Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gays on the fringe

I expect this weekend to be an issue free zone for general conference -- if there is such a thing. I do not think that hot topic political issues will be brought up. Nor do I think that they should. I think that this conference will be about family's (natural and created), and the Savior.

It has been a political six months since the last conference. Church leaders said in a recent press conference that they would not -- and could not -- alter opposition to gay marriage. They called such unions, "contrary to the laws of God."

Sister Neill Marriott, a leader in the church's women's organization said that the commandments and doctrines come from sacred scripture and "we are not at liberty to change it".

I understand this view. If, as we claim, we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ, then He is the one who would give instruction to change or adjust. That she states that He would need to make the change is right.

I wondered at the statement that "it is written in scripture".  That as the sole reason for the status-quo would seem to exclude revelation -- on which the LDS church is based. Some of LDS doctrines do not come from scripture but by revelation from the Lord to the prophet.

But that wasn't the important part as far as I am concerned.

"But, God is loving and merciful," Marriott continued. "Jesus ministered to marginalized outcasts, she said by way of example, while also obeying religious commandments." Read - He hung out with those who needed him, and those weren't the upper class, best dressed, magnificently smelling bunch.

Jesus ministered to the people on the margins, on the fringe, on the verge. To the insignificant and the peripheral. He served those who were relegated to being unimportant or powerless in the society.

I am one of these, by the way. I don't have any social status. My bank account is laughable. I am in political no-mans land by being a gay married Mormon with a temple recommend.  I think I am a little fringe-ie.

Sometimes I sit in the temple wearing the same thing as everyone else and I feel camouflaged for a brief moment. All my issues are made the same - at least on the outside. I could be anyone of the tall, graying dudes there. The only real differences are the ones that the Lord knows about, and He alone is the judge. 

Oh, that we had more of that in the world - a better way to look at ourselves and others.  A safe place to raise our friends and hang out with our families - as is the case in my little circle.

That's a new goal of mine: to make the decisions that count for me, and to be supportive of others when they do the same. regardless of how fringe-ie.

Friday, March 27, 2015

There goes the bride

It has been months that I have been waiting to hear from the first presidency concerning our sealing in the temple - my wife’s and mine.  

Actually it was less that two weeks from the time it was actually sent off to them.  (Stake president goofed, more info was needed, My wife's former mother in law from hell who still is from hell made trouble and lied on official paperwork)  With all said and done it was two weeks and four days from when the Bishop sent off the last email.

And, yes. My wife and I can get sealed in the temple. So, we will have a little party.

Like either one of us is this skinny...
Some of my friends who are not LDS immediately grab on to how unfair it was that there was such a log wait.  I certainly understand their feeling.  Most of them are expressing a little empathy, and I appreciate that. There were several hoops to jump through that miffed me a little. 

But, most of the problem for me may have been being disgruntled that they didn't hear my name and ask how high. Reality check; I am just like everyone else it would seem -- lesson learned number one.

Lesson two; Being sealed is important enough to me that I was willing to jump through a few hoops. 

Third lesion, My stake president is a human, and he works in a building made by other humans, and all of have agency and choices and layers of understanding or mis-understanding and the gospel is for all of us, even the ones who forget to send e-mails. That is my way of saying the every-day people in the church are fallible.

That doesn't shake my testimony.

Forth lesson: I would have survived if the answer had been no.  The no would have been accompanied by a why, certainly, and I would have done my best to adjust whatever may have been needed, but I would have accepted a no and would have done my best to turn it into a yes, because this girl is the one.

And I’m gonna marry that girl.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Am I getting Married in the morning?

Love, and a lot more was in the air when I married my wife. We married civilly over seventeen years ago under the rain-forest tree at the courthouse in Provo. She had children from a previous marriage, a union that had gone south in a hurry. That marriage should never have happened, but I'm glad it did because of the children. 

I was not a prize. I had issues - most of which I had spoken to her about.  My sexual preference we had discussed at some length.

This might be us in another 17 years.
So we raised the kids, and now we are raising a few grand-kids because we didn't do such a good job with our daughter-the-mother.  

Now, it seems like the time to get sealed in the temple as neither one of us is going anywhere. We are both living in accordance with the commandments and we both have had and have used our temple recommends for some time.  

I say, let’s do it.

So, we made the appointment with the Bishop and he agreed with us that getting sealed is something we should do. It took my wife some time to fill out the paperwork and compose a letter that she had been asked to write describing what happened and why she wishes her previous sealing to be canceled. She didn't really want to open that can of worms because of the distasteful events that lead up to the divorce.

It, in essence was canceled the moment he stepped out on her, but that is neither here or there.

And we waited. Several month later were still waiting. Turns out that the stake president had neglected to turn in the paperwork. They all had a good laugh. Not me. Not my wife.
Several more months later we get notice through our bishop that the church committee needed more information. They needed letters from our children and first-husbands mother - since he had, mercifully, died several years ago. 

The kids writing letters was not a problem. I explained to them that our getting sealed did not affect their relationship with their first dad. They were still sealed to him and to their mother. All that would happen was that their mother would no longer be sealed to first-dad and she would be sealed to me; Not a conversation that I imagine happens a lot in the LDS church.

The kids emailed their letters to the Bishop.  We waited for Mother-in-law from hell to write hers. My wife felt that the MILFH's email would hit the fan. I thought MILFH had matured enough and understood the situation well enough that she would act like a grownup.

I was wrong. MILFH drug it out, contacted our bishop and then her stake president. Finely - three weeks after the deadline - she sends her e-mail. We rolled our collective eyes at her and waited for the verdict. 

Two months later we heard from our bishop that there were questions the committee had that needed to be answered before the application could move on to the first presidency.  We set the appointment to meet with our Bishop to answer the questions.

Question number one was whether or not I had resolved my many issues. Of course the answer was yes. I had dealt with my problems with all the correct authorities and had come to resolutions in the correct, prescribed manner. In short, I had not lied to get my temple recommend.

Second question; MILFH had made allegations of impropriety in my relationship with my wife, and the committee wanted to know if the allegations were true.

I became angry. Anger, there in the bishops office.  Not only did MILFH lie to our bishop, our children and her church leaders, but she did it in writing to the first presidency of the church.  She lied to the prophet!  If I may say to you, dear reader, what a complete hag! 

Our bishop set the matter straight and told us we would be hearing from the first presidency as soon as they met over the matter.
We are still waiting. 

I get more nervous as the time passes. What if they say no?  What if they tell me that I cannot be sealed to the person I love and care for and want to take care of.  Will it make a difference in our relationship if it is for time and time only?

I think about others in my position - wanting to marry their loved one and feeling like they are waiting for approval. I have more empathy for those who are still waiting for answers. The very real fact of the matter is that the first presidency might say no.  

No, I cannot be sealed to my wife. Your repentance was not enough.  You do not have our approvalThen what?

Do I pout and leave the church?  Does my wife become bitter?  Do we become one of those stories printed in the Ensign about those who may or may not have been done wrong and left the fold?

Oh please. I am not leaving the church.  I know too much to deny what is right - even if I come in at the wrong end of things.  

I recently read a man's post that was dismissed from his church job simply for being gay - not having sex or being unchaste, just being gay. I told him it was unfair, but that some day he would know that his hanging in there was the right thing to do.  Will I be in that same boat?

I may be. However, had I been in a frame of mind to leave the church I would have used one of the many episodes having to do with me being gay and trying to be honest about it - which didn't work so well.

I say no to vacating the LDS church because "I have been done wrong" -- assuming that the worse happens. I say that we stay. I will have to spend a lot of time with my wife to let her know that the church is not to be blamed, and then focus on what I ( we) can do to be in a future position to have her cancellation of sealing exacted and our own ordnance performed. I may have to put a hit out on the MILFH.

And if we get a letter in the mail that says my sealing is a go?  I will thank the Lord and marry that girl. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Darwin and the gay bulldog

T.H. Huxley was a Victorian biologist who was a vigilant supporter of evolution -- so much so that he became known as “Darwin’s bulldog”. Though they were not social active - there was not much by the way of having a little lunch together -- Huxley is listed as one of pallbearers in 1882 at his mentors funeral.

Regarding Darwin's work, the bulldog commented;

“In scientific work, those who refuse to go beyond fact rarely get as far as fact.”

I have no idea what that means. What I get from it up front is that those who aren't able to really look at and study don't come up with answers? No, that's not it. 

Those who aren't willing to allow for the unknown won't really understand the known? Maybe that's it. If that is the case, then I might be able to find out a few things.  I am certainly willing to allow for things I don't know.

I am a MarMoHo, a gay Mormon man who is married to a woman and who strives to stay worthy of a LDS temple recommend. The odds are that my marriage to my wife is not going to work out and that it will end in divorce.

A popular study recently completed -- one focusing on those in my position -- has come to the conclusion that I am doomed. It states that between 51% and 69% of so-called "mixed-orientation marriages" between Mormons end in divorce.  By way of comparison approximately 26% of all Mormon marriages end in divorce.

More than 70% of LGBT or "same-sex attracted" -- the term used by those who acknowledge they are sexually and/or romantically attracted to members of the same sex but don't identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual -- Mormons end up leaving the church, either on their own volition or through excommunication.

At first I took aim at the stats and tried to discredit them. I read them over and looked for anything I could find that supported my stance. I looked to confirm my bias.

Just for the record, my bias is that if the Lord, through the holy spirit has told me that the course I am following is a correct course for me, I will continue to follow it - regardless of the stats, odds, wisdom of scholars or John Delan.

Bit of a tangent:  Do you feel that current wisdom conflicts with your goals or your aspirations?  What do you do about that?  It that even an issue for you? I freely admit that what may or not work for me, what the spirit has confirmed for me may not be what is best for you. Are you able to find strength in what the spirit revels to you? 

Mr. Dehlin was the one that instigated the study. I didn't just pick his name out of the hat. And, as much as I hate to say it, the study is correct. I do belief that the study is a representation of what the currents trends are and it corroborates what I have seen in my years of observing and sometimes participation in the LGBT Mormon community. As much as I think Mr. Dehlin is wrong on so many other issues, his stats here are correct.

The facts of the matter tell me that the odds are not in my favor.

I don't care.  I have been married for fifteen plus years.  We are working on being sealed in the LDS temple.  I don't take the marriage or the sealing lightly and I am committed to making it work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

If it quacks like a duck

I have caught myself in a pattern that I do not want to follow. I have been discounting people and their opinions when they act in a manner -- or believe in a concept or principal -- that is opposed to my own behavior or view.

I used to call it the Disposable People syndrome, but now that I find myself in the middle of it I don't like that name so much.

I first noticed it when I was the one being disposed of. When I first started the process of coming out, I found that once I was known as gay suddenly my opinion didn't matter in the LDS church.  Or, to be specific, that is how it felt to me in the ward that I was in. When I answered a question asked of the Sunday school class I could almost hear the smirks.

I was disgusted by how quickly I was dismissed.

Looking back at the matter, I am sure I was reading much more into their responses than was real.  I admit that. I was a little bit sensitive. Nevertheless.

It still is a dangerous practice – to discard people who appear to have no use to us.  I see myself doing it. My dad used to say, If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck it is probably a duck. I find myself using the duck principal more often than not to justify judging improperly in a way I never thought I would.

Case in point:  My daughter married a guy that I deemed several years ago to be less than desirable. Yes, time proved me right, which means that I should go with my gut more often. However, It was never my place to be unkind, to speak ill of him or to spray the house down with Lysol after the dude left. My job wasn't to prove my point. He wasn't the one for my daughter. And yet, it was never my place to put him in his place.

The stanch me said that I needed to act in a way that was consistent with my beliefs This guy needed to know that I did not condone his behavior or his choices.

Tad is bring his boyfriend home for Christmas?  He needs to know that I, in no way, support homosexuality.

Have you heard that one before? How about this one.

She is marrying so far beneath her that she has to sit down.  I am not being a good or responsible parent unless I make it clear to her and to him both what I think is right.

Believe me, If you have lived the way you should be living they already know of your standards.  If you have to articulate them when they walk into your living room for a visit then it isn't going to matter unless your aim is to drive a wedge into the your relationship with them.

It may walk and quack like a duck. It may be exactly the duck you thought it was. But my job is not to judge that.  My job is to treat him or her with respect. 

So where does that leave me as a writer who comments on gay rights and religion and everywhere with a common border?

Being a little more careful how I write and how I act for one thing. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The believers, the un-makers

I have been following a popular case of a man who has made clear that he doesn't believe in the LDS church or in following the council of it's leaders. He is now, however, making news because he wants to be re-admitted into the ranks of Mormons in full fellowship. 

Apparently the PR he received is waning and he needs an attention boost. A smart move that will keep people downloading his pod-casts for another month or so.

To the point: There are those who wish to distance themselves from the Mormon belief system and doctrine. Their stance is their own business and their own choice completely. In the past I have fought for our God given agency to choose and I still do. It is not ones choice or ones choosing that I speak of here.

This is the portrait of Christ
 that I grew up with.
The issue is this; Who do I choose to follow? Who do I believe? In whom do I put my faith?

The un-makers would have you believe that they alone poses genuine understanding or that only they are smart enough to interpret facts or read a book.

Joseph Smith was a polygamist they say. Really? Like I have never heard that.

Emma Smith stated that the prophet looked in a hat to read through seer stones. Wow. another shocker.

The temple presentation and the masonic ceremony have much in common. More than much, if one is paying attention. And I knew these things and more when I spent a family vacation in Nauvoo at the age of 13.

Do you want to talk grand masters and salamanders?  Been there.

The majority of us have known about these things for decades, and our faith is neither shaken nor stirred. We acknowledge that there are questions for which we currently have no answers. But we trust that there are answers to be had and that answers will be given to us if we are faithful enough to obey now.  

We believe in the power, authority and the atonement of Jesus Christ. We seek after truth and we expect new knowledge. When we find real truth it does not throw us into a tailspin.

We do not lack for talent, articulation or nuance. We aren't the leftovers with no-place better to go but to church for three hours on Sunday. And here we are courageously taking a stand.

We are they. We are those who believe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The King and I and the dangerous book

I recently read an interview with Broadway director Bartlett Shere who directed South Pacific and is in previews for The King and I with Kelli O'Hara. Something in the interview seemed to coincide with a thought of mine. Here is the part of the interview that got me thinking:

Question: In The King and I, we see Anna teaching girls. That seems revolutionary, especially in light of the Nicholas Kristof remark that I know you find inspiring: that in our day the most dangerous thing in the developing world is the education of women -- giving them books.

BShere: For me this is rooted in the story of Tuptim. We need to make clear that she represents a tributary relation between Burma and Siam, a sexual gift to ensure an alliance. That is the root of a deep and profound injustice. In "The Small House of Uncle Thomas," we learn that Tuptim is the more sophisticated one in regard to power dynamics, and is challenging authority. A story about injustice needs change agents. Tuptim is a change agent in part because she is willing to take greater risks and seek justice for herself and for a basic human right.

More and more I am feeling like Tuptim -- and that ain't the gayest thing I have ever said. She was a smart girl, smart enough to draw parallels from Stows's book and her life. Give a person a book and see what happens. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the book that opens things up for Tuptim. It emboldens her. It empowers her.  

Of course, she ends up dead, but we will ignore that incidental plot twist. Consequences are inevitable. Even not choosing has consequences.  Some results are of our own choice directly and others are not so direct. Nevertheless, we have the power to choose.

Drawing my own parallel to Tuptim; I have had the chance to obtain understanding. Some wise man handed me a proverbial book. When I started to understand it's importance I made a choice to not sit by. Tuptim was given knowledge and understanding, and she choose to act.  She created a staged version of what she read to present what she had learned to others. It was a bold move.  

I have chosen to present my own version to others of what I have learned. Would others come to my same conclusion if I were not keep my understanding to myself?  Am I doing anyone any good? Might I end up as bad off as Tuptim?  These remain to be seen.

And what is my version of what I have learned that I present?  Let me be clear; That I am gay and I am not ashamed;  That I choose to marry a woman after full disclosure and she agreed to marry me with full understanding;  That my wife is a freakin' saint;  That I bear the Priesthood and strive to adhere to the promises I have made to her and to the Lord. 

That none of these are mutually exclusive.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Overcoming my gay Mormon confirmation bias.

Don't read the first sentence and decide this article is not for you. Read at least three paragraphs down, please.

"Everything I see shows me that the LDS church is true. So how on earth can anyone else feel differently?" said the guy with no clue.

I have been "that guy" for quite some time. Some would say close minded. I say, I'm a gay married Mormon man. I am not closed minded. But I do select what I read and I check the sources. If it is a source I trust then I explore. If it turns out to be a site that isn't trustworthy, then I move on fast.

Information that supports my stances seems to leap out at me, and its not just a me thing. It's called confirmation bias, and by definition, it is "the tendency to search for, interpret, or recall information in a way that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses".

When I go to the temple, or see something on the news the information I gather confirms my stance. I may somehow be selecting only the information that I want to ingest.

I may also interpret information in a way that supports my current belief system. So, I ask myself, if I start off as a child riding with my family to church and I believe that it is true, will everything I assimilate will support my stance? Where does change come in? Am I locked into a belief?

Of course the answer is no. Choice and agency is everything.

How to overcome confirmation bias

I am a Mormon, I am Married, and I am sexually attracted to men. I have made decisions in my life based on what I think I know. I choose to marry a woman ( a wonderful women, by the way) because I believed that it was the right thing to do based on what I knew of the LDS church. I chose to go on a mission based on the same.

I listen to conference and certain things jump out at me. I read the scriptures and some passages mean more to me than others. When I read the paper, if there is Mormon, LDS or gay in the headline, I am all over it.

I am a big boy, however. Because I realize that confirmation bias exisits, I run info through my own personal mill before I interpret it.

  • I establish the source and its reliability. Easy example: if it comes from the National Enquirer it should probably be discounted. 
  • I consider what options might be, what logic would dictate. I look at things positively. I am optimistic. For example: The world is seven thousand years old -vs- everything I read in national geographic and science today. I acknowledge that the 7,000 years may mean something else, and that there could be a lot of truth to the science I am reading at the same time. Of course Man doesn't know everything and we don't have access to Gods knowledge, so there are going to be things we don't have answers for. I can wait. 
  • I try to look at, or at least be aware of the negative as well. I try to understand what the neigh-sayers are saying. Is there truth to some of what they say? There usually is. I try to spot the truth and the false and categorize them mentally. I am not shocked when there is truth that I didn't know about. 
  • I try to use my gut. The gut is something most people don't consciously acknowledge when studying an issue. I acknowledge the emotion. I embrace the spirit and count on him to guide me to correct information, or to discern when I am hearing what is true -vs-false, or strictly what I want to hear. My personality and my creativity come into play here. I am not stuck on a drawing board. 

Sample thought:  Anyone involved with University of Utah football is going to hell.
  • Was it published in the "BYU is Great" blog?
  • Was it written by BYU's athletic director?
  • What is the purpose of the article?
  • Did I read it to begin with because I hate Utah football?
  • Does the mug shot in the article look anything like Kyle Whiningham?
  • Will the blog look good when I print it out and put it on my fridge?
I think that, because I am aware of confirmation bias, I may be able to avoid it when it gets in the the way of learning or recognizing truth. When I consider these, any learning I do or any  knowledge I receive seems more pure, more real... more resilient.

Monday, March 2, 2015

If you can't stand the heat get out of the glass house

You are wrong to ______.  I do not support you.  However, you can believe whatever you like. It's a free country.

I get that all the time. It is true, I get it because I put my thoughts "out there" as far as posting a gay Mormon blog and links to it on Facebook.  I knew from the start that my POV would be considered odd, and that has proven to be true. Conservatives think I am a heathen for being gay, and liberals think I am a loon for choosing to marry a woman.  
  • Being gay is wrong
  • Being married to a woman is wrong.  
  • Being gay and being married to a woman is wrong
  • Being gay and married to a woman and being public (blog or Facebook) is wrong.
  • Being Mormon is wrong. Blind obedience is wrong. Paying tithing is wrong. Brown shoes with a black belt is wrong.  Never mind that last one.
Let me answer those questions by saying...  blah, blah, blaaah. 

If I were to tell one of my friends that he can choose to do as he believed however wrong he was, but that I supported him in his choice -- would that be offensive?

What if I said "you are wrong to want to marry someone of your own gender." How would that fly? Or, what if I said "You are wrong to have sex with one of your same gender". There would be screaming.

How you choose to live your life is wrong. That sentence would cause a riot, and yet, somehow, how I chosen to live my life is "like"able or not on Facebook.

(For liberals, these neigh say-ers sure are being conservative.)

So, today's soapbox topic would be this, were I to have to stick a point on the post. It is not my position to judge others and the choices they have made or that they are making. By the same token, others are not in a position to judge me and the life decisions I have made or that I am now making. 

And as I type that last sentence, reality kicks in and I have to laugh at myself. The glass house I live in gives people a pretty decent view. And if, by some miracle, they didn't get a chance to see it all, I go and announce it from the rooftops. "Shout it out" as it were. And then I ask for feedback.

Bottom line is that I have chosen to put my "stuff" out there for others in my position to read, and in trying to find those who need this kind of a read, I have opened up my life to comment. 

Some of the comments are painful. Some are wonderful. Regardless, I do not need comments in order to support or justify my stance. I strive to do what the Lord has asked of me, Calvin Thompson. 

All I can say is that I hope that you strive to do what He has asked of you.

When I started posting in 2009 there wasn't so much out there for those who were gay and wanted to live according to the LDS churches standards. Now there is even less out there. Being gay and being an active card-carrying Latter-day Saint seem to be incompatible. Most choose to live quietly with their thoughts.

I made another choice.  Let's see how long I can take the heat.