Wednesday, January 31, 2007
There are several books I'm still interested in reading that lost previous months' club polls, but it's probably better to start from a clean slate. Anyone want to nominate a book?
I'm still interested in non-fiction titles. There are books by Byrd and Schow that I've mentioned wanting to read some time. There are books by general authorities that I think would be faith building and fun to read. There are always your Pulitzer prize books that are just plain hearty reading. We could read poetry...
I'm open for anything.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
A powerful line in the movie was when Elder Farrell was reluctant to take Louis into their apartment and Elder Lozano says, "Do you want to follow the rules or follow the commandments?" Here's a place where there seems to be no room for argument. Disregarding the rules seems to be unavoidable to really be a follower of Christ.
Later in the film, after Elder Farrell had sex, I couldn't help but imagine to myself that the course of events that led to him being enamored with Holly all started because they disregarded the rules. Had they not started having roof-top family dinners and hanging out with Louis and Holly (Elder Lozano mainly talking with Louis and Elder Farrell left essentially alone for romantic heart-to-hearts with Holly), it probably wouldn't have happened.
I can already imagine some consternation... "What do you want them to do, L? Leave Louis in the street to freeze to death? Oh, yeah, murder's a lot better than losing your chastity!" But, my point is precisely that they could have kept the rules and still rescued Louis. Rationalizing things here and there leaves us open to embracing false dilemmas when we're not paying attention. They could have had him in the house that night, then found an alternative arrangement when he was better... or gotten permission... or called an ambulance... or whatever.
Ought one to follow or be self-sufficient in winging it? Are there ever any really easy answers?
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Holly's parents struggle with the same thing. They love their daughter, it seems, enough to send her to L.A. first class with all their support and hope for the best as an actress. But when things go south and she makes some poor decisions out of desperation, they withdraw not only their approval, but even the most basic of personal contact. Do they see that in some strange way as being loving to their daughter?
I can understand the importance of emphasizing your moral viewpoint to your children. I can understand the temptation to give ultimatums. But sending the message that mistakes are irrevocable is anti-Christ.
I'll never turn my son out, regardless of the decisions he makes, unless he becomes a threat to the safety and well being of others for whom I have responsibility. So, the trick now is, how do I make it absolutely clear that he always has my love and support without dampening the high expectations of behavior I have for him as well? I dunno. It doesn't even seem that tricky to me at the moment. Why then do people put conditions on their love?
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Apart from the central message resonating so thoroughly with me--we all need God's grace--this movie was all the more powerful because I served a mission in an inner-city in the U.S. as well. The tracting, the investigator falling asleep during the discussion, the distractions... were oh so familiar.
Despite the occasional gun flashing at me when someone answered a door (I'm not kidding), stolen bicycles (oh, and a car), and the odd report of one of my district's companionships having discovered a corpse while walking through an alleyway, I liked the city. People listened. People had been compelled to be humble.
There was drama in the personal lives of various missionaries too. I've never felt at all able to convey the types of vignettes from that part of my life. There were illicit romances, mistakes, midnight transfers, broken rules, various kinds of trouble. The need for grace in the lives of the missionaries as well as the investigators has always been a hard thing to accurately describe without inadvertently giving some wrong impressions as well. This movie, I think, has done an amazing job of summing a lot of it up.
Monday, January 22, 2007
When people talk about the divinity of the LDS church, people align predictably according to their testimonies and interpret any measures of institutional success or failure in that context. The faults of the church are attributed to imperfect men (just as in the Book of Mormon) by faithful church members while opponents attribute problems to systemic flaws. Whether the structure, programs, or institutional practices of the church are divine is debatable even within a faithful paradigm. God, it seems to me, doesn't typically micromanage.
Regardless, the very common idea that no institution has a right to stand between me and my God only makes sense if my God agrees. Many Gods, being the invention of their respective believers, don't have any problem with an ad hoc connection and ad hoc salvation. The Mormon God, however, prefers a more orderly approach to salvation. Authority, ordinances, and structure are just a part of the deal, like it or not.
This all came to my mind with some immediacy recently when I attended the temple. I was thinking about prophets and having a church or other men or anything, really, between me and God. To my surprise, the words of the temple ceremony became surprisingly and pointedly relevant. The dialog reminded me of how much I don't know and how reliant I am on God to teach me in His own way according to His own wisdom. Although I'm a big fan of personal responsibility and a personal relationship with the Savior, I, for one, am grateful for the Lord's institutions and believe reformations should accomplish a balance rather than swinging too far in the opposite direction.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
When Emma (who has since vanished into self-conscious lurker status) reminded me about the difficulties of mixed orientation marriage (yes, I know everyone hates the term, but it's at least common enough to be succinct and understood), I responded to her like this:
You mentioned depression and addictive behaviors and I'm afraid to say that I know intimately and personally how horrible dealing with such challenges can be (both from my own experience, my wife's, and other close family members... and my patients for that matter). However, my inclination has often been to attribute the problems we face in our marriage and my personal life specifically to my SSA. Now I've got a broader perspective and I think I've used SSA as a scapegoat inappropriately. That's not to say that it isn't a big challenge and that it doesn't influence every part of your married life, because it does. But there are healthy ways we've found to deal with depression and addictive behaviors within our current situation and we have no desire whatsoever for divorce.
I've never been suicidal, but I think the same applies. And I'm not suggesting that a person place blame on himself or herself, I'm suggesting blame isn't usually helpful at all when there are deep personal problems in our lives. If assigning a cause helps to mitigate it, then great. But blame usually just helps us feel victimized and absolved of solving the problem for ourselves. At least, that's the way I feel sometimes. I scapegoat lots of my problems as directly attributable to my struggle with porn, but what good does that do? It doesn't change the challenges I've got and the opportunity I have today to kick those challenges squarely in the butt. I can have better relationships with my friends, see guys around me as people rather than objects, etc. No more scapegoating for -L-.
As an extension of this topic, I've seen the church used as a scapegoat for all the difficulties people experience in the context of homosexuality. Blame is heaped on the church for not solving the full spectrum of people's personal problems--or for causing them. I realize that such blame is important for some to keep their feelings of betrayal fresh and hot, but I think the genuine mistakes made by church leaders or just the inadequacy of an organization to solve all of life's ills doesn't change the virtuous purposefulness and good that the church does accomplish. Attributing suicide to the church for its position on homosexuality is easy, but wrong. Folks who are suicidal because of an inability to deal with their sexuality within the church's context need professional help, not for the church to change its doctrines.
So there you go. It can't all be blamed on your parents, on being gay, on your struggles with porn, or on the church. Whether it's your being gay, your marriage, your personal flaws, or your unhealthy emotions, you can deal with the realities regardless of where they came from. And by "you" I mostly mean "me"!
Friday, January 19, 2007
Yes, I realize that there's no data to suggest that you're more likely to be gay if you've been conditioned to think of naked girls as bad and consequently explored sexual curiosity with boys instead. I know it, but I can't help suspecting it anyway. It's just part of my brain's attempt to explain everything in life as causally related to something else.
I don't want to make my son feel the way I felt growing up. It was unnecessarily hard to be hung up over sex regardless. I want my son to feel just the right combination of casual disinterest at being naked around other guys, but enough modesty that he isn't a frank exhibitionist. Turns out, we're not too modest around here, and I wonder if I'll regret that later. Sometimes I think fatherhood is perilous mainly for the misinterpreting, over-reacting, and scapegoating as I try to repair my own past in the way I interact with my son.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Then, several days ago, the video became the subject of discussion on a list serve I read and my curiosity was piqued. Looking through LDSresources.com, I was delighted to see a review of In Quiet Desperation that took Byrd to task for his, well, obnoxious review. By this, Schow was bumped up a few notches in my estimation. As I read more and more of the site, I saw nothing to support the opinions I had heard that Schow was on the very fringe of LDS faithfulness, claiming adherence and credibility, but actually seeking to contradict the brethren and advance homosexuality as acceptable in the church. What I have seen is a man with unusual compassion and insight into the difficult nature of the issue, as well as a strong advocate for LDS people to follow the prophet's directions to love and accept members of the church who are homosexual as they go forward in faithfulness. And I think we can always use more of those.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
"There are several lessons I've gleaned from my experience coming out of the darkness of a sin that so thoroughly dominates the lives of the people it ensnares: (1) This is a major problem that is unbelievably difficult to overcome.... (2) The most important source of support and strength in the repentance process is the Savior....(3) Intense, daily scripture study, regular temple worship, and serious, contemplative participation in the ordinance of the sacrament are all indispensable parts of a true repentance process. This, I assume, is because all of these activities serve to deepen and strengthen one's relationship with the Savior, one's understanding of His atoning sacrifice, and one's faith in His healing power" (letter dated Oct. 24, 2005).
"I knew it would be difficult," he wrote, "but I didn't realize what I would have to go through." His letter describes the emptiness and loneliness and the incredible pain he experienced from deep within his soul as he sought to return. He prayed mightily for forgiveness, sometimes for hours at a time. He was sustained by reading the scriptures, by the companionship of a loving bishop, and by priesthood blessings. But what finally made the difference was the help of the Savior. He explained:
"It [was] only through Him and His Atonement.... I now feel an overwhelming gratitude. My pains have been almost more than I could bear at times, and yet they were so small compared to what He suffered. Where there once was darkness in my life, there is now love and gratitude."
He continues: "Some profess that change is possible and therapy is the only answer. They are very learned on the subject and have so much to offer those who struggle . . . , but I worry that they forget to involve Heavenly Father in the process. If change is to happen, it will happen according to the will of God. I also worry that many people focus on the causes of [same-gender attraction].... There is no need to determine why I have [this challenge]. I don't know if I was born with it, or if environmental factors contributed to it. The fact of the matter is that I have this struggle in my life and what I do with it from this point forward is what matters" (letter dated Mar. 25, 2006).-As quoted by Dallin H. Oaks
The sacrament, I suppose, would be the appropriate time to think about this. Jesus knows what I face and how I feel more than anyone in the world. He's better able to comfort me and give me help than anywhere else I might turn. Seems like a benefit I'd want to take advantage of.
If anyone needs me in the next little while, you'll find me over here thinking of Jesus.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
…last June something came over me that I haven't been able to shake -a vision of myself in the future, eternally married as a Mormon with two children. It was the most incredible, wonderful feeling I have ever experienced. In the vision, my world was completely different - nothing was about myself anymore, and instead, everything was about my wife, children, and God. Our children were so beautiful - we would have done anything for them. I was still gay (and we all knew it), but that didn't matter. Just as I had sacrificed certain career aspirations, my time, money, and the planned direction of my life, I had sacrificed being with men. It wasn't something that I questioned because I had evidence of the blessings in front of me at all times.
So, he hooked up with the missionaries and started taking the discussions. I don’t know where he is or isn’t in the process of investigating the church right now, but at one point they were teaching him about the fruits of the spirit and he e-mailed to ask me about the “fruits” of my choices.
I’m pretty stupid about most things, but particularly about my own life and happiness. I have huge mood swings, moments of manic happiness, frenzied stress, bitter frustration… you know, the spectrum of life. Does that make the “fruit” something worth setting out there as an example?
There have also been occasional comments and e-mails from people who, in one way or another, suggest that I’m trying to persuade people to do things like I’ve done it… or to convert them somehow to my way of thinking. I can’t deny trying to be persuasive on some topic when I think I’m right and some other point of view is stupid (notice: no instances offered), but overall I really thought I had made it abundantly clear that this is a journey for me, I don’t pretend to know where it will end or what all the answers are.
I can speak to the happiness I have in my life right now, and it’s genuine. But I can also speak to the difficulties we’ve had (and still have), as well as the many examples of couples that haven’t succeeded in making their marriages a perpetual bliss.
As far as comparing my situation to those who have taken a different path, things get muddy fast. And super subjective. I can only look at the choices people make, and the way I perceive their happiness and the quality of their lives. I don’t necessarily go by whether people say they’re happy, because I’ve seen some pretty nasty, bitter people snarl out how great their life is and that if anyone disputes their happiness they’ll snap their neck like a !@#$ matchstick!!!
It turns out my subjective conclusions don’t really support the “fruit” theory at all. I see the full spectrum ranging all the way from wonderful, exemplary people to cranky jerks both inside the church and out. Of course, the traits that qualify the wonderful, exemplary people as such are qualities consistent with following LDS church teachings, whether they’ve been achieved by trying to follow Christ’s teachings deliberately or not. And vice versa.
I think Galatians isn’t really talking about knowing anything by its fruits (although it’s a great analogy), but specifically the gifts of the spirit. But if I’m making decisions about what to believe and do based on who I want to exemplify and become, I feel pretty good about things anyway.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
There is a philosophy of moralism that consists of timeless moral principles. Most of the Judeo-Christian world holds the ancient injunction "Thou shalt not kill" to be a transcendent and absolute principle. To seek timeless principles of value to live by is a noble venture; to be moral is good; to be good is good--but if that is the only end we are seeking, then even goodness and morality can become idolatrous.... When the quest for principles and morals becomes our sole focus--and even our god--we encounter problems when a commandment is given that doesn't seem to have a foundational principle or moral we can immediately understand.... Lacking the understanding that "man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend" (Mosiah 4:9), individuals may cast aside a commandment in the belief that they can still be "good" without it. For the sake of goodness, they may be able to; but for the sake of Christ, discipleship, and holiness, they cannot. Those who try to find salvation simply in goodness are trying to build a latter-day tower of Babel. They rationalize that if there is a heaven, surely a "good" God wouldn't cast out His "good" children.Ty Mansfield in
In Quiet Desperation
This was my favorite part of Ty's book. I saved this post up from back when I was reviewing the book, and now seems to be a good time to bust it out. The idea that morality itself could be idolatry (and therefore, somehow immoral) is really interesting. I find I believe it. Same goes for love as idolatry, happiness as idolatry, and all the other good and wonderful things I've seen people use to justify their behavior when it conflicts with God's expectation. Take your favorite virtue and use it to trump God, and voila: idolatry.
Benjamin has been explaining to me here how following prophets can be a form of idolatry, and I'm inclined to agree in some particular instance. When we follow prophets for their own sakes, when we are enamored with the men themselves, when the office is secondary to the person and therefore God is secondary to the person, it's idolatry. On the other hand, justifying not following God's prophet because it doesn't fit with our own personal feelings of what is right for us seems to be a very dangerous place to go. I'm all for personal responsibility in making choices and having integrity, etc., etc., but that doesn't equate with accepting one's own opinions as the last word on what must be right.
There are many aces to be played in the issues of life. They trump the suit, after all. "If men are that they might have joy, then I really have to do what I know makes me the happiest." "If God is love, I just can't believe that God doesn't want me to accept the beautiful love I naturally feel." "God wants me to get away from my self-hate, and now I'm sure he approves of the better place I'm in."
If only there were some way God could clarify the issues when things got confusing... if he had some sort of specific method of communicating with those who are trying to follow him that was less subjectively influenced by the natural man... if only someone on Earth could explain His will and speak with His authority... then I could accept the communication as from God and know that I'm avoiding the idolatry of morality, avoiding trusting the arm of the flesh, avoiding making God in my own image rather than the other way around.
Monday, January 08, 2007
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things*.Moroni 10:3-5
*Terms and Conditions
All aspects of this Truth and Knowledge Promotion are defined hereinbelow and are conducted exclusively by God, hereafter "The Source". To the extent that anything contained in this Agreement contradicts or is in any way inconsistent with the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures shall control in all respects. If you do not agree to the terms of this Agreement in their entirety, you may not receive a Knowledge of the Truth, hereafter "The Product". Please check the words of living prophets periodically for changes, as The Source reserves the right to revise this Agreement at any time.
Upon The Source's acceptance of your request to receive The Product, as indicated by your express consent to this Agreement, The Source hereby grants you a revocable, non-exclusive, non-transferable and limited license to The Product to participate in life in strict accordance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement and as permitted via other instructions contained in the Holy Scriptures. You acknowledge and agree that all content and materials made available via The Source are the property of The Source. The Source may terminate this license to The Product at any time for any reason.
In attempting to obtain The Product, you agree to provide a sincere heart, real intent, and have faith in Christ. That is, to receive the Product you must be willing to accept The Product and all the implications included therein. Such implications may engender temporary confusion, disappointment, and regret, but such consequences shall be mitigated through faith and subsequently further engaging The Product.
Unless explicitly stated otherwise, any future offer(s) made available to you by The Source that augment(s) or otherwise enhance(s) the current features of The Product shall be subject to this Agreement. You understand and agree that The Source is not responsible or liable in any manner whatsoever for your inability to use or participate in this program, qualify for any knowledge of the truth, or for your inability to utilize any associated functionality. Inability to use The Product may arise from mistaking subjective personal experiences as part of The Product itself, acting in flagrant violation of the principles inherent in The Product, and other poor choices. However, The Source generously concedes a liberal tolerance for personal effort to enhance the product and for mistakes committed thereby, as long as users of The Product remember that The Product is clarified and becomes more usable by degrees (line upon line, so to speak) with patience and obedience. You understand and agree that The Source shall not be liable to you or any third party for any modification, suspension or discontinuation of The Product based on your own poor choices. You understand and agree that refusal to use the The Product is your sole right and remedy with respect to any dispute with The Source.
Should a dispute arise concerning the terms and conditions of this Agreement or the breach of same by either party hereto, the parties agree to submit their dispute for resolution by arbitration before the Lord Jesus Christ on the final judgment day.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
I just wanted to say welcome, Emma, as you look for insight and support.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
At times we may despair that our burdens are too great. When it seems that a tempest is raging in our lives, we may feel abandoned and cry out like the disciples in the storm, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38). At such times we should remember His reply: "Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?" (v. 40).
The healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ—whether it removes our burdens or strengthens us to endure and live with them like the Apostle Paul—is available for every affliction in mortality.
Something really great has been happening to me. Not to be dramatic, but I think my New Years' Resolutions have really helped me be happier. It's either that, or all the vitamin supplements I'm taking in conjunction with my 2007 fitness plan.
Not long ago I felt like I was in the depths of inaction. No matter how much I thought about change or wrote about change or wanted change, I just couldn't get myself to think or believe or behave any differently than I had for years. I didn't know what I was going to do. I prayed with no immediate answer. I just kept going. I've been thinking and hoping and gearing up to get my act together for months.
And now, somehow, I think it's working. I feel better. I'm cleaner, healthier, and more motivated to do the things in my life that I know will be good for me.
I really enjoyed listening to Elder Oaks' talk again while I was jogging along today. It reminded me of all the reasons I still hope and believe and worship Jesus Christ. He's really our advocate and loves us more than we can imagine. There's something magical about the atonement--otherworldly. And yet here it is influencing my actual life in a wonderful way. I'm grateful for that healing and I pray I can have the faith and faithfulness to continue to heal in Christ.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Adaon smiled gravely. "Is there not glory enough in living the days given to us? You should know there is adventure in simply being among those we love and the things we love, and beauty, too."
I've been excited to find the adventure and "glory" waiting for me so far in 2007. I find I like my life to a surprising degree, all things considered. I've had a few rough patches lately, but nothing unusual or particularly alarming. And in the midst of it all I find myself more in love with my wife than ever, more connected to my son than ever, and more content with "living the days given" to me.
Sometimes I wonder if it's a symptom of having left my 20's behind that I no longer find a huge amount of draw in big ambitious dreams. Less and less do I feel like I have to compete or out-do anyone else, and it's kind of a relief. I have a little family and we are the most important thing in one another's lives. Having said that, we each have personal interests that we pursue with alacrity and passion, and I'm not really in favor of giving that up.
So, yeah, Adaon. Good point.