Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fortune Cookies

Whenever I'm in town, my mom and I have this Chinese restaurant we really like to go to. At the end of the meal they give us fortune cookies, which is an enjoyable part of the whole "eating-out-at-a-Chinese-restaurant" process.

Yesterday, I got two fortunes in the same cookie. The first said, "You will soon witness a miracle." The second one said, "You will spend many years in comfort and material wealth." That's probably the aforementioned "miracle." ;-)

Today we went to the same restaurant because we like it so much. My fortune today said, "You will take a chance in the near future and win." Maybe that's how I get the miracle of material wealth and comfort. :-)

Truthfully, I don't put much stock in fortune cookies, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I wouldn't mind if these particular fortunes came true. ;-)

Sunday, November 22, 2009


A friend of mine who I taught on my mission and who was baptized by my companion and confirmed by me is one of my Facebook friends. We'll call him Benoit (not his real name). Yesterday he wrote in his Facebook status something that touched me very much (probably more so because it was specifically dedicated to me and my old companion (also Benoit's Facebook friend, and mine as well).

The status said: "We wonder sometimes if life has any meaning...and then we meet people who give life meaning." - BrassaĆ®

It honors me that he feels that way about my old missionary companion and me. I love Benoit. He is such a great guy. I loved him when we met and enjoyed teaching him very much. When I met him, he was a confused guy trying to find some meaning in life and who was trying to find truth. He had a big smoking problem and also drank (although socially more than anything). I remember being drawn to his enthusiasm and youthfulness (although he is only a year younger than me) and his thirst for knowledge. I also admit I was attracted to him (although I no longer feel so). I remember one time when we greeted each other with a customary Belgian bise (kissing the air by the person’s cheek) and actually being a little turned on by our close proximity (not a very missionary-like thought) and being a little embarrassed that it would show.

He was an easy guy to teach and to befriend, and the three of us have remained friends all these years. Getting Benoit to quit smoking was probably the most challenging aspect of his conversion, but his heart was (and still is) very pure. I still have his old pipe among my missionary mementos. It thrilled me to no end (and still does) that he was baptized, went on a mission, married another member in the temple, and has two children born under that covenant. I remember confirming him. At the time, my French was still a little rough, but the minute I put my hands on his head, the Spirit was so strong and words poured out of me effortlessly. I was amazed by that miracle.

After Benoit joined the Church, he was on fire, was a great member-missionary, and several of his friends followed him by becoming members themselves. To the best of my knowledge, at least two of them are still active (I do not know about the rest).

A year or so after Benoit's baptism, as I was close to finishing my mission, I received a letter from Benoit announcing that he himself would be going on a mission, and I was so excited and genuinely moved by how far he'd come in just a year. Benoit was always a great person, but after he joined the Church, his life became much more focused and purposeful.

Later, after I'd come home, Benoit came to Utah. He and my old missionary companion came to see one of my shows and then we went out to eat, and it was marvelous. We also went to ZCMI to buy matching ties. That was the idea, at least. Unfortunately we all had different tastes in ties and couldn't agree, so we each bought what we liked and knew we'd think of each other every time we put the tie on. It's true, too. I still have mine and think of both of those guys every time I wear it.

Later, Benoit informed us that the LDS girl he was dating had agreed to marry him, and they got married in the temple, which pleased me. Not too long after, my sister and I visited Benoit and his new wife in Europe, and it was so wonderful to see him in love and happy.

Since then, he has had two boys, and they, with their parents, make a very happy family. I'm grateful I was able to be a part of Benoit's journey to where he is now, and I am happy he is happy. I am humbled by my role in his conversion, knowing full well that I was simply a tool in the Lord's hands at that time.

After I came out of the closet, I remember telling my old mission companion that I was gay, fearing he would judge me or think less of me, and instead he surprised me by revealing that his brother, too, was gay, and just as he loved and cared for him, his feelings would remain the same for me, too, and they have.

Strangely enough, I have never told Benoit that I am gay (although he might be able to figure it out from subtle hints I give in my Facebook statuses). I'm not sure why I haven't told him. I do not believe he would think any less of me or love me any less. That doesn't seem his nature as he is a very compassionate, Christ-like individual. No, I think the reason I've never told him is because as a missionary, I helped bring him into the Church, and while I am not ashamed of the way I am living my life now, I guess in a way I don't want to taint Benoit's image or memory of me then. Maybe that sounds stupid, but I don't want to go from being the good Mormon missionary boy to the excommunicated gay guy in his eyes. None of it changes who I am; I'm still the good, spiritual person I've always been (and am actually happier) and was; I guess I just want Benoit's image of me to remain pure. Does that make sense?

Anyway, here's to you, Benoit. I love you, and I'm glad we're both where we are in life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A World Gone Crazy

Yesterday, I was afraid the apocalypse was upon us. First of all, Elizabeth Hasselbeck (on the TV show "The View," and whose voice normally gives me seizures) actually said something that I fully and completely agreed with. This rarely happens.

Someone had sent her a photo of Barack Obama supposedly on Veteran's Day that showed a bunch of soldiers saluting while he just stood there. The implication was that his refusal to salute American soldiers on Veteran's Day, of all days, showed just how un-American he is.

To her great credit, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who is not an Obama fan, not only explained that the photo hadn't been taken on Veteran's Day at all; and not only explained that the reason Obama wasn't saluting was because he had just joined the soldiers who were saluting him as Commander-in-Chief on the podium and therefore had no reason to salute; and then not only went on to show several photos of the President saluting on other occasions; but then pleaded with right-wing extremists such as the one who had sent her the photo to please concentrate on the real issues rather than creating trivial ones based on falsehoods and misinformation. I really respected and admired her for doing so (and for me to say that about Elizabeth Hasselbeck is no small thing). But I agreed with her 100% and was glad she did what she did.

Then later the same day Chris Buttars, the anti-gay senator from West Jordan, Utah, said he is actually considering sponsoring a statewide bill that will mirror the one Salt Lake City just passed that protects gays, lesbians, and the transgendered from housing and employment discrimination. Of course, his cohort, Gayle Ruzicka (local anti-gay lobbyist) was not pleased by his announcement, which made me even happier.

When asked why he suddenly changed his mind after years of constantly pushing against gay rights, he said because the LDS Church had endorsed the Salt Lake City law, he saw no reason why he couldn't do the same. Of course, he did stress that he is still against gay marriage or gay adoption rights. But, still. To see such an "about-face" (even if he wouldn't have done it had the LDS Church not done it) was pretty jaw-dropping to see.

If all this weirdness this keeps up, the next thing you know Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck will announce they're socialists and are marrying each other. What is happening?!

I Just Love Jonah!

He really is one of the sweetest, most generous, most giving, spiritual (and in tune with the Spirit) people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I am so happy he is mine.

It baffles my mind when I see these so-called Christians holding up signs that say things like "God hates fags!" or what-have-you. I am 100% more sure that God is working through a gay man like Jonah than through people like them. I think if homophobic bigots were to really get to know and understand someone like my husband, they would realize how wrong they are in their thinking.

Jonah is amazing, and I have no idea what I ever did to deserve him or why he puts up with me. ;-)

I love him! That's all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Rolling Stone

It's interesting, I have been simultaneously reading two books. One is called The Sixties Chronicle, which is basically a pictorial history of the events of the decade from 1960-1969 and also includes first hand accounts and commentary on the events. The other book is a biography of President David O. McKay called David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism and which, although written by two Mormons, is a pretty truthful and fairly unbiased account of President McKay's tenure as Prophet of the LDS Church and isn't shy about tackling controversial issues such as the church's opposition to the civil rights movement, for example. I'm really enjoying both books immensely, and I've decided that in spite of his faults, I really like David O. McKay. He seems to be a great proponent of free agency, free thinking, and seems (to me, at least) to be a "spirit of the law" kind of individual as opposed to a "letter of the law" individual.

With the recent endorsement of the LDS Church, an ordinance in Salt Lake City which bans employment and housing discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals was passed. Many gay rights activists were surprised by the Church's endorsement, and I admit I was surprised as well (but was very pleased by what I see as a positive step). The LDS Church is still adamant that it will not support gay marriage and will continue to fight for what it believes is right as far as that issue is concerned.

Some in the gay-rights community are skeptical, feeling that the LDS Church only did this to save face with those who have a less-than-favorable impression of the church and did it simply to boost their image. That may be true, although it seems to me the LDS Church usually does what it feels is right regardless of how popular those decisions make them.

Some in the gay community are also indignant, feeling that they owe the LDS Church no gratitude for this endorsement when the church is still actively working to stifle their civil rights. This is an understandable feeling. I, for one, am grateful for any strides the LDS Church makes in regards to gay rights, just as I am thankful for strides that those in the gay-rights community make in creating an atmosphere of communication rather than antagonism. I think we all have a long way to go, but I am thankful for small steps even if it is "two steps forward, one step back" at times.

As I've been reading about the sixties, I am reminded of how volatile the issue of civil rights and desegregation could be, and although racism still exists today, it is fascinating to see how far the civil rights movement came. It is interesting to look at these photos and be reminded of a time not very long ago at all when black people couldn't sit at the same counter as white people or use the same restroom or drinking fountain; black people couldn't attend white schools and were denied employment because of the color of their skin; that a black person couldn't vote or marry a white person; that the whole "separate, but equal" idea was such a sham. One looks at these pictures and sees very plainly that whites were always given preferential treatment. They were given the better jobs, got to sit in the choicest seats, and weren't denied many of the normal things life didn't offer the African-American.

And when blacks attempted to fight for their rights, they were assaulted, beaten, hosed, attacked by dogs, intimidated, threatened, and killed, often by the very people whose job it was to supposedly "serve and protect."

And as I've read about these issues, it dawns on me that there were many segregationists who probably felt that the threat of civil rights for blacks was completely destroying the foundation of their very lives. They literally felt as if their world would fall apart if blacks were to obtain equal rights. I've seen pictures of a woman holding a picket sign that says, "Integration is a mortal sin." Another sign held by a young man says, "The only way to end niggers is exterminate." Another white man with a gun threatens a black man who is attempting to enter his store. Still another pours hydrochloric acid into a swimming pool where blacks are having a swim-in. Parents pull their white kids out of a school where a little black girl is attending first grade for the first time since desegregation has taken effect and has to be protected by federal marshalls. Police and local government leaders refuse to follow the policies the federal government has laid out concerning desegregation, and it is only through federal government protection that they publicly back down (although in private, they still commit some horrendous acts). A church is bombed and kills several black girls. Civil rights advocates are tortured and killed.

This was not so long ago. Even as I read this book about David O. Mckay, it is interesting to see where the LDS Church stood on civil rights issues. Realizing that church leaders and members were a product of their time, it is still amazing to me to see how blacks were treated by people who belong to a church established by the Savior himself. Most church leaders were opposed to racial integration, including David O. McKay, and were suspicious of the civil rights movement. J. Reuben Clark, Henry D. Moyle, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Ezra Taft Benson, and Mark E. Peterson all opposed civil rights and said things that would be considered racist. There was a resistance to change and progression as far as this issue was concerned.

One man in the First Presidency, Hugh B. Brown, was more progressive in this area and said the following in the October, 1963 General Conference when members of the NAACP threatened to picket Temple Square after being rebuffed in their desire to meet with the First Presidency:

"During recent months both in Salt Lake City and across the nation considerable interest has been expressed in the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.

"We again say, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny to any human being the right to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.

"We have consistently and persistently upheld the Constitution of the United States, and as far as we are concerned that means upholding the constitutional rights of every citizen of the United States.

"We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God's children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man."

While not sanctioned by the church at the time as an "official statement," it later was reluctantly elevated to "official" status two years later when NAACP leaders threatened to organize a series of marches in front of the Church Administration Building.

As I've read all these things and thought about today's current climate, I cannot help but see the parallels between the civil rights movement of the 60s, the women's rights movement, and the gay rights movement. Just as whites feared their world would come crashing down as blacks tried to gain equality; just as men thought their worlds were crashing down when women tried to gain equality; so I think many straight people feel the same way as gay people try to gain equality. It was not so very long ago, too, that you could be arrested for being gay or when homosexuality was considered a disease (and some people still feel that it is).

Although I do think gay people have suffered discrimination and hate-crimes, I do have to say that I think black people have been treated far more harshly in American history than gay people have (although I do think gay people have been treated very unfairly, too).

It is interesting to me that the LDS Church always seems to be in the rear and very slow on the uptake when it comes to equal rights. Church leaders in the 60s opposed civil rights legislation, and the state legislature consistently shot down bills that would give equal rights to blacks. The church also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s. This quote is taken from a Utah history website:

"The attack against ERA seemed, at times, alarmist and hysterical. Equation of ERA with sexual permissiveness, abortion, child care, homosexuality, and unisexuality drew the debate away from the constitutional principal of equality to issues of 'traditional family values.' But the attack did reflect the fears of many about the changing roles of women and men and about the changing form of the family. There seemed to be danger in equality for the ideological/cultural concept of the father as head and provider, mother as nurturer and manager, and children as replicas into the next generation. Many feared the equality would make women more vulnerable and exposed, that men would feel freer to abandon family responsibilities.

"Certainly it was these fears which prompted Mormon church leaders to eventually join their financial resources, their promotional skills and their far-flung network of members to the counterrevolution. Church leaders in 1976 described ERA as 'a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members as a whole.' President Spencer Kimball declared it 'would strike at the family, humankind's basic institution.'

"Donations to support the anti-ERA effort were solicited by ward bishops; speeches against the amendment were deemed appropriate at all church meetings, and church buildings were used as an anti-ERA literature distribution points. Church sponsored anti-ERA organizations operated in Florida, Nevada, North and South Carolina, Missouri, Illinois and Arizona."

The parallels to both fights seem very similar to the current gay-rights struggle vis-Ć -vis the LDS Church. But just as blacks and women have received more equality over the years (although there is still inequality, racism, and sexism that exists), I think it is inevitable that gay people will receive the rights they long for. I really do think it's a difficult, if not impossible task to stop "this rolling stone."

And just as I think it's hard to look back and read about the way the civil rights movement and the battle against the Equal Rights Amendment (which people are still trying to pass) were handled by the LDS Church, I am reminded about the current battle that is happening with gay rights and wonder how history will view the LDS Church. I don't know what will happen or even necessarily what should happen, but I do think gay rights are going to be a reality, especially as the older generation dies and the newer generation, many of whom seem to support gay rights, comes to the forefront. There will be some lost battles, but I think the war will be won, and just as I know there were people who thought their worlds would collapse as blacks and women gained more equality, I think those people who oppose gay rights will be surprised at how their worlds will remain intact. Heck, they might even discover that they are better. Change can be a very good thing, even if some people don't believe it is progress.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Obituary For A Friend

Yesterday I took an old, reliable friend who's been with me through many momentous times in my life and sold her for a fraction of what she was worth to me. It made me feel dirty and depressed, and yet I knew it had to be done. I am talking, of course, about my 1997 Saturn SL1, the first car I ever owned myself and one that I have had for nearly ten years.

I remember when I bought her. I had two jobs at the time, and after test driving serveral cars, I knew she was the one for me. She was used, but she was great, and most of all, she was mine. She cost me $11,000. and only had 54,000 miles on her.

I paid her off relatively quickly and was so happy when the day came when I finally owned her free-and-clear. She was a terrific and dependable car and lived and traveled with me for almost a decade. She saw me through graduate school; traveled with me to many spots in Utah, Nevada, and California; took me on many job auditions and, subsequently, many jobs; she was there for many enjoyable talks I had with fellow passengers, including good friends, family members, and my now husband; and she took me on so many adventures. I loved her very much.

Sadly, the last year of her life was a hard one. After nearly nine years of no problems whatsoever, she began to ail. First she started burning oil at a very quick rate, and I was told I could either repair the problem at a cost of $2-3,000, which I could not afford, so I just kept filling her with oil. Then, on a terrific trip to LA, as I was coming back home, her timing belt broke and she died. I was able to get her repaired, but, of course, the oil problems persisted. Then her muffler and spark plugs needed replacing and her fuel injection needed cleaning. It seemed to me that the money I was putting into her would actually be better spent in buying another, more reliable, vehicle, and since I do travel often and I knew I would rather buy a new car than fix the main problem, the oil waste, I decided it was time to look for a new car.

It's silly, especially since I know cars are inanimate objects, but looking for another car almost felt like I was cheating on my old car. After all, she'd always been there for me, had been completely reliable until relatively recently, and was still running well enough to get me from point A to point B. But I feared she would let me down, and I knew I had to find something I could depend upon.

Perhaps because of my fondness for my old car, I found another Saturn (this time a 2000 SL1) for $7,000 with 73,000 miles on it. It would have been nice to get a newer car or one with less miles on it, but this is what I could afford now, and I test drove it yesterday and liked it very much. In some ways, it's actually in better condition than my old car was when I bought it. So I bought it. Carmax, who I bought it from (and who I was quite impressed with overall) offered to buy my old car. I was only able to get $250 for my baby, which seemed like a slap in the face, but the used car industry isn't doing well, my old car has some problems that will make it harder to sell, and I don't have time to sell it privately or shop sround for other offers, so I took what I could get.

As they removed her license plates, I could almost hear her weeping, crying out, "Why are you abandoning me?" I hope she knows how much I loved her, and I hope whoever gets her next will find as much joy in owing her as I did. I hope she gets a good home (the thought of her being demolished and used for parts absolutely horrifies me; I'm glad I don't have to know).

The new Saturn drives really well and is a nice car. It has power locks and a CD player, too, which my old car did not have, so that's a nice addition. In many ways, the new car is very much like my old one; so much so that to make myself feel better, I've decided that the spirit of my old car is inhabiting this new one. It's so stupid, but it's comforting.

Weird how I get attached to inanimate objects. I'm very sentimental about things. Jonah jokingly told me he hopes I feel as strongly about him when I have to put him in a home. lol