Thursday, November 1, 2018

Born Blind


Jesus Christ passed by a man who was blind from birth. His disciples asked, "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9)

As usual, we all wonder sometimes about this fallen world and try to lay blame. Whose fault is it? Who caused all these trials, the disabilities, the injustice? Or in a similar way, we ask, "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?" Surely it must be someone's fault.

The question surrounding the man born blind reminds me of questions I have heard regarding same-sex attraction. In the debate regarding SSA, there is an oft repeated question: Is it nature, or nurture? Is it some inherent genetics of the individual, or was it the upbringing of the child, the social situation, etc.? Was it because of a distant father, or an overbearing mother? Was it because of abuse? Did this person choose to be gay?

As latter-day saints who understand that homosexuality is contrary to the plan, we sometimes focus on these questions, which all relate to the disciples' question of who "sinned," the individual or his parents.

Jesus Christ re-frames and revolutionizes the whole argument: "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest."

Then Christ proceeds to do His miracle, healing the man with His own spit and a bit of clay.

I have seen some parents of a gay child who are full of guilt that they may have done something wrong. I have seen individuals, including myself at times, full of shame, blaming their same-sex attraction on themselves for not being good enough. Others resign themselves that this is just a part of life. There is no purpose for it at allbeing gay is just the random chances of a fallen worldand so they set themselves up to "white knuckle it" until they can somehow be "fixed" in the next life. 

But Jesus Christ doesn't see it this way. He gives purpose to our trials. They exist, purposefully, as a way to manifest the works of God in our lives.

"I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

Why do we need weakness? It seems like something I would rather do without.

However, who can appreciate sight more than the blind man? Likewise, who can appreciate Christ, the light of the world, more than the individual who has gone through spiritual darkness? The self-righteous Pharisees who had no interest or use for this miracle-workerthey could not understand him. The healed blind man, who explained repeatedly the miracle to the incredulous audience, was surprised at their lack of understanding, saying, "Herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes!" In other words, it takes a blind man to see who Christ is, while the Pharisees with their perfect little 20/20 eyeballs couldn't seem to see Him at all.

The works of God have been manifest in my life, and in the lives of many other gay latter-day saints, over and over. But what about healing? Are we ever really healed? What does healing look like for a gay latter-day saint?

Well, maybe not quite as you might think. Same-sex attraction is not removed, or "healed." Our sexual attractions tend to stay a part of who we are. Perhaps this is because being gay is not quite like blindness. Perhaps because SSA can actually be a kind of sight. For me, being gay has helped me to see things I otherwise could not see: my own suffering reflected in the struggles of others; and above all, to see more clearly the Savior, and how much I need Him. In my moments of blindness, same-sex attraction has given me eyes to see the light, which is Christ. Perhaps the miracle of healing is not about removing sexual attraction, but that through my faith in Christ spiritual sight can be restored.

As Christ said to the pharisees who continued to pooh-pooh Christ's miracles, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." Recognizing our own individual blindness, to be humble as explained in Ether 12:27, is the only way to see Christ properly.

Christ's process of healing has been as intimate an experience for me as feeling the Savior's spit and clay pressed onto my eyes. Though I still am required to walk by faith in this life, and not by sight, I know enough to believe that a perfect understanding of my trial awaits, in that day when I stand blinking in the sudden light of the resurrection. Then I will see Christ, my Savior, standing before me with absolute love and understanding. I will see that He really got his hands dirty with spit and clay for me this time, and that He really worked hard to heal me and to bring me home, ultimately giving His life to make me whole. 

I will see that He still has proof of it in His hands.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Wild Roses Are Out

Wild roses are out.

The colors flash out my window, like they did when I was young and I wanted to know what each species was. Its name. What is your name! When I was thirteen, biking through my thirsty summers, I wanted to pluck off blossoms, press them in a book, and mispronounce Latin.

In my car, I pull over suddenly, kicking up dust. Now, twenty years later, I want to see. I want to see! And now, at last, I am alone in the driver’s seat.

The grass rises up to my knees, and the hill is steep. I step, pioneer-like, into unknown territory. The water has flowed down from the mountains in canals engineered by my ancestors. It has filled up the bottom of the coulees.


“I know thee now.” Your names, I mean. The knowledge has kicked in finally, and it kicked me in my head, too. Sticky geraniums, lupins, sage, chicory, carpet phlox, blanket flower.

The sky opens itself up wide to God. It comforts me here. I belong. There are blackbirds, too. Some with yellow heads. Others with red on their wings. They warble and rasp their song at everything. At the world. At blue skies. At me, their lanky intruder.

God is involved here. It helps me to know this, especially now. Even if I do not know if He is involved in my life right now---the horrible tangled messy web I live in---I know he exists out here, miles away from my little room where I languish at a desk.

He is here. Under the sun, in the ripples of the water, in the buzz of the birds, in the sheen of a blackbird’s wing, and in the thorns of the wild rose.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Roasted Lamb

I heard something really interesting yesterday and I liked it. It was in the context of how we interpret the Old Testament, and at one point he specifically mentioned the Passover.

At Passover, the Israelites killed a lamb and used its blood to mark their doors. The symbolism for the blood of the Lamb, which would be Jesus Christ, is apparent there, for sure. After they used the blood to mark their houses, the Israelites were specifically instructed to roast the lamb and eat it--all of it. It was not to be boiled. It had to be roasted with fire. Also, they could not leave any piece uneaten before morning.

The scholar points out that the symbolism here is that we must "partake of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Spirit. The Spirit is symbolized in the Old Testament by fire." The symbolism for eating all of it is that we must partake of all of the gospel, not a piece here and piece there. So the lesson is that we must partake of the gospel with the Spirit, and we must eat it all.

This fits in nicely with the revelation given to Joseph Smith in D&C 50:19-20:
"He that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God."
It made me think of all the ways we (myself included) try to live/teach the gospel without the Spirit. All the ways we present the Lamb boiled, microwaved, pickled, or basically any other way except roasted by the Spirit.

Some examples of boiled, unfinished mutton:

1. We rely on our own talents of persuasion or speaking to teach the gospel.
2. We rely strictly on our own understanding and knowledge.
3. We seek to entertain or excite either ourselves or others.
4. We seek out deep, speculative questions that the Spirit does not reveal the answers to yet.
5. We accept the gospel only as it fits into our own beliefs and understanding.
6. We think of the gospel as mere facts that must be learned.
7. We rely on traditions, precedent, or mindless standardized answers.
8. We engage in contentious debates.
9. We teach or live the gospel for the praise of others.
10. We accept the parts of the gospel we like, and reject the parts we don't.

I am sure there are more I could come up with.

Last Sunday, I taught a lesson to the youth on the Holy Ghost. I had some things to talk about that I thought were really great ideas. I had a great plan. About ten minutes into the lesson, things were not going well. I didn't feel right, and I could tell I wasn't reaching my students. As I got to the end of the lesson, I knew I had lost them. That's when I realized with great embarrassment that I had not prayed at all asking for the Spirit, neither when I got the lesson ready, nor before giving it. I realized I was relying on my own understanding to impress the youth. The hypocrisy was rich. There I was, trying to teach about how important the Holy Ghost is in everything we do, without even taking the time to seek it in my lesson. I am trying to repent for that.

What good is the gospel without the Spirit? It is like boiled lamb at Passover. The fire of the Holy Ghost is missing. There is no testimony, no witness, no comfort, and certainly no conversion.

This can be a hard lesson to learn.

(From Paul Hoskisson, Symbolism and the Flood in the Old Testament,

Friday, January 5, 2018

Christmas and the Sacrament

Christmas was a little rough. I went into the month determined to be focused on the real meaning of Christmas, to be still, to not be swept up in the busyness. Well, Heavenly Father must have thought I needed some extra help, because on the 21 I was laid out with the flu and definitely had time to be still over the holidays, though not in the way I wanted.
On Christmas Eve, a Sunday, I was too sick to go to church. I couldn't sing in the quartet that I was supposed to. I just laid there in bed, a little grumpy, and a little sad that I didn't have a chance to take the sacrament and worship my Savior on Christmas. My four year old came home and jumped on my bed for a few painful minutes, then he gave me his sacrament cup that he had neglected to put back in the tray. As I was lying there looking at it in my hand and thinking about Christmas, I realized something I had never thought about before.
When Jesus was born, he was laid in a manger. A manger is a place where animals eat. In French, it literally means to eat. Why a manger? The symbolism I see there is quite striking, and perhaps a little odd: He was born to be food for us and our animal tendencies. Jesus said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6) He is "the bread of life." So in a way, when we come to the sacrament table, we are coming to the manger.
This experience changed the way I think about sacrament meeting. I think it works to think of the sacrament meeting like a kind of nativity scene. There we all are, gathered around the wondrous gift, the body of Christ laid out and broken for us to eat and drink. We call it a sacrament table, a place where we would sit and eat, the same way a manger would be for the animals. Like the Christ-child wrapped in swaddling clothes, the tokens of his body and blood are covered in a linen sheet.
Then there are the supporting actors in the scene. We all play a role. Some Sundays I am mere animal, maybe a donkey or a cow; another day I may be a shepherd making haste, inviting my friends, and coming with enthusiasm. On rare days, maybe if I am assigned a talk or something, I may be a wise man bringing a gift (sometimes gold, but probably more like a low quality myrrh.)

Interestingly, the Aaronic Priesthood holders could be thought to represent Mary. They are the ones who prepare and break and unveil the body of Christ and deliver it to the congregation. Many of our priesthood ordinances, though performed by men, have a kind of feminine symbolism; like a birthing process (most notably, baptism.) As we come each Sunday to renew our covenants, to be reborn, we do so because of our Savior who was born by Mary and laid in a manger, and in turn, because of his perfect atonement, He bears us (See Elder Holland's talk, Behold Thy Mother). Such could be said of those priesthood holders, like the young men in our wards, who exercise the priesthood to deliver Christ every week for us.
"How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!" Like the familiar stable scene, which was largely unnoticed and apart from the bustle of the world, the sacrament meeting becomes a test of whether we will leave the world behind and come and be present at the humble manger scene, to partake of Christ's grace, to eat the tokens of his body and blood, and accept his love which is offered freely and weekly for each of us.