It makes me sad that I feel so afraid to post on this topic. My mother and many of my friends read this. I'm sorry so many people will hear this for the first time in this setting, but honestly, I feel guided by the spirit tonight, and I know that while this is an uncomfortable subject for some, it is one that many people need to hear more about. I'm not trying to be revolutionary or to start a movement here. I'm just trying to say something. That said, here we go. I am going to be talking about sexual matters that have helped to shape the person I am. If that offends you already, then please stop here. Because it only gets worse.
Let me say first off that the reason it's important for me to talk about this is that I see that there are people out there who don't have any visible examples of anyone who's faced these same challenges and seemed to make it. I pray that I can help at least one person, even if it mean that my name be slandered.
I was molested at scout camp when I was 13. That same year my father left us and my relationship with my mother became very strained. I became sexualized at that early age, and everything I dealt with for the next five years or so seemed to be sexual in my mind. I found it almost impossible to let friends casually touch me, not because I hated it, but because I enjoyed it and felt guilty for doing so. I became a broken person, and couldn't understand how I had let my life and my idyllic childhood get away from me. I hated that adult feelings were forced upon me when I was still a child, and still trying to just enjoy playing outside without thinking about sex.
After a while I realized that I was more attracted to men than to women. This was devastating. I had no idea what I'd done to cause that, but I hated myself for it.
I don't believe this will come as a complete shock to my mother. She's a wise lady, and we've gotten past the rift that sprang up during those years. My little brother seems to deal with this same issue, and I know my mom has come to understand this issue a lot better from a gospel perspective than she did back then. Before my mission, I lived for a while with a friend of the family who later told me that my mom had expressed concerns about these issues in me. What she didn't know was that this same man was the local chapter president of Evergreen, the church-recommended support group for men like me. I didn't know he was a fellow struggler until after my mission when I tried to find the group, and saw the name of the very man who had been my temple escort listed on the e-mails. What I came to realize then was the first thing I hope this post will help others to see: there are more people dealing with this issue in your own life than you can ever guess. Since that time I have had several roommates, leaders, and friends who have confessed similar situations. Many of our readers on the Hundred Hour Board are in the same boat. These people feel like the fight they wage every day is one to be ashamed of. I believe it is one to be revered. The world makes it only too easy and alluring to merely give up and embrace the gay lifestyle.
I remember my shame when one time at dinner, one brother called another "gay." Mom slammed her hands down on the table and said, "None of my children would ever be evil enough to be gay." I know she was just afraid, and had never had to deal with that issue. But at that young age, I was so afraid that I was evil, and that Mom would disown me if she knew how I felt.
We once even talked about the subject. She found a book I'd checked out from the library about gay youth. I told her a part truth: I had a friend who was struggling with those feelings and I'd been thinking a lot about it. She assumed immediately that the friend was effeminate Ed. Most moms suspected Ed. Little did she know that the young man who was pressuring me so much was my best friend, the very young man she was vocally pushing me to be more like. "Why do you always slouch? Do you ever notice the way ---- carries himself? You should walk more like that." Yes, mom, I noticed. I noticed everything he did, and I cursed myself for letting my hormones rage. One of my biggest mistakes was making him my ideal version of what a man was supposed to be. I hated myself and lusted after him more and more as the years dragged on. I finally had to move slowly away from him, as he was starting to become physical and I was terrified of that.
My dad would often get drunk and tell me that my little brother's homosexual tendencies are a result of God punishing my dad for beating up the faggots when he was in high school.
I'm sorry. I don't know why this has turned to my parents. I'm just scared to death of what is going to happen as a result of this post. Cerebrally I know that my mom will be supportive, but in my gut I am afraid. There is so much that could happen. Some friends will probably wonder why on earth I would ever post this for anyone to see. Please try to understand my fear. If I didn't see such social injustice, I would keep these matters to myself, I promise. As it is, though, I really feel that there aren't very many people we can look to for examples. And while I don't feel worthy of being the example of how to live a life, I do feel qualified to show others that it's worth it to keep fighting. I'm actually very happy these days.
I think it's nigh impossible for people who don't have this particular cross to bear to understand how lonely and hopeless it can feel for those of us who do. Those who choose to fight the good fight do so silently, and we never see them. Those who give up are much more visible, but provide only an example of exactly what we're trying to avoid. As I mentioned above, most of the world views this issue as some sort of religion vs. homosexuality war. It should never be so. What is religion if not the means to overcome the natural man, including the homosexual man? Psychological studies have shown that homosexual men tend to be more religious, anyway. It makes me sad for the state of my fellow "strugglers" (that's the Evergreen PC term for men who are attracted to other men) when I see the mind-set of the world. Those on the right believe that it's unnatural and sinful to feel the way I feel every day without being able to stop it. Over on the left, people feel that it's completely natural and commendable to act the way I feel tempted to. Neither can be right. I have friends who don't understand the ways of the Lord, and who would condemn me for wanting a family and wanting to stay strong in the church. I think my determination might take away any excuse they might have about the inevitability of their own sins. I think that the truth is that it's not a sin to feel the way I do, but it is a sin to act on it. Anyone who disagrees either doesn't believe in the mandates of God or believes in some sort of original sin that would cause me to have sins without ever having acted out.
Honestly, the only thing that keeps me sane and obedient is the atonement of our Savior. There came a point shortly before my mission in which I felt I needed to repent for certain actions. I felt that I was the vilest of sinners. I read a scripture in Mark one night:
"Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Those words really hit my soul. There was only one thing I desired more than anything, and it was to know that Heavenly Father loved me, and that I could be forgiven. You thought I was going to say "that I turn straight" or something, didn't you? The next night I prayed on my walk all the way home from work. This was no Sunday School prayer. I pleaded with God that night that I could be forgiven. I apologized for having to unload those sins onto Christ. I learned something about hope, too. I always believed that God had the power to forgive me. What I had doubted was his willingness to do so. I doubted that I had it in myself to be forgiven. But my desire was great, and that night I had a spiritual revolution. I came out of that experience with a profound love of my savior and a deep awe for his willingness to forgive. From that point on, I have tried to let others see my testimony, though I think most people don't understand where it came from nor how deep it runs.
Why tell anyone now? Because I don't think I should be required to lie any more. I don't like trying to live a bifurcated life. I am at peace with my maker. I can't say that those thoughts and feelings have vanished, but I can say that thanks to the fortifying powers of the atonement, those thoughts and feelings have diminished to a point where they are manageable. I can honestly say that I have the presence of the Holy Ghost in my life. I can go to the temple and bless the sacrament. I don't know how many other people consider their personal worthiness to be a miracle, but that's exactly what mine is to me.
I'm not trying to set myself up as some sort of prophet here. I still make mistakes. I backslide. There have been times when, given the opportunity, I would have made serious mistakes. If the thorn weren't still in my side, it would be a lack of gratitude for the repentance process for me to go on about the issue here. All I can do is try my hardest, and put those feelings daily on the altar to be devoured by Heavenly fire. And after all we can do, by grace we are saved. I have a veritably tangible testimony of that.
There will likely be some who reject my friendship now. That makes me sad, but I can't blame them. After all, when I found out about my problem, I hated myself for years. I can't fairly expect anyone else to take the information and immediately love me. I am eternally grateful for the sagacious people in my life whose immediate reaction to the knowledge was to just give me a hug and their support. But I'm a realist, and I know some people won't be so open-minded. I still love those people, too. I had a roommate who kicked me out of the house when he learned my secret. I don't think he'll go to hell for that. I think he was afraid and inexperienced.
I pray that this post will be read in the same spirit in which I'm writing it. I pray that someone out there will be heled by its message of hope and faith in an all-powerful Savior. To post on this topic is indeed a scary thing for me, but I am trying to heed the counsel our Savior gave to Jairus: Be not afraid, only believe. Only time will tell whether any good is effected by these writings. The most important thing is that we all know that none of us is alone. Our particular sins aside, we are all brothers and sisters, and each of us has his or her own unique set of challenges. Let's not look at those challenges as bleak and damning. Please let's look at them as the object of our Abrahamic sacrifice, as the pruning that will help us to fortify ourselves and grow into mighty oak trees in the Lord's arboretum, and as the spurs that will in the end drive us to our exaltation through the Lord Jesus Christ and His infinite mercy.