As I sipped my champagne I just knew it couldn’t be this easy. What if the president stopped the plane? What if they let him come on board to talk to me? What if God made the plane crash?
Three hours later in New York City I had to dodge a couple of NYC-based missionaries that had been sent there to bring me back. The airline had squealed and informed the president of my entire itinerary. After an hour or so, I gave up and let them talk to me. No, I didn’t want to go back to Puerto Rico. No, I didn’t wan’t to go back and talk to their president, either. No, I didn’t want them to sit with me until my connecting flight boarded. No, no, no.
“Hello, Mom, guess where I am?”
“Well, if you’re not in Puerto Rico, I don’t know.”
“I’m in New York City. My flight get’s into Richmond around eight.”
So I managed to last until I was almost at my hump day. I had almost served half of my two-year tour. I think I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I did the only thing I could to survive – took the car, headed for the airport, and jumped on the first plane off the island. For the next few years I struggled to put my life back together and reconcile my experience with my religious beliefs. And guess what? After a couple of years I went back and started attending my local singles branch. I even got a temple recommend again. And I converted one of my friends in the process. What a swell guy I was.
The summer of 1993 was a turning point for me. I have been overweight since about the age of seven or so. I had tried every diet known to man, but couldn’t stick to any of them. I knew that one day the perfect one would come along, but until then I continued to have my weight go up and down, but mostly up. Then one day at our local library, while looking for a book I wanted to read, I saw an interesting book on the shelf right next to it called When Food Is Love. Interesting, I thought, so I checked it out and left the other one there for another day. What a move that was. I learned one very important thing that day – that it wasn’t what I ate that was the problem, it was why I ate. And over the next several months dealt with a lot of issues that I never wanted to face. Among them was a critical piece of information that I had never consciously accepted before – that I, the best little Mormon boy in the world, was gay.
That realization finally made, I stopped going to church and became completely inactive, except for my involvement with a group called Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons. They were there for me when I desperately needed it. They held my hand and supported me as I came out of the closet and really experienced life for the first time. They are some of the kindest, most sincere people I have ever met, and I count them among by very best friends. One thing they didn’t give me, however, were easy answers. I had much needed support, but I still had to reconcile my religious beliefs with my sexual orientation, and the church’s treatment of those of us who are “that way.” During my search, the church made the decision for me when they became an active participant in the Hawaii gay marriage legal battle. I knew that no matter what my beliefs were regarding Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Restoration, I could no longer tolerate being a member of the church. I sent in my letter asking for my name to removed from the records of the church on April 6, 1996.
And then in January of 1997 a wonderful thing happened. I bought a new computer and started surfing the net for the first time. Now at my fingertips I had access to virtually everything I had ever wanted to know about the church, and a whole lot more. In the course of just a few months I not only gave up my Mormon beliefs, but all religious beliefs. I traded in my scriptures for a copy of Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World. I traded in my CTR ring for a fully-functional shit detector. I turned in my arrogance for an open mind. I learned that I know a whole lot less than what I used to think I knew.