The Anthem for My Life – A Practical Approach

President Uchtorf’s talk “Ye Are My Hands” has been my anthem for a year now. I have referred to this talk just about as often I refer to C.S. Lewis’ “Weight of Glory” sermon which for those of you who know me well know that that is HUGE!.

The most touching parts of both talks are included here:

Ye Are My Hands

I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand. Let us bestow upon our brothers and sisters in the Church a special measure of humanity, compassion, and charity so that they feel, at long last, they have finally found home.

In truth, we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We are all in need of mercy. In that last day when we are called to the judgment bar of God, do we not hope that our many imperfections will be forgiven? Do we not yearn to feel the Savior’s embrace?

It seems only right and proper that we extend to others that which we so earnestly desire for ourselves.

I am not suggesting that we accept sin or overlook evil, in our personal life or in the world. Nevertheless, in our zeal, we sometimes confuse sin with sinner, and we condemn too quickly and with too little compassion. We know from modern revelation that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” We cannot gauge the worth of another soul any more than we can measure the span of the universe. Every person we meet is a VIP to our Heavenly Father. Once we understand that, we can begin to understand how we should treat our fellowmen.

The Weight of Glory

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no  ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly  love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ  vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

For those of you who wonder how you can cultivate the principles ascribed by two great Christians I offer the following quote from Darren Criss as a practical approach for how to deal with all immortals with whom we work with and all of God’s children. “That which makes you different is what makes you strong. Whether you’re gay, straight, orange, purple, dinosaur… I don’t care.

Fear not, and know that I am God

Today is Easter Sunday. The end of Lent and the beginning of the glorious days in remembrance of Christ’s Atonement. For Lent I did my best to give up fear. Fear of my unworthiness, fear of rejection, fear of relationships, fear of discussing the taboo. Over the past 46 days I have worked constantly to fight back the fear that is within me and on many fronts I have succeeded and on some I still have a ways to go.

I still fear that I will fall short in my application to programs, but I conquered the paralyzing fear of not even applying. I still fear rejection should I get into a relationship but I have defeated the fear which has prevented me from trying. I still fear that I might be completely wrong in my life choices, but I have moved passed the debilitating nature of that fear.

I have followed the counsel given in D&C 67:10 “inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.” And because of this I have grown closer to God through my rejection and abandonment of fear.

Each morning I read the litany against fear and used it as a constant reminder to not fear. As I have pondered over these words and repeated them over in my mind I have gained a good deal of insight that I’d like to share with you now:

I must not fear. – This is the declaration and goal, the object of the litany.Fear is the mind-killer – A recognition of fear’s awesome power and hold over us.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration – An allowance to be afraid and respectful of fear.
I will face my fear – The only way to conquer fear is not to run away but to stand firm with steadfastness in faith.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me – We must be bathed in fear in order to conquer it. Just as we must bathe in the sins of the world in order to overcome it and become stronger.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path – The gift of hindsight will allow us to firmly verify the validity of our decision.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing – Because in the aftermath of fear, after firmly facing it all else that paralyzed us will have been washed away.
Only I will remain – And there we will stand, fearless.

For Lent I gave up fear and while I am not yet completely fearless I am stronger for the experience. I have a clarity of mind that is not paralyzed by fear, a spirit that is not shackled by the status quo but rather I am free to reach up, learn more and grow, each day gaining more light and knowledge because I have time that is no longer dedicated to fear.

Reflection from a Day of Silence

A day of silence and listening to Maggie Gallagher testify in front of Congress has inspired this post:

Over the course of my life I have seen many examples of petitions and letters requesting change, from the classic letter to the editor to my personal favorite a YouTube video about United Airlines. Sometimes these petitions take the form of rants, other times humorous satire, the occasional rally, or today’s example of the Day of Silence. But for all these efforts getting mad doesn’t seem to work anymore. Why? because when you back a cat into a corner it will lash out at you.

This month former traditional marriage advocate Louis J. Marinelli, the guy whose idea was the 2010 Summer for Marriage Tour sponsored by Maggie Gallagher and the National Organization for Marriage, came out in support for marriage equality. Why? not because of the rallys and the chants of “Hey Hey, Hey Ho! Homophobia’s got to go” but because of conversations he had one-on-one with people his campaign would hurt. The issue of marriage equality went from a cause he must defend at all costs, to something that was hurting real people whose lives had meaning and weight behind them.

I have seen similar changes happen within my family and in my ward. People who may have donated to Prop 8 have come to me and told me that they are sorry, that they didn’t know that their words and actions caused so much pain. They thought they were defending marriage against the stonewall era of ‘free love’ promiscuous gays who would threaten their children. I am certain that we all remember the ads from Prop 8 that focused on how it would force homosexuality into the kindergarten classroom. My own sister has cited that ad before (and the Massachusetts case behind it) to me as part of her rationale for supporting Prop 8. What did that ad do? It attacked us and so naturally we attacked back. Remember the ad of the Mormon missionaries tearing up the lesbian couples marriage certificate? And what did that do for us? Not much.

Back in 1977 Harvey Milk realized this. His campaign against Prop 6 wasn’t filled with negativity but filled with the pleading cry to come out.

We must destroy the myths once and for all. Shatter them. We must continue to speak out, and most importantly every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family, you must tell your relatives, you must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends, you must tell your neighbors, you must tell the people you work with, you must tell the people in the stores you shop in, and once they realize that we are indeed their children and that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do you will feel so much better.

Louis changed his view because he was confronted with real people with whom he met on multiple occasions. People who took the time to speak to him, not yell at him. I have seen many attacks on Maggie Gallagher that have been humorous, that I’ve even laughed at. I have written in frustration and anger towards President Packer. Others have called out Elder Oaks as a liar. I think that it is time that we, as a community, emerge from our collective adolescence and reach out with invitations of civil discourse that points out that we are here, we are queer, and we are children of God.

How many of us have written letters to that effect to the brethren? Have spoken to our Bishops and Stake Presidents? Have spoken up in Elder’s Quorum or Sunday School to say that “I am a member of this ward and this church, and the words you have spoken against the “dreaded homosexual” are words spoken against me. Your depiction of homosexuality as an the greatest evil third only to murder and denying the Holy Ghost is talking about me, not just some glittered drag queen in the pride parade, but me, David Baker, home teacher, Child of God. I’d appreciate it if you stopped or at least talk with me and get to know me before you slung your barbed words at me.”?

Can we change the face of the world? Perhaps not at first, but if we committed to writing a letter to the brethren each week with a small picture of ourselves speaking rationally and calmly about how their words have moved us to suicidal thoughts and deep depression then, as their staff reads these letters their hearts might be softened, their eyes opened, and their minds changed. This can apply to your Church, a political organization, or your representative, but you have to come out. You have to meet these fountains of hateful rhetoric and talk to them. It has worked before and it can work again. So join me today and write a letter, make a phone call, stop by the office and come out. Heaven knows it is the only way we will exact any lasting change. After all, these allies did:

Truth Wins Out

As most of you figured out, yesterday’s post was part of a deeply held American (and technological) tradition known as April Fools Day. I am in fact not  broken, I am in fact, truly Gay. And I am happy because of it, not in spite of it. The sad part is that 6 months ago today I did feel broken. 6 months ago today I was filled with a sense of hope as I saw the possibility for 1 man and 1 man alone to open up and change my world. Then, in a tragedy befitting the poets, hope was dashed upon the rocks as the words of President Packer rang out echoing the deep and troubling thoughts in my head, “Why would God make me this way”?

Why? Why? Why? I had asked myself this question countless times and shouted it to the heavens. This questioning of “Why” is what creates such an affinity for the Book of Mormon Musical, Next to Normal, the West Wing’s Two Cathedrals, and C.S. Lewis. How do we deal with the problem of pain and suffering, despair and delusion, fear and loss of hope in a world where God has the power, knowledge, and love to stop it.

Why. Why. Why. Why I think I have an answer for President Packer, for myself, and to all those who read these words. God made me this way that I might have joy. Just as God made President Packer a proud man who clings to tradition and the simple path, that he might have joy. Just as God created the ambition and desire of flight in the Wright brothers and the need for the feel of the road beneath the tires of Henry Ford. Each of us is unique. Our intelligences are eternal and have always been, just as God. How then can we expect them to be tempered into spirits with choice, placed inside bodies with emotion, live in an environment of a fallen world and have a central design for salvation that fits all?

God created me, you, our families that we might have Joy. 6 months ago I put my hope and trust in 1 man. Today I put that same faith and trust in God. He made us and hopes that we will grow to find Joy. For all mankind is that they might have Joy and I for once in my life am bursting with the Joy to know that this is true.

President Uchtdorf gets Cracked!

From Cracked:

A whole lot of the people still reading this are saying, “Of course I’m depressed! People are starving! America has turned into Nazi Germany! My parents watch retarded television shows and talk about them for hours afterward! People are dying in meaningless wars all over the world!”

But how did we wind up with a more negative view of the world than our parents? Or grandparents? Back then, people didn’t live as long and babies died more often. Diseases were more common. In those days, if your buddy moved away the only way to communicate was with pen and paper and a stamp. We have Iraq, but our parents had Vietnam (which killed 50 times more people) and their parents had World War 2 (which killed 1,000 times as many). Some of your grandparents grew up at a time when nobody had air conditioning. All of their parents grew up without it.

We are physically better off today in every possible way in which such things can be measured … but you sure as hell wouldn’t know that if you’re getting your news online. Why?

Well, ask yourself: If some music site posts an article called, “Fall Out Boy is a Fine Band” and on the same day posts another one called, “Fall Out Boy is the Shittiest Fucking Band of the Last 100 Years, Say Experts,” which do you think will get the most traffic? The second one wins in a blowout. Outrage manufactures word-of-mouth.

The news blogs many of you read? The people running them know the same thing. Every site is in a dogfight for traffic (even if they don’t run ads, they still measure their success by the size of their audience) and so they carefully pick through the wires for the most inflammatory story possible. The other blogs start echoing the same story from the same point of view. If you want, you can surf all day and never swim out of the warm, stagnant waters of the “aren’t those bastards evil” pool.


Actually, if you count the guy holding the camera, this man
statistically has more friends than most of us do.

Only in that climate could those silly 9/11 conspiracy theories come about (saying the Bush administration and the FDNY blew up the towers, and that the planes were holograms). To hear these people talk, every opposing politician is Hitler, and every election is the freaking apocalypse. All because it keeps you reading.


9/11 photos. Circled: Conspiracy

This wasn’t as much a problem in the old days, of course. Some of us remember having only three channels on TV. That’s right. Three. We’re talking about the ’80s here. So there was something unifying in the way we all sat down to watch the same news, all of it coming from the same point of view. Even if the point of view was retarded and wrong, even if some stories went criminally unreported, we at least all shared it.

That’s over. There effectively is no “mass media” any more so, where before we disagreed because we saw the same news and interpreted it differently, now we disagree because we’re seeing completely different freaking news. When we can’t even agree on the basic facts, the differences become irreconcilable. That constant feeling of being at bitter odds with the rest of the world brings with it a tension that just builds and builds.

We humans used to have lots of natural ways to release that kind of angst.

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_15231_7-reasons-21st-century-making-you-miserable.html#ixzz1HvmzPgCu

From President Uchtdorf:

Have you ever noticed that people can usually find whatever they are looking for? Look hard enough, and you can discover both good and bad in almost anyone and anything. People have done the same with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its beginning. Those who look for the good will find a kind and compassionate people—a people who love the Lord and desire to serve Him and bless the lives of their fellowman. But it is also true that those who look for the bad will certainly find things that are not so ideal.

Unfortunately, at times this happens even within the Church. There is no end to the creativity, ingenuity, and tenacity of those who look for reasons to criticize. They cannot seem to release their grip on grudges. They gossip and find fault with others. They nurse wounds for decades, taking every opportunity to tear down and demean others. This is not pleasing to the Lord, “for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work”

Interesting no?

Reviewing the musical “The Book of Mormon”

If you can handle listening to a recording of the language used on the streets of New York City and discussions abut female circumcision and AIDS in Africa, then go watch musical “The Book of Mormon”. I had the chance to watch it on opening weekend just last night and it manages to be hilarious and spiritually touching at the same time, a rare quality in theatre and movies filled with sequels and remakes.

 

The basic premise of the tale is this. Two missionaries in Uganda get off the plane from Salt Lake City to find a group of Africans who are suffering from AIDS, a military dictator, and all around crappy life. These Ugandans have had Christian missionaries come and talk to them about God and the Bible just about every year but does it solve any of their problems? No. As a result of the problem of pain in a world where God exists, these Ugandans have turned to God and echoed the words or President Jed Bartlett in the West Wing episode Two Cathedrals,, namely “cruciatus in crucem — eas in crucem”.  Now because this is from the creators of South Park and not Aaron Sorkin, the words aren’t in Latin and the translation more crude (even if the sentiment is the same).

 


So what are two naive Mormon missionaries to do when faced with these people? Well one tries to get transferred leaving the Elder who hasn’t actually read the Book of Mormon to try and teach these people. Hilarity ensues as he starts using his imagination to create “scriptures” that relate to the difficulties of AIDS and warlords, “scripture” often mixed with the typical Mormon fanboy fiction of Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Lord of the Rings. These imagined “scripture” stories provide a foil for actual Mormon beliefs in an attempt to show to the crowd that what all religions believe is pretty weird and quite possibly made up. However what Trey Parker and Matt Stone perfect is the fact that while they clearly don’t think that Mormonism (or any religion) is valid, they recognize that it is 100% absolutely useful.

 

The stories we tell, the scriptures we read, the faith we belief in is useful at providing hope, a sense of purpose, self-esteem, and ultimately a sense of community and belonging which for these Ugandans was missing even if it isn’t true. It is useful because its aim is for us to be nice and polite and Christ-like towards everybody and in the end, it doesn’t fix our temporal, earthly problems that humanity all too often points to God asking “Why did you do this?”.

 

Unlike prior persecution and demonization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, “The Book of Mormon” pokes fun at Mormonism much like Hale entertainment’s “Singles Ward” and “The R.M.” or like BYU’s “Divine Comedy” showing us that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. And this isn’t the only place this is happening either. There are actually 2 productions involving Mormons on broadway right now, Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” has 3 Mormons in the 8 person cast. Likewise, the Church has earned rave reviews for the Honor Code incident regarding Brandon Davies, Jimmer is a recognized household name in sports, MormonChat has stopped being trolled by the Internet, Harry Reid is Senate Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, and both Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are predicted to run for President in 2012.

 

When you look at the mainstream ribbing that we receive compared to say Scientology, it is clear that the Church has moved out of being an obscure, weird religion that should be feared and run out of town, to a culture that is mocked right alongside our Jewish and Catholic brethren. This should be celebrated. I’ll say that again, This. Should. Be. Celebrated.

 

So if you can handle explicit language like you would hear on the streets of New York, then go and watch this musical and celebrate in the fact that as a Church and a people we are being gently mocked with no references to polygamy, two references to blacks and the priesthood and only a couple of references to the gays. After all, the number that brought down the house was when the zealous missionary sang “I Believe”, bearing his testimony like Ammon to Kink Lamoni and they got everything about it right.

A response to GMG

(Gay) Mormon Guy recently has an interesting post up today about chemical or situational depression. Take a moment to read it and then my response to him.

GMG,

I definitely think that there is an abundance of introspection in the LGBT Community. Largely because coming to the realization and acceptance of one’s sexuality necessitates introspection AND because once someone has realized it themselves, often times they feel they can’t or simply don’t talk to anyone about it leaving LGBT members to live in their heads as both you and I do.

I do disagree (naturally) with your characterization of gays. Granted that may be the stereotype, but there are LGBT members of every color and creed that do not reflect the camp culture you described and as for the activist component (which I argue is a little – only slightly though – more mellow than you describe), that is found in nearly every minority culture on earth. Cultural repression gestates feelings of solidarity that is seen in activism, don’t believe me? pretend you aren’t a member and ask someone on BYU campus “Why don’t you believe in Christ? Why aren’t you Christian?” While you will get rational-minded answers, you will cultivate a feeling similar to the “passionate hate” you attribute to the LGBT community. Except that we hear it over and over again, “Gays are an abomination”, “God Hates Fags”, “You should burn in Hell”, and “You are trampling on my freedom” and because these viewpoints are based in a mix of ration and religion, sitting down and calmly talking about the issues fails more often than not. This builds and creates a culture of repression that fosters animosity towards those who don’t understand.

As a religious, faithful Mormon have I been embraced with open arms? no. But I have been welcomed and enjoined in a community wherein I am able to help spread civility. My biggest frustration with the LGBT community is that we seemingly can’t be accepting of other view points, even when we are asking for acceptance of our own. This hypocrisy frustrates me to no end. I tell you this because while you may not have this (again I dispute the degree) “Strong negative emotion” towards non-supporters, you can be a part of the LGBT community and in fact you are simply by having this blog.
Having both dealt with depression we both know that it can be chemical, but also situational. I am on board with you that depression leads to suicide and substance abuse and even promiscuity (as a form of substance abuse) that leads to HIV because I feel that all three of those are coping mechanisms for depression. In talking with you and getting to know you I assume that you already recognize and know your own coping mechanisms for depression. Running, playing soccer, searching the scriptures, prayer, service, etc. In my experience in the LGBT community I see that abusing alcohol, smoking, drugs and sex comes directly from a persons attempt to “feel better” about themselves and a smaller portion from an alignment of LGBT issues with the Liberal/Democrat agenda that often applauds recreational drug use and promiscuity.
But this you already concluded. You proscribe 3 potential reasons why tis depression might not be a brain chemistry thing. In your first 2 examples I think you have over-simplified the acceptance of urban metropolis and Lawrence v. Texas (2003). Why? Because the depression often starts much earlier than a publicly out life (again as we can both attest to). Which brings me around to your third option (which is discussed far more often than you realize just maybe with a different slant). An oversimplified version of your 3rd option goes something like this: Doing good -> feeling good, doing evil -> guilt -> depression thus to be less depressed do more good. If I have mis-characterized this let me know and I will revise. My question for you is this, when were you first depressed? In our discussions you have made mention that you have been depressed for a LONG time. The follow-up question would be, when was the first time you sinned in regard to the behaviors associated with homosexuality? While you certainly don’t have to tell me publicly on this comment thread I suspect that there will be a discrepancy and, gathering from our discussions I don’t think you have ever even held another man’s hand let alone been involved sexually.

Given this assumption (which may be wrong in your case) that you were seriously depressed before you were involved in homosexual behaviors that means that the guilt that led to your depression had to come from a different sin (under the rules of option 3). I posit that that the only conclusion is that the sin that led you to be guilty that led to your depression was simply your sexuality and not any behaviors associated with it. This leaves us with two choices. 1. That same-sex attraction, in and of itself, is a sin or 2. that the guilt that leads to depression can come from something other than sin. I think we are clear to say that 1 is false leaving us to look for the source of the guilt and, while there may be others, the highest probable source of that guilt is a societal and cultural normative that your sexuality collides with and has been for many, many years.

This is the more commonplace understanding of your option #3 in discussions both the LGBT communities and scientific literature, that cultural repression of non-normative roles leads to guilt. Sadly this is also the cause of so many LDS/LGBT members who take their activism over the line that divides being pro-gay and being anti-church. This is the cause of the militant activism you discussed earlier, a rebellion against the “hetero-normative” that sadly contributes to promiscuity. I truly and honestly believe that if the culture of the Church was able to equalize and normalize the sexual identity of its LGBT members to the point at which their was a cultural feeling of equality and embracing fellowship, that LDS/LGBT youth could grow up and, when realizing their sexuality, say “looks like I am on path B instead of path A” and intrinsically know that both were equally good, equally accepted, and that no option was superior to the other and not feel the guilt and depression that you attribute to a knowledge of sin from the light of Christ.

I declare war on the SAT

ESSAY PROMPT

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below:

How valuable is history for our generation? On the surface this question is not as easy as it once might have been, for there is a widespread belief that history may no longer be relevant to modern life. We live, after all, in an age that appears very different from the world that came before us.

Stephen Vaughn, “History: Is It Relevant?”

Assignment: Is knowledge of the past no longer useful for us today? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

The above was the essay prompt for my SAT. Yeah that test. This was the first year they added the writing section and the first time I had taken the test. Below you will find my answer. All I can say is wow, just wow! 

In my defense I had been reading, Sun Tzu, Miyamoto Musashi, and The Art of Fencing so war and swords were on my mind. Even the use of the word “foil” was because I had a tournament hours later.

The First Week of Lent

So I posted the other day about Lent and how I am giving up fear. If you haven’t read it take a look, I’ll wait.

So after that post I have already had some chances to live up to the challenge of giving up fear. On Friday I had a really great date that had I let my fear control me would have not happened or turned out far worse.

On Sunday I visited an episcopal church just up the road from my ward. I started out the day with Ward Council then visited the All Saints parish in Chevy Chase, and then went back to the chapel and had the sacrament with the 1pm ward.

Because this was the first Sunday of Lenten, the sermon was on Christ temptation and his 40 days of fasting. There were a couple of key points that resonated with me that I would like to share an build upon.

1st. That the word obey doesn’t mean following a Procrustean set of written guidelines but rather is a word to describe a relationship of submission to Christ. While I have appreciated Elder Bednars characterization of obedience as something we will strive to do instead of cringe to do, this pastors imagery struck me more wholly and I think it will do the same for most.

The 2nd item from the sermon was a quote attributed to Ambrose of Milan; “We fast not to starve ourselves but to starve the Devil” by fasting we eliminate many of the hooks he has embedded into us starving him if access to us. How beautiful is that thought!?! From my

LDS perspective I seem to have viewed fasting as simply a way to become closer to God. I hadn’t realized that in getting closer we are becoming further away from Satan and I certainly never had the imagery of Fasting eliminating hooks for Satan to chain us down to. How beautiful.

So in tuning about fasting and hooks I thought about my Lenten fast. How appropriate is it that instead of giving up a temporal hook of say junk food I instead am trying to eliminate a deep seated hook that is a very root of evil. (see Yoda). I feel that my concept of giving up fear was inspired and now my resolve has been strengthened, all because I am sacrificing fear.