Sunday, February 14

Life Without Love - a (Gay) Mormon Perspective

My younger sister got engaged yesterday. 

I got pictures of the proposal, the ring, and a bunch of smiling faces by text message while at work last night.

She's 6 years younger than I am.

That's totally unfair.

Don't  get me wrong. I hope that this brings her happiness, and I am glad that she is making decisions that will guide her future. But every time that I watch someone else find love (my siblings included), the beauty of the moment gets eclipsed by the juxtaposition of my own life.

I've done all the "right" things. I dated twice or more each week for over six years. I took every marriage prep and dating class available through the community, school, and church functions. I never turned someone down who asked me out in person. I went to therapy to work out my own personal issues and develop better relationship skills. I followed a rigorous personal health regime. I attended social functions, focused on being friendly and outgoing, served others, chose a valuable course of study, worked faithfully in community and church, met new people, worked and kept going even when nothing seemed to work. I asked out anyone anytime I felt like I should, even when dating seemed inconvenient. I even signed up for an eHarmony account and tried online and long-distance dating.

And the sum of all my efforts is pretty pitiful. Thousands of dollars and hours later, I'm no closer to finding love than I was when I began. I still get to listen to people who were engaged after less than a year of dating tell me what I'm doing wrong, and that if I just work harder, or work smarter, or have more faith, or repent, or read my scriptures, or go to another speed dating event, I'm somehow guaranteed to find love. Just do everything in my power, and then God will make it happen. Or I'll make it happen, by sheer force of will. 

And by simple inference, I hear that, since doing all those things hasn't worked for me, I've been doing something wrong. 

Or that there is something wrong with me.

The culture of love could have so easily ruined me.

Love - romantic, sexual love - is pushed from every side of life. Books, movies, advertisements, radio talk shows, department stores, greeting cards, Internet memes, chain letters, tax laws, religious writings, court cases... everyone and everywhere tells me the same thing: I deserve to find love, to be in love, to be loved, no matter what the cost or effort involved. Love is the goal. All I need is love. Find love and happiness will follow. Follow love wherever it takes me. Fight for love. Work for love. Do anything and everything I can to find it, then everything and anything I must to keep it. To many people, romantic love trumps all. There's nothing more important in life.

But that belief is broken.

Valentine's Day is a lie. Romantic love isn't the end-all course of human existence. It's likely an important facet of many or most people's lives, but for some, it's not in the cards of mortality at all - no matter how hard or smart or faithfully the search for it is done.

But the true tragedy isn't that.

When I've grown up in a world that tells me what to think, that tells me what to feel, and that tells me what I deserve, and then I realize that I don't fit the mold they used, I have only a few options.

I can believe them, and try harder. I did that for a long time. I believed that I was doing something wrong, and that if I could fix it, love would follow. Hence why I took classes, followed all the instructions, and even went so far as to seek and find cures for incurable mental diseases.

Work and wait long enough, though, and even the sturdiest rock will crack. And at that point in time, I realized that the people preaching to me - the media, the world, and even my well-meaning acquaintances and church goers - hadn't been telling me the truth.

At that moment I had only one option: find the truth for myself.

But after the world has lied to me, it's hard to trust anyone anymore. When someone tells me that I can, by force of will or effort, find love that isn't going to be found that way, I'm not going to turn to them for guidance in my faith. And anything else they've ever told me could become suspect. If they were wrong about love - and about how to find it - then maybe they were wrong about other things. Love is preached by worldly standards as the most important thing in life. If they got that wrong, what else is wrong?

I've seen thousands of people hit that realization. Being attracted to the same sex can cause it to happen, as can major mental illness, or other circumstances. Realizing that no matter how hard they try, it won't happen the way they wanted. Some people look inward, come closer to God, and choose to trust Him and His timing. They turn away from the entitlement taught by media, peers, and social norms, and humbly believe that God's Plan has other things in store for them. 

But far more keep believing that they deserve to find love, and turn against the people who told them how to find it. Family ties break, faith suffers. One simple doctrine, taught wrong and embedded into culture, crushes a temple of faith, and the destruction can last a lifetime.

I'm one of the lucky few.

By the time I reached that realization, I had already gone through fire. Depression and loneliness had pushed me to God, and I knew from experience that most people just didn't understand how wrong they were. Most people had good intentions, and pieces of what they believed were true... they just didn't know the whole truth because they had never been forced to find it.

I'm not embittered. Most of the time, I laugh inside when I hear people preach that love is easily attained - that just by working hard or smart or trying with all my might I could achieve one of the few things I've ever really wanted. I smirk when someone asks me why I'm not married, and my answers are often just as superficial as the comments I'd get if I bared my soul.

But along with the laughter is a realization that this culture - the culture of entitlement and focus and self-centered "if you work/serve/pray/whatever you'll get what you want or deserve" - is killing far more souls than it is amusing.

If you can hear me, I have a request for you.

Stop telling people that working harder or smarter will make all their righteous dreams come true. 

Stop telling people that love is the greatest thing on earth.

Stop telling people that they just need more faith, or more effort, or more motivation, to accomplish the goals the world, or you, have set for them.


Instead, tell the truth.

Tell the hard, difficult truth that, for many people, it won't matter how hard or smart they work - they may never be able to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of the things they want in this life.

Tell the truth that life is different for each of us, and that life is often unfair when we lack the perspective to understand. 

Tell the truth that, from God's perspective, life is just a moment - and that He designed an excruciatingly painful experience for some of us - one that may make us envy everyone we meet - to give us the best possible chance to become the people He sees in us.

And tell the truth that that's is ok.

I believe that romantic love is probably almost everything that people make it out to be. That it can make people into better people, fill a deep human need, and build the fabric of society. I believe that it's a valuable quest, a viable goal, and a good reason to work hard.

But I don't believe that romantic love is the end of all human existence.

For some of us, choosing who to marry may be the most important decision in our lives. But not for all of us. 

Some of us will find meaning and happiness in love and eternal family. Others of us will never find that love in mortality, or the love we do find will be skewed by the issues we face. But we can find that same happiness even without it.

For some of us, the goals and plans and expectations that society has set for us will match our lives exactly. And for others, we'll have to turn to God personally to find that path.

The title of this post is actually a terrible misnomer. Even people like me - and I have all sorts of issues revolving around love - can experience the peace and happiness that comes from the true love of God. Without Him, I would have turned away long ago from people who claimed to understand my life and give me advice. With Him, I've learned the truth. When nothing and no one else can get through depression, frustration, sadness, chaos, and the ever-present pressures of everyday life, God can still speak to my heart, if I'm willing to let Him in.

Sunday, February 7


I need to think.

In my past life, depression came often enough that I didn't have to schedule time to think about my priorities. It just happened anytime that life went downhill. Depression would take over, and force me to rethink everything important to me, focus on only the truly important things, and toss everything else aside. When it gave me back control, I was a new person.

Now, my life is just... busy. Busy enough that I could just keep going without having to stop and look at it all. Busy enough that I could go days, weeks, even months without needing to stop. I work at my shop (whether helping customers or coming up with crazy new ideas), spend time at Church, and spend time with people.

But I need to figure out my life.

The Soap Factory makes money, but is it what I want to do forever? There's plenty of money to pay employees, cover costs, and pay rent even with a recent downturn in tourist traffic, and our local cadre of customers keeps growing. People tell their friends, and the word spreads. I love watching people make their own creations, try new things, experience something totally unique and different. I still enjoy making soap because the process ensures that every soap will be different... and I do it almost every day.

But my mind and heart have been tugging at me recently, wanting room to push and experiment and try new things. It's the same issue I faced in all of my jobs - a need to constantly move, change, create something different, learn something new. A need to engage my mind in something epic, and when I've understood, to find something else.

The issue is that I'm not sure how to best use the resources I have to do that, and what would actually be a wise business decision on top of doing what I want. The Soap Factory needs help in marketing first and foremost, yet I have almost no passion there. And the model is stable and successful - why would we change it up?

Because I need it.

So it's going to happen.

I've been fighting myself for the last month over this. Part of me doesn't want change... but I'm not sure why, and I don't know where it came from. The other part of me wants to try everything under the sun, and see what works. To buy a 3D printer that we could use to print structures and make our own molds. To hold weekly classes on cold-process soap-making where people could come in and make cold-process soap, then come pick them up the next day. To hold classes on essential oils and the history of soap-making, and to do field trips into classrooms to teach the importance of  personal hygiene (and to share the dark side of antibacterial soap).

Maybe the part that doesn't want change is afraid.

But afraid of what?

Afraid of failure? Maybe. But I face so much potential failure each day. Failure is part of life.

Afraid of success? Maybe... but I don't even know what that would mean.

Afraid of...

Probably afraid of letting people down. Afraid of inviting people to a class where no one else comes, or to a seminar where the information is bland and boring. Afraid of going into a school and being unable to communicate well, and wasting peoples' time and money.

That's it.

That's what I'm afraid of. I'm afraid of letting people down.

And that's also why this is such a different feeling for me. In the past, my decisions in work and career growth didn't really involve people... or they were in areas where I felt confident in my personal abilities (as faulty as placing that confidence may have been).

And, identified, it should be easier to get over the fear.

I need to recap.

I love my business and my job. The Soap Factory is making a difference, albeit small, in the community, and it's successful.

At the same time, I need constant change, growth, and intense learning experiences in my life, and especially at work.

But due to my own personal circumstances, I face fears that cripple my ability to make decisions, take risks, and act in my own best interest, likely lessening my own personal creativity and the impact I could have on others.

I think that I would benefit from a structure in my life that encouraged (or required) innovation, learning, and growth.

What if I set aside an innovation budget for myself that needed to be used each week or each month? It wouldn't be a ton, but it would require me to spend a certain amount of time and money each week/month trying something new.

And what if I just told myself to buy anything I wanted? Usually the things I want to buy are useful gadgets, or tools, or something that could make creativity better come to life and improve my life and the lives of others. The times I've let myself make purchases, most of the time it's a huge success. But even when it's not, it's still worthwhile.

But I have trouble spending money, especially on things for myself. The last time I went grocery shopping (Tuesday), I spent less than 7 dollars. And the last gadget I bought was only because it was cheaper to buy a woodburning kit and create my own hanging sign than it would have been to buy it from someone else.


This is a somewhat laughable problem. There are people in the world with major illnesses, a contagious virus that is destroying people's lives, war, famine, hunger, poverty, drugs, crime, violence, loneliness, immorality, slavery, and so much more... and yet I'm focused on whether or not I should let myself buy things for my business.

Which brings me to the other part of my self-talk:

Am I doing what I should?

Am I really making a difference in the world? Am I using the gifts that God has given me and helping people change their lives?

A big part of me says I'm not.

I don't do much to really help people in the Church with same-sex attraction. (G)MG may be a valuable asset in some people's lives, but I don't do much other than just write my thoughts. That's a valuable thing, and God gave me the ability to write so that I would... and it makes an important difference. But...

I also am not doing much with music. I wanted to start up Grace again, but I haven't done anything about it except tell my younger sisters and ask for their help in a vague, roundabout way. Someone asked me recently what performing I had done in the recent past, and there hasn't been much of anything for years.

I had a major health miracle (being cured of bipolar) from following a crazy diet, and yet I haven't gone on talk shows or spoken with anyone passionate who could shout the story far and wide. I haven't written a passionate book about it, or even written down everything that happened except for a few blog posts. Yet, if it worked for me, there's the potential that it could dramatically change the lives of thousands of other people for the better.

And a dozen other 'talents' have made their way under the bushel as well. But where do you use them as a young single adult? I used to be an awesome swimmer. Maybe I could train for the Olympics, but I probably wouldn't make it anymore.


I have a goal. Or two goals. Or, perhaps better for me, two rules I want to follow.

I may not be able to drop everything and change the world today. Regardless of the decisions I make, I'm not going to be able to save everyone, and perhaps I'll even be a failure in the things I do... but it's worth trying from where I am, currently, and giving myself rules and guidelines to follow to progress.

Rule 1: Anytime I get the desire to try something new - and if the desire is deep enough that I keep thinking about it for days or spend hours fascinated by the pieces - I have to do it. Or buy it. Or try whatever it is... within a month, if plausible.

Rule 2: Anytime I get the desire to influence others, build others, do something specifically nice for my best friend that I'm not sure if he'll appreciate, or do something to serve people, again, I have to do it... and again, within a month.

There's no budget or allocation associated with these rules, which means that if my mind doesn't wander or pull me, I don't have to spend money. But that probably won't happen. Much more likely - if/when it does pull me, then I do have to make the plunge - and I can't use the excuse "that's out of my budget" to push the creative dreams aside.

This is scary. A month isn't a very long time, and I have a major backlog of creative pursuits that have been burning holes in my brain: ideas and wishes to make an impact. But it's also exciting.

Good luck, David. I think this will work.