My story isn’t much different than the hundreds if not thousands that have already been told, with one big exception. I am a 60 year old male. I was born and raised in a small Mormon town in Utah. Upon reading some of the testimonies on the website, memories of my youth and my young adult life flooded my mind. “Thank Heavens this man is bringing this travesty to light,” I told myself. I was asked about masturbation and other sexual “sins” when I was interviewed to become a Deacon. Keep in mind this would have been in the early 1970’s. Being a late(r) “bloomer,” I hadn’t begun puberty yet. I recall leaving the Bishop’s office and was very shaken by the questions that I was asked. I didn’t know what masturbation was or what “petting” meant. When puberty did hit, I began what is the typical cycle of guilt, repentance, guilt, repentance which turned into my teenage trauma due to masturbation. It just never ended. I recall when I was about 16 or 17, I was at a General Priesthood meeting where the audio was piped into the local church house,. I was sitting next to my father. The General Authority talk was on the evil activity of masturbation and said that in the last days, those that participated in the activity would have their names written in the sky for all to see. That is when I wanted to end it all. As I walked home from the church, the tears just flowed. My life was over.
Somehow, I endured and made it through the missionary interviews and entered the LTM (MTC). This is where it got really bad. I felt I had totally repented and felt “clean” as a missionary. But as we know, the church just won’t leave it alone. The LTM branch president spoke to us the first week and scared the living hell out of us if we hadn’t confessed every little sin prior to entering the LTM. He went on and on to the point I was making things up in my head. I didn’t know for sure what I had done or not done or if I had even confessed it. So stupid me signs up for an appointment to “confess.” For what, I didn’t know. So I told him I had this challenge of overcoming masturbation, but felt that I had repented and I was in control. He began asking me about a laundry list of sins. One of those questions was had I had sex with other boys. I said no. But for good measure, I told him that at scout camp, many years prior, I recalled that scouts were flashing their private parts to each other in the tent. I told him that was all that happened. Boy, that was the wrong thing to do. He then proceeded to tell me I had to write a letter to my stake president at home and list everyone that was in the tent, what was done, in detail, and he would forward the letter to him. He also told me that all of my previous sexual sins of previous masturbation were now back into play, since I hadn’t confessed this scouting activity. “I will be in contact with you after I speak to your stake president,” he told me. You can imagine the hell I went through waiting to find out if I was going to be sent home in shame. I was so naive. The worst thing about coming from a very small town, is that everyone knows everyone. The stake president was my neighbor. I had known him my whole life. Everyone in the scout tent knows each other etc. It was hell. But, once again, I complied and endured. I was eventually sent on to my mission.
I had been on my mission about a year when I “stumbled.” Damn it. Now I have to confess. Again. You think I would have learned my lesson in the LTM and kept my mouth shut. I can’t tell you how angry I was at myself for requesting a meeting with the mission president. The day came, I was nervous, I told him. He asked me if I had struggled with masturbation prior to my mission and I told him that I had. He then proceeded to lecture me on that fact that masturbation causes homosexuality. My heart just sank. I had never shared with anyone my feelings that I might be gay. Never. In those days, I believed that those “sinful thoughts” where just the devil playing with my mind. I had a nice young girl waiting for me to come home for heavens sake. After the lecture from the mission president, I began convincing myself that I had brought this burden of gay feelings on myself. It was my fault. This was God punishing me for masturbating. Basically, it destroyed me. I became so distraught, that I could not finish my mission. I asked to be sent home. The mission president refused which forced me to contact my parents to have me brought home. By this time, I was not only ill mentally, I had made myself so sick that I was constantly vomiting accompanied with explosive diarrhea. My nerves and high level of anxiety did not allow me to function. All attributed to the fact that I thought, that I had made myself gay……by masturbating.
The following few years were hell. Another day’s story. This little sweet kid from a small Mormon town now felt he was beyond repair. Satan had conquered me. I was worthless. What if my parents found out? What if people in my hometown found out? It was now the early 1980’s. At this time there was a killer virus lurking about that was infecting young gay men that would eventually kill by the millions. At the time, no one knew about this virus, but it had already begun, quietly, massive destruction. In a few short years, the nightmare would begin manifesting itself. Since I had convinced myself that I was a “worthless” soul, I begun to have sexual experiences as a young adult in my 20’s. Long story short, in 1988 I was diagnosed with full blown AIDS. I was given 6 to 12 months to live. In my mind, I deserved it. It was God’s punishment for my masturbating as a youth and causing my “homosexuality.” So I thought. For me, it was my way of suicide.
There is a lot more to my story, but I will leave it at that. I don’t know why I am alive today. Upon my diagnosis there was no cure or treatment. But I have survived. Today, I live as a very happy, healthy and content gay man. I have been with my partner for almost 25 years now. To survive, I left the Mormon church years ago, but the hurt and the pain is still there. I could and should have learned to accept myself and learned to live in a healthy way like I do now. I am convinced my path of becoming infected with a killer virus began with that very first Bishops interview about masturbating. Something almost every young man experiences. But I didn’t know that. It took me years to let the anger towards the church to subside. Once I “let it go,” I began to be happy. I became acquainted again with that sweet little Utah kid. He was always there. I had just buried him in guilt and shame. I fell in love with a wonderful man who knew very little about the Mormon church. To this day, he just shakes his head in disbelief when I tell him my stories. But he accepts me, my virus and my quirky upbringing as a Mormon. He has taught me to love myself. He has showered me with his love which I believe saved me from a horrible painful death as a very young man.
Thank you for your work, Bishop Young. You will save countless lives. I hope that I can assist in anyway I can, including telling my story.
Oh, by the way, my very active LDS family, both parents and siblings, love and accept me and my partner as all good Mormons should do, but often don’t. I am very blessed.