Monday, January 28, 2013

Two Words on Criticism

I've just arrived home from an exhausting, deeply satisfying weekend gathering of the new Affirmation leadership.  It was spiritual, powerful, and exciting.  I have never come away from a gathering of gay Mormons feeling more deeply bonded to brothers and sisters who are committed to such an important work of gathering, reconciling, and healing.

We rolled up our sleeves, worked hard, and accomplished the difficult task we set out to accomplish, namely, translating a broad vision into concrete goals and objectives, with measurable outcomes that will tell us whether we're succeeding or failing.

Seeing that word "failing" in front of me in black and white on the video screen reminds me that there are lives at stake.  It's sobering.

We also had plenty of time to relax together.  We were gathered in a city full of sights that I had no desire to see.  I couldn't pull myself away from the fellowship of this astounding, inspiring group of LGBT Mormons and our brave, energetic, wise, straight allies.  We ate, we talked and talked and talked and talked, we played games, sang hymns around the piano (God is very pleased when the gays sing!), and then we talked some more.  We needed that time of bonding because the work ahead will be difficult and will stress us in different ways, sometimes to our limits.

Sunday afternoon, the majority of the gathering participants had dispersed.  A few of us still waiting for late flights, however, had gathered in the home of Greg Prince (author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism).  We spent the entire afternoon in scintillating conversation on a variety of topics related to faith, Mormon history, and the "gay Mormon moment."  Our conversation always ranged back into the topic at hand; serious reflection on the work Affirmation has cut out for itself.

At some point, individuals brought to my attention scathing on-line criticism of Affirmation's new leadership.  The miracles of modern technology and social networking meant they could show me in real time our names (my name!), singled out for attack, and from more than one source.  In one source that was pointed out to me, we were being attacked by an LDS conservative.  In another source, we were being savaged by an LGBT ex-Mormon.  One criticism had been brought to my attention by a long-time straight ally, the other by one of the youngest and newest members of the Affirmation team.

To be honest, I wasn't surprised in the least, given the sources.  In fact I don't generally read in those sources and don't worry too much what they have to say, because the kind of criticism that was being leveled against us was pretty predictable, and nothing I would normally bother to respond to.  But I saw the pained look in the eyes and sensed the worry of the individuals who'd brought them to my attention.

Here's what I will say.  I'll confine myself to two short words on the subject.

Word 1: If you are being criticized by no one, it is the surest sign that you are doing no thing of any good to anybody.  The easiest way to avoid public criticism all together is to do nothing.  And the more difficult and important the work you are trying to do, the more certain you are to garner criticism, and the harsher that criticism is likely to be.

So do not be dismayed by harsh criticism, especially when you are acting out of a passion that flows from deep within, as we are in Affirmation right now.  That criticism is the surest sign that we are on the path that needs to be trodden, right here and right now.

One of our central tasks has to do with reconciliation.  That means there are sides that are unreconciled.  That means we have volunteered to enter an arena where we will inevitably take fire from both sides.  So all is well.  Criticism means we're right in the spot we intended to put ourselves.

Word 2: If someone is taking the time to criticize you, it means they feel some stake in what you are trying to accomplish.  What they say may be unfair, it may not take all the facts into account (because they are not in a position to know the facts), it may be mean spirited or lazy.  (The most vocal critics are often the ones who will gladly take up a poison pen, but not lift a finger to help.)  But if they have a stake in what we're trying to do, they have the right to criticize and we may have an obligation to at least consider the import of what they say to the outcomes we hope to achieve.

At the very least criticism may have the benefit of showing us our blind spots, or reminding us of the very real challenges we face.  So -- while we shouldn't let criticism dissuade us from pursuing our passions -- if we can find the largesse of spirit to consider whether there is something to it, it may strengthen us.

It should, in any event, be a reminder to us of the seriousness with which we should take important work.  Criticism can be like the lights on the edges of an airport runway, showing us the extremes we're trying to steer between as we're coming in for a landing.

Bottom line...  Criticism is no cause for discouragement, but rather the opposite.  Take heart in the fact that no great reward will come to us without engaging ourselves in ways that expose us to critics.  And let their criticism spur us to commit ourselves more deeply to a cause, the success of which will benefit not only us, but ultimately our critics as well.

Finally, the sting of criticism can remind us of the value of words of encouragement, love and support.  We LGBT folks have already experienced deeply the sting of unsparing judgment by folks who don't understand the challenges we face.  Those of us who are united in a good cause need to use criticism like salt -- sparingly!  We need to love each other unconditionally and be unstinting in our praise for the good we see around us.  Of course there will be times when we need to collectively reevaluate and critique our own efforts.  If we didn't, we wouldn't be serious about the work.  But I find I'm most empowered to self-criticize when I am able to do so in an environment of unconditional love and support. 

If we are truly doing this for all of us, and our actions always flow from our love and our truest, deepest passions, we will find a way.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The REAL "Oh Shit!" Moment

Last night, I was up late with an amazing gathering of gay, lesbian and bisexual Mormons.  I'm in Washington, DC this weekend, at the first Affirmation international leadership gathering of a new Affirmation leadership.

It went really late, later than Randall intended.  The reason it went late is because we were going around a table of sixteen of us, each telling our stories.  And fortunately Randall started us off by telling us his story in a very unexpurgated way, with all the painful twists and turns of his gay Mormon story.  So it took a long time, but he took us on a journey with him.  And each one of us in turn followed suit, and told a story.  Many winding stories.

As the clock ticked on and it got later and later (and there was some sense of urgency because we have a busy schedule ahead of us today, and we knew that the later we were there telling our stories, the sooner dawn would call us to a new busy day) I was feeling more and more the thick presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, urging us on, giving urgency to the stories we were telling.

Even though the stories were all different, there was a theme I heard repeated again and again and again.  Many individuals told, in their own way, of the first "Oh Shit!" moment we had in our lives: The moment we realized we were gay or bi or had feelings of same-sex attraction or were homosexual, or however we defined that for ourselves at the time.  (Some of us many years ago, though I won't say how many!)  But there was a second, even worse "Oh Shit!" moment.

The real "Oh Shit!" moment was the moment we realized: We still had testimonies of the gospel.  For some of us, that moment came short on the heels of our self-understanding of our sexuality.  For some us, it took years for that second, most dreadful "Oh Shit!" moment to sink in.  But eventually it got us.

The feelings that second moment provoked were always complex.  Fear, anger, confusion.  Always, "How the bleep do I deal with this?"

But then, there was the: "Oh" moment.

That was the moment the Holy Spirit spoke to us in terms too powerful to deny, and terms too sweet to express in human language.  The moment God reassured us we were totally, unconditionally, eternally and completely loved in the fullness of who we were, as we were.  Again, when that moment came varied.  Sometimes after many twists and turns in an on-rolling road, sometimes almost immediately.

There was a collective "Oh" moment last night too.  The moment we realized that it was not Affirmation that had gathered us here, but the Spirit of God.  And the moment we realized we were here because God is doing a great work in our midst, and he had a work for us to do.

The lateness of the hour mattered nothing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I did an interview recently with Daniel Parkinson for the Gay Mormon Stories podcast.  The interview has recently been published in four parts:
  • Part 1 covers my upbringing, my mission, my experience at BYU, and the depression I experienced after my mission as a result of struggles in relation to my sexuality;
  • Part 2 covers how I was saved from near suicide, my departure from the Church, and my search for deeper understanding of my relationship with God and of my sexuality;
  • Part 3 covers the challenges of finding a husband, and -- once I'd found Göran -- building a home and family with him; my early exploration of the connections between spirituality and sexuality; and my coming out to and reconciliation with my parents; and
  • Part 4 covers my return to the LDS Church, becoming the father of a gay son, and what my journey with the Church has meant to me and my family, ending with my testimony.
Part of what I love about the "Mormon Stories" format is its extravagance.  Participants are allowed to just tell their stories without worrying about time or other constraints, and then the raw story is published in podcast format with minimal editing.  The result is a sometimes very long interview (mine is about 5 1/2 hours in total, when you put parts 1 - 4 all together).

That's perhaps much longer than most people are willing to listen.  But it's also more conversational and real, and allows you to immerse yourself in the grit of people's real stories in all of their grandiose complexity.

Daniel was a good interviewer.  He's a professional psychologist, and he managed to get my guard down and get me talking about stuff that, in retrospect, surprised me a bit.  I shared some stuff I've never shared in any other context.

Daniel and I, though contemporaries at BYU and in the Mormon mission field (he also served in a French-speaking mission), come from fairly different perspectives (his much more secular than mine).  Those differences made for a much more interesting interview.  I was sometimes startled by the thoughts and memories his questions provoked.  The end result felt strangely satisfying.

Gay Mormon Stories is part of a much larger enterprise of documenting and disseminating stories of LGBT Mormons that is taking place in many different places and formats: through blogs, published memoirs (just search on "gay Mormon" on, documentaries and dramas.  Increasingly, the national media are tapping into the gay Mormon experience as well.  The quantity of data is increasingly overwhelming.  Extravagant.  But there seems to be a hunger for it -- both inside and out of the Church.

The historian in me wonders what future historians will make of the mass of data we are in the process of accumulating and archiving.  I wouldn't dare to predict which direction history is moving (as some do).  I've studied enough history to know that there are always surprises.

But in the meantime I'm awed by the power of asking simple questions, and seeking answers from the storehouse of our lives.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A New Blog about the LGBT Mormon Experience

Recently I was approached by John Dehlin, who asked if I might be interested in participating in an exciting new project...  A new blog à la Feminist Mormon Housewives or By Common Consent that focuses on the experience of being gay and Mormon.  After much wrangling over a name for the blog, we settled on "No More Strangers," with the tag line, "LGBT Mormon Forum."  I've written the pilot post, explaining the name and laying out our aspirations for the blog.

The list of other "permabloggers" is impressive.  It includes folks who've been voices for LGBT inclusion and understanding in the Church decades before it became fashionable to do so, folks like Bob Rees, Carol Lynn Pearson and Bill Bradshaw.  But also lots of new voices and faces like John Dehlin (of Mormon Stories fame); Kendall Wilcox (Far Between and Mormons Building Bridges); Erika Munson (Mormons Building Bridges);  Bridey Jensen (USGA); Amanda Klein Nokleby, Kevin Kloosterman and Daniel Parkinson (the Gay Mormon Stories podcast); Mitch Mayne (in the leadership of the Bay Ward, San Francisco Stake); Jim Struve (a therapist engaged in affirming therapy work with LGBT folks); Laura Compton, Scott Holley and Spencer Clark (Mormons for Marriage Equality); Berta Marquez (an activist on behalf of Utah LGBT youth); Cary Crall (former BYU activist and activist on LGBT health); Tom and Wendy Montgomery (LDS Family Fellowship); and Randall Thacker and me (Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons).  There are a few others we're hoping will come on board, whom we'll announce in due course with due fanfare.

I guess the main challenge for me is stepping into a larger community where I will work closely with a variety of folks with varying perspectives and experience in a potentially very contentious field.  I guess over the years it's dawned on me that being in a committed same-sex marriage of over 20 years now, being out and excommunicated, and being a believing, practicing Latter-day Saint who am active in my ward is something many folks consider an oddity.  Being odd, it's always been easier for me to keep to myself over here on my own personal blog, tending my own garden and making good neighbors with good fences.

Being active now as senior vice president of Affirmation and getting involved in a collective writing venture like No More Strangers (not to mention the political activism I was involved in last year) means interacting with a variety of folks I may or may not see eye-to-eye with, and obligating me to work on important issues where I can find common ground with others but where I don't always get to define the terms and conditions of our cooperation.  I guess in some quarters, that's called, "Putting your shoulder to the wheel."

Writers on the blog include folks who consider themselves "culturally" Mormon, though no longer believing or practicing, folks who are active in the LDS community who wrestle with doubt, folks who are on the fringes of the LDS community who wrestle with faith, as well folks who are active, committed, testimony-bearing Mormons (whether that makes us oddities or not).

The blog will certainly comment on developments in the LGBT and Mormon communities (and in the places where they intersect).  And there is certainly a lot to comment on in that arena at a period in history where the Mormon community is opening up to dialog around this issue in a quite spectacular way!  But we won't necessarily confine ourselves to those topics.  We anticipate writing on a number of interesting topics that have nothing to do with being LGBT or Mormon, but that our perspective as LGBT Mormons and allies could shed light on.

I anticipate writing a column that will serially examine the entire standard works of the LDS Church (and a few not so standard works), "likening the scriptures unto us" as LGBT Mormons.  Others have interesting ideas of their own, that I can hardly wait to see unfold over time.

Please come over and check us out!  We welcome guest bloggers!  Contact us through the blog if you're interested and would like to contribute!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Life's Greatest Treasure

Having recorded over 1000 dreams, I've noticed that certain dream symbols seem to go together. It seems whenever I have a dream involving a museum, there are always ghosts involved. I suppose it makes a certain kind of sense. Museums and ghosts both have to do with the past, with things that are dead and gone, but that still retain a kind of half-life through memory and through history. Since I am a historian, it makes sense that I would have dreams that involve both museums and ghosts! Except that usually when I have these dreams they're kind of scary. This was certainly true of the dream I had this past Monday night. The dream culminated with me and Göran and all of the inhabitants of some unnamed Hawaiian island gathered in front of a museum that was haunted.

In this dream, the powerful evil spirit that possessed the museum had been pursuing and harassing me throughout the dream. Göran and I had to been on a flight to Hawaii, when the evil spirit had possessed the navigation equipment of the airplane and caused it to crash into the ocean. Everyone on board drowned except for Göran and me. Later, out of paranoia that the spirit might possess anybody, I attacked somebody, resulting in a fight and then a pursuit to the shores the ocean.

As I reflected more deeply on the dream symbolism, I realized that the museum, which from the outside looked like an enormous mansion, represented the powers that rule this world. In some Gnostic literature, the ocean represents worldly, material consciousness. So the evil spirit trying to drown me and Göran by crashing us into the ocean would represent the dangers of losing one's connection with higher consciousness or the Spirit. Paranoia, preemptive attacks, retaliation, and escalation of violence in the dream were symbolic of the struggles for power and the vicious cycles of material existence minus higher consciousness.

Following the plane crash Göran and I swam to shore. If the ocean represented drowning in material consciousness, then the island in Hawaii would have represented the possibility of human enlightenment. (Hello James Kent!) At a key point in the dream we arrived at a hotel, a temporary residence. When we reported that we had lost all our possessions when our plane crashed into the ocean, we were told that we had insurance that would replace everything of value.  What happened next is what got my attention. The woman asked me what the value of my material possessions had been, and I told her I had had nothing of value -- except for a few dollars in my wallet, which I still had with me in my back pocket. Then she asked Göran what had been the value of his possessions, and he told her $27,000. She promptly handed him $27,000 to replace what had been lost.

When I told our foster son M. this part of the dream, he said, "Oh, that's because Göran is more materialistic than you!" That's what I had thought at first too. I can't deny that Göran has frequently accused me of being a "monk" and of caring too little our material possessions and surroundings. He likes to have his Louis Vuitton bags and designer clothes! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this is not what the dream was actually about. It was that number that got my attention. Twenty-seven thousand is three to the power of three times one thousand. Numerologically, then, 27,000 would represent the ultimate spiritual treasure in infinite abundance (3 symbolizing spirit, 3 to the power of 3 symbolizing ultimate spirit, and 1000 symbolizing endless abundance). I realized that Göran "having worth" valued at 27,000 symbolized that he is my treasure. It is in my relationship with him that I will find an endless abundance of spiritual treasure. 

So the dream seemed to be telling me: Pay attention to your relationship with Göran! Guard it, protect it and stay close to him! The point in my dream when I succumbed to paranoia and got involved in escalating warfare with angry adversaries was right after I had parted ways momentarily with Göran. He had gone "upstairs" in the hotel and I "downstairs." After my adversaries pursued me to the ocean shore, leaving me wondering if I would be forced back into the waters, Göran arrived and the adversaries dispersed.  The conscious thought in my dream was that Göran would protect me. Or, rather, the way forward for me is to stay true to him and to our relationship.

The dream also seemed to be telling me that worldly adversity could not take this treasure from me. Though the plane crash had threatened to destroy us and take away everything of value to us, ultimately we had "insurance" that prevented that from happening. No one and nothing can take our love away from us or detract from what we have together. (No one but us, that is!)

There was a message in the dream, I think, about material possessions. It was not unlike Jesus' teachings on the subject. If we focused our lives on what really mattered, we would have enough.  I had a few dollars in my wallet; Göran's $27,000 would be more than enough for us to meet our needs on the island.

The end of my dream was fascinating to me partly because of its open-endedness.  After a plane crash and after nearly being driven back into the ocean by a deadly conflict, I was gathered with all the inhabitants of the island (a symbol of the world, of all the inhabitants of the world). Everyone was there, including my erstwhile adversaries. We were contemplating the haunted museum together, deciding whether or not to go inside.

At the gate of the museum was some kind of sacred shrine, with a figure inside of sky blue and tan. (It made me think of the Virgin Mary.  It could have been Sophia, divine Wisdom.)  The shrine reminded me that we had a choice: We could choose to go inside the mansion/museum, or we could choose to leave. 

This is the choice we make every day, between the world and the Spirit. We eschew the world by worrying less about things, and by trying not to become obsessed with status and security. We embrace the Spirit by paying attention to what our real treasure is, by trusting that nothing of true value can ever be taken away from us, and by investing our lives in what matters. (Others!)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the Law's Side or on God's Side?

In the first chapter of Paul's epistle to Titus, Paul deals with a problem that was perennial throughout his ministry: people speaking vociferously in support of the Law, insisting they were on God's side, when in fact they were not. Legal-ness is not next to godliness.

Legalism is a particularly popular and dangerous form of godlessness.  Its power is the appeals it makes to previous commandments or ordinances. Like the ancient Hebrews who had taken to worshipping as an idol the brazen serpent that God once commanded Moses to forge (2 Kings 18:4), legalists make idols of past or particular commandments that they latch onto for their own (usually ego-driven) reasons. Because their concern is about commandments, they like to see themselves as more obedient than everyone else.

Titus chapter 1 begins with an interesting frame for his later discussion of law. He writes of eternal life "promised before the world began," "but... in due times manifested" (vs. 2-3). This is about as concise a statement as you can find anywhere in scripture about progressive revelation of eternal principles. None of us, in other words, yet know the full mind of God, which has existed since before time in relation to our understanding. What understanding we do get is "manifested" in "due times," progressively.  This is why Mormons insist that faithfulness comprises obedience to modern day revelation.  What is most important is, What does God have to tell us now?  Knowing this requires a current, living relationship with a living God.

It is that failure to be attentive to what God is telling us now that constitutes damning disobedience (damning in the classical Mormon sense of being stymied in one's progress).  This is why, when Paul speaks later in the chapter of the "unruly, vain talkers and deceivers," he means "specifically, they of the circumcision" (v. 10).  This is an interesting conjunction of descriptors, since, in the cultural context of his time, "they of the circumcision" would widely have been understood as synonymous with "those most obedient to the law of God."  "They profess that they know God," said Paul (v. 16).  It was this "obedient" class that Jesus clashed with time after time during his own ministry; and the "obedient" class that made it their mission to silence Paul.  Paul, for his part, insisted it was they "whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not" (v. 11), condemning the obedience they were preaching as "fables" and "commandments of men" (v. 14).

It is significant that Paul then addresses the issue of "purity," a typical preeminent concern of those who idolize obedience.  True purity, for Paul, was a product not of zealous obedience to outward ordinances, but of adherence to God's higher law of love.  "Unto the pure all things are pure," says Paul, "But unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled" (v. 15).  Compare, for example, with 1 Corinthians 10:23, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient."  (This was an awareness that Martin Luther capitalized on in the Reformation and that provoked accusations of antinomianism by his opponents.  It would be truly antinomian, of course, only if one denied the discipline love demands of us.)  Obsession with pure obedience, ironically, defiles us; while ability to forgive opens the gates of forgiveness (and purity).

"Unbelieving," here, would be inability to trust in the love of God, as communicated through the Atonement. Paul described them as "defiled," I think, because of their inability to see purity in themselves, or to see or appreciate it in others, thriving instead on condemnation.

Paul wasn't exaggerating here when he speaks of "whole houses subverted" by legalism. "Houses" stands here nicely for any kind of polity. Legalism poisons all our relationships with authority -- whether it is household authority, ecclesiastical authority, or political authority. Once the idolatrous demon behind the mask of "perfect obedience" is exposed, trust is often irreparably destroyed. Legalism presents us an idolatrous image of God as tyrant, so one of the first things to go once we recognize the deception is our faith in God. Until, and unless, that is, we are able -- by the grace of God -- to recover some meaningful sense of God as Love.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

If He Strive Not Lawfully

The temptation for me as a gay man has always been to take some kind of short cut in my spiritual path.  To find some "easy" resolution to the challenges I face that does not take into account the fullness of who I am as an embodied, gay child of God.

Some people tell me: "The Church rejects you, so just reject the Church."  It sounds simple enough.  There are lots of ways to make that right in my head (I've tried them all on).  The Church should be universal, it should include all people regardless of sexual orientation.  So if it doesn't, it can't possibly be true.  And yet, in order to do that, in order to turn my back on the Church I'd have to ignore everything in me that insists: It is true.  Or, perhaps, more generically, I would have to turn my back on the truth I find within the Church.  I tried that for a while, but ultimately I realized there were pieces missing in my life.

Others would tell me: "You CAN be a full member in good standing of the Church, enjoy the blessings of the temple, hold the priesthood, partake of the sacrament.  Just leave your husband."  Most Mormons are not so heartless as to insist that that course of action would be "simple enough."  Most are at least decent enough to acknowledge that if someone told them the price of Church membership was to abandon their families and spend the rest of their lives alone in the most meaningful earthly sense, they would not likely be willing to pay such a price.  I've wrestled with this long and earnestly enough to hope that if I believed God were asking this of me, I would find a way to do it.  But God has clearly said to me: Thou shalt not do this.  And it's not because I'm paying some kind of price for past sins.  It's because this is where my "fullness of joy" (D&C 93:33) lies.

This is the significance, to me, of Paul's admonition to Timothy: "Yet is he not crowned if he strive not lawfully" (2 Timothy 2:5).  There are no shortcuts.  I can't achieve exaltation ("the crown") by cutting myself off from either aspect of my eternal soul ("spirit" or "element") through which "fullness of joy" is achieved.  This means I must do the hard work of integrating.  I need to stay in the battle, and resist the temptation to take an alluring shortcut that promises to quickly and easily resolve the tensions between those two aspects of my soul that need to be integrated, by eliminating one pole in the tension.

For me, in the specificity of my life, that means being true both to the love I share with my husband and the family we are building, and being true to my faith, my testimony and the Church.

Paul continues, "The husbandman that labors must be first partaker of the fruits" (v. 6).  On its face, Paul is saying here, we can't be missionaries if we aren't living the Gospel.  As an example of what this means in practice, Paul mentions his imprisonment.  Paul could easily have avoided imprisonment by making some strategic denials (along the lines of the denials Peter made three times before the crowing of the cock).  But we lose our salvation when we deny what we know.  We need to be faithful to every aspect of ourselves, even when it entails inconveniences such as prison or excommunication.

It is worth parenthetically noting how Paul acknowledges that "if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself" (v. 13).  Christ is the rock on which all our faithfulness (for we have all fallen short!) abides.  If we have a foundation of faithfulness to return to after erring, it is on Christ's faithfulness and abiding love toward us, because "he cannot deny himself."  Beautiful text!

Paul's advice toward the end of the chapter feels strangely relevant to me as well.  He counsels (v. 16) against "vain and profane babblings" and (v. 23) against "foolish and unlearned questions... knowing they do gender strifes."

Another, very subtle temptation to someone in my situation is to speculate on how or why the Church needs to change, or what kind of doctrine the Lord can reveal to the Church at some future time.  Since I don't know the mind or the timetable of the Lord, that can be nothing but speculation on my part.  And speculation always leads to contention.  So being "crowned lawfully" also includes accepting that my testimony of the Church involves, to some extent, accepting the Church as it is, despite its limitations or the inconvenience or the limitations this places on me.  It requires of me much patience and hope.  And humility: I don't solve any problems by insisting that I somehow know the answers to these problems better than other Church members or Church leaders.

"The servant of the Lord," says Paul (v. 24), "must not strive; but be gentle unto all men."