I really was going to open this entry with a recounting of a memory much repressed in the past that has been stirred up with recent events. But I'm not sure that that will be necessary or appropriate, and I feel a need for restraint. I'm not sure whether the desire to share such things fulfills the purpose of bringing "attention" to myself (look over here, look at Beck, he's coming to terms with being gay! Look!) or whether I seek to cleanse myself of these past reflections as a way of coming to terms with my inner self -- and in the process coming to some kind of place of peace. Maybe it is some of both, I'm not sure, but I feel a need to restrain.
Maybe this restraint is signaling that I'm returning back into my shell. I hope not. I really do hope not. I blog as a way to "open up", to come to terms with my past. If you don't like it, I guess I'm sorry for wasting your time. I'm not seeking sympathy (well, maybe a little) as much as I'm seeking peace.
I once had a dear friend (someone I haven't mentioned before) who was a dear mutual friend of my closest friend from my mission.
We were a threesome of sorts. I met these friends, these PRECIOUS BROTHERS IN THE GOSPEL, in the last part of my mission. It was months later when I returned to my mission field (a long story in and of itself) and became "extremely close" to this particular amazing friend. I will call him "F". F had recently been baptized the year before, had progressed quickly in the Church, was ordained an Elder and was preparing soon for his mission. He was so excited to see me (as a RM)and took me around the mission to encounter the saints in the various branches I served in. He was completely devoted to whatever I wanted to do. We had lengthy discussions about the temple, mission preparation and his future, and mine and spent nights together talking for hours and hours.
One night we became affectionate -- more intimate than usual. That affection led to feelings and physical contact. We both were aroused and we mutually knew it and we KNEW the other knew it. I didn't know what I was feeling, naive returned missionary that I was, but he did. He knew! I wanted more, and he was the one who pulled me off and said "no". As I understood this experience then, I was feeling such "passion of brotherhood" even feelings of "spiritual bonding". But, with my eyes seeing more clearly now, I wanted him physically and he wanted me and it scared him. It terrified him! If I had understood more what was raging inside me, I would have been scared, too. All I know is that if he were willing, I would have gone along for the ride. But we pulled apart and nothing "serious" happened.
A year later, I was happily married a few months with my bride. F had received his mission call and was coming from Europe to the MTC to learn a language in preparation for his missionary service. Since we lived just off campus in our newlywed apartment, it was natural that he stayed with us for a few days before entering the MTC and that I would be his "family" to send him off.
It was during those few days that I could tell F wanted much more than to be "friends". F was like Jack in Brokeback Mountain, appearing at my doorstep of my newlywed apartment, desiring a serious rendezvous. I told him he needed to "stay in control of his passions" as a missionary or there would be problems. He sat in my lap, his arms draped around me, and was openly affectionate to me in front of my wife, and it became extremely uncomfortable. I had to explain that "things were different now", seeing that I was married and he a prospective missionary. But he didn't want them to be different between us now! I told him that in America we weren't as openly affectionate as we had been used to being with each other in Europe (an excuse that I realize was the best I could come up with at the time). He struggled with this, but finally realized I was right, and F agreed he needed to "keep things in check" for the sake of his mission and temple covenants. We did embrace in his bed in the guest bedroom, and I felt like Ennis in Brokeback Mountain... We were "friends" and desiring things I wanted to truly do, but my commitments to my wife kept me from doing them.
We had blunt discussions about his commitments as well and he seemed to recognize that he and I both needed to cool it.
As I was an MTC teacher at the time, I saw him frequently during his two month stay. He was "staying in check" and would give me a thumbs up that all was well. His last night in the MTC, I hung out with him and his district and I observed his commitment to serve the Lord and be the best missionary he could be. It was wonderful seeing him so happy and excited and full of LIGHT!
We hugged a long and brotherly affectionate hug and kissed each other good-bye. Little did I know then that that would be the last hug and kiss I'd ever receive from F.
He'd write faithfully each week and I became part of his missionary experiences through those letters. He had immediate success and the language came second nature to him. About nine months into his mission, however, he was sent home. He wrote me and lied saying his father was deathly ill and he was being sent home to deal with family matters. It wasn't until months later that I discovered he "wasn't able to keep things in check" and was sent home for homosexuality. I never got him to open up to me about what really happened, though I surmised as much.
His treatment at home in Europe was one of great sadness. He was openly mocked and shunned by the young adults. His parents, though not members, were ashamed of him. His father refused to speak to him when they realized that F was gay. Our mutual friend was his only source of friendship that didn't shun him, though even now that F was known to be "gay", even he began to pull back. F was eventually excommunicated.
F would call me and we'd talk on the phone, but it was hard for me to "be there for him" when I was a poor college student on another continent. I could feel that he had lost all ties from the Church that he had loved, from the Saints that were his family. But what could I do? And my wife was very hesitant for me to get any more involved. I tried to keep writing him, but he soon stopped writing back and withdrew from me. He knew things had "changed" even with me. I was the last grasp of hope, and even my lifeline for him was sinking into the abyss. I feel horrible admitting this now, but in a way, I allowed him to pull away without realizing the consequences.
Like Jack, having lost all ties to his friends and past, F sought new associations and actively pursued the life of unprotected sexual activity in the big city. He did so, as I contemplate it now, in hopes of ending his life -- it was a suicide plan and he knew it. And he succeeded. He soon acquired AIDS and the following year endured a lonely and painful illness that brought on his horrible death.
His sister (who had joined the Church just prior to his mission), recounted to me of his last wish... stating that he wanted to have a Mormon funeral, and would that be possible, and that the only good thing he ever did in his life was bring her the Gospel (He did have the Mormon funeral he desired - in the Church and ward that had shunned him and washed their hands of him). When I read these words, I wept! I wept openly and bitterly for days! As Ennis kept his post cards and even the shirt from Jack in the closet, I, too, kept his every letter and reread them and reread them. But, I wasn't there for F when he needed me. I, like all the rest of his "friends and brothers and sisters in the gospel" had abandoned him. And he died a painful, horrific death.
Now, some may say that F brought it on himself and that justice was served and he "got what he deserved", that he was a dishonorable missionary and unworthy human being. But, to this day, this very day, and particularly after recently seeing that heartache of a movie, and with different eyes I am haunted by his memory. F was a beautiful and amazing person, deeply spiritual with a testimony as golden as they come. He loved the Church and had embraced it and the Gospel of Jesus Christ body and soul. He was converted through and through. He was so full of spontaneity and the joy of living a full life! He wanted so much to serve the Lord! But it was all destroyed by his "coming out".
There was no mercy... just "justice" - inflicted by those of us, all of us, who should have been the ones to protect him and embrace him in the arms of mercy.
I have tried to forget what we had together and package it away neatly in the back of my closet. But, I am haunted, not because of our relationship (it was pure and beautiful and wonderful, very spiritual and emotionally amazing), but because of my inaction to help him, to be there for him, to give him strength when he was so weak, to give him hope when he had none, to find an alternate path for him than the one he chose as a way to end this hell of a life as a gay ex-Mormon. And, I guess, truthfully, I am haunted by the fear that the same thing could have happened and can happen to me as I "come out" in the light of day.
In some very real ways, I'm still in love with him. I'm ashamed of myself. I hate what I did. I wish it were different, but that is the past and I can't change it. In these different eyes, however, some twenty years later, I see him differently and cry openly even now as I write these words, asking him to forgive me, to forgive my inactions.
I still love him.
I pray that he is well and at peace with himself!
And with different eyes, now I seek that same inner peace!
But I'm still haunted... will this feeling ever go away? Will I ever be able to "get over it"? As with Ennis, will I be tormented forever?