Sunday, October 31, 2010

What I Learned at Church

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Text: Katharina von Schlegel, b. 1697;
trans. by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897

My blog has been pretty religious lately. Not sure why that is - maybe I'm getting old and spirituality is becoming more important to me. But I've been taking comfort in it lately, and knowing that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me no matter what has helped me get through the past few weeks.  We sang this hymn in church today, and it pretty well sums up my feelings. For some reason, the third verse above isn't part of the LDS hymnbook, but when I went searching for the lyrics, it was exactly what I needed to read. I have a "dearest friend" who has pretty much departed (not died, just drifted away) and for the past little bit I've been pretty down about it ("all is darkened in the vale of tears").  I've questioned if "It Gets Better" is really true (as has another friend, read his awesome blog post here) for those of us single, not-so-young-anymore, never-were-really-much-of-a-twink-anyway guys.  This hymn says that sorrow and pain are only temporary, and God is there for us to take it away. I'm glad I have Him on my side :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Silly ignorant friend

I received the following on facebook this morning:

Dave, how's it going? I hope this message won't seem too offensive, but I thought I should perhaps write it.

I don't know but have you ever thought you might want to tone down a little your activism on gay rights? I mean, I don't want to offend you or anything but from a gospel standpoint you may not want to support gays or spend too much time with them if there would ever be any danger of becoming one yourself!

Traditionally back in the day saying something like that might be considered as an insult, but...

I don't want to 'not' send a message like this and then spend a bunch of time worrying if it was something I should have brought up. And obviously you already know I have a rep for being rude on FB, so... Just thought it might be something to consider in case you hadn't thought of it.

If giving up gay rights activism would make your life seem a little empty and boring, there's always Socialism! ha ha

<silly ignorant friend>

I responded:

Sigh...are you still stuck on this?

I could write this to you: "Have you ever thought you might want to tone down a little on your hate speech and homophobia? I don't want to offend you or anything but from a gospel standpoint you may not want to appear so unkind and uncharitable. Jesus said Love One Another and spent his time with sinners, right?"

The church's position is stated pretty clearly here:

It states: "As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down." I hope this doesn't offend, but your posts pass the line of "unkindness" and approach "cruelty". Let Jesus do the condemning; it's not up to you.

I especially liked the second-to-last paragraph in that document: "God’s universal fatherhood and love charges each of us with an innate and reverent acknowledgement of our shared human dignity. We are to love one another. We are to treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters and fellow children of God, no matter how much we may differ from one another. "

I'm not too worried about "becoming one myself", as you put it, since I already am one. To most people it just doesn't matter. Besides, homosexuality is not a contagious disease.  As for "not supporting them or spending too much time with them" that would mean not seeing family members or close friends, which would be silly and judgmental.

I appreciate your concern, <silly ignorant friend>, but I will continue to stand up for my beliefs. No hard feelings.


Silly, silly friend. I think he didn't realize I'm gay.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Boyd K and Postmodern Mormonism

I've tried my best to not say too much about good ole Boyd K.  I've posted a few comments on blogs and facebook, but I'm not going to write a post analyzing why his conference talk sucked or give my reactions to it (other than what I just said).  Sociologist David, rather, is pretty interested in other people's reactions.  We all know how it played out:  Utah's gay community protested, national gay rights organizations got involved, some LDS members were confused and bruised, and others came out in support of President Packer.  Pretty nasty things have been said on both sides:  comments like 

I know that God loves us and am grateful He gave us prophets to guide us through these last days when Satan has such a strong hold on the hearts of so many people. I'm grateful to have prophets who can remind us of what's good and right while Satan is fooling people into believing that evil is good and that those who stand up for what's right are hateful and bigoted.


Now, if one insists that they can be Christian and still be gay/lesbian, or that it is acceptable before God because He loves us all and that he allows this practise, then you are sadly misinformed and can hardly call yourself as your claim is totally inconsistant with scripture.

are some of the tamer comments to be found at the We Love You President Packer facebook page.  It has touched me personally as well. I've had to deal with statements from one friend such as: 

"I actually hate the whole idea of homosexuality and gays. I just wish it didn't exist, because if it didn't, then I wouldn't have to deal with people thinking I might be gay because I'm still single. They say they hurt no one... well I have a different opinion about it. They have poisoned our entire society. Sorry that is just my opinion. I am sure your gay family and friends are fine people (other than the fact that they are gay), but..."


What the heck? Which GOOD or even just fairly ADEQUATE Mormons said that they felt confused and bruised by Elder Packers comments? Homosexuality being wrong is a fairly basic doctrine if you ask me. And whether they can change their attractions or not, they certainly can't engage in gay behavior and stay in the church...... or are we going to be rewriting the Bible now?

But I also got a letter from a more open minded friend that said:
I am truly devastated by the recent conference address. I follow that particular issue closely and have felt we (as a church) were making some slow headway recently. So when people say that recent comments were nothing new, I think "maybe not ten years ago, but they seem like a step back from where we were headed". While it has been rough for me to reconcile my feelings, I cannot even pretend to understand what you are feeling. But I did want you to know that there are more people out there than you are aware of that support and love you!
Needless to say, it's been a pretty polarizing issue.  Something else that's interesting to me is how gay mormons themselves are reacting to it, and to negativity by the church in general.  Many leave and speak out against the church, some become bitter but stay quiet, and others would rather just leave the church behind as part of a former life.  There is a small but growing group, though, that is staying in the church and wants to try to make changes from the inside.  I used to think that I was the only one that wanted to stay in the church AND be gay, but I'm seeing that I'm not alone anymore.  People from Turner Bitton (hopefully that facebook link works, he gives an excellent message) to David Baker to John Gustav-Wrathall to the amazing Brent Kerby (another facebook link), just to name a few, are building on the Church's official policy of treating gay and lesbian members with love and respect.  The vocal minority inside the church are against people like us, but many members are not.  This gives me hope for the future.  Lately I've been reading alot on the Emerging Church movement in Christianity, which is basically believes that the organizational and institutional church is a thing of the past, and that Christianity is changing as our post-modern society does too.  I believe that the LDS church will have to confront this sooner or later as well.  Leaders such as Elder Marlin Jensen and President Dieter Uchtdorf are maybe taking baby steps in that direction already.  As I wrote to my ignorant friend, "Your hurtful views are increasingly becoming antiquated...the older generation (and you) look on gay people with disgust; our generation probably doesn't like them but tolerates them; but the youth of today don't care one way or the other. To the generation after that, the importance of sexual preference will be on par with eye or hair color. They will look back on us with astonishment just like we look back with astonishment on having different drinking fountains for black's just something we can't fathom, and we wonder how skin color could have mattered so much." I'm glad we have gay Mormons that are staying in the church to help lead this movement.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Review -- The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

It's been awhile since I've read/reviewed a gay-themed book.  I picked one at random from my "to read" list, and it turned out to be a good one.  The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd takes place in a nondescript midwestern town during protagonist Dade Hamilton's last summer before going away to college.  He's somewhat of a loner (why are gay kids in books always misfits or loners?) working a job he hates at a grocery store, and he doesn't have any friends other than his secret "boyfriend" (more of a hook-up buddy) Pablo, who is a football star and dates the prettiest girl in the school.  Over the summer he meets new best friend Lucy, a lesbian girl staying with her aunt for the summer, and mysterious badboy Alex Kincaid, whom he is instantly attracted to.  This gives him the confidence to begin coming out to people and making the transition from confused teenager to comfortable college student.  Side plots include Dade's distant parents' crumbling marriage and a young girl who has disappeared or been kidnapped.

I identified fairly well with Dade (other than his and the other characters drug use and drinking).  He's a loner, is out to himself but not very confident, and is stuck in an unhealthy relationship with a "friend" (Pablo) that doesn't treat him very well and can't give him the relationship he deserves.  He's not quite sure what direction his life is going to take and although he is at a crossroads, he is letting himself float along rather than taking ownership and responsibility of his life.  I can also identify with Pablo -- he is obviously deeply closeted and confused about his sexuality, and he comes from a conservative and patriarchal culture where masculinity is valued.  This confusion leads him to a depression which shows itself as anger, promiscuity, taking advantage of other people, and the "brain damage" that many of us have experienced in the coming out process in a conservative Mormon culture.  I didn't identify with Alex much, who is comfortable with who he is but, like Dade, is floating along in life and has even fewer opportunities to change things.  Although Dade and Alex don't have much in common other than being gay, lacking direction, and liking weed, their relationship helps Dade realize what a good relationship is about and gives him the confidence he needs to take charge of his life.  He is able to finally put Pablo behind him and move on to something more positive.  All of the characters were well-developed and likeable.

I have to say that I absolutely hated the ending of the book.  In fact, I was mad about it for days after I finished it.  I won't give it away, but things didn't get resolved in a way that left me feeling happy and positive.  That's not necessarily a bad thing though.  A good book makes me think and feel strongly, whether in a positive or negative way, and this one definitely did.

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