Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I must be insane to believe that I could ever make a straight relationship work when I am attracted, almost exclusively to men. I can't imagine how I ended up with such an incredible wife and children. I just don't see how this is possible, and I'm scared about the future. There's no way I can keep this up. Where is the logic behind all of this? What are my motives? I've made it this far, but what is it going to take to make it 50 more years, assuming I die at an old age? Am I capable of holding this relationship and this family together? Why isn't there more support and understanding from the church? I need more direction, more strength and more faith.

I am so happy with my wife and family. They are the center of my universe. I would be devastated if I had to leave them for any reason. My greatest fear is that I will do something stupid and lose all that I hold dear. I've come too close on a few occasions as can be seen in my posts. One of the sacrifices I make is having to deal with the guilt of the mistakes I make every so often of looking at porn (nothing hard core), looking at guys, wanting guys, keeping things hidden from everyone (except the occasional priesthood leader or a close friend), and then the once or twice a year I do something really stupid like chat with gay men online or coming close to hooking up.

Will I ever be or feel temple worthy under such circumstances? I want to be clean in every way but am thinking that this will never be the case. I continually repent of my sins to God, and when they are more severe, to my Bishop. But it's not always possible to repent all the time or talk to my Bishop. It takes a lot of trust to confide in a new Bishop every time I move or every four years when a new Bishop is put in place. I really don't think it's fair to have to rehash my situation in order to be temple worthy.

13 comments:

A CROW'S VIEW said...

When we do our best do we ever feel like we deserve what we get.

You are someone who I read and marvel at. I think you are wonderful. You are doing what I hope to one day do. You are an example of what I only write I believe in. In short you are walking the walk that I can only now talk about.

I think you need to look at yourself the way that God looks at you. You need to see the good you are doing.

Scott said...

I hear you, and I'm right there with you. I'm married, I have four kids, and when I see the future stretching out ahead of me, I'm overwhelmed with despair at the thought of fifty more years of wondering what it would be like to be with a man.

So I don't lift my head very often. I keep my gaze planted firmly at the road directly in front of my feet. I love my wife and kids as much as you appear to love yours, and it's not difficult to imagine still being with them next week, so that's what I focus on.

I decided fairly quickly not to expect understanding and support from the Church. I think that we have the love and sympathy of our leaders, but until we have a gay married Apostle I don't think they'll ever have true empathy or a complete understanding of the challenges that we face. I don't expect much more from my local leaders.

I've also allowed myself a bit more leeway than I used to. I'm not trying to justify sin, but if minor transgressions make it easier for me to withstand major temptations, I think the Savior understands. That's why He Atoned for my sins--so that my best efforts (inadequate though they may be) could be made sufficient through His Atoning Sacrifice.

As an example of leeway, I don't beat myself up for looking at photos of attractive men in swimsuits or going out of my way to spin down the underwear aisle at the store. I allow myself to admire and enjoy the beauty of the male body, and I do my best to keep my thoughts from straying into the arena of the erotic or sexual. I do this with my wife's knowledge and permission, and I try to be aware of my own limits, and so far it has not led to anything that I feel I need to repent of.

This may not work for everyone--I've never had problems with pornography, but someone who is struggling to overcome an addiction would probably do well to avoid something that might become a gateway back into undesired behavior.

My main point is that God only expects us to do our best, and as long as we are trying to live the commandments and to make each day even a small fraction better than the one before, we should never feel guilt or shame for the mistakes that we make--true Godly sorrow never makes us feel unworthy of His love, but only strengthens our resolve to try a little harder next time.

Beck said...

Why rehash the past? Move on and do better. That's what repentance is all about. It's getting up and looking forward, not regretting the past. Let it go!

You have a wonderful family. Keep them in your focus. Sure, your view strays to beautiful men and tempting images and thoughts, but keep focusing and you'll make it another 50 years (or more).

It is possible. Sure, there will be hiccups, but it can be done. I'm not even close to being perfect, but I, among others, are further down this road, and as frustrating and lonely as it may seem at times, it's still worth it. If you hadn't committed to your family, it would be different. But, you have. You've made your choice. You may have to make it over and over again and recommit your heart again and again as you stray and your desires get the best of you, but all that doesn't mean it isn't possible! Nor, that it isn't worth it.

Love and hugs,

Beck.

Alan said...

Forester, ol' pal, my heart aches for you. If I were there I'd put my arm around your shoulder and say something like this.

I think you are an amazing person. I know you don't feel like it right now, but you don't see yourself as others see you. Strength and courage don't mean that you never feel weak or hopeless or scared or hurt. They mean that despite all that you use every ounce of whatever you have inside to keep going the way you know you should. You are one of the most courageous people I know and one whose blog posts I look forward to the most.

Scott has made some great points. If looking up to the 35,000 foot level or out 50 years scares you or gives you vertigo, then don't do it. It's not necessary. Look at the faces of your wife and kids. Look out over the next week or two. Take things day by day, and decide “Today I'm going to do, or think XYZ.” Progress is never uninterrupted. We all take steps forward and then back, including me. In so many ways I know how you feel. I hope that helps some. As I wrote just this week on my own blog, where we're at isn't as important as the direction we're going.

I think we get way overwrought in the Church sometimes about thoughts. The New Testament bit about “committing adultery in your heart” and Alma 12:14 about thoughts condemning us have turned too many of us into paranoiacs with worry that simple thoughts alone are sinful and will get us kicked out of the kingdom. It's almost like we develop a split personality: one that has the thoughts we worry about, and the other one who's our own personal Thought Police, berating the other one for not being perfect all the time. Mormons do guilt just as good as the Catholics and Jews. This isn't healthy. It tends to create the sort of despair about not achieving daily perfection which Satan can then exploit to say “you can never measure up, why try.” Don't go there, beloved brother. Don't believe it.

So again, I'll agree with Scott. Go a little easier on yourself. Despite some cultural tendencies to the contrary, we actually believe in freedom of thought in this Church. “For behold, there could be no law against a man's belief.” What's important are actions. We will be judged according to our works, not according to whether we wore out our lives with worry about every single less-than-celestial thought that might have crossed our mind. That's a totally impossible standard for anyone. Your actions have been heroic, truly. Like Scott, I don't see anything wrong with appreciating a well-built guy; God creates beautiful things and that goes for both genders. As long as it doesn't lead you to lose self-control and actually do something you'll regret, I just don't see the harm. You'll have to be the judge of that, but I don't see what's wrong with simply admiring the beauty of God's creations.

As to why there isn't more support from the Church, again, I'll go with Scott on this one. I don't look for it and don't expect it; I just don't think most of the membership is ready for that yet, and there are other competing priorities. So we have to do it ourselves. That's why I started blogging and reaching out to others in this virtual community. It's like the old story about breaking a bundle of sticks. You can easily snap them one by one, but when they are bound together, incredibly tough. Your dedication amidst your challenges has really inspired me, and I hope I can give you encouragement to keep going as well. I think God our Father never intended that the Church organization be the sole source of strength and support for His children. We are supposed to reach out independently and help and support each other. So here I am, amazed and grateful for the welcomes I've had in just the last month and really hoping I can be one in the bundle of sticks and somehow help someone else, like maybe you.

As to being temple-worthy, if you can honestly answer the recommend interview questions, then I wouldn't worry about the rest. Don't beat yourself up about every little detail. Nobody expects you to be perfect and that is certainly not a requirement to enter the temple. If everybody that went there were truly keeping their covenants all the time, temple lockers wouldn't have or need locks on them. But they do. The Church makes accommodations for reality and doesn't close the temples because obviously not everybody is measuring up all the time. As long as you are making the effort in the right direction, that's what's important.

I know you get tired and exhausted and scared sometimes. We all do. You did the right thing to post about it. I wish I could be there to pat you on the back and look you in the eye and say how much I respect you and have faith in your ability to keep going. And most important of all, that I know absolutely that the Savior knows the desires of your heart and if you try to follow Him then you'll have the strength you need.

[insert big warm loving hug of encouragement here]

Alan

bravone said...

Forester,
I try to keep on 5 or 6 blogs. For some reason, I feel a connection to you because of your particular situation and the spirit that comes through your posts. The first time I read your blog, you had described the "photo shoot" experience. It scared me to death because I could see how close to the line you came. I have unfortunately crossed that line and could see the lurking danger. My heart went out to you. I started to check your blog every day to see how you were doing.

I see those of us, who have been blessed to fall in love with and marry wonderful wives, as the luckiest men alive. God in His tender mercy allowed things to fall into place for us so we could partake of the marvelous blessings of a devoted wife and family.

I came extremely close to leaving my family and the church a few years ago. The allure was so great. I had successfully lost all feeling for God and His church. I had transgressed and didn't care because there was no god, no afterlife. It scares me now to see how close I was to losing it all.

Through the miracle of the atonement and the softening of my heart, I have made it back. I believe again. I feel again. It required a lot of humbling, repenting, confessing to 2 high councils (that is never fun), but I am so glad to be back. I have been to the temple 4 or 5 times since returning and find such peace.

I had to entirely change my life, including my daily schedule. I get up early and study the gospel when the house is quiet. I come home from work and workout for an hour or two and then read uplifting books before retiring. I had to fill my day with "healthy distractions."

I still struggle each day, but only take one day at a time. To think of fifty years can be overwhelming, but I can make it through today. The joy I find through my family and a better relationship with God is worth the struggle.

I have no illusion about my vulnerabilities. I have to be on constant guard. I know you haven't felt able to share with your wife, but it has truly helped me. She knows I love her. I tell and show her. She knows where my heart is. Being able to tell her I am struggling today has been a blessing. I asked her to ask me every night how I did today. I promised to be honest. She promised not to "freak out" if I fail. She told me that if I fall, we will get up and start over again. How could I ask for more?

You are a good man. God has blessed you. You can do it! It is worth it! Someday we will be able to rest from our "labor" and will be grateful for the strength and personal knowledge of our Lord that we have acquired by turning to Him and allowing Him to help us through our extremities. Please hang in there!

Scott said...

Alan: You're such an agreeable guy! :)

One more thought on temple worthiness, and this is purely my own opinion, so I'm sure there are many who will disagree:

Your worthiness to attend the temple is 98% between you and God. The Bishop and Stake President (or their counselors) are there not to judge your worthiness, but so that you can declare your worthiness to them.

If every member of the Church took every temple recommend question literally and answered every one of them completely honestly, the temples would be empty. Can we all truly say that we're completely honest in our dealings with our fellow man? That there's nothing in our conduct toward our family members that's not in harmony with the teachings of the Gospel? Those two questions alone would probably keep the bulk of the Church recommend-less. But we all answer "yes" or "no" as appropriate, without hesitation and without guilt.

I think that questions about chastity or the Word of Wisdom can be seen in the same light. Yes, major sins should be confessed and repented of through a priesthood leader, but smaller transgressions (and I think it's up to the individual to decide what's major and what's minor) don't need to be, and I believe that even if I'm struggling with temptation, as long as I'm putting forth my best effort to overcome it, I can honestly answer "yes" when asked if I live the law of Chastity (or keep the Word of Wisdom, etc.)

I think that some people who desperately need the blessings of the temple unnecessarily deny themselves those blessings by allowing an overinflated sense of guilt to keep them from getting a recommend.

bravone said...

Forester,

I hope you can tell from these posts how much so many of us love and admire you. We are here for you.

Alan said...

What Bravone said.

Bror said...

I am scared for my future too bud. I think about the day when all the kids are gone. Will I still have the will power to make my marriage work. I choose to take it day by day like most of us. It works for now. It's good to see we have the same unanswered questions and temptations in life. Let's keep each other on the right track. Big Hug :)

Forester said...

I don't know what to say. I really appreciate the support and the depth of understanding. I've been putting off getting my temple reccommend renewed because as you all know, I've done some stupid things. In my heart I am constantly penitant. I have a new Bishop in my ward and admire him incredibly. Before he was the Bishop I wanted to ask him for advice on a number of life issues. Last Sunday he came up to me and gave me a hug. It was a side hug, but I'll take it. I think he is the first Bishop to give me a hug. I think he knows that I have been struggling for a number of years. I'm thinking about coming out to him. Even though I have nothing to seriously repent about, just seeking direction and support makes me feel like I am at least trying to be good.

bravone said...

Forester,
It is good to see your post today. I think you are doing the right thing to "come out" to your bishop and ask for his help. I will pray that he will be prepared to give you love and support you need. It is worth it to make it back to the temple. I used to hate it, but now with a humble heart, I find a great deal of peace inside the temple. Good luck with the bishop.

Your brother,
Bravone

BigRedHammer said...

I feel for you Forester (and those in a similar position). You have many different voices telling you one thing and many others saying just the opposite. Sometimes the voices say to go the easy way. Sometimes they say that sacrifice will get you through. And perhaps sometimes they say both.

I believe the LDS Church is the only fully true religion and is headed by Jesus Christ. But I think that sometimes the message becomes distorted or difficult to understand. This is from our own faults in listening and understanding *and* the biases and communication styles of the speakers too.

The Spirit though doesn't have a middle man and doesn't speak to our ears but to our heart. Even so, there are limitations to that communication. I recommend prayer completely. But I also recommend asking the hard questions.

So often we ask the questions we think God wants us to ask. We've all prayed, "If I just [blank] will you take this struggle away from me?" or we ask for something that God cannot give us at the time.

I can't tell you what to ask, but here are some hard questions I have asked. "Am I supposed to be gay?"

"Should I date women?"

"Am I supposed to be celibate for my entire life?"

"Should I come out to my family?"

There are many others. Ask about the good and the bad. Ask about what you *really* want to know, and what you're afraid to ask. The Spirit may take a while before answering or it may come quickly. Give him time to respond.

Mike said...

Forester,

I know how you feel and what you are going through. I want you to know that I am in your shoes, and that I love and support you.

I think that you should share your smae gender attraction with your wife. I can imagine how diffiuclt it will be with how long you have gone without confiding in her. I don't know how she will react, but she has covenanted to help you for eternity, and what greater help do we need if not for support in our same gender attractions?

I do not share exactly how much I struggle with these things with my wife, but she knows that I am plagued by these feelings. I know that she has been blessed by the trial that I/we are going through, becasue this is her challenge as well. Please don't deny her blessings by keeping her from knowing. Give her the opportunity to fulfill the promises that she has made to the Lord.

Your posts are authentic and moving. I look forward to getting to know you better.

Since July 15, 2007