Thursday, October 23, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Paradigm Shift

Regardless of our sexual orientation and regardless of our life path, I believe that the Lord taught us a very important truth in the Creation when He affirmed that "it is not good for man to be alone."

As a man who experiences same-sex attraction, I used to feel that I exclusively needed same-sex companionship and friendship. I used to think happiness and fulfillment could only be found if I was involved in a long term relationship with another man, be it platonic or sexual. 

However, I recently experienced a paradigm shift as I reviewed couples' essays and videos from the Voices of Hope project. 

I still desire companionship and intimate (not sexual) friendships with other men, and I always will. I feel that these friendships will help me fill needs I have to be connected to and experience unity with others of my same gender. I experience attraction to men. It's simply the way I experience life. Intimate friendships with men will fill specific needs that no woman could fill. 

However, my paradigm shift this weekend, brought to you by Voices of Hope, taught me that I need companionship and intimate relationships with women as well, to fill other needs that men can't offer me. I never really thought that could be possible before  now (even though it's pretty obvious and straight-forward, no pun intended). 

I will not fill my needs for masculine unity with women, but I feel that as I draw near to them and develop intimacy and maybe even a romantic/sexual relationship with a woman that I can experience growth and new experiences, and a sense of "completeness" that I couldn't experience in any other way.

I feel that becoming close with women will help me grow and experience new things, expanding my horizons and definitions of what it means to love someone deeply without it being primarily driven by a sex drive. 

I do not know exactly what the future holds, but I felt that the Lord gently reminded me today that I need to open myself to both men and women and become close to them in appropriate ways, within the bounds the Lord has set. 

He can make of me so much more than I could ever make of myself. And I need to realize and accept that part of my essential growth can come from women. 

This is not THE answer for everyone. I fully accept and acknowledge that. But I do feel it is one of MY answers. 

I guess women don't have cooties after all. Go figure :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Glorious Unfolding

This song is my life's anthem.


The Three C's of Preparing to Receive Personal Revelation

God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them...” --Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150-151. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us from the previous statement that there is no limit to the amount or depth of personal revelation that we can receive in this life. However, he states that we can receive this revelation only “as fast as [we] are able to.”

Lorenzo Snow, 5th president of the Church added “We should try to learn the nature of [the spirit of revelation]. ... This is the grand means that the Lord has provided for us, that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark.”

How then are we to prepare so that we might understand and utilize this grand means the Lord has provided for us? How can we prepare for the light so we can stop groveling continually in the dark?

As I have studied this, I believe that the answer is threefold. We prepare our minds to receive light and truth through Christ, through Community, and through Covenant. 

Christ

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon wisely taught: 
12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name [of Christ] written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.
13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:12-13)

We cannot and will not know the things of God unless we come to personally know Him. Developing a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ allows us to, as King Benjamin said, “hear and know” the voice by which we are called.

Two essential components of an intimate relationship with Christ are daily prayers of faith, and daily scripture study. 

My mom always used to quote an old song “Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door.” The prayer of faith, submitting our wills and our desires to Christ, and acting in accordance with our prayers, is a key part of developing an intimate relationship with Christ. Daily prayer allows us to keep our minds and wills aligned with the Almighty. 

Elder Richard G. Scott gave us encouragement in this regard: “Sometimes we unwisely try to face life by depending on our own experience and capacity. It is much wiser for us to seek through prayer and divine inspiration to know what to do. Our obedience assures that when required, we can qualify for divine power to accomplish an inspired objective.”

But Robert D. Hales gave us further clarification: “For when we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures.”

Some of the most sacred experiences of my life come from the times where I have spent time immersed in the words of God as found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. My mind has been enlightened, my questions have been answered, my faith has been strengthened, and my power and resolve to resist the powers of Satan have increased exponentially. 

I testify that as we incorporate daily prayer and daily scripture study, we will begin to enjoy a sacred, deep intimate relationship with the Savior. We will hear and know his voice, and we will have taken one step in preparing to receive personal revelation. Coming to recognize the Lord's pattern of revelation to you individually through prayer and scripture study will help you know how he will respond when there are serious questions and concerns that you need answered. 

Community

We are stupid if we try and do it alone. Christ could have just taught his gospel and walked alone, but he chose 12 companions. Addicts will tell you they did not make progress until they began attending support groups. No amount of online education can replace the value that comes from a live professor face to face. 

From the very beginning, God has taught that it is not good for man to be alone. 

Sooner or later, we all will come to realize that we need each other. While our church is founded on the events of divine visitation to a fourteen year old boy in upstate New York, and while divine visitation is possible, infinitely more often then not our prayers will be answered through the actions and ministry of others. As we trust each other and share experiences, we receive insight and answers in to our own journey in life. I cannot count the number of times that a question or concern of mine has been answered through the inspired actions of friends, family, and co-workers, or through the heaven-sent comments of a fellow ward member. 

Attending church, participating in church, and becoming one with the body of Saints prepares us to receive revelation. We are stronger together then we are separately and always will be so.

Covenant

Our progression through life and our progression in the Gospel is mirrored in our experience in the temple. In our temples we participate in a ceremony called the endowment. The entire endowment experience is based on preparing to receive personal revelation, or as Adam and Eve put it, seeking further light and knowledge, as we symbolically officiate in the ordinances of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, the two priesthoods in our Church. 

The ordinances that we symbolically refer to are defined in Doctrine and Covenants 13 and Doctrine and Covenants 84:19. The two ordinances of the Aaronic priesthood are defined as the gospel of repentance, and baptism. The two ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood are the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, and the key of the knowledge of God, or put more simply, the reception of the Holy Ghost, and coming to personally know God and see Him in the flesh. 

In the endowment is a key lesson that is repeated multiple times, that we need to understand in order to prepare for personal revelation. Only after a covenant is made, and only after an ordinance is symbolically performed is further light and knowledge given. The following examples demonstrate this truth.

Only after making covenants of obedience and sacrifice, can we then officiate in the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, namely the gospel of repentance and baptism. After we make these covenants are we prepared to receive sacred key words, signs, and tokens pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood. 

Likewise, the first ordinance we officiate in pertaining to the Melchizedek priesthood is the reception of the first comforter, the Holy Ghost. the companionship of the Holy Ghost is one of the key ways we will receive revelation, so we should pay particular attention to what occurs during this part of the ceremony and the associated covenant we make. 

In the endowment, before we symbolically officiate in the first ordnance of the Melchizedek priesthood or the reception of the Holy Ghost, we make a covenant of chastity. 

Sexual impurity and infidelity in any form, even pornography and lust, can cloud our mind and impair our ability to hear the Lord's word. Compare that to the promise made to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. 

...and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
D&C 121:45-46 

To unlock the full power of the Holy Ghost, we need to strive for sexual purity and let virtue garnish our minds unceasingly. 

Framing the endowment in this way, helps us make valuable connections to doctrines and principles that will bless our lives. By making covenants of obedience and sacrifice, we show our faith and repentance, and we can, as King Benjamin taught know not only the voice which will call us, but know the names by which we will be called. By covenanting to live the law of the Gospel, we prepare to enter the waters of baptism officiating in the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood and we are clothed with power and glory, and our garments are made white through the blood of the lamb. 

By making covenants of chastity and sanctifying ourselves we prepare to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the first comforter and the first ordinance done by the power of the Melchisedek priesthood this enables us to, as stated in verse 19 understand the mysteries of the kingdom. Through this gift we come to know the Son and feel His presence in our lives.  Then as we consecrate our lives to the cause of Zion, we prepare to endure to the end, and are brought before God to receive the second comforter, even the manifestation of Jesus Christ in the flesh, the "key of the knowledge of God."

In the endowment, as in life, we prepare to receive personal revelation by living our covenants. The covenant is essential to and a prerequisite for receiving the revelation, but it is not because God keeps score of what we do wrong and right. God doesn't give us commandments for His benefit. He will always be God and his power and glory are not dependent on our individual or collective obedience to the covenants we make. Rather He gives us covenants for our own good, that we may prepare our minds and our hearts to receive all knowledge, all wisdom, and quite literally all things. 

So what's the point of all of this? Why should we prepare for revelation? Why should we develop an intimate relationship with the Savior, forge a community of service and trust, and stay true to our covenants?

The simple fact is, there will come a time in life, sooner or later, when crisis will strike. If we learn how to prepare for revelation, understand how to access, and identify the ways the Lord speaks to us, now rather than in the future, we will be adequately prepared and educated on how to overcome. 

My individual crisis occurred earlier this year. Six months ago, my life was a mess. I doubt many of you know this, but I was ready to leave the Church and literally felt no hope. Looking back I am scared at where I was and what I was contemplating doing. I felt alone, and I was completely and utterly broken. But God speaks to me in a very specific way and due to the bravery and love of a few friends both old and new, I recognized that the Lord was trying to reveal some precious truths to me. I was only able to recognize His voice and his ministry through the actions of others because of my previous experiences with personal revelation. Life since then has not been easy and I am still a broken man who needs the Savior daily, even hour by hour, minute by minute. But it has been revealed to me that I, and all of you, are 100% worth it.

Through Christ, Community, and Covenant, I have found deep peace and meaning, even a sense of my divine potential, despite all of the unpleasant experiences that are part of this journey we call life. During the past six months, I have been extremely blessed as I have prepared for personal revelation, received it and followed it.

Brothers and sisters, I testify that we can prepare for any and all knowledge to be revealed to us through Christ, community, and covenant. The Lord eagerly wants to reveal the mysteries of eternity to us, as fast as we are able to bear them. I pray that we all can have the determination to develop a personal relationship with Christ through prayer and study, establish a community of support and Christlike service, and live according to our covenants to prepare for the further light and knowledge that is sure to come. This is only the beginning of the beginning of God’s glorious unfolding of light and truth in each of our lives.

Symbolism of the Atonement in Priesthood Ordinances

I love Symbolism. I still remember how excited I was when I first read the Da Vinci Code and found out that Robert Langdon was a professor of Symbology. I was convinced that I had found my career path, until my hopes were dashed realizing that no such field of study exists. Even so, I thoroughly enjoy looking for symbolism in various parts of the gospel and in secular places as well. Bruce R. McConkie stated that it is wholesome and proper to look for symbols of Christ in all things so as to keep him foremost in our minds. As a consequence I have enjoyed seeing parallels of Christ in some of my more nerd-like hobbies. Some examples include Sam speaking to Frodo about the Ring of Power on the slopes of Mount Doom: "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you." And the significance of Spock sacrificing himself to save his crewmates in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, holding true to his belief that "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and the one."  

However, in preparation for this talk I have thought a lot about how I can approach it and best speak about it from a more serious standpoint, considering that I have been asked to speak about the most holy event in human history and how it relates to the most important steps we will ever take in life.

Preach My Gospel teaches us that the Atonement consists of three parts: 
--Suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane
--Death by Crucifixion
--Resurrection

Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, are we able to return to the presence of Heavenly Father. Only the Atonement of our Savior can help us to overcome our weaknesses, win against Satan, be perfected, and ultimately to become like God.

How is this possible, and how do priesthood ordinances relate?

I believe that Doctrine and Covenants 84:20-22 can answer our question.

20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. 
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; 
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 84)

These verses teach us that without priesthood ordinances, the power of godliness is not manifest. Simply put, we cannot become Godly without priesthood ordinances. God does not need us to participate in baptism, confirmation, and the other ordinances. He has designed these ordinances, or ceremonies, for US. As we open our hearts to him and participate in these sacred ceremonies, the power of Christ can more fully enter our lives.

From my study of the Gospel, I have identified 7 key priesthood ordinances. They are:
--Baptism by immersion
--Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost
--Partaking of the Sacrament
--Ordination to the Priesthood
--Washing and Anointing
--The Endowment
--Sealing / Celestial Marriage

As we talk about these seven ordinances I pray that the Holy Ghost will be present so that we may learn together and that all may be edified. 

Baptism

The apostle Paul teaches us about symbolism of Christ's death and resurrection in our baptism in Romans 6:3-6:

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (New Testament, Romans, Romans 6)

As we are covered completely by water in our baptism, we are washed clean of our sins, and are raised again to a new life. 


Confirmation

Joseph Smith taught the following: "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half--that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost."

When we are confirmed and are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, Joseph Fielding McConkie compares it to lighting a perpetual flame inside of us that will always burn so long as we protect it. The Holy Ghost will cleanse us and sanctify us, and will play a key part in helping us to become Godly. 


The Sacrament
 
Of all things we do in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the partaking of the sacrament is the most sacred. Symbolism of the Atonement is very strong in this sacred weekly ordinance. We are reminded each week that Christ sacrificed himself for us, not only through his death on the cross and through his flesh, but also by shedding blood in the Garden of Gethsemane as he suffered for our guilt. 

Someone remarked in an Institute class I attended that that the symbols of the sacrament are fairly common: bread and water. They suggested that perhaps these simple symbols are chosen so that each time we eat bread, or drink water, that we might "always remember Him and have His Spirit to be with us." And, just as bread and water are the basic necessities for our physical survival, likewise bread and water in the form of the Sacrament are the necessities for our spiritual survival. May we be worthy each week to partake of the bread and water and remember the great Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.


Ordination to the Priesthood

An important step in the life of each Latter-day Saint young man is to receive the Priesthood. When we receive the Priesthood and when we perform faithfully in our callings under the direction of the Priesthood, we symbolically become the hands of Jesus Christ. We become instruments for good and we can perform His work faithfully in the service of others.

It is very important to remember, however, that the blessings of the priesthood are not reserved just for men. Elder M. Russell Ballard taught this truth very clearly in the most recent general conference of the Church:

In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family. (2013 April General Conference, “This Is My Work and Glory”, Sat. Morning Session - By  M. Russell Ballard)


The final three ordinances take place in the temple. Out of respect for the Savior and his house I will not speak directly and specifically of everything that takes place there. I will use the scriptures and the words of Brad Wilcox in his book "The Continuous Conversion" to explore how the Atonement is symbolized in the temple both in modern and ancient times.


Washing and Anointing

Just as Moses washed and anointed Aaron and his sons as recorded in the Book of Exodous, we are also washed and anointed. Through this process we are set apart from the things of the world as we prepare to learn and participate in the ordinances of the temple.

The translation for Messiah is "The Annointed One" and as we are washed and anointed we become like Him, set apart and chosen to become great, and to fulfill our individual destiny. To ultimately become Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses.


The Endowment

Through the covenant promises we make in the temple, we become more Godly. We promise to obey the Laws of God, and keep promises of Obedience, Sacrifice, Chastity, and Consecration. Again, these promises we make are not for God. He doesn't need us to be obedient and faithful. WE need to be obedient and faithful for our own good. 

To help us remember him, in the temple we are given undergarments to where daily, so that we can always remember Him. The Hebrew word for Atonement is Kaphar, which means "to cover." The undergarments we are given in the temple are similar to the coats of skin given to Adam and Eve and can serve as a powerful daily reminder of the suffering of The Lord Jesus Christ.

We are also "covered" as we wear sacred temple clothing, designed to help us remember Jesus Christ and the covenant promises we take upon ourselves so that we can become godly.

Through the ordinances of the temple, the words of Doctrine and Covenants Section 84 ring loud and clear: Through the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.


Sealing

When we are sealed in the temple, we become partners with the Savior and our spouse in a three-way covenant promise. As we build our marriages and families on the Savior, he will bless us and guide us in the right way. 

One phrase in particular is found in all ordinances that take place in the temple, and it really shows us how much God cares about families. In all the ordinances in the temple we hear the phrase "That we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity." I know that through the ordinances of the temple we can find Christ there and we can make him a part of our life. He is our example, the path to salvation, and the foundation of all righteous families.

To conclude, I want to share some interesting symbolism from the Law of Moses. Brad Wilcox explores some ancient symbolism in animal sacrifice that occurred during that time period. While we do not participate in animal sacrifice today, we do "offer up the animal within us," as pointed out by Neal A Maxwell. I thought Brother Wilcox's observations might be helpful so that we can see that even hundreds of years before Christ, there were important and powerful symbols of his atonement being taught to the Jews. The following comes from his most recent book: "The Continuous Conversion":

"Anciently, the one performing the sacrifice would place the animal on the altar with its head to his right. He would then declare his authority by raising his right arm to the square, similar to how a priest today performs a baptism by raising his right arm to the square and saying, "Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ.

"The next action in an Old Testament animal sacrifice was for the one sacrificing to hold a cup with which to catch the blood of the animal. Blood, the source of life, represented Christ's atoning blood, complete with all the nourishment, purification, and healing it offers. The cup was symbolic of the bitter cup from which Jesus would drink. While holding the cup in one hand, the one performing the sacrifice would life the sacrificial knife with the other.

"Following the slaying of the animal, the one sacrificing would have held the cup of blood in one hand and laid his other hand on the head of the beast. This symbolized the connection between the sinner and the sacrificial victim and served to transfer personal sins and identity to the animal. In Numbers 8:12 we read, "And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks...to make an atonement for the Levites."

"At the end of the sacrifice, the one making the sacrifice prayed by lifting both hands above his head. In Psalm 141:2 we read "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." When Solomon dedicated the temple, he stood before the congregation "and spread forth his hands toward heaven: and he said, Lord God of Israel" (Wilcox, The Continuous Comversion)

As Brother Brad Wilcox has shown us, all throughout time there has been symbolism of Jesus Christ and his Atonement in the times of the Law of Moses, and also today. If we look for him, he is there. As He has promised us, "Seek and ye shall find"

I know that there is so much more we can learn about the Savior as we study his life and his great sacrifice. I know that we can learn more about Him as we seek to see symbols of Him in our daily life. Sometimes we will see symbols of Him in Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, and other times we will see symbols of Him in Church and as we attend the temple. Regardless of where we see symbols of Him, I pray that we can allow these symbols to help us REMEMBER what Christ did for us. That is the ultimate reason for having symbols in the first place -- to point our souls to Christ.

I know that the Atonement of the Savior is the only hope we have. It is the source of our strength and our victory against Satan. I know that the Ordinances we participate in within the Church can help us remember Christ, if we look for symbols of him. I know that if we accept Him and participate in these sacred ordinances, that the power of godliness will be manifest, and lasting change and conversion will take place.

Personal Revelation

Today I want to share what I believe are key doctrines essential to our salvation and exaltation. I would like to begin with a quote from a special witness of Jesus Christ.   

“The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve shared these words during a recent session of general conference. In this short phrase he captures the purpose of our existence and the hope within each of us that true change is possible.

Elder Bednar’s October 2012 conference talk fits into a larger theme that he has been teaching since he was sustained as an Apostle. He has focused much of his ministry on teaching us this following truth: “Our individual responsibility is to learn what we should learn, to live as we know we should live, and to become what the Master would have us become.”

There are three steps he makes clear: Learn, Do, and Become. We have an individual duty to make sure that we comply with this framework. I would like to review today how we can learn, do and become, with most of my talk focusing on the last two steps. I take most of my material from Elder Bednar’s most recent conference talk and his two recent books Increase in Learning, and Act in Doctrine.

LEARN
Elder Bednar teaches us that “the ultimate responsibility for developing spiritual strength and stamina rests upon each and every member of the church.” We are to continually learn the gospel by study and by faith. We cannot walk on borrowed light for long. 

There is a hierarchy among things that we learn. This hierarchy is composed of knowledge, understanding and intelligence. Knowledge refers to facts information and abilities obtained through experience or education. The next step is understanding. It is the keystone that is erected upon the cornerstone of knowledge and precedes intelligence. When the Holy Ghost confirms truth to us, understanding occurs in our minds and in our hearts. Intelligence involves more than just knowing. Intelligence is living in such a way that the doctrines of the gospel are an active and integral part of who we are, and what we are, and what we do and what we think. Through doctrines, principles and applications of truth we can find answers to any question we may have and we can receive tailored and individualized revelation to aid us in our quest for eternal life. With Elder Bednar, I echo the truth that: the answers to our questions are ALWAYS in the doctrines and principles of the gospel.

DO
As we seek to learn the gospel, and as we allow the Lord to touch our hearts, we develop a testimony. Yet as Elder Bednar wisely points out: Testimony is the BEGINNING of and a PREREQUISITE to continuing conversion. Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established.

Elder Bednar makes it clear that it is not enough to know. We must also do. We must be true to the truth that we know. To ultimately BECOME like our Heavenly Father, we must become converted. We must do the will of the Lord. “Conversion requires all of our heart, all of our might, and all of our mind and strength. “For many of us, conversion is an ongoing process and not a onetime event that results from a powerful or dramatic experience. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. Conversion unto the Lord requires both persistence and patience.”


BECOME
As we seek to do the will of God, I (speaking for myself) believe that we need to be careful. If we are keeping the commandments for the sake of keeping the commandments, I submit that we are misguided and that we are missing the mark. It is not enough to do, so that we may do.

Rather, if we are keeping the commandments to become converted unto the Lord, if we are keeping the commandments in order to become holy and to become one with Christ and one with God, then we are properly aligned with what The Lord desires for us. The scriptures make it very clear that we are not saved by our actions. We are not saved by the law. Salvation was not found in the law of Moses and with all of its acts, rites and regulations. Salvation is and always has been centered in Jesus Christ. Jacob makes this clear in chapter 4 of his book in the Book of Mormon: “And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him.” Like the Law of Moses did for those early saints in ancient America, so must our actions do the same. Our actions must point our souls to Christ.

It is his grace that saves us, and it is his grace that guides us each step of the way as we repent of our sins and come unto Him.

Sometimes, however, it is too easy to focus on doing instead of becoming. This is shown in one of my favorite stories, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. We see some very important contrasts between Inspector Javert, and Jean Valjean.

Inspector Javert believes wholeheartedly in the righteousness of action and in justice. He correctly identifies the importance of mankind doing what is right and what is in accordance with the law. Yet he fails to see that our actions need to lead us somewhere. For years he hunts down Jean Valjean, an ex-convict. He becomes obsessed with administering justice and with catching Jean Valjean. For Inspector Javert, the only thing that mattered is what one did, including himself. He failed to see that doing is a key step to becoming.

Jean Valjean, on the other hand, is charged by a local church leader to become an honest man. The once-robber seeks throughout his life to BECOME what the good bishop intended him to become. He gives money to the poor, becomes an honest politician (which of course are never easy to find), he saves a woman from a cruel death, and raises that woman’s child as if it were his own. He saves a young man from certain death at the barricades, and when given the chance to get even, he spares the life of his mortal enemy. It would be easy for Jean Valjean to believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It would be easy for Jean Valjean to stop at the level of Javert and purely believe in justice and revenge. But instead, Jean looks beyond doing to what he must become. Jean Valjean can represent each of us as we seek to let our actions help us become an honest man or woman, and to become like Christ.

As Les Miserables illustrates, doing is a key part of becoming. Our actions will ultimately define who we will become. President Monson puts it well when he teaches that our “decisions determine our destiny.” What then, should we become? Our goal should be to become converted unto the Lord Jesus Christ.

Elder Bednar identifies five elements of becoming converted to the Lord in Samuel the Lamanite’s preaching in Helaman 15. As we examine this framework for conversion, we can see very clearly the pattern of Learning, Doing and Becoming.
We must believe in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets as they are recorded in the scriptures. This is what we must learn and seek to understand. Next Samuel lays out some actions we must take.
We must exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
We must repent. As we exercise faith and repent, then through the Lord’s help we can become who the Lord would have us become.
We can experience a mighty change of heart and 
Become firm and steadfast in the faith.

To close, I want to strongly echo what Elder Bednar teaches about the importance of conversion. “Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living. Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need.”

Brothers and Sisters, I pray that each of us may look deep into our hearts and ask ourselves: Why do I do what I do? Am I living in accordance with what I know? Do my actions reflect who I want to become? Who am I becoming? I need to ask myself these questions continually so that I may be sure that I am becoming who I want to be.

I testify that true conversion and true change of nature comes only through the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe me, I have tried other ways. And they do not work. Any success that I have had in changing who I am is through Christ. Self help books offer temporary solutions, the adversary offers us false and cheap shortcuts. Only Christ offers us the lasting change that we desire and that we need.

 I hope and pray that all of us may follow the counsel of Elder Bednar and not only learn and do, but ultimately BECOME CONVERTED to the Lord. Become one with God and Christ. Become a committed latter-day saint. Become a disciple of the Savior. That we may ultimately become the kings and queens, the priests and priestesses we are meant to become. I know that this is what The Lord intends for each of us, and it is only through His atonement that it is even possible. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Law of Sacrifice

I had some thoughts/promptings I wanted to share about a passage from Moses 5:6 that I think I can apply to same-sex attraction.
6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
Adam didn't know why he offered up something that he valued (in this case the firstling of the flock), but he did so because The Lord commanded him. Committing to covenants of chastity and morality as a same-sex attracted individual may draw the same question from friends and others....Why would I "give that life up?"
I feel like the spirit taught me today a little bit more about what sacrifice means. I may not know why The Lord has established the laws of chastity and morality, but I do know he has established them. I can choose to follow Him and in doing so gain some further light and knowledge.

Become Hope


Some inspiring words from Gwen Stacy's valedictorian speech from The Amazing Spiderman 2. I love how it can apply to SSA. 
"It's easy to feel hopeful on a beautiful day like today, but there will be dark days ahead of us too, and they'll be days where you feel all alone, and that's when hope is needed most, no matter how buried it gets, or how lost you feel, you must promise me, that you will hold on to hope. Keep it alive, we have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you, is to become hope, people need that, and even if we fail, what better way is there to live. As we look around here today, and all the people who helped make us who we are...we will carry a piece of each other, into everything we do next, to remind us of who we are, and what we're meant to be."


The Importance of Boundaries

I have individual goals of remaining worthy to enter the temple, and having healthy, appropriate, and fulfilling relationships with men. As I pondered a good, simple guideline to help me achieve these goals, and at the same time develop strong and intimate friendships with other men, I felt that I should have the principle of brotherhood guide me in all my relationships.   

Here is what I came up with for my own individual circumstances: In developing relationships and friendships with other men, I will interact with them as brothers would. If an activity, conversation, or relationship goes beyond the scope of brother, then I will have the courage to recognize it and rectify it.

Handling Crushes

Many times I have felt paralyzed when I have come across attractive guys and wanted to talk to them.

Once I get to know them, really know them, then I come to love them as friends and buddies. 

I once heard from a friend that the exotic is erotic. Various times I've talked to super attractive guys I've had crushes on and as I talked with them and found common ground I saw them less as objects of desire and more as brothers, buddies, and friends. Once their mysteriousness went away so did the crush and in most cases I ended up with a good solid friend in its place. 

Although Chris Evans will always be my man crush......what a man!



Our Role as SSA Mormons

One way that I believe Same Sex Attraction is a blessing for Latter-day Saints is that those of us that experience it, in my opinion, are the best suited to understand what real brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ is.
While we are far more than just our sexuality, I think our united experience of SSA and a desire to remain faithful to covenants enables us to understand one another and relate with each other in ways that other men & women can't. I truly believe that we have an important part to play in the Church and in the world at large, showing others that it is possible to be a Child of God, a faithful Christian, an active and worthy Mormon, and gay. Showing others that sexuality and/or often misunderstood experiences don't define a person, but divine nature and potential does. Showing others that the DOCTRINE of the Restored Gospel has a place for ALL of God's children.

The Extraordinary Life

So throughout the six or so months since I've started to address same-sex attraction, an idea and belief has been brewing in my mind and I have now come to believe it as absolute eternal truth. The seed for this new life outlook began with Camille Fronk Olson's comments during her address at the 2014 North Star Conference about Satan desiring to sift us as wheat.
I believe that no Latter-day Saint is to live an ordinary life. 
Experiencing sexual attraction to the same sex is definitely out of the ordinary, as are multiple other traits and characteristics. On the one hand, I feel that sometimes we "preach the pattern" over the pulpit, idealizing how life "should" be as Latter-day Saints. But the more I get to know people, the more I believe that we should shun the ordinary paradigm of how life should be and embrace the extra-ordinary within each of us. 
I believe that our extra-ordinary traits and experiences, such as SSA in our case, was given to us as a gift and a calling to experience a Latter-day Saint life far different from the idealized romanticized perfect pattern. With my experiences and attractions, I have the opportunity to share beautiful insights into doctrine that most others in my ward will never have. As I listen to my fellow Saints, and fellowship them, I see how their life experiences shape their insights and beliefs and together both I and my fellow LDS friends experience improvement and growth through these interactions. Real community develops with open and honest dialogue. 
One of my oldest and most wanted dreams growing up was to be "just like everyone else." I see now how foolish and dumb that desire was for my own individual well-being and how it limits my potential positive impact. There's too much I would lose individually and collectively if I ran away from that which makes me "different."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Living the Lifestyle

So I had some free time at work tonight so I listened to some of my favorite conference talks again. 

In Elder Klebingat's talk from the October 2014 LDS General Conference, he talks about making repentance our "lifestyle" of choice. 

So many times I hear about people who want to "live the gay lifestyle" and sometimes in my dark moments the natural man within me wants to go and wave that rainbow flag and be wild and crazy till the cows come home. 

But instead of desiring a gay lifestyle, how much cooler is it to center my life around repentance? Instead of seeking personal pleasure, I can grow my personal potential. Instead of selfish sexual satisfaction, I can seek selfless spiritual sanctification. Instead of living with lust, I can learn to love and develop true brotherhood with other men. 

To clarify, I don't need to repent for being attracted to men. But I do have a lot of other things I can repent of daily. I'm shown through this marvelous gem of a conference talk what can happen if I learn to use, embrace, and liberally apply the Atonement of Christ.

I have work to do. Shoulder to the wheel!