Thursday, March 28, 2013

Supreme Court Debate

Though I would have liked to remain silent during this big discussion about gay marriage (Are you surprised? I am, too) I was asked by a friend to write a post about it. So this post is just based on my opinions of gay marriage and more importantly how we respond to this discussion.

First of all, I’ll state my position. I stand with what the church says about gay marriage. In my opinion and in my belief, marriage by definition is man and woman. I have nothing against same-sex couples and in reality what we’re fighting over is a word. That being said, I do support gay rights, as does the church. Should gays be discriminated against in jobs and other opportunities? Of course not! I’m all for gay couples in civil unions getting the same tax benefits and other legal rights as married couples, actually. In the end, I guess I just care about the semantics.

Now that that’s been said, here’s the bigger issue that I see: contention. That, more than anything, has been driving me up the wall during the past few days. Yes, it’s a heated argument and a touchy subject for many on both sides. But let’s be honest, the Supreme Court isn’t going to make its decision based on how many people have a red equal sign as their profile picture or how many people have… whatever the “traditional marriage” people have as theirs.

In the end, all that’s happening is people are getting in pointless arguments and getting angry. And that drives the Spirit away. I still have a long way to go to get to the kind of Christ-like love that I want to have, but in my judgment so do so many others. This includes people inside the church. Yes, we have different opinions and viewpoints, but that doesn’t mean there has to be contention. In my Doctrine and Covenants class, we’ve been talking about Zion recently. The more I learn about it the more I realize how far we are as a people from getting there.

“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)

Before we can physically build Zion, we must first become Zion where we are. I’m not saying we have to all agree on everything. I’m saying that the arguing and the contention are not conducive for building Zion. The answer is love. You don’t have to agree with everything someone says to love them. You don’t have to have the same political viewpoints to love them. You can love them because they’re children of our Heavenly Father, our brothers and sisters. Like I said, I still have a long way to go with developing this kind of love, but it’s one of my desires. Could I be killed like Jesus was and forgive my killers? If I can’t love that much, then I fall short of the Christ-like love that I’m searching for.

PS: Check out The Voice(s) of Hope Project is finally been released! I'll be doing a post or two about it later! :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Almost-Invisible Alien

SPOILER ALERT FOR ANY DOCTOR WHO FANS!!! I’m going to be talking about a Season 5 (Eleventh Doctor) episode today.

The episode features the Doctor and Amy, his companion, traveling back to nineteenth century France to meet Vincent van Gogh and take care of an alien he’d painted in a church. Whilst taking care of the alien, the Doctor finds van Gogh having an emotional breakdown that very much reminded me of my experiences with depression. Though there is no consensus about what van Gogh’s mental disorder was, the writers of Doctor Who portray it as a bipolar disorder. As I watched the episode, van Gogh mourning his loneliness, misery, and hopelessness, I was reminded of my own episodes of depression, feeling that I have no hope and I eventually all those close to me will leave me. Yet I can also relate to how only a little while later, van Gogh had cried it out and was a happy person again. He says that occasionally he’d be tormented by those moods, but then suddenly he’d be okay. Sometimes I feel like I can go days or weeks at a time feeling completely happy… and then an episode hits and I’m upset for a day, a few days, a week, or who knows how long. It wasn’t until the end of the episode when the Doctor takes van Gogh to the present day and he sees a museum full of his own work that he believes his life was worth something.

Depression, bipolar, and other mental disorders are a huge trial for many. One source I looked at said that about 10% of the US adult population deals with depression. Another statistic said that about 2.6% of the population deals with bipolar. Another thing I want to touch on here is suicide. Like van Gogh eventually took his life, there are many that feel mortality is too painful and so they take their own life to ease the pain. One website told me that in 2010 it was reported that there were 38,364 deaths in the United States. The same website says that 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. And what about the other 10%? Does that mean that that 10% without a diagnosable disorder could have been helped? Perhaps saved?

Back in the 1980s, Elder Ballard said about suicide, “Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth. When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth.”

Recently, a member of the North Star Facebook group shared an experience related to suicide (and I share this story with his permission). His son’s best friend committed suicide. This man’s son was in tears the whole night, trying to make sense of the incident. I’m tempted to put up an LGBT suicide stat, but as relevant as that is, it really isn’t. It’s not about someone’s sexuality or lifestyle. It’s about showing love to everyone around you, like Christ would.

It’s important to show love to those around us, because as the saying goes “everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” but oftentimes we can’t see that. Like in the Doctor Who episode, the alien is invisible to all except van Gogh. He’s labeled as crazy and mad. Even when the Doctor and Amy try to help him with the alien, they’re left pretty helpless because the only person who can see it clearly is van Gogh. It is just like depression and other mental illnesses. I have felt many times like I am fighting an alien that only I can see.

There is help though. If you are struggling with depression, bipolar, or another mental illness, see a doctor or see a psychiatrist. All else fails, call this number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Human life is too precious to give up so easily. Keep trying. No matter how many times you fall, keep trying, because you’ll make it to eternal life if you just keep trying to keep the commandments.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reasons to Smile

It’s been a bit of a hard week emotionally for me, which culminated in a breakdown emotionally last night (I gotta thank Will and Azalea for helping me through that). As a result, today I just want to do a simple post about reasons I have to smile. As if I needed any more reminders to cheer up after last night, the theme we had in sacrament meeting in my ward today was “Joy in the Journey”. So while I listened to the speakers, I started writing a list of reasons I can smile.

  • I have good friends who love me. Just to name a few, Garrett, Eric, and several North Star friends (including Blake, Alex, John, etc.) who I can call or reach out to at a moment’s notice on a bad day.
  • My parents love me. Despite me having so many issues, my parents love me and even though I’m twelve hours away from them, they’re still only a phone call away when I need them.
  • I live within a block of the Provo temple. Living at the FLSR, I’m super close to the temple, a place of refuge for me, even when it’s just outside on the grounds.
  • I have eight temples accessible to me within an hour and a half drive from here: Bountiful, Salt Lake City, Oquirrh Mountain, Jordan River, Draper, Mount Timpanogas, Provo, and Manti. And in the next few years there will be Ogden (rededicated), Payson, and Provo City Center temples.
  • I have FINALLY found a major and a career path that I want to follow. With a family studies degree, I’ll be able to help people (and more importantly help families) with issues that in very many ways run their lives unconsciously.
  • I can find spiritual insights from random places, like Doctor Who (PS: Later, when I write a post about depression, I’m going to be referencing the Van Gogh episode of Doctor Who, which I LOVED).

  • I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s hard work keeping it up, but the times when I really feel it, like I did during church today, it’s that little boost I need to keep me going.
  • The Savior sacrificed Himself to perform the Atonement so that I could find comfort and solace in my life and so that I could be forgiven of my sins.
  • We have a living prophet on the earth today! How cool is that? There is a man on the earth who tells us what God wants us to know. Even better, in two weeks we get to hear him speak!
  • I am part of an eternal family. Because my parents were sealed in the Washington DC temple on July 17, 1983, I am sealed to my family for time and for all eternity.
  • I have uplifting music I can listen to on a bad day. It’s AMAZING the power that music has to buoy us up and give us strength when we need it! Yesterday, while my problems climaxed, I was grateful to have this song in my iTunes library, showing exactly how I felt at the moment and throughout the past while.
  • I had an AMAZING mission president when I was in Toronto. President Brower is one of the most Christ-like, loving, thoughtful, and inspired men I know (that all kind of became redundant after “Christ-like”).

  • I have felt God’s love. I have days when I don’t feel it strongly or I’m not in a place where I feel it at all, but I know I have felt it. Despite my mistakes, my weaknesses, and my faults, He loves me. And nothing I can do will change that.

Those are the reasons I found to smile today during church and I know I have more. Please share in the comments what reasons you have to smile, on your good days and your bad days.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Why Me?"

Back when I did my “Behind the Voices” post, I mentioned a man named William Seger, who was interviewed in the podcast and who did a video shoot for Voice(s) of Hope. Around that time, I also bought a copy of his book, “Why Me?: A Gay Man’s Struggle for Love and Family” and between classes I was able to read it this semester. In his book, he recounts his story, beginning with his less-than-ideal family life growing up, followed by his time living the gay lifestyle, and finally ending with him joining the church and getting married. Throughout his whole life he wanted a family and he wanted love.

A major theme from his book is choice. Taken from the book’s website, under the “Author” tab, it says, he says, “My purpose, using my life’s experiences, to help them identify better choices and provide avenues of help to resolve confusing homosexual attractions as they mature but most importantly a better initial way to deal with those feelings not only for themselves but with their families. Good choices can ultimately define their character, offering a much happier and a more fulfilling life.” In the podcast, William said, “What we choose is what we can become … We can take a course, which may not be easy … but it’s possible.”

One quote from his book that I love (this is in the Afterword) is as follows: “Examine the law of gravity … As limiting as gravity sometimes seems to be, if there was no gravity on earth, then there would be chaos.” As the scriptures teach, with all commandments that the Lord gives us, we are blessed for obeying them and that one of the blessings we receive is happiness. It is my belief though that we are blessed for the commandments we do keep and I believe that there is a greater happiness and peace for those who keep all the commandments.

I love that this man did a video for Voice(s) of Hope and I’m excited to see his (and the rest of them) when the project is finally released.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Common Ground

For the past month, since I had that incident with Chris and Thomas, I’ve been in a funk with my writing. I wish I could be as bold as I used to be, but I am so scared of offending anyone now. I wanted to make my point earlier that that was never my point, but I’m still scared. I don’t want to offend anyone. That was never my intent. However, staying quiet is equally hard on me.

While speaking with John earlier today, we were discussing this ongoing “battle” between gay activists and super conservative Mormons with SSA. Both ask for respect and acceptance in their chosen lifestyles; however both sides also get defensive when someone challenges it. I’ll admit it; I don’t like feeling like my decision to stay in the church is criticized. However, I also recognize that gays who have left the church don’t want to be preached to either. Where’s the balance? Neither side is happy with this battle. In my judgment a lot of it is just how we perceive things. We choose to be offended and personally I make that choice way too often. Consciously or unconsciously, we make that choice.

Instead of really making a point with this post, I want to pose a question (so please leave your ideas in the comments, either on here or on Facebook). We need to love those who don’t have the same ideologies as us. However, I don’t want it to be enabling either. There is a balance between loving people and endorsing that lifestyle. While talking to John about it he said that he thinks that one part of it is finding common ground. So here’s the question: How do we find that common ground? What is that common ground?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Voice(s) of Hope Preview

Well, the day is getting close: the Voice(s) of Hope project will soon be online. A few weeks ago, the first video for the Voice(s) of Hope project was released, followed by two other videos, as a preview for the website. After waiting for this for months, I’m excited to see it come about. The whole way through, this has been a spiritual experience. Filming back in November was so cool; the Spirit was strong in that home as I told my story, and as I witnessed other people telling their stories as well. Less than a month later, we also got the North Star Voices podcast doing an episode on how things had gone during filming. Now, it’s almost ready (each of the screencaps below has a link to the highlight version of the respective video).

"Hope comes through a knowledge that the Savior
has felt all these things." --Blake Fisher
The first of the previews was a video of my friend Blake. I met Blake back in August and his testimony has been strength to me throughout the time I’ve known him. A major theme I could relate to was how his plans for his life didn’t work out. That one I can relate to. It would be an understatement to say that my life hasn’t turned out as I planned. I especially liked his experience in feeling that the Lord would take care of him is something I can relate to. Recently as I’ve dealt with a kind of culmination of dealing with Aspergers, anxiety, SSA, school, and financial problems, I’ve found that that’s something the Lord wants me to learn too. No matter how many experiences I have… No matter how many emotional breakdowns I have, I always have this sense that the Lord will help me and keep me safe.

"When the Spirit speaks truth to your heart, then
you know you can move forward." --Lolly Weed
The second video is of Josh and Lolly Weed, a couple of my heroes. I’ve met him twice (at the Evergreen Conference fireside this past September and at the AMCAP conference weekend in November). He and his wife actually filmed their video later the same evening that I did mine. I remember hearing them discuss with Ty about “What more can we say than we’ve said?” After having been on television and all of that, you’d think they’d have told their whole story. Not quite. This project allowed them to touch the spiritual aspect of their story, something that the world doesn’t understand about their story. One of the first things that impacted me—that EVERYONE should remember—is that there are NO lesser saints. Every child of God has the potential to become like our Heavenly Father. Every one of our brothers and sisters is capable of attaining the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. I agree with them that helping one person is enough to make all THIS vulnerability (what I’m doing on my blog) worth it. For more on Josh Weed, check out his blog or you can check out his story in Voices of Hope, which he wrote using the pen-name “Jason G. Lockhart”.

"Even when we feel like what we're going through is too
hard ... I know the Lord gets it." --Katharine Matis Adams
The final preview is of Katharine Matis Adams. Her parents wrote of her brother’s story in “In Quiet Desperation” and she later told the story of her late husband, Christian Adams, in “Voices of Hope”. Both her brother and her husband dealt with SSA. The love and care that she shows for her brother and for her husband and their terribly rough experiences with their SSA is powerful. It hurts me to hear her say that her brother’s bishop gave him permission to stop attending church, that it was so bad. There needs to be a place in the church for people with SSA. We are doing SO much better now than we used to, in my opinion. However, there is still much we can improve on. Later, Katharine talks about when her husband went to Journey into Manhood, which is when he really began to love himself more. After all I’ve dealt with and all of the scars that I still have from growing up with brothers who tease and classmates who make fun, making me believe I was worthless, this makes me excited to go and experience Journey into Manhood for myself. I hope to find that greater love for myself like Christian did.

I’ll admit, I could never top what Blake, Josh and Lolly, and Katharine have said in their videos. The Spirit is SO strong, as they share their stories and their testimonies. I’d invite you to watch each of their videos. No matter who you are or what you deal with in your life, I hope these videos help you feel of God’s love for you. He does love you. I hope that you feel the hope that each of these individuals expresses and find a way to apply it to yourself, no matter your situation. My experiences and my knowledge are limited, but one thing I know is that the Lord loves you.