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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seeing through a Glass Darkly

I don't really know what or where I'm going anymore. Deep down there's a conviction that burns, but not hot enough, to bring me a sense of purpose. I realized the other day that I'm afraid and angry with God.

Why? In part because I know what I am doing is wrong, but I feel no power to stop. I'm angry because I can't sense His power in helping me stop. I'm angry with Him, because I feel abandoned by God. I can't seem to align my will with His. Yet, I continually try to find relief and respite in the haven of theorizing and thought experiments, as if intellectualizing the foundational elements of the ontology of Heaven I can tell God how to make room for His gay children in the Heavenly order. What presumption! What arrogance! What fear of surrender!

I decided I would re-start a practice I have since long abandoned. When I was missionary I picked up a habit that persisted for several years after the mission, despite the turmoil I went through. I read the Book of Mormon 12 times as a missionary, in my study, I would ask myself, "How does this bring me closer to the Savior?" after each verse. I would ponder on that question until I could make the connection between each verse or passage. Somehow this brought me intellectually to the knees of my Creator.

I continue to resist surrender. But I hope this small steps signify at least willingness to be a part of the economy of heaven.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reflexive Thinking

So I've taken to thinking deeply about why homosexuality itself is sinful. It seems that much of the discourse pivots and rests on the one-dimensional issue of sex. As I've thought about how mortality is to (some measure) reflect the eternities, it seems to me that homosexuality is sinful not because of the act of sex, but rather because that type of relationship deviates from the assumption that celestial marriage and deification rests on a norm of heterosexuality. If that is the case, then we must assume that Heavenly Father and Mother are in a heterosexual marriage and further that they must procreate in the same manner as mortals do. While this is certainly pure speculation, it does beg a number of questions. Perhaps one day when I'm not terribly busy writing my dissertation I can attempt to address them in some meaningful way.

I met a guy the other day. He's religious gay Jew - incredibly bright, kind and articulate. We talked about G-d and the foundational commandments in Genesis and he shared with me the midrash or technique of studying the Torah (or the first five books of Moses). It's amazing how much talking with people in similar crisis of identity and faith brings one a sense of hope! He recommended a book, so I'm now reading "Wrestling with God and Men" by Steven Greenberg - so far I'm digging it. More so for helping me to expand my lexicon for talking about homosexuality and more importantly for helping to quell the internal burning questions, or at least put them at ease.

I've been sober now for several weeks. And I feel great. I hope it continues. The guy I met, while attractive and bright, is merely a friend. It's nice being able to talk with people not in the church at deep and meaningful levels where conversation is not bounded by normative injunctions of appropriateness. Being able to explore the spectrum of a single question is wonderful.

Reading this literature and having conversations is a way for me "study it out in my mind..." In all of this I am simply humbled by the expressions of God's love. I read in the Book of Mormon daily, and today I read of how Nephi "persuades the Lord" to cause a famine in the land. The famine came but affected the righteous and "wicked," yet that famine was also a mechanism or expression of God's love. The famine was to persuade those to see God, or rather to see how hopeless their lives were and to seek a Higher Power that could save them physically and spiritually.

The more I read in the discourse on sexuality and religion and talk with gifted friends (like my gay Jewish friend), the more I realize how little I know. He is coming to sense the same, as a result we come to find ourselves stretched in prayer seeking guidance to make sense of our lives and live in way that comports with Heaven.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Becoming my father

I received an email from my dad the other day. It is clearly evident he loves me. I have kept him apprised of my situation and progress (or lack thereof). His note was compassionate and caring, but also firm. I think for the first time I am having a real conversation with my dad about me, speaking undiluted truth from me to him - it's a little scary, but it feels good. I implicitly trust him; he is careful in what he says. He measures his words, thinks before he speaks, and speaks truth sharply but with great love. I've seen that repeated over and over with my brothers and sisters, with extended family who come to him for counsel and with others who approach him for advice.

I love my father and hope one day to be like him. He is intelligent, hard working, kind, loving, compassionate, creative, tender, gentle, firm, faithful, a sharp critical thinker, and empathetic. When I think of a person who is righteous, I think of my father. He has trials but pushes through them with a remarkable child-like faith in God, while still maintaining a critical eye of the institutions that shape human behavior. I admire him, love him, and miss him. I feel like I'm coming to know him (like my Father in Heaven) for the first time. For years, while I repressed my feelings and tried to live up to the normative expectations (including the heterosexual injunctions), I failed to connect to my father on a deeply personal level.

Now that I've been able to be open with him and show complete vulnerability. I am able to share with him my deficits in faith and my myopia in seeing own eternal worth and value. While he aches for me in the pain I feel, he desires that I be happy in the eternal sense of the term, though he does understand that at times getting at that perspective often requires some to wade through the mud before they realize it only makes them dirty.

He was incredibly sensitive to the extreme difficulty in the de facto path for me to remain in the church: celibacy. He simply observed that it's a difficult path for anyone to be called to live, that it takes more than simple prayer, scripture study and attending church and a superficial connection to the Atonement. Rather he noted that doing so would be an incredibly difficult daily experience knowing that I could never have what my heart desires, and knowing how difficult it is to maintain that hope in the resurrection, but that each day will be difficult, but that through consistent sincere fasting and surrender to God daily, enabled by kind people of faith who empathize with that difficulty, then perhaps I might be able to honor my covenants.

I love my father, even more now than I ever have. When I grow up I would like to be like him.

Monday, November 28, 2011

13.1 miles of bliss

I ran my third half marathon yesterday. It was cold, wet, windy, painful, and absolutely satisfying and amazing! I started off at a decent pace, but eventually came to some hills, then more hills and then more. During the race, I had plenty of time to try to draw connection between the race, my preparation for it and life. Alas, I could not find anything. The only thing that I took from that, was that I can do hard things, that somewhere inside of me is the courage to endure. I can muster it when called upon. Thing is I usually don't. Why? I'm not sure.

I had an interaction with my Bishop this past week. It was both petrifying and disconcerting. I received an email from him, he wanted to say he was sorry for anything he said that may have been hurtful. Certainly I appreciated the sentiment of that email, but at the same time I was filled with a sense of guilt and shame and fear. I talked with my Therapist about what I should do.

As I talked with my therapist I recounted to him what was most painful to me, it was not the simple mechanistic approach, nor was it lack of understanding about same-sex attraction and in-experienced advice on the matter, while that is frustrating it does not pain or hurt me. I told my therapist that what pained me the most was the association my Bishop has with homosexuality - that be implicitly linked homosexuality with beastiality and called me perverted (both in our conversations and while He gave me blessing). Above all else this is what stings and hurts the most, this is what causes me to fear for own emotional well-being. As I recounted this to my therapist the pain came back, it still hurts. I trusted the Bishop with my emotional, spiritual and intellectual well-being, and part of me felt violated.

My therapist explained that Bishops are not trained in these matters, to which I agree and have never expected perfection from any Bishop, simply compassion and understanding, however imperfect those expressions maybe, they should make me feel safe, not unsafe. But my therapist did stop short of saying that I should simply not be offended, but that I should speak the truth to help the Bishop also own the consequences of his actions (however, misguided they were). My therapist wondered out loud if those accusations or associations would have been made with a "straight" brother. I wonder the same thing, but for my own sanity and well-being my therapist asked me to simply state how I feel and ask for more space and time away. And I did.

My Bishop is a good man. He is. Certainly there is much for me to learn from him, as there is much for all of us to learn from each other. I hope that one day I can stand on solid ground and not fear for my emotional well-being when I enter a Priesthood leaders office. I hope one day to be able to stand before God with a pure heart and clean hands. While that may be simple for many people, the reality is it's more complicated than that.

I talked a dear friend (my roommate from undergraduate days) and his wife over lunch today. They asked about my struggle and we explored at some length the problematical issues of homosexuality and the church, their relation to covenant making and keeping, and the ultimate plan of God. It was a nice reprieve and edifying discussion. I was hoping to ask him for a blessing, but it was a little difficult given our location. Perhaps when I see him next.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Seeing

The past few days have been good. Recently, I've been feeling like there is a connection to the Savior; this is new for me. Being a very prideful man, I have refused to fully allow my will to be swallowed up, I may have thought it was a good idea, but have never really tried to let it happen.

While I still don't know what it means for me to be gay and in the household of God, I'm willing to let go. Before I acknowledged the uncertainty and attempted to convince myself I was OK with not knowing. Recently, however, I've simply stopped fighting - mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Doing so has provided me a fleeting glimpse of "things as they really are."

I used to think that once I got to a point of seeing "things as they really are" it would mean all would make sense, that I would see my sexual attractions as an aberation, or consequence of the Fall and would find great peaceful answers or I would think when I saw "things as they really are," I would recognize the Church would change its ontologic position.

This addiction has kicked my ass, it has beaten me into submission, and beaten me into seeing with new eyes (at least momentarily). I'm coming to sense that seeing things as they really are is simply about seeing uncertainty and moving forward in faith and placing my hope in the Savior to provide me the strength to endure all things. That enabling strength is the healing. The outcome of that enabling strength is not my focus; the process is the end. That is coming to see things as they really are - becoming present and accepting reality.

I'm a son of God and I'm gay. I don't know how these two coexist, nor do I understand the depths of what either mean. What I do know is they shape my understanding of each other. The doctrine of the church will not change, I accept that as a given. Any intelligent person can see the ontological differences between blacks and the priesthood and homosexuality. While the resources of support may not exist, it does not mean that God does not want me to endure (even that I'm not sure what it means).

All of this to say that seeing things as they really are is about me seeing myself for the first time in a true and intimate relationship with the Savior. I'm coming to (and hope to continue) walking with Him.

Yet that does not mean that I do not search the deep things for answers to these things that plague us, nor does it mean that I give up on creating a forum to instruct others what is most good for them. I don't know what I have to give, but I'm coming to sense that I really have nothing to give without God. And that is not scary or threatening anymore.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dialogue

One of my favorite theologians writes about dialogue:

“The dialogical-dialogue is not a simple conversation, not a mere mutual enrichment by the supplementary information that is contributed; it is not exclusively a corrective of misunderstandings … It is the joint search for the shared and the different. It is the mutual fecundation of what each one contributes …It is the implicit and explicit recognition that we are not self-sufficient … God is the one who makes it possible for dialogue to be more than the mere sterile crossing of two monologues."

This is a good idea, especially given that a conference or symposium on homosexuality and the church is being planned for the Pacific Northwest.

I've been asked to help, and so I will. Perhaps this will help me explore more fully the questions that linger in my mind and in my soul.

Today is a good day. I look up and feel a sense of hope!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The logic of truth

This morning as reflected on my life, I came to realize that I've not seen things as they really are. In other words, I'm not in a place where I can anticipate and appraise the effects of my actions. I act compulsively, and as a result, I'm not able to discern the effects of my actions on me and others. This is part of the addiction, and that addiction has certainly agitated my faith.

I realize I'm coming to view my faith in God and the gospel through a lens that insists on me being in control. That is, I want God to justify to me why I should be obedient, I want God to justify to me what I should do what He asks. This insistence on God justifying to me is an element of control that I'm having a hard time letting go.

Recently, I've hit a bottom (not in terms of acting out) but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. I'm coming to realize that I've got no where else to turn, I've got no where else to look, but up. Looking up is hard: it hurts my neck and it hurts my eyes (as there is light when one looks up). But that pain of adjusting to the light is necessary, it means I must slowly put off the things that pull me down, the things that insist I can find light in the darkness.

I don't know what my future holds. I certainly want a fulfilling relationship, but at what cost? I'm not sure. This morning as I was journaling, I pondered and wrote about my spiritual experiences. When I was 10 I received a strong spiritual communication that the Book of Mormon was true, it has take me nearly 23 years to figure out what that means - it means not only that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but that the contents of that book are true, that the stories therein actually happened. That through Jesus Christ I can find my seat in the Kingdom of God.

Why has it taken so long for that to settle in my heart?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ennui

So I'm suffering from ennui or perhaps I've hit some bottom of some sort. It's been a while that I've "acted out," being an addict sucks. I've discovered some things that have given me some perspective on life and on how to manage this addiction.

1) The last time I acted out with a guy, I got to know him a bit - it turned into a weird sort of relationship. I think for the first time there was a hint of real intimacy, a hint of real emotion, and dare I say "feelings?" As we sat and talked I felt these feelings I never really felt before - a real connection. This happened over the course of time and continued. The night we went to the bedroom, was a very different night for me. We had talked and there was just something different - it wasn't this rush of lust that usually accompanied my previous exploits. It was tender, really.

After it was over, I still felt a rush of regret and a degree of pain for what I had done. Yet, I discovered that sex can be extremely powerful and an agent that binds people together. Truly one the ultimate expressions of love. I'm coming to understand this, albeit slowly. It took this weird relationship to get me there. I'm no longer in contact with this guy - and I'm OK with that. The past week or so I've thought about acting out, but as I contemplated it, it seemed to simply be an empty experience, void of any expressions of love and humanity - something that was merely animalistic in both its desires and consequences. I hope this clarity lasts. I hope that I can come to respect and reverence the power of sex again.

The second insight came as a result of my daily habit of listening to General Conference talks. The other day, I was listening to a talk by Elder Kristofferson on covenant keeping. This reminded me that if I keep the commandments, then I will never have healthy relationship with another man. This leads to intense loneliness and pain, and so I search out some company to medicate the pain. After this realization, I decided, with the help of my Therapist, to stop doing to those aspects of the church that remind me of a potential life of loneliness. So I've stopped listening to conference, reading contemporary church literature, and visiting with my Bishop and other priesthood leaders. Not having those aspects in my life reminding me incessantly that I'll be alone has helped me feel so much better about myself and given me a confidence to move forward. I still do read out of the Book of Mormon every day - the Book of Mormon does not bring me the unnecessary guilt and shame a lot of those other aspects of the church do.

Overall, I'm feeling pretty good and feel a degree of happiness. However, I must continue to be vigilant.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Faithful Obedience

Yesterday I met with my therapist, and I told him of the dream I had Tuesday night, or rather early Wednesday morning. I was up late grading papers and growing in my resentment towards my students for having me suffer through the in-coherency of their arguments, their logic, their poorly constructed prose and the like. (I realize my writing and logic suffers much, but then no one's grading me, at least I hope not!). I had gone to a support meeting earlier that evening and heard someone share, "When praying, it doesn't matter who's listening OUT THERE, what's important is who's listening inside..." I tried to allow that to distill into my senses, but something about faulty logic and incomplete sentences hindering arguments makes one easily focus on other things.

I did not heed that powerful sentiment. Rather, sometime near 1 am, I found someone to come to my apartment and act out with. And so it happened. After he left, I decided no more grading and to sleep, it was close to 2am. I normally wake up at 5am so I would be getting three hours of sleep - I was OK with that. However, I kept waking up every half hour or so, with an intense pain, the heaviness of what I did was settling on me. Despite my inability to get restful sleep, I did have a dream which came back to me as I was in my therapist's office.

In this dream, there were two versions of me, they were in dialogue and clearly concerned about me. I recall one asking the other, "What are we doing?" The other responded, "I'm trying to get us to hit bottom, so we don't do this anymore." As I sat with my therapist, I was startled and scared by what my subconscious had to say. He too was clearly concerned. I'm not sure what my bottom looks like, but at the rate I'm going now, it could be something devastating. I hope to never find it.

While I was in his office, slumped into his big comfy sofa, I had a realization about faith and obedience. I'm reading out of the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. Earlier that day, I read about Enoch in Moses 6. There Enoch asks, "wherefore am I thy servant?" To which God replies, "Go forth and do as I have commanded thee..." The Lord never answers Enoch's question, rather He tells Enoch what to do to get an answer to that question. Hundreds of years later, most likely, Paul tells us in Hebrews, that before he was translated, "he had this testimony, that he pleased God."

Enoch certainly struggled, he took a people who angered God and celestialized them. He, too, struggled with his mortal predilections, but God saw faith. Enoch had faithful obedience. He knew that while obedience was the first law of Heaven, everyone falls short, therefore he relied on God's grace. He knew that those who struggled daily can enter the celestial kingdom, despite how many times they fall, even if it means they have to crawl, beaten and bruised, passed the finish line. These are faithful and obedient - these include all the people who never givjavascript:void(0)e up trying, who struggle daily with prayer, scripture study, and seeking God, but they never give up, no matter how hard it gets.

As I reflected on my addiction and the realization I had about my behavior, my therapist simply stated, "don't give up." While I feel like giving up, I am encouraged by the insight I gleaned from Enoch, and the many others I know who struggle daily, but move forward in faith of something better.

And so today I will not give up.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gross Night

So the past few weeks have been particularly difficult for me. I've taken a break from meeting with my Bishop, taken a break from trying to resolve the big questions in my life, taken a break from taking advice from multiple sources on what to do. It has been a good experience for me to do that, as taking these things away has exposed me to myself. Now, it's me and my therapist, but really now it's just me, me figuring out who I am and what I stand for.

Before taking a break from the Bishop, I would try to avoid doing and thinking things because of an obligation I had to him; it was not really for me. I tried to not "act out" not for me, but for him. Now that I've taken a break from him, a burden has lifted and now I am left with just my thoughts and me trying to figure out what I really want. Now the source of shame and guilt for acting out no longer comes from the obligation I have to a priesthood leader, but rather now has to come from a violation of my own internal compass. This is proving to be much more difficult. In addition to the break from the Bishop, I've also taken a break from trying to resolve the uncertainty around my place in the church - that uncertainty and the line of questions it raises will always be there. As a result, I additionally feel liberated from the shame associated with that line of questioning.

While taking these breaks is good in that it's forcing me to search within for the willingness and desire "to act for myself," the relief of the obligation is also sorely tempting. This relief has manifested itself in a license to "act out" more. And so I have. The shame of acting out with men has dissipated, and as a result I don't feel much guilt for doing so. It's interesting that the guilt and shame left with the commencement of these breaks - this is indicative of the fact that I had been trying to avoid specific behaviors for others (i.e. my Bishop) and not myself. With this "freedom," I am now trying to find myself, sadly it has taken me to do things I'm not particularly happy about.

Last night, I moved from oral sex to anal sex. It was not a pleasant experience and actually really gross. To speak more clinically, the tip of the prophylactic had some slight remains of human waste. I suppose at some level I always knew that was the case, but I was living in some fantasy land of it being a euphoric clean experience. It was not. As soon as I finished, something inside turned. It was gross. I could not believe what I had just done. Even the addict in me, admitted to being grossed out. I suppose under different conditions it could have been a different experience, but alas, the conditions I had were less than ideal. I had developed a strange relationship with the guy I did it with last night, so he wasn't an unknown, but nonetheless, the primary emotion there was lust NOT love.

Given where I'm at with taking a break, there was something within that recoiled at my behavior - not simply because of the physical uncleanliness of the act, but because of the emotional pain it brings.

I went to church today and felt a great desire to pay tithing - I searched my feelings to determine whether the desire was simply some form of penance, as I searched, I realized I genuinely wanted to pay tithing, not because I "had" to, not because I was expected to, not because it would absolve me of immediate guilt or shame, but rather, because I recognized that what I have comes from God and is ultimately His. I wanted to pay tithing for me.

This was a good sign, I suppose I'm now coming to slowly meet who I really am and come to know what I really want. While it's not ideal that I have to discover who I am from crawling through mud, it's nonetheless nice to meet me for the first time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Habitus or Perfunctoriness

Today I listened to a workshop by a scholar I've long admired, while the substance of what he said is of marginal concern to the purposes of this blog, he did say something to illustrate a point that often we do things because of habitus. In other words, we do things, often without thinking, because that action or behavior has been deeply internalized and has become habit, which also implies in many instances, that we do things without even understanding the rules that structure what we do.

I thought about my place in the church and the rituals I engage in - there are many things I do in the church (which is to supposed to reflect some degree of piety) without thinking. They have become habitual. I roll out of bed (literally) every morning and mumble some words and say "morning prayer, check," then I get on the bus, pull out my Book of Mormon and read a chapter and say "scriptures, check," on Sunday morning I dress and go to church, the say "Church, check." There are still yet many other things I do out of habit, things I'm coming to recognize have lost some value - they've become perfunctory.

The scholar I listened to today, suggested, at least implicitly, that to bring meaning to my rituals requires I come to understand and (I add)come to appreciate the rules for doing those things. I oft forget that there is rich meaning and blessings in store when greater insight is gained from understanding the machinations of heaven.

So it is with being gay, there is an evolving habitus about that that suggests that once I embrace being gay, then I simply leave the church for reasons x, y, and z. Reconciling myself to reasons x, y, and z in order to justify my departure does not in any way invite me to examine the "rules" behind that. The informal rules after you come out seem to be generatively 1) question the church and at some level villify the doctrine, 2) create space between you and the church 3) reconcile yourself to reasons x, y, and z, and 4) leave.

Admittedly, I'm still working on rule number one, but what this scholar and incidentally political philosopher Wittgenstein also suggests is that I examine the rules itself, come to understand the rules, however informal they may be. So therefore, I ask why must I question the church from the framework the rules demand? What is the purpose in questioning the church? Is the final end of the inquisition to gain greater understanding or create distance, as the rules seem to imply?

At this moment, the inquisition for me is to produce genuine and sincere knowledge of my place in God's kingdom, not simply to question the church because of the potential pain I foresee. My place is first to ask why must I question? What is the purpose in questioning? Why must questioning even be a part of the process? Certainly these are difficult questions, at least for me. But I find some small comfort in articulating them. However, I must assert that the comfort I feel (however small) is not necessarily to be confused with hope.

I am Mormon today - tomorrow, I'm not sure. I hope that's sufficient for God.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Baffling Questions and Tofu

Yesterday I had lunch with a guy from my ward. Several weeks ago, in a fit of frustration (after meeting with my Bishop), I was ready to leave the church completely, but felt something higher than me tell me that church was where I ought to be. I shared this experience in Elder's Quorum, telling the quorum that I'm at church, despite me not wanting to be there, because I felt impressed that was where I needed to be. I told them that I still think the best option for me is simply to leave.

After I shared my experience, a guy I barely knew approached me and told me that he also had many doubts about the church, he wanted to thank me being honest and let me know that other people in the church struggle with the doctrine. I was touched by that simple act of love and service. I sent him a note several days later to thank him for his efforts in reaching out.

We had lunch yesterday. As we talked, he then asked why I was wanting to leave the church, so I was honest and explained to him what has been going on. He sat there and expressed his empathy, it was a bit uncomfortable, as I was not entirely sure what his motives were (He is not gay.). I had told him about the dilemma that I face of standing at the head of diverging paths, both representing pain. I explained that even if I were to find a partner, I would know that that relationship would not be condoned by God. He sat there shocked a bit and asked, "Do you really believe that it would not be condoned by God?"

I was taken aback by that query, but realized something deep within actually believes that. It's that spiritual reality that's alive somewhere deep within my breast that keeps me in the church, hoping against hope that somehow and in someway God will fill that hole in my soul for companionship.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The universe and broken things

Today, I was talking with a good friend of mine. He's a theologian at the school I'm at (he is not Mormon). As we talked about my numerous dilemmas, he simply pointed out to me that the universe has a mechanism for fixing mistakes - that what I do will not destroy the universe. I liked that idea. Often, I get lost in the doctrinal elements of the atonement - what he said makes sense. The atonement is that mechanism for fixing mistakes.

This mechanism comes in many forms. This last month has been really hard for me. It seems I'm moving quickly towards a bottom - I thought I hit rock bottom, but things I've done suggest otherwise. As a result, I've come to feel like just giving up on the church completely and withdrawing myself from the reach of God. I read the other day the creation narrative in the book of Moses. Two things struck me:

1) In chapter 2, God divided the light from the darkness on an earth without form and void. I couldn't help but think that I am at that place. I feel that my life is without form and void; an encouraging thought then flashed across my mind - "if I just keep trying, God will divide the light from the darkness in my life." Right now, things seem terribly dark. I hope light comes.

2) In chapter 3, God says to Jesus, "that it was not good that the man should be alone." As I reflected on that sentiment, I realized that God was saying something more than simply Adam needs to get married and have kids; rather He was saying it's not good to be alone. While I may not marry in this life, God still does not want me to be alone. There is a God-sized hole in my soul that yearns for companionship. God can fill that yearning. I have to believe that. But I walked away from that scripture study comforted, knowing that God does not want me to be alone. He wants me to have companionship (the form of that companionship is unclear to me, but he wants it for me).

Both of these realizations simply highlighted the fact that I feel intensely lonely. As my therapist suggested the other day, "you can be alone today." And so I can. Incidentally, he also recommended that I take a break from meeting with my Bishop who said to me "Obedience to the commandments will lead you to a restored feeling...and enable you to develop appropriate relationships with both genders...appropriate relationships with the appropriate gender can deepen and can develop into something more over time." The subtext, of course, is that he thinks if I'm obedient then somehow I'll develop appropriate sexual feelings for women. My therapist simply told me, this is not the sort of advice I need at this time and is having the opposite effect - it agitates my addiction. And it has.

So now I move forward one hour at a time, hoping God is with me and that the mechanism the universe has to fix broken things works.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Innocence or Ignorance of missionaries


I fed the missionaries dinner the other night, as I was in the kitchen preparing dinner, they sat in my living room talking amongst themselves. My apartment is filled with books - shelves of books, books on the table, the floor, the sidetables, on and under the coffee table, on the couch. I lose track of books, but the books I'm reading are usually right next the TV remote control on the coffee table.

Recently, I've been reading a lot on theories of sexuality, gender, and power - in other words queer theory. It's helpful in that it identifies those things I sense to be off, but never had the words to articulate. There was one book by a french philosopher (why do they always have to be french?) that I was reading and left on the table. The title of the book, "The Making of the Gay Self," and the picture of two men embracing is a bit forward.

During dinner, I was talking with them about how I'm slowly working on trying to develop an enduring, motivating faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement. They asked if I read the Book of Mormon, "I do," I responded, "every day." (Which is true.) But just because one reads the book everyday does not mean one will necessarily acquire the faith in Jesus Christ - this fact perplexes these missionaries. As we ate and they asked questions about my faith, I responded. Then one missionary (who's been out for seven weeks), says in a respectfully audacious manner, "I say this with much love and respect...maybe you're not gaining the faith in Christ you seek after because of the things you read...the book on your table is darkening your mind."

I was taken aback a bit, but kindly thanked the missionary for his kindness. Little did he know that I grew up with fairly liberal (but morally conservative) parents - they are intellectuals and encourage the exploration of deep things that push the limits of conventional understanding and comfort. My intellectual heritage was insulted by that remark. But I quickly realized, he's a 19 year old kid, grew up in suburban Salt Lake City to ultra conservative parents who don't question the "facts" from Fox news. I simply stated, as a result of studying queer theory, what little faith I do have now is gaining traction, because I'm able to ask more precise and specific questions about the operation of the church, the gospel, even the structure of the ontology...doing so helps me to realize that if there is no response, then God's will is simply that I accept the uncertainty.

Ignoring those books and the wealth of perspective they bring could not bring me to comfortably accept uncertainty in the church. Before I was simply moving forward agitated by things I felt uncomfortable with, but did not know why. These books have given me the perspective and faith to accept uncertainty and let go. Perhaps one day that missionary will understand.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Resentments

Resentments can be fatal. I realize I harbor many resents. I try to push them aside and minimize how they affect me, my relationship with others and God. Yet, it's these resentments that drive down my self-esteem, that impinge on my ability to see myself a child of God worth all that Heaven has to offer.

I'm incredibly resentful of others because...
1. they are smarter than me
2. they are fun
3. they are successful
4. they are faithful
5. they are level-headed
6. they are confident with who they are
7. they are happy
8. they are better looking
9. they are desirable by others
10. they have friends
11. they are disciplined
12. they are hard working

...And so on.

These resentments are aimed at various groups of people I know intimately and others that I simply observe from a distance. These resentments are debilitating and are an incessant presence (and lie) telling me that I am not "good enough."

I am so broken that I believe the lie - the empirical evidence suggests that is so. I resent them for the things they do well, for who they are. As a result I have trouble relating to them, I have trouble being truly present with them, because I resent them. I have trouble being myself.

But the problem is I have nurtured these resentments for so long that I'm not sure who "myself" really is. Slowly, but surely, I am coming to find out who I am, and much to my surprise I like what I'm finding. I'm coming to realize that I am smart, I am kind, I am disciplined, and so forth. Despite that, I continue to insist on dwelling in the world of resentments.

I am a confident wonderful man, not a bad person getting good, but a sick person getting better.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

General Conference

I looked with some hopeful anticipation to General Conference and perhaps to some healing balm. While the deep questions remain, the edges of those gordian questions, however seem to have become slightly frayed.

I've realized that while it makes no sense to my gay friends and other friends who are not members of the church, and liberal Mormon friends why I stay in the church, I stay because deep within me there yearns something Godly. Deep within, there is eternity.

Yet, the implications of that realization are difficult to contemplate. First, that admission brings with it a desire to "repent." That desire to repent is not limited solely to my correcting my errant behavior, but rather adopting and internalizing a new way of seeing myself, others, and God - a fresh view to borrow from the Bible dictionary - what that means is an alignment with God's view of me.

The implication then of repenting of my sins, is also really a tacit decision to refrain from any homosexual relationships, and a tacit commitment to not act on those natural feelings. But moreover, it is also a tacit acceptance of my potential singlehood in the church, and that means a measure of loneliness. Repentance for me has now taken on a new dimension, that is, I am now trying to rely completely on the Savior to help me mourn a life not lived, a life hoped for but never attainable.

General Conference was depressing and highly discouraging. But I left Conference with some degree of confidence that I can be single and celibate today, afterall, today counts more than tomorrow in the economy of Heaven.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shame

Recently, I've been thinking much about why there is so much friction in my soul about my place in the church. I realized that friction is the result of the eternal fact that my identity at its most fundamental spiritual level is heterosexual (for all intents and purposes) and that my most fundamental mortal identity is homosexual. Thus, these two truths about myself conflict, thus causing anguish in my soul.

The fact that my sex drive is toward the same sex therefore causes much shame and therefore even more despair about my place in the church. John Bradshaw writes, "Our sexual energy (libido) is our own unique incarnation of the life force itself. To have our sex drive shamed is to be shamed at the core."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Abandoning myself to God


So not long ago, I took my first step in the 12-step program. The first step is:
"We admit that we are powerless over sexual addiction - and that our lives had become unmanageable." It took me years to come to this realization, but I have; and I am now gratefully powerless. I read my story in front of 50 men - it was liberating. It shined the light on all the deepest and darkest secrets of my life.

Furthermore, it helped me to see that being gay and Mormon are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Delving into my past, despite how difficult it was, enabled me to engage for the first time the fact that I am gay and that I am Mormon. It was that process that brought me to humbly ask God for His help. Yet, in that asking, I exerted every effort to simultaneously deny and accept the Christ. I know. I accepted the fact that Christ was real, but insisted on denying His healing powers.

While I choose not to blame my recent relapse on my lack of faith in Christ, I am nonetheless grateful for the relapse, as it pushed me toward step two.

Step two is: "Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

I took step two yesterday. Yesterday, I could not concentrate on my work. I tried to finish making the edits on my dissertation prospectus, but could not concentrate. My mind went back to Saturday night. Yet, that memory and its root desire wrestled with a single truth in the back of my mind - Sunday (as noted before was Stake conference broadcast from Salt Lake City), Sister Elaine Dalton gave a powerful sermon on the sanctity of the body, she noted that all of the Adversary's attempts to drive us from God are centered on the body. With these dueling ideas, one centered on eternal fulfillment and the other on mortal fulfillment, I gave in and went in search of something to fill the God-size hole in my soul. I turned to the online personals. Parenthetically, as I was doing so, I realized that pornography is now boring to me - I have no real desire to use it anymore.

I arranged to meet this guy. Yet in the moments up to that impending meeting, I was deeply troubled. I did not want to do what my body (and now I realize what Darkness) wanted me to do. The missionaries came over and I almost lost my composure in their presence, I held back the pain filled tears and simply asked for a blessing that I might have more light and truth in my life. With their innocent and child-like faith they blessed me. They left my apartment at 8:00, the guy was supposed to come over at 8:30. I pondered on what I wanted out of my life. I realized I wanted faith, I wanted comfort. I wanted Christ in my life. Yet, I was resistant to that desire. I wanted to continue to insist on my previous simultaneous recognition and denial.

I read the "For the Strength of the Youth" pamphlet then read a talk by Elder Holland, in that talk he noted that God wanted my "soul to be as pure as it was meant to be." I soon found myself on my knees, pleading with God to not let me do what I desperately wanted to do. I begged God with every desire for good and life I had. I begged for my life. At that moment, I asked for the Atoning power and mercy of Jesus Christ. This was the first time I asked in sincerity for His mercy and love. I literally begged and pleaded to not let me go through what I had planned, I begged to be saved from myself. I realized I prayed for nearly half an hour, pleading with all my might to be saved from myself.

I then checked my email, I saw an email from the guy who noted his car would not start and was not able to come over. There is a part of me that wants to rationally explain this as simple coincidence or call him flaky. But, I can't discount the power of prayer and the love of my Heavenly Father. I was saved from myself. I abandoned myself to God. He restored me to a degree of sanity last night.

Repentance is hard. But I'm coming to sense it's worth it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gay Best Friend...Auggggh!

So this weekend, in addition to my Bishop, I realized the girl I had been quasi-dating for the last year or so, once I disclosed what was going on (a while back) now sees me as her gay best friend. I started to get a sense of this on one of our "dates." A week or so back she couldn't wait to have dinner with me, I was excited, perhaps by the probable impossibility of where the relationship might go, despite the disclosure. I got to her house and knocked on her door, she answered and then she ran back to her room and quickly came back with an armful of clothes and started modeling dresses and showing me the new clothes she bought and then started talking about the crush she had on a guy. I realized that I had descended into being the "gay best friend." A role I refuse to play.

Needless to say, my disclosure has turned yet another girl into thinking I want to be her "gay best friend." I stopped taking the phone calls of one girl I dated a BYU, she kept wanting to talk to me about her guy crushes, fashion, and so forth. I refused to play that role, so I've spoken to her only periodically over the past several years, avoiding any semblance of her treating me like the gay friend.

Let me say this clearly if one of the girls I dated or may date happens on this: I don't know anything about fashion (really I don't - I'm color blind!), I don't like Lady Gaga or Musicals (I think I swallow a bit of my own vomit when I hear them!), I don't want to hear about your man troubles (I'm trying to be celibate, so talking about relationships does not help me!), and I will not prance around or pretend to be excited by girly things (I like guys, that's not to be mistaken with liking girly things!).

OK. I'm done for today.

A New Creature?

This weekend I lost my sobriety, and the reality of the situation, not matter which angle I looked at it, pointed to the following paradox: I want to be a faithful member of the church, but also want to be in a relationship with a man. While this simple paradox is not new or novel in any way, I think way too many church leaders, like my Bishop, for example, fail to grasp the depth of that tension.

My Bishop, often simply provides a rote script when I confess or when I meet with him about my challenges. I hear the following refrains: “your problem is not different from other people,” “a lot of members don’t know what their place will be in the church in the future,” “just apply the atonement,” and so on.

As I talked to my Bishop about the anonymous encounter I had, each one of these came out in varying combinations. It’s getting a little old, and becoming increasingly unhelpful. I know my Bishop had a crisis of faith and was inactive for some time, yet, the counsel he gives comes from a placed disconnected from that experience. It’s like when I was a missionary. I had memorized all six lessons and all the associated scriptures. My companion and I were “teaching” one woman; as I was reciting from memory the lesson – she put her hand up and said, “Stop. Talk to me!” I was taken aback. From that moment I recognized the value of leading with one’s weakness – that is sharing what one knows, being present with that person, not relying a formal or informal script.
I want my Bishop to stop and talk to me from his experience. Yet, he continues to distance himself from it and simply repeats what General Authorities say. I can get that from the General Conference Edition of the Ensign.

Elder Holland in a stake conference address to 63 stakes in Washington and Alaska stated, “The gospel of Jesus Christ offers all the answers to life’s questions.” While I believe that, I’m coming to believe that the answers often don’t come the way we expect. For example, my Bishop, I think feels that if I simply read the scriptures, pray, attend church, and cease my behavior that all the questions the complicate my desires to remain in the church will cease. This is apparently the model, there are necessary inputs which enters the black box of the atonement (black box in the sense that we don’t know what happens), but then it pops out a new person.



Yet, the empirical reality, at least for me, suggests that while appealing, it’s so much more difficult. I’m not sure what I’m writing today. But the point is I’m trying to just accept the fact that my Bishop doesn’t get it and will simply exert my every strength to see the keys he holds.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Future Tripping

At least twice a week, the reality of the commitment I'm trying to make to my Heavenly Father weighs me down with an intense sadness and mourning of a life I will never have.

Monday night I had a dream that I was in a relationship with a man (I did not know who he was). The dream was not erotic in any way, but was filled with all the things my soul yearns for - intimacy, love, vulnerability, trust, inter-dependency, and healthy touch. This man in my dreams (I suppose now the man of my dreams) never said a word, but simply leaned into me for safety, warmth, and love. I woke from that dream excited with the prospect of finding a partner. But that "dream life" was quickly dashed as I sat up and saw my scriptures at my bedside - the reality of my life is singlehood, perhaps sometime in the future I will see it as a blessing...perhaps.

If I did not know God was real and if I did not have this emerging trust and dependence on Jesus Christ, it would make sense for me to leave. The other night I was talking with a couple of friends from the gay support group I attend, one simply said how courageous they thought I was to try to remain in the church; the other said I was crazy to try to live a life of celibacy, but conveyed his love and said, "If that's what you want, I'll support you."

This took me by surprise. First, because I realized I had gay friends. And two, these gay friends who've been very vocal in their opposition to any institution that inflicts "spiritual violence," once they got to know me and the deep respect I have for God and the church, were willing to support me in my "silly" experiment.

I'm thankful to God for such friends. They enable my willingness to put one foot in front of the other on my way to Moriah.

I still have no word on my Disciplinary Council. My Bishop says it won't happen until I'm ready. I leave it to him to decide when I'm ready, as I'm beginning to see and trust the priesthood keys he holds - that's been hard given what he's said to me about my circumstances. Perhaps simply another test from God - why does God always want to test me? I suppose it's good, because I'm slowly learning that God is in charge and can be seen even a midst the imperfection of his servants. I suppose this is what God was trying to teach me.

I'm a slow learner. But I eventually catch on.

So today, I take another step toward Moriah.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fathering

This past week I went back home to visit my parents. Overall it was a good trip, salubrious even. I felt present with my parents for the first time, feeling like I had to hide nothing from them. Though, I could sense they wanted to talk with me, but did not know how to start the conversation. I, too, wanted to talk with them. Though we've been open on the phone, there is something a bit different about being face-to-face. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant experience for them and for me.

As I was saying goodbye and headed out the door, my father called me to his room. He was changing into his suit (he's the Bishop and was headed to the church to conduct a baptism), and said in a very firm, loving, and somewhat chastising tone, to be careful...that living alone would only make things harder before they get easier. What struck me most was the tone my father used, it reminded me of the scripture in D&C 121:43 "reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.” My father at that moment was the personification of this scripture. His tone was filled with firmness, reprovement, sharpness, love, concern, and sadness. Afterwards he hugged me and told me to be careful.

I was shaken by his words (however brief). I came to sense for a moment the sadness my Heavenly Father must feel for me, not because I'm gay, but because I have violated moral covenants, because I violated my own integrity.

Last night I shared my first step with a GLBTQI addiction support group. As I read my first step and afterwards received kind and loving comments and support from fellow addicts, I realized that the only person I wanted to be around was my father. I wanted him near me. While I was physically present, I was detached, lost in my emotions about my father. All those loving words could not equal the love my father showed me in a brief 30-second conversation. I realized I missed him deeply.

I did not realize the depths of my emotions for, and the level of intimacy I had with my father. I do not have the same relationship with my mother. I've tried, but something is missing. I'm grateful to have him in my life, and grateful to be the recipient of his prayers and love.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reacting to my Truth



I’ve noticed a typically common reaction to my truth among members of the church, both left and right leaning. Most often it begins with an acknowledgement of how difficult the “burden” I carry is, then it immediately mutates into an empathic didacticism. This is usually accompanied by some presumption that I have not confronted the tension of being gay and Mormon (if one exists!). Consequently, I sit and listen to “straight” members of the church who often begin their thoughts with “Just don’t act on it…”

As I’ve contemplated that phrase, I’m not entirely sure what that means anymore. I realize, contextually, it refers to not acting sexually on my feelings. But I have to believe that for both (right and left leaning members), it means something more. Yet, for many members of the church (at least the ones I’ve encountered, though there are exceptions), being gay is nothing more than simply having sex with men. Being gay is more than just sex with men (in my case); as being heterosexual is more than having sex with their opposite sex. Thus, when the adage, “don’t act on it” is put forth, as a loving and empathic response, it is simply a na├»ve ignorance and denial of who I am, and a desire for me to be something other than who I am – someone that they feel is compatible with the gospel (as interpreted by their peculiar cultural constructs); yet, who I am is who God loves – this I know.

As I tell others, and receive the typical response, I acknowledge simultaneously, their concern and the bias embedded within what they say but within the realization that they may not know what they say. This has aided me in being patient with them - I suppose a lesson I’ve learned from being a non-white member of the church.

After their declaration of “just don’t act on it,” they often proceed to tell me that having the feelings is not a sin, but acting it is. They go on to talk about the hope of the resurrection, and continue to “preach” to me, as if I’ve never thought about these things. I recognize that what they say comes from a place of concern and love, but often I get frustrated as the elementary level at which they talk to me. I’ve studied and researched, and labored over this topic for years, I’ve made intellectual and theological sense of this issue. But I go to them, not to be given an elementary Sunday School lesson, but for fellowship in re-building my spiritual foundation – reconnecting my heart to my mind.

I’m learning to be patient, as I come to understand why people respond the way they do (at least to me). I had dinner with friends on Sunday and I candidly shared with them my struggles of faith. They were surprised, but concerned. They then said, “Be careful who you share this with, you’ve been such a vital pillar of faith to this ward and community for so long. People still see as such, when you share, they get flustered and start thinking, ‘If Enduring is having this struggle, what about me?’ “

I appreciated that perspective. The implication was, when I tell people they don’t know how to respond and just start repeating what little they know about the subject, thinking that I’ve lost all faith and knowledge. Perhaps I need to start practicing more patience and brotherly kindness to those who (I feel) know so little.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Being Gay is a let down....

So I've been feeling grateful. Since sharing my first step, I feel that all the deepest and darkest things of my life have now had light shed on them. Some people are quick to say it's the light of Christ - but I'll back away from that and just say, my secrets are no longer secrets. They no longer debilitate my sense of self-worth and confidence. I am able to be honest and present with people I meet, and for the first time, I feel like I am not hiding anything from myself or others.

I've been meeting with potential roommates this past week. I've been living with my nephew and he is ready to leave on his mission. I'll miss him. I was excited to live alone again, but quickly realized that where I am in recovering from my addiction, living alone would not be a good idea. Anyhow, as I've been meeting with these guys, I've felt (as noted above) that I was able to be honestly present and feel like I was not holding anything back, I did not feel like I was hiding - that I had to hide anything about me.

The first potential roommate came in and we talked, he checked out my apartment and the room. As we talked to get a sense of compatibility, I said, "I'm gay and Mormon." There was a little apprehension when I said it, but it came out easy and it felt natural, real, and honest. This was the first time I told a stranger that I was gay. I was expecting something dramatic, something large, something grand, something that would consume my senses and I would have a feeling...of what? I'm not sure. As soon as it dropped from my lips, he said, "yeah...so does the place have a dishwasher?"

It was a let down, but in a good way. Usually when I tell members of the church who know me well, the first thing they say is "Wow. That must be such a tremendous burden..." or something along those lines. Here, this guy acknowledged it and accepted it, as he blithely asked if there was a dishwasher.

That blithe attitude was fulfilling, it was accepting and affirming.

I told Father about that experience and later felt a strong impression (again) that Father also acknowledges and affirms me as His gay son, but expects me to honor my covenants. Yesterday morning as I wrote in my journal, I felt a strong impression in connection with that expectation, that for me, he wants me to honor those covenants, "when you're ready" to use the words in that impression.

So I'm happy and I'm authentically present and content, slowly making progress (to what, I'm not sure).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Interrogating my faith


As I've struggled the past year with repentance (I'm still a little unclear as to what that means as well), I've begin an intense process of interrogating my faith in the key doctrines of the church and Christendom, altogether.

I'm not satisfied with generic responses that often lack depth and that smacks of institutional inertia (that is, mimicking behavior considered "righteous"). I get these all the time: "you just need the right motives," "you need to pray with sincerity," "you need to simply hang in there," "just follow the Savior," "we're here for you."

The last one perhaps bothers me the most. "We're here for you..." implies that one knows my struggles, that one knows me, it also implies a correct path (do as me and you'll be good). I've tried participating in online support groups only to find the more I read of those posts the more I actually want to leave the church - people I don't know say, "we're here for you...". While I appreciate the sentiment, it does not sit well with me. Someone saying "We're here for you...", does not help me feel comforted, but only indicates a lack of compassion. As noted before, what is embedded within that declaration is an implicit standard of rightness that the group has somehow attained, and therefore will endow me with if I turn to them. A further problematic is the online support groups have stirred questions: the more I read, the more I want to run the opposite direction from anything these groups and their affiliates support and promulgate. I'm not sure I want to be associated with them, there is a lot of self-hatred and denial therein, a lot of smug and righteous arrogance.

I find more support with people not Mormon, not Christian, and many who don't even believe in God. They have no agenda for me, they do not pre-judge what is "right" for me, nor do they try to sway me in any direction. They offer simple sincere support, "whatever you decide, I just want you to be happy." A smugless statement like that is a relief. There is no pretense of their compassion, their compassion doesn't come with conditions. Those declarations allow me to choose, without feeling the weight of others thinking I'm erring and can't do it unless I see or join them.

These groups along with individuals I ask questions to tend to give the aforementioned generic (and unhelpful) responses to my questions.

I've been struggling recently with being filled with a spiritual desire to seek after Christ. While the Christ as a Savior makes theological sense, I do not feel a spiritual need for him. As a result, I have trouble closing my prayers to Father in the name of Christ. I'm not sure how to reconcile this. I feel closer to Father, but feel estranged from Christ (like I do not know him - which is true). It's not that I've not read, I could certainly write a treatise about the character and role of Christ, the theological significance of Christ is not unknown, rather, as stated before, I am not filled with a spiritual yearning to know Him, or to call on His name. Perhaps with time this will make sense or it may not.

Additionally, I've been having a lot of trouble with Thomas Monson as the prophet. I just can't connect with him, I try, but if I have to hear another story of a pioneer ancestor or about a widow, I think I'm going to go crazy. Perhaps one day I'll see him as a prophet, but really, I just can't connect with him. Another is Elder Cook, I try reading his talks, but get lost in his sermon. I can't follow it, I try to find a consistent underlying theme or principle, but get lost in his stories that don't ever make sense to me. I'm trying to have them make sense.

I have so many more questions. I have the missionaries come over and "teach" me, but I end up confusing them. My Bishop is frustrated with my questions.

I'm not looking for a one-size-fits-all response, I just simply want a real and honest answer, even if that answer is, "I don't know." Too often I think members of the church feel compelled by foolish obstinacy to have a clear answer to every question. Sometimes the most comforting response from a church leader or another member is "I don't know." When someone leads with weakness, I'm more willing to follow and listen. I just want the people I talk to in the church to be honest, to cease talking normatively and to start talking honestly.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Equanimity

After eight months in the program and 8 months of grueling work, I finally gave away my first step this past Saturday morning. It was an exhilarating and cathartic experience. All my deepest and most shameful secrets and thoughts I shared with a group of 35 straight men. If you'd like a copy of my first step, please ask and I'll gladly email it to you.

After I finished, I felt a burden lift. These secrets and shame that have debilitated my conscious, my confidence, and my sense of self-worth for so long, I gave away. I released them. While there's still a lot of work to do around them, the burden of these secrets is now bearable. I can lift my head up in honesty. I can see myself and love myself.

The guys in the room, not Mormon and not gay, responded to my stories of powerlessness in my fantasies and my acting out with guys with intense love and compassion. I was overwhelmed. Each one of them affirmed me, hugged me and told me how much they love and appreciate me. I felt safe and accepted. They told me they are there for me as I continue the journey of radical self-acceptance.

I thought, if only my Elder's Quorum was that accepting and had fraternal bonds like this, I might be more excited to go to church and mingle with the church members.

I went to church on Sunday, feeling incredibly liberated and closer to God than I've ever felt, but church was so routine, it felt disconnected from anything spiritual. So I played solitaire on my phone, still basking in the freedom that full and honest disclosure brings.

I am happy. God loves me and I love Him!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beaten to humility


I will be giving away my first step tomorrow. In the addiction recovery group I attend for sex addiction, the first step is sexual history and experiences and events that illustrate my powerlessness over my addiction and how my life became unmanageable.

As I've been writing it, I've realized how much my life has been complicated by this addiction. Two events I'll share:

1)From 16 to 19, I continued to struggle with masturbation and pornography. I had tried numerous times to stop. During this time I was sent to a pscyhotherapist to change my sexuality; I continued to deny this aspect of me, praying daily, exerting efforts in doing all I could to be obedient to God’s commandments to have “this cancer rooted out of me.” When it did not go away I was left feeling unloved by God, broken, abandoned, and lonely. I then went back to masturbation to cover those feelings. It was during this period that I was able to control masturbation, I brought it down to three times a week. I was doing so as I had always planned on being a Mormon missionary when I turned 19. Doing so required abstinence from all sexual acting out for at least one year before becoming a missionary. I met that goal and gained what I thought was freedom from both pornography and masturbation for a year and then two years while I was a Mormon missionary. Those three years, I learned to white knuckle. I thought I was free from the addiction. I was not.

Relapse and Struggled (22-32)

After being abstinent for over three years, I returned to school. Before my Mormon mission I, I had completed on year at an elite university maintaining a GPA of 3.9. (this was during my year of abstinence). I returned with great hope for my future. I started school again. One month into school I was in the library writing a paper, I was looking in the periodicals for an academic journal, as I perused the journals, I noticed a major and established pornographic magazine among the other periodicals. I initially recoiled knowing I had worked for so long to keep away. I went back to work on my paper, but intrigue set in. I could not focus on my paper, I wanted to know what was in the magazine. I walked back, paced back and forth through that isle, then I walked away, packed up my bags, but my bag was so heavy, my legs were so heavy, I could not walk out of the library. It was like a siren calls, I was mesmorized. My every movement was controlled by the intrigue and excitement. I grabbed the magazine and looked, soaked in the images and climaxed through sheer excitement. I did not even touch myself. I realized I did this in the library surrounded by people. I was ashamed, an intense guilt overcame me. I put the magazine down and walked away with my head down low. I graduated with a 2.8. I was not free.

2) I had arranged via Craigslist, to meet with a guy. The feeling of the potential encounter was intoxicating. I called my sponsor and told him what I was feeling, he asked that I write down the consequences and the many ways I was powerless. I attempted to do so, even that was not powerful enough to extricate me from the trance I was in. I struggled to bring reason and logic back in and have them fight the powerful feelings of excitement, intrigue, and pleasure. Yet it was not sufficient, reason lost, logic lost. I called others as I was walking to my car to meet this person, telling them I am walking to meet this person. This was not sufficient to bring me even a moment of sanity, yet I felt I was doing all I could, I was telling others of what I wanted to do, I was telling others in the faint hope of deflating the power lust had over me. It did not, lust ensnared my senses, I was transfixed with the idea, excited by the potential act, my addict kept telling me “if you don’t you’ll never know.” I knew if I continued with this, I would face severe discipline from my church, yet in that moment my addict reasoned, “this is more important than that.” The allure of that reasoning made sense, drowning out the logic of consequences. I made another phone call, saying, “I’m driving.” This did nothing. I made another, “I see the guy…I am walking toward the guy.” This was not sufficient to extricate me. I met the guy. We came to my home and I gave paid to give oral sex. After it was over, despair, pain, darkness a thick darkness settled about me. I felt ready to completely abandon myself to destruction. At that moment, I reflected on what had happened, and realized the depths of my powerlessness.


These and the many other experiences I will be sharing tomorrow have beaten me into humility. All I can do after reviewing these is realize that I am responsible for my behavior and accept the consequences. Yet in all of this, I've come to feel the incredible love Father has for me. I don't know about my future in the church, but I do know that for today, I'm committed.
Tomorrow, all bets are off.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yes. I'm Gay.

I just finished my prayer, but can't sleep. I needed to share what happened during my prayer. I ended my day, knelt at my bedside and offered a simple prayer, talking about my day, expressing gratitude for the people in my life and the support I've been given in approaching 90 days (tomorrow) of sobriety. I then broached the subject of why I was having a difficult time in developing a personal relationship with the Savior. I explained my reasoning and simply asked for more clarity. I then told Father of my developments in coming to accept myself.

"Father, I'm uh...uh..trying hard to come to accept myself as gay..as your son who is gay...Father, I'm uh...um...gay. Yeah, Father, I'm gay."

Immediately I heard in a response, a playful, yet loving and understanding response, "Why, yes, you are!"

I immediately felt affirmed, but all I could do was giggle. I imagined a playful grin on Father's face as He said what He said. I felt Him laughing with me. He made me laugh, while showing me how much He loved me and not diminishing the pain and struggle that comes with that affirmation. I felt an intense outpouring of the Spirit as I laughed, as we laughed.

Heavenly Father accepts me as His gay son. He wants me in His church. I will commit daily, if need be, to do what I need to remain worthy of His mercy. I love my Father!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Simple Good or Complex Good

In a conversation with a dear friend, she explained to me a system she devised to categorize Mormons. A generic dichotomy (which I think is brilliantly generalizable) of simple good and complex good. The simple good are Mormons who do what is "right" without any real reflection, these are those who seem to have an implicit faith to do things without question (despite logic or reason), though not all the time. These are they who do their callings, perform their duties, and are seemingly content with their lives, their relationship with God and the church and their views of the world being based on simple faith, or "hope" - the type of faith that is the result of "this is what my parents taught me, this is what the church teaches, so why question." While there is something to be said of this type of faith, for me it's not enough.

Then there are the complex good; these are they whose faith is predicated on an intense interrogation of the theological foundations of the gospel - they are not afraid to critique the cultural fabric of the church, identifying and attempting to understand the intersection of gospel doctrine and socio-cultural interpretations. These are they who seek to understand, at deep levels, how the gospel works, its implications, and how the structures of the institutions in and around the church shape an understanding of how to practice doctrine. And, they who accept Savior (most of them) because of an intense process of introspection. Certainly more could be said of this, and there are gradations between these two, but for now the dichotomy serves a useful purpose (at least for me): it helps me to understand the church in more generic terms.

Yesterday, I went to a friend's wedding reception, there I talked with a friend I had not seen for over a year. As we talked, I shared with him my struggles with the church and with coming to accept myself. We talked a bit about my Bishop and we both agreed that my Bishop is a simple good. He then pointed out to me that most of my Mormon friends are complex good. I realized then that I am annoyed with the simple good. I have trouble relating to them, talking with them, and I become intensely frustrated by their lack of depth, and their catch all solutions to problems: "just pray, have faith, and the atonement will take care of it." While there is immense truth to that, I often wonder if they even know how difficult their simple answers are. Simple is not always easy. Perhaps this is why I am having trouble relating to my Bishop.

Perhaps.

It could also be a function of me coming to terms with the sexual component of my identity. I am gay. While saying that out loud may take some time, it is liberating to acknowledge it without the shame. My Bishop attempts to understand, but the subtext of his counsel and advice says otherwise. Perhaps God would want me to be a simple good. Or to exercise simple faith. I'm not sure.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Acceptance


This morning I went on a run with a friend. We talked about many things, my friend then asked how I was doing in relation to finding peace with being gay. Honestly the fact that she referred to me as gay was and still is uncomfortable. I then told her of my epiphany of coming to accept me for who I am. While I recognize that being sexually attracted to men does not define my entire existence, it is nonetheless a powerful factor that shapes how I see the world and interact therein. I then explained to her that it's hard coming to accept myself as a "gay man." Uttering that was difficult. I suppose that's the point Carl Rogers was making when he wrote: "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."

This seems to be consistent with how King Lamoni's father reacted to Aaron's message, "I will give away all my sins to know thee...," or Paul finally accepting the thorn in his side. These, as well as many others, illustrate an implicit acceptance of things as they are, in that moment of acceptance then real change can occur.

I'm not implying in any way that once I accept all that being gay implies then I can change that sexuality, rather what I'm coming to see is that once I accept myself just as I am, then I will be able to re-turn to God with full purpose of heart. And sacrifice my desires and longings for a committed relationship with a man.

But that is still in the future, presently, I still feel discomfort referring to myself as a gay man. Alas, the shame still covers me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Euphoric Recall


As a sex addict, I'm coming to realize how important it is for me to control what I do with my thoughts. The reality is I am powerless over my actions when I start thinking about what I did with others.

Eleven weeks ago this weekend was the last time I engaged in sexual relations with another man. He was 19. I know, I know. As I tried to work on my research this weekend, however I yearned for his touch...his body. It was pure lust and it was sufficient to get me completely distracted and made my weekend difficult. Images of his body flashed through my mind; I allowed myself to sit back and relive that experience, but for a short period, and I caught myself.

I talked about it with others in my addiction recovery program; I made phone calls (it seemed every hour) to be sure I did not get back on Craigslist to find someone to act out with or contact the guy I last acted out with. It was difficult.

Perhaps there is a correlation between that and a growing conviction of my need for the Savior. I had been having trouble understanding my need to call on Jesus as a Savior figure; if God was so powerful (omnipotent), why could he not perform the atonement by himself? I feel I have an answer to the latter question, and this weekend I made headway on the former. Perhaps. Perhaps. My recognition of needing the Savior is tied to the flood of euphoric recall all weekend. I'm not sure.

But this weekend, without my recovery program I would have had another anonymous encounter. I survived and am thankful to good people who allowed me make healthy connections.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life with a man or the Son of Man?

I've realized as I gradually accept who I am as a gay man, the question of my place in the church becomes increasingly more difficult, burdensome and poignant. I suppose as I come closer to accepting that being gay is more than simply a "lifestyle," the more I realize I want to spend my life in a healthy monogamous relationship with a man. I desire that more and more with each step towards acceptance. However, that step towards acceptance makes a life in the church more painful and more like a sacrifice; I'm beginning to realize it requires more faith, more obedience, and more love for God. Thinking about committing to a life of celibacy to remain close to God is beginning to feel more and more like a sacrifice.

I think I may have prepared myself intellectually for this sacrifice, but now that I'm beginning to feel its weight, I realize I've not prepared myself emotionally nor spiritually. Frankly I'm scared. I cried out to Father this morning to help me see with clarity. I've immersed myself in the scriptures, seeking solace there. Sacrifice is not easy, if it is, then it's not a sacrifice.

“I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.

“For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me” (D&C 98:14–15).

The law of sacrifice provides an opportunity for us to prove to the Lord that we love Him more than any other thing. As a result, the course sometimes becomes difficult since this is the process of perfection that prepares us for the celestial kingdom to “dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever” (D&C 76:62).
(Elder Ballard)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's all downhill (except for the uphill parts)


This weekend I shared a bed with a very attractive man. I arrived at the hotel on Thursday night to participate in a 190 mile, 12 person team relay race, thinking I'd have my own bed. I entered the room and there was one bed, a pull out and three people. The pull out was taken, so I was left to either sleep on the floor or share the bed with the attractive soccer/runner guy. Honestly, though I knew nothing would happen, it was nonetheless exciting!

I was already having a difficult time, getting lost in fantasy about life with another man, thinking that remaining in the church may not be entirely worth it, and thinking how I might be able to satiate my physical appetites without being condemned by God (there is still a lot that I need to work on here...). So I brushed my teeth and changed out of my clothes into my sleepware. I'd forgotten, people who are not endowed and obligated to wear garments, often just sleep in their underwear. Well, this guy undressed to his boxers and climbed into bed, it was terribly difficult to keep my eyes away from him, but I did. It was, however, so very intoxicating, but I turned away from him, and thankfully, I was so exhausted from the night before, I fell asleep quickly. Though, it was strangely comforting to know that I shared my bed with a man (in a healthy way).

Out team finished the race in 27 hours 17 minutes. We had an average pace of 8:45 a mile. This race was one of the most exciting and fun things I've ever done. I wish I could draw more parallels to my spiritual struggle, but alas, I'm not seeing much.

Though I had an epiphany of sorts, the last leg of my run was at 3:40am, this was the funniest run I've ever had. I sprinted off at a good pace, running on an island, wide open clear skies, stars big and bright and darkness all around, except for my headlamp illuminating the way. I took the occasion to think about my struggle - I realized that sacrifice is giving up something I have accepted and own about myself; otherwise, that sacrifice is not genuine, as I'd be giving up something I never owned. I realized that perhaps part of acceptance is being able to say with certain clarity and without equivocation (and perhaps with less shame) that I desire a life with a man, and then voluntarily give that away, to put that on the altar. This leads me back to acceptance: I have to be OK in every way with my sexual identity (and all that that implies) for it to be an acceptable sacrifice before God, the sacrifice being committing to a life of celibacy. I'm not sure if it makes sense, but it frightens me to think of, trepidation around thoughts like this is usually an indication of its righteousness (or rather its rightness with God). What do you think?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perversions

Yesterday I was riding the bus and minding my own affairs. I was sore after an intense workout in preparation for the Ragnor Relay Race I will be participating in. Stewing in my soreness, my stress about my dissertation, and the cosmic questions, I was trying to distract myself from all that by reading. At the moment I was about the lose myself in my reading and forget about all the cares of the world, a young man stepped on the bus; he was the type of person I acted out with. It was hard for me to take my eyes off of him, as I peered over the top rim of glasses in his direction. At several points he noticed my glances and made movements inviting me to look. I got lost in a lust filled fantasy. This too was diverting from all the cares of the world; at that moment, all I wanted was to touch this man and to feel his touch. But I came to myself and realized what I was doing. Mentally, I took a step back and considered what was going on.

As I deboarded the bus, I made a phone call to my sponsor. We talked about where this intense desire for connection was coming from. We reviewed the stress in my life and then arrived at the larger tension: on Sunday I met with my bishop whose advice, in the most generic and diminutive way, was "Just buck up and do it." This was in reference to a spiritual confirmation I received about what I needed to do to remain in the church. But that meeting, coupled with the dreadful and incredibly depressing mid-singles conference I attended, as well as the direction from God as to what I needed to do, led me to start a draft letter of resignation from the church. But I stopped short of finishing the letter. As I talked with my sponsor, I discovered I had a lot of resentment toward my Bishop and was struggling to understand, or rather, isolate the source of that resentment.

So I called my Bishop after my sponsor and told him about how I allowed myself to have a lust-filled fantasy and spoke to him candidly about my resentment toward him, but that I was not clear on why I felt resentful. As I talked, I mentioned the informal structures of the church and the informal expectations of "worthy and righteous people," I spoke of how many aspects of the church (and some parts of the doctrine) are shame inducing, as it all glorifies the heteronormative order - in other words the institutions and norms (both formal and informal) are mechanisms of compulsory heterosexuality. I mentioned I'm OK with how that is fixed part of patriarchial order- but how that sexual order gets played out is more difficult to deal with. I mentioned several examples of this, one of them being how General Authorities legitimize for the rest of the church certain descriptions of those like me: hedonist, for example. My Bishop seemed to understand, yet,in the same breath expressing his understanding, said, "But you have to agree that gay sex is perverted, like how having sex with animals is perverted."

I was stunned.

My Bishop declared in no uncertain terms how he views those with my transgressions: a pervert, equivalent to beastiality - a mere lustful act, one void of attempts at connection. I understood at that moment that my Bishop sees me as a pervert. This right after he expressed understanding that how we label transgressions of others is a form of power and control; he defined me as a pervert and found no problem doing so; though he stopped shy of defining me as a hedonist, as did Elder Grow. What then am I to do?

I swallowed a gulp of air and took a deep breath and said, "I want to stay in the church," but I need to know how to process these acts of aggression, these insults. I can't just ignore them, but I have to process them and deal with them in healthy ways. As I pondered on it, I resolved that Father would not call me these things; in that moment, I realized that to understand me, I need to understand Father - this I had an idea of before (as intimated in the previous post), but yesterday that idea took form and was distilled with clarity. As I come to understand the character of God, I will see a reflection of me. This, as I reasoned, should enable me to process the moments of aggression, and to move forward in faith. I asked Father for forgiveness for feeling resentment towards my Bishop. I move forward filled with some optimism, but painfully aware of the social reality of the church, hoping to find comfort in its doctrine.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coming Out


I read recently that the closet, while denounced by many gay activists as a symbol of shame and of submission to oppression, was and is (for many) still a space of freedom, a way of resisting, of not submitting to normative injunctions. As I've metabolized this idea, I could not help but consider the presupposition to this pronouncement: that one has already accepted who they are, and therefore consciously choose the closet as a form of resistance.

As I reflected on my own experience, my closet was not a form of resistance, rather it was a coping mechanism; a way to continue to deny who I am; a way for me to further the self-hatred. In short it was a mechanism that would allow me to fit into the heterosexual order of the Church. Yet, denying who I was, was a form of control an act of defiance of the Heavenly order. Denial of my identity (sexual and otherwise) was my form of resisting the power of God. I wanted to control how I viewed myself, I wanted to control how I fit into the institution of God's kingdom on earth. I wanted to dictate the type of blessings I received for routinized obedience. This stemmed from my denial of who I was and am.

Yet, instances of the human condition voiced over the pulpit during conference about the homosexual situation did not help my acceptance. A latest example of such is Elder Grow's talk, in that talk he refers to his brother leaving his wife and two children to choose to live a hedonistic lifestyle. Hedonism is a notion that pleasure is the only good in life. Pleasure! (I may consider that at a different time). But the fact that he used hedonistic to describe his brother (who was in a relationship with another man) is a constant reminder to me of how much I want to continue to deny who I am. Is this how General Authorities and stake and ward leaders view me? Do they see me as a hedonist? Someone who decides one day to "set aside" covenants to pursue pleasure? Am I a hedonist? Certainly what I did was not pleasurable, by any stretch of the imagination - it was filled with pain, intense pain - the opposite of pleasure. But moments such as these impel me to retreat further into the recesses of the closet - taking on further forms of denial - attempting to ensure that masculine parts of my character are emphasized. Though most people have said "I get no sense that you're attracted to the same sex...others it's clear, but not with you." Yet, the fact that I'm having those conversations is evidence that I am still in denial of who I am, unwilling to accept that God created me and allowed me this condition for a reason. Why should I deny that gift?

So my closet has been one of denial for so long. Recently, I acquired a new sponsor for my sex addiction: he is gay and atheist (he did encourage me to pray!) - as a result I have now been sober from all sexual acting out for 67 days. I shared with him that part of my addiction has been fueled by the unresolved tensions between accepting who I am and where I fit into the grand schema of God's plan. With his help, for the first time, I am thinking about what it means to be gay, beyond the superficial and naive understanding that sex is the only defining feature of being gay. This has been a tremendous help. He insists (as does my Mormon therapist) that I need to accept me and love me. Two things I find hard to do.

As I've been praying, fasting, and studying the scriptures in an effort to accept me, I realized that I don't even know what I am accepting. This is where my gay sponsor has been tremendously helpful: he helped me to see that being gay is more than simply a desire to have sex with men. I asked if wanting to have sex with men is what I am accepting, but that seems a moot issue: I've already accepted that. But what is about wanting to have sex with men that I am accepting, this for me seems to be the bigger issue. And for this I am uncertain. This line of questioning led to me ask, before I accept myself, I need to know what I am accepting. This led me to ponder the larger cosmic reality, related to my existence: who am I?

I can write easily and say I am son of God, a child of God; but I do not understand the power of that declaration. I do not feel the power of that identity. What does that mean in relation to the sexual identity in mortality? I am not sure. But that same friend, as I lamented told me, it does not matter that you don't know who you are as long as you are progressing.

I am coming to realize that coming out is not a process of public declaration, but rather a powerful process of self-acceptance and love. I must come out to myself, and love what comes out. To do, I must be able to see myself as God sees me. To do that I must know the character of God. This line of reasoning seems consistent with the Prophet Joseph Smith's truthful assertion: "If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves."

Thus in coming to accept me, I may with Alma, be "content with the things which the Lord hath alloted unto me." And perhaps by so doing, enable my faith and bolster my desire to remain faithful to the end.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Eternal Life?

I study game theory and strategic interaction. Much of this is predicated on the belief that people are self-interested actors who respond to incentives. I suppose somehow this view of the world settled into my view of the world. This is important for my own view of the gospel plan.

Yesterday I took the time to read several books on psychoanalytic therapy of gay men; specifically how have gay men negotiated and found comfort and joy in being both gay and Christian. This obviously is material that would be burned by Evergreen and its proselytes. Much of this work is centered on love; coming to accept ones self and love ones self as God loves and accepts. I think this is incredibly helpful!

However, as I pondered how that might fit within the LDS doctrine, I realized there's a part of me that continues to resist key tenants and principles of the gospel. One of those is eternal life. I read in Robinson's Believing Christ: "You see, we all want something desperately...we want the kingdom of God. We want to go home to our heavenly parents worthy and clean." In Alma 29, Alma seems to imply that the incentive to do good and be good and righteous is for the reward of eternal life.

This has unsettled me. But it was not until this morning as I was reading my scriptures on the bus ride to work that I realized I had trouble believing and accepting this doctrine. As I've reflected on it, I think part of it is I am still fearful of what eternity might mean. My hesitancy in finding joy in that doctrine is a function of my fear and lack of trust in God. While I say I'm willing to submit, in reality, I'm fearful of the change that might happen. I'm afraid of the eternities and what it represents. My mind continues to cling to this mortal condition and the paradox of my life that currently represents such confusion and loneliness.

Eternal life as an incentive to be righteous, at this point, seems, well pointless - as it seems to appeal to the very basest of our natural desires. This seems somehow odd and strange. Yet, I admit I don't understand. Even what I'm writing now, makes no sense. But there is a connection between this "incentivizing" of heaven framework I have, my fear and the truth. I am at a point where I recognize that I really don't know anything, but letting go that and letting God is incredibly difficult. I recognize that my framework, my interpretation is lacking, but its hard to let go and have it replaced with what I think is nothing.

I wish the desire of my heart was to have eternal life, but still that seems the wrong incentive for me. I'm not really sure what is the right one. But I know that I must let my pride go, I must let God.