Monday, February 25, 2013

Three Years Ago

Idaho Falls Temple - February 2013
About three years ago, I went through the Idaho Falls temple for my endowment, in preparation for my mission. About a week ago, I had the opportunity to do an endowment session there for the first time since. It was kind of an interesting experience for me to realize that and look back on the past three years.

Three years ago, February 2010, I was waiting for my mission call. Because of my autism, my call got delayed… and delayed… and delayed. Garrett will attest to the fact that I didn’t handle that waiting period very well. Looking back, I recognize that that was my first real recollection of experiencing depression. After receiving my mission call, I assumed that was the end of it. I had my call and all would be well. Fast-forward about six months to September 2010 and I was home from my mission.
Getting off the plane - September 2010
 Being a 19-year-old RM was one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with. Harder than waiting for my mission call. Harder than dealing with the stress I put on myself after telling Elder Call about my SSA (speaking of which… I need to do a post on that). Finally, the next summer, after much stress and anxiety, which I attributed to having to wait again, I was permitted to go on a trial mission.

Coming home from Calgary three months after I started was one of the hardest things I’ve done… it was harder than the first time, I’d say. In my opinion, the lack of confidence and self-esteem I felt was manifest in my schoolwork. Some of the simplest assignments seemed to test my abilities and try my patience. In my mind, it was a miracle that I managed a B average that semester. In that time, I started medication to help with my depression and anxiety, but even so it wasn’t until part way through the summer that I seemed to find something that worked. And honestly I think part of what worked was being able to go back to Toronto, visit the people I’d served there, and find closure, knowing I had made a difference in three months there.

With Fuman, one of my converts - July 2012

Even after feeling that closure, I think I still felt down about my position of being an “early RM”. Until something unexpected happened… literally a day after I posted about what it means to be an RM… that was when I was reading in Voice(s) of Hope for the first time. It was then, in the first few lines, that I felt the prompting to start all of this. Two months later, after much prayer and seeking revelation, I did start writing about my SSA. In the time since, I have been blessed to have had miracle SSA Missionary experiences with Steve, Alex, and several others. Just yesterday in fact a girl from one of my old wards (let’s call her Libby) told me about her SSA.

Still, at the same time I’m working to find balance, understanding, and healing for myself. I try to do my best to look forward toward better things, but at the same time I still carry scars of my past. During all of that, I am struggling to find the right balance between expressing love and being firm in my beliefs. All the time, I still have episodes of shame and hurt around all of what has happened in the past three years.

I guess here’s the bottom line (and it’s something I’m still trying to internalize, even as I share it): Jesus Christ the Savior is why any of this matters. He helped me find closure with what happened in Toronto and He helped me find a new way to do missionary work. As I always say, it is through Him and His Atonement that it gets better.

Idaho Falls Temple - April 2010

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

God Loveth His Children

God Loveth His Children” is a pamphlet produced by the church for those who experience same-sex attraction. It’s not very in depth on the issue, but it has its merits. This small blue booklet is special to me because it was the first SSA resource I ever had. When I was in Toronto, shortly after I told Elder Call about my SSA, we got copies of this pamphlet from the mission office (I was too scared to be seen by the Rattos or the Sippels (the office missionary couples) with them, so Elder Call grabbed them. We spent a companionship study or two reading it and learning from it, as it was new to both of us.

The pamphlet has five sections: “Your Identity and Your Potential”, “The Plan of Happiness”, “Self-Mastery”, “Filling Your Life with Goodness”, and “Go Forward”. The title itself come from a scripture in the Book of Mormon, where Nephi admits that he doesn’t know everything, but the one thing he does know is that God loves His children. That’s the thing here: we don’t know everything about homosexuality. We don’t know to what degree a person is “born gay” or to what degree a person develops these feelings (Side tangent: My opinion is that it’s a mixture of both nature and nurture). Causes aside, I love that this pamphlet emphasizes right from the beginning the one thing we know for certain: God loves us. God loves all of us. God loves those who live a heterosexual life. God loves those who live a celibate life. And God loves those who live a homosexual life.

I won’t outline everything in the pamphlet here (you can click this link here for that) but I think the biggest thing for those of us who do experience SSA and those who do not, we could all do better at loving as God loves. Yes, He has given us commandments. But no, he doesn’t hate us when we disobey them. Like with the woman taken in adultery, Christ didn’t condemn her. He showed her love instead.

I think that more than anything is what the church wanted to get across with their new website. “God Loveth His Children” was released in 2007. The website was released in 2012. Yet both resources carry a similar theme. It’s not teaching us the causes of homosexuality. It’s not teaching us the way to “fix” it. It’s teaching us to love, because that’s how God deals with it. He loves. Even if people don’t live the way we think they should, we need to love. I’ll admit, I’m not good at this sometimes, but this is my goal, to understand and to love better. And to help it get better in the church for those with SSA and those who deal with addiction and those who deal with any affliction. As was said in “Voice(s) of Hope”, “the community that ultimately shows the most love will be the one that wins the hearts of the men and women dealing with this issue.”

PS: Speaking of Voice(s) of Hope, check this link out. The first of the videos have been released. Look forward to me doing a post about it soon!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Singles Awareness Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! I wish I could say that today was something special for me, but not really. I had class, took a test, and had dinner with the rest of the Spanish house. Nothing out of the ordinary. That being said I’ve felt a lot of peace today and I’m not sure why. You’d think that on a day that is meant for people in a relationship that I would be kinda down (especially since that can be the norm for me some days). Maybe I’m too content being single (not likely). Or maybe it’s something else.

I mentioned to one of my friends (Benjamin) that I’m taking an LDS Marriage/Family class this semester. He told me taking a class about dating, marriage, and stuff would drive him insane. Normally, I’d think so too. Yet that’s not the case. Instead I’ve enjoyed it a lot. By no means is it a marriage prep class (though if you were to go to it with that intent, it’d work). Instead, it’s a doctrinal class about the purpose of marriage and family. You’d think that for someone who finds it hard at times to be attracted to girls, it’d be really annoying. Instead, it’s given me hope in order to find the daughter of God that I will take to the temple. More than that, I’ve learned things that will help me to know how to treat her right.

I’ve got a lot of emotional and mental baggage and I honestly feel like it’ll take someone amazing to overlook that. To overlook my autism, my SSA, my anxieties, and my goofy looking face. Someone prepared by the Lord. Someone with unfathomable amounts of charity. I look forward to finding out who that will be and I pray that I will be worthy of her. Until then, I will do my best to trust in the Father’s plan and take my search one day at a time (or one date at a time).

Looking forward to a future day with a beautiful
girl beside me at a temple like this 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"If I Have Not Charity" -- An Apology

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moroni 7:46-47)

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)

I recently got a message from someone I care about a lot (let’s call him Chris) and he was hurt because of what I’d written on my blog. I’ve known Chris was gay for about five years now and I thought I’d done my best to love him… but I guess not. I don’t know what exactly offended him, but that doesn’t matter. The fallout of what happened after I got the message (which resulted in me getting in an argument with Thomas, because he is closer to Chris than I am).

My target audience was never meant to be people living a gay lifestyle. My purpose in writing about SSA on my blog was (1) to give hope and to strengthen those that have decided to stay with the gospel, (2) to help those that are confused know that the gay lifestyle isn’t the only option, and (3) to help other members of the church understand the challenges and issues around same-sex attraction from someone who experiences it. In the end, I only wanted to share the answers I have found that have worked for me, writing many of those answers as I learn them.

I never meant for anything I have written to come across as though I believe that all gays are evil, perverted pedophiles. I never meant for it to come across as though I believe they’re all going to hell. I never meant for it to come across as though I hate gays. I have no quarrel with those that choose the gay lifestyle. My heart breaks for them because, based on my understanding of the plan of salvation, I believe that the happiness they have now will not be able to continue forever. However, I do not hate them or wish ill on them.

As much as I’ve been trying to love and share my testimony of the Atonement, I have fallen short and it has caused me much grief over the past couple days since the incident with Chris and Thomas happened. I’m sorry for offending you. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That was never what I meant to do. I never claimed to be an expert on any of this… I’m just sharing what I learn, as I learn it.

To Chris, Thomas, and anyone else I’ve offended, I’m sorry. It was never my intention. To any of my readers, if I ever offend you in the future or if you disagree with what I say, please send me an email ( and please tell me what I’d said. With feedback I can clarify my opinion and edit the post accordingly. If not, I hope that we can at least respectfully disagree with each other. I need to be better at showing love to everyone… not just those that agree with me. As much as I testify of the Atonement and its power to make help things better, if I don’t show love, it’s not worth anything. Like what Paul, who I quoted early, if I share my testimony and put myself in a vulnerable situation to share that testimony, no matter how strong I think it is, “and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing”.

Jesus Christ -- The example of Perfect Love

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ignorance Isn't Bliss

It’s been a busy week. I’ve been a little backed up on homework the past few days (and lacking the energy to do it ahead of time like I’ve been trying to do this semester… hence why I’m backed up). So this probably won’t be a long post, but I felt I should write it.

It’s kind of frustrating when people say things without thinking or making assumptions. I made a joke out of one of these experiences before, when my elders’ quorum president said to me “Congratulations on not being gay” but on a different day, that could have been hurtful (but no worries, Ben). After reading that post, Ben said to me “Oh the things we say when we don’t know.” The day he said that to me, I had a good laugh about it. On a worse day, who knows?

Garrett and Daniel (Juliana's brother) at
Daniel's Eagle Court of Honor
With Boy Scouts of America considering the policy change lately, it’s been a rough subject for a bunch of my North Star friends. For those of you who don’t know, BSA is considering letting gay scouts in and allowing gay scout leaders. Now, I understand the apprehension towards this (who would want a gay man going on a camping trip with their son?), but that assumes that you think the gay leader would prey on your son.

One of my North Star friends recently posted on the Facebook group (he gave me permission to tell this story) about a conversation he’d had with a coworker. His coworker had commented saying that “It looks BSA isn’t going to die today”, talking about not changing the policy. This (and the ensuing conversation) upset my friend, especially since he was already in a vulnerable state. Granted, I doubt this coworker knew my friend had SSA, but the carelessness of the comment can hurt people. You never know who is going to be affected by the issue, whether it’s because of they, a friend, or a family member deals with SSA (by the way, they later talked and my friend learned that his coworker has problems with BSA anyway).

Bottom line: we all have our opinions. That’s fine (in fact, that’s encouraged) and in the proper setting we should express those opinions. However, it should never be carelessly and it should always be thought through, because we don’t know who our words could affect. Everything we say should be in a spirit of love. The old saying is that “ignorance is bliss”, but I disagree; other people’s ignorance is hardly bliss in my life (yes, it goes both ways).

Monday, February 4, 2013

North Star International

Ok. So I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while: one about North Star. I’ve mentioned North Star in some previous posts, but I’ve never really gotten into explaining it much. So, here it goes. North Star is an internet community for individuals with same-sex attraction (and those who support them) who want to keep their lives in harmony with the Church.

The name comes from a talk that President Hinckley gave in April 1989, called “Let Love Be the Lodestar of Your Life”. He said, “We came to know of the constancy of that star. As the earth turned, the others appeared to move through the night. But the North Star held its position in line with the axis of the earth… Love is like the Polar Star. In a changing world, it is a constant. It is of the very essence of the gospel.” And God loved us enough to send Christ to atone for our sins.

North Star’s mission is to help create a community for people with SSA and for their families, to create a support system. When I found North Star back in May 2012, I didn’t know what kind of impact it would have on my life. But in some of the rough times that have happened since then, North Star has been my support. On my worst days, I can post on the private Facebook group what my concerns and worries are, and within minutes I can have a response of support, advice, or something funny to cheer me up.

In addition to the Facebook group, North Star has email groups, divided into different demographics: youth, men, women, transgender, spouses, friends/family, local leaders, prospective missionaries, young adults, single men/women, married men/women, and (this one surprised me) individuals in same-sex relationships. North Star also has a blog kept by several members, called the Northern Lights blog, and they have started a podcast, which I previously wrote about.

Other than a couple of events per year (the Fall Chili Cook-Off and the Christmas Musical Fireside), North Star rarely does physical events and their entire community exists online (though I heard there is going to be a fireside this April, but more details on that later). As a result, some people I know who very much prefer physical human interaction, as opposed to electronically through North Star. However, that’s not always possible, which is why it’s nice for those who cannot physically meet with other faithful latter-day saints with SSA to be able to connect with them over the internet.

As I look back at this post, it seems kind of dry and almost like an advertisement… so let me share this to finish… I have had some rough times in the past year and the support I have felt from the North Star community is invaluable. I have felt like I’m in Zion when I’m around those men and women. I have learned from their words and I have come closer to the Savior. I have found dear friends and found deep support from people, some of whom I’ve never met. At the times when I have needed it most, they have been there to remind me that because of the Atonement, life will get better.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

True Love

Mom and Dad at 25.5 years (2010) :)

I was wondering recently if I’ve ever loved a girl before. If I haven’t, could I? Is it possible? It’ll have to be possible if I want to get married. But what does that even mean, to love her? What does “true love” (like with my parents, shown above) entail? Fortunately, as it turns out, “true love” is the topic of my readings for this coming Tuesday’s LDS Marriage and Family class, so I wanted to share some thoughts with you from what I have read for class.

George Q. Morris (who later became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve) said this: “My mother once said that if you meet a girl in whose present you feel a desire to achieve, who inspires you to do your best, and to make the most of yourself, such a young woman is worthy of your love and is awakening love in your heart.

Okay… what does that mean exactly? It’s not enough to feel good in someone’s presence or to want to be around them to mean that you love them. True love means that you’re with someone who makes you want to be more Christ-like. Whether that be friends you love or the person you want to marry, either one is true.

In my homework, I also read a great quote by President Hinckley: “True love is not so much a matter of romance as it is a matter of anxious concern for the well-being of one’s companion.” It reminds me of the Savior’s words in the New Testament: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

However, like with all good things, the adversary has his counterfeits. President Kimball said “At the hour of sin, pure love is pushed out of one door while lust sneaks in the other. Affection has then been replaced with desire of the flesh and uncontrolled passion. Accepted has been the doctrine which the devil is so eager to establish, that illicit sex relations are justified.” It made me think of men that I’ve loved… probably the most confusing attractions for me has been the ones towards men that I love. I love them, but I’m not in love with them. I love them and I wouldn’t want to do anything to mess up my relationships with them.

I mentioned before that I had been asked by a gay guy I met if I would ever regret not being with a man. I gave part of my reasoning last time I mentioned it, but this is actually the stronger reasoning that came to mind… I have never been in love with a man. It’s confusing at times because I have loved men that I’ve also found attractive. How do you reconcile those feelings of love? Well, here’s how… When I’ve recognized that true love that I’ve felt for my male friends, even those I’ve also been attracted to, I want nothing more than to be held in a tight embrace… I don’t want anything sexual… I just want to be held and to feel their love. On the other hand, when I have felt the desire for more… for something sexual… I can’t say that I’ve felt that true love. I just feel lust.

When I truly love men, I see them as my brothers. Particularly, I have felt this true love when I’ve been with Alex, Calvin, John, and Thomas. I see them as my brothers (in fact I started referring to Calvin as my “big bro” and to John as my “hermanito”) and my rule in my conduct with them has become “Would I do [whatever desired action] with my biological brothers or with Garrett, who has become my brother?” If the answer is no, then it’s pretty safe to say I don’t want to do it with my friends either.

So, to be honest, I don’t know have a clue how it’ll feel to be able to have sexual desires with the woman I marry and not have it just be lust. Because of my experiences, the idea of sexual desire without lust seems very foreign to me. But maybe that’s the point? Maybe that’s what makes sexual relations between and man and his wife so sacred, precious, and special… because that’s the only place and time that true love can be expressed sexually without lust taking over. Maybe it’s because that is the love and expression of love that God approves of. Elder Widtsoe said, “True love of man for woman always includes love of God from who all good things issue.”

I look forward to the day that I can find my “true love” and be sealed to her. I don’t know if it’ll be sooner or later, but if it’s later, then I will do my best to trust in the Atonement and that promise from Heavenly Father that things will get better, because it is from Him that that true love with come anyway.

Grandma and Grandpa Ficiur at 50 years (2012) :)
(By the way, all of the general authority quotes I found in p. 154-162 in the Eternal Marriage Institute manual)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Um... I Was Wrong (By Becca)


I hope anyone reading this will bear with me, I don’t write blog posts that often.  I’m not a grammar Nazi, and I don’t know that I’ll be able to say what I have to say as eloquently as some…but I’m giving it a shot. 

Once upon a time—well, about 22 years ago to be exact—a boy was born named Spencer Ficiur.  I wouldn’t know it until many years later,but that boy grew up and became one of my best friends.  I had just finished a semester at Brigham Young University-Idaho and was getting ready to transfer to Brigham Young University, Provo.  Thanks to the Lord pulling some strings somewhere, I was able to room with one of my friends from high school, Juliana.  She told me of these two guys she’d met, and they’d kind of become a trio.  Spencer was one of those guys (along with Garrett Wilkes) and though I didn’t know him at all, I’ll never forget the way that Spencer reached out to me.

I remember distinctly how he friended me on Facebook at least several weeks before I’d met him in person.  He made me feel so welcome!  From the very beginning, he was a fantastic friend who cared about me.  He may not know it, but I cannot even begin to tell him how much his reaching out to me meant at the time.  I am deeply grateful for all of his efforts!

That semester was such a blast!  The four of us hung out whenever we could.  From fighting along with Aslan to exploring the inner depths of a kitchen cabinet—literally head first—we had many laughs and many good times.  Between all the inside jokes and crazy fun, I’m grateful we were able to fit homework in there somewhere!

And then I discovered that I was to transfer back to Brigham Young University-Idaho after that semester.  The photo above is from the last day the four of us were in Provo together.  I was so glad we took pictures!  Although I’m several hundred miles away from the other three, our friendships have continued.  It’s been a blessing to get together a couple of times with Spencer and Juliana since then. (Sadly, Garrett hasn’t been able to make it those times.)  Even though I don’t get to see Spencer that often, I know he’s got my back!  And within this last year, it became my turn to have his. 

I don’t have any other friends that I know of dealing with SSA, so when Spencer told me, I don’t think I knew how to take it.  To be honest, I can’t clearly remember how I felt, but based on how I felt about a later phone call, I think it’s safe to say that I was at least partially uncomfortable.  I certainly didn’t understand much—if anything—about SSA since before, I’d tried to avoid that topic altogether whenever I could.  I’m grateful for what I’ve learned about it since then!

I do remember the call I received from Spencer the day he told me he felt that he should be open about his same sex attraction.  I was very concerned,and although I would like to kick myself now for it, I tried to argue against his prompting.  I don’t think I understood that there’s a huge difference between living that lifestyle and fighting against it.  I was the devil’s advocate, unfortunately, and advised him to pray about it and go to the temple.  I felt so sure that he wouldn’t come out about it if he’d just go to the temple.  I’m so sorry and so embarrassed to think back to that time…

You may imagine my concern when he informed me that he would be coming out and being open about his struggle after all.  I was so far away, and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I struggled against the idea, and I didn’t want him to post about it.  I hope I never argue against a prompting ever again, because I have seen the Lord working through Spencer in such a powerful way.

Though I still don’t know much about SSA, I do know that Spencer is touching others.  I’m amazed at the influence he’s had in various places.  I’ve had the privilege of reading some of his blog posts, and if there’s something you can feel the Spirit strongly while reading, it’s his blog. Not just any blog, but his blog about his struggles with SSA.  I have been moved to tears on more than one occasion while reading, and I’m so grateful for his powerful words!

Before any of this, I was against it entirely.  Now looking at how many people he has touched and the comfort he can give others, I see I was entirely wrong.  If anyone reading this is struggling with SSA, talk to Spencer Ficiur. He can and will be your ally! 

It’s not always sunshine and bunnies.  It isn’t easy for him to have to deal with this kind of trial. Unfortunately, I think many people, like myself, don’t understand.  It’s not something he’s chosen, but he is choosing to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is truly a disciple of our Savior.  He is a fighter, and a dang good one at that!  I can’t even begin to tell him how proud I am of the decisions he’s making, the missionary work he’s been able to do, and the future possibilities of how he will continue to be a great instrument in building up the Lord’s kingdom. I certainly want to support him and help him fight 100%!  I want to always have his back the way he has ALWAYS had mine. 

                And so, today I celebrate the birthday of a great man who is such a great example to me of one who is willing to fight the good fight! He has deeply inspired me, and I know he will continue to inspire so many others!  Thanks for being such a great example, Spencer!  Happy Birthday, bud! J