Sunday, September 25, 2016

The First Presidency: "The Savior Is Here Among Us!"

Ahh! I love talking about controversial topics! Don't you?

So if I'm going to do this right, why don't I start off with a really controversial statement?:

I believe the First Presidency was inspired by God as they ratified last November's policy changes.

Whew! Glad I got that out there! I haven't been eaten alive yet for saying that either, so life is good!

But in all seriousness, the Spirit has witnessed to me that is the case. In the months following the "scandal" the media created of the policy changes, I have read various articles presenting different viewpoints, and although my initial reaction was that of confusion, I have been blessed with understanding.

First of all, I have always understood that to adopt a lifestyle contrary to the revealed commandments as understood by every member of the Church is considered to be apostasy. Even though one might not be openly rebellious against the Church, its doctrines and teachings, broken covenants are the first evidences of apostasy, even when influenced by very powerful carnal desires. I think we would do well to disassociate the overwhelmingly negative connotation we so often associate with terms like "apostasy" or "apostate", though. It simply is what it is.

Secondly, in addition to what has been said about the new policy concerning children reared in the homes of same-sex couples, that is, that the policy protects the children from the obligation to choose between their guardians' lifestyle and the Church and the resulting dissension, I would also assert that the policy effectively makes the statement that a home of a family led by two men or of two women in any sort of sexual relationship is a place unfit for children. Considering how impressionable they are, children need both the qualities of a nurturing mother and a providing father. As sex is something God has ordained only to take place between a married man and woman, I find it unfair to expose un-consenting, innocent children to the false notion that sexual intimacy is simply a matter of preference, or a relationship that has that as one of its primary premises. This I say while fully acknowledging that, within myself someplace or another, both the idea of raising children and having such a relationship with another man each have a considerable appeal, but obviously to varying degrees.

Finally, what I love so much about the organization of the Church is that, with Christ as its chief cornerstone, the ideal that each case should be observed while following the Spirit is foremost. I say "ideal" because there obviously will be/are cases when some ecclesiastical leaders may view circumstances through the lens of their own ignorance or cultural stigmas rather than with an eye single to the Lord's will. In all due fairness, however, that is bound to happen in any group of flawed, mortal beings, no matter how good they tend to be, especially when looking at an organization as vast as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But with good judgement, proper discretion, and spiritual discernment, Church authority figures may sort out cases that may be an exception to the general rule the policy establishes.

I think, all in all, the fact that the policy was considered a necessary precaution by the inspired leaders of the Church indicates that if it is necessary now, the Church would be in dire straits in the years to come without that countermeasure.

I'm also absolutely certain, given the emotionally sensitive nature of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, that there were many tears shed, when considering the heartache that some members would experience, as well as relatives and the children who who be barred from baptism and Church participation. Without a doubt they were able to foresee the difficulties that would arise as a consequence. But, I opine that, even though there are times when the Lord has to be gruff, or policies do, it isn't due to a lack of love. Actually, very often there is an outpouring of love toward those who are reprimanded. Just as I am capable of having a very staunch, firm position on these issues, while also loving the individuals affected from the bottom of my heart and having every desire to help them in any difficulties they may face.

I want to finish my feelings here by saying that I know, just as the sun shines in the afternoon sky, that this is a Church led by a living prophet of God and other seers and revelators. Although there was no doubt in my mind about this, I had a revelatory dream a few months ago. Now, I am extremely hesitant to share something like this in a public fashion, as it is something that I regard as rare and sacred. I hope you can regard this dream in the same spirit that I have:

I immediately find myself somewhere that is very reminiscent of the Orlando Temple grounds, the most beautiful of any Temple grounds I've been on. It seems to be twilight, and there's this thickness in the air that appears to be the presence of the Spirit, but in greater abundance than I have ever felt even within the Temple walls. I have interpreted this, in hindsight, to be a representation of spirit paradise.

What is of particular interest are the people I notice about in this courtyard. Although not a large crowd, there are maybe around two dozen people, all dressed in white, most of which I do not recognize. They have this glow, the sort of white radiance I would typically associate with celestial beings.

Whereas I have not met any of the individuals round about in person, I make out the unmistakable identities of the First Presidency, who are, at the time, Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, and Dieter F. Uchtdorf. I notice at one point that they are standing in a loose semicircle, in an attitude not unlike that of a Priesthood blessing. My mind computes this as the performance of an ordinance.

Perhaps more interesting still are the images that appear behind each of the First Presidency--transparent, statuesque images of very large feet are clearly visible as a backdrop behind the three. And not just any feet; they are clearly distinguished by puncture marks that could only have been made by nails.

After some time, the small crowd disperses. I have observed all of this from a fountain nearby. And who approaches me other than Dieter F. Uchtdorf himself? This is perhaps the coolest part of my dream. I mean, who doesn't love President Uchtdorf?


He casually asks me what I have thought of this all. I remark that I had never noticed the images of the Savior's feet behind them before (as if that was something I commonly observed). His response:

"The Savior is here among us!"

There is a profoundness to his exclamation (what else have we come to expect from President Uchtdorf?) as one considers the figurative meaning behind his words. But beyond interpretation, he speaks literally as well. In my time on these hallowed grounds, I have caught glimpses of whom I have thought to be Christ Himself, but for one reason or another, I have not seen Him directly.

President Uchtdorf then asks me what I think of all these things, in a way that reminds me very powerfully of Nephi's dream. I spoke aloud the two main observations that I had made: 1) that these men were standing where the Savior had stood, and 2) that every ordinance that they performed, everything they did in virtue of their calling, was as if the Lord Jesus Christ did it Himself.

He then smiles at me, seemingly pleased with my response. And then the dream fades.

It has occurred to me during the time that I have used various gay dating apps as a platform for making friends that, for those who live lives steeped in agnosticism and skepticism, it is impossible for them to comprehend what it is like to have spiritual truth indelibly engraved upon one's soul as knowledge. As difficult as it is to grasp something that one has never experienced before, especially if that something is of a very sacred, spiritual nature, that difficulty is redoubled by apathy towards such eternal truth, either in heart or in deed. You may indeed find these things to be painful, but they are what the Spirit has manifested to me.

As for my testimony of the identity of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators, my knowledge is absolute.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"I Just Need Somebody to Lean On"

This is a follow-up to "Time for Transfers". I'm delving into my mind and heart for a moment.

I need closure, which is an elusive thing. My feelings towards Joseph have threatened me with insanity. My repeated failures to address those feelings in the most appropriate of ways (befriending him and finding others like him) has only fueled that fire of chaos. Even the best of the guys I have interacted with on the two gay-dating apps and the website that I tried either a) lived very far away (7%), or b) still had tainted desires (93%). The last of those conversations was with a guy I had actually known in person (NOT in the Biblical sense, mind you.). I thought that might lay the groundwork for a friendship, but when I bluntly refused to send pictures of any "bulges" that belonged to me (nor anything more revealing), he got mad at me and accused me of being manipulative.

Needless to say, those have all been deleted.

I do have to give them some credit though--I had some really deep conversations with those guys, even if they were all short-lived.

That's more than I can say about most of the Latter-day Saints I have reached out to.

But I will also say that my fellow faithful Mormon friends have never wanted me to take my pants off.

Earlier today, I also scheduled to have my Facebook account deleted (because heaven forbid that I should do it in an instant). It has proven to get me absolutely nowhere in my efforts to connect with others in meaningful ways, and as the amount of uplifting, informative content has become harder and harder to come by (actually managing to fuel my feelings of depression rather than suppressing them), I realized I was right in the first place that my life was truly better without social media. My only tie is the page for my business, which my dear mother has consented to allow me to manage through her account.

I had considered posting an explanation as to my leave, as I had thought to do with my ward.

But there definitely wouldn't be anyone who would care. I'm tired of exposing my raw feelings to the Levite priests who keep walking right on past me.

So I've left the apps. Facebook will be a thing of the past. Any semblance of a community I had with my last ward is surely being left behind.

What am I left with?

Why is it so difficult to find friends you can mutually depend on? Why is it so taboo to have people you can share your deepest longings with? Why is platonic friendship with other men almost equally frowned upon by both the liberal and the conservative sides of our society? Why can't we all just decide to take a page out of the women's' book and just set aside some guy time for ourselves every once in a while? Why do us guys have to look over our shoulders and worry about other people thinking we're gay just because we're with another guy in public?

Why can't other gay guys simply respect someone like me for wanting to stay true to my values while also being a friend to them? Why can't they have enough self-control of their reproductive organs to be around someone like me for two hours while they can do whatever they please for the other 166 hours of the week? Why do they act like I am a threat to their very existence just because I don't follow every single lust and craving my body has?

What went wrong with our society?

I've decided, in the rare chance that I ever hear from him again, that I will tell Joseph of my feelings for him, and give him an out if he wants it. I have serious doubts if our friendship can survive that. Then again, I am beginning to wonder if "friendship" is the right word. I can't handle the inconsistency. If he wants to keep his distance, he should. If my first impressions of his virtue are correct, then he should be able to handle it, and the space caused by my transfer of wards shouldn't be a problem. By removing the possibility of casually bumping into him on a regular basis, I am giving him the freedom to make a decision unaffected by the potential awkwardness that would ensue if I was around still. Also, such an explanation would offer clarity to my actions, while allowing me to explain that, notwithstanding my very intense feelings toward him, I have been able to put them aside enough as not to be blinded, and that my intentions are pure. I truly love him. I care about him and want him to be happy, and I can say that as a friend, without ulterior motives.

But what am I saying? Is there really that much of a chance that I'll even hear from him?

Maybe not. But the hopeful side of me is obviously a glutton for punishment.

I really want to move on, either way.

Now would be a good time to break the fourth wall.

Yes, I'm speaking to you, on the other side of the screen. You know well by now what I look for as I reach out to others. I want a friendship that has more meaning then accepting a request on a social media site. I don't mind having good, honest fun, but I also want to talk about life and the things that really matter, to me and to you. I am in search of the profound in a sea of shallowness, looking, ever looking for the kind of persons whose company is a respite to my painful loneliness. I will not judge you, no matter what your life may look like. I simply ask that I may receive the same courtesy.

Reach out to my reaching. Who knows, we might just live closer to each other than you think.

Send me an e-mail.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Time for Transfers

Just a warning here--one of the primary reasons I started this blog was as an additional coping mechanism to deal with some of my trials. Today, I feel a bit of a rant coming on.

You have been warned.

But first, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am an introvert through and through. Although I can operate very well as an extrovert in some ways (I love public speaking, teaching, and sharing my thoughts in classroom settings, etc.), reaching out to other people is very challenging to me.

No, wait. That doesn't quite sum it up. Let's see if I can explain better.

When I reach out to someone else, hoping to form a deeper bond with them, I literally feel like I am carving a piece of my soul out and putting it on a platter, just hoping someone--often a particular someone or two--will accept my offering. What some people do casually, I do with extreme deliberateness. Although I have wanted to have trust in mankind, and particularly in men, painful experience has led me not to trust others. My mother's ex-husband is the sort that I would rather open up to a homeless person on the street before I ever trust him again. My older brother recently caused a falling out that virtually punished me more than anyone else, and with absolutely no provocation. The last time I had what I would consider to be a best friend (junior high school), our friendship ended when I started noticing that money had gone missing throughout the house.

And so now, as a full-grown adult, I try my hand again to see if there are indeed other dependable people out there.

Boy, am I disappointed to what has become of our culture.

This past Tuesday: considering that I had scarcely seen or heard from Joseph lately, I figured that, perhaps if I texted him earlier in the day when he would theoretically be less busy, I might successfully spend some time with him and the other guys we used to hang out with. I do this with much trepidation and hesitancy--I don't want to bother him.

But then I think to myself, "If he's truly my friend, this shouldn't bother him."

Do you think I ever heard from him? No?

Maybe you're catching on to things. I'd like to think I am.

That didn't settle well with me the rest of the day. So I think to myself, "Hmm...tomorrow I have most of the day to myself. I should arrange for a game night at my place and invite the ward on the ward page."

So I go about doing that. My lethal mistake? Having that much faith in Facebook.

It absolutely baffles how fickle a thing social media is. It favors those who are popular, and shuns those that aren't. It avoids the profound while avidly pursuing the superficial.

But what am I saying? That is the curse our society bears as a whole.

Wednesday: so I get done with my necessary business of the day. In the hours preceding the appointed time, I go through the house and straighten everything up. Gosh, I even cleaned the litter box in the first time for months, since little Sunset usually goes outside.

It's 6:57. I don't expect hordes to show up at seven. My greatest hope is for two or three people to come--my post did get a few likes, after all. Hopefully if I keep my expectations low enough, I won't be too terribly disappointed. I start watching a bit of anime to keep me from becoming too antsy.

7:03 comes and passes.





It's eight o'clock.

Not a soul showed up.

No one texted me to say they were on their way.


It was then that something snapped inside of me. I wanted to cry. I wanted to vanish. I felt completely humiliated, putting such a vulnerable part of me out there just to be totally ignored and rejected.

I finally decided I have had enough of going through this in this ward. Perhaps I might have just shrugged it off had it not been the third, fourth or fifth time this had happened. But the message was clear: if I was to make an effort to become friends with people that wouldn't give me the cold shoulder, it wasn't going to be in this ward.

So I've decided to start attending the local Spanish ward, starting a week from now. They do speak the Celestial language, after all.

I have had some misgivings. I thought to myself before I started writing, "Well, this is something that is wrong with our society and culture at large. It wouldn't be fair for me to chalk it up to my ward having its own problems."

But then I realized that Rachel So-and-so, Joseph, David This-or-that, and others have done exactly the same thing I did, but with abundant success.

It's not like nobody in the ward knows me. I have had quite a few at my house in the past. I haven't missed more than a composite two or three meetings out of the block in the whole 2-1/2+ years I have been attending the singles' ward. I have held a number of different callings, all of which I have fulfilled to the best of my ability, and I participate significantly in every classroom discussion that I am present for.

I have thought for some time that I simply have a difficult time relating to others my age. But I am starting to think much differently.

Other people my age have a difficult time relating to me.

Why? I am indeed an old soul. I see things differently than others. But I really don't know. Is it because I eat food all the time? Because I don't go to school? Having an unusual career? Intimidating others with the variety of talents I have?

Being gay?

Friday: after the business of Thursday, I followed up in my efforts to talk to the bishop. I knew if nothing else, he deserved an explanation, considering that mine wasn't a calling that would be easily replaced. That, and I really wanted someone to talk to--this whole situation has deeply bothered me, and I thought it would be very therapeutic to sort out my emotions-gone-haywire with someone. I've always had a lot of respect for my bishop.

But he didn't really seem interested in talking with me. I was kind of expecting some sort of attempt to talk me into staying, but it seemed a higher priority to make sure the key I held to the chapel (pertaining to my calling) was returned. I decided to believe he was busy and, being preoccupied with other things, didn't think through our text exchange...

Today (Sunday): I am still in a bit of a bad mood after everything earlier in the week, but I still wake up early and diligently practice the musical number I was scheduled to play during Sacrament meeting. In Elders' Quorum, one of the counselors in the bishopric sat down next to me, and we had a hushed conversation while he casually asked me what was going on and tried to make me feel a little bad for leaving in a good-hearted way, which I appreciate. He also told me that the bishop was planning to release me today.

Whoa! I didn't want to make a scene in Sacrament meeting. I was already drawing attention to myself with a musical number. I tactfully requested that I be released next week.

Sacrament meeting: of course the first thing I do is look for a certain someone and, sure enough, even though there was no sign of him during the first two meetings, Joseph was sitting in a pew by himself. I didn't approach him.

I'll admit that I feel a bit of frustration when I see fellow ward members who are getting married. And here I am hardly knowing thing one about platonic relationships, let alone marriage! My final contribution to this ward is sandwiched between two engaged couples.

Before the Sacrament is administered, my bishop announces that there's an item of ward business. My stomach clenches for a moment. Didn't Brother Such-and-such talk to him? I think to myself.

Yes, he did. The item of ward business? The vacancy that my departure would leave was already filled.

It wasn't even 48 hours ago that I told him my intentions. I thought he would at least wait a week, at least talk to me in person.

I know this isn't what he had intended, but I was left feeling very much discarded, disposable, replaceable.


I will admit that my performance wasn't the best that I have done. My hands shook, and my mood made it a challenge, but I still did a good job. But although I didn't immediately dash out the door, I received no comment. No one told me I did a good job. It wouldn't have hurt so much if I wasn't already ultra-sensitive, but in this case, it was the final indicator:

I didn't belong in this ward anymore.

So I left. Who knows if I will ever step foot in that building again?

I have begun to seriously reflect if this is all an orchestration of the Lord's doing. Nothing short of this would cause me to consider attending another ward, so I wonder if it was meant to be that I started attending the local Spanish ward. Perhaps there is someone I'm destined to meet, some need I'm designed to fulfill. I can say that I am very much looking forward to revisiting the hispanic culture that I love.

I'm also curious to see what comes of those I will no longer see each week. I had had every intention of making a post on the ward's Facebook page, but then again, I realized that not many would care too deeply. Some, definitely. I know who they are. But not many. As I will for all intents and purposes vanish without a trace, some will think I am on my way out of the Church; some may conjecture that I have gone to live a life of debauchery and lasciviousness.

Ha! The idea makes me laugh! I will see if anyone so gravely misunderstood me as to think that.

I will see also if any of the connections I have indeed managed to make will survive. One girl I share a number of interests with seems to be a true friend. But I have come to realize that I very well may never see or hear from Joseph again. The test will be next Sunday, at approximately 11:20, when I will suddenly be released from the last of a number of callings, only for there not to be a trace of me to be found.

Will that elicit any responses, anyone reaching out? Maybe.

But probably not.

I really do hope I'm wrong.

But I'm probably not.

I guess I'll be trying my hand at the Spanish ward from hereon out.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

For Same-Sex Attracted Latter-day Saints Who Are Struggling

I've had some thoughts in my mind for quite a while that I have wanted to share for quite some time. I am a ponderer, and love to give myself to in-depth analyses of various topics. Very seldom, however, do I have the opportunity or the appropriate platform in which to share my perspectives.

Until now, that is.

As I have progressed in my comprehension of the meaning and implications of same-sex attraction, especially in regards to discipleship and the Gospel, there has been an ongoing conversation within my head. Whereas there are many positive stories of those who manage to find harmony between their convictions in the restored Church and their differing sexual orientation, they are so often drowned out by the masses who have had less-than-savory experiences as they have come to terms with inherent personal traits: celebrities who use their musical talents to degrade the Church and show disdain for the covenants they have made; those who have made public demonstrations of their disapproval of Church policy, and their consequent dissolution from the Church; members turned atheist, who believe that all religion is a hoax, designed to make its participants miserable.

Then there are the many who silently struggle somewhere in the gray medium of the spectrum.

It is this last group I hope to address. Although I in no way represent an authority figure--I am a twenty-something guy who hasn't even acknowledged the nature of his own attractions for a full year now. However, I think there is some worth in what I have to say.

To the other gay Latter-day Saints out there, I want to say this:

We need you.

In a society that has embraced the scandal of the many who have left their faith and their covenants to find a boyfriend, we have forgotten what it is like to hear of the faithful, who have found the intersection of the Gospel and unusual sexual desires. Perhaps I should rephrase that: we don't know what it's like to hear of those who have chosen the harder right of the two diverging paths.

What can it do for the member sitting next to you in Sacrament meeting, the one whose personal vicissitudes have caused him or her to doubt, to hear that you, subject to one of the most divisive and universally misunderstood experiences of our day, remain true to the faith because you know that the grass truly is greener on this side of the fence?

Really, if we were to compare the beauty of the landscapes of the Gospel as opposed to those of the great and spacious building, we stand on a lawn of grass that is evergreen, whose vividness never fades with the time or season. When measured against the feigned splendor of the green turf of the world, whose attractiveness relies on the warehouses of spray paint at their disposal, with the vapor of smoke and fabricated illusions, there truly is no equal. The immense joy of the fruit of the tree of life, which is whiter and more pure to exceed that of all whiteness and purity, is contrasted with the fruit of worldly indulgence, which has all the savor of the plastic apples in your grandmother's front room.

But how can our fellow brothers and sisters in the Gospel understand that if we reserve for ourselves the nature of our condition? How can they comprehend the depth of our conversion that allows us to forsake lasciviousness if we walk away from the rock that is Christ?

I promise you that there is nothing so sweet as the fullness of the Gospel. You are more than welcome to eat your fill of the sand that comes in so many exotic flavors and brilliant packaging, but I already have a feast before me, the garb of a welcome guest, and the invitation of the Bridegroom.

Additionally, there are few things more satisfying than to be the means of dispelling darkness, misunderstanding, and ignorance. How many are there who cannot love their (insert the word "gay" or any of its synonyms here) neighbors because they lack the understanding sufficient to walk a mile in our shoes? Can they be numbered? Can they grasp the depth of our love toward the Savior and our fellow men? Have we given them the opportunity to see us as living, breathing examples of the law of consecration in action as we lay all of our desires, passions, and appetites, especially the sexual ones, upon the altar of God? Do they understand that we do these things, not so we can be relieved of our inconvenient sexual orientation, or be worthy of God's love in spite of inclinations that some deviants regard as an abomination, but so we can prove our love and our loyalty toward the Lord?

Perhaps there is a man or a woman out there with warring desires concerning coffee or tobacco, a little vice they can't seem to kick. Maybe they simply need to hear what you are actively sacrificing, denying a very real part of you that may very well be with you forever, in this life and the next, in some form or the other, before they can muster the willpower to commit to the higher law.

The Lord in His wisdom would not expose any of His children--and especially His disciples--to desires like that of same-sex attraction, were there not some purpose to be filled, some rare, unique opportunity to minister to those around us.

We are in the Church to minister to those who silently suffer with misunderstanding and conflicting emotions.

We are in the Church to be a light of hope to those in the darkness of despair, questioning, perhaps, if there is a place in the restored Gospel for them, wondering if they can ever hope to have love and companionship in the most consecrated of forms.

We are in the Church to soften the hearts of those who have listened to the misconceptions of the world and have been deceived. "All homosexuals are abominations before the Lord and must be treated as such", they might think, or "if you're gay, you leave the Church and find yourself a boyfriend. That's all there is to it", or any other variation or reflection of the world's diverse foolish doctrines.

The body of the Church needs to hear our experiences--the good ones, the uncomfortable ones, the painful ones. They need to hear our testimonies. They need to see us magnify our callings and serving others. They need to witness what consecration entails, even in the face of the inconvenient, the "impossible".

We are a light upon a hill.

Shine brightly.