Friends

“Friend” is an odd word.

Friends

During my teaching English as a Second Language days, my students often expressed frustration with American usage of that word.

“You use that word all the time! EVERYONE is a friend. But that means no one really is.”

“It doesn’t appear that Americans have friends. At least not in the way we use the word in my country.”

Ouch.

Of course I have friends. I have several cherished long time friends. I have friends I can not speak to for years and then reconnect with and immediately it feels as if we were never apart. I know a lot of Americans who say that very same thing.

But that example only serves to make my students’ point. The kind of friends they’re talking about are the kind that would never go years without speaking to each other. To them, a “friend” is a person that makes up an integral part of their daily life in their thoughts, emotions and activities. To them a friend is like an appendage; when you leave it behind it causes deep pain. The type of friends they are talking about are the type of friends that would play heavily into a decision to move or not. Mostly not.

I have to admit that I don’t really have those kinds of friends.

Most of my friends have been situational. By that I mean we were thrust into the same location by chance.Our close proximity caused us to reach out to serve a basic human need of belonging and likeness and so we became “friends.” But once the situation was over, we all went our separate ways and the friendship essentially ended except for nostalgic reunions on Facebook and occasional messages of “Congratulations” for a new job or “Happy Birthday.” You know, Christmas card friends.

I do have friends who have stuck their necks out for me in shockingly unselfish ways and for whom I’d give the shirt off my back. I’m so fortunate in that regard. These are the ones who you can look to in a time of need… and who you hope feel the same about you. As special as these friends are, they are not intimately involved in my day-to-day life and that’s what sets them apart from the friends my students described.

I have high school and college “friends” I cherish dearly but I can’t call any of them up right now to go have a drink with me. They don’t live nearby.  I have work “friends” I’ve collected at various jobs on my diverse resume, but we only stay in touch on Facebook. I have many international “friends” from my time in Brazil, Japan and while teaching but none of us are planning to meet anytime soon. I have gay friends, ex-Mormon friends and every combination in between but they are more close community members with some things in common.

My mission companions are like that. For 2-4 short months we were paired up and involved in some pretty intense day to day activities with a lot of emotional investment and vulnerability. Like friends, we encouraged one another, laughed a lot and cried some. Then, when a transfer came we hugged and walked away to do it again with someone else. I liked most of my companions and got along swimmingly with each one of them except for the first one. Funny that he’s the only one who has reached out to me on Facebook! The others I’ve interacted little to none with despite my attempts. Two of them were at BYU with me afterwards but showed no interest in getting together. The others are in Brazil somewhere with common names that return hundreds of results on Facebook friend searches.

Whether it be school friends, work colleagues, or travel encounters these situational friendships are a lifeline and something I cherish in my life, but once the situation ends the close friendship wanes. I don’t mean to disparage those relationships in my life at all. Some of them continue thanks to Facebook and telephones, but at a distance. My American tendency for residential mobility means that I’m only in one place long enough to start friendships. I’m rarely in one neighborhood, town, state or even country long enough to follow through with the kind of long-term friendships that my students described and for which I sometimes feel at a loss.

All my intimate relationships have been something I call friendships but even those have deteriorated into something stilted and casual once the partnership ended. The friendship portion was entirely dependent on our intimate pillar to hold it up (which is probably why they didn’t endure).

I just had a career defining event happen to me last week and I while I have lots of “friends” I could share that information with who would cheer and celebrate with me, I don’t have anyone who would come over and bust out in tears of joy with me because they know how hard I’ve worked for it, how much I needed this. THAT’S the kind of friend my students are talking about and the kind of friends I’m missing.

Today is Father’s Day and I’m alone all day. By prior arrangement, my kids are on an international trip with their mother and I likely won’t even get a call today. We celebrated early, but my point is that I don’t have a close enough friend that knows this about me … someone who would know how much it sucks and acknowledge it or try to abate the suckiness of it.

I don’t think I’m alone in this desert of friendship either. I look around and I don’t see the kind of relationships my students described. We Americans are an independent and transient bunch. Our friendships tend to fall victim to other priorities and values. My European students placed their intimate friendships higher on the value chain than we would and had the close lifelong friends to show for it. Some of them would even top family, career, independence and money with their dearest, most intimate friendships.

My only experience with that involved using something like that sort of friendship as a tool (which of course means that it probably really wasn’t that kind of relationship).

At one point in my “trying to be straight” past, I read a lot of reparative therapy and ex-gay material (I also went to some counseling along those lines). The theory was that same-sex attracted (gay) men just needed to find healthy non-sexual bonding friendships with other men and that that would help “cure” them. I tried it and the timing seemed to be perfect because a very hetero friendship was sparked between me and another single guy at church. We did everything together almost every day and even became roommates at one point. I wasn’t attracted to him at all, so the theory was working! It worked so well that I also got close to his sister and ended up marrying her. Today this friend, my former brother-in-law, won’t even speak to me or look me in the eye if family events bring us together in the same room.

Even in my most longing moments, like right now, I’m not sure I’d be able to find that, or even want that friend again. I know especially that I wouldn’t even know how to nurture that in my life. But I’m open to learning.

I’m proud and bewildered to say that I believe my son has that with his friends. He has a closeness with a small circle of friends that I believe will last a lifetime. There’s a flip side to that as well. He’ll probably make life choices that will put those friendships higher on his chain of values than I wish he would. I’m confident that that will keep him Mormon unless one of them leaves. I worry that he’ll make education and career choices based on proximity to these friendships rather than based on his own strengths and ambitions. But then, those kind of sacrifices are exactly what my students were telling me that they’ve made for their friends, the choices that make their friendships stand above what they’ve witnesses on their travels here in America.

Friendship is an odd thing I haven’t quite figured out yet.

bw friends

 

Also See Previous Father’s Day posts:

Happy Father’s Day! Ignore The Comediennes and Douche Bags

 

Mother’s Day

 

12 Summer Highlights…so far

 

 

Posted in Fatherhood, Friendship, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Gays, Gays, Gays, Gays

Watching the news on Sunday…

Daughter: Dad what happened?!

Me: Some man walked into a gay bar and started shooting.

Daughter: Why?!!

Me: Probably because his religion taught him to disrespect and be disgusted by gay people.

Daughter: So he’s Mormon?

(crickets…pick my jaw up from floor)

Me: …No, but many gays have died because of what Mormons teach about gays. This appears to be a Muslim terrorist.


 

To provide some context for that conversation, I don’t talk much about Mormonism with my kids, much less how it treats gays. Last November was the first and  last time I remember having any type of discussion about it. This dialogue above was entirely unsolicited. It was a window into the experience  of a teenage girl who has her own mind and her own observation skills.

She attends church and all the accompanying activities with her mother. With me she does not. How the two worlds intersect is her own interpretation.

But, if any of you doubt that I was speaking accurately in my response to her, here are a few facts… Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers have documented 30+ suicides directly related to Mormons changing their policy towards gays since Nov. 2015.

The most well known murder of a young gay man, Matthew Shepard was committed by a pair of fellows, one of which was Mormon.

And with regards to terrorism, the worse terrorist attack on American soil before 9/11/2001 was committed by a band of Mormons in Southern Utah in 1857… also on September 11 ironically. 100-140 non Mormons were slaughtered at Mountain Meadows by Mormons who blamed it on the local Indians.

I’m not trying to say Mormons are somehow involved in this tragedy or that today’s Mormon is capable of the type of violence we saw in Orlando. But if a 12 year old Mormon girl can see the connection, surely we can agree that the  environment fostered in Mormonism today towards gays is the beginning of something that festers into Orlando.

The fact that recent revelations show that the killer had been frequenting that bar and using gay dating apps convinces me even more that “horrifying violence starts as embers”

It appears to follow a path like this:

Fundamental religious teachings +human nature =>religious guilt => personal shame => the feeling that there’s no way out =>anger or outrage =>Acting out.

There have been various responses to the Orlando tragedy in blogs and on Facebook. Some of them discuss ISIS, Islam, gun legislation or lack thereof, love for others or lack thereof. Some seem to argue that we should forget all those details and that there’s just one lesson to be learned…Love.

Love.

I agree with that sentiment but I don’t think it occurs at the expense of dismissing all the facts in a tragedy like this. We need to know if it was a closeted, repressed gay man, who had been recruited by religious Islamic fundamentalists,  who then resolved to attack  others with an assault rifle, others who represented what he most hated about himself. That’s a lot of assumptions in that run-on sentence there I know, but that’s the way it’s shaping up at this point in time. We need to know all that because while you may not have been the shooter you may

  • Hold inflexible religious views towards homosexuals (even if you are one)
  • Think that a citizen needs easy access to an assault weapon
  • Hold other views that aren’t violent in and of themselves but that lack compassion, or tolerance
  • Have no interest in your opinion being challenged

Pretending it wasn’t about gays, or guns, or violent religion is playing into the homophobia, or the recklessness, or the fanaticism.

I actually had someone I grew up with say that he’d “never heard a lesson in a Mormon church, taught about gays.”

If you are a current Mormon claiming to have never heard a lesson taught about gays you either need to wake up in meetings, you are completely clueless, or you are a liar. Just a simple Google search on homosexuality and Boyd K Packer, Spencer W Kimball, Prop 8 or Mormons will do the trick. If you don’t think those things are Orlando in embryo then you are part of the problem.

The religious fanaticism witnessed last weekend occurs in all religions as an observant pre-teen can figure out all on her own.

LTGOVCOX

What does make it better is the growth that comes from understanding the problem mixed with love. I’ve fortunately heard and read those type of comments too. Lt Gov. Cox of Utah gave a somber, repentant speech acknowledging that he hasn’t always shown kindness and acceptance and that that’s part of the problem. I respect that and forgive him.

My freshman college roommate gave a beautiful speech about love in times like this when accepting an award from The Trevor Project:

One of my favorite poets WH Auden wrote, “We must love one another or die” and that is what we affirm tonight. The brave kids that call for help and the adults who answer that call with love.

The horrifying violence starts as embers. In the last 6 months alone there have been over 106 anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures. 34 States in all. Local control bills, anti-trans bills and the absurdly titled Religious Freedom bills.

We must love one another.

That’s the lens, the only lens. Not Red State Blue State. Not Federal Government versus State Government. No saying well that’s North Carolina or that’s Mississippi. No resting on the glory of being legally married.

Just as we would cover a baby with a blanket, we need to wrap all our kids everywhere in a loving embrace.

And that means making our world kinder and safer for them to come out to and join in.

So as we all leave tonight, let’s pledge to continue the project of Trevor – to keep our kids safe. Let’s pledge to share in the responsibility to fight every heinous bill everywhere, and to demand in word and deed respect, civility and fairness from our elected officials.

And let’s lead by example –

Let’s love one another.

Richie_Trevor Project

Harvey Fierstein presenting a Trevor Project award to Richie Jackson and Jordan Roth on June 13, 2016

What am I willing to do to change and grow and to show love?

Posted in Homosexuality, Mormonism, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Heritage: Full Circle

One of the weapons religious folks will throw out at those who leave is the ole,

“You are betraying and disgracing your family heritage!”

That’s never stung too much with me because part of my reason for leaving was this universal sense that almost every generation of humanity, no, every  generation of LIFE on this earth has been betrayed by religion.

The story of Adam and Eve 6,000 years ago is a disgrace to our common ancestors wandering the earth 25,000 years ago. A Mormon’s conversion testimony betrays the family and the religion left behind. And so on…

Our entire human family story is one long flip-flopping conversion story. Who gets to pinpoint the one point in time by which all others are judged?

I recently came upon a more elaborate life story of one of my ancestors, Evelyn Nessie Eleanor Rudd, my maternal great-grandmother. She was the one who first converted to Mormonism in my family and the one I’m most likely seen as betraying. This newly discovered and more detailed life story, however, reveals a very different perspective. As a divorced, gay, ex-Mormon father I believe I have a lot more in common with her than those  in my family who are the rule-bent, letter of the law Pharisaical clingers to the faith.

It starts with a 13 year old orphan in Victorian England,.only this isn’t a classic novel. It is a true story. Nessie Eleanor, a thirteen year old girl in Danby Wiske, Yorkshire to be exact.

She had already been living with distant relatives for 3 years. But receiving word of her beloved father’s death her hopeful soul was replaced with emptiness and fear. It echoed all around her.  Her father had been a butler, a middle class designation in Victorian England. Still, middle class meant long working hours. Middle class working men had no resources to survive as single fathers, so Nessie had been left with her paternal grandparents to raise since she was born. It’s not hard to imagine why her father took responsibility for the infant at that time, since men suffered none of the social stigma of parenting out of wedlock like a woman did. It was said that Nessie’s mother was also “in service” as a cook, but had she kept the baby she would have lost social standing and her job.

At ten years old, Nessie’s Grandparents died and she was sent even father away to live with a great aunt and uncle. As generous as they were to keep her, it was never her home.

Now, with her father dead and no longer able to contribute supportive funds for her room and board, her future was questionable and unstable.

As if her mental anguish weren’t enough already, her Anglican minister had also declared her father lost to hell for never having been baptized.

Nessie’s guardian great aunt and uncle let her stay, but not without costs, steep costs. In her teens, Nessie would repeatedly suffer molestation by her great uncle and bear two children in that home. Like her own mother, Nessie faced the daunting task of single parenthood at a time and a place where animals fared better than unwed mothers.

Shame and elaborate cover-up stories help Nessie and her guardian family live under the same roof for a time, an option far preferable to the destitute state of unwed mothers and their bastard children at the time.

There’s a ray of light in almost any story of abuse and loss. Nessie’s pillar of light came in the form of young love. She met and fell in love with a young war veteran, Henry (her father’s name and so it seemed sealed by fate). Love had long seemed impossible to young Nessie so when the  opportunity came she jumped at it. In order to leave, Nessie adopted her 2 children to her great aunt and uncle and moved out together with Henry where they soon welcomed two children of their own before Henry proposed marriage to Nessie. The exciting proposal pricked Nessie’s conscience, however, and not wanting to start out her married life on a foundation of deceit, she determined that she had to reveal all the facts of her former life, something she had refrained from doing initially for not wanting to spoil their budding love. She had two children Henry knew nothing about.

The decision to come clean and reveal herself, warts and all, proved fatal to her fiance’s love, so in a fit of rage he threw Nessie and his own daughters out to the streets.The irony that he was an unwed father living with his girlfriend and their two children was obviously lost on this Victorian man’s sensibilities. One could father bastard children, but to mother them was unforgivable. Lack of redemption for her unbaptized dead father and now for her own unwed maternal soul would later be very pivotal  in later decision-making.

Henry had left Nessie homeless & jobless but even worse with a scarred reputation and two young girls to feed and clothe. What little self-esteem and self-preservation instinct remained prevented her from returning to the home where her oldest children were being raised.

In the same town, a similar perfectly dark storm of life’s challenges had hit a man named John Rudd. Like Nessie’s parents, John worked “in service” on an estate caring for hedges and birds. At about the same time that Henry had thrown Nessie out to the streets, John’s wife had died in childbirth leaving him four young children to care for. Both in desperate circumstances, John and Nessie found each other and struck a scandalous bargain for the time; John would provide a home for Nessie and her two children while Nessie would be a nanny and housekeeper for John’s family so that John could keep his job at the estate.

The town rumor mill thrust into overtime as John, a former Methodist minister and Nessie, a woman of questionable reputation, invented their own rather progressive and non-traditional living arrangement. For them it was a matter of practicality and survival. The arrangement was a success, for not long after entering into it the couple married. Their marriage did little to stem the tide of outrage in the community. Even John’s brothers and sisters would have nothing to do with Nessie at first.

But life for the newlyweds was still a step up from what they had previously known and what lay in store for each without the other.

Those who have known intense hardship rarely feel at ease in success and peace, however, and the old damned and unworthy demons came to the surface when the Mormon missionaries found the Rudd family. Abandonment, abuse and repeated tellings of her unworthiness and her father’s damnation provided very fertile ground for the Mormon’s message of universal redemption and saving ordinances for the dead. Nessie converted after nine months of meeting the missionaries, while John hesitated for himself but acquiesced to her decision.

Becoming Mormon wasn’t a step up in turn of the century English society. The Rudds only gained another mark of shame and disdain in their community. The disrespect worsened to the point that when Nessie became ill there wasn’t a neighbor who would come her aid. When the Vicar of the local Parish came to check on the family, John expressed his disappointment that neighbors refused to come help take care of Nessie while he held down his job. The Vicar answered, “No self-respecting woman would come when a woman has stooped so low as to join the Mormons as your wife has done.” John angrily replied that he made no apologies for his wife joining the Mormons and that he was seriously considering joining as well since his wife was a happier and better woman since joining it. He probably wasn’t really planning to join, but it is admirable that John chose to stand strong with his wife. It was the Vicar’s and parishioner’s derision that pushed John towards the Mormons rather than from it. He studied and joined. Not long after his baptism, the family chose to seek a more peaceful life elsewhere. The family eventually settled in Skelton-in-Cleveland, Yorkshire, England where John had found employment in service with Squire Wharton of Skelton Castle.

Life had taught Nessie the valuable lesson of standing tall and determined despite the thoughts and judgments of others. But the sting of reality hadn’t embittered or hardened Nessie and John to their fellow man.Their own challenges motivated them to open their hearts and  home to others even less fortunate than they were. At one point, family members remember a young pregnant girl coming to live with them after being discarded by her parents. How familiar the worry, shame and confusion of a young unwed mother in her home must have been. But it’s hardly a stretch of the imagination to also see how rewarding, natural and easy this would have been for Nessie to provide shelter and guidance to a young girl in dire circumstances.

As the years passed, the Rudd home became known as a refuge for the sick and the unwelcome. John and Nessie went on to have 4  more children of their own who each remember frequently giving up beds for a night as the family welcomed a needy stranger into their home. Hardship begets compassion.

Speaking of strangers to their home, my grandmother re-enters the picture at about this time. She was Nessie’s first-born, one of the bastard children left and adopted by the great aunt and uncle (who was also her father). Eventually, John was able to get her and so at 16, Gertie, my grandmother joined  her birth mother and her large family. Gertie would soon convert to their new Mormon faith and eventually be the first to travel to America. In 1922 she traveled to Salt Lake City as the guest of Apostle George Albert Smith to eventually stay in the home of Heber J Grant as their live-in Nanny and housemaid. Over the years by saving her money, she sponsored the immigration of most of her half-siblings to Salt Lake City, where the extended English family grew and where I was eventually born.

What I connect to when I think of Nessie’s story is her position as an outcast among a staunchly traditional society who wasn’t afraid to dig deep and live her own truth. I feel connected to her willingness to form a family that matched her unchangeable station in life even though it opposed societal norms. Most importantly, I admire how she allowed compassion to rule her actions later in life rather than bitterness and revenge. When I think of the Mormons I know  and love who have unfriended me or dismissed me because I don’t fit their preconceived notions of propriety, I am certain Great-Grandma Nessie would disapprove of their behavior and open her heart and home to me.

I respect Nessie’s choice to join Mormonism given what she knew at the time. I understand the refuge and peace Mormonism must have offered her. Something tells me she’d likewise understand  my need to later  leave it for my own peace and refuge given my station in life. Making that choice honors my heritage.

 

*Details pulled from 3 separate family histories:

  1. Evelyn Nessie Eleanor Rudd’s Life Story by Susan Rudd Baxter Marzec
  2. A Brief History of My Father by Thomas Rudd
  3. Life Story of Gertrude Eleanor Alcock Newbold by same

**In #1 page 4 is missing which would include the time that Nessie goes to live with her great-aunt and uncle until the time that she meets “Henry” the man who eventually throws her to the street. I filled in the details based on family folklore and embellished inconsequential parts including his name. But the main facts are solid… that she was molested by her uncle and bore 2 children during this time.

Posted in Family, Mormonism, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Mormon Stories and Last Words

I don’t have one of those highbrow Mormon heritages. There are no Smiths, Whitneys, Youngs, Ballards, or Partridges in my bloodline. I doubt any of my ancestors crossed the plains with the pioneers. My deepest claim to Mormon fame is the legend that my grandmother once worked as a nanny for President Heber J Grant. They had met in her home country of England while she was working in the mission home and he sponsored her immigration to the United States by hiring her as a nanny. He apparently continued to visit her yearly at around Christmas time even after she married and had a family. My mother remembers him pulling up in front of the house in a limo and calling him “Uncle Heber.”EvelynNessieEleanorRuddandJohnWilli

That’s my claim to  Mormon fame story.

So imagine my surprise when a personal memoir of this very same grandmother’s own mother showed up on someone’s Mormon blog! My maternal great-grandmother. My family  already has this letter in our requisite stash of genealogy. It’s nothing new to me, but it is curious to hear about it from a third party online like that.

If you visited that site and read that letter, you can see that my family is pretty Mormon in spite of not being Mormon royalty. Most of us retain that same “I’m certain I’m right even though I don’t read much” attitude.

The thing that strikes me most about this testimony is that it’s the only written record we have of her that I know of. This woman lived a full life of hard work, raised 11 children who adored her (I know from hearing stories in awesome English accents by my grandmother and her brothers and sisters at family gatherings) and yet the only tidbit we really have of her life is her talking about the Mormon church.

Her last durable words begin with, “I know that ours is the same gospel that our Lord preached, and that the Mormon Church is the Church of Christ, restored in these latter days.”

And yet it leaves me feeling hollow and unsatisfied. I recognize her as someone who lived a hard life with little education and yet who was doggedly stubborn in her certainty. I can give her the benefit of the doubt that she was dealing with very little information on the Mormon church. Her lack of access to healthcare does also lend one to rely deeply on  “the power of God, through the administration of the elders.” Like in Brazil I get it how “a poor, humble working-woman” can fall prey to the emotional beckoning of turn-of-the-century Mormonism.

What I fail to understand is how that’s ALL she wished to pass along to her descendants, to me. What about reminiscing about the love you shared with your spouse, how you met and what drew you to one another? What did you do to tolerate one another when you were angry? What about recording family stories demonstrating each of your children’s character? How about writing the emotional turmoil of saying goodbye to most of your children as they embarked for a foreign land, probably never to see them again?

Why didn’t she detail the beautiful life experiences that led her to pen the final line of supplication that “He will strengthen the weak and give grace to the strong, and may love, pure and undefiled, ever abound amongst us.”

Perhaps I’m a little sensitive to the Mormon Church monopolizing the last words of loved ones.

My Mom did the same thing before she died. She chose to record her last words and in the end it’s just one long testimony. There are pleas to keep going to church, but nothing to hint that she cherished me or any of her loved ones beyond the Mormon realm.

I’m not saying that last words and memoirs need to be swiped clean of Mormon stuff. It’s part of their story. It’s part of MY story. I’m just saying that I wish there were more there. The best thing about my mom was not her Mormon-ness . She was definitely obsessed and fanatic about it, but there was more to her than that. I would argue that the best parts of her were not Mormon.

I wish I could experience a written record  to know those other better non-Mormon parts of my great-grandmother too.

Posted in Family, Mormonism, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Progressing in Gratitude

My engagement with Mormonism ebbs and flows. Because of my kids, it’s in my life whether I like it or not. My life is a perpetual attempt at surfing the alternating waves of disgust, compassion, frustration, longing and peace towards my former faith. While I tend to write about the negative stuff here, those intermittent emotions of compassion, longing and peace towards Mormonism still come and go in my life.

a6529623097f28a6a066f261ed4839a9I’ve recently hooked up with a wide array of local Facebook groups where the spectrum of Mormons/ExMormons and LGBTG Out/In intersect.  Some groups feel like they are practically an arm of the LDS Church, like Affirmation, and others are blatantly thrilled to be free of it. In between there are groups like Mormon Stories where you’ll find active Mormons hanging out with apostates. There are Gay Mormon Fathers and Gay ex-Mormons, LDS LGBT Allies, etc (BTW, I can’t really tell the difference between North Star and Affirmation these days… North Star = live the gospel as taught by current leaders at all costs? Affirmation = live as one chooses but imagine that it’s the real gospel?)

I can feel at home at different spots along the spectrum on any given day. Some of these groups are closed or secret so I won’t be mentioning them by name (but if you are looking for a specific group more aligned with where you are along the spectrum, get in touch and I’ll recommend some places for you).

Trying to fit in, I’ve gone to ex-Mormon parties and Gay-straight ally study groups. I’ve thrown a Gay Mormon gathering myself and I’ve met some wonderfully interesting, fun and loving people along the spectrum.

The one overarching feeling that lingers with me after these interactions is gratitude. I am so grateful that my religious studying, questioning and coming out played out the way it did because I believe it has made it emotionally easier on me than what I witness many others currently going through.

Rather than coming to terms with my homosexuality and then struggling to make my Mormon world fit that reality, I instead studied and reasoned my way through Mormonism to the point that I was able to confidently determine that the LDS version of the world was wrong about so many things that it couldn’t possibly be “true” in the sense that it claims to be. From there, it was an easy and confident conclusion to reach that they are likewise wrong about homosexuality and that I really AM GAY… and that that’s incompatible with LDS doctrine and culture. It is incompatible with an LDS life…unless you contort, squeeze, manipulate and deny.

While some Mormons recognize that homosexuality is not just a choice, a weakness or a temptation, many still feel it is a behavior to avoid (the Bednar fiasco). Early on in this journey I determined that I was more gay than I was LDS. I was born into both, but the gay was unchangeable, the LDS was not. In deciding my path, I had to ask one question:

If you had not been born Mormon but had encountered it as an adult knowing both what you know now and who you know now would you elect to join it?

I had many wonderful Mormon experiences in 40 years, but relishing those puts the cart before the horse in my mind. I never would have had them if I’d really had a fully informed choice.

I don’t even deny the special nature of those experiences but I know that I can’t trust Mormonism to frame the meaning  in reality. They were real experiences and yet I can now define them as mine, rather than ones owned by the Mormon leadership or Heavenly Father. It’s frustrating to watch others feel compelled to stay in Mormonism because of these experiences the church has co-opted from them.

In these various online groups I participate in, I witness tortured folks who stay LDS because they “can’t deny spiritual witnesses” but feel that they would rather deny a lot of other more salient truths about themselves and their futures. They fear excommunication even though they’re clearly outside the jagged lines of Priesthood authority. They still speak about prophets and divine scriptures even though they deny or ignore when those holy scepters condemn them. They are dependent on their Church membership for “service opportunities” even though they can’t really define what is actually serviced in their church callings…other than the church itself. They imagine themselves the impetus for engendering compassion in others without being willing to call themselves “tools.”

I’m grateful that I somehow avoided that tortuous route. I never walked the path of creating an imaginary religion that only exists in my head that I publicly call Mormonism but that I inwardly and privately contort  and mold until it’s unrecognizable to almost anyone else. I’m grateful that I don’t currently feel the common compulsion to frame my past and present using out-dated language and paradigms.

dont-fit-in

Posted in Gratitude, Homosexuality | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Things That Make Me Smile #6

Please Like Me

Please Like Me

I found this little binge-worthy gem on Hulu. It was a Friday night alone after a long, hard traveling work week. I was exhausted and didn’t have the energy to go out but still felt like spending some quality time with my own kind. GeoffreyAfter surfing Amazon Prime Video and Netflix I was lamenting to myself the lack of quality LGBTQ entertainment when I stumbled upon this Australian diamond.
There are 2 seasons on Hulu that follow Joshua an obviously gay, but only freshly out twenty-year-old through his underachieving life with his straight friends and dysfunctional parents. Some have called it the LGBTQ “GIRLS.” These are definitely imperfect people just like in Girls, but if you’re like me you’ll still appreciate the occasional eye candy, like Joshua’s first boyfriend Geoffrey

 

The fact that I was nominated for a Brodie award!

The purpose of the Brodie Awards is to recognize Mormon themed material on the Internet. There are several categories, and I’m nominated in TWO! (Confession: I nominated one of my blog posts – which is totally legit, but someone else nominated another of my blog posts!)

Go vote for me if you agree that these blog posts should win the category:

Also, consider voting for my friends in these categories:

If nothing else, go read all these posts nominated in the category of Best Mormonism-and-Orientation Post:

Some recent smart ass memes

Mormon memeImage-1Image-1Image-1 (1)

GeoGuesser

geoguesserAs a complete Geography nerd I love this game/time-waster. Using Google street view, the game drops you at a random location in the world and your task is to figure out where it is. After quite a bit of moving around, I can sometimes get within yards of guessing the actual starting point… Great fun. It’s available on smartphone too!

 

Taking my girls on their first Ski trip!

Image-1 (2)Almost every winter I’ve taken the kids to play in the snow in local mountains (Remember, they’ve grown up in Southern California and Phoenix). But this year I cashed in some travel points and took them full on skiing in nearby New Mexico.

After a morning of lessons, they hit the slopes and by day’s end they’d all converted to ski bunnies.

The next day we explored Santa Fe.

This was the first time they had ever seen snow fall! That led to one of the comments every dad wants to hear on a family vacation,

This is one of the best moments of my life!! Thanks Dad!

 

Relatives of LDS Church Authorities With the Balls to Speak up in Support of LGBT folks

The irony that the “other” Mormons are more Christian/Christ-like and their “Prophet” more of a leader than LDS counterpartsVeazey-Steve

Nope, still not joining another religion, but this would definitely be one I’d consider if I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Fatherhood, Gratitude, Happiness, Homosexuality, Humor, Movies, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Unanimity Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

As usual I’m late to the party discussing the most recent  Mormon revelation that legally married gay folks are automatically apostates and their children are ineligible for any sort of sacrament or ordinance. It was just a policy before this week and that gave level-headed progressive Mormons all the permission they needed to ignore it. I have several active Mormon friends who admitted as much to me.

Now with this latest announcement the policy has been elevated to “revelation.” In Mormons-speak that means all those progressive Mormons can’t rationalize away their complete dismissal of the policy. It was a very strong-handed chess move by Mormon leadership banking on the history that active members won’t remember any of the actual details of just a few months prior when it was just a policy hidden in a handbook update that was leaked and then was then clarified by an apostle and later the document was edited for clarification all without mentioning this supposed “revelation.”

Just to be clear, on a personal level I’m pissed that this didn’t happen 10 years ago when I was in a relationship and could have prevented my kids’ firm indoctrination into all things Mormon. That would have been awesome. I would have married the guy in a heartbeat, if that had been legal then, for that benefit alone. Now my oldest is on a mission and the other kids are left trying to process their own boredom with church, their father’s complete apostasy from it and their mother’s complete obsession with it.

But I didn’t even sit down today to talk about all that. I came to talk about a quirk of Mormon leadership decision-making.

Unanimity.

Unanimity was revealed by god (D&C 107:27, 29). That’s how this policy/revelation was supposedly approved by the full quorum. Ignoring all the holes in that story and the plain fact that I don’t believe Nelson’s telling of it, let’s assume that it was indeed unanimous.

Unanimous decision don’t necessarily mean there was full consensus. My study and experience tells me that unanimity is a symptom of a lack of courage, creativity and a process ripe with coercion. I’ve seen it in action in Mormon bishoprics, quorums and in Japanese corporate meetings.

I lived and worked in Japan. It’s an understatement to say that they have a different way of doing things over there. One hallmark of Japanese committee meetings is this idea that they won’t make a decision until it’s a unanimous one. It sounds all pretty cool and cumbaya-like but the reality that I experienced is far different. I saw a lot of intimidation and dismissal of alternate voices in such settings.

The leader, or someone with power over the group, walks into the meeting with a pre-determined conclusion. They present the topic and invite discussion. This is where it seems very fair and democratic. Before winding down, everyone is asked for their conclusion. The catch is that this summary process proceeds from the top down. The person with higher seniority or more power, or whatever, states their conclusion and the effect of that is to tell everyone else present how things are going to go. And it’s amazing to watch, but the rest of the committee just falls in line and agrees even though their initial opinion may have been contradictory.

It’s called the Abilene Paradox and it happens in American life too, on juries, in boardrooms and church quorums.

Social experiments show that this process is especially true when there is a clear hierarchical structure to the group. In other words, those higher up have a greater voice. They  intimidate those below them to agree with their predetermined conclusion. Thus unanimity is reached, but not necessarily consensus.

I’ve seen this happen during church disciplinary councils and bishopric meetings. Once the leader states his opinion you see everyone else lie down and agree with it. In Mormonism where members are taught to sustain leaders, and that leaders are inspired, then this is almost instinctual.

The unanimity myth is part of church lesson manuals.

Watch this video of  Henry Eyring a current member of the LDS First Presidency describe this process. What he is calling a miracle is merely a sociological phenomenon of groups that require unanimity. Keep in mind that in a church setting no one is concerned about losing his job so the sharing of opinions portion is naturally freer than in a business setting. But the end result is the same…

Eyring

Apparently, people conform for two main reasons: because they want to fit in with the group and because they believe the group is better informed than they are. So, just imagine that you are the newest apostle  and the lowest man on the Q12 totem pole. You may voice your disagreement to a matter just to be heard and interject but when that last pass of voting happens you’ll more likely to agree to make it unanimous. That’s why the one guy in Eyring’s example gratefully whispered to President Lee. He knew the pressure would have been there for him to make the vote unanimous.

The more difficult the topic, the greater the likelihood of conformity.

Unanimity is really just a another way of describing Groupthink.

When I see Russell Nelson describe Monson’s “revelation” and the Q12’s unanimous confirmation, I process a whole bunch of thoughts…

  • What other choice did a lessor member of the 12 have?
  • Apostles seem like corrupt police or the mafia. They’ll back up their own regardless of the facts.
  • I wonder what it’s like to be a newer apostle as they witness Nelson talk like this and know that he’s lying?
  • The Policy thing was a legalistic corporate decision, not a theological one as he’s trying to pretend.

A lot has been said recently about the Quorum of the 12’s age and homogeneity and  how that results in late, out-of-date decisions and slow moving changes. But I’d submit that the lack of progress in the LDS Church is also firmly rooted in the culture of conformity and the dysfunctional decision-making process.

Lastly, for gay LDS men and women this should only solidify the clear writing on the wall that it’s time to get out. Stop whining about “struggles!” Go live your happy and full life. Don’t be like the kid in this video.

THERE IS A WAY THAT THE STRUGGLE CAN END!

The caption reads:

Sometimes the problem is YOU

crying

(After opening, you might have to scroll down a bit to see the video)

Posted in Homosexuality, Mormonism, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Does That?

I used to think it was just me, all my fault. As I came out and divorced years ago a certain sister of mine has treated me pretty apathetically. If I call or visit or take some sort of initiative there will be interaction.

Beyond that, she’s only made the initiative to socialize and interact with my ex-wife. More than once I’ve shown up at my ex’s house to pick up my kids and have seen my sister’s car in the driveway. I’ve been at family functions where my sister has all but ignored me. My kids have offhandedly mentioned times that my sister has invited my ex-wife and her new husband out to dinner. We live in the same city and I’ve seen her  maybe 3-4 times over the past 4 years – all my doing.

To clarify, I used to be close to my sister up until about the time she got married just before my mission. Something after that clicked. It clicked off. And I don’t dislike her husband. I do feel disliked though. Of all my siblings we were previously the closest and that just flicked off at some point. No real conflict took place. Just distance and tangential lives. Normal, I guess.

My ex-wife and sister had no significant relationship before the divorce. This isn’t a continuation of a tight ongoing relationship. Not once in my married life did my sister and ex-wife do something alone together. We always lived in different cities back then. In fact my ex-wife didn’t really like my sister and was somewhat intimidated by her. More than once I defended my sister to her.

Over the past 10 years I’ve always chalked all that up to my sister and her husband being True Blue Mormons and thus how she must feel obligated to treat me for me being an apostate… or, for me being gay.

I’m not sure which, maybe both.

But last weekend, I had an experience and an epiphany that might reveal another explanation…

My Uncle died on Christmas Day in Salt Lake City.

My oldest sibling created a Instant Message on Facebook to let us all know about the funeral arrangements. No one else said they were going, so I coordinated a gift of flowers for my aunt and cousins from all of us. Then, when I messaged my cousin to ask where I should send the flowers, my cousin said that I had just come up in conversation with my aunt about how much the time I spent visiting them during my college days at BYU had meant to them.

I choked up reading that message. I hadn’t experienced much positive affirmation from family so that meant a lot.

My aunt and uncle were really good to me during that period of my life and their home was always open to me at the drop of a hat if I needed to get away for the weekend while at BYU.

Maybe I should go to the funeral after all? It’s a good 12 hour drive for me… but then a brother who lives 1/2 ways said he’d go if someone would come pick him up… And that made my decision. I was going.

The decision felt right. We announced our decision on our group message and I called my Dad who lives in Salt Lake City to tell him we were coming.

Sorry if I’m boring you to death, but that background was necessary to set up what I witnessed.

After all that coordination on our group chat with sending the flowers, carpooling with my brother and such, we (me, my brother and my Dad whom we’d picked up to join us) showed up at the funeral and guess who we saw… My sister and her husband.

She lives in the same F-ing city as me. And didn’t even think to share with my brother and I that she was going to the funeral. And that’s not the weird part. She hadn’t told my Dad she was coming and for the couple of days that she was there didn’t interact with him beyond the funeral.

Who does that?

Who goes to a family  funeral out of town where their parent lives and doesn’t visit or call or even tell him that she’s coming?

Wow! My sister is a far greater bitch than I’d preciously given her credit for… Or, she and her husband are just incredibly socially retarded.  And she’s not only that way with me. She treats her own father like that?!

In my attempt not to be judgmental, I tried to think of some other alternative explanation… I guess I was OK with her being a bitch to just me, but witnessing her treat my father like that it dawned on me that maybe she or her husband, or both of them, have some sort of high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome or something.

Is that possible?

I mean, how else do you explain the blatant cluelessness of social norms and human intimacy?

My sister is very wealthy and her interaction with family has always been money driven. If someone begs sufficiently, she lends a hand. I am not aware of any bad blood between her and our Dad. Maybe she lent him some money he hasn’t paid back? I don’t know.

But still, who does that?

My Dad is a good man. He wasn’t a bad father, He never inflicted abuse on anyone. He was often absent working to support a wife and 8 children. He financed the college education for this particular sister and I…something I appreciate deeply now as a father of four. The worst thing my Dad ever did was defer almost entirely to our Mom on everything and maintained his church activity at tepid at best. He was never going to be bishop, but he also never bad-mouthed or discouraged church activity.

Today was his birthday (78) and after talking to him on the phone it appears that out of 8 children only 3 of us called him to wish him a happy birthday…all 3 of us are apostates. Nothing from the devoted, active Mormons.

So much for being a family oriented church, huh!

Posted in Family, Fatherhood, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Conquering by Yielding

 

In Judo you conquer your opponent by yielding to them rather than exerting force upon them. You use their energy against you to your advantage.

I took Judo lessons in Japan for about 6 weeks.  The “6 weeks” only part is another story.  Despite the lessons being taught in Japanese, I did learn that one lesson.

depositphotos_18954409-Judo-Rear-throw

I believe that this Judo philosophy is a practical approach in social interactions as well.

Your prophet DadsPrimalScream predicts that this LDS handbook policy will work to the advantage of gays and their families because there really is no fighting against it. There’s only yielding and using that energy for our own good.

I have already experienced it in just the last several weeks.

I’ve seen some of the good that can come from the way some church members have reacted to this policy. Here are four special moments that have happened with me,  and one that happened to a friend.

As soon as I heard about the policy I wrote an email to my son on a mission. On his next P-Day he wrote back telling me that he knew about the policy because his mission president had called him as soon as he had heard. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing, so I wrote his mission president.
I was concerned for my son because, while he’s not directly affected apparently, it does seem to send a message to my kids that the church doesn’t want any more of them in its midst. I expected a polite but short reply from his mission president, but he wrote me back this long detailed explanation of the gay men he has known in his life and in his leadership positions. He wrote how he admired and loved each one of them and how he had developed close friendships with some of them. He talked about how it caused him to study homosexuality on his own and reach his own conclusions about homosexuality. He said he didn’t understand or agree with the policy and assured me that there’d be no application of it felt by my son. He said that if he applied every single policy in the handbook to the letter he’d have sent several of his missionaries home. He was the most understanding person towards me and my homosexuality of any church leader I’ve ever encountered in my 40 years in the church. Love was expressed as a result of using the opposing energy of this policy to show empathy.
The second experience is with how I handled talking about it to my 3 younger daughters. Making my unconditional love for my children the focus of that conversation gave us our own little spiritual experience. A child deserves unconditional love and they if aren’t going to get it from their heavenly father, they’ll get it from their earthly father. I’m oddly grateful for the chance to share that experience with my daughters. Love was experienced as a result of using the opposing energy of this policy to show empathy
Third, after a few e-mails back and forth with my son expressing love as well as confusion over the policy, last week he sent me this:
I’ve been thinking. I know at times that can be a dangerous thing (haha), but Dad. The new church policy thing (old news I know, but hear me out) is a very good thing for the both of us. Know why? Because now we are a SHOE IN for the Amazing Race when I get back!! Think about it: A Mormon son and his gay father… Who the heck wouldn’t wanna watch that?! That’s quality TV right there, don’t even try to deny it.”  
 
ISN’T THAT AWESOME?! I felt love as a result of my son using the opposing energy of this policy to show acceptance.
 
Fourth, I’ve lived in the area for 3 years. I have a very LDS sister who lives in the area that I’ve probably seen twice in that time. There’s not been anger or even criticism, but just apathy and avoidance towards me. I’ve seen her car in the driveway at my ex’s house when I’ve been there to pick up my kids a few times, but she’s never once visited me. Soon after the policy I got an invitation to Thanksgiving and so I swallowed my anger and pride and went…

Nothing was said about the policy but I can’t help but think it was somehow involved in the sudden turn-around. I can only speculate. But even for my part, it gave me a little confidence that I was taking the high road by not allowing such a thing to make me unwelcoming to love. Love was enjoyed as a result of using the opposing energy of this policy to show empathy.

smash-all-the-closetsAnd a friend of mine who works for an arm of the church was very troubled by the policy. He was emotional and outspoken in spite of the danger to his position that such an opinion could pose. Observing all of this take place was just the welcoming environment and catalyst that his college-aged daughter needed to come out to him. To me that is huge! I can’t imagine coming out to  welcoming arms while still in my teens like that. This coming out was as a result of using the opposing energy of this policy to show acceptance.

LDS loving reactions to this policy is allowing youth who would otherwise have timidly waited years longer to come out.

None of these examples represent exerting opposing force against this policy, but they demonstrate using the energy from the policy against homosexuals and their children to show empathy and love.

clear.gifI know not how to defeat others; I only know how to win over myself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lickety-Split Lesbian

Due to heavy  demand (2 requests), my Insta-Gay service has been expanded to include the ladies. As you can imagine, the logistics of such a service requires some creativity. Please read the details below: common-lesbian-terms

Are you a straight ex-Mormon woman with a spouse or ex-spouse who still wants to baptize your kids?

Do you want to prevent it without looking like an bitch?

Well, now you can with my Lickety-Split Lesbian service. Reply now to arrange your lesbian partner for a day

You can choose from either of two plans:

Flannel Forever or  U-Haul Deb

With Flannel Forever you’ll get the real thing and it’s your most authentic option.

c027961154c717b80be4a37da62dd9f3My lesbian friend Deb has agreed to be the Dieseldyke in your imaginary L Word fantasy. She will meet you at Home Depot where you will walk the isles picking out flooring and appliances for your imaginary home together. We’ll pre-arrange to have Melissa Etheridge playing on the sound system as you meander through the store arguing and breaking up on each of the even aisles, then making up and calling each other pet names on the odd aisles.

After an hour in the garden department, you’ll transport your tools over to my house in Deb’s Subaru Outback where you’ll re-landscape my back yard as you flirt, kiss and pet each other among the fresh smell of perennials and succulents. I’ll be snapping the photos when 50 other local lesbians show up for your romantic, impulsive, on-the-spot wedding in my backyard. Deb’s girlfriend Sharron will officiate the wedding.

As your guests leave, Deb will carry you piggyback into the tent we’ll set up especially for you on your wedding night. Inside the tent, Deb will make you her pillow queen and introduce you to life’s ultimate paradox: that the life-giving male appendage is wholly unnecessary for jaw-dropping, OMG pleasure.

In the morning, you’ll cook breakfast over a campfire wearing just your Dockers and flannel tops. Deb will say something insensitive and you’ll have your final argument as I hand you your memory package including: chapstick, Fun Home Soundtrack, long key chain and your marriage certificate.

U-Haul Deb is for you out of towners who can’t spend a full weekend with Deb… or for those of you who just really are straight.

894a10882030e5cd306d869d54be9cecDeb will drive a U-Haul pulling her tiny house to your city. She’ll stop at the curb in front of your house. You’ll move in…. for an hour.

In this option Deb will be a lipstick lesbian so as to not terrify you too much.

You’ll kiss once, taking a selfie in front of her softball trophies.

Afterwards, you’ll move out and return to your former straight life.

All we want to do is serve our fellow man.

There’s a lawyer in the Ex-Mormon community that offers to process resignations from the Church for free.

What awesome selfless service!

I find it inspiring.

So, to do my part…I give you Insta-Gay and Lickety-Split Lesbian . We’ll make it so convincing that the church won’t LET THEM be baptized!

Please send applications to me c/o Deb and include a face pic. Unlike the Mormon church, no request will be rejected here. Just don’t shave for a few days, and please brush up on your professional golf knowledge.

Feel free to share with your friends!

Posted in Homosexuality, Mormonism, Uncategorized | 2 Comments