The Mormon Talkeria

3D colourful people talking

Talkeria #25–Turning in a New Direction

Thursday, May 18, 2017, 7:00pm. Location: James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX.  Click HERE for more details.

Talkeria #24–Voting Opposed

Simply amazing.  Held in SLC, Saturday evening, April 1.  Earlier that day I along with 2 friends voted opposed in the Conference Center.

Eighteen people attended.  Lasted 5 hours.  I need to make sure the time doesn’t get out of control.  Wonderful people.  Tender and heart rending stories.  Great friendships established.

Talkeria #23–Trailblazing!

Thursday, February 9, 2017, 7:00pm.  Location:  James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

A very special visitor is coming.  Click HERE for more details about my honored guest.

Talkeria Twenty-Two

Thursday, February 2, 2017, 7:00pm.  Location:  James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

We talk about ANY Mormon issues you’d like to discuss.  Especially, those you are afraid to bring up at church.  Here are some of the reasons people have come to a Talkeria meeting.

  • You want to share the story of your faith crisis/journey/transition.
  • LDS history and doctrine are troubling you, family members or friends.
  • You have left the church, but still have Mormon issues to discuss.
  • You have a child who is doubting or has left the church.
  • You have a parent, sibling or friend who is doubting or has left the church.
  • Your faith has changed, and you are having difficulty interacting with family or friends
.
  • Your faith has changed and are having difficulty navigating a mixed faith marriage.
  • The faith of your spouse has changed.
  • You are LGBT, in or out of the closet.
  • You have an LGBT child, sibling or friend.
  • You have left the church, but still want to maintain contact with Mormons.

Talkeria Twenty-One.  Back to Houston.

Thursday, January 19, 2017, 7:00pm.  Location:  James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX. For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

Sincerity in Sin City.  Oh boy, was last week’s Talkeria amazing.   4 1/2 hours of discussion.  How in the world did we manage to talk that long?  The meeting in Las Vegas was held in a private residence.  After about 3 1/2 hours, I tried to wrap it up.  The homeowner said, “Just 15 more minutes.”  Another hour transpired.  Of course, the conversation was poignant and passionate.  Here’s the  juicy part……Sorry, talk in the Talkeria stays in the Talkeria.

For all those who came out, all I can say is..THANK YOU.

#20:  Traveling Talkeria–Las Vegas

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 7:00pm.  Location:  Private Residence in Las Vegas, NV.  Please private message or e-mail me for the address.  If you are new to the Talkeria concept, see all the details by scrolling down to “Original Post.”

Last Sunday’s Talkeria in Salt Lake City was totally terrific.  Eighteen attendees.  Six still active and want to continue so.  Two resigned.  One gay man.  One transgender youth.  One pink haired woman.  One amazing hostess.  And…..my MOM.  That right there made it worthwhile for me.

Eighteen new friends as a result of sharing and discussing personal journeys.  I’ve come to recognize the recounting of these journeys as sacred stories.  Of course, all the narratives were interesting, touching and insightful.  There were 2 that I was stunned by…in a good way.  I plan to write a short blog about them both.  Thanks to all who came.  It’s an honor to be counted as your friend and you as mine.

#19:  Traveling Talkeria—Salt Lake City

Sunday, January 8, 2017, 2:00.  Location:  Private residence.   Please private message or e-mail me for the address.  If you are new to the Talkeria concept, see all the details by scrolling down to “Original Post.”

Embarking on a new adventure.  Several friends have expressed a desire to have a Talkeria near them.  OK.  Here goes nothin!  I’ve decided that in the course of business travel, I’ll attempt to schedule something.  First up….the world headquarters of Mormondom…Salt Lake City.

BTW, last Thursday’s Talkeria was amazing. Twelve people came. One non-member and her Mormon wife. One resigned. Five active members in various stages of faith, 4 not-active faith transitioned members. Poignant. Fascinating. Four shed tears during the course of their story. All of us FULLY supported the others in the faith choices they have made or are in the process of struggling through. We parted with a hearty hug of friendship, forged in the crucible of trust and openness.

Talkeria Eighteen….the 1st of 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017, 7:00pm, James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

The Tannenbaum Talkeria was terrific.  Nine of us gathered to share an intimate dinner at delightful and delicious Fung’s Kitchen.  The food was great, but the real highlights were the conversations and personal stories.  Five of the attendees were first timers.  This gathering had a somewhat a different flavor in that 8 of us are still active members.  Amazing and open were the narratives that were shared.  Some shocking.  Some heart rending.  Some topics never discussed before.

#17—O Tannenbaum Talkeria

Special Christmas Talkeria.  Dec 21, 2016.  For details, click HERE.

Talkeria Sixteen

Thursday, December 8, 2016, 7:00pm, James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX. For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

Sorry about the month long hiatus.  But, the Talkeria hasn’t stopped.  It’s just gone underground this past month.  Several ‘individual’ Talkerias were held at lunch or in people’s homes.  Some trying to stay in the church.  Others who are in the process of leaving.  I’m finding that when we open up our deepest concerns to one another, something magical happens.  A spiritual connection is established.  A bond of love is established.  Of course, this beautiful bridge is only built if judgement is totally absent.

Some Personal News.  I’ve decided to give up my temple recommend. No one is asking that I relinquish it.  I’m worthy to keep it.  But, here’s the problem I’m trying to resolve.  Over the past 2 years, it has been super difficult to get any attention to the concern of people leaving the church.  None.  It’s been very weird.  So counterintuitive.  One of the distractions has been my temple recommend.  Members continue to criticize and complain that I have one.  In their view, the sin of voting opposed in conference is of such magnitude that my temple privileges should be yanked.  OK, I cry uncle.  Now, can we just focus on the painful faith struggles that our friends are enduring in excruciating silence.

I have made the sacred temple covenant to live the law of sacrifice.  It basically says that I will sacrifice everything to sustain the kingdom of God.  Elder McConkie said that includes my good name, reputation, and honor.  This past year, I’ve definitely put my good name on the sacrificial altar.  To many of my friends, it’s been trashed.  At this point, I’m willing to sacrifice my temple privileges in the attempt to draw attention to the cause of sustaining the kingdom of God.  What we are doing is not sustainable for so many of our friends, family and children.  It’s time to do something different.  If not, the steady bleed of church members will start to gush.  In England, the activity rate is now 22% and declining.  The same trend is emerging in the U.S.  Are we going to wait until it’s ‘English’ bad before taking any action?

No temple recommend to distract.  So, let’s act.

Talkeria Fifteen

Sunday Nov. 6, 2016, 3:00pm, 8744 Westpark, Houston, TX.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

To accommodate more people’s schedule,  I’m alternating between Thursday and Sunday. If you have a hard time finding the location, send a PM on FB.

Last week a sad, fascinating, and hopeful discussion with a strong woman who drove across state lines to attend the Talkeria.  She inspired and heartened me.  Thank you, my friend.

Talkeria Fourteen

Thursday, Oct 27, 2016, 7:00pm, James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

We’ve taken a 2 week hiatus due to travel.  The last 2 Talkerias were held on Sunday.  At this point, I plan to alternate.  So, this time it will be moved back to Thursday.

Over the intervening weeks, lots of great discussions being had, over the phone, by e-mail and in person.  If you want to talk about anything Mormon, feel free to come.  Groups are usually small.  I’m hearing about lots of family issues related to faith transitions.

Talkeria Thirteen

Sunday Oct. 9, 2016, 3:00pm, 8744 Westpark, Houston, TX.  New time & place–my business office.  Hopefully, this new day and time will be more convenient for many.  If you have a hard time locating it, send a PM on FB.

Last week another amazing discussion was had.  At this point, over 30 different individuals have come to talk about Mormon issues.  From Mormon atheists to current Relief Society presidents, and all the way in between. No Mormon topic is forbidden.

For more details of what the Mormon Talkeria is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

Talkeria Twelve

Sunday Oct. 2, 2016, 2:30, 8744 Westpark, Houston, TX.  We’ve moved the time and place, this week.  This is my business office.  Hopefully, this new day and time will be more convenient for many.  If you have a hard time locating it, send a PM on FB.

Today’s GC has been very exciting.  Many reports of opposing votes, including one at the conference center.  My wife and I voted together at home, seated side by side, in front of my laptop.  More on all this later.

For more details of what the Mormon Talkeria is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

Talkeria Eleven

September 22, 2016, 7:00pm.

James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

Last week, four intrepid souls shared intimate concerns and issues.  One atheist, one questioning, one transitioned, on traditional believing.  No judgmentalism interferred. We shared problems, concerns, compassion, wisdom.  When all was said and done one Talkeria attendee had this to say, “We both really enjoyed the evening. This is one of the first times we’ve been able to discuss our situation openly with others. It was very therapeutic.”

Talkeria Times Ten

September 15, 2016, 7:00pm.  James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

Shocking that 2 1/2 months of Talkeria have already transpired.  With the release of the Mormon Stories podcast, there has been a ton of activity.

Talkeria Time #9

September 8, 2016,7:00pm.  James Coney Island, 11940 Southwest Frwy, Stafford, Texas.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

Last Thursay was like Christmas in September.   I gained a new perspective on my favorite holiday.  It’s going to make a difference on the next Dec. 25th.  This week I have a topic submitted by someone out of state.  This person is struggling in the church and is looking for input.  His wife has no idea that he has doubts.  Of course, he can’t discuss anything at church.  So, loniness and isolation has set in.

Talkeria Tonight #8

September 1, 2016, 7:00pm.  James Coney Island, 11940 Southwest Frwy, Stafford, Texas.  For more details of what this is all about, scroll down to “Original Post.”

Last Thursday was amazing.  7 people attended.  One from Utah, here on business.

Whether you are angry or at peace, at the start of your journey or years into it, whether you don’t have the courage to speak yet or are bursting to speak out, this is a safe space to talk.  Whether an active member (like me), inactive, resigned, or never been Mormon, you are welcome.

Talkeria #7

Next meeting, August 25, 2016, 7:00pm.   James Coney Island, 11940 Southwest Frwy, Stafford, Texas.  If you have any questions or problems regarding Mormon issues, please come.  Whether you are angry or at peace, at the start of your journey or years along it, whether you don’t have the courage to speak yet or are bursting to speak out, this is a safe space to talk.

Twenty-two different people have now attended our little Talkeria.  People from all across the spectrum:

Non-memeber & members: inactive, active non-believing, active believing, resigned, left to go to other churches, left to become atheist.  Current RS Pres, HPGL, Ward mission leader, several former bishops.

P.S. I buy the hot dogs!!!

Talkeria #6

Next meeting, August 18, 2016.  James Coney Island, 11940 Southwest Frwy, Stafford, Texas

What an amazing discussion in #5.  An active RS president & her husband, in the HP leadership joined us.  They sincerely wanted to know how to interact with those who have doubts without offending or pushing away.  The 5 other attendees had great feedback for them.

Total run down:

  • One in-active
  • One non-member spouse.
  • One resigned
  • One recently left
  • One active, transitioned faith
  • One active R.S. Pres
  • One active HP group leadership

Talkeria #5

Will be held Aug 4, 2016.  Same time.  Same place.  James Coney Island, 11940 Southwest Frwy, Stafford, Texas.

Last week, amazing and amazingly frank  discussion.  There were four attendees.  A pretty perfect number.  Two new.  Two veterans.  Here is the run down.

  • One active, traditional believing member
  • One active, with very nuanced belief
  • One active, non-believer.  Has YM calling.  Major concern:  authenticity
  • One ex-member.  Left church 20 years ago.  Major concern:  how to discuss church with adult children who are still active.

At this point, 16 different people have joined in the Talkeria discussions.

Talkeria #4

July 28, 2016, 7:00pm, James Coney Island, 11940 Southwest Frwy, Stafford, Texas.

14 people have now attended.  Many more have wanted to come.  Today, I received a heartfelt message from a very good friend.  I cried through most of it.  For the past 3 to 4 years, he has been wrestling with faith issues.  As many experience, it has been done in silence and loneliness.  His wife is aware of his struggles.  But, he doesn’t have the confidence to discuss with his parents, siblings or members of his ward.  He has witnessed all the judgmentalism so commonly leveled at those with doubts and questions.  Unfortunately, he lives far from Houston.  I wish he could visit in on our Talkeria.

If you are anywhere near my home town, & need to talk about Mormon issues, feel free to join us. -All My Best to ya’ll.

Talkeria #2

July  7, 2016, 7:00pm, James Coney Island, 11940 Southwest Frwy, Stafford, Texas.

Talkeria One was terrific.  Eight wonderful souls showed up.  Much needed talk ensued.

Original Post

Six weeks ago, I started this blog.  At the time I had no idea if anybody would be interested.  I was willing to write, even if I were to be the only reader.  To my pleasant surprise, as of this moment 11,765 views have been registered from 63 countries around the globe.  Thanks for reading.  I hope you have enjoyed, learned, or experienced new thoughts.  It’s certainly been a learning experience for me.  Your comments have been especially meaningful.

Tomorrow Night, Thursday, June 30, 2016, something new is in the offing.  It will be called The Mormon Talkeria.  YOU….are invited.  7:00pm at James Coney Island, 11940 Southwest Frwy, Stafford, Texas.  Of course, I know most of you can’t make it.   There might only be 3 of us in attendance, me, myself and Irene.  I’ll be sitting there from 7 to 9, in my gray hair and black, long sleeve shirt.  Oh, yeah, I’ll have pants on, too.  This is not a one time affair.  I plan to be there talking at the Talkeria for the next several Thursdays that I’m in town.

Gut-Wrench in the Closet

Over the past 2 years, I have undergone a gut-wrenching faith transition.  I am still a faithful member of the LDS church.  However, I look at the world much differently.  I say gut-wrenching because my journey has been accompanied by a good bit of anguish, pain, anger, disappointment and loneliness.  Navigation has been difficult for me…..and my family.

For the first 7 months, I thought that I was completely alone in searching out new truths.  Little did I know that there were, and are, many treading the same path.  But, that was not initially evident.  There was a part the LDS culture that I was naively unaware of.  Much of the history and doctrine of the Mormondom is forbidden to discuss at church.  Asking certain questions in public or in private yields judgment but no answers.

The suppression of honest discussion causes a number of unintended consequences.  I have personally experienced several.   I have also witnessed the difficult experience of others.  1 1/2 years ago, I started suggesting to my local ecclesiastical leaders that there was a need to find a way to discuss troubling issues.  As the months have passed, I have watched as more and more friends and family walk away from the church that they had once been so committed to.  All of them had basically grappled in private with their gut-wrenching faith transition.

So, absent any other venue for open & in-person discussion, I’m starting a Talkeria.  A casual sit-down to kindly and respectfully talk.

TopicsTalkeria Topics

If you find yourself in any of these situations, let’s talkeria.
  • LDS history and doctrine are troubling you, family members or friends.
  • You have a child who is doubting or has left the church.
  • You have a parent, sibling or friend who is doubting or has left the church.
  • Your faith has changed, and you are having difficulty interacting with family or friends
  • Your faith has changed and are having difficulty in your marriage.
  • The faith of your spouse has changed and you are having difficulty in you marriage.
  • You are gay, in or out of the closet.
  • You have a gay child, sibling or friend.

Mormon Talkeria

The Mormon Talkeria is meant for both believing Mormons, ex-Mormons and anybody in-between.  Whatever path a person choses or has chosen,  judgment has no place here. Discussions are not intended to try to sway  anyone to leave, stay or come back to church. Rather, this will be a place of support for the journey each has chosen.

I am not an expert at anything.  I’m certainly not a professional counselor.  That’s not the purpose of The Talkeria.  It’s simply a venue for talking face-to-face and friend-to-friend.

Recently, I was called in for Jury Duty.  Four hours at the courthouse.  Rounds of questioning by the prosecuting and defense attorneys.  Finally, the actually jurors were selected.  The judge turned to those of us who didn’t make the cut and said, “Thank you for your service.  Being a part of the jury selection process is very important to our system of justice.  We have found that the best way to discover the truth is through a jury.”  I was kind of blown away.  Twelve ordinary, untrained men and women from all walks of live, are the best way to determine truth.  Whatever The Mormon Talkeria turns into, it will just be ordinary, untrained men and women trying to ferret out the best course to take at this time in their life.

For the next few weeks, I plan on being at JCI every Thursday.  Me, myself, and anyone else.

Not in Houston?

Well, that’s pretty much 99.9% of everybody reading this.  But, if you would like to be a part of the discussion, feel free to send an issue my/our way.  We’ll chew on it at our little Talkeria and share whatever wisdom might pop out.

Taboo

***Warning–Adult Topic***

If offended by mature matters, pause your perusal NOW!!!   I mean it.

Quiet. Young woman with her finger on lips.

Masturbation

There you go. I’ve said it. I’ve said it out loud and in print. Whew!  When I became a man, at 62, I finally gained the courage to make this hitherto verboten verbalization. So, if you are under 62, or not adult yet…please pause your perusal, NOW.

In order to not overuse this provocative term, I will also refer to the subject as SS (self-satisfaction).

Background

In my religion, the youth are generally taught that masturbation is a sin.  Some bishops and their counsellors regularly pose the question, to young girls and boys, “Do you touch yourself down there?”  This starts at age 12 and continues until 18.  Queries regarding this sexual practice are made behind closed doors by an older adult male. The man and the child are alone.  No parent is present.  Usually, the parents are unaware that SS is being discussed with their child.  Almost universally, the adult leader asking the question is untrained in how to discuss sexual matters with a child. Often, a twelve year old’s first introduction to the term ‘masturbation’ is when he/she is questioned by their ecclesiastical leader.

Fortunately, at least I consider it fortunate, when I was growing up, no adult leader ever brought this subject up in a private interview.  For over 5 years, I served as a Mormon bishop.  During that time I never once asked anyone, adult or child, about SS.  It simply never entered my mind.  No direction or training was ever given by my ecclesiastical leaders that I should delve into such matters with the kids.

The purpose of this blog post is not to explore whether or not masturbation is a sin for young people.  But, I do have BIG concerns about the practice of adult men questioning 12 year old girls, behind closed doors, without a parent’s knowledge, permission, or presence. Frankly, it sounds creepy and inappropriate. But, again, that’s not the point of this treatise.

Adults

My real question is this: “For married people, is masturbation a sin?”  During my entire adulthood, which now spans 4 decades, I have never once heard this issue addressed.  You may be wondering, “Why do I care?”  Patience, my reasons are detailed further on.

Attempt #1:  My first attempt to find the answer was last summer. In priesthood, a men’s meeting held on Sunday, the topic of chastity came up. I said, “I have some questions about what the law of chastity entails.” Immediately, this response was given, “We don’t talk about details of forbidden activities relating to chastity. It can unnecessarily give people ideas.” OK.

Attempt #2:  Since, I’d been stopped in my tracks at church, I decided to ask for opinions in private.  To eleven friends and family, I posed this question, “For a married person, is masturbation a sin?  I was shocked at the results.  Remember, these eleven are all members of the LDS church.  Perhaps my friends and family are more liberal than most.

Results:
1 = Yes. It’s a sin.
5 = No. Some discomfort, not knowing exactly where the church stood.
5 = No. Categorically, not a sin.

Attempt #3:  A couple of weeks later, the lesson for the men’s meeting was going to focus on chastity.  After my prior experience, I wasn’t taking any chances. Once the teacher introduced the topic, I blurted out my question, “Is masturbation a sin if you are married?”  The instructor’s response, “I’m so glad you asked that.  I wanted to talk about it, but didn’t know how to bring it up.”  Amazingly, an open and frank discussion ensued.  I’m sure it was uncomfortable for many.  A semblance of a consensus was reached.  “Masturbation is not a sin, as long as you discuss it with your wife first.”  S…H…O…C…K…I…N…G   Only one person voiced an opposing opinion, “Like abortion is next to murder, I consider masturbation next to adultery.”   In attempts #2 & #3, the vast majority of LDS members believed SS was not a sin if married.

Attempt #4:  So far, I had only posed my query to rank-n-file church goers. Certainly, the leadership could give a definitive answer. NOPE.

Leader A:  “Why do you even care, Sam?”
Leader B:  Unwilling to give any answer to the question.
Leader C:  “I never ask about what goes on in a couple’s bedroom.”
Leader D:  “It doesn’t say anything in the manual.”
So, what the heck does that mean? Clear direction?  No way.  Sin or not sin?  It appears that nobody really knows.

Out of the eleven who I individually interviewed, 4 had been asked by a bishop or stake president if they engaged in SS. Wouldn’t that alone indicate that it’s a sin? Otherwise, it sounds perverse to ask about such a personal practice in a personal interview.

Why Do I Care?

Consider the following scenarios.

  1. It IS a sin. However, many members view SS as not a sin. Isn’t it important that we warn them? Sin has consequences. In this life and the next. Ultimately, we could lose our salvation. Big reason for the prophets to send a clear and unmistakable message…..It’s sinful.
  2. It is NOT a sin. In that case, it’s unfortunate that some members view masturbation as a SERIOUS sin.  A person engaged in a practice he views as sinful is subject to guilt, shame & depression. Why would we let a person suffer in silence when their behavior is not sinful?  That seems SUPER cruel.  Gigantic reason for the prophets to send a clear and unmistakable message…..It’s NOT sinful.
  3. It’s up to each individual to determine if it’s sinful or not. Yes, I have been told that.  Not sure that I understand it.  But, I kind of like the concept of God giving me agency to decide for myself.  Whatever I decide, He won’t hold it against me.  But, again, it seems like the message should be clearly stated by the leadership rather than speculated by the members.

Conclusion

We have made masturbation a Taboo topic.  Yet, it’s consequences are ambiguous. Balmy for some, brutal for others. So, why do I care?  It brings a little anger and a little teardrop, thinking that someone in my congregation is needlessly suffering guilt, shame & depression.

Mormons Supporting LGBT Community–Prayer Vigil

imageFriday’s Thirteen

June 17, 2016, a small group of Mormons organized and conducted a prayer vigil in response to the Orlando murders. It was held in a community clubhouse in Sugar Land, Texas.

Oh, what a night it was!  A little band of thirteen diverse men and women gathered together.  Mormons & former Mormons.  Believers & non-believers.  Gay & straight. One serving bishop & three former bishops.  Rainbow ribbons were prepared and donned by all.

imageWe sang, we cried, we laughed. We shared, we listened, we remembered.  Accompanied by Amazing Grace, the names of the 49 slain were read aloud.  A prayer was offered in memory of the departed, for healing of the wounded, and that all might unite in brotherhood as fellow citizens and human beings.

I was delighted with the turnout.  We sat in a compact & comfortable circle.  It made for an intimate setting that was conducive to poignant communication.  All who spoke expressed love, unity and support for our LGBT brothers and sisters.  All have close family, or friends, or both who are gay.

When our vigil ended, no one moved from their chairs.  When we did finally stir, conversations continued for another hour.  Hugs were common as we departed. Such a sweet meeting of friends, new & old.  One attendee described it as quaint.  In that case, I have a new respect and yearning for ‘quaint.’  The gay man, who none of us had met before, expressed great appreciation for the group’s support. He happens to be an active Mormon, serving as the executive secretary in his congregation.  Openly he recounted challenges he has faced.  I felt honored and trusted to hear his story.

One of my daughters made this comment, “Dad, there are lots of us who want to show love and support for those who are gay. But, we don’t know how.  Tonight, just sitting in the prayer vigil, I felt like I was doing something.  What else could I do?” I pointed to the rainbow ribbon on my chest and said, “wear one of these at church.”

Besides the ‘Friday Thirteen,’ over 30 additional well wishers from around the globe sent messages of strong support.  They related that their thoughts, prayers and hearts were with us in reaching out to the LGBT community. All their messages were read during the vigil.

From me, a Mormon

Now, if you are gay I’d like to express the feelings of my heart.
You not a lesser part of society.
I love you.
I love you without conditions.
With me you are safe.
I have your back.
I stand with you and for you.
Thank you for being my friend.

imageA Gay Friend Talks Me Down From the Ledge

Putting this vigil together had it’s difficulties.  It’s genesis occurred on a plane from Utah to Houston on Sunday evening. The terrible shooting had occurred early that morning.  Initially, my spirit was high.  It was a time of sadness, despair, and confusion.  It was also a time of need.  This was an opportunity to actively reach out to the LGBT community. Very special, was the chance to send a message of love and support to those in my own church who are gay, whether they have come out or not.

From Monday to Thursday, one difficulty after another presented itself.  By Thursday, evening, I was angry. My thinking went something like this:  Cancel the crumby vigil. Take ‘Mormon’ off the title.  Quit the Mormon church!!!

I reached out to several people. The response was either troubling or silence.
My frustration mounted.  Then, I called a gay friend. I had gotten to know him over 20 years ago as his bishop. Somehow, someway, he had managed to remain active until the church’s new gay policy was released in November 2015.  As a direct result, he has now left the church.  After a good and long discussion, I said, “Are you trying to talk me into staying with the church?” He responded, “No. I’ve really lost any interest in working for change within the church. That door has closed. Maybe you will be more successful. What I know is that your ribbon WILL touch somebody.”

That was the clencher. My treasured and true gay friend knows that I can give hope to some unknown fellow Mormon, simply by being in church with my rainbow.

Further encouragement came on Friday. Supportive communications were received from three of my local LDS leadership. They are all good men with good hearts.

My final message to my gay family, my gay friends & the gay community in general:      I will not forget you!!!

Heaven Prep 101: Tocubit is Invisible’s Cubit

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The Incredible Mr. Cubit

My blog barely began 1 month ago. Although still a novice, slowly I’m learning. The best bloggers in the business have given me some awesome advice. Host a guest author on your a post. Since their advice so nicely rhymed, I decided to take it the very next time.

Introducing my first guest author–The incredible Mr. Cubit. A man I became acquainted with merely 2 years ago. He has his faults. His logic is flawed. His perception & understanding mediocre. His grammar and composition sub-par. But…he has fascinating, novel, and unique ideas. Concepts that I have never encountered anywhere else.

He has been highly influential on my writing style. Except for his grim grammar & lousy logic, it’s often hard to tell his writing from mine. It was his prodding that finally pushed me to start blogging.  In fact, the very title of my blog was his brainchild. Enter Mr. Cubit . . .

Greetings from Cubit Land!!

Through a quirk of fate, my new friend, Sam, & I are very, very close in age. We have known each other for only a short time. In fact, exactly several months shy of 2 years and several months. I don’t have as much influence over him as he leads you to believe. For example, I tried to convince him not to describe my writing skills as sub-par. Although true, why tell anybody embarrassing truths. But, whatcha gonna do. Now you know. I write miserably about my masterful musings. By the way, it was I, who schooled Sam on the allure of alliteration.

Heaven Prep 101: Lesson #1.

In the humblest of my humble opinions, I fully believe that ALL my friends are going to heaven. And Sam’s friends, too. Which, of course, means all of you. You were heaven sent and you are heaven bent.

If you’ve done any foreign travel, you know it’s always wise to prepare. Especially, in the lingua franca of your destination. Soon, we will all journey to that country from which there is no return…..heaven. So, here’s lesson #1 in Heaven Prep: 101– A crash course in the spoken tongue of that celestial sovereignty.

Like Sam, I’m Mormon. As far as I know, we are the only religion in the world who possesses a portion of the heavenly language. It’s not much. Just one complete sentence and one word. Under penalty of death, I cannot tell you the sentence.

But, that one word, I can, and will, reveal. One hundred and eighty-one years ago, Deity deigned to dispense this single, singular, sententious, celestial word to the world. It’s the one and only true word from the heavenly language that to earthlings is known. Wow. How important must this extraordinary small set of letters be?  The ONLY utopian utterance we have.

It is found in the most profound of our renowned holy writ.

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In the Pearl of Great Price, in the Book of Abraham, in Facsimile #2, Explanation #1 it’s clearly declared: “The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies ONE DAY TO A CUBIT.”

Just let the profundity of this sentence distill upon your soul like the dew of heaven. ONE DAY TO A CUBIT. That knowledge alone changes lives. Gives purpose. Restores hope.

One day to a cubit.
One day = a cubit.
Day = Cubit.
Today = Tocubit.

The historical preservation of this Kolobian word is also stunning. The Book of Abraham was written by Abraham himself over 2,000 years ago. Hidden in Egyptian hieroglyphics, in an Egyptian papyrus, in an Egyptian mummy in the Egyptian sand. Awaiting, the prophetic calling of the first successful Egyptian translator . . . Joseph Smith.

My friendly friends of Sam, you are now one heavenly WORD closer to fitting-in in heaven. Remember, Oh Remember, Day = Cubit.

Heaven Prep 101: Lesson #2.

You and me, and probably Sam, are destined to become heavenly residents. It might come in handy if we know who the Head Man is. Well, of course, we know who He is. But will we recognize Him? What the heck does He look like? How the heck am I going to catch on to His countenance? I have never seen Him. You’ve never seen him. Even Sam hasn’t seen him. What the heck! Nobody I know has seen him. OK. I just realized I’m talking about heaven and keep using heck. Makes me sound like a redneck, so I’ll put it in check.

God’s appearance? I forthwith share with you my favorite description. It fits perfectly with your, mine and Sam’s life experience. The source is the amazing Apostle Paul of New Testamental fame.

Paul gave his instructive & insightful description of God’s appearance on at least 3 occasions. Let’s put that in perspective. We know that drinking tea prevents us from going to the highest of heavens. Yet, that factoid is only alluded to once in our canon. How about ‘Day = Cubit.’ It, also, is only mentioned in one clear and forthright scripture. And, now, we all know how important that concept is. But, Paul delivers God’s physical description in 3, count ’em, 3 unequivocally biblical verses. This must be important stuff.

Speaking of the almighty, in Colossians 1:15, Paul pronounces Him “The invisible God.”

The Invisible God. That explains everything. Thank…you…Paul! No wonder none of us has ever seen Him. He’s invisible. I love the scriptures!!!

Incidentally, there was only one letter written to the Colossians. It is surmised that they really didn’t like the idea of an invisible god. So, Paul paused his penpalship with Colossian peoples. For your edification, here are the two other references regarding invisibility: 1 Tim 1:17; Hebrews 11:27

Back to the whole point of lesson #2. How to recognize deity? Paul has clearly clued us in. If we see Him, it’s not Him. HE’S INVISIBLE.  That’s it.

At this point, you are SUPER prepared to enter heaven.

Titling a Blog

Initially, Sam balked at my suggestion. After all, nobody, except the most studious of scripture scholars, would have a twinkling of an inkling of it’s intent. But, now you know, don’t you.

Tocubit is Invisible’s Cubit = Today is God’s Day.

May we go and make it His.

With Abounding Affection, Mr. Cubit

Gay Underwear

Toddler

Daughter Tries Big Girl Underwear

Long, long ago in the exotic and dreamy land of Texas, my wife and I raised 6 gorgeous daughters.  Our third child was almost done with diapers.  She was so ready.  It had not escaped her notice that the 2 older sisters wore something very different around their waists.  Not a clunky diaper like her.  Something big kids wear.  Something she was determined to wear, too.  One day, this bouncy ball of energy confidently strode into the living room.  No baby underwear this time.  As an eager & innocent child, she had plundered her sisters’ underwear drawer.  There she was, regally sporting plural panties.  That’s right.  Not just one pair, but three, pulled up on her little body.  But, wait, there’s more.  My cute toddling girl didn’t quite have the knack.  She had put both legs through one leg hole and pulled all three panties up over her waist.  Her wide & properly proud smile, was met by my ear-to-ear grin.  I was working with all my mightiest might to not break out laughing.  I’m chuckling as I write.  Chuckling at the vision of two tiny legs in one hole, with the other openings dangling at her side.

My daughter’s first attempt at new, big girl attire, was memorable and fun.  With a slight correction from mom, she got it right from then on.

This past Sunday, I made my first attempt at something I’ve wanted to do for over 12 months.  Probably, like my little girl from years ago, I got it a bit wrong, on my first try.  Hopefully, with a little help from mom, I’ll get it right from here on.

Supreme Satisfaction

Over one year ago, a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all states.  My church, the Mormon Church, believes that marriage should be only between a man and a women.  It had actively, and for a while, effectively, campaigned against gay marriage.  Lots of money and muscle were poured in.

A few weeks after this landmark decision, our highest church leaders sent a letter to every congregation in the United States.  Instructions were given to gather all the adults together on a specified Sunday, have the letter read, and then open the floor for questions and discussion.

When the designated day of discussion arrived, a distinguished visitor did too.  In the Mormon Church there are a number of high leaders called General Authorities.  Only a few years have passed since one of our own was called to this lofty position.   A marvelous man by the name of Gifford Nielsen.  He and his sweet wife had lived in our neighborhood and raised their kids in our congregation.  They are beloved and well known by all.  By the way, we refer to a General Authority as ‘Elder.’

The letter was read.  Questions were raised.  Elder Nielsen stood to direct the discussion.  It was all good.  Interesting.  Informative.

As we considered issues regarding gay people, my heart became heavy.  I wanted to do something, but didn’t know how.  So, I asked a question that resembled a statement:

“Over the years, several of my friends have been gay. But, at the time, I had no idea. They may not have totally understood where they were at, either.  In every case, we lost touch. They just disappeared from sight. Years later, when we reconnected, I discovered that they had come out as gay. Some were divorced. Some never married. Some were still married. All had suffered from rejection, depression, shunning, fear and loss. In every case, I regretted that I had not been there to support my dear friends during this dark, difficult, and lonely period. But, none of them had any confidence in the loyalty of church friends. I don’t want that to EVER happen again. Somehow I want to send the message to all in my circle of acquaintance that I love and accept them if they are gay, no matter what!”

Elder Nielsen’s response was beautiful and direct, “That’s exactly the message the church is sending, that we love everybody.”

His words have haunted me for these past 12 months.  What I desperately wanted to do was send a message of love and acceptance to all in my circle of association.  Someone, that I know is gay and has not come out yet.  I don’t know who he or she is. But, I want them, to know, without any doubt, that I am a true and loyal friend.  Gay or straight has no bearing, whatsoever, on my affection and respect for them.  Never again, do I want to see a friend suffer alone because he did not trust the faithfulness of my friendship.

Rainbow Ribbon

Ribbonized

And, then, a way forward materialized.  Some weeks ago, a few women with concerns like mine, encouraged as many as they could, to wear a rainbow ribbon to church.  Its purpose would be to send the very message that Elder Nielsen had voiced last year.  The same message that the church wants to send.  Hopefully, these good tidings would especially be seen and sensed by those who are struggling to figure out their identity.  My church attire now contains the comprehensive color of my rainbow ribbon.

Dad Tries Big Boy Underwear

I took the ribbon one step further.  Like my daughter’s donning of 3 pair of underwear, I might be about to, metaphorically, cause a similar comical stare.  My first attempt to address a large group of friends, with the hope of giving hope to the hopeless.

In the LDS church (Mormon Church), the first Sunday of every month is reserved for a special type of service.  It’s called Testimony meeting.  No one is scheduled to speak.  The sacrament (communion) is served.  Then, the balance to the meeting is open to anyone who wishes to share their spiritual feelings.

Just a little nervous, I sat in the pew with my colorful rainbow pinned in prominent contrast to my black shirt.  I had not planned to ‘bear testimony.’   As I sat with the grand kids and listened to the heartfelt testimonies, my heart started to thump…in my throat!  It was urging me on, to not let a prime opportunity pass.  Elder Nielsen’s message of love rattled in my brain.  Off to the podium I confidently strode, with all my queasy uneasiness.

I related the Supreme Court’s pronouncement.  Told of my friends who had come out. Shared our General Authority’s concise and comely counsel.  Quoted the Book of Mormon, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.  Quoted Jesus, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.”  Not unto the richest, or most respected, or best looking, or most popular.  Unto the LEAST.  Then we have done it unto Jesus.

Then this, “I love these teachings of Jesus.  And, I’m sending a message with my colorful ribbon, that I love everyone in our congregation.  No matter what your situation.  No matter if someone comes out as different from others.  I’m here.  Never again should one of us suffer in loneliness.  We are all a loving people.  I love and support you.”

It’s a simple message, right?  A message needed so badly by a somebody so precious.  A treasured somebody, who I may never know.  A somebody yearning for a glimpse of healing hope.

Now, I hope that my mom, or my friends, will help me make necessary corrections to my message.  My little girl got her undies right.  I want to tidy up my good tidings.  And convey them over and over and over again.

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

Empty Chairs

“There’s a grief that can’t be spoken

There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.

Oh my friends, my friends, forgive me
That I live and you are gone.
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Friends have left and friends are leaving.
Why, oh why, am I so sad?

For five years, a good friend sat at my side as counselor to me, his bishop. Years later he came out.  No friends he could count on. Now, he’s gone.

My close siblings with gay children.  November came.  Now, they’re gone.

Ten years ago, a leader’s baptismal talk touched me. Passionate, poignant, & perceptive.  I still remember what he had to say.  Recently, hidden facts of history came out.  Now, he’s out.  His wife and he are gone.

Twenty-five years ago, I was bishop. A single man, returned missionary, came in to say he was gay.  My clueless counsel was to “keep coming”.  My clueless action was to take none.  Every Sunday, I watched for him.  Any Sunday I saw him, my heart melted with joy and relief.  He’s still here!  For twenty-five years he managed to stay. November came. Now, he’s gone.

A former bishop & his wife, members most of their life. Hidden facts of history came out. Now, they’re out.

This weekend I saw an old friend from 20 years ago. History came out, her husband’s out. Out of the church, not the family.  She stays for her kids.  But, for how long?   I’m concerned that like her husband, she’ll soon be gone.  Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere for her to discuss, and for that she longs.

Several more examples, I could give, of friends and family who have left. And, left in just the past 2 years, many since November’s veer.

Why does it sadden me?

That they have chosen a lesser path?  No, I don’t believe that.  If there is a heaven to get to, that’s exactly where my friends who have gone will go.  I wish them joy & godspeed on the road they have chosen. This is a happy thought for me.

But, tears well up.  I miss the days when they were reliably in neighboring chairs and tables. Chairs of instruction. Tables of counsel. Chairs of service. Tables of camaraderie, community, & cordiality.  Now, empty chairs at empty tables. My friends are gone.

Perhaps, I’m sad from seeing little done to help my friends stay.  Questions and doubts must be halted and hidden.  “A grief that can’t be spoken.”  Or worse, a grief dismissed as if merely token.  That is, if they muster the courage to be outspoken.

It’s definitely sad, that one’s orientation is better undisclosed. Love spoken for those closeted unknowns, is proscribed from our expression. After all, in the church none are homosexual.  Another “grief that can’t be spoken.”

It makes me sad that I can’t do more to ease the emptying of chairs at tables.

In reality, I am THE only part of the puzzle that I can direct and control.  My sadness is causing me to drastically reform my thoughts and actions.  Stand silently on the sidelines?…..No Longer!  I’m going to stand up for what I have been taught is right, all my life.  What I believe in my heart, is right and just and fair.

I’m willing to discuss, to empathize, to understand, to reach out.  I’m willing to follow Jesus and love unconditionally.  At least, attempt to love in His way.  More of my friends are going to leave. That’s OK. But, I want them to know that neither one of us has abandoned the other. We are still friends. Probably, better friends for having supported each other, wholeheartedly, in our respective journeys.

Oh my friends, my friends, forgive me
That I STAY and you are gone.
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on.