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Saturday, November 5, 2016

God is Not Mormon

Dear church members, and leaders

A year ago today I didn't want to go home. A year ago today I showed up to my best friends house in a drunken stupor. A year ago I stayed the night with my best friend Lindsay. A year ago today I learned that when I get married, my kids will have no place, no purpose in a church I believed to be true. A year ago I was defined as an apostate by men who don't know me one bit. A year ago today I wanted so badly to end my life because I had no idea what direction to go. What was the point? A year ago I lost whatever respect I had left for the leaders of the church. A year ago I began the journey of finding myself for the very first time. I had grown up believing what I was told was true, what I was told to believe. I was so sheltered. So naive.

In a way, I'm thankful the leaders excluded me. I'm thankful to have distanced from my old belief system. My mind has been opened so much to the world. I am so blessed to be able to be a free thinker. Sometimes my thoughts are a little ahead of our time because there is still so much closed mindedness, hatred, ignorance, and bigotry in the world. I think it will improve with time though. I have found myself among the people that Christ would have been with if he was on the earth. He walked with the unwanted. He comforted those who were shunned and pushed away. He was with the black sheep, the ugly ducklings. I have been so blessed to be with these people. Be one of these people. I may not mean very much to the church or the leaders of the church but I know where I stand with MY God. They will never take that away from me or anyone else.

As extremely odd as it sounds, I am very thankful for this policy now more than ever. It has forced me to think for myself and not rely on the thoughts, words, and opinions of men with 20th century mindsets. Thank you church leadership for showing me there is more to life. I may be an apostate to you and your church, but I'm not an apostate to God.

Sincerely,
Proud Apostate of the Church <3

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Suicides They Forgot & My Plea to Those Contemplating

Let me first start off by saying how heartbroken the last several months have left me. It started out with my reaction to the Mormon church's exclusion policy. That was the last push I needed. It left me with so many negative feelings about everything. I hated the church, I hated the leaders, and most of all I hated myself.

A good amount of you have been made aware of the growing number of youth/young adult suicides within the LDS church the last several months. I, like many others wish I could have done something to help. I wish I could have offered some sort of message of hope, or even just held them. I never even met them... I can hardly imagine how hard its been for their loved ones. Why are we losing so many precious souls to suicide within the LDS church?

My answer is this;

There is no message of hope or love given within the church for our LGBTQ youth. They have even said that we aren't defined by our sexuality in the church... yet the church is favored towards heterosexual men and women. I'd say we are all defined. Especially when they title us "Apostates". There are plenty of resources given by various members of the church and people have started so many wonderful groups and organizations, but they are not valid in the churches eyes. The church will not even acknowledge that the suicides could possibly have anything to do with the hurtful words they have shared. Why? because apparently it is out of love. I have come to the realization that messages of "love" like this are really just a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing. It's a statement that people who are afraid to have their own beliefs say. They like to say that they see us as equal, we just cant have our kids baptized, and if my future kids want to get baptized they need to do so once they have disavowed their parents marriage. I have heard people try to back it up and I am so done with all of the ignorance, all the hate, all of the excuses. Something needs to be done and it should not have to be spelled out. People are dying, and that's got to end.

Dear LGBTQ Mormon youth and young adults,

We are here, We see you. I, and so many other allies see you and know you exist. We know that you are worth so much. The church and the teachings can make you feel worthless and when you feel like you can't get cut down any shorter, another swing of the axe is taken to you from the pulpit. I commend you for sticking it out. Being in the church was hard enough for me as a kid. I can't imagine the pain you may have when attending Seminary or Institute. Other people just don't get it. They were born into a church that works for them. We on the other hand are seen as a problem to most. We are a pest it seems like at times. Some of us are lucky enough to have family members who come around and become the most supportive people in our lives. I have been lucky enough to have that, and I feel so guilty at times. I feel guilty that my parents love me and see me as their son, I feel guilty that I am welcome at family gatherings, I feel guilty that young members of my family are able to comprehend what gay is and that its okay to love your significant other. life was not always like this for me though. I know what the self hate feels like, I know what the feeling is like of constantly wanting to take your own life. I know what the relief of the blade feels like. You are taught your whole life that the church is everything, and then you wake up one day and realize that to the church, you are nothing. The church has literally nothing to offer me. I have come to that conclusion for myself. You guys may be on a different journey though and maybe the church is something you want to stick with for a little while longer. I just plea with you that you do not let the church leadership define you. You have WORTH, you have BEAUTY, you can have a wonderful life with whoever you LOVE. Do not let the church define your worth. Your worth is already in you. You just need to find it, nourish it, and have faith. After all, faith is like a little seed right? Have faith in yourself and in God, or whomever you believe in.

I am just now finding and discovering my worth. I have spent so long feeling like a victim of this Ungodly policy. I have decided though that it shouldn't effect me since I no longer "claim" the church. It does effect me in a sense though, because I know there is an 8 year old somewhere sitting in church somewhere not knowing what these feelings are that he may be feeling and he is scared to mention anything to anybody. There is a Teachers Quorum president, a Laurel president or Secretary out there somewhere who is getting home from school after having that lesson in Seminary about marriage and eternal families. They just want life to end right then. I HAVE BEEN THERE, please take it from me. Life gets better. The shit eventually washes away. Please ENJOY your youth. Be who you want to be. Wear whatever the hell you want to wear to school (within the dresscode). Be you and don't let anyone tell you to be anything or anyone else. Make people uncomfortable, get out of the status quo. These are all of the things I wish I did when I was younger. I would not change any of the hate, bullying, or rumors that were spread. I am telling you now that no matter what is going on it will get better. Just BE-YOU-tiful. I wish I could somehow see you when you are reading this. Drop the razor, drop the pills, stop bruising yourself, and stop digging your nails into your skin. Maybe I don't know you, but I LOVE YOU. I can't tell you enough how much I love you. So many people love you and we are routing for you to come out stronger than ever! Please know that there are people who are more than willing to be your family, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to hear. There are so many trustworthy people who will keep it confidential because we know how hard it is. We wish we had someone when we were in your shoes who we could talk to. Come to us please. We have the resources that the church doesn't have or isn't willing to use. You don't need counseling to get rid of the "gay". You don't need to "pray it away" because believe me, if that worked at all I would have been straight when I was in 7th grade. We are here and we love you for who you are. Please remember that.

Sincerely,

Your brother

Zachary Lorin Jones

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Your Pain in the Hands of Their Pleasure

Any names mentioned in this post have been replaced: 

Some of you may be friends with me on Facebook, and for those of you who are not; I have been posting quite a bit about rape, college rape, sexual misconduct, etc. I have emotions and feelings that are scattered all over the place when it comes to this topic because of the Mormon background I have, the fact that I'm gay, and I have found myself in a date rape situation a little over a year ago. Now, I in no way want to type this as a a way to have pity taken upon me. I'm not looking for peoples sympathy. What happened, happened and I have been able to move on. I do hope to be some sort of help to people. I have been very careful about putting this out there because of rape culture, and how people view those who have experienced sexual misconduct. 

I really don't have a specific order of how to go about typing this, as I said before my thoughts are kind of all over the place. I guess I could start from the beginning and go from there.

It is not secret that I have struggled with alcohol in the past. I have had many ups and downs when it comes to this. About a year ago in April I believe, I was at one of my friends houses. I showed up a little tipsy of course because at the time I was trying to self medicate and I was a mess. Aidan mentioned to my two other friends that I need to not go to alcohol as an escape. I needed to know I had friends I could go to when life got rough or I had heavy topics on my mind.

We all had an enjoyable rest of the night, at least that's how it seemed to me. My friends were really worried though. They weren't sure what to think about what was going on with me. Like I said before, I was tipsy not drunk. We hung out for several hours, even bleached my hair and tried to hide what was going on in my head. By the end of the night I was back to myself and we all went back to our houses. It was when I was leaving that one of my friends told me what Aidan had said. I really appreciated that! It made me happy to know that I had people who were genuinely concerned and there for me.

It was a few weeks later that I decided to see what Aidan was up to. I had just gotten off from work and I was free for a few hours. (DISCLAIMER: I was not intending to get drunk) I bought two LITTLE bottles of wine. You know, the ones that are ONE serving. I was not planning on staying long and I was planning on driving home on my own that night. I did not go to Aidan's thinking we were going to be alone either. I knew his roommate was there and I was excited to meet her. From what I remember she was pretty nice. My plans that night had gotten cancelled and when I was in the restroom Aidan took the wine and poured it into glasses. When I came out and took a sip I noticed it tasted different. It was not wine. He had given me a little bit of wine with a good amount of tequila. Like I mentioned before, I originally had plans but they got cancelled so I didn't really mind that I had tequila. What I didn't notice though... was the fact that he wasn't drinking. Aidan, the friend who had told my other friends I should not go to alcohol to escape was now letting me give in. The fact that he got me drunk to the point of blacking out eventually isn't necessarily the problem.

I still don't remember everything. I do remember different feelings though. I remember I left the apartment and was walking around the parking lot barefoot and shoeless crying. I'm not sure how long I was out there but it wasn't long before he convinced me to come back up. I then remember laying on the couch in the living room. I told him I was going to stay out there and not go back into his room since he had/has a boyfriend. Somehow I ended back in his room though and I remember more articles of clothing coming off and me trying to get out of his bed. He grabbed my arm and told me it was OK. Nobody was home. Where was his roommate? She had left I guess. We were all alone and I don't remember much dialogue I just remember different feelings and things that I wont go into detail on here about but you catch my drift I'm sure...

I found out later that Aidan called our friend and told her that I was drunk and I needed to get home because Aidan had to go to bed. I was hysterical when my friend and her husband got to Aidan's apartment. I was bawling and repeatedly telling them sorry. She later told me that she could tell there was something going on. There was nothing normal about what was going on. When they got me back home my friend and her husband gave Aidan a ride back home. He told them that I was drunk when I got to his place. He told them that I was drunk and emotional and that's when he called them to help get me home.

I woke up and I literally felt like shit. I knew I had definitely drank alot the night before but everything was fuzzy. I started having flashbacks day after day. Each day I would have more descriptive flashbacks. That's when I realized that he was definitely sober, and things definitely got physical between us. I hated myself. I was confused, I didn't know what to think.

Before I realized he was sober I started blaming myself for his failed relationship. I saw myself as a slut, a whore, a tramp. I had slept with someone who was in a relationship.

Once I finally realized I was intoxicated and he was completely sober, that's when the real self hate came into play. I realized how I had been used. I was just a toy to people. Nobody really loved me. How could I love myself if I was truly a worthless piece of shit? I was seeing myself the way he saw me. I also was telling myself that it's how everyone else saw me.

I remember being so zombie like. I would just stare at the road as I drove hoping that someone would ram into my car. I remember praying, hoping someone would just end my life. It sounds crazy how much I really hated myself. I literally saw my body as a piece of trash. I didn't want it anymore. Soon after all of this, I got so sick of my self hate. I decided to seek help from my bishop. Now looking back I realize that was not the best idea given the circumstance. I should have gone another route.

I was under the impression that bishops could give you guidance, help you through difficult times and just be a listening ear. Turns out that isn't always the case. When I walked into his office and we began talking, I opened up about everything and I shared with him everything I have shared with you. His immediate response though was not loving, caring, or thoughtful. He instead told me that the Stake President would see it as grounds for disciplinary council. I was not given helpful tools to get through this negative experience. Instead I was just given another negative experience. He told me that since I had broken a "lower law' which was drinking, then I basically chose to break a "higher law" and have sex, or be physical with someone of the same sex. This was basically the last straw for me in terms of Bishops. That's when I told my parents I was done.

With my experience set aside, lets bring to light the situations that happened at BYU. There were multiple men and women who came forward about sexual abuse and misconduct but they were not given helpful tools. Instead they were given discipline for breaking the "code of conduct". What about the men though? Where is their discipline? I know the school is since then trying to right their wrongs, but there is definitely a strong correlation with those scenarios and how various Bishops and Stake Presidents handle things.

Now in the news we have all heard about the Stanford Rapist. I cant even express how many heated emotions I have in regards to this case. I am in no way trying to compare the extreme case of the Stanford Rapist to my situation a year ago. I am just so frustrated with how people handle these topics. Why in todays society are we still turning heads away from the topic of rape. Why are the survivors the ones who are the culprits? Why are we looked down upon?

The cases are all very different from each other. There are so many different types of sexual misconduct, but why do we still shy away from talking about it? Why are people afraid of listening to the story from the survivors viewpoint? Yeah it may be depressing to listen to but imagine what that woman had to go through at that party. Imagine what anyone had to go through when it comes to this. You can handle 5-10 minutes of talking, listening, reading, or watching something.

When it comes to the topic of drinking, WHO CARES. Should you be careful who you drink with? Of course. However, most of the time it will be someone in your group of friends or family who will find pleasure in your pain. If you're not drunk, maybe something will be slipped into your drink, alcoholic drink or not! I get that your religion may focus so much on not drinking and whatnot. Is that really a reason to say that people "had it coming" or they "should have known better" or "I don't condone his behavior at all, but people should just not drink"? No. People should just not rape people that's that. Lets stop knocking those who are already down, further down. Shouldn't we try to help people? Boost them up and find justice? Where is the love? Im so sick of these double standards that people keep setting for themselves. Stop throwing stones at the wrong people. Take a step back and look at the actual problem at hand.

Until next time,

Zac

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Love is Not Rocket Science

Recently I received a message from someone in my old singles ward. I thought that it was a question a lot of people may be wanting to ask me and I think I have an answer to it (at least what I think at the moment) I figured it would be good to post the question on here and answer it for all of you to see just in case multiple people have the same thought. Here is the message I received "I've noticed a couple times you have posts in regards to how you hope the church builds a better connection with the LGBT community. In your own words, what exactly do you think Mormons are lacking understanding on and you want to see improved? I know it can be hard to interpret tones in messages so just know this a sincere question. I'm not typing this with a sneer on my face."

I know in the past I have voiced how I felt that the church should be more accepting of gay individuals. At the moment it will take a while to fix the hurt that is in the church right now. I have placed my hope and connection towards groups of active members of the church who have sons and daughters or friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning. It may be hard for people to comprehend, but it is possible to be an active member of the LDS church who holds a temple recommend and at the same time be fully supportive of your friends and family who are LGBTQ. Sadly there are people in the church who are so against the thought of being loving and accepting of others that they feel if people support us then they must not be very good Mormons or Christians when in reality its the exact opposite. I wouldn't necessarily say that a Mormon life is for me, or that I enjoy going to LDS church, because I don't. That one statement right there is grounds enough for me to be deemed an "apostate" and maybe have disciplinary council and/or be excommunicated but it's only a matter of time before I am excommunicated no matter what because when I get married, I will be. For those who don't know what the word "apostate" means, basically if you stop believing the teachings of the church, or you turn away from principles you have been taught then you have "turned away from God". My mental well being is at stake here. Why would I keep putting myself in a position that constantly has negative effects on me. What if I never stopped believing and it was more of a "I'm too scared to tell people how I really feel type of thing" I mean I was basically an apostate my whole life since I was always crushing on boys in elementary school, I wanted to kiss them, and hell! I even did kiss a few. I don't want things in the church to change or improve for my sake. I just worry and hope the best for those who have families that are particularly conservative. Love your kids! Love is not conditional. If you kick your kids out for being gay, did you really ever love them? I want the church to be a safe place for this generation. If people are wanting to find ways for the church to work in their lives then that is up to them, but I hope that the church as a whole can be more loving and stop focusing on ways to push people away with these "policies". I think one thing the church leadership could think about is not making it so scary for men, women, and kids to come out. Granted the whole church is based off of gender roles and the roles of a mom and dad, but instead of immediately wanting to fix, or shove people back in the closet, maybe try and understand us. Stop making us feel like we are a disease.

The church has definitely come a long way from where it used to be. After all, the leaders used to preach that any homosexual thoughts or feelings were sinful all together. So basically we as humans were doomed. Bishops used to send people to "Conversion Therapy" which is basically a failed and damaging attempt to try and "turn" someone straight. It took time but they finally realized that was damaging, along with recommending gay men to marry women and that would "fix" them. Yes I am aware that people are still doing this but that is their own choice. Bishops have stopped recommending a "cure". I know there are people who hate when LGBT rights in the church are compared to black rights but it took the church so many years to finally come around to allowing black men to receive the priesthood, and that was eventually apologized for. Who knows, maybe that will be the future for my LGBT Mormon brothers and sisters. Not receiving the priesthood or any rights necessarily but maybe just a nice apology and non damaging tools for families to have access to. The church does have tools already, but nobody really talks about them. I heard that the church may begin teaching more acceptance. I hope that is true for this generation, so they can have the best life they are able to. There is no need to keep repeating the past. 

I hope this answered some questions people may have had. I probably offended some people but it is what it is. Some people may be sad because of my views but that's because we are conditioned in the church to feel sad for those who "stray" away, or have thoughts that challenge beliefs. Lets stop pushing people away and be more open minded, loving, accepting, and Christlike if you believe in Him. If not, that's OK. Just be a decent human being! This isn't rocket science.  

Until next time,

Zac <3

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Done Living for Others Solace

When is one supposed to find themselves? We are born and brought up into families, religions, communities etc. We are taught various ideas and beliefs to then take on into our adult life. What happens when you truly discover yourself? or what happens when a person decides that there may be more to life than what you have been brought up to "know". Everyone seems to expect you to stay the same innocent person you were when you were young. I've come to the realization though that you do change. I spent so much time while I was young conforming and forming into something I knew I wasn't and now that I am confident to actually say what I feel people seem to think that I'm not the "same" person anymore... well truth is nobody is the same person they have ever been. We grow, we fall, we make mistakes, we make choices that others deem as mistakes.

I'm learning that there are some people who you can't voice your opinions with because they will just never see it from your perspective. I also know though that people think that way about me. People look at me and think/ sometimes say "Why can't you just live the way you were brought up?" or "Why can't you go back to who you used to be before you came out? You were so much happier and functioned better." Or I have even been compared to other LGBT individuals who grew up in the church. I am so sick of being compared to other people. It's like people expect all of us who grew up LDS to handle each tough situation the church throws at us the same way. I am finally to the point where I am willing to confess that I lied to everybody. I lied to myself, I lied to my family and I lied when I first started blogging. People I'm sure are going to be frustrated that I "tricked" them into following my blog. Really though? At the time that's what I believed! Or at least I was trying to believe that... After all, that's what I had been taught my whole life. How else was I supposed to handle this situation? Each situation is different. Each persons lives and beliefs are so different. Was I really happier and functioning better before I came out? Hell no. I would come home crying from school but I didn't always tell people about it because I didn't want to draw attention to what I was going through. I was scared to death about what was going to happen in the future. I told myself I would marry a woman and be happy but then I knew that meant I would have to eventually tell her I wasn't actually attracted to women but I was marrying her so I could be in the church completely. I understand that somehow this has worked or been an option for others but I just can not comprehend that. I don't believe a lot of the things that I was taught because my whole life I bottled up most of my thoughts and ideas. I was to scared to say what I had going on in my head because my beliefs have always been too liberal for people. I should not be told to live a certain way for the sake of other peoples happiness. That may sound harsh but is it really?

I will not live a lie any longer. You may think that I have lived a double standard, but really I was just figuring out my life as I went. I still don't have a set plan for my future but I do know what it is that I do and don't believe and it's not up to anyone else to dictate that for me. Not everybody has the same idea of happiness and that's OK. Have I gone through a lot lately? Sure I have. That doesn't mean I'm less happy then I was in the past. I would much rather be who I am today then who I was before because I was not me before. I was just busy being who everyone wanted me to be. 

Until next time,

Zac

Monday, March 7, 2016

God's Got This

Several months ago I was introduced to Mission Community Church by my amazing friend Lindsay, and it was so different from what I was used to. Over the course of the last few months we have all aware of what's gone on with the some of the LDS church leadership in terms of LGBTQ individuals feeling welcome. The people of the church for the most part have been loving and accepting, but when it comes to the heads of the church I can't see myself enjoying being in their presence. People who you have grown up being taught to love, respect, and sustain. They do the exact opposite towards you and you feel a sense of betrayal. It's hard for me to enjoy being at church no matter how loving people are, because I can't help but feel pushed away from the leaders of the church and looked down upon. I know some people still attend no matter what because they are just used to it, or they are just pleasing their friends or family. I've learned though that I need to stop pleasing those around me because that does absolutely nothing for my happiness. When I go to LDS church, I start seeing God as I see the prophet and the other leaders who are men just like you and I. I don't want to see God that way. I want to see Him as he is. A loving, caring Father in Heaven who is heartbroken at the rate kids and adolescents are commuting suicide because they feel lesser than. He wants everyone to be loved, feel loved, and welcome at church. You shouldn't be worried to walk hand in hand into a church building with your significant other because people will shield their kids from you out of their extreme ignorance. How in the world does it make sense that God would create somebody to be gay but then tell them they are an abomination? Or when people who claim to have your best interest at heart, and then continue to tell you and your family how much they don't agree with you. I don't believe in the God I grew up to know. I believe in my God and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm not ashamed to say that I feel uncomfortable going to Mormon church because I don't feel like I can worship in comfort. No matter how much you are trying to move on with your life, you will run into those who tell you they love you but then turn around and contradict themselves. I know that a lot of these feelings may be due to the fact that I'm very open about who I am. I'm not ashamed to be gay, and I'm not ashamed or scared to hold hands or kiss in public. It would be nice to feel comfortable at church though. I don't regret being open. This has helped me ask harder questions and think harder when it comes to my early beliefs. It has also helped me see peoples true colors in some cases. I have also seen many many people change for the better and be accepting and love me for me and not see me as some outcast "apostate". My family has been my greatest blessing in all of this. It was rough in the beginning since I didn't really grow up in a gay friendly household. I don't hold that against anybody because I see how far everybody in my family has come and I wouldn't take back how I was raised. I have put my family through hell, I'll admit that. A lot of it has to do with our different views (not about gay things just different views in general) but I also have had a hard time seeing how everything that's happened effects more than just me. I was stuck in this bubble for the longest time where I felt so alone because I had nobody to talk to and now I have all these people I can open up to and speak openly with that I don't know what to do with myself sometimes.

I am so grateful for my family and the love and support that has been shown and continues to be shown. I am also very grateful for the outpouring of love that has been felt from various people in my family ward. There are people in similar circumstances to me who choose to keep going to LDS church with hope that the church will change eventually, or that the policies will be removed. I however don't have time to wait for that to happen. I need God in my life, and I need a loving God in my life especially with everything that I have put my family through recently. I need to be able to move on with my life and feel completely welcome at church and not feel like there are limits put on my acceptance. I need to be able to talk openly to church leaders without the conversation jumping to repentance, and changing my ways because I don't like girls. I am not a thing to be fixed. I am a person. The same person who I have always been. I just feel more comfortable to actually voice my opinion on things now. Opinions I have never felt comfortable to share in the past. In Christianity people make things harder then they need to be. The underlining thing we need to know is that Church is for everybody especially when it becomes life or death with different individuals. Nobody should ever feel like they would be better off if they didn't exist. Nobody should ever feel like their family would be happier if they were gone. Nobody should ever feel like they are disposable in the eyes of God. When people gay shame, or throw hateful messages, or side with policies or statements made that are incredibly ignorant and harmful it reminds me of the people in the scriptures who were so quick to stone someone to death for being different than them or believing differently. Why are we so quick to throw stones when technically speaking we should all be stoned. Nobody is perfect.

I enjoyed going to Mission Community because it was preached that Christs church is for all. Everybody needs to have a place where they feel comfortable. They can go and worship Christ in peace and everybody is equal. I'm not removing my records from the church or anything like that, there are still things that I believe. I just don't feel welcome because of the people who are in charge. I would be much better off in a place where I don't need to worry and I can just be me. If the church changes at all (which I highly doubt) then great, but until then I choose to worship in peace, and I have to think about the future. When I have kids I do not want them going to a church that will make them choose either the church or rip a family apart. In order for my kids to be baptized in the LDS church they would have to publicly disavow my marriage and move out of my house and be at least 18 years old. In what Christian realm does that sound ok? I would much rather my kids be raised where they learn about God the way I know him to be. A loving God.

I want to reiterate though. I have nothing against people who are LDS, or still going to church services. I just know that for me at this point in my life it just is not healthy. I love all of you, and I appreciate the love and support I have been shown. I really do greatly appreciate it. Lets just stop throwing stones and look at eachother the way we would want to be viewed. I know for some people that is way to much to ask, but the would would be such a better place if everyone at least tried. Just remember, God's got this.

Until next time,

Zachary Jones <3