Sunday, October 2, 2011

Boyd K. Packer: In Memoriam

One year ago this weekend, my life was forever changed.  Part of me was fatally wounded.  The shock of the attack took my breath away and shattered my false straight persona that had been my armor for decades; within a few weeks, that persona – that part of me – had died.

He attack consisted of words that pierced to the very heart of me.  If someone else had uttered these words at another time, the attack would likely have been deflected by the armor of my false persona.  But, they were uttered at a time when that persona was vulnerable, by a man whom I had previously sustained as an apostle of Jesus Christ – a man whom I had previously regarded as a prophet, seer and revelator, second in line to succeed to the office of President of the LDS Church.

That man was Boyd K. Packer.  The words he uttered that became the missiles that pierced my armor and then exploded with me were the following, spoken in the context of a talk (sermon) about morality:

We teach a standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that “wickedness never was happiness. Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Heavenly Father.”

I have previously written, several times, about the impact that these words had upon me.  They cut through my heart, as they no doubt did countless other Mormon men and women who were and are painfully struggling, totally alone for the most part, in the hidden chambers of their innermost soul with feelings of attraction to members of their own sex. Not only did President Packer call me, and those like me, “impure and unnatural,” he poured salt in open wounds by saying, in so many words, that God would and could never make such a depraved person as me, and that God didn’t love me for who I am – that even before GOD, I could not be my true self because my true self was not acceptable.

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, there was the added injury caused by thousands of Mormons who “rallied” to President Packer’s side to “support” him, revealing the wide and deep homophobia that exists in the church. Many of these people, who obviously believed that they are not required to be “Christian” toward homosexuals, vilified gays with such choice comments as the following: “If the church ever allowed gay marriage, then the church is not true,” and “Thank you President Packer … even though the wicked fight against you.”

Before hearing President Packer’s words, I had never before seriously considered coming out, though I had known since I was 12 that I am gay.  I had gotten married and devoted myself with my whole body and soul to living the “Plan of Happiness” (ideal Mormon life) – a devoted Mormon husband, father and priesthood holder.  I had suppressed my gay identity for nearly 40 years.

But upon hearing those words, I snapped.  As I wrote in a letter to my sisters a few weeks later: 

“The experience of hearing President Packer’s words, following upon other growth experiences in my life during the past months that have nothing to do with same-sex attraction, per se, caused a tectonic shift somewhere deep down inside of me.  I was NOT going to crawl back in my hole!  I was going to affirm who I am: a man - who is Mormon - and married - by choice, but who is gay by birth.  I determined that I was going to continue the process that had already begun of trying to understand what happened to me as a child – NOT to relive all that crap, all the pain, all the sadness.  But I was and AM looking for THE PERSON I TRULY AM!  Not some false persona, not some cardboard cutout, not someone who is simply going through the motions in life, but someone who is ALIVE to who he is and embraces and affirms it.  In short, I want to LOVE MYSELF after a lifetime of DESPISING myself.  (You can’t hear me, but I am SHOUTING these words inside me.)”

As I have written above, the straight false persona that I had maintained for most of life was mortally wounded by President Packer’s words.   Within a few weeks, this persona was dead, and my life has changed more dramatically during the past year than I would have ever thought possible.

Looking back on this past year, I can say that I have left the closet forever.  As Catherine Tate's character would say, “[I’m] a gay man now.”  But, I have found that it is far easier to leave the closet and to "come out" - as difficult a process as that is - than it is to shed the decaying skin of my false persona that enshrouded my true self for so many, many years.  Though I have made progress, I catch glimpses, from time to time, of how far I yet have to go in order to discover and recover my true self.  Rather than being daunted by this, however, this gives me hope that there is much personal growth and self-discovery waiting for me.

So … this is my goal for the coming year:  to discover and reclaim who I truly am, to learn to love that person, and to thereby learn to love others more authentically and more compassionately.  As an integral part of this process, and due to circumstances in my personal life, I have decided to cut back on my blogging.  I need the time and the introspection to continue to reflect, to discover and to heal.  However, I hope to chronicle here, at least to some degree, my continuing journey. (And I have yet to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my blog, which is October 22nd.  It'd be neat to hit 100 followers by that date, so if you're lurking and would consider "coming out" or can otherwise help me reach that goal, I'd appreciate it!)

Meanwhile, I pause on this Conference Weekend to reflect on the events of a year ago and – even though I am in the middle of a divorce and have become alienated from some of my children – to express gratitude for the words and events of a year ago that resulted in the death of my false straight persona and allowed my true, gay, self to begin the slow process of shedding the shroud and recovering and discovering itself.


  1. It has been quite the journey for you this year. Good luck during the next year and I look forward to continuing to read about your journey!

  2. I think when we look back to where we were (emotionally, spiritually) before coming to terms with our sexuality, we realize that there was no way to fathom where we would be today.

    You've made amazing changes in the last year, and I appreciate you sharing this with me. It has helped me.

  3. Congratulations! It's been our privilege to witness your coming out on these pages.

  4. I was thinking as I read your post, "A long process ahead still... that's too bad, but at least we'll get more great blogging," and then I got to the part about your cutting back, ha ha.

    Seriously, though, coming across your blog, right around the time you started it (thanks Moho Directory!), played a big part in my own coming to face my homosexuality again after my mission. I'm in my own process, and although it's in a very different place and stage than yours, I have found your blog inspiring and fascinating and truly appreciate your taking the time to write it.

    It's helped me a lot, and I'm quite confident that, although you may only have 100 followers, your blogging has touched a lot more people than that.

    Best of luck in the coming year!

  5. Beautifully stated. Someone close to me has been tormented by Packer's cruel words, and it is breaking my heart.

  6. Continue to shed, nurture, evolve, love and become!

  7. Thank you all for your comments and warm words. Trev, thank you especially for your comments. It is tremendously rewarding to feel that my scribblings have been of some use and have resonated to some degree with others such as yourself. Very best to you as you continue your own journey!

  8. Thank you for this post. I like the way you describe a shift in who you are. I describe it as "waking up", and I just can't go back to sleep. No matter how hard I tried.

    Good luck on your journey!

  9. I left the church many years ago because of doctrinal inconsistencies... but will always love many of the people. Just wanted to say "Jesus Bless You" as you seem like a good and kind man. I will pray for the healing of your family relationships, especially those of you and your children. Thank you for your vunerability.

  10. Thanks, Jen, and thank you Anonymous for your kind words. I appreciate them very much.