Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence

Monday, December 10, 2012

Even As I Have Loved You

I am gay; Jo is straight.  We are best friends
One of my best friends in the whole world is Jo. I met him in high school when I was a senior and he was a junior. We were in a large, semi-exclusive school choir together and spent many occasions bonding and getting to know each other in rehearsals and on related extracurricular activities. We lost touch for a year or two after I graduated, but were reunited at a local church congregation that we both began attending at the same time. Looking back, I am beyond grateful that he and I took the time to catch up one night, sitting in his car in the chapel parking lot after a meeting of the young single adults in our congregation; from there our relationship was rekindled and we began spending more time together, and I think both of our lives have been forever changed.

I was twenty years-old in 2007 when I moved to Provo, Utah from my home town just a few miles to the south. It was not too long after that Jo and I started hanging out again. I had just recently become active again in my faith—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)—after straying from my religion for a year or so to pursue a promiscuous, sexually-active lifestyle in the local gay community. I thought at the time that willingly disobeying the commandments of God and teachings of my Church would bring me the missing happiness I sought and fill the void that resided in me from being torn between my homosexual attractions and my faith. After undergoing much counsel with my ecclesiastical leaders and engaging in a rough process of repentance and reconciliation, I moved to Provo to start a new life in a new town and give myself a fresh start.

Jo was a frequent guest in my humble apartment for the nearly-three-years I lived there, and at one point he was my roommate for a time. Our relationship had become strong, but I longed to express myself to him in deeper, more meaningful ways. For many gay men who feel the need to hide their sexuality, the act of confessing their attractions to loved ones can be a nerve-wracking, but freeing experience. At that time, though, I was very nervous about revealing my homosexuality to people whom I thought might be hurt or offended by my attractions. Jo is as heterosexual as they come, and I was worried that any homophobic feelings he might have—which are so often typical for straight men—might affect our friendship.

"In Quiet Desperation," published by
Book Co.
At the time I had recently bought a book entitled, “In Quiet Desperation,” written by three Latter-day Saint individuals who were significantly affected by the issue of same-gender attraction—a father and mother with a gay son, and a single man who was himself attracted to his same gender. I had been reading the book in my living room one night, and was expecting Jo to come over sometime that evening. While straightening up the room, I realized that the book was still on the floor next to the couch, and I went to snatch it up and hide it before Jo arrived. But then I stopped and thought that this might be the perfect opportunity to let Jo find out that I was gay without having to actually to make an outright confession. So, I left the book where it was. I said a little prayer, and waited.

When Jo arrived, we sat on the couch and talked for a bit. At some point, he noticed the book on the floor and picked it up. I remember faking surprise to cover up the mixture of delight and anxiety I was feeling at that moment. He looked at it for a moment and asked what it was. I told him it was a book for individuals with same-gender attraction. “Is there something you want to tell me?” he chuckled. I admitted to Jo then that I was gay. I don’t quite remember all that was said after that, but I know that he told me that it didn’t change anything between us. I was still his friend, and his knowing my sexuality didn’t make a difference to our friendship.

Jo and I were able to talk openly about my attractions from then on; though for a few years he would become a little irritated any time I lost sight of my tact and over-expressed my lustful desires for another man. His discomfort seemed to disappear, though, the closer we became. We joked easily about the quirks that homosexuality brings to my life and personality, and it always felt so good to laugh about issues that for so long brought more tears than anything. My relationship with Jo has stood the test of time and has persevered through trials that he and I have both individually experienced and shared with each other; presently he is one of my dearest, most beloved friends. Our years of friendship and our openness with each other has formed the strongest bond of brotherly love I have ever felt with a straight man—I dare say that it even rivals the relationships that I have with my own biological brothers, to whom I still have never vocally confirmed my homosexuality. Jo and I have grown completely comfortable and relaxed around each other, and we share a lot of untypical male-to-male affection and behavior.

I put my hand under Jo's shirt and scratched his
back while he played the guitar and we sang.
On Thanksgiving Day this year, after sharing dinner and festivities with our families, Jo and I met up at his apartment to spend some time together, just the two of us. Between his daily responsibilities and mine, we hadn’t seen each other in a while. I kicked off my shoes and lay on his bed, while he sat on the edge next to me, playing his guitar. After a few moments I put my hand up his shirt and vigorously scratched his back, which is something he enjoys. He sang songs as he played his guitar, and I hummed along to the ones I knew. Music is our common passion, and we really bond this way. He played several songs and simple tunes, and by the end I was just gently rubbing the bare skin of his back with my open palm.

I don’t know what made this experience different from many, many similar ones in the past, but I suddenly felt an outpouring of the deep, special love that Jo and I have shared for so long. It was purely platonic, absolutely rooted in true concern, admiration, and friendship; there was nothing sexual or inappropriate about it. It was almost surprising to me, considering that during high school I had a bit of a crush on him; and even though the crush had been gone for years, slowly fading away as our post-high-school friendship grew, in that moment in Jo’s room I struggled to even recall any previous enamored feelings. 

After he put his guitar away, he laid close next to me on the bed, and we just talked about everything and nothing. I could feel the warmth of his body near me, and breathe in his clean, masculine scent. But I didn’t want him. It was so satisfying, but never arousing. And I realized so clearly then just how important my relationship with Jo was. Our bond helped to satisfy the innate longing in my mind and heart for another man. Every long, tight hug, every intimate conversation or music jam session, every back scratch or shoulder massage filled that void that I still retain some small part of by choosing not to be romantically or sexually involved with a man. 

Our society today thinks that men don't show
affection with one another, unless they are gay.
I understood in that moment that all of the complicated psychological reasons suggested as being behind the issue of same-sex attraction—feelings of inadequacy towards men; troubled relationships with male patriarchal figures; lack of consistent, appropriate male-to-male affection, etc.—were all met in this amazing relationship with Jo. And I didn’t have to feel ashamed. I was doing nothing wrong, and neither was he. If anything, we were doing it right! Our society’s gender norms and male stereotypes definitely tell us otherwise: “Men don’t show affection with other men—that’s gay!” And the fact that Jo is undoubtedly 110% straight makes the affection between us that much more satisfying for some reason. 

Perhaps it’s because I know that we will never take our affection too far, even if I was still attracted to him. Or maybe it’s because it isn’t as difficult to get love and affection from a fellow gay man as it is from a straight one; certainly I have many gay male friends with whom I am very affectionate. But either way, I saw that I was getting all the male attention, male acceptance, male understanding, and male love that I need, while maintaining a seemingly-perfect Christlike love for another human being. Not lust. Not desire. Not passion. Just the purest form of love, just as the Savior Jesus Christ commanded His disciples, and all of us, to have.

I couldn’t hold back my gratitude, and I told Jo right then and there almost exactly what I’ve just written. I explained how common it is for same-sex attracted men to have a great need to connect physically, emotionally, and spiritually with other men, especially when breaking the commandment of chastity is not an option they will accept. I told Jo about all the things that he and I do together that meet my desire for male bonding, without feeding any sensual hunger. I told him I didn’t know why this was all coming out just then, but I had to thank him and tell him how much I appreciate and love him. 

The brotherly love Jo and I share is a powerful
influence on many aspects of my well-being.
Jo and I have never been strangers to saying “I love you” to each other, but hearing him say those familiar words again in that moment, in such a heartfelt and sincere way, seemed to fill my heart to overflowing, and solidify our bond even more. I thought to myself that I don’t ever need a boyfriend—I have Jo. It made me chuckle a little, but it was true. There was nothing more that I needed from another man that my best friend didn’t already provide. And he probably never knew the extent of it, and even I don’t think I fully did either, until that night.

On one occasion a while back, Jo and I were talking over burgers and fries, like so many other common hang-outs together. In between bites, he suddenly stated, “Wade, you’re like my angel.” I was a little surprised, and chuckled a bit. But he insisted that he and I were meant to be friends, and suggested that our friendship existed everlastingly in heaven before we came to this earth. He said he knew that I was placed in his life for a reason—to be a guiding light and an example, and he declared that he didn’t know what he would do without me in his life. It greatly flattered me, and made me glad that I had such an influence on him, and I agreed with everything he said. 

My relationship with Jo satisfies my
need for male affection and bonding.
But as I’ve pondered my relationship with Jo since that inspiring Thanksgiving night, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of us certainly is an angel to the other. But who’s to say that it isn’t Jo instead? In all these years since I’ve come back to the LDS Church, I would suggest that in fact it is Jo who has been one of the most influential people in my life, and an anchor in helping me to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not downplay Jo’s love for me, however, and his compliments and affection continue to feed the longing within me for the love of another man. But as Jo says I have helped him along life’s sometimes troubled paths, I have realized just how pinnacle Jo’s offerings have been in filling that void within me. As the ancient-American prophet, Alma, so eloquently stated, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Indeed, I believe that Jo’s openness with affection all these years has helped me little by little to not seek out male affection from more inappropriate sources.

Certainly I do not mean to imply that my internal desires for male bonding on intimate levels are what rule me—like a driving addiction needing a frequent “fix." Certainly Jo’s friendship has always been much more than just that, and I feel that I have risen above many of the lustful yearnings that plagued me more in the past. In fact, I had to learn for myself years ago that a night of sensual intimacy with a man, no matter how romantic or titillating, did not complement my need for male affection as I thought it would. So often after such experiences, the void would remain, and even feel more piercing than before. That is why I have sought and found fulfillment for these drives and needs in more acceptable and appropriate ways—ways that are not only satisfying to me, but acceptable to my Heavenly Father and Savior.

When same-sex romance is not an
option, gay men need male friends
who can love and understand them.
I know that there are many same-sex attracted men of many different religions wherein homosexual activity is considered a sin. Many of these men have spent several years and countless dollars on clinical therapies and professional counseling to help them cope with the lasting effects of childhood traumas; they have also had to learn how to express their overwhelming feelings for men in ways that are appropriate for their personal well-being, while keeping their actions within the parameters of their faith. Whatever the causes of these attractions might be—and many have speculated—one outlet for these religious men who desire to stay faithful seems to be appropriate, but satisfying male-to-male contact.

I personally know men who have taken simpler steps to improve their lives by mending broken relationships with fathers and brothers, where before the relationships have caused them great turmoil. Others have opened up to straight male friends about their homosexuality, and even just confession alone can be liberating. But after this experience with Jo, I believe that the real mending of the heart and soul—the filling of the void within us—occurs after the confession, when a gay man can trustingly, confidently express himself in the company of another man in the pattern of Christlike love and concern that the Savior taught us. For some the extent to which affection is displayed does not have to be extreme. It may be a hug that satisfies one man, while open conversation about his sexuality will satisfy another. The answer, however, seems clear to me, and it is simple: An ear to listen, a mind to understand, a heart to feel, a hand to hold, and a soul that is open. I call it “positive male affirmation.”

"Jesus Washing the Apostles' Feet" by Del Parson
Copyright © 2002 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
If I have achieved my purpose with this post, then hopefully those who are reading will understand better just how important a friend can be. I believe that the love of friends is second only to the love of family. Greater than both of these, however, is the love of God, which was displayed through the matchless gift of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Christ came into the world to redeem its inhabitants from sin. He brought with Him the perfect love of His Father, which love Jesus bestowed upon those whom He called His friends. And as the Lord’s disciples, we are called upon to spread that love—the love of God—to others.

On the occasion of the Jewish Passover, knowing that the fruition of His purpose as the Redeemer of the world was fast approaching, Jesus gathered His disciples together to feast. Then, after eating their traditional Passover meal, Jesus individually washed the feet of each of His twelve Apostles in an intimate display of reverence, solemnly teaching His servants, by example, of divine attributes like humility and selfless service. That night, among many other things, Jesus spoke of His love for these men, saying:

          “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus Christ ultimately proved that teaching by example when He atoned for their sins, and the sins of all mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, and upon the cruel cross at Calvary’s hill, where He died to fulfill all righteousness. Our Father in Heaven does not ask us to give our lives for Him, as He required of His Son; but rather, our Father sent His Son to show us by example how to love and obey, that we may have the desire to forsake past things and let our former lives die as we take up our crosses and follow the Savior back to God’s presence. The Father gave us His Son, and the Son gave us His life. What better example of pure love can there be?

"Journey's End" by Derek Hegsted
Copyright © 1982-2005 by 
Derek Hegsted Fine Arts, Inc.
Moreover, I feel that we need to break the misconception that affection between males is wrong, unacceptable, or something that only gay men do. To any men reading who remain unconvinced, I ask them to humbly consider this thought: If you suddenly found yourself in the presence of the Savior Jesus Christ (and may I point out that one day you will!), and you suddenly felt compelled to embrace Him tightly, to shed happy tears upon His firm shoulders, and to bathe His pierced hands and feet with your grateful kisses—do you honestly think that either you or He would be uncomfortable in that moment with fact that you were both men who were showing each other affection?

For this life, I strive to keep a relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Redeemer that I will be able to take with me beyond this mortal veil and into the heavenly realm. I want to know my Savior then, and to feel comfortable in His mighty arms because of the trust and closeness I’ve shared with Him in mortality. I am not a stranger to Him. And I don’t want Him to be a stranger to me. If more individuals, like Jo and I, can continue in the pattern of love that has been set for us by Jesus Christ, I do not see how God’s children can ever cease to be whole.

The void within me will likely always remain to some degree, but its width and depth have been reduced to near insignificance by two things: First, the richness of faith and testimony that I have nurtured since coming back to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the assurance that my lifestyle of faith brings me; and second, the remarkable relationships with wonderful people (particularly men) like Jo that act to sustain my faith and help me keep my covenants with God by giving me all the emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual attention I need. And I am especially grateful that, for this life, I have a sincere, satisfying, loving relationship with at least one man that I will never have to be ashamed of, or regret, or risk my salvation for.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

“What Thinks Christ of Me?” – A Sacrament Meeting Address

Writing anything and everything
has always been my passion.
When I started this blog just over a year ago, I simply wanted a place where I could share my lifelong love for writing. As a child I think I had an average interest in most things that other children were interested in, too. But my real passions and talents were in the arts of reading, writing, acting, and music. This set me apart from my three older brothers and father, whose interests were in hunting, fishing, sports, and the outdoors. I often felt like I had nothing in common with anyone but my mother, with whom I shared many of the same talents and passions.

My writing started with poetry and original short stories, which I would write for fun and entertainment when other kids my age seemed to prefer video games, TV, or playing outside as activities. I still enjoyed those things, too, but I felt a special connection to my true inner self when I would muse with paper and pencil.

Lately, my blog seems to have taken a slight detour from my original intentions. Though I have shared several poems here, I have also felt compelled to record many other feelings and experiences in my life that are connected to the poetry. I do this so that I can preserve the memory of my past and present. Doing so, however, requires discussing many personal things at some length; but I feel that my openness has helped me to also connect to deeper elements within myself, and also to reach out to others.

Though I have been well received so far with my most recent posts which share a common theme, I remind myself that this blog is meant to house all of the expressions of my mind and soul, as the title informs. And though the number of posts I’ve made so far are limited, my desire is to stay true to the intentions of this page by changing up the dynamics a little and offering a broad view of my whole identity. 

Latter-day Saints around the world meet together
in chapels every Sunday to worship Jesus Christ.
I hope that my experiences socially, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and academically can together be more appealing to a larger, more diverse audience, and that is why I write in the context where I assume that not everyone who comes to my page will come from the same walk of life as me; and so I offer explanations and footnotes for those who wish to understand my way of life and thinking better. Please look for highlighted sources throughout this post that will link you to further information on the subjects presented.

So, following this preface, this post will be a glimpse into my everyday life as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Our Church is organized and operated by lay servants who volunteer their service to Church members and to God, from our smallest congregations consisting of local members, to our highest leaders, consisting of modern-day Prophets and Apostles, whom we believe are called of God. 

Twelve men make up the Quorum of the Twelve
Apostles. They are called to testify of Christ

throughout the world.
A typical Sunday worship service in a Mormon congregation consists of the opportunity to partake of Sacrament, similar to the Catholic Communion. We do this just as the Lord Jesus Christ commanded His Apostles to do during His mortal ministry, as recorded in the New Testament. We also believe that Christ visited the ancient Americas and taught the inhabitants there this ordinance, as recorded in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. For the rest of our meeting, we are taught by Church member-volunteers who have been asked by their local leadership to prepare an address, commonly called a “talk,” on a particular gospel subject.

Such was my opportunity and responsibility on Sunday, September 9, 2012. I can count the number of times I’ve given a full address in Sacrament Meeting on one hand, and the last was in 2008. And though I hold a separate responsibility in my local congregation to teach Sunday School classes every other week, I relish the chance to stand at the pulpit before my congregation and share a message.

The subject for my talk was based a common theme presented in a sermon given by a modern-day Apostle of Jesus Christ. The address was delivered at an event called General Conference, in which the entire membership of the Mormon Church gathers together to hear sermons by the highest leadership of our organization, including our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, who is the President of the LDS Church. General Conference is held twice a year, in April and October, each time taking place over a two day period. The proceedings of General Conference are broadcast worldwide via television, satellite, and Internet streaming from the LDS Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Elder Neil L. Andersen
The sermon I outlined in my talk is entitled, What Thinks Christ of Me? and it was written by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It was given Sunday, April 1, 2012. It can be found online at the LDS Church’s official website. It can also be found in print in the May 2012 edition of the LDS Church’s official magazine, the Ensign, pages 111 through 114.

Also, because of my always-perfectionistic nature, I have added significantly to the blog-version of my talk, adding in many insights I gained while preparing it, but which I was not allowed to share in the actual meeting because of time constraints. Here now is my message based on Elder Andersen’s sermon:

          Elder Neil L. Anderson, the junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shares a story of a Brazilian reporter who examined the LDS Church in great detail in preparation for a major news article. After studying our doctrines and teachings, and visiting many of our Church-operated facilities, the reporter was greatly impressed. In an interview with Elder Andersen, the reporter asked him, “How could someone not consider you Christian?”
          Elder Andersen shares his insight to this question, saying,

          “I knew he was referring to the Church, but my mind somehow framed the question personally, and I found myself silently asking, ‘Does my life reflect the love and devotion I feel for the Savior?’”

          In the New Testament, it is recorded that Jesus asked the Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ?” The response of the Pharisees made it clear that they did not know the true identity of the Christ. How well, then, do we feel we know Him?
          Elder Andersen points out that the final assessment of our personal discipleship and dedication to Christ will be judged by neither friend nor foe. He quotes the Apostle Paul who taught that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
          Paul continued his teachings to the Romans by saying,

          “For it is written, as I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

          It is interesting to note, based on this verse, that at the time of our eventual resurrection, all that we think and know of Christ—especially if it be in opposition to Him—will be swayed by the fact that we will not be able to doubt that, through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, our souls have been restored to perfected, incorruptible bodies. There will be no place for argument. We will be alive once again!—our spirit and our body rejoined, once separated by death, but never again to be twain.
          And with those resurrected bodies of flesh and bone, we will bow both symbolically and probably literally to the Redeemer Jesus Christ, and confess His divinity. Then will come the time of final judgment before God and the Savior, with Jesus as our Mediator and Advocate with the Father, having purchased us with his blood.
          Compared to the question Jesus asked the Pharisees—“What think ye of Christ?”—Elder Andersen offers this suggestion about our eventual judgment day, saying,

          “At that day the important question for each of us will be, ‘What thinks Christ of me?’”
          Elder Andersen goes on to share some examples of the way Jesus viewed those around Him during His ministry on earth. I quote from Elder Andersen:

          “Even with His love for all mankind, Jesus reprovingly referred to some around Him as hypocrites, fools, and workers of iniquity. He approvingly called others children of the kingdom and the light of the world. He disapprovingly referred to some as blinded and unfruitful. He commended others as pure in heart and hungering after righteousness. He lamented that some were faithless and of the world, but others He esteemed as chosen, disciples, friends. And so we each ask, ‘What thinks Christ of me?’”

Elder Russell M. Nelson
          This knowledge might leave us to ponder what the Lord Jesus Christ would have thought about us, had we been associated with Him during His mortal life in the Holy Land in the meridian of time.
          But because our Savior lives now in the eternal courts of heaven, and because He knows us individually through His taking upon Himself our pains and sufferings, we don’t have to place ourselves retrospectively 2,000 years into the past to feel His presence or consider and ponder what Christ thinks of us.
          Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in our day, gave us his counsel concerning our duty to the Savior in an article he wrote to commemorate the millennium—2,000 years after the birth of Jesus. Said he,

          “Each of us has the responsibility to know the Lord, love Him, follow Him, serve Him, teach and testify of Him.” 

          I’d like to relate some personal experiences in order to illustrate the thoughts that have been shared so far.
          Some of you know, though many probably don’t know that I have Tourette Syndrome, or just Tourettes for short. I’ll tell you a little bit about it.
          Tourettes is a hereditary neurological disorder involving a chemical imbalance in the brain, similar to other disorders like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety disorders.
          Tourettes causes an inner anxiety that compels me to perform certain repetitive behaviors and actions called tics. The manifestation of a tic is a conscious act, meaning I know when I’m ticcing, but the tics are not one-hundred percent within my control.
          There are a wide variety of tics, but they are usually categorized as either vocal or motor. Vocal tics consist of sounds and words; motor tics incorporate movements of body parts and muscle groups. 
          Tics are sub-categorized as simple and complex. Simple tics involve only one muscle group or area of the body at a time, and can be either vocal or motor. Complex tics involve multiple muscle groups and areas of the body working at the same time, and can be both vocal and motor.
          The nature of Tourettes is that, in order to feel a relief of the inner tension and anxiety that I feel nearly at all times, I must perform certain tics. Performing a tic in just the right way satisfies the urge that compels me to tic. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder plays a role here by increasing the number of times I feel I have to perform a tic in order for it to satisfy the urge in just the right way.
          Tics vary with the internal and external stimuli that are present in my environment. Internal stimulus can include how well I am feeling on a given day; how much sleep I get; how stressed or calm I am; if I’ve had stimulants, like caffeine; episodes of physical exertion; what’s currently going through my mind; and sudden or extreme emotions like excitement, amusement, anger, or fright. 
          External stimulus can include how hot or cold it is where I am; how many people are near me and what they are doing; how spacious or confined the space is that I’m in; noises and sounds that I hear; and what’s going on around me.
          My tics are both vocal and motor, which together are the necessary criteria for a complete Tourettes diagnosis. If I am presented with a situation where vocal tics would be more inappropriate or cause a lot of commotion, I can usually substitute a motor tic to relieve anxiety. If I am alone or in an environment where I am comfortable, I usually have less anxiety, and therefore less need to tic.
          Tourettes is famous for a vocal tic called coprolalia, which compels a person to swear, curse, or say other inappropriate things that they normally wouldn’t say. This urge increases in situations where I know that a curse word or phrase would be particularly offensive. This tic actually tends to be rare in most cases of Tourettes, but because of the simple oddity and controversy of coprolalia, it is seized upon by popular media and sensationalized or made fun of, and thus more people assume that all people with Tourettes swear uncontrollably.
          My family and I first started noticing my tics when I was about eight years old. We had never heard of Tourettes, and I had no idea why I felt like I had no control over my actions. After a lot of confusion, questions, and doctor’s visits, I was finally diagnosed with Tourettes and OCD at age eleven, right in the middle of sixth grade.
          I was immediately placed on medications to control the chemicals in my brain, which suppressed my need to tic and my obsessive-compulsive urges, though it didn’t completely cure me. I have been on medication ever since then. As tics changed with age and other factors, my medication was adjusted accordingly.
          In 2006, at age twenty, my worst nightmare was realized when I developed a habit of swearing that I soon realized was not entirely in my control. Soon I reached a downhill slope and my swearing was occurring every few seconds, and as hard as I tried, I simply couldn’t stop.
          I had to eventually quit my job as a nursing assistant because my tics were destroying my ability to serve my patients. I immediately saw my doctor for a medication change, but no dosage change or alternate drug seemed to help alleviate my coprolalia. 
          At the time I was living in my home ward in Spanish Fork. This was the ward where I joined the LDS Church at age sixteen. My ward family knew that I had Tourettes, and many were supportive and loving, but others, sadly, were not. I couldn’t help feeling like I was driving the Spirit away from our Sunday meetings and gatherings with my attendance, and it seemed like the Holy Ghost was grieved with every blasphemous word that uncontrollably came from my mouth. 
          Thankfully, I had a good relationship with my Bishop, and he was my advocate within the ward. One night I stopped by his house a little distraught over my struggle to manage my disorder. I wondered if maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough to suppress my tics. I wanted to do more to stop the swearing, but typically with Tourettes, the more one suppresses their tics, the more powerful the anxiety becomes, and the worse the tics are. And though I felt like the issue was mostly out of my grasp to help, I felt that I was sinning, and wondered if I was worthy of God’s love and His Spirit, when I struggled even with taking His sacred name in vain. I hated my struggle, and I felt ashamed.
          That night with the Bishop I asked him, “What do you think Heavenly Father and the Savior think of me? How can I be worthy of the Spirit when I defile the name of God uncontrollably? Do you think they will forgive me? Do you think they understand?”
          My Bishop seemed a bit surprised with me. He paused for a moment and said confidently, “I’m sure that Heavenly Father and the Savior know what you’re going through and how hard you’re trying better than anyone else could know. How could they be upset with you when they gave you this trial in the first place? If you’re trying your best, and making an effort to learn from your experience with these tics, then I know there is no need to seek forgiveness, and that you are worthy of their love and blessings.” This statement was to my great relief.
Priesthood blessings offer comfort
and instruction by the Spirit.
          That night, the Bishop also gave me a Priesthood blessing. In the blessing, I was told that in the pre-mortal existence, I not only kept my first estate, but was a more valiant spirit in the war in heaven. I was told that because I had proven especially worthy in the cause of the Grand Council which put forth the Plan of Salvation, I was chosen for great and marvelous things during my mortal probation. I was told that I willingly accepted particular tests to be given in my second estate, and that there was mutual trust between my Holy Father and Savior and myself, that I would bear these particular afflictions during my earthly sojourn. 
          I was told in the blessing that I understood well, before passing through the veil into mortal birth, that my afflictions would be pinnacle in cementing my faith in the gospel, keeping me humble and penitent before God, and ensure my eventual return back to the presence of the Father, if I bore the afflictions well.
          This blessing was a turning point in my life. At the time I received much comfort and peace knowing that my Heavenly Father and Savior trusted me enough to give me such an assignment. The veil between heaven and earth seemed thin suddenly, and I felt as if I could see myself there with God, making a promise that I would carry out His will, endure this trial to the end, and be perfected through it. 
          It was like waking up from a deep sleep and rediscovering your true identity again. I no longer pictured God in my head with a disappointed frown on His face every time I swore. Instead, His countenance seemed to shine with a gentle smile, because with His mighty power and omniscience, He could see my heart and my mind, and knew that my intentions were pure and true, and He knew that I was fulfilling the duty He gave to me. 
          After this blessing and the reassuring words from my Bishop, I had a new resolve to “trust in the Lord with all [my] heart, and lean not unto [my] own understanding,” as the Bible admonishes us.
          Elder Andersen adds his testimony of the blessings of our devotion to discipleship by saying,

          “. . . the Lord blesses us with customized direction through the gift of the Holy Ghost. These feelings turn us even more toward God, repenting, obeying, believing, and trusting. The Savior responds to our acts of faith.”

          Jesus, in responding to a question by Judas, one of the original Twelve Apostles (but not Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord), reminded us all of our duties as disciples of Christ, and of the blessings that come to us as we are faithful to Him. The Lord said,

          “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”

          Judas then asked the Lord how Jesus would manifest Himself to them, and Jesus responded first by simply rephrasing His original answer:

          “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

          In these verses, the Savior is promising His disciples that He will send them the second Comforter, or the Holy Ghost, which would come to the Twelve Apostles in its fullness only after the death and resurrection of the Savior. The first Comforter, of course, was the Lord Himself, Who came into the world to atone and die, that we may be succored through His enlightened understanding and perfect love.
          Quoting from the New Testament, Elder Andersen continues his thoughts on discipleship, saying,

          “His invitation is a call to daily duty. Jesus said: ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15). ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me’ (Luke 9:23).  We may not be at our very best every day, but if we are trying, Jesus’s bidding is full of encouragement and hope: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).  Wherever you now find yourself on the road of discipleship, you are on the right road, the road toward eternal life.”

          So far I’ve discussed our personal charge as members of Christ’s restored Church to obey the Lord’s commandments and stand as a witness of Him at all times and in all places. I’ve discussed the blessings that come from faithful trust in and service to the Lord, which include the gift of the Spirit, the love of the Godhead, and the promise of rest, peace, and comfort in Christ through the atonement. 
          Now I’d like to discuss what we know from Holy Scripture and the teachings of prophets about what can happen when we find ourselves unconcerned, unmotivated, or even rebelliously uncaring about what Christ thinks of us. 
          In the conclusion to His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned His followers about the unrighteous judgment of others, about hypocrisy, and of false prophets. I quote now from His words:

          “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
          “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
          “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
"Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth"
by Greg K. Olsen
Copyright © Greg K. Olsen
Allow me to expound the meaning of this scripture. One might remember that the ancient Prophet, Isaiah, foretold in the Old Testament that the Messiah would enter the world to deliver His captive people. The Apostle Matthew records that it was also prophesied that the Redeemer would be called a Nazarene, or a person who hailed from the Palestinian city of Nazareth. 
          Many years later, after his miraculous birth, Jesus settled in Nazareth, fulfilling this ancient prophecy. Then, after beginning His ministry around age thirty, Jesus returned to a synagogue in his hometown to declare to the astonishment of the Nazarenes there that in Him was the prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled concerning the Messiah.
          But to many in the Holy Land, the Lord remained simply “Jesus of Nazareth,” which was not uncommon in the ancient world to be identified by the place you were from. Even after declaring His divinity to many, His hometown identity was used to distinguish Him, particularly, it seems, among nonbelievers. 
          Those who hailed Him as the Prince of Peace revered Him as “Lord.” Hence the scripture just shared, stating that even those who honor Jesus with the title of Lord may not always be a true disciple of Him, and may even be working iniquity in the name of Christ.
          Isaiah of old, in his poetic verse, shed more light upon this subject also as he prophesied in Old Testament times of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, saying,

          “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.”

"The First Vision" by Gary L. Kapp
Copyright © Gary L. Kapp
          The ancient American Prophet, Nephi, delighted so much in the words of Isaiah, that he included many of Isaiah’s words nearly verbatim in the record that later became the Book of Mormon, including this same prophecy, allowing Isaiah’s vision to be repeated in the very book about which he foretold.
          The young Joseph Smith, as a fourteen year-old boy, also heard this same prophecy from the very mouth of the Savior when Jesus Christ and His Father appeared to Joseph in the Sacred Grove to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times. As recorded in the Joseph Smith History, the Lord told Joseph not to join any Church, for they were all wrong; the Lord added upon His previous message to Isaiah by saying the following about the religious groups of the time:

          “… they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

          In his first general epistle, the Apostle Peter asked a question of those to whom he delivered his message, saying,
          “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
          “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

          The Lord gives answer to questions like Peter’s many times throughout the Holy Scriptures. For example, this was the reprimand of Lord to some of His slothful servants in the early days of the LDS Church in Kirtland, Ohio in 1831:

          “And he that will not take up his across and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved.
          “Behold, I, the Lord, command; and he that will not obey shall be cut off in mine own due time, after I have commanded and the commandment is broken.
          “Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.”

Also recorded in the Doctrine & Covenants is a glimpse into the mind of the Godhead, given to Joseph Smith in revelation just two months later in Kirtland in 1831. The Lord said,

          “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.”

          When Jesus Christ appeared in glory to the Nephites in the ancient Americas after His resurrection, he relayed many of the things which He taught to the Jews in Israel before His crucifixion and death. 
          He included much of His Sermon on the Mount when he visited the Nephites, but because of the purer restoration of holy writ that is included uncorrupted in the Book of Mormon, Christ’s teachings to the Nephites offer a little more light and knowledge. This includes a passage recorded in the third book of Nephi which summarizes well what we have discussed today:

"And He Healed Them All, Every One"
by Gary L. Kapp
Copyright © 1993 by Gary L. Kapp
          “And it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he said unto his disciples: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it; but wide is the gate, and broad the way which leads to death, and many there be that travel therein, until the night cometh, wherein no man can work.”
          Our purpose on earth is clear, and it was accepted by all of us in a previous existence where we lived with our Heavenly Father, when God Himself presented the Plan unto us. 
          We are to be tested, tried, and proven to see if we will accept and obey our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ even after our minds have been veiled from our former knowledge. We will have the ability to discern good from evil, and have the agency to choose which we will follow and trust. 
          We will have Light of Christ with us no matter who we are or where we come from, and if we have the opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ and accept it, we will have the second Comforter that Jesus promised, even the Holy Ghost to be with us.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie
          There are boundaries which are clearly set, and there is not much room for error; but if we do cross the line into sin and transgression, we have the infinite power of the atonement of Jesus Christ which, if we utilize it, can cleanse us from sin and restore, comfort, and soothe us in our afflictions. I pray that we will all take that advantage.
          I would like to conclude on the most positive note that I feel I can, and that is by sharing two of the most poignant, beautiful, and powerful testimonies I have ever heard declared of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. It is my hope that these testimonies will instill within all of you a stronger, more sure testimony of the divinity of God’s Only Begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, and a more powerful resolve and devotion to follow Him back to a glorious meeting in the clouds heaven.
          The first declaration is the final testimony of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1972 to 1985. He delivered his most famous sermon on the power of the Christ’s atonement in General Conference of April 1985, and passed away less than two weeks later. Said he:
          “And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that He is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
          “I am one of His witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in His hands and in His feet and shall wet His feet with my tears.
          “But I shall not know any better then than I know now that He is God’s Almighty Son, that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through His atoning blood and in no other way.

Elder Melvin J. Ballard
          The last testimony I will share is given in the form of a personal experience by Elder Melvin J. Ballard, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1919 until his death in 1939. Here is the experience in his own words:

          “. . . I found myself one evening in the dreams of the night in that sacred building, the temple. After a season of prayer and rejoicing I was informed that I should have the privilege of entering into one of those rooms, to meet a glorious Personage, and, as I entered the door, I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious Being my eyes have ever beheld or that I ever conceived existed in all the eternal worlds. As I approached to be introduced, He arose and stepped towards me with extended arms, and He smiled as He softly spoke my name. If I shall live to be a million years old, I shall never forget that smile. He took me into his arms and kissed me, pressed me to his bosom, and blessed me, until the marrow of my bones seemed to melt! When He had finished, I knelt at his feet, and, as I bathed them with my tears and kisses, I saw the prints of the nails in the feet of the Redeemer of the world. The feeling that I had in the presence of Him who hath all things in his hands, to have His love, His affection, and His blessing was such that if I ever can receive that of which I had but a foretaste, I would give all that I am, all that I ever hope to be, to feel what I then felt.”
          ~ Elder Melvin J. Ballard, Sermons and Missionary Service of Melvin J. Ballard, comp. Bryant S. Hinckley (1949), 155-56; see also Exceptional Stories from the Lives of Our Apostles, comp. Leon R. Hartshorn (1973), 11-12.

          Truly these men, as Apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ, had tasted of the goodness of the Holy One of Israel. 
          And finally, the testimony of Elder Neil L. Andersen, whose talk we outlined today. He concludes,

          “I witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He suffered and died for our sins and rose the third day. He is resurrected. In a future day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the Christ. On that day, our concern will not be, ‘Do others consider me Christian?’ At that time, our eyes will be fixed on Him, and our souls will be riveted on the question, ‘What thinks Christ of me?’”

          I also add my testimony that I know the purpose of my life—the good and bad, the blessings and the struggles. And it is my desire to live worthy of the opportunity to be with my Heavenly Father, and my Savior again when the veil of heaven is parted, and I am called home. I know that the Father and the Son live, with resurrected bodies of flesh and bone, just as we will someday have, and that the Holy Ghost is their messenger and the third member of the Holy Godhead. I love them, and it is my desire to serve them forever.
          May we all increase in learning, knowledge, and testimony of Jesus so that we can be ready always to declare positively what we think of Christ. And may we all live ever-concerned about what Christ thinks of us, and strive to the very end to be our best selves—I pray in His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen.


** To learn more about Tourette Syndrome, please click HERE.  You may also visit the National Tourette Syndrome Association website at **

"The Second Coming" by Harry Anderson
Copyright © 2002 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Eye of the Beholder

I believe everyone deserves to be told when they
are loved and appreciated.
Personal insights come in the strangest ways sometimes. But I am convinced that there are no coincidences, and that God is in the details. Some humorous personal reflection on a recent experience led me to back this afternoon to some wonderful memories and left me with greater enlightenment.

Let me preface by sharing that I am a person who believes that everybody and anybody deserves to be complimented, encouraged, and praised when it is obvious that such a thing is due them. I often compliment perfect strangers on all sorts of points. For example, I’m notorious for making sure pregnant women know how beautiful they are, for I truly believe that pregnancy is the most feminine and gorgeous time of a woman’s life. But when the occasion is less brief and unexpected, I am very formal and old-fashioned in my ways, and I love to write “Thank You” and “Thinking of You” cards to random people in my life whom I appreciate. When possible, I am fond of sending them via snail mail. So, I keep a supply of stationary, cards, envelopes, seals, stamps, etc. for this very purpose. 

Sending post, or "snail" mail,
is one of my favorite hobbies.
Just yesterday I used my last card and envelope on a very worthy friend at church who has so willingly served me multiple times in the past few weeks. That evening, I went to the store to buy more cards and envelopes, but I went to a different store than I usually shop at. I found myself bombarded by overly-feminine, cutesie, generic wedding, bridal shower, and baby shower cards. I thought they were all very cute and would honestly (wishfully) love to send them to people. But looking at my options, as a male, and getting frustrated, I just kept thinking laughingly, “That’s just too gay!” 

I realize that my practice of giving out and sending cards the way I do already, and unavoidably, shows that I am a sensitive man; but I didn’t want it to scream, “By the way, I like guys.” So I narrowed it down to some blue and silver cards with a rigid block-type pattern, and some blue and silver cards with an elaborate paisley pattern. I realized that the rigid block pattern didn’t come with the kind of envelopes that I liked, so I was left with the paisley. 

"Masculine" paisley was too
manly for me.
But then I stared at the design wondering if this paisley was also too feminine for a man. I found some other paisley cards in pink and purple, and the pattern seemed softer and flowed better than the blue and silver paisley cards; so clearly, I discerned, there was a “feminine paisley” and a “masculine paisley,” and I had correctly selected the manly kind. So then, I thought, paisley would be okay. But then I couldn’t help thinking of my very-straight grandfathers and great-uncles at family reunions in their cowboy hats and bolo ties, complete with a paisley western shirt with the fake-mother-of-pearl buttons. I concluded that I was far from the type who is masculine enough (or even interested) to be associated with such a thing even if I tried, so I decidedly gave up on the paisley cards. 

"Feminine" paisley was lovely,
but of course, too "gay."
All the while, I just couldn’t help feeling like the fact that I was aiming for a little style and elegance in something like greeting cards would likely register as a little feminine in and of itself with the people to whom I gave them, especially if they were male. But since I’ve never been the type to compliment a fellow guy by punching him the arm and declaring “You da man,” I just assume that anything more is going to be perceived by a straight man as a little on the sensitive side, though maybe not necessarily offensive. 

With this new logic, my search continued. I finally found something that seemed appropriate and gender neutral from my side, and for my recipients. The cards were black and white with an embossed, elaborate criss-cross pattern on the front, with a checkerboard pattern on the inside of the envelopes (the kind that I like, by the way). All together I thought they were a little boring for my taste, but then again, I suppose that it’s what is written inside that matters and not what the stationary looks like. I just wish I could have come to this conclusion before I spent half-an-hour in the store aisle battling all my gay-related quirks. 

Precise and perfect planning is an obsessive trait
that follows me in nearly everything I do.
I have to laugh about it, though. My first predicament was my desire not to seem overly feminine and perhaps make people wonder about my sexuality more than I’m sure they already do. I’ve tried to adopt a personal creed that if someone asks me about my sexuality, I will tell them the truth—that I am gay. There are some exceptions, but as long as I judge that the person is willing to ask questions or talk to me about it in more depth, I have no problem with them knowing. My fear is that, without my side of it all, they will run to predisposed prejudices or fears about homosexuality, and judge me based on those things. This is especially important for me because of my active membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). I don’t mind if people assume any stereotypes with me, because I certainly know that many gay and lesbian stereotypes exist and that they do so for a reason. I recognize these seemingly predisposed quirks and traits in myself, hence the current musing. 

Second was my quest for perfection in formality and sociality. In many instances I will reject something that does not conform to my own preset standard for whatever task is at hand. I cringe when people approach a task by saying “Oh, it doesn’t matter to me,” or “I have no preference,” because almost always I have things well thought out in advance before tackling any task, and I continue to critically analyze the process as I go along. With the occasional exception of “What do you want to do tonight?” or “Where do you want to go eat?” I will almost always have a preference. 

Father and son bonding seems
especially important for men who
experience same-gender attraction.
These initial thoughts left me to conclude that, according to my experience with other gay males, my perfectionism was very typical. There are many reasons proposed for why this might exist psychologically—fear of rejection by others for whom one is as a person seems to be the common root; but I won’t expound upon that now. Fear of appearing overly girly or feminine in behavior and mannerisms also seems to be a persistent issue particularly for men who are closeted, or who have not yet fully revealed their homosexuality to others, and don’t desire to.

Then there’s the matter that so typically couples, and often seems to plague same-gender attracted men—issues with masculinity and the views and relationships with other males. I may not have known some of the patriarchal figures in my extended family very well, but as a child with a vivid memory, I received many silent messages from the men in my life. Not all the messages I absorbed were that real men know how to ride a horse or wear cowboy boots. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had many examples of so-called “typical” manly behaviors. And I knew from an early age that those activities were not what I liked to do. 

Fishing trips were special
for my father and his boys.
I remember my own father taking me on fishing excursions dozens of times as a child. He and my brothers would fish the rivers and streams, while I would adventure nearby to pick wildflowers and find rocks to take home and decorate using my mother’s vast collection of acrylic paints. Occasionally, if I was present, my father would hand me the fishing pole long enough for me to simply reel in a fish that he had already hooked. I learned to clean a fish by watching my father and brothers do it many times, and I think I did it myself self only once. The other times that my father encouraged me to try cleaning fish, I couldn’t do anything but sob heavily over the loss of the poor creatures, and beg them to forgive me from their new home in fish heaven for taking part in their deaths.

But from these experiences I learned about the love a father has for his son. My father was always willing to take me along, even though he knew I wasn’t going to participate with him and my brothers. I got to see my father in his element, doing what he loved with his boys, after a hard week at work providing for our family. That is something I cherish today. 

Though we've never had much in common,
I cherish my relationship with my dad.
In later years, I never really did feel included when hunting season came around, and other activities soon took my interest over our fishing trips. I often felt that my brothers’ interests in masculine activities took precedence in my father’s allocation of love. But looking back, I can see that my father loved all of us boys. I think that my father and I both regret that we never had more in common, but I am happy that I have found ways to establish a relationship with him as an adult. I cherish our relationship, and respect him greatly for the hard-working, sacrificing man that he is. 

Another behavior that I remember silently witnessing as a child came from my maternal great-grandfather, Chester. My great-grandmother, Irene, was feeble in the last several years of her life. They lived a couple of hours from where I grew up, and my family only visited occasionally. Grandma Irene would sit in a large, comfortable-looking recliner in the living room. I remember the soft puffing of her oxygen machine as we would talk and visit together. Always Grandpa Chester would sit on a small folding chair at the side of Grandma’s recliner. I remember him often holding her hand as we all visited. I remember him lovingly, and with a chuckle, rearranging the nasal canula in her nose that gave her oxygen. He would help her up as she stood to hug us goodbye until she became too weak in later years to stand much unless out of necessity. I don’t recall anything particular about hugging Grandpa, but I know that I must have done it, because I have always been a physically affectionate person, whether he was or not. 

Though my Great-Grandpa Chester's
love was silent, I noticed and felt it.
His love was always silent, and probably never given a second thought by him. But I noticed it. This was one of the same men whom I had seen in western paisley shirts, a cowboy hat, and bolo ties. But like many of the masculine men I have known, I was not impressed by how much weight he could lift, how many animals he had killed and hung on the wall, or how quickly he could change a tire. I was impressed with his behavior, his attitude, and his heart. His inner man was what spoke to me. He loved his wife, and she was dear to him. He parted this earth just weeks after Grandma Irene did, telling her, “I won’t be far behind you.” This makes my heart swell from my deepest desire to experience my life with a divine daughter of God.

Finally, in pondering the experience with the greeting cards, I was a little disappointed that my appreciation, love, and admiration of others who bless my life and my desire to make it known unto them, was reduced to simple black and white. If I could, I would give out handmade cards trimmed with gold leaf and dotted with precious gems. Such is the extent of my gratitude for those who make my life a happy and fulfilled one. In this way, I am glad that—if stereotypes hold any sway—my same-gender attracted feelings give me a keener sensitivity to all things around me that matter the most. I find myself more humble, more grateful, and more willing to serve. I’m reminded of the Savior Jesus Christ, Who, sitting with His twelve disciples one day atop the Mount of Olives, taught them in parables, saying:

          “... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

The Lord’s tender mercies are ever present, and I can’t help but marvel at them! Who would have known that shopping for stationary, some personal reflection, and a lot of musing at a keyboard could teach me the worth of a soul, and the measure of a man? Sincere and serious intro- and retrospection have always been a blessed gift given to me by God, and my heart is filled to overflowing in gratitude. There are no coincidences. God is in the details.

Three generations of my grandparents are shown in this photo
from 1973.

My great-great grandparents, Archie and Lenora
Lamoreaux are on the left; my great-grandparents, Chester and
Irene Robinson are on the right; in the back are my maternal
grandparents, Elmo "Bud" and Dorothy Robinson.  The children
are my two oldest cousins.

I've learned much about the measure of a man by watching and
reading about these wonderful men who, above all else, loved their
God, loved their dear wives, and loved their families.