Monday, January 28, 2013

This is the Land of Confusion

I rarely take much time to ponder and reflect on life.  I thought I'd take a moment and do so now.

The big difference between the last time I posted and now is that I've taken a step back from church activity.  It's a scary place to be.  All my life there's been a light post or beacon that I was to follow.  Over time, I realized that light was not comforting and was not all encompassing as I had believed.  What do I mean?  I mean that church and many of the things we do and practice there no longer matter to me.  I go to church usually to support my wife and kids, but I've refused any calling and do not have a temple recommend.  If I didn't go, my boys would never go.  I still think it's a good place to raise a family with morals, restraints and to learn Christ's teachings.  Those things are good.  I'm not angry or spiteful towards the church or its leaders.  I'm just indifferent myself.  If my kids pick another path when they are adults, it won't bother me much so long as it's an educated choice, not just to be different.

On a positive note, it feels honest to admit this and to live this way.  It honestly felt good to reject my bishop's latest attempt to extend a calling to me.  I don't have it in me anymore to participate like I did.  I feel more and more like my father, who respects the church but doesn't feel any need to participate or attend more than once or twice a year, if that.  He's a good man and not prejudiced against people who believe differently than him, unlike the general attitude many in the church have.

Needless to say, my wife is less than pleased with this latest turn of events.  I keep disappointing her--not a great feeling.  She has had certain expectations and dreams going into this marriage, almost 15 years ago, and has had the hardest time with my slow withdrawal from church over the last several years.  My understanding has changed over time, and I am not moved anymore.  She still is and loves the church.  I'm hoping when we express our religious differences in the future, there won't be so much anger from her.  I think it comes more from frustration and dashed hopes than any real animosity towards me.

Now I'm confused.  I don't have a guide post to help me through this.  I've always felt a bit distant from God, and that hasn't improved--one of the reasons I've lost faith.  I want to believe He cares and has a plan for me.  Some days it's harder to believe that than others.  I'll have decisions to make soon.  I still have 2 kids who haven't been baptized (both boys), and one day they'll be in the young men's program.  What to do about baptisms and priesthood ordinations?  Do I still keep wearing garments?  Are there other facets of our faith that I'll discard along the way?  I don't know because I'm not sure what I believe.

Maybe I'll take this blog in a new direction and explore those aspects of faith and doubt that plague me to work out my evolving belief system.  Talking about one's doubts has never been encouraged in this church culture.  Also, I hate to attack another's beliefs.  I'm don't think someone is stupid or ignorant for believing all the Mormon tenants (or any other faith).  I think faith is a beautiful thing.  I'm not one to knock that down.  I'm happy my wife finds happiness in the church.  I just don't anymore.  Because of the lack of a venue in which to speak and to avoid the appearance of being antagonistic towards those of faith, I don't usually say anything.  This blog may provide a better outlet than just remaining quiet.  I do better at organizing my thoughts in writing anyway.  I'm guessing my posts may lean this direction in the future.

Happy New Year to any who still peruse this blog.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Bill in California Aimed at Sexual Orientation Therapy

I learned about a new bill being considered by the California Senate that is aimed at curtailing what is called sexual orientation change therapy. I've often heard it referred to as reparative therapy, to change one's orientation from gay to straight. The gist of the bill is to require therapists to provide strict warnings and obtain a written consent in writing from patients before providing such therapies. Also, minor (under 18) could not undergo such treatment even with consent of the parent or guardian. The bill was considered by the Senate's Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on Monday, April 23rd. The bill's sponsors backed out on their support due to the broad nature of the bill, the limitation on minors, and other issues, but not the overall concept that this kind of therapy needs further oversight or limitations. The bill passed out of committee on a 5-3 vote, but with promises from the author that it will be amended to address concerns from certain organizations of psychologists. It was referred back to the Judiciary Committee for amendment instead of going to the Senate floor.
The bill is S.B. No. 1172. You can keep tabs on the bill by going to  Monday's hearing is available at  Go to the video archives and look for date and name of the committee.  The bill was considered first on the agenda and takes up about the first 25 minutes of the video.  The written committee analysis directly attacked Dr. Nicolosi's work, whom many psychologists in this field follow. The oral comments were an attack on NARTH.
I have mixed feelings about this issue. I try to keep an open mind, and as I've heard and read many guys' stories, I realize that we do not all fit one mold. I think it is better for some men to find their significant other of the same gender rather than be alone or try to conform to the church. Others like me stay in the church and are married. Others are single and in the church. There are so many paths.
What I agree with the bill's authors is that being gay is not a disease. Unfortunately, that can be implied from reparative therapy techniques, depending on the therapist and nature of the techniques used during therapy. However, I've seen guys who thrive and are happier after therapy.
I'm a fence sitter when it comes to therapy. Psychology is an interesting field, and I think there are things we all learn about ourselves. Sometimes we need help with that. Learning coping mechanisms is also something people need help with. I have a hard time articulating any goals that therapy would be able to help me with.
My wife and I did some counseling with LDS Family Services after I came out to her. We had a really nice, open minded therapist. There was no judgment. We spent most of the time looking at our relationship or at my wife's own struggles. It wasn't reparative work. It was nice, but I'm still not sure what I got out of it.
I've been invited to do a JIM weekend from guys who have done it. I'm assuming that kind of experiential weekend would also be impacted by this bill. I have a hard time justifying the expense when I have so many other priorities and I don't know what I'd get out of it. I occasionally go to a group meeting in Los Angeles where therapists come give a presentation. I've learned some things, but mostly I get a boost from being around guys like me. I'm not alone. That's awesome, because in the day to day life, it's easy to perceive that I'm alone.
One of the hesitations I have with reparative therapy is the focus on childhood experiences that caused one to be gay. I don't blame my parents. They weren't perfect, but they were good. I have had attractions to guys since very young. I don't think my parents caused it. I can't remember if I've shared this thought before on this blog, but Mormon doctrine teaches that our souls are both our spirits and our bodies. Our souls are then the combination of three things--that spirit that came from heaven, our physical bodies which are impacted by DNA and our environment, and then our experiences. Who I am today is influenced by all those things. In what part of my soul resides the gayness? Who knows? All I know is that it's part of me, it always has been, and I don't see it going away. The why doesn't seem so important. Reparative therapy, based on my limited understanding, seems to spend most of its time on the why and to blame the parents. I don't feel any need to go there.
That being said, I will reiterate I've seen guys who are much happier after they have sought some treatment. So, I'm not really for this bill so long as therapist generally are following their existing guidelines, which already requires informed consent. No therapy is perfect and may not fix anything.
Any thoughts on therapy? this bill? I don't think the bill would affect ecclesiastical counseling or Christian ministries like Exodus, but I'm not sure. We'll have to see how it's amended and if it gets to the Senate floor.

Friday, April 6, 2012

It gets better video

Joanna Brooks on Religion Dispatches posted this video link by a group of gay BYU students. Very powerful and hopeful. I needed it. I have been feeling very discouraged lately.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A loss...

My friend over at just thrive lost his wife last night to a long battle with cancer, leaving him with his young kids. Please keep him in your prayers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


On Sunday, I went to a non-denominational church to hear Alan Chambers, one of the directors of Exodus International, speak to that congregation.  I was interested to hear someone speak about being attracted to one's own gender openly in a church setting.  Up until now, it's been something I've read about or discussed with others either online, in therapy, with a friend, or at a group.  I think there's been a couple of articles in the Ensign over the years, but not in any great detail or the author was anonymous.  Certainly talks over the pulpit in General Conference are not given with any specific details, with much hope or from someone who's been there.  Now wouldn't that be something if the general authorities spoke specifically about temptations or sins they struggled with or overcame during their lives?  But I digress...

Alan Chambers was entertaining and uplifting spiritually.  He spoke about his own awareness of being gay at an early age and being raised Baptist.  His memories on the subject, whether from pastors or his own parents, was about what you shouldn't do and that it's a sin.  He began praying at a very young age to God to take it away, give him amnesia or even take his life.  He was 11 when that prayer began.  He said he continued that prayer for years, and doing symbolic things like writing homosexuality on a piece of paper and pinning it to a cross he made.  He wrote it down on another piece of paper at a youth retreat and threw it into the bonfire.  He always woke up the next day feeling the same.  He immersed himself in trying to be the perfect christian, describing it like he was a hamster in the wheel of good deeds, going round and round without really going anywhere.  I can relate to that.  I felt like I was the most dedicated at scripture reading, home teaching, and serving in callings at the point in my life where I finally came out to myself.

Then he met a counselor at a young adult retreat who spoke to a group of about a 1,000 or so people.  He said there was probably someone who was gay listening to him at that moment, and that that person should come talk to him.  So Alan Chambers spoke to him afterwards, discretely, and outed himself to this counselor. The man taught him his first important lesson in really knowing God.  He said he heard for the first time in his life that God loved him.  No qualifications, conditions, or requirements.  That started a long process of healing and being led to the Exodus group.  He said it took him a long time to realize God was not going to use the magic wand on him.  As he put it, God was not going to waive the magic wand and say, "1, 2, 3, you are straight now go date and mate."  I laughed pretty hard at that one.

He put in a plug for Exodus that it is not a group to make a gay person straight, but to support in a loving way someone who is attracted to the same gender and help him or her find God.  He reminded everyone that plenty of straight people are going to hell and that we are all messed up.  It was a very good message.

The pastor then concluded with some nice thoughts about including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters with the liars, gluttons, greedy, adulterers, etc. who are sitting at church.  He said the Christian church had much to apologize about its behavior to gay and lesbians.  He concluded that we should not judge, leave that to God, and just include, welcome, and help others come to Christ.

I'm glad I went.