Time for renewal

LDS General Conference Crowd Photography
LDS General Conference Crowd Photography (Photo credit: JeremyHall)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

It has been several months since I have posted on here. In the time that I have been away, a few interesting developments have happened within the various LDS church organizations and people within the church. Here are some of my favorites.

Time for healing within the LDS church

Last fall the LDS church made a new website available to the public. The purpose was to share their views on gays within the church organization. Many people complained that it was not enough. Personally, I feel that it is a great first step in the official organization building bridges that have been damaged over the years.

Unfortunately, too many people who consider themselves faithful members of the church still have unkind and unfair views toward their gay family and friends. I see the website as an important move to help people realize that we have the same dreams and spiritual needs that everyone else has.

Time for the Boy Scouts of America

I posted a little bit about some of my experiences in the Cub Scouts, and I will post some stories about my time with the Boy Scouts. It’s exciting to see that the BSA is considering a change in its policy about gay scouts and scout leaders. The opinions I read on various articles about the topic are pretty divisive, but it’s a discussion that we need to have.

Time for gay Mormons to let people know who we are

A few months ago Jimmy posted a video coming out to his friends and family. I first discovered it from a Facebook post his sister Jolie posted. I have known Jolie for years through the small LDS film circuit, and I am impressed with her work and love shown towards her brother.

Within weeks, Jimmy’s video went viral, and I saw it mentioned on different news programs. Overall, I think the public response has been positive and supportive. I wish him the best.

Time for General Conference

Believe it or not, I look forward to General Conference every six months. I happen to know a lot of other gay and lesbian members and former members of the church who also pay attention to this weekend. We want to know what the leaders are going to say. We hope and pray that our issues of being bullied and feeling excluded will finally be addressed. We feel left out.

I am not sure what will be taught at this conference, but I know it will be a time of spiritual renewal for millions of people across the globe. Please remember many of those seeking spiritual renewal are your gay brothers and sisters.

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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.

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.

Father’s Day as a Gay LDS Man

I always dreamed of being a father. This time of year, when we celebrate fatherhood, I feel the emptiness that comes from that unfulfilled dream.

I remember getting together with a cousin and friends when we were young. We would usually play outside, but when the weather was bad, we would pull out the board game Life and play for hours. If I remember correctly, the player who ended with the best career and the most money wins, but our challenge was to see who could end up with the most children.

We enhanced the games by giving the children names, personalities, talents, and future careers. I still remember the family of traveling acrobats I created. The twins Bridget and Bart were a little bit rebellious and became attorneys. That, however, didn’t match my cousin’s family of fourteen that ran a resort hotel on their own private island.

I recall writing a paper in high school about where I expected to be in twenty years. I wrote about being a successful advertising executive and father of three children. My twin boys, Zachary and Ian, and daughter, Dahlia, were all very successful in school. Zachary and Ian were state-champion swimmers, and Dahlia excelled in music.

The one component missing in all of those dreams was always a wife. I guess I knew that marriage to a woman was never meant to be a part of my future, yet somehow I thought that I could still be a father. I never dreamed that being a father with another man would ever be a possibility.

Father’s Day was especially difficult as a single man in the LDS church. Sure, I enjoyed the stories people told honoring their own fathers, and I appreciated the sacrifices and love I have felt from my dad. Unfortunately, it was also one of the many days that our church services made me feel lonelier than ever, and I always felt like I was doomed to decades more of this life of loneliness.

Occasionally, a well-meaning ward member would come to me and tell me that I needed to get on the ball and find a young woman so that I could start a family of my own. Others were not as kind. I have heard more than one person say that single men my age have nobody but themselves to blame for not being married, and we are not being obedient to the counsel of our leaders by remaining single.

Secretly, I knew I was honoring the guidance of my leaders by remaining single. You see, I had already been counseled not to marry to try and cure my sexual orientation. My leaders also asked me not to let others know of my same-sex attraction, because they thought it would be too much of a distraction in the ward. Of course, I was also expected not to date or have any sort of romantic or sexual relationship with another man. I couldn’t help but think that staying an active member of the LDS church guaranteed me a life on my own; a life without the companionship of a partner and children.

My dreams have changed a little now. I still want to be a father, but the way I become one may be different than I had imagined in the past. I look at some of my gay friends who are fathers, and I see the joy their children bring them. I still want that. Perhaps I will eventually find a partner who has children, and I will get to share that experience with him. Until then, I will be the best uncle I can be to my wonderful nieces and nephews.

Chapter Seven – I Want to Dance

I continued playing basketball for several weeks. Every Saturday morning we would practice as a team for about 30 minutes, and then we would play a game against one of the other teams in the gymnasium. I would spend most of the game sitting on the bench. Whenever I asked the coach when I got to play, he would tell me that he’s saving me as his secret weapon. .

By secret weapon, Coach Packer meant the only thing I was good for was to foul our opponents. Our last game arrived, and we were definitely outmatched. The boys on the other team all seemed at least one year older and six inches taller. They were more coordinated and were able to run and dribble the ball at the same time without any trouble. My teammates couldn’t.

Of course, for most of the game I was sitting on the bench watching my team getting humiliated by the more talented crew. Yet, for some reason I didn’t really care. I let my short, bare legs swing under the bench as I sang a song I heard my sisters play over and over. I may have had the lyrics wrong, but I didn’t care about that, either.

“Don’t go breaking my heart. Don’t, don’t, go breaking your heart!”

Finally, Coach Packer had heard enough of my singing and interrupted.

“I need you to do me a favor, buddy,” he said. “You see that boy over there? Number 12?”

He pointed to the tall, tan boy with dark brown hair dribbling the ball. Number 12 ran past three of the boys on my team, stopped, and shot the ball. He scored two points. His light brown eyes seemed to smile when he slapped hands with his teammate.

“He’s good,” I said.

“He’s too good,” my coach replied. “I need you to take him out. Next time he gets the ball, you foul him. Got it?”

I nodded my head. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to finally play in one of our games, and I was supposed to stop that cool player on the other team from scoring another basket. I replaced Danny in the lineup—he wasn’t much better a ball player, but at least he knew how to pass the ball—and the game resumed.

Nick received the ball and started dribbling to our basket. A blond boy with freckles on his arms almost stole the ball, so Nick tried to pass it to Brock. The tan boy with dark hair stepped forward and grabbed the ball. It was my turn; coach had told me to take him out.

I ran to the boy, but he moved fast and stepped around me. If I didn’t do something fast, he would make another basket. I did the only thing I could think of to stop him. I ran as fast as I could, lowered my shoulders, wrapped my arms around his waist, and knocked him to the floor.

Boys circled around us, and started encouraging us to fight. I didn’t want to fight, and it didn’t look like the other boy did either. We just stood up and looked at each other. Our coaches came onto the floor, and they both looked a little bit disappointed that they didn’t have a fight to break up.

“We can’t have that happening,” a referee yelled at my coach. “He’s out of the game.”

“He’s right, buddy,” Coach Packer said. He turned away from the referee, winked, and whispered, “but good job.”

We returned to the bench to watch the remaining 11 of the game. I started singing again, but that didn’t hold my interest for very long.

“Can I go wait for my dad with my sisters?” I asked my coach.

“Yeah, go ahead.”

The dancers were lined up in front of a long mirror in the back of the room. There were eleven dancers total—ten girls and one boy. The dance teacher was bent over a record player. She carefully placed the needle on the rotating turntable, stood up, counted backwards from five, and then faced the dancers.

“Do The Hustle,” the dancers all shouted as the music started.

The dancers moved to the right and left in unison. They stepped forward and then back, and they spun all at the right time. I could tell they were all having fun—especially the boy in the middle because I could see his big smile reflected in the mirror.

I wanted to do that. I wanted to dance. Until I saw the boy in that \class, I thought dancing was just for girls. When my dad came to pick us up, I told him I wanted to take a class like my sisters. He frowned a little but told me he would see what he could do.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about my experience in dance classes, but let me say I was a little bit disappointed. Dad found the most masculine dance class there was and enrolled me. I think it was actually a martial arts class disguised as dance. We had three clumsy boys, and we learned a few moves and poses choreographed to the “Kung Fu” theme song.

It wasn’t nearly as fun as the dance class my sisters were in, and I soon lost interest.

Chapter Two – Primary Colors

The three of us became instant friends after our colorful, playful brawl in primary. Sister Jensen dutifully escorted us each to our homes to explain the situation the “Rainbow Boys” had created on their first day as Sunbeams.

“It was all very playful,” she told Danny’s mother. “In fact, the three boys hit it off quite well. I think they may become very good friends.”

Danny’s mother carefully lifted his arms to inspect the mess of colors and shook her head.

“I’ll try to wash the paint out of these clothes,” she said and sighed. “As for you, young man, it’s off to a long, soapy bath.” She swatted Danny’s behind, and he giggled as he ran from the kitchen.

“Don’t worry too much,” Sister Jensen said. “The shirts are meant to use as paint frocks. It’s time I put all of Kirk’s shirts to good use.”

Danny’s mother tilted her head and nodded. Her eyes looked a little bit sad. The two remained silent for a couple of minutes.

“Oh, I should take Colin home now,” my new primary teacher said.

My mother was very apologetic when Sister Jensen told her what happened. She offered to buy new paints, new shirts, more art supplies, and come help with the children next week. Sister Jensen said it wasn’t necessary, but she would like to invite me over to play with Peter. She even offered to teach me how to paint, and I begged my mom to agree.

“I just finished turning Kirk’s home office into an art studio,” she said. “And I need a few guinea pigs to see if I have what it takes to teach private art lessons.”

“I can pay for the lessons,” Mom replied.

“No, I want to do this for the boys. Colin, Danny, and Peter. Just once a week. How does Thursday at noon sound? I will make them lunch, and they can play together after the art lesson.”

“I guess that would be okay,” Mom said. “But if you ever need more supplies, just let me know.”

Peter’s house didn’t have a basement like mine, and he shared a large bedroom with his two older brothers. He slept in the top of a bunk bed, while the oldest brother had a single bed against the opposite wall. Their mother had the smaller bedroom that was just on the other side of a shared bathroom. Just outside the bedrooms was a big room that served as living room, kitchen, and dining room, and on the other end of the house was a door that led to Sister Jensen’s art studio.

“I have painting shirt for each of you,” Sister Jensen said as we entered the room. “You can keep them here so that they will always be available for our painting lessons.”

She handed each of the three boys a different colored shirt. Peter was given a red shirt, Danny a blue one, and received a yellow one. Sister Jensen said we each had a different color so that we would always know which one belonged to whom.

“The colors you are wearing are called the primary colors,” she said. “They are the special colors because with them you can make any color imaginable.”

She handed each of us a bottle of paint that matched the colors of our shirts. She then gave us each a paint brush and showed our painting easels that had large pieces of paper attached at the top.

“I want you to each dip your paint brush into your bottle and then paint a shape on your paper.”

We each did what our teacher said. Since my color was yellow, I painted big circular sun in the top right corner of my paper. We were then directed to paint the same thing on the other two boys’ papers.

“Those are nice pictures, boys,” Sister Jensen said. “You all have the primary colors—red, yellow, and blue—on your paper now. Now we get to learn how these colors can make other colors.”

She placed three paper cups on a work table and asked us to bring our bottles of paint over. She helped us carefully pour a little bit of two different colors of paint into each cup and then mixed them together with some old Popsicle sticks. I was amazed when I saw the colors turn into green, orange, and purple.

“See how magical that is,” Sister Jensen said. “With these three colors that you are wearing, we can make all of the many beautiful colors we see in this world.”

We then used the other colors to finish painting our first art projects in the class. Being the curious boys that we were, we decided to see what we could do if we mixed even more of the colors together. It was exciting to think we were the first to discover how to make brown and laughed at the color we called poopy green. Finally, after mixing all colors together, we were content to have almost mixed a dark shade of black.

At the end of the lesson, Sister Jensen said she had some sandwiches and chips for us. We needed to clean up, however, before we could eat. Sister Jensen showed us some special pegs where we could hang up our paint shirts until our next lesson and then guided us to a big sink to wash up.

“Look at all of those pretty colors swirling in the water,” she said. “They are so beautiful.”

“That color’s yucky,” I said, pointing to the poopy green splotch on my elbow.

“Oh, no,” Sister Jensen said. “I think all colors are beautiful. We just need to figure out where that color belongs, and then you will see how pretty it is.”