I had been living in town for about 16 months. I was going to a family ward, where I was basically hiding out. Because I was disfellowshipped it didn’t matter what ward I was in, I couldn’t serve in any official capacity. The reason I say I was hiding out was that in the family ward, there were sufficient demographic differences that I could easily avoid any social interactions with others in the ward. I imagine that this lack of social life fueled the loneliness that made me seek out companionship with the gay man I was with for several months.
While i was in the family ward I would meet with the stake president, whom I respected immensely, every other week. I also met with a social worker who served as the director of the local office of LDS Family services. I met very infrequently with my bishop. I didn’t feel any connection with him, which made it hard to talk with him.
I had been wondering for a while, if I should switch wards to the Young Single Adult ward. I knew that I wasn’t finding the social aspect of life in the family ward. The infrequent contact with those who were only in my life because of my status in the church was insufficient. Even though I knew that, I hadn’t convinced myself that I needed to switch wards.
My dad, whom I love to death, was concerned with my lack of dating, as he had been for years. He had met a girl who he thought I should meet (pronounced “go out with”). He knew that she would be at a church dance that was happening that weekend. He told me that I needed to go find her at the dance.
I did eventually find and dance with her, but that was not the part of the evening that made the difference in my life. In fact, I never saw her again. After a few weeks of phone tag, we never ended up arranging a date. She moved away to continue her education. I can’t say that I was too broken up, as it seemed like I was trying to go out with her as a favor to my dad.
The thing that did make a difference in my life was that I met a guy. I had just gotten my food, and was looking for someplace to sit. I didn’t want to sit at an empty table, as I was hoping to be sociable, but on my terms. Since he was the kind of guy I felt comfortable around, I decided to sit at his table. He wasn’t the only one at the table, but he was the reason I sat there. I spent the rest of the night hanging out with him and his girlfriend. (I was fairly indifferent toward her, but that was neither here nor there…). I enjoyed being around him. By the end of the night, we exchanged phone numbers.
I didn’t end up going to the singles ward right away. I don’t remember exactly how much time had passed, but I remember that one evening, I was more depressed than usual. I sent my new friend a text message. I asked him how he would feel about being more of a friend than he should gave to be. I needed someone to talk to, and needed a priesthood blessing. He was kind enough to agree to come see me without knowing what it was I needed to talk about.
I was more straightforward in telling him what was going on than I usually am. I told him that I was struggling with homosexuality, and that I was particularly depressed. I don’t know if he was not confident enough in himself, or if he sensed that I needed to be introduced to the bishop that night, but he suggested that the bishop should be the one to give me the blessing.
I later told him that he was the impetus for my deciding to switch wards. I was and am grateful to him for the friendship he offered me that night. In the ensuing year, we’ve grown somewhat apart. I am more of a hugger than he is. He grew more and more uncomfortable interacting with me in any situation that was not public. I don’t want to paint him in a negative light, as I still care about the guy and I hate to speculate, but I have a feeling that he was particularly uncomfortable because of my past. I think he doesn’t quite trust that my affection for him is not something more than fraternal. I doubt such a concern is conscious, if it is in fact there. Frankly, while I’m sad that we can’t be the friends I’d like to be, I’m still grateful to him for what he did for me.
There is a hymn in the LDS church of the same title as this post. It says, “Each life that touches ours for good reflects thine own dear mercy, Lord.” Whether he meant to, or wanted to, that young man helped me get to the right place, so that I could get the help I needed in the environment I needed so that I could get back on the right path.
I’m hoping that this blog can serve as that influence in someone’s life that was played in my life by the young man I met at a church dance.