It’s that time of year again. December 14… about half way through the final month of the year… finals are over, people are heading home for Christmas, and some people won’t be coming back next semester (whether for mission, because they graduated, or for other reason). However, the imprint they leave on our lives is irreversible. So today, I just wanted to talk about five people I am grateful for… their presence and influence in my life has changed me so much (if you are not one of the five, trust me, I’m sure your presence in my life has affected me too).
First, I want to start out with a little snippet from the Broadway play “Wicked” (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen/read Wicked, and you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to the next paragraph). Near the end of the play, Glinda finds Elfaba and they reconnect after the death of Nessa and the presumed death of Fiyero. Elfaba gives the Grimmerie to Glinda and asks her to take on her cause, because she knows that with her own reputation, she will not be able to change things. However, Glinda has the influence and power to make good things happen in Oz. After this encounter, Elfaba and Glinda never expect to see each other again (which they don’t). In the play, their goodbye is in the song entitled “For Good”. Reflecting back on their relationship and their friendship—and themselves—they realize that their friendship has influenced who they have become.
The first person I want to talk about is my friend Eric. I met Eric in October 2010. A month before I met him, I had returned from my mission in Toronto and I was still having a very hard time with it. I was confused about what I was to do. Why had I come home? Was I supposed to go back? Was I supposed to look toward marriage instead? How did my same-sex attraction play into that, whether my next step was to go on my mission again or if I was to look toward marriage?
The first memory I have of Eric is at a mix and mingle (we called it “Sweet Swap”) after ward prayer one week. Having heard that I was looking for a job, Eric offered to drive me to a job interview if I needed it. Knowing that I had to be able to walk to the job anyway, I declined his offer. However, that was not where things ended with Eric by any means. A couple weeks later, I was in the Rec Room because I needed a break from my apartment. As I was reading my novel, Eric and two girls came in to watch Star Trek. Graciously, Eric invited me to join them. As days and weeks progressed, I hung out with this group more: movie nights, game nights (Take-Over-the-World Tuesdays), temple square, etc.).
Eric has become one of my most trusted friends and a big brother to me (to the point where I call his daughter, Rachel, my niece—side note: she is the CUTEST little girl EVER). I know I can always go to him for advice and for support. Eric, because I knew you, I have been changed for the better… because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
|With Eric and Emalee (his wife) before I left for Calgary|
My old roommate Justin would have to be another one on this list. I lived with him for a short three months, but before and since then, he has been a great friend and a great influence for me. The first time I met Justin was the first Sunday in my new ward in October 2010. I was taken by the bishop (who I’d met earlier in the week) from sacrament meeting to the mission prep class, where Justin was the teacher. Being in a mission prep class with primarily future sister missionaries, the only men in the room were me and Justin. So, after Sunday school hour, Justin showed me where Priesthood was held. In doing so, we realized that Justin was my home teacher. Funny coincidence how the mission prep teacher was my home teacher, huh?
In the three months that Justin was my home teacher, he only taught me a lesson once. Yet, he still remains one of my favorite home teachers that I’ve had down here at BYU. Why? Because I wasn’t a chore and I wasn’t a check-mark to get every month. Justin came to give a message once, but he was available to give me help at any time while he was my home teacher, after assignments got changed, while we were roommates, and even now that he’s married.
Justin was also the first roommate that I’d ever told about my same-sex attraction. Something in regards to SSA was bothering me (I think I was attracted to some guy and I felt ashamed of it, even though I didn’t choose it) and I felt I needed to tell someone. I pulled Justin aside at the apartment (this is while we were roommates) and told him about my SSA. He just chuckled a little and said, “Spencer, I think we were supposed to be roommates.” I was confused, but he expanded on that thought. To say the least, Justin had had a trying mission. In addition to his own trials, he’d also had companions and investigators who had dealt with Aspergers, anxiety, depression, and same-sex attraction (not all at once, necessarily, but he’d known several people who had one or several of these).
Justin taught me a lot about following the Spirit, being willing and ready to help others, having a good positive attitude, and being a good friend. To me, Justin is/was a great example of charity, caring about me even if he didn’t understand exactly what I was dealing with. Justin, because I knew you, I have been changed for the better… because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
|With Justin at his wedding reception|
Third is Elder Call. I’ve talked about Elder Call a lot. He was my celestial, charitable, Christ-like trainer on my mission, who has potentially changed my life more than anyone else I know. We were paired together at the mission home in Toronto by President Middleton (only a week before the Middletons came home). Previous to being paired up, we (the greenies and the trainers) had done some role playing. As President Middleton told us who our trainers were, Elder Call jumped up and shouted, “We were already companions!” And then he came over and gave me a big hug. It was true… during role playing, Elder Call had chosen me as his companion.
Elder Call (now more commonly known as Jared) taught me about my worth. He pushed me further on all occasions when doing missionary work, because he believed I had so much more potentially than I could see. He taught me about faith and obedience. Elder Call talked to every person he met, just like the mission president taught. In fact, he was heartbroken on the occasions that he had to pass someone up because we were already fifteen minutes late for an appointment and we had ten minutes left to ride on our bikes (those numbers might be slightly exaggerated, but I don’t think so).
Jared Call also taught me about revelation. As I’ve mentioned before, Elder Call was the first person I ever told about my same-sex attraction. That night is still mostly a blur (partly because of how surreal it was, partly because of the two years that have passed since, and partly because of how late at night it was—we were up until 3AM). However, I have been able to recall some details. As we were falling asleep in our respective beds, in a conversation that began with something to do with the law of chastity, the Spirit directed it toward same-sex attraction. Finally, the Spirit gave me a little push that said, “You can trust him.” And the rest is pretty much history. What I didn’t know at the time, but soon learned, was that Elder Call had figured out my secret weeks before. Between impressions from the Spirit and his own “gaydar”, he figured it out.
Though you refuse to accept compliments… though you believe more in me than I could ever believe in myself… though you sometimes tease me endlessly… Jared, because I knew you, I have been changed for the better… because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
Next is Garrett. I’ve talked about Garrett a lot on here. He is my best friend. He is my brother. He is one of my strongest and most supportive allies. I first met Garrett at the end of August 2009. My first recollection of Garrett is actually from the first week in our ward that year, where he introduced himself and told the ward that he loved grammar (you’re still never going to live that down, buddy). The next day, I ran into Garrett on campus and we learned that we had a class together. After that, it wasn’t long before we became good friends. Now that’s the short version of the story (and I promise you the long version is LONG).
Garrett has taught me that I have worth. I am worth loving and I am a friend worth having. Some of you might be saying to yourself, “Duh, Spencer!” but before I met Garrett, I had never had a friend (especially a guy friend) stick around. They all either seemed to move on, seemingly abandoning me, or they moved too far away for a deep friendship to continue to flourish. However, time and time again, Garrett has shown me that he’s in it for the long haul and that we will be great friends for about forever (… now we just need to find girls to marry who can put up with our quirky friendship and who can get alone with each other like we do).
One of the most Christ-like things I’ve experienced with Garrett was this past summer as we were on a road trip together. Maybe it wasn’t the best time to bring it up… but it had been on my mind. So far on our trip we had driven from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Brampton, Ontario to visit members and converts there. After spending a couple days in Brampton, we drove down to Niagara Falls. The night that we got there, we walked up to the falls lit up. On the way back, something had been on my mind… I knew Garrett would be living with me again this fall and I was pretty sure I wanted to tell him about my SSA (note: this was before I had the prompting to start blogging about my SSA)… but I was scared to tell him… what if he reacted badly? I couldn’t lose my best friend over this…
Finally, on our way back to our hotel, things had gone quiet and we didn’t have anything to talk about and I felt that familiar push to talk about it… I told Garrett about my SSA and (while he didn’t see it coming) he couldn’t have reacted better. And in the months that have followed, I have felt his love through his efforts to learn about this issue alongside me. Garrett, because I knew you, I have been changed for the better… because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
Finally, I want to talk about my friend “John”. A few months ago, I met John for the first time in person (I’d previously talked to him through Facebook after we connected on North Star). I was in a very dark, depressed place in regards to my same-sex attraction and a mess it had caused for me near the beginning of the semester. Needing help and support from someone who experienced same-sex attraction, I reached out to John over Facebook. We talked and talked. The next time, I met him in person at the Evergreen conference fireside. In the months that have followed, he has been an amazing support for me. He has been there for me to talk to on a near-daily basis. He has hugged me and held me in that embrace when I needed it so desperately. And he has introduced me to so many spiritually strong men with SSA who are committed to living the gospel. I don’t want to give too many details about John on here (in order to keep his identity safe), but I’ve reflecting on this today, because John is leaving to finish his education east of Utah. He’ll be back as soon as he can (because he loves Utah) but I do know that I will miss him. Being older than him slightly, I call him my little brother… and I’m going to miss my little brother a lot. John, because I knew you, I have been changed for the better… because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
Of course, it wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t bring the Atonement into it… especially with such a serious post. So here it is… Yes, each of these men (Eric, Justin, Jared, Garrett, and John) has made a huge impact on my life… However, if it wasn’t for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, they would not make a lasting impression. I am grateful to know that I have a Savior who is eager for me to improve and become better. And I’m grateful to know that through the Atonement, it gets better.