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

An Instinct for Barking

Rantings of a Giant Mutant Prairie Dog

By Rex Goode


Many years ago, I was dubbed the Giant Mutant Prairie Dog from Hell by one of my coworkers. It happened when he called my name and I stood up from my cubicle sporting a full beard. He thought that’s what I looked like. I suppose I did.

There’s a lot about prairie dogs that describes me. They’re very social. They like to be in groups. They bark as a warning of impending danger. There is growing evidence that they may even have a prairie dog language for identifying the different kinds of animals and even shapes that come near. Like prairie dogs, I have an instinct for barking about problems I see. Unlike a prairie dog’s little squeak, I’ve got a big, booming, basso profundo voice. I guess if a mutant prairie dog weighed as much as I do, he would have a loud, low voice too.

So, in the spirit of calling attention to something that I think has the potential for being dangerous, here’s my version of a prairie dog warning.

For about 11 years, I facilitated a support group in the Portland, Oregon area for men who struggle with same-sex attraction. We enjoyed the support and sponsorship of LDS Family Services. Somewhere in about 1999, I don’t recall exactly when, we were informed that LDS Family Services could no longer sponsor us and that whatever we did from there on, we were on our own. What I mean by that is that anything we continued to do by way of a support group was purely a private matter, not sponsored by LDS Family Services or any unit of the Church.

Though not entirely thrilled about all aspects of that separation, I have long believed that the struggle with same-sex attraction for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who wish to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church is one that requires a man to stand on his own two emotional feet. I see it as a good thing to participate in something that helps me without the parental influence and policy-making of the Church.

Now, before you see that as a criticism of the Church and its policies, I don’t intend it that way. I mean that for the majority of my young life, I struggled with feelings of being emotionally immature and lacking in masculinity. There are theories out there that say that these feelings are the underlying basis of same-sex attraction. Others say that those feelings are the result of the teasing and taunting of others because others perceived me as less than whole because they somehow sensed my same-sex attraction.

To be completely honest here, I don’t really care that much which way of thinking is true. I suspect that there is a little bit of truth in both. You see, I’m not that interested in cause and effect theories about my same-sex attraction. I’m more into the idea of having choices. In other words, I don’t really care how I got this way. I just want to be able to make my own choices with how I deal with it. Sometimes, in order to feel I can make those choices, I need the support of others who mostly share the goals that I have.

That, for me, was the benefit of having a support group. I think everyone needs support, which I view differently than being held up. I don’t want to be carried. I want to be supported while I learn to walk. That’s what I mean by standing on my own two emotional feet.

I think that groups should be that way too. I hear a lot about people wanting the Church or one of its agencies to establish some kind of program for people who deal with same-sex attraction. I’m kind of glad they stopped doing it.

Just like I think I do better by doing for myself, I think a group does better by being unencumbered by the parent organization. Even more than that, I think it does better being operated by those closest to the issue that the group deals with–the very ones who deal with it.

In this, I make a distinction between support groups and therapy groups. I think a therapy group that is operated by a qualified therapist and possibly sponsored by a social services agency is a good idea for people who want such things. A therapy group should be based on the theoretical orientation of the therapist, for example, Existential, Jungian, or Object Relations.

A support group, on the other hand, should be self-directed and not based on any psychological theoretical orientation other than the idea of self-help. Like everything else in this life, it ought to be based on principles and boundaries. The best principles and boundaries are spelled out. Not to equate same-sex attraction with alcoholism, but a good example of a self-help group based on principles and boundaries is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

I guess you could say that Alcoholics Anonymous has a kind of theoretical orientation, a model based on some ideas about spirituality and how people’s minds operate. What makes a them different than a therapy group is that everyone in the group is a peer. There is no expert who directs and accepts responsibility for the group. The group itself, represented by its members as a whole, directs it and accepts responsibility for themselves.

So, in a lot of ways, I’m content that LDS Family Services no longer sponsors the group I was part of. I’m not upset that the Church doesn’t sponsor such groups. They do have an Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) that is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model, but with the difference that there is a parent organization, namely LDS Family Services, and a non-peer presence in the meetings in the form of missionaries who may or may not have struggled themselves with addictions.

Since I don’t think of my same-sex attraction as an addiction, especially in the absence of out-of-control behavior, I don’t agree with the idea that same-sex attraction can be dealt with in an ARP group. Same-sex, out-of-control, addictive behavior for certain can be helped by such a program, but not the intrinsic attraction itself and the frustrations that men like me encounter in such a conservative church.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m conservative too. I understand why Latter-day Saint men and women who think of themselves as gay adopt a point of view about it that seems to conservative Mormons to be worldly and contrary to the teachings of the Church. This being a gay Mormon, if you want to use that label, is a difficult and confusing thing sometimes. I can’t fault anyone who deals with it differently than I do. I say, as instructed by our scriptures, “”Let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds (D&C 64:11).”


What makes it more confusing for me is the relative silence of the Church on same-sex attraction. One or two of you reading this will think I’m making an outrageous statement. Surely the Church leaders have not been completely silent. In fact, some people think they have said too much.

The difference for me is that they have been vocal and even politically active in talking about all of the “dont’s” and standing up for saying that same-sex behavior is contrary to our understanding of God and His laws. I’m not totally against them doing that. I think they have an obligation to stand up for their point of view regarding morality and policy.

As I’ve already spelled out, I’m not looking for a Church-sponsored program of help for Latter-day Saints with same-sex attraction. I’m not even looking for my local leaders to help me not be gay. I like standing on my own and doing for myself what I need to do.

What they don’t do much of, which is the confusing part for me, is spend a lot of time on the “do’s” as they related to same-sex attraction. I’ve got these feelings. They are deep and powerful. What am I supposed to do about them?

I’m possibly being a little too melodramatic when it comes to myself. I’m not really all that confused about what God expects of me. I know countless men and women who are. I don’t blame them. It is bewildering to constantly hear how wicked your feelings are without much being said about what you’re supposed to do with those feelings.

One of our hymns, How Firm a Foundation (#85), has the line, “What more can he say than to you he hath said?” I agree with that. I don’t really think that same-sex attraction should be treated like some new thing that we have to come up with new things to say about. I rest on the assurance that my Savior offers everything I need to deal with this dilemma. So, I’m not necessarily asking the Church and its leaders, even local, to make same-sex attraction some big topic of disucssion.

I don’t think it is such a different issue than any other human thing that people must sort out in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What makes same-sex attraction different has more to do with how much is being said everywhere other than the Church. Our youth are hearing about it on television, in film, among their friends, and at school. They’re seeing it in the news. Recently, two men in Portland were beaten up because they were holding hands. With all of these sources of information and commentary in all of the places where members of the Church can see them, it can result in confusion when the only thing being said is what everyone but the Church is saying.

On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago, a member of our stake who is involved with LDS Family Services came and spoke in our 5th Sunday joint priesthood/Relief Society meeting and spent a fair amount of time on the subject of pornography addiction, with only a passing mention of same-sex attraction support being available. What they didn’t say was that you can get a therapist to work with you but there is no group to help, as there is with pornography addiction.

I sometimes wonder if the relative local silence on the subject has something to do with fear of drawing attention to the Church in a region where homosexuality is a fairly big topic. The mayor of Portland is self-described as gay. I hope that isn’t it. I hope it isn’t fear. I’ve always thought that a person with convictions should be willing to be vocal about them, you know, barking like a Giant Mutant Prairie Dog.


4 people like this post.

5 Responses to “An Instinct for Barking”

  1. Mike McGrew said:

    What did you mean when you wrote (toward the beginning of the post) that “same-sex attraction is the basis for same- sex attraction”? Maybe that was a typo? Seems like something is missing.

    I appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Mike. That was a typo. It was supposed to say “these feelings are the basis of same-sex attraction.” I corrected it. It was one of those things that didn’t look wrong when I re-read it, but would have caught when I re-read it after some time has passed. I appreciate you catching it for me.

  3. Eric Chaffey said:

    Hi Rex, This is great. I hope that you will keep on barking:). Your voice is one that needs to be heard. Perhaps if I get a little more guts I will be more effective in barking myself and being an effective voice for the need of support. Love you my friend.

  4. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Eric. Love you too. And I love the barking you do here.

  5. Michael Packham said:

    The only drawback to our standing on our own two feet is that I don’t know whom I can invite to stand with me. When a group is church-sponsored then bishops can recommend that a brother experiencing SSA would contact me to be included in the group. But no bishop is going to steer a fellow to a non-sanctioned group. I can’t stand with other SSA-and-committed-to-the-gospel guys if no one makes their presence or need known.

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