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, 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 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.