Friday, December 29, 2006

On your honor

"It is Ellidyr who paid the final price," Taran said slowly. "The last honor belongs to him." He spoke then of Islimach [his suicidal horse]. "He has lost all else, even his steed."

"Or perhaps gained all," Gwydion answered. "And his honor shall be certain. We shall raise a barrow to his memory. Islimach, too, shall rest with him, for they are both now at peace. Smoit's dead shall also sleep in honor, and a barrow be raised above Morgant King of Madoc."

"Morgant?" Taran asked, turning a puzzled glance to Gwydion. "How can there be honor for such a man?"

"It is easy to judge evil unmixed," replied Gwydion. "But, alas, in most of us good and bad are closely woven as the threads on a loom; greater wisdom than mine is needed for the judging."

I've been encouraged to be honorable as a boy scout (the scout oath), in school (the honor roll), and as a missionary ("return with honor"). I've never been a huge fan of conceptual honor, exactly, as it makes me think we're talking about reputation. But I suppose the self-perception and moral identity aspects of honor are good ones to support.

So, The Black Cauldron is all about honor. But my initial reaction was a less-than-enthusiastic one since the way they talk about honor reminds me of my brushes with renaissance fairs. Through a series of events I won't describe, I found myself dishonorably clothed in jeans and t-shirt in the midst of dozens of back-clapping, cod-piece wearing fellas who seemed to stare at me as if I were a freak. The blemish on my family's escutcheon will be difficult to buff.

What I loved about it after reading it, though, was the contrast between the honor Ellidyr wanted (which was based on others' perceptions and was a complete sham and he would have known it) vs. the honor an assistant pig keeper can hold in his own heart regardless of having little status in the world. While the message seems to be that the honor does not derive from who we are, but from how we behave, I extend that in my mind to be an endorsement of the idea of seeking God's honor or some sort of self satisfaction rather than "aspiring to the honors of men."

This is also an appropriate time to think about this topic because recently I felt very humiliated in a public forum. I felt misunderstood and frankly victimized by angry folks who have obviously been deeply hurt themselves and lost a lot of perspective. Looking back, I recognize that group dynamics sometimes dictate harsh perceptions of certain points of view, but that harshness and the dishonor heaped on you by the mob are ridiculous. It's good practice to worry not what others think, just what God thinks or what I think of myself.

Honor means having a good work ethic, paying for what I receive, respecting others, being honest, etc., and I suppose this all equates to being a disciple of Christ for me. And even though I'm more of a Morgant some days than a Taran, I'm happy to keep trying to make the closely woven threads of good and bad in my loom lean toward the good.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Black Cauldron

Well, I was going to post today for Black Cauldron, but then I went and lost my copy. It was a fun book, and I enjoyed it for what it was--that much I can remember. The moral was that if you are a scummy person with a lot of self-hate you can simultaneously win some honor and commit suicide if you play your cards right. That, and that there is a little pig-boy in us all.

So, I'll be posting when I get around to it. Now, back to eating Christmas candy. Yum.

Oh, yeah, and if you would like to start suggesting books for January, feel free. Backslider and Rough Stone Rolling (bio of Joseph Smith) are on the list already. Others?

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

I'm through accepting limits
'Cuz someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love I guess I've lost
Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost!
I'd sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down:

So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
"Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!"
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I'll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!

Like a horoscope I often listen to music and hear exactly the message I want to, regardless of what the words actually say or the context. So, I like these lyrics. And, I'm through accepting limits because someone says they're so. Some things I cannot change, but till I try, I'll never know!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Civil unions

One way to think of marriage is as a bundle of rights associated with what it means for two people to be married. What the First Presidency has done is express its support of marriage and for that bundle of rights belonging to a man and a woman. The First Presidency hasn’t expressed itself concerning any specific right. It really doesn’t matter what you call it. If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it’s given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, “That is not right. That’s not appropriate.”As far as something less than that — as far as relationships that give to some pairs in our society some right but not all of those associated with marriage — as to that, as far as I know, the First Presidency hasn’t expressed itself. There are numbers of different types of partnerships or pairings that may exist in society that aren’t same-gender sexual relationships that provide for some right that we have no objection to. All that said… there may be on occasion some specific rights that we would be concerned about being granted to those in a same-gender relationship. Adoption is one that comes to mind, simply because that is a right which has been historically, doctrinally associated so closely with marriage and family. I cite the example of adoption simply because it has to do with the bearing and the rearing of children. Our teachings, even as expressed most recently in a very complete doctrinal sense in the Family Proclamation by living apostles and prophets, is that children deserve to be reared in a home with a father and a mother.

I would sometimes like to avoid the subject of gay marriage altogether because it gives me a lot of mental pain. But I don't have that option as it is an important issue right now for so many people (both gay and LDS), and it is playing out in elections and public debates all the time. The recent election and the variations in legislative and constitutional proposals across the country brought it all to the forefront for me again.

My inclination is to favor gay marriage and/or civil unions, but to also follow the advice of the church even when it doesn't necessarily make sense to me. But I don't think it's inappropriate to discuss guidance given by the church, and I think it's actually a spiritual necessity to try to understand it. So, wearily, here goes... (again)...

Elder Wickman mentions that "our doctrine simply requires" us to oppose not only gay marriages but civil unions that accomplish an identical purpose. I don't know what doctrine this specifically is. Gay sex is wrong: check. Chastity is good: check. Freedom to choose: check. The balance of doctrine seems to lean toward allowing civil unions, in my mind. I really would appreciate a clarification, but through some unfortunate oversight I wasn't invited to the Public Affairs interview I've quoted.

Adoption is the other sticking point for me. As many have pointed out before, despite the ideal that every child deserves a home with a father and mother, that hasn't happened for many children and allowing an actual care-giver in a real life situation to properly care for a child seems to be a good idea. When a child comes to the Emergency Department with a gay care-giver who is not related, treatment consent cannot be obtained until the legal parent is available (with a few caveats). This can delay treatment and adversely affect the child's health.

I suppose the objection is that recognizing or supporting gay adoption would have the effect of sky-rocketing the number of children being reared by gay partners rather than fathers and mothers--like we're advocating the better of two unfortunate options. Advocate policy that harms a small number of children today to harm fewer children later... or something like that. But, I can certainly understand the incredulity gay advocates confront this with--the data shows no harm to children from being raised with same-gendered parents.

And I suppose that brings us full circle to the appeal to "doctrine." It may not be doctrine because it's in the scriptures, but by virtue of the fact the 1st presidency says it's the best thing to do. It's an appeal to God's authority, and that's the end of the debate.

So much rides on the question: is the church really God's? Are the prophets really speaking for Him? I wish everyone could respect those who answer those questions differently than themselves without throwing around insults and intolerance. But it has been recently and emphatically demonstrated to me that for both believers and non-believers this is prohibitively difficult.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Boring post

I'm going to start my New Year's Resolutions early. Like, today. Then I'll get all my false starts out of the way before the real thing.

And this is important enough, I suppose to warrant a blog post. Too bad the important things in life--trying harder and basic obedience--are the most boring.

Here's my tentative list:
  • Read scriptures daily
  • Exercise 6 times a week
  • Manage to not be sarcastic and nasty, even when it's really really tempting.
  • Be more tidy

Monday, December 18, 2006

Step 3: Trust in God

Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Step 3 is the decision step. In the first two steps, we awakened to what we could not do for ourselves and what we needed God to do for us. Then in step 3 we were introduced to the only thing we could do for God. We could make a decision to open ourselves to Him and surrender our entire lives—past, present, and future—and our will about our lives to Him. Step 3 was an act of agency. It was the most important choice we ever made.

I do love the Maxwell quote where he declares that the only thing we really have to give God is our will since everything else came from God to begin with. I've been pretty stingy with my will lately, it seems. I remember specifically making my will secondary to God's will when it came to the big things--marriage and career--but I keep trying to just push all the other details of my life to be what I want them to, rather than what God might have in mind for me.

I've been pursuing my own will for so long, it's hard to imagine my life any other way. The manual mentions not getting worked up over traffic jams and not fearing creditors as examples of how your life may change when you give control over to God. That sounds placid and delightful, but I can't imagine myself not getting upset over traffic. Traffic just makes me livid and that's all there is to it. The only way I really enjoy driving is when everyone else in the world stays off the roads (the fools! the bad drivers!).

So, this idea is kind of novelty to me even though it's not new. I'm trying to figure it out so I can apply it to help me overcome the porn addiction. The manual says, "You can accept with serenity the current reality of your condition when you trust in God’s ability to help you." I do accept the reality of my condition with comparative serenity. And I trust in God's ability to help me. But, if no change happens, does that put it on God's shoulders? I mean, if I've acknowledged that I'm incapable of doing this on my own, and now I'm trusting in God and giving him my will... who is to blame for when I screw up again? Isn't sacrificing one's will in this case just code for solving your problem the way God wants it to be solved?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The new look

What do I have to do to get someone to say, "Groovy new look, L!"?

So, I've made a few changes and I'm not fully persuaded that I like all of them. Do you like the expandable comments on the homepage? I'm not sold. I'm thinking about taking them off. Feedback? Anything else better or worse?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Underwear enacting evil

Jessie mentioned that the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet has changed its wording to de-emphasize ratings in favor of making informed entertainment decisions. But that leaves me with the whole burden of evaluating my entertainment for myself—exercising my free agency muscles, as santorio puts it. I love the idea, but in practice this has been very problematic. I’m afraid of indulging the oblivious inconsistency I’ve seen in others.

I’ve heard one way to evaluate questionable content is to determine whether it is portraying evil (i.e. accurately describing the consequences that come from violence, revenge, moral depravity, etc.) or actually enacting the evil itself. Media supposedly enacts evil when it makes it appear glamorous or in any way divorces it from the harsh realities that surround it. Not showing the consequences is evil in itself, the idea goes.

This sounds very wise until I actually calculate out how it might apply. So, now I can watch explicit extramarital sex as long as there’s eventually a horribly awkward confrontation with the spouse? I get aroused by underwear ads, so it seems to me that I should avoid the bothersome ones even though the men standing there in their near-nothins are being very candid and honest about the consequences of wearing underwear.

Plus, I’m horrible at putting down a book or leaving a movie if it suddenly seems out of line. I’m a sucker for finishing what I start (how does it end? I MUST KNOW!).

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I’ve never been one for R-rated movies. In fact, by the time I finished college, I don’t think I had ever seen a full R-rated film knowing that it was R-rated. Truthfully, there were a couple where although I didn’t know the rating for certain, I didn’t walk out even when things went sour, so I can’t pretend to be such a perfect little boy. (I’m resisting the urge to be glib about my concurrent refusal to watch R films but willingness to watch porn privately). But still—I steered clearer than most.

Apart from the prophetic prohibition of R films, I found it easier to just leave the responsibility for choosing what is acceptable to the faceless motion picture ratings group. But now I’m persuaded that that’s sort of a cop out. Putting aside the controversy over the inconsistency and arbitrary nature of the rating system in this country, it seems that for a thinking adult, ratings are inadequate. I’ve seen a fair amount of nudity in non-R-rated films (and that’s where I personally run into the most trouble). My inclination is to believe that NC-17 movies are downright bad. However, no children under 17 are admitted to the temple movie, so what’s the rating on that?

I’ve now watched a few R films, generally chosen for having an uplifting message and having a rating that is meant to protect children from being unnecessarily troubled rather than for being indecent. But I’m ambivalent because of the prophetic advice not to watch R-rated films—especially given the arbitrary and evolving nature of the ratings system in the U.S. It’s a conflict about the spirit vs. the letter of the law we’ve all been through before, and I was always taught the spirit of the law extends the letter rather than contradicts it. And as one who feels an urgency to hold on to all the spiritual strength I can, it should be a no-brainer. Now, if only there were a rating system for books… Censorship!!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Turkish delight

She knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves...
C.S.Lewis in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

I've been thinking about visceral desires. They make perfect sense a lot of the time, but then you have desires gone awry, like pica where a pregnant woman has an irrational desire to eat dirt. I'm not kidding. Dirt in this case may even be good for her since the desire is based on a mineral deficiency. More likely though, the dirt is just going to get stuck in her teeth.

Near as I can tell, the process by which your body associates a certain behavior or food with meeting a particular need is an imperfect one. Pickles and ice cream good for babies? How does that work? It actually does sometimes. Of course, sometimes it doesn't.

When a properly diagnosed vitamin deficiency is treated appropriately, the cravings are then irrelevant--it doesn't matter whether the desired object is weird or not in terms of health, the needs are being met. But there's still that craving. And that's kind of where I see my current status with another flavor of Turkish Delight. My reproductive needs have been met despite a misdirected craving that seems never to relent. Porn, then, seems to stop the craving itself for a while, but then I want more and more of it. And that Turkish Delight is threatening to kill me. Too bad I agreed to have some from the White Witch in the first place.

I'll have to keep trying to remember how Edmund's problem was solved.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


August 21, 2006 - At the APA Conference in New Orleans — where APA President Koocher commented about the ethicality of sexual reorientation therapy — Clinton Anderson, director of the APA Office of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns, offered further commentary.*

Mr. Anderson said he does not dispute that some people leave homosexuality. "I don't think that anyone disagrees with the idea that people can change, because we know that straight people become gay and lesbian — so it seems totally reasonable that some gay and lesbian people would become straight. The issue is not whether sexual orientation changes...the issue is whether therapy changes sexual orientation."
That shifting moment when everyone suddenly agreed that change is possible somehow escaped me. Was someone else there? Can you describe it for me? Regardless, I hope the legions of folks who constantly reference the APA as a scientifically credible organization which has debunked reparative therapy will now fall in line with this statement that nobody "disagrees with the idea that people can change" sexual orientation! Hee.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Full disclosure

I recently discussed with my wife that moment when I came out to her. I remember it as awkward, very embarrassing, and still sort of heroically wonderful. It was the first time I ever admitted I was gay to anyone other than a therapist.

But, I have a terrible memory, and for this reason I generally charge my wife with keeping track of life's most important reminders. And my wife's recollection of the event is a little different from my own. She remembers me saying, "I think I might like boys... sometimes." The careful reader will note that this is not identical in declarative solidity or content to "I am gay."

Over the last several months I've read with interest the accounts of other gay married men who either came out to their wives before or after marriage, as well as Oaks' comments on the subject and others' takes who are only spectators to the situation. The general sentiment seems to be, shame on you if you didn't tell your wife exactly what she was getting into before you married her. And, in some few cases, this may apply. But I really feel that the majority of cases (mine included) suffer from a lack of full disclosure not because of some sneaky reluctance to be honest, but because there has been such a lack of self-understanding that one could just as easily say, "Based on my feelings, I'm not sure if my gallbladder is performing at 100%."

I still don't fully understand the nature and depth of my homosexuality. But neither of us quite knew at the time we were dating and engaged that it would be as hard as it has been. I didn't think pornography was going to be the long-term problem that it has been, and she interpreted my "coming out" as a turning point--believing that having finally admitted it I was in a position to just walk away from it.

Back when the SLT article came out about gay married Mormons, many an idle commenter declared us to be naïve in believing our marriage could work. I believe we were naïve in the same way everyone is naïve when starting something as strange and new as marriage--there's no way you can know the odd ins and outs without experiencing them firsthand. And we were ignorant to the depth and breadth of the challenges my homosexuality would create for us. But we were not naive in the largest sense--we knew marriage would send us all sorts of curve balls, and that we would need all our loyalty and commitment to one another and the gospel to make it through regardless of the nature of the challenges.

We still believe (and I don't think it's naïve at all) that our marriage is and will be what we make it. Our marriage has improved and strengthened consistently over the years despite our growing understanding of the sexual challenges. It's not an overstatement to say that our family is thriving. Although my initial admission to my wife was something short of full disclosure, it represented an honest effort to communicate what I knew and understood at the time, and so the real measure of the success of our communication is not in whether I told, but in whether I continue to tell.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Cogito? Really?

In his Principles of Philosophy, Descartes argues that he was attracted to cross-eyed women because, as a child, he loved a cross-eyed playmate. He says that as soon as he realized the origin of his fetish, he was freed from it and could, once again, love women with normally spaced eye-balls. This insight, says the Britannica, "was the basis for Descartes's defense of free will and of the mind's ability to control the body."... I like that Descartes has such faith in the power of the mind that he places such high value on self-knowledge. There's Cogito ergo sum, and apparently there's also "Cogito about my kinky side, ergo sum free from it." He was doing Freudian therapy on himself 250 years before Freud bought his first couch.
A.J. Jacobs in The Know-It-All

Hmmm... I don't know that I have much more to say about that. But it made me chuckle. Descartes was one of my favorite philosophers... until I had to read more than a few pages.

Book club, December 2

Ok, the chat thing wasn't exactly a huge success. Which means, no book club title has been selected. I've heard suggestions for The Black Cauldron, an Ayn Rand title, and The Charioteer by Mary Renault. I'm more excited about either a non-fiction title (maybe Pres. Hinckley's bio) or a non-gay fiction title. I'm a little gayed out as far as books go for the present. But, hey, I just work here. Santorio suggested taking the month off, and that's fine with me too. Whatever you guys want...

Suggest titles and I'll put up a poll soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's genetic

Today I uncovered irrefutable evidence that SSA is genetic. It turns out that Another Other and I are, in fact, fourth cousins once removed. Our common ancestor was a prominent polygamist and the author of High on the Mountain Top. On further reflection, this should hardly be surprising in light of the following:
  1. We are both brilliant
  2. We are both married gay Mormons
  3. We are both undeniably attractive people
You can see how this ought to put to rest forever contentions over whether or not genetics plays a large role in sexual orientation.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Indulging one's worst

But Joe was perhaps the first to feel the shame of glorifying, in the name of democracy and freedom, the vengeful brutality of a very strong man. For months he had been assuring himself, and listening to Sammy's assurances, that they were hastening, by their make-believe hammering at Haxoff or Hynkel or Hassler or Hitler, the intervention of the United States into the war in Europe. Now it occurred to Joe to wonder if all they had been doing, all along, was indulging their own worst impulses and assuring the creation of another generation of men who revered only strength and domination.

I wonder how often I indulge something despicable in myself in the name of virtue. I see examples all the time where someone starts off pursuing a good ideal and ends up strangely defying themselves. You've got your political leaders who are so absolutely certain of their moral position that they brazenly invade in the name of freedom, all while their opponents claim martyrdom over the "invasion of the infidels." It's all about perspective, I guess. And that's why I try to take in things from all perspectives. That's not a bad idea on the face of it. But, it can be quite crippling at times.

I've never developed a finely tuned barometer for appropriate indignation. I tend to come off soft in the hardest of circumstances. I suppose it's because I've been drilled to turn the other cheek throughout my life. Is that adequate when I'm being tromped on unprovoked? Is it adequate when my family is? Clearly not.

So, how and when do you draw the line? If you've been reading this blog for a few months, you'll remember my sudden embarrassment at having become crass and sarcastic. It seemed an inappropriate way to respond to the crass sarcasm of those who ridicule me. But since then, I've been overly soft at times too. Imagine, for example, a brazen pedophile who attacks a vulnerable person repeatedly--how do you respond to such a person? I found myself loathe to say anything insulting. I didn't want to label him or judge him or say anything bitter. That left just reasoning with an unreasonable fiend. And is that adequate when someone you love is being harassed? I went for using strong words... words which I'm still not certain were quite the right flavor. Words like evil and despise.

The point is, Joe and I aren't the only ones who have a hard time weighing things out. But I'd like to become aware of the issue to the point I can be as certain as possible that I haven't crossed a line in the opposite direction.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Book club, December

I know several folks read Amazing Adventures, and I've even had private chats with a few people about the themes of the book. But the comments have been sparse, so I wonder if it's worth trying something different.

Come to this blog and click this link to open a chat window at 5:00 pm MST on Sunday Dec 3, to join in a lively discussion on AAKC. In this chat we'll decide the book club title for December. If you can't make it to the chat, please comment your preference for a December title here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Feeling super

A surprising fact about the magician Bernard Kornblum, Joe remembered, was that he believed in magic. Not in the so-called magic of candles, pentagrams, and bat wings. Not in the kitchen enchantments of Slavic grandmothers with their herbiaries and parings from the little toe of a blind virgin tied up in a goatskin bag. Not in astrology, theosophy, chiromancy, dowsing rods, seances, weeping statues, werewolves, wonders, or miracles. All these Kornblum had regarded as fakery far different--far more destructive--than the brand of illusion he practiced, whose success, after all, increased in direct proportion to his audiences' constant, keen awareness that, in spite of all the vigilance they could bring to bear, they were being deceived. What bewitched Bernard Kornblum on the contrary, was the impersonal magic of life, when he read in a magazine about a fish that could disguise itself as any one of seven different varieties of sea bottom, or when he learned from a newsreel that scientists had discovered a dying star that emitted radiation on a wavelength whose value in megacycles approximated pi. In the realm of human affairs, this type of enchantment was often, though not always, a sadder business--sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel. Here its stock-in-trade was ironies, coincidences, and the only true portents: those that revealed themselves, unmistakable and impossible to ignore, in retrospect.

You can't be a physician and not believe in Kornblum's type of magic. The human body is amazing stuff--no short of real magic. Further, human relationships are remarkable. And human stupidity is unfathomable (to put a little more cynical spin on it!).

In a parallel way, I believe in super heroes. Not in the web crawling mutations of a teen photographer, not in the x-ray vision of an alien orphan, but in the very personal super heroes of life--the poem writers for the upset, the activists for the oppressed, the courageous folks who walk away from mistakes, the ready friend to the struggling, the unwavering voice of faith, the (I could go on, but I'm too lazy--insert something here that describes you)... these folks are heroes of mine and accomplish in a slow and quiet way the super-human task of human life. They do what everyone does, but do it exceptionally.

I aspire to be super. But being super in life, much like Kornblum's magic, has many imitators and often remains unrecognized. Perhaps someday I can be as super as I want to be.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Another account

If you caught Master Fob's recent praise for Information Specialists (all true--my wife, for example, is a super information specialist), you might also be interested in hearing how Chabon's protagonists characterize the likes of Master Fob:

On this particular autumn night, only the prospect of another solitary evening lies before her. She will fry her chop and read herself to sleep, no doubt with a tale of wizardry and romance. Then, in dreams that strike even her as trite, Miss Dark will go adventuring in chain mail and silk. Tomorrow morning she will wake up alone, and do it all again.

Poor Judy Dark! Poor little librarians of the world, those girls, secretly lovely, their looks marred forever by the cruelty of a pair of big black eyeglasses.
-Chabon in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

MF, I hope you wear contacts.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


No, not the ring lusting little hobbit-esque creature you're thinking of. I learned while reading Amazing Adventures that a golem is a creature brought to life. Think Pinocchio, Frankenstein, and Adam in Eden. And golems were a central theme in this book. The main golem was a famous one that Joe helped secretly transport out of Prague to protect it from Nazis. It resurfaced at the end of the book in what I assume was a profoundly meaningful way (that was completely over my head).

The comic book characters Joe and Sammy created were, in a sense, golems as well. Or, failed to be, I suppose. Joe wanted them to be brought to life, battling the Nazis through his comics all the while expecting and hoping that some actual political movement would be inspired by his efforts. In this he was disappointed, as his friend had warned him:

"There is only one sure means in life," Deasey said, "of ensuring that you are not ground into paste by disappointment, futility, and disillusion. And that is always to ensure, to the utmost of your ability, that you are doing it solely for the money."

If I could twist his words to my own devices I would change it to read that you should do it solely for personal satisfaction. Money, it seems to me, could be an even larger disappointment after failure than missed political influence.

And, the perennial consideration of blogging's purpose seems to be apropos. My reason for blogging constantly evolves, but at present it is 1) because I'm completely addicted, 2) because it is helpful to me in addressing subjects that bother me, and 3) because I think it's helpful to others. And those latter points give me some satisfaction. The fact that it may NOT be helpful to anyone puts a damper on my efforts to avoid being ground into paste, but I always have #2 to fall back on.

But bringing Frankenstein to life has its cost. I could be producing other types of golems instead. Is this really the best use of my limited time? I've given up so many hobbies and interests over the years out of necessity. Adulthood and gainful employment preclude the personal indulgence I've enjoyed to create golems throughout my life. It's a sad truth that there's only so much time and it can fit only so many opportunities. I hope I'm choosing the better part. Or at the very least, I'm fortifying myself in a manner that will allow me to do so in the future. And I hope my golem doesn't end up turning on me and killing me.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

It was a great book. Made me think. Made me cry. And I have about a dozen quotes that I thought could spark interesting conversations. But, I don't know if anyone else has that kind of interest or patience, so I'll just have to see how things go. FYI, Santorio already has a few posts on the book and Enduring Eric mentioned it here. One thought I considered was having a scheduled chat for anyone interested to join in. Comments are slow going for any sizable conversation and that seems like a viable alternative. So what do you think about that? Any interest?

For those of you who never read the book, feel free to join in. I can't give a decent synopsis, but I'll give it a shot all the same. It's a story about Joe Kavalier, a Czeck Jewish teenager who left his family to come to the US during WWII and spends most of the book trying to help them reach safety, and his gay American cousin Sammy Clay. Their adventures center around the creation of successful comic book characters, as well as their relationships with each other, their respective families, their boss, their romantic interests, a Nazi sympathizer, etc.

The writing itself is mostly beautiful and fun, but labored at times. You have to be willing to put up with a style that I found to be irritatingly confusing at crucial moments (you know: gunshots, bombs going off, fight scenes) and excessively thick at times (to borrow a phrase from Chabon himself, they "caught like batter in the blades of the ceiling fans"). The sections that walk through a comic book's story and panels are amazingly effective.

But the real power of the book is its ability to capture believable characters. I could pick Joe or Sammy out of a crowd. I would know just how to talk to them. I fell in love with Joe during the first part of the book (didn't want to...) and cried at the end because of how Sammy dealt with the awkward family situation. It made me reflective, it heightened my awareness of my past conflicts and my current decisions (and is that a good thing?).

To continue a quote I started on this post:
At the same time, as he watched the reckless exercise of Joe's long, cavalier frame, the display of strength for its own sake and for the love of display, the stirring of passion was inevitably shadowed, or fed, or entwined by the memory of his father. We have the idea that our hearts, once broken, scar over with an indestructible tissue that prevents their ever breaking again in quite the same place; but as Sammy watched Joe, he felt the heartbreak of that day in 1935 when the Mighty Molecule had gone away for good.

I've sometimes felt that my heart is scarring over nicely--I've come to accept the desires in myself that are never going to be fulfilled. Whether that involves removing the desire altogether or just letting it settle silently into the unacknowledged background, I don't really care. But reading this book--particularly the part recognized by all the reviews I read online as a happy ending--had quite a sobering effect on me. It reminded me that what I believe is right and necessary for myself is nothing like what many people believe is best for me. Being reminded in just this way opened that wound up all over again, and the happy ending I had been promised was excruciating. I am Sammy, in so many ways, and I can't/won't be trotting off to Hollywood to be "true to myself," despite that I genuinely want to at times. I was filled with self-pity and confusion and cried. I had to deliberately remind myself why I've made the decisions I have, and that I'm really glad for them.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Today I finally got around to really being touched by Thanksgiving. I was thinking about Jesus and my need for someone who understands me. I was thinking about my older brother reaching out and taking my hand... Jesus understanding my insecurities and my desire for affection, and smoothly reassuring me that I'm loved and have a best friend in Him.

Plus, my family sang.

It's been forever, it seems, since we've had a good gather-'round-the-piana-and-sing-til-it-hurts extravaganza. The songs were beautiful and were largely about gratitude for the atonement, for families, for all our blessings. I love my life and I love my family. I'm so thankful for it all.

Whenever I hear the song of a bird
Or look at the blue, blue sky,
Whenever I feel the rain on my face
Or the wind as it rushes by,
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
Or walk by a lilac tree,
I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world
Heavenly Father created for me.

He gave me my eyes that I might see
The color of butterfly wings.
He gave my ears that I might hear
The magical sound of things.
He gave me my life, mind, my heart;
I thank Him rev’rently
For all his creations, of which I’m a part.
Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.
My Heavenly Father Loves Me
The Children’s Songbook, p. 228

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Learning from SSA

I had a bishop who used to say that whenever he had a hard situation he used to ask in his prayers what he had to learn with that situation. He said that every trial we get is for a purpose and that we have something to learn from it. He also said that once he knew its purpose and have done what was required of him the hard situation he was facing would go away.

I don't know if I can say that God has given us SSA. But I believe that in my situation it has given me some blessings. Let me explain. I was raised in a very small community in Brazil, in the country... I started to realize that I was different. I felt attracted to other guys... [Several years later] I was feeling very depressed about these feelings and I still couldn't talk to anyone. I had decided that I would commit suicide... I had decided to [find a church to help with the SSA] and if it didn't work I would proceed with the suicide plans. About 2 or 3 days after that episode the missionaries knocked on my door... Two weeks after that first contact with the missionaries I got baptized. Served a mission and it's been 7 years now since that first contact with the missionaries.

I am telling all this to try to make my point which is: I would never have joined the Church were it not for the SSA... it was the SSA again that made me seek God for help.

I feel grateful that it has led me to join the Church though it is hard sometimes. Thinking on my bishop's thoughts on why we have trials I think I still have something to learn from this. I just hope I learn it soon.


This story inspired me. Usually when I think about the blessings God gives us, I don't think of the challenges. If people try to re-frame challenges to view them as blessings, I roll my eyes. But, they can't see me through the Internet, so I'm safe... until I just confessed it and now they all hate me. But I really like Rodrigo's story all the same.

Over the last couple weeks I've heard all sorts of people express their gratitude for SSA--people of all persuasions gushing their praise for SSA here and there, happy it has made them who they are. I could put in the links, but there would be too many. Rodrigo's story above is the most compelling I heard. I like the idea of learning from the challenges God gives us. I like the idea of looking on the positive side. I like the idea of burning in hell a little bit less, and the fact that my SSA motivates me to do things that could bring that about (like cheat on my family) tempers my gratitude.

I'll be grateful for my SSA and all that it has taught me once it is gone. But I fear that to laud it as some wonderful thing in my life invites me to incorrectly view it as good in itself. And I believe that SSA is morally neutral in and of itself--it's only the way I deal with it that makes it a blessing or a curse. I hope that someday I can express my true gratitude for the things SSA has taught me. I suppose it will happen when I'm certain that I'll have the strength to successfully bypass all the temptations that are associated with it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Grateful, shmateful

Thanksgiving is completely over-rated. There's no candy, no gifts, and the food makes me sick. Most of the good stuff I have in my life, I've earned, and I don't need this guilt trip like I'm unworthy of it all. It's taken sacrifice and work and, really, I deserve every last bit of the things I have. In fact, considering the long years of delayed gratification, the studying, the loans, I deserve a lot more than I have. Really, when I think about it, the universe has been completely cruel to me. And why? Why do I get essentially NOTHING that I deserve? Life is so unfair.

I thought about doing a post about all the good things in my life... you know, to try to put a positive spin on the travesty that is my unjust existence. I'd post some list detailing every random thing to find something good about it. "I'm thankful for income tax because it helps me to be humble. I'm thankful for speeding tickets because law enforcement is important. I'm thankful to have lost my arm on the job because now I get disability." But something inside me felt slightly cynical about such a post. So, I decided to fess up and tell you my REAL feelings. I deserve more.

To be honest, the touchy-feely nature of this holiday just makes me want to curl into a fetal position and block out all sounds and light. I mean, I have to spend it with the in-laws instead of actually getting a vacation, and grandpa will say the requisite speech about how glad he is we have our health right before wolfing a meal with 15,000,000 grams of saturated fat. We'll no doubt spend the rest of the evening in the emergency department getting his EKG and heart workup just like last Christmas. If we were really grateful for health, we would eat Brussels sprouts for dinner. And who's thankful for that?

At times like these I grit my teeth and remember that for every blessing I have in my life, there's a half dozen I've lost. For every opportunity taken, there were several opportunities irrevocably foregone. For all the triumphs in my life there have been exponential challenges rushing in to temper the headiness and redirect me to the gloom of reality. My life could have been so much better.

So. Thankful? I don't think so. Grateful, shmateful.

P.S. I loved all the beautiful Thanksgiving posts I've read today and over the last several days, and I just didn't know how to measure up. I especially loved the series on this blog and the personal notes on this blog addressed to virtually everyone on the Internet. Have a good one because... well... we're blessed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Romantic love is not only a part of life, but literally a dominating influence of it. It is deeply and significantly religious. There is no abundant life without it. Indeed, the highest degree of the celestial kingdom is unattainable in the absence of it.

I got this from Kim Mack quoting Bruce Hafen quoting Boyd K. Packer. (If you ever use it elsewhere, be sure to add me on the list of acknowledgments.) I've always had a favorable opinion of romantic love, but never considered it to be deeply and significantly religious. How 'bout that?

I want an abundant life, so I guess I'd better go buy some jewelry.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Last night on call I was paged by a nurse because one of the patients in our coronary intensive care unit was threatening to leave against medical advice. The man had severe heart disease, plaques growing by the day, clogging off his arteries because of his smoking, diet, and unfortunate genetic predisposition. He'd already had a heart attack even though he was young, but he didn't see the need to stay in the hospital when, after a few pills, he felt so much better.

At times like these, it's my job to lay the smack down.

"What's the trouble, Mr. X? Why are you planning to leave?"

"I'm 42 years old and I can eat whatever I want. This place is terrible. If I want bacon for breakfast, I can have bacon for breakfast. If I want to smoke, I can smoke. I'm 42 years old."

He was, of course, acting 4 decades younger than his stated age. I attempted to explain to him in no uncertain terms that bacon was likely going to kill him and that we preferred it not be today. I don't know if he really understood what I was talking about or not. The concept of risk factors and cumulative behaviors contributing to disease aren't compelling when his past experience so emphatically impressed on him the memories of wolfing down saturated fat to his, umm, heart's content with nary a chest pang. It's the same conversation I've had a million times with smokers who with fallacious logic stubbornly refuse to understand that there are any real consequences at all.

It's a problem that results in poor "compliance"--the term used to connote how well a patient adheres to the treatments recommended by the doctor. Some patients are non-compliant because of financial concerns, some because the don't understand the instructions, and some because they're too darn lazy to go fill the prescription that could save their life. The best treatment, and the one prone to the worst compliance, is more exercise and a better diet. Such treatment helps every system in the body in unimaginable ways. But who wants to do that? Certainly not someone status post decades of habitual self-abandon.

The point of this post-call tirade is guilty acknowledgment that I'm non-compliant. For decades I've known that the best prescription listed in the scriptures for temptation is to pray. It's repeated more often than any other commandment, according to one of my seminary teachers. Pray that you may come off conqueror, Christ tells us. Why don't I pray more, I wonder? Is it so difficult? It's even easier than flipping open the scriptures and taking in a few verses... another prescription I've left unfilled for so long. Praying and reading scriptures are the spiritual equivalent of diet and exercise--fundamental and irreplaceable.

The risk factors of ignoring God's treatment suggestions are well established in the literature. They're beyond doubt. Why then am I so poorly compliant? I should be listening to the greatest healer of all. The message is like the one I gave Mr. X, "If you ignore the treatment we're offering, if you don't follow the advice, I can't stop you. You can leave here and behave however you'd like, as you say. But you know the results of those decisions now, and it's up to you what kind of future you have."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

When the rules don't apply

When I perform a pelvic or breast exam on a woman, I am required to have a third person present to “protect” everyone. This is wise, I’m sure, and based on unfortunate past experience. On the other hand, I can do hernia exams, prostate exams, testicular exams, etc. with nobody there to verify that my maneuvering is purely clinical. I once asked my Attending if someone should come in while I performed a male exam and he laughed it off saying, “Only if the patient winks at you.” I volunteered no correction that the doctor could just as well be the one doing the winking.

I bring this up because being gay leads to odd scenarios that seem to break the rules at other times as well. Take, for example, showering with other guys. It’s not really a choice in high school, despite folks like my poor friend in middle school who got an erection and whose middle school life was never the same. Fob's quip in a comment that showering with other guys was not the time anyone needed to worry about him doing something inappropriate! Funny, and certainly true. But, just because they aren't likely to have public sex together, we still frown on high school guys and girls showering together... for some reason. I think extrapolating that traditional guidance to gay guys is probably a good idea.

We're careful about men going to girls' camp in the LDS church. And men and women living together in BYU housing, for example. A huge amount of care and effort go into trying to keep the situation itself, no matter how benign, free from temptation and even what my mother would call, "the appearance of evil."

So, I read with interest this post and the comments that followed. It reminded me of a discussion on D2 regarding SSA roommates. It doesn't seem like a great idea to me, to be honest, although I have mixed feelings.

In another example, I was jealous but also a little bit relieved that I couldn't hang out with the crowd of fun bloggers who met at the Evergreen conference and who had a big sleep over party.

I guess the point is that when the normal rules don't apply... you have to try to find wisdom in dealing with the situation for yourself. And although there are plenty who find tradition to be restrictive and absurd, I find it comforting as a default. Where it doesn't apply, as a gay man, I try to use an analogy to a straight situation when possible. When that’s not possible, I think it's important to use vigilant care in recognizing red flags. And maybe err on the side of caution.

Now, if I can just think of how to get a nurse in the room when I’m doing male exams without outing myself…

Friday, November 17, 2006

Book club, November reminder

Just 10 days left to pick up and read your copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay so you can dazzle everyone with your insights (and also explain to me all the parts I didn't get). Here's a little teaser that I think isn't too much of a spoiler:

As he watched Joe stand, blazing, on the fire escape, Sammy felt an ache in his chest that turned out to be, as so often occurs when memory and desire conjoin with a transient effect of weather, the pang of creation. The desire he felt, watching Joe, was unquestionably physical, but in the sense that Sammy wanted to inhabit the body of his cousin, not possess it. It was, in part, a longing--common enough among the inventors of heroes--to be someone else; to be more than the result of two hundred regimens and scenarios and self-improvement campaigns that always ran afoul of his perennial inability to locate an actual self to be improved. Joe Kavalier had an air of competence, of faith in his own abilities, that Sammy, by means of constant effort over the whole of his life, had finally learned only how to fake.

That's to get you to go read it. Discuss on November 27!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

In embryo

For the most part, my various blogs have replaced my journal. I blog what I'm feeling and thinking and experiencing instead of typing it in my private record. However, it's a different dynamic. Today as I was chatting with a friend I remembered some experiences from a few years back and that motivated me to read a few journal entries. The things I wrote were so surprising through the refraction correction of hindsight! There were several things I thought about posting, but this one from five years ago is the one that, surprisingly, seemed the weightiest.

Today I’m more interested in who I am and where I am in my life. In my anatomy class I’ve been surprised to see men and women in the most vulnerable and exposed position possible—inside out... Each one of us presents on a day to day basis as an attractive, thinking, feeling individual. And yet each of us is, on a more fundamental basis, a very intricate and astounding combination of organs, genetic information, and just plain guts. Guts that change from day to day, as a matter of fact. I’m quite literally not the man I was just a few years ago. So the continuity I suppose is in the spiritual factor. In some inexplicable way a person’s spirit infuses the body with ... individuality and higher feelings.

... In embryology we speak of organs that are in the embryo but are then obliterated during later growth. I’ve seen parts of myself—parts that some have told me will never leave me—that I would like to be obliterated. I like to think that some have been and that it has made me closer to being like God. Others are to follow.

I don't care much if I sound like a broken record. I like to reinforce myself to myself once in a while, and I really feel powerfully certain that there are parts of ourselves that we need not mourn losing. Without such metamorphosis, life would not be possible. And without such a metamorphosis, becoming more like God is entirely impossible. Hence the concept of being born again, or letting God change us. I hope I can be changed in a manner that will remove my prejudice against change.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Johnny Lingo

Johnny Lingo, I think, was not gay.

If you're going to spend that many cows on a wife, you'd better really be fixin' to enjoy your investment. And to make that work, she's gotta know that she's worth every scrap of that beef. And that's just the trouble for me. I've become worried over the last several months that my Mohanna doesn't appreciate my appreciation... that she doesn't feel desirable. That she doesn't feel worth 8 cows. Or 4, or even 2.

Walking the dog through the park one day, I asked her whether she felt that my being gay subconsciously affected the way she perceives her own attractiveness. I asked her whether knowing that I was not strongly sexually attracted to her made her feel unsexy. I expressed my concern that she realize the difference between how a wife might normally interpret a husband's response, and how she should interpret mine.

Let me just say that walking over a bridge in a gorgeous park on a nice summer day is a good time to have this conversation. There was peace in the air, and we felt very close as we expressed our very real love for one another.

But it's one thing to think rationally through something holding hands in a scene from a Hallmark card, and quite another to have estrogen forcing you to cry when you don't want to, alone in the middle of the night. Err... so I've heard. A couple times since then things have turned hard and we've talked about it again. Something I've said or done has reminded her that our sexual situation is not ideal, and she realizes she does want to feel validated in that way... she does want to feel pursued, and sexy, and... worth 8 cows.

In my discouraged moments I think my efforts to give her 20 cows worth of affection and love are just an apology for the kind of love I'm not able to give her. And then I feel like I'm a bad husband. But in my good moments I know that 20 genuine cows worth of affection IS the kind of love I can offer and with some conscious appreciation and thoughtful effort we can work together to make sure we both have a healthy approach to our self image and our beautiful relationship. My Mohanna is worth more cows than any other woman (or man) on the island! I just need to make sure I send messages consistent with that fact.

Monday, November 13, 2006


My first kiss came at an embarrassingly old age and under mortifying circumstances. A girl I had dated for some time suddenly asked me to close my eyes without offering any explanation. Doing odd things like this was not in the least unusual for our relationship, which was fun and spontaneous at the core. I did as I was told and she planted a big fat kiss on my unexpecting lips and walked out the door without a word.

It was... get ready for it... an assignment for a class. Students in that class were asked to do something outside their comfort zone. However, this friend's comfort zone was pretty darn broad to begin with, so she knew actually fulfilling it would take something extra. She would have to face one of the few things that intimidated her. Among them was me--the enigmatic boy with whom she had been best friends for quite a while, but who had somehow failed to take the slightest initiative in escalating the relationship.

After being relieved of my lip-virginity, my innocence unwillingly taken from me, I sat pensively wondering why it felt like such a big deal? Why should I care? Why didn't I experiment more? I decide I had better get comfortable with myself enough to explore. The idea made me slightly nauseated.

I remembered a time during high school when I had watched my buddy kiss his date on the porch when we dropped her off (we were doubling). It had made me really angry. I don't know why it was so hard for me to consciously understand what is so obvious to me now--I wanted him to be kissing me. Although I told myself I was losing my two best friends (to each other), the real problem was that the relationships between the three of us hadn't played out in the impossible way I secretly preferred. So, I was miserable and channeled my displeasure into a ridiculous philosophy that kissing was cheap and insincere. It got me out of a lot of kissing for several self-deluding years.

My kissing boycott extended to hand holding, rubbing backs, or any other mild publicly acceptable affection as well. I attributed my reluctance to hold hands during dates to my virtue--I wanted it to really mean something when I was affectionate with a girl. I once forced myself and was rewarded with sweaty disgusting hands for the evening as well as feeling cheap and dishonest. It was not particularly pleasant, but I gave it a shot. In a laughably stupid lack of insight, I was completely mistaken about my motivations and my conclusions about why it was unpleasant.

Fast forward now to my first real kiss. I was at the airport with a girl that I was thinking about asking to marry me. It was awkward because I loved her, but as with the other women in my life, I wasn't sexually attracted to her. Could it work? I had to try to make it work. So I kissed her. The kiss was powerful in some ways and disappointing in others. It was powerful because I initiated it. It was pathetic because I had no idea what I was doing. It was powerful because I loved her and I wanted to desire her. It was pathetic because the desire was all wishful thinking. I just wasn't feeling it.

We got engaged and made it our habit to get lots of practice making out. I got a lot better. ;-) We got married and I got better still. One may even say (if that "one" is my wife) that I'm a really good kisser. And she has, ahem, lots more experience with other kissers than I do!

So, now, when I read posts about being repulsed by the prospect of being affectionate with someone to whom there is no sexual attraction, I get it. And this post has no great moral to it--I just note that somehow I used to be at point A and now I'm at point B (getting lots of hetero kissing action, and thoroughly enjoying it). The getting from one to the other is quite a mystery.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cognitive therapy

Don't let the post title scare you away. This is not a post about gay therapy at all. Rather, it's a post about thinking your way through a challenge. When I was rotating through psychiatry, lots of patients were prescribed cognitive behavioral therapy--fixing problems by changing the way you think about things and the way you react. Phobias, depression, delusions, and anxiety can all be helped by thinking carefully and rationally about the issue.

Here's my problem: I see the passionate experiences of folks like John Galt and Enduring Eric and I want those experiences for myself. Here are married men who had extended affairs that were by all accounts highly enjoyable and now are in the process of returning to the church and receiving full forgiveness and all the blessings of the gospel. Their own blogs explain the details and all the obstacles and heart-wrenching repentance they have and are experiencing, but at the end of it all I keep thinking they've managed to have their cake and eat it too.

I want to love and be loved in the powerful way John describes. Gay or straight, I think few people find a soul mate as attractive and perfectly suited as John has. I wonder if the forbidden nature of an affair makes it that much more passionate. Actually, I'm sure of it. Regardless, that's the kind of passionate sexual connection I've never experienced. And I should be thankful, all things considered, but I find myself feeling cheated. Why shouldn't I experience it just like John did and then repent and go on with my family life?

Commence cognitive therapy.

The problem with my thought process on this subject is that, like many church members, I've tried to distill the atonement into some kind of spiritual arithmetic--the kind that always ends with dividing by zero and being forgiven of all debts. But the gospel of Jesus Christ isn't only about the tally of sins and the ability of the atonement to "cover" them like a credit limit, it's about becoming like God. And you don't become like God by milking the system. You can't become holy by planning your sins and delaying your repentance to get the maximum experience. Every sin contributes to Jesus' suffering. Every one. What kind of person has his sexual fling knowing that the cost is another person being hung from nails through his wrists? Not a divine person, to say the least.

When Elder Eyring says:

This is my warning to you today. It is a bad estimate of your personal costs to believe that a choice to commit sin is made so free by the power of the Atonement that we can have painless forgiveness... how much better to choose to be good and to do it early, a long way upstream from the terrible effects of sin.

I revert to my self-defeating mental exercise of rationalizing that I would be willing to endure a large amount of pain to have the intense experiences John describes. But, then I remind myself that it's not primarily about the happiness or pain involved. It's about becoming a divine person.

Elder Eyring also says:
If we stay at it long enough, perhaps for a lifetime, we will have for so long felt what the Savior feels, wanted what he wants, and done what he would have us do that we will have, through the Atonement, a new heart filled with charity. And we will have become like him. That promise also is in the Book of Mormon: "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:47-48.)

I don't have to experience what seems like the most passionate and intense feelings in life. I don't need to "experiment" with my gay feelings to see what it's like... to know that, yes, I really am gay, and yes, I really will be missing out on that amazing sort of passion I desire in order to become who God wants me to become.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Heart failure

Little old ladies who are dying like to flirt with me. And how do you turn that down? "Oh, well, that's a fascinating story, but I have to scamper off and see the next patient if I don't want to be in this hospital for every waking moment of my life... I'm sure you'll have some actual family member along soon to comfort you. Bye now!"

One little old lady I currently take care of is dying of heart failure--an ironic malady for a woman so pleased with her young male physician. Heart failure is when the body fluids get backed up and end up filling up the tissues and lungs rather than staying put in the veins. You can't breath and/or you're swollen all over, and you're excessively thirsty despite the fact that you've been packing on more and more fluid. All that fluid can't do you any good because your heart isn't strong enough to pump it, and eventually you drown as you're dying of thirst.

As I chatted this morning with this sweet lady, feeling the pressure to move on to the next patient, I thought about my own heart failure
And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth
shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that
Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth. (D&C 45:26)

Elections and wars and terrorism and really mean people make me tired. The other day I wandered through the circuit of anti-Mormon blogs and just found so much bitterness and hatred that it literally made me cry. Granted, being 4:00 AM in the middle of a frustrating call night might have had something to do with it! I get emotionally overwhelmed these days. I need to rely more on Christ, but I just don't do it. I'm like that patient who knows the lasix will alleviate the symptoms, but can't be bothered to fill the prescription and take it.

Well, I'm going to do it. I'm going to read the scriptures and feel better.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Book club, 4

So, it looks like the book for November is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. At least, I assume so given that the blog poll doesn't want to divulge its many mysteries (like the results, for example).

Is it too much to ask that blog polls be of high quality, flawless, and completely free?

John Galt, what post date would you like to shoot for?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Repairing things

My therapist told me once that the therapy we had undertaken was not appropriately called "conversion" therapy. That, he explained, suggests conversion from one sexual orientation to another and obscures the actual internal processes taking place. The term he prefers is "reparative" therapy, not because your sexuality is broken and needs to be repaired, but because your development is incomplete and in need of repair. The repair takes place in inter-personal relationships that may seem to have no bearing on sexuality whatsoever. Relationships with parents, with others of the same gender, with friends who love and support you....

The oft publicized problem with reparative therapy is 1) that it hasn't been rigorously proven or disproven (and yes, I know there are those who disagree and I can forward you to the current body of evidence to decide for yourself if you want), and 2) the success rate is quite low even in the best case scenarios.

Any particular therapy should have a good therapeutic ratio to be useful to anyone--the chance of benefit must be high enough to justify the risks of harm. The risks of reparative therapy get a lot of press, but they are just as unverified as the supposed successes.

So, despite that I have a number of friends who have undergone reparative therapy and are still as gay as a pink tie, I wonder to myself whether there is still some benefit. What if the social relationships "repaired" during the therapy really needed to be repaired apart from any sexual consequences?

That's pretty much where I am these days. Still undergoing reparative therapy (although not intensively right now) because I see lots of ancillary benefits that have nothing to do with my sexual orientation. I've really looked at the way I view myself. I've looked at the way I view my family members. I've carefully considered what intimidates and attracts me and why. And that sort of insight is really valuable no matter how you look at it. I'm completely okay with the prospect that my sexual orientation may not budge from this exercise. And I think that sort of attitude is a far better way to mitigate the risks and increase the therapeutic ratio than to avoid the therapy altogether.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The why and how of gay Mormon blogging

Far be it from me to say why people should blog or how they should do it. But I do feel like I've been around long enough now to offer some advice to a gay Mormon who is looking for a safe outlet to figure things out. As Master Fob pointed out, there's an interesting niche now for gay Mormon bloggers as blogging can address the personal issues in a curiously effective way. There's no fee, one can be anonymous, and one can finally openly discuss socially awkward issues with other thoughtful folks without risking the potentially real upset to social and family life that would come with outing oneself.

So, I encourage anyone who is gay and Mormon to consider blogging as a therapeutic way to think about and work through this issue.

At the same time, I do have a few tips and tricks for the novice blogger. I've learned a few things the hard way and maybe by offering some advice I can save others from the same mistakes. Keep in mind, these are just the thoughts of me, one random blogger, and they may have no benefit or relevance at all. But here they are in case they do:
  1. Be anonymous. This is disputable, certainly, as plenty of folks are either not anonymous or semi-anonymous and seem to be doing just fine. But I've found clear benefit in the freedom to discuss anything I want, including, for example, my struggles with pornography--something I don't want Mom and Dad reading about regularly.
    ----a) The first corollary to #1 is that you can't include personally identifiable biographical information in your blog--even if it seems vague. I've seen at least three gay Mormon bloggers decide on a moment's notice to delete their entire blog because of anonymity issues. I've also seen at least two anonymous bloggers recognized by members of their ward. Why would these ward members be frequenting gay Mormon blogs? Who knows!? But they apparently do! So, be careful and save yourself the angst.
    ----b) The second corollary to #1 is that if you have another blog that is not anonymous and you post to both from the same computer, you might want to use different browsers for the different identities. I've, unfortunately, posted comments on gay Mormon blogs as my true identity and posted comments on various family blogs as -L-. Not cool. So now I always use FireFox for one identity and IE for the other. You might even consider Opera if you hate Microsoft as much as I do.
    ----c) Third corollary to #1: you may eventually get to know and love other bloggers, but don't be too hasty to out yourself. After chatting enough with folks outside the blogs, I've outed myself to various people with mixed results. I've made some close friends that are very supportive and I now have the benefit of having a "normal" friendship with them that isn't exclusively focused on sexual and religious issues. But I've also outed myself to some people I wish I hadn't. I finally decided that as a rule of thumb, my wife has to give me permission to out myself to someone. That gives me an excuse not to if I don't want to, and keeps me from doing so hastily if I want to too much. Hope that makes sense. Come up with a system that works for you.
  2. Don't wait for something earth-shattering to say to post or comment. Get comfortable with the crowd.
  3. When you've finally got the blog going in a good rhythm, think about the potential of being a bit more structured in your approach. I like to post whatever random thing I'm thinking about on a given day, but for those times when I've got nothing, but want to think through some issue to get that catharsis, I have some backups always on reserve. For example, I'm doing the 12 steps of addiction recovery. It's a workbook and has a million questions to think through. I'm not rushing it, and I can always post on those topics if I want something to think about. I also have made the habit of reading books and reviewing them on my blog. But the reviews aren't really assessing the work itself, they're more of an exploration of my own response. It gives me a chance to decide what I think about stuff deliberately. Make a list of what you want to figure out. Then figure it out over time on the blog.
  4. Don't be afraid to write about something someone else has already covered. That's the beauty of blogging--it's a personal journey and what's on your mind is perfectly legit, no matter who has already done a PhD in that topic and blogged it.
  5. You can always write posts for yourself that are super personal and just keep them in draft status. I have a few of those. It's all the benefits of a journal with a peanut gallery only when I want it. ;-)
  6. Be nice even if you are really, really cranky. Cyber people are real people even when they're stupid. (I've been cranky way too often--many apologies to all!)
  7. Let me know if you start a blog so I can read it. Don't make me do the work of finding you on my own.
  8. Don't follow the rules. I'm just saying what I do, and if it's helpful to you in doing your own thing... great!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Testimony Sunday

Was that it? The odd sensation I had just experienced somewhere deep in my chest seemed like it could be characterized as a “burning in the bosom” but it could just as easily have been some odd physiologic sensation I had only noticed because of my intense personal awareness at the moment I was looking for a sign from God.

Really, that’s been the problem with personal revelation from the beginning—the vagueness. It’s described in a way that seems to require certitude as the defining characteristic. But when I try to wrestle with life’s problems, I often find very little that is so distinct.

I’m in the habit of attributing such spiritual communication failings to myself. After all, if one is unworthy of the spirit, one should not be surprised that He fails to imprint God’s truth with searing absoluteness in the heart at a moment’s notice. And I have never been wholly satisfied with my worthiness. That’s not to say that I haven’t been a good person. But I’ve never felt myself to be “godly” and part of me feels, however wrongly, that that’s a prerequisite for really being on chatty terms with God.

God is in the habit of talking with sinners, though, and I’m sure he recognizes far better than I do the paradox of withholding His help from those who are unworthy of it when it is His help that they need to increase their worthiness.

So I pray and I try to listen even when the answers are uncertain. I act on the answers I think I’ve received, and I think I may well have been mistaken at times. I chose my career based on such an answer. I married my wife based on such an answer. In retrospect it’s hard to imagine the borderline insanity necessary to make such huge decisions based on something so nebulous. But it wasn’t really based only on the answers I believe I received to my prayers, it was also based on a lot of critical thought and carefully measured introspection—logic trumping gut instinct as it so often does when I appraise my life’s situation.

The problem with logic over the certainty that the Spirit can and does offer at times is exactly that—logical conclusions are always provisional, never certain, subject to perpetual review and can never really be certain as long as the data they are based on is never fully collected. As new information becomes available, the equations change, the suppositions morph, and the whole system of assumptions and conclusions is adjusted by levers and gears that are inseparably connected.

Such gears and levers have disturbed my peace many times over the years. When I’ve been confronted with some surprising fact or historical bit about the church or a church leader, I’ve been so sadly resigned to be an over-worked maintenance man on the whole mechanical system that my faith and world view have been.

But I’ve realized over the years that such maintenance is only appropriate if it does not seek to replace faith. There is a balance between faith and evidence both spiritual and intellectual. The evidence presents itself, but the faith is a choice. And I do choose to have faith in the things of which knowledge is unattainable through empiric means but that extend from everything desirable and wholesome I’ve encountered in my life.

The good that I find in my concept of God and the promises made to those of many faiths who seek to follow Him, all speak to a transcendent reality—a state of purposefulness and significance of the universe that has as its origin something other-worldy. I’ve watched for those people who have the most significant scent of wholesome other-worldliness on them, and I find they are my parents, my prophets, and good men of every faith who strive to do what God has variously revealed. God’s plan, his devices, his manner of interacting with mankind, has been curious over the history of the world. Odd, regardless of the religious tradition.

I was delighted to learn that he speaks with prophets and that these men and women with first-hand knowledge of God share the light and truth they know. They often demonstrate what kind of lives we can have when we partake completely of that other-worldliness. And that I see and appreciate with a clarity that is undeniable. In this I have achieved my certitude, my absolute confidence beyond logic. When I see the good and beautiful lives and deeds of those who know God intimately, I’m uplifted and inspired. And while there are faults and errors on occasion, the overall quiet peculiarity is pervasive and sound.

That realization, over the years, has “converted” me. It’s why I believe the church to be true and why I know there is truth outside the church. It’s why I try every day to change myself into the divine creature God intends me to be. Because only I can create my will to be like God’s will. Only I can work within myself to bring about an acceptance of God’s love and help. Then I can fully accept a changed heart and spirit as God’s willing gift to his imperfect child. I’ve seen the successes of those who accept God, and the truth of that is undeniable. Like a Gift of the Spirit, to believe on the testimonies of those that know, I have a transcendent certainty that can’t be shaken. And I’m grateful for it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Book club, November

Want to give it another go? I figure it's worth a try!

Discussion of book clubbing a few posts ago included these suggestions for November titles:
...Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"? Or if we want something lighter or more seasonal, Bradbury's "Halloween Tree"? I'd read Huxley's "Brave New World"

...The Razor's Edge by Summerset Maugham or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon. I think Heart of Darkness would mean a book club attendance of 3. Of Human Bondage by Maugham would be great too. Or anything by John Irving

...1984, Animal Farm or Fahrenheit 451

I like the idea of reading a classic because most of them are probably new to me. I don't know how I managed through High School without the obligatory reading that few high schoolers appreciate, but I think I'd appreciate it now.

So... please suggest what you want to read (i.e. vote) in the comments. Give a pitch about your choice, assuming we don't know much about it.


I suppose my fixation with change has some root in fear--my fear that I will become wholly unchangeable and unresponsive to new challenges in life. I'm petrified of being petrified.

This fear is not completely unfounded. I'm a young man, but in some ways I feel very old. How long have I been wanting to be more healthy in my daily routine? For years I've set and re-set the goal to exercise more regularly, eat more healthily. But my eating and exercising (or lack thereof) habits die hard. For how many years have I determined every few weeks that I need to read my scriptures more regularly and study the gospel more carefully? My conviction is usually born during the sacrament and lost before I pull into the driveway three hours later.

Ben Franklin spent every week of his life focusing on some new virtue to master, from what I understand. And I'm a big fan of Ben's (notwithstanding the scandals). How could he possibly have been so good at really implementing changes in himself on a regular basis? Why am I so much like a rock?

O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe. (2Nephi 1:13)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Easy on the swears

Last night my wife chuckled that she never imagined I would be the potty-mouth in our household. I responded that I didn't either! I can't recollect either of my parents swearing ever in their lives. The closest is when my dad once said, " don't know a Sam Hill thing you're doing." But it's all in the inflection really. That statement at that time was three times as potent as an F bomb.

I still never use any name of deity as a swear. Besides being the only literal prohibition in scripture that I'm aware of in terms of swears, it really does feel wrong to me. I'd drop an F bomb over that any day. And it's the only kind of swear that bothers me in the least.

And being bothered is what I've considered to be important about swears. It's all conventional--which words are naughty and which aren't. My son's Potty Time With Elmo video has an entire segment for all the various words you can use for feces and urine. For social reasons alone, certain words are omitted. They mean the exact same thing, right? So what's the big deal?

That's the line of reasoning that brought me to being a potty mouth. I don't do it in church or around people that I'm afraid will be offended. And I'm pretty much never offended when people swear around me because I take their meaning the way they intend it. Even if they're really cursing up a storm, I take the swears to be no more offensive than spouting their stupid tirade in polite terms would be.

But on the other hand, I do know there are people who are offended by swearing. And I think it's courteous to use more dignified language in deference to them. Those who think nobody deserves deference, least of all religious goody-goodies, are usually self-important snots. [See? It's so hard not to be snarky!] But, that's not to say I'll be offended if they swear, because I stand by my thought that swears are based on societal convention, and reading an individual context is much more effective. Plus, being offended is stupid and I get mad at myself when I do it.

Add to that the fact that the people I look up to most in life never swear, along with the specific language of certain temple covenants I've made, and I think it's time for a change. No more swearing.

I can hardly imagine how I'll manage the d--- thing. Ha!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


This week I'm thinking about change. It's the theme of the blog, after all, and I haven't given it much consideration other than a few references to changing sexual orientation. But that kind of change, while interesting and important, is not really the kind of change I had in mind when I titled this blog.

I was thinking of positive change in general. When I was in high school applying for a college scholarship, part of the application was to give a motto for my life. Mine was, "always seek positive change," and I thought it was pretty profound. That part of the application never came up during the gazillion interviews that followed and I wonder if the judges thought such a sentiment to be cliché or trite.

When I was growing up, my mother bought stacks and stacks of self-help and inspirational tapes. I think they were meant to inspire her to be successful in the never-ending succession of multi-level marketing companies she joined, but she never quite struck it rich. Regardless, I got a lot of second-hand motivation. And, well, I think it worked a little bit. I did well in school and tried to remember the importance of working toward specific goals. I learned to consider self-improvement a satisfying endeavor.

I wanted blogging to be a means to such an end. Thus, my blog was titled Keep Changing. My blog has done some good things for me in that regard, but it has also backfired.

An e-mail from a friend yesterday pointed out that I can sometimes be "less than polite" when I feel strongly about a topic. It reminded me that my wife has chided me for being too hard on some people I disagree with, and my recent comment in which I went all the way from criticizing to attributing a lack of integrity to a good man, just for the sake of a single argument. I swear, I'm glib, I'm rude, and I excuse myself in a way I never do in real life. At least, not in the past.

Surprisingly, I've found that as I express my sarcastic criticisms and give full place to the swears and the grumbling on my blog, I do it more in my day-to-day interactions as well. I used to think I could have an online persona that was a game, different from myself. And while it was different, it has become more and more consistent with my real self every day. I don't know if it's possible to really separate the two.

So, I'm back to my original goal: deliberate change. Change for the better. Becoming the person I want to be and that God wants me to be.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My sweetest

I've been wracking my brain to think of something else to say about Twilight. I spent several hours of my life reading it, and I figure I need to get at least 2 posts out of it. At least! C'mon!

The problem is, as was previously mentioned, this book largely sucked. All I really have to say about it that hasn't been said is that fairy tale love isn't always unreal. Bella was in love with Edward so much that she was willing to say "consequences be damned" and go after him despite the whole murderous hunger thing.

My wife is like that. Not delicious, but so in love with me that she was willing to look past the impossibilities on the surface. She still looks past my faults on a regular basis and never ceases to amaze me.

Last week was Sweetest Day. I had never heard of it before this year. I guess it's kind of a regional 2nd Valentine's Day in October. You know, because October needs another holiday based on consuming large amounts of candy. Anyway, my sweetest has proven to me that she's the sweetest of all. Imagine a woman who can look past my faults... who can somehow feel validated even when conventional attraction isn't there to validate. How does she do it? I don't know. I just know she's amazing and I love her and I'm grateful for her.

She makes me happier every day. I hope I can return the favor.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I sifted through my questions for the most vital. "Why do you do it?" I said. "I still don't understand how you can work so hard to resist what you... are. Please don't misunderstand, of course I'm glad that you do. I just don't see why you would bother in the first place."

He hesitated before answering. "That's a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others--the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot--they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we've been... dealt a certain hand... it doesn't mean that we can't choose to rise above--to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted...."
Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, pg. 307

As I stumbled through this book, retching again and again at the writing, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between Edward's situation and my own. I hope that doesn't reflect an inappropriate fixation on sexuality these days--that I can't look anywhere and consider anything to be wholly irrelevant to this blog... ;-) I thought a few book club posts would be a nice diversion from the central topic of this blog, but U Dude expertly picked a book that is relevant in some respects.

The foremost, of course, is the matter of personal choice and identity. Is identity associated at all with inclinations or behavior? Is it something innate or something chosen? What part of us is us? What does our character have to do with our identity?

...We begin, then, with our thoughts and end with our eternal destiny. Our destiny is determined by our character, and our character is the sum and expression of our habits. Character is won by hard work.

Ernest L. Wilkinson, speaking to the students of Brigham Young University, said: “Character … is not something to be obtained by ease and indolence or being socially agreeable. It cannot be acquired by absorption or by proxy or on the auction block. It is a reward derived from honest toil in overcoming difficulties. We grow by mastering tasks which others consider impossible.

This isn't quite the quote I was looking for, but it does speak to the power of overcoming... of our character being a product of our behaviors. And, really, that's what I liked best about Edward, Dr. Cullen, et. al. Despite remarkably strong desires to do something they felt was urgently necessary, they mastered themselves to do what they thought was right.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hit and run comments

I've been meaning to go on record for a while that I don't do anonymous comments. -L- is plenty anonymous for me. It surprises me to hear that some attribute obnoxious anonymous comments to me, because in my own mind I've never been shy about being obnoxious all out in the open. I don't hesitate to retract when it's necessary, and I have no interest or even inclination to be offensive and judgmental in a comment without taking responsibility.

Thanks to some really combative and antagonistic examples of anonymous comments, I do think Blogger should have a checkbox next to the anonymous submit button to affirm, "I am writing this anonymously for reasons other than that I am horribly ashamed of myself and want to avoid responsibility for my stupidity and insensitivity." There are legit reasons for posting anonymous comments, but cowards seem to eclipse them with their own hit-and-run tactics.

For example, I have several family members who don't quite have the hang of computers and the internet, but like to keep up with and comment on family blogs. So they use the anonymous feature in lieu of a login, but they usually sign their name too. For folks like these, I keep the anonymous comments enabled on my blog.

On the other hand, there's the "other" kind of anonymous. In this post, someone tried to impersonate me by putting in my pseudonym and blog address. How stupid and annoying is that? I didn't even see the comment until it was pointed out to my later on by someone else. It's enough to make a person paranoid.

So, anyway. Sorry for the boring post. But I do want to say explicitly that anonymous comments are never from me (except a few right after switching to blogger beta that I signed), and even if it looks like it's from me, if it doesn't have my avitar and link to my profile, it's probably not from me. Oh yeah, and if it sounds stupid, there's NO WAY it's from me. ;-)