Monday, August 11, 2008

Prophecy or Policy?

Well, the donation forms have gone around church twice now. My wife and I have discussed the issue some, but have not reached a conclusion on what level of support to give. She was with a friend this week, whose husband is bishop of the ward we used to attend. They discussed the issues some and boiled them down to whether one believes the directive from the First Presidency to support Proposition 8 is prophecy or policy. The Church has many "policies" that are not doctrine. How does one know? The other interesting thing that this friend reported is that she was aware of several people in the single's ward of that stake who walked out of sacrament when the First Presidency's letter was read. I know of at least one visitor in our ward that day who walked out.

Yesterday, a member of the stake presidency visited each unit in our stake to provide a presentation during a combined priesthood/Relief Society meeting to teach doctrine and encourage support for the coalition. I think the presentation was a rush job. There was definitely sound doctrine taught, but without thought to the divorced and single members of the ward. Taken out of context, the presentation could have been used as a basis for supporting an anti-divorce proposition.

There was talk of "activist" judges in "San Francisco" and seeking to have their appointments revoked. First of all, people only hate "activist" judges when the judges rule against them. Otherwise they are champions of the law and civil rights. Second, removing them from office will not change the law.

Another fallacy with the presentation was with the dollar amount that the stake wants to raise. The goal was set by doubling the amount raised in the friends of Scouting drive earlier in the year. "Isn't this twice as important?" I wanted to say, "No." I think supporting BSA is greater in the long run. (As a side note, I enjoyed scouts to an extent growing up but didn't really fit in with the other boys--no surprise--but have served in scout positions as an adult and can really appreciate a well-run, even if imperfect, scout program.)

Anyway, I didn't leave the meeting feeling disgusted, but I wasn't motivated or impressed. My wife asked me how the meeting went, but it wasn't great, so I didn't elaborate much. I'm still equivocating about my vote in November. That makes it hard to feel excited about donating money or participating in surveys.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Proposition 8

For the first time, I’m a bit uncomfortable with something said over the pulpit. I’m in California, and the Church is part of a coalition of many churches participating in the campaigning for Proposition 8, which would amend the California constitution to define a marriage as between a man and a woman. I believe this proposition was in the works anyway, but with the recent California Supreme Court case finding that denying marriages to those of the same gender is unconstitutional, the momentum for the proposition has taken off.
My feelings on this matter are mixed. On the one hand, I would be disappointed if the Church did not actively support this proposition. On the other hand, there are other aspects of our laws that are not in accordance with the gospel. Why is the Church coming down on this issue and not others? Of course I recognize my bias because of the feelings I have towards other men. Every day I tell myself that I’m not a bad person, and this proposition seems to say the opposite. From a gay person’s point of view, the proposition is an attack on their civil liberties which they just recently won in court. So, this is a difficult issue for me. I’m not sure how I will vote on this measure let alone what I will do or say if I’m asked to contribute financially to the campaign or to contribute time to the campaign. I know our stake will be asked shortly for volunteers to conduct surveys, but that’s all I know for sure.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mixed up color day

My kids have a book by Dr. Seuss called, “My Many Colored Days.” It describes how each day can be a bit different and reflective of a color. Near the end, it says that some days the colors are all mixed up and “I don’t know who or what I am.”
That’s the way I often feel. There are many parts to me and they don’t all seem to mesh well. I find myself wishing that I could pick one and make that part of me the best. I don’t feel that there’s anything in particular that I excel at. I doubt that anyone would disagree with me that life is complicated with work, a family, a home, church, and sneaking into your schedule a few moments for hobbies, exercise or fun. What a balancing act! I wish I could give more focus to each of the aspects of my life. Too bad I have to sleep occasionally.
I am still working on finding the strength to overcome my selfish desires to be with another man. I have a good life with a loving wife and family. I have good friends and a good job. One day I’ll figure out how to remember these aspects of my life when I’m feeling down or feeling the urge to be selfish.
I have to admit that the fantasy or desire to be intimate with another man is stronger now than it has been. It seems more real. This means that I have been making the wrong choices. I really feel that I should focus more on others and forget myself. It’s hard to be selfish when you aren’t thinking about yourself.
It’s time for a good self-evaluation to set priorities and bring some order to the chaos in my life, and then maybe I’ll understand the colors in my life better.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Doing better

I started a new job a few weeks back, and though while I'm busier, I'm happier. I'm fitting in and feeling like I'm accomplishing something each day. I did not have that feeling at my last job. The boredom and lack of responsibility at my last job really weighed down on me and didn't help the SSA.

During the last few weeks, I've definitely hungered for the touch of another man. None of my guy friends generally feel any need to touch. I'm usually initiating it, and so it's usually a handshake or a hug from the side. But I do have good friends, and I do my best to remember that's what's more important. I'm even considering telling one of them about my SSA. I've never told anyone.

So, life is good. My wife and I are transitioning with the new job and having a new baby. We're looking forward to some vacation time this summer and celebrating a milestone anniversary.

I wish my faith and testimony were greater. I don't really have any excitement for conference coming up. General Conference, while the topics are great, feels like a regurgitation of all that has come before. That sounds worse than I meant. I do feel the Spirit when listening to the talks, but whereas I used to make sure I could watch as much of the 10 hours of conference as possible, now I almost try to find excuses to minimize it, especially on Saturday. Though, I can't wait to find out who the new apostle will be. I'm hoping for one of the Seventy from Latin America to be called.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rotten to the core

Am I rotten?

One struggle that I think many of us Latter-day Saints who experience SSA have is grappling with the question of the nature and source of these feelings. Am I attracted to men because God made me so? If so, why did He create something that feels so right but is so wrong according to our doctrine? I guess the question is one of degree. No one is perfect. We each experience those aspects of our personality that we may not like as well as temptations that we cannot seem to ignore. It just feels that with SSA, something is fundamentally wrong with me. It's as though while the rest of the world needs to breathe oxygen, I need nitrogen.

The mental struggle to find purpose in having SSA (why did God give this to me?) is further excaserbated by Church leaders who teach that it is not something we are born with, but a choice. I think recent statements by Church leaders have eased up on that position, recognizing that personality or genes might have something to do with it. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I remember from a young age feeling different than other guys and craving a close physical and emotional relationship with another man. Now, that is not to say that choice has not played a role in my SSA. I have made choices that have augmented these same-sex attractions and made my life more confusing.

I have not told my church leaders about my SSA because I don't see that there is much, if anything, they can do for me. It seems somewhat arbitrary whether a bishop would be helpful or harmful because the church doesn't seem to have much in the way of instruction on this issue. Even if I felt my bishop would not stop loving me and would seek to help, I doubt he could change anything for me. This SSA feels like a private matter that I have to resolve with God directly, not through his servants. However, this feeling may be skewed by my own desire to protect my own. Sometimes bishops aren't as discrete as they should be. I shouldn't judge beforehand, but if something slipped, SSA can be terribly damaging to one's reputation. I don't want that embarrasment for me or my family.

So, maybe I'm selfish, like porn too much, or want to keep my sins secret, or maybe I'm just scared, lonely, and in doubt that anyone can help me. I'm not sure on my true feelings. Maybe all of the above is true. Whatever the truth of my feelings, I feel that at some place within my soul, I have a rot and my hope is minimal that it can ever be cleansed.

I think my feelings of doubt have been encouraged by my lack of self-control and my lack of faith. I try to learn at Church and through personal scripture study. I just don't get much out of these activities anymore. We, as a Church, have interpreted the parable of the ten virgins to represent our efforts at preparing for the second coming. If so, I feel like a virgin whose lamp has a hole in it. No matter what I do to fill the lamp, the oil leaks out--ineffectual spiritual preparation. I need a spiritual reboot, but I don't know what will accomplish it. I find little meaning anymore in scripture, temple attendance or church attendance. Only daily prayer gives me some succor. However, I still love the people at Church. I still feel like Church is a good thing. I still remember some great spiritual experiences from my youth and from my mission. I might not be able to say that I know with every fiber of my being that this Church is true, but I know it is a good thing that teaches correct principles. I just don't know anymore if it is the only way.

This is a brief description of how I'm feeling right now. This post was precipitated by a dream I had last night. In that dream, I had an incredibly physically and emotionally intimate encounter with a friend that was not sexual. I woke up with a feeling of peace from that dream experience mixed with terrible angst of guilt because such an experience in real life, I think, would become sexual--a violation of my temple covenants, my marriage, and my friend's trust. I wish that my dream experience could be real, but I realize it is forbidden. Thus my angst between what God and the Church tells me is something terrible with the beauty I see could be had between two men. Have I strayed so far from the path that I cannot see SSA as something evil, to be avoided at all costs?

In any event, I affirm the choices I've made so far in my life to not be with another man. I remain committed to my wife and children. I hope to develop a better relationship with God so that I can be at peace with all aspects of who I am. The path to obtaining that relationship is still unclear to me. I pray I can find the way soon.

Friday, February 8, 2008

On the way to work

I was almost to work this morning when I noticed a window decal in the car next to mine. It was of an angel. The interesting thing about the angel was that it had a black eye. I think if I make it to heaven, that's how I'll feel.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


My path is unclear. The steps I should take to better my life are unclear.

I recall from a young age being encouraged to think independently and to try to solve the problems in society instead of letting someone else solve them for me. I haven't been doing much of that.

Life is strange and demanding. I find myself grateful to just get through work, help around the house, and enjoy an hour or two of TV or reading before going to bed. My life is pretty simple. Yet, I wonder if there should be something more?

I've had these thoughts for awhile, but they have increased wiht the death of the prophet, my being told it's time to find other employment, and the general financial stress of raising a family in Southern California where the price of anything is more expensive.

It's been a rough couple of weeks for me emotionally. I wish I had greater self-control. I wish I could provide a little more wiggle room for our finances. I wish I had the drive to achieve not just good things, but great things.

A few men and women are competing for the greatness that this country's highest elected office provides. A more important form of greatness is that which Jesus taught. He taught sacrifice, selflessness, and service. Those are qualities and actions that I do not have in an abundance. I think I would find greater happiness by thinking less of my problems and offering my services to those in need.

Where to serve? Church is good, but the focus there is mostly on home teaching and meetings. So much can be done outside of that framework that no one needs to know about--tutoring, trail work, volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter, counsel teens in trouble, teach the illiterate how to read, work on a political committee, volunteer at city or county services, etc. So much can be done and those things aren't even on my radar. Where is my love to serve and accomplish the greater good? I don't know, but I think when I find it, my focus on my own problems, including SSA, will seem much less significant.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Church urges us to blog

This article was emphasized at our stake conference last week. It's interesting for one of the Apostles to encourage the use of a blog. I don't mind so much posting on this one because I keep it anonymous and don't add much in the way of personal details. I am concerned about cyber-predators and have not yet reached a level of comfort of sharing a lot of personal details to anyone with computer access. Of course, blogs can be created with limited access too.

LDS Newsroom

Another policy of the Church's that I find curious is the push to house all the missionaries in members' homes. Maybe it's just that my experience with living with members on my mission was a bit awkward, but I think having the missionaries in their own place is productive and allows them to unwind a bit and be themselves for a couple of hours each day. I understand, though, that the Church is concerned with the rising cost of housing in this country. However, I'm fine with raising the monthly cost of the mission. I say that without having kids old enough to serve yet!

Monday, January 14, 2008

A little understanding

As I was driving home from seeing a movie the other night, I was struck by how sometimes I can feel the plight of the fictional characters and sense their pain. It maybe fake and some director designed the scene to tug at one's emotions, but it made me understand a little about how the Savior can comprehend our struggles. I almost came to tears (which I hardly ever do) in the car thinking about how much the Savior can love me even when I don't understand everything going on in my life. He does. He comprehends. He loves. The Atonement is designed to take away all this life's pains, sufferings, as well as sins. Alma 7: "11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people."

I think for most that the Atonement won't take away those pains in this life. We still have to deal with the effects of the pain throughout our lives and we can learn from it. Yet we should look forward to the day when we will be completely healed by Jesus.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A little confession

One of the things that disgusts me is when I start fantasizing about my friends. Mostly, I fantasize about handsome strangers, but occasionally my thoughts stray to those I care about. I suppose in a way it could be flattering because sex is one way to express affection for someone. However, in this situation, such expression would destroy families, inspire guilt, and do much more harm than those few minutes of pleasure. This is one of my reasons I've never told any of my friends. I don't want them to ask if I fantasize about them or have them constantly wondering if I'm checking them out or have any ulterior motives for my actions.

It happened again the other night when I had a couple of friends over to watch a movie. I looked over and those thoughts hit. I want to enjoy being with guy friends and not worry about SSA. Mostly that's true and I don't think about SSA when being with friends, but there are times when I can't block those thoughts. Fortunately, I've never acted on them with another man.