Sunday, August 8, 2010

Love & Law: My Own Experience

About ten or twelve years ago, one of my brothers discovered I was engaging in self-destructive behavior.  I feel our relationship was probably as close as two young men separated by four and a half years could enjoy.  I suppose he could have looked the other way; I imagine he anticipated I would get upset and take offense, if he were to confront me.  Perhaps he could have avoided saying anything at all.  Instead, he stood up and invited me to do what I think must have taken great courage:  he invited me to change course, although he could have been risking my anger or even losing my friendship.  I believe his valiant stand, from over a decade ago, exemplifies the counsel given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, last October (2009):
Parents should also remember the Lord’s frequent teaching that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6). In his conference talk on tolerance and love, Elder Russell M. Nelson taught that “real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.”  (Russell M. Nelson, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” Ensign, May 1994, 71)
Wherever the line is drawn between the power of love and the force of law, the breaking of commandments is certain to impact loving family relationships. Jesus taught:
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
“For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
“The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother” (Luke 12:51–53).
This sobering teaching reminds us that when family members are not united in striving to keep the commandments of God, there will be divisions. We do all that we can to avoid impairing loving relationships, but sometimes it happens after all we can do.
In the midst of such stress, we must endure the reality that the straying of our loved ones will detract from our happiness, but it should not detract from our love for one another or our patient efforts to be united in understanding God’s love and God’s laws.
I am still deeply impressed and am ever grateful for my brother's courageous and loving example.  I wish I had accepted his invitation.  Instead, exercising my God-given ability to choose for myself, I failed to heed his admonition.  I believe my unwise decision, in the face of his loving counsel, caused me prolonged and immense suffering.  Though I believe I've completely repented, and although I believe I've been completely forgiven, deep scars linger on my soul.  I firmly believe that had I followed my brother's sincere invitation, I could have avoided untold pain, anguish, and regret.  It is largely for this reason, my brother's courageous example, that I say what I do today.

Most of my following remarks will have root in spiritual and religious foundations.  I imagine some of my readers may deride these sources as false or simply lacking any basis in reality.  I invite the reader to reflect on the progress of mankind's knowledge:  many used to think the world was flat or that placing a bucket-full of leeches on a person's body could cure any illness.  Certainly, we could laugh at these conclusions as being juvenile or clearly misguided, yet, who would say that the plumb pudding model completely describes atomic behavior, or who would proclaim that the theory of relativity even comes close to describing our universe?  While the man whose name is synonymous with genius dismisses belief in a personal God, he also says, "My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality" (Albert Einstein Quotes on a Personal God: Einstein Denied Personal Gods, Prayer).  In other words, man knows very little.  On the other hand, God, our Heavenly Father, "has all wisdom," and, just like Einstein says, "man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend" (Mosiah 4: 9).  In short, I believe anything and everything that is true because "God has revealed all the truth that is now in the possession of the world, whether it be scientific or religious"  (The Gospel Defined).  Moreover, I feel religious thought has every right to be expressed in the public sphere.  As John Adams, second president of the United States is widely quoted as saying, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other" (John Adams Quotes).

I now turn to the principal impetus for this post.  On July 24, 2010, my family and I attended a National Organization for Marriage (NOM) rally in Lima, Ohio.  While there, my family and I were interviewed by both NOM Chairman Maggie Gallagher, and Courage Campaign Field Manager Arisha Michelle Hatch. As I'm paraphrased, in part, on a NOM website page, I communicated to both sides that we attended the rally because we believe "divorce, unchastity, [and] same-sex marriage are part of a continuum of challenges" facing traditional marriage and society at large.  I believe a rampant trend toward unbridled sexual promiscuity consisting of "free love," "sexting," "one night stands," adultery, fornication, bestiality, homosexual activity, pornography, prostitution, and a large number of formerly denounced behaviors, are brining about "the disintegration of the family," which I believe is "the fundamental unit of society" (The Family:  A Proclamation to the World).

In response to my posting, on this blog, about our "Supporting Traditional Marriage in Lima, OH," I was privately accused of being hateful, a "sick and twisted human being," and of attending a "hate fair."  Next, I was also privately told I'm "proud of supporting the torture and murder" of self-proclaimed homosexuals.  All of this hurt me deeply, and yet it went on.  I next read, publicly, this time, that what I assume could only refer to my attending the NOM rally and posting about it on my blog, equated to "taking [my] fundamentalist, extreme views a little too far," "while failing to come clean about the homosexuality in [my] own family."  I further read how, I had "lied and . . . bait[ed] [certain individuals] and br[ought] [them] in to hurt [them]," finally with the conclusion that "the whole communications [I had had with them] was nothing more than luring [them] in for debates and arguments born in anger and hatred with a twist of getting off on the adrenaline."  All, I suppose, because I attended the NOM rally and posted about it on my own blog.

To be perfectly candid, as I read these things, I felt very angry and desired to respond swiftly.  Before acting, I remembered the Savior say, "he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another" and that "this is not my doctrine . . . but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away" (3 Nephi 11: 29-30).  And so I have tried to prepare this post, in, I feel, a spirit of peace and compassion.

As I feel there has been some question about my forthrightness, allow me to elaborate on my feelings about homosexual behavior (or any behavior, for that matter).  This is a position I feel I briefly explained to one of the individuals alluded to above, nearly two years ago.  As a human being, I feel I am faced every day with diverse temptations (impulses) and difficulties, such as anger, impatience, etc.  I often feel overwhelmed and wish life were much easier. On the other hand, I believe, "There hath no temptation taken [us] but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [us] to be tempted above that [we] are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that [we] may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10: 13).  I can only imagine what it would be like to experience homosexual tendencies; I imagine the must be very confusing and very difficult to encounter.  On the other hand, Jesus Christ, who suffered and overcame the sins of us all, "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4: 15).  I believe some feelings and tendencies afflict us without any fault of our own, we may even be born with them.  On the other hand, when we give in to these diverse temptations, through the manifestation of our own behavior, I believe we sin.  "Wherefore, [we] are free according to the flesh; . . . . And [we] are free to choose . . ." (2 Nephi 2: 27).  I feel we are responsible for our own actions, regardless if we have an addiction to pedophilia, pornography, prostitution, alcohol, drugs, adultery, anger, gossip, backbiting, impatience, violence, murder, or homosexual behavior (see Same-Gender Attraction).

MOST IMPORTANTLY, ABOVE ALL ELSE, AND AS I ALLUDED TO IN THE BEGINNING, I BELIEVE "ALL HAVE SINNED, AND COME SHORT[, VERY SHORT,] OF THE GLORY OF GOD" (Romans 3: 23).  For this reason, I believe "[Jesus Christ came] unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin" (3 Nephi 9: 21).  Indeed, I believe He is the source of all happiness, of all peace, and of all comfort.  I believe He "ransoms us with love divine."  (I invite you to listen to what I feel is a beautifully stirring rendition of "This is the Christ," which summarizes the foregoing principle.)

In conclusion, allow me to make one thing very clear:  I AM FAR FROM ASHAMED OF MY DEAR BROTHER, AND I REFUSE TO REJECT HIM.  Instead of "failing to come clean about the homosexuality in [my] own family," I spoke openly with Maggie Gallagher and the Courage Campaign about him, and, at one point, I even spoke directly, and literally, to him ("on the record," on camera).  I feel I would indeed be a "sick and twisted human being," if I were to condemn him, when I have so many faults and frailties of my own. I echo the words of President Boyd K. Packer, "[I] do not reject you… [I] cannot reject you… [I] will not reject you, because [I] love you" (Elder Bruce C. Hafen Speaks on Same-Sex Attraction).  I echo also the words of President Thomas S. Monson, speaking to any who have strayed from full activity in the Church.  "Come back. [I] reach out to you in the pure love of Christ and express [my] desire to assist you and to welcome you into full [Gospel] fellowship" (Looking Back and Moving Forward).  My dear brother, I truly do love you.  Will you please avoid making the same decision I made over a decade ago?  Will you please accept my invitation of love and change, when I failed to accept yours?

10 comments:

pariahdog said...

I wore a Temple Micah "pride" t-shirt to a party and a newly made friend remarked that "pride is a sin". I've been meditating on that and would like to hear your thoughts, particularly around your brother's advice to you and your advice to him.

Cougar Abogado said...

pariahdog, thanks for reading and for asking your interesting question.

My thoughts on pride can be summed up in what I believe is an inspired discourse called "Beware of Pride."

I invite you and your friend to read it. Please let me know what you think, after you've read it.

pariahdog said...

Hi Cougar,

I found the "Beware of Pride" article to be very helpful. I sent it on to my church discussion list. I also visited the NOM site link. There is a photo of a young couple and what appeared to be a very proud young man wearing a BYU t-shirt. The proud young law student expresses his disapproval of same-sex marriage and describes the societal harms.

But as a law student, he must understand that it is one thing to make such claims for a web photo op or a political brochure, and another to prove the truth of those claims in court.

"The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily."

Pride is ugly. It says, “If you succeed, I am a failure.”

Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression.

Cougar Abogado said...

Interesting thoughts, Pariah.

I imagine you may also have read, "Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of 'my will and not thine be done.'"

And so I feel like what I am standing for, sexual abstinence (whether hetero or homosexual) before marriage and completely fidelity after, is less my own will and more so God's.

See Same-Gender Attraction for more depth.

On the other hand, I can see how that would look prideful in the same way people thought Christ was a prideful blasphemer for declaring Himself to be the Son of God (ironically, the only person incapable of such blasphemy). Or, in other words, for declaring what I believe is God's truth.

I'm confused by the reference to me in the third person (unless I'm misinterpreting sarcasm(?) or unless I failed to make it clear in my post that I am that young man), and I hope you understand I feel my stance on these issues has little to do with chest thumping and much to do with "Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy" (D&C 121: 43).

I hope you can appreciate and discern my attempt to follow this directive from the Master: "Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance" (2 Nephi 26: 27).

Oh, and out of curiosity, how did you hear about my blog?

pariahdog said...

Hi Cougar,

No offense intended regarding the reference to you in the third person. I did not "know" that was you, and since NOM is not known for their truthfulness, I didn't want to make any assumptions.

The Holy Spirit brought me to your blog. As I said, I was meditating on the sin of pride and serendipitously happened on your blog. I feel terribly about you and your brother and hope I can help.

Honestly, I did not find much "love" or "experience" in your post or in your comments. I did see your confession that "I can only imagine what it would be like to experience homosexual tendencies; I imagine the must be very confusing and very difficult to encounter." Why don't you ask your brother to explain.

Or if you trust me, I'll probe the question.

What is your orientation? What do you feel when you see an attractive woman? Do you feel the same way when you see an attractive man? Now reverse it. What if attractive men aroused those feelings, and attractive women aroused nothing. It's really that simple.

Now think of how your brother feels when he see's your heterosexual pride beaming in that NOM photo. What are you saying to the world?

"I'm a proud married heterosexual and I can 'engage in the behavior' all I want. Look at me! Look at my wife and my baby! Aren't we great!

And you my brother, you can't have what I have because if you get it, it will take away from what I have. You can never have a partner that you're attracted to. You can have a woman who you're not attracted to, or you can live a chase life"

Cougar Abogado said...

I'm sorry this is the way you choose to view it, Pariah.

Regarding homosexual attraction or any other affliction, quite unlike I ever could, there is someone who understands perfectly (See Alma 7: 11-13).

Regarding living a chaste life, please see 1 Corinthians 10: 13, or See Alma 7: 11-13 and Hebrews 4: 15.

Finally, I'm sad you refer to yourself as a Pariah, I think of you as a child of God. See Moses 7: 32-33, 1 Nephi 17: 36, and Our True Identity.

pariahdog said...

Cougar,

I'm trying my best to share how other's see your pride and to help you make amends with the Lord and with your gay brother. I hope you do. I'd very much like to hear from your brother. Please ask him to read this thread an comment.

I'd like to thank you for sharing with me. I'll discuss this in more detail in a blog post at EqualityLoudoun.org and will track back.

Remember that Jesus did not come for the righteous, he came for the sinners and the lepers and the pariahs. The sin of pride weighs heavily on those who believe themselves to be the "righteous" bearers of God's Will. And when they discern wrongly and impose their all too human will on their brothers, and boast that they are carrying out "God's Will", their prideful behavior leads to disaster and misery.

Cougar Abogado said...

I certainly agree with you about the mission of the Savior, "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost" (Matthew 18: 11).

As for those falsely carrying out God's will, I definitely hear you as well. "Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them" (D&C 121: 16).

pariahdog said...

Cougar,

Do you want to have a conversation or do you want to hurl Bible quotes at people who are persecuted by the imposition of your religious beliefs onto their private lives? We refer to that as "Bibliolotry".

When was the last time you talked to your brother? Does he read your blog? Did you invite him to comment?

What do you think about this Leonard Pitts op-ed?

Cougar Abogado said...

Thanks for visiting, Pariah, I appreciate your interest.