It is my habit, four days out of each week, to be at my gym’s front door at 4:30AM. I go to the lap pool and complete a routine laid out for me by my physical therapist to help my back. After a half-hour of that, I go to another pool to do a vigorous running in place for another hour.
In the pool, I can run almost forever. My heart and lungs are in fairly good shape. It’s my knees and back that are none too happy. The buoyancy of the water is what I need to get a good workout without creating more problems for myself.My club has a water park. In the summer, the outdoor pool is opened up at about 5:00AM. I choose it for my aerobic running exercise. I love the dark solitude at that time. I’m a very social person, but I also like quiet. I enjoy my company when I’m alone with my thoughts.
I also like the darkness, especially when it isn’t cloudy. I can see stars, not nearly so many as I would see outside of the city, but plenty to capture my attention. It’s really an awesome feeling to be running in the cold water of the slightly heated pool, looking up at the stars or watching the sun rise, and thinking the thoughts I love to think.
On a recent morning, there were wisps of clouds in the air. As I ran in place, I looked up between two Douglas firs and saw a light hovering high up amongst the clouds. I recognized it as the planet Venus. The sun had begun to rise and all other stars were gone.
When I run, I place myself in a small space between two drains on the floor of the pool. The depth of the water at that point is just right for me to get a good amount of water resistance and keep myself out of the breeze.
I took my eyes off of the planet for a few minutes. When I looked back up, it had gone behind a cloud. I became confused as to where to look for it as the clouds drifted slowly to the northeast. Eventually, I saw it, but instead of being centered between the two trees, it was caught in the branches of one of them.
I realized that it wasn’t that the planet had moved that quickly. It was that my feet had drifted while I wasn’t paying attention. When I went back to the left and put myself between the two drains, which my toes could detect for me, Venus returned to where it had been.
I mused about how easily I can move the cosmos around at will. One branch of the tree on the right pointed exactly at Venus, as long as I didn’t stray to the left or the right. As the sun rose higher in the sky and the clouds drifted past, Venus moved again, ever so slightly.
As I neared the end of my routine, it had reached the top of one of the trees. I felt around for the drain with my feet. I was still in place. This time the planet really had moved, or so I thought at the moment.
Then I realized that I was even more wrong than when I thought it had moved before. Sure, Venus moves. It moves around the sun, just like the earth does. However, the effect I was seeing wasn’t primarily about Venus moving. It was about the earth rotating. The sun I saw as rising wasn’t dancing around the earth. The earth was spinning around on its axis as it navigated around the sun and played it’s game with Venus.
To me, only slightly more than a mere mortal, it looked as if I was the stationary object and everything else in the cosmos was whirling ever so slowly around me. I thought of the verse from the 8th Psalm:
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
These verses always bring a smile to my face, because the one the Psalm addresses as “O Lord, our Lord,” has already proven to me that he is mindful of me. I just find it beautiful to see it graphically as I did that morning.
While there are many analogies I could draw from that experience, one has stuck in my mind the most. I have studied the idea of forced perspective in photography.
We see it in the movies all the time, in recent years, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The actors playing the little hobbits indeed look smaller than their human fellows. This is partially achieved by photographing them standing farther away than the others. They look smaller to us because we’re looking at a two-dimensional image.
Normal vision includes depth perception, but the farther away things are, the more difficult it is to keep the perspective. This is especially true for we puny humans on this little planet. Having seen these sites in a vision, Moses declared, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed (Moses 1:10).”
As I struggled to sort out the scene of the two trees, the planet Venus, and the rising sun, I pondered how perspective related to the cosmos has two problems for me: perception and position.
Even standing still, it is hard to understand the size of things. In that same night sky, I could also see Jupiter, but it seemed much smaller. As we now know, Jupiter is unimaginably larger than Venus, yet there they both are, unimaginably larger than the two trees, yet in my perception, incredibly smaller.
All of the elements of the scene I watched are changing positions constantly. I move around on the earth; the earth spins around on its axis and revolves around the sun; the planets also revolve around the sun; the sun moves through the galaxy; the galaxy moves through the universe.
I did a mental exercise. Since I was facing mostly east, I imagined I was standing on a great big ball that was trying to get rid of me by rolling forward. For a brief moment, I thought I felt the earth rolling towards the sun. It really changed my thoughts about my situation. I helped me better imagine my place in the scheme of it all.
The smallest change in my position created large differences in my perception, yet with all of these objects whirling around, not much of significance had changed in the cosmos. In fact, everything I could see was moving steadily as it always has. I was the one who had changed.
One change I pondered was how things would seem different if I were to move in front of the two trees. They would no longer be part of the scene. I would have a clearer view of sky, see more stars when it is dark outside.
While I could apply this to all sorts of topics, since this site is about same-sex attraction, that is what my analysis will center around. More specifically, I want to fixate on how an individual sees himself in dealing with same-sex attraction and fitting into the world at large.
The largest question that exists in the world today about homosexuality revolves around the question between nature and nurture. Theories abound from ideas in favor of the nature argument, like genetic and biological factors, to ideas in favor of the nurture argument, having mostly to do with family of origin dynamics. There are also many theories that say it is a combination of nature and nurture.
With so many theories out there about how society develops and shapes itself—systems theory, conflict theory, positivism, antipositivism, and fundamentalism, it can be confusing to settle any question. My comparison of how we see ourselves to the movement of the planets is an example of positivism. However, it is not positivism that I think is the prevalent theory that homosexual issues are currently based on.
The prevailing treatment of homosexuality is based more on Conflict Theory. You might be surprised to learn that modern thought on Conflict Theory is attributed mainly to Karl Marx.
Briefly, Conflict Theory as espoused by Karl Marx, who is also the father of Communism, which is the idea that society is shaped by conflict between social classes. It found its expression through Communism as a movement based on overcoming this conflict through the erasure of classes.
I remember always feeling some form of same-sex attraction that was different than how boys look up to their fathers and older brothers. Other boys saw it in me too and it was the source of endless teasing and bullying. Those are my personal memories of it.
I also have a social memory about it too. My first awareness that I was part of a much larger group came one night while watching Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In. The “Laugh-In Looks at the News” segment started. They made fun of something called the Gay Liberation Front. Until watching that segment, I hadn’t really associated the word “gay” with homosexuality.
From movements and organizations like the Gay Liberation front arose things we talk about regularly today without knowing where they came from, things like “coming out” and “gay pride parades.” These movements were contemporary with other civil rights movements.
I realize that some of you are preparing yourselves to blast me for equating things like the gay rights and other civil rights movements to Communism. I’ll just remind you right up front that I haven’t said any of this is a bad thing. Well, I’ll say right up front that I think Communism is a bad thing. I think of Communism as an unfortunate outgrowth of an otherwise useful theory. I don’t entirely subscribe to Conflict Theory either, but there is a good deal of sense to be made out of it.
As for the civil rights movement, I was all for it, even though I was only a child through most of it. Historically, it has worked and mankind is better for it. For me, there is even room for a gay rights movement. My purpose here is to point out the underlying theory behind the movement. The descendant of Conflict Theory that applies here is known as Queer Theory. Where Communism sought to eliminate economic classes, gay rights movements seek to eliminate the importance of sexual classes. Since I have my problems with any theory other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, I reserve the right to filter all theories through it.
Where Conflict Theory and all of its descendants fall apart for me has to do with the reaction to oppression. Conflict Theory calls for a revolution where the oppressed classes overthrow the ruling classes and institute their version of classlessness. For me, this flies in the face of the Christian virtue taught by Jesus to turn the other cheek or even the Article of Faith that urges us to be subject to kings, rulers, magistrates, etc.
I am not saying here that the civil rights movements falls into the category of a revolution of the likes of the Bolshevik revolution. I think that the civil rights movement was both benign and compelling, resorting to non-violent protest and principles very much in tune with Christian virtues. Yes, I know there were riots. I think of them as part of a different effort.
One of the strangest things I’ve witnessed was when, as antithetical to the gay rights movement was the attempt by some to create a corresponding kind of ex-gay rights movement. Again, I’m not making a value judgment here. I just thought it was strange.
What was strange about it was that it was more like a counterrevolution than a revolution. Revolution, in the Conflict Theory sense, is about tearing down traditional values. A movement to uphold traditional values does not seem to fit the definition of a revolution.
Both the gay and ex-gay points of view about the origin of homosexual feelings seem to me to be born out of a victim mentality. In a way, they are both different versions of a “forced” perspective. The one point of view says I have no choice in how to be happy as a gay man. I have been told more times that I can count how I have no chance of being truly happy in an opposite-sex marriage. That is what “forced” means. All options are blocked except for one.
We call it the photographic technique “forced perspective” because our eyes cannot make out the differences in distances and sizes on a two-dimensional image. So it goes for the ex-gay perspective. Without a resolution of same-sex attraction, in other words, arriving at a point of no longer having homosexual feelings, we remain victims to something in life that we did not choose. As much as I have been told that I can’t be happy married to a woman, I’ve also been told that I haven’t done enough or had enough faith if I don’t claim to be cured.
I’ve named the two trees in my vision, Nature and Nurture. Nature only looks smaller in this picture because it is farther away. They are both about the same size. Over the fifty-some years that I have pondered my homosexual feelings, I have come to the conclusion that not only is it unanswerable for me, it is irrelevant to me. The best thing I can do around the question is to move myself out in front of it and allow myself an uncluttered perspective on the cosmos beyond.
What emerges for me when I put the question of origin behind me is a clear field that is full of choices. I have chosen to be faithful to the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve arrived there without answering the question for myself how I happened to have homosexual feelings.
One of the best things about that is that I feel empowered to choose my life based on my own internal reasons and am not fettered by the endless wranglings about the issue that swirl around me. Not only do I not have to answer it for myself, I also don’t have to pin an answer on anyone else. I can let them choose their lives as well.
Conflict Theory hinges on the existence of a lower class, social victims of an unfair system. As a social worker, there are few things I’ve found to be a more maladaptive factor in behavior than a victim mentality. A victim mentality is based on the seeming unfairness of what is and the envy for those who have what the apparent victim has not.
Though I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have never felt comfortable in a victim role. Those times in my life when I have indulged in such a point of view, life seemed perennially unfair. I wasted hours, days, and weeks pining away in envy for what I perceived was better about others.
Here are some examples from my life of how a victim mentality affected my perceptions and positions:
- I envied some mysterious quality that straight men seemed to have that made them superior to me.
- I resented God for having placed me in a life that included abuse and a trial like same-sex attraction.
- I weighed myself in the balance with other men and always found myself wanting.
- I believed my priesthood leaders didn’t care about me because they didn’t talk about my issues.
- I was jealous of my friends’ other friends.
- My same-sex attraction was a trial, not an opportunity.
- My same-sex attraction made me less than other men.
In a broader perspective, I see a victim mentality in some of the attitudes of those who experience same-sex attraction and desire to be faithful to the teachings of the Church. Examples are:
- Complaints that our priesthood leaders are uninformed.
- Wanting our issue to be at the forefront of things the Church talks about.
- Thinking of same-sex attraction as a curse.
- Thinking we need to have the same interests and attitudes as other men (or women) to be as valuable as they are.
- Thinking that we must be cured to be of worth.
This is not to say that there aren’t things that are unfair about this issue. Many priesthood leaders are ill-informed and some times ill-equipped to help. Sometimes it seems that all we hear is, “It is wrong,” but are offered no concrete help for dealing with it.
Even deeper than the mere Christian virtue of turning the other cheek or being subject to civil authority, I base my feelings on what Charles Wesley penned in the hymn, “Ye Simple Souls Who Stray”, when he wrote, “Riches unsearchable in Jesus’ love we know.” I believe he is speaking about the infinite value of the atonement.
Here is what I mean by a “forced” perspective. If I view life as a series of things that were forced upon me, then I would be constantly in the mode of behaving like a victim. If we should not focus on our victim status, what should our attitude be? Remember that it only takes a small change in position to see things in an entirely different way.
Rather than pondering my status as a former victim of sexual abuse, I prefer to think of myself as a survivor. This opens up a whole new world to me. Like putting Nature and Nurture debates behind me, relinquishing my victim status opens up new choices and abilities to me.
The forced perspectives of the nature argument, the nurture argument, and the corresponding victim statuses of each impede my view of eternity. Putting them behind me creates a universe of choices that are not forced. Freeing myself of a victim role accomplishes for me what the revelation says:
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever (D&C 121:46, emphasis added).
Just like moving a little to the left or right in the pool changed my view of the relationship between the trees, the sunrise, and the planet Venus, we only need to add one seemingly small perception to our perspective to make all the difference between a happy and unhappy life.
The thing is, it is not really a small thing. It is an infinite thing like the cosmos itself, yet it takes so little effort to see it. I am speaking of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
It is not my intention to describe its workings to you. It is the process whereby we receive and retain a remission of our sins through the mercies of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us. Fully believing in it has the awesome power to change our victim mentality into an understanding of how blessed we really are.
I find it difficult to feel cheated in life with so great a blessing as that of faith. I cannot feel slighted by the lack of male friends with Jesus as my friend. When I think that no one understands me, I have someone I can talk to who knows all sorrows.
Most of all, when I think that life is just plain unfair, I remember this. He suffered indignities, cruelties, and abuses of every kind. Against him was committed the grossest unfairness ever perpetrated when he, the guiltless, took upon himself the punishment intended for all of the guilty, and this, all because he loves me.