Wednesday, September 29

Just a Touch of His Robe...

There's a story in the New Testament I always thought I understood. A woman with an issue of blood spent her life and life's savings trying to find a way to be healed. She worked with doctors, physicians, and people from all over the world... each who willingly took her money, leaving her poorer and poorer. Finally she was left with nothing. And then she heard that Jesus was walking through the streets near her home. "If I can but touch the hem of his robes," she thought, "I will be healed." And so she covered herself, pushed through the crowd, and reached out to catch the edge of His robe. In that moment, her pain disappeared. The issue of blood stopped. Christ turned, and after speaking with His disciples, spoke to her. "Woman, be of good cheer. Thy faith hath made thee whole."

I had always thought that this scripture was for people with great physical trials - that their faith would have the power to heal them if they just had enough and would just show it. Later, I thought that it extended to all those who struggle with major difficulties and trials in life - a promise that He would someday heal us. But I now realize that Christ wasn't speaking about touching His robe or asking for a miracle in life. He was teaching her, and all those following, a lesson on faith.

The true miracle of this story didn't come when the woman touched His robe. And, while impressive, the true miracle was not when the issue of blood stopped. The true miracle was the change in her heart - a willingness to submit to the will of the Lord and faith that He would bless her no matter what happened. It came because she had kept her faith, through difficult times, when everyone else in the world told her it was hopeless. It came because, though she had been deemed "unclean" by her ailment for decades, she held fast to the principles she knew to be true. It happened because she had done everything possible and finally given her life to the Lord. She changed her perspective - from one of expecting that money and power could heal her... to placing her trust in the Lord. And the healing of her issue of blood was just a symbol of the greater, more lasting change that had happened within her heart.

I used to think that simply doing everything I could would help me. That I could do it on my own. Then I realized that I needed to rely on the Lord, and expected Him to take away my grief. Now, I turn to Him and willingly place my life in His hands.

I don't know what tomorrow brings. But I know that God loves me, that He is involved in my life, that I can be happy and fulfilled in this life, and that, someday, if I am faithful, I will inherit all the blessings He has promised me. If the Savior stood beside me tomorrow and I could reach out to touch His robe, I would. But, if not, the greater miracle has already happened in my life.

Tuesday, September 28

Moments of Plenty

There are times in my life when everything seems to be going right. I lose my ever-present stress, my attraction to guys seems to all but disappear, and life is amazing. The moments are sometimes short and sometimes long... but no matter how long they are or when they arrive, I feel peace, hope, happiness, and faith. I call them moments of plenty.

When Pharaoh had a dream in Egypt, the Lord instructed him to gather during the years of plenty to help his people thrive during the years of want. They gathered for seven years, building storage barns and undertaking an incredible effort to ensure that they would have enough during the years to come. When the famine came, they were ready... and also able to help other people affected by that famine.

The gospel follows the same principles. When I gather during the moments of plenty - recording my thoughts, taking time to recognize the Lord's hand in my life, and establishing positive habits - then living and thriving during the moments of want becomes possible. I have a store of memories, inspirational thoughts, promises, and blessings that I use to bless my life and the lives of those around me... and those memories help us survive whatever trials may be in store.

This evening I had a moment of plenty - a few hours where I forgot the stress of my everyday and simply enjoyed life, people, and living. I wanted to record it here. I know that life will work out, and that the Lord will bless me and grant me all the blessings I need to live with Him someday. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but tonight I am simply happy... living in a moment of plenty.

Monday, September 27

Scripture Power!

... keeps me safe from sin.

I love Primary songs.

The first time I heard the song "Scripture Power" was years after I had graduated from Primary. Someone had asked me to come help set up chairs in the chapel, and I overheard the children in my ward singing as they prepared for the Primary program a few days later. The words of the song were incredibly compelling and have stayed with me since then.

Because I want to be like the Savior and I can,
I'm reading His instructions, I'm following His plan.
Because I want the power His word will give to me,
I'm changing how I live; I'm changing what I'll be.

Scripture power! Keeps me safe from sin
Scripture power! It's the power to win
Scripture power! Every day I need
the power that I get each time I read.

I'll find the sword of truth in each scripture that I learn.
I'll take the shield of faith from these pages that I turn.
I'll wear each vital part of the armor of the Lord,
And fight my daily battles, and win a great reward.

Scripture power! Keeps me safe from sin
Scripture power! It's the power to win
Scripture power! Every day I need 
the power that I get each time I read.

(Scripture Power, Copyright 2004 Clive Romney. All rights reserved. 
This song may be copied for incidental, noncommercial home, or church use. 
This notice must be included on each copy made.)

In the last few months I've found greater meaning in my personal commitment to read the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon) every single day without fail. And the strength it has given me is amazing. I feel uplifted, guided, and loved when I am reading them. And, somehow, I feel that what the prophets wrote thousands of years ago... was written for me, in my life - even the part of me that's attracted to guys. In the light of the scriptures, everything becomes possible. Yes, it's hard to live a faithful life, keep the hope that God will fulfill His promises to help me have an eternal family, and deal with constant issues each day... but it's possible. And, with the perspective of the scriptures, it's also possible to be happy while doing it.

I don't always find the time to read for half an hour, or even 20 minutes. But I find time to read, no matter what. If I get home and it's 1:30 in the morning, I take the time to read my scriptures. My secret? Every time the Lord reminds me to read my scriptures, I stop whatever I am doing. Every single time. No matter what. It doesn't matter if I am exhausted or already in bed or at work or whatever. I go read my scriptures. And the scriptures are a part of who I am.

I ask the Lord to help me remember, and He does. I take them with me in the morning and sometimes there is a lull in the frantic pace of my life - and I read under a tree or in my car. I get to the temple and there's a wait, so I read while waiting. It has become easier with time to find / make time to read.

It almost sounds odd that just reading the scriptures can bring happiness when life is hard. But that's what they do for me. They fill me with a sense of peace and hope - and the fear and anxiety that surround my trials disappear. They give me perspective, and open my mind to true revelation from God. Reading the scriptures, every single day, is worth it. The power that they bring is worth losing another 30 minutes of sleep, being late on homework (or sometimes late to work), or even missing part of a conversation with friends or family. Reading the scriptures each day is worth more than anything else I could be doing...  Scripture Power - every day I need the power that I get each time I read.

Sunday, September 26

Taking Care of Myself

In my fast today, I asked the Lord to help me be a better servant. To know what I could do to be more effective in helping people around me, fulfilling my calling, being a student of life and a better friend. I went to sleep last night exhausted, but convinced that the Lord would help me find the answer.

This morning I slept through my alarm. 

I woke up to sunlight and knew I had missed the first of my meetings. A quick check of my phone revealed two things: 1 - It was definitely 8:10. 2 - I had somehow turned off the alarm in my sleep. Five minutes later I was out the door, dressed in a suit and tie, wondering if anyone would even still be there.

As I drove and shaved (electric razor - I'm not that crazy), the Lord had a candid conversation with me - one that had begun during my short morning prayer. 

"Mormon Guy, you want to be a better servant, right?" 
"Yeah. So I can be a better missionary and help the people around me."
"You need to take care of yourself, physically."
"But I don't have enough time. I don't have time to sleep right now - and people who need me are more important, right? I try to exercise and eat healthily, but it's hard. Things just chip away at my time. It's all I can do to stay spiritually strong. I read my scriptures every day, pray, and attend the temple. Where am I going to find more time?"
"You wanted the answer. You need to take care of yourself."

And then I realized why I had slept through my alarm.

I haven't been getting enough sleep lately. I don't have time to make healthy food. And I find myself working until 11:30 at night, then realizing that I never went to the gym and it just closed. It's time to reset my alarm clock - to re-prioritize my time.

The issue isn't just being able to accomplish everything in my life. In my mind, I still believe I'm Superman. The biggest issue is ensuring that I take time for myself, along with giving away my time to everyone around me. Sleep, healthy food, exercise, and time to relax. When I take the time, I'm able to be more effective and accomplish more.

So I made the promise. I'll get eight hours of sleep each night. I'll eat a healthy breakfast and make food to take with me for lunch each day. I'll exercise six times a week. I'll take time each day to relax and unwind - time when I pull myself away from the demands of life and can simply think about who I am and who I want to be. I promised to take better care of myself, and, in return, the Lord promised to help me become a better servant, a better friend, and a better son.

Saturday, September 25

Preparing for General Conference

For whatever reason, my life is chaotic and turbulent whenever General Conference comes around. General Conference is in a week. And so my life is chaotic and turbulent. I'm more stressed than I can imagine. I have no idea what the future holds. And I move forward.

Amid the stress and the struggle of life, I'm anxious for the opportunity to listen to prophets speak to me... to change the course of my life once again. Each General Conference since I was 12, I've attended General Conference with questions in mind - questions that I need answered in my life. The answers always come, and they shape who I am until the next time the Lord gives me direction. I'm beginning to form the questions in my mind that I will take with me next week. How can I be a better missionary? How can I be a better friend? How can I live the gospel more fully in my life? (And the normal what will I be when/if I ever grow up?) I expect that (most of) the answers will come.

Simply put, I just take a question with me. I think of the thing that I need to know - the question that is burning inside of me - and I ask the question before I go, and then I listen for the answer. It's really simple. And every single time I have gone with a question, the Lord has helped me come closer to the answer. Sometimes He answers me outright, and it sounds as if the prophet or apostles are speaking directly to me. And sometimes, as I am listening, thoughts collect in my mind and help me better understand gospel principles that apply to my life.

I find that it's easier to hear answers when I'm prepared. I've been taking the time to read my scriptures every day, without fail. I pray each morning and each night. I attend the temple at least once a week. Hopefully, when Conference comes in seven days, I'll be prepared to hear the things I need to hear... to become a better person, to become a better friend and missionary, and to live a happier, more fulfilled life.

Friday, September 24

Being Different

I've always been different. It's like I have horns growing out of my forehead. Or a halo floating above me. Or both.

I don't really know how to explain the feeling of being different. I don't even know what it is that makes me different. Being smart, or talented, or having a strong testimony can't be that abnormal - right? And yet finding a group of people who understand me and where I feel like I fit in has been a fruitless search for most of my life.

It's not that I can't find people who love me. I have family, friends, tons of acquaintances and others in my life who would be willing to do anything for me. But understanding me... is a totally different thing. Everyone tells me that I'm different. Everyone. Without fail. Even the people who claim that "everyone is different" and "no one is normal" tell me that I'm an outlier. And among the people who love me and try to understand, I still feel like a stranger.

Here's an example that some of you may have experienced: A few days ago, in the middle of a conversation, someone asked me how I could stay morally clean when urges hit me - specifically, how I could date girls and stop at just kissing. If only he knew. I've never wanted to kiss a girl. Ever. I couldn't understand him. I also knew he wouldn't be able to understand why I had never wanted to kiss a girl, so I left out that part, recited part of "For the Strength of Youth," and talked about how I overcome temptations (not to kiss girls, but temptations nonetheless).

That type of thing happens to me in everything. I have unique viewpoints on calculus, on biology, on music, on religion, on politics, on social structures, on faith, and on everything else in the world. Taken one by one, I can find people who understand and hold the same beliefs. But combined together, I'm just crazy different. I'm an anomaly, an enigma, and an oxymoronic impossibility all rolled into one.

Being different is nice, to a point. It sometimes garners me attention. It means that people notice me instantly and, sometimes, I can make waves and effect lasting change. But being different also brings with it the curse of never fitting in. Never feeling like I'm "one of the crowd" or feeling truly comfortable in a group of friends.

There is one place that I feel like someone understands me. It's in my prayers - whether at my bedside or over meals. The Lord knows me, perfectly, and knows who I was, who I am, and who I can someday become. My goal is to become like Him - and, from that perspective, it doesn't matter if I'm different from everyone else. I just need to follow the counsel of the prophet and the voice of the Spirit. There's nothing wrong with being different as long as I am changing, overcoming the difficulties of mortality, and redefining who I am to come closer to God.

Everyone tells me that being normal is overrated. I don't know. I've never been normal in anything. When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be normal. To have a normal job, live a normal life, and feel like I could fit in with normal people. For better or worse, I don't think it will ever happen. Maybe it's something I need to learn - just one of the facets of my mortality. Whatever the reason, I'll probably always, in every circumstance, among every group of people, be different.

Thursday, September 23

"Moderation" in all things.

Whenever I talk to someone about changing their lives to become better, "moderation" almost indefinitely comes up. The phrase "moderation in all things" has become ubiquitous code for "I can do whatever I want and justify it because I don't do it too much and God doesn't want me to obsess with something this trivial anyway and it doesn't really matter and who are you to say that it's too much - everyone else does it, so it must be just fine. You make me uncomfortable just by thinking about it and God wants me to eat this sugar-and-lard-fried-in-oil-and-coated-with-sugar pastry so I can feel carnally satisfied, which equates to fun and happiness and satisfaction in life. Just chill out."

The question of moderation came up when talking with people on my mission, trying to get them to stop smoking or drinking alcohol. It comes up trying to help people lose weight or develop exercise programs. It comes up when I try to help people understand the principles in For the Strength of Youth, or talk about prayer or scripture study. It comes up when I invite people to Institute or encourage them to attend Church activities or even attend the temple. And, more than anything, it comes up when I bring up the topic of healthy food and exercise, and try to explain that our bodies are temples of God (Would you use inferior materials to build a temple? How about in "moderation" - like, say, 5 out of 100 windows made of cheap plastic instead of imported glass?).

Here's my feelings on "moderation," echoed by Dallin H. Oaks:

"the Savior said that if we are “lukewarm,” he “will spew [us] out of [his] mouth” (Rev. 3:16). Moderation in all things is not a virtue, because it would seem to justify moderation in commitment. That is not moderation, but indifference. That kind of moderation runs counter to the divine commands to serve with all of our “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2), to “seek … earnestly the riches of eternity” (D&C 68:31), and to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79). Moderation is not the answer" (Ensign, Oct 1994).

I agree.

When the prophets have used moderation to talk about commitment to the gospel, it has always been about letting specific pieces of the gospel eclipse your view of good things - insisting that you have to clean your house, hence you can't go to Church and you don't have time to read your scriptures. It's absurd to say that God wants you to lessen your resolve so that you can live a moderately sinful life, or eat garbage in moderation, or exercise moderation in acting on your carnal urges.

Here's a much better example - Alma 57 (emphasis added):

20 And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted.

21 Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them


25 And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds.

26 And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power.

27 Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.

God doesn't ask for moderation in all things. He asks for absolute and unwavering commitment, unchanging resolve, and perfect obedience. He asks us to give up all our sins, overcome all our personal qualms, and forsake all our fears. And, in return, He promises us all blessings. We will be preserved by his power and inherit all that He has. 

Moderation isn't worth it. Hey - I have a hard life. I'm attracted to guys, deal with major issues, and I'm a sinner. I want to be exceptionally happy, live an amazingly fulfilled life, have an eternal family, and be exalted. So I make the commitment to live the gospel completely, and I know that God will help and support me. No moderation on either side. Why? I want the real deal - not just a blessing given to me in "moderation."

Wednesday, September 22

Becoming Self-Aware

One of the greatest blessings I've reaped (albeit indirectly) from being attracted to guys is a powerful sense of self-awareness. Maybe it's just a really bad case of thinking too much, but as I look into my soul and the patterns of my life I find I learn new things - lessons, metaphors, and opportunities for growth. I can see the hand of the Lord in everything, I know when I need Him, I know how His influence changes me... and only recently have I come to realize how great a blessing that is.

I spent a lot of my life completely and totally alone (whether or not there were actually people around me)... and being alone forced me to deal with and understand my feelings, thoughts, emotions, and the things that make me tick. There's something about feeling such incredible loneliness and pain... and then learning how to fight it, to cope, to move on with life, that has given me an incredible understanding of who I am and who I want to be. I still often have no idea what is going on inside my head, and I don't know what the Lord has in store for me in two months, let alone two or twenty years. But at least I have some inkling, and it helps me feel like I am at least going in the right direction.

Looking at other people, it's interesting to see how they become aware of their own needs and reliance on the Lord... how they come to value life and God and salvation. One gets cancer and faces chemotherapy. Another loses a child to sickness. Another faces financial ruin, or personal sickness, or massive stresses. In each case, they have choices. They can break under the strain, become bitter, and turn away from God... or turn to Him, find their inner strength, and become something better than they were.

I used to think I was an anomaly. I hadn't had any major trials like cancer or death or sickness. I had a pretty perfect life. And yet I had the ability to look inside myself and understand the power of the Atonement. Now I realize that even my ability to appreciate the gospel and its teachings came the normal way - burned into my soul through trials. It was this trial.

I know I will continue to face massive trials in life - things so big that they are literally and completely impossible to face on my own. Things so awful that just thinking about them summons utter hopelessness... But not if I have (and use) the ability to understand my feelings and my needs, and turn to the Lord for help. And I think that that skill is what keeps cancer patients alive, allows mourning parents to move on, and gives men and women like me the ability to live happy, fulfilled lives as members of the Church - no matter what happens to them. I look inside myself, honestly assess who I am, understand my weaknesses and my needs, and then turn to the Lord and follow His guidance. And as I follow Him, He teaches me more about who I am (and who I can become) than I could ever learn on my own.

Tuesday, September 21

Good Friends

Having good friends is amazing. I love having people I can sit and talk to - people who want to sit and talk with me for as long as time permits. We talk about dating, and Church, and work, and life, and everything from psychology to art to science to math to music. We laugh so hard that our faces and stomachs hurt, and throughout the day we remember each other while we're cooking or studying or writing a paper... and then tell our respective stories when we meet up again, starting over from where we left off without a hitch.

I haven't always had a group of good friends I could turn to. For most of my life, I played the part of an introvert. I was totally and completely alone, and I was ok with that. I was just a private person. No one understood me, and no one needed to - God understood me and that was enough. But being attracted to guys is an isolating experience... one that can easily make me feel alone even among the people who love me... because, even though they may try, they can never understand what I am going through.

As I struggled with feeling so incredibly alone, I turned to God for help. His first answer helped me realize that there were people around me who felt the same way. Granted, they weren't guys attracted to guys, but there were girls who struggled with depression, guys who had broken up with a girlfriend, and just normal people who felt alone in a crowd. I had asked God for help in overcoming my loneliness, and He told me to reach out to others. I was expecting someone to reach out to me. It doesn't work that way.

So I developed the skills and ability to reach out - to focus my life on others and help them to feel loved. And, slowly, my own needs were met as I helped others. I felt less alone. I found happiness in helping others feel loved. And I found good friends as I tried to be a good friend myself.

Monday, September 20

Understanding the Gospel Ideal

In the Church, I've always learned that families can be together forever. It always seemed to me like a promise of "happily ever after." But that doesn't tell the whole story. Living the gospel blesses families. Families are essential for salvation, and marriage between man and woman is divinely instituted of God. All of that is true. But, all too often, the ideal comes later, or in a different form, than I first expected.

Being attracted to guys is a perfect example. If I never fall in love with a girl, I may never marry in this life. I may never have the opportunity to have children or raise a family or find someone with whom to be sealed in the temple. Does that mean that the ideal doesn't apply to me? For a while, I thought so. And then I realized that the "ideal" in the gospel was not having a perfect family that sits on the front row. The gospel ideal simply outlines the best possible circumstances for each son or daughter of God. Ideal does not mean equal. But it does mean that I will receive all the blessings that God has promised if I am willing to keep His commandments.

Looking at my life, I'm grateful that God loves me enough to allow me to live my own trials. To understand how the gospel interfaces in my life. To learn my own lessons and earn the right to say that I can love and understand people... To gain a testimony of the gospel ideal.

Sunday, September 19


I remember reading a book once that described an intriguing method of meditation. Turn out the lights in a room, sit down, and light a candle. Then just stare at the flame and empty your mind. If a thought comes, don't think about it. Just stare at the candle and let it burn into your eyes and your mind.

The first time I tried that exercise, I felt a bit silly. And it didn't seem incredibly effective. My mind raced in a thousand directions, none of which were the flame flickering in front of me. But I really wanted to understand the metaphor - so I kept trying. After some effort, I was able to clear my mind for about 5 seconds. And the feeling that came with that - being able to control what was happening in my mind was incredible. I felt like I was on top of the world. Yes, it was only for 5 seconds. And yes, there were times when I tried again and couldn't even get my mind to clear. But it had happened. It was possible. And I could do it.

I forgot about the exercise until just recently when someone showed me a similar one on the Wii (Wii Fit Plus or something) - you sit on the balance board and stare at the screen, while keeping completely still. In this electronic meditation, the game simulates the distractions of your mind by twisting, turning, and spinning the screen. Once you move, you've lost. But if you can stay perfectly still, it keeps going. In this case, it doesn't matter if you think about something else. As long as you are able to follow the physical directions, the game keeps going. And, the few times I tried, I was actually pretty good.

Now take those two and apply them to living with my attraction to guys. Right now, I don't have the ability to easily control my mind. I know a bunch of coping mechanisms - like singing songs at full voice or going out to talk with someone, but at times I can't keep my mind from wandering or twisting down unwanted pathways. And, for a long time, I felt inadequate because I wasn't really in control of my mind. But God doesn't ask us to immediately control our minds and our attractions. He first asks us to keep His commandments - to control our actions. So I look at my life - at the actions of my life - and I realize that, as far as the game goes, I am actually doing pretty well. Considering the shaking, jarring, and twisting that goes on inside my head, my actions are true to the principles that the Church teaches... that same knowledge that God confirms to me time and time again. I'm keeping the commandments, and that brings me a level of peace.

For right now, I'm focusing on the actions in my life, and slowly learning to be master of my mind. As long as I keep the commandments and turn to God, I am blessed. The Lord helps me in my life and I have peace because I know that I am accomplishing His will. As far as controlling my mind, there isn't anything inherently wrong with being attracted to guys, and so I'm not stressing about finding a way to turn off the attraction - if that is even possible. Instead, I focus on ensuring that it doesn't turn into lust or something worse. I'll probably go buy a candle and practice watching the flame / clearing my mind just so that I have another tool to use when temptation strikes. And, hopefully, someday I can be master of my mind and body. To be able to put off the natural man and become as a Saint, meek, humble, full of love... and completely at peace.

Saturday, September 18

Starting in First Gear, and Going Slowly

I have a newfound distaste for stop signs. And stoplights without left turn signals. And... well, you get the picture.

The opportunity to drive a stick shift thrust itself upon me a few days ago. I was helping a friend and he asked me to drive his stick shift to go meet him and do some errands. He was concerned since I drive an automatic, and it's been a while since I drove a stick shift. But I learned how to drive one during my high school years, so I assured him that there would be no problems.

I couldn't even get out of the parking lot. He had suggested starting the engine in 2nd gear - since 1st gear was too weak, and I was trying to follow his advice. Every single time, though, the truck would give a massive lurch, make awful grinding noises, and then shut off completely. I finally tried starting it in 1st gear, and 15 more tries, was slowly moving out of the parking lot.

A few minutes later, I had stopped at a stop light before the expressway on-ramp. The light turned green, I put it in 1st gear, and the engine promptly turned off. I tried again. Massive lurch, everything shaking, awful noises, and it turns off again. The 3rd through 7th tries were similar failures, and then the light turned red. By the time the light turned green again, I had realized my error - somehow I had put the engine in 3rd gear instead of 1st. Switching to 1st gear made a big difference, and then I could slowly switch to 2nd, 3rd...

Driving for the rest of the day was a mixture of sheer terror and blissful calm. The calm came from simply being able to drive the speed limit, in 5th gear, in the middle lane. The terror came with traffic, having to stop (and start again), and stalling in the middle of large, busy intersections. Somehow the engine would always try to start in 3rd or 5th gear. Or it would change from 1st to 4th. I'm sure it was my fault in every case. Either way, the result was always violent shaking, awful grinding noises, and turning off. Thankfully, there were no major incidents, and I returned the stick shift to reclaim my beautiful, amazing automatic transmission.

I think that my experience driving a stick shift was similar to my experience learning to manage my attraction to guys. Sometimes, after giving into weaknesses in life, I decided to go all out - 5th gear of spirituality. But even with visions of grandeur and trying to be the most amazing Saint ever, I still struggled and fell - just as often as before. Inevitably, each time I bit off more than I could chew, and the amazing plans I had devised fell to ruin. And each time I failed left me feeling more and more dejected - wondering if I would ever be able to move forward at all.

Looking at my predicament, I realize that I was missing a key part in my progression - starting in 1st gear and moving slowly. I expected instant change in everything I did... and I wasn't willing to fight for small changes that would enable me to move faster down the road. So I turned to the Lord and asked Him for help. Remarkably, the Lord gave me very simple instructions. Study the scriptures daily. Pray with faith. Prepare for and attend Church each week. I felt sort of like Naaman when he was told to wash in the Jordan River. How would reading the scriptures more faithfully help me with an attraction to guys?

But I had already tried shifting into 3rd and 5th gears - making grandiose plans and changes in my life - only to see them fail. So I decided to really, truly, and honestly try it. I dedicated myself to reading the Book of Mormon every single day, without failure and without excuse, to praying sincerely each morning and night, and to taking time each week to prepare for the Sabbath. And it worked. Did it fix all my problems? No. But, over time, I felt the strength of those commitments slowly enable me to move forward into 2nd gear. Then I made commitments to attend the temple each week, keep a faithful journal, and fulfill my home teaching and other assignments. 3rd gear. I began helping others in their own struggles, enabling them to live happier lives, and spending time developing more meaningful relationships.

Now, if I falter, I know that I need to go back and start at 1st gear - develop the basic habits - and then go on from there. With each step, God blesses me and helps me overcome my own struggles. And I keep moving forward.

Friday, September 17

Music in the Night

Some days I feel like the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. Alone. Isolated. Outcast. And I owe my life, in many ways, to music. When I struggled with depression through high school, music was one of the few things that could truly brighten my day. In the midst of feeling so alone that I wanted to die, I could forget everything and be one with a melody. Sometimes I sang. Sometimes I danced. And sometimes I just listened, sprawled out on my bed, tears running down my face.

In recent years, I’ve learned that music has another saving power. I used to think that simply thinking of music – reciting the words or humming the tune – would be enough to avoid any temptations. Boy, was I wrong. Somehow, my mind developed the ability to multitask, and I soon found that humming one hymn wasn’t enough. But I really believed in it, so I tried to make adjustments. I tried humming one melody and thinking another, or reciting the words of two hymns while trying to imagine orchestral arrangements for a third. And sometimes it worked. The sheer complexity of the task I expected my mind to conquer forced the bad thoughts out. But, in many cases, the positive effects only lasted as long as I kept up the multiple lines of thought. Drop one, and the door is open.

And then I realized the power that music – not just a melody or good lyrics – can effect in my life. I was having a rough day and someone invited me to go to a choir practice. I probably wouldn’t perform with the choir, but I knew that staying at home was asking for trouble. So I went. And it was amazing. As we sang, the music all around us, I forgot about everything that had filled my mind. I felt peace… and the feeling lasted the rest of the night.

Since then, I’ve tried to actually listen to and participate in music, instead of just humming a melody or thinking through lyrics. There’s something about pumping uplifting music through my speakers while I drive or listening to a great radio station as I’m typing on my computer. When I’m struggling most, it has the power to help me make it through the night.

Thursday, September 16

Dreams of Eternity

My greatest desire, since I was a little kid, was to grow up to be a dad. My greatest fear is that it won't happen.

Everything in my life has been focused around becoming a dad. I studied everything possible in school so I could teach my future children. I tried to develop traits that I thought would help me be a better father and husband. And when I entered the dating world, I looked for someone who could complement me - someone who would be able to help me raise a righteous family and make a difference in the fabric of history.

As I said, my greatest fear is tied to it - fear that it won't happen in this life. That I won't ever fall in love with a girl. That it won't ever be the right option. That the words promising the opportunity to be a father in my patriarchal blessing, even though they say, "In this life," might be symbolic instead of concrete.

As I've learned about people around the globe, I've come to a realization. Deep inside each of us, we are all the same. It doesn't matter if we call ourselves gay, straight, Mormon, Muslim, American, African, or anything else; many of us have the same wishes, hopes, and dreams. We want to be loved and accepted by people who understand us. We want to have a family and help our children grow and live better lives than we do. We want to make a difference in the world and understand our purpose in life.

The gospel, the Atonement, and our eternal nature tie us together here on Earth. We all want to return to God someday. And He has given us the tools to make it back to Him. It won't be easy. This may be the hardest trial I ever face in all of eternity (knock on wood: sometimes the Lord is really creative...). But it's worth it. And it's possible. And that knowledge turns my fear back into faith: faith that God will answer my prayers. He will bless me. He will give me the strength to do what is right. And He will help me to make my dreams come true. Someday I'll be a dad, and be able to raise my children to love and live the truth. Maybe it will be soon. And maybe it will be in eternity. Either way, I still hope, believe, and dream.

Wednesday, September 15

In Real Life

So I did it. I talked with a priesthood leader today about being attracted to guys, in real life. It's the first person in my life (outside of the blogging world) I've told. And, depending on future situations, it may also be the last.

The conversation was focused on reaching out to others who are struggling like me. I had a ton of time on my hands when I first began this blog and other missionary endeavors, and as life has become more complicated, I've realized that I lack the publicity and time to really make a big difference in the Mormon community of men and women like me. I physically don't have the time to contact everyone, or chat with everyone, or arrange to meet everyone that I want to check up on. And my divine requests for super powers were denied. So the Lord inspired me to do the next best thing - ask a priesthood leader for advice. Most of our conversation was just communicating... sort of so that he would be better able to understand the things we're going through. But once at the beginning and twice at the end he gave me advice I thought I would share here.

1: Don't fall. Into gay pornography, masturbation, sexual relationships with other men, or anything like it. If I'm trying to lift others (which is pretty accurate), falling can have catastrophic consequences.

2: Beware of becoming a "leader" in a non-Church-sponsored organization. This is actually pretty cogent advice, as I've been reading the war chapters of the Book of Mormon. I've been contemplating ways to make a bigger difference in the world, and one of the thoughts on my list was organizing an army. And so the advice definitely applied. My hope now is that I can do whatever is necessary to help further the cause through established (and future) channels of the Church... instead of being a visible (albeit anonymous) champion.

3: When you don't have enough time to reach everyone, have faith that God is doing His part. This was the hardest one. I went, almost hoping that he would tell me a way to reach people, be there for them, and enable them to become better Saints and better men. I wanted to know how I could do everything, for everyone. And the realization that I can't still makes me want to cry. Every night I pray for you - that God will give you strength, that God will help you to learn to be happy, that He will help you feel His love. And every day I try to be the best person I can be. His advice: when you are doing your absolute best to help others, have faith. Know that God is actively involved in the world. Align your will with His, and you will be an instrument in accomplishing His work.

And so I'll continue to stay away from enticing advertisements, questionable emails, and random websurfing. I'll put my recruiting hat off to the side for a bit. And, tonight when I pray, I'll ask Him to bless my family, my friends, and my brothers' (your) lives... even when I'm not there in real life.

Tuesday, September 14

Try Again. And Again. And Again.

Today was rough. It started out great, since I had tons to accomplish. For the last few days I've been so busy that I haven't really had down time. So when I got home late this afternoon and realized I didn't have anything planned, it was a bit of a shock. Within moments, temptations and thoughts of things to do (none of them productive or spiritually healthy) filled my mind and started to overwhelm me. There was no one else around; the only hope I had was to pray for help. I uttered a silent prayer and, within moments, remembered things I really did need to do - read the Book of Mormon, work out at the gym, write in my blog, eat something healthy, and prepare for tomorrow.

But the memory of things to do didn't do anything for the massive urges. So I grabbed my mp3 player and started listening to last April's General Conference while eating. It helped, but didn't solve the problem. So I left and went to talk with a few friends. Still not working. Then I went to the gym to work out, killed myself there, came back, showered, and changed. Thankfully, by that time my body was under control. And now I feel like I can go to sleep (and wake up crazy early tomorrow to start all over again) in peace.

I've found that temptations and urges in my life, even though they may be sporadic when I'm crazy busy, are still a part of my life. And knowing how to live with them ensures that they don't take over my life. It's strange - the temptations and urges have gotten stronger and stronger with time, but I've also become more able to live with them and move on with my life. Before, humming a hymn might have worked. Now, singing at full belt is just one of many potential steps to reclaim my mind and body; sometimes it takes everything I can think of before I stop thinking about a guy. But, if I'm really willing to try the right things, to turn to the Lord, and to dedicate my life to Him, the urges do dissipate. And instead of feeling guilty and unclean, the experience leaves me strengthened and full of faith - that I can live with this, move forward, and be happy. At least, as long as I'm willing to try and try again.

Monday, September 13

We Can Do Better

At Regional Conference yesterday, Sister Beck spoke about the importance of giving ourselves credit where credit is due. "We are doing better than we think we are," she explained..." but we can still do better."

I know that I've fallen victim to the belief that I'm not good enough. Even at the top of my class, the best on the team, and a seemingly perfect life, I feel like I need to do better. I need to do better in my callings, in my home teaching assignments, in my scripture study, in my personal commitment to the Lord and living every principle of the gospel. If I step back and look at my life, the things I've done, and the habits I've developed over the years, I can say that I'm doing pretty well. Most people would probably agree (as long as they didn't know about this blog). But as I get closer and closer to my life, I see discrepancies and difficulties to resolve. And the list of faults and failures goes on... and on... and on.

I'm trying to do better. To have more faith in God, so that I can know that He will fulfill His promises. To exercise more often and eat more healthily (instead of skipping lunch and exercise because I'm so busy), so that I can be a better steward of my body. To study the scriptures, every day, with a purpose, so that I can apply them in my life and bless others. And to live and love every component of the gospel, so I can receive the blessings I need to survive. Yeah, I'm doing ok. But I can do better. And so I'm trying, starting now - today.

Sunday, September 12


I have a friend who decided to leave the Church a while ago because he was gay. We knew each other casually in the mission, but at that point I didn't know that he was attracted to guys. After the mission, we lost touch, until a little while later when I read his coming out letter and subsequent decision to leave the Church.

As I read his letter, mixed emotions flared within me. I felt his pain. I knew what it meant to sit in an Elders Quorum and hear jokes that could be offensive. Or to receive dating counsel and advice from someone who, even with good intentions, has no idea what I am going through. And to feel totally, completely, and terribly alone... in the one place I feel like I should feel loved and accepted.

But I also knew that he had a testimony of the gospel. And I have a testimony of the gospel. And anyone with a testimony of the gospel knows that happiness comes through obedience to gospel principles. He knew the Church was true when I had seen him last, and a testimony doesn't just disappear. When the Holy Ghost testifies of truth, it causes a physical change in your soul - spirit and body - that can never be undone. When you receive a witness of the Holy Ghost, you can't forget the truth you learn. And nothing can prove it wrong. The only way to go against it... is to simply choose to stop believing.

So he had chosen to stop believing. And as I continued to follow his life, I saw how the friend I once knew - an optimistic, kind person who always highlighted the best in others - had changed. At first, he expressed the feeling that leaving the Church and having relationships with guys had finally freed him from the chains of conformity, and made him happy. But, as time went on, I saw a different story. He began swearing, drinking, criticizing people around him. And when I talked with him, I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice that he was absolutely miserable.

My friend's choice caused me to look at my own life and wonder what kept me going. We're the same age. We served in the same mission. We have similar likes and dislikes. I've realized that the difference is faith. He dwelled on the things that people said and took offense. I thought about the promises that God had made to me. He dwelled on fulfilling his urges today. I had faith that God would fulfill His promises to me today, tomorrow, and in the future. He felt like the Church should change to meet his desires. I know that the gospel, no matter what I am going through, has the power to help me overcome all things.

Faith is what caused the pioneers to leave their homes and walk across the plains. Faith moved them from their homes across the sea, through Kirtland, on past Nauvoo, to Council Bluffs and Winter Quarters and to the Salt Lake Valley. Faith pushed them beyond when the prophet called them - to settle in places from Canada to California to Mexico. And when life was hard and they buried their children in the snow, faith gave them the strength to keep moving. To know that God would fulfill His promises.

I don't know what the future holds for me. I know that it probably holds a lot of struggles, a lot of pain, and a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. But I also know that God can be there with me, if I have faith in Him and keep His commandments. And if I know that He is there, that He loves me, and that I am moving in the right direction, then there is nothing I can't do.

Elder Scott Completely Redefines LDS Dating Culture

Quote from the CES Fireside tonight. I hope none of you have stock in the Provo dollar theater.

“If you’re a young man, and trying to get to know a young woman, for Heaven’s sake, don’t take her to a movie!”

Saturday, September 11

The Struggle is Not the Sin

I love to make goals for my life. I think of something amazing I want to be, create a vision, then start on the pathway to achieving it. And I start out well. For a day, or a week, or even a month. But then, almost invariably, I fail.

I've failed more times than I can count in my life. Some failures are somewhat benign - failure to read my scriptures, to reach out and do good for others, or to work out every day. Other failures have a much bigger impact - failure to stay out of precarious situations, or to resist temptations or get out when the situation goes bad.

Failing is painful. And when I fail, Satan tries to convince me that I'll never make it. It's not worth the effort. I'll never be good enough. I've sinned so much that God could never forgive me. And even if He does, I'll never be happy anyway. The lies swirl around me and I find myself with two options - get up and start over, or stay in the gutter and be brainwashed into changing my dreams.

For me, the vision is being married, with a family. When I realize that I've dated yet another girl and I'm not at all attracted to her, and then I find myself dreaming about a guy in my ward, I have the same two options. I can keep moving forward, believing that God will bless me no matter what happens, or I can lower my vision and give up on the ideal. Thankfully, I've always had the strength to get up and start over. To pick up my shattered dreams, put the pieces back into place, and ask God for help.

For guys who are attracted to guys, attraction can be a constant issue. But attraction isn't the same as sin. I make mistakes and repent just like everyone else. If I make big mistakes, yeah, the repentance process takes more time and effort. Sometimes a lot of time. And a lot of effort. But it's still available. It is worth it, I can do it, and the Lord will help me to be happy, fulfilled, and ultimately receive my righteous desires. The danger is in giving up and stopping my progression - believing that following temptation will make me happier than following God. My prayer is that I will always have the faith to keep going.

I Love...

...hearing the promises that God makes to me in the temple
...talking with a friend until midnight about anything and everything
...the feeling when God tells me that He loves me

...eating stuff that tastes really good, is really inexpensive, and is healthy

...attending Stake Conference and feeling like the talks were written just for me
...receiving revelation to know how to help a friend in need
...the feeling when everything is finally finished for the week and I can prepare for Sunday
...laughing as my friends and I try to understand each other
...reading comments on my blog
...having candid conversations with God, and hearing His voice
...the awesome soreness that comes from doing a crazy workout
...feeling, for just a moment in Stake Conference, that I'm just like everybody else
...hiking (even though I probably won't get to Timp this season - sigh)
...knowing, in my heart, that, as long as I am doing what is right, everything will work out in the end

Thursday, September 9

Living in Double

Writing an (ostensibly) anonymous blog takes more thought and original effort than I had originally imagined. I can't quote myself if anyone else has heard the quote. My signature themes and ideas have to twist and reform themselves into new patterns And when I have an amazing spiritual experience, I have to decide whether to share it here, or with the rest of the world.

The duality has a couple motivations. The first is for the people in the rest of my life. My family, friends, and long-lost acquaintances have enough of their own problems without having to vicariously experience mine. Maybe that's selfish... and I should share my problems to help my loved ones understand the perspective I've gained. But while people who understand the gospel well might be able to understand that I'm not cursed or carrying stains of a sin in the premortal life (think of the man born blind...), it took me years to realize that being attracted to guys wasn't a curse from God. I don't want to jeopardize their progression... and I don't think it's necessary right now.

The second motivation is completely about me. People think that I'm a knight in shining armor and I try to live up to that expectation. They want me to learn the quickest, run the fastest, and speak words that are consistently inspired. They want me to be proof that it's possible - possible to live an amazing life, receive blessings from the Lord, and be truly happy in a fallen world. In my mind, I think that I am proof of that. And I thrive on the attention, the love, and the support that they give with those expectations. So I let people believe that I'm perfect... then they expect it of me and I can count on them to help me make it happen.

Who knows. Someday everyone will know about every aspect of my life... whether in this life or the next, when all our actions will be shouted from the housetops, and the books will be opened and the deeds of men read aloud in the ears of all men. In the meantime, I'll be content with living in double. Not telling a half- or partial-truth, or living two half-lives that both lack meaning... but one complete life with two stories, in tandem, honest and upright in each. My writing style is probably unique enough that, if you really wanted to, you could find out a lot more about me. Or maybe I've told you. In some ways, I guess I already have.

Being a Change in the World

For most of my life I've wanted to "change the world."

I grew up in an almost perfect family, with superheroes for parents and inheriting at least some of their awesomeness. I was a star student, champion athlete, great musician... you name it. And then I realized that everyone wasn't like me. Everyone didn't grow up as an Incredible... and suddenly it didn't seem fair that I could sit in on a class and recite back, word for word, what the teacher said, or read a textbook once and have 99% comprehension... when the girl next to me studied for hours just to memorize the quadratic equation.

And so I wanted to change the world - to make the world easier, or more conducive to better experiences for the rest of mankind. If I could address the major issues in the world - hunger, education, health, safety, and faith - then everyone would be free to be amazing.

At the same time, I dealt with my own issues in life. I had unanswered questions that left me wondering, staring at the stars or the ceiling (or both - those glow-in-the-dark stars that never come off...) into late hours of the night, and prayers that went seemingly unanswered though they filled my mind and heart. I struggled with depression, lived through the pain of thinking I was worthless and cursed, and walked the road of repentance and change... all the while hoping and expecting to reach perfection sometime soon.

But perfection never came. I learned one lesson, then the Lord gave me another project to master. After I learned that one, He threw another idea my way. And when I rarely felt like I was in control of my life, the world rocked on its foundations... and the biggest trials of all fell right into my lap. What I had once thought a simple exercise in removing vices and cultivating virtues became a complex mix of trying to figure out who I was and where the Lord wanted me to go.

And I realized that the world didn't need to change. I did. Even though I can be pretty persuasive, encouraging, or coercive... people choose to change themselves. And people choose to change when two factors are in place: they believe that change is worth the effort, and they believe that they can do it. Everything comes from those two beliefs. If I lack one, regardless of if it's true, I'll never try to change. If I have both, regardless of if they are true, I will probably succeed. And my success helps others to see the possibility for change in their own lives.

I've seen a lot of changes in the people around me as I've tried to help others to become better each day. From depression to optimism. From sickness to health. From loathing to love. From uncertainty to faith. Each of those changes mirrors a change I've already effected in my own life. Ultimately, the change I create in the world comes from changes I create in me.

Tuesday, September 7

I wish...

... beautiful girls had the ability to turn my head and make my heart race
... I could tell which girls were beautiful
... I could ignore guys on the street, at the pool, at the gym
... my mind would naturally dwell on something benign like gardening or family history
... I were in love
... I knew what would happen tomorrow, in a year, in 20 years
... there were an army of righteous Saints who could fight this battle together
... I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up
... Church events would serve healthy food
... I could help everyone who is struggling in life
... I were better at finding people who need help
... I knew what God wanted me to do

Monday, September 6

Exhaustion. And Cleaning.

Sometimes I write and the entire process is amazing. Life makes more sense and I feel like I have something to share with the world.

And then some nights I am absolutely exhausted. I have nothing worthwhile to say, and I just want to go to sleep. Tonight is one of them. I try to find excuses to not write. It's a holiday. Maybe people don't read blogs on holidays. Or maybe bloggers take holidays off, just like everyone else. As I said, I just want to go to sleep. But as I'm developing a good excuse to not read, I realize that going to sleep means not reading my scriptures (I haven't yet today). It means that maybe someone who needed to read what I would write today wouldn't have that opportunity. And my mind attaches to those two pieces of potential and going to sleep isn't an option. So I convince myself that I'll read my scriptures as soon as I finish writing, and then go to sleep as soon as I finish reading.

I spent most of today cleaning. The scriptures say that cleanliness is next to godliness. I think it's easier to feel the Spirit (and hence overcome temptation) in a clean place. To me, there's a palpable emotional and spiritual difference between a clean room and one that desperately needs cleaning. That's it. If you're having a rough time, or know someone who is, try cleaning.

...and long walks on the beach

I had a long conversation with a few friends (a guy and a girl) yesterday. The conversations ebbed and flowed, going from the ironies and difficulties of dating to choices in life to  how we fit into the Church as individuals. I actually learned some interesting things during the dating dialogue. I don't really have another place to share them, so I thought I'd post them here.

Things Girls Expect in Dating, But Guys (or Just I) Have No Clue

  1. Girls send signals that they're interested. Yes, they are the same signals they send when they are trying to be friends, but girls expect guys to be able to tell the difference. Huh?
  2. When a guy has gone on a first or second date, and it wasn't an absolute catastrophe from her perspective, she is probably waiting by the phone every moment of the day, watching chick flicks, wondering why he hasn't called yet. If the guy is planning to ask her out, he should call and let her know that, even if he doesn't have anything planned yet. If the guy is planning to not ask her out, he should call and let her know that, too - so she can move on with her life. And girls totally don't understand if the guy doesn't know if he wants to ask her out again.
  3. Girls make very fast decisions about whether they would be willing to date guys. It takes minutes, not days, to determine if a follow-up date would be a good thing.
  4. Girls are afraid of hurting guys with rejection. They don't realize that dangling it over our heads by missing phone calls (on purpose? just hard to reach?), saying they're busy (not interested? truly busy but still interested? busy right now, but ask me in 6 months?), or whatever else is way more painful than just telling the pure and simple truth.
  5. Even though many girls would like to be asked to do something (have the date planned before), the ones who are interested are willing to show it if a guy asks her if she'd be willing to go out. That makes planning dates so much easier - since then you know her unavailability isn't tied to a desire to avoid you.

and the mirror...

A Few Things Guys Really Want From Dating, but Girls Are Clueless

  1. Straight answers. Rejection doesn't really hurt as much as guys think it does. When they actually get rejected, they recover really, really fast. A guy would rather get a text message saying, "I'm not interested in dating you" than a thousand "I'm busy" or non-responses. If girls are currently tied up, but might be interested in the future, they can put a timeline. "...but you can ask me out again in 6 months." or something like that.
  2. Clearer signals. Girls act exactly the same when they want to be good friends with guys as when they want a guy to ask them out. I know. I've ruined dozens of friendships by reading the wrong signals, only to find that my best friend is suddenly (and permanently) avoiding me. And then I see her with another guy. Had I never asked her out, we could still be good friends. Since I did, we haven't talked since. There are other ways to show interest. I think. Dating is complicated...
  3. A little help once the relationship starts. Many guys (at least those in the Mormon dating world), after 1-3 dates, will try to understand how interested a girl is. A giveaway from my perspective is calling, inviting me to do something (date or nondate), or deliberately sitting nearby at Church or activities. Guys like to know that girls enjoy their dates and want to continue going. They don't want to date someone who is just saying yes to be nice.

Yeah. I know. Totally ironic place to post dating tips. But I still date. Deep inside, I believe that it'll work out for me. I'll be attracted to and fall in love with a beautiful girl, she'll fall in love with me, and we'll be married in the temple. We'll make the relationship work through thick and thin, raise righteous children, and be an eternal family. It's a lofty ideal. And for some of us it may not happen in this life, even if we are righteous. But it's still the goal I have in mind.

Saturday, September 4

The Day Before Fast Sunday

Fast Sunday has become a really powerful event in my life each month. Preparing for it in the days prior, I start to think about what the purpose will be in my fast. This month, I'm fasting so that I can be a better person - a better friend, brother, son, and missionary. With life going crazy all around me, I'm realizing that I don't have time to do all the things I want to... or even all the things that need to get done. I guess the only thing I can do is ask the Lord to help me do the best thing now. I'm also fasting for help in overcoming my own struggles, and the ability to help others around me. Step by step, I grow stronger.

For me, Fast Sunday begins when I start my fast. I finish lunch, go into my room, and dedicate the next few hours to God. I don't do the same kinds of things that night - I probably won't attend a movie or go to a concert, instead, I'll spend time with friends, on a date, reading the scriptures, talking with family, or maybe just writing my thoughts. Sometimes I go to the temple. But, whatever I do, it helps me think of the purpose of my fast and prepare for the Sunday after.

I think there's something to be said for being, at times, away from the crowds. Being a good Mormon guy, sometimes I think that I need to constantly be around people - helping them, changing them, enabling them to be who they want to be - but, in order to do that effectively, I need time for myself, away from the rest of the world, when I can focus on doing the same in my own life. Most weeks I only have one day to rest, and even that's questionable with my responsibilities in the Church. But on the weekend of Fast Sunday, I have an extra evening to prepare. And, for some reason, that seems to make a major difference.

Friday, September 3

Wow. I'm way busy.

You may have noticed that I missed a day of posting a few days back. Or that some of the posts are much shorter than others. Part of that is due to the fact that I'm crazy busy right now. I rarely get to sleep when I want to, and I'm exhausted much more than I'd really like to admit. I get home and my entire body aches. Yeah, I do crazy workouts, but I'm not used to the feeling-like-I'm-walking-dead motif. I mean, I try to take care of my body and be a great example to other people... but sleep and stress are taking their tolls on me.

Some days I know what to write here, and some days I just want to go to sleep. But I still come back, because I feel drawn here. I probably will never meet you. I may not ever hear your story. And I may not ever know if my story is helping you overcome struggles in your life. But maybe it is... or maybe someday it might help one person. What if that one person were me? Or my brother? Or my best friend? One person is enough to keep going.

Thursday, September 2

Spiritual Resources in Overcoming Temptation, part 2

Attending Institute: Sometimes I attend Institute and I feel like I am learning amazing, new things that apply to my life. Sometimes I attend and feel like nothing the teacher says really applies. But even when Institute doesn’t seem applicable to my life, the Lord is still willing to bless and teach me. President Monson has promised blessings for attending Institute, and I definitely need them. I’ve seen them. Many of the sublime spiritual things I’ve learned were at Institute. They often had nothing to do with the lesson that was being taught, like this entry (I’m writing it at Institute). Sometimes I didn’t even know what was being taught. But because I was there, the Lord helped me with the things I faced in my life.

Sunday Worship: I think there’s something different between the idea of “attending Church” and Sunday Worship… and the latter is a much more powerful force in my life. Church, for me, is a social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual experience that involves meetings, talks, talking with people, classes… But Sunday Worship focuses everything on the Sacrament, my family, and taking time to reflect on what I’ve learned during the week. When I make all of Sunday a time to worship, the rest of my week goes much better.

Prayer: This is big enough to be its own post. Prayer is the only thing that has kept me alive during the course of my life. When I struggled with being attracted to guys, overcoming massive depression, and trying to live the perfect Mormon life, prayer was what helped me put everything into perspective. It gives me hope when I am down, and God directs my life in ways I would have never expected. I’ve talked with friends, and most of them, at one point or another, comment on the uniqueness with which I approach prayer… and the clarity of the responses I get. For me, prayer has developed into a powerful tool to understand the will of the Lord, prevent temptation before it happens, and pull me out of the darkest depths when they descend. When I make mistakes, I try to pray immediately… so that I can make it right. I pray in the morning, at night, over meals, while I drive; prayer is a constant communication with God – not just a short text message that we send before eating and going to sleep. And as I listen to Him throughout the day, He teaches me and helps me be a better servant.

All in all, spiritual resources are the most powerful in helping to overcome my own temptations. If I use these and others, I’ve found that facing my struggles becomes much more doable. Not that the urges go away, but I have strength, or faith, or whatever it takes, to face it and conquer it one day at a time.

Spiritual Resources in Overcoming Temptation, part 1

These are the heavy-hitters. Sometimes I try to get by relying on physical or intellectual tricks, but ultimately they end up failing. Spiritual resources, on the other hand, have never failed me. They may not make my trials and temptations go away, but they give me the strength to overcome them, and the perspective to be happy even in the midst.

Scripture study is way more than just reading the scriptures at night before I go to sleep. It's a dedicated study of the scriptures - and requires time, effort, and planning. I have to think about what I'm going to study, or else my study isn't really effective. I find that when I study with the intent to teach others - to help others apply the scriptures in their lives, then it becomes most effective. Whatever I'm studying, I try to read the Book of Mormon every day.

Fasting is another powerful tool - one that helps me realize that I can overcome my physical temptations. Sometimes I just fast during Fast Sunday; sometimes I fast for a few days in the middle of the week. Going without food and water helps me to turn to the Lord - every time I think about eating, I think about God and ask Him to help me in whatever I need to accomplish. The blessings of fasting are amazing - I feel a strength way beyond anything that just going without food could accomplish. It also helps me think more about other people - the people in the world who are starving and suffering. That puts my trials into perspective.

Worship at the temple is essential, at least once a week in my case. I need to talk with God on a frequent basis, and at the temple, amidst the peace and quiet, when I have dedicated a few hours of my time, I find it easier to focus my thoughts and listen to the voice of the Spirit. It's in the temple that I regain my hope and perspective, that I'm able to see how my trials and struggles fit into the Plan that God created for me. I walk in, and may feel awful... but as I walk out, the only thing I can feel is the love that God has for me... and peace that it will all work out in the end if I am faithful.

To be continued