, and honestly I don't think I've conveyed very well in this post what I was trying to, but I hope something here has been helpful. Another blog has said everything I've said here in basically one sentence: "Generally, most attractions for me diminish if I can talk with and demystify the man." There are still lots of complications regarding friendship with other men I've left completely unaddressed in this post. I'm sure I'll write many more of them in the future. That's all for today, though.

My best,


Monday, December 19, 2011

Grace and Gasoline (2 Nephi 25:23)

Before I dig into writing this post, I want to comment on the power of hymns. This morning I was having some of the strongest urges of attraction for a man that I've felt in a long time. I just started playing some hymns and the effect was almost instant. I felt my longing for companionship immediately filled by the companionship of the Holy Ghost reassuring me and helping things subside. I believe God is a musician. He gave us sacred music as one of the most fierce weapons in our arsenal.

Now onto today's post:

Have you ever pushed a car a quarter mile because it was out of gas? So have I. Last night at 1:00 AM. (Long story...) Anyway, I learned some great spiritual truths in the process that I'd like to share today, building upon other lessons I've learned in the past.

Think of life like a road trip from New York to San Diego (2 of my favorite cities!). I have likened my own life to this analogy many times. Bear in mind that San Diego here represents not just any end of the journey, but the one we most desire--it is like Eternal Life in the Celestial Kingdom. There are many detours we could take along the way that could prevent us from getting there and cause us to settle for a less-desired destination.

Now think of how the Atonement fits this scenario. For many years I thought that the Atonement was like the windshield wiper fluid of our journey: used to help us clean off the bugs and crud we collect along the way. Oh what a silly and simplistic analogy that is, I've learned! Honestly, the Atonement DOES actually fill the role of cleansing us, but it is so much more important than that as well! After all, if all it did was clean us when we got dirty, then it wouldn't do much to help those of us with SSA until after we made mistakes. I've learned that it helps much more than that along the way!

While on my mission for a while the car my companion and I had experienced problems with its power steering. Have you ever driven a car without power steering? It's something we all take for granted until it's gone. Turning a car going 45 mph without power steering is not an easy task! It was that experience that began to help me realize what GRACE is. Grace has been defined as "the enabling power of the Atonement." It gives us the power to do the right thing. Life truly is like a road trip, but on my mission I began to realize that the Atonement isn't merely like unto wiper fluid--it is power steering fluid! Try making that road trip from NY to SD without power steering. You'd be left to rely completely on your own strength to make each needed turn along the way. Technically we are capable of getting there on our own--that is, all have agency and COULD technically make all the right choices and turn to get to the end on our own, but without power steering it is made a lot more difficult.

Then last night I learned that even my power steering analogy was far to simplistic a model to describe the help of the Atonement in our lives. Power Steering is indeed much like the enabling power of grace, but even that still makes it much like a convenience than a need. Grace is more like gasoline. Let me explain by first quoting a favorite verse of Latter-day Saints from the Book of Mormon. From 2 Nephi 25:23 we read:

"For we labor diligently to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do."

Unfortunately, the reason lots of latter-day saints love this verse is because of those last five words, "after all we can do." They read it with super emphasis on that phrase in order to both diminish the importance of grace in the passage and glorify the role of works. How many times have you heard this verse read, "it is by grace [this word is read softly and timidly, like it's some cuss word or something] that we are saved AFTER ALL WE CAN DO!!!!!!!!!" This is generally followed by some kind of raucous celebration about the doctrine of works. Brethren and sisters, these things ought not so to be! Indeed, in context of the chapter, I think we are reading that verse completely backwards. The entire chapter is about our dependence upon Christ. Look what happens when we switch the final phrases of the verse around:

"For we labor diligently to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that after all we can do, it is by grace that we are saved."

We haven't actually changed the meaning of the verse at all, merely the point of emphasis. That way we begin to see that even all those good things we do don't save us--grace does! Here's where everything ties together:

Last night pushing a car with no gas just a quarter mile to the Chevron, my mind went back to my good ol' road trip analogy and I realized that once again it was *technically* possible to get the car all the way from New York to San Diego without any gas. But doing so would kill me! (By the way--the car is essential to the trip and can't be abandoned or left behind mid-way in my analogy.) I even had the help of a benevolent stranger and it still wasn't fun or easy. The car suddenly became a symbol to me of the natural man and our bodies. We absolutely need them for eternal life, but unaided they actually become a hindrance that can prevent us from reaching our eternal goal. However, when we are able to control the vehicle it is actually just as essential to getting us there! Christ's grace is an enabling power that helps us not only clean the windows and steer the car, but also to move forward with strength far beyond our own.

Seeing the Atonement through that lens, it becomes incredibly applicable to SSA whether or not we fall into transgression. At the beginning of this post I mentioned an incredibly strong surge in attraction and lustful feelings I felt this morning. I of myself could not control that urge without incredible effort beyond what I will always be able to render. The gift of the Spirit though, available by the Grace of God, helped me immediately dispel those feelings. I definitely don't have the strength to push my car (literal or figurative) to San Diego! But with wiper fluid, power steering, and gasoline, I am enabled to present my vehicle clean and successfully driven to that great destination for final inspection before the Lord.

Perhaps my favorite part of this analogy is that while emphasizing the absolute necessity of grace, it doesn't undermind agency or works either. Even with unlimited gasoline and power steering, I must drive the car! I can still choose to squander those great endowments of grace and take forbidden paths or drive recklessly, risking an accident. Only by careful driving in the right direction by my own free will can I get there. Nonetheless, if left to myself with no gas I'll never get there.

Don't try pushing your car alone. It isn't fun and you'll never get there. Your struggles with the natural man are just too heavy! Rely on the Lord and He will enable you with His grace.

My best,


Saturday, December 17, 2011

True Love (D&C 42:22)

This is a topic I've needed to address, and haven't been sure how. Thankfully, I've been given a fantastic prod by a reader who posed a question in the comments to my last post. Here's part of her comment that I feel brings up really important points I need to address:

"I am not Mormon; I am not gay; I am not male. (I am a 45-year old, straight, heterosexual woman). However, I stumbled upon your blog. I respect people's beliefs. I would like to pose a question to you, and it is based on the experience a friend of mine recently had: when you find the woman you decide to marry, how will you justify living a lie with her (to yourself, to God)? Or, even if you find someone and choose to be honest with, how can you tell her she will never be your true love?"
I am so grateful to this reader for bringing up these issues and in a way forcing me to address them. (By the way, I just have to add the following about the author of this comment: If you read her full comment on my last post you'll further appreciate her respect for other people and other faiths. You can't know how much it touches me to see others compassionate towards my FAITH. Most people not of the Church have a very hard time appreciating or understanding my choice to stick with my faith despite my attractions to men. From this wonderful woman I felt respect for my decisions and I thank her deeply for that.) So, on to the questions raised...
I think the first thing that stands out to me is the last two words: "true love." I don't believe in the concept of a soul-mate, or of a single individual being the only one we can truly be happy with. I love Disney movies that portray a beautiful princess and handsome prince who seem destined for each other and none other, but I don't believe that's how it works in real life. Honestly, this world is filled with 7 Billion fantastic people, and though I know I'm not compatible with all 7 Billion of them, there are certainly many individuals--male and female--who I could connect with emotionally, intellectually, socially, spiritually, and physically and be incredibly happy with in a long-term committed monogamous relationship. My attraction patterns make the demographics of that potential good-match pool predominantly male, but I am certain it is not exclusively so.
I'm sure that a huge portion of my likely audience is familiar with the studies of American Scientist Alfred Kinsey in the 1940's into human sexuality. He is most famous for his studies of homosexuality, and was truly the first pioneer scientist to research the topic in great depth. He is extremely controversial and I don't necessarily agree with everything he said, or with all his methodologies, but I actually think his fundamental thesis on sexual attraction was spot-on and resonates as truth to me. For those of you unfamiliar with his studies, Kinsey developed a scale of homosexual attraction from 0 to 6. A 0 means you are 100% straight--absolutely attracted exclusively to the opposite gender and have never in your life felt an incling of attraction for the same gender. A 6 denotes the opposite end of the spectrum--absolute attraction exclusively to the same gender without any inclings of attraction for the opposite. A 3 can denote either perfectly balanced bisexuality or even asexuality--either way, your levels and frequency of attraction for either gender are equal in strength. What Kinsey ultimately concluded after decades of study is that deep, deep down in our sub-subconscious or whatever, we are all basically bisexual, but a series of factors, whether biological or environmental (the nature vs. nurture discussion) cause most of us to lean to one side or the other. Yet, he believe that a true 0 or 6 was actually very, very hard to find--if it even existed at all. Sure, there are lots of 1's and 5's, and even 0.1's and 5.9's but the enormous majority of those he tested, at least once in their lives, would find some sort of "exception case" to their typical patterns of attraction, because we are deep down all bisexual and the hormones or neural firings related to attraction could potentially be caused in certain cases to fire off unusually for the something out of the norm to our typical patterns. If you are a heterosexual reading this, though you'll probably never say it out loud I'll bet that if you think about it you may think of an instance in your life (often during teenage years) that you felt even kind of attracted to at least one individual of your same gender. This may have even made you very uncomfortable or confused, and you may have fought very hard to repress it, but you're actually quite normal and it doesn't even mean you necessarily have any SSA proclivities at all. It just means you might be a 0.1 instead of a 0.
Anyway, what did that long scientific tangent have to do with the topic at hand? Well, let me return to my thoughts on compatible matches for a happy relationship. Like I said, the majority of people in my pool of possibilities are men. I mentioned that compatability is centered on a variety of dimensions (I'd love to explore that concept more in-depth in a future post). I think Kinsey's studies primarily apply to that physical dimension, and secondarily to the emotional dimension, though certainly with some ties to the others as well. Looking at my life, thinking about my own attraction patterns, I think I'm about a Kinsey 5.8 if we limit the definition primarily to just the physical and emotional dimensions of attraction. I would be absolutely lying to say I've never felt and physical/emotional attraction to a girl, but I'd also be lying if I said that those happen frequently or with the same strength of attraction I feel for men. There are really 3 girls in my life I've felt more than a weak and fleeting attraction for--one in junior high, one in high school, and one actually quite recently in college (once again--lots here for future posts). The fact is, there ARE girls in my pool of potential candidates, but they are outnumbered by 100:1, or maybe even 10000:1 by men.
So far I've not done the best job of answering my anonymous reader's questions. Forgive me, but I felt like all of that was necessary preface material to understanding my response, because they give you insight into my mentality and the lenses through which I view the world (we all wear lenses, by the way). So, there are really two questions posed. Let me take each one idividually:
1. When you find the woman you decide to marry, how will you justify living a lie with her (to yourself, to God)?
I will not, cannot live a lie--to myself, to God, perhaps especially to my future wife. I've done the whole living a lie to myself thing, and have learned (as I've commented in earlier posts) that the truth truly sets us free. I don't have to tell everyone about my feelings and attractions, though I'm done lying about it too. I could NEVER get married without letting her know about being attracted primarily to men. Indeed, much of this blog is perhaps intended for her sake, whoever she is, to be able to read more about who I am. [I just had the most beautiful, forward-pointing deja-vu-like experience imagining my one-day fiancé reading this post. Dear fiancé: I love you, whoever you are!] I also adamantly believe that nobody with SSA should ever marry someone of the opposite gender WITHOUT telling them beforehand. She has a right to know before she agrees to marry you many key fundamental dimensions of your personality, including (but definitely not limited to) your attraction patterns! If she doesn't find out until after the wedding, you are setting up a recipe for feelings of betrayal and deception on her part. If you truly love her, you would never want to do that to her. (As a humorous side note, it seems like having her know could be a lot of fun, because then you could discuss together which actors are hot and which aren't--just kidding... kind of.) In short, I COULDN'T justify living a lie, as your question asks, and hope that nobody ever does. Truth sets us free and honesty will always be the best policy.
 2. Even if you find someone and choose to be honest with [her], how can you tell her she will never be your true love?"
This is where we have to return to what I posed earlier about true love--that it isn't a fairy tale thing between 2 exclusively destined individuals. When we see true love that way, we tend to think of it as a noun phrase--i.e., he or she is my true love. I rather like to think of it as a verb--i.e. I truly love him or her. While romantic love has relation to delicate matters of attraction beyond our control, ultimately the love itself is a verb--something we DO and CHOOSE--not merely a noun describing something that happens to us. To render true love means to offer absolute commitment for an individual. There are many forms of love and not all are romantically founded, and so that definition applies to the relationship we should try to cultivate with all people, but adding a romantic dimension merely magnifies the principle. To truly love, we give ourselves completely to someone else and make their interests the key driving force of our own. We strive to strengthen our ties of attraction in ALL its dimensions. For me, I meet plenty of girls who I connect with intellectually and spiritually. I even connect from time to time on the emotional level, and on rare occasions even the physical dimension. To truly love a girl romantically, I need all of those dimensions to line up. It is okay if some dimensions are a stronger attraction than others (spiritual tends to matter most to me), but I won't marry a girl I have absolutely no physical attraction for. That means I may have to be patient, because I don't meet girls like that very often. However, it has happened, even if relationships didn't work out. I am filled with hope that I'll find one of those girls and both of us will not just "fall" in love (experience those initial pulls of attraction), but rather CHOOSE true, lasting love for each other.
So, my anonymous friend, I hope that makes sense. Your questions were very important. I have seen far too many stories of marriages painfully breaking up because the one experiencing SSA did not consider those factors in advance. I don't want to break any hearts. That may mean patience, but I'm willing to wait. I know that you said you were not a Mormon, but I'd like to introduce you to a scripture from the LDS canon which summarizes my thoughts on the true love of a spouse ever so beautifully. From 42:22 of the Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of inspired writings from modern prophets) we read the following beautiful passage:
"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."
I may be predominantly attracted to men my whole life, but there are girls out there compatible with me, and when I find one, I will give her all my heart, and cleave unto her and none else. Men who are predominantly attracted to other women are able to control and ignore their attractions to other girls to fulfill this command and experience its blessings, so why can't I? I won't lie to her, and I will wait until I find a girl I'm attracted to who loves me also, but when it happens, I am ready to offer her true love.
My best,

P.S. Sorry for the funky formatting issues going on with this post. Blogger won't do what I tell it to. Curse you, blogger! :(

Friday, December 16, 2011

Forsaken (Matthew 27:46)

Matthew 27:46 records one of the most heart-wrenching utterances ever given:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Have you ever felt that way? I have. Some nights my prayers are amazing two-way conversations that lift me up and give me direction. Other nights, I feel like I need to get out the cleaning supplies to scrub my seemingly unheard prayers off the ceiling. Those nights feel so lonely. The worst is feeling like I've obviously done something wrong to merit being ignored by my Creator. I've come to understand, slowly, that that's a dangerous line of thought that only breeds unnecessary depression. God doesn't fall silent only when we've displeased Him, because he didn't send us to Earth just to get constant step-by-baby-step direction anyway. If He told us every answer, it wouldn't be much of a test now would it? Besides, if feeling forsaken was always a sign of displeasing God, then Matthew 27:46 wouldn't exist, because Christ certainly never displeased God--and yet He once felt forsaken also.

I believe C.S. Lewis put it really well in his preface to the Screwtape letters when he said:

"God wants us to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with our stumbles. The cause of the adversary is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do His will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

Moral of the story: it's okay to feel forsaken. Indeed, it's IMPORTANT to feel forsaken sometimes. The choice is then ours what we will do in our seemingly forsaken state, and God is hoping it is to not give up but to keep moving forward. Just remember, that though He may fall silent and withdraw for a time behind the "pavilion that covereth [His] hidng place" (D&C 121:1), He never truly forsakes us. After all, why did He send Christ to Gethsemane and to Golgotha? "That he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:12). Sometimes He succors us by knowing the right times to let go of our hands and let us walk on our own. Thus His withdrawl becomes in fact a divine grace and reassurance that He absolutely hasn't forsaken us, but is helping us through our infirmities.

My best,


Monday, December 12, 2011

Verse-by-verse: James 1

Up to this point in my blog, I've based (at least loosely) each post around a small passage from the scriptures that I feel provides pivotal insight into key dimensions of my dichotomous psyche. Sometimes, however, a small passage is not enough. In my personal scripture study I sometimes come across larger chunks including entire chapters that build thematically around messages I really need at the time. So, today will be my first attempt to build a post around an extended passage, in this case the first chapter of the epistle of James. Hopefully this “verse-by-verse” approach will become a recurring feature here on the blog, because I already can think of a few other very profound chapters I’d love to showcase in the future. J It seems that occasionally approaching posts this way will give me the chance to let my true scripture-nerd side out a bit. And if this just isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Most posts will be more like my previous ones. But just humor me for a bit as I invite you to explore James 1 with me…

Background: James was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, the next-eldest in the family after Jesus (see Matt. 13:55). He was trained to be a Rabbi and was a devout scholar of the Torah. It seems that he actually did NOT accept the teachings of his important older brother during Christ’s mortal life. Nonetheless, Christ knew that he was a chosen vessel and appeared to him after his resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15:7) to help him realize the truth. From thereon out, he becomes one of the most important Church leaders in Jerusalem, serving there as the Bishop of the congregation there until his eventual call to the 12 (see Galatians 1:19). He served faithfully as an apostle until his martyrdom at the hands of the Sanhedrin in 61 AD. His life was an example of faithfulness through the humility to accept that you were wrong, and then spend your whole life working for what’s right from thereon out. (For fantastic insight on James, I highly recommend Dr. Richard Draper’s The Ministry of the Apostles [2010, BYU Academic Press], pages 46-47)

Chapter One:

1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that they trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Commentary: How to be a faithful gay Mormon—Step One: Experience temptations, and learn to be happy BECAUSE of them, not just DESPITE them. Note that “fall into” from verse two is from the Greek peripipto, meaning to be encompassed by, not to give into. Thus we aren’t being counseled here to be happy when we sin, but merely when we are surrounded by temptation (implicitly WITHOUT giving in). Once we realize that God has a purpose and knows what He’s doing, we can look at trials joyfully, knowing that they lead us to become like Him. And that’s a pretty happy ending!
Step Two: Learn patience. This is really the name of the game, isn’t it? My fellow faithful gay Mormons and I are continually waiting for the day that blessing of a happy marriage to a daughter of God will be fulfilled. But as verse four counsels, we also have to be patient while waiting to develop patience! We have to stand back and let our patience grow.
The mind blowing part: Verse three brilliantly connects these two ideas. Being gay Mormons, we know we have to experience unique temptations, and we know we need patience. James is telling us here that the first one HELPS the second! God knows we must have patience, so He sent us trials in order to work that patience in us, and THAT is why the trials should make us happy! Once the patience grows we can eventually be made perfect. I like that it says we will be made to be “wanting nothing.” I believe that the reason we won’t want anything, is because those wants have been fulfilled once we’ve qualified ourselves through patience. I’ll no longer be wanting a wife, because I’ll have found her because my patience was made perfect enough to be deserving of and ready to receive the blessing.
Moving on…

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Step Three: Learn to pray—no, not just “say prayers”—PRAY! Prayer was always meant to be a conversation WITH, not a dictation TO the Creator. You’ll never begin to understand your place in the Plan and the promises still extended to you unless you discuss your feelings with your Father in Heaven. He is willing and ready to talk about your attractions to the same gender with you! I dare you to give it a try.
This clump of verses contains a Mormon favorite, though considered all together they also can be discouraging and problematic at a first glance. How do we make our prayers “unwavering” as the verses ask? Does that mean we need to have a perfect knowledge of God to be able to get anything from Him? Well that doesn’t make any sense, because I can’t think of any scriptural instances of those who had perfect knowledge of Him who didn’t have to ask in order to obtain it in the first place! Then what does it mean to not waver when we ask? It means we have to actually desire the wisdom we are petitioning for. If we pray to God for an answer to a question, but deep down we really don’t want to know the answer, or won’t accept certain answers we wouldn’t like, then we can’t expect the Lord to give us that wisdom yet. We have become “double minded” men and women who can’t make up their mind what they want, and therefore are like waves of the sea, very easily moved about by other forces in many directions. We are thus to unstable to receive from God any measures of His Word, for they require a sure foundation.
So, at least as I read it, to not waver when we ask we have to be sure of our desire to learn from God. We don’t have to have a perfect knowledge of Him or a deep understanding of every aspect of the gospel. Indeed, if we did there would be little reason for us to be petitioning for wisdom in the first place! But, what do we do when we know our desires our divided and we’ve become “double minded,” wanting wisdom from God but telling Him also we don’t want an answer that tells us we can’t pursue that man romantically? I suggest first desiring correct desires! J You may recognize that your mixed desires may be hindering your capacity for inspiration, but recognizing that, you can at least plant and develop a desire for correct desires first! As my first post mentioned, “God hath… given us the spirit of… love, and of power, and of a SOUND MIND” (2 Timothy 1:7). In other words, if a “double mind” is preventing you from receiving inspiration, God is more than willing to first give you a SOUND one so that you can align your will with His and thus truly communicate (see the BD definition of prayer).
(Notice that this passage doesn’t talk about petitioning the Lord for physical blessings, but rather just about WISDOM—that is, an increased understanding. We shouldn’t assume that if we ask with unwavering faith for a sports car that He’ll give it to us.)

9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
11 For the sun is no sooner risen with burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.

These are beautiful and poetic verses, but I’m a little less-than-satisfied with the clarity of the King James Version on these ones. I would personally at least retranslate the clause “and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth” as “and the beauty of its appearance disappears.”
Verse nine naturally makes sense to us: to rejoice when we are rewarded for our humility. But verses 10 and 11 hearken back to those first few verses where we were also told to rejoice in something that seems negative. The rich are told to rejoice in being made low. They are reminded that all the physical things of this world—their riches, their beauty, their looks, and everything else will all be lost… and they’re supposed to be happy about it! I guess since I am definitely not a rich person, I haven’t completely had the insight perhaps I need to truly understand these verses. Nonetheless, I do find some reassurance in the thought that the physical is temporary. My insomnia, my ADD, and SSA—all of them pertain only to this life. Like flowers, they will fade and die when I do, and my resurrected self will be without those things.

12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
14 But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

That theme of resisting temptation and the blessings for doing so is reiterated in verse 12, and then he explains some interesting and important truths about the nature of temptation itself. First, he tells us that God doesn’t send temptation! This is an important caveat to his other statements in the chapter, because he has told us to be grateful for temptation; this could lead us to think that temptation comes from God. Yet, God merely ALLOWS us to experience temptations—He doesn’t personally send them! We tend to attribute temptations to the devil, but interestingly enough James doesn’t do that here. I’ve heard it said that we give Satan way too much credit. Certainly he is capable of sending temptations, but we definitely don’t need a devil to tell us to do something wrong to make an incorrect choice. Our own imperfect natural-man-tendencies are enough to present temptation. When Satan DOES tempt us, I imagine he typically is only able to draw on those inherent to us rather than conjuring up new ones altogether.
This makes perfect sense. I have a body that is full of hormones and receptors that naturally drive me instinctually towards sexual stimulation. So do you. That is actually important and we SHOULD experience those feelings if we are healthy and those systems are working properly. However, not every impulse towards a sexual prelude should be acted upon! In fact, the large majority mustn’t be. This is true regardless of whom you are attracted to. Thus our own natural man creates its own temptations, regardless of whether or not the devil intervenes. There is no sin in experiencing that. But, James continues with a warning regarding acting out on those feelings…

15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

God doesn’t hold us guilty for the temptations we experience, but He does judge the choices we make. James points out that we have to watch ourselves carefully, because temptations unchecked DO tend to lead to sinful actions, and sin ultimately leads to spiritual death. Thus his succinct advice: “Do not err, my beloved brethren.”

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Contrasting what God DOESN’T give us according to verse 13 (temptation), James now discusses what God DOES give us. He gives us some gifts that are “good” and others that are “perfect.” Some of the GOOD gifts he gives us include… each other! As verse 18 points out, WE are among the gifts He sends to earth. We are gifts to each other, for none of us can really make it on our own. Before a week and a half ago, I had never shared my burden with anybody. Now I’ve told several people, and have been incredibly blessed for doing so! I still don’t ever intend to tell the vast majority of people who know me about my same-sex attraction, but having a few close and loving individuals know is a actually a huge relief—more than I ever could have believed it would be.
Verse 18 also mentions one of God’s PERFECT gifts: the “word of truth.” This refers not only to the scriptures and words of living prophets, nor only to the words He gives us through personal revelation; it is also representative of His perfect son, Jesus Christ (see the first chapter of St. John).
As for the “firstfruits of his creatures” bit—um, I don’t know. I have some guesses about that, but would love any insight from my readers! :D

19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

How to be a faithful gay Mormon—Step Four: grow a thick skin! Being gay, you need to be ready to be persecuted. Being Mormon, you also need to be ready to be persecuted. Being gay AND Mormon, well, buckle yer’ seatbelts, folks! It’s gonna be a rough ride! Unfortunately, the crowds that share these two attributes with me often persecute each other the most. Thus, I’m all-too-often surrounded by the Mormons I know demeaning those who are gay and those I know who are gay trashing the Church. It can be easy to get offended on both fronts, but doing so never helps anyone!
I think these verses from James may be two of the wisest I have ever read. I especially like that he tells us to be “swift to hear.” We must be willing to listen to others, even with different points of view. Being a good listener is often key to effectively serving our brothers and sisters. We may not even agree with everything they say, but often if we listen with an open mind and open heart, we may learn something new including ways we may better ourselves. Either way, we will always understand them better, which will help us love them, for as I’ve said in earlier posts, understanding dispels hate.
Along with being “swift to hear,” we are admonished to be slow at speaking or becoming wrathful. While listening to others is important, it isn’t always going to be prudent for us to speak our minds to them. We should speak only in love, and follow the Spirit. The most important words we can speak are “I love you.” If correction can be given kindly, and is appropriate to give in our circumstances, then weigh your words carefully first. By all means, speaking up may be very important—if nobody ever corrected anyone else, we’d all be a lot more incorrect people! :D However, if the opportunity to correct is especially important, that’s all the more reason why we have to be careful with the delivery, so that an important message isn’t disregarded because it is given harshly. As James reminds us in verse 20, it’s pretty hard to bring about the righteousness of God via wrath.

21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

In verse 19, James encouraged us all to be hearers. Now he adds to that an admonition to be not ONLY hearers, but also doers of the good counsel we hear. I’m not completely sure I understand the mirror analogy James gives, but here’s what I think it means:
When we hear something we should do to better ourselves and don’t do it, it’s like looking at ourselves in the mirror, seeing a great defect within our power to correct, and then doing nothing about it. If we know what is right, it simply doesn’t make sense not to do it. The right thing to do won’t always be easy, but when we choose to be doers, we are “blessed in [our] deed.” I love those blessings. I live for them. I’m aware that I could be choosing to sacrifice close physical relationships for a very long time by choosing the path I have, but those blessings make it totally worth it! J

26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

These two verses could easily form the basis of tons of additional posts. They raise great questions for discussion on what religion actually is, etc. We tend to use verse 26 to discuss profanity, swearing, etc. While that is a valid interpretation, I think it has more to do with what he talked about in verses 19-20. He’s saying that regardless of how good we think we are, if we can’t control the things we say—whether in vocabulary or in message—we are deceiving ourselves about our own religiousness. In fact, any time we deceive ourselves in any way, we actually diminish our religious selves. As I’ve written elsewhere, truly the truth makes us free!
More interesting than what James tells us religion ISN’T, is what he tells us it IS in the final verse of the chapter. The basis of religion is two-fold: serving others and avoiding sin. We hear many people concentrate on the first have this verse: the idea that our religiousness is based on our service to and action towards others. This certainly worth emphasizing more! However, I’ve heard people use this verse an excuse for bad action, saying that they are religious because they serve others, so their other choices don’t matter. Don’t forget the second half of the verse: stay unspotted from the world! I’m not perfect yet, but I intend to do my very best on that front.

Well, if you actually read this whole post, congratulations. You are clearly a patient person! You might need a life, though… J

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Transforming Power of Kindness (Joshua 2:12)

Well, week two of the blog has been much less post-filled than week one. Explanation: I'm also a regular college-guy and this week was insanely filled with papers and projects and finals-preparation, etc. Anyway...

A long time ago the Children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, were marching towards their promised land. Along the way they had to face the walled city of Jericho. Joshua sent spies ahead to scope it out, and they meet a harlot named Rahab, a woman who's religious views and lifestyle really had very little in common with the Israelite spies. She had lots of reasons to reject them, and they had lots of reasons to condemn her, but instead something wonderful happened. Rahab shows kindness to the Israelites, and displays love instead of hate. In return she asks just one thing; from Joshua chapter 2, verse 12:

"Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father's house."

She shows them kindness, and only wants kindness in return... and the Israelites oblige. They promise safety to her and her family. Sure enough, when those walls famously come a-tumblin' down, Rahab and her family are unharmed. This story demonstrates the principle I talked about in my last post ("Love thy Neighbor"): the idea that we will not end ignorance and hate with equal ignorance and hate, but with love. The one willing to show kindness first has a greater power to influence their fellows than all the hate of the world. It is a true principle that I had the fortune of seeing really work this past week. Let me tell you about it:

I've mentioned earlier in this blog the respect I have for another LDS man with same-sex attraction who writes a blog called (Gay) Mormon Guy that I absolutely love (and which helped inspire this blog). I have never met (G)MG, but our anonymous gay Mormon blogger selves have an email correspondance we keep up. I asked him how he thought it was best to help get our message out there to make a difference. He had several keen insights he shared with me, among them the idea of commenting on gay life articles in the Huffington Post. Honestly, that idea did not appeal to me whatsoever, especially because I don't enjoy plunging into never-ending political arguments. I don't want to have to drag politics onto my blog either (though I'll have to do a little on this post). I'm pretty moderate politically--which doesn't mean I'm not passionate about some of my views. I'm just my own unique blend of conservative and liberal views, generally leanin a different direction on each issue. But I hate to argue about it, because it stresses me out, so I've learned to stop getting involved in political discussions.

Nonetheless, my blog cannot completely avoid the subject, and I do truly want to get my message out there, so I took (G)MG's advice. I commented on 6 different articles related to gay issues this week on the Huffington post. As a result, my site hits really did surge! One of the articles I commented on was even a highly political one, and that is where my own Rahab story unfolded. Now, obviously I don't want to drag the politics of the article over here, but I do need to give you a little bit about the article for background's sake. The article discussed Rick Perry's condemnation of Obama and Hillary Clinton's comments on World AIDS day regarding the need for more international attention to hate crimes against the LGBT community. Perry said that people of faith would be insulted by that message. There was more to it than that, but I'm sure you can look into it yourselves.

While I'm not really a fan of any of the politicians mentioned here, in this case I had to at least side more with Hillary Clinton's comments than Rick Perry's, as she said some things very similar to my last blog post, which I had written earlier that same day. So, I posted the following comment on the article:

Be sure, I am not trying to endorse the Obama administration or tear down the Perry candidacy here. I was really just trying to draw attention to my own views on the subject, thus why I included the blog link at the bottom of my post (and LOTS of people clicked on it). It didn't take long for me to get some replies posted to my comment. I won't print the first one, as it was a very crudely-worded and counter-productive attack on my faith and on me personally. However, I'll post the second comment generated and the brief converstation which ensued. (Just be aware that when I mention "the other comment" I'm referring to the filthier one I chose not to reprint here). Watch what happens:

(You can click to make it bigger if you can't read it)

See what happened? She initially starts to throw some disapproval at me just because I didn't want to be harder on Perry! In responding, I chose to keep my cool and then the kindness was reciprocated! If I had responded snappily or angrily, it would have undermined my entire message, and none of us would have gotten anywhere. If you ever read comment threads after political articles online, I ask: how often do you see people change their minds in those threads because of someone else's comments? Practically never! All the mean things said usually just cause people to entrench themselves deeper in their own opinions. But when kindness is shown, Rahabs and Israelites can agree, minds are changed as ignorance is replaced with understanding, and hate is replaced with love. Fantastic, eh? Now, I have to take my hat off to this abscs2000 character, since not everyone who is approached with love gets the message and responds accordingly, but she did and it made my day!

So, friends, soldier on! Keep building bridges with kindness and love. It really does work! :) And comment on Huffington Post articles--apparently that works too! (Thanks, (G)MG!)

My Best,