Friday, January 21, 2005

Smurfual Revolution

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.


Still Struggling said...

The hardest part of my struggle has been feeling so alone. Before I came to BYU, I came from a place with very few members. The only "gay" people were those that followed the typical gay lifestyle. Back home, I felt hopeless. However, when I came here and met Smurfs, for the first time I found someone else trying to overcome his problem. It helped me so much. He even introduced me to other writers who were supportive of me. Smurfs, you are great, and I admire you so much for your strength and willingness to help me and others who are seeking help. Your willingness to share this secret about yourself to help others shows just how humble you are.

Serendipity said...

You are amazing. Many other people would just give up and succumb to such temptations, but it's obvious you're trying hard to overcome this struggle. You've been through a lot, and yet you haven't given up. Heavenly Father is going to bless you greatly for that. I think it's a good thing you came out and said all this, because you're right - you shouldn't have to lie anymore. If people can't accept you and offer their friendship, they're not worth your time.

I'm really sorry the Board won't be allowed to answer such questions anymore, but I think it's wonderful that you're offering space on your blog for that purpose. I know many will appreciate it.

It's obvious you have a strong testimony. I can't say I know how you feel, but I do know that this has to be a hard struggle. Keep trying though, and I know the Lord will help you.

Amy said...

I just want to let you know that I felt the spirit in which you wrote this post very strongly as I read it. We all have very different struggles, but the Atonement is very real and very powerful for each of us, and I hope those of us who cannot directly relate to your own story can relate to your testimony of Christ, and can come closer to Him in and through our own trials.

I admire you for what you have said here and for your desire to help those people who most often struggle without the knowledge of even some of their closest friends and family. I know my friendship with you is a very casual one, but I really am grateful to know you. And I really mean that. I've always enjoyed having you around at our Board activities, and I think no differently of you as a person now than I did twenty minutes ago before reading this...except that now I understand who you are on a deeper level. Thank you for sharing that.

Toasteroven said...

I was wondering when/how this would happen, bro. I'm here for you, 100%.

I think this is a beautiful and rare thing--there were perhaps almost a dozen writers and friends who knew how things were for you, but we all had to tiptoe around stuff and in explaining things.

I think the blogs are actually going to be quite useful, with this new situation coming up. Perhaps instead of "search the archives" we can now use "go find our blogs" and an earnest reader can access our blogs and emails and find out what they really want to know.

A lot of times saying "Hey, I'm ____" seems rather aggressive but I don't think it is the case here. One needs to able to be honest about it, and your blog is, oddly enough, the most personal medium to share a part of yourself with another. The people here all know you well and love you, and at least for convenience's sake, if nothing else, you ought to be able to be honest about it without hiding it.

I'm glad your blog makes you accessible to those who need the counsel and wisdom that you and very few others can provide--Lord knows I've needed it myself on more than one occasion.

God bless, Smurfs. I raise my glass of lemonade to you. I wish this was more coherent...I'm in class right now sitting next to Latro =P

CGNU Grad said...

If temptations make someone evil, that would mean that Christ is evil. I don't know about you, but I don't quite agree with that. That makes it extremely obvious to me that it is following through with those temptations that is what is sinful.

I can't even begin to express my admiration for you in pushing through this and helping others to work towards overcoming it as well. I've always felt that it takes a great man to succeed and an even greater one to use turn around and help others succeed as well.

I'm here for you...anytime.

azurerocket said...

Smurfs, you rock my socks. There are too many taboo subjects and people are left to stumble in the dark alone. The only way I can see to resolve this is to begin talking about it in a gospel light. How scary for the first to venture talking about sexual matters! I commend you on your bravery.

CiarĂ¡n said...

First off--I can only salute you for being willing to share your innermost struggles with so many others--many, like me, who will never even meet you. Who could deny your testimony after reading what you have written?

I am saddened to hear that when the 100 Hour Board returns the issue of "homosexuality" will not be able to be addressed publicly. I am not a member of the Church, a BYU alum, nor even a Utahn, so my views on this can be easily dismissed by anyone who so chooses. But here's something I wrote in another context that applies equally here:

It was with great surprise and joy that I saw that Deseret Book had published In Quiet Desperation, a poignant book co-written by Fred and Marilyn Matis (whose son killed himself after years of struggle with same-gender attraction) and Ty Mansfield (a young Saint who continues to struggle with same). In this past September's ENSIGN there was an article entitled Compassion For Those Who Struggle in which a young man addresses his continued faith and commitment to the restored Gospel and how those who see him every week in his ward can (and can't) help him with his struggle. I hope that these writings will be only the beginning of a different approach the Church will take towards dealing with this issue.

Ironically, though, it is not always the "Church leaders" and people from past generations who are the most difficult to bring around to this more compassionate approach. I continue to be stunned by this 2001 article about gays at BYU which appeared in the Salt Lake City Weekly. The young men profiled in the piece are, for the most part, very committed to their faith. Even the ones who admit that they might eventually find themselves loving and living with another man describe such a potential future relationship in terms of monogamous commitment to another person--not in terms of thousands of encounters with anonymous sex partners in bars (the view seemingly held by those expressing the greatest hostility toward gays).

The article goes on to point out that the BYU administration is usually willing to work with these young men--so long as they remain committed to chastity and the Honor Code--but that fellow students are not so willing. In fact, 42 percent of BYU students surveyed around the same time felt that students with same-gender attraction issues should not be admitted to the Lord's University under any circumstances.

The words of Mosiah 3:19 are certainly known to every Latter-day Saint:

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."

I see the spirit of this scripture at work in so many of the stories I have read of young Latter-day Saint men and women who are struggling today with many problems--same-gender attraction being only one example. The LDS Church--and indeed ANY Church--needs to be prepared and willing to be compassionate to those in their midst who continue to struggle to "putteth off the natural man" instead of slamming the doors to the Church in their faces.

---end of previously written stuff

Just last night I was reading Alma 30, in which Korihor, the Anti-Christ, spreads doubt among the Nephites. Verse 11 is very instructive:

"For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds."

As far as I can tell, you (and other members of the 100 Hour Board who have responded to posts concerning same-gender attraction issues in the past) are certainly not committing a "crime," nor even advocating that others do. If no law could stop Korihor from doing actual harm by preaching in the land of the Nephites (and, correct me if I'm wrong, but the view seems to be that it was a GOOD thing that no law compelled Korihor--or any other non-believer--to stop preaching), then I cannot understand why a regulation is needed against doing actual good--helping fellow BYU students who firmly believe in the restored Gospel, but who are "struggling". . .

At least it's good to know that your blog will always be here for need to hear what you have to say.

Christmas Smurf said...

Wow. Thanks for that. You are remarkably well-informed. Thanks to all of you. You are a blessing in my life.

Wiggle said...

Dear Smurfs,

I am sorry to hear what happened to you. I sincerely wish there was some way I could take away your pain. While this was a little bit of a shock to me, (I guess I was just oblivious to this specific thing) it doesn’t make me like you less. I think you are a wonderful person who is close to the spirit. I have always felt the spirit when I am around you, which is one of the reasons I love being your friend. I see you living the gospel, and bring light to friends and others around you. Writing this post was a very noble and valiant thing you did. I am proud of you. I am so grateful to have a friend like you. I support you and if you ever need someone to turn to I will be here for you.
Your friend,

Anonymous said...

Dear Beloved son, Though I know your post was not about me, I felt a little misrepresented here. Do you remember the walk we went on just before I moved? I told you then that I worried that you struggled with this...not because I thought it was "evil" but because if you acted on it, you would live a sad life. (As any of us would who knowingly break the commandments.) Let me say, that you are my hero. I have always looked up to you! And I give you the same advice that I alway give...Be good! The Lord will bless you in your struggle. Some people, like your dad, were offended when I made my rape by my father a central issue in my life for a few years. I attended support groups, wrote papers, spoke out in church, and made the trip to confront the beast. Then there came a point in my life when I became more than my sexuality. The burden was lifted and I was made whole throught the Lord Jesus Christ. Son, this is your time to serve the Lord for this cause, but be careful that it doesn't consume you. Be careful that by owning who you are you don't sell yourself short! You are a Prince. You are the Lord's hand and voice in lifting others out of their dark holes. Be glad! I love you! Love, Mom

Christmas Smurf said...

Thanks, mom. I know you were misrepresented. You have been very loving and kind, and I am grateful for the kind example you've set of forgiveness. Toasteroven can attest that just yesterday I was telling that same story about your dad to a girl we home teach. My point here was just to show the general mindset in the church, and it is well illustrated by the few comments I shared here. One final sad note: I do remember that walk. I just didn't know that that's what we were talking about. I'm sorry. I guess that's just another of these walls that I'm trying to break down. I'll be glad when we are finally able to talk about these things. It seems that often when I share these things, the other person turns around and tells me about their eating disorder or their suicide attempt or their schizophrenia or their child-molesting uncle. Anyway, Mom, the happy ending in your story is when you finally learned to give the divorce and the abuse and everything to the Savior. At that point we all felt the change in you. I think you have done some amazing things for other victims of abuse and divorced women. And for your children, by providing the ultimate example I know of forgiving and moving on to help others. I love you.
--your smurfling.

Little Rock said...

Smurf...You're beautiful! Thank you for touching my life. Even though we've never met, I love you! It's a blessing to know that I'm not the only one trying to overcome my childhood (and my mothers...and my fathers mothers). You've given me hope that when that someday comes that I decide,with the Lords help, to talk to my family openly about some of my issues, they just might be supportive. I told princess that when I meet you (and it is going to happen) I want to give you a big hug, she says its not such a good idea right at first but maybe after we hang out a couple of times, and you get used to my odd little ways :o) You're awesome and I admire your courage!

Princess said...

The courage to say something doesn't even compare to the courage it takes to accept and deal with the issue personally. I am impressed with your testimony and your desire to do right. You have taken a hardship and a trial and made it something to grow from. You are a better person because you came to accept the problem and deal with it accordingly. You truly are amazing. Thank you for your example and your desire to be better.
PS. The conversation I had with Little Rock was slightly altered on her comment. I never said not to hug you. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you. You are such an example to me. I came out to a best friend over Christmas, first one ever. Tonite I came out to my mother. She's the greatest person I've ever met. For you example and testimony, thank you.

Anonymous said...

A question...if you don't mind answering. Are you still attracted to all? Do you want to marry and have children? I'm glad to have read that. It helps me to understand people with those tendencies better.

Anonymous said...

Christmas Smurf said...

Hmm. That's a nice article, but it has nothing to do with me. I operate FIRST on the idea that God is just and good. Everybody has a predisposition to sin, as Moehler points out, and we're not that different. So what if we are prone to attraction to the same sex, or disinclined to be attracted to the opposite sex. At least I'm not prone to violence. My brother deals with that, and am I supposed to just tell him that it's too bad God made him violent, but I guess he just needs to roll with that? Or maybe because a guy doesn't feel NATURALLY inclined to read his scripturess, he shouldn't be expected to? No. This op-ed writer is making a claim that is every bit as ludicrous to me.