Saturday, March 31, 2012


I love this piece of art:

It's called "Freedom" by Zenos Frudakis and is located at World Headquarters in Philadelphia.

I love some of the things Frudakis says about the sculpture, including:

"I wanted to create a sculpture almost anyone, regardless of their background, could look at and instantly recognize that it is about the idea of struggling to break free."

"Although for me, this feeling sprang from a particular personal situation, I was conscious that it was a universal desire with almost everyone; that need to escape from some situation – be it an internal struggle or an adversarial circumstance, and to be free from it."

"Although there are four figures represented, the work is really one figure moving from left to right. The composition develops from left to right beginning with a kind of mummy/death like captive figure locked into its background. In the second frame, the figure, reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s Rebellious Slave, begins to stir and struggle to escape. The figure in the third frame has torn himself from the wall that held him captive and is stepping out, reaching for freedom. In the fourth frame, the figure is entirely free, victorious, arms outstretched, completely away from the wall and from the grave space he left behind."

"In working on the large scale sculpture, I was satisfied that those who drove by getting a quick look at it would see the big picture: that it was about escape."

I just love the piece. It really speaks to me. In many ways, I feel it is a metaphor for my own life. Anyway, I thought it worth sharing. Enjoy!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Relax. (or Why Carson Daly's Jokes Didn't Bother Me)

So some of you may be aware of the Jet Blue pilot who had a mental freak-out the other day and was locked out of the cockpit by hi co-pilot and had be to be wrestled and detained by the passengers before eventually being taken off the plane for evaluation.

So the other day talk show host and radio personality Carson Daly made a joke about the incident, saying, "On this particular flight, most of the people were on their way to some sort of security conference in Las it was a bunch of dudes, and well-trained dudes.

"If that were me...with my luck, it would be like, 'This is the flight going to the [gay] pride parade in San Francisco.' 'Uh, we're headed down to Vegas for the floral convention.'"

Daly came under fire by many in the gay community for his insensitive remarks, and even the mother of Mark Bingham, the openly gay man who helped storm the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93, thus foiling the intent of the 9/11 hijackers of that plane, criticized Daly for his remarks.

Once Daly was made aware of the criticism, he immediately apologized on his Twitter account, saying, "This morning on my radio show I attempted to make fun of myself & offended others by mistake. I sincerely apologize." and then later issued the following statement:

"We live in a time where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals find courage every day to overcome adversity, stand up to bullying and find equality. I'm truly saddened that my words today suggested otherwise. I've long been a supporter of Gay and Lesbian rights, and I'm saddened that my comments, however unintentional, offended anyone, specifically members of the LGBT community.

"The fact that I have hurt anyone is devastating. I'm not that guy. I'm proud to be an ally of the LGBT community and will continue to fight with them."

So today I read in the Huffington Post an article asking if the apology is enough; that if celebrities make insensitive remarks about gay people, should they be required to do more than just apologize?

There is even a poll attached to the article, and nearly 63% of the people who participated in the poll say an apology isn't enough.

One commenter said "He is apologizing because he got in trouble not because he is truly sorry. Just another heterosexual person thinking homosexuals aren't regular people."

Another said, "[A]ny time a straight person uses this verbiage it demonstrates their underlying hate and their bigotry towards gay people..."

Several accuse him of being a homophobe.

Sometimes I think people need to step back a little and relax. Look, I may be in the minority here. In the words of another commenter, "Well shoot. This may get me bashed by the more thinner-skin members of The GLBT [Nation], but as a member of The Nation, those jokes made me laugh. I get the need for vigilance against hatefullness [sic] and true homophobia, but every group has stereotypes about them. Those stereotypes can either be used against them to actually harm and debase the group, or they can be the springboard for humor that pokes some fun at them. The jokes were funny.They were actually Daly poking at himself as a loser and how life befalls him."

I think the commenter has a point. I didn't necessarily find the jokes hilarious, but I do see the humor in them, and I agree that the jokes are probably more in self-deprecation against Daly himself than they are an attack on gay people.

As a gay person, if anybody should be offended by jokes that stereotype gay people, it should be me. But I'm not offended, and I think Carson Daly truly means it when he says he meant no ill intent. I take him at his word. If that means I get my gay card taken away, so be it.

Sometimes I think we need to have thicker skins. I understand when you've been attacked your whole life for being gay, jokes like this can rub people the wrong way, but I really think it goes back to true intent? Just as I said in my post about Kirk Cameron, is Carson Daly's intent coming from a place of hate or malice? I don't think it is. Flog me all you want if you disagree, but that's how I feel. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

As another commenter said, "When we lose our ability to laugh at ourselves, we cease to be human."

And another: "We as a society need to lighten up. I mean, comedians make jokes, often at the expense of others. Are we going to require comedians to immediately prostate themselves and apologize for every joke that someone finds offensive? If not, why should the LGBT community get some special exemption from being offended?"

And another: "Maybe it would be safer to ban ALL jokes, just to make sure nobody gets offended?"

And another: "He was trying to be funny. I wish people would lighten up about the politically correct speak they expect from everyone -- including comedians."

My goodness, I’ve heard my share of Mormon jokes and actor jokes, but I didn’t take offense at them simply because they poked fun at a stereotype. Some of them were actually funny.

I think there is a big difference between the jokes Carson Daly made and something like the jokes Tracy Morgan made where he said, "Gays need to quit being p**sies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying," and, when talking about the possibility of his son being gay: "[he] better talk to me like a man and not in a gay voice or I'll pull out a knife and stab that little n**ger to death." Maybe I'm wrong, but to me they come from a different place, although I accept Morgan's apology as well and hope he won't continue to make such jokes.

But humor can be a tricky thing. Boundaries are often crossed, and sometimes humor goes into areas that make us uncomfortable. Ricky Gervais or George Carlin, for example, have often crossed that line, and yet I find many of the line-crossing things they say humorous, and yes, sometimes I am offended.

I guess my bottom line is that Carson Daly's apology is enough for me, although I haven't quite decided if he owed me an apology in the first place. I just don't think his jokes came from an evil place. Misguided? Maybe. Hateful? Nah.

I think the real question we should be asking is not, "Was Carson Daly's apology enough?" but "Is anyone still watching 'Last Call with Carson Daly' and how has it actually remained on the air for so long?"

Anyway, that's how I feel.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Homosexual Relationships Sactioned By The Church: Could It Ever Happen?

In thinking about the recent race issues that been discussed anew since Professor Bott of BYU gave his interview with the Washington Post (discussed here), I have been pondering how the revelations regarding the lifting of the Priesthood ban against blacks relates to homosexual issues in the LDS Church.

The other day I was reading a blog that seemed to be splitting hairs about the terms "racist" and "prejudiced" and how they apply to the Church and its past. Frankly, the author's thesis annoyed me.

Basically what I got from the essay was that when people say the LDS Church has a racist past (especially if those people are white and liberal), they are wrong.

The author says, "There is no doubt the Church, except in rare instances, prohibited men of African descent, from holding the Priesthood and restricted Blacks from Temple Ordinances until June 1978. There is no clear cut doctrinal reason why this ban was upheld for so long and the outgrown of it was vile explanations by some in Church Leadership and so-called scholars as to the reason. But, did it rise to the level of racism as some might claim by today’s standard?

"I suppose it depends of how you define racism."

I'm sorry, but isn't prohibiting a group of people based on their race from partaking in something that the rest of the membership is entitled to partake of the very definition of racism?

Then he says, "...The Church, by the very nature that it allowed an idea of Black race inferiority to be perpetuated within it...did rise to the level of racism. But, that alone, does not qualify to make the Church a racist Church, like, let’s say, White Southern Baptists."

Say what?! Disregarding the author's own bigoted statement, true or not, toward white Southern Baptists, if the LDS Church's policies rose to the level of racism, how does that make them not racist?

He continues: "The LDS Church did not restrict anyone from joining the Church because of their race. Some joined in spite of the ban."

"...Compared to other Churches, organizations and parts of the country, the LDS Church and its members, as a whole (There are always exceptions), were not actively advocating or performing acts of violence against Blacks. There were not fiery, racist talks advocating separatism given in General Conference after the 1800s. While there were some prejudicial actions excluding Blacks from some facilities in Utah, it did not rise to the level that you saw in the South, for example.

"By today’s standards, all of this might be considered racist, but when measured against the times when it happened, it was normal, albeit repugnant to us today."

So because the Church wasn't violent towards black or because their rhetoric was not supposedly as blatant, that somehow excuses them from being racist? I agree with the author's statements that "when measured against the times when it happened, it was normal." I'm not saying the LDS Church's Priesthood ban wasn't a product of its time or that the same racist attitudes that were present in the Church weren't present elsewhere in the country. I'm not saying those weren't normal and accepted attitudes of the time; I'm saying that that does not make them any less racist.

I guess my point is why is it so hard for people to just admit the Church has a racist past? Rather than defending it, why not just say, "Yeah, it happened. Yeah, it was present. We're sorry, and we've moved forward."? Why is that so hard? Why must we split hairs? Why can't we just own it and say, "Yes, it was part of our history, but we do not condone racism now, and hopefully none of our members are still hanging on to racist notions, and if they still are, they need to repent."?

The author's last statement is, "Especially, because it is not true today and was not really true in the past. I know that many of us want the Church to have been better than the other organizations at that time and the fact that maybe the ban was rooted in prejudice is troubling given the divine guidance we claim. But, we must keep the entire history in the perspective of the time in which it occurred."

I agree, we must keep the reasons for the ban in perspective based on the times. But regardless of the times or how much the Church has evolved as far as race issues are concerned does not negate the fact that the ban by its very nature was a racist policy.

I speculate that the reason people are unwilling to own that and instead try to excuse or defend it is probably found in the author's sentence: "...many of us want the Church to have been better than the other organizations at that time and the fact that maybe the ban was rooted in prejudice is troubling given the divine guidance we claim." We want to believe that divine revelation would have caused us to be more progressive on this issue. After all, 1978 is a pretty late date to have a "turn around" compared to where the civil rights movement was in other institutions at that time. We don't want to believe that a divinely guided church would be so far behind the times on that particular issue, and so we just excuse it with "Well, it was just God's will, and he made the change when it was supposed to happen." And that may very well be true. I don't dispute it because frankly, I don't know; but it does lead me into my thoughts on homosexual issues in the LDS Church.

In August of 1949 the First Presidency of the LDS Church issued the following statement:

"The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: 'Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.'

"President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: 'The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.'

"The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.

"The First Presidency

"George Albert Smith, N Eldon Tanner, David O McKay"

In its recent statement disputing Professor Bott's statements, the Church said, "For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding."

It seems to me that the most recent statement by the Church contradicts the 1949 statement somewhat. In that case, does that mean that doctrine or revelation changes?

When the Priesthood ban was revoked, Bruce R. McConkie made the following statement in August of 1978 (nearly 29 years to the day of the 1949 statement):

"There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, 'You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?' And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

"We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.

"It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them."

McConkie, the same man who basically admits that his own statements in the 1966 edition of Mormon Doctrine where he says "Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty." is wrong and that statements such as those by Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation ("There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantage. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less.... There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits.") or other antiquated statements by Brigham Young or Mark E, Petersen or George Q. Cannon are wrong. And why? Because they "spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world." Because "We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more."

If this is so; if something can be considered doctrine one year, and then 30 years later, we're told to disregard everything said about it because new light has revealed more on the subject that we didn't understand, what is stop the Lord from revealing more about the subject of homosexuality to the leaders of the Church.

In talking about the reversal of the Priesthood ban, McConkie says, " was a revelation of such tremendous significance and import; one which would reverse the whole direction of the Church, procedurally and administratively; one which would affect the living and the dead; one which would affect the total relationship that we have with the world; one, I say, of such significance that the Lord wanted independent witnesses who could bear record that the thing had happened."

"There has been a tremendous feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving in the hearts of members of the Church everywhere, with isolated exceptions. There are individuals who are out of harmony on this and on plural marriage and on other doctrines, but for all general purposes there has been universal acceptance; and everyone who has been in tune with the Spirit has known that the Lord spoke, and that his mind and his purposes are being manifest to the course the Church is pursuing."

If the Lord were to suddenly come out and reveal to the leadership of the Church a change in policy or doctrine regarding homosexuality, a change that would certainly "reverse the whole direction of the Church, procedurally and administratively," how would members react? Would there be "a tremendous feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving in the hearts of members of the Church everywhere, with isolated exceptions" or would there be a full-out rebellion?

I've heard people say, "Well, doctrine never changes. The Priesthood ban was a policy change, not a doctrinal change." Was it? I think if you read the 1949 First Presidency statement or read in Mormon Doctrine, which although admittedly, the Church has distanced itself from and disavowed somewhat, by its very title and author, would indicate that the ban was considered doctrine at one time. The same thoughts can be found in Doctrines of Salvation, which, again, by its very title and author, would surely have been considered doctrine at one time, even if it may not be now.

"Well," some might argue," "McConkie's own words about dismissing and forgetting what he and others have said about this issue shows that it was never taken to be doctrine; that based on current revelation, they were wrong in their thoughts and views on the Priesthood ban."

So I ask what's to stop Heavenly Father from giving a revelation negating everything Church leaders have previously said about homosexuality. I'm not saying it will happen, and it seems to me that marriage between a man and a woman has been such a bedrock doctrine in the Church for quite some time that if a revelation did suddenly come out declaring that homosexual relations were now recognized and blessed by the Church and by God, it would surely cause a lot of problems for the Church as far as credibility is concerned. But it also seems to me that it wasn't so relatively long ago that marriage between a man and a woman and a woman was also a practiced doctrine, and although it still seems to be a recognized doctrine in the afterlife, the fact of the matter is if you were to practice it today in mortality, you would be excommunicated; and I daresay if the Church were to suddenly declare that people should practice it, there would be a lot of rebellion.

I guess my point is that this is an ever evolving church. It's easy to dismiss our history with regard to issues such a polygamy and blacks holding the Priesthood. It's easy to say that doctrine never changes, that the Church always stays the same, but the fact is the Church has evolved from where it once was as far as these issues are concerned, and while it may be hard for some to imagine, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the Church may evolve in its views toward homosexuality. History has shown that it already has. Yes, it may not accept homosexual relations as being in line with the commandments, but even in my own lifetime the Church's rhetoric and attitudes toward the issue of homosexuality have softened with the times.

It's easy to say, "Well, the Church would never change its policies towards gay people." It's easy to say that societal pressures didn't have any play in the revelations concerning the revoking of the Priesthood ban or the declaration that polygamy no longer be practiced. But is it true? Could God ever give a revelation changing the direction of the Church with regard to the homosexuality issue? Based on the Church's own history, is it really completely beyond the realm of possibility that the Church could ever do a turn-around regarding gay people and their relationships? Many would say yes. I say, "Never say never." Generations from now, only our history will tell us for sure.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Don't Quit Your Day Job

ChaCha, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is a human-powered search-and-answers service which primarily delivers answers to any question via text. A person can use ChaCha by using their mobile phone and either calling 1-800-2ChaCha (800-224-2242) or sending a text to 242-242. ChaCha can also be accessed on your computer at while you're on the go. ChaCha is like having a smart friend you can call or text for answers on your cell phone anytime for free. It is available 24/7 and is free. And you can basically ask ChaCha anything, serious or funny, and they will answer your question.

So why am I telling you this? Because I happen to be a ChaCha Guide. What is a ChaCha Guide, you ask? Well, somebody has to answer all the questions that people ask ChaCha, and I am one of them.

I originally joined ChaCha on a lark. As I am currently unemployed, I've been a bit bored, and plus ChaCha pays its Guide (don't give up your day job; it's not much, and unless you're answering questions every waking hour, it will take time to earn anything substantial - still, it is possible to earn some minor income if you're dedicated enough. I'm not, though. I've only earned $6.00 since joining.).

The vetting process to join ChaCha was harder than I thought it would be. You need to be a fast typer and pretty knowledgeable about a lot of different things. I had to take a test which asked several questions on a variety of subjects. I did pretty well on that and then had to watch several training videos to be a Guide, and then had to take another test to qualify to be a Guide (one shot only - you fail, and no ChaCha for you). The test was actually a bit stressful, and I was convinced I had failed, but a few days later, much to my surprise, I was accepted as a ChaCha Guide.

Once I was accepted, there was some orientation to go through, and then I was free to start vetting questions (which basically involves making sure the questions texters send get answered correctly). It took me a bit to find my groove and actually my first experience answering questions was a little frantic. A ChaCha Guide is given a limited amount of time to find a suitable answer in ChaCha's data base to any question asked (or you can answer it yourself if you know the answer).

ChaCha Guides are also assessed to measure how well they are doing answering the questions appropriately and giving accurate, timely answers with personality and representing the ChaCha name in a positive manner. I feel I'm doing pretty well.
There is room for advancement at ChaCha, too.

Being a ChaCha Guide is kind of fun because you literally never know what kind of question you're going to get. They can be silly, such as "Does Andy like me?". They can be personal, such as "How do I get my boyfriend to pay more attention to me?". They can be suggestive, such as "Why are you making me so horny?". They can be about a myriad of subjects: "What's traffic like on the 101 right now?", "Can you tell me how to say apple in German?", "Who won the Indiana University game this evening?", "What time does Frank's Brake Shop in Harrisburg close?", "What's the weather going to be like tomorrow?", "Who is the lead singer for the band, The Wonder Years?", "What are the side effects of constipation?", "I need the lyrics to Adele's 'Someone Like You'.", "How do you figure out the slope in math?", "What is the size of Tokyo?", "What are three things Andrew Jackson accomplished in his presidency?", "If you've smoked weed, how long will it stay in your system?", "How do you get past the 16th level in the game 'Doors'?", "In the 1960s how much did a cheeseburger at McDonald's cost?", "How do you make s'mores?", "Are the Paranormal Activity movies based on a real story?", "If sperm got near my girlfriend's vagina (but not inside), can she still get pregnant?", "What is the best way to get rid of hiccups?", and "What is my daily horoscope?", among others. (And yes, most of these are questions (or variations of questions) that I, personally, have answered.

Add to this that some questions are vague, contain incomplete information, misspellings, or are just plain gibberish. I've received "gtbts," for example. Or somebody will send a will send a question on a subject which I am absolutely unfamiliar. For example, I've gotten a good share of Pokemon questions (a lot of ChaCha's users are pre-adolescent or teenagers) or video game questions. I'm pretty good with entertainment and pop culture questions. On the flip side, I'm not to keen on sports and math questions. Still, during high volume times (which are often), it's pretty much the luck-of-the draw.

Anyway, it's fun and can be a nice time-killer, and I'm (very slowly) earning some side cash as well. I also try to put some fun and personality in my answers. For example, somebody asked me what a haiku was, and I gave the answer, but also included a haiku about ChaCha as an example. Somebody was once being cute and made a comment in French, and being a French speaker myself, I replied in French. Or sometimes I'll include an additional interesting fact about the question. And I always try to sign off in a fun way like "ChaCha for now!" or "ChaCha on!" or "ChaCha-ing." or "Thanks for doing the ChaCha." or "ChaCha!"

Anyway, it's been interesting.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Worth Getting Up? Possibly.

So I've been going to my ward off and on. It meets at 9:00 AM, which for this blogger is too early. It's already hard enough to muster enough motivation to keep attending a church where I can't fully participate; having to get up when I am very tired makes it all that much harder.

Still, I felt compelled to go this past Sunday. I fought with myself. I truly was tired and would have rather slept in. Jonah and I had a garage to clean out later in the day. I wanted to stay home.

I managed to get myself up. I actually missed the first 5 or so minutes of Sacrament Meeting because I was late. So I missed the opening hymn, which is something I enjoy and can at least participate in.

It was kind of nice to be sitting to a gentleman who didn't take the sacrament, either. It made me feel a little less alone.

The first talk wasn't great. Some youth speaker told the stories of Joseph (of the coat-of-many-colors fame) and Daniel (of the lions' den fame). But that's all he did was tell the stories in great detail. I could read my Bible if I wanted that. It would have been nice to hear some modern-day applications or his opinions, but nope - just the stories.

The second speaker was pretty good. Truthfully, I don't remember much of her talk; not because it wasn't interesting, but simply because my mind was wandering. She gave a well-delivered talk; I just lost focus.

After her, these three sisters (probably about 14, 11, and 10 years old) played "Nearer, My God, To Thee" on the violin, viola, and cello. They were incredible! Not perfect, mind you, but pretty darn good! And I am a music snob.

It was gorgeous and heartfelt and a very interesting arrangement. A couple of hiccups here and there, but overall, it was quite well-done. And they did it without any sheet music. I was impressed. I really, really enjoyed it. I also was reminded of the scene in the movie Titanic where the band is playing a last song before the ship sinks. I thought that was pretty beautiful, too. Anyway, it was a good number. Other church musical numbers should aspire to be so good.

The next talk caught my interest. The guy started out with a "South Park" reference, of all things, and I thought, "This isn't going to be your average talk." And it wasn't, and I was pleased.

He said although he had never actually seen an episode of "South Park" (which I'm actually not so sure I believed), he was aware of a clip from the show where different religious people are burning in hell, and when they wonder why they're there when they lived their religions so well, the person in charge of hell said they had belonged to the wrong religion. When someone asks what the right religion was, he says "The Mormons."

The man giving this talk used the preceding story as a humorous example of how sometimes as Mormons, we grow up with this kind of self-righteous idea that since Mormonism is supposed to be the only true and complete church on earth; that because it's God's true Church led by Christ himself, somehow that means that Mormons have a market on truth and goodness, and the basic theme of his talk was that that idea is not true.

The talk also led into the idea that as Mormons, we could stand to be more tolerant to viewpoints and religions we don't necessarily agree with; that we should find ways to build common ground with our non-Mormon neighbors by focusing on things we have in common or by opening up our perspective by actually learning about and understanding other belief systems and religious beliefs. Even though we may not share some of them, that doesn't mean that there aren't good things to be learned from them.

He said that sometimes we get so locked into our belief system or sometimes are so heavy-handed about the truth that we have, that we end up excluding others who don't share those beliefs and miss out on chances to get to know a myriad of different kinds of people.

I found the talk immensely refreshing. It was such a nice point-of-view to hear in a sacrament meeting. I really do like this ward a lot. I suppose it's worth getting up early for.

I only attended Sacrament Meeting. That garage wasn't going to clean itself.

The garage looks pretty great now. I hope we can keep it that way. We did find a spider whose width was about the length of my thumb. It was huge; probably the biggest non-tarantula spider I have ever seen. I am quite an arachnophobic, too. We were both concerned it was a black widow, but after capturing it in a parmesan cheese bottle, we determined that it wasn't. I still don't know what it was, but it was scary. I was brave enough to take a picture of it once I determined it didn't have the power to crawl up the inside of the bottle. Perhaps I'll post it later. It was creepy, though.

Anyway, that's all I have for today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Ripple Effect

I'm currently reading Stephen King's latest book, 11/22/63. I'm more than halfway through. It's a good read. The basic plot is about a man who has gone back in time with the intent of preventing John F. Kennedy from being assassinated. I'm quite well-read when it comes to the Kennedy assassination, stories about time-travel have always been interesting to me, and I like Stephen King's writing style, so this novel seemed right up my alley.

I don't know where the story will eventually go, but something that has really intrigued me as I've been reading isn't so much the big goal, which is stop President Kennedy's assassination, but how the little things the main character is doing must have some sort of effect on future events in the lives of those he interacts with.

Think about it: this man comes into a timeline he was never a part of in its original incarnation; so no matter what he does, it will have some effect, whether big or small, on the lives of anyone he interacts with and possibly on the lives of those they interact with. I find that fascinating.

There is a quote from one of my favorite movies, It's A Wonderful Life

that says, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" If you're not familiar with It's A Wonderful Life, it's a very good movie about the effect on man can have on the lives of others. George Bailey, thinking himself a failure, contemplates suicide, but is given a chance to see what the world would have been like had he never existed. He sees that even the smallest things he did had a great effect on the lives of those he touched. For example, by saving his brother's life as a child, he inadvertently saved the lives of many men during the war because those men were saved by his brother.

As I'm reading this book, it intrigues me how the people whose lives this man touches are altered, perhaps in significant ways. Regardless of how big or small the effects are, he is having some effect that didn't exist in the original timeline.

It reminds me of a previous post I wrote recently. We never really know the effect we have on others. Perhaps a person feels like their life is a waste, but they never fully understand the effect they have on those around them. Even by killing oneself, that event will have an effect on others.

I remember a friend of mine killed himself several years ago, and at his funeral I got the distinct impression that my friend was not only truly surprised by how many people loved him and were affected by him, but that he was sorry he hadn't realized that. Now whether that impression was of my own making or whether my friend's spirit really felt that way, I will never know in this lifetime. But it always made me think: we just don't know how we're impacting others' lives.

Think of that power. Every choice we make, big or small, is going to have some kind of ripple effect and affect others somehow. It reminds me of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, Sliding Doors,

which shows two parallel timeline of a woman: one where she catches her train and one where she misses it, and how that tiny event has a major impact on the direction of the two timelines. It's fascinating to think about. Missing the train or catching it occurs simply because a child gets (or doesn't get) in her way in just a matter of second, and yet it creates a ripple effect that completely alters her trajectory. In one timeline, because she catches the train, she gets home early and catches her boyfriend cheating on her; in the other, she doesn't. All this because a little girl playing with a doll got in her way (or didn't get in her way), and yet that child will never have any notion that her actions had that effect on the woman played by Gwyneth Paltrow.

No man is a an island. The things we do (or don't do) have an effect on everyone and everything around us, and we may never ever know it. Sometimes we're just so busy living our lives and doing our thing, we never really take into account the effect our actions have on others. Oh, sure, we can see the big ones. Somebody takes another's life, for example. We can see the effect that had on the dead person's life. But it's the small, seemingly insignificant things that interest me most.

Think about a teacher, for example, that had a great (or negative) effect on you. Jonah had one teacher who treated him terribly and really negatively affected his self-esteem for a time. Does she even realize that? I had a teacher once that served as a father-figure to me when my own father was having some serious health problems. Did he ever realize that until I told him years later. Think of the words you say, good or bad, and how they might affect someone.

I remember watching a training video about productivity, and it was teaching that how you treat people has a ripple effect. It reminds me of this popular story that I've seen forwarded in emails countless times. Maybe it's a little schmaltzy, but I think the moral is apropos:

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books.

I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd."

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.

My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives."

He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!"

There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.

We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, "Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!"

He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem.
He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd.
He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak.

Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous! Today was one of those days.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began, "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends... I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.
I am going to tell you a story."

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.

"Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable."

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize it's depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life. For better or for worse."

Yeah, it's an overdone story. Yeah, it's probably lost its impact from being passed around the Internet so much. But there is truth in it: we don't know how our actions and words truly affect others.

I am also reminded of a talk given by a popular LDS youth speaker in the 70s named Brent Yorgason.

I wish I could find a transcript of it online because it's both humorous and poignant. I have it on tape (yes, tape, you youngsters); maybe I'll transcribe it some time.

In any case, the gist of the talk was the effect, either positive or negative, that we have on others; how our words and actions can either life others or bring them down. Although this is not the exact talk, many of its ideas and stories can be found here.

It seems such a small thing, but our choices -how we choose to act; what we choose to say; how we choose to treat our fellow man - give us perhaps the greatest power we have. It's incredible to think about.

Appreciating The Ones You Love

I was watching "Desperate Housewives" yesterday evening. I enjoy the show quite a bit. It's a fun mix of comedy and drama and some of its comedy is dark, which I like.

Anyway, last week a major character was killed, and last night's episode dealt with his funeral and how he impacted the lives of those he touched. It was a sad episode, made more so by the fact that I find his widow such a likable character and hoped she would have a happy ending when the series ends this year (only four episodes left), but it doesn't look like that will be the case.

As I watched the episode, there was talk about what heaven is, and in a flashback the dead husband said that heaven was being surrounded by those you love doing the things you love to do. I thought about how much I love Jonah, and I pondered on the fact that a heaven without Jonah by my side wouldn't be much of a heaven at all. It seems unfair if it isn't so.

I also thought about how hard it would be to lose Jonah (and I think it would be equally hard for him to lose me - heck, he gets really sad when I leave the state for work). After the episode I told him how much I loved him and how he isn't allowed to die.

But of course, we all die some time. Unless we're in freak accident together, chances are very high that somebody will be left behind. It's hard to imagine life without Jonah - without his love, his influence, his support. It would be like losing a part of myself.

Sometimes when I hear ignorant people demean same-sex relationships, it upsets me. The love I have for my partner is just as strong and valid as any opposite-sex relationship. Jonah is such a important and necessary part of my life. Sure, he gets on my nerves, as any spouse might, but I have a hard time imagining my life without him.

I'm glad a trivial show like "Desperate Housewives" helped remind me how much I love my husband and how much he really means to me. That's something I need to learn to hold on to.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Talkin' 'Bout Sex Revisited

After my previous post about sex , my sister reminded me that I wasn't always so open-minded and unfazed about talking about sex.

She reminded me about the day I came home from maturation class in junior high and how embarrassed I had been by what had been taught and discussed. Wide-eyed, I was telling my mom all the things I had learned and explaining it to her as if she didn't already know it (I guess in my naivete I assumed she didn't). I remember her bemused look as she just sat their smiling at the revelations I had received and agreeing that, "Yeah, that's pretty much what happens." In a way, I was surprised she hadn't already revealed all of this to me if she knew it. After all, I was a pretty inquisitive kid about a lot of things. And she and my dad probably had discussed some things with me by that point, but maybe I just hadn't really taken it in until that day.

My sister also reminded me that my mom's visiting teacher, a family friend and a registered nurse, had been at our home as well when I was vomiting all the information I had learned that day, and she. too. confirmed the information I had learned and told me I shouldn't be embarrassed about talking about it. I did not remember that until my sister brought it up, but it's true.

What was nice was that the maturation class had been a nice springboard to talk about sex with my mom, and I think good sex education should inspire those heart-to-hearts a kid should have with his parents. I learned a lot about sex at school, which was great, but I was able to learn more and have frank, unashamed discussions with my parents because of that education.

I will tell you some things I remember from those maturation classes, which I think were taught over the course of two or three days. First off, I don't remember having my parents sign an parental permission slip, which is required in Utah these days. If they did sign one, I do not recall.

Second, I don't remember ever being told that we would be attending maturation classes. All I knew was that I went to gym as usual and we were taken to what was called the Little Theater, where suddenly one of our guidance counselors, who had been my science teacher a year before, was spouting all this information about male body parts and human sexuality. I was, needless to say, shocked and taken aback. It felt like some sort of ambush that I was ill-prepared for. Maybe they had warned us it was coming; I wasn't always the most attentive student in junior high - but I remember feeling completely taken by surprise that it was happening.

Two things I remember with vivid clarity: one was that when the sex act itself was being explained, we were told that even if you pulled out of a woman without protection, that even if you ejaculated outside of her, if the semen was close enough to the vagina, sperm could still get inside and she could become pregnant. In my embarrassment, I turned to a friend and whispered, "Attack of the flying sperm," and giggled.

The other thing (perhaps the thing that sticks out the most after all these years) was that on the second day of maturation class, our female guidance counselor, Mrs. Groot, a woman I didn't particularly like, was talking us through the female reproductive system, and when talking about the vagina, she said, "Now boys, don't worry about the size of your penis in relation to the woman's vagina. No matter how big your penis gets, it will fit like a glove," and she proceeded to push her hand through a hole she had made with her other hand. At the time, I was mortified, and that image of her hand going through her other hand is still indelible.

Of course, we talked about all the basics of male and female anatomy, the mechanics of sex, and STDs. We must have talked about contraceptives, but I have no lasting impression of that. I do not believe homosexuality was discussed; at least I have no memory of it. That would have been nice to hear about as I was just recognizing that part of myself. Who knows if it would have made a difference? I was still very naive about that and probably would have fought against it anyway.

I do remember having a discussion with my mom once about homosexuality, and I actually think it took place prior to my maturation classes in junior high. In 1983 a serial child murderer in Utah named Arthur Gary Bishop confessed to the murder of five young boys. Although he was a pedophile, which certainly is not the same thing as a homosexual, when I would read about the case in The Salt Lake Tribune, issues of homosexual sex did come out, and so I asked my mom how two men can have sex with each other.

Mom tried to answer me as honestly as she knew how, although she was certainly no expert on the ins and outs of homosexual sex. She said that she believed that a man inserted his penis into the other man's bum or that sometimes one might put his penis into the other's mouth. "Yuck," I thought at the time, and it was clear Mom agreed. It just sounded so bizarre to me, but I appreciated my mom being as frank as she knew how to be regarding the issue.

I think sex should be talked about openly and honestly, and I appreciate that my parents always tried to answer my questions about sex as best they knew how, and that I received a good sex education in school. I think it has served me well.

BTW, gay sex doesn't seem so yucky these days.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Talkin' 'Bout Sex

I've been thinking a lot about sex lately...not the actual act, but people's attitudes towards it, especially in Mormon culture. HB363 is a bill that was passed by both the Utah House and the Senate which would have allowed Utah school districts to opt-out of teaching sexual education altogether and which would have required abstinence-only instruction in those that kept it. This in spite of the fact that parents already have the choice to opt their kids out of sex education if they so want to.

I already wrote about this misguided bill here. After it passed in the House, I wrote my senator a letter urging her to vote against it, which I believe she did. And after it passed in the Senate, I wrote Governor Herbert urging him to veto it. To my great surprise and to his great credit, he did.

This whole sex education bill has had me thinking about how we view sex in Mormon culture and how and what we choose to teach our children about sex. And then I have thought about my own sexual relationship with Jonah and how I feel about it. And, coincidentally, I recently heard this very interesting interview with a Mormon sex therapist on The Cultural Hall Podcast, and so my mind has just been swirling with thoughts about sex.

I don't talk about sex much on my blog. Sex for me has always been a personal thing. And I don't expect to talk about the most graphic and intimate details of my sex life. It, frankly, is none of your business.

But I will say this: I am very satisfied by the sexual part of my relationship with Jonah. As far as I can tell, he is, too. I hope so anyway.

I remember at my church disciplinary council, I read a four-page statement explaining why I made the choices I made to be with Jonah, and one of the things I said was that my sin was loving someone of the same sex. One of the brethren challenged me, essentially asking, "You say that your sin was loving someone of the same sex, but really, wasn't your sin having sexual relations with a person of the same sex outside the bounds of what our Heavenly Father has commanded?" At the time, I was taken aback by the question and simply said, "Yes, I guess you could say that is true," but after I thought about it, I was kind of annoyed that I hadn't said, "But aren't we taught that sex is an expression of love between two people? Why is it wrong for two people of the same sex to express that love in a way that is not only accepted, but encouraged, for members of the opposite sex?"

It doesn't seem fair to me. Jonah and I never had sexual relations prior to our commitment ceremony. We weren't two people just looking for a good time or a quick hop in the sack. We were and are two people in a committed, monogamous, loving relationship. Sex is an important and intimate way in which we express our love to each other. I also think we're both very conscious about wanting each other to enjoy the act of sex. The other's pleasure is usually more important than our own, and I think that shows a great expression of love and a desire to meet each other's needs rather than our own. And actually, I think it makes the sex better.

I enjoy sex. Not all the time. Like most people out there having sex, there are times when I am not in the mood. But most of time I enjoy it very much.

If you had told me when I was twenty that there would ever come a time when I wasn't in the mood for sex, I would have thought that impossible. I was a raging bag of hormones back then. I probably could have had sex a few times a day every day if I'd been married or I'd been sexually active. Nowadays, age has curbed my sex drive a bit, although I would say Jonah and I have a healthy and active sexual relationship.

I think in America we don't always have a healthy dialogue when it comes to sex. I think too often sex is such a taboo subject. Coming from a Mormon background, I think this attitude is too often prevalent in Mormon culture, and I think it bleeds into a lot of the problems that we encounter sexually.

Referring to HB363, some things were said on the aforementioned Cultural Hall Podcast such as how there is this attitude that "if we start talking about [sex], people are going to start to think about it...teenagers are going to go out and have sex because now they know it exists," as if they didn't already.

Dr. Emil Harker, the sex therapist that was being interviewed, used the following anecdote to make a point. He said he didn't know if it was based on reality or a joke, but it wouldn't be hard for me to imagine it being based in reality, and regardless, the point is still a good one:

"Small town Utah..the adults decide, 'What we're gonna do is we're really gonna reduce the amount of teen pregnancies' 'cause it's a really big problem in this small community. So what they decide to do is to take anything that would have any association with sex and remove it. So they took all the condoms and they put all the condoms under the counter; so if you needed a condom, you'd have to ask specifically for that. And so what happened was unbeknownst to them, shockingly, pregnancy rates started going up. ...And their explanation was 'Satan is really powerful now.'

There is this attitude that if we don't talk about sex, kids won't do it, but to me that is such a "bury-your-heads-in-the-sand" mentality. And actually, I think the attitude makes things worse; if you don't have a healthy dialogue with your children about sex, it becomes all that more mysterious to them, and they go off in search of answers somewhere else, and sometimes the places they find their answers turn out to be far less healthy than if the parents had just addressed the issue honestly and unabashedly.

Dr. Harker continued, "...There's a huge moral component, and I think an effort to try to sustain a morality base - a value-based education, - what's happening is fear starts to hijack reason...and what happens when that happens the fiber of reason, logic, and understanding - the light of truth - starts to go out because there is no knowledge, and when you make decisions based on poor information, why would we be surprised that the outcomes are turning out crappy?

"...I hear all these people talking about, 'Well if you talk about it, then you're advocating it.' What the crap is that?! We're not advocating it. We're talking about it, we're putting light on it. It doesn't mean we're promoting it, and so this language of advocating; promoting; - that is just political mumbo-jumbo garbage to push their agenda. It isn't about understanding and making good choices based on information. It isn't. It's...dictating, actually..."

One of the interviewers said something I quite liked. He said, "...So the Church teaches that we should be informed. Intelligence is the only thing we take out of our lives with us, and so...I think that a lot of people would assume this bill is kind of being backed by the LDS Church...because it's so conservative, but...I think that the Church, if they were pressed about it, would say, 'You know what? We want people to be informed. We would like you to not have sex out of marriage; that's something that we've said from the very beginning. Read in the scriptures, yes; but, you know, be informed.' People should have knowledge about the consequences if they decide to have premarital sex or sex, in general...once they're inside marriage 'cause some of these things apply...if your partner...was sexually active before you got married..."

I would go further to say that the reason there are probably so many dysfunctional sexual relationships is because people weren't informed about sex enough. As Dr. Harker states, "If we're not getting good information, what kind of choices can we make?"

In Mormonism - and in many other religions - we're sometimes given the impression that sex is a bad thing; a dirty thing; when in fact, sex is one of greatest gifts our Heavenly Father has given us. He just doesn't want us to misuse it.

Now I fully admit that according to Mormon doctrine, I am misusing the procreative power Heavenly Father has blessed me with. But I also don't believe that sex is just about procreation. I don't think it's just about multiplying and replenishing the earth. There are a lot of people having it - yes, even temple-worthy people - who can't have children, and there are a lot of temple-worthy people not having it at all because they are still single and may be for life, so it can't just be about having children.

I think God has blessed us with these powerful and really wonderful feelings to attract us to one another and to share the most intimate part of ourselves with another human being, hopefully in a great expression of love and unity. When you're having sex, a part of you is literally inside another person, and your are a close and intimate as two people could possibly be.

I think sex could stand to be demystified. I think especially when parents don't talk about all the aspects of sex that their children might be curious about as well as those that are necessary for their health and happiness, they aren't doing their kids any favors. I think if they don't get answers from school or from home, they will look elsewhere. Perhaps they will experiment in unsafe ways, thus resulting in unwanted pregnancies, dangerous diseases, and perhaps unhealthy addictions or attitudes. Perhaps they will look for answers in areas that give them an unrealistic and unhealthy picture of sex, such as in pornographic movies or in the solace of prostitutes.

In Utah, state law prohibits the advocating of contraceptives or homosexuality. I feel especially sorry for kids who are gay who are looking for answers in Utah because it's much more difficult for them to be given a healthy outlook as far as homosexual relations go.

I was always taught that masturbation was a sin and spent years and years feeling guilty and terrible about it when if I had just been taught that it was normal and healthy, I wouldn't have had hang-ups about it. Of course, I was taught the homosexuality was wicked and sinful, and it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. My relationship with Jonah is so incredibly healthy and fulfilling to me. I still fail to understand what is so wrong about two people being together who truly love one another, regardless of their sex.

I don't think it's any great coincidence that there is such a pornography problem among members of the LDS Church. And if you don't think there is one, ask yourself why almost every General Conference has a talk dedicated to it and why there are so many couples going to LDS Family Services to figure out how to tackle it. And I think it is a big issue because there is so much repression in the Mormon faith when it comes to sex.

I am in no way advocating that Mormons need to flout the rules and start having sex. I'm saying that we shouldn't be afraid of talking about it in honest and meaningful ways. Mormons should not be afraid and embarrassed about it.

I knew a girl from Utah County (and yes, I am picking on Utah County because I am biased against it) who in her early 20s, no joke, thought she could get pregnant by French kissing a guy. Her 20s!!! What kind of education was she lacking as far as sex goes? How does someone go through life that long without getting a proper sexual education. Needless to say, she was very sheltered and her parents were very conservative. I was one of the first gay people she ever knew, and she told me after working with me that I had really changed the attitudes she had previously had about gay people. I don't necessarily think she was pro-gay, but what she had been taught (or not taught) about gay people did not match what she was experiencing actually knowing and caring for one.

I think sometimes because we grow up thinking that sex is wrong (until marriage, that is), we develop unhealthy attitudes towards it. It can create dysfunction. A new bride might not want to have sex because it makes her feel dirty even though it's not supposed to be. Or a new groom may think, "Wow, I can have sex now," and not put his wife before his own sexual gratification. Some couples may be so ignorant about sex that when they finally do end up having it, it is a terrible experience. I think there can be so much baggage attached to a poor sexual education.

I love how I feel when I am having sex with Jonah. Sometimes it is mindblowingly wonderful. Not every time, but there are times when it is so great. And there are also times when we are so comfortable and in love that sex is not even necessary. Sometimes I like foreplay even more than than sex act itself. Other times I am all about the act of sexual intercourse. But the cool thing is we just love each other. We care about each other's needs and wants sexually. It's not just about me. It's not just about him. It's truly about us. And I think that's what sex should be.

I'm glad we waited to have sex until after our commitment ceremony. It gave us two years to become friends and base a relationship on more than just sex. I have a friend who spent years sleeping with guy after guy after guy, never taking the time to get to know each one before she jumped in the sack with them, and she could never figure out why she couldn't sustain a relationship. She's thankfully past that stage and seems to have finally found someone that she's happy with.

I don't think sex should be a burden or uncomfortable or a chore. It should and can be really awesome. But I think sometimes our lack of education or unhealthy attitudes developed by either or both partners can cause it to be less than so. I also think good communication is absolutely key in a sexual relationship, and I think because we grow up in a culture where so often we're afraid or embarrassed or reluctant to talk about it, we bring those attitudes into the bedroom and don't discuss things with our partners, and really, if you don't talk about it, how are you going to make it better and more fulfilling?

You have to read a manual to learn how to drive. You have to take a bunch of classes in your chosen field to get a degree in it. Why should sex be any different? To be really good, you've got to have a good education and practice, practice, practice.

I really think the philosophy of fear and ignorance is Satan's domain. The philosophy of love and intelligence is God's.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Jonah Needs More

I don't think I've ever said much about what Jonah does career-wise. Currently he is a wardrobe attendant (a dresser) for a pretty big show. For those of you unfamiliar with the theatre world, that means he helps actors put on their costumes backstage during the show and helps with quick changes or costume repairs.

Jonah is really good at what he does, and this particular job has been a real blessing for both of us, but it would be a lie to say that Jonah's dream job is that of "wardrobe attendant." Jonah is an artist and a performer, and that's really what he would like to be doing. Jonah is good at so many things. He could excel in so many different occupations: performing, interior decorating, flower-arranging, party-planning, making and selling art, costume design, gardening, etc. I sometimes marvel at how talented he is in so many things. I think I'm a good writer, a good actor, a good public speaker, and a decent teacher, but I just think Jonah is capable of so many different things, and he's really, really good at them.

The job he currently holds, which he is also very good at, does not feed his artistic and creative nature, and it is admittedly hard for him to watch other performers perform while he sits on the sidelines hanging up and ironing costumes.

But he does his job well, is very diligent, and rarely complains. But I also know he is sick of his job and yearns to do something more fulfilling. Still, that being said, Jonah is typically optimistic and good-natured and I rarely hear him utter a word of envy.

So I was taken aback a bit this afternoon when Jonah said something that is quite uncharacteristic of him. Some of his friend who perform in the show he works for have been given the honor of singing backup for Jennifer Hudson, a singer whom Jonah admires a great deal. Jonah, who has a gorgeous voice, is certainly capable of singing backup for Jennifer Hudson (and actually, he's a better singer than some of the people performing in his show, truth be told). Anyway, I think he's gotten a little sick of hearing some of them brag about it.

As he were working on our yard this afternoon, he said something akin to "I'm just as good as them. I could sing backup for Jennifer Hudson. Instead, I've wasted six years of my life at this job."

I was only surprised because it's so rare to hear a jealous or self-pitying word from Jonah. Usually it's me who says stuff like that. For example, I've had friends in Broadway shows or acquaintances get jobs that I was up for that I felt more right for, and that's when the green-eyed monster of envy sometimes makes his appearance. But Jonah? He's not like that.

I actually stopped him (literally and physically stopped him) and said, "Hey. You have not wasted your life doing this job. This job is why you and I have a house together. I know it isn't what you want to be doing, but you have worked hard and worked well, and it will be over soon, and then you can move on to something else. But it hasn't been a waste."

Jonah's job ends in September. Who knows what he'll do next? Whatever it is, he'll be brilliant at it. I only help it will feed his creative soul and allow him to fly.

He deserves that.

Friday, March 09, 2012


Today on Facebook somebody I actually like quite a bit called me narrow-minded. I was surprised by this comment. There are many things a person could call me that wouldn't bother me, but narrow-mindedness is not one of them. I take pride in the fact that I try very hard to be an open-minded person. Do I always succeed? No, but I really do try to see all sides of an issue, and I consider myself to be pretty open-minded, so her comment really bothered me.

On the flip side, her comment was a reaction to a negative comment I made about Sarah Palin, so I'm not sure how much credence I should give it. After all, I don't see how my thinking that Sarah Palin wouldn't have made a good vice-president (or, help us all, a good president) makes me narrow-minded. I fully support her right to disagree with me about Sarah Palin, but how does that make me narrow-minded?

Any thoughts?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Defending Kirk Cameron...Sort Of

So the other day former 80s star Kirk Cameron was on Piers Morgan and said the following about gay marriage and homosexuality:

"Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve. One man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don't think anyone else should either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don't."

"I think that it's -- it's – it's unnatural. I think that it's -- it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."

Well, obviously I don't agree with his points-of-view regarding homosexuality and gay marriage nor do I defend those particular remarks, but I do defend Kirk Cameron's right to say whatever he believes regardless of how I feel about it.

After he made his comments, several people verbally attacked him, calling him hateful and bigoted. Roseanne Barr called him "an accomplice to murder." Others made snarky comments about his acting career (or lack thereof).

I agree that Kirk Cameron's comments are prejudiced. Those prejudices are shaped by what he's experienced and has been taught and believes. We all have them. So in that respect, I suppose he is bigoted against gay people. The fact that he believes homosexuality to be unnatural, detrimental, and destructive belies a certain ignorance that I don't agree with. However, I do get a little annoyed when those who support gay rights automatically accuse those who don't support gay rights of hating gay people. Some do, but I don't think it's a blanket statement one can use to describe anyone who thinks homosexuality is wrong.

Do I think Kirk Cameron's beliefs regarding homosexuality and gay marriage are mistaken? You betcha! Do I think he hates gay people? I think it's a stretch, honestly. Certainly I think he has some prejudicial baggage that he carries around with him. Certainly I think his beliefs are based on a certain ignorance about who gay people really are and what they really want. But hate? I just don't quite buy it.

Let me give you an example. I suspect that my brother doesn't agree that a homosexual relationship is what God intends for me. I think my sister-in-law probably feels the same. But I also feel that they don't judge me for any choices I have made to be in one, and no one could ever accuse them of not being supportive of my relationship with Jonah. Do I think they ultimately think that my relationship is contrary to what they believe according to their religious convictions? Yes. Do I think they hate me or even disapprove of me? Not at all. They have shown (as have all my family members) a great deal of love and support for me and my spouse. They have welcomed and accepted us for who we are. I feel my family members, whether they agree that homosexuality is morally righteous or not, have treated me as they have always treated me: with love and respect.

It drives me crazy sometimes when gay activists demand tolerance from those who disagree with them when they often refuse to extend that same tolerance to them. i understand the anger, the annoyance, the refusal to accept anything less than equality; but I am not a fan of the barbs and snarky and sometimes hateful rhetoric that come from either side of the issue.

I certainly don't agree with all of this article, but I do get where the guy is coming from.

I watched a program about gay issues recently, and the commentator was blasting Christians, not recognizing that his own bigotry towards Christians was just as prevalent as the bigotry towards gays he was accusing them of and furthermore, not recognizing that some gay people ARE Christians.

Certainly there are those out there who decry homosexuality in a hateful, completely bigoted way. Then there are others who are prejudiced against gay rights, but aren't bad people; just misinformed, in my opinion.

Of the interview with Cameron, Piers Morgan said, "I felt that he was honest to what he believed, and I don’t think he was expecting the furor that it created… I don’t think I was- it’s been trending worldwide on Twitter for 25 hours.”

Kirk Cameron responded to the "furor" by saying,

"I spoke as honestly as I could, but some people believe my responses were not loving toward those in the gay community. That is not true. I can assuredly say that it's my life's mission to love all people.

"I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years -- without being slandered, accused of hate speech and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square."

"I believe we need to learn how to debate these things with greater love and respect. I've been encouraged by the support of many friends (including gay friends, incidentally)."

Again, while I don't support his beliefs about homosexuality and gay marriage, I think he has a point about being able to express what he believes without being maligned for it. Certainly I think he should expect that people are going to strongly and vehemently disagree with him (as well they should), but I think people can disagree with each other without being disagreeable.

I remember when the Prop 8 stuff happened, a Mormon in a high position in the theatre community was basically forced to resign from his job for donating money to support Prop 8. Even though I didn't agree with his view on Prop 8, I always felt bad that he was pushed out of his career because of the backlash simply for standing up for what he believed in. Yeah, I think what he believed was wrong, and yeah, his actions were going to have consequences, but I never got the impression he hated gay people. He worked with them all the time and got along with them and even loved them. And it's understandable that those people may have taken his decision to donate money to support a bill that would deny them certain rights as a slap in the face. But I still felt bad that two opposing sides couldn't still figure out a way to live harmoniously even while disagreeing.

I just don't think that everybody who disagrees with homosexuality is coming from a place of hate. Ignorance, perhaps. Prejudice, perhaps. But hate? Not always.

It's so easy to throw around the H-word. But it seems like a a huge jump to go from "You disagree with me; therefore you must hate me." It just doesn't compute for me.

I recently saw an episode of the Primetime show, "What Would You Do?"

For those of unfamiliar with the show, I find it a fascinating program. Hosted by John Quinones, the show sets up everyday scenarios with actors that reflect on how people react, why they react, and when they decide to. Usually the scenarios involve social injustices or potentially controversial or hot-button issues. It mainly looks at how people react when faced with everyday dilemmas that test their character and values.

For example, a scenario might be set up where a kid confesses to his father in the earshot of other people that he is gay, and the father reacts badly. Or another scenario might be a Muslim woman being verbally attacked by by prejudiced storekeeper. Anyway, actors play out the scenario in front of unsuspecting bystanders, and then how those bystanders react (or don't react) is the basis of the show.

The one I saw the other night was filmed in Utah. Some of the scenarios included a newly engaged LDS boyfriend berates his fiance when she confesses she's not a virgin; an abusive boyfriend mistreats his girlfriend; a son confesses his homosexuality to his dad; a girl shoplifts from a store; and a white father berates his daughter when he discovers her boyfriend is black.

In the last scenario the black boyfriend was actually played by an actor I know. During the scenario, at one point the boyfriend and girlfriend leave, and bystanders had a chance to speak with the father alone. A couple of ladies agreed with the father that a black boy and white girl didn't belong together. One of the women was an old lady clearly from a generation where those kind of prejudicial beliefs were commonplace. She believed what she believed, and while I completely disagreed with those bigoted beliefs, I also sensed that she didn't have a mean or hateful bone in her body. Misinformed bones and ignorant bones, maybe; bones that come from a lifetime of prejudiced beliefs, definitely; but hateful? I didn't sense that, nor did my black actor friend, who gave the woman a hug and by doing so, rose above what could have been something he could have chosen to react to more negatively, and perhaps rightly so.

I don't care for people who use religion as a way to oppress or disenfranchise others. I don't agree with people whose religious beliefs give them such tunnel vision that they forget to be loving and merciful and nonjudgmental. Kirk Cameron has said many things (not just in this instance) that I disagree with, and I think he can come across as bit overzealous with his personal belief system, but I don't find him hateful. Just wrong.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

You Can't Go Home Again

The other day two of my fellow grads from my graduate program and I happened to all be in town at the same time and decided to get together because we had not seen each other in a while. One of us still lives here on a regular basis and still has regular contact with the Theatre Department. I'm only here from time to time, and the other hadn't been here in a a couple of years.

We all graduated in 2007, and it's hard to believe it's been five years since we left a program that was a very integral part of our lives for three years. Since then, another graduate class has come and gone, and a new one is about halfway through the program.

It was fun to catch up with one another and talk about what we knew of our remaining class (there were 13 of us total) and to discuss what we had taken from the program and what we had chosen to discard.

When we attended the university from 2004-2007 the economy was better, the theatre program was more robust, and its reputation more solid. Now, it seems like a shell of its former self. This particular university is going through major budget cuts. Faculty members have been let go, programs have been eliminated and butchered, assistantships have been reduced. It's not the same program my friends and I attended.

We took a little tour of the campus we had once roamed so often and walked down the hallways and in the classrooms that had literally felt like our home. It felt strange. First of all, the place seemed abandoned; not nearly as vibrant as I remember it being when I attended. Second, it just seemed like there was hardly anyone there we knew anymore. This had once been the center of our lives, and now it was like visiting an almost unfamiliar place lacking in any of the warmth and comfort I had felt when I was attending.

We were also here as graduates rather than as students. We've all matured and aged. One friend said she wished she had had the same maturity then as she feels she has now. I knew what she meant. I was one of the oldest in my class, and I think it served me well. I actually am more out-of-shape than I was then, and I wondered if my body would even be able to handle what we did then. It probably would after a while of conditioning, but just the thought of the physical and mental requirements of the program actually wore me out.

In the Theatre Department itself two major program emphases were cut entirely, and two were combined. The faculty has changed somewhat as well. While my two main professors are still there, much of the faculty has been eliminated or have moved on to other things. The program no longer feels as prestigious as it once did, and I think that's sad because I really enjoyed it a lot. I'm so glad I went when I did rather than now. I just wish the current students were getting the kind of program I had. Maybe it's still good, but I have heard from several sources that morale is low and that the quality of the program is not what it once was. It's really too bad.

I also hear it's much harder to pay for now. When I was there, we got assistantships to help us pay for school. They still have them, but not as many, so not all students get the same advantage I did.

We did see a professor we knew (who, rumor has it, is also on his way out) as well as some of the administrative staff, who remembered us well.

It was fun to get together with my friends and catch up. We all agreed we were glad we had attended when we did and not today.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Well, That Lasted Long

My little hiatus from going to to church was short-lived. I missed it, truth be told. I still don't know that I will go every week, but I really felt like going the last two weeks. I missed two weeks ago because Jonah and I had some things to do, but I went on Sunday. I used to attend the ward that meets at 11:00 AM, which I quite liked. But at the beginning of the year they switched places with another ward and now meet at 9:00 AM, which is a bit early for this night owl.

I tried attending the other ward at 11:00, but really didn't care for it, so I got up early on Sunday and went to my original ward. I was glad I went.

Sunday School wasn't much to shout about, but I quite enjoyed Sacrament Meeting. The bishop's two counselors were released, but the bishop is staying on. Those three men have been the bishopric since I started attending this ward three and a half years ago.

Since it was testimony meeting, the stake president had the old counselors, the new counselors, and the bishop bear their testimonies. The first counselor talked about how a couple of years ago he was called into the stake president's office and almost cried because he thought he was being released, and even though the job was challenging, he didn't feel it was time for him to be done. He was relieved when he discovered that the stake president had wanted to meet him about another matter. But he said when he was called this time, he felt it was time to be released.

As he spoke, I was reminded of the mantle I felt I possessed when I was a full-time missionary. I can't deny that mantle and the spiritual experiences I had as a missionary. I did things as a missionary that I don't think I would be so apt to do now, and I feel that a lot of that was due to the Lord's power and that mantle I felt. I didn't realize how much it was present until I was released. There truly is a power in the Priesthood which I do not claim to fully understand, but I do believe in it.

The second counselor was quite emotional. It was clear he had enjoyed and learned much from his calling and that he would miss it.

The new first counselor is a man that I like very much. He has served as Gospel Doctrine teacher since I have been attending the ward, and I think he's a good teacher. I will miss his lessons, and it sounded like he will miss teaching them. He jokingly said that his first duty before he is released as first counselor someday is to call himself as Gospel Doctrine teacher again.

He told about how much this ward has meant to him and talked about how many years ago he was called as Young Men's leader, but was specifically told when he was set apart that he was not only to be the leader for the young men in the ward, but all those young men, Mormon or not, who were within the ward boundaries. Through one of his member young men, he met a young boy who was in foster care whose mother had abandoned him. He eventually took this kid in and basically raised him, and that kid, who is now an adult, had eventually joined the church and was sitting in the congregation with his wife and child. I just thought it was a neat story and showed the influence one person can have on another person's life.

The new first counselor also said how grateful he was that his sister had come from Utah to see him set apart in his new calling. He said many years ago he had received a phone call when she was pregnant that she had gone into very early labor and might not live because of complications. As he flew to Salt Lake City, he wondered if he would make it in time to see his sister living. He said when he got there, she was still alive, but in very critical condition. She had delivered a one-and-a-half-pound baby by Cesarean. He gave both his sister and the baby a Priesthood blessing, and she eventually recovered, and here she was in the congregation today. (He did not mention the baby, but towards the end of the meeting his niece got up and declared that she was that miracle one-and-a-half-pound baby and that she felt that God working through her uncle's Priesthood blessing had been responsible for her survival.)

The first counselor said he also owed a debt to his mother, who had raised a bishop, a first counselor, a policeman, and a doctor without even knowing what the effect of her parenting would be. It made me think of how as parents we should raise our kids to be grand things, whatever those grand things may be. I this this brother will do a great job in his new calling.

The new second counselor talked about how the Lord can speak and walk with us; that callings are opportunities and gifts. He said we may sometimes question how or why Heavenly Father does things the way He does, but that He is always with us and loves us.

The bishop got up and spoke about how he had felt impressed to release his old counselors and sustain new ones, but also didn't feel like it was his own time to be released nor did the stake president. He talked about what wonderful men his counselors were. He reiterated that "who the Lord calls, He qualifies." He said that serving others increases your perspective.

Other people spoke. One woman said all of her boys were now officiating in the Sacrament in some capacity (either as deacon, teacher, or priest) and that that was a new experience for her and made her a feel both proud and a little old. Another woman had high praise for the new first counselor, saying that when he was her home teacher, he was terrific and largely responsible for helping her and her husband become temple-worthy. I don't doubt it. Another man who just moved here from Germany said he has really felt welcome in this ward (I actually think that is one of the strongest traits of this particular ward: they are very good at making you feel welcome and included and doing it in a very heartfelt and genuine way. I think that's vital.)

Another man talked about serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and how when he and another man were told they would be flying out soon, the other man cried because he was serving as a bishop at the time and felt so good about serving his ward members that he didn't want to be released. Another woman talked about how she had lived in Japan for a while and had been called to serve in the Primary in spite of the fact that she knew no Japanese and the kids knew no English. Yet, she said she accepted it and what she learned in that calling had great impact in her life and she has been grateful for it ever since. She said something I really liked, which I feel I can apply to my own situation: "The Lord knows us well, what we need, what we're capable of, and how to help us." Amen, sister!

I really felt a lot of impressions about the callings God gives us in life and the spirit of what testimony is all about. I was really glad I went. I missed it.