Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The game continues...


This game I'm playing seems to get more and more complicated...

I survived Sunday in teaching the youth about "anchors" in our lives, and digging deep and searching for answers, and finding something inside of us that serves as a
"firm foundation" when all else feels like lake bed sands of liquefaction.

I had to dig deep and find something upon which to stand firmly, something I believe in, something real. When I get in these funks where I find nothing but void in the direction of the prophet, I turn to my favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon, Alma 5, and I find a quiet place and slowly read those words addressed to the members of the church who are doubting or unsure, and I find wisdom in the counsel to remember how I felt, to dig deep and recollect the "mighty change" that occurred in my heart, to remember those that came before me and their "mighty changes" as well, and to ask myself: "Am I converted still?" I find wisdom in the teachings of that chapter in avoiding pride and envy, and instead, remembering the poor, the needy, the afflicted, and to remember the process of fasting and prayer to obtain personal revelation... all good stuff. Nothing in this chapter says that because the prophet said so, so be it. Instead, it's search, ponder, seek, help, lift, remember, find your own personal revelation and find again your own "mighty change" of heart.

Though I'm still funking over my disconnect with an ineffectual status-quo prophet (who, as as youth I held in such high esteem, waiting with eager anticipation for the day he would be prophet), I do feel deep inside the ping of remembrance of "change", though I need to dig pretty deep, and it gets harder each time... I need to fill the void.

I have found service is the way that fills my void. Trying to befriend and lift others, offering fellowship and brotherhood in ways that I can... but though that works to fill voids, I still am empty inside. This disconnect of my soul feels like a Carlsbad Cavern of sorts to fill, not a small cave.



And yes, the game continues... Tonight we, the leadership, have an activity with the youth where they are to ask "tough questions" to see if they can stump us (some questions have been written in advance for us to prepare somewhat intelligent responses). The goal is to find enlightenment with the discussion that will follow the tough questions. I hope we can admit that we don't have all the answers. Wouldn't that be a good thing to admit?

And I hope good things will follow... yet, I'm trembling to know how the Bishop or I will answer this question that we received yesterday:

"If the only sin of a gay couple is that they are not married, why would the church be so against gay marriage? Those getting married are only trying to obey the commandments, right?"

This question shows that the incredible youth of the Church today are thinking, questioning things, trying to figure out why the brethren are taking such a stance when logic and reason dictates that wouldn't gay marriage strengthen commitment and help stabilize relationships instead of hurt them? And it's interesting to see that the questioner does not see being gay as a sin as much as not being married is a sin. I find that very interesting and intriguing. In my day (yes, I'm not acting as one of the ancients), this would have been an abomination to even think such a thing, let alone ask it in a church function. These things were not discussed. You were an abomination to even have such thoughts of homosexuality. The closet door for most of us in the 70s was firmly shut and chained and locked with those Harry Potter vault locks, and keys or combinations thrown away forever. Why do you think it took some of us DECADES to come out to ourselves?

He asked me if I would take this one. I said "Sure, but you may not like my answer..." I think he'll end up taking it, but look to me for support. I guess I'm now struggling with the ethical internal battle of whether there should be a difference in what one "personally" believes and holds to be the truth on the matter, verses the "party line". And what changes when one is speaking "for the Church" in front of vulnerable, yet inquisitive and savvy youth, verses speaking "for oneself".

So any thoughts of how to handle this one? What would you do? Should there be a difference in the response based on the role and setting (Think President Hinckley with Larry King regarding similar questions)? Or should there be the personal answer first and foremost?

Oh the balance of playing the game of the one who is anchored, secured, tried and true, who knows all answers, while feeling untethered, unsure, and a bit empty. I'm so tired of hiding, or wearing this facade. I'm tired of being in these positions of authority and feeling such a hypocrite. I don't know how much longer I can play this game...

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beck,
I follow your blog and look forward to reading your posts, but this is the first time I have added a comment. I work with the youth in my ward, and I personally question a lot more of my beliefs than I used to. I am a silent MOHO... nobody in my family or ward know that I struggle with this.

Whenever it is my turn to give the lesson on Sunday, I hope the topic is one that I believe in. I haven't expressed my doubts when teaching, but I sometimes avoid parts of a lesson (or conveniently skip a lesson and let one of the other leaders teach it) if it is a topic where I'm not sure what I believe anymore. I wonder if this is being dishonest, and if I should resign my position instead, but to this point I have not. I also worry about the affect it would have on the boys I have been teaching these past few years if I dropped out and was more vocal in questioning my beliefs.

As for your question, my approach would be to start by saying the church recognizes that some people are more attracted to their own sex than the opposite sex. The reasons aren't known. Church leaders refer to people who feel this way as having "same sex attraction" of SSA, but it is more commonly referred to outside the church as being "gay", "lesbian" or "homosexual". In the past, church leaders encouraged members with SSA feelings to get married to a woman and their feelings would change, but they don't encourage that anymore. The current church policy is that having same sex attractions and feelings is not a sin, but that it is a sin to act on those feelings... to participate in homosexual acts. So a member with SSA can go on a mission, go to the temple, etc, as long as they are not acting on those feelings.

The church has taken a stand against gay marriage. The most visible example was Proposition 8 in California. Personally, if two people are living in a gay relationship and want to make a commitment to each other, it seems reasonable to me to allow them to marry and make that commitment, so I can understand your question, but the current church policy is not to support that.

MoHoHawaii said...

Here's a stab at it: "Thank you for your question. As you all know, the Church's political opposition to gay marriage is well known, but Elder Ballard said during the Prop 8 campaign that no member of the church is required to hold any particular view on this issue and that as a general point the Church never tells its members how to vote. This is true even when the Church makes a political endorsement, as it did in Prop 8. In fact, the Church's position against gay marriage is somewhat controversial among members of the Church and especially among younger members and members who live outside of Utah. My advice on this and all other civic issues agrees with Elder Ballard: you should study the issue and become informed, and then form your own opinion. This is the basis of our political system. Not everyone will reach the same conclusion, and that's fine.

I hope that no matter what your personal view is you'll make sure to treat everyone, including gay people and others who may be different from you, with respect, dignity and love."

naturgesetz said...

I don't recall offhand your position on whether "gay sex" is moral or not. If you think it's okay, then MoHoHawaii's approach might be best. If you think that sexual activity with one of the same sex is wrong, you might want to begin by challenging the premise of the question: "If the only sin of a gay couple is that they are not married …" You can point out that the church does not teach that: the church says that for two men or two women to have sex is sinful (I understand that that is the teaching) and that marriage by its nature is between male and female (I also believe that's what your church says).

Actually, you could use that approach even if you want to end up with MoHoHawaii's answer. I think it's also very important, if you state the church's position on same-sex activity, to be very clear and emphatic that SSA in itself is not a sin.

I hope the bishop lets you answer it.

Perry S., Liberated MOHO said...

I too follow this blog religiously and I say the following with only love and sincerity: This whole thing is ridiculous. Just be who you are and forget about the LDS church. It's just a big lie that has grown into a multinational corporation that has a tight grip on the minds and pocketbooks of it's share holders. Free yourself. And do the hard thing... tell those youth the truth, that being gay is not immoral and that committed gay relationships should be honored and respected just like hetero marriages. It's 2011, come into the light people!!! Stop sitting in the cold darkness of self imposed misery, wringing your hands and gnashing your teeth trying to measure up to the lie that is heralded as the TRUTH. Everybody (every x-wife, every child) will be fine.

Crisco said...

You'll hardly be the first person who disagreed with the Church's political view. Be honest, that's all I can say.
As for your issues with being disappointed with the prophet, I can understand. I didn't watch much of conference this time. I caught some of Sunday's talks, but it doesn't do much for me anymore. There's no great doctrinal development. I miss Maxwell. He have thought provoking talks. I actually fast forwarded through Ballard's talk. I think my wife thought our house would be struck by lightening, but his talk was pretentious and geared more for PR reasons than any doctrinal basis. That's how I felt, but maybe I'm too cynical.
Monson is a really good man, you can tell, but his stories as an apostle talking. We need more from a prophet. I also think cutting down the hours would be nice. 10 hours is a lot to hear regurgitated talks with little new material. We should have conference, but I'm a firm believer in "less is more."

Ned said...

Here's a possible approach...

The church's position on homosexuality continues to evolve. Once just having the feelings was considered an abomination. Now the church says being attracted to others is not a sin, but having gay sex is.

Once the church urged males who were attracted to males to marry a woman and they're be cured. The church no longer recommends this.

The church pushed Prop 8 in California to outlaw gay marriage, but there was tremendous backlash and more recently the church did not oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York.

The church has also supported non-discrimination city ordinances in Salt Lake City and many Utah communities have now adopted such policies. These new policies specifically protect gays.

The church also invited several prominent gay members and former members to last year's Christmas concert at the Conference Center.

All these taken together paint a picture of a church that is changing, progressing and becoming more compassionate.

Decades ago when I was a young man the church also used to prevent black male members from holding the Priesthood. Then a revelation in 1978 removed that policy. I think we may see a revelation on gay marriage at some point.

It's pretty clear that the church is evolving on the topic of gay marriage. The 9th Article of Faith says "We believe all that God has arevealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."

I personally believe that the church will continue to receive revelation on this and other topics and that the church's stance on gay marriage will continue to evolve.

Meanwhile, I totally agree with Elder Ballard's advice that we should all study the issue and become informed, and then form your own opinions. Not everyone will reach the same conclusion, and that's fine.

Matt said...

Hi.

First, clarify what it is about homosexual relationships that the church regards as sinful.

Second, remind the audience that people get married for a lot of reasons--love, taxes, greencards, children, tradition--and are mostly not as an effort toward obeying the commandments.

That takes care of everything that was actually asked.

You might add that for those who both know about the commandments and want to obey them, there are two different relevant commandments: no sex with the same gender, and no sex outside of marriage. Some people believe that it's better to break one commandment than to break two, so gay marriage would be the lesser of two evils. The church is against gay marriage because they believe "one sin is better than two" is a false dilemma; really, zero sin (zero gay sex) is better than one or two sins (gay sex with marriage and gay sex without marriage).

Most people outside the church and many people inside the church don't believe that zero gay sex is a realistic requirement for gay people. The brethren disagree.

Or something. Hugs.

Beck said...

ANON: Thanks for following... I've been much more quiet this year on the blog-front, and really felt like followers had given up on this blog. It's nice to know you're out there.

Sometimes it is hard to teach those things which you are "not sure what you believe anymore". For me it's an internal thing. Most everyone in the ward doesn't know, but I know. And yet my calling puts me in a position where I'm supposed to be rock-solid and firm and anchored and sure. When I don't feel that way inside, it is hard to express it, so I tend to find a way to teach a principle that I do "know" to be true without feeling hypocritical.

Best of luck in your challenges and hopefully you can find ways to not be so anonymous.

MOHOH: The Elder Ballard reminder of searching it out for ourselves and not being required to have a set opinion is good to remember. I stated this last night, and emphasized that even the Brethren have evolved in their feelings and understanding of the issue.

What is hard, however, is speaking as a "representative of the Church' in a youth meeting in the church building where expectations are that the "church position" will be taught, verses "personal feelings or opinions". That's where the dilemma lies. That said, it was pretty easy to say that the issue is evolving and changing even as an "official stance". And it was very easy to say that no person should be shunned or not accepted because of their attractions, and that acceptance and love is the non-evolving principle here.

Ned said...

I agree with this comment made on the church published Mormon.org by a member who clearly feels compassion for gays in the church:

"Mormons understand that some people, including members of the church, are attracted to others of their own gender. While the church does not favor same-sex marriage, it believes our Father in Heaven loves all his children. A church publication entitled "God Loveth His Children" says "Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer, even in the next life." Meanwhile, all of us--gay or straight, older or young, conservative or liberal--can work on being kind and loving to others and ourselves. One of our church leaders, Joseph Wirthlin, put it this way, "The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony."

Beck said...

NATURE: The Bishop took the answer first giving the "church's stance", but he gave the the chance to speak and I was able to emphasize (maybe more passionately than I should have) that it is NO SIN to have attractions for the same sex, that just as heterosexual feelings JUST ARE, that homosexual feelings JUST ARE, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and that a person should not be treated any differently as a friend, as a family member, as a church brother or sister for having such attractions.

The response was good, moreso from the youth than from their leaders and advisors. I really think this upcoming generation doesn't have the hangups of my generation for sure... I find lots of hope in the upcoming generation of the church. It certainly is much less homophobic than my generation... the scars of which I still wear.

I wish I could have stated where I stood on the issue of marriage, but I let the Bishop's word on the church stance remain unchecked... again there is a time and place for personal opinion. I did mention the evolving and moving target and said that they would face further changes in that stance as more understanding comes.

Personally, I feel that it is better for a couple, for society, for the sanctity of families, if gay couples were married, as I see that positive union as being stronger, more stable, and more committed with that ordinance in place.

If I were to be in that situation, I would desire marriage to be part of my relationship as I would want it to be as strong, stable and committed.

I find heterosexual marriages of convenience, tax relief, the quickies under the influence of mind-altering substances, and the quickie divorces that follow as making more of a mockery of the institution than of a committed, loving gay couple.

I wish I said all of that, but the discussion didn't go in that direction and we moved on... there will be another chance, I'm sure as this discussion isn't concluded. It's still evolving.

Beck said...

PERRY S: I'm curious. Why follow this blog? What do you find when you follow my follies and idiocies? Thank you for being out there and supporting my voice in this blogging world - just wondering what attracts you to follow along? I haven't blogged much this year and felt most follower of the past have moved on or died off... What makes you be here? Are you waiting for the train wreck and you can't keep your eyes away from watching? Just curious.

CRISCO: I think you nailed it with your comment that Pres. Monson seems more apostalic verses prophetic. I'm so frustrated and disconnected for that very reason. Am I desiring too much? Expecting too much? I want to feel prophetic leadership, vision, revelation to the hard issues, not just the niceties of generic fluff. Maybe I'm asking for more... but with past prophets, the mantle of the calling could be seen and the change of scope was visible. But not this time. It's been three years and I'm still left for wanting... wanting someone who leads, not delegates the hard stuff to others.

Beck said...

NED: As noted above, I did point out the evolutionary process of thought with the Brethren and told them to be patient as more will certainly come. I have confidence in this next generation, and as they wrestle with the tough issues, this generation has a spirit of acceptance that was unheard of in ours.

MATT: I wish I were able to get into a discussion of celibacy - but it didn't get to that point. I'm still maybe too old-fashioned to believe that "anything goes". I may be too traditional to believe that sex should be within the confines of a committed relationship bound by marriage... thus my pro-gay marriage stance.

Sean said...

Beck,

If you are looking for direction and help, it's good that you are writing and pondering the comments we write, but that isn't as good as spiritual guidance. You've tried praying and reading the scriptures, but have you tried anything else? Have you talked to your wife about what you're going through right now? Have you talked with your bishop? They are there to help you and they are supposed to be the ones who will give you the best advice and guidance.

Doing it on your own will only help you so far. There are times when you need to open up and discuss things with people. One thing that I have learned is that talking to others fosters discussion and leads to greater understanding. I suggest that you try this.

Beck, you're not perfect and nobody is perfect. It's ok to show flaws to people. If they are a true friend, your relationship will blossom and grow. You do not need to put on the mantle of perfection, nobody does. We were not commanded to hide our flaws and pretend to be perfect. We're commanded to become perfect or in other words try to become perfect; there will still be flaws. We cannot become perfect on our own. We have to work with one another (hence the reason you have a spouse, your family, and the Church). Then when we have tried our best and done everything that we can to become perfect, Jesus will do the rest.

Turn to the people you are close to every now and then and I'm sure that it will help you. Don't hide your flaws, because they make you who the are and they are beautiful.

Sean

Beck said...

SEAN: What a joy to see you here! I am so grateful for you.

Yes, I do pray, study, search, seek, fast... and much good and peace and understanding comes.

Yes, I do talk with my wife. Right now, however, is a particular time in our family with other issues and I'm hesitant to dump on her and so, right or wrong, I turn back to the blog.

As for the bishop... well, that's another story. I still haven't felt it the right time to open that door. Call me chicken, short-sighted, or a boob, but I'm not going there right now.

And yes, the Savior is the one rock that I have never lost upon which I still find anchor.

MoHoHawaii said...

I'd love to hear more about the kids' reactions. What made you think that they responded positively to what you had to say?

Beck said...

MOHOH: First of all because they asked the question in the first place, which implied within it an acceptance level of understanding and a compassionate belief that gay marriage is not evil and makes sense.

Second of all, there was a spirit of temperance. The acceptance issue I was bringing up that gay people should not be shunned, and that there is nothing wrong with having attractions for the same sex were completely understood. It was the parents in the rooms who served as "advisors" that were having a bit of a struggle with what I said and that two mothers afterward pulled me aside and commented that acceptance is all good and fine, but they were struggling that the youth would even pose such a question and not get that any gay relationship was "sinning". It was their reaction that made me see the non-reaction from the kids being so much more enlightened with love and compassion. I shrugged off the mothers telling them that I thought it was a very profound and thought-provoking question and that I hoped there would be more discussion in the future and then left them to grumble.

It would have been great to have had you there as exhibit A!

Calvin said...

Great post. I am a first time reader ... first time poster. I enjoyed your post and the dilemma (well, I really didn't "enjoy" the dilemma) you were faced with. I am fascinated by these situations in my life and others. It is good to see how you attacked the situation.

I was even more intrigued by the comments. Fascinating and diverse group of followers!

Your task is over, so maybe I can weigh in the next. Good luck!

Perry S. said...

To Beck: Waiting for the train wreck? Are you serious? Hell no!! I don't wish for that at all. I'm insulted that you would think that. I follow your blog because your story IS my story. We are exactly the same. Same struggles, same family situation, same faith. I'm just further down the path than you. I told the truth and dealt with my "SSA." And now, I'm waiting for an inspiring resolution to your struggles. I'm waiting for triumph. I'm waiting for you to do the hard stuff so that you can find true love and peace and acceptance from your family and your Father in Heaven. I look forward to hearing about how you've rid yourself of the shame and misery of hating yourself because of a biological difference that you didn't choose.

Look, if you put this stuff out there and you open up your blog to comments, you have to expect that not everyone is going to join you in your pity party and some are going to challenge you on things. I'm with you in this struggle. If you wreck the train, that's your choice. I'm just saying life can be happier and lighter and you don't have to compromise who you are at your core. Stop being so cynical towards those who would offer you good feedback from a place of experience. It's unbecoming of a person of so much faith. I hope and pray for only the best for you and your family.

PNWReader said...

Nicely done with the youth. My guess is the parents were just uncomfortable discovering that the Church no longer supports their prejudices. And given that the Church is both a theology and a culture, if you can't distinguish them, that discussion would be very uncomfortable.

The youth, OTOH, are generally sharp enough to recognize whom they can trust with "sensitive" questions. You may find yourself learning more about your ward's youth than you anticipated.

Love reading your blog and am always delighted to find there's been an update.

Chris Janousek said...

A few years ago as I was increasingly losing my faith in orthodox Mormonism, I was still teaching a youth sunday school class. I recall the same tension that I think you were experiencing - trying to tow the official line on the one hand and yet trying to be honest with my level of belief on the other hand. I think that tension resulted in some very doctrinally light lessons and more discussion of history than belief.

I am in a different place now, because I have lost a lot of the guilt and fear that used to be my anchor to the LDS Church. I am OK with uncertainty, with notions that aspects of LDS history are quirky, that some Mormon doctrines are false, and that there probably is no "one true Church on the face of the Earth". The world keeps turning and life still is beautiful and hard at the same time. I still believe in some basics, but they are generic principles that pretty much transcend denominations. My religiosity has eroded, but hopefully my spirituality will grow from here on out.

If I might humbly suggest something, even though I don't know you: Take a step back to breathe and think. Meditate and ponder in your own way, if need be, independent of the formulaic approaches of the Church. Take some time to connect with yourself and a spirituality that you feel comfortable with. That may or may not mesh well with orthodox Mormonism, but in the end you have to own your own spirituality. It needs to be authentic to you.

Beck said...

CALVIN: Thanks for reading and commenting and WELCOME to the bloggosphere community. I apprecaite knowing you are out there.

PERRY: I was being sarcastic and putting myself down in a funny way that OBVIOUSLY didn't go over well. I didn't mean that you were hoping for a train wreck and that's the only reason why you'd be hanging around to watch. Instead, I was beating up on myself as I tend to do (I have a substantially long history of doing so) and was making fun of myself, not you. I hope you understand and I'm sorry for any misgivings.

That said, I'm a slow-to-change, status-quo kind of guy, one who has lived a life devoid of authenticity for so long that I'm not sure who I would be or what I would do if I were authentic, even for a day. I appreciate your following and routing me on.

As for comments of a differing view, I have had a nearly 6 year history of being completely open with my comments and have been more than accepting of those who are not joining the "pity party". I treasure the counter-view (ask MOHO Hawaii) and have come to gain better insights by receiving some challenging words of advice instead of the "poor baby" consoling (though sometimes I appreciate those as well).

I do need stimulus to move on, or move out, or just move, so keep stimulating! Okay?

Beck said...

PNWReader: Yes, there is a bit of truth to your observation that the parents were uncomfortable because of their own biases. It is refreshing to realize the next generation is fair free of those biases and that gives me hope.

Thanks for being a reader and follower, even though I haven't blogged as much as in the past.

CHRIS: I really think I need to find more personal spirituality. I really need to do that. I am so married to the orthodoxy. I am loaded heavy into the leadership and have to toe the line and it's tiring. So, what do you recommend?

Perry S. said...

To Beck:

Oh, Ok. I understand. Thanks for clarifying and sorry if I took a sharp tone. Hang in there, brother. I'll keep reading and praying for the very best for you and yours. But don't get analysis paralysis. Take steps to make your life better. It will be worth it. :)