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Worlds Apart: The Beginning of my Testimony

I’m not usually into cheesy testimony stories with dramatic things that happen in them.  I just don’t like it.  Unfortunately, the story of how I gained a testimony is kind of one of those stories.  I’ve been wanting to write about it on here for a while, so I guess I’ll do that now.

I am my parents hardest child.  I always have been the one that has given them the most grief.  I have an older brother that is handicapped and they have always had to give him a lot of attention.  My older sister is pretty much perfect.  I really can’t think of a time that she has been in trouble.  My younger sister was the spoiled one, but she has turned out a lot like my older sister – pretty much perfect.  And then there is me….

I was the hardest child for my dad to understand.  I don’t think that is bad though.  We just have very different personalities.  He is very reserved and quiet and I am very outgoing and loud.  My mom is so sweet and sincere, but has a bizare sense of humor like me.  In fact, I am very much like her.  They have raised a very good family and should be proud.  But I have caused a lot of problems for them.

My dad became the bishop when I was 11 years old, and everyone in my ward kept saying things like “don’t become ‘one of those’ bishops sons”.  I hated that.  It became really annoying, so to teach them a lesson, I became ‘one of those’ bishops sons.  I was almost suspended for threatening my teacher.  I began practicing wiccanism.  I was caught by the police after getting high one night while vandalizing a house that I had broken into with some friends.  I read tons of anti-mormon literature just to tear others down, and I believed a lot of what it taught.  I would swear at my teachers and parents; all to show people that I was ‘one of those’ bishops kids.  I had no guidance in my life.  I had very few friends.  I don’t know if I believed in God or not, but I know I didn’t believe that the church was true.  I was at a pretty low place in my life.

My sister wrote me a letter expressing concern for me.  I was pretty good about hiding what was really going on in my life and all she knew was that I was having a hard time in school.  In the letter, she told me how much she loved me and that she knew I could be happier if I were to read the Book of Mormon.  The letter meant a lot to me because it showed me that she really cared about me.

I was spending the night at a friends house one night, and I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how crappy my life had gotten and about that letter.  I laid on the couch until 1 in the morning, just thinking.  I decided to go into the basement office and play around on the computer.  When I went in, there was a copy of the Book of Mormon sitting on the desk.  I remembered my sisters letter, and thought it wouldn’t hurt if I were to give the Book of Mormon a try.  I started reading 1 Nephi, and as I read, I felt happy.  Really happy.  I kept reading, and by the time, I finished 1 Nephi, I believed in God.  When I finished 2 Nephi, I felt that the church was true, and as I finished the Book of Enos, I wanted to serve a mission.  I knew that I was a Child of God.  I had to confront a lot of things that I had brought upon myself: my questions I had because of Anti-Mormon stuff, changing my habits, and getting away from my past mistakes.

I began making changes and I began to really love my life.  I was doing so much better and feeling great about a lot of things I was doing, but I couldn’t get past my feelings of guilt for what I had done.  I had torn peoples beliefs away from them.  I was in my room one night, listening to some CD that I had stolen from my sister because I needed some new music to listen to.  It was by a band named Jars of Clay.  One of the last songs on the CD came on, and I really liked the way it sounded.  I began to listen to it, and realized it was exactly how I felt.  I listened to the words, and I began to realize what the atonement was.  He suffered for me so that I didn’t have to suffer anymore.  I cried as I listened to the song over and over again, realizing that I could be forgiven.  I felt so much pain for what I had done.

As I continued to listen to the song, I realized that there was a change in the music.  The first half of the song (as I understand it) is about the pain that we feel when we sin and realize what we have done, but the second part is about how we need to accept the atonement.  It is so easy for us to say that we have cause the Savior so much pain and we shouldn’t worry about burdening him even more, when in reality, this is what He lived and died for.  He wants to take our burdens and sins upon himself.  He wants to take the pain that we feel.  That is what he wants. I think it is a humble thing to accept that and to trust that the Savior will actually take away our pains.  I have felt it happen to me, and I love him so much for that.

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all adds up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
To give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
More deeply than the oceans,
More abundant than the tear
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow

To love you – take my world apart
To need you – I am on my knees
To love you – take my world apart
To need you – broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

Additional lyrics:

I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
And wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
The battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
And wash the feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak,
And all the things I cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
The sin-soaked heart and make it yours
Take my world all apart
Take it now, take it now
And serve the ones that I despise
Speak the words I can’t deny
Watch the world I used to love
Fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
So wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remain
So steal my heart and take the pain
Take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things I cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
Take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
Take my world apart

A journal entry

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a lot of different things and I haven’t really taken the time to actually think things out and figure out what I’m really thinking.  I went to the temple after church yesterday and sat under a tree to write in my journal.  I mostly just wrote a lot of random thoughts that I had and so it might not make sense, but I wanted to post it here.  It is a lot of questions that start out with me seemingly questioning my beliefs and testimony, but in the end help me to clarify my thoughts about my testimony and realize that I still have one, but I also have a lot of questions.  This is slightly edited (mostly for clarification reasons).

I’m so frustrated because I believe that the church is true.  I’ve known in the past that it is true, but lately I’ve struggled with it.  I think I still believe it’s true.  I know that it has elements that are true.  There are a lot of things about the church that I know are true, but there are others that I don’t.  What do I do when thch church says to do something, (and I can completely understand the reason behind it) but I don’t agree with it, especially when it isn’t official chruch doctrine (Prop 8 – I don’t disagree with it so much because of the whole gay marriage thing as much as it is a civil rights thing).

And what about everyone that’s happy without the church?  What about me?  People tell me I won’t be truly happy in a homosexual relationship, but what if I do feel happy with a partner?  I know people that are!  Are my feelings of guilt/righteousness produced by actually doing something wrong/right?  Or is it just a placebo effect (written in my cell phone: Can the church make you happy no matter who/what you are?  Or are there better ways to be happy depending on personal characteristics?  Are members of the church happy because they are doing what they are told what will make them happy?  Or is it when they do what they are told, the result is true happiness because that is the end result of doing that particular action regardless of whether it is “right” or “wrong”?  – People are told they will feel better after taking a certain medicine that is in reality a placebo and they are psychologically convincing themselves that they feel better versus feeling full because the stomach is full, not because we have told ourselves we feel full).

How do we know what true wickedness is?  (Baba from the Kite Runner explains his belief on sin: “There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”)  What if we are complicating life by worrying about too much?  What if all we are to worry about is the way we deal with other people and our personal relationship with God?  Isn’t it true that the two great commandments are to 1 – Love God completely, and 2 – to love everyone as equally as you love yourself?  I suppose the best way to love God is to do what he asks me to do, but how do I know if what I’m being told is God’s word really is God’s word?  I’m a Liahona.  I have a hard time taking things on faith.  I’m one of those people that has to do things for myself; ask questions, try things out, experiment.  I believe what Moroni said (not necessarily because of a spiritual witness, but becuase it makes logical sense) that the only way to know for a “surity” about anything is to “experiment” on it.  That is why I truly believe some of the things I believe.

At this point, I was feeling a lot better and laid down to take a nap.  I don’t have answers to all these questions yet.  I’m still figuring everything out, but now I know where I am with the church (and I’m still going to stick with it).  I have to remind myself that I am a Liahona, and it is my nature to have questions and that isn’t bad.  I still do have a testimony.  I know that the gospel is true and I love the church.  I just now have questions that I haven’t ever really faced before.  I always learn so much when I have doubts and questions and feel like I become more refined.  I’m not looking for anwers from anyone but God, so if you feel the need to give me answers, don’t.  It won’t matter to me. I’m not looking for sympathy either.  I’m just going through a period of questioning, refining, and re-commital.

Put that in your blog!

I’ve had so many things going through my head lately that I want to blog about, and I have even started a few drafts on some of them, but I haven’t been able to complete anything yet.  A lot of the time it is because I don’t know completely how I feel about what I want to say.  So, to give you a preview of things that I want to blog about and you will maybe read, here is my list:

  • Optimistic Realism
  • The Song “Worlds Apart”
  • How Mere Christianity has been one  of the most helpful books in shaping my beliefs and helped me to come to terms with Same Gender Attraction
  • Something about my mission journals….not totally sure what it was I wanted to write about though.  Hmmm….
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • The importance of being open-minded
  • Getting caught up in the thick of thin things as far as the church goes
  • The “Liahona/Iron Rod” talk
  • Accepting the fact that you are gay does not mean you are giving up
  • A series of posts about why I believe some of the things that I believe
  • My problem with jealousy
  • Why it is ok to be selfish
  • My obsession with balance.  (I could probably write about that forever)
  • My journal entry/nap on the temple lawn today that helped clear my mind about a lot of questions I have had in the last little bit

Some of these may not actually be blogged about just because I don’t know what to say about them, or that I just wanted to throw out the idea here and that is good enough for me.  We’ll see.  The list keeps getting longer and I don’t have enough time/energy to write it all, but hopefully soon.

Now I’m going to go watch “The Next Food Network Star”!  Yes, I am gay.  Thanks for the reminder.

Loganside

As some of you know, we have started holding firesides in the Logan area.  We’ve had to move around a lot, but now that my entire family knows about me, we will be holding them in my parents home.  Everyone is welcome to come!  The next one will be Monday the 20th at 7:00, and we are having a BBQ.  Bring your own meat to grill and a side, and we’ll provide buns and drinks.

Just as a heads up, the next few firesides will include a songwriter as well as an addiction recovery therapist, and at some point in the future we will hopefully have Craig Jessop, former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir speak to us.  We have a lot of great things coming soon!

If you are interested in coming to a Loganside, email me at hiddenlight@ymail.com (not gmail), and I’ll give you directions!

Healthy Touch?

***DISCLAIMER***

This post is based on things I learned in a class about the psychology of relationships as well as my own observations in the MoHo community.

I’ve been thinking a lot about cuddling lately.  Cuddling is innocent enough, right?  It isn’t really too sexual….maybe just a step above holding hands.  It’s even more innocent when it is “recreational cuddling”, or non-committal cuddling. Right?

The reason I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately is because recreational cuddling has kind of been “the thing” with a few of my really close MoHo friends.  And that might be fine.  But I’m not going to do it, and I want to explain why.

In my opinion, cuddling is a gateway to sex.  You have a lot of bodily contact and there will usually be some massaging or something like it.  Faces are close, and close faces very easily lead to kissing while laying down.  That of course is just a step away from hands going under clothing, clothing coming off, and….well.  Sex.

Cuddling makes me want to go further, especially if it is with someone that I am crushing on.  This, of course, is not something I want to do.  As much as I want to be with a guy, I want to stick with the church, and I don’t know that I can ever have the two together (that is another post for another day).  So, I don’t want things to go further, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the self control to not let it go further.  I’m also pretty sure that cuddling is a somewhat sexual thing for most guys, especially if you’re gay and cuddling with a guy.  The male sex drive is so readily available that it doesn’t take much to get it going, so if two guys are cuddling, both of their sex drives are starting up at the same time and will probably go at the same rate.  This, I think, explains why (as one of my professors put it) “gay men have more sex than any other creature in the known universe”.  But I digress….

So, cuddling with a guy I am interested is a no.  It could probably lead to sex to easily for me and probably for most gay guys.  So what about this “recreational cuddling” stuff?  I’m going to say no on that one too, at least for me.  That can easily create an unhealthy relationship.  A real, loving relationship (the kind we MoHos want with a guy but shouldn’t have because of our beliefs) needs to have a good balance of two things: the emotional side and the physical side.  I want to focus on the physical relationship being too strong.  Studies have shown that physical closeness and physical relationships create strong emotional bonds with the person you are with.  That is why intimacy in marriage is so important.  It creates a bond that you couldn’t have otherwise.  However, if this physical closeness moves faster than an emotional relationship can build, then the relationship becomes hollow.  That is where the problem lies.

It is easy to confuse the physical relationship with the emotional relationship, and vice-versa.  A strong emotional relationship can make that person more attractive to you.  A strong physical relationship creates an emotional bond.  But when you, as a MoHo trying to choose the right, choose to let your emotional relationship become physical, you risk going too far too easily.  The emotional bond is what makes physical intimacy beautiful and real and sacred.  This is what people want.  This is what we “want but can’t have”.

And when you become physical with a person that you don’t know that well (perhaps all you know is that the person is gay and a member of the church – however deeply you have talked about it, that is all you know) you build a false emotional bond.  You think you like that person more than you really do.  Really, all that you know about that person is that they are a gay mormon and a few other details about their life.  (Yes, I know I am oversimplifying).  You desire to have the physical relationship, but it isn’t fulfilling because there isn’t a real relationship behind it.  It is, in a lot of ways, just like pornography.  It comforts you when you are feeling down.  It makes you feel like there is someone in your life that cares about you and that can make you feel whole.  But in the end, it is an empty relationship built on lust.

This is kind of a random tangent, but I wanted to throw this out there.  The purpose of dating generally is (at least in Mormon culture) to get married.  You date to marry.  Using that idea as a springboard, the purpose of cuddling is to what?  To feel fulfilled?  To get the kind of “healthy touching” you missed out on as a child?  Maybe.  Those answers might be right for some people.  Maybe.  For me, I would cuddle to get laid.  I haven’t actually let anything get that far yet, but when I am being realistic with myself, I realize that if I were to cuddle, I will hope  it will go further and further until I have gone all the way.  That is it plain and simple.  If someone wants to cuddle with me, they had better plan on having sex with me because that is exactly where it will go.  That is why I’m not cuddling.  (I can’t take all the credit for that thought.  CJ is the one that explained this to me, and I think I agree with him).

I hope this post makes sense.  It is a little bit scattered, but so are my thougths most of the time.  I just really wanted to have this out.  I guess what I’m trying to say is this:  If you want to stay in the church and be safe and/or avoid drama, you probably shouldn’t be cuddling.  Cuddling sends the message “I want sex”.

I’m sorry if you disagree with me, but that is what I think.

Where do I belong?

Is it normal to ask the question “Where do I belong?”  I think it is a normal part of life for everyone.  We sometimes find ourselves in situations where we feel like we have no one to turn to.  We have our friends, but that isn’t always enough.  We have our beliefs, but sometimes that isn’t enough.  What do we do when we feel like we have no where to go?

I have some amazing friends, straight and gay.  I have an amazing family.  I love the church so much.  But I don’t feel like I belong with any of them.  In fact, I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.  I was driving from Provo to Salt Lake on Sunday and was really feeling this sense of not belonging.  I don’t know why because I had just spent the last 4 days with an amazing group of guys and felt totally comfortable being me around them – something I haven’t experienced a lot in my life.  I decided to stop at Thanksgiving Point and walk around the gardens there.  They were so beautiful and I was able to think about where I am now.

I’m happy and I like who I am.  There are, of course, things I’d like to do better and change about myself, but overall I’m happy.  I just don’t feel like I really fit in with anyone.

I don’t think I struggle with depression.  I have my down times as does everyone else, and after a few days I pull out of it.  I do struggle with feeling loved though, which makes me feel depressed.  I have a hard time not being the most important person to someone.  This is why I avoid getting too close to people.  I tend to get emotionally attached.  The more I get to know them, the more important I want to be in their life.  And then I feel like I am a very important person in their life.  But eventually I learn that I’m not the most important person they know.  There is always someone better.  I’m afraid of always feeling this way.

I’m afraid that I’ll never feel good enough for anyone, and I hate that feeling.  I’m afraid of where that feeling might take me.

This is the biggest thing I want to change about myself.  I don’t want to get too emotionally attached to people.

People move on.  We all grow, and that sometimes takes us in different directions.  I know I have done this to other people, and I am sorry.  I think it is just part of life, and something we need to learn from.

I’m happy though, and I’m not just saying that.  I just need to learn how to be more independent.