Wednesday, May 30

Faith to Be Made Whole

The greatest stories of triumph in life are not of men overcoming sin and darkness. While compelling, the distinction between light and dark stands before us all as clearly as the day. No. The greatest stories of triumph are of men overcoming humanity itself. Greatness, tribulation, mediocrity, passion, mortality, and all the facets that make life real... and with those ingredients of imperfection, somehow accomplishing the impossible... accessing the divine.

Sometimes it's easy to look at life and think, "If I could only conquer this trial, I would be set." To believe that once I've overcome my sins, or at least lessened them significantly, the pathway should be lined with roses. But overcoming sin is just the beginning of the pathway to conversion... a pathway that continues to climb all the days of life.

Accepting the Savior and His Atonement to pay for my sins, changing who I am, and repenting are all difficult tasks. But I think that sometimes there are even bigger difficulties... and that trials and blessings can be bigger obstacles than sins in arriving at conversion.

It is easy to see how the Atonement can change me from a sinner to a Saint. I repent, ask God forgiveness, and somehow Christ takes upon Himself the suffering for my sins.

But it is far more difficult to comprehend how the Atonement takes my pain, my failings, my talents, and all the rest of our mortal existence... and can somehow make it into perfection.

I've read the scripture in Alma that talks about how Christ suffered for our pains and our sorrows, how He carried our griefs. I know the passage in Preach My Gospel that says that all things that are unfair in life will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I've taught people that they must lay everything... their faith, their hopes, their dreams, their love, their sins, and all they will ever have, on the altar of the Lord so that He can make them whole.

But it's still hard.

It's hard when I find myself sitting outside on a warm summer night, looking up at stars, wondering if I will ever really be able to find my way.

It's hard when I take a girl out because I want someone to spend time with and I know she'll say yes, not because I'm interested.

It's hard when people around me so easily accomplish the goals I can't reach... and when they seem oblivious to my pain.

And it's hard when I turn to the Heavens and ask, honestly... "Dear Father, what wouldst Thou have me do?"... and the answer is silence... an injunction to move forward on my own.

The greatest difficulty I've faced in life has not been same-sex attraction. It has been reconciling that trial, and every other facet of my life, with the reality of God's Plan for me. It's been learning to be humble, learning to accept His will, and ultimately having faith that it will all work out even if I have no idea how.

I think that's what the Lord expects of me, anyway. True miracles don't usually happen because those who ask for them understand how they are done... or even know the circumstances under which they operate. True miracles... like the miracle of spiritual healing that far surpasses any removal of mortal trials... come from felt need, honest faith, and submitting, completely, to God.

I don't know which way the Lord would have me go. Life is a mess. And yet I know that it will all work out. As I continue in faith, someday the Lord will help me write my own greatest story. He will take my inadequacies, my temptations, my trials, my hopes, my talents, my dreams... and then return them to me perfected. He will heal my heart completely, and I will be made whole.

Sunday, May 27

Someone Who Understands

Some days I find myself wishing for someone who can understand me and everything I'm going through. Someone who has been where I am, made it through somehow, and can look at my life and give me the knowledge I need to survive.

I'm not talking just about same-sex attraction. Even though it's a part of the things I face, it's the least of my worries right now. Life itself, and all its pieces, just seems to have loomed up and threatened to swallow me whole... and I have no idea which direction to run for cover.

I think that for me, that was one of the hardest things when I initially realized I was attracted to guys. I had no role models, knew no one who had walked in my shoes... could find no one I to ask for advice on how to live the gospel while facing my own personal brand of life... and the result was that I felt utterly and completely alone. It probably didn't help that I didn't feel I could even tell anyone about the issues I faced, so no one knew, and they couldn't help even if they had the resources.

I've never found anyone who truly understands me... or anyone who seems able to understand even most of what's happening. Counselors and therapists listen kindly, then express a mixture of pity, shock, and concern when they realize what's actually happening in my mind (much of which I don't/can't share here). Priesthood leaders tell me that they're sure I can do it. Even family members look at me with blank expressions when I try to explain myself.

But I've realized two things. First, the Lord honestly and truly understands what I'm facing - all of it - and is able to be there for me every step of the way. Second, I don't need one person who understands everything about my life (I'm not sure I'll ever find one)... I just need different people who understand different pieces and can help me get through those areas of life. People who understand my concerns about work, others about dreams, others about long-term professional plans, others about dating and ssa, others about Church service, others about depression and illness... and as I find people who understand me and can help me in each of those facets, life as a whole gets better. It's not even that I ask them for advice. I'm awful at that. Just knowing that someone understands, and has been there, and has seen success, inspires me to make that story apply to me.

I guess that's one reason why I started (Gay) Mormon Guy. If I had known that there were thousands... or even one faithful member who had fought the same battle, and was winning, that would have been enough to give me hope to move forward. As it was, without a support group or anyone who knew, I'm grateful that somehow I made it this far. I was supported by God and His angels. That's proof enough for me that God is involved in my life. It makes me think of Elisha standing on the mountaintop, preparing to go to battle alone with his servant.

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire
(2 Kings 6:15-17).

The Lord really does care about me. I've felt His hand in my life so many times when I wasn't worthy or deserving of it... and it has been enough to help me become a better man.

I'll extend the offer I've made before. I'm not by any means a perfect friend. I don't have most of the answers and can only speak from my own experience. But if you need someone who understands, contact me (my gmail address is afriendtotalk2 ). I'll listen and do what I can.

Wednesday, May 23

Things That Help Me With Life: Prayer

I'll be honest. Sometimes I think my life is awful. But even in the hardest, most stressful moments of life, there is always meaning, hope, and light... gifts from God to help me be happy when happiness seems impossible. There is always hope, and there is always happiness available for those who seek it. This is the first post on some of the things that help me with life and help me be happy.


And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22).

Having a relationship with God has been the most important thing that has helped me with life. And He helps me in every way. No matter what problems I face in life, I can pray to God, ask Him questions, and get answers to my prayers. I can tell Him my failures, and He will never love me less. I can talk about my trials, and He will do everything in His power to help me. And in my darkest hours, I can turn to Him and simply ask if He is there... and He always answers. Sometimes it's through another person, or in a feeling of peace, or in a beautiful sunset, or words spoken directly to my heart and mind... but it always comes eventually, as long as I ask in faith... and the knowledge that He cares and is involved in my life is enough to help me be happy no matter what I face.

The basics of prayer are the same for everyone, but each of us is different... and so is our relationship with God. So I thought I'd share a little about how to pray... at least, how I pray.

How to Pray:

Learning how to pray comes from understanding Who I am addressing. Just as I speak to a professional colleague differently than a neighbor, I pray to God differently than I speak to anyone else. Who is He? He's my Father... He loves me more than I could ever imagine... Will always listen, no matter what I've done wrong... And He wants nothing more than to help me with life and help me be happy.

Most of my prayers are part of everyday life. I see something beautiful and call upon God silently, thanking Him for the blessing I've seen. I see someone in need, and after I've done all I can, I silently ask Him to grant blessings I can't give myself. I find myself up against a challenge, and look to Heaven, asking for help to succeed. I hit all the stoplights green and give thanks that I wasn't late to my meeting. And then, each morning and night... and many times between, I close my eyes and simply talk with Him. I share what happened that day, the frustrations I've felt, the successes I've seen and ask for blessings on the people I've met. I ask Him to help me be happy - to help me with life and all of its trials. The Primary song that teaches children how to pray gives a decent outline:

"I begin by saying, 'Dear Heavenly Father,' then thank Him for blessings He sends. Then humbly I ask Him for things that I need, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.'"

But I think that prayer is a lot more than just following the pattern... It comes with practice. I know it did for me. For me, prayer isn't a telephone call to Heaven. It's part of an always-on communication... where I'm checking in with God constantly... far more often than I check Facebook or my email account. Sometimes I actually voice my prayers, but throughout the day I feel like it's a continual conversation - a back and forth on what is happening (and what I should be doing) in life. And, in return for praying, the Lord gives me hope, happiness, and peace each day.

Tuesday, May 22

For After Much Tribulation...

...verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the rewards of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.

Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.

For after much tribulation come the blessings...
(D&C 58 2-4, emphasis added)

For whatever reason, every time I've read this scripture in the past, I somehow skipped over the "much" part of "much tribulation." The scripture simply meant that with all tribulation comes blessings - every cloud has a silver lining.

But with much added back in, it tells a completely different story. Without much, it suggests a Lord who immediately hears and delivers the faithful when they suffer. With it, the scripture tells of pioneers who pull handcarts thousands of miles... Israelites who wander in the desert for 40 years... Abraham and Sariah and Zacharias and Elizabeth who pray for children for decades... a woman with an issue of blood who spends all her substance and time trying to become whole... men and women who live whole lives with disease and disability... and seemingly unsolvable trials that pull at the fabric of mortality... before arriving in Zion, finding the Promised Land, having children, or being healed.

For a long time I honestly believed that if I was righteous enough, the Lord would quickly answer all my prayers exactly the way I wanted Him to. Specifically, if I did everything right, over a short period of time (or at most a few years) my same-sex attraction would disappear, leaving ardent love for a girl in its place. It makes sense then why some of the most difficult moments of my life were when, after honestly trying to live the gospel to the absolute fullest possible for multiple years and passing important milestones (complete a faithful mission, etc), I felt like my trials were becoming heavier... not easier. I definitely didn't understand this scripture.

Today, looking back on my trials and forward to the future, I can easily say that it's worth it to stay true to the gospel. My life, while a total and complete mess, is guided by God... and I find honest hope and happiness in doing my best. My date tonight was even fun.

But sometimes it's hard to look forward, or even backwards, on trials with much hope. When I'm in the middle of "much tribulation," the most important part of this scripture isn't the promise that someday I'll be blessed for my goodness... whenever someday comes. The most important part is the first phrase: blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death... the promise that, no matter what faces me, the way to be blessed (and find happiness, peace, and whatever else I need, since those are definitely blessings) is to keep the commandments, no matter what the consequence.

Another idea that I've somehow missed is the thought that those who are faithful in tribulation receive greater rewards. Up until a few moments ago, I was of the opinion that everyone who made it, made it... and there wasn't really a huge distinction after that. Trials and tribulations were, in my mind, simply methods that the Lord uses to give me a better chance to return to Him... the exact same way He uses blessings or talents or relationships with others. I'm not exactly sure what it means that those who are faithful in tribulation receive greater rewards... do they have more knowledge? Are they more committed to living the commandments? I think that, at least in my case, living in tribulation has taught me greater faith and compassion... because I have to have them to survive.

For after much tribulation come the blessings...

My patriarchal blessing says that the Lord has a lot in store for me... which probably means I have a long way to walk before I get there.

Sunday, May 13

Mothering a Boy with SSA

My mom is an angel. Many of the good things I learned in life have come from her example. Seeing her kneel in prayer at her own bedside, hearing her pray for me. Watching her selflessly serve others. Hearing her ask forgiveness from me - a five-year-old or an impetuous teenager. Working alongside her outside or at service projects. Talking with her late into the night about the gospel and its application to our family... in everything she does, she has helped me know that, no matter what happens in my life, I am loved.

I finally told my mother about my same-sex attraction one night, and her response will always stay with me. Her first concern was for the pain and anguish I felt - the burden I had been carrying in something she hadn't been able to see. The next question was what she could do. She honestly admitted that she didn't know what it even really meant to have same-sex attraction, what I was facing, or what it meant for me in the future. She wanted to learn, and to understand how she could help.

Today, on Mother's Day, I wanted to highlight some of the things that my mother did for me that helped me in my path. I believe that she helped me - not only to stay alive through the times of extreme depression, but to find peace and hope in living the gospel, develop a relationship with God, and rise to the man I am today.

My mother prays. I remember countless times walking in on her as she was voicing a prayer - sometimes early in the morning, sometimes at night, sometimes in the middle of a difficult day. The image of her kneeling at her bedside is imprinted on my mind, and when she was praying, nothing took precedence. Prayer was sacred in my home, and always brought perspective to our trials. There were times that I ran away from heated discussions, and went to my room to pray, and someone walked in on me, only to quietly close the door and walk away. In many cases, the issue was already resolved before we spoke again, because of prayer.

In my darkest hours, I returned to prayer and shared my heart with God. Years of practice meant that when He answered, I could hear Him... and prayer has been a mainstay of my life and a boon to keeping my salvation and happiness intact.

My mother works hard. If I told you everything my mother did, I'd lose my anonymity. I'm pretty sure there's no one like her in the world (that may be hyperbole, but you get the picture). She is the epitome of hard work - but not just hard work, smart work. Working together on projects, we would often diagram out our plans, make charts and determine the best modality to meet our goals, then jump in with a zest that made time disappear. I learned that the good things in life come with work, and more work, and more work... and, even more importantly, that sometimes the work itself is the blessing. A cultivated garden never grows only weeds. It grows boys and men who love the earth, working with their hands, and finding ways to make life better.

There have been countless times that I've looked at my life and wanted to give up. To give in and stop working. I've put in hundreds and thousands of unseen hours, and I have nothing to show for it. The blessings I want so desperately, which seem to come to others who flippantly go through life, haven't come. But the love of work, and the perspective I learned at home, working through impossible and difficult trials, has given me a new lease on life. The Lord called me to work in the vineyard - not to bear fruit. If I will do my part, He will take care of the rest, and in the meantime, I have the opportunity to work alongside Him - in the darkest and deepest and roughest parts of life - and to see His miracles and the way they can change the world. I wouldn't trade my memories of working with my mother for anything. And I wouldn't trade the lessons I've learned from working alongside God for anything either.

My mother repents and is real. I remember once getting into a fight with my mom when I was really young. I don't remember what it was about, but I'll always remember what happened later that day. I was in my room, probably crying, and she knocked on the door, opened it, and came and knelt at my bedside. There she asked for my forgiveness... and indelibly engraved in my mind that it was okay to repent. It was okay to struggle in life. It was okay to be honest and open and admit your faults - even to those who relied on you for everything. Maybe even especially to them.

When I realized that I was fighting, and losing, the battle of ssa, part of me wanted to run away from the Lord - to reject the thought that maybe He gave me a trial I couldn't overcome on my own. But the memory of my mother, and the repentance and faith she taught me, helped me understand that it's okay to be imperfect. The Lord really did allow me to have this trial - a trial much bigger than my own ability to overcome it - so that I would turn to Him. And as I've turned to Him, He has given me strength.

My mother finds peace and joy in everything in life. We've faced extreme circumstances in my family... death, physical and mental illness, financial hardship, catastrophes, and plenty of social and emotional trials. But I have never once heard her complain... even though others sometimes do on her behalf. She finds joy in the moment, and perspective in the purpose of the Lord. To her, everything has a purpose - the question is finding that purpose, and then determining what I need to do to do my part.

There were times in my life when I wondered if it was even possible to be happy. If I would ever understand my personal purpose and why the Lord had made me who I am, and also given me the trials I have to overcome in life. And the perspective I have has made all the difference. So that when I faced death or sickness or the reality of lifelong trials that would bring certain pain, I could look up at the rain and smile... knowing that God was involved in my life, actively guiding my footsteps to make me into the man He could see - someone far better than who I see in the mirror each morning.

My mother is constantly learning and growing. She prays and speaks with God, and calls down blessings on me. She works every day of her life, focused on others. She speaks her mind to me honestly, and changes her perspective when she is wrong. She's not afraid to ask forgiveness, or to reprove when I need to change. And no matter what she faces, she strives to find the peaceful and the happy, the hopeful and the good. She actively participates in everything the gospel has to offer... and is proof that it works to bring people closer to God and happiness in life.

And that made a world of difference for me.

Dear mother, I'm grateful for what you've done for me. Your faith and example have given me a path to follow. Countless times, I've felt blessed by the Lord because of your prayers, even when I didn't deserve the blessing. May God stand as witness that you have done your part in my life. You've saved me from darkness and taught me to walk in the light... and I can never repay you for the person you have helped me become.