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, February 23, 2011

Resources of Courage

The past few days have been contemplative and moody, to say the least. I have not made an decision on the path of righteousness; I continue to stand at the crossroads. I look down each path. I try to imagine what's at the end of each path: how vexatious each might be; how tormenting each might be; which is the path of least resistance (for mortality and for eternity). I realized that doing so, the questions I ask presumes pain and torment are a given in each path. Perhaps it is, but the reality is I don't know.

Last night I talked with another dear friend of mine. He was my Bishop after I returned from my mission (eleven years ago). I told him about how I was struggling with the greatest question of my life to this point: do I leave the church and find a loving committed relationship with a man?

He was very concerned and empathetic. He listened and then proceeded to tell me that the church is growing; it's dynamic. The position the church, in relation to homosexuality, has changed and will continue to change. He told me the reality was if I were to stay in the church, then that part of me that yearns for a deep and intimate connection will never be fulfilled, rather I will be tormented throughout mortality. If I were to leave the church, then I could experience the happiness that comes from being in a committed and loving relationship, but that my relationship with the church would take on an eternal character. That is, neither God nor intelligent people would condemn me for leaving. That in the eternities, all will be sorted out in relation to homosexuality. In other words, he advocated that I quietly go inactive, if I felt I could not muster the necessary courage to move forward with the inevitable torment connected with being gay in the church.

I listened. This certainly gives me hope, in an odd way. Or rather, let me re-phrase, it provides me an option to believe that I will not be wholly condemned if I decide to leave the church. This line of reasoning is so very tempting, alluring, and persuasive. Yet, my immediate gut reaction was: "What about my covenants? Did I not covenant to obey God's laws as he gives them to His servants? Did I not covenant to sacrifice all things, even my own life, to follow God? Did I not covenant to live the law of the gospel and apply the atonement? Did I not covenant to be chaste in every way, and implicitly covenant and agree that any relationship outside of a man and woman is not of God? Did I not covenant to consecrate everything I have and am to God?" These covenants necessarily bind me to God in so many ways. These covenants bind me to heaven and eternity. The covenants have shaped who I am today, they structure my interactions with people inside and outside of the church, it structures my relationship to God. It is the foundation of my character.

Had I not made these covenants perhaps the option presented to me might be more compelling. Yet, these covenants are my reality. No matter what line of reasoning is presented to me, I would have to stumble and crawl over these covenants on my way out of the church; slipping into inactivity would not be so silent as these covenants are so loud and present. If I were to leave I will have to pretend they are insignificant. If I were to leave or quietly go inactive, then any semblance of integrity I think I have will be gone. I will make a willful mockery of all God's laws. Because of this I will be tormented in one path, as I know what I must to do to "quietly" leave. I'm not sure I have the courage to live with that torment.

The other path however, is the path of righteousness. As I trudge this path, I will be turning my back on the deep and yearning need to be connected in intimate and profound ways with a man. I will never know what that feels like. I will have to sacrifice that part of me on the alter of God. Yet, I fear, I will not be able to make that sacrifice. I fear, I will be forever tormented with weekly reminders of the things I may never have (a loving relationship that I so desire). I fear I will be condemned to a life of loneliness in the church; granted I acknowledge I may find love, but that love may not be the type of love that I so desire and need. It may be filling, but not fulfilling. Courage and faithfulness to know and accept the unknown...

I talked with a good friend last night and she indicated to me that I have faith; I qualified her observation by noting that while I have faith, it is not sufficient to be faithful to God. As I though on that my mind was drawn to the Doctrine and Covenants.

I'm beginning to appreciate more deeply Joseph Smith's trial with the lost manuscript. In D&C 3, the Prophet petitioned the Lord twice to allow Martin Harris to take the translation of the first part of the Golden Plates. The Lord refused the Prophet's request; however the Prophet approached the Lord a third time and asked. The Lord then allowed the Prophet to let Martin take the manuscript. Martin lost the manuscript, and Joseph exclaimed, "'Martin, have you lost that manuscript? Have you broken your oath, and brought down condemnation upon my head as well as your own?'

"'Yes; it is gone,' replied Martin, 'and I know not where.'

"'Oh, my God!' said Joseph, clenching his hands. 'All is lost! all is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God. I should have been satisfied with the first answer which I received from the Lord; for he told me that it was not safe to let the writing go out of my possession.' He wept and groaned, and walked the floor continually.

Once the Prophet returned to the Lord, he was severely chastised:

"Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble."

Verse 8 caught my attention. It is illustrative and comforting, that despite the Prophet having a theophany he still struggled with faithfulness. He was mortal and weak, as I am. But he struggled with being faithful! He struggled with being faithful! Faithful!

Jonah the ancient Prophet, likewise struggled with faithfulness. He fled from the presence of the Lord.

Thus, as I look down both paths, namely the path of righteousness (i.e. right with God), I know I struggle with being faithful, not with having faith. In other words, I struggle with the courage to act on my faith.

While this certainly does not alleviate the burden of my decision, it does provide something satisfactory and comforting to my soul and mind.

This has provided, at least, a framework to help me see myself in relation to God and to the decision that weighs upon me. I can move forward knowing that I am mortal and that all good people no matter their station or calling struggle with faithfulness.

This is comforting.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not knowing

The past two weeks have been somewhat of a roller coaster ride. I've gone to the apex and to the nadir in my emotional state, confidence, self-esteem, and knowledge of "truth."

At the moment, I am simply coasting along - a plateau, if you will. I've come to realize that I really don't know what it is I want. People will inevitably tell me: "You're a child of God," "You know what's right, You want heaven," "God loves you," "Just have faith and God will lead you."

The first set of comments presumes they know what I want. It presumes a foundation of faith that I don't think I necessarily have or is woefully weak. I'm not sure what it means to be a child of God. Certainly, I can rattle off the numerous expositions by prophets and apostles both ancient and contemporary. I can explain the theological and ontological significance of it all, I can even cause the hairs on the back of one's neck to stand straight up as I do. All this intellectual knowledge DOES NOT mean I have that experiential knowledge. If I do, it's very weak. I acknowledge this.

Yesterday, the opening hymn in priesthood was "I am a child of God." The third verse of that hymn reads "If I but learn to do his will / I'll live with him someday..."I realized again, that the understanding of truth and application of truth are two different things. And that for progress they must work in tandem. It's not a matter of me not understanding the truth, rather at this moment it's a matter of applying the truth - or in other words "learning to do his will."

I fear I do not have the courage or faith to do his will. I fear I do not have the faith to apply the truth connected to being a child of God. Last night as I talked with a dear friend of mine about my struggle, he noted that I had already made up my mind. He said, "I can hear in your voice. You've already decided to leave." I resisted this, because I could not accept it. He went on and said very boldly, very clearly and with much authority (as he has known me for many many years) "If you walk away, you will never come back. You know this and I know this. If you walk away, no matter what you say or think, you'll never come back." I tried to fight this line of reasoning, but it was to no avail. I accepted it. It is true.

He explained that I knew what the truth was and is. And I do. I understand it, but because of my weakness I do not want to apply the truth. In part, because I know what applying the truth means. It means that I turn completely away from the thoughts of a life with a man. It means that I will never have a part of me fulfilled, that I think needs fulfillment. It means, I sacrifice these things and the desires of my life in a loving relationship (with a man) to God. It means, I sacrifice myself and who I think I am at this moment to God. It means taking that step in the dark. It means becoming someone else. It means changing. This is the reality that surrounds me.

I am at a cross-roads. I know what is right, now I hope I have the courage to take the path of righteousness. That is the path that is right with God.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Brilliance of the Natural Man

I hear others tell me "all you need to do is read your scriptures...all you need to do it prayer...just do God's will and you'll be happy." To them, I graciously say, "thank you!" However, upon further reflection the "all you need to do..." lines do nothing for me. I read my scriptures, daily! I pray, daily - even when I don't want to. Last night, I knelt to prayer. Weighed down by falling yet again with another guy on Sunday, I tried praying, but nothing came for five or so minutes, I ended saying, "Father, I'm not ready to talk." I then crawled into bed and went to sleep. I woke up this morning, knelt again and said, "Father, I'm trying," with that I ended my morning prayer. I sat down for breakfast, read a chapter out of the Book of Alma. This has been my life. I find it hard to connect to God. Yes, I read. Yes, I pray. But at times this is not enough.

The problem is not that I don't know I am a child of God; not that I don't know that God loves me; not that I don't know I can trust God. I know these things, I have evidence of them. Yet,the problem is at the moment, I feel estranged from this. I can't seem to find the comfort in these things. I have hope that I will, else why do I continue to pray, even when I don't want to say anything?

The natural man inside of me is so very strong. Certainly the natural man has his ear bent toward Satan. The natural man knows me oh so well. As a result, it's incredibly difficult to give my will over. That is simply one problematic, the other is that I don't know how. I am sensing, after my acting out with another guy, that I have very little control of myself. I can not do it alone. But my will is hard to bend. The logic and reasoning of the natural man is so very persuasive. I struggle to put off the natural man; consequently, I struggle to submit to the will of God.

I think, in part, it's because I don't know what God's will is. It is easy for me to assume I know what his will is, but the reality is I don't know. There are things people tell me I should do, but they aren't God. I have a very generalized trust in God, yet, I struggle experiencing the belief that He has my interests in mind. I can say it, I can believe it, but my actions and the patterns of my thoughts suggest otherwise.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Certainty and Uncertainty

I am not sure of things anymore. I recently realized that I do not know who God is. I do not know who I am. All I know is that there is a part of me that wants sex; a part of me that wants a longing connection to a man. Perhaps not in that order, perhaps both at the same time. I am not certain.

Attending meetings for my addictions has been helpful. Things I thought I was certain of, I am not longer certain of. I thought I knew who God was, but the more I reflect on it, the less I know who He really is. This stems, in part, from my own distorted relationship with Him. I first started my sexual deviance when I was about 11 or 12; that never really relented. Now twenty years later, I struggle to gain or admit that I have no control, and surrender myself to God. Yet, that twenty year struggle messed up my own perception of myself, my perception of who God is, and of my relationships with others. I slowly unplugged myself from reality, finding repose in my own reality. A reality that I constructed, ever so carefully, to maintain the illusion of control, the illusion of certainty, the illusion of confidence, the illusion of me.

As I sit the meetings, talking with, frankly more experienced people, I am coming to realize that I have no strength, that I have no confidence. I am nothing. Yet, that is the point, right? That is what I am to realize. I am not the person I thought I was. I am not the confident person I project myself to others, nor am I the person lacking in self-confidence, with low self-esteem. Rather, I am nothing. This is reality that is hard to accept. With nothing, comes increasing uncertainty, of who I am, of what I am, of where I am going, of what I am supposed to be and believe in.

God is somewhere. I believe that, or at least tell myself that. Being gay is a small part of who I am, but being nothing is more. Being nothing means I give up control, recognize that I am indeed powerless over myself. It is realizing that I am powerless over the natural man. Being nothing, means I realize that I, of my own power and will can do nothing to overcome the natural man.

While, this makes intellectual sense, I am afraid to admit it. I am afraid of being nothing. I am afraid of taking the step in the darkness. I am afraid of uncertainty. Yet, that is precisely what I need to progress. I need to be completely uncertain of myself. I need to let go of all the efforts I make to control my environment, to control me.

Sure, I want a partner. But at the moment, I am not sure why. Is it for God's will or my own? But the point is I don't know God nor his will. Will I ever? As I step into the unknown, the uncertain; I come to know. I come to feel His will. I believe that's how it works. But I am afraid.

I'm afraid of uncertainty!