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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"You're not happy"

Yesterday I had a discussion with a person I barely know. He calls himself a valiant struggler of SSA. As I talked with him he asked about my life and my relationship with God, the Church, and with myself. I told him I was happy with my relationships with each. A quietness settled on the conversation, and with sadness in his eyes he looked at me and said, "You're not happy, you've just deluded yourself into thinking you are. What you're experiencing will not last!"

Of course I was startled, but not surprised. This person does not know my struggles, does not know the peace I have now, and the choices - the fully examined choices, I've made. I smiled at him and simply said, "For now, I am at peace with myself, with God, and the church. I know God knows better than I do why I do and choose to do the things I do. There is great comfort in knowing I have his unqualified love. Though I also know his love is not to be confused with His condoning what I do. But He's God and I trust He knows better than me and you and the Prophet in how to relate to me and show me love."

And for me that is true and I'm happy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thankful for Dark Paths

"...[A]nd they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree." (1 Nephi 8:24)

I am queer in many ways. I always knew I was queer, even before I came out, I was intellectually, politically,  culturally, and socially queer. That is, in a word, different. I was different from the norm. I found problems with, and continue to find problematic, the racial, classist, sexist orders that shape behavior and thought patterns in the church and in society. Until recently, I've embraced openly my sexual minority identity, as well.

Recently, I've had trouble identifying as a "gay" man. There is certainly truth in what Elder Oaks and Holland have noted about identity. Yet, I think the identity of "gay" is far too circumspect for me. It suggests a limitation and retreats solely to my sexuality. Yet, queer openly acknowledges the many ways I am different, "odd" as it were, from society. It is inclusive of my erotic desires, but also recognizes my intellectual leanings, but more importantly, it also is inclusive enough that there is room to continue struggling with cognitive dissonance. That struggle is one I may never be over, but being queer suggests I don't have to, however, the more myopic term "gay" may implicitly suggest that I struggle no more with the Laws of God and my erotic, emotional desires.

I am queer, and the dark paths of life have shown that to me. In the darkness, I found myself. In the dark it was just me, only me. The expectations of others were no longer visible, the social pressure was dimmed, my own thoughts were darkened and opaque, my self-perception was obviated and invisible. In the dark, it was only me and my God, unfettered by the distractions of the world, by the cultural and social pressures of the church and its communities, unspoiled by my own periods of self-loathing. In the dark, I experienced God, because, in the dark, I had to trust He was there. I had to trust more than that. I had to trust that He loved me more than I could fathom. It was and continues to be in those moments, that I feel His presence and His love.

I find His love expressed to me in the form of my friends who are gay, who treat me with respect, love, kindness and do not judge me. Then I enter the toxic online communities of Northstar or others and find judgements of others who "give in," unhealthy doses of shaming meted out, unhealthy social and cultural pressures to live to cultural standards (as if those standards were synonymous with eternal standards). In other online communities, unhealthy shaming of individuals with faith, I find individuals attempting to reconstruct and reproduce systems of oppression for queer people of color, I find exclusionary tactics, all under the name of "love." Certainly this is not where I find God.

I am thankful for dark places.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The reach to Normalcy

There are a few givens in my life:

1 - I'll never marry a woman (well, I suppose I could if I could transcend to a different level of love like Josh Weed...but, um....yeah).

2 - The Church will not ever change its position (and this is not even a point of contention for me).

3 - God the Father is real and He lives and is as Joseph Smith described (this has major implications).

4 - I am physically attracted to men.

With these givens, the associated cognitive dissonance, I'm attempting to carve a place in the margins, a place that acknowledges my failure to live up to the norms of the church, but also a place that celebrates my failure and allows me to articulate a new vision of "normal."

I had breakfast with a friend a few days ago, she's a stellar and well known Mormon scholar, as we collaborated about a project on Decolonizing Mormonism and collecting essays from Mormon scholars of color from the global south and from the margins of the north, we talked about the meaning of activity in the church. What it came down was a lot of hand waving and "details," the idea here was, it is not for leadership or others to judge my relationship to God and to Mormonism; rather that is for me to self-identify. I felt edified after this visit.

Second, a friend of mine, who I adore, honor, and look up to as a shining example of faith, courage and righteousness (defined as rightness with God), stay over with me Saturday night. Sunday morning, he told me his story. He is having a child with a woman he barely met. I've sat in Institute with this man. What was striking was two things: 1) my notion of "normal" in the church was disrupted, and 2) I was not disappointed, but rather my love for him deepened in a meaningful way.

I saw my friend as this stellar example of faith, I projected on to him, all the elements of righteousness and even tried to imitate his life in hopes of gaining proximity to heaven. But his story was different from the template of righteousness I had been using to judge, assess, and love this man: my notion of normal. Yet, his story disrupted that. As a result of his honesty and intimacy and his courage, I found myself loving him more deeply. I told him before I dropped him off that I love him as I do my own brother!

Experiences of this sort enable me to see that there may be notions of success in Mormonism yet to be articulated within the givens I outlines above and that is hopeful.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Resetting Sobriety

Slipping with my sobriety is always hard. Last night, I succumbed. There was a 20 year-old kid who has been stopping by my office for a while. He apparently was a friend of one of my students. We chatted briefly after one class (as he met his friend after class was over and while I was erasing the board), in part, because we had a friend in common. He approached me and, "You're so and so, right?" I acknowledged that I was "so and so." He then asked, "Do you know A?"  I said yes.

We chatted for a few moments and then I left back to my office. A few weeks ago I ran into him in the gym. He asked about A. I told him what I knew. Afterward we had lunch together and chatted a bit about his work and A. He then asked if we could have coffee. I told him I don't drink coffee. A few days later he showed up at my office, I talked with him and he asked me if I could help him with a paper he was writing, and so I did. After that he started stopping by. Last night he came by my office, just as I was leaving. He asked me if we could grab dinner, I acquiesced.

He then said he had a big paper that he needed help with, I told him I couldn't help and that I was on my way home. He asked if he could drop by my home and get some help at home. At this point I knew what he was trying to do. I denied his request and hopped on the bus. After getting home, I received a text message, he was "freaking out," and asked for help. I tried the best I could over texting, but it was fruitless. By this time, my addictive patterns and pathways were well lit. I eventually invited him over. He came over and we sat on my couch for three hours working on his paper. After it was complete, he closed his computer. I was about to get up to show him the door, he put his hand on my thigh and pushed me back to a seated position. That was the end. I showed him the door three hours later. At the door, with my head hanging low from what I just did, he ran to me gave me a hug and grabbed my head and gave me kiss. He then picked up his bag and walked out the door.

As I reflected on this incident and how I have lost my sobriety, I realized that my life is stressful. Questions of the church remain, frustration and uncertainty around my dissertation remain, and funding for my graduate education remains tenuous. But I paused today and met with the Institute director. It was  a pleasant feeling to access the Spirit and speak with a god-fearing man of faith. I took solace and comfort in that visit. I'm not sure how to process what happened with the kid, but I move forward.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Last night, I went out with an acquaintance - gay former Mormon - I ended up at a bar in the gayborhood. As I sat sipping diet coke, I listened to this acquaintance tell me of all his hookups with guys from scoutcamp, to priest's overnighters, to his midnight liaisons at BYU, there no compunction in the slightest for what he engaged in.

He continued then to tell me how he had dropped out of school and ended up starting a tech firm that he boasts is worth some $20M. But it was here that he was stuck. Sex and money was the extent of this man's life. It was the source of his appeal for all the men (most of them younger 20 or under) that he hooked up with.  I tried to prod, searching for some dimension, some depth to this man. I failed, at least last night. I want to believe that people derive a sense of their lives and purpose from more than sex and money.

I suppose what as most off-putting about the entire night was not the fact that he was having raunchy, kinky anonymous sex (of which he showed me pictures and videos and to which I covered my eyes), but it was the  arrogance, the self-absorption, the self-centeredness of the man. He boasted of his contacts - meeting Bill Gates, meeting the Secretary's of State and Education, CEOs of large tech firms, etc - and boasting of his wealth, and his ability to make a success. Yet there was a certain sadness in his story, despite all the "things" he accumulated, he said to me plainly, "I want a boyfriend." I simply nodded.

As a confirmed Marxist, I'm rather tame when I meet pro-capitalists individuals, but this one was different. An hour into our "drink" his friend showed up. This kid was a punk! Arrogant asshole. The top of his class as undergrad and a whiz at computer programming. He couldn't help but tell me that he makes $58 an hour and he's only 22. To which my friend responded, in a pissing contest manner, "I bill out at $550 an hour." They both proceeded then to belittle people the bar, calling larger women "whales" and so forth. I was thoroughly disgusted.

I signaled to my acquaintance that I had to leave, he was sad that I was leaving. I think his sadness stemmed, in part from both of them thinking they were better than me and that I amounted to nothing more than a hill of beans to them. I didn't tell them what I did, nor did they ever ask. I simply sat back and allowed both of them to assume that I am under-educated, under-employed brown man.

I left the bar disgusted, and realized that my life could always be far worse. Certainly I'm happy and I don't need alcohol, money or even sex to experience happiness and contentment. The truth that "wickedness never was happiness" rang true to me last night. But let me qualify, to me complete self-conceited living is pure wickedness - attempts to break free from that self-conceited lifestyle is the essence of the gospel. I hope I'm not self-conceited.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I fed the missionaries two days ago. Good, upstanding young men. One had posed the question on whether I was happy and content before I "came out." I paused and reflected on that question before I answered. Truth is I'm not entirely sure. This raises and perhaps even begs a larger question about the nature of happiness itself. I told the missionary, who seemed quite genuine in his query, (as I have a tendency to call missionaries out when deferring to robotic or routinized interaction) that the nature of what I feel is quite different.

To wit, when I was "struggling" to remain faithful and honor my covenants, my relationship with God and the Savior was conditioned on how well I lived up to both the putative (or self-imagined) and real cultural and social expectation of my family, the church community, and my limited understanding of God and the nature of things Divine. Under these conditions, my happiness was inherently tied to fulfilling imagined expectation of myself and others about our place before God. Thus, I'm not certain if I ever felt happiness in the measure it was intended. Sure, there were times I felt happy, because I fulfilled this or that expectation. But it was not lasting. Yet, I was more or less technically obedient.

In the last year, I've experienced love and happiness in ways I've never thought I could. I can say confidently that I am happy now, I feel content, I feel a sense of relief, a freedom from expectations that once determined my level of happiness. I am now happy in spite of those expectations. I feel a measure of God's love for the first time, as it has been shown to me through my parents.

And this is question that is both raised and begged: What is the nature of happiness?

I've asked this question before, more specifically what is the qualitative difference between "Mormon happiness" and "non-Mormon happiness"?

Recently, as I've started dating, this answer to this question is beginning to make some sense. As I've been able to get some long-term traction with my addiction, I've been able to think a bit more clearly. This clarity has been conditioned by the two guys I'm dating.

The first, I call him B is from the south. He is 26 years old and an undergrad. B and I have set some very clear boundaries for physical intimacy. We have not done anything, nor do we intend to until we both feel that this dating thing has potential. This has allowed me to experience dating and to develop healthy intimacy. For example, this weekend we went out for dinner, drove around, and then played with his hair. During this time we simply talked, laughed, and genuinely had a good time getting to know each other. I've been on three dates with him and after each on feel fulfilled, there is no desire to engage my addiction. This is healthy. I feel content and happy when I'm with him.

The second, I call him J is also from the south. He is 33 years old and also an undergrad. J, I sense is taking things very slow, I really appreciate that. I met him for date one last Friday, as we had dinner we just got to know each other and laughed. There is something deep about him. After dinner, I thought it was over, but he grabbed me and wanted to have frozen yogurt with me, so I followed and spent another hour with him just talking. At the end of the night, he asked if we could do it again. Since then we have been texting, we have date 2 scheduled for next Wednesday. Again with J, after I left I felt fulfilled, there was no desire to engage in my addiction. After each text I feel fulfilled. This is healthy intimacy.

In both of these situations, I sense I'm not as lonely as I think I am. Yet, as I've thought seriously about both of these men and a future with them, I reflected on R74 or the same-sex marriage vote in Washington. I then started to ask myself if I could actually envision myself marrying a man. I've tried hard, but there is something that continues to haunt or perhaps quicken my moral senses. It is here, that I realized there is a hierarchy of moral norms connected to happiness. At the very top of this hierarchy connected to a pure form of happiness is honesty and complete submission to God as the highest norm, and that includes total fidelity to all covenants. And then down the hierarchy. It is this hierarchy that I know exists independent of my own rationalizing, and reasoning. This hierarchy is eternal. And it is the empirical and spiritual reality of that hierarchy that haunts my dreams and brings a measure of discomfort at the idea of marrying a man.

Yet, that places me in yet another pickle. I recognize that the queer theorist in me will simply attribute what I'm feeling to internalized homophobia and that by not talking a decisive stand, I'm simply reproducing it.

But at this point, I will continue dating and keep interrogating the significance of happiness and how I might live that life without having to necessarily sacrifice a life of companionship. Perhaps that is inevitable. Perhaps what I ought to be seeking is simply resignation to the inevitability of being alone, but not necessarily lonely.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A New Man?

Yesterday I had dinner with a good friend. He said, "You're more pleasant to be around, you seem much happier, and more light-hearted." I was initially taken aback and a little insulted by the implication that I wasn't pleasant before. But the reality is I am much happier. I am. I am happy.

I can state quite clearly and with a degree of conviction: I am queer, I am Mormon, and I am happy.

Life before me is exciting, while I am still in a process of negotiating my relationship with the Church, I think my place in the Church is quite clear. I belong in Church. But now I'm specifying my level of activity and membership. I think for the indefinite future I am comfortable with being a peripheral member: Peripheral member involves regular contact, interactions with members which varies from acquaintanceship to close friendships with individuals, a marginal role, really. 

Obviously, I am OK for the time being of relinquishing the rights and privileges of full active membership. Yet, that is precisely what I need right now. While I still read scripture and pray, I am under no illusion that covenants are being broken, but I'm sure there's more to it than I can comprehend. I am comforted by the fact that God knows the situation better than me. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hiatus Over

Sorry it has been a while. 

I would be lying if I said a lot has happened. It hasn't. I think I just got a little lazy. 

It would be better to say that I was in the depths turmoil wrestling with aspects of my sexuality and in the process of reconciliation. Alas, I haven't. Well not really.

In the last month or half, I've been fairly sober and for that I'm grateful to my higher power. 

Last night, I took occasion to watch the "Mormons in America" special on NBC last night. What struck me most about this was the very tender emotions it elicited in me of my relationship to God and not the Church. I've come to realize in the last few months that I desire to be firmly rooted in the Church, but recognize that that the depth those roots can go will be severely limited. 

I continue to be open to dating and have been on several dates in the last few weeks. It's strange. I went out with a very nice, talented, intelligent guy who is a Latino secular Jew and as we talked a feeling of "so this is what a date feels like" overcame me. It was an exciting feeling, a feeling of being fulfilled, a feeling of rightness. I began to wonder, yet again, back to the same theme, "are these feelings unrighteous? are these feelings what God wants me to sacrifice?" Those are questions I cannot answer, and I'm coming to appreciate more and more questions that my Bishop is not able to answer either. There is some degree of comfort in that discomfort.

This morning, as I made my way to my office, I reflected on my relationship to God and realized, yet again, that God is real. This is a fact that I cannot deny, no matter how much I try, and further He is as Joseph Smith described. And despite my numerous misgivings with the administrative and management practices of the Church, I tend to see that God continues to endow men and women with inspiration to further an imperfect organization to His ends. In other words, the Church grows despite itself. 

Yet, at least for now, I see myself in a margins of this organization. As I am now actively looking for a fulfilling relationship, I recognize that I must distance myself from the doctrine of the Church in ways that make me and other uncomfortable. I talked with the Institute Director about the point one "willfully rebels against God." He did not know, and simply and loving told me, "If, after all you've done to weigh things out and you decide to move away from the doctrine, then I don't think that qualifies as willful rebellion. God understands."

He shed a few tears at the doctrinal struggle and more likely at the eternal significance of the decisions I'm contemplating, but then he extended a hand of friendship and love in perpetuity in knowing the difficulty of the decision. We embraced. I'm grateful for such friends. 

I've decided I like the term queer better than gay. I am feeling more and more free as a queer man. The notion of agency in relation to embracing myself as queer is certainly a topic for another post. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Learning Intimacy

The past few weeks, in terms of my sobriety, have been great. I was troubled by not being able to get some traction with my sobriety. I talked at length with my sponsor and my therapist about it. It seemed much of my acting out, came from stress, not related to the church, but from work and life. And a lot of it came from being given a degree of freedom, I've never had. With my parents releasing me from expectations of future behavior, I got a little lost with that liberty. While I recognize that that deep within my desire is to remain in and close to the church, not for anyone, but for me, it remains a quandary.

Last weekend was Seattle Pride, I had a chance to help some friends out with Pride. It felt good to give back and to simply feel safe being me, despite all the crazy stuff that attends Pride. But this happened under the weight of having just returned home from visiting with my family. I told my sister I was a sex addict and she simply hugged me and we shed tears - she thanked me for still being her brother, and not leaving the family. I held her for a while. It felt good to talk openly, freely, and with love to my sister. I felt home.

When I walked through the door, my father ran towards me and hugged me and held me for a moment. It was a great feeling!

At home, given my work with the community, I was asked to do some things for them that would require taking on more responsibility. I acquiesced. I arrived in Seattle with a heaviness, not of emotion, but of the potential of my future and where it will be headed, as I assume more and more responsibility my community is asking me to. The trajectory of my life has changed. All through this I was sober. And it felt great. I was not online or surfing the mobile apps for guys to cruise on, I was not lost in lust or fantasy about relationships. Rather, I was focused on two things: 1) my sobriety and 2) my future. 

Sunday afternoon, after returning home from Pride, I was exhausted. I did step work and eventually went to bed. I woke up sober. That day was rough. But I made it through the day, making program phone calls, and then went to a meeting in the evening. I shared about how I wanted to find someone to act out with. I left the meeting feeling settled, and phoned my sponsor, we talked about my plan for the evening. It was a good plan to keep me sober. 

I got home and started to work on my dissertation a bit and then I received a text message from a guy I got to know, Peter. This addiction is insidious! As soon as I received the text message, in which he invited himself over, I was lost. The euphoria took over. He came over and stayed the night. It felt good, but I also knew it was detrimental to my sobriety, my mental and spiritual health.

We watched a movie and then he feel asleep in my arms. We moved to the bed and there slept with each other throughout the night (though that was punctuated by moments of nonsleep). In the morning, we simply cuddled till 1pm, laughing, talking. There was a part of me that was fulfilled by that encounter, yet I remained mostly empty. I knew he would not stay. Sure he might send another message in a month or so, but it was not permanent.

When I got to the office, Tom called me excited to fill me in on his life away from Seattle. It was nice to hear from him. After the phone call was over, I reflected on that experience with Peter, and realized I deserve more than to simply be used by someone to feed their addiction, and that I have more integrity and love than to use someone to fuel my addiction. A new insight for me.

Throughout the week as I worked on my program for recovery, Tom phoned a few more times. However, I knew with each phone call, the reality of anything happening between the two of us diminished. I think he recognized that as well. Strange how much can happen in a week.

I went to the LGBT running club on Saturday morning, Tom was there. I did not expect to see him. He slowly made his way toward me. Instead of his usual excited greeting and hug, he just stood in front of me staring me in the eyes, then he smiled at me, I smiled back and we went our separate ways on different trail runs. I've not heard from him since.

I think this is a good thing for me. What that experience with Tom made me realize with greater clarity was simply that I want a fulfilling, intimate, healthy relationship. And those kinds of relationships do not have to be sexual. I can have that kind of relationship with friends and family. It is the kind of relationship that allows one to transcend loneliness and be OK in solitude. It is my hope that perhaps one day, I can have that kind of relationship with God.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Moments of Sanity

Last night I had a moment of sanity. I just returned home from one of my twelve step meetings, had a long talk with my sponsor on a relapse prevention plan, and have been having healthy connections with people, it was then I received a text message from a guy (I met) who wanted to come over watch a movie and cuddle. Sounds silly, I know. But the prospect of being held by someone, being able to feel vulnerable in their arms is ecstatic. I initially replied, "sure." But I had just come home from a great meeting and all.

I waited for a reply and then simply explained, it wasn't going to work, and bid him farewell. I went to bed sober and woke up sober.

But it's precisely the cumulative force of small discrete moments of sanity such as these that bring sobriety. A freedom, really, from compulsive behavior. I am relieved, despite how stressed I am with my research, the prospect of not having funding in the fall, and other things that vie for my time. I'm grateful, I'm sober today.

Today, the 22 year old (I'll call Tom)  moves away from Seattle. I'm a little sad by that - he's been very good for me. We are supposed to have lunch today, I'm looking forward to that. At the end of the night, when we last were out together, he gave me a long hug, something he's never done before. Obviously, I'm feeling something, otherwise I wouldn't be dwelling on it. As I struggle to fit this into the larger doctrinal paradigm, I can't. While I know Father knows that I'm open to finding a relationship with a man, Father also knows that deep within my breast, I'm not able to deconstruct or obviate the profound truths of the doctrine, I was so privileged to experience in a singular ineffable experience over 13 years ago. It is precisely this where there is no reconciling, at that point it is a dichotomous choice.

Yet, the amazing part of that is that Father and even the Savior understand better than I do why I would contemplate perhaps for a time moving forward with finding a male partner. While I recognize they do not condone the behavior, they understand my desire (better than I do), and that is compassion!

And so with some sadness that I will not see the Tom much anymore, we have planned some activities to do together over the summer when he is back in Seattle, I hope to work on being OK in loneliness and solitude. In the meantime, I will work on recovery and sobriety and really work on Step Three of the Twelve Steps: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." How incredibly difficult! My sponsor, gay and atheist, has done so. If he can, I hope I can.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Unicorns, Gay Men, Straight Women, Marriage between them, God, and Bathos

Last night, the 22 year old kid who has been courting me, sent me a text message asking me if I wanted to watch a movie with him. I had worked most of the day and felt I deserved some reward. So I agreed. I collected him from his apartment and we went to watch Battleship. Turns out we had different things we focused on in the movie. He was giddy about the arms of the sailors, I was giddy about all the explosions!

Afterward, we went to get a bite to eat and we talked for a while. It was very nice! He finally did the Elmer Fudd laugh, it was great! And he felt more at ease with me, brushing up against me with his arms and hands. I think we are getting to know each other in a good healthy way.

As we talked, we broached the subject of Josh Weed  and his exit from the closet The kid pointed me to two posts by the beloved Dan Savage. Be forewarned, there is crude and crass language in these slog posts!



I think there is a point to be made about this. I thanked the kid for pointing these to me. But since I came across it the last Thursday and observed the immense traffic in the Mormon and non-Mormon blogosphere, I was hesitant to read the blog. The longer I waited, the more frustrated I became at the many people sending me emails, text messages, facebook links to the blog. Most were from my friends who are quite active Mormons. I paused for a moment to reflect on why there was so much affirmative fascination with this story.

I asked myself why is the Mormon community, by and large, so excited, interested, compassionate, and fascinated by this story? What is it about this story of a gay man getting married that is so compelling to them? So I acquiesced and read the blog. I found it an authentic personal story, despite its incoherent and weak logic. As I read, I couldn't help but ask about the implications this story (despite its personal/individuated nature) would have on the Mormon community.

Many have read this and rightly asserted that this story will raise and elicit questions and declarations from family members, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders of gay men and women, "See Josh did it, and for that matter Ty, so can you!" (for Ty's story see the following

I agree that is one implication, but not the only one. As I reflected on the traction this story gained, and the amazing responses from the Mormon community about this story, I couldn't help but be chary of that optimism and overwhelming positive energy. What is the cause of this interest?

I quickly realized that this story and others like it simply reify or reinforce the assumptions that all people ought to fit the heterosexual Mormon mold. In other words, it reinforced for them what they already believed about sexuality, it reinforced for them their beliefs about gender norms and roles, it reinforced for them their beliefs about what constitutes happiness, it reinforced for them that problems such as "homosexuality" is a "personal" struggle and can be overcome by the correct use of agency. Josh's account reinforced this for them. This story is an Uncle Tom account of gay men in the church. By this I mean, an account of an individual that is overly eager to gain the acceptance of the dominant order, by uncritical acceptance of the logic of success laid out for them. This story gained traction in the Mormon community, because it does not threaten, it does not give pause for members to think critically about their church culture, their worldviews, their paradigms. Rather it's a story of acquiescence. This story simply says the Mormon institutions and systems and culture are correct and good. As a result, for many this story is "great," "interesting," "faithful and hopeful," precisely because it does not "rock the boat."

Yet, the boat itself, I think is in serious need of remodeling!

The culture in which the gospel is practiced is largely heteronormative. Heteronormativity is defined as “the organisation of all patterns of thought, awareness and belief around the presumption of universal heterosexual desire, behaviour and identity” (Baker, 2008, p. 209). This inevitably leads to interpreting the doctrine in a very restrictive manner. Happiness is predicated upon this very notion. Let me try to suss out, if I can, what I mean by this relative to the church. I think there is a difference in how we (as mortals with our limited perspectives and understanding) and in how Father views doctrine, sexuality, and so forth. I'm inclined to believe that there are ways the doctrine can be viewed that may be far more accommodating to GLTBQI individuals than is presently understood from the very limited scope of the heteronormative paradigm. 

I am NOT saying that the doctrine will ever allow same-sex marriage, that is quite clear, but what I am saying is that there may be ways that the doctrine can stretch our imaginations to create new spaces for homosexuals in the church, beyond the dichotomous trope of "don't act on it." What that space looks like, I'm not sure. But to invest intellectual capital, spiritual energy and agapic love to see beyond ourselves and to think critically of the institutions we build around ourselves, the formal and informal norms that structure our interactions with others, and the paradigms that cast long shadows on how we interpret and implement doctrine, will provide the much needed catalyst to contemplate the doctrine in new and more expansively loving ways. 

However, stories like the Weed's gained considerable traction, precisely because it does not offer a critical narrative of the existing institutions, the informal and formal norms and protocol, and the various systems and worldviews held by and practiced in the church. Rather this story simply reinforces these things, it validates for Mormons everything they feel to know about how Mormonism ought to be practiced. 

I find this story and others like it do an incredible disservice to increasing revelatory capacity, to practicing love in ways currently unknown to us. One of the implications of this story is the didactic manner in which it is passed on to others like me, where the implicit message is "they did it, so can you." But the larger implication, with which I'm concerned about is that this story reifies and does not question the very foundations of the culture in which the gospel is practiced and does not lead to questioning the ways in which it can expand or restrict our vision, access, and connection to Heavenly Father, the Savior and the Eternal realms. 

A subpoint to the above...Brother Weed implicitly defines happiness and joy with the fulfillment of the tasks of marriage and children. In other words, while I'm happy Josh is married (and perhaps envious because Josh has children, I want children), his definition of happiness is rather uncritical and too narrow and restrictive. I'm inclined to believe that happiness and joy comes in complete submission, rather than in the attainment of the sacrament of marriage. His definition of happiness ends at marriage (this is where his logic lost me, he may not have intended that to be so, but this is what he implicitly defined). But this definition of happiness is part of the larger Mormon narrative of success, and is inherently tied to that heteronormative paradigm. I would argue that happiness is not defined by attainment of marriage or offspring as Josh Weed implicitly submits. 

Rather I would argue that happiness in the church comes from true submission. President Boyd K. Packer, who I adore (I know, I know), it was his remarks in 2000, after I returned home from my mission, that sent me seeking new answers and love, anyhow he said the following, "Perhaps the greatest discovery of my life, without question the greatest commitment, came when finally I had the confidence in God that I would loan or yield my agency to him without compulsion or pressure, without any duress, as a single individual alone, by myself, no counterfeiting, nothing expected other than the privilege." It is in this humble submission to God's will, that we find happiness. The Savior in 3 Nephi 26:13-17 defines the gospel, and the gospel is the atonement, and the atonement is the love of God, and the love of God is happiness. Therein the Savior explained, "Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is my gospel which I have given unto you - that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men [and women and children] unto me, that as I have lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil..." While we may not always connect this passage to a definition of happiness, I argue that it is the heart of happiness. Marriage is simply acquiescing to God's will, and it's submission to His will that produces joy and happiness, not the marriage and the children, necessarily.

There are individuals like me who have received confirmation from God that celibacy is His will. Thus, the definition of happiness Josh puts out, discounts any version of happiness I might experience as counterfeit. This is highly problematic. Further the heteronormative church culture does not know how to respond to celibacy, it is continued to be viewed as a failure to fulfill God's mandate to "multiply and replenish" the earth. Yet, if it's given by God, why is the Church having such difficultly accomodating it within doctrine? As noted, I argue it's because of the restrictive nature of the heteronormative paradigm that is uncritically used to evaluate, assess, and interpret the doctrine of the Heaven. 

Ok. So this was much longer than I anticipated. But the point is, I'm deeply concerned by the attention this story gets precisely because it does nothing to address any of the real problems faced by homosexuals in the Church. Rather members who read it and find they agree with it, will only reinforce for them that the existing framework in which the gospel is practiced is accommodating and tolerant of homosexuals. Yet, a closer and deeper look at it suggests otherwise. Happiness is complete submission to God's will, "nothing expected other than the privilege." I agree. However difficult it is. 

But I'm thankful for a God who understands me and understands why I do and think the things I do better than I do. He understands better than me why I am where I am and loves me regardless. He understands why I feel the need to find a partner, He understands the tension this causes inside better than me. And He loves me still, He accepts me still. And I accept there are certain privileges I must give up, but He understands better than me why I am willing to give them up. Isn't that amazing? This God of ours, so loving, so kind, so majestic, 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lone and Bitter Trail...

So yesterday I had lunch with this guy who has been courting me, I think. He's a nice kid, if you go back to the post about out of the mouth of babes, he's the kid. He has take up to dropping by my office unannounced and to sit at the table in my office and work. I let him, as he's an undergrad and needs a quiet place to study. I sit at my desk with books and articles strewn about, writing and reading, working, while he sits on yonder table with his oversized headphones on studying. I catch him every so often peering over his glasses staring at me. It's a little uncomfortable, but he's a nice kid and a philosophy major. I've had major crush on Immanuel Kant since I first read, a Critique of Pure Reason as a freshman in college, as well as John Rawls. Turns out this kid has a similar crushes, we tend to joke and laugh about the categorical veil of ignorance and really how asbtruse that is. Anyhow, he comes by quite a bit. He asked me to come over and study with him several weeks ago, and I did, actually I had worked close to 80 hours that week, so I took copies of the DVD True Blood with me to watch on my laptop while he studied.

It was a pleasant visit, we sat on the patio behind the house he was at, I watched my DVD and he worked. Eventually, we got into a conversation about the paper he was writing on Shakespeare's Tempest. He then asked me to read his paper, which I did and quickly applied my PhD critical thinking skills. I gave him extensive feedback on style and substance, which led to a great conversation about Prospero's use of what the kid termed empathic power, or the right use of agency to influence and gently persuade.

The point of this is that the kid has been coming by my office a lot. He came by yesterday after his last final, and rammed his head into my back, I was sitting at my desk distracted by the music and my work. He then pulled a chair close to me and starting chatting. After an hour or so he asked me to have to lunch with him, I acquiesced. We got out sandwiches and took advantage of the break in the rain, when the sun peeped out and sat on a bench near the law school. I sat down and he sat down right next to me. This was odd, we've sat next to each other before, but he never sat that close. And he started, as he does, making me laugh. I think I enjoyed it. He then explained to me the type of guy he wants to settle down with, to an objective listener that description fit me. I was both delighted and taken aback. he then proceeded to touch me, he's never touched me. But this is all g-rated touching, I would even call them flirtatious touches. After about an hour, I told him I needed to get back to work and he convinced me to stay a little longer and we ended up watching Looney tune on my smart phone. Something about Elmer Fudd's laugh...

I went back to my office confused by this interaction. I was confused for two reasons: 1) I thought that I was not averse to getting into a relationship with a man, and 2) I thought I wasn't desireable. To the first point, I had settled within myself that I was ready for a relationship with a man. But the interaction yesterday, despite what it enlivened and quickened inside of me, seemed awry. Something was off. Perhaps it is the light of Christ with its faint glimmer pointing me towards righteousness (rightness with God) no matter how long and difficult the road. I conceded that point, it remains a quandry, but I feel I am more able to surrender without anger and resent. And to the second point, this is at the core of my addictive behavior, I have to constantly remind myself that I am loveable, that I am desireable, but I can't make others responsible for me feeling desireable. This must come from within. The more I recognize my inherent worth, the more I allow the love of God to permeate my being, and the more I strength I have to trudge the lone and bitter road, as did the Christ.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Partners, Significant Others, and Me

I realized the other day (it's amazing to me how clear my thinking gets when I gain even a bit of healthy sobriety), that the loneliness I feel is really about me trying to get others to fill a void in me that ostensibly can be filled by me and God.

In the church we often toss around the phrase, "Heavenly Father loves you." I think there are people who have allowed that to settle deep in their hearts and to penetrate their souls. And for others I think it's simply a phrase that has become void of meaning, but simply saying it affirms something to them about the veracity of their faith and their righteousness. In other words, for the latter, I think they tend not to fully comprehend what that means nor the power that it has. I used to be (and to a large degree) am one of the latter. But I catch glimpses of the profundity of that love.

The other day, as I was giving myself some self-care (i.e. speaking kindly to myself), I then offered a prayer. I told Father that I think He knows that my mind is (at least at the moment) open to the possibility of finding a partner. I thought I'd receive some absence of feeling, but all I received was a feeling of deep understanding and care. It seemed to say, "I know." I think Father was telling me that He respects my agency and understands more than I do why I am where I am, and that He does not condemn me for it. But that "I know" response did not come with a release from the implications or consequences of violating His law. It's difficult to explain, but it was simply that Father acknowledged that that is where I am, and He understands that. That feeling was calming and reassuring to me.

As I come more and more to understand Father, I also am coming more and more to realize that I try to use others to fill the void in me. Because there is a part of me that feels lonely, I think it's another person's responsibility to make me not feel lonely. This is crazy talk! Yet, I put the responsibility on others to take care of my loneliness. The reality is that responsibility is mine. I can go from loneliness to solitude. But that is a matter of self-care, a matter of not abandoning myself.

This morning, as I was journaling about my obsessing over an individual and why that person has not done what I want to make me feel whole, I arrested my thought pattern and told myself, "It's not his responsibility to make you feel happy. You are fine. You are loved. I love you." At that point, I realized perhaps for the first time that I am not alone. That God is really with me. He is with me, because God loves me. That truth slowly percolated down to my soul. Heavenly Father does indeed love me and that love means He cares for me, that I am worth the time and energy and love of the creator of the Universe and of all things. What an awesome thought. This being who can create worlds without number, loves me, and because he loves me, I am never alone.

Sure partners, significant others and so on can help one feel more alive, and I hope one day to experience that joy. But I can be single and not be alone. Father taught me this today. And for that I am, dare I say, happy? Indeed, happy and content. Hopeful even.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Solitude and Loneliness

I get those two confused and that confusion leads to things I wish I didn't do. This weekend was not very good for me. As far as I can tell it started Thursday night. The missionaries came over to teach me the first lesson. Since the anger and resentment towards God and the Savior has dissipated, I figured I would enlist the help of these young men to help build my faith in the Christ. It was going well. I listened in a manner I had not listened to missionaries for a long time. I tried to attune my dial to receive the Spirit, which was present. It felt nice, it was a merciful, graceful, chastening Spirit. While there were a number of doctrinal errors in their message, I marvelled at how the Spirit continued to testify of the basic truths connected to their message. If Father could overlook their shortcomings in spreading His message, and compensate with the Spirit, then wouldn't He work the same way with me?

I felt close to Father, tears started to well up in my eyes not out of fear, but out of gratitude and out of sensing the presence of greater truth. At the end, the missionary asked me to commit to pray about the things they shared. I acquiesced. Then he asked me to say the closing prayer. I did not feel comfortable, as there were four present, and of the four three had not real idea what I was going through. As I was working through whether I ought to pray, and I had sensed I would. The one missionary who was privy to my situation then said, "Why don't you want to talk to you Father? He wants to hear from you." He said this in a tone that was full of frustration, sensing my discomfort with praying, he then invoked, "As representative of Jesus Christ, we can tell you Heavenly Father wants you to pray right now."

As soon as I heard this, any desire I had to pray left. At which point that missionary knelt down, and the other missionaries knelt down in suit and they simply waited. I continued to sit there - it was toeing the line of stalemate. I did not like feeling compelled to pray in my own home, when in the same breath that missionary says, "you have a choice." Well, certainly the option I had at that time was simply to sit quietly for the rest of the evening as they knelt. But I relented because I wanted to be left alone, so I quickly rattled off disingenuous prayer. They left. I did not feel the Spirit. I felt controlled. I felt bullied.

The next day things went well, but I was still feeling a sense of dismay over the missionary visit. I decided that perhaps I ought to find others to help build faith in Christ rather than inexperienced 19 year olds. Friday evening came and I got home and realized it was a long weekend and felt a degree of loneliness. I pushed through it, by simply ignoring it. I remained sober that night. However, Saturday was a different story. All day long I tried to fight with loneliness and eventually gave in, I started to cruise the online ads to find an acting out partner, and I eventually did. He came over late Saturday night and that was the end of that. It was, as all the others an empty experience, it filled no holes, it filled no yearning, it was empty. After he left, I pondered on the nature of my addiction. I did this out of loneliness, and partially out of boredom. And it was incredibly frustrating! I then invoked the atonement in a desperate manner to heal me from this addiction, something I think I did for the first time for me, and not because doing so was conditioned by the need to please others. I recognize it may take time, but I pray for the willingness to gain sobriety.

Ah, yes. On the Bishop front. I had a long conversation with him. I am repenting of my resentments toward him. He is a good man, and dare I say I love him as a friend. While there are things I still feel we disagree on, they are minor and I'm sure that the dialogue we've started will be able to address. The larger issues between us have been addressed and I feel a measure of comfort with him, at least in informal settings.

But to end, all I can say is there is a jumble of stuff inside of me, and I'm not sure how to get it out. But one day at a time.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Being free - released from expectations - is interesting. It is still disorienting, yet, I'm finding some measure of comfort in that disorientation. I'm, as my therapist says, leaning into it and simply being present in that disorientation. I think for the first time I am coming to meet me, the real me is finally coming through. This is both exciting and frightening. For so long the real me has been covered, conditioned even, by the need to live up to the expectations I felt others had of me: friends, church, God, family, colleagues, etc...Somehow my mother saying, "If you choose to leave the church, we understand," was a resounding emancipatory declaration. It removed the need to live up to those expectations (which in reality may have never been there, but were the motives for my action).

I thought it'd be freeing in the sense, that I'd finally feel like leaving the church behind would come so much easier, that the anonymous sex would be less guilt ridden, and that I'd be able to freely engage in it without the guilt associated with it. And I did so twice since my mother told me three weeks ago. I wonder, of course about contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS - I have always been safe in my encounters, but there is always that concern in the back of my mind, and so I get tested. But this addiction is intense, and still leads me to do things I would otherwise not do or otherwise not want to do. As much as I try to abstain, the pain of life often becomes too much to bear and I use the addiction to medicate me being a full participant in reality. Yet, I know these experiences are empty, and highly risky. Despite this fact,  it seems that Providential design is fully operational.

Two weeks ago a good friend of mine from my undergrad years told me he is HIV positive. We were freshman together, we served our missions at the same time, after the mission we embarked on slightly different lives: he embraced the fact that he was gay and slowly slipped away from the church, I cleaved to the church, putting myself to some very unhealthy therapy (recommended by Evergreen) and lived periods of technical worthiness. We had lost contact for some years, and recently I sought him out. We connected and had a very long discussion, laughing and crying in our reminiscing. He then asked how I was doing, I told him about my going "wild" which I'm finding out my version of "wild" is rather tame for most gay men. He then told me about his story of contracting HIV and how he has dealt with it. I was obviously saddened, but at the same time, my attention was quickened to the fact that all it takes is one "reckless" move in my addiction to put me at high risk.What I took away from my friend, who seems more grounded than me, was simply that being present and coming to embrace you is so important, the you that God knows, the you that you don't know. That you inside is covered by all the expectations, norms, etc you have about yourself and that possess you. I did not act out that night nor the next night as I reflected on my friend.

Again, in the past two days, I met someone who is charming, kind, intelligent, compassionate and causes butterflies to flutter inside, and as we chatted, he told me he is HIV positive. He shared with me his blog, as I read his blog I started to wonder and reflect again about myself and my relationship to God. This charming man and his story penetrated me, enlivening the potential consequences of my addictive behavior. As I read his story and wait to talk with him over coffee (I'll drink an herbal tea), I am struck by his deep presence, his authenticity, his submission to the will of the universe, and his humility. He noted something in his story of coming to discover him and come to know him. Coming to that required sacrificing and surrendering everything he thought he knew about himself, and allow that surrender to help him discover himself. 

I thought to myself, there are very few people in the church that are that grounded, that present, they are so caught up in the requirement of technical worthiness before God that it's difficult for them to be them. I think I lived my life in the church that way for so long. And I can't believe I'm writing this, but thank God for giving me this addiction to allow me to see things as they really are. 

Oh by the way, I've been tested and am negative. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Barriers to God

I blame God for creating the conditions necessary for me and only me to submit to His will.

Since my mother told me that she and my father would understand if I left the church, I have been quite disoriented and trying to process. I realized today that perhaps Heavenly Father has systematically removed all the things that got in the way of an authentic and genuine submission to His will.

First, I slowly came to terms with the fact that I most likely will be excommunicated. I've come to see this as an expression of His love, rather than an expression of His anger. My faith for a time was contingent on the perception others would have if I was excommunicated. I surrendered the control I gave others to determine how I act. Much of my expressions of faith were contingent on how I would be perceived by others, therefore the motivations of my faith were driven by how I would look to others. Father squashed that.

Second, He took from me the idea of marriage. Last June, nearly a year ago, I received what I believe was a spiritual communication that I was to commit to a life of celibacy. Struggling with this, set me on a course of interrogating my own faith, how I positioned myself in the church in relation to doctrine, and a searching introspection of desires. I let go of the idea of marriage. This letting go of marriage helped me to realize that my desire to remain in the church should have nothing to do with marriage, rather it should have everything to do with submitting everything to God for merely the privilege of surrendering.

Third, in terms of the addiction, I uncovered resentments and anger towards Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Working through the twelve steps, I was able to identify and express my anger at Heavenly Father. His loving response to my anger at Him confused me. I became more willing to believe in His love and His power. Doing so allowed me to draw closer to Him, despite being active in my addiction, in a way I have never done before.

Fourth, my parents telling me that if I left the church, they would understand. This removed parental expectations, and concomitantly, took with it the anger and resentment towards the Savior. My parents telling me what they did liberated me from any and all expectations about my relationship with the church and Heavenly Father.

These four things, I'm sure there are more, have put me in a position of now looking inward for my own expressions of faith. Looking inward for an authentic desire to be close to God for no other reason than that being what He wants of me. It is not conditioned on my perception of doctrine; it is not contingent upon how other's will view me; it is not predicated upon pleasing my parents; it is not a result of duty.

For the first time, ever in my life, I seek the Savior for salvation, not because it is what He asks of me, not because it is what the church expects of me, not because of anything else, but simply because I know now that I need Him. I need the Savior to save me from myself. I did not see that before. While that image is still rather hazy, I can see that I need Him for sanity, for peace, to be grounded in a celestial ethos.

I've realized that Christ can heal me of my addiction, and that healing does not necessarily have to be tied to being in the Church. My thoughts and feelings are still rather unformed - inchoative - around this.

But for now, I seek the Christ perhaps for the first time for me and no one else. Heavenly Father has stripped me of all my excuses, I see that now. Now I pray I have the faith to move Heaven-ward.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Patriarchal Blessings and stuff...

This morning as I was searching for a book (for my research) on my cluttered desk at home, I picked up a book and out fell my patriarchal blessing. I grabbed it, looked at it and put it on the desk, hoping it would get consumed by borg that lives on my desk.

Yet, something inside could not ignore it. It is not more than half a page long. I reasoned for so long that I have no need for it; it was too general and vague. Further I had it memorized. But I picked it up and read it.

A phrase jumped out at me in a way that it never has before. It noted getting education I can, because I might have the knowledge others might need. Recently, I've been involved with a group (of faithful and active members in the Seattle area) to put on a Symposium on Homosexuality and the Church and also to develop a series of workshops on understanding how the heteropatriarchal system shapes how we understand the gospel and shapes how we interact with people who are attracted to the same sex.

In my studies, I've studied a great deal on queer theory, sexuality, gender, economic orders, the formation of institutions and its intersection with the development of rights and development in general. In addition, I've studied various philosophies, the provenance of democracy, notions of resistance, notions of cooperation, game theory. In a word, I've studied a great deal of many things. I realized this morning, that these things which I have studied and written extensively about (in more formal, finessed, and polished ways) in other places has helped me and many others to think, at least rationally through a series of arguments about homosexuality and the church, but more importantly, at least for me it has enabled me to ask different questions. Also have been helping create the series of workshops, I realized that many in the group look to me to help them sort out the tough questions in relation to the intersection of gender, sexuality, race and the gospel, in word, to help them think in more structured ways about how the social, economic, political, cultural, and racial orders and institutions shape our understanding of God, the world, and each other.

I was humbled to think that even now, the Patriarchal Blessing or rather Heavenly Father, is telling me I'm headed in the right direction, while I may not be fully on the path, at least I'm headed towards it.

And for me that is sufficient to express thanks to God.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Parental Love

Last weekend, my mother came to visit. January of 2011 was when I told my parents about my addiction and the fact that I am gay. Since that time my father has sent regular emails to me about the love of God and tools for fighting the Adversary. My mother has called frequently to ask about my spiritual, emotional, and physical health. I've appreciated those interactions. Yet, I still kept much of the discussion about me being gay from them. Rather I focused on overcoming addiction and repenting, and refraining from talking about the larger pain and struggle in my soul about how I might continue in the Church.

My parents are completely devoted to the gospel, my father has been either an branch president or bishop for nearly 40 years. All my life, he has been either one. I have not really known him not as such. While they are rigid in morality, they remain surprisingly accepting, thoughtful and loving.

Yet, despite that, I continued to fear them. Fear of the pain I would cause them with a departure from the Church, fear of the sadness that would ensue as I would feel alienated from the family. Yet, something deep inside of me continued to nag at my soul - my parents have the keys (through my father's priesthood) over me, for all eternity. It is his right as the patriarch of the family. He is the priesthood leader that I am most concerned about.

I characterized my mother's visit as portending. Within three hours of collecting her from the airport we were in a five hour discussion about me being gay, her and my father's thoughts, and ultimately their counsel to me.

She started by asking if I was still seeing the therapist. I responded yes. I wanted to correct any assumption she had about therapy, so I added that the therapy is not to change me. She acknowledged that and also tacitly remarked that how I feel is not my fault, nor is it the fault of her or my father. I was astounded by this admission. Years ago, when my sister came out, my parents and siblings were aghast. They continued to berate her and tell her it was a choice and that she was sick. Yet, despite that, my parents continued to be accommodating to her and her partners, reluctantly carving out a place for them at family functions. Today they embrace her partner, not quite as one of the family, but they embrace her because she is important to my sister.

As I we continued this conversation, my mother then explained that during the last year and a half since I told them what was going on, she and my father had prayed and fasted for understanding and guidance. As we drove, she then said to me, "I think the Lord is telling us that we need to keep the family intact. If you choose to leave the church, we understand." She then went on and explained that it was not good for man to be alone, "If you find someone, your father and I will do our best to make him a part of our family." I was speechless. "The Lord is asking us to love our children, we taught you, now our only task is love you." She then went on and said "If you leave the church, find something that will spiritually ground you. You need a spiritual and moral compass to guide you."

I was disoriented by this. I did not know how to respond. Over the past week, I've not dealt with it very well. I've acted out as way to cope with this. I don't know how to respond.

My therapist explained to me that my mother doing what she did, released me from any expectation I may have had they had of me, and further they released me from the shame of being a gay Mormon and their gay son. I am not sure what to do. The best way to describe how I feel is disoriented.

The weak reasoning for remaining in the church has left - that of my parents. Now what is left is a clear choice on my part, it is only me. I would like to again participate fully in the blessings the church has to offer, but I simply don't know where to find that faith to climb what is a seemingly endless mount, an insurmountable task!

Though I did, for the first time in nine months attend all three hours of church this past Sunday.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Confused Yet Again!

So it seems I go in waves of confusion. Perhaps one thing I ought to surrender is the fact that I am and will be in a state of constant confusion or of being confounded.

I had to reset my sobriety date, today is day 4.


But it's a slow process. Progress not perfection, that's the goal.

Over the past months of my sobriety I was able to decouple the idea of sobriety with the idea of drawing closer to Christ in the sense of having to accept a life of complete devotion in the church. These two had been "sealed" together - perhaps because people kept referring to my sobriety as tokens or evidence of the atonement. While that may be, the implications of that startled and paralyzed me. While I want to get sober and get to a state of healthy emotional and spiritual well-being, I had to come to separate that state from a state of being committed to the gospel. Making that severed claim in my mind, helped induce a period a sobriety. Why? because being gay, being sober, and being faithfully committed to honoring covenants (can be separated).  One does not necessarily imply the other. Yet, it had been so in my mind for so long.

It wasn't even that great too. The guy was 19, heavens! I know. We started chatting during the week. I was certain that things would not progress, but the stress related to interacting with my Bishop via email, the stress of having to apologize to Andrew for things I did not do, and the stress of an impending visit from my mother all factored into the equation. Yet, this was the case. I went out with friends and had healthy interactions Friday and Saturday night, yet, I got home Saturday night and couldn't quite deal with all the sudden loneliness and heaviness of the stress that week. I though to myself, "Self, this is a good opportunity to turn loneliness into solitude." I lasted for about an hour. The 19 year old texted me and we started texting back and forth for about an hour. Eventually he invited himself over and I did not resist. And that was that.

I woke up the next morning feeling like shit. No surprise.

So, I simply leaned in to it. While I still feel crappy to some extent, I was happy to sit and chat with my sponsor last night. It was a while since we last saw each other. It felt good to reconnect with him; further it was relieving and hopeful, when he said "Even after these many years of sobriety, I still want to be touched, I want to touch; I want to be held, I want to hold; I want to feel connected. But at the same time I don't." Somehow that made me feel understood, made me feel loved. It was hopeful. He lead with his weakness and it made all the difference.

Strange though, I was happy to feel like shit. It made me realize that I can feel sorrow and deep pain for my actions. Whether that is the Godly sorrow Paul speaks of, I don't know. But what I do know is, that as I read from Moroni 7, some weird softening to the Savior occurred. I felt a desire for Him to be in my life. More importantly a phrase in my scripture study on Monday jumped out to me...from Mormon.

Mormon, this amazing rockstar of a prophet describes the continual scene of blood and carnage that besets his life and environment. Beleaguered by the wickedness of the people, he abandons his post as Chief Captain of their armies and remains an observer for some time, after more carnage occurs and the portending presence of the Lamanites, he repents of his oath and resumes command. Mormon then includes this observation: " But behold, I was awithout hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them." 

I bolded that last section and could not help but feel that was me. I continue to struggle for my life in many many ways without calling upon that Being who created me. A somber and sobering thought indeed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Forgiveness and the Bishop

Things yet again become terribly confusing. Yesterday, I met with my therapist and broke down, confusion seems to reign in my mind. The "damn it" principle is alive and well. But as I continue to practice surrender, things certainly don't become less confusing, they simply become more manageable. I've been sober now for 35 days. I want to pride myself on that, taking credit for that, but the reality is I know it's a gift from God. I thank Him for that gift.

 I've met someone, as we continue to see each other he wants to do more, but I am coming to prize my sobriety more and more. I like how I feel sexually sober. I used to tie sobriety to a commitment to honor covenants of God. This coupling caused me such distress and was terribly difficult for me to undo. But I have, or am practicing undoing, as it has enabled my sobriety.

 Well the above is simply an update...I went to church this past Sunday and while the topic was about priesthood in the home (I'll leave aside the numerous critiques of that), the sermon being preached in my head was of forgiveness. My sponsor told me that forgiveness is "letting go of the hope of a better past." I sat in the pew with such a distressed heart, not because of the weighty matters about me and my place in the church, but rather because of my un-Christlike behavior.

For whatever reason, though not quoted in any talk, the scripture, "pray for those that despitefully use you" came to mind. I sat and realized, that while I've been deeply hurt by the words of my Bishop, while there may be singular instances of certain things said, there were also consistent things said over the course of my counsel with him that were deeply painful. I sat there in the pew contemplating the words of my sponsor and felt a stirring inside of me amid the deep heaviness. I looked at my Bishop recognizing his imperfections (whatever they may be) all the while struggling to fully owning mine.

Yet, I was still not ready to act upon the spiritual stirrings. All I was reminded was of the pain caused by his words over the period of our counsel, my frame started to shake, tears of pain welled up in my eyes, and an intense fear overcame me. I put my head down to hopefully not be noticed after the service. He approached me, and in my feeble attempt to be civil, I coldly acknowledged him. I left church feeling more heavy from that interaction.

While I am not offended, I am deeply hurt. I contemplated why there was such pain, my therapist reminded me that John Bradshaw explained in Healing the Shame that Binds You, "Sexuality is the core of human selfhood. Our sex is not something we have or do; it is is who we are. It's the first thing we notice about each other. Sexuality is a basic fact in all created things...Our sexual energy (libido) is our unique incarnation of the life force itself. To have our sex drive shame is to be shame to the core." It is this that happened repeatedly in the interactions with my Bishop. While he may not be cognizant of it, it nonetheless occurred, and seeing him reminds me of that deep shaming.

My therapists affirmed that that type of shaming occurs often with gay members counseling with Priesthood leaders. He explained to me that is why I have such fear. Regardless of the fear, I knew the Christian thing to do was to ask for forgiveness for my cold reception and resistance to my Bishops attempts at friendship and fellowship. So despite how painful it was, I sent him an email to ask for forgiveness for my coldness, it was awkwardly worded. It is civil, it is Christian, and while I may still have trouble accepting his friendship for fear of more shaming, I will practice letting go. I will even practice letting go of my Bishop owning the consequences of his actions.

Doing so will enable my sobriety, and so I practice.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Priori headaches...

So I've been sober for a month now and it feels good. My sponsor tells me that the the good thing about sobriety is you get your feelings back; the bad part of sobriety is that you get your feelings back. While it has been only a month, I am coming to sense the truth in this. But as my therapist says part of this is that my system is being drained of the addictive elements and I'm coming back down and connecting with myself - acting out with my compulsive sexual behavior is merely a way for me to disconnect from myself and my emotions.

And believe me there's a lot I do not want to connect with, most of it dealing with the implications of long-term activity in the church and what that means in facing the seemingly irresolvable question of homosexuality in the church. But despite that, I've been sober and I thank God for that!

There's lot for sure. But I've been able to process some tensions that exist around this question. I think at the moment the biggest question that I face when I come to think about me being gay and Mormon is how do I navigate and create a space for myself and others like me in the current doctrinal framework, without having to deny part of my identity (as is the implication of not using the labels "gay," or the addage of "just don't act on it"), without having to keep my life a secret, without having to abide by the heterosexual injunctions of the church culture, and so forth.

It seems to me that there are several facets to this: there is a view of the gospel tied to a heterosexual normative view that has been passed down (and changed) by white males for the last several hundred years. But this view is largely the work of mortals (imperfect) and constructed to ensure they maintain their privilege and power. Further this perspective is not largely questioned by many people, because there is seeming congruence when this heterosexual view of world is laid over the gospel (and Father's perspective). It seems to me, that this practice is not questioned because of the seemingly congruence, thus we have practices where non-white culture (and practices) are viewed with great discomfort in the church (these include dress, language, perspectives, etc). Though diversity is celebrated, it is done so in very controlled ways, where culture is defined as merely dress, food, and other superficial things that can be easily abandoned when "serious" work of the church needs to happen, therefore, the colorful attire is put off, the language changes, and the white shirts appear, the short cropped hair appears, and efforts to look like a white Mormon family become priority. But more important, what they also adopt are the gender roles and norms of the white Mormon family. This practice is largely unquestioned and it is at some level considered change via the atonement and therefore considered proximity to Christ and therefore faithful.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this is the wrong logic. Perhaps, God's way of viewing is different from ours and He is asking us to be highly critical of our own worldly practices and importune His courts to enable and empower our understanding of the workings of heaven, rather than assuming that the way we have been taught is God's way. I'm not sure if this makes sense.

But the point I'm trying to make is that perhaps the hetersexual lens and its attendant privilege in the church may be a hindrance in gaining further light and knowledge on the matter of homosexuality. Perhaps God thinks of this quite different, but because we are not ready to question the institutions of heterosexuality and its practice in how we structure and think about ourselves and the doctrine that we are not ready for this light and knowledge.

Perhaps not. Perhaps all God is asking us to do is continue to be critical and to rise above the frameworks of organizing and understanding the world that we've been given in mortality. Perhaps doing so will enable us to understand the place of the homosexual in the church. This does not mean we discount any of the profound spiritual experiences that have been communicated truth to us, rather it simply means that perhaps we could expand out thinking.

Anyhow, this is the thought (however incomplete) that's been noodling in my head.

I've developed a very good friendship with a guy (I'll call him Andrew). Andrew is a grad student in feminist studies, we've been having some great intense conversations about the nature of queer-ness, it has been enlightening. But I think what is most comforting about this friendship is that for the first time I do not feel like I have to hid any part of myself. He is indigenous, I am indigenous. He is a radical political thinker, I am a radical political thinker. He was religious, I'm trying to be religious. He is queer, I'm queer. There is something about that combination of characteristics that makes me feel so comfortable. I do not have to explain why I'm gay, I don't have to explain my political positions, I don't have to explain why a person of color experiences the world differently than white people. These are all just givens, I don't have to hold back part of that, nor do I have to be careful with what I say. It's understood. Anyhow, Andrew has been a great help in helping me feel comfortable talking about my sexuality and is OK with my struggle with the Church. Having him as a friend has helped me feel accepted, he accepts all of me.

Often times in the church, even before I "came out" I knew a part of me, the indigenous, radical, would always make many church members uncomfortable and question the veracity of my faith - and they have. Some years ago I was called into the Stake President's office because of my mobilizing around Indigenous water rights, which affected the white Mormon ranchers among others. He chastised me and told me that I would "think" my way out of the church with what I was doing and threatened to take my temple recommend from me. From that experience, I struggled to make sense. I took my covenants seriously about not speaking evil of the Lord's anointed. So it was then that I realized that there are parts of me that I could never fully share with others in the church because it would bring them discomfort and therefore lead to questions of my faith.

Being with Andrew, I do not feel that way. Also Andrew has been helpful in pointing out all the guys who are apparently 'checking me out." This is interesting, flattering, but also confusing. We were at a thrift store this weekend and a guy across the rack was eyeing me - I didn't know what to do, but eventually left without doing anything. Andrew understood.

So this gets to the other things that have been on my mind, as I dilate on frustration. I went to a fireside on homosexuality and the church this weekend - the speaker was great, though there were a lot of unanswered questions. Despite that, I think the approach taken by the speaker was inclusive and critical of the larger heteronormative institutions at work in the church. I appreciated that.

This then gets to my frustration with members of the church in how they react to this issue. 1) The married people are at the head of this trying to figure out what is best for the homosexual. (This is crazy, much like white people getting together to discuss what the best way for black people to be happy and included in society, without having black people at the meetings or allowed to speak). 2) These come in two varieties: a) the liberal mormons who, when they approach me, assume that I've not thought deeply about options when the come with their supposed enlightened thinking of "I'm an active Mormon and would have no problem with you finding a partner and being happy." Responding to that supposed "enlightened" response could take pages upon pages. The second variety b) are the uber active Mormons who simply say "just don't act on it" as their enlightened phrase, as if though that never occured to me. Yet again, there is much that can be said with that "enlightened" view that they have not even considered. But that will be for another time.

At the moment, I write as a way to distract me from my dissertation. I don't know much, this I know. But what I do know is that for whatever reason God is not ready to give us further light and knowledge, but that does not mean He does not want us to puzzle it out in our minds.

I will continue to do so and try to refrain from acting out as the puzzling produces much anxiety in me. I surrender to God and hope I remain sober today!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Increasing Revelatory Capacity

It is with great hesitation, but admitted humble expression that I take note of the profound truths embedded in the fleshy tablets of my heart.

Last night, I talked with God. I told Him that I am gay, to which I received a confirmation that that was indeed the case, I asked for clarification on the meaning of "gender" in the Family Proclamation. To which there was an absence of feeling. After which I asked if Elder Oaks' and Elder Holland's explanation that one should not refer to themselves as "gay" in the sense of a noun (with its connotation suggesting that there are gay people) - as opposed to using it as an adjective (which implies gay is a changeable condition). In this, I received a mixed response, simply that while these are prophets, seers and revelators, there are things they do not understand. To which I asked then, "how do I refer to myself?" "Who am I?" "Is my eternal gender really heterosexual?" To these questions, I received silence, and emptiness of feeling.

At this point I was completely frustrated and then proceeded to ask, "then what questions should I ask? What are the right questions to ask?" Again, there was silence. In frustration I threw up my arms and went to bed. I could not sleep, about an hour later, a question was gently laid on my mind, "How do I do thy will?"

While all of these questions certainly would clarify much, apparently for me, the greatest question of my soul happens to be, "Lord, how do I do thy will?"

As I've thought about this, perhaps this is what Elder Maxwell referred to as the need for the knees of the mind to bend before God. I recognize that there are several things about being gay and in the church:

1. God doesn't mind if I refer to myself as gay (rather He affirms that I am).

2. That for whatever reason He is withholding further light and knowledge on this issue.

3. That God knows me better than I know myself, He even knows the deeper and yearning questions of my soul.

This is both comforting and disconcerting. Comforting because I am coming to know that God is certainly involved and fully aware the layered and textured complexity of this issue, but at the moment simply requires a willingness to yield to His will. But this does not mean that I simply step away from continuing to interrogating the informal institutions surrounding the church. By institutions, I mean the formal and informal rules that structure interactions. Thus these institutions are inherently biased and unfortunately overshadow one's interpretation of eternal principles.

Disconcerting because it affirms that God does speak to Prophets and that His word is eternal. Thus priesthood power is real, despite the imperfect bearers of it. This is disconcerting because it requires that I mute my critiques and interrogation of statements of Church leaders on this issue (no matter how naive their understanding is). The point is to search for the eternal principles they wrap in their limited understanding of the world and this issue.

I've been sober for nearly a month. Expressing anger at God has allowed me to gain access to Him again, further, in a paradoxical turn of events, expressing anger to God has simultaneously melted away my anger towards Him and prioritized the questions of my soul.

I, at the moment, stand intellectually amazed at the movements and stirrings of Heaven. While I know God still knows that I feel my future is uncertain, He is simply asking me to follow Him today - to surrender my will to His today.

I think I can do that.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Losing is Pregnant with Chance...

Things have progressed. I'm not clear where they are going, but they are moving with some consistency. The outcome of this movement is I now simply blurt out to people that "I'm more OK today than I was yesterday." I am losing my anger, losing myself, losing me. While this scares me to no end, "losing is" as poet Derrick Brown notes, "pregnant with chance," that is, for me losing myself, losing my dreams, losing my desires can yield eternal rewards, only with the aide of Heaven. Yet, I must lose myself in the vision of God, I must lose myself in the vision of eternity, I must lose myself in Christ. Thus, consistent losing can yield something far better than I can even imagine.

I went on a date Friday night, I met the guy on OkCupid. It was a nice evening. We met for dinner and had a conversation getting to know each other, afterward we went to poetry event. There some poets I've come to admire like Derrick Brown and others who read their poetry. It was there in that cathartic ambiance that it struck me, through the moving words of Derrick Brown and others that being connected and grounded with who I really am is essential for healthy living.

This realization was coupled with an experience I've had of being able to express my anger to God. The first of that anger came several weeks ago, I left church early, as it agitated all the beggarly elements of my soul, but it also presented to me all the things that are empirically found wanting in the church (the informal institutions laced with racism, with sexism, with a conflation of capitalism and spirituality, with homophobia, classism, and general ethnocentrism), but that is something I've come to deal with, yet, I left angry, yet again. I was not sure why.

Certainly I could say it's because I don't understand, or any number of things related to this struggle. While driving back to my apartment I started to pray, "God, Father [tears started to form and fall from my cheeks] I can't do it." At this point, the anger started swelling, I tried to mute that anger in my conversation with God, "Father, please help me, I don't know what to do...damn it (sorry Father)'s just that (damn it), I don't know, I don't know. Why am I this way? Why must I forsake these most natural of desires? Why Lord? Damn it. Damn it. Fuck! Sorry Father." At this point more tears and a scream to let out the anger, and then in a raised voice, "Fuck you God. Fuck you!" At this point I ended my prayer. There was something cathartic, something releasing. I know God understands my anger, He understands why I am angry and can articulate that anger better than I can. He is ever patient waiting for me to understand my anger so I can let it go. Such mercy, such love.

Since then, I've found maintaining sobriety an easier task and more desireable, it's easier to maintain physical intimacy aside from a brief hug, as I sort out my relationship with God.

And so, like Adam, I know I am naked, I know what God is asking of me, and I know He will continue to loving encourage a truthful response, even if that response does not lead to a commitment to His church. Knowing that gives me great comfort.

I am under no illusion that by choosing faith that I will get married, that the pain of the choice I make will dissipate, nor that people will understand (their understanding ends when they mis-perceive "healing" and proximity to the Savior as expressions of faith (the bearing of testimony), service, or activity in church - none of these are reliable indicators of genuine faith. I recognize that choosing faith now is to a very large degree choosing pain the rest of my life, with Christ enabling my capacity to bear that pain each and every day I live. It is this that God knows. It is this that I know, and it is this that my priesthood leaders and other members of the church can't seem to wrap their heads around. Enduring that daily pain with Christ will yield happiness, but that happiness is not cheap, and it's a form of happiness that few understand or can imagine.

And so I assess whether my hiding place from God is sufficient. I don't know. But I do know that God loves me, and that He will continue to love me regardless of my choice. I know He is infinitely patient and merciful. And I know He understands my anger, and the ineffability of the choice before me.

And I thank God for that!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Loss of Faith in Jesus Christ

I realized today, or rather finally admitted to myself that I've lost faith in Jesus Christ. While I do not doubt His existence, nor do I not disbelieve in His Divine Sonship, I've lost faith in His healing power.

This is hard to admit, and more difficult to write about. I've spent the last two years convincing myself that because I had an experience that produced the spiritual knowledge in me that God lives, that Jesus is His Son, that that somehow compensated and produced the sufficient salvific knowledge.

This morning I read "Fundamental Premises of Our Faith" by Elder Oaks, there was a section in there that gave me more than a moments pause; rather it has consumed my day. Speaking on the purpose of mortal life, Elder Oaks explains, "Our theology begins with the assurance that we lived as spirits before we came to this earth. It affirms that this mortal life has a purpose. And it teaches that our highest aspiration is to become like our Heavenly Parents, which will empower us to perpetuate our family relationships throughout eternity."

The section I bolded that gave me pause. I realized then how far my desires and actions have drifted from purpose of mortal life. I do research in organizational behavior and realized that mission drift or mission creep often leads to inefficiencies in organizational performance. Drawing on that idea, the mission of God, and one that I sustained in the pre-earth life, is to work together with God, toward my immortality and eternal life. Implicit in that "mission" is the aspiration to become like Father.

I realized on the bus to campus that I've drifted from that purpose, and that I try to adapt to my surroundings and call that independence and freedom. The reality is as I've consciously chosen to stop praying, and reading the scriptures, that the aspiration of becoming like Father has weakened. As a result of it weakening, I've come to not see the purpose of a Savior (at least in my life). While I don't disbelieve in Jesus, I've simply lost faith in His ability to make me like Him and Father.

It's a thing of pride, I continue to try to convey (however much a pretense it is) to others that I am "abiding" in my covenants, buttressed there by faith in Jesus. The reality is I am not abiding in Christ. Rather, I've come to revel somewhat in the loss of faith, as it has enabled me to position myself in such a way as to keep His influence at bay. By that I mean, I control fully and often willfully His presence in my life. The loss of faith in His abilities positions me to think more critically (or I suppose) about my condition, my life, and my future in the "Kingdom." Yet, when I'm truthful, the power of His influence is stronger than my own willful desires to keep Him away.

I don't know what healing looks like, but I do know that God the Father is real; I do know that He loves me. Given that I've lost sight of the goal - that I've drifted from the mission of Heaven - I seek to re-establish that aspiration to become like Father. And today I realized that I cannot do that on my own. John 15:5 makes that evidently clear, " I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." I might add, "for without me ye can become nothing."

A sobering thought. As I come to re-appreciate the Christ in my life, perhaps my faculties will awake and arouse to the reality of my aspirations, that I do seek to become like Father. I sure hope that it can be re-kindled, because right now, that is no desire of mine.