Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Insights and Progress

It has been almost a year since we started this new experience. My own studies have actually been only the last 9 months or so. I feel like I‘ve learned a lot, but I know it’s not nearly enough. I want to learn more, I want to do more, I want to be ABLE to do more.

There is a young man in my ward who deals with SSA. Let’s call him Arthur. I was only the third person he has told. We have become friends and visit often. We have shared experiences and feelings. Through Arthur, I have been able to learn much more about SSA, for men. Hear are some things I have learned.

1. Pain. Those in the church who deal with SSA typically go through a lot of internal, mental, emotional, psychological anguish. The dichotomy between the gay lifestyle and the teachings of the church is almost too much to accept. Many leave the church, or at least do not live the gospel. The few who completely give in to the gospel, though, end up much happier and with many more blessings. I look at my 2 favorite examples – Tito and Smurf. Even aside from the SSA issue, these are guys worth knowing. They might still have some of the pain of SSA, but they have learned to deal with it. They now control the SSA in their lives, it does not control them. Certainly this must help to ease some of that pain.

2. Actions are what matter. Feelings and inclinations come to us naturally. It takes long, hard work to be able to control those things. Even then, I don’t think they can be controlled completely. I think much of this work also has to do with some of our choices. The feelings of SSA come to men naturally and that itself is not bad. It is what we DO with these feelings that matters. Men with SSA can live worthily, hold callings, go to the temple, and have the guiding Spirit in their lives. It IS possible and so much more important for them. As for all of us, it is what we DO that counts.

So Arthur has confided in me some things he has learned lately. These things have given him and me some insight and understanding into his SSA. Granted, everyone is a little different, but this has helped him make some progress.

1. When he was a kid in grade school the other kids teased him, calling him a name associated with homosexuality. None of them really understood it much at the time, but he grew up gradually gaining the understanding of the name. This led Arthur to be overly sensitive of anything that might associate him with homosexuality. Consequently, he went a bit too far, especially around other guys. This, he believes, affected the development of his manhood, leading to SSA. Avoiding the issue actually made it more evident.

2. Recently Arthur came to my office to visit with me. He had a new breakthrough. He realized that the guys he had crushes on were guys that had qualities that he wanted. Arthur is very athletic, working out all the time, and competing in triathlons. These guys were built better, or faster, or whatever better than he was. They were people that he wanted to be like. Arthur even realized that he once kind of had feelings for a woman that he thought was a better triathlete than him. Then he beat her in a race, and the feelings left.

3. In this recent visit, he also told me that he has finally confessed to another friend. He first made sure that the guy was absolutely straight – no SSA feelings whatsoever. Arthur is deathly afraid of getting together with another SSA guy. The friend accepted him, no rejection. From there, they were able to talk about “What it’s really like to actually have feelings for a girl”, and other stuff. This did 2 things for Arthur. First, the acceptance reassured him that he’s alright, SSA is not a horrible thing. Second, he’s able to now look forward to a possible romantic relationship with a girl, and thinks that it will be okay.

The main point is that he found things that contributed to his SSA and reasons why he has feelings for other guys. I think some people call these “triggers.” This understanding has helped him to separate the SSA feelings from his other feelings, putting them off a little, giving him hope that he might eventually be rid of them. By identifying these elements of his life and character, he can move forward. The understanding has given him power.

Arthur is truly blessed. Though the experience is a little different for each guy, I think the basic principles are the same, especially the first one listed at the top of this post. I am sure that Arthur has only been blessed with this progress because of his faith and dedication to the Gospel, because of his commitment and covenants. He still has bad days once in a while. We all do. But he has more good days now, and those days are getting even better. And I am too.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Blood Sport

It’s Christmas time. The semester ended today. The remaining students from the singles wards got together on Friday night. There was food, camaraderie, social mingling, lots of fun. There was also some pretty amazing violence. People went to the hospital, ER.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned to my ward leadership that maybe we should have a ward Christmas party. All the family wards in town were doing it, why not us too? We could do it on Friday, after all the finals were over. Other Bishops said, “No one will be here. Everybody goes home when their finals are done.” I polled some students. There would be some here, 10-20 or so from our ward. That’s enough for me.

My Elders Quorum President had a different idea. (This is the guy who wore a ‘Hooters’ t-shirt to FHE one time.) He said, “We were thinking we would have and EQ activity that night, kind of a man-building thing.” I asked, “Could we turn it into a ward activity? Get some food? Hang out?” “Sure. We could do that. We are gonna have our fight night too. We can also invite the Relief Society to fight”, he says. Great.

So the EQ offers to host the ward activity. They planned the food, arranged matches (guys AND girls), and got the gloves and headgear. I wasn’t sure what to think about the fights, but at least we could kind of get together as a ward and hang out, relax. I figure it would be either something that would be great and we should do it more often, or we should ban it all together and never consider it again. One little problem – my daughter has her Christmas music program at school that night. Bummer. I figure I will just show up late to the activity, if I make it at all.

Friday night comes. We all go to Tabitha’s Christmas music program at 6:15, then to Kinko’s to copy some music for Sam, then home. I tell the family I’m going to the Institute to check on my ward activity. It’s about 7:30, the activity was to start about 7:00, which means I’m actually only about 10 or 15 minutes late. First thing to see, a few people and the food. They deep fried 2 turkeys and roasted a third. They also had all kinds of salad, baked French fries, various potato chips, pink lemon-aid, and cookies. Plenty of food, good food. I have been DYING to try some fried turkey. Sure enough, it’s awesome.

I missed the first fight. It was a “chick fight”, two roommates, one husky, the other very tall. I see the husky one and she explains that she is one her lunch break and had to get back to work so they had to go first. I go into the expanded classrooms to check the fights. It’s PACKED – about 80 or 90 people are there! All 4 wards came. Cool. As for turn-out, the activity is a huge success. And everyone seems to have a great time.

The fights are a different story. It’s brutal, ugly, scary, riveting! We cannot help but watch. People actually are getting HURT! I notice before long that the big guys, over 200 pounds, don’t seem to react so violently when a glove connects with their heads. Under 200 pounds, it’s just really scary and violent. People are getting knocked down, heads are snapping back, sweat and spit are flying. Fortunately, most of them are wearing mouth guards. In all, there were probably about 15-18 matches, including about 5 girl matches. They usually go do 3 one-minute rounds. There were LOTS of OH’s and OU’s from the audience.

There were about 6 bloody noses, which ended those matches on the spot. It was not at all pretty, especially when the girls were pounding each others brains out. The headgear didn’t seem to help much. It did help to create more sweat so that when a glove connected to someone’s head, there was a better visual effect. There was a lot of pain. Everyone complained of headaches, internal bruising, aching neks and arms, and lots of general soreness, etc. As of this writing, 48 hours later, even new pains were making themselves evident in some people.

The worst injury was a pretty severely broken nose. Blood gushed pretty well initially. It started out as a messy blob on his face. After a while of lying on a couch with ice, a lot of the swelling went down, and the nose was somewhat straight. It was just off to the right side about a half an inch, not matching up in the middle between his eyes. Uggghhhh…gruesome! It took a while to convince him to go to the hospital, but he did go. Today at church, he has 2 semi-blackened eyes, and an offset nose. They won’t set it for another day or so. Most of the others are still complaining of aches and pains too. But everyone raved about what a great activity it was. Go figure.

Many people taunted me, wanting me to fight. One of the older girls in my ward offered me $10 to go the 3 rounds with someone. Hearing that, someone else said he would add another $10 to that. Nothing could convince me.

I realized something important late Friday night. If the Church legal department heard about this, the walls would come crashing down. The legal liability issues could be outrageous. They would NEVER approve, and would probably take strong action to make sure it didn’t happen. Whew! Good thing it’s over and no one seems to being sewing!

Camaraderie happened. People bonded. Students were fed. There is a lot more respect in the Institute. They kept the blood off the carpet. There were even some surprising upsets. It was a well-attended activity with plenty of enjoyable food. This particular activity will never happen again. I don’t think I could handle the stress. Fight Night – kind of cool, but not worth the risk. Don’t fall for it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

When magical people unite ...

Well, it may have been the best, or at least second best, weekend of the year. Actually, for the last several years. And it was with some of the same people as the other greatest weekend. What a wonderful time we had in our little alpine village!

It’s been about 5 weeks since the EG conference, which is that other great weekend. Sam and I were visited by Smurf, AtP, Jerman, Carrot and Tito. What a blast we had! Since they were coming to visit, Maurice (Sam’s father), who happens to be our Stake President, asked Smurf, AtP, and Jerman to address our ward and stake leaders in a stake leadership meeting, called specially for the occasion.

Jerman is up first. He shocks the audience. Yup, we’re really talking about this issue, and it’s serious.
AtP is up next. The crowd is now in awe! This is amazing and spiritual stuff. Yes, spiritual.
The Smurfster bats clean-up and hits a homerun. Amazing.

Just to sum up, it was truly wonderful. Our Maurice actually started out the meeting saying we were going to talk about this, explaining that our stake never waits for issues to come to us, we go out and meet them head on. The meeting ended with a fantastic Q & A session. My RS President was in tears. She told the next morning that she hadn’t felt the Spirit that strong in a few years. And that she went home and wrote on her journal for an hour and a half! The last few days, I’ve inquired of others that were there of their opinions. It’s unanimous – a big win. Now we all need to follow-up in wards.

So the rest of the weekend was actually FUN, not so serious. We laughed and played. Carrot is the most amazing magical person to come along since Samantha. In fact, the queen has dubbed her a Lady in the royal court of the queerosphere. Let her henceforth be known as Lady Carrot (LC for short). LC totally rocks. Someone ought to do something about her before some straight guy hauls her off to a mortal place.

Tito fit right in. What a “guy”! He almost reminds me of Tommy Monson, with a great memory, full of wonderful stories. And he is such a great sport. After being up well passed midnight, he let us wake him up at 6:00 am to go eat breakfast at a Denny’s-like place. David came too. (Tito was staying at David’s house.) There’s nothing like sherbet and lemon-lime soda floats.

The rest of us actually stayed up most all night at our house. Once in while, one or two of us would nod off for 15-30 minutes. I woke up as they were making plans to go eat. What good timing! Like I always say, the only thing better than food is MORE food.

Apparently there are thieves in our group. Lady Carrot bogarted Smurf’s favorite childhood book from the Momma Smurf’s house. The Smurf himself (yourself?) has “collected” games from us and LC. But we get the last laugh. It appears that Smurf has left a sock in our bathroom! We shall hold it hostage, at least until we meet again and exchange other properties. (That kind of sounds like Monopoly.)

It has now been about 6 days since I started drafting this post. I discovered my own slippers where missing as my favorite guests had departed my home. I thought perhaps it was an act of endearment that one of these amazing people might have claimed them as a momento. Alas, they showed up yesterday morning.

It seems like it has already been many weeks since they left, even though it’s only been a week. I spent the first couple days almost crying because I missed them. (I’m a freak.) I must be deprived. It’s now 1:10 am and I am remembering fondly staying up all night last Sunday! We gotta do this again!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Few of My Pet Peeves

Isn't interesting that in Harry Potter books the annoying poltergeist is named 'Peeves', as in pet peeves? I'm sure JKR did this intentionally.

So here is one of mine. "Fewer vs. Less." Okay, at the store, the express lane sign should read "15 Items or Fewer" not "...Less." You cannot have "less items", but you can have "fewer items." And in everyday conversation, people use the "less" when they should use the word "fewer." It's not that difficult to figure out. When you are talking about a plural noun, particularly one that would end in an 's' when it is plural, you use the word "fewer" to refer to a dimished quantity, not "less." Pretty simple. Now do it right!

Here is another pet peeve. Where I work, people are always expecting others to things for them, or expecting others to get some task done. I am a "DO IT!" kind of person. If you really want it done, do it yourself. If you are not willing to do it, and it is something you can do yourself, then shut up! If it can be done by you, and it's not MY special responsibility, than maybe it SHOULD be done by you. Talking about it all the time does not get done. Shut up and do it. Fish or cut bait. Whining about it makes you sound ignorant and incompetent.

Okay, here is another, but it's one that sometimes drives others crazy. I don't like broken things. I fix 'em. If it's broken, fix, chuck it, replace it. But don't leave it broken. When I started my current job, we had a company vehicle that had the driver's door handle broken off. The new handle had been purchased weeks earlier, but not installed. "WHAT??!??!? Just fix it." (See previous paragraph.) I said nothing. I just fixed it. All around me, people are coping with sub-standard stuff and they don't have to. I see people playing pool on a table where the pockets drop the balls on the floor. That will be fixed soon, by me. If it's broken, fix it. If you can't fix it, get rid of it.

That's all for today. Maybe next time I'll have to tell about the "rule of the one place" that Sam and I have. I have vented now. I feel better. But remember to use the word "fewer" more often please.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Question of a Mission

In April of 1986, I attended the Priesthood session of General Conference at the BYU Marriott Center. It holds something like 24,000 people. It was packed! There were people sitting in the stairs, standing in the corridors, just all over the place. There must have been over 25,000.

It was a great meeting, the best I’ve ever been to. There were wonderful, spiritual talks given – amazing. The President Hinckley spoke. (He was a counselor to President Benson at the time.) His talk was the most wonderful I had ever heard, up to that point in my life. His talk was entitled “The Question of a Mission.” I was really touched. I had a friend who didn’t know what to do with his life. He was 19 at the time and just hanging out in Provo, playing around. I knew that Pres. Hinckley would want him to go on a mission. The spirit at that meeting was now VERY intense.

Then President Benson got up to speak. He said, “The Spirit has been here tonight. It has been very strong. Instead of giving the talk I have prepared, I would rather follow that Spirit and speak unto you the words the Lord would have you hear at this time.” Then he bowed his head a little, listening to the Spirit for a minute. Then I heard a voice. “Ezra, I have been helping you prepare this talk over the last few weeks. This is what I want them to hear. Give the talk you have prepared.”

Whoa! I heard that voice. Really? Yeah. Then President Benson raised his head and said, “Never mind. I am going to give the talk I have prepared.” Wow! What’s going on here?!?!? I couldn’t believe it. I actually heard the voice speaking to the prophet. Then he gave the most amazing, wonderful, spiritual talk I have ever heard in my 43 years. It’s called “To the Youth of Noble Birthright.” Look it up and read it. It's incredible!

I have always wondered why I got to hear the voice. That was the 2nd of only 3 times in my life that I have heard it. I now know of at least 3 reasons why I was allowed to hear the voice of the Lord at that time. For one, I needed to know that what he said was really important for me. For another, I needed to know that Heavenly Father prepares us to speak to others, He will help us prepare our talks so that the Spirit will touch others. When the time comes to give the talk, all we have to do is speak the words. He has already done the work with us.

The 3rd thing I learned was that God speaks to his holy prophets, even today. Yes, he does. Simple, but I needed to learn that. It is important to me now. I KNOW it. Who is really running this church? Stupid question.

So 20 years ago, the standard was this – every young man is supposed to serve a mission. If you weren’t ready or worthy, you has better GET ready or worthy. Period. Every young man. Then a few years ago, Elder M. Russell Ballard announced “the raising of bar.” There is now a much higher standard that a person must meet in order to serve a mission. And it was okay if a young man was not able to go. He would be “honorably excused.” And he is right – it’s okay if person does not or cannot serve a mission. No worries, no judgment, no problem.

But what if a young man wants to serve a mission, and has certain issues? How come I see some young men who have these issues who have served missions, while there are others who cannot? Okay, there is the simple question of actions. Has a person simply felt same gender attraction but remained completely faithful? Or have they just denied it so they can do what everyone tells them is right? Or have they just lied about it? And have the others gotten caught? Or been truthful to their bishops? Or just had bishops or stake presidents that believe that SSA and missions don’t mix?

I don’t know. Maybe all of those have happened at one place or another. But here is what this new Bishop has learned. There are feelings and inclinations, and then there are actions. Those actions include fantasizing, viewing pornography, acting on hormonal drives, giving in to temptations. It’s the same for ALL members of the church, not just those dealing with SSA. It doesn’t matter what your temptations are, you can be worthy to serve a mission.

The church has very recently issued a revised version of the Handbook of Instructions, Book 1”, for Bishoprics and Stake Presidencies. No one else gets these books (except general authorities I suppose). It is very clear that it is one’s actions that keep them from being eligible to serve a mission, not their feelings and inclinations. It specifically addresses applicants who have same gender attraction. It says that if a young man has participated in homosexual activity during the last 3 teenage years, he will not normally be considered for a mission. It also says that if the person has shown strong evidence of repentance for period of a few years (at least one year), the stake president can request an exception. It also talks about "acts" that occurred several times or over an extended period of time, showing a pattern or habit, verses just once, or being a visitim, or early age experimetation.

So here is the nutshell – what are your habits? What have you been doing for the last few years? If you can show a pattern of faithfulness and clean living, you can probably serve a mission. But it must be for a period of a considerable amount of time, not just a few months. Here’s another thing. There is an age limit for young men to serve a mission. It’s 25 years old. Not 19. Not 20. Not 22. It’s 25, to start the mission.

This means to me that some of my friends may have more hope than they may have thought. This is a wonderful thing! It may take a few years to get there, but even if a person still doesn’t go on a mission, it couldn’t hurt to make that kind of progress anyway. But you don't have to go when you are 19 or 20.

I was afraid it may not be proper to directly quote the handbook, so I didn’t. But it’s clear that it’s actions that matter, not feelings. If any of you have more questions about this, please feel free to contact me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

More about the Evergreen Conference

More about the best weekend ever - it certainly was. Why? Because Samantha and I hung out with the coolest people ever - PineTree, Smurf, AttemptingThePath, and other cool guys. I now have about 8 new, wonderful friends! I miss them and can't wait until next year's conference. Yes, I'm going back!

Okay, SSA/SGA is not something I deal with directly. Sam has experienced it in her past, we have a young friend here locally ("David") that is dealing with it, and I have a man in my ward who is in a lot of deep, personal, mental, and emotional pain beccause of it. (I now have have about 8 more dear friends who are dealing with too.) So I want to learn more about it, and more importantly, how I can love, support, and help others who are dealing with it.

To me, the best speakers were Ty Mansfield and Fred & Marilyn Matis, authors of "In Quiet Desparation." I'd love to elaborate, but I do not have enough time or space. Just get the book and read it!

So now I have an assignment. I have to report to the other 11 bishoprics in my stake about SSA/SGA. What should I say? "Yeah, my wife and I went to SLC and played in the JSMB with some cool guys, had a LOT of fun, goofed around, then came home." Actually I did learn many things, but the highlight was just being with the guys (and Sam). If any of you have ANY advise or opinions about what bishops should learn or know about helping members who have SSA, please let me know.

Is "damnable" really a swear word? I'm sorry I missed that guy's workshop. I heard he was really good. Guys, if you're out there, please come visit us. Next time, maybe we'll play "Probe". Maybe Samantha and I will become the Fred & Marilyn Matis of the eastern Rockies. For now, here's to gellatinous pork! Cheers.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Okay, I just had the BEST weekend EVER! I met some great new friends in another world, at the Evergreen Conference in Salt Lake City. It was held in the coolest building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Here are some pictures below. More about the conference later.

We had a beautiful view outside the windows!

Here is another.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

- Okay, it's about time I posted something real here. Maybe I should first tell you a little more about myself. I absolutely LOVE food and cars. I also love language and languages. I speak French(somewhat fluently), a little Spanish, and a little German. I am currently a Bishop in the LDS church, of a singles ward. Enough? If you want to know more, just ask.
- So today was the first Sunday, back to school at our university, with most of our students back from Summer. No more meeting with 4 wards combined, I'm on my own now. After church, a young man came up to me and asked, "Bishop can I visit with you sometime?" Being new as a Bishop, I didn't know this young man. But I said, "Sure. How about in 15 minutes?"
- Well long story short, I now have a friend who is struggling with SSA. Weird. No, not this guy dealing with SSA, but the fact that I have been learning about this for the last 8 months, and now I need what little I've learned. Wow, the Lord really does qualify whom He calls. On my own, I never would be where I'm at now. I still don't know much, and not nearly enough. But I know a lot more than I did 8 months ago. I am "in it." I hope I can be a strength and a help to him.
- Okay, I'm just an ignorant mortal. But I married Samantha, a beautiful, magical person. We live kind of a charmed life - EXTREMELY blessed. We try to live in the magical world, even though I am from the mortal realm. She tells me a LOT!!! She may not reveal your secrets and intimate thoughts, but she has told me a lot about you people. Yes, I feel I know Smurf, L, Master FOB, AnotherOther, and several others. I almost think of you as my own friends, or at least friends that Sam and I can share. Oh, and thank you guys for being our friends.
- So those of you who have gotten to know Samantha probably think she is a lot of fun, pretty intelligent, and she think she's hilarious. If so, you would be correct - she is all these things. Truly, we have a great time. We struggled the first few years of our marriage, getting to know each other and getting used to each other. We became good friends before we complicated things, by adding children to mix. Thank goodness for that! We often look forward to our time alone together.
Let me tell a little something about Sam. WYSIWYG. She speaks her mind, doesn't pull any punches, and tells it how it is.
- Well, what's a Bishop to do? I still have to find a new Relief Society President, Ward Mission Leader, and change around many other callings. The next few weeks will be crazy! And Sam and I are going to a conference in Utah in a couple weeks. So much to do, so little time.......

Monday, August 07, 2006

Where to start...?

Perhaps I have been a silent character for long enough. Some of you may have heard of and read about my better, magical half, Samantha, at her magical world. There are some questions you should ask yourselves:

- Does he really know all about Samantha?
- When did she reveal her secrets to him and how did he react?
- Is their marriage really like Samantha describes it?
- (What else would you like to ask?)

The answer to these questions, and perhaps more, will appear here, occassionally, in upcoming posts.

I am not a typical blogger. I will not spend hours searching and reading other blogs and stuff each day. If you have questions for me, let me know. If you want me to see or read something, give me a link. I am really only here for 2 reasons - 1. to express myself a bit 2. to allow others to communicate with Samantha's husband, if desired. I suppport her completely, but may offer a different viewpoint at times.

More about me, Sam, and our relationship later.