Sunday, December 18, 2011

What do you say to them?

A note to begin: I am not a paid therapist, nor am I a suicide prevention counselor. This post was written to share my own experience, strength, and hope--and what worked for me. If you or someone you love is depressed and considering suicide, there are places to help. Start here--the Trevor Project

A few weeks back, a friend reached out to me after hearing of yet another LGBT suicide attempt.

She wrote, “When I read about these suicides and attempts, my heart breaks. I’m at a loss of how to feel and what to think. Reading some of the things you’ve written has already helped me with discussions with my own children and I want us all to understand how to help LGBT kids—who simply want to be loved and recognized as being just the way their Father made them.

If you had the chance to spend time with a kid like the one who died—and I know you do talk to them—what do you say to them?” 

I understand the pain and the feeling of aloneness that drives individuals to want to end their suffering. I’ve walked through my own desperate moments, and shared those close calls openly in some of my interviews.

In my darkest moments, aloneness suffocated me like a heavy blanket. I felt spiritually weary, exhausted from trying to figure out where I fit in, weary of asking others for their help and their understanding, because there really was little to offer—regardless of where I seemed to turn.

I, too, have been at my breaking point: Faced with my own Sophie’s Choice. Do I choose to deny my sexual orientation—how my Father made me—and thereby give up any opportunity to have a loving intimate relationship with someone who loves me for who I really am? And, at the same time, be surrounded by my brothers and sisters in the gospel who have that opportunity—and see their relationships every week, or perhaps even every day—a constant reminder that my sentence is to grow old and leave this world alone?

Or do I walk away from a faith that I love so deeply—and perhaps my eternal family as well—and leave behind not just the religion I called home, but the people I called home as well? Do I leave the home where I found my Savior?

Which do I choose?

How do I choose?

Which path do I select when either choice will split my soul in two, and leave me with only half a life?

For me, the glimmer of hope was this simple realization:  I own my relationship with my Savior. No one, regardless of degree, wealth, or title, has the ability to build, strengthen or deny me that relationship. It is mine for the taking—and my Savior stands ready to meet me where I am. All I need to do is reach out.

For those who feel suffocated by that same blanket of aloneness and despair, I say this.

Don’t allow others to dictate your worth in the eyes of your Father. They cannot. And they should not. You are exactly who you're supposed to be, and you are exactly where you're supposed to be. Your Father loves you just the way you are.

I think LGBT Mormons and those who love us are kind of modern-day pioneers. Being a pioneer is hard work—it’s arduous, painful, and fraught with arrows, traps, and sometimes tragedy. But wrapped inside these difficulties is an amazing gift, if we so choose to see it—and that is the opportunity to build a better world for those who follow in our wake. We need one another, and our Savior needs us. There is not a single one of us who has the luxury of giving others enough power over us to make us give up the fight—independent of who that person is, or how powerful their voice may sound in our head.

When people have a problem with you being gay, it's nothing more than that: their problem. Don't make it your own. You have a choice where to focus your mental and spiritual time and energy. Don't waste it on those who don't—or won't—understand you. I am living proof that there's not only a home for you within our faith, but there is a *path* for you. We don't know all the answers and maybe never will in this existence--but we do know one. And that is that you're loved, that you're valuable, and that you're needed--just the way you are. 

It takes a strong spirit to be gay in this life. It takes a remarkable one to be a gay Mormon. Never doubt for a moment you are anything less than remarkable. For that is how I view you--and most certainly how our Father in Heaven does.


Want to learn more about helping LGBT youth stay safe?
The Family Acceptance Project has created a guidebook for caregivers, parents, clergy, and friends of LGBT youth. This book describes specific actions you can take today that are scientifically proven to reduce drug and alcohol use and abuse, STI risk, and reduce depression and suicide risk.

Download “Supportive Families, Healthy Children,” and learn what you can do as a friend, ally, parent or spiritual leader to help keep our youth safe.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spirituality and Social Justice; Remarks to SFSU

In September of 2011, I was asked to speak to the graduate school of social work at San Francisco State University. I was joined by my friend Liz, a fellow MoHo, who I’ve grown to know well and respect and love deeply.

The focus of our talk was to help those in the social science and social work fields understand the challenges faced by MoHos—how we struggle to find our place within our faith in a way that doesn’t compromise who we are as individuals.

I focused primarily on three points:
1: A brief introduction to Mormon history
2: Why this issue matters to the Mormon community: The growing number of MoHos
3: The unique challenges we have as LGBT Mormons

Our session was video taped, and I’ll put it up on youtube soon and share a link on this page—my technical challenges are, sadly, great. In the meantime, I wanted to share my remarks with you now.

Enjoy. 



SFSU School of Social Work Remarks
Thanks for giving me and my friend Liz Palmer (who will be speaking in a moment) the opportunity to talk with you here today. For many people, Mormonism is a bit of a mystery and most certainly gay and lesbian Mormons are mysterious—but as you can see, we are not urban legends—we do exist! And we’re going to share our stories with you today.

Before I share my own personal story, I think it’s important to give you a bit of context. So I want to start first by sharing some of the history of the Mormon Church with you. Then, I will talk briefly about our existing policy on the LGBT issue, and also talk to you about our rich culture. I think all of these things will help make my story—and Liz’s—a bit more real to you and help you understand really, what a genuine challenge it is to identify so deeply with the Mormon faith and at the same time, be our genuine selves.

So, onto church history. I wish to note, though, that I am not a church historian but will share what I do know and also some additional information about our faith. I will freely admit that history is not my strong point, and I am eternally grateful for wondrous technology that keeps me from having to become a history expert (which is my packaged way of telling you politely that I borrowed much of this content directly from LDS.org). So if this sparks an interest for you, I’d encourage you to check out our website at lds.org.

I also want to note that I am not an official church spokesperson—I am only one man, albeit with a somewhat unusual history with the church, and as such can share my own experience, strength, and hope.

Mormonism is a faith that’s shrouded in mystery for many. Several rumors exist about the faith—some of them based in fact—but all leading to a genuine confusion in the general population about Mormonism. We are, really, kind of misunderstood. And if you think about it, so is the gay community—it’s also rather misunderstood. So from that standpoint, you can see right from the get-go that there are some pretty striking similarities between the two worlds that a lot of people don’t see as ever having anything in common.

About Mormonism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church) was founded in 1830 in New York State by a man named Joseph Smith. It is probably the largest truly “American” religion, having been founded here on our soil and having grown not just here in the states, but across the globe.

Here are some quick statistics about the church:
  • Although our faith began in New York, we are headquartered in SLC, UT.
  • A local geographic congregation is called a Ward or a branch, and is comprised of several hundred members. For example, there are probably half a dozen wards or so in San Francisco proper. Wards and branches are presided over by a Bishop and his bishopric staff.
  • A collection of wards or branches in a geographic area is called a Stake—similar to what a Diocese would be in the Catholic faith. A stake can be a pretty large entity—in San Francisco Stake alone, for example, we have close to 2500 members. Stakes are presided over by Stake Presidents and their Presidency Councilmen.
  • During the early years of church history, the Latter-day Saints were a pretty persecuted faith. For those of you who know anything about LDS history, you’ll understand this to be somewhat of an understatement.
  • In fact, Mormons were driven from state to state through a series of bloody battles with fellow Americans until they finally reached Utah, in about mid-1800s. The recordings of the battles and the violent persecutions of the church are much documented, and include the murder of our founder, Joseph Smith and his brother in 1844.
  • I won’t detail the extent of the persecution here; but I do think it is important for you to understand that this is a faith that has not had it easy—but it is one that inspires soul deep commitment, dedication, and loyalty—even unto death.

A few other statistics of note; as of 2010:
  • We have over 14 million members on the official church membership roster
  • We are among the fastest—if not the fastest—growing religion in the world today.
  • We are, despite what some in the media say today, a Christian religion. We view faith in Jesus Christ and in His atonement as the central tenet of our faith.
  • We have four scriptural texts inside the faith: The Bible (both old and new testaments), Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.
  • Continuing revelation: We believe that more will be revealed both to our Prophet, to guide us as a collective, as well as individual revelation to help us as we conduct our own lives.
  • Because of this fact, I think Mormonism is probably among the more ‘hopeful’ faiths out there today. We don’t focus on the guilt, the martyrdom, or the pain and suffering: We focus on a glorious and grand future for both this life and the one to come.

Our faith is also one that puts profound emphasis on family, and on chastity. From the family side, we view families as the center point of our lives, and value family bonds and relationships as something eternal—meaning, we view them as something week keep when we pass from this sphere into the next. In fact, one of the key teachings of our faith is that nothing in this life—no secular success—can compensate for failure within the home.

Likewise, chastity is a cornerstone of our beliefs: Chastity is sexual purity. Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage.

Currently under church policy, marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman. When it comes to those within our faith who are gay or lesbian, we encourage them to maintain the law of chastity as well—which translates into the requirement of living a celibate existence in order to maintain a full relationship with the faith.

Why the LGBT issues is of such importance to Mormons: The numbers
So, I want to switch gears here a bit now that you have a little historical  and policy context, and talk about some of the reasons the LGBT issue is of such significance to the Mormon community—and therefore to you, as individuals who may be working with them.

First and foremost, it’s a numbers issue.

In 2010, as I noted earlier, we reported official church membership to be over 14 million.

Based on that 14 million membership number, we can extrapolate that there are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of LGBTQ people and those who care about them in the membership of the church today.

Let me tell you how I came up with that figure. Given our current church membership number of 14 million, let’s assume a very conservative estimate of 1% LGBT Mormons inside the faith today. That would mean we currently have over 140,000 gay and lesbian Mormons in the faith. (Now, most accepted science will tell you that number is at least 7% or higher—which would be about 980,000 LGBTQ people among our ranks—but for the sake of simplicity, let’s use the 1% estimate).

Now, add families to that 1% estimate of 140,000—keeping in mind that Mormons typically have really large families—and that number quickly grows to at least 500,000. Then, add to that their friends, their neighbors, and their priesthood and relief society leaders, those who care about them—that number quickly grows to over a million—within the faith alone.

Now, let’s factor in those who have left the church over this issue, and those within the LGBTQ and straight communities alike who listen to what our faith has to say on this matter, and we can extrapolate that there are probably tens of millions of people in the world to whom this is an important topic—tens of millions of people who are troubled, pained, and long for some kind of reconciliation on the question of how gays and lesbians fit within our faith.

And that’s just based on numbers today.

So let’s look toward the future. I mentioned to you earlier that Mormonism is one of the fastest—if not the fastest—growing religions in the world today. According to a recent US News and World Report, if the present growth trend within our faith continues, there could easily be 265 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the globe by 2080. To put that in context for you, the total United States population today stands just over 300 million people—so that number is not insignificant.

If we continue our conservative estimate of 1% LGBTQ population in the Mormon faith, then by 2080 we’re talking about 2.65 million LGBTQ Mormons—not including their families, leadership, friends and others who love them—both within the faith and outside of it.

So from a simple scientific and sheer numbers perspective, you can see that this issue is a pretty significant one for the Mormon population today alone. And, given our growth projections, it’s one that’s going to be of increasing importance, and increasing significance.

Simply put: As we grow as a faith, the significance of the Mormon missionary opportunity to our gay and lesbian fellows will also increase.  

Why the LGBT issue is of such importance to Mormons: The culture
A second key reason the LGBT issue is of such significance to the Mormon community is the depth of our culture, and how intensely it becomes embedded into the lives—and to use my own terminology—into the spiritual DNA of our members.

Let me give you an example. I was having dinner the other night with Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project—I believe you’re all familiar with her amazing research on the LGBT community—and we started talking about the topic of gay and lesbian Mormons.

During Caitlin’s work in Salt Lake, she had the opportunity to work with Mormon gay and lesbian youth who were now homeless, having been cast out of their homes because of their sexual orientation. What she said to me is something that I, as a Mormon, have known all along: The sense of loss these kids experienced, the sense that they had been deprived of something glorious as a result of having lost their families was much more significant in Mormon youth than of those from other faiths. One reason, as I mentioned, is the important emphasis our faith places on our family unit—that these are the most critical relationships of our lives, and indeed beyond.

But a second key reason is this.

Mormonism, unlike almost any other faith, embeds itself deeply into who we are. As I talked about this with Dr. Ryan, it became clear that Mormonism moves well beyond most standard religions, and she actually pointed out that if we want to identify it correctly, we need to think of not as just a faith, not as just a culture, but as an ethnicity.

You see, for Mormons, our faith is not something we practice for a couple of hours on Christmas and Easter. It is not even something we practice for a few hours on Sunday. It is a faith that profoundly affects almost every aspect of our lives, and again, embeds itself into who we are spiritually.

Let me give you some examples:
  • It affects how we dress
  • It affects what we eat, what we drink, and how we treat our bodies physically
  • It affects the schools we choose to attend
  • It affects the careers we choose to pursue
  • It affects where we live geographically
  • It affects how we spend our vacation time and our free time
  • It affects the friends we choose
  • It affects who we date—and most certainly who we marry
  • It affects how we interact with all others and the importance we place on the relationships with those whom we care about and love

I think the best comparison I can make—and again, I’m not a theologian or a historian—is Judaism. Judaism really is both a faith and an ethnicity—and it affects all the same things I mentioned above. Seldom, seldom do we see any other religion so deeply impact the lives of those who are counted among their ranks.

So when an individual begins to realize that another important element of who they are—their sexual orientation—is at odds with their faith, this spiritual and cognitive tug-of-war begins to take place. Many times Mormons are secretive about being gay—having gotten messages and cues from both leadership and in many instances family members—that being gay is not only undesirable, but that it is shameful: that it goes against God and His will for us.

I cannot underscore enough here how bitter—how deeply piercing—the emotional turmoil is that gay and lesbian Mormons experience.  I can’t underscore enough how painful the anguish, the spiritual discord that these individuals face. We are faced, in essence, with a Sophie’s Choice—a paradox in which there is no solution that doesn’t result in an excruciating, heartbreaking loss.

Which do I choose? Do I choose my orientation, how my Father has made me, and lose this other part of myself—my faith, my culture, my spiritual ethnicity—and possibly my eternal family? Or do I choose my faith and deny another critical cornerstone of my identity—one which will mean I will must travel this earthly path alone, surrounded by my brothers and sisters inside my faith who have their life companions and families—knowing I will never have that for myself?

Which do I choose? How do I choose? How do I make the right decision in a way that won’t fracture my soul and leave me with only half a life?

Since I have come out as an openly, unapologetic gay Mormon and accepted a priesthood leadership position within the church, the floodgates have opened. I quite literally receive hundreds of emails a week from people around the world who grapple with the struggle I just described to you. Let me share one with you.

Dear Mitch:

My name is Armando. I have known I was gay since before I was a teenager. I served a mission and came back 3 years ago. I’m from South America and my culture is very violent and hostile to gay people. I've been feeling guilty for a long time and thinking I'm not good enough, only two of my friends know about my ''situation'' and I have no one to talk to. I have felt inadequate at church and think that the Lord hates me for being like this. Most of my friends and my family hate gay and lesbian people and when they make hateful comments about them, I just keep quiet and kinda cry inside.

I struggle so much. I want to serve The Lord and keep his commandments but at the same time I want to have someone to love. I don't date any girls right now because I don't wanna feel like I'm cheating on them whenever a guy passes by and I feel attraction. I can't have the courage you have because the members of the church in South America do not agree with that, they have a very macho culture and well.

I can't tell anybody here--you're only the third person I’ve told. I feel so alone. Write me back soon please. I really need a friend.

At the beginning of this talk, I promised I’d share with you my experience, strength, and my hope. Let’s talk about the hope part.

Mormons in the San Francisco Bay Ward: Making a cultural shift
For those of you following the media about what’s been happening here in San Francisco Bay Area, we are emphasizing another—and perhaps the key cornerstone of our faith:  developing a Christ-like love and acceptance for all individuals traditional Mormons might view as different—single parents, people of color, and most certainly our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

And the message we want to deliver is simply this: Everyone is welcome in the Mormon Church. There is no asterisk on that statement. There is no qualifying interview to sit in the congregation with us on Sunday. There is no test to take to be the recipient of our love, our companionship, or to be part of our community of faith.

I want to underscore the importance of what we’re accomplishing here in the bay area, and what we’re also seeing emerge in other pockets throughout the church, because I think it’s a pretty critical cultural emergence within our faith. True, policy has not changed. But no one will ask you to give up your partner to attend. That means anyone can come to our congregation and be part of the ward family—and no one will ask you to change who you are to do it.  

Also true that gays and lesbians who are living outside the bounds of chastity may not be able to hold temple recommends given policy as we understand it today, but let’s be honest here—there are a lot of things that hold straight people back from getting temple recommends and holding callings as well, and they’ve always been welcome in our ranks. Now that same welcome is extended to everyone—regardless of their orientation.

So is it a doctrinal change? No. Is it a great and wonderful softening of the perception of all of our Savior’s children as our brothers and sisters? Will it help mend families? Will it help people like Armando dispel the illusion that God hates him because he is gay? Will it keep him safer physically, emotionally, and spiritually?

Absolutely!

In fact, in my short time in my calling with the Bay Ward, I’ve now met almost a dozen gay and lesbian fellows who’ve returned to church—including a transgender woman—because they were starting to feel welcome. Each of them is in a different spot in terms of how deeply they want to develop their relationship with the church. And each one is welcome!

So while it may not be a policy change, it is certainly an example of what we as Mormons really want to be: Disciples of our Savior, and human extensions of His love for all in the human family—regardless of where they are in their personal lives.

Let me switch gears here once again, and quickly tell you my own story.

A bit about me…
I was baptized into the Mormon faith when I was eight, which is traditional for Mormons. My parents had converted, but both fell away from the church after their rather difficult divorce. My Mom continued her activity for a few years, but when I reached my teenage years I also fell away—but a seed had been planted.

I returned to the church of my own volition in my mid-20s, knowing full well I was gay and that I would somehow, at some point in time, have to find a way to integrate my faith with my sexual orientation. For a time, I tried living life as a Mormon without being gay, and I was miserable. I also tried living life as a gay man without the church—and I was equally miserable. I was beginning to feel like I was a man with a foot in two worlds—but I really belonged in neither. But the truth is, I am a man with a foot in two worlds—and I belong in both.

I started to have a “come to Jesus” moment when I was in school at Stanford. I had a college boyfriend and found it so difficult to try to be my authentic self—a gay man—and at the same time not feel shamed and condemned by my faith. While the process began here, it was one that took many years—so I guess you could say what I’ve really had is a “come to Jesus journey”—not a moment.

In 2009, I was approached by my stake leadership in Oakland to be part of a series of meetings aimed at mending the fences between the LGBT and Mormon communities after Prop 8. (I attended church there even though I lived in San Francisco—I had moved to that area after Stanford, and really consider that my home ward). I enthusiastically agreed, and from there really began to write and speak openly about being an openly gay, active Latter-day Saint.

Over the course of just a few short years, the east bay stakes—and I—became involved in about a dozen different types of events aimed at increasing the dialogue both about—and with—the gay community. Earlier this year, I was asked to be part of a meeting in San Francisco with the stake leadership here. The focus of that meeting was something like this: “Hey, Oakland, you guys have been doing a really great job of building unity over there in the east bay. We’ve watched what’s happening and we want to be part of that, too.”

At that meeting I met then President Don Fletcher. President Fletcher and I became good friends and stayed in close contact around this issue and how to get San Francisco more involved. In August of this year, President Fletcher was called as bishop of the bay ward here in San Francisco, and asked me to serve with him as his executive secretary.

Now, up until about a year prior to this, I’d been in a committed, long-term relationship with my partner of several years. Many people in my Oakland ward—my home ward—knew. I wore a wedding band, and was honest about who I was.

So, I had some serious thinking to do when Bishop Fletcher asked me to serve with him in a relatively high-ranking priesthood leadership role in the bay ward. On the one hand, I could choose to stay in Oakland, get ‘re-married’ for lack of a better term, and live a quiet, peaceful and pretty happy little life, not just accepted by my family of faith, but celebrated for who I was.

On the other hand, I had this opportunity in front of me to help create what I had in Oakland for my LGBT brothers and sisters in other wards families. I had the chance to team up with senior local leadership of inspired, kind men who really wanted to build bridges and begin dialogue and create space for the gay community among our ranks.

Now, how could I possibly be a disciple of my Savior and *not* want to be part of that? I accepted the calling. I went through the identical interview process any straight man would undergo to be placed into this role. I was deemed worthy and confirmed by the membership of the church in the same way any straight man would be for this role. Both of those things are fair and equal—and I did them both with full purpose of heart.

What’s unique here is that I was called into this service position not in *spite* of the fact that I was gay, but largely because I was gay. My additional role is not just to serve as Bishop Fletcher’s executive secretary—it is to help begin to rebuild those relationships between the gay and Mormon communities. To open the dialogue, to show my LGBT brothers and sisters—hey, look what our leadership is trying to accomplish here. For now, not only do you have a home inside the Mormon Church, but you have a path.

I don’t want to leave people with the impression that I am changing my orientation to be Mormon. Or that I am changing my faith to be gay. Neither of those things is true. I am a gay man, and gay men are emotionally and intimately attracted to other men. That has not changed, and it won’t change. And likewise, part and parcel of being Mormon is I’ve always strived to live my life in accordance with what I understand my savior’s will for me to be, and that hasn’t changed either.

Both of these things are just embedded into my spiritual DNA.

So that, my friends, is a portion of my story—and I want to give Liz time to share hers, as well. If I have one final thought I want to leave you with, it is a message of hope. As you encounter gay Mormons out there in the world—and you will—I want you to be ambassadors of the message we want to deliver in the Bay Area. And what we want you to say to them is this:

It takes a strong spirit to be gay in this life. It takes a remarkable one to be a gay Mormon. Never doubt for a moment you are anything less than remarkable. For that is most certainly how our Father in heaven views you.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Thanksgiving Alphabet Game

One of the gifts I try to give myself is regular doses of gratitude. I find that when I cultivate this kind of mindset, life becomes richer—I see hidden blessings all around me, and I’m much less inclined to focus on what I don’t have when I look at what I do have.

In the moments when I feel most defeated, I try to make time to play a game I call “The Thanksgiving Alphabet.” The rules are simple: For each letter of the alphabet, name something you’re grateful for. To go a step further (and to make it a little more interesting), it helps to provide a brief statement of why you’re grateful—like I’ve done below. It’s silly, childlike, spiritual and amusing—all things that bring me back to my center.

The great thing about this game is you can play it wherever you are: In the office, in the car, at night in bed before you fall asleep. Or, you can play it with someone you love—each of you taking a letter and stating something you’re grateful for.  It can inspire some great conversations, and heartfelt intimate moments.

This Thanksgiving, I’m sharing this game—and my list—with you. I hope it sparks in you some ideas of things you’re grateful for that you may have overlooked, and maybe even gives you a useful tool to break out of your own defeated moments.  At the very least, I hope you’ll find a chuckle or two.

My list is by no means comprehensive—just because you don’t see something on this list today, doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for it. It just means I’m saving it for the next round. 

Enjoy—and Happy Thanksgiving.


A. Acceptance. Recognizing that there are things in this world that I am powerless over—but that being powerless doesn’t mean being helpless. I can accept things the way they are because I know I have the opportunity to respond to them in a way that makes me happy, and keeps me close to the kind of person I (and my Savior) want me to be.  And with that, I am a little more free to be me. 

B. Bishop Don Fletcher—my Bishop here in San Francisco. Seldom have I met someone who was so deeply spiritual, kind, and thoughtful, yet held onto a great sense of humor through both the good times and the challenges. By having the opportunity to work with him, I learn how to be a better leader and a better human. Through me, he learns all he can handle about MoHos and TMZ. A fair trade? You decide. 

C.   Cats: Or more specifically, Roscoe. This little four-legged ball of allergens worked his way into my heart within the first 90 seconds of knowing him. He slept by my side every night, laid on my desk during the work day, and was the champion king of head-butts. He may no longer be mine, but the home he built in my heart still remains.

Erika and Jensen: Mormon teeth.
D. Dentists. A gratitude list for 2011 just wouldn’t be complete without a tip of my virtual hat to my Bay Ward peeps, which is chock-full of dental students. Of course, that just supports my other theory about “Mormon Teeth,” so take a quick read of that post for an additional holiday chuckle. And then don’t forget to floss after dinner. 

E. Exercise and weight lifting. These are my sanity breaks—my opportunity to turn off my head and simply “be” in my body. When I take time to clear out the mental cobwebs through exercise, I am more centered, think more clearly, and am better able to handle whatever life brings me. Plus I just plain feel better! 

F. Feminist Mormon Housewives. You know who you are, and you know why you’re on this list. ‘Nuff said.

G. Being born gay. Being gay hasn’t always been an easy road, but I suspect it wasn’t supposed to be. But I have learned that those of us who are gay are made that way for a reason—and that reason isn’t just about us. I’ve learned deeper levels of compassion, forgiveness, and patience than I ever would have otherwise. And I’ve see those around me develop unconditional love in a way they probably never would have otherwise. If we so choose, every one of us in the human family can see this opportunity as the gift it genuinely is. 

H. Humility. The ability to recognize that humility is not about humiliation is priceless. Humiliation is a position of weakness, of victimhood. And I choose to be no one’s victim. Humility, on the other hand, is a source of strength. It’s simply recognizing my rightful place as my Father’s son, with my fellow humans as my peers, right beside me.  

I. IHOP. (Closely related to the letter “W” below). Nothing says “angioplasty on a plate” like Cinnabon™ deep fried rolls smothered in butter and syrup, an omelet, and side of bacon. I think my affinity for this place stems from childhood, since among my favorite memories as a kid were meeting my grandfather on Saturday mornings to feed the horses—and he’d steal me a away to IHOP for a big plate of chocolate chip pancakes. Thanks, Grandpa! 

J. Jeanne, my sister. She’s walked this path with me throughout my entire life, and never have I genuinely doubted that she is my ally, confidante, and friend. Siblings by chance, perhaps. But most certainly friends by choice. 

K. Kirk—Captain Kirk, that is! James Tiberius Kirk was my very first TV crush, and I loved running home after school in the first grade to catch reruns of the original Star Trek series. And at that age, the b-rated special effects still looked pretty good—so it appealed to my inner budding sci-fi nerd as well as my budding MoHo! 

L. Living in the present. One thing that I’ve learned in spades over the past few months is how important today is. Planning for tomorrow is great, and looking back at and learning from the past is often helpful. But the key to a happy life is to not let yesterday (or tomorrow!) take up too much of today. 


M. My Mom:  Proof that hearts can change—and minds follow. This remarkable woman went from blaming everyone around her for me being gay, to being a staunch ally and supporter—and one of my best friends. A few years before she died, we sat on her patio and talked—and she admitted to me what a great blessing she thought it was that I—her gay son—had been brought into her life. She loved me for who I was, not who she wanted me to be. And like my Father in Heaven, viewed me as a whole person, designed by the master builder himself.  I miss you, Mom.

With forearms like that, who wouldn't listen?
N. Nehpi. Well, I wouldn’t be a very good Mormon if I wasn’t grateful for this guy. I think what I admire most about him was his ability to be in a family where his brothers constantly sought to tear him down. And while he admitted that it broke his heart, he still prevailed and was true to both himself and his Savior. I don’t think we could ask for a better role model for self-honesty. Oh, plus I had a non-Mormon friend refer to him as “Neffy,” once, and ever since then I’ve vowed to give that name to my next dog or cat. Classic.  

O. Other people’s cooking skills. I was not blessed with the ability to learn my way around the kitchen. Fortunately for me, I have friends who were. A few years back, I tried to make a cake for our Fourth of July party—my Aunt’s famous chocolate cake. Instead of 3 tablespoons of baking soda, I used 3 cups. It tasted like salty sweat socks covered in chocolate frosting. For the sake of all involved, I avoid anything that requires a stove.

P. Pops: My dad. We spent the better part of our relationship resenting one another, since I was not the son he seemed to want, making him the father that I didn’t want. But as we grew older, we both began to realize that what made us the same was far more important than what made us different. During his last days, I was working with him on some legal documents, and I felt compelled to stop and tell him how much I loved him, even though I hadn’t been the best in terms of showing it. He looked at me over the top of his glasses and said, “Well, I love you, too, son. You’re my boy!” Thanks, Dad. A son is never too old to hear those words from his father. 

Q. Questioning ideas and critical thinking. Each of us is blessed with intellect and mental faculties to guide our decisions in this life. When we toss those gifts aside, I think we offend our Father. Truth does not discourage honest, thoughtful questions—it welcomes them. After all, it is through questioning what we think we’re hearing that the veracity of any position becomes clear. 

R. My relationship with my Savior. What a great thing it is to understand that I own this relationship, that it belongs solely to me and my Lord. It is as unique as I am. No intermediary is needed to build and maintain this relationship—it is as deep and as powerful as I choose to make it. My Savior stands ready to be by my side—I only need reach out for Him. No one can—or should—do that for me. Knowing this inspires a powerful feeling of independence and confidence. 

Phantom of the bathroom?
S. Skin care. Fifty gay points for this one. One of the great things about having a beautiful older sister is learning all the techniques she uses to stay that way. One thing I’ve loved is Kiehl’s Rare Earth Masque. Not only does it give me that April-fresh glow, but it allows me to make ridiculous faces for the camera like this one—and sometimes instills in me the compulsion to scour my home to make sure there are no wire hangers anywhere to be found. (Thank you, Joan Crawford). 

T. Meditation time. Another self-care practice that I give myself. I’ve often thought of prayer as asking for guidance—and mediation as time to listen and receive it. This is a cornerstone of my spiritual practice, and when I make time to do it I have a level of serenity and confidence that I can get no other way.  

U. Underwear. Well, Mormon underwear, more accurately. I just find the attention that the general population places on what we may or may not be wearing under our clothes rather amusing (and, admittedly, slightly disturbing!). Laugh away, folks. I feel good all under! 

V. Vocabulary words. I’ll freely admit it—I am a word-nerd. I love finding the perfect word for something, or learning of a new word that’s created to describe something else. My favorites from this year include “MoHo” (Mormon Homos!) and “Modar” (gaydar for Mormons). Urban dictionary, here we come! 

W. My White Trash roots. Without them, I’d have no affinity toward Shake-n-Bake, Johnny Cash, and a secret desire to vacation at Dollywood. And no way to explain my seriously unsophisticated palate that to this day craves anything made by Hostess. Ahh, the sugary sponge-cake goodness of anything crème filled, made with vowel-laden multi-syllable unpronounceable words, and wrapped in a cellophane seal—certain to withstand a nuclear blast. 

Solving mysteries and looking good doing it.
X. The X-Files. When I was at Stanford, there was almost nothing better than taking a study break on Friday night to indulge in some sci-fi at its finest. Aliens, conspiracy theories, and humans that can shape-shift and crawl through twelve-inch heating ducts. Add in a dose of Scully and Mulder, and what’s not to love?

Y. Yesterday. I don’t have to live there, but I can recognize how all my yesterdays combined to bring me to this exact place in my life, and have molded me into the person I am today. And I have to admit, I like where I am and I like who I’m becoming.

Z. Zygosity. Yeah, okay, so it’s not a real word. But I once won a game of Scrabble by using it, so don’t tell anyone. And I think it was the only game I’ve ever won, so don’t take this away from me, dangit! 

Now it’s your turn. What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"The Cultural Hall Podcast" Interview

A few weeks ago, I spent a few hours with Richie Steadman and Lauren Johnson of The Cultural Hall Podcast.   

The Cultural Hall is the brainchild of Richie and Lauren, who both worked independently of one another in the radio and television business, but combined forces to form this unique venue to share Mormon related stories, history, and perspectives.

I will openly admit this was probably close to the most fun I’ve had with any interview. Both Richie and Lauren are witty, bright critical thinkers—and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. We ended up talking for so long, in fact, that we split the podcast into two parts. I’ve shared the links below.

And as is almost always true, it was the reaction of the listeners that was perhaps the most interesting. I think Lauren said it best on her blog, and I’m sharing her words directly with you here:

The amount of feedback and listeners we’ve received since posting Episodes 13 and 14 with Mitch Mayne show me just how many people are searching for answers when it comes to understanding our homosexual brothers and sisters. And Richie and I are among you—also searching and trying to understand. Brother Mayne has been a bridge, so it seems, to bring light to the world of being both Mormon and gay. I think that soon we’ll have many more members who act as bridges, but Brother Mayne will always be remembered as one of the originals. One who was willing to share his experience, his testimony, his hope for the future, and most of all—his deep and personal relationship with the Savior. And for that, I thank him.

I received a letter from a friend, who spoke about how Mayne’s interview moved him. He requested to remain anonymous, but said I could share his words.

“I was touched and enlightened by Mitch Mayne’s thoughts on “owning your relationship with the Savior.” This struck me powerfully. No one can dictate or control or even fully understand your relationship to God. And you alone have that unique relationship and can choose how you participate in it whether you are gay, straight, married, divorced, single, old, young, active, inactive, etc., etc., etc. I enjoy your light approach to our Mormon culture, but I was surprised how your guest started me–a straight, middle-aged, rather cynical LDS guy– thinking. This intelligent gay man inspired me and I felt moved to take some steps to alter my relationship with the Savior. Mayne taught me something about spiritual yearning and reminded me how powerful the spirit moves in each of us. This seemed all the more profound for me because he is gay. Thank you for this interview.”

Some people expressed disagreement in Mayne’s sexuality, strongly believing it was a choice. Some thanked him, because they too were gay and Mormon, and were attempting to collide these worlds in the way that Mayne had. But no matter the view, I don’t believe anyone can deny the spirit, or the strength that Brother Mayne carried as he spoke of his relationship with the Savior and his love of the gospel. Whatever we each brought away from this interview with our Brother Mitch Mayne, I hope that the one thing we can all agree on is a loving God, and that we truly are all brothers and sisters—here to care for each other and lift one another up. Mayne has lifted me with his sincere testimony.

I also know many more are talking, sharing, and many continue to listen. Please share your thoughts. Share what you have taken from this podcast, and let us know. No matter your view, it is worth sharing as we are all brothers and sisters. And we are all in this thing called life, together.

-Lauren

Listen in as we chat. Regardless of where you are on the issue of gay Mormons, you’re sure to learn something new. I know I did. Enjoy.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Leave it better than you found it

When I was a boy, my Father used to take me camping in the mountains of Idaho and Oregon. As kind of an awkward little kid, I genuinely enjoyed the outdoors, animals, and nature in general—they were much less quick to judge than it seemed my human fellows were. It was one of the few places I felt genuinely free to be myself.

My Father was a tried-and-true outdoorsman. I think what I liked best about his perspective was that in many ways, he regarded himself as a guest in the wilderness: there was no sense of entitlement, there was no sense of needing to master his universe. Nature was to be admired for it’s awe-inspiring beauty and enjoyed—and when we left, our responsibility was to leave it a little bit better than when we arrived.

In the moment, it was frequently difficult for me to appreciate this principle, because for me it often meant picking up not only my garbage, but sometimes the waste others had left behind before me. But in retrospect, it was a great lesson and an even better example—a goal to leave a place improved as a result of having been there.

As I grew and developed my own sense of this principle, I began to realize that it not only applies to nature, but to our fellow humans. When looked at through this lens, we begin to realize that, with every soul we touch, we have the opportunity to leave it a little happier, a little lighter, and a little bit better off. Likewise, if we fail to recognize this possibility, we can leave behind emotional litter, spiritual baggage, hurt and pain.

I like to think of the souls of those around me like a covering of freshly fallen snow on a hillside. When I walk through the snow, each action I take leaves an impression, a footprint—even the gentlest press of my hand leaves a mark in the blanket of white. If I run wildly and carelessly, I can kick up dirt beneath the surface, and smear the pure snow into an ugly brown slush. Or, I can tread gently, and leave behind a set of soft footprints that mark where I’ve been. And if I so choose, I can lay down, spread my arms and legs, and even make a snow angel in my wake—leaving behind an impression that will often make others smile.

Likewise, each interaction I have with others leaves an impression or a mark; and it’s largely up to me to define whether that impression will leave them impaired—or leave them better than I found them.

It’s easy to understand the impact this principle when we think of the large, life changing circumstances we watch those around us face, and we reach out to offer our support and love: a death in the family, a lost job or financial misfortune, a divorce or painful loss of someone loved. A more challenging—but perhaps even more worthwhile—application is in the small, every day interactions we have with others that, to us, seem insignificant or even meaningless.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see this in action. A friend of mine was having a particularly difficult day. It was, indeed, a day that would try the most patient of souls: On her way to take her daughter to school, the tire on her car went flat, and she had to call for roadside support. Her daughter was late, and my friend frenzied from the very beginning of her day. Later, on her way back from dropping off her daughter, she inadvertently ran a stop sign and received a traffic citation from a police officer. Then, as if that weren’t bad enough, when she stopped for lunch at a small local deli, she realized that she had no cash or credit cards in her wallet when she went to pay for her lunch.

While she stood at the cash register on the brink of tears, from behind her she heard a calm, kind voice: “It’s okay, I’ll cover it. Let me do this for you.”

And with that, a day of frustration turned into a day my friend would quite possibly remember for the rest of her life. But instead of recalling the painful difficulties of her day, she’ll look back in gratitude at how another was willing to leave her a little better than they had found her.

The eight dollars or so spent by the stranger behind my friend was a relatively small gesture on behalf of the benefactor. The stranger had no idea of the kind of day my friend had faced, but simply saw a fellow in need—and stepped in to do something about it. Indeed, the eight dollars was a fairly small amount of money—but the impact felt by my friend was priceless.

Our gestures to leave someone better than we found them need not be grandiose; it is often in the little interactions where impact is felt most deeply. And those opportunities are all around us, each and every day—it doesn’t take a flat tire, a traffic ticket, or an empty wallet to leave someone better off.

All it takes is the willingness to pay a small kindness to another—a smile, a compliment, or simply holding the door open for the person behind you. And, when we focus on what we can give vs. what we can get, our whole perspective on life changes, and we become more grateful and generous—breaking free of the natural human inclination of doing kind and generous things in order to get something back. When we perform a loving act with no expectations—when we seek to leave someone better than we found them—we begin to reap the true reward of giving.

Today, I will put unconditional love into action, and seek to leave someone better than I found them. When I give freely, and expect nothing in return, I always receive more than I give. Every good and loving gesture I manifest soothes my soul, and contributes to a healthier human family.

And then, things get better for all of us.

Will you leave someone better than you found them today?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The illusion of 'aloneness'

I am launching a new book project, and I want you to participate. 




Over the past few years--and few weeks, especially--I've gotten literally thousands of emails and messages from people around the globe that share their personal struggles and triumphs as LGBT Mormons, family members, and allies. While I knew what we're undertaking here in the bay area--and the LGBT issue in particular--was of passionate interest to many, I didn't expect the volume of personal accounts and narratives.

A common thread that runs through each of these (independent of the author's orientation), is a sense of "aloneness:" the fear (or reality) of being ostracized by our brothers and sisters in the gospel for being gay or otherwise different--or for caring about someone who is.

A second—and equally important—common thread is a renewed or continuing sense of hopefulness that is attained simply from realizing we are not alone, and the comfort and increased testimony we have in our Savior and in the human family when we realize there are those out there who feel just like we do and share our burdens with us.

I've found that sharing stories--sharing experience, strength, and hope--helps erode this sense of aloneness. For it is simply that: an illusion. As we raise our own voices, we find we are joined by others, and our collective strength grows as children of our Father, and as disciples of our Savior.

I'd like to undertake a project that gives voice to those individual stories of challenge and optimism, and I need your help. Share your story with me--and allow me to give voice to them collectively.

Send me a postcard (of any design), or short letter with your story of struggle and hope. Ideally, they would fit in the page of a book if photographed--but some may be longer, others will be shorter.

I will not share your name, your location, or your ward--there will be no identifiers, so everyone can speak freely and from the heart. You can be LGBT, straight, Mormon, or of no particular faith at all--what counts is your story. Your letter can address any or all of the following, or contain something you'd like to share of your own choosing:

-What you felt when you learned about the cultural shift we're trying to make in our faith in San Francisco
-How you've struggled to find your 'fit' within our Mormon culture
-How people within our faith have responded to you about your status as an LGBT individual or ally, or as someone who is perceived as different
-How someone or something has helped you or given you hope—and how that has increased your faith

You have the capacity to change lives.

You have the capacity to help someone feel a little less alone.

You have the capacity to shoulder the burden of others--for we are surely commanded to do so.

I put my hand in yours, and together we can do what we could never do alone. 

"In the meridian of time, among other things, the Savior gave a touch here, a kind word there, food (both real and spiritual) to the hungry, advice and counsel to those in need. He gave prayers with the frightened, kindness to the passed-over, respect and affection for the children, loving care for those who are burdened. "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things."
--Stephen A. West, "Out of Small Things", Ensign, May 1999, 28


Mail your cards and letters by November 30th to:
Mitch Mayne
1450 Sutter Street
PMB #506
San Francisco, CA 94109
USA




Questions? 
Email me at mitchmayne@gmail.com

Monday, October 10, 2011

What you didn’t see


When you asked me to help you, to listen to you, you saw my smile. You heard the warmth in my voice. You saw my countenance of good cheer. You saw my emotions as you shared your triumphs—and your sorrow. 


But here is what you didn’t see.

You didn’t see how I cried silently for your pain.

You didn’t see how those tears changed from tears of anguish to tears of humility when I realized that, in some small way, I get to help someone like you—someone I love.

You didn’t see how my gratitude for you increased.

You didn’t see how much closer you brought me to my Savior.

You didn’t hear the quiet prayer I whispered: “Thank you, my Savior, for a chance to make another's journey lighter. Thank you for a chance to grow. Thank you for a chance to be an instrument in your hand.”

For you gave me the opportunity to serve. And while you might recognize how I have served you in some small way, it is really you who have served me. You reminded me what this life is all about: The chance to stand beside you as you travel this path with me, and the chance to lend a hand when you stumble.  

So after you thank me, I will thank you. You have, after all, given me the better gift. 


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Those Mormon Teeth

On a lighter note...

A few days ago, I was having a rather lively conversation with a few friends about ways we can pick out Mormons in a crowd—for lack of a better term, mo-dar (think ‘gaydar’ for Mormons). One of the things that was brought up was the fact that in addition to many of the stereotypical things we get teased about (like mini-vans, large families, and Jello-molds), many Mormons have big, square, white teeth—or what we called Mormon Teeth.

Mormon teeth are kind of like Chiclets™ gum. Chiclets™ are squared off, pieces of gum wrapped in a white, hard-shelled candy casing (with a refreshing minty burst!). In fact, good examples of Mormon teeth are often so perfect they remind me of the shiny, perfectly square, blinding-white tiles in my bathroom. And hey, who could ask for a better smile than that?

Of course, we all know Donny and Marie are the vanguard of the phenomenon known as Mormon teeth, but as I got to thinking about it, it’s actually a pretty common occurrence among the Mormon population.

So, I decided to do my own (very unscientific) field research to see whether or not Mormon teeth are a real phenomenon or just another urban legend, like the Yeti or Marcus Bachman’s heterosexuality.

A quick scan of the web revealed little about Mormon teeth, other than a few websites that poked fun at Donny and Marie for their shimmering, optic choppers. One website went so far as to ask the question: “What’s the secret of ‘Mormon teeth?’ Bleaching? Caps? Good dental plan? Please tell us, after all, it is a matter of public health!”

My own Mormon teeth

Then, I realized I actually have my own test subjects: My ward. So, Blackberry in hand, I chased a few of my Mormon fellows down the hallway this Sunday and asked if I could take snapshots—of their teeth. Ironically, given how public I am with pretty much everything about myself these days, these were among the least-awkward conversations I’ve had with these great folks. And to make things easier, they’re smiling pretty much most of the time anyway, so why not stick those grins in front of the camera?

Corin: Mormon teeth.
As the photographic evidence here indicates, the Mormons in my ward really do tend to have large, square, and very white teeth. Then, it also occurred to me that the wards that attend the Pacific Heights Chapel have an unusually high concentration of—gasp—dental students.


Coincidence? You decide.



Dan: Mormon teeth.
I think the truth of the matter is most Mormons probably do have better teeth than the rest of the population. If you think about it, it kind of makes sense: We generally don’t drink or smoke, both of which take a toll on your smile. And, save for a few of us with secret Diet Coke habits (no names mentioned, mind you) we also tend to stay away from soft drinks, which are proven to erode enamel and over time, diminish that oh-so-Mormon sheen.  

Erika and Jensen: Mormon teeth.
(I will admit here, since I’m out in pretty much every other way, I am a bit of a Diet Coke junkie. But, I’ve been advised by my dentist—who has an amazing set of pearly-whites herself—to always use a straw to prevent acid erosion and maintain my Osmond-like grin. Not that I advocate in any way that you follow suit, but if you find yourself indulging in the occasional soft-drink—invest in a straw. Your enamel will thank you.)

Abe: Mormon teeth.
So yes, I do think Mormon teeth exist—unlike the Yeti whose existence has yet to be proven (and as for Mr. Bachman, well, I think those youtube videos speak all we need to hear on that subject).

And let’s face it, we are kind of a peculiar religion, so if the rest of the world wants to poke a little fun at us for our astral-gleaming, square, white teeth, we’ll just grin—and bare them!

Bling!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Let it begin with me

I spent some time today with an old friend of mine—she’s currently having challenges in her relationship with her brother, a man who’s struggled with addiction throughout his entire life.

In his worst moments, he’s verbally abusive to my friend and interacting with him is painful and leaves her feeling deeply wounded. Yet, through it all, she still sees the good in him when she looks beyond his disease, and she longs for a relationship.

What, she asked me, is her appropriate action for his upcoming birthday? He didn’t acknowledge hers until 10 days later, and only then with a text. There was no card, there was no phone call—just a brief message on her phone with the words, “Happy Birthday.”

I shared this story with my friend.

Growing up, my own relationship with my father mirrored that of my friend and her brother. My father was volatile—I seldom knew one moment from the next what to expect from him. In one moment, I would be a great son, his pride and joy—in the next, a complete abject failure, who could do no right in his eyes. His consistent inconsistency grew to even more wild extremes once he learned I was gay. And, in reaction, I let his attitudes toward me color mine toward him. I was not the son he wanted; and in turn, I believed he was not the father I wanted.

Age, experience, and time didn’t soften him much; I never knew when I would displease him. There was, it seemed, no correlation between my behavior and his response. Consequently, I spent much of my time locked in my head, frozen between action and inaction—wondering what the consequence of my actions would be from a man I loved despite his hardness, but who did not ever seem to love me in return.

I spent years yearning for the attention and approval of someone who was unwilling and unable to grant me those things. In my head, the list of qualities I was missing was seemingly endless; so I decided to sit down and itemize what I wasn’t getting, to get a better perspective on my own unhappiness in my relationship with my father. Respect, love, attention, affection, courtesy—the list was long, but once down on paper, it seemed almost manageable, almost recoverable.

I shared my list of qualities I longed for with a wise and trusted friend. While he commended my courage and thoroughness, at the same time he told me I could bring all those things into my life, should I so choose. But there was a catch: I had to be willing to give it first, and become that which I wished to attract. For instance, was I good representation of respect, love, and the other qualities? Well, he suggested, if not, I certainly had a good list of goals already down on paper.

And he was right. I took his advice, and I let it begin with me. As I grew more kind, more compassionate, more loving, other people responded to the change. While I may never have gotten all the things I wanted from my father in the perfect order and way, our relationship, too, improved. Today, I can honestly say that all those qualities on my list exist in my life at some depth or another—and I can honestly say that as I improve, they also improve.  

We’ve long heard the analogy that tells us that our own attitudes often bounce back and return to us like a basketball rebounding off a backboard, and I know that to be true. And while I’m not the epitome of perfection in any regard, through staying close to my Savior, striving always to do what I understand His will for me to be, and living a genuine and honest life, I am becoming someone I would like to have in my life.

Through my own personal journey as an openly gay Mormon, I've had experiences that also mirror my relationship with my father--actions and words that cut, wound, and leave me and those like me, injured. But now, I look at it this way. I can't, in sincerity, ask the Mormon community to lend Christ-like compassion and kindness to the LGBTQ community without granting them that same degree of compassion--first. And as I do so, as I let it begin with me, I find softer hearts than I ever would otherwise. 

So, to my friend, my counsel was simple: Let it begin with me. Reach out in kindness, compassion, and respect. Many of us have found that as we do so, we in turn become magnets for these qualities ourselves—and like tipping the first domino, a chain reaction is set into motion where our lives—and the lives of those around us—become more richly blessed with the compassion our Savior would have us demonstrate. By overlooking the differences, the pain, and the wounds of the past and connecting with her brother in an honest, loving, and safe way, she would attract that which she sought.

And so can you.

Will it begin with you today?

“I remind you … that regardless of your present age, you are building your life; … it can be full of joy and happiness, or it can be full of misery. It all depends upon you and your attitudes, for your altitude, or the height you climb, is dependent upon your attitude or your response to situations” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 112–13; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 80).