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Archive for November, 2016

Sunday Sundries: The Bone Collection

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The Holiday’s have begun here at home. After a slow start to the weekend, today comes to an end, with the Christmas Tree up, lit and decorated. A yearly tradition begins with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on tv and decorating the tree.

Sadly, when we started, and we tested the lights we have been using for the last decade or so, some of them did not make it through the last storage period. So we tossed them.

Now we are planning Christmas Shopping strategies. There is a neat retro shop that has all kinds of retro 80’s stuff… There are two of these shops in separate shopping malls downtown that I know of, and I think we are going to go for a Retro Christmas this year for the family. That should be very interesting because all the sisters and brothers in law are in the same age bracket as I am … (read: Pushing fifty)

I have made a dent in my recently purchased books read. There are about six books “in process” on my bedside table. I am slowly still reading Andrew Sullivan’s Far and Away, and a new book by Ben Ehrenreich, and a few others.

My Kathy Reich’s books came a few days ago from Amazon, so they were pushed to the top of the pile. Last night I finished reading “The Bone Collection,” a book of short stories and novella’s that have been compiled into a single volume.

When I began reading the Kathy Reich’s series, the Temperance Brennan series, you just don’t get investigation stories, you also get Tempe’s social, family and love life with them. And I’ve been reading her books for a long time, trying to follow ALL the story lines from book to book.

On her last write Tempe had been condo shopping with her beau, Andrew Ryan. And he had asked her to marry him.

She has not answered yet.

I have been waiting for the next installment to see what she had decided. And was pleasantly surprised when she touched the subject in the short story “Bones on Ice” about an investigation of a climber from Mount Everest who dies and is eventually brought off the mountain for death investigation.

Really, it was one sentence … But it was a healthy sentence.

The Bone Collection does not disappoint. Reading this book, put the other early books in perspective, knowing how she was invited into her first case, and the why, and what happened, that led her from archeology to her present job as criminal forensic anthropologist.

Temperance had a hard journey into the force in the first several books. It took a long time for Tempe to find her way, and to also find respect as a female lead in a male driven work environment. She eventually grew into her own.

The second book I bought was Cross Bones. I bought it because it had a very recent publish date and I thought it was new. But as I sat with it last night, reading the first chapter, i was having a case of Deja Vu… Me thinks I read this before …

I got out of bed and searched my library and sure enough, the book was in my already read library against the bedroom wall.

UGH, what a let down. I was hoping for some fresh current news about Temperance Brennan. Now I will just have to wait for the next installment.

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After the Elder/Sister shake up last week, we learned that several of our LDS Elders and Sisters had been moved to other locations and cities, and I had been told who was coming in to fill those positions. Tonight, I actually got a phone call from my new Elder team, with formal introductions, so we will meet for the first time tomorrow night.

This was the best piece of news to come this weekend.

I was feeling a bit abandoned.

THERE ARE ONLY 28 SHOPPING DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS …

 


Yo Soy Cubano … VIVA CUBA LIBRE !!!

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Fidel is dead …

It comes as no surprise that Cubans in many places are celebrating the death of a dictator who’s abuses towards his own people and the world, are not forgotten.

I have a specific experience of the Cuban people, having grown up in Miami in the 1970’s. I was just a small boy in elementary school, when the Mariel Boat lifts began. Hundreds of thousands of people, in my lifetime, made the treacherous journey across the Florida straits, to land on the shores of Florida, attempting to escape Fidel’s grip.

Generations, three generations, in fact, and their children today, in Florida have been waiting for this day to come to pass. You cannot imagine, well, maybe you can, thousands of Cubans on rafts, in boats, and on anything that would float, on the water, trying to flee communism into freedom.

Today, we have seen Syrian and other refugees fleeing conflict regions trying to find safety and peace. Those numbers are much higher. But back in the days, the 1970’s through the 2000’s, the numbers of people fleeing the Communist Island were comparable.

It came to pass, during those days, as Cubans were coming to Miami, specifically, that Miami went through a serious accommodation phase. I did not know the specifics of what was going on, suffice to say, we all watched, daily, people coming to our shores.

It went that when we moved to South Miami, and I began second grade, certain changes came to our educational curriculum. Families had a choice to make. Their kids could stay in English studies, and not begin accommodations, OR kids could join in cultural education and learn Spanish as a second language and adopt the cultural shift.

My brother stayed in the English system. I did not.

Over the rest of my life, Spanish was an integral part of my education. I know that it took more than a decade to totally immerse in the language. And Spanish education remained throughout my college and Seminary years.

Every day we studied our English subjects, and we had Spanish lessons, in a separate portable classroom. As I grew up, and moved from elementary school, into Junior High, Spanish was becoming a requirement. By educational standards, every student HAD to have Spanish as a second language, it was a required element in your studies.

By the time I reached High School, every student had to have Spanish in order to Graduate from High School, and to further get a job in the city. Miami became a melting pot of Cuban, Caribbean, and other Spanish nations. The Cuban culture and its people brought to us a way of life.

A way of life that I loved and adored.

While Cuban’s were fleeing Communism, they had found life and freedom in Miami, but it was NOT an easy life. Citizenship was something refugees wanted the most. And the United States did not make that effort very easy.

At ALL…

But we all did what we could to guarantee the people who came to us, had everything that they might need, to the best of our abilities. My father was a WHITE Card Carrying American, who could not be bothered to be kind and/or accommodating.

I disagreed with him every step of the way.

Over the years, Little Havana was built in Miami proper. A very fertile and prosperous community came to life. And I have to tell you that Miami, as a cultural hub, was the best place to grow up.

I lived in two places at the same time. Spanish IS my second language, even now that I live in Montreal. When I moved here, I found that Spanish was spoken in many places here and my ears were attuned to the language. Over the past decade and some, my French is getting better.

The difference of living in Miami and being immersed in Spanish was different for me, moving to Montreal and living in a French province. When you are not immersed, (read: using French all the time, all day long) immersion is a slow process.

Growing up in Miami, being immersed in the second language, every day, in school, in the community, at work, and in life, you learned much harder and it was much easier.

When I reached Seminary studies I was attending church in Spanish. And let me tell you, that was one of the brightest times in my life. If you were going to be employed in Miami, you must have had Spanish as a second language. Every other day was the second language. Every day we studied Spanish, and we had chapel, readings and mass in Spanish.

Many years later, when I got sick, and returned to Miami for treatment, it came to pass that the community I walked back into was entirely Spanish. For years and years, the people who cared for me, helped me survive and treat me, were all Spanish.

It was the best healthcare system I had ever seen, at that time.

For all my years, growing up in Miami, I learned what it meant to be Cuban. I learned what it meant to be proud of who you were. I would not be the man I am today without all of that cultural experience under my belt. Growing up in a cultural melting pot was absolutely a positive experience for me.

The Cuban people were connected to their homeland and the relatives they left behind on the island. The movement of monies back and forth were problematic. And travel to the Cuban Island was forbidden.

I knew how to get Americans to Cuba, outside the rules.

I was a travel agent in high school and college. And we used to have hand written airline tickets, before automation came on line. I had several travelers come to me to ask me to get them to the island. One could not travel from Miami to Cuba, directly. You had to make the trip Indirectly.

With hand written tickets, that was very easy. In order to get to Cuba, you had to use a second port of entry. Which meant, you could fly from Miami to somewhere else, local, on one ticket. Then fly from point B to Cuba on a second ticket, just as long as Cuba and the United States were not ticketed together. The same way on the return trip.

Problem solved …

There was a Cuban travel agency that was located right near our office, where I used to translate and process Cuban documentation to get Cubans to the island I did that work gladly until their office was fire bombed and destroyed.

Where there was a need, we went out of our ways, to find a solution, even if it flouted the legal system. I guess there was a thrill in being subversive.

The United States has not made it easy for Cuban’s who still come to the U.S. today. All with the Wet Foot / Dry Foot policy, which stated that if you made it to Florida and landed on solid ground without being caught, you could stay, and usually they would end up in a refugee camp, before they were processed into Miami. In the other case, if you got caught at sea, on the way, you would be sent back and repatriated back to Cuba.

That ninety mile stretch of ocean is treacherous, especially during hurricane season.

The Cuban people have been waiting for this day to come. And we are all glad for it.

With tensions between the U.S. and Cuba thawing, we hope that President Elect Trump does the right thing where the Cuban people and the island are concerned.

We cannot move backwards, we have worked too hard to be dialed back.

VIVA CUBA LIBRE !!!

 


Thursday – Israel is Burning

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About 80,000 people have been told to evacuate their homes as wildfires swept into Israel’s third largest city of Haifa. The fires follow a two-month drought and are being fanned by strong winds in the north of the city. Wildfires are also threatening homes near Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

If you pray … Now would be a good time to do so. This is NOT a good situation at all.

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It was a full day of “things to do” here at home. And once again, I missed the parade. I had other things to do, after I had decided to force myself out of bed, because I would rather had slept in, but there were chores to do.

I am quite efficient when it comes to chores and shopping and cleaning all at the same time. I drop the laundry in to wash, i come back and scrub the bathroom and vacuum the apartment. By that time it is time to dry. Once the dryer is started, I have sixty minutes.

I change up and go do my grocery shopping, and return home with 17 minutes to spare. I fold my laundry and have the rest of the day free to do whatever comes to mind.

A common question that is tossed back and forth between Rafa and myself is:

What are you reading ???

I got three new books this week:

  • The Suitors – by Ben Ehrenreich, a retelling of the Odyssey
  • The Bone Collection – by Kathy Reichs – Highly anticipated read
  • Cross Bones – by Kathy Reichs – another Highly anticipated read

This week the news came from the Mission President, after our one young man returned home to Idaho on Monday, that a good number of our Montreal NDG team is being broken up and scattered to all points. My second Elder who was on my team has been moved to Lasalle, at the end of the Green Line. Another Elder from the Mandarin side is going to Ottawa. And one of our Sisters is moving to the Singles Ward, up in Outremont.

I know who is replacing my team at the moment, but I am awaiting introductions and to ask for an appointment to see the Mission President myself. Hopefully we can reach some kind of agreement or consensus. We shall see.

So to be honest, I am in Spiritual Limbo at the moment. I came all this way with a certain team of young men, only to have everything be ripped apart by ending missions and moving people from here to there.

My books from Deseret Books are still in the pike.

Tonight we heard some good wisdom from a visitor from out of town, who is here for the Winter. Instead of fleeing to somewhere warm in semi-retirement, he came here instead. Like he said, Montreal is an infectious city. Once you visit, you WILL return, and most likely STAY.

The numbers of members with MANY YEARS going BACK OUT is a problem. Just as well
The numbers of members with LITTLE TIME going BACK OUT is also a problem.

I’ve spoken of this before. And tonight we heard one reason why old timers go back out and drink/drug again …

They (read: Old Timers) have TOO MANY YEARS, AND NOT ENOUGH DAYS.

They tend to forget, after so long, what the feeling felt like to have their last drink, or what that last hangover felt like, or what their first day sober looked like.

The other side to that coin is this … People who suffer catastrophic illnesses like Cancer or something along those lines, they get sick, they have an operation or chemo or treatment of some sort, some survive and some do not.

It is common for sober people who have been through the mill to one day just say:

Fuck It … And they drink again. After what I have been through A drink isn’t going to kill me. I survived a particular illness so I get a dispensation …

My friend Togani took his 34 year cake from a friend. I saw some friends and arranged for my chip to be gotten and to plan my cake in a couple of weeks.

It was a good day.

 

 


Sunday Sundries – 12 Years of Marriage

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The last of the double digit temperatures for this season came and went over the weekend. And as the sun set, a chill blew in, with rain falling, it began to snow. So as it was twelve years ago, when we gathered at the Concordia Chapel for our wedding, it was snowing that night as well

It was a quiet day today, which we spent in the warmth of bed this evening for a couple of hours nap, before dinner.

Friday night, we sat an uber packed house. That bodes well for the upcoming season. It was a good night, and for the first time in a very long time, the two Jeremy’s were sitting at the same table.

There are only TWO Jeremy’s in the Montreal English Sober Community.

After the proceedings, we all went out for hot chocolate and conversation. We are winding up for my cake on December 9th. Rafa is trying to triangulate his schedule with ours, so that he can come up for my cake.

This evening, hubby and I went out for a classy dinner at Baton Rouge. It was snowing like mad, and it was cold. Dinner was great. We planned our Christmas Shopping strategy, figuring out what we were going to do for family Christmas.

This was the gang seven for the wedding party. Matt, Nate, Ryan, Hamish, hubby, myself and Clay.And the traveling Monkey made an appearance.

We have all grown up in many ways, this little intrepid group of guys. We could not ask for better friends in the world.

Tomorrow is Family Night. Hopefully the snow won’t be too deep come the morning.

 

 


Deseret Books – Utah

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American Idol runner-up David Archuleta surprised fans in 2011 when he announced that he was putting his music career on hold to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In David Archuleta: Called to Serve, see the pop star proselyting on the streets of Chile, hear why he decided to serve, and how his faith directs every decision in his life.

David Archuleta: Called to Serve is an inspiring look into how serving others changed forever the life of one of the world’s brightest stars.

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“Some things simply matter more than others,” writes Robert L. Millet in his foreword to this landmark book. “Even some doctrines, though interesting and fun to discuss, must take a backseat to more fundamental and foundational doctrines. It is just so with the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement is the central act of human history, the pivotal point in all time, the doctrine of doctrines.”

With The Infinite Atonement, Brother Tad R. Callister offers us what may be the most comprehensive, yet understandable, treatment of the Atonement in our day. He thoughtfully probes the infinite scope of this “great and last sacrifice,” describing its power and breadth and explaining how it redeems us all.

Using the scriptures and the words of the prophets, Brother Callister explores the Savior’s divinity and the depth of his love for mankind. He explains the blessings that flow from the Atonement, providing insight into the resurrection, repentance, and the gifts of peace, motivation, freedom, grace, and exaltation. He explains the relationship of justice and mercy and the importance of ordinances. Through discussing the effects of the fall of Adam and our individual sins, he reminds us in a powerful way of the incalculable debt of gratitude we owe Christ for his unparalleled offering.

“An attempt to master this doctrine requires an immersion of all our senses, all our feelings, and all our intellect,” Brother Callister writes, “Given the opportunity, the Atonement will invade each of the human passions and faculties….The Atonement is not a doctrine that lends itself to some singular approach, like a universal formula. It must be felt, not just ‘figured;; internalized, not just analyzed….The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most supernal, mind-expanding, passionate doctrine this world or universe will ever know.”

With clarity, testimony, and understanding, The Infinite Atonement teaches us rich and wonderful truths about this “doctrine of doctrines.” and elevates our spirits as we contemplate the perfect love of Him who gave all that we might receive all.

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As the latter days grow later and later, opposition, complacency, and uncertainty can cloud our view and bog down our steps. Whether we are new converts or lifelong Church members, sincerely trying to follow Christ in today’s fear-filled world can make us feel acutely aware of how far we have yet to go.

How, then, do we stand steady in such a world while continuing to move with surety toward the “better world” the Lord promises his true followers (see Ether 12:4)?

In this candid book full of personal stories and rich doctrine, Elder Bruce C. Hafen helps us think and feel in fresh, deep ways about faith, reason, and other elements of a well-anchored testimony — one that will stabilize, orient, and energize the disciple’s quest for that “better world” while “abounding in good works” in this one. The book shows how developing such faith is a process, not an event — a process that includes overcoming the snares and stagnations that punctuate our life’s paths.

Elder Hafen here teaches us how we can again feel movement and find joy in the journey, with both anchor and sail so well set that “the furious wind” that blows “upon the face of the waters” actually hastens us “toward the promised land” (Ether 6:5).

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This new order of Books and Movies are on their way to Montreal. I am really excited to read these two books and see David’s film. I am hoping to bring it to Family Night for our little group to see when it gets here.


Thursday: Celebrations

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Heavenly Father hears your prayers, as He utters them from your mouth.

Heard from our speaker this evening.

Today was a very good day. Coming off my discussion last night, my resolve is renewed and I feel very good about that. You cannot be ALL IN and have doubts that might derail forward spiritual movement.

I trust my Elders when they tell me that all is well, and will be well, as long as I stay on the beam with Heavenly Father.

Tonight, was a great night as well, as one of my guys celebrated his TWO year cake at St. Matthias. Two is a big year, because, we give a silver oval chip that is a tradition in our community. The silver chip differs from the routine bronze medallion. We give the silver chip in an encouragement for the recipient, to stay the course, and one day, One Day at a Time, will eventually make their ten year anniversary.

When we get to ten years, they give us back tat silver chip they have been carrying for the past eight years, and the chip gets engraved with the recipients personal message, then it is dipped in Gold. And on their ten year anniversary they get their chip back.

New, Engraved and Gold Dipped.

There was much conversation and lots of cake, as there were two other anniversaries celebrated as well. It was a very good night indeed.

We heard a young man share tonight, and he hit all the right points.

We don’t often hear of young people who take as well as others. Before the meeting we talked about how we began and what we had to do to get sober. For the little group in our discussion before the meeting, we all took to service right off the bat. We did what ever was said, or merely suggested, Highly Suggested.

  • We made coffee – thereby meeting others at the coffee pot to inquire if they liked our coffee.
  • We set chairs and tables – Because you cannot have a meeting without either.
  • We found a sponsor we trusted, implicitly.
  • We used our phones and we called as suggested. Not many people can make a simple phone call. The 200 pound phone is too heavy. Cell phone weigh almost nothing today, and make communication immediate, where ever you are.
  • We worked our steps, to the best of our ability.
  • We got involved in the area work, via committees and the Help Line, because you never know when you answer that phone, you could save a life.
  • We went to meetings.
  • Some came through rehabs and hospitals
  • But in the end, what we put into early sobriety, paid out huge dividends for years to come.
  • We did all this gladly, and we found that everything we really need can be found IN the ROOMS. We have the BEST return on investment in the world.
  • The real world truly misses out on everything that we can access by just going to a meeting and asking for help.
  • It is the ASKING for help which is the teacher of Humility.
  • A.A. might not be for everyone, but for those who stuck around, it is a resounding success and life changing journey.

The purpose of the rooms, is to help you kick the alcohol problem. What most do not expect, in the life changing work that also takes place along the way. The second purpose of the rooms is to help you find a Power Greater than Yourself.

The book tells us that we should Pray. Because there are prayers in the book, not many think about until they read certain passages. But prayer is SO important. Because our sobriety and our spiritual well being is truly CONTINGENT on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

I renewed my commitment to my fellow who took his cake. We set down some new ground rules for the next little while to get him reconnected to the work, the phone and us meeting often. He faces certain challenges that we have been working through for the last two years. And too much time has gone by, with him skating by because he has a bust busy life.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the next portion of his sober journey. And we are going to attack it from all sides.

More to come.

 


Wednesday: Missionary Update

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My Elder Team. Elder Sorenson to the left, and Elder Christensen to the right. Tonight we said our goodbyes to Elder Christensen, who leaves for Idaho on Monday. These two young men are wise beyond their young years.

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I got together with my team this evening. And we talked for a good long while about being forged in fire, and how that plays out in our lives. If we are a piece of metal, in the black smith’s hands, and he fires that metal and begins to form it, Heavenly Father does that with us as well.

Our lives are not meant to stay the same all the time. Life is about learning and being formed and reformed in His hands. Sometimes that hammer comes down and the hit can be rather hard on us. But if we allow that reformation to take place, we grow.

But we must allow for that space to be made in ourselves.

Adversity comes, and Adversity goes. Sometimes it is a quick hit and we move on, and other times, the hit is long and sustained, and there is something we need to learn, something we need to do, or there is someone we need to be with.

People who have faced serious adversity usually see the world and themselves in ways that most normal people cannot comprehend, unless that happens to them personally.

I am in the firing forge right now. And we, as a team, have decided that we are going to keep moving forwards, together. Even with the current state of decrees set down, in my case, we believe that there is hope.

Elder Christensen said that there have been too many coincidences to ignore that hand of Heavenly Father in our midst.

So we forge on wards.

We intend to meet with the Mission President together in the coming weeks for a serious sit down discussion. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

It all begins with amicable discussion. If you want things to change, one needs to e able to sit down and talk about what needs to be changed.

 


Monday: You Cannot Enter

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What a difference a day makes …

Yesterday I was talking about Heavenly Father and the church and all that was good in my life and how “on track” I was, heading towards the finish line, as one of my Elders, leaves for home, in Idaho, next Tuesday.

I have been the subject of high level talks in the Church hierarchy. Over the weekend while we were all at the Stake Conference, my name came up in discussion between my Elder team and the Mission President.

Tonight, after family night, I inquired about that discussion.

Eyes turned downwards, and they broke the news to me, and this is what was said.

My Gay Marriage, my On Paper Legal Marriage in the Province of Quebec, Marriage is unacceptable. In order for me to become a card carrying Mormon member, baptized with all the privileges due … I would have to end my marriage and get an ANNULMENT.

In a word, well two words … ABSOLUTELY NOT …

I knew this was going to be the sticking point. I just knew it. But I was holding out hope, and giving my hope more power than I usually give my hope, because I know how ALL IN I can be and what happens when I commit to ALL IN, I get my heart broken.

Well, my heart is broken tonight.

I am very saddened that my Young Elder Christansen will end his mission next week, and my journey will be incomplete.

Heavenly Father has a plan, I’m not sure what that plan is. I’ve been encouraged to follow through with my studies and prayer life and allow Heavenly Father to do what He is going to do, because I am ALL IN.


Saturday: Part 1, Voices of Hope – Levi S.

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I love Levi’s testimony. It brought me great peace and spoke to my heart. The path to Heavenly Father is there, even if we don’t see it right away. He will show us the way.

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I think the thing that I want people to learn and feel from my story is that the Savior really does love all of us, and despite the challenges in our lives and the mistakes that we make, He is there for us; He is there to put his arms around us when we need Him to be there for us.

I was born in Boise Idaho and grew up in Meridian Idaho. I was born into a pretty big family. There is one girl, then six boys, and then another girl. I was the sixth boy in a row and so I grew up with a lot of brothers and it was a lot of fun.

Growing up though I did feel different from most of my brothers, and I definitely felt different from the people I went to school with, the people I had Sunday school with especially – I felt very different and very distant from them. I always felt like I wanted to be accepted by them and especially by the people I went to Church with. I felt like I could never understand why I didn’t feel accepted by them and why when we were in Sunday school I sat on one side of the classroom and they sat on the other side. I could never understand why I was treated so differently.

I think by the time I started middle school I really started to notice that although some of my friends had crushes on girls and girls that they liked, I had girls that I wanted to be friends with who I thought were great, but I didn’t really have a desire to date them. Even in middle school I would talk about, oh I have a crush on this girl, and I would talk about that, but I definitely didn’t feel it the same way they did.

I knew that something was different, but I honestly didn’t know or didn’t accept it at the time. As I went throughout middle school I started to have challenges with things like pornography at a pretty young age, around seventh grade. And even then I wasn’t sure that I had same-sex attraction; I just thought I had some sort of curiosity and I didn’t know why. I didn’t talk to anyone about it.

I kept going to Church and I always felt like I liked Church; I had a testimony, but I always felt so out of place. When I was around sixteen years old I started coming to terms that this was not some curiosity that I had; it wasn’t just something that was seemingly going to pass from my life. It was more than that and I decided that I needed help.

I decided to make an appointment with my bishop. I had never done that before. At sixteen years old I had been ordained a deacon, teacher, and a priest. I was never really honest with the bishop when he had asked me about my worthiness because I didn’t know anyone else who was struggling with the things that I was struggling with. I was so afraid that something bad would happen.

I finally gained the courage to go talk to my bishop and I was extremely nervous. I sat down with him and I said, “I have this problem with pornography and I have these feelings for other men. I don’t know where they come from and I don’t know why I’m having these problems, but I need help.” I don’t remember a lot of what he said to me, but I remember I didn’t feel good. Before too long he sent me out into the foyer and my mom was with me and he called her into the office. I sat out there feeling very uneasy and I didn’t know if I said something wrong, but I felt like I truly went in there to make amends and get some help. As my mom came out of his office she was crying.

We got in the car and we started driving home. I was so lost. I didn’t understand and I didn’t feel like I got any help from the bishop, and I didn’t understand why my mom was crying. So I asked her what was wrong and she told me the bishop had told her that I’d been looking at pornography and that I was gay and he also told her that I would never serve a mission, and that I would not be active in the Church.

I just thought that the bishop would be a little more helpful. I thought I would go in there and he would maybe give me a blessing or give me some counsel. I honestly hoped he would tell me that these feelings would go away or something like that. After that experience I…even though I had a testimony of the gospel, and I would say throughout my life I never lost that testimony, but I definitely felt there was no place for me in the Church.

My bishop said that I wouldn’t be active in the Church and that I wouldn’t serve a mission. Serving a mission was definitely something that I had been looking forward to, and I didn’t understand why I wouldn’t be able to serve a mission, but I believed him. I believed the bishop would say the things the Savior would say; that is what I had been taught.

At that point in my life at sixteen years old I kept attending Church because that is what was expected in my family, but I quit participating; I quit partaking of the sacrament. I didn’t feel worthy and I felt like if I wasn’t going to be active in the Church then I didn’t really understand what I was doing there anymore. It was actually very painful to go to Church because I loved the gospel and to be somewhere where you don’t feel like you belong…it’s just not a fun place to be once a week.

As I went through my high school years I tried to put on a face of – I’m happy – and people would ask me my plans after high school and if they included a mission. I would just say, “I don’t know.” As I turned eighteen and as I graduated high school I was at a really low point. I felt so confused and out of place and just so much like I didn’t belong. I honestly felt like I had two options at that point in my life. I was really upset and I felt like the two options I had based on what I knew was that I could either kill myself or I could live the lifestyle.

I didn’t see any other option; I couldn’t keep going to Church. It was painful. I wanted help, but I wasn’t getting it. I didn’t think there was help available because my bishop basically said there wasn’t for me. I had a friend who at that point actually told me he was gay, and I actually moved out with him and I started to meet lots of guys who were living the gay lifestyle. I started going to a lot of parties, drinking a lot, and started to act out with a lot of different people.

For the first time in my life I felt accepted by a group. They gave me a lot of attention and they were nice and kind to me, and they included me in different things. I had a good time being around them, and I had a lot of fun with them. We did a lot of fun things together and for the first time I felt like I was loved, and I felt like I was accepted. I felt like I had friends who cared about me and wanted to know how my life was. That felt really good. I didn’t have that growing up very much.

I think growing up in a large family, as fun as it was, it didn’t leave a lot of time for dad and I. So that was maybe something that was really difficult for me; just not being accepted as I went to Church by these people who I wanted to be accepting of me and they weren’t. I was actually made fun of by them a lot.

This went on for a couple of months, and in the beginning I was actually still living at home. At one point my mom was really frustrated with me, and understandably so. She said that I could either choose to live the gospel while I’m living under the roof of her house; that I would abide by the rules that were in place there, or I could find someplace else to live.

I already had all these friends so I just called one of them up and I said, “Hey, I need some place to live.” So I moved in. I signed an apartment contract and moved in and just lived there for a couple of months. I remember one Sunday, it was January 27th, 2008, I got a text from a friend from high school, and it said Gordon B. Hinckley has passed away this evening, and tomorrow everyone is going to wear their Sunday best to work or to school, whatever it is.

I’ll never forget that moment and how empty I felt; just this sudden emptiness completely consumed me. All of the happiness that I thought I was feeling was gone. The reason that had such a big effect on me is because growing up Gordon B. Hinckley was someone who I knew who believed in me. He always gave talks about the youth and how much he loved them and how much he cared. I felt like he was one person in my life, who wasn’t really in my life, who cared. It was very upsetting to me that I would be living the way that I was when this hero of mine passed away.

I tried to brush it off and not think about it. Throughout these months the thing I kept telling myself was that if I tell enough people that I don’t have a testimony that it will go away. When I tell my family I’m gay they won’t love me anymore and it will be so easy to continue living this lifestyle. As family members did find out they were very loving and that was confusing to me. I thought they would not be accepting. I thought that they would cut off communications with me because I had seen that with some of my other friends and I expected that as well.

As much as I told people that I never had a testimony – I did. I knew I was the person I was because of the gospel. So I went into work the next day and on the little coffee table in the entryway there was a newspaper and it had Gordon B. Hinckley on the front page waving his cane like he always did. I flipped the newspaper over. It was in my view from my desk where I was sitting at work and I didn’t want to see it. I really just wanted to block that out because it was extremely painful and I felt confused again. I went throughout that week with that in the back of my mind just trying not to think about it.

On Friday of that week I went back in the backroom to close up and that newspaper was again sitting on top of the recycling. I really stopped and I thought for a while. I picked up the article and I read it. It talked about some of the things he had accomplished in his life and it talked about how much he loved the youth of the Church. I felt that same feeling again that I felt when I got the text of his love…and just again, despair and emptiness that I was living this life outside of the Church when one of my heroes passed away.

So the next day was Saturday and I just wanted to shake these feelings off. We had a lot of friends come over and just drink a lot. I just wanted to shake these feelings of confusion and emptiness that I was having. I thought well…drinking, partying, having fun, and acting out sexually seemed to be making me happy so on Saturday I had some friends over, and I was just drinking a lot. Usually when I would drink I would have a lot of fun, act crazy, and it just felt good. This time it didn’t; it actually seemed to intensify the feelings of emptiness and sadness that I was feeling at that time.

I ended up going to my room pretty early that night and locking the door. I just laid on my bed and sobbed. I was so distraught and I didn’t’ understand why I wasn’t happy and why the things that usually make me happy weren’t. I was just so upset that when someone I cared about and loved so much, and who loved me despite having never met me or anything like that – I would be doing something that was so dishonorable as a member of the Church and as someone who had a testimony.

As I lay in my bed crying I decided to call one of my friends. She’d been a really good friend to me and she knew what I was going through. I had talked to her a couple of times before and told her how happy I was. I called her at three in the morning and she answered. She could obviously tell that I was upset and she said, “Levi, what is wrong?” I said, “I really just miss the spirit…I miss feeling that.” As I lay there I remembered how good it felt to feel the spirit and how much I was missing it.

She said, “Well, where do you feel the spirit?” I said, “At my house, I have definitely felt it there. I have pretty loving parents, good family, and a home where I can feel the spirit.” She paused for a second and she said, “Levi, what are you doing then? Why are you doing what you’re doing?” As I sat there and I thought about it I thought, “What am I doing? Why have I got to this point? Why am I here?”

So I grabbed some Church clothes because the next day would be Sunday, February 7th. I got in my car and I started driving home from Boise to Meridian. It was three in the morning and I was probably still under the influence of alcohol, but I made it. The whole way home I was just praying out loud. I probably hadn’t prayed in years except for when I was asked to pray for meals or something like that at home. I definitely had not had a personal prayer in years.

I just kept asking God to please let me feel the spirit. I just wanted to feel it again. He definitely denied me on that car ride home and I was upset, but as I pulled into the driveway of my house and started walking towards the door I started to have a good feeling. As I opened the front door to my house the spirit hit me like a flood. It is one of the sweetest experiences of my life and I knew at that very moment that what I was doing was right.

I went straight up to my younger sister’s room, my younger sister. I woke her up and I told her that I was home. She didn’t know exactly what was going on in my life; she knew I was having a really hard time, but she hugged me and I hugged her and she showed me that she was happy, and we cried. It was just a sweet experience. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my sister. It was just a sweet experience to share with her.

I didn’t wake my parents up that night. I knew they would find me in the morning and I told Marnie I’d be gone before they probably even got up because I was going to go to my singles branch. So I got up that morning and got ready for Church and went to Church for the first time in a long time. It felt good to be there.

I still didn’t know where I fit in the Church or how it was going to work out for me, but I knew I was in the right place because I had never lost my testimony. I still knew the Church was true and led by a prophet. So I went to Church and I knew that I needed to talk with my branch with president. At the end of Church that day I sat outside his office; I didn’t make an appointment, but I eventually got in and sat there with him.

I told him I wasn’t ready to talk with him about what was going in my life, but I knew I was supposed to be here and that I wanted to start working on things. I wanted to start reconciling the feelings that I had of same-gender attraction. I wanted to start the repentance process. These were all things that were new to me. I didn’t really know all that entailed…I just knew that I felt good again.

So as Church ended I drove home and as I pulled into the driveway I got a phone call from one of my friends. She told me that she’d been thinking about me that day and then she told me that…and she knew also that I was having a hard time; she didn’t know what, but she called me and told me she was just thinking about me, and that she had fasted for me that day. As I talked to my sister again later that day I found out that there were a lot of people fasting for me. None of them really knew what was going on in my life, but they knew I wasn’t in a good place; I wasn’t in a good position. They decided as a group of friends to fast for me.

I just felt so loved at that moment – by God, by my Savior, my friends and my family. To think that…probably just a few hours into their fast Heavenly Father was answering their prayers. I was home by four that morning just because I missed the spirit. I don’t even know why I cared.

That Sunday night after having so many experiences, the Lord didn’t stop there. I think He really wanted to make an impression on me that day – that He was watching out for me and that His hand was in my life even though I tried to deny Him. I definitely learned that He never turns away from us even if our back is to Him. He is still there.

So after I left Church that day and had that experience talking to my friend I felt that I needed to get my things out of the apartment in Boise. I had a lot of things there. So I drove down to Boise and my cell phone had been going off all day, almost immediately after I left the apartment at three in the morning. Phone calls from people who were lying across the floor in my apartment.

I called two of my really good guy friends from high school; I had some really good buddies in high school. They knew what was going on as well, but I think they just didn’t know how to help me. I called them and I told them I needed to get my stuff out of my apartment in Boise because when I arrived and saw these cars of people who were still there I knew that I just couldn’t do it by myself. So within a half hour my friends were down there with me. We sat in my friend’s jeep and kind of made a game plan and said a prayer together. I was really nervous, but we went in and the game plan was I was going to go talk to my friend who I had moved out with and they were going to go in my room and carry my things out while I talked with him.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life to walk through a door because I was afraid of what was on the other side. I really compared, and think of the experience I had there of getting my things, to Daniel in the lion’s den. When I walked in nobody said a word to me or spoke to me. Nobody really moved and I had been getting calls from them all day that I hadn’t been answering. I took my friend in to his room and let him know that this was what I needed to do; that I wasn’t happy anymore, and that I knew I had to make changes in my life.

So that was a really sweet experience to feel that brotherhood with my friends again and to feel that the Lord was really blessing me as I did that. So later that night as I got home and went to bed that night I laid down on the floor because my bed was still in Boise, we couldn’t move that. But I laid down on the floor and I just started praying. It felt real good to pray after not praying for so long. I just started singing to myself as I was falling asleep – I started singing, I Feel my Savior’s Love. I’ve never felt it so strong in my life as I did at that moment. I felt His arms wrapped around me which is what I really wanted to feel from anyone up to that point, and to feel it from the Savior was really powerful – a very sacred experience.

From that point on I knew that I still had these feelings. They weren’t gone just because I had sacred experiences. I was able to meet someone who actually struggled with same-sex attraction. I didn’t know there was anyone else in the Church who struggled with same-sex attraction. This man had a wife, a family, and a very happy life. When I met him I felt like that was when I made the decision to go with it – to repent and figure out how to reconcile these feelings that I had because I knew that he had done it.

He helped me to get good counseling and really helped me on my journey. He was always there for me if I needed him. I could call him or go to his house if I needed to. The more I got to know him and see the relationship he had with his family and his wife, I just knew I could do it. Finally I knew it was possible, and it is what I always wanted to see and know.

So I kept meeting with my branch president and I finally told him what was going on a few months after meeting with him. It was really scary for me to tell him all the things that I’d been doing. Actually, I didn’t even tell him, I wrote it out because I didn’t even feel like I could say it. I wrote pages of everything that I’d done. I wanted to have a clean slate when I left his office that day. It was a really unique experience leaving the bishop or branch president’s office feeling good; feeling like a weight was lifted; feeling like I was on the right path even though I didn’t really know what to expect or what was going to happen to me in the next couple years of my life. I felt like I could do it.

Eventually it started to get hard again; just living in Boise around the same people who I had had struggles with. I ended up moving to Wyoming with one of my brothers who lives there and I got a job in the oil fields out there and began working. My branch president had commented around my birthday when I got a new set of scriptures – he said, “Those look like missionary scriptures.” And…I didn’t know that would be possible for me. So to hear him say those words…it made me do this (cry).

So I started preparing to go on a mission. There were a lot of things that had to be worked out and it was not an easy process. I did a lot of counseling and I went on a healing weekend in Pennsylvania, but I knew that I wanted to serve a mission because I had felt the love of the Lord and I wanted to share that with other people, and I wanted them to know what I knew.

I really felt like I was starting to change. I felt like the atonement was beginning to work in my life. I am not the same person that I was five years ago. The atonement has changed me. I kept preparing for a mission and eventually I started working on mission papers. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I was in Wyoming when I got my mission call. It came to Boise and I drove home that night to go open it with my family. I was called to serve in the Wisconsin, Milwaukee mission.

I had a permanent smile on my face for that day and for many days after. I felt like I had arrived at that place I wanted to be. On August 1, 2009 I was endowed in the Boise Idaho temple. I left on a mission just a few weeks later, and on my mission I was blessed to feel a reprieve from those same-sex attraction feelings.

I met some of my best friends on my mission. To this day one of them is still my best friend. I have since shared with him about my same-sex attraction and that has been a great experience for me to feel so accepted. But as I returned home from my mission it got really hard again. I’ve been home for two years now, and it is not easy. I think some of my most difficult times throughout this whole experience have come to me after my mission which is not something I expected. I expected to come home and feel like the world is great and my life is great. That hasn’t always been the case since I’ve come home.

I’ve dealt with bishops again who weren’t as helpful, but I’ve also dealt with bishops who are extremely helpful. My bishop right now at BYU Idaho has been one of the greatest blessings to me. I remember the first time I met him I wasn’t actually in his ward. The spirit told me that I needed to be in his ward, and so I got a contract for the apartments that he was the bishop over.

The first Sunday I went to Church he spoke and he said, “When you walk through the door of my office and you sit down in the chair next to me, you will feel that you’ve walked into the Savior’s office, and I will treat you the way that the Savior will treat you.” That was an incredible thing to hear because even though I’d had good experiences with bishops I had never really felt that way – that my bishop, he loved me the way the Savior does. But as I shared some things that were going on in my life with my bishop I had expected to hand in my temple recommend because I’d done that before.

He just expressed how much he loved and cared about me; how much he didn’t understand about same-sex attraction, but that he would try to learn as much as he could because he wanted to help me. When I asked if he wanted my temple recommend he said, “The temple is something that really helps you isn’t it?” I said yes. He said, “Well I think you should be going twice as much then.” That was a shock to me. I never thought that a bishop would say that to me. Then he asked me to text him every night and tell him how my day was, whether it was crappy or good.

He has continued to be someone who I can always talk to and ask for a blessing if I need one. I am so thankful to have the experience that I’ve had with him. It is a very stark contrast to my first experience talking with a bishop. I know that there are many loving bishops out there who care about what their ward members are going through and truly want to help the way that the Savior would, and love the way that the Savior would. So I’m very thankful for that.

Like I said, it has not been easy since my mission, but I know that I’m on a good path and I know that I’m making progress to where I eventually want to be. I know that at some point in my life I’m going to meet a special woman who will love me for me despite my struggles, and I know that it only takes one girl, and I know that can happen for me and I’m grateful for that.

It has also been wonderful to open up to people and share my story with them because one of the biggest lies that I tell myself all the time is that if people really knew my struggles they wouldn’t like me and they wouldn’t be my friend. I have definitely found out that is a lie and it’s not true. I have shared my story with roommates, with friends, and with my family. I have definitely come to know that people still love me, they still care about me, and so that is one of the biggest things that I’ve learned.

The atonement really does change people from what they don’t want to be to what they do want to be. I am still on that path of what I want to be. He loves us and He is only going to put people in our life that will help us if that is truly what we want. He has definitely done that for me. He has put people in my life who want the best for me and want to help me.

I believe that the Lord has given me a new heart, and changed it from what it was to what it is now. Even if my life doesn’t play out the way I want it to or think it is going to, I know that the atonement is there for me to change me, and to continue helping me on this path that will ultimately lead me back to Him.


Friday: Part 1, In Quiet Desperation

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Only time, life, experience, and finally hindsight, has given me new eyes to see life the way it panned out, how life changed, gave me its lumps, and now restored me back into the faith life that I was meant to live.

I’m amid a read of “In Quiet Desperation” Understanding the challenge of Same Sex Attraction. By Fred and Marilyn Matis and Ty Mansfield.

Having figured my self out, and finding myself of the backside of Gay, I have reoriented my life. Approaching Fifty next year, I prayed for a new experience. And I got it in spades.

I’ve reassessed my life as it played out. And I’ve figured out that What I became as a young boy, was directly related to the reading material I was consuming. I favored one flavor over another, for some strange reason.

Being fed two sides of the same coin was problematic. Having parents do one thing then say another, was confounding. Knowing I was headed in a certain direction, and having parents who derided me, and verbally and physically abused me, did not help in that process.

And I lament the fact that I did not have reinforcement in either direction, gay or straight. My parents might have loved us by the way they lavished “Things” on my brother and myself. Showing Love was not the same as Giving Love.

In my experience of parents who love their kids, and give them stable homes, with religious education and support, is something that was never afforded to me. I mean, there was church, and good people in my life, but that’s as far as that went, because when i went home, all the good was replaced with all that was terrible.

I reflect this question across many ideas … “Had someone stepped in, and said something, anything, to either dissuade me or give me another option to live my life, would I have listened, and what would that have looked like in reality ?

I know, that had my life changed even one degree from the track it took, I probably would not have gotten here, in the now, where I am in this moment.

I went into my twenties knowing I was gay. Was it a choice ? It all stems back to reading material and what fancied me, and I only carried it forwards because it was thrilling I guess. And the lifestyle I chose to take on, was based on a suggestion, from someone I thought I could trust.

My addictions only followed me and made the transition worse.

Still I did not know any better. And that is my fault. Once you are immersed in a culture and a people, and you become insulated into that community, and one does not venture very far from it.

But I see today, the wisdom of the Latter Day Saints. I understand their position on the Teaching on Marriage and Families. I understand how difficult it IS for young people, and adults alike who struggle with same sex attraction.

Because I am on the other side today, I see wisdom in ways I had not in the past.

To read Stuart’s story in this book, a young man of the LDS faith, struggle with SSA for so many years, go on a Mission, Teach and was loved, and the length he went to to get help, to pray, talk to his family and his Bishop, but in the end, being unable to reconcile his feeling with his faith, he planned his exit.

Stuart’s parents loved him, they supported him, they knew about his struggles and tried valiantly to help him, to no avail. All the words in the world, the scriptures in the book, the talks with friends, family, bishops and others, did not assuage Stuart’s feelings of his negative self worth and his unworthiness as a Child of God.

He told his parents that he was suicidal. He told his parents that the end was coming, everybody knew, but nobody had any power to change his mind, however hard they tried. They did not commit him because that was counter intuitive.

People of the LDS faith, and the Book of Mormon, rely on prayer and the authority of their church. I wonder, if I had that kind of faith life and family life, to the extent that many young people in the LDS church do, would something like that have changed my track, way back when ?

For Stuart Matis, there was no option. He had the gun, an on a Friday afternoon, Stuart went to their LDS stake center, and took his own life, by his own hand.

Mix this terrible tragedy, with the commotion caused by the push to legalize Gay Marriage in California, and the pros and cons in this discussion, and the firestorm the media creates in all things, this tragic event was defiled by hatred, only fueled by the media that twisted this young man’s death into a front page story about “hating the Gay.”

Being gay, we know is not a choice. Somewhere in our DNA there is something that triggers this state. I knew, before I hit the age of ten, who I was.

And that “Who” I was, was directly related to what I was consuming.

What did I know from gay in the 1970’s ? Nothing. The first gay man I met wasn’t until the late 70’s into the early 80’s. I knew squat about being gay, beyond what I was reading.

So I wonder, would a change in that equation, have changed the outcome ?

My heart weeps for Stuart. I was just dumbfounded as I was reading last night. I cannot imagine what his family went through, well I can, because the book tells the story, but just as well, reconciling faith and homosexuality has its problems.

Matthew Vines has spent the past five years teaching the evangelical faithful that there can be reconciliation between faith and homosexuality. I’ve read his work. And the work is sound.

People of faith, in all faiths, deal with the issue of Faith, Homosexuality and Same Sex Attraction, each in their own ways. And across the board, if reconciliation is not found, it is either “Living the lifestyle” or “Suicide.”

The LDS church offers the Option.

And I can testify that many young people in the LDS church, who deal with SSA and their faith, have, each themselves, contemplated suicide as an option.

Suicide is Not and Option.

I dissect my gay life into these areas … Gay, Attraction, Sex, Money, Addiction and Relationship.

I had dated women in my teens. I am still friends with one of those women, to this day. But I never went as far as sexuality or the spectre of marriage with any of them, because what did I know about marriage, beyond what I had seen in my life.

Alcohol and Drugs were the glue and the mortar that solidified being gay. If you take away the substances, then you have sex and relationships left. If you remove sex from the equation further, then you have just relationship.

The above list involves non-negotiables in any relationship. Remove any of them, and the relationship will fail.

Which is why, at this stage of my ball game, I am on the backside of gay, due to my special circumstances. And I am a unique case in my approach to the Latter Day Saints. And my case will be reviewed by the proper church authority before I progress further.

And I wonder … What was it that made gay good ? Boys, Alcohol, Drugs, Sex ???

That’s what made the world go round. Would I have changed anything, YES, I would have gone without certain people, activities and certain relationships back then.

It was an experience.

It got worse as I approached my diagnosis. I had never met such dishonest people in my life, until I met Todd on that fateful night.

Yes, I was still gay. But I was a sick gay. Which removed me from general population. I was serving the least of these, but I wasn’t “one of them.” Heavenly Father removed me from general population in order to save me from them and from myself.

Heavenly Father removed the

  • substance
  • the relationships
  • the attraction
  • the sex
  • and the lifestyle from me.

And over time, I changed as circumstances changed. And now in hindsight, I see the trajectory as it played out.

Today, all I have is the relationship. Everything else has been removed.

The book talks about being refined in the fire …

I was refined in the fire. Absolutely.

And now I am here.

Faith is such a personal practice for every human being. The Church of Latter Day Saints is the true church. And is built on the authority given to its leaders from the prophet Joseph Smith.

You need to read this book, to understand what I am trying to share.

I think, simply, life is about choices and options, and what lifestyle you choose to live.

We gravitate towards what is familiar. In life, In Sex, In Addiction, In Relationships, and In Faith. We are born into families, that is fact, and they don’t change.

A family, in the church, loves hard and seriously. Faith, Prayer and Scripture are absolutely important as the glue that holds families together.

Many young people in the LDS church suffer from Same Sex Attraction.

In a life of faith, in the church, it all comes down to choices.

Again, being gay is not a choice. And for many, these two ideas, faith and gay do not mix and can not be reconciled, so people suffer, until they make a decision on what they want to do.

Sadly, in high percentages, Suicide is that option. Some cannot bear the commitment to either marriage or chastity. So many choose the only route they believe is viable.

Suicide.

Suicide is Never an option.

The Church teaches that Marriage and Family are at the center of religious practice. To find a wife and then bear children. If that not be the case, and marriage does not happen, for those with SSA the commandment is to offer ones life over to God completely, and we make a covenant with Heavenly Father to live lives of chastity and obedience to the commandment set down by God.

In every life, there are challenges to be experienced, goals to reach, and divinity to seek. We might not know why we are suffering so, but Heavenly Father does. And only life. experience, struggle, pain and adversity, with the benefit of hindsight, do we figure out what God meant for us in this world.

I have seen my fair share of adversity, and I have also seen my fair share of goodness from Heavenly Father as well.

If sacrifice is what is needed, I am ready and willing to make whatever sacrifice needs to be made, save only one. and everybody knows that my husband is Non-Negotiable. That card was on the table from the very beginning. So that makes my case particular, to be dealt with on this basis alone with the proper church authority. I have not lied, or cheated. I have made my covenants that needed to be made and I honor those covenants.

I am still alive, so that first covenant I made over twenty two years ago, is still in play.

Once again, it is all about choices. And the options are all on the table.

Many are called, but few follow.

Having been through the fire myself, I don’t think there is anything that I cannot do for the love of Heavenly Father.

You are never alone. We are here. Suffering is part of life, it just depends, really, on how much time you want to spend suffering in the end. Let me tell you, the sooner you get over it, the better you will be and the easier a life of faith can be.

God can take care of all the things that others cannot.

But only if I let Him.

There are always options, one way or another. There is help. We are here for you.

Heavenly Father loves his children.


Wednesday: Part 2, Covenant – All In

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Tonight’s discussion revolved around Mercy, Grace, and Covenant.

Each of the terms Mercy and Grace has an independent meaning, but the two words are often used interchangeably. Mercy refers both to an attribute of deity and to a universal law that allows a specially qualified third party to pay the penalty of justice on behalf of one who is subject to such a penalty.

Grace, on the other hand, is the means by which mercy enacts many of its miraculous effects, particularly the blessing of the atonement. Grace is a “divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ” and is “Made possible by his atoning sacrifice.”

In my life, as sobriety goes, from the very beginning, I know this is true; I would hear a topic, I would listen to a share, I would get to talk about it in discussions, then, God would say, (as if He spoke this) now go home and put this topic or concept into practical use. As in, see how this applies to your life, an figure out how it works for you.

That has been the way it has always gone for me, all these years later. And from the very start, I made covenants to people, and in a way God, because, God as we understand Him, speaks to us in our group conscience.

But let me backtrack first before I explain further.

I have had a handful of “All In” moments in my life. Where I had to make a decision, to throw everything I had at God, my life, my will, and my fears and my pains.

When I entered Seminary at age 19, I believed that a life serving the church, (read:God) was what I was called to do, and so did the men who got me into that seminary. At that young age, I knew that I was ALL IN. Sadly, a man made institution was not ALL IN with me.

Life went on. I would not enter another covenant for many years to come.

When we make a promise, or we speak a vow, or we find ourselves in a situation where, we must rely on another human being for our survival, (read: God) we make a covenant.

For me there are specific instances where I see, in Hindsight, that I made a covenant with someone greater than me, for my survival.

That someone would have been Todd (read: God).

The days prior, when everybody ran from the fire, when sickness came, Todd, in his wisdom ran right into that fire. The only person that walked into that fire, and said that He would care for me. The caveat was, that I would throw everything I had at him, throw my sickness up in the air, and trust that Todd, had my back, which he did.

I believe in my heart of hearts, that on that day, and the days, weeks, months and years that followed, I had made a covenant with God, that I would give Him all I had, and in return He would give me all He had to give me.

I was ALL IN.

I know what that felt like. Practical experience with Mercy, Grace, and Covenant.

God had Mercy on me, I received God’s Grace, through the vehicle of the covenant. I made a solemn declaration to Todd (read:God) that I would trust to my death, everything that I was asked to do, without fail. Neither abandoned me in my time of need.

That was the most important covenant I had ever made with Him.

I survived. I am still alive. By Heavenly Father’s Grace, Love, and Forgiveness

I also know what happened when I broke that covenant with Heavenly Father.

I made a decision, based on greed, the desires of the flesh, and what I felt was my own good. I stepped off the beam. And into the pit of hell. I was there, I know what happened.

I was unrepentant, until the day, Heavenly Father stepped back into my life, not of my own choosing, but because I needed Him, and that decision was made for me, because I did not know any better.

I began my long journey back to Heavenly Father. And it took a LONG time. I don’t know that I had begun to atone for my sins, but that was coming.

When I got to that pivotal day, that I uttered the name of God, and I got on my knees and Prayed for the first time in a long time, that covenant was renewed.

I asked Heavenly Father for help. I threw all of me on the table. I gave it all up to Him. And I swore an oath to Heavenly Father, that I would do whatever He told me to do, and to go where ever He wanted me to go.

Once again, I was ALL IN.

When that covenant was renewed, Heavenly Father opened doors for me that I never knew existed. He put people in my life who led me here. And in thanks, the first thing I did when I got here, was to go to Notre Dame Cathedral in Old Montreal and say Thank You.

When I met my then boyfriend, we knew, we were both ALL IN. Even before we hit that church on the 20th of November 2004, Heavenly Father tested us both to see how ALL IN we really were. We got married and have been ALL IN from the very first moment we spoke.

Fifteen years later, I am on my way, to making the biggest covenants with Heavenly Father I will ever make. Last week, I was given that list. And I came home with that list. And over the last week, Heavenly Father is whittling away everything I need to get rid of in preparation for when those covenants must be made, which will lead me to the day when I reach the Waters.

I told my Missionaries tonight that I was All In. I’ve been all in. And they, in turn, have said that of all the men, in my specific situation, that they have had discussions with, I have come the farthest, in the shortest amount of time.

I know Heavenly Father, (read: GOD) I have heard his voice. And I know that He exists.

I am told, after conversing about Sunday’s observations, people who have been in the church for so long, tend to forget, why they go to church on Sunday and to keep the Sabbath Holy.

They tend to forget about Mercy, Grace and their commitment to covenant.

Getting sober is an act of penitence. It is an act of rehabilitation. It is an act of, in time, of letting go and letting God.In the process of the Steps, we begin to atone for the wrongs we have done, and they people we have hurt.

Twenty two years ago, I made that first covenant that saved my life, I wasn’t so connected to healthy sober people, and I failed in that attempt.

But Heavenly Father was there, I just turned my eyes away from Him.

I began the slow journey back to health. I began to restore my spirit. I began The Work that has continued into my fifteenth year of sobriety. I wanted and prayed for a new experience.

Becoming a Latter Day Saint IS a new experience for sure.

It was Elder Sorenson, who approached me on that platform, he had thrown it all in, and struck up a conversation, which led to Elder Christianson, which led to discussions, which led to tonight.

Joseph Smith had this revelation:

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be they constant companion.”

Doctrines and Covenants 121:45-46

I read this scripture to Elder Christianson. He laughed. He told me a story about himself, and said that my reading this to him was a sign from God. That it was his favorite Scripture.

How does an Elder know that Heavenly Father is at work ?

There are no coincidences. But since we first met, there have been many.

So they are taking their time guiding me to the waters. Sadly Elder Christainson, will leave Montreal on the 22nd of this month. We only have one more discussion together, before a new companion enters the stage.

We are ALL IN.

When you give it all to Heavenly Father, and you do all that you can, Heavenly Father will give you all that He has in return. Mercy comes, Grace is provided, and covenants are blessed, as long as we keep up our end of the deal.

A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things …. It is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.

When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make his sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not, seek his face in vain…

 

 


Wednesday – The Day After – Dignity, Respect, Unity

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Last night, the people spoke, and they spoke loudly. The many voters who voted came out of the shadows and voted their conscience. The great thing about Democracy is that we have a right to vote, to be heard, to enact change, and to take the country where we believe it should go.

And the tilt in the vote and the voices that made it happen, decided on President Elect Trump. We all may not agree with those who voted in great numbers to make this decision, BUT we must respect the will of the people.

We must go on with our lives. Just because the country elected Donald Trump, does not mean that your life comes to an end. Or that your way of life comes to an end. It does not mean that you will be forgotten or seen as unimportant.What was spoken was that many voters want their lives to CHANGE for the BETTER.

You must move forwards with dignity and respect. Whatever your life looks like today, will only change if you either allow it to go down the drain, or you step up and make your life count for something better than it has been.

It is WE who have the power to change OUR lives. It is WE who have the power to Change society, our towns, villages, suburbs and cities. After every election, people step back and try to parse what just happened and how we are going to move forwards.

That is where UNITY comes into play. We must speak with ONE voice. We must maintain our dignity and respect, while we steadily encourage our leader to do the RIGHT thing.

We must not loose hope because Hillary did not win. The vast numbers of Trump voters were just too many to allow her a comfortable or landslide win.

I called this weeks ago to a major political writer, telling him that we should be prepared for the silent, hidden Trump voters. Because there was a good chance that they would make the difference in this election, and they certainly did.

The country will go on as it always had. And it falls to US to make the difference in the world we get in the end. YOU have the power to make change happen, where ever you are, whatever your social status, no matter your race, creed, color, or religion.

The Prophet Nephi tells us that Heavenly Father will be with us and help us, as long as we do all that we can…

We must now do “ALL THAT WE CAN DO” to make this country a better place, for every single voter who made the decision to vote the way they did. Every vote counted last night, but some votes counted more than others, especially when we watched the massive numbers of Republican Voters make that swing in the vote.

Whoever decided NOT to vote or voted out of “Sheik” voting for a third party candidate, those were votes thrown away when they should have been cast for a logical candidate with even a chance to win. And those third party votes were cast in the hundreds of thousands, last night. That would have swung several states from where they ended up, when the final vote was counted.

You must do what you can do to change the world around you.

We must hold our leader to the standards The Office of the President Requires.

He must not be allowed to run a laughing stock Office and Cabinet.

We must step up and hold Donald Trump to the Highest Standards of Civility, Respect, Dignity and Professionalism.

We must hold his feet to the fire. To make sure our President always does the right thing, even when he does not. And if at some point you are not satisfied with what you believe should be done, then it is your RIGHT to speak up.

We must not settle for the status quo.

We must strive for a better country, a better town, a better village, a better city.

And finally, A BETTER LIFE for every citizen, far and wide, across the land.

 

 


Tuesday: On Elections … Abraham Lincoln

 

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
Abraham Lincoln


Tuesday: Part 2, You Can Take a Break

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It is a new day. And it is the most important day of the year in the United States. I cast my vote by absentee ballot a few weeks ago. My ballot is sitting in the hopper in Miami, to be counted this evening. I am told that the Democrats Abroad organization has a very large number of ballots in play, and hopefully, where they are needed, may swing the vote in our favor.

Let Us Pray …

I met with my spiritual God Mother this morning to talk about life. I told her the story and told her about my spiritual journey. And she, like me, has faced adversity. Just a few weeks ago, she was recovering from quadruple bypass heart surgery.

Them are some big words … Quadruple Bypass Surgery.

She survived. Because, like me, God isn’t finished with her yet. And I am truly grateful that she survived that surgery and that she is still in my life today.

We talked program. And we are both on our respective journeys to find God,and in a way, she gave me permission to “Take a Break.” The rooms are there to help us find our Power Greater Than Ourselves. And provides a Bridge to the outside world.

If you do it right, spiritually, and you do The Work, the good way, in time, it may come to pass that one desires to move outwards into the world. Which we have both begun to do ourselves.

She told me that “If this is where I need to be right now so be it. You don’t know how long you are going to be here, and if you have the time to devote to God, then devote time to God. Pay attention, and go where God leads you.”

I know where I am going.

 


Tuesday: Part 1, Keep My Commandments

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In every life, whether we know it or not, for every choice, there will be consequences, either good or bad. To begin to Honor God, in all things, one must make the sacrificial decision to step away from all things earthly, to step away from sin, and to turn one’s faith, trust and hope to Heavenly Father.

It has been made clear to me what SACRIFICE means to me.

In this Life Pivot, I trusted that Heavenly Father would point the way to wholeness and righteousness. Trusting in the words and guidance of my Elders, and the many other Elders and Sisters who know me today, I want what they have.

Wanting what they have, is a common litany phrase used in the rooms. Because we come in broken and shattered, and we learn to love, because others showed up just that day, to love US into Existence.

There is a particular Elder who has joined our group of intrepid Latter Day Saints. In fact, there are a few Elders, who minister to the Chinese community, but they join us on Monday night’s for teaching and fellowship. I have come to love them as I love my Elders who came for me.

I am impressed with each and every young man and woman who is part of our little gang of faithful. They have talents I wish I had, they have lives, I wish I could live, and youth that I wish I still had. So every moment spent with them is blessed.

This may be the last chapter of my story. And I want that story to be Grand.

Tonight, I offered the final sacrifice I know I had to make to Heavenly Father. In order to appreciate the sweet, one must have the bitter. I know what bitter tastes like. I may not always make the right choices, but tonight, I did what I had to do to make good on Heavenly Father’s command to “Keep My Commandments.”

If you cannot sacrifice all for Heavenly Father, and turn all of you over to divinity and sacred living, then you will never inherit Eternal Life.

Whatever holds you to your former life, that which tethers you to earth, that which is of the flesh and the body, you must cut it out. Cleanly. You cannot be honest with God and keep secrets in the shadows, because You know, and Heavenly Father knows.

One cannot believe that cheating on the way to Holiness will work. You cannot half ass your way to spiritual living. Because, day by day, YOU know what choices you made, and what sins you have committed. If you approach God with sin in your heart and on your lips, what does that do for your forgiveness and redemption ?

As Nephi writes … “You did not do all you could do.”

I cannot live with the shadow of wrong choices and sin on my shoulders. Because I kn0w better, I cannot claim, ignorance. With that said …

When I get up tomorrow morning, all will be done.

A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things …. It is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.

When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make his sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not, seek his face in vain…

How It Works says …

IF YOU WANT WHAT WE HAVE AND ARE WILLING TO GO TO ANY LENGTH TO GET IT, THEN, YOU RE READY TO TAKE CERTAIN STEPS. AT SOME OF THESE WE BALKED, WE THOUGHT WE COULD FIND AN EASIER SOFTER WAY BUT WE COULD NOT. WITH ALL THE EARNESTNESS AT OUR COMMAND WE BEG YOU TO BE FEARLESS AND THOROUGH FROM THE VERY START. SOME OF TRIED TO HOLD ON TO OUR OLD IDEAS AND THE RESULT WAS NIL UNTIL WE LET GO ABSOLUTELY…

Wow … I’ve come full circle. Right now, both these reading ring so very true to this journey of faith.

I’m ready to take certain steps. I’ve taken one very huge step tonight.

Later today, I am having lunch with one of my favorite people on the earth.