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This is our story in the format of a talk for a general LDS setting on homosexuality/repentance.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am here to tell you a tragic story that nevertheless ends happily. Very happily. Of course I’d rather the tragic events had not occurred. But a reality of this earth life experience is that difficulties do and will occur. Those difficulties range far and wide and ultimately include the mortal death of loved ones and ourselves, which we usually do not think of as a pleasant event. So, it’s fair to say that none of us will escape some difficulty in this life.
Before this tragic event happened which I’m about to tell you about, my wife and I, and our children, were pretty convinced that we were good people and that bad things did not happen to good people. So you might say we thought all was well in Zion, that our lives had gone and would continue to go somewhat smoothly, with only minor glitches, and this was because we were keeping the commandments and doing everything the prophet said to do.
After this tragic event, my wife and I, and our children, began to learn something. We learned to humbly submit to the reality that we are not immune to difficulties, sins, and shortcomings. And that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can be saved from our fallen state. We learned to turn back to God, get feelings of good self worth only from Heavenly Father, and rely on our Lord Jesus Christ as never before. Not as a friend, not as an elder brother, not as a human relations teacher, not as a philosopher, not as a mere comforter, but as our glorious Redeemer who offers to save our immortal souls. In doing this we began to grow spiritually as we had not done in the past.
I wish to testify – at the beginning and at the end of this talk - that in truly accepting the need for a divine Savior we embark on the path to the kind of eternity Heavenly Father wishes for us, developing godly attributes that will fit us for a God’s life. Isn’t it a divine paradox that when we surrender our sins and will to Heavenly Father, and humbly and gratefully and steadfastly rely on Christ, we begin to be like him? And we know what he is like: totally unselfish, longsuffering, patient, full of truth and long-term benevolence toward all men. The pure love of Christ is a tough-love, transcending all mortal limitations. He does not tolerate sin, and yet opens his arms to receive us if we will but turn back to him.
With that said, here is the story of our son and what we learned together. I’ll call him “Daniel.”
Daniel was an unusually bright, social child with many natural talents. Unfortunately, his enthusiastic personality, awareness and appreciation for good and beautiful things such as art and music were not appreciated by his peers, especially his same gender. He experienced quite a bit of teasing, name-calling, and rejection from the other boys. He began to think he wasn’t a normal boy, that something was wrong with him. Ashamed, he kept most of these feelings to himself. And they grew in intensity.
In 1995 the world wide web became accessible to ordinary people – anyone who had a computer. We were some of those ordinary people. Our son Daniel was 15 years old at the time. He was an especially curious teenager and, because of the peer rejection he had experienced, wanted badly to figure things out that had been bothering him. He found himself faced with the intensely painful question: Do I have what it takes to be a real man? Sadly, he went to the wrong place for answers: the brand new internet. As his parents, at that point we had no idea of the danger. He began by looking at muscle men, curious about his male body, wishing to feel like he belonged. Soon he was offered links to written pornography about sex and sexuality, and then pictures. He knew it would be wrong to look at female pornography, but since he was a male he rationalized that it was not so bad to look at and read about other guys. The sexual context of the material was interesting and exciting. He became obsessed. He began to wonder if he might be gay.
Bear in mind that in all other areas of life, Daniel was a sterling example. He was active in church, paid his tithing, was a good worker and an excellent student. He was drum major of the high school marching band, on the student council, an eagle scout, and had major crushes on girls. But he was living a double life. Every time he indulged in pornography, he felt terrible and promised that was the last time. He was sure it wasn’t a serious problem. It didn’t occur to him to ask for help.
He was a junior in high school when he got caught. Worried about his mood swings, his mother happened to read of his pornography exploits in his journal. It was the worst day of Daniel’s life. He was so ashamed. And so confused.
Daniel went to the bishop. He repented as best he knew how. His mother and I, shocked at his uncharacteristic and unexplainable behavior, took him to a psychiatrist. This was emotionally devastating to Daniel. He didn't want to go back and assured us he could kick this problem by himself. Daniel wanted to serve a mission. He had wanted to serve a mission since he was a small boy. He had a year to straighten up.
Daniel went several months without returning to pornography. He got his ecclesiastical endorsement to attend BYU. Once in college, Daniel was determined to stay away from pornography. He tried very hard. But will power was not enough. Every time something difficult or stressful happened he slipped back into viewing same gender pornography. It seemed to explain why the girl he adored who was attending another college was suddenly engaged to another guy. It seemed to explain why he didn’t feel as if he belonged to the macho male demographic. It seemed to explain his sexual confusion. It distracted him from his pain. Still, intellectually he knew that there was something very wrong about what he was involved with. It was a deep, dark, dirty secret.
It wasn’t long before he discovered gay chat rooms. He “got on” these, sure he could set these people straight. Instead, he was the one who was influenced. He communicated with older men, returned missionaries, even those who were married in the temple, who proceeded to convince him he could act out sexually with other males in secret – and still serve a faithful mission when the time came. On three separate occasions, months apart, he met with three different older men whom he allowed to abuse his body to a degree. Each time he felt terribly guilty and confused, vowing he would never do it. again.
In the meantime, the time for applying for mission service had come. Because a few months had passed since his last transgression, he became confident that he had left his dark past behind. He went through all the motions toward serving a mission, relieved that his bishop and stake president asked just the right questions so he wouldn’t have to confess his problems and sins. He received his mission call with all the usual ceremony and excitement.
A month passed. My wife expressed some misgivings to me about Daniel. She wasn’t sure he was ready to go on a mission. She proved to be right. On April 6, 2000, after attending the Palmyra Temple dedication in the stake center, a month before Daniel was to enter the holy temple and make sacred covenants with the Lord, and two months before he was to leave on his mission, he confessed his transgressions and misery to us. This was shocking and painful, but essential for Daniel’s future emotional, physical, and spiritual well being. On retrospect, I have to admit this was a brave thing to do – to tell the truth when you know the consequences will be severe.
And they were. Daniel’s mission was postponed and eventually cancelled to his own and our whole family’s embarrassment and disgrace. He willingly endured church discipline. In addition, realizing he could not break his addiction and correct his wrong thinking on his own, he sought professional help through LDS Family Services. This counseling turned out to be brilliant. He learned that the peer abuse he had experienced as a child and adolescent was cruel and wrong. He learned he had everything it takes to be a man. He learned that adolescent boys can be sexually stimulated by practically anything, even nothing. He learned that attitudes toward sex are learned and he had learned harmful things at a time in his life when he was most vulnerable. He learned that pornography objectifies and oversexualizes people we have no right to sexualize. Like a faucett turned on in the middle of an unploughed field, water had flowed in the wrong direction and made a trench in which the water had kept flowing. All he needed was to dig a new trench in the right direction for the water to begin to flow. In a matter of months his wrong ideas about sex and sexuality came clear and began to be corrected.
Along with clinical reparative therapy, Daniel turned to his spiritual roots and utilized the gift of repentance. He prayed about his infinite spiritual worth and felt the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. He gave up his sinful thoughts and tendencies to the Lord , grateful for his infinite Atonement.
This was a difficult process, but Daniel was very desirous to repent and root out his bad thoughts and behaviors. He was very eager to at last become the person people had always thought he was. He followed his counselor’s advice and became accountable to us, his parents, for his every thought and action. He reported to us every day and together we sorted out any temptations and feelings he experienced. We had many, many discussions and said a special family prayer, just us three, every night during those months. He make big Xs on a calendar every day he didn’t abuse the internet. Month after month was filled with Xs. From the day he confessed, he never sought out pornography, chat rooms, or any other homosexual involvement again.
Because of his repentant attitude and orthodox stance toward God’s laws and the Church, Daniel was allowed to continue attending BYU. He watched his cousins and friends leave on their missions. He hoped to be able to serve, but was eventually told in no uncertain terms that his opportunity had passed. He got his recommend and joyously entered the temple and received his endowment.
In the years that followed he was told many times that his mission would not be reinstated. He assumed this was because of the grievous nature of his sins, and humbly submitted to this devastating disappointment, even thought he felt he was changed, healed, clean and forgiven through truth and through the Atonement of the Savior. We noticed that he became his old happy self, whistling when he walked in the house when he came home from school to visit and enjoying a healthy social, church, and school life. He graduated from BYU. Finally, six years after his confession and repentance, Daniel was given the opportunity to serve a mission and enjoyed it very much. .
It is my testimony, for I have seen the evidence with my own eyes, that the gospel of Jesus Christ embodies all that is good and true and correct. Some of these truths are that wrong feelings and actions begin with wrong thoughts, that the Spirit of the Lord does not tolerate sin, that Christ holds his arms out to us all, and that we have been given personal agency to choose and change our thoughts, feelings, and actions. People can change if they so desire. Our entire family changed because of the fall and redemption of Daniel. The same principles he internalized applied to us all. Each of us learned how to humble ourselves, confess our sins, and come unto Christ and remain steadfast in him with a perfect brightness of hope for eternal life.
One of Daniel’s favorite quotes is from a favorite book of his, “The time has come, Harry, to choose between what is easy and what is right.” It’s easy to give in to the natural man. It’s easy to fall into bad ideas, habits, and addictions of the flesh. It’s easy to follow the way of the world. What isn’t easy, because of our prideful human natures, is admitting our faults and turning back to the Lord. Daniel ultimately chose what was right. Repentance is right. The Lord invites us to become pure, inside and out, to become new, obedient, humble, grateful creatures, more like him. This process, whether our sins are small or large, can continue until the day our mortal life ends. Whatever degree of understanding of these spiritual things we attain in this life will go with us into the next and prepare us to for the kind of eternal life our Father wishes to give us, made possible only through Christ. This is my testimony.
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