Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Unexpected Path

This is an article I wrote for Mormons for Marriage. I know, it is a web site that isn't very favorable to mixed-orientation couples, but I think that by communication, we can help other people see our story. They published my article, which is very favorable to mixed-orientation couples. Hopefully, this will indicate a change in the future for them to soften their stance against mixed-orientation couples. Here is my article. Also found here.

Life has a way of happening. Regardless of what you might plan for your life, there are always unexpected turns. Often, these turns are not what you would have chosen for yourself. Notwithstanding, I have learned that God has a much greater plan for me than I could ever imagine. If I only be patient and put my trust in God, He will direct my path and make more of my life than I could have done on my own.

One of the first unexpected turns was becoming an openly gay Mormon, fully dedicated to serving the Lord and following his prophets. I came out to my ward in a sacrament meeting talk over the pulpit. I had no role model to follow. For much of my life I had thought that gay people didn’t belong in the church. I pretended to be straight for many years, because that was what I thought God wanted me to do. Living the gospel brought a peace into my life, and I didn’t want to give that up, even if it meant pretending to be something that I wasn’t. But as I prayed and searched for answers, I found that God didn’t want me to lie. He wanted me to be true to myself and authentic. I didn’t know if it would work, but I would try hard to hold strong to the Church and its teachings on homosexuality and still be open and honest about my feelings. I felt like a living paradox, yet at the same time, I felt more authentic than I ever had in my life. I felt people really knew me and were friends with me, instead of just my facade.

It was great, but I soon learned that wasn’t all that God had in store for me. While authenticity brought me great happiness and contentment, I found there was still something missing. I yearned for companionship. I let myself stray from the path. I allowed myself to flirt with other men and even become romantically involved. For the first time, I felt alive. Just being with another man sent my heart racing. I felt a bond that I had never felt before; a bond that I had tried for years to create with women and had failed. He was there with me, and he understood me. I knew I was meant to love and was meant to be loved.

The passion was addicting, but I realized that I no longer felt the peace that I so treasured. I began to sink into discouragement. I had discovered a feeling that I had longed for ever since I could remember, and didn’t want to give it up. I had tried with so many women, and failed miserably. Everything I had heard seemed to suggest that I would never be happy with a woman. At the time, California had just legalized same-sex marriage, on the grounds that gay people would never be able to form a marriage with the person they would chose as a lifetime partner. People were declaring that gay people could not create a fulfilling and faithful marriage under the old law. Did I really think I was an exception? Did I really think I knew more than the California Supreme Court? I came to the conclusion that I had to choose between the passion I had found, and the peace that I always knew. I decided that I would follow the church, even if it meant I would be celibate.

But again, God had something greater in store for me.

That is when I met the love of my life. She and I got along great and started dating right away. She was an amazing person who I looked up to in several ways. I told her of my attractions to men, and she was very supportive. She never made me do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. Slowly, I started being comfortable with more and more intimacy. While intimacy was forced, I found I started to enjoy it. What was more striking, is that I still felt at peace. I had never associated intimacy with peace before. I knew it wasn’t supposed to feel empty, like my relationships with men had felt, but I didn’t expect intimacy to be spiritual.

The more I got to know this woman, the more I fell in love with her, and the stronger the peace became. This continued until the peace was overwhelming. I felt that I should pray and ask God about marriage. I did not want to. I wasn’t ready. It was too soon. All of the doubts about mixed-orientation marriages flooded my mind. What girl would want to marry me? I wrestled with God. I couldn’t ask the question. Instead I asked if I should proceed as if I were to marry her. As soon as I brought myself to ask, I felt a powerful confirmation that I was supposed to follow this path. It was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. From there it seemed like all barriers fell away. Intimacy no longer was forced. Instead, I had a craving. I found myself wanting more than I would allow myself to have before marriage. My love and my bond with her eclipsed anything I had ever felt with a man. I trusted her, and felt I could really give myself to her completely. I was now ready to pray about marriage, and it felt good. We have been married for a year now, and it has been bliss. I have never been so happy in my whole entire life.

Not to say that everything has been perfect. I fear that in my brevity I have oversimplified my story. There have been many struggles and heartaches, but in the end I look at the miracle that God did in my life and I am overwhelmed with gratitude. For the first time, my life makes sense. What I had considered trials and tribulations, I now realize are blessings from a gracious Heavenly Father who loves me. In helping me deal with my same-sex attractions, my wife has gone with me deep into my soul. Instead of breaking apart our marriage, our challenges and strife have strengthened our relationship. It has created a bond that few people have.

I realize that this is not everyone’s experience. I only got here because God put me here, and I realize that for different people, God has different paths. That is why we must never judge others. Who knows what miracle God has in store for them? Our job is to love and support them. We are here to learn the difference from good and bad, and chose the good. How can we learn the difference if someone chooses for us? Many people tried to choose for me. Some were convinced I needed to marry a woman in order to obtain salvation. Others tried to tell me that for a faithful gay Mormon, the only option was celibacy. Others told me that in order to find fulfillment and be true to myself, I needed to be in a relationship with a man. Only God knows his will for us. We worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and we need to allow other people the same privilege.

Even though I had a strong impression that I needed to marry my wife, it was still difficult for me because of everything people had told me about mixed-orientation marriages. Everyone should have a fair shot at making their marriage work. When people in mixed-orientation marriages hear things like, “gay people can’t get married,” or “you wouldn’t want your daughter to marry someone like that”, it is easy for them to question their own worth and validity of their marriage. There is a challenge associated with mixed-orientation marriages, but I think that should give us more reason to buoy people up, rather than tear them down.

Just as I do not want anyone to judge me for entering into my marriage, I do not think anyone should be judged for the relationship they choose to enter. Before I met my wife, I had never felt as alive as I did as when I was with another man. It was hard to leave that behind, even knowing the peace I found in the gospel of Christ. How can I expect those who do not know that peace to turn down such a wonderful experience, when I myself had such a hard time? Society teaches that same-sex relationships are the only opportunity for gay people to be true to themselves and find fulfillment. While I disagree with society and think that teaching is harmful, many gay people know no other option. If they know no other option, can we really expect them to make another choice? I am thankful the church has given me another option, but many do not know the love that is found in the Mormon Church. While I fully supported Prop 8, at the same time I think there are many other ways we can show our love and support to same-sex couples. There are over 1100 federal rights and benefits that are being denied Californian same-sex couples that the Church does not oppose. Why focus on the areas of disagreement?

I think we need to do all we can to increase the agency of those around us. We should fight so that both mixed-orientation and same-sex couples have all of the rights and privileges they need to protect, support, and openly love their families. No one should be forced into the closet. There are wonderful people in same-sex relationships and there are wonderful people in mixed-orientation relationships. I fully believe people from both types of relationships will inherit the Celestial Kingdom.

Joseph Smith once said “If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No, I will lift them up and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.” I feel many Mormons do not lift up same-sex couples, but bear them down along with the organizations that support them. Likewise, I do not feel many in the gay community lift mixed-orientation couples up, but I have felt many bear us down along with the organizations that support us.

If we show hate, are we really obeying the commandments of God? Aren’t the two greatest commandments love thy God and love thy neighbor? Don’t all the commandments hang off of these two? If it isn’t based in love, it isn’t a commandment of God. As Christ said, that is the way he will recognize his disciples, if we have love one towards another We need to bear one another’s burdens, not to add to other’s burdens. We need to mourn with those who mourn, not cause them to mourn. Unless we can learn to love as Christ loved, we will be the ones who will not enter into the Celestial Kingdom.

What happened to me is nothing short of a miracle. At one time, my same-sex attractions, my faith in God, and my desire for a family seemed to be at odds with one another. Now, everything has come together in a beautiful masterpiece. I am thankful for those who put their faith in me, who told me I could when the rest of the world told me I couldn’t. Most importantly I thank God who has given me my greatest blessing here on Earth, my wife. I have a testimony that if we put our faith in God, He will direct our paths. He will make more of our life than we could ever dream possible. We do not know anyone else’s path. Of us, it is only required to love God and love our neighbor. Hate is not in the program.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The APA finally recognizes that ex-gay groups can change a person's sexual orientation identity

The APA has published "Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation". Among it's findings, it says ""sexual orientation identity—not sexual orientation—appears to change via psychotherapy, support groups, and life events."

Support groups can include ex-gay groups. The report also says:

"For instance, participants reported benefits from mutual support groups, both sexual-minority affirming and ex-gay groups."

So while it says that sexual orientation identity can change through ex-gay groups, it does not say that sexual orientation can change through ex-gay groups or through therapy. I agree, from my experience, sexual orientation can only be changed through Jesus Christ.

I don't think the APA findings conflict with the teachings of the church at all. In fact, some of the findings seem to confirm what the church has been teaching since 1964. When Spencer W. Kimball talked about people who were gay who later became straight, he did not say the attractions would go away, but that is was "like the cure for alcoholism subject to continued vigilance." In every AA meeting they get together and say they are an alcoholic, even if they have been sober for decades, because the lure is still there. The APA report confirms what President Kimball said back in 1964 that the identity can change, but that the attractions may persist. Nice for the APA to finally catch up.

That isn't to say I think sexual orientation cannot change. The church teaches "While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life."(God Loveth His Children) Note the difference between the APA statement that sexual orientation cannot be changed through therapy, and the church's testimony that same-gender attraction can be overcome through the enabling power of the Atonement. The APA study did not research the enabling power of the atonement.

However, the APA did look at the affects of religion and stated:

"For instance, several publications indicate that active engagement with religious texts can reduce identity conflicts by reducing the salience of negative messages about homosexuality and increasing self-authority or understanding."

They did not reject the idea of celibacy for some clients:

"Some religious individuals may wish to resolve the tension between values and sexual orientation by choosing celibacy (sexual abstinence), which in some faiths, but not all, may be a virtuous path. We found limited empirical research on the mental health consequences of that course of action. Some clinical articles and surveys of individuals indicate that some may find such a life fulfilling; however, there are others who cannot achieve such a goal and might struggle with depression and loneliness. In a similar way, acting on same-sex sexual attractions may not be fulfilling solutions for others. Licensed mental health providers may approach such a situation by neither rejecting nor promoting celibacy."

The statement that sexual orientation cannot be changed by therapy is not a statement that the person cannot find fulfillment in celibacy. It also talks about how a counselor with a married client should not dismiss the possibility of saving the marriage. It recognized the importance of a person's religious identity, which may include a command for chastity, and confirmed that it does not need to conflict with our sexual orientation identity:

"Identities can be explored, experienced, or integrated without privileging or surrendering one or another at any age."

Our leaders have not denied the existence of a sexual orientation, but have only emphasized that it is subordinate to our identity as a child or God:

"There’s no denial that one’s gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person, but it’s not the only one." (Elder Oaks)

I see no conflict between the findings of the APA and the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Much of the confusion stems from using different vocabulary than the rest of the world. If being gay means living the gay lifestyle for us, but it means having same-sex attractions for others, then it is going to create problems.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I'm worried about the status of fathers in America.

There is no replacement for a father. A father is a little boy's hero and a little girl's protector. He models how his son should treat his wife and how his daughter can expect to be treated by her husband. He fills a role that no woman can fill. All too often children are being raised without a good father figure. While many children turn out fine without a father, I think a lot of society's problems would be alleviated if all children had both a good father and a mother. I think the decline of fatherhood has had severe repercussions on our society. I believe the government should promote marriages that provide children with both a father and a mother.

That isn't to say single and lesbian mothers aren't good parents. Raising kids without a father isn't the optimal environment, but the most anyone can do is do the best without what they have. Many women recognize the unique benefit a male role model can have on their children, and go out of their way to make sure that there is a constant male role model, whether an uncle or a friend, that can mentor their children. It isn't the same as having a dedicated father, but it can go a long way. Like single-mothers, I believe lesbian can be great mothers, but there should be a recognition of the need for a male role model for their children. Having a separate distinction between civil unions and marriage recognizes that the unique role of a father or a mother would be missing for any children in that civil union. There are many things that go into the raising of a good child, but at the bare minimum, saying that a child's parents are married should mean that the child has both a father and a mother assigned to them.

There are those who do not recognize the unique benefit that only a father has for children. They believe that the gender of the parents is irrelevant as long as they are loving. The Iowa Supreme Court recently said "the traditional notion that children need a mother and a father to be raised into healthy, well-adjusted adults is based more on stereotype than anything else." The Massachusetts government enforces this view by denying funding to adoption agencies that will give preference to placing children in homes with both a father and a mother. They called only placing kids in a home with both a father and a mother "discrimination". A Catholic Adoption Agency was closed down after losing funding because of this law.

Those of us who believe that fathers are irreplaceable are coming under attack. The previous Miss California came under vicious attack after she simply expressed her view that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Many businesses were boycotted and several people were fired because they donated to protect marriage in California.

Some have even equated us to racists. They believe like racists, we should be able to believe what we want, but be barred from bringing our views into the public sector. They wish to teach our kids that fathers offer no unique benefit to a household and those who believe fathers are irreplaceable are bigoted. Some believe the idea that fathers are beneficial is so bigoted that the view should not be allowed to be brought to a vote. In California, those who believe fathers offer no unique benefit to children sought to overturn the vote of those who do. While our vote was finally upheld, our governor, Attorney General, and even one Supreme Court Justice all thought that our vote was so bigoted that it should be considered unconstitutional and shouldn't count.

In California, and a few other states, same-sex couples have the same legal right as opposite-sex couples, so this is not an issue of rights, but a question of what marriage should mean. Do fathers really make a difference, or do fatherless homes provide all that children need and there is no need for a man in a marriage? The outcome will affect what will be taught in schools. Government classes will look at these decisions and learn what it means to be a homophobe. Those of us who believe that fathers are irreplaceable will be reduced to the status of a bigot and like racists, loose the freedom to bring our point of view into the public arena.

I'm worried about the status of fathers in this country. If we can't even stand up and say there is no replacement for a father, where does that leave us? If fathers don't offer anything special, why would a man stick around and help raise his kids, when he knows that the kids has a mother and a grandmother to take of them. Why would a woman wait to have a child until she is married, when everyone tells her she doesn't need a husband to be a good mother?

There is no replacement for a father.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I agree with gay rights, but ...

In my last post, I mentioned that I was very upset about the wording of Iowa's Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. They reiterated the stance that sexual orientation cannot be changed, and then said that gay and lesbian individuals cannot fulfill the need for a deep relationship with a marriage to someone of the opposite sex.

While I completely understand why some gay and lesbian individuals do not necessarily want to be married to someone of the opposite sex, there are those that do. I don't know what to call myself now - I think I am bisexual - but I was definitely gay a year ago, and I wanted an opposite sex marriage. Now that I am finally married, I am happier than I thought possible. I have feelings for my wife that I never thought was possible for me to have with a woman.

I have been more vocal about rights and recognition for couples where one of the partners has same-sex attractions as of late, and I have been surprised at the reaction. I get five main reactions:

1) Gay people should not try to change or try to make a heterosexual marriage work.

They say we are not really happy, or we are lying to ourselves. They say it is a good thing to discourage people from enter into marriages, and even that those already in such a marriage should break up. Whatever happened to we could be with whoever we want to be with?

2) No one is telling you what you should do.

Obviously, these people haven't talked to people in group one. Or at least until they don't really understand what I am talking about, and then once they do many oin the people in group 1.

3) I don't matter.

Someone actually told me that first we need to fight for the rights of the majority of gays before we even start to be concerned about the minority of gays.

4) Gays who are heterosexually married work must really be bisexual.

I guess it depends on your definition of bisexual. My question is whether it is possible to change your sexual orientation? I was only attracted to men before my wife. Am I now bisexual? If that is the case, then that means gays can change their sexual orientation and become bisexual. Therefore gays can make a heterosexual marriage work, because they changed their orientation.

5) I never thought of that before.

Finally some open minded people. There actually are quite a few gay rights activists who recognize the fact that not everyone who is gay wants a lifestyle pushed down their throats. Camile Paglio is one that comes to mind.

What I want
Ultimately, we have a lot of the same goals. I also want an environment free of homophobia. I want to reduce the suicide rate of gays and lesbians. I want children to be able to tell their parents that they think they might be gay without their parents telling them they are going to hell.

Can we work together on these goals? I would like to see people acknowledge that some gays want and can succeed at making a fulfilling marriage with someone of the opposites sex. I would like people to acknowledge that while sexual attractions are not a choice, sexual behavior is a choice.

I would like people to stop saying that churches are anti-gay that teach that gays can receive peace through coming to Christ and giving up same-sex relationships. I have received so much happiness and peace through this teaching, and it hurts me that anyone would accuse a church that has brought me so much peace of being unloving or unwelcoming towards gays.

I would like for people to stop saying bans on same-sex marriage eliminates the rights of gays to get married. Say it eliminates the rights of same-sex couples to get married.

Finally, I want schools to teach an unbiased view of homosexuality. Teach some gays have found happiness in same-sex relationships, but others have found happiness in celibacy or opposite-sex relationships. Teach the children that they have the power to choose the direction of their lives, and not to listen to what anyone else tells them is right or wrong.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Apparently, gays are incapable of opposite-sex marriage

Today, the Iowa Supreme Court shot down the ban on same-sex marriage:

What was there reasoning? That people should be able to marry whoever they want? Nope. I wish that were the case. Their reasoning is that gay men are incapable changing and will never be able to fulfill their deeply felt need for a committed personal relationship with a woman and gay woman are equally incapable of fulfilling that need. It is one thing to say gay people should be able to marry whoever they want, and completely other thing to say they are incapable of being happily and faithfully married to a member of the opposite sex. Here is a section from the Iowa Supreme Court decision:

"Viewed in the complete context of marriage, including intimacy, civil marriage with a person of the opposite sex is as unappealing to a gay or lesbian person as civil marriage with a person of the same sex is to a heterosexual. Thus, the right of a gay or lesbian person under the marriage statute to enter into a civil marriage only with a person of the opposite sex is no right at all. Under such a law, gay or lesbian individuals cannot simultaneously fulfill their deeply felt need for a committed personal relationship, as influenced by their sexual orientation, and gain the civil status and attendant benefits granted by the statute. Instead, a gay or lesbian person can only gain the same rights under the 31 statute as a heterosexual person by negating the very trait that defines gay and lesbian people as a class - their sexual orientation."
"Accordingly, because sexual orientation is central to personal identity and ‘may be altered [if at all] only at the expense of significant damage to the individual’s sense of self,’ classifications based on sexual orientation are no less entitled to consideration as a suspect or quasi-suspect class than any other group that has been deemed to exhibit an immutable characteristic." (See complete statement:

For years I thought this was the case for me. I thought I would be incapable of fulfilling my deeply felt need for a committed personal relationship with a woman. Fortunately, I was wrong. I have changed. I am sexually attracted to a woman, and I am so happy being married, and I think way too many gay men and women sell themselves short are write off opposite sex relationships all together.

Are LGBT rights only for LGBT people who are openly seeking same sex relationships, or do these rights extend to all LGBT people, regardless of how they choose to live their lives? In order to be truly free, LGBT rights must recognize and respect the rights of all LGBT people, and making statements that gay men and women are incapable of a fulfilling opposite sex relationship is discriminatory.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Our divine destiny as it applies to gays and lesbians

One of the first lines from The Family: A Proclamation to the World reads: "All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny."1Our nature is that we are children of God.2 Our destiny is to have joy.3 This joy comes from following the commandments of God.4 We must accept Christ and take upon us his name.5 One of the greatest joys is found in the family, which is one reason we are commanded to multiply and replenish the Earth.6 Our destiny is to be exalted, together as a family. Being God's children, we are to inherit all that he has.7Of course, all that isn't going to happen here. There are children who die before being able to accept Christ, and many others who live their whole lives without even hearing of the gospel. Other people, for whatever reason, will never have the chance to get married in this life. But God is just, and it will all work out in the end. However, we must understand the goal that we are working towards. Understanding that goal is key in helping us fulfill our divine nature and identity. Once we understand our own purpose, we can help others to understand and fulfill their destiny.Since our identities are so essential to the Lord's plan, our identities are often under attack. It is this attack of which I wish to speak of today. Our identities are under attack by what we think of ourselves, how we see other people, and how we act according to those identities. One of the ways our identities are attacked is through labels. We use labels everyday. It is how we identify what we are talking about. However, labels can be used to hurt or limit the capacity of our fellow man. These labels are powerful, and whether they are true or not, they take a hold of our hearts, and lead us to action. This is one of the reasons it is so important that we take upon ourselves the name of Christ. If this is our identity, it will lead to act according to the commands of God. However, if we choose some other label as our main identity, we become weak, for we are only as strong as that label. When Satan came to Moses and told him to worship him, Moses replied: "Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?"8 If Moses had responded "Who art thou? For behold, I am Moses, a prince of Egypt," he would not have had the same result. Elder Holland tells the story of one man who let one of these labels diminish his self worth and distract him from his divine identity. He states:
A pleasant young man in his early 20s sat across from me. He had an engaging smile, although he didn’t smile often during our talk. What drew me in was the pain in his eyes.
“I don’t know if I should remain a member of the Church,” he said. “I don’t think I’m worthy.”
“Why wouldn’t you be worthy?” I asked.
“I’m gay.”
I suppose he thought I would be startled. I wasn’t. “And … ?” I inquired.
A flicker of relief crossed his face as he sensed my continued interest. “I’m not attracted to women. I’m attracted to men. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings or change them, but …”
He sighed. “Why am I this way? The feelings are very real.”
I paused, then said, “I need a little more information before advising you. You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings. Do you violate the law of chastity?”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
This time I was relieved. “Thank you for wanting to deal with this,” I said. “It takes courage to talk about it, and I honor you for keeping yourself clean.
“As for why you feel as you do, I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. But knowing why you feel as you do isn’t as important as knowing you have not transgressed. If your life is in harmony with the commandments, then you are worthy to serve in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the temple, and receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement.”
He sat up a little straighter. I continued, “You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you.
“What’s more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you."9
One of the things that struck me about this story was the pain the young man's eyes. When Satan came to him, and told him he wasn't worthy, he didn't say "Who art thou? I am a son of God." He said "You're right, I'm gay." He ended up believing Satan's lies that he wasn't worthy, and hence Satan was able to prevent this man from having joy, and replaced his deserved joy with pain.Does this happen to you? Does Satan cloud your mind from your true identity, and tell you that you are not worthy of God's love? Does he replace your core identity with some other identity, that isn't nearly as important your true identity as a beloved child of God?Satan uses many tricks to do this. We may look around and think of ourselves as less talented, less skilled, not as faithful, or not as beautiful as those around us. When Satan comes and tells us we aren't worthy, we too might bow our heads and agree with him, "You're right, I'm not as good as so and so at such and such."God gives us our gifts. God gives us our weaknesses. Everything we have we have received from the Lord. He knows what we are capable of and what we are not capable of. He gives our weaknesses so that we can be humble, and he uses that humility to bring us unto him, so that he can make those weak things become strengths.10 If we believe in Christ, and follow his will, we will be able to accomplish all things.11One of the greatest impediments to feeling worthy is the feeling we cannot accomplish what the Lord has asked us to do. But He knows our weaknesses, and yet promises that he shall prepare a way for us so that we may accomplish the thing which he has commanded us.12 Relying on the Lord and trusting that we can accomplish what he has in store for us is all part of preparing us to achieve our destiny.13 This is one of the reasons hope is so essential to the plan of happiness.14 I think gays are especially challenged in this area, because so many people teach they are inherently evil. God did not create anyone to fail. He created us to succeed.15 Our divine destiny applies to every one of God's children. Some may forget that the Family was not a proclamation to the church, but a proclamation to the world. President Hinckley said "Now we have gays in the church. Good people. We take no action against such people – provided they don’t become involved in transgression, sexual transgression. If they do, we do with them exactly what we’d do with heterosexuals who transgress."16 Later, as a follow-up to the Larry King interview, he said "People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church."17Knowing that we are able to accomplish the Lord's commandments is an essential step in feeling our worth and fulfilling our destiny. The next logical step is to obey the Lord's commands. Of course, Satan challenges us here too. The world teaches us that we should embrace all of our feelings. If something feels good, we should do it. Elder Oaks said “All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings.”18 These unchosen feelings do not take away our divine nature and destiny. We were made to act, not to be acted upon.19 The natural man acts unrestrained on these desires, and is an enemy of God.20 But we have been given the power to choose for ourselves.21 We fought a war for our agency, for our ability to act, and that war continues here on Earth. Satan would have us believe we are incapable of acting, incapable of obeying God’s commandments, and hence incapable of joy.
As we learn to control our feelings and bridle our passions, we feel better about ourselves.22 We are empowered to do more, and accomplish great things. There is a peace that only Christ can give us.23 This peace is this sweetest thing on Earth.24 As members of the Lord's church, we dedicate our lives towards bringing this peace to our fellow man.25 This may prove difficult at times, as it may require an abrupt change in the lives of those we teach.26 However, this peace and joy is the purpose of why we are here, and if we are diligent in helping our brother and sisters to change their lives, they too can join with us in the most glorious joy available to man.27
This requires some hard changes. In doing so, we might come off unloving. With regards to the church's position on same-sex relationships, many feel the church is unloving. But this is really one of the greatest things we can do for those involved in same-sex relationships.
President Packer explains "We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you. You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy. We did not make the rules; they were revealed as commandments. We do not cause nor can we prevent the consequences if you disobey the moral laws. In spite of criticism or opposition, we must teach and we must warn."28
Our church leaders teach us correct principles because they love us. Wickedness brings pain,29 and our purpose is to have joy. They do all that they can to teach us joy, and I am so grateful for the love they show to us.
Michael Glatze, who was the founder of the magazine Young Gay America and was of the up-and-coming gay right activists, said after repenting and being baptized into the Lord's Church, “Homosexuality prevents us from finding our true self within. We cannot see the truth when we are blinded by homosexuality." He said that before he was baptized, whenever he had a sense that he was doing something wrong, "I would just attribute it to, 'that's just the way life is.'...30
How many of us feel that our leaders don't love us because they tell not to do something? Do we feel they are harsh, unfair, or unloving. It is precisely because they are loving that they teach and warn us against the dangers of our day. They know obeying the commandments will bring us joy. Here is one story how the “tough love” President Packer was discussing brought joy to one woman's life:
Melissa Fryrear came to believe at an early age that her same-sex attractions made her "detestable" before God. Under this false belief system, she turned away from God and by the time she was 16 had started having sexual relationships with women. After living with her girlfriend for many years, a Christian co-worker befriended her. She talked with her girlfriend, and they decided to go to a local church. When they entered the small, conservative church, they were welcomed with open arms and the congregation invited her and her girlfriend to the various activities. Doris and her husband D.J. in particular took time to reach out to Melissa. She recounts "They met me where I was, accepted me with grace, loved me unconditionally and prayed for me fervently. It was through the relationship with them that I was led to make the most important decision of my life. One day in February of ’91, I said quietly in my heart, Jesus, I need You. I receive You. Please, please, please come and be the Savior of my soul and the Lord of my life. And He did... For months I went around and around with the Lord. I didn’t understand. I argued with Him, begged Him, ignored Him, hurt Him and fled from Him... Over the next months, the Holy Spirit continued to work God’s truth in my heart until I ultimately came to the point where I knew that I knew what I was doing was wrong. Even in my confusion, even in my anger, even in my rebellion, God showered me with His kindness, which led to repentance. In October ’92, by His grace, I repented of my years of sexual sin."31 Melissa left her girlfriend and is touring the country telling all of how God saved her from the chains of homosexuality.
What would have happened to Melissa if Doris and DJ had adopted the philosophy of day, and had told Melissa that she would never change, and that God wanted her to be in a same-sex relationship? Melissa would have been denied the healing power of the atonement. So many gays are looking for healing, and much of the world is telling them it is impossible.
This is the whole point of the church: to bring us to Christ, so that through his atoning mercy, we can turn all of our sorrows and pains over to him.32 Yet this is a difficult process. Both the young man that Elder Holland interviewed and Melissa talked of severe pain associated with the process. Alma recounts a similar pain: “But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.”33 Yet this pain is a cleansing pain. It brings us to our Savior. Alma continues: “Now as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me... And now behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain.”34
The pain might be hard, but it is worth the joy. There are many good-intentioned people, who encourage a sinner to continue in their ways, so that they would not have to feel that pain. I remember on my mission, I was working with an investigator who was trying to quit smoking. She threw away all of cigarettes and didn't bring any money with her to buy any more. However, when her friends saw how much pain she was going through to quit smoking, they insisted that she take one of their cigarettes. If they were true friends, they would have suffered with her. I think that is why the scriptures ask us to “mourn with those who mourn.”35
I think gay men and women have a lot of suffering to do, and it is our responsibility to help them. Elder Oaks exhorted us that "All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness “to bear one another’s burdens” “and so fulfil the law of Christ.”36 Let us live up to that covenant.
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord thy God, and the second is to love thy neighbor as thyself. All other commandments hang on these two great ones.37 Everything we do should be out of love. From reading the words of our prophets, I know that they love gays and lesbians, and they are doing all that they can to teach them of their divine heritage and help them fulfill their divine potential.
However, there are many forces trying to tell gay men and lesbians that they are incapable of fulfilling their divine destiny, or that they would be happier rejecting their destiny than fulfilling it.
Satan tells gay people who want to obey the commandments of God that it is impossible, he tells gay people who are confused about which way they should go that they should pursue same-sex relationships, and he tells those that are in same-sex relationships that they can't change. Isaiah 5:20 reads "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" So many people with same-sex attraction believe they should pursue same-sex relationships in order to be true to themselves. They avoid marriage because they believe it would be dishonest for their spouse. Those already married leave their marriages because they believe that is what they should do. Those who want to obey the commandments of God are being ridiculed and told they are being dishonest, and those trying to help them are being told they are hurting them. Marriages are being broken apart, lives are being destroyed, souls are lost, and the wounded suffer in silence and are denied the healing power of the atonement, all in the name of acceptance and open-mindedness.
I have chosen to focus on the divine nature and destiny of gay men and women partially because of the political atmosphere, but also because I think it is a strong example of how destructive a false view of one's identity could be. We all face challenges to our identity. Whatever the temptation may be, there are those lined up to tell us we would be happier embracing that desire rather than going through the pains of repentance. We must be strong. If we remember who we are, we will be able to ignore Satan, and continue with faith and fulfill our destiny. And that will bring true joy, which is the whole reason why we exist.
It also a testimony of how powerful the Lord is in helping us overcome our struggles. Any struggle can be overcome. I know way too many people who victimize themselves, who falsely believe they are incapable of attaining the Celestial Kingdom, who believe the road is too hard to travel because they are too weak, because some desire is too strong, or some burden is too heavy. Others falsely believe that something that happened in the past, like abuse or a transgression, disqualifies them from the kingdom of God. 2 Nephi 26:5 reads "Doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price." God is that powerful. He can redeem all who come unto him. This is my testimony. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
1 The Family: A Proclamation to the World
2 Romans 8:16
3 2 Nephi 2:25
4 Mosiah 2:41
5 3 Nephi 27:5
6 Genesis 1:28
7 Romans 8:17
8 Moses 1:13
9 Holland, Jeffrey. "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction" Ensign, Oct. 2007, 42–45
10 Ether 12:27
11 Philippians 4:13
12 1 Nephi 3:7
13 Mosiah 4:9-10
14 Ether 12:32
15 2 Nephi 2:25
16 Lattin, Don (April 13, 1997), "Musings of the Main Mormon: Gordon B. Hinckley"
17 Hinckley, Gordon. "What are People Asking About Us?" Ensign, Nov 1998, 70)
18 Oaks, Dallin "Same-Gender Attraction" Ensign, Oct 1995, 7
19 2 Nephi 2:14
20 Mosiah 3:19
21 2 Nephi 2:27
22 Alma 38:12
23 John 14:27
24 1 Nephi 11:22
25 D&C 15:6
26 Mosiah 27:25
27 D&C 18:15-16
28 Packer, Boyd K. "Ye Are the Temple of God" Ensign, Nov 2000, 72–74
29 Alma 41:10
30 Glatze, Michael "How a 'gay rights' leader became straight" WorldNetDaily
31 Fryrear, Melissa "The Seeds that Grow: Real Stories - Women" Exodus International
32 Alma 7:11
33 Alma 36:12
34 Alma 19-20
35 Mosiah 18:9
36 Oaks, Dallin "Same-Gender Attraction" Ensign, Oct 1995, 7
37 Matt 22:37-40

Coming out talk from March 11, 2007

One of my favorite prophets was Enoch. This guy started off hated by men and slow of speech, but out of a people of which it was said were evil continually, and against whom the fierce anger of the Lord was kindled, he was able to create a Zion so righteous that it was brought up into God's bosom.
After he built Zion, Enoch was able to have one of the most intimate conversations with God ever recorded. He saw a vision of the world and the wickedness thereof. He also got a unique view of what God means when he says about a people:
“And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them.” (Moses 7:34)
As God was showing the wickedness of the world, Enoch looked over, and saw God weep. He was really confused. These were people against whom the wrath of the Lord was kindled. He asked “How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?” Again he says “How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?” He recounts the majesty of God and all his creations, about how he had just taken a whole city of righteousness into his bosom. Enoch must really have been confused, because he asks a third time “how is it thou canst weep?”
God explained that he gave them agency, and taught them the Celestial law, but they rejected him, and now they were about to be destroyed. He sums up by saying;
“Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them. And That which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment; Wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands.” (Moses 7:37-40)
These were the most wicked people the world has ever known, and God's anger was kindled against them, and yet He wept for them. He had just gained a whole city of righteous followers. Why would care about these people with whom his fierce anger was kindled? Why? Because He loved them, and wants to be with them. Even for those who willfully rebelled against him, he wept over their suffering. Do you understand how great their worth must be if the God of the universe weeps over them? Do you understand your worth? If God weeps for their suffering, how do you think he feels when you suffer, or I suffer? I know God loves us, and that we are worth more to him than we could ever possible imagine. He wants us to be with Him, and he will weep if we aren't.
Even though God weeps for our suffering, he still allows us to go through trials. He allows us to suffer, even if we did nothing to deserve it. Let me relate an experience I had that helped me better understand how God feels:
I volunteered as a translator at a health clinic where they were taking blood samples to test for iron deficiency. Lots of kids went through and acted to various degrees of bravery. Some acted like nothing happened, while some screamed bloody murder.
One toddler came in, a very happy little guy, and innocently gave his hand to the nurse. Once he discovered that the nurse wanted to prick his finger with something pointy, he let out a yelp and drew back his hand in horror. He had the most betrayed look in his eyes. His eyes grew big, questioning “Mom, if you love me, why did you get me into this mess.” The mom comforted her son and coaxed him to give his finger to the nurse. The little boy mustered up all of his courage and gave his hand to the nurse. Tears swelled up in his eyes when the nurse tested his blood, but he didn't make a sound, just cradling in his mom's bosom. I noticed that his mother's eyes teared up as well. I wondered who this experience was harder for, the son or the mother.
The Lord told Joseph Smith in Carthage jail, “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (DC 122:7)
Experience. Stinking experience. It seems like a high price to pay for experience, but I know it shall be for my good, and I need to pass through tribulations in order to be exalted, which I want more than anything else in the world. Still it is hard for me to go through. I imagine it must be hard for God to see me go through, but there is something God wants more than my temporal happiness. He wants me to live with him again. He wants my soul. Do you realize how great the worth of your soul is in the sight of God? He was willing to literally suffer with us through hell so he may bring our souls back to live with him again.
But before we can get through our tribulations, before they can be consecrated for our good, we need to let the Lord in to suffer with us. We need to let him carry, not just our sins, but our sorrows, and our tribulations. We need to understand that he wants to helps us, and he wants us to live him again. We need to understand our worth before God. In 1 John 4:19 it says “We love him, because he first loved us.” We have to understand his love first. The little boy would not go to the nurse at first. It wasn't until he felt the love his mother had for him that he was able to allow the nurse to prick his finger. We need to understand how great our worth is in the Lord's sight before we can allow him to help us.
Although the hardships we endure may at first make it harder to recognize our worth, I think tackling it with faith in Christ helps us realize that our worth is great even though we have trials. I look at people who are suffering from chronic disease. Some have became bitter and angry at God, but others have developed an immense spirituality and trust in the Lord. This is definitely true of me and what I have gone through in my life. Through my struggles with same gender attraction, the Lord has taught me how great his love for me really is, and how through coming to him and using the atonement I can overcome anything. I learned his love really is all-encompassing, and he really loves all of me.
I didn't always have that view. At first, I was horribly ashamed of my struggle, and wanted to hide it from the Lord. I was like the little boy that screamed when he was pricked, and questioned if his mother still loved him. I knew God loved me, but I didn't think he loved that part of me. I separated myself into the good Josh that God loved, and the other Josh that dealt with this struggle. For years I would just beat myself up over it, thinking that if I could just get rid of that other Josh, then God would love me. I thought if I just made the good Josh good enough, it would make up for my attractions. I withdrew from others, thinking something was wrong with me, and they wouldn't accept me unless I was able to get rid of that part of me. I swung into depression thinking I would always be alone.
But the fact of the matter is that the love of God is more powerful than that. In Romans 8:35-39, it states “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How could I think that this could separate me from the love of God? God's love is more powerful than that. I realized that God loved all of me and that he allowed me to have this, not to punish me, because it has to be hard for Him too, but for my own good. He is over everything, and knows what we can handle. He gave us our tribulations to make us stronger. Paul said we should “glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed.” (Romans 5:3-5)
I then went and talked to my bishop at the time. He helped me understand my worth before God. I realized that hardships were not something we got because we were bad or worthless, but because God trusted us with them. Once I understood my worth before God and trust how He was running my life, I was able to hand them over to him. No longer was I the little boy that feared at the sight of a needle and questioned his mother's love, but the one that bravely gave his finger to be tested while holding on tightly to his mother.
As I understood my worth before God, I began to have more confidence in myself. I lifted up my head, and interacted more with others. Rather than keeping all of my burdens to myself, I began sharing what I was going through. As I saw that they accepted me for who I was, regardless of what struggles I might have, I began to accept myself. I was able to date with more hope and expectation, and now look forward with confidence to the day that I will be sealed to my wife in the temple and raise a righteous family to the Lord. As I recognized my worth before God, I also recognized the worth of my brothers and sisters. I became less judgmental, less critical, and more loving of them through their faults and weaknesses because I understood God still loved me.
Brothers and sisters, I testify that God's love is deep. Nothing in the world can compare to it. It is more powerful than anything you might encounter in your lives. If you understand how deeply God loves you, and how great your worth is, you can do anything.
If you do not understand your worth before God, go talk to the bishop. You don't have to be sinning to talk to him. He frequently talks to many people who are struggling with financial, relationship, emotional, identity and physical trials. He wants you to understand your worth. He has been a constant help to me, refusing to let me get down on myself. He has helped me to open up, and gave me the courage and permission to share my experience with you today. He has helped me understand my worth. He can do it for you.
Last October, Elder Oaks said “Many carry heavy burdens. Some have lost a loved one to death or care for one who is disabled. Some have been wounded by divorce. Others yearn for an eternal marriage. Some are caught in the grip of addictive substances or practices like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or pornography. Others have crippling physical or mental impairments. Some are challenged by same-gender attraction. Some have terrible feelings of depression or inadequacy. In one way or another, many are heavy laden. To each of us our Savior gives this loving invitation: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'” And oh, does he give us rest.
Jesus has seen it all. We always talk about how Christ suffered for our sins, but we often forget that he suffered for every type of infirmity. Alma 7:11 tells us that “he went forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind,” not just sins. The next verse reads that “he [took] upon him [our] infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, and that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”
If any of you are struggling with anything, whether a struggle, or even a sin, please understand that your worth is great in the sight of God. He wants you. Yeah, he wants you to be happy, to be comfortable and normal, but more importantly, he wants your soul. And he will do anything, even put you through hell, in order to be with you forever.
Come unto Christ. Lay your burdens on the Lord and He will heal you. Realize your worth. He loves you, and wants to be with you. Your worth is great is in his sight. He loves you so much, and there is nothing that can separate you from his love. If you come to Him, he will cry tears of happiness, as the father of the prodigal son did. If you don't, he will weep, yea, even the Great God of the Universe will weep your over loss, as he did for the people in the time of Enoch.
I testify that God loves each and every one of you, more than you could ever possibly understand. I testify of this, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I don't want a better half

Last Sunday, the Bishop spoke. He expressed gratitude to his wife and said that he truly married above himself. He went on to say that almost all men marry above themselves and went as far as to apologize to the women in the ward that they have to put up with the men in the ward.

Now, I know this is going against the status qua, but isn't that sexist? I thought men and women were created equal, not the wife being the "better half". Eve was not taken from the foot to be subdued by man, nor taken from the head to rule the man, but the side to coexist as equals. If we truly believed that doctrine, why is it okay for men to go up and refer to their wives as their better halves, while women go up and joke about their husbands being just another kid to take care of. Now don't get me wrong, I am all for men complimenting their wives. I just don't think you need to put yourself down in order to do it, and especially I don't think you need to put men down as whole. Can't the man stand up and say how wonderful his wife is without putting himself down?

One of the reasons that we do this is that women and femininity is under appreciated. Many men treat women as inferiors, and the world is full of women who have been battered both physically and emotionally from uncaring husbands. Especially in the church, there are so many women who never feel they measure up. They suffer from low self esteem and their sense of self worth receives way too little reinforcement from their husbands. This is a serious problem and we as a church should consider it our duty to reach out to those hands that hang down in sorrow and buoy them up. I just don't think we're doing it the right way.

I went to a Young Single Adult conference where the speaker basically said that the reason women have low self esteem is because men don't treat them right, and if them men would only treat women better the women would have better self esteem. I have two problems with this approach. First of all it makes women victims. What is a woman thinking hearing that? Her self esteem problems are men's fault and there is nothing to do until her boyfriend shapes up. I don't think that is helpful. Maybe they should tell the women to shape up and that their boyfriend will never learn to respect her until she first learns to respect herself. That would empower a women, instead of once again, making her dependent on men for her happiness.

Second, and my biggest gripe, is I don't think belittling men helps them very much. If you look at bullies, they usually aren't bullies because they have an overdeveloped self esteem, but an under developed one. Maybe it isn't a man with an over-sized head that belittles women, but one with poor self esteem who feels he has to put women down in order to make himself feel better.

What? Men can have low self-esteems? Yes, but instead of calling it self esteem, we call it ego. I've heard several women complain about their significant other's ego. "My husband refused to ask for directions because it would be a blow to his ego." I then heard her mock the male ego, and say how dumb it was that men were so protective of their egos.

Well, I would submit that it is just as important to men to have a healthy ego, or self esteem, than it is for a women. Men are to be providers for the family. They are the patriarch of the family, and are supposed to lead and guide their family in righteousness. That is a huge responsibility, and most men do not feel that they can live up to that challenge. How can I lead my family out of depths of Babylon across this treacherous terrain we call life into the Celestial Kingdom if I can't even get my family from my house to the Home Depot without having to stop and ask for directions.

Yet women don't seem to get that at all. I can say the exact same thing for men - that we don't understand women and don't appreciate her femininity, but right now I am talking about misconceptions about men. I think we both need to better understand and appreciate the differences. Women do not value men's recklessness, independence, or competitiveness. Many try to tame their husbands, and make them ask directions, be safe, and stop competing. They try to mother their husbands, going as far as saying they are just another child to take care of. I would never let my wife disrespect me like that, as I hope she never lets me disrespect her. We should help each learn to respect each other by first respecting ourselves.

Though the women's movement has helped us appreciate the feminine more, I think it has severely hurt our perception of men. Look how the father is treated in sitcoms. Dumb and lazy. The woman is always right, and a happy ending is when the man learns to bend to the ways of her wife. Gone are the days of "Father Knows Best" and it is replaced with a magnet found on the refrigerator of my home. "Rule No.1 Mother is always right. Rule No.2 if Mother is ever wrong, see rule number one." We completely skipped the equal partner stage. Can't sometimes the man be right and sometimes the woman be right? Can't it be a good thing when the husband is reckless, competitive or independent?

Yesterday, I was listening to a guy tell a story about a hike he went on. He hiked up past his family, but then some other guys passed him up. He was trying to keep up with them, but couldn't. Later he found out he was sick, and was glad to know it was the sickness that held him back, not his own incapability. He wondered that if he went back, and weren't sick, if he could pass the guys, or at least keep up with them.

A girl, who was listening to the story, and obviously non-appreciative of the masculine trait of competitiveness, quipped that maybe he would just enjoy the scenery (an equally valuable, yet feminine trait), which she implied should have been the purpose of the hike. Why was that okay in our society? If she were telling a story about enjoying a beautiful hike, I wouldn't even dream of insulting her and telling her she should have been more focused on not lagging behind and making us all late, yet she felt perfectly justified in demeaning masculinity. I doubt that was her intention. In fact, I doubt she had any malice whatsoever. I think she is an awesome woman, but the fact is that she did not understand or respect my friend's masculine ideals.

There is a reason men are different. We learn competitiveness in sports so that when we enter the work force, we can compete and provide for our families. We take risks so we can protect our family from danger. We are independent, so our wives can depend on us. It is the teenage boy who joy rides in the snow to see how far he can skid, who knows exactly what to do when ten years later, he is driving in a blizzard with his wife at his side and his daughter in the back asleep in the car seat, and his car begins to slid into oncoming traffic. It is the boy who teases cats, who catches lizards and goes hunting with his father who will chase away the mountain lion that trapped his family in their tent on their last camping trip. It is the boy who comes home covered with cuts and bruises and always forgets his helmet while riding his bicycle who without any weapons, will confront the armed robber trying to take advantage of his wife. It is the boy who knows no fear in jumping off tall cliffs into the icy lake, that will present his idea to the boss, the boy who pushes a little harder to beat his best friend in the race that applies for the promotion even though his coworker is more qualified. It is the boy who competes and risks that protects his family and puts food on their plate. And yet his whole life, he is beaten down, because he is not nice and safe, like his wife thinks he should be.

Celebrate manhood! Celebrate masculinity! It is a man who is comfortable in his masculinity, who knows he has what it takes to lead his family in righteousness, who treats women with respect. It is the man who is afraid, who doubts he can live up to the expectations that thrives off belittling women to puff up his fragile sense of manhood. Lift us up, don't put us down. Acknowledge our masculinity. Appreciate it. Praise it. Make us feel good when we've challenged ourselves, when we out-hiked, out-ran and out-played our friends, when we risked something and succeeded. Make a man feel good about his masculinity and he will learn to appreciate the feminine. He will take that extra second to comment on how stunning his wife looks on the way to a romantic evening instead of complaining of the several hours she took to look that way and once again, making everyone late.

So the secret is to put both up. Make a man feel like a man and a woman feel like a woman, and then maybe they will start acting like it. I don't want a "better half" - someone to constantly remind of why I fall short of a woman's expectation. I want someone who buoys me up as much as I do to her. I want a companion and a friend. I want an equal.