I walked into the North Star Executive Committee meeting December 31, 2010 with great anticipation. I was among dear friends, and looked forward to spending that night and the next day with our Leadership Council enjoying each other’s company and furthering the mission of North Star. I left the meeting with a pit in the bottom of my stomach. I had been chosen to replace Jeff Bennion as president of North Star for a two-year stint beginning 2012.
I spent the next year dreading the impending leadership position, doubting myself, and questioning the collective wisdom of the rest of the executive committee. I wasn’t so worked up because of the enormity of the task or because I lacked leadership experience. I was sick inside because I was afraid of failing, afraid I would not live up to my own and other’s expectation of personal worthiness, afraid of bringing shame to an organization that quite literally saved my life. I was also afraid if I made mistakes in my life, which I surely would, out of fear of “looking bad,” I would return to my duplicitous life of maintaining a shiny veneer on the outside while living a lie on the inside. I came by this fear honestly. Eleven years ago, I was released early from my calling as a bishop for viewing gay pornography. It was the single most devastating thing I have ever experienced. Because of a promise in my patriarchal blessing, I had prepared all my life for that sacred calling, and I had blown it. I let down the Lord, my ward, my family, and myself.
As a result of the stories I told myself about this “failure,” I lost all confidence in my abilities as a leader, and was sure this new leadership opportunity would likewise end in disappointment for me and for those around me. To some extent, I still envision impending clouds of failure on my personal horizon.
Often, because of personal weakness and sin, my shadow screams, “Quit, resign, withdraw, and isolate.” I still struggle at times, perhaps more often than not, with pornography, masturbation, and alcohol abuse. These addictions acquired in my youth still haunt me, and provide quick yet fleeting relief from stress and pain, followed by increased shame and guilt. The endless cycles of sin, repentance, and sin again wear down my spirit and weaken my reason.
This spring a friend tipped me off to a free pornography addiction recovery program called “Cure the Craving” by Tony Litster. It is an amazing program that helps individuals get to the heart of the causes of this addiction and then walks them through a “reprogramming” of how they view and interact with the world around them. I am still working the program.
So, how am I doing? Quite honestly, not nearly as well as I want to be doing. However, I’m NOT giving up! I can’t. Too much is at stake – my earthly and eternal happiness. I realize I will be challenged by these addictions the rest of my life, but with Father’s help and by utilizing inspired tools, I have faith my spirit will be able to subdue my physical body and the mortal challenges that accompany it.
Last month I attended Journey Beyond, a wonderfully enlightening experiential weekend available to those who have completed Journey into Manhood. Both these experiences have taught me a lot about myself and helped me to shed the shame of my same-sex attraction. I believe they are two of the inspired tools Father has provided for my healing. I also began this week attending Sexaholics Anonymous. I was terrified to walk through that door! It is one thing to bear my soul to those who share the same challenges I do, and quite another matter to expose my secrets to men whose weaknesses are with sexualizing women. I left the meeting, however, feeling wanted and accepted by men who likewise seek sexual sobriety by surrendering to Christ that which we cannot do alone.
I have also created a network of good men who know my shadows and love and accept me just as I am. As difficult as it can be, I know I can reach out to these men in times of need.
Can God use someone as weak in faith and susceptible to sin as I am or as you might be to help reclaim others struggling with same-sex attraction and addiction? I believe He is the Master of miracles, and has such incredible love for his children that He can use even the weak and simple to further his work of “bringing to pass the eternal life and exaltation of man.”
When my shadow whispers, “You may as well quit.” My soul cries, “I would rather be known as one who tried and failed, than as one who failed to try.”
Instead of the mantras “Follow me, I have it all figured out” or conversely “Wait for me, I’m your leader,” I invite you to walk WITH me this journey of hope and healing. Together, with the Savior as our guide, we absolutely will come off victorious!