Monthly Archives: October 2008

My Secret Gay Agenda

I admit it. I have a “gay” agenda. It is the result of nights of plotting and scheming: Plan A’s and Plan B’s. I consider strategy and laugh maniacally as I see my designs come to fruition….

What? A bit much?

Fine, no maniacal laughter, but at least there is an agenda – albeit not all that “secret”. My big gay plan is this: I want people to stop and think twice about publicly opposing homosexual interests-specifically gay marriage. Now, before you start screaming the 23rd Psalm and commence to spritzin’ the holy water, let me ‘splain.

I want to normalize homosexuality in a way that people recognize it to be a condition that happens every now and then and become accustomed to having gays around. Homosexuality isn’t some tacky rainbow secret combination that is out to destroy Christendom through gentrification and snappy outfits.

If you want to stand up for your beliefs as the prophet has asked, that is commendable. It truly is. More often than not, the words of our prophet fall on deaf ears. But I make a request: please, check your motives first.

I want to protect children from the harmful influence that homosexuality can have, you say. Okay, but remember that I am gay, too. Your brother, your son, your friend. Ah, but “he is different”. No, I am not. I am just as gay as the next queer. I didn’t ask to be gay just like you didn’t ask to be straight, but know that I am no more ashamed of my sexuality than you are. If gays are harmful influence to your children, then so am I. Do you really feel the need to protect your family against me?

I want to protect traditional marriage, you say. Okay, but know what that truly means. You aren’t protecting it from people who aren’t taking the commitment seriously – no less than you did, anyway. Our feelings for the people we love run just as deeply as yours and we want to create families with them just as much as you did. Our capacity to love is just as mature, significant, and profound as yours. Would you be satisfied with a “domestic partnership” being your only option when it came to building a family?

I want to protect the church, you say. The church could lose its tax-exempt status if it doesn’t comply with a possible mandate to solemnize same-sex marriages. No longer would we be able to write off tithing and fast-offerings as charitable contributions. Um…is your motivation in this actually money? Are you really okay with that?

Whoa, whoa, whoa! What happened to Prop-8 Agnostic? I maintain that position. How can I still say that? Because I simply want people to consider the motivations behind their actions and take an honest look at the issue from the perspective of someone on the other side. If anything, Christ taught that the motivations behind our actions are just as important as the actions themselves. If we are taking a position out of fear, hate, or greed, then maybe we need to take a step back to reflect.

It can be scary to question your own beliefs, because, what if you don’t end up at the same result? But, then again, do you really want to have your beliefs based on anything other than the truth? If you can take a step back and make sure that your beliefs are free from prejudice, misinformation, and even hatred, then you will be able to continue with confidence and demonstrate true compassion. It is more difficult that way, it’s true, but remember that unscrupulous means often leads to hollow and disillusioning ends.

Now, not to leave the other side out: demonizing swings both ways. It’s true that many in the religious right hasn’t always been, well, civil towards the gay community.  There have been times where they’ve been downright horrible. But is a motivation behind your actions based on a desire for familial responsibility and equality or on years of hurt because of mistreatment? You may assume that Ma and Pa Redneck are only doing what they are because they were told that by their preacher/bishop, but are you ready to accept that they might have a gay son that they love and accept and after careful consideration still disagree with you on the issue of gay marriage? Are you sure that you aren’t just as close-minded as you claim your opponents to be by assuming all religious people are bigots? Many aren’t. Many can accept the points above, can show genuine compassion, and can still think differently with you. An open-minded person can show genuine love and compassion for someone even while disagreeing with them. Do you truly believe that just because someone is different, they are worthy of acceptance and respect…or does that just apply to people who are different from “them”?

More than anything, this is a call to honesty. If you really have to believe that the other side is hateful/evil/sinful/immoral/bigoted/selfish in order to maintain passion in your cause, then maybe you should take some time to purify your motives and consider the consequences of your words and actions. Look at it from a new perspective, “their” perspective. If people actually saw the other side as, well, people who are like them (which they are, I’m serious) they might actually be able to disagree and still love each other at the end of the day. I trust people to be able to do that. I really do.

I guess this violates what I said two posts ago, but, come on, did you really think that that was going to stick?

The Uncomfortable Position of the Exception

While getting ready for Church this morning I had BYU-TV playing over the internet.  I began by listening to Music and the Spoken Word, but after it was over I clicked on a random show (to avoid the horrid “Worship Service”) and let the video play.  I didn’t pay much attention to it until a BYU-Hawaii devotional came on.  The speaker’s talk was solid, but there was nothing really new or revelatory for me in the content of his discourse, which spoke of commitment to living the Gospel.  Like many speakers, he gave a itemized list that summarized his talk.  On the list was the observation that some people obey the words of the prophets only when it is convenient for them.  When hearing the prophet speak, they evaluate the truth of his words based on their own desire to comply.  They deem themselves exceptions and disregard the council.

Like I said, it was nothing new.  I had been taught the same thing since before I was eight – never think of yourselves as an exception because that is a step on the road to apostasy.  This caused a lot of mental anguish as I reached the age that my peers around me started dating and getting engaged.  If I was no exception, I should be seeking the same goal, after all.  I tried dating and generally failed to find a relationship that I felt was a good idea to pursue to the point of marriage (mostly from my own baggage).  This placed me in emotional limbo – how was I supposed to fulfill the commandment to marry and raise a family (a commandment that I wanted to follow) if I never was able to feel good about a relationship with a woman?

A couple of years ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave his famous “Hanging Out=Evil” YSA fireside.  He followed his council with:

“If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance….

As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. …  I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, 2006)

I remember becoming angry the first time I heard that.  So exceptions do exist?  Where did that leave me?  In what I felt was a rather glib statement, the Apostle had said, “hey, some of what we say may not apply to you and if it does, you are on your own.”  Oh, wow.  Thanks.

I’ve mellowed out in my frustration since then.  What I originally saw as abandonment by the Brethren, I now see as them trusting me to follow the Spirit and were showing respect by allowing me to “govern myself”.  Being lead by the prophet is one thing, having to be dragged on a leash is quite another.

While I think I have gained a small amount of maturity on that particular issue, thinking of myself as an exception doesn’t really sit well with me.  There is a definite uneasiness to not having an clear idea of where you stand with the Lord on an issue, but for me, clarity hasn’t come yet in this particular case.  There seem to be a lot of conflicting views on the issue floating around.  I guess the Lord and I have more to discuss on this matter.

In any case, I guess writing a letter is out.

The Last Thing You’ll See Me Write About Prop 8

Being a Mormon in the film production industry is uncommon.  Let me rephrase, being an active Mormon in the film industry is uncommon.  So much so, that when other people find out that I am Mormon, often they don’t know what to say.

Mostly the reaction I get when people find out my religion is, “oh, I hope I don’t offend you!”  They assume that one sexual reference or “F-Bomb” is going to send me off to scrub my ears in a shocked fit of prayer.  I did go to non-BYU film school, people.  We watched unrated movies and everything.  Even foreign movies.

To their statement I usually laugh and say, “don’t worry, I’m actually pretty hard to offend,” which is true.  While I’m easily irritated, truly offending me is rare.

But now, I am deeply hurt and offended.  I can’t point to anyone individually, but the people that have caused me to feel emotionally heavy and dark are the two political groups currently fighting over Prop 8 in California.  I’ve always been Prop 8 Agnostic in my public communications and I continue to be so in the effort to not have my opinion sway anyone one way or another (as if that could happen).  I have read many blog posts and comments that have been very civil and diplomatic in their support for and opposition to the proposition.  Unfortunately, I have seen much more name-calling, outright lying, and plainly evil rhetoric being lobbed back and forth.  Having an inherent foot in both sides of the argument, being hit from both sides has caused my protective “don’t take it personally” filter to break down and many of the statements have seeped in.  According to these groups:

Because I am gay I:

  • am selfish.
  • am immoral.
  • am dangerous to children.
  • am harmful to society.

Because I am Mormon I:

  • am a hatemonger.
  • am anti-family.
  • am intolerant.
  • am harmful to society.

I admit, the gay ones hurt more than the Mormon ones (I’ve been hearing them my whole life) and while I’ve always been taught to never be ashamed of my beliefs – I don’t have the same years of open conviction when it comes to my sexuality.  It is hard not to take things personally when they are attacking two things about me that are very personal.

So, I have decided that I am no longer going to read, watch, or participate in any more discussions, articles, or news stories related to Prop 8.  I realize that people feel that they should stand up for their beliefs and that’s fine, but I, however, can’t.  The issues are too close, the pain is too real, and I am too tired.

I spent time with friends this weekend.  I talked with them, laughed, played with their kid….  To them, none of the above is true.  I am focusing on that; the rest will have to take care of itself for now.

Off The Fence: 6 Months Later

It’s been about six months that I hopped off the gay/church fence on the side of the church after years of going back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth and oh-my-gosh-I’m-getting-seasick).  There have been ups and downs, but I generally maintain the feeling of peace I had when I first decided I was going to stay in the Church.  There have been a few breakdowns, but except for a nuclear meltdown soon after the decision were made, my relatively few emotional dips have lacked the edge of despair that they used to have back on that old rickety fence.

I have learned a great deal in the past six months and have spiritually grown a lot (I think, anyway).  There are areas in my life where the need for improvement is glaringly apparent, but I feel I am making progress, which is the first time I’ve been able to say that in years.  It has been interesting as I have directly confronted issues in my life that I was too scared to approach before.  I feel like I am more honest with myself and with those around me.  As I have done this I’ve made some observations that I thought were surprising:

Sometimes Faith=Procrastination
Right after I made the decision to stay in the Church, I knew that I wasn’t strong enough spiritually to handle all the doubts and questions that I still had, so I basically put off dealing with them.  I knew I was going to have to work them out one day, but I couldn’t do it right then.  As I have progressed, sometimes I have taken some of these questions out and have taken a look at them.  If I am able to make progress with them, I try to resolve the concern.  Otherwise, it goes right back in the mental procrastination box.  I see this as an exercise in faith in the same way I view my initial concerns and then testimony of the prophet-ness of Joseph Smith to have been an exercise in faith.  Sometimes working spiritual stuff out takes time.

Lying To Oneself Is Never Good

You might say, “um…duh,” but how often do we lie to ourselves in order to make ourselves feel better about our situations?  I think we all do it.  For example, there may be some official ideas of the Church that sometimes bother me…a lot.  In the past, I would probably try and immediately talk myself into thinking that I agreed with the Church on every issue, but I’ve found that that weakens my testimony instead of strengthening it.  Now I try and openly acknowledge to myself if something bothers me or if I don’t agree with something.  If I find a potential solution to my dilemma, I try and work it out.  Otherwise I toss it into my procrastination=faith box for sorting out later.  Interestingly, as I have tried to maintain this attitude of honesty with myself, I’ve found the need to toss stuff into that box to come much less frequently than I anticipated.

I’m Still Gay, And I’m Cool With That

While I never expected the Lord to remove my attraction to men and give me the hots for the womenfolk (He hasn’t, btw), I find it interesting how comfortable I am with my homosexuality.  Okay, most of the people at work don’t know and I don’t foresee telling them, but I usually don’t feel weirded out when I realize that other people think of me as gay, because, well, I am.  I also have discovered that I still want a relationship with a man and, while the intensity of that desire isn’t the overwhelming thing it once was, I still sometimes see a gay couple holding hands in the park and still feel that pang of longing.  Instead of burying that feeling, I allow myself to feel it for a bit.  I do this because I have no intention of ever running from my sexuality again.  I allow myself to want a relationship with a man for a few moments and then I move on.  Because I have things to do.

I Choose “Peace” Over “Happiness”
I have chosen to live according to the doctrines of the Church – potentially alone for the rest of my life.  Why?  Because there is a peace that comes by knowing you are living your life in harmony with your core beliefs – it is a peace you can feel even in the midst of unhappiness.  This isn’t to say that I am generally an unhappy person, but as I have said before, I remain one-hundred percent convinced that I would be happy living in a monogamous relationship with another man.  Sometimes I am unhappy directly because of the choice I have made, but even through the unhappiness, I can still feel that peace.  True, my sexuality is part of my core, but my spirituality runs even deeper.

It’s been a big six months.  I’ve decided to stay in the Church, came out to family and ward and world, and openly write about being gay and Mormon on the Internet.  Who knows what the next six months hold./?/!

Sound-Byte Doctrine: Avoiding the Appearance of Evil

I was in my dorm in the MTC when an Elder in my district told us about a letter his mother wrote to him (yes, missionaries discuss the letters your write to them with other missionaries).  She was asking advice about a situation in her ward in which a young single woman got pregnant by her boyfriend.  This young woman wasn’t a close friend, but was simply a good acquaintance.  The Elder’s mother was confused and unsure of how to proceed.  While she wanted to reach out to this young woman, she didn’t want her support to be viewed as approval of the young girl’s situation.  She wanted to “avoid the appearance of evil” and the best way she decided to do that was to simply avoid the issue and the young woman.

We sometimes find ourselves in a position to associate with people who either have different standards than us or don’t live up to their own standards.  So what do you do when one of the young women in your Laurel classes gets a bun in the oven? (And we aren’t talking about homemaking meeting.)  Or what about the guy you grew up with in Scouts who now lives with a guy named Tarquin who makes his own curtains?*  Or the coworker that you know for certain regularly smokes pot.  If we are representatives of Jesus Christ, we shouldn’t be seen in the company of known sinners because people may assume that we agree with their actions and attitudes, right?


The problem with all of this is that we are trying to live according to “sound-byte doctrine”.  Sound-byte doctrines are phrases and ideas that are gleaned from the scriptures (sometimes) and are treated as commandments by popular culture even though they may not have originally meant what popular religious culture has turned it into.

This particular bit of sound-byte doctrine originally comes from the scripture found in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 which says, “Abstain from all appearance from evil.”  This seems pretty straightforward on first reading, but if you look (in the LDS edition of the scriptures), you’ll see a footnote on the word “appearance”.  Apparently this word comes from a Greek word, which means “kinds”.  With this in mind, we see that the scripture now says “[a]bstain from all kinds of evil” (emphasis added).  The footnote goes on to point to the Topical Guide entry for “Apparel”, suggesting the verse has more to do with our personal standards than how we associate with others.  In fact, we see that the previous reading of the scripture doesn’t really mesh well with the actual example Jesus set in His life.  He was constantly found among the people that society had labeled “sinners”.  Some of these were merely the poor that people assumed were sinners because of their poverty, but some were people legitimately involved in serious sin.  We have no record or reason to believe that He ever condoned sin, but apparently Jesus didn’t equate association with sinners with condoning their behavior.

“Avoiding the appearance of evil” is a perfect example of sound-byte doctrine because the catchiness of the phrase causes it to get stuck in people’s head where it is given extra weight in making decisions about associating with friends and love ones who don’t share our standards.  I don’t believe we should place ourselves in situations in which we may become tempted or situations that would offend the Spirit, but I believe that following the example of Christ also involves showing kindness to people of other standards and ideals.  You can’t show kindness to someone you never associate with.  In fact, Jesus had nothing good to say about people who maintained an appearance of righteousness for sake of appearances only (the “whited wall” and all that).

We should follow the Spirit when deciding on whom we will associate with in our lives, but I would suggest that we be careful in this as well.  In associations where the Spirit is absent, we should make sure that the Spirit hasn’t withdrawn because of our own feelings of prejudice or discomfort rather than the influence the people we are associating with.

Sound-byte doctrines are grey doctrines (at best) and are often abused by religious cultures to excuse some very bad behavior.  Sometimes this is intentional, but, more often than not, they are used by people who are legitimately confused and are looking for direction in their lives.  In the example above, the missionaries in my dorm agreed that the Elder’s mom should show an outpouring of love for the young unwed mother-to-be.  The mom was genuinely looking for the right way to handle the situation, but we thought it wasn’t her role to punish the young woman for her actions; it was her role to be a Sister in Zion.  If the young woman used the pregnancy as an excuse to leave the Church, that was her decision, but it shouldn’t be a decision made easier due to a judgmental ostracizing by the membership.

The biggest danger of sound-byte doctrine is that they can replace prayer, pondering, and scripture study as a source of guidance when deciding how to live our lives.  But then again, relying on a Deseret Book-purchased cross-stitching as an oracle for life advice sure does free me up to watch episodes of Heroes online.  (A “Nikki” by any other name is still boring, by the way.)

*Bonus points for getting this reference.

I’m Still Here…

…I’ve just been crazy busy.  Europe was amazing, but now I am buried in a sea of post-vacation work and am dealing with a problematic internet situation at home.  There will be updates, just…later.

Thanks for sticking around! :-)