Gay, Mormon, and living honestly. Letting go with grace.

By Bob Wood

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” ~ Buddha

 

I came into the church an openly gay man and left the church an openly gay man. The church couldn’t fix what wasn’t broken. I spent a lifetime running and fearing the truth, hoping for a miracle that wasn’t meant to be. But, when push came to shove, it was truth that saved me. “I am gay.” In my wildest dreams, I never imaged these are words coming from my mouth, let alone being confessed to my wife of sixteen years. But there it was—after 46 years I finally spoke my truth out loud. Doing so meant the world, as our family knew it, would never be the same. But the healing meant for us all had finally begun.

 

My homosexuality was cause of great shame and self-hatred all my life. I took a few steps out of the closet while in college and even had a boyfriend for a short while, only to step back in out of extreme fear and the inability to reconcile my religious beliefs. Around the same time in the late eighties I joined the LDS church and fell in love with the gospel and the idea the gay could be fixed.  I followed the council of church leaders and did everything I was told to fix the gay–prayer, service, scriptures, the temple, faith, and therapy (reparative). With 100% conviction, I believed I would be healed of this affliction.

 

I was advised to marry with the promise the gay would fade, so I did. The first five years of our marriage were exciting and full of hope which overshadowed my orientation somewhat. However as time went by, the gay didn’t fade, it actually grew and with each passing year, paralyzing fear replaced the hope—an agonizing experience.  By the tenth year of marriage, I recognized it was never going away and entered a dark and lonely existence. A couple months prior to finally coming out to my wife, I was unhealthy and extremely overweight. I internalized my misery rather than facing the truth or acting on it. I ate to subdue the pain and feelings of unworthiness because I could not change who I was.  My wife did not know the truth until the day I told her. She was left helpless in only knowing I was very sad. The one piece of council I regret following the most was never telling her I was gay. With that, I robbed her of her agency.

 

At sixteen years of marriage and on a hopeless night in September of 2011, I was suicidal.  Thoughts of ending my life had plagued me for years. The loneliness of my battle had taken its toll. Embracing my evil gay side in the slightest way was not an option.  Sadly I considered the Lord would accept me if I took my life, rather than embracing the gay.  That night with a bottle of pills in hand, I said a little prayer out of desperation and asked for help in finding a way out of my imprisonment.  At the same time I stumbled upon a national news article about an LDS Church leadership post for an openly gay Mormon.  “OPENLY GAY MORMON!!” Those three words changed my life in an instant. Never had I imagined an openly gay person in the Mormon faith—I had 100% isolated myself from the idea. My eyes were glued to the story and testimony of my friend Mitch Mayne. A man of courage, who loves the Savior, and with the support of his church leaders, serves in church leadership calling as his authentic self, a gay man.  His story and the spirit of hope prompted me to not pray for the gay to go away, but for the first time in my life, to ask to just be who I am…a gay man.  The answer was an unmistakably loving and firm YES! This was a very spiritual and beautiful experience I cannot deny. Instantly, I was released from the lie I had been living. The burden was gone. Suddenly the word Gay was not a bad word; it was beautiful and it was me.

 

With the burden gone, I lost 120 lbs within six months. The truth had set me free spiritually and physically. The strength that came to me was overpowering and along with it was the undeniable truth of who I am. Not broken or sick, but whole, just as my Father Heaven had created me to be.

 

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The start of an amazing journey that turned out differently than expected but still of great value

Telling my wife was excruciatingly painful for both of us. The moment the words passed from my mouth, I knew it meant the end of our beautiful marriage.  She is a strong woman and it was she who consoled and held me while I sobbed. Ours is a tender love story of two people in an impossible situation. We love each other incredibly, but are unable to love each other fully and yet care enough for one another to let go. Together we both recognized this is the Savior’s story, not ours. We trust Him and although we had to make extremely difficult decisions, in the end what was most important is treating each other and our children with gentle kindness. We also wanted to teach our children by example to not fear the truth, but to live their lives honestly, even if it is not popular. Shame should never dictate who they are or how they live their lives.  Nearly two years after my coming out our divorce is final.

 

I am encouraged by the LDS church’s efforts to no longer council LGBT members to marry. I am also encouraged with their new website, Mormons and Gays, where an Apostle of the Lord states being gay is not a choice. Unfortunately, this website and message of love and acceptance for LGBT brothers and sisters is relativity unknown and rarely taught in wards.  There is seldom a day that goes by that I don’t personally hear a form of hate, fear, and rejection from the mouth of a straight, faithful member of the church.

 

There is so much work to be done to educate and promote the Savior’s love for all. Hundreds of mixed orientation marriages exist, just like mine, where LGBT members were counseled to marry and now face difficult and lonely journeys. They face an uphill battle with a 90% marriage failure rate, often unable to reach out, not only in fear of losing their families, but fear of losing their community of faith, and worse, the bullying of their innocent children.  Horrifically, weekly suicides of LGBT children plague Utah, yet go relatively unnoticed by the general population. It is unbelievable but true that many LDS families often feel they need to choose between their gay child and the church, leading to a disproportionate amount of at-risk and homeless gay LDS youth. I am hopeful the LDS church and membership continue to become aware and access The Family Acceptance Project, which helps save lives by assisting LDS families and wards in keeping gay loved ones safe, without compromising religious beliefs.

 

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Four of the reasons I will never say that our marriage was a mistake

Because of the church and especially the gospel of Jesus Christ, my testimony and faith have substantially grown, for which I am extremely grateful. Was this journey of marriage a mistake? Absolutely not! We remain a strong family…worthy, eternal, and as valuable as any family in or out of the church.  My former wife and I remain genuinely the best of friends. We love each other and support one another in our personal lives and in the continued nurturing of our family.  Just like in the Buddha quote, we do our best to love gently and gracefully, letting go, even when painfully necessary. Would I recommend mixed orientation marriage to a young LGBT person? I would not. I’d encourage them to not make decisions based on homophobia and to live full authentic lives–honest and healthy, where the blessings of a family are equally possible even if they choose a same sex relationship.  Live the truth!

 

Whether we are aware or not, all of us know a LGBT person who struggles alone. If that person is in a mixed orientation marriage, don’t question, just love them…both of them. Extend loving and welcoming arms to all our LGBT brothers and sisters. Invite these beautiful people into your hearts and homes, just as our Savior would. Navigating this personal hell is lonely. Love us for who we are and the decisions we must make. We all have difficult journeys in life and everyone requires love, compassion, and relationships shared with friends and loved ones. For some, LGBT stories may be difficult. Tell us that. Help us help you in these times as well.

Bob, an Ohio native, was raised United Methodist and converted to the LDS church in 1988 while attending Ohio State. A residential designer and father of four, he now lives in suburban Salt Lake City where he enjoys cycling, tormenting his kids endlessly, and taking long naps.

18 comments for “Gay, Mormon, and living honestly. Letting go with grace.

  1. Wendy Montgomery
    September 4, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Thank you for sharing your story, Bob. You are a genuine and authentic man, and my dear friend. (And you make me laugh every time we hang out!) You are a great example of how the gospel can help and lift us; when we find our own truth and not try to live someone else’s version of our lives. My heart and all my love is with you, Daphne and your sweet kids.

    • Bob Wood
      September 4, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      Thanks Wendy.
      It’s pioneers like your family who inspire and help me along. YES, the gospel does help us! It certainly doesn’t ask anyone to live lies.
      Love ya sister. Looking forward to next week!

  2. D
    September 4, 2013 at 11:50 am

    So what’s next for you, Bob? Do you remain active LDS as a celebate, gay man?

  3. Kelly H
    September 4, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Bob! You’re one of my all time favorite people. Beautiful job on sharing your truth. Ours is a difficult journey and yet we’re making it! I love you and a Daphne both. Hugs

    • Bob Wood
      September 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      Kelly you are one of my favorites too. (((Huggz)))

  4. Sean Trueman
    September 4, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    :)

    Beautifully written & Beautifully lived.

    I love it!

    you are and will always remain my friend.

    -s-

    • Bob Wood
      September 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

      Love ya my friend!

  5. S. Strassburg
    September 5, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Love this article and I love the fact that so many are finally “getting it” in church and within our leadership. So many have left the church because of it’s rigid practices concerning GAY men and women…. so many still live within the confines of the LDS faith afraid to be their authentic self!!! So many like you Bob, have illness take them over because unhappiness & stress manifests itself in real physical ways. Thank You. I love all my GAY and LESBIEN friends in and outside of the church… I love the Lord. I take a stand every time this topic is brought to the for front! I am not too popular with folks when I do but I do not care… Keep writing and being your Authentic Self! God Bless You.

    • Bob
      September 10, 2013 at 7:11 am

      Your kind words are appreciated! It is awesome so many are “getting it” and setting aside fear to love unconditionally. Bless you back!

  6. Mitch
    September 5, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Well said, my friend. Living our journey honestly takes a lot of courage. Sharing it with others–well, that’s a whole new brand of courage. Congrats, and thank you. I bet you have no idea the number of people this will touch–and help.

    • bob
      September 10, 2013 at 7:08 am

      Thanks mister. Forever grateful for your courage.

  7. JR
    December 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    I really respect your courage. I totally understand the lifetime of self loathing. It wasn’t until a year ago when I discovered that my son is gay that I finally verbally acknowledged this reality about myself. I told my son that my love for him was NOT conditional, and that I TOTALLY understood, because I had fought this my entire life -but had never actually acted on it. I told him that I had felt like a piece of sh”t enough in my life for the both of us & that I wasn’t going to make him feel that way. He was the first person I had ever told, although many had suspected so about me throughout my life. Just this week (after well over 30 years of marriage & 7 children) I finally made the gut wrenching decision to come out to my wife and tell her about my same gender preference. I started out by talking about our gay son and telling her about the mormons&gays website. I then told her everything I had told our son, and that I now knew that I am not broken and I don’t need fixed. I told her that I was not going to be ashamed anymore. I said a lot.
    Long story short – she said she had always known this about me, and that she didn’t care – that she loves me just the way I am. Not sure how our story is going to unfold, but the inner healing has become. I would love to share more details of my story with you and others.

  8. JR
    December 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Really respect your courage. Just came out to my wife after well over thirty years of marriage. Would love to share my story with you and others who are walking this path.

    • Bob Wood
      December 21, 2013 at 8:12 am

      Thank you JR and congratulations on your courage.
      Are you on facebook? Search for me by name and message me there. You may use my email me to search also. Hmdsgnr@hotmail.com or simply email me. Would love to hear your story.

  9. Mike
    August 22, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Bob thank you for sharing your story. I wish I had an hour to talk to you. I can appreciate your struggle and can relate so much. I am encouraged that you see the light at the end of the tunnel. I hope some day we can talk?

  10. Ron Raynes
    August 22, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Bob, thank you for sharing your truth and experience. I hope you are enjoying much happiness in your new life as an affirming gay man. If you are coming to the 2014 Affirmation Conference, I would love to meet you there and talk more about our similar stories. I am an affirming gay man who has decided to stay in my marriage with my affirming wife! We are helping to form a new Affirmation Affinity group for mixed orientation couples who want to stay married. I’ll be speaking in one of the Saturday morning workshops.

    • bob
      August 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Thank you. I’m glad things are working out for you. Yeah I’ll be at Affirmation, but only briefly. Otherwise feel free to email or Facebook me. Hmdsgnr@Hotmail.com.

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