Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Line in the Sand

On Thursday, November 5th I drove to California to visit my friends Ian and Amy.  It had been more than a year since I'd seen them so while we ate dinner and caught up on our lives I ignored my phone buzzing in my pocket.  When I finally pulled it out I had a few messages from friends in Tucson saying that the Mormon internet was exploding with news of new policy from the church.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  After some more chatting with Ian and Amy and playing with their kids for a bit I got online to see what was up.  When I read that a new policy stated that entering into a same-gender marriage was now considered apostasy I was stunned.  Most of the reactions I saw online were either anger and betrayal or simply disbelief or confusion.  Since the announcement hadn't come directly from the church a lot of people thought it was a hoax or misinformation.  I fell into that camp and decided to wait for official word from the church.  

Even though I've known Ian and Amy for years I only came out to them last year via email.  We hadn't seen each other since then so we spent some time talking about my experiences as a gay Mormon and what that has meant for me.  We also discussed the new policy at length.  When the interview with Elder Christofferson was posted I watched it alone with anxious anticipation.  I was hoping that he would repudiate the policy, apologize for the misinformation, and talk about how awesome his gay brother Tom is.  But instead he justified and explained the policy.  I felt sick.  Ian hadn't watched the interview yet and he asked me what I thought.  I just responded with my gut reaction, "I didn't care for it."

My initial thought after watching the interview was, "I don't want to do this anymore.  I just want to be dead."  The Brethren drew a very clear line in the sand which only leaves two options for me as a gay man if I want to stay in the church: marry a woman or stay single for the rest of my life.  Both of those options sounded terrible and at the moment I didn't feel like trying.  I should also say that at no point was I suicidal, I just felt extremely discouraged.

You see, deep down I want to be an apostate.  And by saying that I don't mean that I want to turn away from the truth, but that I really, really want to be in a committed relationship with a man that I love.  In fact, I want that so bad that it's the second most thing I want in this life.  The only thing that trumps it is my desire to do God's will.  And that's where the desiring death comes in.  If I want to stay in the church I can't have a committed relationship to a man.  Not only is it considered a sin, but it's a sin so bad that I'd be considered an apostate.  This was perplexing to me because I'm human and I know what it's like to feel sorrow when I sin, to want to repent, and the joy that comes when I feel I've become a better person.  But there was a time when I really fell for a guy.  And not just a crush, but like really, really loved another man and loving him didn't feel like a sin to me.  In fact, it felt really awesome. 

Two years ago I totally fell for my best friend and he fell for me even more.  He was smarter, funnier, and cuter than me.  We would talk for hours on end and I just always wanted to be with him.  My journal is riddled with entries where I express how happy I was to have him in my life.  I was baffled that someone so handsome and cool was interested me.  And what was even crazier was that he felt the same way about me.  He felt like I was getting the raw end of the deal and that he was the lucky one.  I was completely committed to keeping the commandments and especially committed to keeping the covenants I had made with God.  I thought that my best friend and I could share our lives and have a platonic friendship.  I naively thought that we could make that work.  One day he asked if I'd be his boyfriend and even though I yearned to say yes I said no.  A few weeks later he asked me again and with more pain than before I again told him no.  A little more time passed and he once again asked if I'd be his boyfriend and even though I loved him more than any of the girls I had dated and I wanted very much to say yes, I told him no.  He told me that he didn't want to be someone's Abrahamic sacrifice.  He didn't want to be the sacrifice that someone made to show God how faithful he could be.  And yet that is what my best friend had become to me, the thing I was willing to sacrifice for God.  Since we couldn't have a real relationship he said that we needed to part ways and we did.  Losing him from my life was one of the most painful things that has ever happened to me because I really loved him and wanted to date him, but I knew I couldn't.  My heart told me one thing and my church told me another.  I had to choose and I chose my church.

On Valentine's Day 2009 I took "The Sound of Music" tour by
myself in Salzburg, Austria (I know, such a super gay thing to
do).  This is me in front of the famous gazebo wondering,
"Where's my significant other?"
The story I just told is incredibly reductive.  There's no way I could do justice to one of the most important and formative experiences of my life in a paragraph.  But I tell that very simplified story so that people will see that to me it didn't feel like a sin to love another man.  It felt wonderful and good.  All those cheesy movies and love songs suddenly made sense to me even though they hadn't for the first 29 years of my life (I know, such a cliché thing to say, but it's true).  And I was willing to give it all away to do what I felt to be God's will.  The memories of this time flooded into my mind after I listened to Elder Christofferson's interview.   I realized that if I wanted to stay in this church and hope for the eternal life and future that it promises, that I wasn't allowed to hope for this thing that I wanted so bad.  And knowing that I wasn't allowed to hope for that made me think that I'd be better off dead.

I woke up the next morning to a text message from a friend in Utah expressing her love for me and telling me how much she wished that we lived close to each other so she could see me regularly.  She wrote in part, "What a great blessing that would be to me to have such a good friend in my life.  You're the best."  Over the next 24 hours I got Facebook messages, emails, texts, and phone calls from dozens of people asking how I was doing, expressing love for me, and telling me how much I meant to them.  All these messages reminded me of how great my life is and the desire for the grave I had felt the previous night left and shows no sign of returning.  The visceral response I initially had went away as I saw and felt all the love and empathy that exists in my community.  And the future looked bright and happy again. 

That day I spent a lot of time with Ian, Amy, and their kids.  Their three year old constantly tried to get my attention by asking me silly questions like if I'd like to eat a whale.  Then he'd yell, "Look at my sock!" and I'd look.  Then he'd yell, "Look at my other sock!" and I'd look again.  It was pretty adorable.  Amy told me how much she hoped I'd get a job in California so I could live close to them.  Ian said, "I know you haven't left yet, but when are you going to come back?"  Amy then suggested that I visit twice a year and Ian offered that I visit at least once a quarter.  It was hard to be annoyed or angry at a policy when so many wonderful people were telling me how much they wanted me in their lives. 

Over the weekend both Ian and Amy expressed a lot of empathy for the choice I have to make between being part of the church and marrying a man I love.  During one of our conversations Amy said, "If the church brought back polygamy I just couldn't do it.  I don't think I could live like that."  I've heard a lot women in the church say similar things, that polygamy is a deal breaker for them.  They would refuse to participate in it.  However, I think they're looking at things a little too simplistically.  I think that most of them, if they felt they were being commanded by God to do, would do it.  They would weep, they would struggle, they would get mad at God, but they would obey trusting that their Heavenly Father knows best.  Some would leave, of course, but I think many would have their hearts broken and would remain in the church that they believe is true.  And this scenario isn't too crazy.  The doctrine of plural marriage still exists in our scriptures and could theoretically be reinstated any day. 

I feel like I'm being asked to live polygamy.  Now obviously I haven't been asked to have multiple wives (and thank goodness for that!), but just like the men and women of 19th century Mormonism, I have made decisions relating to marriage that have broken my heart because I believe the tenets of my religion.  I'm sure that many of the men and women who entered into polygamous marriages because of their faith in "the principle" as they called it would have preferred to be in monogamous relationships.  And there are gay members of the church who would prefer to marry someone of their same gender, but who remain single and celibate because of "the policy."  If you want to have a little taste of the choices we gay members of the church have to make, take some time to imagine how you would respond if you were asked to participate in a plural marriage. 

Is it fair that my religion requires so much of its members?  That's for each individual to decide.  Those who don't believe would say that I'm being foolish.  I have felt pitied by those not of my faith for the choice that I make to stay single.  But if I entered into a same-sex marriage my church would condemn me.  Elder Perry would have described the love I'd have for my husband as "counterfeit love."  I have heard rational people say to me, "Stop living your life according to the rules of your homophobic church.  Just be yourself."  And I have heard others say, "Just follow the prophet, he knows the way."  But it's not that simple.  There are two things I want and I can't have them both.  So I pray and I fast and I read and I ponder and I serve and I try to figure out what God wants me to do.  And I feel called to live my life the way that I am living it. 

I simply ask that you don't pity those of us who decide to be celibate and stay in the church.  We're simply doing what we feel is right.  I ask that you don't condemn the gay members who choose to leave.  I have many friends in that situation and I know that they are simply doing what they feel is right.  We all turn away from the truth when we sin which technically makes all of us apostates.  As President Uchtdorf has said, "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you do."  Especially if that sin is being in a committed relationship with someone that they love.

I wrote a blog post in June in which I described a lot of the loneliness I've felt.  That was true for me back then, but the last five months have been incredible, easily one of the happiest times in my life and I have rarely felt lonely.  I could go on and on about all the great things I do that bring me meaning and happiness, but the things that have been the most meaningful to me are the outreach I'm doing in my area.  I now hold a regular support group for gay Mormons.  A friend and I started Ally Night where we talk to straight members of the church, share our stories, answer their questions, and try to expand the empathy and compassion they feel for gay members.  And I had the singular privilege of addressing a group at the Tucson LDS Institute for fifty minutes about my experiences as a gay Mormon.  I feel like that is one of the most important things I've ever done.

The Brethren have drawn a line in the sand and I have chosen my side.  I'm committed to doing all I can to making my side of the line the happiest and healthiest place it can be.  And to those of you who have chosen the other side of the line, know that I love you and respect you.  I do not condemn you.  In fact, I often envy you.  I just ask that you don't pity me because I am happy on my side of the line. 

We Mormons talk about our pioneer heritage a lot.  We're proud of those people who left homes and families to establish their Zion in the west.  They were required to sacrifice a great deal for their faith.  For many, that sacrifice included being in polygamous marital relationships that tested their faith and broke their hearts.  I feel like what is being asked of me isn't all that different and I'm happy to sacrifice for what I believe is the truth. 

I'm going to end this post by being a little too cheesy and quoting a primary song that encapsulates how I'm trying to live my life.

You don't have to push a handcart,
Leave your fam'ly dear,
Or walk a thousand miles or more
To be a pioneer!
You do need to have great courage,
Faith to conquer fear,
And work with might for a cause that's right
To be a pioneer!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Institute Devotional

Today I spoke at the Tucson LDS Institute about my experiences as a gay Mormon.  A number of people who weren't able to attend asked me to record my remarks so I did (with the Institute's permission).  I only recorded the audio and the recording device was in my shirt pocket so there are some rustling noises from time to time.  Also, there were some questions at the end of the talk that are a little hard to hear and I apologize for the poor audio quality.

YouTube wouldn't allow me to upload just audio so I had to upload a picture as well.  I chose a picture of me in Tucson because the people here in this corner of Zion have been absolutely wonderful.  I love this place because of the people here (and all the saguaros, too).  I stopped the recording after my talk, but I wish I had kept it on because Brother Bauer had some really nice, supportive things to say.  He's one of the many great people that I know here.  I'm so glad that he trusted me enough to ask me to speak.

And finally, at the beginning of the talk I reference my favorite hymn, but don't say what it is.  It's "Because I Have Been Given Much."



Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Time I Almost Left the Church

A few people have asked me what I thought about Elder Holland’s talk during the October General Conference.  Here are my thoughts on that talk.

I loved it. 

The talk, of course, was about the love of mothers and I was reminded of how my own mother was willing to give her life so I would have the chance to be born (I wrote more about that here).  The reason so many people asked me about this particular talk is because a large chunk of it is devoted to how a mother helped her son cope with the burden of same-sex attraction.  I am grateful to Elder Holland for this portion of his talk because he shared some things that members of the church oftendon't understand about same-sex attraction.

First, he explained the real pain the young man was going through.  Elder Holland said, “He was still worthy, but his faith was at crisis level.  His emotional burden grew ever heavier.  And his spiritual pain was more and more profound.  He was by turn hurt, confused, angry, and desolate.”  Yep, this quote perfectly describes my experience as well. 

Second, he stated that the young man's sexual orientation didn’t change and that no one assumed it would.  I hope every member took note of that because people still tell me and my gay friends that being gay is our fault and that if we had more faith we wouldn’t be gay anymore.

Third, he explicitly stated more than once that the young man with same-sex attraction was worthy.  And not only that, he was able to work with the youth as a seminary teacher.  I hope this eases the fears of those who are afraid of having a person who experiences same-sex attraction teach their children.  As someone who loves working with the youth of the church I particularly appreciated that detail. 

Overall I loved Elder Holland’s talk and hope that it helps reshape our perceptions of what it means to experience same-sex attraction and be an active Latter-day Saint.  That said, Elder Holland mentioned that this young man returned to finish his mission after being home for five years.  That’s awesome and I applaud him.  However, the talk made this out to be a success story that had a nice happy ending.  While I agree that this is a success, the thought I had while listening to this talk was that this young man’s life is only beginning.  He's still got a long, difficult road ahead of him. 

People have pointed to me in the past as a success story, as a model for living the gospel while also being gay.  If you were to write out the things a good Mormon does like attending church, going to the temple regularly, reading the scriptures daily, magnifying one’s calling, not swearing, not drinking, and all the other things that Mormons are supposed to do, I do all of those things.  And yet, I have had a lot of moments of hurt, confusion, anger, and desolation.  At the risk of yet again being a little too personal, I would like to share just one of those stories.
  
I met Allison while I was getting my master’s at BYU.  We were in the same dinner group and became good friends.  When I graduated from BYU and moved away we kept up a long distance friendship through email and phone calls.  One year after graduating from BYU I moved to Tucson.  On a Sunday afternoon in the fall of 2012 I was talking with Allison on the phone.  She got a little bold and asked, “How come we never dated?”  I replied, “Well, I just never felt that way about you.  It just never felt right.”  That didn’t seem to satisfy her and I sensed that I was going to have to tell her I was gay.  My house had paper thin doors so I left the house and got into my car so my roommate Kevin wouldn’t hear me come out to Allison.  A few minutes later Allison again asked why we hadn’t dated because my answer had been so lame and unsatisfactory.  I told her I was gay and that settled the issue. 

After that conversation I feel like we became even better friends because there was no pressure to date each other.  Allison has relatives in Tucson so when she was in town over winter break we hung out.  Before she visited I wondered if maybe, just maybe, we could date.  Allison was super rad, quite pretty, and really hilarious.  And she seemed to really like me (it’s my salt and pepper hair, for sure).  Who better to marry than her?  But when she was here I felt absolutely no physical connection and I scrapped the idea pretty quickly.  She did, however, meet my roommate Kevin who she later married.  She is way better off being married to him than she ever would have been being married to me.  So not marrying me was kind of Allison’s success story.  Even though I was never attracted to Allison I didn’t give up on dating. 

And then LeAnne came along.  Just like Allison she is pretty, talented, spiritual, and just a wonderful person.  LeAnne and I connected quickly on an emotional level and had many great conversations together.  She quickly became one of my closest friends.  And I could tell she liked me.  Usually having an awesome girl like you is cause for celebration and pats on the back, but it just stressed me out.  One day LeAnne got unusually bold and said that it would be okay if I kissed her.  That freaked me out.  As soon as I said goodbye to LeAnne I called Allison and said, “LeAnne wants me to kiss her!  But I don’t want to!”  She replied, “Just being a man and do it.  It’s not a big deal.”  I whined in reply, “But I can’t!”  Allison convinced me that I should kiss LeAnne the next day.

LeAnne has such great hair
The next afternoon LeAnne and I hung out.  I was nervous the entire morning because I was planning on kissing her later that day.  And I’m not talking normal nervous jitters, I was petrified of kissing this woman who I knew liked me, who was way too pretty for me, and who I had a great emotional connection with.  To calm myself down I pulled out my scriptures and read in 1 Nephi 4 when Nephi says that he shrunk because he didn’t want to do what the Lord had asked him to do.  I empathized with Nephi so much.  I thought that God wanted me to date LeAnne and here I was shrinking from the very simple task of kissing her.  I didn’t want to shrink, I didn’t want to not do something just because I was afraid.  I prayed and prayed for courage to do the right thing and to not shrink, but I just felt more and more nervous.

The moment I saw LeAnne that afternoon all my nervousness suddenly vanished.  It was pretty remarkable.  I had wanted to not feel afraid and in an instant that’s what happened.  As we sat and talked I felt calm and confident.  All my fears were gone.  I had a sudden moment of clarity.  God was not asking me to kiss LeAnne, He was letting me decide what I wanted.  He had given me courage to do it if I wanted to, but the decision to date her or not was my decision to make.  I realized that even though I loved LeAnne, I wasn’t in love with her at all.  She’s very attractive, but I wasn’t attracted to her.  And so, with all my fear gone I decided not to kiss her.  I made the conscious decision, devoid of fear, to just be LeAnne’s friend and all the stress I felt regarding our relationship was gone.

A week later I was back in Tucson.  I moved out of Kevin’s house and into a new house with someone I barely knew and I moved into a new ward.  There was a guy in the ward who I knew previously who I had a huge crush on.  When I got home from church I was thinking about how much I liked this guy and then I thought about how hard I had wanted to like Allison and LeAnne and just couldn't.  Liking girls was such stressful effort, but liking this boy just seemed like so much fun and didn't take any effort at all.  It was one of those moments when I realized that yes, I really am gay.  I'm attracted to men and not women.

In less than a year two women had really liked me and wanted to date me and I'd had no interest in them even though they were ridiculously awesome.  And now I suddenly had a crush on a guy and the fact that I could never date him (or any other guy for that matter) was really frustrating and painful.  I began to wonder if maybe I was doing life all wrong.  I’d been reading a lot of stories about gay Mormons online and listening to a lot of podcast interviews as well.  It seemed like almost every gay Mormon man either married a woman or left the church (and they often ended up doing both things).  I'd spent the last eight years trying to marry a woman and had never really had a serious girlfriend.  Perhaps it was time to date someone I actually wanted to date.  Of course, I could stay single and celibate for the rest of my life, but from the dozens and dozens of stories I’d read and listened to, not one of them was able to do that successfully.  Do you know any older, never married men who are active in the church?  I didn’t know of any and so it seemed like I had two choices.  I’d been making one choice for eight years with no success so I figured it was time to try something new. 

At this point I hadn't missed church once in 11 years and I thought maybe it was time to end the streak and take a break.  Almost no one at church knew me so I wouldn't be missed if I didn't attend.  And after a year of living in Tucson I had very few close Mormon friends.  My family lived far away and they wouldn't even have to know I wasn't going to church.  It seemed like the perfect time to step away because no one would miss me.  So I decided that I wouldn’t leave for good, I’d just take a sabbatical.

Six days after making this decision I was up in Mesa for Kevin and Allison’s wedding.  I walked into the temple thinking that I probably wouldn’t be back for quite a while.  And then something life changing happened to me.  It’s hard to describe very spiritual experiences, but this is more or less what I experienced.  As I watched two of my best friends kneel at an altar and make covenants with each other and with God I got this powerful feeling that this was all real.  The promises they were making and receiving were real.  The priesthood power that was sealing them was real.  The potential to be together forever was real.  The whole restored gospel felt real and palpable and I didn't want to give that up.  The best way to describe the feeling was that it felt like heaven.  I was in a sacred place with people that I loved it felt like home.  I thought to myself, "Whatever happens, I always want to be able to come to this place with these people." 

Allison, Kevin, and I with big smiles on their wedding day
No one at the wedding knew that I'd been considering taking a break from church.  When the sealing was done I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.  Not only was I extremely happy for Kevin and Allison, but I had just been reminded that the path I should choose was the one that would allow me to be in the temple.  So filled with love for my friends and new clarity about life I hugged Kevin and Allison and told them how much I loved them.  It took all the manly testosterone I could muster to keep myself from bursting into weepy mess because I was feeling so much love and peace.  That night I wrote in my journal, "They are forever friends and I love them so much." 


And that's the long story about how I almost left the church and didn't.  And this wasn't the only time.  Just over a year ago I once again contemplated leaving the church, but I'm still here.  The reason I share this story is because I don't want people to get caught up in happy endings.  For example, we're so happy when someone gets married, and then a few years later they get divorced.  We're so happy when someone has a baby, and then they feel stressed and overwhelmed and cry because they don't feel like a good mother.  We're so happy when someone graduates from college, and then they can't find a job.  We're so happy when a man with same-sex attraction serves a faithful mission, and then eight years later he feels "hurt, confused, angry, and desolate." 

We are all far from our happy endings.  Am I a success story?  Of course not.  Because my story is far from over.  I still have a long road ahead of me and so does the young man Elder Holland mentioned.  But what I want everyone to understand is that I try very hard to live the gospel.  I try really hard.  And for the most part I have a very happy life, but that doesn't mean I don't get mad and sad and wish that things were different.  I want all the straight Mormons to know that we gay members who try hard to live the gospel have tough times that we often don't talk about.  Sometimes we leave church and wonder if being bored for three hours on Sunday is worth giving up our sexuality.  Sometimes we wonder where God is and why He has forsaken us.  And sometimes we feel like we've found Him.

I'm in a really good place right now.  The last year has been exceptional and one of the happiest of my life.  But I'm no dummy.  I'm sure that I'll have moments in the future where I get mad and frustrated and just want to leave my religion behind.  But I'm one of the lucky ones.  I'm the lucky one who has so many people who have my back.  Just four weeks ago I had a really tough day and two members of the stake presidency called me to make sure I was okay and then sent me emails expressing their love for me.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  When I told people that I wanted to start a group for gay Mormons in Tucson so that no one with same-sex attraction had to feel alone everyone was on my side and wanted to help (well, almost everyone).  And I trust that the love people have for me isn't conditional to my activity in the church. 

As I was listening to Elder Holland's talk I thought, "This young man has a long road ahead of him, but he's got a mother who loves him no matter what.  That'll make all the difference."  And so, if when you heard the story of this young man completing his mission you felt like it was a success story, I hope you remember that the real success what that this man was loved unconditionally.  And I hope you remember my story.  That even the gay Mormons who want to stay in the church face extremely trying moments that they likely won't tell you about.  You're job is to love us. 

Allow me to end by being overly cheesy.  If you want to know how to help a gay Mormon, just read the words of this Primary song written by Carol Lynn Pearson (who, by the way, has done more for gay Mormons than almost anyone).

If you don't walk as most people do,
Some people walk away from you,
But I won't! I won't!
If you don't talk as most people do,
Some people talk and laugh at you,
But I won't! I won't!
I'll walk with you. I'll talk with you.
That's how I'll show my love for you.
Jesus walked away from none.
He gave his love to ev'ryone.
So I will! I will!
Jesus blessed all he could see,
Then turned and said, "Come, follow me."
And I will! I will!
I will! I will!
I'll walk with you. I'll talk with you. 
That's how I'll show my love for you

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Know General Conference Is True

We Mormons like to use the word know a lot.  We know the Book of Mormon is true.  We know the church is true.  We know that loads of things are true.  I recently had a conversation with some friends about what it means to know truth.  My favorite explanation of how we know that something is true comes from Alma 32:33-36 from the Book of Mormon.  The second half of chapter 32 compares the word of God to a seed that we figuratively plant in our hearts.  After we plant the seed "it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow " so we know that it is a good seed.  Verse 34 asks if our knowledge is perfect and Alma answers his own question: "Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing..."  The antecedent of "that" is that the seed is good.  Then Alma explains what it is that you know.  He says, "ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened and your mind doth begin to expand."  I love this explanation of knowing truth because it has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with experiences.  To me, Alma is explaining that knowing is experiential.  Can I say that I have a conviction that Jesus died on the cross?  Of course.  But I can say without reservation that I have felt forgiveness when I have repented.  The reality of repentance is knowledge to me because it is something that I have experienced.  And through experiencing the atonement on a personal level I gained a conviction that the Savior really did die for me.
 
Below are three experiences that I have had with General Conference.  I think the phrase "I know General Conference is true" is awkward and imprecise, but I can totally picture someone saying it.  I have had experiences watching General Conference that have swelled my soul, enlightened my understanding, and expanded my mind.  These three experiences and many others make me excited for the talks this coming weekend. 

In 2006 I was doing an internship in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  It was by far the best experience I had during my time as a BYU undergrad.  I was there working for LDS Employment Resource Services teaching people how to find jobs.  It was awesome.  The mission president's family lived at the top of 12 story high rise and my roommate and I were frequent dinner guests at their house.  The mission president's wife didn't speak Spanish and was happy to have someone to talk to. 
22 year old me in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
During my time in Bolivia I watched the October 2006 General Conference.  The Bolivian members were so excited about it and the chapels had tons of people in them to watch the broadcast, even the Saturday sessions.  This is what I wrote in my journal on Sunday night: "At the close of conference the choir sang 'We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet.'  Then the congregation joined in to sing a few verses.  While the congregation sang they showed the 1st Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.  The Spirit bore witness to me in an unmistakable manner that those men are prophets, seers, and revelators.  What an amazing thing."  I sat in a chapel surrounded by Bolivian Latter-day Saints as we watched the Spanish translations of the talks.  The songs, however, were not translated.  And so, when it came time for the congregation to sing I belted out the words in English while everyone around me sang in Spanish.  I still remember the feeling that enveloped me in that moment and how sure I felt of the truthfulness of the restored gospel.  I talked to some friends after the meeting and one of them said, "Did you feel that when we sang?  Wasn't that amazing?"  I did and it really was amazing.  Whether singing in English or in Spanish, we had the same experience.  That is one of my favorite memories of conference.

President Hinckley passed away in January 2008 while I was a student at BYU and his funeral was on my 24th birthday.  I know how the church works and so when he died I knew that President Monson was the new prophet.  I knew it intellectually and I didn't doubt it.  Two months later we had our first opportunity to sustain Thomas S. Monson as the new prophet in a Solemn Assembly.  I'd never attended a Solemn Assembly before, but I knew that we would be asked to stand up in different groups to sustain the prophet.  I usually watch conference at home, but I wanted to share that experience with other members of the church in a chapel.  Most of my friends thought that was silly idea, but I managed to convince my roommate Chris to go with me to a nearby church.  Apparently everyone thought watching conference at church was lame because there were only five people there besides the two of us.  When the Patriarchs, High Priests, and Elders were asked to stand I stood up by myself in the nearly empty chapel  and raised my hand to the square to sustain him.  Logic and past precedence had told me two months earlier that President Monson was the new prophet, but when I raised my hand to sustain him I felt the Spirit wash over me in a powerful way.  I sat down on the pew amazed by the simple and powerful experience I had just had.  I now had a conviction that came from the Spirit that he was God's prophet.

September 2013 was a rough month for me.  I'd been in Tucson for a year and I'd only come out to one friend here.  I was feeling lonely and fearful about the future.  I just couldn't imagine a happy future for myself as a member of the church and I was seriously considering leaving.  The weeks leading up to General Conference I prayed and prayed and I even fasted an extra time.  I felt like I was coming undone and I just didn't want to be alone anymore.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do going forward, but I had so much hope that something said in a talk would help me know what to do.  And that's exactly what happened. 

Here's part of what I wrote in my journal about that conference: "What I didn't want from conference was a bunch of messages telling me to be patient because I've already been patient for so long, but that's exactly what I got and it's exactly what I needed.  Over and over again the speakers mentioned trusting in the Lord and being patient.  Elder Dube talked about looking back and thinking that we have accomplished so much when really what lies ahead is more important and significant.  I'm guilty of feeling like I've already done a lot, but the truth is that I'm not nearly done.  The feeling I got over and over again is that I'm on the right course and that I'm really doing my best.  The Lord knows that.  And because I'm on the right course I shouldn't worry about who I'm going to marry and when and how because things will work out if I just stay the course.  I have been feeling so exhausted and worried lately as I consider the impossible task before me of getting married, but today I felt love and confidence.  I need not worry because I'm doing my best and all will be well." 

I had felt worn out and lost, but after that General Conference I felt confident and hopeful.  My attitude did a complete 180 in an afternoon.  If I could have looked into my future I would have seen that I had every right to be hopeful because the next few months were awesome.  I was flipping through my journal just now and it's filled with loads of happy memories from those months.  The messages I heard and the Spirit I felt changed my attitude and perspective almost instantly.  It was a marvelous, life changing day.

Twice in Alma 32 we are asked if our knowledge is perfect.  The first time the answer is yes and the second time the answer is no (well, technically the answers are yea and nay).  This really confused me at first.  I recommend taking some time to ponder these verses because I think there is a profound lesson there.  Alma sums up what he's trying to get us to understand in Alma 33:23 when he says, "I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith.  And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life.  And then my God grant unto you that your burdens may be light through the joy of his Son."  Through personal experience I know that our burdens can be made light through the joy of his Son.  This is true.  

I'm looking forward to General Conference.   I have every reason to look forward to it.  It has been such a positive, spiritual experience for me in the past that I know I can expect it to be an affirming, uplifting experience this time, too.  And I look forward to the experiences that I will have that will teach me truths that will expand my mind, enlighten my understanding, and swell my soul.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

LeAnne in the Land of Lincoln

I just got back from quite an adventure helping LeAnne move to Chicago from Salt Lake.  The plan was to leave her house at 4:00 am last Thursday, but I woke up at 4:10 to LeAnne emptying out the fridge in the dark.  I was immediately reminded of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  “He cleaned out the icebox as quick as a flash.  Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!”  She had packed everything in the car, but had forgotten to take her stuff out of the refrigerator.  So a little later than planned, at 4:45 am we hit the road.  Two hours later a rock from the road hit us and cracked the passenger window. 

Fun Laura was moving from Denver to Minnesota the same day.  Since we were both going to be on I-80 we contemplated meeting up for lunch in Ogallala, Nebraska, but Laura was going to be four hours ahead of us so it just didn’t make much sense.  I was bummed that I wouldn’t get to see her despite our proximity, but fun Laura was true to her name.  I got a text from her with some very detailed instructions on what to do when we got to Ogallala to find a present she had hidden for us.  The present ended being some origami, fun Laura's old business card, and some cards with facts about Harry Truman all sealed in an Ikea bag.

LeAnne looking in the tree we were directed to
A present from fun Laura
Look at all this sweet loot we got from fun Laura!
This is what most of the drive looked like.  I actually thought it
was really pretty, but I like corny things.
Fun Laura hid our gift in a tree in the parking lot of a small petrified wood museum.  I'm not particularly interested in petrified wood, but we were already there so we decided to stop inside for minute.  However, I wasn't prepared for the extremely nice old people there who were so excited to have visitors.  Without asking we got a tour of the museum and learned all kinds of random facts that I wasn't interested in.  I smiled as big as I could and tried to sound interested, but mostly I just wanted to be back on the road.  When we tried to leave the old lady asked, "Did you see the butterflies?  You can't miss those!"  We hadn't so we went back and looked at them.  There were also a bunch of music boxes made from pieces of petrified wood.  They were cool and all, but I had to pretend they were the neatest thing I'd ever seen because the old man who made them was standing next to us telling us all about them.  As soon as it didn't feel rude we got out of there because it's cool to look at a rock that used to be wood, but it's also cool to not be in Ogallala all day.

Having fun at the museum
We were so thrilled to be looking at music boxes
After 17 hours of travel we stopped at Craig and Heidi's house in Iowa City.  I hadn't seen them in two years and I was so stoked to see them again.  Unlike me, the two of them don't appear to age at all.  In 2006 Craig took LeAnne on a date when they were both students at BYU.  Craig called her to ask her out on a second date and she never called him back.  LeAnne has no memory of these events, but she was one of those good looking girls that got asked out all the time.  Their reunion nine years later wasn't at all awkward (at least from my perspective).

After eating a delicious dinner of tostadas, Craig went to the car with LeAnne and me to get our bags.  When LeAnne closed the door she accidentally shut it on her finger.  She yelped a bit and then started prancing around the parking lot in pain.  Both Craig and I react to things like this by making jokes which I'm sure LeAnne didn't appreciate.  She immediately started fretting about how she wouldn't be able to play the harp anymore which was the whole reason she was moving to Chicago.  We looked at her finger and it was covered in blood so her fretting was pretty warranted.  We walked her to the door and she said she thought she might faint.  Craig took her arm and she was a little wobbly and stumbled into a bush.  When we got to the door I said, "Oh, there she goes!" and she fainted.  I was holding my bag in one hand so I only had one arm immediately free to grab her.  I dropped my bag and mostly caught her, but she still landed on her knees and scraped them a bit.

After she regained consciousness we helped her inside and put her on the couch where she passed out two more times.  I continued to respond to the unexpected emergency by making lame jokes like, "Man, I'm so tired I think I'll pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow."  LeAnne was kind enough to laugh at my lame pun.  Craig, however, was much more useful and used a rope and a pillow to fashion a pulley so LeAnne could keep her finger comfortably elevated without having to hold her arm up.
No emergency should go undocumented
 The next morning LeAnne felt much better and after a pancake breakfast with homemade syrup we hit the road again.  As we were driving through Illinois we saw a sign that advertised tours of Ronald Reagan's childhood home.  LeAnne said we should go, but I was not at all interested and poo pooed the idea.  As we got closer we saw another sign and LeAnne mentioned it again so we decided to stop.  The tour costs $5 so we decided not to do it.  I mean, c'mon, how interesting could the tour be?  "Here is the bed that Ronald Reagan slept in as a boy.  And here is a toy he might have used.  Notice anything missing from this living room?  That's right!  There's no TV because the television wasn't invented yet."  We did, however, get a picture with a cardboard cutout of Reagan.  Not because either of us is super Republican, but because we had to do something at this random stop.

We stopped for the Gipper
A few hours later we got to Chicago, unpacked, went sightseeing, and ate some delicious pizza.  LeAnne lives in a great neighbor with cool girls, in a house that is oozing with character.  She super-pumped to be living in Chicago and so far her finger is still attached so she can still play the harp.  I think she's really going to enjoy living in the Land of Lincoln.

Note: I spent a few hours at the Art Institute in Chicago.  There are tons of cool pieces of art there, but this one was my favorite.  I spent some time wondering what the person on the other end was saying.
"Stop calling!  Just text me!"

Thursday, July 9, 2015

$21 of Forgetting

I apologize to anyone who is here looking for discussion on being gay and Mormon.  My last blog post spread much more than I ever expected and that might be what has brought you to this usually rather mundane blog.  While I occasionally write serious posts, most of my posts are just about funny things that happen to me and I write them for my friends.  You can find my posts about being gay here, here, here, and here.  This post, like most of the things going on in my life, has nothing to do with being gay.  

So back to the status quo. 

Anyone who knows my mother would tell you that she's an angel.  But she also has quite the knack for forgetting things.  Last summer when I was in Washington visiting my family I went to the mall with her and my sister.  We stopped by the GAP for a few minutes and I found a hoodie that I really liked (I have a thing for hoodies).  I considered buying it, but not only was it summer, but I would soon be heading back to Arizona where summer goes on forever so my sensible side came out and I decided not to buy it.  However, my mom had recently learned something that rich parents have known for decades--buying your kids things makes them happy.  She said, "How about I buy it for you and then give it to you for Christmas?"  I accepted and the hoodie was purchased and stowed in a closet.

In November my mom called to discuss what I wanted for Christmas.  I told her that she had already bought me a hoodie.  She had no recollection of the incident.  She then tore the house apart looking for the elusive hoodie, but it was nowhere to be found.  She was incredibly apologetic and offered to buy me a replacement hoodie, but so much time had passed that I didn't even remember what it had looked like so told her to stop looking for it.  I got a Camelbak for Christmas instead.  A few months after Christmas she randomly found the hoodie hidden in her closet.  My mom just gave me the hoodie last week, one year after she bought it. 
My "new" hoodie a year after my mom bought it

 And here's one more case of forgetting (and just not paying enough attention). 

Last Tuesday I was flying from Tucson to Seattle.  During my three hour layover in San Diego I was glued to my phone responding to messages about my latest blog post.  Most of my blog posts get fewer than 200 hits so I wasn't expecting such an immediate response.  Because my eyes were so locked to my screen I boarded my plane without reading any signs or hearing any announcements (I know, I'm such a millenial). 

I thought my flight was a direct flight to Seattle, but after we'd been in the air for about an hour the pilot announced that we were starting our descent.  I looked out the window and I didn't see the verdant forests of western Washington below and the trip hadn't seemed nearly long enough.  A flight attendant walked by me just then so I said, "Excuse me, where is this plane going?"  She gave me a rather quizzical look that seemed to say, "How could you not know where the plane you're on is going especially since you had the nerve the ask for a whole can of cranapple juice earlier?"  She smiled and said, "We're landing in Oakland."  She started to walk away and I stopped her again, "Um, is it going to Seattle next?"  She once again looked surprised to be answering a question that I should have already known the answer to and said yes. 

When I landed in Oakland I called my parents.  They had told me that they were going to take me out to dinner, but that seemed like a hassle so I told my mom that she could just bring me something simple from home like fruit or a sandwich.  She replied, "Well, umm, okay... That might be hard to do."  I asked why and then I heard my dad say in the background, "Just tell him."  My flight was scheduled to land in Seattle at 9:20pm.  I had sent my itinerary to my parents weeks before so they should've known when I was arriving.  But for some reason they thought I was getting in at 5:00pm.  Trying to beat the traffic through Seattle they left really early and had gotten to the airport before 4:00.  My mom admitted, "We're already at the airport." 

To add insult to injury my flight arrived to Seattle about 20 minutes late.  As soon as I saw my parents I apologized that they had had to wait for me at the airport for so long.  They didn't want me to feel bad so they just smiled and laughed it off.  My dad did say, however, "I thought it was so weird that you were arriving at 5:00 because that's when traffic is the worst and you always plan your flights so we won't have to deal with traffic."  It's true, that's exactly what I do.  I'm a pretty considerate son.

I offered to pay for my parents' parking at the airport, but they wouldn't hear of it.  The charge for parking at the Sea-Tac airport for 6 1/2 hours: $21.00.  That's the price of forgetting.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Walk in My Shoes

If you go back to my very first post in 2008 you'll see that I originally started this blog for my friend Joleen.  I was moving away from Utah and she was bummed that she wouldn't get to hear my stories anymore so she said I should write a blog about the funny things that happened to me.  I often still have Joleen in mind when I write a post.

On Saturday I got a text from Joleen that said: "I've been waiting for a blog post from you about yesterday's Supreme Court rulings... is there one in the works?"  I told her that I wasn't planning on writing anything because so many people were sharing opinions and I wasn't feeling compelled to add my two cents to the growing sea of opinions.  She also asked if people had been asking me what I thought and no one had (which legitimately surprised me).  So she asked me what I felt about the ruling and I sent her what I had written in my journal on Friday night.

Now that a few days have passed I feel compelled to write something.  And so, Joleen, here's what I think about the Supreme Court's ruling last Friday.

On Friday I had a lot of trouble figuring out how I felt.  A lot of people said they felt so happy they cried.  I didn't feel that.  A lot of people were angry and worried.  I didn't feel that.  I did, however, feel happy for the people who can now marry the person they love.  I felt happy for the two men in their eighties in Texas who have been together for more than 50 years who got married on Friday.  I felt like marriage equality was inevitable and so I wasn't too surprised or shocked or moved.  Frankly, I was surprised by how little I was emotionally affected by the news.

I think the reason I felt so few emotions is that the ruling doesn't affect me personally.  The three states I've lived in already recognized same-sex marriages (one by popular vote and two through judicial rulings) so I could have already gotten married to a man.  And then over the weekend I kept reading Facebook posts and blogs and news stories and I finally felt something personal.  I felt sad.  And it was my friends and fellow Mormons who made me feel that way.

Dianna and I at Costco buying food for a
church activity.  At this moment neither
of us was aware that I would be coming
out to her in a few hours.
A few months ago I went to a conference in Mesa for gay Mormons.  I told my friend Dianna I was going and before I could invite her she said, "I want to go.  Can I go with you?"  I wanted to reach out and hug her in that moment.  Not only did she want to support me, but she wanted to understand what it was like to be me.  While we were at the conference listening to presentations she would lean over to me and ask, "Did you feel like that?" and I'd say, "Oh yeah."  A few minutes later, "Can you relate to what he's saying?"  "For sure."  On the way home she cried in the car briefly.  It was one of those rare times when instead of making me feel awkward the tears felt like a gift.  She said that she loves the church and its doctrines and that she supports our leaders who teach us of the eternal importance of marriage between a man and a woman.  But she also said that she cares about me and just wishes that I could marry who I wanted to marry.  I don't expect Dianna to support same-sex marriage.  In fact, I'm sure that she's a staunch supporter of traditional marriage and I'm totally cool with that.  But what I love about Dianna is that she cared about me enough to walk in my shoes and really try to understand what it's like to be gay and Mormon.  Precious few people in my life have done that and I'm so grateful for the ones who have.  Dianna earned my love and respect that day and to me she is an exemplary latter-day saint.  I wish more of my LDS friends were like her.

As I read comment after comment on Facebook I just kept thinking, "They don't get it.  They don't understand what it's like to be gay."  I feel like too often we defend our church and our doctrines (which we most definitely should do), but forget to reach out to the people who are affected by them.  So let me tell you what it's like to be gay and Mormon.

As a gay Mormon I have four options:
1. I can marry a woman
2. I can stay single and celibate
3. I could get a gay Mormon boyfriend and have a platonic, nonsexual relationship
4. I could leave the church and marry someone I'm attracted to

I have seriously considered each of these options.  I've been on dates with dozens of women including 27 blind dates (it'd be difficult to find someone who's tried harder than I have to get married).  I've considered leaving the church a number of times.  I also went on a date with a nice gay Mormon boy, but that just didn't feel like the right thing to do either.  It's a terrible predicament that we gay Mormons are in.  We love the church and we want to stay, but we also long for a committed relationship with someone we're in love with and attracted to.  It's a heart wrenching Sophie's choice as we struggle to decide which of the two things to give up--romantic love or our faith.  For me, the church is just too important.  I believe it too much to leave.  Being Mormon is who I am and I feel that by choosing to remain active in the church I am being my authentic self.  So I'm sticking with option two.

I've heard a lot of people say, "Choosing to be single and celibate isn't that bad.  It's just like any of the single women in the church who have never gotten married."  But it is not the same at all.  A single woman can get on her knees every night and plead with Heavenly Father to send her a righteous husband.  And if she ever did get married her congregation would throw the biggest celebration for her.  What about me?  What am I supposed to pray for?  What are the gay members of the church supposed to hope for?  Am I supposed to pray to not be gay?  I did that for years and years.  I eventually stopped praying for that and prayed that God would just help me find one girl, just one girl that I could love.  And that led to me feeling uncomfortable and making a few girls cry.  I have not been actively dating for the last two years.  You can tell me that I gave up too easily, that I should have had more faith, that I should keep trying, but I have felt so much happier these last two years.  I have felt so much more like me.  And I have no doubt that I'm living my life in a way that is pleasing to my Heavenly Parents.

I read a number of comments on Facebook that said things like, "There's just so much we don't understand about this issue."  That annoyed me a little.  It's okay to not understand everything, but we must be actively seeking to understand as much as we can.  In my coming out post I shared an essay I wrote about bearing one another's burdens.  We need to understand what others are going through instead of flippantly disregarding what they're experiencing as an incomprehensible mystery.  Talk to people!  Carry their load!  Walk in their shoes!  Learn what if feels like to be divorced, or have a miscarriage, or to come over from a mission early, or have a mental illness, or have a wayward child.  The Lord defines Zion as a people that is of one heart (Moses 7:18).  To me, being of one heart means that we empathize with everyone and strive to feel what they feel.

What would you do if you were me?  What would you hope for?  How would you cope with being a member of a church that teaches that marriage between a man and a woman is eternally essential and knowing that you just can't live that teaching?  Would you leave the church?  That's what more than half of our gay members do.  And I can totally empathize with that decision.

Here's how I handle being gay and Mormon.  Earlier I said that I chose option two, but the truth is that I really choose secret option five.  I see five possibilities.  The last path is one that I can't define and that I'm not even aware of.  Paul wrote: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor 2:9).  And Joseph Smith wrote: "Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation" (D&C 58:3).  To me it is clear.  We just cannot conceive of what is to come with our natural eyes.  My life is a testament of this.  The best things that happen to me are things that I never could have predicted or planned whether it be my current living situation, random awesome jobs, sudden trips abroad or unexpected friends.  I could share dozens of stories of things miraculously working out and working out in completely unexpected and perfect ways.

Paul continues in the next verses to teach that while our natural senses can't understand these things that God makes them known to us through His Spirit.  Now, I'm not going to claim any great revelations, but I have felt time and time again that remaining an active participant in the church is the right thing for me.  And even though I live alone and eat dinner by myself most nights, I feel so much joy and happiness.  My life is good.  It is really good.  It's not the kind of life that I was taught to want, but it's the life I have and it's good.

I have an assurance that really great things are going to happen to me in my life.  Things that I can't even imagine.  I have a conviction that if I stay true to the principles that I believe that all will be well.  I know that great things are coming because so many great things have already come.  I try to live my life according to this verse penned by Joseph Smith: "Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to the see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed" (D&C 123:17).

If you walked in my shoes for a day you would see me eat my meals alone.  You would see me text and call people that I care about.  You would see me listen to podcasts to keep me company.  You would see me turn on music and dance while I put my dishes away.  You would see me go to work and then spend time with friends in the evening.  And you would see me come home alone and sit on my futon in silence.  And even though I spent my entire day with other people, you would watch me feel sad that I was alone in my house.  Then I'd pull out my scriptures and read a chapter or two and then sit and think about something that touched me.  And then I'd sit on my bed and write in my journal and shed a tear or two as I write about how good my life is and how blessed I am.  And I would mean every word.  Then I'd slide off my bed and kneel on the floor and thank Heavenly Father for all the good things in my life.  And you would watch me plead with Him that He would send us further light and knowledge and create more of a place for me and other gay Mormons in His church.

This is the reaction that I had last Friday.  I wished that more people would walk in my shoes.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Camp for Spanish Teachers

This year I was invited to attend the AP reading in Cincinnati, Ohio.  More than 1,000 Spanish teachers from around the country and I converged on downtown Cincinnati for one week to grade Spanish AP tests.  It was a lot of work!

Downtown Cincinnati from the Kentucky side of the Ohio River
 I realized very quickly that the AP reading is basically like summer camp.  This was my first year, but many of the people who attended have been coming for years and they have very good friends who they only see once a year at the reading.  I saw loads of people excitedly hug each other and say, "It's so good to see!  How are your kids?  What have you been up to for the last year?"  It was fun to watch, but since this was my first year I had no such friends.  And I may have eaten lunch by myself twice before I made friends.

We were organized into table groups of nine people.  My group consisted of me and a bunch of Hispanic women.  I felt really young all week (which was a nice change of pace because I usually feel the opposite) because most of the AP readers were so much older.  One woman at my table is about to have her first great-grandson.  She's in her sixties and I tried to do the math to figure out how old everyone from each generation would have to be in order to have a great-grandson at 65, but the math got too cumbersome for my brain and I'm sure the answer would have disappointed me.  Most of the women at my table were in their forties or fifties, but the lady who sat directly across from me was in her late twenties.  She usually wore low cut shirts and had a large piercing right above her cleavage that looked like sparkling diamond.  The shininess of the piercing subconsciously drew my eyes to her chest area every time I looked up.  Not only did I not want to be looking at her chest, but I for sure didn't want to be caught looking at her chest.  I didn't care for that piercing. 

A few days in my roommate Josh ran into an AP friend that he had met at a previous AP reading.  After the usually hugs and "Oh my gosh!  How are your kids?" I was introduced to Meghann.  She asked me my name and I unoriginally said, "I'm Ben Schilaty."  She said, "How do you spell your last name."  I told her and she said, "Shut up!  Did you write your master's thesis on such-and-such a topic?"  I did.  She then said, "I printed out your thesis before I came and I'm going to read it while I'm here."  I was stunned.  It was such an unexpected honor to meet one of the 12 people who has heard of my thesis.  It's a very exclusive group.  Meghann and I then became friends and I'm sure we'll excitedly hug each other if we're both at the AP reading next year. 

St. Peter in Chains Cathedral
While I had a lot of great experiences during my week in Cincinnati, Sunday was by far the best day.  We worked from 8:00 to 5:00 so I wasn't able to go to church which really bummed me out.  I decided that since I couldn't go to LDS services that I should at least go to some church so I went to Catholic mass that afternoon.  It was an uplifting experience I was glad I went.  I especially enjoyed singing hymns that were new to me and experiencing a way of worship that was foreign to me.  Also, when the priest was talking it struck me that both he and I have chosen to be single for religious reasons.  That realization made me feel connected to him in a small way.  

After going to mass I met up with 18 other LDS folks who were also at the AP reading.  Every year they get together on Sunday for a short devotional and testimony meeting.  I only knew one person in the room from before and everyone else was basically a stranger.  However, I felt an instant connection with those people and sitting in a circle with them in a small room in a convention center in Cincinnati felt like being home.  As we sang a hymn I was familiar with and said a prayer I felt the Spirit in a remarkable way.  None of us was there under any pretences or because of any kind of social pressure, we just wanted to worship together and share or thoughts and feelings about the Savior.  It was the best religious meeting I've been to in months.

I shared my testimony and in it I mentioned being gay.  After the meeting as we were putting the chairs away (it wouldn't be a Mormon meeting if we didn't put chairs away after) two guys approached me with some questions.  One of them has a son who identifies as gay and the other is a newly called bishop.  They were very interested in my perspectives as a gay active latter-day saint and we talked for over an hour.  That night I felt so grateful for this small group of latter-day saints who meets together every year at the AP because I was uplifted and inspired by the things that were shared.  When I got back to my hotel room that night everything felt right with the world.
I loved the architecture in Cincinnati

And how their buildings look like Pringles cans

One day it rained and I got very wet

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My New Home

So much southwest charm
A few weeks ago I moved into a new house and I love it.  I'm house sitting for the summer and then in October the homeowner, her girlfriend, and I will share the house for the winter.   They're great and I'm excited to have roommates, but I'm also really enjoying living here by myself.

I'm not the most organized person so packing all my things into boxes, moving them to a new house, and then putting everything into its new place is pretty much the worst.  And what made things even worse was that Dianna and fun Laura weren't here to keep me company while I tried to put everything away.

This was the moment when I considered giving up on life
And then everything magically got put away
I excitedly told a friend that I'd made a reading nook in my bedroom and he said, "You mean you just put a chair in a corner?"  Yep, that's about it.  But it's also bookshelf adjacent so I feel like that gives it some nook-like qualities.

I've been considering taking after gym selfies in my bathroom, but that weird pelican picture would just make them seem lame.  Also, all after gym selfies are lame.
My duck face needs some serious work

I hid a note in the bathroom for any snoopers
I mostly love everything about my new place.  However, the one thing it lacks is a really, really comfy couch.  There are a few futons and they're nice and all, but an awesome couch just can't be beat.
It's a top notch futon, but still a futon

Not the comfiest chair, but it's great for directing movies

I had Phil, Danielle, Carl, and Maggie over for dinner last week.  This was the first time I'd invited Maggie over for dinner.  She asked what she could bring and I said, "We'll be drinking water and there is no dessert so if you want either of those things you'll need to bring it."  So she did!  She brought drinks, dessert, and also bought me this awesome flower because, why not?

I dressed Mr. Cactus Head in his summer garb

Part of my backyard
My new pad is pretty rad.  Feel free to stop by for a visit whenever you like.  Also, I'm responsible for watering the plants this summer and I'm very worried that I'm going to kill them all.  Any watering advice you have will be appreciated.