Mortal (Mormon) Man

Navigating Same Gender Attraction

Author: Dave Kylen (page 2 of 3)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Speeding to an Early Grave

Years ago  as a missionary, I was visiting inactive members with an old, humble man from our small congregation.  As is customary in small branches of the church, most members hold multiple callings; Harold was no exception.  Among the list of Harold’s church callings was Branch Mission Leader.  It was his responsibility to help forward the missionary work among the membership of the congregation, we relied on him as our liaison with the Saints.  He was a great chauffeur and rarely stayed awake during our teaching appointments.  In summary, he was perfect for the job.

On this particular day we traveled the tree-lined roads in the back country woods.  It was picturesque.  The sunlight beamed through the autumn afternoon sky. Everything was serine and beautiful.  The seasons were changing and the evidence of it was everywhere.  Stately maple trees had turned a blazing red color and the squirrels were making their final preparations for the cold winter that seemed just days away.  This was life in the Northeast.

Front side view of black luxury sedan in turn.After a day of teaching appointments (and a few good naps for Harold) we were headed back to town to reunite with my companion.  I loved the time I was able to spend with Harold.  He was always full of wit, wisdom and a no-nonsense attitude.  As we traveled he continued to glance into his rear view mirror. Over and over he would stare at the oncoming headlights.  It was obvious that whoever was driving behind us was either in a hurry or tired of following Harold’s slower-than-normal Ford Taurus.  As soon as it was safe, the teenage driver darted past our car and sped away into the distance.  Without skipping a beat and keeping his eyes on the road, Harold quietly murmured, “speeding to an early grave, never to enjoy the time he’d save.”  And that was that.

All these years later I remember that phrase as if I had invented it myself.

This phrase, to me, was pure wisdom.  How often am I speeding so quickly through life that I risk the opportunity of enjoying the time that I have?  I think we all share some of that guilt.  I am not sure all the reasons why we rush from place to place.  Is this life really a race to the finish line or should be an experience of trial, error and education?  Have we become so busy that we have forgotten to take time for ourselves?  I have.

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

One hot, July summer I had the opportunity to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  The trip was billed as a quick, non strenuous five-mile trip from the north rim of the the Grand Canyon to the cool Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.  I was met with many surprises along the hike.  My water ran low, the sun was usually hot,  the trail was crowded and when I thought it finally couldn’t get worse: I realized that the advertised five miles was just one way.  Unfortunately for me, the return trip wasn’t calculated in the total distance on the flyer.  After hours of sulking down the trail (and through this miserable journey) to say I was upset was an understatement.  Why did I get sucked into thinking that this trip was a great idea?  It was’t that I didn’t like the Grand Canyon or hiking…I was just unprepared for the magnitude of the journey.  The day before I enjoyed a 19 mile hike, had I known this was a 10 mile trip I would not have considered it.  Like life, sometimes we don’t realize the difficult position we are in until we look out from the bottom of the canyon.  I was exhausted, my energy was depleted and I was not mentally prepared.

After many hours of hiking to the bottom of the Canyon, I laid in the cool grass growing along the banks of the Colorado River.  Surely there was someone I could blame for my grief.  Why didn’t I research this trip more thoroughly?  How on earth will I get out of this canyon?    To get back to the lodge seemed like an unattainable duty.  I found myself with only three options to get home: a mule, a helicopter or my own two feet.  I hadn’t seen a single mule anywhere along the trail that day, (I had two one-hundred dollar bills for the first person who offered their donkey to this weary traveler.)  I remembered the park ranger telling us that if we incurred an injury we could call to have a medical helicopter lift us out of the Canyon.  How easily could I fake an injury?

I was now faced with my final option: climb out the same way I climbed in.

So here I was, sitting in the cool grass along the banks of the river.  It was here I found the cross in the road.  I lacked the strength, energy and desire to hike back out of the Grand Canyon.  I just wanted to get back to the lodge to relax in my bathtub of misery and self pity (but seriously, I did want my tub.)  I wanted to be back home and I wanted it right now!  It takes a lot of courage to stand at the base of the Grand Canyon and decide to put one foot in front of the next and begin walking forward.   In my haste to get to the bottom of the canyon I failed to see the beauties that surrounded me.  The Grand Canyon really was an incredible wonder.  With no other options I slowly climbed the trail toward the rim of the canyon.  Somehow I found strength to continue.  I found myself striking conversation with other hikers.  I learned that some of these hikers had hiked the Canyon rim to rim–in the same day and they were more than 40 years older than me.  Another group of hikers told me that they saved their money for more than ten years to afford the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon.  Their decades of sacrifice had made this hike a highlight of their life (how could I impose my negative attitude on them, they were actually enjoying themselves.)   I learned a few valuable lessons from the hike:  first, read all your travel brochures in detail, second, take a break: enjoy the journey and find joy in the path that you are on.  I am confident that I know when I am travelling too quickly.

Elder-Dieter-F-Uchtdorf-mormon“None of us will be on earth very long. We have a number of precious years which, in the eternal perspective, barely amount to the blink of an eye.

And then we depart. Our spirits “are taken home to that God who gave [us] life.”  We lay our bodies down and leave behind the things of this world as we move to the next realm of our existence.

When we are young, it seems that we will live forever. We think there is a limitless supply of sunrises waiting just beyond the horizon, and the future looks to us like an unbroken road stretching endlessly before us.

However, the older we get, the more we tend to look back and marvel at how short that road really is. We wonder how the years could have passed so quickly. And we begin to think about the choices we made and the things we have done. In the process, we remember many sweet moments that give warmth to our souls and joy to our hearts. But we also remember the regrets—the things we wish we could go back and change.” –Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I have applied these principles to many aspects of my life.  Most particularly in terms of addiction and my personal struggles.  Like the Grand Canyon, a pornography addiction (or insert your addiction of choice here) has to be dealt with one step at a time.  Just like the Grand Canyon, the way out is exactly like the way in: one step in front of the other.  When we began our addictions we taught ourselves how to fit the addiction into our daily schedule, now we have to teach ourselves how to live without that addiction.  Isn’t it time to make those changes? While you’re making the changes be sure to enjoy the journey.  Spend more time with the people you love.  Become a better son of God and continue to find happiness regardless of your circumstances.  If not, then you’ll just be speeding to an early grave, never to enjoy the time you’d save.

Only Give Thanks

Last week I spent a few hours preparing for a lesson I was going to teach in Church.  The lesson centered on being grateful for the things we have in our lives.  Being grateful is not my strong suit.  Poor-Amongst-YouDon’t get me wrong, I appreciate the things that I have and I am thankful for my blessings, but do I adequately express my appreciation to God?  This is where I run afoul.  I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine regarding prayer.  I encouraged him to get on his knees at night and only give thanks for his blessings. Nothing else.  Don’t pray for any need, but only give thanks.  That is a great perspective.  I don’t think a loving Heavenly Father would balk at the ‘thankful’ prayer from his son or daughter.

While preparing for my lesson I read (and reread three times) Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s conference talk, “Are We Not All Beggars.”  When I originally listened to the talk so many thoughts invaded my mind.  It was one of those talks that spoke directly to me.  I am sure you’ve had that same experience at some point in your life.  Among the many gems in Elder Holland’s talk is this one:

“Brothers and sisters, such a sermon demands that I openly acknowledge the unearned, undeserved, unending blessings in my life, both temporal and spiritual. Like you, I have had to worry about finances on occasion, but I have never been poor, nor do I even know how the poor feel. Furthermore, I do not know all the reasons why the circumstances of birth, health, education, and economic opportunities vary so widely here in mortality, but when I see the want among so many, I do know that “there but for the grace of God go I.”  I also know that although I may not be my brother’s keeper, I am my brother’s brother, and “because I have been given much, I too must give.” 

There are two points from this talk that mean something to me.  First, I have never been so poor that I have been destitute. Secondly, I am my brother’s brother.

It is really easy for me to slip into a feeling of loathing and self pity regarding my struggles with same sex attraction.  At times I feel like I am the author of the map to self pity.  Why is it that I am so quick to naturally focus on my personal struggles and slow to acknowledge the blessings that I have been given?  I have failed to take a momentary pause and be thankful for food to eat, a bed to sleep in, air to breathe, friends that support me, the sun that brings light, the smiles of strangers, kindness from a co-worker, forgiveness of a friend and the pure love of Christ in my life.  Somehow, it is easier to focus on the things that cause me pain and struggle.  In reading the Book of Mormon account of Lehi’s exodus into the wilderness you can find a lesson of struggle and strife.  Lehi’s family left Jerusalem and left behind all their riches and wealth to follow the revelation of God.  That act alone is beyond comprehension to me.  Have you ever considered leaving EVERYTHING behind in faith?  I am not yet there.

“And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness. …He was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.  And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” -1 Nephi 2: 2-4

After eight years in the wilderness Lehi’s family finally settled in the Land Bountiful.  They had tested their faith for more than eight years. Eight years of trial!  I feel ashamed for my momentary periods of discomfort and self pity.  For me, the moral of Lehi’s exodus story is answered in the Land Bountiful.  When Lehi’s family arrived they found everything they had behind in Jerusalem and then some.  The Lord had rewarded them in sustenance for what they offered in faith.  In Bountiful we will find much fruit, honey, ore and all that the Lord has prepared for us.  Maybe this is what God tries to teach us when he offers to “…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it..”

“And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us…” – 1 Nephi 16: 3

LoveTonight, as you kneel on your knees, will you openly acknowledge the unearned, undeserved, unending blessings in your life, both temporal and spiritual?

I promise you will have a spiritual experience.

Remember Lehi’s family: they left their gold, silver, tools, prized possessions and probably a few family photos and they did it because they had faith in revelation.  There really is something to the scripture that says “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”  One of life’s paradoxes is that a person who approaches everything with a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude may acquire money, property, and land, but in the end will lose the fulfillment and the happiness that a person enjoys who shares his talents and gifts generously with others.

You and I have the shared responsibility of lifting and supporting our brothers and sisters.  I know that I struggle being my brother’s keeper, however I am my brother’s brother.  It doesn’t matter if its a same sex attraction, a struggle with our testimony or just a bad day: because I have been given much, I too must give; even 20 fold if necessary.

 

Hiding the Shadows

ShadowHave you ever wondered why shadows exist?  How many times in your life have you found yourself in the safety of darkness?  For me, it has been two months living in the light, outside of the darkness.  Somewhere close to two months ago my wife and I had “the talk.”  The talk that laid everything on the table. The one where she learned her husband has a same sex attraction.  Since that night I have found myself in a much better place; a place of acceptance, reality and peace.  I have found a deeper understanding of who I am, a deeper love for my wife and clearer path forward.  Hindsight is the great educator.  Looking back I have learned that when the light shines, shadows are created.  Shadows are hard (sometimes impossible) to hide.  And so, two months later, here I am.  We are living with more light in our relationship and with that light come some darker shadows.  I am convinced Satan is trying hard to make sure I fail.  He is pretty good at what he does (fortunately, so am I).

Now before you worry that I am falling down the cliff or bouncing out of the wagon, rest assured I am safe.  I have an incredible support system that provides me with accountability and direction.  I need to talk about the reality of my situation.  I am living in a mixed orientation marriage and I haven’t been able to fully wrap my head around that concept.  You’d think after having more than a decade of experience living it, I would have more answers.  There is a lot of ground to cover in this topic.  Early on I convinced myself that this blog would be a line-upon-line experience.  Through writing, I would sort through and file away all the necessary paperwork of my experience.  I hate paperwork.  This is tough.

Before I told my wife about my same sex attraction, I kept a very large portion of my life hidden.  Sometimes even elephants could easily be hidden in the shadows.  As a Latter-day Saint I justified my mission, my marriage and my future with the assurance that if I did all the right things: serve an honorable mission, get married in the temple, fulfill my callings, then the Lord would ease my burden of same sex attraction.  I even convinced myself that it would go away entirely.  That wasn’t the truth.  My burdens were easier to carry, but my attraction to men has never disappeared.  I have no intention to try to convince you that keeping this secret is a good idea.  In hindsight I would have taken a different course.  If I were to do it all over again I would sit my fiancé down and lay it all on the line.  When would have been a good time to do that?  I don’t know for sure, but it would have been shortly before a proposal and far enough into the relationship that we had built a level of trust and understanding.  The conversation would have included my intentions to remain an active member of the church, that I tried every day to live the tenets of the gospel and that I desired to have everything she desired.  After ten years of marriage, that opportunity finally came.

So, what has changed?  Is life different for me?

Yes!  Everything is different.  When I told my wife about my SSA, it included apologies for the years of distancing myself emotionally, physically and sexually.  It included an accounting of my actions; it included a plan for the future, a vision for our marriage, the realization that neither of us knew all the answers, and that this was ground zero.

I am in a much better place today than I was in a few months ago.  I spent 10 years of marriage trying to satisfy the urges of SSA and maintain a “healthy” marriage with my wife.  As I mentioned in a previous post, no man can serve two masters.  This is my reality.  The urges are still there, the triggers still exist, but I can say unequivocally that life is much better.  My wife and I have a level playing field.  She knows my strengths, my weaknesses and my trials.  This will be a learning experience for both of us.  My experience will not reflect yours, but it will be similar.  Together we need to learn how to love each other despite our weaknesses.  Together, we understand the atonement more fully and together we will bring more light into our lives.

I always thought shadows existed because of the light but time has taught me that they exist because they lack light.  If you shine a light from only one angle only you will create shadows.  But when you add light from all angles the shadows will disappear.  I know the source of the Light and I want Him to be everywhere the shadows used to be.

Seeing Clearly

WindowI began this blog to emotionally process my struggle with same sex attraction.  There was a time in my life that I hated (for every reason imaginable) the attraction.  Like a smudge on freshly cleaned windows, my SSA never allowed me to see clearly – an imperfection is always visible on clear glass.  What I’ve learned about SSA and Mormonism is that most of us have common threads.  Your story is most likely my story.  For me, that is a source of strength.   I hated that I was created this way.  I hated that I couldn’t be normal.  I hated the idea that a loving Heavenly Father would feel justified in treating me this way.  I hated that I couldn’t have what I so desperately desired.

Ironically, I am not a person who hates.

I’ve always believed hate was a strong word.  I don’t recall ever hating any person in my life.  Am I really capable of hating something–hating this?  Did I really hate my same sex attraction and my destiny?  Probably not.  So I have replaced the word ‘hate’ with an idea of not understanding.   I do not understand why I was created this way.  I do not understand why I can’t be normal.  I do not understand why a loving Heavenly Father would feel justified in treating me this way.  I do not understand why I can’t have what I desire.   What a difference this perspective has made in my life. Instead of feeling like a victim, I can earnestly seek to understand the will of God.  Therein lies safety and peace.

I am a person who doesn’t understand all things.

So why can’t a Mormon with same sex attraction act sexually upon his attraction?  Well, there are many answers that are right.  Some answers are better than others.  The bottom line for me: exaltation.  Sex, outside of marriage, regardless of your orientation is contrary to the commandments.   And so, the journey of acceptance and understanding of my same sex attraction continues.  I accept the fact I was created this way.  Yes, it is a struggle to focus on exaltation.  I am married to a woman I cherish as my eternal companion, friend and mother to our children.  I have found harmony in the gospel and my same sex attraction.  It is possible for you.  As each of us draws closer to understanding the pure love of Christ, we will begin to see how to lift every son and daughter of God.

Someone told me there is a smudge on my window, but I hardly notice it these days.

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

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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.

 

 

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