31 October 2011

THT: Oh Say, What is Truth (Part II)

 A while back, I posted under this same title. It was interesting to read that now... months later. I think it shows how my thinking and thought processes are developing and how I really am trying to get at the core of things. I did not begin this post with the idea of God in mind. It was simply an investigation of truth as an idea. However, I found myself connecting the idea of truth and the idea of God together in the end. To begin, I posted a series of questions on several different facebook groups. The questions were:

How do you define "truth?"

Is it possible to recognize "truth" when you find it?

If so, how?
Here are some of the responses that resonated with me or that I found interesting/thought provoking:

"I don't know if there is absolute truth... very little it seems. Recognizing my truth = feeling peace. Anxiety and depression means I have gotten out of my truth."

"I believe in absolute truth but we haven't gotten their yet."

"Truth doesn't have a final destination and should be replaced with the pursuit of knowledge and explanations. A truth seeker should have the willingness to change his/her mind what you think, if new evidence comes to light which may contradict."

"Knowing the truth is hard. Knowing whats's not true, not so hard."

"We do not have to capture truth by quick statements. We have to test, to weigh, to reflect, to debate to and fro and pro and con, to question our own assertions. Truth does not exist as merchandise ready-made for delivery; it exists only in methodical movement, in the thoughtfulness of reason." (Jaspers, page 4)"

"I think the best epistemologically weak mortals can do is try to learn lots of different perspectives/theories, and try to apply the razors of consistency and parsimony to shave off the less likely. We're rationally limited and overwhelmingly ignorant- I think most appeals to or claims of truth are thinly founded."

"Great questions. I don't know except to say that truth should be the product of testable and repeatable inquiry."

"A statement is true when it describes fact. A theory is true when it can accurately predict outcomes. But the statement is only a perception. And the theory can hardly account for every possible variable in the physical world.

You can only achieve true statement when the universe can get no smaller and you can perceive every detail. You can only achieve true theory when the universe can get no larger, bringing in no new input. So, until we find the most minute particle and the boundaries of existence (and how can we know that there are limits in size on either end of the spectrum?!), we cannot even speculate at knowing the truth if it exists at all."

"In my opinion, the closest we could possibly get "the truth" is to find someone who perceives all things clearly. The sum of all things at once. Perfectly clear and accurate. (God?) Still, this person would not be truth, but he/she would comprehend it."

"No matter what we do or how we evolve I think we will always interpret the world through our own unique experiences and that means that none of us see the world the same way. I kind of laugh when we claim we are right or that something is true... Sure from a certain perspective things appear that way..."


One question still remains. Is truth absolute? It sounds like some people view truth as being subjective and personal and others view it as objective and universal. There are a couple who believe it is sort of a mix... that truth is both. I don't know if I agree that it can be both. I agree that if truth is absolute, humans could never truly KNOW it simply because everything we claim to "know" has been filtered through our own perceptions and experiences and the interpretation and meaning we attach to them... but that doesn't mean that truth isn't absolute.

The idea that a "truth-seeker" must by nature be willing to adapt to new evidences and information and readily change their ideas about what truth is makes a lot of sense to me. I feel like when I was active in the church and believed as I should, this idea was actually discouraged culturally even while it was taught doctrinally. In the church, we are taught to "study it out in [our] minds" along with prayer. I view prayer as a kind of meditation. It allows you a moment to reflect on your feelings/thoughts/hopes and desires. However, as an active believing member, you are pretty much taught that anything that sheds negative light on the church is "anti-mormon" and completely unfounded.

This same idea is held in classes at church. Asking probing questions or challenging questions is met with resistance. If something you are being taught doesn't resonate with you and you want to probe deeper, you are often accused of "driving out the spirit" or at least treated as if you are. Questioning the wisdom of the leaders of the church is a no-no. Now I look at those experiences and realize that those environments were actually toxic for sincere truth-seeking people. I think that is why so many church goers find themselves dissatisfied with church attendance. It is not mentally stimulating or deeply enlightening. It is repetitive and shallow. That is the end of that tangent.

Anyway, moving on. I really liked the comment about the difference between theory and truth. It is so thought provoking. I feel it actually begins to really start to explain the necessity there is for some kind of supreme being. Here's why:

If human beings are incapable of actually KNOWING truth due to the fact that everything we claim to know has been filtered through our own unique lenses of perception, can truth actually exist? I mean, if all logical beings will always be incapable of knowing it can it exist? Plato just came to mind because I am starting to realize that what I am describing is much like Plato's theory of forms. Plato argues that all that we experience are forms or shadows of truth or "ideal-ness," (yes I made it up). For example, the chair you are sitting on isn't really a true chair, it is a chair that has been made in the attempt to copy the one true, ideal chair which we are incapable of really knowing because we can only perceive it's shadow. To me, this "shadow" of the ideal represents our own perceptions which act as unique filters between our comprehension and actual truth. We then interpret those perceptions and accept them as our reality. Take this facebook comment to help explain what I am getting at: 

"Once, when I was in kindergarten, we were coloring pictures for an art show. I had chosen to color a dog. First I colored the grass green and the sun was yellow. I left coloring the doggy until last.

As I began to shade in its head with my brown crayon, the student next to me shouted: "NO! Dogs are black!" He shoved my hand to the side and tore a black line through my drawing and scribbled haphazardly over the animal's body.

I was devastated and cried for a good five minutes. Looking back, I realize that the boy probably had the perception that since (maybe) his own dog was black, all dogs were black and that- in his mind- I was acting against "truth" by coloring the dog on my paper brown."

So then here is my question Plato: If our whole world is simply a reflection of the ideal world... simply a shadow... doesn't there need to be some kind of intelligence that comprehends the ideal? Some intelligence that comprehends truth 100%? Because if no intelligence can actually comprehend it, wouldn't it be incapable of existence? I mean according to Descartes (I think, therefore I am), the proof of existence lies in awareness. Therefore, if it is impossible for any intelligent being to be aware of truth, it is impossible for absolute truth to exist.

I am by no means a philosophy junkie. I studied only the minimum that everyone studies philosophy in college... so my knowledge and understanding of all these philosophers is quite limited. However, from what I gather from what these men wrote along with my own thoughts and contemplation on the subject of truth, here is the conclusion I feel I have come to for now (which may change in the future):

If truth is absolute, God must exist. 

So... is Plato right? Is there a set truth... a perfect world out there that our world is always striving to become? One that is no respecter of persons? I feel that even atheists must believe in truth or ideal-ness. Activists and social reformists sure must believe that they are fighting for a better world... one that comes closer to real fairness and equality. So where in space and time does that ideal world that we are striving to become exist? How does it enter into our collective consciousness? Is THAT God?

For other reading see these wiki articles:

Theory of Forms
Allegory of the Cave
I think, therefore I am


17 October 2011

THT: Are You Prejudiced Against Gay People? Here's a test:

First, I have to say that this is no legitimate test... I was just thinking today and thought that this exercise would be interesting if it were actually done honestly and results were collected.

Try and answer these honestly:
  1. Would you want your child to be straight or gay? Why/ Why not?
No really. Think about it and answer.

Lots of people would say that they would want their child to be straight because being gay would be painful and cause pain and challenges that they wouldn't want their child to endure. Alright, fine. That is somewhat reasonable... but lets do this exercise again, but with a little twist:

Pretend we lived in a world where gays were treated equally. People's sexual orientation was of no interest to anyone and no one expected another person to be one way or the other and wasn't surprised or shocked one way or the other. Everyone had equal rights and equal representation. It was not a social taboo. Someone telling another person that they were gay was equivalent to telling him/her that their favorite color was green. In other words, there is no added stress or pain or discomfort to a person's life if he/she were gay.
  1. Would you want your child to be straight or gay? Why/ Why not?
Struggling on this one? With the seemingly justifiable, and even honorable (some would say) reasoning of "protecting a child from the world" taken away, all you have left is your own bias.

The world doesn't have to be a harsh place for gays. Gays don't have to have a hard time dealing with who they are. The problem isn't being gay, the problem lies in the minds of the people that make up society- you and I. So if you still would rather your son/daughter be straight... well, I hate to break it to you, but you are prejudice against homosexuals.

In reality, in either situation, the answer that a person who is truly without prejudice would give is, "It wouldn't matter to me either way. I would just want them to be happy the way they are."

Guess what... one day you may learn that your own child is gay. I hope you are not helping to create an environment where that child is fearful of what his/her orientation would mean to his familial relationships. I hope those ears won't be hearing prejudicial remarks at church, at home, and at school. That leads so the some of the greatest feelings of fear, sadness, loneliness, self-hate, hopelessness and depression that people can experience.

The time to get educated and stop the prejudice and fight for equality was yesterday. When it comes down to it, raising children isn't about getting what WE want anyway. The only thing I would want for my child would be happiness. Period.

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13 October 2011

PE: National Coming Out Day

I really loved National Coming Out Day. I loved seeing posts about hope and courage and convictions. I think it is so important for people to know that there are those that support them and are fighting for equality. I came out on facebook by saying that I am an a relationship with a person named Sean. I was already out to everyone close to me... but for me, putting it on facebook is kind of a big deal, and this is the reason:

Prejudices threaten ones ability to succeed. It is far less common for a person in a minority group to really have the same opportunities as one of the majority. So coming out on facebook is basically saying, "I am not afraid. I will not allow your prejudice to hinder my progression. I will no longer hide a vital part of who I am for your comfort and convenience."

So now old bosses, professors, friends and acquaintances, colleagues... they all know. My network of people is aware. It may cut some ties or limit the benefits I may have received from connections otherwise... but I don't care. I do not need the help of people who will judge me and treat me differently because of who I love.

I have to add that the celebration also brought some sadness. Seeing the reaction of others. "Why do you have to tell everyone. I don't care, but don't flaunt it!" These types of comments in the midst of all the Mormons doing the same thing, "I'm Mormon and I'm Christian!" This is in response to the recent media attention the church has been getting over claims that Mormons aren't Christian. So then these "Christians" share and forward and "like" statements that reaffirm how Christian they are while the same people ignore statements about supporting equality for all people. It is so backwards. In some ways I feel like the division between Mormons and myself is growing wider and wider.

It's funny. I remember all these stories about "leaving the 99 to find the 1" but I must have missed the one about how all the white sheep drive the black ones away. Gosh... why do I still get upset over this?! Why do I let it bother me? I love the people I have met. All the other "black sheep." And I'd rather spend my time with them anyway.

21 September 2011

THT: I love you, but

Can we modify love? I feel like it is something that is there or it is not. "I love you, but..." pretty much means that it isn't there. That there is some limitation on that love... and if it is limited, can it be love? I mean real love. Isn't love limitless? Isn't God love?

I have been so lucky to have a supportive family. My immediate family has been wonderful. Obviously there are certain bumps in the road that cause some friction, but for the most part- things have been great. My extended family has also been really good about continuing to include me. I do feel though that many of them are of this "I love you, but" mindset.

One relative said, "I love you, but I don't agree with your choices." On the surface, a statement like this seems fair... but it has some pretty negative effects on the person to which the statement is directed.

Imagine this: As a man, you fall in love with this girl. She is the world to you. She brings meaning to your life. She's the reason you wake up. Now say you want to marry this girl. You go to your parents and tell them your thoughts and they say, "We love you, but we don't agree with your choice. It is a bad choice and we will not support it. But we love you." What do you do at this point? Do you break it off with the girl and tell her, "sorry, but my loving parents don't like my decision?" NO! You would marry that girl despite your parent's disagreements. Why? Because you LOVE her! Because you know that what you feel is REAL and MEANINGFUL and that it fills your world with color and excitement you never thought possible. Now fast forward. You bring the girl to family gatherings, but your family makes no attempt to recognize her as your wife. They continue to hold the opinion that you made a bad decision, but they always let you know they love you and welcome YOU as always. On the other hand they just love your sister's husband. Would you feel loved? Is that love? Let me ask this instead.... would you continue to go to those gatherings? NO. Why? Because you would feel unequal. You would feel like your decision on who you love is unrecognized. You would not feel welcome and loved because you are connected to your wife. She is a part of you and you of her.

Alright, perhaps now you may begin to see what it is like for a gay individual whose family (immediate and/or extended), friends, church, and communities insist on these "we love you, but" ideas. "We love you, but we don't agree with your choices." What does that mean? That you don't agree with their love? That their love is somehow illegitimate? That what they feel is not as real as the love you feel? What is there to disagree about? Is it any wonder that gay individuals don't feel welcomed, don't feel included, don't feel equal, and don't feel loved by the people who should love them most? Why are people so insistent on not recognizing love between two men or two women? Could you imagine someone not only telling you that the love you feel for your spouse isn't real love, but then making it so that you couldn't possibly legitimize that love and be recognized by society as a couple who shares a loving bond and commitment? Are gay people wrong to feel unequal? And yet it is God who is blamed for the reason society is so instant on making gays inferior. God, whose love is endless and everlasting and without any kind of modifier. Jesus did not say, "thou shalt love thy neighbor, but don't include them lest they feel their actions are condoned."

17 August 2011

PE: Back to God

I went to Vegas over the weekend to see my family and go to my cousin's farewell. I was only there for like 30 hours, but it was really good to see my mom and sister who drove up as well as other extended family members.

I was talking with my mom, sister, aunt and uncle about various church related things. I didn't bring it up... they started talking about experiences they've had in church and how it has been hard sometimes because they don't agree on certain things. My aunt is a pretty strong feminist, so she has issues with the fact that men can marry multiple women in the temple and women can only marry one and other similar doctrines. She has also been mistreated to the extreme by church members. Anyway, I asked why she still goes. Not out of accusation, out of honest curiosity. I wanted to find out why she continues to go even though she has some big questions and problems with certain doctrines/policies.

Anyway, that sparked an interesting conversation. My uncle said if he were in my shoes, staying would be insane. My aunt and mom talked about reasons why they go even though they disagree at times. Later, though, I was talking with just my mom and sister and my mom gave me really good advice.

After explaining my situation and how it is difficult to think about God without attaching the church (the organization in which I learned of God) and how the church uproots negativity, pain and mistrust, she said to let the church go for awhile. I am letting my experience with the church destroy my relationship with God. She said I should just focus on my relationship with God right now through prayer and meditation and leave the religion thing out of it until I am spiritually healthy again. I think she is right.

Here is what I feel like I have done: Growing up, I had a void. It was a void I refused to fill and no substitute worked. That hole was my orientation, and it was a large one. I tried to fill it with church, with staying busy, with prayer, with service, fasting, trying to date women... but that hole just got deeper until I could not feel emotion, I could not feel love, I could not believe I was loved, and my spirit broke. No substitute would do. Then, I had an experience that taught me that God did not want me to look for a substitute because there was none. I learned that living authentically and accepting love into my soul by coming to terms with and embracing my orientation was the only way to fill that deep void that threatened my life. Once I accepted the real thing, life became so sweet.

But I had work to do. How will I reconcile my faith and my sexuality? According to churches and religions, I could not keep both. In the beginning, I was hopeful that I could find a way... but after awhile, I had another void in me. God. I was trying to fill it with religion. I was so determined to force religion to embrace my orientation that I got sidetracked. But religion never did agree with my sexuality. It was God that taught me that to embrace it, NOT religion. Now I realize that a church does not own or dictate my relationship with God and that it is God who I need to look to for comfort and guidance, not religion.

So, I have decided to fill this new void with the real thing. God. I am going to focus on my relationship with deity. It is a new thing for me because in the past, I used church to cultivate that relationship. Church is what forced me to think about God, read about him, etc. But right now, my spirit is still wounded by my experience. The church is just salt on the wound at this point. I hope that once that void is full and my relationship with God is strong, the wounds will heal and I can perhaps approach the idea of religion again.

I have been using blame as a way to discharge pain and discomfort, and it hasn't worked. God claims to comfort and heal. I'm going back to God.

11 August 2011

THT: Keeping a Safe Distance.

There are a lot of people that wonder why anyone who has been hurt or offended by religion bother with it anymore. I ask myself that question all the time.

Tonight I was Skyping with my boyfriend. We talked about religion mostly. It is often the topic of discussion. We can talk for hours about it. Anyway, at one point I asked him if he thought I spent too much time and energy thinking about God/religion. Of course he said no and that he loves that I am so thoughtful about it, but it made me wonder why I spend the time that I do on it.

In our conversation, I feel like I came to some sort of conclusion. I am inclined to believe. It is just in me. I feel a pull towards the spiritual... towards deity. However, I've put all my faith and trust in spiritual things before, and I got burned. After years of service, time, energy, and emotional, spiritual, and mental investment, I was burned bad... scarred even. My soul cannot forget that pain... but my spirit is just as inclined to believe.

So, this brings us to my situation. I want to believe, but I'm afraid to. Most children won't go near the oven after getting burned by it. But as we grow, we realize that there is a proper way to touch the oven. You can open it and find a feast without getting burned. I guess I'm just trying to figure out how to do that. Find the fulfillment in belief without getting hurt again.

For now though, it seems I am keeping a safe distance.

08 August 2011

THT: Next Time, I'll Stand Up

Last night I was thinking of the many times I sat in church during particularly abusive comments and kept my eyes fixated on something away from the speaker and my mouth shut. I sat in countless meetings while people around me blamed me, my friends, and the LGBT community at large for destroying families, bringing destruction upon the nation, and lying about not choosing our orientation. I sat while I was condemned, pitied, accused, excluded, and feared by those who have known me for years.

Of course, they didn't know they were talking about me. And I was too much of a coward I guess to stand up and say something. Even if I took a broad "we shouldn't judge" approach, people would suspect... and then what would they say about my family? I feel like I was ready to handle the personal repercussions, but I didn't want to throw my family to the dogs. My family is already a topic of gossip... no need to add a gay son into the mix.

But next time, I am standing up. What will I say? I suppose I'd say something like this:

My name is Jonathan Adamson. I grew up in this ward. Many of you taught me as a child. I am friends with many of your children. I have grown up in your neighborhoods under your watch. I have looked to you for guidance and love. I learned about God and about my relationship with him through you. You know me and the kind of person that I am. What you could never have guessed is that I grew up hating myself and believing that God had no love for me because deep down, I knew I was gay, though I would not accept it for many painful years.

I advanced in the priesthood, served a mission, I went to BYU, and still I was cursed. Enough lessons at church had taught me that much- it was a curse... a dirty, evil, abominable thing that held no place in the sight of God. When the prayers and service and counseling and fasting and bargaining with God failed to cure me, I came to the conclusion that based on what I heard about gays in church, it would be better to die than to be gay. It is impossible to convey the extent of the agony I felt over this issue, and still you believe I have chosen this.

Today I am happy to report that my life is full of joy. Happiness I never imagined I could experience. I found it because I finally embraced my whole self and allowed myself to love and to be loved. But your misinformed words continue to he heard by children like me. Chances are there is at least one other gay man or woman in this room and at least five in this ward. I can bare testimony to you, with no sense of fear or shame or guilt, that God loves his gay children and that the love they feel, while it may not be inline with your gender preference, is real and is good and that your fear and judgment is causing good faithful youth to grow up denying themselves that love. And when love is gone, hate sets in- and hate smothers the life and light out of the eyes of these children of God. Love is unconditional and equal. EQUAL. I am an equal in the eyes of God.

Of course, it probably would never come out like that. I'd probably get emotional and loose my train of thought and any eloquence that I might be able to muster in a normal setting would be destroyed by my fear of judgement. But, I'd stand up. I'd speak. I wouldn't sit quietly like a coward while fire burned my insides.... but I may have lost my chance. I hardly go home... and my words wouldn't have the same effect upon strangers in a random ward.

THT: Reasons I'm a Mormon

I decided to write this post after I was chastised by an Anonymous person who left a comment on the previous post.

I'm a Mormon because:

Mormonism is in my blood- I am of Mormon heritage. The legacy of my ancestors has been passed down through generations. Family traditions and values have come from my Mormon ancestors and they have gone back as far as the beginnings of this church.

My beliefs are founded in Mormonism- I cannot think of God or religion without first approaching it through the lens of a Mormon. This is the eye through which I grew up learning about spiritual things. Beliefs in God, the afterlife, Christ, the family, etc... they all all rooted in Mormonism. Today I am more open to the idea that there may be other information or other belief systems that make sense to me, but I still first look at spiritual matters through Mormon eyes before I seek to add understanding from other sources. It isn't a conscious thing... it is just the way my spiritual mind works.

I am a product of Mormon culture- 92% of my life has been spent deep within Mormon culture. I went to church weekly. I did boy scouts. I served a mission. My family and extended family are all Mormon. I pray in the Mormon tradition. I know the practices and special lingo in Mormonism. Taking away that Mormon background would change who I am because it is so deeply ingrained into my being.

Technically, I'm a member- The church still reports me on their records of membership. I am a baptized, priesthood holding, endowed member of the church.

Good job at being exclusionary though, Anonymous. You truly are a great Mormon.

06 August 2011

THT: More Like Men Than We Think

Today I was thinking about the leaders of the church. For most my life, I believed that they were pretty much infallible. I mean, we talked about them being men, but we didn't really believe it. Why do I say that? Because no one would dare disagree with a prophet. It is heresy! So even though it is written in our doctrine that they are imperfect men, our culture overlooks it and basically maintains the idea that their word is God. That culture is perpetuated by the leaders who continue to teach that their word is scripture, etc.

Shortly before and after coming to terms with being gay, I realized the folly in believing these men to be practically perfect and that I probably should have taken more notice of the actual doctrine that says that they are indeed, just men. I accepted that they could be inspired and that at times they could speak words that would be approved of by God, but that at others they simply spoke from their own human experience and therefore would come from a place of ignorance.

Today, however, the thing I struggle with is the idea that these men are so far behind the curve on the whole gay issue. I mean, if they were even slightly inspired by God, shouldn't they be towards the beginning of the curve? These are educated men who hold positions of power... power they claim has been given to them by God. They claim to speak for God. In my opinion, any person who claims such things and who has such a mass following of people who are making decisions directly based on what that person says would do well to be damn sure they are speaking truth. I mean, what advantage do we have over anyone else by listening to these men if they cannot come to the realization that gay relationships are not unnatural... that they are not harmful? Even in the midst of study after study and professionals offering their findings that show clearly that being gay is a natural occurrence and that it is in no way perverse these supposedly inspired leaders refuse to apologize and recognize that changes should be made.

At what point do these men become just like every other man who is set in his ways, closed to new ideas, stubborn to the bone? And if this described the leadership of the church, how are they even open to inspiration from God? Why is it that the world is the force that needs to pressure the leaders to change? These questions make is so hard for me to maintain faith in the idea that these men are in anyway more qualified to teach me how best to lead my life than my own mind is. Other questions are, why have our prophets been chosen from such a small group of people? Interconnected through family and other personal relationships? Why does the position of a prophet always seem to be an advancement or promotion? Why do these men all have long histories of leadership in the church starting as bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, seventies, etc. when in the past, God has chosen people who were slow of speech, uneducated, unworthy, of little power or influence, of all shapes, sizes and areas of residency? Why does God's choice of prophets all of a sudden seem so calculated and businesslike?

I don't know guys and girls... these are the questions that constantly go through my mind. They are the result of a person who is trying hard to find reasons to continue believing. For so long I didn't ask questions. But because of the things I have experienced in large part because of this faith and my sexuality, I must ask. Is there something I am missing? Have I been blinded in one way or another or are my eyes finally opening for the first time?

THT: The Role of Gender

I might have briefly alluded to this thought in this post, but I was thinking about it again and thought I'd write. God is supposed to be all-powerful, all-knowing, etc, etc. Basically he can do anything and knows everything without any dependence on any other being or intelligence or whatever else there may be. I don't think that that goes against what Mormons believe... or any Christian.

BUT, then Mormonism teaches us that godhood can only be attained if you are sealed to a wife. Meaning, to be God, He must be dependent on another being and therefore, he really isn't all powerful. This kind of contradictory doctrine confuses me... A couple other things to note is that in the Adam and Eve story, God makes an observation and says that it isn't good for mankind to be alone... so, is this only a mortal need we have as humans to be in physical company with someone? I suppose if you were God (or a god) and shared some crazy connection with all intelligence and life and light, you would never really be alone because you have constant access to every kind of intelligence in the universe. Also, we as Mormons and Christians in general believe we are created in the image of God... yet as males and females and everyone in between, we have very different anatomy. Can we both be made in the image of God?

Well the Church places emphasis on the importance of gender... prophets have declared, "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." This is one reason gays don't have a place in the plan... because it would seem they are going against their god-given gender and the roles that apply to it. But this importance that is placed on gender doesn't seem to mix well with other doctrine and when I think deeply about it, it really doesn't make sense to me that gender would be that important to God.

What would make sense to me is a genderless God. Not male or female... simply God. Think of all the problems that clears up right away! All these discussions about whether there is a heavenly mother or why all the power figures in Christianity are male, etc, etc. We invented a male God to fit our male-dominated culture. I think it is a nice idea that God has a spouse and they live in some great mansion together with a large picket fence, but that is us trying to make sense of God's world through our own human experience. If we really believe that God is who we say, he doesn't really need to have someone to say goodnight to. He is connected to EVERYTHING. Maybe gender was simply something God created as the means to an end. In any case, I don't agree that gender is all the modern church makes it out to be. If it was so very important why are there so many who don't exactly fit nicely into the categories male and female? Why are there people born with ambiguous genitalia... or both kinds of genitalia?

Lastly, being gay does not mean I want to be a girl. Nor does it mean that I am looking for a guy that seems like a girl. I am very aware of and accept my maleness. As a gay male, I am attracted to other gay MALES. I am not rejecting my gender or anyone else's. So in that sense, yes, gender is important to my sexuality... but I don't know that it is important to my eternal soul. What is important is love... and I can only experience the deepest feelings of love with other males.... so what? Is love not of God?

05 August 2011

THT: Have I Become too Cynical?

In general I don't feel like a bitter or angry person. I feel like I am pretty fair in my opinions on church and my experiences. I defend Mormonism on the points I believe are worth defending. But I also do not excuse the church or its leaders for real harm that has been done. Perhaps, on this blog, I tend to be more critical because of the subject of the blog... being gay and Mormon. Maybe if there were more things to praise the church for when it comes to this topic, it would be different.

My beliefs have definitely developed and changed over the last year. To some... it may seem like I've abandoned everything I once believed. That isn't true. It was actually before I came to terms with being gay that I was probably most critical of the idea that God existed. I was in so much pain and I had begged him for help for so long, I just couldn't see that there was such a being since He didn't seem to notice my pain.

After coming to terms with being gay and being okay with that, all of a sudden life was pumped into me and I attributed it to God. God finally reached out. Things were better. I no longer punished myself with the idea that God rejected me or didn't want me to be happy. I finally felt that God loved me. So at that point, I kind of forgave all the years of hurt, of repression, or guilt, of self-hate that was instilled in me through my religion. I concluded that it was my fault for not being open to the idea that God loved me the way I was... a total homo. That if I had just given God a chance to give that answer, he would have.

Hanging onto Mormonism also allowed me to set boundaries and differentiate myself from "those gays" that we grow up hearing about. The sex maniacs who party and do drugs. I was a different kind of gay... one with morals! I felt that I was some new class of gay and hanging onto Mormonism is what made me, well... better really.

But then I met people. Really good people. Some of them had gone down different paths than I had... paths that I didn't really care to travel. But as I got to know them it all made sense. There was no way I could sit there and judge someone for the choices they made because I had not experienced their life. And despite everything we might conclude about a person from a list of choices they make, these people were honestly good people trying to navigate their lives the best they could.

I began having experiences similar to the ones I had on my mission. Those being experiences that taught me that there were wonderful, happy, productive people living good lives despite the fact that they didn't believe in Mormonism.

Then I would go to church or I would talk to lds friends (both gay and straight) and they would speak against these people I had met. Things would continue to be said in church by leaders that would cause fear and even hatred when it came to the "gay problem." I would be reminded of the years of hurt and self-hate. There seemed to be so much intolerance and judgement. And yes, perhaps the problem really is rooted in misunderstanding... and so i tried to share my perspective with patience and love. But it still continues. There are so many people going through real pain because of things leaders of the church have said or taught. At what point does my defense of the church and the leaders start excusing them from the pain they cause so many? At what point do need to stand up and say, "this is wrong and I do not support it and cannot support leaders who continue to teach false ideas about gay people." And then at what point must you come to the conclusion that if the men leading a church are among the last to realize and accept that being gay is not an issue of choice and that we are gay because God created us this way, maybe it isn't true?

But then so what? Why not move on? Well... I guess I see it like this. People in the pre-civil rights era didn't have a thought occur to them that maybe their treatment of other human being was wrong and then just move on with life quietly. Someone had to speak up. Someone had to point out the inconsistencies and the injustice. Someone had to wake people from their sleep so they could open their eyes for what was going on around them.

Honestly I feel like the church could be true. It could be true if there was a revolution within. I love the Mormon Stories podcasts and I love that there are so many people that are so much more open to new ideas and information and to differences. The level of openness and honesty and transparency is SO comforting. I feel like the church COULD be a TRUE church. I don't know how much I believe in "the one true church" idea anymore. Christ never set up a church... and the basis of his message was love... unconditional love. In fact he criticized the leaders of religion, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and spent his time amongst the outcast, the sinners, the poor, the people "good society" isn't thought to be made up of. But if a church could actually embody the message of Christ, then I feel it would be a true church.

So now back to my criticism of the church. I do it because I am holding my leaders accountable for their actions (or non-actions). I spent two years of my life teaching people and converting people to this religion, and the rest of it telling people how great it was. I feel I have somewhat of an obligation to speak up when I believe that leaders are leading people in a harmful direction... and I wouldn't know that except that I myself lived it. I still speak up in the church's defense when someone says something untrue or misguided about it, so can I not do the same in the opposite situation? Am I cynical?

04 August 2011

PE: A Year in Review... It really does get better

A year ago right now I was finalizing suicide plans. This week last year I was saying goodbye to my family for what I believed to be the last time. I was at my lowest. The only thought in the world that brought me any kind of peace at all was death. I had been suicidal for most of the year, but had never begun making preparations until August. Those nights were agonizing and the hours of darkness they brought seemed to last much longer than the hours of daylight.

I would have never imagined that my life would be what it is today. I couldn't imagine it. I couldn't possibly believe that their would ever be happiness for me in this life. I would never have thought that my mouth would ever form the shape of a genuine smile again. Oh how wrong I was, and how happy I am that I did not take my life before it even had a chance to begin!

I have experienced so much joy in the last year. So many firsts! First kiss that sent electrifying currents through my body. First official relationship. First time I felt the desire to hold another person's hand. To think I almost gave up before I was able to experience love!

A year ago I could count one one hand the number of people who knew I was concerned I might be gay. Today, my family, extended family, friends, coworkers, home ward bishop and stake president... basically everyone knows. I am in a committed relationship. I've met amazing people from all walks of life and have made lots of new friends. I am so lucky! And I would have laughed at the person who would have said that those three words would come out of my mouth last year.

It really has gotten better. Life is sweet again... even after i forgot the taste of it... when life was full of death and despair and darkness. My world was, in a sense, resurrected. It was made alive again after it had grown dead and cold. I look forward and welcome the future. I have dreams again. Love exists again. Life is so worth living.

29 July 2011

PE: Sometimes We Don't Know Where We're Going

I recently moved to downtown Salt Lake City and am still kind of learning the area. Anyway, I was driving around trying to find this restaurant, but it wasn't exactly where google maps said it was. To be fair, it was close... but I thought for sure it didn't exist when it wasn't EXACTLY where google said. It just happen to be a few doors down.

Anyway, I got to the parking lot of the strip mall where it was located and found this:

I immediately parked my car and took a picture, noting the irony of it all. But then I was asking myself, "why is it that anything written in graffiti on a dumpster seems so much more profound?" I suppose its because it is illegal and if you are going to risk doing it, it must mean something important to the writer. 

Growing up Mormon, you really never doubt where you are going. You know exactly where it is you are going. My life was planned from day one and I knew what to expect until I I realized I didn't fit in the puzzle. All of a sudden, I had no idea where I was going! For me, it was really scary to all of a sudden no longer have my google map... or realizing that the map I had been following all my life ended up leading me to the wrong location.

But guess what? I have found so much joy and excitement in not knowing exactly where I am going. It is only when you are not quite sure of where you are headed when you accidentally find hidden treasures in life. Like this dumpster. If the restaurant was exactly where the map had said, I would have never found it.

But there are more substantial lessons to be learned, treasures to be found. I have met so many amazing people and have added so much depth to my life due to this path I've taken into the unknown. It really has been wonderful. And now, I don't worry about knowing exactly where I am going... because it is in the discovery of the destination that the joy lies.

26 July 2011

THT: The Worst Kind of Harm

I don't work tomorrow... which is why I am writing a slew of posts. Anyway...

I was thinking how it seems the church and members of the church find assurance in the fact that they say they "love our gay brothers and sisters" and are "against bullying of any kind." I mean, those of course are good things... but personally, the church that screams "GOD HATES GAYS!" does so much less harm than my church does. The LDS church has been involved in the worst kind of harm.

Here is what I mean. As gay people, or as any person really, we can avoid a church that preaches hate against gays. We don't have to have anything to do with them. They can think what they want and make whatever judgments they want and the most it can do is hurt our feelings. They can deny membership and service and friendship to us, but that is it.

When a church steps outside its congregation, however, and actively seeks to prevent non-affiliated people from attaining the level of happiness they seek, when it goes beyond the borders of it's constituency to prevent people from attaining their dreams and goals for their lives, THAT is harmful in the worst way. The church has reached its hand into the lives of people who don't even have any kind of affiliation with it.

If I had to choose between a church existing that actively spoke about hating gays and bullied them on the streets and a church that claimed to love gays and not bully, but actively participated in taking away homosexual's rights and ensuring that they remain second-class citizens, I'd choose the former. At least then you would be in a relationship legitimized by society that you could depend on to be a rock in the stormy waters of hate and prejudice. At least then you could still move forward knowing that the laws of your country protect you equally as much as they protect the bullies. The church is just a bully disguised as your friendly neighbor who "loves you, but hates your choices." I don't think anyone should feel relieved that the church made a statement against bullying and for love. It's by their fruits ye shall know them... and lets be honest, it is because of the church that thousands of couples are treated like second-class citizens.

PE: I'm dating this boy

It has been over two months since I met Sean. It has been really wonderful. I was so full of doubts about the relationship before it really began. I had a whole list of reasons why it wouldn't work. But it has worked. I thought it would be nice if I shared some things about him and my relationship. Its been awhile since I've talked about really personal things.

Funny thing... he actually found me online. Through this very blog. He just wanted to meet people and make some friends because he had just come out and knew no one. So I invited him to game night with some of my friends.

We can talk for hours. One thing we've done quite a bit is go to the Broadway theater to see indie films. Awesome. His family is amazing. I practically lived at his house while I was in the process of moving to Salt Lake and his parents are some of the best people I know. We've had countless dinners with his family. We've gone back-country hiking with his parents in Zion National Park. He is so selfless and never ceases to complement me and encourage me. He isn't Mormon, but his whole extended family is and he grew up here and wanted to be Mormon growing up, so he knows enough about it to understand on a pretty deep level things that I have dealt with. His mom's cousin was Stewart Matis.

It is interesting that even in such a open, non-religious, pro-gay rights household, he grew up to become a self-hating Christian. Suicide was definitely something he contemplated before coming out. We share a lot of similar experiences in coming to terms with our sexuality.

He's in Australia and will be until the middle of November for a study abroad. I miss him fiercely. I went with his parents to see him off. We went up to the security check-point together to say goodbye. It had been a rough couple days for Sean and saying goodbye was pretty emotional for him. If we lived in a better world, our goodbye kiss would have been more substantial, but we settled for a quick kiss as to not cause a scene at the SLC airport. I regret not feeling like we could embrace that moment. We sacrificed it for the comfort of others.

It sounds dramatic to say that we live in fear... but the fact is, we do. Anytime we are in public, their is this ball of fear inside that prevents us from being ourselves completely. We know that if we are going to hold hands, we are likely going to receive some kind of punishment from society. It could be something as small as staring and pointing or something as huge as verbal and even physical abuse. We are both willing to take on a little risk. It is worth it. But we still hold back plenty.

It seems crazy now to think that I would ever consider a life of loneliness. That I would sacrifice a loving, supportive relationship because a religion cites 7 passages of scripture and says it means God hates fags. Sean is an amazing support to me. He loves me and I love him. We care deeply for each others well being. We feel whole together. Together, all the bad things in life fall to the wayside. Being in a loving relationship makes me look forward with eagerness for the day I marry the man I choose to spend the rest of my life with. To build a life with. How dare anyone cite God for the reason they try to prevent me from achieving that level of happiness.

THT: It's not me, it's God

Why do people insist on blaming God for their prejudice and hate? "I don't have a problem with gays, but GOD does, and I'm obligated to do what HE says." It is the same with Mormon leaders. "Well it isn't that I have a problem with it, but President Monson says..."

I heard this quote recently that went something like this:

"You know you have made God from your own image when he hates all the same people you do."

This all gives God a bad reputation. It isn't that people hate God, they just hate the God people tell them about. Interestingly, if you ask non-believers what they think about Christ, people like the guy. They think he is a great role-model, a great teacher... they just hate Christians. Why is that? There is some disconnect between Christ and the people who name themselves after him.

My beliefs and faith are constantly developing. Truth is, I give thought to my spirituality and my faith every single day. I feel like I am definitely on the road to leaving religion... but not leaving my faith. It has taken me some time to realize that leaving religion doesn't have to mean leaving God.

18 July 2011

THT: The Power to Create Worlds

I went to see Harry Potter today. Whenever I think of Harry Potter I am so amazed at the brilliance of it. There is a line in the movie when Harry Potter asks Dumbledore "Is this real? Or is this all just in my head?" to which Dumbledore replies, "Of course its in your head Harry! But does that make it any less real?"

I've thought on that many times before. The power we have to create reality. In the church, we strive to reach the highest level of the highest kingdom of heaven where we will have the power to create worlds. Sometimes people spend there whole lives in preparation for this possible future. But you know what I realize? We don't need to waste time, simply waiting for the next life to take part is something like that. We can create worlds right here, right now.

Look at JK Rowling. Has she not created a world? A world that millions of people share? A world that we all feel as though we have experienced? "But," you say, "it is just make believe. It is only in our heads." Yet this make believe world is probably the only real shared experience you have in common with millions of strangers that you otherwise would have no shared experience with. You can meet a complete stranger who is nothing like you, yet you walk into a room with candles hanging from the ceiling and you will both reflect on your memories and experiences with Harry Potter and the world Rowling created. Amazing.

We can help create a new world every day, right now. If we were up to it. We could create a world of equality. A world of love. A world of peace. A world of beauty. We could also create a world of hate, or darkness, or prejudice. Maybe not in a day... but over the course of our lives, we can do a lot to make a world. Even God didn't create the world in a day... or even seven. If one human mind is able to create a world of magic and wizards that the whole world embraces, how can we believe we have no power to create a new world together here, right now?

The human mind is powerful. And as Dumbledore suggests, it can define reality. That is why belief is such a powerful thing and why i believe it is important that we make sure that what we believe is actually going to create a better reality. Will believing that being gay is wrong or that it is evil for two men who love each other to marry create a better world? I have seen that it does not. It creates heartache and pain. So let us use our power to create a new world.

28 June 2011

THT: Oh Say, What is Truth? (Part I)

I wish someone could tell me the answer. Someone that could have no possible conflict of interest. It is pretty ridiculous. Tonight I typed in "does God exist" into a google search. Perhaps the answer lies in the question? Why is it a question that we cannot leave alone? I've mentioned before how I am kind of on a teeter-totter when it comes to belief in God. Some days I believe, other I don't. Sometimes I wake up believing, and I go to bed unbelieving. More often than not though, I believe in a God. The next question is what God?

Whose God do I believe? My own God with my own definitions? The mainstream Christian God? The Mormon God? Why does it matter? Does it matter? My mind is so tired of trying to make sense of God and religion while at the same time mixing my own life experience into the equation.

I'd like very much for there to be a God... but then that thinking makes me criticize my own thoughts. Can I trust a mind that is biased? I feel like I have already gone through this struggle. The God question. I came out of that a believer. So what happened?

I accepted that I was gay. That's what happened. And then I had to face the hate and ignorance perpetuated by religion. And since religion is connected to God, derived from the idea of God, I was again confused. If religion is the fruit of God, then I'm not sure I want to know him.

I tried to talk to my family about religion today. Asking questions, etc. Didn't work out so well. So I am left to my own devices I guess in figuring out the answers. I think my problems really lie in religion. Then I let those muddy the idea of God. The truth is, I don't know that I could be atheist at this point. Belief has been too instilled in my mind. I just want to know that what I believe is truth. Is that too much to ask?

15 June 2011

THT: Will I Ever Be Able to Forgive?

I still hurt sometimes. When I am reminded of that dark place in my life when all I wanted was to end it, I hurt. The pain is real and it runs deep. It is the kind of pain you never forget. You know how you watch America's Funniest Home videos and there is a dad playing baseball with his son and you just know that somehow that ball is going to end up in dad's crotch? You know it, yet every time this scenario plays out, everyone's muscles contract and a grimace appears on every face. It is kind of like that, except it is emotional and spiritual.

I've been watching "Jack & Bobby" on netflix. It is an amazing TV series that only lasted one season. The episode I watched today involved a gay suicide. Gay suicides are common enough that they appear on tv shows, movies, songs, and just about any other story-telling medium. It is real. I remember back a couple conferences ago when the church responded to protests by assuring everyone that they did not condone bullying of any type. I had friends who avoided the direct idea that gay teens are being driven to suicide by making the problem general. No one was talking about how gays were being pushed to the point of suicide, they simply clutched to the idea that bullying was bad. Except, I don't think it is bullying that drives people to suicide most the time (though it sure doesn't help).

If kids felt like their family or their church or other people they were close to were proud of them and embraced them for who they were, a bully at school wouldn't cause them to become suicidal. Sure, bullying is bad, but that isn't the real issue. I'm started to go off on a tangent and I will stop there.

During those times I am reminded of the pain I went through, I hurt so deep. I am often brought to painful tears. Tears of betrayal, anger, sadness, and inadequacy. How do I forgive and move on? How can I forgive the men I believed to be prophets and a church I believed to be true for embracing and teaching a rhetoric that almost succeeded in causing me to take my own life and has succeeded in driving countless others to that end? Their number will never be known.

Is it possible? Is it possible even when the same rhetoric is being taught by the same people? Is it possible when the offender does not even admit to doing any wrong? Imagine that a person steals money from your wallet. After being angry for awhile you think, "well, perhaps there was a good reason, I will forgive him." But just then you catch sight of the offender and he is stealing from others right before your eyes. Can you turn your back on that and move on and really forgive him? Even while he continues stealing from other innocent victims?

I already know that I will never be able to forget the scars that are mine due to the anti-gay rhetoric men in authority taught as I grew to adulthood. But can I forgive?

PE: Holding Hands

I started dating someone recently. The first guy since Brig really. I mean, I've been on dates and I've had a couple almost-relationships, but never full-blown relationship. I don't think I was able to let go until recently.

Anyway, a couple weekends ago was PRIDE here in Salt Lake. I didn't really join in any of the festivities. Instead Sean and I went out for a quiet night. It was one of the first relatively warm nights and we were downtown getting a bite to eat. We had to park several blocks from the restaurant we ate at, so it was a nice walk. Typically I don't engage in any kind of PDA because I don't like to make people feel uncomfortable, but on our walk back to the car all the couples were out holding hands and it was such a nice night and I really wanted to hold hands. Every couple we saw were holding hands- no joke.

So initially I just gave his hand a squeeze and thanked him for a nice dinner, but it was apparent he wanted to hold my hand too, so we did. I wish straight people could understand what it is like. I imagine it is somewhat similar to what it felt like for Rosa Parks to sit in the front of the bus. You kind of hold your breath, knowing that you will be punished, but hoping you won't. Well we got punished.

Stares and double-takes don't get to me too much. I guess I kind of accept it as a fair trade. If I want to hold hands, I have to put up with the staring. But we had an SUV full of guys pointing, laughing and yelling at us. "EWW- THEY'RE GAY! DUDE, LOOK!" "GAY!" "BAHAHAHA!" It kind of ruins the nice relaxing summer night. And even though we continued holding hands, the truth is, I couldn't help but feel ashamed and hurt. I felt like I wanted to go and hide. You'd think those feelings would go away, that I would just be used to it, but they don't. I think we all get good at masking the hurt, but the pain is still real.

I yearn for the day when all people see is couples enjoying a warm summer's night instead of the two guys holding hands. I hope I live to see it.

28 May 2011

THT: What if this is it?

I remember shortly after coming out and while I was dating Brig I thought about Mormon "hell." See, Mormons really don't believe in hell. In fact, the belief is that the worst place you really have a chance at getting into is so wonderful, we could never even come close to imagining the greatness of it. And if we did, we'd do anything to get there. During that time I thought, "I could do this. I could live a happy life in a world just like this, even with all of its flaws and imperfections." I mean, there are difficult times... but there is so much to hope for and dream of. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow and progress. So many people to meet and love. And then to think that even if all my accusers were right, and I was going to Mormon hell, it would by a thousand times better.

Well, lately I have been contemplating another idea. What if this is it? No heaven. No hell. Just this life. 80 years on this planet. What then? Do I have a purpose still? I've been raised with the idea that my purpose in this life was to prepare for the next. It rested completely on the idea that there is a next life. If you take that away, what is left?

When I strip that idea away, here is my conclusion. I still want to learn all I can. I still want to do what I can to make this place I live in a better place. A better place for my family, yes, but also a better place for future generations of people. There are so many ways a person can contribute good to society. Some are giant leaps and others are barely noticed. But change is happening and we are able to drive that change by living lives of honesty and goodness. On my deathbed, if I can look back on my life and feel as if I have made positive change in the world (even if it is only small and personal) I will be satisfied and will feel fulfilled. What better feeling to die with than the assuring one telling you that you lived a meaningful life and that it somehow created some measure of positive change in the world, even if it was only within a single person.

When I look at that conclusion I came to, it becomes clear why we have myths and legends and religions and stories. Take away the literalness of everything that has been said about folklore or religion and what do you have? Stories that are basically trying to teach us that we have the power within us to do something good. To improve ourselves and gain strength, power, and knowledge. To be agents for change in the larger world around us and improve life, inspire, and heal. That together, we actually have godlike powers to create the world of tomorrow.

So maybe the world wasn't flooded. And maybe Noah didn't actually collect two of every kind of animal. But don't we find hope in fresh starts? For second chances? Don't we sometimes feel the need to clear our lives of the crap and start over with the basics? Doesn't that give us hope that we have the power to become better?

And even if you don't believe that Jesus raised people from the dead or healed them, have we not had faith in our ability find cures for disease? Have our doctors not literally brought people back to life? Are we not literally empowered to heal?

When we try to make myths and beliefs into science, it falls apart. We spend millions of dollars doing carbon dating and excavation and people spend their whole lives searching for solid evidence of this or that, and when it comes down to it, we've missed the point entirely. Just like the pharisees who counted steps on Sunday. All these schools of thought are just meant to try and help aide people in finding the power within themselves to live rich, meaningful, good lives.

So at the end of the day I feel like I am asking the wrong question. Who cares of this is it or not? The interesting question to me is, why do we as a human race believe in leaving a legacy? Why do we find fulfillment in doing good? Why do we strive for better even after our basic needs are met? What is in us that causes such a phenomenon?

22 May 2011

PE: Lessons From Hollister

So one of my jobs is managing a Hollister store. There are two lessons I feel I've learned from working there that are relevant to the discussions on this blog.

#1. If you say you "feel bad" about messing up a pristine folded pile of clothes, you shouldn't throw the shirt you just grabbed onto the presentation.

If you have ever been to an Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister, you probably are familiar with the kind of folding the company expects. It is basically folding perfection. It sounds ridiculous to talk about the rage that can overtake a person who has just spent 30 minutes of their life on a perfect pile when they see a careless shopper simply rip one out of the stack with no thought given to trying to preserve the other shirts (or whatever). But that rage is real. I sometimes think that shoppers think we just throw the clothes into some kind of folding machine. Do they realize that a person spent time making a pile look like that?

Anyway, every now and then someone will talk about how they "feel bad" for messing up a pile to their friend, yet they will discard their unwanted article of clothing as if it were a piece of trash and they were at a garage sale. And then you get those conscious shoppers who will fold (in some way) the piece of clothing they looked at and place it on top of the pile it came from. It doesn't really matter how they fold it, but the fact that they acknowledge that it is a nicely folded pile by putting a little effort in keeping it nice says a lot about their character.

What does this have to do with anything? I'll tell you. I can't number the amount of times I have heard people say, "I feel bad that you have to deal with being gay," or, "I imagine that would be so hard, and wouldn't wish that on anyone," or "Gosh, I can imagine how painful it would be not to be able to marry the person you love..." and then they end with "but..."

Tell me people, do you REALLY feel bad? Because if you REALLY feel bad, why do you vote to ban gay marriage? Why do you accept that gays shouldn't be given the same rights or standards as straights? Lip service does nothing. And why do you feel bad? Usually we only feel bad because we know what we are doing is messed up... or wrong. You know that pile was folded by a person who spent time making it perfect, and you know the extra work you are leaving them to do, and yet you simply throw the shirt in some random place. If you feel bad for me because "it just must be SO hard to be gay," then make it easier. It doesn't have to be hard.

#2 Our society is unbelievably homophobic. Still.

This is a lesson I learned from our new bags. They certainly cause a stir in Hollister stores across the nation:

Yep. Two dudes. First off, you need to realize that Abercrombie & Fitch sells sexy. Their bags and marketing is always a little provocative and it always has. Suddenly when there is no girl involved, however, the world gets crazy. Second, these guys are not even touching. They are laying on the beach. In fact, if you go to the beach today, chances are you could find a similar thing going on. Two guys on the sand next to each other. But let me tell you about the reactions I witness on a daily basis from people of all ages.

Some people will actually give the bag back after seeing it. Some make comments. They will take a look at the bag, and then with a look of disgust, comment about it to their fellow shopper. Some will comment right in front of you. "That's a fag bag, I don't want that." "Eww, why do they have to put dudes on this!" Others will be more discreet and they will crumple the bag in their hand so no one can make out what is on it. Some will complain and ask for a different bag.

So now, everyday I am reminded of the homophobia that is still very much alive. Especially when it comes to guys. If you replaced the two models with female models, there would be less of a problem. Better yet, make one female and one male and then they could be on top of each other without much controversy. Plus, you can't even tell there are two guys on it by looking at one side. That's all.

09 May 2011

PE: I worked on Sunday

This post actually has nothing to do with being gay. It does have to do with being Mormon. This Sunday, I worked. I don't normally work on Sundays, but this week, I did. I work downtown, just minutes away from temple square. On any given day, you will pass quite a few homeless people. Some are in groups. Some are taking a nap on the grass. Some hold signs hoping for some money. Others will just approach you and ask if you could get them a burger from mcdonalds. Some are old. Some are young. Some are mothers, and there are those that are just kids. Ever since I started working downtown, it bothered me. But Sunday it really bothered me.

I made it to work in my fastest time. As I drove out of the neighborhood I live in, cars were filing into church parking lots and families were entering the buildings all dressed up. Sunday is a good day to drive in Utah because everyone is at church. But while everyone was sitting in church, I was driving by the homeless that wander the streets around temple square. And maybe it was just my imagination, but there sure seemed to be a lot more out there on Sunday. It seems so backwards to me. Why are there homeless people in a state where so many Mormons live? But more than that, why are there masses of visibly homeless people surrounding temple square?

Meanwhile, the church is building the 3 billion dollar city creek center across the street from temple square. A massive project that includes luxury condos and an upscale mall with a retractable roof. I don't care were the money is coming from, no church should be putting money into an upscale shopping center before taking care of the homeless and needy that surround its very headquarters. In Jan. 2006, from the Church PR department, (Deseret News Publishing Company): Edgley said, “that since 1984, the LDS Church has donated nearly $750 million in cash and goods to people in need in more than 150 countries. I wouldn't have believed that the church would spend more money on a mall than on over 20 years of humanitarian aid.

Some will argue that it is only costing 1 billion dollars... my answer would be, only? And this IS the number the church initially reported... actually, it started at $800,000. However, take a look at this article from DESERET NEWS, and you will find that indeed, "City Creek Reserve is spending more than $1 million a day on construction, and the project ultimately will cost around $3 billion, said Chris Redgrave, a KSL executive who also chairs the Salt Lake Chamber's Can-Do Coalition." Mind you, this number was given in November 2009. Costs tend to rise on these things.

Sorry for venting. I just don't get it. Am I missing something here? The way the church is choosing to revitalize downtown is to provide another place to buy a new outfit? Should I not be worried about this? Someone please make sense of it for me.

05 May 2011

THT: I can't be unhappy

I put a lot of pressure on myself. Right now I am working a TON. Last week I went 48 hours without sleep to work. This is the reason I don't post much anymore. Obviously my life is off balance. Work has taken over. I'm not sure what the solution is yet, but it is definitely taking a toll. I am less happy and satisfied with my life. But this means a whole lot more than that when put into context of my situation.

You see, I have plenty of people expecting me to fail. They expect me to have a breakdown and to be unhappy. They expect it because I have chosen to live a life true to the person that I am. They expect it because I am living as a gay guy and thy think that any bit of unhappiness I may find in my life will be directly due to that.

The result is, I can't allow myself to be unhappy. I feel like I need it all. I need to be successful, I need a steady relationship, I need to volunteer and work for the benefit of others, I need to have a plan for my life and I need to be on the road to achieving that plan. I have to know what I want and go out and get it. If I don't, somehow I loose credibility. So when I don't have all those things (like right now where I have let work take over my life) I get down on myself. And then I get even more down on myself for being down at all. I feel like having a bad day or being unhappy is proof for others and evidence to myself that I am doing something wrong. Others will assume it is my being gay, and it is hard for me to keep that out of my mind.

But the truth of the matter is that gay people have bad days too. They are unhappy sometimes too. We don't always have everything figured out. I need a vacation.

Here is the first of a series of short skits I am producing for Robert's Arts and Crafts. There should be about 2 episodes a month through the end of the year. They are trying their hand at viral marketing and social media:

ARG: Isn't it funny

Isn't it funny how we will read scriptures that talk about men and apply them to women without question? Sometimes we even add that part in on our own...  men (and women). Yet we do not think it right to suppose that scriptures that refer to one relationship or one family could relate to another type. We can change the exclusive "man" to inclusive "people" but we can't change "wife" to " spouse" or "woman" to "man." When it comes down to it, are Christ's teachings really about specific gender couplings or are they about relationships between people? What if we focused on and applied what Christ was saying about relationships rather than on the specific one he references in a certain parable or teaching. Aren't we supposed to apply the scriptures to our own lives and our own situations?

This is the approach I take. Funny thing about my patriarchal blessing... it became more true and more relevant and more personal after coming to terms with being gay. The wording is even such that it fits much better with the life I have now chosen to live. Certain wording always confused me a little. But now, it actually makes more sense to me. The only thing that doesn't fit is the mention of a wife. It refers to my spouse as a "her." It would appear that i have two options. I either through my patriarchal blessing out, figuring it is all a bunch of bull, or accept that I have chosen a path I am not supposed to. However, there is another approach.

My patriarch was like 70 years old. While I believe he is inspired, I'm not sure that that inspiration is in the form of words. I believe that, like the way the holy ghost works, it is more direction by feeling. So when he felt inspired to talk about a significant other or spouse, his assumption, and even his experience tells him that this significant other will be a female. When we read the words of John the relevator, or Isaiah, how many times are we told that they use language that is familiar to them to describe things they may not understand or may not have had experience with? Could it not be the same with a patriarch?

Another question people sometimes have is that if I believe that my patriarchal blessing is inspired, I must believe everything. The Book of Mormon, the church, the leaders, the whole package. I used to think that too. I don't anymore because I think it is unhealthy. It is like meeting one person that is trustworthy and then assuming that everyone else must be trustworthy too. Then one day, when you find out that first person you met was a fraud, you loose faith in everyone because you trusted them based on the assumption that the first guy was good, even if some of them really are good, trustworthy, honest people.

No. I take principles and ideas one at a time. "Precept upon precept." While reading scriptures I will come upon a teaching or principle that really strikes home and rings true in my heart. That tells my that that idea is a good one. It doesn't mean everything ever written in that book is pure and unadulterated truth. When I say i believe my blessing was inspired, it doesn't mean that I believe that everything from polygamy to the blacks not holding the priesthood, to gays being damned is inspired. I take things one at a time.

16 April 2011

THT: God

I was at my aunt's house with relatives on conference Sunday for dinner and games. I didn't watch conference this year. It was kind of a Boyd-cott and kind of self-preservation. I will not take poison into my soul, and I think that that is exactly what watching conference last time was for me- poison. It sounds dramatic, I know. And I probably shouldn't have been so against the idea seeing as how other general authorities have been in such disagreement with Packer's last conference talk. But I'm still recovering from the pain, a yes, a little resentment, that it brought.

Anyway, recently I was sort of contemplating the idea of God. The thought entered my mind that perhaps he was made up. Maybe God is purely man-made. I do not pretend that I never question the existence of deity and I will never claim to know such things. If I say I believe in God, it is exactly that- a belief. Some days I believe in God more than others. I think most of us question throughout our lives.

Anyway, at the dinner with my relatives, an uncle said something that I thought was interesting and worth sharing. We got on the topic of the "big-bang" theory. He said that believing in the big bang theory was like walking through a barren dessert on a barren planet all alone and stumbling upon a Rolex watch in perfect working condition in the sand which you then come to conclude was somehow produced naturally (without the hand of any creature) by happenstance.

While I don't fully agree with this analogy, I feel like it demonstrates an interesting point. The reason I don't fully agree is that I do not pretend to know how God made the earth and the life found on it. Perhaps he constructed something like the "big-bang" to fulfill his purposes. Who am I to know? But I do find it a bit ridiculous to look at the universe and conclude that this earth and it's life was accidental. In this huge expanse of space filled with countless planets and stars, numberless as the grains of sand in a dessert, the only one we know of housing intelligent and thriving life is ours. And like the mechanics of a watch which have to be so carefully and precisely constructed, our world operates almost laughably perfect for our existence.

This last week I have really been missing scripture and religious music. I have been so busy I hardly even have time to see friends but once a week. But all these thoughts brought a scripture to mind. Scripture is so poetic and beautiful:
"...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."
-Alma 30:44

When I stop and take a moment to look around me and beyond myself, it really is harder to believe that their is no God. It would be easier to conclude that the dessert made a Rolex.

PE: Sex

Did that get your attention? It is interesting how much attention that short little three letter word gets. Why? Why are we so obsessed about it? Why are we so afraid of it? Why do so many choose it over friends, family, careers, etc. It is sort of fascinating. I'm not sure I know all the answers to these questions. I'm not sure the answers matter. But I feel I can come to one solid conclusion based on all the buzz that surrounds this three letter word. For some reason, it is important to human beings. It may be important to different people for different reasons. But in the end, it is something that matters. It is something human beings value.

I categorized this post under "personal experiences." As many of you may know, I'm a virgin. That isn't to say that I haven't had sexual experiences and it also isn't to say that your definition of virgin is my definition. I know very well that family and friends read this, but I really don't care to sensor my writing. I have been done with the facade idea for quite some time. I don't need a facade. I am real. Flesh and blood. Imperfect. Human. And I don't pretend to be anything other than what I am.

Sex isn't really something I go crazy over. When I first came to terms with being gay, so many people told me that I'd be going through a "slut phase." Apparently it is common for guys to just go wild after accepting they are gay. I understand why that could happen. They've spent so much of their life suppressing their feelings instead of dealing with them in healthy ways. The religious may believe that they are going to hell and they might as well enjoy the trip there. There is no direction for them. The easiest gay "scene" to find is the party scene. It is the loudest and the most stereotypical. Imagine not knowing a single gay person. Now that you have come to terms with being gay yourself and you are ready to meet other gay people, who are you most likely to recognize? The flamboyant, "I'm here and I'm queer," loud and in-your-face gay or the successful, educated, career-minded and family-oriented gay? Which one is most-likely going to be at parties and clubs? The first of course. And so, when you are dealing with that alone as a kid, yeah... it is easy to find that lifestyle all the while oblivious to any other gay way of life.

Anyway, I never went through that. Maybe because I was so old when I was coming to terms with my sexuality or maybe it was because I was on anti-depressants that killed my sex drive haha. Don't get me wrong, the body wants it. It feels great. But so do drugs (so I hear). I am not saying sex is bad or destructive like drugs, but it sure can be. It gets back to this whole "sex being important" business. For some reason it is tied to our brain in ways that are important. And when you start messing with the brain, you better know what you are doing.

I get pretty tired of going on dates with guys who obviously just want to get down to business. Sadly, that's all many of them know. I took a guy on a date sort of recently and he thanked me. He said he had never been taken on a date. It has always been a guy inviting him over, messing around, and calling it a night. That is so sad. I told him that he deserved to be treated with respect. To be taken out for dinner. To have someone interested in who he was and what he enjoyed and what he dreams of. We all deserve that.

I said that sex isn't something I go crazy over. That isn't entirely true. I just don't go crazy over meaningless sex. Sex is something that I gain an appetite for when the person lying next to me is going to be there when I wake up. He is going to eat breakfast with me and watch my favorite movies with me. He is going to take care of me when I am sick and get frustrated with little bad habits I have that a person could only know after knowing me long enough to notice them. He is going to try and cheer me up after a difficult day. He is going to worry when I am driving in bad weather late at night and miss me when I am gone for awhile. That's when it is worth it. That is when that "drug" that is sex is prescribed by a reputable doctor. That is when all the things that make sex important are satisfied.

I can't get married to another guy at the moment. Who knows if I ever will legally be able to marry. I feel like the reason marriage is so important to me and other gay people is that marriage means all those things I wrote about above. Both people are entering into an agreement that the state, the family, the friends, and the world recognizes as a relationship where both people will care for each other in sickness and in health. That they are willing to love each other their whole lives and make that commitment before the eyes of loved ones and God. But that is still what I look for. I am looking for the person that is equally committed to loving me as I am to him. And when I feel I have found that person, sex is the cherry on top ;-)

29 March 2011

THT: New Directions

Okay, so I stole this title from Glee. So what. I love it. However, this post isn't about Glee, or even about singing or dancing, or Sue Sylvester (whom I love). It is about us. All of us really. I feel like everyone comes to points in their lives where they are so overwhelmed by all the different paths presented, and are so concerned about choosing the right one, that they really don't know which direction to choose. I have some thoughts for you if you find yourself in such a dilemma.

Now, what I have to say comes from my own experience... it is not gold... or science... or even necessarily true, it is just what I think. For probably a few years of my life, I was stuck. I didn't realize I was stuck until I accepted my sexuality. Here are the reasons I was stuck:

I was gay, but refused to accept it. Dating girls wasn't working and it wasn't something I even enjoyed. However, having a family was the next step in life and I didn't see any way to get there. At that point I didn't really know what to believe as far as religion went, and I didn't really know what to do to change that because I already had tried the thing that I thought was the answer... Pray. All the time. It didn't work. On top of that, I was a perfectionist, and didn't want to do anything wrong.

When I went through the painful process of accepting my gayness, the fact that I was stuck was even more apparent. I knew I was gay and that nothing I could do would change it (I'd spent my life trying). But then what? I wasn't sure what that would mean for my life. I had all these options in front of me, unsure of which was the best one. Being a perfectionist kept me planted in my spot in front of signs pointing every possible direction. Worse though, was that it was more like I was on the beach and my feet had become buried by the sand washed up by the waves. I stood there for awhile, even after I realized that I was slowly being buried in my place... If I waited long enough, it would have become my grave.

But I moved from that spot, completely unsure about whether the direction I was headed was the right one. Why? Why did you start heading a direction when you didn't know where it lead Jonathan? Especially if you are a perfectionist? Good question. Here is what I realized. I wasn't progressing where I was at. Sure, I wasn't making any decisions that I could possibly regret later, but I also wasn't making any good ones either.

I finally realized that moving in any direction would be better than standing in a place that gave no sign of progress or learning. Even if I were headed in the wrong direction, at least I'd be moving. And if I was moving, I'd be able to learn whether or not my path was good or bad. Here is what I mean:

Say I was standing in the middle of an empty parking lot so large I couldn't see where it ended. In the middle was a post with signs pointing every direction. I could stand there and read all the signs and worry about which one was right, or I could get in my car, and start driving. So I start driving. I am headed west. After an hour or so, the pavement starts deteriorating and turning into rock and sand. It is barren dessert. No shade. No water. No sign of life or civilization. I choose the wrong direction. Damn. But guess what? I learned something. I learned that West is not the direction I want to go. If I had spent that hour deliberating in front of that sign, I would still not know anything about heading west. I'd be clueless. So even in going the wrong direction, I gained valuable knowledge.

So I head East. About an hour out, trees start coming out of the pavement. The pavement ends and I start driving through this forest. There are animals and life, but it is still the wilderness. Definitely better than the dessert. I stop and get out of the car and hear the sound of running water north of where I am. I figure people are likely to thrive near water. So I make a little correction and start driving northwest.... This could go on forever, but I will stop there.

What I am saying is that going any direction is better than standing still because along the way, if you are paying any attention to your surroundings, you will learn when you need to make a correction. Eventually, you will get on the right road to town.

So if you are stuck and you don't know what path to choose, make an educated guess and start on it. Nothing says you can't change your mind a few miles down the road.

26 March 2011

THT: No Question

This is part two of my previous post. It also has to do with taking ownership for our own actions. This I write to every person really, but especially to the members of the church.

You, and only you, are accountable for the choices and decisions you make. Try as you might, you cannot hold another person accountable for what you have decided to do or say. I was having a facebook discussion with someone over the homosexuality issue and the church. He has since removed his remark and so I can't reference it here, but I will give you the gist of what he said (which I hear ALL the time).

Basically he said that he believes in revelation and that our leaders are prophets, seers, and revelators. He said that no matter what his personal opinion on matters are, he will always accept their words without question because they are called of God. He said that his reasoning for being against gay marriage is because that is what the leaders teach. He then said that if tomorrow, President Monson announced that the leadership supported gay marriage, he would just as quickly support gay marriage.

Oooooh, this makes me so angry. I know it shouldn't... but this type of thinking (which is SO prevalent in the Mormon culture) is extremely dangerous. Like I have said before, ALL people necessarily have limited understanding and experience (including prophets) and therefore their concepts of what is good and true are fallible. Each person can only envision a part of our shared reality. Such partiality, when presented as the totality, can severely limit the lives who embrace it as truth.

How nice it is that this person can flip a switch in his mind from being against gay marriage one day, and for it the next. It is so easy. And there is no responsibility. You ask this person why he supports or doesn't support the idea and his answer is, "because he (pointing his finger) told me so." No responsibility need be taken. All the while this person feels completely justified because his blind obedience is supposedly a mark of his faith. Meanwhile, the thousands upon thousands of people that have suffered long years due to the actions taken by people like this is completely disregarded. Those years of hurt cannot be so easily switched in a single day. Where is the compassion in that?

I asked, so let's say you were a supporter of "separate, but equal" back before blacks were given the priesthood. In your Sunday School classes, on your mission, you taught people that blacks were cursed and would never hold the priesthood. You perpetuated the idea that people with a certain color skin were some how less than others. Then the revelation comes that all that was wrong. You accept it and go on your happy way. In the meantime, the words you have spoken and the things you have done continue to affect and influence the people you have had contact with. It wasn't the president of the church who taught those things to the people you interacted with, it was YOU. YOU taught those hateful and prejudice things. It is on YOUR head. YOU had the power to find the truth of what had been said. That was YOUR responsibility.

Wake up! You are supposed to be seekers of truth, lovers of the word of God. You are supposed to thirst for knowledge and truth... have a hunger for the best books. That requires work, and YOU are responsible for it. We are required to actively test the knowledge we learn and find the truth. If you think that at the end of the day your conscience will be clear because you simply did everything the prophet said, think again. You are the owner of your choices, not the prophet. At the end of the day, YOU will be judged for what you have done, not the prophet. So you better be damn sure that what you claim to be truth is actually true. 

We look back on the way blacks were treated and we gasp. We can't imagine how any Christian could really say the things and believe the things they did about black people. Are you doing the same thing today? Will your children look back and think the same about you?