A change of scenery and a change in me

When I was young I was a loner. I isolated myself from people and they did the same. In kindergarten I was mockingly called “hairy monkey” (if any of you who called me this are reading know that I have completely forgiven this). In school I only ever had 1 real friend at a time. Sometimes they moved away, sometimes I did. In college the same thing happened to an extent. I would only really connect with 1 or two people and the rest I would ignore as they ignored me.

The one exception to this was my first time at EFY when I realized that I was never going to see these people again so why try to fit in, instead I am just going to be myself, speak my mind and metaphorically say “to hell with them!” Well my plan backfired on me and I all of a sudden had friends. I figured it was because of the summer-camp feel and so brushed it off. I didn’t reclaimed that feeling of comfort in a group setting that I felt at EFY until after I came out and then it was only a fleeting feeling.

When I left DC I left friends that I had spent two years getting to know, meet, laugh, and love. It was hard to say goodbye and thankfully the internet has kept us close. I figured that was the first time out of a college setting that I was in and so the people around me were different but that I had stayed the same, sheltered person who could only really have 1 friend.

Well then I moved to SF and now leaving it after being here for only 4 months. Last night I had a going away party with 10 friends who I was flabbergasted to have made. Until DC I only ever really had 5 friends and never more than 2 at the same time. Here I had 10 who were truly sad to see me go after knowing me for only a short while.

I juxtapose that goodbye with the hello I received during the 1 day I was in Ann Arbor. I have already met a few new friends who showed me around campus and when I went to Church I first sat quietly in a pew and then I took a step back and realized I should say hello to the people around me. I helped a young woman warm-up her voice and gave her encouragement as she practiced her solo. I met a girl who I am taking her Ice Cream maker from CA to MI for. and a couple of other friends within 1 hour of being there.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have changed. I have grown up and am no longer the boy who hid in his shell. I speak my mind without having to prep myself as I did at EFY, I make friends and can be the life of a party, I can talk about many issues and areas that I am almost never at a loss for what to say. While I don’t thrive in this environment I think that is just because I have had the mentality that I didn’t fit into it. Realizing that I am good at making friends, enjoying their company, and being the life of a party I hope to change further and make extroversion my natural habitat.

The End of an Era

I view myself as a romantic for many reasons. There is the traditional definition of a romantic who likes to use gallantry in his courtship with grand gestures to which I subscribe. There is also the romantic who longs for a time long since past. It is that of which I write now while flying on a cross country early-morning flight.

I have always longed for a yesteryear of which I never participated in. A time where flight was regarded as something special and treated as such. Where formalwear was standard fair and the skies were filled with elegance and class. Images like these that were present throughout my life  inspired me to take flying lessons before I could start driver’s ed.

I didn’t grow up in the golden age of flight though, instead I have been flying for so long that I don’t remember my first only the memorable experiences.

My first time traveling to Hawaii in an L10-11 that had a seat arrangement of 3-5-3 and a galley elevator for the stewardess’ with giant TV screens that tracked our path across the Pacific.
My first atlantic flight to Paris where my parents smartly had business class while the 4 kids sat in coach pulling pranks on each other.
My first flight traveling alone to visit my Dad shortly after September 11th where as a 12 year-old I sprinted along the moving walkways from terminal to terminal in DFW.
My first flight at 13 as an “unaccompanied minor” where I was babysat by a system designed for those under 10 and not a budding teenage veteran flyer.
My first time being 15 and sitting in an exit row with those precious extra inches even though I didn’t need them.
My first time in First Class from JFK to LAX that harkened back to the good-old days that inspired a love of flight so many years earlier.

I have flown roughly 200,000 miles and am only 22. I have seen the industry shift and change with increased security measures: I was flying from Denmark to JFK the morning they created the “absolutely no liquids” rule that has since been lessened. I have seen old airlines die and new ones created in their place, in-flight internet, bathrooms restricted by cabin class and everything in-between.

Throughout all of this I have seen the gradual decline from when I first was flying to now where on the flight I am on they wanted to charge me an extra $7 for a pillow and blanket that probably wouldn’t survive 5 washings, a sprig of grapes and some cheese for $8, a main cabin “Select” seat with 2 inches more room and priority boarding for $29, advertising on my tray table and seat-back pocket, being sold on the newest credit-card scam by the flight attendant, and my new personal favorite, being told to remove the unplugged headphones out of my ears or be prepared to be arrested.

We all have been there at the airport where we are treated guilty of terrorism without cause as we go through TSA security that has 100% completely failed to catch any terrorist and who has no data to show that what they do is effective at all. We get to the gate and watch two groups of priority boarding that makes sense, seniors/families and First Class, and then watch as some convoluted system of zones printed on our boarding pass that are determined by how much we paid for the ticket proceed to board int he most haphazard way possible causing a 7 o’clock flight to leave at 7:30 because the airline wouldn’t board from back to front.

Then while on the flight there are several types of people, the loud snorer, the screaming baby, the kids kicking your seats, the teenage sports team, the Tea Party attendees who want to talk about how the President is a “secret Muslim,” the business man with two laptops whirring away, the obese who spill into your seat, the lovebirds making out across the aisle, the guy who leans back into your knees, the talker, and of course the guy in the window seat who has to pee 4 times on a 2 hour flight.

In the past 15 years flying has degenerated from at least a semblance of class to a freight for moving human livestock from hub to hub with little to no care for the passengers’ rights. Are the costs of running an airline really that high that just about every airline has devolved into this system that we tolerate but that no one really loves anymore? If security was cleaned up, basic amenities restored, and people respected we could return to a time where flying was an enjoyable experience that inspired people to do great things.

Sadly I am a realist and I know that it won’t happen. We have reached an end of an era wherein we will never again have any semblance of love for flying but instead it will be viewed like the bus in the inner city. I don’t think that I or anyone else can fix it and so I’ll have to start booking my tickets with the best of the worst (Jet-Blue and Virgin IMHO), start wearing sweatpants and hoodies instead of my nicely pressed shirt and jacket, and hope that space travel comes soon enough that I get a chance to live my hopelessly romantic vision of the golden age of flight that has been lost in time.

Baptisms for the Forgotten

Cyril Wilcox, Stanley Gilkey, Eugene Cummings, Ernest Weeks Roberts, Nathaniel Wolf, Edward Say, Keith Smerage, Kenneth Day, Joseph Lumbard, Harold Saxton, and Donald Clark. These are the names of students who are tied together by a simple thread. Each of these boys was tried and found guilty of either being or too closely associating with homosexuals in a secret court at Harvard in 1920. I first heard their story when I saw the off-broadway production entitled “Unnatural Acts.”

Of these 11 men, 2 went on to lead lives worthy of their merits, 3 married and had children, 1 died when his car crashed into a tree, 2 faded into history, 1 traveled the world, and 3 killed themselves. I assume it is because I was essentially expelled from BYU that I was so moved by their story that lay buried in the Harvard Archives until 2002, but I cannot shake their stories from my mind.

It was the same weekend I saw “Unnatural Acts” that my stake in San Francisco challenged each of us to prepare a name to take with us to the temple for the Stake temple trip on the 17th of September. When I returned from NYC this suggestion was repeated quite frequently and while normally I would have shrugged off the request knowing that my Grandmother has done a majority of our genealogy up through Charlemagne but a thought hit me. Who wil do the work for those forgotten by time?

I spent a couple weeks researching these boys and their stories and only 2 had any living descendants and for many of them they were only children for whom there was no family member to do their temple work for them. And it was that thought in mind that I realized that there was a thread that connected me to them, a thread that allows me to call them a part of my family. For if I hadn’t have been blest with the internet and the connections I have made through it I easily could have followed the path of any of them and most likely have ended up very much akin to Keith Smerage.

Their stories have become a part of me and their burden realized and shared. The least I could do to pay tribute to them and to honor the difficulties they faced 90 years ago. I had planned to participate in the Stake Temple trip and be baptized for 5 of them that day but I had forgotten that on that day I will be presenting at the Affirmation conference in Kirtland Ohio.

And so today I went to the Oakland temple and was baptized and confirmed for 5 of these 11 and now 8 are ready to have their initiatory and endowments done by someone else. That said, these 11 boys were not the forgotten because they were found, a paper trail uncovered their lives and their stories. But can that be said for all? How many lives from the past have faced the same fears and challenges that we face today? How many of their stories have been wiped clean by time and prejudice? I do not know but I hope that we all can look back into our family trees and discover our kindred ancestors and honor their memory and their lives.

What Manner of (Wo)men ought ye to be

So As many of you have heard, I was asked to give a talk in Sacrament meeting today on the Conference address of Elder Robbins from last general conference. Below is an audio recording of the talk as well as my prepared remarks. Notice the difference in the two and the ward’s reaction when they think I misspoke. I don’t know if you can hear it in the audio but there were lots of pockets of whispering throughout my talk following that line. Enjoy.
What Manner of (Wo)Men Ought Ye To Be? by 8cab5e5bf

Hi my name is David Baker and while some of you know me very well, others don’t know me from Adam. Thus I have the distinction of introducing myself AND speaking on Elder Robbins conference address entitled “What manner of men and women ought ye to be” so I’m looking forward to being *everybody’s* best friend after I get done telling everyone how they ought to be. Thanks Brother Durrett. 😉

I.

An old roommate of mine had this list of characteristics and qualities he wanted in a wife that he would take out and compared all the girls he dated to. He shared that list with me once and he was seeking “a woman who is temple-worthy, maternal, humorous, adventurous, empathetic, hopeful, attractive, healthy, and friendly”. Despite the absurdity of such a list it worked and his wife is awesome. His success inspired me to create my own list of what qualities I wanted in my husband. My list looks for a man who is believing, intelligent, family-oriented, challenging, political, loyal, slightly extroverted, patient, and optimistic.

Really, both our lists are our attempts to define the manner of men and women that ought to be. We are not alone in this endeavor and as Elder Robbins points out by opening his talk with a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet with the line “To be or not to be,” this is a question that has been asked for a long time with many answers. As I worked on this talk with that theme in mind I discovered that humanity is obsessed with this question that seems to burn in the minds of us all.

I love to read and so it wasn’t out of character for me to buy this 700 page tome entitled “What is a Man” last year. This is a book that demonstrates and documents our obsession with defining what manner of men and women we ought to be by collecting essays and letters on the subject from all throughout history. From Jane Austen to James Dean, Homer to Queen Elizabeth, and Chacher to Kurt Cobain and everyone inbetween. We are all is obsessed with this question.

II.

I’d like to take a moment to read from some excerpts from across the ages, some from this book and some from personal experience. These are designed to explicitly show the depth of thought to the question as posed by Christ “What Manner of Women and Men Ought Ye To Be.” I apologize in advance if my selection relies heavily on male-oriented or authored quotations as I am working from what I have gleaned from my reading. I am not a chauvinist but if any lady feels I unfairly left them out please let me know afterwards.

Rudyard Kipling’s famous Poem “If” ends with this stanza but the entire piece is a variation on this theme.
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If all men count with you, but none too much
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

The Scout Law states that a scout is “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent.” All characteristics designed to instill what they view men ought to be.

Mother Teresa had this poem tacked up on her spartan room to serve as a constant reminder of what she ought to be.
“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.”

The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”

General Douglas MacArthur was quoted saying:
“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

And President Hinckley was fond of the quote “Where ‘ere thou art act well they part”

Each of these women and men had a unique view of what explicitly men and women ought to be. Our society and humanity also has many examples that implicitly tell the same story.

III.

In the modern era we have pageants like Miss America and Mr. Universe that prop up a view of what women and men “ought” to be, however misguided their perceptions might be. On a more local level we have debutantes and beaus attending cotillion balls and we are bombarded by music, TV, and movies that implicitly hold up an image we are meant to strive for. Myths and stories that promote a vision of what we ought to be that contain pieces of Truth or opinion but in the end are way off the mark.

We can look back at ancient Mediterranean myths to the story of Procrustes who would invite people into his home for the night and while they were sleeping ensured they fit his mold of what women and men ought to be. Procrustes would measure the stature of a man against his bed and adjust the man accordingly. If the man was too short he would be stretched to fit and if too tall he would be literally “cut down to size.”

Socrates was so concerned with this topic that they gave a stunning oration on “How a Grown Man Should Live” that was included in Plato’s The Republic it reads in part:
“We shall have to say to that poets and storytellers are guilty of making the gravest misstatements when they tell us that wicked men are often happy, and the good miserable; … these things we shall forbid them to utter, and command them to sing and say the opposite”

Our own scriptures contain countless examples, many of which are dear enough to our hearts that as I say the names of these men you will recognize the implicit desire to emulate them and the light they uphold. The Sons of Helaman, Ruth, Ester, Nephi, Ammon. Each of their stories is an implicit answer to the ever asked question “What manner of women and men ought we to be.”

In Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat famously said “If it doesn’t matter where you get to, then it really doesn’t matter which way you go”. Each of the examples I just discussed provides a contrasting and often conflicting view of what we ought to be. From that I see one truth, that we are all is different and unique except in one single aspect. We are all Children of God. That is who we are and who we are meant to be.

IV.

So with this foundation and years of great men and women throughout the ages attempting to define and answer this great question there is little else I can add. But perhaps I can enlist the words of a few more great men who can distill these myriad answers to a take-home message that is a single kernel of light and truth for us all to grow from.

In his April 2010 general conference address, President Uchtdorf tried to drive that point home focusing a good portion of time on the fact that not just us but ALL are Children of God:
“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.

C.S. Lewis understood this principle and in arguably his most famous sermon said that we are all helping each other to either damnation or eternal glory and that quote:

“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.”

These men remind us of the simple fact that we all are Children of God but beyond that we each have our own personalities and characteristics that are infinitely diverse. In light of this I look to the parable of the talents wherein a master gives each of his servants a different and unique amount of money. When the master returns he approaches the first servant to whom he gave 5 talents and the servant reports that he has invested and grown the initial sum and doubled it to 10. The master says “well done though good and faithful servant.” The process is repeated with the servant who was given only 2 talents who likewise had doubled his investment. Now notice that while the amount given was less, the reaction of the master was the same, “well done though good and faithful servant”. It was only at the last servant who had squandered what he was given that the master was wroth and said to the servant “thou wicked and slothful servant” to whom the then cast, quote “into outer darkness.”

The important principle in this parable is that, there WAS NOT a set bar of 10 talents unilaterally set as amount needed to earn the praise and recognition of the master. It was merely that they had worked with what they started and grew from there. We are not all given 5 talents as the first man. Some of us are given 2 and others only 1, but whatever we are given, by virtue of being here on the earth today we have immeasurable worth within us and unless we squander what we are given and forget that we are children of God, we will return to hear the lord say “well done thou good and faithful servant.”

So when asked “What manner of men and women we ought to be” our answer should be a remembrance that we are children of God and that we should grow from that. When I ask myself the question, as Elder Robbins did, of “To be or not to be” I simply at my finger and find the lines of the 1st act of Hamlet engraved into my ring answering back, “This above all else, to thine own self be true.”

These things I say in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

PFC Bradley Manning

I have held off on commenting on Wikileaks and PFC Bradley Manning’s alleged involvement in some major leaks largely because, while i have followed the story closely, I had yet to see the entire chat log of the conversation between Manning and Adrian Lamo the person who turned him in. I have held off commenting many times despite the claims that Manning did this because of his pending discharge under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I have held off despite the obvious political & sexuality components to this story because I didn’t have enough information. But after reading much and concluding with the full logs posted online by wired.com here are my thoughts and my conclusion.

Manning betrayed his Top Secret Classified clearance and for that there should be a punishment. This has happened in the past with varying degrees of punishment, from the Rosenthals to Daniel Ellsberg. Manning did not sell secrets to China, nor did he give the soviets the bomb, he saw travesties being committed and was smart enough to do something with them. This puts him strongly in the Daniel Ellsberg side of the spectrum and here’s why.

As a soldier Manning took an oath to defend the United States from enemies both foreign and domestic, in gaining his Top Secret Classified clearance he was sworn to secrecy. Typically these two are inline with each other. However, in this case I don’t believe they were. As someone who has had to decide which of two supposedly identical beliefs to follow when they diverge I can deeply sympathize with Manning’s plight and his decision. I understand how he could have looked at both sides and decided which deserved the greater fealty.

I do not believe that Manning allegedly delivered the Top Secret Classified documents because of his sexuality or because of his planned dismissal under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at all. After reading the full logs it is clear that while he clearly was distressed and isolated, the motive behind any alleged leak would have been motivated by the horror’s he witnessed that he rightly felt should be given the light of day.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that the Iraq logs & the Diplomatic Cables haven’t cost a single life and so any argument that Manning’s alleged actions cost lives or damaged the United States seriously is ridiculous.

Wikileaks itself presents a unique wrinkle on this story. Daniel Ellsberg delivered the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, a respected news organization that published them with discretion and an eye to censoring out content to protect lives in Vietnam. Wikileaks is no New York Times, it is no Guardian either. It is a site devoted to providing a safe harbor for whistleblowers and hackers alike, anyone with damaging data can submit leaked information and then they can do what they please with it. There would be a case to be made if Wikileaks had simply posted the diplomatic cables online for the public to see, but instead they shared the data with 5 newspapers of great report with the Guardian then sharing it with the New York Times. These organizations published the information in the same diligent manner as the New York TImes did with the Pentagon Papers. Because of the diligence of Wikileaks to release this data responsibly Manning’s alleged involvement again shifts closer towards Ellsberg’s side of the spectrum.

What is disappointing is Adrian Lamo. According to the logs provided by Lamo, Manning reached out to him as someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off. Near the beginning of the logs, Lamo states that “I’m a journalist and a minister. You can pick either, and treat this as a confession or an interview (never to be published) & enjoy a modicum of legal protection.” Manning must have been assuaged by this, and the friendship and trust that builds over online chat conversations because Manning told Lamo a lot. According to the logs, Manning told Lamo “i’ve totally lost my mind… i make no sense… the CPU is not made for this motherboard” meaning his brain is not built for his body and “im (sic) trying not to end up with 5.56mm rounds in my forehead … that I fired.”

Sometime between Manning stating “if you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?” and Manning’s discussion about what he actually had information on and what he has allegedly done with it, Adrian Lamo decided to betray the trust of PFC Bradley Manning and turn over the logs to the FBI. Early in the conversation Lamo had said “I could have flipped for the FBI … I held out … I know what being in a little room having U.S. Code & its consequences explained to you by people who don’t smile is like” to assure Manning that his secrets were safe. Clearly they were not.

It was just recently, 30 years after the fact and after his source had died, that Bob Woodword revealed who his source, nicknamed “Deep Throat” was. Over 30 years! Where is there decency in journalism anymore? No wonder someone with access to diplomatic cables and the iraq war logs wouldn’t feel comfortable going to the New York Times but instead to someone devoted to making sure even he doesn’t know who the source is.

Teaching with the Elders

As I said in an earlier post I have seen many uses of my Mormon.org profile and have heard of elders using it in the field as a teaching aid. For a while I felt shocked by this and even wanted to pull down my words from off of the Mormon.org site because I didn’t want to be the token gay that let’s elders say “Look we accept everyone, even the homosexuals.” But in the past month I have realized that I am okay with that because my profile stands proudly saying I am gay and it’s the only one. Any other profile that talks about the issue takes the stance that the person “struggles with same-gender attraction.” By having my profile there it might have influencing power over members who might read it.

The second thing that has made me desire to keep the profile up is that I have seen how it is used in real life. Not fully the profile being used but instead me. Let me explain. On my first visit to the San Francisco Singles Ward the Elders made a point of meeting me and getting my information. This was largely because they are teaching several young ladies and need another male in the room so they wanted to get my information so I could help out.

Well a couple weeks later they reached out to try and have me help teach with them and, after some scheduling logistics I showed up at the ward to help them teach this young lady, we will call her Jenny. I met with the Elders for a couple minutes before the lesson to talk about what we were going to teach, where I could pitch in, and the overal strategy to let the spirit teach Jenny’s heart through periods of silence in the lesson.

Now these Elders were actually 2 new elders because I had only really met the one and he was out on exchanges so we had Elder Jin and Elder Hakim teaching Jenny and they were going to challenge her to be baptized 3 weeks later. Jenny’s main concern was telling her deeply-religious father that she wanted to join the Church.

Throughout the lesson I stuck to the Elders teaching strategy of staying silent until I was impressed by the Spirit to throw bear my testimony and break a particular bout if silence. I listened and obeyed to the spirit and began by turning my chair so I was facing Jenny directly.

“Jenny, your Father lovs you as much as your Heavenly Father loves you and because of that, your Father will come to understand in time. I know of Heavenly Father’ love for you because these Elders have no clue who I am. We met today, but the Lord prompted them to have me there for this lesson today because I have deep sympathy and near empathy for your situation. These elders don’t know what I am about to say but I am gay.

I had to tell my Mother and I remember feeling just as you do know about telling your father. Before telling my mother, I was worried about being disowned and being told “you are no longer my son” but I knew the truth of who I was and told my mother. It has taken her time but she has come around and loves me without regard to my sexuality.

I know that these elders had no clue that I had lived through a similar experience as you are going through right now. I know that the fact that I am here is proof of Heavenly Father’s deep love for you. That Love is the same type of love that your dad has for you and he will come around in time. Take courage in that love.”

Jenny is set to get baptized now and I have had a follow-up lesson with the Elders and her and it has gone fantastically. I have also met with the Elders one-on-one and had a lesson on the atonement, completely open about my sexuality, and it has gone great.

After these experiences I have decided to leave my profile online as a tool for missionary work because I know that it is doing good in the world.

The Prayer for Serenity

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

As I began to pack-up and leave DC I heard many people shocked that I was just picking up and moving to the opposite coast, to a city I’d never spent more than 3 days in, where I had no family and no friends. I brushed their gaping maws aside, talking comfort in the knowledge that I had moved 10 times in 5 years, that my connection with friends is sadly shallow enough that I can cut all ties and start again, and that I have an attitude that can handle whatever is thrown my way. After-all when I moved across the country to DC, knowing almost no one, I lived with a household of gay, pot-smoking, partiers, then I moved in with craigslist roommates, and eventually found my way into one of the coolest apartments of my life. If I could do that once, doing it again should be simple.

Well San Francisco is NOT D.C. I have spent most of my month-and-a-half here hating the city. It smells like pot, piss, and hobo all rolled into a scent as putrid as the pit of hell. Between the bums kicking at my shins as run to catch the bus, and the charity muggers (progressive campaign donation seekers) the sidewalk are a hazard to my sanity. There is a lack of cleanliness and sterility in favor of “natural, organic and local” that doesn’t jive well with my sense of Americana. The architecture is a hodge-podge of stuco’d walls all shades of pale that cover every square inch of the city but are never more than 3 stories tall.

As you can tell from my thoughts above I miss DC and haven’t enjoyed San Francisco as much as I should. It was while i was in New York City that I started my most recent phase shift and, like most things in my life, I can thank my mom for this one. Knowing my thoughts on the matter she told me I had made the decision and as such should open myself up to the positives San Francisco has to offer.

Then on Friday afternoon my manager led a yoga class that started with us breathing life into an idea of something we wanted to accomplish in our lives, something that would be our focus for not only the weekend but beyond as well. To be perfectly honest I had difficulty not smirking at the Eastern philosophy mentality but I decided what the heck. Among 1 other thing that I might discuss in a later post, I breathed life into the feeling of focus and peace, it wasn’t until half-way through the session that I found the right word for what I needed. “Serenity”.

I wasn’t thinking about my attitude towards San Francisco but rather about a project I have in the works but today I felt an unexpected peace and calm throughout the day as I tried to live and simply be, in my neighborhood which is known for its hispanic culture, gangs, food, and nightlife. As I ran through my list of chores for the day I quickly realized my ties to the local culture and how it was relaxing when before it had been tormenting me.

As I did my laundry at the local laundromat I had few, but kind and simple enough interactions with people. At Phat Phillies for lunch I was recognized by name and felt enriched by the connection. As I got my haircut I made a new friend in my barber Debbie whose 21 year-old son is heading off to college and who, herself, helped give out water to members of other Native American tribes who had journeyed to D.C. to express their concerns before Congress a few years ago.

I then went on a date that started at a local coffee shop and then ended up at a tucked-away dog park where we sat and enjoyed people-watching and talking. For dinner I went to my new pizza place just down the road from me where they are starting to recognize me and know what I like. All of this because my Mother told me to shift my perspective and my Yoga class convinced me to focus on a single word, “Serenity”.

I cannot change the smell of the city. I cannot change the filth all around. I cannot remove the hobos and canvassers. I cannot change the architecture. What I can do is change my attitude and see the other side of everything, yes, even in San Francisco can good be found.

UPDATE: I originally decided to write this and highlight the Serenity I had after a random friend of a friend of my roommate’s who was over here for an after-party offered to give me a line of coke in my own flat. But even better now, to highlight the level of peace and tranquility, I offer this. As I was writing the words above with my headphones in and the party moved up to my flat, a random guy no-one knew stole my brand-new xbox and I am okay with that. How weird is that?

My Stance Re-illustrated

Over the past year more than a hundred people have contacted me through my Mormon.org profile where I highlight my gay identity in relation to the LDS church.

The people range from detractors to supporters, from other gay Mormons looking to serve missions to parents and family members struggling to adjust to a loved one’s coming out. I have heard of missionaries in D.C., Atlanta, Tennessee and even London use my profile as a teaching tool, and those are only the ones I know about.

Today, the profile was linked to by the Huffington Post mentioning how truly unique and diverse Mormons can be in an article about the church’s massive million-dollar “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign in New York City.

I am truly flabbergasted by the support and coverage this profile has received. It has accomplished much good and helped raise LGBT issues within the church. I am glad the church has inadvertently given it voice because of their ad campaign, letting gay and other uncorrelated Mormons know they are not alone.

Because of the stringent editing process for the profile, updating content is a difficult task. I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my current story and position within the LDS church.

I am still an active member of the Church. However, by publicly stating I am gay I live in constant fear that I will lose my membership in the Church.

By planning on getting married to another man and starting a non-traditional family, thereby defying conventional Mormon stereotypes and elevating marriage equality and family values for the homosexual community, I am at risk for excommunication from my faith.

Yet by remaining an active member of the Church and contributing my time and effort to the LDS faith, thereby defying conventional gay stereotypes and attempting to cause change from within the church, I am mocked and shunned as being ignorant by the both the liberal and gay communities.

I spend my days living in this enigma, trying to create a tangential point in two seemingly irreconcilable circles of society while simultaneously spending time trying to find a balance and maintain peace within myself. It is a constant struggle and a precarious position to be in, but I am trying my best to be true to both.

My name is David Baker. I am gay and 22 years old. I work for one of the most gay-friendly companies in the world and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am a Mormon. But I’m not your average Mormon. So take a moment and ask me anything. Seriously.

Losing your Dreams and Winning Life

This weekend I visited with my Dad and he said something that was just confirmed while on my flight from SLC back to SFO as I watched Steven Colbert’s 2011 Commencement speech to Northwestern University. It is humorous and full nuggets of wisdom, but the most influential piece of wisdom he gave was that dreams can change and just because they do does not make you a loser of life, after-all “if everyone’s first wish came true there would be a lot princesses and cowboys running around”

 

Throughout my life I have seen countless changes to my dreams. In kindergarten I wanted to be an archeologist digging for dinosaurs. In 7th grade we were supposed to take a test that shows what careers we had an aptitude for with the understanding that we didn’t have to know what we wanted to be when we grew up because it is likely to change. I distinctly remember sitting in wood shop thinking “Not me!, I know what I want to do.” I wanted to be an Air Force Intelligence Officer (which really was just an extension of wanting to be a spy). When that dream didn’t come true I was devastated but eventually I picked myself up and looked at several other dreams. Dentistry, computer science, teaching, and bio-chemistry my freshman year.

 

It was then, while working at a restaurant that I was given the single the greatest piece of advice I have ever received. “It doesn’t matter what you major, a diploma is just a piece of paper certifying that you have a basic set of skills and know how to set and make goals.” Free of the pressure of picking my “dream” job I was able to do something that I enjoyed, namely political science. 2 years ago I was a new graduate in a hopeless job market who was applying to the CIA, RNC, DNC, Capitol Hill, and the White House not knowing if I would be able to get anywhere. I was set that if I didn’t have a job by September I would pack up my things, find a restaurant job in DC, and try to rustle up a job during the day.

 

It was then that I caught a break, finding a job that was in DC close to what I wanted to do and an overall enjoyable experience. I knew that this gave me the leg up that I needed to grow but didn’t really have a solid dream. As my readers know during the same time that I was released from my need to find a “dream” job, I also had my dream life shattered. My dream of the perfect Mormon life with a dog, a wife, 5 kids, and a good calling in the ward was obliterated by the realization of my sexuality.

 

So I entered DC without a dream but with a timeline of two years to find my dream. I started with a list of possibles that included the CIA, an LDS Mission, Broadway, a job on Capitol Hill, moving back to Utah, and a Master’s degree. Slowly over the past 2 years I have had my role at my work expanded and my list of possibles narrowed until I realized that my dream job is in politics. Working with candidates, shaping policy, and working towards a better future. And then I got this offer from Google and my “dream” has shifted.

 

Throughout my life my dreams have been obliterated, expanded, or changed and it has taught me distinctly what Stephen Colbert was saying that losing your dream doesn’t mean you are a loser and that “winning” your dream means nothing because you can’t “win” at life. You win by helping others succeed, not by focusing on yourself. So while the Northwestern class of 2011 might not listen to what he says (I have forgotten all that David Muchollah told my class) I know that I will take his words and use them to demonstrate the ups and downs of my life and how this role at Google, while fantastic, does not make me better or worse than anyone else I have grown up with.