I've lived much of my life deciding whether or not people deserved my compassion. And I had a fantastic formula deciding this: if their challenges were easier than mine, then no compassion was given on my part.
The hardest question asked during my interview with CNN was “Do you think the Mormon Church does enough for LGBT?” I was terrified how my answer might be presented back to hundreds of thousands of the CNN audience.
Is it wrong that I struggle with being faithful? No. I’m human. It’s about making small improvements and getting back on my feet when I fall. It’s about not passing final judgement on myself or others. God hasn’t given out final judgements. Why do I often give out a final crappy judgement for myself that I’m not heaven material? What a waste of thinking.
Of all my questions in attempting to live a chaste life as a gay Mormon, there is one that has pained me the most physically, emotionally and spiritually. A pain that I best describe as a dull suffocation of love and connection. From my God to my trusted friends I ask, who will cuddle me?
What do you do when you have a dream that someone you know on the other side of the world gets cancer, dies, and you attend the funeral? That’s exactly what happened to me a few years ago. I awoke from the dream thinking, ‘even if this person were to die from cancer, who would notify me of such an event?”
The sobs were so deep and so painful, that I could struggled to breath and felt as if I was going to pass out....My stomach muscles contracted so hard that I hunched over in pain. “How could this be?” I thought.
...I was standing face to face with the meanest, the ugliest, the most ferocious wolf I had ever seen. And our noses were only inches apart. This monster of an animal was growling and gnashing its teeth that were specifically designed to shred its kill. It lunged tirelessly at me while its dripping saliva splattered my face. It was the closest I had ever been to so much hatred and pure evil. And It was trying to kill me.
When people would ask, "Where are you studying?" With confidence I replied "BYU." But inside I felt different. I felt like a fake. I felt the admissions department only admitted me out of pity. I mean, who applies 6x to their undergraduate college?
At my previous employment, the marketing/finance department was a very diverse crowd. We thought it’d be fun to draw each other’s names and dress up as that individual for a day. And me, a man, drew a woman’s name, Sarah Call. Did I mention she wasn’t a man?
I believe God created romantic love to bring 2 people together. That it’s purpose was to foster an environment where God-like love could grow. I also believe that as God-like love grows, it eventually chokes out the romantic love. Thus, creating a purer and eternal lasting relationship. I believe God is more concerned about building and blessing the God-live love than He is the romantic love.
“If we are more mindful of those relationships, if we do our best to reach out to others in ways that lift them, if we treat them as the potentially divine beings they are, and if their joys and sorrows become our joys and sorrows, then our lives will be more productive and more joyful. We will be filled with the love of Christ, and we will grow closer to Him, with the promise “that when he shall appear we shall be like him.” - President Kevin J Worthen
I've had several opportunities to give life-sketches at funerals in my life. The experience of writing and sharing these life-sketches is a very spiritual one. And yet I have been torn on 2 things I experienced in writing them...
That title is correct. Feeling down? Don't bless your food. I was in Taiwan teaching English to a Buddhist family and discussing typical daily prayers in the USA. They were confused when they learned we asked God to bless our food. They asked, "Why? Is your food poisoned? We would think your food is safe to eat in America." That simple question changed my "Blessing on the food" the rest of my life.
Those sitting at the table become silent, not knowing what to answer. The awkward tension is almost tangible. Looking purposefully into their eyes I ask, “How is any gay member expected to stay at this table we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Surely it can’t be maintained long term for any of us in this situation!”
10 years ago, I walked to the back of the long line at the post office during the busy shipping season of Christmas. An elderly lady soon entered the store, picked up a shipping box and stood to the side of the line. I said to myself, “To the back of the line old lady. We all have places to go. No cutting.”
Routine activities that once had meaning can turn mundane and boring. I sometimes view my "routine" sacrament worship as boring. Elder Holland in his Oct 1995 General Conference talk reminded me why I need to change my experience in sacrament meeting.
And by the time I said "Amen", my head was on my pillow and I figured God would understand I was just "too tired to pray." You'd think that as a grown adult, that my lazy approach to prayer was in the past. Well....sometimes I catch myself saying that pathetic prayer.
We had to swim across frigid waters only to be blasted with a freezing windstorm. Obstacles became more intense and we were sopping wet. Some members experienced early signs of hypothermia while others crumbled to severe muscle cramps. I began to question: "How are we going to finish as a team when we still have so far to go?"
Speculating and complaining about unrevealed truths can rob us happiness. It’s one of Satan’s great vices. To find happiness in God’s Plan of Happiness today, we must learn to worship God to our best ability according to the truth and knowledge we have received.
As the conversation continued, I could feel things change. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it. But then I recognized it. The love of God permeates from this man! I found myself enjoying in his goodness and I knew I was interacting with a genuinely humble person. Something told me THIS is what I should be working for.
My first judgement was this man in dangerous. He was tall and huge with a long gray beard and wearing a leather jacket. Who knows how long since his last haircut or his last arrest or assault. And from his body language and his walking pace towards me, I knew he meant business. I needed to run and run fast. But he was too fast for me.
In the ever-changing photograph we call life, we must decide when and where to focus and refocus. Sometimes we become fixated on a thing, hobby, sin, our appearance, or hurt feeling. Or like a fart in a skillet, we are all over the place trying to focus on everything at once.
I realized in that prayer – I am that annoying customer to God. I pray most days but I do all the talking and I never care to listen for an answer. I say what I have to say, unload my frustrations on God and then I leave before He can tell me anything.
Recently I told family and close friends I lost my desire to live. Their faces turned to shock and concern as they assumed I was suicidal. But suicide was far from my mind. I wasn’t depressed or miserable. I was actually mentally and emotionally healthy & content. But there was an absence of joy and peace and the feeling that my life had purpose.
When I was planning my vacations for 2015, I wanted a discipleship journey. Some type of trip that I could focus on becoming like Jesus Christ; do as He would do if He was here. I thought of a service road trip across the United States or a visit to the Holy Lands. I finally decided on an 18-day volunteer trip to China where I would serve the Chinese people through teaching English and helping in an orphanage of handicapped children.
Being obedient to God’s laws sometimes postpones our access to certain areas of happiness. And the postponing can be hurt like hell and be lonely at times. A great sign of spiritual maturity is delayed gratification and the acceptance of delayed blessings.
I’m doing a kindness experiment of saying “hello” or “hey” to 25 strangers a day for 30 days. I’m on day 11 and have acknowledged the presence of over 250 strangers so far. I’ve experienced the immediate results for such actions as feeling good about doing this, making people smile, lifting peoples’ spirits, and connecting with strangers. I told a friend recently, “This is what life is about! It’s about freely showing kindness and serving others.” But there’s a damning and subtle lie in that comment.
After going through my church discipline, I’ve learned the process is more of a spiritual medical treatment when we’ve injured ourselves from making poor choices. Here are 10 things I learned in growing towards my full-fellowship:
"The next time you feel unhappy, remember where you came from and where you are going. Rather than focus on things that dampen your thoughts with sorrow, choose to focus on those things that fill your soul with hope. You will realize that these things are always connected to serving God and our fellowmen."
Never do I want to fail God in showing His love for someone like Sister Kimball through me. And never do I want to see that I failed to lift another’s burden because I was too busy or lazy. This is God’s work. He is in charge and there is always time to stop planting for a prompting.
I use to appear painfully awkward when throwing a football. I threw like a drunken monkey with no sense of direction or strength. My stomach would churn when someone would say, “hey Josh, throw that ball over here.” It’s one thing for me to safely portray my masculinity as an Idaho farm boy. But not knowing how to throw a football seemed almost unmanly.
When we feel we are building life with defective pieces, remember this: it is by developing Godly attributes and seeking direct personal revelation from God that we will receive the detailed wisdom and knowledge to move forward with confidence and joy.
I did it. I said helloto over 750 strangers in 30 days! This idea came as I was studying the life of Jesus Christ and his ability to show kindness everywhere He went. I thought, if Christ were alive today, what would His interactions look like at the gym, work, Home Depot, Trax, work cafeteria, or even a parking lot?
Do we realize that fighting for dear spiritual life might take more than a day or a month? Sometimes God allows us to fight for dear spiritual life much longer. I don’t know the reason behind it. Perhaps we appreciate the spiritual life much deeper when we’ve had to fiercely fight for it.
In my Sunday School lesson yesterday, I presented the idea that we have our circle & bubble backwards. I feel, most times, we walk into a room with a large bubble space. A bubble that seems to always reach far past the physical boundaries of any walls. And when we're in that room with our large bubble, we won't let anyone get close. We think there's too much risk of rejection. And rejection hurts.
I know all of us face loneliness at certain times in our lives. I used to think loneliness was for the friendless or the emotionally unhealthy ones. That is grossly not true. Even the Savior Himself felt loneliness in the Garden of Gethsemane as He says to Peter, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" Matt 26:40
This happens far too often both in dating and even friendships. I'll pursue a girl, who is pursuing another guy, who is in fact also pursuing a different girl. And most likely, that girls is pursuing another guy. And the endless pursuing of the pursuing leaves all parties unhappy, rejected, and feeling like crap. Sadly, that's a nature of dating and not much can be changed until two individuals are lucky enough to be pursuing each other.
After being reinstated in the LDS church from a year of church discipline, I honestly felt like one of those individuals in Lehi’s dream who had grabbed hold of the iron rod and with tenacity pressed forward to the tree of life. Gaining my full fellowship back was one of the sweetest rewards of pressing forward and in essence, partaking of the fruit of the tree of life.
My soul could not keep up with my mind as I walked through the house and came to the realization that our home was no longer habitable, so many things destroyed, and most painful, seeing this was the way my mother chose to end her life.
I was supposed to be on my vacation last Thurs-Sunday. My first visit was to Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. After an 1 1/2 hours into my vacation, I felt I needed to not be there in NC and that I needed to go home. I thought the feeling to go home the NEXT day was for other reasons.
I use people sometimes like a dirty rag. I didn't realize consciously it was happening. I thought the path of destruction left in my wake was other “unhealthy” people’s issues. I was the naïve ostrich with my head in the ground and my full body of destructive patterns visible to the world.
...I was reminded of the danger of forgiving prematurely. If I quickly put a Band-Aid on a wound I've received on my body BEFORE cleaning it, I run the risk of infection and the wound becoming WORSE. I have to bare the pain of the antiseptic and the cleaning to ensure a healthy and full healing.
I used to think that my morning or evening prayers was all the communication I needed with God. Frankly, I've ALWAYS been too tired to give ANYONE my attention in the morning. And I'm ALWAYS too tired to give ANYONE my attention when I'm getting ready for bed. My prayers REALLY struggled with the sun coming and going and God most often got the short end of the stick.
Then it all hit me like a ton of bricks. The Spirit was warning me of another truck. Another truck I couldn't see. But I ignored the 2 promptings and instead used the logic from my eyesight. With the mammoth size of the planter and tractor, I didn't feel a thing when the corner of the planter caught the front right side of Javier's white truck.
I honestly believe the 2 hardest things to bear are sin and not feeling loved. And when one is present, we most surely will see the other there. It's a vicious cycle. The beginning to break such a cycle is to build a FIRM relationship with God. For me, it hasn't been easy and it's taken time. Months, not days or even weeks. Months!
A few months ago in stake conference, my Stake President, President Featherstone said, “I promise everyone here today, that if you go and place your hands on the walls of the temple, you will feel God’s love for you.” What a great promise to exercise my faith in I thought. A few weeks later, I drove myself to the Salt Lake Temple to place my hands on the walls of the temple.
I approached her car with much nervousness and thinking, “What in the HELL am I doing? She’s going to think I’m a rapist.” The woman was still crying into her hands and I tapped on her window. She looked confused and a little scared. I lifted my getto Wal-Mart Photo Processing envelope and said this was for her. She resisted for a little bit and finally cracked her car door open.
After the blessing, I stood and fully embrace my father with my whole body and sobbed. I told him I loved him and said, " dad, I need this more often. I need you to hug me more frequently and I need you to tell me you love me. I don't know what my emotional problems are yet, but I do know that I need these things from you often." My father then continued to embrace me and told how much he loved me.
Just before entering my office this morning, I came across this same woman like I have many times. This time, I stopped, and said, "My name is Josh. And I don't know you. What is your name?" "Sylvia" she replied. "Well Sylvia", I said, "It's my pleasure now to know your name". In her perfected broken English and with the most sincere smile said, "Thank you for being so kind to me."