This letter was originally published in Craigslist, and is re-published here with the author’s permission.
Dear 21-year old RM BYU Mormon Me,
I know, it’s hard to believe that I can communicate with you from the future, isn’t it. In fact, when I was your age, I might not have believed it at all. It’s because of the magic of the Internet. Oh wait, you don’t even know what that is yet! Believe it or not, in the future everyone will have hand-held computer phones that are linked to one another. No, really, it’s so cool! Your inner geek is going to love the future! That’s how I’m sending you this message.
I realize that I am going to need to give you some proof that I’m actually from your future. You have a lot of great things ahead of you, but let me tell you a few things about our mutual past that will convince you to trust me a little more as we move forward.
Let’s see, you’ve just gotten home from your mission a few months ago and you’re back at BYU again, right? You’ve returned home trailing clouds of RM glory and it has been a fairly smooth transition back into real life. I know, you were pretty sure that you would be married by now, huh. That girl that we assumed was waiting until we got home? Yeah, that was a pretty awkward when she met you at the airport with her fiancé in hand. It was a bit of a shock, but you handled it well, and spent a few days crying in the dark, but now you’re back in the dating game and things are looking pretty good. Congratulations on surviving that!
The mission was a little harder than you thought it was going to be, wasn’t it. I mean, whenever you talk to someone about it now, you have nothing but good to say, but trust me, as you get older, you’ll realize that it was a difficult time. There are some things in your life you’ve been trying to suppress that are not going to get better in the next few years. In fact, that’s the main reason why I’m here.
Remember when you dropped out of wrestling in high school because of those uncomfortable feelings you had around other guys in the locker room and on the mat? And remember how sensitive you were about being called “gay” by the other guys even though everyone knew that it wasn’t really true?
Remember saying goodbye to that one terrific missionary companion that you were so close to? You knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye to him. He wanted to hug you in the apartment for the last time, and as you were hugging him, you realized that you didn’t want to ever let him go and he leaned into you and you could feel his arousal and you turned your lips against his neck and brushed them right under his ear and he suddenly pushed you away. I’m sure you remember what we were feeling at that moment because I remember it like it was yesterday. I know that it seems easy to write off that whole experience as “missionary desperation” or whatever. Sure, you were desperate for physical contact with ANYONE, so it’s only natural that it might be a companion that you felt so close to anyway, right? He didn’t push you away from him because he hated you, he pushed HIMSELF away from you because he was feeling things just as strongly and he was just as scared as you were about what you were both feeling.
Remember that other companion you had that would masturbate after he thought you had gone to sleep? Yeah, that was pretty interesting, wasn’t it, and it made you aroused, didn’t it? You might want to take a little closer look at your attractions because they are not going to go away. In fact, they are going to get stronger with time.
The reason I’ve contacted you is not just to tell you about things that you already know, it’s to help you put a little perspective on them and to also warn you about a few things in the immediate future. You have some stuff coming up that you are not going to want to miss! Or mess up.
First off, I know you don’t have much money, but scrape together what you can and go buy a few shares of stock in a little company called Apple. Just do it.
Next semester you are going to meet a new roommate who is going to have a profound effect on your life. He is also an RM and you will like him from the moment you meet him. He’s a lot like us. One night he will be telling you a story from his mission and you will be laughing so hard that you will think you are having a heart attack – seriously. It’s not really a heart attack, but I want you to recognize who he is, because before the spring term, he will ask to move into the same room as you and you will be so happy about it. As the two of you become closer, you’ll start to realize that a lot of your world revolves around him and that you can’t imagine your life without having him around. This is a very crucial time for you because you are going to need to make some decisions soon. I know, I remember making them, and I made them under some of the same false impressions that you are thinking very strongly right now. I want to try to take away those false impressions and help you make those decisions based on the truths that I have learned since then.
You are trying so hard NOT to think about the possibility that you are more attracted to guys than girls, and you’re also working very hard to pray, fast, and live the gospel truths so that God will change your heart and take away those evil desires. Here is my main message, the one take-away from this entire time-travel project: I am here to tell you that those desires are never going to go away, no matter what you do about them. Trust me, I tried. I did everything I could possibly imagine to kill, starve, attack, fight, bury, hate, fast and pray away those feelings. In fact, 25 years later they are as strong as ever and, honestly, getting stronger as the years go by. I’ve lived my life by the book, followed every rule, fulfilled every calling and assignment, loved a wife and children more than I ever thought possible, and I’m here to tell you, there is still a hollow spot inside of me waiting to be filled by another man. And it hurts. It hurts like hell.
It hurts all the more because you are going to push him away. In about 8 months, you will be enjoying both the warm summer and the fact that he doesn’t seem to mind being barely clothed around you. You will sneak a few peaks at him and he will realize what is happening but he won’t do anything about it then. A few days later he will “fall asleep” without his clothes on and you will discover him in the darkness of your shared room. You will be so overwhelmed by your feelings that your legs will feel weak and you won’t even realize that you have sat down on his bed. While looking at him in the near darkness with rapt wonder, he will slowly touch your hand, lift it up, and bring it over to touch him. Dude, you are going to feel like you are on fire, first because he is so damn sexy, and second because of the wonderful and beautiful things that you and he will do together.
Would you please do me a favor and slow down and enjoy these fleeting moments with him for a little while longer? I have looked back on these precious memories hundreds of times in my life and, while I have a few regrets, not one of them is about them happening. One regret I do have is that I didn’t relax and enjoy these brief but intense experiences more. They were so powerful and I know now that we will never have these first-time feelings as strongly with anyone ever again. So live them and feel them and remember them with even more love than I have for them now. The other regret I have is that I wish I had kissed him. Just… just do it. You know you want to, and he wants you to, and you will always wish that you had. Trust me, you will.
Sadly, soon enough you are going to think you are being consumed in the fires of mormon hell. You are both going to promise to never let it happen again, but even so, you and he will get together several more times because, although you both know that you are trying to resist, after a few weeks you will ache for him and he will want you just as much and neither of you can resist the other. So in order to resist temptation, you are going to make a hard decision. If you do the same thing I did, you are going to move to a different apartment complex in another part of Provo. You are going to say that it is because you want to be closer to school, but we both know the truth is that you are running away from him as fast as you can.
I know, you think that you are doing the right thing because you are trying to resist him. And in fact, you are doing the thing that the church is telling you to do. But I am here to tell you that you are going to regret this decision for your entire life. Even with the good things that you are trying to do, and that you will do, you will look back on this time with longing, wishing that you had made a different choice for both you and him.
However, if you decide to do the same thing I did, I can understand what you are thinking because I was there. You are thinking that you can resist, that God can change your heart, and that if you are just righteous enough, God will make you a “normal” man who desires to be a husband and father with one of His daughters. After all, this is what the church is telling you. You want to believe it so much. You are praying and pleading and counting on it. You are willing to bet your life on it being true. Literally. But there is one tragic fault in your logic. It’s. Not. True.
In a few years, you are going to meet a girl and you will realize that she is finally the one. You will know almost as soon as you meet her, because she is nearly everything you ever hoped for in an eternal companion. There are even things about her that are perfect for you and you don’t even know them yet. You will prepare yourself to take her to the temple and you will be worthy to do so. By this time, you will have long since talked with your bishop and made yourself pure and clean. But there is one more crucial thing that you need to do before she commits to marry you. It is something that I should have done but didn’t and I have regretted it for many years.
You need to talk to her about your same-sex attraction. I know that you think it will not be a problem, it is history, and you will never have to worry about it again. But you need to talk to her about it anyway. Trust me, you do.
First, because it’ s not really gone. It never will be. You are rationalizing the idea of NOT telling her because you believe that this will not be an issue that you will ever have to reveal as a part of you. You are praying that God will change you – that He will take away your desires and replace them with accepted and righteous ones. But the actual truth is both more logical and, at the same time, almost unbelievable to your innocent mormon self – the person that you are is the person you are going to stay – and if you pretend that this part of you does not exist, then you are hiding a piece of your heart from her that you will have to keep hidden forever. However, like an unseen thorn, it will grow and it will pain you, and her, and your family life, because of your selfish pride and naive mormon fantasies.
Second, because you will need her help. If, after all this information, you are still considering an attempt at a lifetime of complete self-denial, please let me give you one more warning. In a few years, as the ease of access to information and technology becomes widely available, the opportunity to access pornography of every possible imagined type (and some you can’t possibly imagine) will literally be available to you, for free, 24 hours a day, at your fingertips, on your computer and on your phone in your pocket. Just at the time that you will find your desire waning for your wife (and it quickly will), your deeper hidden desires will be awakening and resurfacing, and your ability to access other people with similar desires will also increase. If you expect to maintain your fictitious situation, you will need her help, because you will not have the stamina to do it on your own. If you are hidden from her, you will find yourself more exposed and vulnerable because of your pride. You will NOT be able to do it without her assistance.
Third and lastly, because later in life the topic of same sex attraction will come up in your family and she will speak of homosexuals with such vicious hatred that it will cut you to the core, and since you did not talk about this topic previously, you will not be able to share it with her later and it will become a emotional chasm between the two of you in your marriage. She will not even know how you feel about this, but it will hurt you so deeply that you will be unable to talk about it.
Sadly, there’s a good chance that if you talk to her about this, she will not marry you. And perhaps that’s a good thing, because there may be someone else out there who is ready to accept this beautiful part of you as well as all the other wonderful parts. I don’t know, I didn’t go down that path so I can’t tell you about that future. But I do hope to save you from a few regrets in my world.
Whatever you choose, be open about it. Don’t choose hiding. It may feel like the right thing at the time, but it hurts. A lot. Forever.
I know I have said a few harsh things about your future. If I had heard them when I was your age, I’m not sure I would have believed them. It has taken me a long time to learn that I should have been more true to my inner voice – the one inside that is telling us which way to go. You see, I actually believed that listening to the teachings of the church could replace my inner voice, and the times when I was deciding between what the church told me to do and what my inner voice told me to do, I always chose to follow the church. But I was wrong. I wish I had listened to my heart more often and more carefully. I think it was trying to tell me what was right FOR ME, not just what is right for everyone. It is a hard voice to find and follow, but I think it is worth it and I wish I had learned this a long time ago.
I am going to try and keep this time portal open as long as possible, so if you have any questions I will try to answer them. I’m not sure how long I can do that or how much I can tell you – after all, if you change my past, who knows what will become of me in the future, time paradox and all.
Hey, guess what!? You will not believe this. In my time, it is completely legal for gay couples to be married in 14 states! Guess which state legalized gay marriage first? You will never guess, not in a million years! Massachusetts!
Take care of yourself, or myself, or whatever. You have a lot of life ahead, but trust me, it goes by too fast.
You are a much better person than you think you are.
Love you! Me
PS: Remember that guy in high school, concert choir, junior year, that we had the total crush on? No, not the tall, dark one, (swoon, I wish), no, the tight little blonde, yeah, him. He got home from his mission a few months before us and I think you’ve seen him on campus a couple of times, right? Or, you’re about to, I’m can’t remember which … anyway, guess what? … … … Yep. … I know, right? Who knew?! So, in about a year he is going to come out to his family and it’s going to be a HUGE deal and they are going to totally reject him and he is REALLY going to need a friend.
Go. Be. That. Friend.
Seriously. You might save his life.
Admin note: Chris gave me permission to publish this information about his motivation to write this ad
A little about me: I am married with children and I am an active leader in the church. I have no intention of changing my circumstance but I also understand that the church works (or doesn’t work) on many levels for different people. I recognize there are many good people and everyone gets to choose their own path – and their choices are the right ones for them. I hope others would give me the same benefit of the doubt.
I had a few goals in mind while writing this piece.
If you have a chance, would you send me a link to your repost?
Thanks for all you do.
Warmest personal regards,