Sunday, December 23, 2012

What it's all about...

I'm in one of those moods where I want to write, but I don't know what. So I'm going to start with whatever comes into mind and start going.

I've heard in church a lot the following phrase: "Really, the Gospel is all about: "insert option here"" Everyone is trying to find the basics of the Gospel. It's all about faith, family, Christ, repentance, God, love, etc. It's an interesting topic and I'd be quite curious to hear other thoughts on what the Gospel is all about. Usually people's answers are based on what they are currently thinking about or experiencing. Someone who just got married might say family. Someone who is experiencing trials might say faith or progression.

Maybe its because this is been what I'm thinking about now, but who can blame me? I think the Gospel is based on the relationships between us all. I've been volunteering at the MTC every week, the missionaries came to my house this week, and the lesson in Sunday school was on missionary work, but all I could think of was the importance of our connection with others. Why are we asked to do missionary work, to reconnect people to their Father and brothers and sisters? What is the one of the best ways to do it? Building the relationship with the person. As missionaries, the best way to help people was to become their friends and show them how much you care.

So many theorists that I've studied have talked about this relationship. Levinas in particular strikes me as someone who understands us in this way. He suggests that who we are is dependent upon our relationship towards others. The moment we see another person, Levinas argues, we feel a call to assist in helping that person in whatever way possible. Our whole purpose and meaning for life is built upon our calls towards others. Our being is dependent upon others.

I think it's taken me a long time to appreciate the relationships that I do have in life. Maybe its that I'm becoming more of a sap. I just watched a commercial for Folgers where a brother/son comes home from doing...something...in Africa. He gives a present to his sister who took off the bow and placed it on her brother and said "You are my present this year." Watching it made me realize how much I've missed my brother, who is on a mission. William was my rock and really means more than the world to me. For some reason, when I left on my mission, it wasn't a big deal. I didn't think too much about the family, and maybe it was because I was embarking upon a new, exciting adventure. However, being the one home, I miss him. I used to call him almost every day about my life and what I was going through. I don't know if there was really anyone that I was closer to.

But, since he's left I've realized how important family is. I've been able to spend more time with my sister and her family who moved up to Salt Lake. I've been able to talk more easily to the other brothers and sisters when I'm back home in Vegas and I enjoy the time I have at home. It is good even to just be around them.

However, I think friends can be just as important as the family. My friends that I've either known for years or just met recently mean the world to me. They've really stepped in when I've been away from the family and unable to receive the support that I used to have. My roommates make sure that I stay in line as well as some other close friends. How could the Gospel be based on other things when to me, these relationships are what keep me afloat in this world.  My rapport with God, Christ, family, friends, and everyone around me are what is most important.

I've also found that I get attached to others quite easily. I'm almost a complete open book if you ask the right questions. But, even to those I barely know, I tend to feel a duty to be part of their lives and help them in any way I can. Take my job, for example. Every job that I've had, the people become every part of what I live for. As a TA, I think about my students all the time! It may seem a little weird, but I really do care and want to do everything I can to make sure they succeed. I don't think they understood that it was quite painful to assign bad grades because I really did want them to do their best and I understood how hard they were working to get there. When I was a Freshman Mentor, it really was a full-time job of looking out for my students. I thought about them constantly and was trying to make sure they were alright. I'm still good friends with some of them and I hope all of them know that they can come to me for anything.

Anyways, putting it altogether. I just think that it is all about relationships. I mean, what is everyone pressuring me to do? Get married: start new a relationship, get married and create more little relationships. That's what seems to be the purpose. It seems to me that the more we connect with other people the more we connect with God. Relationships shape the core of everyone's life. Anyways, I'd love to hear other people's thoughts, but this is what I've been pondering of late.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Dreaded Feminist Post

Actually, this post has been in no way dreaded. I've been anticipating it all day. So, after writing a 10 page paper from dawn until dusk, working a couple hours, making a delicious lime chicken meal for my roommates, and going to see Rise of the Guardians with some of them, I'm finally settling down to my Christmas music and my computer....

Oh what a sad life I lead...I'm just kidding. So, as many of you know, I recently linked an article to my Facebook page called: The war on men. Find it here so you know what I'm talking about: War on Men: Foxnews. Great. Now that you've read it (or reread it, which I encourage), let's talk about what happened. I put this on my FB wall around this time yesterday, for those of you who can't find the posted time, it's about 10:40p as I'm writing this, and I'll probably finish in 45 minutes.

Anyways, I first read the article that another friend had posted with my roommate John in the room. We were in an uproar over what the article said. Can I quote some of my favorite lines? Thanks.

"Women aren't women anymore"

"Women's fault"  (I don't even need to explain context for this one because I'm sure all those who would choose this as a key point in the article are already fuming over the precepts contained in these two words.)

"[Men are] tired of being told that if women aren't happy, it's men's fault."

"The so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off."

"It's all so unfortunate - for women, not men. Feminism serves men very well: they can have sex at hello...with no responsibilities whatsoever." - I'm so glad this is true for me...

"So if men today are slackers, and they're retreating from marriage en masse, women should look in the mirror and ask themselves what role they've played to bring about this transformation."

"All [women] have to do is surrender to their nature - their femininity - and let men surrender to theirs." - I'm pretty sure at least 10 feminists died when reading that line out of sure horror at the claim.

Now, I'm sure what sparked off a majority of the hot feelings is my subtext: "Every woman that wants to get married should read this." For those of you who were incensed at my comment I am saddened. Do you really NOT know who I am or my humor line? I mean come on. My roommate and I were hysterically laughing at and about the article. I formerly had just posted it for a feminist friend to read because I know she'd get a kick out of it, but then I thought it was too good to keep private. So, I made a funny, which was taken oh too literally, and the whole world exploded on my facebook page. Let me just say, it was quite entertaining to watch.

So, some comments about what people misunderstood about my points:
"I didn't have to read this before I got married. And quite frankly this is a little sad."  Really? I had no idea marriage was possible before this article. Of course. I was being facetious (and thank goodness for google spellcheck because I was totally wrong

Oh wait, there was another like this: "and Excuse Me? every woman who wants to get married should read this??" So, same thing as previously stated. I think it's funny that the two people who actually reacted to that are married...it's as if they were trying to prove me wrong...you win. Especially since I think that I would die if I married a woman who fit the model of the woman this author is trying to develop.

My personal favorite: "Grow a pair." Already did, thank you. And oh, there is so many inappropriate things to say to that as well, that I will keep to myself.

All of Ashley's comments on the page. Which I love because she is hilarious.

Now, I will respond to these in a second, but I will say: the best comment on the page was the first one: "She's got a point. I always did blame the feminists. lol." And yes, that was from a woman.

Hopefully we've gotten past the point where we think I was serious about the article. When I got to school today and met a friend, who is a feminist, she just laughed when she saw me and said: "I can't believe all those people freaked out at you! Do they even know you?"

Sadly, apparently not.

But, let's get to where Ashley hated on me. Which, I think for her sake, she had the best argument on why to get after me. I did say: "I do agree with her". I should have said, I somewhat agree with her, because obviously I don't think that her version of the "natural role" of a woman is correct. Anyone with a head would probably disagree. So, you when on a grammatical technicality.

However, you lose on a grammatical technicality as well. For some reason, people have come to use the term "a lot" to mean "almost everyone" or "the majority". Well, it doesn't. It actually means a good or fair amount, or at least in how I use it (I'm a great advocate of phenomenology and judging experiences by the person's understanding and not an abstract set of universal laws). A lot could mean 40, 3,000, or maybe a million. However, 40 isn't anywhere near being the majority, especially when I'm referencing the population of BYU. I fortunately decided not to use absolute terms when I was talking about my feelings because then, yes, you had all the right to pounce. However, I'm not saying that every woman at BYU is not feminine. I'm saying there are a lot of BYU women who aren't. For example, I'm in my SFL Marriage Prep class with dear Carlin talking about what the prophets have said about marriage partnerships and roles. It was quite a beautiful conversation we were having until a girl FREAKED OUT! I'm not even just saying she had seizures, which was probably going to come. However, she stood up and claimed that the church leaders were all bigots to a degree and that how dare they tell her that she should be a mother and that she is going to be the breadwinner for the family and she is going to make the decisions and she is going to wield the power. In my mind I saw the Elf queen of the forest when she was freaking out at Frodo and I wanted to cry.

To me, that was not feminine. Femininity is not a destruction of man or this hatred of them. Maybe I don't like feeling attacked, but I don't think it is very becoming a woman when they tell me, which has happened on quite a few occasions, that my sex and I are the reason that families fail and that societies falter. Oh right, because I was there when Rome collapsed. Why the heck did I get pulled into this? So yes, a lot of women I have come across have been quite unfeminine and disrespectful. Most women are lovely and beautiful. I love women, don't get me wrong.

Now, when I said "I have never sat in a feminist discussion where men weren't berated and labeled as the cause" this is true. However, I would like to say that I do have one very good friend who I have taken almost all of my sociology classes with who has talked to me in depth about feminism, has done it in a way to make me still feel like a good person, and helped me understand the underlying foundations for the social movement. Fortunately, there are some good people in the world. Unfortunately, many feminists that have a voice are extremists and scare me. I'm sorry to say it, but a little bit like the responses I received. I know this is going to offend others, but really. Y'all freaked out. And it was a joke. You wonder why she said men are just pissed off. Well, you proved it all.

I also would like to defend my position as saying that her article is a reason a lot of guys don't date at BYU. Yes, I concede that there are also a lot of guys who are tools, jerks, and social outcasts or for some reason or another either just don't date women, don't want to get married, or play around. That's true for the whole world. However, I've talked to plenty of men who say: they want a woman who treats them like a man, who wants to marry someone that needs them, that is ... feminine. My mom a couple of months back wrote about how the media is trying to feminize men and it seems that some women are on the search for their princess. Good, yet disturbing, imagery, but it gets the point. Many women are sick of the "dominating male" which is great. But that doesn't mean that all of the sudden we are supposed to be "dominated", which a lot of the extremist feminist literature seems to scream.

Lastly, to clarify what I would want in a woman. Some people woefully misinterpreted me saying that I don't want an educated or work-driven woman. Again: ya'll (must not) know me. Who every does know me would understand that a girl like that WOULD DRIVE ME INSANE. I'm looking for someone rather like my mother. I love her and she serves a great role model for me of the perfect mother and wife. She was a teacher, teaches music on the side and has been doing so for as long as I can remember, so it's not like she's lazy. She recently told me she's writing a book, loves learning, she would study with each of us so she could make sure that she's not forgetting anything, and is one of the wisest women on the planet. Yet, she stayed at home most of the time so that she could make us our priority. I don't know what I would have done if she wasn't there for me as often as I was. I got into enough trouble as it was with her around. I'm almost positive that my life would have fallen off the deep end if she wasn't there to anchor me. So, I want a woman who is educated, driven and loves to work hard. I want a woman who has goals in life that she wants to achieve and pushes for them every day. However, I do want a woman who wants to have children and be there when they come home from school and make them her priority. Call me old-fashioned, but that's my version of a great mother. I know other people can have careers and be mothers at the same time, I've met a lot of them. However, I think I'd feel a little awkward. I don't know why. It's not that I'm completely closed to the idea. Heck, I'm a sociology major and I'm pretty sure I won't make enough anyways. But let's be real, as a kid, there was nothing more special than a sack lunch at school and a mom who asked how your day was the moment you got home.

To conclude, I just want to remark how sad it was to see that no one who was against the article even conceded in one way that she might have a point. ESPECIALLY when she said that it was the perspective of a group of men. Okay, hear me out. So, she said first of all she said there was a "subculture of men". Whenever you hear "subculture" you should never think in terms of dominating culture or majority culture. Ain't true. That means there are some, possibly "a lot", of men who said that "Women aren't women anymore", but it in no way reflects the majority. And this probably isn't even a representative sample. However, it is their opinion. Who are the men to say what women are and what they aren't? Well, in the long run, that's what they believe. Some experience in their life has led them to feel uncomfortable around (and pissed off by) women. How dare you negate their opinions. None of us have any idea what they've been through and we can in no way determine the legitimacy of their words. I, for one, appreciate what they had to say because I can, in my own way, see some validity to their statement. But could no one concede that this is happening to some small degree, or at the very least possible? Sure, we all have our opinions, and I graciously respect yours until my character is under attack. However, do our opinions make the opinions of any other less valid? No.

And can you honestly say that you saw no possibility of a slight truth in the article at all? She obviously wasn't writing for a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but she did want to shed some light on a phenomenon that she saw growing. I'd like to focus on "All the articles and books (and television programs, for that matter) put women front and center, while men and children sit in the back seat. But after decades of browbeating the American male, men are tired...Tired of being told that if women aren't happy, its men's fault." Let's look at some TV shows in which the men are berated as the stupid ones with the strong woman figure in the home who usually wins arguments: Everybody Loves Raymond: both Ray and Frank (but Frank is a lazy bum). Home Improvement: Tim never wins an argument...ever. Modern Family: Phil: he is quite an idiot, but he is always pressured into doing things by his wife, NEVER vice versa.

Now, I'm not saying the roles should be reversed, but this is the kind of family life we see in TV: women are always right, we need to do whatever they want because they've been oppressed and its their turn now. So...two wrongs make a right? Great. However, there is this prejudice in the media. A lot of men couldn't see the destructive effects that a male-dominating society was having on women because they were on the inside. Maybe now it's time the women are on the inside? Maybe. Just maybe a little bit. Don't grab your pitchforks for that statement, it's just a thought.

Anyways, I'm sorry to offend, but I felt some strong words were needed in light of the strong words posted on my wall. But, I love everyone dearly who posted, feminist, anti-feminist, apathist. To me, we are all friends and should skip in the fields laughing and holding hands. Actually no, I'm no hippy. But, let's love once again. :)  Have a wonderful night.

Feel free to comment, but if you are going to make a personal attack, just email me. I'd rather not have people trolling on my blog.

Peace and Blessings y'all.

Monday, November 26, 2012

There is some RUDE all over in this joint.


I've got to be a little bit, well, a lotta bit, honest. Pretty much because I'm fuming mad right now. Plus I just found out that I have a 10 page paper due tomorrow that I thought was due Thursday. So, being really angry and stressed is preventing me from starting the paper. So, I'm getting this out via blog. Thanks for reading.

Here's the honesty part: I currently loathe, almost in its entirety, my ward. Seriously. LOATHE. You remember that part on the Grinch when he's yelling at people from the phone book that he hates them. I feel like the Grinch when he said "I LOATHE you". Let me give you a little taste of why:

Today was an FHE activity that my co-chair and I put on with our committee, which for the record did awesome today (they were very involved and everything was set up on time and moved smoothly). So, just so you have an idea of what the activity was: it was a post-Thanksgiving party. We had 3 stations: a turkey-hat making station, an obstacle course through which you had to shoot turkeys along the way (with a marshmallow shooter and a turkey hunt (people dressed up like turkeys and would pop up from behind a wall and people would try to shoot more marshmallows at them).

So, with all the marshmallows, you can imagine lots and lots of nasty. Marshmallows everywhere: in the carpet, on the gym floor, in hair, you never know (John actually shot a marshmallow that went straight into my mouth when I was a turkey...it was quite impressive). But, we had protective measures and only 3 marshmallows found their way into the carpet. The gym wasn't too lucky, but it was all contained.

Well, I dunno why, but I've never really connected with this ward. Oh wait, I know why. They are all pretty old and have moved on to different parts of their life than I'm going through. We never seem to know how to connect. But, I try to get past it. During this activity I attempted some small talk with people I haven't met, but it was all so shallow as everyone just retreated back to their old friends. Vabbe.

Well, as the activity was closing up, I started cleaning up: putting away tables, clearing off the scrap paper and throwing it away, sweeping the gym, putting away furniture that we used for the obstacle course. You know, the usual. Well, 3 people out of the 20+ who were still hanging about the chapel helped. 2 were committee members and one of the committee member's roommates. I'm very grateful for their help, but they couldn't do much before they had to go.

How many other men helped? 0. 0. 0. That's a zero if you couldn't tell. Let me just ask what would happen in ANY OTHER WARD. Every time I've been to a ward activity and someone starts cleaning up, even if it is just a little bit, usually there is this massive shift from the party to let's see how fast this work can get done. It's pretty amazing, actually. Here? 3 people and 0 men. What the frick is wrong with this place.

But no, that's the worst. I can deal with people not helping me clean up because it adds to my self-righteous thoughts and my general dislike of others that I'm currently going through. Pretty much they are giving me the fuel to my own pride and I thrive off of that (unfortunately enough). The worst is when someone is openly rude and disregards you in every way. This is what happened.

So, remember the whole turkey shooting station we had? Well, since the marshmallows were falling on the turkey side, there were a lot of squished marshmallows over there that I was going to have to mop up. So, as I was clearing off the tables that we used as our wall, one of the guys in the ward...let's call him Chap...Chap started moving the tables back so they had more room to play basketball. This, normally, would be totally fine (besides the fact that he could have just put the stupid tables AWAY!). However, I asked him if he wouldn't play there yet because I needed to mop the floor and I didn't want to get the marshmallows more smeared everywhere and then have them track more marshmallows across the gym. He looks at me, says "OK", and then immediately turns around and continues to push back the tables and play in the goop.

WTF?!

So, I tell him "Chap, could you please not play in that area?" Again, he looks at me and says "yeah, fine". Does he move? no. Do anything to avoid the area? no.

WTF?!

I think I swore at him with every swear I knew in every language I knew. It was bad. I was already not in a good mood and then this happened. So rude.  But wait, it gets better.

So, I go to get the mop to clean up.  When I come back, he's still in it. I'm sick of it by this point, so I leave so that I can not kill him. Well, he's bigger than me, so any attempt on his life would have ended with the taking of mine. So, I guess it was in self-interest that I left...for one of us would have died.  As I'm leaving, I pass my Co and I ask her if she could get them away from the marshmallow sticky area. She told me she'd take care of it, goes over and says "Hey guys."

Yeah, it ended there. There was no "get away from there" nicely or rudely, it just was "Hey guys."

O...k....Well, I decide to clean up everything else first so that maybe they would just leave. Didn't happen, BUT we did clear out the other side of the gym and so I invite them to go play over there. Sweet, they left to the other basket and I went to get my mop. When I return...WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING CHAP!? Oh, now he's back in the goop playing volleyball. Apparently, it's okay to play in a sticky area when you switch sports.

I then proceeded to swear at him in made up swears. And nuke him inside my head (side note, Cy and I would always do this when we hated someone, but it never resulted in nuking. Only punching...so this was serious anger.) Who does this. I've asked him 3 times already NOT to go to this area. 3 freaking times!

So, I let him know that I'm starting to mop, finally, and he stays in the area...until I start mopping right next to him and he gives me a dirty look. Oh how I wanted to slap him in the face with my mop.  Again, I decided against it to save my life. Don't worry, he and his volleyball friend only stepped in my moping area twice. nbd. It's not like I'm trying to CLEAN THE FLOOR OR ANYTHING.  Seriously, what is his DEAL?

Anyways, this isn't just a one time thing, but an example of why I'm already to move out. I take back almost anything negative that I've ever said about any other calling or ward that I've had or been in because compared to this, they are all saintly. I can't believe how some of my roommates and I have been treated in this ward, and I know for a fact that 2 of us are going through especially trying times right now and this is not helping one bit. It's a pity the ward is so bummy because the bishopric is great, love them.  We may have a way out, and I'm super excited for that. I'll be free. Hopefully things will get better. I haven't felt good since moving here, not just "welcomed", but emotionally and spiritually good. I don't think I should be here. So, pray that we can escape.

And lessons to learn:
1. When someone is cleaning something up, START HELPING YOU TOOLS!
2. When someone asks you to help by avoiding one little area so they can clean, GET OUT OF THE WAY JERK!

My heavens.

Ok, now to work on my paper after I've transferred all my disgust to an electronic blogpost to be read by the world. I'm generally not this angry, really...it's just been this last semester.

Good night! A post on how great Thanksgiving was soon.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vacation is coming

So, I've already written a post on how much I love Thanksgiving...because I really do love it. I'm not going to deny, though, that part of the reason why I like it so much is because I feel like the only one who claims it as their favorite holiday. I like to be different. Anyways, to see the main reasons you can read my post from last year: My Favorite Holiday: Thanksgiving

But, I'm really excited for this year. It's just going to be a pretty chill week. I'm excited to spend time with my family - whoever may be around. You never know these days who is going to be there. It's going to be weird because William isn't going to be home...But, it will be nice to get away.

I need some time away from school, work, and everything that is going on right now. However, that doesn't mean life is terrible. I think I've been in a rut and haven't appreciated what I do have. What a perfect time to realize how great life is than Thanksgiving. So, here it is:

1. I'm thankful for my close friends that have really helped through a rough time right now. I feel that people have really cared and tried to understand things from my perspective. I love all that they've done for me and continue to do for me. Just last night I talked to one of my best friends since freshman year and, thank heavens for her. She really helped put things into perspective. She is one of the only people who actually succeeds in getting through to me and part of that is because she is one of the few friends to show me where I can improve and can point out my weaknesses. Yet, she does it in a perfect way, in which I'm never offended because I know she does it because she cares. So, I'm extremely grateful for her and all the others that have stood by me.

2. I'm thankful for family that always knows when to make me laugh and have such awesome times together. Jeremy and Rachel are putting on their own 5k this Thanksgiving because the one we were going to do got cancelled. I think it's awesome what they've done for it, and I'm more excited about this race than any other that I've ever done. I'm thankful that my brother is on a mission and doing what He believes is his path. It hasn't been easy for him. In fact, sometimes it's been almost impossible and I don't know how he's done it, but he's a great example to me. I love my parents and their support for my academic pursuits. Even though I choose quite the "useless" major, they keep the encouragement up. I love that Elizabeth moved to Utah so that we could see each other more often. She is awesome and really helps me feel at home away from home.

3. I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow at school. I'm pretty sure I picked the best major in the world, for me at least. Despite being an "easy" major (which it unfortunately is), what I've learned for it has been extremely useful in making me reflect on my life and how to be a better person. It has given me so many opportunities to grow and develop and meet some really awesome people. It's pretty awesome. With that, I'm thankful for the job that I have here as a TA, because I get to meet some really awesome people (including the other TA's that I work with...we have such a riot) and the students and professor that I get to learn from. They are pretty awesome. I'm sad that I'll have to leave Dr. Knapp after this semester, but I'm excited for the next job next year.

4. This year, I'm grateful for second chances and the ability to define my life. I think I might have to describe the past couple months as a turning point in my life. It has really challenged me to work with who I am and finally get to a point I want to be. One of the best things I've heard lately was at testimony meeting a couple of weeks ago: "When all is said and done, will you be happy with who you have become?" I'm so glad we have a chance to become our "happiest" self. We get to choose that path. I understand that this life probably will never be easy or without pain, but it is also important to be happy.

We've been reading a lot of Nietzsche lately in my theory class. Two things come to mind as I write this:

A. "Life could be an experiment" Life shouldn't be a collection of moments or choices that we either get right or wrong, but as a means to find out who we are to learn what is great about us and the world around us. He says to live, not as a duty or deception, is the means to "live gaily and laugh gaily". We are supposed to always improve, but not be worried about mistakes. I think even our definition of mistake is a little skewed. Instead of thinking of mistakes as a deviation from perfection, I think we should see it as repeating something that did not make sense or connect to our life. So really, a mistake isn't a mistake unless you've mistaked it twice (I hope that makes sense). Sometimes we do stupid things out of ignorance or misunderstandings, but we should use those moments to make us better rather than tear us down.

B. Nietzsche feels that suffering is fact of life. Our desires and dreams are constantly deceived or damaged. However, he sees these as opportunities to arrive to greatness, rather to lose oneself in misery. Suffering/Pain/Struggle is a way to mold and grow us into strong "heroes" of society. It is through these challenges that we overcome our life into a new being, free of animosity, full of love for this greatness that we can achieve. It's way too involved to fully explain in a blog post, but really he emphasizes that we should accept and realize the value of the challenges in life.

Anyways, I'm working on realizing that everything will turn out alright. I know it is true, but I'm just trying to get to the point that I feel it. I'm hoping the relaxation and "get-away" opportunities I have this Thanksgiving will help me arrive to this point. I'll make it. I can see that working. So: here's to experimenting with life and making it better!

I love Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Homosexuality and Religion

I was trying to write a paper on the misconceptions of Parenting Styles when I realized that I was unable to focus. Saturdays are terrible days to write papers. It took me and hour to deconstruct one of Baumrind's articles and it was after that horrible ordeal that I proverbially threw up my hands and gave up. I may also attribute this lack of desire to continue based on my lack of Cheez-it's and sparkling lemonade which were keeping me going...

In any case, my mind instead keeps returning to some research that I've been doing on my own. It started from my Sociology research class in which we were practicing how to properly conduct interviews, oral histories, focus groups, and the like. In any case, I decided to pick the topic of how religious homosexuals reconcile their orientation and their religion (or social surroundings) when it seems to be so opposed. I see on Facebook and the news how people view most religions as homosexually-opposed and I wanted to understand it from the perspective of the homosexual, rather than people who can merely claim to understand such a complicated issue.

In any case, I did the interview for my class project, but I had lined up 2 interviews for the same project just in case one fell through. Despite having already completed the assignment, I decided to go ahead and do the other interview just for fun. After the second interview, I saw some similarities between the two responses and started getting more involved in what is going on with this misunderstood population. So, I've continued my research. (Call me a nerd if you want).

I hope no one gets offended when I talk about SSA, gay, homosexual. I use those terms solely to mean this: attraction to the same gender. I hope we can forget about all of the connotations associated with those terms, which are unfortunately for the most part negative.

Anyways, this has been one of the most enlightening studies that I have ever done. It is one thing to read about it and to try to understand the perceptions through a secondary account; but, to be able to talk to these people and really understand where they are going through (or have gone through) is amazing. I've been able to talk to people in many different situations from recently graduated high school seniors to people over 40 fully situated in life. No matter how different they may seem on the outside, each experience has some similarities which I think are quite insightful.

Self-Understanding
There is seemingly a similar process of accepting one's sexuality, especially for those cultures/religions/societies in which it is somewhat seen as a negative condition. At first, the people I've talked to would ignore it and describe an attraction to their same gender as some sort of fluke. They believe that is was just their bodies being confused or they weren't understanding what their body was trying to say - so, they ignore it and go back to thinking there isn't anything "different" or "wrong".

Next, they realize that they can no longer deny the feelings and that they are returning either too often or too strongly to ignore them or pass them off as a "phase". Here, is where the conflict truly begins, at least in my eyes. They have a choice at this point: accept or reject what they are feeling. Most reject it initially and go through some intense personal struggles. Many date the opposite gender to try and "fix" themselves. Others turned to religion as a means for overcoming/eliminating this "temptation" or "trial". One even converted to Mormonism with a hope that the LDS church could "fix" him. These religious people try to "pray it away" or hope that some sort of salvation will come for them now.

However, none of them have been able to "cure" themselves, so the rejection of their homosexuality has been denied and they enter a phase of accepting who they are. This last phase is the most difficult, however, because homosexuality seems to go against every social and religious credence that they have been brought up with. One described that as a member of a highly patriarchal culture and being the only son, it was his responsibility to protect his sisters, get married and continue the posterity line. Being gay destroyed every possibility of fulfilling his expectations. In the LDS religion that has an emphasis on eternal families, it seems initially that being gay is diametrically opposed to the church's proposed "Plan of Salvation". Not to mention that most parents, siblings, friends have already typified the homosexual as "straight" because that is the norm. This creates a need to reject either their social system, religion, or make some reconciliation of the two.

Reconciliation or Rejection
This process is difficult and it seems unfair that anyone have to go through it. In particular, I was talking to one faithful member of the LDS church, who identified himself as gay, and he gave me his options as a gay member of the church:
1. Be celibate and remain a single member of the church.
---According to him, this is ridiculous. Who can stand being alone their whole life and live without any romantic love when our bodies are wired to have these relationships. It barely even seems like a viable option, let alone possible. He concedes that some people may find this as their best solution, but it doesn't work for him.
2. Remain a member of the church and marry someone of the opposite sex.
---He defined this situation as "Hell" on earth. To make it clear how terrible it is, he suggests that straight people think if the world suddenly forced them to marry a person of their sex, have intimate relationships with them despite not being attracted, and make yourself enjoy it. Doesn't sound fun for him, so this option was out. However, he does understand that, again, it depends on the situation. Some people have found this route extremely rewarding and wonderful (take Josh Weed, for example).
3. Leave the church/religion/culture behind.
---This seems to be the most common reaction to the process that I'm terming "reconciliation". It is too difficult to reject one's very nature and they decide to reject their beliefs due to their nonconformity with who they are. It is not that they necessarily become immoral and reject any essence of "righteous" or "dutiful" living. They just don't allow religious creeds or cultural expectations to define their life. The one man in the patriarchal society decided to move away from his home and live in a different society in order to live according to his own beliefs rather than outside expectations. For the man who is still a faithful member of the  Mormon church, this was obviously not his choice. He had spiritual experiences that confirmed his belief in the LDS church and he could not simply reject that.
4. Remain a member, but be homosexual "in secret".
---This member thinks that this is worse than leaving the church. He rejects living a double standard and thinks if you feel you must conform to your homosexual feelings and go against the church, then just leave the church to avoid hypocrisy. However, again, for some people, this may feel like the only option.
5. Remain a believer, but be homosexual "openly".
---He has chosen to live a new path, but one that I've heard talked about by other people as well. He is still a faithful member, but is actively pursuing a husband who shares his beliefs and testimony in the LDS church. He still believes all the principles/doctrine and recognizes that his church does not accept gay marriage, however, he can cannot see himself without love. He plans on marrying another man and adopting children. He realizes this may require him to forfeit his membership, but he will still raise his children in the church. He's not the only one with this attitude or view of the future and I think it is becoming more common.

According to these different options and talking to people with such different choices and life experiences, I've learned a few life lessons (so far). I hope that as I continue with my studies to gain more understanding and possibilities for the gay community. Here is what I've received so far:

Non-Judgmental
Never should we think what is best for another person. There is no telling what divine inspiration they've received or what experiences they've had to steer them in a certain direction. It is their choice, yes, but who are we to judge. I've heard too many stories of familial rejection, misunderstanding, and anger that results from people who prescribe their own beliefs on others of completely different (or even somewhat similar) situations. Why do we seek to "play God" and create consequences to other people's behavior? How is pushing people away going to "fix" them, especially one so deeply "unfixable".

Also, I wish people would stop saying that there are a lot of people "choosing to be gay". Honestly, in my opinion, I don't see why anyone would choose this life as it comes with deep internal struggles and going against the world's social norm. I can accept that some people are doing it "to be different", but everyone I've talked to so far tried to be straight at one point in their life. One had been engaged or almost engaged multiple times. It's not like they are giving up on being true to their religious/cultural values. Stop saying that everyone has a choice on who to be attracted to. Just because it is easy for you to be attracted to the opposite sex, doesn't mean it is possible for everyone else.

Personal Values
In meeting with such different people, I've seem some completely content with their situation and some in absolute misery. The difference that I've been able to perceive so far is their personal beliefs. Those who are most happy have decided the kind of person they want to be and what values they will uphold. Sometimes they aren't the perfect version of themselves that they have envisioned, but at least they have some moral guideline. They have decided for themselves what it means to be a good person. They may adopt a religious belief or cultural tradition, but they have made up their mind what to live for. They aren't allowing themselves to blindly follow or be led by their religion or even their sexuality. They've prioritized their life and try to live accordingly.

Those who are miserable are those who don't know what to live for. They still have doubts on what is right or wrong for themselves, and I feel that this is the actual source of suffering during the process of reconciliation. Yes, it is painful to meet with rejection from family and friends or to be resisted by society, but people who have had these experiences are ultimately happier when they've determined for themselves what their values are. Distress and depression occurs with a lack of direction and when one feels they have no meaning.

I think this applies to everyone. What am I going to live for? What does it mean for me to be a good person. We need to decide for ourselves and then live for that credence. If you believe in God, work with Him on asking what it is we should be. I think while morality isn't completely subjective, there is a certain individuality about it. Some aspects of our life will require a different understanding and therefore a different set of beliefs. Once we decide what is right for our life, we then have a reason to act and a basis for life. I hypothesize that the decision of one's own priorities will result in less stress and a happier life.

Love for Yourself
Each of these people with homosexual feelings have remarked that they've needed to learn how to be "OK" with themselves in a complete way. One man's therapist said that homosexuality was only a small part of himself. There are so many parts otherwise that also determine a man's worth. This man was later considering suicide and realized that he just couldn't do it and said: "I couldn't kill myself. I'm just to awesome!" It's true. We are all too awesome. We are also too awesome to beat ourselves up about part of us we don't like.

Sometimes I get down on myself because of some temptation I can't resist or some mistake that I've made. But, in doing so, I see myself in a distorted way. I give too much weight to my defects and I don't see myself completely. I discard any concept of good things: I can only be good if I'm 100% perfect, so one problem makes me terrible.

Well, shoot. That's not true! I'm quite good at school. I'm a decent soccer player (sure I'm not the best, but I've seen you play, you can't judge) and I'm pretty good at the cello and piano. I'm a laugher and I like having fun. See look! I'm not a terrible person!

In one of my classes, we've talked about the Hebraic meaning of "perfection": whole-hearted. It doesn't mean a perfection in the sense that I've matched up to some standard of conduct. Rather, it means am I committed to something (for LDS people, am I fully committed to God and His plan.) This is why defining one's personal values is so important. How can one be happy or "perfect" if they don't even have the means to do so?

This was a huge post. I'm sorry. But I really think we could all get better at appreciating the struggles of others, whether it deals with being homosexual in a world with such prejudices against it, or anything else. (I just want to emphasize homosexuality isn't always perceived as the trial for the person, but rather having to be a homosexual in this world because of the antagonism towards them. So, let's not be the reason they suffer.)

And: if you are a homosexual and want to help out with this project and let your voice be heard, send me a message and we can set up an interview to talk about it. I'd love to hear everyone's experiences.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Perspectives

I'm finally writing a blog again! Don't get too excited. It is pretty much just going to be me making a whole lot of philosophical thinking that compares quite well to the disorganization of modern music or contemporary art. To me, it makes no sense, just like what's going through my head and heart right now. Hopefully writing it down can somewhat link it all together.

First off, I have this problem when I watch movies: I take whatever message they were trying to apply and I run with it way too literally. An awesome friend and I just went to see Pitch Perfect, which is possibly one of the funniest movies on the planet. Hilarious, actually. In the movie, just like others of this genre, the main character is having a struggle "being who she wants to be" and being open to her feelings and beliefs as well as the perceptions of others. I'm pretty sure it's applicable to almost everyone of this generation: self-discovery, and lately, I find myself more preoccupied than ever about this subject. The fact that Becca, the lead, is trying to be true to her "musical" self makes this even more real, since that would be my dream.

I've always struggled with my own desires and hopes contradicting with other expectations forced on me through society - whether from friends, family, religion or what not. It feels that almost in every aspect of my life I'm living a double standard, as if I'm a hypocrite. Music is a fundamental part of my life, yet, in the increasing demand for economic stability for the future, I've almost completely buried it away. After choosing to study the social sciences I feel judged or mocked from every side, even the people that I thought would be most supporting and telling me to "do what I love". I've heard it all: "Do you want to be poor the rest of your life?" to "You're making the worst mistake." I have to deal with religious cultures and beliefs that don't always coincide with the deepest convictions and discussions I have with myself of "Who am I?" Most people who know me can attest to my being a little "off the mark" when it comes to the perfectionist facade that a highly religious culture seems to require. It's not even a bad vs. good conflict, but one "me" vs. another "me".
Halloween Appropriate...

Unfortunately, all too often I comply with the strict expectations established by those around me. Sure, I'll go to church as a drone, I'll stay away from a potentially poor career in music, I'll wear the styles that will keep me in the norm, I'll date the people I'm supposed to like, I'll dream the dream that accompanies society's sedation of my personality. The question is --> is this "me" who I really want to become? Do I want to reject the anesthetics and attempt to create my own reality? Should I even try?

Or is this even a question? It seems I'm always expecting life to be perfect. I'm expecting Javert to let Valjean go and save Cosette and her mother. I'm ready for Harry Potter to use some magic formula to bring his parents back from the dead. I'm anticipating the sequel to the Twilight series where Edward grows out of sparkles and Bella stops taking pills that make her believe she's a vampire (if only...if only...). Consequentially, I am almost always angry when life doesn't mass produce the happy endings that I crave. I've grown resentful of the fact that I can't live my dreams, I can't perfectly reconcile who I am with my "peeps", religion, family, or whatever it may be. Sometimes I hate myself because I tend to try to be dishonest with myself. It is frustrating to have part of me reach for something unaccepted by everyone that I must cage with the expectations of others. I'm forced to be at war.

Just...why?
Yet, thus is life. We've progressed to this point where we can no longer escape it. Nemo's mother is really never coming back, Andy did outgrow his Woody, and, possibly most tragic of all, Lady Gaga is still making music. I don't know what to do with my life, but why complain. Sooner or later I'm going to have to pick where I stand on all of these issues. Do I choose to live according to who I think I really am, or should I aspire for a prescribed life that promises a higher way? Really, what is all happening right now is I'm stuck between two worlds that contradict each other and it is difficult to find a compromise. It seems that I need to pick one or the other. Is it fun, no? But I guess I shouldn't complain because life is that way. What can I do about it? It may take me years to sort my life out and make the decision or I might make it tomorrow. I might even change it a day later (we all know how consistent I can be...).

So, here's to roughing it together through sorrows and working with one another to get over our troubles. It's time to wake up and realize that we just have to suffer through it. You never see Liam Neeson freaking out. The Albanians take his family and he blows them to smitherings. Sure, it sucks, but he deals with it. Gotta do the same. It may not even come out with a happy ending, but maybe it's time to stop pretending that life should be perfect.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I Heart EFY.

I never went to EFY. I don't know why, but it never really interested me. I definitely was more interested in my sports or music to do anything more with the church. Plus, I think part of me thought it was just another part of "mormon culture" that had bothered me. Maybe it was that I still didn't know if the church was true and was afraid of being brainwashed or something.

Then when I came back from my mission, I hated the EFY weeks during Spring and Summer terms at BYU. There were children EVERYWHERE and they often were inconsiderate, not to mention how annoying adolescents could be in packs without any parents. Plus, I had friends who worked for Housing or Catering who only told me horror tales about the kids and counselors they met.

Well, Charlie kept telling me I had to be a counselor, but I was really fixed on going to school and other things in my life. Plus, I had got into a little bit of a spiritual slump and wasn't really feeling like spending my summer with hordes of immature youth. Finally, this summer I had decided not to take classes and my job was only available during the school months, so I needed something to do....well, there was always EFY. Why not?

You may remember another post about an awesome EFY interview I had, but then I hadn't received word until pretty much right before I was coming home from study abroad and when I was supposed to start as a counselor. I was to be a counselor. I was excited, yes...I had some awesome experiences during my study abroad where we could say I "found myself" and I think I finally became ready to live as God wanted me to. Was a terrified? A little. Could you imagine spending time with 20 14-18 year olds 24/7? Terrified, yes.

BUT IT WAS AWESOME! I only wish that I had taken the opportunity to do it when I was a kid, because it seriously was the most awesome experience of my life and it wasn't even for me. I'm going to describe some of it, and I'm sorry if it bores you, but it was amazing. And when I say "my kids" I'm referring to the ridiculously fantastic youth that I had the opportunity to work with.

Well, my first group came and I had no idea what I was doing. My co-counselor was awesome and did great at helping me understanding the unwritten rules and expectations. Unfortunately for her, I was given music program duty. This meant that during lunch and free times I would work with the youth who wanted to do a choir program on Thursday. More about that later. 

This first group will always be in my heart.  I love them more than words can describe. Each one of them strengthened my testimony in some way and we had an awesome time together. To be honest, I had become a little somber during my stay in Italy as I was observing how low the culture had degraded and disgusting life was becoming. Sadly, when I returned to the states, I saw some of the same things happening. I was becoming a little discouraged at thinking of how we were supposed to build each other up and make the world a better place. 

Until this group. I saw such strength and power in each one of them. I got to hear their testimonies of the Savior and of the Gospel. I saw them strengthened as they grew together and become ready to share their love to others. I instantly received hope in the future and I knew everything was going to be great! A group of them even called me after they got home telling me how they had shared the Gospel with some older ladies on a flight home! They showed me, albeit somewhat rambunctiously, that this life and the Gospel is supposed to be one of joy, happiness, and much of the time FUN! There is a power in understanding that we are not here to slave out our lives to some unknown master. Rather, we are here to enjoy life and to return to our loving Heavenly Father who has given us the world.

One of my favorite parts of this group of guys was how close they all became friends. They did everything together and that really helped the Spirit grow stronger. Pizza night was awesome and we had a great time talking about everything. Kyle then decided to go tell everyone that I was getting engaged, so all the girls ran over to me screaming about how I was going to do it. Funny joke, Kyle...

It was really difficult to see this group go, especially my boys. They were so awesome and really helped my testimony and understanding of the purpose of life grow stronger. I had felt such love for them that I grew to know a little bit better how much God cares for His children. I was a little afraid about getting a new group, because how could I love them like I did this group?

Well, the next group was definitely a surprise. From kids not washing their hair for the past 3 months, to brothers trying to deceive the whole group by switching names on us, to fantastic musicians and athletes, I didn't know how to react to such a completely diverse group of kids. But they grew on me and I came to love them too.

During this week, I was taught another lesson: BE YOURSELF! That may sound stupid and trite, but really there is a power in truly living as you are. I've seen a lot of members during and after the mission trying to fit the "perfect mormon" stereotype. You'll hear my past roommates and I describe it as "the missionary voice" or ARMS (awkward returned missionary syndrome). Some people try to speak how they think a mormon to speak or act how a mormon should act. Well, unfortunately I don't fit that mold in many ways. It's always been a little bit of a struggle for me to decide how to live. Should I conform to the "mormon culture" or should I be myself?

Well, everyone in this group was true to themselves. They lived exactly how they wanted to and it was amazing to see the power in that. Each of them brought different talents to the table and different experiences. Just as Paul said that the church needs different kinds of people to work properly, so does an EFY group. If everyone tried to conform to a certain mold, the church (and the EFY group) would fail. These kids, despite being completely different, were able to mesh perfectly because they were the people that God wanted them to be.

Aren't we just so cute...
The testimony meeting this week was a special one as we got to be all alone (sometimes they combine us with other groups). As I was listening to their testimonies I wrote key words of what they were testifying of. It was amazing to see how their lives had brought to understand different parts of the Gospel so well, but they all came back to knowing that the Savior loved them as they were. It was humbling to see how mature they were in their understanding of the Gospel and I am so thankful I had that opportunity to hear from them.



Who could ask for a better group...or a cooler banner?
Well, I had to watch this group go home too. I was finally getting a hang of the "EFY job", although for me it was not a job. It was such a great blessing to learn and grow with all of the church's fabulous youth. As this group left, I thought surely it's been a fluke to get such great groups. I've heard horror stories from other counselors about terrible youth groups. I was terrified to get my 3rd group because I was worried that it was going to be "that group."

I won't say it was my easiest week at EFY, but I'm attributing that to the fact that it was my 3rd week as a counselor and I was sooo tired. Thank heavens I had such a marvelous and lovely co who loved the kids just as much as I do. A lot of time there are counselors who I feel are there for the wrong reasons (just need a job, want to be adored by little children, etc.), however this co was perfect for the job. She really did care for the kids and all we talked about was THEM. She made them her life! It was amazing.

Elysse and I...and some photobombers. I don't know
what faces we were trying to pull....
Anyways, my kids were so (I'm sorry for the boys) cute. They were the younger group, 14-15 year olds, and so I kind of had to change tactics on how to go about connecting with them. With my other groups we talked about girls and sports, but with this group it was smarter to talk about movies, games, and books like Harry Potter and the like. It was a lot of fun, but also was a lot more draining because they were a lot more active and rowdy.

Yet, I realized that I couldn't judge them like I had the other groups. They weren't 16-17 year olds, they were sports fanatics (well, some of them were), and they had different testimonies. I was at first expecting to treat them the same way as the others, but that wasn't right. Working with this group taught me how to work on their level and reach toward their understanding. The Gospel reaches us all in different ways and we have to understand people to connect with them. Some people are living different situations and it is not right of us to expect them to be similar to others.
And then they attacked me. What should I have expected?

But, what this group really taught me is charity. So many of the boys, without me even suggesting it, would go pick up the ladies' trays or open doors for people or ask what they could do to help. They did their best in making it an easy and fun experience for everyone. They never did anything unless they could see it helping their counselors or their comrades. They were such a great group of kids and they were awesome!

Two more fun little goodies about this group. Thursday, 5 of my boys did the talent show and lip synced One Direction. I personally can't stand boy bands that make girls in their mid-20's swoon, but it is quite attractive for the adolescents...so I encouraged them to do it. Anyways, they did AWESOME! It was pretty fun. I wish I had a video of it, but maybe one of the girls can put one up. Second, Friday night I took the girls for a Q/A session and we had such a fun time. We talked about all my dating experiences and they were so cute about it. Maybe they were just humoring me, but we had a good time laughing about everything that happened.

Well, finally I got a break and spent an awesome week with my family in Idaho. I don't know if I'll ever get to blogging about that, but let's just say I needed some time to wind down shooting shotguns and glocks, playing board games, going hiking, sleeping in till 8, and reading Robin Hood.

And then my last week arrived. I seriously was just as excited and nervous as if it was my first week. Almost everything I wanted I got: older kids, new heritage (the old heritage buildings are like death), music program duty again, and an awesome Co. The only bad thing was our meetings were all the way at the JSB. From New Heritage to the JSB is a long, long walk. I was not excited about it and neither were my kids once they realized how much time they had to spent escorting each other. :)

I don't have words for this last group. They were just so great and it was a perfect week to end my short summer at EFY. They were my largest group of boys and ranged from a 15 year old to an 18 year old who was about to put in his mission papers. They never ceased to make me laugh, it was so awesome. Once it was appropriate to be reverent, however, they didn't miss a beat to settle down and pay attention.  It was amazing to see how even before EFY, these kids were converted to the Gospel even if they didn't know it. They had been living it before they had arrived! I miss these kids so much...

Out company's cheer which included Angry Birds...we are
pretty much pretty legit.
Well, we also had some talented young men here too. One of them could rock the Chinese yo-yo like you would never believe and we had another one play the cello like nobody's business and he even played for the music program. A group of us played sports almost every day, and we had some awesome athletes. I was terrible at basketball, but these kids were awesome. I had a couple who could teach the Gospel so effectively and clearly I'm so excited to hear their mission stories. We had a fun time "appropriately" teasing each other and these kids were actually pretty clever in their jabs, I was quite impressed. This group also won every game at games night, and so we decided, quite objectively, that we were the best group at EFY. It is pretty much a fact.

I had a most amazing experience this week with my Music Program kids. Alyssa and I were so excited to be on musical program because we knew the power that it held and Spirit that the kids felt in the choir. However, we were a little worried at the beginning because of some ... counselor pride that was going on, of which we were all at fault. Then a couple of the kids were getting frustrated because a couple of directors were getting too nit-picky and technical. Most of the kids had no idea what they were talking about. So, Alyssa and I decided to change tactics: "SING THE MESSAGE!" I actually came up with that slogan on the spot, and we were pretty proud of it.

For the rest of the time practicing with these kids, we went over what each song meant and how we really didn't care how they sounded but we wanted them to focus on the Spirit they were singing with. We thought they got the message, but when we got into the our huge performance room, they were still a little timid as they sang. It was a little scary because they could barely hear each other, which made them nervous and then they sang even softer and it was disheartening. We could all tell, and so right before we sat them down before the performance, I tried to give them a little pep talk.

In it I included everything I had felt the last couple of weeks at EFY. Everything the youth had taught me and I tried to help these kids realize how powerful they were and how much potential they had. These youth are the Hope of Israel and I'm excited to see the things they do. I let them know that on the last song, the image behind them as they sing is the picture of Christ with His hands outstretched as He ushers in the Second Coming. I made sure they recognized that they are His brothers and sisters and it is up to them to help Him gather everyone to Him.

Well, the performance started and they were singing better than the practice, but I was still afraid that not everyone could hear on some songs. Well, the last two songs were Called to Serve and Hope of Israel. Called to Serve always gets you pumped up and so when I got up to direct Hope of Israel I think they were ready for it.  It was incredible. As they started to sing, there was an immense power in what they were saying. I started to get emotional, and if you know me, you know that I can't help myself and I started to cry a little ... a lot. Well, unfortunately, half of the choir started to cry as well. I tried to compose myself so that we could all keep singing, but that never works. However, the Spirit of the choir changed. I felt a real and intense power emanating from the youth. I don't know if they really were singing louder or if it was just the force of their spirits, but on the last chorus, I was seriously almost knocked over by shock at how intensely and beautiful they sang. It was a different Spirit altogether and I hoped that they felt it as strongly as I did. It was such a touching moment. I wanted to go give all of them a hug and thank them for the power that they showed me. Once again, these youth proved to me that there is Hope in Israel.

In any case, this was such a memorable summer. I love all of my children and all of their talents and the lessons they taught me. It has made me seriously contemplate finding a career that can help me work with them all the time. I just love the youth so much! And, if God is willing, I would give everything I can for them. But, we'll see where He takes me. I can only hope that it is with them. :)  I'm expecting to see great things from all of them and if I don't hear from them, I'll see them in the Celestial Kingdom and I'll get to hear all of the awesome things they did there. I know they will all make it. If there is anything I have faith in besides the Savior, it's in the power of these kids. They are too awesome! I'm going to miss them a bunch, but I know they are all exactly where the Lord needs them to bring about His awesome work.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Due Tramonti

Well, some of my EFY kids wanted to see this video that I did with Jill last summer (Holy Cow it's been a year). So, here it is. I thought I had uploaded it already, but I can't find it...so...here is Jill and I performing for our Biology 100 class.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Just a Little Furious...

I'm going to take a break from blogging about my trip to respond to a editorial article I read today. I welcome comments, but please keep them respectful and clean. Plus, I am not arguing for or against Gay Marriage. My position on that question does not matter for my argument deals with another.

So, before I "taint" you with my opinions, I'm about to write a post in response to the following article by Giles Fraser through The Guardian: "The Church of England says it is against Gay Marriage. Not in My Name." I think that you should read this before you read what I'm about to write so that you know what I'm talking about. I don't intend to inform you nor do I want someone to start using my opinion as fact. So, please read what I'm reacting first.

In any case, for those of you who do not want to read it, Giles Fraser, is a "Priest-in-Charge" at St. Mary's Newington in London. He claims that a recent statement by the Anglican Church is "unrepresentative". Apparently, leaders of the church "who purport to speak in the name of many thousands of people who will think the whole thing is posh" put forth the statement saying that same-sex couples will not be able to marry within the Church of England.  He says, "The church is no more a cartel of moral wisdom."

Now I'm not an expert of religions, especially of the Church of England. However, unless my conception of religion is rather medieval or outdated, I think he's a little confused. Religious doctrine shouldn't be something to be debated and decided upon by people. From what I understand, religions/churches should be teaching and enforcing the will of the Lord, not that of the people. It shouldn't be a democratic or republican club where the members collectively decide what to believe and what to practice.  The whole point of religion and its doctrine is to give to the people the will of the Lord and how to act in accordance of such.

Why, according to Fraser, is the church "no more a cartel of moral wisdom"? Because in his view, the majority of church members do not agree that gays should be denied the right to marry. Now, what if, I say this tentatively because I'm encroaching upon dangerous ground, what if God had decided to declare marriage solely between heterosexual couples. What if that was really the case? Would he argue with God and say that God obviously never surveyed how the people really felt? Does the Anglican Church not believe that it's leaders preach and establish the word of God?

He asks why the church isn't saying that secularization isn't the greatest threat to the church; however, this seems to be one of the largest examples of this phenomenon: the complete disregard for religious authority. If you do not believe in what your church believes, because you think God's will is different, than by all means, leave. Personally, I always fear when a church changes its doctrine because it seems rather strange that eternal truth is suddenly not eternal anymore.

"What is truth?" could possibly be one of the most important questions with many different answers being promoted throughout the earth. Some will argue that truth is exactly as Fraser argues: a collectively decided and commonly accepted rule, "fact", or belief. I, however, again take another definition which again may be labeled as outdated. For me, truth is God's word, for He cannot lie or deceive. It seems rather simple to say that if God has declared it, than it is truth. For me, a Christian, I will trust what God says before science because I have a strong belief in Him and His guidance.

What I believe should be the solution to all these religious questions is to look at a church's doctrines and understand them fully. Then, take the question to the Lord and ask Him if that is His will, if that Church holds His authority. If not, move on and keep praying that He will lead you to His truth. If so, congratulations. You've found what some have been dreaming to find all of their life.

In any case, let's remember that religion isn't a club or a governmental state. If you firmly believe that gay marriage should be allowed, don't force a religion to change it's practices. It's not discrimination, it is their beliefs. At least in America, we believe to worship freely. Find the religion that believes in gay marriage and choose that one. Otherwise, leave the religions alone. They are trying to teach you the word of God. Don't listen if you don't believe and don't criticize it. Religions have helped millions of people find meaning and purpose in life and to criticize them is quite despicable, according to me. However, to each his own. I can't change others actions nor do I want to tell you what to do. Which, I guess I just did that by using the imperative. Let me say this than, it is my wish that we are respectful of other people's beliefs.

I've already written a little bit on gay rights and religion: Here is that post: "Change your own standards please"

Monday, June 11, 2012

5 Terre to Genova and Back ... with a Ginger.

 So, we started off in Levanto which is a city right outside of the 5 Terre called "la porta alle cinque terre" (the door to the 5 terre). Here we found a huge park with a bunch of Italian families and their little kids. Here we have some playing mafia trying to handcuff the mother to the bench. One of the kids looks like he is trying to stab the ginger, but he is actually threatening his mom not to move. It was pretty hilarious. Then, he pointed the knife at us as they slowly walked away as if to say, "you better not follow us."


Oh, and there was a ginger Italian kid.





The boardwalk of Levanto.








Just a cool castle in bad lighting that is now a private residence because people can afford that.
Did I mention there was a ginger Italian here?















View of Levanto from the Castle (above) and Mary and I trying to get a picture of me heel-clicking. Cierra was successful however, and that picture is on facebook. Below is the church of Levanto.









 Below you have the city of Monterosso where we spent the first evening on the beach. It was a lot of fun, although it was too sketch (cold and dark) for my taste to get in the water. However, we found this awesome piazza on the edge of the sea and played "Who's line is it anyways?"  It was pretty legit and we were quite entertaining for those passing by.

















Below is the fabulous pesto pizza with pomodorini (little fresh tomatoes) that was oh so delicious and wonderful. Mary and I shared this one, but I'll refrain from using the language she used to describe her experience.













 On Saturday we decided to trek all 5 cities, although we were only able to walk between the first two. The other ones we took trains. This is Riomaggiore and the beach here is full of rocks: no sand...which is great for not getting sand in your shoes, but terrible for walking barefoot. The tide was rising and so the waves were HUGE and it was a lot of fun. Don't worry, none of us got sucked in.






Some more pictures of the beach that we started with. On the left is the beginning of "Via dell'amore" (lover's lane, pretty much). It's beautiful, and we had a lot of fun walking down it, all of us without our significant others. I had about 2-3 offers to hold my hand and one who actually did....um....


















More views of the walkway and the ocean from the Via dell'Amore. Below s just the sea with some fun popcorn clouds. It's a pretty big place.
















This is Veronica that we met on the beach at Riomaggiore who was walking to her grandmother's home in the city over. She is a really sweet Italian girl, but she's going through a tough spot with a cancer she has. I hope everything goes alright, but she's going in for more treatment soon. She's quite a talented artist and poet and can really make you laugh if you'll just take the time to talk to her. Unfortunately, she said that because she's so sick and in the hospital so often she doesn't get that many opportunities. So, here's a shout out to Veronica!




More of the ocean from the pass.














So, the trains would go right through the mountains and most, like this one, just stopped right by the sea. It was pretty sweet. So sweet in fact, that I had someone take a picture...you mostly only see me and the train station though. HI! The next town is just over the hill.

















Here is another pic of the lover's lane. The sun was pretty bright and my ipod doesn't take the best pictures...so, um, sorry bout that.






 Here's a gate with a whole bunch of couple's love notes, locks and chains. However, Veronica told me that periodically they take them all off because it overweights the gate and it can fall over...If that's true, then you are better off finding a secret place or writing your names directly on the walls (which everyone does anyways).






View from Veronica's house up in the highest point of her city. It was a pretty epic climb. Unfortunately, the food was too expensive at the restaurant she was showing us and we had to take the treck down...






View of the hilly landscape with bad lighting. Darn sky. I'll get you one of these days, but at least I saw it perfectly. Thanks glasses. Don't worry, mom - I still haven't lost 'em.







This is the 4th city next to Monterossa. I don't remember all the names, but I think this one is Verazzo.  It was here that we saw the pretty large sunburned man who scarred me forever.










More pictures of this area. I think this was my favorite since it was a little smaller and there were less tourists. And I found a new personality here: Erik Gump.















Hey, just in case you were didn't get enough of this one building, I'm getting you another angle. Sorry about the repetition, but as you know, I liked this one.







OMG!!!!!!!! (just a side-note, anytime I type OMG - I mean oh my gosh. Just saying so no one gets offended). These are testaroli, typical pasta of the 5 terre, with the three colors of Italy! Green (pesto), Red (Ragu alla bolognese), and White (Burro e Salvia). It was one of the best moments of my life and confirmed that there is a God, because a God-less planet would not have something so amazingly delicious. In fact, I feel this way about all of Italy.






A pic from our Hostel's climb. It was a pretty steep way up, but our hostel was tiiiiiiiight. It was all the way up on the top of the hill and gave us a beautiful view of the city (Riomaggiore) and the ocean.









So, on my way to Genova, I stopped at Rapallo just because. It was such a beautiful little city! Everywhere was full of flowers and the boardwalk was full of Italian families and barely any tourists (I LOVE THOSE PLACES). In any case, I had a great time exploring some sanctuaries, castles, and reading on the boardwalk.





There was this random painted Gazebo in the middle of town that I found. It had a summer concert series, but I wasn't going to be around for that unfortunately. But as you see below, there were flowers everywhere! It was aweseome!










The Boardwalk















So, it was pretty awesome... I had a really fun time with Jose, one of the awesome guys who I knew on the mission, and his family and we went to a ward activity where we played soccer. Not to brag, but to brag....I scored 2 out of the 3 points for our team. It was pretty legit...

:)  I love Genova. I'd show you pics, but I didn't take any since I had already been there. In any case, you can find ones from my mission on my facebook. PEACE!