Tuesday, August 31

Intellectual Resources in Overcoming Temptation

Intellectual resources have played an interesting role in overcoming temptation in my life. For the most part, by themselves, they don't work at all. New inventions seem to work for a bit, then break down as technology is bypassed or circumstances change. Internet filters are easily circumvented, no matter how much I wanted them to be secure upon installation. Playing mind games, counting backwards by 14's from 1020, or trying to clear my mind or fill it with better images works only so much... and it usually only works for a few seconds or maybe a few minutes.

But, often, a few seconds is all I need in order to actually turn on my brain in the midst of temptation. I can think of things I believe in, of my family, my friends, and the people who rely on me in life. And if I've read the Bible and the Book of Mormon that day, I can remember the things I read, and feel closer to Christ.

I think the most important intellectual resource in overcoming temptation is the ability to deal with new situations. It's easy right now in my life to forget about temptation - when I'm surrounded by people who love me, I'm super-busy in life and Church, and everything seems to be going right. But if everything fell apart tomorrow, then I would need the ability to deal with those stresses... or else my life would start to fall apart, too. And when life falls apart, temptation becomes a much bigger piece of the puzzle. I have to develop habits of reading the scriptures, praying, and helping others live better lives, and then, hopefully, when my own life gets hard, I'll have the intellectual resources to deal with stress, chaos, ambiguity, and an ever-present attraction to other guys.

Monday, August 30

Physical Resources in Overcoming Temptation

I was in a meeting the other day where the presenter talked about the importance of having resources to meet the demands that life creates. She talked about a lot of different resources - physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual - and how those resources could help us face life. I don't think she meant for her lesson to help (gay) guys who are dealing with attraction to guys, but as she spoke I thought about how those resources help me in facing temptation.

Physical resources to meet life include diet, exercise, relationships, sleep habits, and how well you take care of your body. I've been trying recently to make the most of each of those, and I can see a difference.

Mormons, as a whole, are pretty healthy eaters. I mean, we may not be super-health-nuts, but we don't drink, smoke, drink coffee or tea, or use drugs... which means that we are at least one step closer to being in control of our bodies. My interpretation of the Word of Wisdom adds to that trying to avoid added sugars, focusing on whole grains and vegetables, and eating meat only sparingly. When I eat healthily, I have more control over my body - which then translates into more control over my actions in times of duress.

Exercise is a staple in my regimen. Sometimes work or other things get in the way, but I have to exercise to stay sane. The endorphin rush, the subsequent exhaustion, everything about exercise just makes me feel in control of what is happening.

Relationships are sometimes hard for me. I have a hard time developing friendships when I know they're going to disappear. But I push myself, and it's worth it. I make new friends and find ways to help people around me... and, in helping them, I help myself.

Sleep habits. Hmmm. Since I began this blog and decided that I wanted to be super-social (and got a new calling, and work became crazy), my sleeping schedule has gone crazy. It's non-existent. I know that I function way better when I sleep regularly, though... and temptation is way less powerful when it comes during the day. I try to get eight hours of sleep, but sometimes that just doesn't happen. But if I'm asleep at night, then there are fewer issues.

Taking care of my body... I think I can do better. I mean, I think about it a lot, but there are always things I can do more. I could go to sleep on time, for example. Or find ways to eat more healthily. Or a lot of different things. Whatever I do, as I take better care of my body and develop a store of physical resources, I feel like I learn willpower, and my temptations and urges become a little bit easier to control.

Sunday, August 29

I love my ward

I really do love my ward. Almost everyone is totally new, which means that there are no pre-formed groups, no walls to break down, no one who is better than anyone else. We have Church and everyone participates in lessons. People sit next to each other in Sacrament meeting. Ward prayer has a massive turnout and 30 minutes later, most of the people are still there engaged in conversation. Impromptu game nights, group date ideas, pickup sport games, FHE where everyone comes, massive stake activities, and friends who are willing and able to hold a good conversation at any hour of the day or night. On another note, there are at least a half dozen girls who are interested in me (an unblinking stare during ward prayer is a sign that even a guy like me can't miss), even if I don't return the feeling. At least that gives me a few more potential contacts. I don't have any trouble dating people who want to date me - it may not work out, but it's at least worth a shot. Who knows? Maybe I'll find the right someone and sparks will fly. Either way,  I can tell that it's going to be a blast.

Saturday, August 28


One of the worst things about making friends is when they disappear. They're there... and then they're not, ripped away by circumstance, choice, or other change. They move. They take new jobs. They become engaged and stop talking to anyone else. And I feel left totally alone.

I also feel guilty, because I'm obviously not a real or true friend. I know that if I reach out to others, unconditionally and whether or not they respond, then I'm being a good friend. And I try to do that. I spend most of my day and much of my life trying to reach out and help others. But then I realize that, in all my giving to others, I've forgotten to ask for help. I've forgotten to help others see how they can be involved in my life... instead of me just being involved in theirs. And so the relationship becomes one-way... I'm a teacher, a mentor, a counselor. The biggest issue is that I love being all three of those things. Put me in front of a room of people and let me teach, and I'm in heaven. But sometimes I realize that all of my potential friends have become my students, and I'm stuck on a pedestal with no way to get down without shattering into a gazillion pieces. It leaves me with few people who are able to be friends.

And so sometimes I try to not be such a strong motivating force in relationships, just so that people are willing to be real friends with me. Sometimes it works. And then, just as I feel I'm finding a new friend, those relationships suddenly disappear. It's a shock, and then I slowly try to refill the void. What scares me most is the realization that I do the same thing. I move into a world, into relationships, and then suddenly circumstances change and I'm no longer able to do the same things I had previously envisioned. I disappear. People rely on me... and I'm afraid of disappearing from their lives without my knowing. It would be arrogant to assume that my disappearing would cause a global crisis... but callous to assume that no one would notice. What do you think? What would happen if you disappeared?

Friday, August 27

Friday Night

I went on a date tonight. I met a girl a few days ago and we had a short conversation, so I thought I'd give it a try. We went with another couple (I knew the guy), which ended up being a really good thing, since when we arrived at our destination the place was totally packed. We couldn't get in. So we made up games, played, talked, and walked around in the rain until we were tired enough to go home and eat dessert. It was a good evening. We laughed, got lost, had fun, and talked about everything from movies to psychology. I think I may schedule another one. No sparks yet (I didn't want to shake her hand or give her a hug at the end... so I didn't), but maybe it will happen.

Friday nights have often been difficult for me - in my heart I realize that I should be out dating; at the same time, it's sometimes hard to date. Who to date. Where to go. What to do. What to plan as a backup. Who to ask if the first person says no. When to start. Whether to eat or not. Way too many questions and decisions. Sometimes I just feel like picking up the Friday night shift at the temple. They always need more workers anyway, right? I would totally do it, but it would feel like running away.

Friday nights have become easier as I involve other people in making my plans - going on group dates or double dates, asking girls what kinds of things they'd like to do, etc. And I've learned that asking in advance is a really good idea. Some girls can do the spontaneous thing. Most, like me, don't often have a completely flexible schedule for spontaneity. So I ask a few days beforehand. it works , sometimes it doesn't. We'll see.

Thursday, August 26

The Title (Gay) Mormon Guy

There are two reasons why the word gay is in my blog title. The first is to make it simple to find my blog. I write to try to help others who are struggling... with the hope that I can do something to make a difference. When I was struggling and trying to find help to resist temptation, I used "gay" or "homosexual" in my online search. I never thought of searching for the phrases "same-gender attraction," "same-sex attraction," "ssa," "sga," or any of the other ways to refer to it. The second reason it's part of the title (and not just addressed in entries) is because that's what the blog is about - living a righteous life while dealing with being attracted to guys.

The gay is surrounded by parentheses because I'm not really gay. (Gay) is not a cute visual euphemism to show that I'm in the closet - because I'm not. I'm just not gay. For me, being gay is not the same thing as being attracted to guys. Being gay goes beyond attraction to acting on that attraction. And most men who are gay (openly or closeted) approve of the sexual gay lifestyle, promote gay activism, and live very different lives than my own.

The second word - Mormon - is, again, an easyt word to use in searching for my blog. I'm Mormon through and through. Outside of this blog, I never talk about Mormons - they are always members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But, in missionary work, the Church has recently reached out to help people realize that Mormons - members of the Church - are people in every place on earth. I guess I can do that too. I'm a guy, attracted to guys. I live, work, and love life. And I'm a Mormon.

And guy is just a word from my generation. My age is of the in-betweeners - the leading edge of the strange group that is taking over the world and can't decide yet whether to be children or adults. I have no idea when guy turn into men or when kids turned into guys.

So that's me. As it says on the top of the blog, I'm a stalwart member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm also attracted to men. (Gay) Mormon Guy.

Wednesday, August 25

The Guise of Anonymity

The Internet casts a hazy mist of anonymity over everything I do. No one is ever watching; there's no way anyone can find out; no one will ever know. I can go anywhere and the only thing that follows me is a temporary IP address. And that can even shift with a proxy. No trace left behind. No consequences, no effects.

In some cases, the seeming anonymity is a good thing. It gives me the ability to write entries in this blog without needing to share my identity with the world. I can speak my mind and share the gospel without having to break down the barriers imposed by reality. You can read this blog without having to do the same thing. But that same sense of anonymity makes the Internet a dangerous place... where it is all too easy to do things I would never do in public, believing that no one is watching... that no one will ever find out.

In reality, anonymity is just a guise. Computers store browsing information in cookies, hidden Flash objects, and search histories. Internet Service Providers keep automatic logs of information that passes through their network. Websites track and store information about everyone that visits them, from computer hardware and software to IP addresses that can be tracked, with time codes, to a home address.

Regardless of electronic privacy, God knows what is happening. And He doesn't keep secrets. There have been many times when, while counseling friends or strangers, I've been able to see into their hearts and know the trials they face - without their ever voicing them. With that knowledge, I can better help them to learn to be happy and come unto Christ.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter who on Earth knows my actions. If no one ever knows who I am, God will still know me. And He will judge me according to the good and bad in my life. He's always watching. The consequences of my actions will eventually catch up to me, which means that, if I'm going to do something in secret, it better be good.

Tuesday, August 24

Romantic Idealism

I grew up watching Disney films, attending Broadway musicals, and reading fantasy & adventure novels. My family was perfect. I had the Church and I excelled in everything I tried. Mix those all together and you might understand why I've been a romantic idealist for as long as I can remember. It's never been a problem, but romantic ideals are harder and harder to come by in the world today. I'd love to find an amazing girl, sweep her off her feet, and live happily ever after - but more and more people tell me that's not how it happens. I try to believe them; I take marriage prep classes, find similarities with others, determine likes and dislikes, study personality types and compatibilities, try to be as close to the person I want to marry... but in my heart, I still believe that just falling (without the required intellectual decision to fall) in love is possible and that it'll happen to me some day.

Whether or not it actually happens doesn't really matter - optimism doesn't actually guide or influence outcomes. It doesn't have to. Instead, it influences my attitude and my actions - and those influence what happens in my life. My outlook influences how I see the things that happen to me - the things I may not be able to directly control. Being optimistic gives me peace and hope when everything seems to be going wrong. I've tried some of the other outlooks - pessimism, realism, existentialism, nihilism, whateverism... and, at least for me, I think I've found the mix that works best in my life. A mix of idealism, romanticism, and optimism. Together, those give me the tools to be a good brother, son, and friend... so that I can make a difference in the world.

Monday, August 23

The Gift of God

I attended a Sacrament Meeting yesterday where two missionaries came home. One had served two years, the other had served ten days; both received honorable releases. It was amazing to see the contrast in their speaking skills, their ability to communicate, and other outward signs. It was heartbreaking to see a newly called and released missionary, whose hopes and dreams had been shattered by something completely out of his control. But as I listened to each of them speak, I realized that both of them had strong testimonies - even though they had experienced totally different things in life.

As I go through life, I see a seeming dichotomy between each of our experiences... and sometimes it can seem unfair. One missionary serves two years and set a course for the rest of his life. Another, just as faithful, never gets that opportunity. One guy who was never interested in settling down falls in love with a girl, marries her, and begins his family before 22. Another guy is 28 and has spent his young adult life attracted to other guys, dating girls, trying to find a girl to marry in the temple so he can begin a family. One guy begins a blog to tell his story - http://gaymormonguy.blogspot.com - and has a great experience. Another guy begins http://solidgaymormonguy.blogspot.com ... and then he and the blog disappear only a few days later.

But life isn't unfair. It's perfectly fair - because God creates our lives with the intent to bless us and help us to achieve the highest we can, from an eternal perspective. All things are for the good of those that love God. It is definitely not the same across the board - but that's because God is a perfect teacher. No two students are alike. And while the final examination will judge each of us based on the universal standards of the commandments, the Lord uses different events and experiences in each of our lives to help us get to that point. Everything the Lord gives us is a blessing. Everything - because even though it may seem hard or unfair or painful or whatever, it is designed to help us to grow and learn and be happy. This is the Gift that God gives us - a perfectly crafted experience to help us return to Him, and that includes the highs and the lows... the joy and the heartache. He knows what will help us grow most when we don't know ourselves.

For one young missionary, the Lord calls him to serve for two years. For another, He calls him home after days. The Lord gives each of us different varieties of family, friends, leaders, talents, weaknesses, trials, temptations, and hidden struggles to help us turn to Him.

What has He given you?

Sunday, August 22

Personal Conversion

I love this quote: "The intensity of our desire to share the gospel is a great indicator of the extent of our personal conversion" (Elder Oaks). As I've progressed in life, I've realized how true that statement is.
When I was little, I knew the gospel was true, but I really didn't think much about how it would apply to other people. I had my family, my faith, and I was happy.

I started going through minor trials in life and realized that the gospel was a major source of my strength. I wanted to share it with others - I knew it would help them. But I didn't want to push anything on them. I thought that maybe they could live happy, fulfilled lives without the gospel.

I served a mission and realized that everyone, everywhere, needed the message of the gospel. It was everything to me, it was crucial to their salvation, and so I knocked on doors, stopped people in the streets, and used every outward means possible to share the gospel.

Since I've come home from my mission, I've realized that my ability to share the gospel has only increased. I learned to be a better teacher, counselor, mentor, and friend. And today I can share the gospel in every interaction I have with the people around me - whether through an anonymous blog or being a good roommate.

I can feel my personal conversion growing. When I go to sleep at night, I think about the people who need my help and pray for them. I see symbols and metaphors in the scriptures and my Patriarchal blessing. And the Lord inspires me - helping me know what I should write, who I should talk to, how I can be a better brother, servant, and friend.

Saturday, August 21

Family - Isn't It About... Time?

When I first saw and heard the Church's public service announcements on the importance of the family, I fell immediately in love. The little girl who asks her dad to read her a story, the sword fighting clip on having fun as a family - this is how I see my own family, and how I see the gospel as part of it. The gospel blesses families... and my family is happier by far with the gospel in our lives.

Family can sometimes bring difficulties or baggage. I don't argue with anyone in the world more than my family members - every single one of them. But I'd also say that few people in the world understand me as well as they do, flawed as their understanding is. They want the best for me, and they're willing to do anything to make it happen in my life.

My family has always encouraged me to do what is right - and sometimes that encouragement turns into exhortation. Not-too-subtle messages that I should date a certain girl, suggestions that I need to prioritize better and spend more time being social because I haven't yet gotten married (and younger family members have), or anything else that is on their minds. In my case, I know that my family is involved in my life because they love me. They're willing to move mountains for me. And even though they will probably never understand my predicament, they are a support and a help to me in facing the trials of my everyday.

I'm grateful for a family that pushes me to do the right things, that expects me to make the right choices. Sometimes I struggle under the pressure to be close-to-perfect in every way, but, ultimately, I realize that, for my family, it's not really pressure or unrealistic expectations - it's a manifestation of their faith. They look at me and see that I'm a son of God. They've supported me in the past and seen my successes. They believe that I'm capable of anything and everything - and, in everything they do, their goal is simply to help me soar.

Friday, August 20

Growing Up to Be Perfect

When I was younger I wanted to grow up to be perfect. I thought that if I could just overcome each of my temptations, one by one, I could accomplish my dream. There really wasn't a lot to overcome, anyway... right? I already lived the Word of Wisdom, never swore, read my scriptures, prayed; I thought I did almost everything right. But there were some things that kept coming back - feeling better than the people around me, for example, or simply not following the counsel that the Spirit gave in my life.

Time went on and the challenges I faced changed - presenting new obstacles to overcome. I realized that becoming perfect wasn't as simple as fixing the problems in life - because fixing each problem often reveals another level of achievement that can be attained. And I kept making tons of mistakes, in everything. Amid the changing temptations in different circumstances, my attraction to guys has been a constant companion. And mistakes in that arena can easily push me into depression or absolute despair.

I haven't made perfection yet. I still make mistakes, and there are days when Satan tries to convince me that I'll never be good enough to return to God. But I've realized that looking forward is more important than looking back. Satan wants me to dwell on the bad things I've done; he tries to convince me that I can never change or that God won't hear my prayers. All of that is bogus. Christ completed the Atonement for me - as a sinner - so that I can repent and return to live with God, even if I have done awful things. "Though your sins be red as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." If I've done something wrong, I try to repent immediately - drop to my knees and ask for help in changing who I am. I know that God hears my prayers, always... and, no matter what I have done, He loves me and will bless me and do everything in His power to help me to be happy.

As hard as I try, I'll still make mistakes in the future. I hope they aren't big ones. But, no matter what happens, I have a testimony of the power of repentance and forgiveness. God hears and answers my prayers for help in becoming better even when I've turned away from Him. He helps me see the things I can change and helps me have the strength, faith, and courage to move forward. I don't know what the future holds, but as I continue to make course corrections and turn towards the truth, I still hope that someday (probably not in this life, but eventually) I can grow up to be perfect.

Fitness & Physical Activity

Wow. I am totally and completely exhausted. And that feeling is amazing.

Physical fitness has historically been a double-edged sword in my life. Going to a gym and being surrounded by guys and mirrors can easily summon up demons and throw my mind into major temptation. But the endorphin high that comes from exercising also seems to, albeit temporarily, fix some of the problems that I face. If I'm struggling, one of the best things I can do is to go work out - swim, run, bike, lift, or play tag with friends until I'm dead tired. And in that tiredness I just feel tired... and accomplished. No massive, overwhelming urges, just the soreness and fatigue that comes from pushing my body to its limits, and the peace that comes from knowing that I had the force of will to do it on my own.

When I know that going to the gym will be a source of trouble, then I don't go. Instead, I'll go running, or biking, or just do a gazillion pushups and jumping jacks in my apartment (though the latter isn't really all that effective - getting out of the apartment is a really good part of exercise). Even when I don't think that the gym will be a problem, I've learned that situations can quickly degenerate. So I'm always on my guard - trying to keep my thoughts clean. If there are TV's available, I try to watch something educational. I like the round-table discussions on the scriptures from BYU TV, cooking shows, or anything else that will engage my mind in uplifting thoughts. If I'm on my own, or there's nothing worthwhile, then I listen to General Conference talks. I know. It may sound incredibly cheesy. But it helps me work out in the right frame of mind - even when people around me would normally pose a big problem. And Conference talks are really good for the rest of my life, too.

All in all, I think that regular physical exercise is a really important part of the steps that keep me clean. After running for miles or swimming for an hour, I feel amazing. And the Spirit bears witness that I'm that much closer to being master of my body and my soul. Yeah, it's hard. Yeah, it takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes it's painful. But, in the end, I prove to myself that I can choose the path I take in life - for both my body and soul.

Wednesday, August 18

Being Alone

There are times when I feel totally and completely alone, even in the Church. When someone makes a joke in Elder's Quorum that he isn't married yet at 27 because he's gay. When my last mission companion, who I trained, gets married and begins to start his own family. When I try to ask a girl on a date because I know I should, and then get turned down seven times in a row, by seven different girls... and then spend Friday night alone in my room with unused concert tickets, wondering what's wrong with me. When I finally do go on dates, and the girl begins to wonder when I never hold her hand. And when I talk with others and no one seems to understand.

When I'm totally and completely alone, when I feel depressed and like life has me cornered, I turn to God. And He gives me peace. He doesn't take away my temptations, or the trials, or the struggles, or the heartache. He doesn't make me suddenly fall in love with a girl. But He lets me know that He loves me, and that I'm trying to do what's right. And that is enough to strengthen my faith to move forward.

As time has gone on, my relationship with God has improved. In the beginning, I was afraid to talk with Him - afraid that He would rebuke me for the things I had done... But God isn't like that. He does everything in His power to help me to repent - to get back on the right path - and He is always there for me. Whether it's taking a test and asking for help in studying beforehand, or asking for help in finding the right person to date (that works sometimes, but I haven't found an eternal mate just yet), or just asking to know that He loves me, God hears and answers my prayers.

Even when the world seems turned upside-down, when no one seems to understand, I can turn to God, to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, to the things I know are true. Maybe I'll find someone to spend eternity with in the near future. Maybe I'll have to wait a long time. Either way, God is with me. With Him at my side, I'm not alone.

Tuesday, August 17

FHE - Family Home Evening

There is definitely something inspired behind the Family Home Evening program of the Church. When I first heard that singles also did FHE, I wondered how that would really be effective. Family Home Evening was for families, right? FHE for singles could only be a poor substitute. Wow was I wrong.

As life got harder and school moved forward, weeks became more rushed, stressful, and ambiguous. Mondays were the epitome of stress - new assignments to work on, homework to catch up on that I didn't do Friday or Saturday, and trying to make a dent in the work load of the coming week. But I could always count on Family Home Evening. A handful of random people who meet each week, share a short lesson, sing, talk, pray, play games, and eat (junk) food did marvels for my ability to concentrate.

FHE has always been my oasis in the desert of Mondays. It's a constant close social activity where I can develop better relationships with others, make new friends, and reach out to help the people around me. It happens every week, and works as a deadline to create a focus in my schedule. If I make time to attend FHE, the Lord blesses me and helps me accomplish everything else that's on my plate.

As I face my own problems in life, FHE is one of the essentials that helps me move forward. I go and feel uplifted each week, simply by being with others. Yeah, sometimes the lessons are mediocre and the activities way below par. But that's not the purpose of Family Home Evening - at least not in my mind. In my mind, FHE simply gives me the assurance that I have a group of people who care about me - someplace I can go to learn, grow, and feel safe.

Saturday, August 14

Watching the Stars

The Pleiades meteor shower finishes tonight. I've always thought that meteor showers were amazing natural phenomena - shards of comet tails left behind from ten or thousands of years ago, ripping through the sky, heating up to thousands of degrees as they hurtle through the atmosphere, finally disappearing into nothing.

As I watched the sky this week, I've realized a similarity to my own life. Earth's atmosphere protects it from cosmic radiation and comet shards - but not by preventing them. Instead, it destroys threats as they arrive. If there were no atmosphere, Earth would look just like the moon - cratered, pock-marked, changed by the constant barrage of tiny particles that, over time, have destroyed its surface.

As I live the gospel, its teachings create and reinforce a shield around me. The thicker the shield, the stronger the defenses. Having a shield, though, doesn't mean there won't be problems or temptations. Are there going to be issues? Yes. Will little and big things smash against the defenses I've created? Constantly. But, as long as I've developed the resistance I need, I'll have the strength to resist each fiery dart of the adversary as it arrives in my life... and turn each one into a burst of flame, leaving behind the feeling that God really does hear and answer my prayers.

Friday, August 13

The Miserable, Amazing World of Dating

As all young males in the Church know, the Brethren have commanded us to date. I've read a few recent statements that make me wonder about the universality of that mandate; if I ever have the opportunity to talk with a general authority on the subject, I'll ask if dating is something that all men should be doing. For myself, I think that dating girls - as far as developing relationships with others - is important at this stage of my life.  Hopefully I'll someday find a girl that I can fall in love with and marry, but, if not, I can still make friends through dating. Add to that the fact that I'm a priesthood leader in my ward and I need to set a good example for other guys... and you get my drift.

Dating girls is rough. It would be rough even if I were attracted to them. But when I have absolutely no desire to touch them, sit next to them, play with their hair, or hold their hand, dating becomes a massive ordeal.

First I have to figure out who to date. Most guys have it easy - they can look at a girl and say, "Wow. That's an attractive girl." And then they ask her out on a date. I, on the other hand, have never thought a girl was attractive. So my first determinant is if she can hold a conversation. Then I figure out what to do on the date, find a time that works in my and her schedule, and actually ask her out. Dates themselves, for me, are totally platonic. We spend the whole time talking, engaged in some type of activity. We go on a hike, or serve at the food bank, or make dinner for each other, or whatever. I'm not a dinner and a movie guy.

When I finally find someone who's interested in spending time with me and can hold her own in a conversation, then dating isn't all that bad. But, ultimately, I end each relationship when I realize that it isn't going to work out. No sparks. And every marriage prep class I've ever taken says that sparks, while not the center of a relationship, are essential for a great marriage.

Is dating dishonest when I know it probably won't work out? No - I'm doing the exact same thing that everyone else is doing - trying to see if there is any possibility of a spark. Dating is only dishonest if I pretend to love a girl when I don't. I date to learn about people, to make friends, and hopefully to find a possibility of marriage in the temple. Maybe I'm running up a permanent dead end, and there will never be a possibility in this life. But I feel it's worth trying. There are a million girls out there - and maybe there is one that is right for me. The only way to know is by dating.

Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was 14

Being attracted to guys does not mean that I am irreparably cursed.

God judges me based on my actions - not on feelings that I can't control.

I don't have to be perfect to deserve God's love.

As I read the scriptures, pray, and live the gospel more fully, I gain strength to overcome temptation.

There are others just like me - men and women who believe in the gospel with all their hearts and are striving to live it and be happy.

It won't go away tomorrow. But tomorrow is still worth living.

I can find peace and be happy as I live according to the light I've been given.

As I serve others, the Lord will bless me and give me strength.

Tuesday, August 10

Scripture Power

I was reading my scriptures this morning and realized how amazing it is that stories and parables seem to change to fit my needs as time goes on. Recently this blog has begun to color my study of the scriptures, and I feel a kinship with Ammon and his brothers, going on a mission to share the gospel with their brethren, and with Alma the younger as he prays for relief from the burden of his sins. I can see how turning to the Lord changes hearts and heals souls, and I watch in awe and wonder as the voice of one repentant man leads to the conversion of an entire nation.

The scriptures have an amazing power to change lives. When I want to find guidance from the Lord, I turn to the scriptures and He speaks to me. When I'm struggling the most and the sky is black, I turn to the scriptures and the clouds begin to clear. Yes, sometimes it takes all I can do to simply sit in one place and read. And there are plenty of pages where teardrops have mixed with colored pencil underlines. But, as I read, the Lord gives me strength. Life may not get easier. I really don't think it ever will. But, as I feast on the words of Christ, and turn my life over to God, He makes it possible to live and grow each day.

Monday, August 9

Walking in the Rain

It's been raining a lot recently. I love sunny days, but thunderstorm speak to me in a way that sunshine never could. I've also been spending way too much time inside. So I decided to go rain-walking.

I knocked on a few doors and found someone who was willing to just go walking in the rain. We talked about our missions, our love of people, and things we loved about our ward. Lightning flared, thunder roared, and we just walked in the rain.

When you deal with major struggles in life, it can seem to always be raining. Trials, temptations, and struggles make it hard to see the light of the sun that is shining behind the clouds. So what do I do? Cowering under my bed in fear, depression, and confusion doesn't fix any of my problems. Instead, I give thanks for a God who is actively involved in my life, a God who cares about me and gives me the ingredients necessary for my salvation. And then I go walk in the rain.

Yes, I will get wet. Yes, it will be cold and probably lonely. And perhaps I will be walking, alone, for a long, long time. But as I walk, I've found an inner fire that keeps me warm and dry, and a friendship in a God who is always with me, even when the torrents pour. I don't know what the future holds. In my heart I still hope and pray for sunshine. But I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned while walking in the rain.

Sunday, August 8

Changing the Church vs. Changing the World

It can be easy, when I've struggled, to focus on the bad experiences I've had, try to determine the cause of those experiences, and warn others against them. And bad things do happen, even in the Church. Inadequate training, lack of understanding, miscommunication, and inherent weaknesses can make it incredibly difficult for Church leaders to meet members' individual needs.

But while individuals may not be immediately able to give the support or help I need, the Church and the gospel - the ordinances, the covenants, the scriptures, the commandments, the Priesthood, and the temple - have never failed me in my struggle. And they never will.

Many people with same-sex attraction look forward to a time when "the Church will change." A few want 6000 years of sexual sin to be completely redefined. Others want prejudice against those with SSA to be a grievous sin. Still others want a chapter in Gospel Principles explaining the reality behind same-sex attraction.

I'm different. I don't want to change the Church. I want to change the world. I want everyone to look out for their neighbors, love them unconditionally, know what it feels like to be in their shoes, be there for them when they struggle, pray for them each night, and support them when they fall. And when that happens, all of us will feel accepted and loved. The Church already teaches all those things; 15 letters read over the pulpit and a complete session of General Conference on SSA wouldn't fix the problem. Enforcing change from the top rarely works in any situation; people change because they want to. And, from my perspective, the best way to help people change is to be a good example, help them understand who I am, and allow them to feel a part of my struggle.

Yes, involving people in my life will inevitably bring heartache as they are unable to completely understand or meet my needs. But as I look to God, follow His guidance, and keep the commandments He has given, I am promised the strength to succeed. Join with me and bring out the good in others. Together, we will change the world.

Sharing the Light

I've been touched by some of the comments I've read and emails I've received since beginning this blog. I knew these messages were needed, but I never thought that it would happen so soon... or that the experiences and feelings I shared would be so personal to the people around me. For a long time I thought I was completely alone. Now I am realizing that we are all in this fight together. We have to stick together, support each other, and stand against the forces of the adversary.

But I am also realizing that I can't do it alone. I can write blog entries, be friends with as many people as time permits, and pray each night for guidance and help, but there are still people out there, silently suffering. People I can't touch, who know that God exists but, like most of us have, wonder if He has abandoned them to live a cursed life forever.

Together, we can change that. It may take some time, but the message of the gospel, of repentance and faith and hope and salvation, is the most important thing we can share. And as our forces grow, our ability to help others rise will grow as well. Look inside yourself. If you've been touched by something I've written, or if the Lord has helped you in your struggles, then please find a way to share it with someone else who is struggling. It may be terrifying to help others, but the Lord will help you find a way. And as you do, I know that the Lord will give you greater strength to overcome your own trials, greater love for the people who surround you, and a greater ability to share the light with the world.

Saturday, August 7

True Love

I talked with a friend a few days ago about the meaning of love, and I thought I'd share my thoughts here. Struggling with being attracted to guys has always filled me with the fear that I would never be able to really fall in love with someone... and have them fall in love with me. It doesn't help that I'm a hopeless romantic and movies and novels and Broadway musicals all talk about falling in love; in each love is portrayed, rightfully, as one of the guiding factors in changing lives and improving the world. It's the love that Christine has for the Phantom that finally heals his heart, love that sends Geppetto on a journey to save his wooden son, love that makes it possible to write "and they all lived happily ever after."

But what is love?

I don't mean this to be trite - but when I see a guy and feel physically attracted to him, that is a totally different feeling from when I am trying to show my love to my family or friends. The world today stirs them all together in the same pot and claims that anything motivated by love is good. But I know that can't be true. I think that understanding love, in all its facets, will give me a key in knowing the truth and creating loving relationships that can meet my needs.

In the last little while I've felt that love was something much more than just a feeling. In Moroni it teaches about the importance of having the right kind of love, and much of Christ's Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple was encouraging the people to move forward in the extent of their love. Not to throw away the old law, but to build upon it and grow. I get the feeling that love is a spectrum that defines all of our relationships with others - sort of like faith defines our relationship with God and truth - where our actions are motivated by the type of love we currently have.

Finding the ends of the spectrum is actually pretty easy. God has a perfect love for us, and so we should try to emulate His love in every relationship we have with others. Satan has a completely inferior love (we could call it hate, but hate is just the absence of love) for us. I think that highlighting aspects of each relationship will help us to see what we really want when we want to love and be loved.

In the most inferior relationships, the determining factor is that you have no intention of helping the other person come closer to Christ. In that case, the relationship is purely selfish. Why? Because you believe that true joy comes from doing the most pleasurable things. Everything done in the relationship is to preserve or increase your ability to use the other person to achieve your desires. You may be willing to do absolutely anything and everything to achieve them. You may help them to feel temporary pleasure, try to meet their unmet needs, and dedicate an inordinate amount of time and money cultivating this type of relationship. Or you could use blackmail, coercion, seduction, and dishonesty. There are two ends to this relationship. On the one hand, they willingly meet your desires. Then you perpetuate the relationship for as long as they can continue to meet them - perhaps even until death. But once you know, for certain, that they are unable or unwilling to please you anymore, you discard them, the relationship ends, and you seek someone else.

The most superior relationships are strikingly different. The determining factor in these relationships is a desire for the other person to become the best person he or she can become, and a willingness to do everything in your power to make that happen. Why? Because you know that true joy comes from being the best person possible. Christ spoke about the importance of being kind to your enemies as well as your friends, praying for them that use you, being good to those that persecute you. Walking an extra mile with someone who stole your coat. Hence true love includes unconditional kindness. But at the same time, love does not mean that you condone the unrighteousness of others. Doing that would be essentially telling them, "It's okay if you put your hand on the stove. I know that it will burn you, but I think that letting you do what you want to do is more important than warning you about the consequences of your actions." On the contrary, God's perfect love for His children manifests itself in a completely opposite manner. He looks at their lives and helps them see the consequences of their actions. Does that mean that He discards those who don't follow His commandments? No - hence the next key - true love helps others rise from their mistakes. In fact, true love never stops acting, even when the person receiving it has completely turned away.

But I think the most telling factor in true love is the one mentioned first - desire for the other person to become the best they can be, and willingness to do everything in your power to make that happen. That is the greatest motivation, the greatest love, the greatest fulfillment we can find. We can see it in everything God does with us. He allows us to struggle because He knows that struggles give us the opportunity to grow stronger and happier in the end. He answers our prayers for help and support, enabling us to trust in Him and come closer to Him. He withdraws certain blessings when we sin, but continues to love us and be actively involved in our lives.

So how does sexually expressing love play into this? I think the key is in the motivation - and behind that motivation you can see whether sexual acts are acts of love, or of lust. Simply put, God gave us sexual feelings for the expression of love only between husband and wife. Everything else is lust. It has been like that since the beginning - and it makes sense. The ability to be a family - to be joined as parents - is the greatest stewardship that God has given us. He has given us the ability to be joined as husband and wife, father and mother - to learn to be like Him. Of all the relationships we have in life, marriage between husband and wife is the most important, the most exalting, the most eternal. You will spend all of eternity with this person. It makes sense that that relationship would be different, in some meaningful way, from the love you should feel for everyone else on the planet. Within marriage, sexual relations are righteous acts, drawing husband and wife together, emphasizing their ability to be one, helping them to realize the joint ability they have to raise a righteous posterity and change the world. Outside of marriage between husband and wife, sexual acts, while still pleasurable, don't elevate men and women to keep their covenants and look to God for guidance. Since they pull you down instead of lift you up, sexual acts outside of marriage end up just being a cheap substitute.

True love is what I want in my life. I know that only true love, in marriage and in my relationships with others, can bring me happiness in life and in eternity. Anything else will ultimately bring heartache. Looking at relationships around me, I can easily pinpoint where they fall on the spectrum of love. One-night-stands aren't very loving; they're not centered on principles of righteousness, and the participants use each other and then go their ways. Long-term sexual relationships between men (or even between unmarried men and women) place physical pleasure above God and the spiritual well-being of the other person involved.

For me, it's obvious what types of relationships I need to cultivate. I need to do everything in my power to help all people to become better and grow closer to Christ, and allow them to do the same for me. That's true love. The gospel promises that true love will bring me happiness and joy, and so true love, guided by righteous principles, is what I am going to seek. I won't settle for a substitute.

Thursday, August 5

Proposition 8. And all related issues.

This post might garner me hate mail or very angry mail. At least I'm not all that popular, so there won't be much. But I feel that this topic is something that is central to my struggle. Whether or not you agree with what I write, this blog is about how I've come closer to God during my struggle with being attracted to guys and how He has blessed me with strength... and the promises that God has given for those who do the same.

I was still in Primary when President Hinckley read The Family: A Proclamation to the World during the General Relief Society Meeting of 1995. When I first read the proclamation, it seemed really obvious to me. "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." I grew up in the perfect family and hadn't really had issues in life yet. The proclamation fit what I saw around me. Two years later I joined with tens of thousands of Church members who signed their names promising to live by and uphold the principles taught in the proclamation. At the time, none of us knew how hard that would become.

Time went on, and the proclamation resurfaced now and then. I memorized it and it became part of who I was. I could see why it made so much sense to me - because my parents had worked so hard to apply its principles in my family, and the Lord had blessed us.

And then I realized that not everyone had a perfect family. One day in Sunday School I referenced the statement that children have the right to be raised by a father and mother who honor their vows with complete fidelity... and one of my peers almost walked out. His dad had left the family when he was really young, and he felt the statement meant that his mom was obligated to get married again to be a good mother. As a class we talked and realized that the proclamation, while it may be hard or impossible to apply all its principles in this life, is about eternal families. Because it's talking about eternal principles, it shows us the ideal that we can shoot for.

The last section of the proclamation reads thus: "We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society." I believe in the proclamation. I want to do my part to build a world where everyone can receive the blessings of living in a righteous family. And so I promote and support measures designed to maintain and strengthen the Family, as outlined in the proclamation, which consists of a husband and wife who honor their vows, help one another as equal partners, and rear their children in love and righteousness.

I understand what same-sex attraction is. I've lived with it for years and struggled to come to grips with my feelings. I've fallen in love with guys, fallen into the depths of depression, and fallen on my face trying to fit in with the rest of the world. I've felt completely alone, alienated, hopeless, and isolated. But, through all my experiences, I've learned that true happiness comes from living the principles of the gospel, no matter what the cost. God promises that if we will be faithful in this life, we will receive all blessings in the life to come. I don't know what tomorrow holds for me or anyone who struggles. But I know that God will fulfill His promises, in His due time... and that knowledge gives me the hope to make it through another day.

Wednesday, August 4

Setting Boundaries

In every relationship there are boundaries. There are lot of kinds of boundaries - how many times I can ask my mom for money before she says no and other things like that - but I'm thinking about moral boundaries. The boundaries that define what I will and will not do in a relationship, and sometimes the conditional triggers that go along with them.

Sometimes boundaries are personally set (no verbal communication between the people involved) and they work just fine. That's the case with the boundaries afforded us by civility, chivalry, morality in the Church, and simply being courteous to others. But when I get involved in a romantic relationship - or in a relationship where there are romantic feelings involved - defining explicit boundaries, for myself or out loud, becomes much more important.

There are always boundaries in a relationship. When I'm with someone I'm not attracted to, I really don't want to hold their hand, cuddle with them, kiss, or do anything else. And so I don't. But if I meet a guy and realize that I'm attracted to him, and he wants to hang out, then it might be smart to look at the boundaries I've set. If my and his boundaries are "anything goes," then I may have fun, but risk my soul doing so. But if I set a firm boundary within my morals, then, no matter what his thoughts, I'm safer.

I have to know myself to be able to set meaningful boundaries. It doesn't make sense to set a boundary that deprives me of all emotional or physical contact with others, since that totally defeats the purpose. At the same time, I need to ensure that the boundary is far enough from the slippery slope that I haven't already fallen in if it's crossed without my intentions. And that means that sometimes I have different boundaries for different people. My boundary with guys is this: I will never kiss a guy, let him kiss me, or anything beyond that. We can play soccer, give each other back rubs in a public place, talk, high-five, hug, and sit next to each other while watching movies, but that's as far as it goes. It's my safety buffer. I'm sure I'll never kiss a guy. And I know that if a guy I was attracted to kissed me, it would generate enough shock in my system that I could get out before my feelings took control.

To tell... or not to tell?

Up until recently, I've never told anyone that I'm attracted to guys.

For me, there have been a lot of reasons. The first was that I didn't have to tell anyone. When I went to see my bishop to get help with pornography and associated habits, it didn't matter if I was attracted to guys or girls - it was the same process to overcome the issues. And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I've never found anything in a Church Handbook (and now I've read them) that requires that I reveal my temptations to others. Looking at that, I realize that it was because I didn't want to face the facts. Somewhere, deep inside, I still believed this was all just a really horrible nightmare... and if no one else knew, then maybe there was a chance I would wake up and all the urges, temptations, and attraction would just go away.

The other reason is a mixture of pride and fear and stubborn hope. Since I've realized my issues, I've felt like it was my cross to bear - my silent burden to carry. I've always been the teacher, the star, the role model for everyone in my life - and so asking for help is something I never learned to do. I know that some of my family would be able to understand - since they would ask God for help and He would help them. But I know that I, even struggling with the issue, took years to finally come to grips with what it was. In my mind, I can see my family members and friends struggling to understand what it means to their testimonies. And I can't afford that. I care way too much about them to let them see a trial that almost broke me.

Some days I've wanted people I could talk to. A therapist to help me out. Friends I can call who really understand. But, whatever the reasons, I've turned to God instead. And, for me at least, it has worked. He listens to my struggles and hears my prayers. He sends me signs that He loves me and is actively involved in my life. He gives me assignments like a therapist would, and we counsel together on how I can overcome temptation. My relationship with Him has developed... and each time He helps me overcome, I feel the power of the Atonement. The Savior really did go through what I am feeling so He could help me. And, for that, I am stronger.

Some day soon I'm planning to talk with a priesthood leader about my struggle. I have a good relationship with him and I know that the Lord can inspire him to understand. He's also probably seen tons of people just like me. Even so, I still don't think I'll be asking for help to overcome it. Instead, I'll be asking for help to reach out and help others who are struggling with the same issues - to find a way to share the message that it is possible to live a faithful LDS life with same-sex attraction, no matter what happens. We'll see what happens then.

Tuesday, August 3

The Importance of Guys

In the last few years, I've realized that non-sexual relationships with guys are actually really important. It may sound a bit strange, but being with guys in the right environment makes it a whole lot easier to not look at them as objects for gratification. I look at them and see them as people, and as I talk to them I realize they have families, dreams, and struggles just like I do.

No one knows what causes same-sex attraction. But I've found that developing meaningful non-sexual relationships with guys can impact the frequency and strength of same-sex attraction in my life.

Yeah, there are times when I find myself way too attracted to the guys I spend time with. But as long as there are boundaries in the relationship (implicit or explicit - whatever works), we're both okay. And spending time with guys seems to meet my social needs and make my urges much less frequent. Sounds like it's time to make some good friends.

The Future is as Bright as Your Faith

Overcoming an attraction to guys, in the world, is a controversial subject. Partly because of the nature of our culture, we never hear success stories. Those who do succeed in overcoming same-sex attraction do it quietly, without fanfare or recognition, while those who fail, fail openly and spectacularly. And the question still stands if it is even possible to overcome at all.

The issue comes to play in two things in life - marriage and the hope of someday being free. I don't know what goes through the minds of men who still struggle and find a girl to marry. I don't know if they are physically attracted to them, or if the relationship is completely platonic, or if they were somehow able to be free of their attraction before marriage. But I do know that, when they make that decision, they make a sacred covenant to stay true and loyal to their wives. And, if they will do everything they can, Lord will bless them and give them the strength to keep their covenants. I think the issue comes when men see marriage as the cure - hoping that, somehow, being married and having a family will fix their problem. The Brethren have spoken about people who struggle with same-sex attraction... and they do not suggest marriage as a form of therapy. Probably because it doesn't work. Marriage is the most sacred covenant we make - and beginning a covenant on a contingency basis is not acceptable. Simply not being attracted to your spouse is not grounds to break it, formally or covertly.

The Brethren also referenced the fact that some people will not have the opportunity to be happily married in this life... and that makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. There is nothing more that I want than to have a family. A wife that I love, children I can teach and lead. There is nothing more that I want to be free. And the thought that it could bar me from marriage in this life is devastating, especially when I look at how it could impact my current family. Most other factors that affect marriage are clearly visible. Complete paralysis or mental disability enable family members and others to understand and sympathize. But same-sex attraction is a silent, personal struggle... and one that, in many cases, stays completely silent. I've never told anyone in my family about my struggle. Which means that when they look at me and set me up with girls, they can't understand why I can't keep a girlfriend. They can't understand why I'm not married like my cousins and siblings and mission companions. And so my struggle is completely and totally alone.

I don't know what the future holds for me. I hope that someday the Lord will work a miracle in my life, and I will fall in love with a righteous young woman and we'll be married in the Temple. I hope that I'll be attracted to her in every way and that we'll be able to be united in everything we do and raise a righteous family in the gospel. I hope that someday I will grow strong enough, and learn the lessons I need, so that I can be completely free of temptation and walk in righteousness for the rest of my life. And I have faith that God can do that - that He can work miracles in my life.

But if that doesn't happen, then I will still be faithful. If therapy never works, then I will still resist temptation. If I never fall in love, then I will still do my part to lift and teach the rising generation. And if I am never free of my attraction to men, then I will still stand faithfully in my place, living the principles of the gospel that I know are true. Why? Because it will always be worth it. It will be hard, but God will give me strength to overcome. Wisdom to grow, and the ability to be happy in my journey in life, no matter what my circumstances. I will be faithful, and because of that, I know what the future holds. Perhaps I will have to wait until after this life to be happily married. Perhaps my attraction to men will only go away when I have proven myself to be worthy, all the days of my life. But, no matter what happens, when this life ends I will rise in the Resurrection, free, clean, full of strength and knowledge and with a family of my own. And I will look at the Savior and He will say to me, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the rest of Thy Lord."

The future is as bright as my faith.

A Curse? A Trial? A Blessing in Disguise?

For a long time I believed that being attracted to guys was inherently evil. And I was a good kid - I had tried to do everything right... and so the thought that I really was attracted to guys was alien to me. For years I convinced myself that it wasn't true - maybe my attraction to girls just hadn't 'turned on' yet or maybe I just didn't understand what was going on in my mind. But then I found a clinical study that described the medical procedure for determining physical attraction. It's sexual arousal. If you are aroused by women, you are attracted to women. If you're aroused by men, you're attracted to men. It didn't take much to realize, using that metric, that I was only attracted to guys.

Since I believed that the attraction I felt was evil, I saw it as a curse - something that God would take away if I were only righteous enough to merit that blessing. And so I became a zealot - being so involved in the Church and religious activities that they consumed my life. It helped - and I became stronger and closer to God in the process. But, though I prayed for years and years to be free of my attraction to men, it hasn't happened. The realization that I wasn't good enough, even though I had tried my hardest, opened the door to depression. I felt like I was worthless. If I couldn't even be good enough to take away my curse, then was life really worth living? There were days that I curled up into a ball and cried... totally alone, helpless, and feeling like I wanted to just give up. But, in those dark hours, I had enough strength to turn back to God and ask Him for help. And, while the attraction and temptation wouldn't go away, He told me that He loved me. He told me that I could do it. And He helped me move in the right direction. I knew I was in the depths of sin and pain, but I knew that God would never forsake me. He will never forsake anyone. And, for me, that was enough to at least brighten the darkness so that I could see a glimmer of hope.

And so began the cycle. I would became a zealot, striving to live a perfect life, but every time I failed, or when life got hard, the depression would return, bringing with it the feelings of hopelessness. I thought about suicide, but the only thought that would come to my mind was that I knew it would damn me. And even though I don't really know what that means, I want to be saved. I want to live with my family forever. I want to have a family of my own. I want to be happy. So suicide wasn't an option. And life seemed to go in circles - with the downs getting deeper and deeper, less and less hopeful that the pain would ever stop.

The only other way to look at my attraction, from my perspective, was to believe it was inherently good. But following the urges was completely against Church doctrine, whether it involved pornography, masturbation, or having close intimate relationships with guys. I would have to change my morals in order to let that type of behavior be ok in my life. And that, too, was not an option. I know the Church is true. I know that giving in and being with a guy will never make me happy - even though it feels good. And I know that resisting temptation, no matter what the price, will always bring me greater peace and joy than any other alternative.

And so I kept fighting. And fighting. And fighting. And I saw people who had given up along the way. Men who committed suicide and wrote notes to their families telling them of the quiet, desperate struggle they had faced. Friends from school, Church, and the mission who left the Church and actively followed their attractions. Behind the bliss they felt at following their carnal desires, I could see that they had lost the light that had once been in their eyes. They had cut a part of their relationship with God... and that was one thing I couldn't do.

As time went on, I finally began to humble myself so that I could ask God why. It wasn't in hatred or frustration, it was a son humbly pleading with his Father... wanting to understand. "Dear Father, I am in so much pain. I've tried my entire life to be good - to do what is right. Why hasn't this temptation gone away? Please, help me understand. I'll do anything. Just help me do Thy will." And the Lord answered my prayer. He showed me my past - the things I had done, the wars I had fought - and He showed me how I had grown through my trial. I had felt the utter depths of depression... and knew how to lift others. I had realized the importance of reaching out and serving others from the pain I felt of being totally alone. Great temptations had caused me to turn to the Lord for help, and knowledge of how to avoid temptations had turned me to the scriptures - blessing my life and enabling me to help others in their trials. And, perhaps the greatest, as I had privately struggled, I had turned to God and come to better know Him and His love for me, and to better understand myself and my ability to build the kingdom of God.

It wasn't a curse after all. God helped me see that, beyond the incredible temptations, the overwhelming urges, the guilt, and the pain, my experience was simply another trial. It was an opportunity to grow and to learn and to become the man I could someday be. And, like all things in life, God had allowed me this trial to teach me important lessons I couldn't learn any other way. That realization brought me the relief I had wanted for so many years. Even though I had learned that God loved all His children, in my heart I had always believed that I had been cast off. And now I knew that I hadn't been cast off or forgotten. God truly did love me, and would hear my prayer someday.

In the time since that realization, I've become even stronger. The temptations are still there. The urges are still overwhelming. But I know that it is a test - and that if I do what is right, the Lord will make me into the man I truly want to be. I look back on my life and see the high points and the low points, and I realize that, at the lowest points, when I turned to God for strength, He taught me lessons that have changed me forever. I am who I am today because I am a survivor - not a physical survivor of cancer or a disability - but a spiritual survivor of same-sex attraction. I would never wish my experiences on anyone else - friend or foe. But God loved me enough to let me learn in the hottest, most terrible, painful, awful fires of affliction... so that I could learn to be who I am today. And, because of the relationship I have developed with Him, and the lessons I have learned, I wouldn't trade my cross with anyone.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Avoiding temptation

You understand me when I say that overcoming urges, in the moment they occur, is really, really, really hard. Most of the time I don't even think it's possible. The promise of it feeling so good drowns my mind, and my brain literally changes gears and I stop thinking - only wanting, desiring, feeling. Trying a bunch of methods to get rid of it really doesn't come to mind.

That is the absolute worst spot to be in - where I'm on the brink of sin and surrounded by temptation. Stand there enough times, and I definitely fall in. And then the next time I fall deeper and deeper.

Which brings me to the next issue - understanding urges and trying to avoid situations where they could occur. First, let's talk about what happens to cause the urges in the first place. Both guys and girls have hormonal fluctuations. Girls have abdominal pain, guys get a hyperactive sex drive. It's not necessarily a monthly cycle, though - male hormones fluctuate throughout the day, week, month... but realizing that keeps me on my guard. When I have enough hormones in my blood and see the right kind of guy, or even think about him, synapses trigger in my brain that turn on the attraction reflex. It's instant and my breathing becomes more shallow, my mind begins to blur, and I feel stirring. My mind races to come up with as many possible scenarios as possible to indulge the urge, and I have to forcefully take back control so that I don't jeopardize what I really want in life.

And so the key to prevention is two-fold. The first one is obvious, but it's not always very convenient - avoiding situations where urges happen. If I know that I'll get major urges when I see guys in the shower, then I avoid the public shower. Same thing with the locker room or any other place. That can be rough, though, if you're on a team of players or working out at the gym. But it's definitely applicable to avoiding the wrong kinds of Internet sites, the wrong kinds of places, and even using the Internet at the wrong time of night. I've realized where my greatest urges happen, and worked to minimize my contact with those places.

Sometimes reducing temptation may mean making drastic changes to lifestyle and schedule. Once I decided that I didn't want to have the Internet at home. It was destroying my life, and I wanted to be in control again. I wasn't strong enough to stay clean with a connection in my home. I realized I could forward my emails to my cell phone and use the Internet at work or another public place. So I moved into a new place that had no Internet connection. And life was amazing. Yeah - it was frustrating to have to go find a public place to use the Internet, especially when I actually needed it at night, but the freedom it gave me was worth much more than the discomfort it caused me.

The second way to reduce urges is a little less obvious. I feel attracted to certain kinds of guys. A key in lessening my attraction is becoming un-attracted to them. I know that may sound a bit trite, but it works. I talk to him to realize that he's a real person who is a child of God, or I try to find something about the guy that I absolutely can't stand, and I focus on it until it blocks out everything else. I find flaws in his character, or convince myself that he has a terrible attitude. I pretend that he's totally arrogant or think that he doesn't treat his family right. It's exactly what you shouldn't do with other people when you are learning to love them and serve them - but it's amazingly effective when you're trying to stop wanting a guy. You either see him as a person or blow his flaws out of proportion, and then you realize how much of a fantasy your mind really was creating.

Avoiding temptation - whether by un-learning an attraction to certain kinds of guys or minimizing my contact with them, has helped me have fewer overwhelming urges. And fewer urges means that I have fewer sins. That's a step forward in my boat.

How I deal with overwhelming urges

Every guy who is attracted to guys knows what I'm talking about when I say "overwhelming urges." It's a powerful physical / sexual attraction to another guy that makes it hard to think about anything else. It can be triggered by anything - a passing brush, eye contact, gym showers or locker rooms, or even just seeing a guy on the street. It's not something you can control... and neither does it come or go even if you will it.

Each time the urges come, I'm faced with two options. Follow them, or try something else to make them dissipate. I know that being with a guy will never fix my problems. And it won't really fix the urges, either - just help them subside temporarily. Then the drive will increase and it'll get worse... and worse. And so, for me, finding something to make them dissipate is the only option.

 At this point, where I'm at plays a major role in how I deal with my body. If I'm at home someplace quiet, I kneel and pray for help. Really. I ask God to help me have the strength to control my mind and body, and I just keep praying. If I'm on the street, I voice a prayer to Heaven and try to hum my favorite hymn. For some reason my mind has gotten really good at multitasking, and humming just one hymn doesn't always do the trick. So I try to hum one and think the words of another. If I'm in the shower at the gym, then I have to pull out the big guns. I turn the water ice-cold, trying counting backwards by 14's or doubling numbers, and think a couple hymns. In most cases, nothing works as fast or effectively as I would hope. Ice-cold water does nothing to dampen my drive; humming hymns takes a long time before it even seems to do anything; they're more coping strategies to let my hormones level out than anything else.

Other things that help me are giving service, going out to do stuff with friends, talking with people (not necessarily about my feelings), making food, playing sports, or going to practice music. Anything really uplifting helps.

Ultimately, though, overcoming urges is a test of willpower and faith. Am I strong enough to do what I need to do in order to stay clean? Sometimes it means turning off the computer and not turning it back on. Sometimes it means dropping to my knees. Sometimes it means literally running from a situation or doing everything I can to change it. It always takes a lot of work. But, after it's over, I feel clean. Strong. Loved. And I know that I am that much closer to God... that much closer to being the man I truly want to be.