Sunday, December 21, 2014

*Updated* Korra Season 4 Finale: Response to Lesbian Controversy

     *This post has been updated as of 1/29/2015. Update is at the bottom of the post*
     For those of you who have read my blog before, you may have noticed that I have used quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender multiple times in multiple posts. I have long considered Avatar: The Last Airbender my favorite TV show, and still stand by that. For those of you who have watched the series, you may be aware that there was a sequel; The Legend of Korra. Because of my love for the original series, I was excited for the sequel. The Legend of Korra was definitely different and I loved it, but Avatar: The Last Airbender will always be my favorite of the two.
     The Legend of Korra had 4 seasons, and the 4th season (which was completed 2 days ago) was announced to be the last of the Avatar series. I was at work 2 days ago when the final episode was released. My sister, who is also a fan of Korra, watched the episode while I was at work, and texted me after the episode warning me I probably wouldn't want to watch it because there would be things in it that I wouldn't like.
     I didn't want to spoil the end of the episode before actually watching it, but at the same time I wanted to know what my sister meant. I listed all the possibilities in my head of what she could have meant. Did someone swear in the episode? Unlikely. They couldn't do that on a show rated TV-Y7. Was something sexually explicit shown or said? Again, they couldn't have kept that TV-Y7 rating. Did a character I like a lot get killed? Maybe, but that wouldn't make me not want to watch it. Hmm.... I wasn't sure what she meant. Then it hit me. Something she knew I wouldn't like, something they could get away with without affecting their rating. What if they brought up homosexuality? What if characters of the same-sex kissed, or expressed their romantic love for one another, or got married? Is that what she meant?
     With my new suspicion, I wanted to confirm if I was correct. I looked it up online, and confirmed with my sister, and sure enough the internet had exploded with news articles, fan forums, etc. all claiming that the final episode of Korra ended with a homosexual romantic interest between Korra and Asami (both female main characters). For a second I was angry with the directors. How could they add that in to a show I love so much? I decided I wasn't going to watch it, and was going to boycott the entire Korra series and never watch it again and definitely never own the series. But, for whatever reason, after work I decided I was going to finish the Legend of Korra series anyway, because I wanted to see and confirm for myself what had happened.
     I watched the finale with my defenses up already from what I had read online. I dissected every interaction I saw between Korra and Asami. I focused as much as I could, trying to pick out anything that hinted at romance between them, and I saw nothing of the sort until the last 2 minutes of the episode. I'll give a short explanation of what happened during those 2 minutes. Korra and Asami talk alone for a bit while there is a party going on in the background (though far enough back it's not visible in the scene). Asami has just lost her father for the second time (this time permanently as he was killed earlier in the episode). I'll just put down Korra's and Asami's conversation:

Korra: Want to sit with me for a minute? I'm not ready to get back to the party just yet.
(Korra and Asami sit)
Korra: I don't think I ever really apologized. 
Asami: For what?
Korra: For being gone all that time. For not coming back sooner.
Asami: You don't need to apologize for anything. I'm just so happy you're here now. I don't think I could have handled losing you and my father in the same day.
Korra: I am so sorry about what happened.
(Korra and Asami hug)
Asami: Thank you. I'm just so glad I was able to forgive him.
(Korra and Asami stop hugging)
Korra: So what now? Back to the dance floor?
Asami: I'm kind of all danced out. Honestly, after everything that's happened the past few months, I could use a vacation.
Korra: Let's do it! Let's go on a vacation, just the two of us, anywhere you want.
Asami: Really? Okay. I've always wanted to see what the spirit world's like.
Korra: Sounds perfect.
At this point, the conversation ends. The camera cuts out to show Korra and Asami walking towards the spirit portal. They stop very near the portal, look at each other for a second, hold hands, and walk into the portal. Once in the portal they turn to face each other, hold both hands, and become blurry as they enter the spirit world. This is the point where the camera moves upwards to signify the end of the episode.
     Now when I first watched it, my defenses were up, and I was expecting to see something homosexual between them. And you know what? While I was watching the final scene, and for about a minute after the episode concluded I agreed with what I had read. I thought for sure it was meant to show that Asami and Korra were romantically involved, and that homosexuality had been implied.
However, after discussing with my best friend who was watching the episode with me and who also deals with same-sex attraction and is a faithful member of the LDS Church, my conclusion on the meaning started to change. Dissecting the episode and series for myself and talking to my best friend and my family I have decided that the romantic relationship between Korra and Asami simply doesn't have backing. It doesn't make sense. And things just don't add up.

     First of all, my readers should know (from previous posts) my position on physical touch expressed in friendship between members of the same-sex. I do not believe that physical touch (so long as it is not sexual in nature) should be seen as wrong or homosexual between friends of the same-sex. I have held hands with male friends before, and don't have any issues with it. There was nothing romantic between us. It was an expression of our love for each other as friends, not as romantic partners. There have been many times that I have hugged friends of the same-sex, and again, nothing romantic there. I have looked into friends eyes while expressing physical contact, and again, no romantic connotations for me.
     With my experiences in regards to physical touch with members of the same-sex, I don't think that the hand-holding, hugging, or eye contact between Korra and Asami was at all proof of homosexuality. I also do not see how them going on a vacation together can be seen as proof of a lesbian relationship. And the fact that Asami said "I'm just so happy you're here now. I don't think I could have handled losing you and my father in the same day." doesn't prove anything either. I mean, who would want to lose their best friend and their only living parent in the same day? That is definitely something I couldn't handle. I would say the same thing to my best friend, and again, there is nothing romantic about our relationship.
     As I dissected things further, I started to have fewer concerns that homosexuality was implied. I myself deal with same-sex attraction (which should be obvious by this point) and therefore have my own experiences to draw from. Yes, I may not be a lesbian woman and don't know exactly what it's like to be a woman attracted to women, but I know what it looks like to be attracted to members of the same-sex, and with my personal knowledge I can honestly say I didn't notice anything of that nature in Korra as a character.
     Earlier in the series, Korra dated Mako pretty seriously (Mako is a male main character), with love and romance expressed between them both, including kissing on the lips. Korra was asked by other males to date, but she expressed preference for Mako. They broke up eventually, but not because of a conflict of attractions, and even in the last episode, literally just barely over a minute before the scene of Korra and Asami, Mako and Korra exchange hints of romance, and Korra looks at Mako with longing eyes. Literally, just over a minute before the supposed "lesbian" scene, Korra shows signs of heterosexual love and romance for Mako.
     I know that, for me, growing up with SSA, I never had a prominent "preference" between women. There wasn't one woman, or even multiple women, that I regarded as more beautiful and desirable from the rest. I never kissed a girl on the lips due to romantic interest. And yet Korra did both of those things. Korra expressed preference for Mako, and kissed him multiple times out of romantic interest. There are even scenes of Asami acting out the same feelings of preference for Mako when they were dating (before they broke up and Mako moved to Korra), and Asami engaged in romantic expressions with Mako, again including kissing on the lips.
     With that brought up, I turn back to Korra and Asami's last scene, and just don't see any of the signs of romantic interest shown between them and Mako. Korra and Asami never kiss, they never romantically date, they never express attraction for each other in a way that could be deemed homosexual, and they never express romantic love or interest in one another.
     Ultimately, after dissecting things, watching the end of the episode multiple times, thinking things through, prayer, and talking with people in my life, I have come to the conclusion that yes, there is a possibility that the directors of the show meant to imply homosexuality between Korra and Asami, but that I don't see it at all, and I really don't think it was their intent. I really honestly don't believe that what happened between Korra and Asami was lesbian in nature. And I'm definitely not just coming to this conclusion because I love the show and don't want it to be ruined. I was literally ready at a moments notice to boycott The Legend of Korra entirely if I had noticed something that definitely implied homosexuality, but I just didn't see it.
     I know that nearly every news article and forum out there about it will say that the evidence pointing towards Korra and Asami being in a lesbian relationship is irrefutable, and I know why. The world is changing. Laws are being altered and changed now to legalize gay marriage. People are doing everything they can to stamp out homophobia and discrimination. Anything that is something people can hold on to in order to root for their cause, they will hold on to, even if it means stretching the truth. Well, I say the whole lesbian romance people have inferred between Asami and Korra is definitely refutable. I don't see it, and I don't believe it. There isn't enough evidence to convince me.
     I feel so blessed that God gave me the trials, skills, and gifts that He gave me. I know that so many in the world will continue to fight against the truth, fight against God, and fight against his people, but as Korra said: "I know I was in a pretty dark place... but I finally understand why I had to go through all of that. I needed to understand what true suffering was, so I could become more compassionate to others, even to people like Kuvira." I definitely had dark times in my life, times when I wanted to die, when I felt like an abomination, when I couldn't find happiness or light, but now I've realized why I experienced those things. It was so I could be more compassionate, more understanding, more patient and empathetic. I'm definitely not perfect. I don't treat everyone as well as I should, but I am better than I would have ever been if I didn't have the trials that I have had in my life and still have.
     I love God, I love life, I love my family, I love my best friend, I love my other friends and all the people in my life. I love those who fight against me, who fight against my religion, who fight against God, who fight against all I know to be beautiful and right in the world. I feel sad for them. Sometimes I feel anger, resentment, frustration, etc. but I just want them to know that there is a God who loves them more than anything or anyone on this earth ever could, and that regardless of what they've done, Heavenly Father loves them. I'm not perfect, but I know that God is, and I know there is still good in this world.
     I've received a few comments on my blog and other places about this post. They have been in regards to the creators of Korra coming out and saying they meant for Korra and Asami to be portrayed as a lesbian couple. I was aware of the creators coming out and saying that the day it happened, and I had published this post before they came out and said that, but have been busy in college and haven't had the time to come and write an update. However, with the update I will be keeping all of the original post. I am very disappointed in the creators, but I feel it is important to understand that physical touch, compliments, and love expressed between members of the same-sex should not be viewed as a default of homosexuality, and therefore I am leaving this post as-is. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Pray the Gay Away"

     Ever heard that phrase? I have. I've heard it multiple times, including today. "Pray the gay away" is a phrase used in reference to a belief some people have that people with same-sex attraction can just pray to God, and that God will remove their attractions toward members of the same-sex and replace it with an attraction towards the opposite-sex. Some people believe that being same-sex attracted is a sin in and of itself, or at least an "impurity", even if it is never acted on.
     I'm still in my YSA ward I mentioned in blog posts before (YSA stands for Young Single Adults). I've shared my testimony about same-sex attraction multiple times in this ward for the whole ward to hear. Well, today during Sunday School a woman from the stake pulled me out of class saying she wanted to talk to me. I went out and stood in the hall with her. I don't really know her position in the stake, and I don't really know her, but I have seen her before.
     Well, we stood for a second before she brought up my same-sex attraction that I had shared about months ago. She told me she had been wanting to talk to me ever since I had shared my testimony months ago, but never got the chance until now. She didn't speak the best English, but she basically explained to me how if I pray to God that my attractions will go away, and told me that God can make me "love a woman" and that I should get married to a girl and not sit alone at Church. I wanted so badly to explain to her how wrong she was, to make her realize how wrong she was, but I couldn't. She was an older woman, her English wasn't all that great, and I could tell from her tone, firmness, and the tears in her eyes that she honestly believed what she was saying.
     I was frustrated. I was offended. I was sad. How could she honestly believe that? I've heard it before from many other people telling me I chose to be gay, and that I could just pray and God would fix me, but something was different this time. The other times that I heard it said, I was still trying to figure things out myself, so it seemed like feedback more than insult, but this time, since I have an unshakeable testimony about the subject already, it felt like an insult, a slap in the face. I could tell she had the right intentions, but she was sorely misinformed.
     Can I really blame her though? I mean I once believed the same thing. I tried praying and praying and praying begging God to take it away. I mean, why wouldn't I? People hated me because of it. I got bullied, picked on, and I constantly felt un-included and isolated. I even hated myself for it. I honestly believed that I was an abomination to God and that's why he wouldn't take it away. But you know what? My understanding is completely different now. Could God take my attractions away? In theory, yes. God can do anything. But there are certain things God decides not to do, and He always has a reason for it.
     I'll try to explain it this way. Say you were born with only one leg. Do you think that just by praying about it, God would suddenly give you a new leg? Or if you have autism, that just by praying it would suddenly be cured? Or an addiction, does God just instantly take that away? Or you're homeless, does God just make money rain from the sky? God could do all those things, and in some very rare cases he has (scriptures about Christ healing the sick and lame, for example), but for the most part, God gives us support throughout our trials without ever completely curing us. We are given trials in this life so that we can grow spiritually and rely on God more wholly.
     I don't hate the lady who said that to me today, and I don't hate the other people who have told me that. Do I have frustrated emotions to resolve? Yes, but I don't hate them. More than anything I'm sad for them, sad that they misunderstand the gift God gave me. Sad for the people they may meet in the future who deal with SSA who may get the same "Pray the gay away" response from them. Same-sex attraction has definitely had a role in bad things that happened in my life, but it wasn't the sole cause, and ultimately it boils down to my free agency when I make a mistake, and doesn't necessarily point to any one condition or circumstance.
     I just want everyone to know that everyone is human, and everyone deserves just as much respect and love as the next person. God loves all His children, and so should we. We should be careful what we say about sensitive subjects. Don't come to conclusions without first investigating the issue yourself. I recognize that there are stories out there of Christians (both and the LDS faith and others) who claim to have been rid of their same-sex attractions. I'm not here to say it's not possible. If it worked for them, then great for them, but it doesn't mean it works for everyone, and it definitely doesn't mean the people it doesn't work for are sinners. I know that I will not be "free" from my attractions in this life. That isn't part of God's plan for me. And you know what? I'm happy about that. My attractions, my struggles, everything about me has made me who I am today, and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.
     There are people who love and support me as best they can, who don't reject me because of things I can't control, and I know that God doesn't reject me either. God loves me completely and wholly.
     I know same-sex attraction is such a complex topic in the Church, but always approach it with sensitivity and care. Don't try to make others' feel like sinners, for we are all sinners. Help them feel like equals. Love them into the gospel, don't reject them in the very place they should be most accepted. Don't enable them to sin, but at the same time don't hate them and drive them away.
     I know I need to work on being more loving and outgoing in my ward, and I know that the Church has the potential to be very loving, welcoming, and understanding of everyone, but there's still a lot of work to do there. Life is good though. I know God lives. I know God loves me. And I know all that He put in my life was meant to bring me closer to Him and become who I was meant to be.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Gay Marriage Legalized

     It has been a while since I've posted on my blog, and in the time I've not posted a lot has happened. One of the things which has been tugging at my mind a lot since its occurrence has been the legalization of gay marriage in Utah (my home state) and many other states in the U.S. The 184th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was held October 4th-5th of this year (2014), the Monday immediately after the conference, the US Supreme Court made a decision (or rather indecision) effectively allowing states to freely practice same-sex marriages despite opposing votes within the state.
     The Monday morning after conference (October 6, 2014) I was listening to the local news radio (KSL) on my way to work when I heard about the legalization of gay marriage in Utah and other states. I was shocked, I was frustrated. I felt all feelings of love for my country dissipating. I didn't understand how God could let this happen.
     Despite my frustration, I recalled a talk given at the conference the day before. The talk was Loving Others and Living with Differences by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. The talk explained clearly how we, as Latter-day Saints, are to act in regards to the moral issues facing the world today.

Quotes pulled from Loving Others and Living with Differences by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

     "Like the Savior, His followers are sometimes confronted by sinful behavior, and today when they hold out for right and wrong as they understand it, they are sometimes called “bigots” or “fanatics.” Many worldly values and practices pose such challenges to Latter-day Saints. Prominent among these today is the strong tide that is legalizing same-sex marriage in many states and provinces in the United States and Canada and many other countries in the world..."
     "In dedicated spaces, like temples, houses of worship, and our own homes, we should teach the truth and the commandments plainly and thoroughly as we understand them from the plan of salvation revealed in the restored gospel. Our right to do so is protected by constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, as well as by the privacy that is honored even in countries without formal constitutional guarantees..."
     "In public, what religious persons say and do involves other considerations. The free exercise of religion covers most public actions, but it is subject to qualifications necessary to accommodate the beliefs and practices of others. Laws can prohibit behavior that is generally recognized as wrong or unacceptable, like sexual exploitation, violence, or terrorist behavior, even when done by extremists in the name of religion. Less grievous behaviors, even though unacceptable to some believers, may simply need to be endured if legalized by what a Book of Mormon prophet called “the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:26)..."
     "On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence. In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12)..."
     "When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation..."
     "As difficult as it is to live in the turmoil surrounding us, our Savior’s command to love one another as He loves us is probably our greatest challenge. I pray that we may understand this and seek to live it in all of our relationships and activities, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

     I realized that gay marriage being legalized is not the end of the world, and that the LDS Church will not fall apart or change its position just because the country's of the world may turn against God's teaching and legalize practices which God deemed sinful. I also realized that, even though I strongly disagree with same-sex marriage, the government is going to do what the voice of the people says, even if it is wrong, but that as a Church, we will continue to follow God's law regardless of laws erected by the government of the people.
     When I got home Monday night, I knelt down a prayed. I prayed more openly than I ever had in the past. I told God everything, all my feelings of doubt, fear, anger, frustration, and I asked him for direction. I asked Him where I was supposed to go now, what I was supposed to fight for, and where my focus should be. I found peace in accepting that the government is going to make their decisions, and I have every right to make mine.
     My new focus is not going to outright oppose the legality of gay marriage (as there is not much, if anything that can be done about that anymore), but instead focusing on keeping my religious freedom, and the religious freedom of the world. As a citizen of the U.S. it is my right, and duty, to defend my religious freedom, and the religious freedom of those around me. Since the legalization of gay marriage, religious rights have been under attack including threats of lawsuit against people refusing to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples due to religious beliefs.
     A song came to mind this week that I feel really applies to the current moral situation of society.
Remain: Royal Tailor
I know you’re feeling weighted down
It’s all on your shoulders
I know the dreams in your head
Don’t look any closer

But I’m gonna make you stronger
Hold on just a little bit longer
‘Cause I’ll be there
When you feel like you’re going under
I’m gonna be there for you
Yeah yeah

The sky could fall
The ground could shake
The stars burn out
And seasons change
The time will pass
And beauty fade
But all my love will remain
All my love will remain
All my love will remain

When there’s a secret to tell
It’s locked and I’ll keep it close
And when you’re walking through fire
I’ll take you to streets of gold
Yeah I’m gonna make you stronger
Hold on just a little bit longer
‘Cause I’ll be there
When you feel like you’re going under
I’m gonna be there for you
Yeah yeah

The sky could fall
The ground could shake
The stars burn out
And seasons change
The time will pass
And beauty fade
But all my love will remain
All my love will remain
All my love will remain

And when the world all around you feels out of place
You can’t seem to find a familiar face
I’m here to remind you my love remains
And you know

The sky could fall
The ground could shake
The stars burn out
And seasons change
The time will pass
And beauty fade
But all my love will remain
All my love will remain
All my love will remain
     No matter what may happen in the world, even if the sky falls, the ground shake, the stars burn out, and seasons change God will always exist, He will always love me and all His children, and He will never forsake His Church. I know that even though the world has views very different to God's law right now, that God's law will not change. Whatever consequences the future holds for myself and people like me, and for my religion, I will stay true to my beliefs. I will stand for what I know what is right, and my opinion and stance will not be shaken. I will love all people even if we have differing opinions, and I will stay close to my Father in Heaven. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014


     Today I realized very clearly that God has spoiled me. I have sooo many people in my life who love me so much, and I just take it for granted..... Maybe it's because I don't yet love myself like I should, or maybe it's because I'm oblivious to some things until it hits me in the face and I realize I took it for granted the whole time.
     At my 12-step addiction recovery meeting last week one of the missionaries, an elderly man named Elder Lundt, who has always been kind to me, and said many kind things to me handed me a poem and told me to take it. He gave it to me after the meeting had concluded. He had read the poem to everyone during the meeting, crying while he did because the spirit touched him. He said the poem was so meaningful to him, and he gave me a copy, but no one else in the meeting received one.
     Today at my meeting, Elder Lundt made it a point to say hi to me, ask me how I was, and thank me for coming. We didn't have a facilitator and he asked me to be the first to share. I didn't feel worthy to share at all, this week hasn't been my best, yet out of everyone else, he chose me... I felt special, even though I still felt unworthy. I didn't share anything groundshaking, and felt lame after sharing. I figured for sure someone could have done a better job than me, and that it would've been better if I shared later in the meeting so I would have time to think of what to share, but he chose me to go first.
     After the meeting, Elder Lundt approached me and said "I hope you didn't feel picked on last week when I handed you that poem. I just felt like you needed it." I felt warm inside when he said that. Elder Lundt, a missionary in a 12-step meeting I've only been attending for a few months, cared enough about me to feel like I needed something, and decided to act on it and hand me a poem that meant so much to him.
     After that experience, as I was walking out of my meeting and driving home, I started thinking of how much people in my life love me, and how many times I'm oblivious or take it for granted.... So many people, even people I never ever thought would love me have expressed so much care for me.
     God has blessed me so much with some of the most amazing people ever in my life. I have a family who loves me, even when I'm stubborn, rude, inconsiderate, closed, bitter, angry, or incapable of returning their level of love. I have the best friend in the world who holds me, hugs me, tells me he loves me, turns me to God, puts my name on the temple prayer role basically every week, and spends much of his time with me. I have people who I no longer have strong relationships with who still text me or call me, or say when they see me how much they love and care about me.
     I've had trials in my life, but I've also had so many blessings that I so often forget.... God has spoiled me, and while I don't know why, and don't deserve it, He has chosen to give me so many people who love me so much more than I could ever comprehend, and one of the hardest things for me is knowing that, right now, since I don't love myself, that I can't love them as much as they love me because I don't know how..... yet.....
     This week was full of bitter, stressful, & sad situations, but today I feel like I'm on top of the world. I don't know why God gave me such wonderful loving people in my life, but I do know one thing; I have a lot of gratitude needing to be given, and a lot of work to do to love others' as much as they love me. Life is amazing. And as much as so many people love me, I know there are ones who love me more, and that's my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ.
     Just one last thing I'll share is the poem Elder Lundt gave to me. It's a great poem, and I feel so blessed for it, and everything else I've been given in my life.

 Even If
(by: unknown)
Even If;
Your heart is breaking
Your mind is unclear
Your tired and restless and full of fear
Come to me-
even if
You say words you shouldn't
You don't do things you should
You doubt and try to change,
but never think you could.
Come to me-
even if
You thought an evil thought
You thought the thought again
You turned the thought to action and now your bound in sin.
Come to me-
even if
You say "But I knew better, I belong to you"
Child, I am not surprised by anything you do.
I made you in my image I fashioned you with care,
When you cried tears into your pillow, remember I was there.
I have always been and always will be.
For even when you do those things, you still belong to me.
Even if you do these things, Oh child, don't you see?
Even if, even if, you still can come to me.
There is a secret place I have created where you may seek my face,
this place I have for you is called "The Father's Warm Embrace"
And when I have held you in my arms and rocked you, listening closely to your fears,
I will place you on my lap, and wipe away your tears.
Then, I will smile. A smile to let you know I am pleased.
For when you hurt and when you sinned, still- you came to me.
So, do not draw back from me my child,
I am Abba Father to you, remember in my words I said -Behold,
I make all things new.
I will forgive you, heal you, restore you,
I will shower you with grace.
I will never turn my back to you, but you will see my face.
On your journey home, when I see you I will run....
Even if, Even if, My child, even if just come. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


    So my life has been moving a lot the past little while. I've applied for college, and am basically guaranteed to be accepted once my high school transcripts are received and entered. Once that happens, I will be going to LDS Business College for Fall Semester this year, and classes start September 10th. I'm super nervous and scared, especially since I've heard that college is harder than high school, and that there's more homework.... and I suck at doing homework.... in fact, the main reason I failed a few classes in high school was because I didn't do my homework.
    Then there's the issue of figuring out time once I get in to college. I already have a 40+ minute commute to work, and 40+ minute commute back. That's over an hour of driving just to get to and from work. Then I have the issue of trying to figure out how many hours I'll even be able to work, and trying to find time for family and time to spend with my best friend David. Plus, on top of all that, my job is South of my home, while college will be North, making my daily commute significantly longer, cutting even further into my time. I'm trying to figure out if driving my car will even be worth it... or if I should get a pass for a bus or for the frontrunner.
     I'm still battling addiction, and trying to figure out life. I'm working on becoming worthy to receive the Melchezidek Priesthood. I've been doing a lot better. Before Saturday (August 2nd) I was 4 days away from being a full month sober. Unfortunately I let my guard down and messed up Saturday, and immediately after the relapse I experienced old thinking habits and justifications resurface. Immediately I told myself I could just justify it, that it wasn't "really" a relapse, and if I didn't do it again, everything would be fine... above all, I just didn't want to "lose" the month of sobriety I was just days away from reaching.
     As the day went on after my slip up, the truth started to hit me, and I realized I couldn't just justify it, and that I couldn't lie. It was a relapse and I just had to admit it. I was crushed. Going nearly a month was a huge feat for me, and knowing I had just lost it from one stupid decision that wasn't worth it at all made me feel hopeless, worthless, and lost. I became extremely depressed. I attempted to take my life, and was luckily unsuccessful, but it scared me.... scared me to think of what I had almost done, and that the consequence would be permanent...
     After the failed attempt I  was able to call my best friend David and work things out, stabilizing my emotions, and regaining hope. Since Saturday I've been clean, and have been doing a lot better.
     Life has been crazy, and I have no idea how things will work out.... my personal relationship with God hasn't been the best, but I'm trying to make it better, and even with the struggle, I still know things will work out. There are lots of changes happening in my life, lots of things I'm scared for, but it will work out. Somehow.... I just need to trust God, and I've got the best friend in the world to help me through it.

     Life can be hard, life can be scary, but looking back now, I'm so happy God has spared my life, even with all my dumb decisions, and that I'm still here to enjoy it. I have a great life, even if sometimes it's flawed or hard. I have a great family, a great home, a great job, the best friend in the world, and a God who doesn't turn His back on me no matter how many times I turn my back on Him. Is life worth the climb? Definitely.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Name Change?

     If you've read my blog before, and just recently came back on to read this new post, or others, you may have noticed that I have changed the name of my blog. I promise you it is just that, a name change, and I'll explain why I changed the name of my blog from "Living My Faith With SSA" to "Gay, Single, & Mormon".
      When I first created my blog, it was as an expansion to my first blog which was part of an assignment in my Journalism class when I was a Senior in High School. When I made my second blog, I was still in class, and all my classmates would easily be able to link to it through my original blog, and as such I was tentative. I wanted my blog to be vague, yet still straight forward in its message, so that I could say what I needed to say without as much of a chance of backlash or offending someone.
     In the process of naming my blog, I also wanted to choose a name that clearly communicated on its own that I was a faithful member of the Church, and for me, using an acronym to explain same-sex attraction (SSA) seemed to communicate that more clearly than stating 'gay' in my title, so it's what I chose to use. I wasn't expecting my blog to be viewed by the world, just a few people, mainly those close to me. I hadn't thought the consequences out when choosing the name of my blog.
     For the past few months the name of my blog has been on my mind. I've been feeling like I want my blogs reach to be expanded. Not because I want a million views (I'm not even 1/10 of the way there), or because I think my blog is the best and I want everyone in the world to read it, it's because I want it to be available to someone searching for answers, or maybe even someone just searching and not knowing what they'll find.
     I've been thinking about the name of my blog, and yes the original name was great, but what it was missing is reach. A small portion of the world would ever use the acronym "SSA" to describe homosexual attractions, and I've been wishing I had thought through the name of my blog more thoroughly before naming it, but what's done is done, and I'm changing it now.
    While I was sitting in Church today, I had the distinct impression to change the name of my blog, and so I'm now following that impression. I hope it doesn't throw anyone off, or make me any enemies, I just felt like I needed to in order to reach more people searching or in need. And don't worry, despite the name change, nothing else (in my control) will be changing about this blog. It's still my main blog, and though it has been a long time since my last post, I will still try to post as frequently as I am prompted and have time.
     Love you all! I'm not sure what this change will bring, but I will trust with excited patience to see how things turn out. I know God must have had a purpose in it, and who knows, maybe I'll be the one to grow most from this.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Praise You In This Storm

    I've had a lot going on this past week; quitting my job, hitting 3 weeks of complete sobriety, weaning myself of my medication, trying to find God, etc. Through it all I've been on an emotional rollercoaster, switching between highs and lows quickly and unpredictably. For the first time in  the entire history of my blog, I got hate comments and even hate emails from people upset with my last post Gay Marriage. I can deal with hate emails and comments, I've been persecuted for my beliefs as well, but what hurt me most was to see people get so angry, and so hard-hearted over something I feel so strongly about and that I've had God confirm to me multiple times, and to see them turn against God because of a misunderstanding they've come to accept as truth.
     Throughout all the highs and lows, stress, and challenges this week, I've also been able to learn a lot, and grow closer to God. One thing I realized this week was that there are multiple pieces to "me". One negative belief I've had about myself for some time is that I am malicious and cruel, and there is a part of me who fits that role. That part of me represents the young me who put up walls, and sought to hurt people before they could hurt me. He is like a defense mechanism who has existed in my subconscious for years, often unseen. He carries all the hurt, pain, lies, and betrayal I've felt and experienced throughout my life, and he has been the one who lashes out at others because he's scared to be hurt anymore.
     It's like I'm just a big puzzle, and if anyone asked me who Mitchell Clark really is, I don't think I could answer them, because honestly he is so jumbled and broken, that I don't know who he is anymore. Is he a kind person, a loving person, a hateful person, malicious, cruel, caring? I don't know... to me, he is all of those, yet none of them at the same time. I am lost from myself, and I'm still trying to put the pieces back together to figure out who he is, who I am.
     I was able to see this part of myself yesterday while I was spending time with my best friend.  I remember telling him exactly how I felt, exactly who Mitchell is, and what he does, that he lashes out and stores every negative thing anyone has ever done to me or around me. I looked him in the eyes and said "Do you love him, do you love the real me? Does God love him too?" and with tears in his eyes my friend told me yes, and embraced me, and I started sobbing. Never had anyone told me they loved that part of me, and I didn't understand how anyone could. I have never liked that side of me, I've never understood him. How on earth could anyone ever love him? But there was no lie in the 'yes' my friend told me, and I had never felt my walls crumble like they did in that moment. All the masks, walls, facades, they all crumbled in that moment, and disappeared for a time, and that young, scared, hurt part of me was embraced and told he was loved, and all I could do was cry.
     It got me thinking of what it means to truly be loved, to be loved for every single part of me. Even the broken, lost parts. And that God loves me for ever single part of me that has ever existed, and that prior to that moment, I had been blind to that.
     On my way home I listened to a song I had downloaded on my phone a while ago, but had never really listened to. It was "Praise You In This Storm" by Casting Crowns, and the entire drive home from my friends house that night, I listened to the song on replay, singing a long, and crying the entire time, looking to Heaven, and wondering how God loves me like He does. I praised God that entire 40 minutes home, sobbing as I thought of what He had given me, sobbing as a little lost part of me started to come to the surface, and begin to be free. Throughout all the fear, pain, highs and lows, and craziness of life, particularly the past 2 weeks, God has still heard my voice, and still been watching out for me, always trying to tell me "Mitchell, I love you, all of you." And I can only hope in time, I will be able to hear His voice more clearly and regularly.
     I love my God, I love the people He has put in my life, and I love all the blessings He has given me. Life will continue to be hard and trying, finding all the pieces of me that have been scattered and lost for years will be time-consuming, and hard, but I am willing to try, and I know I have people in my life who are willing to help me and love me very step of the way, and I am so thankful God gave me them, and gave me the chance to know of His love and gospel. Despite hardship, trials, lows, and pain, life is so amazing, and I can't wait until the day when I hear God's voice again more regularly and clearly.
Praise You In This Storm
Casting Crowns
(P.S. I watched this video, and not all of the lyrics are correct, but I wrote out the lyrics with what they should say underneath this video, so please refer to that for correct lyrics.)
I was sure by now, God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away, Stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen And it's still raining
As the thunder rolls I barely hear your whisper through the rain
I'm with you And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise The God who gives and takes away
And I'll praise you in this storm And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried You hold in your hand
You never left my side And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone how can I carry on
If I can't find you
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear you whisper through the rain
I'm with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away
And I'll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
And I'll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Gay Marriage

    I've been noticing again in my life people arguing from different fronts on the subject of "accepting" gay marriage, particularly in regards to "active, faithful" members of the Church. The majority of the arguments have been people stating that they can claim full loyalty to God and the Church, and support gay marriage, and in some cases, get married to a same-sex partner themselves. With this, and knowing that it's still a big issue in the world today, I thought I would go through and give my thoughts on it.

     First off, I want to point out that obviously I deal with same-sex attraction (I.O.W. , I'm gay), second I love all of  God's children, and while I do so imperfectly, I'm constantly striving to do better, and last but not least, I am an active member of the LDS Church. I'm doing this post so I can make sure all my readers know my stance clearly so there is no question. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have a testimony of the truth of the Church, the truth of the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, and the truth that there is a God and that Christ is the Savior of the world.
     As an expansion of my testimony, I believe all of Christ's teachings, and all of the teachings of His Church, and the words of the scriptures. I believe in the Church's teachings in regards to homosexual marriage, and I will stick to those morals. I believe in the Church's teachings on sexual relationships, and that they are meant only to be between husband and wife lawfully married, I believe in the law of chastity. I do not support gay marriage, nor will I ever. I know that Christ's true gospel is forever unchanging, and that if the Church is true, it cannot support gay marriage.
     I also know that all people are children of our Heavenly Father, and that He loves everyone equally, and beyond measure or comprehension. I know that God expects me to love His children as close to the degree that He does as I can. I've realized that love is not the way the world portrays it. The world portrays love as having to sacrifice personal morals, accepting, even enabling someone's behavior and/or choices, and not ever expecting someone to change themselves or seek help. I've realized that the most true form of love you can show to someone is to encourage them to get to know their Father in Heaven, even if that means disagreeing outrightly with choices and actions they make.     
     It honestly hurts me to see people I know and love support and push for legalization of gay marriage. It communicates to me that they do not care enough about my relationship with God, my testimony of the Church, and the wellbeing of myself and my spiritual brothers and sisters. To me, it is like they are fighting against one of the most important missions in my life, to educate and be the difference. It's not just gay marriage either, it's immoral music, profanity, pornography, masturbation, and other addictions, anything that has greatly affected my life that I now fight against. I guess the persecution drives me even more, to see the corruption and lies spread by Satan, and to see it accepted so readily by society gives me and even stronger drive to fight and be the difference.
     I know one argument in regards to legalization of gay marriage has been that the Church has changed it's stance on marriage before, so can't they change it again? The thing is that yes, God has instructed the church to alter marriage in the past as He saw it necessary. Yes, polygamy was practiced by the church for a time as God found it necessary. Polygamy was even practiced in the bible, so it's not like it's just the LDS Church. Polygamy is no longer practiced by the Church. Even with the changes in marriage, homosexuality was never ordained of God. The changes God made to marriage were still within the bonds of man and woman, heterosexual relationships.
     Some may argue that polygamy meant many wives, so wouldn't that have some form of homosexuality? No, it did not. The polygamous families who followed God's commandments never broke the laws of chastity. Wives were not involved with each other, and the husband slept with one wife at a time. Point is, God ordained polygamy when it was necessary, but never has God ordained any homosexual marriage or sexual intimacy.
     I don't have all the answers. I don't know all the mysteries of God. There are certain things that I deal with, and others deal with that I do not understand, nor understand God's exact purpose in allowing those struggles in people's lives. What I do know, however, is that God loves everyone. God gives us struggles to strengthen us if we choose to let it, and bring us closer to Him. God's laws are eternal. I know that gay marriage, and sexual intimacy in any relationship, save husband and wife lawfully married, is destructive, dangerous, and seen as sinful in God's eyes. I love my Heavenly Father, and I love my brothers and sisters and want the best for them.
     I have learned through personal experience that living contrary to God's commandments may bring temporary happiness and fulfillment but in the end leave you dry and yearning for something more, having not experienced true joy, whereas living according to God's commandments, keeping Him in your life, though it will be challenging at times, will bring long-term, happiness, joy, and complete fulfillment. The true gospel of Christ is for everyone, young, old, white, black, heterosexual, homosexual, addict, sinner, saint, crippled, able, broken, whole, Christ performed the atonement for everyone, and turned no one away. Yet, while Christ loves and accepts all His children, He states "For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;" (D&C 1:31). God has defined sin, has defined what draws us from Him, and when we are in the midst of sin, God cannot fully abide with us.
     Even with the truth that God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, He follows up by saying "32. Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven; 33. And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts." (D&C 1:32-33). Christ performed the atonement because God knew we would all sin, we would all male mistakes, and because He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, He gave us the atonement so we could repent and so that He could make the difference for us when we fall short, it's just our responsibility to do our best, trust in Him, love Him and our fellow beings, and follow all of His commandments.
     God is amazing, and I will follow Him to the end of my days even when the road gets hard. I will suffer persecutions if necessary, endure opposition, but I will stand for what I know regardless of the push of the world. God gives us commandments not to make us miserable, but because He knows what is best for us. It will not always be easy, but following Him will bring the greatest happiness and joy. Love you all!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Held In His Arms...

     It has been a while since I've posted, yet it feels like it has been forever. Life has been throwing me around in all different directions. Just last week, I was struggling with my faith and testimony so much I thought I would leave the Church, or at least stop going. This Sunday at Church, my ward had a lesson during priesthood and relief society (it was combined) that I felt was inappropriate for as a full block meeting, and so I said something during that meeting. Sharing my addictions and SSA was part of what I said in objection to the topic being taught, and my bishop waived my concerns, accompanied by sneers and hand gestures of distaste from my fellow ward members. I felt extremely unwelcomed in my own ward, and wanted nothing more than to leave the class right then, but didn't. Instead I waited until Church was through and left as promptly as I could feeling hurt and disrespected.
     I realized I hadn't been praying at all for almost 2 weeks straight, and I wasn't reading my scriptures either. I had a few relapses with my addictions, my depression hit hard, death seemed to be a constant topic of my thoughts, and meaning in life was minimal. Any potential love I could have felt for myself was completely void. My contact with God had practically ceased, and in my loneliness and hurt, I became angry and frustrated with God believing He had left me, and that it was His fault I was struggling. This only fed my separation from Him further, resulting in me pushing Him out of my life, while still ignorantly questioning why He was letting life become so hard and why I felt so abandoned.
      Then, a blessing God sent me over half a year ago who has been my best friend reminded me that God loved me, and that if I was going to be happy again, I'd need to let Him back into my life. I made a resolve earlier this week to get myself on my knees to pray to God, to read my scriptures, and to listen for that still small voice. It hasn't been easy by any means, and it has only been a couple days, but I can already see a difference.
     I've also decided to start a gratitude journal which, unlike the majority of my writing, will be for my eyes only unless I feel the need to share it with someone. I will share a few things that I am most thankful for. My best friend who has been by my side through some of the worst moments of my life, listened to my deepest heartaches, known of my biggest regrets, and through it all has loved me more than I thought any human could and has constantly turned me to God. My family, who I have constantly hurt and pushed away, yet they help me as I am trying to figure out life, and love me and invite me home to be with them even when I make mistakes. The pets I've had, both here and passed, and the impact they've had. A Heavenly Father who loves me perfectly, and forgives me even when I knowingly disobey Him, completely betray Him, and push Him away; who holds me and tells me He loves me even if sometimes I can't hear or feel. For the unique gifts God has given me, and the people in my life.
     I've realized that my favorite feeling in the entire world is being held by someone I love, to feel a close connection, not just physically, but spiritually, socially, and emotionally. When someone I love gives me a real, loving hug, runs their hands through my hair, rubs my shoulders, shows me affection, that's when I feel the best. Through the people in my life who love me, I am constantly reminded of the even more powerful and true love God has for me. Sometimes I look at the American culture and see how much it has misconstrued affection, particularly for men, and it saddens me to know most people in the US may never experience true and loving affection, but at the same time, in my case, it makes me even more thankful for the people in my life willing to disregard incorrect social norms and show me physical affection.
     It will definitely still be a journey to come close to God again, and to find true happiness, direction, success, and fulfilment in this life, but I know I can attain it because of my Savior Jesus Christ who loves me, forgives me, and atoned for me. I love God, I love the blessings He has given me, and I love the people He has put in my life. Life has a funny way to throw me into the deepest pits, chain me in the cruelest dungeons, and break me in a million ways, but God always shows me the way to climb back up again, break free of my bonds, see the sweet in the bitter, and help me attain true happiness. I know I've felt great happiness this week as I've turned back to Him. And when I am held in His arms, there is nothing I can't do.
     If anyone is struggling, if anyone reading this feels like there is no hope, that you don't know where you're going in life, you don't know how you can make it another day, or maybe you just don't feel as close to God as you would like, I promise you there is hope. I promise there is a God who loves you, and I promise no matter what you decide, no matter what you've done, He will always love you, and always want you back home with Him.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Promise... Whatever Happens to Him Will Only be for His Betterment

     I just barely had an experience that really made me think, and realize a piece of my testimony I didn't even realize I had. One of my neighbors came over to my house and was frantically knocking at my door. I opened the door, and she was crying. She asked me if I knew where her son was, and gave me the name of who her son was with and asked if I knew him. I didn't know where he was, nor did I know the boy he was with. She was terrified and frantic. Her son had been missing for hours, and she had no idea where he was. I offered her what help I could, wishing I could tell her what I was feeling.
     See, the thing was that despite her complete fear and urgency, I felt calm. I don't just mean because he isn't my son, but because I knew things would work out in the end. I know from a promise I've been told multiple times that "No matter what happens, it will only be for our betterment." God would take care of him, no matter what happened, no matter how serious.
     There are lots of people in the world who believe that if God really loved us, he wouldn't let bad things like abuse, torture, slavery, death, and pain happen to us and those we love. There are people who believe that God lets bad things happen to good people for one reason or another, or even that God causes bad things to happen to a good person. We ask "Why me?" when something awful happens in our lives, or "how could you do that to them?" when someone we love dearly is afflicted. I know I have had thoughts and feelings like that throughout my life, but now I have a different understanding.
     God does not cause bad things to happen to good people, and there really isn't such thing as a bad person, just someone who has made bad choices. God puts trials in our lives, God lets us experience hardship to teach us, and help us grow. I look at all I went through in the past, the things I had no control over; the abuse, the pain, the death/loss, depression, etc. and the things I could've controlled; the addictions, the sins, the poor choices, etc. Those things could've totally destroyed me if I let them, and for a while, I was letting myself be destroyed from the hardships in my life. Now, however, I use the experiences God gave to me to build me up, and I am stronger, wiser, more courageous, more outspoken, more willing, more humble, better than I have ever been. God promised that whatever we go through in this life, so long as we endure it well and use our free agency to choose good, that it would only be for our betterment.
    When the woman was at my house, I wanted to tell her that it would be ok, that no matter what happened, even if it was awful and tragic, that it would only be for the betterment of her and her son so long as they followed God's will. My mind raced through all the possibilities of where he could be, of what could have happened to him, of what I might see or hear on the news in a day or two, but I had an assurance in my mind that no matter what happened to him, it would only be for his betterment. Then I realized it wasn't just him I was thinking of, it was the voice telling me the same. "Mitchell, whatever happens to you, whatever has happened to you, no matter how hard, painful, destructive, or seemingly cruel and unnecessary, I promise you it was only for your betterment." Then I just felt peace.
     As she left my house to go looking for her son again, I said a prayer for her. Her family is not LDS, nor is she, and I don't think they believe in God. I can only imagine how much harder that must've made it for her. In the prayer I said for her and her son, I asked that God would watch over them, and that regardless of what happened, everything would work out. And it did. He was found not long after I had prayed, and nothing had happened to him whatsoever. He was fine and safe. It reminded me again that God always hears and answers prayers for all His children.
     I'm not trying to say that it's "ok" when bad things happen to us or those we love. I'm not saying we should just let bad things happen to us or those around us, and I'm definitely not saying we should seek out those things, what I am saying however is that when they do come, and we don't have control, we just have to let God guide. We have to let Him hold us in His arms and trust in His promise that whatever happens to us, so long as we endure it well and use our free agency to choose good, that it will only be for our betterment and those around us.
     I have people in my life who I absolutely love who have endured the pains of abuse, death, betrayal, etc. and I see the pain it has caused them, and I mourn for their pain, particularly if they've let it destroy them rather than build. Sometimes I get upset with God, and say "How could you let that happen to someone as great as them? What could they have ever done to deserve that?" Then I have to remind myself that people go through trials to become stronger, if they choose, and that through their free agency can use those trials to bring them closer to God than they have ever been. I just have to remember that God has a reason for everything that happens, and that I do not have a perfect knowledge of why, nor does anyone else on this earth. All I can do is rely on my knowledge that, through the access of free agency, any bad thing that happens to someone can make them wiser, stronger, and closer to God, and for that I am thankful.

     I am thankful that God loves me enough to cut me down. I am thankful that God loves all of His children enough to cut them down, knowing that it will be for their benefit. Trials in this life may be frequent, painful, and seemingly impossible to endure, but if we can but take the bitter with the sweet, we will gain the ability to come out on top, and be wiser, stronger, and closer to God than we have ever been. I have a testimony of this, and bare that testimony in the name of my Savior Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

When I Finally Make it Home

     I've been listening to a song recently that has really hit me hard, and given me a desire to get even closer to God than I ever have. The song is called "Finally Home" by MercyMe. Every time I listen to it, I get emotional. I don't mean I cry every time I listen to it, I just feel the spirit, I feel God telling me He loves me, and I feel myself becoming like a little child, just wanting my Heavenly Father to be proud of me, to welcome me home, to tell me He loves me and has been waiting for me.
Finally Home
If the video is unavailable, you can view it here
I'm gonna wrap my arms around my daddy's neck
And tell him that I've missed him
And tell him all about the man that I became
And hope that it pleased him
There's so much I wanna say
So much I want you to know

When I finally make it home
Then I'll gaze upon the throne of the King
Frozen in my steps
And all the questions that I swore I would ask
Words just won't come yet
So amazed at what I've seen
So much more than this old mind can hold

When I finally make it home
When I finally make it home

And the sweetest sound these ears have yet to hear
The voices of the angels

When I finally make it home
When I finally make it home
     I was just thinking as I listened to it how wonderful my life is, and how wonderful it is that through Christ, everyone gets a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance, a fifth, and so on. It humbles me to think of the purpose of this life. We come here to earth to gain a body, to exercise our free agency and choose our eternal destiny, to learn and gain experience through the trials of this life, and to receive the opportunity to gain the attributes of God.
     It makes me think about the times when I considered taking my life, and how much of a loss and tragedy it would have been had that happened. I know I wouldn't be proud of myself in the next life if I gave up the fight, and I wouldn't expect God to be either, and know that I would not be able to obtain Celestial Glory. I am thankful that God provides me with time on this earth to learn and grow.
     It reminds me of what this life is really about. We don't come here to earth to gain worldly success, we come to learn the quality's that God has, and strive to become like Him while still keeping individuality. We come here to gain a body, and be able to be resurrected as perfect beings. We come to learn, grow, and find ourselves. Life is a blessing, and should never be taken for granted. God loves every single one of His children, and I am so excited to be in His presence once again when my journey here is through.

     I can't even imagine what it will be like when my time has come, and I return home. What will it look like? What will it feel like? Will God be proud of me? Will He welcome me home with love and honor? Will He accept me in His courts? Only time will tell, and I'm willing to wait until He calls me home. I'm happy to stay here and grow as long as He needs me to.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Music: The Fight Between Good and Evil

     Today I came across perhaps the most empowering song I've ever heard while listening to a Christian station on Pandora. I have extremely powerful emotions towards music and the effect it can have on its listeners. My opinion on music might even match the impact my emotions towards SSA. Now before I start a tangent, I'll explain some more and then give you the song.
     So my life and music have always been on extremes. For much of my youth, I honestly hated music. I hated all music. Before iPods and MP3's (yes, even though I'm 19, I remember those times) when it was all about stereos and boomboxes, I never even wanted one. I mean, I had no reason to have one. Even when iPods and MP3's started coming out, I never had a desire to get one, after-all I hated music at the time. Then me and music got a new relationship.
     Just a while before starting middle-school I finally started opening up to music, and even started to love singing. I started out mainly listening to instrumental music, and much of it was world instrumental. I dabbled a little into vocal music, and that's where I developed a love for singing. This phase of only instrumental with a tiny bit of vocals only lasted about a year or so. After that, me and music took another twist.
     I ended up diving in to vocal music, almost all at once, and listened to the music that was popular for kids (usually radio Disney which was still cool back then). It was another quick transition from that to something else too. I ended up getting an MP3 player, and dove into another extreme, and that was music that was popular at that time for teenagers and older. This was during the big rise in hip-hop, rap, and electronic-pop-dance music. This was a big change from what I had listened to previously.
     As you can probably guess, my new relationship with music which led me to hip-hop and rap led me to find some pretty bad songs. This phase in my life lasted up until about 2 years ago, and lasted 4-5 years of my life. I was getting into music that was worse and worse. I started listening to awful songs, songs that would swear every-other word, songs that were extremely sexually explicit, and songs that were just evil and dark in nature. It wasn't long after this phase started that my life started spiralling out of control.
     It got to the point where I had no morals about music anymore, and nothing phased me. It didn't matter how much profanity, sex, drugs, or evil was in a song, as long as I liked it, I listened to it. It started influencing me, even though I never really thought about it at the time. I would listen to that music when I was feeling low, and it would drive me lower, but somehow I loved it, or at least thought I did. Music was a deciding factor in my actions, and even my free agency and was a huge influence on me driving me further and further from God. In fact, now that I think about it, I really believe it was the music I listened to that drove me from the Church, and I don't even just think, I know it was a big part of it. The music I listened to destroyed me spiritually.
     It wasn't until I got sent to inpatient treatment that I really had time to think about what I was doing in life, including the media I had decided to listen to and participate in. It was during my stay in treatment that I realized how deep music had pulled me, and how much it was destroying me inside. It's crazy to think I went from hating music, to loving it, and then getting into the worst music I could've found. Now you might think I'm talking about some kind of music you couldn't find listed on the home page of iTunes, but that's actually the exact music I'm talking about, or at least the artists. It was the "popular" music of the time that was my downfall. Lady Gaga, Kesha, Pitbull, Jesse McCartney, Katy Perry, etc. They, and so many other popular artists, were what destroyed me.
     After my stay in inpatient treatment, I resolved to change the music I listened to. At first, I decided I'd get rid of all my songs that swore at what I considered "too often". After a month or so, I realized that wasn't enough. I still had these awful evil feelings and influences, so I decided to re-evaluate. I got rid of all songs I had that swore at all. Things got better, but after a month or two, I started to notice evil influences in my life still. I was still hitting lows because of music. I took another look into it.
     This time I took out all my music that was sexually suggestive, any song that had innapropriate references, gone. Things improved a little, but still, evil influences, bad feelings, low points and sin. I re-evalutated again the music I listened to. This time, deciding to eliminate any music that contained indirect references to anything sexual. Again, more improvement, but a month later, still evil there. This time I decided I really needed to do something big. I needed to sacrifice something more for God if I was ever going to improve.
    I did a huge evaluation of all the music I had. I decided this time that I wouldn't just eliminate individual songs, but if there was an artist who sung any song with any profanity, sexual reference, drug references, anything evil, then every single song from that artist went bye-bye, no matter how "positive" an individual song sung by them may have been. I decided to judge the music by emotion too. Any song that invoked anger or hate, gone. I used to listen to heavy rock, that was gone because it provoked anger and hate. I dropped entire genres. Rap and hip-hop, completely deleted, metal and heavy rock, completely gone. Needless to say, my music library was cut in more than just half. I had a fraction left of what I had had before.
     It was not an easy process, getting rid of all that music, especially because I had spent money on it, and there was no way to return it. It was also hard to get rid of it, because did I like it? Yeah, it was fun to dance to and sing to, but the destruction it had heaped on me was so much worse than any "fun" that came from it, and the disobedience from God's law that it was compromised who I wanted to be. I was pretty much out of music to listen to, my library was tiny and I loved music but had little-to-nothing to listen to. This is when I came across a new kind of music; Christian.
     Christian is now essentially all I listen to, and has been perhaps one of the biggest blessings God has given me. The evil influence, destruction, and corruption my previous playlist once caused me has been replaced by good, uplifting, and inspiring music always drawing me closer to God, and I still think there's room to improve, in fact after this post, I'm going to filter my music library yet again.
     The process of change has not been easy. Some people may laugh at this because evil music has become so normal that it's funny to think someone tries to avoid it like pornography or drugs, but honestly I've had to treat music just like my addictions. I've had relapses on my bad music since I deleted it all. As amazing as the radio in my car is, and as amazing as Pandora has been in helping me find amazing Christian and LDS music, they've also both been extremely dangerous for me. I've had times where I've listened to evil music on the radio or Pandora since I deleted almost my entire music library.
     This is the part people might laugh or smile on, but I've even caught myself justifying listening to songs that aren't in and of themselves evil, but by an artist who has a lot of really bad music, and even that influences me for evil, regardless of how "good" the individual song may be. Satan has literally tempted me to return to old music through so many different avenues, including factors that I can't control, and so I have to be constantly vigilant about what's going on around me to avoid the temptations that can cause me to go back to listening to bad artists or songs.
     I have such powerful emotions towards music because I have been everywhere with music. I once hated all music, then I got into it and listened to strictly instrumental, then I got into lyrical, dove into popular music, delved into absolutely evil music, and made a slow and painful recovery climbing out of the dark hole and finding my way back to God by deleting my music library. I have such strong emotions because I see people being destroyed by music every day, even people in the Church who you would never suspect. People delving into music that seems "innocent" enough, but ultimately leads to worse things. Just like drugs have "gateway" drugs (lesser drugs that easily and almost always lead to worse drugs) I believe and know for a fact that there is also gateway music. I have a testimony of music for both sides, good and evil, and I know what an influence music can be.
     I am a Child of God, and I will never sell my soul for the evil of this world. I honestly feel that music is something I would fight for. If I could go to war against evil music, even with a risk of losing my life, I honestly believe I would. If I knew I had a chance to change the world, to change music as it is, I would happily seize the opportunity.
     I want to challenge every single person who reads this post to go look at the music you listen to, the movies you watch, the channels you turn to on the TV, the talk-shows or other media you watch or listen to, even the pictures you have on your walls and as the wallpaper on  your electronic devices. Look at them, and honestly, 100% think about whether these bring you closer to God, closer to who you want to be, or whether they are doing the opposite. Think about the effects it may have on you even indirectly. I promise I never saw the full affects of music on me until I looked back on it and saw how destructive it really was.
     I honestly desire that every single person who reads this post will re-evaluate their lives in every aspect, and really think about what things you're letting affect you, and whether you mean to let them affect you or not. It's amazing how such small things that may seem so insignificant can effect us in the biggest ways.

     I almost want to end the post here, but I promised a song, and so I will post it and let you check it out. This song is what inspired this post. This song makes direct jabs at many popular artists of this day like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kanye West, and Kesha. I love this song, I really do. I'll end the post with this, and I'll post the song and lyrics and highlight the lyrics that really stuck out and meant something to me. Don't let the media control your life, let God be your guide, not media be your dictator and deceiver. I love you all. I hope you all walk away from this with the ability to see the things that influence you, and that God will bless you with the ability to identify and remove the negative.
If the video isn't available here, visit it on youtube at
Royal Tailor
This world is, ra, ra
In a bad romance, going, ga, ga
You know we're gettin' played
By the love game

And hypnotized by all the fame
But I believe we can't back down from the fight
It's not okay with me to just be silent
Won't be silent
, silent

No, we won't let them take control
We won't go with the flow
We've got to stand together

It's all plastic and I can't be a fake
It's all static, every word that they say
We won't let them take control

Won't let them take control

Life is short, baby, tik tok
Ain't got no time for your, blah, blah
(Nah, nah, nah)
'Cause girl, we don't need your drug

No, no, we don't what you're calling love
'Cause I believe that you're either yes or no
You're hot or cold
No teenage dream could ever be worth your soul
Never worth your soul

Burn like a fire
Shine like a diamond
See a flash when I smile
Brighter than Kanye's
Comes to the heart

Gotta guard what we buyin'
Can't you see they all got you tryin'
To fall in love with your stereo

So they control what you think
And everywhere you go

But greater is He who lives inside of we know
He won't lose fight, that's right