The Unquiet Dead

TheUnquietDeadI have mentioned this book in several of my posts over the past year or two but only recently did I give it a thorough reading. It’s an old book so this is certainly not the first review. Oh, and by the way, this is not about the episode of the same name from Doctor Who, the British Science-Fiction television series. I think the title of the book was a good choice. It gets your attention.

It was published in 1987 and is Dr. Fiore’s second book. I reviewed her first, You Have Been Here Before in a previous post. Most Amazon and Goodreads reviewers gave it four or five stars. If you are not familiar with the work of Dr. Fiore, this YouTube video is a good introduction. It brings home the point that many LDS find objectionable right up front – where dead people go.

Some Spirits Hang Around

We have been taught in the LDS Church that there are two places for the spirit to go when it dies – either to the light of paradise or to the darkness of spirit prison. As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Fiore has helped thousands of people deal with spirit attachments or possessions. You can learn more in this additional video excerpt from Dr. Fiore discussing how spirits can hang around.

My point is that there are some spirits who do not go to the light or to spirit prison when they die. Yes, we’re talking about ghosts here. Yes, I’m saying that I believe in ghosts. And yes, I have some personal experience in this area. I have shared that experience previously in private email for those who ask. I don’t mind if you don’t believe. I’m OK with that. I barely believe it myself.

Multiple Mortal Probations

In my review of Dr. Fiore’s first book which deals with Multiple Mortal Probations, I mentioned an alternative explanation for the evidence of reincarnation she presented. Of course the evidence was in transcribed recorded sessions of her patients under hypnosis. They were able to describe specific activities, sights, sounds and smells from someone living in a different place and time.

In other words, her patients related that they had lived before and provided incredible detailed descriptions of what happened to them in that previous life, which affected them in their current life. My alternative explanation is that the past lives being described were not from the patients but from spirits who had attached themselves to these patients. Her second book bears this out.

Man is More than a Body

The whole idea of spirit attachments or possession is freaky to most people. They simply don’t want to deal with it. Because this concept explains so much, it receives a lot of opposition. Our culture mocks those who believe in ghosts. That’s OK. It’s wonderful to find someone like Dr. Fiore who has shared professional clinical cases documenting the truth of this very radical idea.

I say it’s radical, but only to our modern, enlightened way of thinking. The influence of beings from the unseen world is an idea that has been around since the beginning of recorded history. The argument of just what comprises the soul of man continues unabated to this day. I found that most philosophers in my college philosophy classes could not agree on man as more than a body.

Different Kinds of Possession

The Unquiet Dead presents clinical case studies of these spirits communicating with Dr. Fiore while their hosts, her patients, were under hypnotic trance. The patients came to her seeking help with some problem that defied customary medical or psychological treatment. Dr. Fiore is a professional hypnotherapist who has found tremendous success in treating spirit possession.

Dr. Fiore is very clear that she doesn’t deal with demonic or satanic possession. That’s a whole different area best left to those who have studied, prepared for and specialize in treating disorders of this kind. If you are not sure of the difference, I’ll refer you the definitive handbook on the subject from my friend Doug Mendenhall. I previously reviewed his book Conquering Spiritual Evil.

The Effects of Possession

The Unquiet Dead is kind of a self-help book in that it guides the reader to a better understanding of recognizing spiritual possession by their effects on the body. In chapter six she discusses some of the physical symptoms, mental problems, emotional problems, drug and alcohol addiction, smoking addiction, weight and obesity problems, relationship problems and sexual problems.

The degree of possession can range from nearly total, in which case the original inhabitant is almost completely replaced, to a very minor influence. She also addresses the very important factor of age when possessed and the effect of possession by spirits of the opposite sex. Now I know this gets into a very politically sensitive area right now so I’ll try to tread upon it lightly.

Dealing With Same-Sex Attraction

I’d like to share a couple of fascinating quotes in Dr. Fiore’s book on this subject. The first is found on page 36. “Entities of the opposite sex are the cause of a great deal of confusion about sexual identity. Homosexuality, transsexuality and transvestism are the extreme results of this kind of possession.” This will be welcome news to some people but I know it will anger others.

She offers this on page 43: “One of the causes of homosexuality is possession by spirits of the opposite sex. If the possession began before puberty, heterosexual development often was disrupted and the afflicted grew up believing they desired sexual partners of the same sex, when it was the entities who were determining their choices.” This idea makes perfect sense to me.

Results of Opposite Sex Attachments

“Sexual hang-ups are part of the repertory many entities bring with them. Their own problems or proclivities manifest themselves when the possessed engage in sex. At one extreme, their host may even be prevented from approaching their partners.” A spirit attachment of the opposite sex can explain diminished sex drive or a reversal in typical male-female relationships.

She continues, “Every homosexual patient I have done a depossession on has had at least one exceedingly dominating entity of the opposite sex who was determining the sexual preference. Often these patients told of feeling they were ‘trapped’ in bodies of the wrong sex.” I know this is not something the gay community wants to hear, but is helpful for those who are questioning.

Wait to Have That Sex Change

“Some of these people were considering irreversible transsexual operations because of the spirit’s desperate attempt to make the possessee’s body as much like the deceased one as possible.” Can you imagine the devastating effect it would be on someone who went to the trouble and expense of a sex-change operation to later discover they had a spirit attachment?

The effect of being possessed by a spirit of the opposite sex can explain why some men feel a desire to dress up as women. “I have treated a number of transvestites, all with possessing spirits of the opposite sex. It was they who bought the clothes and dressed up to suit their fancy, much to the confusion and embarrassment of their victims.” Again, this makes perfect sense to me.

More Than One Witness

Dr. Modi, on page 270 of her 1997 book, Remarkable Healings, confirms the findings of Dr. Fiore: “In some of my patients, possession by an entity of the opposite sex has caused confusion in their sexual identity, especially when the possession occurred before puberty.” There are so many young people who could benefit from knowing this information. It would be so helpful.

Dr. Modi continues, “A female spirit in a man may desire sex with a man, and this desire and attraction may in turn become the desire of the male host toward another male. The host may think he is a homosexual, when in fact he is only acting on the spirit’s desire.” The gay community has tried to debunk these quotes but they’re helpful for those who don’t want same-sex attraction.

And Yet Another Witness

In Conquering Spiritual Evil, Doug Mendenhall, whose daughter is spiritually sighted, meaning she has lost her veil and can see spirit of all kinds, including those who are attached to others, shares additional evidence that spirit attachments are the real cause of same-sex attraction. You can read more about Denise from books published by her father on his site, Publishing Hope.

“When I meet people who claim to be gay, I ask my daughter what she sees in them. There has never been an occasion where she did not see one or more earthbound female spirits attached to a gay man and has always seen earthbound male spirits attached to a gay woman.” I have always thought this to be the case and have wondered why so many fight against the truth of this idea.

A Final Witness of This Truth

My friend Mel Fish in his book, Healing the Inner Self addresses this subject on pages 191 to 194. He provides specific examples of individuals who came to him for help after dramatic and undesired changes in their attitudes toward sex. He made it clear that he was only able to help people who wanted help. If they did not want to change, there was nothing he could do for them.

He wrote that he had no desire to force people into a heterosexual lifestyle if they did not want one. His only desire was to help those were experiencing unwanted same-sex preferences to come to an understanding of the source of the problem and remove it if they wanted to. If the person believed they were gay and had no desire to change then he could not help them.

Sexual Preference can be Tested

Mel uses muscle testing to determine sexual preference. He uses a scale that places a person who is completely heterosexual at a zero. Such a person could not be sexually aroused by anyone of the same sex. A person who is completely the opposite and cannot be aroused by anyone of the opposite sex is a six. He has never found a person who measured either a zero or a complete six.

He says most people test out at a one or two. Every one of the people who tested at a five had with them spirits who were of the opposite sex. After sending those spirits away, every one of these people changed from a five to a one or two. The whole point here is that there is a way to be “cured” for those who don’t want to experience same-sex attraction. Removing spirit attachments helps.

An Important but Controversial Subject

Now I know this is a controversial subject. I wrote about this once before and received all kinds of negative comments and denials that unwanted same-sex attraction could be removed. One regular reader commented that he was “pretty sure this will be in the running for this week’s least politically correct Bloggernacle post.” It’s been five years. I wonder if things have changed.

We live in a day of testing in our church. Those who are pushing the homosexual tolerance and equality agenda will not be pleased with this essay. As I noted on my previous essay, I did not write it for them. I wrote this because the Lord asked me to. He wants those who have unwanted same sex attraction to know that there is an explanation and a way to remove those feelings.

An Invitation to Dialogue

Comments are welcome. I love and appreciate opposing viewpoints. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I know this is a sensitive matter in the church right now, one that is separating many families and members of all age groups. Please don’t attack each other personally. If you want to email me privately, I can be reached at Thanks for reading.

Walt Whitman, the First Great American Poet

Walt Whitman left a legacy as an American poet that cannot be ignored.  Yet, nearly 120 years after his death, polarization of opinion about his work and his influence is still strong.  It seems that you either love him or you hate him, and in most cases that view depends upon your moral convictions.  There is no doubt that his work was controversial in his day, evidenced by the labels of “obscene” and “pornographic” given by some reviewers.  For those who have seriously studied his work, the general consensus of opinion is that Walt Whitman was a great American poet and in fact, is considered the first great poet of America.  However, to many in this great nation, instead of singing the body electric, Whitman’s poetry demeans and degrades the human spirit.  And while his works may have shocked the sensitivities of some readers in his day, it is tame by today’s standards, giving us an early preview of America as the land of porn.

A Short Biography

Walt Whitman was born in 1819 in New York and died in 1892 in New Jersey at age 72. He was the second of eight surviving children in a poor family struggling to barely subsist, both physically and emotionally. Biographers have surmised that his father was probably an alcoholic.  There was some mental instability in his family among his brothers and sisters. Although his formal education ended at age 11, Whitman was a very successful autodidact, a self-educated man. He worked for a time in the newspaper industry as a journalist, editor and printer. He tried his hand at teaching for a few years but did not enjoy it and quit abruptly, with some speculating that it was due to an unwanted romantic advance toward one of his young male students.

Leaves of Grass

Returning to journalism at age thirty, he began what became his life’s work: Leaves of Grass, a collection of poetry written in a distinctly American style using free verse and a cadence based on the Bible.  He self-published his book in 1855 and published multiple editions in his lifetime. The book was and is powerful, abandoning traditional verse for free verse poetry. It was also deemed by some to be controversial as they found his repeated sexual imagery content to be offensive.  When he presented copies to his family, his own brother said it not worth reading.  Although he did not list himself as the author, he did include a now-famous portrait of himself facing the title page, with an open-neck shirt, jaunty hat and one hand on hip.  In the body of the text he identified himself as, “Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist…”  He was, in all respects, a natural man.

O Captain, My Captain

Whitman’s sexual orientation is generally assumed to be homosexual or bisexual.  He never married but had several long-term intimate relationships with other men in his lifetime. Whitman achieved international recognition and worked tirelessly to promote his book. He obviously lived during the Civil War and that was a big influence in his life. He travelled to Washington looking for his brother who he had heard had been killed, but was only wounded. He spent time on the battlefields and in hospitals caring for the sick and the wounded. He came to greatly admire Lincoln and was deeply affected by his assassination. His most famous poem, O Captain, My Captain was about Lincoln and he gave many lectures on the president’s life. He suffered serious health problems in his later years, surviving three paralyzing strokes.

America’s National Poet

Walt Whitman answered Emerson’s call for poets to expound the new world of the United States. There is no doubt that he did this powerfully, uniquely and in a highly acclaimed manner. He was considered America’s national poet, at first more by Europeans than by his fellow Americans, at least in his own day. Using free verse, Whitman created a new style of writing that was uniquely American. He used natural voice and diction to imitate the natural flow of thought and feeling. He had a grand vision of speaking for America and explaining what it was all about. He saw and described scenes that leave you feeling like you were also there with him. He was innocent enough to believe that there really was such a job as a national poet.

An Epic to Celebrate America

Whitman was on the forefront of the American literary scene and was well prepared to promote it. His language was uniquely American, not British or European; powerfully American. His language had fewer rules; it was looser, courser, rougher and more promiscuous. He felt he was actively involved in the struggle for democracy with Leaves of Grass. He also said that he hoped his book would heal the nation and even prevent Civil War. He wanted to inspire and stir people with his work.  He viewed his book as a true epic. What would an epic be like?  It would celebrate America, the American self, the “I.”  In fact, he sings of America throughout the book.

The Great Equalizer

Before Leaves of Grass he wrote editorials but he saw that they were mostly ineffective so he created a more profound work through his free-verse writings. He addressed the soul and the psyche of the nation, to create a real sense of community. He threw his book out there with a lot of hope for a nation that would soon divide apart. Whitman wanted his book to be written by the nation and for the nation using his voice. In his preface he says that the poet is the great equalizer and the one who is in balance. He obviously had a great ego and assumed a lot, but believed in his age and his country. He felt that he had a national mission to fulfill because he could see and tell of a world of experience in a way that nobody else could or did. He wanted to preserve the Union, to hold things together and yet maintain our unique identity. The many contradictions and differences of our nation did not bother him.  He wanted us to accept them and him and was truly puzzled by those who could not or would not accept either.

Legacy of Walt Whitman

Leaves of Grass is Walt Whitman’s personal literary journey of national significance. His desire was to sing of the new country with a new voice and he felt the time was ripe. There is no doubt that Whitman’s vision and ego helped him produce his masterwork. His profound vision created a tremendous contribution to American literary history. Numerous poets have tried to place themselves in his wake or have reacted violently to him. There is no getting around him.  He was a celebrity in his day and is celebrated today.  He had disciples that surrounded him in his later years and still has a large following today. But why is he so important?  It is because he stirred up such controversy and got people talking. More importantly, he broke the boundaries of poetic form and elevated common people through his portrayals of American life.

A Religious Skeptic

Leaves of Grass had a major impact on the literary world; His work cannot be ignored. His poetry has been set to music and inspired musicians, both classical and popular. Europeans said that you couldn’t really understand America without Walt Whitman. Some modern poets have said that Whitman is not just America’s poet, but he is America. Whitman considered himself to be a messiah-like figure in poetry; so did his admirers. His vagabond lifestyle was adopted by the beat movement as well as by anti-war poets.  He took what Emerson and Thoreau started with the transcendentalist movement, thoroughly Americanized it and then set it free to enjoy a new life through his free-verse poetry.  His style speaks to many people who think as he did and do not live within the constraints of limitations imposed by moral boundaries of religious America.  Though he was born to a Quaker family, it would be more proper to classify Whitman as a man of spirituality and not a man of religion.  He as deeply influenced by Deism and denied that any one faith was more important than another. Similar to Benjamin Franklin, who was also a religious skeptic, he embraced all religions equally.  And though he accepted all churches, he believed in none.  It is safe to say that Whitman’s religion was like his verse: free and easy.

A Mass of Stupid Filth

But it is his forays into eroticism that elicited such strong responses from his critics.  They said that his poetry was “a mass of stupid filth” and that Whitman was like a pig “rooting among the rotten garbage of licentious thoughts.”  For example, in section 11 of Song of Myself, Whitman warned us that he was going to celebrate himself, get bawdy and lusty and otherwise embrace the passion, pulse and power of life.  The 29th bather is a powerful example of how he makes that happen.  In section 3 of Song of Myself he had already exposed us to the urge of sex, and now he sprays us with a beach orgy. Section 11 is famously known as the 29th bather, a fantasy that starts from a female narrative and ends with a homoerotic shocker.  It caused one reviewer to exclaim that he was guilty of violating “the rules of decorum and propriety prescribed by a Christian civilization.”  Another accused him in Latin of homosexual behavior.

Raw Sexuality

While some biographers are certain in their declarations that there was never any evidence of homosexual activity, what is certain is that he used the imagery of raw sexuality liberally throughout Leaves of Grass. “Urge and urge and urge, always the procreant urge of the world…always sex” are found along with scenes of “hugging and loving bedfellows.  He takes on an all-knowing and condescending spirit that tells us to forget about “creeds and schools,” religion and education, and just listen to what wisdom he is about to belch forth.  With arrogance he states that “what I assume, you shall assume,” as if to say that our views could only possibly be his views. He is going to introduce us to the common laborers of America, the average people who are cheerfully and skillfully working to build the great American dream.

I Celebrate Myself

Throughout his work we will witness numerous vignettes of life in the America of Walt Whitman’s day, not life in halls of congress or places of business, but in homes and gathering places. And through it all, we are to be subjected to the lusty, bawdy, fleshy side of life that Whitman, or his muse, wants us to see, hear and experience.  With Walt, we will hear the delicious singing, the “party of young fellows, robust and friendly, singing with mouths open their strong melodious songs.”  He is positively giddy. “I celebrate myself, and sing myself… undisguised and naked…mad to be in contact with” the sensual nature of this physical and worldly existence.  We will soon be reading biography, sermon and poetic meditation of this muse all lustily embracing the fleshy body as it expresses itself through the life of Whitman.

The 29th Bather

In Leaves of Grass, Walt writes of getting “undisguised and naked,” and sensually urges his readers to “Undrape!  You are not guilty to me,” but “stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical.” But these words and phrases are nothing compared to the scene that unfolds in the 29th bather.  The young lady lets her imagination take her to the beach to join the crowd of young men, describing the beards of the young men glistening with wet that ran from their long hair, little streams that passed all over their bodies. “An unseen hand also passed over their bodies; it descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.”  And then the action turns decidedly homoerotic as actions are performed on the young men by whom – the unseen 29th bather or by each other?  If Whitman intended to shock the sensibilities of his readers, he wildly succeeded.  But then, this is nothing compared to sex-soaked erotic content of a more modern classic such as Portnoy’s Complaint, which dwells on the lusty subject of masturbation.

The Good Gray Poet

How this erotic and sexually dissident poet was adopted as America’s national bard and anointed “the Good Gray Poet” is hard to understand.  He never did reach the common people but was celebrated by the intellectuals of the day, especially from other countries.  Did Whitman presage the view of America as the land of porn? If not, then he certainly did contribute a fair share for his day.  The real work in analyzing and appreciating Whitman’s poetry is in looking past the celebration of the natural man and seeing in it the celebration of America, the great land of opportunity and the dream that all can succeed and that anything can be created and promoted.  All it takes is the kind of confidence and belief in oneself that Walt Whitman had in abundance.  In that respect, Walt Whitman was truly an American genius of a rock-star caliber for his day.  If Whitman could successfully promote and sell out every edition of his book each time it went to press, in spite of the moral constraints of his day, just think what we should be able to do today!

Controversy Promotes

Of course I’m not suggesting that we rush out to write a bunch of pornographic prose as he did, but I am saying that, like Whitman, we should celebrate this great nation for the freedoms of expression that we enjoy and that can really be found in no other nation of this world today. And, like Whitman, if we embrace the spirit of controversy and promotion of something unique, as was his free-verse style, then we should be able to reach out to millions of people through the modern leaves of grass – the Internet.  Isn’t that what many of today’s bloggers are hoping to accomplish?  They are the Walt Whitman’s of our day, bypassing the established norms of book publishing for the new media of the Internet.  And they succeed because of their controversial content and endless self-promotion.  If only what they promoted was uplifting to the human spirit.  Controversial content is what drives the readers to the blogs and websites where they want to express their own opinions in the comments.  Walt Whitman knew what would sell and he knew how to sell it.  Just think of what he could have done if he lived in the Internet age!

Getting Past Prejudices with the Musical Rent

The warning signs outside the theater were ominous: “Adult content not suitable for children.”  Looking around as we entered, I had to remember that the college-age students there were not children.  That’s hard to do when you have offspring older than most present, including the actors performing the show.  Carol and I were there by assignment to see the musical “Rent,” the Tony and Pulitzer award winning rock-opera drama about life in New York’s Lower East Side in the late 1980’s.  It takes place in the neighborhood known as Alphabet City, an area primarily inhabited by bohemian young people wanting to break into theater, TV or music.  Sadly, the area also had high levels of illegal drug activity, violent crime and HIV/AIDS.

Undoubtedly the themes of homosexuality, AIDS, drug addiction and homelessness prompted the warnings about the adult content.  The characters include a gay male couple in which both partners have AIDS, an on-again/off-again lesbian couple, and a straight couple in which both partners have AIDS and both have a history of intravenous drug use.  It’s not exactly “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and was written intentionally to shake things up, but also to address the concepts of love, loss and community.  Those are the themes that I would like to address in this essay.  If we can overcome bigotry and be compassionate towards people living with AIDS for a few moments then we can be uplifted by some beautiful elements of Rent.

I’ll admit I was a little put-off when I read some of the articles and reviews of the play in advance of witnessing the production.  I wanted to know more about the story before I saw it.  I like to think I’m not homophobic but from what I had read in some reviews, the lifestyle went beyond mere portrayal; it was celebrated, endorsed and flaunted in your face.  I didn’t want to see that.  I’m old-fashioned in that I believe that some things should be left private, and sexual activity is one of them.  However, the production that we saw must have been a tamed-down version because there was only occasional gay kissing and touching, nothing too disturbing.  I was more bothered by the decibels of the musicians, which sometimes drowned out the singers.

Outstanding Music

The songs in Rent are the first of the beautiful and uplifting elements that I noticed.  The entire play is a musical.  It seemed like there were very few lines spoken that were not actually sung.  Even the hilarious little phone messages peppered throughout the play were delightfully sung to us, adding much entertainment to the dramatic production.  Who hasn’t heard “Seasons of Love,” especially since it has been playing in some TV commercial lately?  Although not particularly uplifting to me, La Vie Boheme was immensely entertaining.  Other enjoyable songs included Your Eyes, Goodbye Love, Light My Candle, Tango Maureen, Out Tonight, One Song Glory, I Should Tell You, Take Me Or Leave Me, No Day But Today, and Living in America.

I can’t think of one thing with more universal appeal than the idea of love.  Who doesn’t want to be loved?  I have met people who have said no when I asked them if they wanted to be happy in life but I have never met someone who said no when asked if they wanted to be loved or at least accepted for who they are.  Of the three major themes I saw in the play, the idea of being loved came across the strongest.  Although they had a lot of emotional handicaps and baggage, these were people dealing with building relationships.  I can’t identify with being a drag queen but when Angel was dying, I found myself shedding a tear for Collins’ loss.

Living with Loss

These people lived with loss every day.  That’s why one of the recurring songs was entitled, “No Day but Today.”  How they dealt with that loss teaches a lot about the idea of community.  They came together in their grief.  They comforted one another.  They took care of one another the best they could.  Mimi was not judged for her drug addiction but was encouraged to live without it and find something better to take its place.  Since so many of their friends were dying, they adopted the motto to live for the day and to reach for their dreams one day at a time.  How hard it must be to make plans for the future when you are living with a disease like AIDS.

It was love and loss that built their community.  They only had each other.  Rejected by so many outside their world, they had to give each other strength, and they did.  Although the ending was a little hokey with Angel becoming the angel who told Mimi to go back when she was dying, the love that developed between Roger and Mimi was delightful to witness.  How can you not love a happy, feel-good ending where the main characters find happiness in each other?   Except there’s one big problem – they still have AIDS and will die someday.  But then, so will we all.  See, it really does have universal appeal.  The play mirrors life that someday will end.

After seeing the play, Carol read the script and I read dozens of reviews.  I was fascinated by the dichotomy of opinions expressed.  It seems that most reviewers either loved it or hated it.  One said she had never walked out of a play before in her life but walked out on Rent.  She must have had a family member in our audience because a couple in front of us walked out at the first encounter of affection expressed between Angel and Collins.  Were they homophobic?  In all probability, yes they were.  I mean, the music was loud and the show could be confusing if you weren’t paying close attention, but it was obvious that they didn’t like what they were seeing.

Reviews from Viewers

Here’s a quote from one of those reader reviews I found in the NY Times about the time the show was closing after a twelve-year run:  “If you want homosexuality and drug addiction rubbed in your face, then this is the play for you. I basically hated it, if you haven’t figured that out yet.”  In contrast, “Rent is a fabulous roller-coaster ride of emotion. The characters are extremely real, and so are the troubles they face. The songs are beautiful and the energy and electricity of it is so wonderful that you are a complete moron if you don’t like it. The only reason anyone wouldn’t like this show is if they are homophobic, intolerant, and weak.”

But my favorite had to be, “So let’s see… a group of drug addicted promiscuous squatters are the heroes and the one person who breaks from the group and becomes successful and buys the building (which they live in illegally) is the bad-guy because he wants rent… hhhmmmm… and let’s see, we have loud screeching that we’re supposed to call singing but it’s “cool dude” ’cause the lead is just so hot looking and has the teeny bopper girls squealing in delight.  This is a show for the MTV-Put-Upon Generation… pure junk.”  Opinions of performances are one thing but this reviewer was obviously passing judgment and commenting on the lifestyle choices.

The Composer

Part of the impact of the show is the death of the composer and writer, Jonathan Larson, who died of an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by Marfan syndrome, on the night before the play opened off Broadway.  In spite of his death, the show went on.  Glowing reviews began to appear. The six-week run sold out immediately.  In the months to come, Rent moved to Broadway, won four Tony awards, including the prize for best musical, and Jonathan Larson won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, posthumously.  The show went on to become one of the longest running productions on Broadway and is now enjoying a second life in local theater.

Social Impact

Rent has had and is still having a social impact.  While the play is now a little dated with the use of pay phones, answering machines and clunky old cell phones the size of a brick, it is still attracting younger crowds wherever it plays.  Of course, that was probably inevitable in our case, given that our venue was a local community college.  Wherever it opens, it is reviewed by the local theater critics.  The comments posted on those online reviews demonstrate that some of the same prejudices and bigotry are still alive and well in America today.  Rent is a wonderful example of American creativity that reaches to the very heart of our lives through love and loss.  I hope our community has changed and become more tolerant in the years since it first opened.

I haven’t included a lot of quotes from the musical, because frankly, they aren’t very deep.  For example, here’s one from the song, Light my Candle: “I didn’t recognize you without the handcuffs.”  And from Angel, the transvestite, “I’m more of a man than you’ll ever be and more of a woman than you’ll ever get.”  From the song Will I, about dying from AIDS: “Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?”  I suppose my favorite has to be “There will always be women in rubber flirting with me…”  That last quote is from Maureen, one of the two lesbians.  Some of the stuff is really quite funny, if you can just get past the idea that these are people looking for love in unorthodox relationships.

Unorthodox Relationships

And that is the point of the play and the impact it has had on America.  How do we view the lives of those who are not in orthodox relationships?  Do we view them as sinners, in need of repentance and salvation, who will suffer in hell because of their poor lifestyle choices?  I am confident that there are millions of people who will voice that very opinion without hesitation.  Or do we love and accept them, making an effort to help them find happiness and success in life?  That is one of the toughest choices in life, especially for those who have family members living in a lifestyle that is contrary to the moral principles that they value.  Rent helps us see past the pain and sorrow of rejection and loss of those who live with AIDS and still manage to have hope.

It’s that final scene of hope that I find most uplifting and inspiring about the play.  They found hope because they loved and supported each other through their loss and sorrow.  I think Jonathan Larson would be pleased to think that his play has helped us to become more loving and supportive of each other, especially those who deal with AIDS on a daily basis.  And in the end, the millions he earned posthumously from the play helps others pursue their writing careers.

Note: Carol saw the play with me and shared an excellent review on her blog.

Gay Mormons, Evergreen Intl and Affirmation

What is it like to be a gay Mormon struggling with same-sex attraction? I don’t know but there are several websites where you can learn more if you are interested. I would like to highlight two of them in this essay. My objective in reviewing these websites is to determine which promotes faithfulness and obedience to the Lord’s commandments.

Evergreen International is a nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City that helps people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior. They claim right on their front page that, “If you want to diminish your same-gender attractions and avoid homosexual behavior, there is a way out.” I find that encouraging.

Affirmation, on the other hand, states that they “reject the tyranny that would have us believe that who we are—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—is evil. We view our sexual and gender orientation as a blessing, not a curse.” Affirmation endorses the embracing of homosexual identity and encourages expression of homosexual behavior.

Remain a member of the LDS Church

Both of these organizations “seek to meet the needs of persons experiencing frustration or alienation from family, friends, and the Church because of their feelings” of same sex attraction. But, as Affirmation states, “Many of us are no longer members of the LDS Church [although] we celebrate being part of the great Mormon tradition.” Hmm….

If I were gay and wanted to remain an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think I would be more inclined to learn more about what Evergreen had to say on the subject. This is especially true as you read on their site that, “We sustain the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception.”

Contrast that with the numerous resources on the Affirmation site providing detailed instructions and encouragement to withdraw your membership from the LDS church. In addition, Affirmation has many pages dedicated to attacking Evergreen as being false, misleading and dangerous. I wonder why they need to attack Evergreen and the church.

Born that way – or not

In the past year or so since I started writing about this subject I have received quite an education from many helpful people directing me to other resources besides Evergreen and Affirmation. For more on those resources, see my previous essay on the subject of “Homosexuality – sin or biological fact?” It quotes extensively from Daniel K. Judd.

One of the pivotal arguments in the discussion of same sex attraction has to do with the idea of being born as a homosexual or not. I appreciate the comments from readers on my essay, “Born that way – not a choice,” in which I decided that both camps are right. Some are born with a predisposition to homosexuality but they still have power over it.

And that is the big difference between the two websites that are the subject of this essay. Evergreen maintains that although one may have feelings of same-sex attraction, they are not what identify the individual. Affirmation, on the other hand, is clear that feelings of gender orientation are what make the person, so it is wrong to suppress them.

Leading the reader unto Christ

The position of the LDS Church is clear and always has been – homosexual behavior or gay sex is a sin. One cannot practice the homosexual lifestyle by engaging in gay sex and still be a member of the Mormon Church. On the other hand, one can profess to be gay, or have same-sex attraction, and still be an active, faithful member of the church.

I find it telling that General Authorities have spoken at many recent Evergreen conferences. As I read the material on their website, I find that it can apply to almost anyone who is struggling with an addiction or any powerful pull of the flesh. The articles and reading material are uplifting and encouraging and lead unto Christ.

On the other hand, I searched the Affirmation site in vain for articles or essays that were uplifting or faith promoting. There were plenty of stories of tragedy and desperation. I was saddened to read them. I kept looking for answers or solutions but all I found were enticements to give in and embrace who you are even if it means leaving the church.

Same sex attraction can be mastered

When Evergreen held their first annual conference in May of 1990, they boldly spoke out against the idea that one had to embrace the gay identity and lifestyle because they experienced same-sex attraction. On the contrary, they emphasized personal choice and responsibility, teaching that homosexual tendencies could be mastered and overcome.

This enraged the local gay groups then and it continues to be a major point of opposition on the Affirmation site today. You can read more than a dozen essays on their site that warn you away from the terrible harm that can come from listening to or believing the teachings of Evergreen. In direct opposition, they state that SSA cannot be mastered.

I guess if I were gay and wanted to choose which organization I wished to counsel me I would have to think deeply about what I believed about personal growth and success. If I felt that the way to happiness is to go with what comes natural, then I’d embrace what Affirmation says. If I felt that I’m here to rise above the flesh, I’d go with Evergreen.

Summary and conclusion

It was not my intention when I began this essay to endorse Evergreen and oppose what I found on the Affirmation site, but I have concluded that I am more of an Evergreen kind of guy. I believe that a man can and should rise above the flesh. I believe that is one of the main purposes of this life – to be tested and proven that we are more than our flesh.

The way of life that Evergreen advocates is not easy, but then, neither is the gospel of Jesus Christ unless you follow His admonition to cast your burden upon the Lord. I have weaknesses of the flesh that I sometimes feel powerless to control. My own will power has never been enough. I need my Savior to rise above and be a better man.

Therefore I endorse what I found on the Evergreen site to be helpful and of great worth. The materials there encourage me to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. I need and appreciate that. I invite the people of Affirmation to point out articles on their site that lead me to Christ and I will be happy to append this essay with those links.


Update: If you read nothing else on the Evergreen site, read the overview from the 2008 conference held in September. The chairman’s message includes a current issues section that is especially interesting in refuting rumors and untruths found on the internet today.

Born that way – not a choice

A long time ago I met an individual who cast out unclean spirits for a living. This was not in some backwards third-world country but right here in California. Good people who struggled with deep emotional or spiritual problems paid him to diagnose and remove negative entities. That’s a fancy word for evil spirits. He was highly successful and helped a lot of people.

He is also LDS. I know what you’re thinking. That’s priestcraft, isn’t it? No, not really. The technique was such that it was the individual seeking help who did the casting out themselves. After guiding the person through a process to identify the source of the problem, he would help them express words in certain phrases that would cause the negative entities to leave them.

LDS doctrine of evil spirits

There are several things you probably want to know at this point. Did the man have any kind of professional training? Yes, he was a certified stress management consultant. Is that recognized in the State of California? No, there is no board or bureau that requires a practitioner of stress management to register their services, obtain a license, pass an exam or prove competency.

So anyone can claim that they are an expert in stress management and set up shop to help people deal with their troubles in life? Yep. Do Mormons really believe that they are afflicted with evil or unclean spirits that can possess them or even control them? Some Mormons do. So do a lot of good Christians. I have written previously about the doctrine of evil spirits in LDS theology.

Born that way, but not biological

Being intensely interested in what this man was doing for a living, I conducted several in-depth interviews that led to a discussion of the cause of homosexuality. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. He was convinced that same-sex attraction is the result of being tempted by an unclean spirit. And yes, he even felt that a little child could be afflicted from a very young age.

In other words, he did not feel that there was a biological explanation for same-sex attraction. So in effect, he was saying that what so many have been claiming about being born that way is true. That seems to go against LDS doctrine that little children are born pure and innocent. But he felt that they could be afflicted because of a parent or an ancestor that somehow passed it on to them.

Unclean spirits encourage homosexuality

A quote from the interview: “When a female spirit is controlling a man’s body, the man says, ‘I feel like a female trapped a man’s body.’ That’s the evil spirit talking. They really do feel like a female trapped in a man’s body. They’re trying to get that man to want other men, because that’s what they want. The same thing applies to a male spirit trapped in a female’s body.

“Often people get priesthood blessings, but because they didn’t have much faith in the blessing, they didn’t get rid of the cause. The evil spirit would be gone temporarily, but then they would come right back again. Why? Because they hadn’t taken care of the guilt, or anger, or fear or whatever they had that allowed the evil spirit to be there in the first place.” (Source available)

A cure for homosexuality

I won’t disclose the details of the technique this practitioner used to help individuals identify and resolve their own stress issues. I will tell you that he is not the only one who does this sort of thing professionally. This healing modality has been documented in clinical work by a licensed therapist who now markets his services in his local area and sells training through his website.

So there are professionals who are claiming that they can cure same-sex attraction. What they promote is not gender-affirmative therapy, but a technique for identifying and removing negative energy and negative entities that are the root cause of homosexuality. The majority of their work does not involve working with evil spirits but that is covered and explained in their materials.

Summary and conclusion

I throw this out there because I found it fascinating when I was first exposed to it many years ago. I have done enough serious investigation to feel that I understand the technique that is used and the theory behind it. Of course, the proponents claim it is a more than a theory, but is based on doctrine. I have withheld judgment for many years and offer it for discussion and feedback.

Comments are open. Discussion is welcome. Please don’t turn this into a circus. I was very pleased with the fifty comments I received on my last essay on this subject about same-sex marriage, proposition 8, dissent and excommunication. Thank you for the intelligent and frank discussion. I look forward to knowing what you think. I can also share a lot more information.

Update – new conclusion

After much dialog with good individuals who took the time to get me to think this through, I have concluded that my friend was wrong. Our LDS scriptures teach that little children cannot sin and that the adversary has no power to tempt little children. I am also more and more convinced that yes, some people are born with a biological disposition to same-sex attraction.

Excommunication is just not worth it

I can’t think of anything that would be worth jeopardizing my standing in the LDS church, which I consider to be the kingdom of God on the earth. I value my membership too much. It means the world to me and provides me with benefits and blessings that I can receive in no other way. I don’t care how much I disagree with someone about some course of action, I would not risk it.

But then, I’m not Andrew Callahan. In case you aren’t aware of Flatlander’s actions, he is the man behind the anti-proposition 8 website, Signing for Something. I know that this is probably a waste of space and that I am just giving undue attention to Andrew, but I want to make a point. Apostasy is just never a good idea, no matter how passionately you feel about your cause.

I suspect it is too late for Andrew to change his course. He has made it abundantly clear that he wants to get excommunicated and he wants his case to draw public attention. Besides having the website created, he has made a couple of YouTube videos that explain his position and leave the church no choice really other than to grant him his desire. Does he realize what he is giving up?

Joining the ranks of the apostates

I know I am opening myself up to rude comments from the ex-Mormons and others who feel that Andrew is courageous for opposing the church on this issue. But I feel the desire to speak out on this as being something that is not worth giving up your membership in the church. Although I can’t verify his claim, like Andrew, I have served in Bishoprics and on a High Council.

If Andrew served for any length of time on the High Council, he would have been a participant in a disciplinary council where a former priesthood holder desired to re-obtain his membership in the church. I wish every member of the church could witness such a proceeding. Then again, I wish that disciplinary councils where church membership is removed never had to be held.

Maybe Andrew never witnessed such an event. If he had, he surely would not be pursuing the course of action that he has been involved in for the past few months. It would help if he could hear the brother who desires to return explain how he was deceived and how miserable he felt for kicking against the pricks, telling of the loss of so many blessings because of stubborn behavior.

Evidence of deception

In Andrew’s letter to a General Authority he stated that, “…in the not too distant future gay marriage will be the law of the land, and that sometime after that, the Church will offer the hand of full fellowship to practicing homosexuals.” I can’t believe that a man who has served in local leadership positions in the church could ever make such a statement about homosexual activity.

I’m sorry Andrew, but you just don’t get it. For someone to be a practicing homosexual means that what they are doing is contrary to the law of chastity. I know this is obvious but to make such a statement as you have is just plain ludicrous. The church will never change the law of chastity. There is no way that a practicing homosexual can be a member in full fellowship.

If you believe that will ever happen then you are very deceived in your thinking. What evidence can you provide that the church has ever indicated that the law of chastity will no longer be a requirement? Wait…are you using the argument that once gay marriage is legal then there is no breaking of the law of chastity involved because they are married? Surely you don’t believe that.

Laws of the land – laws of the Lord

Andrew makes the point that many have brought up in discussing this issue. He states that the church was wrong in denying the priesthood to blacks for so long and defines it as bigotry. He then claims that opposing marriage for homosexuals falls into the same category. I disagree. I still do not yet fully understand why we denied the priesthood to blacks but this issue is different.

The laws of the land have nothing to do with the laws of the Lord. I have written extensively about legislating morality and the importance of government but I can’t believe that the church is ever going to budge in any way toward the direction that Andrew is suggesting. The laws of the Lord do not change based on the way a few judges decide to overrule the voice of the people.

I realize that in the early days of the church there were apostles who gave up their membership because they felt so strongly about not giving up plural marriage. Some have reasoned that this issue is going to be similar to that. They claim that the church is going to come under pressure to change because we teach that homosexual relations are contrary to the law of the Lord.

The law of chastity is eternal

There are some who have struggled with the idea of plural marriage and the law of chastity being compatible. The Lord explained it clearly in section 132, specifically in verse 61. I know some do not accept it, but I have no problem with the idea of plural marriage being a holy and pure institution when it is authorized and commanded of God. But this essay is not about that subject.

My point is that the law of chastity is eternal. It will not change. It cannot change and the Lord cannot change it or he would cease to be God. The church will never change the law of chastity. This law states that sexual relations are only authorized between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully married. Civil marriage recognizing same-sex partners is not the same.

So just to state the obvious, those participating in same-sex marriage cannot be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Obeying the law of chastity is a requirement for membership in this church. Same-sex marriage does not qualify as marriage in the eyes of the Lord. In fact, he specifically commands that homosexual relations are a sin and an abomination.

Fighting against the Lord

Those who are opposed to gay marriage are called bigots, intolerant and many worse things. You can call us all kinds of names but in effect, you are fighting against the Lord and His ways. Marriage is between a man and a woman in the eyes of God and cannot be defined in any other way. It never has been and it never will be. Any other arrangement is simply not a marriage.

This essay addresses those who are in support of Andrew’s activities in opposing the position of the church in support of proposition 8. You may argue that this is a political issue and that the church has no right to be involved in politics, but I am going to turn the tables and use one of your favorite phrases. This is a moral issue and you know deep down in your heart that it is.

If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are in favor of gay marriage then you are opposed to the work of the Lord. You are fighting against the Lord and his plan for the happiness of his children. The purpose of marriage between a man and a woman is to produce children and to provide them with a stable and secure environment in this world.

Summary and conclusion

This is a volatile issue. Emotions run high when people write about this subject. You may feel that I am totally wrong in the things I have written and I expect many of you will tell me so. It happens every time I write about it. I appreciate those who write with intelligent arguments and points of view. It is unfortunate that essays on this subject bring out the emotionally immature.

You are welcome to comment and disagree. I respect your opinion. I trust you will expect mine and refrain from personal attacks. I think what I have stated is in line with the teachings of the LDS Church. In particular, I doubt that I have gone out on a limb by stating that those who are part of a same-sex marriage can never be members of this church, unless they fully repent.

So is it worth it to be excommunicated over the issue? I guess if you place no value on your membership than you may think so. If you do not believe in the divinity of this church or in the inspiration of the leaders then you will probably have no problem. But if you have any thought that just maybe there might be some truth in this church, then please, please be very careful.