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