Saturday, August 04, 2007

Overcome...


Since the posting of the Church's support material pamphlet of "God Loveth His Children" in the Gospel Library, I must admit that I wasn't moved much when I read it. It didn't seem to be applicable to me. As I read it, I felt the audience was for a much younger person, one who was a young adult, maybe, who was beginning adulthood with adult decisions of life-long consequences before them. I am grateful for these efforts to reach out to this generation of young gay members. But somehow, I felt it didn't center on my situation or my generation. And thus, I wasn't even going to post on it here in my blog as I've enjoyed the discussion points made in several other places around the community. However, I've been struck with the meaning of the word "overcome" and am confused by its meaning in the following excerpt:


"While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life..."


I, among many, am confused by this statement of fact. It is nestled within a paragraph centered on marriage in this mortal life for those of SGA. Does this imply, that those of us who somehow have married and been "successful" at it for some time now in a mixed-oriented marriage, have somehow found the enabling power of the Atonement efficacious to overcome SGA?


What does "overcome" mean?


I googled the word "overcome" to see what I might find associated with such meaning and came up with the following list - not in any particular order:


1. Overcome fears / fear of heights

2. Overcome temper

3. Overcome your demons

4. Overcome physical challenges

5. Overcome with emotion

6. Overcome obstacles

7. Overcome mental blocks

8. Overcome sin

9. Overcome sports defeats / deficits

10. Overcome drugs / additions

11. Overcome shyness

12. Overcome pain

13. Overcome illness / disease

14. Overcome loneliness

15. Overcome setbacks

16. Overcome shortcomings

17. Overcome procrastination

18. Overcome destructive behaviors / emotions

19. Overcome tragedy

20. Overcome with gratitude

21. Overcome anxieties

22. Overcome poverty

23. Overcome racism "We shall Overcome" (Civil Rights anthem)

24. Overcome bigotry

25. "Jesus has overcome everything..."


If the Church pamphlet is trying to say that we can overcome our attractions and ridding them completely from our lives by praying hard and reading the scriptures and worshipping in our meetings and serving others and doing good, and that some of US have done this and are living "normal" lives with marriage and family in this life and have been able to put these attractions behind us as we do sin, racism, tragedy, fear, anxiety, pain, suffering, etc. then this pamphlet isn't talking about me... You see, I am convinced that my attractions are an integral part of me and I see no point in trying to pray them away, or exercising faith, or tap into the enabling power of the Atonement - for I've been down that road. It is a lonely and hateful, self-loathing path that leads to personal destruction. I don't need to be told that "some" or "many" have overcome these attractions in this life while others haven't or won't. That kind of statement doesn't help. It sets some up for admiration and others for accepting that they are 'second-rate' and will have to wait until the next life, or maybe they just didn't try hard enough... I have come to accept for me that these "attractions" are not going to go away, no matter how hard I exercise my faith or enable the power of the Atonement. They are what they are. They just are!


If, however, the Church pamphlet is saying that by exercising faith and trying to do good and being surrounded by good and praying and studying and worshipping, etc. that I can place my attractions in a perspective that doesn't destroy me, accepting them for what they are, and managing them in a way that allows me to feel my own self-worth, my own sense of divinity, and be of good service, and do good and yes, even be married, and stay so happily for 26 years and raise a family etc. and still be active in the Church trying to live the Gospel and feel the promptings of the Still Small Voice, and STILL be "amazingly attracted to every good looking guy that walks by me on the street, or in the media, every day of every week of every year of my freakin' life", and that is what is meant by "overcome same-gender attraction in mortality" then sign me up - for I am attempting, though inadequately, to fit the bill...


Unfortunately, as much as I want to believe that the pamphlet implies the meaning of the second conditional statement above, I really believe it intends the interpretation of the first. And that's okay... I'm not going to stress over it.

In Teachings of President Spencer W. Kimball (the 2007 manual for Priesthood / Relief Society) the word "overcome" is used twice on page 181:

"If one has homosexual desires and tendencies, he OVERCOMES them the same as if he had the urdge toward petting or fornication or adultery".

Here, in the priesthood manual of 2007, is still the teaching that homosexual tendencies are grouped with the sins of petting, fornication and adultery and as such, must be overcome! What's up with that???

He continues...

"Again, contrary to the belife and statement of many people, this [practice of homosexuality] (and may I add the implied "tendency" as noted above), is OVERCOMABLE and forgivable, but again, only upon a deep and abiding repentance, which means total abandonment and complete transformation of thought and act."

Well, I concur that when talking about the sexual act in my current realm of mortality, there needs to be forgiveness and transformation. But, when talking about thoughts, and tendencies, that are part of every day of my life that just come... I must differ.


I agree that "overcome" is a better word than "change". Change implies repentance. There is nothing to repent of when one has attractions one did not choose. At least the Church has crossed this bridge. I'd just like to see a statement that uses "overcome" in a sense of "management" or even "acceptance" instead of in the sense of "ridding oneself" or "cleansing oneself" through the Atonement. Am I missing the point here? Am I being too picky with the meaning of words?


And why, as Abelard noted, do we not see any guidelines, counsel or advice from the Church for those of us gay young men, who, in a previous generation, were admonished and encouraged without hesitancy and with full priesthood authority to marry and to marry quickly after one's faithful service as a missionary with blessings and promises that these "issues" will be forgotten and put away for good as we move into marital bliss?


Don't get me wrong, I am not bitter! I'm okay with things. I am working out my own salvation and my own marriage, thank you very much, with no help from priesthood authority (dealing with my SGA as I see no point or purpose for doing so) or Church pamphlet hand-holding. I don't ask for it and I don't demand it. I am simply seeking the Lord to bless my feeble efforts in trying to do the best I can as I "overcome" each day while still being in every true sense - a very GAY man!

15 comments:

playasinmar said...

"If, however, the Church pamphlet is saying that by exercising faith and trying to do good and..."

That's a big if.

Beck said...

That's my point... It's a BIG if...

Kengo Biddles said...

I think the pamphlet isn't even geared to my generation, it's like it's geared to the young men, like Romulus, Remus, AtP, Gimple and such, those that are just a year or years free of their teens.

Beck said...

KB: Exactly my other point!

J said...

"While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life..."

I think that if a period had been placed after the word mortality and the part in bold had been left out, it would be a lot easier to read overcome to mean ". . . I can place my attractions in a perspective that doesn't destroy me . . ." But since there's no period, it kind of leaves those of us who have actually lived what is being talked about sitting here scratching our heads. Also, your description of what you feel to overcome should mean is one of the most beautiful and real expressions of what so many of us experience that I've ever read. Thank you for that.

-L- said...

I see no point in trying to pray them away, or exercising faith, or tap into the enabling power of the Atonement - for I've been down that road. It is a lonely and hateful, self-loathing path that leads to personal destruction.

Maybe there was something else about your past experience that brought about the loneliness, hate, and self-loathing. Cuz I'm on that path right now and I feel none of those things.

Here, in the priesthood manual of 2007, is still the teaching that homosexual tendencies are grouped with the sins of petting, fornication and adultery and as such, must be overcome! What's up with that???

The tendency was compared to the urge toward those sins, and it's an apt comparison.

The feelings of attraction I have are a part of me, but not at all part of my eternal identity. They keep me from having a more satisfying sexual experience in my marriage and hamper me in the most fundamental way in terms of having children. For this reason I will not only seek to overcome them by living with them, I will overcome them by being rid of them. Whether I'm successful or not in this life is largely irrelevant in terms of worthiness, but my attitude toward harboring incompatibilities with my eternal potential has a huge bearing on my ability to make it happen. I think so, anyway.

-L- said...

You inspired me to post on the topic (or a related topic, anyway) on NL. :-)

Beck said...

J: Thank you for your kind words.

L: Thank you for your articulate comment. You always stretch me and make me think. I've responded to your post at NL and don't feel the need to do so here, other than to state that when President Kimball uses the word "tendency", I don't think he's excluding the tendency for attraction of this evil nature. He's most definitely using tendency as more than responding to an urge!

You may be on the road to ridding them in this life. I applaud you! If I am not able to get to this point in this current life(for whatever reason) but am still able to live a healthy and happy, even eternal relationship with my wife and family, I'm not going to stress over it. Getting beyond the ANGST has been a huge step and miracle for me! I hope you can see that without thinking I'm fatalistic.

Abelard Enigma said...

I am convinced that my attractions are an integral part of me and I see no point in trying to pray them away, or exercising faith, or tap into the enabling power of the Atonement

We each have to find out own path and do what works for us. But on this point, my path mirrors that of Becks. Trying to pray these attractions away has only resulted in years of denial and self loathing and has robbed me of years of happiness I could have felt if I had only accepted as I do now much earlier in my life. Just yesterday my wife told me once again that I seem happier these last few months than she has seen me in a very long time. So, for me, just learning to accept that this is who I am and not trying to change is best.

And why ... do we not see any guidelines, counsel or advice from the Church for those of us gay young men, who, in a previous generation, were admonished and encouraged without hesitancy and with full priesthood authority to marry ...

Because, we're not supposed to exist! Many of us in this position choose to remain anonymous. We hide in plain site. The gay people from our generation that they are most likely aware of are those who have left the church (either voluntarily or excommunicated). I expect that for many of us older MoHo's, our local priesthood leaders would be shocked if they were to learn our secrets. We've been married for a quarter of a century; we've got children (and even grandchildren); we hold leadership callings in our wards and stakes; we go to the temple - how could we possibly think of ourselves as gay after all these years? I expect that many would simply not be able to comprehend. So, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to address us and our situation. But, I'm going to try not going to feel bitter over it. I'm just as much to blame as anyone else by my choice to remain anonymous. This is the hand I've been dealt; so, I just have to play my hand the best way I can. (this is me trying to put a positive spin on things - is it working?)

J G-W said...

"exercising faith and trying to do good and being surrounded by good and praying and studying and worshipping, etc. that I can place my attractions in a perspective that doesn't destroy me, accepting them for what they are, and managing them in a way that allows me to feel my own self-worth, my own sense of divinity, and be of good service, and do good and yes, even be married, and stay so happily for 26 years and raise a family etc."

Beck, this is the heart of it. This kind of faith, the kind of faith you describe here, nothing more and nothing less, is what will save you, it is what will save me, it is the only thing that can save any of us. Thank you so much for this post! What you have said here is so powerful and inspiring.

GeckoMan said...

I find your experience and attitude, as well as Abelard's, mirroring my own in the past few months. Accepting where we are, in spite of our cowlicks (did you see my latest poem?), and getting on with doing our best, all the while being able to laugh at ourselves and serve with loving hearts is the crux of "overcoming."

Thanks for your post and the ideas it has generated.

Forester said...

What would you all be saying if the church had said that all of us can rid ourselves of same gender attraction in this life? I know it only says that some can and will while others may not, but what if it said that all of us can do it? Essentially, I think this is the real goal. Whether it is in this life or the next, it doesn't make a difference. For some of us it just takes more time and more miracles and possibly physical death to overcome, but that doesn't make us any less loved and accepted by God.

Abelard Enigma said...

What would you all be saying if the church had said that all of us can rid ourselves of same gender attraction in this life?

Some of are old enough to remember a time when the church was saying just that. All we had to do was get married and our natural heterosexual attractions would surface and we would be rid of those nasty homosexual feelings.

Personally, I have not read any convincing evidence that I will ever be rid of my same gender attraction. I know some general authorities have hinted at such. But, is that real doctrine? Or is that just 'feel good' statements meant to console? We should be able to back up any doctrinal statements by general authorities with scripture; however, Amulek tells us

... for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
Alma 34:34


If a heterosexual spirit is going to retain their attractions in the next world then why would it be any different for me? It doesn't make any sense. Or, are our attractions for this life only and none of us will carry our attractions to the next life? But, that doesn't make sense either. Who knows, maybe there is some grand purpose for having some of us in the Celestial kingdom.

but that doesn't make us any less loved and accepted by God.

I don't think any of us are saying that we feel less loved or accepted by God.

Crow's View said...

You forgot the most crushing one...Overcoming the fear of overcoming. I like the word master much better. We when we master our habits and urges we are in control of them and they don't control us. In this we overcome them. But we don't lose them. I think thats what Pres Kimball meant. I do think it would have helped had they been more clear in separating the urges from the acts. But I think they are also receiving revelation line-upon-line. I think when all is said and done we will be surprised how much we already knew.

gentlefriend said...

I agree with Crow. Master is a better word than overcome. Alma said it well: "Bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love." To me it means that I should always keep my hands on the reins to stay in control. For me, I must always be alert or I may lose control.

Abelard: My hope is that my SGA is a physical thing. When I pass through the veil, I hope that I will have passed the test and will graduate to something better.