Thanks for your great site. I spent many hours reading the stories of others when I had first ceased activity in the Mormon Church. I've been meaning to submit my story for some time, so here goes:
Let me introduce myself. I am a seventh generation Mormon, descended from Pioneers from Norway and Sweden in the 1850s. However, the majority of my immediate family are "Jack Mormons." The only exceptions are my parents, my sisters, and my grandmother. I graduated from LDS early morning seminary, attended BYU, and I was the first person in my family to serve a mission. However proud I am of my Mormon heritage, the LDS Church forced me to feel ashamed of a basic part of my existence.
I am gay. I am an active member of Affirmation, a social and support group for gay and lesbians Mormons. I know many will believe that I left the Church because I'm gay, and that is true, but perhaps not in the sense that you might think. For years I harboured doubts about the Church, but put them aside. However, when I confronted my sexuality, it became painfully obvious that the Church was ignorant on the subject. To compound matters, it feigned an understanding of human sexuality which conflicted every accepted professional opinion and modern science. This lead me to finally confront my other concerns about Mormonism, namely: racism, sexism, polygamy, anti-intellectualism, and a fear of its own past.
I admit that before leaving the Church, I had some sexual experiences. In high school, I experimented with a couple of fellows, one of them who was Mormon. However, I "repented" of this by going to my bishop and confessing. He was dumbfounded. He told me to fast, pray, and gave me a blessing that I would not be tempted again by such attractions. I believed him, but it is obvious to me now that he lacked the basic training that a religious counselor needed to confront issues of teenagers confronting their sexuality.
I went to BYU, served a mission in France, and returned to BYU. I had dated girls, and it was easy for me to remain chaste with them. At BYU, I began to feel the pressure to get married and find my "eternal companion." I would date girls, but I would be far more interested in my male acquaintances. I heard rumours of underground gay groups at BYU, but I never paid much heed other than feeling guilty for longing to meet with such people.
By the time I was 23, and nearing graduation, I began to feel a terrible longing. I picked up the Salt Lake Tribune and found the "men for men" section of the personals. I then realized that this was what I really desired. It was so obvious that the reason I never got past a few friendly kisses with my "girlfriends" was because I wanted to date men. I felt as though I was the only one at BYU who loved the Church and yet was struggling with being gay.
I tried to research sexuality at the BYU library, but all the pertinent books were in the "locked bookcases." I didn't have the nerve to request the librarian to give me books on homosexuality, so I took a bus to the University of Utah and spent a day reading all that they had. Looking back, I can't believe that BYU feels a need to shelter adults from basic information on human sexuality. I hardly feel that the Hite Report and Masters & Johnson are pornography!
Anyway, after BYU, I moved out East and began to attend a large Singles' Ward. I think in the back of my mind that I had moved East to "come out". However, as I began to think more & more about gay issues, which were much apparent here than in Provo, Utah, I ran across some materials by Evergreen, the Mormon version of an ex-gay organization. I read many of their materials, and spoke to the well-meaning fellow who ran their organization. He encouraged me to speak to my bishop. I screwed up the courage, and made an appointment to see the Bishop. When I got there, one of my best friends was leaving his office. (This will be significant later.) The Bishop was very understanding, and referred me to psychologist some 40 miles away. He even volunteered the ward budget to defer the costs, since I was in graduate school. My friend was waiting outside the office, and he offered me a ride home. We didn't dare ask each other why we were seeing the Bishop.
I dutifully took the hour long train ride to see the counselor every week for almost three months. By this time, I began to feel that these trips were a complete waste of my time. I later found out that at least four other guys that I met through Affirmation had seen this highly recommended counselor for many months, and eventually all concluded that the "therapy" was useless. I continued to attend Church, and tried to use the "tools" that Evergreen had taught me to suppress what they term as "same-sex attraction" or "SSA". This went on for the two years that I was in graduate school. I even became Stake Executive Secretary, attending Stake Presidency and Stake High Council meetings several times a month.
In the meantime, I noticed that my friend (see above) had stopped coming to Church. I began to visit him more often, to try to "re-activate" him. His roommates, who were the Ward Mission Leader and the Elder's Quorum President, respectively, in our Singles' Ward, had become very hostile to him. One day, I noticed that he had a copy of the local gay-oriented newspaper. My face went white. I realized that he, too, was "struggling with SSA." I tried on several occasions to bring the subject up, but I was too afraid. I also confronted his roommates for shunning him, but they warned me to stay away from him, since he had forsaken the Church.
Finally, my friend invited me to a the symphony on a friday. He then told that he was gay, although he had long suspected that I knew. He also told me that he was meeting other gay Mormons there. I accepted, but I was terribly frightened to go. I had a hard time sleeping the whole week prior to going. This was also the weekend when the Area President would be speaking at our Stake Conference. I was heavily involved in the planning of this meeting.
Friday came, and on the ride up there, I began to ask him about his life. I then admitted to him that I was also attracted to men. He was only the fourth person that I had told, the others being my two bishops and the psychologist. I felt a flood of relief as he told me that he understood, and then we began discussing our struggles. For the first time in my life, I realized that I was not alone in all this. I met his friends, who were good-looking, clean cut, upstanding professionals who had served missions and attended BYU. They, too, had struggled for years until finally accepting that their sexuality was an immutable part of who they were.
The next day, I attended Stake Conference. I met the Area President, and even spoke with him during dinner. He seemed like a nice fellow, but it struck me as odd that he made several homophobic comments during his talks, and many of his statements about gays were patently false. At the end of the Conference, he told me what a fine young man that I was. I thought that odd, since I had just come out of the closet. Wasn't this man supposed to be inspired?
I continued to attend Church and serve as Stake Executive Secretary. I also began attending Affirmation. I even confided in my mother during these months. I also prayed constantly about if I should accept my sexual orientation or not. I must inject that I had no sexual contact with anyone, other than brief greeting kisses. Then, out of the blue, the Bishop (not the one above) asked me to come in for an interview. I thought this odd, since I had just seen him for my temple recommend and since I had a calling on the stake level. During the interview, he accused me of having sex with other men in the ward. I became furious. I realized that someone had tipped him off about my friendship with my openly gay friend. I suspected my friend's pharisaical roommates. I then realized that it was none of the Bishop's business what I did with my life. This later decision broke the Mormon spell. I no longer saw the Church as God's representative in my life.
I was also studying quite a bit about sexuality and began to read non-LDS books on the Church. I read D. Michael Quinn's book, Same Sex Dynamics in 19th Century America: A Mormon Perspective. He detailed how the LDS stance on homosexuality evolved to reflect the societal views of sexuality. The Church had become virulently anti-gay until the 1950s, under David McKay and Spencer Kimball. The homophobia climaxed under Kimball's reign. I read Boyd Packer's hate filled statements in "To the One", where he states that homosexual desires stem fro selfishness. In the 1970s, he advocated male missionaries punching their companions if they suspected that their companion was gay. The Church stamped its approval on gay-bashing by publishing this in "To Young Men Only." I also read in The Miracle of Forgiveness that Kimball believed that masturbation causes homosexuality. These anti-intellectual approaches showed me that the Mormon view of homosexuality comes from close-minded bigotry, and not from God or science.
I then began to rethink my old concerns about polygamy, racism and sexism in the Church. I read Prof. Quinn's books on Church history. I had met Prof. Quinn when he was still a history professor at BYU, and had dinner with him a couple of years ago. His works are the most well-researched, academic view on Mormonism that I've seen. I also read Packer's statement to him that history is not the friend of the Church. To me, this meant that the Church was afraid of the truths of its own origins. I know question Joseph Smith, the origins of the Book of Mormon, Brigham Young's claims to Smith's legacy, and the inspiration of current LDS technocrats.
It became obvious to me that the LDS Church not only was not "The one true Church of Christ", but was actually destructive in many of its teachings. I also saw how the Mormon attitude towards women hurt my sisters, my mother, and even my father. The false teachings on the eternal nature of masculinity are really just a canonization of outdated Western gender-typing.
I haven't been to Church for three years now, although I attend my parent's ward when home to see old friends. I thank the Church for my education at BYU, and for a couple of good years in France. However, I have fought to overcome the false ideas and shame that the Mormon faith imposed on me based on its false teachings. I know and love many Mormons. I still consider myself a good Christian, and occasionally attend a Lutheran congregation in my neighborhood. Whereas once I berated myself for my sexual orientation. I know thank God that I am gay. It gave me the key to freeing myself from the chains of LDS anti-intellectualism. I guess I have become all three of Boyd K. Packers enemies of the Church: an intellectual, a feminist, and a homosexual!