Two Degrees off Center: Alive and Well
“Two Degrees off Center” is a blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
by Rich Keys
It’s been six months since my last blog. In that time, some of you may have relegated me to “whatever happened to…” status, others may have forgotten me altogether, and still others may have sincerely feared the worst. All of you deserve an explanation. I would never just walk away from a relationship, even one between writer and reader. For me, ghosting is one of the rudest things a person can do, but it’s pretty easy in today’s digital dating scene…just block or unlike or label the incoming as spam and let them figure it out. I believe you deserve better.
First of all, as the title states, I’m alive and well. I’ve never had Covid symptoms, I’m fully vaccinated (thank you Dr. Fauci), my routine blood workup just came back fine, and my doctor is very happy with me. I don’t leap tall buildings like I used to, but I don’t need a walker or wheelchair either. My mind is still sharp, with the random thoughts coming left and right, and my silly critters still support and sustain me and lots of others around me.
So what happened?
Our journeys, both here on earth and eternally, are fluid. No one ever stands still. We’re constantly evolving in many ways, sometimes so miniscule that we don’t even realize it. Lehi’s family was far different at the end of their journey to the promised land than back in Jerusalem, but their day-to-day changes may not even have been noticed.
My journey with this Affirmation blog began with a simple premise…to try to make sense of the intersection of LDS and LGBTQ+, how the pieces fit together, and how to cope when they don’t. I also vowed not to stray too far from the intersection because I’d turn into a cause, taking sides, and advocating for something, and that’s when things get further than two degrees off center. When I first realized I was gay I sincerely asked my Heavenly Father a lot of basics regarding what to do, even whether I should remain in the church, attend another church, go inactive, or get out of organized religion entirely and chart my own course with His help. He clearly stated I should stay in the church because it would be better for the special job He had for me. The guy’s always been right before and had my back, so I took His advice, and it’s paid off in far too many ways to discuss here. Many of you have left the church, others have never been LDS, and I totally love and accept you wherever you are. The love for my fellow man regardless of who, what, or where you are is one of the great blessings I’ve received since coming out. And some of you are straight. That’s okay too. I really love straight people. Some of my closest friends are straight. I’d even let my son or daughter marry a straight person. That’s where you are on your journey, and this is mine.
The intersection of LDS and LGBTQ+ is also the focus of Affirmation, so my blog has been a pretty good fit with them. Even if they didn’t always agree, they always gave me freedom of expression, and I’ve been grateful. But I noticed it was harder and harder for me to come up with new ideas on that intersection. I’d think of an idea, put it down in writing, and it’d go in my Work in Progress file with all the other ideas that never got completed. The ideas stopped flowing freely into my mind, and I tried to figure out why. Illness? No. Not enough sleep? No. Sin? No, I was still sinning but the Spirit hadn’t withdrawn so I knew it wasn’t that. I panicked the first time I missed my monthly deadline, but less so at each subsequent deadline as the writer’s block continued.
At the same time, I noticed I was getting more focused and opinionated on politics and the social issues of our day…impeachments, insurrections, elections, systemic racism, immigration, pandemics, managing by Zoom, the Vaxxers vs the Anti-Vaxxers vs the Anti-Anti-Vaxxers (which sounds more like tribes from the Book of Mormon than current events), and the general deterioration of society in the last days. But none of this connected with that intersection of LDS and LGBTQ+. I could force the pieces to fit together and publish something, but it would be contrived, something like artificial cheese passing for the real thing.
I also found outlets in my personal life to express this side of me. Doors have opened up in all kinds of ways, from Boston to Oakland online, as well as in person. An intellectual matchmaker in my ward introduced me online to a guy who loves critical thinking, and we’ve developed a relationship like the movie “My Dinner with Andre,” just emailing and texting back and forth about whatever comes to mind for the sheer joy of sharing and learning from each other, and it’s stimulated me so very much, so I know the mind can still crank out the thoughts and express them creatively and still see things two degrees off center, but the focus has shifted.
So it’s time for my journey to move on, and this is my final blog entry for Affirmation. Some ideas for continuing my self-expression and opinion are already getting my attention, a reminder from God that He still knows and loves His kids, no matter where we are on our journey. Affirmation is evolving too, and I already see commentary from others at the website and in the Messenger that cover the entire spectrum of that intersection, from Nathen, our president, to the newest member, in the smallest village, of the most outlying country, who finds acceptance, love, and support here, and realizes he/she/they have found home, and their opinion counts.
So stay true north, find your authentic self and keep finding it. Try to see yourself a little more as God sees you, and rely less on the world to define you. Make friends with someone who’s not like you. Find something that needs shaking up, and then do what you can, but behave yourself. Keep learning and wondering what’s over there. Play well with others, share your toys, and all the other things we were taught in kindergarten. They’re still true. And when all else fails, try love…not the counterfeit love of this world, but Christlike love, the love that gives with no strings attached, no ulterior motives, and ultimately prevails, whether it’s with your next door neighbor or a special person in your life. There’s a child of God in every one of us, and each of us has the power to shine our light a little brighter for others in this dark and dreary world.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.