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.