Something -L- said in his Fallacious Fatty Fatalism post inspired a stream of thoughts I?ve been mulling over the last few days. He wrote: ?Does the fact that some can?t change despite their best efforts mean that they shouldn?t want to? No.?
A post that Jason Lockhart wrote ?On Change? quite a while back came to mind about what perhaps we should desire, or changes we should seek. And ?change? is always possible. The question, imo, is not whether people can change, but rather what kind of ?change? we’re talking about. More than that, it?s not enough to ask what?s possible, because what?s possible may not be necessary. So, what changes are ?necessary? in order to live in harmony with God?s plan? What changes should we desire?
On a side note, I have a friend who had come to a place where he didn?t believe full change was possible ? or at least likely (I emphasize this was his belief) ? but it was his initial belief that ?change? is possible (meaning complete reorientation via reparative therapy) that motivated him to make the efforts he did, and which resulted in a lot of very positive growth in his life, even though he continues to experience same-sex attraction. The important thing was, they were no longer devastating to him and he was in a pretty happy place. Previously, he had been miserable. Thus, even though his efforts didn?t result in the expected changes, the changes that did occur were so meaningful to him that he felt it?s appropriate to advertise programs of ?change? for just what they implied ? sexual reorientation ? even if the outcome wasn?t always as promised.
So, we got into a debate concerning the merits of what I believed to be of false promises. While we seemed to agree on the benefits of what one might expect through good therapy, it was on what should be said to motivate those who could benefit from such therapy to actually seek it that we wrestled. And what about those whose homosexual attractions really are reduced or eliminated through such therapy? And they do exist, despite the vocal naysayers. Is it unethical to advertise the various reorientation therapies for what is intended, even when that may not be the outcome for many? Even most?
At any rate, that was tangential. The question about what changes we should desire in our lives brought to mind the words of Alma:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth? (Alma 29:1-2)
But even with what I would consider a very righteous desire ? and whether it be proclaiming Christ or beginning and building an eternal family, I would suggest that we should pursue ALL righteous desires ? he called it a sin:
But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me? (v. 3)
So, what desires are righteous, and which are sin? Even if they appear righteous? What circumstances should we be content with, and what should we seek earnestly to change? While I generally think I?ve got a pretty good grasp of what I should be seeking in my life, I?m occasionally moved to step back, reevaluate, and do a little soul searching ? and, if necessary, redirecting. In a talk on this very subject, called ?Content with the Things Allotted unto Us? (I highly recommend reading the whole talk), Elder Maxwell said,
We are to do what we can within our allotted ?acreage,? while still using whatever stretch there may be in any tethers. Within what is allotted to us, we can have spiritual contentment. Paul described it as ?godliness with contentment,? signifying the adequate presence of attributes such as love, hope, meekness, patience, and submissiveness (1 Tim. 6:6).
Yet there are other fixed limitations in life. For instance, some have allotments including physical, mental, or geographic constraints. There are those who are unmarried, through no fault of their own, or yearning but childless couples? In such and similar situations, there are so many prickly and daily reminders.
Being content means acceptance without self-pity. Meekly borne, however, deprivations such as these can end up being like excavations that make room for greatly enlarged souls.
Some undergo searing developments that cut suddenly into mortality’s status quo. Some have trials to pass through, while still others have allotments they are to live with. Paul lived with his ?thorn in the flesh? (2 Cor. 12:7).
Suffice it to say, such mortal allotments will be changed in the world to come. The exception is unrepented sin that shapes our status in the next world? (Ensign, May 2000; italics in original).
Ultimately, Elder Maxwell suggests, we must be ?circumstantially content but without being self-satisfied and behaviorally content with ourselves (see 3 Ne. 12:48; 27:27; Matt. 5:48). Such contentment is more than shoulder-shrugging passivity. It reflects our participative assent rather than uncaring resignation.?
When it comes to issues surrounding same-sex attraction, it?s not easy to discern, in a gospel context, what circumstances are trials we must ?pass through? and allotments we must ?live with? ? particularly in a socio-political culture that tends to spin science in the direction of evidencing a bio-genetically deterministic genesis and wholly immutable state of ?gayness?. Alas, however, ?in our age of spin, the only spin God desires is our freely turning away from sin and turning to Him,? Elder Maxwell said. Because it?s not necessarily our circumstances that keep us from God?s greatest blessings, but rather our desires ? our attitude of repentance ? it?s this piece we must give our foremost attention.
Alma continued on:
I ought not to harrow up in my desires, the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience? (v. 4-5)
This is probably why Elder Maxwell said the most important education we can nurture in our life is the education of our desires:
Actually, everything depends ? initially and finally ? on our desires. These shape our thought patterns. Our desires thus precede our deeds and lie at the very cores of our souls, tilting us toward or away from God (see D&C 4:3)?. A person’s individual will thus remains uniquely his. God will not override it or overwhelm it. Hence we’d better want the consequences of what we want!? (Maxwell, If Thou Endure It Well, 55.)
In the mortal process of choosing, we ourselves determine what our own prevailing desires are. No wonder, therefore, President Joseph F. Smith spoke about the need for us to engage in ?the education of our desires? (see Gospel Doctrine, 297). In the use of our agency we are fundamentally sovereign. Given the constant and basic role of our desires, a significant portion of real discipleship consists of the ?education of our desires.? If we are meek, our capacity to learn from our experiences will reflect how we educate our desires, even in the hard experiences. After all, it is we, individually, who shape our desires and determine to which of the ?contending enticements? we will finally respond and from which we will experience happiness.
Thus, given God’s plan and agency’s vital role in it, we must ever be on guard against today’s trends and patterns, however carefully they are camouflaged, in which operative agency is severely diminished, such as when some seek to avoid or to deny personal accountability or to say there are really no fixed values. Ethical relativism can thereby lead to a type of a ?compound in one? by an undifferentiated life or simply by ruling out moral absolutes and thereby encouraging every man to walk in his own way (D&C 1:16; see also Judg. 21:25; 2:10).
There is a deep irony in the sameness of sinners who think they are individualistic. They have given away, at least temporarily, their agency and their capacity for joy, living life on a single plane; or, more descriptive still, some march like lemmings down the slope to the gulf of misery.? (Neal A. Maxwell, One More Strain of Praise, 86.)
Ninety-five percent of the time ? give or take a few points ? I no longer have any desire to be in any form of romantic or sexual relationship with a man. In this way, I?ve very much ?changed? over the past few years. I?m still very much attracted to men, but there are parts of that attraction I don?t really want to change. And I?m not sure I should want them to change. I love men, and I love loving men. I love the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and even physical (non-sexual, non-romantic) intimacy I experience with men. I think these are good desires ? even righteous and holy desires ? that I don?t want to ?overcome.? What I do desire ? though, admittedly, perhaps not enough, and perhaps this is where most of the education of my desires and personal focus should be ? is to grow so that I become more desirous of marriage and conjugal intimacy with a woman. What I do desire is an eternal family. But I think, perhaps, right now I enjoy too much ? am too content ? with the deep friendship and connection I experience with men, and which I believe is in harmony with the gospel. Perhaps my greatest sin is not with my current place, but rather in my love of it ? my contentment with it.