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 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 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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Another Post?!

Only one week and another blog post. Uh oh, this might become a habit.

All is well in Searledom. We just returned a couple weeks ago from a trip to Walt Disney World where I had a turf industry conference. Good times were had by all. I was surprised at how busy it was during one of their slower weeks of the year. The kids enjoyed it and we wore ourselves out. We continue to deal with the aftermath of Adam's accident that happened on the Friday before we left. A lady backing out of her driveway two houses down from ours hit Adam as he and Zach were on their way to school. She had a car obstructing her view in her driveway as well as a palm tree behind it and I thought it was pretty clear cut that Adam had the right of way but apparently if you're a police officer in Manteca California it's easier to blame the sixteen year old that he had sun in his eyes and didn't stop when she backed out. It makes no sense, so we'll likely end up in some legal battle in small claims court over who was at fault. Yippee Joy Hooray! When I was younger I had dreams of being an attorney, so I guess this is my opportunity to try it out.

On the farm we're getting ready to do our spring planting. We're just starting to work the ground after the rain from last week. We're hoping and praying we still get more rain this spring, but it looks like we have a couple week window of sunny weather that will let us get our planting done. 

Thank you for the positive response to my last post. We are appreciative of those offering their love and support. I know for many of our friends and family it's new territory, unfamiliar, maybe unsure of what to do or say. We understand this and are just thankful for those offering their love in whatever manner they feel comfortable. I think for many, they've never considered what it means to be LGBT and the impact it has if you're LDS. Many don't know any LGBT individuals or if they do, not very well and haven't spent much time getting to know them in a deep and personal manner. I spoke with a couple Mormon ecclesiastical leaders that said such things as, 'That kind of sex isn't approved by the brethren and never will be. It's contrary to the plan. What's the big deal if he has to remain celibate? There are others that have to deal with being quadriplegic or other afflictions and can't marry or can't have sex. I knew of someone that was into bestiality and should that be ok? It's just a tendency/choice that has to be overcome. If I'm born a serial killer does that make it ok to go and kill people because I was born that way? How does he know when he's so young? Don't most find out when they're older?' 

I'll share a few of my thoughts about these statements/questions/arguments. 
  • It's not all about just the act that you picture in your mind when you think about LGBT people anymore than it's about the act for straight people. These are human beings that have the same wants, desires, dreams, hopes as you do in a relationship. They no more desire to be alone in this world than you do. They no more chose to be gay than you chose to be straight. Consider that these are children of God, not perversions or people obsessed with what you are obsessed with in making it about sex. Their desire is to have a loving relationship with another human being that gives them the fulfillment in life that you enjoy.
  • Being LGBT isn't a debilitating disease or an affliction and shouldn't be treated as such. The comparison should be more that if you have a child that's born down syndrome or quadriplegic and you tell them to stop being that way. To live like you don't have it. There's no reason in my mind that a loving Heavenly Father would ask LGBT brothers/sisters to live a less fulfilling life based on a choice they didn't make, especially when they are fully capable of living a fulfilling life with someone they love. Being celibate is no big deal, until you're the one asked to live that way. When you already have a life that fits the mold of the model Mormon family it's hard to have empathy and easy to preach it's your burden so just overcome.
  • I don't know how bestiality even is a comparison, and he did preface it by saying this is probably a bad example. I told him yes, that's a terrible example. These are children of God wanting to live a fulfilling life with another human being, just like you.
  • Obviously they hadn't seen the LDS website acknowledging this isn't a choice. It's how they were born. Does being born a serial killer make it ok for you to go kill people? That's up to you. I wouldn't advise it, but you can try it out and see. But come on, that's not what this is about. It's about people wanting to love one another, not about people trying to harm others. Their desire and ability to love another has zero impact on you, your marriage, or your religion.
  • I knew in elementary school I liked the ladies. We played some game in a sand pit that I remember where a girl was queen and I always wanted to be the king or knight or whatever it was that got me to be close to the queen that I thought was cute. And those feelings/tendencies/choices (whatever you want to term it to best understand) only intensified going into junior high/high school/college. Just like I knew and I believe most knew at a young age, so does Zach and other LGBT youth. I think it's more accepted to be open about it now, so less are waiting so long to live authentically. For more on this I would encourage people to look at the family acceptance project and download their booklet that gives such good information about this and how we can help our LGBT youth.
Take care and until next time!

Friday, March 07, 2014

It's a bit dusty around here

Wow, nothing here for the last 4+ years. That's real dedication I tell you. I guess I took a break from this technology and engaged in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. for a time so the digital overload had me giving up on blogging. I have to say I've missed it. I've since given up on Facebook so maybe I can get back to doing a blog every four years or so...hopefully more frequent than that though if you're lucky. I check Christy's FB now though as there are groups, people, and forums there that we find valuable in navigating our journey with a gay son.

What's that? You haven't heard? Yes, we are the proud parents of a gay son. Prior to this I had a passing interest in LGBT issues and the cruelty they have faced. I've always believed in being kind and compassionate to all, but haven't actively been involved in this cause. I'm ashamed my son didn't feel comfortable coming to us as parents and felt he had to hide it. I'm disappointed in my religion's history towards LGBT individuals, specifically that it was once thought of as a choice and could be 'fixed' through reparative therapy, prayer, scripture study, living righteously, faith, fasting etc. Yeah, just like I can be fixed of being straight by doing all of that. Anyway, today they merely acknowledge it's not a choice, but to remain in good standing our good brothers and sisters of the LGBT community must not act on it. They are to remain celibate or enter a mixed orientation marriage. The LDS faith, where it's not good for man or woman to be alone, unless you're LGBT. I hope and pray that one day this will change. Good people are leaving the faith because of the things that are shared from the top down and how this doesn't square with the beliefs and answered prayers of a large portion of the membership, including me. For leaders and members that so confidently say this is an abomination and the doctrine will never change, I would simply ask the question, what if there is a place in the plan for LGBT members outside of celibacy/mixed orientation marriage? If I'm guilty of being too compassionate, too loving, too accepting or too tolerant, so be it. I will gladly accept and face my judgment in making those choices. This by no means makes me feel like I'm not defending my religious freedom as is the popular thing being thrown around on social media.

Back to my son and our little journey. One evening upon looking through his iPod and emails, I found an email that made me thankful we still have Zach in our family. He thanked this individual for his YouTube videos and how they had saved Zach's life. I won't go into the intimate details of the email, but Zach felt he couldn't tell his parents about being gay because of our affiliation and beliefs in Mormon doctrine. As is common among many LGBT youth and knowing you can't fit the mold outlined by the church, there was a feeling of hopelessness, shame, and dislike for himself to the point of thoughts of suicide or self harming.

My immediate response was wow, I've failed miserably as a parent. Not because I have a gay son, but because he felt unable to approach me with this and I haven't helped him to believe in who he is and love himself for the wonderful person he is. I went to him that night and let him know what I had read, and most importantly that I love him no matter what, just the way he is. I hugged him as long as a teenage boy lets his Dad hug him. He cried and let out all those emotions that had been pent up for so long. I can't imagine the burden he had carried for as long as he had known he's gay.

I didn't tell Christy that night. I wanted to wait until the next morning when Zach was gone to school and we could discuss. My journey with the LDS faith, Prop 8, and various other religious topics had gotten me to the point that I was fine having a gay son and I wasn't going to allow my religion to dictate my emotions or response. Christy had a more difficult road, being much more in line and happy to follow without questioning. She can detail her journey if she feels like it, but it was painful for the first while until she found such wonderful people as Carla and Buzz Hoffman, the Montgomery's, and the Abhau's among many others. These people have offered such love and support and I'm eternally grateful to them for helping my wife feel that all is not lost. Along with the Abhau's, Montgomery's, and every other parent that has experienced the joy of this journey, we celebrate this gift of being parents to a gay son!