Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reparative Therapy

I've had several discussions recently with MoHos curious about Reparative Therapy. This is a controversial topic, to be sure, with a lot of claims made by all sides about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of reparative programs, the research supposedly supporting such claims, etc. etc.  Early on in my process of coming out I was actually interested in these kinds of programs, but my Stake President told me flat out not to pursue them, so I never did. Over the years I've talked to people who have tried reparative therapy, but they were always brief commentaries - I've never gotten an in-depth account of their experiences. So I was wondering if any here in the Blogsphere would like to share their first-hand accounts? I'm particularly curious about one called "Journey Into Manhood", which evidently is a week-end type retreat and is very secretive about their process, and even requires you to sign a non-disclosure contract! 

To me, any validity in these programs would have to be the successes they generate. I'm not interested in the claims of those who sponsor the programs, since they have financial motivations. The proof is in the experiences of the participants. So, if you've tried one of these programs, please share your story with us - positive or negative. Enquiring minds want to know.  :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Magi

I love Christmas stories. One of my favorites is 'The Gift of the Magi', by O. Henry. Although the setting is more than a century old, the message is still endearing, and the sentiment timeless. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!


THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.


For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

 
Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Don't Ask" Bites the Dust

Thank GOODNESS they have finally overturned the stuipid "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for our men and women in uniform! That policy always bugged the heck out of me, and even worse was the way gays were treated if they did come out. Hats off to Obama and the politicians who had the sense to end bad policy. Shame on those who stood in the way of it. We'll remember you in the next election...

Interestingly enough the Church has a similar policy about homosexuality. They advise you not to discuss it outside the closed doors of the Bishop's office. In some respects I think this is wise, and in other respects I think it sends the wrong message. My sexual orientation is not and should not be the focus of my life, so in this respect its wise. But at some point we have to get to the point where this type of thing can be discussed openly and without fear. Ignoring it does not make it go away, and in fact may make things worse because it introduces a "stigma" to the subject. I think this is especially true when it comes to talking to Youth about sexuality. They're going to hear about it one way or another, and some of the sources may not be of the best origin. If you want them to hear your point of view, you'd better not be shy about it!

Anyway, here's to progress and the hope for even more! :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are We There Yet?

Apronkid penned a very poingnant and though provoking post called "Dear Prophet, Have You Prayed For Me?", and I wanted to elaborate a little on some of my own thoughts on the "dilema" of gays in the Church....

Apronkid said:
I believe in the Gospel of Christ, and the scriptures in which I place my faith are replete with angelic visitations and wondrous visions. I am part of a church that believes that God has revealed and will yet reveal many "great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then He can visit His prophet with angels and visions. Has President Monson asked God about His gay children? Has President Monson prayed for me?

To which I responded:
...Here's another thought to consider. Its one thing to ask, and quite another to recieve the answer. You must be ready to recieve it. Willing to accept it and act upon it. So I ask - is the Church ready to recieve such an answer? As a people are we ready to embrace our gay brothers and sisters? Perhaps the answer will not come until we, as a people, are ready to recieve it.

Let me elaborate on this thought.

There have been instances throughout religious history when the Lord wanted His people to go a certain direction, but the people themselves were not ready or willing to do so. Take Moses and the Israelites as an example. We're all familiar with the story of Moses going up on the mountain to talk to the Lord, and coming back with the 10 commandments. Wrong! That's the way its shown in the movie version, but a careful review of the scriptures will reveal that Moses actually went up on the mountain to recieve the higher laws of God. He was up there a very long time learning all this stuff. In the mean time, the Israelites got impatient and fell back on their old ways - worshiping idols and such - and when Moses came down he reaized the people weren't ready for the full Gospel. So the offer of the full Gospel was withdrawn and in its place the Law of Moses was implemented, which was a simpler law that would prepare the people to recieve the higher law somewhere down the road. The point is - the Lord was willing to GIVE the higher law, but the Israelites were not ready to RECIEVE it.

In many ways I think we're in a similar situation in the Church with the issue of homosexuality. I think some strides are being made to educate and awaken the membership to an awareness and acceptance of gays. Some. But not enough, I fear. As a people, as a Church, we aren't "there" yet. There are too many prejudices that still exist - even among leaders. There are too many misconceptions. Too much condemnation. Not enough compassion, and too much passing judgement. I truly believe the Church will not be ready for the Savior to come until we can embrace, love, nourish and succor ALL of God's children. When the Lord said to "leave the ninety and nine and go after the one", he didn't put on the qualifier "unless they are gay". Yet for many in the Church, I think that qualifier gets silently written into the message. Many of us in the MoHo community have felt the pain and isolation this can cause. This is the kind of thinking and attitude that has to change.

So, does the Prophet pray for us? I like to think he does. But what kind of answer does he get to those prayers? Maybe he's told the people aren't ready for the higher law. Maybe its like the Israelites of old - the Lord is ready to give an answer, but the people themselves aren't ready to recieve it. That makes it hard on us MoHos. We're ready for a change. So instead of sitting here frustrated I've decided to act. I AM PRAYING. Praying for the people to be ready. Praying for hearts to be softened. Praying for the Church to rise up and BE the Church of Jesus Christ - to TRULY be His people. The potential is there. The framework has been built, and the foundations laid. I believe one day we will get there - one day. But we aren't there yet.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Feeder

I love watching the birds. Where I live here in the South is right along the Mississippi Flyway, which is a major migratory route for all kinds of birds. So, depending on the season, I can have many, many bird visitors at my feeder. Its surprising to see how many different kinds there are, actually, and some kinds that normally wouldn't stop at a feeder do so anyway. I guess they see their bird cousins swooping in for a nibble and have to check it out for themselves.

This year I decided to get a new bird feeder. It was quite an expensive one, actually, and one I was hoping would help with a pest many bird lovers have to contend with - squirrels! Yep, those greedy little fur balls can gobble up half the seed in your feeder if they get the chance. So this time I bought what was labeled as a "squirrel-proof" feeder (see pic). The idea is that when something heavy like a squirrel gets on the feeder it causes a little door to slide down over the seed - thus cheating the pesky squirrel out of a meal. We'll come back to that.

So today I woke up to one of the rare but woundrous events people in the South either love or dread - snow! I'm a lover, not a dreader. I just LOVE snow! Its so beautiful and peaceful and, well, snowy! Down here its really pretty when it sticks to things, as all the tree branches get coated just like they had frosting on them. Its a different effect than snow on evergreens, which we have much fewer of. Oaks and Hickories rule here. But one thing about snow is that it makes it really hard for the birds to find food. Most of the time the ground is bare and they can scratch around for seeds and nuts all day long, but a heavy snow like we're getting today covers all that up. First thing this morning I made sure the feeder was well stocked, then I took some time to watch my little bird friends come to dinner. And come they did! It looked like lunch time at the McDonalds drive thru! Birds were lined up by the dozens on tree branches and bushes just waiting for a turn at the feeder.

Now here's what I oberved at the feeder today. Birds have different behaviors and interactions that kind of reminded me of people. Tiny ones, like Gold Finches, Titmice, and Chickadees are relatively well mannered. They zip in, get a seed, and then fly off to a tree branch somewhere to crack the seed and eat it - allowing other birds a turn for their share. They're neat eaters. Sparrows, on the other hand, are like pigs at a trough. They fly in and perch on the feeder and park themselves as they gobble up seed after seed. They attack anyone else who gets near them and hog the whole feeder til they're good and done. Cardinals - the biggest and showiest of the birds, are a park-and-munch kind of bird as well, although much more tolerant of other birds who want a share. Even so, the Cardinal usually gets the feeder to himself, perhaps with a few lightning dashes in-and-out by Chickadees and Titmice for a seed or two. Woodpeckers are completely different. Like Chickadees they take a single seed and then fly off to eat it, but for some strange reason they can't just take any ole seed from the feeder. It has to be just the RIGHT one, and they fling seeds everywhere digging through the tray trying to find that certain one with their name on it! The other birds love this, of course, but it infurates the tar out of me.

So let's get back to this fancy new feeder. Its all based on a mechanism using weight, with the perch as the front part and a steel bar in the back as a counter-weight. Put too much weight on the perch and the little door will swing down and block access to the seed. Sounds brilliant. Simple. Elegant. Fool proof. And it works great.....on birds. Yep, get a flock of hungry sparrows lined up and they'll eventually crowd in so tight that the door swings shut due to their weight. Then they just sit there like nitwits! Finally one will fly off and the door will open back up and the fight will start all over until they crowd in too thick again. And the squirrels? Well, they quickly found a way around the clever mechanism. They grab onto the post that holds the feeder with their back legs and arch over the perch so as not to put any weight on it. They then hold on to the feeder with one paw and use the other to scoop seeds out and munch to their hearts content! Or one squirrel climbs onto the counter-weight in the back while the other one gobbles up food from the front. Then they trade off. So much for squirrel-proof!

I've come to some conclusions about my observations of the feeder today. Birds are dumb. Squirrels are smart. Maybe I'm beginning to like squirrels.....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Make the Yuletide GAY!

Did you ever see that episode of Will and Grace where Will turns the spare bedroom into a "gift-wrap room"? Well, I'm almost that bad folks!  I love love love the Holidays, and I realized this year I how truly GAY I am when it comes to decorating, present wrapping, shopping, baking, Christmas cards -all of it!! I turn from the guy who does excavation work with a Bobcat in his spare time into something else -  like a Martha Stewart with testicles - seriously! I have closets full of Christmas decorations which are all put up the day after Thanksgiving. My house smells like Christmas from the minute the Thanksgiving dishes are put in the dish washer. I have a list of all the items I'm going to bake this year and have already bought the ingredients. I bought all the Christmas-themed home decorating magazines the minute they hit the shelves, and I did ALL my Christmas shopping before Black Friday. Mainly so I could shop for ME on Black Friday!! How gay is that? If anyone ever suspected I was gay, one trip to my house at Christmas time would leave no doubt in their mind. No doubt!! :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Obvious??

As human beings we have a concept we hold in our minds of how the world percieves us - our external self-image. For some, this is a complete fantasy, like a guy I knew who thought all women found him attractive. In his case, nothing could have been farther from the truth; yet he consistantly held this perception of himself. It was pretty tragic, actually. Painful to watch, but mildly entertaining at times ;-)

Most of us are a little more well-grounded in our external self-image, and our perceptions are probably closer to reality than my Cassinova friend. Yet we all "distort" that image to some degree by the way we filter the world around us. What's interesting is to see yourself in a video or hear your voice recorded and realize that you don't really sound to others like you sound to yourself. Or that the way you move, laugh, or your expressions don't seem as natural and as "you" as when you see them on video. Its hard to get used to at first. The internal filters are all removed, and you see yourself exactly as others see you.

So the other day I'm talking to my cool Bishop like we often do, and I casually asked him if he ever suspected I was gay before I came out to him a few years ago. Understand that I consider myself a pretty straight-acting guy, with no obvious "gay" external indicators. I had assumed that no one really suspected I was gay. My external self-image is one of "normalcy". Imagine my surprise when he told me he thought I was gay the first time he met me! At the time, he was not yet a member of the Church. He was coming to Church occasionally with his wife, but hadn't even taken the missionary lessons. One day at Church I walked up to talk to his wife about something and also to introduce myself to him. I had one of my friend's kids in tow, which I often do (for some reason kids just flock to me - I can't explain it), and evidently after I had finished talking and walked away, he commented to his wife that he "didn't think Mormons let gay people become members". She immediately started defending me, saying I wasn't gay, I was a member of the Bishopric and I was just single at the time, etc. etc. This conversation continued in the car on the way home from Church, with her defending my "straightness" the whole way!!

This revelation was a bit of a shock to me. Do I really come across to people as gay? Is it that obvious? I wasn't used to the notion that people percieved me as gay, and no one had ever said anything similar to me in the past. I thought it was significant that this was coming from a non-Mormon. Did his experience outside the shelter of the Church give him a better "gaydar" than regular Mormons? Do Mormons just automatically assume the best about people, or do they really suspect something and keep their mouth shut out of politeness? The fact that his wife was defending me makes me think most Mormons don't have the reference points to "connect the dots".

Which brings me to another point - exactly WHAT is it that makes one give an impression of gayness? Off the bat I'm not sure. This would require some serious analysis. Certainly there are those who exhibit what I would call extremely "gay" behavior - the effeminate actions and mannerisms most people stereotype as "gay"; or who dress outlandishly or wear eye makeup, etc. But what about those of us who are in the straight-acting category? What gives us away? What sets off the gaydar? Maybe my fellow MoHos can help me figure this one out...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Higher Love

I wondered recently how God's love differs from the love we experience as mere mortals. Surely His love has an intensity we cannot even imagine. A love so great "that He gave His only begotten Son.." and delivered him up to be scourged for the sins of all mankind - and not just this earth - all mankind everywhere. According to the Pearl of Great Price, the size of  "everywhere" means that if you numbered the grains of sand in millions of earths like this it would only be a beginning to the creations of God. Countless trillions times trillions of worlds, and I may be far off the mark in my estimation. Bottom line - we cannot even comprehend that kind of "everywhere" right now. Its too huge. And so is the scope of the Atonement. Its too huge to imagine.

Love is so important that the first two (and greatest) commandments have to do with love. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." I think that shows where God ranks love in the scheme of things. I think it also shows how deep God's love really is. He asks us to love Him with all our 'heart, mind and soul', so that must mean He also loves us with all His 'heart, mind and soul'. I don't think we can comprehend how strong that love is. And it is far beyond the romantic love so much of humanity is consumed in pursuing, and on which we sometimes waste and corrupt our lives. This is a "Higher Love" - something different and far more transcendant and pure. An Eternal kind of love.

Elder Uchtdorf gave a talk on love recently, and I'd like to quote part of his address:
Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk


Since “God is love,” the closer we approach Him, the more profoundly we experience love....However, seeking God with all our hearts implies much more than simply offering a prayer or pronouncing a few words inviting God into our lives. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” We can make a great production of saying that we know God. We can proclaim publicly that we love Him. Nevertheless, if we don’t obey Him, all is in vain, for “he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s word. His pure love directs and encourages us to become more pure and holy. It inspires us to walk in righteousness—not out of fear or obligation but out of an earnest desire to become even more like Him because we love Him. By doing so, we can become “born again … [and] cleansed by blood, even the blood of [the] Only Begotten; that [we] might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”

Heavenly Father’s love for His children is the core message of the plan of happiness, which plan is made active through the Atonement of Jesus Christ—the greatest expression of love the world has ever known.

How clearly the Savior spoke when He said that every other commandment hangs upon the principle of love. If we do not neglect the great laws—if we truly learn to love our Heavenly Father and our fellowman with all our heart, soul, and mind—all else will fall into place. Love is the guiding light that illuminates the disciple’s path and fills our daily walk with life, meaning, and wonder. Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship. Love is the way of the disciple.

A few important points he made that struck me -


First, we cannot separate God and love. To experience Higher Love, we must draw closer to God. I have a problem with this sometimes. I think at times I'm reluctant to get close to God. Maybe its because of my own feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness, but there are times when I hold back rather than fully embrace.

Second, obedience is a measure of our love for God. When we truly love Him then we will be motivated to obey His commandments out of LOVE. This is in stark contrast to obedience out of fear or obligation or social circumstance. It gives us a yardstick by which to measure the maturity of our love. I'm afraid I have a long way to go in this regard.

Last is the thought that everything else falls into place when we get this first - and most important - principle right. Maybe I focus too much on the 'peripheral' things, and not what's really at the core of it all. Am I letting myself get distracted by things that really don't matter a lot in the long run? I think many times I do.

So I have a lot to think about here. A lot to pray about. Perhaps this is a time to get back to basics and focus on what matters most. Love.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Touch

I got the new version of the Ensign today that includes all the conference talks. I always look for ward to this. But this time it struck me how much I enjoy actually HAVING it, not necessarily just reading it - I'm talking about the tactile feeling of a magazine. Its something you can touch and experience in such a human way. The smooth feeling of the cover, the smell of the ink, the rustling sound of the paper as you turn the pages.  There are multiple dimensions to it. You can bend it, roll it up or dog-ear a corner if you like. Or take a pen and underline something special to you. In a way its malleable - you can do what you want with it to make it truly yours.

In this hyper-electronic age its more and more common for us to read words on a computer monitor. There are advantages to that, of course (this is a Blog, for goodness sake!) , but there's also something missing in that experience. Its the touching. Humans need touch - we love it! Its an essential part of our nature. Its so important that if an infant is deprived of touch for very long it will develop serious emotional, developmental, and social problems. Its unhealthy not to be touched.

But in our society we're depriving ourselves of the opportunity to touch and interact in the most basic of human ways. Everything is becoming virtual, electronic, drive through, swipe a card, click send. I can't talk to a fellow blogger and pat him on the shoulder or give him a hug. I can't look him in the eyes or pick up the subtle body language that would occur in a face-to-face exchange. I can't smell his clothes or hear his voice or appreciate the way he smiles. Its a sterile exchange, and leaves me wanting. We're losing touch...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Y Mountain

Today I was deeply saddened to learn of another of our gay brothers who took his own life in an act of deperation caused by conflict with family and Church. This has been happening for years, but has seldom been discussed openly by communities and members of the Church.  National attention has recently been brought to bear on the horrific suicide rates of gay youth and young adults, and there is beginning to be an ourpouring of sympathy, pleas for tolerance, and calls for an end to gay bashing and bullying. This is long, long overdue!! There is also an ever growing series of  "It Gets Better" videos circulating on the web - many taped by celebrities or other notables - trying to get the message out to young people that they are loved, they are OK, and their life is precious (see link below).

This subject is an especially emotional one for me, and is something I haven't often discusssed in the past. But I feel prompted to tell my story of how close I came to becoming one of the fallen...

Soon after I returned from my mission I decided I should leave home and attend BYU, which was far, far away in the West. I had broken up with my girlfriend (yes, I did try dating but was horrible at it - wonder why?) and decided there was really no one else around that interested me. Many of my friends were heading off to the Y, and I thought it sounded like a sensible thing to follow along. So I did. I left with no money, no job, no place to stay, and had not even been accepted at the school. Plus my parents completely disapproved - but that did not stop me. Once in Provo I settled in, found a nice place to stay, found a fantastic job, and applied for the fall semester. Later that summer I was accepted, and was also awarded a Dean's Scholarship. I was thrilled! Things were looking up.

And things did go well - for a while. But deep inside me the homosexual attractions that I had supressed for so long were beginning to well up and ooze out. I had been in deep denial about this part of myself since I was - well, very young. I was first attracted to men when I was exposed to pornography at about the age of 7 or 8, and continued to indulge in male porn through my teenage years; but I did not recognize it for what it was. I thought I was just curious about my body and the process of changing into a man. I also had completely suppressed the memories of my childhood molestation by an older boy, which had happened when I was 8 or 9. Anyway, now I was away from home, on my own, and for the first time there began to be a crack in the iron dam I had built around my sexuality.

Late in the spring semester, it happened. I started to look at other men when I was in the shower with them at the gym or at work. I started looking for porn, pictures of nude men anywhere and everywhere I could find them. I was obsessed. I became filled with guilt and anguish over this, and could not reconcile it. Why was I doing this? What did this mean? How could I think like that?? Then one day - out of nowhere - I remembered being molested as a child! That part of my life I had supressed so completely now came back vividly to my memory along with a tidal wave of guilt! In horror, the thought came to me that I had not been worthy to go on my mission. I also thought about looking at all that male porn and I was faced with a new thought - I might actually be a homosexual. How could I be!? I felt desperate, conflicted, and anguished! I thought my life was over! I thought I would be excommunicated! In this desperation and confusion I went to my Bishop in tears and poured out my heart to him. And then something happened that almost killed me. My Bishop looked at me and said  "I knew you had a problem with "that" from the minute I laid eyes on you". I went numb. I went cold. I knew at that moment he had a problem dealing with homosexuality. He sent me home comfortless. I got home and threw myself on the bed and sobbed for hours. I felt like I was falling into utter blackness. In our next meeting I again poured out my soul to him and told him of my fears. To my surprise he told me we did not need to meet any more. He told me when we passed in the halls at Church I was to give him a "thumbs up" if things were OK. There was no counseling. No effort to help me or comfort me. This man either did not want to help me or did not know how to help me. I think at this time I had some sort of breakdown, and my life kind of fell apart. I didn't finish my classes that semester at school and I lost my scholarship. I dropped out of school. I was a wreck. My parents were furious at me, and I had no friends to turn to and no where else to go. In this darkness the self-loathing I had been experiencing took a deadly turn.

At the time I came out to this Bishop there was no positive message for homosexuals in the Church. The book of the day was 'The Miracle of Forgiveness', and its famous chapter on the Crime Against Nature was fodder for my battered self esteem, negative ego, and pathological self-loathing. I was an abomination. I was a fag. I was a leper. I was unnatural and unholy. And I had no one to turn to. So in this desperate state I made a decision to end the pain I was in. End it now, before I disgraced my family and became a hiss and a by-word. Even in this state I wanted to conceal the truth of my life, so I decided I would make my suicide look like an accident. It was still early enough in the spring that the weather was cold - especially up in the mountains, and I decided that I would hike up to the highest elevations and allow myself to freeze to death. It would be easy to make it look accidental. I had seen accounts on TV of hikers getting lost in the mountains and freezing to death. You just get exhausted, fall asleep, and never wake up. That was my plan.

Two days later I announced to a room mate that I "just might climb up Y Mountain that afternoon". I guess I wanted someone to know where to look for my body when I turned up missing. I took everything out of my wallet except my drivers license, a library card, and a couple of other useless items and put the rest in a spare wallet I kept in the dresser. I wanted just enough information on me so they could identify my remains, yet have the contents of my wallet seem "normal" - excluding anything of monetary value. Don't ask me why I was concerned about money at the time. Then I donned a very light windbreaker which might seem adequate for a cool spring day, but which would be completely inadequate in the freezing nighttime mountain air. Thus prepared, I set off on foot for Y Mountain.

I don't really remember what I was thinking about as started that journey. I guess my mind was numb at that point. I was a zombie on a mission of self destruction. Somewhere along the way, however, the Lord intervened in my behalf.  I cannot say why, but I know I was being rescued. I can only describe what happened next as a vision that opened up in my mind. It was as clear as any photograph. I saw my parents, and they were greiving in a way I had never seen before - wracked with uncontrollable anguish. Their pain was extreme, and it broke my heart to see it. In a moment I realized what they were greiving over -  it was ME! This was what the result would be if I continued up Y Mountain. This was the hurt and anguish I was about to cause! The power of that image stopped me in my tracks as if I had been slapped awake. I realized that I was indeed loved, and deeply so. I realized that even though my parents could not possibly understand what I was going through, they DID love me! And they loved me unconditionally. I knew that absolutely.

And so I turned back. I turned back. I could not continue with my suicidal plans. I knew, somehow, it would get better. And for me it did get better. Not quickly, not without more trials and anguish, but it did get better. I hope telling this story might somehow help another who is struggling and in pain. IT WILL GET BETTER! I can testify to that. You are a beloved Son or Daughter of God. Your life is precious beyond measure. Believe that, and believe in yourself.


Please support the It Gets Better project:

http://www.itgetsbetterproject.com/      

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Freudian Slips

After posting about my Bishop last week it got me thinking about experiences with Bishops - good and bad - over the years. In general I've had good Bishops. My first Bishop was an amazing young man who sacrificed seemingly everything to get us a Chapel to meet in. This is back in the day you had to earn most of the construction money locally. He drove 1600 miles to SLC in his broken-down Plymouth station wagon to petition the Brethren about a building, and I think he did that about six times! Such devotion! He was great with the youth, too. Really participated.

Another favorite Bishop had like 10 kids and was really dynamic, and I remember his wife being just as dynamic as he was. He was the Bishop four separate times I think - almost like a permanent calling. Cool guy. He's now a Patriarch.

Most of the others have been average men, average Bishops - nothing to write home about. A couple were negative experiences (saving that for another post).

The last three Bishops, however, have been the most exceptional of all. All three of them have become dear friends. The first is now my Stake President, and we have had business dealings together. I'm very close to his family, and we hang out together whenever we can.  The second is the Bishop I came out to a few years ago, and we reamin close. His kids work on my mini-farm and we get together every Christmas. Probably the most patient man I have ever met in my life. Then there's the current Bishop who I described previously. He's without a doubt the most open minded and fun-loving of the lot. Just delightful to be around. I can be very frank with him about how I'm feeling, on any subject, and he does not get embarrased (this is handy when you're trying to help a porn addict). We use "dude-speak" with each other, and even have silly names for each other. I call him 'Homie", and he usually calls me 'MoHomie"! Yea, this is my Bish!!

So one day I call up the Bish and he happens to be driving in the car with his family. I say enthusiastically, "Hey, dude! What you up to?" and his reply back was, "Hey there HOMO!" Yep, the old Freudian slip! Not 'Homie', not 'MoHomie', it was the dreaded 'HOMO!' I knew he knew it instantly, and he stammered and choked a second and then said, "I mean Homie, Homie!!" Well, I just had to start laughing! And laughing!! And I couldn't stop laughing! It was so funny and his reaction was so - maybe futile is the only word. He just called me a HOMO in front of his whole family! It was priceless.

Now I fully believe we need to have a sense of humor in this life in order to make it through with any semblence of sanity. And I think you can find humor in just about anything. I think God himself must have a great sense of humor to put up with all of us, but that's another subject. Anyway, I try to laugh at myself as often as I can, and hopefully surround myself with friends who can laugh along with me. If one of them is the Bish, then that's a real bonus. Life is so much better when we laugh!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Amazed

I have the most amazing Bishop in the world!! Truly I do. I'm not just saying that or being emotional - he really is the best. For the sake of this posting, let's call him ' Bishop Jim'.

About 5 years ago I came out to the then Bishop - not this one - and went through some Church discipline. That Bishop was and is still an awesome man. He loved me when I didn't think any other human being on the planet could; and I still love him dearly and appreciate what he did for me. One of the things that came out of that first experience was the need for a special friend, sort of like a "super home teacher", that I could reach out to in this difficult time of my life. I had no family to turn to. So the Bishop called Jim into his office one day and asked if he would be willing to be a special home teacher for someone in the Ward. He didn't tell him who it was until Jim had said he would be willing. Then he told him it was me, but he would not tell him why he had this assignment. The Bishop left that up to me to tell.

So Jim came to my house one evening and I had the privelege of telling him my life story and coming out to him. Here was a man that had only been a member of the Church a few years, and I was telling him about my homosexuality, sins and transgressions, negative experiences, etc. He took it all amazingly well and was incredibly supportive. He told me knowing I was a homosexual did not change his feelings about me one bit. I found I was comfortable talking to him about anything and everything. He's extremely intelligent and a great conversationalist. He invited me to sit with his family in Sacrament meeting, and that was such a nice way to include me. The family I had been sitting with was no longer in our Ward, and I was lonely at Church.

So for about a year this wonderful relationship grew and Jim was a constant support to me. He was there when I finally got my Temple Recommend back and was able to go to the Temple (we both have a special appreciation for the Nauvoo Temple). He checked up on me almost daily. He became my brother and friend in every way, and I learned to truly love him like a brother!

Then one Sunday they announced intentions to make a change in the Bishopric. Normally I would be panicked that they would put in some homophobic Bishop, but I knew immediately it would be my friend Jim - now Bishop Jim. I was so glad it was him!! I knew the supportiveness would remain, and it has. He is ever supportive, ever loving, ever caring. Even though I have slipped back into transgression he has not turned away or given up on me. He calls me almost every day, and every time he tells me he loves me. And I know he does. I know he does.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

...and NOW

for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!!

Pres. Uchtdorf spoke out on Same Sex Attraction this week (see Tribune article below). After all the rancor surrounding Elder Packer's talk, this is a welcome change, and is much more in line with previous messages and statements from the Brethren. I think the Church is making a good effort do do damage control and get the official word out. I would like to see more statements from the top, especially Pres. Monson.


High-ranking LDS leader weighs in on same-sex attraction


By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
Published Oct 26, 2010

Mormons may not know until the hereafter what causes same-sex attraction, but “God loves all his children” and expects everyone to do the same, an LDS Church leader said Sunday.

While the message — delivered to more than 200,000 Utah Mormons — may not seem significant, the messenger was.

As second counselor in the governing First Presidency, Dieter F. Uchtdorf is one of the highest-ranking leaders in the hierarchy of the nearly 14 million member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to address the thorny topic of whether same-sex attraction is inborn.

The gentle tone and emphasis of Uchtdorf’s remarks — spoken at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City and beamed to dozens of church buildings — came in the wake of an earlier speech by Boyd K. Packer, senior member of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

In Packer’s original General Conference speech earlier this month, he said, “Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so.”

Packer later changed “tendencies” to “temptations” on the church’s website.

Still, Packer’s speech generated national controversy and protests from those inside and outside the Salt Lake City-based faith, many of whom saw the apostle’s statements as contributing to the self-loathing and suicides of gays.

In response to the outcry, LDS spokesman Michael Otterson issued a strongly worded condemnation of bullying and belittling of gays, saying, “Their struggle is our struggle.”

On Sunday, Uchtdorf reiterated the church’s position that it doesn’t know the cause of homosexuality and that it doesn’t matter.

“Many questions in life, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer, even in the next life,” Uchtdorf said. “Until then, the truth is, God loves all his children, and because he loves us, we can trust him and keep his commandments.”

Some audience members welcomed Uchtdorf’s approach, which seemed more consistent with the church’s position.

“It seemed fairly close to the line we’ve been getting lately — the idea that the practice is sinful, but homosexual tendencies are acceptable within the church as long as people don’t act on them,” said Jennie Pulsipher, a Mormon who watched the regional conference via satellite at her east-side Salt Lake City stake center. “He also emphasized that [gays] should be treated lovingly as children of God.”

Ty Mansfield sees Uchtdorf’s remarks as representing the church’s future.


“We’re going to be hearing more and more statements like this, calling church members to a greater expression of compassion and kindness,” said Mansfield, who writes at northstarlds.org, a website for believing Mormon gays. “Doctrine will remain the same, but we’ll see a pretty radical shift in the culture of the church in how we relate both to the issue of same-sex attraction and to those who experience homosexual feelings. We’ve made some significant strides over the last few years, and I think this is only the beginning.”

Though he wasn’t in the audience, Brigham Young University microbiologist Bill Bradshaw was pleased to hear of Uchtdorf’s remarks.

“I totally agree that no matter what the cause or what we eventually find out is the definitive explanation, it doesn’t alter our opportunities nor obligations to treat our gay brothers and sisters like everyone else — with Christian kindness,” said Bradshaw, who, with his wife, Marge, directs Family Fellowship, a support group for LDS parents of gays and lesbians.

That compassionate approach, he said, “resonates with me.”

Yet Bradshaw, who has a gay son, believes a wait-and-see approach to causality belies a mountain of scientific research.

“I have spent a long time investigating the published evidence from empirical studies, and I know that the overwhelming evidence strongly favors the position that sexual orientation is programmed by biological mechanisms,” he said. “The evidence that it’s a choice or that it’s programmed by social or psychological forces is lacking.”

On Monday, Bradshaw lectured about the topic in a BYU bioethics class, explaining all the research he has uncovered in recent years.

The question of cause inevitably leads to the next question — the issue of change, he said. “The evidence shows overwhelmingly that orientation is not amenable to change.”


During Sunday’s wide-ranging address, Uchtdorf did not mention the issue of same-sex attractions changing or anything else related to the issue.

But the German leader did allude obliquely to the question of immigration by calling himself a “legal alien.”

He thanked Utahns for welcoming him and his family to the Salt Lake Valley in 1999 when he was called for an “overseas assignment,” but he expected to return to his home in Europe one day. Then, in 2004, he became an apostle, a lifetime position. He and his wife, Harriet, realized, he said, that “the ‘Wild West’ was now our final destination.”

“You are and have been for generations wonderful examples,” he said, “of integrating foreign people into your neighborhoods and communities.”

Utah’s dominant religion hasn’t taken a definitive position on the immigration debate. Instead, LDS leaders have called for “compassion” and encouraged “careful reflection and civil discourse” when discussing the issue.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ancient Allergies

After considerable research I've determined that many of the people in ancient Greek and Roman cultures suffered from severe allergies - particularly to clothes. This resulted in many of them wandering about in a constant state of nudity, which in turn helped reduce the need for air conditioning, which (happily) prevented an ancient outbreak of global warming. I think we could learn something here...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Little Monster

Addiction is a strange disease. In essence, you're almost split into two personalities. The "normal" you is a nice person who wants to do all the right things, be happy, live the commandments, etc.etc.etc. The "other" you - well, let's get to that in a moment.

The first phase of addiction is called the Acting-In phase, and this is when the "normal" you is in control. You feel normal, you think normally, and you tend to forget or dismiss the addiction and the problems it causes. You're optimistic that things will work out OK, and you tell yourself, 'This is the last time I'm going to let that problem lick me. I've got it all under control now". These are, of course, lies and delusions; but you believe them becuse its convenient to do so during this phase of the addiction cycle.

The "other" you is really almost like a completely different person. I guess the official term is "alter-ego", but I think this really goes way beyond that. In an addiction it becomes more pathological than a simple alter-ego. Whatever it is, I call mine "Little Monster", and he comes out of his box then the second phase or Acting Out part of my addiction kicks in (that's when all the nasty stuff happens).

Little Monster isn't like Normal Neal at all. He is VERY manipulative, VERY demanding, VERY clever, and VERY, VERY naughty. He should have been a lawyer I suppose, because he seems to be able to win just about any argument you might care to engage him in. He can twist things around so quickly - I almost always give in:

Neal: "Gotta stay away from anything suggestive today"
Little Monster: "Right. Tow the line, my man"
Neal: "Yep. Gonna do it right this time and stay outta trouble"
Little Monster: "I'm right there with ya! Fill your day with something productive to keep your mind on the right track. You could make some goodies for the Missionaries today. That's a wholesome activity!"
Neal: "You're right. That's a great idea! I make killer Chocolate Chip Cookies. Let's see - oh rats! I'm outta chocolate chips."
Little Monster: "Dude, Wal Mart is just around the corner - it will just take a second."
Neal: "Yea, just a second. We're off."

10 minutes later...

Neal: "OK, got the C. Chips."
Little Monster: "But didn't you need some windshield washer fluid for the car? Its dry and we're all out."
Neal: "Of course - I think that's back in the back somewhere. Wait a second, that will take me past the men's underwear section!"
Little Monster: "There's nothing to look at there. Its just Hanes. Whats the big deal about some "old man" undies anyway? You're over-reacting"
Neal: "You're probably right. I'm in a hurry anyway, I don't even have time to look, so what could happen?"

20 minutes later...

Neal: "Dammit! I shouldn't have gone down this aisle! I can't believe they have such cute underwear models on these cheap underwear packages!!"
Little Monster: "Heh Heh! I'll show you cute. Just wait til we get home...."

And that's usually all it takes for me. Just one little turn-on from something so simple. It can be almost anything - from a man in underwear, to the cover of a magazine, to a Gillette commercial. If it has a hunky guy in it, just one look can let Little Monster take control and the whole Acting Out phase starts. Once it starts, its like a runaway train goin' down hill! What scares me is how powerful Little Monster is. I can look at porn literally for days straight. I've gone on a binge where I called into work sick 2 days in a row because I was literally drowning myself in porn. I went without sleep, food, and hardly a pee break for 2 straight days! And I just couldn't stop. I COULDN'T! I can't tell you how degrading and depressing that is. You hate yourself for it later. Literally. There are times I just want to die.

So that's why I'm nervous about this new round of therapy. I can lose control SO easily. I can fail so easily. I hate you, Little Monster!! I hate you!!! Hate you!!!


...... and I love you...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Battle

My Bishop is working with me on ditching my porn addiction. Its gonna be a long battle, I can assure you.

First step is to get me some regular interaction with someone who knows about my problems and will agree to check on me daily. Someone I can call in a dark moment. So the Bish called a cool guy in the Ward to be my home teacher. We told him all about my homosexuality, childhood molestation, pornography addiction - the whole nine yards. This guy is pretty great and really seems to care about me. Plus he's on the High Council, so he knows how to keep his mouth shut. Nice to have someone on the team.

Next we'll start going through the 12 Step manual. I've started it several times but never finished. Hopefully this time I'll get through the whole program. Its not an easy thing. Truly, this is just as serious as a drug addiction. In fact, it IS my drug! The only difference is I don't swallow it or inject it - I drink it in with my eyes and ears. But the effects are the same, and the addiction just as strong. I've been addicted since I was about 8 years old, so I have 40+ years of acting out to deal with. The habit is so ingrained its almost a part of me. I'm a little scared, to be quite honest. Scared I won't be able to get through all this. Scared of failure. There's nowhere to hide...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Two Steps Back

Boyd K. Packer's Conference address this month has touched off a firestorm of protests, petitions, and heated dialogue. In one stroke he nearly erased the progress the Church has made over the past several years to soften its rhetoric on homosexulaity - in particular homosexual attractions. Its doubtful the Church will ever change policy on the sinful nature of homosexual (or heterosexual) extramarital sex, but some great strides had been made in educating the membership that homosexual attrractions were not chosen and not a sin. In a couple of sentences, Elder Packer blew that all to hell.

Quote:
"Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?"

This flys in the face of the recently released pamphlet 'God Loveth His Children', which clearly states some may NOT overcome Same Sex Attraction in this life. Other GAs have made similar statements.

Elder Packer has a history of approaching this issue in a condemning tone. In a former conference address he praised a young misionary for slugging his gay companion. In an older Church pamphlet he pronounced the cause of homosexuality as "selfishness". These statements have had a lasting negative effect on SSA church members and the Gay community as a whole.

Conference talks are NOT screened before the fact, so this is Packer going out on a limb, and the Church is now doing damage control. Do I think he meant to offend? Probably not. But the damage was done, nonetheless. Although the Church issued a rebuttal, which was almost an apology, and Elder Packer "edited" the original content of the talk; no one can erase the fact that he said what he said. In this age of near instantaneous communication, it went viral around the globe in a matter of minutes.

Am I bitter over this? Not really, I think I'm simply disappointed, frustrated and I'm definitely concerned. An opportunity to uplift and educate was replaced with a disastrous statement that will perpetuate misunderstanding and prejudice for years to come. Its hard sometimes, waiting on the Church to catch up on this particular issue. We don't need setbacks like this, especially from someone of Packer's stature.

The Brethren can make mistakes. Moses did when he struck the rock against God's instructions. Joseph Smith almost lost the ability to translate because of his carelessness with Martin Harris. We read that the Apostles of old were sorely chastened because they bickered and fought among themselves. Hard for us to imagine Apostles fighting, but there it is. What I'm saying is that these men are still men, and still frought with imperfections, prejudices, and all the other human frailties we have discovered are the common lot of man. 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God'.

So in our day and time I don't think its at all surprising that an Apostle could translate some of their own prejudices into their remarks. Brigham Young said once, at a General Conference, that the members should not just accept his words as the truth. Rather, they should go home, ponder the things they had learned, and then ask the Lord if they are true or not. This is a profound statement. In another instance he said:
“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.
We are NOT to simply swallow everything that comes over the pulpit from the Brethren! We must apply the filter of the Spirit to their words and recieve a testimony of the truth of them for ourselves. I think most of us, including me, are remiss in this duty.

And we must allow even the Brethren the grace to make mistakes and grow in their callings. They are still being perfected, as are we. We must not forget all the good they do, the sacrifices they have made, and the many inspired talks and writings they have produced. I must forgive, but I wonder - how soon will the world forget?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Many Moons

After ignoring my blog for many moons, I'm back! Much has happend in those moons, including:

1.) I have a new job. Same pay - much less stress! Grateful to have a job at all.

2.) I've done a LOT of work on my house. Fun, challenging, and *GULP!* expensive. But it was worth it.

3.) Am close to getting my Temple Recommend back! Yipee! Cross fingers and pray for me. Maybe by the end of the year?

4.) My web site - www.lds-ssa.org has been merged with NorthStar. This had been discussed for a long time, and now has become a reality. We're better together.

5.) I've lost a lot of weight and am still losing. I feel a heck of a lot better, by the way. Fat leaves you in a funk. :)

Will post about these and other subjects in detail as I get the time.