Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My Experience With An Abusive Relationship

"Sometimes something catastrophic can occur in a split second that changes a person's life forever."-Jeanette Walls

This quote has embodied my life for the past eight months. I don't mean to sound dramatic, but I feel like my world view has been completely distorted since one of my exes (the one before my last relationship) and I split up for the last time. After being part of someone's life for so long (two years), I felt like I was missing something in my life for several months afterwards. I felt like I needed him in my life and I couldn't go a day without wondering how he was doing. But as I started to feel more independent, anger and bitterness towards him started to creep in. I began to realize more clearly, now that the rose-colored glasses of love had faded, that I had gotten out of a manipulative, co-dependent, and abusive relationship. I have no idea how to healthily process how this relationship has affected me, and I honestly feel like I'm drowning in insecurity, invulnerability, and anxiety.

Before I go further into this post, I want to say that it's not my intention to be any sort of rumormonger. I know that some readers will know who I'm talking about. For those people, I ask you to not make a snap judgment based off of what I say. I am a firm advocate of getting to know a person before judging them and their actions. I can't say that I was the best person in the situation, myself. Situations where people are mistreated often leads to the mistreated, in result, mistreating in return. I was not kind. I wasn't the best person I could be. And the results of that make me sad. What this post is about, for me, is to publicly acknowledge that the abuse and manipulation really messed me up. Hopefully I can also raise some sort of awareness about what abuse is and means. I think it's important for those that are experiencing an abusive relationship​ to know that they are NOT alone and that they need to get out as fast as they can.

I recently read an article recently that said this:

"Usually a relationship starts out really lovely and charming and then a [person] hangs on to the memory of that once it does become an abusive situation, and [they think] that [they] can help [their] partner get back to the person that they were before. When, in fact, usually that's not the person that they really were ― it tends to be a ruse and once the relationship gets close enough the exercise of control happens." (Brackets added)

I can't think of anything that could have described my situation better. I fell in love with a man who was charming, incredibly attractive, educated, could make me laugh until my stomach hurt, bought me flowers when I had performances, would surprise me with romantic dinners, and made me feel like the most attractive guy that walked the planet. It seemed like a dream, and we were happy for a long time. About six months, to be exact. The relationship started to go a little bit south when he had a mental breakdown and drove to his last ex's house and then later tried to get him fired from his job. Me, being an optimistic and empathetic individual, understood that it's hard to get over an ex, and I tried to be there for him as an emotional support. It never occurred to me that he would ever do something like this to me in the future of our relationship because we were in love. He just needed help getting through this minor setback. Even though I should have seen it, I totally missed the blaring red flags.

After that, things changed more subtly. The compliments that used to be plentiful disappeared and were replaced with criticism of my body image, pointing out my pimples, loose eyebrow hairs, and bad haircuts. He also started criticizing my career choice. Reminding me that I wouldn't ever make good money as a dancer, and that I was bound to be a stay-at-home parent because I would never be the breadwinner. I have always been pretty sensitive to criticism, but I would be lying if I said that there wasn't a distinct difference in treatment and behavior. This obviously was indicative that the honeymoon period was over, right? I just had to get used to the criticism and hurt I felt.

After the criticisms started to turn into fights, I started to think that maybe this relationship wasn't going to work out. I kept that to myself, because I don't think that a relationship should be given up on because things got hard. But things kept building, and I finally made the decision a few days after New Years to break up. I still cared about him, even loved him, after the breakup. But I knew that I wouldn't be happiest if I stayed. We tried to be friends, but it became apparent that he didn't think that it was just a friendship, and I started to get confused about how I felt. We talked and made it clear that we were broken up, and even though there were tears, I thought it went well. I fell asleep feeling like I made a sad, but right decision. I started dating soon after and actually met someone I really liked. That's when things really fell apart.

When my ex found out, things went south fast. I started getting mass amounts of texts of him threatening suicide, sending me pictures of bloody knuckles, wrists, and broken mirrors that he had shattered. He insulted my family members, called my best friends derogatory names, and told me I was a Jack-Mormon, that I was a shitty dancer, and that I was basically a slut. This went on for several days, into weeks. I decided to stop dating that guy I started to like because of the stress that I had from this.

After I stopped responding to his messages, he decided to try a new tactic and attempt to get me disfellowshipped/excommunicated from the LDS church. After that failed, he drove to my house, overdosed on anti-anxiety medication, and in tears he screamed at me and stumbled around the road because the drugs messed up his balance. I took him into my house because I didn't want him to drive home while he was on the medication, and sat him down and hugged him while trying to calm him down. He would settle down and then have sudden bursts of emotion, and there was even a point where I had to wrestle him to the ground so that he wouldn't drive away under the influence. I got in contact with his family and told him I was going to drive him home and spend a couple of days over at their house to make sure that he was alright. This was a good and bad idea. The good thing is that he could function in society again, the bad thing is that I fell in love again while taking care of him and we decided to have another go at the relationship.

Remember when I said I never thought that he would do something similar to getting me fired from my job? Well, something like that DID happen to me. And why did I overlook him calling me a jack-Mormon, a shitty dancer, and a slut? Why did I overlook him trying to get me disfellowshipped/excommunicated? Why did I overlook him insulting my family and friends? The only answer I can give is that he was not mentally well when those things were said and done, so it seemed excusable. I thought I could fix things. And I was in love. I believed that if I tried hard enough, I could make things better. I didn't listen to my best friends and family because they didn't know him like I knew him. How could they possibly see something that I couldn't?

Well it turns out they were right. The remainder of the relationship was riddled with insecurity. I felt like I was on the wrong career path and wasn't successful in my field of practice, so I started to shift things into a field I was not as passionate about. I felt uncomfortable at church and eventually stopped going because I was made to feel like a "jack-mormon" for being gay and attending. I was scared of any sort of physical intimacy because I didn't want to be perceived in a negative way. I felt cornered between my friends, family, and relationship. I was isolated from my best friends and family, not being able to talk about the relationship, because they didn't like him. This is definitely an oversimplification, because he wasn't the sole cause of any of those. I can't attribute all of my emotions and insecurities on an outside variable. But it was a major contributing factor. Not only was I insecure about myself, I was scared he was going to explode again.

And he was scared I would break up again, and he wanted to have control of the relationship. Over the course of 9 months, things would reach a breaking point 8 times, he would break up with me, and then ask for me to get back together with him, and I always took him back. I had the patience to wait out this "bad spell" because I was absolutely confident that things were going to get better. But they never did. I just felt worse about myself because he seemed like the only thing that was constant in my life. Because of my insecurity of the relationship and my life in general, I acted terribly. I was sarcastic and moody because I had slowly turned into a cynic because I felt like my life was in shambles. But after every breakup, I tolerated less and less until finally, on the 8th time he asked to get back together, I wouldn't. I had promised myself for the last two times that this time would be the last, but in September of last year, it really was.

I was bombarded with texts that were manipulative and emotionally abusive, he left apology gifts at my house, he admitted that he was a closeted alcoholic after our first breakup and continued to drink to cope with his problems, he called incessantly and left voice messages of him sobbing and threatening to kill himself over the course of two months. I had started to date someone, but ended it after about a month and a half because the stress of my ex was again too much for me. I finally told him that if he bothered me, my family, or my friends again that I would get a restraining order against him. I blocked his number and social media and there was finally radio silence.

I have to admit, it was hard. I reached out to him every once in a while and regretted it every time. I missed that deep connection with him. I knew that the relationship was unhealthy because that's what I was being told, but I never really understood until I finally walked away. I wasn't being treated well- not only in a relationship, but a friend would never treat me this way either. I became more okay with the fact that he and I were never going to get together again. I started to develop my independence by immersing myself in dance, the career choice I knew would truly bring me the most happiness. Every step I made in my career was and continues to be an act of defiance, proving him wrong. I even drove to Portland to audition for some companies I was interested in. He wasn't the only reason I became so passionate about my career, but he really pushed me along. I started spending more time with my friends, picked up extra hours at work, and did things that I felt were meaningful. This might seem silly, but even cutting my hair made me feel more independent and empowered.

Right now, I feel like I have become my own person again, but I have changed irreparably from the person I was two years ago. I no longer believe that being jaded is a choice. I am more invested in my career than ever before and I know I'll achieve my dreams. I am riddled with anxiety when faced with physical intimacy. I view myself in so many ways that are unhealthy now that I have felt an incredible amount of anger towards my ex that I am still not sure how to handle. I don't want to be angry. I've never been an angry person. And I hope it wont last. And maybe it's part of the stages of grief, but it's been really upsetting that I feel so passionately upset.

This anger is part of the reason I am writing this post, but not to be petty and get back at him. I'm angry because people get caught in these unhealthy situations more often than I initially thought. I want to be able to be a voice to listen to for people who are going through these situations and don't even see it, or don't want others to see it. It may be hard to understand, because I know it was for me, but life alone without your abuser is so much better than with them. I wish I understood that earlier.

To anyone who think that they might be going through manipulation or abuse, whether verbal, emotional, or physical, please reach out to someone. I understand what it's like, and I promise I will be a confidential shoulder to cry on. There are hotlines for emotional abuse, domestic abuse, physical abuse... so many resources. Please use them if you think you might be being abused. Life is so much better on the other side.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

How the CES Letter Strengthened My Testimony

For the past month or so I have been on an intense search for truth in regards to the validity of the LDS faith and its claim that it is the one and only true church. This search brought me to start researching in depth church history and I happened to stumble upon an anti-Mormon piece of literature commonly referred to as the CES Letter. Anti-Mormon literature generally doesn't bother me, but surprisingly, after reading this, my testimony came crashing down own me. It was devastating.

After reading the CES Letter, I tried desperately to research articles, journals, documentaries, etc... that supported the translations of the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, I tried to find explanations for Polyandry, The First Vision accounts, and several other issues that the document addresses. I found nothing. In fact, I found a lot of things that supported the CES Letter and little to none to support the church. How could this be? How could the church that I once found to be true be seem to be so unmistakably false? How did that affect how I believed in God? Would I ever be the same after reading this? Is my life going to change forever?

After two months of crushing doubt and confusion, a thought finally shot through my head. Not just any thought though, it was like somebody else injected the thought into my head, because it didn't correlate with how my brain tends to process thought. For that reason, I concluded that it was a distinct prompting, a cryptic message from God, someone that I don't hear talk to me very much.

"By their fruits ye shall know [if they are true]." Matthew 7:20.

At first I thought, "What does that even mean?" And I was frustrated because that prompting seemed so clear, but it was so cryptic. Over time it started to make more sense as I looked around at my family and fellow peers who live and love the gospel. You can see a light in their eyes. For the most part they lead their lives in a way that is firm in morals and has little to no regret. These are the fruits of them living the gospel. Not only this, but the foundational church principles and doctrines are to love our neighbor, love God, and to serve whenever we can. These fruits are good and they lead people to do good things. Those things are eternal truths.

Though I believe that organized religion is inherently flawed and selfish in the sense that it pretty much bribes its followers with salvation if they are good... is that actually a bad thing? Sure there are going to be people who are always going to do good regardless, but religion provides a way for more people to do good,  more people to have a purpose, and more people to have genuine concern for mankind. Is organized religion inherently bad for doing that? No. Absolutely not. But do you have to have organized religion to be a good person? No. Absolutely not.

That being said, members are imperfect. Our leaders are imperfect. They are going to make imperfect decisions. In church history there are many many examples of our leaders and members making terrible mistakes that impacted the lives of people for generations, even to the present day. These are hard things to deal with even for myself. But do the mistakes and untruths completely invalidate the truths and right decisions that the church possesses? I don't believe so. The church still teaches to love God, to love our neighbor, and to serve others. Those are eternally and unequivocally true.

So what does all this have to do with the CES Letter strengthening my testimony? Despite all the bad, mistakes, and untruths in the church, I believe that the good outweighs the bad. The truths outweighs the untruths. The fruits of the gospel that I have seen are good and continue to be good.

I can't necessarily say that I believe that the LDS church is the one and only true church. That is not the basis of my testimony, and my testimony in that sense has not been strengthened. But my testimony in God has strengthened substantially because he loved me enough that even through my doubt and confusion, he was a voice a reason. A beacon of light in the darkness. My testimony in the principles of loving my neighbor, serving others, and prayer have been strengthened because those are eternal truths that I can rely on that will always be true. There are many things that have been brought to question about my testimony that I still am searching for answers, but because of my strengthened testimony in God, I know that answers will come. And I know that because He answers my prayers.

Monday, May 9, 2016

I Understand You, Tyler Glenn

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been sort of inactive on social media due to a smorgasbord of personal issues, one of those being the biggest faith crisis I have ever experienced. After the policy change and Elder Bednar's remarks on homosexuality in the church, I haven't really been the same.

About a month ago (just before I stopped attending church) was when my emotions started to reach a climax. My mental health was completely off-kilter. I would vacillate from being happy, to debilitatingly depressed, to peaceful, to angry, and then even to a state of psychosis. Thoughts of suicide ravaged my brain because all I could think was, "Well, if I stay in the church, I'll feel guilty for pursuing relationships in men. If I leave, I'll feel guilty about not living God's standards. If I stay and not date men I'll forever be alone and without a companion. What's the point? If I die, I'll finally feel the happiness that God promises us. I'll no longer have this pain of living."

In one of these bouts of emotional stress I wrote a poem in reaction to the hymn "Be Still my Soul" as I was searching fruitlessly for comfort:

My soul isn't still.
The hour is hastening on,
When fire and brimstone
Will consume my flesh at last.

Disappointment, grief, and fear,
Sorrows are there.
Love's purest joys are lost.

My soul isn't still.
When change and tears are past,
I'll be long gone,
Cursed, forgotten, and lost.

My soul isn't still.
God guides the future as he has the past,
His servants receiving salvation,
While butchering His black sheep.

My soul isn't still.
But my Brother and friend understands,
I hope He will
Lead me to joy in the end.

As I read it now that my emotions have settled and I'm much healthier, I realize how distorted my perception of reality became. Though this may not seem very morbid or even necessarily that angry, it was and is for me. But I love it because it's my raw emotion.

For this reason, my taste of suicidal, bitter anger, I understand the feelings that Tyler Glenn displays in his new music video "Trash"(I will post a link below). The Mormon community has been up in arms about the disrespect and anger that he displays in that video, which I personally agree with. It was disrespectful and angry. But wasn't that exactly what he was going for?

I think that because Tyler Glenn is a celebrity, there is a disconnect to reality that the audience (Mormons) feels. The audience (Mormons) feel that it's disrespectful and angry, but they don't realize the raw emotion and the humanity of it until they hear these same angry emotions from a person they really know. A friend. A person that used to sit next to you in class. Someone you would run into on the street and recognize. I've felt those emotions that Tyler Glenn shows. Imagine how hurt he is to feel so angry. That is a very real feeling. And many LGBTQ Mormons feel that. Many feel so desperate emotionally that they have to lash out because they hurt so bad.

For this reason, I don't blame Tyler Glenn or think any less of him because of  the video. I've felt that same thing, and because of that, I am no better or worse than he is. I hope that we all can search for a greater sense of empathy towards him and other LGBTQ people that feel the same emotions. We are a community of people that are hurting right now. And we need love now even more than before.

Tyler Glenn's "Trash":

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Suffer little children, and forbid them not.

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14

These past couple of days have been a whirlwind of emotion. After hearing the new church policies, I lost the ability to function in my daily life. I had to leave work the day that I found out because my emotions were interfering with my work productivity. I called my mom and between tears I talked about how I could be given a trial that so blatantly contradicts the gospel. Unfortunately, because of this, I wasn't able to get all the homework done that I needed and I wasn't able to focus in my classes the next day because it took all of my energy to keep from falling apart. Yet, that didn't work because I broke into tears between my classes. The only thing that has kept me going are my loving family and friends, who are struggling to understand just as much as I am.

The church believes that if they don't allow children of same-sex couples to be baptized that they are solving the issue of them having to decide whether they support their parent's lifestyle or the LDS faith and the cognitive dissonance and angst that comes with that. To an extent, I agree with this. To those same-sex couples who don't intend to raise their kids in the church anymore, that solves a massive issue.

But that still leaves huge issues to be solved. What about the same-sex couples that still wish to instill the LDS values in their children? This will not protect them. What about a divorced parent that wants their children to be baptized into the church but can't because their divorced spouse now has a same-sex partner/spouse and has partial custody?

I know people that are currently faced with this issue. I can't even imagine how it would feel for the children in those situations. I can't imagine the pain that the children would feel by being excluded from passing the sacrament, preparing the sacrament, or going to the temple to do baptisms for the dead. I can't imagine the pain that a parent (straight or gay) must feel when their child asks them why they can't be baptized, why they can't do temple baptisms, or why they can't receive the priesthood. Why they can't do all the things their friends are doing. This isn't only the children of same-sex couples that this is affecting, it's affecting the children of divorcees' too. This new policy is further marginalizing many children who would already felt different because of their family situation.

Now I think it's important to clarify some things. Church doctrine and some church policies are received through revelation and both are discussed among the quorum of the twelve, but there still is a difference between church doctrine and church policy. Church doctrines are the immutable truths of the gospel. Examples of these are temple ordinances for the dead, the Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, and many of the commandments. Church policies are temporary rules that change as necessary. Examples of these are Moses being told to take his people into the wilderness, Brigham young being told the same, Blacks not being able to receive the priesthood or sealing blessings, and the mission age. When these policies are no longer necessary, they can change. Examples of these are that Blacks can now have the priesthood and sealing blessings, interracial couples can now be married, meeting schedules are now different than they were, and the mission age changes. These differences are important to emphasize. Just because this has been agreed upon by the quorum of the twelve, does not mean that it is permanent doctrine that isn't subject to change, or even that it is right. The church out rightly admits that the policy that Blacks not being able to receive the priesthood or sealing blessings was influenced by the prejudices of the times. That didn't make it right.

Now, I'm not saying that this isn't a "right" policy (though, that is my opinion) or that the quorum of the twelve are "influenced by the prejudices of the times," but I am recognizing that it is a possibility. I believe there is a reason that God is letting this happen that made be obscured from our earthly vision. People are leaving the church in droves because of this. The church is forcing people to become more black and white in what they support. The only thing that can reveal the will of God is time, and we need to remain faithful that there is a light at the end. Christ's arms are always open to us, and he will refuse no one.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Affirmation and Priesthood Leader Russian Roulette

So, a lot has happened in the past month. I've moved out of my parents' home in Bountiful, UT and am currently living in Millcreek, UT to be closer to work and school. It's really great because my tank of gas now lasts two weeks instead of one. I love the new place that I'm living in too. It's a 3 floor townhome with 4 other guys and I have my own room for $260 a month + utilities. A screaming deal! Especially because my room is huge and I virtually never see my roommates (not that my roommates are bad. They're great. But it's good to have some room to breathe too). It's almost like I have my own house. It's incredible.

I also went to the Affirmation Conference for the very first time on Sept. 19-20. I was really nervous to go because I wasn't sure what to expect at this conference, but it ended up being one of the most spiritual two days of my life. I heard a transgender woman, a gay man, a lesbian lawyer, a lesbian woman in a mixed orientation marriage, and a father of a gay Mormon speak. It was such a variety of speakers, but they all had very important perspectives to give. When they spoke, their words brought me peace and comfort. Everyone at this conference (a good solid 300 people) has been touched by LGBT issues in the church, and they all understood and could empathize with me. We were all able to empathize and understand the speakers. What a beautiful place to be. There was also a super fancy dinner and then cheesecake after the conference. There was also a dance and a lot of socializing. It was a fantastic and diverse experience.

Sunday morning was an even better session. There was a testimony meeting and that was incredible. There were people who hadn't borne their testimony in years because of church discipline that got up and bore beautiful witness to the church. I was moved to tears and got up and bore my testimony, myself. There was so much self-discovery for me at this conference. I finally got a glimpse at the idea that I was living life in a way that was good, and that was a beautiful feeling. After the testimony meeting, there was a super fancy lunch with salmon, wild rice, asparagus, and fruity cake. It was delicious.

The most important thing that I gained from this conference was a sense of community. As a gay Mormon, I have felt like I lived in a sort of limbo between the gay world and the Mormon world, not really fitting into either. But at this conference, I realized there was a place for me and there were at least 300 people that were a part of my community that shared empathy and experience like my own. What a blessing.

A result of this conference was a deeper questioning about what I want in this life. For the first time in my life I'm starting to face the reality that if I continue to date men, I will eventually be first disfellowshipped, then excommunicated if I don't have the desire to change my course of action. That being said, I don't know if I will change that course of action because of the love, peace, and comfort that I have felt while pursuing a more authentic lifestyle. But to be disfellowshipped/excommunicated from the church that I love so much is incredibly traumatizing to me.

So that's where I'm at.

Another point to bring up is that I just moved to a new ward. I had an amazing bishop when I was living with my parents. Not very many gay Mormons are blessed like I was to have a bishop that was so willing to emphasize the importance of embodying Christ and losing yourself in service when you come out to them. Moving brings a huge complication to the relationship between me and my Priesthood Leaders, because not every Priesthood Leader is as kind.

I have often heard of moving and getting a new bishop being described as Russian Roulette, and I agree. You can have a bishop that emphasizes Christ's love and service when you come out to them, or you can be excommunicated or disfellowshipped without them batting an eye. It's a scary road to walk, knowing that you could be on the brink of having your membership in the church ripped from your hands, and it makes me nervous to approach my bishop with the questions that I have and where I am at my life currently.

Fortunately I have reached out to many people who have offered me incredible advice and thought provoking discussions and I have come to an assurance of a few things:

1) No Priesthood Authority can dictate my relationship to God. They may be able to dictate my membership, but my relationship with God is purely personal. That will never change.

2) I can still have the influence of the Spirit in my life. Perhaps not the Gift of the Holy Ghost as is conferred in the baptismal covenants, but God doesn't abandon his children and leave them without guidance.

3) No matter what happens, I am a good person.

4) God wants the happiness of his children. "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." 2 Nephi 2: 27

5) I have seen by the fruit that my actions have borne, that my life is good and I have good things to come.

God loves all his children and he will not leave us hopeless. There is a plan for each and every one of us.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Most Dreaded Sunday

So, I'm sure most of you know, the first sunday after the June 26, 2015 SCOTUS decision led the church to read the official statement that the church put out regarding the decision in each of the wards during the priesthood/relief society block. I knew this was coming, and my nervousness and fear was palpable. I texted a friend in my ward to make sure she was going to church so that I didn't have to face that alone. I walked into sacrament meeting and took my seat in the center section of the pews alone. Though I did know people in the ward, I wasn't comfortable sitting next to or befirneding any of them at that time. My nervousness was too strong and I needed time for introspection during sacrament meeting.

I watched the people begin to flood into the chapel, trying to catch the face of the friend that was going to accompany me during the meetings. I saw many faces that I recognized, even some people that knew I was gay. I wondered if they knew or could comprehend how hard it was for LGBT members of the church to show their faces on this day. I tried to keep my chin high, and an intimidating air so that I could be left alone. It worked.

The bishop stood and called the congregation together and we sang the first hymn, then down to business. He announced the various callings and releasings that are typical to a sacrament meeting and then announced that the relief society and priesthood meetings would be combined in the cultural hall due to an important message from the first presidency. A lump formed in my throat and my stomach sank. I had to wait for another two hours for this letter to be read. Why not just rip off the band aid and get it over with?

We sang the sacrament hymn and partook of the sacrament, which was a reverent and peaceful meeting regardless of the coming message that I was dreading. Once that was done, my mind turned to the testimonies that were to be borne for the next 45 minutes or so.

To be honest, I was really worried about the testimonies consisting of all the young stalwart single adults ripping the SCOTUS decision to shreds, which to my surprise and pleasure, isn't what happened. There were several heartfelt testimonies, and not one mentioned anything of same-sex marriage.

Also to my surprise, I felt that burning feeling in my chest to go up and bear my testimony. You know, it feels like your heart grew 10 times larger, your arms are shaking, and chills raking your skin with goosebumps. An undeniable physical manifestation of the spirit. I felt the Spirit whispering almost loud enough to hear, "You need to get up there." But because of my nervousness, the fact that many in the ward already had knowledge of my sexuality, and fear of judgement, I stayed plastered in my seat until about the last 10 minutes.

Once I clambered out of my seat, I felt incredibly self-conscious as everyone in the congregation stares at you as you walk up to the front of the chapel. The speaker said his final "amen" and it was my turn to walk to the pulpit. As I turned around to face the mike, I realized how many people there were in the congregation. People I knew, people I didn't know, and people I would eventually get to know. My nervousness spilled over as I shouted "HI!" in the microphone and practically burst everybody's eardrums. I covered by using my charisma and making everybody laugh, and I'm going to summarize the basis of what my testimony was.

I testified of the church because of the principle teachings of Jesus Christ: Love and Service. I expounded by emphasizing the importance of family.

WHAT? A  gay person baring their testimony on family? Preposterous!

Let me explain. Family doesn't only extend to the traditional sphere of marriage between a man and a woman and rearing children to do the same. No, family includes all family members. Those that fall away, those that don't have the same beliefs as us, those that make decisions that we deem as morally wrong. Not all of our family members, our very own brothers and sisters in our homes, fit the "Mormon Mold." That is what family is supposed to be about. Not just traditional marriage, family.

I sat down and listened to the rest of the tesimonies that were being shared in sacrament meeting. Sunday school went by, and then came the dreaded combined priesthood/relief society meeting. We all filed into the cultural hall and my friend and I sat down somewhere in the middle. The bishop stood up and called up together and we sang a hymn and said a prayer. He again stood up and announced that he was reading a letter from the first presidency about the new same-sex marriage ruling along with some other compiled notes and documents. He read the documents first and then he read the letter.

I hope that you all know that I have no problem with the beliefs of the church. The church can have its standards, that is not my issue. My issue is when you don't put a person behind the issue. There are thousands of people in our congregations silently suffering as we hear the messages that who we are is wrong and we don't fit into the plan, that we need to live our lives in loneliness or a marriage that we can't give our whole heart to.

And that is absolutely NOT true.

Our focus doesn't need to be gay marriage. We know the doctrine by heart. We hear it every sunday. We see it on social media. We see it every day we get a marriage announcement. We see it every time someone posts about their baby and their small eternal family. We see it. We know it.

When the bishop read the letter and documents, I was frustrated that there wasn't a greater emphasis on love, inclusion, and family being the vital focus of the church. Christ doesn't leave anyone out of his circles. He ate with publicans and sinners and he scolded the "righteous." That is what our church should be modeled after, not leaving people out of our circles. They are our family whether they are following the church standards or not.

That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Love.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Put It On The Shelf and Just Hit The Ball

So before I start the story, I just want to say that my bishop is awesome. Earlier in the year I went to visit with him so that I could get a temple recommend and I was terrified because I was dating men and okay with that. Many bishops aren't okay with guys even holding hands, saying it's breaking the law of chastity.

Anyways, I confided in him that I was a gay Mormon and the immediate response he had was, "That sucks." To me this was a fantastic response, because it showed that he had some empathy! He then continued to say how he can't imagine how hard that must be for me as a member of the church, then he asked if I date guys. I told him yes and he told me that as long as I abide by lines, that I'm fine. Since there is no real set doctrine on what is right and what is wrong when it comes to homosexual behavior, I have kind of constructed the line to be, "If it makes my conscience feel bad, I have a loss of light, and a lack of the spirit, then I have crossed a line." He then not only gave me my temple recommend, but he extended me two callings that I still hold to this day. I like my bishop.

So back to the story I was going to tell you.

I have been going through a kind of spiritual lag for about a month now. Where I didn't read my scriptures with real intent, my prayers were spotty and insincere, my attendance to my church meetings were of mediocre effort... simply because I haven't felt happy and comfortable going to church lately. So I decided to set up a meeting with my bishop to discuss things. I sat down on one of the cushy chairs and he sat down on the cushy chair next to me, which is something I like. It makes him seem more human, instead of sitting in front of a desk, we were sitting on chairs next to each other conversing like friends.

We had the usual greetings and small talk exchange, and then quickly shifted the topic to the reason I was really there. I told him I felt unhappy in the church and I felt unhappy out of the church and I'm not sure what to do because of my attractions to men. He immediately validated my feelings and told me that I do experience some challenges that most men and women don't experience in the church and that my life holds a series of many complications in that sense. He then sat and pondered a little bit and told me a few simple things that I should do that would bring me more light into my life. I said, "Well, what do things things have to do with me figuring out what path is best for me to take to attain the greatest happiness I can?"

He got up from his chair and started to pace around his office, clearly deep in thought. The finally he stopped and asked, "Trevor, have you ever played golf before?"

I told him yes.

"Well," he said, "You stand there ready to swing. You can think about your posture, how far you're standing, if your swing is right, if you're aiming well, and stress about all those minor details. But I want you to just stand there and hit the ball. Just hit the ball."

I asked him what he meant.

"I mean that I can see that all of life's complications that has been worrying you is weighing you down," he walked over to me and pushed down on my shoulders, "Making you feel like this. And that's not how life should be lived. I want to see that light in yours eyes again. I'm not saying you need to forget your worries, but right now I want you to put them on a shelf. Those things you are concerned about are not things that you need to think of now or the near future. Right now I need you to concentrate on bringing more light into your life. Has dating men been distracting you?"

I said no.

He said, "Good," and then gave me a hug before I left his office.

I have never had a stronger testimony of the leadership of the church. My bishop is a good man.