Mission Accomlished – Course Change?

Hello faithful readers! (if I have any left at this point 😛 ) I know I’ve been very hit and miss with this blog. I was thinking about it the other day and wondering how I wanted to continue with my creative outlets and I decided I didn’t want to stop writing, as it’s probably my best creative outlet, but I had a major epiphany as I was thinking about it:

At the outset when I wanted to write this blog, I did it because I needed a place I could go to unpack all the business surrounding my coming out and leaving my church and just kind of telling my story. I had just hundreds of thoughts swirling around in my head and my mind is the kind that just doesn’t shut up. I often go to bed listening to music so my mind has something singular to focus on to drown out all the noise, otherwise my brain just kicks around thought after thought, scenario after scenario, analyzing everything that’s happened that day, thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow, the next day, the next week, and on and on.

This blog was and is extremely therapeutic for me because it allowed me to take all those random thoughts and work through them by putting them down on paper (digital paper?) and allow me to work through all of the random emotions and thoughts that come with going through what I did. The other purpose was to share my story with friends and family members in a more succinct way so people might understand me a little bit better.

With all of that said about why I started the blog, and I think the reason I haven’t been writing as much lately.. is because…

Mission Accomplished!

I am in a completely different place than I was a year and some change ago. So much has happened that it’s almost kind of staggering how fast it all went down and how far I’ve come in the last two years.  So much is different and better, and yet so much of it fantastically the same. I’m out, happy, in a loving, committed relationship, have found a lot of peace in my searching, and don’t know that I need to use this blog in the way I have been in the past. Even the title to me now makes me laugh at how dark and serious everything felt at that time. It’s funny what even a year’s perspective can give you in this journey.

So what does that mean for the blog? Well, I know I want to continue writing, in some fashion. I don’t know if I want to keep this blog and just change the purpose, try to rename it somehow, or just scrap it altogether and create a fresh new blog with a fresh new design, perspective, and purpose something that is more broad and encompasses more of my interests than just my coming out and dealing with leaving a religion.

I’ve also flirted with the idea of video blogging in addition to writing to explore that avenue and maybe a podcast of some kind, but I’m just not sure.

I would love any comments, suggestions or thoughts as I mull this over in the coming few days. Feel free to leave a comment here or on Facebook if that’s where you found it and give me your two cents.

Love and thanks,
Trent

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A Josh Groban Love Story

Hey everyone, happy May! I hope your Spring is going as well as mine, now that Winter has finally decided to go home like that awkward guy at the party that just doesn’t seem to know when to leave. Unfortunately that annoying neighbor Summer is calling from next door already, asking if you want to hang out. No, Summer, I don’t want to hang out yet!

Anyway, moving past the weather, I’m sorry for my disappearance in the month of April, I spent most of it recovering from mono after a day in the ER not knowing why it hurt to breathe and why my heart rate and blood pressure were through the roof. That was fun.

Now that I’m back, and feeling mushy and nostalgic, I wanted to tell you a story from my mission and bring it to today. Disclaimer, I’m about to get disgustingly mushy, those with severe aversion to “Awwww,” should leave now.  😉

I’m something of an eclectic music lover and honestly one of the hardest things about my mission in terms of the wacky rules was the restriction on what kind of music was allowed. Now, this isn’t something the church spells out explicitly in the white handbook, but most individual missions have their own rules and for most of my mission ours was pretty ambiguous as long as you could explain its existence to your zone leaders. A very popular one among a lot of missionaries, that I actually discovered through one of my first ZLs was Josh Groban’s album, “Closer.”

closer

It’s actually a great album and something that I still pull up on my iTunes pretty regularly. I bought this album when I was about three months in to the two years and listened to it constantly. My family had bought me about twenty or so Mormon Tabernacle Choir albums, and they were really good, but eventually they get old and this one at least felt somewhat modern and closer to music I listened to back home.

I remember sitting in a little apartment in Murray, Utah, with my headphones in listening to this song. This all took place around the same time I had started reading the book that started me down the journey of accepting my sexual orientation. (See my second post). I turned to track #5 and really listened to it for the first time and I was overcome with the beauty of the music and the lyrics. It is an incredible love song. Here’s a video for it, take a listen, and I’ll post the lyrics too.

“When You Say You Love Me”

Like the sound of silence calling,
I hear your voice and suddenly
I’m falling, lost in a dream.
Like the echoes of our souls are meeting,
You say those words and my heart stops beating.
I wonder what it means.
What could it be that comes over me?
At times I can’t move.
At times I can hardly breathe.
When you say you love me
The world goes still, so still inside and
When you say you love me
For a moment, there’s no one else alive.
You’re the one I’ve always thought of.
I don’t know how, but I feel sheltered in your love.
You’re where I belong.
And when you’re with me if I close my eyes,
There are times I swear I feel like I can fly
For a moment in time.
Somewhere between the Heavens and Earth ,
And frozen in time, Oh when you say those words.When you say you love me
The world goes still, so still inside and
When you say you love me
For a moment, there’s no one else alive

And this journey that we’re on.
How far we’ve come and I celebrate every moment.
And when you say you love me,
That’s all you have to say.
I’ll always feel this way.

When you say you love me
The world goes still, so still inside and
When you say you love me
In that moment,I know why I’m alive

When you say you love me.
When you say you love me.
Do you know how I love you?

I sat back in my chair and let the music wash over me and felt the familiar mixture of a thrilling happiness and an aching pain as I imagined some future day when someone would be in my life that would fit this song. Looking back, it all seemed like a fantasy, a dream to pursue and to cling to, something that helped to push me forward each day. Seven years, and some change, after that day, and just over a year ago now, my dream became a reality. I met the man that I would be able to sing this song to and mean every word of it, and the last thirteen months have been the best of my life.

So, for the man that has stolen my heart, I’m adding this song to our growing list of ‘our songs.’ A list I know will continue to grow.

I love you.

Gays in the Boy Scouts

I’m taking another shift in my ‘normal’ routine. This is another topical, current event perspective on the Boy Scouts of America ban on openly gay scouts and scout leaders. I wrote a rather long response on a friend’s Facebook thread, a thread that is already over 70 comments long, and I realized that as I wrote it, I was putting as much, if not more, time into it as I would  a blog post, and I’m interested in more people knowing my opinion on it. So here it is, with some modifications (removed specific references to comments made earlier in the thread that will not make sense to anyone reading it here 🙂 )

Personally, I think the BSA delay is cowardly. The major lobbying push to get this to happen has been going for well over a year or two. With the general issue the writing has been on the wall for well beyond that. 

I’m a very practical guy when it comes to stuff like this, and assume it mostly comes down to money. While they are a non-profit organization, they have to maintain certain operating costs and they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are losing corporate donors such as UPS, but if they change their policy they could lose the participation of the LDS church, which would devastate the program just in terms of sheer numbers of participants and annual events. However… it doesn’t take another three months, in addition to the years they’ve had to see the polling and read the culture shift, to run the numbers and projections and make a decision.

If you’re taking the position that it’s a moral choice based on religious principles, then the BSA needs to be clear which religion they’re basing their core values on, and I’m sorry but “Christian” is way too broad a term. Christians can’t even all agree on the nature of God, predestination, revelation, authority, even what version of the Bible to base their teachings on, and even today, there are Christians on both sides of the gay rights debate. There are even agnostic Christians (which some could say Thomas Jefferson was, google the Jefferson Bible) that believe in the moral and philosophical teachings of Jesus but don’t claim belief in a supernatural God.

As to whether the BSA should change? I actually don’t care. This isn’t like Chick-fil-a where the owners are also advocating and donating money to anti-gay hate groups. They want to be an old-fashioned boys club? That’s their prerogative. I think that the people who want to change the scouts should just make a better organization that includes boys and girls, gay and straight and everything in between, oh yeah and the atheists too. Let me be clear, I think it would be wise for the BSA if they decided to lift the ban, because that is the way culture is shifting, and since they are in fact not a church, they have the freedom to move any way they like.

A brief side bar for internet and Facebook discussions in general and the people that engage in them: I love that you’re participating in discussions like this. It’s a good sign of an open mind and a willingness to be challenged that can actually serve to strengthen your faith, despite what some will say. It will also lead to people understanding your views better, and you understanding theirs with more clarity as well.

To dispel a few things I see being posted a lot, ad nauseum,  from people seeming to think they are the first to make this point… being gay is not something that needs to be cured or ‘overcome.’ Being gay does not mean you are more likely to be a pedophile, or a murderer, or a rapist, or any of the other things. Can we please just put this to rest? It’s utterly silly and the fact that I constantly find myself having to refute it in people’s logic is staggeringly exhausting.

In a similar vein, I know that Mormons tend to have their own special definitions of these terms, due mainly to the leadership of the church avoiding saying the words gay or lesbian for decades… Let’s be clear. Homosexuality and same-gender attraction(SGA), or same-sex attraction (SSA) are synonyms. They mean the same thing. Homosexuality is what the rest of the world calls it. This is because homosexuality is a subset of sexuality, which deals with the capacity for sexual feelings. Look it up. It is the physical, mental, emotional, and social attraction to other human beings, and in the case of homosexuality, the attraction of the same gender.

When it comes down to it, you people who know me treat me differently, because you know me, than they might strangers you might be treated as the caricature (for good or bad). 

I have a special request for all of the active LDS people, and other actively religious people, and all parents in general who might be reading this. What I would stress to you is to remember that these 11 and 12 year old boys you are so worried about have a roughly one in ten or one in twenty chance, depending on the study, of being gay themselves. Think of the messages you are sending these children, many of whom I guarantee you are just starting to figure out what this means for them in their life. I was in 6th grade when I first put a name to what was going on in my life, which is the 11-12 age bracket. It was then when I first started to label myself as broken, an abomination, and told myself that this was something I absolutely had to keep secret, that I couldn’t even trust my parents with, because I was so ashamed of myself, and was afraid (wrongly) that they couldn’t love or accept a gay son. I hated myself for who I was, convinced that somehow God had punished me with this, wondering what I had done, maybe in the pre-earth life, to have warranted it.

Now, to be fair, the LDS church has come leaps and bounds forward on this issue since that time period, stressing the love and acceptance that people need to have. Keep in mind that when you tell your future son that you don’t want him associating with gay people because what they do is wrong, etc, etc, that you might be informing your child what you think of him (or her).

I’m not saying any of you would do this in the wrong way, but please keep in mind, and I cannot stress this strongly enough, that there are absolutely gay kids in your wards and congregations right now, that are paying very close attention to what is being said in sacrament meeting and in sunday school, by their parents, and by their leaders, and they hear and internalize every single word. 

Please, think about what messages you want to send with positions on subjects like this. Make sure you are very, very clear how you want them to hear about the love and acceptance first, and then the ‘spiritual danger’ that ‘those people’ bring to the table secondly.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts.

Spiritual Irony: The Faith-Shattering Testimony Meeting

Hello again! I seriously cannot believe it is October already. In planning for my blog posts I realized I started this blog by telling my story and need to get current before I get too topical…if that makes any sense.

So, to do that I suppose the natural order of things would be to return to what happened after I decided to leave BYUI. I left in April 2010.  Interest in school became kind of erratic in the next two years. I’m only now really going back to school in a serious way, and finally recapturing what I’d loved about school when separated from a religious context.

When I got home I went back to attending my local young single adult congregation and participated in an admittedly limited way. I think on some level I realized I was already losing the battle in my desire to remain in the church. I came out to my bishop, assuring him of my worthiness but worried about my faith and testimony. He gave me the book for the church’s addiction recovery program… yeah… That interview could have gone better.

While I became less active in my ward I actually increased my prayer and scripture study. I was determined to find answers that the church couldn’t or wouldn’t provide me. I was always disappointed listening to General Conference and frustrated by their inability to address much outside of, ‘Pray, read your scriptures, pay your tithing, etc, etc.” Also the more I read about the history of the church and conference talks, and from the scriptures was compounding the frustration.  I mean, I believed in a church which claimed direct, prophetic revelation from God. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young certainly never took half measures much of anything. Joseph once pointed at a rock in Missouri and said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘That’s the altar where Adam prayed after being kicked out of the garden.’ Young talked about what kind of food we would be eating after the resurrection! Where was the revelation about why people are gay, about when the spirit enters the body, about if stillborn children will be resurrected or not? Those issues, God is silent on, but celestial cucumbers, that’s essential to our salvation?!

Then the straw that broke the camel’s back arrived. It stemmed from a General Conference talk from Boyd Packer, an Apostle in the LDS church, that he gave in October 2010. I don’t want to get too much into this talk right now because I think it could be an entire post in and of itself. It set off a firestorm among gay rights activists, Mormon and non, and I hear it caused quite a stir in Provo (site of BYU) and Salt Lake City.

It was in a reaction to that talk in my singles’ ward though that set off the final chain reaction. While sitting and listening to a Fast and Testimony Meeting (where members of the congregation are invited to the podium as they want to speak on their beliefs and ‘bare their testimony’) a guy in his early-twenties, who was in a leadership position, went up to the podium. After beginning the usual way, he took a tangent and began talking about how he had a friend in Provo and how they’d been discussing Packer’s talk and the resulting fallout. He went on to affirm Packer’s words about how God would never make someone gay, that it must have originated by some kind of choice, or as a consequence of some action taken during life. He was certain in his belief that the Atonement of Christ can and would fix anything, and that those who were struggling with this just simply were not trying hard enough.

I looked around and saw the huge number of people in the congregation nodding in rapt approval and agreement.

To them, and apparently so many LDS people, it’s just that simple. I hadn’t prayed hard enough, hadn’t fasted earnestly enough, and hadn’t searched the scriptures well enough to find the answer that would just make it all okay, that would make Christ’s Atonement finally work for me. Even at my most devout, doing all that I knew how to beg God’s intervention in my life, they were telling me that hadn’t been good enough, and that was that. Well… I certainly wasn’t going to rise above the level of faithfulness I had on my mission and just after, so I was doomed, according to this logic.

I suddenly and immediately had enough of it. Luckily he was the last person to speak before the meeting was closed. I walked out and that was the last time I attended church as a believer.

I drove to a large park near the church I attended and parked in my favorite spot overlooking this little lake and just sat there fuming, trying to relax and reflect. I stared at the beautiful sight and just contemplated everything, all of it seeming to rush through my head at once. I had recently come out to my non-member friends (another blog post to come) and I contrasted their love and acceptance with what I was hearing and feeling at church. I thought of my family and how they would react. How any decision I could make would affect them. Scriptures in my mind flooded to the surface like I was reading them out loud, in my head. Passages from Luke, and Genesis, from 2 Nephi and Alma, it was a very intense experience. I was angry, and frustrated, and hurt, and afraid, and sobbing like a mad man.

Despite all the emotional and irrational chaos in my head, one thought kept emerging from it. Despite every reason to stay, or go, despite my feelings on everything I had experienced, it stood alone. “I’m not happy.” The church culture and doctrine on homosexuality was choking me and I knew I had to leave. I said a prayer and told God what I had decided. I didn’t feel any doubt, any fear anymore, no hesitation and I made the decision firmly and committed to it.

Two things happened pretty simultaneously. The first was a huge realization of what I had just ‘given up.’ It cut straight to my heart with all the implications as if my head was warning me, “You know this is going to have a lot of social and familial repercussions, massive ones. Be sure this is what you want.”

The second came in the form of utter elation. You know that feeling when you eat your favorite flavor of ice cream, or the peace of reading a book during a thunderstorm, or the feeling of a high-speed dive on a roller coaster? It was like all of that at once. I knew immediately that I had made the right decision, and a massive, two-decade weight flew from my shoulders. Despite trials that would follow, so many things in my life started locking into place in a great way, helping give me confirmation that everything was going to be alright, eventually.

Thoughts on Suicide

I really need to get back into this more than once a month, though I suppose I’m happy I’m doing this well. No blog before this has had this much success for me in terms of how often I write.  Some news outside of this blog for anyone interested: I’m back in school, taking two classes from my local community college, Comp 2 and IT Intro Networking. Both are going swimmingly, but have started to take up more of my time. Rehearsals also start back up tonight for the Heartland Men’s Chorus which I’m a member of. It’s going to be a very exciting, very busy fall. I can’t wait.

I’ve decided to take a break from the chronological narrative this post. My next in that vein is going to be about my main theological snag that ‘broke the camel’s back’ as it were and led me to leave the church. However, it is appropriately complex and deep, and I’m still working on it. I want to give it the justice and time it deserves. It’s important to me that people reading this understand all my thoughts in the clearest way I can give.

So instead I’m doing a topical post, which is something I’ll likely do more of in the future. When you come out to people, you get, understandably, a lot of questions. The first is always “When did you know?” One that invariably comes up is the depressing, “Did you ever consider suicide?” I’m lucky that, in the strictest sense, my answer is no.

I add that little caveat because though I never got anywhere close to doing action in taking my own life, there were periods on my mission where I wanted to die, and not because I was sad, depressed, or sinful, but because I was worthy, and I wanted to stay that way.

About four or five weeks into my mission I confessed to my Mission President my pre-mission transgressions that I should have taken care of, according to LDS theology, before my mission and before going through the temple. I sent letters to my Stake President, and Bishops to whom I had been less than truthful during my temple and missionary interview process, apologizing for my deceit. Once through the repentance process, I felt better about things because I had gone through the process taught to me and in my mind, things were back on track. I had done the remorse thing, the penance thing and lots of praying and asking forgiveness. A month or so later I felt worthy, happy, and gung ho about the mission again.

The oddest feeling struck me about six months into the mission. Everything was going rather well. I was in a good area, the people were nice, and the work was successful. We were walking down 13th East back down towards our apartment in Draper, for lunch. I want to say near 126th South? It’s been a while. It’s a decently busy area and a fun hill to drive down and offers a beautiful view of Corner Canyon near where we could see the Draper Temple being constructed.

We had decided to walk up the area to some of the neighborhoods in our area to go tracting for exercise and because we wanted to save on miles for the car. As we were walking down the hill, and I looked at the temple construction site, I had this weird thought cross my mind. ‘Given your same-gender attraction, this might be the best things get for your spiritually.’ I was a temple-worthy missionary. I was as close to pure as I was ever going to reach. I had given up my normal life to do God’s work to preach, there was no greater calling, right? I had the clear and distinct wish, almost a silent prayer, that a car would jump the curb and strike me dead at that moment so I could return to heaven, clean and pure, and not ‘ruin it’ for myself after the mission.

Think about that for a minute. It’s not technically a suicidal thought, as the definition of suicide implies intentional taking of one’s own life, but what would you call it? Spiritual death wish? It wasn’t isolated either, that thought would occur to me more times throughout the next eighteen months. What lead me to this?

It would be easy for me at this moment to blame the church and church teachings about worthiness, cleanliness, and the afterlife. Yet LDS belief about judgment and the afterlife is actually among the best in Christianity, in my opinion. Christ, the man who had suffered all, and knew my pain intimately, would be my judge. Someone with infinite knowledge of my life and my struggles, about my intentions and the nature of my heart, he would be the one to pass judgment on me, and I knew, according to church teachings, that I believed in a merciful, loving God and Savior. To throw the LDS church a bone, because some think that I’ve somehow made it my life’s mission to destroy it, as if I could, the church has some really great views about suicide and the afterlife, as much as is possible anyway.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, speaking at the funeral of a good friend who took his life, stated:
“God has said ‘You leave this to me.’ We’re not wise enough to make judgments in such matters. We don’t know enough. We did not walkwith Karl in that dark night. As much as we have known him and as much as we have loved him, we have not been able to imagine whatKarl must have been thinking. Because we can’t and because God can, he has said, ‘You leave this to me.’ And in such times when we do not know why this would happen, then we cling to what we do know. Itis a great rule of life: When we come to things we do not know and donot understand, we hold more firmly to things we do know and do understand. We know that God lives and loves Karl. We know that Christ went into that Garden and to the summit of Calvary, for Karl. We know that life is eternal. We know that the plan of salvationis perfect. We know that redemption, renewal, restoration and resurrection are great principles of the gospel, great images ofChrist. And so we don’t throw any rocks and we don’t fail to forgive. Inthis case, we probably aren’t able even to understand. We simply yield to God in this.”

Yet the simple fact remains, there is an epidemic of young, gay, Mormons who are committing suicide each year, added to the numbers of non-Mormon gay kids who are also taking their own lives. Then you have others like me, simply wishing they would die so as not to ‘ruin’ their worthiness.

My only conclusion I can come to is that theology plus culture is creating this problem. Life for many can be an isolated hell. Life just gets hard to deal with. When you add to that a teaching many in the LDS church believe as doctrine, that the lowest of the three Kingdoms of Glory (one of the three heavens people will go to after judgment day) is so beautiful and peaceful, is it a wonder some might see the afterlife as immensely preferable to this one? I’m afraid that so much emphasis in the LDS church on worthiness and working towards perfection creates psychological side effects for some people that are hard to identify and to combat.

I’m really just speculating. I don’t have any degrees in psychology, psychiatry, sociology, or even theology or philosophy. I just know that this is happening, and we need to watch what we say to young people in our lives. Remember that your children hear every word you say and internalize it as near absolute truth most of the time. Constantly tell all in your life that they are loved and wanted right here, that it really does get better. No matter how bad, or even good, life is, it can and will get better.

Quest for Understanding

I’ve started the first paragraph of this post at least five times in my mind already before sitting down to write this, and yet as I sit here to write it they all come up short, all feel wrong or inadequate for different reasons. I feel like despite my warnings, and disclaimer, and change of locale, I still have people that have read and not understood my purpose for writing.

I’ve always considered it somewhat ironic that despite a love of words, reading, and expression, being understood by others in the way I want escapes me. I know that part of this comes because communication is a two way road. I can’t control the way my words are taken despite intentions. A talented English professor explained to me once that words do not have meaning in and of themselves. Words call forth a meaning in the person that hears or reads them. This meaning is unique to that individual based on their personal life experiences. To illustrate this, if you were to say the word Germany to someone who lived in the 1940’s, you would most likely get a different reaction from a teenager today. This leads to the initial problem with people being unable to understand each other in general.

These unique and varied definitions are enough to create confusion and misunderstanding, and it doesn’t even begin to address the amount of communication we do through tone, volume, inflection, body language, and any other non-verbal means. When you have situations with text-only mediums, such as on internet blogs, it is amazing that we manage any kind of meaningful dialogues as it is.

Cut down to the base intention, this blog was first and foremost only for me. In that regard, the reflection and inner dialog this blog affords me means I can already consider it a success. I am way more at peace now than I have been. I do know, however, that people read this, and it’s one of the other purposes for the blog, which was to share my experience. I am a firm believer that hate and misunderstanding is the product of ignorance and lack of perspective. Which means I can’t help but be concerned for those that I know are reading it, their feelings, and how they are taking my words. If anyone comes away from my blog with less understanding, or a bad taste in their mouth, or even more of a negative feeling towards gay men or those that have left the church, I will feel that I’ve failed in part. That may sound unfair and unrealistic, but it is what it is and I can’t keep myself from feeling that way.

One of the things I cherish about my LDS upbringing is the firm learning of some universal principles like opposition in all things. Strong reactions come from strong actions. Those that express strong feelings about the church, or their family, or their college, or anything in life all stem from strong feelings in the beginning. If you know anyone who is having strong negative reactions towards something, it is often because it was tied to something they used to have strong positive feelings about. I’ve heard from others in my position that leaving the church is very often similar to going through the stages of grief. This makes perfect sense to me.

To those brought up in the church, the idea of leaving is incredibly painful. I was taught since before I could understand all the words being used that I was part of an eternal family, that I would be with my brother, sister and parents forever. Not only do we have to deal with the notion of losing that, but with the guilt that we are creating that loss in our family members, parents especially. The thought of what my mother must feel about this situation brought me to tears many times before I made my decision. It still does if I dwell on it too long. Family is so central to the LDS faith, it’s almost impossible not to feel guilt over being the one that ruins that for the rest of your family. Depression was a part of my journey to say the least.

I’ve definitely been through Denial, years of pretending everything was fine. Bargaining happened with every prayer before my decision. I would love to say that I’ve been able to avoid Anger…wouldn’t that be nice. Obviously it hasn’t been true, and bouts of it still surface. ‘Who’s to blame?’ ‘Why me?’ ‘Why did I let this go on for so long?’ All of these questions and many, many more went through my mind just before and after, and all the days since. My public coming out on Facebook was one of my steps of Acceptance. While I still have plenty of time to go to figure things out and come to terms with everything, I’m happy that I finally feel like I’ve started to find peace and true joy in my life again.

What scares those closest to us is that they normally don’t know anything is going on until the Anger stage. The other stages are mostly internal and often quiet. Anger is usually very outward and hardly ever quiet. Human beings are still quite in their infancy in terms of the internet and social media communication. We seem to have all lost the ability to give each other the benefit of the doubt. I’m definitely guilty of that also, but I think it’s something we all need to work on. Given all the possibilities for misunderstanding communication on the internet, we should all strive not to create problems where none exist. Especially if it is a family member or a close friend involved. I’m not going to apologize for the life changes that have brought me so much more happiness and joy, I am sorry if I’ve hurt anyone on the way. I’ll just keep doing what I can towards furthering understanding, knowledge, and appreciation for how we’re different, and for what we still have in common.

Lots of love.

Pray It Away…

This will be the first of my topics that is a little more difficult for members of the LDS Church and their stance on this issue. My intent, however, is to do as much explaining as I can from my experience and not try to attack what the church teaches so much as explain why I feel it didn’t work for me.

Mormons believe in a powerful form of prayer, and fasting, and personal miracles. Countless stories are taught to you from scripture and you hear them monthly from testimony meetings (where individual members can speak freely from the podium on Sundays). The thought is that if you pray enough, and fast with real intent (fasting is going without food or drink for two meals or 24 hours, beginning and ending with a prayer, as a sign of personal sacrifice and dedication to show the Lord that your request is truly genuine), and do service, and focus on others, through the power of Christ’s Atonement, you will overcome any trial you’ve been given. Stories abound of people having their temptation for addictions completely removed overnight, of sick family members being healed, of countless types of miracles wrought in the lives of the faithful.

As a missionary it is expected even more so. You are the Lord’s representative, duly called and appointed to do his work and to act as he would on his behalf. You carry the mantle of an Elder of God’s Priesthood, a messenger with the authority of God to call people to repentance, to gather the lost, to bring them to Zion. I knew, on some deep level, that if I was going to defeat this trial of mine, of homosexuality, that it would happen on my mission through dedicated service, prayer, and fasting.

I dedicated my entire mission to this one purpose. Secretly, of course, though I confided in my Mission President and a mission friends along the way.  Every fast I did was dedicated to this purpose. Every personal prayer, morning and night, on my knees, was wrestling and pleading with God to change me, to remove this trial from me, to make me a more mighty instrument in his hand.

Halfway into my two years, hopeful zeal and determination turned to despair as I noticed no difference, felt no change, witnessed no miraculous healing. My personal prayers became longer and longer. I would pray into the night, when I knew my companion was asleep. Tears would flow freely as my pleading turned to begging, repeating the same words over and over again, “Please, Father, please. I know you can do anything, that you are all powerful, please take this away. Please, please, please…” These whispered words and tears became my nightly ritual. Every night the same pattern would follow, the same words, the same feeling of failure, of hopelessness, of anguish.

I became more desperate, feeling though I wasn’t doing enough. I would go into the bathroom and turn on the shower so my companion couldn’t hear, kneel on the hard floor and cry out, pray louder, demanding that God hear me and give me an answer. No change. I scoured the scriptures and the missionary manuals, determined to find answers. I read about the powerful change of heart in the wicked Zeezrom, the miraculous conversion of Paul, and so many other powerful stories. I studied everything I could about the Atonement and the infinite and eternal power it had to change anyone’s life.

Near the end of my mission, two years of dedicating hours and hours each day to this, all of my efforts seemed to come to nothing. My prayers became less and less fervent, as I accepted a growing feeling that I was not going to change, and I suddenly had to figure out what that was going to mean. After my mission was concluded and I returned home, I immediately set off for BYU-Idaho not even two months after my return. It was after going to college that statements from General Authorities started to come out about the subject, or at least that I noticed. There was a marked shift in tone when dealing with these issues in General Conference.  For instance, President Spencer W. Kimball said this in November 1980:

“The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts. And the Church will excommunicate as readily any unrepentant addict.”

A very different tone comes from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in 2007:

“Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may resolve same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life.

As fellow Church members, families, and friends, we need to recognize that those attracted to the same gender face some unique restrictions regarding expression of their feelings. While same-gender attraction is real, there must be no physical expression of this attraction. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone. Such feelings can be powerful, but they are never so strong as to deprive anyone of the freedom to choose worthy conduct.”

I knew from my experience and from the feelings I got when I prayed that I was not going to change. I knew at that time I faced a major decision. Remain in the church and remain celibate and alone, most likely for the rest of my life, or leave the church and everything that entails. The decision I made at that time was the former. I would focus my life on school, my career, singing, my friends, my future career, being a good brother and a good uncle and son, and try to put on a good face while denying that part of myself and its expression. Though I had no idea the challenges it would bring at an LDS college until a year or so later.

Looking back on this and what I went through, knowing myself now the way I do and the trials I’ve passed through to get where I am, I no longer support any methods to try to change someone’s sexuality. I feel it is incredibly unhealthy, psychologically, and will only lead to guilt and anguish should the change not come. In my opinion, those who have experienced change in their life most likely fell somewhere into the spectrum of bisexuality and were able to focus on their attraction to women and subdue their attraction for men. I am obviously not a professional, I can only speak from experience and opinion. All I know is that as soon as I accepted myself for exactly who I am, and what that meant in my life, a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders and everything in my personal life began to lock into place.

I do not want to encourage anyone to take any specific actions. Each person’s life and experiences are incredibly unique. I only encourage happiness, and the pursuit of it in your life. If you are happy as a gay person in the church, really and truly happy, you should stay there. My path eventually led me in a different direction.