Monday, March 18, 2013

A most dangerous ultimatum

Ever since about July of last year, I've been really in the doldrums.  I have myself to blame for a lot of it. I've been pretty good about porn and masturbation, but it's still a presence I'm not keen on, for reasons beyond religion (and laundry). I've also been more involved in the gay community, for better and worse, and that's to blame for some of the stress I feel as well.

Even so, I haven't felt much peace, in spite of the efforts I've been making towards finding it.  There have been moments where I've felt the Spirit's influence in my life to be certain, but I don't feel as though that influence is directing me as well as I might have hoped.

The other night, during my evening prayer, I gave God an ultimatum and I've been pondering it ever since. I'd love some input on it, and so I turn to the blogosphere...

I knelt down and prayed for my family, my friends, my gay brothers and sisters, my schooling, my work and my peace of mind.  Then, I sat in silence, not knowing what to say next. I felt like God needed to know, from my mouth, what I was feeling.  I told him that those of us here on earth were so lonely.  We were so tired and so sad and we needed so much love and guidance that we didn't know where to turn.  I told him how much I personally needed guidance.  Then I told him that he had a year to give it to me.

A year would give me enough time to finish school. I made him the offer that in that time I would live the Honor Code in full for that year, avoiding pornography and masturbation (so far so good), respecting my friends and roommates, being honest in school and remaining active in the church and fulfilling my callings. I would read my scriptures and pray regularly and genuinely seek answers to my questions. Any romance or decisions would wait till I was graduated.

Then, at the end of that year, having fulfilled my obligation to the Honor Code of the Church Education System, I would leave school and pursue what felt right, depending on the answers I received to those questions.

I see three outcomes.

One, those answers would suggest that my life would be most peaceful and fulfilling in full fellowship of the LDS church and hopefully, my year of righteous living would motivate me to move forward and remain active.  Two, those answers would suggest that God would accept me as a gay man authentic to those truths I hold about myself independent of the teachings of the LDS church. Three, I'd live my obedient year, repent of my demons, secure my place in heaven, and God would save me from future sin by rendering me comatose. That's the dream, really.

Here's my biggest question: Is it completely disingenuous to plan to obey the Honor Code only until I'm no longer required to? If after a year I decide to accept a lesser position of fellowship, will I be derided for planning my own exit from the LDS church only after I've gotten a world-class education for pennies on the dollar?

Another question: Do ultimatums such as this one work on God? Can you say to him, "Alright, you've got a year to prove me wrong"?  I actually found myself saying that yesterday during church. Two lovely young ladies in my ward were singing, "Come Ye Disconsolate," saying that there's no wound that Heaven can't heal. Under my breath, I literally said, "Convince me."

Frankly, with where I'm at right now, I feel like in a year I'll probably be accepting a less prevalent role in the LDS church. I'm not entirely happy with the idea of mixed-orientation marriage and I decidedly hate the idea of celibacy, but I'm going to remain open to the possibility that the Gospel is 100% true and will be worth it.

That's where I'm at.  Input please.

CLARITY EDIT: MARCH 19, 2013  I am not now, nor ever will be, giving up on the true gospel. If the LDS Church is true in its fulness, then I will endure to the end.  The title is misleading and I regret that a bit, but this next year isn't me sitting back and waiting for God to give me answers, it's me moving forward and finding those answers for myself, particularly whether or not the Book of Mormon is true, whether or not God cares about homosexual behavior, and whether or not LDS leadership are indeed conduits to Heaven.  I am lacking in faith, I freely admit, but I need to be moving towards something, and having a deadline will help me find those answers rather than sitting back and waiting.

16 comments:

  1. The honour code is for students. You are expected to live by it while you are getting your education, but it doesn't say anywhere that you must live by it for the rest of your life.

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  2. When I was at BYUP, the honor code included wearing socks. I remember being denied my ID card because I was wearing shoes without socks. Needless to say, I didn't think that rule was important upon leaving Provo. But I, for the most part, kept it while attending BYU. (And ironically, my current employer requires socks.)

    As for ultimatums, I'm of two minds. Recall that when Nephi was bound by his brothers to be left in the wilderness, he "prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound." But the Lord didn't give him what he asked for, exactly. Nephi continues, "when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet." (1 Ne 7:17-18)

    Similarly, sometimes we ask for one thing, but the Lord may see fit to grant us something else. We may ask for our orientation to change, but the Lord grants us friends to strengthen us, or a patient spouse who understands.

    On the other hand, sometimes the Lord gives us exactly what we want. When Alma and Amulek were bound in prison, Alma asked for the same thing. "O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance. And they broke the cords with which they were bound."

    So I'm of two minds.

    Maybe it's better to look to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego who, when confronting being cast into the fiery furnace said, "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Dan 3:17-18)

    Rather than give the Lord an ultimatum, they exercised great faith in delivery by the Lord, but if the Lord did not deliver them, they would still have faith. That's the kind of faith that precedes miracles. I don't think that I've been as faithful as those three, but even so, I've experienced miracles in my life. I'd say, just exercise the faith you have and see if it will grow. Just go forward with your planned activities with confidence that the Lord will bless you, because you know He loves you.

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  3. Best wishes to you. I read an article in the Daily Herald about being gay at BYU and then read the readers' comments. I can't think of many things more difficult than being gay at BYU.

    It took a long time for me to realize that God wanted me to be part of a partnership and that my partner needed to be a man. I hope you get your answer sooner than I received my answer.

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  4. Never. Give. God. An. Ultimatum. He has a twisted sense of humor you know...

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    1. Ha ha, true. Just informing him of my plans and giving him a chance to change my mind.

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  5. Giving God an ultimatum isn't faith. Its like asking for a sign. Give me and sign and then I'll believe mentality. I like the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego example given above. That is the kind of attitude you need to have to get the answers you are looking for.

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    1. Wholly agreed. I don't have any rebuttal except that I'm rapidly running out of faith and I need something to refill the tank. You're absolutely right that it's not faith, but I'm desperate.

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  6. My heart and thoughts go out to you. I was going to post my reply on the site that linked me to here (you know it because you asked for any feedback and here is mine), but I think my thinking is a little more liberal than most on there. I understand your struggle. First off I want to say that living the honor code until you graduate is fine. I have done many things that are against the honor code before and after going to BYU and I'm just fine and am in fine standing with the church. The honor code is NOT the gospel.

    I think that we are all on different paths in this life. While some people's paths keep them in line completely with the gospel others' paths may take them off a little. We are all dealing with different things. I believe that God will judge us on our lives not just on a check list of these are the things you did right and wrong, but on our whole experiences. He will take into account our hearts and where they are, what hardships were placed on us, how we were able to handle the difficulties that we were given. If that means you end up distancing yourself because you can't stay in the church, then that will be taken into account. If not it would be like judging a person born without legs and asked to run a race for having a slow time.

    While ultimatums, I think, don't quite work I think you were really talking to God from your heart. That is the thing that I think mattered most. For me I have found that really, truly talking to my Heavenly Father about what is going on and what is on my mind I have been able to receive answers, have a better relationship and get more direction from Him. Sometimes when I get upset I even swear at God. I know that sounds bad, but to me that is what I'm thinking. He knows it. I choose not to try and "hide" it from Him. I try to be as open and honest with Him as I can. This is what I feel has helped me. It doesn't mean that I get my way or anything like that, but I know He hears me and responds to me.

    You won't get the third outcome. Sorry but we just aren't that lucky. But I don't think you are limited to just the other two. I think that in the year you may have some good experiences that will help you with your future. You may even find a new path. That has happened to me. I am in a place I never thought I'd be. I never wanted to be here but I am where The Lord wants me to be and I know it's where I'm supposed to be. He will put you where you need to be. Things are hard, but they get better. I know it sounds cliche but it does. But if you find yourself struggling know that there are people out there that are willing to help you. If you ever need help or just want to talk I'm willing to listen. Just shoot me an email or something. Hang in there.

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  7. Please don't misunderstand me or take offense--I don't mean this as an attack of any kind--but reading this made me feel like you have a strong sense of entitlement. If you believe in a God who would do everything possible to insure the salvation of his children (as I understand it, the LDS God would), how can you presume to know better than he when enough is enough?

    (Counterpoint: What if the way to salvation requires you deciding without guidance?)

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  8. More Anonymous than Usual for this OneMarch 19, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    Is it completely disingenuous to plan to obey the Honor Code only until I'm no longer required to?

    No. I see it as admirable because you are sticking to your commitment as you promised even though you don't seem to want to.

    If after a year I decide to accept a lesser position of fellowship, will I be derided for planning my own exit from the LDS church only after I've gotten a world-class education for pennies on the dollar?

    "...will I be derided...?" THAT is the key. This indicates to me that your motivation may be more what other people think of you rather than God/yourself. Think about that. Hard.

    Another question: Do ultimatums such as this one work on God?

    I like Lonely Boy's answer: it's all about the sincerity in communicating with Him.

    Can you say to him, "Alright, you've got a year to prove me wrong"?

    You know what, I think you have made your choice already. There is something you want to do, but you feel like you can't do it. I would submit to you that that is NOT use of agency. God sent us to earth to use our agency. He KNEW we wouldn't use it perfectly; that's why we have the Atonement. Even if you might be "sinning," if you aren't convinced that it's sin, then you have nothing to repent of, and if you have to learn by experience that something is wrong, well, that's what we're here on earth for! If you just sit on the sidelines, then you may as well have stayed in the Spirit World, or just sided with Lucifer.

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  9. Doesn't seem like you're as worried about the honor code really as much as you are with the law of chastity.

    I liked the post you linked to that talked about Plan A - Plan ZZ. No big secret you have to find your own way in this world. It also should be no big surprise that you're going to get it wrong. I think everyone gets caught up in the scoreboard for good vrs evil - but like the comment above said -sometimes you may have to learn by experience - and because of the atonement - Thats ok!.

    As far as the ultimatum. I don't really think that's what it was. I think you're doing a pretty honorable thing by staying to your word. Once that's complete though - I have a hard time seeing why you shouldn't start maturing through all the different areas of your life - even if that means getting it wrong until you get it right.

    I think you are doing the same thing as those examples above. You've made a plan and you're going to follow it. You have faith that if God wants too - he will intervene. If he doesn't, well - you'll deal with that too.

    I guess what I'm saying is that while from a mass religion perspective, sin is simplified to bad, I think life is more complicated than that. Who's to say that while God could never send you into certain choices, it may be part of a plan to letting you mature and grow.

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  10. Wow, thanks for all of your replies. There are a lot of great opinions and observations here, which is exactly what I was looking for. I'm going to try and respond to them without sounding self-serving or defensive.

    @Matt, you're right, I do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to saying, "Enough." God has all control and in His infinite wisdom, He knows what will be best for me. If the church is true, then all of the pain and loneliness will be worth it. This year is a time to figure out of the church is true or not, not a time to weigh and balance what's worth the sacrifice. If the church is true, then no mortal joy could outweigh the celestial joy that would result from obedience to the LDS church's gospel. If however the church is not true and God doesn't actually care about homosexual behavior, then why not enjoy my life as well as looking forward to a future with a god who loves me as I am (including some of those choices)? This year is a fact-finding mission regarding what God wants out of my life.

    @More Anonymous, you're kind of right about my agency. If I didn't have commitments, I probably would have made the decision to move on to something outside the church already. However, I recognize that those commitments might be saving my soul by preventing me from making that choice right now when I'm compromised by my physical desires and loneliness. By putting those things on the back burner, I'm hoping to better understand who I am and what I really value out of life, trying to hold true to those truths my friend helped me discover a few days ago.

    @true reckonings, thanks for reminding me that growth and the Atonement are the most important tenets of any of those decisions I might make.

    Thanks again for all your comments. Please continue to respond.

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  11. For me, the test is to see if i will accept the Lord's timeline. and trust that it is best.

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  12. I see so much of myself and my experience as a 20 something LDS in what you have written. I am well past that age now and can share some of what I have experienced. Whilst I have never given God an ultimatum I did do deals with Him. If I stop masturbating and thinking about guys will you please make me normal? If I obey every commandment perfectly will you please please take the gay away? If I do everything the prophet and my church leaders ask will you please, please, please make me straight? The problem with these deals was that when God did not live up to His end of the bargain I felt that he must hate me, that I must have done something pretty terrible in the pre-existence, that I just wasn't trying hard enough.
    You mention the word PEACE, it is something I have sought for many years, it is an elusive beast. One day I stopped praying for God to change me and instead I prayed very simply, 'God, did you make me this way?'. The peace I felt in my heart as the equally simple answer came was a feeling I had never had before in my entire church career and the answer was yes.
    I really don't think you need to feel bad about masturbating. If all the men at church were to be honest they would admit that they did it as young men and probably still do from time to time as older men. The guilt that I carried from thinking I was the only young man who did it and the unworthiness I felt still haunts me to this day.
    Deciding what to do with your life as a gay Mormon man can be a dilemma. You have listed three outcomes, I have prayed and begged God for the third option on many occasions all to no avail. There are infinite options out there, we all need to find what is in our hearts and then to follow it with gusto.
    I wish you well as you search for peace and exhort you again to follow your heart.

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  13. I gave God an ultimatum about 10 years ago. I told him that even Christ, who bore all things, only had to live for 33 years, and if things weren't better by the time I hit 34 (in about 18 months), I was going to consider my contract fulfilled and kill myself. So what happened? Well, it got better enough that I supposed I could keep trying. Has it been all better? No. I was diagnosed with my fifth mental illness after that. I experienced my worst depressive episode after that. My marriage almost ended, after that (but not because of it.) While I am better medicated than I was then, I am still not adequately medicated. I am by no means done with being suicidal. I'm not even sure I can say I learned anything from the experience; while it didn't decrease my faith, it didn't really increase it either. I guess I just wanted to share that you are not the only person desperate enough to turn to ultimatums, and maybe (whatever ends up happening), things can get just better enough that you can keep on trying. I do admire your integrity in keeping to the Honor Code during its period of applicability. I really hope something helps pull you out of desperation and to a place of greater meaning, or purpose, or focus, or something. I'll certainly be around to see the reports.

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  14. You are brave, and I think it is okay to tell God just how desperate you are. Praying for you every day to find the peace you are looking for, wherever that peace will be found.

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Be nice, mmmmkay? I allow anonymous comments, but not anonymous (or even attributed) douchebaggery. The Gay Mormon Pioneer's tolerance for hate and venom are incredibly low, but his love of communication and debate are high, so have an opinion, but be kind and gentle when you share it.

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