Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In a recent conversation with my mom, we discussed some problems that I am having with my roommates and what I should do about it. We also talked about possibly reasons why this was happening. Among many of the good ideas that my mom presented, though, she decided to engage in a topic that I no longer want to discuss with her: my "same gender attractions."

To her the problem between my roommates and myself was that perhaps I was being too noticeably obsessed and chatty about my having same gender attractions. There is some humor in this because of the simple fact that all my roommates are gay. For them to be offended by my being gay is a bit ludicrous and odd. But as strange as it was to me that my being gay would be the problem was perfectly reasonable to her.

I would guess that this logic is couched in the beliefs of her religious experience and it saddens me. I ended up sending her an email last night asking her to stop talking to me about my being gay until she could do so reasonably and respectfully.

What concerns me most with this situation is that ten years of trying to help her adjust to this understanding of who I am as her son as resulted in stagnation and entrenchment. Now she seeks to discuss this rather private and personal side of me as though it were a disease that just needs a little understanding shed on it to cure me of it. And while it may be said with meaningful intent, the results do not match up. Rather than achieve more kindness and understanding between us, alienation and hurt feelings are fostered.

Once more I have to wonder at the intentions of my mother. What sort of relationship does she want to create with me? I realize that for her this is a very difficult situation for her to find her place in. Her son is admitting to not wanting to be a part of anything she holds precious and dear to her. Now she must sort through her priorities and figure out what she truly wants in life and what truly matters to her.

But...and I must be harsh here. How long does it take to finally adjust and figure things out? For ten years she has had the chance to ask questions, adjust, and seek some kind of meaningful relationship with me. Now, she makes no effort to communicate with me. When we do talk, it focuses on the fact that I'm gay. So, on the one hand, I understand that it's difficult to accept that I have changed in a way unfamiliar to her. Ok. All right. That's difficult. That's frustrating. That's emotional painful and hurtful. But how long must this stage last?

What I found disappointing and revealing about her attitude towards me is that she was more upset that I might not be going to my cousin's wedding than about the fact that I will have to find a new place to live. It's good to know where her priorities are.

So...for now I feel I must exercise love and forgiveness for now. But I feel that I must establish boundaries with her. I sent her an email explaining that what she had said on the phone was offensive and not all right. I asked that for the time being that she refrain from talking about my being gay with me.

My life is caught up in being busy with work, spending time with friends, spending time with the boyfriend; and in general, just working on improving my life in little ways. When she claimed that I have an obsession with being gay, it struck home to me how little she knows of my life. How little she understands. And how little she wants to know and understand.

So, Mom, you have chosen this path. I have done everything I can to reach out to you. I have done everything I can to help you understand me better and you have rejected every single time I have attempted to do so. It is with a heavy heart that I must shut you out of my life even further. When you are ready to be my mom again, let me know and I will respond.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

It's been quite a while since I last posted. And I must admit that that's because I have been busy and not really sure what to write. Summer is upon me now and I'm grateful. I realize, though, that I do have much to write about. But first, a little commentary on a fun experience that I had earlier this week.

A friend of mine - who happened to have her foot run over by a friend's car that night - was given some alcohol to take the edge of the intense pain she was feeling. While doing so she got in a real chatty mood. Now, who am I to pass up a potentially fun conversation? Much of the conversation, though, is a blur now. But at one point she admitted that she had been called to serve a mission for the LDS Church but had ultimately declined to go.

As is all to familiar to any of my friends, I am an atheist. I'd like to believe I'm pretty set in my ways. I've tried and tested the "spiritual" realm enough. And for that, I've been given the title "Spiritual Atheist." Nothing shocking really, if you know me. Nothing shocking in the slightest. Let's be honest, categories help us understand and perceive the world around us. But humans are pretty complex creatures. To create simple, one-dimensional categories to fit each of us into is bound to have problems. Therefore, the atheist description is accurate for me, yes. But it's also really narrow. Anyway, back to the story.

She spoke wistfully of how our calling was inspired and even expressed how sometimes she wondered what might have been. You can't really blame her. The mission is quite an amazing experience. It's unlike almost any other experience you can willfully decide to have. So why did she decline? She was afraid she'd develop a crush on her companion and all the other fears that go with that. When I heard this, it echoed the same sentiments that so many other men and women I have known have expressed when deciding to serve a mission. It's the same (though for other men and not women) sentiments I once was worried about.

So, I spoke - or rather waxed eloquently in speech. What I write next is not me bragging but expressing what I have finally come to understand over the years. I have a gift for speaking and writing. Words are something I'm good at (most of the time). I can be very persuasive. So she and I talked some more on this.

My take on things is this: if your reason for not doing something is a fear that is either irrational or not important, you shouldn't heed that fear. I may not believe in the truthfulness of the institution of the Mormon Church. I may think it causes a lot of harm to people. And that may be true and it may not be. But none of that matters to this friend. None of it. Her world consists of an idealized, safe place. The Mormon faith is her home and she feels that within that home the safety and inspiration in that calling. But she also feels somewhat trapped by who she is and troubled. Somehow, her own interests have potentially disqualified her. Yet they haven't.

I spoke as a person of the Mormon faith would have. I used scripture, spoke with kindness, and used my voice and tone in such a way as those in the faith do when acting like they are inspired by the Spirit: soft, gentle, and unbecoming. I spoke in a way that would touch her where it mattered. Logic and reason would have failed. But appealing to her spiritual attitudes and perceptions wouldn't fail.

A mission is a place where a person can go and discover themselves. There are many other paths to do so, yes. There are many experiences you won't have while doing the mission thing. There are many mental hoops you must jump through in order to maintain a neat and tidy belief system while on it. And yes, you are engaging in the time-honored deception of telling others about things that are not there.

But a single drop in a sea of such a situation is hardly going to make a difference either way. Her going won't really matter in the scheme of things as well as her not going. But it will matter to her. She has settled to accept a diminished life where she wistfully wonders "what might have been" instead of facing her fears and discovering a part of who she is out there in this world. So, that's why I thought she should go.

My two atheist (well, one atheist and one apathetic towards religion) friends were a shocked and not sure how to react when I did this. You can't blame them. They had never seen this side before. And it was hilarious to watch their faces! The looks of shock and confusion that crossed them were just priceless, truly. But what was most rewarding was just how they were so unsure of what was going on.

I read the scriptures of the Mormon faith, I studied intensely some of the doctrines espoused in them. I read as much as I could and listened to all the lessons in Church. It is my opinion that such learning should not go to waste. Whether for or against the Mormons, that knowledge is mine to use and do with as I see necessary and good.

Funny thing, also. The first friend now thinks that somewhere deep inside me is a testimony of the LDS faith and what not. I must admit that I hardly think so. I think what she sees is an echo of the person I was long ago rising to the surface to be able to communicate with her. I do not hold hatred towards when I believed and I have no animosity towards my non-believing so those parts of me interact freely. I don't want that to sound like different personalities. Just different parts of my personality interacting. Once I was religious. Now I'm not. So, yeah.

Finally, I think a video should be shared to close this particular rant of mine:

"Are there any women here?"

Monday, April 2, 2012

What if Revelation?

I confess that I love Les Miserables, especially the musical. It's such a musical that is both dramatic and meaningful. What I love about that musical is it speaks of destiny and of a failure to reach your potential. But in that failure, there is hope and eventually redemption. That, I think, is key to human existence. I think in order for us to become better than we are now, we must first accept our many, many failings. Accept the injustice we have done towards our fellow human beings and fellow animals.

General Conference happened this past weekend. Until a few years ago, I was forced to watch all ten hours of it. As a child and teenager, this meant boredom that I could not resist. I tried to listen to the talks as though they could improve my life and improve my habits. As a missionary, I would listen with such hunger. I believed that revelations would pour out upon the congregations and wisdom and understanding would at last be given. I had read the revelations of the founding prophet, Joseph Smith. I had heard and read the stories of the past. But all I saw ever at such meetings was a sort of dull, sheep-herding mentality going on there. It was the same as church meetings. It was the same as the temple ceremonies.

I have always found it found that a church that claims such divine revelation, would be one of the most boring faiths in existence. I mean, Catholics can be pretty desperately boring in their wrote and memorized masses. But even they are fun compared with Mormon meetings. My mom used to complain about how I would fall asleep through nearly every sacrament meeting where the speakers would either share talks/sermons or bear testimony of things they believed (or claimed to know) were true.

Revelation is a tricky thing, or so I've read. It is a call that seems to happen regardless of what you want. It has such force of will that you are merely the passenger in this journey. You are the mouthpiece and revelation is the speaker. I remember the claims of the Mormons: revelation would continue on and on. The heavens were not sealed up. God would speak continuously to the Mormons. But God seems silent towards the Mormons.

He seems to speak without the voice of many waters from mythical times. His power, which made the earth and broke up mountains and stayed the mouths of lions, now seems to just grant happy feelings and whispered warnings. Where once devils haunted the religious landscape, tiredness and apathy now plague our mental landscapes. Where is revelation now? I have read the accounts of other faiths. They too claimed some kind of revelation, some new story for humanity to follow. The divine had spoken to them. Whether it was enlightenment itself, the voice of God, or the awakening to the mystical realms that are around and within us, these revelations pointed to a higher calling for humanity. The revelations of Joseph Smith don't really seem all that different. Humanity was called to a higher way just as Jesus of Nazareth had done the same in the past.

But the years roll on. The message becomes obscured and even flattened and ironed out of its wrinkles and curious contradictions. The wild, intoxicating nature of the revelation becomes like a fire over time: cooled down to mere coals. Only the memory of the flame lives on. But like fire, it to fades. Passion yields to conformity. Rightness yields to apathy. And what about revelation? Hm, well revelation appears to be quietly bound and gagged and shoved somewhere dark and hidden. Revelation is replaced by bureaucratic revelation. It is a neat and tidy form. But it is nothing like its original. It's a pale form that calls its hearers to nothing higher except the empty, lofty ways of the power-hungry or well-meaning individuals that use it.

Les Miserables never claims revelation, I realize. It never claims a wild nature like that of early religions. Les Miserables does none of this. So why did I open with it? I opened with it because it speaks of fallen destinies and a chance to let go of the past. Les Miserables is about forgiveness and redemption. Mormonism is about doing and obedience. Where a story tells of a tale that invites us to do better, Mormonism reminds us to pay our tithing and heed our local leaders.

There is a boring nature that seeps deeper and deeper into Mormonism as the years go by. It comes about from a bland search for meaning that it will never find. A search for purpose and calling to bring their followers to a higher plane of existence. Yet, from all that I have seen, their members achieve a stupor of thought that they can't ever seem to escape from. But all of this is masked by the soft, persuasive whisper that "All is well in Zion. Yea, Zion prospereth." In that, I mean, that with all of society's injustices and cruelties, a religion of once social change seeks merely to impose its ways and avoid change.

It seeks to ignore revelation now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

HCO Strategy

A friend of mine and I have been discussing recently the inactivity of the Honor Code against the USGA group at BYU. After much thought I figured I'd write my thoughts on it. 

First, there must be some basic assumptions described and some basic questions to ask before continuing into my theories. 

What is the purpose of the BYU Honor Code? I believe that the BYU Honor Code Office exists not only to help enforce the Honor Code but to assist in creating a community of students particularly homogenous morally. By achieving this, it destroys most discussions that would take place on a typical college campus. It also works to create dependence upon the university and to create an atmosphere of obedience and (for some students) fear in the face of disobedience. But I believe the reason the BYU Honor Code exists is to provide an atmosphere wherein the Church's PR machine can actively promote the Mormon lifestyle and ideas to the world at large.

Does the Honor Code particularly despise or dislike gay BYU students? I do not believe so. I don't think that the HCO staff dislikes anyone so long as they don't upset the carefully created atmosphere at BYU. If the gays toe the line, the HCO is fine. They do not care one way or another about gays, in my opinion. They are not there to provide true counsel or help students achieve a higher level of understanding about the Gospel or complex moral situations. They are simply the foot soldiers of the BYU PR machine. 

So why hasn't the HCO acted against USGA? I think the HCO is being held back from doing so in this climate of heightened awareness and favor for LGBT causes. The high profile involvement of the LDS Church in Prop 8 has not been forgotten. The ongoing PR efforts of the LDS Church to cast themselves in a kindlier light has bound the hands of the HCO. The HCO can't be seen attacking nice gay kids. That would be a horrendous scandal on the Morg and BYU's hands. No. Rather, they are being forced to wait.

Another thing to consider is this: USGA offers the HCO the golden opportunity. Prior to USGA's existence, the HCO had to be hyper vigilant about the activities of those bad gays. They had to seek out a minority that could practically be invisible amidst the student population. USGA has members proudly proclaiming their sexuality for the whole world to know. Take a casual stroll through USGA's meetings and after social gatherings and one could easily assimilate information about which members are in same-sex relationships. Pry a little further and knowledge of those intimiate aspects of the relationship will be known. It isn't hard. USGA is full of friendly and happy kids. They aren't afraid of the HCO, ironically. The HCO's silence has emboldened the students of USGA and created a little utopian world where the gays can live in peace and harmony. All the HCO has to do is sit and wait for the USGA group to become louder and more pronounced about their lives and their relationships. 

Also, the longer the HCO waits, the more politically active USGA becomes. The USGA is becoming more activist in their activities, a normally good and typical thing. But BYU's obsession with political neutrality creates a potentially tense situation for USGA. The more it creates a climate of activism, the more the HCO can document and create a long list of violations USGA has done. USGA's unique situation of not being officially recognized on campus means that they don't have to follow the neutrality requirement of BYU's clubs. However, this doesn't shelter them either for there is no legal or bureaucratic protection for USGA. Should the BYU administration or the HCO ban USGA from campus, there is no recourse. USGA stands vulnerable to the favorability of their message to the administration and powers that be on campus. 

Essentially, I propose that the HCO waits to act because they don't have to research that extensively. If they are smart individuals, and I assume they are, they just have to wait for USGA to mess up. And it will. The desire for freedom is too tempting a prize to avoid. How could you not want to be treated equally? And that is where the HCO lies in wait. USGA members at BYU forget that while the HCO does not hate or dislike gay students, they also do not see them as equal to their heterosexual counterparts. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts on Family

Anyone who has ever read my blog or previous blogs will know that I can't stop talking about my parents. The weird relationship (those I realize it's entirely normal) swings between love and frustration seems never ending as we create friction between each other as we grow older and more apart.

That's the reality.

My attempts prior to try and avert this situation have been met with disapproval, arguments, and eventually throwing of hands up into the air in surrender to the inevitable. All I can do now, it seems, is to accept the current and ongoing trend of us growing apart and hope that maybe in the future something will stop that or, miraculously, reverse that.

I was raised like any good Mormon boy on the promise by Church officials and God that families "can be together forever" someday. That somehow family was the most important thing. Nothing would come between us and family. I read the scriptures, the talks, and the declarations made by holy men and women of my childhood faith. I listened to testimonies given by people in the different ward I've attended, words from my own parents, and so on on this very promise and its validity. I have listened to it all and believed.

I believed without question.

But belief hardly ever coincides with reality. The two have never been mutually exclusive. Even now as I write this I can still hear the Primary hymn, "I Have a Family Here on Earth" whispering softly in my mind. But it seems that such promises, talks, and testimonies were all shared and given with an asterisk next to them. The asterisk seems that children like me are not actually part of the family. We are merely apart of the physical, biological family here on earth, but we will no doubt be cast aside in that mystical Mormon heaven known as the Celestial Kingdom.

This life must be endured, it seems. This life must be lived in but not lived completely. Such ideas, it appears fade in the promise of eternal salvation and life that goes beyond the grave. We sell our time on earth for cheap, untested virtues that lie beyond the impenetrable veil of silence, total silence. Where is Hades guarding that gate or Hel or Pluto or so many scores of deities that have marked the passage of those halls with hallowed footsteps? What difference does it make that some new god has undertaken the role of these gods? What difference does it make that this god has reconstructed all of the afterlife into some new order? It doesn't matter, really.

God fits so little into this world or the next. The promise of families being together forever is so bizarrely believed to be fact based on some mystical spell of belief. The reality, in my opinion, is that if you want to be with your family in the "afterlife" try getting to know and loving them now. You aren't going to like them anymore in the mythical millenniums to come. You might even like them less.

What difference does it make who I love? It matters not. That has always been my plea. A religion so fixated on dividing families over the issue of attractions between two consenting adults is no place where families can be together. Instead it is an organization not in the business of love and mutual understanding but one that promotes a false worldview that encourages hatred, division, and suffering. Such a group is one I want  no part of.

Maybe without Mormonism my parents would be where they are now. Maybe it is just their nature to not want to accept their own children for their various deviations from what they have been told is "normal." Maybe. But the fact that I have lost my parents to this faith and that some illusory god matters more than our relationship tells me only one thing: I will hate this and every other religion out there for this one fact. I may be tolerant of faiths, I may be tolerant of individuals of faith. But I will forever hate their organizations that promote hatred, fear, and misunderstanding towards their own children and communities for the fact that it divides, destroys, and kills.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From Another Time in My Life

I found a poem that I wrote in the Bible that a Christian gave me. Stumbling across the poem was interesting for me. It was from a period of my life that was still grim but beginning to yield to happiness and peace. When I wrote this poem, I was still struggling with the idea of God and whether such a being existed or not. On the day that I wrote the poem, I was preparing to go see the Honor Code the next day. I was terrified and felt backed into a corner. I felt alone and lost and could only turn to something that I felt was reliable and trustworthy: my faith. There's no title to this poem. But I find it interested to read into a window of my thoughts from that time.

Walk with me this day,
Before I fade
Into gloom and darkness.
The shadows are long,
Their purpose grim,
And I am without solace.

Where is the Comforter 
By whom the day was formed?
Does not the Shadow know
Him that gave it power?

Go with me, I am weary,
My heart is heavy,
Sorrow already accompanies me;
No darkness clings to my soul,
For which Shadow would attach to
To destroy me.
Still, I need you.
For I do not wish to go alone.
Be with me,
My soul is bare and
Ravening wolves are drawing near.

The poem was written June 28, 2009

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Say No More

I may be wrong, but I will go forward anyway and assume I'm not. I try to make make decisions, when I have time to think it through, based on what I've seen around me, what I've read, and what I believe to be correct, true, and good. 

That thought process led me to come out a few years ago. That same thought process finally allowed to me accept that I had lost my faith in idea of God actually existing. And it was that same thought process that allowed me to embrace the beauty of life around me. Now the past few years have felt like a great and titanic shift in thinking. I have felt my mind slowly shift to and from on different ideas on religion.

I've been waiting for that. I've been waiting now for the full depth of not believing to sink in and to let that non-belief become deeply rooted in me. I have read, watched, and talked about this for a while now. The sense I felt of my world spinning out of control, of darkness consumes my being until I would be forever lost to depression, has all long since ceased. What remains within is a sense of reality coming into awareness in me. 

These past few years have been a restoration of my soul long since succumbed to a death-like slumber. The restoration, the reawakening of that part of me is happening more and more. I feel a sense of peace now. I feel a sense of the deepest core of my being has come alive again. What had previously felt like a contortionist's act gone wrong, feels like all the pieces have come together. I have long since realized and accepted my sexuality. There is no mystery, no coming to terms with who I am. I am gay. And I like this about me. There is no desire to wrestle with it again because I feel at peace with myself. That aspect of my humanity has been restored and I am grateful I stopped resisting earlier so I could feel this now instead of much later in life. I can now post pictures of men and not feel guilty or deviant in doing so.

The freedom and peace of the silence that now exists in the absence of God moves me to have greater respect and awe at the wonderful and frightening power of ideas. We are not removed from our ancestors though they are gone. But our world is the direct result of their being here. We live amid the results of their efforts and counter efforts to create a world for us. The old empires may be gone, long since crumbled to dust and a shadow of memory, but the gifts they gave to humanity continue on, having evolved and lived on. 

Coming to terms with all of this was not the end (otherwise I'd never have created this blog, ha ha!) but the beginning of my journey. There is life that exists beyond the efforts of coming to terms with yourself, of college life, and of all other things that society seems to think are so desperately important. What matters is the journey, the effort to be someone. At least, that's what I think. 

Now, hopefully I can start writing some fun posts instead of some of these dreary (what feels like) treatises on some of these topics.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Character in a Story

I've been working on a story lately. Yes, it will be another one of those posts. I won't be offended if the one or two of you that read this blog just skips this post entirely, ha ha! Perhaps this is for my own sanity. But I've been working on the main character lately. I confess that I want this story to be perfect (who doesn't want their own story to be that way, right?). I believe the key to a successful story is for the characters to be believable and the pull that draws the readers in.

So, the main character is very much the young man. He is ready to take on the world, all while ignoring the risks that are so clearly before him. He is naive about so many things in the world. Yet it is this naivete that will either destroy or save him. He is in a unique position for he is nobody important and yet incredibly important at the same time. He is the heir to a throne of no real power, just religious power. He is the latest in a line of a family that carries magic in their veins. It is this secret that if known will cause his death. Magic is something to be destroyed in this world because it is more of a nuisance to those in power than a tool to use anymore.

But I hope he is relate-able. How many of us have begun a new phase in life's journey all bright-eyed and eager to make a difference, get it right, or just see what will happen? We will be naturally ignorant of the risks because we don't expect them. Remember that part of your life when you felt invincible? That's this young man. He wants to make a difference, change the world, and even bring salvation to the weary and down-trodden. He is very similar to a missionary in that regard.

When people read the story, it's my hope that that's what they get from this character. They feel his youth, his energy, his optimism, and his courage to face opposition that would pull him into a web of deceits, intrigue, and destruction. But there's more to it than that. The city he goes to live in, the capital of the empire he lives in on this world, is not a place of safety and opportunity. He will have to find a way to overcome despair, a sea of poverty, cruelty previously unseen and unimaginable, and hopelessness that will threaten to overwhelm him. He cannot survive it as he is at the beginning. Like all stories, he must undergo a change or he will break.

So, it is my hope that when people read it, they want to know what will happen to him. It won't matter whether it's political intrigue, human suffering, love, or simply keeping sane in a world that seems so keen on falling into the abyss.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Further Thoughts on Mormonism's God

A thought on religion:

God is light. God is knowledge. This concept has been said and phrased similarly in a thousand ways over my life. Mormonism teaches this concept each Sunday and throughout the week through its different programs. And let's be honest here for a moment, if you have ever been religious, you've thought this before, right? I know that I have. God is heat, warmth, love, light, and wisdom. He is all that is positive in this world.

According to some branches of mysticism, and I admit I am no expert, this concept of God is ultimately false or, at best, an illusion. God, they will argue, is beyond human words and human meanings. God is not this or that. God is not any of that. According to some mysticism it would be better to describe God as not light, not knowledge, not love. Using the antithesis is better to describe God because it he is not that. He is more. Such concepts of good and evil, in mysticism, are entirely and wholly human. Our morality is just that: ours. God's morality is not moral. In order to understand God, you have to first admit that he is not understandable. He is incomprehensible.

Now, to return to Mormonism. Mormonism follows the theological and cultural line of thought that God is and is knowable. Such theological proofs by the Christian tradition, while not apparent in the faith, still leave their marks on Mormonism. God has a corporeal body in Mormonism. He has a fixed location. He has a family. God is an evolved being that spends his days doing set activities: creating and punishing the hell into his disobedient children. These ideas or "revelations" on God is ultimately a reasonable conclusion to come to in a society where God is rationally explained and understood (albeit God becomes incredibly irrational and full of many fallacies). After all, could you imagine a Joseph Smith figure appearing in a society where God was taught as being unknowable and incomprehensible? That all attempts to approach God are failures except once we face the reality that God is not out there but inside us?

Mormonism teaches the person that is God. Mysticism and many other traditions teach the experience that is God. God's literal distance from us, his physical form, and all other things that are relate-able actually do harm to the concept of God. It turns God into something unnecessary, unapproachable. Why? What need have we to interact with a being that is so much like us? He is not majestic or capable of filling us with wonder. He cannot because he is the average joe of the gods to believe in. The gods of mysticism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (I fully admit that the mystical God is arguably inseparable from their twin form in the different monotheistic faiths) transcend human thought and understanding.

Consider this scripture mastery passage from Isaiah: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (55:8-9). This idea in Mormonism, especially among many Mormons that I have met, is explained as "God is more knowing." But there is an inherent problem with that. In order for this passage to have some ring of accuracy to that, the Mormon would have to admit that current knowledge is pathetic and absolutely and totally unnecessary. Human thought and human logic is incorrect and the tools for our inability to know God. But Mormonism, being the child of Enlightenment and the offspring of the progress of American and European philosophy and science, cannot accept that. God just knows more than you or I. God did not create the laws at work in our universe. He's just smart about manipulating them. God is definable. Mormonism defines their God very successfully.

Yet the tragedy in this (if you believe in God) is that once you successfully define your God, he becomes no longer mysterious. Such phrases as "Be still and know that I am God" lose their power to create wonder and awe. God is now capable of being disregarded. His being knowable, completely comprehended strips him of the divinity that humans have always granted their gods and goddesses. God is a creature of this realm and this reality. He becomes absolutely personable. See, Mormonism has made god the ultimate god of personable-ness. He is the very thing that mystics, ancient religious philosophers, and even prophets have feared. Once you turn God personable, he loses the power to transcend you and all humanity and simply becomes the superhuman extension of you. He is your anger, justice, mercy, and condemnation. He becomes to the fullest extent all that you are but just more of that.

Ever wonder why God changes his mind in Mormonism? Why he hates the gays and supports America's wars from time to time? Why he seems to have sided with America in World War II and hates Islam? Because Mormons think that way. Why is God schizophrenic and seems to agree (or disagree even) with what we believe or think? Because he is truly the manifestation of what we think or don't want to think.

There is no God in Mormonism. He is the superhuman invisible friend of all.

Enjoy your Sabbath!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Way We Are

I spoke with a friend of mine the other day about some of the situations in his life. I know that he reads this blog from time to time so if he happens to come across this post, just know that this is directly inspired because of you. I promise I will share nothing about your life but I will share some of the thoughts that came to my mind that night that we talked and since then.

My friend is strong in spirit and body. He's not a wimp though I have no doubt there have been times in his life and will be more times in the future when all he wants to do is lie down and give up. But his life is a testament to the strength he possesses in that he has not given up.

I know that I cannot begin to imagine the true depth of suffering and pain as I live in a society that alleviates much of the possible pain I could be feeling. But it is still curious that pain is not entirely gone. Pain is, after all, a natural part of reality. It is something that we experience in our day to day lives. And one day pain may be the vehicle that takes us beyond this world. However, I'm not sure pain is meant to be something we seek to escape from. I know that Eastern philosophies have reflected on such quandaries as pain and suffering and I confess to a woeful depth of ignorance on their centuries of theories and developments of beliefs. But I cannot help but wonder if the idea of escaping pain that is professed as an important tenant of Buddhism is a wise idea.

Consider for a moment the wide variety of cultures and civilizations that have occupied much of Earth's continents. Civilizations from the Greeks and Aztecs to the Chinese and Japanese to the British and Italians to the Egyptians and Russians. Each of these societies has, in some form or another, sought to alleviate pain. In Mormonism, such ideas take the form of "sin." I still remember reading certain teachings espoused in the missionary manual "Preach My Gospel" that emphasized the universal nature of "sin." While Mormonism (and Christianity) defined sin as estrangement from God that comes about by breaking His commandments, I cannot help but wonder if we were to alter the concept to actual mean yet another manifestation of the human concern for and about pain that we would find a similar story of pain that has been told in all other societies. The bravado of masculinity celebrated in Roman culture and their myths was perhaps a way to hide the fear of vulnerability. The mythical journeys to the world of the dead and in search of immortality all speak of a fear of the fragility of life as well as pain.

When you see a friend struggling and suffering from heartache or the loss of a loved one or seeing the day when dreams are brought shattering to the floor, don't you want to bring relief to them? Don't you want to soothe their pain? I know that I do. I know that I want to sit down beside them and listen to what ails and inflicts them. If they ask for advice, I'd do my best to consider something that may be of benefit to them. But I'm not sure that there is much more that I could say that life could not teach better through experience. I'm not always sure that offering ways to escape pain or confront it are necessary or good. Pain is a part of life. It's a part of us. It is the flip side to joy. In fact, it makes joy joy. After all, what is joy? Joy is that serene sense of peace and happiness combined with love. Without pain, though, I think joy becomes shallow and stripped of meaning. Pain defines joy just as much as joy defines pain. They are linked. Love, hate, and sorrow are all linked too. I think the case could be made that all emotions are linked. That they define, enhance, and enrich each other. If you try to run away from one emotion, you risk the chance of cheapening and weakening those other emotions that we feel.

We are emotional creatures in my opinion. Pain is an important part of that. It is the aspect that gives us an understanding that we are, in fact, alive. Why? Because it hurts so damn much! Logic and reason assist us to make sense of the world. But emotion powers our mental faculties and helps us truly live in this life.

So, I want to share a sentiment that I have taken with me in life after leaving my childhood faith. It comes from the Book of Mormon and is part of the covenant that people undertook in a story. "Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort..." I share this thought because of a concept in there that nicely summarizes how I think we should engage in pain that others may be feeling. We should not seek to stem the flow of pain another feels. Staunching such a thing, however nice, does no good in the end and merely delays the healing process that our minds have developed. Rather we should simply express empathy with them. When I bow my head in sorrow, when tears flow from my eyes, when my throat is choking back sobs, I don't want to be told to avoid pain. I want the person that has come to my aide to pull me close and to cry with me until I can no longer cry. I want them to listen to my sad whimpers and my gasping, choking voice full of pain and loss. 

Only then will we heal. Only then will we feel a sense of humanity and connection. But, more importantly, only then will we find that we as individuals, as carriers of pain, can at last move on with our lives and witness the beauty that waits for us. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Literalism and Spiritualism

In my previous post I discussed what I thought were two different traditions within Mormonism in their interactions with the Divine. Now, I want to share a story.

There was a panel at BYU a couple of weeks ago where panelists discussed how their homosexuality has been influenced by their religious views. A question was posed by someone asking whether the panelists believed that they would still be married to their someday same-sex partner in the afterlife or would God separate them.accept their marriage? Several of the panelists answered that they believed God would accept their future marriages.

I have had a hard time understanding this viewpoint. I have gotten into debates with different people trying to understand how anyone could think as they do. I mean, after all, the scriptures, church leaders, and modern revelation not only go against such sentiment but even against the very heart of what those individuals are proposing. God has called it an abomination in the passed, put every possible sin on it during Paul's journeys, and sentenced gay people to a nearly two thousand years of humiliation, degradation, and horror. In modern days with the "only true church," God was willing to sacrifice families to hide and obscure gays from the public eye.

But then I realized something. I realized that I followed in the literalist tradition. I don't find it something to be ashamed of. I was raised and had reinforced throughout my life the view that spiritual information should be viewed and assimilated through texts and stories and interpreted in a literal way in most cases. Such thinking has allowed me to comprehend and understand just how much of the Church thinks. It has allowed me to understand how revelation and visions occur in the modern Mormon Church.

The Mormon Church is not the same church that inspired visions of the eternities, of Christ and the ancient apostles. It is not the church that sporadically met and gave rise to such organizations as the Relief Society. It is not the same. No. Today's church is encumbered with doctrines, dogmas, and systems of understanding and rule following. It is a religion not of liberal ideas but of musty, stuffy conservative ideas. This attitude has led to the rise of literalism and the rise of mindless obedience and blind faith.

In so understanding this, I feel I can take a step closer towards understanding Mormonism as it really is and not as it would like to be seen or as how many would like to see it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Faith Traditions in Mormonism

A friend of mine is the source of inspiration for this and the next blog post. A History of God by Karen Armstrong and God Is Not One by Stephen Prothero helped me come to realize and gave words to a lot of what I've thought and experienced in Mormonism. I want to talk about literalism and spiritualism within the Mormon faith. I need to define some times and most of this post will be about defining terms. Literalism in this case just means those within the Mormon faith that see their faith defined by decrees from the leadership of the Church, by a literal reading of the scriptures or by authoritative reading, doctrines and dogmas by the Church, and by official revelations by the Church. In other words, such attitudes like "When the Prophet speaks, the thinking has been done" and similar phrases would come from this mindset. Spiritualism would be those that rely on individual revelation even when it contradicts official doctrine and official revelations, private interpretation of the scriptures, maintaining ideas that run contrary to the Mormon faith as far as controversial topics go (feminism, same-sex marriage, priesthood authority, and the nature of deity). Spiritualism would be the less rigid tradition within Mormonism, I would suggest, while literalism would be the more rigid tradition. Certainly it can be said that literalism has a wider appeal to members of the Mormon Church throughout most of the United States and perhaps other areas of the world that were previously influenced by primarily Protestant Christianity. 

Mormonism is not entirely unique in its approach to things. Its doctrines of the corporeal body of God, the Godhead versus the Trinity, and other doctrines that run counter to mainstream Christianity are simply differences of views within the mindset that has shaped Christianity and Mormonism in Western civilization. Let's be honest and admit this much: Mormonism as it is today, is partially the result of repeated interaction with the culture of the United States. That culture is the product of the Enlightenment and the more logical form of faith that Western Christianity has.

Karen Armstrong's book does a fantastic job detailing the evolution of human thought on who, what, and why God is and does. She explains that Western Christianity never fully developed a spiritual or mystical view of God like Judaism and Islam went on to do. Western Christianity fell in love with the logical proofs for the existence of God and transforming God into a more literal or definable Being. Mormonism, I would suggest, takes this one step further and transforms the whole of their faith (with such exceptions as the Endowment ceremony) into a more literal, logical interpretation of the spiritual world. Couched in this mindset, Mormonism is influenced by Western Christianity's obsession and fascination with the logical and legal aspects of God within the Bible and Mormonism develops a similar tradition. 

In Mormonism this can be seen through the many Laws and Covenants that we make. God is a god of laws. Children that reach the age of eight and converts to the Mormon Church make a covenant (a two way promise) between themselves and God. They agree to do certain things that makes God promise to do things in return. The LDS scriptures are full of the word "law."

"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated - and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21)

"I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10)

"Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man...And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin." (Alma 42:17-18,20)

"O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled." (2 Nephi 9:17)

But what of spirituality? The mystical and altogether personal experience that individuals have with the Divine. Certainly there are those within Mormonism. In my experiences at BYU and on my mission, I would meet individuals that would interact with the Divine from this perspective that were Mormon. They are certainly not common. Such individuals, I have noticed, do not rely on the scriptures to support their arguments by on feelings that they receive due to the influence of the Holy Spirit or from private revelations from God. They rely on fellow human being's thinking to understand anything that is scriptural or religious, the physical and real manifestations of the Divine in this world so to speak. 

Hmm...perhaps to explain it simpler, the literalist would use the Book of Mormon or any other set of scriptures to explain why they believe this sort of thing. They would cite the words of one of the leaders of their church to defend their views. The matter would be closed once they had cited such authority. The spiritualist would not find the matter closed as they would have found their own private revelations and interactions with the Divine to contradict this. They would be more likely to cite contradictions among the authorities and draw an area of confusion with which they can work and live in that exists between different prophetic statements that disagree with each other and live according to "What God has told me." 

I hope this post adequately defines the terms "literalist" and "spiritualist." In the next post I want to describe the conflict that exists between these two traditions and why, ultimately, the "spiritualist" path lost the ability to gain equal footing later on within the Mormon Church. I want to use this to share a story and why I think as I do towards it. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Time may ease pain. Time may ease sorrow. It may soften and bright the idea of happiness. It may diminish the darkness of events in the past. It may do many things. It may cure nearly all ills. It may do many things yet it is not the salve to our wounds. 

Pain cannot go away. It does not simply cease. Pain is the acknowledgement of something missing in our life. Something gone, perhaps forever, that we yearn to have in our lives. Sometimes we know that pain by name, that loss by its whispered word, that hoped for yearning by its perfect fantasy. Sometimes we know that pain through opposites. 

There is pain in dehumanization, loss, despair, and so many other things. At times we may feel like a cog in the universe's machine. That should we die we would be easily replaced. We have nothing unique to offer. Our words are empty and meaningless. Our actions are fruitless and empty. There is pain in saying goodbye to those we have loved, sought for, or even have hated. For we are complex creatures and therefore our interactions with each other are complex. 

Pain. Being told you are nothing. Told you are subhuman to all those around you. Told to say not what you are. Who you are. Why you are. Silence forever lest the very fires of the Devil consume you body and soul. Silence. Speak not for we dare not seek after your nameless evil. The profanity of knowing you would castrate our righteousness. Our perfection would became tainted by you. You, pathetic thing, are beyond redemption. You, we have declared, cannot accept God's mercy. For it is you He hates most. You, by the mark of your skin, by the mark of your sexuality, by the mark of your false gender, by the mark of your true gender roles, by the mark of your position in society, by the mark of everything or anything that is not "us" has made you beyond the great and infinite power of our Creator. 

God, say we, will rescue the sinner. He will visit the sick and the afflicted. Behold he has healed the blind. But he cannot heal you. No, he cannot and will not heal you. For you are not us. You are not what we declare as the correct sin to commit. The sin of race. The sin of gender. The sin of sexuality. All are abhorrent before Him. Sin with lies. Sin with pride. Sin with greed. Gluttony. Idiocy. Sin with all those things and God will forgive. But nothing more.

Pain. Pain is not being what God wanted you to be. Pain is not being what society wanted you to be. It's not being what your religion or family wanted you to be. It is loss. It is emptiness. It is standing on the very edge of the abyss, of staring into the darkness and knowing that is where you must tread. Take a moment, while in pain, and look behind you. If you stay in that small circle of light, you will know comfort. You will know familiarity. But you will never know what is beyond that circle.

Pain will ease in time. It will ease and subside from heartache to heartache from loss to loss and from farewell to farewell. What you see before you now cannot remain. It shouldn't remain. Life is pain. It is the key to at last allowing peace to wash over you. It is the understanding that allows a sense of joy and hope to come over you.

But, and this I think is true, know this. Know that true joy, that sense of happiness that transcends the moment, does not come and cannot come until we acknowledge and permit the pain in our lives to seep into the core of us. Only then can we let go of the illusion that pain should be avoided and should be ignored. Only then can our lives heal from the wounds that are inflicted upon us as well as self-inflicted. 

Let tomorrow rise with the brightness of a new day. Let it cast the shadows from us and throw the darkness back. Let the light make all that weighs us down subside into the earth. But do not let it scorch the darkness within. The heaviness within. The sorrow within. Let it cast light upon it. Let us embrace all that we are. Dark and light. Sorrow and joy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The God of Hate

The soul that cries out for solace is not calling upon the Divine for succor or pity; rather it calls for another being capable of comprehension and understanding to relate and understand. I could never understand the belief in a God that stood on one side of a chasm. The God whose perfection placed him so far beyond the realm of humanity as to make him alien to us. The God who says to his creations, "you are sinful, you are gross, you are pathetic, and you are unworthy of my love but I love you still, " is one impossibly brutish thug that does not deserve worship.

I could never understand the element of attraction that some so-called Christians have of the particular evangelic or fundamentalist persuasion have for that kind of God. I can recall one summer a few years back when I stood with a crowd of hip and unhip casually dressed Christians at a Fourth of July service. Their pastor wore street clothes and a goatee as to make him edgy while still managing to package the same message of unworthiness and cruelty that so many other Christian denominations possess. He stood before this gathered crowd of misfits in the land of Mormons and shouted his message. I will never forget that day. I stood there sweating beneath the setting sun among a crowd of religious people shouting phrases like "amen" and other positive affirmation for Jesus.

The pastor spoke of the perfection of God and proceeded to cite Romans, a letter in the New Testament, to justify his idea that we had sinned before God and deserved death. Yes: death. Our sins made us deserving of death before the eyes of God. The Christian God that had created all under heaven, including heaven, and organized and made the laws of right and wrong, had declared that humans - acting as he had created them to act - deserved death for acting in their nature which he made to be against him so that they should be killed. Free agency was something made by God under Christianity but God made humans full of so many fallacies that they were bound to fail. And God, like some eager disciplinarian, was waiting with a lethal weapon to exterminate us. God did not weep over our death but delighted in watching our flesh rot long after our souls had taken flight to rest in eternal judgment in heaven or hell.

But thankfully the Christian God had allowed for himself to forgive us our sins. He did so through himself. That preacher explained that I, and those like me (nonbelievers), could be saved from our judgment by praying for Jesus to come into our hearts and purify us.

This was my first real exposure to such speech. Never before in my life had I heard someone argue that the Great Tyrant loved justice more than what he created and therefore was willing to casually destroy life. God created so he had the right to destroy. The very notion of a lack of morals left me wanting for a different kind of God. What kind of Creator saw destruction as an equally plausible option to creation? And not just the destruction of old age but the destruction born out of rage, hate, and "righteous indignation."

I knew that day that I could never embrace the notion of a Christian God. He was a total asshole. The biggest asshole I'd ever heard of. He killed infants, entire cities, individuals, and families because he simply could. Life was meaningless to this God.

So I turned my back on the God of the conservative evangelicals.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

When God Died

A friend of mine asked me this this morning: So you consider yourself an atheist. But I've read your blogpost about your initial thought of God. How did you go from believing in a neglectful God to believing in no God at all?

It's time for a story. Like all stories there is a beginning. Imagine, if you will, me (or what you think I am like) a few years back. I was still in the closet then and still struggling with who I was. My coming out story as a gay man is very much entwined with the departure of my belief in God. A few years ago I slipped into a much depression that caused me to flee my parent's home and go to BYU after being away for a couple of months. My brothers had both gotten married that summer and I had just had surgery on my nose. My sister had fled her own family due to an abusive husband. I still remember that summer. I remember the fires so thick that they darkened the sky for weeks with smoke. It was so bad that there were warnings against going outside.

I felt the heaviness of despair even though I couldn't identify why. I figured it was because I just wasn't trying hard enough in my belief in God. I had managed to conquer my gayness and set it aside, or so I thought. So I went back to BYU in hopes of fleeing the darkness that haunted my dreams and my waking thoughts. The darkness that spoke of despair, of failure, and of pathetic ugliness within. I fled to BYU and faced a frustration that I could not begin to imagine.

I was so poor that all I could afford to eat was ramen. I had no money in my bank account because I had to use it to pay for rent. I had used up the last of the gas in my car so I had to walk everywhere. I remember that September, warm and fading as the earth made its inevitable revolution around the sun and the seasons changed. I had just gotten new shoes for church that I absolutely loved but the heel of the shoe destroyed my heel, leaving it bloodied and the flesh torn. I couldn't even by band aids and would go to school in my normal shoes only to come home and find the heel of my sock soaked through with my own blood. I remember crying a lot and wondering what was wrong with me. I began to have depressive episodes that would leave me stunned and unable to socialize. I was heartbroken and in despair and I didn't even know why. I had no social life due to work and school and would find myself alone in the apartment doing homework while my roommates went off on dates and hung out with friends. I couldn't understand why I was sad. I couldn't understand why I was full of anxiety and despair. I just couldn't understand.

The months went by and depression sunk deeper. I sought a psychologist but we could figure out nothing. I remember confessing to her that I would commit suicide if I thought it would make my life better but I only saw the disappointed faces of my dead relatives that would greet me. I only saw the fact that existence continued on after death and I was trapped in a life that would never end. Death wasn't release. It was the sealing of my doom. I felt trapped in my life and that I would become trapped in death.

When January came, I felt a surge of hope that things would get better. Something would change. And something did.

I nearly tried to kill myself.

That day was a weird day. I was anxious and frustrated, full of an emptiness I could not fathom. I walked home that day with an eerie determination to come up with a plan to kill myself and to make it so that no one would care or take note that I had even passed away. That my life would hardly noticed going out and even less noticed in its absence. I wanted no one to mourn over me for I thought I was being selfish wanting that. I didn't want my family to even care. I wanted everyone to forget about me so that in my passing, my final gift to them would be a life without the burden of remembering me or acknowledging my death.

Yet I was so scared by these thoughts that I instead took a sharp knife and cut my arm several times to induce blood. I remember the feeling of peace at seeing my own life essence filling the wounds I had made. The bright, vibrant red of blood that told me it was good and I was still alive. How quick that sudden rush of peace turned to guilt, emptiness, and despair. I sank onto the couch and cried for nearly an hour. I was pathetic. I would blubber to myself, "Help. I need help." But no one came. No one knew I was dying inside at the time.

Help did come later, thankfully. And the sweet gesture of friendship of love sheltered me from my own dark thoughts. In all of this, I believed I had failed God. I wasn't really going to church and I wasn't really reading my scriptures. I was such a failure. God did not want me.

But then that weekend I poured my heart and soul out to a friend of mine while online. I told him of the loneliness and the emptiness I felt at being gay and at BYU. I told him how desperately I wished I knew other gays at school. And what he did next forever altered the course of my life. It was an alteration I have been forever grateful for. He helped me come out by getting other gays to meet me. Helping me find other people like me so I wouldn't feel so isolated. He set me down the path that I am on currently today.

And I am forever grateful for the kindness that he showed me.

About that time of letting go of the heaviness in my heart, I asked a friend for books to read on atheism. I had a character for a story and I wanted to better understand how someone that didn't believe in God or a god thought. He offered me books and I accepted one. I read it with mild curiosity until deciding some pages in to give the book a real chance and see if the author's claim was true. I was so busy that semester that I didn't have time to read the book but I did manage to read it all over the weekend after school got out. The idea that there was no God and it made perfect sense was riveting. It was as though my very mind was allowed to be free! I felt as thought I could stand up fully without having to crouch low or stoop. I felt the sweet sense of peace and serenity like I never had before.

God had passed away in my mind. Where God had been was now opportunity. It was the opportunity to truly know and understand the world around me. I remember that summer with such happiness that I still seek to imitate it to some degree every summer. It became a season of friends, of reading books that filled my need to understand, and it became a summer of discovery. So horrified was I that I no longer believed in God that I sought to read my scriptures and try to believe. But as I did so, I felt a great calm come over me. I understand what I was reading far better but I felt no compulsion to believe. I felt no need to believe. I could look around at the mountains, the desert, the people, and the society around me and at last understand how they all interacted on some level. I could recall memories without the shade of guilt that normally came for small, insignificant details of imperfections.

By the end of summer I fully embraced what I had been telling people: I was an atheist.

There was no God that haunted my dreams and whispered of knowing my many imperfections in the daytime. No Spirit granted me crushing humiliation over my attraction to other men. No Jesus died on the cross for my pathetic sins because I was pathetic and disgusting before me. I was freed from the trap of belief. Free to believe and accept what I thought was right and true. And I was free to discover what was truly real and actually right.

What began as a delusion of belief now has ended in the gentle sands of rational thought and rational accepting of the world around me. God did not die in epic throws of disease, fighting, or anger. God died quietly, slipping through my fingers like a ghost. God was ethereal and nothing now. God was nothing more than the invention of the minds of people seeking something that was not there. And I was grateful to no longer hold to the tyrant of my childhood.

It has been nearly three years since my belief in God died and I have never been happier. Tell me, friend, does that answer your question?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Culture of Crisis

Scan the newspaper headlines, take a casual walk down the Current Affairs part of any bookstore, listen to the news, or even listen to your local religious leader and you're more than likely to hear about the most recent downfall of Western Civilization. The American economy is collapsing, American debt is going to kill us, the American family is on the verge of collapse, morality is seeping out of the very fiber of this country, the planet is going to be destroyed through Global Warming, gays are going to destroy marriage, racism will rip this country apart, liberals will destroy America, conservatives will destroy America, Americans/North Koreans/Chinese/Iranians/Russians/Venezuelans/terrorists will plunge this world into war, violent video games are leading to horrific acts of violence by teenagers, drugs will destroy America, atheism is destroying America, and so on. Etc. etc. etc.

Growing up, I could never understand why people didn't take a crisis seriously. In the movies, people seemed to eventually understand when a crisis was upon them and then they heroically solved the problem and restored good and righteousness to its place before evil overthrew everything. Even as a child I accepted this was an overly simplistic view of the world but I couldn't understand why the real world was so chaotic. Being the aware college student that I was/am I again wondered how people could be so calloused and indifferent to the starving children of Africa/Asia/South America/Central America/Eastern Europe/inside America's own borders.

I feel I finally understand a little more why we function as we do. We are always in crisis. Humanity functions on crisis. It rarely functions on pragmatism outside its own familiar borders. The barbarians have come and they seek to destroy our way of life: crisis. The world is about to be destroyed from without/within: crisis. Crises have a tendency to pile upon us and as our awareness of the world increases more and more, so does our understanding of said crises. Some crises are made up, over exaggerated, or understated. It really doesn't matter what we may think, say, or do. There will always be crises.

I had a roommate that seemed to function on crises. There was almost some major project due at midnight or the next day that he had put off working on until then. He never wanted to face the fact that he was gay or why he felt so alone or lost, so he would drift and wander through life until the crisis of feeling self-hatred reached epic proportions inside him. I used to wander why he did this. Why didn't he face his problems a little at a time? It finally dawned on me that as twisted as it was to function the way he did, it also was very understanding. He functioned as he did because it made sense and because he thrived off this environment.

I think humanity is very similar to this. We are a species that is slow to act on so much. We are lazy, foolish, and easily distracted. These odd characteristics give us one scenario: we live forever in crisis. We function in crisis, thrive in crisis, and seek to always be in crisis. Something is always wrong. Something will always stand up and be wrong no matter what we do. We should not deal with it but recognize that humanity's collective desire is to remain in the realm of crisis.

Crisis is where the hero appears. The long dark night ever hangs over us, ever gives out the challenge for the hero to arise. Forever there is the "ultimate" clash of good and evil looming on the eternally near horizon. Forever do we call out to be saved for we refuse to save ourselves. And why should we? All our solutions ultimately require years and years to solve our problems.

Crisis' heroic form appears in fantasies. The fantasy genre is where the ongoing orgasmic interchange between titanic clashes of good and evil occur. Frodo must forever journey to Mordor to cast the ring of Environmentalism/Consumerism/Communism/Capitalism/Theism/Atheism/Moral Depravity/Moral Supremacy/Racism/etc. into the fires of Mount Doom. Harry Potter must forever duel the Dark Wizard of Crisis.

We are a culture of crisis. We seek it. Crave it. Hate it. But will never truly spurn it. It haunts us. Drives us. And chases us forever down the corridors of our "declining" civilization. Face it: society never declines. It simply changes. The Roman civilization did not decline. It changed and evolved into a barbaric society that eventually blossomed into the barbaric but refined modern Western Civilization.

The real question, I think, is not how to avoid crisis. But how to forever solve it in our individual lives. Like the fantasy genre, our modern society will never escape crisis because it awaits the coming of a hero/savior that will never come because they simply cannot.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Crush My Heart

The emotional roller coaster of my heart began, as always, at the beginning of the year. It began amid school, moving, and trying to realize I was running from my fears. That's my default response to situations: I run away from them. I refuse to face a lot of my problems it seems. Now, in my defense, I am working on it and working to face more and more of those problems in my life. It gets easier with time, but it still hurts.

The biggest roller coasters were facing the realization that I have anxiety and panic attacks and listening to the heartbreaking words of my father as he told me that he would consider disowning me. These two moments, happening near simultaneously were horrendous. I had major panic attacks the fall semester of 2010. Those same panic attacks followed me into the new semester and would get so bad that I just couldn't go to school those days. I knew better. But I was just too scared. Naturally, I failed some of my classes because of this. I failed them and that was that.

When stung so badly this past summer was when my dad strong armed me into telling him what was wrong. After telling him of my fears and even a confession of not belonging at BYU, he yelled and raged at me before finally deciding to tell me that he would be considering cutting me off financially and implied emotionally. My heart broke that day and never recovered until even now. No child should be told so casually that. No child. The emotional wound never healed. I still love my parents but have been psychologically preparing for them to cut me off. So I move ahead with distancing myself and letting them go in preparation for that day. It has been a mostly unconscious move that I have merely observed but never halted.

I apologize. This post is meant to be short. I cannot focus on anything else tonight because those two events were so heart-wrenching. Good night!

The Atheists

Meeting the atheists came at a crucial time in my life when I thought I was going to have to face the rest of my college time alone. It came as a sort of accident, really. The beginning of the year meant that I was in the library at school working on some homework. A friend of mine had just added me to a number of different post Mormon groups because I was starving for a more sympathetic attitude toward my views than what I was currently interacting with. I saw a post by one of the founders of the atheist group in town inviting anyone who wanted to to come to their group. I quickly commented wanting to join. 

As I did so I felt this desire to join. This desperation to be a part of something that meant I could relate and communicate with in person instead of online or with people that were decidedly theist. I didn't want to debate. Just talk. But the guy responded and soon enough I was on my way to my first meeting with other people like me.

My friendship with them was a roller coaster ride. It was a breath of fresh air and friendships were made based on a common "us against them" mentality. We had our own inside jokes, stories, and vocabulary that set us apart from others. The group grew and grew over the year I was with them. New faces and new stories were added to the group. Some people were able to jive with the group immediately and others drifted or took a lot longer to become incorporated into the group. But we bonded and became close. We were like a fire burning bright, hot, and too fast. 

Soon we began to move away from each other. Some moved to Salt Lake City and others to states both near and far. What began with a close friendship became distant and spread out. Some tried drugs and bonded with others in the group based on that connection. Others became bonded on commonality of attraction. But we still were not meant to last.

The group was the starting point. It was the starting point for me. Like USGA, it was not a place to be forever in. So many of us were in a temporary place. For some it was college and for others it was waiting to find a chance to go somewhere else. For me, it was finding a sense of self in a community. A place I could call home. 

They filled that emptiness inside me just like USGA did. They filled that lack of family that I yearned for and stood by my side during the hard times. Yet when fall arrived, I knew that my place among the group was not outdated. Old. I was one of the few people that had been in the group for a while. I didn't need to argue about the problems of religion (and there are many), why drugs should be legalized, why Utah is crazy, and so on. I had discussed most of that already. 

By the time 2011 was drawing to a close, I knew that I needed to move on. I needed to say goodbye and let go. Most everyone I knew already had. What was left for me now?

Friday, January 6, 2012


I began to get involved in USGA, in a committed way, in January of this past year. It was a group that completely set me free on believing that gay groups couldn't exist at BYU. We existed. We thrived. We loved. I watched members of the group fall in and out of love with each other. I watched as some made the painful but rewarding journey out of the closet.

I attended the group with my dear friend, my "wife." Now, she is not my wife in any legal or romantic sense but we do love and care for each other as friends. We watched and participated in discussions about gender roles, the LDS Church's stance on gays, and about acceptance. Through it all we sought to create a place of safety and inclusion. 

When I think back over the year on USGA, I think of a place where friends could meet and feel safe. My life has been forever changed by the existence of this group. It has been forever altered by the lives of people I have interacted with. But it taught me something I cannot shake to this day.

USGA is a place to begin at. It is a safe starting point. By the end of the year I felt old. I had already been out for a couple of years. I had already discussed the same old topics and made peace and resolved many of them in my own life. I was much older than some of the people in the group.

I didn't belong. 

I know that many there would not accept that. But by the end of the year, I accepted that I no longer had a place at USGA. I had outgrown it. I still have a great deal of love for the group. I still want to visit it every once-in-a-while. But I now realize that I don't belong. It was this realization that I first came to when attending USGA in the fall that helped me realize that I no longer belonged at BYU, Provo/Orem, or anywhere down there. There was nothing left for me there. 

The home I had built had become too small for me now.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 In Review

I feel that last year was about closure in many ways. It was about realizing that this part of my life was reaching an end and that it was time to move on. I have felt for so long this yearning and desire to find a place where I can belong. To find a place where people can love me and accept me for who I am. What began in boredom and the hoped for desire of finding friends has ending in coming full circle and saying goodbye to so many friends. But I will talk about those groups in subsequent posts.

I went to BYU originally because I thought that God had wanted me to and that this had been confirmed by my acceptance into the school. But what began with such heartache, loneliness, and sense of loss has ended with friendship, community, and hope. BYU may have been the place and time that saw the destruction of so much of what I had built throughout my childhood. It saw the end of my hopes from when I was child to one day marry a woman, my belief in God, my desire to follow conservative politics, my desire to fit in, and my hope to create a life filled with money. But what I got in return was something far greater: a true and better understanding of who I am, the hope to create something better for myself, an odyssey into my soul, friends that truly care, and a community that is built around love and common purpose.

I have walked the campus of BYU for several years. I have yearned to be like those couples that walk around holding hands. While I still am not dating anyone, I feel so happy and at peace knowing that I am fine with being me. I am not perfect and have no real expectation of every being that. But I still have the choice to improve my life as I see fit. This desire reached it's highest level this past year when I moved away from BYU approved housing and the superficiality of so many people I have known there. I moved in with friends that were gay at two different times and set about rebuilding my life. It was hard and it was difficult and I had to face several brutal truths about me.

I spent half of the year still clinging to the hope that I could somehow keep my parents in my life even as I slowly drifted away. But my best friend pointed out to me that in doing so I belittled those around me by hiding them from my parents. My life seemed to blow apart over the summer when I got in a huge fight with my dad. It revealed to me how little I had succeeded in winning his approval of me. And when I was forced to confront that, I came to the initially sad but ultimately freeing realization that since I couldn't get their approval I should give up and focus on gaining approval from me.

This past year I felt lost as I struggled to find a home. I felt safe and then exposed and vulnerable. I felt lost and adrift when I thought I had lost my parents. My whole world seemed to fall apart then. But now I realize that it was a blessing in disguise (not a religious one). It made me stronger and helped me accept that I can make it on my own. That I had to now.

My parents are still in my life although distance both emotional and physical is still there. Our future is uncertain but I now know that I can keep moving forward, with or without them. I know now that I can say goodbye to them if I must and with only minimal bitterness. I know I can now forgive and let go if need me. That I can pursue a life of supreme happiness and peace whether they choose to join with me or in it or not.

This past year taught me that it's time to say goodbye. It's time to bid adieu to this place I called home, however horrible and wonderful it was, for the past five years. I have fought so far against my depression while there and in the process came out, left God, and gained people that have not filled the void in my heart but healed that rift and provided fertile soil for a garden of peace to grow within, so to speak.

Goodbyes are the hardest thing of all to do. To end what was originally the potential of near unlimited experiences with someone makes me want to cry at times. To know my most cherished experiences are not in the present but the ever growing past is something that reduces me to sorrow.

Yet, goodbyes have occurred. I have said goodbye to BYU and to too many friends. This past year, I almost said goodbye to my parents. I said goodbye to so much selfishness.

Still to review:
atheist group
Emotional Rollercoaster

The anticipation is just killing me...