Sunday, November 3, 2013

Voice(s) of Hope, Part 4

I realized today that I have not done a Voices of Hope post since June and with all of the videos and essays that have been coming out recently (at least five videos have come out since the beginning of the semester) I wanted to write again. This one was a little more difficult because I don’t know any of the people personally and except perhaps Laurie Campbell, I haven’t met any of them at all. Anyways, here we go.
"Heavenly Father’s the one person that I know who loves me
more than anything." --Michael Sandberg
First up is Michael Sandberg. Other than the sexual abuse, there is a lot of his earlier life to which I can relate to some extent. I was bullied and made fun of (though it was not often directly to my face, because I suspect they knew I wouldn’t let them get away with it… I was too likely to tell a teacher and get them in trouble). My mom will attest that like Michael I came home from school crying many times throughout junior high. Being 22 now, it’s hard for me to even capture what that felt like so many years ago. I remember getting a note on my locker that called me gay. I remember sitting on three thumbtacks one day in ninth grade. Regardless of why people bully (because the target child is gay, because he’s fat, or whatever reason) it’s never okay. Many of my greatest scars come from how I was treated by my peers throughout twelve years of school.

I liked what Michael said his therapist told him: "I’m not going to be able to cure you. I’m not going to be able to fix you. What’s really important from here on out is that you learn to accept yourself and love yourself." Like I mentioned before in my Journey into Manhood post, one of the hardest things for me to do is to love myself. I have accepted that I’m attracted to men. In many ways that’s not a big deal. However, I still struggle at times to love the quirky, sometimes strange man that I am. Like I mentioned in reference to Spencer Thompson’s video, change does not mean becoming straight. It means loving me.
"Because that price is so great it means the whole
world to me." --Laurie Campbell
I’m sure there is much more I could say about Michael’s video, but I’m going to move on to Laurie Campbell now. Laurie is the author of “Born that Way?” which she wrote under the name Erin Eldridge. I like that she brought up the concept of sacrifice. Each of us, no matter what we struggle with, whether it is same-sex attraction like me or intellectualism like Laurie’s husband, we sacrifice something. However, I’m reminded that the Savior sacrificed all for us.

One part that I really enjoyed about her video was this: she said, “[Same-sex attraction] had the greatest ability to make me suffer in a way I’d never suffered before—to such extremes. It also had a way of bringing me to the Savior and these spiritual experiences that I know I never would of had, had I not dealt with this issue.” I can attest to that in my life. My struggles with SSA and learning to deal with them have helped me come closer to the Lord. I have learned (and I’m still learning) what it means to surrender my will to the Savior and use the enabling power of His Atonement. However, as I’ve effectively learned these things, my life has become better. I am better able to manage my emotions and I am better able to relate to my brothers and sisters.
"He provided that way, that I can be happy and that I can
love myself again." --Stephan Mueller
The final video I had for today was Stephan Mueller. First off, I want to point out how amazing the example of his father is as a branch president. Stephan had to confess heart-breaking things to not only his branch president, but his father who was the branch president. His father just listened (occasionally asking a clarifying question) and was compassionate to his son/branch member. I have heard what I’d call horror stories about how priesthood leaders react to SSA. Recently I saw a post on North Star about how one man had gone to his bishop for support and counsel with his pornography addiction and because of his SSA and his preconceived notions, the bishop assumed he was looking at child pornography, because he had in his mind that all gays were pedophiles and that he refused to look at the MormonsAndGays website. It saddens me to hear that there are people like this in the church who are unwilling to look at the official church resources given to them. However, these extremely negative cases make me grateful for priesthood leaders like President Brower (my mission president), my current bishop, and other incredibly understanding bishops I’ve had in the past.

Finally I want to touch on where Stephan is now. He noted that he is now in a place and a peace of mind that he is ok with who he is. SSA is no longer a central focus on his life. Through the support family and friends, he is not troubled by it anymore. It’s not a big deal anymore. Though sometimes for me it may seem different, I agree. Recently I’ve been noticing how little SSA has to do with my identity. I’ve been debating on when to tell two of my roommates about my SSA, but do I really need to? It’s not a big deal. What’s more important in my life is my schoolwork, my friends, my dating life (when I find a girl I like), my job, and dealing with the stresses that all of these put on me. In contrast to how much I struggle with school stress, SSA is nothing. Compared to a year ago when it felt like an obligatory thing to tell people, it’s nice to be where I’m at now.

The essay I picked for today is Steven Wilson’s. When I first read the book Voices of Hope one of my favorites was his ex-boyfriend Kenneth’s essay. I have a lot of respect for Kenneth and Steven, having gone from having a sexual relationship together to having a healthy brotherly friendship. After finding out that he (and as a result Kenneth) had AIDS they both became motivated to find God. It was through the loving influence of Kenneth’s family that they were both able to be converted (or in Kenneth’s case re-converted) to the gospel and Kenneth was able to baptize Steven.

Steven noted that it was difficult to change his relationship with Kenneth from a sexual one to a brotherly one and that they made mistakes along the way, but through setting up proper boundaries with each other and creating a Christ-centered home, they were able to find their love for each other increase.

I love one of the lines that Steven says: “I know Satan knows my weakness but so does Jesus Christ.” Sometimes this is hard for me to remember. In my struggles I may recognize that the adversary is working against me and he is very good at what he does, but I may also forget that Jesus Christ is also very good at what He does and He is infinitely more powerful than the devil. Christ knows my weaknesses, but through the power of His Atonement they can be made into strengths.

I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is His Son. And I know that through His grace I can be strengthened and I can improve and that I can become better.