Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Greener Side

Autumn has always been an important time of
transition for me; a time of new beginnings.
August is a transitional month for me. It seems to float independently between the seasons as a reminder that summer is over, but that fall hasn’t quite started yet. As a kid, although I relished the carefree days of summer, I always looked forward to starting school again—a new grade, new friends, new experiences. Shopping with my mom for new school clothes was the most exciting August ritual, of which I have many fond memories. I remember carefully choosing my outfits and laying them out each night in preparation for the next morning. It’s always been important for me to approach new opportunities carefully and purposefully like that. Many people see autumn as a season to wind down and relax, but I see it as the perfect time to refurbish, readjust, and resupply yourself for upcoming opportunities and the approaching rigors of winter.

The early fall always reminds me of a time years ago when I made an important transition for the rest of my life—a quiet, yet difficult maneuver from the unbridled passion of living in summer, to the somehow-higher plain of autumn’s new beginnings, and the building of strength and character that would sustain me through many of life’s subsequent winters. About this time seven years ago, I was discovering more about who I was and who I wanted to become, and it changed my future forever. 

My journey with same-sex attraction began as early as five years old. That was the first time I remember having an affinity for other males, be they adults, teens, or those my own age. Around eight I received the epiphany that I was different because I liked boys. My aspirations for a college education and eventually a wife and children did not mesh with my liking for other males; two men couldn’t naturally have children together, and I somehow understood that, and I was concerned about my future because of it. 

When I obtained my first set of scriptures, I
anxiously looked up "homosexuality" to learn
how my religion felt about it.
At thirteen I discovered the pleasures of pornography, an occasional practice that quickly led to a debilitating addiction and a stronger desire to act out sexually. At sixteen I finally made the connection with the word “homosexual” and the feelings I had experienced all my life. At this same time I discovered religion, and was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). One of the first things I did when I received my first set of scriptures was to look up “homosexuality” in the Bible Dictionary. I was devastated to learn indefinitely that my attractions (or rather the behavior associated with such attractions) were sinful. I thought certainly then that I must be a sinner also. 

Years of pornography use and lustful self-gratification only gave more power to my fantasies and built up physical and mental tension that caused my self-control to quickly dissolve. Soon the scenarios I had seen acted out thousands of times on the computer screen, the magazine pages, or in my own mind, could not satisfy my intensifying urges and habits. I sought to make my fantasies real. I wanted them to come to life. 

I was seventeen, a high school senior. It was still winter, early in 2004. I remember how I lied to myself, saying that I would just meet other gay men and make some friends. I was not going to be “easy” and promiscuous, I told myself. After all, I was underage, and I was taking a huge risk by choosing to become sexually active. Still, I didn’t care. I knew what I wanted and I figured I was entitled to it. I had waited long enough in secrecy; I deserved to know what it was like. I had to experience it. 

I still remember the gloomy, rainy day
when I first was intimate with a man.
I even rationalized it all by saying that if I could just get all the sexual tension out of my system, things would go back to normal (whatever normal was for me) and the chains of homosexuality would no longer have dominance over me. I completely disregarded everything my new religion had ever taught me about chastity, and I ignored the stories from holy writ about the destruction of men and women who had taken the same path that I was about to tread. 

I still remember the cloudy, overcast day. It seemed to reflect perfectly my mood—nervous, quiet, and slightly gloomy. There was still snow on the ground, but a gentle sprinkling of rain had revealed the dead, soggy grass. I rendezvoused in a public place with a man I had talked to briefly through a social network for gay men. We got into his car, and took the freeway to his place. He was polite and relaxed, a perfect stranger in his early twenties. My heart was pounding, but he must not have noticed as he made simple conversation. 

Though we had already gone over personal statistics, to my dismay he inquired about my age, and asked to see my driver’s license as proof that I was eighteen. Conveniently, I didn’t have mine yet. I didn’t take driver’s education when I should have because my extra time and money went to my other extracurricular activities. I had a permit to drive in the glove box of my car, but my actual license wouldn’t come in the mail until weeks later. 

I gave him my birthday (pushing back the year), and he trusted, by my false witness, that I was of legal age. I remember thinking in a nervous thrill, “Of legal age for what?” It was then that the thought, “Who am I kidding?” entered my head, and it was also then that we pulled up to his place and went inside. As falsely justified as I felt in doing what I was doing, I had still tried to convince myself that my circumstances were different, even an exception. There was no more deceiving myself; I was there for a hook-up—my first real sexual experience with a man—with anybody. I was excited and nervous as we entered his bedroom without even a word. I was there for several hours, and on the ride back to my parked car, the feelings of guilt set in, though I was still partially numb to it due to the thrill of what had just occurred—a real-life fantasy come true. 

My sexual exploits continued for over two years. I had literally acted out every fantasy and carnal dream that had ever entered my filthy mind, with many different men, some considerably older than me. In the beginning, each time I met with someone I noticed that the pleasure seemed to stay the same while the thrill of the experiences diminished with each occurrence. Conversely, the guilt and self-hatred for the sins I was committing were intensifying once I was away from my hasty partners and alone again with my own thoughts. Soon that despair crept into the intimate moments themselves, quickly casting out the last shreds of thrill and virtually all of the pleasure from the encounters. 

My last summer as a teenager was character-
-ized by romance, friendship, and exploration.
The summer of 2005 was perhaps the most perfect, picturesque summer of my life. I was nineteen and living on my own for the first time ever in another town. I had a small host of close friends, and was dating the girl of my dreams, my first serious relationship. Outwardly my life seemed to be everything it should be as I lived out my last year as a teenager. Within me, though, there was a battle being fought that I knew I was quickly losing. 

My life’s experience had become that of a man in bondage. I was no longer myself, or at least whoever I was before the encounters started. I was a slave to carnal sexual addiction and behavior—almost animal in my instinct. My decisions, options, and opportunities in life revolved around when I could have the next fix. Yet during my encounters everything was mechanical and robotic; simply a learned behavior to produce a desired outcome that was actually becoming undesirable. 

The guilt now was heavy, and the weight of it was bearing down on my weakened conscience and spirit. I wrote my thoughts and feelings in my journal, which was the only way I could express myself freely. Much of my fear revolved around the fact that my mother didn’t know I was gay or what I was doing in my excursions away from home. The rest of my unsettled emotion came from the fact that God already knew well what was going on, and that He was surely very displeased. My Heavenly Father and my earthly mother were the two beings in whom I placed all of my trust, confidence, and self-worth; I would even say that, at the time, my mother meant more to me than God did. 

Another fall transition came, and I felt the
increasing need to finally tell my mother that
I was gay.
Eventually I found a way to tell my mother that I was attracted to men. It was October of 2005, and I was at my mom’s house visiting and helping her decorate for Halloween. I was still dating the same amazing girl, but I was conflicted in how I felt about my relationship with my girlfriend. The entire time she and I had dated, I had been unfaithful as I continued with my one-night-stands with random men. Yet I felt like I was in love for the first time in my life with a woman other than my most trusted friend, my mother. I wanted to preserve my relationship with my girlfriend, but my homosexual feelings and encounters were like a vice grip on my love for her, destroying our young romance. 

I sat on the couch at my mom’s house, determined to explain to her what was going on in my life. She lifted Halloween decorations from boxes and dusted them. “Mom,” I began, tremblingly, “I don’t know what to do about Danielle.” 

          “What about her?” my mother asked. 
          “Well, it’s not so much her as it is me,” I replied. My mom looked at me impatiently, with an inquisitive look. 
          “I’m not sure I can give her what she needs. I mean—I’m not sure I can love her the way she deserves,” I explained. 
          “Why not?” my mom asked, likely seeing where the conversation was going. It was difficult to spit out now that the moment had come, so I stalled, playing on the fact that my mother was the one person who had known me longer than anyone and could probably guess. 
          “You know why,” I said softly. 
          “Why?” she shot back, agitatedly. 
          “You know why,” I repeated, insistently. 
          “Why, because you’re gay?” she blurted cynically. Her tone was harsh, and the words stung. She seemed to make herself busier, pulling things from storage boxes, maybe to hide the discomfort that she was surely feeling. All I could return was, “Yeah.” 

Telling my mother my secret was bittersweet;
to this day she doesn't like to discuss my sexuality.
I don’t remember much of what we discussed after that, except that my mom told me that she had always known I was gay, and that it wasn’t a big deal. Her demeanor suggested otherwise; she was clearly out of her comfort zone with the conversation. I wonder now if she had dreaded that moment my whole life. My memories of the many nights that I cried bitter tears wondering if my mother would still love and accept her gay son were swallowed up in the reverse gravity of conscience that lifted the yoke of secrecy from off of me. It was bittersweet, however, as my mother didn’t want to discuss things for long, as much as I wanted to pour out my soul to her. 

Even today, my mother averts the topic of my homosexuality in most cases. If the subject comes up somehow, she always interrupts to declare that she doesn’t need to hear about it, or doesn’t want to talk about it. But I have never for a moment since that autumn day doubted that my mother loved me more than anything else in the world. In fact, I believe that the struggles of her children affect my mother so deeply that she can’t bear even the thought of it sometimes. Though I know my mother would do anything and everything for me and our family, I think it’s easier for her to know that I’m okay through other means without actually having to discuss the details of my sexuality. 

2006 came, and I turned twenty. I was living back in my hometown with my father. I spent the latter part of the spring in a technical school studying to be a nursing assistant. Danielle was still a constant support in my life, and my best friend. Some of my friends got married, and Danielle and I attended church with other unmarried young adults. Only a select few knew that I was gay, and my girlfriend wasn’t one of them; I found out later, though, that she had suspected it since we first started dating. I soon obtained my licensure as a nursing assistant and for once focused more of my time on job hunting instead of man hunting.

Confession is usually a private matter that takes
place between a person and their LDS leader.
Summer came, and the rising June heat lingered late into the day, but the dark evenings were still cool as the chirps of crickets became more frequent. After getting what I thought was the worst part of my secret out of the way—confessing to my mother—I felt that the time was right, even necessary, to confess to an ecclesiastical leader—and thus formally to God—that I was gay and sexually active. I wanted to be rid of the guilt and sin that I harbored. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I knew that I was going to be disciplined.

Confession of sins for Latter-day Saints usually happens face to face in a private meeting with a man who leads a congregation by Priesthood authority. The smallest congregation, called a ward or branch, is led by a Bishop or Branch President, respectively. Latter-day Saints believe that all callings to positions within the Church, for any member, male or female, come directly from the Lord, who is the head of the Church. Jesus Christ directs the affairs of the LDS Church through a living Prophet and Twelve Apostles, all of whom are chosen by a steady stream of modern-day revelation

The government of the Church of Jesus Christ existed this way before the deaths of the meridian apostles and the onset of the great apostasy; this process of direction was restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith after he was called to once again organize the Lord’s true church on the earth in 1830. 

I was ready to break the chains of sin that held
me in bondage, and finally repent.
It should be explained that Latter-day Saints consider chastity to be one of the highest virtues of our religion. Sexual acts outside of marriage are believed to be wrong in the eyes of God, and if discovered or confessed will likely result in disciplinary action from Church leaders. However, through the saving power of the atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, all who sin may be redeemed from their shortcomings through sincere and thorough repentance; the repentant soul actively seeks God’s forgiveness, while promising Deity that he or she will forsake their sinful behavior and return to it no more.

Considering these facts, which I believe now and also believed at twenty years-old, one can understand the gravity of my situation and my reasons for concern. I called the Bishop of my home ward, where my membership records were still held; that was the first ward I had ever known when I joined the Church, and I felt most comfortable in that community of Saints. I made an appointment to see him in his office later that week. Every day until the night of my interview with the bishop was wracked with nervousness and distress.

To learn more about the commandments that Latter-day Saints follow in their daily lives, click HERE

I still remember the day of my confession, as I was preparing to walk to the Church just blocks from my dad’s house. The color yellow fills my memory of that day; the sun was setting, and the sky was golden, casting warm light on everything under heaven. I was spending some time with my girlfriend Danielle that day. She knew that I was going to talk to my Bishop about something important, and she knew I was upset. I would learn later that she had figured out what the meeting with my Church leader was going to be about, but she never pressed me to discuss the details with her. As the sun disappeared behind the western mountains, it was cooler outside, and the street lights came on. Danielle gave me a note as I hugged her goodbye—we loved writing notes to each other, something we did frequently during our courtship. Then I began my walk up the street to the church building. 

Stopping under a streetlight near my church, I
read the note that my girlfriend had given me.
I paced myself, taking small steps, trying to delay the inevitable. But soon I got the property line of the church, where a familiar street light shined orange light down upon me. I stopped there and opened the note from Danielle. It was a sweet letter of encouragement and love. She said that even though she didn’t know exactly what my troubles were and how my Bishop’s meeting would change them, that she still loved me and supported my decision to seek out help from my leader and from the Lord. She expressed her appreciation for our relationship and made sure I knew how important I was to her. 

The sentiment of the letter and the building tension of the day quickly brought stinging tears to my eyes. My vision clouded as I read, and large drops hit the lined pages of her note, soaking the paper and smearing the ink. I could only wipe the tears away hurriedly, in between sobs, so that I could finish reading. It felt good to release that emotion. I carried on as long as the tears flowed, relishing the oozing of pain from my eyes, but eventually I was spent. I entered the church red-faced and still wiping my wet face. 

Confessing my sins was like a
weight being taken off my
My next memory is of sitting in a wood-paneled office in front of my Bishop with a large, bulky desk separating us. He made small talk, asking about my family and my summer. My responses were short and quick, and followed by a thickening silence. The Bishop told me he was ready to hear what I had to say as soon as I was ready to speak. The moment had come, and it was terrifying. I began speaking several times, but all I was able to get out was “I’m… I’m…” I must have repeated it half a dozen times before I finally completed the sentence with “…attracted to men.” 

My Bishop didn’t look surprised, but he was calm. “I had figured as much,” was all he said, but it was reassuring. I can’t ever remember a more intense feeling weightlessness than I did just then. The weight that pressed down on me for so long seemed to flee, and I had a few brief moments of utter relief before the conversation turned to the details of my sins over the past two-or-so years. I told the Bishop everything: When it all began, early in my childhood; how it started as a teenager; how many men, how many times (that I could remember); and finally, the specific sexual acts performed, a necessary detail of confession.

Through all of my promiscuity, and in my naïve mind as such a new member of the Church, I had clung to a hope that I might still be able to serve as a full-time missionary. It was a responsibility that I had been taught by my teachers and leaders that all young men my age should undertake, and I had the desire to fulfill that duty. I didn’t quite understand the rules of the game as far as missionary work was concerned, and I had assumed that after lengthy repentance, I might still be able to worthily represent Jesus Christ in the mission field. 

Young men and women ages 18 and 19 have
the option of serving a mission.  Because of the
extent of my sins, I couldn't serve.
And that was my first question to the Bishop after my confession. He was clearly distraught as he told me the unfortunate news that my choices and behaviors were too grievous for me to be considered for full-time missionary work as a young man. I was heartbroken, but I accepted it. But through diligence, I could accept the Savior’s atonement and become clean of my sins nonetheless. 

The Bishop’s approach to my attractions to men was to attempt to repair them through psychotherapy. Entering the Bishop’s office, I didn’t believe that homosexuality could be “cured,” but I was willing to believe the word’s of our Prophet, who said that people were not born as homosexuals. The LDS Church has since reformed their position slightly to agree that gays and lesbians do not choose their homosexuality; but leaders nevertheless insist that same-gender attracted individuals can still choose their behavior regarding their attractions, and that they are not without fault if they choose contrary to the word of God.

My Bishop told me that the therapy would be fully and anonymously paid for by the regular donations from ward members, which is typically the case in the LDS Church; all members contribute monetary offerings to their wards to be used under the direction and discretion of the Bishop in helping the needy within the congregation. I liked the idea of therapy; I like to talk about myself to others, and I thought it would be beneficial to work out some of my issues. However, I told the Bishop in that same meeting that I did not believe that my sexual orientation would change, at least not completely becoming heterosexual. He encouraged me to have an open mind, and I agreed. 

I saw a therapist for a short time to attempt
to change or alter my homosexuality.
I began reparative therapy soon after that with a doctor who is somewhat famous locally for his years of work with same-gender attracted Latter-day Saints in intense sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). I was eager at first, and did everything he told me to do while I waited for the anxiety and attractions to diminish. But they didn’t. If anything, the increased focus on my homosexuality only served to intensify my inclinations and desires. At one point I had to keep a journal with me at all times to record every instance of attraction I felt for another man, and then what I did to distract myself from gawking or fantasizing. I do not joke in saying that it was exhausting! I eventually gave up because of how full that journal started getting. 

After a handful of appointments with the doctor I was losing my hope and my nerve. I was having troubles at home because my father and I were not getting along, and I really just wanted to talk about it with someone. But the doctor seemed to redirect every request for general advice or counsel back to the subject of my homosexuality. His “Straight-or-Bust!” approach was not appealing to me, especially when I didn’t feel like my attractions to men could ever go away with any amount of therapy. 

My desire, still, was to be with men; but not the way I had been before. I wanted to date and find a steady partner. I had sampled enough of promiscuity, I wanted monogamy. Moreover, I honestly felt like I could never go on with the rest of my life—even a life as a Latter-day Saint who was active in the gospel—unless I could say that I had exhausted all my options and at least tried having a boyfriend, just once. Again, I felt like it was something that I just had to “get out of my system.” Truthfully, I didn’t know what would come of it, if I got a boyfriend. I was willing to accept that I could fall in love and consequently leave my religion, or that I might find out that the grass wasn’t greener on the other side and eventually return to Mormonism. But once again, I was willing to take that risk. 

This fictional romance between
two men made me long for love.
I remember sitting in the waiting room for therapy one day, alone, thumbing through magazines. Under the pile of reading material I noticed a popular magazine with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger on the cover in cowboy regalia. It was a promotional photo for the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” which had just recently been released. The magazine included a large spread about the film and all its controversy with movie goers and critics. I remember just staring at the men longingly, obsessively, even, admiring their portrayed romance. 

So I flipped the magazine over and covered it with other reading material on the table to distract myself, as I had been instructed. But I couldn’t forget about it as I sat there. So I dug to the bottom of the pile and pulled out the magazine and read the lengthy article and looked at the pictures, including one of the male actors’ faces close together, probably in the midst of a kissing scene. It was what I wanted, what I longed for: A relationship with another man—love, romance, intimacy, commitment. 

When I got in with the therapist, I confessed my doubts about the therapy, and whether it was the right thing for me. I told him about the magazine in his office (about which he expressed concern that it was even out there in the first place, as his waiting room was shared with other professionals) and I told him that male romance was also what I wanted, and that I felt like I would never be happy unless I could try having a relationship with a man, a boyfriend. He expressed his opinion that the type of relationship that was portrayed in the movie (from what he had heard) was one of secrecy, lying, deceit, and adultery, and not an accurate portrayal of what I thought a homosexual romance could give me. He instructed me as to the pain and suffering that a homosexual lifestyle can bring to many who leave the Church in order to experience it. 

Flatly he told me that finding a relationship with a man would not bring me happiness, and that I would be forfeiting my opportunity for further professional help and hurling myself into a future of further church discipline and possible excommunication. I understood all that, but I didn’t care. I was willing to accept the consequences of my choice. I left his office that day and never went back. I went to my bishop later and told him of my decision to quit the therapy that he (the ward) was paying for, and informed him that I was going to pursue a relationship with a man. He was forlorn, and expressed his disappointment in seeing someone with so much potential just throw away his life and chances for greater blessings, as he put it. But once again, I was certain of what I wanted, and I was going to pursue it no matter the consequences. 
I informed my bishop and therapist that I was
going to actively date men, and jumped into a
relationship soon thereafter.

My certainty, however, only lasted until I actually experienced it. I met a man right away and jumped into a relationship with him, afraid that I wouldn’t find someone else who was interested in me. Especially since I was naïve about the gay scene in Utah, and couldn’t find many men who were interested in dating and long-term relationships rather than hook-ups and one-night-stands. Even though the whole thing still felt a little awkward and wrong to me, I pursued the relationship with my new boyfriend and tried to make things as normal as possible between us. 

Strangely enough, I still clung to some of my religious beliefs and tried to project them onto my new lover in odd ways, like refusing to be intimate right away to preserve some sort of imagined virtue, or encouraging him not to drink alcohol or smoke when we went out (which I also refused). I asked him questions about his life growing up in a Latter-day Saint family, and about his personal beliefs and involvement in the religion. He was usually quiet about such things, though there were a lot of ill feelings about the subject when he did finally open up. 

I tried to pacify him towards religion in general, which he often ridiculed and spoke bitterly of, since it was his family’s religion that he felt caused his parents to drive him from home at a young age when they discovered that he was a homosexual. Mormonism, my boyfriend felt, was the reason he could never be fully accepted among his immediate and extended family. He knew my story and had no qualms with my apparent rebellion; but I think he sensed somehow that my flippant faith was still important to me, even when I knew that it wasn’t to him. 

Despite thinking that having a boyfriend would
make me happy, I still felt unfulfilled.
Just as it always does, August came; but this time it was almost unexpected. My time with my boyfriend was still awkward and uncomfortable. He lived almost an hour away, and I spent nights at his house as often as I could in order to avoid long drives and my rocky relationship with my father. I was becoming increasingly unhappy with what I was doing. Partially it was my knowledge that I was still sinning, even after my efforts to lift the burden of sin by confessing to my Bishop. The other side of my emotion was actually the lack thereof that I felt for my boyfriend. Any attraction I did feel when I first met him was gone, and I realized that diving head-first into a relationship with him was a mistake. I enjoyed my time with him, and we got along great, but once again I found myself unfulfilled with the status quo. I had considered trying again with another man, but even that thought didn’t appeal to me anymore. 

For the third time since I had secretly and selfishly pushed my way into a life of homosexual behavior, I was discovering that my fantasies, desires, and longings were not all that they appeared to be. The battle of “Religion vs. Sexuality” seemed to finally be coming to a close. Ultimately my fence-sitting had culminated in me choosing both sides multiple times on many separate occasions; and each time I chose one side to stay on, the other side of the fence had seemed more appealing all the while. At that point, I had found my way back to the fence to hop over it and bask in the grass that seemed so much greener and the skies that appeared vastly bluer and clearer. 

I think I was considering coming back to the Church most of that August of 2006. But I couldn’t bring myself to hurt the man who had become such a good friend. Really, though, I knew that this time there would be no more fence-hopping—I had to decide if being a faithful Latter-day Saint for the rest of my life was truly what I wanted more than acting on my permanent attractions to the same sex. Soon August passed and September came, and I still had not made a decision. Until one day I got a phone call that would change my life forever.

When my brother asked me if I could bless his
newborn son, everything suddenly changed.
My older brother was on the other end of the line asking me how life was and what I was up to. I was disheartened that I couldn’t be honest with him, but I made things sound good nonetheless. He and my sister-in-law had just had their first child together in May of that year, and he began talking to me about the possibility of having their baby blessed, a common practice amongst Mormons (not be confused with infant baptism, a practice the LDS Church denounces). I was completely surprised by the conversation, since I’ve never known my brother to have anything good to say about Mormons. He himself was not a participating Latter-day Saint. He explained that he knew that baby blessings had to be done by the authority of the Priesthood, and as his younger brother, and the only active Mormon in our family, he wanted me to have the honor of blessing my nephew. 

I stuttered and tripped over my words as I accepted his invitation, only with one problem—I didn’t have the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood authority required to perform the ordinance of blessing a baby. Most young men became Elders in said priesthood when they prepared to serve missions, which my sins prevented me from doing; I was still only a Priest in the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood

When I told my brother I would have to prepare further for the opportunity, he jibed about whether or not I was worthy of the proper priesthood. His remark stung, but he was exactly right—I wasn’t worthy. I worked my way around it by saying that I just hadn’t gotten to that point in my life yet. He encouraged me to do what I could to be able to bless my nephew, and said they would wait as long as I needed, because they wanted the occasion to be special for our family.

Though the other side of the fence seemed greener
from afar, it wasn't until I crossed over that I
found out it wasn't.
I was sitting on the front porch of my dad’s house after the phone call ended. I just held the phone in my hand as a wave of emotion hit me. It was that moment that I realized exactly what I was missing out on by living the way I was. I had discovered the restored Church of Jesus Christ, and I believed that it was the only true Church on the earth and the authorized platform for the principles, ordinances, and doctrines of salvation unto men. And what was I doing with that knowledge? I was completely and utterly wasting it. I had cast my eternal welfare by the wayside to be trampled underfoot. And for what? Momentary pleasures, carnal securities, and a lifetime (an eternity!) of regret and pain. 

Since I had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age sixteen, I had wanted nothing more than to see my immediate family discover (or rediscover) the goodness and mercy of their God and their Savior and to join me in the fold of the restored gospel. And for a long time my efforts within my religion were as much for me to learn and grow as they were an example to my family. I wanted them to see the happiness that my new faith had brought me, and it truly did. But now, a mere four years later, in place of joy I had misery. Instead of hope for an eternal family I had reason to weep over the potential loss of my ties to my loved ones. 

In my unique situation, as the only active Latter-day Saint in my immediate family, I felt the stirring responsibility to point the way to God and life everlasting by my own example of righteousness and faith. I finally knew that the time had come to return to the Church—to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, my Redeemer. Just as the prodigal son, I needed to return home, and I knew that I would be welcome there. I still had the phone in my hand, and I dialed my boyfriend. I told him everything that happened, and of my doubts that our relationship could work out. He was surprisingly supportive, and told me that I should do what I felt I needed to do to be happy. He and I stayed friends for several years after that, but eventually lost contact. 

From about the time that I quit therapy, my relationship with Danielle had been quietly slipping from a passionate romance to a loving fervor of friendship. I told her everything that I had kept from her as I prepared to venture out into the world of monogamous gay dating. She supported and loved me just the same as she did when she only suspected my homosexuality. Though our paths have since taken us in different directions, she has remained one of my best and most beloved friends. I still leave my heart open to the possibility of loving and being with another woman, and Danielle is the stalwart example of my capacity to truly love and be attracted to a female, in spite of my attractions to men. For that, I owe her so much. 

Coming back to religious activity was not easy;
the "winters" of life left me frozen and cold inside.
That fall seven years ago I made my last significant transition from living in the wild days of summer to settling into the warm comfort of autumn’s revitalization. My Bishop welcomed me back with open arms, and I picked up my process of repentance and renewal just where I had left it. And just like it always does, winter came, both literally and figuratively, and for the first few snowy seasons, I was not prepared for the cold. 

Living a life of worthiness in the eyes of God and Christ was difficult to say the least. I doubted myself many times, and often questioned what I was doing, but I never returned to the other side of that fence. Winter would slowly relent, and each spring melted away the ice from around my heart and prepared me for the intense heat of summer that for once didn’t completely consume me. I was finding more joy in living, and it was true joy—not gratification, not titillation, not fading thrills. 

It has taken just about all of these past seven years for me to reach a point where my homosexual attractions are no longer the focal point of my life. From the time I realized that I was gay as a teenager, I have hardly been able to think about anything except changing myself, fixing myself, or becoming something or someone other than who I really am. I read my journals, poetry, or other writings from those years past and can still recall the pain that I went through then. But the pain does not exist now. It is swept away in the blood of Jesus Christ through His atonement for mankind and for me. I have come to love and accept myself for who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. And I know that my rewards and blessings have been and will continue to be of infinite worth as I continue to put my trust in my Heavenly Father and Savior. 

The green grass and blue skies of the other side
of the fence can be deceiving.
It surprises some when I say that I wouldn’t change any of the mistakes I’ve made if I had a chance to do it all over again. I learned my lessons the hard way, but I learned them nonetheless. I have witnessed the appeal of the scenery on each side of that precarious fence, and I can tell anyone what the differences are: 

On the side of desire and temptation the grass is most certainly always greener to begin with; but many will find that the grass soon loses is luster and softness the further you travel from the crossing point. The light that guides you tends to disappear gradually behind ominous clouds; the skies can darken at any moment with terrible storms, and one can easily lose their way in the fury of adversarial winds and hail that fight against all your strength and willpower. But for all the tumultuous rain that pours down, threatening to destroy you, the grass never grows nor restores itself, but it remains in a state of perpetual lifelessness.

I have found that the side of faith brings more
light and beauty into my life.
To contrast, the side of faith and righteousness may never seem very appealing at first; in fact, the scenery can appear plain and ordinary at times. But the further you separate yourself from the crossing point, the brighter the light of Christ shines down upon you, widening your view of the lush emerald hue of every gentle blade of grass beneath your feet. The clouds drift serenely through the skies but never gather nor turn gray; in time the landscape becomes dotted with trees, flowers, and shrubbery, all of which testify with each leaf and petal that ours is a God of boundless mercy and infinite love—a love that sustains everything around you, which remains eternally evergreen. 

The latter side is the one that I have chosen—to be on the right hand of God—and I know it is the right side for me.

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into
this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold,
I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were
by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly
upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Nephi 31:19).


  1. Thanks for that great post took me a week or so to finish it (reading little bits here and there as interruptions happened). You're a great example to me and I am in awe of your strength every single time I read a post from you. Thanks for being YOU!! :)

    1. Thanks Brindy. I know, my posts are getting longer and longer each time! I feel like I'm getting a lot out of my head and heart, though, so thank you for reading. It's nice to know i'm being heard.

  2. This post was so well-written and thought-out. Thank you for sharing, Wade. I feel stronger and renewed just from reading it!

    1. I certainly took a very long time to reach way back into my memory for some of the details, Felicia. I realized I had dates wrong in many places, for one thing; then I had to piece the puzzle of random memories together chronologically. But this post essentially tells my whole story, and I am profoundly grateful to have it permanently recorded. Thanks always for reading, Felicia. I'm glad it offered something positive to you.