Mortal (Mormon) Man

Navigating Same Gender Attraction

It’s time to fly

Ducks-in-a-lineOnce upon a time there was a flock of ducks that traveled miles and miles to a duck convention.  They had participated in the get-together each year for as long as they could remember.  Year after year they looked forward to the multi-day event where they would be surrounded by other ducks–ducks just like them.  It was always a pleasure to be taught by other famous duck leaders and the ducks always learned many new skills and techniques. However, this convention was going to be different than all the rest.  World class flight experts were brought in to teach the other ducks how to complete difficult maneuvers like barrel rolls, bomb dives and side slips.  Day after day the ducks trained to be the best flying ducks in the world.  They mastered the skills to fly fast, to fly in windy weather and to navigate in pouring rain.  Because of their hard work and expert leaders they were ready to take on the whole duck world.

After four days the duck convention had come to an end.  Every duck said their good-byes.  This convention was so much more than all the others.

Armed with knowledge each duck stepped outside of the conventional hall…and walked home.

I think of this story when I consider all the advice and help that I get from people who have walked in my shoes, who know my struggles or who understand the path I navigate.  Sometimes we get too focused on our own grief and pain and forget that we must also begin to enact the lessons we’ve learned, apply them to our circumstances and begin to take flight.  By focusing on healing and by finding ways to enrich our lives, we can begin to rise again.  I have found so many helpful people from NorthStar, the Church, friends, family, therapists and support groups, yet I walk instead of fly–even though I am capable of soaring high above the perils that wait below.

Jacob

Jacob de Jager | First Quorum of the Seventy

The only way we can move upward from our present level of spirituality and performance to a higher level is by doing away with the ballast that holds us back. We have to learn to live the commandments, not only for our own good, but also for the good of other people because we reform others unconsciously when we keep the commandments of God and live the teachings of the Church. That’s another way of doing missionary work and lifting the spirituality of those around us.

Therefore, let’s start our flight today. If we are still at ground level, let’s cut the cords; and our rise will start immediately! However, even that will not ensure our continuous spiritual mobility. Our balloon will rise only so high and then will begin to stall. At that time we have to investigate what ballast we need to get rid of in order to rise even higher. If you find it hard to cut the cords, you will find it even harder to do away with the sandbags to lighten your load.

 

Today, can we decide to rise higher? 

 

No room at the Inn

Lately I have reflected on my standing as a card carrying member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s not that I have questioned my moral or spiritual standing within the church, but where someone like me–an active church member (who experiences same-sex attraction) finds his place within the church.

As a topic, this is a rabbit hole…I understand that.  I know the gospel of Christ is pure and I understand not all members (and even some church leaders) share that same purity.

For decades I lived a double life as a struggling, same-sex attracted Mormon.  Aside from my wife and another friend I still remain publically silent on the issue.   Stepping outside of the SSA cloak takes an enormous leap of faith.  Fear of rejection and the perceived loss of friends and family keeps me where I am.  I know more people like me would open up and share our SSA if the public shame and misconception of homosexuality was absent.  Years ago President Ezra Taft Benson wrote the talk “Beware of Pride.”  There are some really incredible words of wisdom in the talk.  The talk was given at the opening session of the April 1989 General Conference, but was read by President Hinckley, then the first counselor in the First Presidency.  President Benson felt like his message needed to be spoken from the pulpit instead of just read in a publication, so President Hinckley delivered the prophet’s message.  Watch the talk here.  Everything about President Benson’s message is a gem.  There is a reality about the talk though: anybody who thinks it applies to everybody else (but not to themselves) will not set foot in Zion.

I know each of us struggle with some element of pride.  For me…and in light of this blog, how many of us are too prideful to admit that we have a same-sex attraction and because of that pride we fail to lift others who share our experience?

Ezra Taft Benson

Ezra Taft Benson

Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. (See 2 Ne. 9:42.) There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.

Disobedience is essentially a prideful power struggle against someone in authority over us. It can be a parent, a priesthood leader, a teacher, or ultimately God. A proud person hates the fact that someone is above him.  He thinks this lowers his position.

Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. “How everything affects me” is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking.

Unfortunately there are times when I feel that there is no room in the church for people like me. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for me in the Gospel.  It is easier for me to joke about my addiction to Diet Coke than it is to admit to the church that I have a natural attraction to other men.   That is my reality.  And sadly it’s not the Diet Coke that will prevent any of us from receiving the blessings of exaltation.

More than 2000 years ago Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem. At the time the city wasn’t really much of a city.  Bethlehem consisted of 40-50 families at best, basically the size of a normal Utah ward.  Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem and she was ready to give birth.  The scriptures say there was no room for Joseph or Mary to find room at the inn.  It is likely there wasn’t a space problem for Mary and Joseph…a better translation might be that there was no one willing to give room at the inn.  Mary and Joseph’s situation was not a vacancy problem but a heart problem.  The people of Bethlehem likely choose not to house them.  Why?  I assume because they appeared to be poor or too much of a burden.  Mary was with child and was likely viewed as an unnecessary liability.   As a result, Jesus’ birth was resigned to occur in a cave or a stable where cattle and livestock were kept.

Is it the misunderstanding of sin and transgression that prevents the Saints the opportunity to be worthy Innkeepers? I’m painting with a very broad brush now.  Frankly I don’t care if we’re discussing a same sex-attraction or an alcoholic (and everything between and beyond.)  Something about our pride prevents us from accepting people for who they currently are.  We often talk about loving the sinner, not the sin, so how do we learn to love the sinner as people and not distance them because of their sin?

From my pew I think we have a developed a culture within the church of running from people who struggle, as opposed to running to them. The very concept of running away from sinners is so contrary to the Atonement and what Jesus taught.  Perhaps as Saints (on both sides of the sin) we need to better understand how the Atonement works.  Maybe it has something to do with worthiness or desire or pride.  I am not implying that a person like me is unworthy of the atonement, but as general members we feel unworthy to accept the purifying power of the Atonement.  As a result it causes us to turn away those who struggle or need the warm embrace of acceptance.

I have had the opportunity of ‘running to’ one of my friends in a time of need. In every aspect of our friendship I feel inadequate.  I don’t have all the answers, I can’t make the pain go away, I can’t make things fair or justifiable…but that is not the point.  The point is that in our weaknesses we can find strength.  It’s hard to imagine where I or my friend would be in our lives without each other.  We have both become better people because we were willing to face hard things and deal with difficult subjects.  Why can’t we be more willing to do that for more of our brothers and sisters in need?  Maybe we are just too selfish with our healing powers; or maybe we are afraid that by reaching out to help someone, we might feel like we are judging the sinner.

It is easy to see sin in other people…especially if you share the same sins.  You can easily recognize it, because you have been in the same boat…doing the same things.  Somehow we have convinced ourselves that to step in and help would imply that we are judging that person.  Yet the reality is that we are all chained to sin and too many of us who are capable of helping are limited by the ‘straightjacket’ of our false understanding of judgment.  Maybe that was the principle President Benson tried to teach in his “Beware of Pride” talk.  We fear what man thinks of us, over what God knows of us.

Accepting me for who I am and for who I might become can have monumental effect.

Pres. Thomas S. Monson

President Thomas S. Monson

“This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone.

“I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not.

“I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and non-existent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”

If you are going through a hard time, then help others who are struggling. There isn’t any reason to close the door in the face of the needy.  It may seem counterintuitive to help other people in need…especially when you are feeling so needy yourself.  But the truth is when you help other people you help yourself, too.  Helping other people is a really healthy habit to develop.  I have learned that as I focus my effort on helping, God has in store a blessing designed specifically for me.  He will bless each of us in a variety of ways.

There is room in the church for all of us, old and young, bond and free, male and female. It will take more of an effort on the part of all the members to open the doors to the inn and harbor feelings of love and concern and healing.  But it starts today and it will start with you.

I want to find more rooms at the Inn, I’ll keep knocking on doors.

Now, how can we help each other?

Teaching Chastity

imagesI have spent the week studying and preparing for my weekly, Sunday school lesson.  The month of August focuses on the topic of “Marriage and Family.”  There are various subtopics of discussion, one of which is the topic of chastity.  In years past I have quietly overlooked the chastity lesson and elected to teach something that was less hard, less intrusive and probably less effective.  I remember as a youth growing up in the church how painfully awkward it was to see our Sunday school teacher stumble through a lesson on the law of chastity.  The words: masturbation, sex and pleasure replaced with phrases like “you know what I am talking about”, “that one thing” and “I’ll leave that topic up to your parents.”

At what point did addressing the law of chastity become so brutal?

When I was in elementary school I attended the male maturation class.  It was taught by the town’s only physician.  He brought with him a 9mm pistol.  He slammed the clip into the handle of the gun, pretended to load a bullet and said, “can any of you guess what’s more powerful that this gun?”  Given that we were in a sex education class, I was interested in whatever he had to say.  With not even a grin he said, “boys, your body is more powerful than this weapon.”  Now he had my attention…my body was more powerful than that gun?  Sign me up.

I was twelve years old at the time.  I had been experiencing new feelings, emotions and new activities in my life.  I had hit puberty.  I wished I had dared to ask more questions about what was happening inside of me.  Here I was, a brand new teenager, not sure if he was gay or straight or something in between and I felt hopeless.  Where does a twelve year old boy turn for answers to these questions?  Surely the home should be the first place to have the discussion, but because of embarrassment and pride it seems as though society is comfortable with shifting the role of the parents to church leaders, elementary educators or even the gun toting doctor.

I had so many questions resulting from my sex education class.  Why was I feeling attracted to boys?  Why couldn’t I stop thinking of masturbating?  Would the urges ever slow down? Is this what it was like to be a man?  When I walked through the front door of my home after the maturation course I put all my literature on the kitchen table.  Laying it out on the table, in the open was the only way I knew how to begin an embarrassing conversation.  I waited for one of my parents to begin the conversation.  Both my parents noticed the books and pamphlets (my Dad quickly fanning through the pages of one of the pamphlets) and then quickly invited me to take my stuff to my room so my little sister wouldn’t see it.  That was the extent of my in-home-sex-education course.   I needed so much more.

I was left on my own.

Looking back it was no wonder why pornography, self gratification, experimentation, lust and a host of other activities took center stage in my formidable years.   I, like too many other young men my age was left to figure this stuff out on my own.  It was painful.  When an angel asked Nephi a question about God, Nephi answered, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). I too affirm that God loves all His children and acknowledge that many questions, including some related to same-gender attraction, must await a future answer, perhaps in the next life.

So, here I am, all these years later: ready to teach a chastity lesson to a group of young men at church.  Fortunately for each of us the stigma of an open discussion regarding sex, chastity and education is improving in the church.  In the recent years I have sensed a more open dialogue and willingness to discuss difficult topics within the church.  One example is the very topic of same-sex attraction.  To my surprise (and shock) the lesson actually has a section devoted to the topic of same gender attraction!

Aaronic Priesthood  |  Lesson Topics: Chastity

_thumb_125609Ask the young men how they would help a friend who is struggling with same-gender attraction. Invite them to look for ideas in Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s article “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction.” Encourage them to write a letter that could help their friend. What else do they learn from Elder Holland’s article?

I am so happy to be able to address such a powerful topic to the youth.  I know some will find it to be embarrassing, some won’t glance up from their iPhones, some will giggle and snicker, but hopefully one or two will know that I care for them; that I want them to find joy in their journey.  I want them to know they aren’t broken or invaluable or less loved.  They are sons of loving Father who knows them for who they can become.

How great is our calling!

jeffrey_hollandNot long ago I received a letter from a man in his early 30s who struggles with same-gender attraction. His struggle has not been easy, and he has not yet married. But, he wrote, “the Lord has helped me face my current circumstances, and I am content to do my best and leave my life in His hands.”

I weep with admiration and respect at the faith and courage of such a man who is living with a challenge I have never faced. I love him and the thousands like him, male or female, who “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12). I commend his attitude to all who struggle with—or who are helping others who struggle with—same-gender attraction.  – Elder Jeffery R. Holland

Moving Forward

Part 3

I hope that our last post wasn’t too gloomy for you.  We just felt that we needed to be very raw and real about what we are experiencing.  We are right in the depths of figuring out what our new normal is, hence the very disorganized and messy post about our messy life.  In this third part of our co-blog experience we want to talk about moving forward.  Unfortunately we have no way of looking into a crystal ball to see exactly what’s in store for our lives on Earth and into the eternities.  We’re comforted by knowing what our lives can become.  We are incredibly thankful to have the gospel of “Good News” in our lives.  I don’t like to think about where we would be without the knowledge we have of the great plan of happiness.

We have both realized it is very difficult to write (and openly discuss) hard things. For me personally, talking about such raw feelings and emotions puts me in a very odd place. Just like my wife, I struggle with not knowing what the future has in store. I always have a strategy that includes options; however our ‘new normal’ forces us to live day to day–and at times, breath by breath.

If hate mail is any indicator of how well our message was received, then the last blog post takes the cake! We were honest and candid about our experience and just like my wife said; we were “raw and real.” The majority of the negative notes were centered on the same theme, bridging homosexuality and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many readers said our path was fruitless and not worth the effort. Let me be absolutely clear on this topic. My intention in creating this blog and working through my journey is not to disparage the person who lives a same-sex lifestyle, but to focus on learning how a person not wanting a homo’sexual’ relationship can find marital (and eternal) happiness within the bounds the Lord has set. I know many people who have ventured outside of the rules of the church to find happiness in a same-sex relationship. I get that. I know that some of you have found a happiness that feels rewarding and sanctifying for you.

I believe that as a community, men and women, husbands and wives, who experience same-sex attraction, we can offer our positive experiences to the general membership of the church which will open future discussions.  In time we can build bridges of understanding and bring our message out of obscurity and darkness.

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. – Article of Faith: 9

I believe, just like the ninth Article of Faith, that each of us (our church leaders included) have so much more revelation waiting that pertains specifically to our journey with same-sex attraction. But let me be crystal clear regarding my journey: I am committed to finding my pathway forward according to what has already been revealed. You might feel a desire to blaze your own trail and wait for the church to catch up to you, and others may feel a desire to stray from the gospel path completely, but my message is for the person that seeks hope and light using the scriptures, revelation, prophets and apostles as the compass. To those that choose to lash out at us for living by rules that seem to be archaic and out-dated, then so be it. I welcome every new tidbit of revelation that will afford you and I more answers than we have today. Until that revelation comes, my wife and I are navigating this world the best way we are capable of.

Henry B. Eyring“My message tonight is an attempt to describe that future and what we must do to be a part of the plan of happiness our Heavenly Father has prepared for us. Before we were born, we lived in a family with our exalted and eternal Heavenly Father. He ordained a plan that enables us to advance and progress to become like Him. He did it out of love for us. The purpose of the plan was to allow us the privilege of living forever as our Heavenly Father lives. This gospel plan offered us a life of mortality in which we would be tested. A promise was given that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, if we obeyed the laws and priesthood ordinances of the gospel, we would have eternal life, the greatest of all His gifts.”
-Henry B Eyring
April 2016 General Conference

I was not put on this Earth to be miserable and suffer.  Since finding out about my husband’s SSA I’ve often found myself falling into the role of a “victim”.  I was always wondering, “Why me?” or dwelling on how unfair it is that I am married to a man that has an attraction to men.  I’ve even had moments where I dwell on how Dave tricked me into marrying him, having no intention to ever tell me about his SSA (I must add that I know he didn’t trick me, it’s the victim Jamie surfacing).  It’s time for this way of thinking to stop.  I cannot progress if I continue in this mindset.  What I’ve learned from many other women who have walked this path before me, is that I need to focus on what I’m doing to become a better person.  It seems with life, that when I am trying my best to be the woman that God has created me to be, that life goes smoother.  The trials I face do not stop, the trials may even come by the truckloads.  If I am in a stable place spiritually, I am able to take on those trials with greater ease.  I have the tools at my fingertips to use the atonement, to love deeper, to bear another’s burdens, to find strength.
I have forgiven my husband for any past wrongdoings toward me.  Thankfully I realized in the beginning that he didn’t need me to forgive him,  I needed me to forgive him.  I needed to release the control that never was mine, over to our Savior.  He has atoned for all of our sins and I cannot discount the atonement as being in any way not enough.  Aren’t we all unworthy sinners?  Not only are we sinners, but don’t we all struggle with some sort of pain, heartache, misery, or unfairness? 

The atonement covers it all.

I’ve learned that when someone hurts you, and doesn’t make you whole again, the Lord can make you whole.  It doesn’t matter whether they have repented or changed their life, you have an opportunity to have it made up to you through the atonement.

I know that experiencing SSA is in no way a sin.  So why is moving forward proving to be challenging?  I think there are two main reasons for the difficulty.  For me the first obstacle I have in moving forward lies in not knowing with a surety every aspect of my future.  I am a planner who thinks she can direct exactly how her life will play out.  I want to prepare for what my family is doing today, next week, next year and in twenty years.  When things don’t go precisely as planned I feel like I’ve somehow failed.  I’m trying to learn that expectations are not good for marriages. The fewer expectations I have for myself, my husband and our family, the happier I am.  I am able to start to remove the sadness that comes from unmet expectations, and begin to appreciate my family for all that they are.

The second reason for the difficulty, I believe, is we are moving forward in two completely different ways.  Our pathways are heading in the same direction, but it seems the pathways of “moving forward” aren’t identical.  Our paths seem to lie side by side and most of the time they’re overlapping, meaning to move forward in life we will experience many similarities.  We are on the same page as far as where we want to see our marriage in the future.  The conflict seems to be more about the speed in which we are moving forward.  There are times that my husband is speeding so fast on his pathway that I can’t even see him.  The day that we were finally honest with each other my husband hoped on the path of moving forward and started running, trying to leave everything from the past in the dust.  I tiptoed onto that path, many times feeling helpless, unsure and lost.  There were days that I couldn’t stop looking behind me at the past, at Dave’s past, trying to decipher where everything went wrong. He had a hard time slowing down and waiting for me, or taking the time to come back to where I was.  I needed him to come to where I was on our scale of moving forward and take some time to answer questions, and even guide me along, when my pathway seemed uncertain. Moving forward is more enjoyable when we’re holding hands. Now I finally feel that I’m gaining speed. As I mentioned before, it seems that when my focus is on the changes that I need to make, life moves forward in a smoother way.

I believe the key to understanding how to make a mixed orientation marriage…or living with a husband that experiences same-sex attraction, is keeping a laser focus on mode of progress. This experience reminds me of the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could.” In the tale, a long train must be pulled over a high mountain. Larger engines are asked to pull the train; for various reasons they refuse. The request is sent to a small engine, who agrees to try. The engine succeeds in pulling the train over the mountain while repeating its motto: “I-think-I-can”. The story of the little engine has been told and retold many times. The underlying theme is the same— a stranded train is unable to find an engine willing to take it over difficult terrain to its destination. Only the little blue engine is willing to try and, while repeating the mantra “I think I can, I think I can”, overcomes a seemingly impossible task.

Like the Little Engine we need to continue pushing forward up the hill, realizing that the path behind us is getting longer and longer and the summit gets closer and closer. If we stop our efforts then we risk losing the experience that lies waiting for us ahead.

I am realizing that I am the train that can start at the bottom of the hill and try to barrel its way to the summit, fighting each distraction or trying not to lose my focus. My wife on the other hand is the type of person that wants to stop at every rest stop, she wants to learn the history of every unique detour. I am learning that even though our goal to reach the top of the mountain is the same, we need to work together to reach the summit.

Can we make this work? Am I willing to put forth the effort? I think I can, I think we can.

Our New Normal

Part 2:

My wife and I decided to co-write a three-part blog post detailing our individual experiences navigating life in a mixed orientation marriage.  As with the previous post, my wife’s words are written in bold font, mine are in regular font.  We received many, many comments and questions from readers after part one of this series (read part one here).  It has been refreshing to gain insights from your comments and we have been uplifted by understanding your perspective.  Together we are finding commonalities in our journeys.  Please continue to share your thoughts and ask your questions; we are an open book and invite you to be honest and bold.  Every well written story has a beginning, middle and end.  I can’t promise you that with this blog post.  It really is just a culmination of our thoughts and feelings.  It is random, like us.

Our intention with this post (and opening the door to our personal life) is twofold.  First, we are trying our best to heal and find strength.  We are learning that as we become more open and vulnerable we find power and understanding.  Our experience should not be considered the encyclopedia of Mormon SSA Matrimony and we hope that by sharing our experiences you can begin writing your new chapter.   We want you to discover your own words, your own paragraphs and your own chapter headings. Second, is to emphasize the fact that living life with a same sex attraction is not a disease or something that disqualifies the individual.  The husband and wife in a mixed orientation marriage are powerful and beautiful in so many ways.  We understand how unique and far from mainstream our marriage is.  We are also learning that it is not impossible to find lasting happiness and satisfaction in marriage.  We have come to know that by including the gospel, the Atonement, endowing promises, testimonies, the Holy Ghost and personal revelation into our relationship then a mixed orientation marriage is becomes very possible–and worth the effort.

I also wanted to reiterate the fact that our journey is not trouble-free and it’s absolutely not the perfect course for everyone.  As I mentioned earlier, it has not been easy sharing our personal and private life so openly.  However, we feel it is necessary to begin a conversation.  Our experience is not going to mimic yours– I get that-really I do.  Had my wife not exposed my secret and forced me to be honest, I would have fought, lied and pretended to live happily between both worlds.  In reality I wouldn’t have told my wife about my SSA–but I so desperately wanted to.  I realize how selfish that statement is but that was what I thought was necessary.  There will come a time (by either force or by your own choice) when you will see the need to move past your secrets to find your next level of progression.  And now my wife knows.  She knows everything, this is my new reality, and this is my new normal.

Wow.  Is this really my life?  Sometimes I feel like I’m floating around being a spectator to a very strange way of living.  I tend to read other people’s posts as if I’m not experiencing the same situation in my marriage.  I feel sorry for them.  And then it hits me, this is my life.

Ugh.

We are so new to this (or at least I am) so we are certainly not experts.  I have learned what terms like SSA, MOM and P & M mean, I am diving into a world that I had no interest in exploring.  I have brief moments of wishing this had never happened–that I never found out that my husband is attracted to men.  I have to remind myself of how lucky I am to have an opportunity to make this marriage work, to make it stronger and make it into something that it’s never been before. I’m also looking forward to the time that Dave and I may have an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of people around us. I’m almost excited for the time that this topic will come up in my social circle, church or with my family because I know that I can add a well informed perspective and possibly influence the way that people view same sex attraction. 

It’s so easy to sit down and say, “Why can’t I just forget about my SSA and move on with life?”  This is a question that I have asked myself since I was very young–probably as far back as 12 or 13 years of age.  Now, all these years later the question of ‘why?’ is still impossible to answer.  I always compared SSA to breathing.  My attraction is as natural and real to me as taking a deep breath.  Without thinking of it, or forcing it, breathing and SSA are natural and necessary functions of my life. There is a difference between a regular breath of air and DEEP BREATHING.  You see, normal breaths are necessary to sustain life, deep breaths are different.  They don’t happen as often, they usually follow as a response to an experience like running, adrenaline, shock, a trigger etc.  And that is how I can explain my SSA.  It exists; it is real and for me, it’s natural, but it doesn’t sustain my life.  I am not afraid of having a same sex attraction, but I am afraid that I will use my SSA to justify pornography, promiscuity and the violation of the covenants I have made to my wife and to God.

This post has been a struggle to write mainly because we don’t exactly know what our new normal is. Some days we face hard struggles, some days we don’t like each other very much, some days we wish we could hide in a bubble and not face the world. We don’t want to sound negative and depressing, but we need to be real.  It has been work.  The first few weeks after finding out about Dave’s SSA were actually pretty great.  I felt like I was on the verge of breaking down at all times, but I didn’t! I was okay!  I loved the nightly talks where I was getting to know my husband.  The honesty that we experienced together was ethereal.  I love this man with my whole soul and I will learn to love this part of him just as much.

We have read helpful blogs and books (this is a big deal for someone like me that HATES reading) and watched Voices of Hope videos. We shared our deepest thoughts and had amazing discussions.  We talked about all of the promising changes that we were both going to make.  I felt the atonement working in my life, and my relationship with my Father in Heaven grew immensely. Dave and I were totally in sync.  Then something happened, life.  Dave still has to go to work, I still have children that need so much from me. In the evenings my husband enjoys spending time on his phone and I enjoy watching appalling reality shows.  I stay up super late, he wakes up early.  We have a lot of work to do when it comes to finding some balance in our relationship. We haven’t been complete failures at putting some of our original ideas to work.  We have been diligent about scheduling date night early on so that it won’t be skipped another week, month or more.  We are being more attentive to our spouses needs and trying to put them first. It is working!  Maybe we aren’t perfect at doing everything that we should all at once, but the little changes are actually making a positive impact.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in everything Dave or I aren’t accomplishing that I fail to see the beautiful life we’re living right in front of my face.  It’s important to remember how diverse every marriage is.  I’m not going to go through my list of changes that should be made in your life to strengthen your marriage because frankly I don’t know.  My hope is that you’ll try to make a positive change in your own life, even if it’s a tiny change. It’s as simple as trying to be a better person today, than you were yesterday.  What “better” means to you is incredibly individualized and the list of ways to better ourselves is endless.  Will your marriage survive, can you beat the odds, is it worth all of the work?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am willing to work on my marriage.  I hope my marriage can survive, I hope we can beat the odds, I know that it will be worth all of the work.  Even if our marriage falls apart, there is no harm in working to become a better person myself.  

I try to concentrate on working on my own life, but I often turn to Dave for answers to my questions regarding same sex attraction.  He is the only person I know that is experiencing SSA.  He is also the only person in my life that knows what we are going through as a couple.  I feel so out of the loop on this topic.  I have been pretty ignorant to struggles that other people in this world are facing and I selfishly usually only worry about my own struggles.  I have been taking the time to do my own research, pondering, praying and using my husband as a tool to discover more about SSA.

Know that you and your husband will not have all the answers.  I don’t expect my wife to fully understand the view from my windows.  There is so much about SSA that I don’t understand and will probably never understand in this life.  I think it is safe to answer some questions with “I don’t know.”  To the wife, remember there shouldn’t be resentments and mistrust when your husband can’t fully express how SSA is intertwined so delicately into his life.  I have become so comfortable living my life with SSA that I rarely notice that it is peculiar or different.  I don’t know what life is like as a 100% straight man, but what I do know is that I want an eternal family and I want to live the tenets of the gospel.  How I get from my earthy life with SSA to exaltation is part of my journey.  This is absolutely a line upon line, precept upon precept experience.

It’s hard not getting the answers that I want.  I am an expert in asking questions so that they are answered in my favor. In the past Dave has been so good to try and answer my questions just the way I want to hear them.  This has been a little detrimental to our relationship.  He is learning how to answer truthfully, and I’m learning that the truth I so desperately want, can hurt.  Be patient with one another when it comes to asking questions.  Accept the “I don’t know” answer, accept the one word answer, and accept the answers that you may disagree with.  Husbands, you will have to accept the fact that the same questions might be asked over and over and over again, that’s okay.

So what are we doing on a daily basis to make things work?  Pretty much the same normal routine that has become our married life, but we have new elements.  We talk so much more.  For years we have heard that every successful marriage needs open and honest communication—imagine my surprise when I found out the experts were right!  Some days we talk for a few minutes and other days we talk for what seems like…days.  Sometimes we talk so much we’d make a therapist yawn.

We are learning to yield to uncomfortable things.  For my wife, she feels compelled to ask uncomfortable questions about triggers, about how I am doing emotionally and how she can help.  She has also become proficient at smartphone inspections.  For me I pretty much hate all of those uncomfortable things, but I am willing to yield to the uncomfortable moments to achieve a lasting happiness.

I wish there was a book or a manual written specifically for the wife of a husband who experiences SSA and likewise I’d love to find SSA for Dummies on Amazon. Books like this could be so helpful and beneficial to a couple.  Without additional resources, we are opening up about our experiences.

These are examples of our real life conversations, some are embarrassing and candid, yet each are beneficial to both of us.  The bold paragraphs are written by my wife and given as advice from what she has learned as a result of our process:

TO THE HUSBAND: Avoid saying, “I’ll never be able to love you like a straight man, 100 %, or the way that you deserve.”

There is nothing positive that comes from statements like this.  Even if you feel it to be true, what is the point in saying it?  As a wife, statements like these hurt my feelings.  I don’t need to worry about the love another man can give me, just the love you have for me.  I’d much rather hear how it is that you do love me, that you’re loving me as much as you can, that you’ve never loved another the way you love me.  These statements can build up confidence, contrary to the first ones that can shatter hearts.

TO THE WIFE: Avoid saying, “Are you lying to me. Did you lie?” or any other variation.

Statements like this don’t come from love and understanding.  Also, lying is kind of a broad term.  For example; I may consider it a “lie” when my husband doesn’t tell me the details about a conversation he had via text with a friend.  So asking if he is lying is just not helpful, because in that case I’m “lying” to him as well.  It would be more effective to have an open dialogue where questions are asked straight forward, not being passive aggressive.  If you want to know if he experienced any triggers today, ask.  If you want to know if he relapsed, ask.  If you want to read the text messages he sent today, ask.  There really is no way of knowing if someone is telling the truth.

TO BOTH SPOUSES: Avoid saying, “You’ll never understand.”

Obviously!  No two people can completely understand each other.  Men and women are so different and so complicated to each other.  Saying, “you’ll never understand” is one way to end a conversation in a bad place.  Try instead to take the time to answer your spouse’s questions and genuinely listen to their concerns.  Try to be sympathetic, even when you can’t be empathetic because you’ve never been in their position.

Wives please don’t expect us to have all the answers.  We don’t know all the resolutions and we don’t have always have a clear understanding of how we can “fix” the situation.  I think it is safe to say if we knew any of the answers to those perplexities we would have fixed them long ago.

I have spoken with many men who experience a SSA, most men would prefer to live normal, straight lives; lives where they weren’t the anomaly.  Support your husband for who he is.  Support him for the person he can become.  What difference could we make in each other’s lives if we saw our spouse as Heavenly Father see us?  I know I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “you know, I think I want to be gay.  I want to destroy my marriage, I want to feel unwelcome by segments of church and society, I want to enjoy the pain and suffering that is associated with homosexual sin.”  If having a same sex attraction were a choice, I’d be interested in seeing how many would choose it.

TO THE WIFE:

SSA IS NOT A SIN:  It’s not the SSA that’s the problem; it’s how we react to the attraction that leads us into temptations.  Speaking strictly from my experiences, I have learned to live reasonably with an attraction to men.  The problems come when I focus on nourishing the sexual desire.  I become laser focused on fulfilling that curiosity and desire.  It is that focus that leads to pornography, lust and the myriad of experiences that will surely follow. I am constantly trying to find ways to direct the tension, energy and built up pressures of that sexual desire.  At times I am successful, more often it is a struggle.  This is why some men call SSA a struggle; the attraction becomes synonymous with a sin because they are so delicately intertwined.  I could say with almost universal certainty that if your husband experiences SSA he most likely has turned to pornography.  Turning to pornography allowed me the opportunity to extinguish the “needs” of my sexual attraction.  Porn for me was a vent…it was never to undermine the love and sexual desire I have for my wife.  Porn allowed me to get my “gay fix”, release that pressure and move on with my day.  Today it is difficult to find a replacement to that release, but I know that pornography isn’t healthy and I am happy to rid my life of it.

ATTRACTION:  I wish the wives could know with a certainty that it isn’t a lack of beauty, a lack of personality, a thinner body or purple hair that would make them more ‘appealing’ to their SSA’d husband.   To me it has nothing to do with becoming “more” of anything; we chose you as a wife for reasons greater than personality, beauty and for some of us, sexual attraction.  I have an infatuation problem, not an appeal problem.  Somewhere, somehow and deep inside of our core is the realization that our sexual desires are different and we are working hard to create a healthy relationship with you.

JUST FOCUS ON SOMETHING DIFFERENT AND MAKE SSA GO AWAY:  SSA is not a light switch, it doesn’t go on and off, it’s always on.   Embarrassment and shame are very real principles and will factor into your discussions.  Many of the things you and your husband will discuss are embarrassing and carry the heavy burden of shame.  As much as we try to enter the conversation from a position of trust and understanding, it is reasonable to be disappointed, shocked and overwhelmed.  Again, this is a great opportunity to just listen, withhold judgment and scorn and acknowledge your appreciation that your husband is communicating openly about his experiences.  Your husband will be gauging your reactions during every step of the conversation.  As I have mentioned before, this will be a line upon line experience.  If a relationship of trust and understanding is developed then the healing can begin in earnest.

FRIENDS:  A healthy relationship based on strict gospel principles will be a benefit to your husband.  If you mutually agree, encourage your husband to develop friendships with men who can empathize and help him to progress.   NorthStarLDS.org, the Voices of Hope project and an Addiction Recovery Program are all great resources to find other brothers who are positive influences and share in your desire to make your marriage and eternal progression a success.  Inviting your wife to meet your SSA friends and share in their journey will help her to build a bond with the men in your life.  I think a key to having positive relationships with other SSA men is transparency and openness.  You’ve spent a lifetime hiding your SSA, now is the time to open up and enjoy the light.

We have covered a lot of ground, and yes it was sporadic and hard to follow.  We invite you to sit down with your spouse and have a deeper conversation.  Find an area to focus on and improve.  If we can do it, anyone can.  After all, this is our new normal.

 

Our “Coming Out” Story

This is our story as a mixed orientation couple.

Part 1:

My wife and I decided to co-write a blog post that would give our different perspectives on our navigation through same sex attraction.  We have been married a little over 10 years, active members of the church with young children who are the lighwalkts of our lives.  My wife never knew I experienced SSA and I never made it a point to tell her.  I, like many of you found myself in a peculiar situation.  How do I tell my wife, my eternal companion that I have a same sex attraction?  How do you prepare to crush everything that you have built: your relationship, your family, your career, your life?  Hindsight is the great educator.  Looking back I should have sat her down and explained this part of my life during the time we dated.  I regret not giving my wife the option of choosing to spend her life with someone who obviously couldn’t give her everything she deserved.  I avoided telling her…even using the most blatant lies to hide my identity.  If you are in the same boat I was, know that even if you haven’t told your wife, you need to.  Tomorrow might be too late.

For as long as I can remember, I have experienced an attraction to guys.  As a young kid I remember feeling different around other boys and always feeling a stronger bond toward them.  As I grew older and matured the feelings intensified and I found myself more attracted to men than women.  It was an inconvenient truth for me.  I couldn’t understand why this was. I fit the mold of a typical Mormon kid.  I went to church, I had incredibly decent and honorable friends, I excelled in school, moved through the ranks of the priesthood and served an honorable mission.  All of that means nothing when you struggle to accurately decode who you really are; who God has created you to become.  I have always struggled to find out where my sexuality belonged.  I knew that this mortal life was just a brief moment in the whole picture.  I studied everything I could find regarding Mormonism and homosexuality.  In time I realized my pathway was clear: remain absolutely silent about my SSA, go on a mission–serve honorably and all these feelings would disappear.  Imagine my surprise when weeks, months and years into my mission I was still experiencing the same sexual attractions as I did prior to my mission!  I completed my missionary service and returned home.  Again, I focused so much time on studying how to merge my faith and beliefs with my SSA.  There was no clear path for me.  Listening to the advice of others, I chose to begin dating and eventually found my eternal companion.  Again, I felt that if I did everything I was asked: date, get married in the temple and begin my family, the SSA would be taken from me.  I’m evidence that the plan isn’t that simple.  Fast forward 10 years into marriage and at least that many years “experiencing” SSA and we get to the ‘night’ that I was finally honest with my wife.  She hijacked my phone, she searched it and she found far more than she had expected.

I am a planner.  I take calculated risks, analyze my situations and always have an exit strategy.  I wasn’t prepared to confess my darkest secrets to my wife.  How do you react to a convulsing, sobbing wife who held you in the highest regard, a wife who just had everything holy and honorable in her life destroyed?  I had always dreaded the day my wife would find out about me.  I dreaded the pain, the sorrow and the ultimate betrayal.  I had convinced myself that when she did find out, she would probably decide to leave me and that her finding out equaled our divorce.  There is so much shame and depression that is associated with SSA.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  I caused a lifetime of pain for my wife, but in her humble way, she eased my burdens; she listened intently, asked questions and reacted with kindness.  I was so grateful Beachfor her reaction.  I wanted the enormous weight to be lifted off of my shoulders.  That relief eventually came and each day my burdens get lighter and lighter.  For those who still remain in darkness, I invite you to find the light.  There is a reason why tall trees grow towards the light.  Each day is a step forward; it does get better and it does easier.

For the remainder of the blog, I will “bold” the font where my wife types and my comments will remain in regular font.  Hopefully you can follow our points of view and glean something from our evolving experience.  This is a brief look from my perspective of “the night.”  The following is from my wife’s point of view:

If you have actively read Dave’s MortalMormon.com blog you already know Dave’s story, but “our” story is slightly different.  It isn’t eloquent, beautiful or perfectly written; it’s hard, it’s daunting, it’s work, it’s a lot of love.

Let’s go back in time 3 months.  I was sitting in bed with a dead phone, I was bored.  I grabbed Dave’s phone to use to pass the time.  He was asleep, his password wouldn’t work so he unlocked his iPhone for me. He seemed hesitant. I played a couple of games on the phone but because of his hesitancy I felt like I needed to dig around.  I don’t like feeling that way.  Over the past few months I felt like Dave was telling a lot of white lies, he always had a reason or excuse. Deep down I knew I was being lied to.  I found a messaging app that he had for a long time that I knew he rarely used for work, this time his “other” user account was accidently left open–thank goodness.  So many things that night worked out perfectly for our good, so that I would make a discovery and force Dave to open up to me.

I saw things that completely took my breath away.  I immediately started shaking and getting physically ill.  I’m tough.  This had never happened to me before.  My mind was racing in 40 different directions.  What now??  It was about 1:00 in the morning.  Do I wake him?  Do I run for the hills?  Do I dig for more juicy details?  I decided to be a bigger person than he was being, and to be honest, immediately.  I ran to my husband.  I woke him up ready to jump all over him and tell him what a horrible person he is.  Instead I listened.  I had an amazing spiritual experience where I felt the deep love that our Father in Heaven has for him.  My words came out of my mouth in a kind and loving manner, even though my mind kept going to dark places.  I think Heavenly Father needed to use me as a mouthpiece for a moment, so that Dave could know that the world wasn’t ending, but instead this was a new beginning.

One key to forgiving others is to try to see them as God sees them. At times, God may part the curtain and bless us with the gift to see into the heart, soul, and spirit of another person who has offended us. This insight may even lead to an overwhelming love for that person.   – Elder Kevin R. Duncan

We talked for hours.  There were thousands of tears shed on my part and Dave’s.  He was honest with me for the first time since we met.  I became the only person on Earth to know Dave for who he truly is.  From our experience we’d like to offer some tips for the day that you or your spouse is finally honest.  

Please, if you have the chance, disclose your SSA before you get married.  It is selfish and unfair not to.  I’ve told my husband that is upsets me he didn’t give me an opportunity to choose to get married to a same sex attracted spouse.  He chose for me.  Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone.  Telling your spouse out of love and wanting to be open will be better than them finding out accidently.  It will alleviate other fears, issues and hurt that accompany the lying.

I want to address a few things to the wife (or fiancé) of an SSA husband (or fiancé.)   The way you found out the truth should not outweigh the fact that you now know and you are at ground zero.  I wish I could have expressed everything on my mind without the pain, hurt and emotional stress that accompanies the truth.  Seeing your husband as a son of God, imperfect and weak will help each of you to begin the healing process.

 When you find out, take a deep breath and think eternal thoughts. This is your eternal companion, we still have so many great things to look forward to.

I have come to learn through this experience that my mortal body experiences SSA, my spirit does not.  I always have to keep this perspective in the forefront of my mind,

Try with all that you have to see your spouse the way our Father in Heaven sees all of his children.  Wouldn’t you want to be seen that way in your most challenging moments?

Now is not the time to accuse and be angry, it’s the time to be patient and understanding.

As the wife of a husband navigating life with SSA, you need to know that it isn’t an easy road; that you will not understand everything your husband is going through or has been through.  Sometimes the greatest thing you can do is just listen.

(If you didn’t already know) SSA is not a choice, nor is it a sin!! Your spouse has likely struggled all of their lifetime. Remember that they chose to be married to YOU! It wasn’t an easy decision. Little known fact: your spouse will be equally as panicked as you in those first moments.

Your husband didn’t plan on being gay or find ways to become more attracted to men.  From my experience, most guys would do anything to have their SSA go away.  This is a really hard reality; it’s a daily experience (I could easily say hourly or minute by minute experience.)

We are in a much better place today than we were in a few months ago.  Our experience is fluid and evolving.  We are taking this one day at a time.

We will continue co-blogging our experience in three parts, focusing deeper on the topics that we have discussed in this post.  We are both curious to hear your feedback and comments about what tips and tools have worked for you.  What works and what doesn’t work in a mixed orientation marriage?

We want to hear from you, leave us a private comment below (we will honor your privacy) or you can post a public comment on the blog at the top of this post:

 

Happy Father’s Day

blog picIt is Father’s Day; a day to celebrate the men in our lives that brought us life. I am thankful to the many fathers in my life.
Years ago General Douglas MacArthur a five-star general of the United States Army penned these words. These words are a classic example of what a father can be in our lives:
“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud of unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
“Build me a son, whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be, a son who will know Thee – and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.
“Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm, here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
“Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
“After all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may not always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
“Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”
Happy Father’s Day to the men who desire to do good and to all those in-between.

Welcome to the Field

I have spent the last few weeks pondering—contemplating the battle we endure on a daily basis.  The focus of this blog has been on my personal navigation with same sex attraction.  We all fight battles as we progress in this life: sin, morality, worthiness (and sometimes even diet coke). I have found acceptance in the fact that these battles offer bumps along our journey but also give us strength.  When I think of fighting for a righteous cause I always think of the New Testament’s David and his Goliath.

David's stonesDavid, whose name means ‘beloved’ or ‘my beloved,’ has always been a relatable person to me.  He enters the Old Testament as a teenager, the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse.  Samuel visited David’s father searching for a king to lead Israel and no one, including his father (or 7 brothers), took David serious enough to send him before Samuel.  I can relate to David in this situation.  I have been discounted by others because of a lack in my ability.  I’m confident that other people have been chosen to do things because someone lacked faith in my ability to succeed.

I find empathy with David.

There was a time when Israel went to war with the Philistines, and David was left behind to tend the sheep. It was an easier task. One better suited for a weak and feeble David.  Was it because the people felt David wasn’t prepared to battle, or was it because the Israelites knew of David’s weaknesses and disqualified him immediately?   Inside of me, the natural man always believes I am being judged and discounted because of my weaknesses.  The greater sin is that I sometimes believe them.

I love this story of David:

One day Jesse sent David with food and supplies to the battlefront in the valley of Elah, some ten miles away, to find out also how his sons were doing. David left the sheep in the hands of a keeper, and made the journey.

He arrived among the men just as Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, walked out into the valley between the two contending armies. For forty days the two armies had been at a standoff, and everyday, twice a day, Goliath would come out and taunt and insult the armies of Saul calling for them to send out a man to fight. I guess rather than the two armies to fight, it was a custom of the time for the champion of each army to fight, and let the victor of their fight be the victor of the cause. But no one dared challenge Goliath, and who can blame them [him]? According to our present text, Goliath stood over 9 ½ feet tall. His armor weighed in around 150 pounds. The staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, while the head of it weighed somewhere between 12 and 26 pounds. He was a part of the feared race of the Anakim and a warrior trained from his childhood.

Well, David heard the blasphemy of the giant and was incensed, especially when the armies of Israel around him cowered in fear.

“… who is this uncircumcised Philistine,” he said, “that he defy the armies of the living God?”
(1 Samuel 17:26)

When David’s brothers heard him, they were angry and scolded him for pride, naughtiness and neglect of his duty at home. David’s words reached the king, and David was brought before Saul.

“Let no man’s heart fail because of him;” David said, “thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

“… Thou are not able to go against this Philistine … ,“ Saul said, “for thou art but a youth …” (1 Samuel 17:33)

David pleaded for the chance to fight. Finally – finally the king said, “… Go, and the Lord be with thee.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

When David entered the field, Goliath was insulted that they would send a mere boy. He cursed David by his gods, and threatened to feed his flesh to the birds.

David’s response to the giant allows us a glimpse into his great heart, wherein was the source of his power.  He said, “… Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts … This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; …”  (1 Samuel 17:45-46)  david-and-goliath-3

Enraged, the giant charged, David rushed to meet him, drawing from his shepherd’s purse was a smooth stone, which he slung with a practiced aim. When he released that stone, it flew true and buried itself in the forehead of the giant, dropping him to the ground. David ran, pounced on him, drew out the massive sword, and with it slew the arrogant Philistine. The horrified Philistine army scattered with Israel in hot pursuit. It was not just a victory; it was a rout.

I love this story. It proves to me that if the cause is just, and there is faith in the God of Israel, what does it matter who scorns you or insults you?

Now, why do I tell this story? There are plenty of struggling men reading this today.  Together we are navigating life as a Latter-day Saint with a same sex attraction. To you I say, ‘Welcome to the field, David, your Goliath is waiting.’  I believe in you.

This is Her Courtroom

Growing in up in small town America afforded me the opportunity of spending way too much time watching television.  Yes, I enjoyed the outdoors; we rode four-wheelers, went camping, mowed lawns and actively found creative ways to get into trouble,  I enjoyed my youth.  Looking back I know for a surety that life wouldn’t have been the same without one daily ritual: Judge Judy.

I am confident that watching three or four seasons of Judge Judy should be a mandatory  rite of passage.  Judge Judy is as familiar to the fabric of my childhood as pogs, slap bracelets and Fraggle Rock.

Judge JudyMany people dislike Judge Judy because she’s a tyrant.  I don’t see it.   I can tell you what she really is: fed up.   In my profession I see the same type of people that Judge Judy deals with on a daily basis.  What is the common factor among all these people? Unwillingness.  Our society has become unwilling to take personal responsibility for what they do with their lives.

“If I am on my game, a male delinquent will find his time in my court to be the second worst experience of his life—circumcision being the first.” (Judith Sheindlin, Don’t Pee on my Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining)

It is just that simple. 

As long as there is DVR I will continue to enjoy Judge Judy.  She cuts through the smog to reveal what Heaven actually contains.  In the late 90’s Judge Judy released a bestselling book called “Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining.”  It is a must read for every Judy fan and even those “unwilling” to add benefits to our society.

“I was beginning to wonder whether I would ever find someone, anyone willing to acknowledge responsibility for their situation.  Tap-dancing around responsibility has become an art form in my courtroom-and in American society.  As a family court judge, I look down on a daily pageant of dysfunction that would curl your hair.  Think of every social problem you can that affects America’s disintegrating families—welfare abuse, juvenile violence, abandoned or abused children, ugly custody fights—and you have just begun to scratch the surface of what parades through my court.” –Judge Judith Sheindlin. 

My life has become a daily act of being responsible.  As I journey through discipleship I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the things that are required of me.  I have to be responsible for my actions and there will always be a constant need for me to lace up my boots and get to work.  Where is this type of responsibility being taught?  Clearly it is not being offered in most American homes.  Look at the millennial youth, the rising generation and those that follow them.  To me, it seems like everyone holds a victim card and the idea of responsibility is as foreign as aliens and Alf.

In my personal life I have had to take responsibility for my actions, sadly I have also tried to play the victim card.  It is much easier to blame someone else for my situation and to blame the actions of other people because I was affected.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there are valid and justifiable reasons that you might be a victim.  That is an absolutely true reality.  However, I believe we naturally slide into the ease of finger pointing or burying our guilt to avoid the pain of realization.

We are living in a strange time. It has been called the space age or computer age. However, it seems to be the age of blaming everyone and everything for any unfavorable condition. We blame acquaintances, parents, the Church, spouses, teachers, neighbors, the area where we dwell, or even the weather for our problems.

This is wrong. It is not God’s way. It is not part of his great plan. Each of us must stand before our Redeemer alone and account for what we have done. We must assume responsibility for our actions. Jacob wrote, “Now, my beloved brethren, … according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with soberness,  I declare unto you the word of God.”, Jacob 2:2” – Hugh W. Pinnock

During my mission I read a talk called The Challenging and Testifying Missionary.  It is a talk given to encourage missionaries to understand the importance of their callings, to be bold in their actions and to speak as the Savior would speak.  I have implemented many of these principles in my life.  It is easier for me to be blunt than it is to remain politically correct, or sheltered.  Some will naturally find this behavior harsh and selfish.  For me it is easier to get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible.  Shouldn’t we focus more on who we can become, not who we are today?  I suppose this is why I love Judge Judy.  She is a gem among the honest.  She says what each of us thinks, but dare not say out loud.

How do we help our children?  How to we re-train the millennial generation?  How to we help ourselves?

I am not sure I have the answers to those questions.  I do believe we can focus on the lesson President Hinckley taught regarding the 6 B’s of life.

Be Grateful.

Be Smart.

Be Clean. 

Be True.

Be Humble.

Be Prayerful.

And maybe I should add a seventh: be more like Judge Judy.

 

All of It

I few months ago I was in a ward council meeting that was hosted by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  The meeting was created to assist bishops in developing effective and efficient ward councils.

Elder Oaks, an attorney by profession spoke of an incident he had as a young lawyer.  At the time he primarily practiced real estate law focusing on contracts, deeds and trusts.  It was at this ward council meeting that he recalled an event that took place years ago.  A colleague of Elder Oaks’ passed away and many of the attorneys from his firm gathered at the funeral home to attend the viewing.  The deceased individual was very wealthy, had amassed a great fortune and hundreds of parcels of real estate.  This group of budding attorneys conversed over the casket about the vast wealth and real estate holdings of this great man.  He had amassed wealth beyond comprehension and his fortune was scattered across the whole of the world.  Thinking like an attorney, one of the men asked, “I wonder exactly how much real estate he left behind?”  Without missing a beat, the younger Dallin Oaks simply said, “all of it.”

And so it is.

When we leave mortality we leave all of our physical possessions, even our body, for a time, will stay behind on this earth.  Additionally, all our material wealth will remain here as we quietly bypass this life and advance to the next.  Why is this on my mind?  Why on this blog?

lifeI can’t help but think of the purpose of our life.  What is the purpose of life?  Are we resigned to a life of pain and heartache?  Or are we just here to build faith in a coming world–a world where our pain and grief will finally be removed from us?

There is much more to life than faith alone, your life has a divine purpose.  It is this divinity that invites us to ask and find; knock and open.

I know that our Heavenly Father has prepared a marvelous plan for our happiness.  As a man who struggles with the temptations that accompany SSA I know that this happiness at times is difficult to understand.  There is something special that envelopes your whole soul when you know that God has a plan designed exclusively for you.  Understanding this divine plan makes it is easier to understand why you are on this earth.  I know that God wants all of His children to progress and become more like Him.  As such, our mortality provides each of us with opportunities to grow and progress.  It is here on Earth that we receive a physical body, exercise the agency necessary to teach us to choose between good and evil.  We are here to gain the experience that helps us become more like our Father in Heaven and form family relationships (and friendships) that have the ability to become eternal.

How easy it is to lose sight of the plan of Happiness by getting caught up in our personal struggles!

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Elder Donald L. Hallstrom Of the Presidency of the Seventy

In real life, we face actual, not imagined, hardships. There is pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual. There are heartbreaks when circumstances are very different from what we had anticipated. There is injustice when we do not seem to deserve our situation. There are disappointments when someone we trusted failed us. There are health and financial setbacks that can be disorienting. There may be times of question when a matter of doctrine or history is beyond our current understanding.

When difficult things occur in our lives, what is our immediate response? Is it confusion or doubt or spiritual withdrawal? Is it a blow to our faith? Do we blame God or others for our circumstances? Or is our first response to remember who we are—that we are children of a loving God? Is that coupled with an absolute trust that He allows some earthly suffering because He knows it will bless us, like a refiner’s fire, to become like Him and to gain our eternal inheritance?

Recently, I was in a meeting with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. In teaching the principle that mortal life can be agonizing but our hardships have eternal purpose—even if we do not understand it at the time—Elder Holland said, “You can have what you want, or you can have something better.” –Elder Donald L. Hallstrom Of the Presidency of the Seventy       <READ THIS COMPLETE TALK

We are children of a Heavenly family.  A loving Heavenly Father created us in His image and because of that he literally is our Father in Heaven.  He endowed you and I with our individual agency.  During our pre-mortal life we prepared ourselves for our earthly experience. In the pre-mortal life we were taught of the Plan of Salvation and the mission of Jesus Christ in that plan.  We shouted for joy when we learned that we could receive a body, come to earth, take upon ourselves sacred and special covenants and return to live with God again. This is part of your divine purpose.

I know I am not the only person in life that asks, “why me?”  Why do I have a same sex attraction?  Why am I so different?  What did I do to deserve this?  I don’t know the answers to all these questions.  But here is what I do know: I chose to partake in the Plan of Salvation.  I was among the two-thirds of the host of heaven that chose to follow the plan of our Father.  The more I study the scriptures and of mercy and grace, the more I appreciate the life that I have been given.  That appreciation doesn’t dissolve the unhappy times I have…the times when my attraction to other men is so strong it almost feels debilitating.  Knowing that a power greater than myself is in control makes dealing with the struggles of SSA more bearable.

The truth is, happiness is not synonymous with pleasure or even freedom from pain. Those who expect life to be carefree do not understand that joy is the brother and child of tribulation. True happiness comes from the personal, spiritual growth that rises out of the fires of mortal experience. “It must needs be,” Lehi taught, “that there is an opposition in all things.” Without that opposition, neither righteousness nor joy is possible.

Some of the trials we face in life we impose on ourselves. Others are caused by the sins and weaknesses of our fellow beings; some just come because we live in a fallen, imperfect world.  There are even some that are caused by reasons we may never understand in mortality.  Still, the sources of our trials are not nearly as important as the fact that they exist and the way we deal with them. The Savior himself underscored that fact for the Prophet Joseph Smith. At one of the lowest ebbs in the Prophet’s life, Joseph cried, “O God, where art thou? …“How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs [committed against] thy people?”

The Lord’s answer was patiently soft: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.” (D&C 121:1–2, 7–8.)

The Lord then listed tribulations the Prophet could face (and indeed, during his lifetime, did face), ending with words that undoubtedly sustained him through the terrible days ahead: “Above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:7–8.)

Trials, then, are a fundamental part of the plan of life. But that doesn’t mean we have no hope for happiness in mortality. The key to happiness here and eternal joy hereafter is the atonement of Jesus Christ.

So I circle back to the group of lawyers conversing over a casket.  How much of our worldly possessions will we leave on this earth?  All of them.

How much pornography do I need to get rid of? All of it

How many inappropriate apps do I need to delete from my phone?   All of them

How many days a week should I ask for help from a loving Savior? All of them

How many people love and support me?   All of them

If we are to learn something of ourselves, we must embrace our trials and learn in our experiences.  We have a promise that these experiences will be for our good.  Try the Lord and ask him to assist you.  I know what it’s like to believe that the gospel has been restored in its fullest and yet I have an attraction that is not consistent with that revelation.  How is it that I believe so fully in the gospel, but am given a trial that is designed to keep me from acting upon it?  I know we have the promises of celestial marriage and exaltation and eternal life, we have endowments, we have the Atonement and the plan of a merciful and kind Father.  This knowledge doesn’t negate all my pain, but at times it provides me with enough.

Today I choose to work on my individual worth and strengthening my personal testimony, all of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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