Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The List

One of the many questions I often asked myself, and later asked to others, was “What can I do to overcome my same-gender attraction?” I was given various answers from multiple sources, but tried literally everything someone thought would help. I have compiled a quick list of everything I tried, in hopes that, perhaps, it can be of help to someone else, as well as show you exactly how much I did to try to overcome this part of my nature. I would like to elaborate on each of these list items, so forgive me if this post runs a bit long:

1. Prayer
2. Fasting
3. Church attendance
4. Scripture study
5. Seminary/Institute
6. Temple attendance
7. Mission service
8. Group and Individual therapy
9. Weekly meetings with bishops / Blessings
10. Church activities
11. Sports
12. Enlarging my circle of male friends
13. Reading church sponsored materials
14. Dating

1. Prayer. My Father in Heaven and I still have a great relationship – and this relationship was built on prayer. I’m sure you’ve heard of other gay young men who have claimed that prayer has been a staple in their life, and I am no different. I depended so much on prayer, that I don’t think there was a single day that went by without my offering at least four prayers a day related specifically to this issue. I’ve had prayers that have lasted hours, I’ve had prayers that lasted seconds. I’ve had tears during prayers in private, and even tears during prayers in public. Perhaps, most significantly, were the prayers I said before going to bed. My mom once caught me getting into bed without kneeling, and she asked me if I had forgotten to say my prayers. I made up some excuse about how I had said my nightly prayer earlier when she didn’t see, but the fact was, I prayed from the moment my light went out until I fell asleep every night, in hopes of keeping my thoughts clean and avoiding any dreams that might end up erotic. I don’t know how long these prayers lasted on average, but often they went well into the night.

2. Fasting. I was taught that fasting on fast Sunday was really the only time someone needed to fast, and that fasting any extra was superfluous. I was taught fasting on fast Sunday was enough to show God that you were willing and ready to do his will. I started fasting half-day when I was eight, and moved to a full fast when I was sixteen. I started fasting for the issue of same-gender attraction every month when I was twelve. I never missed a month, and often added extra fasts "just in case." Even when family outings, or holidays, or something else interfered, I made up the fast the week before, in hopes of showing the Lord just how hopeful I was, and how willing I was to put Him first.

3. Church attendance. I was never one to dislike going to church. I loved every meeting, and often went to more than one church session. For a while I was a member of a Spanish speaking branch, so I would attend those meetings, a branch missionary meeting, and then attend my home ward meetings all in the same day. Even after “coming out,” church attendance has been something I enjoy doing. I can’t remember ever skipping a meeting growing up, unless I was sick. My family even made it a point to find the local church on vacations.

4. Scripture study. I love the scriptures, especially the Bible and the Doctrine & Covenants. The Book of Mormon has never been a favorite of mine, but I made sure to read it every day anyway, and always rose to a scripture reading challenge, whether issued in a class, or by the church. I’m excited to share some of the things I have learned in regards to the scriptures on this blog. On average, my scripture study started around a half hour a day, but as I found temptation more difficult to resist, that time increased to at least an hour.

5. Seminary/Institute. Most high school kids I knew would occasionally cut class when it came to seminary, without any guilt or remorse. After all, we lived in Utah, and seminary was “release time” from a regularly scheduled school day. The school didn’t really care what you did with that time. I never missed a day. Institute was the same way. I always did my assignments, participated heavily in any and all activities (yup, even early morning devotionals), and never got anything less than an A. This was the one class where I felt it was inappropriate to get anything less… after all, how could I justify a B in "“God 101."

6. Temple attendance. When I turned 12 and went to the temple my first time, I loved it so much I made it a point to go at least monthly. This schedule became harder as I grew up and had less and less time, but when I was told that temple attendance might be the key to overcoming SGA, I increased my frequency. Once endowed, I frequented as often as possible, which often meant going more than once a month. If I felt particularly unworthy, I would go anyway and sit on the grounds until I did feel worthy, or would return another time that month.

7. Mission service. I made a promise to God that if He would do two things for me, I would serve an honorable mission for Him with all my might, heart, and strength. First, I wanted my inappropriate desires to go away. Second, I wanted to learn a foreign language. I repented for the second requirement my first day in the MTC. The wording of my release letter informed my priesthood leaders at home that I served a “… very honorable mission.” They were impressed by the addition of the word “very,” as was I.

8. Group and Individual therapy. I have a whole other blog on this subject.

9. Weekly meetings with a bishop. After I started therapy, I decided I needed the help and support of everyone who wouldn’t look down on me. I started meeting weekly with my bishop, and at his request started attending a singles ward, where I met with that bishop weekly, and my home ward bishop monthly. I used these meetings to bounce ideas, report on my progress, discuss my frustration, get priesthood blessings, and get encouragement. I found these two bishops to be especially supportive of me. I still meet with that home ward bishop on an every-other-month basis.

10. Church activities. During the years when I was in college and working full time, I found it difficult to arrange my schedule in such a way that I was able to participate in church activities during the week. At the insistence of my counselor, as well as my bishop, I made such arrangements. I also participated in my own “activities” during church – such as learning the names of every member of the elder’s quorum, and ensuring that I went anywhere I was invited to go with my fellow peers.

11. Sports. Yup, I even started learning new sports. I started figure skating (I know, not exactly a "straight" sport, but it gave me an outlet where I could set and achieve goals), learned to play golf (however awfully), attended super bowl parties, learned to play ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, and tennis, and specifically integrated myself into any sports related activities at church… except basketball… I never liked basketball. I gave myself this one exception.

12. Enlarging my circle of male friends. When I got home from my mission I really only had two good close male friends. It was suggested that building healthy relationships with other men would be advantageous, in hopes of settling the need I had for male companionship with friendship. I reconnected with two mission companions, and, as mentioned earlier, learned the names of the elders in my quorum (which, subsequently, earned me a spot as the quorum’s first counselor), and started to integrate myself into new circles of friends. I consider my success in this aspect to be rather high.

13. Reading church sponsored materials. Yes, this includes the Ensign and the Liahona (the Spanish version), but it also includes Evergreen books, the church’s 12 step addiction recovery program (in hopes that I would find something useful), Ty Mansfield’s book (with Stuart’s section ripped out by my mom. She didn’t want me to read anything that could be interpreted as “failure”), my counselor's book (which is fantastic), and many others. I reread the entire missionary library during this time as well, and had my bishop order in all of the materials written specifically to church leadership in regards to same-gender attraction.

14. Dating. When I got back from my mission I was practically engaged to a girl who had waited for me. When that didn’t work out I took some time to be single, and then continued along the dating path, with the encouragement of my parents, church leaders, and counselor. My church leaders always would ask, “Do you think your not wanting to get married could be because you haven’t found the right one yet? Maybe it isn’t because of this whole SGA thing.” Uh huh. Sure. I really did enjoy my time with these women, and became very good friends with most of them. Thankfully, most of us were able to part ways on good terms, and most have accepted me fully for who I am today.

The only step I can think of that could be on this list but isn’t, is the step of marriage. That is something I don’t think should just be “tried.” I realize that it decreases feelings of SGA for a very select few, but there is just no way I would be willing to take that risk. More on my feelings about marriage later.

If you can think of something that should be on this list, but isn’t, please feel free to contact me at gaysaint@gmail.com. Most likely, I've already tried it and just forgot to add it, but I'm always willing to accept suggestions.

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