Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Be Meek and Lowly of Heart" by Elder Ulisses Soares

First of all, that man has an amazing name. 

Next, I don't like the reference where it talks about meek people having a temperament that is "docile". I've always pictured Meekness like this: You have an enormous, powerful white stallion guided by the subtlest touch of a child's hand. Docile seems to me to mean unthinking and zombie-ish, and I don't think that's what meekness is at all. Meekness is being powerful, and yet actively listening to the slightest whispering. It has nothing to do with enforced weakness. Jesus was meek, but he was never weak, he was not wishy washy, and I don't think anyone would call him "docile". 

Elder Ulisses makes that point later when he says, "Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness, showing strength, serenity, healthy self-worth, and self-control."

I like the phrase "To live in the Spirit". It's kind of like "Living in the moment", I think to "live in the Spirit" you must be actively listening. Not necessarily receiving guidance every moment, but listening for guidance. 

I think most Christ-like attributes have seedlings in us, and then we must make them grow throughout our lives. I think Our lives are like seedlings. 

"But supposing he should fall in this next day's attempt, that is no reason why he should not succeed in doing so the third day."

Upon acknowledging our dedication and perseverance, the Lord will give us that which we are not able to attain due to our imperfections and human weaknesses.

Another thing I think is that, while it is important to learn how to Control our tempers, controlling your temper doesn't mean never admitting or showing anger. Again, using the perfect example, Jesus showed anger. God is angered. Anger, like fear, love, pain, joy, and every other emotion and experience, was given to us both to teach us how to be more like God, and because it is an attribute that He himself possesses. That must mean that it is possible to express anger in an appropriate and constructive manner. I'm just not sure how to do that yet. I notice our culture tends to subsume anger beneath a veneer of pleasantries. "Contention is of the devil" as Emily likes to say. However, tension often exists because of inequity, because real problems exist. Trying to ignore the problems does not make them go away. Sometimes getting angry is the only way to get the point across in an appropriately emphatic manner. However, again, it is very difficult, I think, for people to understand the difference between expressing anger in appropriate vs. inappropriate manners. Whenever we are carried away by our emotions, we may do things that aren't wise; my Abnormal Psychology professor refers to this as lymbic thinking, since the lymbic system is the seat of our emotions. So it's not just anger that makes us do stupid things; sadness, fear, love, and even happiness can also make us do stupid things. But anger is aggressive and often harmful in the most visceral manner, vs. the more subtle harms of the others. It's definitely a question worth wrestling with. 

On a side note, I think that scientists sometimes jump the gun in their conclusions. For example, very specific feelings are linked to very specific chemical reactions in the brain. That's why anti depression medications work. But just because we find a connection to the brain's chemistry and feelings, that doesn't mean that the feelings exist on a purely chemical level. I've always felt that the chemical signals in the body are an expression of the emotions, rather than emotions being the expression of chemicals. Does that make sense?

"Apt to teach" sounds like a pretty good expression of what meekness is. Also "broken heart and contrite spirit" I think. I've had moments in life where I feel completely broken and reliant on others, right after making big mistakes or getting my heart broken, etc. It is often at these moments that i'm also the most spiritual, because it's then that I'm the most open to the guidance of the spirit. 

It is incredibly difficult to be humble and at the same time critical, which puts me in a difficult decision. I Want to listen completely openly to the testimonies of the prophets and apostles and elders and sisters of the church, and at the same time I have difficulties because I Know that some of the things that they are teaching are not true. At the same time, I know that most of what they teach Is true, but my reservations are getting in the way of listening to those parts. So, it is difficult, and meekness is something I continue to try and develop. 

I think this story almost perfectly illustrates what it's like to be a gay Mormon. It's ironic that I even have a friend from South Africa who would be baptized, but cannot because he is gay. He's tried with multiple missionaries and has a strong testimony, but because he won't leave his boyfriend...

Anyways, here is the story: One of the most beautiful modern-day examples of meekness that I am aware of is that of Brother Moses Mahlangu. His conversion began in 1964, when he received a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was fascinated as he read this book, but it was not until the early ’70s that he saw an LDS Church sign on a building in Johannesburg, South Africa, as he was walking down a street. Brother Mahlangu was intrigued and entered the building to learn more about the Church. He was kindly told that he could not attend the services or be baptized because the country’s laws did not allow it at that time.
Brother Mahlangu accepted that decision with meekness, humility, and without resentment, but he continued to have a strong desire to learn more about the Church. He asked the Church leaders if they could leave one of the meetinghouse windows open during the Sunday meetings so he could sit outside and listen to the services. For several years, Brother Mahlangu’s family and friends attended church regularly “through the window.” One day in 1980 they were told that they could attend church and also be baptized. What a glorious day it was for Brother Mahlangu.
Later the Church organized a branch in his neighborhood in Soweto. This was possible only because of the determination, courage, and faithfulness of people like Brother Mahlangu who remained faithful for so many years under difficult circumstances.
My mission president once accused one of our missionaries of doing something that he was innocent of. Instead of getting upset, the missionary apologized and attempted everything he could to do better. When the mission president found out that he was wrong, he told us that story in zone conference, and he said, "Not getting mad when people correct you for something you did is to be expected. But to be humble when you are accused of something you didn't do is truly Christlike". 
Those are my thoughts on that talk. 

Monday, September 30, 2013


I started confessing my sins at a fairly young age, around 12. I remember the first time, I started to feel incredibly guilty of something that I'd been carrying around for awhile. I went to the bishop as soon as sacrament meeting was over, already tearing up, and told him I had to talk to him. He set up a meeting with me right after the rest of our church meetings were over. Finally, I went into his office and told him how I felt about certain things I'd done. He helped me work through what I was dealing with on the most basic of levels, but when I left his office I felt amazing. I could be forgiven, and everything could be made better.

Looking back, what I was confessing wasn't very serious. But it established a certain expectation, a conditioned response within me: when I felt bad about something I'd done, I needed to talk to someone about it. Growing up in the Church only reinforced that response.

I don't think I'm alone with this confessional streak. Society has an entire, well-paid profession devoted to listening to the confessions of others. I don't think it's bad either, but I do think that sometimes we overdo it. In fact, I think that confessions can be very healthy. That's the whole point of a blog, isn't it?

Confessions are healthy because they establish a rapport with someone else. They allow someone else to share the burden with you, someone to share your secrets and understand what you are going through. However, confessions also give that person a kind of power over you, which is why it's so important to choose wisely who you confess to. 

Professionals can seem like a good idea because they have a professional obligation to treat you with neutrality and extensive training. Religious leaders can seem like a good idea because they carry a special type of authority over our lives. Sometimes, though, I think the very best type of person you can confess things to is a friend. Someone you know will always be on your side, and who wants the best for you. 

I've tried avoiding confessions by lying, and I've tried avoiding confessions by telling everybody absolutely everything. By trying to be completely honest about everything, I hoped that my secrets would lose their power over me. However, it didn't really work that way. 

I think the major reason I believe confessions are healthy is because they force me to admit that I can't do everything myself. When I'm forced out of myself, when I'm forced to ask for help, and get this cracked, broken feeling. Sometimes I think that's what it means to have a broken heart. I think it's kind of like being a lobster that's grown to big for his skin. He has to break out, which I imagine can be quite painful, and then he runs around with his nerves sensitive to everything for awhile, avoiding anything that could cause his nerves to scream at him until his soft shell hardens and he is once again capable of facing the world. 

But anyways, confessions seem healthy because they force me to rely on a power other than myself. I believe in Christ, and I believe that his is the power that I'm relying on when I'm feeling cracked open and exposed. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Open to Change

So this last weekend has been wonderful and amazing and depressing and emotional and all-around powerful. It was the weekend of the Affirmation Conference. I wanted to write down my own thoughts, feelings, and impressions, so here it goes.

I'd signed up a couple of months before and I was asked to advertise for it a bit among the gay Mormons that I know up here in Logan. I didn't do too good of a job of that, just basically posted it on Facebook and asked a few people if they were going. Surprise suprise, nobody showed much interest (which is what happens when you don't show much interest yourself), and I had work on Saturday so I couldn't go until later anyways, so I ended up going myself.

So I was mostly with a few guys, and I'm not sure how open they were to being public and whatnot, so I'm not going to use real names in this blog, I'm just going to use pseudonyms which will probably change next time I write about the same people, so don't bother trying to keep them straight. They're all gay anyways.

I probably wouldn't write so stream of conscious if I actually thought that people read this blog, but I don't really think many people do, and since I've decided it's going to be more personal now, I've decided just to write as it comes to me and not worry about being persuasive or uplifting or whatever, and just focus on being real. And in real life I wander allot, so for those few people who actually do read this blog, I apologize.

Back to the conference.

So I showed up around 3 and people were already doing things of course and I came in the wrong doors and got shown to the lobby where a friend directed me to the service project and then from their I was directed back to the lobby of the hotel to check in and the hotel check in desk told me I needed to find Peter Pan so that I could get into my room, and I had never met Peter Pan in my life and had no idea what he looked like, so I went back to the service project thoroughly depressed wishing I could crawl under a rock and that I'd never come because I recognized nobody and felt alone and uncomfortably self-conscious and irrationally upset that I couldn't find Peter Pan, even though I did find Aslan and made a call to Lao Tsu. But I didn't sit with Aslan and the rest of the Narnians, I went and met a couple sweet ladies from Mormons Building Bridges and cut up blankets for children in Mexico, I think that's what the service project was for, and basically was super quite and moped until Gorgeous Locks sat at our table and started being really friendly to everyone sitting there, and then I started joining the conversation and after awhile I started feeling more human and less alone, even though I still didn't really know anyone.

Then some camera guys came to the table and asked how comfortable we were with our faces on video, and we all said sure. So the camera man pushed the camera right up into my face, and I started giggling and scurried away a little. If that video ever becomes public I wasn't laughing because of something funny, that was just nerves from the camera being in my face. But after awhile I did start laughing because of things that people were saying, so I guess it doesn't really matter about the camera thing anyways, because even though it wasn't true at the time, it was true just a few minutes later.

Cutting up felt blankets is harder than it seems, by the way. It's nearly impossible to get a straight line until you get the technique down, and of course the nice ladies at the table told me I didn't have to worry about it, but I figured out the technique and then it was good. In case anyone is wondering, you start on the side of your dominant hand and work your way in, using a ruler to help with spacing and length, and you fold the blanket over so the fabric doesn't pull on itself from falling off the table and mess you up.

After that I found the room, where Lao Tsu was just getting up and Peter Pan was still sleeping. Peter Pan woke up and we went to the front desk and finally got me taken care of, and then we went back and we all went to choir practice. Julia Child was leading the music and she was awesome, hilarious and well versed on getting people to give her the sound she wanted. She told the women in the choir that they needed to sound like grown women and sounded so much like the real Julia Child that the whole choir busted up laughing. Gorgeous Locks sang with the ladies for some extra sound support, and he had an amazing voice. Their was a scary looking guy their as well, almost exactly like Argus Filch from Harry Potter, but skinnier and taller and more solemn. But he turned out to be very nice, and everyone knew so much about music that I felt I was slightly out of place for only having a pretty good voice. Of course Julia, being the passionate music director that she is, kept the choir late, so we didn't get to the food until the line was 500 miles long. Well, if you consider each person a mile, then a little over 500, because that's how many people were there. So we inched through the line, and then we finally got our food, and everyone sat down for the testimony meeting, and I snuck out to call my mom.

I hadn't meant to tell my family that I was in Salt Lake, because they'd have wanted me to come down to see them, and I didn't know if I would have time, but it had been bothering me. And it had been bothering me that I never told my family my gay stuff. That's been bothering me pretty much since I came out. So I went and called my mom, and I was surprised when she actually already knew that I was in Salt Lake and she knew about the Affirmation Conference, which isn't something I had expected. And I'd been getting little messages from the universe telling me to tell my family what was going on- literally, I kept having the urge to tell them, and then I couldn't because all of these doubts would surface. I even got a fortune cookie that told me to "share your news with your family," and I don't know about you, but when fortune cookies become that relevant, that seems a little creepy. But I did, I called my mom and told her, and then I realized that the reason I'd been so upset wasn't just that nobody was there that I knew, it was because nobody was there that I loved. My family wasn't there, and that was pretty much heart breaking for me. So I called, and I got a more positive response than I had expected, and then I went back down to catch the tail end of the testimony meeting.

I didn't end up hearing too many testimonies though because I almost immediately got pulled outside by Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy is a guy I was enamored with for a little while, before he went off and decided that he was going the celibate track. For those who don't know, gay Mormons tend to have 3 major tracks: leave the church, stay celibate, or marry a lady friend. Those who'd rather not pick any of the three are pretty rare.

So anyways Dick Tracy was out talking to Aslan and the other Narnians, so I decided to go talk to them, since I missed him quite a bit and he was off having adventures in semi-foreign lands. Then we went to the conference hall where we talked some more waiting for the show to start, which was about an hour late in starting because of course it takes an extra hour to feed everyone when you're trying to feed 500+ people. So finally everyone trickles in and then we sit down and things get started. This guy from Hawaii Aloha's us and asks us to remember people, so one by one we got up and named someone who we had lost. I had someone I wanted to name, but I wasn't sure, and anyways it was done before I could, which is fine. It got us into an appropriate frame of mind. Then he introduced Carol Lynn Pearson, who in the gay Mormon community really needs no introduction. However, if you haven't heard of her, I point you to Wikipedia, as Sister Pearson herself did when she introduced the Youngs. Then Steve Young got up and gave a speech which had allot to go with football and not very much to do with being a gay Mormon, but which I thought had some interesting spiritual points anyways. Then Sister Young got up.

Sister Young spoke about growing up with a fabulous gay brother. She then spent some time sharing the story of a friend of hers that happened during Prop 8. Since I don't even remember her name anyways, I'll call her Pele. So Sister Young thought that Pele, who had a gay nephew, was on the same page as her regarding gay rights until she found Pele's name on the donation page for Proposition 8. She confronted her friend about it. Later, when Proposition 8 passed, Pele locked herself in her bathroom, crying. Finally she ran out across the street, to where a lesbian couple lived with their children, sobbing that she was sorry, sorry. The women came out and hugged her and told her that it was all right, that it didn't matter now, and that that moment in the street, crying, that was the moment that really matter. Later Pele found a book written by a lesbian couple about Proposition 8. One of the illustrations showed their neighbor pounding a Prop 8 sign into her front yard. She teared up again, saying, "I can't believe that was me."

I don't care if I messed the story up, that's how I heard it, and that story meant a lot to me. It showed me how things could change, and how heart could be softened.

We had Benji Schwimmer give us a dance performance, which was so much more incredible than I could possibly put into words here. Dance, like art or music, is an incredibly difficult art form to describe adequately. Let's just say that his performance kept me at the edge of my seat and left me somewhat breathless and thoughtful, and inspired.

We the choir sang. It was inspiring and powerful. Then, after everyone had spoken or performed, we broke up for dessert and just talked to each other. Like LDS meetings everywhere, we spent a good 5 minutes putting up the chairs, but then people lingered for an hour or more afterwards, just talking, not wanting it to end. I made a few new friends and got to personally thank John Gustav-Wrathall, a personal hero of mine whose blog helped me realize I didn't have to lose my faith because of my sexuality. I definitely recommend giving it a read.

Afterwards we went up to our room, Peter Pan and Lao Tsu and I, and Lao Tsu left and I ended up getting to know Peter Pan a bit. He's really an amazing guy, very nice and even-keeled. He has a special Captain Hook in his life, and he showed me the pictures, and they are a very cute couple. The Gemini's were also a cute couple. I love seeing gay couples so much. It affirms what I had to take on faith for so long when I was coming out and didn't know anybody who was gay: that gay people are in Love, and that it is not just about bodies bumping awkwardly, but about real emotions and connections and that gay people in love can have relationships as lasting as those of straight people.

I grew up thinking that wasn't true, and that gay people were all about the sex. I resisted coming out for so long because I thought it was about sex, and I thought I was a horrible person because I thought it was about sex, but it's not. It's about so much more, it's about love and connection and companionship and intimacy and genuine compatibility. It's about two women holding hands and watching their little girls play, or a man and his partner cuddling as they listen to conference. It's about hands brushing, and kisses of affection as well as passion, and calling home to say when you'll be back, and cuddling just to cuddle, and unexpected gifts. It's about doing the dishes before he gets home, making breakfast or dinner, cleaning the house, going to work, going out to the movies, or whatever it is that "regular" heterosexual couples do, that is what it is about for homosexual and transgender couples too.

So Peter Pan and I stayed up till 2 talking, and then Lao Tsu got back, and then after awhile Aslan came in and crashed. And here again is proof I think that it's not about sex, because even though their were only 2 beds so we had to share, Aslan shivered away if I accidentally brushed his leg with my foot, and slept over the blankets while I slept under, and Lao Tsu slept soundly and Peter Pan missed Captain Hook, and no canoodling WHATSOEVER took place, which if you listen to the naysayers is practically an impossibility for 4 young, good looking (I flatter myself) gay guys sleeping in the same beds to not do. That's probably a little personal, and might be taken the wrong way. I'll let this paragraph stand for now, but I think I might erase it later, because I think it could be misused out of context.

Anyways, I woke up at 8, and Lao Tsu and Peter Pan were going to music and the Spoken Word, and Aslan was still sleeping, and I KNEW that I had to go down to Provo right away and get my family to come up with me. I felt it as a strong spiritual prompting, and it scared me. I didn't want to. I dressed and got up and packed all my stuff and took a shower and left as quietly as possible, and drove down from Salt Lake to Provo with the radio off, in silence, gripping my steering wheel in terror, and probably speeding a little bit. I'd read a piece of pop-psychology recently that talked about overcoming problems by pushing through the pain, and I'd learned that mental anguish and physical pain light up the same parts of your brain, did you know? And I PUSHED. I pushed hard through that dang fog of pain. By the time I got into the Provo city limits I was crying, pretty much balling my eyes out, which I haven't done since watching Les Miserables, and that's a really good movie. And I stood in front of the garage for a couple minutes trying to get a grip on my emotions, and when I walked through the door of our house I started bawling again and my deer sister, my little sister who I've always thought of as a child, my darling 18 year old sister came out of the bathroom and I hugged her and she hugged me back. I didn't say too much, but she was there for me. And then I strode to the church building and walked into the back of the Sacrament meeting and sat next to my mom, and she was there and I was there and it was beautiful and scary, and I asked her to come with me to the last few minutes of the Affirmation Conference, and then I started crying again, and I had to go blow my nose. Of course she said yes. But I didn't know she would, and she did, and I kept having all of these fears, that we would leave to late and not make it, that she wouldn't like it, that during the long ride there she would berate me, all kinds of crazy things running through my head telling me it was a bad idea to ask her to come with me, and she came, and I don't care what she thinks about me being gay. It doesn't matter anymore, because I know that she loves me and cares about me, and that is enough for me. I'm not going to worry about whether my parents are pro-gay, or anti-gay or gay-whatever, because they are pro-Ryan, and they want the best for me, and that is enough.

So I went to my friend Yellow Fluffy Unicorn's Fairwell talk, and then I rushed back home and my mother and I drove all the way back to Salt Lake, and we had a wonderful, pleasant, open conversation that I've wanted to have ever since I came out, and it was so much better. I'm not going to share what we said because it was a personal conversation. But we got there and she met Lao Tsu and his family, and said hi to Peter Pan, and we met some other people and had some desert and sang some children's hymns and left. It was only for a few minutes, but it meant So, SO much to me and mom if you read this I just want you to know that I love you and thank you so much for coming.

Their were other things that happened, but that was the most personal for me. I was surprised and the number and variety of people there. We had people who came in from Hawaii, China, South Africa, Europe, all parts of the Eastern United States, everywhere. It was amazing. I've never thought so many people like me were out there. I didn't expect it to be nearly so spiritual. Their are other reasons I enjoyed the conference as well, but mostly I'm glad I went, and I intend to go next year as well.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Just a short thought.

I like to play around with the idea of gods and theology. So I was thinking of this story where creation was essentially an act of conception- that is, thinking something up. So the being God would have created everything by thinking it up. And I was thinking about how stars are alive (I think of everything as alive), and how they struggle against the ending.

And then I thought about what if Entropy wasn't real, and instead change was the constant. If Entropy wasn't real, and instead the constant was change, then Inertia wouldn't be a force but a measurement, so that if we measured the rate by which Inertia was degraded by Entropy, we would be able to find the constant of change, or in other words the rate at which the universe was conceived. In other words, things change because the universe is still being created, and so Entropy isn't a measurement of things breaking down but instead a measurement of things being created through change. So once everything is created, Entropy will cease to exist because the process of creation, which is essential change, will cease.

That's probably pretty garbled.

But then I thought well, what if stars can conceive of things just like the being God conceived of the entire universe, and what if our sun conceived of identity. And our sun conceived of creatures that had identities, and those identities were us, and identity caused us to realize that we were different from each other and that we were separate from the universe. In essence, our identities told us that we too were universes, that we had all of eternity inside of us because we could conceive of the difference between ourselves and everything else. However, that difference that we could perceive caused us to feel empty and small and alone, because by our very individuality we are separate from the unity of the cosmos.

So basically, individuality is the experience of disconnection. It is the realization that we are not the universe and that the universe is not ours. And when we realize that, we come to an absolute knowledge of how alone we are. That is the essence of the human experience, being alone.

The other day I was reading a blog post (I don't remember which) about how even in happy marriages their are moments of intense loneliness, of feeling that one is not understood, and I thought, "huh". I thought, "don't relationships make us less lonely?" It was something I hadn't thought of before, or realized, because of course as soon as I thought of it I remembered all of the moments I had had of being surrounded by people I loved and who loved me and still being alone.

And this disconnection from things is what drives us to do things. Our singularity, our identity, our aloneness is what causes us to define ourselves by sex and race and language and nationality, because we are trying to figure out what makes us different from others. Identity is after all, precious to us.

Our aloneness is what makes us obsess about ownership of things. It's a hole inside of us that we are continually trying to feel with action and objects and relationships and above all, it's a hole we want to fill with meaning. The great question of existence is "Why?" Why do I exist? What is my purpose?

And our aloneness is what makes us reach to the stars, which is after all the whole reason we were gifted with identity in the first place. Our loneliness is what makes us travel far into distant places, it's what gives us our drive and ambition, and it's what makes us desire the unattainable. The thing is, it's not unattainable for us as a species. We may still reach the stars in a couple hundred years. Considering the length of time humans have existed on this planet, that's quite an accomplishment.

And you know, we're not really that small, we're just limited. We could be as large as stars, and we would still be tiny compared to the universe. I am of the opinion that the universe is infinite. I take this to be a mathematical fact: infinity could not exist, let only be conceived of, in a finite universe.

Anyways, because we are limited, we believe we are small, and in the physical universe we are. But inside our brains, inside our hearts and minds, we can encompass the universe. We can conceive of infinity. We may not be able to comprehend it, but we can conceive of it.

So, conception comes wrapped in entropy, death is the indicator of life, and loneliness is the mark that we are not the only beings in existence; that we are never alone.

While I was thinking all of these things, of course I lost my keys and wallet and was therefore late for work.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Old and New

It's been a long time since I blogged regularly, but I want to start up again. I wanted this blog to contain only uplifting messages that would strengthen others, so I've tried to rely on the Spirit to do so. However, I fear that in so doing I've created a false image of myself, or made myself out to be more righteous than I actually am.

Since when I was writing regularly, I've had relationships. I've had an actual, wonderful boyfriend. I've had sex. I'm currently talking to my new bishop (as I've talked with previous ones), and my previous Stake President recommended I have a bishops counsel. We're having issues because even though I want to repent of having premarital sex, I can't repent of being gay and I can't repent of wanting a husband. Apparently that means I'm not truly repentant when it comes to the other.

I still believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I love my Heavenly Father, my family, and the Plan of Salvation. I still strive to keep the Spirit in my life, although I am by no means perfect and I struggle. But my desires remain to choose the right.

I will no longer wait for inspiration to come before writing in this blog, which probably means that my posts will be less likely to uplift than previous entries. But I feel it is important to continue. I've recently met more and more gay Mormons who accept their sexuality and strive to be true to their religion, just like me. We are a community, and that means that we can lean on each other for help and support. I do not have to be a perfect, unshakable person. I can also ask for help, and sometimes that will come out in this blog.

But I want to continue in my faith, in hope and honesty. I don't like the word "authentic" because it sometimes sounds like an excuse to me, but I hope to live with integrity, which to me includes being open about who I am and what I stand for. I am a gay member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Contrary to popular opinion, I exist. I am a son of God, and He loves me just as much as He loves his straight children.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Geoff's Easter Talk

I'm posting this Easter Sunday talk with permission from its author, my buddy Geoff:

It is somewhere around 30 A.D., and the Messiah is dead. It all happened so fast. It seems like just the other day you sat there, on the grass, one of a multitude listening to words that made your chest ache, words that helped you to reach inside and tug at your own heartstrings. You remember the way the wind was moving and the smell of the wildflowers on the hillside. You remember watching Him as he smiled at a young boy; he took a few loaves of bread and two little fishes, and blessed them, and brake them. You will never, ever forget that miracle. It is burned within your very soul, just like the wind and the smell of the wildflowers. And yet He is dead... He is gone. How can that be? He was going to save you, wasn't he? He was going to free you, wasn't he? But he's gone, and it is a very long walk home.

As you walk you try to think, but there is so much confusion. There are so many questions. What happens now? In whom do you place your trust? Where will the next miracle come from? Or are they all finished? The disciples are scattered, and no less confused than you are, they fear arrest, they fear uncertainty. You remember hearing a rumor that some women saw him at the tomb, that he talked to them, like this is all just some sort of bad dream... but how can that be? You saw him hanging there. You saw the blood on his hands and on his feet, you heard his anguished cry, and felt the shuddering of the earth beneath you. How can that be? It is such a long way home...

How many of us have felt the Lord leave our lives? How many of us have felt his absence? We may not have been there at the cross, we may not have witnessed his trial, we may never even have seen his face, but how many of us, when it's late at night, when it's been a hard day, when we've lost someone, or when someone has lost us, how many of us have felt his absence just as acutely as if we were missing a part of ourselves? We wonder where He is, or where he went, or whether we'll ever be able to find him again. This is not unique to you. It's not unique to me... it's a feeling that has echoed across the ages:

Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me... Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?

How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord?
~Alma the Younger

O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?
~The Brother of Jared

O God, where art thou?
~Joseph Smith

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
~Jesus Christ

Even for the very best of us it can sometimes be hard to remember the promises the Lord has made. It can be hard to remember the power of the spirit or the strength of the sermon when faced with overwhelming obstacles like rejection, insignificance, insecurity, and pain--when all we can think about is the fact that he isn't here anymore, and that it's getting harder and harder to remember what it felt like when he was. And even the best of us can be heard to cry out, "Where did you go?"

But there is a promise that should never be forgotten. One that will never be broken. A contract whose terms will never be changed. When Mary and the other women visited the garden tomb, that Easter Morning so many years ago, what they found was not a tragedy, but a triumph. Though they might not have recognized it at the start.

And how like them we are. Sometimes all we see is an empty tomb. Sometimes we are so pained by what we've lost that we forget the promises that have been left behind to comfort us. Ought not Christ to have suffered these thing, and to enter into his glory?

There are times when we are all a little like Mary. After confusion had set in and the others had left to spread the news, after the initial shock had begun to wear away, we find her there, standing outside the tomb. Weeping. And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and noticed someone who she assumed to be the gardener. He, too, asked... Woman, why weepest thou? Who seekest thou? And she answered him with the same near-desperation, pleading to know where he had taken her savior. And then... he called her by name.

There are times when we are all a little like Mary. When we have lost our bearings, whenwe are floundering, or just trying to tread water. The Lord will send his angels to comfort us and perhaps the only question we can think to ask them is "Where did he go? Where did you take him?" He Himself might even come to us... maybe he was there the whole time. And for a time we may not even recognize his hand in our life, we may not even recognize him. Until he calls us by name. And then the dots are connected. The doctrine falls into place. Assumes its true and eternal meaning.

He lives. That is the greatest miracle of all, that He lives. And because He lives so shall we. And that is the greatest promise of all. Everything about us that is truly important can be made eternal. Our knowledge, our personalities, our relationships, our families. Because Jesus Christ overcame sin and death, we are made heirs of that great promise. That we will be our true selves, forever.

The Lord has called us by name. He has given us all that we could ever need in order to believe that He guides this church. He has called Prophets and Seers to testify of Him. He has given us scripture, and access to his words. He has given us commandments, to lead us home.

The Holy Ghost has borne witness to my soul that these things are true. I know that He knows me. I know that He knows you Do not let the pain of loss numb you to the promises that have been made to us all. Because there will always be an Easter Sunday, and Christ has already won.