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, 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.