Sunday, October 03, 2010

I Like the Grass Over Here, Thank-You-Very-Much.

Today as I watched General Conference there was a talk given by Mervyn B. Arnold of the Seventy that I quite enjoyed. He was very emotional during much of it, and I liked that he was really speaking from his heart.

In the talk he told a story of how as a girl, his wife was responsible for making sure the cows stayed out of the wheat field. A fence was built to protect them from getting out, but one stubborn cow continually stuck its neck through the fence and tried to get to the wheat. One day she broke through and ate so much of the wheat that she bloated up and died. As Elder Arnold told the story, one could tell that the story had affected him deeply. As Sister Arnold saw the cow dying, she thought to herself, "You stupid cow! That fence was there to protect you, yet you broke through it and you've eaten so much wheat that your life is in danger." Elder Arnold's voice broke as he continued with his wife's story: "I was saddened by the loss of that cow. We had provided her a beautiful mountain pasture to graze in and a fence to keep her away from the dangerous wheat, yet she foolishly broke through the fence and caused her own death. As I thought about the role of the fence, I realized that it was a protection just as the commandments and my parents' rules were a protection. The commandments and rules were for our own good. I realized that obedience to the commandments could save me from physical and spiritual death. That enlightenment was a pivotal point in my life."

I was really touched by Elder Arnold's sincerity and the emotion he felt not just for this simple cow, but for all of Heavenly Father's children. He went on to say, "Sister Arnold learned that our kind, wise, and loving Heavenly Father has given us commandments not to restrict us, as the adversary would have us believe, but to bless our lives and to protect our good name and our legacy for future generations just as they had for Lehi and Nephi. Just like the cow that had received the consequences of her choice, each one of us must learn that the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence nor will it ever be for 'wickedness never was happiness.' Each one of us will receive the consequences of our choices when this life is over. The commandments are clear. they are protective. They are not restrictive. And the wonderful blessings of obedience are numberless."

I've said many times in this blog that in spite of the fact that I no longer feel able to live according to the LDS Church's precepts as far as my sexuality is concerned that I still believe it is God's church on earth. I can only say that I still feel this way because of a very powerful spiritual experience (the most powerful I've experienced before or since) I had. I do not know how everything will be sorted out in the end, but I also feel that as far as my sexual orientation goes, and as far as doing what the LDS Church required of me, I did my best and had to make the choices I've made for my own emotional and spiritual well-being.

Watching Elder Arnold's talk, I admired his sincerity and the deep love I felt emanating from him, but as he said the words, "the grass is never greener on the other side nor will it ever be, for 'wickedness never was happiness,'" the thought came to my mind that if that is, indeed, true then the choices I've made in my life to be with Jonah and to risk the excommunication that eventually came to be are not wicked because I tell you, baby, the grass is so much greener over here; greener than even I thought it could be.

You know, when I first met Jonah and started to fall in love with him and knew that pursuing that course was contrary to what I'd always been taught and what I'd always strived to be, I had great fear that I would feel great guilt or that my "perfect" little Mormon world would implode or that the powers of hell would descend upon me or that I would fall into the grasp of the adversary. And when I faced excommunication, I imagined I would lose the Spirit or that my life might become hollow and without meaning by not being an official part of the Church.

Instead, I am so much happier and fulfilled than I even imagined could be. I am so happy to be Jonah and do not regret a day I've been with him. If anything, I regret the days I am not with him due to my job keeping us apart. I have felt a deeper and and more powerful love and understanding from my Heavenly Father than I've ever really known. I've gained an appreciation for the Church that I didn't quite have when I was a member, yet I feel perfectly fine with my current status. Sure, I miss certain things, but as a member sometimes I felt so much pressure and obligation that I'm actually happy to be free of. I still enjoy going and I still hold much of it very close to my heart, but I very much love where I am in my life. These last few years instead of hiding behind the facade of who I was expected to be, I can just be who I feel I am and simply try to be the best version of me that I can be. I have very, very few regrets in life.

I was writing a letter to my friend in prison the other day. I've written about him before. He accidentally killed a man while driving drunk and now he is in prison. Before my friend went to prison, he was self-centered, self-entitled, very slow to take responsibility for his actions, lacking in humility, irresponsible, and addicted to many things, including drugs and alcohol. My heart ached for him because I saw so much wasted potential in him that was being squandered because of his inability to get out of his own way. While saddened, none of us were surprised when he was involved in this accident that took an innocent man's life. My friend needed a wake-up call, and unfortunately (and fortunately) this was the wake-up call he needed. He is on his third year of a minimum of five years' sentence, and I have seen such tremendous growth in him during that time. He has become responsible, accountable, aware, sober, humble, giving, charitable, hard-working, spiritual, and positive, among other things.

He takes full responsibility for his actions and feels deep remorse for them, but also is trying to do all he can to better his own life and the lives of those around him. He has become the person I always thought he was. Anyway, he made a certain point about not being perfect, but working to progress. I responded by saying:

"You made a really good comment that 'this is about progress, not perfection.' I think that is absolutely true, not just about your individual situation, but life in general. I’ve learned as I get older that life is more about the journey and what we learn on that journey than it is about the destination. I watched the TV show 'Lost' faithfully until its end, and I loved it. Some people were critical because not all their questions got answered or because the 'destination' of it was ultimately disappointing, but what I liked most about 'Lost' was watching the characters’ journeys and the story-telling during the six years it was on. When the show started, all the characters were 'lost' in some way, and it was really fascinating to me to see how characters grew and received redemption for some of their wrongs, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed where the series took me as well and was very satisfied with the ending, but I told friends that no matter how it ended, I would still really enjoy the satisfaction I got from the six years of good television I enjoyed. I think life is like that. Sometimes we’re so preoccupied with the end result, we forget to enjoy what we experience on the way.

"As a Mormon, I used to beat myself up about not being 'perfect' and would continually get frustrated about my supposed lack of progress. I remember when I was on my mission for my church one of my church leaders gave me some good advice. He said something along the lines that perfection wasn’t a destination, but a journey and that as long as we were on the right path, that was enough. It took me a long time to learn that. I find now I enjoy life a lot more and don’t worry about trying to be 'perfect,' but just try to be the best person I know how to be. It’s really improved the quality of my life.

"And I like the idea that we shouldn’t worry too much about the regrets of yesterday or the unknowns of tomorrow; we just need to live in the now. Sure, we can learn from the past and hope for the future, but what really matters most is what we are doing right now to make life better for ourselves and for those around us."

I love where I am in my journey. Although I was told it wouldn't be, the grass is pretty green and lovely from where I stand. I'm not saying that Elder Arnold was wrong. I, quite frankly, loved his talk and believe in its precepts. I'm just saying it's all about perspective. From my perspective, things are pretty good. Again, who knows how I'll feel about things in the next life? But right now I feel I'm making the right choices to bring me great joy and happiness. My path isn't for everyone, but I have very few regrets.

I was reading a blog a few months ago. I wish I could remember which one it was, but a gay man was explaining that he had gone to church and was feeling that maybe he was unworthy to be there and he felt an impression that said (I'm paraphrasing): "This is not a church of men. This is MY church and you belong here." That really resonated with me. Since I've been excommunicated, I've had many impressions (including one from my Stake President) that make me feel that Heavenly Father is much bigger than the church itself. This is Christ's church, and though he may have a prophet as his representative, He, and He alone, actually leads the Church. I do not know if all the decisions I have made in my life are right or wrong or where I'll ultimately end up when his life is over, but I do know two things: I am happier today than I was five or six years ago, and I know that God is happy that I'm happy, and I feel He is okay with where I am in my life. I have felt that assurance many, many times during my journey. Ultimately, my fate (and the fate of each and every one of us) is between each of us individually and Him, and I am completely at peace on that front. So I do like the grass over here very much, thank you.

Perhaps soon I'll write about Boyd K. Packer's talk (which I had some difficulty with), although I will include this tidbit: "Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father. Paul promised, 'God will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it." You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer the addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church."

Why, indeed, President Packer, would Heavenly Father do that? That is a question so many gay Mormons ask themselves, and then they feel miserable, guilty, and unworthy because they believe exactly what you're saying, yet no matter how hard they try are unable to achieve the promise you have given. The grass over here tastes better, in my opinion.


Joe said...

I enjoyed your comments regarding Arnold's talk. It is nice that you still embrace the church as being true. Yet the doctrine of marriage has never changed since the inception of mankind. Since Adam and Eve it has been a sacred union of a Man and a Woman. You can't go as far as saying that if someone feels attracted to the same sex that makes them homosexual, simply not true. It is attainable by anyone to have a healthy relationship with the opposite sex despite feeling attraction to someone of their same sex. I know this because my dad's cousin was actively gay and turned his life around even with early feelings of suicide. Please don't help lure people into carnal security, by thinking they can lead a double life. I have personally gone through hell myself to step back into the light. I hope the best for you and those that follow this blog.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Thanks for your comments, Joe.

All I can say is regardless of anyone else's experience, I can only speak for myself and my own experiences, and as for me I was not able to do what the church required of me, and now that I'm where I am, I know I am happier.

If anything, I was leading much more of a "double life" when I was trying so hard to do what was "right." Now I feel I am living a very singular and joyful life. Again, I stress that my choices are my own and are what I felt I needed to do to be happy. What others choose to do is up to them and the promptings and guidance they receive.

I'm glad that what you are currently doing in your own life is working for you. This is what is working for me.

Butterflies and hand-grenades said...

Joe...shut up.
And GLDSA I really enjoyed this post, and I agree, the grass is much greener, and...tastier (How's that for carnal security joe?)

Gay LDS Actor said...

Thanks, Butterflies. No need to be disrespectful to Joe, though. He's entitled to his opinion, too. I'm glad to hear that your "grass is greener," too.

Butterflies and hand-grenades said...

Disrespect was met with disrespect...I'll admit, I was obviously a little irked that he would try to take the moral high ground in a blog comment section. He is entitled to his opinion, but that doesn't mean he has to be obnoxious. Also I was really glad to hear that you and your man were still going strong, it gives hope to guys like me who are just about to really enter the "gay" world (I'd love too now, but being 17 doesn't make things easy :P) Have an awesome day :)

Joe said...

This is what I don't like about the written word sometimes because it is taken the wrong way since it's not like having a real dialogue; my intention wasn't to be obnoxious or disrespectful butterflies. I just wanted to let people know that physical attraction to the same sex doesn't mean you are homosexual. It just means you are feeling something toward someone that you really like in one way or another. One of the major things that could lead to this same sex attractions that many people overlook is pornography that has at least one person of the your same sex involved. I love people of any type no matter if they are heterosexual, homosexual etc. I just want to help in anyway I can. I'm glad that the actor has found some joy in what he does.

Butterflies and hand-grenades said...

That is all fine and dandy joe, but being an atheist and hearing about how evidence can be drawn from adam and eve just annoys me, that and the fact that BKP's talk was total bigotry from a bully pulpit lead to the "Shut up" sorry if you were offended, I just really dislike scriptures being used as evidence. I grew up in the Mormon church, and I never once felt "the spirit" I have read the book of Mormon 5+ times, and never even a shred of uplifting joy or even a still small voice, not even inner peace! Your journey, and your "normal" is not mine, as mine is not yours. So we must agree to disagree. I believe fully and truly that the Mormon church is not true...for me. For others yes, me never. And as far as pornography goes, the claim that pornography makes you gay is even more unsubstantiated than the theory of soy leading to homosexuality. I knew at age 11 that I liked boys, and I had never, seen a guy naked. I find pornography distasteful, and do not view it. The fact that you say that you love all people, regardless of orientation is good, but the high road that you take when you claim that you "have stepped back into the light" is completely patronizing, regardless of context. If your love comes with a saddened attitude about me, or others for perusing "evil" or the antithesis of your "light" than please...keep it.

(and "marriage" was an ordinance that was started by the Greeks, and the romans long before the bible was finished. You could argue that Adam and eve were "Sealed" but they were not the origin of marriage)

Joe said...

Getting offended is not a condition that is placed on someone but rather a choice. So whether or not someone gets offended is their choice. I never knew atheists could truly get offended since they don't believe in anything technically, but I guess I was wrong. As far as you never feeling the spirit doesn't prove anything except for the fact that you didn't follow Moroni's promise fully.
It is difficult to have a decent dialogue with someone who gets offended so easily. I guess you live life arguing with everyone even with those that might have common interests as you (eg: with the host of this website). You are proof that life sucks when you go around blaming others for your problems. My brother was just like you until he figured out that living in a cocoon of self doubt was just making himself miserable; not to mention... help enabling everyone around him to feel miserable.

Butterflies and hand-grenades said...

Haha, well this is just silly! I am not offended, I am just feeling a little incredulous that you speak so "knowingly" and have no facts!!! It is typical in the case of someone with unsubstantiated claimed to reach into personal insults!!
This is how I see your thought possess (which is VERY common in the Church): Huhhh, he doesn't believe what I do...he must have done something wrong.
Or : He is using information that he has gathered through research...must be angry
Or: He doesn't like that I KNOW, and want to share the "truth"...he must be offended.

As stated previously I was being disrespectful towards the patronizing attitude, I took little offence. This is a blog comment fight, I typically don't put too much emotion into them.(Sorry for using your blog as a battle ground gldsa)
Atheists don't believe in anything??? Really?? Are atheists in your mind people that sit in couches or bed's all day and do not move because we don't believe we can?? Rubbish!! We believe in people, in facts, and in ourselves. If you had said that concerning the divine, I am completely absent of belief/faith you would be correct. I tried, and according to you I failed, and I can live with that. I refuse to sacrifice what could be my one chance at existence, defined by people who have a limited understanding of existence. (And for the record, (Laugh if you will) I am a FIRM believer in reincarnation. I believe that intelligence cannot end, and has to go somewhere, and a cyclical cycle of reincarnation seems rather likely to me)

You got 1 other thing right though, I LIVE in the argument, I am extremely competitive!!! And even you have to realize you lost...
(for the record, I am a very happy, and relatively calm guy, I just like competition)

(And life does suck, but only when you don't love it, and I love life, the fact that I am on the path that I am on is proof that I don't want to waste it.)

Joe said...

I didn't realize we were competing for something... Also I wasn't intending this to get personal. I was jut stating facts... You called the unsubstantiated... that's funny... Well I guess you aren't a pure atheist since you believe in reincarnation... By the way I was just joking about Atheists not believing in anything of course Atheist believe in something.. Everyone believes in something. But I guess you didn't catch the sarcasm since this is only a blog afterall.. Only thing you should take personal right now is my next comment.... You are clearly prideful unlike our gracious host of this blog... Thanks for the comments though I enjoyed them.

Joe said...

I can tell I usually don't proofread the stuff that I post on a blog because I noticed I made a few typo blunders in my last comment, oh well. Anyway I only have one last comment and that is I'm a Jack Mormon (I wish I wasn't, for the record as one would say), just in case you might not know what a Jack Mormon is... That means I don't follow closely enough what I'm taught in the LDS Church... I'm trying to be better at that by changing my thinking pattern. With that in mind though, you butterflies, undoubtedly are an ignoramus by your comment "This is how I see your thought possess (which is VERY common in the Church)"--------- by the way did you mean process instead of possess?... ANYONE WHO MAKES A STEREOTYPE OF ANY GROUP OF PEOPLE IS PLAIN IGNORANT... Thank you for letting me vent. Have a good one, peace and love to all (:.

Butterflies and hand-grenades said...

One last comment...(and I'm the ignoramus..???)

The Princeton dictionary defines Atheist as: "someone who denies the existence of god"
I don't think their is a god...but that doesn't mean that I think intelligence can end...
And you are right, this isn't really a competition, but if this would have lost simple as that.

You claimed moral hierarchy through the Mormon Church, than you admitted you were a jack mormon...Meaning that all your arguments about morality are based of your wavering convections about "facts" like "The doctrine of marriage has never changed since the inception of mankind"...Gonna' cry Bullshit on that sir...and your pornography argument is so pitiful you didn't even bother defending it... all you did was immaturely lash out and attempt bash religious (or the lack there of) convictions that you cannot even properly define. Bash my use of a "stereotype" all you like, but there is a reason they exist, in most cases it is because of compounded actions by the group being stereotyped. You honestly had to stoop to attacking a mistake in word choice??
Good luck, and farewell

Joe said...

I love it!! That comment only showed your own insecurity... Since you wanted to go to the dictionary.... "a contest in which a winner is selected from among two or more entrants" is the definition of a competition. To quote you------ "And you are right, this isn't really a competition, but if this would have lost simple as that." Why did you say that when you clearly tried to make it out to be a competition by stating previously "And even you have to realize you lost...".... The reason I didn't waste time trying to substantiate the idea that Pornography can be a factor is because it wouldn't matter anyway to you.... based upon your self loathing opinions. You got to admit you never had a chance to win nor did I... Thank you very much!!

Gay LDS Actor said...

Guys, if you want to continue arguing with one another, I'd prefer you do it privately rather than on my blog. Get each other's emails and continue your tirades against each other, if you so desire, but I feel now is the time to cool the debate here.