Wednesday, September 21

Change Begins With Me

I meet with my bishop today. 

And I'm preparing as much humility as I can.

My best friend asked what I would be willing to change. If I'd be willing to never meet with anyone I don't know again - to take myself off the roll of emotional / spiritual availability because I had failed to stay unspotted from the world. Another person asked if I'd be willing to never have physical contact with a guy beyond a short hug. Yet another if I'd be willing to break off contact with anyone I've met in this world, or if I'd never look for people who need help again.

I hope that those aren't sacrifices that God requests.

But it wouldn't be unusual. I've already given Him my deepest other hopes - someday having a family and falling in love. Those were tough things to lay on the altar.

My answer?



I'm willing to do anything.


I'd even stop blogging if God asked me to. Though that thought feels akin to ripping out a piece of my heart and the artery that keeps my soul alive. A major purpose of my life is to shout the gospel from the rooftops, and (G)MG is the trumpet I've learned to play... And playing it keeps me honest, focused, and (usually) safe.

But I choose to trust God more than I trust myself. Yes, there are dozens of cultural issues of my world that I would love to change, and things I feel that I should do to make them happen. But God is the One who knows the pathway to salvation and happiness. So, if I truly want salvation and happiness for me and for the world I love, everything I do needs to be subject to Him.

Someone told me this week that I was on the road to becoming apostate. That they could see the signs of my abandonment of God, and that if I kept going down the road I was on, I would inevitably turn away from Him.

Apostasy is something that could happen to anyone. One of my ancestors - Orson Hyde - was an apostle in the time of Joseph Smith when he turned away from God. He left the Church for, at least as I remember, maybe a few hours? But he also returned, humbled and ready to serve. And while my family isn't perfect, we truly love the gospel. I love the gospel. I live it, breathe it, and revel in it. Yes, I make enormous mistakes along my path. Yes, I have a lot to learn. But I invite people to my home to share the Spirit, teach everyone I can about Christ, and pray over the names of even people I've just met before I go to sleep at night.

To tell me that I could turn away from that - that I could turn away from the God and the Church that has given me hope and meaning and life...

At first I wanted to chastise the guy. To tell him that David Peterson was never going to go apostate, and would never let his own personal beliefs trump the teachings of the prophets. How could I? Ever? That is who I am - a bigger part of my personal identity than anything else (especially being randomly attracted to guys). Everything in my life revolves around God and the Church. Even my email addresses reference missionary work.

After my rare episode of indignation I tried to figure out how someone could think that.

And with a spark of intuition, I think that now I can see where he's coming from. 

Most of the vocal and visual apostates in our day have been people who, like me, rally for change. They shout their thoughts to the world, gather support, and then eventually try to change the Church to fit the mold to which they believe it should conform.

However, in my mind, there is a major difference between our goals of change.

I have no desire to change Church doctrine. It doesn't change. It can't change. I love it the way it is. And all the pounding and social pressure in the world won't dent my Church's focus on the Plan of Happiness as God Himself has revealed through the prophets. History has shown that you could jail the prophets, kill the Saints, and destroy the temples, and the work would continue to press forward until the Second Coming of Christ.

Apostasy can begin with wanting to change Church doctrine. Then it grows into claiming personal revelation that applies to the doctrine of the Church as a whole, and actively seeking to pull people astray.

I'm not interested in that. I just want to change people so that they more accurately *live* the doctrines that the Church already teaches. I want to change Church culture - a discrete, and very separate, from Church doctrine. Church doctrine is the pure law from Christ. Church culture sometimes keeps the simplicity and purity of the gospel intact... And oftentimes adds a whole lot of garbage on the side.

And that change begins with me - first by being completely subject to the doctrines and leadership of the Gospel. Hence why I'm willing to do anything my bishop asks tonight. And then, always second, by being the change I want to see in my world, and inviting others to do the same. 

Yes, I honestly want my Elders Quorum to be an environment of candor, honesty, and love that, right now, you can only find rarely in support groups. Yes, I honestly want people to be willing to openly ask for help with their problems. Yes, I honestly want people to ask the questions of their soul. Yes, I honestly want to see people's struggles and to be able to show people that I love them even when they've committed dire mistakes. Yes, I honestly want Church culture to invite me to be actively involved in the battlegrounds of Good and Evil. Yes, I want every single person that walks through a chapel door to feel loved and lifted closer to God.

Cultural change is uncomfortable. But the world is getting more and more wicked, and, at least from my perspective, we are losing far more members to false culture than we are from not understanding the doctrine. Many of the people I've met still believe the gospel... and most, even years after choosing darkened paths, still know it's true. The spark of testimony still burns deep inside. And, as I've seen time and time again, often all a testimony needs is a safe place where it can grow and burn.

People are worth it. One person is worth creating planets and moving mountains and sending down fire from Heaven. And that is why I want to change my world... beginning, as always, with me.


  1. My best friend before I got married and moved to a different state was a gay Christian man who shared with me that when he has strong male friendships his feelings of SSA diminish. Post-college, those friendships were rare and fleeting. Most of his friends were female at the time we were close to each other. As I was pondering his dilemma, and yours, it occurred to me that a lot of the problems you've been chronicling may have to do with the shifting of society from gender-separated spheres to gender-enmeshed spheres. As a woman, I'm grateful for the education and career opportunities and trends I am able to take advantage of, and yet . . . as a human, I feel something has been lost from all of us. I think (from my limited, detached perspective) that straight men's and gay men's cultures can benefit from each other in significant ways, tempering one another's negative tendencies and enriching each other's strengths, expanding one another's interests and skills. As I mourned the loss of a men's-only environment in which that cultural sharing could take place, I realized that priesthood quorums are that place. I wish I could encourage all straight men, married or single, to befriend gay men . . . truly, truly be friends with them for all the best reasons. Keep working with your Elder's Quorum. I think you are on the right track. Blessings and best wishes to you!

  2. My thoughts and prayers are with you, David. I admire your courage, humility, and willingness to submit to the will of the Father. May God bless you.

  3. As I sit in an area welfare meeting, which is focusing on the Law of the Fast, this talk was mentioned and I thought of you:

  4. Replies
    1. Posted the answer. Just swipe or click to the next post. :)

    2. God bless you for being who you are. I started to simmer at the judgemental attitude of the person suggesting you might be becoming apostate; but then I thought, who am I to judge, except that I share views similar to you. We are not stumping"for doctrinal change, but cultural understanding and change and a deeper understanding of the atonement and how to help others. We are all operating on our own limited perspective and sometimes that is hard to appreciate.


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