Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Just Trust Him

I just saw this and thought: How true. So often I hold tightly to the things that are not important believing that if I let them go I will lose who I am. These things range from my pride, my knowledge, my body image, my high school memories, gender roles, myths, misconceptions, my role in my family and community, and the many words I use to define myself. But just like this little girl my understanding of who and what I am and what I want is so small. While I know what I want he knows what I NEED which rarely match up. This is why Jesus Christ suffered, bled and died to complete the atonement, so that we could have something far greater than we imagine possible. I hope that in the future I have enough faith to say: Lord I love it, but I trust you! I will listen to your guidance and accept your will.

Until next time Vaya con Dios!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Attraction is not Love

Today I would like to address something that has been irritating me recently. As those of you who have been following my blog know I am engaged to a wonderful woman. As I have told friends and family I have been received mixed responses, everything from open love and support to doubt and confusion. For you see she also experiences Same Gender Attractions and people keep asking me: So, how does that work, you're into guys right?

So now I am writing this. ATTRACTION IS NOT LOVE! It is fully possible to love someone who you are not physically or romantically attracted to. At risk of making people uncomfortable here is an example. Most people love their parents and siblings but will never have physical or romantic attraction to them.

Now being the English major I am here are some definitions to help this discussion. Attraction, according to dictionary.com in regards to relationships is an attractive quality; magnetic charm; fascination; allurement; enticement or a person or thing that draws, attracts, allures, or entices. Love on the other hand is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Based on these definitions it is entirely possible that attraction can lead to love but at the same time a physical attraction is not necessary to love someone.

In my case I love my fiance. I love how she makes me feel like I am wanted for me and not for what I could be or what I can do for her. I love how we share interests and can talk for hours. I love her for her forgiveness of my mistakes, including those that have hurt her.

I know that she is an attractive woman because I am able to reason through the traits she shares with women who are often held up as paragons of beauty but that is not why I love her. It is not what lead me to love her in the first place.

So next time you think you understand someone's relationship while you are looking from the outside: stop it. Just let the couple live their lives in peace and don't try to force your norms on them. All it does is make them want to ignore you and leave you behind in the dark as they continue into the light of the future.

Until next time: Vaya con Dios.

The Difference between Art and Pornography

This morning I came to a realization about pornography. I have wondered why it is so addictive and what separates art from pornography. I believe I have found some answers for myself.

First, why is pornography so addictive? I believe that pornography is so addictive because it fulfills unrelated needs for a short time. It uses shock value to reel you in and pretty soon you can't feel anything without it being progressively more shocking. The most shocking thing about it is that you feel something for a person/image that has no personality. (I am not saying that porn stars are lifeless drones, I am saying the roles they portray in their videos and photo shoots have no personality, nothing realistically emotional to bond with.) This means that those who watch pornography are getting an emotional/sexual release without the accompanying emotional support/bonding of being with a person who loves them. It is equivalent of trying to perform heart surgery with a great sword and stitches with a 21 gauge hypodermic needle. You cause more damage than healing. So this leads to another question: why is it so hard to let go of?

In my experience it is so hard to let go of pornography because it begins to affect your entire emotional and physiological system. Pornography creates an addiction to naturally occurring hormones in your body. You literally become addicted to yourself. The problem is that we are not meant to be solitary creatures. God created Adam and Eve and married them so that they would have help meets, someone to support them in every righteous endeavor. Our bodies are designed to create bonds with those we love. If we start creating that bond with no one on the other end we begin to constantly miss someone who never existed because they only exist in our fantasies.

So now comes question number two: what separates art from pornography? I have thought about this a lot and think I have finally come up with an answer. Art creates a genuine emotion, a connection to the subject. For example, a book that has characters who jump off the page are alive. You can imagine having a conversation with them that is real about their habits and hobbies. You learn about them and create new ideas and understandings. Pornography has no character. It merely has images used to inspire lust, not companionship. Lust consumes, character builds. Pornography is made up of isolated moments of lustful passion. Art inspires the mind to discover new ideas and generates deep fulfilling conversation. Art tells a story. Pornography creates false expectations and ultimately robs us of our capacity to create.

I know that I have been very blunt and direct. I know some will be offended or troubled by what I have said. To you I say search your heart and ask yourself: Why am I offended? Why am I troubled? Then seek to find the answer.

I pray that those with open hearts will see some benefit to what I have written here. Until next time, Vaya con Dios!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Your Trials don't own you, You own them

Yesterday I sat in a devotional at BYU-Idaho and wanted to cry. I was sitting there all alone in a room that literally sits thousands. This has been a common occurrence these last few weeks. It seems every time I am in a meeting or other gathering where there are more people than those in my immediate circle of friends I just want to disappear. Thankfully I remained in my seat and felt the spirit strongly as the speaker extorted us to live after the manner of happiness and to not let our trials own us. After all if we own our trials they end that much sooner.

That may sound strange but I have found it to be true. Once I reach the point that I can talk freely about my trials they change into something else, experiences. You see trials are hard, painful and halt our progress. Experiences teach us, empower us and ultimately allow us to reach our Father in Heaven. Once I can see my trials and tribulations as experiences the cease to be trials and thus become that much easier to deal with.

So you are probably still wondering why I was about ready to cry at the devotional. Well I was allowing my trials to own me. You see I still am in the trenches working to overcome some addictions. With the assistance of my Bishop, friends, family and fiance I am making progress. But sometimes I still slip and then the guilt comes, that destroyer of hope and robber of happiness. So that is why when President Clark (President of BYUI) said "You are welcome here" I almost lost it. More and more I felt like I did not belong and feeling the love a man who had never met me and knowing that it was real brought me to tears. He reminded me that I do belong exactly where I am because it is where the Lord led me.

So next time your trials seem to much to bear, own them. The next time you feel guilt, cry out to the Savior for His grace and love. The next time you feel like you don't belong remember you are welcome here.

And never forget Jesus loves you!

Until next time, Vaya con Dios!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Recently I saw a funny comic, one I think is worthy of being shared here.

I know many times in my life the Lord has carried me but at other times I am sure that he has dragged me kicking and screaming as I threw a tantrum over not getting things my way. I also remember when He later explained with tender mercies how I was precious and worthy of His love.

The Lord doesn't often drag us away from spiritual danger but he always provides a way to escape it. Most often it is through the still small voice of the Holy Ghost. I saw this often during the summer of 2013 when I worked in Utah, first as a door to door pest control salesman and then as a pest control technician.

At that point I was just beginning to accept that I experience Same Gender Attractions and was in the grip of severe depression. I was still hiding virtually everything about myself from my family and friends but most especially my co-workers. Most of my co-workers were very attractive, single, twenty-something-year-old men.

My roommate was a God-send. While I was questioning whether I should remain in the Church he was the steady rock I relied on as my sounding board. He listened and gave advice while not judging. His response when I told him of my SGA was simple and powerful: "Jacob, I trust you." Period. End of discussion, no doubt, no judgment, no lecture. Just a simple declaration of confidence in me.

His confidence in me strengthened my resolve to seek help for my depression and to confide my experiences with SGA in leaders and friends. That is where the long groove in the sand can be seen. When I first looked for help I quickly lost faith in those trying to help me. I moved back to Idaho soon after and the Lord kicked me all the way down the hall into the Bishop's office so that I would not abandon the path to peace. This Bishop was like my roommate, loving and supportive without any hint of judgement. With his help I gained the confidence and faith to allow my Savior to carry me until I was ready to walk beside him.

I hope sharing my experience may be some small help to you. Until next time, Vaya con Dios!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Can't, Can, Need, Should

These last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about my self talk. For those of you who don't know self talk is how social workers and psychologists refer to the conversations we have in our heads that are not necessarily said out loud.

I realized that often in my mind I use the words can't and need when they are really not appropriate. For example, when I see athletic good looking individuals I often think "I NEED to exercise more". In reality I don't need to but I should. How might that change someone's attitude? When I say I need to do something I begin to stress and worry myself about not accomplishing the need. When I say I should do something I am not as stressed because it is no longer something of life and death. Instead it is something of value that I can selectively choose how much and how long to participate in.

Often as human beings we create situations that are way more complicated or stressful than they need to be. Ruth Chang gave a TED talk entitled How to Make Hard Choices that explains this concept very well. She said that often a hard choice is hard only because we choose to make it so. We make these choices hard by trying to logically choose between two equally valuable options. So how does this relate to the words Can't, Can, Need and Should?

They are related because these are some of the words we use to differentiate between these equally valuable options. Returning to my example of exercise, I know that exercise is good for me. Exercise increases physical strength and stamina as well as decrease stress. I also know that I do not like to exercise which creates a feeling of guilt when I see people who enjoy exercising. By using the word "need" in my self talk I have taken a non-stressful event and made it stressful and complicated.

I am curious, What words do you use in your self-talk that make choices or experiences more difficult than they need to be? What strategies have you developed to combat this? Comment below.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Depression does not equal Sadness

I recently had a conversation with my mother that was quite enlightening. I learned that through out my childhood my mother experienced severe depression. I had no idea. Like most children I saw my mom as a superhero, capable of anything from fixing a scratched knee to a broken heart. I never saw the full picture until recently and even now I wonder if I truly see the entirety of my mother.

Growing up I never knew it but my parents keep the most stressful parts of their lives to themselves. I knew about finances at a young age, how to budget and make investment decisions, but I didn't know how to overcome emotional trauma. I knew how to do basic repairs on a house, electrical, plumbing, flooring, etc but not how to repair a broken relationship. My parents did an amazing job teaching the hard skills of life but not the soft skills. This affected my life in several ways.

First, I never learned that depression is not sadness until I almost lost myself in depression and became someone I didn't like. Someone who lied about his life to everyone around him and refused to let anyone in to see the hurt, lost child he was inside. I didn't know that depression can express itself as apathy, as anger, as wistfulness, as loneliness or as sadness. This was the summer of 2013. I worked pest control and was far from home and from friends. I felt utterly alone and almost left the things that have proven to bring the most joy into my life.

At that time I didn't see, I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn't even see the tunnel. What I eventually did see were the friends who found me in Utah and refused to let me go. I saw a family welcome me as their own and even if they didn't know exactly how to help they let me know I was not alone and never needed to be. They were crazy and wild and so full of love it hurt. I didn't just hear them say they loved each other, I saw it in every interaction they had from breakfast to bedtime. I never told them how much they changed my life that summer. But now I have a chance to.

Second, I learned that I should hide those things that hurt me most. Let me be clear, my parents never deliberately taught me this. They just taught me by example that this is how things are to be done. You put on your best clothes and wipe your tears and act as though nothing is wrong because if you admit to yourself, for even a moment, that something is wrong you break. That summer I learned that this is a lie. I learned that to heal and to grow you have to break sometimes.

Like the seed, sometimes our hard exterior has to break so that we can let our inside self shine. I learned it is okay to break, it is okay to cry, it is okay to be held. I learned that just like the seed cannot grow in a vacuum neither can people.

So now I return to my conversation with my mother. I never knew she experienced depression. I never knew how depression can sneak into a life stealing the joy from our grasping fingers. I never knew how destructive depression can be. When I spoke with my mother about my experiences with depression I learned that depression runs in my family. I learned that I was not crazy, there was nothing wrong with me and I was not alone.

I also realized that we, as a society, have no idea how to help those that are in the grips of a very real feeling of depression. Here are some things that helped me and can help you help others:

  1. Be yourself and be genuine: When I was about to abandon my faith I was comforted by my friends who didn't preach or lecture but who were just themselves.
  2. Be present: When someone is depressed and needs help they need to know that you are there for them. They need to know that when it comes right down to it you are willing to listen and let them talk as long as they need to. Be willing to talk about depression if they bring it up. It is a sign that they are ready to begin healing.
  3. Be Cheerful: Be happy and let the infectious joy of your life brighten their day. Joy and laughter are catching. If your friend or family member who is depressed doesn't join right in that is okay. Give them the time to break their shell of depression and let their inner self shine.
  4. Educate yourself: Learn about depression for your own benefit and don't lecture the things you learn at those who are depressed. Arm yourself with the knowledge of depression and signs of it getting worse. 
  5. Overall just be their friend. Not everyone who has depression is suicidal. Don't over react and just be a friend. 
Until next time, Vaya con Dios. 

(For those of you who don't speak Spanish "Vaya con Dios" means "Go with God".)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Recently my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is of the HER2-positive variety, an aggressive form that can grow quickly. Thankfully is caught quickly and she should make a full recovery after a year of treatments. So why am I mentioning this in my blog about SGA?

I am because it has to do with fear. I didn't realize that I am still afraid of losing my mother. My mom also has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and when I was young she was in and out of the hospital frequently. I still remember the nights I would be woken up by the paramedics as they rushed my mother to the ER to save her life. I never knew whether she would be coming home or not. For a child that is very traumatic. Thankfully as medicine has improved so have my mother’s MS symptoms.

This new health concern of cancer caused my latent fear to resurface because as a child I didn't know how to resolve my feelings of fear and terror of losing the woman who brought me into the world at great personal risk. I still haven’t completely resolved these emotions but I have come to realize that there are things I can do.

First, I learned that I have to accept the fear as being real. Until I allow it to be part of my reality I cannot do anything about it.

Second, I learned I cannot hide from emotions. Whether I try to hide in work, in books or other forms of entertainment they are a part of me and as such cannot be avoided through activity.

Third, I learned that there are people who love me and want to help. The more I retreat from emotion the more I hurt myself by not enjoying the positive things in life like friends, family and wholesome recreation activities.

I started hiding within myself, which in the past has only led to bouts of depression. I am grateful to those friends and coworkers who have taken me aside in the last few weeks to share their concern and love with me. It has helped me return from the precipice of depression and start enjoying the little things in life again. I didn't even realize I was slipping. Thank you for helping me see the divine signatures in my life. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Be Better not Bitter

Today I saw this meme and it made me think.

I have often fallen into the trap of letting myself become bitter and angry about things in my life. Things like friends in high school who proved that they were not friends at all and leaders who didn't listen to me when I needed help. It is easy to let your heart become bitter when things don't go the way we want. Then I realized that even if it is not something good in my past I have still learned from it. I learned that often times the worst experiences of our lives are the ones that teach us the most. And I learned that who I was doesn't matter, what matters is who I am and who I am becoming.

Then I also came to understand that just as it doesn't matter who I was it doesn't matter who you were either. It doesn't matter that those friends in high school were rude or cruel or that a leader didn't listen. What matters is that they aren't the same people they were any more than I am the person I was back then.

Lets look forward to who we are becoming and leave the pain of the past where it is while carrying the lessons on with us.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Long Time, Many Changes

     It has been a long time since I wrote last due to many changes in my life. During the last five months I have moved twice, finished a semester of college started working full time and started dating a wonderful woman. Many who read that last part are probably saying "hold on a second, you said you were gay!" And that hasn't changed and no I am not using her to hide or try to change my Same Gender Attractions.
     Rather I am trying to follow God's plan for me, namely that of becoming a father. Over these last few months I had to fight my demons and reach the point that I could say "Lord, thy will not mine be done". Admitting that I am not perfect and still need to change and progress is hard but it is also fulfilling in ways I never imagined.
     As I mentioned in a previous post I am a member of NorthStar International and a local SSA support group. These organizations have helped me find comfort and strength during these chaotic months and provided me with friends have similar challenges and desires. I also dedicated a significant amount of time to writing an essay for the Voices of Hope Project. This was one of the most difficult things I have done in my life. It required opening my heart to complete strangers and also allowing myself to let go of anger and fear I didn't realize I still held.
     As soon as the essay is published I'll post a link. Until then I wish you all the best.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Past, Present and Future

      "Although powerful and influential,
                            neither your present nor your past
                                                      need to command your tomorrows"

      This quote is on the wall in the counseling center where I met with a counselor during the last year. Earlier this month I had my last meeting with him. It was a strange experience sitting outside his office and making the decision that it was the last time I would see him. Strange because for the first time I realized that I didn't need to cling to a crutch for fear of making mistakes and falling too far. My last session focused on looking back at where I was a year ago and celebrating where I am now.
     A year ago if someone told me I would be writing a blog about Same Gender Attraction (SGA) and that people would be looking to my words and my story I would have laughed at them. A year ago I lived in fear of everything: that my parents would find out I was gay, that I would not be strong enough to be obedient and most of all that I had no hope of forgiveness. I was terrified to admit to myself that I was attracted to men. I felt that if I admitted it out loud, even if I already knew in my heart, I would be dammed. Much to my surprise I was more dammed then than I am now. To be dammed is to have your progress halted. Because I had so much fear I could not progress further until I let go of the fear and turned to my Savior.
      This all changed when I went to a stake conference at BYU-I. Elder Webb came as the visiting general authority and he invited a bishop to speak. I do not remember the bishop's name but I do remember his words. He told of a young man who came to him desiring to have his name removed from the records of the church because he was gay. The bishop asked him if he had broken the Law of Chastity; the young man said no. He then asked the man "Who are you?" The young man hesitated a moment and responded that he was a child of God. After some more discussion the Bishop told us the the young man left his office saying "I am a child of God. I am destined to be a father." This phrase struck me so hard I almost couldn't breath. I am destined to be a father. As I contemplated this truth it gave me the courage to make changes in my life.
      The first was to start talking about my troubles with God through prayer and with his representatives here on earth. Then it was to talk to family and friends and allow them to strengthen and comfort me. They gave me the spark I needed to not give up. Their words, hugs, letters, phone calls, emails and prayers constantly remind me that I am not alone.
      Tonight while at a concert I heard a song that captures the feeling of receiving that spark, that support I needed. The song is called "Spark" and it is by Allred. I hope everyone who reads this can remember a time when they received a spark from those they love.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thoughts about NorthStar Spring Fireside

           Over the weekend I had an amazing experience. I went with my SSA support group to the North Star Spring Fireside.I have to admit I was super stressed about going on a road trip with a bunch of other guys also struggling with Same Gender Attraction (SGA) but am so glad I did. The trip taught me some amazing things. For example, I have never really fit in with "the guys". I have virtually no memories of hanging out with the guys and was really worried because every time I have tried I felt like the odd one out. It took me some time to realize just what I felt over the weekend and I finally figured it out. For the first time in my life I felt completely normal and at home in a group of men, many of whom were only acquaintances before last Saturday. When I got home Sunday night I had a bunch of friends over, as is my custom, and they could not believe how crazy happy I was. I probably drove them all nuts with how happy drunk I was. I realized that I had not allowed myself to feel normal before because I was always so focused on hiding my struggles from everyone, including those closest to me.
            For those who are interested in what was shared at the fireside there is an audio recording available at northstarlds.org.
            I have made a spring resolution. (Considering I missed New Years ;) I have resolved to no longer be afraid of what people might think about me because of my challenge with SGA. If they want to make an issue of it it is their problem not mine.
           It may be a strange jump but this experience reminds me of the time that Jesus Christ was asked what to do with the woman caught in adultery.

         Those who judged her sought to catch Jesus Christ in a trap. They hoped he would say something against the Law of Moses. Instead he taught them that everyone is a sinner but also that we all have opportunities to change. Jesus did not forgive the woman at this time, instead he admonished her to "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11).
          The reason these two thoughts are related is that I feel the Savior has told me the same thing in my life. He is less concerned with what I have done and more concerned with what I choose to do from now on. I don't have to be scared of those who accuse me of wrong doing and sin because the Lord's response is to let he who is perfect among you cast the first stone. But just as in the case of the adulterous woman, my accusers are sinners too. I can become just as clean and perfect as anyone else through the atonement of Jesus Christ. I don't have to let those who will hate and judge me control my life rather I can take control of it myself and seek to be filled with the Spirit of God. It is my desire that everyone can feel the same change in their lives that I have felt in mine.Until next time, Vaya con Dios!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Attraction does not Equal Sin

         Today I want to clear up a huge misconception that is common among church goers. (I use the term church goes because I have seen this in all faiths and denominations, not only in the LDS church) Many people think that men and women who struggle with Same Gender Attraction (SGA) are sinning by the simple fact of having the attraction. I want to make something absolutely clear: Attraction and Sin are not synonymous. According the the website Mormons and Gays:

"The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters."

        I want to take this one step further and look at the words themselves. Attraction means an "attractive quality, magnetic charm, fascination, allurement or enticement". Sin is "a transgression of divine law". This is a very drastic difference which clarifies the quote above. The reason merely having the attraction is not a sin is that the individual has yet to break a divine law, or in other words a commandment. 
       A book I have found very helpful in understanding the difference is Weakness is not Sin by Wendy Ulrich. In it Ulrich explains "Weakness and sin are very different." (Weakness is not Sin, pg 1). She then gives some definitions, specifically of weakness, sin and strength. She describes weakness as "variations in mental or physical well-being, vulnerabilities to desires and appetites, predispositions to various physical and emotional states, or differing levels of talents or abilities"(Weakness is not Sin, pg 5, italics added). Notice the similarity in her description of weakness and the definition of attraction. Both are attractive or enticing to different individuals. SGA is merely a weakness to a particular type of sin, exactly like some people are more disposed to become alcoholics than others. The fact that alcohol is enticing to them does not make them an alcoholic; whether they begin drinking or not does. It is the same with SGA. Not everyone who is attracted to the same gender become gay or lesbian. That option is just more tempting to us. 
      It is also true that certain sins are common among those who struggle with SGA, such as pornography, masturbation, and adultery.  But what is so often forgotten is that there are many, many more people with heterosexual tendencies that also struggle with theses sins. A gay man who commits adultery is no worse than a heterosexual man who does. They are also no better. They have both sinned and need to repent. Herein lies the most important truth of the Gospel: we are all sinners and we all have the opportunity to accept Christ as our Savior.
     I found this picture and think is sums up my thoughts quite well.

     God loves us all. He loves the sinner and the saint, the homosexual and the heterosexual. He loves us all because we are his children. He sent his son to suffer the pains of sin so we won't have to. I invite all who read this to turn their sins and heartaches over to the Savior. Let him carry you when you don't have the strength to carry on alone. He has carried me through the hardest of days and walked at my side every day, not despite my sins but because of them. He has held me as I cried and listened as I confessed. He has comforted me in my desperation and calmed the storms in my life. I know He can do the same for you. 
      While serving my mission in Argentina I came across a farewell I now use quite often. Vaya con Dios. It means "Go with God". This is my hope for all of you, that no matter your trial or storms you go with God because he will guide and support you. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Your Greatest Test

         Today I saw a new photo on Facebook that made me think. This is the photo:

         I love this image because this is the base of a light house that is being buried by a wave of water. Many times in my journey I have felt like the person standing in the doorway of the lighthouse watching the waves crash against my place of refuge. The imagery of drowning has often found its way into my writing as I have sought relief from my trials, drowning in pain, drowning in grief, drowning in fear, etc. Looking at this image though it is apparent that though the base of our lighthouse may be flooded we still have the light at the top that guides those around us.
       The savior often used light in his parables. For example in Matthew 5:14 he says "Ye are the alight of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." He also said "Let your alight so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matt 5:16). Even when we feel buried by the trial we can be the light that helps another see the light of Christ in their lives. (3 Nephi 18:24)
       Part of why this affected me so strongly today is that just last night I was struggling to overcome intense feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. When I was talking to a friend about my feelings and how hard life seemed to be we were asked to give a blessing. Even though I felt like I was going to fall apart at any moment I was blessed to help shine light into the life of one of my spiritual sisters. In the end my load was lightened by the opportunity to serve.
       You might be asking what on earth this has to do with SGA and the LDS Church. It is that when we look outside of ourselves to those around us in need the Lord can bless us with the understanding and knowledge we need as we serve our brothers and sisters.
       Please don't let the waves drag you down and away from your light. Rather climb the stairs off your light house and stoke your fire. Let your light shine out across the water to help those who are also struggling to stay afloat. With this in mind please listen to the following song which I feel exemplifies this concept. If you have not seen the movie Pete's Dragon, this is being sung by a woman who lost her fiancee at sea. Her greatest trial was waiting for him to return, never knowing if he would. Listen to her words and see how she let her light shine even when she was struggling in her own life.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

There is no Need to Feel Inadequate

         Today I want to share some thoughts about inadequacy. Mostly because of a quote that I dearly love.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

           This quote is often attributed to Nelson Mandela but I did some digging and found that is was first said by Marianne Williamson in her book "A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"". Regardless of where it originated it has inspired me. 
           So often we feel inadequate and unworthy, unworthy of love, unworthy of compassion, and unworthy of forgiveness and healing. I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy over my appearance, my work skills and even my faith. Through it all I learned that even if we feel inadequate and unworthy, God still loves us because we are his children.
           Society loves to tell us what we can't do. For example, "I can't get married because I struggle with Same Gender Attraction (SGA)". This is ludicrous. Even though it may be more difficult for me to find a woman who loves me enough to look past my trials it is not impossible. Another example is "You can't be happy in a heterosexual relationship if you experience SGA" or "I can't be masculine because I am gay". To all these messages the world through out I say:

          Remember the quote from the beginning? "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." We do not need to cower in fear of what we cannot do, or what society says we cannot do because society is wrong, the media is wrong and so are those that hate what they do not understand. They are wrong because "As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." This is what is important; this is the truth. Fear is one of Satan's greatest tools in the war of souls. He wants us to be scared of each other. He wants us to be scared of God and most importantly he wants us to be scared of ourselves. Joseph Smith taught:

 "Where doubt and uncertainty are there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time; so that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; and where unshaken confidence is not there faith is weak; and where faith is weak the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations, and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them." (Lectures on Faith 6:5-12.)

            There will always be days that it is hard to gather the faith necessary to overcome temptations but we have been provided a savior for when that happens. Jesus Christ came to "take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people" (Alma 7:11) He came to atone for our sins so that when we fall, for we all fall occasionally, he can extend his hand and pull us back up to our feet. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) We have not been left alone in our challenges or trials, rather we have been given all the tools we need to continue on as we exercise our faith. 
          To end I want to share a wonderful song composed by Rob Gardner. It has helped me through many dark nights when I felt there was no one listening and that I was all alone. It serves as a reminder to me that no matter what happens in my life the Savior is by my side. 

My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee
Rob Gardner

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Today is a new Day, Let Go of the Past

             This is my first post and as such may be a little rough. In my introduction I mentioned I'll be talking about Same Gender Attraction (SGA)and my beliefs as a Latter-day Saint. You may ask why is this kid qualified to talk about such a controversial topic. What could this 20 something year old know that I don't? Well let me tell you why.
             I have struggled with Same Gender Attraction (sometimes referred to as Same Sex Attraction) for many years. As a young man I hid my attraction from everyone I knew, including my family. I suffered in fear because of the wildly opposing views of SGA in the world and church. Recently (about a year ago), I mustered up the courage to face this fear and talk to my parents and also my Bishop about my attractions. I am qualified because I live everyday in the trenches, striving to live up to my expectations of what it means to be a Saint, a Follower of Christ in all ways, through all trials and all experiences.
           This last year I have spent many hours pouring over secular studies and religious texts searching for my place in Heavenly Father's plan. I learned that no matter what anyone else tells me I am a son of God. He is the literal father of my soul. His son Jesus Christ is my Savior, Redeemer, Brother and most of all Friend. I know that I will anger people with some of what I write because "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center" (1 Nephi 16:2). I needed to change my world view and my self perception to reach where I am now. My desire is to help inspire and uplift those who like me struggle with SGA, and also the friends and family of those who struggle.

          That being said, Today is a new Day, Let Go of the Past. The past is what has already happened, you cannot change it. So let it go. It has nothing new to say. Learn what you can and then move on. It hurts to let go but it is better in the long run. One of the most important things in learning to live with SGA is to let go of past fears, past preconceptions, past sins and most importantly past self hate and past self-loathing.
           In my experience those who struggle with Same Gender Attraction and were raised in a strong religious background unintentionally picked up the message that SGA is evil and therefor so are you. This is a lie! One of the biggest lies we have ever been told is that we are evil. We are Children of God. We are children of the Father of Lights. We make mistakes. We fall down. We hurt. We struggle. We suffer. But we are not beings of darkness, rather we are beings of Light! God doesn't care how many times we fall down. He cares how many times we pick ourselves back up.
         Let today be a new day, a day of hope, a day of joy. Let today be the day that you say goodbye to fear. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done to tell my parents about my SGA but since I have I am stronger for it. I learned that if someone loves you, they don't care about the struggles you experience. They don't love you for what you have or haven't done. They don't love you for what you can do for them. They don't even love you for what image you present to the world. They love you for you. For your strengths and weaknesses. For all that makes you you!
       When the past calls: Don't Answer!