…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Why I Did It

A Review of No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

By Rex Goode


On the back cover of Jonathan Langford’s novel, No Going Back, there is my name as an endorser. Despite the embarassing mixed metaphor I used, I have no regrets endorsing this book. I have read in places about fears that this book will damage the youth of the Church. If tha were true, I would be complicit. Thankfully, it is not true.

Decades ago, like Paul in the story, I sat in my Aaronic Priesthood quorum and listened to the jokes. Back then, where we lived, we called them “homos”. I say “we” because I was involved in the name-calling. I felt l like I had no choice lest I fall under suspicion myself.

If I had been suspected, they would have been right. By that time, I had not only experienced attraction to the same sex, I had acted on those attractions. I had been molested as a young boy and had been involved with classmates doing the same things I had been taught by my abuser.

I first heard the term “gay” from, of all places, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In during their “Laugh-In Looks at the News” segment. From then on, church attendance became unbearable. Gay jokes among my Latter-day Saint peers became more and more commonplace. I stopped attending, for multiple reasons, shortly after my ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood.

After a foray into the world of teenage homosexual underground activities, I had a powerful prayer experience that brought me back to the Church. Working with a wonderful bishop, I got myself ready to be advanced to the office of a priest. In that prayer experience, I promised the Lord that not only would I cease my sexual activities, but that I would go to church no matter how uncomfortable I might be.

The unkind and demeaning comments were still frequent. The only difference was that the older I got, the more the comments moved from being jokes to being social commentary. I might not have minded so much, since I have always believed in people’s rights to their opinions, if it wasn’t so hard to find any compassion in what was said.

Even though I was being faithful to the teachings of the Church, I felt the sting of crass remarks as keenly as ever. I don’t think I ever adopted the term “gay” as a description of myself, but I knew that when people said vulgar things about gay people, they were talking about people who felt the way I did.

Inevitably, times change. I think that local church leaders rightly saw the tendency to say unkind things about homosesexual people as an excuse to be vulgar. If not for the sake of teaching tolerance, they urged youth to not talk about homosexuality to keep their minds and thoughts from tending towards coarseness.

I solved the problem of my peers being vulgar about homosexuality by making it known that they were talking about something that deeply affected me and that their comments are hurtful. I don’t know anymore what people say when I’m not around, but my friends, at least, know better when I am present.

For many years, I operated a support group that helped Latter-day Saint men who struggled with same-sex attraction. Occasionally, a member of the group would invite his bishop or stake president to see what we did there. I made myself available to answer questions. One of the more common themes those questions centered around was fear that if we talk to youth about homosexuality, we might give them ideas they never had before.

I think I can guarantee that I didn’t struggle with same-sex attraction because Big Al, played on Laugh-In by Alan Sues,  made fun of the Gay Liberation Front. I can definitely guarantee that young people in our day are hearing about homosexuality in all sorts of places: the classroom, the streets, at friends’ houses, and the media. What seems most sad is that they don’t hear it from their parents and priesthood leaders.

I’m sure there are parents and priesthood leaders who know to share the standards of the Church with our youth and do so acknowledging that same-sex attraction is a topic that must be addressed. I think those parents and priesthood leaders are rare. There is an attitude I have heard expressed many times that the best way to keep our children safe from getting ideas about themselves possibly being gay is to keep entirely quiet about it.

That is why I was so anxious to endorse No Going Back and to encourage Jonathan Langford in writing it. Contrary to what some have said, I don’t see the novel or its author as having some social agenda or pushing a point of view. It tells a good story. It is well-researched and realistic. It is timely.

It no doubt opens up opportunities for discussion. It seems to me that this is what good art is all about. If it creates a environment among the youth of the Church where their parents and leaders will need to teach the gospel more clearly, that can’t be anything but good.

As a father and grandfather, if I find myself concerned that my children are developing information and attitudes that I see as contrary to the gospel, I am grateful that I have a new opportunity to teach correct principles, encourage tolerance, and bear my testimony.  No Going Back tells the story of a young man who is faced with a challenge that can shape the rest of his life and eternity. The adults in his life can no longer remain silent. In an era where parents are struggling to be the main voice their children heed in matters of morality, we can’t afford to think that silence is the best way to teach them.

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12 Responses to “Why I Did It”

  1. Jill said:

    Rex, I think that what you have said is true of sexuality in general. So often in the church we either don’t teach about sexuality at all, or do it with so many euphemisms that the youth don’t even understand what we are really talking about. Maybe it’s because I was raised by a mother who was a nurse, but I’m all about straight talk. You’re right, the kids are hearing it at school, music, TV, friends, etc. It is up to us to teach it correctly, to correct myths and false teachings. But we can’t do that if people in the church are afraid to mention it!!!
    A woman in our ward once said (I think she was quoting someone else) “We can no longer teach sex in a way that our youth can understand, we must now teach it in a way that they CAN’T MISUNDERSTAND!!”

    Good for you for endorsing something you believe in and not backing down! Go Rex!


  2. Jonathan Langford said:

    Thanks for the great comments. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know if I ever would have written this book if it weren’t for your participation and sharing on AML-List those many years ago, and the conversation (and interior thoughts) that you helped to spark then. I’m pleased that you see the book as helping to address some of the gaps you talked about back then!

  3. Rex Goode said:


    Thanks. We can’t be angry at the world for teaching our children things if we remain silent about them.

    Thanks, also, to you and your husband for helping me feel like I can be open with people in the ward and at least have an ally or two.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on another post here, related to this one: Not Ashamed


  4. Rex Goode said:


    Thanks. I am so glad you have written this book and that it is stirring things up. It is really needed.

    I’m glad that good has come out of my coming out those years ago. As you may remember, it came back to bite me at one point when the local stake presidency got forwarded something I wrote there and thought a predator had moved into their stake. It turned out to be for the good later, but it is hard to be open and honest in a church whose members don’t always appreciate it.


  5. Phil said:

    Surely these challenges don’t exist in the LDS world (we all know better).
    Yes we have to move past the point of our parent’s generation (don’t even think about using the word “sex” because it’s evil or dirty or something!).
    I remember as a youth I knew better than to even think about asking questions about some subjects I didn’t understand. I would have gotten a lecture!

  6. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Phil. I hope you are doing well. I remember a conversation between my mom, my stepsister, and me. My mom was concerned we didn’t know the anatomical difference between male and female. She wanted to talk to us about it, but didn’t know how. She just kept asking us if we knew the difference and we assured her that we did.

  7. Mahonri Stewart said:

    What a great, vulnerable post, Rex. Definitely plan on buying the book when I have a chance and some extra cash. :]

  8. Rex Goode said:

    Ah, extra cash! I wonder what that would be like. 🙂

  9. How We (Don’t) Talk About Homosexuality in the Mormon Church « Jonathan’s Blog said:

    […] AML-List, who started the conversation years ago that ultimately led to No Going Back — posted a review/essay on his blog about my book and why he’d encouraged me to write it and then endorsed it after it came out. […]

  10. boskers said:

    I’m a 23 year old male that struggles with same-gender attraction. I was excited to read No Going Back. I’ve always wanted to read a fictional story about someone that struggles with SGA. I’d searched for fictional books that touched on SGA before, but all I found were books, magazines, or movies dealing with homosexuality that pushed the “gay agenda”. So I always stayed away from “gay” literature. When I heard of a fictional book that I could read that did not promote the “gay lifestyle”, I was excited, naturally.

    I built up a lot of courage, and finally got myself to walk into a bookstore to buy it. I was expecting a few tears, but I never expected the emotional roller-coaster that this book would take me on. It could have been that I was emotionally raw at the time I read it and the book was simply the catalyst to release my own personal tensions, but I think the book had a lot more to do with it. The first few chapters left me in tears. It opened up old wounds from my own intensely closeted teen years and caused me to reflect on my relationship with my friends and family.

    The relationship the main character has with his best friend was inspiring, and the beauty of it elicited a deep-felt emotional response from me. It also made me sad that I never had a friend to confide in when I was young.

    The reaction of the main character’s mother (when she finds out) is beautiful, but it left me wishing my relationship with my mother would have been more like that when I told her.

    The bishop’s reaction and sincere desire to help was beautiful and idealistic as well.

    The way the main character is “outed” in school tore my heart out. And the way his church buddies began to reject him left my chest physically aching.

    One of the things I liked the most about the book was the way the bishop and his wife find resolution in their marriage. It reminded me of my own desire to someday get married and experience pain and joy with a daughter of God.

    The pain the main character, as well as the pain of those who cared for him, was beautifully described. It seemed like a perfectly plausible story-line. Of course, there is no preset way of coming out, but I personally feel that the majority of young Mormons who struggle with SGA don’t come out that early. I, and most of my friends, only came out at around 18 or older. Also, even though the way the bishop and his mother react are idealistic, I don’t think most coming out experiences are that silky and neat. I think that the author did it this way to show that there is a “good” way to react to a youth who confides his/her same-gender attractions to a parent or Priesthood leader. I appreciate the author’s effort.

    Overall, the book was very good and relatively accurate of what actually happens and what could ideally happen when a young person comes out. There is, however, one thing that would hold me back from recommending this book to someone. The ending left me feeling terrible. It left me feeling like I’ll be stuck in this closet for the rest of my life. It made me feel like coming out would only invite rejection and persecution, especially in the church. I think this book would have scared me even more had I read it when I was still a teen. It would have pushed me into the furthest corners of my dark, hopeless closet of despair.

    I was hoping for a book that would give me hope and possibly direction. The story was intriguing and the way the book was written was captivating. There were even moments that did give me a considerable amount of hope as far as acceptance and charity goes, but the end left me feeling completely empty.

    I lent it to a faithful friend who also struggles with SGA. I didn’t want him to read it because of the frame of mind it left me in, but he wanted to read it so I gave him a fair warning and handed over the book. He ended up feeling worse than I did.

    I think this book makes a LOT of good points about how the outside worlds deals with SGA and how things really need to change–espcially in the church. It’s beautifully and creatively written, but I would not recommend it to other people who struggle with SGA. I think the book would be most beneficial to the people who are not even aware that there are these strugglers even in Zion. This book would help those who don’t understand that having SGA is not a choice nor a sin.

  11. Rex Goode said:

    Boskers, thanks very much for your heartfelt and thoughtful reply to my blog post. I definitely understand your feelings about the ending of the book. A very similar thing happened to me, only I was an adult who had devoted many good years before being removed from a position because I was willing to be open about dealing with same-sex attraction. Over the years, I’ve taken many more opportunities to be open about it. Sometimes, bad things happen. Some very difficult things to bear have happened to me.

    Like the character Paul, at first, it seemed like every time I told someone it worked out well. It lulled me into thinking it would always be that way. It can’t always be that way. Sometimes it turned out not so well. Like life itself, you end up getting the bad with the good.

    The good thing for me is that all of those situations where it seemed to be bad, God turned to be for the good. Like Joseph in Egypt, a bad thing turned out to be a good thing, because the Lord was involved and that is what He does.


  12. Charly said:

    I’m a reporter for BYU’s “Daily Universe” and am doing an article on “No Going Back”. Admittedly, this is not a book I would normally pick up, for starters, it’s not required for any of my classes, and sadly, such books tend to lay collecting dust besides my text books.
    However, I’ve been very grateful for the opportunity to not only read it, but research the book’s background. And what an interesting back story!
    I understand you, Rex, were a powerful influence behind the book’s creation and would love to talk to you about your inspiration in encouraging Langford to write it as well as the part you played.
    I really appreciated this post. These are very real and very scary challenges that not many know are being faced. I would really appreciate your help and input, so if you could please email me, I’d be very grateful.

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