A couple of people have taken me to task for my use of the phrase "recovering Mormon" to describe myself. I see now how that might be hurtful. It could suggest that I think there is something in the Mormon experience that we all need to recover from. That has not been what I have intended to suggest.
I use the term "recovering" because that is very much what I am doing. My own Mormon experience, while deeply fulfilling and enrichening at so many points and in so many settings, was also a source of pain for me. Deeply personal pain. I became Mormon in part because I thought it would help me not be gay. I thought it would be a path to overcome my homosexuality and to have the kind of life I longed for as a child and adolescent.
One of my most haunting memories of being young and gay occured just hours after I was baptized. I was with a male friend and I found myself feeling very attracted to him. Just a few hours after my sins had been washed clean! I was so upset. And I sat down and picked up my copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness, given to me by a sister missionary at my baptism. President Kimball condemns homosexuality in the very strongest terms in that book, compares it to bestiality and calls it unnatural and a sin next to murder. I don't know how else to describe how that hit me except to say that I was devastated.
But I was able to move on and do the best I could to be a good Mormon. I loved the Chruch, I loved to serve, and I loved the people I knew there. And when K and I started to develop a romantic relationship, I was so relieved. It seemed I wasn't gay after all! But my attraction didn't go away. It simply coexisted with my love for and life with K.
Throughout my life I would dive into the literature of homosexuality when I had the chance and read whatever I could about clinical treatment or how to manage it or overcome it. I spent hours on the websites of Evergreen International and NARTH. I prayed that God would change me. He didn't. So I prayed God would give me the stength to endure. For awhile I did. But about two years ago, my prayers changed. I prayed God would just take me. Better dead than gay. Better dead than to devastate my wife and children. Better dead than to betray the Church I loved, that told me I should either change or endure when I couldn't seem to do either. By this time last year I couldn't imagine myself old. I was sure I'd be dead long before I was elderly.
So I am recovering. I am recovering from the hurt I felt as a deeply closeted gay man trying my best to live the life I was told would bring me the greatest and eternal happiness. Some of that hurt is self inflicted. Some of it is not.