Monday, October 12, 2009

Does anyone know if there is such a thing as an on-line LDS Bishop or other authority that you can anonymously write to? I've talked before to my previous bishops about my same gender attraction (SGA), but I'm not ready to come out to my current bishop. I would like to ask some questions about SGA and feelings of worthiness. Even though I accept that I am attracted to other men and that the attraction in and of itself does not constitute a sin, I still never feel very worthy. I know that it's impossible to be perfect and that everyone needs to continually repent, but at what point does the sin become too grievous? At what point do ecclesiastical leaders need to intervene? For the most part, I've reached an equilibrium or an acceptance for who I am and where I stand with SGA. However, there remains with me an amount of sin that I fail to overcome. For example, I tend to look at questionable images and video a couple of times a month (soft porn). Is this an addiction, and if so, how much of a problem is it with respect to my worthiness to take the sacrament, attend the temple, give blessings and participate in ordinances? Although I repent frequently through personal prayer and do feel some degree of forgiveness, I know that I am bound to repeat these sins, creating an almost endless cycle and continual feeling of unworthiness.


Chester said...

No, there are no online bishops. As far as church policy - your bishop is your bishop; and whether or not what he says (or does) is to your liking is irrelevant. God made him your bishop, there must be a reason for that.

My wonderful partner of two years suggests you email your bishop anonymously as "someone in your ward". Actually, you could email any bishop that way and see if you could get a response.

My personal opinion - the sooner you can find yourself some distance away from the church the better. I don't know you personally, but if you're like any of the rest of us you're not going to find peace within the church. There may be moments of it, but nothing lasting. Good luck.

Silus Grok said...

Hey, Forester … no online bishop.

Depending on _why_ you're not feeling close to your bishop, my advice would be different.

I'm out in my ward and stake and enjoy the community of the saints and find peace inside the Church … but I've had a few bishops that didn't seem terribly plugged-in — they were distant in their relationships with myself and (from my limited perspective) others. So I didn't share with them the details of my life that I'd so freely shared with bishops before and since. If that's the case for you, maybe you could reach out to a counselor in the bishopric or your EQ president … if those aren't options, you could reach out to your stake president. All/Each of these have stewardship over your well being. And, while a little unorthodox, certainly have place to counsel you. When you speak to these others, however, you should also talk to them about your expectations on privacy. They may feel a certain amount of pressure to disclose your discussions to your bishop.

Anyway, I could go on and on … if you'd like, I'd be happy to go into more detail. Just ping me.


Abelard Enigma said...

If I might be so bold - it sounds to me like LDS social services might be in a better position to help you. If cost is an issue then your local ward might be able to assist. Of course, you'd have to talk to your bishop, but you can be somewhat vague (tell him you are dealing with depression, or something like that). But, your health insurance might also cover it. Just be aware that if you use LDS social services, your bishop will be notified whether or not the ward is providing financial assistance. He won't be given any details - just that you used their services.

I'll keep you in my prayers that you are able to find some closure on your worthiness questions.

btw, don't be afraid to put yourself on the temple prayer roll.

MNJ said...

Sorry to disagree Abe, but be careful with LDS SS - I've not EVER found them to be helpful. But then again, it's a starting point. I have found that when I have these feelings its because I DO in fact need to talk with the bishop. the lifted load is much worth any discomfort. but then again, there are others with priesthood responsibility for you...last time I had to go have a chat, I took my wife. helped ease the pressure to show that we were on the same page & she knew about the problem. If I'm correct, your wife is unaware of what your going through? I would have to say coming to terms with her far out weighs your efforts with any bishop at this point. just my two bits.

playasinmar said...

I'm with whoever said LDS-SS is a waste of time. I spent an entire session with my therapist trying to get permission to tell my bishop about me. An ENTIRE session of that and nothing else.

I like the anonymous email idea.

Bravone said...

I have lived by a motto, "if in doubt, get it out." It has seemed to help, if for no other reason than to be able to get it off my chest and discuss it with someone. Having been one of those on the stand, I was taught that if it involves pornography or masturbation, you should talk with a priesthood leader.

If you are uncomfortable talking with your bishop, try the stake president.

I know I am addicted to alcohol. I'm not sure about porn, probably so. In either case, I started attending a LDS 12 step program that has been really helpful. I'm sure there are plenty in your area. Calling LDS Social Services will give you the time and places. You go anonymously and only give your first name. The 12 booklet can also be downloaded. You might find going through the steps helpful. I still struggle with the first step :)

Beck said...

I'm still on the same page as you... seeking anonymous help. I will NOT speak to my Bishop about these things. It does not feel right. I've told me wife that I would speak to him about them if she so desired, and so far she has not. So, at this point, with my circumstances as they are, I see NO POINT in talking to my Bishop about these personal items, as I am convinced that nothing good will come of it.

Professional counseling has helped (yes, I actually just wrote that!), but I am not a fan of LDS SS. So tread carefully down that road.

Worthiness is a personal thing... something between you and the Lord. Maybe you should talk to Him.

mandi said...

I hate to give any kind of blanket statement- and by saying LDSSS is bad, we would be discounting the few counselors that actually do good work. They are out there, but are difficult to find. So many assume that because they fall under the LDS banner, they must be endowed with some sort of special spirit that will automatically propel you into greater healing. Not so. Don't discount it completely, there may be a counselor in your area who is worth his/her salt. You never know.
I also must apologize to you for the nasty feelings and sometimes words I have felt and expressed toward you. I cannot begin to understand your heart or your mind. I only know what I feel, and how your motives look to me. I ask for your forgiveness. I wish for your path to be smooth.

A CROW'S VIEW said...

I think this comes down to one thing. Do you want help to live the gospel or do you want affirmation to what you are feeling being okay. If you haven't acted on anything then all you are doing is being open about your feelings and getting help. Now think about this, choosing who to talk to because of what you know they will say and what you want them to say isn't really going to do you much good. It's like self diagnosing yourself, then going to a doctor and asking if you can write your own prescription.

Of course some of your readers are going to be anti-LDSSS, read their blogs, they have their agency and their rights to say what they want. But its also going to be based on what they believe to be right and wrong. Most seem to already have their opinions set against the church and its leaders. But again that is their right.

I will own that for what I would tell you to do that, yes it would be based on what I believe is right and wrong.

But the real answer to this question is this. What do you want? What do you believe? You need to pray about this on your own and make you choice based on what the Spirit tells you. That's the only real way to find your way to truth.

Alan said...

The persistence of your actions means you are trying to fill an ongoing need for something. What that need is, I can't say. Personally I doubt a non-professional uncredentialed bishop is going to be able to help you with that. And I echo the cautions about LDS Social Services.

I know Forester that you're scared of potential implications if you move in certain directions, and I understand those reasons. At the same time, as long as you simply stay where you are, you will continue to be torn, you'll continue to have these unmet needs, and sooner or later you will find yourself returning to these behaviors you are questioning.

Personally I think you should try to find a therapist who does not have a religiously based agenda or allegiance, and with him or her figure out what these needs are that keep driving you to these behaviors. Get an honest, blunt analysis of your options. Then start making decisions on what to do. A bishop will not be even remotely equipped to help you do this.

Forester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Forester said...

It seems like everyone is missing the point here. I guess I don't believe it is possible (for me at least) to be totally chaste 100% of the time, all the time. I don't know anyone who can do this. I guess I also believe that as long as I stay positive and continue with my personal relationship with God and stay active in the church, not crossing any more serious lines, I'm okay with the once or twice a month slip-up, as long as I am truely repentant. I also think you are all hypocrites to some extent.

I guess I also feel like I can allow myself some leeway with the sins I've mentioned, as long as it doesn't get worse (and it hasn't for a number of years). I feel I've reached an acceptable equilibrium, based on my circumstances. The only problem is that I will probably never feel totally worthy - but does anyone?

Alan said...

Now be fair, brother. Hypocrisy does not consist in failing to live perfectly by an ideal, it consists in publicly preaching one thing and then privately indulging in the opposite. You don't know that that is true of anyone who's been kind enough to comment here and try to help you out. Your remark was uncalled for.

I guess we all did miss the point, because it sounded like you were asking for suggestions on how to resolve a conflict. But now it sounds like you're okay with being in this cycle for the rest of your life and that living with these feelings of unworthiness is okay with you. Have I understood you correctly?

Forester said...

I didn't mean to offend about the hypocrisy thing. I was just hoping that more of you would say that you were in the same boat rather than tell me to go find counseling or tell one of my leaders. I've done both of these in the past and while they did help to a great extent, I now need to know where to go from here. No matter how much I pray, read the scriptures, go to church, etc. I will always feel like I can never be good enough. Mostly, I'm okay with that, but it would be nice to hear from somebody else within the church say that I'm going to be okay and to keep doing all the good things I'm doing. Maybe I really don't deserve to be told this.

Scott said...

No matter how much I pray, read the scriptures, go to church, etc. I will always feel like I can never be good enough.

You can't.

That's what the Atonement is for. None of us can be good enough on our own, even when we're doing our absolute best. We've all fallen short of the Glory of God.

But our best plus the infinite power of the Atonement equals perfection, and contrary to popular belief you can be perfect in this life (with the Savior's help). Every time you repent and are forgiven you're perfect, at least for a little while.

Eventually (hopefully) we'll learn how to be perfect on our own. But that's not something we're expected to accomplish in this life. We're only expected to do the best we can, and it's understood that that best is going to include a fairly large number of mistakes.

If your best includes a couple of episodes a month, then keep doing your best and keep applying the Atonement (repenting) and know that through its power you ARE worthy in God's eyes. If an honest evaluation tells you you can do better, then do better--but be honest, and don't expect perfection.

As for bishops and therapists...

Your bishop is there to help you through the repentance process. The most serious sins (that might involve disciplinary action) require confession. Less serious transgressions do not--it's up to the individual to decide whether the bishop would be a help or a hindrance in the repentance process.

The bishop doesn't forgive your sins--only God can do that. He's just a facilitator. The forgiveness comes from God and the sense of worthiness comes from within.

A therapist might be able to help you find that sense of worthiness if you can't find it on your own. For me, a better understanding of the Atonement helped a lot.

My personal feeling on your specific questions?... Quit beating yourself up for what sound to me like very minor indiscretions. Keep doing your best to do what you know is right, and keep asking for God's help, and for His forgiveness when you slip up, and know that He's going to keep right on loving you (because He loves unconditionally) and blessing you (because He knows that you're trying to serve Him to the best of your ability).


GeckoMan said...

You struggle with the classic dilemma of most gay Mormon married men--that of, 'How can I reasonably exist on both sides of the fence?' You love your wife and family, and you believe in and value the spiritual covenants you've made for them in the Temple. And yet, you live with being gay and your attractions don't pray away. Every now and then the man-hungry in you gets the best of your balancing act. You understand the line of 'no sexual relations outside of marriage,' and there's no way you can afford to later be in front of a disciplinary council confessing about sex with a man. So you get a little eye candy or mind dick every now and then as a virtual fix for something that you have no other way to satisfy without dire consequences. This actually saves your marriage contract, although you feel guilty and unworthy about it. But like all of us, ultimately you're the only one who can decide what is reasonable and 'worthy.'

Some might say, "You can't live on both sides of the fence." But such people don't live with the same conditions we do, and it's a quick job for them to cast criticism and doubt on our lives. However, the reality for most of us is we do manage to live on both sides of the fence, with varying degrees of success.

In defense of 'Balance,' I think there is truth in the Brethren's counsel against pornography, because it can be addictive and lead to desires and behaviors that are clearly out of bounds for us who choose family and church. We've seen in the unhappy wrecks of lives, sometimes our own, how Porn can become an 'other God,' a huge time waster and a squanderer of God-given talents and sensitivities. But on the otherhand, we find beauty in the male form and function, and acknowledge there is something deeply satisfying in connecting to it. Even so, it's way easy to get too much of porn, to the point that it twists and overcomes the personal priorities we set for ourselves.

My advice to you is simple: live as honestly as you can. Find the best fit for your priorities and what you choose to believe in, and then do your best with the evolution of time on your side. I wish you well with finding the balance that works for you in honing the edge of your life and understanding.

Scott said...

It might also help to take an honest and unbiased look at what you're actually doing. Is the stuff you're looking at really pornography? I appreciated a recent post by Original Mohomie about pornography and suggest you take a look at it.

In your original post you describe your occasional dalliances with "questionable images and video" as "soft porn". I'm not sure what that term means to you, but I know that what many members of the church might consider "soft porn" (Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition for straight guys, maybe underwear ads, etc., for us gay guys?) I don't see as pornographic at all.

Yes, we've been told that we can consider any imagery designed to arouse or incite lustful thoughts or feelings as pornographic. And I used to see a picture of a hot shirtless guy that way. But I came to realize that it was largely the guilt and shame that I felt at admiring the photo that drove the lust. It's certainly the guilt that feeds the addiction, at least.

When I came to terms with being gay and allowed myself to believe that I'm okay just the way I am, I also came to believe that it's okay that I think the male body is beautiful, because that's simply part of who I am. As long as I don't allow that admiration and appreciation to turn into an unhealthy and inappropriate obsession I don't need to feel any guilt for it.

So I can look at these images that many consider "soft porn" and appreciate that they allow me to view some pretty nice examples of male beauty without guilt. And without the guilt, there's very little (if any) sexualization, and absolutely no feeling of compulsion or addiction.

Obviously this wouldn't extend to imagery that's explicitly sexual in nature. It's also true that this is only my experience and may not apply to everyone. But perhaps allowing yourself to believe (and I don't think there's anything doctrinally contradictory in this) that it's okay to appreciate male beauty--even when it's mostly unclothed--will reduce the feelings of guilt and unworthiness.

Anonymous said...

the reason you don't feel worthy is because you are living a lie.


God doesn't approve of deceit or dishonesty any more than he approves of exploitative, selfish sex.

You will never feel worthy while you are a liar. Duh.

Write to every bishop you want. The only person who can make you feel worthy is yourself, and you don't yet have the ability to do that, because you don't yet have the courage or strength to come out of the closet to your family. You still think the people you love won't love you back if you tell them who you really are. And you think that if they don't love you, you can't love yourself.

Right now, your actions announce only your shame and secrecy about being gay. Find the courage to love and to be the gay Forrester--not just on a secret blog, but in the world. Then you'll feel worthy, because you'll actually claim your worthiness.

Since July 15, 2007