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

Can Anybody?

Risk Assessment

By Rex Goode


“If Rex can do it, anybody can!”

Somebody said that about me once. It’s not a very flattering statement, but it was meant to prove a point. I think that the point failed.The point being made was that if I could be gay and still be faithful to the Church and my temple covenants, then the argument that gay people can’t do that is made moot. The follow-up statement was, “It only takes one to prove the possibility.”

It is true that you can’t say that no gay person can be faithful to the teachings of the Church if you can find one that is. Eighteen years ago, there weren’t a lot of Latter-day Saints  like me publicly admitting to being attracted to the same sex and staying active in the Church and married to someone of the opposite sex.

On the other hand, you can’t really say that because I’m doing it, that everyone can. There are many factors to consider. Things came together for me in ways that not everyone experiences. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to judge why one gay man stays true the Church and another doesn’t.

When the above conversation was held, it felt odd to be the topic of conversation in a highly controversial debate—a debate that still continues. I’m not as talked about as I once was, others having joined in since then with much higher visibility than me.

I was “out” long before it was so fashionable. Back in my day of “openness”, people hadn’t really heard of blogs. Videos like you can find on YouTube took hours and days to download. Conversations were mostly done on mailing lists and newsgroups. Most people who read this won’t even know what a newsgroup is.

Back then, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published an article in the Church’s magazine, the Ensign. The article was called “Same-Gender Attraction.” Until then, the Church was fairly quiet about homosexuality. When I say “the Church” I mean the official upper levels of church organization.

The people were talking about it everywhere, except in church. It was a very taboo subject. In fact, the only times I ever heard it mentioned in church meetings were someone would crack a tasteless joke about it in a priesthood meeting or in Sunday School class. The joker always got lots of laughs.

In about 1997, I was invited to speak at a fireside in my ward in Westerville, Ohio about my life and my experience as someone who deals with same-sex attraction. It was something that was fairly rare. Not long after that, I was invited to speak in the ward that met in the same building. At both firesides, I was joined by a couple who had been asked to help local church members who struggled with same-sex attraction. At the second one, another “out” friend who had done a fireside in Michigan joined me. In the fireside, he referred to us as “Poster Boys”.

As odd as it was to be in the conversation about what gay men could accomplish, it was even odder to be “out” in a big way in my own ward. I didn’t mind it. I knew when I first started talking about myself publicly that I would get a mixed reaction. There would be a lot of people who would be afraid of me. Fortunately, they were afraid enough that I stopped hearing gay jokes in priesthood meetings.

Since that time, I’ve appeared on television twice, have been interviewed for a documentary (though the interview was cut), and have written untold numbers of blog posts like this one. Now that I’m joined by others who have been even more notorious than me, the conversations about me have dwindled. Every once in awhile, I get mentioned somewhere, like Dad’s Primal Scream: North Star.

Though I’m not personally talked about like I used to be, the Church has started talking much more. It is interesting how I and others like me that I know, are so hyper aware of whatever little mention there is of us in the Church. We keep lists of what has been said or written. For a long time, there wasn’t much.

This week, however, the Church went public in a big way. They have launched a new web site called Mormons and Gays. My initial reaction was amusement that the Church used the G-word as a noun. Ever since Elder Oaks’ article where he said that we shouldn’t use words like “gay” as nouns to describe something a person is, I’ve steered clear of referring to myself as gay in public. It’s not that I’ve never said it, but I tend to try to follow the apostles’ lead whenever I can.

We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.

—Elder Dallin H. Oaks,” Same-Gender Attraction”, Ensign, 1995.

Among my friends who are gay but striving to do as the Church teaches on this new web site, there are many who wish they could be as known in their own wards as I have been. It’s not that they want to be the kind of spectacle I’ve been. They just want some simple respect and support.

I’ve never done anything in my current ward like a fireside. I don’t really talk about it there. I’m not sure who knows. I don’t know that it matters to me who knows.

I’m not sure why no one here asks me to speak about it. Over the years, when I’ve talked to priesthood leaders about it, they felt they were protecting my privacy by not using my name in connection with homosexuality. My privacy? It’s kind of funny. On this issue, I abandoned my privacy a long time ago.

I also tend to think that local leaders have long feared a backlash from the gay community like what happened after California’s Proposition 8 battle. They don’t want to talk about the issue. If they take the lead of the general church, though, the example is there that the local Church can talk about the issue without compromising our ideals and beliefs. One of those beliefs that has always seemed to be to be true but is now being said explicitly on the Church’s new web site—that same-sex attraction feelings are not something men like me choose to have.

…individuals do not choose to have such attractions…

Mormons and Gays

My friends who wish they could be more open with their local church communities will probably continue to remain silent until the local leaders give some kind of sign that they are open to more discussion, that bishops will stand by them if they choose to seek the support of their ward families.

Back when I spoke to my ward in the late 1990’s, I had a promise from my bishop that he would stand by me if people had a problem with me. He kept that promise and if anyone had a problem, they didn’t say so to me or in public. You could go insane trying to manage your feelings about what people might be saying about you in private.

Back when someone said that if I could do it, anyone can, they were talking about being faithful to the Church. Today, people might be tempted to apply it to the question of openness in church. For now, despite the many very open people like me in the Church, there are multitudes of those who feel like they don’t dare. They necessarily assess the risk as too great.

I look forward to the day when anyone can, if they feel the need of the support, reach out to their ward family and be open about the things that bother them. People like me don’t struggle with same-sex attraction itself as much as they do with the fear of those feelings being discovered.

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2 Responses to “Can Anybody?”

  1. Steve said:

    “It is true that you can’t say that no gay person can be faithful to the teachings of the Church if you can find one who is… On the other hand, you can’t really say that, because I’m doing it, that everyone can.”

    And on the third hand, just because you can’t say that everyone can do it, based on one example, doesn’t mean that not everyone can do it! We CAN do it, based on God’s promises. We have the testimonies of the prophets and the Scriptures that everything the Lord asks us to do is indeed doable (1 Nephi 3:7). And we have good examples of success and mentors who can help us.

    Let’s say it clearly: Every one of us who experience same-sex attraction can remain true to the teachings of the Gospel and can eventually receive every blessing God has prepared for His children.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Steve, it is true that everyone can be faithful or become faithful to the teachings of the Church. That is not because it is true of me. I have nothing to do with it. If you ever find yourself in the unenviable position of being the bat which other people use to beat people over the head, you’ll know what I’m saying.

    For me, it was not that difficult a task. I didn’t travel all that far away from the Church. Others will find it far more difficult than I did, so all I’m saying here is while you’re preaching, don’t beat people over the head with me. It hurts me as much as it hurts them.

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