Getting to work: The Lord Trusts Us

Hello all!

It has been some time since I posted last. For that I apologize. This has been a very busy semester for me, but I am doing well.

I was recently called to be in the brach presidency for my branch. I. Was. Terrified. I didn’t feel ready or worthy. I am just imperfect old me. For the past year I haven’t liked being at church because I had a bad taste taste in my mouth from some of the negative people who were there when I first arrived. I went, but only because I felt like I was supposed to. There was little joy for me and it was hard for me to focus and feel the spirit.  

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All of that has changed. Since receiving this calling I feel more invigorated in church as well as in school and other social settings. I like those I see more and I feel generally better. What changed? Mostly, my attitude. It was so easy for me to not enjoy church (or other aspects of my life) because I was letting myself have negative thoughts about those I worshipped/spent time with. Many of them had made me feel unwelcome and unwanted and that was hard for me to let go. But as I have started to serve them and do my best to help my brothers and sisters (those both in and out of the LDS community) grow and come closer to Jesus Christ, I have felt my own love for them grow.

Another reason I have been struggling is because I have felt like I was being a disappointment to God. Since I started my graduate program, I have been noticing men more. And it has been so frustrating! Sure I have always been attracted to guys, but I feel like every other guy I see I want to just stare at (maybe they are just prettier here than back home?). Even regular friendships have been more difficult for me to develop, because I find myself admiring traits they may have and then starting to feel romantic, so I have to remove myself from the situation.

I was feeling pretty guilty about it. I was continuing to keep my covenants, but still felt so awful about this increase in the strength of my attractions. But when I was called to be in the presidency, I was told something very special. The member of the Stake Presidency who talked with me told me that the Lord trusts me, which is why I was being called to this position. And I have seen that. I am still me. I am still trying not to constantly be distracted by the men around me. But I have received a confirmation that my efforts are acceptable to the Lord. And he has been rewarding me with peace, joy, and comfort. It has been a relief and I have been able to dismiss the guilt and let go of my feelings of inadequacy as I see the Lord working in this branch.

As a result, I have been able to let go of my previous feelings of negativity, and I am seeing how much this branch has changed. We have had several baptisms this year. In fact this month there will be more baptisms than all of last year. More and more less active members are seeking to come back to church. We have three pairs of missionaries here to help us. The attitude of the members has changed completely. Our testimony meeting today was incredible. So many shared their testimonies and the spirit was stronger than I had ever felt here in this branch. The members here are seeking to serve and uplift others, share the gospel, learn of Christ and His teachings, and on and on. The Lord knew that if I was not on board, I wouldn’t see this wonderful work, and that I would probably end up hindering it. He has helped me see that while I may be imperfect, I can still be of great service. And that I am loved no matter what.

Remember, the Lord trusts us. We are his hands here on this earth. So let’s get to work!

Church Instructs Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints released this statement today. I agree with and support it. 
 
OFFICIAL STATEMENT —  10 JANUARY 2014
Church Instructs Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage
SALT LAKE CITY — 

Following recent court actions bearing on same-sex marriage, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles today sent the following instructions and guidance to congregational leaders throughout the United States. Leaders were asked to share this information with their members in appropriate settings.

 

On December 20, 2013, a federal district judge in Salt Lake City issued an order legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah, striking down century-old state laws and a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman. The United States Supreme Court has put that ruling on hold pending consideration of the issue by an appellate court. During the interval between the district court ruling and the Supreme Court stay, numerous same-sex marriages were performed in Utah. Legal proceedings and legislative action in some other states and countries have given civil recognition to same-sex marriage relationships.

As we face this and other issues of our time, we encourage all to bear in mind our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:27–28). “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society. Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation.

Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review and teach Church members the doctrine contained in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it. The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.

Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there.

While these matters will continue to evolve, we affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree.

As members of the Church, we are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to illuminate the great blessings that flow from heeding God’s commandments as well as the inevitable consequences of ignoring them. We invite you to pray that people everywhere will have their hearts softened to the truths of the gospel, and that wisdom will be granted to those who are called upon to decide issues critical to society’s future.

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-instructs-leaders-on-same-sex-marriage

Church Leaders Teach Love and Kindness

I have been thinking about this for some time and a friend recently posted the link below to the Mormon and Gay Facebook group. I am so grateful to hear our church leaders to continue to teach that Christlike love is always the most important thing.

I believe that my Heavenly Father wants me to marry a woman and not act on my attractions to men. But I also believe that those who do live a gay lifestyle should still be treated with love and respect, and should they choose to come and worship with us, they should be welcome. I hope that the membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints can learn to love and accept those who choose to live differently than we do.

I do want to say,and I am grateful for this, that I believe that those in the Church who do not show love and kindness to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are in the minority. I hope this attitude of Christlike love will spread.

Below are excerpts from an interview of an Oregon Stake President. Allen Oyler put together presentations and a panel discussion about keeping families together when a son, daughter or other member comes out to their loved ones. The church considers it a sin to act on a same-sex attraction, though the attraction itself is not necessarily a sin in Mormonism.  Link to full text here.

 

Q: What was the inspiration behind these events?

A: Each congregation is headed by a bishop, and the stake president is responsible for a group of congregations. In my case there are eight separate congregations, so eight separate bishops I’m responsible for. As a bishop, I had what I would consider to be one of the best young men I’ve ever met, and he came to my office one day and expressed that he was gay. I found myself not being able to know how to advise him, or how to talk to him, or how to help him work through his issues. So I decided to learn what I needed to know in terms of individuals who experience same-gender attraction.

Q: What message were you trying to get across in your presentations?

A: The doctrine hasn’t changed as far as the church is concerned, but what needs to change is how we as members deal with and address people who are experiencing same-sex attraction.

I wanted to convey to families that irrespective of what happens, whatever life’s challenges are, the family unit is the most important thing. And under no circumstances should they find themselves ostracizing or disrespecting members of their family. I think if individuals experiencing same-gender attraction knew within their hearts that their parents would love them and accept them no matter what, there would be much more love and acceptance and less suicide and mental struggles.

The piece of the message I want to make sure our congregation understands is that as members of the Mormon church, we should be in the forefront of compassion and love and outreach to others. It’s not good enough just to be aware of it; we need to be at the forefront of love and acceptance, of love and respect and outreach to those experiencing same-gender attraction.

Q: What kind of response did you get after the presentations?

A: Whether it was out of kindness or whether it was heartfelt, I never received any negative comments. I had several people indicate that they had a completely different perspective, and that it was good to see the leadership of the church make statements that gave them hope and understanding. I had members in the audience who sent me emails, some anonymously, saying, “Thank you, I have struggled with this all my life. I’m glad to see that we’re taking this kind of approach.”

Q: Do you think this is something you might do again in the future?

A: It certainly may come up. I think it’s fresh enough in people’s minds that it probably wouldn’t occur relatively soon. But yes, I would consider it in the future.

Q: Going back to the city’s Human Rights Award, what are some things you think the Beaverton community could do to advance human rights as a whole?

A: I think central to the theme is that families need to make sure they understand their significance, and that no one should be ostracized. We have differences; we’ll deal with differences. But you can’t deal with them with hate or rejection. You can’t make your way back to God through hate.

Gay Marriage in Utah

The Church released the statement below, and I agree completely.

“The Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with respect. This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process. We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court.”

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-issues-statement-following-overturning-of-same-sex-marriage-ban-

The House of the Lord

Yesterday in church I was speaking with a friend and he told me that he went through the Temple and took out his endowments the day before. I told him that I was endowed only a year ago. I looked at my phone and realized that it was in fact a year ago to the day. I am grateful that I had that reminder. Having the opportunity to enter the temple was a wonderful blessing and a comfort for me. I remember very clearly the lessons I learned there and I want to take the time now to share them.

Lesson #1: The Temple truly is the House of the Lord.

Not only is it His house, it is a house of order. While there, I saw a childhood friend whom I had not seen in many years. I hugged her and was able to briefly speak with her. Seeing her there was a wonderful surprise and a comfort to me. I saw another friend of mine from college there and we spoke for a few minutes while I waited for the Temple President to come and speak to me. I also saw a few other close friends whom I was able to share that special moment with.

While in the actual endowment session, I realized that I knew everyone in the endowment room. The thing that is unique about this is that I had told very few people that I was going to the Temple that day. The Lord blessed me with people I knew and loved so they could help guide me through that learning experience. It was so clear to me, and still is now, that our Heavenly Father loves us and is conscious of us. The Temple is his house and He is in control.

Lesson #2: The things that happen in the Temple are sacred and wonderful.

While in the Temple, I was overwhelmed with peace and comfort. I knew that what I was doing would help me come closer to my Father in Heaven and that it would help me understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ more in my life. I knew in that moment that the knowledge received there and the covenants made are from God Himself and that it is good. Sure it was new and different, but the goodness was abundantly clear.

Lesson #3: I was doing the right things with my life.

Shortly before entering the temple, I had several people tell me that I was doing the wrong thing with my life. They were saying that I was foolishly devoting my life to something that would only bring loneliness and that choosing to not pursue a gay lifestyle was denying “who I was”. I prayed for several weeks to have Heavenly Father give me comfort and peace of mind while in His House.

In the celestial room I had a very special experience. I do not wish to go into detail as it was very sacred to me, but I will say that those feelings of doubt left my mind completely. I knew that I was living right. I knew that the sacrifices I was making, while difficult, were indeed worth it. I felt peace, comfort, and a resolve to continue to make the decisions I was making.

For many years I was afraid to let myself have true friendships with men because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle or understand the line between friendship and romantic feelings. I wanted to love men in a Christlike way but wasn’t sure how to do it. Over time I learned to develop relationships with men that were healthy and wholesome. With me there in the temple were several friends whom I love very deeply. While in the Celestial room, I felt that the love I had for these men was righteous and good. That memory has strengthened me and given me hope for future relationships. I am so blessed to have had them with me and I am grateful for their love and friendship. Through them I received validation for my actions.

Lesson #4: The Temple brings us close to God.

The overarching lesson for me was that the Temple is good and that it is somewhere that our Heavenly Father wants us to be there. While there, the Spirit taught me that if I regularly entered the Temple, I would not be led astray. I knew that spending time there would protect me and help me make good decisions and choices and that I would not begin to challenge principles that I knew were true.

That lesson applies to more than just me. Anyone who regularly attends the Temple of the Lord will be guided by the Spirit in their lives. There are so many thoughts about how to live and what we should believe. On some issues, the leaders of the Church have been very clear. On others, it seems that they have been silent. Whatever the case, attending the Temple will give clarity of mind and will align our wills with our Father’s. I have felt it and know that it is true.

God’s house is a holy and sacred place. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have in this life to enter and learn while there. For anyone who has not or cannot enter the Temple, I urge you to do what is necessary to be able to enter there worthily. The blessings are innumerable and it will bless you and your family for eternity.

How far is heaven? I testify that in the holy temples it is not far at all—for it is in these sacred places that heaven and earth meet and our Heavenly Father gives His children His greatest blessings. As we touch the temple and love the temple, our lives will reflect our faith. As we go to the holy house, as we remember the covenants we make therein, we will be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation. -President Thomas S. Monson

Two Years Ago Today

I haven’t posted in about three months. For this I apologize. It started with me being incredibly busy, but then became some sort of guilt for not posting that became a paralyzing fear. That, plus I have been struggling to feel loved of late, it has been hard for me to write. But I am better now and I am excited to be writing again.

It seems that it was not long ago that I was writing my 1 year anniversary post, and now here I am again with another year gone. It was on this night two years ago that I started this blog. I had been in the Priesthood session of conference and felt inspired to write a blog about my attractions, so I went home and started writing.

So now, tonight, two years later, I am back from the Priesthood session of conference and I am reflecting on the last two years of my life, specifically how it has been changed by my blog. So much has happened. I have made many friends and sadly have lost a few. My testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been strengthened beyond what I thought possible. I have changed and become happier. I am more devoted to my Heavenly Father.  I am striving to improve parts of my life that two years ago seemed so insignificant, because I felt there were bigger problems to work through.

And I am so much better for it! I have found direction in my life that I didn’t have before. I am happier than I have ever been. Yes I still have my struggles. As I said, I am currently having a bit of a hard time right now. I am not feeling love from those around me and I sometimes equate that to “well God doesn’t love me right now” which I know is ridiculous.  While I may be having a hard time, it feels different tha it did a few years ago. I am learning more through my trials than I used to and that brings me comfort.

I want to share my testimony. I know that what I am doing is right. Many people think that I am being foolish and that I should just find a boyfriend and forget my struggle. But I know that that would be betraying both who I am and my Father in Heaven who gave me this struggle so that I might learn to love Him more. I would be betraying my Savior who suffered so much to make it possible for me to repent when I have made mistakes. His love has given me strength and joy in my decision.

To those who may struggle or wonder, I say to you that God loves you. You are not alone. I also give you my personal witness of the truthfulness of this gospel. Living it has brought me greater joy than ever. I do not speak out of inexperience; I know first hand the seeming joy that a gay lifestyle can bring, but it is not lasting. You can live a chaste life. It may seem hard or even impossible, but it can be done.

What I have learned is that in order to live as the Lord has asked of us, we must truly seek him. Read His words and pray to Him. As we do, he will draw closer to us and we will feel his love and comfort. With that love we will be able to resist any temptation. The Savior can indeed help us become better. Imagine for a moment someone who wants to wash filth from themselves but yet insists on rolling in the mud. You will never become clean that way.  I challenge anyone reading this, whether your struggle be with same sex attraction or with anger or gossip or anything, seek the Lord. Turn away from the things in your life that you know are not good for you spiritual growth. I know far too many men who are willing to give having a boyfriend a try, but not willing enough to give the Lord a chance to show them the happiness which they seek.

Jesus Christ has no agenda. He wants only our happiness and joy. He is the best companion we could seek for  in this life, He will grant us peace and comfort in our afflictions and our burdens will indeed be made light. I thank my Heavenly Father for the gift of His Son and for the ability I have to repent and change through the Atonement. I hope that all of you can come to know this same truth.

-M&G

A Much Needed Retrogression

The past few weeks have been really difficult for me and I am just beginning to understand (at least I think I am) why.

In high school I was outwardly a very social and happy person. Inside I dealt with crippling anxiety and depression. I wanted to go and interact with friends and develop relationships, but every time I did I would come home feeling even more depressed and upset with myself. Invariably I would say or do something that I would perceive was not well accepted by the group  as a whole or at least by individuals that I wanted to think highly of me. I would often leave social gatherings suddenly and without explanation just so I could escape the seeming awkwardness and negativity that I assumed I had created.

With time I learned that 99% of that was in my head. No, not everything I did was well received, but I learned that for the most part I was well liked and that people enjoyed my company. I slowly learned to trust people when they said that they liked me and wanted to spend time with me. I learned that sometimes they might be having a bad day and reacted the way they did towards me not because they found my actions unsavory, but rather because they were not feeling mentally balanced and just didn’t know how to act in general. I began to feel more and more comfortable with people. I also learned to just wade through those feelings of self-doubt and wait until I knew people better. The better I knew them, the more convinced I became that they really and truly did like me.

The beginning of my undergraduate career set me back a little. I was in new social situations and I began to feel some of the same things I had felt in high school; I was convinced that I was disliked and that people just put up with me because they thought it was the right thing to do. Luckily, I had close friends who I could lean on and trust that at least they loved me, and I was able to cope. Again, with time, I learned to push through the feelings of worthlessness to realize that it was all in my head. The people that I called my friends truly were my friends and I didn’t need to doubt their love or their intentions.

Well here I am, 24 years old and in graduate school, and I feel like I am sixteen all over again. Once again I find myself doubting my self worth. Even though I know better, I feel convinced that my new friends can’t possibly be friends. How could they like me when I do and say the things that I do? It doesn’t help that in reality there are one or two people with whom I have had very few positive interactions. When I have moments like that with people I find myself thinking “Well if they don’t like me, how can the rest of them like me?”

What foolishness! I know better than that! I’ve been down into this dark ravine before and come through on the other side remarkably happy! And I think that is what makes this so difficult for me now. I feel like I have taken several large leaps backward. I hate having to redo things. I hate it with a passion. It seems, though, that repetition is one of the best ways to learn things, and I think the Lord knows this and is simply trying to help me realize that I do indeed know how to cope.

In my undergrad, when I last regressed, I leaned on close friends. I used them to help stabilize myself as I learned how to accept people and let them accept me in their own time. The thing that has been so difficult is that while I may still have those friends, they are not here with me. Those whom I love and hold dear to my heart aren’t here for me to spend time with and cry with and talk with me face to face. Without that safety net I have felt myself fall back into a far too familiar depression and cycle of self doubt and mistrust.

However, as I have thought about that former support web and how I can function without it here, I realized that I have developed a new method of support that can function without my close friends being in my immediate vicinity. That is my love for and dependance on Jesus Christ, as well as his returned love and mercy. In recent years I have been developing my relationship with the Savior and I have, without knowing, created a new support system for myself. It has lifted me up in my trials and helped me keep going when all seemed lost.

What I have found is that I am currently suffering from an old vice and that the old methods are not available to help me. Now is my chance to put my new support method into action. The more I think about it, the more exciting it is! I have found a way to rely on my Savior for love and support, thus making it possible for me to function when other means of help are not available to me.

The Lord has promised help to those who come unto Him. I am so grateful to have a new opportunity to test that out. I know it will take time. I will still feel lonely and depressed. I will still feel unwanted and unwelcome. I will still doubt that people truly care for me and I will feel obnoxious and annoying and like I am doing all of the wrong things.  But only for a while.

 For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.

 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.  (3 Nephi 22/Isaiah 54)

I’ll have to learn to deal with this anew. It will take a while, but I will be gathered in and my Lord and Redeemer will have mercy upon me and I’ll learn how to deal with this all over again. Basically, yeah, life sucks sometimes, but I’ll be ok.

-M&G

P.S. I’m not asking for pity. Please don’t leave mushy responses about how I am loved. Deep down I know that, I’m just having a hard time understand it at the moment. If you want to help or encourage, a few prayers would be most appreciated. Thanks friends.
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