Thursday, April 24, 2014

Happy

Today was supposed to be my graduation from BYU, but of course that's not happening. I was feeling pretty depressed about that this morning, together with Jan being gone and Lucy breaking up with me, so I did what I usually do when I'm feeling down: I went for a jog. I suppose that's one benefit of all those years of ex-mutant therapy I went through--I've developed some good coping strategies for when life feels overwhelming.

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, just a little bit of wind to keep things cool, and Provo was full of happy people either graduating or taking off for summer vacation. I had a hard time getting going at first. Each step felt like I was lifting a ton, which is no surprise with all the emotional baggage I was carrying. I had to force myself to lift my foot off the ground each time. As minutes passed and I pushed myself forward, my steps grew lighter. It became easier and easier to push off the ground. My stride grew longer and longer. Eventually, I realized I wasn't even touching the ground anymore. My first impulse was to force myself back down, but I smiled as it dawned on me that I no longer have any reason to hold back. I waved goodbye to the sidewalk, looked up at the beautiful blue sky, and flew toward it.


Five months ago, it took all the courage I had to admit that I'm a mutant. Since then, I've been gathering up the courage to actually be a mutant. To be me. At first I insisted on calling myself Mormon X because the Mormon part of me was more important than the X, the mutant. Over time, I realized the Mormon part was obscuring who I really am, and gradually the X became more important. Perhaps, for a time, I was X-Mormon. That very quickly became ex-Mormon. But you know what? I don't really want to be defined by "Mormon" anymore. And honestly, "X" doesn't cover it either. I used to be Mormon, and that will probably always be part of who I am. I am a mutant, and that's also part of who I am. But that's not all of it. I'm Ben. I'm a guy who, among other things, can fly. I'm a college student and a writer. I'm a son, a brother, an ex-boyfriend, someone's future boyfriend, someone's future husband, someone's future father. There are facets of who I am that I haven't even begun to imagine.

As I've started this process of self-discovery, it's been helpful to sort it all out here on this blog. It's been great to meet others like me and see the different paths they've taken, to get a glimpse at the infinite number of possibilities available to me. But I'm at a point now where, for a while at least, I need to do this on my own. Maybe I'll blog again someday, but this will be the last post of Mormon X. That chapter of my life is over, and it's time for me to move on to something else.

As I soared through the air this morning, the song that I couldn't get out of my head was Pharrell Williams's "Happy." An odd choice, I know, for someone whose ex-girlfriend died, who got expelled from college, and whose girlfriend then dumped him, all within two weeks, but the truth is it's impossible to be up there, weightless and miles above any cares in the world, and not feel happy. After years of forcing myself to keep my feet on the ground, the thrill of finally cutting loose and enjoying the gift I was born with made me laugh with joy.

This, I thought as I sped through the air, the cold wind rushing by and the hot sun on my back, this is who I am.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Separate Paths

Lucy didn't have any finals this morning (and I'm not allowed to take finals), so she came over to my place and suggested we go for a walk. The weather wasn't quite as nice as it was yesterday, but still pretty nice. (This afternoon it's turned gray and windy, which as you'll see in a moment is thematically appropriate.)


We walked east, toward Y Mountain, holding hands. "I've been thinking about our conversation last night," Lucy said. "I love you and I support you in whatever decisions you feel good about--you need to follow your path, not mine--but if your path takes you out of the church, I can't go with you."

I frowned. "I don't expect you to leave the church for me, Lucy."

"I know. But I mean I can't go with you on this journey you're about to embark on. You need to figure out school, who you are as a mutant, who you are as a person. I would love to be there with you, to figure it all out together, but if you need to leave the church in order to do it, I can't. You'll need to do it alone."

"What?" I stopped walking, forcing Lucy to stop and face me. "You're dumping me because I'm not Mormon anymore? Does leaving the church suddenly make me a bad person? I thought we were beyond that kind of black-and-white thinking."

Still holding my right hand, Lucy took my left hand as well. "Ben, stop reacting to what you think I'm saying and start listening to what I am saying. You're planning to move out of state. I've told you before that I won't move with you unless we're married. And I'm sorry, but I can't marry a non-member. Marriage is hard enough as it is. We would already be an interspecies couple, which I'm fine with, but you add interfaith on top of that and we'd be setting ourselves up to lose. I love you, Ben, but I can't marry you."

"Then I'll stay in Utah and we can keep dating while I figure things out. Maybe I can transfer to the U."

"And then what? I hold onto the hope that you'll come back to the church? You hold onto the hope that I'll leave or that I'll give in and marry you anyway? And meanwhile, I'm holding you back. There's nothing for you in Utah. You need to get out of here."

"But--" But I had no argument. Lucy was right. I would have come to the same conclusion eventually, but Lucy, always thinking ahead, got there first. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into me. We stood like that, hugging and crying, for I don't know how long.

Finally, we wiped away the tears and continued our walk. We still held hands--I wasn't ready to let go yet--but now we walked in silence. When we got back to my place, Lucy gave me a quick kiss and said, "You better not make me read your blog to keep up on your life. If I don't get regular updates, I'll fly out to Seattle and wring them from you personally."

I grinned. "Then I just might have to fall behind on sending you updates."

Monday, April 21, 2014

On The Same Page

This evening Lucy and I were at my place, making dinner. I was reaching up to get some pasta from the top shelf of the cupboard when Lucy said, "What are you wearing?"

I looked down at the t-shirt and jeans shorts I put on this morning to celebrate the beautiful weather. "Um. Clothes?"

"You aren't wearing garments," she said in a slightly accusing tone.

"Oh. Right." I had momentarily forgotten about yesterday's trip to Walmart. "I decided not to wear them anymore."

"What?" Her eyes widened. "Ben, why would you do that? It's not like being kicked out of BYU makes you unworthy."

I bit my lip. This was quickly becoming one of those moments where you realize you're not as much on the same page with someone as you thought you were. I sat down next to Lucy at the table and took her hand in mine. "It's not about worthiness, Lucy. I don't believe anymore. I'm not a Mormon. It doesn't make sense for me to wear Mormon temple garments."


She shook her head and pulled her hand out of mine. Her eyes were glistening. "That's not true. You're just going through a hard time and questioning some things. That's okay. But don't make any decisions you'll regret later."

"I've already made the decision, Lucy."

We talked some more and I think she finally understands where I'm at. Until tonight, she was convinced that I just needed to work through some doubts, and then everything would be okay and nothing would change. She gets now that that's not the case. We talked all through dinner and long afterwards. As the evening progressed, she seemed to get used to the idea and to accept me where I'm at. I was nervous about having this conversation, honestly--we've kind of skirted the issue until now--but now I'm really glad we did. As I've said before, coming out as a non-believer is almost scarier than coming out as a mutant. Being surrounded by good people who love me unconditionally makes it a lot easier.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Taking Off The Mask

This morning I went to church, out of habit more than anything. I sat next to Lucy, as usual, and we did our usual whispering to each other, making fun of silly things people say. Or at least I thought that's what we were doing. I don't think we're ever disrespectful of the meeting itself, but we laugh when people spend the first five minutes of their talk telling the story of how the bishop called and asked them to give a talk, or, since we're in a college singles' ward, when people come across like they care more about advertising themselves than whatever the topic of their talk is supposed to be. I was doing that kind of thing this morning, whispering to Lucy when I noticed something funny, and at first she smiled politely, but when I joked about something the first counselor said, she hissed at me, "Show some respect! It's Easter and Jan just passed away last week. You should be thinking about the resurrection, not Brother Morris's grammar."

"Sorry," I whispered, then scooted an inch away from her on the bench. I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the meeting. I tried to do as she suggested. I remember previous Easter Sundays, feeling touched by the thought of Jesus' sacrifice and the promise of eternal life, but today I just wasn't feeling it. As Lucy had mentioned, today I have more reason than before to be looking forward to the resurrection, but the more I listened to the speakers and tried to get into it, the more it felt... made up. It's like a bunch of grown-ups getting together to play make-believe, talking in all seriousness about our imaginary friend. When I took a step back and looked at the whole thing as if from an outsider's perspective, it all seemed kind of ridiculous. It's like in Scooby Doo, every time they think it's a ghost or a monster it ends up being some crotchety old man in an elaborate disguise. And yet every single time, they believe it's real until someone unmasks him. With everything science has shown us about this amazing world we live in, with all the mysteries revealed, we still believe in monsters and miracles and gods, despite zero tangible evidence to suggest their existence. Is the world we have not enough?


I apologize, I know what I'm saying is offensive to believers. And especially today, on Easter Sunday. I don't mean to disrespect you or your beliefs. I'm just saying it doesn't make sense to me anymore. It's like something clicked in my brain and suddenly I'm seeing the world through new lenses. It's like the first time I got glasses, when I was in fourth grade--I was shocked to see how crisp everything was, now that I could see clearly.

After sacrament meeting, Lucy went to Sunday school as usual, but I made up an excuse and slipped out. I got in my car and drove. I didn't even know where I was going at first, until I ended up at Target in Orem. Except it was closed. Easter. Duh. So with a sigh, I drove to Walmart--which my friend Galadriel likes to call "the bitch of all the Earth, the whore's ugly sister." It was surreal to walk inside a store on Sunday. I can honestly say I've never done that before. Especially here in Utah County, it's very strange to be in a store on Sunday because it's like an entirely different world. It's like the non-Mormons come crawling out of the woodwork--the Hispanics, the multiple piercings and tattoos, the gay couples. I even saw a group of mutants--one with pointed ears, another with purple skin, a third with webbed wings protruding proudly from her tanktop. I did see a few people I assumed were Mormon, dressed in white shirts and ties, grabbing a loaf of bread for the sacrament or a box of diapers. This made me self-conscious of the church clothes I was still wearing. What would people make of me? Would they assume I was getting my ox out of the mire, or that I'm a hypocrite who goes to church then makes other people work so I can shop? Whatever. I forced myself not to care what anyone thought.

I found the men's clothing section, and went to the underwear aisle. I picked out some boxer briefs in various colors, bought them, then drove home and changed. This might not mean anything to you if you aren't Mormon, but it was actually a very significant step for me. I haven't bought normal underwear in nearly six years, not since I went through the temple and started wearing temple garments. But today I'm done being a Mormon. I don't believe it anymore, so it's disingenuous of me to keep wearing the garments that are, among other things, a symbol of belief. Again, to my believing friends, I mean you no disrespect. If anything, I hope to show respect for your beliefs by not taking in vain something that is sacred to you.

It feels strange to be wearing normal underwear again. I feel practically naked. But at the same time, I feel more like me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Honor, Revisited

Today was the first day of finals. I was supposed to have a final for my 20th-century American literature class. I didn't take it.

"I want you to understand that this decision has nothing to do with what you said about me," Brother Simmons told me yesterday. "You can think or say whatever you want about me. What you can't do is violate the Honor Code that you signed and expect to have a BYU diploma hanging on your wall."

"I haven't used my mutant ability in months, and when I did, I confessed it to my bishop." I had little hope that anything I could say--or was willing to say--would change Brother Simmons's mind, but I thought this worth mentioning.

"You know that's not the issue, Brother Christensen. Tell me this: Do you sustain Thomas S. Monson as a prophet, seer, and revelator?"

I sighed. It would be so easy to just say "yes." One word, and a week later I'd have my college degree. Just one word. But I couldn't. "No. I once believed he was a prophet, and I wish I still believed it, but I don't."

Brother Simmons nodded. "I understand. And I hope you understand, a degree from BYU is not just a certificate of academic achievement. It's also a symbol of spiritual achievement. It's a sign telling the world that you represent Brigham Young University, that you are the type of person this university produces. When you go out into the world with a BYU degree in hand, you go as a representative of Jesus Christ."

"What about Muslims or Jews or other non-members who attend BYU?"

"They also have to abide by the Honor Code."

"Which I've done!" I insisted. "I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't have girls in my apartment after curfew, I even go to church every Sunday. I just don't believe in the church anymore. What's the difference between me and any other non-Mormon who goes to BYU?"

"The difference is that you had light and knowledge that they didn't, and you have rejected it."

I buried my face in my palms. "I can't choose what I believe. I just... do."

"I think," Brother Simmons said, putting a hand on my shoulder, "deep down, you still know the church is true. I understand where you're coming from--I'm sure it's difficult to resist the temptation of living a mutant lifestyle, so it's easier to believe there's no God. But I assure you, Brother Christensen, there is. And he never said it would be easy, but I promise you, it will be worth it."

I stood up, brushing his hand away. I was done. Take away my degree, tell me I'm violating the Honor Code because I don't believe what I used to, but I will not sit there and listen to you telling me what I do or do not know. "You understand nothing," I said on my way out the door. "If I wanted easy, we'd be having a very different conversation."

So that's that. I'm done. I'm no longer a BYU student, one week short of graduating. I considered taking my finals, just to say I did, but the official email I received later yesterday afternoon explained that my professors have been instructed not to let me participate in final exams. So where do I go from here? I don't know. I'll transfer to another school to finish my degree, if I can. Maybe go on to get a master's or a doctorate. I've heard horror stories about BYU not releasing transcripts of students kicked out for Honor Code issues, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zcameron/5874719413/
I've talked before about the Karl G. Maeser quote that the Honor Code Office claims as its motto:
Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I might be able to escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of that circle? No, never! I’d die first.
It would have been so easy for me to tell Brother Simmons what he wanted to hear yesterday. There were no walls between me and that diploma; just a chalk line. One little step, and I'm on the other side. One simple lie. One word. I may have been expelled from BYU for violating the Honor Code, but I like to think Karl G. Maeser would recognize me as a man of honor.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Love One Another

Yes, Brother Simmons read my post last night, and yes, we talked about it today. But I don't want to talk about that right now. Right now I want to talk about Jan. It turns out Jan had one last lesson to teach me.

This evening Lucy and I attended an informal memorial service for Jan at Kiwanis Park in Provo. It wasn't her funeral. That will be held tomorrow morning at her family's ward chapel in Alabama. Greg let me know that for his part I'm welcome but that their dad knows who I am and has made it clear that he doesn't want me within fifty miles of the funeral. I considered going anyway--from what I know of Jan's dad, he doesn't deserve to be at her funeral--but finally I decided I don't want to make a scene. No matter how much of a jerk her dad is, I'm sure he loves her and I can't even imagine how terrible he must be feeling now. I don't want to make it worse. I can pay my respects to Jan in my own way. So that's what I did tonight.

First, let me get the crappy stuff out of the way: As you may have seen on the news, there were protesters at the memorial service. Protesters. At a memorial service. I can't even begin to understand these people. They were standing around the edges of the park, holding signs that said things like "The Wages of Sin is Death" and "God Hates Freaks." Lucy squeezed my hand when she saw me fuming as we passed the protesters. "Just ignore them," she said softly. I did, but it still makes me sick to think about it.

Okay, with that out of the way, we can get to the good stuff: There were probably a thousand people there at the park, gathered to celebrate Jan's life (compared to at most fifty protesters). People had come from every corner of Utah, from St. George to Logan. Some came from Idaho and Nevada and Arizona. I talked to one guy who flew in from New York after he read about Jan in the news and was touched by her story. For about two hours, people stood on a stage and talked about how Jan has touched their lives. Most were people she had healed, but some hadn't even met her--they were mutants who were inspired by her to come out of the closet and use their powers for good. It seemed like most of the people had some connection with the LDS church, ranging from active believers to angry apostates. But every one of them agreed on one thing: The world needs more people like Jan.


The service ended with everyone there joining hands and singing a Mormon hymn, "Love One Another." As we sang the simple words, "As I have loved you / Love one another," our voices drowning out the noise of the protesters behind us, my chest trembled. I couldn't even finish the song before I broke down in sobs. Lucy put her arms around me, and then suddenly random strangers were joining in, wrapping me in a group hug. The outpouring of love from people I've never met was almost as overwhelming as my grief for Jan.

I've heard people say that God is love. If that's true, then I believe in God.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Apology

I'm sorry I swore. As I've mentioned before, I'm really not one to swear. Take that as a sign of what a horrible week I've had.


I'm not sorry for what I said about Brother Simmons. I'm not taking the post down and I'm not taking back anything I've said. Even if it costs me my college degree, I don't care. All that matters to me is the truth. That's what Jan deserves. It's what I deserve. If I have to suffer the consequences of being honest, then so be it.

Lessons Learned

I'm blogging again because Brother Simmons at the Honor Code Office told me to. Yesterday at the daily check-in that we've been having since I was put on academic probation last week, I had to apologize for missing Monday's check-in because I'd been overwhelmed by Jan's death and not able to do much of anything at all. Brother Simmons already knew about Jan--he'd seen it in the news. "I'm really sorry for your loss," he said. "It's tragic to think what she could have done with her life if she hadn't thrown it away trying to push the mutant agenda."

My mouth dropped open. Was I actually hearing this? Putting the lives of others before your own is "trying to push the mutant agenda"? Really?

"Perhaps," he went on, "you can make the best of this tragic situation by learning from it and helping others do the same. Instead of using your blog to lead others away from the church, why don't you get back on there and tell people what you've learned from Jan's death?"


So here I am. I've spent the past day thinking about what I've learned from Jan's death, and this is what I've come up with:

  1. I learned that Jan was an amazing, selfless human being--even more than I realized when she was alive.
  2. I learned that life is short so we need to make the most of it now. If we wait for later, there might not be a later. Jan died younger than most but at least she made a positive impact on the world while she was here. I should do the same. 
  3. I learned that my belief in an afterlife is not as solid as it used to be. Maybe if I were sure that I'd see Jan again someday, I'd be able to handle this better, but I can't lie to myself, even if the lie might be comforting. The truth is, I have no idea what happens after death and I don't believe anyone really knows. Which sucks right now, but in the long run I think it will help me do better with #2. If there's an afterlife, then great, but in the meantime I need to make the most of the life I know I have. 
  4. I learned that sometimes really shitty things happen to really great people. But that's no reason not to do good. It's not about earning a reward; it's about doing good because you want to make the world a better place. 
And finally,

     5.  I learned that Brother Simmons at the Honor Code Office is a heartless prick.

I hope you're reading this, Brother Simmons. I assume this is what you had in mind? 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Update on Jan

Hi, everyone. This is "Lucy." Honestly, I'm not a fan of the blog name Ben gave me, but that's neither here nor there. I'm writing to give you all an update on Melanie Jensen, or as you know her, Jan. Unfortunately, she passed away yesterday afternoon. Apparently, all the healing she did in the past few months was just too much for her body. She had nothing left. I'm wiping away tears as I write this. Jan was such an extraordinary person and she touched so many lives, not least of all mine. I literally owe Jan my life. I wish I could have saved her like she saved me. At least she died while serving other people. I think she was happy with the choice she made, and I know that Heavenly Father will take her back into His loving arms and reward her for the good she did with her life.

Ben is not doing so well. He's really taking Jan's death hard. He was already dealing with a lot of pressure at school and struggling with his testimony, as you know, and I'm worried that this will be the thing that breaks him. I keep telling him to just take one day at a time. I know he'll be all right, and he'll see how this is all part of God's plan. But in the meantime, he can use any help he can get. Thank you to those of you who left kind comments in the past week--even though he hasn't been posting, he has seen your comments and he appreciates them. Most importantly, please pray for him. I really believe that your prayers will help him more than anything.

Monday, April 7, 2014

[Redacted]

Crap.

Crap, crap, crap.

I need to take a break from the blog for a bit. I don't know, I might have to take the whole thing down. I've worked too hard toward this degree to throw it all away two and a half weeks before graduating.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Conference Weekend: Day 2

So. Conference is over. Marsha's cinnamon rolls were great, as usual. Which is a good thing, because I was feeling pretty crappy after fasting all day yesterday.

As far as the answers I was looking for? Results inconclusive. There were a bunch of talks that I liked, that made me want to be a better person. This weekend I saw an article about how LDS General Conference is like a bunch of TED talks, and I'd say that's a pretty accurate assessment. It's ten hours of motivational speakers, which is why everyone always feels so motivated after Conference. But the thing is, I want more. An ex-Mormon friend of mine once shared a graphic making fun of General Conference. It says "Come listen to a prophet, seer & revelator do none of those things." I don't particularly like the graphic because it's cynical and it's mean, but to be completely honest, it's true.


I remember growing up, twice a year I'd get excited for Conference, anxious for there to be some big revelation or prophecy. And what I got, every time, was motivational talks. If you read the Doctrine & Covenants, you'll see that Joseph Smith spoke directly for God all the time. Everything he did was revelation. And now, forgive me for being disrespectful, but we get stories about bringing dinner to little old ladies. Inspirational, yes, but revelation? No.

More than anything, I wish someone at Conference would speak directly to me. When I was a kid, the topic of mutants was never even mentioned. Now it's a regular thing, but nobody is talking to mutants. They're just talking about us. About how mutants are corrupting the moral fabric of society. How we're trying to change the definition of marriage. How it may not be popular to speak out against mutants, but it's the right thing to do. Nobody says, "Welcome, mutants! You are part of God's kingdom." Instead, we are constantly The Other.

It all leaves me feeling like I have no place in the church. Like I don't belong. And I'm starting to think that maybe that's my answer: When all is said and done, I don't belong in the church.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Conference Weekend: Day 1

Started out this morning with Lucy's mom's amazing breakfast casserole, and then I slipped into another room to start my fast with a prayer before Conference started. For the most part, it was a good day. I enjoyed listening to the talks, enjoyed spending the day with Lucy and her family, and through most of the day I felt peaceful.

The only uncomfortable moment came during Elder Andersen's talk this morning: "While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriages, the Lord has not. In the very beginning, God initiated marriage between humans — Adam and Eve. He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults, to more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared and nurtured."


I suddenly felt all eyes in the room on me and Lucy--her dad, her mom, her siblings. Lucy has been open with them about the fact that I'm a mutant but that that won't stop her from marrying me. With everyone staring at me, I scooted away from Lucy on the couch, just an inch. Lucy didn't seem to react at all. Nobody said anything, and the talk went on.

From my perspective, there are two ways to see this:

1. Elder Andersen is right. Children should be raised in human families, not mutant or mixed families, and therefore it would be selfish of me and Lucy to get married. Even if we were to adopt so I don't pass on my mutant gene, children deserve to have human parents.

2. Elder Andersen is wrong. Mutants can be just as good at parenting as humans, and therefore it's okay for us to marry and have children. The kids will be just fine.

Research supports #2, but the church seems to be sticking firmly with #1. Elder Andersen would probably say that researchers are biased. Lucy would argue that #2 can be true and the church can still be true at the same time, but I just don't see it that way. Sure, I get that church leaders are human and capable of mistakes, but would God really let them lead the church astray on something this big? Marriage and family are quintessential to the Plan of Salvation. If God is truly at the head of the church, I can't imagine that he would let them be wrong on this.

So either #1 is true and I will have to give up the hope of getting married and having a family, or #2 is true and I need to get out of the church. Which is it? I don't know. I guess I need to keep fasting and praying.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Conference Weekend: Day 0

Add this to your list of Stupid Things To Fight With Your Girlfriend About: Where to watch General Conference. I assumed we'd go to my sister Marsha's place in Saratoga Springs because that's what I've done twice a year for the past three years, plus the year before my mission. Lucy assumed we'd watch it at her parents' place in Orem since that's what she's done twice a year for her entire life. Both reasonable arguments, I have to admit. Things got tense for a while, we nearly decided just to spend the weekend separately, but then we decided that was stupid and came up with a compromise: Saturday in Orem and Sunday in Saratoga Springs. Lucy's happy because Saturday is when her mom makes the traditional breakfast casserole, and I'm happy because Sunday is when Marsha and I make the traditional cinnamon rolls.

Source: http://www.myregisblog.com/2012/03/lol-cats-general-conference.html

I'm glad we got that resolved because I really want to be in the right frame of mind this weekend. I fully intend to follow Chenry's advice and make this a weekend of prayer, fasting (maybe between the casserole and the cinnamon rolls?), and sincere meditation. I'm doing everything I can to set aside my doubts and my cynicism and be open to whatever God wants to tell me. I figure if I'm headed in the wrong direction, this is God's chance to slap me in the face and turn me around. I'm absolutely open to wherever he wants me to go. If you're the praying type, please pray for me.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Power to Heal

As promised, Lucy and I visited Jan at the UofU Hospital last night. Even after Greg had described her looking like a ghost, I wasn't prepared to see her in the condition she's in. If I didn't know better, I'd swear she was an old lady. She's lost so much weight that her skin hangs loose off her bones. Her dark eyes get lost in the dark circles that surround them. Her hair is brittle and falling out. She can talk, but the effort seems to exhaust her.

As soon as we entered the room, Lucy sat on the bed next to Jan and took hold of her hand. I sat in the turquoise vinyl chair by the window.

"Thanks for coming," Jan said weakly.

"Are you kidding?" Lucy said. "How many hours did you and Ben spend sitting by me while I was in a bed just like this one?" She smiled at me. "I guess it's your turn next, Ben."

"How are you doing?" Jan asked Lucy.

Lucy beamed. "Never better, thanks to you." At first I thought that was a somewhat tactless reference to Jan dumping me, freeing me up to date Lucy, but then I realized it was nothing so me-centric. Lucy was referring to the healing, of course.

"I'm glad," said Jan. "I want to help more people, but they won't let me."

"You need to help yourself first," Lucy said.

Jan made a slight movement in her shoulders that might have been a shrug. "I don't care about myself."

"Well, we do." Lucy shut her eyes and squeezed Jan's hand. "I just wish I could do for you what you did for me. I wish more than anything I had that power. But I don't, so you need to..." Lucy opened her eyes and looked at me. "But Ben does!"

"What?" I sat up. "No, I don't have the power to heal. All I can do is fly."

Lucy laughed. "You dork. I'm not talking about mutant powers. Give her a priesthood blessing."

I froze. The thought hadn't occurred to me. It would have been the first thing I thought of six months ago, but last night it didn't even cross my mind until Lucy suggested it. I had consecrated oil on me--I keep a vial on my key chain--but was I worthy to give a blessing? I haven't even been sure lately that I believe in the church. Honestly, I didn't even believe that giving her a blessing would make any difference. It hadn't with Lucy.


Jan saved me. "Greg gave me a blessing last night. A male nurse helped him."

Lucy smiled. "Good. Then you'll be just fine."

I looked away. I wished I could believe that.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Life and Death

Longtime readers may remember that I met my now-ex-girlfriend Jan through her brother Greg, who happens to be one of my roommates. You probably won't be surprised that since Jan and I broke up, things have been a little awkward between Greg and me. It's not that he's angry at me for breaking up with his sister--she's the one who broke up with me, really, and it just wasn't that kind of break up--but rather... Well, I don't know. Things are weird. Even weirder after this morning.

I went to get breakfast and Greg was at the kitchen table, staring at the wall. His Colossal Berry Crunch looked like it had been soaking in milk for a while--there wasn't much crunch left. Things may be awkward between us, but I wasn't about to ignore his obvious distress while I ate my breakfast. "What's up?" I asked.


"Huh?" He looked like I'd jerked him out of a trance.

"Are you okay?"

"Oh. Yeah, I guess. I've just been up all night. Worried about..." He looked to me tentatively.

"Jan?"

Greg nodded. "She's at the University of Utah Hospital. She woke up from her last healing a few days ago, but hasn't even been able to get out of bed. She asked the nurses to bring the next person waiting to be healed to her, but they refused. And after seeing her last night, I don't blame them. She's in no condition to be healing anyone. She looks like a ghost, Ben. So pale, and hardly anything but skin covering her bones."

I remembered how she looked the last time I saw her. With that in mind, what Greg was telling me didn't surprise me.

Greg pounded the table, knocking the spoon out of his bowl. "Why is she so hellbent on killing herself? Believe me, I'm as pro-mutant as anyone--I'm the one who encouraged her to accept that part of herself, years ago--but using a mutant power that's killing you is just stupid. I don't care how many other people she's helping. I wish she'd never..." He looked at me and seemed to reconsider saying he wished she'd never used her healing power in the first place.

Considering that the first time she used her power intentionally was to save the life of my current girlfriend, it was kind of Greg to hold back. But he'd already said enough to make me think. Is it really fair for Jan to die so that Lucy can live? I'm not even going to try to answer that question. But what if I had never convinced Jan to heal Lucy? She wouldn't have decided to become the Mother Theresa of mutants, devoting her life to healing others. She'd probably still be here at BYU. With me. And Lucy would be dead. The thought makes me shudder now, just as it did this morning. I wouldn't want, not in a million years, for Lucy to die. But I don't want that for Jan either.

"Do you think," I asked Greg, "she'd be okay with me visiting her?"

He shrugged. "I don't see why not. She'll probably try to convince you to bring her someone to heal."

So I guess I'm going to visit Jan tonight. Lucy's coming too. Not because she has to chaperone me while I visit my ex-girlfriend, but because she's worried about Jan too. Lucy owes Jan her life. Hopefully we can convince Jan to value her own.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Meaning Of All Things

Sometimes I feel like my life is an endless string of coming out experiences. Except today it wasn't coming out as a mutant. Today I confessed to my writing group that I'm not sure whether I believe in the church anymore. In a lot of ways this was more nerve-wracking than the last time. It's one thing to tell my Mormon friends that I have this challenge I have to deal with but at my core I'm still one of them; it's quite another to say, "You know, I'm not sure I even belong here anymore."

Tara responded the way she responds to everything: She gave me a big hug. "Just do what you feel is right, Ben. Heavenly Father will guide you, and we'll be here for you."

Galadriel responded in typical Galadriel fashion--with a joke. "So you're going apostate, huh? Maybe I'll join you one day. But not today. If I apostatize now, I can't go to Priesthood Session on Saturday and ask to be let in."

"I'm pretty sure that is apostatizing," I joked back.

Chenry didn't say much at first. I tried not to read too much into his silence, because I know from previous experience that he typically takes time to think before deciding how he feels about something. Sure enough, after writing group was done, he caught up to me on my way to class. "How long have you been doubting?" he asked.

"I dunno. I can't put my finger on any specific moment when I began to doubt. It just happened kind of gradually. Or rather, it's happening gradually. I'm not done--I haven't made any decisions yet."

"Good." He tugged on his backpack straps. "Listen, there's a lot I don't know. I don't know why God created mutants, or what he intends for you to do with your powers. I don't know why he ever thought polygamy was a good idea. I don't know why Pluto isn't a planet anymore, or for that matter why Pluto can't talk but Goofy can."

I grinned.


Chenry stopped walking and looked up at the sky. "But I know there is a God, and he loves his children. And I know this is his church. It's not perfect, because he uses imperfect people to run it, but it's his nonetheless. So I'm glad to hear you haven't made any decisions yet. Will you do something for me?"

"Sure."

"Watch conference this weekend. Pray, fast, all that stuff. But more than anything, listen with an open heart. It's not every day you get to hear a prophet speak. You'll hear what you need to hear."

"Will do, my friend," I said with a smile. This was an easy promise to make, since I'd been planning on it anyway.

Chenry gave me a quick, awkward hug, then ran off to a literature class on the other side of campus. And thus I came out to FOX for a second time.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Throwing the Baby Out With the Bathwater

I really don't have time for these conversations right now.

Lucy: I don't want to break up.
Me: What? Who said anything about breaking up?
Lucy: You're graduating and looking for a job. I still have a year of school to go.
Me: I'll find a job here.
Lucy: What if you don't?
Me: I dunno, we'll work something out.
Lucy: Long distance relationships don't work.
Me: ...
Lucy: I'd consider transferring to another school, but not for my boyfriend. I'd only do that for my husband.
Me: Are we seriously having this conversation? How long have we been dating? And the church wouldn't even let us get married in the temple. We'd have to have a civil marriage. Is that really what you want?
Lucy: You know how I feel about that.
Me: ...
Lucy: Is it that you aren't sure God is really okay with mutants getting married? Do you think the church's policy is right?
Me: No, it's not that. I've been thinking about it a lot--even though I should be thinking about graduating--and I'm pretty much 100% that the church's policy is wrong. I can't imagine a God who would tell us that marriage is so important to our eternal salvation, then deny those blessings to a significant portion of his children.
Lucy: Absolutely. I agree. Then what's the issue.
Me: ...
Lucy: What? You can tell me.
Me: It's just, well, if the church is wrong about that, and they're wrong about how God feels about mutant powers, then what else are they wrong about?
Lucy: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, like, did you know the papyri Joseph Smith supposedly translated the Book of Abraham from has since been examined by Egyptologists who say it has nothing to do with Abraham? That it's like the Book of the Dead or something?
Lucy: What difference does it make? So he was inspired to write something directly from God, instead of translating like he thought he was doing. What's the big deal?
Me: Never mind.
Lucy: What, are you going to go all Shawn on me now, and throw the baby out with the bath water?
Me: ...


Like I said, I really don't have time for this right now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mo' Mutants, Mo' Problems

Longtime readers with a sharp eye for detail (and who care about these things) may have noticed an addition to my sidebar: I've added a link to the MoMu Directory.

MOHO Directory

To any new readers who came from the MoMu Directory, welcome!

MoMu, if you're not familiar with the term, is short for "Mormon Mutant." I'm more a fan of "Latter-day Mutant" myself, but I'm biased because that's the term I made up. Still, doesn't "MoMu" sound ridiculous? Alas, the interwebs have spoken, and MoMu it is. As I learned back in November, there is a significant online community of people who have some level of affiliation (current or past) with the LDS church and who have mutant abilities.

Honestly, it's kind of overwhelming. In the first place, five months ago I thought I was the only one in the world. Not literally, but it sure felt like it. And now, reading through the oodles and oodles of MoMu blogs out there, I feel like everyone is a Mormon mutant. I seriously wonder sometimes if every single person on the planet is a mutant, but only a small percentage of us admit it. It's a ridiculous thought, I know, but still the sheer number of Mormon mutants out there makes me feel at once comforted and... I dunno... unspecial.

All those MoMu blogs are overwhelming in another way too. I see all the different ways people choose to reconcile their faith with their mutant power, and I get selection anxiety. There are active Mormons who "struggle with UPP," angry ex-Mormons who openly identify as mutants, and everything in between. To make it worse, it seems everyone is convinced that their way is the right way. How the heck am I supposed to decide what I'm going to do?

I can't tell you how much time and energy I spend stressing about this. I can't concentrate on school because in a month school will be done and I'm going to have to decide what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I'm going to have to choose who I'm going to be, and suddenly I feel unprepared. Four years of college and even my two years of missionary service did not get me ready for this. But, as I keep reminding myself, I can't make this decision now, precisely because I'll be done with school in a month. I have papers to write, books to read, finals to study for. If I want to graduate, the rest of my life will have to wait.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lifestyle

This afternoon I was eating lunch outside the library with some friends from the English department, watching the reconstruction of the Wilk. There were three of us, all seniors graduating next month, not a single one of us with a clear idea of what to do with a BA in English. "I should have done the English Education degree," I said. "At least then I could teach."


"Blech," said Jose, who meets the hipster-poet stereotype better than any of us, with his dark-framed glasses, tight jeans and t-shirt, and hair as long as BYU will let him grow it. "English Education is so..."

"Practical?" I offered.

Faith, a girl who has been in several of my classes over the years, including this semester's creative writing class where I workshopped my essay about being a mutant, chuckled. "If we were practical people, we would major in computer science." She brushed aside a tuft of long, brown hair that had blown in her face. "But you couldn't teach high school anyway, could you, Ben?"

"Huh?"

She sat up. "Because of your... lifestyle. I mean, I know you're a good person, but if I had a kid and one of the teachers at my kid's school was... like you, I'd be concerned."

I stared at her, feeling like I'd been punched in the gut. Jose stopped mid-bite and gawked at her.

"Don't get me wrong," Faith said, "you're my friend and I know you would never..." She vaguely gestured toward the destroyed Wilkinson Center. "But people are understandably careful about who they expose their kids to."

Jose looked at his lap and continued eating his sandwich. I looked to the Wilk, trying to wrap my head around what exactly Faith was saying. That mutants shouldn't be high school teachers because they might blow up the school? You know, despite the fact that most of us don't have blowing-up powers? Or that by exposing children to us, they might learn to blow up schools? And lifestyle? Really? What kind of lifestyle do I have? I go to BYU. I do homework. I hang out with my girlfriend. I hate that word. Lifestyle.

"Hey," Faith said, breaking the awkward silence. "We're cool, right? I mean, I'm just trying to be honest."

I nodded. I was too paralyzed by shock to do anything else. I should probably be angry now, but more than anything I just feel depressed. Faith isn't a bigot. She doesn't hate me. She wasn't trying to be mean or hurtful. Faith is an intelligent, kind person. She's my friend. She's a good person. The depressing thing is that I live in a world where it's the good people who say things like that.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gray, Revisited

Recently I joined a Facebook group for LDS mutants and allies (a few months ago I had no idea such a thing existed!). Today someone posted something making fun of Cypher, which is an organization that provides support for Latter-day Saints who deal with unnatural power proclivity (presumably named after the X-Man who is purportedly Mormon). The gist of the post, and the ensuing comments thread, was that this organization is the most horrible thing in the world because it encourages Mormon mutants to suppress their abilities rather than embracing them. And I'm just like, "Hey, at least they're talking about mutant issues in a Mormon context, which is something I would have loved to have a few years ago."


The conversation reminded me of yesterday's discussion with Shawn. I feel like some people recognize that they've been blinded by black-and-white thinking their entire life, only to embrace white-and-black thinking instead. Okay, so you've traded "mutant=bad/church=good" for "mutant=good/church=bad." Is that really any better? You're still missing an entire world of grays!

To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about the church right now, or about mutant stuff, or about anything. But I'd rather be unsure than be an arrogant jerk. Being unsure is just part of being human.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Napkin Religion

Lucy and I had dinner with a friend from UUPP this evening. It was a fairwell dinner. The friend, whom I'll call Shawn, had been on academic probation since he confessed to his bishop that he was regularly using his mutant power. Shawn is a telepath and it's really hard for him to turn his power off--he just hears people's thoughts, without trying. So over the past two months he's had to keep going back to his bishop and keep admitting that he's still "acting out." The Honor Code Office has warned him several times that if he doesn't get his behavior under control, he'll be kicked out of BYU. Finally, Shawn had enough and said, "Forget that." (He actually used much stronger language, which I won't repeat here.)

"It's all a load of B.S.," Shawn told me and Lucy tonight over Thai food. (And yes, I'm still censoring.) "The Honor Code Office, BYU, Bishop Rawlins, the whole effing church. They're all just trying to brainwash us, to keep us down. You know why? They're afraid of us. They're afraid of our power. Effing afraid."

I have to admit, I'm something of a swear wussy. I winced every time Shawn cussed. He seemed to notice my discomfort--or perhaps he read it in my mind--and he grinned at me. "See how brainwashed you are? They even control what language you can and cannot use."

Lucy reached across the table to squeeze Shawn's hand. "I can understand why you're angry, Shawn. You've been at BYU for two and a half years. You put a lot into your studies here, and now all of a sudden you have to uproot yourself and start over. And all because of some people in the church who don't understand that your power is a beautiful part of who you are. But don't let the people distract you from what the church really is. This isn't man's church. It's God's church. He'll make everything right."

"Forget God."

Even Lucy, with all her empathy, flinched at that one. She jerked back, pulling her hand away from Shawn.

Shawn looked to me and grinned again. His grin was unnerving, like it knew things about me I didn't know myself. "Ben knows what I'm talking about, don't you, Ben?"

I didn't respond. I didn't know how to respond. Honestly, I didn't know what he was talking about. But I feared that I did.

"Ben sees it too," Shawn said to Lucy. "He sees how the hierarchical structure of the church empowers a select few while keeping the masses down. He sees how all that 'testimony' B.S. they feed you in Sunday school is really just circular logic and self-fulfilling prophesies. Honestly, Lucy, think about it. Let's say I tell you..." He searched around the table for a moment, then picked up a napkin. "Let's say I tell you this napkin is a magic napkin, that all the truth you need to know about God and the universe is in this napkin. And you say, 'Why should I believe that?' And I give you my best salesman smile--" He demonstrated a convincing impression of a car salesman. "--and I tell you, 'It's simple. God will tell you himself. Just ask. But I know this napkin is true, Lucy. I know it. And I know that God will tell you it's true if you ask him sincerely and with a pure heart.' So you take the napkin, and you pray about it."

Lucy, always a good sport, took the napkin from Shawn and thanked him politely.

Source: http://www.lepirateesthete.com/2011_05_25_archive.html
(And how awesome is it that this image exists? I searched for "holy napkin" and didn't expect to find anything this perfect to go with Shawn's little diatribe.)

"Now," Shawn said, "one of two things will happen: One, you pray about it and my sales pitch was so convincing and you saw how happy the napkin made me, so you want it to be true. And, because that's how the human brain works, you convince yourself that God has answered your prayer and told you the napkin is true. Or two, you're maybe not 100% sold on my pitch, or maybe you're a little more logical than the average Joe, so you don't get an answer. Or maybe you convince yourself the answer is 'no.' Either way, is my faith threatened? If I were applying the scientific method it would be. The scientific method requires experiments to be repeatable, with the same results every time. But I'm not using the scientific method; I'm using magical thinking. And in my magical world, promises from God come with a caveat: They only work if you're faithful. So if you didn't get an answer, or you got the wrong answer, then it's because you're unworthy. Or you were deceived by an evil spirit. It's never because the whole effing system is B.S. But that's exactly what it is--effing B.S."

Undaunted, Lucy smiled. "So if I only believe because I want to believe, because it makes me happy, then what's the problem? You know, like they say, if it makes you happy, then how can it be so bad?"

Shawn shrugged. "Until it doesn't."

I focused on my mussaman curry. Shawn was right about me--I had had those thoughts before. I do have those doubts. But I'm not about to go apostate, join the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and start dropping F-bombs all over the place. Doubt your doubts, right?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gray

Life used to be much simpler:

  • Mutant powers=Bad. 
  • Priesthood power=Good. 
  • LDS Church=Right. 
  • X-Men=Wrong. 
  • Mutant marriage=Not An Option. 
  • Lifelong celibacy=As Good As It Gets.
Then Jan came into my life, and now Lucy, and suddenly the lines are blurred

But you know what? The black-and-white picture I had of the world was always just an illusion. It's like old, pre-color TV shows. Everyone calls them "black and white," but in reality they're filled with grays. If you only use black and white to make a picture, the best you can do is a two-dimensional cartoon. It's the grays that give life depth. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Flight Anxiety

Lucy wants me to take her flying. "Wouldn't it be lovely?" she says. "Like Superman and Lois Lane, soaring through the clouds above Metropolis. Except, you know, Provo. And there's no way I'm letting you hold me with just one hand. Because gravity."


I tell her I'm not ready to do that. She says I need to accept the gifts God gave me. I tell her I'd feel better about waiting to act on my power until the church officially changes its position on mutant behavior. She says personal revelation trumps church policy. I tell her I'd get kicked out of BYU. She says BYU doesn't need to know. ("You don't have to announce EVERYthing you do on your blog.")

So, yeah. I'm starting to feel like I'm being irrational, like I'm not being fair to Lucy. I mean, if my power really is a gift from God, shouldn't I be sharing it? But I'm just not ready yet.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gravity

I went jogging tonight. I often go jogging when the urge to fly is so strong I can hardly breathe. It's a coping mechanism I learned from a therapist I saw for my "unnatural power proclivity" before my mission. Jogging clears my head, expels some of that pent up energy trying to escape, puts my focus somewhere else besides on the desire to act out, and forces me to breathe. Except tonight it was windy. As I ran between the MTC and the temple, scattered raindrops hitting my glasses and wind rushing past my ears, it felt like all I had to do was let go and the wind would carry me away. It took all my concentration to force each step I took to connect with the pavement. It was like gravity was pulling me up and I had to will myself down. Each step could easily have launched me up, up, and away.


Somehow, I managed to stay on solid ground. I jogged for half an hour, then came home and showered. I might even make it through the night without levitating above my bed. No matter how much I tell myself that mutant powers come from God just as much as any other gift, no matter how cynical I allow myself to be about things I've never thought to question before, I can't bring myself to give up and fly. Because that's what it would feel like--giving up. Gravity is pulling me upward and I'm clinging for my life to what I know. Is this the iron rod protecting me from the mists of darkness or is it an iron shackle keeping me from freedom?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Today's Inspirational Story

The surgery went well. My mom will likely take a few weeks to recover, but she'll be fine. No mutant powers were involved so the priesthood blessing must have worked.

Or, you know, the surgery just worked, the same as it does for the majority of people who have it done sans blessing.

Ugh. I'd make a horrible EFY speaker.


Monday, March 10, 2014

O Me of Little Faith

My mom's health has never been good, so it wasn't a complete shock when my sister called this afternoon to tell me Mom is in the hospital. She's had back problems before, leg issues, a weird circulatory condition, and chronic migraines, but this time it's her stomach giving her problems. Apparently some kind of blockage in her intestine. They're removing it surgically tonight.


"Don't worry," Marsha told me, "Mom's home teachers have already stopped by to give her a blessing. She'll be okay."

How horrible is it that my first thought was I wonder how quickly Jan could get to Arizona? Four months ago I had no doubt that real power lies in the priesthood and that mutant powers like Jan and I have are counterfeit. But how many blessings did Lucy receive? Yet she just got worse and worse until Jan healed her. Using her "counterfeit" power.

I know, I know. God answers prayers through his servants. Jan's power is the tool God used to fulfill the promises he made in all those priesthood blessings Lucy received. It's no less miraculous than if a doctor had found a cure as a result of a patient's faithful prayers. I'm the one who made that argument two months ago.

But still. I'd sleep better tonight if Jan were in Arizona with my mom.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Marriage

Lucy and I have been talking about marriage. We're not getting engaged or anything--we've only been dating for five days and even at BYU that's fast--but just talking about marriage in general. Well, I guess a little more specific than that. Talking about mutant marriage and interspecies marriage. Lucy's thoughts are along the same lines as Jan's, that the church's opposition to mutant and interspecies marriage is a policy, not doctrine, and that one day it will change. But she's not quite so willing to wait for that to change.


"We could get married civilly now," Lucy told me last night, "then get sealed in the temple when the policy changes."

We were lying on the grass, staring at the stars. I sat up. "I don't think you can have a temple recommend if you do that. I mean, until the policy changes."

Lucy shrugged. "I'd rather do what I know is right and be with the person I love than wait for an unjust policy to change just so I can have a temple recommend."

This seemed so strange coming from Lucy, who just five months ago was a complete Molly Mormon. She still is, in most ways, and I like that about her, but she's also got this rebellious streak to her and I kind of like that too. Well, that's not even it. It's not rebellion. It's more that she's extremely confident about what she believes is right. Most of that lines up with what the church says is right, but she's bold enough to follow her conscience even in those few areas where she doesn't agree with the church. It's not about the organization for her. It's about her relationship with God. I really dig that in a woman.

As for marriage? I don't know. I'm still undecided. Maybe one day I'll be as bold as Lucy.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Less Miserable

Had an honest-to-goodness, no-more-holding-back date with Lucy tonight. I invited her over to my place, made beef stroganoff (one of the few things I know how to make well), and then we watched Les Miserables (the recent version with the dude who played Wolverine in that biopic about the X-Men). After the movie we cuddled on the couch for a while and talked. Thankfully, my roommates left us alone. And... she may have just left now, a few minutes after curfew. Shh! Don't tell.

Image source: http://clearlycaneda.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/wolverine-crashes-les-miserables/

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lunch Date

This morning I got a rare and unexpected phone call from Jan. She wanted to know if I'd join her for lunch at UVRMC before she did another healing this afternoon--a teenage boy in critical condition after being hit by a drunk driver. It meant missing a class, but this would be my first chance to see Jan in more than a month, and who knows when I'd get another chance?

I drove to the hospital with all sorts of mixed emotions--anxious to see her again, still angry at her for ditching me without even breaking up, worried that seeing her would make me fall in love all over again, nervous that we'd have nothing in common now that she's dropped out of BYU and is doing the mutant thing full-time. What I wasn't prepared for was that I'd hardly recognize her. I entered the hospital cafeteria and almost walked right past Jan. She was sitting at a table near the door, but she looked nothing like the Jan I knew. Her eyes were sunken into dark circles, her hair pulled back in a ponytail that looked brittle enough to break off if I touched it. She wore gray sweats two sizes too big for her now-frail body. And, to be blunt, she smelled like a homeless person. The Jan I knew was never one for dressing fancy and wearing perfume, but at least she showered regularly and took care of herself. She always smelled nice. I suppose this is what happens when you devote literally your entire life to helping others.

"Hey," I said once I recognized her.

She smiled feebly. "Hey."

I gave her a hug--more than that would have felt awkward after so much time--and offered to go get her some food. She didn't seem strong enough to stand up. Judging by her looks, I expected her to be starving, but once I set the tray down in front of her she just picked at it while we talked. When I asked, she explained that she'd eaten this morning when she woke up from the latest healing coma, and while she was out they had her on an IV so it's not like she was nutrient-deficient. I suspiciously eyed her bony cheeks, usually a healthy tan but now paler than my own pasty white, but said nothing.


Jan told me about the people she had healed--nine in the past month--and I gave her updates on mutual friends from UUPP, her brother, and Lucy. I was careful not to talk too much about Lucy or mention how much time we'd been spending together, but I'm not sure Jan would have cared anyway. She didn't seem especially interested in anything I had to say.

After watching her stare blankly into space for far too long, I finally said, "Jan, I don't think what you're doing is healthy. You look like crap."

For just a second I caught a glimpse of her familiar, sarcastic smile. "Always the charmer, X."

"That reminds me," I said, "I came out on my blog. With my real name and everything. Also in my creative writing class."

Jan nodded. "Cool."

Something about her tone made me feel kind of small and ridiculous--like here I was, proud of myself for telling people I'm a mutant, while she's spending every day of her life actually using her power to make the world a better place. I'm not sure that was her intent, but it was the message I got.

That's when I finally accepted what I've known for a month. "It's over between us, isn't it?"

Jan reached across the table and barely touched my hand. A brief spark of connection passed between us. Then she took her hand back. "I don't think I can be with anyone, X. That's not the purpose God has for me."

I could have argued that no matter the good she was accomplishing, no loving Heavenly Father would want this life for anyone--barely awake long enough between comas to have a meal, then on to the next healing and coma. I could have fought for our relationship. But you know what? I didn't care. For the first time since our relationship actually ended a month ago, I was ready for it to be done. Don't get me wrong--I don't hate Jan. I really do respect what she's trying to do. She has the noblest of intentions and she's more dedicated to her cause than anyone else I know. It's just that I've spent the past month mourning the loss of someone who no longer exists. Jan is gone. I don't think the blog name I gave her even fits anymore. For a brief time she was Jan and I was Mormon X, but now she's Melanie Jensen, the young woman you've seen all over the news as she goes from hospital to hospital healing people, and I'm Ben Christensen, that guy who has a blog that one person at BYU once recognized.

And that's okay. We're different people, going our separate ways. After lunch, we hugged. I went to my Friday afternoon class, and Melanie went to save a young man's life.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Workshop Part Deux

Well that was... interesting. As promised, I workshopped my essay about being a Mormon mutant in my BYU creative writing class today. The results were varied: The majority of classmates just gave me feedback on the writing itself (which is, you know, the point of the workshop). Several gave me kudos for being so bold and open. A couple mentioned that they have mutant family members or friends. One girl who last semester workshopped a personal essay about her horrible experience dating a guy who only told her he was a mutant once they were talking about marriage (she promptly dumped him) unsurprisingly found all kinds of things to criticize in my essay--ranging from run-on sentences to pronouns with unclear referents to my apparent lack of empathy for non-mutants (and she also doesn't like my overuse of parentheticals).

The most... interesting reaction came from a girl I'll call Suzie. Suzie is a recently-returned missionary with long brown hair that she wears down and slightly frizzy. She has thick glasses and a judgmental smirk that comes out whenever someone mentions anything even remotely liberal or otherwise non-conforming, which I'm not sure she's even aware of. I suspect she's secretly attractive, but she hides it under baggy jeans and long-sleeve plaid shirts that she buttons all the way to her chin--you know, lest she cause a guy to have inappropriate thoughts. Here's an excerpt from the very long comment she left at the end of my essay:
Everyone has temptations, but you don't see normal people going around and flaunting their weaknesses. A married man who talked openly about his attraction to female coworker would just be inviting sin. A former smoker who keeps a pack of cigarettes in his pocket is asking for a relapse. There's a reason paedophiles don't get callings in the Primary. You talk about your challenge as if it's something to be proud of, even to the point of confessing past transgressions. The Lord doesn't want us to be proud of our weaknesses; He wants us to be humble enough to let Him take them from us. 

Yes, she used the British spelling of pedophile. No, she's not British. Just pretentious. I've kept her British spelling and introduced her with that description of a self-righteous Molly Mormon because I think she's kind of ridiculous and I want you to agree with me. But at the same time, her criticism has really upset me, and typically that only happens when there's at least a grain of truth to the criticism. I already know I'm driving a little close to the edge by openly claiming a mutant identity and hanging out with mutants and mutant supporters. It's a risk I'm willing to take in order to open up discussion about what it means to be a Mormon mutant. But the part I'm not so happy to admit is that I am proud of being a mutant. I'm not sure when that happened--it wasn't true four months ago, but it is now. And I think she's right, I probably shouldn't be proud. I should be humble. I should be humbly asking the Lord to take this from me.

But honestly? I don't want to.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Workshop

Remember when I was thinking of bringing my essay about being a Mormon mutant to my creative writing class at BYU? That plan was put on hold as I worked through anxiety about airing my dirty laundry in public, and then my life exploded and I completely forgot about the essay. Until this morning, that is.

At our weekly meeting of FOX, Tara asked whether I'd ever had the essay workshopped in a creative writing class. I said no, and Galadriel called me a wimp. Even Chenry, who had once expressed reservations about the whole thing, was encouraging me to do it. "You might as well," Tara said, "now that you're using your real name on your blog." It's a valid point, but I doubt any of my classmates read the blog.


As it happens, my turn to be workshopped is this Thursday. I already had a short story up on Google Drive, ready to share with the class, but I can always use that next time. So just now I made a few revisions to my essay, uploaded it, and shared it with everyone in my class.

*Deep breath.*

I'll let you know how the workshop goes on Thursday.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Frozen

It was with trepidation that I went with Lucy to watch Frozen on Saturday night. No, not because I was with Lucy--she's done a really good job of giving me space and not making me feel pressured to be anything more than friends since our DTR last Tuesday. Rather, the movie has gotten so much buzz about its supposed pro-mutant agenda that I felt like buying a ticket was equivalent to making a political statement. But Lucy really wanted me to see it with her (she'd already seen it twice since getting out of the hospital), so I went.

Now that I've seen it, I really don't know what to think. I mean, yes, the mutant parallels are obvious--Elsa has a power she's supposed to keep secret until (spoiler) she doesn't. In a heated moment she lets it go and comes to love and accept herself, mutant-like power and all. Note that the movie never uses the word "mutant"--it's supposed to be some kind of magic thing, I guess?--but c'mon, in today's world powers and mutants are pretty much synonymous. So the message is clear: let it go, embrace your power, be your mutant self, and be happy.

As soon as the credits started rolling, Lucy grabbed my arm. "Didn't you love that? Wasn't the pro-mutant message so uplifting?"

I didn't really have an answer for her. A few weeks ago I might have been more enthusiastic. But since then I've gotten back into my everyday routine, going to school and church, and I have a hard time seeing my power to fly as some kind of gift from God. Isn't it possible that Jan's power to heal is meant to bless humanity but my power really is just a test to see how obedient I'll be to the prophet's counsel to rely only on priesthood power? Don't get me wrong, I get the appeal of "letting go"--a big part of me wants to just let loose and leave the ground behind forever. But I don't feel like I can do that without leaving behind my faith. I mean, it's one thing to debate about whether or not it's okay to drink caffeinated soda, but it's another thing entirely to go against years of established church doctrine to live a mutant lifestyle.

Call it brainwashing if you want. Call it blind obedience. But I can't just give up being Mormon, any more than I could just give up being a mutant. So for now I'll just stay where I am, frozen between the two worlds.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Famous

Today I was walking by the SWKT and some random guy stopped me. "Hey, is your name Ben... um, sorry, can't remember the last name... Petersen? Johnson?"

I nodded hesitantly. "Yes, I'm Ben. It's Christensen."

"Right, that's it! Christensen!" He laughed and patted my shoulder as if we were old friends, but his face did not ring a bell for me in the slightest. "You're Mormon X. I totally read your blog. Rock on, man!"

So it's just barely been a week since I came out with my real name and face, and now a total of... wait, let me count... one person has recognized me.* I'm totally a celebrity.

Image source: http://www.backdropsbeautiful.com/hollywood-backdrops/paparazzi-celebrity--6.html

*Not counting the woman who wrote this, but she seems to have me confused with someone else. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DTR

Last night at UUPP, Lucy hardly looked at me. (But to her credit, she came anyway; she's sincerely dedicated to the cause and not just for my sake.) After the meeting she tried to slip away, but I ran to catch up with her. "Hey," I said, "what's going on?"

"Nothing." She laughed bitterly. "Absolutely nothing is going on."

I couldn't help chuckling at the stab she'd taken at me. "Boy, I walked right into that one."

She smiled a little more sincerely and shook her head. "I'm sorry, that's not fair of me. It's not like you owe me anything. If you're not interested, you're not interested. I should be happy just to be your friend." She shrugged. "I guess I feel dumb more than anything. I thought I was getting other signals from you--signals that maybe you'd want to spend Valentine's with me."

I let out a big sigh, which turned to fog and rose up to join the clouds above us. "Then it's me who needs to apologize, Lucy. I probably have been sending mixed signals." I explained that I really do like her--she's pretty and smart and super passionate about the things she believes in (and the fact that one of the things she now believes in is mutant rights is a definite plus)--but I'm not really over Jan yet. We haven't even broken up yet, as far as I know. I told Lucy I don't want to use her as my rebound, and I don't want to date her if half my heart is still with Jan. Lucy told me that she'd always thought I was cute, but she completely fell for me in those months that I was visiting her in the hospital. If she's been over-anxious to jump into a relationship with me, it's because she feels like she's been blessed with this new lease on life and she doesn't know how long it will last, so she wants to make the most of every moment. (Which, incidentally, is another thing I find attractive about her.)

Image source: http://skitguys.com/scripts/item/dtr

So we walked around campus and talked for a while. It was freezing cold, but neither of us cared. It was awesome that we could be completely honest with each other about how we feel. Eventually we decided that for now we should just be friends. She agreed that it wouldn't be a good idea to start something when I still have feelings for Jan. "But don't take too long," she said with a coy smile. "I'm not going to just sit around waiting." We ended the night with a good long hug. A very nice hug.

Today I'm feeling like I actually want to get over Jan. Which is a start, right?

Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Complicated

I think Lucy is upset with me. She avoided me at church yesterday. I get why she's not happy. She likes me, and I blew her off on Valentine's Day. The truth is, I kind of like her too and I could see something happening between us if not for the situation with Jan.

Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it. I'm angry at Jan. We only dated for a couple of months, but we had something real. We even talked about maybe getting married someday if the church changes its policy on mutant marriage. Then, out of nowhere, she decides she has this calling to heal everyone she can, and she runs off without even considering me. She left school behind, she left all her stuff behind, and she left me behind. She didn't even bother to think about what her leaving would mean to me. She didn't even bother to dump me. She just left. So here I am, feeling like I got dumped but because we never actually broke up I don't feel like I'm really single and free to move on with my life. I used to get annoyed at people who use the "It's Complicated" relationship status on Facebook, like they're trying to make their life more drama-filled than it needs to be. Either you're in a relationship or you're not. It should be simple. Turns out I was wrong.


This is probably insensitive of me to say, but I feel like a widower--like I'm still in a relationship with someone, but she's, as they say, no longer with us. Except I can't really grieve because that would be selfish. Jan is doing the selfless thing, completely giving up her own needs for the greater good. And here I am, the self-centered jerk complaining about not having her in my life. But you know what? It would have been nice if at some point while she's thinking of everyone else in the world, she stopped to think about me for just one second.

And, meanwhile, Lucy is here and Lucy is thinking about me, and I blew her off on Valentine's Day. What am I thinking?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Singles Awareness Day

Lucy asked if I wanted to hang out tonight. Nothing fancy--just watch a movie or play a board game or something. She was very casual in the way she asked, but I'm not stupid. I know what "hanging out" on Valentine's Day means. And it's not that I don't like her or I'm not attracted to her. I like her a lot, actually. But I just feel like spending tonight alone. Most likely thinking about Jan. So I told Lucy no.

How much of a jerk does that make me?