Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Movie Review: The Falls & The Falls: A Testament of Love

I'm actually going to be talking about 2 movies together



The Falls
(2012)
The Falls: A Testament of Love
(2013)

IMDb       Trailer
IMDb       Trailer
 


SPOILER ALERT:  I'm going to make a effort to try not to give away too much of the plot; however, there are some specific parts of the film that I want to talk about

*     *     *     *     *
In The Falls, we meet RJ Smith and Chris Merrill.  Elder Smith (RJ) is a brand new LDS missionary and Elder Merrill, who is his trainer and senior companion, is a devoted missionary and the son of a general authority (who is described simply as a member of "the first quorum" - whatever that means.)

The story is told from the perspective of Elder Smith who narrates much of the movie in a tone that sounds like letters home and/or journal entries.

Elder Smith and Elder Merrill go about doing their missionary duties and settling into a missionary routine.  But, then their lives take an unexpected turn when they discover that they have feelings for each other - feelings that turn into a forbidden love.

They are caught sleeping in a bed together by their zone leader who then reports this to the mission president.  Elder Smith confesses his sins to the mission president and is then sent home to confess again to (presumably) his stake president. Elder Merrill's fate is not addressed since the focus of the movie is on RJ.

Overall, Nick Ferrucci (who plays RJ) is not as good of an actor as Benjamin Farmer (who plays Chris).  That said, one of the most moving parts of the movie is near the end when RJ is talking to his stake president.  Nick Ferrucci does an excellent job of delivering this monologue in a very emotional and believable manner.  I was moved to tears. 
SP: RJ, I'd like to start off with a prayer, if that's OK

RJ:  Yes Sir

SP:  Dear Heavenly Father.  Thank you for getting RJ here safely and we ask that you please bless this young man and guide him through this rough time.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

RJ: Amen

SP: RJ, I've known you since you were a child.  I was at your baptism.  I've watched you grow up, go to high school, college.  And I deemed you worthy of your mission.  If anyone told me I would be looking at these words written on this piece of paper, right here in my hand, 10 years ago I ... RJ, tell me, why are you here today son?

RJ: To talk about my future as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

SP: This is a very serious matter. you know this.  And this could be grounds for excommunication - you are aware of that?

RJ: Yes

SP: First off, I'd like for you to tell me, in detail, about the relationship between you and Elder Merrill.

RJ: I'm sorry, I don't ... I don't know if I can talk about this.

SP: You broke a very sacred law.

RJ: You're right, I did, I can't deny that

SP:  Did you want to go on a mission?

RJ: Of course, I always have

SP: And you wanted to serve - even though you knew this about yourself

RJ: Yes.  I'm not the first gay man you sent on a mission.  And I won't be the last.  The church ... doesn't do much to provide a way for us to be honest about it.

As for Elder Merrill ... Elder Merrill and I were mission companions.  We served our church well.  I cannot speak for him ... nor will I go into greater detail ... other than ... to say ... I have great feelings for Elder Merrill.  My feelings for him are ... greater than for any man ... and if I acted upon my emotions ... I don't see any injustice in my acts ... nor disgrace in them.

Shame on you ... and shame on this church.  I was raised to believe I was part of something ... of my family and friends.  And now, because of who I am ... I don't get to be that ... I'm excluded from that.

I'm not sorry ... I hope you know that ... I am not sorry
*     *     *     *     *
The Falls: A Testament of Love takes up the story of RJ and Chris 5 years later.  This time, the story is more from the perspective of Chris who has repented of his sins, married a woman in the temple, and has a 3 year old daughter.  Meanwhile, RJ is an out and proud gay man with a boyfriend.

It is revealed that, immediately after their missions, Chris and RJ got together and toured the country together.  But afterwards, Chris started ignoring RJ's phone calls and letters; so, it's been several years since they had any contact when they happen to meet at the funeral of a man whom they taught on their mission.  RJ is excited to meet Chris; however, Chris - not so much.  One can imagine that as part of his repentance process and therapy Chris was counseled to stay away from his former homosexual life and anybody that was a part of it.

However, RJ is not ready to give up on Chris; so, he goes back home to Seattle, breaks up with his boyfriend and then heads to Salt Lake City and shows up on Chris's door step.  Chris continues to resist RJ - but eventually admits to himself that he still has strong feelings for RJ.  Chris has a very moving monologue when he finally confesses his love for RJ.
Chris: I'd like to level with you.  I'm sorry for abandoning you.  I'm sorry for the way I treated you. It was cruel. And I'm sorry for not responding to any of your letters or calls.  I received them all - your letters - and they touched me, deeply.  But I couldn't respond.

I truly loved the time that we spent together.  But, once I returned home, I felt my fathers shadow, and his position in the high authority looming over me ... like a cloud.

He recommended that I go to reparative therapy - which I did.  And, eventually, I was deemed worthy enough to continue my service to the church.

And then I met Emily; and, we had this amazing, intense, connection.  And I thought "finally, a cure!" I sincerely believed that if I got married that I would be given the strength to overcome this.  But, every time I see a man that attracted to, it's like something inside of me is screaming to get out.  There is this message that is sent and received ... instantly!
     ...
I am a religious man RJ

RJ:  I know you are

Chris:  But I feel forsaken.  I have so much pain in my heart.  And I just deal with it!  It feels as if there is this ax that's been thrust into my chest. This pain ... the fasting ... the prayer ... it consumes my life.  And there is little energy left for anything else - I am not living honorably

RJ: Chris, I feel .. I hear so much about you.  Look at me ... there is nothing wrong with us.  We're just victims of a culture that doesn't accept us.
Chris: [moving closer to sit next to RJ]  May I touch you?  This face, I see it in my dreams

Overall, I like both movies - and I recommend it for all MoHo's (Mormon Homosexuals) and others who are curious about what it's like to be gay and Mormon; although, I think the second movie is better than the first.  I was especially impressed when I learned that Jon Garcia (Writer and Director) does not have an LDS background - he grew up Catholic.  Clearly he did his homework and delivered very believable movies.  But, I do have a few pet peeves

  • Both movies are too slow moving and too long.  The Falls is 91 minutes long and The Falls: A Testament of Love is 123 minutes long.  With judicious editing, you could probably combine them into a single 90 minute movie and not lose anything of substance. 
  •  In The Falls, the zone leader never has a companion with him. OK,  this is probably nit picky; but, everybody knows that LDS missionaries come in pairs.  Would it really have broken the movie budget to hire an extra to put on a suit and stand in the background in the few scenes that included the zone leader?
  • There seems to be an obsession with LDS garments - showing them at every possible opportunity.  Yes, Mormon's wear weird underwear.  Now, I'm not such a prude that I'm offended that they are depicted at all - but it needs to be in context - it needs to be necessary.  When the LDS missionaries are laying in bed, it makes sense that they are wearing their garments.  When Chris's father is talking on the phone - was it really necessary to show him wearing an open bathrobe with his garments showing?
  • Gartuitous nudity.  Again, I'm not such a prude that I'm offended at any nudity.  But, like the garments, it needs to be in context and necessary to the scene.  For example, in The Falls: A Testament of Love, RJ's boyfriend is shown making a breakfast smoothy standing butt naked.  Seriously?  Who uses kitchen appliances butt naked?  There are a couple of scenes with frontal nudity - the most obvious being a shower scene with Chris.  But, was it really necessary to show us his ding dong?  As a gay man, I'd be lying if I tried to say I didn't like it - but it just comes across as Benjamin Farmer drawing the short straw as to which of the male actors was going to show their penis.
That said - there are other parts of the movies that I really like
  • I already mentioned RJ's monologue in the first movie and Chris' monologue in the 2nd movie.
  • I really like the way it depicts church leaders and family members.  One of the problems I have with the movie "Latter Days" is how church and family members are depicted as cold and uncaring.  In these movies, church and family members are depicted in a much more believable manner - as people struggling to reconcile their religious beliefs with having a gay son.  In the 2nd movie, we see that RJ's family has made progress; although, they are still struggling a bit.  Since Chris retreated back into the closet in the intervening 5 years, his family is not as accepting.  In a scene where RJ's dad is talking to Chris's dad on the phone, he says "we have begun our journey - and now you need to begin yours."
  • Although I did have a problem with gratuitous nudity, there was one scene where it was used very effectively. Chris experienced impotence when trying to make love to his wife; so, he then goes into the bathroom and masturbates while staring at himself in the mirror with a look of self loathing.  To be perfectly honest, I actually found this to be a bit uncomfortable - probably because it hit a little too close to home in my own experience as a gay man married to a woman.
  • Benjamin Farmer's performance as both a missionary (in the first movie) and a young married man who is active in the LDS church (in the 2nd movie) was very believable.  I don't really know much about the actor - but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that he grew up LDS.
  • Hannah Barefoot - who plays Emily, wife of Chris - delivers a stellar performance as an LDS wife struggling with the revelation that her husband is gay. 
These movies were clearly targeted toward a gay audience - and more liberal heterosexuals.  I get that, but they could have been so much more.  Speed up the plot a bit, take out some of the unnecessary stuff, like excessive showing of LDS garments and nudity, and it could have been something that you see on a cable network such as LifeTime.  But, as they are, I doubt many gay mormon's will feel comfortable sharing them with their straight and LDS active family and friends.  There is a very powerful message in these movies - but, in a sense, they are preaching to the choir.  It's a shame that they can't be shared with those who really need to hear the message.

But, as a member of the choir - I did enjoy them.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

All American Boy

I recently discovered Steve Grand - an openly gay country music singer.

Truthfully, my first glimpse of Steve Grand was in a Huffington Post article:  Steve Grand Goes Nude For The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I didn't know who he was; but, I enjoyed the eye candy picture of him standing, au naturel, next to lake superior.  I'm not gonna lie - he is one good looking dude.  But, I moved on ... or so I thought

His name came up again a few days later - he was touted as the first openly gay country music singer (a claim that is challenged by some).  I like country music; so, I was intrigued.  A link to his music video "All American Boy" came up my google search. I watched the video, a song about unrequited love between a gay boy and his straight best friend; and, it evoked feelings in me that I haven't experienced in a very long time.

My mind harkened way back (way way back) to high school when I had a crush on my best friend.  I actually blogged about this a few years ago in a post titled My First Crush.  I was especially moved by the scene in the car when his friend leaned his head on his shoulder as brought to mind my similar experience.  Mind you, it would be many many years later before I identified as gay; so, at the time, the feelings I was experiencing were very confusing.  I was a guy - I was supposed to be lusting after girls.  So why did my heart skip a beat whenever he was around?

Fast forward back to the present. My high school days are a bygone era - to the point where they seem more like a dream than a memory.  I'm 58 years old.  I have a wife, 4 children, and 10 grand children - all of whom I love deeply.  So why am I thinking about it now?  Perhaps these feelings aren't buried as deeply as I thought they were.

As I learned more about Steve Grand, I read where his song has been criticized by some in the gay community for promoting the stereotype that all gay guys lust after their straight friends.  I get that - I know, first hand, that is simply not true.  But, it is also true that we seldom, if ever, pick who we are going to be attracted to.  And yes, sometimes, perhaps even often, it is going to be someone who is out of our reach - someone who does not have the same feelings towards us.  This is part of our human condition and spans all gender and sexual orientations.

While I have chosen to remain gay celibate - it is the right choice for me in my particular circumstance.  But, that does not mean that I wish that fate on others.  Gay love is beautiful.  I rejoice when people I know find true love - and my heart breaks for those whose quest for true love is elusive and seems unattainable.

 But ... back to Steve Grand.  He is good looking (a former male model, I believe).  He likes to show off his abs in his videos.  I doubt he will ever become mainstream country.  But, it is refreshing to see someone sing country songs about gay love.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hold to the rod - but do not hang upside down

I have some ideas for blog posts brewing in my head - but something else came up that I wanted to blog about.

At church, I am the instructor for the "Teaching For Our Times" lesson in the high priests group.  For those not in the know - this is where I teach a lesson assigned by either my stake president or bishop.  Today is the 4th Sunday - which is when I teach; and, my assigned topic this month is "Wayward Children".  I was also given a couple of links to conference talks to use to prepare.

This morning, an hour before church, I sat down to prepare my lesson - which itself kind of describes my feelings for the church.  Although I attend every week, my heart just isn't in it anymore.  I go more out of a sense of duty than of any sense of desire.

But I digress ...  That isn't what I wanted to discuss in this blog post.

As I often do, I used google to find other references for wayward children that I could possibly use in my lesson; and, I came across was a blog post titled To Parents of Apostate Children by an LDS stake president (at least, he was back in 2011, the date of the post). He tells the story of a divorced sister who was devastated because her daughter chose to live with her gay ex-husband rather than her.  She was embarrassed because her daughter then decided to live her fathers livestyle.

Now my first thought was:  "You would never accept your daughter as a lesbian - so, of course, she would rather live with her gay dad."  I was about to close the browser window since there was obviously nothing in this blog post that I would use in a lesson.  But then my curiosity got the better of me - I wondered what sort of comments were made on this post.  The first couple of comments were the sort of drivel one would expect - such as the guy (who goes by James) who, one day, saw a man wearing shorts and a pink tanktop carrying a poodle - and knew that he had just "seen the face of pure evil."

James later commented:
Hold to the rod, but do not rub or stroke the rod. Do not sit on the rod, lean against it, or put your mouth on it. Do not show the rod, or pictures of the rod, to your friends. Do not walk on the rod like a balance beam, and do not hang upside down from the rod. Do not look at the rod longingly.

As members of a Church run by worthy men who hold to the rod without playing with it, I urge us each to follow their examples.

If you don't currently have the rod, then please find someone who does, and grab hold.
Huh???  I had to go back and read this a few more times.  In all honesty, I have no idea what James is trying to say.

My first reaction was one of amusement at the homoerotic tones in his comment.  I even considered posting it to the MoHo facebook group so that others could share a laugh.

I thought of this comment more as I sat in church daydreaming - and my amusement turned to disgust.  What sort of pervert equates the rod in Lehi's dream as some sort of phallic symbol?  James is obviously a creepy guy that I hope I never see.

As I pondered further:  "me thinks James has a much more intimate understanding of what gay men like to do with their rods than is normal for a heterosexual male."  And I started to consider that maybe James is like me - a gay Mormon.  Obviously one is deep denial of his true self - but a brother none the less.

I don't have to look too far back to see a time when I was like James.  Well, the part about equating gay with evil, not the part about having a rod fixation - that's just weird.

James does not deserve my mocking nor my disgust.  If anything, he deserves my pity.


So, in case James, or someone like James, ever happens to come across this blog ...

James, you are in my prayers. I sincerely hope that you are able to accept yourself as the gay man God created you to be.  Being gay is neither good nor evil - it just is.  Yes, there are evil people in the world who happen to be gay - just as there are evil people who happen to be straight.  But most of us are good people.


Gay culture is far more diverse than many believe.  Even many gay members of society don't realize just how diverse it is.  Yes, it includes guys wearing pink tanktops carrying poodles.  But it also includes people like me - gay men who are married to women and choose to remain faithful to their wives - and everything in between.

In all honesty - I wish I were brave enough to walk around wearing a pink tanktop carrying a poodle.  But my particular situation makes it more prudent for me to remain in the closet and to blog using a pseudonym.  But that doesn't diminish the fact that I'm just as much a part of gay culture as the guys wearing thongs marching in gay pride parades.

And just because I choose to remain celibate doesn't mean that I think all gay men should choose my path.  Frankly, mine is an extremely difficult path - and not one that I would wish for anyone else. At times, I feel sad that I will likely never experience the love of another man.  And I celebrate those who find someone to share their life with.  Love is Love - and God is Love.  For that reason, I believe God accepts gay relationships just as much as straight relationships.

Now, I'm sure many would consider my views to be those of an apostate.  And they're probably right - at least in regards to current LDS theology.  But, I'm OK with that.

And James, maybe you just need to learn to play with your rod and not feel so guilty about it.



Monday, February 10, 2014

Resurrection

Hello?!?
.
.
.
Is this thing still on?
.
.
.
Is there anybody out there who reads this?

I've been contemplating starting up this blog again - and was just wondering if there was anybody who would even notice?

In the meantime, I'm still alive - still married - and still gay!

I still attend church regularly - but don't enjoy it like I once did.  But that would be a good topic for a blog post ...

If there is anybody who still reads this - is there anything in particular you would want me to blog about?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Dallas gayborhood

The intersection of Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton Street near downtown Dallas is is the center of the Dallas gay community - also known as the Dallas gayborhood. It's really not that large of an area, just a few blocks really. And, to an unsuspecting person who just happened to be driving down the street - they might not even notice anything different than any other area with restaurants, bars, and clubs.

I remember my first trip to the Dallas gayborhood. It was not long after I finally accepted myself as gay. I was in Dallas for some reason I no longer remember. I had heard of the gayborhood and was curious. I got out my map and realized it wasn't that far out of my way; so, I took a little detour and drove through it.

It was actually a bit underwhelming - the streets were not lined with rainbow flags. I didn't see same sex couples walking down the street holding hands. In fact, the only thing that seemed a bit out of the ordinary was a cafe with an outdoor eating area where there were only men sitting at the tables. Still I was nervous, even fearful - it all seemed so forbidden.  I felt like I was committing some great sin by just being there even though I never even got out of my car. The only time I actually stopped was for a traffic light. Still, I felt guilty for some reason; so, I left and drove back home.

I've since been to the Dallas gayborhood a few times to meet with MoHo's for lunch or dinner.  I've strolled down the street, checked out some of the stores. It's a safe area where you can talk without fear of being looked down upon. Same sex couples can walk down the street holding hands without disapproving glares.

The other day I found myself in that part of town while making a delivery for our embroidery business.   I didn't even realize it when I left my home.  I was just following the GPS directions and noticed I was in a familiar place.  After making the delivery, I needed gas in my car; so, I pulled into the parking lot behind Hunky's (a hamburger joint where I've met with other MoHo's) so I could look up a nearby gas station on my GPS.

After filling up my car with gas, I was contemplating the different feeling I had this time compared with my first visit.  There was no feeling of guilt or fear; in fact, it felt familiar - even comfortable.

I've come a long way during the last 6 years since I've accepted myself as I really am.  I'm gay - and I'm OK with it.  And, sometimes it's nice just being around other gay people - even if they don't know, or even acknowledge, me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Utah Bound

I don't even know if anyone reads this blog anymore - especially since I haven't updated it in months.  But, I thought I'd throw this out there.



I will be driving through Salt Lake City in a couple of weeks and thought it would be fun to get together with some of the people I've known for years but have never met in person.



I'm on my way to Rexburg to help my son and his family move all of their stuff back to Texas.  My tentative plan is

  • April 8th (Easter Sunday), leave my house and drive to Farmington, NM
  • April 9th (Monday), leave Farmington and drive to Salt Lake City, UT
  • April 10th (Tuesday), leave SLC and drive to Rexburg

According to Mapquest, the drive from Farmington, NM to SLC is about 7-8 hours; so, I should be able to arrive in SLC by mid-afternoon.  I'm planning on getting a hotel there; so, I'm available for dinner and after.  Of course, if nobody responds, I may just keep driving to Rexburg

I thought about posting this to the MoHo facebook group - at least here, if nobody responds - I can rationalize that nobody reads my blog anyway. 

Anyway, let me know if interested ...  We can catch up on old (and new) times

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Charity

I've been meaning to post this, especially since May is almost over ... I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting on mothers day; My assigned topic was "Charity".

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about talking on mothers day as the usual talks include saintly pioneer ancestors, mothers, and grandmothers that are put on a pedestal so high that no woman could ever hope to match.  My parents are not members of the LDS church - so there are no LDS pioneer ancestors to talk about.  And, while I love my mother dearly, she is no saint.

Anyway, I felt the talk went well - as evidenced by the comments I received after the meeting.  So, here is my talk on charity given on mothers day



  • alms-giving
  • assistance
  • benefaction
  • contribution
  • donation
  • helping hand
  • offering
  • philanthropy
  • relief
What do these words all have in common?  They are all synonyms of “charity”.

So … what is charity?

In seeking to understand charity – I went to the experts:  Wikipedia, which states:

In Christian theology charity means an unlimited loving-kindness toward all others. The term should not be confused with the more restricted modern use of the word charity to mean benevolent giving.
It further says
Love, in this sense of an unlimited loving-kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God
So, in order to understand charity – we need to understand the “nature of God”
In our quest to become more Christ-like, we need to heed the words of the prophet Moroni who taught us “If ye have not charity, ye are nothing” (Mor 7:46). Moroni went on to explain that “Charity is the pure love of Christ” (Mor 7:47)

The apostle John taught us that “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus Christ laid down his life so that we may be saved – which, as explained by John, is the ultimate expression of love.

Now, the reality is that none of us will likely ever be asked to give up our lives – but we can give in other ways
  • We can give of our money – through tithes, offerings, and charitable contributions
  • We can give of our worldly goods – through donations
  • But, most importantly, we can give of our time

We all have a finite amount of time on this earth. Our time here on earth is precious. When we give our time to others, we are giving a little of ourselves.

Edmund Burke has been attributed to saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing”

It’s been said that "Charity begins at home"; but, Horatio Smith went further to say “Our charity begins at home, And mostly ends where it begins.”

Mother Teresa once said “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one”

And an unknown author shared “Charity sees the need, not the cause”

The apostle Paul taught us that “Charity never faileth) (1 Cor 13:8). He went on to explain “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:2)

The apostle Matthew taught “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt 6:3-4)

I learned about charity from my mother through her examples.

My mother had a dry sense of humor. To a casual observer she might have even been judged as being harsh. As a child, when I was outside playing and hurt myself and came into the house crying – she was ask “are you bleeding?” and then send me back outside. But, she knew when the hurt and pain was real. I remember once laying sick in bed with a high fever – and she sat by my bedside all night dabbing my forehead with a damp cloth trying to keep my temperature down.

My mother was a visiting nurse by profession where she would visit people, mostly elderly, in their homes to check on them and administer to their needs. We lived near the coast outside of Santa Cruz, California at the time. During the summer months I would sometimes go with her on her route – and would play in the tide pools on the shore while she visited her patients. Sometimes she took me into their homes to visit with them while she went about her business

When she entered a patient’s home she would ask how they are doing – and they would often respond with “I’m dying” – to which she would reply “well, I’m dying too – you’re just going to die a little sooner than me.” – but she always knew the right things to say to help ease their mind; and, when she left their home, her patients usually said a sincere and heartfelt “thank you”

During my high school years, we moved to Moss Landing, a tiny town of 500 people on the coast outside of Watsonville, California. Watsonville is known as the “salad bowl” as that is the area where we get much of our salad type crops, as well as strawberries, apples, artichokes, and other fruits and vegetables. As such, it has a large population of migrant farm workers – many of whom struggled just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

My mom believed that every little girl needs a baby doll. So she started finding old dolls at garage sales and thrift stores. She would bring them home and clean them up. She would then dig through her stash of cloth and sew new clothes for them. And, when she saw a little girl in need – she would give them a doll.

She never bragged about what she did; but, other people learned of what she was doing and started bringing her old dolls and scraps of cloth. And my mother would use her spare time to clean dolls and sew doll clothes – never seeking recognition for her efforts. It did not matter to her that many of these families were here illegally. She saw and responded only the need in the best way she could – never once considered the cause.

My mother was a voracious letter writer. She would often send a small note to people whom she had only met briefly. My parents are not members of the church and were most displeased with my decision to serve a mission; however, throughout the two years, I always knew there would be a letter from mom each week.

As her health declined and she was no longer able to help in ways she used to, she continued writing letters to everybody she knew. The letters stopped when we bid my mother goodbye a few years ago as she lost her battle with cancer.

I miss my mother; but, I am consoled by the fact that we will once again be joined in eternity.

So, how can we be charitable?
  • When we stay up all night helping a child with a science project, which they’ve know about for weeks but which we only just found out – we are showing charity.
  • When a child cleans their room or does the dishes without asking – they are showing charity
  • When a husband greets his wife with a hug – he is showing charity
  • When a mother prepares a favorite meal – she is showing charity
 Charity need not be grandiose – it does not need fanfare. It is those small simple acts of kindness we perform as we see and respond to a need – without any consideration of the cause.

All of us – regardless of our station in life - need charity. And all of us, need to show charity to others
in our quest to become more Christ-like.

In general relief society meeting of the October 2010 general conference, President Thomas S Monson said

Charity has been defined as “the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love,” the “pure love of Christ … ; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with [her].”

He went on to say:
“Charity never faileth.” May this long-enduring Relief Society motto, this timeless truth, guide you in everything you do. May it permeate your very souls and find expression in all your thoughts and actions.

I leave this same thought with you in the name of our elder brother – even Jesus Christ


Posting to my blog also gives me a chance to include a picture that I think illustrates my blog topic.  Charity is the pure love of Christ - what better way to represent this than to include a picture of two men in love ...


Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm still here ...

The apocalypse came and went and I'm still here - so I guess I ought to write in my blog.  The year is nearly half over, and I think this is only my 2nd post in 2011.  A far cry from how I used to be with this blog.

I received a Scribit suggestion recently - which surprised me as I thought I remembered receiving an email that the Scribit gadget was going away.  Anyway, an anonymous reader asked

Does your wife know about your SGA now? If not, what advice do you give to wives to help?
First off, anonymous reader, I do not struggle with same gender attraction - I struggle with opposite gender attraction.  Being attracted to men feels natural and normal for me.  That said - yes, my wife is fully aware of my gayness.  Although, it isn't something we talk about much.  Often it's more the elephant in the room - something we're both acutely aware of but neither wants to bring it up.  But, I remain faithful and 100% committed to her.

I think every girl, at some point in her life, dreams of a fairy tale marriage where she meets her prince charming.  But, for some girls, instead of prince charming - they get a fairy.  It may not be fair, but that's just how life is - life isn't fair.

As far as advice I might have for wives - I think you need to look at the positives rather than the negatives.  Sure, we're not going to look at you the same way that straight men might - even sexual intimacy may be difficult for us (you're just not plumbed the right way - sorry, that's just how it is).  But, there are positive aspects to having a gay husband.  We probably like to shop more than a straight husband might, we are great cooks, we may even like watching chick flicks with you.  It's like having a gay best friend and a husband all wrapped up in a single package.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post titled Women who love men who love men which I think sums up my feelings pretty well.

I don't even know if any of the people who were once regular readers are even around any more - I've certainly not given them any reason to be.  But, just in case anybody cares ...

I'm still here - still gay - still married - still active in church - still unemployed (sort of)

But, I've been very very busy.  My wife and I started an embroidery business in our home (try doing that with a straight husband).  We have two 6-thread embroidery machines and have been working 12-14 hours/day trying to keep up with the demand.  Who knew there was such a big demand for custom embroidery?  Maybe we're just not charging enough ...

I certainly didn't expect us to be this busy, at least in the beginning.  I seriously don't even know if we're making money as I haven't had much time to delve into the bookkeeping aspects of a business.  I almost hate to say it - but I kinda hope business slows down a bit so that we have time to sit down and figure out how to work smarter, get our website up and going, and a bunch of other stuff that's been on the back burner.

I will have to say that being so busy has had a positive impact on my depression issues.  I feel stressed - but I'm not so depressed about it.  I guess just feeling like I'm useful and that I matter does a lot for my self esteem.

I was able to take a little time out of my schedule to take some engagement pictures for some friends - don't they make a cute couple?

I know you can't see their faces (I don't feel comfortable posting recognizable pictures) - but trust me, they were both smiling ear to ear.

And ... this pretty much sums up my feelings.  I believe in God - I believe in the LDS church - and I believe the LDS church is totally wrong in how they approach homosexuality.

Two men in love - true love.  And they are both happier now that they have each other in their lives.  And I believe God is happy with their union.

Many people do not understand how I can hold such conflicting views.  I can't explain it either; but, it is that very conflict which prompted the name of this blog - as I feel like an enigma.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thou shalt not be gay

I attended the priesthood leadership session of our stake conference Saturday a week ago.  Our stake president began his talk by relating a discussion he had with his teenage son about the one answer that can be given for any question in seminary - no matter what the topic, you can always give this answer.  He then shared the following little ditty
Read your scriptures
Learn to pray
Go to church
And don't be gay

This is, of course, nothing new - I just never heard it put to rhyme before.  Needless to say, there were chuckles throughout the room.  I wondered if those around me noticed my stoic look - dumbfounded at what I just heard.

The main point of his talk was the need to get back to basics.  He went on to talk further about the first 3 lines in this ditty - thankfully never again mentioning the last line.

Since then, this little ditty has been going around and around in my mind - wondering just how much truth there is in it - truth in the sense that this is what is considered "basic doctrine" in the LDS faith.

Elder Boyd K. Packer once spoke of the The Unwritten Order of Things - stuff you won't read in any church handbook, but things we all just "know" - such as men wearing white shirts to church meetings.  I think "Don't be gay" is another of these unwritten principals in the LDS church.  Something that is never really said explicitly in official communications - but, nonetheless, something that everyone in the church just knows to be true.

I feel like I should be offended by the comments made by my stake president - instead I feel sadness, and I have an inkling of what I imagine the savior might have felt on the cross when he said "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."  My heart especially goes out to those young men and women who may be struggling with their own sexual identity and who are subjected to this sort of ridicule in a setting that is supposed to be 'safe'.

I expect my stake president probably felt that a priesthood leadership meeting was a safe environment in which to share his little ditty - certainly there wouldn't be any of those types of people in the room.  If only I weren't such a big coward and had the courage to say something to him.

Church leaders can bloviate all they want about how being gay in and of itself is not a sin - only when we act on our gay feelings do we sin.  And everyone can nod their head in agreement - because we all 'know' of the unspoken commandment:  "thou shalt not be gay."

So, in a return to basics - I guess I fail miserably at the "don't be gay" part.  Haven't really been all that great in the scripture reading and praying either - but I go to church!  1 out of 4 isn't that bad ... is it?  Yeah me!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Four years and counting

4 years ago (12/19/2006 at 7:48 PM CST) I posted my very first blog post.
Woop-De-Doo !!!

I've pretty much run out of things to say - so I'm wondering if it'll make it to 5 years ...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blind obedience

Our stake has initiated a program where, without going into the nitty-gritty details,  we are to talk to every member in our ward to gather information about their their ancestors in their 5-generation pedigree.  Basically, we're getting the number who've had their temple work done from each ward member.  In a 5 generation pedigree chart, there are 30 direct line ancestors (not including children); so, we're asking for a number between 0 and 30 from each ward member which we'll enter into a spreadsheet and turn it into the stake in January

Now, I have to admit I was a bit annoyed when I first learned of this "request" from the stake.  The reality is that most of the people whose number is 30 (meaning all of their ancestors have had their temple work done) probably haven't lifted a finger personally to do any actual genealogy research - since their family has likely been in the church for generations and Aunt Matilda did it all.  By comparison, those of us who are first generation Mormon's - who have actually had to go out and do real research to find our ancestors, but haven't yet completed 5 generations resulting in a number less than 30 - will look like slackers.

But, trying to be the obedient son - and being the only member of the High Priest group leadership who has any actual family history experience, I tried to put my personal feelings aside and spent considerable time looking at this over the past week reviewing new.familysearch.org to figure out how we can help ward members derive the information the stake has asked for.  The more I looked at it the more I became convinced that whoever thought of this at the stake just hadn't thought it through.  While possible, it's not intuitively obvious how to derive the requested information on new.familysearch.org; plus, we were essentially going to go through a lot of work talking to all of the members to collect a useless data point.  When all is said and done, the only useful purpose of this data will be to show the stake that we were an "obedient" ward who did their bidding.

As I thought about it more, I came up with, what I thought, was a better idea.  I identified some alternative data points that were easy to derive from new.familysearch.org - and that would actually be useful to us in assessing where we needed to assist ward members in their family history and temple work. I discussed this with my wife (who has much more family history experience than I have) and she agreed that my idea had merit.  I was actually starting to feel some of the passion I once had for family history.

So, I drew up a proposal for my alternative and presented it to other members of the High Priest group leadership on Sunday - and I was shot down!  I was told that wasn't what the stake asked us to do.  When I countered with "do we want to fulfill the letter of the law of the spirit of the law?" - I was told that we needed to fulfill the letter of the law and do exactly what the stake asked of us.  It felt like a sucker punch to the stomach - and any passion I was beginning to feel quickly dissipated.  Now, this seems like a trivial thing - but I was angry when I left church on Sunday.  I was angry that my ideas were dismissed so readily because I wasn't towing the party line.  The frustrating thing is that it's possible the bishop and/or the stake president might have even liked my ideas - but we'll never know because they never made it past the first rung on the leadership ladder.

Today I'm OK.  I feel that I had a brief moment where I tried to actually think for myself - but I'm over it now.  Well ... the reality is that I just don't care anymore - Any passion I was beginning to feel is gone - and it just isn't worth fighting over. So, I'm just going to roll over (or maybe "bend over" would be a better metaphor) and do what is asked of us.

But, at the risk of sounding childish, I've decided that I personally will not participate - I will be the obedient son and do whatever I can to assist the HP Group Leader in collecting this information from ward members, but I will not be providing the stake with the information they asked for about my ancestors.  Since I created the spreadsheet that we will use to collect the information, I simply removed my name from the list of ward members.  That way, if anyone does happen to scan the list to see who hasn't yet provided the information requested - my name won't stand out, since it won't be there; and, my own little private rebellion won't reflect negatively on the ward.  And, in the off chance that someone does notice and asks about it - I'll just shrug my shoulders and say I have privacy concerns.  Which is not really the case - I just have no idea what they intend to do with the data and, therefore, have no inclination to share.

As I said, this is really a trivial thing - but I think what bothers me the most is that it drives home the notion that we are supposed to just blindly follow whatever our leaders ask of us.  If we're told to jump than our only response should be "how high?"  We can't question or even suggest better ways - I guess, because, if there were a better way then God would surely have "revealed" it to the stake leaders; so, our own ideas are obviously satanic in origin if they don't mesh 100% with those from the church hierarchy.  There is no opportunity for synergy to build upon the ideas of church leaders to come up with the better solution; and, the result is mediocrity, of which this is a perfect example - a collection of spreadsheets from each ward in the stake containing useless data.  And at such an enormous waste of time and energy which could have easily been channeled to collect data that would have been useful in assessing and promoting family history and temple work in the ward.

But, this being my gay blog - this post isn't really about family history.  It's about coming up with the best solutions to address the problems facing the LDS church.  Certainly, how to deal with gay members of the church is a problem for which the LDS church leadership is not prepared - evidenced by the dismal retention rate of gay members in the LDS church.  The straight membership can console themselves that we're simply being led astray by the adversary - but seriously, 99% of us can't keep a lid on our attractions to the same gender?  It's insulting to suggest that being gay equates to being weak!

I have to believe the answers are out there - answers which could be found with the help of people like those of us in the Mormon queerosphere.  But our culture doesn't allow for a bottoms-up approach - everything has to come from the top down.

Now, to be fair, there are islands of hope - a bishop here, a stake president there - local church leaders who seems to 'get it' and who demonstrate genuine interest in helping gay members.  But, for every island of hope - there are islands of despair, such as the bishop that TGD blogged about who counseled a family member who is having thoughts of suicide that "its best to follow through the suicide than to give into men."

In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I believe change will come - eventually.  I still believe that; but, my recent experiences have demonstrated to me that change will not come from within.  Good gay members of the church - who are an excellent source of ideas for how to best address the gay contingent in the church - will have little to no effect in changing the hearts and minds of the church leadership as a whole.  To even consider such smacks right in the face of our doctrine of priesthood leadership - because those of us in the trenches do not hold the "keys" to receive inspiration for anything other than ourselves and our families.  To even suggest that we might have the answers for the church as a whole is a sure indication that we are in league with the devil - the father of all lies who seeks the deceive the righteous.

I believe change will come - but it will have to come from outside of the church.  As society increasingly accepts homosexuality, the LDS church will increasingly come across as petty and vindictive towards that segment of society; and, this will force LDS church leadership to reconsider how to best address homosexuality in the church.

Some commentators to my previous blog post took issue with my statement that "the LDS church does not hate gays - they only hate what gays do in the privacy of their bedrooms." - countering that the actions of the LDS church speak louder than their words.  I understand what they are saying - but I still hold to my opinion.  The LDS church does not "hate" us - they "fear" us.  I believe actions by the LDS church to oppose anything 'gay' - such as proposition 8, or BKP's comments in general conference - are out of fear rather than hate.  And fear can make people irrational in their words and their actions.

Hate is such as strong word - and I believe church leaders have a genuine concern for the salvation of our souls; but, the very idea of two men or two women in a loving relationship smacks right in the face of our doctrine of the eternal family - and that scares the hell out of them.  It scares them enough that to even suggest that such loving same sex relationships could be acceptable to God is blasphemy.

Well ... maybe, just maybe, all it really means is that perhaps we don't understand the doctrine of eternal families as well as we think we do.

In the meantime, I've lost hope that I personally will be able to do anything that might make a difference in the lives of my family - my MoHo family.

And I find myself wondering - how did we get from teaching correct principals and letting the saints govern themselves to blind obedience and damn the consequences?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reaping what you sow ... 2 years later

A lot has been written about recent changes to the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions prognosticating about the impact said changes have on gay Mormons. Organizations like HRC have claimed responsibility for the church instituting said changes because of their activism - which the church, of course, has denied.

Personally, I think people are reading too much into recent changes. The CHI is periodically updated to reflect policy tweaks and generally reflect changes that had previously been communicated via letters from the first presidency. (not all such letters are read over the pulpit - many are addressed directly to bishoprics and stake presidencies)

What I do believe is that the LDS church is finding itself in a very uncomfortable position where every word that is uttered from a pulpit - every word that is written - is meticulously examined and analyzed for possible impact to the GLBT community in general and gay Mormons in particular.

It didn’t always used to be this way.  It wasn’t that long ago when, except for a few disgruntled ex-Mormon’s, the LDS church was largely ignored by the GLBT community.  In fact, there was perhaps even a bit of cautious admiration due to the church’s position that God loves everyone – even the gay ones.  Something that raised the ire of other religious leaders – such as the esteemed Rev. Fred Phelps whose followers at the Westburo Baptist church protested the LDS church's tolerance towards homosexuals at President Hinkley’s funeral - since they want to believe that all fags have a one-way ticket straight to hell.

Then along came proposition 8 in California.  The LDS church believes that gay marriage poses a threat to the traditional family - a severe enough threat that it compelled the church to abandon it’s policy of political neutrality and rally the saints in California to campaign for the passage of proposition 8 denying gay couples of the right to marry.  Almost overnight the LDS church went from being largely ignored to public enemy number 1 to the GLBT community.

This wasn’t the first time that the LDS church got politically involved. 
  • 1980 – Although I don’t recall the details, there was some initiative on the California ballot concerning gay marriage.  I was living in California at the time and heeded the call from church leaders to go door to door.  I don’t actually remember if we were urging voters to vote for or against said initiative – but, I do recall being frustrated because many people I talked to assumed I was gay and was campaigning for the position opposite that of the LDS church.  (yet another testament of people seeing things in me that I refused to see in myself)
  • 1998 – The LDS church donated $500,000 to the Alaska Family Coalition to campaign for an amendment to the Alaska constitution banning gay marriages.
  • 1998 – The LDS church contributed to the “Save Traditional Marriage” campaign in Hawaii 
  •   2000- Proposition 22 in California “Protection of Marriage Act
But none of these had the same lasting effects as proposition 8 did in 2008.

I don’t claim to know what was different with Proposition 8 in California.  Perhaps it was the timing with the internet becoming more integral in our lives.  Perhaps it was the level of involvement with mormon’s contributing nearly half of the $39.9M raised to pass Prop 8.  Perhaps it’s because prop 8 was the most funded campaign on any state ballot.  Maybe its because of other campaigns such as “No H8” which keep prop 8 in our collective consciousness.  It could be some combination of all of these (plus other factors I haven’t thought of).

Whatever the cause, proposition 8 in California has had a major impact on the relationship the LDS church has with the GLBT community – indeed, american society at large.  Right or wrong, if you polled random people on the street with the simple question “does the Mormon church hate gay’s” – I expect, more than likely, many would answer “yes” - that certainly would be true if you polled the gay community.

The reality is - the LDS church doesn't hate gays - it just hates what gays do in the privacy of their bedrooms.  When discussions started among LDS church leaders regarding getting involved in the prop 8 campaign, I expect they probably assumed that there would be some opposition – but that it would eventually fizzle out as it has in the past.  I don’t think they were prepared for the onslaught of negative feelings towards the LDS church – both from within and without.  And, I imagine they are probably perplexed that such feelings continue to exist 2 years after the election showing little signs of abating.

The LDS church is very image conscious and objects whenever it is portrayed negatively.  So, this puts them into a very difficult position.  How can the LDS church repair it’s relationship with the GLBT community without coming across as softening on its stance towards homosexuality?  Essentially, the LDS church has painted itself into a corner with no idea how to get out of; and, it seems every thing they do gets them further embedded in the mire.

The answer, I believe, is that it can’t – it can’t change peoples attitudes towards the LDS church without major changes to it’s teachings about homosexuality.  I also believe that such changes will come – eventually; although, I don’t know if I’ll be alive to see it. I'm not suggesting that I think the LDS church will suddenly start sealing same sex couples in the temple.  But I think we will see increased tolerance towards people who happen to be attracted to those of their same gender - particularly those who embrace committed monogamous relationships.

In the meantime, the LDS church is reaping the bitter grains that it has sown. President Boyd K Packers talk in the October general conference suggests that (at least some) church leaders have yet to learn from past mistakes and are having to live with the consequences of their actions. The brouhaha over the changes to the CHI is just the latest volley of unwanted publicity – and it certainly won’t be the last.

So, hang on tight because I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reader suggestion for blog topic: food or photography. or distant friends in boise idaho :)

[not so] anonymous reader suggestion:  food or photography. or distant friends in boise idaho :)

I love food.  I love to cook food.  I love to eat food (and I have the physique to prove it).  But, I have another blog where I discuss food and recipes.  I'll give you a hint, it's linked in the left sidebar.

I love photography; but, I have to admit I haven't been doing much with it the last few months. I don't know, I just haven't felt very creative of late.

I love my distant friend in Boise, Idaho (even if he does live in [gasp] Idaho).  I love it that he calls me periodically just to see how I am doing.

But, I have to admit - I've been struggling with this blog topic suggestion.  No offense [distant friend in Boise] but it's just too enigmatic - which is saying a lot from someone who is, himself, and enigma.

So, I'm going to read between the lines - I think what [distant friend in Boise] is trying to tell me is that I need to blog about things that I am passionate about.

Now that's going to take some work because ... well ...to be brutally honest, my passion has fizzled - overshadowed by apathy.  But, deep down inside me is still a spark of passion.  I need to find that spark and nurture it, fan it to make it grow into a fire swelling inside of me.

... um

Does anybody know how I can make this happen?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pity party

Pearls Before Swine

I have my own problems with job (lack thereof), bills, etc. (no car problems, thankfully).  I know there are others far worse off than I am - but somehow that doesn't make me feel any better about my own problems.

Why can't I just be thankful for what I have?  Am I being selfish?  Am I wallowing in self pity?  How do I get out of this rut?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It gets better ???


First off, I have to say that I really love the It Gets Better campaign.  The thing I like most about "It Gets Better" is the positive focus.  The gay community plays the victim so much that it's refreshing to see a positive perspective of being gay.

I love watching the videos.  It seems everybody who is anybody - and even a few nobodies and anybody wannbes - has made an "It Gets Better" video; although, my favorite - by far - is the one created by the LA Gay Mens Chorus - it brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.  It's beautiful and sad at the same time - sad because I just don't see myself ever being circled about by my straight family and friends.

And ... I find myself wondering:  What about those of us who accept our homosexuality much later in life?  "It Gets Better" is focused on gay youth - I get that and support it.  But, what about people like me who lived most of our lives pretending to be straight and have finally accepted who we are?  Does it get better?  Or is this as good as it gets?

I no longer have to deal with bullies trying to rip away my self esteem.  Echos of being called a queer and a fag are distant memories.  In that sense I guess it has gotten better ...

But ... my life is filled with diametrically opposed conflicts
  • A part of me regrets that I didn't accept myself much earlier in life and pursued a relationship that feels right.  Yet if I had - then I wouldn't have my wife and best friend; and, I wouldn't have my children who mean the world to me. 
  •  I am gay celibate.  Yet, a part of me regrets that I never took the opportunity to experience the love of another man when I was younger.
    • Part of me yearns for male companionship - yet I cannot - I must not - seek it as doing so would hurt those that are most dear to me.
    • I want to proclaim to the world that I'm gay - yet due to my personal circumstances I must remain in the closet. 
    • I attend a church that teaches me that these feelings I have are unnatural and impure - and that acting on them is a violation of God's most sacred commandments.  Yet - they don't feel unnatural or impure to me.  And, even though I have consciously chosen to deprive myself of a man-on-man relationship - I don't encourage others to choose the same path I have chosen.  In fact, I support them if they choose to live their lives to their fullest in a deeply committed relationship with someone of their own gender.
      • I continuously seek for answers - answers that always elude me - answers that I doubt even exist.

      So ... is this it?  Is this as good as it's going to get for me?  Am I doomed to spend the rest of my life seeking balance where none exists?

      And what happens when I die?  Religious leaders tell me that these feelings I have are only for mortality - that I will magically change into a heterosexual upon death.  I hear their words - but their words sound hollow and feel wrong.  What if I don't want to be a heterosexual in the afterlife?

      Yet ... if I remain a homosexual in the afterlife - am I doomed to spend eternity trying to reconcile the irreconcilable? Doesn't that sounds like a definition for hell?

      So ... does it get better?  Or, for people like me, is this as good as it's ever going to get?  Ever ...