Tuesday, April 30

Skyfall - (Gay) Mormon Guy in a Music Video

Funny story:
I was walking through the Wilkinson Center with my little sister, doing advertising for an a cappella concert we were in, and someone asks me to sing into a microphone. I made it into the finals of their singing competition and they asked me back to record a music video.

I did a pre-recording with a friend, singing "Skyfall" by Adele - the theme for the newest James Bond movie by the same name. My first rendition was pretty similar to Adele's - intense, with a lot of just voice. Great for backing up a movie scene. Here's a link to the audio for it:

 I sent the recording to the producer and his response was "Awesome." Then I got into the studio at Art City Records (Springville) and the fun began. After singing it once, he stopped me and said, "Hey man, this isn't working for me. This isn't the reason why I brought you in here. Do you have another song?"

Apparently, he wanted something brighter, bolder, and higher. That's great, except that I had been practicing Skyfall for weeks and definitely did not have another song ready for performance. So I suggested... trying it again.

And this is the video we created. Make sure you watch from 3:50 to the end.

I'm one of many people participating in the contest - the Art City will produce an original song for the winner after the final round. It was posted to Facebook and YouTube and voting begins today - you can vote once a day per device (computer, smart phone, etc) through the Facebook link here: http://bit.ly/ZtipCH

I hate voting for people in popularity contests. But obviously everyone doesn't share my sentiment (hence why people win them). And I've never done a video for (Gay) Mormon Guy... so I thought I'd go for it.

This is the voting procedure:

1. Click the link http://bit.ly/ZtipCH (it will take you to Facebook, the exact address of the contest)
2. Click "Vote"

You may need to Like "Art City Records" on Facebook or give Offerpop (the entity they use to run the voting) permissions to access your Facebook Likes.

If you're on a mobile device, it may take a little more. Two options:

1. Click the link http://bit.ly/ZtipCH
2. Click "Log In" on the page that tells you the contest is just for fans
3. Log in to allow Offerpop to access your Facebook "Likes"
4. The screen will go WHITE. Click Back.
5. Click the link again -  http://bit.ly/ZtipCH
4. If you haven't already done so, Like Art City Records.
5. Vote for me.

1. Go to your Facebook App
2. Search for me - David Peterson
3. Click on the post that says "David Peterson - Who is the best Singer" via Offerpop
4. Allow Offerpop to access your Facebook "Likes"
5. The screen will go WHITE. Click Back.
6. Click the link again -  http://bit.ly/ZtipCH
7. If you haven't already done so, Like Art City Records
8. Click Vote
 (you'll only need to allow permissions the first day - each day after that you can just click).


And if you like clicking a ton and don't want to click the bit.ly link, here's how to find the contest itself (doesn't work on a mobile device (you have to use the bit.ly link):
Go to the "Art City Records" Facebook page
Click the "Vote on 4/30" Button
Click "Vote" at the top
Find my picture and name - David Peterson - and click
Click "Vote"

Also, you can see who is currently winning the contest by looking at the order of the pictures at:
The first place person is first, followed by second, third, etc.

Right now (as of this post), I'm winning. Thanks already to everyone who's voted.
I'd love your feedback either way.

Sunday, April 28

Boy Scouts & Distinctions in Homosexuality

I'm an Eagle Scout.

I began my career in scouting selling Cub Scout popcorn. I was 7 - too young to be a Cub Scout. But my grandfather had been president of the local Scout council and got a silver beaver, my dad is uber-passionate about scouting, and I was the first child. So I sold popcorn. I remember realizing that the price of popcorn was absurdly high... and expressing my concern to my parents.

They told me something crazy. They said I was selling Cub Scouts - not popcorn.

Somehow that made sense in my 7-year-old brain. However it happened, for years I outsold everyone in the council.

I went to Scout Camp - it's called Napowan where I'm from - and learned the art of fire-building, capsizing a sailboat without getting wet, and how to keep rainwater from flooding a tent staked on piles of pine needles. I was a senior patrol leader at the Nauvoo Encampment and spoke at Sacrament meeting to a group of scouts so big we had a dozen Sacrament tables.

My Eagle project was providing relief to the victims of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras. I have a plaque from the Honduran consulate giving me the "Hands for Honduras" award.

And the first summer I came home from college, a year before going on a mission, I was called as the Webelos leader in my home ward.

So scouting's in my blood.

I had no idea that the Boy Scouts of America had a policy that homosexual men couldn't be scouts or leaders until the policy came under fire just recently by big corporations who threatened to pull funding unless it was changed. All of my activity in scouting was long before my self-awareness about same-gender attraction anyway, but it made me wonder.

Either way, I'm sure you've seen the firestorm on both sides of the issue. But in the midst of the most recent set of news briefs, much of the media is leaving out what I think is the most important part of the issue. The distinction that BSA has made between homosexual feelings and homosexual actions.

It's cool because the policy change, now, simply looks like it is being updated to match the growing understanding of homosexuality. 50 years ago, very few people made distinctions between actions and feelings. It was all sort of lumped together - by almost all groups, including social science. And since society did not really allow for chaste homosexual men, or acknowledge the thousands in happy marriages to women, there were very few who openly admitted their attractions. Why would you? The few who did admit to same-sex attraction usually "came out" and then became sexually active with men - something that definitely does not jive with being "morally straight." Hence the ban on "openly homosexual" men from serving as leaders or even holding membership in the ranks of BSA.

But today is a bit different. There are men - with same-gender attraction - who quietly serve as Boy Scout leaders, youth advisors, and leaders in the LDS Church - and they are just as morally straight as their heterosexual counterparts. Which leads to the really cool distinction that BSA has included in their most recent proposal.

First, they reiterate the traditional values behind what it means to be "morally straight" - in this case, it means total sexual abstinence for all youth scouts - heterosexual or homosexual:

“Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”

Then they make the distinction that the Church has taught for years, and the world has only recently made between actions and feelings:

“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

I think this is pretty cool.

I realize that this policy is just a policy. Scouting is ruled and run by the local units, who don't report on almost anything to the National Council, and those units make up whatever rules they want based on their own desires (hence my selling popcorn for the council at 7). But it's cool that we have another ally who has just made the distinction between attractions and behaviors... and given impetus to the reality that one does not mean the other.

If I were on the National Council for BSA, I'd definitely vote for this one.

Monday, April 22

Marriage "Equality": Why I Oppose It & A Worst Case Scenario

A lot of antitheists ask me why I don't support gay marriage. 
The reason is because I love people and want them to be happy. 
  • If I honestly love people, then I should support them only in decisions that will lead them to complete happiness and peace (since love is wanting others to find eternal happiness and peace and being willing to do anything to help them find it). 
  • I believe that homosexual relationships are incompatible with eternal peace - a moral belief that is completely my own. 
  • Hence, in my mind, if I or anyone supports gay marriage, it evinces one of two things: either 
    • (1) I don't truly love my gay brothers and sisters, and subjugate my desire for their eternal happiness to a personal desire to look good, be accepted, or avoid conflict, or 
    • (2) I don't believe that homosexual relationships are incompatible with eternal happiness.
That's why I don't support gay marriage - civil, religious, or otherwise. Because I love people and want them to be happy. 
I'm unwilling to subjugate my love for others just to keep the waters calm. Hence, the pleas to "let people live their lives as they want to" or "it doesn't affect anyone else" would be non-functional even if they were accurate. The only method that would change my stance on gay marriage would be a change in my belief - specifically, a change that showed me that homosexual relationships are part of the pathway to eternal happiness and peace. 
There are three main bases for creating beliefs about the world and happiness: observation, persuasion, and revelation. 
Observation is the development of personal beliefs through personal experience, combined with deductive and inductive reasoning. Touch a hot stove, feel the pain, and develop a belief that motivates actions that avoid touching hot stoves in the future. 
Persuasion is the development of personal beliefs through the experiences of others, as interpreted through their reasoning. "I touched a hot stove and it burned me" - which in turn develops the same belief.
Revelation is the development of personal beliefs through communication with God.
In many cases, I develop my beliefs about the world through observation and persuasion. I look at how the world influences people and determine how my actions and beliefs can best fit in with perception and reality. When I can avoid pain through learning from the experiences of others, that's awesome. In some cases, it's not effective to rely on the hearsay or experiences of others - I have to learn for myself. And in other cases, ones that are really close to home - things that will have a lasting impact and where I can't afford to be wrong - personal observation and societal persuasion aren't enough. I need to know from God Himself. That's the case with homosexual relationships. Being personally attracted to men means that I need to know how homosexuality fits in with the pathway to happiness, and it's not enough to take someone's word for it, whether myself, a friend, an activist, or even a prophet. Only knowing from God will be enough.
There's another issue - in the application of beliefs to the outside world. A logical question is, "Well, you may think that happiness comes by following a certain path. But what about when you are talking about someone else's happiness and your beliefs differ from theirs? What right do you have believing that their actions influence their happiness, when they disagree?" That's a logical question, and the answer belies the source of my information. If I believe that my beliefs are unique to my own experience, and from my own experience, then I won't readily apply them to someone else. There are plenty of mundane examples of things that are individual in nature. If there are societal proofs of something, I'm more likely to believe that it applies to others. In my case, I believe that God is the only one who can reveal the pathway to happiness, and that the principles He teaches are universal. I also believe that this is an incredibly important part of His Plan of Happiness. So does that mean that I believe my truth from God (homosexual relationships do not lead to eternal happiness) is more true than any other? Yes. It does. And I hold that belief unapologetically - that's the amazing part of the gospel - following it will always lead to happiness, no matter who I am or what has happened in my life... and in the life of every other person ever to live.
In an alternate universe, I see a number of reasons why I could support gay marriage. If I didn't really care about gay people is one option. If I honestly believed that homosexual relationships do not lead to happiness, but feared that opposing those relationships would make me lose friends, or felt that opposing them goes beyond my obligation to do everything in my power to help the people I love find happiness. All of those would be proof, in my mind, that I didn't really love people. Or I could be persuaded by my own personal experience or by someone else's personal experience to create a belief that gay marriage does lead to happiness.
Issues arise when people don't share my love or my belief that homosexual relationships are incompatible with eternal peace, and are also unable or unwilling to come to an agreement on the basis for our exclusive beliefs. It's pretty simple: if I love people, the deciding factor in whether or not I support gay marriage is based on whether or not I believe that gay marriage is a step along the path to eternal happiness.
That means that the conversation can quickly degenerate, since we are discussing beliefs that derive from different bases. My belief derives specifically from a personal relationship with God and revelation from Him, which is then supported by personal and other experiences. The beliefs of others are usually personal. They try to convince me with proof from their lives, but that's inadequate for me. I encourage them to get close to God to find specific answers, but they don't believe in God.
Recently, I've been trying to find other reasons that make sense to people who base their moral decisions on different bases. The issue of adoption is fraught with sampling errors and easily misinterpreted data on both sides. As are parenting, abuse, and other statistical references... and, honestly, I've never seen someone change their minds on the issue of gay marriage because someone showed them a statistical study.

So you already know the reason why I oppose gay marriage. But, here's a worst-case scenario... and another reason I could oppose it. This is definitely going to be controversial.
First of all, let's set some definitions.
Equal: Uniform in operation or effect - the same as.
Marriage: the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc. (from Random House dictionary)
To set the stage, gay marriage isn't about marriage equality. Equality, by definition, means the same as. Gay men and women have the exact same ability to get married just as much as anyone else. I can go get married tomorrow and tell the clerk I am gay; he will still issue me a marriage license to marry a woman. No questions asked. Under laws that instituted racial segregation in marriage, I couldn't do that. Civil rights made it so that all men now have the same ability in marriage - all men of any race can marry women of any other race. There is no law that discriminates against gay men implicitly or directly in marriage or that stipulates that gay men and women cannot get married. I know hundreds who are.

Gay marriage is more about extending a new set of rights to a special interest group. The gay marriage decision will fundamentally change marriage because it creates a new basis for it. Currently, marriage is based on the union between man and woman as the basic social unit of society, and, traditionally, the only place where sexual relations were allowed and also the method by which children entered society and were dependent on their parents. Traditionally, marriage was a permanent commitment from one person to another, one that instituted massive societal penalties up to and including death for the betrayal of marriage covenants. As time has passed, the sanctity of marriage has become less and less, especially with the introduction of civil divorce, no-questions divorces (note: this is not a discussion on abusive relationships), and the essential elimination of adultery and fornication as sins in popular society, but the basis of marriage has remained the same. 
The basis of gay marriage is that of "equality" - specifically, based on the principle that since you can't choose who you love, any two people who love each other should have the benefits of marriage. This is problematic, and where the worst-case scenario begins.
The first issue is that redefining marriage will take away personal moral rights that have been held consistent for hundreds of years. The laws covering gay marriage do not end at just wanting to be married - eventually individuals and organizations will be forced by anti-discrimination laws to accept and support gay marriage. One reason for the development of reformations within England and eventually why the first settlers left for America was religious freedom - and not just freedom to believe, but freedom to act accordingly to their beliefs. They did not support the moral beliefs of their king (specifically that he was divorced and remarried) and were being persecuted for not supporting him. If gay marriage is passed, and anti-discrimination laws are passed next, Americans will lose the right that drew the first settlers - the right to act in accordance to our own beliefs without government intervention. We can already see that in cases over private marriage halls, florists, bakers, photographers - the gist is that if it is available to the public as a service, then individuals with personal morals have no right declining their services in support of a person or cause that opposes those morals. This is a massive change from the current model. Today, I can choose to not support a business as a supplier, or to reject a potential contract with an organization based on moral standing. I can also reject participating in activities that are not protected by the law - so in my case I can refuse to bring essential oils to a gay marriage and I'm fine. It's apparent that gay marriage will eventually reverse that, and effectively force individuals and businesses to adopt a new standard that is completely dissimilar to things in the past. Currently, as a gay man, I can go into someplace that is currently against gay marriage and get support for my own marriage. To a woman. Just like any hetero guy. There is no discrimination based on who I am, as there was in racial disputes. There is only discrimination based on personal choices - which has traditionally been preserved as a right reserved to individuals - if you don't support something, then don't give it your business. Worst-case scenario: since religious exemptions are usually only made for churches, individuals and religious organizations who offer services to the public will eventually be forced to choose between two alternatives- close their doors or support gay marriage. Those who receive government funding will be in a similar situation. This would simply require the passing of anti-discrimination laws and courts that find them appealing. It has already happened in some places.

Next worst-case. By creating a new standard for marriage, we are also paving the way to destroy the societal meaning of marriage itself. If anyone who "loves one another" can get married and divorced, then what keeps college roommates from getting a marriage license while they live together to save on taxes and insurance? Nothing. Today there is still a societal expectation that a practice would be untrue to what marriage is. But a shift in the basis would allow quickly for expansion in usage. But that probably already happens. The bigger issue is that if "love" is now a defining factor, and marriage is all about "equality," what about the people who haven't found love? You can't choose who you love... which means you can't choose who you don't love. Why discriminate against individuals who haven't found love and provide government and other benefits only to people who have found love? That's certainly unfair, as love is seen as something you cannot control, which is a crucial part of the gay marriage debate. If you cannot control love, you also cannot control the lack of it, which, if granted and moved on based on equality, could easily extend the rights of marriage to singles as well. Or multiple spouse relationships. Or relationships where marriage is allowed between people who are already married and happen to love someone else as well. Which destroys the meaning of marriage, since once you toss singles in the mix, everyone will be married, regardless of who they are. And then the benefits associated with marriage will suddenly be tossed up to the government to decide how to divvy them up, and will probably also be extended to everyone, which means they will be taken from everyone. Worst-case scenario: Rights and benefits of marriage are extended to everyone based on principles of equality - married, single, polyamorous, or any other. Which means that marriage becomes completely meaningless as a civil convention. Likelihood: I don't know. But setting a precedent that rules equality definitely opens that door and will cause the eventual down that path (as far as singles go). Polyamorous relationships are more likely in the near future.

I'm sure there are more worst-case scenarios that could happen. Pastors in civil affairs (chaplains, etc) lose their license to practice if they preach against homosexual sins. Teachers are fired for refusing to teach secularism's beliefs that homosexual relationships are not sinful. I really don't feel like this is about equality.

Thursday, April 11

Conference Summary - from a (Gay) Mormon Guy

I can't really do General Conference justice in a blog post. Or even in a dozen blog posts. So these are some of my notes on specific talks that seemed to have major messages that apply to same-gender attraction in the Church. They're mostly based on my Twitter feed @GayMormonGuy... so, here you go. General Conference through the lens of (Gay) Mormon Guy.

President Packer (These Things I Know):

The family is under attack. We need to be aware of the influences that are coming into the safe places of our homes. Don’t fall into the tolerance trap. Stand strong for the morals and standards of the Church, even when the world is pushing against them.
“Tolerance is a virtue, but, like all virtues, when exaggerated it transforms itself into a vice. We need to be careful of the 'tolerance trap' so that we are not swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the spiritual consequences that result from the violation of God's law of chastity.”

Thoughts: If I honestly believe that keeping the commandments of God will lead to happiness, I can only encourage people to follow the commandments; otherwise, I either don’t believe that keeping the commandments really leads to happiness… or I don’t really love the people or I don’t really want their happiness. Maybe I care more about looking good. Or I care more about the relationship than I care about the people themselves.
Kindness is different from tolerance. Kindness is always a virtue. God is always kind… “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” So I should always be kind.

The Lord will always forgive us, as long as we are willing to turn to Him.
No matter what I’ve done in the past, no matter what has happened in my life, I can always turn back to God and find Him… if I’m willing to turn back.

“In our Heavenly Father's great priesthood endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by a husband and wife.”

When I have family members or friends that have strayed, I should do all that I can, and then leave the rest in the Lord’s hands. God loves my family members/friends just as much as I do… and will always do what He can. I need to have faith in His ability.

Peace doesn’t come from external sources. It comes from keeping the commandments and turning to God, and is available to anyone who is willing to repent.

The Lord has shown me the way to find happiness – not just a way. If I want to find happiness and peace, I need to follow the pathway that He has laid out.

His entire talk was on chastity, and one of the clearest talks that I have ever heard him give on the topic. If you did not see it, or if you were tired when you watched it, or if you have any desire to understand what the Church’s position is on moral standards and the suggestion for members, click the link above and watch it again.
This was one of the most powerful talks on chastity that I have heard. I love Elder Bednar. I love that he is so articulate and speaks with incredible logic. The amazing thing is that his talk could be applied to any issue of chastity. Pornography, abuse, adultery, promiscuity, homosexuality... all of it applies. Which is awesome and amazing and inspired.

President Uchtdorf (Four Titles):

President Uchtdorf's talk on identity was powerful - I choose who I am. There are lots of labels that I could choose - gay, bipolar, autistic - but the most important, and the ones that I should use to define my life, are son, disciple, healer, and heir.

President Uchtdorf (The Hope of God's Light):

This is perhaps the best talk that President Uchtdorf has ever given. I extend the same invitation with this talk as I did with Elder Bednar's. Just go read/watch it again. The symbolism of light, darkness, and the hope that he offers in this talk was amazing, and an answer to my prayers for myself and for others.

I went to General Conference with a lot of questions this year. I didn't get any answers, but Sunday, in between sessions, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. And I realized that the Lord was one-upping my request for answers. I want answers for my life so that I can have peace - I want to be able to know what is going to come next. But do I need to know? I don't. I have the peace I wanted and, even without the answers, I can have faith that God will take care of me.

Elder Perry (Obedience to Law is Liberty):

Sometimes people wonder why gay Mormons would ever be a part of a church that "represses" them. I think that Elder Perry captured some of the things here that reflect reality - I'm not repressed by my beliefs - I'm freed by them. Knowing the pathway of happiness allows me to find happiness... and I don't have to worry about anything else.

Elder Holland (Lord, I Believe):

The Lord really does do miracles. If I'm willing to turn to Him, give my life to Him, He will heal me. Healing doesn't always come as a miracle that changes everything, or one that brings a child from death to life. Sometimes the healing comes in added strength. Sometimes it comes through friends and others who can support me. Sometimes it comes through a simple knowledge that I am getting stronger each day, even when my trials are getting harder and harder. And sometimes it just comes from a moment of peace in the midst of a storm of emotional turmoil. I know that miracles are possible - that anything is possible. But, no matter what happens, when I turn to Him in faith, the healing will come.

Conference this year was amazing. So much to think about. I hope that you found answers to your own questions.

Wednesday, April 3

Gay Mormon History Since Last Conference

A lot has happened in my life in the last six months.

In November I went public on (Gay) Mormon Guy with a series of really long posts about my life.

Two days later, I attended a conference sponsored by AMCAP - the Association of Mormon Counselor and Psychotherapists - and FAR - the Foundation for Attraction Research - on finding peace within the gospel. It was my first time meeting a lot of the people I had only known anonymously before.

That afternoon, I went to a photo studio and did my interview for Voices of Hope. I was scared that I wouldn't say the right thing... but I went anyway. It was just me, my feelings, and my experiences.

I told my family in person, via phone, and through email before telling the world, then, after it was live, posted a link to (Gay) Mormon Guy on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and the MBA program's private forum. The reaction from almost everyone was positive - they loved me and wanted me to be happy and continue to find peace in living according to gospel principles.

A few days later, the Church released the site mormonsandgays.org - a video montage of people finding hope and faith through following the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was huge.

A few months later, the Church's resource site for same-gender attraction (under gospel topics) was released with links to new resources and affirming the Church's stance on homosexual attractions vs activity.

In the media, there have been suicides, other coming out stories (across the spectrum), the Boy Scouts issue, Supreme Court cases, companies that were blacklisted for supporting marriage...

Then the Church released a new set of scriptures, and in the gospel study helps, there is again the clear distinction between homosexual attractions and activity (something that was more easily misinterpreted in the past).

And, most recently, Voices of Hope went live, sharing the first group of essays and interviews of people who are finding peace and hope.

And I probably missed a bunch of things. Wow. A lot has happened.

Monday, April 1

Lights, Pitchpipe, Action

The a cappella concert on Saturday and the Easter program on Sunday went well.
Here are some links to our performance. The sound isn't awesome on this video... but at least you get something from it. My siblings also recorded the performance from a different perspective with our digital SLR, but we haven't uploaded ours to YouTube yet.

Stake Dance Medley was a blast. This was the first time we performed it for an audience, and that made all the difference. There are a couple times that the laughter is loud enough that you can't hear what is happening on stage. The short dialogue that you miss goes something like this (at least, this was what was planned; I couldn't hear it on stage either):

"What color is your toothbrush?
Like your braces? Cool.
Yeah. What ward are you from?
The Pleasant View 3,291,627th ward.
Oh. Do you know Mahonri Hinckley?
*smile* Yeah. I have a really big crush on him.
I shouldn't have said that."

By the way, I usually sing low bass in Morris Code... and in this concert I am singing low bass the entire time. Honestly, you probably can't hear me well - video cameras don't pick up low bass well, and computer/phone speakers don't produce it well. But I'm there, and probably singing lower than you can hear. Example: the first song, I'm singing a low E below bass clef for almost the entire song.

I'm in the bright yellow vest.

Battle Hymn of the Republic (mixed with Indonesian chant)

I Will Wait

Stake Dance Medley