Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Failure or Success?

The other day I read a comment on Beck’s blog (not from Beck, but someone else) that really hurt my feelings. I tried not to let it affect me, but it did. The comment implied that because of the choices I have made I was selfish and had deserted God and was rejecting Christ’s sacrifice for me. It made me feel terrible, as I’m sure you would imagine, and it made me feel like a failure as a Mormon. Being somewhat of a perfectionist in my life, I have always tried to excel at those things that I feel I am good at and improve those things in which I am not as naturally gifted. I believe the point the person who made the comment was trying to make was that because it was me who made these choices that may very well warrant my excommunication, it was my own fault that I am in the position I am currently in and that by putting my selfish desires above God’s laws, I have no one to blame but myself. I was feeling so sad. I’ve been so happy for the last three years and I had not felt such an intense sadness since before I met and fell in love with Jonah and came out of the closet. It certainly reminded me of a place I don’t want to return to. But it did make me feel like I had failed as a Mormon. Try as I might, I just haven’t been able to be the Mormon I once thought I ought to be, and that thought depressed me…for a time.
As I thought about it and prayed about it, I began to look at the successes I’ve had as a Mormon. I was a good missionary. I had quite a bit of success as a missionary. Many of the people I taught or knew on my mission are still good friends. One guy I taught and baptized served a mission himself and was married in the temple and has kids of his own that he and his wife are raising in the gospel. A guy I knew at school (where I met Jonah) converted to Mormonism and told me my example and demeanor were one of the factors that helped him be interested in the faith in the first place. I know several people who changed their perception of Mormons from negative to positive after meeting me. I don’t say that in a boastful way. I don’t think I’ve done anything special other than just be myself, but that is what several friends have told me. I taught Primary kids and think I had a good influence on them. I taught good lessons as an Elders’ Quorum second counselor and as a Priesthood teacher. Many people have told me that talks I gave or testimonies I bore or songs I sang in church moved them or inspired them or helped them in some way. I think those people who don’t know of my issues with homosexuality would likely view me as a very good Mormon just based on what they think they know about me. I’ve defended the Church and continue to defend it. My testimony has remained intact in spite of any mortal shortcomings. People often tell me what a nice person I am. I still pray. I still love God. I still try to be Christ-like in the best wasy I know how. These are just a few examples of how I feel I have succeeded in not just Mormonism, but my own Christianity. If it were all about “ME, ME, ME,” as the commentator implied, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have just abandoned the Church altogether.
The fact is this person does not know me or my heart the way I know Heavenly Father does. I do not feel I’ve abandoned God at all. In many ways, I actually feel I’ve drawn closer to him. I find it discouraging at times when people harshly judge a situation they do not understand and condemn somebody without ever having walked in his or her shoes.
The next day I woke up, and all of the negative feelings and sadness I had felt the night before had completely disappeared, and as I thought about it more and continued to pray, it was just confirmed to me that this is where I need to be right now regardless of the possible consequences. I am happier now, and this is what I need right now. I was reading a book, and a sentence leaped out at me: “If you’re too cautious to explore things, you miss out on things you need.” A voice said to my soul, “This is what you need right now.” Another book I am reading which discusses the brain had a paragraph that struck me. It said: “When a person gets treatment that doesn’t work, either because the diagnosis is wrong or the operating theory of the therapist is outdated, things get worse. People wonder, ‘What is wrong with me? Am I not trying hard enough? Am I not meant to be happy or well? I am even a failure at getting help for myself.’ I have found that most people indeed want to be better. When they struggle, it is most often not for a lack of trying, thinking, or motivation. For many people, we as professionals just didn’t have the right answers.”
The above feelings (that something was wrong with me or that I wasn’t trying hard enough or that I was doomed to unhappiness or that I was a failure) plagued me for much of my life. The course of action I was being asked to follow was not working. I grew weary and distraught as a result. I have chosen to take a new course of action, one that is providing me with positive results (at least they feel positive to me), and therefore I feel it is the course I need to take right now.
Through all of this, I have felt Heavenly Father tell me things are going to be okay. I have to trust that He understands the course of my life better than anyone else could, including me.
The clincher was an email I received that very next day (after such a sad night). It was from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while (who knows nothing of my possible excommunication), and it said, “'To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.' When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Concentrate on this sentence... 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.' Something good will happen to you today; something that you have been waiting to hear.” As I read it, I just felt that this is the path I am supposed to be on right now.
There is so much we don’t know that God does know. I have to trust Him. I remember when I was a graduate student, I and some of my colleagues taught acting classes. There was one girl who wanted so badly to be an actress. She was developmentally, physically, and emotionally challenged. She was a nice girl, but she did not have the necessary skills or physical capabilities to be an actress. It didn’t matter how much she wanted it or how hard she tried, she would never be a successful actress. She did not meet the requirements she needed to move on in the program and therefore she was cut. It wasn’t that we didn’t like her or that she wasn’t doing her best; she simply didn’t have the necessary tools required to progress in the program. We thought no less of her and even graded her less harshly than we would have had she been in the same league as someone who did have the necessary skills and capabilities.
Likewise, I could spend my life taking all the ballet classes I wanted, but I will never be a ballet dancer no matter how deeply I would like to be one. Even if I had the proper physique, I do not possess the coordination abilities or grace or certain skills required to excel at ballet dancing. I’ve taken a lot of dance classes in my life, and although I am a better dancer than I once was, even I know that I could never be a ballet dancer. It’s not a talent I have. I even feel like my spirit is an excellent dancer, but has the misfortune of being in a mortal body that does not know how to coordinate the energy required for graceful dancing. I wish I were a terrific natural dancer, but I am not. Choreographers either don’t cast me or hold me to a different movement standard than they do people who are excellent dancers.
I may be wrong, but I have the feeling it is similar with my own situation. My mortal body does not know how to be straight. For many years I desired it ardently and worked my very hardest to make it so. No matter how much I wanted it, no matter how many “classes” I took, no matter how much I tried to follow the course of action the Church asked me to follow to do what was required, I could not make myself be anything but gay. Now that I have accepted that, I am much happier and more at peace with my course in life. It doesn’t make me a bad person that I couldn’t do what was required; it just is. I’ve said repeatedly in this blog that I am doing the best I can under my life’s circumstances, and that will have to be enough. I have felt that my Father in Heaven understands and that He is happy I am happy. That will have to be enough.


Beck said...

"...I am doing the best I can under my life’s circumstances, and that will have to be enough. I have felt that my Father in Heaven understands and that He is happy I am happy. That will have to be enough."

Cody, you are my hero! Thank you for your testimony and convictions. Thank you for sharing this. I know these are hard faught decisions, not quick self-centered acts. You know the Spirit and how it works in your life. You've touched many, many people and have been and will always be a "great Mormon". You have touched my life for the better and I thank you.


kindof said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gay LDS Actor said...

Thanks, Beck. I appreciate that. I just hope my actions don't lead anyone astray. I know these decisions are right for me, and they may be right for others; but they may not be right for everyone. I am glad to know that I have touched your life for the better. That makes me feel happy. That's all I try to do with anyone (although at times I fail just like anybody else).

kindof, nothing you leave in a comment will be directly published unless I allow it to be. You can send me your email address in a comment. I won't publish it, and then I can send you mine. That's the only way I can think of to talk to you directly.

ConservativeRepublican said...

I am not LDS, but I am a Christian and I have a lot of LDS family members and friends. My username is true. I am both conservative and republican, but don't worry, I am not here to judge.

I am also a gay man. My partner and I have plans to marry soon. When that happens, I know that some of my LDS relatives will disown me. It's not that they don't know I'm gay, that's been obvious for years (though they refuse to speak about it when I bring it up), but getting married makes it pretty clear that I'm not going to suddenly turn into a straight person that joins the church with open arms, so I guess that is such a horrible line to cross that it justifies ending all contact with me. I do not have parents (long story), so some of these relatives are people I've been extremely close to for all of my 26 years of life, so yeah, I do cry over the coming loss, but I must be true to myself, my partner, and God.

Hugs, thoughts, and prayers for you. You are a brave man. Most importantly, keep the faith in Christ and God, even if the Church (wrongfully, in my mind) excommunicates you. It is my strong belief that one day the LDS Church will accept homosexual unions with open arms. It is easy to become bitter at those who reject us and from that bitterness it becomes tempting to turn away from the basic tenets of our faith, but I think it's important to realize that most of the people who are not accepting of homosexuals are simply ignorant, not evil, and that God the Father ultimately wants us to be true to ourselves. His love is so, so strong.

May the Lord bless you in all you do. I know it may not mean much coming from someone who is not a member of the Church, but from everything I've read on here, you sound like a great mormon. I'll definitely be following this blog from now on.

ConservativeRepublican said...

To add to my other comment...

I just want to make it clear that while I'm a republican, I am an openly gay man who fights for gay rights and works for change in my party. I just had to clarify that. I don't want you thinking I'm a Larry Craig kind of guy.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Thanks, Conservative, for your thoughts (and don't worry, I won't hold your being a Republican against you ;-) ).

I think it's sad to think that some of your LDS relatives would essentially disown you. I do not understand that mentality. I think it's entirely contrary to what the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches. I have been fortunate that my family, relatives, and friends have been very supportive of me. Even the ones who may not agree with or condone my choices have been really good about it. I feel very blessed in that regard. And that's what I think a big part of the gospel is about: loving people unconditionally.

I promised myself I would not become bitter. I think I'm doing a very good job of that.

Thanks for your support and words. Glad you like the blog.