Sunday, December 13, 2015

It's All About Jesus!

This Christmas, I am thankful for the simple reminders that it's all about Jesus.

"What shall I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a Lamb.
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part.
Yet, what I can, I give him: give my heart."
"What shall we give to the Lamb who was offered,
Rising the third day and shedding His love?
Tears for His mercy, we'll weep at the manger,
Bathing the Infant come down from above." 
"Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above!"
"Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That He this glorious earth hath wrought,
And with His blood mankind hath bought."

For the past little while, I've been wondering what it means to give my heart to the a gay Mormon.  In the young adult crowd of the Church, a lot of emphasis is placed on marriage.  That is very understandable, as we are to multiply and replenish the earth.  But it's hard to hear all the time, not possessing all the feelings that naturally lead to that.  I greatly appreciate the shifting conversations surrounding same-sex attraction and single adults in general (I acknowledge that there are some gay people who are members of the opposite sex, and it's sad that I now have to specify that when I say "marriage"...but I speak more from my own experience).

Sometimes I still let thoughts of shame creep in when it comes to marriage.  These thoughts sometimes come from my own self-criticisms, but they also come from the cultural influences around me.  To be honest, I currently have very little desire to be married to a woman.  For some reason, I always thought marriage was inseparably connected with being a follower of Christ.  I thought that giving my heart to the Lord would always mean working towards marriage, or even developing the desire to be married.  But I was wrong, or at least I hope I was.

I've seen this picture (to the right) passed around a lot lately.  It's meant a lot to me, especially at this Christmas time.  Christ doesn't want my marriage.  He doesn't want my "straightness."  He wants my heart.  I still don't always know what it means to give my heart to Jesus, but just the very thought gives me peace.  I've half-heartedly been saying that I'm open to the idea of marriage, but I'm also open to developing relationships with other ga/uy friends, or maybe even some sort of covenant partnership with a man I love.  It might look like "playing with fire" to many, and it may be hard in that regard, but with an eternal perspective and with my testimony, it actually makes sense to me.  I haven't received a clear answer with this, which usually means I have to take action...and I don't like it when that's the answer!  But either way, I know that the Lord, and my resolve to keep my covenants, needs to come first.  I need to continually give Him my heart, even if I need to make that decision every day.

This Christmas, I am once again grateful for the reminders to keep Christ at the center of my life.  I need to slow down, minimize distractions and allow myself to feel of His love communicate with my spirit.  I need to accept myself and remember that at each and every moment, I am enough for Him.  I appreciate and close with the words of Elder D. Todd Christofferson from the December 2015 Ensign:

"I hope you will take time this Christmas season to sit for a few quiet moments and let the Savior's Spirit warm you and reassure you of the worthiness of your service, your offering and your life."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Gods in Embryo

 I've been reading a couple books by Sister M. Catherine Thomas, who spoke at the 2015 North Star conference. She shares some wonderful thoughts and insights about how we are all "Gods in embryo" and that we each possess various pieces of divinity. There is so much to eternity and in the spirit world around us that we cannot see, understand or comprehend. Last night, in her book, "Light in the Wilderness," I read some passages about how there are wonderful, amazing things going on around us in the Spirit World that our mortal minds cannot perceive. She quotes Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who spoke to a group of BYU students (1964):

"...this great fieldhouse in which we are assembled is full of revelation at this moment.  All the revelations of eternity are here, but you and I who have assembled in the devotional are probably not receiving them.  This fieldhouse is full of the visions of eternity, and yet we are not viewing visions at this moment, but we could...Now analogously, this great fieldhouse is full of great symphonies.  There are symphonies played here, and our ears are not hearing them.  There are sermons that are being preached, but we do not hear them.  Yet if we had the means and the ability, we could tune in and hear the symphonies and see the visions."

As I was reading this, and considering the fact that we all have the potential to become like God, something struck me that has resonated with me for many months now. Many aspects of my gayness/SSA may very well be a part of my eternal identity. I do understand that I will have the opportunity to marry a woman and have a family at some point.  I cannot currently fathom how that will come to pass, but for the time being, I can't discount other relationships or other forms of love. Sure, just like most people, I've had to work on conquering lust, pornography, codependency and other unhealthy habits associated with sexuality. But underneath it all, I believe, is a pure, God-like love for other men that I can and should cultivate (I'm good at talking about this on-line, but actually putting it into practice is another venture).

I remember always looking at my SSA as something to hide or in work on relationships with girls and being attracted to them. I remember telling myself what I should and shouldn't feel in regards to feelings towards men vs. women. I remember beating myself up when I didn't have the same feelings for girls as I did for boys. Trying to change my sexual orientation led me to depression, anxiety and further indulgence in bad habits.

In recent months and years, I've come to realize that I have this attribute for a reason; not to give in to worldly lusts and behaviors, but as something to explore and learn about, something to use to strengthen my testimony and something to use to bring others to Christ. I feel like I've been enabled to do this so far through keeping my covenants and remaining active in church and in the gospel (and I attribute this to the hand of God in my life).

I've had several experiences with other gay/SSA guys, whether it be in the temple, giving priesthood blessings, or doing other worthwhile activities, where there is a distinct feeling of love: a love for God and and a love for each other. I don't think this exact feeling of love would be there were it not for our experiences with SSA. I've had other experiences that have testified to me (amidst the loud, tumultuous noises that come from the world) that there IS something pure and holy about all this. There has to be something more than what the world teaches about these attractions (that I should abuse the powers of procreation and/or participate in the redefinition of marriage), and what many on the complete opposite end believe about SSA being a weakness or something I need to be healed from.

I've found so much healing not from "fighting" my attractions, but bridling them and getting my guy needs fulfilled in wholesome ways (a journey in and of itself!). I think it's amazing to be able to be close to a ga/uy friend and be able to talk about the gospel-centered insights we've received from our common experiences. We can even joke around a little bit and talk about people we find attractive, and it's not dangerous in the least! I can also imagine having these kinds of conversations with a loving Savior.

I share this because sometimes I think there is a lot of shame surrounding SSA, and any struggle people have with their sexuality, for that matter. SSA feelings might shift for some. Sexuality might be more fluid for some and hardwired for others (I'm no expert), but I just wanted to share some thoughts in hopes that this might help someone to come to better terms with themselves, as a son or daughter of God with eternal potential, who just so happens to be blessed with an extra dose of love for other guys or gals, respectively.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Unfinished Business - The Transgender Situation

"I think we need to acknowledge that while we have been acquainted with...homosexuals for some time, being acquainted with the unique problems of a transgender situation is something we have not had so much experience with, and we have some unfinished business in teaching on that."

-Elder Dallin H. Oaks*

Just in case it's not clear, I am NOT transgender.  I'm generally attracted to men, but I know I am male.  My feelings match my body.  I think a lot of people (myself included) combine the two.  I used to think gay men were people who wanted to be women, or at least look, act and dress like women.  After beginning to understand my own set of circumstances, I learned that there are major differences between gender issues and homosexuality.  There are even major differences in how to reconcile these feelings with the doctrines of the gospel (I actually think it might be easier to reconcile gender issues than homosexuality...the hard part is probably being accepted by friends and family).  I've just finished reading about book about marriage and religious freedom, and why the family unit, consisting of a married mother and father, is fundamental to society.  I believe that to be true and I believe that is why we have had warnings from prophets and apostles about the redefinition of marriage.  However, the author lumped transgender issues in with the marriage debate.  Gender identity definitely has some complex implications when it comes to the institution of marriage, but it definitely needs to be set aside from the same-sex marriage case.  It's that different!  (As with the LBG/SSA terms...I will use transgender, gender identity incongruence and gender dysphoria somewhat interchangeably.)

Naturally, I don't have any firsthand experience with gender dysphoria.  I will leave that to the amazing Latter-day Saints in the following resources:

Journeys of Faith features stories from faithful Latter-day Saints who deal with gender identity issues.  Many of their spouses have contributed as well.  Some have transitioned in certain ways, but all of them are on a pioneer journey, earnestly seeking to keep their covenants and find their place in God's plan (aren't we all?).  They are major examples to me of faith in the eternal blessings of the gospel, that their current circumstances will be understood in time of the Lord.

Transgender 101 contains a boatload of information for Latter-day Saints on what gender dysphoria is, what the church teaches about it, the terminology that is used (and I'm still learning how to use it correctly), and what we can do, as a church, to be more inclusive of transgender people who wish to worship with us and partake of all the blessings that are currently available.  There is almost more information than can be handled in one sitting.

Nevertheless, I have been able to meet some of these people, hear their experiences and draw some parallels with my own journey with same-sex attraction.  More importantly, I have developed a great concern for the transgender community and the way many Latter-day Saints talk about them.  I'm trying to have patience with church members when it comes to same-sex attraction.  In fact, I actually get rather heated with the groups that criticize the Church, its leaders, or who hope for a change in church doctrine regarding marriage and the law of chastity.  I feel fairly confident that those doctrines and standards will not and cannot change.

In a different fashion, however, I breathe fire when I see members of my faith, or other Christian faiths, claim to have all the answers regarding transgender issues.  Some believe that dressing as the opposite sex is sinful and has eternal implications.  Some believe that allowing transgender persons to transition in any way will teach other people to be transgender, or that gender isn't important.  One widely shared article talked about how transgender individuals become sexually aroused with thinking about being the opposite sex.  That's been true in some peoples' stories, but as I understand it, it's such a small, minuscule, almost insignificant part of the transgender experience.  If I may be so bold, and I hope it's not too awkward...I experience arousal when I get excited about certain things not even related to sex.  In other words, I think it's safe to say that those feelings are simply part of being a human.

The truth?  There's a LOT we don't know and understand.  The church handbooks contain some instructions regarding transsexual surgery (this is better outlined in the Transgender 101 website).  We have the first paragraph of the Proclamation to the World, which says that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."  I love the Proclamation to the World.  I believe it was truly inspired for our day.  In fact, that document played a pivotal role in my gaining a testimony of the law of chastity and the importance of the traditional family as the fundamental unit of society.  Yeah I'm not married, but I'm thankful I don't have to question the prophetic vision regarding the family.  Even if I remain single, this doctrine still applies to me and it blesses me.

Likewise, I'm sure many transgender Latter-day Saints have had their own sacred experiences with the Proclamation.  Most of us are cisgender, meaning we identify and are comfortable with our biological sex.  Most of us are able to take that first paragraph at face value, and we generally don't have to dig deeper.  We haven't had to pray and ask God what gender He really meant for us to be or what we were before this life.  Just because most of us are comfortable in our own bodies, it doesn't mean that we're more advanced or better than those who are transgender, nor does it mean that we know more about gender than they do.  With the little direction on how to actually deal with the practicalities regarding transgenderism, many of these children of God have had to rely on personal revelation as to how to navigate this complex reality in this life.  I think it's pretty safe to say that transgender Latter-day saints probably know MORE about gender and its many nuances than I do.  They KNOW gender is important.  That is why they are trying to seek balance and live out their gender to the best of their ability.

I do believe there are forces out there seeking to undermine the doctrines found in the Proclamation.  I feel like I'm part of a small subset of LGBTQ...whatevers...who do not identify with that agenda.  We support the doctrines of the gospel and are trying to dig up what is already there for us, in conjunction with a glorious eternal perspective.  I believe the Proclamation provides profound truths about this life and the next, but I also believe it outlines major discussion points for all of us.  Same-sex attraction and gender identity issues are things that we ALL have to deal with.  We ALL have to rely on the Atonement and on eternity when it comes to helping our gay and transgender brothers and sisters who desire to worship with us and do their best with what they've been given.

I strive to keep my covenants (for God and not for other people, other than to be an example), but I have to do things to balance by "homo" needs.  I wouldn't say I live a "straight" life.  I live a "gay" life within the bounds the Lord has set.  Even if I marry a woman, I wouldn't say I'm "straight," but it would still be a special and beautiful heterosexual relationship.  Likewise, transgender people have to do things to balance their gender identity with what we currently understand within the context of the gospel.  Many of them are temple worthy, but it breaks my heart that some of the gender binary aspects of the temple cause great anxiety for them.  I'd love to see someone cross dress and/or refer to them as their preferred gender identity if it will help them avoid potentially harmful or irreversible surgery.  Furthermore, if they do decide to go through with a full transition, I'd much rather love them and sit with them at church than see them leave, or worse...take their own lives.

OK...back to the basics.  I think it's very important for each of us to continue developing our personal relationships with the Savior.  The simple truths of the gospel should be our foundation.  One of the simplest truths is that we are all children of Heavenly Father.  That is the most important identity above anything else.  All people, even those experiencing gender identity issues, are capable of taking upon themselves the baptismal covenant and partaking of the blessings of membership in Christ's church.  Some other blessings, depending on individual situations, may have to wait until a future day, and it is up to us to help others to live the best life possible.

*Elders Oaks and Christofferson appear on Trib Talk to discuss religious freedom

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

God Wants Gays at Church!

It’s been interesting to see my own experience of same-sex attraction grow and evolve.  My challenges are not the same as they were a few years ago.  Being attracted to men is hardly even an issue anymore.  It doesn’t affect my functionality, and it doesn’t affect my testimony.  In fact, it has strengthened my testimony in ways probably nothing else could.  As a human being, I’m always at risk of being tempted in certain ways, but getting my needs met, including wholesome time spent with other “covenant-keeping queers” and other friends, is much more appealing than anything of a sexual nature (and it’s no different with people experiencing opposite-sex attraction).

A common question associated with the reconciliation of same-sex attraction and the gospel is “what now?”  Until recent years, it was assumed that the “right” thing to do would be to overcome (or work on getting rid of) these attractions.  I don’t fault anyone for believing this way.  I once thought the same thing.  Getting conversion therapy or trying to “pray the gay away” led me to feelings of shame, self-loathing and addiction.  I’ve found it much healthier to overcome by accepting myself the way I am and learn how to navigate this part of me within what I feel to be true.  It’s an ongoing process, a pioneer adventure.  I feel the Spirit bear witness to me of the correctness of marriage between a man and a woman and keeping sexual relations within those bonds.  At the same time, I also know that I’m physically wired for guys and that I need healthy, intimate associations with men.  I’m at peace with that.  Upon consulting with the Lord, patriarchal blessing and others who share my experience, I am learning how much Heavenly Father is expecting me to just let go and trust Him!  All too often I’ve tried to anticipate the Lord’s will, which I always thought would be “get married”, and trying to place myself in that context.  Just recently, I’ve realized I’ve been trying to help the Lord guide my life!  He doesn’t need my help in that way.  He knows better.  I have to trust that I am in the exact place He wants me.

Over the last year or so, my challenges have shifted a bit.  I tend to worry about the bigger picture.  I’m making progress on focusing on what I can control, but I still wanted to share.  It’s difficult to be in the middle of the on-going debate about everything SSA/LGB.  I see very shortsighted remarks being made on both sides.  I understand where the Church (and other denominations and social scientists) is coming from as far as defending the nuclear family.  I also understand some aspects of the other side.  There are many situations in the news I’m completely torn over.  For example, I don’t always understand why someone would refuse to bake a cake or issue a marriage license, but I also don’t always understand why a couple wouldn’t just go take their business somewhere else.  I certainly have my opinions and perspectives, as a gay person who understands traditional marriage.  But I’ve had to step back from those conversations, and I should do that more often.  They stress me out and make me angry!

I’m also kind of nervous for this upcoming General Conference.  I think it would be lovely to have an entire talk on the complex nuances surrounding same-sex attraction (and another talk on gender identity issues), but I’m not sure we’re there yet.  Undoubtedly we will once again hear about the ideal family situation and its importance in society (which I don’t argue).  We heard those topics from Elders L. Tom Perry and D. Todd Christofferson at the April 2015 Conference.  I understood the principles they were trying to teach, but I was also painfully aware of those who felt like they could continue to shun their gay family members and those who took those words to mean that they and their families are “counterfeit.”  I doubt any general authorities really mean to invalidate anyone’s experience or genuine love for each other.  I know that social media tends to get riled up over stuff like this, and I’m not really looking forward to it.

OK, now to switch gears (It’s odd, but it’s my blog :).  The legalization of same-sex marriage presents Latter-day Saints with some unique challenges and opportunities.  Yes, there are seen and unseen threats on religious freedom and other confusing societal issues, and then there are individuals…individuals who need to know they’re loved and that they belong. 

In January of 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.”

I’ve pondered on some real-life situations we have or may have coming up in the near future.  What if a same-sex couple wanted to come to church, not to challenge or protest, but because they sincerely desire to grow closer to God and participate with fellow saints?  I’ve been guilty of assuming that no gay couple would want to come to a church that teaches marriage between a man and a woman, but I’ve been wrong.  What if they had children?  Regardless of our beliefs about the ideal or how church records would be handled, would we treat them like we would any other family?  Would their children be welcomed in primary and with the youth?  Would we continue to insist that they are not a real family?  Would we insist that they break up before ever attending church?  These questions have nothing to do with condoning immoral behavior, but everything to do with the invitation to come unto Christ.  I searched and could not find it, but somewhere along the line, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf exhorted everyone to “come as you are.”  If it wasn’t President Uchtdorf, then he’s certainly given many talks pointing to that.  This includes gay people, no matter where they are in their journey.

Sure, there are questions about morality that would need to be worked out, but that would be between them, the Lord and the bishop or branch president.  I’ve often wondered…what if a family like this wanted to gain or re-gain full fellowship in the Church?  I think it’s safe to say that this is a situation that we haven’t really addressed before.  I can imagine the parents becoming morally clean and temple-worthy, but I can’t imagine breaking up their family.  Likewise, with a couple, I’m not so sure they’d have to sever ties with each other in order keep the law of chastity and live worthy of the temple.  It’s not as simple as breaking up and finding a member of the opposite sex to marry.  I don’t know, I’ve just thrown these thoughts around.  It’s not up to me, but it's definitely food for thought.

We know what the ideal family situation is.  I’m currently reading a book and educating myself about the purposes of marriage and why children deserve a mother and a father.  I’m not questioning that.  However, we also have reality to deal with.  In this fallen world, death happens, divorce happens.  Sometimes children do not have both a mom and a dad, whether through unfortunate circumstances or through the choices of one or both parents.  In an ideal ward, we would rally around and help these families and children who are not in ideal circumstances.  Aside from having two parents, would a family with same-sex parents be that much different?  Would we not care about their well-being and include them in our circles of love?

This is a challenge all of us will face, myself included.  I like to think I’ll be warm and accepting, but usually those opportunities catch me unawares and emotions sometimes get the better of me.  No one is perfect.  It’s a process figuring out how Christ would have us love one another.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

What do You Want to Believe?

 "Belief and testimony and faith are not passive principles. They do not just happen to us. Belief is something we choose—we hope for it, we work for it, and we sacrifice for it. We will not accidentally come to believe in the Savior and His gospel any more than we will accidentally pray or pay tithing. We actively choose to believe, just like we choose to keep other commandments."

-Elder L. Whitney Clayton, April 2015 General Conference

Logistically, I feel like my life is fairly busy with work, church obligations, addiction recovery, travel, etc.  I have regular meetings and activities almost every night of the week.  Even so, I still have time to ponder about what my life is supposed to be about.  I have a friend who says that he views the gospel and his life through the "lens" of his same-sex attraction.  I suppose I do the same thing.  I know it doesn't define me, but I definitely think plenty about what it means to me, what my life will look like, and how this all fits in to the Plan of Salvation.

And yes, sometimes this includes comparing my beliefs and experiences to those of others (I know we're not supposed to do that, but hey, nobody's perfect).

At the intersection of faith and homosexuality, there is a tumult of differing experiences, beliefs and opinions (and I'd assume the same in regards to other issues that test our faith AND our ability to love others, such as gender identity disorder, gender equality, church history, etc.).  I've been appalled at some of the very stark opposites when it comes to perspectives on the Church and homosexuality.  This is not only within the gay community, but all over the place, even among church membership.

(A) Some say the Church is "anti-gay," has "oppressive policies towards gay people," or is hostile towards gays.  (B) I actually feel at home among most Latter-day Saints.  Gay people are serving in callings, attending the temple, and enjoying full fellowship in the Church (of course, that depends on how one defines "gay," but I've cleared my version up in other posts).

(A) Some believe Latter-day Saints don't think for themselves, that we all blindly follow a bunch of aged men, that we are not allowed to question or think "outside of the box."  (B) I actually feel like our leaders encourage questioning and finding things out for ourselves.  We need personal revelation as to how to incorporate the words of the prophets in our individual situations.  Our leaders encourage diversity, welcoming all people and pleading for their individual talents, gifts and experiences.  Even though we strive to make and keep the same covenants, we're still all very different and we all live the same gospel in very different ways.  Sometimes it DOES take a lot of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to live the gospel!

(A) You can't love another man and be Mormon. (B) WHAAAAAAT? I love lots of men! Some I love very dearly!

It's a little hard to describe, but in summary...there are some viewpoints out there that are the complete opposite of how I view my church.  I'm astonished at some of the things that get said.  I get protective and I say to myself, "Good heavens, I don't want members of my church to read THAT!" But for the most part, I can actually see and understand where these people are coming from.  I sometimes get defensive and I want to fix the situation.  I think, "either I'm wrong, or they are wrong."  I used to mentally accuse them of picking and choosing certain principles and taking them out of context.  But recently, I realized that I might be doing the same thing to further my intents and purposes. 

It might just boil down to this: What do you want to believe?

I want to believe that the Church is gay friendly.  I want to believe that my attractions are not just weaknesses to be overcome or trials to be endured until the next life.  I want to believe that I can bridle them and use them for righteous purposes.  I want to believe that this works within the context of the gospel.  If this is the restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, and if I am a child of God, I better believe there is a place for me in this church!

With these desires in mind, of course I might do a little filtering and analyzing when it comes to conference talks or church teachings.  I look for one-liners here and there mentioning the "exceptions" to the majority, such as those who experience same-sex attraction, or those who cannot bear children, those who are divorced, or those who remain single for other reasons.  Sure, it would be nice to have an entire conference talk discussing same-sex attraction.  It would be nice to have a church-wide rapid improvement event regarding homosexuality (and also gender dysphoria).  I feel like church leaders are understanding, and I trust that there are reasons why this hasn't been discussed more (such as areas of the world that may be hostile to Mormons AND gays!)  But for now, I am satisfied and so very grateful for those little one-liners that remind me that I do have a place and that I am wanted and needed in the Lord's church.

I disassociate gay marriage from the root experience of same-sex attraction.  When the topic is discussed at church, or especially at Conference, I understand they are not talking about gay people, but violations of the law of chastity, the purposes of marriage and many other things regarding the family as the fundamental unit of society.  I feel like I understand the primary purposes of marriage and the powers of procreation.  I do not think they are merely cultural, and it is not up to me to define those.  Nevertheless, there is so much more to same-sex attraction than the sexual component.  Gay people don't need to engage in sexual relations to love and show affection for one another! 

I glory in what is NOT said at Conference or anywhere in the current teaching materials.  Even though we have an eternal perspective, we don't have all the pieces to the puzzle.  Some of us (especially those with gender identity issues) are left up to personal revelation as far as dealing with this life.  I've mentioned in another post that I believe and hope that this experience resembles something like celestial brotherhood, where yes, I'll have a wife and children, but I'll also have many brothers that I will love.  I believe there is a lot that is good and beautiful about the love that can exist between two of the same gender, including those who are gay or bisexual.  Now that gay marriage is legal, I hope we can respectfully acknowledge that there is much that is good about love and committed friendship...even if they happen to be married.

Yes, I want to believe that I have a place in this church and its doctrine, so of course I will share messages that support that belief.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage - A New Horizon

I’ve had the awesome privilege and blessing to be on tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the past couple of weeks.  I have had the unique opportunity to musically share my heart with audiences along the Northeastern coast of the United States.  I’ve also shared my heart with the Lord in ways I never have before.  Aside from the many missionary opportunities, this tour has provided me with a healthy distraction from the events surrounding the Supreme Court action to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.  To be on tour at this point in time is no accident.

On Friday, June 26, 2015, I was on an awesome Segway tour of the National Mall with some friends from the Choir.  One of our stops was at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.  This memorial featured fountains; some of which were smooth and quiet, symbolizing times of peace.  Others were loud and rough, symbolizing World War II and other moments of toil.  There were many wonderful quotes from President Roosevelt.  They were about justice, equality and the pursuit of happiness.  I was torn.  Marriage redefinition made so much sense in a legal sense.  And yet, we also have living prophets on the earth, as well as The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  I’ve received rather clear instructions from my own personal journey that I’ve needed to support marriage between a man and a woman.  I was also led to the final paragraphs of the Proclamation.  It didn’t give me all the answers, and I still don’t have all the answers.  But it did give me an understanding as to why the leaders of my church, as well as the leaders of many other faiths (including some figures in the secular world), have felt the need to speak out in defense of the traditional family unit. 

After visiting the Roosevelt Memorial, we headed to the Lincoln Memorial.  There, I finally caved in and whipped out my phone to see what was happening on Facebook (having forgotten about the debate that was occurring on Capitol Hill).  There I saw it.  Rainbows were everywhere.  Many celebrated, many mourned.  Some took extreme positions where others stood somewhere in the middle.  The news wasn't really a surprise to me.  I knew where we were headed.  I don’t entirely know why I’ve had the experiences I’ve had or why I’ve posted everything I’ve posted.  Maybe it is because all voices are needed, including those of gay people who are seeking to live in harmony with the gospel and gay people who have felt it necessary to defend the “traditional” family.  For me, not speaking out in defense of the family would have been like breaking a covenant with God.

On Sunday evening, we were in New York City.  A few of us went on a pleasant evening cruise around lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Statue of Liberty.  I saw a few boats waving the rainbow flag.  As the sun started to set, the lights on skyscrapers and other buildings began to turn on.  The Empire State Building was radiant with the colors of the rainbow.  The Intrepid aircraft carrier sported some projections of rainbow-colored bubbles.  I soon learned that it was Pride Day.  I used to feel repulsed, if not conflicted, when I saw the rainbow symbol.  But this time, I felt at peace.  I was happy.  I was genuinely happy for those who have fought for so long and who have experienced intense ridicule, sometimes from people in my own faith community.  I was happy for those who before felt oppressed but could now do what they felt would bring them happiness.  I felt an overwhelming sense of love for them, and for everyone.  I felt love for the people I was with.  Later at dinner, I felt accepted for who I was: a son of God, a Latter-day Saint and a YSA Tabernacle Choir member who just so happens to be attracted to guys.  As we walked along the streets of New York, I saw a gay couple (or a couple of straight guys with their arms around each other).  I felt immense love for them.  Heck, I just want to love everyone!  This experience reminded me that in many ways, I already do love everyone.  I love meeting new people and treating others with kindness.

What I just mentioned might be a shock to you, given my somewhat rigid stance on marriage and family.  But alas, I was also rather surprised by my feelings in reaction to the Supreme Court ruling.  Some might tell me I should feel horrible and defeated.  Others might tell me that I should be jumping for joy, but I’m in the middle.  I do not believe this is Sodom and Gomorrah, end of society material, nor to I believe it’s cause for outrageous celebration or akin to the Civil Rights Movement.  I’m in the middle.  Some might say I’m playing with fire or that I’m sitting on the fence, but these are just my raw feelings.

I intend to continue defending the Family Proclamation, and I seek to help clarify the teachings of the Church.  I hope we will be able to keep our religious freedoms and practice marriage in the ways God has instructed.  On the other hand, I think there can be a lot of good, positive steps forward in the Church, even with marriage remaining as it is.  I hope this will evolve into better conversations about same-sex attraction within the Church.  I hope for a more loving atmosphere, where even a respectful same-sex couple could come and worship and receive the blessings of the gospel that are currently available.  I hope we can continue to focus on other issues attacking the family, including mending relationships that have been broken because of this complex trial.  I hope more LGB members of the Church will feel comfortable coming out and soliciting support from their family members and church groups.  Miraculously, I feel like I am in a better place to support my friends in each of their decisions.  I feel like I would attend a same-sex wedding if I were invited (I still think it would be nice for one of my North Star brothers to come along and hold my hand).  I did not feel this way before.  Maybe some of it is because of the stress and anticipation leading up to the ruling.  I believe some of it is divine intervention.

I do believe there are more trials ahead.  I think there will be those who still cling to old ways of thinking about homosexuality…that the whole realm is an abomination.  There will also be those on the complete opposite end who scream as loud as possible (figuratively speaking) to persuade church leaders to embrace same-sex marriage.  The battle is not over.

I’m also still trying to figure out my own life (as we all are).  I know that there are blessings that lie ahead.  I hope I can be more open about who I am and that it will be a little less awkward.  I also know there will be opposition.  I know that if I pursue a relationship with a woman, I will have people judging me and warning me.  I also know that if I pursue some sort of relationship with a man, I will have people judging me and warning me.  I just have to accept that as part of my world.  I’m hoping that I will have friends and support either way.  I do want to keep my temple covenants, but I also have to remember that I shouldn’t be keeping my covenants to please others or earn respect from them.  I need to keep my covenants for God.  It has been wonderful to have support from other “covenant-keeping queers,” and I daresay that I will need that support in the future, but I also know my ultimate source of support needs to be my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Once again, I am grateful for my circumstances.  I’m grateful to be traveling with some of the best people in the world, declaring our testimonies in song.  While much of the world is changing at a rapid pace, I know that God is there and that His love for His children does not change.  I also know He is in charge and that He can make something good out of all this.  I hope we can all strive to seek God’s will and follow Him.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

LGB and T and the Hope of the Gospel

I had a short talk with an institute teacher this last week.  She mentioned that same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria (two very different situations) are challenges not just for those who experience them, but for everyone.  I firmly agreed.

Everyone in the LDS Church will have to come to terms with these realities, whether it be through someone in their family, in their ward or a non-member neighbor or friend.  These challenges, which lie at the core of who we are, test both our ability to love and our ability to adhere to gospel principles in our own lives.  They force us to question whether our testimonies are where we thought they were.  They cause us to dig a little deeper and prayerfully seek out further guidance in understanding the commandments and doctrine, particularly regarding eternity, compassion, gender, sexuality and marriage.  They help us see eternal principles in a different light.  They force us to examine what is culture and what is doctrine.  We have to ask ourselves, "Would I feel comfortable doing this in the presence of the Savior?" "Will this decision jeopardize my salvation?" "Am I treating my gay friend the way the Savior would?" "Is distancing myself or arguing with my gay brother helping him know that I love him?" "Am I helping my transgender friend by insisting that she is a woman and nothing else?"

We all have to come to our own understanding, but I want to share how the gospel has helped me make sense of my situation...

One of the many things I love about the gospel of Jesus Christ is an eternal perspective.  Eternity is long and mortality is short.  From President Uchtdorf: "As mortals, we are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers" (April 2013 General Conference).  Even though we have a glorious Plan of Salvation, we don't have the entire picture.  We don't know exactly what we were like before this life, and we don't fully understand what will happen after this life.

We usually talk about an eternal perspective when it comes to making decisions going forward and relying on finding more answers in the next life.  I have a lot of hope in knowing that everything will be perfected in the next life and that I will have a wife and children.  I'm learning that there are many aspects of my sexuality that I can use for righteous purposes, such as building up the kingdom of God and helping others love themselves.  Therefore, I don't like to think of being fixed or healed from same-sex attraction, rather that this quality of mine will be perfected and added upon.  Either way, God will make things right.  I've been learning a lot about the transgender experience.  I have been blessed by hearing their stories and how they are reconciling their feelings with an eternal perspective.  Some of the men have chosen to still identify as male, but if in the next life they find that their spirit is female, God will figure everything out.  Some have transitioned in various ways (not surgery, in most cases), and having been guided by the Lord in their decisions, they also know that everything will be made right in the eternities.  It makes so much sense to me, and it seems so much easier to reconcile to the Proclamation than homosexuality ("Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose," and we also live in a fallen world).

But what about our life before this one, before we had bodies?

There are many studies out there trying to eek out proof of whether people are born gay or whether it is something they acquire through outside influences.  When presented with this question, my answer is, "It doesn't matter!"  All I know is that upon reflection, I had these feelings and tendencies when I was three years old.  It is of little use to try and examine any slight mistake that my parents may have made in their parenting that made me gay.  I don't mind saying I was born this way.  Being gay doesn't rob me of my agency.  It doesn't keep me from the blessings of the gospel.  I was given this quality, and I can choose whether to use it for good or ill.  I had a wonderful priesthood leader present the possibility that fifteen minutes ago in God's time, I was in a heavenly exit interview where I agreed to take on the responsibility of being a gay Mormon.  Within this context, sure, I CHOSE to be gay, but certainly not in this life.

Another way I've had to use my faith is in determining what is cultural and what is doctrine.  Since I am gay, I need men.  It's just how I'm wired.  I do not need to break the law of chastity, but I do need emotional, spiritual and non-sexual physical connection (ever wonder why we have Elders' Quorums?).  In our culture, there is so much about male affection that has been sexualized.  It seems like guys can't hold hands or snuggle up next to each other without setting off hundred's of gaydars.  Even if they are gay, does it always have to suggest a sexual relationship?  Does it always have to mean the same thing as the affection shown between a married man and woman?  Is it really immoral, or does it just make some people feel uncomfortable?  I know that it really shouldn't matter what other people think (but still...).  I can imagine holding hands with or being held by my Savior.  I can also imagine the same with a man who exhibits Christlike qualities and who shares my eternal perspective.  I pose a similar question in regards to people struggling with gender identity issues.  Is it really immoral for a transgender female (biologically male) to wear female clothing as a means to settle her dysphoria, or has our culture equated clothing with worthiness?

If I were straight, I probably wouldn't have been prompted to study and pray earnestly about the Proclamation to the World.  I wouldn't understand how foretelling that document really is.  I wouldn't understand why the family is such an important fundamental of society, and that it's not just about personal morality and personal happiness.  Everyone has their agency and their personal choices should be respected, but if that was all that was at stake, then prophets wouldn't be talking about it as much (Even in defending traditional marriage, I have to realize that I can only share my thoughts, and then rely on my faith in the Atonement and an eternal perspective with whatever happens in the legal's going to be difficult to see some of my friends get married).

If I didn't have my experience with same-sex attraction, would I be completely anti-gay?  Would I drive them away from the Church?  On the complete opposite end, would I be a major advocate for same-sex marriage, giving into my compassionate side without having much understanding?  Such questions are a testimony to me that I am exactly where God wants me to be.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

When I Walk Imperfectly

Sorry, no.  This isn't some flowery post about how we all need to love each other and not judge.  That's still true, but it's too general for me.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sing "Lord, I would Follow Thee."  It's a beautiful, meaningful song, but with the words, "Who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly?," I now feel anger and confusion.  Sometimes I think, "what does this even mean anymore?"  I thought about those who would hear those words and think of us as a bunch of hypocrites, a bunch of judgmental Mormon bigots.  That may be true for some, but to be frank, the most common judgment I see thrown around is...wait for it...accusing others of being judgmental!!!

I understand the principle, that we shouldn't point out other peoples' flaws as if we don't have our own, but in today's world, in seems like some people twist the ideas of "don't judge" and "unconditional love" to mean whatever they want.  To be honest, I'm not sure what unconditional love is supposed to feel like.  In the gay Mormon world, does that mean I have to support marriage redefinition?  Does it mean that I should feel the same spirit in a liberal gay group as I would in a moderate or conservative gay group?  Does it mean I should feel the same spirit at a same-sex wedding as I would at a wedding for a man and a woman or a sealing in the temple?

I'm sure there would be many who'd love to tell me how they want Christlike love to be.  Some may tell me that I should be charitable and support legal actions to make every loving relationship the same because it doesn't affect me and my future marriage.  Others may tell me that I should shove the gospel down peoples' throats because I should be concerned about their eternal salvation.  I think it's somewhere in the middle.  I like what Elder Holland had to say in the April 2014 General Conference:

"“What would Jesus do?” will not always bring a popular response.
At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once)."

I don't think anyone knows how to love as perfectly as Christ did.  It must be a perfect balance between loving and spending time with his disciples and at the same time, not condoning sin.   I don't think it's fair to call out others for being un-Christlike and judgmental.  Do we really know what their intentions are?  It may be appropriate sometimes, but not as often as we do it.  I've come to the conclusion that no matter what I say or do, someone will be offended and think I'm judging them.  I'm not perfect.  I'm judgmental because I'm a Mormon.  I'm judgmental because I'm a human being.  Sometimes I think in the context of the song above: "Who am I to open my mouth at all when I walk imperfectly?"  I don't think that's what the Savior had in mind.

I can't help but wonder if teachings like "don't judge" and "love the sinner, hate the sin" were meant for our own improvement, and not to be shot at others.  Instead of making sure other people aren't judging, I wonder if we are supposed to make sure that we are doing our best to not make unrighteous judgments, even though others may think we are.  Instead of meeting others' requirements for unconditional love and being nonjudgmental, I think it's more important to seek God's counsel in understanding these commandments. 

I hope this relates, but President Uchtdorf, at the recent April 2015 General Conference, talked about grace and obedience.  We are all saved by grace. "Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God." Yet why should we keep the commandments? "Brothers and sisters, we obey the commandments of God—out of love for Him!"  That really spoke to me.  I shouldn't be obeying solely to be an example to others.  I shouldn't be obeying because I want all my friends to obey with me (although it is wonderful to have friends who are on a similar path as I am).  I should be obeying primarily because I love the Lord.

I have found that as I grow closer to the Lord and strive to be more firm in my testimony of what is right...I am naturally more inclined to love others.  I feel more love and less judgment.  Nevertheless, because I do walk imperfectly, I might make judgments from time to time.  I probably made a lot of judgments in this blog post!  But I'm trying.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Let Your Light Shine Forth!

In the Saturday morning session of General Conference (April 2015), Elder L. Tom Perry gave a talk on the family.  He referred to The Family: A Proclamation to the World as well as a worldwide conference on the family, which was held in the Vatican, and it included religious leaders from all over the world.  He discussed the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and how the family, within that context, is a fundamental building block of society.  I believe in this doctrine.  It makes sense to me, and combined with other General Conference talks about eternal perspective, it gives me so much hope.  It might seem like a paradox, a gay man saying something like that, but it certainly is not a paradox for me.

While listening, however, I was painfully aware of others who are gay (or same-sex attracted) who may not share my perspective or have a similar amount of hope.  I thought about how there might be some discouragement, loneliness, or anger.  There may be others who have gay family members, or who simply struggle with the doctrine on marriage.  I assure you that God's plan for families, as outlined in the Proclamation, does not exclude any of His children who seek to follow Him.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson, later on the same day, also talked about marriage.  He mentioned same-sex attraction, and other situations that may prevent someone from getting married and/or having children in this life.  He reassured us that God seeks to bless us with all He has.  The lack of ability or desire to be married in this mortal life does not in any way decrease your worth to Heavenly Father.  He has blessed you with unique talents and abilities that you can use to bless others and to help build the Kingdom of God.

I invite you to the 2015 North Star Conference, where you can learn how to "let your light shine forth" as a "gay" member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You can become a part of a community of amazing brothers and sisters who know what you are going through and who want to help you.  You can learn how to open up, live more authentically and develop a network of support within your own family and within your own ward.  You do not have to give up forming wholesome and loving relationships with those of your own gender.  You can live a covenant life, not in spite of your attractions, but through embracing them in ways that are in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Just like everyone who strives to follow Christ, there are some sacrifices involved, but that does not mean you need to suppress who you are.

Equally important are the resources available to spouses, families, therapists and church leaders.  For more information, and to register, please see (Prices increase on April 11, as the conference is being held in the Utah Valley Convention Center).

I am grateful to have found a community of support.  I am thankful to have friends who understand me, and who also want to live the gospel.  I am always inspired when we go to the temple together.  I mean...a bunch of "gays and lesbians" serving in the temple together?  I look forward to those numbers growing.  More importantly, I am grateful for the Savior and for the opportunity I have had to grow closer to Him through my experience with same-sex attraction. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Smaller Minority: Gays for Traditional Marriage

I've had something on my mind for the last couple weeks. It's actually been tormenting me here and there, and worst of all, it's been distracting me during my morning scripture study. I know that the "right" answer is to let it go and let God handle it, but sometimes it's helpful to get it out in the open.

A couple years ago, I had a rather significant experience that was pivotal in my understanding of why the nuclear family is so important, not only in the Church, but in society. It helped me understand why Church leaders got so involved in legal processes, even if it was done imperfectly. This experience I was kind of sacred, and I struggle explaining it or knowing if I should even share it. It had to do with the Proclamation to the World, particularly the last few paragraphs.

"Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity...

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."

The part about the family being a "fundamental unit of society" made me think about a foundation. A building needs a foundation. It doesn't matter if that building is liberal, conservative, God-fearing/loving or atheist. If that building doesn't have its foundation, it will not last. In comparing this to society...I believe the doctrine on the family transcends politics, perceived civil rights, and even personal morality.  (And don't even think that I'm suggesting that marriage redefinition is the sole thing contributing to the disintegration of the family unit, although it is not exempt.  There is so much more.  One way Satan is also attacking the family is parents and siblings intentionally severing ties with their gay family members.)

That opened my eyes to what the rest of the Proclamation is teaching. It teaches the ideal family situation. A family with a married man and woman is the best place to raise children, especially when based on principles of the gospel (this is true for other religions too). I would think even gay children need a mom and a dad! Not all of us will have our own families. Some of us are gay and do not see marriage in this lifetime, some are infertile and some have disabilities that prevent them from getting married.  Heck!  Some of us don't even know what gender God intended for us to be!  Anyway, love and companionship is important in a marriage, but that's not the only reason we have marriage as defined by God. It is for growing and replenishing the earth, possibly to keep societies alive and healthy. And for those of us who aren't married or who do not have children, we will see those blessings come forth as we are faithful.  In fact, I believe this applies to anyone in any situation who strives to turn toward the Savior, even some people in same-sex relationships.

Anyway, I always thought it was ridiculous when I heard about members of the Church facing discipline for supporting gay marriage when they were otherwise living faithful lives. I could understand the conflict, but I think some leaders acted too hastily. But in my case, now that Elder Christofferson has made some clarifications on that (which I'm not complaining about), it has caused me to question my own experience. I honestly felt that in voicing or silently supporting the nuclear family and "traditional" marriage, I was following the prophets and sustaining them. I felt like I was doing what was right. I'd like to think that my experience was something more than just a manifestation of my "conservative" views.

(TANGENT!  Some people don't like the terms "gay" and "straight."  Well, I don't like the terms "conservative" and "liberal" in many situations.  I'm "liberal" because I'm gay, and for some reason, same-sex attraction is a liberal concept.  I'm also "conservative" because of my LDS values.  Really, I'm just trying to learn about God.)

I still believe in what the Proclamation says, and I hope my experience with it was of God and that it was in line with what the prophets say. The main part of this post is...sometimes I feel a a gay Mormon who doesn't support marriage redefinition ("a smaller minority," if you will). In a world that tells me that the ultimate measure of Christlike love is to support gay marriage and that I'm branded a "homophobic judgmental bigot" if I don''s tough to hear that and stick with the revelation I have received. Please keep in mind, I'm not talking about people, as much as ideals and values.  I would hope that as I strive to walk with those who do not agree with me or who live different lifestyles, I would hope they would also walk with me, as I try to figure out the messages I have received.

I value my gayness and I also value the teachings on the family. Nothing matches the marriage relationship (of course, I'm talking about good, healthy marriage relationships). Defining marriage between a man and a woman in no way lessens my worth as a human being.  It does NOT make me second class, and it doesn't demean the love I have for other men. We don't need marriage and sex to find intimacy, companionship and love. I still believe there is a lot about homosexuality that is divine, and I'm grateful for that blessing.

I've opened up my mind and heart to the many ways people reconcile their faith and feelings. We often hear that there's not a one-size-fits-all answer, especially when it comes to LGBT issues. I'd even say that's true even when keeping temple covenants and maintaining an eternal perspective. I'm doing better with how I feel about others in the LGBT community. But I still haven't shaken the feelings I've had about the family.  Even if I were to pursue some form of same-sex relationship, I doubt I would forget that manifestation.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Homosexuality...A Sin?

(Note: This is written from the perspective of a gay Latter-day Saint insert the appropriate pronouns for women.  Also, as a reminder, terms like "homosexual" and "gay" are words that I use simply to refer to the experience of same-sex attraction).

No, I’m not questioning the law of chastity, nor am I questioning marriage between a man and a woman.  I also still believe it is important to avoid the traps of pornography and lust.  Nevertheless, why is it that when we hear the words “gay” or “homosexual,” we automatically think, “Sin! Sin! Sex! Sin!?”  Why is it that when we see two guys with their arms around each other, holding hands, or hugging for more than one second, we automatically think that (1) they are gay and (2) that they are in a sexual or romantic relationship?  I’ve been guilty of assuming the same.

In my frequenting on social media, I’ve come across several debates surrounding same-sex marriage or the origins of same-sex attraction.  I see comments ranging from “Homosexuality is a sin,” to “No, homosexuality is not a sin,” and I often wonder, “Do these people even know what they're talking about?”  One person might be talking about lust and sex, while the other may be talking about all the other stuff that comes along with homosexuality, such as affection, emotional connection and deep friendship.  I think it’s time to explain what we mean when we say these terms. If you believe sexual behavior between two of the same-sex is wrong, say it that way.  If you believe the terms "gay" and "homosexual" should be reserved to describe that kind of sexual sin, that is OK...just explain what you mean.  Many people use these terms simply to describe their feelings of same-sex attraction.  The dictionary definitions are also rather ambiguous.  Please don't say "I don't approve of homosexuality" and just leave it at that.

Homosexuality isn’t going anywhere.  It's not just a matter of recovering from lust and pornography.  Many have tried therapy.  Many have tried marriage to get rid of their same-sex attractions.  Many have prayed night after night to be released from this ever-present conflict between their sexuality and their faith.  I do know of very few circumstances where people have experienced a shift in their attractions, but they did not do it through any of the above.  It just happened as they moved along in life.

Have we stopped to consider that there may be a purpose for homosexuality other than just a trial to be endured?  Have we considered that there may be something divine about the love that can exist between two of the same gender and how Satan has now come along and sexualized a bunch of it?  Is it possible that many who experience same-sex attraction, no matter what their current choices are, possess certain divine attributes that others may not have?  People are often surprised at how kind and gentle gay people can be.  Many of us simply want to press forward in the gospel, make the same covenants, and enjoy the fellowship of our brothers and sisters.  Nevertheless, we still have intimate needs that can only be met through healthy interaction with other men, gay or straight.  The Church does not recommend getting married to cure same-sex attraction.  However, some gay men do marry women, and it has worked as they have been open and honest with their wives.  Even then, they still need their guy time.

We live in a fallen world.  Many don't like it when same-sex attraction is compared to a disorder, addictive tendency or another mortal condition, but I don't mind such comparisons when one is seeking to understand.  In a well-known scripture, Ether 12:27, we read "I make weak things become strong unto them."  Sure, I might be deficient in that I'm not able to love women in ways a lot of other guys do.  I might struggle with questions about what my purpose is or where I fit in God's plan, but in return, God has blessed me with an increased ability to love other men.  

I am grateful to have found a community of brothers (and sisters...I love you too) who experience same-sex attraction, and who live within the standards of the Church.  I love them very much.  Some of my greatest spiritual experiences are when we gather at firesides (see  I invited a friend from a previous ward to attend one of these firesides.  One of his observations was that we love God, and we love each that order.  I also enjoy gathering with these brothers and sisters in the temple.  Just endowment session highly populated by gays and lesbians?  What an amazing sight (not everyone identifies with those terms, but seriously...)!  What on Earth is so sinful about that?

This is a spiritual journey for me.  I'm not really in tune with what science has to say about sexuality.  I know that it's all over the place and most likely based on the beliefs of the researchers (this is one reason I'm grateful for gospel truths).  I can't speak for all gay Mormons, but the debate surrounding being "born this way" is rather irrelevant to me.  When someone asks me if I think I was born this way, I just say "It doesn't matter.  God has given me commandments to keep." 

Maybe someday science will find a way to safely transition from one orientation to another, but if given the choice, I'm not sure I would want to.  I've seen so many blessings in my life from accepting this part of myself.  I'm developing great friendships with other men where there is a mutual, God-like love.  I'm learning more about what it's like to love others as Jesus loves them.  I feel like all this is inseparably connected with my same-sex attraction.  Sure, I still have sexual urges from time to time (like most anyone else...believe it or not, people actually struggle with their heterosexuality), but actual sexual attraction is just a small part of the bundle of what makes me me. 

When I think about the resurrection and receiving perfect bodies, I like to think that we'll all be attracted to each other in the exact ways God intended for us to be.  I don't think of being made "straight" as much as being made right.  My heterosexual desires will be perfected, while others (maybe on the homophobic end) may have their homosexual desires perfected (or more like homo-emotional, homo-affectionate, homo-spiritual, if you will).  I 100% believe in a family consisting of a husband, a wife and children.  I also believe that all who are faithful to God will have one of their own in the eternities.  However, I also believe that in Heaven there will be some great friendships and loving associations between members of the same gender.  One of my friends described it as celestial brotherhood.  I believe homosexuality, when utilized within the bounds the Lord has set, is a glimpse of what that celestial brotherhood will look like.  With that perspective, how can I possibly think of the whole realm of homosexuality being sinful?

Now, there is a chance that I'm way off track with this.  It's very possible that homosexuality is nothing more than a trial to be endured or a weakness to be overcome.  I don't have it all figured out yet.  Other gay people don't have it all figured out.  Gay men who have married women don't have it all figured out.  Prophets and apostles, although they have a bigger view than we do, and it would be in our best interest to follow them, they don't have homosexuality figured out.  Therefore, I don't see why anyone else would have it all figured out either.  I love having prophets and apostles.  I feel safe and at peace when I heed their counsel.  I feel like they, along with many of us, are continually learning about this "complex reality" (  Elder Ballard, in the October 2014 General Conference, compared Zion to a boat, where by following the prophets, we "stay in it and hold on!"  I believe in this, and there are many in the gay community who believe this as well.  I invite you to visit our corner of the boat every once in a while and learn with us.