I have always had a deep testimony of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of His Church as restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith. How my faith has intersected over the years with my experience with same-sex attraction is complicated, but there is nothing I would rather have than my faith and my family. I have had many chances over the last few years to abandon both, and every time I have chosen them. No matter what happens in my life going forward, I will always choose my church, my God, and my family.
Childhood and Adolescence
I grew up in a family full of love. I could not have asked for better parents or better siblings. One of my good friends tells me he was frequently jealous of me as a kid, seeing how picture perfect our family was in his eyes. I am deeply grateful for the parents that I was given.
I was a sensitive kid. I noticed everything and learned quickly. I would cry easily, but just as easily leap with joy. Unfortunately, I learned quickly that the world isn't kind to sensitive souls, and I learned over the years to hide and suppress much.
I had few friends growing up, though I was friendly to everyone, even to those who bullied me. I had one best friend in my elementary school years. We would hang out together all the time, talking about anything and everything. We'd frequently go to each other's homes and hang out, have sleepovers, and just enjoy each other's company. When I was 11, my family moved a couple of miles away, and we didn't see each other nearly as often. We couldn't easily walk to each other's homes, so we began to drift apart. About the same time, a kid in my class began bullying me severely - all words, but bullying nonetheless. I no longer remember what he would say to me, but I remember it hurt, it was sexual in nature, and when I tried asking for help none came. Feeling overwhelmed and alone, I began to isolate myself emotionally.
Being very curious about how everything in the world works, I learned how to masturbate. Not having any words for it at the time, I felt wrong about it but then became addicted, not knowing how to stop. I never used pornography or fantasized, but used masturbation to gain some relief from the stresses of life as I learned to fit into a changing social norm as I shifted into Junior High.
I had crushes on girls in late elementary school and early junior high. In my first year in junior high, I wrote a love letter to a girl in my orchestra class. My parents found the letter and talked with me about it, telling me it was inappropriate for me to write letters like that at my age. Thinking I had been bad for having written the letter, I began aggressively suppressing any and all sexual or affectionate feelings toward girls.
While I had one or two other more friendships, none were as deep as the one that I had with my best friend. As time went on, I cut myself off more and more from the world around me. Looking back, I know I desperately wanted friends, but I was so busy hiding from my emotions at the time that I didn't understand what was wrong, if I even recognized anything was wrong.
When I was 15, I attended a leadership training camp for the Boy Scouts of America and was asked to be on staff the next year. I made a close friendship with another boy while I was at the camp and he was also asked to staff. I remember being so excited that he and I were going to be on staff together. Then tragedy struck - his mother was killed in a collision, and he withdrew from staff. I remember being sad he wasn't going to be on staff. The poignancy of the memory even to this day speaks to how sad I was to have lost a potential friend.
Another memory I have around that age is watching the movie "The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend". It's a movie about a boy who works hard to become a star basketball player. In the movie there is a scene where he is playing basketball with his dad and his dad tackles him and wrestles him to the ground. I remember wishing my dad would do that with me. It's a movie scene I've revisited in my head many times over the years.
There were a couple of times after about age 15 when I asked my dad and bishop if I were gay. I don’t remember the context or the experiences that made me wonder about my sexuality. In response to my question, my dad asked whether I wanted to kiss other boys. I said no, and so he said I didn't need to worry about it. So I pushed the thought aside.
While in high school, I went on many school-sponsored dances, but never dated outside of that. I do remember having a crush on Tiffany. We met while in a school play together, and we went to Prom and Morp together our senior year. We were good friends. I remember one day walking to the car with her from a school event that it was cold outside. I had a suit coat on, so I took it off and offered it to her. I loved and cared for everyone around me, even if I didn’t let anyone, even myself, really see me.
Mission and Young Adulthood
I served a mission in the Guatemala City Central Mission and enjoyed my time there. Guatemala is a beautiful country with lots of variation in culture and climate. Six months into my mission I began writing to Tiffany. Other missionaries knew I was writing a girl, and at some point on my mission, the topic of girlfriends and marriage came up between myself and other missionaries. They were all talking about how they wanted the most beautiful girl. They were surprised at my feelings when I said what I wanted most was a girl who loved the gospel and whose personality and goals were compatible with mine.
Tiffany and I wrote for 18 months of my mission. At some point I began signing my letters with an "I love you". When I was about to come home, I asked my parents if she could come to my release. I had neglected to tell them before that point that she and I had been writing each other, so they were shocked and surprised and said it wouldn't be appropriate. So, being the obedient and non-communicative youth I still was, I cut myself off entirely from her for the next four years.
While in college, I began to wonder more if I were gay. I had occasional experiences I termed "attractions", but I continued to brush them aside. I tried dating girls through my college years, but it was always mechanical. I thought I would like a girl, but I couldn't tell what she thought of me, and I had no idea how to start or maintain a dating relationship. Around this time, my aunt gave me an article about same-sex attraction that discussed ways to deal with it - mostly just ignoring it and not making it a big deal. She didn’t know at the time that I wondered if I were gay at times. I think it was around this time that I stopped looking other people in the eye in order to avoid my "attractions". I don’t remember it being a conscious decision.
When I got to my PhD program in Santa Barbara, California, I finally decided to double down on marrying someone. I started dating a girl that looked almost exactly like Tiffany. We had fun together, but I think I was mostly pursuing our relationship out of duty. Then Tiffany emailed me out of the blue. We began emailing regularly while I continued to date the other girl. As time went on, I found myself thinking more and more about Tiffany while I was with the other girl. Finally, on the day before Thanksgiving, and even though I had been planning on staying in California to spend Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s family, I decided last minute to go home instead and talk with my parents. When they found out that I still had feelings for Tiffany, they encouraged me to pursue a relationship with her. I emailed Tiffany and asked if we could see if things would work out. A month later we were engaged, and we were married five months after that.
Marriage and Beyond
Our first few years of marriage were very happy. We enjoyed each other's company and spent a lot of time together. About a year and a half into our marriage, we discovered I was sterile. We ended up deciding to adopt through foster care and we also adopted some embryos that Tiffany carried to term.
Fostering children was very difficult. I was closed off from my feelings, and the stresses of fostering drove me deeper into my own worries and preoccupations. I slowly withdrew from others even more. As I did this, I continued to have feelings that I defined as "attractions" and they began to increase. I would notice myself being drawn to other men, and this made me deeply afraid. Because I was afraid of my feelings, I further isolated myself. Stories about how evil I must be started forming in my mind. The only explanation I have for those feelings of worthlessness is that they came from Satan. My parents certainly never treated me as if I were evil, and neither would Tiffany when I would mention my experiences to her. I have an uncle in a homosexual relationship and I love him, and I also always knew the Church teaches that it is only acting on the attractions in a romantic or sexual way that is sinful. I do not believe it was my upbringing that caused me to begin hating myself. It was Satan slowly weaving his web, perhaps not leading me into temptation, but withdrawing me from others and keeping me from using my gifts.
In the last few years, our family went through a lot of other difficult things. I nearly broke inside. I had been suicidal off and on for years, but the suicidal urges began coming in intense waves.
My suicidal urges were rarely about my attractions toward other men. They were almost always a result of extreme stress and having no way to deal with my intense emotions, and a result of having cut myself off from other people.
Around the same time the other storms in our lives were happening, I began supplementing with testosterone. I have low testosterone due to a genetic defect and I felt it would help me with my mood. I also thought it would help me respond better sexually to my wife. Having aggressively pushed my sexual feelings aside for so many years, and having low testosterone, it was surprising and difficult to deal with the sudden influx of the hormone. I was surprised to have strong sexual reactions to other men, and disappointed that it did not help me with my wife.
A Reason for Hope
Once my attractions reached this intense point, I finally realized I needed help and I sought it out. Through a miracle, I got back in touch with an old friend who also experiences same-sex attraction, though I had no idea until we met for breakfast one morning. He helped me find some initial help through an experiential weekend, and then I also began working with a therapist.
I don't believe my particular experience of same-sex attraction is a biological given. I believe that for me it has always been about the stories I tell myself about the underlying feelings, a misunderstanding of my own emotions, and having felt an outsider among other boys for so many years. I also believe my lack of close male friendships over the years has fueled my attractions. I base this belief on how making good friends with other men has helped reduce my sexual response to them and how it has helped me get rid of my suicidal urges.
As I've been doing work to understand myself better over the last year, I've realized that so much of what I used to think of as "homosexual attractions" were really just yearnings for friendship and love. Not sexual love, but affectionate love that any human being has for any other. I believe because I interpreted those feelings as sexual in nature for so long, and because I very proactively suppressed any attraction toward girls while in my youth and then began avoiding friendships and contact with other men, I began sexually responding to needs for friendship. I believe that, for me, my sexual response is more a result of those stories and my unmet needs for connection than anything else.
I want to share an experience that has particular meaning to me in this whole journey. I was sitting in class for a master's degree I was working on. We had a guest speaker, and two of the men in my group started commenting on the man's physique. After class, we were walking together back to the car and a woman in our group said something about the other men "man crushing" on the presenter. That was a shock to me - that men could look at other men's bodies and not think they themselves were gay.
The greatest miracle in all my recent healing work is that I have come to truly, deeply, and absolutely love myself. After hating myself for so long because of my mistakes and feelings, that has been an amazing experience. I love my kids - more deeply than I could ever have imagined before. I love my wife, who has stood with me through thick and thin and lots and lots of struggle. I am incredibly grateful to her.
The changes I have experienced came in quite an unexpected way. Like the "chinese handcuffs" that go on your fingers get tighter and tighter the more you pull, the more I fought my feelings or ran away from them the more intense they became. It wasn't until I faced them head-on and allowed myself to lean in and really experience them that I saw a way out. I realized that there was a lot more going on with them than sexual response. I realized that I could - and should - love my friends and give them affection. I realized that denying myself real human needs of connection had induced suicidality, and had made it nearly impossible for me to really connect with my wife and kids.
No progress comes without opposition. With every change, opposition came in equal measure. This, however, has been a great blessing. I learned to stand up for myself. To hold on to what I know I have experienced, despite many around me who continue to say that I must be lying to myself, that I am not living true to myself. While I have many times been questioned or attacked, or have doubted my own experiences, the Lord has given me equal measure of hope. I have received profound spiritual experiences or been reminded of past experiences that have given me strength to push forward.
I spent so many years afraid of touching my own children, of not allowing myself to love them fully. I spent so many years not respecting my own boundaries, not respecting myself as a distinct individual and always thinking I must be wrong and bad if someone disagreed with me. I spent so many years isolated and lonely. But no longer. I have never felt more alive in my life. I am no longer suicidal. I stand up for myself and my beliefs and my own interpretation of my experiences, rather than submitting to the interpretations of others. I give and receive love and affection to everyone in my life, every day.
I still have some sexual response toward other men, some days more intense than others, but it is so much easier to simply notice and move on rather than obsess over and hate myself for it. I expect the responses to continue to change as I work to fill my human needs for connection and love from my family and my friends. My ability to respond sexually to my wife is also improving, and is better the more freely I can openly love everyone around me.
Above all, I have come to know of God’s love for me and that I am not alone. None of us are. We all have many people who love us and are working to help us on the other side of the veil. Hope and help are available to all who are willing to keep their covenants no matter the price - and the world will exact a price from all of us.
I am grateful I continue to be patient and trust in the Lord and His prophets. I am grateful that He is patient with me. I cannot imagine being more happy and content, but given past experience, I know there is even more good yet to come.