Joy in the Journey

In my ongoing exploration (through thoughts and discussion) of topics such as beliefs, love, and life choices, answers come very rarely.  If there's one conclusion I feel I've reached in the past few months, however, it is this:  If the gospel is the one path to true happiness, why does living a wholly LDS/temple worthy/celibate life seem so scarily miserable?  Where does the happiness come in?  Do I just have to swallow the idea that after waiting 60 more years, I'll die and have the chance to be happy?  This conclusion hasn't translated into any major life decisions; my decision has always basically been the gospel path.  In my mind, though, I'm at something of a standstill while I ask, "What exactly am I signing up for?"

That's why I was instantly interested when I heard about the homosexuality-themed fireside that was going to take place in Idaho Falls, titled "Finding Joy in the Journey."  How to find joy on my journey is exactly what I've been concerned about, so I decided to make the four hour drive up yesterday to attend.  Ty Mansfield was going to be the keynote speaker, and the whole thing was partly organized by one of my friends from Journey Into Manhood.  I went hoping to find new insight, crossing my fingers that it would be more than a bloated Matis fireside.

(Hey, look.  I just realized the picture on the fireside program is the wallpaper I've had on my phone for the past year.  It's a sign.)

As a fireside attended mostly by people who aren't gay themselves, I suppose it did some good things.  For me, though, it fell flat from the beginning and I began to worry that I had wasted my time and gas.  The first speaker in the meeting for gay men was exactly what I didn't need:  an older man who spoke vaguely, talked about homosexuality as an addiction, and taught how to resist temptation by using an example of how, when he was a truck driver, he would deny sexual offers at truck stops-- even though he is straight.

The evening finally picked up for me the first time Ty spoke as part of the question and answer period.  Amidst a bunch of vague answers, he said something that may have shocked some people:  Our responsibility is not to fight our attractions but to embrace and transform them into a God-like love for all people.  At that moment, I admitted to myself that I have a mancrush on Ty.  (Be sure you understand the definition of "mancrush."  He just has it all together-- intelligent, practical, spiritual...  I'd like to be him.)  And that breath of fresh air continued as he gave the last talk of the evening, the talk that I had been waiting for, the only talk about finding joy in the journey.

Ty shared an example/analogy of a deaf man seeing another man dancing to music and dancing along with him, even though he doesn't hear the music, and eventually deciding that dancing isn't very fun.  (If you're unfamiliar with the story, it's better explained here.)  Aaron actually told me this analogy a few years ago on one of the first times we hung out, but I hadn't thought much about it since then.

The point, at least to me, is that joy in the gospel is designed to come from dancing to the music and not just going through the motions.  There are times in my life when I believe I heard the music, or at least parts of it.  The difficult thing is that we're raised in the Church being taught how people move to the music, but it's wholly our responsibility to reach the point of hearing.  When we do, I think the movement comes naturally.  You can't help but dance.

I had a phone conversation with my mom a couple of weeks ago in which I was pretty honest with her about being frustrated with Church and committing to an unhappy life.  She tried to encourage me to endure the hard things in life by doing the gospel basics, but I eventually got a bit upset because I didn't think she could understand what it's like.  I asked, "What if instead of Dad and all of your kids and grandkids, you only had the Book of Mormon?"  What I didn't understand at that point is that happiness through the gospel is about much, much more than keeping the rules.  Ty explained that you'll exhaust yourself just trying to do the right thing.  That's exactly the mistake I've been making for years, I'm realizing:  Doing what I'm supposed to and thinking, like the deaf man, "So... When does the happiness come?"

What does it take to hear the music, then?  According to Ty, it takes sacred experiences with the Lord.  He didn't say much more than that; I think it's my job to figure it out.  Come to think of it, the older man who gave the first talk spoke about how when he was younger, he tried repeatedly to overcome his masturbation problem.  While the thought of it made me cringe inside, he mentioned that nothing worked until he experienced a much deeper change.  He must have heard part of the music.

My first time vocalizing this issue I've been having with not feeling happy living the gospel was to my therapist several months ago.  His response was that I wasn't doing it right, then.  That's the only thing I remember about his reply, and it frustrated me because it brought me no closer to a solution.  What I learned at the fireside feels like the second half of the puzzle.  And so, while I don't necessarily come away with any easy answers, I recognize now that I haven't had the maturity to seek an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is my quest now to seek the music.

Brooke Fraser - Hymn

I hate that I never post because I overthink my ideas for posts.

I love my mom and dad and my sisters and my brother.

I love my friends.

I love inside jokes.

I love movies that make me cry.

I love chocolate cake and string cheese and salt and vinegar chips and Coke.

I love sleeping.

I love Japan.

I love good memories.

I hate that I'm gay and Mormon.  I really do.  I hate that I hate God sometimes for that.

I hate that sometimes I don't want to pray.  I hate that sometimes the only prayer I can say is "Help me" over and over and over.

I hate that my patriarchal blessing talks about having a wife and kids and how it makes me wonder if I did something wrong or if it's all just made up.

I hate that my bishop, one of the few people in the world I look up to, was just released.  I hate that I don't know how my new bishop will react to what I tell him.

I hate that other gay Mormons can easily decide what to do with their lives.

I hate that so far my bishop has spent at least $7500 on reparative therapy for me and that it could be my fault that it's not working.  I hate that I couldn't do the workbook because I don't really remember my childhood and that now my social phobia is hindering me from progressing.

I hate that I might be more socially comfortable with medication but I don't have health insurance.  I hate that my therapist isn't a normal therapist.

I hate that I don't have insurance because I don't have a job, because I can't get a job.  I hate that I can barely handle job interviews.  I hate that I sweat too much.  I hate that there's something about me that interviewers don't like.

I hate that I can't make friends.  I hate that after four years of college I never made friends with any of my roommates and that I made only one friend on my mission.  I hate that after three years in the same ward, I don't like going to church because I don't have friends there.

I hate that there are plenty of people who would be my friend if I just knew how to do it.  I hate that when friends assure me I have friends and tell me what they like about me, it makes no difference.

I hate that I'm not comfortable enough to dance in people's living rooms.

I hate that spending money makes me feel better.  I hate that I'm 25 and spending my parents' money.  I hate that I feel like I only waste people's time and money and don't contribute anything to anyone.

I hate that when I'm already having a crappy night, I go to the grocery store and I get sad when I see all the young couples and I have to fight back tears in the bread isle.

I hate that everything about me feels broken.

I hate that I think about killing myself sometimes.  I hate that I can't kill myself because people would be really sad.

I hate that I believe that there is truly no solution to my gay-Mormon dilemma.

I hate that the person that lives below me probably hears me when I pace.

I hate that this is how I think when I let myself stop and think.