Sunday, December 27

One Little Candle

Today was our ward Christmas program. My younger sisters sang a song called "One Little Candle." It was beautiful, but I didn't understand all the words during the program. I came home, found the music, played it on the piano... and cried.

The song starts out simple. But the second verse begins:

One little word to someone new...
One little deed of kindness too...
Kindles the friendship flame anew...
Soon the loneliness is gone.


Ironically, this verse captures both essence and anathema of my life. One of the things I care about most is helping people feel wanted and loved... so I'm the person who greets & tries to befriend new people in my ward, the author here at (G)MG, and the owner of a shop where anyone can make something beautiful. Most of the things I do are driven by people, from the person I've never met to my best friend.

And it's worth it. Being outgoing, showing kindness brings rewards that nothing else does. I get to watch people learn to smile, find new hope, and become new people. Having someone who honestly cares when no one else seems to understand can make all the difference.

The bitter irony of the verse is this: For many people who are truly outgoing and friendly, the blessings go both ways. They have no lack of friendship - their loneliness, too, is gone - and they develop close friends from the many around them. 

"Soon the loneliness is gone" doesn't really apply to my life. Yes, the loneliness goes away when God takes it away. Other times it gets locked in a box when I'm too busy to worry about it. But it's still there... and no amount of kindness, from my side or sometimes even from others, can make it go away. Most of the friendships I kindle with kindness are stepping stones or waypoints on a journey to something else. People realize, either consciously or no, that I'm different, awkward, and broken. And so they move on.

Sometimes I feel like I need someone to put their arm around me and let me cry into their shoulder. Or to listen as I just talk about all the things I wish I could change in my life. Or to be physically in the same room, not because they feel obligated or want something or admire me or are attracted to me, but because they honestly care.

The reality is that someone could do all those things, and more. It would make a difference. But it wouldn't take the problem away. It could chip away the outside, but the core would stay whole. People have moved mountains and done countless things for me... yet I'm still the way I am.

Part of my feeling this way could be the holidays. I began writing a blog post on Christmas Eve about how much I couldn't stand holidays - here was the beginning:


Can I be honest? Totally honest?

I want quiet. I want to be alone. And I want there to be no more holidays.

Being with family is great for the first ten minutes. But then it plunges into constant, loud, insistent chaos. It makes me concerned that someone will push me over the edge and make me yell at people and cry or rip my hair out just so that I don't have to deal with it.


The holidays are loud, overwhelming, and chaotic. That usually means I have to look for time to retreat and find quiet. In this case, I was really sick yesterday - the day after Christmas. And during the quiet that brought, I thought about my life.

I *am* lonely. But I've been lonely for a long, long time. First I fought it, then I prayed for it to go away, then I fought it more in every way I could fathom. I've read books and studies on communication, gone to see therapists and counselors, tried medications and lifestyle changes, and pushed myself far beyond my comfort zone. And then I finally accepted it. A while ago I realized it probably would never go away - that, most likely, God has given me this so that I'll always remember to reach out to the people around me. That realization killed both hope and pain.

All the fighting, while it hasn't changed my feelings, has taught me how to be a better person. How to apologize. How to listen. How to watch for cues and signals and signs, and little bits and pieces of what they mean. What it means to really show someone I care. And all the things I can improve to better show kindness to the people around me. From that perspective, it was worth it. 

(I guess.) 

No. It was worth it. It is worth it. *People* are worth it.

But there's something else. Some people must have some type of ability to break through to me - else why would I be so deeply drawn to them? Why would I crave friendships, yet also push some people away? It doesn't make sense that just because I'm lonely I would reach out to help others avoid my same fate... or does it? Maybe I love people enough to give without getting anything in return, or maybe God aligns blessings with when I reach out, or maybe something in some of my relationships with people actually fills a need, albeit partially, deep inside me.


I don't know.

Talking like this makes me wonder if I should let myself hope again. Tonight I'm too emotionally exhausted to deal with that demon, and I probably still have a fever from yesterday. I blame anything wrong with this post on the flu.

Maybe someday I'll understand it all. Maybe someday it will all make sense. For right now, I'll just keep trying to be a good person. To be friendly. To be kind. To be a friend to the people around me the best that I can. Perhaps it may not meet the needs I wish it would, but sharing the light of Christ helps others find their way... and that's worth it. That sounds like a good thought.

Sunday, December 20

Happy Birthday. Merry Christmas. God is Love.

I turn 30 today.

Happy birthday. :)

My life the last few weeks have been hectic and stressful. Holidays always are, and moving my business at the same time has made it even more so. Thankfully, I've had time just to sit back and enjoy - to watch the snow fall, or sing Christmas carols, or look up at the night sky.

I've begun posts about Christmas over a dozen times. I've tried to share my feelings in just the right words, to tell stories that make sense and give justice to an infant Savior. But nothing works. Nothing feels right. The words sit on my phone screen and don't communicate the feelings I have and the real meaning of Christmas.

I'm going to try again.

I know that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God. That He was chosen in the beginning to be our Savior and Redeemer. That He spoke to prophets of His coming and revealed the pathway that would lead us all to eternal happiness. 

I know that He was born to Mary and raised by mortal parents... yet grew into a perfect God. I know that He lived, taught, served, suffered, and died for me, and that He lives again in a perfected body of flesh so that I can live again.

 I know that He felt my pain, my sorrow, and suffered for my sins. Even the feelings I couldn't imagine anyone else understanding He understands... because He felt them to better love me and help me overcome the world.

I know that He restored the Priesthood to the prophet Joseph Smith, and brought His Church back to the earth for us today. I know that He speaks to prophets and guides the modern Church with a steady hand... and I know that following His teachings, counsel, commandments, and advice will always bring greater lasting happiness than any other alternative.

I know He is the great Healer. That He knows me and understands me. That He is there for me even when I've pushed Him away or forgotten how to hear His voice. That He will always be there - not distant, but standing beside me every step of every day. My life is the Gift He gives to me... and as I follow Him, He makes me into a better man than I could ever become on my own.

Yes, following Christ and giving my soul to the Child born in a manger will make life hard forever. True strength and growth comes from overcoming obstacles and triumphing over circumstances. And He will be with me.

I know that Jesus is my Savior. That He lives and loves me. And that His way is the right way and will always be.

That feels right.

Merry Christmas, friends. May God bless you with a feeling of His love, the ability to see His hand all around you, and the generosity to share the Gift of Christmas.

Sunday, December 13


Sometimes blogging inspires me. And sometimes it stifles me. 

Today I'm feeling both. 

I started half a dozen posts yet finished none of them. And half-finished thoughts are, honestly, best left alone until they find their other halves.

I felt like just saying that life is good. Most of my published writing is full of complicated emotions, chaos, and stress. And while that's definitely a facet of my life, it's also only one facet. Most of the other facets are crazy, funny, happy, or whatever else I'm feeling.

Feelings that don't always come through here. 

I'm not completely sure why. Part of the reason could be that I've painted myself into a corner. I feel like things are only worthy of being on (G)MG if they seem useful. And then when I'm having a good day, I don't blog about it because I'm just having a good day. It's a lot harder, for me at least, to write about good things. It's ironically much easier to see the hand of God when I'm going through some type of deep emotional turmoil.

Either way, life is good. I have a lot to do and a lot to change and improve, but the gospel offers an amazing promise:

If I do my part, everything will work out for the best. The road will be rocky, chaotic, and probably nothing like I expect or want, but the final destination will be better than anyplace I could have found on my own.

Friday, December 4

Ironically Messed Up

I did some reflection today and realized how messed up I am.

I'm autistic, and while I've worked with dozens of therapists, few were able to even understand me, let alone help me see improvement.

I was sexually abused by someone I trusted.

I bear scars of major emotional abuse (thanks whichever therapist told me that...), probably symptomatic from autism and a late diagnosis.

I'm attracted to guys and not girls.

My adolescence was made up entirely of and dictated by bipolar mood swings.

My habits and hobbies all changed to match bipolar. Everything, from cleaning my room to exercise, revolved around the cycles of up and down.

I'm no longer bipolar. I don't have depression anymore, but the pattern that governed my life is broken... so everything - including my life, room, and exercise habits - is a mess.

Being my close friend seems to cause massive amounts of chaos in people's lives. And the chaos doesn't seem to go away.

I can't seem to communicate properly with most people unless I'm in a specific role and I know what to say... and then is that really real communication?

Someone told me, after knowing me for over a year, that until I asked to be their friend a week earlier, I was literally terrifying as a person... and that even though they wanted to be my friend, they assumed I didn't want to be theirs. Others have said I exude an aura of "don't touch me" or "I'm not interested."

I'm hypersensitive to touch, so touch confers intense emotional meaning. For a long time I avoided being touched, ever... and then realized I needed it but was essentially a one-year-old who pokes other kids in the eye because they don't get it but then cry if a dog licks them. Yeah.

I'm terrified of pushing people away... and even more terrified of getting close to people because of how awful it is to be rejected... and see burning bridges.

My mind doesn't always prioritize the right information, so instead of a list of people who have hurt me and ideas of how to improve for the future, I often just feel hurt.

Instead of turning to people and opening myself up when I need help most (and hence creating opportunities to improve relationships), I turn away from relationships and potential friendships and write on a blog. First, because it's safer to write to faceless masses. I'm terrified of losing relationships, so much so that I avoid even starting them, and I'm afraid to just talk to people because my thoughts aren't put together. But anyone who reads my blog isn't going to think twice about my going through something frustrating or just talking. And it doesn't impinge on their time. They can change the page or stop reading when they want, and read when they do. 

Add to that the fact that turning to (G)MG, and processing my thoughts here, instead of with people in real life, sometimes helps people in dire situations. So in addition to being easier, I feel obligated to the unknown people who could potentially find something useful in my thoughts.

And then people in my life read my blog... and some wonder why I didn't talk to them or tell them what I was thinking in person, and others never talk to me in person because they already read my blog.

I've realized that the few close friendships I've had were usually based on romantic attraction. The other person was willing to brave the chaos that comes from being my friend because they were in love with me.


That's not completely accurate.

I mean, I have an amazing relationship with one of my sisters. That isn't based on attraction. So I can't really just say it's attraction, though that was how it was in my head a few minutes ago... and for the past long time. But it's also not enough to say "attraction or family," because my relationships with some family members have been some of the toughest ones in my life. And there have been people who were my close friends when there was no attraction involved - though those were somewhat rare.

I've always just classified those people as outliers in my life. Unexplained blips on the social chart that just happen. But writing it here, I just realized I can't do that. Because that's not really fair to them or reality. I have had relationships with people that were different from the norm, and they weren't based on attraction or just being family members. There was something different about them... or, perhaps more, different about the way that we communicated.

I feel like, potentially, those people who got far enough to hit the chaos... I'm not sure how to describe it. We could communicate clearly? Most of the time, I feel like my conversations are underwater. Garbled, with tons of things said that I can't hear and neither can they. But I look back and... the other group feels different. These were people I could communicate with... conversations where I felt safe being myself no matter what that meant... and where sometimes I didn't even have to finish my sentence for the other person to get my meaning.

Wow. I was about to honestly rethink blogging to process my thoughts because I realize how messed up I am to turn to a phone instead of people, and then I have a revelation that totally changes how I think and helps me realize that learning to understand and be understood should be primary factors in developing and growing relationships... which may not have happened if I weren't writing my thoughts on my phone's screen for the world to see.


I really am messed up.

Thursday, December 3

Blessing of Peace

I'm leaving my essential oil company.

A lot of things have happened in the 6 years since I founded Nature's Fusions. I made a lot of mistakes with my first business, and somehow it still has kept going. I've also learned a lot - things about myself, things about others, and things they taught me in MBA school but I was too proud to believe at the time.

It might seem ironic to someone on the outside that I'm moving right when Nature's Fusions is finally starting to make money. Maybe it is ironic. Money is important, and perhaps I'll get a founder's benefit/legacy... but the reality is that in the past few years I've turned down careers that would have made me much more.

Whatever. :)

But that's beside the point.

The reason why I began writing tonight was that I wanted to write about blessings.

A little over an hour ago, I felt awful. Emotionally drained, exhausted, tired... after finishing work I drove to the Provo Temple and cried in the parking lot.

My best friend texted me today and told me that I needed to get a blessing. I'm grateful that he followed the prompting to tell me that, because I definitely needed help. 

Sometimes I'm too proud to ask for help. People ask me for advice on life and health and *everything*... so I should have all the answers, right. But a bigger issue is that I'm honestly afraid to ask people for help because... because I'm afraid that I'll be a burden. Or that my huge issues will become an issue. Or that by asking for help (even something as simple as a blessing) I'm sending a social signal that is incongruent with the level of our friendship. Or that I'll inadvertently say something so socially inappropriate or shocking or whatever that the person will never talk to me again.

It's happened before.

But I really needed help tonight.

But who to call?

It was after 9:00 at night. I thought about calling my home teachers. But I couldn't remember their names. That's a familiar experience - I forget everything. The elder's quorum presidency was sick on Sunday, so I didn't want to be a burden there. My bishop has been swamped with tithing settlement and interviews... and I know how busy he is, so I didn't want to call him.

But my bishop, while he wasn't the first person I called, ended up being the right person after all.

I got to his house, cried for a bit, and then we talked for 20 minutes. He gave me advice, asked for some advice, and we just talked. And as we did I felt loved. I could feel how much he loves me and the people in my ward. How much he prays about decisions and ward members. How much he cares. 

Then he gave me a blessing.

And I feel ok.

It's likely that tomorrow and the days to come will bring a whole lot of frustration, difficulty, stress, anxiety, and a lot else. But tonight I feel better. Peace that I'm definitely doing the right thing. Knowledge that, in God's eyes, I'm ok. And confidence that everything will turn out in the end for my best.

Note to self: When you're facing rough times, or life seems harder than you can handle, ask for a blessing. And ask early. Don't just go to Him for "special occasions" or when you're in dire need. God is always there. He always wants to be involved in your life.

Monday, November 23


It happens all the time. The conversation turns direction, and someone says, "That's not right. That's wrong."

What does it mean for something to be wrong?

Sometimes being wrong means being imprecise - whether the statement lacks information or makes gross assumptions that aren't valid. When I took advanced Newtonian Mechanics, I learned that pretty much *everything* I had ever learned about physics before had been wrong. While the equations were good at approximating some very simple situations, at the core they were wrong because they approximated almost none of reality. Useful, but wrong.

Sometimes wrong is simple inaccuracy. Like when I use the wrong word, and have the undeniable urge to fix it, or when I close my eyes and type on my phone, then go back and edit the words that I inevitably misspelled. Or let the phone automatically edit for me. Or fix the esoteric words that my phone doesn't know and autocorrected into nonsense.

Sometimes wrong is contextually inappropriate - like when I wear the wrong color to match my skin tone or my pants and shirt don't go together. Or when I say something that makes people feel uncomfortable because it's awkward. Or when I talk waaaaaaay too much even after I've realized that I should have stopped talking... and then realize after the fact that I had been talking even more than I realized before. 

Sometimes wrong is applicable to someone in particular because they are an exception. Like when I expect someone to react and think in one way, except that they don't.

Sometimes wrong happens because people and circumstances change. Assuming that someone is always a liar may be accurate, until they've repented and become a new person.

Sometimes wrong is a personal or social judgment of unfair, immoral, or unethical treatment.

And sometimes wrong is wrong because God has revealed that it ultimately leads away from Him... and toward unhappiness.

There are a million opportunities to be right or wrong each day. To do the right or wrong thing. To drive the speed limit or not, wear the right clothes or not, say the right things or not.

In countless of those opportunities, I find myself failing every single day. I rarely say the right thing, and often say the wrong one. In social situations, I look like a totally normal person, but in reality I'm far more like an elephant in a china shop, who is trying to carefully pick up and polish each piece. With extreme care, I can do it. But ask me to do anything more, I become someone who inevitably smashes far more plates than anyone could have ever thought possible.

It's also easy to be wrong. To know the wrong things, and even to believe the wrong things. Most sources of information - popular, social, medical, scientific, humanistic, artistic, philosophical, interpersonal, and through the senses - are awfully imprecise and easily tricked, manipulated, or simply misinterpreted. 

The only sense and form of communication that can really convey truth is the Spirit of Truth - the Holy Ghost, who testified of truth and burns it into my heart beyond question.

Hence my thoughts tonight.

I'm ok with making mistakes - being temporarily wrong - in most of life's decisions. Wearing the wrong clothes might make me feel silly or out of place (if I notice), or make other people wonder, but it's unlikely to make a big difference in my happiness. And not knowing the actual equations for air resistance when I try to calculate the velocity of a waterfall really doesn't make a difference.

But I'm not ok with being wrong on other things. I need to be right - and whether that means sticking to my guns regardless of circumstance or changing my outlook, that's a necessity in my book.

The most important one to me is knowing what God believes. From my perspective, God's judgment on right and wrong aren't really judgmental in the most commonly used form of the word. Does sinning bring down justice? Yes. But God prescribes and proscribes actions and beliefs because He loves me and wants me to be happy... not because He wants me to suffer.

Some of the big things that are right in my life, and lead to happiness: the law of chastity, service to others, faith and patience, and the love of God.

Some of the things that lead to unhappiness: same-sex sexual relations, selfishness, pride, impatience or entitled-ness, and being unwilling to listen to God.

I realize that the world is moving deeper and deeper towards unhappiness. People are becoming more entitled, more unfaithful, more unwilling to follow God's commandments no matter what the sacrifices requires... So I wanted to share my testimony that life isn't about momentary fulfillment. It's not about being right... but about doing the right thing, regardless of the cost. 

Following God will always bring greater lasting happiness than any other alternative. I've had to make huge changes in my life to follow God. I've had to change who I was, and let God reform me in His refiner's fire. And I am a witness that it works. I still have a long way to go, but the gospel does truly work. For everyone.

And that's at least one thing that I know with absolute certainty that is right. God Himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit, burned it deep into my soul. And it continues to burn as He teaches me what is right.

Sunday, November 22

(Not) Dating: Post-Public Era

When I felt prompted to switch (G)MG from total anonymity to public a few years ago, I honestly felt like it would make dating and friendships easier. Being attracted to guys, and moreso not being attracted to the girls I went on dates with, was previously a huge issue that never came up in actual conversation.

Except once. But that was before I learned that you're not supposed to tell a girl that you're not attracted to her. Even if she asks. Before you impose all sorts of socially prescribed judgment on me, remember that I am autistic. Normal people somehow learn stuff without ever actually being told, but I had to have a girl sit me down and tell me everything socially wrong with the way I dated. Which was a totally socially awkward situation for her.

But that's beside the point.

My assumption was that when I told the world about (Gay) Mormon Guy, it would make it far easier to know who to ask on dates and who wanted to be my friend. Guys and girls alike would know from the outset that I had issues... and simply, anyone who met my previous criteria, and still met them after knowing about (G)MG, was someone I'd try to befriend.

Except the criteria, in retrospect, is anything but simple.

Since I'm not attracted to women at all currently, and I have no desire for sexual intimacy with guys, my own personal feelings don't really matter. My "simple" mental hurdles aligned with finding someone who was (1) aware of the things I juggled in life, (2) interested in spending time with me, and (3) close enough physically/socially that a relationship could work (e-relationships and distance relationships haven't really worked for me).

Simply put, I try to ensure that people are aware of (G)MG and that I'm on the spectrum. Then, if a week passes and I notice that someone is making an effort to be a part of my life, then I'll try to make it work.

On the surface, that seemed just fine to me.

Except that, being autistic, I don't pick up on most nonverbal cues. So a girl could be shouting nonverbally and I'd be clueless. And a potentially romantic relationship with someone with same-sex attraction isn't really an easy-to-understand issue that can be reconciled like different eating habits. Most straight guys my age already have friends, or they assume I have friends. And almost no one really understands developing a relationship - of any type - with someone on the autistic spectrum.

So the number of girls who asked me out or who I got readable signals from dropped dramatically. To almost zero. And the number of people who wanted to be close friends stayed close to there.

But a much bigger impact was that in the moment that I shared my blog with the world, part of me... changed? Gave up? Got scared? I used to get promptings to befriend people - I didn't just rely on trying to read their emotions. And even though few relationships worked out, the time I spent with people helped me learn about society and the world. 

Back then, I didn't feel like I had to come clean in the first sentence and say, "I'm not attracted to you (whether you're a girl or a guy). I carry a ton of baggage, but I want to make friends and you seem like a nice person."

Now I feel obligated to share that.

Maybe I shouldn't. Most people don't show signals that indicate their problems, and many take months or years to open up.


But then there's the reality of my history. My brain tells me that friendships are really hard to build and to grow they take a lot of effort from me and especially the other person. Is it fair to try to befriend people when being my close friend summons inexorable chaos into their lives? And if chaos from friendship is rough, dating is even worse.

I don't know.

My best friend is convinced that if I make other friends, date, fall in love, or get married, that I'll stop being his friend. He's seen a lot of people leave their friends completely when they fall in love, or when they make new friends. The mere mention of dating, by anyone, in any circumstance, has caused rifts between us. He doesn't date at all - a girl would have to ask him out to start the process, and even then he might say no. It takes a ton of effort to make our friendship work for both of us. 

But he gave me his support to reach out and make more friends - and inherent in his support is the acknowledgement that our relationship is secure enough that we can both focus some of our energy into building others. I had never needed his permission, but it's nice to be able to talk about my plans without jeopardizing the friendship.

Now I'm just facing one question. 

Is it worth trying?

Friday, November 20

Changing Directions

It was my freshman year of college.

A few weeks before classes opened for registration, I had a powerful prompting: I was supposed to be an ambassador.

I signed up for Hebrew, Arabic, Middle Eastern Studies, and American Sign Language. My goal was to work for the State Department in Israel and other war-torn areas, trying to help people find peace in their lives.

My parents, interestingly, were supportive of my goal. And the first week of classes was a blast. Arabic and Hebrew are strikingly similar, so I could apply the little things  I learned in one class in the other.

The day after the add deadline for classes, I got another prompting, this one just as strong as the first: I was definitely not supposed to be an ambassador.

So I dropped Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, leaving myself with the lightest credit load of my college tenure.

I still don't know why I got those changes in direction.

A few years later, I had another circuitous set of promptings. First, I felt prompted to go against education department rules and take an art class during my student teaching. Then I felt like enrolling in the classes at the BYU Salt Lake Center. Then to live in Salt Lake during the week so I could attend. Then to enroll just as an audit course. Then to drop the course. Then to attend Institute instead. Then to join the Institute choir.

By the end, I had purchased three different sets of art supplies, paid for a new ID card, begged an instructor to let me audit his course only to drop it two days later, convinced family to let me live with them, and broken half a dozen BYU policies.

The Institute choir I joined performed in General Conference, and during one of the Institute classes I attended, I routinely received powerful guidance for my life (totally unrelated to what was taught, but whatever). That was the end goal of all the changes in direction... and it was definitely worth it.

If God had tried to tell me what to do from the beginning, I probably wouldn't have been able to understand. That said, I'm glad what happened, happened.

A few years later, I was walking on the campus of Stanford University. I was there to learn about their PhD in Learning Sciences, the most compelling program I had found to date and one that made me feel absolutely awesome inside. My experience at Stanford was nothing less than stunning. Everything seemed to shout at me that I was going the right way, and that all the cards were in my favor. The admissions committee director told me that my application was extremely impressive, and current students were sure I'd get in. I had flown out to be there, meet people, and attend the one in-person info session available. I fell in love with the grounds of the campus and met people there who I hadn't seen in years... and had some great learning, growing, and teaching opportunities with people I knew and had never before met.

When I returned at hit the phone interview stage, I found myself talking with my chosen mentor, who honestly sounded like he was trying to convince me that Stanford wasn't the right place for me. He talked about how his current graduates would have been better served by getting an MBA - the degree I already had. Halfway through the phone call, I had the strange feeling that nothing I said was going to make a difference. He had been prompted to deny me admission, and the interview wasn't really to determine my fit... but more of a search on his part to try to understand a prompting he couldn't disobey. My rejection a few weeks later wasn't a surprise. But it was definitely a huge change in direction from the passionate, fiery course I had set just a few weeks earlier. Maybe the entire push for Stanford was so that I could talk with one person on campus that day. Who knows?

Not long after, I tried out for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I pulled all the strings I had and recorded my audition CD, studied for the exams, and finally auditioned in person. It all felt right, and the hours of preparation and study was a thrill feeling like I would get in. Every step I got back feedback that I was doing awesome. But when the final letter came, the simple reason was yet again the same - MoTab wasn't right for me. It didn't match my vocal style. And yet again, I felt peace. It had been the right direction, but MoTab wasn't the right destination. There were still changes to make. Trying out for MoTab and doing so well - in every step of the audition - gave me the courage and confidence to start my own a cappella group - Grace - just a few months later. I think Grace was the reason I had started that journey.

Fast forward to today. A year ago I emptied my personal bank account and started a new business called The Soap Factory. My store is in a great area - blocks from BYU - but a terrible location. The store has been growing like wildfire. We're one of the top rated attractions in Provo on Trip Advisor, and people come from all over the world after Googling "Things to do in Provo." Our current lease ended in October, and the landlord decided to take advantage of our growing success to raise our lease rates by over 30%. So we started looking for a new location, and found one that felt perfect. It's just across the street from the new Provo City Center Temple, on Center Street, and it had the perfect layout for us. Massive main floor, and a huge basement, at a great price. We felt like it was the right thing, so we submitted an intent to lease the same day. We expected to hear back within a week, since the intent to lease required us to not pursuing other locations until negotiations had finished. We pushed and pulled, met with the owner and submitted financial data, and all the while got no response. Days turned into weeks, and we found ourselves between a rock and a hard place as our current landlord wants an answer and we committed to not look for other locations or negotiate other leases. It seemed like good news was on the way... Then today we finally learned what happened when we went to the location for their last event of the year. The listing agent had encouraged the owner to sign a lease with Sub Zero Ice Cream... because "they have more money"... and she had already done so.

I'm sure that the peace and confirmation and hope will come eventually. Right now, though, I feel burned and frustrated and confused. I spent the last month waiting, hoping, working, jumping through hoops and sending in lists of potential improvements and finances and paperwork... and nothing came from it. Of course my newly-founded startup business isn't going to have as much money as a corporate franchise with 49 locations. They've been around for 11 years, and I've been around for 1. I didn't even get the feeling that they would have told us about the resolution of the deal had we not asked so many times. But isn't our success enough proof? I had a total of 10 minutes to cry in the back room tonight before we had so many customers that my best friend couldn't take care of them all.

I know that changing directions is an important thing. God uses situations like this to help me to get to destinations that I never would have imagined... and I'm grateful for the absolute knowledge that everything will work out. It will be for the best. The world isn't ending, and this, more than anything is proof of it, because God is actively involved in my life.

But, in the moment, sometimes it just feels like hitting a brick wall.

Sunday, November 15


I can see.

I've been wearing glasses that weren't mine for a long time. I knew they were the wrong prescription, but that was just how life was. I ripped my last contact lens years ago, and I didn't feel like I had enough money to buy new ones. I found a pair of glasses in my room and couldn't figure out whose they were. I tried wearing them and people told me they liked them. And they worked well enough that I didn't have to worry.

But I have to get a new driver's license, and I was afraid that I'd fail the vision test... so I got an exam and a new sample pair of contact lenses, fully intending to wear them for the exam and nothing else.

But then I put them in.

There are billions of things to look at in the world. Intricate details of sculpture, perfection in art, flowers and bugs and shapes and textures. Sunsets and clouds, raindrops and snowflakes. Chunks of broken asphalt, fields of boulders, and brilliantly cut gemstones.

Of all the things in the world, I watch leaves.

The leaves are changing here in Utah. Red and green and gold swept across the trees in broad swathes, touching some and drenching others. Thousands upon thousands on trees and sidewalks, crunching under your feet on the sidewalk, and everywhere falling - falling and swirling in great heaps with each gust of wind, only to rise and fall yet again.

I could watch leaves for hours.


I hadn't been able to see for so long. What had happened? I remember feeling the same way about leaves when I got my first pair of contact lenses, and yet just last week I couldn't see leaves unless they were in front of me, let alone count them on trees.

Leaves hadn't made me get new contact lenses or glasses. Being able to see the sunsets reflected as burning fires in the trees, while compelling, hadn't been compelling enough to pull me into focus and invest the couple dollars it would take to have perfect vision.

No. While I love watching leaves, it wasn't the leaves that made me go back and send my glasses in for new lenses.

It was people.

As much as I love watching leaves, sunsets, and listening to the rain, there's a deeper draw to people.

I'm not normal. I'm on the autism spectrum and therapy, books, classes, effort, prayers, blessings, diet, and graduate degrees haven't changed that. I don't understand people through normal pathways. Sarcasm, tongue-in-cheek remarks, and even sometimes obvious nonverbal communiques are totally lost on me.

I've learned to listen for slight variances in intonation in people's voices to help me guess if they're still interested in the conversation or just talking to be nice. I watch for a hundred different signs that someone is being sincere or is trying to communicate something other than what they're saying.

And when I talk to people, I've found the best way to see into their heart is to watch their eyes.

Maybe that sounds strange to look at people's eyes when they talk. I don't know. Whatever. But the first conversation I had after putting in contact lenses - with my best friend - I realized how much I had been missing. We still don't understand each other, but I felt like I was at least a step closer.

A paragraph in my Patriarchal Blessing tells me that as I look into people's eyes, I'll be able to know their feelings and what I can say or do to help them come closer to Christ.

How had I forgotten that I needed to be able to see, in order to look? Why had I stopped caring about being able to see?

The eye place had quoted me $30 to replace my lenses. So I went back, handed a tech my glasses (she's in my ward - something I hadn't noticed before), and paid for it to happen.

And I've worn contact lenses for the last few days.

I've seen trees, sunsets, smiles, and snow.

And now I think I know the real reason why I stopped.

The sudden increase in visual information has been overwhelming for me. In addition, I lost my voice a few days ago. Whatever the reason, the last few days I've felt like I was just watching life. Engaged, doing the same things, even taking charge, but watching rather than being. As the days went on, the constant flow of emotions and busy-ness inside me grew silent, and then went completely still.

It's a feeling I know well. It's the in-between place that used to come between bipolar cycles, just before depression hit or life took off. I don't have bipolar anymore, but the in-between is unique enough that I could never forget it.

Back when I was bipolar, the in-between was the best place to look at my life and really get perspective on who I was and what was important. Some of my best writing came from the in-between, often because I could see more clearly. And without the chaos of emotions, my mind and heart were easier to turn to God.

It's been a long time since I was here.

I spent all day at Church today watching, and then I realized something. Something I had come close to forgetting. Something part of me didn't even want to put into words. The reason why I'm so busy, so involved, so engaged, and why, to dull the pain, I didn't care that I couldn't see.

I'm an outsider.

I've tried to explain what it means to be an outsider to people before. I don't know if it ever worked.

Being an outsider means that, when I let myself feel, I feel alone... no matter where I am or who is with me.

It doesn't matter that people know who I am in my ward, or that my bishop loves me.

It doesn't matter that people smile and laugh and post happy pictures on Instagram when they come to The Soap Factory.

It doesn't matter that I live and work with family who loves me and that I live and work with them for the express purpose of improving our relationships.

It doesn't matter that my best friend has put in long hours trying to understand me and be there for me, or that he has forgiven me for all the things that I do wrong.

It doesn't matter that half a million people have read my most recent blog posts or that my email inbox is full.

After everything in my life - after all the things I've done, after all the effort I put into making people feel important and loved and valuable, after praying and fasting and dieting and everything else...

I still feel alone.

Promises and sayings that I've heard all my life mock me. Try your hardest, and you'll succeed. Don't wait for someone to be your friend - be a friend instead. And the worst: People who feel alone are that way because they're not willing to put in the effort. If you feel alone, it's your fault.

It has nothing to do with same-sex attraction. If you think I need to abandon my morals, leave God and His Church, and have sex with men to feel loved, you can go jump in a frozen lake. I feel just as alone when I'm talking with a cute guy as I do sitting at my computer desk.


So I've remembered.

I got the right prescription and turned off my voice, and now I've seen through the complicated mess meant to keep me occupied... and I remember that I'm an outsider.

Now what?

It isn't news to me. Without the complications of busy-ness to cloud my memories, I see pretty clearly. The reason why I began shaking people's hands at Church and listening to their stories was because I felt alone inside. The reason why I started The Soap Factory was because I wanted to create a place where people could smile and do something productive and get away from the mess of life - it's what I wish I had. I started my a cappella group because I wanted people to have fun and feel loved. I started (Gay) Mormon Guy because I wanted to help people feel understood.

Everything I've started stemmed from being an outsider. I had incredible pain. And I knew I couldn't get rid of it... so instead of focusing inward on myself, I focused outward and tried to make sure that no one ever felt the way I did.

And, for once, the distraction worked. Without depression and the in-between to wake me up, life has just moved forward, and over time part of me forgot why I worked 10, 12, 14 hours each day and then scheduled my free time to the brim.

It took new contacts, and losing my voice, to wake me up.

The realization at Church made me cry for about a minute, but emotions don't really help here. I've cried a ton about being alone, watched therapists cry when I tried to explain it, and I'm through with all the crying.

Is that healthy? Do I turn off my emotions as a coping strategy when faced with something I can't handle, or do I actually benefit from being able to sequester and process them separately? I think the latter is true, but I don't really have a way to be sure. I used to cry a lot. Whatever.

So what is it going to change? What am I going to change?

I think that I've been holding back recently because I thought that maybe I could still find a way to feel like I belong. I've been trying to fit in. And I think I honestly believed that if I tried hard enough, this time I could make it work. This time I'd find someplace here where I belong.

I know that probably won't happen in this life. 

The only One who has ever completely gotten through to me was God. My family and best friend do a lot for me. But God is the One who picks me up when I'm broken, who carries me when I can't walk, and who helps me see clearly when everything is hazy. With God, I can feel like I belong. 

Another memory. Now I remember the *real* reason why I reach out to people.

In my darkest hour, when I felt most alone and unloved, and wanted life to be over, I asked God to help me. I asked Him to help me feel His love. He told me to love others - to do everything I could to touch and heal and teach and share and lift and bless the people around me - and that if I did that, He would help me feel His love. I made the promise that I would, and He promised me that I would be ok.

The 15 years since haven't been easy. Sometimes I let my vision cloud and I forget who I am. Sometimes I find myself wishing for a different life - one where I could be like everyone else or where life could be simple. And sometimes I forget to turn to God... and I feel alone.

Is it fair? Is it worth it? Imagine going through life knowing that you may never, ever truly feel like you belong, no matter how hard you try or how hard other people try to make it happen. A handful of people told me the other day that they were going to kill themselves before they read (G)MG, and that while reading my blog post they changed their minds. If I had to go through rough life experiences to help them stay alive, was it worth it? Yeah.

That's the irony in my life, and the thing that makes me laugh through it all. God knows me perfectly... and He knows that there's only one thing I long for more than to be loved and understood. The one reason why I'm willing to put up with *anything* He throws at me. I'd do anything to help someone who needs it.

Two hours ago I realized I was alone, and cried. Right now, my tears are dry and I feel awesome. Life is good, and I have a dozen things planned to make it even better - a dozen ways to improve life for the people around me.

I'm glad I got new contacts. I was pretty blind before. But now I see. Not just the physical reality, and the messed-up reality of my life, but the hand of God in all of it. Thanks, Father, for reminding me. Of why I'm here, of what I'm supposed to be doing, and of who I am. 

For the brief moment of mortality, I may be an outsider. But for forever, I am Yours.

Monday, November 9

Dear Little Brother (to children with same-sex parents)

When I was little, my parents were my heroes. To me, they were perfect. Yes, they tried to make me eat broccoli and carrots, and I hated having to practice the piano... but my parents were mine. They were the ones who cared for me when I was sick, held me when I was afraid, and prayed with me when I didn't even know how.

I knew that my family was different. My parents' choices were different from anyone else I knew... and I was different... so sometimes that meant I got bullied. Other kids wouldn't talk to me, I didn't have many friends, and people sometimes called me names or told me they simply didn't want to be near me.

My family and personal situation is such that I stuck out even at Church meetings. Everyone knew who I was, which was both good and bad. The worst part was feeling isolated, even though I tried my best to do what was right. There were a couple of kids my age in my ward, but I felt alone and different even when I was with them. The group did their best to include me, but I was different. Don't get me wrong - I laughed, cried, told stories, and spent time with people outside of Church. But I still felt totally alone sometimes.

But feeling isolated actually made my decisions easier. I always went to mutual activities and seminary, but only rarely because I wanted to talk to someone. I hated Church dances, yet somehow I got assigned to plan dances. I still went, not to dance (I stood outside the room because I can't handle loud music), but because I felt it was the right thing to do, and I believed that doing the right thing would help me be a better person.

All that was ok, because I had my family.

But eventually, even a great family isn't enough.

By the time I was a teenager, I was already facing addiction. I was depressed and wanted to die. I still felt like I had no friends. And while I knew that my family loved me, it was hard to feel it. I was facing personal trials that my parents couldn't just talk me through anymore. There wasn't a medicine to make me better, and even when they did their best I still hurt inside.

It was then that I really learned about God. I wanted Him in my life. I took the time to read the scriptures, and I sometimes prayed for hours or fasted for longer than I should have because I needed a response. I needed to know the right things to do, and what God wanted in my life.

One night I finally felt God's love for me. I found peace in a story from the Bible. King David had a great early life, but then he made an awful decision. He murdered a man so he could take his wife. And then he spent the rest of his life believing he would never get to Heaven. 

Unlike most of the people in the Bible who had turned against God, though, David chose to still follow Him. He spent the rest of his life praising God, writing the Psalms, and trying to be a better person.

David didn't do it because he thought his acts would save him. He didn't think think they would.

He praised God because it was the right thing to do - because God is worthy to praise... and the One we should always follow. David knew that following God was right, even if he never got the blessings that he wanted so much.

My name is David, too... and that made this story feel closer to me. I felt like I had somewhat been like King David. While I knew that God loved me, with all the obstacles in my life I honestly believed that I would never get to Heaven. In my mind, I was just born into a situation where I couldn't be saved. The Atonement applied to everyone but me.

But if King David could make the decision to follow God even though he believed that it would never be enough, and the result was the Psalms and a life full of beauty and goodness... then I could do the same, right? Even if I never made it to Heaven, I could still serve God. That's what brought me peace.

I left home when I was 17 to go to college. It wasn't until I left home that I realized how different my family (and hence the way I perceived the world) really was. When I lived with my parents, everything seemed normal to me, and anyone who tried to tell me otherwise was mistaken. Living with other people helped me realize that my family was anything but normal.

Leaving home has given me perspective. There are things that I admire about my parents, and things I don't. Things that I want to do in my life if I'm ever a dad, along with things I don't want to do. 

And I've realized that my testimony, and my choices and activity in the Church, are my own. When I wanted to serve a mission, it was because I wanted it. I started my papers, and I saved money to serve. And when the mission call came to my dorm room, I opened it alone, then called my family to tell them. My temple endowment was my own decision, and so is my temple recommend today. While my family did their part to help me along the right path, it eventually became my part to choose. I'm grateful for them, but mostly I'm grateful for God. I still don't know if I'll be good enough to get to Heaven, but I'm trying my best and getting better... and, for now, that's good enough for me.

If your situation is like mine was, you might feel alone or lost. You might feel alone at Church, at school, maybe even at the dinner table or extended family gatherings. Even if your family holds family prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and attends Church, eventually that won't be enough for your testimony. Your parents might teach you about the gospel, and they might not. Either way, life will get hard one day (or maybe it already is), and you'll have to make your own decisions, and learn about God yourself so that you can serve Him the best you can.

Don't lose hope. Even if there are obstacles in the way, God can be there. 

That's not to say it won't be hard. 

If you live primarily with parents who are or have been in a sexually active same-sex relationship or same-sex marriage, you won't be able to be baptized at 8 years old. And, as much as you and I wish otherwise, we can't control the choices of our parents. You probably won't feel comfortable asking them if they have been sexually active. You probably already know if they're married. If they're not, a good idea is to determine if they are best friends or partners. If they're just best friends living together, and not partners, you can get baptized whenever you want, even if one parent is your dad and he and your mom are divorced. That said, while it's possible, it's not very likely that they are just best friends.

You may or may not have support from your parents to attend Church, read your scriptures, hold family prayer and home evening, and the rest of the things that usually come with Church membership. If you do decide to attend Church and even if you do everything right, you'll have to wait while other people around you are getting things you probably want more than they do. Without being baptized, you'll have to wait to get a Patriarchal blessing, to receive the priesthood if you're a boy, and to attend the temple and do baptisms for the dead. You also won't hold any major callings, though you can still be assigned to organize Church dances. :/

That will likely be one of the most difficult aspects of your life.

When you're old enough to legally make your own decisions without input from your parents, to be baptized you'll have to move out of their home and show that you believe that sexual cohabitation and same-sex marriage is wrong. You won't have to turn away from your parents entirely, just the sexual aspect of their relationship. That could be really hard, considering that you just grew up with same-sex parents... and they'll be your parents for the rest of your life.

Regardless, like I did, you'll probably find that there are things you admire about your parents, and things you don't. 

And if you decide that you support God's definition of the family through the Church... and no longer support the sexual portion of the relationship of your parents, then you can join the membership through baptism, get a Patriarchal blessing, go on a mission and tell everyone about eternal families, and then (in this life or the next) find your own spouse to be married in the temple for forever.

Is it fair? Is it fair to be born in a situation where you have no control?

Fairness is something you'll probably grapple with in your life. I know I did. How could God really be fair if some children were born to starve in Africa and others were born on the side of the street and others were born into happy, loving families? Was it fair to be born with physical or mental or social disabilities that would make life excruciatingly painful for as long as you lived? How could a perfect God bless one innocent child with everything, while essentially cursing another just a few doors away?

In your case, there are lots of questions of fairness. Was your upbringing, birth, early childhood, school, Church, and everything else fair? Is it fair for you to have to wait an extra 10 years, leave your home, and denounce part of your family's relationship to be baptized?

It took me a long time to come to grips with how God really sees our circumstances in life. He would love to be able to bless us. But He loves us too much to make life easy. So He adds in things that are hard. Things designed to honestly make us question who we are. And sometimes things that seem totally and completely unfair, with the hope that we will trust Him, believe Him, and commit to following His commandments no matter what. Abraham was promised infinite posterity through his son Isaac. Then he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac on a mountain. A dead son can't get married or have children... so Abraham didn't know how God would keep His promises. But he chose to believe anyway... and because he found that strength and faith deep inside him, God could bless him with everything. An easier life doesn't mean a happier life.

That's not to say that everyone should have the same trials and blessings. Don't mix up equality (where everyone has the exact same life circumstances) with fairness (where everyone has exactly what they need). God chooses the best circumstances for each of us that will push us beyond our limit... and, because of that, everyone's life is different. Ironically, that's how life is fair - because it's individual. Follow God, and everything will always be ok. He will never let anything happen to you that could destroy your soul - on the contrary, He'll come up with some of the most creative ways to always show you He is there and to push you to become the person He sees in you.

I would be far less today if God had just taken away the obstacles in my life. I'm grateful for the crazy, seemingly unfair, and often absurd circumstances that life has thrown at me, along with the lessons I've learned from them. And you'll find, if you stick close to Him, that the same is true for you.

May God be with you, little brother. I'm here for you if you need a friend to talk to.


A good link:
A post written by a Mormon woman raised by same-sex parents

Sunday, November 8

God Knows What He's Doing

"If you could switch lives with anyone, who would you choose and why?"

I'm not sure where the question came from. It could have been one of those deep get-to-know-you games that come with a box of cards filled with questions (I have an OCD-like tendency to read the text of every card in a game even if I don't plan to play it) or a copy of Reader's Digest that sat around my parents' home.

Whatever the source, the answer has always been "no one." My life has always been mine alone, because God is in charge. And He knows what He's doing.

As a kid, my life was total bliss. I wouldn't have changed it for anything. I had an awesome family, freedom, a love of all things written, and a double dose of crazy imagination. Schoenbeck was the only really busy street I had to cross to get to the library, and before I was 10 I had convinced the librarians to let me check out books without a chaperone... and fill my Radio Flyer red wagon (the one with the wooden boards you put on the sides) with 50 books at a time to take home to read after school. Summers were even better. I could lie on our trampoline with an entire book series sprawled around me and no one would ever interrupt me for food or chores or anything. And if I wasn't done reading when the sun went down, I'd hide under the covers with a flashlight until I was. We had a huge tree in my front yard that had a hole in the side that was always full of sawdust and sap. I'd mix them together with water, call it glue, then hide it and forget about it for months. I tried dozens of times to grow roses from bouquets. Every time my mom got flowers I'd wait as long as I could (2 days), then take them to the basement, cut off the flower (or not, depending on the most current method), dip them in a solution made by boiling willow twigs taken from my neighbors yard, then carefully place them in soil inside a 2-liter terrarium or plastic bag. The stems always rotted, but that was ok. I always believed it would work the next time... because that's how life was.

I didn't have many friends, and even fewer close to my age. But I didn't feel alone. I was happy. The closest person to me outside my family was also my babysitter. She lent me books, and indulged my overactive imagination for hours on end. I didn't need anything else. If someone had asked me if I wanted to trade lives, I would have laughed. My life was perfect. 

But at 10 years old I had an experience. My brain trashes a lot of important information, but this is still there. I was standing on our back patio, and the realization hit me that my life was too good to be true. Life isn't meant to be perfect. It's not meant to be easy. Breezing through classes, starring on the swim team, always knowing the right answers... yes, my life was awesome. But it was too good. Life is meant to be hard, right? Mine wasn't. And then came the thought. "Enjoy it," it said, "because life won't always be this easy."

I think that was God warning me that my perfect bliss was soon to end.

It was only a few years later that I encountered addiction. My voracious appetite for learning and discovering new things had taken me down all sorts of exciting roads, and one day it took me too far. I don't remember how it started, but it did, and I found myself fighting with something so strong I didn't know how to handle it. And since I had never needed anyone before, it didn't even occur to me to ask for help. I fought and pushed and struggled... and then my brain decided to push me off the edge. Overactive neurotransmitters began constant bipolar cycles of highs and lows. During the lows, I closed off from everyone, curled up in my bed, cried constantly, and prayed for God to kill me in my sleep. I assumed it was normal. People have good days and bad days. I just wanted to die on my bad days. But I kept trying. I finally gained control of my life, pulled myself up and, for a brief moment, felt free once again... and then I was sexually abused. My foundation crumbled, addiction came back stronger than ever, and life itself fell apart. To make matters even worse, I then realized that I had no friends, and suddenly had an insatiable need to have them... but every attempt to find them met with disaster. I felt completely and utterly alone.

At this point, I again honestly would not have traded my life with anyone. Not because I didn't want another life. On the contrary, I found myself wishing I had been born in any other possible circumstance. I could rarely sleep at night anyway, and when I did, I had dreams about how blissful other people's lives would be, and how deeply I wanted my own to end. The reason I wouldn't trade my life is because I wouldn't have wished my life on my worst enemy. Not that I really had any. It's hard to make enemies when you can't have more than a single informal conversation with someone.

It was during this time - the vortex of turmoil and emotion and the mess of everything happening in my brain - that I came to know God. The turning point was getting my patriarchal blessing. Among other things I didn't understand, it assured me that I would live a long life. Not really the answer I had wanted to my prayers for an early death... but it was an answer nonetheless. So, one night, I stopped asking for God to kill me in my sleep. Instead, I prayed for help finding hope in life. 

And it started to rain.

Rain is symbolic to me. It would take a dozen pages to explain what it really means, and then I still wouldn't be happy. I tried writing and deleted it. So I'll stay simple: for me, rain is a symbol of God's love.

So when from clear skies it began to rain, thunder, and lightning that night as I prayed, that was God again, this time telling me that it would all work out.

It didn't happen overnight. It took me years to pull myself from addiction, and even after my mission I found myself staring it again in the face. I still didn't have any friends... and even when people tried to be my friends it didn't work. I found myself unable to function every time depression hit, and although I thought I was completely normal, something kept telling me that there was something that I didn't completely understand.

But today, with the understanding I do have, I again wouldn't trade my life for anything. It's not because my life is perfect. Far from it - I'm still autistic, and God still has plenty of challenges in store for me. It's also not because I wouldn't wish it on anyone. If someone honestly needed the things I've learned in my life, I'd be ok with God allowing them to have my exact same experience.

No. I wouldn't trade my life for anything because of the things I've learned and the person I've become.

Some days I wonder how my life would have been if things had gone differently. If I had been diagnosed with autism as a kid, maybe someone would have taught me social skills and friendship sooner. But perhaps I wouldn't have relied so heavily on God when bipolar and same-sex attraction came to play. Without autism entirely, perhaps I'd have made friends, but I would have been more acutely aware of the bullying that happened at school... and perhaps the pain would have given me cause to be bitter. And maybe I wouldn't have had the self-control to cure myself of bipolar through extreme diet. Without being abused, I wouldn't carry deep emotional scars... but I also wouldn't have been able to touch people's lives who have been through the same experience. Without bipolar in my early years, I would have cried far fewer tears, but I wouldn't have had cause to turn to God, and I wouldn't have the relationship with Him that I do... and so perhaps it would cloud my judgment with all the rest. Without same-sex attraction, I'd be married with a family by now... but I'd lack most of my understanding of the love of God, and I definitely wouldn't feel compelled to reach out and share the gospel with others, or value the importance of good friends. 

The circumstances that God allowed in my life have given me the opportunity to shape who I am. I feel like my life is an example of the perfect confluence of God's Plan of Salvation. For me, the greatest opportunity my life's circumstances allowed was the option to give everything - especially my deepest hopes and dreams - to God. I could choose God, trust in Him, believe Him, and follow Him forever, or turn away from Him and make my own path. God pushed me up against the wall and forced me to choose... just as He does for everyone. And for that I'm eternally grateful. If He asks me to celibate for life (and that's what the law of chastity requires unless I miraculously fall in love with and marry a girl), then that's what will happen. Following God and keeping His commandments is always better than any other alternative.

God knows what He is doing. From His perspective, I believe there is no difference between trials and blessings. Not to say that He doesn't prefer one to the other - all things equal, God likes to bless His children. But, in His eyes, both trials and blessings are simply parts of the Plan. Like ingredients in a recipe. Some recipes call for more salt, some for more sugar, all depending on the initial reagent, things that happen during cooking, and the intended final result. It may not seem fair to me that my life is full of salty while my neighbor's is full of sweet, but to God it all makes sense. He knows the end from the beginning, and everything in my life is intended to help me return to Him. Soup is salty. Candy is sweet. And my neighbor came to earth a completely different person, with completely different needs, when compared to me. Every circumstance is valid, as long as God sees it useful to help His children return to Him. The circumstances of my life are my Gift from God. The choices I make with those circumstances are my Gift to Him. It took a mixture of bipolar, autism, same-sex attraction, and even abuse, specific parents, climate, and everything else to give me the experiences I needed. And I believe that He takes the same degree of care in choosing the circumstances of every soul who comes to earth, whether born without a family in a war-torn country, with a faithful family in the heart of peace, or with a family that has strayed far from the truth.

I love my life... and I wouldn't switch it for anything, because God knows what He is doing. He is in control. And, ultimately, if I give my will to Him, and follow Him, He will make me into the man He sees in me - someone far better than I could be myself.

One post ahead: Dear Little Brother (to children with same-sex parents)