Friday, November 30

California SB 1172: Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

The whole world is debating the merits and vices of "reparative therapy," with one camp claiming that it can cure all ills and the other that it will inevitably lead to suicide and self-loathing.

I hope they both someday realize that their hyperbole is laughable.

But on a subject where for years people called names and told stories, the debate just hit a new level. Last month California passed a law stating that mental health professionals could no longer engage in any effort to help a client under age 18 with his or her sexual attractions, under threat of being subject to professional regulatory bodies (losing their license to practice).

The specific words of the law (California SB 1172) are:

“Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices by mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

865.1. Under no circumstances shall a mental health provider engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years of age.

865.2. Any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject a mental health provider to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider.


This is bad.

I don't advocate reparative therapy as a method of curing homosexuality. I agree with the tenets listed elsewhere in the law that men and women need to find peace, love, and acceptance within and without, and that same-gender attraction is not, in itself, a sin... and hence does not make anyone less worthwhile. I also agree that love within the home, and reconciliation with self-worth, are crucial for the aversion of practices leading to the syndemic of homosexuality - drug abuse, sexual abuse, depression, suicide, and HIV.

At the same time, not every homosexual child is a victim of massive self-loathing or so vulnerable and impressionable that he needs to be protected from external ideas. Young men and women who have developed their own sense of self-worth, who love themselves completely, and who have the complete support of family and community, mental health professionals can help them address issues outside of their own ability. To those young men and women - I was 17 when I went to college, for example - living according to their most deeply held personal feelings can be better achieved with the help of others in the community - including mental health professionals. Especially those who are already dealing with clinical depression or other disorders. This law effectively bars professionals from that network of support if a source of distress is sexual in any nature. And while internal attractions, the existence of a sliding scale vs binary assignment, nature vs nurture, and sexual mutability is definitely part of the debate, the specific mentioning of the word "behaviors" - as I highlighted in the law - is the truly distressing part of this law.

Any efforts... to change homosexual behaviors.

I know that laws are often stretched to their extreme in courts of law, depending heavily on the methods used by lawyers and judges in assigning meaning to each word. I'm also not a lawyer... but since words and meanings seem to be so fluid in this debate, an imagination is probably all I need. I take things literally (since I'm autistic), so my interpretation will be extremely literal. Either way, in a firefight like homosexuality, I can see this one being put to the test.

Some major issues and potential problems follow.

This law doesn't have religious exemptions or restrict its application to the workday. Which means that if a bishop is a licensed mental health professional, he can no longer counsel young members of his congregation who come to him and want to repent (and hence change) of behaviors involved in homosexual activity.

By extending to any effort to change behaviors, and not including exemptions, this could also be construed to limit mental health professionals from preaching over the pulpit on the topic of homosexuality when there are minors present.

Conversely, if the law restrains professionals from any effort to change behaviors, and applies to discouraging behaviors, it must also restrain them from encouraging behaviors related to homosexuality. As feelings are indicated only in one direction (eliminating or reducing feelings), this would only apply to behaviors.

This could have direct impact on the ability of parents who are mental health professionals to counsel, support, act, and teach their children about homosexuality.

But the most obvious is that parents, and their children, would no longer have the ability to turn to licensed medical professionals for support - effectively encouraging them to go to unlicensed professionals, as the law does not contraindicate the work of unlicensed individuals. These include friends and other associates who, while perhaps well-meaning, may not have the grounding or training in mental health to be able to distinguish positive and negative methodologies. And they rarely have training to support concomitant depression or other negative tendencies that coincide. This law will not change the desire of individuals or parents to find external support in their desires to change unwanted behaviors - it will only force them to search for help outside of the licensed world of mental health.

Those are my concerns at first glance. Some might seem extreme, but knowing the subject, I'm not sure that extreme really exists anymore. Laws have been interpreted as far as language allows - sometimes beyond what seems reasonable.

I'm sort of glad now that I didn't go into psychology or mental health. I'm planning to go to grad school in California. And since I spend much of my free supporting people who want to change their behaviors, and many are young, this would be a major issue.

Edit:

Since writing this post, I've learned that the Pacific Justice Institute has sued for an injunction against CA SB 1127. A brief news article on their case is here: http://www.pacificjustice.org/1/post/2012/10/-new-court-filings-seek-to-halt-gay-therapy-ban.html

And a YouTube video, created by the same organization, is here: http://youtu.be/IB5Km5dCtZk?hd=1 that details how supportive therapy helped one individual.

It's apparent from the case and the issues highlighted in the press release (specifically the right of religious organizations to offer counseling that matches their beliefs) that this is a potentially a big issue. What was interesting to me was that my non-legal-background-pure-conjecture may actually have something in common with legal opinions.

Thursday, November 29

An Educational Paradigm: Investing

My lifelong goal is to change the world. Specifically, to change the world of education - as it happens in the home, schools, businesses, and everywhere else learning happens.

I want to start by helping parents and others change the paradigm within which they view education... because if you can change a collective vision, the structure will follow.

So here goes - the first paradigm shift.

Imagine that you have $10,000 and there are 5 banks where you can invest your money. Each will give some type of return, but you really aren't sure what. There's no history that you can look up because they're all brand new, & nothing that distinguishes one from another.

Where do you put your money?

According to basic finance, given equal (even unknown) potential, you should invest evenly across all 5 banks. That way you hedge against potential losses if one bank performs poorly.

Fast-forward five years. Bank A has lost all your money. They're more than willing to take more of it, but you know by looking at their investment strategy that the bank will continue to perform on the same level. Bank B, on the other hand, has taken the $2000 initial investment and made a 200% return - grown now to $6000. Banks C, D, and E are growing at about the rate of inflation - 2.3%.

If you know have access to the data behind each bank's decisions, know that none will fail, and have a pretty good guess to the future performance of the bank (that it will match past performance), where do you invest?

A smart investor would put all his money in the bank with the highest return. None in the bank that lost his money, and maybe only keep an account at the other 3 banks. That way, he's most likely to get the best return on his investment.

Switch gears.

Your 7-year-old is going to first grade. It's his first day, and while you have some inkling of his passions, you really don't know what's going to happen when he goes to school. He has five subjects, and you encourage him to do his best in every class.

Fast forward 5 years. Your 12-year-old brings home a report card that looks like many of the others you've seen over the last 5 years:

Reading: B
Spelling: B-
Music: A+
Art: B
Math: D

As a parent, how do you tell your son to invest his most precious resource - his time? Think of it like an investment... because it is. Do you tell him to focus on learning the subjects that give him the highest return - music - or do you tell him to put his resources into subjects that give him a low return - like math?

Many parents in the past would tell their children to focus on math. "Just work harder so that you can get your grades up."

But understanding a new paradigm makes that change.

If you let your son study music, and really study it, he'll eventually need to learn fractions to read music. Mathematics to understand harmonics. As he grows in his knowledge of "pure music," he will realize that learning isn't siloed. Maybe he'll learn a foreign language to sing Le Nozze di Figaro. Maybe he'll go into dance and learn about art, where vector spaces can explain eye tracking and heat maps on the stage.

But no matter what happens, it will happen fast - far faster than if he were just studying physics or science or finance on their own. He will learn far more by studying things he loves and can apply than by studying things he doesn't. And he will learn the most effective strategies to function in life from those subjects, based on his passion.

That's because learning only happens when people feel the knowledge is useful, and because learning in one area bleeds over into others. I'm not talking about memorization. I'm talking about real learning - helping people to change who they are and how they interact with the world. And that learning is accelerated when passion is present.

I know the biggest objections. What about "required learning" - or functional skills like reading? Or having a basic ability to "function in society"?

The reality is that "required learning" isn't often learning. It soothes our conscience when we claim that we have taught students all the same basic core principles, but two years later, none of them remember anything. Which means that none of them learned anything.

Learning only takes place when people believe the knowledge is useful... and it's accelerated if they have passion. Which means that the role of teacher - whether parent or professional - changes to be first a matchmaker. If you can't help someone love a subject, it doesn't matter how you try to make him learn. But when he has fallen in love and wants to know more, nothing can keep him from it.

Monday, November 26

Music in the Night

Sometimes I wake up at night and can hear music in my head. Not all the time, but sometimes. And sometimes, if I pull myself out of bed to the piano 5 feet away, I record a piece of the melody on my phone so that I'll remember it in the morning.

That's how this piece began. It was a long time ago, shortly after I stopped dating one of the best harpists in the world (not kidding). I couldn't understand how she could spend 8 hours a day playing the harp... so I asked her to teach me to play. I wanted to understand her. She had given me one harp lesson, and, after learning to pick my way through Handel's Concerto for Harp in B flat, I began writing.

Harp music looks almost like piano music... and much of it can be played on the piano. There are major differences, though. Harpists use only four fingers on each hand to play, which means that ten-finger chords aren't possible. And since pedal harps change the tone of strings to match the key, a perfect (harmonic) glissando is possible in every key - not just C. There are plenty of other differences - like playing with overtones, or using the percussive aspects of the soundboard - but I'm not really all that good of a harpist. So my harp piece took shape on the piano. Maybe someday, when it's finished and I've practiced, I'll be good enough to play it on the harp.

This is the first time I've recorded this piece and shared it with others. Knowing the crowd, there are plenty of readers whose piano, recording, video editing, and other media skills far surpass mine.

But that's okay. Because, I guess, being authentic also means being vulnerable. Imperfect. And yet being able to see the beauty in that imperfection. So hopefully you can forgive the fact that the piano is old and out of tune, the phone's microphone is too close to record properly, the pianist (me) makes major mistakes and forgets an entire section, and there's no visual at all.

Someday I'll learn the piece well enough to play it flawlessly and record it on a Lyon & Healy concert harp. But today it's recorded on the upright in my bedroom. Because I think that part of learning to be happy in life is being okay with our imperfections. Working with them. Not letting them paralyze us or keep us from sharing who we are with others.

Finding the majesty in simple things. Being imperfect, vulnerable, and real. Hearing the beauty in the rain.

Sunday, November 25

Laughing at Pokemon Jokes

I realized a few days ago that I had no good pictures on Facebook. Which means that when I ask people to set me up with the most intelligent, spiritual, attractive, single girl they know, they don't have much to work with.

I usually hate pictures of myself. Especially my face. I've developed enough self-esteem that I like the person who looks back at me from the mirror, but in pictures... Yeah. I'm not a fan.

So today, after Church, I combined the perfect ingredients in hopes that I'd get something worthwhile: a beautiful day, the $1k DSLR camera sitting on my table, and a little sister visiting from the dorms who loves me enough to indulge me.

I don't smile naturally. I'd look much better in an old-fashioned picture than in the modern ones. I think it's part of having autism. So we had to get over the issue of looking angry/somber and Amanda asked me a random question.

"How do you get 3 bulbasaurs, 2 charmanders, and a pikachu on a bus?"

I usually like to figure out punch lines (I know, that ruins the joke. But I enjoy it ten times more when I can figure it out for myself - like a good riddle), but this one was beyond me. My little brother loved Pokemon, but that was years ago. I had no idea.

"I have no idea. How?"

"You Pokemon!"

The utter absurdity, along with the obviousness of the answer, was definitely enough to make me laugh. She told a few more, and 20 minutes later, we had 200 pictures. Half a dozen were good enough to post to Facebook.

I love my life.

Friday, November 23

Where Alone Comes From

I'm not a huge fan of holidays. They're incredibly unstructured... and the lack of structure makes it hard for me to concentrate and even harder to get anything done. Today was no exception. I'm not a huge fan of the crowds on Black Friday, so I didn't go shopping. Doing homework was an exercise in futility. Working out still hasn't happened. The only thing I had set in my schedule was doing something with a friend, but even that didn't have a set time. I called him twice, but haven't been able to get in touch with him all day.

Part of me is concerned, and blames some kind of outside influence. He's usually a pretty reliable guy, and I've honestly tried to make this friendship, which is still in the very early stages, work. I'm trying to develop better friendships with lots of people, so I try gauge the responses of the people in my life, figure out where I stand, and then, in turn, do what they expect me to do. I haven't seen any red flags that tell me this one is going to explode. But, then again, I've never seen red flags before relationships explode. They just explode.

Which comes to the other part of me - the part that wonders if I'm really worth befriending in the first place. The part that feels it's not worth even trying because it fails so often and leaves me feeling awful. And the part that tries to convince me that I did something to burn yet another friendship before it started.

At least from here on out, I'm planning to try something like this with people: "Hey, because I have autism, I have a really hard time reading people. As we become friends, could you help me figure out what your expectations are for our friendship, and then help me identify times when I do something outside of those expectations?"

Either way, nothing happened, and right now I feel alone.

Miserably, awfully alone.

Not as bad as sometimes. I'm not going to pray to die or anything. But as soon as I finish writing this I'll probably go to the gym to get high on endorphins. Either that or go to sleep. Which means that I'm not really in a good place right now.

The frustrating part is that I don't know where the devastating alone-ness even comes from. I had a great conversation with a new friend this afternoon, and yesterday spent ten hours going from one loving, inclusive Thanksgiving to another. Tomorrow morning I'll be at the temple, making a difference in people's lives and honestly appreciated for the service I give. I live with my siblings and know that they love me and would drop anything for me. So would a dozen other people I could call at a moment's notice. God loves me unconditionally. But even knowing that doesn't shake the feeling.

So why do I feel this way?

Am I just too invested in the development of new relationships? Do I take it too personally? Am I delusional? Totally insensible to the feelings that others have for me? Or is there something fundamentally wrong with me?

Just now I looked up studies that determined the impact of the things I face on developing friendships to maybe get some context. Having same-sex attraction dramatically increases my need for emotional intimacy, but also makes it hard to develop meaningful friendships with men. Autism makes all relationships difficult because of the lack of emotional reciprocity, difficulty understanding roles, and difficulty interpreting social and nonverbal cues. And bipolar wreaks havoc with relationships by stressing them from both sides.

Maybe I'm on to something. I was trying to figure out if the feeling I'm experiencing is at all rational, by trying to create a hypothetical situation that would dispel it. At least in my mind, it's at least partly rational if there are situations that could, if played out in my mind, influence its development. If there are no situations that could have an impact, then it's probably just depression speaking, and won't listen to reason anyway. At least in my mind, friends calling me on the phone wouldn't fix how I feel. Neither would sitting with them and talking. Those would all potentially work as distractions - moving my focus long enough that the brunt of the feeling could fade - but none of them would really take it away.

But something would.

I think the alone-ness and isolation I'm feeling comes from an intense desire to be understood... and to understand someone else, completely. Not just to have a hundred people who would do anything for me and who will talk to me for as long as I need them to, or a thousand acquaintances who will know my name in the hall... but to understand someone else completely and fully, to be able to love and trust them completely, and to know that they understand, love, and trust me the same way.

That's what I want.

I think I should just go to the gym and forget about it for now. Because, regardless of how much I think or write about it, that type of relationship is probably not going to happen for a long, long time... and thinking about it will only sharpen the pain. Maybe one of the relationships I'm working on right now, or sometime in the near future, could develop into something like that. But that takes commitment and dedication, time and investment... and that's in people without other problems. Having a friend that close is a rare gift among normal people. For me, a guy who has autism, bipolar, and SSA... well, part of me believes it never will. That I'll spend the rest of my life totally and completely alone. That's the fear I had to come to grips with years ago, and it's still there in my mind as a real possibility. And the other part of me realizes that, if it ever happens, it'll take an angel, a whole host of miracles, and a lot of work on both sides. Either way, it won't be resolved tonight. Thinking about it thus far has been useful... because I feel like I know what I'm facing... but now I just need to get over it and move on.



Edit: Resolution

He had left his phone at Thanksgiving dinner. I got a text a few minutes after publishing this post, and took the opportunity to ask him to give me feedback in the future if I ever overstep my bounds. The timing makes the whole thing seem terribly ironic. Sometimes I feel like God gives me experiences with the sole purpose of writing about them. Laugh out loud.

Thursday, November 22

Give it a Chance

One of my biggest fears... is trying to get close to people and then losing them. Investing in relationships that seem to grow, and then somehow causing them to implode on themselves or disappear altogether.

For a long time I've found myself front-loading relationships in case that happened. Trying to ensure that, if I never met the person ever again, at least I would have done whatever I needed to do to be a good friend. Ironically, that front-loading probably helped speed some relationships' demise... because they disappeared when it was time to redefine roles. That's because while being a friend is more than just being a counselor, a teacher, or even someone who is willing to listen... those more nuanced roles have always seemed out of my reach.

The last few days have tossed my world upside down. I used to know... or at least think I know... what my role was in conversations, in relationships. At least part of it. I could see the end from the beginning and each step made sense. the ironic thing now is that I didn't intend my blog revelation to have any real or lasting effect on me... but I feel like I'm completely redefining who I am. Pulled to make friendships with a ton of new people without having a framework to follow and without knowing what they need or even want in a friend. Being involved in their lives, and inviting them into mine, without knowing beforehand what the outcome will be.

Part of me is afraid. Afraid of making too many mistakes, moved to withdraw and go back into my own little world where I control all the variables and my failures are from being too intense or too nonchalant. But another part tells me to give it a chance. Maybe something is different, and the memories of yesterday are just that - memories. Maybe the people are different. Maybe I'm different. Maybe it'll work.

Just give it a chance.

I think I will.

Wednesday, November 21

Hookups, Gay Sex, and Other Stupid Things

It's Thanksgiving. Which means that the normal routine of life has largely disappeared, leaving me with far too much unscheduled time and out of contact with my day-to-day peers.

And that spells danger.

It probably started when I didn't exercise this morning, or yesterday, because the school schedule was altered so dramatically. It's exacerbated by the fact that I don't really have any plans for this weekend - no one who I'm really interested in going Black Friday shopping with (since I'd only go for the social aspect), no people to really hang out with in the first place. I don't have a girl friend, or a best friend, or anyone who really watches out for me and can see the signs. Most days, I can ignore that because I'm surrounded by people. But even if I went to the Tanner building, no one would be there.

Perfect timing to do something stupid.

Most of the guys I've met with SSA have fallen into some type of temptation. Pornography, hookups, and the rest... even though in almost all cases they're good people and upstanding members of the Church. Those who have been involved in hookups or other short-term sexual relationships, especially, will easily admit that they value people, the gospel, and faith in the long run. But, somehow, the conditions all smash together and create the perfect/worst conditions possible to fall into a temptation that really isn't worth the pain, agony, frustration, loss of blessings, and anguish that it brings.

I'm concerned because I've seen that happen many times over the holidays.

I'm in a class on influencing change, and I definitely need to change what's happening in my mind right now so I don't do something stupid. And since it's a feeling I need to fix in my own life, I thought I'd talk out loud.

Avoiding temptation is one thing... and there are plenty of things I can do to avoid it. Create peer groups, functional barriers, find ways to fill my needs before they manifest...

Beating temptation, on the other hand, is usually a simple question of delayed gratification. Every temptation is the urge to sacrifice future wellbeing for seeming present gain... and if I'm able to delay long enough, the temptation subsides. Even drug users who can learn short-term coping strategies - just long enough to overcome the peak of the urge - find a huge boon in breaking free of temptation.

Some of the things I do? Write. Exercise. Read my patriarchal blessing or a letter I've written myself about my goals for the future. Call a friend and see if they want to do something (and keep calling until I get someone live). Chat with someone on Facebook. Go outside and take a walk. Climb a tree and sit in it. Find a practice room and pound the piano. Take a drive and belt to Broadway music.

For me, effective coping activities have some key ingredients. They engage my mind, are useful by themselves (not just time-wasters... though sometimes I play video games / watch movies just because they can totally engage me), get me out of the wrong environment, and, ideally, involve other people. What's amazing is that it usually doesn't take long. A few minutes, a few hours, and the brunt of the feeling passes. In the case of depression, sometimes it takes a few days. But the sun always comes out again, proving that the storm has passed.

Yes, it may come again. It probably will. Storms usually do, and so do temptations. Worry about that bridge when it comes.

For now, just don't do anything stupid.

Homework.

Typical MBA class outline:

  • Professor has a few frameworks that he likes to use. Builds course content around them. There's a lot of overlap between courses.
  • In order to make the learning "real," assigns massive group project, which usually entails:
    • Professor selects group members.
    • Professor chooses target company that he's interested in.
    • Project is worth large proportion of grade.
    • Final deliverable is a presentation, slide deck, and written report.
  • Professor presents frameworks during the initial stages of course, then assigns later sessions for "one-on-one" meetings to vet project.
This type of outline works really well for students who:
  • Haven't learned many business frameworks.
  • Enjoy group work.
  • Have few opportunities to apply what they learn into their day-to-day lives.
  • Are passionate about learning about target company.
  • Have tons of time to work on projects.
  • Care about grades.
I don't.

Over the course of the semester I've attended all my classes, learned concepts and frameworks, applied them in my own business and personal projects, and spent most of my time building knowledge and networks. Which means I'm weeks behind on homework that, in most cases, feels like a complete chore. Can I explain the concept of a bowling alley from Inside the Tornado, talk about product positioning, or identify the pieces of nailing the pain in creating a new venture? Definitely. I use them all the time in real life. But, for whatever reason, real life doesn't count.

One of my biggest issues with modern educational philosophies is the strictness that teachers impose on their assessment strategies. Drill any teacher, and they will eventually admit that their assessment of student is wholly inadequate and subjective. But ask them to create personally individualized assessments, or to allow their students that leeway, and they'll push back with vigor. "Students aren't motivated to learn." "This is what the system requires." "You have to incentivize X for students to actually do it." "Students don't have the tools to take ownership of their own learning." At this point, I've stopped asking.

And in the same breath we talk about how improperly incentivizing activities that should be intrinsically motivated decreases both enjoyment and performance.

I love the MBA. I'm learning great things and interfacing with amazing people. But can't I decide for myself what's worth learning? And how to apply it in my life? I'm going to have to do it anyway, because that's the ultimate goal of learning, right? With so much piled on my plate, I find I'm doing homework at the expense of learning and other far more important aspects of my life. Having group meetings at the same cost. Maybe having my own business, being passionate about my own education, and other factors in my life make me unique. Maybe not. But I feel like if I had the time to do it right, and support from a professor in my own projects... instead of ones that are assigned from the outside... I'd learn far more than what I do by just going through the motions of classwork and quizzes.

That feels better.

...now I have to get back to my homework.

Sunday, November 18

All Day Crying.

I read once that babies need to cry to work through emotional experiences... and that simply letting them cry in your arms, holding them and talking softly, without rocking or calming or using a pacifier, is the key to helping them find peace on their own and eventually grow in their emotional capacity. No matter how long it takes.

I think I'm in that place.

The last few days have been more emotionally intense than I'm really able to handle. The mix of gratitude and anxiety and faith and love and total helplessness has left me crying anytime something pushes a trigger. Sacrament meeting piano number playing "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief"? Crying. Emails from family and friends and random strangers? Crying. Stake Fireside? Crying. I feel like I've been crying all day.

I think that writing has taken part of the place of crying... at least the place of processing my feelings aloud. I got home tonight and my sister asked if I was okay. My only answer was, "I need to write."

And I'm crying.

My mind is such a blur that I'm not really sure why. Whether it's from being overwhelmed at the stories of faith and happiness that I've heard... or because the last few days have made me far more cognizant of the incredible pain and stress and suffering around me... or because I'm anxious about my own life and my future... or because I've seen the hand of God so clearly and unmistakeably in my life... or because I somehow feel amazingly loved and understood... or because I feel wholly inadequate.

I think my crying today was a mixture of all of them. Intense positive emotional experiences that leave me grateful and drained. Huge feelings of responsibility and empathy for others that leave me constantly pleading with God to help me become a better person and to bless the people who need it most. And inadequacy and anxiety that leave me tottering on the edge. Then anything - from a smile to a Primary song - becomes the catalyst for tears.

I talked with God and realized that I'm afraid. Mostly because I feel like I have to save the world myself (or something else just as daunting), and am completely unable to do that. He was quick to remind me that saving the world is His work and glory, and, yes, I am completely unable to do that. Which is why my job is on a far lower scale - one that's within my reach.

That's interesting. I feel like, even though all the experiences are still there, all the emotions are still just as raw, I somehow have the ability to put them all in their places and not be in emotional overload. I think the crying, or the writing, or the talking with God and being willing to not worry about my own inadequacy... worked.

That makes me wonder. Someone in Church today talked about the difference between Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon after seeing a vision of Heaven as outlined in D&C 76. Sidney was exhausted, and it took him hours to really recover from the experience. Joseph was calm. But when he first spoke with an angelic messenger, Joseph's own account relates that he passed out while climbing over a fence much later in the day. Moses spent hours recuperating, as did Abraham, from powerful spiritual experiences early in their personal callings, and yet each of these somehow developed the spiritual capacity? emotional capacity? to deal with / resolve / work through / process / understand similar experiences with relative ease in their later years.
 
I wonder how accurate that is for life in general. I feel like just now, as a result of tears and words and prayer, I've watched my brain grow in its capacity to process emotions. But is that really happening? Does processing intense emotional experiences through writing/crying/praying increase my capacity to process emotion without needing those interventions? And, perhaps even more importantly, is it the same with spiritual experiences? Something inside me feels like this is why the Lord speaks to us in so many different ways... is it according to our ability to process what we experience? Maybe that's why looking into Heaven is so much rarer than feeling the still, small voice... because we wouldn't be able to process / understand / appreciate / really internalize the experience without already having developed a greater spiritual capacity.

I think I like that. I'm not sure if I totally agree yet, but it makes sense.

And at least I've stopped crying.

Saturday, November 17

My First Day as a Mormon w/SSA

I had no idea.

Really.

When I started writing (Gay) Mormon Guy I was the anomalous outlier. No one in the Mormon community knew who I was. I just sort of burst in on the scene without any warning. What I didn't realize at the time is that most of the bloggers talking about homosexuality and faith, while perhaps anonymous to the real world, still knew people personally within the community. I also didn't realize that there was a huge group of people who would never even look for (Gay) Mormon Guy. Many of the people I met today didn't read any blogs at all.

Staying completely anonymous also meant that while I've developed tacit email and comment friendships, most of my interactions are just that - through the Internet.

Today was my first day in the world of Mormon same-sex attraction. And I'm still trying to process what happened and how I feel.

I went to the Same-Sex Attraction conference at the Provo convention center, and live-tweeted the proceedings under #ssaconf - I think I was the only person tweeting, so it should be easy to find. The conference began with a short discussion by a handful of counselors, then added in individuals and couples facing same-sex attraction. All of them had one thing in common: they believed that hope and peace and reconciliation to faith and feelings was possible within the gospel of Jesus Christ according to LDS church doctrine.

I felt it was useful to simply talk about the subject. During the breaks, though, I had issues with how to introduce myself. The problem with having a blog that is somewhat-but-not-worldwide-famous-popular is whether or not to bring it up in a conversation. There are plenty of people who haven't ever heard of it, yet also others who follow it diligently. So I wasn't sure about that. Then there's the whole issue of being hugely socially awkward in informal social settings in the first place.

But there was something else, too.

This was the first time I had met a group of people who really understood why I was blogging, who understood the things I face firsthand, and who, like me, are actively trying to move down the right path to salvation and happiness. There was an enormous amount of people there... and an enormous amount of love. Someone asked me how I felt, and I took stock... peaceful.

(As an aside, I need to apologize to the guys who tried to hug me and thank me for (G)MG at the beginning of the conference. It took me a little bit to acclimate to the environment. For most of my life I've had a hard time with physical contact. When you see me again, try again. I'll do what I can to fix the part on my side.)

After the conference I struck up a conversation with different people attending, and had a good time for a few hours until they kicked us all out of the center.

Then it was time to do Voices of Hope.

Voices of Hope is a video project. And preparing for this has been terrifying. Talking on camera, without many prompting questions, for 50 minutes, seemed incredibly daunting to me. I got my hair cut, changed, and scribbled down a few notes on a business card:

"God only gives us blessings."
"If the gospel isn't working for me, it's not a problem with the gospel. It's a problem with me or my understanding of it."
"God can fill ALL my unmet needs."

Ty Mansfield was my focus guy - I got to talk to/at him while the camera rolled. So I told my story.

Something I realized as I told my story is that I gained the perspective necessary to deal with same-sex attraction long before I even realized it was an issue. Bipolar depression and incredible emotional isolation from autistic tendencies in my teenage years pushed me to the edge of wanting to die... and when I finally gained the faith necessary to overcome that trial, I had also paved the way to understanding and reconciling same-gender attraction years down the road. It was a puzzle piece that just fit in when the time came... I never had a crisis of my faith. My worth? Yeah. But I had already proved God before in my life... and I think that gave me a huge advantage.

I don't know how compelling my story will be. Sometimes I lack emotion in my expressions, and I didn't laugh much. So it'll probably be somber and intense. Which is totally authentic, but... I guess we'll see what happens.

After the shoot I hung out with a handful of the people helping at the studio. And for a few hours I didn't worry about anything. Homework, projects, whatever... it all disappeared. Just sat on a couch and talked. It took me about 30 minutes to realize that all the guys there had their own stories of same-sex attraction. Married with kids/single/just broke up with a girl... And somehow I felt like I belonged.

I guess I had never realized how supportive a community there is for men with same-gender attraction. That there are people who understand and care... and plenty of really good upstanding guys who are actively involved in the Church and doing the right things with their lives. Truly good people, who are worth befriending no matter who you are.

I don't know what this is going to mean for me. Maybe I'll find some amazing friends who can understand at least another part of what I'm facing. Maybe I'll run into the same issues I always do in friendships - me. But either way I'm glad that the Lord pushed me in this direction... and glad to be a part of this community in real life.

PS - can someone invite me to the NorthStar Facebook group? My Facebook is Facebook.com/romanmissionary

Conference on Same-Sex Attraction Today

Today at the Provo Convention Center (220 West Center Street) there's a conference on same-sex attraction and faith. It's free and open to the public, begins at 9:00 am, and ends at 12:30.

I'll be there. Will you?

The twitter hashtag for this conference is #ssaconf

I'm the only one Tweeting, though. So you can just follow me @gaymormonguy

Thursday, November 15

My name’s David. I’m the Author of (Gay) Mormon Guy



My name’s David Peterson. I’m 26, autistic, and a 2ndYear BYU MBA. I’m the author of (Gay) Mormon Guy. My life is awesome.

This post is a Q&A. Choose the questions you want to know, and read the answers.

Who Are You? Where Do You Live? Work? Go to School? 
This is a picture from last Christmas of me with my family.

I’m on the bottom row (obviously), middle right. Dad is next to me and Mom is on the top left. In age order after me (and spiraling middle-left-right-upward) there’s CJ, Matt, Jessie, Amanda, Emily, Alyssa, Zach, and Kyle.

I grew up in suburban Chicago, where my parents and four youngest siblings still live. Three of us (me, Matt, and Jessie) currently live together in a house in Orem, Utah. Amanda’s at BYU in the dorms. CJ has leukemia. He lives with me in Orem and was a BYU student when he was diagnosed, but is currently in Chicago recovering from round 4 of chemo.

I run/own a natural health company with my siblings. It's called Nature's Fusions. I started the company a few years ago when Jessie got cancer to be an honest, low-cost, extremely-high-quality supplier for essential oils for family and friends. It's grown since then. Today, our oils & blends are carried by a number of health food stores in Utah, including Good Earth, Beehive Health Essentials, and Bountiful Nutrition.

I’m in my 7th year at BYU – 4 for an undergrad in physics teaching, 1 working at the MTC as a training developer, and now 2 in the BYU MBA program. And I love BYU.


So… You’re Gay?
Yeah. Gay, homosexual, same-sex attraction/SSA, queer, and same-gender attraction/SGA are often used somewhat interchangeably, in differing circumstances. Depending on how you use them, they carry different embedded meanings. Some people can function in that type of ambiguity, but autism doesn’t give me that luxury. I use language super-literally. So when describing myself, I use the terms of having same-sex attraction or same-gender attraction because they are clearly associated with feelings, not actions, identity, or goals.
SGA/SSA comes in a number of forms. In my case it means that I’m attracted to some guys and completely un-attracted to all girls.


And You Have Autism?
Yeah. Specifically, my mental diagnoses are Asperger’sSyndrome and Type II Bipolar Disorder. Asperger’s is diagnosed as autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) in those with average or above IQ, but without a childhood language delay. I was diagnosed a little over a year ago, after breaking up with a girl I was dating. She was kind enough to stay friends with me even after the fact, and our conversations about the difficulties we had faced in the relationship started me on the journey to a formal diagnosis.

You can read about my ASD and its interactions more specifically here:  7Days Left: Autism & Bipolar. Autism is simply a different type of brain chemistry. Externally, it has a host of effects that are viewed as positive or negative based on societal norms.Positively, it appropriates a larger proportion of IQ to fluid intelligence,which means that those with autism are proportionally better at solving complex problems than those with a similar intelligence level. Those of us with savant skills or extreme passions (mine is missionary work/teaching) have another step up when the skills are useful. Negatively, it means that I don’t understand or appreciate sarcasm, use language literally, have to think about everything,can’t read social cues, and am naively awkward in any new or informal environment. And as a warning: having ASD sometimes means that people interpret my openness and candor as arrogance or brilliance (I’m neither).

Internally, it means that I spend most of my life really lonely. I struggle to get emotionally close to people, and even in a room of people who love me, I feel totally and completely isolated. That feeling, coupled with same-sex attraction and suicidal depression, was a triple-threat to my happiness in my teenage years. I thought I was cursed. Thankfully, when I hit rock bottom, I turned completely to God. I gave Him my life and asked simply what I needed to do to find peace. And the relationship that I’ve developed with Him has sustained me for the rest of my life.

My diagnosis with ASD and bipolar was a gift from Heaven. For a decade I had believed that my loneliness, depression, and lack of social grace had stemmed from same-gender attraction or just being not good enough. Now that I realize I’m facing triple demons, it’s a lot easier to put my life, my efforts, and my feelings into perspective.

And You’re Mormon?What Kind?
I attend a young single adult (YSA) ward in Orem. I’m the ward music chairman and teach Sunday School whenever the Sunday School President needs someone to fill in. I also work at the Provo Temple as an ordinance worker on Saturday mornings (when I can get myself up on time – 6am prayer meeting is rough). And I support the Brethren on and off the pulpit: that Church culture is constantly in need of improvement, and that Church doctrine really is divinely inspired and holds the answers to all of life’s important questions – not out of dogma or fear or brainwashing, but because I’ve seen the blessings in my own life.


Are You Authentically Happy? Or Deluded, Inauthentic, Repressed, and Afraid?
I’ll be honest. Autism, bipolar, and same-sex attraction mix together to make a perfect storm. And for some of my teenage years I was caught in that storm and had a hard time really being happy. Like many people, I wore a fa├žade on the outside to fool the world into thinking my life was good, when in reality I felt like I was drowning. 

But the answer to making life better wasn’t “finding myself” in homosexuality or “coming to terms with reality” on that measure. It was finding God, realizing how completely He loved me, and then surrendering my will to Him. Not assuming that He made me to be stagnant, or defining for myself what happiness would look like, but giving Him everything and being willing to suspend my own dreams, hopes, desires, fears, sins, and everything else in exchange for peace. It worked, and I’ve found happiness ever since. When my brother and sister fought cancer. When my cousins died of genetic disease or tragic accident. When I felt completely abandoned and forgotten by the world. God gave me the happiness and peace I needed. I’m truly and authentically happy with who I am because I embrace who I am – a son of God – and in following God’s path I find far greater happiness than I ever could find outside. True and lasting happiness isn’t something that comes from the outside, or even from optimism within. Happiness is a gift from God, cultivated in the furnace of affliction and bestowed upon those courageous enough to think it possible.


This Is Long. And I’m a Visual Learner. Do You Have a Short/Visual Version?
No. Sorry about that. But you can watch this YouTube video. It's my story set to Laura Story's Blessings.

  

What’s it Like to Be Gay, Autistic, and Mormon?
Perfect? Complicated? How much time do you have? I started writing here at (Gay) Mormon Guy over two years ago. There are almost 400 posts, and most of them talk about what it’s like to have same-sex attraction and be Mormon. I can’t talk for anyone else. But in my case homosexuality doesn’t really play a big part in my life. I’m a faithful Mormon guy and, except for being eligible and unmarried at 26, look completely normal from the outside. Except for the struggles with addiction and understanding epic moral quandaries, having same-sex attraction has been a mostly positive experience… and made me a more loving, caring, and authentic person as a whole.

Having same-gender attraction means that I’m physically attracted to guys (Kissing Guysis a good visceral post that conveys that reality) and need to connect emotionally with them more than most other guys (you can read about that in Homosexuality Isn't Just About Sexuality). That’s frustrating, because most guys don’t have the desire/need to engage at the emotional depth I need for a valuable relationship. But honestly autism impacts relationships much more than just that. It puts a massive divide between me and everyone else in the world, and I feel like I and everyone who wants to be my friend has to put in a huge amount of effort just to keep a relationship alive. Together, it’s like being thirsty enough to drink a lake and having to use a 5-foot straw. 

In addition, neither autism nor same-sex attraction are visible from the outside, which means that people assume that I’m normal and don’t have different needs. If I were in a wheelchair, then people would offer to open the door for me. But when you have different social needs, there aren’t many people who are able to see what you lack and help when you’re in distress. And even those who know may not understand what it means. 

It also complicates things that I look like I’m in control of my life. Enough so that many people don’t really believe or understand when I talk about the depth of the problems I face.

Being Mormon, though, has made all that worth it. Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have a community of people who love me. A place to serve and be a part of other people’s lives. A connection with God. Knowledge and inspiration from people in my community. The opportunity to lift others and bring them peace and happiness. Priesthood power to call down miracles from Heaven in behalf of the people I love. The ability to change and become better, cleaner, happier. And miracles that happen every single day in my own life… with promises of many, many more to come. The doctrines of the Church, when I finally understood them and how they apply to me, personally, gave me so much faith and hope and peace… something I was never able to find outside. More than anything, being Mormon makes me incredibly happy. It gives me a reason to wake up in the morning, and fills my heart with gratitude each night that God was willing to let me find the secret to eternal joy and also trusts me enough to let me share it with others.


Why a Blog in the First Place?
About three years ago, I realized that I wasn’t the only person in the Church with same-gender attraction. Up until that point, I had honestly thought that I was. 

I know. I’m socially clueless. Get over it. 

I had the impulse to reach out to help others and made a posting on Craigslist written to guys who wanted to be faithful members of the Church. I offered to be a friend to talk to.

Within hours, I had over 70 people who wanted to talk. Over the next few days I shared my story and listened as men and women told me theirs. Often they’d ask me similar questions, and I found myself writing down the answers, copy-pasting them into chat windows, and wanting to put the information someplace accessible. I had blogged already for a few years, so I started another one – (Gay) Mormon Guy. The blog has shifted dynamics and readers over the years, but the main focus had endured – to be the story and resource that I wished were available when I was going through my own formative years.


What Else Have You Written?
Until two years ago I wrote every week at www.romanmissionary.blogspot.com – it includes all the letters from my mission, plus a copy of the letters I sent to family and friends each week, every week after I got home from the mission.I’ve blogged a few other places; a poetry blog called www.peacemakerblog.blogspot.comthat hasn’t been updated in a long time, SEVEN – a now-defunct blogging group with some friends, and Northern Lights – a blog with Ty Mansfield, Josh Weed, and other faithful Mormons who write about homosexuality.

I’ve also written and published a couple of books. The first was my thesis: Quan’da’ry: The Story – Creating and Modifying Games for Use in Education. It had a total run of about 5 copies. The next was called Watching Cookies in the Oven and is about finding symbolism in everyday life. It was self-published, so if you want a copy, just email me and I’ll send a .pdf version. 10 Days Until Forever (excerpt in the link) is a children’s picture book that was real-published by Cedar Fort and carried by Deseret Book in March of2011. It follows a little boy whose family is preparing to go to the temple. Then there was (Gay) Mormon Guy, the Blog which was a rough compilation of the first 100 posts of (Gay) Mormon Guy and published as a free e-book.


Why is Your Blog Called (Gay) Mormon Guy? Why Choose That Label?
My blog’s name is (Gay) Mormon Guy because of search engines. When people are searching for answers to their questions about homosexuality and its intersection with the gospel, they don’t usually use the terms “same-gender attraction.” On the same line, people search for “Mormon” more than they do “Latter-day Saint.” For more info on my choice of words, see The Title (Gay) Mormon Guy.


Why Broadcast it to the World? And Why Now?
I never intended to share this part of my life with anyone. I’m temple-worthy, and it doesn’t influence my everyday life. Everyone has problems. Why should I shout this one to the world?

There are dozens of good reasons to openly share who I am, and dozens of good reasons not to. But, at the core, the reasons why I began blogging in the first place, why I told my parents, why I told Church leaders, and why I’m telling you today stem from one thing. I felt spiritually guided to do so. God has been actively involved in my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve learned over time that following the promptings I get from Him lead me to greater happiness and the ability to help more people find peace. A few weeks ago, I felt prompted to share this with the world, and so I’m sharing it now.


How Are You Different? How Do You Stay Faithful? Happy? And Why?
I’ve met a lot of people who don’t choose my path. Many tried to live according to their beliefs and spent years slowly degrading into turmoil. For some reason, they weren’t able to find lasting peace and happiness in the gospel, and ultimately many of them decided to subjugate their beliefs to their homosexual desires.
I don’t know what’s different about me. Maybe having autism and depression forced me to develop a relationship with God before same-sex attraction could present its moral paradox. Maybe having a family and community that thinks the world of me and tells me that I can do anything makes me believe it. Maybe I’m not that different at all. I don’t know.

Either way, I’ve learned something, with time, that has changed my life. All things come from God, and God only gives blessings.

God is omnipotent. All-powerful. All-knowing. Which means that everything that happens in the world is under His jurisdiction. Sometimes He acts Himself by putting the causes in motion, like stirring up the winds in the sky to bring down rain or answering personal prayers with feelings of peace. Sometimes He lets others do His will, like when a classmate at school stops, put his arm around me, and asks me about life. But everything that happens is under God’s jurisdiction. “Whether by my own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:38).

In God’s eyes, everything He gives is a blessing. An ingredient in the recipe He knows by heart. Sometimes, the recipe calls for sugar, and life seems sweet as I learn to use the gifts He’s given me to bless others. And sometimes it calls for salt, cups at a time, to change me into the person He sees in me. Tasted alone, salt is awful. But even sugar cookies need salt to taste right. And, in His eyes, sugar and salt are the same. Both are necessary. Both improve the whole. Both are simply ingredients in a recipe that will ultimately give me the best opportunity to become better, happier, and to return to Him someday.

With that understanding, life makes sense. Why do bad things happen to good people? They don’t. If you’re good, everything that happens in life is a blessing. Temporarily painful? Frustrating? Stressful and tiring and exhausting? Yes. But so are the best rafting trips, the best group meetings, the best relationships, and the best mountain hikes. Because each experience also brings the opportunity to make the stumbling block into a stepping stone… and to gain perspective, hope, happiness, and joy that last far beyond the time when the pain is gone.

Same-sex attraction, autism, depression, and everything else in my life are blessings. Not because they bring me instant joy/pain or gratitude/frustration, but because they enable me to become happier in ways that no other experience would allow.

In that design, my solution to finding the greatest joy in life is understanding God’s hand in all things, and seeing how my goals can be aligned with His. I can always find happiness and peace if I’m doing the right thing, for the right reason, in the right way. If the gospel, the recipe that God is following in my life, and the eternal Plan of Happiness aren’t working for me, it’s not a problem with the Plan. It’s a problem with me.


How is This Post Different From “Coming Out”?
Well… that’s sort of complicated. Most of the “Coming Out” stories I’ve read have been about a guy who has been living two different lives. Slowly, the tension gets worse and worse until it finally explodes. So he tells everyone he’s gay, leaves his faith completely, and expects the world to treat him differently because of his newly declared homosexuality.

My story doesn’t involve two different lives. Just two different aspects that have never met one another. And this – my merging worlds – is my effort to simply combine them into one. One reader put it well: I’m introducing people to connections and aspects of my life that they hadn’t seen before, on both sides, with the hope that both groups can learn and grow from having a more developed understanding.


So… You’re Still Planning to Get Married. How Does That Work?
I’ve written multiple posts on this. The most cogent is The Place of Attraction.

There are a lot of strong feelings about marriage in the world of same-sex attraction. Some people feel that pursuing the hope of getting married to a girl is delusional or repressed or (insert degrading moral epithet here) because the only “right” thing to do is follow your natural inclinations. Others, usually drawing from failed personal marriages, anecdotal evidence from people they know, or statistics drawn from skewed subjects, claim that marrying a girl is ethically wrong, as it will most likely not work, and probably result in (insert the epically worst thing you could imagine here).

I wholeheartedly disagree with both. God didn’t give me autism and depression with the hope that I would always feel depressed and alone… even though that’s exactly what they do naturally. Following my natural inclinations would have led me to suicide, not to happiness. And even though people without both autism and same-sex attraction may bristle at this metaphor, same-sex attraction is largely the same. SSA, autism, and bipolar are all simply variations in brain chemistry. All of them grant amazing, seemingly supernormal benefits – autism grants a higher fluid intelligence and an effective barrier to peer pressure, bipolar lends itself to extreme creativity and laser-focused goals, and SSA makes me into a far kinder and more loving person and often gives prowess in the arts & music. At the same time, each also predisposes me to dramatically non-normal effects. Autism distances me from society and changes the way I interact with others. Bipolar brings depressive episodes that can lead to suicide. And SSA deletes the physical, emotional, and intellectual attractions to women and supplants them with attractions to men.

From my own personal relationship with God, I know that true and lasting happiness comes from being good – from following the principles He has revealed and becoming the person He wants me to become, regardless of the situation in which I find myself. ASD, bipolar, and SSA included. I also know that He’ll fill in the parts of my life that I can’t do myself. And part of that plan, at least before eternity comes, is getting married to a woman.

That’s complicated. And this answer is getting long, so I’ll try to get to the point. I will only marry a girl if I’m completely and totally in love with her – the same level and type and depth of love that a heterosexual guy has for his wife. That has never happened to me, and in order for it to happen, there will have to be a miracle in my behalf. Until that miracle comes, and I and she fall totally in love, I’m not worried about marriage. Do I hope for it? Yeah. Pray for it? Yeah. Plan for it? Definitely. But I let God worry about it. He’s the only One who can make it happen anyway.


Were You Ever Attracted to Me?
If you’re a girl, then no. If you’re a guy, then maybe.


Doesn’t Blogging Make it Harder?
Yes, and no. Part of moving on from addictions is leaving behind the people, places, thoughts, and triggers that keep you connected. Writing about same-sex attraction sometimes makes my life harder, and there have been times when I’ve thought about just dropping (Gay) Mormon Guy altogether.

But in those moments, when I turn to God and tell Him I’m dropping out, He shows me the impact that I’m having. A guy sends me an email about how his life has been changed. A woman tells me that my blog somehow helped her marriage. A man shares his story about wanting to suicide and then finding (Gay) Mormon Guy. And in the depths of my heart I realize that writing here is part of my personal calling.

Writing also helps me work through my own difficulties. As I write, things become clearer, and I’m able to get feedback from people all over the world. Sometimes the feedback makes me laugh – like when people suggest I have more NCMO (non-committal make-out) sessions with girls to spark passion. But sometimes it’s exactly what I need. Writing about it may not be the best solution for everyone. But it’s been a blessing in my life and an opportunity to share my life with others.


Do You Have Any Other Pictures of Your Family?
Definitely! (I put this question in because this picture is awesome. We’re all doing yoga poses, and Zach looks like he’s about to box the photographer. And I wanted to reward people who have read this far.)

How Did You Tell Other People? How Did They Respond?
I told my parents about a year and a half ago in person. I describe what I told them in Dear Mom and Dad, and their response in I Told Them.

I told my close family by phone a few weeks ago. Their responses, and how I told them, are in Phase1: Family - Results.

Then I told other family and friends. I write a regular newsletter/email and included it there. Their responses were almost universally supportive.

I’ve had a number of experiences talking with Church leaders. My first, meeting with a friend and member of my stake presidency, is In Real Life. My second and third were less ideal, so I’ll leave them without links in the blog archives. My most recent, telling my current bishop, is under"Nothing Has Changed."


I Need Help Changing My Life. What Should I Do?
I could list dozens of strategies to overcome addiction, cope with depression, become more social, understand the gospel, or find happiness. And I probably will once I talk with my professor who has written world-famous books on influence. 

But the best way to find the solution to your own problems, no matter what they are, is to turn to God… and listen. “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27). Hopefully as you read here, you can feel inspired to turn to the scriptures, to the words of the prophets, to personal prayer… and to learn how to make your life better from God Himself.


What Else Do Mormons Believe? Can You Direct Me to More (Reputable) Information?
While I believe everything the Church teaches and try to make (Gay) Mormon Guy a place where people can receive inspiration, I’m not an official representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I gave that up with my black missionary name tag 6 years ago. But there are official representatives who’d love to answer any question you have, whether about homosexuality or any other topic, right now

You can click here to open a new chat window
It’s actually pretty cool. Inside the Mormon.org button on the sidebar of my blog, you click the Chat tab, enter in your name and email (You can be anonymous, but they’re missionaries. You can trust them), click Start Chat, and you’re talking with a missionary. 

Last week I tried it out to determine if it actually worked, and two guys – Josh and Ryan – responded within just a few seconds. I told them to expect questions on same-gender attraction, and asked them if the system had the capacity to handle lots of people. It does. So go ahead. Ask the missionaries.

You can also find official Church doctrine and information at www.lds.org and www.mormon.org


I Want to Read More of Your Blog. Where Should I Start?
Just click the Start Here button. Or, if you have a lot of time, try the Post Index.


Can I Contact You?
Yes.

My gmail address is afriendtotalk2 – feel free to email me about whatever.
Or you can friend me on Facebook at facebook.com/romanmissionary - send me a message so that I can put a name with the friend request.
Or add me on LinkedIn; my LinkedIn is http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-peterson/23/675/a7a


Why Doesn't the Facebook "Like" Button Work? Or the Share Button? When Will it Work?
It got fixed! Facebook had banned gaymormonguy.blogspot.com as an "abusive or spammy" site, but enough emails to the developer team means that it's no longer banned. So the Like button on the sidebar works again, and you can write "gaymormonguy.blogspot.com" anywhere on Facebook - personal messages, status updates, anything.

What Can I Do to Help/Support You or People Around Me?
I have a really hard time asking for things in my life. I’ve always believed that I was self-sufficient… and that has alienated people from my life. And, in a twist of fate, developing solid relationships with people is the one thing that I can’t do for myself. If you know me just find ways to let me know you care. Realize that the mixture of autism and same-sex attraction makes me totally awkward. Push yourself into my life even when I push back. Give me a hug for no reason at all and then don’t let go. Stop me when you see me, and push me into being a part of your life. That’s how you can support me.

To help those around you, learn to love people unconditionally. Learning to love people and show that love will give you a greater ability to help them in their lives than studying the problems they face. Everyone knows someone who lives with difficult circumstances, whether same-gender attraction, autism, depression, or anything else. But very few know who they are. Most of us go through life without sharing our deepest needs with the world. No matter who you are or who you know, I invite you to share the message, invite others to come unto Christ, be willing to help them along the way, and then let them find their own way to happiness.

Share the truth with everyone, and someone – your own friend, or the friend of a friend of a friend – will find what they silently need.

I love you guys.
David (Mormon Guy)