For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

- Mosiah 3:19

Thursday, 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.