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

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


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.