Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nothing Wavering

The March issue of the Ensign contains Pres. Monson's message, "Come unto Him in Prayer and Faith." As Pres. Monson typically tends to be, it is anecdotal in its stories and message. In the midsection of the article, 'Accepting His Invitation,' Pres. Monson refers to James 1:5-6 and Joseph Smith's prayer and First Vision. He then points to many other scriptural examples of people qualifying for blessings as a result of the fervant prayer of faith. His repeated use of the phrase 'nothing wavering' has caused me to reflect on the role of my faith, or lack of it, in my own personal experience. Sadly, I confess that much of me questions, bobbs up and down, and struggles to get it right, nothing wavering.

When I was a fresh convert to the Mormon faith, 15 months to be exact, I entered the mission field to serve the Lord. That was the scariest leap of faith I have ever taken. I left the weeping embrace of my divorced mother, who didn't want me to go. But I felt this was what the Lord wanted me to do, and in retrospect, I'm thankful to have served and loved the people of California as a missionary. It was a marvelous time of spiritual awakening and maturing for me. But, unlike the glowing example capstoning Pres. Monson's article, my most fervant prayer of faith was never realized. Like Pres. Monson, my Mission President promised me that if I worked hard, prayed hard and was worthy, then my family too would come into the church. Oh, if this were possible! To see my parents reunite our family in faith and for us all to be sealed in the Temple! This was the stuff of my naive dreams, my fondest heartfelt hope, my most earnest and oft repeated prayer. So, what went wrong? Did that one time I masturbated on my mission spoil it all?

What does Faith mean to me? How is faith the same or different from hope? Having just read the First Presidency Message, these were the questions I pondered last Sunday during the quiet time of the sacrament. To me, I need other words to help me convey the concept of faith: words such as 'trust' or 'confidence' relate to me the feelings I have for Heavenly Father and the Savior and their love for me. Joseph taught that faith is the product of experience--I believe that, and it jives with my observations in life. I can completely have faith or trust in God, because of the repeated feelings of the heart and ideas of the mind they have revealed unto me. I do not doubt them. I believe in the inspiration of the eternal nature of the soul, that we lived before earth, and will continue to progress in the lives to come.

Trust is something that must be constant; you cannot partially trust someone. I trust Jesus, nothing wavering. I trust in the power of goodness, faith and love, nothing wavering.

I struggle to say this, but I no longer trust in the church, that it has or will make inspired policies that directly impact my life or others. I trust the scriptures and the doctrine, but I don't always trust the interpretation thereof. . . I don't always trust the culture and the leaders who support it. When someone breaks a trust, then faith is a hard thing to restore, because faith is a product of our experience. I believed the church when they said that I could 'overcome' my SSA, and that it would go away when I got married; my personal experience has proved otherwise. And I have come to realize my spiritual experiences in living and loving Gospel virtues doesn't always align with the historical and current actions of church leaders. The poor treatment of intellectuals and feminists and the recent events of the church's attack on gay marital rights is front and center for me in my skepticism of the claim that "it's ALL inspired of God."

On the otherhand, Hope is something I'm more flexible with. Hope is in the best wishes department for me. I hope for joy and peace in this life, and then for a glorious resurrection--I'm not sure what such will entail, because that has yet to be determined by my kind Redeemer. But I trust him, believe him, that it will be the right reward for me, whatever it is. Hope doesn't have to measure up to my expectations or timetable. I can be disappointed and still have hope that things will work out in the end. Hope is a great motivator for me, it plays to my desires, my willingness to sacrifice for something better. And I hope in a more positive future for the church, that it will learn from its mistakes, grow to be more inclusive and diverse, and overcome the prejudices and stigma of my generation. So I am willing to stick with the church and do my part to establish Zion, the pure in heart, in preparation of the Lord's Second Coming. I do have faith that He is coming, and I hope He won't be too upset with me and the rest of us sinners in His church.

This last week my LDS faithful aunt passed away. She has lived a long life of devotion to the church and her family. She had great influence on me joining the church and going on a mission. I have loved her dearly my entire life. As I matured as an adult, I became more aware of my aunt's imperfections, but I adored her just the same. I have witnessed her trials of faith, much of which were due to her sometimes rigid views of what was best. And I also saw how those trials humbled and schooled her sensitivities and blind spots, just like my own weaknesses do for me. My aunt was a grand lady who loved the Lord; she showed me by her example how to employ faith, hope and testimony. She exemplified that 'Nothing Wavering' kind of faith, for good and ill, that we cling to in our religous and spiritual lives.

My family has asked me to read some of my poems at the graveside service. I"ll read Face Towards Zion, Prairie Wind, and Outstretched Hand, because these were all poems my aunt loved. And just for the occassion, I wrote this poem for you, my dear Aunt Beth: may you rest now, in peace.

Nothing Wavering

She looks into the mirrors of her eternity, nothing wavering,
Firm in her vast hope of bright reflections that do not end.
Yet, the image of her desire curves away into deep green
Cosmos, where Life is bent into refractions that do not go

Straight, do not always conform to her will. Yet, she follows
Those bending beams of light, nothing wavering, through a
Veil of confidence that leads her onward path, and warps her
Chosen reality into the vision she dreams of when we are near.

She laughs in the day and weeps in the night. Unaware,
We ran to her arms to be enfolded in her soft bosom, endless
As the night in its comfort, then hung on for just one more hug.
Her squeeze was always there, tight and nothing wavering.

Yet, laced in loss, she hangs on fiercely as we mature into our
Own gospel dreams, the practice of our lives, where the agency
She treasures for us turns us at times away from her dreams,
And once again she is alone with her babies, nursing tears.

She sings to us the songs of Zion, her beloved. So let us dance,
Let us paint, let us teach stories of faith and persistence, for we
Are the family of her choosing. We're the ones she fried tacos for,
We are the few she took out her teeth for on our birthdays!

She still winks and chuckles at her jokes. But wait, there's just
One more story she must tell you before you leave: it's always
Roughly the same--it is her story of Joseph, her story of Jesus,
The story of her life and her love for you, nothing wavering.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gecko Revealed

"My name is Ron, and I'm a Gecko."

A little of the life and mind of Geckoman. Since I am 'coming out of the closet' and back into the world of public introspection, I thought I might share more of who I am and where I'm coming from. Such a statement of faith and purpose might help those stumbling upon my blog to construct a more complex picture of who this reptile guy is.

We moved to Arizona in January of 2006. I became fascinated with the little geckos that crawled up and down the cement block wall in our backyard. You could only see them when they moved. Often they would stay in the same place, just bobbing up and down. So I wrote a poem about it, wherein I compared myself to the little animal, going up and down in the same place. We live in a double world, as married gays in the Mormon church. Many of the faithful I know might be repulsed to learn that I am attracted to men; many might find it hard to touch or endear my little reptilian friend as well. But on a personal note, I too am often frustrated by myself, that I can't seem to control my thoughts and that I make choices for behaviors that are on the edge. So I find myself bobbing up and down, drawing attention to my own condition. However, like the Gecko, my bouncing behavior has a purpose: it cools me down and tones my strength and coordination.

As the years have moved on, and now that I've read and learned of other's common Moho experiences through the bloggosphere, I see that I'm not all that peculiar and many 'struggle' in similar ways that I do. I have become more accepting and loving of myself, and less judgemental and homophobic of others. Like others, I realize that I have known from childhood that I was a bit different, or processed things differently than most other guys. I began to especially notice this in junior high school, as I bloomed into puberty, yet I refused to acknowledge that I had anything 'gay' going on. I just chalked it up as I've always been a sensitive, creative kind of guy.

I joined the church when I was 18, and that set me back in coming to terms with my homosexuality. But that was probably for the good, since it trained me to live asexually for a few years, until I met my wife at BYU and married her. (And I am truly thankful for her and my wonderful children.) I believed the church's rhetoric that my SSA was a consequence of the sinful choices I had made, and that I would grow out of it when I got married and could have regular sex. The married sex was good, but with that increased sexual activity I also found an increased hunger for men and to be accepted as a man. However, I never went 'all the way' sexually with another man, although I could have a couple of times cruising for some kind of connection. For many years I programmed my life to be absorbed in work and family and church, and simply shut out my feelings of attraction. I'm less willing to do that now, and have chosen a path to understand my heart better, and still love the Lord for it all.

I am a man of practised faith. I know of God's goodness through personal experience, even though I have suffered injustices when it comes to finances and employment and what some people do to each other. My heart is more tender, I've chosen to be more accepting of those things I cannot change and empathetic to the plights of people struggling in a world of pride and indifference. I hope that I can overcome my own pride and enmity towards the Lord, submitting to his will more freely. I struggle with cynicism and critical thinking when it comes to our shared religion. I want to believe that it is all directed by revelation, but I suspect that many times the Lord is willing to let us evolve slowly as a people and a culture, allowing our church leaders the bias and prejudice of their tradition. I also acknowlege that change is a matter of timing, and the Lord will direct events as the saints are willing or able to embrace change. We saints are not always as humble and loving as we would like to think we are.

I'm distressed by the church's role in the whole Prop 8 controversy, and in general it's lack of inclusiveness towards gays, feminists and intellectuals. What a shame, what a loss of human resource available to build a more global and powerful body of Christ. I see much of the church's singular attitudes as a power struggle to maintain the status quo: well-intending, but entirely convicted men denying those with different political/social/spiritual agendas a seat at the Lord's table. I fear at times that our leaders are not being led by divine revelation, but I have hope that eventually the Lord will make His will known in more conclusive ways and that the church will be more receptive to follow. I guess time will tell, and I remain in the church, on the side of safety, ignoring the prejudice and trying to work on my own personal agendas of faith, hope and charity, praying for better understanding while also trying to develop stronger integrity.

Within the last couple years I lost my job and most of my financial securities. I am far from alone in this messed up economy. As I have confided previously, most of these things are merely 'accessories' anyway, and not the important stuff of life. But praise God, the Lord has been aware of the little Geckos on the wall, and I am truly blessed to again have a wonderful job doing what I love, and to be 'home at last' in the beautiful place of my nativity. I feel we are where we are in life for a purpose and reason. To think otherwise is to accept that life is nothing but chaos, and I know in small and simple ways that God lives and loves me, the little Gecko.

Slowly but surely I will become known as a gay and yet faithful man in the church. I don't intend to broadcast my orientation carelessly to whoever will listen, but I will talk about it if asked. People may find my blog and the word may spread. I care only to love and be courageous in I what I believe to be the cause of truth. I have nothing to hide anymore, and I'm not ashamed of who I am. I don't want to be known only as that gay guy who loves music and ice cream, but I'm willing to take the risk. Hopefully I'll continue to be able to serve the Lord and to help to advance His purposes, relying wholly upon the mercies of Him who is mighty to save.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I admit I giggled out loud with wicked delight when I saw this bumper sticker the other day:

"JESUS LOVES YOU, but I'm his favorite!"

What a coy little thing to say. It's funny because it's close to the truth, even though it stings just a bit as an afterthought. However, the more I've thought about it, the less funny and cute it is. I'm sure it never was intended to be social commentary on what's wrong with religion, so maybe I should just lighten up, but actually it's been kind of an 'en-lightning' rod for me.

In just a few words this little statement effectively points out to me why I'm uncomfortable with my church's veiled attitude with gay folks. . . or feminists, or Democrats, for that matter. It's that righteous knowing you're better than someone or something else. And you know it's true because everyone else believes it too.

But it's not just Mormons who do this kind of thing. Oh no, we certainly have no exclusive franchise on self-righteousness. We can easily see it expressed by other 'saved' religions or maybe Muslim extremists, but what about by political parties, by movie star celebrities, by our devotion to super-premium brands, or even by the 'gay agenda'? It's that whole 'I'm Right and you're Wrong' mentality. And the truth is I find little ways to practice it myself, just about everyday.

So now I'm making a conscious effort to catch myself at it. I'm trying not to be better than you, or smarter than you, or sexier than you, any more. And Jesus, I don't want to be your favorite. I just want to be one of the billions you know and love, who also loves you too.