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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “04 – The Cure – 1.0”

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04 – The Cure – 1.0


“[p. 82] Recognizing the seriousness of this problem in modern society and the need which offenders have to be assisted back to normal living, the Church has appointed two of its General Authorities [Spencer Kimball and Mark Petersen] to help on a Church level.… The success of this rehabilitation program has become known to the police, the courts and the judges, who refer many cases directly to the two Brethren, sometimes on a probation basis.…

Certainly it can be overcome, for there are numerous happy people who were once involved in its clutches and who have since completely transformed their lives.  Therefore to those who say that this practice or any other evil is incurable, I respond: ‘How can you say the door cannot be opened until your knuckles are bloody, till your head is bruised, till your muscles are sore?  It can be done.’…

[p. 83] Accordingly some totally conquer homosexuality in a few months, others linger on with less power and require more time to make the total comeback.…

Of all the numerous people who have come through this special Church program, very few have been excommunicated.…” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), chapter six)


“Though many have been told it is incurable, that is not true.  IT can be overcome through genuine, sustained repentance and can be forgiven as can other serious sex sins when adequate repentance is manifested.  These people are often consoled with the oft-repeated fallacy that ‘God made them that way.’” (Bishop’s Training Course and Self-Help Guide, 1970)


“[p. 4] There must be positive action.  Mere abandonment of the evil is only a first step in restoration.  There must be substitution.  The person should purge out the evil and then fill his life with constructive positive activities and interests.  He will throw away his pornographic materials and will have ceased reading articles about homosexuality and will substitute therefor the scriptures and worthy books and articles which will give the mind proper occupation.…

[p. 5] The entrenched homosexual has generally and gradually moved all of his interests and affections to those of his own sex rather than to the opposite sex and herein is another step.  When you feel he is ready, he should be encouraged to date and gradually move his life toward the normal.…

[p. 6] If they will close the door to the intimate associations with their own sex and open it wide to that of the other sex, of course in total propriety, and then be patient and determined, gradually they can move their romantic interests where they belong.  Marriage and normal life can follow.…

[p. 7] If you find some cases extra difficult and you feel that additional assistance and suggestions are necessary, feel free to contact the brethren who have been appointed to assist in this important phase of the church work—President Spencer W. Kimball and Elder Mark E. Petersen.…

REMEMBER: Homosexuality CAN be cured, if the battle is well organized and pursued vigorously and continuously.”  (Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen {?}, Hope for Trangressors (Church . . ., 1970))


“[p. 10] IT IS CURABLE

Now let us assure you that you are not permanently trapped in this unholy practice if you will exert yourself.  Though it is like an octopus with numerous tentacles to drag you to your tragedy, the sin is curable and you may [p. 11] totally recover from its tentacles.…

[p. 32] REMEMBER: Homosexuality CAN be cured, if the battle is well organized and pursued vigorously and continuously.” (Spencer W. Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals (Church . . ., 1971))


“[p. 18] While it is an extremely difficult habit to change, homosexuality can be repented of as can any other deeply entrenched habit.” (Homosexuality, Welfare Services Packet 1, 1973)


“This behavior can be conquered and forever left behind.  The earlier it is dealt with, the greater the chance for recovery.  There are many who have repented and become clean through repentance, prayer, self-discipline and loving support from others.”  (First Presidency Circular Letter, May 30, 1975)


[p. 8] It Is Curable

Now let us assure you that you are not permanently trapped in this unholy practice if you will exert yourself.…

Satan tells his victims that it is a natural way of life; that it is normal; that perverts are a different kind of people born ‘that way’ and that they cannot change.  This is a base lie.…

‘The knowledge that homosexuality can be effectively treated must be made more generally known.…’ [quoting Psychiatric Spectator, 2(4), Jan., 1965] 

[p. 11] … you can recover, and you can become the man your Heavenly Father created you to be. (Spencer W. Kimball, A Letter to a Friend, Revised edition [May] 1978)

Deseret News

“Y. Expert Says Marriage Won’t Cure Homosexuals,” Deseret News, April 13, 1979, D-1.


“Larry R. leaves working runs downtown to get a prescription filled before going home. On the way, he passes the office of Dr. Craig Card, the psychologist who performed electroshock therapy on him in an attempt to cure his homosexuality.

Larry describes the treatment: ‘You sit in a dark room, and they have you watch hard-core heterosexual and homosexual pornography. They attach electrodes to your arms, they place a biofeedback apparatus on your head and put a circular electronic center around your penis.

‘If you get an erection while watching the heterosexual pornography, that’s good–a positive response.’ Larry is embarrassed but continues. A biofeedback monitor shows a positive numerical readout. But, if you get an erection while watching the homosexual pornography, you get an electrical shock.’ Larry claims the treatment did not work, but says, ‘I did learn how to control my erections.’” (Mark A. Taylor, “The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name: A Day in the Life,” Utah Holiday, September 1986, p. 43)

“Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices, which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip to such practices again.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Reverence and Morality,” General Conference Address, April 1987, Ensign, May 1987)

Church News

“[Story regarding CBS TV interview] The reporter asked Elder Oaks whether marriage has been recommended by the Church as therapy for homosexual behavior or inclinations.  Elder Oaks said he did not know whether individual priesthood leaders have given such advice.  The path of growth is to abandon the sin and repent—that could or could not include marriage.  ‘Marriage,’ he emphasized, ‘is not doctrinal therapy for homosexual relations.’” (“Apostle reaffirms Church’s position on homosexuality,” Church News February 14, 1987, p. 12)


“’Mormons view homosexuality as a sin that can be overcome,’ he [Carl – pseudonym] said. ‘I know of many gays, including myself, who prayed until their knees are bloody and their hearts broken and still can’t change.’” (“Beliefs vs. gay Mormons,” The Phoenix Gazette, October 10, 1987, Religion section, p. 1)


“When Pres. Hinckley said in general priesthood meeting that marriage was not to be encouraged as therapy for homosexuality, that really excited our ward because it kind of validated what we were doing.”  (“Pastoring the Farside: Making a Place for Believing Homosexuals.  A conversation with Stan Roberts, former bishop of the San Francisco Single Adult Ward, Sunstone, 14:17, February 1990)


“However, ‘marriage is not doctrinal therapy for homosexual relations.’” (Victor L. Brown, Jr., “Homosexuality,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992), vol. 2, p. 656.  BROWN IS QUOTING DALLIN OAKS, “CBS-TV interview, Dec. 30, 1986, published transcript.”)


“[1] No general agreement exists about the causes of such problems. It is important for you as a church leader to help members understand that regardless of the causes, these problems can be controlled and eventually overcome.…

 [p. 2] In order to change homosexual behavior, a person must understand the seriousness of the transgression, feel deeply repentant, and have a firm commitment to change. These same elements will help a person overcome homosexual thoughts and feelings, which, although less serious, lead to deviant behavior.… 

[p. 4] Marriage should not be viewed as a way to resolve homosexual problems. The lives of others should not be damaged by entering a marriage where such concerns exist. Encouraging members to cultivate heterosexual feelings as a way to resolve homosexual problems generally leads them to frustration and discouragement. However, some people have reported that once they are freed from homosexual problems, heterosexual feelings have gradually emerged.… (Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems.  Suggestions for Ecclesiastical Leaders (Salt Lake City: Church, 1992))

[p. 125] But what about these brothers and sisters who have been ‘cured’ with prayer and fasting and are now happily married? I am personally [p. 126] aware of several dozen such individuals who were ‘cured’ of same-sex desires and went on to marry and have children.  Among them are personal friends and family members. Have they lived ‘happily ever after’? Perhaps in storybooks, but the ‘cure,’ many later admitted, was more of a ‘suppression’ that they learned to live with for years. Same-sex feelings eventually surface, leaving families torn apart and emotionally scarred. Most of the marriages ended in divorce. Among these individuals were a bishop with eight children, a bishop’s wife with four, a member of a high council with seven, and a mission president with six. For many following the marriage dissolution, a same-sex lover soon came into the picture.

A few have hung on, and to the outside observer their marriages look stable. One of these husbands confessed to me he wished he had never married, and another, an elders quorum president, confided that he enjoys his family but has had sexual intercourse with his wife about as often as he has had children. Even then, he candidly admitted, he has to ‘fantasize being with a man.’ Can this honestly be called a cure?…

[p. 132] At one point in despair from feeling rejected because of same-sex feelings and the lack of progress to change them, in spite of overwhelming effort and sexual abstinence, I wrote an emotional plea to Pres. Spencer W Kimball, who wrote back that I should see my current bishop, ‘a wise and inspired man of God who will tell you what to do.’ I went to my bishop as advised and was counseled: ‘I really don’t know what to tell you.’…

Then I received a call from Salt Lake City asking if I would be willing to appear anonymously with several other returned missionaries of homosexual orientation before one of the general authorities who wished firsthand information about this ‘growing problem’ in the church. I was thrilled at the prospect but unable to attend, so I suggested several missionary friends who could. I waited impatiently for their report and was encouraged by the initial results.

The meeting had begun with prayer, at the request of the former [p. 133] missionaries, and the general authority he had listened for two hours while the eleven men and one woman expressed their feelings. The general authority said little, but following the closing prayer confessed that he had approached the meeting with some feelings of apprehension that the spirit would be negative. Instead, he confessed, he had never felt a more beautiful spirit in any meeting and assured the young people that there would be more meetings with other sympathetic general authorities. The group gave the general authority some questions for the prophet, requesting that in place of giving further opinions, would he petition God’s will on this pressing matter.

The high hopes and anticipation of the next meeting and answers to their questions were soon shattered. The young people were told that the president of the church felt homosexuality was not an issue worthy of taking to the Lord. In addition he firmly instructed the general authority to hold no more meetings with the group.… Sadly, out of disillusionment, many of this group have since left church activity.”  (T. J. O’Brien, “You Are Not Alone: A Plea for Understanding the Homosexual Condition,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 26(3), September 1993)


“[p. 46] I had faith that God could perform a miracle here, too–a faith that was strengthened when I received my patriarchal blessing and heard, to my intense relief, its promise that I would marry and have children.…

I was too hard on myself, and prayed fervently many times each day. And waited. For fourteen years.…

[p. 48] For countless evenings, as I said my prayers, I beg to the Lord to take my life during the night.…

[p. 49] It had never crossed my mind, of course, in all those years of struggle, to ask God if he had any plans in regard to all this. I knew that I wanted my orientation changed, and I trusted in God to do it. After all, he would have to change it if I were to become what the Church taught (and what I believed) I was supposed to be. I was unprepared, therefore, for the response I received.

The response I received was that if I kept with a man the same moral standards the Lord expects of his heterosexual children—chastity prior to a lifetime commitment and fidelity with in it—my salvation and exultation would not be lost. I was warned, however, that it would not be an easy life.

‘Well,’ I thought after I finished praying, ‘that can’t be right.’ I knew what the scripture said. I knew what the Church said. This was ridiculous. It also certainly wasn’t the solution I would have chosen had my preference been asked. I wondered if I had finally cracked under the pressure and taken leave of my senses completely. Had I manufactured this? The only problem was that the revelation had been unmistakably clear. It had been strong. And it had been delivered by the same experience—by what I term the same voice, for lack of a better metaphor—that had first spoken in the past to confirm to me the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, that has guided me on my mission, that had borne witness to me of so many other things and experiences in the temple, and that had throughout the years provided guidance which, even if seemingly unreasonable when given, had always proved right in the end. That same voice. I felt I knew that voice. I knew that it had never guided me wrong in the past.

Still, I was reluctant to trust this experience. I found my bishop at church the next Sunday and told him what had happened. His initial response surprised me. ‘I know you to be very sincere and spiritual,’ he said. ‘If that’s what you were told, then I guess that’s what you were told.’ Later, of course, once the implications of what I had said had sunk in, he was careful—as he has been in each discussion of the issue since—to stress the rules of the Church on homosexual relations and to let me know that he had had occasion to sit on Church tribunals judging man who have made similar statements but who had been excommunicated anyway. (What, I wondered, if they were telling the truth?) Later still, deeply troubled by his inability to make the prescribed moral judgment of homosexuals comport with the characteristics of the man he actually knew, he even cornered a general authority to ask him if he thought there might be a revelation on the issue soon.

Meanwhile, I retested my personal revelation. Same answer. I waited until calmer times, and asked again and again over the coming weeks and months. Same answer. I went to the temple. (I had asked my bishop whether I should continue to go; he responded that I should go until I actually did something that would prevent me from being there.) Same answer. Eight months after the original revelation, having made certain that I had resolved anything I could think of with my bishop, I went to the temple to ask one more time. Same answer.…

What it, I wondered, still be appropriate for me to attend the temple once I had ‘married’ a man? Naïvely, I figured I had the Lord boxed in on this one. He would have to say either yes, from which I could infer that one of the Church’s limits was simply wrong, or no, from which I could conclude that the Lord had no business giving me permission to go off and do this in the first place. Of course, when I prayed, the Lord said neither. Instead, as happens from time to time, the answer came as a recollection of the scripture, its implication obvious: Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians that they abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, whatever their own beliefs about it might be, lest they weakened the faith of their brethren. (See I Cor. 8:9-12.) I understood from that prayer that if I married a man I would no longer attend the temple because, whatever the right or wrong might be, there would be too many people who would not understand and whose faith it might injure.

In retrospect, I realize that this answer also served to stress to me another important truth about the earlier revelation: that it was personal to me, and could not of itself be understood to be of broader application.…

[p. 52] In some cases, support within the church has come from very surprising sources, including members with reputations for extreme doctrinal conservatism. In the case of at least one of my priesthood leaders, his support clearly came against his will. After sustaining minor injuries in an automobile accident, I had requested a priesthood blessing from this man—a humble man of profound charity, but one who had gently but firmly made clear from the outset his fundamental opposition to the course I had adopted. When this leader laid his hands on my head, however, he blessed may not only that my injuries would heal properly (they did), but that I would one day meet the man who was to be ‘my companion in this life.’ It was the only time in my many years in the Church that I have stood after a blessing to see its giver manifestly shocked and horrified. That leader remained shocked and horrified or a very long time, but eventually—a year after the blessing, perhaps—walked up to me after sacrament meeting one Sunday and quietly told me that he hoped I would find my companion.” (Oliver Alden, “’My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?’: Meditations of a Gay Mormon on the 22nd Psalm,” Sunstone, August 1995)


“Through Christ and his church, those who struggle can obtain help. This help comes through fasting and prayer, through the truths of the gospel, through church attendance and service, through the counsel of inspired leaders, and, where necessary, through professional assistance with problems that require such help.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, October 1995)


Can individuals struggling with some same gender attraction be cured? “With God nothing should be impossible” (Luke 1:37). It really doesn’t matter, however, whether or not same gender attraction can be cured. The right course of action remains the same: eliminate or diminish same sex attraction.…

In the day of resurrection you will have normal affections and be attracted to the opposite sex.”  (James O. Mason, “The Worth of a Soul is Great,” Evergreen International 15th Annual Conference, September 17, 2005)


“[p. 44] Thus, when [Evan] Thompson [pseudonym] consulted LDS Apostle Mark E. Petersen about his homosexuality, the latter advised him to ‘distract’ himself with his music and other interests.…” (Douglas A. Winkler, “Lavender Sons of Zion: A History of Gay Men in Salt Lake City, 1950-79,” PhD Dissertation, University of Utah, May 2008)


 [p. 211] In addition, Harold Christensen’s studies revealed that Mormons preferred a ‘temptation-reduced environment’ in which ‘positive thinking’ and isolation from gay life substituted avoidance for engagement. Thus, the LDS Welfare Services Packet advised struggling homosexuals to flee from other gays, even if it contradicted their responsibility to ‘guide those who stumbled’ since ‘a sympathetic effort to work with other homosexuals to  ‘help’ them is especially dangerous.’…

(Douglas A. Winkler, “Lavender Sons of Zion: A History of Gay Men in Salt Lake City, 1950-79,” PhD Dissertation, University of Utah, May 2008)


“Avoid offering overly simplified responses, such as the idea that marriage or missionary service will eliminate same-sex attraction.…” (“Ministering Resources – Same-Sex Attraction,” LDS Church, March 2015)


Claudia: I have meetings once a month.  And I have them in my home so people feel safe coming there, because I’ve had some that are really frightened to come to PFLAG, like they’re going right into the doors of hell. They’re not only just young, but some of them are older too.  The stories on that side!  I have a lot of people who married, had children, and then ended up in divorce.

Greg: Divorce because a child came out, or because a spouse came out?

Claudia: Because a spouse came out.  A lot of straight spouses and gay spouses.  There’s just tons of them here in Utah because they were told, “Go ahead and get married; you’ll get over it.”  That’s one of the advices they received from the Church.

Greg: That used to be the Church’s policy.

Claudia: Yes, and so some of these people are grandparents, and they’re out and are in a gay relationship now and are finally happy. Then there are the wives or the spouses that are miserable, have been miserable because they were married to a person who didn’t really desire them either.  And so it’s a wreckage that just keeps going downhill and downhill, and how much wreckage these families are going through and how hard it is for some of the children.

I knew one man who had been a bishop and had eight children, and then came out later. He said, “I just found my true self.  I just finally came out.”  He wanted to all those years, and he knew.

Greg: So he knew even when he was interviewed to be a bishop?

Claudia: Yes, but he hadn’t acted on it. He was married and doing all the stuff that they had told him to do, and he had eight children.  The damage there was enormous when he came out. He and his wife divorced, and then the kids looked at him and said, “You hypocrite!” But he did what the Church wanted him to do. So it’s just been really fractured. They don’t even want him to be around the grandchildren. It goes down for a generation or two here and how that’s affected the families. The old faulty advice, “Tell him to go ahead and get married; he’ll get over it,” doesn’t work, didn’t work and it has caused a lot of wreckage. I also see a lot of sweet girls, too.  I know one woman who was married to a gay man. They had two children and he finally came out to her. She said, “Oh, that answers what’s been going on.”  She knew something was not quite in this relationship. Now he’s with a partner, and they co-parent.  So not all of them have turned it into something ugly.  You’ve just got to credit humankind. People put in love first. That’s how they’re handling it. They still co-parent and enjoy seeing the children, and the children haven’t been poisoned by it.

(Claudia Bradshaw, March 4, 2012)

Dabakis: On a personal basis, my first relationship with all of this was that the week after I arrived in Provo, I went to the Church Headquarters.  I had never been in Utah, but I decided I wanted to go talk to them and say, “I’m feeling like I’m gay.  What do I do?”  I was only seventeen.  Unlike now, where this would not be possible, I just went into the office building and said to the receptionist, “I have a problem I’d like to talk to somebody about.”  I remember the woman said, “Is it about girls, or boys?”  Clearly it wasn’t the first time that a teenager had arrived.  I said, “Boys.”  She said, “OK.  Let me see what I can do.”

Elder Mark Petersen’s secretary came down and set a time.  So I came back up to Salt Lake from Provo and met with him.  I remember the painting.  He had one of those Book of Mormon paintings.  I had had seen it in the Book of Mormon.  There was the real, live oil of it, of Nephi.  I told him and he said, “I think it is a phase.  I think you should just go on living your life.  I’m going to give you a blessing, and you’re going to be fine.  You look like a man to me.”  I said, “Well, thank you, Elder Petersen.”

So he gave me a blessing, and then afterwards I said to him, “So should I tell my bishop?  Should I tell my people?”  He said, “No, I wouldn’t tell anybody anything.  If they have a problem, you have them talk to me.”  I said, “OK.  Great.”  I felt like that was it.  What could be better?

Prince: How long did it take you to figure out that his blessing may not have delivered?

Dabakis: On the steps going out.  There were a couple of hot missionaries going in.  It didn’t take long.

(James Dabakis, August 2, 2013)

Christofferson: My approach to it was, “If I do all the right things, if I do everything God tells me to do, then this will go away.”  I really loved my time serving as a missionary, and came home and was quite surprised to discover that I was still gay.  I thought the deal was, “I’ll go do the two years, and then when I come home it’s all going to be perfect.”  I didn’t have any problems on my mission, didn’t have any sexual attraction to anybody there, and I really lost myself in the work and love it.  But the next step of that was getting married, and a short marriage to a woman who certainly didn’t deserve that situation of me not knowing how to be, and not being completely forthcoming or having any way of trying to warn her what she was getting into.  Then, for me, it kind of all came to a screaming halt.  It just came to a point where, “Look, I can’t keep trying to be the good Mormon fellow, pretending I’m not gay or that somehow God is going to take this away.  So now, I’ve got to figure out what it means to be gay.” …

Josh: I remember, after marriage, being promised, explicitly promised by a bishop after a blessing, that my sexual orientation would change, and him just giving this very like filled with the potency of new bishopdom.  “I promise you that by the end of your life, these things will shift.”  But even at that point there was a level of dubiousness in my mind around it. …

(“Out in Zion” – Podcast #8, September 28, 2015, “Reparative Therapy in the LDS Community, Part 1.”  Panelists: Tom Christofferson, Josh Weed)

Geneva: I was going to say back a while, our son was hanging in there.  He wanted desperately to stay in the Church.  When Prop 8 came out, that was the determining factor.  He just became so bitter from there on.  He cannot go inside of an LDS church without feeling that everybody is against him.  He just feels so uncomfortable inside an LDS church house.

Marv: He is married now to a former bishop.  You have never seen a happier union anywhere in your life than those two.  They love each other very deeply.  They are both very successful.  They are raising that daughter from his previous marriage.  And he was a bishop and he married and raised his son and sent him on a mission.  Now, his son is coming home from his mission, and he is married to my son.

Geneva: He divorced after his son left on a mission.

Marv: Yes.  That was an interesting situation how that all worked out, but it has worked out beautifully.  His son, who is a very intelligent, outstanding individual, going to law school now, understood the situation.  He talked with us and I gave him a lot of material to read.

And yet, Greg, we see the happiness of those three in our family, as opposed to what they were before.  Our grandson, when he came home from his mission, and the gal he married come home from her mission and they were married in the temple—it just didn’t last.  It couldn’t last.

Geneva: He told her, before they married, that he was gay.  They decided they could make a go of it, with the Lord’s help.  But it didn’t work out.

(Marvin and Geneva Peterson, March 3, 2015)

Schow: I think there is some discussion in Dialogue—I think David Knowlton has written on that subject to some extent.  Here is where I think it comes into the equation: I think there are a lot of bisexual men who have risen to leadership in the LDS Church.  What they have experienced is what I experienced as a teen: they were attracted to boys their age.  They may even have experimented a little bit.  They may have wondered if they were gay, but they were only a 2 or 3 or 4 on the Kinsey Scale.  So they went on their missions, they came home from their missions, they had enough heterosexual attraction to find somebody to marry, which our culture presents tremendous pressure to move people in that direction.  So they got married, and they are faithful to their spouses like good Mormons are.  They feel like they had that temptation, but they moved past it.  So the gay man shows up in their office and, without acknowledging their own experience, they say, “You just need to go ahead and get married.”  We think maybe that’s a thing of the past, but I know a young man who was just released from his mission a year ago, and he has been counseled twice, by two different bishops, when he told them about his gay feelings, they both told him to go ahead and get married and not tell anybody.

(Ron Schow, March 18, 2013)

Williams: But I was so scared about being gay that I obsessively got into the mode of “I’m going to follow the Prophet so much.  I’m going to read everything that he ever wrote.  I’m going to read the Book of Mormon, as he has admonished me to do.”  I became kind of a religious zealot.…

I went to BYU for one semester, and it was just all falling apart.

Prince: Before or after your mission?

Williams: After my mission.  My belief system in Mormonism was falling apart.  My sister, who was working with Eagle Forum, started investigating fundamentalism.  I was so desperate that I went to the Allred fundamentalist church, and I met all these polygamists.  I was just desperate to find what was going to fix me.  Then, when I saw this other side of Mormonism that I didn’t know, and I realized that the history that I had been taught, and that I had been teaching as a missionary, that there were two different versions of history, it was really distressful for me on very deep, fundamental level.

Prince: You were a few years ahead of the curve.

Williams: Yes.  I do have a fearlessness about me, and I remember going to the Bluffdale fundamentalist church, the Allred church, and Michael Quinn was speaking.  He gave a presentation of a Dialogue article that he had written about the Ezra Taft Benson-Hugh B. Brown battles.  He said it was published in Dialogue, and I didn’t know what Dialogue was.

So the next Monday morning I went to a Deseret Book Store, and there was one Dialogue left.

Prince: I’m surprised there were any.

Williams: Exactly.  So all of a sudden there was this kind of leftist view on Mormonism that I had never seen before.  Then, the Church started excommunicating those folks, the September Six.

Prince: That was 1993.

Williams: Yes, so it was about a year-and-a-half after my mission.  That caused me to be endlessly fascinated.  So I went out and met Avraham Gileadi, and Michael Quinn, and Lavina Anderson, and Maxine Hanks.  I became obsessed with these people who had been excommunicated.  I would read everything that they wrote.  I was trying to figure out what Mormonism was, this strange religion.  I think a lot of it was sublimation—if I could just sort of immerse myself in the history, I wouldn’t have to deal with my sexuality.  I would date girls all through this, but I was terrible at it.  Horrible!  Thankfully, I never got married—or married a polygamist girl.

But I became friends with all these weird people.  I met Cleon Skousen and all the right-wing crazies, and then I would go meet all the people on the left as well; and then I would meet Fundamentalists.  I became a friend of Ogden Kraut, who would publish all the stuff.  He was the only person who would answer my questions about weird doctrines.  Everyone else would freak out on me.

So here I was, trying to absorb Mormonism from every conceivable angle possible.  I was living in Provo, trying to be righteous so these gay feelings would go away, but they just never did—thankfully!  I always make the joke that God ignored every one of my prayers in that respect.

I developed this love-hate relationship with Mormonism.  I love it, in that it has created me.  I am a product of Mormonism.  I wouldn’t exist without it.  If Joseph Smith had never started this church and never translated the Golden Plates, whether they were real or not, I would not exist.  So there was this weird kind of existential thing happening.  On one level I could be angry at the Church, but on another level it was something that created me; and I had to reconcile this in some way in my life.  I went through a really difficult, awful, traumatic experience trying to figure out who I was, as a Mormon with same-sex attraction that never went away, thankfully!

In 1997 there was the Sesquicentennial Celebration, with “Faith in Every Footstep.”  My theme that year was “Ambivalence in Every Footstep.”  I went backwards on the Mormon Trail.  While everyone was reenacting it moving west, I decided I would start in Salt Lake and move backwards.  So I drove on this reverse pilgrimage to Winter Quarters, to Adam-Ondi-Ahman, to Carthage, to Nauvoo.  I had never been to any of them before, and I really had to figure out Mormonism and my relationship was going to be with it.

When I was in Winter Quarters I went to church that Sunday, and I realized that there was no place for me in this church anymore.  I didn’t belong here anymore.

Prince: Because you were gay?

Williams: All of it.  All of it put together.  I thought, “I don’t belong in this church anymore.”  It was a horrible thing.  I remember then walking into the Winter Quarters graveyard, and I was overwhelmed with this deep feeling of love from my pioneer ancestors.  It was not that any of my physical ancestors were there in the graveyard, but just that my Mormon ancestors were there.  They welcomed me into the graveyard, filled me with love, and said, “You get to be a different kind of pioneer.  You are released from the Church, and you get to go your own way and forge your own path.  It’s OK.”  I bawled and cried, and it was awesome.  It was a beautiful experience.  I learned to feel love and reverence for my faith tradition.

Prince: Was it an epiphany?

Williams: Yes.  I knew I was free to pursue whoever I was meant to be.  At that point, I could then start to deal with the fact that I was gay, and it was OK.  I still go through phases of being really angry.  When I did finally come out at 28 or 29 years old and said, “I’m gay and this is who I am,” all the political stuff started to happen.

(Troy Williams, March 30, 2015)