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.