Saturday, December 24

Christmas Traditions

It's always been a tradition in my family to watch the Nativity - and in the years since I left home, I've continued to keep it. This year, the Church has created amazing videos that are available online - at Mormon Channel - Bible Videos

The videos have only scripted text that comes from the Bible - no extra added words... just an opportunity to listen to the Spirit. They're longer than the short nativity video I remember as a kid, but this Christmas, especially with Christmas on Sunday, I'd suggest taking the time to watch them and remember the purpose behind this season and time of the year. And as you watch, listen to the Spirit... and determine what you can give Christ this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14

Ultimatum: My Conversation with God

Ul•ti•ma•tum - noun, pl. -tums
A final, uncompromising demand or set of terms issued by a party to a dispute, the rejection of which may lead to a severance of relations or to the use of force.

Throughout the less inspired portions of my life I've sometimes asked the Lord, over and over and over again, to do something that fit my demands. I wanted people to love me unconditionally. I wanted them to understand and befriend me. I wanted them to appreciate the sacrifices I was making. I wanted a happy family, the perfect life, and the ability to make my trials melt away with faith and prayer. In some of them, I found myself simply asking the Lord for help, but in others I realize that I was dictating what I would and wouldn't do, based on His involvement in my life. I was giving God ultimatums.

They all made sense to me, and, to be honest, were based on extremely poignant needs and rooted in strong faith that the Lord, in His power, could do anything for me. But with each fervent request there was a consequence I had constructed - a penalty if God did not do what I told Him I needed Him to do. I wouldn't date if I didn't have the assurance that I would someday find a wife. I wouldn't tell my priesthood leaders about past transgressions unless they, or the Lord, told me to in no uncertain terms. I wouldn't engage in life and society if society and life didn't understand me. In each case, along with the fervent prayer, was a caveat... and those caveats limited the ability of the Lord to teach me, inspire me, and help me achieve the goals I had in the first place.

An ultimatum with God tries to enforce my will, my logic, my timeframe, and my knowledge onto the ruler of the Universe... instead of humbly asking Him for help and being willing to do whatever He asks of me.

But God can give ultimatums, too.

The conversion stories of Paul, Alma the Younger, and the people of Ammon have always been intriguing to me. In a moment, these people received a personal ultimatum from God and changed a massive part of who they were, how they saw life, and how they interacted with the Lord... and never turned back. It applied to them so deeply and personally that they could never, ever forget... and it gave them the strength to resist temptation for the rest of their lives. Now I think I know, at least in part, how they felt... because it's happened to me.

A little while ago I had a dream. In the dream, I was sleeping in a bed with my siblings. I got out of bed and my mother came in the room, then clearly explained that she knew about all of my past sins. "I love you," she said, "and I understand what you are going through, perfectly. But if this (sins associated with SSA - pornography, masturbation, ...) ever happens again, you will begin to lose your ability to help them (indicating my siblings)."

The dream broke, and I woke up shaking. It was obvious to me what it meant. There's no one on earth - my mother included - who truly understands me perfectly. Only God could say that. And the consequence that He revealed - beginning to lose my ability to help my brothers and sisters here on the earth - touched me deeper than anything else could... because it was personal, because it made sense, and because I knew it was real. That was it - the Lord had drawn the line in the sand, and crossing it again, even once, would have clear, present, and lasting consequences for me... and also for others. If I ever crossed the line again, something would be lost in me - and due to my lack of faith, someone else's needs would go unmet and unnoticed.

It will take a lifetime to see what I do with the knowledge I've gained from God - whether I will value my own salvation, and my ability to help others, or whether I will trade those for the things I think I want. Whether I will make my own demands, or follow the will of God. Whether I will forget, or burn the memory in my heart. Either way, the ultimatum is down... and it's my choice from now on. I value my ability to help others, and my own eternal happiness, more than anything else, and so I plan on doing everything I can to stay faithful, no matter what the cost.

Monday, December 12

If You Could See Inside My Mind

... You'd probably find a couple of seemingly contradictory layers.

On the outside is the assertive, optimistic, passionate, and successful person that is "me" in social situations, that shows through on a first date, and the way that others see me when they watch me from a distance. It's a construct - but not a facade - that displays who I am and how I want others to experience me... and more than that, it's the interface by which I've found I can influence the world for good. I change my outer shell whenever I need to - not drastically, but to better meet and understand the needs of the people with whom I work on a day-to-day basis. Here I'm a friend and teacher - someone that can make a difference.

A little deeper is the honest, raw, rational reality of my life - the endless list that describes my (or anyone else's in the world) life and experience from a purely objective standpoint. This comes out among friends, or even in casual conversation beyond the first few minutes... and is where I spend much of my time here at GMG. You'd see my reactions and reflections in the moment, feel the pain I feel, when I feel it, and rejoice when I find meaning in life, or things just seem to work out. This world is uniquely fatalistic - not because I believe I'm fated to experience life as I am, but because, if it never works out, learning to be content with what the Lord has given me is the only way to survive. Here I'm just another person - tossed back and forth and the sum of what happens to me... and sometimes I wonder if I'll ever amount to anything.

Another level deeper and you find faith - pure and simple - and the reality that is my life in emotions and in my heart. It's the meaning I find when I've been suffering from intense depression, the joy at helping someone find peace and joy in life, and the commitments I've made to myself, to God, and to others. It's the sum of my beliefs, all held up like a pretty, perfect picture... and sometimes I stand here in GMG. This is the level and layer where I think of myself as the hero in a story about changing the world.

And the last layer is the real me. Beyond the outer shell, the things that happen to me, and the morals that I claim to espouse, who am I, really? What choices do I make in the dark of night when no one is watching? How do I honestly feel about others, and what are my motives in everything I do? Here, I'm just another person. Another son of God, another man trying to make it through life into eternity... and here, finally, I am in control of not only my choices, but my happiness. If I choose the right, and know that I am following God, life becomes far simpler than the other layers make it out to be. Do what is right, and let the consequence follow... and God will take care of me.

I am a child of God. I live here, in life, with a thousand different outside influences on my mind each day. I have moral and ethical concerns and concepts that the Lord teaches me, line upon line. And, at my core, I am who I choose to be. And, at least today, I can cut through the layers of the outside and see myself for who I am. A son of God, trying to move forward, honestly doing what I can to not betray the spark of divinity that ties me to Him. And when I see that, everything makes sense... my life is perfectly fair... I am filled with hope and peace... and I am honestly and truly amazing.

Tuesday, December 6

The Good and the Bad

I've almost posted half a dozen incredibly depressing posts over the last week, only to have my introspection cut short by something that totally lifts (and changes) the mood. The First Presidency Christmas Devotional was a good example. I had had an awful day - bad enough that others IRL (in real life) started to notice - and I was writing a post titled "When I Want a Guy," in reference to a guy at church who had somehow distracted me from multiple hours of worship. Depression, frustration, stress, and a strong unwanted attraction for another guy - definitely strong emotions to put on paper. But as soon as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began to sing, everything began to change. I felt a wave of peace, I forgot about the guy who had consumed my thoughts, my tears changed from despair to hope, and I knew I couldn't write on that topic anymore. So I used Twitter and logged some of my thoughts. If you didn't see the devotional, it's worth watching, period. You can see it at Especially amazing were the clips from the new Bible films the Church is creating - they only have scriptural quotes as script - no filler lines... just images that allow you to feel the Spirit and know what is happening... and are magnificent.

It happened again as I sat on the outskirts of a social activity, frustrated with myself, when someone came up to me and began to outline, slowly and honestly, the things they admired in me. I felt, in that moment, like God really was watching out for me, because this person that I don't even know well prays for me... and I know that God hears and answers prayers.

More depression met with a letter from someone sharing a powerful success story and the joy of reading about his ability to move forward, more frustration met with people who stopped and honestly asked if was ok and what could they do to help me in my life. If only I knew. But, together, it meant that every time I felt at the bottom of my game, there was someone there to raise me up... and for that I am incredibly grateful. Even in the bad times, the Lord finds ways to help me... to lift me and bless me and get me moving... and so I keep moving forward, one step at a time.

Tuesday, November 29

Fear of Friendship

I'm trying to befriend a guy I recently met - mainly by finding things we have in common... things we can do together. It's not a relationship based on attraction; I just need more friends who are already my colleagues. He's an upstanding guy, and I'm trying to make it work.

Slowly I've felt like maybe I'm making headway... where headway really isn't much... getting a response when I talk with him, or coming up, twice, with something that we could do. It's something... but not much.

So it shouldn't have been surprising when he canceled on me today because he was doing stuff with another friend... and didn't invite me because he wasn't sure if I'd want to come... but surprise isn't the right word. What had been a good day suddenly turned about-face and went downhill from there.

The strange thing is that I know, completely, that to him there isn't a breach in our slowly-growing friendship. Difficulties in communication are totally normal for people when they're learning about each other, and we really don't know each other very well yet. We'll meet up tomorrow, and it'll be like nothing happened on his side. Everything is normal, and there's no need to be concerned. So why do I feel betrayed, frustrated, confused, or whatever it is that's inside my head? This doesn't really make sense.

Looking back, though, I don't think this is an uncommon experience. I don't get close to people very often - especially guys. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm afraid the relationship won't last even if I try. And then, when I actually do try, and the relationship shows any sign of need for improvement, red flags go off in my head instead of just being something to note for the future.

It could be because I've had people disappear on me before, without any notice. Relationships that seemed to be healthy from every aspect I could see that disappeared overnight, without a trace... and that left plenty of evidence that it was somehow my fault. I think the paranoia makes sense on that regard - having friends who move away so they don't see me anymore, others whose last words are that it's too hard to be my friend, and others that simply cut off all communication without explanation are good reasons to be paranoid about any sign that I could be losing another battle.

But does the paranoia, regardless of whether it's self-made or circumstantial, really help? Or is it just shooting me in the foot? For much of today, I've struggled to concentrate on anything for very long. And tomorrow, will it affect me? Is it something that I can even change? And the sheer act of writing a blog post on something so incredibly small makes me think that I have OCD.

I think that maybe this is a sign that I'm expecting too much from my relationships with other people... far too soon. And I guess that makes some sense... based on the friendship patterns that have worked and not worked for me in the past. Most of my friendships just disappear with the circumstances that brought us together. The only real friendships that have lasted a long time have been with God and a few family members. Right now, whenever I need someone to talk with, or consult, or if I have any need at all, I turn to God... and He's always there for me. He's always willing to drop anything to listen, and He will always take the time to understand when I need help. I can work, or go to the gym, or simply sit, and He is there - ready and willing and able to be a friend. My family is the same. And when I'm looking for friends, I guess I'm expecting them to fit that role, and that's what I find myself trying to offer as a friend.

But people don't always want an instant best friend - someone who treats them like family from the first meeting. And some people can't reciprocate, or aren't used to that level of trust... and while I want to be the perfect friend, and completely available to people, sometimes I'm not. I get lost in depression, and so busy that I don't check my phone for hours or my email for days.

That feels like the issue here at hand... and I think what I need to do is just realize what is happening inside my mind and come to grips with what is happening. As I slowly gain friends, they're going to be imperfect. They aren't going to know my thoughts unless I share them. They aren't going to know the frustrations and difficulties I face in life unless I tell them. And even if I do tell them, that doesn't mean that they will understand. They may not always be around for me. They may not ever really empathize or get what I'm facing. But one thing I do know - if I can be a friend to them, at least they will care about me... and they'll be able to slowly help me become a better person. And each person will have the ability to fill at least some small part in my life... and that's good enough.

Will I ever find a mortal someone who really gets me? I don't know. Hopefully, if/when I fall in love, that woman will be able to understand what's happening in my head, and I in hers, but I'm not sure that's very likely. Normal guys have enough trouble communicating and intuiting. :) But I think I'm making headway with the subconscious within me. People are imperfect. Relationships, even if they don't work out, are worthwhile. Don't be afraid to dive in, but remember to give everything and expect nothing in return. That way, everything I receive is a gift.

Friday, November 25

10,000 Reasons I'm Grateful to Be a (Gay) Mormon Guy

1. The Thanksgiving holiday in my family is simple - we have a turkey bowl, dinner, and other traditions, but for the most part it's just an opportunity to spend time with each other and share the things we are thankful for.

2. Thanksgiving is way less stressful when I don't have to plan around the schedule of my wife's parents and extended family - just my own.

3. The Church teaches that we need to love everyone, in every lesson, every talk, and every manual. There's no better place to find myself.

4. The people in the Church are horribly imperfect. I can see examples on both sides of the scale - from people with obvious pride and superiority complexes, to people with hidden pride and addiction, and know that I'm just one of many striving to get better.

5. The Book of Mormon gives me peace whenever I need it, and even when I don't think I do.

6. God reminds me that I need to read the Book of Mormon each day, even if it's 2:00 in the morning when I've slowed down enough to be listening.

7. I can always find people in the Church who will love me unconditionally. Sometimes it takes prayer and work, but I can find them.

8. Through priesthood power, my family can be together forever.

9. The gospel gives perspective and peace to the otherwise irreconcilable events of the world.

10-100. A personal relationship with God, promises in my patriarchal blessing, silent words of encouragement in the temple, and messages hidden in the mundane events of everyday remind me that all of my hundreds of righteous dreams and the promises that God has made to me will all come true... in the Lord's time and in His way.

101. I have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I can claim it as my own. Who doesn't love MoTab?

102. I somehow landed in a unique, uncovetable spot in the political world - experiences that preserve me from the overwhelming pressures of both sides of the field, and at the same time make me an interesting anomaly for both.

103. The perspective of the gospel opens my heart to people, and gives me the ability to know what I need to do to help them heal their hearts and save their souls.

104-118. I have a living prophet, and apostles, who care about me and plead with the Lord in my behalf... and teach me what I can do to be a better disciple and friend.

119-300. Church music. I have real, honest, good Church music that inspires emotion in me - bringing tears, opening my heart, inspiring change, pushing me to repentance, compelling me to action, overcoming depression, drawing me closer to God... And that music seems to follow me and play accompaniment to the events of my life.

301-1040. I had the blessing to serve for two years as a missionary, standing as a witness of God at all times and in all places, and learning what it meant to literally take the name of Christ upon me and act in His name... fall in love with people and language, and come closer to God as I worked to help others make changes in their lives.

1041-5000. All the people that I've met throughout the world - members of the Church who all faithfully sacrifice to come closer to God and live His commandments. Somehow, I've been blessed to meet many, many people... and to somehow break through the initial veneer to hear about their lives and hopes and dreams. Knowing them, personally, has blessed my life and made me a better man.

5001-9999. The people I've never met in person, but who have touched my life through the Church and its union with technology - from members of the Seventy who speak in Conference to anonymous commenters here on (G)MG from Thailand, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. Thousands of people who continue to touch and change my life.

10000+. Ten thousand more people to meet, ten thousand more promises to see to fruition, a hundred million blessings from heaven, and at least that many more steps in getting a little bit closer to perfect. The gospel has no ceiling to progression. And the LOrd never tires in helping me grow.

Sunday, November 20

The Tenth Leper

Luke 17
12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

What does it mean to be "made whole," and how is it different from being cleansed? Is it just the spiritual equivalent of being cleansed? It required considerable faith for the ten lepers to be healed of leprosy... does that mean that being made whole requires even greater faith? And how does this apply to my life?

If Christ came to me today, and offered to take away all of my physical trials, I'd be like one of the ten lepers - calling to Him from afar off and asking for His intervention on my behalf. If He healed me, I'm sure I'd be grateful, as the other 9 lepers most definitely were. What made the tenth leper so different? Was it just that He returned to give thanks? Is gratitude such a big part of repentance that our becoming whole is contingent on our ability to give thanks and give the glory to God? And if the true meaning of the parable is the importance of being whole - not simply cleansed - what does that mean to me?

Those are the questions going through my mind as I read this account. I think Christ was trying to illustrate the importance of striving to become whole - spiritually whole - instead of simply asking for relief from the difficulties of life... focusing on the spiritual aspects of imperfection in mortality. And I think that here He shares an interesting message - how key gratitude is in being saved. Being "whole" is often similar in root to being "perfect" - complete, unspotted, righteous in every way. The woman with an issue of blood was declared whole after she put her faith in Christ, as was the tenth leper, and the man who received his sight. All of them did something more than just have the faith to receive physical miracles in their behalf; they had the faith to receive unseen spiritual miracles that far surpassed what could be seen on the surface.

I think that's the miracle that I should always be praying for - not to be freed from trials or tribulations, but the miracle of being able to live and keep the commandments in any situation. Being willing to date, and learning to enjoy it, even though I'm not attracted to women. Coping with attraction to guys and finding ways to ensure the positive side of interactions with them. And being willing to live life and keep moving forward no matter what happens - even if I spend the rest of life alone - and learning to be happy in those circumstances.

I used to think that happiness came as a byproduct of completing a given set of to-do's, among which were finding an eternal companion, having a family, etc... Now I realize that happiness isn't something that comes at the end of mortality or even after I have weathered my trials. It is available today, and tomorrow, and the next day. And I don't have to downgrade my morals to find it. It's available through God.

I obviously can't really talk about what went through their minds without it being conjecture, but I think that's what made the tenth leper different. I think that, if he hadn't been healed, he would have continued to believe in Christ and praise God - and maybe that is what made the difference. He had already found happiness in doing what was right within his ability, and the outward miracle of healing was just that - an outward manifestation to match a greater inward change... and Christ's miracle was an opportunity to invite me, and all those present, to exercise the same faith to be made whole.

Thursday, November 17

When Faith Endures

A friend asked me how my dating life is going. That question always leaves me smiling - if only because it usually means the asker hasn't been on a date in two weeks and wants advice. Inside, it leaves me smiling because, while my dating life definitely isn't going anywhere soon, it gives the Lord a chance to remind me that someday, I'll be the person I need to be, and somehow find and fall in love with a girl. And, in the meantime, dating serves as an opportunity to make friends and do missionary work, send girls on missions, help them identify traits to look for in husbands...

Sometimes dating, or even survival, seems like it's far too hard to deal with in life. But then I realize that, while my life may be hard, I have the gospel. I have God at my side. I have the power of the priesthood and temple ordinances and family and prophets and scriptures and Primary songs that play in my head at night. I have generations of ancestors who prayed for blessings for their posterity, from Abraham down through today... and, most of all, I have the promise that, if I just keep moving forward, I will make it. It will be enough. I will find true love and happiness and fulfil the plan that God created for me. And all I have to do, today, is live today. And then, when tomorrow comes, I'll turn to God and ask for strength to live tomorrow.

I think that is what the Lord was trying to teach the Israelites when He sent manna in the desert. If I look at the desert of life, standing before me, and try to imagine living endless eternity with the strength I currently have (alone, without many friends, and living with same-sex attraction) it will only lead to fear and depression and a sick feeling in my stomach... But if I look at just today, I have enough strength to live and grow and thrive. And I can have the faith to believe that He will be there for me tomorrow. When the Israelites looked at the desert sands, their fear of the future overwhelmed their faith. They didn't believe that God would do another miracle... and that lack of faith left only crawling worms and a sick feeling in their stomachs.

The strength the Lord gives me today, is for today. I can use it all and it will be enough. And then the true choice, a choice that I and everyone make each and every day, is whether I will have the faith through the night and into the storm that He will be there again at my side... that He has never left me at all... to send peace and hope and strength from Heaven in the moment that I need it.

Wednesday, November 16


It began in passing. I had dropped in to see a friend who was attending a performance, and the musician on stage began to play his guitar and sing. The melody was catchy, but the words cut to the core, speaking of leaving family, friends, life, problems, and pain behind... and encouraging onlookers to not judge for what they couldn't see. The words drew tears for me, thinking about people I knew and memories of my own life... I looked around at the audience members and wondered how many of them really understood what he was singing about - how many really understood how fragile life can be, even in someone who seems to have everything put together? Did they really understand? The performance met with rousing applause, when I would have given silence instead. That was my answer. And that began the first of my recent recollections on life and death.

It happened again in music, again a song I hadn't heard before, sung by an acquaintance onstage. And again the lyrics echoed pain and sorrow, suffering and frustration. She belted it, and inside I realized that, to her, the song was just a song. Music with a catchy beat and rhyming words, not a glimpse into the reality that stalks people who stand by us today and may not tomorrow.

The topic showed up in the news, was mentioned in conversations, and became a sudden centerpiece for discussions as people talked with me. It's not something I almost ever talk about... but it came up, over, and over, and over again. And so it's my topic now... and hopefully it will help someone here.

I used to want to die. For years I wanted to die. I felt alone, outcast, depressed, isolated, different, friendless, worthless, cursed, evil... and I felt like I had nothing good to offer the world. I believed, honestly, that while some people might have cared about me, they would truly be better off without me in their lives. They only cared because they cared about everyone... or because they had to... and if they really knew the true me, complete with sin and addiction and imperfections, even they would turn away.

Taking my own life was never an option, because I knew that it was wrong, it would devastate my family, and it would have eternal consequences (I think that was one of the most vital things I learned in Primary - suicide is a major sin that will keep you from salvation. That knowledge kept me alive. Really.). So I would curl up in a ball and cry and pray that somehow I wouldn't have to wake up in the morning and face the world again. I spent many nights simply crying for that... but it obviously never happened.

No one knew. Not my parents, or the people at school, or the people at Church, or even the people who tried to be closest to me. On the outside, I was perfect. Perfect in everything, happy, a shining example of whatever it was you needed an example for. But inside I was a wreck.

The only solace I ever found was in my personal relationship with God... but even that took time to develop, time to encourage, time to truly understand. Late at night, when the world was falling in on me and nothing could lift my hopes, I learned to turn to God and pour out my tears to Him... and He listened.

The Lord never came to me in person to dry my tears. He didn't send angels from Heaven. But every time I turned to Him and asked to know if He loved me, He found a way to tell me that He did. Sometimes it was in the wind, sometimes in the rain. Sometimes in the sun, or the clouds, or the scriptures, or a talk in Church or a message from someone in my life. No matter what has happened, I have always known that God loves me... and, for me, that makes living my life worthwhile. God loves me. He created me, and gave me everything I can't control to learn to be happy and grow to become the man He sees in me. And with Him at my side, I can do anything.

Today, suicide is still not an option. But it tugs at the back of my mind when days are dark and I wonder if I'm doing anything worthwhile, or if I'm ruining the Plan Father has for me.

To all of you who understand - who have felt pain and sorrow so intense that it seems better to give up - I share my love... and I say that you are important in the eyes of God and the eyes of the people in your life. You're important because once you smiled at the bus driver and it helped him to have a better day. You're important because you live by morals that others watch, silently and in the shadows, and because your example inspires them to change the world. You're important because people care about you, pray for you, think about you, and want you to be a greater part of their lives. And you're important because you have a story and a gift that only you have - a place in God's Plan to save His children and bring them happiness that no one else can ever fill... and that comes from your life, your struggles, your faith, your falterings, and your relationship with God. You are amazing, and you are a literal spirit child of the God of the Universe. He did not send you here to fail... which means that, no matter what has happened, He stands at your side, ready to help you move forward and find the hope and peace and happiness you need.

Hope is shining brightly on a cold November night
The moon is gone, the stars are dark, and yet there still is light
Because beneath the wind and through my pain a whisper sounds...
"My Son, I love you. And it will be alright."

A talk by Elder Ballard: Suicide: Some things we know, and some things we do not know.

Monday, October 31

Tis a Gift to be Simple

Last night I had a conversation with a guy that made me think a lot about who I am and why I'm here in life. He and I have a lot in common, and the circumstances under which we met were incredibly serendipitous. In talking with him, I was hoping to see a mirror of myself, a pattern to learn from, a form of good and bad and better choices to apply in my life. I wanted answers to some of the questions I've had in life - an understanding of how he's learned to cope with the problems that I face. But, while I could see myself reflected in a few of the things he said, as the conversation progressed, I realized that our problems and trials have far less to do with each other than I had ever expected... and there would be no easy answer by the time we said goodbye.

In the hours since, I've wondered about who I am, what exactly I'm supposed to be doing here, and the destiny that I have waiting on the horizon. I've always had the feeling that life was going to get much, much harder for me in the future... from when I was little... and the feeling persists even today. This is only the tip of the iceberg. And so I wonder exactly what the Lord has in mind for me. My patriarchal blessing talks about sharing the gospel, and about being a father, healer, missionary, teacher, counselor, and leader. It doesn't talk about living with same-gender attraction, or fighting depression, or navigating the paths of learning to be a friend. It doesn't talk about abuse, or fear, or how to develop lasting friendships by becoming more vulnerable in relationships when I already wear my heart on my sleeve and put everything in my life on the table.

And it makes me wonder how some of the people in the scriptures felt during points of their lives. Don't misinterpret me. I'm not a prophet or an apostle or even anyone with authority in the Church. But I wonder how Moroni felt when he was alone, running from the Lamanites... how Paul felt on his missionary journeys, how John the Beloved feels as he serves among people who never truly become his friends. And how Christ felt when He alone understood what it was that He was called to do.

It makes me wonder if this is just part of my gift - if I was just supposed to learn sublime principles from feeling alone, or if it's supposed to inspire me to action, both of which have happened many times. If I had tons of friends, I would never have started this blog. I probably wouldn't have cared as much about people suffering in the world. I wouldn't have the time to respond to personal emails, text, chat, and meet people to help us come closer to Christ... But because I've been able to watch people change, it has been worth it. It will always be worth it.

I don't know what the future holds... whether someone will feel the call to be my friend, or I'll develop the abilities that elude me, or I'll go through life as a missionary - making intense, short-term connections with people all over the world. Thankfully, if I do my best, the Lord will take care of me - in the short and long term. He cares about me and is involved in my life. And that makes life a whole lot more simple.

Sunday, October 30

Epic Fails in Friendship

For most of my life, I believed I could do anything I wanted, well. So did others... and experience supported that belief. Now I realize how incredibly wrong I was.

I may be good at athletics, academics, music, or internalizing church doctrine. But in the things that really matter - developing long-term meaningful relationships with others - my track record is a long list of failures.

Ability to make and keep friends from elementary school? Fail. Friends from any other school? Fail. Friends from work? Fail. Friends from the mission? Fail. Friends from past wards? Fail. Friends among extended family members? Fail. Friends in the dating world? Fail. And friends as part of a physical support group - people I can turn to when I'm having a rough day? Epic fail.

I honestly think that this - my inability to develop meaningful lasting friendships - played a role in exacerbating same-sex attraction... and that seems to hold true with some of the things I've discussed with other guys who are moving forward - as they are able to develop more meaningful non-sexual relationships with men and women, living with same-sex attraction gets at least a little easier. I'm not sure if it's because friends create a social network and support system, or if there are emotional needs that are met through friendships that, unmet, masquerade as SSA. I don't know because, despite my attempts, it never happens. Something about me destroys relationships with a perfect certainty... and that knowledge probably only further accelerates the process.

Take a recent example - I had a guy I was helping to come back to Church, change his life, and learn to be happy. He didn't have SSA. We spent a ton of time together, and over the course of a few months he was able to change. But as soon as that change happened, life pulled us apart and I haven't had a conversation with him since. I invited him to half a dozen different things, but as the relationship atrophies I feel powerless to stop it, and it doesn't seem like he has any interest in knowing me anymore... so I drop it and move on. And that's the story of my life. Meet people - men and women - feel a desire to be involved in their lives and a desire to be accepted by them... if I get close to them, they usually have massive, painful, life-changing experiences... and then they disappear.

The end result is that I've never had a group of friends to go do stuff with, or even one friend that stayed on for the ride. When I want to go running, it's always alone, even though I know a hundred people who love to run. They just would rather not run than have me running with them. I know - I've tried. When I go hiking or biking, or attend the temple, or go to a museum, or do almost anything, it's alone... I have short-term friends, for a few weeks or sometimes even months, but each of them eventually disappears or consciously walks away. They each had logical and plausible reasons for not pursuing the friendship... and I can't blame them.

Sometimes I wonder about the irony of pulling both the same-sex attraction card (which means I have a rough time with romantic relationships) and the difficulty-making-friends card (which means I have a rough time with non-romantic relationships). The end result is that I have a rough time with all informal relationships - everything that doesn't involve structured roles like student-teacher or mentor-mentee. I'm grateful that being alone taught me to turn to God, but sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be able to overcome it and be able to rely on people in my life. Right now, I look at relationships as opportunities to help other people. I walk into every environment with the question, "How can I help this person come closer to Christ?" But at the same time, I expect it to end when they're done with me. I'm never someone's only or best friend, even if they're mine... and eventually that friendship will disappear - sometimes suddenly - in the course of 5 seconds - and sometimes over weeks. But none of them last, and inside I don't believe they will, simply because they never have.

Wow. This post was longer than I intended. And probably more depressing to people on the outside. This isn't a sob story or an account intended to engender pity or emotional grief. It's just a thought from my mind, and maybe it will help put into perspective some of the choices I make. Everything I do is based on the precept that I'm going to be alone for a long time - surrounded by friends in the short term, but constantly breaking ties and having to make new ones. From experience I've realized that no relationship can ever thrive longer than a few months, then my investment in people has to be front-loaded, and I'm far more willing to do things that will help them in the beginning, even if it jeopardizes the relationship we have. That's a good summary of how it works in my mind. And changing this has proved far more difficult than any temptation with same-sex attraction.

Saturday, October 22

LDS Temple Marriages

Mormon weddings are amazing. The wedding party is small - usually just close family and a few friends - and the ceremony itself is only a few minutes long. And in those few minutes, a boy and girl go from best friends to eternal companions.

Sealing ceremonies, for me, have always been a bit bittersweet. They're incredibly happy, but for a long time I wasn't. I thought that I was. At the reception, I smiled, helped, and gave my own personal congratulations, but inside it was all I could do to keep from crying. And on the drive or flight home, I usually did.

I realize now that the root of my pain was fear. Fear that happiness would never really find me, fear of the unknown future, fear that I had done something to deny me of blessings eternally. But all the fears surrounded one - fear that God wouldn't fulfill His promise to me, and to all His children, to grant me every blessing if I am faithful.

I knew the gospel, and I could recite the promises by heart. And, to the outside world, I lived by its every teaching. But I didn't believe it. I hadn't been willing to trade my fear for faith... and because of that, the gospel didn't work for me. It didn't bring me happiness.

Weddings are still bittersweet. They still highlight the greatest blessings of the gospel, and by so doing, highlight the fact that I'm not married... and that I'm not even attracted to girls in the first place. But instead of making me believe it will never happen, or that happiness is conditional upon fulfillment of my own desires, temple weddings now highlight the miracles that God does in everyone's lives. In every story of husband and wife, there are miracles - proof that God is in details. He's promised that if I'm faithful (and do absolutely everything in my power), those same miracles will happen in my life.

So now I smile, give my congratulations, and then go home and give thanks. I'm just waiting for my turn.

Thursday, October 20

"Learning Experiences"

Yeah. Sometimes "learning experiences" is a euphemism for tough days and rougher trials. But sometimes, even though the underlying trials still exist, experiences really are all about learning, and less about pain or anything else. And, in that case, the attribution still holds true.

I had a handful of experiences over the last few days that could have easily been classed as trials. Miscommunication with other people. Frustration with colleagues. Difficulties with friends and family members. Stress from Church and life in general. In each case, I had the conscious thought, "So how am I going to respond to this? How am I going to classify it when I tell others? And how am I going to experience and view it now - in the moment?"

I tried to view them all as "learning experiences" - to see the investment of time and money as an investment in learning (since in most cases the actual investment in material things or experiences proved fruitless). And it was amazing what I actually learned. Focusing on learning good things in life can make an otherwise awful experience actually enjoyable. It can give purpose in doing things that seem useless. And it can help me understand people, even when they seem to be doing things that, from my limited perspective, seem totally irrational.

And so it all eventually made sense. Instead of feeling victimized, I felt curious. Instead of frustrated, more aware. In each case, I learned something that will help me in the future.

I think that's one of the keys to my thriving (not just surviving) in the Church - I look at experiences in life the same way. So I'm not attracted to women. Why? Where does it come from? How transient is it? What impacts or modifies it? How does that impact my relationships? What can I learn from it? How can it make me a better person? What do I need to be careful of? How does it affect who I really am inside? How does it interplay with all the rest of the problems in my head? How does it affect the reality of the Plan of Salvation and its application in my life? How should it affect my goals? How does it affect my relationship with God? How does it affect my testimony and my faith?

Maybe that's a secret in life - realizing that every experience is designed to help me learn to be happy. I think it is. And, from that perspective, as long as I'm doing the right things, my life will always be perfect. Difficult? Yeah. Painful? Probably. But still perfect - full of one learning experience after another.

Sunday, October 9

We're Not Alone

For most of my life I honestly believed that no one in the world understood me. When we talked about temptations that people have in Sunday School, being attracted to guys was definitely not one of them. And while there are stories in the scriptures of men who repented of adultery, murder, and tons of other sins, the scriptures never share that type of story about men like me. At the same time, the population of anti/ex-Mormon gay voices is becoming more predominant... and the message they share is usually very clear: the Church was not a hospitable place for us.

Together, those circumstances made me think I couldn't exist... or at least that my ideal self - being happy, fulfilled, and faithful - would be impossible. That living an active life in the Church would incur huge amounts of pain - or at the least, would require me to "deny who I was" and "live without love" for the rest of mortality.

But I was wrong.

One of my key flaws was thinking I was alone in the fight - like President Monson in his story about boot camp in the Navy, I thought that I would have to stand alone - me against the world and every statistic that claims happiness isn't possible. But, like in the story shared in General Conference, as I made my stand I realized that there were men right behind me who felt the same. Men who knew who I was, and who had walked in similar paths.

Today I look around and see the shroud of hidden darkness beginning to disappear. Film studies about men who are faithful and LDS. Books written and published by Deseret Book. Useful and relevant topical research guides on homosexuality at And a commmunication network that unites us all in brotherhood.

The truth is, there has always been Someone who understood me - God Himself. And when I wondered if life was even worth trying to live, He knew what it was like. Christ suffered all things - including my struggles, like feeling alone with SSA in the Church... and because of that, He is always at our side. He understands us and wants us to grow, keep the commandments, and find happiness and peace in doing what is right - becoming like Him. He will never abandon us. And because of that, we are never alone.

Saturday, October 1

We Are All Enlisted

It's time to lift up your voice in defense of truth and virtue. We are all enlisted... and no matter who you are, today you are called to rise up and share the gospel as it applies to you... to open your mouth and be heard... to speak in the language of your life... and to change the world.

When I first began writing here at (Gay) Mormon Guy, a priesthood leader counseled me to not be a leader - not to form an army or take leadership of people in a place or role where I had no formal authority. But as time has gone on, I've realized that my story isn't enough. At first I thought it was a problem with publicity - maybe if people simply knew about (Gay) Mormon Guy, and read my story, it would help them in some way. In some cases, it does. But in other cases, I can't communicate with people who need help. There is still a huge need for increased exposure to this topic in the world. But even if I were able to write perfectly, and if every LDS guy and girl with SSA read my blog, and everyone else in the world as well, it wouldn't be enough.

The Church, and the world, needs more soldiers of faith - men and women who are willing to do their part to share their stories with the world. It doesn't mean you have to blog about the most personal parts of your life... but if you're a blogger, and you can speak from experience, then maybe you should. It doesn't mean that you need to talk with everyone. But if you're a social butterfly, and you can see people's needs, then you should. You have within you a calling - a place in the Plan of Heavenly Father that will enable you to bless and change and inspire the lives of His children - whether one at a time or en masse. And today you have been called to serve in that capacity by living prophets.

Come, join the ranks of men and women who aren't afraid to share the gospel in everything they do. Who wear their religion on their sleeves and let it shine in their eyes, because it lifts and lights the world. Come, join the ranks of men and women who have personally experienced the power of the Atonement and would do anything to help a brother or sister in need... and as you serve, you will find the true joy of the gospel - not just living a righteous life and having your unmet needs filled by the mercy and grace of God - but the joy that comes from enabling, lifting, teaching, inspiring, helping others to achieve lasting happiness in their lives. God's joy is shared with us when we engage in His work - the work of changing lives, healing hearts, and saving souls.

We are all enlisted. Make the commitment to join, today, and do what you can to serve... because both you and I have a place in the Plan that only we can fulfill.

Twitter, (G)MG, and General Conference

Listening to Elder Bednar's talk today in General Conference prompted me to try something that scares me a bit. He said that we've been trained to text and to tweet... and so I've decided to share my thoughts on General Conference, realtime, as Mormon Guy, with the world. I know that isn't really unique (since it's already trending), but it's unique for me. My Twitter name itself is unique. But maybe it will help me find people who need the message of hope the gospel brings.

If you don't have a Twitter account, you can sign up for one at

Once there, you can search the hashtag (a term used to identify and sort messages/tweets) #LDSConf for the conference discussion, and watch for my posts as @GayMormonGuy. Wow. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 27

Preparing for General Conference - Oct 2011

Life has totally run me under the last few days. I woke up on Saturday and someone asked me, "Mormon Guy, is it fast Sunday tomorrow?" Fast Sunday at the end of September??? Why would they ask? There must be something happening next week. Wait. The first weekend in October. General Conference. General Conference is next week!?! Oh, and "No, Fast Sunday is usually the week after when it moves in this stake."

Now it's four days away, and I'm scrambling to compose the questions I need answered - to find the theme of my preparation. Conference is awe-inspiring in how personal it always feels... how personally the talks apply to my life. It often feels as if each person is speaking directly to me, out of the millions watching, and answering my questions given to God in the weeks preceding.

I guess the biggest question I'll be asking this time around is, "What next?" A year ago I asked for help touching people's lives through this blog and this message... reaching the people who needed to hear the message... and (Gay) Mormon Guy went viral just days after Conference, with the huge interest generated by President Packer's talk. In April, with the recent influx of tons of new readers from CJane and other sources, I asked for direction in framing what I write - who should my audience be? And the answer came as I remembered the individuals... the guys and girls who, like me, live each day in the moment and just need someone who cares and understands.

I feel like maybe I need to do something more... and that's the basis of my question. I date and it never goes anywhere... either I get shot down, or I can tell that some girls are definitely interested... but I don't reflect the passion. I'm not sure which way to go with (G)MG, and then I have a major professional choice that is looming in the not-too-distant future.

So that's my question. Or sum of questions. What next? What more should I be doing? How can I better help others, share the gospel, and accomplish my purpose in life? And since every Conference I've always heard the answers to my questions, I'm convinced the trend will live on.

Monday, September 19

Being Rescued

Every time I hear the story of the Martin and Willie handcart companies, I see in my mind's eye the people shivering in the cold, wanting to survive, having given everything they have, hoping against all odds that they can finally arrive in Zion. They've watched their brothers and sisters and friends die along the trail, and they've finally reached the point where they have no more strength, no more hope, nothing left to give.

And I'm there with them.

I've been there, in the place between spiritual life and death, watching as people fall around me, and wondering if I'll have the strength to live another day, or if I'll just give up. I've been the person who prayed for God's strength and felt it pushing me on one more day... not transporting me to Zion, but helping me move to the next day or even the next hour. And I, somehow, was rescued by the hand of God from the storm. But once you've felt the suffering, you can never forget it. It's different from anything else in the world, in a way... And I don't think that anyone who hasn't been called to pass through this way of life could ever understand the feelings and lessons learned from it.

Today, there isn't a physical storm raging in life. There is no snow or blizzard or darkening clouds. But, among my friends and neighbors, there are hundreds, thousands of men and women who are holding on to life in the gospel. Men and women who have given everything they have, who wonder if help will ever come, who turn to God and simply cry for relief of their pain and the strength to live one more day. And, as a saint, I have a responsibility to look, to search, and to never stop looking until I find them and bring them safely home. President Brigham Young told the Saints when he heard about the handcart companies struggling 300 miles away that their salvation rested upon their application of the Gospel in the realities of life - whether or not they were willing to give their lives in the service of their brethren, immediately... and I believe the same applies today. My brothers and sisters are searching, hoping to find hope and peace and faith, and the proof of my faith will come as I show my love for them... and my willingness to sacrifice on their behalf. I was rescued once, twice, countless times by the hand of God... now it's my turn to be His hand and help others along the way.

Sunday, September 11

Elder Oaks speaks on politics, tolerance, morality, and prophesies the future at a CES Fireside. Wow.

CES firesides are usually pretty tame when it comes to doctrine. Don’t take girls out to the movies on a first date, don’t hang out at the expense of dating, choose a job and career and do your best. Sometimes the firesides focus on developing personal values and instilling a desire to be better. But tonight’s was different. Way different.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks is a retired lawyer who was considered as a US Supreme Court Justice, served as a member of the Utah Supreme Court, worked as president of BYU, and has done a bunch of other stuff in the field of law. Usually he’s chosen as the apostle to teach difficult doctrines clearly – to give the unpopular talks about pornography or other issues. But tonight, instead of toning his words to speak to an audience unfamiliar with his field’s nuances, he spoke in his own language… and in a talk that could have been completely written about homosexuality and the Church, prophesied that we would need to be fluent in the law, and our rights, to survive. I’m going to write in my own thoughts along with some of my notes on the talk.

The fireside began with his wife – Kristin Oaks – who shared insights that seemed really applicable to my life. She doesn’t live with same-sex attraction, but facing single life and the isolation and heartbreak that comes with it is similar in both cases. 

Among the powerful things that I heard in her talk (some she said; others are personal applications I wrote in my notes):

Worry less about marriage than becoming a follower of Christ. This one is huge – I used to be obsessed with the fact that I wasn’t married, even after I had “paid my dues” with a mission and everything else I thought I needed to do. In reality, marriage is just part of the equation. Much more important is following Christ – and then, when marriage is in the plan (in this life or the next), the Lord will make it happen.

We are surrounded by perils on every side; it’s not enough to just get out alive, we need to help others along the way. This one hit me hard, because, for most of my life, I was focused on myself and my own problems – I wanted to understand the issue of same-sex attraction, and the thought of helping others never even occurred to me. When it finally did, and I began writing here, like the story of the woman in Japan, I’ve had powerful urges to just disappear and go on with my own life… but, like her, I’ve also felt the need to do what I can to make a difference.

If you can’t bear the challenges of life today, with your trials, happily, then you won’t be able to bear it when greater blessings, greater trials, and greater responsibilities come. This one is a truth I learned only recently – in the last few years. I thought that, in order to be happy, I would need the Lord to either heal me or answer my prayers. In reality, the Gospel has the power to bring happiness no matter what is happening in my life… and if I haven’t learned to use that power today, I won’t know how to use it tomorrow. It takes a lot of effort, a lot more effort than I imagined when I was younger, for the gospel to actually work and bring happiness, at least in my case. But it’s definitely worth it.

All men and women, gay, straight, married, or single, should remain active in the Church. The plan of salvation is in force for everyone… and we did not fight a war in Heaven to be single or unhappy eternally. We did not sign up for only part of the plan; we signed up for all of it. And by staying active in the Church, we avail ourselves of all the blessings of the gospel. They will come. I totally agree.

Then Elder Oaks began speaking. He prefaced his talk with a short story of a survey done of adults 20 years ago. Most believed that moral behavior was universal – that right and wrong had black and white absolutes that applied to everyone equally without respect to religion or background – the way most of us see murder or violence today. Today, that same study given to college seniors had the opposite effect. 75% of them believed that right and wrong, good and evil, were relative… most college seniors believe that there are no absolutes. (And from my own experience, many, many people now believe that even sexual morality is relative. Tons of people who I’d normally think were sound and solid members of the Church think that the law of chastity shouldn’t apply to men or women with same-gender attraction. I know that people rationalize away laws for themselves… but when did this become such a huge problem that people leave the Church over it?)

His talk was on tolerance and truth, where tolerance is something different from what the world normally equates. Tolerance in the gospel is a virtue when it is tolerance of people, or of beliefs… but not of actions. Essentially, it’s a match to what the Savior taught – tolerate sinners, lift them, teach them, and give them as much time as they need to repent, but make it clear that you don’t approve of or tolerate sin. As He kindly and firmly said to the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee… now go, and sin no more.” (Tolerance of people who don’t live the gospel is simply loving them and giving them the dignity and respect afforded to all of God’s children. At the same time, the gospel requires standing by the truth in all times and in all places – and making the distinction clear between right and wrong, okay and sin, as an institution.)

During his talk, he mentioned three absolute truths.

1)      All are brothers and sisters under God, taught within their various religions to love and do good to one another. All of us need to learn to respect the God-given dignity that is in all men – to love and respect their spirits and their divine potential. (We should all love each other – love being the virtue wherein we are willing to do anything to help others come closer to Christ)
2)      Living with differences is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we must do. We are in the world, but not of the world… and that means that sometimes we have to assert ourselves. We need to challenge laws that malign our ability to practice religion, and contend to support religious freedom. (We should protect our own freedom to believe and worship God, but also be a part of the world and situate those laws in terms that communicate with others)
3)      Tolerance for others and their beliefs does not jeopardize our support for truth and right actions. We aren’t required to respect or tolerate wrong behavior. We deplore murder, violence, thievery, and everything else that God has ordained as sin.

When we are evaluating our own lives, we should not be tolerant of ourselves. We shouldn’t hide behind “tolerance” when we know that we know better. It’s the same when we teach our children – we should only teach the truth, and never let someone teach them false doctrine. In situations with others, we share truth according to the situation – you don’t call out a stranger on using profanity at home, but you do when it’s around you.

And then he spoke about being involved in the public square. When believers of Jesus Christ take their beliefs into the public square, they must be extremely selective. They shouldn’t legislate worship practices, even indirectly, but believers can and must seek laws that allow religious expression… and should also choose action-oriented laws that appeal to moral, ethical, and broad bases that are a part of society at large – not just unique to their own individual religion or dogma. When believers seek to promote their positions, their methods should be tolerant of the opinions of others... Love your neighbors, do good to those that despitefully use you, and don’t add to the chaos of turbulent and unsavory remarks... we need to frame our arguments in a way that adds to the discussion in a democratic society. Believers should not be deferred by the claim that they are “legislating morality”. Morality has always been and will always be a central part of legislation – whether based on the moral code of believers or the moral code of nonbelievers. Believers should always be sensitive to the views and needs of the minority.

Maybe it was just me, but I thought this talk had Proposition 8 written all over it. But that wasn’t all. At the end of the talk, he referred to the parable of the watchman on the tower, in the Doctrine and Covenants (the one where the Lord tells us that prophets foretell the future), and said, “As an apostle of the Lord, I am the watchman in the parable… and I have just spoken to you on a subject that was directed to me by the Spirit.” That’s about as clear as it gets to me… the political world is going to get rough. The Constitution is going to hang by a thread. We’re going to be in the minority (not a new thing for me). And we, I, whoever was listening tonight, is going to have to take the reins to support God and His plans when that time arrives.

Thursday, September 8

Eternal Life

Trials are black lines on white canvas. They find meaning only when filled with colors and light. And when they have filled their purpose, they disappear, forever hidden beneath the life they helped create.

I sat gazing at the temple a few days ago... just looking up into the dark September sky, my heart full and my mind at ease. Some of you may have noticed that I changed the heading on (Gay) Mormon Guy... because, at least right now in my life, being attracted to guys doesn't make my life extra rough anymore. Most days, it doesn't cross my mind... and when it does, in the form of a guy (or a girl with whom I can't seem to connect), life goes on as planned. Planned partly by me, and mostly by Him. I don't feel the loneliness that I used to. God Himself, and Christ, are with me. They fill my needs, and I can turn to Them more readily than a Siamese twin... because They know my thoughts, my heart, my hopes, my dreams... and He has felt and experienced it all.

Tonight, I'm eternally grateful for a God who loved me enough to outline my life with dark, black lines - lines that seemingly had no meaning - and then to give me the tools to color in the blessings of eternity. All the pain, the anguish, the suffering, the sorrow, the guilt, the work, the stress, the heartache... it's really worth it, and happiness will come - not just in eternity, but in this life. I wish everyone could have that experience... and feel the way I feel tonight.

Tuesday, September 6

"To Thine Own Self Be True..." but Who Am I?

A few years ago I realized that I didn't really know who I was... and found myself face-to-face with a question that every Mormon (and most others) faces at some point in life: Who am I?

This wasn't some cute little exercise in existential goalmaking, a short list of the qualities I wanted to assume to become the eventual perfect spouse, or a transcript of the gifts outlined in my Patriarchal blessing... and there wasn't anything pleasant about the process. The conflict took root out of pain and fear and distress, spent years slowly smoldering in the back of my soul, and finally burst out in flames, pitting me between myself... and myself. (I probably could have used less metaphoric flowery language, but that's what came out) 

As you can probably guess, at the core of my distress were two seemingly contradictory sets of core beliefs. The first belief was the now brightly burning flame: "I'm gay, Mormon, unmarried, and having trouble with my social life. I've been on a mission, paid my dues, done everything right, and I'm not happy. And other people tell me I'll never be happy or fulfilled unless I embrace myself for who I am - gay - and give up hope that one day God will 'free me from my trials,' because He won't."

The second belief didn't burn or ask for attention the same way, but it was still there: "I am a child of God, and He has sent me here - to these circumstances, these problems - with the ability to keep the commandments and succeed in returning to Him. If I keep the commandments and strive to follow the Lord, He will take care of me... and I'll be happy and blessed - here in this life, and for eternity."

For a while I lived a double life. I did everything I could in my Church callings, but then found myself fantasizing about guys late at night. It tore me apart when I thought about it, so I tried not to think. I rationalized that I could be extra-righteous in other areas to make up for it. And none of the interventions I tried seemed to work anyway.

And then, one night in prayer, I realized that I had to choose between the two. The smoldering embers had burst into a fire, and I needed to either put it out, or give it room in my heart to change me forever. Am I a son of God, who is willing to do anything He asks me to - anything at all, no matter what the cost? Or do I choose to disbelieve the promptings the Spirit has given me for years and years and years - and rationalize that God will suspend the commandments in my case?

This was the turning point - the point where men turn their backs on God and the Church, the point where other men turn their backs on their families... the point where I could turn away from my faith, or turn to God, away from my own desires and demands. That night I put everything on the altar of sacrifice, and told the Lord I would do anything He asked.

For me, the first hard thing to do was to talk with my bishop. I have pride issues, and Satan convinced me that talking with him would mark me in his eyes, destroy my reputation, hurt my ability to serve others. But none of that happened. I went to him, honestly explained everything, and asked for his help... and he listened, and helped me to be healed. And thus began the process of reclaiming my life and who I was.

Reclaiming who I was wasn't that easy. Over years, beliefs, needs, and addictions had taken root in my heart, and I had to cut them out to begin to be healed. And, perhaps most difficult, I had to believe each day that when I cut out part of my heart, God would make me whole. I had to believe that leaving myself vulnerable, with unmet needs, would give God the room to come more fully into my life.

And, somehow, He did. As I turned to Him and found peace in the little things of the gospel, withdrawal and depression, pain and isolation, ostracism and fear and tears slowly gave way to a new set of beliefs - not only am I a child of God, but each day I can come closer to Him. With Him, I can overcome any trial. And as I come closer to Him, I feel what He feels - joy, fulfillment, peace, hope, faith, love. Today, the gospel, and all its blessings, is true for me.

I'll probably have other beliefs that will compete in my heart for space as life continues - beliefs about who I am, constructions from the world or society that tell me who I should be. But hopefully, in the future, I'll have the foresight to be true to who I really am and pull them out as soon as they begin to strangle the tree of life that is slowly growing in my heart. And, someday... that tree will bear fruit... and I'll be the man God sees deep inside me - perfected, purified, and at peace - in His presence once more.

Sunday, September 4

A Spark.

A Spark.

Is it fake? A fantasy? A surrealization of what cannot be? Or is it real, and miracles do happen?

My heart is light, my eyes are bright, I woke up smiling while I slept last night. Can it be, that a girl can be the focus of my mind?

I see her lips, the way she laughs, the passion shining in her eyes; her voice surrounds me as it echoes in the dark.

And this morning, I give thanks, whether true or just a glance, to God on high... for He has let me feel a spark.

Mormon Guy

Thursday, September 1

Too Busy For a Wife?

I was talking with a group of guys earlier this week and the conversation turned to wives, girlfriends, and football. It all seemed like banter until one guy said, "You know what the problem is, Mormon Guy? You're too busy for a wife. And you don't need one." He went on to outline the reasons why I was too busy, and then detailed all the external factors that stood in the way of girls who might be interested - the things that made it obvious to onlookers that I was somehow self-sufficient and had no room for romantic female companionship.

I'd discount his comment as a trite and light-hearted way to poke fun at my unmarried state and the rest of my life, but I think he was only partly joking. And I've heard it a few times before... and hearing things always makes me wonder how I should be applying them in my life.

The scriptures say that men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will and choice. I date, even when I have no desire to. I talk with girls and try to find more people to add to the dating pool. I improve my list of talents so that someday I'll match the subconscious list of Prince Charming for whichever princess really becomes the recipient of true love's kiss. And while I'm waiting, I am trying to move forward in life. I'm not waiting for life to begin or insisting that God grant my desires before I begin to make a contribution to society; as I make that contribution, I know that He will bless me and make me into a better man.

But there is a difference between engaging my priorities on work... and working on my priorities towards engagement... especially for me. With a normal guy, love could catch him by surprise - sort of as a side effect of the rest of life, sometimes in spite of not dating or actively searching for a wife. But in my case that won't happen... at least I don't think so. I don't think that the Lord is going to just someday make me fall in love with a girl at first sight and we'll live happily ever after. No... I usually have to work for my blessings, and then the miracle comes... in such a way that I know I really had nothing to do with it, and was probably going in the wrong direction, but it comes. And the miracles in my life come when I am anxiously engaged in doing the right things - not just good things, but the right things. The things that God wants me to do.

So yeah. I think I need to spend more of my effort dating. That thought makes me cringe. But maybe I can convince myself that I love dating by telling myself some of the good things about it.

I love dating because it enables me to change people's lives. I've been an impact for good through dating... and I love dating because it changes me into a better man. I love dating because I learn about people and how to meet their needs. Because I get to do fun stuff with others and make friends. I love dating because I sometimes can set up past girlfriends with current colleagues... and see them hit it off... or make contacts for business or involvement in the community. I love dating because when I date, and get home, I feel like I've accomplished something important in my life... and God promises me that it will work out - not just generally, but in my own personal life. It will work out for me. I love dating because it teaches me to be a better missionary... it helps me see and understand the trials people are facing and develop the tools to help them. And I love dating because it gives me a chance to bear my testimony... to share the gospel with someone and see their eyes light up as they gain a new insight on the truth.

I love dating. At least I'm trying. And hopefully my friends were wrong... and I have plenty of room in my life for dating, and a wife.