Thursday, November 25, 2010

Feeling Sad

I just found out that a friend of mine from college and his daughter were killed in an automobile accident today. Such a good man. His wife and his two other children are in serious condition. Death doesn't typically bother me because I believe this life is just a short moment in the eternal scheme of things, but sudden deaths are always the hardest for me. One minute you're full of life, enjoying your Thanksgiving Day; the next, your gone from this earth. It's just sad.

I've been a bit down anyway because I've been missing Jonah terribly. We've been apart for about two and a half months now, and our last time together was a mere week and a half. I won't see him until Christmas Eve, and then I'll only get two and a half days with him until I start work again in Utah. I'm grateful to be employed, of course, but it sucks to be apart sometimes. Fortunately, I foresee that I'll have nothing lined up for February and at least part of March, so that will give us some time together.

I can tell Jonah's a bit down, too (not just because of the separation, but other factors as well). It's unusual for us both to be down at the same time. Anyway, this, too, shall pass.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coming Out

This is where I told somebody for the first time, out loud, that I was gay:

I don't remember where we were seated precisely, although if memory serves, it was the middle of the back row. What I do remember was that it felt like my darkest, most horrible secret had finally come to light, and I felt the heaviness of the world lifted off of me. I wept and wept and wept because I was glad that somebody finally knew what I had been keeping locked away for so many years.

I was fortunate that the person I told was completely loving and accepting and nonjudgmental (and, it turned out, was gay herself). I know God helped me find her friendship at this very critical juncture in my life partially because she really helped me through a lot in dealing with my sexuality.

At the time I told her, being gay seemed like such a terrible, awful thing to be. I felt like the most perverse, misunderstood, lonely human being on the face of the earth. After telling her, I began to realize I wasn't (although I still had a lot of uphill climbing to do in dealing with my sexuality).

Today I am so happy to be who I am and grateful for where I am in my life. I am a beautiful, wonderful person who has been blessed so abundantly.

It really does get better.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I thought this post by another blogger out there was especially touching.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Stake President Is Awesome

I guess I should say "former Stake President" since I'm technically no longer a member of the LDS Church, but I just consider him my Stake President. He just wanted to meet with me to see how I'm doing and to express his love for me. He said that no one can know what it's like to be in someone else's shoes or to trod the road that he or she has trod, but that the most important thing was to make sure our relationship with our Savior and Heavenly Father remained intact and strong. I feel that is the case.

He said he admired my example and said he knows things have occurred in the Church that could easily have made someone in my shoes angry or bitter or combative, but that he's glad I have chosen a different attitude. I said I don't always agree with how church leaders handle specific issues, but that I still believe they come from a place of love and concern and that I still have a great love for the religion in which I was brought up. He said that no matter how I feel about the church or what decisions I make regarding it, he will always love me, and I know he meant it. I feel the same way.

He said one thing that has always stuck with him was that he has always admired the fact that Jonah and I have only been with one another sexually and that we waited until after our commitment ceremony to consummate our relationship. He said that he really admires that. I'm proud of that, too. I don't judge anybody who chooses differently, but it felt right for me, and I'm glad my relationship with Jonah is what it is.

My Stake President asked how I was doing. I told him I was very well and was very happy. I told him I have no regrets about the choices I have made. He was happy I was happy.

He asked me how others have responded to my choices. I said that for the most part people have been very supportive. He said he was glad, but also advised me that if anyone ever does say anything unkind or offensive that I still have the ability to choose how I will react to that; that people are imperfect and sometimes do and say careless things, but what is most important is that my relationship with the Lord remain solid and that I not put their imperfections on him. I said that ultimately I can't control how people to respond to me or how I live my life. I can only live my life the best way I know how, and although I can't control how those around me may react, I can control my own reaction and my attitude towards them.

It was a really good talk. I know this man genuinely cares about me. I remember before I was excommunicated, my Stake President expressed hopes that our relationship wouldn't be negatively affected; that our love and friendship would remain strong. I told him it would. And it has.

I have been very fortunate in my association with local leaders (bishops and stake presidents) during much of the course of my life. I've had some really good men counsel me, and in many cases, they have become more than just leaders to me. They have become and have remained friends. I know some people who haven't been as lucky.

My Stake President is a great man. I love him a lot. I'm grateful we had the opportunity to talk today.

I wrote another post today, too. It follows this one.

I Should Have Gone To Brunch

This morning I had an opportunity to go to brunch with some of my cast mates and crew members of the show I'm currently rehearsing. Instead I decided to go to to church, as I usually do. I made the wrong call.

Church, particularly Sacrament Meeting, was mind-numbingly boring today. In fact, if it is possible to be bored to death, I'd say I was pretty close. I think I actually felt I lost a few minutes of precious life today.

Before you give me some of the standard answers I've heard before (i.e., "Well, what did you do to prepare to receive the Spirit today?", "Church is not designed for entertainment, but for worship," "Not every meeting can be a home run," etc.), let me say that I enjoy going to church the majority of the time, but I do not understand why LDS church meetings have to be so dull and uninspired at times. And I actually think my ward that I attend is one of the better ones, but in my history of attending many LDS wards throughout my life, I have seen a lot of lackluster meetings, and I don't quite understand why it has to be that way.

I have heard some outstanding talks in my day and have participated in some very thought-provoking, spiritual lessons, but more often than not, I find that church meetings can come off as somewhat monotonous and boring. I feel sorry for these teachers who come in with a well-prepared lesson only to be greeted by silence or the occasional "Sunday School answer." (Believe you me, I would comment if I could, but my excommunication precludes that). And why do the majority of LDS congregants insist on celebrating the worship of their Lord by singing hymns as if they were funeral dirges? I stopped attending Priesthood years ago because it was week after week after week of unprepared, uninspired lessons, and I simply decided I had better uses for my time. And why do 80% of high council members seem unable to give a good talk? Is it one of the requisites of being called to that position? (In their defense, I think over the years they have gotten better. When I was younger it seemed more like 95%.) And why are church meetings so often conducted like board meetings rather than worship services?

I think worship service can be so much more dynamic, inspiring, and spiritual than it sometimes is. There have been some great talks in General Conferences before; why can't that same fervent energy and instruction exist on a local level, too?

Shouldn't part of worship be celebrating our Savior and our Heavenly Father and creating an environment where the Spirit can freely flow. At the end of two of the most uninspired, tired talks I have heard in some time, the first counselor got up and said a usual, "We're thankful for our speakers. We have felt the Spirit here today," and I just thought, "Have we felt it as strongly as we could have if the speakers had been more dynamic or if the congregation had been more present and spiritually prepared?" I'm not excusing myself. Perhaps I could have been more spiritually present and in tune myself. Maybe I would have more strongly felt the same Spirit the counselor alluded to if I had been more in tune. But I've come to church many a time ready and willing to learn something; having an open mind, heart, and spirit, only to be greeted by an unprepared teacher or speaker or one who doesn't know how to engage his or her listeners. My point is, it isn't always my fault.

I love those times when a really good speaker or teacher gives an especially great talk or lesson; where the participants in a lesson actually have a thought-provoking, spiritual discussion rather than just spouting canned answers; where a particular musical number is done in such a way that the Spirit reverberates throughout the room; etc. I think it can happen more often if we allow it to.

Sometimes it seems that Mormons are just kind of boring, joyless worshipers. It's as if it's a chore to be at church (and sometimes, admittedly, it is). I've attended other faiths on occasion. Some I have enjoyed greatly; others not so much. The ones I've enjoyed most were the ones where there was joy and electricity in the air or when a particular sermon was given that touched my soul. I wish there was more of that in organized religion. I think we should strive for that more. Shouldn't worshiping and learning be joyful events and cause for celebration? I think they should be; otherwise I'd just like to have a joyful brunch with some good friends.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Different, But Not Less

So last night I saw the HBO movie Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes. It was something I had been wanting to see for some time. I read Temple Grandin's book, Animals in Translation a couple of years ago, and was very interested in her story; I like Clare Danes; and HBO movies tend to be very well-made. I was not disappointed.

For those of you not familiar with Temple Grandin, she is an autistic woman who grew up in the 50s when autism was especially misunderstood. She overcame many obstacles in life to become a professor (she teaches at Colorado State University), an inventor, an author, and livestock consultant. You can read more about her here.

In any case, as she was growing up and going to school Temple was seen by some as a freak or a nerd because of her differences. She did not behave as "normal" people do and so was often misunderstood. Her values were sometimes ignored or she was humored because people did not understand her reality. According to the movie, a particular teacher mentored her because he realized she had certain gifts and talents that others did not possess. Unlike people who do not have autism, Temple literally thinks in images and can recall any image she has seen. Like many people with autism, she is especially sensitive to sounds and overstimulation. She relates to animals because she believes animals see things the way she does, and there seems to be much proof that this is true because she has designed safer, more humane slaughterhouses based on easing the fears she believes livestock has, and the implements she has invented seem to work very well.

Temple Grandin is somebody who is different from the norm and could be regarded as strange by those who do not understand the reality she lives. But her reality is just that: hers; and once she was able to unlock the door that allowed her to successfully communicate her ideas and allow her to share her knowledge and gifts with the world, people realized how valuable she was to society. She has saved the livestock industry a lot of money and headaches with her inventions and designs. She has helped people understand autism much better. She has contributed greatly to society. I believe much of this was due to the patience and love of those who wanted to understand and know her for who she is.

In the movie a quote was said in reference to Temple that greatly touched me: "Different, but not less." Sometimes we fear those that are different than us. I've written about this before. This fear, I think, comes from our misconceptions of who people really are or from ignorance or from preconceived notions or simply from a lack of understanding. A mentally retarded person might make someone uncomfortable because they do things that do not fit that person's idea of what is "normal" behavior. The homeless guy talking to himself might put one on guard because he or she doesn't understand that person's reality. Someone might be afraid of someone of another race, religion, or sexual orientation because they don't understand or relate or have mistaken notions of that particular race, religion, or orientation. We all do it, I think. We all have people in our midst who make us feel uncomfortable or fearful because we have mistaken notions or incomplete information about who these people are. We have preconceived ideas, some right and some wrong, upon which we base our judgments of other people, and those color our attitudes towards them.

The key, I think, is unlocking the door just as someone like Temple's mentor or Temple's mother or Temple's aunt did for her. But that sometimes takes a lot of time, patience, and love as well as a willingness to understand where another person is coming from. I bawled during this movie as Temple embraced her differences to become the great woman she has become.

It reminded me of another movie that always gets me crying, The Miracle Worker. The moment in the movie that sets me off is toward the very end when Helen Keller finally understands what Annie Sullivan has been trying to teach her; when she finally "breaks the code," so to speak; when she finally understand how the sign for "water" and the water from the well pouring on her hand relate. The realization that comes over her is absolutely heart-breaking (in a good way) to me.

Her door is unlocked because of a very patient and loving person who, instead of shunning or fearing her differences, tries to create successful communication. Helen Keller became an author, lecturer, and political activist. She could just as likely ended up isolated and misunderstood if not for someone believing in her and for seeing who she was and building on it. She was "different, but not less."

I'm not equating homosexuality with autism or blindness and deafness; I'm pointing out that homosexuality is seen by some as an aberration, as something that is not normal or is wrong. I beg to differ. Homosexuality is just "different, but not less." Temple Grandin once said, "If I could snap my fingers and become nonautistic I would not do so. Autism is part of who I am." Helen Keller once said, "I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world." These women embraced who they were because that's who they were. Being gay is a part of who I am. Whereas there was a time when I would have done anything to be rid of it, I embrace and love it because it a huge part of me.

I recently saw Katy Perry's video for her song "Firework." I love its message of celebrating who you are.

I love Christina Aguilera's video "Beautiful" for the same reason.

I said before in a previous post I referred to earlier that I believe there is a place at God's table for all. I do not believe fear is of God. In fact, because I think it is often fear that causes hate, I feel it is accurate to say that the opposite of love is fear.

Jonah and I were talking tonight about how so often we contain ourselves in boxes because of fear. I believe there is so much more beyond the four walls we sometimes limit ourselves to. Christ's ministry, as Jonah reminded me, was not limited within four walls of a church. It was expansive; he was constantly out there getting to know all the "freaks" and loving them and caring for them when no one else would. He took special care of the misunderstood, the neglected, the shunned.

I think that's what Christ's gospel is all about. We need to love and understand each other better. I plead guilty of not doing it, too. Instead of judging people based on perceived differences, we need to find out who they really are inside and learn to communicate with them because they more than likely have something very valuable to teach us.

Jonah loves to say that when we're constantly looking down in life, we see nothing; when we look up, we see an endless sky of limitless possibilities. So much in life I think we limit ourselves because we can't think outside the box of what might be "normal" or acceptable." In doing so, I think we deprive ourselves of a great, limitless universe of possibility.

"Different" does not mean "less."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How People Should Behave

Today as I was driving on the freeway to work, the man in front of me and I signaled to change lanes at the same time. I happened to change lanes first. Instead of preventing him from getting into my lane or zipping past him before he could do so like many Utah drivers would have done, I signaled for him to come over. And instead of being annoyed by my beating him to the lane first, he changed lanes and signaled a "thank you" back to me, and I returned the favor by signaling a "your welcome," and I thought, "This is how people are supposed to behave; with civility and politeness."

Later, as I was getting ready to go home, I had to make a left hand turn past three lanes of heavy traffic. It was quite busy, and I'm sure people were trying to get home. As traffic commenced moving once the light changed, all three drivers across the three lanes I had to cross stopped to let me pass. Any one of the drivers could have just as easily moved with the flow of traffic as was their prerogative, but all three stopped in unison to let me through, and I signaled my thanks to them, and I again thought, "This is how people should behave."

In both the Salt Lake area and Las Vegas, where I drive frequently, I find an abundance of rude, inconsiderate, self-centered drivers. It was so nice today to encounter people who weren't. I wish everyone could be as kind and thoughtful as these people were in all dealings in life. It was really nice to see. Such a small thing, but I was greatly affected by it.

Just as a side note: the director of the show I am currently rehearsing gave me a thumbs up after one of my scenes and said only two words: "[Cody], perfection!" It made me feel good. All in all, it's been a very pleasant day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I haven't really changed the look of my blog in the almost five years it's been around. Today seemed like as good a day as any to introduce a slightly different look. Hope you like it. And if not...

...well, it's my blog, so tough!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Case For Full-Body Scans

There's been a bit of talk lately about personal rights being infringed upon because of full-body scans and pat-downs at the airport. Frankly, if I can avoid a pat-down by going through the full-body scanner, more power to me, I say. If a TSA agent wants to get his or her jollies by looking at a digital image of my nude body, more power to them (although I somewhat pity the person who thinks that my flabby, pasty body would be much of a turn-on (no offense, Jonah!)). Whatever gets me through security the fastest.

Frankly, I've always thought that the safety precautions at the airport since 9/11 were far too reactionary and really have created more of a facade of safety than actual safety. Somebody uses a box cutter to facilitate an attack? Now practically every sharp implement is forbidden. Somebody brings a shoe bomb on a plane? Now everybody has to remove their shoes. Somebody brings harmful liquid on a plane? Now we have to put liquids in small containers in a see-through bag. But are we really safe or is it just an illusion? My thinking is if a terrorist wants to cause some damage, he or she will find a way to do it regardless of all these regulations (I love the sign at the Las Vegas airport that has a cartoon bomb with "x" over it (as if somebody who brings a bomb aboard does it absent-mindedly; "Oh, yeah. I forgot I had that bomb in my pocket! Good thing that sign reminded me.")) And the next time a terrorist does find a way to perpetuate an attack, a new regulation will be made based on whatever they did. He or she chokes a stewardess to death with his or her shoelaces? Laces and twine will be banned. Maybe belts, too. Or possibly the removable straps on your luggage. What if the terrorist fills his 3.4 oz. bottle of shampoo with some harmful liquid? We'll have to carry our shampoo in thimble-sized bottles and have to provide a sample of the shampoo so the TSA authorities will know it's what we say it is.

I'm half-joking (emphasis on half), of course, but my point is so many of these rules don't really make us any more or less safe; they just give us the illusion of safety, and that makes people feel safer. Not me. Frankly, I feel more inconvenienced than safe, but it is what it is, and if these regulations do lower the percentage of terrorist threats, then good for us.

I'm all for whatever gets me through security the fastest. I can tell I fly more often than some people. I put everything from my pockets in my carry-on long before I even get to the security checkpoint. I have my license and boarding pass out ready to go. My shoes and belt are off as soon as I get one of those trays to put them in. My liquids are regulation-sized and in their plastic baggie for all to see. Everything goes in that tray, and I go through that body scanner. Gander at my junk if you must; just get me through!

I see these poor people who don't fly very often, and I feel particularly sorry for older people who seem disoriented by the whole experience. While they're futzing with their shoes or being told they can't bring their knitting needles on board or wondering why they can't bring their jumbo container of conditioner, I'm long gone. So scan me if you must, TSA. Ogle my privates. I don't care one iota. Just get me through your ridiculous security obstacle course as quickly as possible. I've got a plane to catch!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Wish I Knew How To Quit You (But Not Really)

About a month ago I read a post on this blog, which I commented on. Read it. I'll wait.

To be honest, I had forgotten all about it until the blogger's friend Brenda (referred to in the post) sent me an email asking if she could be my Facebook friend. Because my identity on this blog and my real identity (the one I use on Facebook) are not the same and because I do not really know Brenda, I am declining that request for the time being, but may change my mind later.

Anyway, in reviewing the original post and my comment, I noticed the other party referred to in the post (James; real name: Jeffrey, apparently) had responded after my comment.

If you just read the original post and its comments, you see that Jeffrey (bonevoce) has said, "The questions[sic] remains how can one...sustain and give tithe[sic] to leaders who say their child is 'unnatrual',[sic] say that homosexuality is a choice, can be changed AND at the same time completely support their gay child or loved one? They can't. 'I love you, but you're an abomination?' Come on.

"...Brenda isn't saving gay youth by sustaing[sic] her leaders only perpetuating hate and misinformation..."

As I said in my comment, I think Jeffrey has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and he probably has due cause to feel that way, but I think his question also has validity, and it's a question that troubles me.

Anybody who reads my blog knows that in spite of the fact that I'm not even a member of the LDS Church anymore (on record, at least) that I still hold a great deal of love and yes, even loyalty, to said church. In spite of the fact that in some areas of my life I'm living in a way that is contrary to church teachings, and in spite of the fact that I have some disagreements over how the LDS Church has handled the issue of homosexuality, I have still come to the defense of the LDS Church on many occasions.

I probably have just cause to feel the way Jeffrey does; that someone who sustains church leaders or pays tithes to the LDS Church are not fully supporting their gay friends or family members. But I don't.

Look, do I think Church leaders have always handled the issue of homosexuality in the best or most informed way? Certainly not. Do I think words have been said in church meetings or over the pulpit that have caused great damage to those whose lives this issue affects? Most definitely. But do I think my mom or my siblings or in-laws do not support me and Jonah because they choose to glean to a religion they believe in?; do I think I am an enemy of the gay-rights crowd because I still hold firmly to many of the tenets of a faith that has shaped many of my best qualities and which has and still continues to give me instruction and a spiritual connection to my Heavenly Father? I don't. Sorry if that bothers some people, and believe me, I understand why it might. But I don't swing that way.

Does Mormonism have its problems and faults? I think it would be naive to say that it doesn't. I think it would be naive to believe any religion doesn't have problems or challenges that accompany it. My relationship with Jonah gives me great, great happiness and joy. Being out of the closet and being in this relationship have made me happy beyond anything I ever once thought possible. But there are also aspects of Mormonism that give me a great satisfaction, joy, and insight. Yes, the excommunicated member is testifying about the good Mormonism has brought to my life and the lives of others.

My family has been nothing but supportive of me, my coming out, and my relationship with Jonah. They treat Jonah as they do any of my in-laws. I feel no judgment or distaste from any of them regarding any of the choices I have made in reference to my sexuality. They know I am happy, and they are happy I am happy. I know there are many gay people whose families have not been so kind or loving or accepting, but mine has been.

They respect my free agency. They respect who I am. Likewise, I respect who they are and what they choose. Mormonism brings many of my family members great joy. I do not for one moment feel that their religious convictions diminish me in any way. I don't feel that my holding on to my Mormon roots is somehow a betrayal of my gay brothers and sisters.

So the troubling question is, are those who support or sustain leaders that teach things that may cause damage to those who deal with homosexuality in their own lives or in the lives of loved ones, somehow complicit in hurting our "gay youth," as Jeffrey says. Are they complicit in the spreading of "hate and misinformation?"

The fact of the matter is, I think there are members of the church and even leaders of the church who are troubled by this issue. I don't think this issue has always been handled well, but I believe in the innate goodness of people, including church leaders. Have there been missteps? Yes. Has there been ignorance and misinformation among both leaders and members? Yes. Will the LDS Church ever change its position on homosexuality? I honestly don't know. Does the church and many of its members still have much progress to make as far as the issue of homosexuality is concerned? Definitely. Is Jeffrey absolutely justified in feeling the ways he feels? Probably so. But I don't believe these men are evil or hateful nor do I think those that choose to follow them are malicious or evil. We're all human, and we're all searching for that which makes us happy. I can't deny anyone's right to pursue happiness however they see fit. I wouldn't want anyone to do that to me.

I just can't subscribe to the fact that if my family members (or even myself) still find value in Mormonism that we're somehow responsible for the deaths and destruction of our gay youth. I was one of those youths once. If anyone has a reason to be bitter and angry at the LDS Church or feel justified in abandoning it, I could very well be on the list. But I'm not. I'm just not. Mormonism has given me much and has given my family much, and still does. It may seem like the LDS Church has turned its back on its gay members, and perhaps in many cases it has; but I cannot turn my back on it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Back To Rome

In ancient Roman times, so the story goes, Roman generals and emperors who had won victories over Rome's enemies would be given what was called triumphus, which was basically a ceremonial procession celebrating the victorious general or emperor. This was a big deal and something only the Senate could grant, as I understand it.

On the day of his triumphus, the victor would dress up all fancy and ride through the streets of Rome in a chariot (probably slave-driven), and people would cheer for him and shower him with flowers. Captured prisoners from the other side would also march in the procession in chains, and just for fun, a captured general from the other side might be strangled to death. Sometimes a monument would also be erected in honor of the victor. There was also usually a massive feast and, basically, a huge party.

What I find interesting, though, is that there might have been the temptation for these processions to be used by the victor as self-promotional events or as a way of causing the victor to get a big head. To help prevent this, certain precautions were taken.

The man being honored was expected to conduct himself with the utmost dignity and humility and remember that his triumph was on behalf of his people, Rome, and the gods. He was also given a wreath which he offered in a temple to the gods as a symbol of the fact that he wasn't aspiring to be king of Rome.

My favorite thing, however (which may or may not be true) was that during the procession there was a slave whose job it was to whisper in the victor's ear things that would remind him of his mortality or remind him to remain humble. The specific words may have been something like "Look behind you, remember you are only a man,' or "Remember that you are mortal," or "all glory is fleeting," or something along those lines.

Imagine having this huge, massive celebration because of important things you did and having some guy all day whispering in your ear that it will all go away, that you're just a man, that you'd better stay humble. I was thinking some of our leaders or celebrities today could use that. Heck, I think we all could. Just some guy whispering in our ears that we need to remember how we got where we are and who we did it for and that it's not about us at all and that everything we have worked so hard for could just as easily be gone tomorrow.

I suppose the Holy Ghost serves that purpose. Too bad so many people, including myself at times, tune Him out.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Nice Reminder

Today in testimony meeting, a brother I have written about before stood up to bear his testimony. As I've said in previous posts, my history with this guy hasn't always been positive. I think he's a genuinely well-intentioned man, and he does a lot of good for many people, but he has also been guilty of making racist, homophobic, and chauvinistic remarks in the past, and he can be somewhat of a busybody, so he has rubbed me the wrong way at times. That being said, he's one of the hardest-working people I know; he is far more service-oriented than I am, and has often helped neighbors in our area (including my mother); he is very devoted to his ailing wife; and he has a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and ardently tries in his own, sometimes ineffectual way, to draw others closer to Christ. I think in some ways he is a product of an older generation and, frankly, I think he is often ignorant that some of the old-fashioned, and sometimes just plain wrong, ideas he has may be hurtful to others. This man is a very "letter-of-the-law" kind of personality and very often, I feel he misses the forest for the trees. But I do not think he is a bad man. He can sometimes be misguided, frustrating, and hypocritical, but I do not think he comes from a place of hate at all. Ignorance, yes; but not hate.

He actually called me specifically last Sunday to tell me how much he enjoyed my song and what a beautiful voice he thought I had. I thought that was kind of him.

I admit that there are times when I see him when I feel frustration and annoyance towards him. Today as he got up to bear his testimony, my first thought was "Oh, what stupid thing is he going to say now?" Instead, he got up and related a very simple story about how when he was 13 years old, he had lost a $100 bill that his father had given him to purchase supplies for their farm. $100 now is a good amount of money. Back then (this probably would have been the late 30s), it was an enormous amount. Of course, upon discovering that he had lost the money, he was devastated. He quietly retreated to a nearby ditch (he had been mowing his family's alfalfa fields) and prayed to his Father in Heaven to help him find the money. As he continued mowing, he noticed the bill had somehow become attached to the wheel and was rotating with the wheel, but was otherwise in undamaged condition. He said this experience had shaped his faith in his Heavenly Father, and as I watched him relaying this experience (and reliving it), I didn't see this man I always see; I saw a little, helpless boy, and I actually felt a feeling of great pity and compassion for him.

This man has been in my mom's ward for 32 years, and I have known him since I was seven years old. Even though I know he has a strong testimony of the gospel, and even though he is quite outspoken in Sunday School classes or Priesthood meetings, this was the first time in a while that I remember him bearing his testimony in Sacrament Meeting.

He is quite old now, and the years are showing. He was in a very serious plane crash before he moved into our ward in the late 70s and as long as I have known him he has had a speech impediment and a considerable limp (both results of the crash). I know he served as a bishop prior to joining my mom's ward and has served in many callings in my mom's ward. When he was younger, he shared his opinions quite often. He still does, but his comments often seem irrelevant, and I feel teachers are pretty much humoring him and that his comments are glossed over in order to get to the "real point" of the lesson. I think when he raises his hand to say something, people just know that he's going to say one of his "isms," and they think, "Well, there goes Brother so-and-so again." In a way, he's become kind of irrelevant (I don't even mean as an individual, but as force in the ward unit). He's just an old man; a dying breed; kind of a windbag that people tolerate.

When I say this, too, I don't mean people in the ward have stopped caring about him or loving him or that they don't respect what he may have gone through in life. I just mean that what he has to say seems less important than it did when he was younger and had more of an active role in the ward. At least, that's my impression. I could be wrong. Perhaps I'm simply projecting my own attitudes towards him on to how I think others feel about him.

I say this not to be mean, but because as I watched him at the podium today, I just felt pity for him instead of the hard feelings I sometimes feel. I felt compassion instead of annoyance. I saw him as a man who has spent his whole life serving God the best way he knew how, in spite of any flaws, weaknesses, or imperfections he may have. In a way, he looked tired and old, but as someone who had endured much in life and had done the best he could with what he had. And I thought, "That could easily be how I describe myself when I am his age." Brother so-and-so isn't a perfect man by any means. He sometimes drives me crazy and sometimes frustrates me to no end. He has even made me mad. But he is a child of God, just like me, with his own character flaws, just like me, and I do believe he has done many good things in his life and has tried to live a good life and bless others' lives even if sometimes his methods and style are more of a hindrance than a help to him. I suppose I could sometimes say that about myself. We may be opposed quite diametrically politically and philosophically, but when it comes down to it, are we really all that different in other ways?

I guess all I'm saying is that as he hobbled off the stand, I saw him in a new, and much more compassionate light. Something in me felt he has not very many years left in this earthly realm.

These positive feelings were further brought home when the last sister to give her testimony specifically brought this Brother up as someone who had helped her a great deal. This sister and her husband used to live next door to my mom. Then the husband cheated on her and left her and their kids for another woman. This sister has moved three times since then (all within our ward boundaries), and I know it has been a very rough road for her at times. But she expressed how much she loved this ward and how helpful many people have been to her during these trials, and she specifically mentioned this Brother by name, and I thought, "She doesn't find him irrelevant. She doesn't see him in the way that I sometimes see him, or if she does, it doesn't matter because he has helped her in other, very valuable ways.

I guess my whole point of this post was it was just nice that the Spirit helped me see this Brother in a more compassionate and Christ-like manner. I appreciate Heavenly Father helping me see him in a different light. It was nice to be reminded.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Monday, November 01, 2010

Being A Part

I sang in church yesterday. It went very well. I'm very picky about what I sing in church. I like to sing things that are unique and that speak to my heart. I also prefer to stay away from schmaltzy contemporary LDS pop. I went to the local music store and spent a good hour and a half trying to find a decent song. This, I thought, would be an easy task, but nothing was resonating with me.

I finally found an interesting book of uniquely arranged hymns. I initially chose it because it contained an arrangement of one of my favorite hymns, "Our Savior's Love." I played through it and liked it, but wasn't sure it was the right choice. The book came with a CD, so I listened to all the songs and found a few I liked. There was a very interesting version of "If You Could Hie to Kolob," a song which I don't think is sung nearly enough in church wards; a very odd, but strangely beautiful arrangement of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"; a somewhat mournful, but nice arrangement of a song I wasn't familiar with called "Eternal Day"; and an absolutely gorgeous arrangement of a hymn I'm not very fond of called "Guide Me to Thee."

As I was contemplating with of these four I would sing, I was weighing some pros and cons. Eventually I decided that "Eternal Day" sounded a bit sad and almost funereal for a Sacrament Meeting. It was also the most challenging for me to sing. "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" contained a very simple and relevant message and was centered in Christ, which is what Sacrament Meeting ought to be about, but the arrangement seemed off-putting on some level. I liked it a lot and would probably be apt to sing it on another occasion, but it just seemed wrong for this particular meeting for some reason. "If You Could Hie to Kolob" was awesome and different and would certainly wake people up, but something also seemed a little avant garde about it, and I wasn't sure it was right, either (although it ended up being in very close competition with the song I eventually chose, "Guide Me to Thee."

"Guide Me to Thee" was, by far, my favorite of the four songs I considered. The arrangement is absolutely beautiful; almost haunting. I really loved the melody, which is odd since I don't particularly care for the original hymn it is based on. The lyrics were also troublesome to me. On one level, they are kind of depressing and a bit of a downer, especially in this particular arrangement. Here are the lyrics:

Jesus, my Savior true, Guide me to thee.
Help me thy will to do. Guide me to thee.
E'en in the darkest night
As in the morning bright,
Be thou my beacon light. Guide me to thee.

Through this dark world of strife, Guide me to thee.
Teach me a better life. Guide me to thee.
Let thy redeeming pow'r
Be with me ev'ry hour.
Be thou my safety tow'r. Guide me to thee.

When strife and sin arise,
When tears bedim my eyes,
When hopes are crushed and dead,
When earthly joys are fled,
Thy glory round me shed. Guide me to thee.

When silent death draws near, Guide me to thee.
Calm thou my trembling fear. Guide me to thee.
Let me thy mercy prove.
Let thy enduring love
Guide me to heav'n above. Guide me to thee.

I don't know, somehow all this talk about a "dark world of strife" and "strife and sin" and crushed, dead hopes and lack of "earthly joys" and "silent death" creeping up on you seemed a bit depressing and pessimistic and funereal. By nature, I am an optimist, and this song doesn't really speak of that to me even if the underlying message of Jesus guiding one through everything and granting his mercy and eternal love is a positive one.

Part of me just felt this wasn't the right song for me, an excommunicated member, to sing. I am very happy with my life and feel much joy and peace, and this song (and this specific arrangement) doesn't really reflect that, and for my first post-excommunication "performance," I kind of wanted something that reflected what I am feeling in my current life. Yet I am a sucker for a beautifully haunting and discordant melody, which this was. I also loved its simplicity and the underlying message of always following the Savior no matter what life throws at you.

After a lot of praying (and discussing it with my pianist and family members), this felt like the right song to sing. I tend to get emotional when I sing in church, and this song certainly could get me emotional. But I did not want to be emotional or cry during this song. I did very well. Just a hint of breaking down towards the end, but I kept it together.

It was a beautiful piece, and I thought it went really well. I also was pleased that I could "bear my testimony" of the Savior in Sacrament Meeting through song, and it was nice to feel more a part of the ward. I received a lot of compliments from various ward members afterward, and my bishop seemed very grateful for what the music added to the meeting. I don't say that in a boastful way, honest. I was just pleased to feel like I was contributing to the meeting and that hopefully I was able to help others feel the Spirit.

I still like going to church, but it can be frustrating at times to not be able to contribute as much as I wish I could. I loved giving talks, for example. I enjoyed teaching. I enjoyed commenting during lessons (and there are times when I'm dying to say something that I feel will be useful or of import, but I can't). I still read scriptures out loud (which I enjoy) and, of course, sing, and that at least makes me feel like I'm still a part of the ward family. And I enjoy my relationships with many of the people in my mom's ward (the ward I grew up in), so I still feel a part of things in that way as well. But I admit there are times when it is hard to be "left out." I also recognize that as far as the policies and rules that govern the church are concerned, I am "left out" based on my own actions. I get that there are consequences, and I am willing to accept those, and for the most part, I am fine when it comes to my limited participation in church. It just felt nice to be more a part of things today.

In the near future, I may be involved in something that may "out" me to many people in my ward and in my local community. I do not wish to reveal more at this time, but it is something that will cause my sexual orientation to be known to a wider audience. I am a private person by nature, and I know that putting myself out there is a risk of sorts. Yet I have prayed a lot about it, and if done right, I feel it can be a positive thing and maybe shed light or a new perspective on something that needs it. It feels like the right thing to do and the right time to do it. I am not scared or ashamed. I feel it will be a good thing. I will write more about this later, I'm sure, but that's all I wish to say about it now. I just hope when my fellow ward members know more about who I really am that they will react positively. I guess we'll see.