Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Change is hard. And painful. And hurts. I'm in the third week of the insanity workout and every morning it kills me. I feel better once I complete it though and I know the change it's working on me is nothing but good. But I sure hate it while I'm doing it.

I'm not going to bore you with my physical workout regimen though. This is about something more serious. The Searle family is still here and there are things I'd love to write about, but my energy and mind has been engaged elsewhere, hence why it has been so silent here on the blog and we've disengaged from much social media. If it seems like we've not kept in touch or ignored you, I apologize. Our family is going through a change that is hard, painful, and hurts. That change is a divorce for Christy and I. That is something I never anticipated writing or living, but life throws us some curve balls. I wish this curve ball hadn't been thrown my direction and I experience a wide range of raw emotions daily. I get asked about our family and how we're doing and just wanted this to be known so people understand where we're at and we can move forward and live our lives. We hope to and are working to maintain a good relationship so things can work out for the best possible scenario for our kids.

Thank you all for your friendship, prayers, thoughts, and good vibes. I don't know when the pain and hurt will diminish or go away, but like the insanity workout, I hate it while I'm doing it. But I hope that each of us is able to become stronger, heal, and be the best person possible for whatever the future holds. Much love to you all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Family history, I am doing it, my family history

We've had a busy July attending family reunions in Idaho. We had one week in Island Park with Christy's family boating, eating, floating, hiking, golfing, talking, s'moring, laughing, play milling, and just enjoying one another and the beauty there. We then had my family reunion on a Friday night and Saturday morning. We ate lots, talked much, did a jump rope making service project, and shared some stories we had learned about our ancestors. I ended up sharing something funny about my grandpa and him spinning doughnuts in St. Anthony with a sleigh pulled by horses and the police not being able to catch him on their ponies.

What I wanted to share was something else that I'll  share here now about my great-great-grandpa (GGG). I've never done much with genealogy. But for this reunion my brother wanted us all to share something from our ancestors and this is what struck me. I didn't share this as I think the awkward factor would've been above 9,000.

I will try to paraphrase and get to the point, but need to give a bit of the pertinent details. So my GGG, Richard Birch, was born in England in 1824. At 23 he marries Ellen Harris. On the same day his brother James marries Mary Ann Hale. They join the church and emigrate to America to join the main body of the church in 1849. Richard and Ellen arrive in SLC in 1853. In 1856, James dies while emigrating to SLC. James and Mary Ann had three young children at the time of his death, and was pregnant with her fourth. To quote from the text, "During this time period the church condoned a biblical custom that specified where a widow exists, her husbands brother should take her for his wife so the deceased man would have posterity and the widow would have support." So, Richard takes Mary Ann as his second wife and he's now step-father to Thomas (7), Mary Ann (6), Edward (2), and soon to be born James. 

This next passage I will quote from the book that has their history compiled so you can experience the same thing I did when I read it. "In August 1865, Richard (41) took his two wives, Ellen Harris (44) and Mary Ann Hale (37), and his step-daughter/niece, Annie (15) to Salt Lake by wagon. The older women thought the singular purpose of the trip was to reaffirm their covenants in the Endowment House. However, at some point during the journey Richard announced his intentions to be sealed to Annie and take her as his third plural wife. We don't know how this news affected Annie's mother, Mary Ann. Unless she'd had inklings, it had to have been a huge shock. As for Ellen, though, persistent family lore suggests she was outraged. She told Richard that if he married Annie, he would never be welcome in her bedroom again. The following year Annie gave birth to a daughter who died ten days later." They apparently worked through the discord as they were all four married on August 15, 1865. 

If your response was anything like mine, you felt a punch to the gut or slap to the face. I had to re-read it a few times to fully understand it, but I still don't comprehend it. This man raised a niece/step-daughter from 6 years old and when she turns 15 wants to marry her. Whaaaaaa? I can't really wrap my head around polygamy at all. I have a harder time wrapping my head around polygamy especially when it's a 41 year old man with a 15 year old girl. I have an extremely difficult time wrapping my head around polygamy when it's a 41 year old man with a 15 year old girl that is his niece and step-daughter. That difficulty in comprehending this is compounded by the apparent secrecy and deceit by the men. The great many accounts I've read to date on polygamy involved the man taking additional wives without the wife knowing or approving. There was no we in this decision. It was the man's decision, the woman's feelings and input be damned. Our minds in an effort to accept what God decrees through the brethren must do all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify this behavior. My mind has grown tired of the gymnastics.

In a short biography it says this about Richard. To be ordained a Patriarch in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a high honor, which but very few men ever reach, and only those who have faithfully served their entire lives to its interest and advancement, are ordained to this high position. Patriarch Birch has been a faithful member, a staunch supporter and an eminent expounder and teacher of the principles and doctrines of his church from the time he joined it as a young man, up to the present time...his long and most honorable career in Summit County has made him one of the most popular and highly respected citizens of that entire section, and now in his declining years he can look back with pride upon a life well spent, with a true devotion and love for his fellowman. 

What a nice tribute, right? How great that they didn't look upon him and judge him for his polygamous lifestyle or marrying young 15 year old girls that are his niece. How nice he was able to hold callings in the church and be so well respected. What a different perspective we have when something is deemed to be of God and approved by the brethren. How great it will be when our LGBT brothers and sisters can be looked upon and given the same loving tributes for their service in the church. What changed from then until now? I'm appalled that this was supposedly approved of God. Am I to believe that if polygamy were approved today that I (coincidentally I am 41) should be able to marry my 15 year old niece, because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever? When I asked my sister in law if she'd grant permission to marry her 15 year old daughter if polygamy were in effect and her husband died, she mentioned something about sharp knives and loss of certain appendage(s). Yikes! Yet I think that's quite an appropriate response. She did consent however to be my plural wife. Or maybe I imagined that part.

This history stuck out to me even more as only a few days after reading this we had the pleasure of listening to Carol Lynn Pearson give a talk. (I would recommend her books for anyone with a gay relative or seeking to understand. It should be mandatory reading for every leader in the LDS church, IMHO). There was more to her talk, but one thing she mentioned was about her great grandma. Her husband went on a trip to get supplies and he came home with supplies and a surprise. He had a lady that would be his second wife. She didn't accept this news very well and left him and took their three children. She ended up homesteading 160 acres in Dingle, Idaho on her own. I thought to myself she could have taken the church approved route, the route approved by the brethren, and probably lived a more comfortable life. But at what cost? I believe at great mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional cost. She chose the path that was most authentic and most aligned with her spirit and what she felt to be the most healthy. Can you blame her? What would your response have been given the circumstances of your husband showing up with another woman that he'd like to be his second wife? I applaud this woman who didn't tolerate this practice and left her husband so she could be true to herself. I can't fathom why the wives of my GGG stayed and allowed a 15 year old daughter marry her uncle/step-dad. It boggles my mind. 

What boggles my mind even more is we look back on this and somehow my GGG gets a pass. We want to make such a huge deal out of being gay and gay marriage. It's so perverse and wrong. Yet when we look back at our pioneer ancestors, we ignore they married young girls/nieces, were secretive and deceptive in obtaining new wives, and we praise and highlight what sacrifices they made, what dedication they exhibited, what commitment and faith they had. I agree their lives are amazing. I hope and pray one day we get past saying don't define yourself by being gay, just like we don't look at our ancestors as defined by polygamy, or their apparent proclivity for marrying underage girls and believing it should be done even if the wife protests. I hope we look back on our gay pioneers of today as favorably as we do upon our first pioneer ancestors. These gay pioneers that have suffered and sometimes died due to our lack of compassion, due to our inability to look upon them as equals, due to our slower than molasses on a cold winters day ability to listen to them and learn from the prevailing science and social advancements and understandings. What's that you say? Our church doesn't bend to social advancements? Then go ahead and marry that 15 year old niece, marry another woman without your wife's knowledge or consent, or deny a black man the priesthood. 

And please explain these quotes to me. “…the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people.”
- Prophet John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227

"It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome...was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her." - Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 202 

There are numerous other quotes that say the same thing from the brethren about monogamy. I'm puzzled why there's a 180 degree change of stance from only 150 years ago. It appears that the downfall of nations is monogamy, not gay marriage or the gay 'lifestyle'. It's actually the straight, monogamous lifestyle that is the downfall of nations. It's the choices that straight people make. Why is monogamy an evil when polygamy is practiced? Now that polygamy is outlawed, the evils of society shifted to being gay and acting on it? Why aren't we still focused on the evils of monogamy? Shouldn't our church be using all that energy, money, resources and efforts they're using to fight gay marriage to bring back polygamy? I think they'd have better luck bringing back polygamy at this point than stopping gay marriage. I would prefer all that effort be focused on humanitarian efforts actually. But I'm just a drop in the ocean of Mormonism and my voice doesn't make much of a ripple.

Carol Lynn Pearson talked about the continual rise we've experienced and are striving for in society. It used to be okay to kidnap people in Africa, ship them to America, and make them your slaves. Own them as property and treat them as less than human. Our society accepted that it was okay, until that notion was challenged. Women used to not be able to vote, until it was challenged. Blacks couldn't hold the priesthood, until it was challenged. Gays couldn't be authentic or marry...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Membership denied! Mormons that dared to think differently...

I haven't posted recently due to how busy I've been with work, kids, activities and life. These silly things just keep getting in the way of my blogging dagnabit. We've had a little fun intermixed as well.

So if you haven't heard, there are some excommunications or disciplinary councils likely to convene in the near future if they don't resign their membership of some high profile members of the LDS faith, specifically Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Alan Rock Waterman. Kate Kelly is founder of the Ordain Women organization, John Dehlin of the Mormon Stories podcast as well as LGBT ally and advocate, and Rock Waterman of the Pure Mormonism blog (beware the bloggers!). Of course there are likely others, just not as high profile that I'm aware of currently (Lori Burkman was threatened). 

I only know bits and pieces of what their experience has been, but the main issue is that they are being charged with apostasy. Something I've recently been accused of as well by people I've known for many years, some family, and people I don't know that I've had interactions with through blogs or Facebook. I find it an interesting phenomenon that members become so concerned a) about the righteousness or lack thereof of other members, and b) that members that question have fallen into apostasy because everything spoken by leadership is always the word of God. Maybe I'm just a private and introverted fellow by nature, but I have never felt the need to tell others they worship in a manner inferior to me or that is unapproved by the hierarchy of the church. I have enough worries to work out my own salvation that I find it amusing I'd need to tell others they're going about it the wrong way. Isn't it better to give people the benefit of the doubt as we don't know their life journey and the challenges they face? And regarding b, a close examination of our history and religious history in general shows that men of God on Earth can and do make mistakes. Otherwise we'd be The Church of Jesus ChristS of Latter Day Saints.

Here are my concerns with the church excommunicating these good people. I'm not sure that leaders logically think these things through. We're a religion that believes in strong families and the gospel of Jesus Christ, or at least make this claim. So if I'm modeling the church's behavior, it's perfectly acceptable to kick out a member of my family that isn't conforming to my wishes and standards. If I, say, have a gay son, then I should kick him out, disavow him, and make him feel as if there is no place for him if he can't live my high standards and believe in my God approved doctrines. How could he not understand that this reflects on my family? What about others that might think it's ok to act on being gay? So if you deviate in thought or deed, we will throw you out. At least, if you do it publicly. Is this the family model we should emulate? Since I'm advocating for LGBT rights and equal marriage, my parents and siblings should disown me and not allow me to be part of the tribe? Is it any wonder there's such a high homeless and suicide rate in the Mormon culture of LGBT children 'excommunicated' from their families until they can change their thinking and get it right? The church alone determines who is worthy of our advocacy and in what manner? Is that what Christ would do? Purge those who act or think differently? You can't on one hand say “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach.” — Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, quoted from the LDS website MormonsandGays.org and then boot those who might publicly think differently. Does that quote even hold any weight when someone like John Dehlin who has done such great work in researching and understanding LGBT issues within the Mormon culture is thrown out? What are you telling a great populace of the church that has received so much help to work out their thoughts and concerns when there is no such outlet within the church or is expressly discouraged by the church to discuss and work through these matters?

Freedom of religion for the church, not the members. The church is actively involved in legal battles to fight for freedom of religion. I'm not all that politically minded. I don't have the stomach for it most of the time, but I try to be well informed. I try to understand the issues. So the church is spending and using their lawyers and resources to pursue these freedom of religion battles. What about freedom WITHIN religion? The church desires all outside of our religion to respect us and our beliefs and how we want to exercise our religion. However, those within the religion must comply and not speak out publicly about anything contrary to whatever is church approved or face excommunication? Why is it so evil to have a doubt, diversity of thought, a dissenting voice, or intellectual thoughts? Why do we need to quash these people who are working out their salvation, figuring out their path, trying to understand the issues, and talking about them with others? They are told to resolve these issues and concerns with local leaders in private. Don't be public. Why? What are we afraid of? What's the value of this Mormon community of people with rich and diverse backgrounds and experiences if you aren't to talk among yourselves and work through them together? Why diminish them and not use their unique thoughts and talents? Are the only talents valued for the church those that are able to better manage a corporate business structure and develop methods and spiffy PR campaigns to bring more tithe paying members into the fold? 

And what if they do take it up with their local leaders? In my experience the counsel will be the standard study your scriptures, pray, fast, serve more, go to church, bear your testimony. And then there will be a testimony of if you do these things it will make you happier because you look unhappy (yes, a bishop actually told me that). Ok, doing all that is what got me here to this point already. So if it can't be resolved on a local leader level, then what? As the founder of Ordain Women, Kate Kelly was going to get an answer from her local leaders? Isn't the ordination of women to the priesthood something that would need some resolution from a higher authority, which I think is the whole point? But instead of meeting with them, they meet with Mormon Women Stand that was in existence for two months and trot out slick marketing to say 'see! we meet with women about their concerns!'. Really? This is an organization that was organized to say we don't think like Ordain Women, we think like you. So what you really said with meeting MWS was that we meet with women that think like we do and don't bring us any uncomfortable issues. 

What do we desire of our church? A community of robots? Are we now a widget manufacturing corporation where everyone must think, speak, and act alike? We must pretend there are no doubts or concerns to be delved into with any meaning? We should suppress our thoughts and feelings because they aren't valid? My heart goes out to all those facing these charges. Your voices are important and valued among many of us who share these same struggles. 

It seems to me the church uses a nail where some of that Christlike love and compassion would be the best medicine. Ironic, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beware the bloggers!

So, I've had some thoughts bouncing around in my noggin and not entirely sure where this is going, but I shall try to make sense of it. But first an update on the LAZI children.

Luke is in piano, golf, and plays trumpet for school band. We recently went to his band concert and he does quite well for a goober. Luke keeps things light hearted and makes me laugh. He is constantly whistling or singing. He teaches me to always have a bright outlook on life.

Adam went for a spring trip with his band to San Francisco last week for three days. He went to Alcatraz, visited San Francisco University, played in a jazz club, went to six flags, and just had a good time with friends. Tennis is wrapping up with his league tournament this week. He'll be playing more golf with Luke and Isaac now that tennis is finishing up. He also spoke in sacrament meeting. More on that shortly. Adam teaches me constantly how to not take things so seriously and love life.

Zach just finished up his second play this school year over the weekend. He was in 'Footloose' at the high school. He loves drama and has dreams of being an actor one day. He asked why I was watching him the whole time during the play since there were other things going on. Silly kid, that's why I was there to see you shine. Zach continues to teach me how to love and accept others without judging. He has a heart as big as the ocean.

Isaac is also in piano and golf. He's our constant entertainment and giver of hugs. He is always quick to forgive and teaches me to be loving and understanding of each other. 

Christy just returned from a trip to Arizona. She went to an LGBT conference for LDS families. She came back glowing and made some great life time friends. There are truly amazing people involved in the advocacy  of supporting and loving our LGBT brothers and sisters. Some have wondered why people become advocates or allies. My question is, why haven't you? If you read some of the tragedies, heart aches, and hurt inflicted I don't know how you wouldn't become an ally or advocate. But that's just me and my crazy talk.

Greg is finished planting grass for this spring! It was 125 acres, which might not sound like much but it's quite the process to get the seed bed prepped properly, plant the seed, spray chemical and fertilizer, put down netting, put down pipe and irrigate. That's the thing that has occupied much of my time for the past two months, but I'm thankful for great employees that put in all the long hours to get it done. 

So there's the LAZI kids and parents update. Moving on to some of the bouncing of thoughts in my noggin. 

I had one small incident to share about when Christy was working on a Sunday, so I was alone in nursery. Apparently it's in the handbook to have two adult men in nursery. Two is good in case we have to take a child to a parent or something. However, I was a little annoyed. I can handle a few kids by myself and anyone that wants to can walk in the door at anytime is welcome to do so. I asked the bishop why it wouldn't be okay for me to be alone in nursery. He said it's to protect me and the church. Ok, so who's protecting you and the church? Why is it we've accepted the necessity to have two men in nursery, but we don't blink an eye at ecclesiastical leaders that are alone behind closed doors with our children, and aren't to be disturbed? Often to discuss intimate details that really shouldn't be discussed with a grown man. It's okay to have your 7 - 17 year old daughter or son behind closed doors where no one is allowed to disturb? Where's the sense in this? Christy and I will be present in all further ecclesiastical interviews. I think it's wise for any parent to take this precaution. I know the magnitude of guilt and pressure that can be applied by well meaning individuals, and the potential for life long repercussions. 

So as I mentioned, Adam spoke in sacrament meeting. His topic was forgiveness and the atonement. He shared a story about when as a young boy while walking with his Mom he saw a caterpillar on the sidewalk. He was curious about squishing it and realized after doing so, he had killed it for no good reason. He went to Christy and told her he felt terrible and cried. Later he prayed to God to ask for forgiveness. He mentioned how he was scared God may squish him like he squished the caterpillar. I can't express how impressed I was with his analogy, his understanding of the atonement, and that he summarized it by stating we shouldn't be scared to talk with God about our sins or weaknesses and that we are able to gain that forgiveness through our communication with God. The God we believe in isn't here to squish us or make us feel bad about ourselves. We recognize something we did wrong and we correct it and move on. Thank you Adam for sharing your wisdom with us.

So after that, the concluding speaker was our previous stake president. If your sensitive to me saying something in disagreement with church or leaders, you may want to stop reading. I know this man has done many great things in his service and I've never had much of a conversation with him at all, so I say this only going off his message and how I received it. He talked about Sherem from the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon. Sherem denied Christ and Jacob contended with him. Sherem was eventually smitten by God and died after renouncing his previous claims about Christ. Sherem was highly educated and flattered people with his language and knowledge. The speaker noted that if he were alive today, he would likely use blogs or other technology to spread his word since Satan doesn't use dummies to spread his word. (As a side note, Adam addressed me as Sherem after the meeting. I think because of my blog leading people astray, not for my knowledge or flattery words. He's a funny kid that Adam.) So the speaker tied this into how today one of the great tests is to follow the prophet. That there are many that are conspiring to do evil, even amongst us, that will strive to lead us away from the plan of happiness. That he has seen it and watches those he has called to repentance while stake president and what their choices have done to them.  How they didn't like being told they were wrong to question and they often told him they knew better than him.

I don't know if this man was referring to me. I'm flattering myself to think he has read my blog and was speaking directly to me (although Adam drew that conclusion). It did bother me though that we're encouraged as a people to blindly follow, that questioning is somehow bad. Why is it that in every other aspect of our lives we're encouraged to research, get educated, come to a complete understanding, and generally be well informed? If I'm buying a car, I look at all options, brands, safety, satisfaction, etc. If I'm finding a doctor, I seek out others opinions and experiences. If I'm job hunting, I look at location, salary, perks, quality of life, etc. It has always bothered me that when it comes to our religion or religious topics in general, we're afraid to go beyond what's discussed in the church approved curriculum and if we have thoughts outside of what comes out of HQ then we're Sherem that's preaching there is no Christ. I find it counterproductive to make these claims from the pulpit when there are likely many in the congregation that don't just automatically think everything stated by men is God's will and we should follow. God gave me a brain to think critically and like Joseph Smith, to seek out truth. Our history reflects some bad judgments by men called of God. And it only alienates those in the congregation to speak to them as if we're sinners and evil for having alternative thoughts and won't be able to live with God again if we don't fall in line with everything from the brethren. Men have used scripture and religion for good and evil throughout history. A good friend's parent tried to make her right handed when she was naturally left handed, and quoted scripture in doing so. It may sound harmless, but to a little child it was very frustrating and caused some anxieties that would've otherwise not occurred  Those who were pro-slavery used scripture to justify it. And in this talk, the speaker noted that even the elect will fall. He of course was referring to anyone that doesn't believe strictly what the brethren give us. As a wise friend mentioned to me, pride can come from within the ranks of the organization. It may be that the great test isn't those of us who question and find truths, it may be those that only accept their light and knowledge from someone else that is church approved and look down upon those who are inclined to think differently. Or to think they somehow are lost and God doesn't approve of them and they can't live a happy and fulfilling life and attain salvation. 

I guess for fear of going further and being struck by lightning I will draw this to a close. I don't believe I'm as Sherem for questioning. I believe I've come closer to Christ through love and acceptance of those who don't fit the plan of happiness. If I have to choose between following the prophet and following Christ when it comes to supporting my gay son, I will choose Christ. If your message supports the foundation for the tragic suicides, failed mixed orientation marriages, and general unhappy mental, physical, and spiritual health of those born LGBT then I believe telling us how bad we are for not following the prophet is a tragic irony. It becomes increasingly difficult to attend when the message is how unworthy we are if we aren't in complete agreement. I would think our message needs to be inclusive and inviting, not separating us between followers and non-followers of the prophet. We're there to worship our Savior and Redeemer, not the prophet.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A A A, what begins with A?

Today's post is brought to you by the letter A in the L.A.Z.I blog. I appreciate him understanding my previous posts being mostly about Zach and our rainbow journey. He has told me how important he knows this is to our family and others. But today we'll celebrate Ace.
On this day 17 years ago we brought our first child into this big scary world. And now he's so close to heading out into the big scary world on his own it's scary. Adam has amazed me since he was a wee lad. It's a wonder he has survived the mistakes I've made as his father. He took the brunt of it as I think I was the hardest on the first child trying to make him perfect. I only hope that he can forgive me for these mistakes and not make the same ones I made so he's a better father than I was. I have full and complete confidence in him that he will. 

He's loving, kind, thoughtful, smart, and a typical big brother that loves to tease his brothers. To the point of tears. Often. 

He hardly has to study and can nearly pull off straight A's. Hopefully his study habits improve for college, but I probably wasn't any better until I was paying for my own education. 

He plays a mean trumpet. He loves jazz band. And he gets to go to Hawaii next year with band. Mom and Dad might need to chaperone. 

Adam is always smiling and happy. Unless he's playing a video game. Then don't bug. Unless you want to be hung out to dry. It's serious business and takes much concentration. And he loves to make fun of my video game abilities which amount to punching buttons and pulling triggers as fast as possible. It's not effective but highly entertaining for video game experts that like to make fun of the old geezers that can't play.

Adam has read voraciously since a young boy. He gets lost in books. I love that he finds great joy in them and know this will serve him well his whole life. It was problematic in grade school since teachers would tell us he couldn't put books away to focus on other school work. How do you tell a kid to stop reading books? We have the opposite problem with his youngest brother, but that's another story for I day.

He can sleep like rip van winkle. 

He has a love for being healthy. We've never had him in one sport where he's doing camps and specializing in it. Maybe I should have, but I want kids to have a love for it, not what I wanted. And he has experienced many sports from wake boarding, snow boarding, soccer, baseball, cross country, golf, racquetball, tennis, and wrestling. I wish he would have been willing to start wrestling at a younger age, but he was always so self conscious about appearance that the wrestling singlet was not cool. Until he's a junior in high school. Oh well, he had a great season and now bloodies me when we wrestle. 

I love Adam's personality. He is more of a solitary kind of guy like me. He is quite confident in himself. He doesn't follow the crowd. He has high integrity and expects those around him to live with the same kind of integrity. 

He is funny and loves to laugh. It's contagious and brings great joy to my heart. It's hard to get a normal picture of him smiling and not pulling a face. 

He loves adventure and always wants to do something fun. 

He loves cats and money. He likes to save one and tease the other. I'll let you figure out which is which. 

He's a hard worker and helps me on the farm whenever he's available.  

He loves his brothers and sets a great example for them. He and Zach entering their teenage years struggled to get along or even communicate with each other. I think this had much to do with Zach figuring out he is gay and Adam was quite homophobic and made statements that probably were hurtful to Zach without knowing it. Adam is now a defender of Zach, an ally, an advocate, and sees things entirely different. I love his passion. 

In short, I truly love and admire this boy. It is an honor to have him in our home. He has taught me so much and continues to do so. I know you will be a force in the world for good and wonderful things. Love you Ace!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A letter, a contrast, and a coincidence

Well, we decided to send a letter to the bishopric about the talk on traditional marriage. I was somewhat apprehensive about this for a couple reasons. I didn't know if I could accurately express our feelings. I had many thoughts and emotions and was having a hard time composing the words in something that would accurately express our dismay but also be helpful in trying to get more compassion from the pulpit. I also didn't want to damage our relationship with the bishop and the counselor who gave the talk.

Much of what I said was already some of what I posted in the last blog entry, but went a little further in detail. I gave it to the bishop after church. He called me later that evening and we had a good conversation. I'm grateful for his phone call. I respect him and know he's trying. I know he's in a difficult position, as was the member of the bishopric that delivered the message. I wouldn't want to be in that position, but if I were I wouldn't deliver it in the manner that was chosen. No matter what is directed from the human beings holding higher callings than us, we still have the ability and duty as independent thinking members to determine if what is being asked of us is good and correct. I am trying to be understanding of leaders that are asked to address these kind of issues. I think my letter didn't address those who are responsible for the heavy dose of traditional marriage being driven like a huge sledgehammer to the membership, but hopefully helped our local leaders realize the damage some well intended messages have on LGBT youth and families. I know it's not your intention, but that's how it's received. And that's not entirely the problem of the messenger, it's the message. The policy of exclusion.

Having a child that is excluded from something has changed my perspective on many things. Since next week is general conference, we had fast and testimony meeting. The first individual following the bishop to share his testimony was an elderly gentleman that had lost his wife of 67 years one year ago. He talked about how lonely he feels, how painful it is to be alone, and how he looks forward to when he can be with her in the eternities thanks to temple marriage. The next man stood and shared similar sentiments about being alone after his wife's passing and temple marriage. Of course I'm sad they are alone and miss their spouses. Of course I think it's wonderful they had so many years with the one they love. Of course I feel happy for them to be able to have a temple marriage. I looked at my gay son and thought what a bizarre contrast to be sitting here in church where these men stand and testify about how painful it is to be alone and how grateful they are for temple marriage. Yet our church expects my gay son to live a painful life alone so he can attend the temple to be reminded he can't have a temple marriage to someone he loves. Wow. I really, really wanted to get up to draw this contrast for the congregation but couldn't bring myself to do it. I felt I might be diminishing this sweet man's pain. But I also felt it was the perfect contrast to what is a big problem.

So to top it off, yesterday Christy calls me and tells me Isaac has the prayer and scripture for the Sunday following conference. She asks me to guess what scripture. I racked my brain trying to think of what scripture in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, or Doctrine and Covenants would say something about being gay. No, nothing from the canonized scriptures. It's a quote from the proclamation, 'marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God.' So, now we're moving from sacrament meeting where we hear this from the pulpit to asking my youngest son to state from the primary pulpit how his brother  is an abomination to God. Good grief. Was this some kind of sick joke? Christy called the primary secretary and she was unaware of Zach apparently and Christy asked her to reassign the 'scripture' and prayer. So now the proclamation is scripture? When did I miss this document becoming canonized?

That's all for today folks. The sun is shining and grass has to be grown.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The wisdom of little kids

Christy wanted me to post a couple pictures of the family since some out there may not be interested in my ramblings...so here are a couple from a recent trip to the natural bridges beach in Santa Cruz and a couple from Disney World. Please take notice of Adam's goatee. He's quite the big man now. These kids grow so fast it's amazing. I sure love them and hope I haven't damaged them too much while in my care. I know despite my failings as a parent they're destined to do some pretty great things in this world.

A few weeks ago was our LDS ward conference. For anyone reading not familiar with LDS congregations, this is where our local leader (bishop) speaks as well as the regional leader (stake president) and they conduct meetings/business related to our local congregation. Sometimes in the main meeting they call on others to speak as well, and sometimes it's extemporaneously. As was my luck, I was called upon to 'bear my testimony'. I don't think anyone was more shocked than me, except for maybe my wife and kids. Christy mouthed to me, 'you ok?' I nodded yes, a little bewildered about why I'd be called upon as I'm far from Peter Priesthood. I had a full on beard and a blue shirt. Not the clean shaven, white shirt wearing priesthood holder that is expected. As I contemplated what I would say in a testimony, it boiled down to Christ and what Bob Goff tells us, Love Does (read the book if  you haven't). Since I have a bit of a problem with controlling my emotions when at the pulpit, I don't think I fully conveyed this message how I intended. I'm a bit of a bawl baby as much as I hate to admit it, my composure was somewhat lacking, but what I intended to say was how Christ modeled a loving, caring, giving, charitable, humble, unselfish life. He didn't exclude the poor, afflicted, or sinners. I didn't say it at the pulpit, but I thought my testimony at one time had to be of the one true church, priesthood, a prophet, the book of Mormon, and divinity of Christ. It felt like I recited that without any true heart felt meaning because I had read a book about testimonies written by an apostle that explained these were the elements of a testimony. Today my testimony is of Jesus Christ and his life of love and atoning sacrifice. I feel that and believe it. I know I fall short of living it, but I'm working on it. And that's ok because I know he loves me no matter what and I don't feel the guilt or shame I once did for not living up to the ideal standard.

So today in our LDS congregation there was a talk fully devoted to the topic of 'traditional marriage'. Christy fortunately had to leave to get an ingrown toenail removed that she didn't have to hear it. I know it was hurting pretty bad because she has high tolerance for pain. She did get it taken care of though, and it's on the mend. So back to the talk. It was difficult for me to hear as this came from a member of the bishopric that I respect and was once our home teacher. I'm not fully convinced these were his beliefs or just marching orders. I appreciated he used some material from mormonsandgays.org and apparently has a good friend that is lesbian. It's still difficult for me to understand the inability of leadership to connect the dots of this message being one that is hurtful, damaging, and gives no hope to the LGBT community. How many times do we have to go over the church's proclamation to the world that is a reminder to all LGBT that they don't fit this mold and their plan for happiness is to remain celibate or enter a mixed orientation marriage if they want exaltation? The speaker reminded us what's important to God is that we remain temple worthy and that all things will be fixed in the after life. Really? I subscribe to the most important thing is God wants these youth to be loved, understood, accepted, cared for, and not hear from the pulpit how we don't fit in. How it would be easier to just not go on with a life when the community my family is a part of wants me to be alone my whole life like there's something wrong with me. I believe this life is for them to experience joy and happiness, not to endure it miserably only to be 'fixed' in the next life. 

I'm reading Rough Stone Rolling right now about Joseph Smith and a couple excerpts have struck me. The first two quotes made me think about the proclamation and how this peculiar creed is limiting the church and its membership inside a box to believe anything outside of what has become known as 'traditional marriage.' 

"The most prominent point of difference in sentiment between the Latter Day Saints & sectarians," a clerk later recorded him saying, "was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing any thing not contained therein; whereas the L.D. Saints had no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time." Creeds fixed limits. They seemed to say "thus far and no further," while for Joseph the way was always open to additional truth: "The creeds set up stakes, & say hitherto shalt thou come, & no further. - which I cannot subscribe to." He wanted the door left ajar for truth from every source.

Joseph once said that Methodists "have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty to believe as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled."

This next quote made me think how the LGBT community is the minority today looking for some acceptance and rights, whereas the Mormons endured it in their infancy. 

'The Mormon presence in Jackson County, as in every other county they occupied during the next fifteen years, tested democracy. The Mormon case illustrated an underlying democratic dilemma: can a majority, in defense of the public good as they see it, strip a minority of its rights? The Jackson County citizens believed their procedures were democracy in action. The citizens came together to prevent a social and political disaster of alarming proportions; in their view, they acted purely in self-defense. But for Mormons, Jackson County democracy meant repression and expulsion. Under the terms of the agreement, Mormons could not vote, could not own property, could not print a newspaper, and could not work in the county.'

Today, the majority of Mormons believe the leadership is right in their procedures in defense of their creed that declares the family has to conform to this 'traditional marriage' model. Never mind that this hasn't been the model even in the Mormon history with polygamy, and even today I could be a polygamist if my wife dies and I marry another woman in the temple. Is that 'traditional marriage'? Isn't it ironic that in the short history of our own faith that practiced(s) something so non-traditional as polygamy is now preaching and participating politically to advocate that 'traditional marriage' is the only way? 

I believe church should be a place welcome for all to come and worship God and our Savior. It's not a place where I want to hear about how my gay son can only be exalted if he lives according to this creed. I would like to hear more about Christ and his teachings. Fortunately for the second two hours of church I'm in nursery with Christy playing with little kids so I don't hear any further lessons on how our family and my son doesn't fit the plan. I have always loved little kids. They are sweet and innocent. They are meek and mild (some not so mild, but so fun all the same). They laugh and smile and giggle. They love without judging. And that's all the lesson I need on a Sunday.