A SAINT FROM SIN CITY

by Steve

Simple translations of this page by AltaVista:

DEUTSCH ESPAÑOL FRANÇAIS
ITALIANO PORTUGUÊS NIHONGO

Although I'm a returned missionary with a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I also have had a strong attraction to others of my own sex for many years. I have a very idealistic view of how I believe I should live the Gospel, but I also have to face the reality of my past involvement with exhibitionism, pornography, anonymous sex, and multiple homosexual lovers. The contrasts within me can seem very contradictory at times. To illustrate, once someone on the Disciples online support group (for Latter-day Saints with same-sex attraction) mentioned that he had often had the missionaries and his homosexual lovers over for dinner, but never the two groups together. In my case, I have had the missionaries over for dinner and to teach the Gospel to a former lover and current close friend of mine. I have also had the positive experience of being able to put my arms around this same friend in a Christ-like way and to tell him that I love him...in Sacrament Meeting!

Placing these two aspects of my life side by side in such a matter-of-fact way may seem to indicate that I'm OK with both the spirituality and the homosexuality in my life, so I want to make one thing clear from the beginning. I have profound feelings of love and praise towards God, and one of my most important goals in life is to find the way to overcome my many weaknesses (including my homosexual behavior) and to return to Him and an eternal life filled with true joy. So I'm not particularly happy that the story that I'm about to tell has been filled with many mistakes and heartbreaks, although I do believe that we can learn to appreciate our struggles in life as one way that Heavenly Father blesses us and helps us to develop. In the Book of Mormon, the Lord taught Moroni:

I give unto men weaknesses that they may be humble... for if they humble themselves before me,
and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
---Ether 12:27

In my early life, the words "homosexuality" and "Mormon" were almost never mentioned in the same breath, and when they were, it was in hushed tones. This had the effect of causing a lot of Latter-day Saints who were affected by same-sex attraction to "hide in the closet," so to speak, thinking they had to face this particular challenge all alone and not knowing where to turn for support. It's like that for some people even today. Even many bishops didn't seem to know how to help. So many of us were outstanding examples of service in the Church and at the same time desperate sexual addicts in the hidden gay corners of our communities. Others of us simply had our spirituality and testimonies sorely challenged by these confusing feelings deep within us.

Even I marvel at the paradoxes in my own life. How could someone have very spiritual experiences sharing testimony on a mission in a faraway land and then look at pornographic magazines during transfers, hiding the nametag in his pocket that identified him as a servant of the Lord? Or how could someone who had been arrested (twice) for public indecency still feel a tremendous longing for the spiritual inspiration he received in the House of the Lord?

Allow me to tell you a little bit about my life, and maybe some of this will begin to make sense (both to you and to me!)

My story is one of a serious-minded young boy who grew up as a 6th-generation Latter-day Saint, taking his younger siblings to Church at those times when Mom was not feeling well and Dad was working on the road. A boy who received unmistakable testimony of what was right from the Spirit at a young age. This knowledge of the truth was without doubt the one thing that kept me from embracing completely a gay lifestyle in later years. I was a boy who was smart (perhaps too smart for my own good) and who was righteous (Is it possible to be too righteous for one's own good?) and who consequently had a very hard time relating to typical boys and their desires to do the wrong things sometimes. I remember, for example, the time I was on a camping trip with a bunch of LDS Scouts in Southern Utah. Something about one of the wilder boys telling us about his sexual experimentation. Everyone but me was very interested in his lewd tale. I was almost sick to think of Latter-day Saints talking the way he was and pretended to be asleep in my sleeping bag. That's the kind of boy I was: refusing to drink caffeinated Mountain Dew or to unbutton the top button of my shirt like all the cool boys did, uninterested in "hanging around" or getting into mischief with the others my age (except for that time we toilet-papered the former home of our geometry teacher -- how embarrassing!) I loved reading the Scriptures and attending seminary as a young person and felt like life had a grand purpose every time I felt the Spirit whispering to my soul.

But I had also had this penchant for sexual naughtiness from a young age. I took my first girl friend into an empty trailer once at age 6 and pulled my pants down. I played "doctor" with the neighborhood kids. I learned from a classmate in the 5th Grade how to make a crude drawing of a naked woman. My parents found out about these things, and just like they did when they caught me masturbating around age 9, they gently encouraged me to change those behaviors. They never did learn about the times when my girlfriend from the youth choir took me to a garden and kissed me while lying on top of me, using terminology that no 10-year-old should even know. Nor did they know about the times I would walk around unclothed in the hills above town, partly hoping someone would see me.

I'm not sure I have the complete explanation for why I did these things as a child and why I allowed very sinful behaviors into my life as a teenager, especially in light of the fact that I genuinely had faith in the Gospel and a desire to live righteously. Maybe it was a reaction of some kind to my outward righteousness, although I can't quite see that. Maybe it was an expression of some non-sexual need that I had sexualized. This seems more likely. They say, for example, that exhibitionists are not seeking sexual fulfillment but rather a kind of control over other people. I always felt like I wasn't included with my peers (probably mostly due to my unusually strong desires for doing what was right and my lack of interest in normal childhood shenanigans), and later I didn't want to associate with many of them, judging myself as better in many ways. As a result, I ended up doing many things (like the walks in the hills above town) alone.

Sometime around my last year of high school in Las Vegas, when I was enjoying the early-morning seminary classes and taking the Advanced Placement courses with the honors students at my high school (about half of whom were strong Latter-day Saints), I discovered the pornography stashes in the huge tumbleweeds across the street from the school. I knew this was wrong--much worse than drinking a Coke--but where I had always easily avoided succumbing to the common sins for lack of temptation, this attracted me like nothing else had.

Looking older than I was, I became a regular at the so-called "adult" bookstores in Vegas before I was legally an adult. And almost immediately, it was the homosexual pornography that I found exciting. Like I said, I wasn't stupid, and I knew this stuff was bad, but somehow my strong desires for it convinced me that I could indulge for a bit and then repent and leave it behind me. A quarter of a century and thousands of images later, thanks to the Internet, I still had problems with pornography that caused me much grief, and I'm not so sure anymore that letting go of the Iron Rod is such a good idea.

It may seem strange to some that a youth who had gained a strong testimony through the Spirit at age 12 or 13 and who always knew for sure what was right and good would eventually indulge in serious sexual sins. Perhaps it is good to realize just how easily addictions can take over our lives if we allow them a foothold. I came to realize that some of my mistaken behaviors were promoted by erroneous thinking I had that originated in childhood and were only felt on a subconscious level, and some of the root causes of my addictions were not understood by me until I was in my mid-20s. Nearly three decades after it all began, I was still working on some of the final solutions. But I can truthfully say that the resulting blessings are worth the pain of the lessons I have had to learn.

High school graduation came a year early for me, and I went away to college, where I earned an Associate of Arts degree by the time I turned nineteen and was ready to go on my mission. Except I wasn't really ready to go on my mission when I turned nineteen. I thought that I just needed to stop my sexual behaviors and make a commitment to God never to repeat them. Which I did. So I reported to my bishop a few months after my birthday that I had no unresolved sins, and I felt content experiencing the special spirituality of the Lord's House and making eternal covenants with Him, dedicating my life and my soul to His work and glory. And although I have not always honored those covenants due to my weaknesses, they have always remained a part of the relationship I have with God. I remain committed to developing my soul to be able to be the kind of person Heavenly Father envisions me being.

I had never doubted I would serve a mission, wanting with all my heart to bring more of Heavenly Father's children into the one society on Earth which could explain every situation and help us to overcome any challenge. I was sure it would be to some Spanish-speaking country because of my early fluency in that language and my special love for Latin Americans. But no matter where the Lord wanted me, I would kneel down to pray for confirmation and then go forth, knowing it was in the plan of my Heavenly Father for my life. That's exactly what I did when I got my call to the Germany Düsseldorf Mission. And the Spirit whispered to me that it was right.

But I'm not sure the Lord called me to Germany to convert anybody. Maybe there were other reasons. Maybe it was to warn the stubborn Germans of their eternal fate. Maybe it was to get people to think about the divine perspective. Maybe it was to become close with a person who one day could possibly become my wife or at least support me in the struggles of my life. Or... maybe I failed. Just maybe my sins and my sinful desires kept the Spirit far enough away that I couldn't really receive God's direction. I used to keep physical evidence of particular successes or failures in my life, and I still have the depressed letter I wrote to my mission president shortly before my mission ended, telling him that I was discouraged and still wishing I had achieved more in my service to the Lord.

In the years following my mission, I had many kinds of experiences, both very good and very bad. One temporary job after another, where I learned many useful skills. Got involved in my pornography addiction again, not to mention anonymous sexual encounters. Out of respect for the sacred, stayed away from the temple, although I had a deep desire to be there. I sometimes went to the locked gates at night, just to experience how it feels to be locked out of the Lord's House. Even missed my sister's wedding in the temple, arriving in town just in time for the wedding reception. Later on, I was arrested for sexual behavior in public and prayed most sincerely for the 24 hours I was locked up. I remember attending a Single Adults conference later that same year and feeling the Spirit telling me that God was giving one more chance to repent. Attended the singles ward, trying to socialize more. Finally met someone I might have married, but she told me she was seriously interested in my roommate about the time I was to broach the subject with her. Was going to go to Germany and then to Hawai`i to school, but ended up going to Hawai`i first to be close to this good friend (who later became the first friend I ever told about my SSA problems). Was denied entry to BYU-Hawai`i due to the legal proceedings against me. Traveled through places like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Berlin on the way to a semester at the University of Heidelberg in Germany (and had compulsive sexual problems in many of those places). After repenting (or so I thought), got the last temple recommend I held for many years and went to the Swiss Temple. After returning to the U.S., was present in the Jordan River Temple for my best friend's wedding to the perfect RM she had met at BYU. Went back to Hawai`i to do my last semester of International Relations there (at the liberal gentile school and BYU rival, UH).

Does all of that look like a multiple-personality disorder again? It might be confusing until we realize that the addictive component of an individual's personality often contradicts his personal desires and values. Although I had always believed that the existence of God-given free agency meant that nobody ever really did anything they didn't want to do, I found myself almost compelled sometimes by something within me to do things that only brought me shame and discouragement in the end. The addict becomes lost in a kind of semi-consciousness once he is involved in the acting-out part of the addictive cycle. But I only realized all of this after years of experiencing the highs and lows and criticizing myself as a base hypocrite. I have now gained a deeper understanding about the difference between freedom and agency. God has indeed given us a divine power to choose what we will in this life of opposites, but certain things like addictions can inhibit our freedom to carry out our will, in effect, crippling us. I still trust, however, in the power of Christ to heal and to save, and seeking His influence must somehow become our primary focus in life.

I remember the many anguished prayers during this period of my life, the many plans for change that I developed, the many times I failed, the hopelessness I felt. I could be reading the Scriptures and feeling the Spirit when suddenly I would be driven to go out and look for a sexual encounter. I remember one Christmas Day I spent alone when exactly this occurred. This Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde syndrome really drove me into deep depression sometimes, to the point of not being able to function well at work or in my personal projects, although my testimony of the eternities didn't allow me to think, like some people do, of suicide as an escape. I know that deliberately moving from this life to the next will not solve anything. Because I will not just cease to exist, neither will my problems. Somewhere in all of that I saw a couple of counselors at LDS Social Services about my sexual problems and the fact that it seemed that I couldn't control them with my free agency. Those visits with the psychiatrists in the 1980s netted me only a few partially effective techniques for behavior control, but I will be forever grateful that I did have those visits, because at some point one of those good brothers lent me his copy of the book, Sexual Addiction, by Patrick Carnes.1

I started reading in this book the experiences of people who, like me, wanted to stop certain kinds of behaviors but just couldn't seem to find the willpower. I remember the story of the legislator who had recently patronized the adult bookstore that his committee was now organizing a police raid on. The story of the man who obsessively followed a lady in her car, gesturing to her at every stoplight. He imagined she was leading him to some spot where they could have a sexual rendezvous and didn't come to his senses until she pulled up in front of the police station. Those stories resembled things I have done... Maybe I was a sexual addict -- a thought I had never had before.

But it made perfect sense. Somehow I was out of control, and my free agency and my desires for righteousness just didn't seem to keep me on the Straight & Narrow. And then I started reading what sexual addicts seem to have in common: negative beliefs about themselves and about how others view them. A feeling that others would not truly love us if they knew everything about us. Various psychological problems that had nothing in particular to do with sexuality but which had been sexualized in our lives. And I started seeing my own life and feelings in the words of the book. I realized I was definitely among the group of people with this problem that the good doctor called sexual addiction, and for the first time in nearly a decade of experiencing this obsessive behavior that was so contrary to my beliefs and desires, I realized clearly that I was not an evil person.

I now think that it's important that we all recognize the difference between a person who willfully rebels against God and one who simply has (possibly God-given) weaknesses or who has foolishly allowed addiction to sneak into his life. The way I perceive the concept of sin has to do with "missing the mark," which surely has negative consequences but doesn't mean the sinner is inherently bad. We all know that Christ loves the sinner, and ultimately He has agreed to be our Saviour exactly because none of us are capable of purifying and perfecting our lives enough to qualify to live in the presence of God. Only He can make that possible for us.

When I returned to the Islands after going to school in Germany and at BYU, I read an ad in the newspaper from Homosexuals Anonymous, a Christian group based on 12-Step principles of recovery, and got involved in their meetings on a regular basis. I even got to meet Jeff Konrad, the author of You Don't Have to Be Gay. It was great to finally have a group of people who understood my challenges to support me in overcoming them. But they were not LDS, and they didn't really understand the importance of eternal marriage and family in the way I did. In addition, it seemed that after a while not too much progress was being made, and sometimes the repeated failures became discouraging for me.

After being active in HA for over a year, the leadership of the group changed and I didn't feel as much benefit anymore, so I stopped attending. But the main blessings of my attendance remain strong in my life: First, I learned some important ways to apply spiritual principles to overcoming addictions. Then I met a great friend through HA, who invited me to room in his home. All three of us in the house were sexual addicts, and weekly meetings of another group, Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous, were held in our home. We became like a family, and each of us were there for each other in our struggles. Even after moving to Japan for a year and a half and later returning to live in my own apartment in Honolulu, we remained close friends, and I often spent good times in that home. Even now that I live far away, we share what's going on in our lives via e-mail and occasional visits. (One happy note is that this friend has now married a wonderful woman, and they are now very happy and dedicated parents of a couple of beautiful children.)

After graduating officially from BYU in International Relations, I decided to get more Latin American experience by living in Mexico for a year and a half, thinking it was a conservative country where it would be difficult to get into homosexual trouble. But by this time, my "gaydar" was working very well and I found gay meeting places and publications in Mexico City and even in smaller cities in no time. It was quite by accident, however, that I discovered that love could enhance a sexual relationship and started making an abrupt swing away from the anonymous promiscuity I had experienced up to that point.

I had responded to Alejandro's ad in the gay bookstore and was expecting another one-night stand. He arrived and we sat down on the bed and...talked for three hours without pause. It helped that he was the nervous type who went from subject to subject, but we were also interested in many of the same things and I was impressed by his values. I had never met a gay person with positive values (or at least known one long enough to really know his values). Alex and I quickly became an official "pareja" (a couple), even though I knew that it could not last, knowing what I knew about the Gospel Plan. After a couple of months, I told Alejandro that I didn't believe that homosexuality held much promise of lasting happiness and that I had to seek something better. I was surprised and pleased when he told me that he also questioned the homosexuality in his life and would like to change it. (Ten years later, we still loved each other and were both very attracted to each other although not involved sexually anymore. Alex is the one the missionaries taught in my home after he saw them on the street and sensed something special about them. At the time of his death to AIDS complications in 1998, which devastated me, we were still trying to develop the right kind of eternal friendship. I'm maintained friendship with his sweet mother, who lost another son to AIDS, also, as I later learned.)

The love that I felt with Alejandro changed something in me, and although I still developed sexual relationships at times, they frequently were not anonymous anymore. Several situations ended up being good, loving friendships. A new trouble was that I developed several intimate friendships at the same time. Several of them are still my friends today, and although we started off in many cases on the wrong foot, I am grateful for the good things we have shared. I frequently wonder at the weird ways we met and have stayed close through the years.

I met René, for example, in the area of Mexico City's central park where gay guys go looking for pickups. He never did become a sexual thing with me, because we had our first conversation in Sanborn's Restaurant in the House of Tiles with him asking me about my opinion of the feasibility of intercultural relationships. (He had just started a lover relationship with another American guy.) Later, I lost contact with him and for months wondered where he was. I even prayed to Heavenly Father that I would find him again. Shortly before I was to leave Mexico, René showed up as a student in one of my English classes (in a city of more than 20 million inhabitants!) Our friendship endured, and in the last couple of years of his life, he considered me one of only two or three friends who really stood by him. It was hard, though, because he didn't understand how subjecting our will to God's could make him happier. He died a couple years ago of AIDS, only months after his sister died of cancer. When I go to visit his mother, she treats me like one of her sons.

AIDS also played a role in the first days of my longstanding relationship with Polo. But I certainly didn't know it would be that way when I walked down that street in the tourist zone that night. It's just that when Polo and I passed each other in front of the music store, we both stopped in our tracks, turned around, and stared at each other. It was more than just simple attraction -- I really feel somehow God wanted us to know each other. Polo had lost his lover to AIDS only the month before. I spent my last days in Mexico with Polo, offering him comfort and love. Even after I had gone to my bishop and had been disfellowshipped, I still felt it was important for me to spend that time with Polo. When I finally told Polo that I was leaving Mexico soon, he broke down and cried. I had to wait until another day to tell him that I was also leaving homosexuality. Now, he accepts my choices and wants me to be happy.

Most of my friends in homosexuality have not been members of the Church, but a couple of them were. Miguel, whose life was sadly ended by AIDS in 1995, had been baptized in his hometown of Poza Rica as a teenager, mostly to be around his Mormon friends, although he was not at all active in the Church when I knew him. We had many good experiences and conversations together. And Victor I met in a gay bar, only to find out that he was LDS when he mentioned something later about a trip to Utah. He had the particular difficulty of not being able to talk to his bishop about his problems because he had been involved with the bishop's 14-year-old son. (A note to fathers: Two of this good man's sons never felt like they could talk to their father about their homosexual feelings, because the man was a bit detached from his family, always being so busy in his calling as bishop. So many innocent situations can lead to difficulties for children growing up.)

Interestingly enough, most of my homosexual friendships were developed during the two periods when I lived in Mexico City, but there have been a few such friendships in other places, too. Eric is a Filipino guy from a disadvantaged background who became my good friend in Hawai`i. We talked about many spiritual things together. He is now partnered with a gay-affirming minister in Honolulu, and I have called him a few times to let him know I still care about him. And Koji was a very quiet member of my branch when I lived in Japan. I hardly knew him, but when he came to help me move to another city after I lost my job because of my sexual addiction, we discovered our attraction for each other. He spoke no English, and my Japanese was limited, but we communicated and became friends. Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep in touch with him, and his Buddhist family put a lot of pressure on him to downplay his Christian beliefs.

And then there's Alex, the other Alex in Mexico City. Sometimes even very good friendships can be complicated. I can't explain just how important some friends have been to me, and Alex is one of those. I didn't meet him in Mexico, but rather in the Disciples support group online not long after his return from great service as a devoted missionary. We quickly realized that we had a lot in common...our interests, our talents, our challenges, but most especially our testimonies and desires to achieve in our lives what God has prepared for us. The friendship developed very spontaneously and naturally, and this one had nothing to do with sexual attraction, because we didn't even know in the beginning what the other person looked like. But it started to be a bit too exclusive and we started talking a bit too much like lovers rather than like friends. That caused my dear friend to back away from the close friendship with me, and suddenly I no longer had the kind of friend and confidant and accountability partner who had been such a blessing in my life. I've tried to give him space and hope that we can realign the friendship again someday to something very special but completely healthy.

My non-SSA friends have also played important roles in my life and in my spiritual recovery. I already spoke of a very special friend who was the first person close to me with whom I talked about my struggles. She is an open and caring person, and I can talk about anything with her, a very valuable friend in this kind of situation. Unfortunately, her husband, who has great desires to lead his family in righteousness, has always been uncomfortable around homosexually attracted people, and because he believed that I would somehow be a negative influence on his family, he even asked me indirectly at one time not to visit their home anymore. A very, very unfortunate circumstance, but it seems that homosexuality can really complicate a person's relationships.

And one of my dearest friend in all the world, someone who stood by me and encouraged me for 15+ years, who said that she knew that our friendship began in the Pre-Existence, who supported me and whom I supported, rejected my friendship and didn't speak to me for two and a half years. Since then, we haven't been as close as we once were. Because of confusion and needs from childhood, she went and married someone who was not a member of the Church, but that was unfortunately a mistake. She seems content even without my close friendship, but I miss what we had greatly. So my friends have been the source of great joy and great sadness.

Somehow I feel certain that Heavenly Father wanted me to become friends with these people, even though a lot of conflicting feelings have been involved...both great pain and great happiness. I dearly miss those friends who are gone and am grateful for the friendships that endure.

I was expecting my gay friends to criticize me and reject my friendship when I told them I was going to leave the homosexual lifestyle. But I was amazed at their reactions. Most of them supported me in my search for more happiness, and some of them told me that they would like to do the same in their lives. Although the relationships have had their ragged edges, most of my gay friends have offered continuing friendship to me, and we had some emotional, even tearful, moments together. That's why I missed them when I returned to Hawai`i and still love them so much today.

Several years later, when I lost my "permanent" job in Hawai`i due to Congressional budget cuts, I thought that returning to Mexico could help me in a couple of ways. First, it seemed to help me avoid my worst sexual addictive behaviors when I spent quality time with my close homosexual friends. (Perhaps the closeness to friends who love me helps fill the real needs that the addict in me would take care of in a sexual way, although I can see that other friends, good members of the Church, probably take care of the same needs in a healthier way.) And I now faced the sad fact that several of my friends had contracted the AIDS virus. Because I have felt so alienated at Church by my disfellowshipment and my inconsistent activity over the years and because I lost many opportunities for service, I thought that maybe one of the best things I could do at that point in my life would be to support my friends in their fight with this killer. I just didn't realize that it would be so hard for them in some ways to accept my support.

During the many and varied experiences since reading Dr. Carnes' book1 and realizing somewhat the complexity of my problems, I have tried to incorporate some of the techniques for recovery into my life, such as seeking out good male friendships and trying to fulfill my emotional needs in healthy ways. The friends and family that I have opened up to about my struggles have been a great blessing to me in many ways. When I was still worried about how my parents would feel if I told them, two of my aunts were there for me, comforting me when I was depressed and encouraging me when I was faltering. One by one, as my friends have been told, they have shown me love and concern. It's amazing how much support my dearest German friend has been to me from overseas in her letters over the years, while I have lived in Nevada, Hawaii, Germany, Utah, Alaska, Japan, and Mexico. The few times we have seen each other in the past couple of decades, we have felt so close, and I have felt such a desire to live as a good Latter-day Saint. Even the major crisis that nearly ruined our friendship was based on our closeness. It has been a wonderful experience to share with others the good times and the bad times, the doubts and the testimony, as a member of online and local support groups. And it was a good feeling to finally be able to talk to my immediate family members when I was 33 years old, to have them to love me completely and encourage me. I have always felt that marriage partners and immediate families, being the people we spend all of eternity with, should have completely open communication.

I have seen a lot of growth in my faith and my knowledge by participating in many recovery support activities. I have found great blessings in participation in the Disciples2, North Star, and Clean-LDS online support groups. I'm a co-moderator of a German-speaking group and active in the support of a Spanish-speaking group. I have been the group leader of an Evergreen affiliate support group, which sponsors an annual one-day conference. I'm looking into helping develop a Heart t' Heart group on sexual addictions here in my local area. I have attended the very inspirational Evergreen conferences in Salt Lake City many times now with some very high quality friends. I have visited with many Church leaders and strugglers in Mexico and shared information about SSA recovery with them. I have worked with a volunteer effort to get pages from the Evergreen website translated into various languages. I'm trying to help strugglers in various cities in Mexico and Germany as well as in my region to set up local support groups. I'm working hard to get information out to priesthood leaders and therapists (and to the strugglers they know). With the help of others, I have put together packets of information for interested people. I wrote a couple of essays that I have written about the two major paths that Latter-day Saints can choose when dealing with their same-sex attractions: the pro-Gospel SSA philosophies and the worldly pro-gay philosophies. They may eventually grow into an online book on the wider topic. And I continue maintaining a website with supportive resources for those dealing with same-sex attraction and/or sexual addiction. All of these activities help me to understand the Gospel solutions better and to increase my faith.

I have also tried, albeit inconsistently, to follow the advice of prophets to pray often and with intensity and to read the Scriptures with sincere intent. I have to say that, for a long time, I found it difficult to do these things, despite my love of the words of the prophets. My life has often seemed to be filled with so many activities that anything that requires contemplation or time for development has been crowded out. After many years of active struggle, I often felt too tired to concentrate much, and I frequently spent all my energies on earning or seeking a living and ended up, like many people, spending too much time in lower priority activities like surfing the Internet. On one hand, I have learned to have patience with myself and to just keep taking baby steps towards my goals, and on the other hand, the calculation of how long this is all likely to take compared with the normal human lifespan used to discourage me. A miracle or two is what's needed, and fortunately, that's just what we're promised in the Saviour's Atonement and just what I have experienced at times.

The Saviour has been working in my life all along, guiding me to new insights and blessing me with testimony and righteous desires. He did not heal me after just a few years of struggle, as I might have wished, but somehow it is OK, because I am gaining faith that the Lord's way of leading me through this life is the best way. Perhaps I have delayed with my bad choices what could have otherwise gone more smoothly, but the important thing now is that He is with me. But I have also made many good choices along the way. To cite one important example, I chose to participate in a scripturally based daily study program originally offered by a Christian organization called Setting Captives Free. The first benefit was that I finally established the habit of beginning each day with a personal devotional, including prayer, inspirational music, and study of scriptural principles that apply directly to my efforts to live free of addictions. It took a while before the differences in my life started being noticeable, but it happened. Before very long, I realized that I was feeling that the Lord was more a part of my life and I no longer had the kind of compulsive desires for sexual lust that I had experienced for so many years. My path has not always been constant straight-line progress, but over time it is clear that the Lord has been working in my life. My testimony has always led me towards a position of righteous leadership of an eternal family, and now I can really see that happening, perhaps sooner than I might imagine.

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Every person's story is different, but yet I still believe that there are eternal principles which can work for all of us. In my case, I need to develop myself in those areas that I am still lacking. I definitely need the love of good friends, but I need to avoid becoming dependent on relationships. I realize from examining my own life and those of others that the feelings of attraction to those of my own gender may take a long time to fade away, if they ever do completely in this life. But I still have the choice of what to do with my life. Addictions may indeed interfere with our freedom to choose, but we can certainly choose to work for the solution of the root causes of addictive behavior in our lives. I have been able to experience more freedom from addiction than ever, the closer I try to be with the Lord. And with this increased freedom to choose comes additional responsibility for my choices. Those who struggle with same-sex attraction and/or addictions need to be realistic about the dilemmas we face, yet try to remain true to what the Saviour would have us do.

I have been willing to work on my current sins one-by-one if it means that I could avoid giving in completely and getting involved again in the deeper problems of promiscuity. I do believe that having illicit sex in my mind is almost as debilitating for me as the real thing, but I have had no success with going cold-turkey all at once with all of my sexual behaviors, although I do sense that gradual progress has been made as I haven't given up trying to do what's right. Someone recently told me, though, that it's necessary to separate the addictive behaviors from the simple bad habits and to treat them differently. It seems that bad habits are best eliminated in one fell swoop, while deeply entrenched addictive behavior (which attempts to fulfill emotional needs not necessarily related to the behavior) often requires a step-by-step approach. I believe that genuine love of God and desire to submit our lives to His will is an important key for turning from destructive activities and becoming more Christ-like.

And regarding those of us who do have such problems, I have come to understand that we are not inherently evil or necessarily worse than any other imperfect Saint. We are each here to learn and to grow in our personalized life experiences, and we have to learn to apply the principles of salvation to our weaknesses, just like everyone else. To me, the important thing is that I am a person who is earnestly trying to return to Heavenly Father, despite addictions which have had a terrible effect on my ability to keep His commandments. It goes back to that idea of the stark contrast between who I am and who I want to be. What's really important is who I can be in partnership with Christ.

Mostly, every human being needs to gain (or regain) that closeness with Jesus Christ and the humility that will allow Him to be our Saviour. It doesn't matter what problems or challenges we have in life if He is our partner. His blessing me with a sure testimony even before I reached full puberty shows me that He has been with me all the way on this arduous journey.

So it continues, this puzzle which is known as life on Earth. We are all like the little girl in the musical, "My Turn on Earth," not wanting to leave this planet until we know for sure that we have found the treasure that we came here to find. Let's all love and support each other in this elusive search to discover just who we really are!

 

 

 

1Carnes, Patrick J. 1991. Don't Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction (formerly titled Sexual Addiction). New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-35138-9.