Monday, July 28, 2008

An Interesting Breakthrough

I think I'm finally ready to write this post. I have been struggling for weeks to find the perfect way to put it. I have been so afraid that someone out there will take what I have to say wrong and hate me, or even worse be angry at the Church or worse still, be angry at God. I have finally found the courage to go ahead and write what is on my mind and just pray that people at least give me the benefit of the doubt and simply choose to respectfully disagree.

A while back, I posted a paper I did for a New Testament religion class. It was based primarily on insights that I had gained while reading James R. Ferrell's book The Peacegiver. I talked a lot about the nature of sin and how an accurate understanding of sin allows us to better appreciate and access the atonement. Interestingly, my breakthrough was simply an application of the principles I had learned, and even discoursed on, earlier.

I explained the principles with scriptural backing a lot more clearly in that earlier post: Sin and the Atonement . Even better, I highly recommend reading the original book. Brother Ferrell explains things much more eloquently and compellingly.

One night, I was explaining to the wife my sordid and complicated history with sex. By that I mean a lot of how my thoughts/fantasies changed over time and, rather in detail, the timeline of my addictions to pornography and masturbation. At the end of it, I stopped, looked at her, and said, "Oh, that's where my SSA comes from." I don't mean that SSA comes from looking at porn or masturbating! I do mean that by choosing to engage in those activities, I subjected myself to the captivity of Satan. By sinning, both in thought and action, I allowed Satan to gain power over me. By sinning, my very nature was changed. The way that I view the world was slowly warped. Finally, through the infinite power of the atonement, I was liberated from the chains of sin. I could see things as they really were. Again, I don't believe that sin is the ultimate root of SSA. I simply mean that much of the intensity of the allure of homosexuality-for me personally-came from the deception that Satan used to confuse me.

I would like to try to use an analogy to explain this idea. For a long time the only picture of happiness I could see was one that Satan had created, that of an intimate and sexual relationship with another man. Eventually, I began to see another picture. This one included my wife, children (still to come), and this time it fits into my beliefs of God and eternal life. So for the most part I tried to stay focused on this new picture. However, from time to time, something-like a hot guy or a memory-would draw my attention back to the other picture. It would take all my power to rip my gaze away from that picture of happiness in homosexuality and look at the picture of happiness with an eternal family.

Then suddenly, it was like looking at a picture on extremely high zoom. I saw all of the individual pixels-all the lies of Satan-that were woven together to make a very inviting picture.
Now when I look back all I see are lies. I am NOT "cured"!!! I am still attracted to men. However, for me a lot of the overpowering need and desire to have sex with another man is gone. I can see clearly that it won't make me happy. In fact, what I need is real connection with other men, and I know how to get that. And when I do, I can find happiness. And the happiness I do find is amazingly real and satisfying.

I want to clarify again. I'm not "cured" of my same-sex attraction. However, I have made a major breakthrough. I have made a really big step in learning how to deal and live with my attractions.

Now, I really don't know what I'm trying to say or if I've said everything I mean to, or if I've explained it well enough. I don't even know if this post will make it through the night. I'd really appreciate feedback on what you're thinking.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Atonement Can Fix That Too!

This is the first of a number of post about the insights I've had over an amazing month and a half.

I had an enlightening experience a few weeks ago. In one of our bi-weekly interviews, my Bishop told me that if I slipped up and looked at pornography again, we would start the year of my disfellowshipment over again. Needless to say, that really bothered me. I was livid! As far as I see it, this is a pretty difficult addiction to overcome, and to suddenly expect me to be able to really stop immediately is absurd. I have been trying for years and am finally starting the process of healing and overcoming this addiction. Well, I decided that I'd never talk to him again. At least I'd never tell him anything about what was really going on in my life.

I was venting one night to a friend who is much wiser and more experienced than me. I finished by telling him that "I guess I'm learning that church leaders are imperfect." He said:

"Yes, but I believe that the Atonement can fix that too."

Well that stopped me dead in my tracks. I was speechless. Tears welled up in my eyes. I thanked him and quickly hung up the phone. I got on my knees and prayed, begging the Lord to bless me through the atonement to make up for the mistakes of another. The most amazing thing happened next. A feeling of peace and comfort immediately came over me. I knew that despite my Bishop's inadequacy, everything was going to be okay. I was able to go to sleep without any frustration or anger.

Incidentally, my Bishop was appalled when I told him I was really hurt by what he said. He had meant that if I lapsed and acted out with another guy again! Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that I had been healed from this miscommunication. The atonement had made up for the mistakes of another.

In reflecting on that experience I was reminded of an old John Wayne quote. In his movie Big Jake, the Duke says to the bad guy "Anything happens, your fault, my fault, nobody's fault; and I'm going to blow your head off." Okay so the last part isn't so critical to this important insight. But I belive that through the Atonement, Christ can fix anything that happens to me, my fault, your fault, nobody's fault.

So next time something hurts, or isn't fair, or just plain sucks, even (maybe especially) when it isn't your fault, just remember that the Atonement can fix that too!