Guest post by Jake Bernhardt
I have been utterly ruined for today. I am useless at work, and that’s a problem. I really do have an awful lot that I ought to be accomplishing, but I can’t shut it off. I can’t stop ruminating about the things that I’ve been seeing and hearing and experiencing over the last few years.
The Ensign article (page 32) that hit the fan yesterday (and yes…I am insinuating that the article fits into the category of things that hit the fan) has stirred up so many emotions for me.
“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, but same-sex marriage is only a counterfeit. It brings neither posterity nor exaltation. Although [Satan’s] imitations deceive many people, they are not the real thing. They cannot bring lasting happiness.”
These are really, really strong emotions that I’ve been wrestling with for such a long time. So, I’m posting in the hopes that I can release some of that emotion, and maybe move on today to accomplish more of what I desperately need to accomplish!!!
Counterfeit marriage…just imagine this conversation (some of us won’t struggle to imagine at all, because we experienced the conversation ourselves.):
Frightened young man: Bishop, I’m scared. I don’t know what to do. I think I might be gay. I’m attracted to other men, and it scares me. I hate it. I feel awful, but I don’t know how to make it stop. Please…please help me. What do I do?
Bishop: I am so sorry to hear that. I don’t know exactly what to say, but I do know this. Our Father in Heaven loves you. He wants you to be happy. If you will obey His commandments, he will bless you and you will find joy. You need to follow the commandments and do everything that you have been asked to do and then everything will be alright. When you marry a righteous woman in the temple, your problems will resolve themselves. As you follow God’s laws and do what He expects you to do, He will bless you and strengthen you, and you will be able to have the joy that is promised, both in this life and in the next. I know that this is the way to happiness. It is the plan that was laid out for each of us before we came to earth. Stay strong and true to your covenants. Don’t give in to the temptations that you face. Be careful as you choose with whom you will associate, and don’t ever talk openly about these issues. There is grave danger in flirting with sin and you will lead yourself into terrible situations if you interact with others who share your same weakness. Be careful and be obedient.
Young man: You really think that it will be ok? If I get married I’ll be alright?
Bishop: I know it. The Lord has given us all that we need to be happy. He would never ask us to do anything that we are not able to accomplish, with His help, of course. Think of Nephi setting out to get the brass plates. “I know that the Lord gives no commandments, except that He prepares a way.” Pray. Read the Scriptures. Fast more often and attend the temple whenever you can. You will be strengthened and the Lord will bless you. As you interact with your future wife in the way that God intended, your feelings will change. You can be healed. There are promises linked to all commandments. Blessings that will be poured out upon you if only you obey. When we fail to obey…we have no promise. But, in any instance, when we are faithful, the Lord is bound, and we will be blessed. This is the pattern that we see over and over again. I’m so sorry that you are struggling, but be strong. I have faith that you can do this. I know that the Lord loves you and wants for you to succeed in following His plan for you. Let’s talk again in a few weeks so that I can offer support. Until then, continue living faithfully. You will find joy.
Lie to a woman. Continue lying to yourself. Hide your feelings. Shield your thoughts. Do everything in your power to ignore the uncontrollable reactions that your body produces when particular men sit close, or casually touch your shoulder, or even make eye contact from across the room. Swallow the pain that you feel in isolation and fear. In fact…remain apart. Don’t associate too closely. Feelings might develop. Don’t touch another man. At least not in any way that could be meaningful. Dedicate all touch to your wife.
Pretend that it doesn’t hurt. Act as if you are excited and glad to be physical with her. The thoughts passing through your mind would hurt her immensely, so hide them completely. Don’t ever admit that you couldn’t function as a husband if you didn’t turn your thoughts to “dark and twisted fantasies.” If you encounter struggles in your physical relationship, and your sweet and trusting wife asks what is wrong, think through the panic and come up with something to say that might be believable as an explanation for your inability, on that particular night, to do those things that men are supposed to do spontaneously with the woman they love. Lie. Lie. Lie. The suffering will go away one day. Maybe it won’t be in this life even…maybe it will come in the life hereafter. But it will most assuredly come. It has been promised.
And when you find yourself wishing for the next life…well…ummmmm…pray harder. Fast more often. Go to the temple and seek strength. Stay away from other men. Cut yourself off more completely. Serve others in your callings. Give more. Cling to hope in Christ. It will happen. You will be changed. If you are faithful and absolutely obedient, you will one day…not be you any longer.
I can’t. I can’t even follow that thought process further. I’m sitting at work, and I’m supposed to be doing something productive. Instead, I’m trying so hard not to devolve into sobbing fits. The first time I asked for help from my bishop, he told me that I should never share my burden with Lisa. In fact, I shouldn’t share it with anyone, but especially not with her. It would only hurt her and cause confusion.
And the friend that I had grown too close to? I should never speak with him again. I should let him know that our friendship must end. I shouldn’t ever see him again. I obeyed. I cut myself off from a man, who was good and kind, and had been a tremendous support in the few months that we had been getting to know each other. But I was developing feelings that were dangerous and inappropriate. And it was only going to get worse. So my friendship ended. Abruptly and painfully, it ended. And I hid from my sweet love and companion. Luckily, that only lasted for about two and a half weeks, before I broke apart one night and sobbed out a confession that I was struggling with feelings for men and didn’t know what to do. All I could say was that I am broken. Terribly, horribly broken and I didn’t know how to fix it.
Lisa loves me. So completely, she loves me. She is my wife and I love her. I want that to be clear, too. My marriage to my wife is not a counterfeit, either. We are partners and companions, parents and friends. We uplift and support each other in every way that we know how. We mourn together. We laugh and experience joy together. We push through incredible difficulties together. I am so overwhelmingly grateful for my sweet wife. And, I lied to her for many, many years. I hid from her. I hid from everybody. She would express her love, and it would hurt me. Because I knew that she didn’t really know me. And I was certain that she could never say the loving things that she so often said if she knew who I really am. She has proven me wrong in the last several years. She really does love me. Completely. As a gay man and everything. But I had to step away from the church before I could experience that finally.
So please, leaders of that church, please stop defining our marriages for us. Please stop telling us what qualifies as a wholesome and healthy relationship. Stop encouraging young gay men and women to hide themselves from the world in order to obey. I recognize that most leaders have stopped advising marriage as a solution, but the teachings are still in place.
I had lunch a few weeks ago with a young, gay, returned missionary, who is at this moment wrestling with the decision of dating to marry a woman in order to have a family as dictated by the church, or living authentically with the desires of his heart to be in a relationship with a man. The struggle is ongoing and articles like this newest Ensign release are making that situation worse.
It has to stop. Somehow, it has to come to an end. We must be allowed to heal and live our lives authentically and openly. We ought to be able to engage in real, authentic, wholesome and healthy marriages with the people we love. We shouldn’t be casting more shame and creating more pain in the LGBT community over and over again. Please. Please stop.