11 May 2010

As long as you put "it" in the right place

So there's a point of frustration to many, including active LDS in committed same-sex relationships and atheists whose lives are, aside from the whole going-to-church and believing-in-God thing, more in-line with church standards (service, taking care of the body, sexual standards, etc) than the BYU poster boy who's schtupping other BYU poster boys like there's no tomorrow. It seems most guys with this frustration regard such double-life behavior as remarkably hypocritical and don't understand how LDS people can be OK with that while reviling the sexually restrained heathen who's living an upstanding, open life. And I relate to the sentiment.

But you have to remember the mind of an LDS person, and the doctrines they believe in, to see something a little more complicated and nuanced beyond your basic, bigoted hypocrisy. Despite popular LDS culture which sometimes tends to measure the righteousness or goodness of a person by external appearance and outward obedience to church policies and standards, the scriptures and teachings of the prophets are full of references to the heart being what matters most. In short, obedience is hollow without faith in Christ (there's no redemption and eternal joy without the atonement), and your actions don't matter as much as where your heart is, or, in other words, the direction in which you're trying, at least, to go.

What many conveniently overlook, sometimes, is the Alma-style "change of heart" which leaves no more disposition to do evil but to do good continuously, and is reflected in the life of the one whose heart has been changed. But even then, the alternately slutty and penitent Peter Priesthood may dismiss his pattern of "slipping up" by saying he's just lapsing into "losing sight" of his goals or what he wants and repeatedly returning to an eye single to the glory of God, or recommitting himself to "doing the right thing". Christ can forgive infinitely, so they're banking on that.

We all slip up, after all, no matter the goal. When dieting, training for a marathon, trying to gossip less, learning a musical instrument, working towards a promotion, trying to get good grades, or trying to live the church's standards, we "slip up". You might sneak a candy bar, or skip a workout, or share the really juicy tidbit, or forget to practice, or spend too much work time Facebooking, or choose social time over homework, or put your hands down a hot guy's pants. Just because you ate a candy bar once or twice doesn't mean you don't want to lose weight, and there's no sense beating yourself up and abandoning the effort to lose weight just because you caved to carnal lusts once or twice. You redouble your efforts and move on. By reaching for something higher, and risking failure on occasion, you grow and expand.

But if you're alternately sneaking junk food and recommitting to your diet all the time in a seemingly endless pattern, at some point you've got to own up to the fact that you either don't actually care about losing weight enough to do what it takes and have determined your priorities, with satisfying your junk food lust being a higher priority than losing fat, or you're at least going around satisfying your cravings despite wanting to stop, but you're saving face by proclaiming you're "trying" to lose weight so everyone will cheer you on and pat you on the back rather than calling you out on the fact that you won't stop stuffing your freaking face!

***breathing, deep breaths....OK, calm***

So anyway, I understand that you must try to look on the heart of a person, and I hope I'm not about to shove someone into the box of their past to satisfy some sense of self-justification or cover my own insecurity, as so many do. If someone says, "My heart has changed (my goals and desires have changed): I know where I need to go, and I'm committed to getting there," I'm not going to force their past in their face and say, "But you did this, so you ARE this, and you can never leave this behind!" That's not what this is about.

But when I see my LDS friends distancing themselves from me because my beliefs have changed, even though most of my principles, values, and standards have not, while they openly embrace those who say they're toeing the church line but who clearly (to those who know the secret "them") are confused and unsure and not living in a way congruent with or productive to what they say they want but who say they believe the right things, it's hard not to feel bitter about that. It's hard not to feel senselessly rejected. It's hard to bite my tongue when I want to shout, "I make mistakes, and I fall short of my own standards sometimes, but at least my actions have been consistent with my beliefs, and my doubts, and I've been open and up front about those beliefs and doubts! I have no relationship or behavior that I haven't discussed with those close to me, so there is nothing to compartmentalize and shove under the rug! No, I don't believe as you do or as I used to, but I am getting (and seeking) far less action than most of the self-righteous LDS boys who claim they know what they want but whose actions tell a very different story from the version their lips tell. You revile me for being more open to a committed, monogamous same-sex relationship, because that's not "trying" to get married in the temple, but you turn a blind eye to your own frequent, unprotected trysts or forgive them in others because they either keep them a secret or say they won't do it again, for the fifteenth time! More importantly, I'm living more in line with what I do believe and am maintaining stricter standards than most of these active LDS guys but for my own internal reasons. I'm accountable to myself and to my friends, with no magical deity to clean up my messes for me or make my lack of integrity somehow OK because I said I was sorry and promise not to do it again, and admitting when I made a decision against my own beliefs or standards rather than pawning it off as some devil-made-me-do-it "slip-up"! And not once have I insisted you should "lower" or change your standards of behavior for yourself, but you'd rather push me away and huddle together with the other faithful guys who are much more likely to try to get into your pants because it's safer to mess up with them so you can both write it off as something you've repented of and affirm each other's desire to follow the prophet while holding each other's...ARGH!!!"

...But I don't shout those things. I get it. I know the other side. Well, kind of. I never did have a pattern of fooling around, but I tested limits here and there, and I know that when you believe the gospel as taught in the LDS Church, you want to surround yourself with others who believe similarly for various reasons, many of which are quite reasonable and rational. There are also some insecurities: when a heathen defies someone's preconceived notions of what leaving the church or dating the same sex is supposed to look like, it can be threatening to the preconceived notions upon which certain faithful have always rejected those beliefs or decisions. It's always easier to vilify than to rationally refute, even if rational refutation is possible. Which is also why I shy away from shouting "Hypocrite!" when I'm feeling unjustly rejected or scorned. Even if there is hypocrisy, I'm probably not going to change a hypocrite's mind by calling them one, so I sometimes try a more measured, rational approach, and if they persist in pushing me away, I stop fighting it and turn and walk away. It's not about forcing "my lifestyle" on others: goodness knows I'd hate to feed that perception.

It seems that, for some people in LDS society, where you put your penis is just not very important as long as your heart is put in the right place (i.e. you claim to believe the right things), but as soon as you don't believe the right things, your penis is very much on trial. But in a way, that actually makes sense, given the doctrine. If you believe the only "justification" any of us have is divine intervention in the form of atonement, and that all sins are swallowed up and cleansed only by true repentance, then it's quite literally true that any who choose not to be a part of that covenant will be on trial without their advocate. In a weird way, their rejection may not be hypocritical but may be done out of defensiveness or concern or sadness or fear for me or for what they might become or what it would mean to face the reality of their decisions without the soothing balm of divine redemption. It may be frustrating, and it may be terribly wrong, if the whole perception is built on false mythology. It may be disgusting to me that certain BYU boys feel free to use each other to screw around and repent later and are praised for their faith while I feel the icy blast from the cold shoulders of the faithful, but I'm going to do what I believe is best, just as they are doing, and try to overlook what I think are their errant ways as I wish they would overlook what they think are mine. In those terms, the anger is dissolved, and I move on in quiet, respectful confidence.

Note: I don't mean to generally characterize all mohos or LDS people as fitting what I've described here. It's just certain circles or individuals. And as I've implied, a lot of this is coming from specific feelings of rejection I've experienced over the past year, which is an emotional place for sure. I've had positive experiences with church members who are very understanding and respectful of my decisions and standards, and I have many moho friends living happily and with integrity in church activity. But a guy's gotta rant/vent sometimes.

Addendum, August 2010 - If you're interested, also see my related post, "Fighting bitterness over moho hypocrisy", and its follow-up, "Showing forth Afterwards..."


LDS Brother said...

If these people want to live two lives under the cover of piety, so be it. "By their fruits, ye shall know them," I say.

Bravone said...

I don't mean to trivialize your thoughts, because I believe them to be valid, but I couldn't help but chuckle about 'having your penis on trial.' Don't hate me :) Maybe I have an overactive imagination, or just seen too much porn over the years, but it does conjure up interesting images!

I don't like to get involved in gossip, so won't ask who are the individuals who are distancing themselves from you. It does make me very sad though. It would be one thing if you were doing the nasty nightly on the 'Tree of Life' sculpture on the BYU campus while shouting profanities towards the heavens, but you're not (are you?)

My closest straight friend distanced himself from me after I shared my true self with him. I always told him he wouldn't like me if he really knew me. Turns out I was right. We do token dinners together occasionally with our wives, but I know he is uncomfortable around me and it hurts more than I like to admit.

Reading this made me incredibly sad. I wish I could 'fix' it for you. Love you my friend.

Original Mohomie said...

LDS Bro, good call.

Bravone, by the time I've gotten around to writing about this, most of the more intense pain over this is in the past, I think. It still stings sometimes to think about it, and it'll probably hurt some the next time someone else pulls back, but fortunately I have enough friends who see more of me than LDS faith or lack thereof that life goes on, even if I'm sad to have kind of lost a few friends, at least for now. I've also regained some friends, which I mentioned previously.

As for finding the imagery comical, I certainly hope you did. I did. :-)

Scott said...

It's not just your friends--it's the church itself, in some ways.

A man who goes out and has sex with multiple partners, multiple times, confessing to his bishop each time but expressing remorse and professing a desire to overcome his weakness and forsake his sinful ways is more likely to be disfellowshipped or even just placed on "probation" than he is to be excommunicated (unless he has very unsympathetic leaders).

But a man who falls in love and commits to his partner and tells the disciplinary council that he has no intention of abandoning that physical relationship--not for the church, and not for another man... That man is almost certain to be excommunicated for his unwillingness to forsake the sin.

This has frustrated me for as long as I've recognized the issue. Even when you look at it from a "desire of the heart" perspective, shouldn't a desire for commitment and monogamy and love count for something? But of course the church can't look on homosexual sin with the slightest degree of allowance... unless the sinner says he's going to try not to do it again.

Original Mohomie said...

From a secular viewpoint, it's asinine; doesn't make sense. But if homosexual activity is sexual sin, regardless of commitment, then at some point, it does have to become arbitrary. A man shacking up with a girl for 5 years but refusing to marry probably faces similar consequences, while a guy who slips up with women right and left but repents probably gets credit for "effort" as well. At some point, it just becomes a bit arbitrary out of necessity, and that's where the individual is responsible for making him- or herself accountable.

I'm more P.O.'d at the guys who live the double life and screw up other people's perceptions than I am at the people who are duped by them.

Lee said...

It made me very sad to read your post. Like Bravone, I wish I could fix it for you.

Lee said...

I appreciate your last, and very wise, comment: "I'm more P.O.'d at the guys who live the double life and screw up other people's perceptions than I am at the people who are duped by them."

jimf said...

> There are also some insecurities: when a heathen defies someone's
> preconceived notions of what leaving the church or dating the same
> sex is supposed to look like, it can be threatening to the preconceived
> notions upon which certain faithful have always rejected those beliefs
> or decisions.

Yes and, of course, that's why modern communication technologies such
as YouTube and the Web itself must be giving the guardians of
orthodoxy (Mormon or othewise) a massive belly-ache.

Though I suppose the faithful (of any stripe) are encouraged not to
expose themselves to such temptation (just as certain books will
be declared off-limits) -- and the Scientologists even sell net-nanny
software to prevent adherents from accidentally stumbling on
anti-Scientology "propaganda" -- the fact that YouTube channels
such as MorMenLikeMe, or iamanexmormon, exist at all, and are only
a mouse-click away, must inspire fear and trembling in those charged
with keeping the flocks from straying. Tools of the "Enemy", or
acid to eat away shackles of the mind? You decide. ;->

(BTW, have you read, or heard, the Lyndon Lamborn story?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng-cn6cK6GA ).

> [T]he scriptures and teachings of the prophets are full of references
> to the heart being what matters most. . . But when I see my LDS friends
> distancing themselves from me because my beliefs have changed, even though
> most of my principles, values, and standards have not, while they openly
> embrace those who say they're toeing the church line but who clearly. . .
> are. . . not living in a way congruent with [that]. . . but who say. . .
> the right things, it's hard not to feel bitter about that.

Of course, **behavior** (including speech behavior) is there for all to
see and hear, while "the heart" (short of the invention of a _Star Trek_ "psycho-
tricorder", which some people are of course working on!) is forever
hidden, or only accessible dimly and indirectly. What was it
La Rochefoucauld said? "Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue."

Your bitterness is well captured in the science fiction movie
_Contact_ ( http://www.amazon.com/Contact-Keepcase-Jodie-Foster/dp/B002GHHHKQ/ ),
in which the honestly-atheist astronomer played by Jodie Foster
("Dr. Ellie Arroway") is rejected in favor of the hypocritically-pious
Tom Skerrit ("David Drumlin") to represent the human race as
first-contact ambassador to the galactic civilization that sent the message
relayed to Earth from Vega. Arroway is bitter about what she feels
is a betrayal by a man whom she considered her friend -- a Christian
evangelist played by Matthew McConaughey ("Palmer Joss").

Ellie Arroway: Why did you do it?

Palmer Joss: Our job was to select someone to speak for everybody.
And I just couldn't in good conscience vote for a person who doesn't
believe in God. Someone who honestly thinks the other ninety five percent
of us suffer from some form of mass delusion.

Ellie Arroway: I told the truth up there. And Drumlin told you
exactly what you wanted to hear.

And later, when Ellie congratulates Drumlin on having been selected
for the trip to the stars:

David Drumlin: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe
that's an understatement. What you don't know is I agree. I wish the
world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of
idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of.
Unfortunately, we don't live in that world.

Ellie Arroway: Funny, I've always believed that the world is what
we make of it.

Original Mohomie said...

jimf, I do love Contact. That theme of the movie is one that hits closer to home than ever.