Sunday, February 26, 2012

Choices Have Unintended Consequences

I have been watching the AMC television series, "Breaking Bad". If you have not seen it and are planning on doing so, do not read the rest of this post because there will be some major plot spoilers.

I mainly started watching the show because a lot of my friends recommended it, it's been well-reviewed, and I heard the acting and writing are stellar. For those of you who don't know what "Breaking Bad" is about, the main premise is that it the story of a mild-mannered, unambitious, money-challenged high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who discovers that he has inoperable lung cancer. In order to earn money to care for his family and, eventually, his treatment, he hooks up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, a low-level drug dealer, and the two manufacture and sell a very high-grade and potent methamphetamine.

True to what I've heard, the show is very well-written and -acted. Bryan Cranston (Walt) and Aaron Paul (Jesse) are both amazing, and the supporting cast is great as well. But the show is hard for me to watch.

The show's creator said his initial idea in creating the show was to see what happens when your protagonist becomes your antagonist. He said it was his goal to start with a Mr. Chips-type character and end up with Scarface. It's been interesting, but very hard to watch. And I'm only midway through season 3.

The character starts out desperately trying to provide for his family no matter what he has to do, and progresses down a path where he he loses them and his soul. I'm glad Bryan Cranston is a good actor and makes Walt interesting because, otherwise, I'd have a hard time watching. Walt has lost his moral compass and has done some pretty reprehensible things. He lies to his family, which I find absolutely terrible. And it's lie after lie after lie after lie until Walt gets trapped by them. He's so full of pride and anger. He's deceitful, greedy, self-centered, and misguided. He betrays those he claims to love and/or care about. It's just sad to watch this character go down this path.

SPOILER ALERT - So towards the end of season 2 Walt is responsible for the death of Jesse's girlfriend, a fact that Jesse does not know and which, he himself believes he is responsible for. And it's because of his own selfishness that Walt allows her to die. He has no regard for Jesse's feelings or for the feelings of Jesse's girlfriend's father, who is an air traffic controller, and because of the grief he feels losing his daughter, makes a mistake that causes two planes to collide, killing 160 or so innocent people. Ironically, some of the debris from the planes ends up hitting his own house and yard.

And as I watched these episodes centering on these events, I was reminded that we never know the consequences, good or bad, our actions and choices, good and bad, will produce. In the show, Walt is aware that the death of the girl inadvertently caused the father to make the mistake that killed the airplane passengers, but I was thinking, how many choices do we make every day that impact people profoundly, and we're not even aware of it.

For example, I've talked to people who know my story whose lives were impacted in ways I never would have imagined. To me, I'm just living my life. To others, the choices I've made have been springboards to choices they've made. And I wonder, how am I impacting people by what I do, both good and bad? What choices are others making, either with good or bad consequences, because of how I live my own life?

The saying really is true: "No man is an island." The choices we make in this symbiotic relationship we have with all the other living creatures around us really affects all of us. They affect our kids and grandkids and future generations in big ways and small. The power of free agency really is one of the most powerful and precious gifts we have ever been given by our Father in Heaven. It is my great hope that I can live my life in such a way that my choices will have positive effects on those around me rather than negative ones. The really wondrous thing is that I will never fully know in this life.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sad Mom = Sad Son

I had a talk with my mom yesterday. She seemed down. I asked her what was bothering her. She said it's been hard to adapt to losing some of her independence. She doesn't miss driving so much as she misses being able to drive when and where she wanted to go when she wanted to go there. She feels like her children are always telling her what to do and when to do it, and she misses the control she used to feel over her own life.

She's grateful her kids care about her and are concerned for her welfare and is glad they are able to drive her places or visit her, but she just misses her independence. I think she gets a little stir-crazy to, like she's trapped in her home. She walks a lot, and I think it's good for her.

As she was talking to me about all of this, I really could see things from her point-of-view. I know for a fact that if I were in her place, I would feel the same way. In fact, Jonah and I worry that if I ever get dementia, I will behave with the same stubbornness and fierce independence that my mom does. I'm sure I will.

Mom and I are very alike in that respect: we both highly value our independence, and we can both be very stubborn about it.

I really felt for her because, on one hand, I completely get where she is coming from and would likely feel the same way, but on the other hand, on her bad days Mom can be very disoriented, confused, and exercise bad judgment, and that is what is worrisome to us kids. We want to protect her, but at the same time not treat her like a child and allow her her freedom. It's a hard line to walk sometimes. And it's made worse by the fact that Mom often doesn't recognize that she has a problem and needs us to protect her.

It's just frustrating and hard sometimes. In a perfect world, Mom would be free to do anything she wished without us kids looking over her shoulder to make sure she's not endangering herself or others. But it is not a perfect world.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dementia Frustrations

As I've mentioned, my mom has dementia (or at least that's what we think it is). Neither Mom nor I were happy with her current doctor for reasons I won't go into here, and I wanted to get a second opinion and find someone who specialized in geriatric medicine, and Mom was interested in finding another doctor, so I got an appointment with a new doctor. I made the appointment about two months ago. Yesterday was the soonest he could see my mom, but he has a good reputation, so it seemed worth it.

Two days ago when my sister-in-law and brother reminded Mom of the appointment (which we have told her about several times), she had no recollection of it and couldn't understand why she would need to see a new doctor as she was "perfectly happy" with her current one. That isn't true. Mom has been unhappy with her current doctor for a while, but of course now she didn't remember that.

Anyway, she got mad at my sister-in-law and brother and said she didn't need to see a doctor anyway as she was healthy and didn't have any problems. My sister-in-law had me call Mom and convince her going to this new doctor was for the best. My sister-in-law calls me the "favorite child" because I seem to be able to get Mom to do things my siblings can't. I don't know that that's true, but I do have a good relationship with Mom and am able to coax her to do things.

I talked to Mom and explained why we had made the appointment. She wasn't wild about going, but I was able to convince her to go.

So my sister-in-law and brother took her yesterday only to find out that the doctor's office had called Mom a few days before to confirm the appointment and she had canceled it, telling them she was happy with her current doctor.

The doctor was booked, and the soonest they can see her is March 6. My brother and sister-in-law tried to reason with them, saying we had booked this a couple of months ago and that my brother has taken work off special for this appointment, but to no avail. After all, Mom had canceled the appointment, and the doctor had no free spots. But the receptionist did say the doctor was top-notch and would be worth the wait. My brother made sure he gave her his number so they would call him instead of my mom to confirm.

It's so frustrating that we have to wait another two weeks for an appointment we've already waited months for. Getting Mom to go is like pulling teeth anyway. I think the most frustrating thing about Mom's dementia is that she doesn't recognize there is anything wrong with her and therefore is resistant to anything we try to do to help her.

Mom has really good days and some not so good days, and these last couple of days I feel she has not been doing so well. I just would like to get her in to a specialist. Well, let's hope March 6th works out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Things That Make My Blood Boil

So I read this in the Salt Lake Tribune today. Just when I think it's absolutely impossible for the Utah Legislature to be any more moronic and disappointing, they somehow manage to outdo themselves.

I don't know why I'm always surprised by the dumb things the Utah Legislature try (and often manage) to get passed. After all, these are the same people who felt we needed a state gun around the same time Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head. These are the same people who tried and managed to pass a bill (HB477) that would inhibit transparency in government, all without any input from the people they supposedly represent and then were forced to repeal it when they realized the majority of the people they represent didn't approve of it.

Now they want to completely get rid of sexual education in schools. I'm sorry, do these people think completely eliminating sex education is going to make kids stop having sex? And whether one thinks premarital sex is immoral, shouldn't kids at least be informed about the dangers and the measures that will keep them safe and healthy and which will help them avoid unwanted pregnancies and diseases? Hey, abstinence is a nice ideal, but we can plainly see in society that the ideal is not always (or even often) met.

I just don't believe that keeping our children's heads in the sand when it comes to this issue is healthy or beneficial to either them or society in general. Stuff like this drives me crazy. Hopefully this will die in the Senate.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why I Believe In God

It was in August of 1991 that my life completely changed. It's hard to believe it was nearly 21 years ago, but it was a moment that completely redefined my life and attitudes, more than any other, I think, including my relationship with Jonah and my excommunication from the LDS Church, and that is saying a lot.

And that moment in 1991 ranks as the top because it completely redefined how I now see the world. And if it hadn't happened, I highly doubt I would ever have ended up with Jonah at all. It was a night in August, 1991 that I felt God speak to me. Really speak to my heart. It was as real (and, ironically, more real) than any tangible experience I have had before or since. And it truly changed my life from night to day.

I have written about that experience before in this blog, but not with the detail that I expect to write now.

First off, you have to know who I was prior to that August night. In 1991, I had just graduated from a two-year college in Utah. It had been a very eventful two years: some of the best and worst times of my life. I was coming to terms with my sexuality, a journey that was fraught with confusion and conflict. I was completely inactive in the LDS Church and was losing what little faith I had left in a loving and caring God. My relationship with my family was tenuous. My sister and I were not on good terms. My father had suffered a series of debilitating strokes, and I was angry and bitter that the man I grew up with had become this other person, and I resented God for it. My mom and I were constantly bickering. She saw me drifting away from the family and the religion I had grown up with and didn't understand why, and her efforts to reach out to me were met with great resistance, and I pushed back those advances and caused her a great deal of pain and heartache.

I was a very selfish, immature, angry, and confused lad. My view of the world revolved around me. What's in it for me? How does this affect me? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Why can't things go my way? How will I benefit?

Sometimes I reread journal entries from that period, and I just want to slap that kid. He's so ungrateful, so self-centered, so angry, so sarcastic, so missing the mark. And yet, I was that guy once, and I was that guy in full force. It's hard to believe sometimes.

Although I still prayed (mostly out of habit), I felt my prayers fell on deaf ears. I still had a belief in a God, but it seemed more due to conditioning than a genuine connection to a higher being. What little faith I had left in a god convinced me he was uncaring and heartless. It shames me to say that now, but it was what I believed and felt at the time.

I had prayed so earnestly about issues such as my sexuality and my religion. No prayers were as heartfelt and sincere as mine. That's how it felt at the time, at least. And yet, God was silent. I couldn't understand why. It made me feel unworthy, unloved, and unwanted.

I had already come out of the closet to a limited number of people. I was going to be attending Utah State University. I was eager to get out of the house and away from my family. I was angry at God and felt disillusioned by the religion I grew up in. I fear if I had continued on the path I was on, I would have stopped believing in God, I probably would have engaged in risky sexual practices, and I probably would have continued being my angry, bitter, self-centered self.

On that August night in 1991, I said my routine prayer without much sincerity or conviction. I pretty much challenged God. I more or less said, "If you're really there and don't like the path I'm taking, you'd better do something and do it quick." It was a flippant and prideful ultimatum and certainly not one deserving of any response.

As I started to fall asleep, I felt like I should read a scripture in James, the same one that Joseph Smith read before the first vision: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." My first thought was one of scorn. I thought, "I've heard that scripture a thousand times. Why the hell should I read it now?" However, I begrudgingly got out of bed and grabbed my scriptures and started to read. I read the verse I was prompted to read, but also read the whole chapter.

At first, I just read with reluctance, but then something amazing and very unexpected happened, and I do not exaggerate when I say it truly changed my life for the better. There are no words in the English language that I can think of that truly describe what happened or what I experienced. I wish it were possible to bottle what I felt and knew that night and share it with others because it helped me so much at a time I desperately needed it and merited it the least, and maybe that was the point. Frankly, I wish I could have bottled it for me to use at later times when I lose perspective.

The best words I can come up with for what I felt are "absolute clarity". It was like scales had been removed from my eyes, like my whole being was filled with light and knowledge in great abundance, and I felt like I saw life and the world and God and eternity as they really were rather than how I perceived them to be.

I would swear on a stack of Bibles that I saw life from an eternal perspective, that I saw just a fraction of how God views us and this world, and just that minute fraction provided me with an overwhelming amount of knowledge, light, and love. It was like I could see everything at the same time with a perfect knowledge of how things work and what life is about and who God is. Most importantly, I am absolutely convinced that it was made known to me that not only does God indeed exist, but that he knows and loves each one of us personally. I knew (yes, KNEW) that God was my Father and loved and knew me personally and unconditionally and that He knew exactly what I was going through and cared about me very, very much. This was something I had not previously known or felt.

The mortal world has dimmed the exact feelings I felt that night. The years have shaded the memories. They are not as fresh as they were that night, although after they happened I wrote about them in my journal for hours into the morning, and so I still have a record that records those memories and experiences and feelings while they were still fresh. Although time has dulled my senses, I can never deny that what happened, happened. No matter where I go in life, no matter what I do, no matter how my views my shift, I can not deny that what I felt was real. Like I said, it was more real than any material thing that has ever happened to me in my life.

Aside from the knowledge that God is real and loves me, I also learned and felt some other things that night. I also felt very strongly that Satan, too, existed, and would do whatever he could to trick me or lead me away from my Father in Heaven. I felt absolutely sure he hated me just as strongly and as real as my Father loved me. I felt very strongly that I was supposed to go on a mission and get married in the temple. And I felt that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was God's church on earth. I also felt that I wasn't supposed to pursue my homosexual attractions.

Well, obviously I didn't do everything I was prompted to do at that time. I did go on a mission (which I loved), but you can see that I didn't get married in the temple or overcome my homosexuality, although I feel very, very strongly I did the best I could to do so. Does that mean I've been deceived? I don't know. I don't feel like I've been, and I still maintain that I am happier now having pursued my relationship with Jonah than I was when I was trying to be true to the LDS Church and all of its teachings.

A friend once speculated that maybe God told me what I needed to hear at the time, for if I had not received that revelation, I surmise I would have ended up on a very different, volatile path. I probably wouldn't believe in God, for one. I probably would have a different, far less agreeable personality. I dread to think of where I might have ended up.

I do not regret any choices I made from that day forth. I do not regret going on a mission. I do not regret devoting much of my life to the LDS Church and its teachings. I don't regret falling in love with Jonah. I don't regret my excommunication. I don't regret where I am now. All these things made me who I am. All of these things have been (forgive the cliche) the threads that have made the tapestry that is my life, and it's a pretty damn good tapestry, if I say so myself.

I don't expect anybody to believe in God and I understand why many people don't. There are terrible things that happen on this planet, and I know it's hard to understand why a loving God wouldn't intervene. I know that a lot of the dogma that comes from organized religion turns people off of God, which is both sad and ironic to me. I know that sometimes science seemingly trumps divinity. I know that there are those who think it's ridiculous or absurd to believe in God or see a need to believe in a higher power. I get it. I'm not trying to persuade anyone that God exists; I'm only saying that I feel so sure He does.

I often wonder why God revealed Himself to me, but doesn't seem to make himself known in the same way to others. It sometimes seems unfair to me.

I remember on my mission I was reading Alma 26: 16-20 which says:

"Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.

"Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?

"Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church.

"Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?

"Oh, my soul, almost as it were, fleeth at the thought. Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us over that everlasting gulf of death and misery, even to the salvation of our souls."

I remember as I read these words, I wondered why God had been so merciful to me. Why when I felt I least deserved it did God tell me He did indeed exist and loved me? I was not a particularly valiant spirit when I received an answer to my prayer that August night. I was full of selfishness, bitterness, anger, pride and was completely lacking in any faith. Why then did God choose that moment to give me the greatest gift: a knowledge that He really is and really knows and loves me? Why?

And what I realized was how incredibly merciful God is. I didn't deserve an answer. My Heavenly Father didn't give me an answer because I deserved it; He gave it to me because He loves me, and nothing I'll ever do will stand in the way of that.

Having been out of the Church for 2 and a half years, that knowledge has only been affirmed even more. God loves me. God is not any religion. He's bigger than all of it. I do not comprehend God and all of His ways, but I believe in Him. I really feel I can say I know He is real and that He loves me immeasurably. I have felt Him bless my life and Jonah's life. Actually, being with Jonah and being "outside the Mormon box" has helped me know Him even more, which at first felt contradictory, but nonetheless, I truly feel it.

I am where I am supposed to be. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. My Father is happy that I am happy. I am sure of these things. I don't know how things will work out in either this life or the next or how my 1991 revelation corresponds with how I am living my life today, but I feel very good about my relationship with God.

In spite of the fact that I have not always done everything according to what I felt on the August night in 1991, I feel I have done my best to live a good life and to honor my Father in Heaven according to the circumstances life has given me, and I feel I am on the right path.

That revelation in 1991 has made me a better person, and it taught me to trust God even if I don't always understand His ways. The knowledge I received that night has given me more faith, made me more prayerful, made me more loving and less selfish, and less judgmental.

I do not know all the answers. I have a ton of faults. I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I do not expect anyone to follow the path I have walked or to live their life according to my beliefs. I just know my path and my beliefs are working for me, and that my standing with my Father feels good to me, and that's what counts.

I don't fault or criticize anyone that doesn't believe in God. Some of my best friends are atheists, and I love them. I never try to push my belief system on them. Nobody could have ever made me believe in God but God himself, and I believe that's what happened. As I said, I sometimes wish I could bottle up what I felt that night to share with others (and sometimes I'd like to take a nip myself during low times), but I can't. I just know what I know and believe what I believe, and it works for me. I have felt His love and His influence sure as I breathe. I just know it.

That is why I believe in God.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Owning My Mormonism

I recently watched an address that Joanna Brooks did for a Mormon Stories conference in June. Here it is in its entirety:

I really like Joanna Brooks. She is an unorthodox Mormon and speaks to me and my views on many things in Mormonism.

Toward the end of her talk she says the following:

"Belong. Behave. Believe, in that order. It's not "correlate or die." It's not that if you believe you get to belong. It's not that if you stop behaving we may not claim you... It is belong first. Claim your identity. Claim this community. Show up and put in the work, and we will claim you, and good consequences will follow. Belong. Mormonism is a religious tradition that emphasizes belonging. We are a tradition with a theology bold enough to define eternity as a state of mutual one's ancestors, to one's beloved, and to one's descendants. We are a tradition with a history distinctive enough to foster something miraculous: a modern form of people-hood. Belonging.

"And yet, in some spaces and in some moments we've seen an incredible brittleness creep into that sense of belonging; a willingness to disown or revoke just because one of our own turns out to be liberal or gay or a non-literal believer or an atheist or an intellectually curious soul. That's not the Mormonism my grandmothers handed down to me.

"Perhaps you've come some long miles alone. Perhaps you have been silent. Perhaps you have felt disappointed, sad, angry, afraid, frustrated, unworthy to belong. Surely there is a place in the Mormon story for all of us.

"As healing as it was for me to hear someone like John Dehlin say..., 'I hear you. I recognize you. I claim you,' let me say the same to you, too. ...If you identify as a Mormon, I hear you. I recognize you. I claim you. I claim you, gay or straight; liberal or conservative; white, black, brown, perfect, imperfect, active, less-active, post, present, literal, non-literal, agnostic, atheistic - your story matters. You belong.

We are Mormons. We may be uncorrelated, but we are still Mormons. We are open. We are open to each other. We are open to difference. We are open to the beautiful and the difficult facts of our Mormon history, and we are open to the potential of Mormonism is the 21st century. Let's see what beauty we can make of our Mormon identity together."

I love this thought. As I've thought about how my excommunication has affected me, I have realized that nothing will stop me from being Mormon. It is too deep in my blood. No matter what my relationship is to the LDS Church and what choices I have made or will make in regard to it, I will always be Mormon, and I proudly claim that title.

I think I'll have more to say on this subject at a later time, but I just wanted to post the preceding thoughts now while they are still fresh in my head.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No Valentine's Day Miracle This Year

You may have read my post last year about the miracle of free chocolate. I was hoping that same business would give away free chocolate this year, but alas, no. Instead, this year you had to earn points to get the chocolate. Where's the miracle in that?

To their credit, that same business is holding a contest to give away some free cars and cash, and my valued customer card earns me ten free entries for that, but the chances of winning are nothing compared to the guaranteed free chocolate of last year.

Jonah and I had a nice, but low-key Valentine's Day. I bought him a Grace Kelly Barbie doll he really wanted (he collects them), and he was thrilled with it. Jonah bought me a Star Wars t-shirt, some really nice fashion underwear, Stephen King's latest book, 11-22-63, which I've been dying to read, and a box of chocolates emblazoned with Darth Vader's face. The book was the best surprise of all.

We went to a local buffet to eat, which was nice. Jonah had to work that night, so we didn't do much else. Still, it was a very nice Valentine's Day.

On another, completely unrelated, note, I recently discovered that two good friends of mine have divorced. They seem to be on excellent terms, and I am not sure what the reasons were for their decision, but it kind of broke my heart. They were one of those couples I just felt were perfect for one another and that their marriage would last forever. I guess that's why it's heartbreaking: a couple who seems perfect for each other can't make it work.

Of course, what an outsider sees and the reality of the relationship are often two different things. One never really knows what's going on except the people involved. But it's been another relationship in a series that have ended in divorce. This couple was together for 9 years. Other friends who I thought would last forever (one after an 11 year relationship, another after 5 years) have split up as well. It just makes me sad. Like I said, I don't know the details, so maybe they're all for the best, but it depresses me when couples that seem to be a shining example of what marriage should and can be split up.

As I was lamenting about this, Jonah said, "Well, sometimes it happens."

I said, "I know. I just hope it never happens to us."

Jonah said, "Well, I'm not going anywhere."

I said, "Well, I'm not either."

The scary part is that I'm sure the people in those relationships said that at one time, too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Any Benefit In Remaining Silent?

Jonah has this friend who posted the following post on Facebook:

"I would love for my Christian friends to read this, and comment on it... (I also invite my non-Christan friends...) Jay Bakker [son of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker] is a straight ally for the gay community. These are comments from his sermon this past Sunday... I wonder what my straight friends who attend a church that I consider to be "anti-gay" think of this... I wonder if they take my feelings into consideration... Just wondering..."

He then quotes Jay Bakker:

"What I realized is there are a lot of people who attend their church because they like the worship music or appreciate the community, even though someone they love is not fully welcomed or included in their church. It makes me wonder -- how would I feel if my friends continuously attended a place that didn't completely welcome me --or wouldn't allow me to be a member -- or wouldn't allow me to volunteer -- or wouldn't recognize my relationship with my significant other... How would that make me feel? -

"As straight allies, I want us to keep thinking about this, and asking, "Why aren't things changing?" We continue to say "Well, they've got really good music there..." or "the community is really nice..." I still tithe & give my money there... But at the same time, their Gospel doesn't include certain people... I want to challenge people to see things through other people's eyes. Your friends who are being excluded probably aren't going to say anything, because they are so used to being excluded, and not fitting in, that they have just come to terms with fitting into that reality... And to me, it is reality that is unacceptable.

"These types of things need to be discussed. The silence is very dangerous for people & it really does hurt people, and it really does continue to make people second class citizens...

"Being silent does not change anything. Being silent might be helping those who aren't comfortable with those people, but what about those people? I just never thought the church was meant to be run by majority rules. It seems to me that Jesus continuously taught that you leave the 99 for the one -- (he taught) always go out of the way for the least of these... -- Maybe churches are just not into Jesus -- I don't know..."

I'm not sure how I feel about his statement. As someone who has attended a church that is seen by many as "anti-gay" and actually has attended mostly in silence since I was excommunicated, I am not only one of the disenfranchised that Jay Bakker is defending, but I guess I am also one of the silent supporters of that supposedly "anti-gay" church that he is accusing.

I get his point. How can you claim to support your gay friends if you are giving your time and support to an organization that excludes them? But does Bakker really expect those people to give up their religions which may provide them with more than Bakker surmises. Contrary to his assertions, I don't think it's just about the "good music" or "nice community". I think people find inspiration and a closeness to God even if the religion may teach doctrines which which they are not always comfortable.

I agree that staying silent doesn't change anything, but is being a quiet example the same as staying silent? I must admit that as a gay person, I am always pleased when an active Mormon friend speaks up in a church meeting in defense of gay people, but I also think even when people don't speak up, some are affected positively by the rhetoric. Maybe they silently think, "I don't think I agree with that negative rhetoric" and just because they aren't speaking up now doesn't mean they won't someday be moved to do so. Some people take time to understand their voice and speak their truth.

As for someone like me, a gay, excommunicated man who still attended (well, until recently) my Mormon ward in silence, is my silent attendance necessarily showing support for an anti-gay organization? Maybe I've gotten more out of going than Jay Bakker surmises. And maybe the fact that I have continued to go has had a positive effect on those around me. Maybe they think about gay people differently now. Maybe they think more positively about gay people and their relationships because of my own example. Maybe they're thinking about how they feel about this issue. I know they are. I think my silence has often spoken volumes that couldn't have been effectively communicated in any other way.

Jonah replied to his friend's status post:

"I've been thinking of this. What I find is that God has truly made us different for a reason. There are those of us who were made to be outspoken and those who are not so outspoken or as Jay Bakker calls them, 'the silent ones'. But let us all remember that God has a plan for those who are silent, too. Yes, there are times when I wish these people would scream from the mountaintops as I, but sometimes these silent ones can be just as big an example as us by just being who they are. We shouldn't assume that these silent ones aren't making an impact or doing what they can to change things. Remember, change starts from within and it doesn't happen overnight. I believe change is coming and one day the hard shell of these churches will break. Each and every one has their own journey and just because one is not going to an all-inclusive church doesn't mean they don't want change."

Anyway, I just found the whole topic of conversation very interesting. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Many Issues And The Future Of This Blog

Some days I wonder why I continue to write this blog. I'm not even sure how many people read it anymore or if anything I write is of particular interest to anyone. When I began this blog six years ago, I was trying to sort through all sorts of emotions and come to terms with who I am. Now that I've done that and found someone who makes me happy in a life that's more joyous than not, I wonder what do I have to say.

It's not that what I have to say isn't important or worthy of being said. I just sometimes wonder how many people are even listening or if they are impacted by anything I have to write. I began this blog as a way of sorting through a lot of conflicting emotions. Now that I've done that, what am I really using it for? It's just become sort of an online journal. Why then do I need to share my inner-most thoughts with a group of people who are mostly strangers when I can I just write in my own journal?

Sometime I feel like if I'm going to continue blogging, I should refocus what I want to say, but I'm not entirely sure what I feel I need to say in an online forum anymore.

Maybe I'm just having an off day. After all, I've threatened to quit blogging before, and obviously I haven't. And I suppose I do get satisfaction from voicing my thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

Anyway, today I thought I'd share some feelings about various things I've been exposed to lately. The first is the amazing stuff that's happening in Washington state right now with gay marriage. I've said before in this blog that I think gay marriage is an inevitable "rolling stone", and it's going to happen whether you want it to or not. Where you decide to stand as far as the history of gay marriage is up to you, but eventually it's going to be country-wide as far as I'm concerned.

I'm so proud of the governor of Washington and the legislators who had the courage to pass the bill that will enable same-sex couples in Washington to marry. I was particularly moved by this Republican, who I'm sure many of you are aware of:

Maureen Walsh claims she's not very eloquent, but I think she articulates exactly what the issue of gay marriage issue is really about. I admire her courage and the courage of those who voted for this bill to enable a disenfranchised minority to gain another foothold toward equal rights.

I was also excited and thrilled to hear that the appeals court in California declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

Of course, we probably still have a ways to go before gay marriage in California resumes, but this is a step in the right direction, and if this goes to the Supreme Court, who knows, maybe gay marriage will become a federally recognized institution? Again, I think it's inevitable, whether one year from now, 20 years from now, or 100 years from now.

Of course, the LDS Church came out with their own statement on the matter, which I'm sure most of you are familiar with and which, of course, was not a surprise. It said:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today’s decision. California voters have twice determined in a general election that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We have always had that view. Courts should not alter that definition, especially when the people of California have spoken so clearly on the subject.

"Millions of voters in California sent a message that traditional marriage is crucial to society. They expressed their desire, through the democratic process, to keep traditional marriage as the bedrock of society, as it has been for generations.

"We recognize that this decision represents a continuation of what has been a vigorous public debate over the rights of the people to define and protect the fundamental institution of marriage. There is no doubt that today’s ruling will intensify the debate in this country. We urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion."

Other bloggers have written about their issues with this statement, such as the fact that the LDS Church has not always believed in marriage just being between "a man and a woman". For many years and even as far as the afterlife goes, the LDS Church has held the position of marriage being between a man and more than one woman, so there's that.

Bloggers have also pointed out that although church leaders stress that "millions of voters in California sent a message that traditional marriage is crucial to society," they fail to mention the millions of voters that were not against gay marriage. Remember, the vote came down to 52.24% for Prop. 8 and 47.74% against it. That's 7,001,084 to 6,401,482: a difference of only 599,602 votes, so it's not like it was an overwhelming majority, and even if it had been, would that make it right. Years ago a majority thought there was nothing wrong with keeping fellow human beings as slaves or that women shouldn't have equal rights as men or that interracial couples shouldn't marry or that people with a different colored skin were inferior. Did that make those things right?

I do appreciate the LDS Church's final statement: "We urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion." I think that's good advice.

Look. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the LDS Church has every right to defend what it believes in, and I respect people's right to believe that gay marriage or homosexual relationships are morally wrong. But I have just as much a right to believe what I believe, which is that there is nothing wrong with being gay and that gay marriage can lead to good things.

I certainly don't think gay marriage is going to be the downfall of society, as some naysayers insist. And please, to tell me that gay marriage somehow threatens the institution of marriage is absurd. It seems straight folk are already doing a pretty good job of wrecking their own marriages without any help from me and my partner.

People can fight for what they believe is right, but I shall do the same. I fail to see the sin in same-sex relationships. So many of the gay people I know are so much happier in their relationships and with themselves than they were when they were trying to abide by the wishes of their religions, Mormon or not. I know I, for one, am so much happier and well-adjusted and at peace with my life and with who I am than I was when I was trying to fit into the box of Mormon dogma that I never quite fit into as far as this issue is concerned. Jonah has helped me be a better person, and I truly feel our lives and relationship have been blessed. I feel we are both better people having found one another, and I know the love I have for him is real and good. I cannot find a rational reason why it isn't. That's what I believe. If others believe differently, that is their prerogative, but I think they will find themselves on the wrong side of history. If I'm wrong, I'll eat my words, but that's how I feel.

Which brings me to another thing I want to comment on: this whole Ellen Degeneres / JC Penney / One Million Moms brouhaha.

I think Ellen herself sums it up best:

I love Ellen. I remember when I was so tightly bound in the closet and she bravely came out on the famous so-called "Puppy" episode of her TV show, "Ellen" and even more bravely came out in real life. The scene at the airport (which begins at 1:20) was so moving and funny, and I remember watching the show in secret and crying because I so yearned to do what she was doing in the episode: speaking her truth.

Although it didn't prompt me to come out right away (that took another 9 years), it was a pivotal moment for me. I've always had such admiration and respect for Ellen Degeneres. She is one celebrity I wish I were friends with.

I remember when her series was canceled and she was blackballed for a time, and look at her now: married, well-loved, successful, popular, influential. It really has gotten better. I love her not because she is gay, but because she is filled with laughter and joy and does such kind things for others. She is a good person. She just radiates it.

I love her last statement in the video from her talk show: "...I want to be clear. And here are the values I stand for. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you'd want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That's what I stand for. I also believe in dance."

That so embodies what I believe. All the naysayers talk about gay marriage or homosexuality being contrary to traditional values. The values I believe in are kindness, compassion, love, doing unto others as you would have them to do you, serving and caring for your fellow man, integrity. Aren't those traditional values? So many of the values I don't agree with such as hypocrisy, judging, vilifying, hating, fearing, oppressing, etc. are often found in those who claim to be the most religious or Christian. I don't think that embodies Christianity at all. Those same attributes are found in the Pharisees of old, whom Christ told to repent.

There are many wonderful people and values to be found in organized religion. I owe some of my best values to my Mormon heritage. And I know many of the people in the LDS Church who disagree with homosexuality and gay marriage are only defending what they believe is right and what the prophets have told them and what they believe God has commanded. I can certainly respect that. I really can. But I think they are wrong.

The prophets and apostles are only doing what God has commanded of them, you say. They cannot lead the church and its members astray. But are they not also fallible men, capable of making mistakes? Cannot they be mistaken on this issue? Is there not perhaps more that may be revealed on this matter?

One can read words of apostles and future prophets on other matters, such as race issues, to see that they can be. Read Mark E. Petersen's 1954 BYU address or Delbert Stapley's 1964 letter to George Romney (Mitt's dad) or Brigham Young's statement "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.) or Ezra Taft Benson's comments about the civil rights movement.

I do not point these out to vilify or criticize these men. They were a product of their time. But they were wrong. History has shown they were wrong. If the LDS Church were to make such statements today, they would be blasted out of the water and it would go contrary to what they currently teach. So cannot the LDS Church's views on the homosexual issue also change and evolve?

Look at the LDS Church in Joseph Smith's time and the LDS Church today, and tell me they are exactly the same. Tell me it hasn't evolved with the times. One only has to read its history to know that it has. I'm not saying the LDS Church will ever change as far as this issue is concerned. I'm not even saying I'm right and they're wrong. Who knows? Maybe I and all the other homosexuals in the world have been deceived and the LDS Church really is right in what it teaches about homosexuality. But my personal experience leads me to believe that the LDS Church is currently on the wrong side of history as far as this issue is concerned. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I think I've mentioned many times in this blog that I'm not a very social person. I highly value my alone time, and I'm not much of a party person. In fact, if I show up at one of your parties, it's a sure sign that I like you very much. The only parties I ever find immensely enjoyable are ones where I know people really well and with people with whom I have a long-standing and close relationship. I also find that if it's a nice manageable number of people (maybe 6-8), I have a better time. Larger groups of people tend to overwhelm me, and I find the noise immensely draining.

Attending parties is one thing. I usually make an appearance, stay about a half hour or so (depending on how fun the party is for me), and leave. I'm sure people probably view me as a party-pooper. I don't mean to be. I just find parties and large crowds overwhelming, especially if the majority of people attending are strangers to me. I'm not particularly good with small talk, I often feel awkward and shy, and I'm very much a wallflower and usually subdue my nervousness with food and drink (non-alcoholic). But at least I can leave when I get too uncomfortable.

Hosting parties is a different matter altogether. I generally do not not host very many parties, and were I not with Jonah, I probably wouldn't host more than one a year. Jonah is more of a social person and one of the reasons he was even interested in getting a larger house was that it would be a welcoming place for large groups of people and for hosting social events.

I find hosting parties quite a chore. First of all, there's all the cleaning and preparing and decorating and cooking, none of which I particularly enjoy. Then as a host, I always feel like I have to be "on." I feel like I have to be entertaining and sociable and make sure everything is being taken care of (food being refilled, garbage being thrown away, dishes being clean, etc.). Since I am not naturally a very social person, I find this quite challenging.

Secondly, I feel like I can't "turn off" until the last person leaves the house, and if the party happens to be long, that's a long time for me, personally, to be "on". It's very emotionally draining for me.

Yesterday Jonah's niece's husband had a birthday, and we had agreed to host it. Well, Jonah agreed to host it, and I conceded. (lol) Anyway, I had known about the event for a while and had been gearing up for it. Jonah also wanted to use the event as a way for me to get to know his family members better. While it's still kind of "don't ask, don't tell" with his family, it's pretty clear that everyone pretty much knows about our relationship, and so it's important that we all continue to cultivate a relationship.

To their credit, everyone in Jonah's family has been very kind to me and have treated me like family, and I appreciate that greatly. I picked up Jonah's parents and we had a very nice conversation on the way to our house.

To my great relief, we didn't have as many attendees as we had prepared for, and about half of the attendees were people I feel relatively comfortable with, so I didn't feel as awkward and uncomfortable as I might have.

Jonah's mom is kind of a "take-charge" gal and is accustomed to getting things prepared and ready on her own, so I didn't have as much responsibility, so that was nice, too. Jonah's mom (Jonah is Hispanic, you may recall) would call me "mijo," which is a term of endearment like "dear," but is actually created by the words "mi" and "hijo" meaning "my son," so that really makes me feel like a part of the family.

I mostly chatted with Jonah's sister and her boyfriend, with whom I've become closer with, and that was nice. Jonah's other sister and I talked, too, and she asked me how long Jonah and I had been together, and I said "six years," and she said when she would see a picture of me, she would say, "That's my brother-in-law," but that she hadn't ever talked openly about Jonah and me with any of her family members. Be she said she liked all of her brothers-in-law, including me. It was a nice conversation, and I felt she was honestly trying to make a connection with me.

There were some games and stuff, too, which I mostly watched, but it was fun to watch. Jonah had to leave just as the party was getting started because he had to work, so I had to take over hosting duties, which wasn't preferred, but was necessary.

I really sincerely appreciated the opportunity to get to know Jonah's family better and to develop a relationship with them, and the party was enjoyable, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was happy when it ended. Jonah's mom and dad were the last to leave. They caught a ride back to their home with Jonah's sister and her boyfriend, so I was left alone, and it's such a relief for me when the last of a big group of people have left the house.

I was so emotionally exhausted, and I was so thankful for the silence that permeated the house. I enjoyed the party more than I thought I would and I enjoyed getting to spend time with Jonah's family, but was grateful that I could go quietly to bed until Jonah came home from work.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


I'm a pretty trusting person. I tend to believe people at their word. If someone swears he or she is telling the truth, I tend to take him or her at face value. I'm an honest person, so I just naturally assume that everyone else is. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. I like to think that people are basically good even when there are many that are not. Sometimes I get burned because of this trait.

I admit it; I gave OJ Simpson the benefit of the doubt right after his ex-wife was murdered. I gave Bill Clinton the benefit of the doubt when he said he absolutely did not have sexual relations with that woman. I just initially believe in the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." Of course, when I see a guy on a low-speed chase in a white Bronco or find out there's an intern out there with a semen-stained dress, then you've broken my trust and I'm looking at you with more suspicious eyes.

I remember wanting both OJ and Bill to be innocent, but ultimately the facts made it evident (to me) that they weren't. Bill finally admitted his guilt (sort of) and even though OJ never did, I just have a hard time believing his innocence.

My point is, I tend to think the best of people, and sometimes my naive belief that people are basically honest is tested greatly by those who aren't. Nevertheless, I do tend to still give people the benefit of the doubt no matter how many people betray that desire.

Which brings me to Josh Powell. Josh Powell, for those of you who don't know, was under suspicion for the disappearance of his wife, Susan Powell, who vanished in December of 2009 under very odd circumstances.

I remember seeing the interview Josh Powell did with 2News Utah after his wife was discovered missing. I remember thinking at the time, "This guy is lying. That is flimsiest story I've ever heard, and that guy is not behaving the way I would think a man whose wife has gone missing would behave." Me, the guy who almost always gives people the benefit of the doubt, immediately felt this guy was guilty.

Of course, I didn't know for sure that he was guilty, but his actions following his wife's disappearance seemed so out-of-character for an innocent man. I've always thought Josh Powell was bad news and always felt he knew the truth about what happened to his wife.

This latest news is so tragic to me and yet, unfortunately not surprising. Shocking yes, but not surprising. Josh Powell always seemed to me as someone who likely killed his wife. The fact is, even though I believe he had something to do with his wife's disappearance, I do not know for sure that he did, and I do not know if that played into the reason why he chose to take his own life as well as those of his two innocent sons. But whether he was responsible for his wife's disappearance and probable death, I do know he killed his two sons, and that is so upsetting.

Regardless, my heart is broken for the poor Cox family, who now may never know exactly what happened to their daughter now that the only man who likely knew of her whereabouts is dead. And now they and Josh's family as well must now endure the loss of these two young, innocent boys.

It's so depraved. Josh Powell often said his children always came first in his life. It appears to me only one person came first in Josh's life: Josh.

I'm so disappointed and upset by this. I wish the police could have found some solid evidence against Josh (or someone else) so that this heartless act could have been avoided.

I think my gut was probably right about Josh. But even my gut wasn't prepared for this.


Thursday, February 02, 2012

My Audition And Possible Decisions...or The Party's Over

I had an audition today. It was not my best. First of all, I didn't particularly want to go. I already have a job lined up that conflicts with the productions I auditioned for. My main reason for going to the audition was to have another job contact to meet my unemployment benefit requirements, but the fact of the matter is that if I get the job I auditioned for today, it would be wiser financially to take it and tell the theater producing the show I've already booked that I need to back out (more on that momentarily).

The other reason I didn't feel the audition went as well as it could have was that I've been fighting a cold since Sunday. In fact, on Sunday it felt like the flu. I feel like I'm getting over it, but my voice was certainly not at its best today. We were asked to pick two contrasting songs in the styles of the shows we were auditioning for. I didn't feel either of the songs I eventually sung were quite right. I had originally had two other, more challenging and more appropriate, songs picked out, but my voice just wasn't cooperating today, and so I picked the ones I thought would be easier to sing with my cold. In fact, even to the very minute before I entered the room, I was still vacillating between songs.

It was an open call that began at 9:30 AM. I arrived at about 10:00 AM. There were quite a few people there, and the particular facility we auditioned at was not made for that many people. It was quite claustrophobic and there was nowhere to sit. However, about 95% of the people there were non-union, and rules dictate that union members are to be seen before non-union, so after only ten minutes my name was called. Most days, belonging to Actors' Equity really pays, and today was certainly no exception. It was so great to just breeze on through.

I sung my first song, which I've done many, many times, but for some reason I tripped over some words. My voice held out pretty well, but it was not the best. It was a comic, character piece, and the director laughed, so that was nice. He asked to hear my other selection, which is a good sign; it means they liked what you did enough to want to hear more.

My second piece was a pop ballad; not entirely appropriate for the shows for which I was auditioning, but the only pop piece in my repertoire that I felt I could sing well enough with my vocal issues.

Frankly, I thought it was terrible. I emoted well and acted the message of the song reasonably well, but I just felt my voice wasn't up to snuff. It felt strained to me, and I assumed that's how it sounded. So I was truly surprised when the director asked me to attend both the dance call at 1:30 PM as well as the callback at 3:00 PM.

I was given some sides to look at and a snippet of a song from one of the shows to learn. The director seemed pleased with my audition. I was also happy that I was being looked at for some character roles that wouldn't require as much dancing in a couple of shows that I know will have a lot of dancing.

I went back home and told Jonah how it had gone. Jonah told me if they offered me a part, I should take it. I reminded Jonah that the rehearsals for these shows and the rehearsals for the job I've currently booked conflicted and that I couldn't do both. Jonah pointed out that the job I auditioned for today is a 27 week contract at $710 a week while the other show I've booked is $835 for only six weeks. That's $19,170 (before taxes) vs. $5010. Plus 27 weeks of work is more than enough for me to qualify for another year of really good health insurance. It seems like a no-brainer.

Trouble is, the show I'm already booked for is a show I've been wanting to do for years, and this would be the first time I've had the opportunity. It's also our artistic director's last show at this theater, and I would be working with some good friends in a really top-notch production. It's also a more serious piece, which is something I'm trying to do more of.

One of the shows I auditioned for today has a pretty cheesy script. It's a harmless show, but not particularly satisfying artistically. The other show I think would be fun and at least has something to say, but it's not really what I'd rather do. Also, the schedule sounds like a grind and the shows are performed in an outdoor theater in the hot summer sun by a company who I haven't been entirely impressed with.

Normally I would choose art over money any day of the week. What makes this particularly challenging is that Jonah's show, where he has worked for six years, will be closing in September, so he will be out of a job in just seven months. Jonah's job pays really well and the chances of him finding a job that pays equally as well as this one does, even in the entertainment industry, are very rare.

Jonah and I often joke that he's my "sugar daddy," but there is some truth in that. The fact is, it is because of Jonah's job and incredible salary that I have been able to go off and do the kind of work I want to do or work jobs that pay a lower salary. Jonah pays the majority of our utility bills while I am away because he has been able to do so. That will end soon. I have to face up to the fact that I will have to be more prudent about which jobs I accept, and I may even have to try to find more permanent and secure, perhaps even non-acting, work here at home to maintain some stability in our finances.

While the creative part of me doesn't want to take the jobs I auditioned for today should they be offered to me, the practical part of me thinks it's absolutely necessary to do so. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After we talked about the possibility of getting this job, Jonah made me some hot tea for my voice, and I plunked out this song I had to learn (one which I was previously completely unfamiliar with) and went over my lines for the parts I was asked to learn (and also discovered that I had accidentally been given two identical pages rather than the two different pages I was supposed to get. Fortunately, I am a quick study of lines, so I wasn't too worried.

Soon, I left to reach the dance studio at 1:30 for the dance call. I got there at about 1:05 PM. No one was around but a couple of people. I assumed everyone had gone to lunch and would be back at 1:30 PM. Soon 1:30 rolled around and still no one. I checked in the nearby dance studio and discovered that the dance call has actually started at 1:00 and that I had been told the wrong time. The stage manager apologized for the mistake and, after consulting with the director, told me they would just see me move at the callback at 3:00.

I was able to watch everyone else do the dance that had been learned, and it looked pretty challenging. I thought I could get it, but was annoyed I had missed out on having it broken down for me.

Dancing is always where I get cut. I'm a good actor and decent singer, but if the dancing is hard, I'm out. It's just not my forte. I make up for it by being a very good character actor. I've been in numerous shows with heavy, intricate dancing where I was the non-dancing comic relief because that's what I excel at.

I was kind of thankful I had missed the dance call because I think I would have been among the weaker dancers there, and that probably would have lessened my chances, but I was nervous I would have to learn the whole routine and dance it on my own, which in many ways is worse.

After everyone danced (and I watched), we were asked to wait until we were called to read. I was finally able to get the missing page they hadn't initially given me and study it.

I was paired with another guy, who fortunately was also a good character actor. We went over our scenes and practiced the song. After a while, we were finally called in and we read the scene for the first show, which I thought went reasonably well. It wasn't my strongest performance, but it was pretty good, and the director seemed happy.

Then we were told to sing the song individually. It was a three-part song, and the high part was written for a tenor, not a baritone, which is what I am, but the director wanted us to sing the melody (the high part), so we each did. First of all, it was higher than I normally sing, and second, this pesky cold made it harder to do so. I think on a normal day, I would have sang it fine, but I did strain on the highest note. To my credit, I think I still sang it very well, and as it was a character song, I was able to show off that skill.

Again, to my ears it wasn't my best, but the director seemed very happy with it, so what do I know. I'm my own worst critic, after all.

After we both sang, the other guy was excused, and I read my parts for the other show, which was great because they were all very different characters, and I am a good cold reader, so I really think I knocked it out of the park. The director seemed very pleased and said thank you.

I asked if they still wanted me to move. He said, "No, I don't think so. The characters we're looking at you for don't need to be great dancers." Ah, music to my ears! However, just as I was leaving, the choreographer asked if she might teach me a very simple combination just to see how well I moved. What she taught me was so easy, especially compared to the dance combination I had seen earlier. I was able to learn it quickly and did it well, so now I was really happy I had missed the dance call.

Anyway, they thanked me and said I did a good job. I don't know if I'll get it or not, but I thought the audition went much better than I had any reason to believe it would.

I guess we'll see what happens. It's not my dream job, but it would still be an acting gig and a good-paying one at that. I've never backed out of a job before and don't really relish doing so, but the fact is I haven't signed an official contract for the other job, and people in this industry back out of jobs for better gigs all the time. Jonah and I also eventually would like to move out of house and into one in a better neighborhood. This job I auditioned for today would make that more likely. I guess I'll cross that bridge when and if I get there.