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?

24 March 2011

THT: Am I My Brother's Keeper?

"And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground."
 Genesis 4:8-10
Responsibility. This is one of two posts I want to write on this issue. I am not going to mince words here. This first post is directed towards the leaders of this church. You are (speaking to the leaders), in many ways, guilty of the same crime as Cain. This is evident, most recently, by your complete disregard and negligence for the gay LDS people for whom you are responsible for. When you stand before God and he asks, "Where is thy brother Jonathan?" or "Where is thy brother Stuart Matis" or any number of men and women who have been kicked out of their homes, driven away, or simply forgotten and left alone, what will you say?

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

You have lost so many due to negligence and silence on the issue of homosexuality. If a celibacy or heterosexual marriage are not viable options for a person, they are dismissed. They are not invited to participate in your wards. They are not allowed to speak in church. You place a visible mark on them. Don't pretend that others will not notice a person in the ward who never has any calling and who never speaks in church, or who never goes on temple trips or takes the sacrament. There is no help for them from you unless it is on your terms. 
You have lost so many kids to risky behavior, abuse, a life of drugs and sex because you will not give them appropriate, helpful, and realistic counsel specific to their needs and because you have taught their parents that homosexuality is as evil as murder. You have failed to teach these kids that they are valuable and loved by God. That they are of great worth and are not broken or sick. That there are still ways for them to live respectable lives, ones in which they respect themselves and others even within a committed homosexual relationship. That their goal should be a long-term, committed and legitimate homosexual relationship and a family-oriented life if celibacy is not realistic. That they should be open and include their families in their lives.  

You have lost the lives of so many who believed that it would be better to die than to be gay due to careless remarks and comments on homosexuality. Because of the fear you have instilled in them. Because these people wanted to do what was right so bad, that they would rather take their own life than to sin. Because you have allowed an environment of fear, hate, ignorance, and prejudice to exist among your congregations regarding homosexuality. Good, bright, worthy, God-fearing men and women have been lost.

What will you say when God asks you where they are? Take responsibility. If you are what you claim, you are accountable and responsible for the thousands upon thousands that have been lost due to your actions (or non-action). 
"That there are abusive practices that have been used in connection with various mental attitudes or feelings. Over-medication in respect to depression is an example that comes to mind. The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions. While we have no position about what the medical doctors do (except in very, very rare cases — abortion would be such an example), we are conscious that there are abuses and we don’t accept responsibility for those abuses."
-Elder Oaks
You have authorized and known of actions and orders that have been given to gay men and women to cure them of their homosexuality. This includes, but is not limited to, prescribing marriage as a fix, and endorsing shock-therapy at church-owned and church-run BYU. Whether you knew at the time that these prescriptions were harmful or not, you allowed them, and they indeed have proven to be extremely harmful. But rather than apologize and acknowledge this, you have responded, "Am I My Brother's Keeper?"

I am training as a manager at my workplace. In the process I have made many unintentional mistakes. I was unaware that I was doing something wrong. Regardless of that, however, I was still the person who made the mistake and it would never excuse me from apologizing for my error. You are no different. You are responsible for your actions. You ARE your brother's keeper.

10 March 2011

ARG: A Vote to Ban the Book of Mormon

I was having a discussion the other day with a good friend about the gay marriage issue. If you haven't already, you should definitely read this amazing article written by a straight, married, active LDS man. We started talking about the basis for the argument in favor of banning gay marriage. Much of the argument lies on the idea that marriage was around before any government, law, etc. Basically that society has no right to touch the issue.

Well lets think about our religion. Mormonism. We will always claim to be Christian, because we believe that we are, yet most of the world would disagree. There are some points of our doctrine that just rub a lot of people the wrong way. The idea of a Godhead rather than a single being who is God (this is a doctrine that still confuses me). And then there is this belief in another book- the Book of Mormon. One we believe to be the "most correct book." This book means a lot to a lot of people. It gives them direction, brings them understanding, teaches them lessons on life and living, it is a book many have grown to love and value above many other things. It is something people pray about and ponder and try and make decisions based on what they know from what this book teaches.

What if the rest of the Christian world (which far outnumbers us Mormons) decided to get together and vote to ban this book. The bases of the argument was that the bible has been around since the very beginning of Christianity. It is tradition and it is widely accepted by all Christians to be the word of God. It existed long before the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did. Many of the writings found in it's pages even predate Christ. For the rest of the world, the bible IS Christianity. So would you be okay if the world banned the Book of Mormon due to our claim to be Christians? In their mind, it is false advertising. How does that sit with you? The printing presses that continue to print the book are destroyed. If you are caught in possession of the book, it is taken and destroyed and you are banished from society into some prison of shame.

Well having the freedom to have a husband in the future is like having the the freedom to read and believe in the Book of Mormon. Having a husband, a legitimate partner, means a lot to me. He would be someone that would provide me with direction, stability, a foundation. I would learn important lessons on life in my relationship with him. I would make my decisions together with him. I would love him and he will help me understand God in ways I couldn't do otherwise. We would pray and ponder things together. Decide together what the best way is to raise a family. He would mean the world to me. Yes, perhaps marriages like ours haven't ever been the "norm." Perhaps it breaks tradition. But it gives MY life meaning. It brings ME happiness. Do I not have a right to happiness? Are you not in favor of MY freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness? Or am I only free in so far as you agree that it is what happiness is to you?

The only reason why your heterosexual marriage is affecting me at all is that you use it to claim that I am wrong when I say that happiness, for me, is a life with another man. I am only asking for the freedom to seek happiness. I am not threatening YOUR marriage. I am not seeking to ban heterosexual marriage. Your marriage doesn't affect the marriage I wish to have. It doesn't make mine any more or less important. We are equal. Please treat me that way and stop voting to ban me from happiness.

01 March 2011

THT: I Am Not Ashamed...

I am sincerely sorry for slacking in the blog and video departments. I have been very busy with lots of unexpected things happening. On President's Day weekend I totaled my car out-of-state and was stuck without my computer for several days. So right now I am driving a rental while insurance figures things out. Oh, and no worries... no one was injured... except a large rock and my car. I also started a regular full-time job this week. I am doing that as well as free-lance filmmaking, so it keeps me very busy.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about something I was thinking about today that actually has to do with work. I work in Salt Lake. In the past two days I have met probably 25 or so people. Many of them report to me, others are my equals. Some are white others are Asian or black. Some have degrees, others are going to school, and some haven't taken a single course after high school. They are from different states and some are even from another country. I love getting to know people no matter what color their skin is or where they are from.

Most of my co-workers are between the 19-26 range... so naturally, when you are getting to know someone, school comes up. This is the first time that I have been in an environment in Utah where BYU students are a minority. I wish it could just be a name of some school, but it is so much more than that. Immediately, people sum up in their head who you are. You are Mormon. And being Mormon means a whole lot of things. In places outside of Utah (and Idaho) I feel like it isn't such an issue. Growing up in California, telling someone I was Mormon didn't cause someone to bring all these pre-conceived notions to the forefront of their minds. I mean, many people had heard of Mormons... but in California it was generally limited to "they marry lots of women at a young age and they hate gay people." That wasn't so bad. Here though... I am ASHAMED to say I am Mormon.

Please don't get me wrong. That scripture mastery in the bible reads, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," and I am not- truly. I will never be ashamed of my beliefs in Christ and his teachings. Why? Because I know they are good and true and that there would never be any reason to be ashamed. I don't give anyone much thought it they say, "oh my gosh... you are such a good neighbor- EWW!" or, "Why don't you just be more mean to people? You are too nice. It's stupid."

So then why am I feeling so much shame and guilt when I realize the moment people I meet make the connection between me, BYU, and Mormonism? Because these people have not had good experiences with Mormons. I know because I've talked to some of them about it. I am not ashamed of the gospel, but I am ashamed of telling people I am Mormon (at least here) because the name has been muddled. When I say I am Mormon, people associate the hurt and pain they have experienced from other Mormons with me. I become that person who looked down upon them. I become that person who told them they were bad. I become that person who wouldn't allow their kids to play with mine. I become THAT person to them.

It makes me really sad to hear the experiences people have had with "Mormons." And if in the minds of these people, a Mormon is someone who makes them feel less than, or unworthy of, or dirty, or unwanted... I am NOT a Mormon. However, I will always strive to be a disciple of Christ with the hope that one day he will call me his and I will know his voice.