Judging and judges. It certainly is the time to think about them. David and I had
a bit of a heated discussion on Judge Kavanaugh. David is very much against him and
ready to believe Dr. Ford. Me, well, a bit skeptical of the motives of both parties, and
certainly knowing Kavanaugh is a good ol’ boy and part of the good ol’ boy’s network of
Bush’s and Ivy League Schools, and I hate that. I really do. But, knowing also that
Trump, or worse yet, Pence, will nominate some other uber-conservative judge to the
Supreme Court, and it won’t matter anyways. So back to judgments. Nick Einbender,
David’s nephew, (my nephew, too, yay, as he and his husband are so handsome you just
smile looking at them), asks the following question on the facebook page “Mormons
Can LDS church leaders and/or LDS church members, fundamentally disagree with LDS-church
attending LGBT members choosing to “act on it” and still truly love, support, and welcome
them, and is it possible for the LDS-church going LGBT members to take those offering all
that at face value?
And the question got me thinking about judging. Many years ago, a good friend of my
oldest son got married. The friend was not Mormon, but was religious, as was his
bride-to-be. We all had gotten to be good friends with Mikal’s, my oldest son’s, friend
and with his family who lived just a few blocks down the street from us. So, when we
were all invited to the beautiful, outdoor, Summer wedding ceremony and reception
immediately following, we decided to go. The pastor conducting the wedding, like many
Mormon temple sealers do—sometimes to our great chagrin, as the Mormon temple sealer
sometimes tends to be too verbose and often is an unknown person to the couple and their
families, since Mormonism has a different tradition of who does the wedding sealing
ceremony and the sealer rambles on about something totally unrelated to the couple being
sealed—kind of like me when I write—offered some words of advice to the new couple. The
pastor advised that the couple should take up some traditions, like he and his wife do,
of drinking coffee in the morning together and chatting, as a way of connecting more
deeply. All of my kids audibly gasped at the word “coffee” and I couldn’t help but ask
myself what is wrong with my religion, my way of raising my kids that they would gasp at
the word “coffee”?
Being the good Mormon father that I was, I took up the subject of judgment at our next
Family Home Evening. For those who don’t know what it is, Family Home Evening is a time
for the parents to teach their children. I often used Family Home Evening as a time to
correct the teachings that had taken hold on my kids from a misguided talk or testimony
or class at the LDS ward we attended. We probably sang the hymn “Truth Reflects Upon our
Senses,” a hymn not sung very much any more in LDS congregations, or “Lord, I Would
Follow Thee,” especially verse two. Verse three of “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” is taken
by many Mormons as permission to judge another, but as I read it again from a different
perspective as an Ex-Mormon, I realize it could be simply that people in physical need
deserve our help, the poor, the “needy”. Yet how many times in so many Mormon sermons
have I heard it used as permission to judge another who is “needy” spiritually? We
inevitably have to judge that they are lost, sinning, and in such dire straits
spiritually, that they need saving. For that matter, Christianity and many other
religions, too, have gotten it all wrong. We humans are not broken or awful or in need
of any salvation of any kind when we’re born (yes, I know that’s a Mormon teaching, but
we still miss the mark too often, and eight years old? Come on?), and we don’t need
anything other than love as children or as adults.
As the years of my parenting wore on, it seemed misguided judgments and truly false
teachings were coming too often from my religion, but maybe that was just me thinking too
much. Obedience, not thinking, is the first law of heaven. NOT! More than once I had
to re-teach Jesus’ own ranking of the sins to my kids because someone at our Mormon
church had gotten off track and said something about obedience being so damned important
as to override love. Tirade and soap box coming; watch out. Like when we could tell my
Mom was really mad, the swear words went up in order of awfulness: Hell’s Bells (mom was
frustrated); Damn (mom was mad); Shit (mom was really mad; get ready for a &*&#!-storm).
So maybe I need some scatological expletives here, because I’m really mad. My kids would
remember how many times I stressed the commandment on which we could hang all the law and
the prophets. Ring someone’s neck, as my mom would say. Back to the story at hand.
Coffee as a sin? As I look back on that wedding, I realize my three girls were
especially vulnerable as they had been taught strongly that the ONLY wedding worth its
weight was a temple wedding, and so perhaps it wasn’t the coffee that made them gasp, but
the coffee on top of the wedding that would end in failure, because it wasn’t a real
wedding per LDS standards. Perhaps that was just too much handle under the LDS way of
living. Coffee, on top of it all!
So, my answer to the question at hand. Can? Yes, humans can love, support, and welcome,
and they’d probably do it naturally if they’ve been raised themselves to love, not judge.
It is possible, but not very probable in the LDS worldview, in my humble opinion,
because . . . coffee!
And, funniest thing of all, I absolutely judge harshly my coffee
now; I’m one of those nose-in-the-air, particularly-picky coffee drinkers. I have to
have just the right blend and roast with just a tiny bit of the right kind of cream, no
sugar. David, well, he can do “instant” and be satisfied; or just plain old diner-style
black coffee. But, who am I to judge another?
In case you hadn't "judged" it, Bert and Ernie were a lovely gay couple.
Dedicated to my niece, Tori Christensen.
My grandma, Afton James Rex, directing a podcast in the olden days, about 1967, on the set in Silver City, NM.
Well, here goes nothing. I mean, I don’t know what I’m doing on this blog yet, technology-wise. My son Nik helped me a lot, but I had to pay him to do so. Technology is expensive. So, I’m trying to link my many readers to a podcast that my husband David and I did recently. When I say “did”, I mean we were interviewed for it, and audio-recorded, so that’s the new word, podcast. In the olden days, only a few people got to be interviewed and audio-recorded and then broadcast widely. I once interviewed and audio-recorded my Grandma Rex. It wasn’t broadcast widely, as my brother Judson unrolled the cassette tape and, well, it was thenceforth only a written interview, because, thankfully, Mrs. Busk, the english teach who gave us the assignment to interview someone, made us transcribe the recording, and I did so very soon after the interview. So, I have the written version, which I’m going to broadcast right here, right now. Meanwhile, if you know how to listen to a podcast, here is the link (I hope this blog allows linking, like linking, blinking, and nod, that was a nursery rhyme).
Well, it looks like the linking worked. If you have Apple Itunes, it’s also available there, just search for “Gay Fathers Podcast”
And, for the finale: Here’s My grandma, Afton James Rex, being “podcasted” the old fashioned way. Well, darnitall, I can’t find the written PDF copy I know I have on one of the NINE, that’s right 9, thumb drives that have my entire life recorded on them. I’ll get back to you on this issue, meanwhile, enjoy the modern podcast of me and David. And, the picture of Grandma Rex directing, until I find the written transcript of my interview of her.
Every first weekend in August during my childhood, there was a big family reunion for the Hunt family, because August 2nd was Grandma Hunt’s birthday, and it was summertime so everyone could travel. I remember at least two times the reunion was held at the famous amusement park, Lagoon, in Farmington, Utah. This particular reunion, my mom, who was the in-law to this Hunt family, made us all matching T-shirts, and we won “best dressed” family, of course. Grandma Hunt as a banner reading “grandest grandma” on it. In spite of being an in-law, my mom loved Grandma Hunt and related well to her. Grandma Hunt loved sewing and hand-sewing work especially, and canning bottled jams and jellies and fruit, too. So did my mom. The Hunt reunion was also held at Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, once or twice, and once at Logan, Utah, at Adams Park. Aunt Helen Marie lived nearby Adams Park, and it was easy to hold it there that year as Grandma Hunt had been moved to Sunshine Terrace in Logan for elder care. We could call her Elder Hunt now, I guess, getting all that elder care. It was sad to see her there instead of her nice home in Evanston, Wyoming. We also held week-long Rex Reunions every other summer, but that’s another blog for another day.
Mom was just learning to sew using knit fabrics, which is quite a feat, mind you. We’re all in knit shirts, you’ll notice, and this was one of her first endeavors in the new fabric. Unlike non-stretch fabrics, you have to be very careful with knits or the seams all bunch up, and you end up with a shirt that looks like a hot-air balloon being filled up for take-off. My mom is an expert seamstress now, after keeping 7 kids clothed in a limited budget. She sewed lots of shirts for us boys, but we almost always bought the pants. However, one time when “carpenter” or “painter” pants were just coming in style, my mom saw some at the store, saw how expensive they were, then figured she could easily sew some “extras” onto some pants, “extras” like a pretend place to hang your hammer, your paintbrush, etc., and so she made me some. I must’ve been a bit more adventurous than my brother, Brian, as he stuck with the store-bought jeans. The pants turned out great. They’re called cargo pants now, with extra pockets here and there, but they were painter or carpenter pants back then, and were modeled on the real work pants that carpenters and painters used. I imagine some French fashion designer being so intrigued by the uniform of a painter, that the designer just gets this bee in his bonnet and comes up with a way to market painter or carpenter pants as a style. Voila, a new trend is born. The painter pants my mom made turned out great.
They fit me well; they looked almost exactly like the store-bought, ones, and I got asked out because of my jeans. Lori Blackburn asked me out to the Sadie Hawkins dance, which was a girl-ask-guy type, a really wild idea back in 1976, and she used my nice-looking pants as a way to get into my pants . . . oops, I don’t mean it that way. I mean, she used my pants as segue into asking me out on a date. She was so impressed with the way I looked in the pants, I mean mom fitted them so nicely to me, you realize, plus I gained a few pounds that year in high school, and filled out the legs and butt nicely, that Lori just couldn’t contain herself and asked me out, and asked me to wear those canvas-colored, off-white linen look, pants to match hers for the dance. So, we went, got pictures of the painter jeans, and danced the night away. As the school year wore on–Sadie Hawkins was in the fall–I outgrew the pants and split the seams, literally, as I put them on one morning. Mom said she couldn’t expand them any, so they went the way of all the earth, and I said to them, “For dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.” I then buried them. Kind of like I buried all my feelings, too. Fun ending to that part of the pant’s story, though. As you look below in the various photos, one photo is the old painted side of the Grass Valley Mercantile Co., in Koosharem, UT, where we had the 2018 Rex Reunion. The deep-knee bend ruined my painter’s pants.
The trouble with the dance, and school life, and pants was this: I wanted to go to the dance with Lori’s next older brother, Danny. Unlike Lori, Danny was a boy, plus he’d just gotten his braces off so he was extra gorgeous, whereas Lori still had hers on. I think the being a boy was the bigger issue for me, though. LOL. Danny had dark curly hair to go with the big smile.
Well, back to the Hunt Family Reunion of 1974. Maybe it was 1973; I’ll have to ask Aunt Janice; she knows how to connect all the dots and find clues in the picture to determine when it really was. The reunion, like most, was very fun. Lots of good food, fun, laughing and playing, and being part of a family that loved me. I tried to be what I thought they all wanted of me; a nice, straight boy. It wasn’t so much a conscious effort on my part or that I was hiding. It was just that being gay was not an acceptable choice back then. I was told you couldn’t be gay; you just couldn’t or you’d be thrown into hell. Plus, gays were gross, sickened, sinful, awful, devilish, repugnant. Repugnant means not accepted by your family. So, I thought I could just be straight; everyone else was, so why not me? The years of self-loathing accumulated, though, and it wasn’t until 2013, that’s 40 years if Aunt Janice can pinpoint the year of the photo, that I determined it was either I must come out of the closet or die depressed. What a choice, huh?
This week, tomorrow, August 7th, 2018, my dad turns 80 years old. We had a big family reunion to celebrate his birthday, too, and I wrote last month in anticipation of it. I hadn’t seen some of my siblings for years. How would they react to gaily-married me? Would they bake me a cake, or not? Well, we all avoided difficult topics, I guess, like politics and religion, mostly, so we made it through. But, did we really relate or did we just get along because we’re family? Maybe that’s what families do, it’s just I always thought my family was perfect, and so was I, and, well, I guess I have to lower my expectations a bit, of myself and of my family. I had a gay time. My family are all wonderful, good people, even if some of them voted for Trump. I guess that’s part of getting along. Getting a long what? Getting a long line of family. Oh, and one final thing. My son Mikal now has an early August birthday, August 6th, so he can join the long line of Family Reunion/Birthday combo’s.
From top left to right the additional pictures are:
A. Four generations of Rex fathers. Taken in 1988 at Richfield, UT. I meant to get a 4 generation picture, but I was having too much fun.
B. Papa David holding his grand-daughter, Mia. Lots of Grandpa’s in this family now.
C. Grandpa Rex holding Zoe, his grand-daughter. If you look closely, Zoe looks a lot like her dad in the 1974 photo above, where my mom is holding Nathan, Zoe’s dad, at about age 3 or 4.
D. The Rex Family, 2018.
E. Papa David pretending he knows how to drive an ATV; thanks to Grandpa Rex, we all enjoyed 4-wheelin’ around Koosharem and environs.
F. We got to see Aunt Jeanette and Aunt Janice, who will remember even more Hunt Family Reunions than me.
G. Grandpa Rex holding Zoe, his grand-daughter. If you look closely, Zoe looks a lot like her dad in the 1974 photo above, where my mom is holding Nathan, Zoe’s dad, at about age 3 or 4. (Well, hell, I don’t know why two of the same photos show up on this thing; what do I look like, Bill Gates?)
H. The side of the local mercantile store, with an old painted “billboard” advertisement about ripping the seams of your overalls, which meshes nicely with my story above about ripping the seams of my painter’s pants (see above story). More about this in my story above. Read the damn story, above. Get it?
Two of my sisters have birthdays in July, on the 2nd and the 3rd, and my daughter Sarah was born almost on the 4th of July–she missed it by just a couple of hours–and my grand-daughter, Karalyn, has late July birthday. My July sisters shared the same bedroom and small double bed for many years, and my mom made them a light purple–some might call it lavender–gingham-checked bedspread, tied to its backing and batting with white yarn. You can see the white ties intersecting the checks in the painting. Several years ago, I wanted to celebrate with my sisters the life we all shared, with many memories, which resulted in this painting. Both sisters got a slightly different version of the painting, and I think this one for my sister, Monet, turned out the best. The lavender bedspread has Utah shaped into it, just below the polar bear, and the shape of the state of Nevada is formed by the upper edge, the top, right-hand part of the painting. The Ruby Mountains on the top left, flow into Nevada as day changes to night, and a star marks the location of the town of Elko, Nevada, where we lived for several years and where I most remember the lavender bedspread. 1705 4th Street, Elko, NV, was the first, brand-new home my parents bought, a 3 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath speculation home in a new subdivision near Northside elementary school. They had purchased an older home back in Vernal, UT, when I was 5 years old, but it needed lots of work, a real fixer-upper it was. We moved from Vernal to Uintah, UT, near Ogden, and then to Elko, NV, when I was 7. A stuffed polar bear sits in the casino of the old Commercial Hotel in Elko, Nevada, the world’s largest dead polar bear. It is the most famous thing about Elko. On Sundays when mom was trying to rest and dad was in charge of us kids, he would take us to places of interest, few that there were, in Elko, and the taxidermy polar bear was one of the places. The other common place he’d take us was the local museum, where I remember vividly the telephone exhibit. Old telegraphs, then telephones throughout their history, and then a futuristic version phone, depicting a device where you could both hear and see the person you were communicating with. It seemed like such a far-off dream, something from my favorite cartoon, The Jetsons, and yet here it is, these many years later, fulfilled, as I recently talked by Skype, actually Facebook messenger, camera with my July daughter who is living in New Zealand now.
At the bottom of the painting is Cove Mountain, as viewed from the spectacular vista of our family home’s living room at 701 Ogden Drive, Richfield, UT. Some bureaucratic idiot recently re-addressed the property. God only knows why, and my mom fought the change as well she should’ve, but she lost. I think it’s 669 West Ogden Drive now. My dad did his very best to design the home to capture the view of Cove Mountain, and he did quite well given the limitations of a panelized construction, pre-manufactured floor plan home that Uncle Bruce Pease helped us build, like an erector set, in 1977-1978. We all graduated from Richfield High School, all 7 kids, and the big “R” represents that high school, as well as the red cliffs and sandstone towers of nearby national parks, finish out the painting. I am looking forward to showing my husband, David, the red-rock country where I grew up, later this July, 2018, 40 years since our house was built.
During these years of Elko and Richfield, I was becoming a closeted gay young man. So, the memories are filled with lots of unprocessed emotions. After 29 years of Mormon marriage, the strictly heterosexual kind, I am taking my husband, gay as we are, and perhaps someone with lots of empathy who is reading my little blog post may be able to understand, even if just a little, how this trip may turn out. I topped off my birthday gifts to my sisters a couple of years ago in this poem to go along with their paintings.
Well, let’s see what this looks like! My son, Nik, has helped me get this blog started. I am posting a picture from my first time participating in a Gay Pride Parade. I marched with the Gay Father’s Association of Seattle (GFAS) in the Seattle Pride Parade. It was the most thrilling and meaningful thing I have ever done and ever felt. Stephen Schlott, a long-time member of GFAS snapped this picture of me as we filled balloons with helium to give to kids along the parade route. Mike Macklin, also a GFAS member, kissed me at one point in the parade, right in the middle of the parade route, and I will forever remember that. You see, I was taught that two men kissing was a sin next to murder. Mike also had been brought up as a Mormon, and he knew full well all that I had been through in coming out, because he, too, had been through it. We weren’t in love, or dating, and we had just become friends in talking as we filled the balloons before the parade. He told me of his BYU experiences, of hearing, in person, the infamous “Little Factory” speech by Boyd K. Packer. His adult son and fiancee came by before the parade started and greeted us, helped us continue filling balloons. When we as humans allow our fellow-humans to be themselves, instead of trying to mould them into what we think they should be, we will see Divinity. Heavenly Father loves balloons.