Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Dream

Last night I dreamed I was working in a white building on the edge of a windswept cliff, above the seashore. The building had long stairways going up and down, and many of the rooms in the building had large picture windows and balconies looking out over the ocean.

I had a job I to accomplish by a deadline, two sets of legal documents that I needed to file with the patent office on behalf of the CEO of our law firm. There were very few people there to help me complete the filings, and I didn't have all the information I needed at first, but through persistence I gradually had everything ready to go.

In order to complete the filing, it was necessary for me to eat two insects, one for each filing. The insects were enormous and dark brown like cockroaches. The front halves of the insects were like praying mantises, and the back halves were like millipedes. They were completely disgusting, but I was determined to accomplish the filing, so I began to eat.

I bit off the head of the first insect. It was crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually kind of good. I bit off more: the thorax, then the abdomen, then the hind quarters with the hundreds of millipede legs. Finally I ate the whole thing.

I went on to the second insect. This one seemed less happy to be eaten. It was squirming around unpleasantly. I bit off its head, but this one was different. Instead of being crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, this one was tough on the outside, rubbery and gamy on the inside. It continued to squirm and struggle even after I had bitten the head off. It was difficult to chew and swallow.

I wonder which insect the new year will be like?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Light of Faith

Yesterday, after the gleeful carnage of present-unwrapping, after hugs and expressions of love and gratitude, after phone calls to family and time spent playing with new toys, it was time to get down to business.

Glen has holiday homework assignments, including a Victorian-era novel to read. He will eventually need to write a paper about the novel, and he needs to have some understanding of British literary history in order to write the paper. Since he's entered class in the middle of the school year, it was my task to tutor him. We sat down together and discussed the British Neo-Classical, Romantic, and Victorian literary styles. This was some of the most fun I've ever had in my whole life. (Who'da thunk my honors humanities seminar from my Sophomore year at BYU would ever come in handy?) Glen had a good time too, I think. At the end of our tutoring session, he said he was looking forward to more.

As Glen and I were in the midst of discussing why "Romantic" doesn't necessarily mean "Romance," the phone rang. It was "Sister Smith". She was calling, A) to ask why she hadn't seen me in Church lately, B) to ask me why I had not yet ditched my partner, and then C) to lecture me on the subject of temple-attendance. When he picked up the phone, Göran made the mistake of mentioning that I was busy helping "our foster son" with his homework. So the usual lectures were then followed by expressions of disgust, and a scolding about how, in my present circumstances, I am clearly an unfit parent. "You think a child should be in that kind of environment?" she said. Göran and Glen both listened in silence, while I calmly explained that, No, I haven't left my partner yet, and Yes, I value the temple, but Yes, I also value love and family and commitment and that's what my relationship with my partner is all about. I chose not to discuss my qualities as a foster parent with her. She finally backed down and said goodbye.

After I hung up, the tension in the air erupted with Göran angrily vowing that the next time she called, she would get a piece of his mind. Glen just frowned after hearing my account of her half of the phone conversation and said, "That's horrible." I managed to calm them down, and made Göran promise to just let the phone ring the next time her name showed up on the caller ID.

Later that evening, we went over to some friends' for Christmas dinner. Like most liberal Minneapolitans, these particular friends love discussing politics and religion, so that's right where the dinner conversation went. Our friend Alex who loves to bait us with extreme polemical statements just to see how we'll react, said he felt that if humanity was to evolve, all forms of belief must be banished. His mother and Göran were nodding in agreement. Religion was bad, all of it, every kind.

I debated whether to speak up or not. They all know my opinions on this subject, and I felt no need to argue. But finally, after thinking it over, I said simply, "You seem to think that belief is about assent to intellectual propositions. It is not. It is about trust. It is about commitment to moral propositions, the most fundamental of which is love."

"Ah, but..." they protested, citing all of the many examples of religious intolerance and hatred.

I replied, "That represents a failure of faith, not its expression. Those people are angry because they are insecure. They feel the foundations of their faith are being threatened, so they feel the need to fight. That's not faith, that's lack of faith. Those who truly have faith are able to live with and accept a certain level of ambiguity and uncertainty. They move forward in trust, based on loving commitment."

The conversation rolled on in other directions.

This morning, I read Isaiah 42. And though this text is often read as a messianic text, I could not help but read it as a call to each and every one of us. For even if these words describe the Messiah, isn't he the pattern we ourselves should follow?

He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth (vss. 2-4)

And in fact, after the Messianic text comes this gem:

I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.... And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them... Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. (vss. 6-20)

This is the path we are called to follow: blind in the sense that we trust to things we cannot see, that we do not always trust the things we can see. Here I am, caught again in the middle, condemned by believers and non-believers alike. To the left and to the right, I say the same thing: Have faith.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Choices, Choices

Today is the first full Sunday since we've had Glen. And I realize choices about Church are more complicated than I had originally imagined.

First of all, our foster son comes into a religiously divided household. This is my fault. We used to be a religiously united household until I started going to the LDS Church.

I don't expect anybody else, much less our teenage foster son, to do what I do: attend one church in the morning with my partner, and three more hours of another church in the afternoon with me.

We both do want him to attend Church with us as a family, which means he comes with both of us to the United Church of Christ. He is welcome to attend Church with me at the LDS Church if he wants. I have a feeling he won't want.

In our conversations over the last two weeks, when the discussion has ranged over into things religious, our foster son has gone quiet. I've immediately sensed a desire on his part to change the topic. I understand there are reasons for this. He has had his own history with Church which has been less than positive.

Today is my first full Sunday with our new family. And I must confess, the thought of departing for four hours is unbearable. Deep down inside, the thing I want most right now is to bond with Glen, and to spend time with him and Göran all three of us together as a family. Deep down inside, I also feel a strong pull toward Church, toward the place where I first received spiritual promptings that opened me up to becoming a foster father in the first place. Toward the place where I find the weekly grounding I need to grow into the kind of person I most want to be. If I go to Church, do I send Glen the message that I don't want to spend time with him, and that I don't care about him? If I stay with Glen and Göran, do I send the message that spiritual things are not of ultimate importance?

I prayed about this this morning, and I felt a kind of clarity about this. I realize I do need to communicate to Glen my most deeply felt values. I need to at least explain to him how important my testimony is to me, and how important the community of the Saints is to me. And I need to show him this through my actions as well. At the same time, in order for that communication to be meaningful, he needs to understand how much I value him. I need to communicate this verbally, but also through my actions. So as hard as this choice is for me, I will choose for our starting place to be time spent together as a family.

So much of this journey for me has involved cultivating patience through these kinds of hard choices. Waiting for the growth that needs to take place so I can move from a place of lesser good to greater good. Making choices.

Friday, December 21, 2007

How Does God Test Us?

Isaiah 38 describes an astonishing event.

Isaiah shows up at the palace of King Hezekiah, who is deathly ill. He has a prophecy to deliver: "Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live" (v. 1).

Hezekiah is not pleased. But instead of taking it up with Isaiah, he goes directly to Isaiah's boss. "Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord." The king reminds the Lord of his faithfulness in the past, how he walked before the Lord in truth and "with a perfect heart," and had done what was good in the sight of the Lord. After that, he had nothing more to say, but simply "wept sore" (vss. 2-3).

After Hezekiah's prayer, "then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years."

Now, some might say there's nothing astonishing here. If you believe in prayer, then why not believe that in response to Hezekiah's heartfelt prayer the Lord chose to heal him? We utter such prayers (and see them answered) all the time.

But what got my attention was the fact that Hezekiah "wept sore" specifically because he had received through Isaiah a definitive revelation from the Lord telling him to set his house in order because his death was imminent. Lacking such a revelation, Hezekiah might at least have hoped for a natural recovery. He might reasonably have prayed for recovery. Once he had received a definitive revelation from the Lord (Isaiah said "Thus Saith The Lord"!), wasn't it impertinence on his part to ask for another revelation? Wouldn't the faithful thing to do have been to obey the word of the Lord by "setting his house in order?"

I love the imagery of verse 2: "Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall." It is a startling image of refusal to accept this seemingly inevitable, divinely ordained fate.

Did God punish Hezekiah for his impudent refusal to accept his definitive word, as delivered to him by his mouthpiece, Isaiah? Far from it! He rewarded him threefold! First he rewarded him by granting him healing from a deadly illness. Second he rewarded him by revealing to him the length of remaining life he would have (fifteen more years!). Third, he rewarded him by promising him that Jerusalem would not fall to the King of Assyria (vss. 6-7). How puzzling it must have been to Isaiah to have to return to Hezekiah with this new prophecy, shortly after prophesying his imminent death!

What exactly happened here? How do we interpret these two prophecies? Did the Lord change his mind as a result of Hezekiah's prayer? Or let me rephrase this: Is it possible that there are blessings that the Lord is only willing to give us if we ask for them in faith? That seems one valid interpretation of this text.

But if that was true, why send the prophet on a special errand to announce to Hezekiah that he was going to die? Perhaps the Lord was testing Hezekiah in some way. If so, this is what I find most startling. The Lord expected Hezekiah to refuse to accept his definitive word. He expected Hezekiah to persist in hope of something he had explicitly denied him through his prophet.

In any event, the text suggests a high value on free agency in the divine scheme of things. The Lord forces no destiny upon us -- even something as seemingly inevitable as the natural course of disease and death. There are blessings the Lord waits to bestow upon us contingent upon taking the initiative to ask; or, better yet, the Lord expects us to achieve a kind of higher consciousness that can only come from faithful perseverance even in the face of denial.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Life, New Routines

While we were in California last week for my Grandmother's memorial, I was on the phone wrangling with school bureaucracies to get our foster kid's transcripts to the right folks, and to set up an intake appointment. Glen didn't want to spend one minute longer than he had to in the group home, and they couldn't release him to us until we had him enrolled in school. It was down to the wire, but by the time school offices were closing on Friday I had set it up.

Sunday, our morning flight was canceled, so I had to call Glen and let him know we would be three hours later picking him up than we had initially planned. We were literally counting the hours that last day. We arrived in the Twin Cities around six, got our car rental, dropped our stuff off, and then headed straight for the home. It was a joyful reunion.

Monday morning we took him to school to get him registered. We met with the assistant principal. I arrived at work late. Göran took the day off so he could take Glen shopping for school supplies. They came by my office, and I took them around and introduced him to my co-workers and supervisors.

Tuesday was the beginning of my new routine. Up at 5:30 a.m. so I can be at work by 7:00 a.m., and home by 3:30 p.m. Göran stays on his old schedule, and is at home late enough to see Glen off to school. Then I'm home shortly after he arrives home from school.

Göran and I were on pins and needles that whole day. We knew Glen would do great in his classes -- he's an A student. But we knew how important it would be for him to find new friends and feel accepted. He confided in us that he was nervous. This school has a student body ten times the small-town school he last attended. They have a rule at the school banning the use of cell phones, so I just had to wait the old fashioned way till the end of the day to hear how everything had gone.

That night Glen reported that the students at his new school were very open and friendly, and on his very first day he'd already met a girl who wanted to introduce him to her whole circle of friends. By the end of Wednesday there were other new friends, and no more nervousness or pins or needles. By the end of today, he produced a note another new friend had been passing to him, a girl with an obvious crush.

Last night, I had to take Glen to a meeting. Later, we talked about a youth group he wants to get involved in. Today I stopped at a book store to pick up Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, for an over-the-holidays English assignment. When I arrive home from work now, I get new reports about classes, homework, new friends. Göran and I are planning weekend activities for our new family. Life at home now revolves around meals, bedtime, school.

I've had less time for blogging. I'm in bed every night now by 10:30 p.m.! Work has required a special, new kind of discipline in order to coordinate projects on my new schedule. Most of my spare time is spent gearing up for teaching in the spring.

Somehow I once would have thought these changes unimaginable. Now they're reality. I'm amazed how incredibly happy I am -- we are. This is our new life!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nothing Else Much Seems to Matter Any More

Wow. My life has irrevocably changed.

Göran and I have spent the past three days getting to know and bonding with our first foster kid. Eating meals with him. Washing dishes with him. Having long conversations about his life up to this point, about our lives. Being amazed and in awe at the courage that's gotten him this far. Taking him to see the movie The Golden Compass. Getting him registered at the local high school. Buying new clothes for him. Taking him downtown to show him where Göran works. Playing video games, and laughing like fools at funny cat videos on the Internet.

I thought I was happy until three days ago. Suddenly I have made the shocking realization that our former happiness was a shadow of our present happiness. Nothing compares to seeing a kid smile at you and tell you that the last three days have been the happiest days of his life. Nothing compares to the realization that we can make a huge difference in a kid's life. Nothing compares to the realization, now that he's at the group home for four days until we return from my grandma's memorial service in California, that life just seems drabber and emptier.

When we dropped him off at the group home, he hugged us tight, and didn't want to let us go. He was almost in tears, but he kept up a brave front. We didn't. We got home and looked at our pictures of him, and cried.

Suddenly, parenthood seems like the only thing in the world that can possibly matter. Suddenly, I understand why bloggers like Chris, Scot, and Mr. Fob write about their families with such warmth, with such untarnished satisfaction. Suddenly I'm so much more interested in everything they have to say on the subject!

Maybe my life will go back to feeling the same way it did before, once he settles in, once we adjust to the dramatically different new routines. But I can't possibly imagine how.

This changes everything.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lost and Found

DOROTHY: Oh - will you help me? Can you help me?
GLINDA: You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas.
SCARECROW: Then why didn't you tell her before?
GLINDA: Because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

--The Wizard of Oz

I have always wondered about the "veil of forgetfulness," ever since I was taught about it as a child. Why would loving Heavenly parents purposely plunge us into a state of amnesia? Why would they want us to forget about them? Aren't the scriptures full of admonitions to "remember"? Why wouldn't loving Heavenly Parents want us to remember them, remember all the things they have done for us, remember all the promises we undoubtedly made to them in the pre-mortal existence, remember what is needed in order to come back to them?

Gradually, wrestling with the complex moral choices I have had to wrestle with in my life, including the choices surrounding my gayness/same-sex attraction, I have come to the conclusion that it was our Heavenly Parents' intention that the mortal probation be a test of character that involves seeing how we would act on our own, what choices we would make if we thought no one was looking over our shoulders. This is one reason I am not so concerned about making sure that everyone has the exact same beliefs I do. Is this mortal probation invalidated for Presbyterians or Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs, Baptists or Catholics or Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses or even Atheists? Far from it. The fact that we've each developed our own interpretations of the meaning of this existence, the fact that we've interpreted the guidance of the Spirit or divine revelation differently, the fact that we've received seemingly divergent revelations (or no revelation at all)... This is just part of the grand test. Every religion or philosophy seems to be moving us toward the same higher law Christ taught: Love. So there is unity even in our divergence, and I am certain that a key part of the test for all of us is to see how effectively we are able to find that true underlying unity that should unite us all as brothers and sisters.

But there's another aspect of this test that seems even more crucial to me. That is, to see if we are able to find the "divine spark" within each of us. So in fact, we have been plunged into a state of forgetfulness literally to see if we can begin to remember on our own. This is why I love the Latter-day Saint notion of progressive knowledge. As we hear and obey the Spirit, as we exercise faith, our capacity to hear the Spirit increases. It is like a seed that grows if we nurture it, and that dies if we deprive it of sun or water. The more we practice love, the more capable we become of loving. And the more loving we are, the more we will remember and know of the God the Evangelist calls Love.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has what she needed to find her way "back to Kansas" all along -- the ruby slippers she inherited from the moment she first entered Oz. We just saw The Golden Compass yesterday, in which Lyra, a Dorothy-like character, is given a golden compass that can teach her all truth if only she can learn to read it. We all have our own ruby slippers, our own golden compass.

We had to forget, I believe, partly in order to learn what is within us. Our Heavenly Parents could have told us what was within us. In fact they probably did. But how could we believe it, until we had experienced it for ourselves?

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Last night, Göran and I attended his law firm's holiday party.

Göran is always the life of the party at these events. He's an amazing dancer, and so there's usually a line of women wanting to have a turn dancing with him. At my sister's big fat Greek wedding, all the Greek grannies were begging him to give them dance lessons. Last night was no different. At one point, everyone on the dance floor just stopped to stare at his performance. At the end of the number, they all burst into applause, including the band!

I on the other hand have the proverbial two left feet. I've always been kind of physically awkward. Learning to dance was painful to me as a youth, despite the special, personal lessons I got from a Young Women's leader who took pity on me. I basically learned to dance because it was a social requirement of Mormon youth. My only "B" at BYU (dragged my GPA to 3.98, darn it!) was the ballroom dance class I took.

After I came out of the closet, I took more of an interest in dance as a way to get to meet guys. For a while, I had a crush on a guy I used to go to Country Western night with. (After he and I stopped dating, I promptly forgot how to two-step.) The first thing Göran and I ever shared together was a dance, at the Gay Nineties, a downtown Minneapolis gay bar. While we were "courting," we went out dancing about once a week. Once we moved in together, however, I lost interest in dancing. I'd found my man, no more need to dance. At the annual firm holiday parties, I usually indulged him for a couple of dances, and then tried to figure out how to convince him to go home as soon as possible.

But last night was different. When the dance music started, I felt a certain kind of itch. As usual, the women started lining up, taking Göran out to the dance floor. And I realized... I wanted that dance. Before long, to his surprise, I cut in, and he was all mine for the rest of the evening. We danced fast dances, slow dances. He was still the star, I was still the stumbling fool, but I was having fun. I couldn't get enough. Finally, he was the one who had to beg for a break, so he could go take pictures and mingle with some of his co-workers. But soon enough I was dragging him back out the dance floor again. We were there until 1:00 a.m., when the very last dance was played.

I realize something has shifted for me. I have found a new balance between body and spirit. It's not just that I don't drink alcohol or caffeine any more, which I've noticed helps me sleep better and leaves me with more energy. It's that I have begun to pay more attention to important boundaries in my life. I respect the intimacy between me and Göran by paying more attention to my thoughts and my sexuality. I have cultivated the habit of listening to the Spirit, which in turn has taught me to listen to people, to listen to Göran, and helped me be more in tune with his needs. And that has drawn us closer together. In regular Church attendance and prayer and scripture study, I have dwelt on and received witnesses of God's love for me, of the forgiveness of my sins, which in turn has given me patience and confidence and happiness, which in turn has turned me outward to others. I feel better than I have ever felt in my life before. And it makes me want to dance! It makes me feel incredibly lucky to be madly in love with (and to be loved by) one of the best dancers in the Twin Cities!

As we danced from Saturday night into early Sunday morning, I wondered for just a fleeting moment about the propriety of dancing on the Sabbath. I promise, it was just one fleeting moment, because as soon as the thought entered my mind, I thought of Brigham Young and the Saints dancing into the wee hours of the morning in the Nauvoo Temple. Dance at its best, at its holiest, is a magical interplay between body and spirit. It is where those two aspects of our eternal souls both rejoice at the same time. That is what it was for me, at any rate. I thought, I'm glad I'm a Mormon and not a Baptist! I'm glad I hold a faith in which all things are sacred to the Lord, where no laws are temporal, where perfect joy comes in the union of body and spirit forever and ever.

Fortunately, my ward meets in the afternoon, so Göran and I were both able to sleep in together. After rising, I enjoyed my morning routines with renewed appreciation. Prayer is a physical act of kneeling, bowing one's head, holding one's body still. Eating breakfast and taking a shower are spiritual acts of caring for the temple in which my spirit dwells. Putting on a shirt and tie and suit (which I don't wear to our "business casual" workplace!) helps me prepare mentally and physically to enter the sacred space of worship. So does bundling up and walking a mile and a half through the snowy cityscape, across unevenly shoveled sidewalks to the ward meeting house. There are half a dozen ward members I could call, who would gladly swing by to pick me up and give me a ride. But I need that thirty-five-minute walk in the morning. I need the prayer and preparation and peace that it affords me.

As I walked that walk, I remembered our dance. Body and spirit, perfect joy. I am blessed.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's a Boy!

Monday I got an email from our social worker. There's a boy who needs a home, and for a variety of reasons, she felt Göran and I would be perfect for him.

I read the email. I called Göran and read the email to him over the phone. I called the social worker and we discussed the placement some more. Göran and I talked more and agreed, he was perfect. We are so excited. We hope that we can be "perfect" for him, and that we can provide the kind of supportive, nurturing environment he needs right now.

We're meeting him on Monday for the first time. Then, if he feels comfortable with us after the initial meeting, he has a pre-placement weekend visit. Then if everyone is still comfortable with the arrangement after that, he moves in. It's not a done deal yet. A lot will depend on how he feels about us.

I will not be sharing any details about any of our foster kids on my blog; I want to respect their privacy. But I have wanted to share my feelings, and the aspects of foster parenting that relate to my own spiritual journey, which is really the topic of this blog.

Peter has been reflecting on the role of gay people in eternity, and I've found his speculations fascinating. Personally I imagine it to be something like this. We can be healers with special gifts for those who need special healing, gatherers of those who've been lost, guardian angels watching over those in special or difficult times of transition.

I don't know how to describe this other than that I've felt this kind of creeping elation. Just this growing lightness of spirit, this sense of delight, this profound happiness. I think of him, and I break into a smile. The more I think about it, and the more I think about him, the more I feel a kind of delight and gratitude. I feel this is the best thing Göran and I have ever done in our lives. I'm not sure there's anything else that can compare to this. I don't know him yet, I just know about him. But I truly love him. I so want all of the good things of life for him. I know this won't be easy; I expect it to be heartbreaking at times; I expect there to be struggle. And he's not ours, he'll never be "ours," except for a time. But a very, very important time. And I hope and pray that this time can be a total gift to him, that it can always be something he will look back on and find strength that will sustain him for the rest of the journey. I hope he will know how much good we want for him, how deserving he is of all life's best gifts, how utterly important he is, how infinitely valuable.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The S Word

There's been discussion about the "suicide (non) option" on Abelard's blog and on Peter's blog. I have read (as some others of you have) on the gay Mormon blogs about another another gay Mormon suicide. At least one blogger denied that his suicide had anything to do with him being gay and Mormon. Others seem pretty sure that's precisely what it's about.

So recently another Moho brother whom I love emailed me to tell me he was recently thinking about suicide, just working it out in his mind how to do it in a way that will be less traumatic for his family.

He says he's OK now. I think I believe him.

But this has to stop.

He explained to me the mathematics of it. When suicide is a more attractive option than trying to live with all the remaining options, we go with suicide. For some folks, when the only options are: suicide, marriage, or life-long celibacy, suicide looks like the best choice. In suicide we preserve our purity. The Church can forgive us for suicide. In fact, Church manuals specifically state that suicide is a tragedy, not a sin. The Church can forgive us for giving up in just that way. It won't forgive us for loving a man. Giving up in that way is unforgivable.

I don't think I can stand to read any more denials about how gay Mormon suicide is a problem. How it's not real, how it's a statistical fabrication, how gay Mormon suicides don't have anything to do with being gay and Mormon. Please, no more arrogant statements about how guys just need to have more faith and everything will be just fine.

OK, maybe the Church can forgive us for committing suicide but I can't. I refuse. I cannot accept this. I will never forgive you for giving up in that way. I love you too much. God loves you too much. Your life, here and now, is of infinite worth. You are of infinite worth.

This is not what God made us for.

God made us for love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Life is good, and full of possibility.

Right now I look outside my window and I see the entire street, sidewalks, all my neighbors' houses, trees, cars, everything covered in a thick blanket of snow. It is like a metaphor for the world we live in: cold and blank and living things all gone dormant, hiding in the darkness.

As oppressed as this world is, as far as this world has fallen from the fullness of creation God intended for it -- for God intended a creation bursting with joy and life -- that intention still lives as possibility. It lives, vibrant, full, untarnished within each and every one of us. It is quivering in our flesh, in the divine spark which is our spirit. It is waiting to burst into being.

It is all there for us: life, love, communion, brotherhood and sisterhood, family, eternity.

Don't be afraid! God is Love, and Love is greater than the darkness of this present age. Nothing can separate us from that Love, Love that brought Christ down among us and persuaded him to die for us. Just listen and be patient and follow that Love.

Our choices take us down different paths. They seem to separate us from one another for a time. But do not fear! Have faith! Listen, and follow Love where it leads you, how it leads you. If Love is nearby, it is impossible to be permanently lost, to each other or to God. Find Love in your path, whatever that path may be, and be true to it. We will all find each other again.

Life is good and full of possibility!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Preparing for Eternal Service

In some of the discussion on my last post, Geckoman posed a question about relationships. Though it was not his intention to do so, the way he framed the question got me thinking more deeply about my relationship with Göran in an eternal framework.

One of the questions he posed was: "What if, at some future point, the Church evolved toward some level of acceptance of monogamous, committed same-sex relationships?" Of course this is a big if.

(Parenthetically, I'm not big on speculation about what the Church might or might not do at some hypothetical point in some hypothetical future. On this particular issue, I see contradictory trends within the Church. Institutionally or hierarchically, I see tremendous efforts to draw a line in the sand over this issue, and if anything movement away from any institutional acceptance of same-sex relationships. That's one reason why my last post explored ways to make celibacy more feasible or sustainable. However, when we look at the grassroots LDS Church membership, I do see growing acceptance of same-sex relationships at least as a practical, mortal-life response. I do not see many Church members at the grassroots particularly relishing the notion of forcing same-sex oriented individuals to be alone for their entire lives. And BOTH hierarchy and membership seem to be embracing the notion that pushing same-sex oriented individuals into marriage is just plain wrong. But this extended parenthetical observation is neither here nor there in terms of what might become institutionally acceptable at some unknown future point.)

But let us imagine a slightly adjusted Church reality in which, say, monogamous, committed same-sex couples could be baptized and enjoy at least some blessings of membership, maybe even the ability to hold the priesthood and participate in temple work. But let's assume that the Church holds the position that such relationships could not be sealed in the temple.

I would still consider this an enormous boon! Even if I were prohibited from having the priesthood or holding a temple recommend, just being able to be a member, partake of the sacrament, and perhaps even hold certain Church callings I would consider a tremendous blessing. Ability to hold the priesthood and go to the temple would be even greater blessings.

But under these circumstances, I would need to consider: Would I want to strive for a full temple marriage to a woman (in the next life)? (For me, this-life marriage to a woman is something I find incomprehensible and unthinkable. I know myself well enough to know that I am simply not wired in a way that would make that remotely possible.) OR would I settle for a this-life-only marriage to a man? (In many ways, this is already the choice faced by single LDS women or men who might have the opportunity of marrying outside the Church.)

Or another way of framing this question is: How do I understand my relationship to my same-sex partner in the framework of eternity? All things being equal, and Church membership not being at stake or an issue in the equation, would I still choose to be with him even knowing that this could not be an eternal marriage?

As I began to pray earnestly for guidance about my relationship with the Church, one prayer I prayed went something like this: "Father, I am not worthy of exaltation. I will likely never marry in the Temple. But I love you. I want to do whatever I can to build your kingdom, to spread the gospel, to be an instrument of peace and love and hope in the world. Whatever I can do to serve you in whatever capacity, I will. And if my destiny is nothing more than eternal service to those who are destined for a greater glory than I can ever be worthy of, I am still eternally blessed beyond measure. Because service in your name is an eternal blessing. I offer myself to do whatever I can, no matter how minor or menial."

My Father in Heaven answered that prayer, and continues to answer that prayer, which is an on-going prayer of my heart, with a rich outpouring of love, and a super-abundance of the Spirit. Never in my life have I felt such a continual and joyful sense of the Spirit's presence and blessing, as since I have made that prayer my whole life's intent. Through the Spirit, the Lord has promised to use me in ways that will richly bless the lives of others. And I have seen remarkable opportunities for service open up. I have had opportunities to bear my testimony to people and in places and in ways I might never have had if I were a full member of the Church. Am I content? I am more joyful and content and blessed than I ever possibly could have imagined. I am so blessed, that I simply cannot find it in my heart to envy others, regardless of their place in life, their priesthood callings or status in the Church, or their rights or privileges or status as legally married couples, etc. My blessings, the blessings the Lord has given me make me so incredibly happy, it no longer enters into my heart even for a moment to dwell on what others have that I do not have.

So how do I envision my relationship with Göran in light of eternity? I envision our role as companions in service. And so this life, in a sense, becomes an opportunity for us to train ourselves, to prepare for ever greater and greater service, eventually eternal service. Our goal in life is to chip away at selfishness, hardness of heart, and pride; to whittle these things down until they give way to perfect love and unselfishness and humility, and a willingness to do whatever we can to build the Kingdom of God, here below and beyond the veil. My role as a partner/lover is to foster in Göran that love, hope and faith that will prepare him for service. His role is to do the same in me. In order to be a good partner to him, I have had to learn to be unselfish and faithful, so our relationship has been a training ground for me to be eternally unselfish and faithful in relation to God and to all others I will serve. And as I anticipate the major life decisions we are making as a couple -- decisions about foster care and community service and involvement -- I want to see us move as a couple toward ever increasing service to others. This will prepare us for our roles in the next life.

Some people will say, "Are you really content to settle for less, when you could have a marriage for eternity and eternal increase?" My only answer to that is that the depth of joy I find in my love for Göran feels eternal. I would not want to be with anyone else. I love him and no one else. Our love is rich. It is multifaceted. It is growing. It blesses me and it blesses him. It will continue to grow throughout this life and it will continue to grow in the next. And we may not be "married" for eternity and we may not have "eternal increase." But I have nothing to mourn or be ungrateful for. No, God has blessed us beyond measure, and through the Spirit we have a promise of even greater blessings if we are faithful.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Modest Proposal: Mormon Monasticism

When I left the Mormon Church in 1986, one of the many mixed feelings I experienced was relief that I could be celibate. I fasted and prayed for guidance to decide whether celibacy was something I should pursue as an alternative to marrying a woman. Later, in the summer of 1988, I seriously explored celibacy at a Roman Catholic monastery. One of the things I loved about Catholics was, no pressure to marry. The LDS expectation that I must marry literally drove me to despair and deep depression.

Although I ultimately discerned that celibacy was not a calling for me, my experience at the monastery convinced me that had I felt called to live a celibate lifestyle, living it in the intimate companionship and spiritual community of a monastery would have been the most positive, healthy, life-giving context within which to do it.

Now, twenty years later, we have LDS leaders stating clearly and unequivocally that failure to marry in this life will not prevent us from achieving exaltation in the next life. Furthermore, they have clearly stated that lacking strong sexual attraction to a member of the opposite sex, we are specifically enjoined from marrying. For the first time, Mormons are talking about celibacy.

Technically, Mormons should not use the term celibacy. Celibacy connotes a religious calling, and is more appropriately used in the context in which I explored it. What Mormons are really talking about is life-long abstinence.

But if we are serious about life-long abstinence as a way of life for 3-7% of the population of the Church, just telling people that they can never marry and never be in a same-sex relationship is unlikely to work. Here's why:

1) Marriage and family are central to Mormon theology, practice, and community. We are strongly disinclined by Mormon culture to consider celibacy or abstinence viable.

2) Life-long abstinence sounds fine in theory (especially to people who are happily married). But in practice it means being alone. Friends -- no matter how good, close, and intimate -- can't possibly make up for or fill the place in a person's life that is filled by a soul mate and companion.

I suggest that if we are serious about this, we need a real, bona fide Mormon celibacy, not just the default of life-long abstinence. One way to do this would be to develop a kind of Mormon monasticism. Here's what this would look like for me:

1) Community living. You never have to be alone. You live in community with other men, men you are free to love spiritually and emotionally, to spend quality time with, and to bond intimately but non-sexually with.

2) The context of monastic discipline would help prevent "cheating." It would function on the same principle that is used in Mormon missions to prevent missionaries from straying into sexual sin: 24-hour companionship and supervision, and emotional support to remain true to one's convictions in relation to sexual abstinence.

3) Communities could be organized around service and other mission-oriented goals. This would give people who have made the Herculean sacrifice of life-long abstinence the reward of having a valued calling.

4) You would have to feel "called" to this. It would be unlikely to work if you are joining this as a default, or as a way to run away from your sexuality. You would need to embrace this calling based on positive motivations and on the call of the Spirit.

While this would not work for everyone, providing this option, especially if it were publicly blessed by the Church leadership, would do much to demonstrate a real, practical support for those who are being asked to renounce any possibility of intimate relationships in this life. It would demonstrate that being gay and celibate is nothing shameful, but rather that gay people are seen as having a positive contribution to make to the Church.

I believe that until we provide such options, we will naturally find gay Latter-day Saints bifurcating in two directions. A minority will stick with the Church and will continue to strive for marriage, many entering into marriages when they should not. The majority (perhaps the vast majority) will do what they always have done: drift away from the Church and choose same-sex relationships over their faith.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Are You a Mormon?

I had a dream the other night.

In the dream a group of Latter-day Saints were asking me how I could consider myself a Mormon, when I was not a baptized member of the Church.

I said that I had a testimony of the gospel, and that I lived the principles of the gospel to the best of my ability. I quoted Richard C. Edgley's last conference talk, in which he said that the thing that qualifies us for baptism is a desire to bear one another's burdens. I was willing to do everything I could to build the kingdom, and to support other Saints in their journey, to bear their burdens, and to be supported by them, to let them bear my burdens. More than anything, I desired to do that. My heart was ready for baptism and it was not my fault that leaders of the Church refused to baptize me. If, in my heart, I was ready, if in my heart I had accepted the responsibilities of baptism, then in the eyes of the Lord I was baptized.

I sensed skepticism among those I was speaking with. I wanted to say more, but I realized there was nothing more I could say.

There is nothing more I can say.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Do You Have Anything Non-Alcoholic?

Last month, I did a really big favor for one of the lawyers I work for, and his way of saying thanks to me was to buy me a $100 gift certificate to a really nice restaurant. So last night I took Göran out to dinner at this really nice restaurant to celebrate his birthday with him. I loved that I could treat him to this without having to worry about what we could order and not order and how much it would cost us. This one was on my rich lawyer friend!

So the waitress came to the table and asked us if we wanted to start off with something to drink. She handed us a wine list. Göran looked it over and he ordered a chardonnay. Then, something miraculous occurred.

Ever since I stopped drinking alcohol (in March 2006), this has become a bone of contention between me and Göran. He has frequently complained bitterly that one of the simple pleasures of our relationship used to be that we could enjoy a good glass of wine together. Every time there's been a situation where he had an opportunity to drink, and I did not join him, this generated a complaint. And I didn't expect last night to be any different.

But without batting an eye Göran looked up at the waitress and, in the sweetest voice, said, "Do you have anything non-alcoholic?"

"We have a sparkling blood orange juice," she replied.

He looked at me and said, "Oh, that sounds really good."

"That does sound good," I said, holding the side of my chair so I would not fall off from shock. "Yes," I said to the waitress, "I'll have a sparkling blood orange juice."

"You see," Göran said to the waitress, "My partner does not drink alcohol."

I know many of you are reading this, and you are thinking this is a ridiculous thing. Some of you think I'm a dolt for making a big deal out of this. (Believe me, I've taken my share of flak from ex- and non-Mormon friends who think I'm silly to live the Word of Wisdom.) And others of you are wondering how it could be a big deal that Göran has finally accepted this. But it is a big deal! It almost brings tears to my eyes now, thinking about it. This kind of acceptance is huge. It is wonderful how, moment by moment, day by day, love does its transformative, healing work in us, and shapes us in the image of Christ.

That was the sweetest tasting glass of sparkling blood orange juice I've ever had.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Comparative Religion

I spent a good part of the Thanksgiving weekend preparing to teach CH 462, "Introduction to American Religious Histories" at United Theological Seminary, starting in February 2008. Mostly I was hammering down the details of my course syllabus (what readings and assignments will be due when, etc.), but I also spent a fair amount of time mapping out the class lectures. The scope of the course is every religion in the history of the United States, from the colonial period to the present, so that always presents certain challenges. Preparing for the class led to inevitable wonder at the strange twists and turns of life, and musings about what I, a gay Mormon, might contribute to the formation of future Protestant ministers.

In preparing to teach this class, I actually sought and received a blessing from my bishop. Before giving me the blessing, my bishop actually quizzed me about the circumstances of the teaching assignment. "Do they know that you are gay?" he asked me. "Oh, yes," I replied, "And they even know I'm Mormon." (He didn't even crack a smile. Though when I told the story to a close friend who teaches at the same seminary, he almost fell off his chair laughing.) Among other things, my bishop blessed me with a quickened mind, and the ability to teach in a way that is pleasing both to God and to me. (I was deeply moved that he felt it was as important for me to be pleased with my teaching as it was for God to be pleased!) He also blessed me to show the same love for my students that my Heavenly Father has shown for me. That is what I have turned over and over in my mind the most, ever since.

For me, there is a particular challenge in teaching people about other people's religion. Faith is such a deeply personal, intimate thing. I'm aware that there is huge diversity in how individual Latter-day Saints interpret their own faith (or individual Protestants, or Catholics, or Jews, or... The list goes on. I'm covering 12 major groupings in my course). The differences between individuals within a faith can be almost as great if not greater than the differences between individuals of different faiths. How do you do justice to the specificity of different faiths and also to the diversity within faiths? How do you present someone else's faith in a way that represents them fairly, when you are not a part of that faith and don't appreciate the nuances that they appreciate?

I had an outstanding professor of Chinese history who once told me, "You cannot begin to approach another culture without much prayer and fasting." What he meant is, teaching about another culture or another faith requires utmost humility on the part of the teacher. It must begin with a contrite acknowledgment of how much we do not know. Having seen how Mormonism has been distorted in the teaching and writing of others, I am more painfully aware of this than most might be in my position. So each time I sit down to work on my course prep, there's always a certain amount of "prayer and fasting."

As I have sifted through the resources available to me to teach this course, including the various texts and monographs I will assign my students to read, I have been aware of the very intellectual, very academic framework I am forced to use to approach this. And part of me squirms at the thought of this. This of course must be an intellectual, academic exercise. That's the nature of the beast when teaching any graduate level course. But if it is only that, I believe I will have failed my students.

One of the first things you learn when you start to study religions comparatively is that one function shared by all religion -- no matter what type -- is centering oneself in relation to the divine and to the cosmos, and then, from that centered space, defining and the exploring boundaries. This is what we will be doing in this class, and this is a fundamentally spiritual process. It will make it even more challenging that my "centered space" as a gay Mormon will be different in fundamental ways from the "centered spaces" of my mostly (but not all) Protestant, mostly (but not all) white, mostly (but not all) straight men and women students. It will mean in a significant sense that every class will be an exercise in comparative religion. And I believe that in order for that to work, a unique kind of spiritual practice is required, one that will include learning to understand who we are, even as we approach, with humility and openness, the faith of others.

United Seminary is a very open, inclusive, tolerant place (thus, the gay Mormon teaching American religious histories). Still, I am incredibly grateful for my bishop's blessing. Because more than anything else, this endeavor will require the illuminating guidance of the Spirit, and it will require love.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Gift

In reading the blogs over the past week, I've encountered some, hmm, interesting ways of characterizing same-sex relationships. I've encountered once again the speculation that since same-sex attraction will vanish in the next life, I'll be left with a partner I can't and won't possibly want to be in a relationship with, and so I'll have nothing and be lonely for all eternity. I've made note of the ever popular comparison of my relationship with my partner to bestiality and child-molesting. And the related characterization of same-sex sexuality as an abomination deserving only God's inevitable wrath. And of course the suggestion that while same-sex orientation is OK, same-sex relationships are evil and society is going to hell for tolerating them and for considering the legalization of same-sex marriage.

I want to argue. It is true. But what basis is there to argue? And the only real purpose in arguing, I have realized, is to cover up my own insecurity, my own residual, nagging fear that maybe those characterizations are true. That's why I argue. To make something right. To convince myself I am right, by trying to convince someone else. Except that arguing never convinces anyone. I've never seen an argument end in which the arguers weren't afterwards each more entrenched in their arguments than they were before. Well, more entrenched in their insecurities as well. More angry that the idiot they were trying to convince can't see the clear, obvious truth of their position. (Except if it were so clear and obvious, they would have been convinced, wouldn't they?)

So there is only one way to move forward in the face of such nagging fear. Not by fighting the fear. Not by arguing with it. Not by getting angry. Rather, by moving into the fear. By opening oneself up. By listening. So this means having to go through life learning to accept a certain level of ambiguity. Accepting that I might be wrong. Living with the possibility that if I want to be happy, I might need to reevaluate, I might need to make changes. Not fighting, listening.

So that's where I was earlier this afternoon. Eternal mismatches. Bestiality. Child-molestation. Abomination. Evil. Is homosexuality really like that? Could I be so blind? Can there be truth in that? They're troubling thoughts.

Those thoughts were still there in the background of my mind, leaving me slightly depressed as I went about my business at work. Then after work, I had other, practical things to attend to. A birthday! Göran is turning 43 next Tuesday. There's a particularly special gift I'd been thinking of getting him for some time. I went shopping and managed to find it. I probably spent a little bit more on it than I should have, but all I could think of was the look I knew I would see on his face when he opened it.

And then I bought him something else special, to celebrate a new reality in our lives. The reality that after an eight-year-long search, we have finally found his birth certificate, and now he can apply for a passport, and we now know the names of his parents. He can be a citizen of the U.S., a citizen of the world, and he now has a place, ancestors, a history... After the new year, he's planning to contact his biological father (and his grandfather, who is apparently still alive!). I bought him something simple as a token of this altered reality. Nothing expensive, just a little book. And then before wrapping everything, I inscribed it. I sat down and thought about it, and about him, and then I wrote something in the cover that expressed what I feel for him.

And as I wrote, I realized something wonderful. This shared life I have with him, this relationship we have built, this interweaving of our lives, this love... This is real. Not the fear. Not the language of abomination and evil and hate. This love, this is truth. This is what we live life for. The Spirit was present again. I felt peace. Tears came to my eyes. This is real. This is eternal.

And I found this without anger. Without argument. Without even the least hint of bitterness toward those who used those words and made those characterizations. Only joy, peace, and the wish that, whatever paths others are pursuing, they might find wholeness and happiness as complete as what I have experienced on my own path. So in a strange way, that is a gift I received from them, and the only gift I wish to offer back.

If I live my life with an open heart, that will happen every once in a while. Someone will say something that provokes, that hurts, that dredges up all the old fears and anxieties. That's the nature of life. But that is the incredible thing about love. True love swallows all that up, and turns it into beauty. That is what the atonement was: taking in hate, anger, death, and returning for it love, peace and life. That is God's gift to us, the greatest gift of all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Grandma, 1906-2007

I feel very sad right now, but also thankful.

This morning, while I was sitting next to Göran on the bus on our way to work, I got a call on my cell phone from my dad. He told me that about an hour earlier, my grandma had passed away.

It was logical. It made sense. Grandma turned 101 in October. Over the last couple of years her health had slowly been declining to the point that she was completely bed-ridden, had congestive heart failure, and was constantly getting pneumonia. So I knew this day was coming.

So I asked Dad a few questions. He promised to call me soon to give me more information about funeral arrangements. Then I went to work. Gradually over the course of the day it sunk in. Grandma died. And I found it really difficult to focus on my work, and I found my thoughts constantly going back to her. Maybe I should have gone home, taken the day off. I told a few friends, and the word spread fast. Friends were coming up to offer hugs and condolences. My closest friends know how important she was to me, because I keep a photograph of the two of us right in front of my desk on the wall in my office. The Human Resources manager told me the firm wanted to send flowers to her funeral, and could I give her an address. I guess I was grateful for people's kindness, but it only made it harder for me. Talking about it somehow only made me feel sadder.

One of the things grandma always used to talk about was how she could hardly wait to see my grandfather again. Death separated them over forty-five years ago. But no more. I kept having this image in my mind all day, of my grandpa Jay, waiting there for her just beyond the veil. I never knew him. He died before I was born. But I so want to meet him, to see the two of them together finally.

Grandma's love and her example have really been a beacon to me. And in the last two years, I have made special efforts to let her know how much I loved her, and she did the same. I know she was disappointed that I could not become a full-fledged member of the Church. That broke my heart. Though I also know she was proud of my efforts to become reconciled to the Church and to begin to live as much of the gospel as I could. My parents read her some of the articles I've written in which I bore my testimony, and she told them how much she liked them. And on my last two visits to see her in February and October 2006, I had some very powerful experiences with her that have grounded me spiritually and given me great hope. I am so glad I made those visits now. Whenever I am tempted to feel sad, I think back to those recent visits, and the promises she made me, and then back to all my other memories of her, and I feel a great sense of peace and gratitude and happiness. I'm really pretty lucky to have had such an incredible woman in my life for so many years.

I will miss her very much. But in another sense, she will always be very near me. Thinking of her has always motivated me to do better, to be a better person, to be more humble and loving, to love myself, and be grateful for life. I want to continue to do that, to live a life of faith, love and hope as my way of honoring her and everything she did for us. That was her greatest gift to me, and I want that to be my greatest gift back to her, the only one she can still receive.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Missing Muffy

I recently read something on Original Mohomie's blog about an experience he had attending an AIDS benefit in Salt Lake, and it just got me to thinking.

I've been around and out of the closet and involved in the gay community long enough to have had a number of good friends who have died of AIDS. I had a friend in our UCC congregation, a much loved, much respected leader of our church community who died of AIDS. Both he and his partner had had AIDS, and his partner died first, which was an incredible loss for him and left him feeling very lonely. He survived his partner by many years, and he lived long enough to see some of the new treatments come available, but by the time they came along, he was too advanced with various AIDS-related illnesses to benefit much from them. With the availability of the new treatments developed in the early 1990s, the mortality rate has dropped quite dramatically. It was over a decade ago when this friend from church died, and we thought maybe we had seen the last of AIDS-related deaths among close friends of ours.

But Göran and I attended an AIDS funeral again early this year. This friend's name was Michael, but he was known to all his friends as "Muffy." He was Göran's best friend for many years, the person who had most consistently been there for Göran from when he first moved to Minneapolis. When Göran and I had a wedding ceremony in 1995, Muffy was Göran's best man. Like almost all of Göran's closest friends back in those days, Muffy was a drag queen. He was sweet, considerate, and quiet (which you wouldn't expect from a drag queen!), but he also had a really sharp sense of humor. He was charismatic, and just naturally drew people around him. Everybody who knew him loved Muffy. Göran and Muffy were both founding members of the local chapter of the gay fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi, and for many years, Muffy was the heart of that organization.

When Muffy got sick, I think he felt deeply ashamed at some level. He tried to hide it for a long time. When it was no longer hide-able, he left the Twin Cities and retreated to the trailer home his mom lived in in rural Minnesota. Muffy's fraternity brothers continued to visit him and comfort him, but it was extremely difficult for him. He didn't want people to make a fuss about him, and he didn't want to be seen "that way."

Muffy's mom loved him very much, but unfortunately she was also deeply homophobic. After Muffy died, she tried to plan the funeral without telling any of his friends. Göran and others found out about the funeral, and even though we had been uninvited, Göran insisted that he could not let Muffy's funeral pass without at least trying to go. They found out where it was taking place. Göran and I put on our Sunday best, and showed up at the funeral home, not knowing what would happen.

Muffy's mom intercepted us in the foyer and told us that we could go view the casket but that we had to leave before the funeral started. This was extremely painful to Göran, but we felt that if that was all the family would allow us to do, that was what we would have to do. But then Muffy's aunt intervened. She told her sister, "These were Michael's friends. They loved Michael. They have a right to be here. You can't tell them to leave." There was some discussion, and in the end, Muffy's mom grudgingly agreed to let his friends stay for the funeral.

There were more gay people in the sanctuary than straight family members. Muffy was much loved by the many people in the GLBT community who had come to know him over the years. But we all sat in silence at the back of the sanctuary. The funeral itself was depressing, not necessarily because it was a funeral, but because it was a funeral that had nothing to do with Muffy. Of course, none of the people who had really known and loved Muffy for the last twenty years of his life were allowed to speak. A Catholic priest got up and uttered some generalities about the love of God and the resurrection. One of Muffy's sisters-in-law took the stand, and talked about how her faith in Jesus helped her face adversity. Not a single story was told about Muffy. Who he was. What he'd done. The people he'd loved and helped. Nothing.

After the funeral, once again the mother came and told us that now the funeral was over, it was time to leave. We were uninvited from attending the graveside ceremony. Once again, the sister intervened and convinced the mother to let those of us who wished attend.

A few stalwarts attended the graveside ceremony (it was cold out and there was snow on the ground). After the ceremony was finished and the family had dispersed, a number of us were still hanging around, talking about Muffy, telling stories about him, things that we all remembered that felt important to share. The priest actually came up to us and apologized to us. He said he wished he had had a chance to talk to some of us before the funeral so he could have said something more meaningful about Muffy's life. Unfortunately, Muffy's mother had refused to give the names of any of his friends to the priest when she asked him to perform the funeral. He said he was very sorry. He stayed and listened to us talk for a while as we shared some of our stories. We thanked him for doing the best he could, and for saying at least some generous words of comfort during the ceremony, reminding us that Muffy was loved by God and that he would be welcomed in God's kingdom.

Afterwards, a number of Muffy's friends went to a restaurant together and reminisced. That was the real funeral for us. It was when Muffy could be remembered the way he deserved to be remembered.

One of the things that was hardest for Göran was seeing Muffy in the open casket. Muffy was in his early forties when he died, but he looked like he was eighty. AIDS had really ravaged his body. It was almost unbearable to Göran to think that he had died the way he had, so full of shame, and away from all his friends. As unkind as his mother was to us, we were at least grateful that she had taken care of him in the final months. I guess she had a certain image of him, and wanted to keep that image for herself, and didn't want to be reminded of his life as a gay man. All the pictures that were on display in the funeral home were pictures from more than twenty years ago, pictures of what Muffy had been in high school. There were actually pictures of him with a prom date. If you didn't know better, you'd think a heterosexual teenager had died, not a gay man in his early forties.

Apart from the personal loss for Göran, the funeral was a reminder to us that the AIDS epidemic is not over, even though there are incredible new treatments available. Somehow it felt to us like something had gone terribly wrong. Muffy shouldn't be dead. He should still be here. And then there was the anguish of the disconnect between Muffy's friends and his family. It was also a reminder to us of how important family is, and how painful it is for those of us who are gay when our families can't seem to reconcile themselves to this fundamental aspect of who we are.

We miss him, and we still love him, and we wish things had somehow gone better. But we are grateful too for the friendship we were blessed to have with him. Gratitude will just have to get us by until we meet again.

Friday, November 16, 2007

We Know Each Other's Weaknesses

There's a lot of anguish being expressed on the Moho blogs right now, accompanied by a crescendo of complaints that things have changed for the worse since the new Moho bloggers have come on the scene.

As one of the "new" bloggers, I'll try not to take that personally, especially since I have never attacked a fellow blogger, and have tried to avoid posting anything that might give offense to anyone else. That doesn't mean I couldn't have written something that inadvertently gave offense. If I have done that, I wish someone would tell me, so I can figure out how to avoid doing that in the future.

It has also always been my intention to encourage faith, and to encourage people to love each other. That's what I'm trying to build my whole life on lately, and that path has given me a lot of joy, joy that I wish for all others.

Everyone wants happiness. And those of us who believe in eternity want eternal happiness. But whether you believe in eternity or not, the fact is Mormons have never been pie-in-the-sky Christians. We've never believed happiness was for some beatific next life only. We've always believed that happiness in this life is secured by building our lives on principles that will secure happiness in the next.

Those principles include: love, faith, hope, family, and sacrifice.

No one promised this would be easy. And if you're gay, you get to pick your version of hard knocks. Depending which route you go -- marriage, celibacy, same-sex partnership -- you get a unique set of heartaches and challenges. Somehow, to me, if we beat others up for making a different choice from our own, we've failed the most fundamental test. So let's please start by being kind to each other. Let's start by acknowledging that the other guy, the one who took a path different from my own, has his own sets of pains and heartaches, and let's have enough empathy to want him to succeed, even if that's not where we want to go.

Most bloggers in this community have shared enough about themselves that we all know more than anyone has business knowing what buttons to push to hurt each other. We know each other's weaknesses. Let's try to grow our hearts big enough to make that sharing an opportunity for healing.

MoHo World War II Flying Aces

I had a very interesting dream back in September.

In this dream, all of the MoHo bloggers were World War II fighter pilots. You were all there... -L-, Beck, Abelard, Geckoman, Chedner, Elbow, Tito, Forester, Mohohawaii, everybody. We were all flying these various missions both in the European theater and on the Pacific.

In my dream, at first I figured we would be doing various bombing runs, to bomb Axis oil fields and factories. But when we got our orders, we were told that we must at all costs protect German, Italian, and Japanese wheat fields. As soon as we got the orders, we understood why. Once the war was over, our enemies needed to eat. We were fighting a war not to destroy, but to save lives.

I woke up with the most incredible feeling of peace. I realized that this is what I want for us in real life too. We are all involved in our individual struggles. We each have our own idea of what we need to do in order to be individually happy, and we are going about that in the best way we know how. But I hope and pray for there to be some kind of unity too, some kind of sacred brotherhood, some sense that we each are rooting for the others, some shared sense that what we must all be about is protecting and fostering life.

So I keep each of you in my prayers. I read your blogs carefully, and I try to get some sense of what you are struggling for, what you want, what will make you happy. And I am praying for you to achieve that. I hope you will pray for me in the same way.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Get Up Off Your Knees

I'm a when-it's-late-leave-the-dirty-dishes-till-the-morning kind of guy. Göran, on the other hand, is a do-the-dishes-now-and-wake-up-to-a-clean-house kind of guy. So we've had our occasional disagreements about when to do the dishes.

We had some friends over a couple of weeks ago, and Göran is also a pull-out-all-the-stops kind of host. So after our friends left, as usual, we had lots of dishes. And of course it was late. And did I mention, we don't have a dishwasher? (Or I should say, the dishwasher is Us.) I was tired, so I went upstairs, brushed my teeth, and retired to the bedroom for the evening. Before going upstairs, I had noticed that Göran had that "let's clean up now" look in his eyes, but I deliberately ignored it. I could tell he was a bit annoyed, but I thought, "Sometimes we could do this my way. And I don't feel like doing dishes till the morning!"

So I'm on my knees praying, and I can hear the water running in the sink downstairs, and I can hear the dishes starting to clatter. And I'm trying to focus on my prayers. And the Spirit very distinctly said to me: "John, get up off your knees and go downstairs and help your partner do the dishes!" And that's what I did.

Sometimes the best way to pray is standing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"God Loveth All Children": Seattle Sunstone Panel

Check out this post on the Sunstone blog. There are videos of a panel discussion at the Seattle Sunstone Symposium responding the the pamphlet "God Loveth His Children," featuring Ron Schow, Clark Pingree, and Clark's brother Dan.

Here are my observations on the panel discussion:

Ron said he felt the new Church literature on this subject described homosexual orientation as a “core characteristic” of individuals. It is true that the pamphlet “God Loveth His Children” acknowledges that homosexual orientation encompasses emotional and social elements, not just physical/sexual. But the thrust of the new literature is to suggest that homosexuality is not part of our eternal natures or selves. I suspect the general authorities who’ve made recent statements — Elder Oaks, Elder Wickman, Elder Holland — would not describe homosexual orientation as “core.” It has been explicitly suggested that homosexuality will vanish in the next life.

Ron correctly points out that this is a brand new theological position. In fact, I think it runs contrary to fundamental Mormon understandings of the continuity of human character between this life and the next. See, for example, Alma 34:34: “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”

This is where Clark’s testimony is important. He and many other gay men and lesbians (and I include myself) have experienced our sexual orientation as a core aspect of who we are. When we embrace this aspect of ourselves, we find peace, we feel closer to others and to God, and we find true joy in loving relationships with members of the same sex. When we reject this aspect of ourselves, we experience intense conflict, anguish, depression, and become alienated from friends, family, and from God. To us, this feels like part of our “created,” God-intended selves, as Clark repeatedly emphasizes throughout his talk. So many of us still feel a fundamental disconnect between some of the official statements, and our deepest, profoundest experiences.

I have a testimony of the Church. I feel drawn to Church fellowship, and have been attending Church regularly for two years now, and have sought to live as many principles of the gospel as I can, while also honoring my 15-year loving commitment to my same-sex partner, and given the restrictions of being excommunicated. Clark apparently has a testimony as well, though he acknowledges that he has distanced himself from the Church in significant ways.

Another piece of Clark’s presentation that I can totally relate to is his very strong sense of connection to his Heavenly Father — the love and guidance and comfort he feels he has received from God in coming to terms with this. I have experienced this as well, and an incredible outpouring of the Spirit as I have returned to regular Church attendance and incorporating regular prayer, scripture study, and the word of wisdom into my life, and as I have applied the principles of chastity to my relationship. I have felt completely embraced by God and supported in this path.

I do not feel any obstacles at all or any contradiction at all between the fundamental principles of the Gospel, or between my life as a spirit child of our Heavenly Father, and my loving relationship with my partner. There are obvious disconnects between my experience and current Church practice. I’m not sure what to make of those disconnects, but I pray that the Church will willingly listen to our experiences and be willing to wrestle with the disconnects as a community, so that we don’t have to wrestle with them painfully and alone, as we have had to do for so many years.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No More Beards?

I actually attended the panel at the 2005 Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium where I saw the presentation of the paper published in the October 2007 issue of Sunstone, "Clean-Shaven: No More Beards." The author's talk actually made me squirm a bit. Not because I particularly disagreed with her central argument -- that gay men and women should be allowed to choose to marry a same-sex partner if they wish -- but because of the angry tone. The predominant emotion I felt at the time was relief that I was not one Ben Christensen, some hapless homo who had earned her wrath by marrying a woman and then compounded the sin by daring to write about the experience in Dialogue. And what was worst of all when he married was he knew he was gay, and so did his fiancée! And apparently, after publishing his article in Dialogue, so did everybody else!

Now as you can see from this recent picture, I rather like beards, and so does my partner. (I've tried to shave it on numerous occasions, but he won't let me because he likes it.) We're not anti-beard in this household. But we're talking about literal beards, not the figurative type which is a pejorative term applied to the wife of a gay man. In the classic sense of this meaning of "beard," a gay man marries a woman in order to create the false impression that he is heterosexual, and then he fools around with men behind her back, all the while enjoying the benefits of heterosexual social privilege. We are not so fond of that kind of beard.

But obviously, neither is Ben Christensen. Or, maybe he just didn't get the instruction manual, because he failed to acquire a proper beard on at least two counts. He forgot that when you marry a woman, you are not supposed to announce to the whole world that you are gay. That sort of defeats the purpose of marrying a woman in order to hide your sexual identity. Second, you don't remain faithful to your wife, and make infidelity extremely difficult by announcing to her and to everyone else in advance that you are gay, thereby building a certain kind of accountability into your marriage. That to me seems like guaranteeing that you will get the worst of both worlds: public skepticism about you caused by homophobia, and private inability to experience the same-sex sexuality a very important part of you craves. It does also, on the other hand, help to ensure that your marriage is based on something like total honesty and genuine affection. Now call me crazy, but if a gay man wishes to marry a woman, he should do it exactly the way Ben did.

Now this essay did express concerns about marrying under such circumstances that I find quite legitimate. One concern is that the time for announcing your gayness to a potential opposite-sex romantic interest is early rather than late in the dating process, preferably on or before the first date. Why? Because once a woman becomes emotionally invested in a relationship, once she falls in love with someone, she is not likely to be able to think as clearly as she ought to about the realities of marrying a person of differing sexual orientation. And if you don't think that it is possible to become emotionally invested in a relationship after a single date, then you've never dated at BYU. The time for her to decide if this is really something she wants to get mixed up in is when she has zero emotional investment, and is therefore totally free to decide, "Yes, the difficulties will be worth it," or, "No, this is not what I've envisioned for me."

A second concern she expressed is that in a society and in a Church where there is such extreme bias against homosexuality, and where there are still lots of folks talking about and believing in the possibility of voluntary change in sexual orientation, it is still possible to have dangerously unrealistic attitudes going into such a marriage. Again, I agree. There's disclosure, and then there's disclosure. Telling a potential significant other that you once struggled with same-sex attraction and then leaving it at that is probably not sufficient. Encouraging a potential significant other to think in terms of life-long conditions, and maybe even pointing her to educational resources providing real-life stories of marriages that failed and marriages that succeeded under such circumstances probably is closer to what I'd consider full and fair disclosure. Inviting her to read MoHo blogs, for instance, might be a great starting point for such disclosure.

A third concern she expressed is one I agree with only partially. She complained that no one who's ever getting married has any clue what they're getting into. But no person on the verge of getting married -- gay or straight -- ever thinks seriously in terms of the possibility that this might fail. To the contrary, young engaged folks are almost always bubbling over with the we're going to take on the world and succeed where all others have failed mentality. They probably are not normal if they do not also occasionally have attacks of the what can we possibly be thinking mentality. This just goes with the territory of the two conditions of youth and marriage. And life just is not (or should not be) about always playing it safe.

I admire Ben/Mr. Fob a lot. I also respect his fundamental motives for getting married, which are obviously not (to anyone with eyes and a heart) trying to somehow wrongfully claim heterosexual privilege that doesn't/shouldn't belong to him. His motives as I understand them, as he himself has clearly explained, include wanting his own biological family, and that is an understandable, even admirable, motivation. He clearly loves FoxyJ a lot. And there are certain things about marriage that should be held sacrosanct, one of which is namely that how Ben/Mr. Fob and FoxyJ work things out between them to make their marriage thrive and be happy is their business.

There is a heartache for me, though. It is to do with the fact that while Ben and others who pursue the particular path of love he has pursued are guaranteed protections and privileges and even a certain social status, my partner and I find ourselves facing very real disadvantages and discrimination because of the path of love we have pursued. I understand our choice is evil and all that, so we probably deserve whatever we get. But still, when you truly love someone, you hate to think that he might be imprisoned just because he can't establish his citizenship through you, or that he might get really sick and be hospitalized, and you would not have the fundamental right of helping to ensure that he gets the medical care he needs, and so on. And I am aware that folks feel obliged to deny me and the love of my life those kinds of fundamental human rights, because apparently the success of the entire Western-Civilization-thing depends upon coercing us to marry heterosexually. But it is a heartache nonetheless.

I have sort of given up on the worldly marriage thing. I have gradually grown in the awareness that whatever society says and does, there comes a point where you have to grow up, face your feelings, and take responsibility for your moral choices and your relationships. You have to figure out who you are, what you want, and then accept the risks and consequences of pursuing the path that you know is right for you. In Mormon circles, there's a special term we have for that: Free Agency. I admire Ben (and Beck, and Abelard, and Geckoman, and -L- and others) for having done that, and I pray for the grace and the love and the courage to do the same.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Relative Good

The relative good of every human achievement is always threatened by the chaos of evil and by the judgment of a good God who destroys man's imperfect handiwork in order to make room for something better.

-- Reinhold Niehbuhr, Beyond Tragedy

Freedom, Part II

Today Göran received his amended birth certificate in the mail. Finally, he is free. We are free. We can apply for passports now. We have no money for big travels! But it's the principle of the matter. Once we get the passports, we might celebrate by driving up to Thunder Bay, Canada, and having dinner in the Finnish quarter at the Hoito.


Thursday, November 8, 2007


I first started to date men in the fall of 1988. This was after I had spent a summer in a Roman Catholic monastery, exploring celibacy as a life calling, and after much fasting, prayer, and discernment, I had come to the conclusion that celibacy was not my calling. I had had a very important spiritual experience during my coming out process, in which I had been praying for God to help me discern whether I should seek to marry a woman, or whether I should live a life of celibacy, and the Spirit said very clearly to me: "Be open to all the possibilities." So after ruling marriage out and exploring celibacy, I felt free to explore the possibility of a relationship with a man.

I was 25 years old, and had never really dated. Not really. I had gone on dates with women, but those dates had been infrequent, and I had never dated anyone I was interested in having anything more than a casual friendship with. When I opened myself to the possibility of a relationship with a man, I suddenly found this huge reservoir of emotion bursting forth: excitement, eagerness, anxiety, fear, relief, longing. Whereas I had always been a casual, uninterested participant in dating with women, now I felt I had a huge investment. Now I had a potential to enter into something that would have huge personal significance.

I began with the idea that I was going to find "Mr. Right," and enter into a life-long, monogamous commitment with him. At the same time, I had no idea practically how to do that.

The first gay groups I got involved in were the various religious groups -- Lutherans Concerned, Dignity (Catholics) and Integrity (Episcopalians). But most of the participants in these groups tended to be older men, men I wasn't so attracted to. I also got involved in the University Gay Community, the group for gay men at the University of Minnesota. But most of these men were 4-8 years younger than I was -- not an age difference that seems like much to me now, but then seemed huge. In most significant ways, these guys were much less mature than I was. But they were also much more sophisticated than I was when it came to dating and relating to other gay men. I guess it would be generous to say that I was introverted, intimidated, and socially awkward in that setting, and found it extremely painful to try to meet men I might date there.

My first real gay friend was involved in none of these groups. I had met him at Lutheran Campus Ministry, though he was only marginally involved in this group. His approach to gay dating was: Cruise the gay bars downtown, find a man you think is hot, and convince him to take you home with him and have sex. If the two of you manage to go on a second date, you're on your way to a relationship! Most of the time, a second date never materialized. There were an awful lot of guys in that scene who considered love or commitment the ultimate turn-off. My friend Paul frequently took me with him out to the bars, and I watched this activity going on all around me, though I couldn't bring myself to participate in it... at first.

One of the problems I was encountering as I began the painful process of going on my first dates was the almost universal expectation that sex would happen very early in the dating process; most often on the first or second date. I had assumed -- from my limited heterosexual dating experience -- that sex would happen only after we had gotten to know each other very well and felt almost certain that we wanted a committed, monogamous relationship with each other. I discovered that, in the words of one friend, "Having sex is to gay men what sniffing butts is to dogs." I realized that if I said no to sex, I risked giving the impression that I was not really interested in dating, no matter how much I protested to the contrary.

I also found that my moral framework for resisting this kind of behavior was seriously eroded by a couple of basic facts.

Basic Fact Number One: getting married is not an option. How does this erode the moral framework for resisting promiscuity? Because marriage gives you a specific, concrete, publicly, commonly acknowledged boundary inside of which sexual activity is blessed, and outside of which sexual activity is frowned upon. Marriage is a solemn commitment you enter into with the intention to make it last. It is a moment when both partners clearly and publicly define their relationship to each other, and to all their gathered friends and families. If marriage is not an option, then how do you know when a relationship is serious enough for sex? Determining that becomes a much more slippery process, much more susceptible to rationalization.

Basic Fact Number Two: homosexuality is considered beyond the moral pale. When you come from a background where no homosexual behavior is ever considered moral no matter what the context, then you are left with the corollary that all homosexual behavior is equally immoral (or moral). Once you get to the point where you are open to considering a same-sex relationship, it is easy to find yourself questioning whether any norms of sexual morality apply to you any more. If the Church was wrong about being gay, why wouldn't it be wrong about sex and marriage? (Oh, yeah, we can't get married anyway.) Why wouldn't it be wrong about monogamy? (Oh yeah, the Church used to believe in polygamy.) It's easy to sink into extreme cynicism and moral relativism. It's easy to convince yourself, or allow yourself to be convinced, that nothing is wrong any more.

Then you enter a scene where that "nothing-is-wrong" notion is the operative assumption, and you start to feel that if you want any chance at happiness, you pretty much have to accept those terms. Or let me own it, that is how I came to feel. I accepted those terms.

I think at the beginning my approach was something like this: you want a relationship with a man. The circumstances under which you have the possibility of getting one aren't ideal. But you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs; you can't plant a garden without getting your hands dirty. So just take the plunge. Live life. There was a great quote by Martin Luther that I loved: "Sin boldly!" The idea was, if you are constantly worried about being perfect, you cannot live. You will hide in a corner your whole life trying to avoid mistakes, when you should be out living. Accept that you will make mistakes. Learn from them. Move on. The chance at finding love is worth it.

So I did. I started dating. I had sex. I enjoyed myself. And then love struck.

I met a guy through the University Gay Community, actually. He was a grad student like myself. We were a similar age, at a similar place in our coming out processes. He was gorgeous. He was intellectual. He was an activist. He was perfect. I fell hard. We started dating. We had sex on our second date, and the sex was incredible. Sex with him was always incredible, a transcendent experience for me. And I was convinced I had found the man I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I only gradually realized, when we met he was sort of rebounding from a break-up with some guy named Daniel. In the course of our relationship, he would bounce back and forth between ecstasy that I was the true love of his life, and being wobbly and uncertain and stand-offish. Finally, he called it quits. He told me the relationship was over. "We can still be friends," he told me.

I was shattered. I was so sure this was the one. For the first day after the break-up, I was in shock. I literally couldn't stop crying. I showed up at work at the University Archives, and then I hid back in the stacks where no one could see me, the tears running down my face. I ended up having to go home early. I think I was still in some form of mourning for at least a month.

Gradually I got over it. But before I had really gotten over it, I was already back in the dating scene. I could find another Mr. Right, I thought. And find him I did... I thought. But then I had my second Mr. Right break up with me. Then I started dating another Mr. Right. But eventually he broke up with me too.

When the third Mr. Right broke up with me, he told me that he didn't really believe in relationships. He thought there were really great (non-sexual) friendships, which could last a life-time, and then there was sex, which you got wherever you could find it. But you didn't expect anything from sexual partners but sex. He didn't want anything more from me than that. My interest in a commitment left him feeling trapped. He wanted the relationship to end before it got too serious.

That shattered me in a different way. At that point, I was losing not just a boyfriend, not just a relationship. I was losing faith that it might ever be possible for me to find a relationship that I could fashion into the great love of my life, into a life-long commitment.

Following that break-up, I met Göran, the great love of my life.

Though at that point I did not know it yet. When I met Göran I was completely jaded about relationships. Göran and I dated for about a month, and then I broke up with him, using the same shallow lines that had been used on me in my last break-up. I didn't feel I really wanted a commitment. I just wanted friendships. Sex was something you did to satisfy a hunger, to fill an ephemeral need, that's all. You shouldn't invest yourself in it really, any more than you'd invest yourself in the hamburger you're going to eat for dinner. That was really how I'd come to feel.

For about a year following my break-up with Göran, I lived my life very promiscuously. There were a lot of one night stands. I met men anonymously at gay beaches and t-rooms and at the gym and in cruisy parts of town.

I'd like to say I was terribly unhappy, but I was not. I was actually fairly contented with my life because I had lowered my expectations to match what I was getting out of life. "Oh, so this is as good as it gets. Oh well. I can live with this."

And then I met Göran again. And at the point in my life where I met him again, I realized that in fact I could enter a relationship with him, and that maybe that relationship could be a good thing. I could do with it, I could do without it, I thought. I didn't need it. But it could be a good thing. So we started going steady. And going steady evolved into moving into an apartment together. And then one day in August of 1995, we got married. Göran had this crazy notion that had just not entered into my thick Mormon skull that it didn't matter that we couldn't get legally married, what mattered was our commitment to each other. I was skeptical about the benefits of that corrupt heterosexual institution. But once we actually went through the ceremony, I can say there was a tangible difference in the quality of our relationship. It really did matter. It really made a difference.

Almost immediately after Göran and I had made some sort of commitment to each other, I realized how being in a relationship that truly works, where there is true love and reciprocity and sharing and commitment, is infinitely more joyful than the rootless, promiscuous lifestyle I had once settled for. What I did not realize was the depth of joy that could become possible in this relationship. That has taken me much work and many years to fully appreciate.

I realized that I had settled for a lie in accepting a promiscuous life-style, a lie that I told myself to mask the pain I had experienced when earlier relationships had not worked out. What I also realized is that the promiscuity was damaging in fundamental ways I had never anticipated it would be. It created patterns of thought and behavior that caused real problems in my relationship with Göran. To his credit, his love for me was greater than those problems. We have worked through those issues together, and I gradually began to discover the true joys of commitment. Repentance is possible. There is grace and atonement. My loving partner has taught me that.

Then came the call of the Spirit. Since returning to the Church, the Spirit has essentially said to me: "You have found a good way. Now let me teach you a better way." Like the moon is brighter than the stars, my relationship with Göran was more joyful than the promiscuous lifestyle I had once lived. But as I have recommitted myself to apply the principles of chastity in thought and in my heart, as I have set pornography aside and guarded my heart and sought to practice restraint, and given myself completely to Göran, the glory of our relationship now to the way our relationship once was is like the light of the sun is to the light of the moon. I anticipate that our future will only continue to grow and deepen and get better and more glorious in every way imaginable.

I'm inclined to say that sex is a good thing. It is an inherent, intrinsic good, and when we enjoy it even under circumstances that are not ideal, it is still a gift of God. But the goodness of it can be relative. And it is worthwhile to strive to experience it and appreciate it under circumstances that afford us the greatest possible good.

In October 2006 I spoke on a panel at the Affirmation Convention in Portland. I spoke about these experiences. One of the participants raised his hand and expressed frustration that, in entering the dating scene, he was discovering the same problems that I had experienced years ago in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He wanted to date in a more restrained, ethical manner. But he just didn't know how to do that. There are so few in the gay community at large who share those kinds of values. And if he limited himself to those who did share those values, his choices would be impossibly limited.

I didn't have much good advice to give him. I could hardly point to my own life as exemplary. In many ways, I feel as if my happiness is the result of dumb luck. I often behaved in ways that were almost calculated to deprive me of any happiness at all. Sometimes I feel I do not deserve to be happy. Yet here I am, happier than I could ever have imagined I would be.

But I've had time to re-think my answer to this question. I think we can hold on to our values, I think we can keep a moral compass. I think we do have to live life. We have to be OK with making mistakes. And if you are a gay man, you may find you have to seek a relationship under circumstances that are not ideal. But we still need to remind ourselves that accepting non-ideal circumstances is not the same thing as saying that our values don't matter, or that all behavior is morally equivalent. And there are certain places we just shouldn't go and that we don't need to go. How to navigate these waters is not easy. Each of us will have hard choices to make that ultimately we alone bear the responsibility for. I have learned this the hard way.

I realize that I went an extreme route in some ways. Not everyone experiments or explores their sexuality to the extent or in the way I did. Again, I feel lucky. Dumb, undeserved luck. Some people go that route and they don't make it back. When General Authorities warn against behavior that is immoral, this is incredibly wise advice that we should seek prayerfully to implement as best we can. I have lived to experience deep sorrow for the things I did. I do not believe promiscuous behavior to be "victimless." It hurt me and it hurt others. It was not necessary for me to learn in this way. This is one reason I have become a firm advocate for same-sex marriage and for developing broader social support and role models for gay men to build relationships in healthy ways that respect ourselves, respect our bodies, and respect our sexuality. Mohohawaii has posted some good advice on his site for gay men considering dating other men. We need more discussions about this that acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly, and always take us closer to the good.

Religious opposition to social supports like same-sex marriage I feel to be terribly, profoundly misguided. Such opposition contributes to the moral anomie that is destroying the lives of many, many gay men. Promiscuity does not serve God's purposes. It desensitizes us, it erodes our capacity for genuine love. It cuts us off from the Spirit. It dehumanizes us. This serves Satan's purposes, not God's. The people of God should support anything that helps put safeguards in place and that pulls brothers (and some sisters) back from that brink of destruction.

Our sexuality is sacred, far more sacred than most of us realize. Restraint, self-control, waiting for the right person and the right time is a good thing. It refines us and enables us to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly. Commitment makes life worth living. Whatever is good becomes far better when we stick with it and work at it. And love is the sacred fabric of the Universe, the beginning and end of our existence and the source of our divine being. Sex that serves love's agenda is the only kind of sex really worth having.