Monday, April 30

Paradoxical Dating in the Mormon World

Yesterday at the combined 5th Sunday meeting, our bishop, after a brief introduction, spoke about the importance of dating. I think it must be addressed by hundreds of bishops on 5th Sundays all over the world.

Normally talks like this are from the hip, and are simple encouragements for men to date more and women to be more willing to date. But this time he referenced a number of recent talks given by the Brethren that, taken at face value, were pretty incriminating against single men who aren't actively dating... and my ward is full of them. The end message: If you aren't moving towards marriage (which means dating), you need to repent.

Whenever I listen to discussions on dating and marriage, I find myself asking, internally, which parts apply to me and my life. None of the discussions on marriage I've ever heard have referenced those of us who live with same-sex attraction. I guess it could be for multiple reasons. Maybe those speaking don't realize that some of us are in the audience. But my bishop knows about me, and probably others in the congregation. Perhaps the situation is too complicated to really address, and he's just teaching something that applies to most, but not all. Or maybe the encouragements to date apply to us as much as anyone else.

The few times the Brethren have spoken about homosexuality and marriage, they have very clearly said that marriage is only an option in some cases... which means that for some men and women, it's not an option. Deep attraction to a member of the opposite gender is one of the requirements. But they don't talk about dating. My takeaway from those discussions is that, no matter what I face, I need to be preparing for marriage. And if I do what I should, the Lord will make sure it happens. In my case, I need to be attracted to a girl for marriage to be an option - something that hasn't happened before.

That's complicated enough, except that Church YSA culture is totally different. No one knows that I live with same-sex attraction, which means that everyone, from family to friends to well-meaning strangers have thoughts on what I should do to make me more marriageable. If only they knew. I'm not married, which means that, in many people's eyes, I'm doing something wrong.

That's compounded with the issue that dating, even if it's nigh unto a commandment and expectation in YSA culture, brings with it implied social contracts. Most men don't ask out someone they're not attracted to. The thought of even doing that sounds hollow, false, and cruel. Welcome to my world of dating. When I date, I realize that the girl I take out is going to have a totally different experience because there's no physical attraction on my part. In every case, that has been a huge blow to her. I don't tell girls that, because they then infer that it's just about them unless I tell them it's all girls (which isn't a current option), but it's not that hard to figure out. My dates are as platonic as they get.

To beat the issue, and soothe my conscience, traditionally, I'll only take out girls who are really interested in me (and I'm usually oblivious to interest unless it's extreme) - after they've gotten to know me somewhat, and after I warn them, upfront and openly, that relationships with me can be painful. We have a DTR before we even start dating. Really. I take this seriously. None of them believe me, and it's always painful if the relationship ever goes anywhere. But they all say it's worth it, and at least I know from the beginning that I was open.

So the Brethren teach that all post-mission righteous men should be dating to get married. You can't be a bishop or stake president or professional seminary teacher without being married. Then they speak to us and say that marriage may not be a possibility for some of us... who look totally normal on the outside. Church culture says that if you look normal and you're not dating, you must have something wrong with you - and most of the time the projected sin is pride or fear of commitment. (btw: Are there people who are really afraid of commitment? If I found a girl I loved, I'd drop anything for her. Man up, guys.) And then girls themselves expect you to be attracted in relationships, from the beginning. Pressure from every side.

I think this, and the huge pressures that men face during the post-mission years on this topic, may be why so many men and women with same-sex attraction leave the Church at this time of life. Telling your ward, family, and others that you're gay quickly cuts the pressure to date (in most cases), and leaving the Church distances you from what the prophets teach. And if you ever do date a girl, then she already knows that you're not attracted. You just like that she can keep good conversation, or you want to ask her questions, or you just want someone to talk to.

Someday, I hope that something changes. I don't see the pressure to marry ever abating - it's a vital doctrine. But I'm also not seeing a shift where coming out would be accepted soon in my life or Church culture, though. It looks like a catch-22, where I have to march to the beat of a number of different drummers. It's possible to take a step only when they all beat at once. But, for long stretches, I have to just listen and internalize the dissonance while everyone watches.

Sunday, April 29

Lonely Doesn't Mean Alone

I had a mission companion who told me one day that he wanted to travel the world before he got married. Take a backpacking tent, a passport, and nothing else... and spend a few years away from the stresses and pressures of America's fast-paced culture.

At the time, I was confused. Mostly because the conversation was on marriage and when we wanted to pursue it. Marriage and having a family has been the deepest desire I've ever had since I was a little kid. There's nothing I want more, and I had expressed a desire to find a wife as soon as I could, marry her in the temple, and then grow together. If I took a backpacking trip, it would be with someone. The fear of being single for the rest of my life was still somewhat poignant, even though it was at the back of my consciousness.

So when he honestly wanted to put marriage off for a few years of uncommitted single living, that was completely foreign to me.

Ironically, the tables have turned in reality. My companion came home and got married far faster than he or I expected. He never took his trip into the backcountry of the world. I, on the other hand, am obviously not married (otherwise I definitely wouldn't be blogging on a topic like this). I've traveled and spent far more time alone... and that time has given me room to ponder.

I watched a clip from Ty and Danielle Mansfield's interview for Far Between a few days ago. Far Between is a project by LDS filmmaker Kendall Wilcox, asking men and women one simple question - What is it like to be Mormon and gay/same-sex attracted/SGA/whatever?

Ty was a co-author for In Quiet Desperation, a book on same-sex attraction published by Deseret Book. But the part of the interview that intrigued me was his comment on the pathway that got him there. First he had been afraid of being alone. Then he came to terms with the possibility and accepted the reality that he might be single for all of mortality. Then he learned to enjoy life. And then he found someone that he loved.

I've heard countless times in marriage prep courses that "if you aren't happy while you're single, you won't be happy while you're married," but in my heart I don't think I really believed the statement. I mean, the Church teaches that some of the greatest happiness in life comes from having a family and raising children, right? That means that not having a family, not being married, necessarily also equates to having an inferior level of happiness. So the "be happy while you're single" thing must be hogwash.

Except it's not.

There's a reason why raising a righteous family and being married in the temple lead to happiness. It's found in Mosiah 2:41.

And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Lasting happiness comes from keeping the commandments of God and choosing the right. Which means that what I need to do to find happiness is simply based on doing the right things in my life, today. The Church teaches the importance of families because, in most cases, the right thing for young single adults is to get married. In the case of my companion, it was the right thing to do. In mine, the Lord had other timing in His Plan.

I'm not really sure how I feel about being alone. I still have a lot of major issues to work through, and even though I'm convinced I'll get married in this life, I still have a fear in the back of my mind that I've somehow sold my birthright... and lost that blessing for all eternity.

I am learning that alone doesn't mean lonely. I'm lonely when I feel like no one understands, or cares, and that I'm not making a difference in the world. There are definitely times in my life when I feel lonely. I also have depression, and those go hand-in-hand. But there are also times when I feel like I understand what my companion, and Ty, meant when they talked about their happy single lives. The ability to help others without major time commitments. The ability to change directions and take social, professional, and emotional risks without fear of hurting others. And a forced reliance on the Lord as Counselor, Teacher, and Friend.

There are lots of married people who feel lonely... and lots of single people who don't. Part of it may be external - the people surrounding them - but I don't think that's most of it. Loneliness, like happiness, is a feeling - an individual state of mind that comes (barring neurological issues like depression) as a result of choices and perspective... which means that I can choose to not be lonely. It's obviously not that easy, just as choosing happiness isn't as easy as it sounds, since positive thinking isn't really enough. Choosing happiness means choosing to follow the commandments of God, no matter what the short-term outcome. Choosing to not be lonely means, in my case, reaching out to others, being a friend to those who need (or seem to dislike) me, serving, sharing my testimony, and doing what I can to enjoy the beauty of life each day. And I think it would be the same whether I were single or married.

Hopefully the Lord will see me on my world tour as a bachelor and feel like it's time for me to be married. But even if that's still a long way off, that's okay. I can be happy today, and for as long as I need to be, by choosing to do what's right and leaving the rest in His hands.

Sunday, April 15

My Dream

Sleeping wish
To waking thought,
Then a goal of faith.
Life grows brighter
Work grows wings
Hopes move
Night to day.
When work is done
Though it is or not,
Dream another.

Since I was little, I've had a dream. I've dreamt of falling in love with a girl and having a family of my own. Every wish I've made on the stars, every silent hope as I blow out birthday candles, every New Years resolution, and most of my prayers echo that dream. It guides my choices in life and pushes me to act each day.

I used to pray that God would help me find my wife (soon). But I've realized that prayer wasn't really the best way to fulfill my dream. Finding my wife wasn't something that could come true each day. It would happen once, and then I'd stop praying for it. And praying for it each day sometimes made me think that it was completely in His hands - and that I had nothing more to change or do. Honestly, I have no idea when it will happen... but as long as I'm doing my part, the timing for this part of my life will work out.

So the prayer I pray now, and the wish I make on stars, is this: Help me become the man I need to be today... so that I can be a better father, husband, teacher, and friend when that time comes. It's something I can work towards for the rest of my life. That dream fills the dual roles of helping me focus on and prepare for marriage, and also improve my talents and faith to fill the roles the Lord has in store for me today. It pushes me to write, to read, to work, and to grow. To exercise, to eat better, to engage in meaningful conversation and share the love I have with the world.

I should always have a dream that guides life. A righteous dream full of hope, life, love, and happiness. A reason to wake up each morning and work through the day, a hope that abides in the darkest hours of trial and tribulation, and a guiding force to making goals and changing human nature for the better.

There have been times in my life that I've looked up at the sky and wondered if I should let my dreams die. If I'm never going to be good enough, or if perhaps I chose the wrong dream to begin with. But I've realized that, even if my dream doesn't come true in this life (and I believe it will), having that dream is still worthwhile. It makes me a better man, more kind, forgiving, loving, and willing to change. It opens my heart to helping others fulfill their righteous dreams.

And if, after all is said and done, whether the dream is or is not come true, it was still worth it for the dreaming. The work, the life, the people are still changed forever. And then I can dream another dream.

Sunday, April 8

Re-Post: Original It Gets Better Post

I've had a number of requests to repost this content. So I'm reposting it. Thank heavens Google has a cache; otherwise I'd have no way of getting it back. I probably should have just made another post instead of editing the original. I'll make a note of that for any future posts. Sorry about that, and to those who found their comments suddenly attached to the wrong post.

I have a lot of strong feelings about BYU and Church Education in general, a long list of things that I would change, and major qualms with some of the ideas that are espoused by professors and students. But, of all the topics on which I could disagree, I never expected this to be one of them.

I watched the video "It Gets Better at BYU" and found myself unnerved that the creators never mentioned the distinction that always comes up in every other discussion that involves BYU or the Church. That's the distinction between "being gay = simply having same-sex attraction" and "being gay = being actively engaged in homosexual relationships." In the Church, the distinction is clear - having same-sex attraction isn't a sin. Having homosexual relationships is a sin.

Without that distinction, saying that God is okay with someone being gay has multiple, and somewhat duplicitous, meanings. Does it mean that it's okay to live with same-sex attraction as long as you never act on it... or that God is okay with men who marry men?

I don't have problems with the video's association with the "It Gets Better" project (I definitely don't agree with the organization itself - as its goals extend beyond preventing bullying into the arena of same-sex marriage)... since it's a good way to simply share a theme and reach traffic. But using the BYU name, for the world, implies that whoever is speaking is speaking for all the gay Mormons at BYU, and, by extension, gay Mormons in the Church as a whole. But I finished watching the video feeling horribly uneasy... because I'm not sure if the creators really agree with what the Church teaches.

The impact on the different audiences is interesting. People outside the Church will see it and may get slightly confused - at least those who are familiar with the Church's teachings on homosexuality. Those inside the Church will better understand the pain that people feel, and it'll start a charged conversation about the actual doctrine of the Church. That conversation has already started. And to those who live in the Church and live with same-sex attraction, it shows that you can make it... but, at least for me, it didn't offer the peace that I knew I would want - proof that it's possible not only to be happy by making it through the teen years, but that peace and hope could come through living the gospel.

Life does get better as people become more able to deal with their trials. I know it's gotten better for me. We should all reach out with love and understanding to bless the lives of those around us... and live the gospel to improve our own.

Christ is Risen.

As a beginning side note, I just made a major edit to my last blog post. If you haven't read it, you may want to.

Today is Easter - the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. I don't have a lot to say that could really due justice to the Savior of the World. In my darkest hours, He's always been there for me. In the happiest moments, He was the One who made it happen - the source of my talents, my gifts, my fulfilled hopes and dreams, the smile on my face and the impact I've made on the world. He is in the callouses on my hands, written in the memory of mind, and carved into my heart, beside me each day through work, learning, and heartache. He is the morning sun and the light of the stars in the sky, the beacon that points the way home and the compass that directs me to the right path. He is my Friend, my Confidante, and the only One who truly understands me when I turn to Him. He's my Brother... and I can hear Him as He teaches me through life. He's the One who inspires me to change the world, the One who gives me the tools to make it happen, and the One who cheers when it does. He stands as a Judge when I falter, and a Friend to help me change. Everything good in life comes from Him. He is the Leader of my Church, the One who gives meaning to my faith. He hears and answers my prayers, and opens the doors I can't open. He is everything to me, and I know He lives.

Saturday, April 7

It Gets Better... at BYU

(This post was just edited - Sunday April 8)

I have an apology to make. What I wrote in this post about the It Gets Better video from BYU didn't capture anything of what the video was about, and took away the effort and sacrifice, love, and faith that went into its creation. The video wasn't designed to teach the world about what Mormons believe about same-sex attraction. It wasn't designed to reaffirm members who wonder about those same beliefs. It was created for one sole purpose - a purpose that matches the reason I began writing (Gay) Mormon Guy - to reach out and help those who are struggling inside the Church... and to help them realize that, if you can make it past the hardest years, it really does get better. Life isn't over. You can have faith that life will go on, you can find happiness, follow your dreams, and... whatever else you want to make of your life.

That's why there isn't a distinction or any doctrinal teaching in the video... because it is designed only for the people who already know. It speaks to them, and even if everyone else doesn't understand, it still speaks to their hearts. Yes, there is a distinction between living the gospel and breaking it - and that's where the video lays. Staying in the Church, staying in life, staying on BYU campus, it gets better, and staying in the Church or on campus means staying morally clean.

I just watched the video again. And I applaud the students who share their love and their experiences - those fighting the battles and those who support them on the streets. Almost, it makes me want to be a part of something like that... another way to share the gospel with the world.

No matter who you are, what your life, or anything else, the Lord loves you. There is a place for you in the Church and in the gospel. And you can find peace, hope, love, and understanding from people around you. I add my voice here to those around the world.

It gets better.

Thursday, April 5

Gay at BYU... and in the Church

In emails, a few readers have mentioned a forum that happened last night at BYU-Provo. The BYU sociology department sponsored an open panel of 3 men and 1 woman who shared their experiences living in the Church with same-sex attraction.

One man shared the story of how he fell in love with his wife after serving a mission, got married, and eventually the physical attraction came as well. The second man explained that he is attracted to both men and women. And the two others - a man and a woman - both shared the desire to marry the same gender, but also actively attend Church.

Hearing about this panel makes me wonder. I knew a gay couple on my mission... and while they initially perhaps intended to be actively involved in the Church, being excommunicated for violation of temple covenants was far more difficult than they had expected. Never being asked to pray or speak or teach, not having the blessing of paying tithing, being accepted in the ward but without a calling, and not having the "light at the end of the tunnel" that comes to those who repent. After only a short time, they stopped coming to Church... then they stopped reading the scriptures... and members and missionaries alike had no idea what to do to help.

I remember being in their home, eating dinner and reading the Book of Mormon with them and asking why they didn't come to Church. I didn't know at the time that they were sexually active as homosexuals. I just knew that there was something vitally important missing from their lives - a pain that I could see in their eyes - along with the conviction that, whatever had happened to estrange them from the Church, they still believed. The answer they gave has haunted me ever since.

"We know the Church is true, Elders. We love the Book of Mormon and the prophet, and we know what they teach is true. We work hard to keep the commandments and even gave away a copy of the Book of Mormon at work a few weeks ago. But going to Church, where... everyone knows us... is too hard. We want to go, but it's just too hard."

Since that time, I realize that I've never met someone who has succeeded in his desire to be active in the Church (as active as you can be while excommunicated - attending meetings and activities, but without temple attendance or callings), completely honest with himself and others, and actively homosexual. Those who lie and cover their sins? Yeah. Those who are honest and stay clean? Yeah. And those who leave outright? Yes.

And, at its core, the belief is more than that - the belief is this: "I can be actively homosexual and active in the Church at the same time... and there will be no discord between the two." But that isn't true. The belief that I could pick from both worlds, while perhaps idyllic on the surface, doesn't fit with the Plan. And, ultimately, I, like everyone else in life, will come to the crossroads where I have to choose between the two masters.

No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

There are plenty of false teachings about homosexuality and happiness in the world, and even among some members of the Church:

The belief that getting married, while hard, will inevitably solve all my problems. Definitely false. In the case of same-sex attraction, marriage is only a choice if I fall head over heels in love with a girl. Otherwise, it is specifically discouraged by the Church.

The belief that if I'm faithful and "do everything right," the Lord will heal me and replace my attractions. The Lord doesn't take away everyone's burdens. He didn't in the past, and will not in the future. He will leave His children with diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, mental illness, and same-sex attraction along with every other trial they need to return to Him

The belief that I can never be happy in life if I'm not involved in romantic same-sex relationships. Also false. While relationships do bring happiness, it comes and stays when I keep the commandments of God. The Lord will always ensure my happiness if I do my part to let Him.

The belief that someday the Church will change, and romantic same-sex relationships and marriages will become accepted and part of Church doctrine. It takes very little honest research on this topic among the words of the prophets to realize that, while the organization of the Church is guided according to the will of God, the commandment against homosexuality will never change... because God will never change it. Someone asked me once what I would do if God commanded me to find a husband. I felt that I had read enough and felt enough that to even pretend that was possible was absurd. But he was adamant, so I did the one thing that anyone in that situation should do - ask God. Before, I had never really asked if homosexuality would always be a sin. It was obvious to me that it always had been and always would be. But faced with people who thought otherwise, I asked what I should do in that circumstance. The answer from the Lord, instead of "what I would do if God asked me to ...", was a simple truth He taught me. God will never ask me, or anyone, to engage in homosexual relations, and homosexual acts will always be sins. Hence, I can add my own personal witness to that of the Brethren - acting on homosexual attractions will not lead to eternal happiness, and that's not ever going to change.

I guess what alarms me is that people - even some of these BYU students who are currently committed to obeying the Honor Code - don't seem to see the danger in believing that they can straddle both worlds. And when they are finding pleasure and fulfillment in their relationships, yet the gospel doesn't seem to "work" for them as it did before, I'm afraid they'll discard it, when the real issue wasn't the gospel at all.

I am convinced that the only way to true and lasting happiness is through keeping the commandments of God. And that, as I do so, He will guide me, meet my unmet needs, and enable me to find peace, joy, and love according to the bounds that He has set for me and my life. And hopefully, as time goes on, the truth of that message will find those who need it most.

Sunday, April 1

What Did You Learn at Conference?

I'm sitting here, wondering how I can write a great blog post to follow 10 hours of the words of prophets. I don't think I can. But I can share what I learned.

I felt three major themes at Conference this year: Action, Hope, and Peace. The action was embodied in the half-dozen Christian battle hymns and the calls to repentance and service. Hope, in the stories of miracles and prayers answered. And peace in the simple feeling that came when the Lord assured me that everything would turn out in the end... like when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang "Come, Thou Fount."

The Ensign will have all the talks printed, and very soon, if not already, transcripts, audio files, and video will be available at

But until that happens and we can delve into each talk and the meaning it brings in life, what was the general feeling you took away from Conference? What did the Lord teach you... and what did you learn?