(Admin note: The church no longer suggests heterosexual marriage as a cure for homosexuality, but it is still being held up in the Mormon community as the ideal endeavor for people with ‘SSA’. The church’s website mormonsandgays.org even highlights one of these high-profile marriages. Meanwhile, there is still zero acknowledgment of the bad outcomes of so many of these marriages. Realistic guidelines need to be developed to help young people recognize what factors might make such marriages more likely to fail or succeed in order to help young people navigate these decisions, given that a high percentage of these marriages fail and cause substantial pain to both partners and their children.)
I generally resist articles where people use themselves as the subject for a paper about an unrelated subject, but if you will please excuse me, I’m going to refer to incidents from my own life because they happen to fit the context of a very seldom discussed topic that I happen to feel is an unaddressed silent tragedy for many LGBTQ Mormons and their family members.
Finding statistics for this article has been impossible because none have been kept. I tried to use the various editions of the Handbooks given to church leaders through the years, but even there, interpretation has changed with each leader’s personal interpretation of the instructions.
Then there has also been years I have found where the same advice has been given simply on an ad-hoc basis by leaders who felt that this was the correct course of action, and I have also found that way the instructions were presented also varied by each leader’s personal style, so I apologize for a lack of strict references in my article.
I am speaking, of course, of the church’s policy and practice of instructing its LGTBQ members to seek temple marriage and keeping marital covenants as a cure for homosexuality, and the many young men and women whose lives have been devastated by following their faith and marrying in the temple. Of course, I also am speaking of the children of these marriages who have suffered psychologically when either or both parent “came out.” Usually, these marriages end in divorce, inflicting its own damage on husband, wife and other family relationships. Through extraordinary means a very few rare couples have found ways to stay married, but those I know who have stayed married universally do not recommend marriage as a way for dealing with homosexuality.
I am a 41 year old man whose marriage ended in a very terrible divorce six years ago. I did all I could to stay married for 12 years. My journey started by never once breaking the law of chastity before my mission overseas. I also, like many, thought that if I was the best missionary ever, The Lord would fix me. I was never promised this, but I based my thinking on the church teaching that The Lord would bless his most faithful servants and there was nothing He couldn’t do. I have learned that this “pray the gay away” thinking is very common in gay Mormons.
The first time I told a priesthood leader I had gay feelings was after many, many temple visits after I had found a wonderful girl I thought I could learn to love and was very good friends with. I was very worried about hurting her, so although I had never sinned, I told my Stake President during my marriage interview. He told me that he had received, through personal revelation, the knowledge that temple marriage and a life of worthiness would remove those feelings from me and I could have a happy life. I wrote this in my journal, so I believe that I am relaying it to you as close to word for word as possible. I took a leap of faith and got married.
Sadly and happily, my wife was unable to have children, so I did not have children damaged during our divorce. In fact, our marriage ended over an unrelated matter and she still doesn’t know I’m gay. We certainly tried to have children, but even that was an ordeal for me. I was able to fake the motions, but later in the night, I would run the water in the sink and vomit, thinking myself the lowest of hypocrites.
At the end of my marriage I was diagnosed with two terrible chronic illnesses which have pretty much destroyed my health and have made me believe I will never know what a real, loving relationship is like before the end of my life. I now have to live in a very small, almost totally Mormon town in central Utah due to health reasons. And I can definitely tell you that my life would be in danger if I came out. I told my parents a few months ago, which they said destroyed them and it definitely has destroyed our relationship.
The church’s new attitude towards gays has not taken hold here, so I live in fear, like I did like when I lived here growing up when just the rumor that I was gay caused me to be assaulted and raped (without legal consequences) more than once. I only reveal this to you so that you will know that there is still much work to be done.
My health has made escape impossible for me, but there are many others also in need. I am speaking of the destroyed families that this policy has produced. Single mothers, fathers who can’t visit their children, children who feel betrayed by their gay parent, women who spent years not being loved as they should, men and women who never could know the love they needed, and extended family members who feel hurt and betrayed.
I am not saying that this was a church doctrine because I can’t prove it was, but it was definitely a church practice and policy when there was no scientific or other evidence that this would change anyone’s sexual feelings and it seems to me that there should be some culpability for fostering it. I am very relieved that the church no longer practices this policy.
I read and hear very much about teens and young college students coming out and can find many resources for them as they navigate this difficult journey, but I can’t find resources for someone my age just coming out or help for those who chose to follow faith and now are trying to put their crumbling worlds back together as they navigate divorce, spouses, and children’s problems. Finally, I have found nothing to help the few of us stuck in the small towns of this state. I felt it was time to shine a light on what I feel is a silent crises which is unique to our faith and goes without aid or help.
I’ll share one specific example. Not long ago, after a very bad argument with my parents where all the old stereotypes and worse were used, and I was forbidden to talk to my brothers and their children or find myself living on the street, I was feeling suicidal. I called six gay suicide hotlines, but because of my age, where I lived, or some other criteria, I was turned away. I explained that I felt suicidal and yet not one had another number to refer me to. And I asked for other numbers.
I know I’m not the only one going through this and I wonder what they do because for me it’s a several hundred mile drive to find a support group in Salt Lake City. I wonder what their wives and children do. I do drive once a month to see a psychiatrist, but that’s all my insurance will cover and I can afford to drive. I just know there is a population in need who may not be being helped. Thank you to all who were willing to read this and consider my words. I am very happy for those being helped and think many need to be recognized for the efforts that have been made. God Bless each one of you in your journeys.
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