Friday, July 27, 2007

The Most Destructive Voices

There are too many voices telling me that since I don't live up to the Church's standards, I shouldn't even try to be good. I'm not celibate. I'm not married to a woman. I'm in a relationship with a man. I am clearly out of harmony with the clearly stated standards. So if I can't even fulfill the minimum requirement, why even try?

Why go to Church? Why read the scriptures? Why pray? Why seek the guidance of the Spirit -- the Spirit can't possibly bother with me, right? The Spirit should flee right away from the likes of me...

I have listened to those voices before, and they led me in the path of destruction. They led me to do things that hurt me, that hurt others, and that left me in despair.

Those voices insist that they are right, that everyone who disagrees with them is out of step, dead wrong, and destined for the pit.

There is a voice that says exactly the opposite of what those voices tell me. There is a voice that says, You are good. You are loved. Do not listen to those who condemn. They are wrong. Have patience. Be faithful. Look at your life and find just one thing you can make better. Focus on that. And each time you succeed, be glad for yourself. Then take another step.

Thank God I have learned to hear that voice and listen to it. The sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd, and they follow it.


GeckoMan said...

Even though I can't connect all the dots with some voices, particularly when it comes to reconciling some church positions or some people's diatribe for our 'alternative orientation' to our actual experiences, but I just let it be. My faith is simple: I trust in a loving God who will recall MY words and works and evaluate their efficacy by those who I love and serve. I must be true to that. I must be true to HIS voice. Let the OTHER voices say what they may; He can deal with that.

playasinmar said...

"Why go to Church? Why read the scriptures? Why pray? Why seek the guidance of the Spirit -- the Spirit can't possibly bother with me, right? The Spirit should flee right away from the likes of me..."

Are these the voices of the Adversary or the ward members?

J G-W said...

Jesus said "Get thee behind me, Satan!"... to Peter. Yes, even faithful members of the Church can be the source of the destructive voices in our lives. Anything and anyone that discourages us from following the Spirit should be ignored.

Yet, we should not be bitter toward other members of the Church who simply don't understand our situation and may say things out of their own ignorance or because of their own struggles with their own issues. Neither should we ever contribute to the destructive voices that might discourage them from their own equally important paths.

We all drink from the same fountain. We are all children of the same Father, we all seek forgiveness for our sins from the same Lord, we all need the guidance of the same Spirit.

Beck said...

You continue to amaze me! Your comments here and your comments on Playsinmar's post on the new Church Pamphlet and comparing the plight of faithful black members with faithful gay members are simply brilliant.

Thank you for making me think bigger and more all inclusive in my thinking, especially within the realm of the voices of the Church and church members, as well as x-members who won't accept either a position of doing the best we can in following the still small voice!

-L- said...

I've fallen short so many times, it's laughable. I've struggled with porn for so many years that it seems like it's been, well, a third of my life. Anyway, I'm very glad that my struggles have been largely private and that I don't have people offering the kind of judgmental discouragement you've had to put up with.

I really respect and appreciate the way you encourage people to do the best they can. I don't agree with some of the things you write, but I hope I've never been insensitive in responding to you.

You are one of the most insightful and articulate bloggers I read, and I'm very grateful for your thoughts.

J G-W said...

Geckoman and Beck - You are among of the voices of encouragement. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart. You are among the sweetest people I know.

-L- I'm not always on the same page with you either, but I have tremendous admiration for you, so your kind words mean very, very much to me. I would characterize your interactions with me as respectful, sensitive, and compassionate. I hope my interactions with you have been (and always will be) the same.

There is something very special about you gay married Mormon guys. You are building and fighting for love that can last an eternity, love that looks beyond surfaces, and I think the very nature of that struggle has made you much, much better people. I'm honored to know you and hope to continue to learn to know you better and learn more from you.

Elbow said...

Well said!

Learning to distinguish between the voices that tell me to live my life out of doubt and fear vs. love and trust is has been an astounding journey.

You're thoughts on this subject have given me added motivation to further follow the voices that I need to listen to more offten.

gentlefriend said...

I believe in a loving Heavenly Father who wants to lift us, lead us and bless us. If we but open up to Him, He will embrace us. He takes us from where we are and leads us to something better. The challenges He gives to each of us are different. Everyone is unique. "Something better" may be different for you than it is for me. I cannot understand my own chemistry, let alone someone else's. My responsibility is to listen to His voice speaking to my uniqueness and to follow. Do I have the capacity to understand and the right to judge another's choices. No. I have seen too many people more righteous than I who belong to other churches or no church to write anyone off because his or her path diverges from the path I am called to follow. Yes, I condemn what I interpret to be hatred, bigotry, injustice, greed: anything that brings abuse, exploitation and unrighteous pain to others. But when I see people following another path doing good, blessing others, sacrificing for the common good: basically living the teachings of Christ, whether they believe in Him or not, I am humbled. I have enough weaknesses in living the law of love myself to spend time beating up on others for choosing a path different than mine. Will God bless and lead someone struggling with SGA who strives to live the law of love in a same sex relationship. Yes, I believe He does. How can I say this as a committed Latter-day Saint? Because I don't know all that God knows. I have no concept of the breadth of His love. But I do know that He loves all of His children, even me with all of my imperfections. He certainly loves you!

I hope that this tirade has made some sense.

J G-W said...

Gentlefriend - your "tirade" makes perfect sense. Would that there were more such tirades in the world!

The Latter-day Saints have many imperfections. But one reason I want to be among them is because I have observed that the longer the Saints have been exposed to the leavening influence of the Restored Gospel the better, gentler, kinder, and more loving they seem to become. No, they don't always "get" what it means to live with SSA. But they are capable of astonishing acts of love even toward those they don't understand. I witnessed one such event last weekend, and I plan to blog about it when I have a spare moment!!

Among such people is where I want to be.

The majority of the negative voices I mention in my blog do not come from the Saints, but from inside my own head. A member of the Church may unknowingly say something dumb that triggers these more destructive voices. If the Saints were better educated about the issues related to SSA, it would be much easier to avoid triggering such painful feelings and thoughts. But ultimately, I accept my own responsibility too to learn to discern between what is destructive and misleading, and what is truly the voice of the Spirit urging me onward down the path of greater trust, compassion, hope, and service.

Thanks, Gentlefriend, your words of encouragement mean very, very much to me.

Forester said...

My small voice can't add very much to what has been said, but nonetheless, I add. Often people forget, including members of the church, that it is not for us to judge each other. We are to uplift, help and serve each other. I always tell my kids that life is too hard and mean outside of our home for us to be cruel and mean to each other inside our home. If we don't love and support each other, the world will crumble down around us and destroy us.

GeckoMan said...

I love thinking and talking about this kind of stuff! And I love what you said here:

"There is a voice that says, You are good. You are loved. Do not listen to those who condemn. They are wrong. Have patience. Be faithful."

Having the courage to listen to and obey this kind of voice, rather than the voice of dogma, operates the kind of faith needed to transform oneself from stuck in the mud to 'free at last!' It is here we find a reservoir of love that brings peace and satisfaction to our conflicted souls.

But what of the voice of conscience that reminds us of our sin and the need for repentance when we break God's laws? How can we distinguish between this voice for compliance and the destructive voices of intolerance that adhere to similar rules of religious structure?

J G-W said...

You are absolutely right. Sin is real, and we need to pay attention to it, and it is a common error to equate "You are OK" with "You don't need to make any changes in your life."

In my experience, however, when conscience and the voice of the Spirit work together, I am always able to see a clear way forward. I recognize failings frequently; often the Spirit helps point them out to me. But when that happens, I never feel crushed, I never feel condemned. I always have a clear sense of, "OK, now here's what you need to do to move forward and make things better." And it may not always be easy, but I always have a clear sense that I can do it.

When others judge us, they typically do it by a false standard. They in fact do not know what the best way forward is for anyone else but themselves. They do not know our unique challenges and circumstances. And often they judge out of a need to make themselves feel better, rather than to help another forward. Another person's feedback may be helpful. To say, "Here is what I observe" is helpful. But too often, we encounter judgments from people as if they see and know exactly what the verdict before the bar of Christ will be.

Christ has specifically warned us never to engage in such judgment-mongering, at the peril of our own souls. I am certain that the strenuousness of the commandment not to judge is in part because of how damaging such false judgment is to those who are on the receiving end of it.