My Help With Same Sex
by Ian Reese*
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As far as I can remember, I have been sexually attracted to males. I was sexually involved with boys up until I graduated from high school in 1956. My only brother was 10 years older than I. He served in the Army at the end of WWII, went on a mission, and then got married. One day I was going through things stored in our spare room where we both had developed and printed pictures, and I found an envelope of nude pictures of both men and women that I assume he brought back from the service with him. These pictures were the beginning of my SSA and contributed to a later dependency on pornographic publications. These pictures are clearly in my mind today, 50 years later. Masturbation was a problem up until I was preparing for my mission at age 19. At age 20, I was called on a mission. As I was interviewed by a General Authority, I was asked? "Have you ever had sexual intercourse with a girl?" No. "Have you ever masturbated?" Yes. "Have you quit?" Yes. (At the time, that was the truth.) Since I wasn't asked anything more explicit, I didn't volunteer any information. While growing up, I was taught emphatically that sex with a girl before marriage is a terrible sin, but nothing was ever said about having sex with a male. I didn't realize that sex with a male was equally wrong. I had no knowledge of homosexuality or same-sex attraction. I only knew that I had strong sexual feelings for males.
I went on a mission, and with only two companions did I feel the slightest problems with SSA. I made it through the two years without masturbating. I gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the love which our Father in Heaven has for us and the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His love for us and for me in particular.
After my mission, I came home, enrolled in college, and continued to date my girlfriend who had waited for me during my mission. We were married in the temple nine months after I returned home. We graduated from college, and I went on for a higher degree. We moved around the country. I thought the missionary experience would cure me from my SSA feelings, but it didn't. Most of the time my SSA attractions were under control, but they were still there. After our marriage and as our children began to come, I often felt the desires for same-sex relationships. I resorted to fantasies of past experiences and pornography. During this time, I was active in the Church and served as a counselor in a district presidency, counselor in branch presidency, branch president, high counselor, counselor in a bishopric, ward clerk, and stake clerk.
During these years of experience with church leaders, I participated in many Church disciplinary councils. Because of my SSA struggles, I felt like I was on trial, and I knew that I would be if I were to give in to my SSA temptations. I wanted to discuss my situation with my priesthood leaders but was just too scared to do so. Also, I wasn't really sure that I could trust any of them with the true information about me. I didn't realize then that the same-sex feelings would not diminish and healing begin until after I had gone through the process of repentance. In October 1998, my wife ended up in the hospital with some serious health problems. This caused some serious soul searching on my part. I was concerned that if anything happened to her, I might not be able to control my SSA feelings. I did not want this to happen, as I wanted to be true and faithful and have my wife to be my eternal companion.
I was called as the executive secretary to the bishop in my ward in December 1997. After working with him for over a year, I felt he was a priesthood leader I could really trust to help me. One evening a week or so before Christmas, after he had finished his tithing settlement appointments for the evening, we were alone in the office. I told him "I don't know who is the more depressed, my wife or myself." He said , "Probably you are." I said, "I need to talk to you. Do you have time now?" "Yes," he replied. So with a great deal of anguish, I told him he would probably hate me after I told him what was bothering me. He said that I couldn't tell him anything that would make him feel that way about me. I then shared with him the burden which I had carried so long, that I was sexually attracted to men, a secret which had held me captive for over 60 years. I told him that I wasn't sure that I wanted to go on living and had been thinking a lot about how to take my life. My same-sex attraction, addiction to pornography, and problem with masturbation, while I was trying to maintain a normal married life, were more than I could handle.
My bishop was very understanding and told me that he had worked with both gay men and lesbian women during his career and had admiration for them. He had no bad feelings toward them or anyone else, as long as they did not try to force their way of life upon him. He told me to get rid of my pornographic collection and quit masturbating. He told me that, since I had been faithful in holding to the Iron Rod during my marriage, I couldn't afford to let go of it now. I knew, of course, that he was right. He told me that he was not capable of giving me the help I needed and that professional counseling would be needed and referred me to the LDS Social (now Family) Services. I asked him for a priesthood blessing, and he gave me one. He asked why I wanted a blessing, so I responded that I wanted to be blessed so that I wouldn't be tempted greater than I could handle and that I would be able to understand the affliction which held me captive. He blessed me in this way. Afterwards, I asked him if I could give him a hug. He hesitated, then let me throw my arms around him, and then he did the same to me. I left his office feeling a 1000 pounds lighter. As I was leaving he said, "Oh, do you know what I thought you wanted to speak to me about? I thought you were going to ask to be released as executive secretary."
Over the holidays I had a very rough time. My wife was trying to adjust to medications that would allow her to sleep and at the same time be able to function normally. I was very depressed. The kids and grandkids came home for Christmas. When I told my wife that I needed to see the doctor and that I needed medication for depression, she asked, "Why can't I ever get sick without you having to get sick also?" The day after Christmas, some of my children and I were at a store in town, where we ran into my bishop and his son. We talked briefly and then he left. The next Sunday I was still troubled, since I had only told the bishop about my experiences since my marriage. I told him during Sunday School that I needed to see him again soon, because I hadn't quite told him everything. He took me into his office right then. I told him of my "same-sex attraction" activities from the time I was about 10 to 20, which I had never before confessed to a priesthood leader. He told me that after seeing me the day after Christmas with my wife and some of my children, he thought what a tragedy it would have been had I chosen a gay life style, and not brought those beautiful children into the world. What a tragedy if I were to take my own life and what a terrible impact that would have upon my wife and children.
Later I was very uncomfortable in our bishopric meetings, especially when he asked me to pray. I looked at him and asked with my eyes, "Are you serious?" He nodded, "Yes." I prayed kneeling with these men whom I loved and admired. I felt so unworthy being in their presence petitioning our Father for His blessings in the name of His Son. At one of our Sacrament Meetings shortly after my confession, the bishop called upon me to give the invocation. I didn't want to, but obediently did what he asked. Not long after that, the bishopric decided to speak in Sacrament Meeting. Normally it was the bishop and his counselors, but this time he included both the ward clerk and me. I did everything I could to get out of speaking and told him, "Bishop I am not ready." He assigned me the topic of "Being a Disciple of Christ." When we were alone, I said "Bishop, I am not ready to do this yet. Why are you making me do it?" He replied, "It is part of the healing process, Brother Reese. If you want to be healed, then do it." He wanted me to be regular in scripture study, personal and family prayers, family home evenings, etc. I have learned that the key is: If you really want to be healed, you have to follow the prescription of the spiritual doctor. I also learned that it doesn't do any good to ask a priesthood leader for spiritual guidance unless you are prepared and willing to do whatever he suggests.
Correspondence with the bishop
The following consists of my correspondence with the bishop. For some reason at this stage in my healing process, it seemed easier for me to correspond by e-mail rather than in person. [The Bishop gave me permission to use his messages provided I did not include his name. I have respected his wishes.] He was very kind, patient, etc. In our messages back and forth, he became stricter and more forceful than he had been in person. I guess since I was able to say things to him through e-mail which I probably would not have been able to say in person, he was able to respond the same way. He said that he felt he had never been as inspired in dealing with the members of his ward as he had with me, and that he often surprised himself by the responses which he gave to me. He was and is a great friend, a great bishop. He helped me come to terms with my problems and to be able to stand on my own two feet again. After confessing, I experienced deep depression, feelings of unworthiness, lack of self-esteem, etc.
This is our dialogue.
24 December 1998
Bishop, I just wanted to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Your old, bald, sick sec.
24 December 1998
Ian: Same to you and yours. You're getting old, getting fat, turning gray, and losing your hair.
30 December, 1998
Bishop: I saw the doctor yesterday, and he felt it was time for me to go on medication for my depression. I took my first Paxil pill today. He thought that I would feel a bit better in 3 to 7 days. I sure hope so. I am so tired of feeling depressed.
Dear Bishop: I am writing, I guess, to save my sanity, or what's left of it any way. I would like so much to be able to visit with you in person again, but I feel so guilty taking your time when I know you have so many others to see who need your time. I wanted to visit with you yesterday as you were standing in the doorway of your office and looked up briefly as I passed by. Our eyes met, and you seemed to say, "How are you doing? What can I do to help you? Please come in." Oh, how that is what I wanted to hear. Your voice said nothing, so I kept on going down the hall feeling unworthy and rejected. Why should I take your valuable time? You have better things to do than waste it on someone like me. I don't deserve a listening ear. I don't deserve a friend. I don't deserve someone to help me sort out my feelings and help me find a reason or reasons to go on living. Now, I think of death constantly. Even though I am on medication for depression, it hasn't removed my preoccupation with the subject. If I weren't such a coward, I'd probably be buried in the ground by now. What is the least painful way to take one's own life? I wish that I had a Dr. Kervorkian for a friend. I asked you once if you knew if we had a doctor like him in town, but you didn't answer me. Why? Doesn't this matter to you?
I have great respect for you and feel so guilty for sharing my troubles with you. I am becoming emotionally dependent on you and your counsel. I know that this is not good, but it is the only way I can survive at the moment. I know that you have your own set of baggage to deal with, and mine is not going to make your life any easier but will only compound your situation and that of your dear family.
Family! Why did I ever get married? Why did I father children? If I had only known what I was getting into, I might have done differently. Kids bring you your greatest joys and greatest sorrows. Right now we seem to have more sorrow than joy. Maybe if I could have visited more with you on Tuesday evening, I would feel differently now. I wanted to talk more, but you were in such a hurry to get out of your office and get your car started that I could barely bring myself to tell you what was bothering me. All the time I was sitting outside of your office, I was praying for strength to ask for help. I figured that I would leave it up to a higher power and if you asked to talk to me, I would talk, and if you didn't, I would let it end there. I feel that I am not really deserving of your friendship, of taking your time to have you listen to me. I have probably made you feel disgusted at listening to and being around me. I feel that I don't even belong in your presence. I know that I told you I wouldn't quit my job as your Ex. Sec., but if you want to release me, it is OK with me.
Did you go to the Stake Priesthood Meeting last night? I didn't see you, but since your son was singing in the chorus, I felt that you must be there. The stake president's talk on "True Friends and the Quorum," must have been written with me in mind. The message really hit me hard. You see, I have never had a close male friend since high school and early college. When I stopped acting out my same sex feelings, I broke off having male friends for fear that I would fall back into my earlier behavior patterns of having or wanting to have sex with them, which thing I did not want to do. How I longed for someone who could be my friend, someone I could talk to and confide in, without my having to worry that my relationship would develop into anything other than a true friendship. Every one needs friends. I guess that I have not been a very good friend to myself, therefore could not be a friend to anyone else. I thought for a while that you would be able to fill that need for me, but I guess that I was wrong.
I wish that I could send you this letter, but I know that you have problems of your own, and I don't want to compound them in any way. It would be better if I were just removed from the picture. You know that I want to serve you and my Father in Heaven and my fellow men. I want to be forgiven and to be loved unconditionally in return. My heart aches. I don't know how much longer I can endure. I have stayed faithfully in the saddle since I confessed to you and have not masturbated or viewed pornography. That part of the struggle gets easier every day. If I could just get rid of the images in my head, as I did my paper collection of pornographic materials, I would feel much better.
I wish that I could give you this letter, but I am afraid to send it through email as I don't know what might happen to it. I don't want to get you into trouble. Also I am afraid to have it on paper. I am praying that you will feel the need to come and rescue me. I love you and again want to repeat that I am glad that you are where you are and appreciate what you have done for me already. It is more than I deserve. I know I have a negative voice which tells me I am unworthy, I am disgusting, I have done things which no son of God should do, and I so want to be forgiven and move on with my life. I would like to have the thoughts of the past removed so that I can remember them no more. Such is my constant prayer.
I hope that I can endure to the end. The end of what I am not sure. The end of the hour, day, week, month, year. Who knows? I just hope that I can endure. May God bless. I needed this visit for my own sanity. In case anything happens to me, I hope that you are able to receive this so you will understand more fully where I am and where I've been.
The old, trying to repent , bald-headed, sick Ex. Sec.
I did not send the letter to my Bishop. That evening as I was preparing to go to bed, I was so depressed I lay on my bed and cried and prayed, "Father, help me, please help me!" This went on for the better part of an hour. Then the most peaceful and wonderful feeling came over me and I felt "Ian, you will be alright. Everything will be OK. Have patience and trust Me. I love you and will watch over you and protect you." What comfort I now felt. I felt that I could go on.
The next day, I sent the following letter to the Bishop thru e-mail:
9 Feb 1999, 8:06 a.m.
Dear Bishop: In preparation for our appointment tonight, here are some of my concerns that I want to discuss with you:
1. Standing before you spiritually naked is more embarrassing for me than standing before you physically naked. I have never been so totally exposed to anyone before, all my warts, boils, sore spots, etc. showing up brightly. I had no idea that this would be so painful for me to live with. I am doing much better sometimes, but sometimes I feel like I want to go hide.
2. Taking Paxil is causing some physical and emotional problems. I don't know what I should do. Maybe I should stop taking the medication.
3. I often feel like a total failure as a parent. I often question whether having children eternally would really be heaven? Compared to what I am experiencing here in mortality, I think it would be more like hell. I'm not sure I am even capable of desiring to have children forever. Do you understand what I am saying and what I am feeling?
4. They say, life is great if you don't weaken, but who wants to be strong? No, what I really mean is "How can I be strong?" I have been saying my prayers regularly, reading the scriptures daily, having family home evening better than in times past and it seems that the more I try to do what is right, the more difficult my family situation becomes. You know I have tried to get right with the Lord and I am doing the best that I can. I have faith He will give me strength to make it through, but every time I stand up, I get knocked down by something else. Adversity makes us strong I guess, but how strong do I have to be? (Some things to think about, and maybe we can discuss this evening, OK?)
9 Feb. 1999, 8:30 a.m.
To Ian: I understand exactly and empathize greatly. But there comes a time in each of our lives, and I'm talking to myself as well, where "the bases are loaded, there are two outs, and the count is 3 balls 2 strikes, your team is behind, you're not a superstar, and the best pitcher on Earth is on the mound; and -- did I mention? -- it's the World Series." You have a choice: succumb to the pressure, most of which is self-imposed fear, and strike out; or step up to the plate, stare Satan in the eyes, and hit the first strike he throws you, and if it goes foul, continue to stare him down, and keep hitting every strike he throws you. And, unlike in baseball, we have been given a promise... when we've done our best, Heavenly Father will be there and swing with us. This is something you must face, nobody can be in the batter's box with you, and nobody can take your turn at bat. There's no way to sugar coat this... you either choose to do your best to get to the Celestial Kingdom, or you give up and Satan wins. It is that simple, and that harsh. The same applies to your children. They each have to step into the batter's box and take their own swings, make their own choices, and be accountable for what they choose. You are not responsible for their swings, period!
Now, step in the box and finish the game with an eye only to winning.
Your friend and bishop
9 Feb 1999, 9:08 a.m.
To: My friend and bishop: Thank you for your quick response. I hadn't expected you to do answer immediately, but I really appreciate you for having responded so quickly. That was a very good analogy. You must have used it before. You are talking to a guy who has failed at every sport he ever tried. This is one area where I failed my sons. My father, because of his age, physical conditions, and perhaps other reasons, was not interested in sports, so I didn't grow up to be, either. Maybe if I had learned how to play sports, I would also be better at playing and coping with the problems of life. I know that it is just an analogy. I know you are right. But "if to do were as easy as to know, what would be good to do?" My patriarchal blessing tells me that I would live to see "perilous times." (I think that I am in them right now.) "But through my faith and humility, I would be able to stand in holy places and that I would inherit the Celestial Kingdom to be and abide with my loved ones." I must make this promised blessing come to pass, Bishop. I WILL. I know I can do it, with your help! Thanks again for being there when I need you.
Your friend, Ian
9 Feb 1999, 1:07 p.m.
To Ian: I never used this analogy before; it just came to me as I was writing you... And you are 100% correct: the analogy has nothing to do with sports and whether you are an athlete or not. And there are no buts. We either do it or don't do it. Period! We can't hang our hats on words. A P-blessing is a road map if we live the Gospel, which means we do it. Sorry for the bluntness. It's intended to mean time is short. I know for me that the more time I spend thinking about things, the less time I spend doing, and then I start self-destructing. I think if I were standing in front of Heavenly Father right now, he's say, "Cook, or get out of the kitchen!" [That's not the phrase I learned, but it is more appropriate for a Bishop to say.] I think he'd say the same to you. See you tonight.
I was outside of the Bishop's office at 6:45, and waited while he had his scheduled appointments. I was scheduled for 8:00 p.m., but a couple of people showed up without an appointment, and since I was last on the list, I sat there and sat there, but the longer I sat there, the more I felt that I was unable to face up to meeting with him. I felt that I had been chastised all I could handle for one day, and so without telling him, I just got up and went home. I felt that I had been reproved with sharpness without having an increase of love. I didn't think I could handle visiting him without the feeling that he cared for me as a person. I felt very vulnerable and very fragile. I once took an aptitude test to determine whether reasoning or emotions were more dominant. Men usually lean more to the reasoning side while women are more likely to be emotional. The results of my test were 49% for one and 51 % for the other. I can't remember which one was greater, but I have a difficult time controlling my emotions.
Feb 10, 1999
The bishop e-mailed me:
Where were you last night? When I came out of my office, you weren't there, and I looked all over the building for you. We had an appointment, and I thought that we were going to talk.
I got back to him that I was so depressed that I couldn't handle it and I had gone back to my cave and gone to bed. I was sorry. I really had wanted to talk with him and could I do so later on? (Was I a coward, or what?) I didn't keep any of our emails for a while.
My bishop and his wife went to the temple, and he told me the following Sunday that he had put my name, my wife's name, and the names of our children in the temple. Things continued to get better for both me and my family .
24 Feb 1999, 6:47 p.m. -- Subject: Life
Dear Bishop: It seemed as if everyone who spoke in any of the Church meetings Sunday were speaking directly to me. When I read the Church News last week, many of the articles were hitting me between the eyes. After our ward's baptism Sunday, we went into the chapel to attend President Hinckley's fireside. The Spirit told me to sit by you, which I had not planned to do. I'm sure that your wife would have preferred to have you alone. I did feel a little out of place, but as I sat there and you were by your sweetheart and your counselors were sitting by their sweethearts and I was sitting there without mine, the Spirit said to me, "Is this what you really want, to go through the rest of eternity alone?" No, no, no! Of course not. I want to be with my sweetheart, also. I was very lonely during that satellite broadcast for a little over an hour. I do not want to experience what it would be like to be without her for eternity. Elder Richard L. Evans said something like "If you don't change directions, you will get to where you are going." Boy, was I ever headed in the wrong direction, and without your help in changing my life around, I surely would have ended up where I definitely did not want to be. Thank you for helping me get my head screwed on straight and thank goodness for the medication, which has helped stabilize my emotions. Take care and God bless.
During this time, the Bishop informed those of us that worked closely with him that he was making a career change and would be leaving his job. He was taking a new job and would be moving out of state. His last day of work would be March 31, and then would move as soon as they could sell their home.
I was very disappointed that he was leaving and worried about who the new Bishop would be and whether I would have a good working relationship with him.
To Bishop: Some bishops do a much better job than other bishops. You are truly a bishop's bishop and a great example to all of us. The Lord does bless and qualifies those whom he calls and miracles are worked not only in the lives of the bishops, but in the lives of the members with whom they work. I appreciate all of your counsel and I am trying to wean myself away from you. I feel sometimes that I am becoming emotionally dependent upon you and I have got to change that. This is why it is so hard for me to even think of your leaving right now.
2 March 1999
To Ian: Thank you. Losing the mantle is something I do not look forward to. Hopefully, I will be disciplined enough to maintain what I have gained a testimony of. I think you have great potential and you will achieve your righteous desires, because you can beat what is tempting you.
To Bishop: The past few days have been very discouraging, and I have been contemplating suicide again. I prayed, "Father, if you want me to stay on this earth, I need help, and I need it now."
2 Mar 1999, 3:45 p.m.
Bishop: While surfing on the web under "Latter-day Saints" I found the listing of Evergreen International, which is a site for LDS members struggling with homosexual issues. They have lots of articles, pamphlets, books for sale, etc. What little I have seen of it, the information looks very good and I plan to make use of this site and the information it contains. I wish that I had stumbled on it sooner. I also found a discussion list called Disciples2 where others with
problems like mine can communicate. I called Evergreen's number many times one day and only got their answering machine. I was afraid to leave a message. Finally the second day, I left a message and that afternoon I got a call back from David. We must have talked for an hour or so, and I felt so relieved to have found someone, who had gone through what I was going through.
3 Mar 1999, 7:18 a.m.
To Ian: What a blessing, what tremendous resources. Sounds like someone is trying to help you as you are helping yourself. Missed you last night.
3 March 1999, 5:22 p.m.
Bishop: Sorry that I didn't show up last night. I know that I should have been there. It is like missionaries always being in pairs. But right now, it is hard for me and I have the following stupid scenarios which keep running through my mind. It boils down to my feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. "I am sicker than they are. I need to be talking with the Bishop more than they do. Why doesn't he give me as much attention as he is giving them? etc." I know this is sick, it is weird, it is very childish, but it is very real for me right now. That is why I went home the other night when I was supposed to meet with you. I was so worked up that I couldn't deal with anything rationally. I know that I will get over it. It probably would have been easier for me if you were not leaving so quickly. I don't want to ever have to discuss this with anyone again. Even though confession is good for the soul, I have never done anything so painful. Somehow I guess my stupid head thinks that because I have shared this information with you, the monkey is on your back, and you are responsible to see that I get well. Rationally, I know that is not true. The responsibility rests totally on me. Being able to talk, and know that I am accepted, and loved, helps me feel better about myself. With a new bishop, it will be different, because there will not be the same emotional bond that we have had. This is why I am so excited toto have found Evergreen International and the Disciples2 discussion list.
Now I can communicate with those men who have gone through what I am going through and learn how to rise above it. I now have somewhere to turn for the support I need. It is going to be hard for me to sit outside your office when you are meeting with someone else. It is hard for me to attend the Sacrament Meeting where you are released. I probably will end up crying all through it. I may have to leave so as not to embarrass you, me and my family. I would like to be able to bear my testimony Sunday in Church and thank you for what you have done for me, but I know that emotionally I could not do that without making a disgusting spectacle of myself. Anyway, please forgive me. I want to serve the Lord. I want to do what you would like me to do. I will be there next Tuesday evening with you, OK?
Ian, the sad-at-losing-my-bishop Ex. Sec.
4 Mar 1999, 7:16 a.m.
To Ian: I understand and appreciate your feelings. Each of us carries our own emotional "Achilles Heel," and insecurities, even though some of us are able to hide them better than others. I feel the network you have found is a blessing and a refuge for you to work through your situation. The new bishop will not know about your situation unless you regress and have to confess and restart the repentance process. Life is difficult at times, and it is not going to get easier for any of us. I appreciate your willingness to serve as Exec. Sec., and you will be a blessing to the new bishop as you were to me. Thank you for all you do for us.
Telling My Wife
5 March 1999
After I had discovered Evergreen International and the helps for SSA on the Web, I was excited about an article I found: "What Every Bishop Should Know about Same-Sex Attraction" by Dan Flanders. I had copied the article for my bishop, and on Friday night I called him and told him about it and that I wanted him to read it before our appointment on Sunday. My wife overheard part of the conservation and asked me just before going to bed, "Why do you need an appointment to see the Bishop?" I made up some rather stupid reasons, none of which she believed. (I never have been able to lie to her and get away with it.)
6 March 1999
Sometime in the early morning, I could hear her crying. I asked her what was the matter. She said that, unless I could be honest with her, she didn't see why she should continue to live with me. The bishop had told me that I needed to tell my wife about my SSA struggles, but that I should wait until she got over her health problems. "What is wrong with you, and what is causing the problems in our marriage?" I took her in my arms, held her tight and told her I loved her more than anything else in the world. I didn't want to lose her, and I was afraid that if I told her, she would hate me and leave me, which I didn't want to happen. I wanted her for my companion and our children to be a family forever. I asked her to please forgive me and begged that she would not leave me. I then told her that I was sexually attracted by men and always had been. She listened very patiently as I told her as best as I could through my tears and sobbing the terrible burden I had lived with for the past 38 years of our marriage. She asked why I hadn't told her sooner. I said that I was afraid that she would leave me. She said that my revelation to her answered a lot of questions that she had had in our marriage. I had a copy of the article mentioned above that I was planning to give to the bishop, and I gave it to her to read. We talked about it line by line until she finished. We held each other and cried for a long time together. It was a very emotional experience for both of us. I had a difficult time trying to help her understand that it wasn't her fault that I had had such a difficult time. She seemed to feel that if she had been a better wife, that maybe I wouldn't have had these SSA attractions. I tried to reassure her that it was not her fault. I guess only those who have been on either side of this situation can fully understand how we felt. I wish that I could have been better prepared to disclose my past. I am sure I could have done better had I known more about of SSA, however, I felt the Spirit guided me in what I said, and the Spirit guided her in what she heard and felt.
The rest of the day was one of the worst days of my life. I was a pallbearer for one of my colleagues with whom I had worked for many years. As I looked at her in her casket, I thought, "Why couldn't this be me in the casket and not her?" All the time I was worried that my wife would change her mind and thought about how I would take my life if she did.
7 March 1999
Early, before our bishopric meeting began, I met the bishop and told him what had happened over the weekend. He was shocked that I had told my wife so soon. He was glad that I had told her and hoped that she was ready to handle the news. My wife and I both bore our testimonies in Sacrament Meeting and expressed our love for each other and for the bishop and the help he had given our family. It was one of the few times when I have seen him rub his eyes during a testimony meeting. Was that my bishop who didn't cry, actually wiping away a tear? I met with him after Sacrament Meeting, and we discussed "What Every Bishop Should Know about Same-Sex Attraction." I asked him, "Bishop, does this sound like what we have been through?" "Yes, it sure does," he responded. We talked about some of the contents, and he asked why I had underlined portions of the document which included the following phrases: "...that the person suffering with SSA...needs love and understanding from priesthood leaders... to feel his leaders love him... care about him and want to help him... he needs love and acceptance... needs to feel his priesthood leader loves him." He then asked me, "What do you want of me?" I responded by saying, "I want you to tell me that you love me." He said that his wife and children often stated that they wished that of him. He said that he had a hard time saying it but thought that his actions demonstrated that his love was being given. I countered with, "It does, but I still need to hear it." He thought for a while and then said, "I love you, brother." In fact he said that more than once during that interview and I told him that I loved him also and always would. I asked him if he would give my wife a blessing to help her in dealing with the shock about my revelation to her. He said he would. That evening after a YW fireside, the bishop gave my wife a blessing. My wife hugged the bishop, I hugged the bishop, then my wife and I hugged each other and cried.
14 March 1999
My bishop was released and the new one sustained. I am still the executive secretary. The new bishop is scared and feels so inadequate with his new responsibilities. I will help him just as I helped the former bishop and try as best I can to make his load easier. After Sacrament Meeting, I was scheduling appointments for the new bishop, so I did not go up right away to talk to my old bishop. We met in the hall after most of the ward members had gone and the new bishopric and their families were in the Relief Society room with the members of the stake presidency. He came up to me and threw his arms around me and again told me that he loved me and would miss me and thanked me for all I had done for him. I cried, and so did he. The bishop and/or his wife came by one night during the week after his release and left the book You're Special by Max Lucado between our door and screen door. Inscribed in the book was
To Ian: Words never say what we want them to say. Simplicity is the best way most of the time. So please accept my thank you for all you did as executive secretary. You will never know how much it helped me as your bishop. There is a great message in this book. I hope you and your family will enjoy it.
Your friend, __________
Since then my wife and I both have read a lot about SSA. I ordered publications from Evergreen: The Workbook for Men, Resolving Homosexual Problems for men, and Helping LDS Men Resolve their Homosexual Problems: A Guide for Family, Friends, and Church Leaders. We have discussed many topics, and I promised that I would keep no secrets from her. I told her of my weaknesses with pornography and masturbation, and I promised if I were tempted, I would call and talk with her. Disciples2 proved to be a lifesaver for me, also. Being able to communicate with others who understood what I was going through was very instrumental in my healing process. I will always be grateful for the role that Evergreen International and Disciples2 have played in my life.
April 9, 1999
While in Salt Lake, I walked in a spring snow storm to visit Evergreen International headquarters. David welcomed me most kindly, and we had a nice visit. It was great to meet the man who owned the voice that previously had given me so much support and strength over the phone. I will always remember that visit.
April 17, 1999
I attended my first Evergreen International group meeting, a wonderful experience. It was nice to meet those with whom I had talked on the phone or visited through e-mail. The work of healing goes on. I feel stronger and happier each day and more assured that I am on the right path and will make it with the help of my wife and newfound friends, and have come to know that healing can only come from the Savior through giving my sins to Him.
Telling Our Children
Our children began to wonder and ask questions about why dad was gone all day on Saturdays. Since I attend an Evergreen Group in a location over 200 miles from home, it is a 12-hour day when I go to meetings. Also, I had to hide my books, not read them when the kids were around, etc., and they wondered why were planning to go to Salt Lake City. My wife and I finally decided that it would be better to tell the children the truth, rather than to continue to make up explanations. The following is the letter which I sent to all my children. We got mostly positive responses from them as a result.
2 September 1999
Letter to my children: I love your mom, and I love you. I want you to know that I love your mother with all of my heart. I had a strong spiritual confirmation that she was the person I was to marry long before we were married, and I have never regretted the decision to marry her in the temple and to be sealed to her for time and all eternity. I love each of you, my children, and your families, and I'm very thankful to be your father. I will eternally be grateful for the things that you and your families have taught and are teaching me.
Only a handful of people know what I am about to tell you, which you may share with your spouse, and then I would ask you to keep it confidential. I have lived with a problem which I have had a difficult time admitting to myself, let alone to anyone else. In March of this year, I told your mother of my problem of being sexually attracted to men, which is a problem that I have had to deal with all of my life. This information greatly added to her stress, but she has tried to understand and has stood by me and has been a strong means of help for me. This, of course, is just one of many problems life had dealt us. It has been my love for her and for you that has given me strength to hold to the rod and not break the covenants which I made with her in the temple. Our love for each other continues to grows stronger as we continue to work through problems together.
I do not understand why I have had this trial to deal with, and I don't expect you to be able to understand why, either. Certainly, it is not something I would wish for myself or for anyone else. Informing your children about having same-sex attractions as a parent has been recommended by some writers and proven in many cases to be beneficial. Others strongly advise against telling your children. I have struggled to know what I should do, but feel that sharing this burden with you may help you understand me better, and I hope that it will bring us closer together as you understand some of the struggles I have had during my life. Also, as you know, having to deal with struggles is an important part of this life. Maybe somehow seeing some of my struggles will give you more encouragement to deal with the struggles that may come to you.
There is a lot of debate over why children grow up with an attraction to those of their own sex. Much research is being done on the subject. Most writers agree that same-sex attraction happens without any conscious choice. Homosexuality itself has little to do with sex; the needs are not homosexual, but homoemotional. They are attempts to fill unmet emotional and social needs. There is a informational article in the September 1999 Ensign by A. Dean Byrd entitled "When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction," which I hope you will read, as it will give you more insight to the struggle I am facing. On March 2 of this year, as I was searching on the Web, I found Evergreen International, an organization for LDS members struggling with homosexual issues. Evergreen is founded on the belief that the atonement of Jesus Christ enables every soul the opportunity to turn away from all sins or conditions that obstruct his/her temporal and eternal happiness and potential. I have included a flyer about Evergreen and one of their pamphlets, "Answers to your Questions about Homosexuality for Parents, Spouses, Friends, and Ecclesiastical Leaders." I hope that these publications answer some of your questions. I have purchased some books from Evergreen to help your mother and me understand where I've been and what we are going through. Some of them are: Resolving Homosexual problems: A Guide for LDS Men; Helping LDS Men Resolve Their Homosexual Problems: A Guide for Family, Friends, and Church Leaders; Workbook for Men, published by Evergreen International; Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality; and Healing Homosexuality: Case Stories of Reparative Therapy. Evergreen referred me to the [the closest] chapter of Evergreen International. Meetings are usually held in [a distant city]. That is where I have been going to meet with the group, and I have been studying the lessons in the Workbook for Men. Our advisor is a former stake president and a former counselor with the LDS Social Services (now LDS Family Services). He is a wonderful, spiritual man and has been a source of great help to me and the others attending. Men come from [three different states] to attend these group meetings. The association with these brethren has been very valuable to me in helping me understand what I am dealing with and giving me the strength to do what I need to do. The Evergreen International Conference in S.L.C.: Mother and I are registered for the 9th Annual Evergreen Conference on September 10-11 in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. There are sections for men, for women, for spouses, and for priesthood leaders. We hope that this will again be a growing experience for both of us.
Please help us. I hope that we will still have your love, faith, and prayers as we continue working with these issues. I hope whatever hurt you may feel by what I have told you may be erased with time and that we may continue to grow in love and appreciation for each other. I felt that the easiest way to tell all of you would be by writing a letter so that you get the same information at the same time. Please know that if you have any questions concerning what I have written or the enclosed information, I will be glad to answer them as best as I can. Again, I love each of you very much and am grateful to be your father. I hope that I continue to merit your love, support, and forgiveness for any sorrow that I may have caused or may cause in the future. The Gospel is a great source of strength and is the only way for each of us to find peace in our trials. The Savior is real and waiting to help each of us if we come to Him. He wants and will help us each to overcome our struggles. Be true to the faith!
With love, Dad
My wife and I attended our first Evergreen Conference. Although I was very apprehensive about going, it turned out to be a wonderful, spiritual experience. The spirit was there in abundance, and it is difficult to put in words the feeling of love and acceptance which we felt. It was truly beneficial for us, and the spiritual bonding between my wife and I and with others present was inspiring.
During the past year and a half, I have felt like a baby learning how to walk. I would take a step or two and fall down. However, I have kept trying, and each day I have been a little more successful in my ability to resist temptation. With my wife's continued love and support, it is so much easier. There has been a lot of prayer on my part, pleading for strength to endure and to hold to the Iron Rod, thereby remaining true and faithful to the covenants which I made in the House of the Lord. The healing power of the Atonement has helped us to get to this point. We still have some problems in our relationship, but we continue to work on them. I have met with my stake president to inform him about where I have been and where I am now and how Evergreen International has helped both my wife and me. I have met with our Regional Welfare Representative and our area Family Services Representative about getting a group started in my hometown. The Lord has blessed me through the people I've had the opportunity to meet and work with. I want to help others learn that there is help through programs approved by the Church in dealing with SSA issues. My family continue to express their love and concern. Because my priesthood leaders have listened to me and have been willing to help me, I have been able to realize that my Father in Heaven loves me also. He gave His Beloved Son to die for me, so I could come back and live with Him. This I want to do with all my heart. I want to be with my wife and family eternally. This is the hope which the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers to all of us.
*Ian Reese is a pseudonym.