Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Committee for Idaho Firesides

I've posted this elsewhere, but thought I'd try it here as well.

About a year ago, I felt a need to be a part of a support group. Unfortunately there were no support groups in Idaho. So, the prompting came to take the initiative and organize a support group here in Southeast Idaho. Over the past year we have had a number of individuals join the group. I hope it has been helpful to them, as I believe it has.

Over the past couple of months I have felt a similar prompting to organize a fireside similar to what has been done in Lehi and in Logan. Also, I have felt that many individuals, including priesthood leaders, here in Idaho would benefit from the type of information and support available at the annual Evergreen Conference in Salt Lake City. However, distance and cost are definitely a significant obstacle to many. Evergreen has suggested a mini conference for those who live some distance from SLC.

I am determined to follow through with this prompting. At the same time I freely recognize my own limitations of wisdom, creativity, and time among many other shortcomings. I don't know a great many things about this endeavor, such as where or how often we ought to put on firesides, if the mini-conference would be in conjunction with a fireside, an independent event, or a sort of kick-off to the firesides, I really don't know what the mini-conference would look like or what it would include. And that's just a sampling of what I don't know. In light of that acknowledgment, I am hoping to recruit individuals who would be willing to assist in planning and putting on something like this.

I'm pretty sure that my stake president would be willing to allow us to use our stake center and I have contacts with LDS Family Services here in Idaho Falls who would likely help us get the word out to Church Leaders. But before I go any farther with the planning, I would really love to organize a committee to get this project underway. If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in serving on the committee or helping in any way, please email me at kllindley@gmail.com. I am also extremely open to suggestions, questions, or comments of any kind.

Thanks!

Kevin Lindley

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My "Best Friend" and Realistic Male Friendships

I posted a lot of this in response to another post on one of the North Star discussion groups.
I have thought a lot about this in my life and felt like I should post this here as well.

A while back I was consumed with a desire to find a "Best friend." Some other guy who I could do everything with. Some guy who understood me completely and who I would always call to talk with or go hang out with. I never found that someone. That sort of relationship has eluded me. I used to be very discouraged that I didn't have a "Best Friend."

I think that I've come to the conclusion that it really isn't a realistic or even desirable thing. I will admit that marriage can be a relationship where you're the most important person to your spouse, a "Best Friend" relationship, but the relationship I have with my wife doesn't fill that desire completely. She is the most important person in the world to me and I know that I am to her. I also feel completely safe with her. I know that she'll never leave me or try to hurt me. She really is my best friend.

Still, there has been a similar desire to find that sort of a relationship with a guy as well. I know for sure that no man is supposed to be completely consumed in his relationship with his wife to the point where he doesn't need other male friends--deeply fulfilling, intimate friendships. A man who believes that is going to find that he is never quite happy. However, I've come to the conclusion that the more I think about finding a deep and permanent soul mate in another guy, the more disappointed I am going to be. I don't think that is how God created us to relate to other men.

Over time, I've been able to change the way I think about my relationships with other men. I've come to find that more important than being someone else's best friend, is being a true friend to someone else. The more honest and authentic I am with other men and the more open and vulnerable I am with them, the more they reciprocate. Even more, when I am completely authentic, I feel a deep connection with other men, that truly nourishes my soul. I have friends that I only see a few times a year, if that. Still when I interact with those friends I feel as loved and accepted as I can imagine. I don't necessarily feel that way about guys in my elder's quorum who I see every week, because I am not as open and authentic with them.

I know for sure that it is possible to develop friendships that are deep and meaningful enough to fill the void we feel. It can take a some time, but most of all it takes trust and risk to be completely authentic and real. The best way to go about filling that void is to find as many sources of love as possible. When I was trying to get everything I needed from a single source (even my wife!) I would end up draining the relationship and still feeling empty. But by getting my quota of love from a lot of different relationships, I am not only filled with joy, but those relationships can go on forever without wearing out. And the longer they go, the deeper and more fulfilling they get. I can't wait for eternity with my wife and my beloved brothers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marriage, Dating, and SSA Men

So, I've been thinking about the topic of marriage as it relates to men with
SSA for a while now. I tend to feel a surge of emotion when I've heard so
many men express the idea that they are sure that they won't be married in
this life. I fear that will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy that isn't
necessarily meant to be true.

The key culprit in this issue is the idea that "I don't date girls because
I'm not attracted to them." Let me explain a bit more. Guys who I hear say
this usually have a follow-up explanation that basically says: "If at some
point, by some miracle, I develop attractions for women I'm totally open to
the idea of getting married, but since I don't feel any attraction to them,
it isn't fair for me to date them, and frankly, I don't have any desire to."

I strongly believe that this attitude is motivated by the enemy of our
souls. He would like nothing more than for us to put off courting and
dating until we are "attracted to women." This is because he knows that if
we do, the attractions to women will most likely never come.

I'm a firm believer that one of the most effective way to develop sexual
attractions to women is to develop a deep emotional bond with that woman.
One of the most effective ways to develop a deep emotional bond with a woman
is to spend time with and to serve that woman. Dating provides an excellent
opportunity to spend time with and to serve a woman.

I wonder if the Church-School Culture isn't at least partly to blame here.
Dating is not about going on a date with a woman who you can imagine
yourself marrying. I think dating is more about the process of getting to
know someone and figuring out if there is any possibility that you might be
able to find joy in a marriage with that someone. That process not only
takes time, it requires actually going through the process.

I kind of got sucked into dating my wife. We were totally not dating for
the first 2 months we were hanging out. She started it all. She asked me
to go walking with her one night, because no one else would go with her. I
had barely met her three nights before at our Singles' Branch Family Home
Evening. I felt bad for her needing to get out and walk, but not feeling
safe that late at night. I grudgingly left my interesting and extremely
isolated evening routine to go walk with this girl from the branch. I found
out I kinda enjoyed spending time with her and talking to her. So when she
said she wanted to get together again, I just blurted out that there was a
Multi-Stake dance that weekend. For the next couple of months we spent a
lot of time together. Then one night we were in my parent's basement
watching a movie. She told me about her week (one in which she had spent
some time with some other guys). I started to experience this
uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when she told me that she was
considering dating one of them. I liked spending time with her and, after
all, she was my only friend. It's not like I wanted to marry her or even
kiss her. I just wanted to have to to myself so I could spend time with
her.

For the next 2 months, I thought up every way I could possibly come up with
to break up with her without breaking her heart. I made numerous plans just
to break it off, only to lose my nerve when the moment came. Finally, I
settled on what seemed like a fool-proof strategy. I committed to an
Internship 14 hours away. I would move away and the distance would simply
be too much for the relationship. She wouldn't take it personally and I
would avoid having to tell her that I wasn't interested in marrying her.
Everything was going perfectly, until the night that I realized I loved
her. I was totally unprepared for that 2x4 to the head. I mean I knew I
really like her and cared about her and enjoyed spending time with her. But
that wasn't love. There sure as hell wasn't any sexual attraction. At
least that's what I had been telling myself. After that, I was really
confused. I loved her but I wasn't sexually attracted to her. I couldn't
picture having sex with her. I had no idea what to do.

However, once I realized that I loved her, the craziest things started
happening. My body started having physiological responses. When we cuddled
or kissed, my pulse quickened and I started breathing funny. Blood started
flowing to new places. Over time, I found myself thinking about her in ways
that I'd not previously thought about her, and much to my dismay, I wasn't
repulsed at the thought.

Before I knew it I had asked her to marry me and move to Nebraska with me
while I did my internship. There's a lot of other crap that came from me
being stupid and not addressing my SSA before my marriage. I was dumb and
naive enough to think that once I had an appropriate outlet for my sexual
energy, the SSA would just fade away. Oh, boy was I ever wrong! Things got
a lot worse before they got better. However, I know that the process of my
falling in love with my wife was real.

I know a couple of friends who say that the process of sexual/emotional
attraction tends to happen backwards for men with SSA. I agree with this.
For a large number of straight men, the reason they date a woman in the
first place is because they think she's hot and they want to find out if
there is any way they can get along with her emotionally. So the sexual
attraction comes first and then as they spend time with her, an emotional
attraction develops. We don't get the same hormonal jump start to dating.
We spend time with her, develop that emotional attractions and then
eventually develop a sexual attraction. But the dating part is still
essential to developing the necessary emotional attraction.

I know this has been incredibly long and maybe it's too much, but the bottom
line is that if SSA men have any interest in someday getting married, they've gotta
date now regardless of the level of sexual attraction that they currently feel
toward women.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Call to Arms

I heard this song yesterday and immediately thought of my last post. It's like the perfect soundtrack.


video

Friday, October 9, 2009

"I Had a Dream" and now I have one

So, lately I've been pondering the direction my life should go. Not in a way that would allow for any major changes. My chosen career path is pretty well set in stone. It has been confirmed too many times to change now. Getting through the rest of my schooling is one of my top priorities. But a couple of weeks ago, I lost my job. I had been planning on staying with that job for at least another three years. I found a temporary job, but it really wasn't working out, so I resigned yesterday. I have a bunch of applications in and I'm very optimistic about the probability of finding a job. Still, such a major shake to my world has caused a me to think quite a bit about what the Lord wants from me.

Also this last week, we've added two new members to our support group. That feels really good. I love knowing that something I've done actually benefits another person. But at the same time I'm discouraged when I think about all those individuals who are still struggling in quiet desperation; when I think of the parents and friends who don't know what to do when their son or daughter tells them that he or she is gay; when I think of the church leaders who don't know how to help members who come to them with issues of same-sex attraction.

I want to yell with the voice of an angel to tell everyone how it is. I want be able to reach every ear and penetrate every heart with the sword of the spirit. At the same time, I tell myself that I'm a nobody. I'm not a psychologist yet. I'm not in any position of authority in the church. I'm not even perfect. How can I make much difference? There are so many deeply entrenched beliefs about same-sex attraction that simply are not true and those beliefs are wide-spread. What can I possibly do to change anything?

Last night I had an interesting dream. I was waiting outside of a building for a group of men to come out of a meeting. It was the committee in charge of the LDS Family Services response to same-sex attraction. As the committee came out, I saw a number of men who are very prominent in the LDS Same-sex attraction community. Most of them have not experienced the effects of same-sex attraction in their lives. Most of them are still influenced by thoughts and ideas that are, quite frankly, ridiculous and out-dated. Yet these men were the ones deciding how the members of the church were going to respond to same-sex attraction. I remember expressing the thought "But you don't understand the issue!"

Their reply was immediate, "How dare you question us? We are the one's the Lord has chosen to make these decisions."

I woke up shorty after that. The response I didn't get the chance to say was still burnign in my mind and heart. "No, you're just all He has to work with right now."

Then I got an email from a friend and role-model of mine. He quoted President Monson as saying:

"In professional business, scientific work, and technological life, there is a rule which can be a very good one for ambitious young persons. The rule is this: Find a vacuum and expand into it. Ask yourself, 'What is there that needs doing and is not being done?' Then assess you capacity for doing things, and let it be your ambition to do the work that you can do best, in an area where it’s needed most, and then put all of your mind to it."

This quote really struck me with power.

It seems to me that the Lord is calling each one of us to step up and do what needs to be done. He doesn't want us to expect others to do it and then criticize their perceived lack of action while we wait lazily on the sidelines. It is up to each of us to many things of our own free will and bring to pass much good.

This understanding me has given me the power and motivation to undertake tasks that once seemed daunting. The Lord wants me to expand into the void that currently exists regarding education about same-sex attraction. He wants me to grow and stretch.

I only hope that I am not the only one attempting to fill this massive void, though even if I am, I know that I can anything the Lord desires as long as I have His help.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Amazing New Book

So, I just had the opportunity to read a book. I have had great intentions of writing a really neat, professional review to post all over the place, but with school and the whole mess with work (more on that later), I'm going to have to postpone that until future notice.

No Going Back
by Jonathan Langford is an amazing book. It is the story of a teenage boy who learns to come to terms with his membership in the Church and his same-sex attractions. It is written with an exceptional understanding of the challenges of being both gay and Mormon. The author is sensitive to a wide variety of feelings and opinions. Through his writing, the author challenges each one of us to re-examine our own beliefs closely while at the same time developing understanding and tolerance for others' beliefs. This novel is a very uplifting story about the struggle between desires and faith. It is about the strength of the human spirit and the power of true friendships.

I am very happy I read this book and wish everyone I know would read it. For members of The LDS Church who might be cautious of the subject matter, I would say that this is a doctrinally sound book; it remains in harmony with the teachings of Christ. To people who do not belong to the LDS faith, this book is not an attack on gays in any way. It is neither homophobic nor bigoted. It is simply a story about a boy who realizes that he has the ability to decide what he wants to do with his life.

I highly recommend that everyone reading my blog buy and read this book! It is available from Amazon here: No Going Back.

Here are some other reviews of the book and the blurb from the back cover:

A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In NO GOING BACK, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties.


No Going Back is not just for anyone with same sex attraction. It is a must for leaders who work with those struggling with these choices, as well as for family and friends as they love, reject, support, or fail to understand what such a struggle costs.” — Linda Hunter Adams, former director of the BYU Humanities Publications Center, past president of the Association for Mormon Letters


“Jonathan Langford’s No Going Back is a heartfelt, heart breaking, and ultimately enriching tale of what it means to be a fifteen year old Mormon boy who truly wants only to do what is right, but is faced with the terrifying fact that he is gay. The main character’s troubling journey is honest and sheds light on one of the most difficult dilemmas facing hundreds, if not thousands, of young Mormons who just want it to go away. Langford writes honestly without becoming bogged down in the politics surrounding this issue.” — Gerald Argetsinger, Associate Professor of Performing Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology; former Artistic Director of the LDS Church’s Hill Cumorah Pageant


“As I began reading, I found myself engaged with the characters and sharing their hopes and fears.... To me this was an important work, exploring the territory of coming-of-age in the challenging context of same-sex attraction in a young man whose honest faith forbids acting out the behaviors associated with the attraction. The characterizations of the bishop, the best friend, the parent and the population of the school and church communities were credible and empathetic. As I read it, I often thought that this book should be required reading for bishops and others who are called upon to help youth navigate the turbulent waters of adolescence and faith.” — Evan A. Ballard, former bishop, father of seven


“People are my area of interest. All people. For years, same sex attraction has been an area that I have tried to understand so that I can be compassionate or helpful to those that struggle.... I found the book to be a page turner and for me that says a lot. There were times that I wanted to take it with me as I rode in the car so that I could continue reading. I was anxious for the day to end so that I could pick it up again. The characters in the book felt very real to me.” — Connie Bankston, mother of five, long-time stake specialist working with LDS Family Services


“The story opens a window into the often silent and lonely world of a young man who is coming to understand his same-sex attraction while he experiences the ignorance and cruelty of an intolerant society. Paul’s experiences with his family, his best friend, his church leaders, and his peer group tell not just the story of a gay young man coming of age, but a very human story that any person who has struggled to find himself will relate to. What makes this story most gripping for me is the intersection of Paul’s strong religious beliefs, his desire to be happy with himself, and his loyalty to those he loves most. Paul’s personal struggle also sends shock-waves through the lives of those closest to him, as they dig deep within themselves to find what matters most.” — Brian Burns, professional counselor, former Scoutmaster


“For perhaps 72 hours after reading No Going Back, it was almost the only thing I thought about. You have touched very sensitively, compassionately, and thoughtfully on a very important topic about which Mormons are almost completely silent.... I see this book as an essential first step in opening a viable dialogue about a struggle that is very real for many members of the church. In truth, I believe this book will save someone’s life.” — Clark Draney, Associate Professor of English, College of Southern Idaho


“Two main aspects of my life coincide with themes in your novel. I was a Scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America in my local ward for about ten years, and I also struggle with the dilemma of being a believing and faithful Latter-day Saint who struggles with same-sex attraction. For me, your novel was a home run exploring these issues. You captured many of the things I have personally felt as I have navigated those waters.

“The tensions abound in your novel, between faithfulness to the Church, Scouting, family issues, single parenthood, too-busy bishops, neglected bishops’ wives, and being part of the gay world but not welcome in it. These tensions are all well-portrayed and thought out. This will be a novel that many thoughtful Latter-day Saints will want to read. It is simple, but far-reaching in its ability to make people think and consider their own feelings, without being preachy or trying to advance a point of view. As much as I’ve thought about these very issues from a personal standpoint, you still gave me plenty more to think about.” — Rex Goode, AML-List member, trained social worker, webmaster for the Latter-Day Sexual Recovery website


“I was drawn into the story and wanted to see what happened. Having read the book, and from my own personal experience, I am convinced that it told the story the way I would see it in many cases in real life.... The book seems faithful to LDS church standards and positions as I understand them. My understanding of the topic is better. I understand more of the problems people face in dealing with it. I feel as if I know the characters in the story and would recognize them if I was introduced to them.” — Larry Jackson, AML-List member, father of eleven


“I love the way it brings to life through narrative what I imagine will be the struggle of many youth growing up in today’s evolving culture around gay issues. Parents, friends, priesthood leaders, and peers are all a critical part of how we negotiate our sense of self-identity and life choices, and this story is masterful in how it brings to life all the tensions associated with that process. A couple of times, I even found myself forgetting this was fiction and wanting to get in contact with the main character to assure him he’s not alone. Each of the characters, with their different personalities and roles in the narrative — Barbara, Sandy, Richard, Chad, Paul, the kids at church and the kids at school — offers something quite meaningful to the story.” — Ty Mansfield, coauthor of In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction, published in 2004 by Deseret Book


“I thought a more literary, more postmodern treatment was necessary. I was wrong. By telling the story simply, tying it to a particular time and place, and focusing on the teenage protagonists, Langford is able to confine the discussion of this issue to a manageable narrative — and a compelling one. The approach Langford takes is genius. I love the way he threads the middle of American Mormon mores, doctrine, and practice in a way that is in some senses mundane — this is basically a domestic drama — but also incredibly radical.

“These teenagers act like teenagers, even though they are basically good kids.... Any discussion of same-sex attraction makes a lot of Mormons uncomfortable. But the novel is thoroughly orthodox. Its characters are orthodox Mormons. Its tensions and ultimate solutions and resolutions are firmly rooted in active LDS life — prayer, scripture study, repentance, the priesthood, love, charity, hope, the family.” — William Morris, founder of the Mormon arts and culture blog A Motley Vision


“I knew that a story about a Mormon teen who has recently discovered homosexual tendencies in himself was not going to have an easy or tidy resolution. However, I found the manuscript easy to read because the characters were all appealing. I liked them and wanted to see how they would interact and deal with the situations they were facing. The ending was as positive as I could imagine. I cannot attest to the reality of the experiences, since I have never been a teenaged boy myself, of any orientation (gay, straight, east-west), but the characters felt real to me. I periodically had to remind myself that this wasn’t a problem I was expected to help with, since the characters were only fictional.” — Laura F. Nielsen, children’s author, mother of five


“Abiding by Mormonism’s high standards challenges all its faithful adherents. Coping with one’s besieged status as a young gay is no less difficult. What if you are both at the same time? Like no other work I know, Langford’s frank and poignant novel brings this real-life impasse into bold relief.” — Thomas F. Rogers, BYU Russian Professor Emeritus; Mormon playwright and essayist, author of Heubener, Fire in the Bones, and A Call to Russia: Glimpses of Missionary Life


“I was surprised with how nuanced and rounded your handling of the issue was. As a faithful but not quite mainstream-thinking Mormon, I appreciated that the work affirmed gospel principles, but didn’t treat the church as a whitewashing panacea for obstacles. I felt that you did a good job of representing and honoring the level of difficulty, sacrifice, and commitment that (I’ve always imagined) staying in the church would require of a homosexual person.” — Heidi Tighe, AML-List member


“It’s high time we came to terms with same-sex issues, the more so where we are most reluctant to do so. I welcome both this broaching of the issue from a Latter-day Saint perspective and its frankly positive dealing with an issue this touchy. I suspect much of the appeal of the narrative for others — as for me — will lie in its ‘this is part of life’ naturalness, in the good-natured refusal (like the bishop character) to be prissy or unrealistic about gay realities.

“Jonathan Langford’s first novel is engaging stuff. The narrative opens into some of our deepest concerns, and the prose makes us glad to be there.” — Steven C. Walker, BYU English Professor




GO READ IT!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Family

So I found out a couple of months ago that a lot of my extended family found my blog. I'm not 100% sure who or how, but thanks to Google Analytics and a reliable source, I know many did.

I'm totally okay with that. I have nothing to hide as far as my sexuality is concerned. I didn't choose my attractions, but I am choosing the way I live my life. I am comfortable with that choice and am confident that the Lord is pleased with it as well. I don't make a big deal of my attractions with everyone, but I'm not going to hide them.

What does bother me, is that no one from the family (other than my source)has said anything to me about it. This puts me in a really awkward position. I don't feel like I can contact any of them or visit any of them until I get some kind of reaction. I don't want to pretend it didn't happen. I can't. I would always be wondering if this person or that person knew and what they would think of me. I want to be able to be completely authentic with my family, but I don't think I could. I know that sounds a lot like I'm concerned about what other people think of me and I don't think that's the case. I just want to know how open I can be in whose company without making them uncomfortable or getting the wrong impression about me.

I don't know, maybe this is just silly. I worry way too much. I know that. I have so many problems! For instance, at school the other day I checked out 3 FEMALES! It was crazy. "And life just keeps on running!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obedience

I've been thinking a lot about obedience lately.

My thoughts on obedience at this point are that it is at the same time the first Law of Heaven and a response rather than an independent action. It seems that when we really have a perfect knowledge of the origin of commandments being God and a perfect trust in Heavenly Father's love for us to the point of knowing that He only asks us to do those things which will benefit us, we naturally and instinctively obey those commandments perfectly. It is not hard for us. Without a perfect knowledge of either the source of a command or the subsequent knowledge of His love and an assurance of His motivation, obedience can become a challenge. In fact, when obedience is relatively easy in the absence of those two things, I'm not sure it can truly be called obedience.

There is a caveat. Faith is knowing. It is not a perfect knowledge, but it is a certain level of knowledge that can motivate us to a corresponding level of obedience.

We can only truly act according to our knowledge. This is why Adam's “obedience” in the Garden of Eden was not what the Lord was after. Adam was perfectly obedient, but the Lord was not satisfied. Why? Because Adam did not have a knowledge of good and evil. He was as a child who obeyed only because he was told to and knew nothing else. That wasn't enough for God. Perhaps the symbolism of the obedience of a child, like any symbolism, can be taken too far. I think that the Lord wants us to obey for the some of the reasons a child obeys but not others. He wants us to obey because we trust Him, love Him, and want to be more like Him. I'm not convinced that our Father is pleased when we obey because we are afraid of punishment, because we want Him to like us, or because we simply don't know better.

It seems that obedience, then is not prerequisite to righteousness or knowledge rather an indicator of these things. A person who is not obedient does not have a problem with obedience. He has a problem with knowledge. He has a problem with faith. I think this is why God is so pleased when we are obedient. It is a sign that we are coming to know Him. It seems that if this were not so, everyone could reasonably be expected to live perfectly. Just be obedient, right? But we aren't. That obedience comes line by line, precept by precept, just as knowledge also comes.

It's interesting though, that while obedience is the natural result of knowledge, it is also the way by which we gain knowledge. At first this seemed very contradictory to me. But in that sentence, the references to the word 'knowledge' refer to two different things. Think about a set of stairs. One level of knowledge leads us to an act of obedience that elevates us, bringing us new knowledge which leads us to another act of obedience. The process is gradual and, as far as I can tell, not one we will finish any time soon.

But where does the process start? It seems that if knowledge is a prerequisite for true obedience, we have to start with some knowledge. I believe that this is the responsibility of the Light of Christ. Without it, we would all be lost, without the needed tools to help us find our way. However, with the Light of Christ helping us discern the most basic truths, such as the existence of a God, or the importance of family, we have a foundation on which we can begin the smallest steps of obedience. When obedience comes from knowledge, from faith, it will lead to more knowledge, leading to greater obedience.

So, if I have trouble living obedient to a certain commandment, say not watching R-rated movies, I have to remember that the root issue is not obedience. I'm not just weak or uncommitted to the gospel, and I don't just need more willpower. I don't have to be hard on myself. What I need is more faith in the commandment. I need more knowledge about that commandment. I don't mean that I always need to understand the “why” of every commandment I keep. But I do need to have an assurance that it is what Heavenly Father wants me to do. This probably requires prayer. It definitely requires an open heart, a willingness to obey whatever commandment the Spirit delivers. In short, the prayer must be made with real intent. A spiritual confirmation, or testimony, will go a long way toward helping me be obedient, but it usually isn't enough.

We receive that knowledge, that faith, through obedience to the commandments that form the staircase up to the commandment we are currently working to master. I believe that is why new converts aren't immediately asked to live the Law of Consecration. In the same way, if I am having trouble keeping a commandment, I'm probably not doing some of the smaller things that would lead me to the knowledge I need to keep that commandment. So instead of getting frustrated with my weakness, I could look at my life to see if there is some other commandment that I might obey more fully in order to gain the faith necessary to obey.

I'm still working on this. I'd love input whether you agree or disagree.


(Disclaimer: I firmly believe that addictions do have the power to take away our agency and are not usually overcome by “spiritual” solutions alone. However, truly gaining the faith/knowledge of the power of the Savior's atonement and of the goodness in God's command will help immensely in the battle.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ponderings on CS Lewis

I love how Gmail frequently shows random quotes above the inbox. Most of the time, they are funny or odd quotes. But occasionally, they are really insightful and thought provoking. A while back I read this quote from C.S. Lewis. It has been on my mind a lot since then.

He said: "We are what we believe we are."

I've thought a lot about how I think of myself. I know that sounds confusing. It's not half as confusing written out as it is in my head! Anyway, I know that as far as SSA was concerned I used to think of myself as a normal guy (I know, I was really confused). I chalked up all the feelings and thoughts I had about other men to natural teenage horniness. After I got married and those thoughts and attractions didn't go away, I started to change the way I thought of myself. I began to believe that maybe I was just gay. The more I started to believe that about myself the less and less happy I became. I was more and more convinced that I couldn't be happy living the gospel. And sure enough, I was miserable trying. It wasn't untill I met other married men with SSA, that I started to consider maybe I wasn't gay. I started to think of myself as a faithful SSA Latter-day Saint. Althought this was a whole hell of a lot better than believing I was gay, it wasn't perfect. Becasue of the way I viewed myself, my SSA was an integral part of my slef-image. Without SSA, I wouldn't be anyone. I'd go back to being the inconsequential nobody I was before I got married. But with SSA, I had a reason for people to pity me. I had great friends who shared my struggles with SSA. If it werent' for my SSA I'd never have met them and they surely wouldn't like me.

Over time that view changed. I realized that my SSA did not define me any more than my hieght of 6'4" defined who I really was. I wasn't a man who was attracted to other men and also happened to be LDS and married. I was a Son of God. I am valuable for my own personal gifts and personality. I have divine attributes that make me a unique. I am a good and loving husband. I happen to be attracted to guys, but that really doesn't mean that much. I've made covenants to the Lord and my wife.

Changing the way that I thought about myself allowed me to focus on things I really enjoy. My life opened up in ways that I had never imagined. Instead of focusing on all the things that were wrong with my life, I was able to make my life better.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Favorite Movie Quote

Oh, this is hard. I have a ton of "favorite" movie quotes. Maybe that reflects on my own inability to come up with good stuff myself. I don't know.

One of my all time favorites comes from the John Wayne movie Big Jake. Towards the end, in the face-off with the men who kidnapped his grandson he repeats the phrase: "Now you understand: anything happens, anything at all, your fault, my fault, nobody's fault, it don't matter, and I'm going to blow your head off, simple as that." The reason I love that quote so much has nothing to do with the movie. One of my favorite insights into the healing power of the atonement relates to a modification of that quote as repeated by the Savior. "Now you understand this: anything happens, anything at all, your fault, my fault, nobody's fault, it don't matter and I will fix it through the atonement if you come unto me, simple as that."

As I'm thinking, a lot of my favorite movie quotes come from John Wayne movies. Also from Big Jake, in response to people saying that they thought he was dead: "Not hardly!" From the old rancher in Rio Lobo: "Aren't ya glad you brung me along?" From True Grit: "Mister Rat, I have a writ here that says you are to vacate the premises and I'm serving you."

I love the Karate Kid trilogy. From Karate Kid III, after Mister Miaggi has thumped all three bad guys he mocks Mr. Silvers with "Waaa, waaa, waaaa." It's a less usable quote, but "funny as hell!"

Which brings me to the person I quote most often. Jeff Dunham. (to which I would always add: "Jefafa Dunn HAM dot com!" Peanut is true to his quote "funny as hell!" But my all time favorite Jeff Dunham character is Achmed. From "I have so many problems" to "No, there's more" to "what the hell is poliosis?" and "Hey, I could have Clay Aiken!" He's hilarious. It's so funny that I think of each character as being funnier or less funny than Jeff Dunham himself. It's like his own line where he tells two of his puppets to stop talking in Spanish because "I don't speak Spanish." To which his puppets just stare at him. Anyone reading this and not familiar with Jeff Dunham should definitely YouTube him for more.


video

My First Kiss

So, My first kiss was with my wife. A long time before we were married. Although I had a couple of mission companions who were determined not to kiss a girl until they were across the altar from their wife. I think that is just plain silly.

Anyway, my wife and I were sitting on my parents' couch watching Elder Eyring's CES fireside. We'd been dating for a couple of weeks. I had my arm around her and I just had this urge to reach down and kiss her. So I did. It was a little more than a peck, but not much. I really can't remember the first time we really kissed. My wife and I did kiss quite a bit before we were married and I never really believed that French Kissing is a sin before marriage. A couple needs to be careful so they don't go further than they should.

Anyway, my wife thinks it's hilarious that she was the first person I kissed. It makes more sense now that she knows about my SSA. I think it's kinda cool.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Speech

After posting my evaluation, I thought I'd post another pretty big assignment in my life. Last semester I took a public speaking class. For my final speech I decided to talk about homosexuality. I took a slightly different approach. My goal was to simply increase communication about same-sex attractions and clarify that while people don't choose their attractions, they should be free to pursue happiness in whatever way they see fit.

I was so nervous, because I started my speech by reliving a night last January when I was holding a knife in my hand contemplating suicide. Then I was going to out myself to the whole class. Adrenaline was definitely pumping. It was so awesome. One girl had a look of complete disgust on her face from the moment I pulled out the knife. Other than her, everyone was so supportive and totally cool about it. There was this one guy who I had worked really hard to develop a friendship with over the semester. I was worried about how my disclosure would affect our relationship. It strengthened it. He came up to me and told me that he has a bunch of friends from high school who are gay. We've even done stuff together this semester. It's really cool.

The best part, though, was the way my teacher responded. We talked after class for half an hour. She isn't a member, but she is an active Christian. She thanked me like a dozen times for helping her understand. She asked a bunch of questions and we talked about the gospel and the atonement quite a bit. It was such an amazing feeling. Then she asked if I had any other groups of such that I could give my speech to. I told her not really. So she said that I ought to come into the speech lab and record my speech as an example speech for future students. I thought that was totally awesome. So I did.

So, coming out to people is such a rush. I love doing it. It feels so good to try to help others understand this challenge.


So the formatting in blogger sucks. Good luck with my outline.


Topic: Homosexuality
General Purpose: To persuade
Specific Purpose: My purpose is to persuade my audience to speak up to those within their sphere of influence, especially youth, about homosexuality.
Thesis: My audience should speak out about homosexuality because ignorance about the issue has serious consequences and this solution is simple, yet effective.

Attention Step

I. (Attention Getter) "I'd like to take you to a kitchen table in a small apartment."
A. I was ready to end my life.
1. Then, I realized that I needed to make my death look like an accident.
2. About this time my wife walked out of the bedroom, and after overcoming her initial shock and panic at the sight of this knife in my hand, she made sure I got the help I needed.
B. Stuart Matis wasn't as lucky.
1. On February 25, 2000 in Santa Clara California, Stuart put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. (Mansfield, 2004)
2. Every year, as many as 800,000 youth ages 15-24 attempt suicide; 250,000 of those share one common trait---they are attracted to members of their own gender.(CDC, 2008; CDC, 2005)
C. There are a number of word that evoke meaning and emotion.
II. (Topic Justification) Homosexuality is one of the most controversial social issues of our time.
A. Those who speak loudest about the controversy come from the furthest extremes of the issue.
B. These voices continue to polarize the population, leaving the middle ground unspoken.
III. (Credibility Statement) My name is Kevin Lindley.
A. I am happily married and active in my Church.
B. And I am a 5 on Kinsey's Scale if Sexual Orientation.
IV. (Preview Statement) I am going to explain how ignorance about sexual orientation has contributed to the controversy surrounding this issue, then, I will propose a simple, yet effective solution to the problem, and show why this solution is so important.

Transition: First I want to talk about the problem of misinformation regarding homosexuality.

Problem Step

I. (Statement of the Problem) Before we decide if there is a problem with the information currently available to our youth, we should ask, what is the truth about homosexuality?
A. The exact reasons why some people experience homosexual, or same-sex attractions are unknown.
1. (Evidence-Authority) Many scientist believe that genetic nature and the environment play complex roles in influencing an individual's sexual attractions. (APA, 2008)
2. One thing is certain, most individuals experience no choice in the development of sexual attractions. (APA, 2008)
B. Individuals who experience homosexual attractions should have the freedom to pursue happiness in whatever way they choose.
1. Contrary to what many pro-gay activists proclaim, there is scientific research to prove that many individuals can reduce their same-sex attractions and find happiness "living the straight life." (Spitzer, 2003)
2. However, many individuals with homosexual attractions choose to seek same-sex relationships.
a. These individuals can find happiness as well.
b. Regardless of the majority's beliefs, no minority should be denied the opportunity to seek happiness.
C. The problem is that vocal activists on either side would have the public see only black or white.
1. Religious extremists would have those with same-sex attractions feel that they are "sinners;" they claim that the only option is to try to change their sexual orientation.
2. Meanwhile, pro-gay activists reject that as religious bigotry and assert that the only option for such individuals is to embrace their homosexuality and pursue same-sex relationships.
3. The truth lies somewhere in between.
4. Individuals who experience same-sex attractions do so at no fault of their own, and so they can't be held responsible.
5. All individuals should be free to pursue happiness in the way that seems best to them.
II. (Extent and Seriousness of the Problem) So What? This lack of balanced information has serious consequences.
A. A very large number of people experience homosexual attractions.
1. While 4.1% of Americans identify as gay or bisexual, as many as 15% experience some degree of same-sex attraction. (Gate, 2006; CDC, 2005: Fergusson, 2005)
2. That is 32 million individuals, or 20 times the entire population of Idaho.
3. That equals roughly 1 in 20 who are gay, but 3 in 20 who experience homosexual attraction.
4. 30% of Gay and Lesbians report having attempted suicide at least once. (Remfardi, 1998)
B. The US government has found that gay or lesbian teens are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their "straight" peers.
1. In fact, gay and lesbian teens account for as many as 30% of all teen suicides in the US. (US Dep. HHS, 1989)
2. That means that 1,600 teens will commit suicide this year because they are attracted to members of their own gender.
3. Every six hours another parent or brother or sister will find a teen dead.
C. Gay and Lesbian youth do face increased prejudice and discrimination.
1. The APA and 12 other mental health organizations produced a research based pamphlet that reported that gay and lesbian youth do experience prejudice, discrimination and even violence. (Just the Facts, 2008)
2. The APA reports that virtually 100% of Gays and Lesbians experience verbal harassment and abuse. (APA, 2008)
3. One study showed that homosexual youth are more likely to miss school due to fear, being threatened by other students, or property being damaged. (Garofalo, 1998)
4. Another study found that 78% of all teens feel gay and lesbian youth are teased or bullied too much. (NMHA, 2002)
5. Bobby Griffith did a backflip off a highway overpass into an oncoming semi truck, because he lacked suppport from family and friends. (Miller, 1992)
III. (Audience Involvement) Whether they know it or not, this audience is affected by the lack of correct knowledge about homosexuality.
A. 85% of this audience reported knowing someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
1. Remember that 1 in 3 gays, lesbians, and bisexuals attempt suicide.
2. Also, 72% of gays and lesbians report being suicidal-compared to 10% of heterosexuals.
3. (Motive Appeal-Love and affection) Many of you have someone you care about who has been suicidal because of their sexual orientation.
B. Also less than half of this class feels that gay and lesbian teens are bullied too much.
C. However, more than 75% of you would still maintain a relationship if your friend told you he or she was gay.

Transition: It is obvious that America has a problem on our hands, so what are we going to do about it?

Solution Step

I. (Evaluation of proposed alternative solution) Many people want to combat prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
A. One of the most common approaches is to try to make laws regarding homosexuality.
1. (Evidence-Analogy) As we saw with racial prejudice and discrimination laws did not change what people believe.
II. (Statement of solution) What this world needs is for people who know the truth to speak up.
III. (Explanation of solution) This is an easy and powerful approach.
A. Correct knowledge about a subject often reduces the prejudice and stereotypes surrounding it.
B. (Stylistic Device-Metaphore) By correctly educating those around us, especially the youth, we can erase the ugly shroud of intolerance and cruelty that smudges our society.
IV. (Illustrate/demonstrate effectiveness) This solution is very powerful and effective.
A. (Evidence- Authourity)The APA recommends that heterosexual people help others reconsider their attitudes toward homosexuality. (APA, 2008)
B. (Evidence- Authourity)Mary Griffith belives that correct education about homosexuality would have prevented her son's death. (Griffith, 1988)
C. (Evidence- Authourity) Talking about sexual orientation at a young age helps prevent a child from developing prejudical attitudes.
D. (Evidence- Authourity)(Motive Appeal-Compassion and Understanding) Talking about homosexual orientation also helps pass on universal values of respect and understanding to children. (Ponton, 2006)
V. (Refutation) Some may say that we shouldn't talk about homosexuality, but that is absurd.
A. I have heard that we shouldn't discuss homosexuality, because we might encourage kids to experiment.
B. Talking about homosexuality doesn't increase experimentation.
C. Evidence shows that this argument is not valid.
1. (Evidence-Analogy) Studies have shown that talking to youth about sex does not increase sexual activity.

2. (Evidence-Authority) Dr. Lynn Ponton of the National Mental Health Association believes that talking with kids about sexuality is beneficial not harmful. (Ponton, 2006)
D. I have shown that fear of experimentation is not a reasonable argument against discussing homosexuality.

Transition: Now that I've explained my solution, let's look at speaking out can affect our future.

Visualization Step

I. (Negative Visualization) If we stand by and let vocal extremists control the information our youth receive, more youth will commit suicide.
A. More parents will experience what John and Maria Melo did.
1. John Melo had to cut his son, Joshua, down from the tree Joshua used to hang himself.
2. Maria Melo also retold her experiences about her son's suicide.
3. The interesting thing is that Joshua wasn't gay; his peers just bullied him because they claimed he was.
B. As the two sides become more polarized, the argument over gay rights will become more vicious.
II. (Positive Visualization) On the other hand, if we speak out about homosexuality, our youth will grow up in safety.
A. Fewer youth will choose to end their own lives.
B. Fewer youth will feel unsafe at school, in their neighborhoods, and in their families.
C. More youth will learn compassion and empathy towards people who are different.
D. More youth will find happiness as they try to live with their own sexuality.

Transition: That is a world I want my children to grow up in; exactly how can we create this kind of world.

Action Step

I. We need to talk more about homosexuality, without taking part in extremist attitudes.
A. Our youth need to know the truth about same-sex attractions.
1. Youth need to know that sexual attractions are not chosen, that they are not bad because of who they're attracted to.
2. Youth need to know that they have the freedom to choose how they react to theri attractions.
3. Youth need to know that it is not okay to bully or tease others for any reason.
B. All individuals need to know the truth about homosexuality.
1. We can stand up to and correct those who make prejudiced comments.
2. We can and should make it clear that we don't approve of intolerance.
C. Speaking up doesnt' take a great effort on our part.
1. Simply take advantagesof opportunities to talk when they come up.
2. It does take some courage to talk about topics like sexuality.
3. However, the benefits outweigh the effort it takes.
II. (Punch Statement) We must raise our voices because one teen attempting suicide every two minutes over their sexual attractions, is one teen too many.


Audience Analysis Paragraph:

My audience consists of a population of diverse ages. A majority are bween the ages of 18 and 25. The majority are female. 85% of my audience is exclusively heterosexual. Most of my audience would be okay with a gay friend. Less than half feel that gay and lesbian teens are bullied too much. Less than half would favor adding sexual orientation to school curriculum. I don't really have to convince them that they should not be prejudiced against homosexuals. My biggest challenge is going to be to get them to overcome their fear and discomfort regarding speaking about homosexuality. I plan to help them by appealing to their compassion using gay teen suicide information

Enthymemes:

Major Premise: If something is causing death among our youth, it should be fixed.
Minor Premise: Ignorance about homosexuality is causing death among our youth.
Conclusion: Ignorance about homosexuality should be fixed.

Major Premise: If we want to change the current situation, we need to change how we act.
Minor Premise: We want to reduce the number of sexual orientation related suicided.
Conclusion: We need to change how we act.

Inductive Evidence:

I. (Evidence-Authority)Many scientist believe that genetic nature and the environment play complex roles in influencing an individual's sexual attractions.
1) Organization of Professionals. Yes, they are related to the field.
2) Yes, this organization must be free from bias
3) Yes, this authority used to believe that homosexuality was a mental illness
4) Yes, the APA maintains a very consistent point of view on homosexuality.
5) No, the APA continually bases their views on scientific research.

II. (Evidence-Statistics) 4.1% of Americans identify as gay or bisexual.
1) Yes, the American Government is reliable.
2) Yes, the statistic has been gathered within the last 3 years.
3) Yes, the CDC used a large sample size (12,571) and the sample is a nationally representative multistage area probability sample.

Stylistic Devices:

I. (Stylistic Device-Metaphore) We can erase the ugly shroud of intolerance and cruelty that smudges our society.
II. (Stylistic Device-Anaphora)Fewer youth will. . ., Fewer youth will. . ., More youth will. . ., More youth will. . .

Motive Appeals:

I. (Motive Appeal-Love and affection)Many of you have someone you care about who has been suicidal because of their sexual orientation.
II. (Motive Appeal-Compassion and understanding)Talking about homosexual orientation also helps pass on values of respect and understanding to children.

References

American Psychological Association. (2008). Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, DC: Author. [Retrieved from www.apa.org/ topics/sorientation.pdf.]

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures: Men and Women 15–44 Years of Age, United States, 2002. Washington, DC: Mosher, William D., et.al.. Retrieved from [http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad362.pdf]

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). WISQARS Fatal Injuries: Mortality Reports. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from [http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate.html]

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Suicide: Facts at a Glance. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from [ http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/suicide/suicide_data_sheet.pdf.]

Fergusson, David M., et. al. (2005). Sexual orientation and mental health in a birth cohort of young adults. Psychological Medicine, 35, pp 971-981

Garofalo, R.,Wolf, R. C., Kessel, S., Palfrey, J., & Du Rant, R. H. (1998). The association between health risk behaviors and sexual orientation among a school-based sample of adolescents. Pediatrics, 101, 895-902.

Gates, Gary J. (2006). Same-sex Couples and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Population: New Estimates from the American Community Survey. Retrieved from [http://www.law.ucla.edu/
williamsinstitute/publications/SameSexCouplesandGLBpopACS.pdf

Griffith, Mary. Testimony. Los Angeles School Committee, Public Hearings. June 23, 1988.

Just the Facts Coalition. (2008). Just the facts about sexual orientation and youth: A primer
for principals, educators, and school personnel. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Association. Retrieved from [www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/publications/justthefacts.html.]

Kevin Caruso. (2006) Remembering an Angel: Joshua Melo. Retrieved from [http://www.suicide.org/ memorials/joshua-melo.html]

Mansfield, Ty, et. al. (2004). In Quiet Desperation. Salt Lake City, UT: Author.

Miller, B. Jaye. "From Silence to Suicide: Measuring a Mother's Loss." Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992. pp. 88-89.

National Mental Health Association. What does gay mean? Teen Survey. Alexandria, Va: Author. Retrieved from [http://www.nmha.org/whatdoesgaymean.]

Ponton, Lynn. (2006) What does gay mean? How to talk to kids about sexual orientation and prejudice.
Alexandria, VA: National Mental Health Association. Retrieved from [http://www.nmha.org/ whatdoesgaymean.]

Remafedi, G., Frendh, S., Story,M., Resnick,M. D., & Blum, R. (1998). The relationship between suicide risk and sexual orientation: Results of a population-based study. American Journal of Public Health, 88, 57-60.

Spitzer, Robert L. (2003) Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? Archives of Sexual Behavior. 32. pp 403-417

U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide," by Paul Gibson, Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide, ed. Marcia R. Feinleib, Washington, DC, January 1989.

Evaluation

So, kinda random, but I just finished am assignment for my English class. We had to evaluate two articles or essays of the same genre based on criteria we had selected ourselves. Most of the class decided to pick two stories from our book. I chose two articles written for men with SSA. Both have their strong points. One just has a lot fewer weak points.



What Works and What Doesn't: An Evaluation Based on Four Criteria


Few things shape character and personality like the difficulties people experience. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges people experience is being attracted to members of the same gender. This is especially true when those attractions conflict with a person's personal or religious convictions. While the literature available to those individuals is still limited, two essays on the subject are often recommended. David Matheson's article "Four Principles of Growth" speaks directly to men who experience unwanted same-gender attractions. "Homosexuality: What Works and What Doesn't" by Jeff Robinson is a more general work for anyone trying to understand same-sex attraction and possible solutions. Among essays written to help men trying to overcome same-gender attraction, Matheson's "Four Principles of Growth" is more helpful than Robinson's "Homosexuality: What Works and What Doesn't" when judged on readability, accuracy, applicability, and credibility.
"Four Principles of Growth" addresses four concepts that Matheson states "are intended as a guide to help [men] understand this complex process of changing [their] life" (Matheson 12). He uses the acronym M.A.N.S. for these principles. After a discussion of the problems associated with each principle, he suggests some solutions to those problems. Matheson first addresses the principle of masculinity. He says that most men who experience same-sex attraction do not feel masculine. He separates true masculinity from society's portrayal of a stereotypical expectations. Matheson then discusses the ways that authenticity, or more correctly a lack of authenticity, can contribute to the development of homosexual attractions. From authenticity Matheson moves to unmet needs. Matheson defines a need as anything an individual must have in order to experience joy. He claims that by meeting the unmet needs at the root of same-gender attractions, a person can greatly diminish the intensity of those attractions. Matheson concludes with the principle of surrender. Matheson asserts that ultimately a man has to surrender to a higher power those things which are out his control. Matheson clearly explains his belief in his conclusion by saying, "To me, 'change' means that growth toward mature masculinity and heterosexuality is resumed and completed" (12).
Robinson takes a very religious approach to overcoming same-sex attraction. His theories are deeply rooted in his religious beliefs. This is clear from the first page of his essay when he says of men who felt that they could not change their sexual orientation, "If the gospel is not true for these men, then it cannot be true for me" (Robinson 1). The first area of focus in this essay is on the characteristics that Robinson claims are common to all men who experience same-sex attraction. He lists three: sensitive, introspective, and determined to be right. Robinson then asserts that same-sex attractions are simply a learned behavior. He defends this by explaining what he states are the universal experiences shared by men with same-sex attractions and the interpretations of those experiences. Robinson concludes with his recommended method for reducing same-sex attractions. He says the way to get rid of homosexual attractions is simply to walk away from them, to stop thinking about them. In his own words, "What works is to leave it alone" (13).
Both essays read quite well. Robinson's essay is written in a narrative style. There is a good flow from one idea to the next. He begins with underlying personality traits, moves into experiences that contribute to the development of the attractions, and closes with his solution. He uses transitional words and signposts frequently. He tends to organize ideas into groups of three and clearly states the first, second, and third concepts. Matheson on the other hand organizes his article according to his acronym. He states that the principles are overlapping and no one is more important than the others. Even though he discusses one principle and then moves to the next, he still finds ways to tie the principles together. Both authors organize their ideas so that they are easy to understand.
While both essays are well organized, Robinson's essay contains many grammatical errors. It seems almost that he wrote he article on a typewriter and then didn't go back an edit it. One of many examples is when Robinson writes, "it's a pretty good bet that these men have been, had some sort of . . . experience" (Robinson 3). Errors like this abound in Robinson's essay. This makes reading his writing difficult. Matheson writes with a very different style. His tone is professional; his writing is polished. He uses a number of stylistic devices. One example of this can be found in his use of a simile: "Splitting these principles out is somewhat like shining white light through a prism" (Matheson 1).
Factual accuracy is very important when judging the helpfulness of an essay. Matheson makes every effort to talk about his principles in general terms. He resists the human tendency to make broad, sweeping generalizations. He uses phrases like, "Many men . . . " and "I have noticed that men with SSA tend . . . " (Matheson 6-9) This helps the reader feel that his experiences and feelings are being respected even when they don't match Matheson's descriptions exactly. By creating an feeling of inclusion, Matheson contributes to the overall accuracy of his paper.
Another way in which Matheson ensures that his writing will accurately describe as many individuals' situations as possible is focusing on broad ideas. He talks about concepts like masculinity and authenticity. These are very general principles that can be understood on many levels. By not making specific, inflexible applications of the principles, Matheson leaves room for each reader to apply those principles to his life in whichever way fits best. Matheson's own disclaimer explains this clearly: "You may not identify with all of these. Try to focus on the areas where you do see similarities" (Matheson 2). However, Matheson does not leave the reader completely on his own to find the similarities. He gives a variety of examples of how a principle like authenticity, or need fulfillment can be lived. Matheson writes: "Many SSA men talk about how “normal” (i.e., heterosexual) men seem to have some mysterious masculinizing quality that they lack" (Matheson 4). Here Matheson presents a specific example of how a man might feel less than masculine. However, he doesn't try to explain this "mysterious quality" in depth. Matheson's examples are still general enough that they fit a wide range of individuals.
Robinson, however, seems to enjoy making statements that he claims apply to all men who experience same-sex attractions. Time and time again he uses phrases like: "These traits are universal," "Men who are successful . . . do . . .," and "They need to get on with their life." When an author makes a statement that asserts something is always true, the accuracy of that claim is vulnerable. It only takes one exception to make the statement false. This happens frequently in Robinson's essay.
Robinson does accurately describe the personality traits and molding experiences that contribute to same-gender attraction in many men. While Robinson does not allow for exceptions to his observations, he makes an even more grievous error. Robinson's understanding of same-sex attraction comes from a number of interviews performed during his doctoral dissertation and in his private counseling practice. This means that these observations do fairly accurately represent the experiences of most men. However, Robinson then draws conclusions from these experiences that don't actually hold true. He claims that same-sex attraction is very similar to alcoholism. He says that homosexual attractions are a learned behavior (Robinson 7). This theory is proven invalid by many scientific studies. Very few men feel that this idea correctly describes their experiences.
Perhaps the discrepancies in factual accuracy can be explained by the next criterion. The credibility of each author can be measured with two different scales. The first relates to the author's qualifications to write about a particular topic. Both David Matheson and Jeff Robinson have doctoral degrees in counseling. Both are Licensed Professional Counselors. However, Robinson's expertise on the topic of homosexual attractions comes primarily from his interactions with clients. Matheson, on the other hand, has worked for seven years with Joseph Nicolosi, the founder of the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality. Perhaps most importantly, Matheson has personal experience with same-sex attractions. He has experienced them and successfully dealt with them to the point that he is no longer affected by them.
The second scale on which credibility can be measured is the extent to which the author's ideas have actually helped people. While numbers are not available regarding Robinson's work, his efforts relating to same-sex attraction have been limited to his private practice. Matheson has, in addition to his private practice, created the Journey into Manhood weekend. This weekend has been attended by over one thousand men. In 2007, a survey was conducted regarding the effects of Matheson's principles as experienced on the JiM weekend. Seventy-nine percent of men surveyed reported that their same-sex attractions had diminished since the weekend. Ninety-three percent said that the JiM experience had a positive impact on their lives (Survey 2-4). That is a remarkable success rate.
The final criterion on which the helpfulness of the essays is judged is the applicability of the solutions they offer. Matheson provides very clear steps on how to implement the changes he recommends. His ideas are feasible and easy to understand. For example, he writes, "Creating friendships with so-called “normal” men is the only way I’ve found to contradict this lie. Very often, the first step is to make deep and real friendships with other men who are also in the process of change" (Matheson 5) Matheson makes no claim that his solutions are going to be easy, but he assets that they are within reach, "As difficult as the processes of learning about your needs may be, it is possible" (9).
Robinson doesn't make his solution nearly as easy to understand or incorporate into everyday living. He suggests that the only way to overcome homosexual feelings is to "walk away from the dragon" (Robinson 12). He explains that this means that if a man will just not think about it, it will go away. Yet with his analogy to alcoholism, would he tell an alcoholic that all he needs to do is not drink and the alcoholism will go away? If homosexual feelings are nothing more than a learned behavior, why do many men find it difficult to simply not do the behavior? Robinson admits that this "is "very, very difficult to do." But men who want to overcome homosexual attractions just need to do it again. It seems that Robinson's understanding of same-sex attractions is flawed. This makes his subsequent solutions less than feasible.
Many men have benefited from both of these essays. Robinson's article does provide some valid points and can help a person make sense of their attractions. However, if taken too literally this work can foster discouragement and frustration. Matheson's essay provides both hope for change and real results in the lives of those men who apply it's principles.



Works Cited
Matheson, David. "Four Principles of Change." Center for Gender Wholeness. Mar. 3, 2009.

Robinson, Jeff. "Homosexuality: What Works and What Doesn't." The Guardrail Foundation. Mar. 3, 2009.

"Survey of Journey into Manhood Participants." People Can Change. Mar. 12, 2009.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Songs

I'm going to post a couple of songs that I really like and have related to the battle of living with SSA. These songs are primarily Christian music, which I really like for the most part.


video

She never slows down
She doesn't know why but
she knows that when
She's all alone feels
Like it's all coming down
She won't turn around
The shadows are long
And she fears if she cries
That first tear
The tears will not stop
Raining down

So stand in the rain
Stand your ground
Stand up when it's all crashing down
You stand through the pain
You won't drown
And one day what's lost can be found
You stand in the rain

She won't make a sound
Alone in this fight with herself
And the fears whispering
If she stands, she'll fall down
She wants to be found but
The only way out is through
everything she's running from
Wants to give up and lie down

So stand in the rain
Stand your ground
Stand up when it's all crashing down
You stand through the pain
You won't drown
And one day what's lost can be found
You stand in the rain

So stand in the rain
Stand your ground
Stand up when it's all crashing down
Stand through the pain
You won't drown
And one day what's lost can be found

So stand in the rain
Stand your ground
Stand up when it's all crashing down
You stand through the pain
You won't drown
And one day what's lost can be found
You stand in the rain

video

How long will my prayers seem unanswered?
Is there still faith in me to reach the end?
I'm feeling doubt I'm losing faith
But giving up would cost me everything
So I'll stand in the pain and silence
And I'll speak to the dark night

I believe in the sun even when it's not shining
I believe in love even when I don't feel it
And I believe in God even when He is silent
And I, I believe

Though I can't see my stories ending
That doesn't mean the dark night has no end
It's only here that I find faith
And learn to trust the one who writes my days
So I'll stand in the pain and silence
And I'll speak to the dark night

I believe in the sun even when it's not shining
I believe in love even when I don't feel it
And I believe in God even when He is silent
And I, I believe
No dark can consume Light
No death greater than this life
We are not forgotten
Hope is found when we say
Even when He is silent

I believe in the sun even when it's not shining
I believe in love even when I don't feel it
And I believe in God even when He is silent
And I, I believe.


video

How long have I been in this storm?
So overwhelmed by the ocean's shapeless form
Water's getting harder to tread
With these waves crashing over my head

If I could just see you
Everything would be all right
If I'd see you
This darkness would turn to light

And I will walk on water
And you will catch me if I fall
And I will get lost into your eyes
I know everything will be alright
I know everything is alright

I know you didn't bring me out here to drown
So why am I ten feet under and upside down
Barely surviving has become my purpose
Because I'm so used to living underneath the surface

If I could just see you

Everything would be all right
If I'd see you
This darkness would turn to light

And I will walk on water
And you will catch me if I fall
And I know everything will be alright
I know everything will be alright


video

I don't know if I still have the strength to get up again
I don't know if I can face my own reflection
Jesus, take this heart that feels
so cold again, and make it new

I hold this hope inside that you'll never leave me

When all around me starts to fall,
and when my faith it seems so small
Even in my darkest hour, I will believe
Even if the sun begins to fall,
even when I feel nothing at all
Even if I'm all alone, I will believe

I don't know how I could turn my back and walk away
All I really want is for your love to hold me
Jesus, take this heart and make it whole again

I know you'll never leave me


Scriptural Language

So, I've been saying for a long time that the primary purpose of life is not a test. I really dislike when members of the church focus on the "test" aspect of our mortal existence.

I believe firmly that the purpose of life is for each of us to become more like our Heavenly Father. It isn't an examination to determine if we are "good enough" to be in the Celestial Kingdom. Father wants each of us to become like Him, to develop the character attributes that He has. This feels right to me. There have been a couple of scriptures that seem to contradict that point of view.

The first is in Abraham 3:25. God says to the Savior: "And we will prove them [the spirit children of Heavenly Father] herewith [using the world they are going to create], to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;"

The second comes from Mosiah 23:25. Here Mormon speaks about the people of Alma the Elder who had just escaped from King Noah. They are about to be brought into captivity by the Lamanites and wicked priests of King Noah. Mormon explains why the Lord would allow this to happen. He writes: "Nevertheless, the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith."

I used to be bothered by these passages. Then out of curiosity I looked up one word from each verse in the dictionary. It was thoroughly enlightening.

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Prove: (a usage no longer common in modern language) to learn or find out by experience.

Try: (Another obsolete usage) To refine or purify.

When seen in the light of these "new" definitions, these scriptures take on a whole new meaning. I was grateful that even the scriptures teach that the Lord's intent is to make us better people. He wants us to become more like him. He gives us trials and difficulties in order to help us reach our divine potential.

Great News!

So, I'm pretty pumped. Last Sunday my disciplinary council reconvened. I'm back in full fellowship! It feels really good. It just feels right, and there is such a peace knowing that I am right with the Lord. I got my temple recommend and went to the temple last Wednesday. It's funny how after a year of life changing experiences that completely changed the way I look at life, the temple ceremony also changed. It was totally different from the last time I went. So, nothing about the ceremony actually changed, but it was a completely new experience looking at it through different eyes.

Church discipline isn't easy or fun, but it is an inspired process. And totally worth it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Detour

Wow, I didn't know that the relatively near future meant over a month between posts. But I'm going to take a detour from the recap bit. I want to share a story about something that happened fairly recently. The other week, I got an email from a friend who deals with SSA. It was a "gay joke."

A successful rancher died and left everything to his devoted wife. She was a very good-looking woman and determined to keep the ranch, but knew very little about ranching, so she decided to place an ad in the newspaper for a ranch hand.

Two cowboys applied for the job. One was a drunk and the other gay. She thought long and hard about it, and when no one else applied she decided to hire the gay guy, figuring it would be safer to have him around the house than the drunk. He proved to be a hard worker who put in long hours every day and knew a lot about ranching.

For weeks, the two of them worked, and the ranch was doing very well. Then one day, the rancher's widow said to the hired hand, 'You have done a really good job, and the ranch looks great. You should go into town and kick up your heels.'
The hired hand readily agreed and went into town one Saturday night. One o'clock came, however, and he didn't return. Two o'clock and no hired hand. Finally he returned around two-thirty, and upon entering the room, he found the rancher's widow sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine, waiting for him.

She quietly called him over to her. 'Unbutton my blouse and take it off,' she said. Trembling, he did as she directed. 'Now take off my boots.' He did as she asked, ever so slowly. 'Now take off my socks.' He removed each gently and placed them neatly by her boots. 'Now take off my skirt.' He slowly unbuttoned it, constantly watching her eyes in the fire light. 'Now take off my bra.' Again, with trembling hands, he did as he was told and dropped it to the floor.

Then she looked at him and said,

'If you ever wear my clothes into town again, you're fired.'


I thought it was pretty funny. I laughed a lot. My wife laughed a lot. My mother-in-law has a great sense of humor and I wanted to tell her. I work for my mother-in-law and there are two other women who work in the office. I started to tell them that joke.

When I got to the second paragraph and said the word "gay," one of the other ladies there (H) said, "I don't want to hear a gay joke. It makes my stomach sick."

It wasn't a huge deal. The rest of us went into my mother-in-law's office and they loved the joke. It was just frustrating that (H) has been so rude to me ever since she found out a few months ago. It has felt like she wants to make sure I'm fired because she's uncomfortable with my SSA. In talking with the boss about this, I've learned that (H) is just like that to everyone. It really doesn't have anything to do with me. In fact, from what I gather she seems to like me a lot more than the last delivery guy.

I don't know what to think about her. I know that she her sister recently divorced her husband because of his bipolar disorder and SSA. (H) was in favor of the divorce. I know the man. I didn't know about the SSA or bipolar, but he was one of my favorite college professors.

I just wish people weren't so ignorant and insensitive to problems like SSA.

Oh, and a side note while I'm writing about the present. I started a new personal blog that is going to deal a lot less with SSA and is going to be more like my journal. If anyone is interested you can take a look at The Cooking Horseman.




Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I am a MAN!

Last August, I had the opportunity to attend an event that dramatically changed my life. It didn't have anything to do with the world around me. Instead, it completely changed the way I perceive reality, the way I construct reality in my own mind.

Journey into Manhood (JiM) is an experiential retreat that focuses on healing old wounds and resuming the journey into full heterosexual manhood. Going into the weekend I thought that I wasn't really going to get that much out of it. I had signed up three months earlier when I was in desperate need of help. However, over those three months I had made tremendous progress. I was doing pretty well. I was not prepared in the least for the psychoogical 2x4 that hit me square in the forehead.

Although I have promised not to discuss the processes that go on during the weekend, I wouldn't disclose that because I believe that they are more powerful if a person is not prepared for them. I will, however, talk about some of the personal insights that I experienced during that weekend. The rest of this post will focus on what I felt was the most significant for me.

According to David Matheson's "Four Principles of Change," masculinity, or more correctly a lack there of, is a key factor in the development of Same-Sex Attraction. At first I disagreed with that assertion. However, as I have contemplated it more, I have come to agree with it completley. This is not to say that all non-masculine behaviors and attitudes will lead to homosexuality. This is on a more basic, deeply personal level. It has more to do with the meaning we attatch to the behaviors than the behaviors themselves.

So, I had come to see myself as different than other men. Men are mean, insensitive, cruel, arrogant, stupid, insensitive, and the list can go on and on. They were the "out" crowd; that was for sure. What, then, was the "in" crowd? It wasn't girls. I knew I had a penis. I wan't a girl. I had no desire to be a girl. It wasn't until I encountered the "gay" crowd that I found a group to which I might potentially belong. However, I wasn't entirely comfortable accepting full membership into that crowd. I still felt that the gospel was true. There I was: screwed up as hell. I had no "in" crowd, I simply didn't belong.

In the '90s there was a distinct trend in reparative therapy toward the theory that if a "homosexual" man did "heterosexual" things, he would become "heterosexual." This worked for some men. I would hypothosize that these men were primarily the type who had not yet developed a concrete self-image and were able to accept a more stereotypical "heterosexual" image/role. However, this didn't work for a lot of people. I tried for years to "be straight" through sports. I was even pretty good at them. However, I never really like them. I understand football, basketball, and wrestling quite well. I just don't care to watch them or participate in them. I like cooking. It's fun. It's fulfilling. I'm not going to give it up and start watching basketball all the time. That would mean going diretly counter to my personality. Is there no other way to reconcile my self-concept--the way I see myself--and my gender concept--the way I see masculinity?

Well, in the previous theory, the client tried to change his self concept. I can see some areas where this may be necessary. However, what would happen if I simply changed the way I define masculinity? That is what happened to me on the JiM weekend.

I was reliving a particularly painful memory form Jr. High. I was told by a kid in my gym class that I was in the wrong locker room. He then proceded to tell me that I had a "pussy" and that I was a girl. I was in the middle of expressing the anger that I felt at the time when suddenly I stopped. I started laughing. Someone asked what was going on. I responded: "Who the hell were they to tell me I wasn't a man?" They meant nothing. I was masculine then and I am masculine now. In fact, what was masculine anyway? Was it not the simply the characteristic of being a son of God? Who then is more masculine than me? Maybe Christ. Yes, He is the embodiment of true masculinity. Was he anything like the image of masculinity that society has painted? Not really, in fact he was anything but. Why then have I accepted society's definition of masculinity. I try to become like Christ. Am I not then masculine? Am I not a son of God?

It's kind of funny, now. I no longer define masculinity by society or any other an. I define masculinity by myself. I am inherently masculine. The source of my masculinity is my divine nature as a Son of God. If I allow myself to accept that, I feel masculine. I am equal to any man out there.

I didn't have to change my likes and dislikes. I didn't have to change what I did every evening. I didn't have to change my personality. I just changed the way I defined myself.

You know, when I got rid of my perception that I didn't fit into the masculine mold, things changed. Again I don't mean to overstate the extent of the change, but for a short period of time, I felt completely heterosexual. I wanted to have sex with my wife--not for her, not just for an orgasm, but because it felt right. I actually wanted it because I was a man. Now that didn't mean that my head turned at every set of breasts that walked by. In fact, I still wasn't attracted to "women." I was attracted to a woman, wholy and completely, sexually as well as emotionally. That was amazing. Keeping that emotion has been a challenge, but I'm getting better at it.

The most important thing I gained from JiM was the understanding that I am a man and I DO belong in the world of men.