Some people might read the title, and say, "Duh! Only one type of cleanliness exists, Spencer." But fortunately, dear reader, you and I have discovered together that more than one type actually does exist. I have already covered emotional and spiritual cleanliness, which leaves physical and mental left to explore and uncover in detail. As you read, try to think of how this may apply to SSA. If you have not yet found an application for yourself, that is perfectly fine. I will describe a few ways these various types of cleanliness have applied to me and my SSA, personally. I will say this much, however- I have chosen to cover these four areas for a very specific reason, amid other peripheral reasons. Continuing on, then...
Physical cleanliness comes first because it remains as one of the most stigmatized measuring sticks of mankind's worth, status, and potential in life. Let us start delving into this from a logical viewpoint. How on earth do health & beauty products, clothing, or consistent hygienic habits define a person as to where they have been (worth), where they are (status), or where they are headed (potential)? Understandably, the average human judges by the outward appearance, which most certainly includes physical cleanliness. This, in turn, could influence one's perception of worth, status, and/or potential. It could even go so far as, with shallow individuals, leading one to judge so harshly as to temporarily prevent a person from progressing in life's goals, as by denying employment, speaking and acting harshly or abusively, and so forth. Without even pulling spirituality or religion into this viewpoint however, I am already confused as to how an external influence could indefinitely define an individual. It seems to me that the immortalized names of history also came from people who derived their self-worth on foundations of virtue and morality, rather than foundations of looks and appearance. And, moving into the spiritual side of this, our Savior's name is by far the greatest among such immortalized names, literally and figuratively speaking.
Now, when the Savior spoke in the scriptures regarding this, I am certain you, dear reader, have familiarized yourself with the next couple of scripture stories I am going to share. In 1st Samuel chapter 16, the prophet Samuel came to Bethelem to make one of the sons of Jesse (the father of David) the Lord's anointed. Jesse brought out every one of his sons, except David, making seven of them. As they started, Samuel looked at the eldest and basically said, "Oh, this must be him". But then the Lord spoke the wise and oft-quoted truth, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1st Samuel 16:7). What, then, does this teach? Well, since the Lord also rebuked the Pharisees, telling them that outwardly they were "beautiful unto men, but inwardly full of dead men's bones and all manner of uncleanliness", I think I have an idea. When I choose to judge another based on how he looks, smells, or otherwise appears to me, I have immediately made not only an unrighteous, but a harsh and unwarranted judgment at that. The Lord looks upon the heart not only as an example to us, but also because He is the only one who perfectly knows the story of every child of God. We can gain sufficient knowledge to judge righteously, this is true. Yet, I wonder how often I judge without regarding each of the seven principles of righteous judgment, as taught by Elder Oaks (see "Judge Not and Judging, www.lds.org) Such righteous judgments are more rare than I think I am willing to admit sometimes. All of us, myself included, should take the time to get to know a person, rather than simply looking at a person and either disqualifying them or qualifying them for friendship, romance, or any other sort of connection or relationship.
Moving on, mental cleanliness to me does mean a few different things. It does include a sort of spiritual element, because we must watch our thoughts, to keep them clean through prayer, physical exercise (yes, your thoughts are affected by the biochemical state of your body), scripture study, and all that jazz. However, were I to elaborate on that, I think I would cover something a tad cliché. Simply put, watching your thoughts by keeping your body and spirit active through exertion and faith creates that thought control. Enough said. Another element of mental cleanliness is taking time out for your mind to relax and rejuvenate. God has designed our brains with physiological and psychological mechanisms that empower our minds to be refreshed-but only if we choose the activities and lifestyle that will allow it. In the half hour to hour that you "could be studying", "could be doing homework", or "could be doing a work project", or whatever, you could also be relaxing and subsequently improving your body's capacity to do more in less time. Research and professional medical opinions will most definitely back me up on this. Take care of you, and your body will follow. In addition, I believe that within the madness of busy schedules, degree-seeking, and-dare I say it-romance, one must learn to find serenity on the go. Breathing techniques, positive affirmations, utilizing the imagination, and other coping skills create a tidy mentality in which one can more perfectly function with efficiency. Learn to chill on the go-trust me, it helps. And finally, as I have written in more detail in another blog post, simplifying your life in whatever way works for you also cleans out the mind and organizes it wonderfully. Simplicity gives a sense of confidence and poise that it seems like not much else can. To me, that is one reason why I love the gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by the Church. It gives us a simple, yet profound way to follow God.
SSA fits into physical cleanliness because I often think stereotypes are associated with whom we associate in the SSA community. Rather than judging by a person's heart, sometimes I think we fall into the trap of viewing a person based on how nice their clothes are, how nice their face is, the type of cologne/perfume they wear, etc. And going even further, sometimes the physical appearance overall (such as weight, height, eye color, and so on) plays the primary role in how we associate with others in the SSA community, rather than what the person's character is like-after we get to know him or her. Really, I believe that judging in such shortsighted ways robs us of valuable friendships, emotional intimacy with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and could even potentially delay fulfilling and meaningful marriage by creating habits of shallow judging. In the future, if one does get married, it could create issues with the other individual because you have been conditioned to believe that physical attractiveness is much bigger than it really is, in the grand, eternal scheme of things. All will be physically and aesthetically appealing in eternity-but for now, we must find true and individual beauty.
In terms of mental cleanliness and SSA, it clears up problems with potential sin, because my mind is the stage of where darkness or light can act. When I fill my mind with virtue and light on a continual basis, addiction and vice have no lasting effects upon me- provided I repent and strengthens my conversion to Jesus Christ. It also creates personal relaxation, which provides direction, comfort, and clarity in a world so filled with confusion and darkness. And it also gives me tools to cope with personal affliction, such as my mental illnesses. Adversity and opposition, rather than worsening my SSA, become assets to it as I clear out the clutter and simplify life because it increases confidence and preparedness for the unexpected. It also builds faith and trust in the Lord's timing, power, revelation (both general and personal), comfort, and all else He accomplishes in my life, because a mind opened up to light is a mind filled with enlightenment and illumination. When I choose to look forward, into the past, or to stay within the present, I can remain at peace, because I see through spiritual eyes and I know the Lord has been there. It is my prayer for each of us that we can strive for cleanliness in every area, because as mentioned earlier, I wrote about all of them for a specific purpose-that being a mindset of overall wellness. When we speak of wellness, we mean a state of homeostasis, in which the body is able to return to a state of healthy normality. Through cultivating overall cleanliness, our heart, spirit, mind, and body will find a state of balance, full of resilience and elasticity. And that will help each of us at least a little in our individual journeys towards peace with same-sex attraction.