Mortal (Mormon) Man

Navigating Same Gender Attraction

Month: April 2016

Strength to (with)Stand

SpringSpringtime is one of my favorite seasons in the year.  The winter is over, the weather is warm and the hot summer sun is still months away.  It is so fitting that the Resurrection and the spring season are so easily intertwined.  The best part of the season are the random spring rains.  Early morning clouds will roll into the burgeoning valley floors, greening the plants and causing the flowers to bud.  I have an affinity for nature, and were it up to me nature would be my life. However, I want what I can’t always have.

After spending time in the spring rain, there comes that moment of realization, it’s time to get back to the real world.  The real world includes work, responsibilities, children, my job, people who depend on me…life.

I have often wandered out, no destination near
To hear the distant sounds of birds; to watch the herds of deer.

I listen to the songs of wind and watch the rivers run
The air so crisp, so cool, calls.  My tasks I leave undone.

The sounds of wind, the rustling trees,
The buzzing hum of bumble bees

Nature is filled with abundant life
But as for me, I must go.

It is easy to escape to nature when you are fighting Goliaths in your life.  For me, some of those Goliaths have included fighting the things in my life that keep me from enjoying the Holy Ghost and feeling the redeeming love of the Savior.  It would easy to list all of my sins and list this, this and this as the reasons I cannot keep the Spirit in my life.  But it’s not necessary.  It’s more important to focus on building strength to overcome these trials, not to dwell on the trial itself.

One morning I was walking a construction site inspecting a newly installed asphalt road.  The construction workers on the job site had prepared the sub grade beneath the road, and took great care to make sure the foundation of the street was solid and strong.  They added layers and layers of fill dirt and rock to ensure the road would be strong enough to bear the weight of heavy traffic.  A few weeks after preparing the foundation of the road, the contractor began to asphalt the street and finished the paving project.  The final results were stunning.  A rich-black asphalt street meandered through this new residential community.  In time, homes would be built, trees would be planted, sandboxes filled and generations of memories would be accessed from these streets.

And then it happened.

StreetJust weeks after the asphalt had been installed, small protrusions appeared in the inches thick surface.  Hundreds of bulges began rising from the road.  What went wrong?  Why was this happening?  Who was responsible?  Beneath the five inches of solid asphalt were thousands of seeds.  When mixed with the spring rain and warm temperatures, these seeds sprouted and had strength enough to rise above the barrierStreet 2  above them.  These tiny plants pushed through the weakest parts of the asphalt to find the light.  They found strength in their struggle to survive.

Engineers were called to the site to determine the reason why the plants were able to grow.  Like a curious magic trick, the secret was revealed.  In the weeks before the asphalt was installed, a solid and strong road was left open to nature.  Even though the foundation of the road was complete, without the asphalt to cover the earth, the road was vulnerable to the elements.  Nature, in its innocence, will always begin to reclaim itself.  The winds blew seeds onto the road base and these seeds began to grow.  Eventually they were given the right opportunities to have strength to burst through the asphalt to find the light.

Now, are you the seed or the street? 

I think there are two lessons here; each is significant in their meaning.  For the street: the work is not complete until the job is complete.  Leaving yourself exposed allows foreign objects (sin) to take root and establish life.  For the seed: be strong enough to grow in difficult places.  All plants grow towards the Light. 

iPhones and Shovels

Over the past few weeks a friend and I have taken the challenge to rid our lives of pornography and the ill effects of its influence.  Without a brother that can understand my SSA struggle, I am not sure how successful I would be.  I am a justifier.  I love to justify all my sins.  Yes, I want to move on with my life.  Yes, I want to be free from the burdens pornography offers.  I want to heal.  So, we took the drastic step of placing filters on each others’ iPhones.   I control his phone; he controls the settings of mine.  It was a bold move, but necessary.  The Church’s Addiction Recovery Program encourages us to admit to ourselves that we have a problem, and acknowledge that we are incapable of overcoming it by ourselves.

Anothmaxresdefaulter key to overcoming the addictions in our lives is to seek help and find a healthy support system.  My friend is my healthy support system.  We struggle together and we know how to succor each other in our infirmities.  For me, I have been 100% successful in leaving the porn on the internet and not on my screen.  For me, I feel accountable.  This support structure gives me an added boost of determination.  I don’t want to fail my friend (and I hope he doesn’t want to fail me).  Yesterday we discussed the difficulties of ridding our lives of all forms of pornography.  It is a very real struggle that will not just be a commitment for a few weeks.  It will take a lifetime of dedication.  We both have recognized greater light and freedom in our personal lives as a reward for our efforts.  I suppose this will be a line-upon-line precept-upon-precept recovery.

As we were discussing our struggles and successes I thought of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies or the people of Ammon.   These Ammonites were converted by the sons of Mosiah.  After their conversion, they were faithful throughout their lives.  They refused to shed blood and, as you may remember, they buried their weapons of war.  Even more remarkable is that they began to prepare their sons, approximately 2,000 of them, to be strong leaders and valiant sons of God.

As I thought of this story I thought of my current situation.  I grabbed my Book of Mormon and began to reread their account found in Alma.  I then started to replace a few words with my “weapons.”

And now, my brethren, if pornography seeks to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our iPhones, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our weaknesses do destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.

And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their iPhones, and all the tempations which were used for the shedding of our spiritual growth, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.

Now, in what manner did they bury their weapons?  Deep.  They weren’t placed just under the surface, not within reach, and not accessible in panic or rage.  They buried them so deep that if they were tempted they wouldn’t be able to reach them before they would be overtaken by the enemy.   Without such depth, temptations will increase and we will grab our dulled shovels and begin to recover our vices.

That is where my friend and I are at today.  We have taken control of each others’ weapons of war, and with shovels in hand we are digging a really deep hole.  Today we are safe and are finding success because we are accountable to each other.  There will come a time when we have to deposit our weapons of war.  We will have to bury them and allow them to remain secured in the earth.  I look forward to that day.

I am grateful for sharp shovels.  Don’t get discouraged. It takes time to dig deep holes.

 

Two Roads Diverged

TwoRoadsMarketingHeader

I am a member of a support group called NorthStar that “supports Latter-day Saint individuals and families concerned with sexual orientation or gender identity who seek to live in joy and harmony within their covenants, values, and beliefs as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”  Within the framework of NorthStar are multiple discussion groups that assist each of its members with a safe and open forum to heal, build friendships and find support in their journey.

“North Star is to be a spiritually uplifting resource for individuals and families dealing with these complex issues. It is also to empower individuals to help educate themselves, their family, friends, and Church leaders as they strive to become integrated more fully and lovingly into the Church community. We hope you will find something here that will be meaningful for your life—that it will be a place where you can connect with others, share your experiences, and learn from the experiences of others. The resources provided here are intended to be spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and socially supportive. You are not alone in your desire to find balance, knowledge, and support.” -NorthStarLDS.org

I am thankful for this resource in my life.  When I was young I remember my father sitting knee-to-knee with my in the living room.  I had betrayed his trust and gotten into some type of trouble.  He looked into my eyes and said, “Son, stupid people learn from their own mistakes. Smart people learn from the mistakes of others.”  At the time I was worthy of an award for being the most ‘stupid person’ in the world–or so I thought.  My father’s intent was not to belittle me or make me feel worse for my actions, but to encourage me to learn from the mistakes of others.  He wanted me to learn that other people have traveled this road before; some come back and can give you sage advice.  This is what NorthStar does for me.

Years ago a seventh-grade teacher required us to memorize Robert Frost’s, “The Road Not Taken.”  Each morning we would look south to the ‘poem wall’ and recite the lines over and over.  Each time the words become less interesting, more labored and by the end, past feeling.  I hated that poem.  Then one day it clicked.  I had a choice in this life.  I had the ability to choose which path I wanted to take. This was my destiny- to choose and be chosen.  I had agency.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Most people do not realize that Frost was implying irony when he wrote the poem, and more particularly the line “made all the difference.”  The traveler has the option of deciding between two paths in the woods.  The first three stanzas show that the traveler sees both paths as basically the same.  Frost describes the two paths as “just as fair,” “equally lay” and “worn…really about the same.”   In the last stanza in the poem, you’ll find the irony implied by the author.  The traveler comments almost with sarcasm that someday he will look back and claim “with a sigh” that traveling the “one less traveled…made all the difference.”

Did you catch the author’s irony?

All of us look back on our life and say “oh yes, that is where I took this path…it has made such a difference.”  Did it really matter which path you took?  Whether the path brought us joy or pain, it didn’t matter.  The path was mine.  If you are like me, you will always try to justify your paths.  These paths (our decisions)  are our own and there is value in owning our experiences.

And so, Mr. Frost, thank you.

Thank you for supporting my father’s sage advice.  It isn’t the path that is most important, it’s what we’ve learned along the way.  I suppose I’ll continue to take the one less traveled by.  For me it makes all the difference.

The Power of a Friend

FriendsI am quickly realizing the power of a really great friend.  As I scan through my Facebook profile I have accumulated many friends.  It is exciting to scroll the pages and reflect on our many years of memories and relationships.  However, I can’t help but think of how few of those friends hold my absolute trust.  I can count them on two fingers.

Recently, I made a new friend. He and I share many of the same struggles (and joys) in life.  He loves cheesecake, I struggle understanding why.  We like the same types of music, share the same religious belief and we both have a same sex attraction.  Being able to discuss my struggles and pains has been a blessing in my life.  If you follow my blog you also know that recently, after 10 years of marriage, I finally told my wife about my SSA and associated addictions and struggles.  I feel fortunate to have two incredible support systems in my life.  One is my eternal companion to whom I credit my sanity and devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The other friend allows me to be empathetic and understood.  Each fulfill a vital role in my experience.

The Church has an incredible Addiction Recovery Program that assist people like you and I.  Key functions of the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) are, among other things: recognize your addiction, confide in a friend, acknowledge your struggles, turn from sin and make restitution for your actions.  A good friend, who understands your struggle, is crucial.  For years I bottled the feelings of same sex attraction inside of me.  I never told another person about my SSA. It was really difficult.  Who could I ever trust with such a sensitive and profound part of my life?  As I look over my social media friends I am glad to have at least one who knows who I really am.  There is daily growth that comes from such a friendship.  I need to heal.  Although I fought to maintain a life in harmony with the Church, I was spiraling out of control.  You might be in that same pattern.

Some people consider addictions to only be bad habits that can be conquered by willpower alone, but many people become so dependent on a behavior or a substance that they no longer see how to abstain from it. Through Jesus Christ and His Atonement, you can recover and enjoy all the blessings of the gospel.  -LDS Addiction Recovery

It is my hope that you find someone you can confide in.  A trusted friend, spouse, fiancé, bishop or an ecclesiastical leader are each incredible options.  Fighting the addictions associated with same sex attractions alone will leave you powerless.  With the help of a trusted friend, you become powerful.

Be powerful.

 

 

Caught and Released

Late one night my wife confronted me about a few things that she found on my iPhone.  I had been caught.  I could feel her anguish just by looking into her eyes.  I was shattered, but not devastated like she was.  How would you react if you found out your spouse had a same-gender attraction?  Imagine the pain of finding out that you had not been fully loved.  In hindsight, I can clearly see how my SSA caused her to feel inadequate, to feel substandard and not loved.  I hate that.  I hated the position I was in, and I hated how I made her feel.  It was a really difficult night.  It would be a novel if I were to write all of our conversation.  Truthfully, there are some parts of my admissions that I would never like to think about again, but they are mine.  I own them.

My wife and I married in our 20’s in the temple. True Mormon style.  It wasn’t a difficult decision to marry her.  She is intelligent, witty, driven, good looking and her parents always offered dinner.  She checked all the boxes.  It has never been easy for me to love.  I don’t love holidays, chocolate, cheesecake or Christmas presents.  Couple
In hindsight I believe I created that natural defense mechanism to avoid hurting people that I care for.  If somebody found out who I really was I could make their
separation from me easier by hedging against that self imposed barrier.  It has everything to do with the creation of exit strategies.  If I needed to,  I could break off my relationships to avoid additional pain and confrontation.  It was my way of limiting collateral damage.

I do not think I am alone in this pattern.

So now, too many years after our wedding day, she knows a very real and detailed part of my life.  She is my support system.  She loves me.  She has released me from a pain that I struggled for so long to bear alone.
Her love for me is stronger than the love I have for myself.  My SSA doesn’t consume my thoughts, it doesn’t control my future, but it is a part of me.  For many years I hated the fact I wasn’t ‘normal.’  Only recently have I begun to embrace it.  And so, today, I am re-learning to love my wife.  Today I am beginning to see the sun rise above crumbling walls.  It is beautiful.  Some days are cloudy and some days bring storms.  This is not an easy process.  It is painful to talk about transgressions and the pain you put your eternal companion through.  Fortunately for me (and my family) I never physically cheated on my wife.  That is a tender mercy.  The feelings I have today for my wife, for the Savior, and for myself have placed me in a much better place.  You can find that place too.  You need to be there.

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” –Victor Hugo

He Knows You Personally

I have had the privilege of preparing a talk for church.  Most hate the idea of speaking in church or teaching a lesson.  I kind of enjoy it.  I always have.  It’s not that I am an eloquent public speaker because I am far from that.  It is the challenge of the task that is appealing.  The spirit of learning and growing is sweet.  Lately I have been pondering about the power of the Atonement and redemption.  Years ago, Elder Neal A. Maxwell appeared in a Special Witnesses of Christ film produced by the Church.  His closing words have always sung sweetly to my soul.

“When Christ comes again, it will not be to the meekness of the manger; it will be as the recognized Redeemer and the Lord of the universe! Then, in a great solar display, stars will fall from their places in a witnessing way, with much more drama than at His birth, when “the stars in the heavens looked down where he lay”.
Yet in the vastness of His creations, the Lord of the universe, who notices the fall of every sparrow, is our personal Savior.” –Neal A. Maxwell

IfThomas we are to see things more clearly, we have to lift ourselves above the secular smog.   I recently found myself in John 20 studying the experience of Thomas Didymus, also known as ‘doubting Thomas’.  I am convinced we have labeled him incorrectly.  Thomas was just like all of us.  We have doubts, concerns, fears and questions.  For some of us it is easy to gain a testimony.  For others, it is a struggle.   When the apostles met Thomas they exclaimed their excitement and belief that they had seen the risen Lord.  It is easy to believe when you see.  For Thomas, gaining this testimony was going to be more of a struggle.  He had to know.  He had to feel the nail prints in His hands and in His feet to believe.  I see a lot of Thomas in my own life.  Some gospel truths didn’t easily flood my mind with immediate understanding.  I have doubted.

Time is a great teacher.  From the time that the resurrected Jesus appeared to his Apostles to the time that he finally showed himself to Thomas was, according to the scriptures, 8 days.  Have you ever stopped to consider what happened to Thomas during the eight days?  I am confident that Thomas prayed, and he probably fasted, and he worked on developing his testimony.

Now, what about the Savior?  What was the Redeemer doing to help Thomas?  He who notices the fall of every sparrow knew the personal needs and struggles of Thomas.  He knows your personal needs.  Finally, in an upper room, the time came: Jesus appeared to Thomas.  Without a prior conversation to Thomas regarding his concerns, without asking Thomas how He could help him believe, Jesus worked another miracle:

“…then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto  him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Did you catch the message?  For me, the beauties of these scriptures are not that Thomas was able to see the Savior and believe.  It was that the Savior knew Thomas’ needs personally.  He knew exactly what Thomas had desired in his heart.  Thomas needed to feel the nail prints to solidify his testimony and the Savior knew it.  Christ’s atoning sacrifice enabled him to know how to succor us in our infirmities.  You and I have that same promise.  We have a loving Savior who knows our needs, our struggles and our joys.  You can do great things.

Today you can be a SPIRIT with human experiences, not a human with occasional spiritual experiences.

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