Sunday, December 4, 2011

In the service of your God (Mosiah 2:17)

I love the Sabbath day. I have such a hectic and busy life, that it's nice to have a day that all my school and work worries don't matter. I've learned throughout that when we do homework or work on the Sabbath, we bring our own punishment upon ourselves by denying ourselves the opportunity for the rest from that stress which he Sabbah was instituted to offer. It's been a phenomenal, uplifting day and I've been dying to share some of the highlights and things I've learned here.

Based on some stake training I recently received regarding my calling, I needed to talk to my bishop about a few changes to the way the organization I'm in charge of does things and coordinate/clear those changes with him. I probably could have told him most things in a long hall-way conversation, but felt like it might just be nicer to schedule an actual appointment with him so I'd have more time to actually sit down and talk the changes through without feeling rushed. So, before sacrament meeting I talked with the Executive Secretary and got the last appointment slot he had available--an hour and 45 minutes after the end of church. Over the nearly five hours between setting up the appointment and when it happened, I kept getting a pestering thought about whether or not I should tell him about my same-gender attraction as long as I had an interview already. I convinced myself that I was only having that thought because I'd been working on this blog all week and so the topic was more on my mind than usual.

I now must take an aside to tell you another piece of my life. When I disclosed my insomnia on this blog earlier this week, I was really worried about the possbility of being given away by that struggle, since many people know about it. I have another interesting trial to share today that I'm not nearly as worried about because I talk about it almost as rarely as my same-sex attraction! It's also not something I consider to be a very big deal and I rarely ever think about it, but today it became important to an experience I had. I was diagnosed years ago with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). People who know me would never probably guess this, largely because it is vastly misunderstood. A lot of misdiagnoses have occured and many people think it is something it isn't or that it doesn't exist at all. (The parallels between ADD and SSA were never so glaringly obvious to me beore today!*) While ADD can make a child hyper, as the stereotype goes, not all ADD people or even children are hyper, and not all hyper children have ADD. Basically, ADD means that while your brain is trying to perform analytical or intellectual functions, it can be limited by chemical imbalances which prevent it from carrying messages properly. I won't attempt to explain the biology any further, but it is ultimately a simple problem in the brain that has proved to be very treatable with effective drugs that don't have serious side-effects like many early ADD medications. I've taken various meds, including my current favorite, adderall, for over ten years. Without my medication, it would probably take me two hours to write this paragraph. I have the mental capacity, but can't harness it properly while that imbalance exists.

Why did I tell you this? Well, after church as I was waiting the nearly two hour for my chance to see the bishop, a friend from my ward sat down next to me in the foyer. We started talking and I was particularly surprised to see him rather down, as he tends to be one of those unstoppably happy people that everyone loves. I could tell early on that he needed a chance to do most of the talking and so I just let him go at it for about a half hour. He vented a lot of frustrations about how scared he was that he was graduating and didn't feel ready, ultimately because he felt like it was so hard to concentrate and use the skills he's supposedly been trained in through school. He described feelings of inability that sounded just like me without my medication. I don't think about it very often because I'm so rarely without my meds, so I usually forget that I even have ADD because I've been blessed with such great modern ways to help fight it. Now, this was NOT the first time I've talked to someone and thought that they probably had ADD, but I've NEVER told anyone I thought such about them--it's just too controversial a topic and many people have strong opinions about it, so even if I think people have a problem, I don't usually tell them (not to mention my own desire for privacy). I'm not a doctor anyway, and could certainly be wrong.

This time, however, I did something unprecedented. After simultaneously listening to my friend and the Spirit for 30 minutes, I felt like I could at least share my own experiences. He had said that he thought that I and many others were just naturally more gifted than he was and didn't know how he could do well in the workforce as such an inferior person. By sharing that I got through things with a combination of prayer, scripture, and some little blue pills, I helped him see that maybe he's not much different than many others he considers superior. I told him I was not a doctor and couldn't diagnose or prescribe anything, but that he should look into options available. I suddenly found many things I wrote on this blog this week about recognizing and facing the truth of  problem in order to solve it relevant to share in a completely different context and saw how my struggles to understand SSA this week had prepared me to help someone with another trial. Among the things I said, I mentioned that the brain is just a part of our physical body like any other part, and can therefore have problems or damage. I had used to wonder if my taking pills was unfairly advantaging me over my peers, like an athlete on steroids. I've come to realize that it actually just puts me on an even playing field. If I broke my arm, few people would call it a sign of weakness if I used a cast! In fact, if help was available, people would call me foolish NOT to do anything about it and just let my dead arm drag behind me. So it is with the meds I take: they help my brain connect and concentrate properly.** The things I shared, whether he has ADD and will get treatment or not, seemed to help--especially the part about being honest with ourselves to face the TRUTH of whatever our problems are so we can solve them.

At that point, my friend had to go. It was abot 5 minutes until my scheduled time to meet with the bishop. Again that thought came to tell him about my same-sex attraction. I finally realized that I had waved all these promptings off without praying about it. So, I took those five minutes to offer a prayer and almost immediately the Lord responded very clearly. He told me quite directly that I had just suggested that a friend do a very humbling thing to seek help for an ailment that he didn't have complete control over and to seek healing. Then, he used my own analogy against me. He said I could be stubborn and refuse to seek a cast for broken arm when available, or I could trust Him to put a righteous servant with sound advice in my path, the same way I had been put in the path of my friend just moments before and had been able to help him. I was to follow my friend's example and accept help from someone the Lord had prepared to help me.

So, without out knowing really WHY I was telling him, but knowing that it would help somehow and that I did in fact need to seek that help, I went in to see my bishop. I told him I had 2 things to speak to him about. We first discussed the calling-related business which I had originally set up the appointment to discuss. That only took about three minutes (much shorter than I was hoping as I sat there with my heart beating faster and faster, knowing what was coming next). You'll remember that an earlier attempt to share my trial with someone this week did not go as well as I could have hoped (though not awful) and I was therefore filled with lots of anxiety here as well, despite the fact that my bishop is one the greatest men you'll ever meet in your life.

Well, I won't get into details of the conversation here, though I may mention a few things we discussed in the future. What I will share for today is that is went miraculously well. My bishop truly is a great man, and he has pondered and read a lot on this subject and was prepared to give me fantastic and loving advice. Apprehension and fear instantly evaporated when we started to talk and it felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my life to share it in such a sacred setting with someone who had invested time into being able to understand SSA and thus help those who struggle. Best part of the story: when went in, having just realized that I needed to tell him, I still did't know why. Before I left his office however, I knew why I had told him and why I do indeed need to tell my parents when I go home for Christmas in a couple weeks. In the past I've been perfectly fine keeping this all to myself, relying on the scriptures, prayer, and Church counsel as my primary support sources, followed by other writings, research, blogs, etc. However, it is one thing to sit back observe the cyber-conversation on this volatile and politically-charged subject from a distance, and quite another to become a participant as have in the last week. While I've realized that up to this point my own studies and prayer have been sufficient to get me through this trial, I've now placed myself in a position to receive greater attacks from the adversary. How he loves to tear down righteous examples! I've now opened myself up to getting lots of attacks from bitter rivals to my personal beliefs and views, and I've read enough "gay Mormon" blogs to know how many begin with noble intentions before ultimately succumbing and crashing. The Lord needed me to know that I won't always be able to rely on just myself, prayer, and scriptures to survive. I will now need the strength and support of just a FEW select individuals who are close to me and who love me. Overall, it was just a fantastic and enlightening interview that gave me lots of perspective and direction.

What does this all have to do with the scripture I've titled this post with? Mosiah 2:17 from the Book of Mormon is a very well-known verse which reads:

"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

I think that this is both a literal and figurative verse, hinging on the delightfully ambiguous word "of." To understand it, we must first understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In Gethsemane, Christ took upon himself our pains, our sicknesses, our afflictions, and indeed everything we experience in this life so that, as Alma says, "he may know according to the flesh how to succor [i.e. help] his people" (Alma 7:12). He experienced my life with all its trials so that He'd know how to help me through each one. Just as we read how God sometimes uses the wicked to punish the wicked, I have seen over and over again in my life how he also uses the righteous to bless he righteous. Because of His great Atonement, Christ knew what help I'd need through my trial, and he used a righteous bishop to "succor" me. Thus, one way to read the passage in Mosiah is to read the "service OF your God" as meaning the service which He sends us to accomplish. Like a military service we enlist in, we can be in the service of God and thereby help bring the blessings of His Atonement to fulfillment by doing what He would have us do to succor our fellow men in the ways only He knows best because of His experience in Gethsemene.

However, that "of" allows another equally appropriate interpretation as well. You see, Christ didn't just experience my life and trials. He also experinced yours, and he experienced those of my friend who I spoke with before seeing my bishop. Being in "the service OF your God" certainly also seems to imply the act of actually serving the Lord Himself directly. When you consider that He experienced everyone's lives in the garden of Gethsemane, then when we serve others that's actually who we're serving! By acting on promptings to make another person's burden lighter, we also lift those burdens from the other One who suffered their weight--the Savior. Thus, truly when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are quite literally in the service of our God.

While I would counsel all of you to be careful who you share your struggles with, don't pass up opportunities to draw upon the Atonement, and many of those blessings may only be available to you through other righteous individuals the Lord has prepared to help succor you. I read an interesting bit about a common mentality among Mormon men with SSA. One expert has noted, especially regarding those who may have transgressed along the way, though it applies to all: "Sometimes their approach seems to be, 'I can accept the Atonement of Jesus Christ after I've...overcome this. But not right now. I've got to overcome this on my own, and then the Atonement will be available to me.' It's the equivalent of saying, 'I can accept the Atonement as soon as I prove I don't need it.'" Sounds a lot like dragging a broken arm around, doesn't it? Be humble and willing to accept the Lord's help, which may come through others!!!

Today I am grateful God enlisted me to be in His service to my friend, drawing upon the lessons I've learned from my own trials without even having to disclose those trials. I'm just as grateful for a kind and loving bishop who served God today as well by humbly serving me.

My best,

Obadiah (see a few footnotes below)

*In case you were wondering, while I believe that there are fascinating comparisons to be made between SSA & ADD, I don't believe that there is a link, and from everything I've looked into, it doesn't seem like anyone else does either. I've definitely seen them as two completely different and unrelated aspects of my life and there are have been plenty of ADD people without SSA and SSA people without ADD. I just got lucky in the trials-with-acronyms roulette game... plus insomnia. :)

**Regarding a little more of my philosophy on medicating ADD, I share the following from Elder Oaks from general conference April 2010 (this passage just seemed a little too lengthy to put right in the main body of an already lengthy blog post):
"The use of medical science is not at odds with our prayers of faith and our reliance on priesthood blessings. When a person requested a priesthood blessing, Brigham Young would ask, 'Have you used any remedies?' To those who said no because 'we wish the Elders to lay hands upon us, and we have faith that we shall be healed,' President Young replied: 'That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and [then] to ask my Father in Heaven … to sanctify that application to the healing of my body.'"


  1. By the way, I hope you all got to see the 1st Presidency Christmas devotional tonight. It was fantastic! If you missed it, follow this address to see it:

  2. I am inspired by your desire to do what is right even with large obstacles hindering your way. You will be blessed.


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