For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

- Mosiah 3:19

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

An ode to my father...

I received an email today from my dad requesting some help with a letter he was writing. As I normally do with things my dad writes, I read over his drafts and give him critical comments and feedback. And so I agreed. We have had a very decent solid intellectual relationship for a long time - he is my best friend and I am his intellectual sidekick. My father is a professor and personally, I think he's superman!

As I opened the document, it was a letter concerning a recommendation for restoration of Priesthood blessings for a person in my father's fold. My father is a Branch President and has been so for nearly my entire adult life. I was taken aback, and asked if I should even be reading it. My dad replied, simply, yes.

As I turned the passive voice in the active voice (my dad has a love affair with the passive construction), I could not help being moved by the letter and the efforts of the individual seeking a restoration of blessings. I realized two things fro this letter: 1) My father is far more observant and compassionate and motivated by a deep and abiding love for God's children than I previously supposed; and, 2) My father is more gentle, vulnerable, and completely trusting of God's wisdom and love than I previously supposed.

As I read the words my father used to describe this child of God, I could not help but feel a sense of deep love, not because it was his responsibility as a Priesthood leader, but the words conveyed a sense of love that I did not know my father was capable of.

I reflected on the many conversations that were steeped in theory about the nature of God's love -  about charity, and while I have been the recipient of my father's love, I somehow did not think he was capable of loving another person (outside of this family) with the same depth he loves me and his children.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mourning with those that mourn

Yesterday a dear (straight) friend of mine came over and made dinner for me (it was delicious!). After dinner, we sat for a while on the couch talking. He told me of his problems and fear and anxiety of his future with the church, in a moment of need, he leaned into me and asked me to hold him. I held my friend as he wept, and expressed his fears of life, and fears of himself. I held him. He then looked at me and said, "I thank God for you; you are a good friend!" I continued to run my fingers through his hair and he kept weeping. I held him until he wept out his sorrow. I soothed his weeping by injecting my own sorrowful story and simply expressed to him, "the sun will rise." And indeed it does.

As I drove him back home the next morning, he held my hand and said again, "Thank you for your faith - you give me hope."

As I left him, I wondered what he meant. Faith is a principle of action - faith in Jesus Christ is certainly lacking, but faith in the Goodness of God is clear. Faith that Jesus Christ will change me? Sure, but changed into what? But faith that God's goodness will never condemn me, but rather continue to nudge me in rightness?

There are a lot of questions that remain. The central question is ultimately one about the heart. one reading of my hesitancy  to "repent" is that I choose men over God - that I fear the arm of flesh more than the arm of God. This would indicate that I lack faith in Christ, that I was never fully converted or never converted at all. Yet, another reading is simply that I'm confused. It is OK to be confused, it is OK to express doubt, it is OK to be angry. Yet, even another reading is simply that I'm OK and not confused. I prefer for individuals to be OK with me in thinking I'm confused; this is far more tenable than the self-righteous attitude I encounter consistently that my hesitancy is a result of incomplete conversion or lack of faith.

But I'm in a problematic position. I can't deny the reality of God the Father and His Son. I can't. I try. But I can't. There is a part of me that so desperately wants to, I simply can't forget the "Lord, my God." And it is this knowledge that causes me the most concern and frustration. The implications of that knowledge are vast. And so for me now the right thing to do is simply be a good person and mourn with those that mourn and focus on today, the now - without making decisions on not dating. The potential of that options ameliorates the sense of loneliness and despair in a way that a relationship with Jesus (I have heretofore experienced and which has been theorized for me) does not. But does that mean I necessarily need to have a partner? No. What it does is provides me the same dream and vision and hope that a potential partner can give to my straight single Mormon friends!

Excuse the rambling thoughts today. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Speak Blessings

As I worked on my fourth step yesterday  - the moral inventory - I realized a theme emerge: I am afraid of being me. I am afraid of embracing my potential. I am afraid of embracing love, happiness, truth, my career, my failures, my successes, my strengths, my weaknesses. I am afraid of embracing my own sullied expectations of myself. I am afraid of seeing myself.

As I worked through this step, I talked with my sponsor who told me to balance this out and focus on my strengths. I realized that while I am afraid of embracing myself, I do. That, my sponsor, noted is courage. Courage to be myself, despite all emotional warnings to the opposite.

This got me thinking about the nature of happiness - happiness defined as the subjective enjoyment of one's life as-a-whole. In other words, I am happy as a queer man. I am happy because I have connected and embraced my queerness; I have embraced it as a part of my identity, as a part of my life -  as component that necessarily shapes my eternal identity. Certainly this raises a series of theological questions.

As I think about my life, I like the life that I'm leading (well maybe the addiction piece not so much). But I am happy as a queer man. I no longer feel I am hiding from myself. However much I want to not embrace me, there is much happiness in so doing. Does embracing me necessarily mean I must position myself for or against the church? I don't think so. Does it mean I can occupy two spaces at one time? I don't know.

I am happy and content not having to know the answer to that question. I am happy and still like my life in spite of uncertainty. I no longer allow the answer or potential answers to control me, I no longer give them power. And it is precisely in the ceding of power - the divesting of power - unhappiness comes.

I am a powerful happy queer Mormon man.

And it is from that position that I can speak blessings and not curses about myself and others.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Added Measure of Grace

Yesterday, I was set apart as a member of the Stake Sunday School Presidency. Which is still odd to me; up until last week, I was happy occupying the margins of the Church, I was happy with my relationship with the Church. I had accepted my secondary status in the Church - estranged from the rights and privileges associated with technical worthiness. Further, I accepted that I would continue in Church, but openly accept and live a life open to the possibilities of a healthy monogamous long-term relationship with a man. I had settled this. I talked with God about this. I had settled that the only way for me to continue attending Church was to take my membership in it one month at a time. And so I had.

I attended my first meeting with the Stake Sunday School Presidency and was set apart by the Stake High Councilman (who is also the Stake Sunday School President) - he knows my history, too. I walked in, and the first order of business was setting apart. I walked into the Stake High Council Room with a heaviness about me, consternation, really, about this calling - what it would mean, how it might frustrate my settled plans, how it might complicate the picture of the future I painted for myself. But more importantly, I fixed on my "sinful" past - my anonymous sexual encounters with men, the times I paid individuals for sex, and so on. This was weighing on my mind, yet, the men who approved this calling knew this. There was no church discipline, there was no "repentance" set out by Priesthood leaders.

As the High Councilman laid his hands on my head, I was filled with anxiety, fear, a feeling of inadequacy - unworthiness, even - I felt that in the blessing, God would expose the lie and call me to repentance. Yet, something else happened. I sat there and in a voice and feeling of love, "Your Heavenly Father is fully aware of your situation and circumstances, and has called you specifically, He is blessing you with an added measure of grace to work through the challenges you face and the help you see His hand." As soon as this was uttered, the feelings of anxiety, fear, consternation, and so forth dissipated and dissolved - all that remained was a feeling that God is indeed Love.

While I do not know what Father is doing, nor can I peer into eternity, I am comforted that Father is using this calling to rescue me from my addiction. And for that I am grateful and humbled by the movings of heaven. Does this mean I stop dating? I don't know. How I see it, it does not change my intended course of being open to a healthy relationship, but it is a means to help me remain sober and manage my addiction. Any further reflection on other possibilities and implications cause me grave stress. But for the moment I am humbled by the stirrings of heaven.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Celestial Confusion...

Yesterday I went to church. It was like any other time, insulated from Priesthood, callings, and other responsibilities of "spiritual ministering." I was content, I had drawn a line around the source of my shame, and spoke (as much as I could) truth to power - even if it was my truth. Doing so allowed me to endure, tolerate, abide, and eventually enjoy church again. In church, but out of reach of "spiritual" ministering. It was a good deal, as I still have a copy of letter of resignation on my desktop and still make a deal with God to take it one month at a time. Yet that changed yesterday.

I was asked to go to the Stake President's Office. All I could think of was, "this is it, here comes the official invitation for disciplinary measures.:" I walked in the office and was given a calling - I was asked to serve in the Stake Sunday School Presidency. I was shocked. I reviewed my past, "You know I'm a recovering sex addict? You know I'm dating, right?" And the response was simply "yes, we know." "We" here was the Stake President, the Institute Director (who is on the High Council in my stake), my current Bishop, and my former Bishop (who is also on the High Council). I was then told, "I've learned to not question inspiration. I received a very clear impression that you are to do this, I've learned not to question God's wisdom."

I sat there dumbfounded on multiple levels. In that moment, all I could think about was how clever a ploy this was. But at the same time, I could not deny this strange arrangement. There were no conditions for me receiving this calling, no "gentlemen's agreement," just simply saying yes and doing. I knew what saying could mean, I knew what saying no could mean. I took a deep breathe and a gulp and said, "Sure, whatever."

Obviously, this is sending off all sorts of "worthiness" meters. Yet, for the first time, it really has nothing to do with the shame of pleasing priesthood leaders or the church. Rather, this "worthiness" meter is going off because of my relationship with God. Being a sex addict is tiresome, I do not want to be anymore. And I look at this "calling" I can't help but think that it is an intervention of sorts.

Last night I had a long conversation with Heavenly Father about this. I talked to Him about how tender my feelings were for A - he texted me today, we have scheduled date six. I talked with Him about the meaning of this calling for my life. There was no clear resolution to the two, but simply a calming presence that indicated His love and understanding for my situation. Again, what was emphasized was the fact that He understands better than I do why I do the things I do. And while He seemed ambivalent about A, He did not say "no." At this point, I'm thoroughly confused.

I texted a fellow gay Mormon and he invited me over immediately, telling me I needed a stiff drink. I left church a little early to visit with my friend and his partner. I had a diet coke while they sipped on whiskey and vodka. They sympathized with me and simply told me that they would love me no matter what I chose to do. But I was glad to have good friends to listen. Though he did whack me on the back of the head and said whimsically  "Why are you still going to Church? I told you what they do....that Mormon love is tricksy."

I cautiously approach this calling, surprised that I even said yes, and surprised still that somehow God is not asking me to choose between A and this calling. I think this is perhaps the most confusing part - rather it's not A it's finding a person to love that God is not averse to. Regardless, I confused. Can't you tell?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Heavenly Dating Advice?

I've found a degree of peace. It's odd that the peace I feel comes places outside the reach of the church. I've realized that I love the Church and hold its doctrines close to my heart; and perhaps at some future day when I've been able to see beyond myself, I'll see the truth of all things. But at this point, my relationship with the Church is a constant negotiation.

My ward has a new Bishop, within a week of his "installation" he tried to "call" me to do something for the ward. This, of course, required a conversation. It was surprisingly easy for me to say no and to draw lines in the sand with him and other official representatives from the Church. I simply told them, I will continue to come to Church, will help strengthen the community, but I do not want (at this time in my life) contact from the Bishop, the Elder's Quorum President, Home Teachers, and so forth. I stated, "if they want to come as a friend, I will gladly welcome them into my home, but if they are representatives, I will not see them."

As I have been practicing placing boundaries around "Priesthood" my life has become easier. I enjoy Church again. I enjoy being a part of that cultural and religious community. I am thankful for my therapist in helping me set boundaries with the "priesthood." It was and is the source of my shame. To take a step away from it, my life gets better.

Dating is difficult. I've taken to talking to God about my dating life and have been quite plain and honest with Him about the men I've gone out with. My sense is that God simply wants me to be happy, He recognizes the difficulty of Church doctrine, but doesn't condemn me for what I'm doing. I think God cares about my dating, I feel He actually cares that I find someone to love, even if it is a man. What that means in the grand theology? I don't know.

I've met a very good and decent man. I'll call him A. A and I have been on five dates and planning date six soon. He is around my age, and is simply soothing to talk to and be around. We have taken things very slow; which is good for me. As a result, my addiction (or the need to use sex to self-medicate emotions) has been addressed squarely: I'm gaining traction with sobriety. My therapist says this is because I've been able to build healthy intimacy with another man. And so it is, A is remarkable. I'm not sure what the future holds, as it is moving at a snails pace, but that is good. Each date we have dinner and talk and walk after for hours. Each encounter I find I yearn for more time with him.

We finally were able to hug each other after date five. We both were too nervous in previous dates. Date four we botched the hug and simply smiled at each other and walked away. Soon after he sent me message apologizing for the botch hug.

As I reflect on this, this intimacy is what I must deny to comply with the doctrines of the Church. In the hopes that one day in the life hereafter, I will be able to experience this with a woman, and not A. But I continue with Church because it is good. I desire goodness. I desire love. I desire happiness. I desire peace. Does the Church have the monopoly over these things? I'm not sure, but I think and am certain God does.

I still talk with Him regularly. He still loves me. And I'm convinced more than ever that He understands why I continue dating A, despite my certain knowledge that His doctrines are eternal, better than I do. And there is a measure of peace and comfort in that. There is love and happiness meted out in that understanding.

Have I reconciled? I don't know. But am I at peace? Relative to last year at this time? Absolutely!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"You're not happy"

Yesterday I had a discussion with a person I barely know. He calls himself a valiant struggler of SSA. As I talked with him he asked about my life and my relationship with God, the Church, and with myself. I told him I was happy with my relationships with each. A quietness settled on the conversation, and with sadness in his eyes he looked at me and said, "You're not happy, you've just deluded yourself into thinking you are. What you're experiencing will not last!"

Of course I was startled, but not surprised. This person does not know my struggles, does not know the peace I have now, and the choices - the fully examined choices, I've made. I smiled at him and simply said, "For now, I am at peace with myself, with God, and the church. I know God knows better than I do why I do and choose to do the things I do. There is great comfort in knowing I have his unqualified love. Though I also know his love is not to be confused with His condoning what I do. But He's God and I trust He knows better than me and you and the Prophet in how to relate to me and show me love."

And for me that is true and I'm happy.