Monday, May 30, 2011

Temple

Bishop G. made a recommendation to me as we work towards full temple worthiness and mission preparation.  He suggested I go to the temple, touch the walls, and dwell on the grounds for awhile to enjoy the spirit of the area.  Being as that I slept through my alarm and all three blocks of church, I figured I should go to the temple today.

It wasn't a wild, epiphanic experience wherein all of my concerns and misgivings about the Gospel were addressed, nor was it a hugely spiritual experience leaving me in tears of gratitude, but nonetheless, it was a good thing to do.  It was windy and cold today, but the sun was shining and it bounced off the temple walls, bathing the grounds in soft, white light from the temple and bright, yellow light from Helios.  There are all kinds of metaphors there that I don't feel like drawing, but nonetheless, the temple is a beautiful place to sit and think.

I believe that religion is mostly mental.  I think that in general, you don't necessarily need ritual displays of devotion to be a religious person.  I do have a testimony of the ordinances of the Gospel, but still, I feel like pondering on the nature of the Gospel is where I receive the most strength, not in taking the sacrament.

Even so, I have faith in those rituals.  When my bishop recommended I spend time in the shadows of the temple and touch its walls, part of me scoffed a little bit.  Could mere physical proximity help me feel the Spirit?  But mostly, I believed his words.  I believed that by touching the temple, I could feel of its power and its spirit could flow into me a little.

It's the same principle from the New Testament so faithfully exemplified by the woman in the marketplace.

"For she said, if I may but touch his  clothes, I shall be made whole."
Mark 5:28

I still believe that thoughtful meditation is still the primary conduit to personal revelation and truth, but I also know that those physical manifestations of our faith, even beyond our righteous actions, also have power to save and transform us, as they did the woman in the marketplace.  

So even though I didn't feel that shock of transformation when I touched the temple walls, I still plan on making temple "attendance" a regular part of my life.  I'm looking forward to seeing what happens as I do.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Car of the Moment-II

I drove over to the Cadillac dealer today and got lost in the brash, American, flashy, chromed style of it all.  I love Cadillacs.  I love the way they look.  I love the way they float down the road.  I love the space, the acres of leather lining the interior, the raw, technical sound of the Northstar V8s that powered most every Cadillac from the last 20 years.  I love the wreath and crest that either stands proudly on the hood or sits boldly in the grille.  I don't know why, I just love the cars.


As I meandered down the rows of cars, trying on a few driver's seats as I passed, I imagined what I'd do if I had the $60,000 required to get into a nice, classy car.  Would I spend it on a Cadillac?  I pondered and mused this for awhile, until I reached the end of the row.  There, brooding in sangria red, I knew I'd found my answer.


The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon.  The only American station wagon on the marketplace right now, and it also just happens to have a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 yanked from the Corvette ZR-1, along with its 6-speed manual gearbox.  A proper, honest-to-goodness manual transmission.  In a station wagon that has 556 horsepower.  The mind boggles at the possibility of pulling up to a Ferrari F430 and blowing it off the line, all while toting home a weekend's worth of topsoil and lumber.

You can't tell from the tiny pictures, but Crystal Red is so right on this car.  It's almost like red chrome.  It's deep, lustrous, metallic, and bright, but far from the arrest-me-red found on everyone's Corvette.  Combined with the wire-mesh grille and subdued brightwork around the windows, it's a look that oozes style.  This is no Teutonic restraint.  This is no English grace.  This is no Japanese logic.  This is American elegance: a whole lotta badass with a healthy dose of panache thrown in.

I also guarantee that this car will appreciate in value.  In 10 years, when America's aversion to wagons will have made the species long extinct, every red-blooded gearhead will want the only station wagon with a manual transmission and enough power to curve spacetime ever to be produced.  Buy early, you won't regret it.

BMWs are passé; everyone has one.  Lexus makes cars for the uncreative.  Mercedes? Yawn.  Cadillac is the emotional choice, and shouldn't every purchase be emotional on some level?

For your viewing pleasure, the Cadillac's only adversary, Kate Walsh:




Gosh, I could spend a week talking about that ad campaign alone.  A couple women I could go straight for (cough Sofia Vergara cough) and, um, Martin Henderson.  Cough.

Photos courtesy of General Motors.  Videos courtesy of Modernista Boston.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Forgiveness and Stuff

Last night, Toby asked to borrow a tie of mine to wear to a friend's wedding.  Him collecting it was the first time I'd seen him outside of class or off campus since my gay fast.  Two weeks with no contact, no texting, nothing, because I've been mad as hell at him and mad as hell about him.  He was so incredibly rude and predatory last time we hung out that every time I thought about him, I got nervous and panicky and angry.  And yet, I'd still get caught fantasizing about our kisses, about cuddling with him, about him falling asleep in my arms, and then I'd get angry at myself for still wanting that 25% of him that I was attracted to.

He called, asking to borrow the tie. I answered his phone call brusquely, responded to his request impatiently, and said that he could come pick up the tie, but I was going to bed so it better be soon.  He knocked on my door, I handed it off, asked when he'd be done with it, and said good night.
___________________________________

The day after his rude remarks and picture messages, he sent me a few e-mails and texts, apologizing for his hormonal, horny advances to me.  I wrote several replies, but could never send any of them.  I was blinded by rage, but I also know enough to not send e-mails or text messages while angry.  I knew that even though I was angry, he also knew as well and throwing it in his face would do nothing but make me angrier, longer.  So, after a few days, I simply replied, "I was mad as hell at you yesterday, and I was mad as hell at you this morning, but I'm going to let it go."

I told myself that I needed to cut him out of my life.  All the pity I had for him and his struggle, and the abuse he'd been subjected to as a child, all that had been thrown out the window.  It became easy for me to hate him, even under the pretense of forgiveness.  I resolved to not bring up how mad I was, but he was the enemy, the man who objectified me and counted me for nothing.  He was the guy who led me on, let me get emotional, and then left me wanting. I hated him for that.

Then, this morning, I was thinking about him again.  I thought about the conversation we had a few weeks before our falling-out.  We talked about our friendship, about how sorry he was for abusing me and taking me for granted, and about how bad he felt for bringing me down.  I too admitted that I had been a bad friend.  I told him, "I just want you to know that I love you.  You are a strong person and I love you and I'm rooting for your happiness."  I told him I meant it in a general, humanistic sense; I had a lot of brotherly love for him.  He acknowledged that and said, "GMP, I have no doubt in my mind that you love me.  You're a good friend and you've never let me forget how much you care."

So this morning, I was thinking about Toby and getting angrier and angrier.  And then I realized, anger and that love I said I had for him were mutually exclusive emotions.  I had to choose one and let the other go, and I decided to choose love, because I believe that no matter what happens, you can't undo the feelings you've had for someone.  No matter how awful he is (at least in the machinations of my brain), I love him and care so much about his happiness.

My hatred won't help him (or me) succeed, so I'm done being mad at him, done reacting coldly and cruelly, done being upset every time he walks in a room.  By no means am I ready to spend time with him again, but I'm at least going to start rooting for him.  Because I do love him.  I empathize so much with his struggles, both with homosexuality and with the abuse he felt as a child.  I have faith in him to do the right thing and I want to see him succeed by whatever yardstick he measures against.  I know he'll rise to the occasion and do what he needs to do to be happy and I can't wait to watch it happen.  But, I can't be the one to pull him up.  I'm not strong enough right now to be that person that will encourage him to be the best Toby he can be.

So, for now, I'll just be rooting from the sidelines and maybe someday, after we've both grown, we'll be able to be closer friends again.  Or maybe I'll just always be his anonymous fan.  Either way, I'm choosing love.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happiness is...

... a beautiful, sunny day after a few days of constant, heavy drizzle.

... a peanut butter and honey sandwich and Cool Mint Oreos with milk.

... a Spanish class full of poetry and music, instead of conjugations and parts of speech.

... new headlamp bulbs for the BMW (I told you I'm a car-geek).

... gossiping over late-night Taco Bell with friends.

... Stranger Than Fiction till 2 am.

... your arm going to sleep because your friend is snuggling with you and she's cutting off your circulation.

... skipping two classes to go home and sleep (oops.)

... helping a buddy and his wife move into town and catching up for a few hours.

... feeling sore the next morning because moving your buddy's couches and beds was a really great upper-body workout.

... seeing your housemate giggle and turn red like a schoolgirl when you ask him about his new girlfriend.

... letting yourself say the occasional swear word, even if it's completely unnecessary.

... falling asleep in the sun and waking up with a pink face and arms.

... coming home to a clean room because your roommate decided to do your laundry.

... sleeping in freshly-laundered bedclothes.

... jumping down the stairs on campus because it's more fun than walking.

... feeling someone's warm breath on your skin and hand on your chest as she snuggles close to you on the couch.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Heavens above! sex without love...

One virtual silver dollar for whomever gets the title reference.  Also, a caveat.  This is a really bipolar post.  I feel like I need to qualify it a little by saying that I still want to someday be attracted to and marry a woman, even though right now my desires bely that "someday."

Today I had another chat with my sister on the phone.  We talked a lot about a lot of things, like the proper way to choose a ripe avocado, the crazy-ass mindscrew that is Lady Gaga (I still love 'er), and the personal hells that are my Spanish class and her up-and-coming move to another part of the country.  We talked about her kids, my nieces and nephew, and what they were doing with their truncated summer before they move.  We made some plans to caravan home together when she drives back to our home state from a place she'll be visiting that's pretty close to where I live now.  (Writing a blog without personal details is wordy.  Also, I wish I could tell you where our home state is, because it's just about the happiest place in the world.)

But, of course, it wouldn't be a conversation with my sister without a visit to Gaytown, USA, population: me (my real home state, haha).  My sister is a rock when it comes to any struggle I face, whether it be school, girls, boys, roommates, just about anything, so of course I told her about how I unintentionally outed myself.  I thought that she read my blog so I figured she already knew, but apparently I never gave her the link, so she had no idea it existed.  I told her the whole story and we talked a little bit about it.  And like a big sister, she was super supportive and very excited for my newly-deepened friendship.

And I told her about mine and Toby's kiss a few weeks ago.  I hadn't told her before today, but not for any reason other than not really wanting to talk about it. But I felt like if she was going to read my blog, she should hear the bigger news from me first.  And I told her about the picture message he sent later that weekend and some of the awful, incredibly offensive things he said to me later that night, and like a big sister, she was up in arms, haha.  She was so mad, way angrier than I was in the moment.  That solidarity is why I tell my sister these things.

Anyway, after story time we had a pretty frank discussion about sex, since that was the crux of my relationship with Toby according to him.  She told me how she felt about sex, including the damage and the repair that it can be for a relationship.  I've already discussed my feelings on the matter of sex without love, but we talked for a good long time about it anyway.  I appreciated her advice, which was to never use sex as something that will get you where you want to be in a relationship.  I'm paraphrasing, but she said that sex is not a vehicle or a means to an end; it should be a culmination, an "end" to a relationship.  It should be the capstone that completes an already-developed relationship, whether that relationship is straight or gay.

The reason we talked about it is because she was asking what it was about such an obviously predatory individual like Toby that attracted me.  I told her that when he's on, he's really on.  He is a very attractive person from a physical standpoint, but he also has the potential to be very sensitive and real.  The 25% of the time that he's charming and sweet and kind sometimes makes up for the 75% that he's a real jerk, at least in my enamored mind.  Her warning to me (that I already understand, but appreciate hearing again anyway) was that giving someone sex will never get you that 75%.  For a emotional person like me, sex should only be shared with a person who already makes you feel 100%, 100% of the time.  I love that sentiment so much.

I'd imagine from my virgin mind that sex can be so romantic if it's done right.  It can be awkward, dirty, kinky, rough, and whatever else, but I feel like if the right motivation is behind it, it's still ultimately an expression of romance rather than desire.  And now I wait for that aforementioned "someday" to happen.

Rima XXIII

Por una mirada, un mundo;
Por una sonrisa, un cielo;
Por un beso... yo no sé
qué te diera por un beso.
     -Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

I can't wait to share this poem with someone I love.  Spanish, you've won my heart again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Outed!

Well, I should have known this would happen.  Last night, my friend Amber texted me, asking me to have dinner with her.  She's the same Amber from the blog I linked to a few weeks ago.  In that post, I tried to be as ambiguous as possible with personal details, knowing that she would maybe notice the referring URL and look at my post to see who was linking to her.  What I didn't realize was that she would also probably read the rest of my blog, which apparently is peppered with details about me that someone who knows me well might be able to infer.

In any case, she invited me to dinner with her.  I figured it would be me and her husband, as the three of us are good friends (not casual acquaintances as I said a few weeks ago), but when she told me that Lucas wouldn't be joining us, I got a little bit nervous.  I texted him, joking about how I was taking his wife on a date and he laughed it off, warning me that I best have her home by midnight since it was a school night.  Still, my mind was racing about what she could possibly want to say to me during dinner.  I thought that maybe she just wanted to catch up, two old friends.  I wondered if she was going to try to set me up with one of her single friends.  And I also thought that maybe she was going to ask if I was gay.

We got to the restaurant and got ourselves seated.  She wasn't wearing her ring, a peculiarity I pointed out with a mock suspicious eye.  She laughed and our hostess must have thought we were crazy!  A handsome single man with a pretty married woman who just "happened" to forget to wear her wedding ring!  Well, after we exchanged a little small talk and conversed about school, Lucas, church, her family, etc., she asked me, point blank, "Are you GMP?"

I knew she knew, but still, I said, "Am I what?" as if that would throw her off the scent a little.  She repeated her question with a casual eye that said, "C'mon, dude.  Give it up."  I smiled through the shock and said, "Yep.  I am."

She told me that she had no intention of ever finding out who GMP was.  She just said that as she read, she was hit with smatterings of the familiar.  Stories I shared that had details that she thought she recognized.  Little personal details (and one huge oversight on my part) that all added up to my identity.  She apologized profusely, but said that she wasn't sorry she found out who I am, because she felt like it would open an avenue of conversation that I'm missing where I currently live.  I began to question her about how she found out and what she meant by not being sorry and she started to tell me, but decided she should just let a letter she wrote do the talking.

She pulled three sheets of paper from her purse and handed them to me, saying that if she tried to tell me out loud she might start crying.  I began reading.

She started out by apologizing again for finding out.  She said she knew that the point of this blog wasn't to out me and that she felt bad that she knew, but also wanted to be a support to me now that she understood a little more about me.  She said she was grateful for her knowledge because it increased her faith that a person like me could still be so strong (not sure if I believe that).  She likened my struggle with homosexuality with Lucas' and her trial with losing their daughter Molly.  "It sounded like, in many of your posts, like you are awaiting the Second Coming with as much hope as I am," she said.  "For you it's probably for understanding, possibly relief, answers, and an ability to know how all this will bring you the joy the Lord has promised.  For me, it is the ability to be with my daughter again."  She then finished her letter by expressing that she and Lucas don't care that I happen to be gay; they still are my friends and this part of me doesn't affect that.  She invited me about a hundred times to come over for dinner sometime and said that their house is a great place to just hang out and be myself whenever I want, and then she closed her letter.

After I finished reading, we started talking about Molly and what a trial of faith it was for Amber and Lucas.  I asked her how she and Lucas kept from asking why it had to be that way, like I often do with regard to my homosexuality.  She told me simply that the Spirit when she held Molly was too strong for her to see Molly's short life as anything but a blessing.  She expressed that she was too grateful for the few hours that she had with Molly to be bitter about the hours that she may have lost in this life.  And she also said that having Molly for those few hours changed her perspective such that she knew that after Christ comes again she'd be able to raise Molly and be with her for eternity.  She said that she never makes a choice without first thinking of Molly and how that choice will affect her as an eternal mother.

Can you tell how floored I am by this girl's faith? I feel like I'm so far from being there with my own.  But that's what progress is, I guess.  Taking something you suck at and getting better.

After that, she posed a few questions to me.  I'll answer them here as well.

She asked me about Toby, not to learn his real identity, but just the nature of our relationship, etc.  I told her how we met through mutual friends and then became friends ourselves.  Then I told her about how we both told each other that we were gay; he was really upset one night and confided in me about his struggles.  I told him about me because I figured we could help each other up, before I realized that he had no intention of changing his actions, at least for the time being.  I told Amber about how I got attached to him through our conversations, and then our conversations turned into cuddle sessions, which culminated in one amazing makeout, which I'm slightly proud of because I initiated it.  I, the milquetoast and timid GMP, initiated a makeout.

To this day I have a hard time feeling sorry I kissed him. Even though it made me more attached to him and made him more aggressive and forward towards me, I did something I never thought I'd have the courage to do.  It felt really good to have a mutual and reciprocated attraction, even if it was mostly physical on his end.  But finally, I realized that he was never going to satisfy that emotional need I had and I started limiting my exposure to him.  She asked about our future; I told her that until he is ready to respect me and my feelings, I will never pursue anything "gay" with him, and conversely, until we're ready to repent and be better, I will never pursue a supportive friendship with him.  Our relationship was a one-way street and I don't care to relive that, even though sometimes I still feel pretty hung up on him.

She then asked a little bit about my future and what I saw for myself.  I told her that I hoped for one of a few things.  One, I hoped that eventually I'd have enough faith in Jesus Christ to live a purposeful and fulfilling life, even if I didn't have a wife or whatever.  Two, I hoped that something would hit me in the head and tell me that in spite of my testimony of the LDS church and Jesus' Gospel, the Church was wrong and I could feel comfortable living a gay lifestyle.  Three, I hoped that somehow homosexuality and the Church could find a reconciliation and I could live as an active, openly gay LDS man.  Obviously, those are wild and fantastic conjectures, and the latter two I'm positive will never happen.

She then told me something that kind of surprised me.  She said that someday, she hopes that I'll be able to be more open to people in the Church.  I know she wasn't talking about acting on my gay tendencies, but instead she was talking about how she hopes that latent homosexuality and same-gender attraction will someday cease to label people like me as sinners, as it sometimes happens now.  In her letter she wrote, "Today, as I walked around campus I imagined that people could be loving enough to know what you struggle with and not judge.  I wish you could be open and honest about it and people would understand that it is who you are but that doesn't make you any less righteous or Christ-like."  What a kind and probably-too-generous sentiment to make.  But it echoed my feelings well.

It's why I started this blog.  I didn't start writing for other gay people; I started writing because I felt like I should try and make people more aware that those of us who are Mormon and gay are just as capable of trying to live Christlike lives as anyone else.  My actions right now are far from Christlike, but I'm "try[ing] a little harder to be a little better," just like all of us.

Amber offered many, many words of encouragement to me, including these:  "I know that it is not a punishment.  It is the Lord's way of saying, 'I trust you.  You are strong.  Show me what you're made of.'"  I fully admit that I have a hard time believing that right now, but I also know that I want to believe. My faith in His plan is smaller than it should be, but I want it to grow and every day, in spite of my mistakes and setbacks, I try to make the choices that will help me become more Christlike.  One last thought:  Amber told me that the days I make mistakes do not negate the days I choose Christ over my physical desires.  Obviously, I can't enter into the kingdom of God being unclean, but even so, she said that Jesus counts the days I make good choices, too.  Again, I want to believe that, and I'm trying to live in such a way that someday, maybe I will believe that.

While I will now be going through my posts and editing out personal information, I'm glad she outed me a little bit.  It felt so good to be real with another person, a person I know won't judge me and a person who, unlike Toby, will try and bring me up.

Especially since, through the letter and the tears and the deep conversation and the missing wedding ring, people around us probably thought she was breaking off an affair, haha.

Dear Fiat,

Dear Fiat,

Please stop making the Fiat 500C.  I don't need anyone else questioning my sexuality when I tell them how much I love it.

Kisses,

GMP

Seriously, how cute is this thing?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Power of a Good Support System

I've mentioned time and time again how amazing and supportive my family is with regard to who I am and what I deal with in my day to day life, but my support network goes so much farther than that.

Yesterday, after church, I got to let another person into that aforementioned inner circle when I sat down to speak with my new bishop, Bishop G.  He had issued me a couple callings the month before, at which time I told him that I wanted to go on a mission soon and felt like I was ready to put in my papers.  He advised me to make an appointment for the next Tuesday and we could talk about it.  I forgot to do so for awhile, then I tried to make the appointment several times, but our schedules never meshed.  Finally, he asked me to meet him after ward choir (my new calling; expect entries to be forthcoming), and I agreed.

However, I was reluctant to go to the meeting.  Without getting into too much detail, I slipped up a few times in the last week with regard to pornography.  I was dreading telling him that, after 6 months of worthiness, I fell back into an old habit.  Still, I knew that I needed to tell him and be completely honest, so that when I do finally get my shit together and serve a mission (can I say those words in the same sentence?), I can do it completely worthily.  During the sacrament and throughout the day, I prayed that the Lord would help me be completely honest with Bishop G. and that I'd have the courage to do what is right for once this week.

Bishop's friendly, good-ol'-boy smile greeted me as I sat down.  He asked how choir went, congratulated me on my new calling as a priesthood instructor, and began lauding praise on how committed I was to my callings, to my family home evening group, and to my home teaching.  With each additional layer of laud, my heart sunk deeper and deeper into my chest, dreading the moment I'd hack away his respect for me.

Finally, he said, "Now, last time we met, you mentioned you wanted to start your papers.  Shall we get started?"

I interrupted him and told him how I'd been feeling in the last few days and what I'd done.

His expression didn't change.  He maintained his sincere smile.  His eyes kept their gaze into mine.  He said, "Okay, well, let's get that taken care of and we'll get the mission papers in a little later."

Like any good bishop, he began to pry a little into the nature of the pornography.  Was it illegal?  (No.)  Did it involve children?  (No.)  Did it involve members of the same gender in homosexual activities?  (Yes.)  <Pause>  Did it involve men?  (Yes.)

Again, his lightheartedness didn't subside, even in the face of the gravity of my last statement.  He looked at me and asked me if I regularly experienced those feelings of attraction to men.  I confirmed that I did.  Now, he looked at me with even more love than before.

He said that I felt those things because I was destined for greatness.  He confirmed, once again, my faithfulness in my callings and my willingness to serve.  He told me that, although they were bad habits, pornography and masturbation did not define my church membership or my worthiness as a son of God. He chastised me to remove those bad influences from my life immediately, but that they did not overpower my good qualities and could never overpower God's love for me as His son.

We talked for a long time.  He empathized with my plight.  He told me frankly that my life might never get much easier and the feelings of homosexual attraction might never fade.  He even acknowledged that I might never get married in this life.  And yet, his advice never came off as negative.  It was realistic, full of hope that someday things might change, but even more full of hope that no matter what happens, I will come out conqueror if I do what's right.

We set some great short-term goals for taking the sacrament and getting my expired temple recommend back, and our meeting was over.

What I can't adequately describe is the feeling of love my bishop instilled in me. I've had bishops in the past who could lecture for hours on the psychological causes of same-gender attraction, but might never really understand how it makes me feel.  I've had other bishops who advise that a mission might not be the best choice for a person in my situation.  I had a bishop who was a great motivator, but often did it by stern admonishment and chastisement.  All of these have been effective tools that my bishops have used and all of my bishops have inspired new ideas and powerful insights.  But sometimes confidence and love were absent in those admonitions, lectures, and bits of advice.

Bishop G. inspired confidence in my ability to serve admirably.  His lack of scientific knowledge was offset by a serious outpouring of love and solidarity.  His calls to repentance, while motivated by my unrighteous actions, were loaded with love and respect.  I left his office in tears, but not tears of fear, sadness, or worry.

I have faith that all of my bishops used methods that were effective and yielded results for me at the time. I also have faith that every single one of them was motivated by love and concern for my well-being. I'm just grateful that at this stage in my life, I have a bishop whose love isn't hidden and whose respect is obvious.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Create

Today in my eternal families class I was reintroduced to Dieter F. Uchtdorf's address to the women of the church regarding creativity.  I know the video is directed mostly at women, but I still really love it.  The combination of rousing music and inspiring images makes me excited and anxious to go do something that hasn't been done before.

I love how President Uchtdorf explains that saying, "I'm not creative," is a fallacy and a short-sell to our divine potential.  As direct spirit descendants of God the Father, we are endowed with a portion of his creativity that, as we "trust and rely upon the Spirit," will increase.

In the spirit of creativity, here's a poem I wrote when I visited my grandparents one cold, snowy weekend.  They live a mile or so away from a train crossing, and the sounds of train horns late at night bring such feelings of nostalgia, reminding me of those nights when I'd fall asleep under a musty old quilt on top of a lumpy old mattress, train horns blasting quietly in the distance.

Train Horns
January 28, 2011

Now I lay me down to sleep,
Off to Dreamland, still and deep.
Silent river, frozen lake,
Softest snow is in the make.

Called back from slumber, briefest pause
In my dreams but ho! no flaws!
5-chimes in distance raise me up
And deeply fill my drowsy cup.

Now back into the land of Nod
I go, but no more have I trod.
For now, aboard a silver train
Go I unto that yawning vein.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Family, Briefly

I am going to preface this post with a great big
I LOVE MY FAMILY
because it cannot be overstated how important they are to me.

Still, like any family, they all have their moments, as do I, wherein we drive each other batty.  In my family, my mom and my sister are the only ones who have been "authorized" to know what I'm going through.  I'm 99% sure my brother knows as well, because we used to live together and that's a hard thing to hide, especially when you shared a computer and one of you used to be addicted to gay porn and sucked at clearing web history.  So, basically, I have a good support system of three people, two of whom I can actually speak to about it.
My sister is a wonderful person.  She was the first person I ever told about being gay.  And lately, most of our conversations have revolved around queer-mo, poor girl.  Regardless, she's been incredibly supportive and relays nothing but love to me whenever we talk.  She's told me on countless occasions that no matter which path I choose, she will always love me and root for my happiness.  That's a comforting thing to hear, especially when you call her with a confession that you're struggling with.

My mom has also been supportive, but she has a much harder time understanding than my sister.  My mom is blessed with a gift of faith.  Ever since she was a girl, she always just believed the Church was true.  She never really doubts or questions its tenets and puts a lot of trust in its teachings as she formulates her own testimony.  She is independent and strong in the Gospel, but she still has lots of faith.  I admire that.  However, it also makes it difficult for her to understand the motivation behind sin.  

My sister, on the other hand, has been to hell and back and now has a great perspective on coming back to church.  She knows what it's like to have to change, even if your body is motivating you to do that which is wrong.  And even though as a straight woman she will never really understand what it's like for me, she still can apply her acquired wisdom to some of my struggles, as the principle is similar.

Last night, when we were talking on the phone, I told my sister about this event that happened last month.  When I got done, I could almost hear her jaw drop from her face.  There was silence on the other line for a few seconds, which was broken when she said, "Who does Mom think she is?"  My sister has a funny sense of humor and she feels like each of the children in the family have had such bitter struggles because Mom needs to learn how to deal with them. 

Each of us kids has struggled with one or a combination of pornography, poor self-image and depression, infidelity, or violation of the law of chastity.  And my sister, in her twisted, hilarious sense of humor, says that we were given to Mom as children because she needed to learn compassion for the sinners and the weak.  I kind of like that thought, that we are a curse to her.  The vindictive part of me thinks that's pretty funny.

Lest you have the wrong idea, my family is incredibly supportive.  My mom, after I told her that I was gay but was still trying to do my best, started researching the subject.  She even read In Quiet Desperation in an effort to learn how to effectively help me or at least support me.  And I feel her prayers for me every day of my life.  I know she is looking out for my happiness the best way she knows how and I appreciate that so deeply.  

We are all muddling through this life, with its struggles and heartaches, the best way we know how and we act upon the knowledge with which we are endowed.  And we all need to make allowances for the weaknesses in others, knowing that not everyone knows what we know.  My mom needs to make so many allowances for me in my doubt and mistrust it's not even funny.  So for me to deny her mercy for her lack of understanding would be the height of ingratitude and selfishness.  

I have five incredibly supportive people who share my blood, and three of them know intimately what is going on for me and what I face.  That solidarity makes me incredibly grateful; I could waste time childishly complaining that my parents don't understand me, but to do so would be to ignore the blessings of support I receive already.

Some Thoughts I've Had This Week

This week, I went on a retreat for a volunteer activity I'm involved in now.  There were your typical getting-to-know-you games, funny confessions of embarrassing moments, a meat-and-cheese sandwich lunch, skits, the whole, Mormon-roadshow nine yards.  It was a really fun day that has me excited to work with the other volunteers for two hours a week.

At the end of the retreat, there was a congregational meeting and spiritual thought given over the power of volunteering and the similarity to the Atonement that service to others has.  It was a pretty good meeting, one that made me feel good for volunteering, but there wasn't anything too earth-shaking or faith-affirming given in the meeting until the very end.  A video about the Atonement was shown, and if I'm honest, it wasn't a video I was really interested in watching.

Lately, spiritual experiences have been very bitter for me.  Part of that is related to my current status as a sinner, but much of it comes from this feeling of abandonment I've felt for the last few weeks. I know that Heavenly Father will never forsake me, and yet, for the last several days, I've felt lonely and depressed.  I've spent some nights checking my phone and my Facebook every three minutes, hoping someone texted or someone sent me a message or a chat.

In any case, the video about the Atonement played.  I experienced every emotion I expected: marvel at the Savior's strength in the Garden, shock and horror at the awful events on Golgotha, joy and peace on Sunday morning, and hope that someday I too can experience that peace in real life.  But after the video, a quote was shown on the screen.  It was taken from an address given by then-Elder Henry B. Eyring:

"Whether or not you choose to always remember Him, He will always remember you."

What a perfect way to end the meeting!  I felt real tears, rather than the rote ones from before, begin to wet my eyes.  I could feel my throat choke up a little bit.  My body's twitching and fidgeting began to subside.  A strangely bitter peace washed over me: bitterness for the lack of reverence I've had lately for my Savior, but peace knowing that He would wait for me to come to Him.

Then, a few days later, at the campus devotional, one of the hymns was, "Master, the Tempest is Raging."  A line in the chorus struck me:  "No waters can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies."

Am I a ship wherein the Master lies?  If so, then nothing can swallow me up.  I fully admit that I have lots and lots of work to do in that regard, but if I strive to be a vessel in which the Lord can dwell, then what need have I to fear?

 Robert C. Oaks, a former member of the Quorum of the Seventy, has this to say on the matter:

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a gospel of fear; rather it is a gospel of joy, peace, and hope."

Amen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Car of the Moment

So, lately, lots of my blogging has been deep, introspective, heavy, and over dense and complicated subjects.  I look at lots of my friends' blogs and see pictures of them fishing, graduation announcements, baby photos, and all kinds of "fun" stuff.  Now, obviously, I can't post pictures of myself or announce my activities, because that would give me away, something I don't want to do.  But, goshdarnit, I'm gonna be lighthearted at the very least.

I love cars.  I love love love them.  Someday, I hope to work in the automotive industry, but I hate math, so engineering's out, and I'm not very good at drawing, so design probably is too.  So it might have to just be a hobby, something to keep me sane after a day at the office or whatever.

Regardless, right now, the objects of my affection are '60s American "compacts."  I saw a 1964 Mercury Comet convertible on eBay a few weeks ago and it had me breaking my piggy bank, looking under couch cushions, and checking my trade-in value on Edmunds to see if there'd be any way I could swing the Buy-It-Now price of $10,500.  She was black with red bucket seats and white top, and a little red pinstripe tattoo running down the side and back of the car.  289 V8, 4-speed manual transmission, unassuming steel wheels with chrome hubcaps.  I could just see myself, cruising over to Sonic, my friends piled in and waiting for those delicious slushes and milkshakes, with some Jack Johnson or Ke$ha playing on the radio (You never know what the mood of the car will be.  Make sure your music's prepared.) (That could totally be a slogan for iTunes).

I'm also totally into Ford Falcons, Chevy Corvairs and Dodge Darts.  Like I said, those older American compacts really have me going.  But then, there will always be a place in my heart for the 1963 Buick Riviera.  Mine would be silver with a black leather interior.  And my garage will always have a small space set apart for when I come across the perfect MG-TC roadster at the perfect price.

This is going to be a regular segment, I think.  Cars are probably the only things that can effectively compete with queer-mo for my attention, so it's only fitting that they get some brainlove too...

Not the exact car, but you get the idea...

Same-Gender Attraction? A Young Adult Mormon Perspective

I was sitting in my class on the family and we were talking about gay marriage.  I was actually really looking forward to the class on Thursday for that reason, even though a few days ago I posted about how much I was dreading it.

We were talking about nature versus nurture and whether or not gays were "born this way."  One girl politely said that she didn't understand how someone would choose a life like that, which to me implied that she didn't think it was a choice, and another girl countered by saying that we all have a choice, a comment which confused me a little.  Did she mean that we all have a choice whether or not to yield to temptation, or that we all had a choice of what we should let tempt us?  I decided to be brave and try to clear the air a little bit.  

I raised my hand and when Brother R. called on me, I said that "my cousin" was an active member of the Church who also was a non-practicing gay and he and I had lots of conversations on the matter.  For simplicity's sake, I'll just tell the story from my point of view, rather than that of "my cousin," as I did in class.

I told them that I never knew a time of my life that I didn't feel attracted to other men, even as a child before those attractions were sexualized at all.  I said that even though I felt occasional attractions to really unique and special girls, I never really felt a whole lot of drive to kiss them or anything, like I did with men, and that those feelings seemed to be prevalent throughout every stage of my life.  I also acknowledged that I know some people who through sexual abuse, curiosity, or other means may have developed homosexual tendencies in life, rather than acquiring them innately.

And yet, I know that no matter the source of the temptation, sin is never justifiable.  Just as a man born with nymphomania directed at women shouldn't use that as an excuse for sleeping around, so should gay people keep their covenants as well.

(For the record, I know there's a lot of back-and-forth happening on this blog.  Some days I feel mad that I can't be gay and some days I feel like I never would want to break my covenants.  Don't point it out, I already know it's going on.)

Regardless, my comment seemed to placate the class a little bit.  The subject moved to the Church's stance on gay marriage.  A few weeks ago, there was an article in Deseret News, a church-owned newspaper, on the leadership of the Church coming out (take that, terminology!) in support of equal rights among partnered gays regarding hospital visitation, next-of-kin, and taxes, among other things.  I raised my hand again and asked Brother R. why this was, after all of the moral, unofficial support the Church gave to Proposition 8 in California.  His answer confused me; he said, "The Church will always believe in equal rights for everyone.  We believe in agency and we want to allow that agency to all of God's children.  But we draw the line at marriage, a sacred, religious institution from God."

I don't know, maybe it's the 24-hour Vegas sex marriages that some BYU students undertake or the better-than-half divorce rate among married couples or the scores and scores of shotgun weddings that go on all over the world every day, but I kind of feel like the sanctity-of-marriage ship has sailed a long time ago. If that's the battle platform, the Church doesn't really have a leg to stand on.

Is it just the word?  Would the Church support "legal domestic partnership" or "gayrriage"?  (Why don't we call it a commitment ceremony?  That way, when Adam and Steve are on the way to the courthouse, we can say that they're being "committed.") What about gay marriage (or whatever it would be called) among people who believe in God and don't believe that their actions are sinful, and who would like to be married in a religious ceremony?

I don't want to mislead.  I fully acknowledge the right of the Church to only marry people who follow its rules and covenants and I would never expect the church to perform a sealing for a gay couple.  I believe, as Elder Oaks has said, that freedom of religion and speech are being taken away from churches and religious people all over the world.  Political correctness says that we as Mormons can't talk about anything we believe, in case someone might get offended.  And I do believe that we as Mormons need to guard against that.  We can't excuse sin or condone its practice, nor can we support sin in sacred places like temples.

I am just a little confused about what I see as double-talk among the Church leadership.  I don't understand why the Church supports equal rights and unofficially campaigns against it at the same time. It's not enough to shake my faith or anything (at least today), but it doesn't rest well on me. Thoughts?

Also, Brother R. said to me after my first comment that I might gently suggest to my cousin that he not identify himself as gay, but instead say that he deals with same-gender attraction.  Again, is it just the word choice?  Because to a man who suffers from "same-gender attraction" like me, they're one and the same and one just sounds a whole lot more pretentious.

Word choice, man.  The Church is all about it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Inspiring People II - Amber and Lucas

Amber and Lucas are another amazing married couple that I know through one of my friends.  I met Amber a few years ago in another state and I met her husband later and have hung out with them on a few occasions.  They are a delightful happy couple who always find joy, even in mundanity and in pain.   They are, both on the surface and inside, utterly happy with their lives.  This blog post has made me guffaw out loud every time I read it, including when I'm distracted in math class (Sorry, Sister B____).

Read this if you have a few extra minutes, then come back.  It's the bittersweet story of their daughter Molly.  I'll let the events speak for themselves, but just say that their confidence and faith is inspiring in the sweetest and most poignant way.

(By the way, I promise I don't mean to be inspired by parents in difficult situations.  It's people who maintain faith in the crucible of pain that I'm inspired by)

I'm just going to reflect a little on my feelings as I read Molly's story the first time.  I was living with my brother and his wife at the time.  His wife met Amber once upon a time and had maintained casual contact, and she mentioned that one of her acquaintances had been going through a rough time.  I started reading and crying a little bit and suddenly realized, "I know this girl too!"  Suddenly, this picture of a family on the page had more meaning and the story came more intensely.  Even now, I can feel the emotions welling up a little bit inside me.

I devoured the story, tears running down my face, as my brother, sister-in-law, and I read page after page of inspiring, sobering, humbling, and gratitude-inducing events in Amber and Lucas' life.  Gratitude for the knowledge that we have about forever families, gratitude that Amber and Lucas had that same knowledge to bear them up as well, gratitude that the members of my family have their health and have been blessed to know each other in mortality, and gratitude that no matter what our mortal family's status, our eternal family can have increase and progression forever.

One of my favorite things about Amber and Lucas is that they insist (and rightfully so) that Molly is still a part of their family and that they are still parents even in her absence.  They know that mortality is not a limiting factor to an eternal family.

I still I have about a million questions, but watching a family go through hell, but with that heavenly perspective, inspires me to follow suit.  I wonder often about the course of my life, but I hope it includes such a view of the world as Amber and Lucas have.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cuando Tentaciones Rujan con Furor...

I am taking a Spanish class for the first time since high school in the hopes that it'll prepare me for a Spanish-speaking mission (shoot, I've just jinxed it) and I love it.  I love the language.  It's so logical and simple, yet it is incredibly expressive and emotional (and sometimes really sexy).  Seriously.  I love Spanish.

Before class each day, we sing a hymn in Spanish before prayer, which also is done in Spanish.  I like that because you really never would learn prayer language from a Spanish textbook, so this class is giving me some practical applications for the language already.

In any case, we are learning "Cuenta tus Bendiciones" right now.  It's the Spanish language version of "Count Your Blessings,"  but I love it so much more.  The first verse reads, in an extremely rough English translation, "When trouble and pain overwhelm you, when temptations roar with fervor, look at your blessings. Count them and you'll see.  You will have blessings from Jesus."

My favorite part is "when temptations roar with fervor."  I love that the Spanish translation uses the verb "to roar" to describe temptations.  It's descriptive of how temptations feel when we are in their throes.  Have you ever felt your temptations roar at you in such a way that you can't think about anything else?

That was my experience yesterday.  I couldn't stop thinking about Toby.  I knew he wouldn't say no to anything I requested and was so hormonal and wanting for some attention that I seriously considered resuming our cuddling relationship and intensifying it a little, even though I know that it only makes me more attached to him and it makes it more difficult for both of us to keep our covenants.  Still, that temptation roared within my head and I couldn't think about anything else.

The good news is that I didn't call him.  Instead, I found a coping mechanism.  I live at the bottom of a hill and last night I discovered that running up it is really difficult.  It's a long, steady 4% grade and by the time I got to the top, my legs were shaking, my knees were buckling, and my lungs burned for the panting and puffing to which my inadequate respiratory system was subjected.  All I could think about then was how much I hated myself for going for a jog, haha. Progress, right?

Anyhow, the night went much smoother after that.  I was able to sit down and do my homework without much more distraction and I could see Toby's and my relationship in a much clearer light.  My motivation for gratification ceased to be only about physical attraction and became more spiritual and emotional, which is just what I needed.  I'm still hung up a little bit on him and on gay in general, but the roaring has ceased and is now just an occasional snarl.  I'll take it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gender Confusion

Today in my Eternal Families class (because they have those at BYU schools, naturally) we started a new unit on gender and eternal identity.  I love gender studies.  I love learning about the chemical and anatomical differences between men's and women's brains.  I love the science behind it and I like postulating on the theories of people much smarter than I am about what, empirically, makes up that ethereal and seemingly unquantifiable difference between men and women.

In spite of that, I am not excited for this unit for several reasons.  I know it's going to lead to a lot of discussion on same-gender attraction and I tend to REALLY hate talking about that subject with students at BYU schools.  In spite of the professor's best intentions or, unfortunately, because of the professor's woeful misinformation, the discussions always lead to vilification of gay people, both latent and open.  I clench my fists, swear under my breath, contemplate storming out, etc., nearly every time the subject is brought up in church or class.

Today in our class meeting, we had a poll question to which we had to respond about what we felt was the Church's stance on same-gender attraction.  To my surprise and delight, only two percent of students said that same-gender attraction was sinful.  In fact, the majority said that they thought the Church encouraged all people of all different types to live the Gospel, regardless of their specific challenges.  I am impressed by their open-mindedness.  However, 19% felt like same-gender attraction was a choice, and for me and many of the other gay men I know, it's nothing of the kind.  Still, the polls make me feel a little more comfortable with this unit.

Now, the main concern in my mind is the discussion on gender confusion that will be forthcoming this week.  I feel like there is a lot of misinformation among members of the Church and the world at large about the gender identity of gay people.  I quote this week's hilarious episode of Modern Family:  "There's nothing gays hate more than when people treat us like women!"

I am gay, yes, but I am also a man.  Anatomically speaking, I have two testicles and a penis and my sex organs produce sperm, not eggs.  I am aggressive and impulsive.  I love cars and I love watching baseball on TV or going to any ball game.  I like rock music.  I want a big truck.  I love playing frisbee and going snowboarding.  I like fashion, but I choose clothes that show my masculinity, not muddy it.  There are few things I like more than barbecuing a red steak on a hot day.  And I'm not even very  "flaming."  By and large, looking at my personality and recreational activities, you'd see that I am a man and I have no desire to change that about myself.  In fact, just about the only thing not traditionally manly about me is my attraction to men.

So why, then, does homosexuality get lumped in with gender confusion all the time?  I am not gender confused.  I know who I am and I am not confused about it.  I don't want to be a girl, a boi, a twink, a mangina, a shemale, a crossdresser, etc.  I want to be a man.  While I admit that viewed through the looking glass of Church doctrine, which I believe, my desire to be emotionally and physically intimate with another man is a pretty serious case of misdirected affection, I don't see how it relates to my status as a male.  I'd really love if the discussions in this class don't lead to people thinking gays want to be more like women, but given the depth of the material we're working with and the fallible minds of the freshmen in my class, I don't have a lot of optimism that it won't happen.  (Note:  I don't consider myself infallible, as that previous statement makes me sound.)

I suppose time will tell.  At least they don't think I'm sinful for wanting what I do.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Gay Fast

This weekend, I decided to go on a gay fast.  I decided not to post on my blog, read others' posts/journals on the subject, or try and talk to anyone about the struggle.  I focused my energy on mere living and on studying other, more reputable avenues of perspective, like the scriptures, words of the prophets, and books approved and published by the Church.  I had high hopes for the weekend.  I thought that if I just left it all behind for a few days, the temptations and frustrations would subside through sheer distance alone. I wondered if maybe my problems were a result of my constant dwelling on them and I wanted to put some space in between them and me.

I've come away with mixed feelings.  I definitely think that reading Gospel messages on the subject has been helpful, but the issue deals with volume.  There's just not that much out there approved and published by the Church to really acquire a great library of information on the subject of homosexuality.  By contrast, there are dozens of blogs that address the subject through varying degrees of eternal perspective, and they all contain truth.  Reading church material on the subject was at best hypothetically insightful and at worst frustrating for the lack of personal application.

I must admit, I failed somewhat at putting distance between me and gay.  A friend texted me some pretty salacious material, material I didn't ask for or welcome. While I didn't dwell on it and I removed it from my phone immediately, the memory of the picture he sent still ran through my head more than I would have liked. It also led to what could have become a pornography binge, as I became really tempted to seek out more material like what my friend sent.  And it led to a fight between him and me, as I can't have my friends actively trying to tempt me like he was.  That fight was fueled by my feelings of attraction to him as well as by my rage at some insanely disrespectful things he said to me about our relationship as we argued about the night's events. Definitely not a very gay-free environment last night, and thank goodness I was 250 miles away from him because that picture was REALLY tempting.

One of the other things I couldn't help but laugh at was the proliferation of nudity this weekend offered me.  Aside from the aforementioned picture message, I was visiting Provo and driving up to my friend's apartment, when six guys, wearing nothing but tennis shoes and baseball caps, streaked down the quad outside.  Seriously??!?  I can't have one gay-free weekend?

Still, there were some good insights that came.  The first came after the fight with my friend, when I was flipping through my grandpa's old scriptures.  I was pausing at each of the highlighted sections, hoping his insights would speak to me in some way.  I just pleaded, "Please Grandpa, talk to me.  Tell me a secret from the other side."  I found an answer that gave me some comfort in 1 Nephi 11:6, wherein Nephi is shown some of the mysteries of the earth, but it was only because he believed in Jesus Christ that he could see the things of the Spirit.  I appreciated reading this, because I, like almost everyone else, wonder what is coming for me and what this struggle is preparing me for.  I know that I may not find out in advance, but as I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, some of those mysteries may be revealed to me in time, just as they were according to Nephi's faith and preparation.

Another came during Sunday School today.  Sometimes it's difficult to feel the Spirit in a student ward's Sunday School, but occasionally the messages come through so clearly that it's difficult to ignore, even among the jovial twitterpations of my peers.  The scriptures are found in Matthew 18.  In verses 8 and 9, Jesus uses a parable to explain how to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven when he advises man to pluck out the offending eye or cut off the offending foot, because "it is better for thee to enter life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire." I think this verse applies to me and my friend.  As much as it pains me to say this, I feel like I need to cut him out of my life to limit his influence on my decisions.  I'll enter life maimed for the lack of a friend, but hopefully it will be worth the sacrifice if things become easier.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Inspiring People I - Ryan and Rachel

FYI on Rach and Ry is a blog written by a friend of a friend, whom I've met a few times in passing.  The blog is written mostly by Rachel as she chronicles her and Ryan's marriage.  My favorite topics are the ones about their pursuit of a forever family.  The details are on the blog and I don't feel like I should share them on mine, but they have had a wonderful, terrifying, inspiring time navigating the world of fertility and adoption.

I found the blog when a mutual friend posted a link to a post written after a few months of particularly trying experiences.  I started reading their blog late at night after I finished homework and would find myself sobbing in commiseration for their sorrow.  A quote that hits me hard every time I read it, as she talks about breaking bad news to their friends:

I didn't want to hear [my friends] say what everyone says , "It will all work out," or "Just have faith--it's all in the Lord's hands," or "It will happen when it's supposed to."  As true as those words may be, they aren't helpful.  Those words trivialize the pain that I am feeling now, in this moment.  Those words make me feel so alone.

I feel the same way sometimes.  I don't want to tell my parents or my siblings about having same gender attraction because I don't want to hear them say that it's all part of God's plan for me.  True or not, God's plan still really hurts sometimes.

Luckily for Rachel and Ryan (and for me), they had understanding friends who expressed their sorrow and shared in their grief with phrases of affirmation like, "This isn't fair," "We're sorry," and "We love you."  

That next day, Rachel posted this.  It neatly follows up the sadness of the day before with the perspective that only a day's time and a mature heart can bring.  She quotes Psalm 30:5 in the title:  "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  What a touching, simple, and inspiring thought.  

Their story has a happy continuation, as they are now adopting a healthy baby boy, due in a few short months.  I look forward to seeing their lives unfold together and can't wait to see their family grow and thrive.  Rachel and Ryan's optimism through what must be one of the hardest trials for a family to go through inspires me to find more joy in my life.

Rachel and Ryan link My Kindness Shall Not Depart from Thee on their blog.  Have a listen.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fast and Testimony Meeting

Today was fast and testimony meeting, wherein members of the congregation are welcome to stand and share their testimonies on a number of topics.  Testimony meeting is something I love, but it's also something that can peeve me out, because as you'd expect, giving the floor to a huge group of people usually results in a lot of irrelevance.

Still, there are always those who understand that testimonies are about gospel topics instead of thank yous or personal histories.  There was one of those today that pierced me pretty deep.  A nice looking kid in my ward stood up and started talking about something or other; the previous testimonies had numbed my attention a little and I wasn't paying attention too closely.  What caught my ear was when he started talking about how our anger often gets directed at Heavenly Father for our shortcomings.  He also said that oftentimes, we'll direct our frustrations in our lack of faith at the Lord for letting us have crises of faith.

I do that a lot and I know it's something I should work on.

The young man continued, saying that his anger shouldn't be directed at God when things go awry, as those challenges are meant to strengthen us.  I tend to scoff at those who are grateful for their trials, because trials suck and I like life better when it's easy, but for some reason this guy in my ward convinced me a little bit that he was actually grateful for the growth that results.  This is all stuff I know; I was just grateful that the message came during the small amount of time I was actually paying attention in church today.

This guy's testimony doesn't make homosexuality any easier to navigate and even right now, I'm fighting the urge to get bitter and annoyed because I have to deal with it, but still, hopefully some of what he was talking about will seep into my twisted brain.

While I wasn't paying attention, I decided to write down my testimony.  I didn't really feel like sharing it in front of the ward, mostly because I'm afraid my current bitterness and gayness might show through, but I wanted to have it out there so I could refer to it a little bit.  Here it is:

I have a testimony of God's love for His children.  Amid all the doubt I face about the church and my ability to serve the Lord and endure, I still know that God loves me.  Jesus Christ died for my sins and afflictions and suffered for my sorrows and depression.

I don't know the path my life will take right now, but I do know that God knows what is best and as I pray and do my best to do His will, eventually everything will be okay.

This is the part of my testimony that never has shaken.  I have ALWAYS known that God loves me and I've always had a very strong testimony of the work that Jesus did and does for me.  It's just the submission of myself to the Gospel that's given me trouble in the past.

I'm not going to lie; I'm still holding onto a hope that someday I'll feel that it's okay to be gay.  But I know I won't be able to feel that way without confirmation from the Spirit, so for now my main priority is following God's plan for me as I understand it and figuring out how to live with my issues and concerns regarding the Church's doctrine and lack of information about my struggle.  I know God won't change his will according to my desires, so I'll work on changing mine according to His.

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