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, March 30, 2011

Humility or Humiliation

I missed my meeting with my Bishop on Sunday evening, on purpose. We were supposed to talk about the Disciplinary Council. It has been nearly nine months since I first entertained an anonymous visitor. The last one being a little over a week ago. After I missed the meeting I told the Bishop that there was some trepidation around the Disciplinary Council, in part because I was coming to realize that the platitudes I rattled off about God, were not substantive; that in reality, while I caught a glimpse of God, I still did not know Him, thus it was hard for me to trust him and the proceedings of the Council.

I received an email back from him telling me that when I'm more consistent with my view, then I'll be ready for the Council. On my way home from work I was filled with anger. I felt that the longer I'm in limbo, that provides the license I need to continue with my behavior, but more importantly with my line of thinking of leaving the church. I felt that if I had a Disciplinary Council back in August, as was first intimated, then I may have been saved from the grief of my other behavior. I wanted to blame someone. I wanted to blame my Bishop for not being sensitive to me.

But then there was a part of me that simply wanted the Council to be over and to have a verdict so I can start my life. I was angry. I felt patronized, as if my faith was so fragile that I could not handle the discipline. I felt anger towards my Bishop for thinking I was not ready because I confessed that I did not know God, and subsequently I did not know myself. In that lingering moment of anger, I thought of walking away from church altogether.

However, while that line of reasoning was appealing, I felt a stirring, an ever so small stirring in the recesses of my soul. I pulled out my phone and opened the scriptures and started to read. My body was trembling because of how angry I was; everything in my mind told me that reading scriptures was the last thing to do. But I did, I was still breathing angry breaths. Yet, as I read the scriptures I was calmed down sufficiently. I got home and the anger welled up again. I got to my knees and, I'm embarrassed to admit, I was yelling at God. I was angry, not with Him, but with myself for allowing myself to be so angry and for allowing my pride to take the lead. I prayed not for a softening of heart, but for gratitude for feeling anger, for feeling the reality of my situation. I prayed then that I might come to know the God of my intellectual understanding, that, as one amazing person put it, my heart knowledge would include the knowledge of God.

Will my attractions to men ever leave, most likely not. But I am coming to realize the difference between being free from the secrets of sin and the freedom from sin itself. For so long, I associated the lifting of the burden of sin (through confession) as a form of forgiveness: it's not. While it's an important part, the forgiveness comes from critically examining my life, from pulling out all the errors of judgement, of thinking, of all things that distort my relationship to God, and turning toward Him, however hard and painful it is.

While I don't recognize God's sustaining power or His unconditional love in my life, I have to believe it's there. I hope to be able to one day stand before God and have Him peer deep into the chambers of my soul and see nothing but purity and goodness. But for now, cleaning out those chambers is painful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fleeting Moments

Life is frustrating. At least mine is. I have come to realize as I have slowly peeled back all the "primary answers" to gospel questions, which I relied on with ever increasing sophistication, that I had a completely distorted view of God and of myself.

In the last post, I noted that when I finally got rid of all the intellectualizing of the primary answers, as safe answers, I uncovered my real beliefs in God. This is painful and hard to accept. Coming to accept that I never knew God is disturbing to me on many levels.

Being that I am not white, and sensitive to institutional racism, mechanisms of marginalization, and how the excluded often internalize the values of the oppressor to legitimate themselves, to allow themselves to fit in. My notion of God was subject to the internalization process. It turns out that no matter how hard I tried, I could never fit the ideal image of worthiness in the church: a white middle-class conservative heterosexual male. Because I'm not white, the images of worthiness on the cover of church publications associated with worthiness are all of this white male. No wonder, I always felt I never belonged. No matter how hard I tried to be worthy, I continually fell short. I tried to bury that notion of God deep under the platitudes, that I often rattled off with ease: God is love, He is kind, benevolent, patient; through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive the enduring power to overcome and so forth. While the platitudes came off as simply overly-sophisticated primary answers, they did not convince me of the reality: the church is filled with white people, the institutions that structure the interactions of the church are derived primarily from the value set of the white middle class conservatives. Thus, their views tend to interpret what worthiness is, who God is, and because I desperately want to be in the church, because it's God's Kingdom on Earth, I easily succumbed to internalizing their vision of worthiness.

As a result, my vision of God was consumed by the pursuit of worthiness. As some level I probably always knew this, yet, I covered this by intellectualizing the primary answers, attempting to show members I was worthy. Since I could never become white, I had to demonstrate I was equal to them, through mastering the scriptures, distilling the theology in compelling ways, and I think I did. Yet, this did not mean I knew God.

God was a construct of mine that was derived from a mixture of societal norms and my own presuppositions. I could not live up to that conception of God.

Yesterday I read of how after King Benjamin's subjects "viewed themselves in their own carnal state..." they "cried aloud" for the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Coming to know that my messed up view of God has hindered me, has enabled my mistrust of God, my progression in repentance, and any hope of the future, is coming to view myself in my own carnal state. My carnal state is a state of allowing the world to shape who I am and to structure my relationship with God. While I have not reached the second part of crying aloud, I am certainly at a point of viewing myself in my carnal state. I am seeing myself, for the first time with clarity. It's frustrating, angering, and painful. Yet, I force myself to be grateful for it, nonetheless.

Each day is frustrating, as each day uncovers more evidence of my carnal state, more things for me to view. But then, each day brings with it gratitude to turn the carnal into the wholesome.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Authentic Being

A wise Maori Scholar observed, "A truly educated person is not one who knows a bit about everything, or everything about something, but one who is truly in touch with his centre. He will be in no doubt about his convictions, about his view on the meaning and purpose of life, and his own life will show a sureness of touch that stems from inner clarity. This is true wisdom." This constitutes the "authentic being."

I have come to realize lately that I have lost touch with my center. As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever was in touch with it. As a result, my life has been one of in-authenticity; I am in inauthentic being.

Recent events in my life have suggested to me how helpless I really am. The prophet Mormon notes, "O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth." (Helaman 12:7) It turns out for me to be authentic, to be on touch with my center, I had to be humbled; such that I had to see that I am nothing - and in that state of nothingness, I am completely powerless without God.

I had been working on curbing my sexual desires; yet, the deeper yearnings of fulfillment and need called loudly. I struggled with allowing the feelings to pass. Yet, how do you allow a deep natural feeling to be intimately connected with a man pass? This deep need for fulfillment called loudly. Naturally, my brain assumed I could find that connection in random hook-ups. I gave in to two things on Saturday: 1) I gave in to my deep need for emotional connection (yet I looked for it in unholy places), 2) I gave into the carnal desires. The satiation of my carnality, I told myself, would bring the fulfillment I longed for. That experience was empty.

After that experience I talked with my Bishop and he explained to me that it changes how he will approach me. But he also told me to build up my defenses. The strange thing is, I did not feel the remorse, shame, or pain. I knew that I intellectually violated an eternal law, but I did not feel the weight of that violation on my moral senses. I struggled with church on Sunday, but I adopted a happy and cheery demeanor; I tried to be happy I was in church - truth is, it was torturous. But I endured. My body desired again to feel the warm of man's touch, the safety of his arms. After all, the spiritual arms of Heaven are so fleeting and in my state not comforting, as least to my physical senses.

Tuesday afternoon, I struggled again. I yearned deeply for that connection. I went back and gave in the carnal touch of man. Again, it was not fulfilling. Somehow, I tell myself I can find that connection in my behavior. I can't. It wasn't until then, that I came to realize how deeply and utterly powerless I am over my own carnal lust (in all its forms). It was then that I realized how distant I was from God.

Today, as I reflected on where I'm at, I had to be honest with myself and admit that I may not really know who God is. I have to face the painful reality that my struggled has hindered my ability to come to know God. I asked myself who do I think God wants me to be, this is opposed to who God wants me to be. In this exercise I discovered I have a very unhealthy relationships with God:

I think God wants me to be perfect. God wants me to have this experience so I can tell others about it. But He wants me perfect, to be successful, to be wealthy, to be kind, to be giving. He wants me to completely overcome my addictions and my attractions to men – He doesn’t expect me to be healed, but He expects me to become rigidly obedient and completely submissive to His will. He expects me to sacrifice everything to Him. He expects me to blindly follow the guidance of my church leaders, even when I feel they are clueless. He wants me to conform to the societal norm prevalent in the church. God wants me stop being me and become Him.

It’s hard for me to stop being me, first because I don’t even really know who I am, and then he wants me to give that up? I suppose in this I’ve been harboring resentment toward God. I’ve been resenting this for so long. Why would God create me as I am then never allow me to experience the real me and then tell me to give that up and become Him? I don’t even know who I am. I never experienced me, so how am I even give that up? I want to experience me. I want to know me. Yet he’s asking me to be Him. He’s asking me to stop being gay, to stop having these feelings of attractions, He’s asking me to stop acting out, He’s asking me to start loving, to start serving. He sees my flaws and insists on pointing them out to me. God wants me to be like Him because he’s flawless, and I am flawed. But He continually reminds me that I’m flawed. God tells me that I’m flawed everyday. God wants me to be like the Elder's Quorum President,to be like my Bishop, to be like the successful guys my age, with families, faith, and success. But I look to these men and constantly falling short. As a result, I feel God continually asks me to be someone I’m not.

But I’m coming to realize I don’t even know who I am. I feel God is distant from me, that He’s not interested in my life. That He’s taken a back seat to watch the “Enduring Show.” I think God wants me to someone I’m not, I think he wants me to be like Bishop, the other guys in the Elder's Quorum with families and kids, the Stake President. I feel like God wants me to be them and not me. Perhaps God wants me to be white middle-class, conservative, and pro-capitalist.

I am coming to realize I don’t know what God wants of me, I don’t know what God wants me to be. I suppose I think God wants me to be like the other guys, He wants me to be married and accept that my life is awful, but be happy about it. He wants me to accept the fact that I’m gay, but live like I’m not. He wants me to deny my experience and cultural background and be like a white-middle class Utah guy. He wants me to be smart but not too smart, He wants me to be happy, but His idea of happiness is the Utah notion of happiness. I suppose in the end, I really don’t know what God wants me to be. This is what I think He wants me to be. Because I can’t be the Elder's Quorum President or the Bishop, I feel like a failure. Because I’m attracted to the same sex and do not have children and am not married, I feel like I’ve failed God. I feel like I have not lived up to what He thinks I should be. This is making me forlorn, bereft, helpless really. What have I done to myself. All my life I’ve compared myself to others, holding others up as what God wants me to be.

I carry the shame of not living up to what I think God wants me to be. How do I heal this shame. Perhaps part of it is adopting a correct view of God. I continue acting out because I have a false relationship with God. When I do not live up to those expectations I feel shame, and thus I want to act out to cover that shame and not feel the pain that comes from that shame. I don’t want to tell people that this is how I see God, because it’s shameful.

These are my thoughts of God. It was sobering to realize how bereft of God I really am, how I have this intellectual and theological understanding of who God is, as kind, loving, patient, compassionate. Yet, the real notion of God is what I've described. I do not know God. In my knowledge of God I am helpless, no wonder it took so long for me know how to admit my powerlessness and my own nothingness. Because admitting I am nothing presumes that I have faith in God. I am beginning to develop faith, this faith comes from a correct view of God, not only in my mind, but in my core. Understanding and knowing God in my core produces an authentic life, the authentic being. I have distanced myself from my center. Now comes the hard work of realigning my center to God.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I'm at a point where I'm willing to sacrifice everything, at least for today. By that I mean, I am willing to sacrifice all my desires, all my wants, all my perceived needs, all my dreams, my identity even if it means that for a moment I can taste the peace that passeth all understanding. Yet that is strangely not comforting. Perhaps that's a "no duh!" response - it is. But that does not diminish its reality, at least for me...

This realization is incredibly depressing, but the choice I have is either be tormented by the knowledge I have of God by walking away, or be tormented by the very desires and wants (that'll never be fulfilled) by staying in the church. So I figure why not sacrifice these desires. I can live today with the misery that attends not having these things fulfilled. I can live today being single. I can live today without having to have a family. I can survive today giving up my will. Perhaps in so doing God (in His infinite mercy) will give back what he chooses. I am really at His mercy. Knowing that sucks. Where's the joy that attends sacrifice?

About two weeks ago, I met with my Bishop and he quoted to me Matthew 19 about eunuchs in connection with me being gay. I have no clue where he was going with it. It made no sense. It still makes no sense. What that interaction indicated to me was that my Bishop is even more clueless than me. That's comforting.

But something interesting happened that night, we talked for several hours and he asked if I wanted a blessing. I replied, "Yeah...sure, if you think it'll help." He then asked if I wanted him to do the blessing. I told him I didn't care. He then asked if the second counselor could give the blessing. He told me that he was too close to the issue and me that he felt he could not effectively communicate the will of God. I respected that and my admiration for him deepened. With that the second counselor came in (he did not have any background on me or the issue). The Bishop invited him in and told him nothing. He put his hands on my head and I thought it was going to be one of those generic blessings: God loves you, read your scriptures, bless you with strength, etc...It started off that way. But midway, the blessing became very specific to my concerns. A concern I thought I had resolved years ago. In that blessing, I heard "some affliction and trials are caused by people, while some afflictions like yours are caused by nature..." I have reflected on that now for several weeks. If I heard and understood right, the Lord told me "I indeed was born that way..." but that does not give me the license to act on what I feel is natural. It is comforting to know that God has confirmed my own suspicions, but at the same time discomforting to know that I must come to sacrifice these natural desires and yearnings to draw close to Him. Why? I don't know. I don't think I'll ever know. Right now what is needed on my part is complete mortal submission.

This submission is daunting. It means that I effectively choose daily to forgo the desires and thoughts of being in committed relationship with either a man or woman. It means I commit to remaining a second class citizen in the church (being single). It means I commit to life of being alone. It means I commit to a life without my dreams. But I can do this today. Tomorrow will be tomorrow. Thinking about tomorrow is too daunting, and the weight of the task bears down on me and makes me think I can't do it. Honestly, I don't know I can. But I know I can at least get through today.

The fact that others tell me that I will be fulfilled by Christ and by service is not comforting. But I choose to believe that may be the case, but the comfort does not necessarily follow the belief (at least it hasn't in the last week I've committed). Perhaps my Mt Moriah is to see if I can faithful while knowing I have to deny everything about who I feel I naturally am. Right now, I am a nobody. It doesn't feel good, but it keeps me from fawning over a life that could've been, it keeps me from turning to unhealthy behaviors, it keeps me safe. Sometimes being safe is boring and miserable, but it's safe and the sun will rise in the morning.

Church is not fulfilling. But I go because I believe it will help. Writing this post makes me incredibly sad to know that I am sacrificing. But I can get through the day, it will be alright. I can be sad today. I can. Perhaps tomorrow I will decide something else, but today, I can be faithful (even if being faithful today means I feel sad).