A Seat at the Table

Mormon Family Dinner
Mormon Family Dinner (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Perhaps you have heard the story in church somewhere. It’s about an eternal family in the afterlife. They are at a dinner table with all of the fancy furnishings, the best decorations, and the most delicious food imaginable. Unfortunately, there is an empty seat at the table—a reminder of that family member that did not persevere to the end and earn the same eternal reward the rest of the family enjoys.

I don’t know about you, but I have overheard loved ones discussing this story quietly, and it hurts deeply knowing they consider me the family member that would be missing from that dinner-table seat. I may be kind, generous, and charitable, but I am not worthy of the highest of eternal prizes.

I am a single man, and as church policy currently stands, I will remain a single man until I die. To most casual observers, I am disobeying a big commandment to marry and start a family. It’s a requirement for the highest eternal glory. Many wonder about my “misplaced priorities” and urge me to hurry up and find a nice woman to marry. I tried that for nearly twenty years. I dated, I served faithfully in many leadership callings, and I prayed day and night to find a woman that would fix me. Any emotional connection I was able to make with a woman, however, was similar to how I love my sisters, and I felt my attraction to men grow more intense

I am not allowed at the table because I am a single man.

You see, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that it is my own fault that I am still single. Many well-meaning people have pointed out the wonderful single women who would be an amazing wife and mother. I agree that most of them would, but I also believe they deserve husbands that would love them in a way I am incapable of loving. I gave up on the singles wards several years ago because the intent is to lead every single woman and man in the congregations into the eternal bonds of matrimony. That wasn’t going to happen for me, so I switched to a traditional family ward, where I sit alone in the back of the chapel.

Even though I try to obey all of the commandments to the best of my ability, there is no place for a single gay man at the dinner table.

I want to find an eternal companion just like most members of the church. My wishes, however, would be to find a loving, kind man with whom I could share my life. These desires are selfish according to many faithful saints; such choices will only lead to a life of suffering and unhappiness. A life with a man I love, though, sounds more fulfilling than the life I currently lead coming home to an empty house.

f I choose the path of spending my life with a man I love, I will not be welcome at the table, because I am a sinner and turned away from God.

I don’t know the answers to this dilemma that thousands of men and women in our faith face. It seems as though, according to current teachings, that any of the choices we have to make all lead to dead ends. Do I sacrifice happiness now for an eternal happiness that I can’t possibly earn? Does the atonement of Jesus Christ make up for the requirements that I lack in this life? Where are the answers?

 

I would love to know what others think. Please feel free to respond and share how you have reconciled these conflicting issues. I will open up the comments for others to read.

Advertisements

A Life Alone?

Lonely Man
Lonely Man (Photo credit: svenwerk)

I haven’t written anything for this blog in quite a while. I guess it’s because I needed to take  a vacation from the topic and spend some time focusing on renewing my emotional and spiritual health. Since I started sharing my story, I have received many comments from readers. In the beginning, the comments were positive encouragement to keep writing. The later posts, however, attracted too many negative comments condemning me, calling me an apostate, and telling me I was going to hell because I was attempting to lead others down that fiery path.

Up until I started writing these stories, my friends and family always complained about how little I shared about my own life. They wanted to know more about my interests and if there was anyone special in my life. I always kept pretty quiet because I was afraid to find out how they would react if they found out my dirty secrets. This fear has kept me from developing any deep and lasting friendships. I think I was conditioned to believe that I was meant to suffer my affliction on my own.

I know I am not alone, and there are many members of the church who have suffered the same isolation and loneliness. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to suffer in silence, and we are made to believe we are broken. If we seek out others who can empathize, we run the risk of falling prey to the false doctrines of men. The sad truth is the church doesn’t have any real solutions or support groups set up for us, so if we want to remain faithful members, we are pretty much on our own.

When we become honest about who we are, we are then judged on a different level of expectations than any other member of the church. If you don’t think we are judged harshly, just browse the readers’ comments on any Deseret News article about homosexual issues. We haven’t prayed hard enough. We suddenly become a threat to the children and youth of the church. We become the weird guy who doesn’t talk with anyone and sits alone in the back of the chapel.

We are looked at as less faithful than the rest of the congregation. We aren’t invited to talk or pray, and our neighbors now avoid us before and after the meetings. Countless personal prayers have been said to lift this burden that we carry, but too often we don’t realize that the only way the burden will be lifted is when we share who we are with others. We need that support group that doesn’t officially exist in the formal LDS organization, so many of us still live solitary, lonely lives.

Letting others know—especially those faithful LDS family and ward members—about our homosexuality is a horrible demon to face alone. We run the risk of losing the most important people in our lives. Personally, I have lost contact with my dearest friends because they can’t deal with my honesty. Forget that I have done my best to live true to those same principals I have been taught my entire life, I am now a sinner because I am attracted to other men. Once we experience the rejection, who do we have to lift us up?

I have had enough time away from this blog to clear my mind and renew my spirit. Perhaps it’s because I have have been blesses this past month to reconnect with some old friends who have also been through similar experiences. While some faithful members of the LDS church may not agree, I believe those people were brought back into my life because my Heavenly Father wanted to remind me that I am not alone, that I am loved just as I am, and that he is concerned about my happiness.

Free Speech vs. Human Dignity

Dozens and dozens of posts are coming through my Facebook account regarding yesterday’s Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day. I’ve read comments from “friends” stating things like “Another good reason to eat at Chick-fil-a,” “Yummy waffle fries,” “I’m not going to let anyone tell me where I can’t eat,” and “Take that you liberal idiots!”

It has been a very discouraging couple of days. I don’t think a lot of my friends can really imagine how it feels to know that they are supporting a cause that keeps me and thousands–actually millions–of brothers and sisters second class citizens. They say this isn’t about same-sex marriage, and I agree. Many of them said the issue was about free speech, and I believe in that American value just as much as anyone else. They say they are angry that a few–yes just a few–government officials said that the restaurant was no longer welcome in their jurisdictions, so they decided take a stand and eat at the restaurant in the name of free speech.

Well, I want everyone to think about the thousands of gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and friends that you threw under the bus yesterday in your support of free speech.  What about the young boys and girls who are terrified to go to school because they are bullied for being a “defect of nature?” What about the women and men who are brutally attacked for being different? Is free speech more important that treating people with dignity?

I know most of my friends would never outright say they hate homosexuals. Unfortunately, their actions yesterday say they side with those who do hate. Here are some comments on different websites to show who many of my friends and relatives sided with yesterday [note, I am not editing their comments in any way]:

“When I turn on the TV to watch the news and I see two men kissing my stomach turns.”

“The faggots just don’t get it. They are going to lose this one!”

“You want to be different, but at the same time you want to be treated the same.  PUT on your big person panties and lets get on with our lifes.”

“It seems GAYS want special rights..not Equal Rights. Don’t you remember that childhood song… Stick and Stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Quit being so thin skinned.”

“It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. They make me sick!”

How can we not take those words personally? I’ve heard similar and worse comments my whole life, and they tear at the soul. My LDS and friends get offended when their faith is attacked, so I guess I was hoping for more from them yesterday.

I want my good Christian and Mormon friends to think about what they thought about and discussed while waiting in line for your chicken sandwich and waffle fries. Did you say or laugh at any derogatory comments about “the gays.” Did you put a stop to hateful comments you may have heard?

Video campaigns were started to help gay and lesbian teens overcome depression and suicidal tendencies. They are told that it will get better, and that people will be kinder and more accepting as they get to know them. Unfortunately, I fear that many will not believe that after yesterday’s events. I fear that attacks against gays and lesbians could increase because of the crowds at Chick-fil-A yesterday.

I am grateful for a wise brother who invited me to have dinner with his family last night. His family bought a bucket of chicken from KFC, we watched the Olympics together, and we played a few board games with the kids. Nothing was mentioned about the Chick-fil-A controversy, but everyone there let me know that I am loved.

Go ahead and continue standing up for free speech, that’s your right. I, however, will choose to stand up for kindness, compassion, empathy, and love.  After all, isn’t love the greater commandment?

Chapter Eight – Angels and Cub Scouts

Publicity photo of the cast of the television ...
Publicity photo of the cast of the television program Charlie’s Angels. From left: Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and Kate Jackson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Danny, Peter, and I discovered different interests as school progressed. What little time we could spend together during recess was cut when we each decided to spend that time participating in different activities.

Peter discovered his natural athletic skills. As long as the weather cooperated, he would join the other boys in a game of baseball, basketball, or soccer. Occasionally, enough boys would get together to play kick ball, and they would often argue about how the rules for tagging somebody out at a base.

I chose to play Charlies Angels with some of the girls in my class. The girls always argued over who got to be Jill and Kelley—until Jenny would finally give in and agree to be Sabrina. Sometimes I got to play the criminal they would arrest, but I was usually stuck playing Bosley, the pudgy, middle-aged office manager that spoke with a slight lisp.

Danny, on the other hand, chose to spend a lot of time alone during recess. He seemed pretty content playing on the swings or monkey bars. On the days I was a criminal running away from the private detectives, I would often see my friend digging in the dirt like he was searching for a treasure.

I had my first real encounters with a bully during those early first years of school. For some reason, Justin decided that I was an easy target for his taunting. Whenever he teased me about being one of the girls, one of the tough Angels I played with would come to my rescue and arrest him for being ugly. I never considered his taunting as a problem at the time, but it seemed more like a fun part of the game.

English: Cub Scout in uniform
English: Cub Scout in uniform (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Danny, Peter, and I still enjoyed getting together for Cub Scouts every Tuesday after school. Danny’s mother was our den mother, and she always had fun activities for us. We did wood carvings, leather engraving, basket weaving, and many other crafts. We also had a bucket the boys would pass around each week to determine who brought treats to share after every scouting session.

While I enjoyed the small weekly sessions I spent with my scout den each week, I rarely enjoyed the large pack meetings. The wheels fell of my car in the Pinewood Derby, and the rocket I built got stuck on the racing wires. The older boys seemed to enjoy watching me fail at each of the competitions.

We had a pack meeting in October that was a little different than most. The leaders decided we would have a cake decorating contest. My father and I piled several carefully carved pieces of cake on top of each other and then covered it with a delicious black frosting to build the best design of the evening—a Darth Vader. Finally, I had won first place at a Cub Scout competition.

The crowd was impressed with my cake decorating skills. Many of the  mothers asked to take pictures of me with my cake, and the boys my age thought it was cool. Many of the older boys, however, didn’t act very impressed.

“Of course he would win a contest meant for girls,” one of them said just before leaving the room.

Random Ramblings

Bryton Catlett, left, wipes a tear off the cheek of his partner Patrick McAtee as they listen to the speakers. Members of the community stand Tuesday, May 1, 2012 in solidarity with (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) LGBT youth, at the Ogden Amphitheater to speak out and express grief and outrage at yet another loss of life in Northern Utah and to witness for the need for immediate change in schools, churches and society.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A lot has been said in the week since news about 300 Mormons marching in Salt Lake City’s Pride Parade spread across the internet and around the world. I was surprised to see how many members of the church questioned the motives of those who participated in the parade. Many doubted the activity level of the participants, and they condemned them for not being in church. I know LDS members are stereotypically a judgmental group. I used to think that was an unfair generalization, but the words and actions of many this week proved me wrong; and I am disappointed.

A strange phenomenon among a certain segment of the LDS population, however, is the roundabout way they pass judgment on others. You see, they would never come right out and say they dislike homosexuals, but they will share stories or thoughts that subtly hint at the idea.

One Facebook friend, for example, spent the past week posting quotes from LDS President Joseph F. Smith. One quote focused on putting away the natural man and nurturing our spiritual beings. Another one was about being a good example, staying true to the faith, and associating only with those who share similar standards. Now, my question is why is he suddenly posting these quotes? I had never seen him do this before. I decided to check out his Facebook time line/wall, and I saw a post he made in response to the pride march; he thought those members should have been in church instead of participating in an event that celebrates immoral behavior. I couldn’t help but feel that these quotes have all been subtle follow ups to that comment. It’s a roundabout way to call those of us who are sinning to repentance.

Next, I saw many, many former ward members post a link to a blog post that has made the rounds quite a bit over the past week. Blogger Josh Weed and his wife made a public announcement of their mixed-orientation marriage. He’s gay, and she’s straight. They claim to have a healthy, strong marriage. He admits to being sexually attracted to men and not women, yet they have made their marriage work and have three beautiful daughters.

I do not want to question their sincerity and happiness, but I wonder what the true motivation is for what they wrote. The church leadership over the past 10 years has discouraged gay members from marrying someone of the opposite gender. They realize that past mix-oriented marriages have led to broken homes and bad feelings. Why, then, would this marriage and family therapist willingly enter into a marriage that will not offer him the complete fulfillment that all couples deserve? Isn’t it a little cruel to the wife to admit that he isn’t even remotely sexually attracted to her, yet he will marry her anyway?

Now, many of the people who posted on Facebook thought he was wonderful. After all, his general message was that love is what’s most important. I think many of my friends—mostly single women in their 30’s and early 40’s—thought that this was a strong message to the single men in their lives. Are they at a point that they would be willing to settle for a gay man like Joshua Weed? Maybe they are, but I still don’t think that’s fair to them.

The Deseret News posted an editorial about stopping the abuse of GLBT youth today. I was impressed that the editorial board of the newspaper owned by the LDS church would finally say something about this major problem. Many of the readers comments, however, show that we still have a long way to go, but I appreciate another baby step.

I regularly visit a website called Cor Invictus. The website was set up to provide gay LDS members a place to meet and feel the support of each other. I have corresponded with a few people, and I have attended a couple of social gatherings. I think it will be a great place for those of us with similar religious backgrounds and convictions to come together and share our burdens.

A strange thing, however, happened this week. I received a message from a woman who said she enjoyed my Cor Invictus profile and some of the comments I have made on the message boards. She said she would like to meet and go out to dinner. She is interested in finding someone that she could eventually marry, and for some reason she thinks I could be that someone. Well, I haven’t responded yet because I am a little bewildered about the whole thing. Perhaps she also read Joshua Weed’s blog post and thought she would start using gay websites to find possible dates and potential husband.

Finally, I was pleased to read this little comment on another blog:

“And I found this post rather touching.  Stuff like that makes it all worth it to me.”

I haven’t done much to publicize my blog yet. I was planning on getting enough material on here before I start that, but I am happy to see that people are finding me anyway. It’s also heartwarming to read that somebody has appreciated something that I have written. Thank you Gay LDS Actor.

Mormon Pride March – I Dreamed a Dream

Yesterday, a small army of Latter-day Saints made the news when they marched in the Salt Lake City Pride parade. The group called Mormons Building Bridges wore their best Sunday attire, carried banners and signs, and expressed love for their LGBT brothers and sisters.

As I read the newspaper article about the event, I got all choked up. You see, I have had the nagging feeling to come out to a larger group of people for a long time. The people closest to me know that I am gay, but there are so many others I still keep in contact with through Facebook that do not. Of course, I don’t see many of those people any more, but we get to see into a little bit of each others’ lives through the updates we post on the social media website.

I thought I would start by posting a link to one of the newspaper articles, but I saw that a couple of friends had already done that. Instead, I let their post do that part of the job for me, and then I left to watch a matinee with a friend.

Before the movie started, I was brought to tears by the movie trailer for Les Miserable. I will admit, great music does touch me deeply, and I have heard the song I Dreamed a Dream numerous times. I cried when I first heard that song performed on the stage many years ago, but why was I crying today? I think it’s because I could relate to the following lyrics:

I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving…

But the tigers come at night

With their voices soft as thunder…

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

This song speaks so eloquently about my life, and I am sure many other gay or lesbian members of the church feel the same way. The truth is, members of my faith have been the ones who have made my life seem unbearable at times. They are the tigers that come at night. I realize that much of what they have said was not intentionally directed toward me, and most of the time when they were condemning homosexuals, they didn’t realize they were actually talking about me. Yet, I have let their “voices soft as thunder” kill some of my dreams.

So, this one small act of participating in the Pride parade by some Latter-day Saints made me feel like there was hope. I could almost feel a sweeping change of heart in the near future, but then I got home and read some new comments others have posted on Facebook.

The most painful words came from somebody I haven’t seen in years, but I remember him being a relationship expert who loved to provoke people. In his first comment he asked “What does it mean to build bridges?” Somebody responded quite well about how the group is about treating each other with compassion and respect.

This brother responded by saying that he has never persecuted nor hated any homosexuals, but that they hate the Mormon Church because “we don’t accept their lifestyle.” I tried to let what he said go, but I also felt the urge to click on his profile to see if he had said anything else. Sure enough, there was an earlier post that said he couldn’t wait until the Mormons start marching to show unity with the nudists and the swingers.

That comment hurt even more. It was a reminder of how I had been made to feel about myself so often in my LDS congregations. Because I was wired to love a little differently than most, I was somehow less worthy of God’s love than the heterosexual members. The inferences I got from comments that I would often hear in priesthood meeting and Sunday School were that I was partly responsible for the moral decline of our generation.

It’s hard to see people who I cared about at one time in my life make the comments that I have read today. I am also sad to see that others liked the hurtful words written by others. Yes, a simple click of the like button sometimes hurts.

It is so difficult to stay faithful when so many “good, upstanding members of the church” compare us to pedophiles, rapists, or pornography addicts. I marvel that these people can say such mean-spirited things and yet then say that they don’t hate me. I also wonder how many other people who are secretly dealing with their homosexuality see and hear these comments and feel beaten down and lose hope.

The problem we have in the LDS community is that we say things among our “brothers and sisters” that we would never dare say in public. It’s our way of making us feel like we “love the sinner but hate the sin.” Too often we don’t realize that somebody who is listening or reading one of our comments is “one of them,” and our comments are tearing at their hearts. That, however, doesn’t matter. Those comments reinforce an unfair attitude that is unfortunately still too prevalent in our society.

As I write this, a Primary song comes to mind:

I want to be kind to ev’ryone,
For that is right, you see.
So I say to myself, “Remember this:
Kindness begins with me.”

I am grateful to those wonderful people who marched with Mormons Building Bridges. They are living those simple principals that are taught as early as Primary. I hope that those Facebook friends will be able to take a look at their words and understand how they affect other people. I think that overall they are loving and caring people, but we still have some hearts that need to be softened. I know I will be more careful about what I say about others, because kindness does begin with me.

So, I am hoping this gesture from 300 or so members of the church spreads and softens the hearts of many others who are still unintentionally hurting others. I pray that they will help my brothers and sisters who are struggling with their faith stay strong and hold on to hope. Perhaps it’s time my “Facebook friends” know that those comments they made are about me. Hopefully that will change a few hearts. Even if it doesn’t, I think it will bring a little bit more peace into my own life.

Chapter Six – Playing Ball

Saturday arrived, and dad drove the kids to the junior high school. As we approached the old building that housed the gym and dance rooms, I got a little nervous about my first basketball practice. Dad had showed me a few tips about dribbling, passing, and shooting, but I was awkward, and I couldn’t get the ball to go in the direction I intended.

My sisters said goodbye and left for their dance class rooms, and my dad escorted me into the large gym. The room was huge, and it seemed like there were hundreds of boys chasing balls and tossing them at the hoops that were beyond their reach.

My team was sitting around a man who was giving them instructions. Danny was with the group, and he waved when he saw me approach. I also knew Nick from Primary. The coach’s son, Brock Packer, was in my kindergarten class, but I didn’t know any of the other boys.

Coach Packer had us run through a number of drills. We started with dribbling the ball. I did okay until he asked us to dribble and run at the same time, I wound up kicking the ball each time I tried, and I felt stupid chasing the ball after that happened.

When it came time to shoot a basket, none of us did very well where the coach had us start. Nick was the first boy to make a basket, but the rest of us continued inching closer to the basket. My shots got plenty of distance, but I had trouble aiming the ball in the direction of the hoop.

Everybody else had make at least one basket, and Coach Packer was getting a little frustrated with me. He lined right in front of the hoop about four feet out and handed me the ball.

“Let’s practice on your aim,” he said.

He stood next to me and spread his legs shoulder length apart. Holding the ball with both hands, he started between his knees and straight-armed the ball up to about his shoulders and repeated the same movement three times. The fourth time, he released the ball and it sailed up, hit the backboard perfectly in the center of the red square and then fell through the hoop.

“It’s called a granny shot,” the coach said. “It’s your turn.”

He handed me the ball and helped me get into starting position. I pumped the ball up and down several times before I released it from my hands. I watched it sail up into the air and to the far left of the basket. The ball hit Nick in the side of the head. Most of the boys laughed.

“Let’s try it again. Remember to keep your arms straight, and point them to that square just above the basket when you shoot.”

He stood behind me and guided my arms the first time and then let me shoot the basket. This time, it did just what it should—it hit the backboard, bounced on the rim a few times, and fell through the center of the hoop.

I clapped and jumped up and down. I was so excited. Danny was, too. He wrapped his arms around my torso as we began continued jumping up and down. Before the coach could separate us, he gave me a small peck on the cheek.

“Good job, Colin,” coach said. “Keep working on your aim, and you might just become a good ball player. About the celebration, though—teammates don’t ever hug and kiss each other.”

He held up his hand and turned to face his son. Brock lift his hand, jumped, and slapped his fathers’ hand.

“It’s a high five. Everybody, give your teammates a high five.”

We all clapped hands with each other, and the coach informed us that practice was over for the day. I wanted to give Danny another hug, but we settled for the high five.