Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hopelessness triumphs...



Reading the story of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, and the apparent suicide off the George Washington Bridge, because he was outed on the Internet, has really hit home. A young man of 18 tender years, with exceptional musical talents and on the verge of a new hope-filled college career before him, is snuffed out.

It gives me pause.

First, that others would violate one's sense of privacy and so carelessly destroy a life in the process.

Second, that one would feel that his life is not worth living because others now know something very private about himself.

Third, that for some, the culture, society, expectations, standards, or whatever are such that despite all the good efforts out there, there is still no apparent support structure for such individuals.

I grieve for the Tylers out there. I grieve for their families. I grieve that we still live in a society where it is some kind of recreation to play with other's lives and feel we have an entitlement or right to expose someone literally to the view of the world. And I grieve that we live where so many of us, me included, would feel desolate and destroyed in the process - to the point that death is a better option than living...

I find myself identifying with Tyler. Some of you know me personally. I have revealed many (maybe too many) personal details about myself - in an effort to keep my blog honest, true and real, even to a fault - to allow you to get to know the "real" me. I've allowed you to peep through the curtains and follow me around and even get inside me and know my inner-most thoughts and feelings - such that if you really wanted to find me, you most easily could. And finding me, where I live, where I work, what I do, where I go to church, you could follow, stalk, and out me.

And maybe you'd think it would be good for me if I were more honest, and more out there, and more public in who I really am. Maybe I may be deserving such exposure, as no one should be allowed to say and do things under the cloak of anonymity. It's all for the best in forcing authenticity on all, no?

In the campaign for helping gay teens in particular to know that "it gets better" is very appropriate and worthwhile. Though I'm not a teen, in many ways, I am a teen in the coming-out timetable. In some ways, the campaign is very helpful in seeing the hope over the despair, putting face to life being worth living in an "out" and "authentic" way. In another sense, it's like that image of hope can never be my reality, and thus, hopelessness triumphs, despair wins.

In Tyler's situation, I can reason that that bridge, (or my thoughts have contemplated the hotel balcony, or mountain cliff) sure looks like a compelling alternative.

No one has that right! And particularly not for a joke or a source of recreation. We each should allow everyone their privacy, and allow self-determination.

I ache for Tyler. I weep for Tyler. In a real sense, we are Tyler.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Professorial Enlightenment...


Thanks to Justin's informative post and Kengo's link, I was able to download and listen to the entire presentation and subsequent Q&A session of Prof. William Bradshaw's lecture on "The Evidence for A Biological Origin of Homosexuality". Typically, I have not been that interested in why I am the way I am. I have already gone through that battle and have come to the conclusion earlier than later that I have always been this way. It is the acceptance of that that has become more real to me of late (thus my recent posts of confirming once and for all my feelings about the eternal nature of this).

That said, having a BYU microbiology scholar, past-mission president and member of a stake presidency speak at BYU out in the open and not in the shadows of some hidden or secret covert operation, on such a subject as to the origin of homosexuality, was indeed entertaining at least, and intriguing at best. So, I had some time this morning and I listened to the whole thing.

My first reactions were that I had heard of and read several of the evidences quoted, including the handedness research, the finger-length study, the older brother study, and the twin study. In the end, it was nice to understand but still didn't wow me or make me feel like standing up and screaming from the rooftops: "Hey, world, I was born this way so get over it!"

Indeed, the thoughts were kind of just the opposite. They were okay... so in some cases I fit this research data and in other cases I don't. So some apply and some do not... what does that mean? Trying to tie the causes to biological mechanisms is a scientific approach, and thus, leading me to conclude that it is a mortal condition. And if it is just "biological" or "mortal" then it won't necessarily be "immortal". But then, again, spirits are spiritual matter, and there is spiritual biology in that matter, and our intelligences were never created, etc... so...

My thoughts went beyond mortal to the immortal - both pre-existent and post-mortal. If it is just biological, then good, I am not needing to feel any guilt for having a self-assurance that I did not "CHOOSE" to be this way... I just am! This self-evidence does not negate my agency or the role agency has in the Plan.

I appreciated that he shot down the "nurture" argument, as to the fallacy that because I didn't play catch with my dad nearly enough in my early childhood, preferring to play house with the neighbor girl down the street, was reason enough to make me gay!

So, I was sort of ho-hum about the lecture until the end, and the following Q&A session with Prof. Bradshaw opened up and became more intimate, sharing his personal feelings and beliefs about the subject and how it all fits into the Plan. It was his compassion and deep and sincere love for me, as a gay brother, that I felt come through and hit me more powerfully than any scientific statistic or evidence. It was his desire to learn, to not be afraid to question, to recognize so much that we don't know and to seek more knowledge and understanding, both in a scientific sense, but more so in a brotherhood and Gospel sense. It was in the latter that I felt he made the most impact - that I am not a second-class citizen, a reject, a defective being, that I am not sick, and need to be made well or whole, that I am not broken or "damaged goods" (as I have definitely felt over these decades). I am fine and I should be loved for the person that I am, that we are, and that there is no guilt associated with "why" I am the way I am - it isn't anyone's fault, and therefore, there isn't or shouldn't be any blame... and that support each other and strengthening each other and understanding better each other is more important and the biggest lesson he's learned.

It was impressive that this scientist, taking a scientific approach, came away with a far different conclusion than many of his BYU peers and that he testified to his conclusions leading him directly to his witness of the "truth" of these things.

I liked it when he said that talking to gay brothers and sisters, the confirmation that they have almost exclusively felt that they have "always been this way" should be scientific evidence enough! AMEN.

I wasn't there. Eyewitnesses in this community can say more than I. But, like me, you can listen to it at mormonstories.org. If I knew how to link, I would, but it is story no. 191. Even if you aren't interested in the biological reasoning, I would ask you to skim to the end and listen to his concluding remarks and the questions and answers. Powerful stuff, considering the current political environment and the explosive nature of the issue at large being discussed at BYU of all places. I, too, find this significant. I hope it is the beginning of a new leaf turned for the church and BYU to come out of the shadow of gloom and despair, and to face the issue in a more straight-forward and honest manner. I know if they would, it would help others like me living in the shadows and hiding from the long arm of cultural and religious retribution, to speak out and be heard and give face and voice.




So now I'm left wondering... if this self-awareness is eternal in nature, what's the point? What is the eternal purpose for me being me? Where does the Atonement fit in or does it? Where does my marriage fit in? If I will always be me, even with the hope of a perfected "me", how will it all work? Those are questions I'm afraid biological evidence cannot answer.

Thus, it's back to faith...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A faith-building conundrum...



So, I have a new personal twist on the same ol' conundrum...

If my “personal revelation” of my previous post really did come from God, and wasn’t just a justification of current convictions based on my own opinions mixed with scripture and theological teachings, then what does that mean?

If from my “personal revelation” I conclude that:

1. I have always been this way, that the essence of who I am, which includes my thoughts and attractions , are coequal with God, that my pre-existent state, my current mortal state, and my post-mortal state will still include the fundamental essence of who I am…

2. This is not just a mortal “trial” to endure…

3. Enjoying my attractions for what they are (and even taking in the view) is inherently good and not immoral or evil…

4. God truly understands all this…

5. God has a sense of humor and is willing to chuckle with me, not at me, about the ironic situation I’m in and the juxtaposition of such thoughts flowing in my mind of wanting to consume a good looking guy while meditating about the temple film about the “forbidden fruit” (which in and of itself is a bit humorous) in His house…

6. God loves me precisely for who I am…

7. All this brings pure peace and quiet comfort to my soul… and finally answers a decades-long earnest and sincere prayer of arriving at some kind of self-acceptance and self-awareness…

If all of this is true, because it came personally and profoundly to me from Him…

Then how do I justify these self-evident truths with those that are professed by the Brethren to be polar opposite as the real truth, that…

1. My attractions are not eternal or immortal, but are just for this life…

2. This is just an earthly trial for me to struggle with or at least deal with…

3. Taking joy in anything related to my attractions is evil and wrong and should be overcome…

4. God understands but can never accept imperfection as perfection…

5. Such thoughts could not have come from inspiration from God, especially not in His house…

6. God loves me, it is true, but desires me to rise above this temporary situation…

7. Peace comes only from accepting Christ’s atonement in order to overcome this burden…

So, I know I’m slow here, but either one is right or the other is wrong, for both can’t be right as they are opposing views. If truth is eternal and there is only one truth… then which is it?

Am I allowing my thoughts of self-justification, and self-acceptance to get the best of me to the point that I’m willing to feel the need to package it all up in my religious beliefs and imagine such “personal revelation” as truly God-given to justify my “enjoying the view” and embracing my attractions? Have I allowed myself to be convinced of this through others’ misguided philosophies and now find a trial of faith upon me? Or is it the truth and witness of the spirit that whispers to my soul, to the point of audibly hearing the thoughts in my mind and feeling the impressions as being truth, just as I know truth has come to me through many other witnesses of faith and testimony of other Gospel Principles? Or is the opposing point of view, ummm – how shall I say this - not completely accurate?

I have no doubt that I felt the spirit, and the calmness that has lasted with me, with a sense that all will be well, and that God is on my side and is cheering me on, and laughing with me. I do not feel a need to lash out or be bitter or angry or frustrated with the Church. There is no “trial of my faith” going on here. I do not doubt my faith. Ironically, if anything, I feel a reassurance and increased abundance of faith.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I saw, I felt, I knew...


I’m uneasy about sharing this experience, but I want to record it for my sake in order to not forget, and maybe doing so here, may help others who may read this. But, what do I know… I think in reality it just makes me out to be a pretty messed up man that doesn’t know what he wants as he continues to play the game of acting – acting the straight-arrow, straight-active, straight-loving, normal card-carrying guy. Maybe I'm just full of it... Or, maybe I’m on the road of acceptance and understanding a bit by bit – line upon line...

The other evening I found myself in the temple. I was there to be with a dear friend who was participating in temple ordinances for the first time. My thoughts were centered on her and the goodness and joyfulness of the occasion. And then…
I walked into the endowment room and there sat in the row directly in front of me was the most beautiful, cute, innocent-looking, gorgeous guy I’ve seen in a long time. He made me quiver all over as I sat quietly and reverently. At first I scolded myself for even having this mini-attraction reaction. I closed my eyes as if I were in the motions of meditation and prayer (which I was) and started talking to myself inside my head…

“What do you think you’re doing?” I exclaimed with a bit of perturbed attitude.

“I just looked at him! Did you see him? Didn’t you notice how gorgeously cute he is?” I countered.

“Yeah, I saw him… and he’s a looker all right, but for heaven’s sake, get a grip on yourself! You’re in the temple! Concentrate on why you’re here!“

“I know, I know…” I muttered out loud as I kept my eyes shut and head hung.

“It’s not like you’re ever going to see him again, so get over it and focus…"

“Focus… right!”

I opened my eyes and looked forward toward the presentation. But as I did, I couldn’t help but notice him again – after all, he was sitting right in front of me.

“You’re focusing on the wrong thing!” I said to myself.

“I know… I’m sorry. But I can’t help it. His cuteness is sitting right in front of me.”

“You’re a basketcase! Totally hopeless…”

I closed my eyes again and breathed heavily and tried again to concentrate on why I was sitting in that room.

“No you’re not hopeless,” a calm voice came over me. This time it wasn’t me talking to myself. It was another voice, maybe it was more of an idea, or thought, but nonetheless, words were tangible and I “heard” the message.

All at once, I was overcome with the desire to look and behold. I started studying his hazel eyes, the line of his young sideburns and the way the hairline at the back of his neck was cut square and true; the spikiness of his blondish brown short cropped hair, the glow in his smooth face – he radiated with a cute innocence with a strong sense of wonderment, awe, and total confusion. I noticed that it was his first time – recognizing the colored tag pinned to his white shirt, and how his father was sitting next to him trying to reassure him and comfort him and give him encouraging whispers and tender touches of the occasional shoulder squeeze. He was a new pre-missionary for sure, preparing to go preach the good word for sure.

“It’s okay to look,” the voice said. “I understand.”

“You do?” I questioned. “You heard me thinking?”

“Of course I do.“

At that moment the lights went out and the film presentation began. I was confused. But a real strong sense of calm and peace came over me. As I thought of the pre-existence and the creation, of being a spirit child and even an intelligence before that, I kept pondering on the fact that we are co-equal in our existence with God. The essence of who I am – that fundamental essence of my thoughts and my being ME – has always existed. It wasn’t created. I am ME!


My mind raced to my recent study of Joseph’s sermon at King Follet’s funeral… that:

1. The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is coequal with God himself.

2. The intelligence of spirits had no beginning; neither will it have an end.

3. God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.

I was overcome with the feeling that the Father really does know me, and loves me for who I am, INCLUDING my attractions that are an integral part of who I am.
I started feeling a bit giddy. When the lights came up, I looked at the young missionary again and started feeling compassion for him, and empathy as I noticed his endearing confusion and questioning brow of what was going on. I, too, was there one day long ago. I, too, didn’t understand – and still don’t. But, as I looked this time – all of the feelings of guilt and shame were gone from inside me. I looked at him and felt his goodness and glory radiating. He was delicious. I had this overwhelming sensation and image of wanting to swallow him whole and consume every bit of him and feel of his spirit and innocence and excitement and sparkle.

“That is good,” the voice whispered.

I started laughing a bit. I was happy. I was sitting here in the Lord’s house, and I was having this amazing discussion of thoughts in my soul regarding my spirit and my desires and attractions, while studying this amazing young guy and wanting to consume him and taste of his goodness and beauty, all while feeling so at peace about it all.

I pondered how for the first time I felt that God personally knows and loves me for who I am even with or even because of these thoughts of attraction going on. I have always been this way. And it’s okay! All the pent up emotions of guilt and shame and disgust inside me flowed out of me. I was free of shame for being so oriented in my attractions. I was overcome with peace and tears swelled up in my eyes. Thank goodness the lights went out again and I was able to sit in the darkness again and gain my composure.

In the Celestial Room, I continued to observe him with his family now encircling him in love with hugs and squeezes of support. His eyes still were so cutely confused. I learned that indeed he was a newly called missionary and that he was going soon to Norway on his mission. I wanted to reach out and shake his hand and congratulate him or say something, but then my friends came into the room, and that opportunity passed.

As I focused on my friend, I hugged her and saw her confused but radiant expression, I brought her ear close to me and whispered: “Line upon line, precept upon precept”. She knew what I meant and smiled.

“But there were no angelic visitations,” she sarcastically replied.

“All in time…” I responded, and then added, “As I look at you, I see an angelic visitation.”

She beamed with delightfulness and holiness.

She wasn’t the only angelic visitation that I saw, felt and knew that evening. I saw an angelic young man that was delicious to devour. I felt a peace and comfort from a voice inside me, and I knew that God personally knows me, is co-equal with me, and loves me.

If He knows me, if I am co-equal with Him, and if He loves me AS I AM, then the same thing applies to you, too!

Now I need to go tell my wife...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

One note short of a full chord...



Listen to who I am (JonJon) wrote:

“I think members of your tribe also allow you to be your true authentic self in a way that allows your true authentic self to emerge. They don't hold on to expectations of what they want you to be or what you have been in the past. They treat each interaction with you as an opportunity to know who you are in that moment, instead of allowing past perceptions to distort how they treat you in that moment.

“Interactions with members of your tribe aren't limited to two roles interacting with each other, or two people trying to be what they think the other person expects/wants them to be. All of that is stripped away and it's soul to soul. Do you ever feel in life like you are merely an actor playing a part? Did you know that it doesn't necessarily need to be that way? Did you know you can show up as yourself and that when you do, it makes it easier to find members of your tribe?


“Of course, the scary part is that in order to find your tribe, you have to allow yourself to be known. As you are. No roles to cling to. Mother, father, son, daughter, academic, Mormon, disaffected Mormon, homosexual, leader, follower, clown, skeptic, insert job title. All those roles have to be stripped away to leave just you. Naked. Vulnerable. Ready to be known.

“When you do that though, when you strip away the roles and allow yourself to be known, you find members of your tribe and you experience a two way flow of love and energy that is beautiful and nourishing and healthy and sustainable. It's truly transformative.”



I really like this. I call it soul-to-soul, or spirit-to-spirit communication. I like the word “connect”. It is a real, and dare I say “authentic” connection between two people. I’ve experienced this numerous times. It is life-altering when those connections are made. I’ve never termed it “finding your tribe” before, but I like it. We are all different, and yet it doesn’t matter when we are “ready to be known”. Those differences or unique aspects of who we are shine forth and be just are! And tribal connections are made.

This tribal connection has happened with me when I am naked, vulnerable and willing to truly be myself. I truly love being naked! I love my vulnerability. I love my true self. I love who I am. So, why then, do I spend 90% of my life acting? Why am I entrenched in a role-play?

I am a huge role-player. I am currently playing the role of heterosexual husband, father, family member. I am playing the role of church priesthood leader, example, teacher. What’s funny is when I stop pretending to be who I am supposed to be and just be myself, I do better with others, I feel less anxiety, and I am able to connect with others. I feel more "tribal".

The other day I had an ad-hoc spontaneous discussion in the hallway at church with a few sisters. I love music and find music one of the ways to strip it all away and be naked and vulnerable and ready to be known. One of them had played a beautiful piano solo that had an interesting way of playing incomplete chords… like you’re expecting the full chord, but it came up one note short. I pointed out to these sisters how I loved that in the piece… how beautiful it was to not be a complete chord, but to be one note short of a complete expected chord. The beauty was in the incompleteness, the naturalness and intentness on not being a perfect chord.

One sister piped up: “It sounds like you, Brother B”.

I replied: “In what way?”

She answered without any hesitation: “Well, you’re unique. You’re atypical. You’re not like everyone else. You’re one note short of a full chord. And we love you that way!”

We embraced and I teared up for a moment. As I struggle to come to terms with my “differences” and “uniquenesses” it hit me that they love me BECAUSE of those things, not DESPITE those things. And I love them for the same reasons!

I know I’m a bit quirky, whacked, and yes, even touched. I’m different! I accept that. I told them that I had been accused of being “one taco short of a combination plate” but never “one note short of a full chord”. We all laughed.

And yet, I’ve gone back to that concept and appreciated that input. They love me FOR my uniqueness, FOR my being atypical, FOR not being “like” everyone else. Maybe I’m not as good of an actor as I thought I was. Maybe I am more vulnerable and naked and real. But at times, I feel like I have to play the full chord, that it would be wrong, or imperfect, or incorrect or inappropriate to leave that last note off. And yet the beauty comes with not playing that last note.

Wouldn’t it be sad if we were all perfect role-players, perfect actors, full chords? Isn’t the joy in our connections with each other coming from our uniquenesses, our differences, our challenges?

When I am natural and stripped of my roles (and boy are there plenty of roles to be played!), when I just am, I feel available to reach out, to express myself spirit-to-spirit, soul-to-soul, and risk it all – and therefore, be free to love. I want to extend myself, embrace others, touch, feel, vibrate, connect, love. And that is when I feel confident and assured, at peace, strengthened, enlarged, compassionate, passionate, sensitive. I feel happy with who I am when I am this way. I am not acting, or being, or living up to expectations.

I just am. I am ready to be part of a tribe. And I connect.

I actually connect quite easily – when I allow myself to do so. I thrive on it, seek it, and thirst for it.

But why, then, am I allowing myself to be so thirsty? Why do I deprive myself of my tribe? Why am I so willingly playing in this never-ending role-play of life? Why am I content to act instead of just be? Why do I feel compelled to finish the chord and play that last note?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Dear Wyatt:


A letter to Wyatt (and anyone else who has "moved on"):

Dear WYATT:

Why are you still here? Why are you still caring about me? Why haven't you moved on? Why do you keep hanging around? Why can't you give it up and leave behind the angsty Beck?

We've been "together" following each other for 4-1/2 years now! Can you believe it? It's been that long - spring of 2006. It's incredible to look back at all that has happened in those years, especially for you... You've changed! You've moved on! You've chosen a different path. And you've blossomed and bloomed into a different creature.

I remember the "Elbow" of over four years ago who wrote of his love for the church, his love for the Gospel, his all-encompassing love for his wife. I remember how you expressed those loves with amazing passion and incredible intensity and unfailing firmness and absolute assurance.

You've been able to put the church, and your marriage, and the Gospel, and your past all behind you as you've branched out in a completely different direction. I know it wasn't easy, but I watched you do it with great envy and awe.

I commend you for facing your fear, and congratulate you for not avoiding your true self, for seeking your true "vibrations" (as you so fondly and uniquely use that word).

Why I'm focusing on this particular series of posts of mine on my blog right now is because it was a natural extension of the exploratory process of a form of yearly self-evaluation and part of that is how the church has affected my life, where it is the "evil church" that has gotten me into this situation of being in a MOM in the first place; it is the "evil church" that has kept me hidden from my true self, ashamed and fearful of who I am and who I am attracted to.

So, as a natural evolution of the previous posts, I decided to spell out for myself the role that the "evil church" has played in my life. That's where this recent discussion came from.

I'm not really placing blame here or not taking responsibility for my own actions. The "evil church" did not MAKE me have difficulties in my youth. Nor did it MAKE me get married. Nor did it MAKE me do any of the things I've done. But, my fundamental beliefs did. Yes, I have done them willingly, but maybe naively and ignorantly.

Whether you accept this or not, the church has and continues to influence my thoughts and feelings in profound ways (and that includes both the good and the bad - the results being "mixed") and thus, it has influenced my actions, or even lack of action...

And yes, avoiding the truth of myself, and facing myself. Maybe I'm really afraid of being me. I am afraid! Maybe it's just easier to AVOID it all.


You're right. I'm not Super Gay Mormon Boy! I'm still avoiding... I'd rather stay in my comfort zone of marriage, family, job, and yes, church, than discover the real me. I'd rather sit here and angst over the "what ifs" and linger in the past of the possibilities of what would have happened if I ran off with Thomas before either of us made the "awful mistake" of marrying women. I'd rather live in the drama, and enjoy the wonder of what it would be like to be "gay" then just being ME and letting what happens happen... I'd rather speculate what my needs are as a closeted gay man than face the reality of being one. You're right! I'm a no-good coward! I refuse to leave my closet. I'd rather live in the shadows. I'm more comfortable bemoaning the "poor me" syndrome of self-pity than self-embracing the honest truth.

But again, I have to ask you: why do you care about me anyway? Why are you still here checking up on delusional never-authentic, always-avoiding Beck? Why are you still here? If you've moved on, why are you still looking back and reaching out for me lagging behind you?

Don't get me wrong! I love you! And I love that you DO CARE enough to keep staying and reading and sharing and commenting and trying to influence me for the better, throwing me your wisdom and insights... but I can't help but wonder why?

When is it going to be obvious that I'm not worthy of your time, attention or concern? Because, I'm still here struggling to stay on the path I'm on... I can't run off to the other side of the planet and be a free spirit! At least not right here and now. I can't leave behind the commitments I've made! I'm not ready to leave my marriage, my family, my kids, my job, my religion... if that is avoiding the inevitable, then I guess I'm still avoiding the inevitable. I may be grasping at a false hope... but I still believe.

I still believe in my marriage. I still believe in my family and kids. I still believe in my life as it now is structured. I still believe in my religion. I still have hope. And yet, I now accept that I am gay. I have not embraced my gayness and that is still a source of frustration inside me that keeps me clueless, adolescent, and unrealistic. It keeps me from fully "vibrating" and holds me back from embracing the fulness of my life, but I don't angst over feeling the attractions and accepting them for what they are - amazing, wonderful feelings. Is that hope of somehow finding another way that makes this all work really all that hopeless?

And if so, why do you (any of you, not just Wyatt) care?

Love,

Beck

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Good and the Bad...





WHAT THE "EVIL" CHURCH HAS DONE FOR ME AND HOW IT CONTINUES TO AFFECT ME FOR GOOD AND BAD…

(NOTE: I didn’t say the “Gospel of Jesus Christ”! I have a firm commitment to Christ and his teachings and I have faith in him, believe in his atonement and its real and everlasting influence on me. In this there is little doubt and abundant hope!)

FOR GOOD…

1. Because of the church, I have accepted callings and opportunities to serve that have made me a better person that I would have been otherwise. I have gained leadership skills and put in positions of leadership to reach out and help many that I would not have done without the church’s influence.

2. Because of the church, I have shed much of my shy exterior and become a pretty good public speaker, no longer fearing crowds or addressing the public in presentations. This has benefitted me in numerous ways in my business life and helped me to be a better man in my profession as well.

3. Because of the church, I have discovered my love for teaching and have been able to cultivate that seed planted years ago and have seen those skills of being able to teach grow and grow. I’m not saying I’m God’s gift to teaching, but I’ve been able to be put in many teaching situations, both privately and publicly and have been able to thrive in ways that would be highly unlikely to have happened otherwise.

4. Because of the church, I have become more compassionate and caring. I may have a compassionate spirit, but that fundamental characteristic has blossomed through the church's influence on me. I believe I am a caring person in general, but the church has taught me, trained me and helped me to focus that caring attitude in uniquely personal ways. I have learned to connect with people and love and have a passion for those connections that come by bonding through the church.

5. Because of the church, I served a mission that changed my life, taught me to speak a foreign language fluently, and welded in my soul a bond of unyielding love for a people, a culture, a country, a brotherhood, a home. That missionary service literally brought me out of my shell and helped me to discover who I was and what I could really do.

6. Because of the church,
that brotherhood made me connect to others and feel things and understand things about myself and where I knew I needed to be and who I really was deep down inside. I found my passion and I don’t ever want to lose it. I directly learned to touch and be affectionate and open and unafraid to express myself with the power of touch.

7. Because of the church, I was taught of the spirit and felt God’s influence in my life and recognized it as the miracle it really is.

8. Because of the church, I was taught to pray and communicate with God. I am still learning what that really means, and I know I need a lot more practice before I really understand it.

9. Because of the church, I married my wife because I was “in love” with her, but because the church instructed me that this was the right plan and path to take. I believed that and still do. I have no regrets and feel this was and is a good thing for me.

10. Because of the church, I have created a unique family. My children came into our lives directly because of the church. My family and my children (and all of the subsequent blessings that come with them) literally would not exist without the church in my life.

11. Because of the church, I rediscovered lessons learned in my past and relearned who I really was, and finally came to terms with my attractions as being just that – undeniable attractions for men.

12. Because of the church, I have a testimony of the Plan and the purpose for my life. I have been able to feel the optimism of the future, the hope in the Plan and the assurance of God’s love for each of us. I have a profound HOPE!

FOR BAD…

1. Because of the church, I learned early on that I was different, and that different wasn’t good and that I didn’t belong or fit with the rest of the guys.

2. Because of the church, I learned that “brotherhood” meant if you played basketball then you were welcome in the quorum, if you didn’t then you were expendable. Because I was no good at sports, because I was uncoordinated, had no body mass or muscles, I was of no use.
My self-esteem was shot. It took me a very long time before I learned another meaning of the word “brotherhood” (see above).

3. Because of the church, I learned the power of “expectation” and “obligation”. I became an eagle scout despite hating the program, and being physically abused and harassed in excess by boys in the troop. But you know… boys will be boys.

4. Because of the church, I hid myself and my desires and attractions, even to and especially with myself… to the point that it took me decades of denial and refusal of accepting myself. The church put me in a delayed development of self-awareness. I may have grown in other areas, but I regressed in others.

5. Because of the church, I was a good boy. As a good boy, I didn’t look at porn or think evil thoughts of women – I barely thought of them at all). As a good boy I never ever touched myself… yes, I never masturbated… and I never allowed anyone ever to touch me in that way. This may seem to be a good thing, but it is bad, because it delayed me sexually in exponential ways. No one was more na├»ve on his wedding night than I was. Confusion. Doubt. Pain. It was all there from the beginning and I put that at the feet of the church. It was not intentional, I’m sure, but wanting to be a “perfect boy” in so many ways became a huge negative once marriage was to be consummated. Oh how I wish that I weren’t so perfect.

6. Because of the church, I have been in a perpetual state of adolescent immaturity when it comes to sexuality. And as I became more aware of being “different”, I hid it away and refused to face reality and I regressed and became asexual in many ways that remain with me to this day.


7. Because of the church, I didn’t run off with my first real love… a man that truly loved me. I gave up that chance of potential happiness for something better, right?

8. Because of the church, I married a woman. Yes, I mentioned it as a positive and huge fountain of blessings above, but had I been able to face myself more honestly and not felt so “different” and not made to “fit in” and “do the right thing” and
“be perfect” I probably never should have married. The pain that has come from this reality years later, suffered through each decade by not just me but my wife as well, and all that goes with her self-esteem and self-worth being shot is a huge legacy of what some call “evil”.

9. Because of the church, I still live in the shadows. I cannot come out, not at this time. I’m too intertwined in all the tentacles of the church’s hold on me. I am in higher and higher leadership and deeper and deeper in the commitments. So, I can’t see a way out - not that I’m seeking a way out of the church – but a way out of the darkness and shadows of the closet, a way out of the dishonesty and double life living, a way out of the inauthenticity of self.

10. Because of the church, I still cannot face my wife straight out and with directness and honesty. Though she knows I’m gay, she really doesn’t KNOW me. And I don't let her KNOW the REAL ME. I want to take responsibility for this, but the fear put in my head from the church is always there in my mind. There is a real fear of doing so, being truly honest and authentic with my wife, and everyone else for that matter, and what it might do to our marriage and my association with the church (socially, culturally, emotionally, etc.) that has a hold on me that feels overpowering.

11. Because of the church’s stance on homosexuality, as I come more and more to terms with who I am, I am becoming more and more unsettled and confused by the Brethren. It is causing conflict and doubt that didn’t exist there before. I don’t want doubt. I want assurance.

So where does that put me?

And is the church a bounteous blessing or an evil curse?