Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Roadside Miracles

So I went to LA last week to audition for Wicked and to meet with a television producer. I also got to hang out with some friends and even did a couple of touristy things, so it was a fun and productive trip.

About twenty minutes into my trip back to Vegas my beloved car (which I've had for nine years and which has basically been problem free during that time) started to make a sound not unlike the clickity-clack of an old roller coaster. I knew this was not a good sound, and the fact the my battery light was on made me even more ill at ease. I was stuck in slow moving traffic at the time, and the car seemed to be worse when I was driving slowly, so I decided to pull off at the next exit. Not being terribly familiar with the LA area, I didn't really know where I was or where I might find a garage or auto parts store. As I pulled off the exit, I was a bit disheartened to see that I was in a residential area, and my car was not driving with much power, which indicated to me that either my battery was dying or that my alternator was malfunctioning. I turned on the first street and was delighted to run into an auto parts store, so I stopped. It was my hunch that my battery was dying since it was pretty old, so I just bought a new battery and replaced the old one. I am not very mechanical, so this took a bit of time, but the staff there was very nice and lent me some tools (which I ended up buying in case I needed them later).

When I started my car, my battery light was still on, so I asked the man at the auto parts store what else the problem could be. He said it could be my alternator, which he tested. It turned out my alternator was at a 12 when it was supposed to be at a 14.5, but he believed I had enough power to get to Vegas, but suggested I get my alternator replaced once I got there.

I drove out. My car was still not driving well, and it was still making the bad noise when I drove slowly, and my battery light was still on, so I was a bit worried. However, as I picked up speed, the battery light went off and the car seemed to be doing okay, although it still made the noise if I went above 70 mph, so I tried not to do that or shift into another gear while going up hills.

It was my hope to at least make it to Baker, California, where I had to refuel anyway, and which is about 90 miles from Las Vegas. However, about four miles past a small town called Barstow, California (about 98 miles from LA) all the indicators on my dash board went dead, indicating that my battery was no longer running. At first, I didn't realize all systems were dead because I was still coasting at a very high speed. Once I realized my car was dead, I pulled over as far to the side of the road on Interstate 15 as possible.

When I purchased my cell phone, I also purchased the roadside assistance plan in case of just such an emergency. I called the number, and the lady who answered was so kind and helped figure out exactly where I was and gave me the option of a cheaper tow truck that wouldn't get to me for an hour or so or a more expensive tow truck that could reach me within a half hour and also take my car to a garage and me to a hotel. I'm a cheapskate by nature, but I opted for the more expensive option.

I was able to talk to Jonah and my mom while waiting. Jonah got permission to leave work and come meet me in Barstow, where I was being towed. I told Jonah he didn't have to do that, but he insisted. He's a bit of a worry-wart, but I was touched he wanted to come.

True enough, the tow truck came just when it was supposed to. The tow driver was very nice and took my car into the garage and told me how to tell Jonah the easiest way to find me. He also took me to a pretty inexpensive, but nice enough, motel.

I grabbed a bite to eat and watched some Netflix using the free wireless the motel provided. I felt like I was in a movie: a semi-cosmopolitan guy gets stranded in a small town filled with eccentrics and backwards people. Everyone in the town that I met was very nice, but most were also a bit odd, too.

Jonah finally made it a few hours later, and we both fell asleep. It was my birthday the next day (not exactly either of our plans for my birthday, but oh, well), and we went to Denny's while my car was being repaired. It turned out the tension belt was the problem. I guess this is what turns the alternator's rotor and causes it to charge the battery. By my estimation, I drove nearly 98 miles with a loose, but functioning, tension belt, which means I didn't lose any more power in the alternator or the battery.

The damage was nearly $400 (not including the money I had paid for the battery), including towing, replacement of the tension belt, and the replacement of another belt, which was also damaged. Jonah and I were able to get out of town in time for Jonah to get to work that night. He followed me all the way to make sure nothing further happened. The car drove fine, but we did have to stop once to put oil in the car (a minor problem my car has been having that I was already aware of).

Although I ended up spending more on my trip than I had previously intended, I felt very blessed and watched over by the Lord. Finding an auto parts store in a foreign part of town just when I needed it; being able to drive so far with a damaged belt; having a fully charged phone and a roadside assistance plan; getting a reduced fare on the tow because of that plan; breaking down so close to a town with a garage and not breaking down in the middle of nowhere (which is very likely on that trip); having a garage with the necessary parts and them being able to fix it in a short amount of time; having an inexpensive motel so close to said garage as well to places to eat; having Jonah following me to make sure I got home safely; and getting home safely without any complications; having enough money to cover the costs; and being able to have a positive attitude throughout - these were all miracles, and I am grateful and certain that my Father in Heaven was watching out for me.

I still think I will take my car in to have it checked further as I am not sure that all is well with it, and if I can afford it, I may even trade in my car for another one while it is still running relatively well. We'll have to see. But I just wanted to publicly thank my Father in Heaven for keeping a watchful eye out for me. I really appreciated it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Natasha Richardson

As you may know, actress Natasha Richardson died as a result of a head injury while on a beginner's ski course. I do not know why the circumstances of her death have affected me so profoundly, but they have. I was not a particular fan of hers. I mean, I enjoyed her work, but I wasn't enamored of her or anything.

I guess what's really been hard for me was that here was this young, vibrant woman of 45 engaging in a fun activity. She had a husband and kids that she loved and who loved her. Then suddenly she has an accident far more serious than she or anyone around here realizes. She's laughing and joking about it, and everything appears to be okay, but little does she realize that she's dying.

I just find it sad and tragic. I have felt such sadness and sympathy for her husband, sons, sister, and mother. Those poor boys have lost their mother too early. I don't know why it has hit me so hard. I guess it just reminded me how short life can be. Anyone we love can be taken at any moment. I guess we just have to remember to always love and appreciate our loved ones.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big Love

I've never seen the HBO series, "Big Love." When it came out, I was not particularly interested in viewing it mainly because I felt it would probably feed on stereotypes and misperceptions, no matter how well intentioned its actors, producers, and writers may have been. Having never seen an episode, I can't judge at all whether I would like the show or not.

Recently, on last Sunday's episode of the show, parts of a temple endowment ceremony, which is considered very sacred by members of my faith, were shown. The producers and writers felt that what was written and shown were integral to the particular plot points in that particular episode and apparently took great care to treat the ceremony in what they believed to be a sensitive and caring manner. They also apparently consulted with an ex-Mormon who had attended the temple so that they would be able to get details such as costume, set, and writing correct.

I have seen clips on YouTube of both the temple ceremony scene and also a scene depicting a church disciplinary court. Needless to say, it was extremely disturbing to see sacred things depicted by people who have no real concept what they're really about. I do not dispute that the makers of "Big Love" took great care to do their best to depict these things as sensitively as is within their understanding, but the bottom line is that these ordinances and procedures (as is the case with the church court scene) cannot truly be understood or appreciated by someone who doesn't fully understand their meaning, and to put them out there for an audience to judge without context is irresponsible, in my opinion.

And I don't know who their consultant was, but for that person to do what they did is very sad to me.

I will not comment on the accuracy or inaccuracy of anything I saw in these two clips. I just want to say that it disappoints me that the makers of "Big Love" (no matter how sensitive or accurate they feel they are being) would show things that are held so sacredly by so many.

It made me think about movies or TV shows I've seen depicting practices by other religions, and how I don't even think twice about it. But when you see your own religion represented in a way that can be easily misunderstood by those who don't have the knowledge, experience, or context to appreciate or understand what they are seeing, it is mighty disturbing. It is uncomfortable.

You know, Jonah on occasion has asked me about what goes on in the temple. I have never revealed anything I feel uncomfortable revealing, but what I have told him is that if a non-member were to witness a temple ceremony, it wouldn't have the same meaning to them as it does to a member. In fact, it probably wouldn't mean much to them at all. They wouldn't have the proper context to appreciate it. Heck, even as a member, I'm not sure I even understand the full meaning of temple ceremonies, so I certainly wouldn't expect someone who is not a member of the LDS Church to understand. It really is a case of "throwing pearls before swine" (and please do not infer that I am calling non-members "swine"; that is not what I mean at all). What I mean is that it's like putting a technical schematic in front of a two year old and expecting him to understand or benefit from it. Maybe many years down the road that two year old would grow up to be a computer expert who could appreciate and correctly analyze the schematic, but at two years old, he simply does not have the capability, experience, knowledge, or know-how to deal with it in a useful manner.

With a temple ceremony, the sacred and spiritual things therein cannot be understood by a non-Mormon the way a Mormon will understand them. They may find it interesting or curious, just as a two year old might find the color of the paper the schematic is designed on or the drawings themselves briefly interesting, but the far deeper meaning of it simply cannot be appreciated by someone who doesn't "get" it.

Anyway, it's disturbing to see things put out there for all to see in a way that, frankly, feels sacrilegious no matter what care and sensitivity was taken to create it.

I don't even go to the temple anymore, and I'll probably be excommunicated myself in the near future, but I still know in my heart how sacred the temple and its ordinances are, and it makes me sad that other people don't.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wedding Photos

Some of you have requested my posting some photos from mine and Jonah's commitment ceremony. Since I wish to continue to remain anonymous in the blogging world (and because there are still some in Jonah's world as well as my own who do not know either that we are gay or that we had this ceremony), I have chosen to post only those photos that do not blatantly betray our identities. I suppose anybody who actually attended the ceremony could piece together that this is my blog, but it would not bother me since most of them know about all the stuff contained therein anyway.

So enjoy them for what they're worth. Sorry I can't share more. It was a very happy day.

This is the chapel where we were married. Jonah did all the flower arrangements.

Me (I'm on the left) and my guy taken as we walked down the aisle together.

Me putting the ring on Jonah's finger.

Taken shortly before being pronounced "partners for life." Again, I'm on the left.

Our wedding cake, made by my cousin. I guess there was a cake mishap on the way to the chapel. My cousin felt bad about it, but we thought the cake was both beautiful and delicious.

One of the beautiful flower arrangements Jonah made for our ceremony.

A picture taken after the ceremony. I'm on the right this time. Jonah also made our boutonnières. What a talented guy I married!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Reprieve...for now

I had a really nice meeting with my Stake President Tuesday evening. As you can well imagine, I was feeling a bit nervous before the meeting because I wasn't quite sure what would occur. I said a prayer before leaving asking Heavenly Father to help me say what I needed to say and to help my Stake President be inspired to say whatever he needed to say. I also prayed that whatever the outcome was, that I would be at peace with it and have the Spirit to comfort me.

I am fortunate that my Stake President is a friend I have known for some time. He was my bishop years ago when I was in a singles' ward and has known about my homosexuality for some time and tried his best to help me deal with it back when I was still trying to fight it.

As he greeted me, he was very welcoming and friendly, with no hint of judgment. He took me into his office and basically asked me to tell him my situation. I explained to him about my relationship with Jonah and about our ceremony and of my intentions to remain in this relationship.

He was very compassionate and kind during our entire interview. Actually, he was more compassionate about my situation than he had been when he was my bishop (although he was kind then, too).

He explained that the church manual regarding this situation is pretty clear cut and black and white, but that he also believed the Spirit gives inspiration on each individual situation. He said there may come a time when action will have to be taken (in other words, a church court and possible excommunication), but that at this time he didn't feel we needed to rush into anything. He also said he didn't know what kind of time frame we were looking at, but that he felt he needed time to ponder this particular situation and asked permission from me to discuss my situation with his counselors. I said that was fine.

He also said that having served on several disciplinary councils, he has often gone into the meeting having a kind of preconceived notion of how he may vote, but often the Spirit has prompted him to do the opposite, so he said one never knows just how each individual process will work out.

We talked about my past struggles and I reiterated many of the arguments I have made in my defense in this blog. He agreed that I did seem happier since I found Jonah and came out. He did stress that he wasn't condoning my actions, but that he had dealt with several people who struggled with same-sex attraction, including one man that he said reminded him of me. My Stake President and this man had a good friendship and trust, and this man fought for a long time against his feelings, but ultimately decided to be excommunicated by choice. My Stake President attempted to maintain the friendship, but the man ultimately decided it was too painful, and they eventually drifted apart, and the man has become a bit antagonistic toward the Church. My Stake President said it made him feel sad that this was the outcome. It wasn't that the man left the Church, but that he didn't feel comfortable remaining friends afterwards which made my Stake President sad. He said he wanted to tell me what he told that man; that he (my Stake President) wasn't the Church, although he may act as a representative of it, and that his friendship and love for me superceded any judgment I might get from a church court. He hoped that no matter what the eventual outcome, that he and I could remain friends as we presently are. I said I felt the same way.

He encouraged me to stay close to the Lord and the Church, regardless of the outcome, and he said he hoped I wouldn't ever become angry or bitter. I told him that throughout this process it has always been my intention to have a good relationship regarding my religion. I've said it in this blog before, but I always promised myself I wouldn't become bitter or antagonistic toward the Church like many of my friends and acquaintances have. Look, whether one agrees with the Church's position on certain things, I am in violation of the rules, and I accept that and will accept whatever the responsibility for the consequences of that is. But I still maintain that the values and blessings being a member of the LDS Church has afforded me are as integral to who I am as my sexuality is. I owe my religion a lot, and I still have a great deal of loyalty towards it.

My Stake President also asked me to help family members through this as well. He said that sometimes when a family member is excommunicated, other members of the family become angry or bitter or critical themselves. I told him I would help them through this process any way I can. As I told my Stake President, it has never been my intent or desire to sway anyone or lead anyone away from this church. I have never claimed that the choices I've made for myself are right for anybody else but me. I still believe the Church is true, but I also believe the limits of my mortality make it impossible for me to adhere to all its teachings, and I feel at peace with that and feel that things between me and my Father in Heaven are good, and since He and I are the ones who will sort this out, I feel good about that.

My Stake President said that ultimately no one can judge my heart or my situation except the Lord. He said in the afterlife my Father may hug me and tell me that if I could just have held on a little longer, I would have received a greater reward; or He may hug me and tell me that He knows I did the best I could and that His Son's atonement will make up for the rest. My Stake President said he was glad he didn't have to judge that himself, but said that the Father's judgment would be perfect and all-knowing.

He also said he admired my integrity and honesty and even said that he thought it was admirable that Jonah and I waited until after our ceremony to have sexual relations. Again, he wasn't condoning my actions, but he did think it showed integrity (on both mine and my partner's part) and a desire to adhere to the morals I have been taught. He said that although he couldn't say he understood what it was like to be in my shoes and although he admitted that he didn't always know what to say or how to help in situations like this that he knew I was a good person and that I was trying to follow the Savior as well I was able.

He said he has dealt with many people who have dealt with same-sex attraction, and one thing he doesn't understand is people who are promiscuous or have multiple partners, so, again, while he wasn't condoning what the Church regards as a sin, he did admire mine and Jonah's determination to be monogomous.

He also shared a thought by J. Reuben Clark, which I wish I could remember. I'll try to get it from him the next time I see him. Essentially, the point I remember most was that God wants to give His children the minimum punishment possible because He loves them. That's the part of the quote that really hit my heart. Certainly, the demands of justice must be met, but God is merciful and Christ's atonement is far-reaching.

I wish I could remember everything from my interview with my Stake President. We talked for a long time and much was said between us both. What I do remember most is that I never felt judged by either him or the Lord, and that I felt a great deal of love and support. I also felt the Spirit testify what I've felt during this whole journey: that God loves me and will always love me the same no matter what happens, and I do feel He knows that I feel I am doing the best I can under these particular life circumstances. I also felt that I likely will be excommunicated eventually, but that I need not worry. I felt that I would be at peace with whatever happens. I also felt that if I feel the same kind of love in a church court that I felt in my interview, that things would be okay. I fully expect that will happen. I was at Stake Conference last Sunday, and as we sustained the high council, I saw that I knew and cared about many of the men who would likely serve on a disciplinary council for me, and I know they love and care about me as well, and that is comforting.

One thing I had been worried about was losing the gift of the Holy Ghost once I am excommunicated. My Stake President, without my even having brought it up, eased my fears. He said non-members feel the Spirit, too (which I, of course, knew) although they may not feel it as often. I knew that I would not lose the Spirit of the Lord even if I lose my membership, and that was comforting.

I am currently in Vegas with Jonah. I told my Stake President I would be back in Utah (for a job) in late April. He told me he saw no reason for us to deal with this until then, even if I were to remain in Utah during that time. He told me to call him when I'm back in town, and we will see how to proceed then. Although I know we're probably just delaying the inevitable, I am very grateful for a reprieve. And I know that even if and when I am eventually excommunicated from the Church that I can never be excommunicated from my very loving and merciful Heavenly Father.