Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Valentine Exchange...

For the record, we had a great Valentine's Day. I sent her two dozen roses and a romantic card, took her to dinner at her favorite restaurant downtown and followed up with seeing the Joseph Smith movie and a Temple Square orchestra concert performing Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" overture. It was fun, it was good to be together, it was a great memory.

However, not to disappoint my few readers that all is well in my corner of the universe, and to show that I'm as confused as ever, and that "Beck" remains forever conflicted, I also exchanged Valentine wishes with Thomas where, in part, I wrote:

This is a day for expressing our most profound feelings of the heart - and in that spirit I am thinking of you today affectionately, desiring to have you close, even at my side so that I can personally tell you how much I love you. If our story had taken a different path, and if I had been more honest in my feelings some 29 years ago, maybe both of us would have been different people today.

I feel an emptiness inside of me, in my heart. In this void, there is a lot of space for all the thoughts of "what if"... I can't live like this anymore. I can't dream about the "what ifs" between us, if I had done this or that and been more open to you in the past. I want to live for today, not for the past. But when I think of you, there is no today, there is only the past. We must create the present. I want to live life, not just wonder about the "what ifs"...

He responded, in part, early this morning:

Thank you for your Valentine. I've also been thinking a lot about you, as I think about you every day that passes. I want so much to see you happy and content... It troubles me that you are not...

I am convinced that you will realize your dreams, they aren't impossible things. I miss you so much! It's like we are living a romance novel. Why don't we write together our story in a form of a romance novel, changing the names etc.? What do you think? It would be a love story like none other. It would be a great challenge... who knows - maybe we'd even publish it and make a few bucks...

Anyway, thank you for writing. I think of you every day. I miss you and love you so much. You are always in my heart!

This is the point where you say something like: Beck, you're delusional... or Beck, you're trying to have it both ways... or Beck, why don't you wake up and smell those roses... or Beck, here's a firm slap on the head...
As some things change, other things continue to stay the same...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

As some things change, other things remain the same...

I've never intended this blog to become a "political / current events" rant. It exists for me to vent thoughts and feelings I have that can't be vented or expressed in any other productive way. Sometimes I wonder how productive blogging is when after nearly three years of doing so, I'm still pretty much the same.

But this morning, Mike (Choosing to Choose the Right) got me thinking as he posed whether there is a change in this blogging community going on. I responded:

"I don't know who you are referring to, but speaking for myself, I find my views changing. The more I understand myself, the more I realize that this world is not as black-and-white as I thought. I find myself becoming much more tolerant, compassionate, understanding, sympathetic, empathetic, loving, etc. to those who seriously choose a path different from my own. This does not mean that I'm preparing myself to make that same choice or take that same path. What it does mean is that you (whoever you are) don't really know me, and therefore it is difficult to be judged for the decisions I'm making. As such, I don't want to judge those who make difficult choices different from me. I find myself much more willing to accept others who are taking a different path, and I feel an affinity with those who seek wisdom, and yes, even the whisperings of the Spirit, in different ways.

As I've come to be more compassionate toward myself (I used to hate and despise myself), I've become more compassionate toward others.

I don't think that altering or changing my perspective of compassion for others and seeing the wisdom and "spirit" in their choices, has weakened my resolve to still follow my own internal wisdom and spirit to do what I feel is right.

It's just not so cut-n-dry anymore about believing "my way or the highway" approach to this very complicated issue."

I've been vocal about my support for Cog, John G-W, and Cody (Gay LDS Actor) among others and the choices they are making for their respective families. Before this blog had entered my consciousness, I never would have been so compassionate and inclusive and willing to embrace their decisions. Now I do - completely! Maybe in one sense, this blog has helped me to grow.

Yet, in another sense, I don't feel growth at all:

My email dialogues continue with my dear Italian friend "Thomas" and, to a lesser but still amazing degree, with my young dear friend "Will", whose friendship remains strong and loyal, close and confidential, yet much more along the lines of mentor and mentee, teacher and student, with a touch of bromance. ("Tim" has currently disappeared since Christmas).

I particularly share with Thomas deep feelings and pains and struggles and stresses. I share feelings of love and intimacy that sometimes are sexually charged. I share in ways that emotionally connect us and he shares back. I like these dialogues, yet they remain for the most part secret and hidden.

Recently, as I was working, I flipped through radio stations and caught a host discussing the appropriateness of such relationships. The intent of the program was discussing whether men should have women other than their wife as a close friend, and whether women should have men other than their husband as a close friend (going to lunch together, car-pooling alone together, emailing privately, etc.). Obviously, my thoughts reversed the situation and I asked myself it it was appropriate for me to cultivate and continue to encourage these private emails from different men in my life, and to a broader sense, to the men / women of this blogging community.

The program spokesman summarized that one can know if the relationship is "appropriate" if:

1. It does not create an emotional connection,

2. It isn't cloaked in secrecy,

3. It isn't sexually charged, and

4. It's importance is above that of the spouse.

Well, I guess my relationship with Thomas fails to be appropriate in at least three of the four, so I guess it's inappropriate. Where this blog isn't helping me to grow is in the fact that I don't want to bring this relationship into the appropriate range. So where does that place me? I guess in the "jerk / cheater" spectrum of the spouse continuum.

As some things change, other things remain the same...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Is there no other way?

A neighbor sent me this in my email. I'm not sure of the context, (it seems to be a response to pointing out the imperfections of the Church as reason to leave the Church) but the point is poignant, especially with regards to the scuttlebutt in this community of wondering about the handling of the aftermath of Prop. 8 and the way the Church is managing (or remaining silent) the gay issues at the Utah State Legislature, or with the gay issues at large:

In a local newspaper in Provo, Utah, there had been an ongoing series of articles written by individuals who wanted to persuade LDS Church members to leave the Church. In response to the highly critical and spirited remarks, a local member wrote this rebuttal:


I have been thinking of quitting the Mormon Church. Yes, if I can, I am going to get even with that church. As soon as I can find another church that teaches about the Gathering of the House of Israel; the return of the Ten Tribes and their mission; the return of the Jews to Palestine and why, and how they are going to build the temple; the building of temples and what to do with them; the mission of Elias, the prophet, as predicted by Malachi; the method for the salvation of the people that died at the time of Noah in the flood; the origin of the American Indian; the complete explanation of why Jesus of Nazareth had to have a mortal mother but not a mortal father; the explanation of the three degrees of glory (three heavens) as mentioned by Paul; the complete explanation of why Elias and Moses did not die but had to be translated (since they both lived before the resurrection was introduced by Christ); the restoration of the gospel by modern revelation as promised by Peter and Paul and Jesus himself; the belief in eternal marriage and the family, and the knowledge and the place to seal for eternity; that teaches abstinence from all harmful drugs and foods ; and that sells the best fire insurance policy on earth, for the last days, for only a 10th of my income.

Yes sir, as soon as I can find another church that teaches all that,or even half as much, I will say good-bye to this Mormon Church. The church that I am looking for must also be able to motivate 50,000+ youth, and adults, for the first, second or third time, to leave their homes for two years at their own expense and go to far-away places to teach and preach without salary. It must be able to call, on a frosty day, some 5 or 6 thousand professors, students, lawyers, doctors, judges, policemen, businessmen, housewives and children to go and pick apples at 6 a.m. It must be able to call meetings and get the attention for two hours of more than 150,000 men. Yes, it must also teach and show why salvation is assured for children who die before eight years of age.

Mr. Editor, could you help me find a church that teaches all that and more than hundreds of other doctrines and principles, which I have no room to mention here, and which brings solace and comfort to the soul; peace, hope, and salvation to mankind, and above all, that answers the key questions that all the great philosophers have asked; questions and answers that explain the meaning of life, the purpose of death, suffering and pain; the absolute need for a Redeemer and the marvelous plan conceived and executed by Jesus Christ the Savior?

Yes, as soon as I find another church that teaches that, and also that has the organization and the powers to make that teaching effective, I am going to quit the Mormon Church. For I should not tolerate that "they" should change a few words in the Book of Mormon-even if those changes simply improve the grammar and the syntax of the verses-for, after all, don't you think the Divine Church should employ angels as bookmakers, and clerks, to do all the chores on earth?

Don't you think, Mr. Editor, that the Divine Church should also have prophets that don't get sick and don't get old and die, and certainly, that don't make a goof here and there. No, sir! A Divine Church should be so divine that only perfect people should belong to it, and only perfect people should run it. As a matter of fact, the Church should be so perfect that it should not even be here on earth!

So, I repeat, if any one of the kind readers of this imperfect letter knows about another church that teaches and does as much for mankind as the Mormon Church, please let me know. And please do it soon, because my turn to go to the cannery is coming up. Also, "they" want my last son (the fifth one) to go away for two years and again, I have to pay for all that. And I also know that they expect me to go to the farm to prune trees, and I have heard that our ward is going to be divided again, and it is our side that must build the new chapel. And also, someone the other day had the gall of suggesting that my wife and I get ready to go on a second mission, and when you come back, they said, you can volunteer as a temple worker.

Boy, these Mormons don't leave you alone for a minute. And what do I get for all that, I asked? "Well," they said, "for one, you can look forward to a funeral service at no charge!"... Do you think you can help me to find another church?

Maybe I shouldn't be republishing something that I don't know the source or the motives behind the author, but what it says to me is that if I feel so strongly about all that is part of who I am that comes with my beliefs in what the Church has taught me and what I have come to personally know and internalize through the Spirit, if who I am is directly related to all that I have learned from this Spirit, how can I throw it all away? Not to diminish the pain of the handling of the gay issues by the Brethren, (particularly this silence thing right now with the legislature - where one thing is acceptable in CA but not in UT) but, it feel like it's a bit like throwing that proverbial baby out with the bath water.

I can't. I just can't and at least for the foreseeable future, I won't. I want to keep the baby, and just get rid of the soiled water. I understand how some get to the point that there is no separation between the baby and the water, and that both are so soiled there is no way to clean them anymore, so they all have to go. Maybe I'm just not personally there yet... or maybe I never will be. I'm the closeted, fence-sitter, hiding behind my safe facade. Maybe if I were more personally at risk it would feel more "all or nothing". But I'm a coward and I want it both ways and I don't want to expose myself to be vulnerable - so I stay where it's safe and comfortable and easy to pontificate. And yet, it truly bothers me deep down and troubles me tremendously just the same and I want that bothersome, troublesome feeling to go away. But it doesn't go away. I'm trying to just let it go and just do what I can do in my situation with my circumstances. I'm trying to love and extend love and feel the Spirit work within me to strengthen my troubling heart.

And that's why right now it hurts to see the anguish and the pain and the family destruction of so many, and on the other side, the absolute silence, the PR embarrassment, and the expedient behavior of my leaders. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt makes it difficult to understand what is going on. I know I have limited knowledge of the facts, but still...

Is this a wheat and tares moment? Is this the separation of believers and non-believers? Is it all or nothing? Am I either with them or against them? Is this a defining moment? Is this the apple-in-the-garden decision? Is there no other way?

Monday, February 02, 2009

What is one to do?

In reading the Standard Examiner's Sunday paper yesterday, I noted this editorial cartoon by Grondahl that says it all....

"You can't marry and... well, you must help us to pretend that you really don't exist."

There you go. There you have it in a nutshell... life of a Gay in Utah.

I've noted that the discussions on several blogs are centered on the double-speak of the church, particularly regarding the $2k vs. $190k revelation of church expenses for Prop 8. I mentioned on Abe's blog

"...If the Church steps in to prevent the same common laws for gay partners that were deemed acceptable by the Church in California, I think I'll begin to come apart at the seams. If they don't, and allow those same rights and privileges for Utah gays that were acceptable to California gays then I'll see more of an even-handedness in it all. To me, this will be the tipping point..."

My comment was then added to by Scott as follows:

"...The problem is that the Church's approach to the Common Ground measures in Utah so far has been to remain silent--and that silence will almost certainly not be interpreted by lawmakers as "allow[ing] those same rights and privileges" but rather as silent disapproval. I worry that nothing short of an outright declaration of support from the Church will sway legislators who allow the Church to be their "moral compass", and that that outright declaration of support will never come.

In other words, I don't think that it is, as Beck indicated, a choice between stepping in to prevent the laws from passing vs. letting them pass, but rather a choice between standing aside and watching them fail or stepping in to reaffirm support for [limited] equal rights. I'm afraid it's becoming more and more obvious which approach."

And then Alan added on his blog:

"...Beck said if the Church stepped in to block the Common Ground Initiative, he would start to come apart at the seams. Well, Beck, the Church didn't overtly step in. It knew exactly what it was doing. But it created the same result as if it had. So get out your fiberglass strapping tape Beck because you'll need it to hold yourself together.

You know, I've been an active, faithful Church member all my life. I served a mission, I've kept my temple covenants. But this kind of behavior by the Church is really really starting to get to me. Anybody else?

And subsequent response from others stating that they were finding it hard to stay in Utah and in the Church such as Sarah:

"...Definitely. I dare say I am pissed off. Between this, my "favorite" teacher in relief society, and the awesome feeling at the documentary interview, it is getting more and more difficult to find a reason to stay.

God bless us to know what is right and what is really wolves in sheep's clothing

And then my response:

"I have no problem in "staying" when it comes to doctrine and principles. I am firm in my beliefs, my convictions, my assurances, my testimony.

What I'm struggling with is my confidence in the leadership as they speak out of both sides of their mouths for political expediency. And I'm concerned this is the beginning of the unraveling of the seams. I'm not leaving Utah. I'm not leaving the Church. In fact, I encourage all of those who are considering leaving to contemplate the good that can be done by staying... we just need to find a good supply of strapping tape

So is now the time to run? Is now the time to be mad as hell and quit the fight?

You've got to be kidding? What good will that do? That is the point of the editorial cartoon... "they" want us to disappear. They want us to run and hide. They want us to leave Utah. They want us to quit the Church and the State and leave and never come back.

But what good will that do? What good will any of this do? What good am I in the fight? What can I do? What am I willing to do as I continue to hide?

My point is I still have my convictions. I still have my assurances of the Spirit. I have my testimony of doctrine and principles centered on Christ and His Plan for me that I cannot dismiss or dispute or deny. Where this is leading me is to doubt the Church leadership and their handling of things for political expediency and not for divine direction. The well articulated legal summation by Alan says it all. It is double speak and double action. It is deceitful and disingenuous. Is this what I want and expect from the Church? And as such, I find my seams coming undone and I need to find something to sew me up again and make me whole again. But I can't run. I can't come undone... or all is lost.

There was a time when the Church around Joseph was coming undone in Kirtland and Independence. His Zion Societies were failing. His closest associates and many key members were disgruntled by the economic losses and mishandling of funds, and the Zion's Camp debacle to restore Zion - and many left the Prophet for seeing him as dishonest and politically expedient.

There was a point where even the Lord pulled back and said (in so many words): "This ain't workin' Joseph!".

And yet the work went on, retrenched and reborn in Nauvoo and later in SLC. This isn't just an experiment, otherwise it would have failed so many times before as past experimental societies failed throughout history. But, it lived on and has become the prophetic "stone cut without hands".

So, am I to be a Missouri saint or Kirtland saint who has lost everything and been tarred and feathered and seen my family destroyed and walk away because I can't handle it anymore? Or am I to be faithful to the spirit that I know inside me to be undeniable, and hold to that voice and the love of the Savior in my life - recognizing that the Prophet (Joseph or otherwise) are imperfect, fallible men, who do the best with what they've been given just as I am asked to do with what I've been given, and to hang on for the long haul as the stone roles forth?

I don't know... This isn't easy. It never is. I've never seen the fallibility of the leadership so clearly as right now with the way they have politically managed and misled the members over this issue and now continue to be "silent" when a little nudge in the right direction (such as with the liquor laws) can go a long way to doing a lot of good. The two-sidedness and hypocrisy is hurtful indeed. And so I am hurting, and my convictions are hurting. I'm disappointed. But is it enough to make me run? Or am I going to stay and try to be a voice of reason, a voice of conviction?

In my world around me, the typical member doesn't have a clue. These issues don't affect them personally, and so they don't see it as any debate at all. They see that the Brethren are not dishonest or hypocritical or politically expedient over this issue. They are divinely inspired. And as long as they still feel that way, what will change? This certainly won't change until the masses of the membership see it for what it is. And will my leaving the state and leaving the Church do anything to shed light where now there is only secrecy and darkness? NO!

And how will any of this help me to do the best I can with what I've been given to help others be more Christlike? I don't have time to be bitter and angry. I need to see the bigger picture more clearly and have faith that this too will resolve itself in the Lord's way just as the trials and tribulations of the past did.

This is getting too long. Help me here. What is one like me, a closeted gay Mormon believer, supposed to do?

Instead of picking at my unraveling seams and making them worse, I need to go find some strapping tape...