Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rebel With A Cause

September is upon us, my fellow MoHos, and now is the time for rebellion to begin. Yes folks, I'm talking about the one you've all been waiting for - the WHITE SHIRT REBELLION!!

During the month of September, SHUN your white shirts like they were contaminated with the plague. Instead, don your most colorful attire for work and especially for Church. Let them see your true colors, folks!

For those who may need to defend their colorful couture in LDS circles, please note the following paragraph from the LDS General Handbook of Instructions, Book 2:

"Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. Ties and white shirts are RECOMMENDED because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, THEY SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and maturity in the Church."

Feel free to make copies of the preceeding quote to hand out to incredulous leaders and self-righteous members who dare to criticize your newfound sense of style! We have the official WORD, brethren!

I'm looking forward to the colorful stories that are sure to be born of this epic time in our history. Please post your experiences here for the enlightenment and edification of all. This blog will serve as the official Rebellion headquarters. Remember to stand tall, wear a defiant smirk on your face, and most importantly - let the white shirts be vanquished!

Be SURE to take my 'White Shirt Poll' located in the side-bar.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gods and Monsters

 No, I'm not referring to the movie by the same title. I'm referring to our Republican presidential candidates. Little known to mainstream America, and largely unreported by the press; the Republican party has been undergoing an "infiltration" by two radical right-wing Christian groups, loosely called "Dominionists" and "New Apostolic Reformationists".  Their goal? To literally take over everything. Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry are among their vanguard.


Derives from a small fringe sect called Christian Reconstructionism, founded by a Calvinist theologian named R. J. Rushdoony in the 1960s and based on the verse in Genesis 1:26
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Dominionists take that literally. In fact, they take every word of the Bible as the literal truth. They believe man has dominion over everything on earth, including all its natural resources. No wonder, then, that Michelle Bachman declared early on in her candidacy that one of the first things she would do as President is eliminate the "job killing" Environmental Protection Agency. Can't have anything standing in the way of unbridled dominion!! And that right to dominion extends WAY beyond earthly resources. They believe it is their calling to "infiltrate" and eventually control every institution of man. The ultimate goal? A totally Christian society with laws based on literal Bible interpretations. Bring back the death penalty for homosexuality and adultry. They even want to re-interpret the practice of slavery in America, seeing it as a benign institution where benevolent whites actually did black slaves a favor by giving them a leg up in the new world, since they weren't socially sophisticated enough to make their way in a modern society.

Michelle Bachman and her husband are deeply entrenched in this movement. Check out this article in The New Yorker by Ryan Lizza Leap of Faith . This one is long, but informative and deeply disturbing. What these people believe is almost unfathomable.

New Apostolic Reformation:

With roots also in the Christian Reconstructionism movement, this group believes they have been called by God to lead Christians back to the old ways of the Bible and, like the Dominionists, to a totally Christian version of America. The parallels to Mormonism are striking, including the belief that the Founding Fathers were inspired, and in modern day "Apostles" and "Prophets". In fact, if you read this amazing article from The Texas Observer by Forrest Wilder called Rick Perry's Army of God, you'll learn that Perry was actually "ordained" by two of these Apostles to become the next President of the United States! So when Perry says he felt "called by God" to run for President, he means that literally. The beliefs in Perry's camp are just as disturbing and menacing as Bachmann's, and the two movements have connections with each other on certain levels hard to understand. The alarming thing is that this movement currently controls a large portion of the Home Schooling programs in America. They are making serious inroads into our institutions and thinking.

Another article that fills in a few gaps of the first two is this one by Michelle Goldberg called A Christian Plot for Domination?

Not convinced there's a problem? Check out this video Reclaim the 7 Mountains of Culture

Bottom line - if people were worried about Mitt Romney being a "puppet" for Mormon leadership, they had better take a close look at the malignant alternatives Perry and Bachmann represent. Many of the baisc freedoms and rights we now enjoy could be in jeaopardy if these right-wing radicals come to power. Gay people especially should be on alert. This will not be an election to sit on the sidelines if you care about Democracy as we know it.

title illustration by Mario Zucca, used with permission from The Texas Observer

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I got an invitation to an event called "Journey Into Manhood". This is one of those reparative therapy workshops which specifically bills itself as:
... a 48-hour immersion in cathartic self-discovery and emotional-healing work for men who are self-motivated and serious about resolving unwanted homosexual attractions.  It is designed specifically for men who believe that their homosexual attractions are not "inborn" but stem largely from unhealed emotional wounds and unmet needs.
I know people who have attended these workshops. Some of them are my friends, and some of them feel like they have been helped by their experience. I'm not here to debate the merits of such workshops. However, while I respect anyone's right to investigate the several therapeutic avenues available to address "unwanted" homosexual attractions, I have to take exception with the name of the program itself. For some reason, when I saw that invite, it just hit me - Journey INTO Manhood - are you implying that if I'm a homosexual then I'm NOT a man? That "manhood" is dependant on my attraction to the opposite sex? I found the inferrance here offensive, actually. Is this program preying on the fears of gay LDS men that they can't really be a man unless they ditch their homosexuality? Here's another line from the invite;
The exercises are designed to help you identify and process the underlying issues that may be alienating you from your authentic heterosexual masculinity
I'm sorry, but I have to take exception to that too. My homosexual masculinity is just as authentic as anyone else's "heterosexual masculinity". Manhood and masculinity have nothing to do with which sex you're attracted to. It has to do with the fact that you're male, first of all, and the qualities you posses as a male - courage, strength, honesty, integrity, respect for others. etc. etc. The definition is entirely subjective, of course.

At one point in time I really wanted to participate in these reparative programs. I had spent decades trying to "pray the gay away", but to no avail. Then I discovered Evergreen and started reading about programs like this that looked like a possible solution. With great excitement I told my priesthood leaders about them, and pointed out that they seemed to be "sponsored" by the Church. Thank goodness my Stake President was such a level headed and inspired man. He told me point blank that I was going to be gay the rest of my life, and not to bother with these programs. I was crushed when he said that. Crushed! But I also got a spiritual confirmation that what he said was true. Absolutely true. It took a long time for me to come to terms with that.

But come to terms I did. I think I am a better man because of my homosexuality, quite frankly. I think I am more patient with others, less judgemental, and more empathetic and sensitive to their needs. More Christlike, if you will. I think being gay is an important and positive part of who I am. I am not ashamed to say that. I used to loathe the fact that I was gay, but now I embrace the fact that it is a part of me - the real, authentic, gay, masculine me. Welcome to manhood.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

White Shirt

I do not wear white shirts to Church. I can count the number of times I've worn one in the past year on one hand. OK, on one finger!! Interstingly enough, this subject came up in Presthood class last week, and I was very outspoken about it. Gotta defend my rebelliousness!

I find many advantages to NOT wearing a white shirt:

1.) They look better. I'm into color. Combine one of my colorful shirts with a snazzy tie from my massive collection and you've got COLOR, baby!!

2.) You get noticed. Everyone comments on my clothes. :) Nobody comments on a white shirt.

3.) You don't get called on. If you want people to leave you alone at Church, just wear a colored shirt and a loud tie - works every time!

4.) You can express yourself. I express my mood with my shirt/tie combinations. Sometimes I coodinate them with the program I hand out for Sacrament Meeting (that's my calling - to make the program). These I print in full color, of course, and often I make my outfit match the colors on the cover (how gay can you get, right!), which is always a fabulous photo or piece of religious art .
But the truth of the matter is that there is a serious side to this white shirt business. I mentioned it on another blog recently, and I'd like to share those thoughts again here.
Doctrine and policy. There is a difference. Doctrine is revealed truth, and policy may or may not be. For example, one of the revelaed priesthood duties of a deacon is to pass the sacrament. That is doctrine. However, there is no requirement that the deacon has to wear a white shirt and tie to do so. That would be policy proscribed by local leadership. I would personally rather have a deacon pass me the sacrament in jeans and a t-shirt than for that same deacon not to feel worthy to come to Church because he didnt have nice clothes to wear. I don't think God cares about his clothes.

Sometimes in the Church we allow policy to get in the way of or over-shadow doctrine, and I try to make sure I don't do that myself. But I realize it can and does happen.

I really meant what I said here. Too often in the Church we get hung up on the minutia of policy and ignore the underlying doctrine, or worse - ignore the feelings and needs of others. The other day I got a call asking me to pick up a brother for Church who had just recently been baptized. He is a fine young man, recently divorced. When I picked him up he had on jeans, a t-shirt, and Nike sneakers. I'm certain he doesn't have anything nicer to wear, although he is not poor at all and has a lovely home. This is simply what he wears to work every day. Society has gotten a lot more casual in their dress standards, and many people I know go to work in very casual clothes now- even to fancy corporate offices. They don't even OWN a dress shirt and tie! Anyway, I cringed when I saw him, hoping in my heart that no one at Church would say something hurtful, or take it upon themselves to lecture him on proper Church attire. So far, that has not happened. I have a better than average Ward I guess, and I'm really grateful for that. But there have been times in the past when things have not gone so well. The point is, no one should ever have to worry about what they wear to Church. God "looketh upon the heart", and so should we.

So back to the white shirt thing - there is no official doctrine that says men must wear a white shirt to do anything, except in the Temple, where white clothing is actually part of the ceremony. This is just tradition in the Church, or local policy. If anyone out there has been holding back I would encourage you to break out the stripes, the checks, and the solid colors and make it KNOWN that white shirts do not make one worthy or unworthy - they simply make one BORING!

So let's officially make September the month of the "WHITE SHIRT REBELLION"! Go to Church every Sunday with a colorful pattern on your chest and a smile on your face! Let them see your true colors, folks! MoHo's unite!!

P.S. Take my "White Shirt Poll" located in the side-bar.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

...of Wisdom and Wizards

Three of my favorite books/movies (including series) of all time have involved Wizards. Starting with the Wizard of Oz as a young child, and ending this summer with the final installment of the Harry Potter series.

The Wizard of Oz was already a classic book when I was born, and I can remember my grandmother had a leather-bound copy of it in her book case. Pity I don't have that now, as it was probably an early edition. It became a tradition for the movie version of Oz to be broadcast on TV every year around Halloween, and I can distinctly remember as a 6 year old child being both terrified and enchanted by the witches and wizards in that movie. It still ranks as probably my all-time favorite. Other notable wizards include Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, and Dumbledore from Harry Potter.  Oh yes, and who could forget another Wizard - Mickey Mouse in the classic Sorcerers Apprentice ?! That one had no words, just a lot of fun!

So here is my heart-felt tribute to the Wizards in my life and the wisdom they have meted out over the decades. Timeless wisdom, for the most part. Some are quotes from the movie versions, some from the books. Enjoy!

Wizard of Oz

"You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you're confusing courage with wisdom."

"A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others."

"You people should consider yourselves lucky that I'm granting you an audience tomorrow instead of 20 years from now."

"Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phila... er, phila... er, yes, er, Good Deed Doers" love this one!
"Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."
"Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends."

"...that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to."

"Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not."
Albus Dumbledore
“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” my all-time favorite!
“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

“It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.”

“Fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself.”

“Humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them.”

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young…”

“…. we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided... Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

“Time is making fools of us again.”

“To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

“It is important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.”

“There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

“The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution. “

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”

"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Recently, Deseret News columnist Jerry Earl Johnson wrote a piece called 'Time to listen and learn from our neighbors" (read the article here). I thought he had some interesting advice for the LDS community, but I wondered if he took the thought far enough? Here are some snippets:

President Gordon B. Hinckley, especially, sounded that theme.

"My brothers and sisters," he told the Saints in Sudbury, Ontario back in 1998, "we must be good neighbors. We must be friendly people. We must recognize the good in all people."

The problem, I think, is that to "recognize the good in all people" we need to be curious enough to pay attention to them. We need to listen and learn. We must realize everyone has something to offer.
AMEN Jerry!! After recounting some missionary experiences and the account of a black student going to an all-white Utah High School, Jerry observed the following about the latter:

The wiser students hoped to learn new perspectives and insights from her. The less wise feared she would somehow upset the status quo and force them to adjust. Those two attitudes — fear on one side, and a desire to learn on the other — show up today when the discussion turns to Hispanic immigrants or to the growing number of Utahns who are not LDS.

The wise among us feel curious and want to learn. The less wise among us feel threatened. Fortunately, LDS leaders seem to honestly believe that people who are different from us have many things that can enrich us. They don't fear the change. They sense an opportunity — not just for conversions, but for a wider, brighter way to live. Curiosity may have killed the cat. But I think curiosity also makes an old dog wise. The counsel has been given: be good neighbors and recognize the good in all people. It's time to put down our guard and look for ways our new neighbors can enrich our lives, and we can enrich theirs.
These are wise words. Inspiring, even. I wondered, however, why Jerry did not include one of the most talked about minorities in the news today in his thought process - gays! How could he overlook that???

Jerry's omission got me wondering what a good LDS family might do if they discovered their new neighbors were GAY (yikes!), so I posted the following comment to his article:

These are great thoughts. But I wonder sometimes if we, as a people, are ready and willing to follow this admonition.

Let me pose a hypothetical - picture yourself in this situation - what if your neighbors in this case were a gay couple? Would you have the same enthusiasm for getting to know them? Would you listen earestly and honestly to their point of view? Would you diligently search for the good in them? Would you allow them to enrich your life, and would you, in turn, enrich theirs? Would you be eager to share the gospel with this couple?

Food for thought. Do we, as a people, really reach out to EVERYONE? And can we truly consider ourselves disciples if we do not? I think the Saviour would find a way, don't you?

I was hoping some lively and meainingful dialogue would follow, since mine was the first comment on this article, but I guess people really don't post a lot of comments on DN articles, at least Church related ones (as opposed to the Tribune - telling?!) Anyway, there were a handful of answers but nothing of note.

I would really love to see how LDS people actually handled my hypothetical. It would make an awesome documentary, wouldn't it? To track the reaction when a married, totally charming gay couple moves in next door to a stereotypical straight-laced Mormon family with like 8 kids? WOW! Might make for some exciting footage!