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

Self-Imposed Ignorance

My Number One Thing

By Rex Goode


ME19Around the time I turned 16, as I have related before, I had a profound prayer experience where I promised Heavenly Father I would turn my life in a different direction. As difficult as it has been, I have kept the promises I made then. My life is everything I wanted it to be, except for financial pressures.

Recently, North Star International, an organization dedicated to serving Latter-day Saints affected by same-sex attraction, announced that their blog, NorthernLights, was reopening after about a year’s hiatus. As one of the authors there, I will have a chance to post some of my thoughts occasionally.

One of my co-authors, Greg Barnett, recently posed a question on his day. The entry is called, “10 Things,” and the question was: “List 10 things you would tell your 16-yr-old self regarding your experience with same-sex attraction if you could.”Greg gives his list on Northern Lights. I responded with my list in a comment there.

I want to repeat my list here, with some elaboration. There are plenty of things I know now that I wish I had known then. To have the opportunity to somehow transcend time and say something to my 16-year-old self, right after making my pact with God, would have been, well, interesting.

Read my most recent Northern Lights post: Little Bit Goes a Long Way.

“Interesting” is such an anti-climactic word to describe the profound changes that would have happened in my life if I had been a little smarter. There was virtually no real information about the things I faced. If I could go back and talk to me, I would have been well ahead of the game than anyone else in my position.

Resources like Evergreen and North Star did not exist back then. The only things you could hear at church about homosexuality were full of asperity for people like me. Whether in doctrinal condemnations or the unkind remarks of people who thought they were funny, going to church terrified me.

Before I end up on a soap box, let me present my expanded list in answer to Greg’s question.

  1. “It is what you think it is. It’s OK to admit it.”I had a lot of things I said to myself back then to explain why I had spent so much time pursuing sexual encounters with males. My reasons all made sense to me and it seemed to me that once I got out of the habit after my prayer experience, it would no longer be a problem. The one thing I deliberately  chose to not say to myself was that I was what my peers disdainfully called a “homo”.
  2. “Trust in the answers you got to your prayers. Just because it is what you think it is doesn’t mean it has to turn out like you think it has to. You have lots of choices.”If I had been able to accurately assess that I was experiencing homosexuality, I may have also concluded that there was only one inevitable path for my life. Though I couldn’t have heard any useful information at church back then, there would have been plenty of voices telling me that I had no trail to happiness other than in bed with another man, or a long procession of men. In a way, my self-imposed ignorance served me well.
  3. “Don’t listen to negative people. “Negativity abounds and I let the negative and unkind things I heard at church drive me further into denial. People outside of the Church often are negative about my prospects. Sometimes, with my point of view, I’m in trouble with people on all sides.
  4. “Remember how you told Heavenly Father you’d go back to church. Don’t waste any time. “That night, I promised the Lord I would start going to church again. It took me a few months. I wish I hadn’t waited.
  5. “Remember how much you felt like you wanted to be a Dad? Well, don’t give up on that.”I believe it was the Holy Ghost working on me that led me to pray that night, but this is a complex thing. The work of the Spirit comprised encouraging me on a few fronts. Probably the most motivating thing was that I had a deep desire to be a father. I didn’t have a very good experience with my own dads (biological and step), but something inside me told me that I would derive a lot of joy from it. It was difficult and I wanted to give up many times, but I stayed the course and my family is the joy of my life.
  6. “Be ready for opposition from all directions, even people at church. You’ll need a stand-on-its-own testimony.”The early seventies were a different world at church than I see now. Things were harsher and I don’t just mean on the subject of same-sex attraction. There was a sternness and a penchant for extreme black-and-white thinking. Not everyone was like that, but I faced several people who were more like the brother in the story of the Prodigal Son than like the father. If not for the profound experience I had and relying on my own personal testimony, I might not have lasted.
  7. “Have a sense of humor. It can really get you through the times when you are feeling down. There’s plenty of Funny to be found.”Part of self-imposed ignorance is a tendency to not think anything about the thing you deny is funny. Or, if you laugh about it at all, you laugh along with the people saying the things that would hurt the most if you were willing to admit it.
  8. “If you marry, marry for the right reasons.”I’m not sure why I even put this one in my list, because I took that advice. Mostly, it is in this list because I think that if I had admitted the nature of my struggle, I might have married for the wrong reasons. In fact, back then, if I had admitted it to a bishop, he might have suggested marriage as a cure. It was common advice, according to the men my age I have met since. Thankfully, the Church has eschewed that particular piece of advice. Gratefully, I married for the right reason. I found my perfect mate and I married for love.
  9. “Don’t beat yourself up because you notice good-looking guys. Just remember that they are sons of God too. “I think that beating myself more than anything represented the most compelling force that could have torn my whole world apart. Despite my unwillingness to be fully truthful with myself, I always would look at men and see them as better than me. I was desperately attracted to them and would watch them as intently as I dared whenever they were around. I thought at first that this habit was my worst enemy. Now, I realize that how I felt about myself as a result was a more ubiquitouos foe.
  10. “Don’t let ‘gay’ be the first word you use to describe yourself.”There is a tendency for a person who deals with same-sex attraction to either totally, mentally reject it, or adopt it as the most important and meaningful aspect of themselves. Fortunately, I have lived my life with enough variety that there is so much more about me that is interesting than being “gay” is.

Now, there is no way of knowing how I might be today if I had been able to tell myself what I know now. Certainly, my self-imposed ignorance presented me with a host of opportunities for sliding unprepared into an abyss of behavior that my addicted self could not have controlled.

Perhaps in the time of my youth, it was the safest path to where I have now arrived. I think things are better for youth today, with the help of organizations like North Star International and the enlightened things the Church has done to demonstrate the love the Savior has for all of us.

Exercises like this list are, well, as I said before, interesting. They are no more than merely interesting to me, because I have joy in the life I now live. Say anything you like about my choices, but if they have made me happy, you’ll never be able to argue against them. You are welcome to try.

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