I was therefore surprised, when upon recently reviewing my journal from the seven-month (!) period between returning home from my mission and my marriage, I discovered several forthright entries that had escaped the purge. Though I wrote in euphemisms, it is clear what I was struggling with and the anguish I felt as I was trying to decide which path to take: marriage or a path that would likely lead to life as a gay man. Even though these things were written years ago, I found them hauntingly relevant to what I'm going through today as I am finally accepting who I am and facing the consequences of the choice I made to get married.
I had met my wife prior to my mission and we had corresponded regularly while I was away. We had talked about marriage and were both looking toward that very real possibility. When I got home, we experienced an extremely tempestuous courtship that was complicated by the fact that she had moved several hundred miles away.
The real complicating factor, however – at least for me – was my struggle with what to do about my gayness. At one point during this period, I wrote in my journal: “I am still dealing with a problem which has plagued me for some time – accepting myself as I am and acknowledging that I am sinful.”
I guess I should pause here to point out the obvious: I was in Mosiah territory. I was telling myself that I needed to accept the fact that I was gay; but instead of affirming my homosexuality, I believed that homosexuality (1) was of the “natural man,” (2) made me an enemy of God, and (3) could be “cured” or, more appropriately, forgiven and washed away by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (The trick was to figure out how this was to be done.) In other words, I had to accept that I was gay before I had any hope of ceasing to be gay.
I continued writing: “How proud I am! I have such a difficult time accepting that I may be (am) bad by nature. I wonder, “Why me?!” “Why I am this way? I know it’s wrong, but I’m that way by nature.” Why can’t I be like others who seem to have such an easy time with the commandments? It’s sometimes very easy for someone to say, “Repent!”; but it’s another thing entirely to deal with feelings, emotions and one’s very nature.”
Okay, there’s a lot that could be said about the above passage. How dysfunctional, how warped was my thinking?! On the one hand, I thought that if I could just accept myself as by nature (i.e., inherently) bad because I was gay (which premise, you will notice, I accepted without question), then I could be changed. On the other hand, I nevertheless seemed to recognize that changing homosexuality was not a matter of repentance, but involved somehow being able to change one’s very nature.
“When I came into the Church, I thought for a long time that my very nature had changed by accepting the Gospel. I had convinced myself that I was really a great guy and everyone around me fed those feelings. I was such a “special,” “special” “golden” convert. I built myself up to the point where I felt that I was indeed special … I thought I couldn’t fall because my nature is good. Well, I found out that I can fall …”
As I written elsewhere, I thought that joining the Church would give me a highway out of homo hell. I basked in the love and acceptance I was given as a new convert and truly believed that I was a “golden boy” who would “go far” in the Church. Then, I got out on my mission and started hitting some pretty monumental gay speed bumps. By the end of my mission, I knew that I was still gay; or in my own words, I was “fallen” (and I didn’t even [get to] do anything).
I wrestled with what I should do about marrying this woman. On the one hand, I felt like marriage would be a mistake; on the other, I thought maybe this was how God was going to “cure” me, i.e., through the love of a good woman and my own dedication to following the “priesthood path.” In other words, “faith precedes the miracle,” and I would “receive no witness until after the trial of my faith.” Translation: I would have to steadfastly walk the “priesthood path,” and I would eventually discover that my same sex attraction was fading away like mist before the sun. [Ed. Note: What an IDIOT!]
I wrote in my journal: “I am passing through hell, or so it feels like at times. I have never come so close to feeling that everything could be lost. I’m so very, very confused … The choices facing me are: (1) abandon the standards I have strived to maintain for almost three years, leading to a life of inactivity and possible excommunication, or (2) marry [my wife], or (3) ? … The time has come for me to accept my past and who I am. If I want to stay in the Church, then I’m going to have to make some compromises. I do want to stay in the church. I want to feel the power of the Atonement change my nature – but I know it can rarely be done overnight.”
You will note that I was considering life as a gay man. Again, I emphasized my need to accept the fact that I was (and always had been) attracted to men, but not so that I could affirm my gayness but as a prerequisite to “feel[ing] the power of the Atonement [as it] change[d] my nature.”
In other words, I had swallowed the Church’s line: homosexuality was a choice, and I was being confronted with a choice. I could choose to accept the fact that I was gay, then “apply the Atonement” so that I could be changed/cleansed of this affliction; or I could choose to accept the fact that I was gay and choose to not put forth the effort to change, i.e., give in and live life as a gay man. Or I could try to asphyxiate (to use Rob Donaldson’s term) my gayness and tell myself that I merely experienced an attraction to men which could be overcome through marriage and commitment to the priesthood path.
Part of me looks back at this and says, “What a f--- up!” But a kinder, wiser part of me looks back and this, shakes his head, then tells me: Look, you genuinely believed that the Church was true and that its teachings about homosexuality were the mind and will of God. You were trying to apply those teachings to your life and make decisions based upon them, desperately trying to do the “right thing.” It’s not your fault that these teachings were misguided (and uninspired) at best, wrong (and damaging) at worst; and you cannot blame yourself for putting your trust in an organization that had provided you with meaning at a time in your life when you needed it. You were younger then, in a different time and place. Now, you are older; now, you understand. As you once again face choices that are tragically similar to those that confronted you years ago, you can let this understanding benefit and inform you, as well as possibly help others who may be struggling today on the same path on which you have agonized. Ultimately, these are the only healthy choices you have.
I like the kinder, wiser part of me. I think I’ll take him out to lunch.