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!