Monday, November 26, 2007


Since I left church today two experiences have been ruminating in my mind.

First in Gospel Doctrine we read in 2 Peter 2:22, where Peter says that returning to my sins is like a dog returning to his vomit. VOMIT! What a revolting imagery! My problem is that I don’t see it as vomit. Satan covers it with chocolate and whipped cream. My mouth waters. I can almost taste it. All that I can think of is the pleasure. I’ll just take a nibble and then just more and more. I indulge. And then my mouth tastes like vomit. Oh if I could always remember the aftertaste, the crappy feelings, the withdrawal of the Spirit. My prayers become superficial if at all. I don’t want to face My Father. I get angry about all the Church asks me to do. I want to “get a life” and forget the joy of “losing my life in His service”. I feel empty and want escape. Oh here’s some more chocolate, covered with whipped cream. Just a little won’t hurt. . . . The easiest thing to do would be to do the “natural” thing. Pleasure is just a click away on the computer or in my pants. Invitations come to me at the gym and elsewhere. . .

Now, I haven’t been having a chocolate orgy, but I have been getting lax and contemplating some nibbling. But today Peter shouted at me, “Oh please remember (2 Peter 1:12) Remember (vs. 13) REMEMBER (vs 15.). You can partake of the divine nature. It may be natural for you to desire these physical pleasures but you have a higher, spiritual nature. Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”

I don’t know if you have seen the movie, “Matrix”. It illustrates well how we can be brainwashed with a virtual reality that keeps us from our true reality. It is natural to fall back into a material, physical, pleasure-oriented perspective. These desires are normal, but I have a higher nature and unlike an animal, I have a moral capacity to understand spiritual realities. I have a divine nature and can discipline myself for a higher purpose than immediate pleasure.

Last night my son asked me for a blessing. It shocked me out of my spiritual lethargy. Immediately the chocolate I had been sniffing didn’t look so enticing. I told him I would in a while. I immediately took a private inventory and pled for guidance. I pondered and prayed and then later, in my weakness, promising from that moment to repent and trusting in His love for me and my son sought him out. I laid my hands on his head and silently prayed for power and light. It came. We had a few sacred moments together as father and son feeling the love of our Father flow through us. We embraced and looked lovingly into each other’s eyes and he left. Oh may I remember, Remember, REMEMBER what I felt at that moment. There is a higher joy that surpasses all the pleasures of the world! Oh may I never violate the trust my Father and family have in me.

This incident prepared me to hear Peter’s call during Sunday School.

For the closing hymn in sacrament meeting we sang:

“Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see
And in they presence rest. . . . .

To those who fall, how kind thou are!
How good to those who seek. . .”

I sang those words with renewed gratitude and have carried them in my heart throughout the day.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


I recently came across a paper given to me by a friend, Eugene England. He died a few years ago but his wise counsel given in this paper has had a profound impact on my life. It has helped me as I have struggled with SGA in the world and in the Church which are oriented to heterosexual attractions. Those of us with SGA especially understand the struggle between "polarities" he describes. I am learning to make the best of these conflicting forces and use them as a sailor uses the wind and the current to propel him forward. The set of the sail and the rudder make all the difference. In fact without these forces the ship cannot move ahead. The proper use of opposition makes progress possible. Excerpts from his paper follow:

Lehi's law, "It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11), is perhaps the most provocative and profound statement of abstract theology in the scriptures, because it describes what apparently is most ultimate in the universe. In context it clearly suggests that not only is contradiction and opposition a natural part of human experience, something God uses for his redemp­tive purposes, but that opposition is at the very heart of things: it is intrinsic to the two most fundamental realities, intelligence and matter—what Lehi calls "things to act and things to be acted upon" (v. 14). According to Lehi, opposition provides the universe with energy and meaning, even makes possible the exis­tence of God and everything else; without it "all things must have vanished away" (v. 13).We all know in our experience the consequences for mortal life of this fundamental, eternal reality. Throughout history the most important and productive ideas have been paradoxical, that is, in useful opposition to each other: the energizing force in all art has been conflict and opposition; the basis for success in all economic, political, and other social development has been competition and dialogue. Think of . . .reason versus emotion, freedom versus order, individual integrity versus com­munity responsibility, men versus women (whose differences make eternal increase possible), justice versus mercy (whose combination makes our redemption through the atonement of Christ possible).Life in this universe is full of polarities and is made full by them. We struggle with them, complain about them, even try sometimes to destroy them with dogmatism or self-righteousness or a retreat into the innocence that is only ignorance, a return to the Garden of Eden where there is deceptive ease and clarity but no salvation. . .
And that is precisely where the Church comes in. I believe the Church is the best medium, apart from marriage (which it much resembles in this respect), for helping us gain salvation by grap­pling constructively with the oppositions of existence, despite our limited and various understandings of "the gospel." I believe that the better any church or organization is at such help, the "truer" it is. . .

Let us consider why this is so: In the life of the true Church, as in a good marriage, there are constant opportunities for all to serve, especially to learn to serve people we would not normally choose to serve—or possibly even associate with—and thus there are opportunities to learn to love unconditionally (which, after all, is the most important thing to learn in the gospel). There is constant encouragement, even pressure, to be "active": To have a "calling" and thus to have to grapple with relationships and management, with other people's ideas and wishes, their feelings and failures. To attend classes and meetings and to have to listen to other people's sometimes misinformed or prejudiced notions and to have to make some constructive response. To be subject to leaders and occasionally to be hurt by their weakness and blind­ness, even unrighteous dominion—and then to be called to a leadership position and find that we, too, with all the best inten­tions, can be weak and blind and unrighteous.Church involvement teaches us compassion and patience as well as courage and discipline. It makes us responsible for the personal and marital, the physical and spiritual welfare of people we may not already love (may even heartily dislike), and thus we learn to love them. It stretches and challenges us, even when we are disappointed and exasperated, in ways we would not other­wise choose to be stretched and challenged. Thus it gives us a chance to be made better than we may have chosen to be—but need and ultimately want to be. . .

Two keys to this paradoxical power in the Mormon church are first that it is, by revelation, a lay church—radically so, more than any other—and second that it organizes its congregations geographically rather than by personal choice. I know that there are exceptions, but the basic Church experience of almost all Mormons brings them directly and constantly into very demand­ing and intimate relationships with a range of people and prob­lems in their assigned congregations that are not primarily of their own choosing but are profoundly redemptive in potential, in part because they are not consciously chosen. Yes, the ordinances performed through the Church are important, as are its scriptural texts and moral exhortations and spiritual conduits. But even these, in my experience, are powerful and redemptive partly because they work harmoniously with profound, life-giving oppositions through the Church structure to give truth and meaning to the religious life of Mormons. . .

These are examples, I believe, of what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 12, the great chapter on gifts, where he teaches that all the parts of the body of Christ—the Church—are needed for their separate gifts, and in fact that those with "less honour­able" and "uncomely" gifts are more needed and more in need of attention and honor—perhaps because the world will auto­matically honor and use the others.It is in the Church especially that those with qualities ("gifts") of vulnerability, pain, handicap, need, ignorance, intel­lectual arrogance, social pride, even prejudice and sin—those Paul calls the members which "seem to be more feeble"—can be accepted, learned from, helped, and made part of the body so that together it can all be blessed. It is there that those with the more comely and world-honored gifts of riches and intelligence can learn what they most need to—to serve and love and patiently learn from those with other gifts. . .

The Church is where there is fruitful opposition, the place where its own revealed nature and inspired direction maintains an opposition between liberal and conservative values, faith and doubt, secure authority and frightening freedom, indi­vidual integrity and public responsibility—and thus where there will be misery as well as holiness, bad as well as good. And if we cannot stand the misery and the struggle, if we would prefer that the Church be "a compound in one" such as Lehi described (smooth and perfect and unchallenging, without internal oppo­sition and thus "vanished away") rather than as it is, full of nagging human diversity and constant insistence that we perform ordinances and obey instructions and take seriously teachings embodying paradoxes that are not logically resolvable—if we refuse to lose ourselves wholeheartedly in such a school, then we will never know the redeeming truth of the Church.

If we con­stantly ask, "What has the Church done for me?" we will not think to ask the much more important question, "What am I doing with the opportunities for service and self-challenge with which the Church provides me?" If we constantly approach the Church as consumers, we will never partake of its sweet and filling fruit. Only if we can lose our lives there will we find our­selves.It is precisely in the struggle to be obedient while maintaining independence, to have faith while being true to reason and evidence, to serve and love in the face of imperfections, even offenses, that we can gain the humility we need to allow divine power to enter our lives in transforming ways. Perhaps the most amazing paradox about the Church is that it literally brings together the divine and the human—through priesthood service, the ordinances, the gifts of the Spirit—in concrete ways that no abstract systems of ideas ever could. . . "

(The original paper was titled, "Why The Church Is More True Than The Gospel". He later modified it, but I prefer the original title. I found two other full versions on the Internet: and if you would like to read the entire essay.)

My SGA is a unique mortal gift to make the most of. I must frequently remind myself of the good qualities it has given me. Navigation within the complex forces of marriage and Church membership can draw out the best that is within me. I am challenged to develop compassion and spiritual sensitivity. I get tired and discouraged and many time get off course, but then, in the midst of the tempest when the sweet Spirit whispers, "Peace, be still", I am reminded that He knows the way and will guide me Home if I let Him.