1.26.2018

Viewing His Identity

It may seem as though I'm "excessive" with my use of the scriptures for inspiration here in my blog, but I strongly believe we cannot turn to any better source for said inspiration.  The word of our Heavenly Father is powerful, and more than sufficient to "tell (us) all things what (we) should do." (2nd Nephi 32:3).  I absolutely love the scriptures for this reason, because digging deep enough into them won't ever provide us with a flawless map for life, but it will give us enough to go on until the Lord gives us more direction.  With that out of the way, then, I'd like to share a scripture, Matthew 22:41-42, which declares:

"While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David."

Now you might be saying to yourself, "Um...what does this have anything to do with what Spencer was just writing about?  That literally makes no sense."  At first glance, I can see how you might think that! ;) :)  Well, let's return to my words for a second.  I wrote that I believe we cannot turn to any better source than the scriptures for inspiration, and I also wrote that they give us enough to go on until the Lord gives us more direction.  That being said, how is it possible to properly draw upon the power of a relationship with Christ, if we do not look at Him in the way our Heavenly Father intended?  As the Book of Mormon teaches in 2nd Nephi 26:24, "He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him."  It can be dangerous or at the least, detrimental to think of the Lord Jesus Christ as a "great teacher", "good man", "someone who asks too much of me", or, in the case of the Pharisees, "the son of David" - just another person on the streets, a mortal man making too much of himself to others.  But, we know differently of Him. 

Through ancient and modern revelation, we understand that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father.  He is the literal progeny of God, divine in every respect.  In short, He is the Son of God, and this is what He was asking the Pharisees above - if they knew His true identity.  To me, Christ is asking them here, "Do you understand who I am?  Do you comprehend the purpose I have here on the earth right now, or do you just view me as another mortal man?"  Now, let's contrast this with another scriptural example.  In Matthew 16:13-17, it declares,

"...He asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."



Notice how Christ asks first who men say that He is, and the responses His apostles give do not mesh with the truth of His divinity.  But then, distinguishing the difference between the Saints and individuals who do not yet know truth, Jesus asks, "Whom say ye that I am?"  And with a witness that Christ Himself points out comes from our Heavenly Father, Peter answers with the correct answer of truth - that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  So, why does this matter, anyway?  What do all these pretty little scriptures have to do with you and me as fellow participants in the LGBT+ journey of Mormonism, aka the gospel of Jesus Christ?  It all comes down to a clear-cut choice, though it can be anything but simple at times. 

I can choose, in any given set of circumstances, to believe that Jesus Christ was a good man, great teacher, fictitious invention of ancient fanatics, world-changing philosopher, or something along those lines.  I can ignore any small shred of evidence I've received of the reality of His presence and identity in my life, and cast aside the beautiful witnesses of His majestic, sovereign life throughout all His creation in the universe.  Pain that manifests in multiple ways - severe disappointment, death, chronic illness, betrayal, rejection, loneliness, etc, etc - can strongly influence one to reject the idea of an all-loving, all-powerful, and all-present Savior of humankind.  But if you're reading this, I suspect that you've got some little bit of light and truth you're still holding onto - otherwise, why seek after such reading material?  For those of you reading this who still are holding on to even the tiniest bit of light, I challenge you to set your shame, pain, and discomfort aside, and instead take a chance on Jesus again.  Even if it's just a piece at a time, hand Him your heart and soul to show you who He really is - more than all the petty, trivial identities above, and instead an actual, living, breathing Savior who desires to know you as His beloved son or daughter. 

I testify that what we each think of Christ will ultimately shape our journey with Him as LGBT+ sons and daughters of God.  We will slip, we will fall, and we will at times completely crash and burn - but He still loves us anyway.  No matter what happens, if we establish that loving, firm relationship with Jesus Christ, He cannot and will not fail us!  I love Deuteronomy 31:6, which declares, "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."  And there's also  2nd Timothy 2:13, which says, "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself."  The phrase "believe not" is better translated from the Greek as "are unfaithful".  So, if we are unfaithful, yet Christ still remains faithful, because He cannot be unfaithful to us by virtue of being a perfectly loving Savior and Redeemer.  Consider what you think of Jesus Christ - what you believe His identity was and is currently in your journey as someone involved with the LGBT+ community.  Is Christ really who He says He is, and who His servants testify Him to be?  I challenge you to delve deep into wrestling prayer with our Father-God, and to gain a witness of the true identity and nature of Christ in your life, personally.  I love you all!!!  Until next time, my friends....

12.24.2017

"Every Good Thing Which Is In You"

In Philemon, Paul wrote something that I believe applies to LGBT+ Mormons rather well:

"Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast towards the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;

That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.  For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother." (Phil. 1:5-7) 

For clarification, I'll further define a few of the words in this scripture, according to the Greek to English translation of the New Testament.  "Communication" can also be translated as participation or fellowship, "effectual" could also mean active, and "bowels" is also defined as affections or compassion.  With that explanation, then, it becomes clear what doctrine is meant for us in this scripture, at least in part.  Jesus Christ gives everyone an individual purpose in this life, tailored according to their life circumstances, personality, spiritual upbringing, and more.  We all have the common purpose of seeking after our Savior in love and righteousness through His everlasting gospel.  But, in our own personal lives, we employ the virtue taught therein differently.  For example, a single working mother will likely utilize her virtue of patience far more and far differently than, say, her small children.  Likewise, a heterosexual member of the Church will practice charity differently whilst interacting with other members than a LGBT+ member will.  Both are definitely valid executions of this virtue, but diverging paths require one member to act in another way as compared to the other.  My purpose in composing this blog post today is to explore what OUR purpose is as LGBT+ children in our Father's kingdom, both now and in the hereafter of the Millenial Reign of Jesus Christ.  I do not wish to explore our purpose in terms of time, but instead what it is supposed to look like from day to day.  :)

Let's take this verse by verse, then.  The first one declares, "Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast towards the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints."  I believe that our experiences, both positive and negative, as LGBT+ Mormons & individuals can yield an exceptional amount of empathy, love, compassion, faith in Christ, and more.  Perhaps this is why people in our community say we're "special" for being LGBT+ - because our adversity is often impossible to ignore as we suffer pain directly resulting from our diverse sexuality.  And yet, I cannot help but observe that virtue develops gradually in anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.  So for those who choose to follow the Light from Heaven, yes, they will develop testimonies and be converted to Christ.  In this process, that love and faith mentioned above will blossom in their hearts, and they will inevitably share it with others in & out of the Church.  I think the golden message that lies within this verse is just that - ANY member can make a difference by inviting the love of Christ into their lives!!  Most particularly, the verse points this out by using the phrase, "Hearing of thy love and faith..."  I would view it as a good sign indeed if someone had actually heard of my love and faith towards the Savior, and also towards the other members of the Church!  That would mean that people I'm supposed to be spiritually touching first, such as friends and family, are being positively influenced by the love and faith I've intentionally chosen and maintained, despite fierce temptation and general opposition! 


Next verse - "That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."  I feel like we, as LGBT+ Latter-Day Saints, so often seek to find our place within the figurative & literals walls of the Church.  For many of us, we often feel lonely, misunderstood, and even persecuted at times within our own wards. But, there is a solution. :)  Seeking out opportunities to both fellowship and participate in the gospel will largely eliminate those negative feelings, and will also prevent them from returning.  As part of this journey, I feel Paul's words speak very appropriately to the need for self-love among us.  Even Jesus had an unwavering, majestic aura of self-confidence - particularly when He was ministering to the Israelites according to His anointing, prophesied about in Isaiah 61:1-4.  Therefore, I feel it is perfectly fine to choose to love, over time, everything about ourselves - including the messy, dark, sinful, and weak parts within us.  It is only through becoming familiar with our undesirable parts within that we can have sufficient knowledge to replace them with goodness, light, and virtue.  And as we become familiar with those aspects of ourselves, we particularly must acknowledge "every good thing which is in (us) in Christ Jesus."  To me, this phrase of truth practically commands us to love & embrace every strength and spiritual gift which our Father has given to us!  It means that, through continuing prayer, study in the scriptures, positive inner conversations about ourselves, and more that we draw upon His grace to love ourselves!!  Satan hates himself.  He despises his own company, and so he tries so hard to get us to join him in his wretched misery and self-hatred.  But, we know better, and as Paul taught, "we are not ignorant of his devices (or, tricks)" (2nd Cor. 2:11)

Final verse states, "For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother."  I testify that when we cultivate charity in our lives as much as possible, even seeking out the Savior's grace as needed for tough days, it creates joy and comfort (consolation) in others' lives!!!  Obviously sharing the Lord's love with and for others brightens their day, and leads them along the path of Light.  But, did you ever stop to wonder at how else it might create that joy & comfort for others?  I can think of one way! :)  I don't know about you, but whenever I see someone sharing their love with someone else, my heart thrills with a rapturous feeling of joy, because I love lifting others myself, and comfort, because it reinforces my deep, abiding faith in the inherent goodness & potential of humanity.  Even beyond this, it inspires others to act in a spirit of Love, by spreading the presence of the Spirit throughout others' lives!  How remarkable indeed to consider that you and I can have place in the Lord's Kingdom here in mortality, simply by turning outwards and sharing His love with His children. :)  This is what is meant by "the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother (or, sister)" :)  The inner affections and compassion of the Saints are stirred up, refreshed, and made new by the ones who at least try sometimes to share the Lord's love!  By giving Love selflessly, you and I are giving out God with each act of Love, because Love is His nature indeed (see 1st John 4:8).  And through the "giving out of God", you and I can spread healing, hope, comfort, faith, light, love, and more among everyone.  I testify that Christ can show us "every good thing" that is in us, if only we will let Him.  I love you guys!!! Until next time... :) :) :)

11.22.2017

Our Own Brand of Darkness

Ever wondered what exactly the Savior can do with your demons when they're already shrouded in darkness, and then you hide them?  Or, if they somehow just get hidden without much effort on your part?  Sometimes our demons can evade our understanding to some degree, even if we have already been dealing with them for years!  My purpose today is to offer evidence that the Savior can reach out to sort out such "hidden darkness", on the premise of the following scripture:

"...the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom." (2nd Nephi 3:5, emphasis added, see also JST Genesis 50:25)

What kind of "hidden darkness" do you harbor away from God & the Savior?  I think we all withhold some emotional distress, favorite sin, or even heartwrenching pain that we believe we can "handle" on our own, among other things. Through pride, general stubbornness, and the like, each of us has decided to bear our own burdens - at least in part.  Something feels more gratifying, I think, about "handling things" ourselves. Rather than draw upon an outside power (such as grace), we choose to rely on our own strength.  And consequently, we get the notion that we've accomplished something entirely by ourselves, or at least mostly.  Really, though, it is God's grace that gives us power to breathe, move, think, or act in any fashion (see Mosiah 4:21, Mosiah 2:21).  So, we cannot really say anything of ourselves by way of self-sufficiency or strength or know-how.  Behind the scenes, invisible to the eyes of man, God orchestrates the experience of our lives, while somehow still yielding over our free will to us without any degree of withholding. 

Power definitely exists in realizing this truth.  If we truly comprehend that our Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ are both intensely invested in our day-to-day living, while still honoring our freedom of choice, it opens our eyes to how much they trust us.  They must deeply and intimately value the gift of agency to humankind, because they could effortlessly redirect the foolish and sinful acts we commit in ways that would be forceful rather than loving.  I believe our Father and our Savior both redirect our actions sometimes without violating our agency, but in a spirit of love.  This doesn't violate agency, but rather goes completely along with whatever the individual is choosing.  For example, God might present a different option than alcohol to the raging alcoholic, such as communicating to them the option of a support group, or perhaps leading them into the path of an abstinent, virtuous new friend.  This relates back to my thought process here because it doesn't make sense to choose our darkness over God, simply to fall back on ourselves for strength, comfort, clarity, etc.  We only are falling for the illusion that we are somehow emotionally and spiritually self-sufficient, when really our Father gives us the grace to exist in the first place - much less endure the terrible, consuming darkness we all deal with at times.  He trusts us with the free will we have, to choose Him and His light & goodness.  In return, we can trust Him - that He knows how to lead us in the ultimately most joyful, healing path, a path that empowers us rather than requiring us to search endlessly with our limited knowledge and emotional resources.  Such trust, as in any relationship, needs time and consistency to develop.  But I have faith that a perfect God, who isn't bound by time and who is unfailingly consistent in all things, will see us through this process of developing trust.

Image result for jesus christ embracing someone

Tentatively stepping into this initially uncertain process of developing trust with our Heavenly Father then, we are definitely justified in proving His words against His actions - while maintaining an eternal perspective, of course.  It is entirely and abominably unfair to God to measure His faithfulness by mortal measuring sticks.  He isn't mortal, and He doesn't work in our time or our way (Isaiah 55:8-9).  God is a glorified being, perfect in every imaginable and unimaginable way, beyond our comprehension in majesty, beauty, love, might, power, and dominion.  And therefore we cannot thrust our finite mortal expectations upon Him, because they are repelled by the aforementioned, glorious characteristics of His person.  Your Father and my Father love us, individually and intimately, in ways we do not yet understand completely.  And therefore, approaching Him must be done in that similar spirit of perfect comradery, fellowship, and love - insofar as we are able, being imperfect humans.  Therefore, I feel it's appropriate to ask our Father questions, to be uncertain about developing that trusting relationship with Him at first.  I strongly believe that Heavenly Father would rather have us seeking after truth and righteousness in Him, while being uncertain and filled with questions, than to simply disbelieve in and discard what He has spoken concerning having a relationship with Him and His Son.  In other words, our Father would rather have us stumbling in the general right direction towards His light, shrouded in total darkness, than to just turn away because it's too difficult to follow or "not believable enough". 

All this being said, it doesn't seem right to me that our Father in Heaven would want us to just cast aside all our hidden darkness in one fell swoop.  He's not like that.  I happen to know a gentle, loving, compassionate Father-God who, although perfect in His justice, also pours out His mercy abundantly upon His beloved children.  He WANTS to understand you!  He WANTS to heal your pain!!  And He WANTS to give you answers!!!  Our Father-God is NOT some being either drowsy on His far-away throne or smiling with cruel amusement at our sufferings and confusion!  No!  He loves us, and He conscientiously, meticulously, and deeply lives so that we can return home and become like Him!!  I know that.  I have felt His love cleanse me from my hidden darkness, removing piece by piece each festering pocket of emotional pain and cleansing out those spiritually infected wounds of sin.  And that is how our Savior will work on you - piece by piece, step by step, until bit by bit those hidden darknesses have yielded to His love and light.  Being an LGBT Mormon sucks sometimes, I'll give anyone that.  And that is a horribly inadequate understatement.  It doesn't lend hardly anything to the multi-faceted, complex nature of this experience we are enduring, as children of our Father-God.  But isn't it better to take that first step towards His love?  Isn't it SO much more healing and fulfilling to relinquish that inner pride, breathe, and say, "You know, Heavenly Father, I don't really trust you all that much.  But I've seen what you've done for others, and maybe even me.  So, I'll take a chance...for You."  I testify, my friends, that our Heavenly Father and Savior are truly our Advocates and Healers.  Any pain brought by their direction is temporary in the eternal scheme of things.  Conversely, Satan cannot offer that promise, and I also testify that he WANTS you to sit in shame, self-doubt, self-pity, disbelief, discouragement, and all those other unnecessary, gross-feeling emotions and thoughts.  You have SO much greater potential than that!!!  I testify that as you turn to your Savior, Jesus Christ, He can expose your hidden darkness to His light and love, and envelop you in His embrace.  I know that is true, deep within my heart.  Until next time, my lovely readers... <3 <3 <3

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10.12.2017

We Are All Nephi

Sometimes, LGBT+ Mormons wonder why there aren't any figures in the scriptures to relate to, why God hasn't caused the prophets and apostles to write concerning those who are of the rainbow crowd.  Occasionally I have reflected about this profound and mildly disturbing concept, only to dismiss my thoughts with the rationale, "God's truth is taught in the scriptures, and that is enough for me to make it."  While one cannot really contest the truth of that statement, it still leaves us rainbow-hearted Mormons wanting for someone spiritually iconic to relate to.  Sure, hetero men have Captain Moroni, David, Joseph Smith, Abraham, Moses.  And yeah, straight women have got Esther, Abigail, King Lamoni's wife, Abish the missionary woman, and so forth.  But, who have we got?  Could it be that there is someone?  You've already guessed from the title of my blog post who I'm going to be talking about.  But I'm sure I've got your curiosity burning as to how he is relevant to those on the LGBT+ spectrum in the LDS Church.  Let's explore that, shall we? ;)

To start, I want to break up into fragments the aspects of Nephi's life that are relevant, and how:

-  In Nephi's youth, it becomes clear very quickly upon a first reading of the Book of Mormon that Nephi doesn't get along well with his two older brothers, at all.  They constantly complain, criticize their father, and even hit him and his younger brother with a stick!  Although family conflict doesn't necessarily exist with gay guys when they're younger, I think a lot of gay guys can relate to not feeling like they belong among other men.  At least, not straight men anyway.  I'm not applying a stereotype here, of course, but rather am expressing a personal belief and observation, within my own realm of experience.  Also, part of this experience for Nephi included standing up to his brothers on multiple occasions!  How many of us gay guys have had to stand up to men around us because they were acting homophobic, ignorant, or just plain rude?  I'm raising my hand right now, I'll tell you that.  All of this can be found in 1st Nephi, by the way, for my lovely non-members who haven't read the Book of Mormon just yet.  :)

-  Nephi had to persevere through really intense trials to obtain answers to his questions, including being tied up by his brothers (twice), returning back to Jerusalem after leaving (also twice), marrying someone he possibly didn't even know beforehand, and having to exercise his faith as far as to kill someone who was standing in the way of the Lord's work!!  This prophet didn't grow up in the comfort of Jerusalem the more part of his life, nor did he enjoy the luxury of typical dating & courtship.  He did not even get the chance to deeply evaluate his beliefs before obeying a sudden prompting of the Spirit that could've turned his eternal welfare upside down.

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So, what is the application here?  Let's focus on the last two points.  In the LDS Church, some gay men choose to engage in what is called a mixed-orientation marriage.  Simply defined, this means a heterosexual person marrying someone of the opposite sex, who isn't heterosexual.  I can attest to the confusing, even scary prospect of marrying a woman - since, after all, that is what I plan to do someday.  I don't really know what I'm getting myself into, how I'm going to be sexually intimate, what it's going to be like having my own kids, etc, etc.  But I do plan on following the Spirit, "not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." (1st Nephi 4:6). I don't have to see the path laid out beneath my feet, if I have the light of the Spirit to guide me one step at a time.  That's really all I need.  On to my other point.  The Spirit not only illuminates hidden paths, but it also lights up the unexpected, faith-trying, heartwrenching kind.  Think of Abraham.  The Lord commanded him to sacrifice his only son as a test of faith, and as an obvious foreshadowing of Heavenly Father sacrificing His Only Begotten Son.  With an assuredly bleeding, torn, and broken heart, Abraham climbed the mountain.  And, just moments before the sacrifice, an angel of God prevented him from doing so.  Then, God made the Abrahamic Covenant with him, in which Abraham was promised to have posterity greater than the stars in the sky, and the sands of the sea.  He also was promised that through him, all the kindreds of the earth would be blessed.  Similarly we, as LGBT+ Mormons, can follow through with trials of our faith that momentarily brush against the pain Christ felt in Gethsemane, and what's more, are commanded by God.  I testify of this, because I have been commanded by my Heavenly Father & Savior to sacrifice things I would've never sacrificed otherwise, including my general well-being, emotional stability, and almost the entirety of my mental sanity and health.  But, I testify that by small things great things are brought to pass - in other words, through small acts of cultivating, nourishing, and strengthening our faith, we can develop the type of faith that moves mountains by moving them out of our way, or empowering us to climb over them.

There's more, though.  Nephi also opens up about his weaknesses & struggling with sin when he asked yearningly:

"O then, if I have seen so great things...why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions? And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?"  (2nd Nephi 4:27-28)  Nephi wrestled with anger management, depression, apathy, and possibly lust!  But we know of the magnificent, sacred experiences Nephi had as well.  Even prophets have bad days with the gospel, and struggle to understand why they are struggling!!  Doesn't that sound familiar?  "Why am I gay?", "Why won't God heal me of this affliction?", "How is it possible that I am slipping up with porn/being immoral/being lustful, after feeling the Spirit like that just a few hours/days/weeks ago?" are questions I am certain we have all wrestled with at some point or another, on the LGBT+ spectrum.  But this doesn't mean the gospel isn't true, or that you should just quit because you supposedly cannot progress or find a way to be you and Mormon at the same time.  This passage also illustrates the truth that it is 100% OKAY AND NORMAL to have sins, weaknesses, unanswered questions, and more!!!  Every LDS member has them, and they're lying if they say they don't, especially with unanswered questions!

I testify that we are all Nephi.  We all have to wade through adversity to find the love of God and the peace of God, at some point or another.  We all wonder why we feel the Spirit one day, and then slip back into old habits of weakness & sin or old, unyielding feelings of depression and apathy the next.  It's not new to the mortal experience for this to happen to anyone.  It's not unusual to feel anger towards God, or a lack of desire to be charitable, or an overpowering urge to ask out, make out with, or have sex with that one special/unique individual you met not too long ago - maybe just barely!  But my point in composing this blog post today isn't to make a bunch of reassurances.  My purpose here is to point out that your desires, your feelings, and even your actions are NOT what define you!  The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes our spiritual state today a temporary one, and thank goodness for that.  For it is through His grace, mercy, and fierce love for us that we can fall down in the stupidest and most treacherous ways possible, but still choose to genuinely apologize and obtain forgiveness.  I testify that Jesus Christ is the Perfect Master of Infinite Chances.  He loves you SO much!!!  Take advantage of that Atonement for grace to get through the next hour, the next day, and soon the next month and then year.  He will not fail you.  I know this, with all my heart and soul.  Until next time, my lovelies.... :) <3

9.09.2017

Selecting Our Humanity

It's a curious thing, sexuality and religion.  You think you have your path figured out, and then whoosh! Someone sweeps out the rug from underneath your feet.  Our perceptions change, and so does the direction of our path in direct proportion to that.  Your world view is what determines where your feet take you - at least to some reasonably imaginable extent.  I view these changes, subtle to mundane to significant as they are, to be beautifully integral to our human experience.  Life isn't life without some sort of change.  After all, it is what we thrive on.  I wish to explore a sort of deviation from these natural ups and downs, these shifts in personal opinion.  It arises from a place I believe to be almost wholly governed by emotion, rather than being wisely guided by the voice of reason.  This blip outside the boundaries of our everyday battles not only causes needless pain, it also hinders the spiritual development of all who create it for themselves.

To get to the point, I speak regarding those who are journeying with the Lord in the gospel, while identifying somewhere in the LGBT spectrum.  At some point, whether it's due to stress, chronic issues with doubt, or whatever else, these individuals seek some kind of escape from their journey. Because of personal convictions, usually, they try to justify sinful or at least erroneous behavior that does not conform with the Lord's standards.  Before moving forward in my narrative, though, I wish to offer a sort of disclaimer.  Being a gay Mormon man myself, I greatly empathize with the pain and suffering this journey can draw into someone's life, like some kind of toxic magnet.  Such decisions to transgress or act foolishly do not come about quickly, and are not made lightly.  It's beyond agonizing for those who choose to do so.  That being said, let's move on.

I was discussing the fact that these individuals are searching for an escape, and understandably so. Who wouldn't, honestly?  In attempting to prevent spiritual compromise that could prove fatal to their testimonies, these people want to experience both, since they believe both are essential to their happiness.  I have found in my own experience, however, that it's not really about the form the happiness comes in - though it can definitely seem that way!  Rather, it's what the "form" is offering to you.  For example, let's hypothetically say I don't want to compromise on my devotion to Christ in the gospel, but I also do not want to feel lonely, separated from my sexuality, emotionally unfulfilled, and so on.  So instead, I continue my involvement in the Church and also find myself a boyfriend.  Or perhaps I decide to find a man purely to make out with.  I'm sure I could offer a number of scenarios, but you get the idea.  The point is to find someone I can share some level of intimacy and companionship with.  It eases the mental, emotional, sexual, or other yearning I feel, created by my own choice to be abstinent in the name of discipleship to Christ.  It fills the void, simply put.

And yet, I observe these lifestyles and I wonder to myself, "Isn't there another way that the Lord could still be pleased with?  Surely He never intended for us to be alone and emotionally unfulfilled..."  I love to believe Christ when He promised us, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." (John 14:18)  I also love to believe Moses the prophet when he testified, "And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." (Deuteronomy 31:8)  As the Protestants say, God is good!  He is not ever going to leave us alone, in the dark, or even confused indefinitely.  Nor will He refuse to give grace to anyone who seeks it, for cleansing from sin, emotional strength, mental clarity, spiritual guidance, and a million other righteous causes!  Our Heavenly Father loves us, and has promised us that we can turn to Him, to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."  I love that it doesn't just say "come unto", but rather declares that we can come boldly to God's throne of grace!  We can ask for things that may seem like bold requests, but God not only welcomes us to,  He actually commands it!

In the turbulent whirlwind of inner conflict, faith crisis, depression, anxiety, and worse, what can be done, though?  Is it REALLY as simple as praying to Heavenly Father and asking for help?  I would submit that it is.  Some would question whether it's "God's will" for you to be surrounded by those who truly validate and get you, to which I quote this scripture:

"He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh."  - Doctrine & Covenants 46:30

Others might then counter this with, "Well, I don't really know how the Spirit feels, or how its workings are in my own spiritual life."  I would cordially reply back for them to study Galatians 5:22-25, which admittedly does not tell you what the workings of the Spirit are specifically for you, but it does give you a very plain, straightforward way of discerning what those workings are in your own spiritual life.  Essentially, the whole spirit of this hypothetical dialogue is, "Seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7)  Part of finding answers to really, really tough questions like this is seeking until you feel like you can seek no longer for those answers - then, through the grace of God, continuing to seek more until you do.  Discipleship to Jesus Christ isn't something you just walk away from when it gets excruciatingly painful - indeed, this is the moment when true disciples of Christ prove themselves on the battlefield, so to speak, by girding up their loins and pushing forward into the battle.  At least, that is what the scriptures would say if you cared to give a quick little look. ;)

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Bringing this full circle then, we all understand reading this that the battle is appealing to our body or our spirit, one of which is temporary and the other, eternal.  The body clamors for romance, physical affection, sex, marital commitment, and so forth.  The spirit urges, pleads, and even strongly argues for the spirit to take dominance over the situation, promising that everything will "work out".  And sometimes, we doubt that.  It's almost impossible to believe, not only because the proof is woefully lacking but also because our life experience has shown us the opposite is true.  I think we also harbor a hindering attitude about it all, a black-and-white sort of thinking that says either we must be largely/completely unified with our spirits, or give in to our bodies by default.  This is false.  It is a lie that I believe Satan at least partially perpetuates among us, to sow discord, discouragement, disbelief, and doubt.  Regardless of our circumstances, challenges, or whatever, none of us will ever reach a point where spirit and body unification becomes a total reality.  Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we know it is possible to "put off the natural man" and "(become) a saint through the Atonement of Christ", as King Benjamin taught in Mosiah 3:19.  This creates a state of sanctification (purity through the Spirit), and justification (state of being "not guilty" before God's justice). Knowing that such a spiritual state is possible, then, let's move on to the real solution to the conflict of giving in to the body vs. being changed by the Savior in our hearts.

Speaking from a gay Mormon male perspective, I can tell you immediately there are certain things I need for my relationship with Jesus Christ.  To start, I need friendships with men - particularly emotionally close friendships.  This need arises from my choice to be chaste and to abstain from romantic involvement with men.  It leaves a void in my mind and heart that only emotional intimacy can fill, since I've excluded sexual and romantic intimacy.  I also need platonic physical affection in these friendships wherever possible, since I have chosen not to be physically affection in any other way with men.  Also in terms of relationships, they absolutely must be healthy - no drama, negativity, toxicity, etc.  It's about good boundaries, great times, lots of laughter, and all that good stuff. :) Finally, I have to constantly cultivate a beautifully intimate relationship with my Elder Brother and Savior, Jesus Christ.  All of these are still in process, still aspects of my life I work on every single day.  I won't deny that there are days when I want to throw in the towel, apologize to God, and start living a worldly, openly gay lifestyle.  Why?  Because it feels exasperating beyond anything I have ever felt and honestly heartwrenching on those days.  It feels unfair, jaded, twisted, confusing, faith-draining, resentment-towards-God-building, and worse besides.  I question my Heavenly Father's and Savior's love for me as a child of God, due to these feelings.

But, I can testify that my Heavenly Father and my Savior are the only reason why I currently stand in the blessed circumstances I do.  It is because of their love and grace that I currently enjoy platonic physical affection and emotional intimacy with men in abundance.  It is because of their love and grace that I presently experience a beautifully intimate relationship with both of them, and wonderfully healthy relationships with others.  And, they bless my relationships with all that good stuff I mentioned, also in abundance.  Although, as shown, we can ask for anything in the Spirit and it be given to us since it is God's will, that doesn't usually mean it's immediate.  Or at all easy.  In fact, to deepen our faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ, I strongly believe that Heavenly Father permits our prayers to go unanswered for as long as several years.  It tears us apart inside, but ultimately builds us up to a higher spiritual level of conversion and depth of testimony.

These unanswered prayers for what we need to be faithful to Christ - be it platonic physical touch, intimate friendships, or whatever - are not God giving us the cold shoulder or somehow not understanding that we have needs.  As Christ taught, "...your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."  Oftentimes, things also have to fall into place before your Father will give you what you ask for.  He's trying to create the best possible timing so you can enjoy the blessing the very most! :)  I had to work for probably 5-6 years after realizing I was gay, in order to establish (through God's grace, of course) a workable, emotionally fulfilling lifestyle.  These things don't come easily, my friends - you have to work for them.  But before you assume it's a backbreaking process that isn't worth it, I can also testify truthfully to you that my Savior has supported me every step of the way - especially at its most heartbreaking times.  I also testify that if you ask in prayer for grace to make it through this process of putting a Christ-centered, emotionally fulfilling life together, the Lord will support you until you get there.  And as you wait, I further testify that angels are real, that your family can be an amazing support to get you through, and that you don't have to wait for happiness to attend you.  While cultivating this beautiful life that is messy and imperfect at times, you can indeed create a state of spiritual joy that will see you through.  I testify with all my heart and soul that it is possible for you to have a close relationship with Christ while also feeling purposeful and fulfilled in your sexuality.  Until next time, my dear readers...

8.07.2017

Fashioning Our Own Gay Culture

For those of us who have stuck with the Church despite our grumblings, pains, and dare I say, persecutions, I think it has become evident to us what basic things get in our way.  It could be something like that hot person in your class at school, or maybe it's your struggle with pornography, the lack of support from priesthood leaders, friends, etc...the list goes on and on.  For me personally, one of my greatest pitfalls isn't necessarily something tangible.  It's more of an intangible, abstract thing.  When I am surrounded by LGBT people who do not share my values, for some reason I find it difficult to resist the temptation to do things our Heavenly Father has lovingly asked us to not do.  It's harder to not make inappropriate jokes, discuss risque topics, or even (in times now passed) to resist sensual physical touch.  We all know that in the Church, we deny ourselves of basic emotional needs that center around feeling loved and wanted - whether in a sexual manner or an emotional manner. Or both.  Therefore, we find ways to fill that void to the best of our abilities as Church members.  But, there are times when we aren't necessarily getting a constant stream of physical affection, quality time, or whatever our primary love languages might happen to be.  This leaves susceptibility to giving into our bodily passions and desires, at least to some degree anyway.  Returning back to my example for me personally, then, I definitely can see that every single time I allowed myself to act on my sexuality in ways contrary to the Savior's teachings, I wasn't taking care of myself somehow. That being said, I certainly do not believe in relying on my male friends for emotional fulfillment.  They can only help so much to fill the void left by my choice to be abstinent from sex and romance. But, I most definitely believe in finding my fulfillment by combining male emotional intimacy in friendship with a number of other simple, practical measures.  Still... the question remains, how do I push back against the alluring nature of gay culture & peer pressure?

I'm not going to quote a bunch of scriptures or tell you something a handful of prophets and apostles said, just to start.  If you're reading my blog, chances are you know the scriptures about keeping your mind clean, resisting temptation, avoiding Satan's pitfalls, and so on.  I don't doubt that in the slightest, actually.  Therefore, I want to give a more personable approach that has worked for me personally.  Some people require different degrees of what I'm about to share, or even another ingredient to the formula I'm not going to list here.  But, as long as your personal formula works within the teachings of Christ, that really is all that matters.  Anyway, let me share my personal approach here now:

- Let's say I'm at some kind of event where LGBT people are mingling pretty significantly.  I might see a LOT of attractive men, and it will be sexually arousing for me if I do not stop myself.  Most LDS people will tell you to avoid those men like the plague, even to the point of not looking in their direction.  This is a load of crap.  Don't believe it.  You see, if you develop an infatuation with someone regardless of where you are, it is because you're focusing almost entirely on their beautiful face...maybe even their hot body, depending on where you are.  I'm speaking bluntly like this for my benefit and yours.  So, what do you do?  TALK TO HIM/HER.  Why??!  That's what I would've asked a few years back or so.  The reason is so that you can get to know them as a child of God, and make them more human to you.  It'll also teach you how to generally interact with them in a way that you would with everyone else, since you don't want to come across as creepy or weird.  Lol.

*Teaching:  Ride the wave of your sexual, emotional, and whatever other kind of attractions you feel for the same sex, or maybe the opposite sex in the case of my transgender friends reading this.  DON'T RESIST. Doing that ingrains into your mind that your attraction is shameful and deserves to be hidden.  Don't let shame in!  Embrace this beautiful part of you, and give it freedom of expression in a wholesome way.



- Another example could be when you're with some LGBT friends.  Doesn't matter if they're Mormon or not; I've seen it happen with both.  The conversation wanders into some topic(s) that you know aren't appropriate, and will drive away the Spirit pretty quickly.  My approach is this:  Buck up and have some courage to remind everyone of what you all believe, if it's a mostly or entirely Mormon group.  If you can't do that, just remain quiet and focus on your phone or something, or whatever else you can in your environment.  If encouraged to join, lovingly tell them that you'd rather stay out of the conversation.  For non-members, I personally just leave if I can.  If I can't, I stay quiet and let them have their "fun".  It shouldn't become a silent judging fest, where you think about how righteous you are compared to them, or contemplate about their lack of respect for you as a Mormon. No, it shouldn't be any of those things, or anything similar.  Just peacefully retreat into yourself, and find a way to maintain that tranquility of mind and spirit - be it through meditation, listening to music, or whatever else.  It's possible to disagree with someone without becoming disagreeable. :)

*Teaching:  Find your way that works for you of avoiding not just inappropriate conversation, but really any kind of negative peer pressure.  You can politely turn down invitations and/or pressure to go to gay clubs, gay bars, or even Pride itself.  I did this year, with Pride.  And it wasn't me being all high and mighty, rude, or condescending about my choice.  I simply said to people, "That's not really my scene.  It contradicts what I believe and strive to live by."  That doesn't mean I handle every situation with grace and tactfulness. Far from it.  I've said some pretty insensitive, tactless, and stupid things to friends of mine, which I had to apologize for later.  The point, though, is to do what you can. Do your best, and forget the rest.  Though it may seem over simplified what I've offered here, these 2 tools have helped me out tremendously as I have tried to live as Christ would have me live.  I bear my witness that Jesus Christ loves you as His son or daughter, and if you rest on that Love and His Grace, you will be blessed to endure to the end with joyfulness, peace, a sense of emotional fulfillment, and a sense of personal accomplishment.

7.11.2017

The Anger vs. Mercy of our Father-God

I am certain God rarely gets angry with us.  And not only that, I am thoroughly convinced that we are entirely deluded about actions of ours that supposedly "for sure" cause God - from our perspective - to be disappointed in, annoyed with, less disposed to love towards, or otherwise un-Godish to us. Where does this attitude originate from, I wonder, that our Father-God could somehow feel these emotions about and/or toward us, much less the more obviously false ones, such as hatred, shame, disgust, and the like?  It is intent to expose the flawed and doctrinally unsound foundation these feelings rest upon, to really dig into the muck and slime of these unhealthy, degrading beliefs & thoughts about our Heavenly Father.  Without, of course, going into intricate and complex explanations that will get us nowhere or hardly anywhere, at the least.  Furthermore, it is my aim, through this exposition, to enlighten my readers and empower them in their spiritual journey with their sexual orientation, be it of whatever kind.  

Let me begin, I think, by sharing a couple of short & simple scriptural verses.  They are:

-  2nd Nephi 23:3, which declares, "for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness."

-  D&C 59:21, which says, "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments."

To expand correct interpretation here, let's clarify a few things.  First, rejoicing in God's highness, or glory, doesn't mean you're constantly or even frequently making verbal or otherwise grandiose expressions of praise and thanksgiving to God.  A life lived quietly in honest seeking of God's truth and overall virtue, through discipleship to Jesus Christ, is quite sufficient to meet this requirement.  More than anything, one who strives to pattern his life after the teachings of Christ glorifies God.  As we see from the ministry of Christ and elsewhere in the scriptures, what counts most to our Heavenly Father isn't what we say or feel or think - it's what we do.  This is true of positive or negative words, feelings, and acts.  Second, it says His anger is not "upon" those who rejoice in His highness, meaning that it is not a lingering and/or frequent occurrence.  This doesn't exclude you or I from God being occasionally or even sometimes displeased with how we use our moral agency.  It does, however, mean that we need not fear that God is looking over our shoulders in anger at any portion of our lives (see Psalms 103:9)

Third, in the scripture from D&C we read that we do not offend God in anything, or cause His wrath to be kindled against us, unless we confess not His hand in all things.  Again, this isn't speaking to some grandiose declaration of God's power in our lives and everywhere else.  If you and I strive to have a humble heart, and we acknowledge where all good things flow from, that is the acknowledgement of God's hand in all things that He desires of us.  The spirit behind this truth is humility - do I, within my spirit, say, "Well, God does some things that make my life better, but not everything", or do I humbly admit, "My Father-God has given me SO many blessings.  All good in my life is because of Him."  Hence we read in 1st Peter 5:5, "for God resisteth (the Greek translation of this word means, "opposes, is adverse to") the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."  Those of us who strive to yield to the Spirit, which I would call the spirit of humility, are more able and willing to receive God's blessings.  This is not only because they are more worthy and in a preparation for them, but also because yielding to this spirit of acknowledgement of God's hands creates a relationship with Him to where He Himself is more able to bless us.  This hearkens back to D&C 82:10, which teaches us, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."  So, in summation, this part of D&C 59:21 is saying to us, "Look, unless you have a spirit of humility and acknowledgement of Heavenly Father's hand in all things in your life, eventually He will be offended at you and His wrath will be kindled against you."  Thankfully, it takes a REALLY long time for God to get angry with any of us, even the rebellious and unrighteous.  Apostate Israel of old and the Nephites provide excellent examples of this (see Psalms 103:8, 145:8).

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As a fourth and final clarification, it says we don't offend God or cause His anger to be kindled against us unless we "obey not His commandments".  However, I think it is VERY important here to distinguish between faithfulness and obedience.  Drawing upon Merriam-Webster, since it would include definitions from back in the times of Joseph Smith when D&C was written, here are definitions of "faithful" and "obedient":

-  faithful (adj.):  firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty
-  obedient (adj): submissive to the restraint or command of authority

Interesting, isn't it, how they seem so similar in meaning, almost to the point of being identical?  But, if you look closely, there is an important difference between the two.  The first indicates a self-initiated process of doing what one has promised, or in accordance with personal duty.  It uses the word "firm", but not "unwavering", "perfect", "unchanged", or any like adjective.  In its context, the word "firm" here means one not easily moved or disturbed in his course, also penned down in synonymous meaning as "steadfast" in the holy scriptures.  Now, examining the second definition, we find an almost robotic, mindless devotion to some overseer or taskmaster in authority.  At best, it is a humble surrender to a higher power or authority than the self, yielding all self-interest and self-related power so as to render the individual or being as under the total control of said higher authority.  Thankfully, I think you'll find we mean the latter definition in the gospel when we speak so loftily of being "obedient".  

So, what's the point of all this intellectual banter about definitions and proper interpretations then?  Is it just a bunch of hot air, then?  No, it isn't. ;)  Let me explain, dear reader.  You see, the stipulation here for God being offended and angry with you and I isn't an absence of unwavering, unflinching, perfect obedience.  No...that's preposterous.  It uses the phrase "obey not", meaning that instead of humbly surrendering to God's power and authority over us as our Father, we consciously choose a way of thinking and feeling that takes us away from that spirit of humble surrender.  "Obey not" means to proudly resist God, disobeying His constituted priesthood leaders, your parents - who have stewardship over you - and the scriptures themselves, simply because you choose to, not because you slip due to a moment of weakness or the natural man/woman. It is, in essence, the persistent spirit of pride & subsequent rebellion that earns us God's offense and anger.  This is wholly different than our weakness due to the flesh, which God understands (see Isaiah 57:16, Psalms 78:39).

To talk of truth, then, I testify that our Father-God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, are SO anxious, ready, and willing to show us more mercy than we ever would say we deserve.  And this is because they love us in a practically infinite amount of ways, through an individual and intimate touch. They hear us, they know us, they love us.  We are their children!  We are sons and daughter of the living God, and as such I can hardly imagine Heavenly Parents or a Savior who would be anything but slow to anger and offended feelings with us!!  Just to give a small glimpse into the feeling and spirit of what I am saying here, the scriptures call God's mercy, "abundant", "rich", "tender", "plentiful", "plenteous", "great", "multitudinous", "infinite", and more that I'm sure I couldn't find.  How can this not convince the human heart that because we are His, He wants to give us a break, to heal us, to comfort us...to bring us home?  It is His entire work and glory to bring us home, to cause us to inherit exaltation through our efforts and total reliance on His grace!  I testify that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be whole again, and we can feel of His perfect love and mercy, to abandon and banish ANY thought that God is anything but pleased with us, and cheering us on with the aid of more spiritual resources beyond the veil than we previously have ever supposed.  I testify of God's perfect love for us as His beloved children, and that any thoughts which distract from that love or diminish it DO NOT come from Him!!!  I love you, dear readers.  Until next time...

5.10.2017

You're Better Than You Think

"Be peaceful.  Believe in God and yourself.  You are doing better than you think you are."
- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Behold Thy Mother"

"Some of us who would not chastise a neighbor for his frailties have a field day with our own. Some of us stand before no more harsh a judge than ourselves... Fortunately, the Lord loves us more than we love ourselves."
- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Notwithstanding My Weakness"

A few days ago when listening to the backstory of how a beautiful song called "Unfinished" was written, the artist, Mandisa, made a remark that really stuck with me.  She said, in paraphrase, "You are not broken, unworthy of God's love, bad, or anything like that.  You're merely unfinished.  You may be tired of falling and getting back up, but what matters is the number of times you rise up - not the number of times you fall down.  Like a masterpiece, God is NOT finished with you yet! You're unfinished, but when God is finished with you, you will transform into something beautiful."

I love that.  I just love that.  Why?  It calls to remembrance a time when I was having a discussion on repentance with a born-again Christian preacher, one who was somewhat antagonistic towards the Mormons.  He challenged me with, "If repentance is not a one-time deal where Jesus takes our sin away, then what is it?  Jesus took away all our sins on the cross, young man."  With the Spirit in my heart, I replied, "Telling me that repentance is only a one-time deal is like saying a soccer team has won simply because the other team just scored a goal!  The game isn't over yet, and any fouls, mistakes, or other dynamics of the game must be accounted for.  Similarly, we must account to God each day for the sins we commit.  It isn't true repentance if you don't have the opportunity to be sorry for it.  That's the easy way out.  God isn't a God of easy solutions - He tries our faith, my friend."

The lesson, then?  Bringing ourselves down in any way for mistakes made, sins committed - it's like telling ourselves that repentance only happens once, or only to a certain extent - then we have "fallen from grace" or it's "too late".  Nope.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ, as is taught in the Book of Mormon, is an infinite Atonement.  It isn't limited by the severity of our sins - it is limited by our unwillingness, pride, and bitterness against the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Why else would Satan try to get you to condemn, shame, guilt-trip, or otherwise feel negatively towards yourself about sin?  He gets this concept and twists it to his advantage - that these chosen emotions put a barrier between ourselves and the Atonement of Christ.  Heavenly Father designed us with a conscience - the light of Christ - as well as the Holy Spirit for the Saints to create feelings of remorse, guilt, and so on when we violate our inner eternal natures of virtue.  And yet, what purpose is there in indulgence of self-contempt, self-shaming, or personal feelings of inadequacy?!  Is it not solely for Satan to laugh at our choice to be unnecessarily miserable about our spiritual journey, and to use those feelings to try and push us into deeper pig-mires of the same crap???  Of course it is!  So...what can you and I do it - especially those of us LGBT Mormons who screw up/have screwed up with the Law of Chastity (raising hand), deal with porn addiction or compulsion, and generally are struggling to have worthy thoughts, and to stay away from dangerous situations with the same gender.  Or perhaps it's something else!  We all struggle in some way here... 


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:) :) :)

My answers are but a few, but have been very powerful for me:

1.  Love yourself.  It IS a legit commandment (Matthew 22:39, see also 35-40).  Even Jesus took time to take care of Himself, and therefore, to love Himself.  I am quite certain that as our perfect example, He also loved Himself perfectly.  Additionally - I think it foolish to suppose that Christ loved Himself perfectly because of all the glory, power, dominion, and so on He had.  No... He loved Himself perfectly because He was Love Itself.  He immersed Himself in that Love, our Father's Love, until during His formative time as a mortal man (taught by President McKay), He discovered the foundations for self-love without it becoming vanity and pride.  If you need a place to start, look for ways in the scriptures Christ took care of and loved Himself... I promise you, they are there.

2.  Remember & embrace this quote - "Comparison is the thief of joy, but self-acceptance makes joy blossom."  Focus on who YOU are - a child of our Father-God.  He created you, and I am sure He weeps upon seeing those who refuse to accept themselves as they are, to come to Christ as they are for healing, comfort, and the like.  Take a little piece of yourself at a time, and affirm its value or progression towards greater value (like a weakness you're working on).  If you take a mosaic or a rug, examining it too closely, what will you see?  Nothing of much beauty or significance.  But when you take several steps back, observing it as a whole, it is a masterful piece of art.  Similarly, if you nit-pick and examine your own good qualities or flaws as compared to the same-ish ones in another, you'll never find the full amount of joy the Savior has waiting for you.  I validate the struggles some may have in terms of mental illness, but as one who has victories over his mental illness daily, please know that you are not a victim to your mental illness, or your sexual orientation.  Ultimately, you have at least some choice.  Milk that amount of choice you have, for ALL it is worth. :)

3.  Seek out the Savior's love often.  He can show you beauty in yourself that you never supposed was there, and He can do the same for other desirable traits, such as strength, wisdom, grace, and fortitude against sin and weakness.  Our Savior holds the keys of resurrection, my friends.  If you feel practically dead inside spiritually, emotionally, or mentally, I promise you that the Savior can give life where you are lacking it.  Being a gay Mormon man, I understand that it is SO damn hard sometimes! It's probably all some of you can do to keep reading this, thinking that I do not understand or maybe that I'm some stupid naive Mormon dude who lives in the Mormon Utopia of Utah.  But I promise you, I have seen my fair share of trials and adversity with my sexuality, especially in terms of my faith in Jesus Christ and my membership in the Church.  It is difficult.  But, I emphasize this point because when all else seems to be failing us for a time, I know with all my heart that the infinite, pursuing, all-encompassing love of our Savior, Jesus Christ will meet us where we are - sinful, faithful, and in-between.  We just have to reach out in prayer to Him.  He does love us, individually and intimately and personally.  I know that, even when I think I know nothing else on rare occasion.

You are better than you think, and accomplishing more in the Kingdom than you might suppose. Take heart in your trials and tribulations, and know that our Second Comforter will not leave us, nor forsake us.  (Deut. 31:6 & 8, John 14:18).  I love you guys.  Until next month... <3 

3.31.2017

Rainbow + Toxic = ????

In recent interactions with friends, family, and others, it has come to my attention that I haven't yet addressed this topic.  Everyone comes across it at some point in life, to be honest - not just LGBT+ Mormons, but every single person reading this.  Due to its negativity, though, I have avoided writing about it.  However, I understand that some of you could benefit from the meager tools and knowledge I am about to offer you, so I have chosen to put this out there in hopes you will be able to identify and root out this issue - the issue of toxic people.  

Why would we benefit, though?  Because same-sex, platonic friendships are crucial for LGBT Mormons in living a Christ-centered, joyful life, as they meet essential needs both emotional and mental in nature.  Now let me be clear, this post does not dance around this topic by discussing people who annoy you, have occasional outbursts of temper, infrequently manipulate you or others, or anything like that.  This post is addressing the behavior of people who are consistently manipulative, negative, attention-seeking, and that sort of thing.  So on that lovely note, let's get started! :)


What is a toxic person?  Simply put, a toxic person is defined as "someone whose behavior and/or relationship with you is toxic, due to being deeply wounded and as of yet unable to take responsibility for said wounding, as well their feelings, needs, and problems in life."  So, the next question would be, what does this unaddressed wounding look like?  Here are some signs that you've got a toxic person on your hands:

  • You’re emotionally affected by their drama
  • You dread (or fear) being around them
  • You’re exhausted or you feel angry while you’re with them or after your interaction
  • You feel bad or ashamed about yourself
  • You’re stuck in a cycle of trying to rescue, fix or care for them.
Also....
  • The other person doesn’t respect the word “No” as a complete sentence
  • When you’re with them, you feel like you’re “walking on eggshells”
  • You ignore your own values
  • You emotionally “check out”
  • You feel like you’re being controlled, or you’re being overly controlling.
The next question is, of course, how do you handle toxic people and thereby cultivate positive, healthy friendships?

A few ideas include:

1.  Set limits with complainers by asking them (repeatedly, if necessary) how they plan on resolving their problems.  Picture such people doing something you find repulsive while complaining.  You'd distance yourself, right?  So, act accordingly when encountering these sorts of people.
2.  Stand your ground when necessary with toxic behavior, like in cases of personal insults. Otherwise, do NOT engage in the negativity. Keep doing what you're doing, and eventually those toxic people will let you be. 

3.  Keep in touch with your emotions, so that you can know when it's appropriate to respond to toxic behavior. This prevents you from blowing up or otherwise giving the toxic person what they want.

4.  Respond to facts of situations - not emotional chaos.  For example. if a toxic person blames you for his/her poor work performance or something, respond logically, not emotionally.  Think of them as a patient and you as a therapist - distanced emotionally, responding intellectually.  ;)

5.  Set AND enforce boundaries.  If you have asked a toxic person to stop sitting by you during lunch break, enforce it!  If you have ended a conversation and the toxic person tries to restart it, enforce that boundary!!  Wherever possible, set these boundaries in advance instead of once problems have 
started.  Toxic people thrive off of people who do not set and enforce healthy, necessary boundaries.

6.  Find a way to be happy for you that does not fundamentally involve others.  Toxic people often seek happiness by looking for attention, searching for approval from others, and trying to find ways to win admiration from people.  If your happiness is independent of your experience with people, handling toxic people will be WAY easier.  

7.  Remember that being nice doesn't mean being a doormat.  Toxic people will want 2nd, 3rd, and 20th chances... but they are not entitled to them!  You are not a doormat for them to wipe their negativity all over like dirty mud and snow!!  Have some self-respect, and choose to not engage in friendship with such people after getting burned by them.  You're worth that.  

All of this may seem strangely unrelated to the LGBT Mormon experience, but I promise you, it is 100% related.  Being in the unique position we are in, we have to get our emotional & mental needs met somehow, without depriving ourselves.  The only consistently effective way that accomplishes this without guilt, shame, and the like, is healthy, emotionally intimate same-sex friendship. 

Therefore, to be successful in our journey of following Christ, cultivating ground for healthy same-sex friendship is essential.  And so, preventing toxicity in friendship must be a priority for each of us! Do not think that such people are just meant to be "put up with" or whatever.  You can find healthy, intimate same-sex friendships, and get your needs met without enduring a bunch of drama, guilt-tripping, manipulating, etc, etc.  As I am fond of quoting to my friends and family, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."  (Proverbs 17:17)  Love you guys!  Until my next post... :) :) :)


2.21.2017

Grateful to be Gay

I haven't been grateful to be gay for very long.  You see, I used to regard it as a curse of some kind, and an inconvenience at best.  With my religious beliefs and spiritual path I am trying to follow, being gay did not fit into my plans.  Nevertheless, at one point I gave up and just decided to live my sexuality out loud.  After all, that's what society preaches overall, right?  "Be true to yourself", "Don't deny who you 'really are' ", "Don't lie to yourself", etc.  These messages seemed to bore into my skull over and over again, until I believed they were true.  I rebelled against my religious convictions and spiritual path, and for a time, it gave me a lot of pleasure.  I'm not trying to be crude here; I'm trying to be open and honest about where I've come from.  

LGBT+ people in the Church and outside it don't just figure things out one day.  It's a painful, tedious, and long process.  Anyway, sometime into this rebellious phase, I figured out that I wasn't finding happiness in this path, either.  In fact, I felt worse off than when I started.  It was tarnishing my relationships with family, from lack of trust caused by late night sexual escapades, and my friendships, due to me getting addicted and sexually objectifying them.  What's more, I put myself through a vicious cycle of anxiety and gratification, as I would take risks of contracting venereal disease or being injured by perfect strangers.  But then, I'd get the sex I wanted, so I wouldn't care for some time.  Furthermore, the guilt I experienced repeatedly from violating my deepest convictions tortured me.  I was spinning further and further downward in a darkness of depression, self-loathing, sin, and worse.  When I got disfellowshipped from the Church, it just made things worse.  It didn't stop anything, though, since I was basically numb spiritually - or at least, becoming that way.


Stuck between a rock and a hard place, - not knowing what was fulfilling, since I'd tried religious devotion and messing around - I did not know what to do.  After some serious contemplation, I figured that I was at least happier when involved with the Church, so I'd try that again.  I got back in good standing again (meaning I reversed my disfellowshipped status), and decided to pursue spirituality until I figured something out that would work.  Some would call this decision foolish, because it led to several years of flip-flopping back and forth between an openly gay lifestyle and religious devotion.  Yet, I knew deep down what I wanted - to stay in the Church. So through a combination of personal resilience, stubbornness, and the grace of God, I found my way bit by bit. Then, because of a combination of apathy, complacency, lack of conversion after repentance, and not listening to priesthood leaders, I slipped again a few times and was disfellowshipped again.  But still, I knew I wanted to stay with the Church, so I repented and this time I was wise about it.  


I did everything this time around that I hadn't done before - cultivating conversion, following priesthood leaders' counsel, etc, etc.  And, as part of maintaining lasting commitment to Jesus Christ,  I learned how to better form intimate male friendships, what it really meant for me to have good mental health, and how I can successfully navigate goals for both mixed-orientation marriage & active involvement with the Church. It was like building a house with bricks - with a few rainbow ones thrown in here and there. ;)  For the sake of writing space, I haven't included a lot of details - such information would fill up several posts.  But, to add some emotional depth, let me just say a few things here.  I have experienced heartbreaking rejection, harsh judgment, betrayal, terrible gossip, and worse, often because of my sexuality.  For example, if you read a bit further back in my posts, you'll see the trial I endured with the Ogden LDS Institute.  I have also put up with homophobia from "friends" of mine, who I ended up cutting out of my life.  Beyond that, I've also struggled in varying degrees on my own, sometimes severely, other times somewhat, and often times not at all.  I have dealt with doubts about marriage, sexual intimacy, children, my general testimony, and worse - like thoughts of suicide in the distant past.  Some of this even occurred long after I felt I had come to a place of peace with being gay and faithfully Mormon.  In short, nobody is immune...but everyone can find lasting peace.


Essentially, I have been journeying through a long, hard road with this, just like all of my other brothers and sisters in the same journey.  What I have learned, however, has greatly blessed me and I am truly thankful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to pass through this trial, aided by His grace.


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A few things I have learned are:


-  Love matters, more than anything or anyone else.  And I can say this truthfully and accurately, because God is Love (1st John 4:8).


-  Get to know those who are different than you, and then consciously choose beforehand to accept them regardless of what they tell you or how they act.  This one is difficult, one I'm still working on considerably.


- The Atonement of Jesus Christ cannot change me being gay, but it certainly can cleanse me of any sin, and strengthen me under any burden.  It can also change my heart overall, so I act on my sexuality in a Christ-centered way.  This includes lifting up and encouraging those who feel lost and scared about being LGBT+ in a Church with a sometimes less-than-accepting culture, teaching others by example how to love with God's love consistently, and showing everyone - men especially, in fact - that emotional intimacy with men is a God-ordained, beautiful journey.


Besides all these lessons and truths I have learned, there are many more besides.  I have often observed friends of mine, or even strangers who grow bitter, angry, resentful, sad, depressed, and worse simply because they feel as though God has consigned them to wander in some endless, impossible maze of pain and confusion.  I empathize SO, SO much with all of these people.  I truly do, because I have been there in the depths of it and frequently revisited it.  In fact, I did just yesterday, if I'm truly to be honest in my writings.  


And yet, I am still so grateful to be gay, because of how much I have been able to draw upon the Atonement of Christ, thus enabling Him to transform my weakness into strength (Ether 12:27).  I testify that His grace IS sufficient, my brothers and sisters. If you feel far from the light emanating from your Savior, Jesus Christ, don't despair.  Take heart, and know that some of the most noble of souls have risen from the depths of sin, mental illness, depression, despair, and countless other obstacles.  Indeed, I would venture to say that such opposition is the platform on which great people of our Church and our world have always stood.


I'd like to close with this empowering quote, which sums up what I am trying to communicate about being grateful to be gay, a beautiful rainbow child of our Father-God:


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."


Until next time, my reader-friends.  I love you!!! Thanks for reading. :) :) :)