Tuesday, February 28


I think too much. I'm not sure if that's a trait shared by other guys with same-sex attraction, or if it's just me, but I definitely think too much. I find myself poring over my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams, and my fears, and fabricating complex rationales for most of the things I believe. I'm not happy with just experiencing life - I have to understand every facet of life that I can see.

Sometimes my tendency to meditate on everything comes in handy. When I need to create a project, I can manufacture elaborate plans, come up with dozens of alternatives, and see potential pitfalls before they happen. When I am thinking about people who I care about, they fill my every waking moment - something that was great at reminding me of my purpose as a missionary.

But sometimes it isn't ideal. Take, for example, the amount of stress that dating causes me. Most people would say to just go with the flow; instead, I find myself analyzing every move before I make it, and trying to determine its impact after it's made. It affects my spirituality when I obsess over my weaknesses, and consumes me when I need to change something in my life... blowing them out of proportion and, effectively, making them a much larger part of my consciousness than they were in the first place.

I found myself thinking too much over the last few days. And then I remembered an experience from my mission. I was in Church, wondering how I was going to deal with a major problem, and it was time for the Sacrament. The prayer was said, and my mind continued to race... and then I had the thought, "Mormon Guy, you should be thinking about the Sacrament. Shhhhhhh... be quiet. Be calm. Be still and know that I am God." So I closed my eyes, calmed my racing thoughts, and, almost immediately, a bolt of clarity showed me what I needed to do. I was so engaged in worrying about the problem that I wasn't open to the Spirit and His direction in my life.

The times that I've taken time to pull myself away from the world have always been positive. I've learned about who I am, what I want to accomplish, and I understand how to better apply the gospel in my life to find happiness and joy. It's like the feeling I get in the Celestial Room of the temple - peace, understanding, perspective, and hope. For a moment, everything is right in the world.

I think that taking time to think (without falling asleep) and ponder is important. But taking time to rest - and just listen, without engaging the constant deluge of thoughts and stimuli, is just as important. I, of all people, need to remember this in my life. To take time to be holy, to stop and listen, to disengage from the insanity of life to breathe. And as I do, I'm better able to hear the Lord and follow His promptings.


Friday, February 24

Standards for New Situations in New For the Strength of Youth

For the Strength of Youth, a source of clear and direct outlines of basic Church standards, underwent a revision process this last year, and the booklets are being distributed to wards and branches throughout the Church. I love this book. It's designed to help Church members create habits in living the standards that will guide them throughout their lives.

There is no double standard in the Church. The standards apply universally to youth, adults, and all other members. That's why they're called "standards" and not "youthful suggestions."

The new booklet covers issues that weren't present during the last revision in 2001 - things like mobile devices - and clarifies other issues. There's a section on emotional health that talks about depression, a new section on education, and some other cool features. The pdf or printed booklet itself has more text than the resources available online at standards.lds.org.

There's a paragraph on same-gender attraction, but the section that really spoke to me when I read it this morning was on agency and accountability. I'll include some of the last paragraph here.

Some sinful behavior may bring temporary, worldly pleasure, but such choices delay your progress and lead to heartache and misery. Righteous choices lead to lasting happiness and eternal life. Remember, true freedom comes from using your agency to choose obedience; loss of freedom comes from choosing disobedience.

That's true. When I find myself faced with the choice of following pleasure or pursuing lasting happiness, the only way to find peace is to follow God. He has given me all the tools to be happy, if I will follow Him and keep His commandments.

Tuesday, February 14

The Prop 8 Firestorm Is Back

It's been a week since the 9th District Court ruled that California's amendment to the constitution was unconstitutional. The outlash of emotion bottled since the last foray has erupted, with charged and pent-up anger, frustration, and misunderstanding coloring both sides. Name-calling, deliberate misinterpretation, mudslinging and personal fouls have become the norm of those trying to get their point across... and it's not just in private communique; the public sphere of forums and debates has been laid with traps and mines by zealots on either side, ready to catch anyone so foolhardy as to say an errant word. Both sides are entrenched, ready and waiting for their part in the battle that has already begun to ensue.

But no one can see the fatal mistake. The real enemy has already administered poison by degrees, and it's only a matter of time before both sides succumb.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. - Ephesians 6:12

In the wake of the decision by the court, the Church gave a short news report. It reiterated the Church's position and then, at the end, gave counsel to those involved:

"We recognize that this decision represents a continuation of what has been a vigorous public debate over the rights of the people to define and protect the fundamental institution of marriage. There is no doubt that today’s ruling will intensify the debate in this country. We urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion."

I'm not an expert in communication with respect and civility, but I've tried to become better at communicating with others. In that tone, here are some of the things I do to share my testimony, on this subject, with the world.

1. Don't use metaphors. In the Church we use metaphors and symbols regularly. It helps to compare our thoughts and ideas. Metaphors are always imperfect though, and in heated situations can be taken too literally, and are easily taken for a change in subject. I don't compare same-sex marriage to anything else, or bring up any other topic during the conversation, even if I feel that same-sex marriage is like (insert event here).

2. Use "I" and speak about my own personal experiences and testimony. I do not have authority to make statements of doctrine. But a sincere, honest testimony about the gospel and its blessings always opens doors and hearts far more than pontificating on doctrine and the reasons behind it.

3. Don't bash or retaliate. If the discussion begins to degenerate into slurs or tangential arguments, stay focused on the ideals at hand and focused on my own experience. Don't call names, make remarks about judgment or remarks of others, use sarcasm, or tongue-in-cheek statements... and let them roll off if they are directed at me. People will never listen to epithets, and burning bridges that will always need to be crossed again is the absolute worst way to come unto Christ. Honesty, sincerity, humility, and kindness will always do far more for the cause than getting in the last word.

4. Think twice, write once, edit thrice, and think again. What I write online lasts forever. Literally - forever. Saying the wrong thing, or posting something with an unintended double entendre, will have lasting negative effects. It may be tempting to dive into the fray at ground zero, but often it is far more compelling to think, watch, and contribute only when I know what I have to say is worthwhile. And once I've written it, I stop and think again - not only about what I've written, but about the ways it could be interpreted and the impact it might have on the discussion as a whole.

5. Focus improvement inward - not outward. Sometimes I feel pressured into the trap of thinking that I am the source of truth that needs to be instilled in others. I'm drawn to take my light and shine it as brightly as possible on others, hoping that some of it will enter and change their nature. That's the trap outlined in the opening scene of this post - each side has weapons of knowledge and truth, hoping to use them to advance on the field. That may seem effective in advancing a specific cause, but that's not how it works in helping people change and learn truth. Light and truth doesn't come from individuals. It comes from God, and individually, through the ministration of the Holy Ghost. What that means is that if I want someone to learn truth, I need to create an environment where he can hear the Holy Ghost. In the end, this is what guides what I say and write most.

There is a war raging, and I find myself standing at the front. But my opponents are not protestors or activists, politicians or judges. My opponents are greed, hatred, frustration, impatience, dishonor, misunderstanding, and spite. And hopefully, against those opponents, I can triumph... and in doing so in my own life, make the world a better place.

Monday, February 13

He's My Neighbor

It's been a little while since it first happened. I got home from my day's activities, opened up my web browser, and logged in to my Gmail account for Mormon Guy. I glanced through the emails, scanning topics and senders, and then stopped and stared. It was there in the From: box - a person I knew, and not just in passing. A person I knew really well. Some names in the world are common. But the LDS world is small. Really small. And the picture that came up when the pointer paused above the name confirmed the thought. Definitely someone I knew.

I wondered what I would do if someone I knew asked me for help. It's easy to help strangers, when anonymity is equally dispersed, but what about people I know? All of my contacts related to (G)MG have come from the blog and moved into real life - not the other way around. I'm not sure how I would feel about suddenly switching roles with someone in my life. That thought was cut short when I realized it was just a comment to post. Not an issue. Relief... because I don't have to make the decision - a decision that would complicate another relationship and potentially end with my breaking anonymity with another person.

Since then it's happened multiple times, with all sorts of interesting connections... sometimes asking for help, usually simply just sending a letter or posting a comment. She doesn't realize that I was once in her ward. He doesn't know that I met him at a party years ago. He's my neighbor. She doesn't know that we went on a date once. No one realizes how closely we are all tied together.

And I guess I don't realize it, either. In just as many cases, I've probably met men and women somewhere in life, and never guessed that someday our paths would cross again.

I wonder what trials the people around me face... and, more importantly, what I can do to help them. If making sure to smile, or ask about their lives, or spend an extra minute talking while under a deadline would make a difference. I know that if people simply cared about me, and involved me in the real aspects of their lives, my problems would seem far less insuperable. And I'm sure it's the same for others... people sitting next to me right now, talking down the hallway, standing in front of me in the checkout line.

Sunday, February 12

(Drowning in) The Dating Pool

I've seen references in popular culture that claimed all the nicest guys (from a nonmember female perspective) are either Mormon or attracted to other guys; in both cases, the niceness is because they're not interested enough for objectifying to happen, or something like that. I'm not sure where I was going with that thought. Maybe a punch line that highlights being both... but that doesn't sound very compelling. Whatever.

I'm finding myself in a predicament that makes me step back and think. I'm dating more often as of recent - different girls, never really one in particular - and early in dates I sometimes see things that are major red flags. Lifestyle choices that are in direct conflict with mine and attitudes that are sometimes exactly opposite what I'm looking for in an eternal companion. Some of my dates are setups by others; some are spur-of-the-moment events when I can tell a girl is interested, and rarely there's actually something in a girl's personality that makes me think it's worth looking in to. The problem I face is this: how long am I supposed to give someone a "chance" in dating? How long should I put aside my lack of interest, or frustration with habits or lifestyle, to see if maybe sparks will miraculously appear where there is nothing, or should I even wait at all? Should I indulge the subconscious list of important ancillary traits or do none of my own personal feelings really matter?

Obviously some of my feelings aren't crucial. Wanting to find someone who can sing beautifully isn't really key to bliss in this life or the next. But I'm wondering where it all fits in with me. I've never fallen in love with a girl before. I have no idea how it will happen. But, if/when it does, that really shouldn't be enough to completely base an eternal relationship - even if falling in love is a miracle on my part. All the books and classes and conversations say that compatibility is a huge key in determining future difficulties in marriage. Yeah, a super-valiant guy can marry a super-valiant girl and make it work, but I'm already going to have to work a whole lot to make an eternal marriage work, considering the stories I've received from men and women who are doing the same thing. Worth it? Definitely. But hard? Much, much harder than they imagined when they set out, even with eyes open to the obstacles in the way.

I guess I'm trying to balance a few opposing ideals:

Dating for the sake of dating: getting to know others, having fun, identifying characteristics I can improve or that I may want in a future companion.

Dating to find compatibility: finding and dating people who closely match the traits that are important to me for raising a family and living the gospel.

Dating to fall in love: when a red flag comes up, staying in a relationship anyway, until I'm somewhat certain that I'm not going to fall in love, even with work.

Dating according to the Lord's guidelines: any girl is date-able if she is striving to be faithful, keep the commandments, follow the Spirit, and preparing to be a mother.

Dating while trying to adhere to the social norms everyone else follows: I don't think most people would date someone they are totally not attracted to. But, barring that difference, is it okay to go on three dates with a girl just for the sake of dating? I think that people usually drop potential dates when they see lots of red flags, unless there's something really compelling about the girl. They don't ask girls out again if they're completely uninterested.

I guess that opens up another avenue of questions. I don't think I've ever asked men who live with same-sex attraction, who knew about it during their dating years, who also fell in love with women and are happily married, how they approached dating. Obviously something worked for them, and while each circumstance is different, focusing on the success stories and their process might shed light on best practices.

Thoughts? What works for you in dating? What doesn't?