Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Three Things About Jonah

I admire Jonah a lot. Three of his strongest traits are his compassion for others, his great faith, and his spiritual intuition. In all seriousness, if Jonah were financially able to do so, he would go down to Haiti and help those people personally. Jonah would gladly give someone the shirt off his back without thinking twice. He would lend a needy person money without ever worrying if that person could or would ever pay him back.

I really admire that about him. I tend to be a bit more selfish. It's not that I don't even have a desire to help others. I just seem to be more concerned with my own time and money. I am glad someone like Jonah is able to help me learn to put others before myself, even if the natural man part of me sometimes resents it. I actually am grateful for it, though.

Jonah also has great faith. He just always believes that things are going to work out if one applies enough faith. He's usually right, too. I try to have great faith, and I get better every year of my life, but Jonah's faith astounds me. Case in point: when he moved his stuff into our house, he brought his cat along, and the cat got loose and ran away (probably trying to find its old home). Jonah prayed and prayed for the safe return of that cat and looked for it every day. He would cry himself to sleep over the loss of the cat. But he never gave up hope and believed he would find her again. Months passed. I was sure the cat was lost forever and secretly felt Jonah was wasting his energy on a hopeless cause.

One day, Jonah's mom saw a picture of a stray cat that was up for adoption and felt sure it was the lost cat. She called him, and sure enough, it was absolutely her. She has very distinct markings and a paw with an extra toe and answered to her name and recognized Jonah immediately. That cat now lives very happily in our home after a very tramatic experience, and ironically, seems to have really taken to me, who didn't believe she would be found. It was truly a miracle, and I know it's the strength of Jonah's faith that brought it about.

I often live in a very practical, rational world, and sometimes I excuse the true power of faith because of that. I remember when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped. I was absolutely sure she was dead. But she turned up alive and has gone on to great things. Rational and practical are one thing, but faith is just as real as anything. I'm glad Jonah reminds me of that. The cat story is just one example of the power of Jonah's faith. I'm glad he reminds me of that power. It helps buoy me up during difficult times.

Jonah is also one of the most spiritually perceptive people I know. It's as if he can look into a person's soul and know exactly what they are going through. He can truly sense if there is something amiss in a person's life or something good just by looking at them. People are also drawn to Jonah. It is not uncommon for complete strangers (as well as friends) to come up to him and completely unburden their souls and trials and problems. Sometimes this gift is a burden to Jonah. He feels a great responsibility to listen to people and being one who likes to fix things, he also feels a great burden to help these people. Sometimes he wants to avoid the interaction because it's too much, and Jonah is very sensitive soul. But he also feels that God has given him this gift to help others, and as long as God keeps pushing them his way, Jonah feels the responsibility to at least be there for him.

As I've said, because I am selfish, I often don't have the kind of patience to deal with a lot of the things Jonah has to deal with. Admittedly, sometimes Jonah doesn't either. It wears him out. But he certainly is more patient and willing to help than I feel I am.

When the Spirit prompts Jonah to do something, he tries very hard to do so, and it almost always pays off. Some of the promptings he gets involve a lot of faith. Fortunately, he has that.

He's truly one of the most spiritually in-tune people I know. It amazes me. God has truly blessed him with many gifts, and I am grateful to share my life with him.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A Helpful Approach?

I read this article in the Salt Lake Tribune today:

Ted Fairchild, who is openly gay, has HIV and serves as a part-time LDS missionary in the Bay Area, left the love of his life to return to church activity.

Linda Schweidel wondered why her bright, successful returned-missionary husband still was not ready for children after eight years of marriage. That's when he broke down and told her he was gay.

Diane Oviatt held her sobbing gay son in a darkened kitchen as he poured out years of grief at the secret he had been carrying for 18 years and wondered how he would get to heaven without marrying.

These were among the anguished stories several Mormons shared during emotional church services Oakland LDS Stake held last summer to heal rifts caused by the faith's activism in the Golden State on behalf of traditional marriage.

In June 2008, the LDS First Presidency asked all California Mormons to give their time and money to Proposition 8, a ballot measure striking down gay marriage. Many members did so with gusto, circulating petitions, raising money, sending e-mails to church lists and putting up lawn signs.

That left other Bay Area Mormons, particularly those with gay friends and relatives, feeling embattled and alienated. Some stepped away temporarily from church; others left for good. Those who remained often felt at odds with fellow believers.

Oakland Stake President Dean Criddle, a respected lawyer and gentle leader, sensed the ripples of collective pain and wanted to reunite his flock, says Matt Marostica, bishop of the Berkeley Ward.

So Criddle and his counselors assembled quotes and speeches from LDS general authorities that stressed love and compassion for those with same-sex attraction. They then asked each of the 10 wards in the stake to hold a joint meeting of adult members during church services on either Aug. 30 or Sept. 6 to hand out the quotes and listen to personal stories from area members.

The response in Oviatt's suburban Moraga, Calif., ward was electric, Oviatt says. "Everyone in the audience was weeping. Men came up to my husband, crying, and hugged him, saying, 'We love you and we love your son.' "

A couple of the more ardent ballot supporters apologized to Oviatt for having Prop 8 signs on their lawns, saying, "We never knew."

Several people told Berkeley's bishop, Marostica, how much they appreciated the meetings, including one woman who said, "I am so glad we did this. This is the church I know and love."

Till they have faces » The authorities' statements and church setting provided a comfort level to Mormons who rarely discuss homosexuality openly, except to condemn it as a social trend or satanic tool. By all accounts, though, it was the stories that were transforming.

One man, who outed himself from the pulpit during one of the meetings, talked about a life of being scorned, bullied and accused by other Mormons of bringing on the AIDS pandemic. Still, every week when he takes the sacrament bread and water, God's voice whispers to him: "You belong here."

It's the same voice Fairchild has heard over and over since becoming active in the LDS Church as a 17-year-old in Pullman, Wash., in 1970.

He served a two-year mission in Mexico, earned a degree at Brigham Young University and married a woman because, he says, she was pretty and could play the piano. The couple had two daughters.

But Fairchild always knew he was gay and eventually couldn't continue the lie. He fell for a man.

"It was the only time," Fairchild says, "I have ever been physically, emotionally and spiritually in love."

By 1986, he and his partner were diagnosed with HIV, which at the time was a death sentence. Elder Richard G. Scott -- then an LDS Seventy, now an apostle -- gave Fairchild a blessing in which he asked God to build a protective wall around his cells. In that moment, Fairchild believed he needed to live by Mormon standards. He broke up with his love and returned to the church.

"Once you've experienced the Holy Ghost," he says, "there's no other feeling like it."

More than 20 years later, Fairchild is relatively healthy and at peace with his decision. He believes he was born gay and a child of a loving Heavenly Father, twin qualities that make him a more effective "worker in God's kingdom."

Letting go or holding fast » That doesn't work for Oviatt's son, Ross Oviatt, who has not been back to church.

He attended BYU for a few semesters, she says, but it was a "toxic environment." The Prop 8 fallout -- which continues in California with the ballot measure now before a judge - proved difficult for Ross as he tried to weather homophobic slurs and keep his secret. He misses his Mormon experience and friends, but the association is too painful.

It hasn't been easy for the rest of the family, either.

"We had to re-examine our place in the church," Oviatt says. "We are not leaving, but it's hard to stay in a religion that does not embrace our child. If we had to choose between the two, we'd choose Ross."

Some Mormons in the stake see only one choice: following church edicts.

"I am a faithful Latter-day Saint, happily married with children, striving to live up to my temple covenants, fulfill my calling, be a good father and all the other things which active members of the church try to do," one man wrote to Criddle in between the two joint sessions. "According to your definition of homosexuality, I am also a homosexual. I have had strong attractions to men (and exclusively men) my whole life."

But homosexuality is not his identity, just a temptation he refuses to act on, the writer said. He thought the stake should have included more emphasis on heterosexual marriage as the core of Mormon teachings.

Criddle shared the letter (without identification) in all the wards.

Coming back » In what she calls, the "dark days of Proposition 8," Schweidel took a "leave of absence" from the church.

She didn't know if she could return. But when Criddle and Marostica asked her to tell her story at one of the joint sessions, she readily accepted.

She has been attending and involved ever since.

"The special meeting made me want to be part of a positive change in the church," she says. "I want to talk to people, to explain why I feel like I do, and help them try to understand."

That may work in Berkeley, but how about Bountiful?

Schweidel is hopeful. There are two kinds of Mormons, she says, quoting a friend: those who know gay people and those who don't know they know gay people.

The task, she says, is to move more members from the second to the first category.

"If my mom in Orem had gay neighbors next door, I know she would love them," Schweidel says. "The Mormons I have spoken to make an effort to understand. They totally get it."

I think all stakes and wards and the Church itself would benefit by getting on board with this idea. I think it would help those members dealing with homosexuality in their own lives or in the lives of family members, and I think it would generate and foster a greater understanding and compassion among those who don't know that they already know gay people in the Church.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Hey, Good Lookin'

Today's post is a completely frivolous post just for fun. I thought I'd post a bunch of celebrities (past and present) I find (or found) sexy or attractive. In no particular order, here they are:

1. Greg Evigan

I guess I should start with Greg Evigan since he's the first man I ever remember being attracted to. Although I'm not as attracted to him now as I was then, I can still see why I thought he was cute. This photo is from his days starring in the TV series "B.J. and the Bear," when I first laid eyes on him. That would have been around 1978, and although I didn't fully understand my feelings at the time (I would have only been 7 years old), I knew I found him attractive and interesting. He later went on to star with Paul Reiser on the TV comedy "My Two Dads."

2. River Phoenix

I knew I was gay by the time I saw River Phoenix in the 1986 movie Stand By Me. I would have been 15 then. I thought he was a great actor and incredibly good looking. I loved his film, Running On Empty. I had a major, major crush on him and was somewhat upset. His untimely death in 1993 (while I was serving my mission) was absolutely devastating to me. I weirdly felt as though I had lost a brother even though the real River Phoenix was very likely nothing like the image of him that I had created.

3. Sal Mineo

I remember seeing Rebel Without A Cause in a college acting class when I was 20 and being absolutely smitten by Sal Mineo. I had recently gained my testimony and was preparing to go on a mission, so I was trying to suppress and ignore my homosexual feelings, but I remember just being so in love with his eyes and his smile. I've tried to keep this post G-rated, but there is a really sexy picture of him out there in some movie where he's taking a shower.

4. Johnny Depp

Ah, Johnny Depp! What can I say? The man still looks just as great as he did when I really took notice of him in1990 in Edward Scissorhands. Of course I had seen and admired him on "21 Jump Street," but it was Edward Scissorhands that caused me to fall in love with his talent and not just his face. He remains one of my favorite actors. I admire his daring choices and his conviction to be his own man. I think he's sexy in anything he's in.

5. Orlando Bloom

Johnny's co-star in The Pirates of the Caribbean doesn't have his talent, but he's still nice eye-candy. I first noticed him in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as Legolas the Elf and thought he had such striking features and such a perfect face. I enjoyed him in the Pirates movies as well and I could watch Troy over and over just to watch a very sexy scene he has with actress Diane Kruger. As an actor, he seems like kind of a one-trick-pony to me, but he's fun to look at.

6. Jensen Ackles

7. Matt Cedeno

Jensen Ackles and Matt Cedeno were both on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives" which I used to watch religiously until I finally realized what an incredible waste of my life it was. Jensen is now on a TV show called "Supernatural," which I don't watch. I'm not sure where Matt Cedeno is now. In any case, I loved Matt Cedeno's exotic, Latin look (I actually believe he's of Cuban descent), and Jensen Ackles just had this sexy all-American-boy look, and I thought his lips were to die for.

8. Ian Somerhalder

I think Ian Somerhalder came to my attention in the 2002 movie The Rules of Attraction. I just like his pretty-boy model looks. He later starred in one of my favorite TV shows, "Lost" (the last season premieres tomorrow, y'all! Who's excited? I am!), and he now has a role on a show I haven't seen called "The Vampire Diaries."

9. James Franco

I first took notice of James Franco in the wonderfully written television series "Freaks and Geeks." I think he's a great actor and has a killer smile. I enjoy everything from his independent films to his blockbuster films such as the Spiderman trilogy.

10. Montgomery Clift

When it comes to classic actors, nobody holds a candle to Montgomery Clift as far as brooding sexuality and mysteriousness. He absolutely captivates me no matter what I see him in. Even after his face-scarring car accident in 1956, he was still beautiful to watch. His was a tortured soul, but one full of charm and charisma.

11. Horst Buchholz

Younger audiences may know him from Roberto Begnini's 1997 film Life Is Beautiful as the old German Begnini's character serves in the restaurant, But I was mezmerized by a much younger Buchholz's performance in 1960's The Magnificent Seven. He is so, so handsome!

12. B.J. Novak

For me, B.J. Novak (who plays Ryan on TV's "The Office" is not so much sexy as he is just plain cute. I remember the first time I saw him and just thinking I could eat him up.

13. Apolo Ohno

I'm not much of a sports fan, but speedskater Apolo Ohno is quite a good-looking lad. I don't tend to watch the Olympics at all, so I probably only took notice of him because he was here in Utah in 2002 for the Winter Olympics and the coverage was unavoidable. I just remember thinking he had such a great smile (still does) and I loved his boyish enthusiasm.

14. Taylor Kitsch

Taylor Kitsch is on one of TV's best-written, best-acted, but not very well-know dramatic series, "Friday Night Lights." He exudes sexiness and charm. He plays the bad boy with a heart of gold, and I love watching him.

15. Roddy McDowall

One of my favorite actors growing up, he was in everything from Bedknobs and Broomsticks to the Planet of the Apes movies to The Poseidon Adventure to "Lassie" to "Batman" to "The Carol Burnett Show." The first thing I actually remember seeing him in was a terrible movie (but one of my favorite guilty pleasures) in 1979 called Scavenger Hunt, although I'm sure I must have seen him before then. I loved his British accent and thought he was so handsome and debonair. If I knew Roddy McDowall was in a movie or TV show, I would watch it just to see him.

Anyway, that's my lineup of sexy guys. Hope you enjoyed it.