David C. Martin (1939-1992)
David Chancellor Martin was born September 3, 1939 in the
state of Illinois, and died on July 17, 1992 in San Diego, CA. He was born into an RLDS family and later converted to LDS.
Tribute by Connell O'Donovan
I sure wish I had had the privilege of meeting David. He was one of
the heroes of my youth. For several years I avidly subscribed to the
funky newsletter he published out of Nauvoo when he lived there called
"Mormon Miscellaneous." It was always full of fascinating tidbits on
bizarre Mormon history and doctrinal developments that I relished.
David's work influenced me deeply and helped me not to feel alone in
my quest to ask all the hardest questions about the LDS church and its
origins, that other people seemed so terrified of. He was certainly
one of our brighter stars who burned hot and fast...
Letter by David to the 7th East Press
Post Office Box 15627
St. Louis, Mo. 63163
July 21, 1982
7th East Press
Provo, Utah 84602
Some of the replies to your series on Homosexuality at BYU have finally prodded me to make my own reply. If you wish to print it, you may, and please feel free to use my name and city. I am no longer ashamed of what I am.
It was with great interest, and a little disappointment that I read the articles on homosexuality at BYU. Having been a student at BYU from 1957 to 1959, 1962-1964, and 1973-1975, and also having been born a homosexual, I felt that a lot more realistic information could and should have been given. Certainly with the repressive feelings the church and the school have toward homosexuality and homosexuals, I can understand the reluctance of my fellow gays to tell it how it is, and a straight, outside reporter has little in the way of personal experience to draw upon.
I have known since I was five that I was interested in men, rather than women. My first experience was when I was persuaded by a neighbor, in exchange for a Hershey Bar (with almonds) to let him "play doctor". All through high school I played at being like the other boys, dating, etc., but all the time my interest was in boys. Our LDS scout troop (in the bible belt Midwest) was surely an atypical LDS troop since we all indulged in group masturbation and some coupling while on camping trips. The scout master and I indulged also. He was a married, active Elder in the ward, and had six kids, but still "played" on the side.
Upon entering BYU in 1957, I soon learned from some California students that what I had been doing and was interested in wasn't isolated, but a universal practice, found everywhere, even in Provo at BYU. The basement of the old Grant Library was an active meeting place for gays, frequented by students, faculty and townsmen alike. The infrequent interviews with my bishops in the home ward and campus ward elicited the same response to questions about masturbation, "no, it wasn't a problem." Nothing was said about homosexuality and certainly nothing was volunteered on my part. Sure, it was living a double standard, since I had a steady girl from Florida that I was genuinely fond of, and after taking her home, I would find other gays for release. The emphasis on chastity and purity was always couched in terms of boy-girl relationships. Nothing was EVER mentioned about homosexuality. That came much later.
It was inevitable that we would be caught. We all had to go see Brother [K.A.] Lauritzen, we all "repented" and were much more cautious after that. We found out who had "snitched" on us, and he was mysteriously beaten one night on campus, and dropped out of school.
There were perhaps a dozen of us that paled around together. The summer of 1959, most of us went on missions, scattering to the four corners of the globe. We managed to continue contact by letter, telling the usual inspirational missionary stories, but with added information on gay life that we managed to find in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Brazil, as well as other countries. We were all successful in our missions, managing to play the rules fairly well, staying among the top baptizers, and keeping our unorthodoxy hidden. I personally had at least two companions that were gay, only one of whom I revealed my inclinations to, but we did not have any sexual contact with each other. Both of these gay companions had the sensitivity that helped make us very successful. Most of my straight companions were so insensitive that I didn't get along very well with them.
After an honorable release, I returned home to gay life with a vengeance, making up for the forced retirement during my mission. In 1963, I returned to BYU to continue my education, and there met a lady missionary that I had known in the mission field. I wanted children, and was willing to try to change. The church told me that I could, and I even had an interview with Elder [Spencer W.] Kimball, who at that time was the one who kept track of people of my persuasion. Several times I sat in his office in the Church Office Building, even lied to him face to face that I had changed. I hoped to change, I wanted to return to BYU, and had intentions of following church teachings on sexual conduct. I was fairly successful, but soon learned that the church and the school didn't forget, nor forgive, as my name was on a list of known perverts, and I was spied on. When it came time to graduate, a policeman from the campus came to my wife and said that I had to see the Dean of Students, IMMEDIATELY. I had to go to Salt Lake City again, and literally beg to be allowed to graduate, and promised to go far away from Provo and the hurt.
After graduation, we moved back to the midwest and in eight years, had six children. My feelings didn't change, only went dormant as I desperately tried to follow church teachings and change. I fasted, prayed, repented, and confessed to several bishops, who each turned cold and distant with disgust and lack of understanding. In one ward, the bishop told his wife, and soon the whole ward knew. We moved from there quickly.
In 1973 we moved to Provo again, to go to graduate school. Again it was the obligatory visit to Salt Lake and the Dean of Students, assuring them that the Lord had, indeed, cured me. It was a lie, but they allowed me to enroll in school.
There followed a year of intense trying on my part to change. I went to the temple at least once a week, oftener if I could, fasted, prayed, taught a Sunday School class, studied, but to no avail. There just was no change. I ate myself silly, gained 50 pounds in my frustration, and continually called on the Lord to let me know why I was given this curse. None of my former gay friends were on campus at this time, even the gay faculty members that I knew of were all gone. I knew of the new places to meet on campus and in the community, but I stayed away from them. I sincerely and desperately tried to change.
In 1975, we moved to Nauvoo where we started a small weekly community newspaper. I had pretty much given up on the church. The new emphasis on anti-homosexuality was becoming apparent, and it was all too plain that the church had no interest or understanding in my problem, just labeling it wrong, evil, etc. Their suggestions of how to change had failed in my case.
For another five years I tried to hang on to my testimony and my family, by denying my trued sexual identity, my true self. I desperately wanted to belong to the church, to have the same strong feelings and intensity that I saw around me, but it just wasn't there. I couldn't conform to the mold of the typical Mormon household. I didn't want a wife, I wanted a husband. It wasn't a woman that I wanted to hold and sleep with each night, it was a man. I loved my kids, the five boys and one girl that I had fathered. I wanted to see them grow up in the church and receive the social training that the church is so good at. But it seemed that my inner bitterness contaminated every contact that I had at the ward. My questions about the origin of certain church doctrines and practices were met with hostility and bitterness, so I dropped out of church, preferring the quiet tranquility of a century old Episcopal church in a nearby community.
Finally, in the fall of 1980, my wife quietly stated that if I was so unhappy with the present situation, why didn't I get away for a while to find myself. I moved out, she moved the kids to Wyoming and filed for divorce, in spite of our agreement to wait a year before deciding any legal action. The Bishop had told her to take the kids as far away as possible "before they caught my disease." The Bishop of her new ward told her to file for divorce "because he is incapable of change." So, in spite of my trying to change, the church took my family away, and excommunicated me, not because of anything I had done, but because of how God had created me.
I view my homosexuality the same as I view my being left handed and having brown eyes. It was something I was born with. I was created that way. My having lived 17 years married was a perversion of my basic nature, and no wonder I was so miserable, no wonder I wasn't able to change.
Yes, I attribute my gayness to God's creation. I don't back off admitting my feelings, I don't blame anyone, especially my overly protective mother or distant and cold father. God created me this way, gave me a special gift of sensitivity and understanding. He might have given my skin a black color, or my eyes a slant, or some other feature uncommon to the average Mormon. I no longer run away from my sexuality, but deal with it in a sane and careful way. I am no longer afraid, and no longer ashamed of being homosexual. I am proud of being gay, I don't flaunt it, neither do I deny it. I marched last month with 500 of my gay brothers and sisters through St. Louis proclaiming that we will no longer hide. I marched the full length of the route arm in arm with another returned Mormon missionary (and father of four).
To the more than a quarter of a million gay Mormons, it is time that we all fearlessly come out of our closets and proclaim what we are. We were made this way for a purpose. To deny it is wrong, to hide it is wrong. The church is wrong in its basic attitude toward homosexuality, its cause and the supposed cures. To those who say they have been cured, I hope you are being honest. Perhaps you were homosexual only in practice. I was born that way, and there is no cure, neither do I wish one now. I desperately wanted to change, and I tried with my very being to do so, but it was not to be. So now I am handling myself well, I think, and look forward to standing before the Lord with head held high to learn the reason for my gift. I can do no less at this time. What about you, my fellow gay Mormon?
Well, there it is, my reply to your stories, and the subsequent letters. It is a bit longer than I had thought it would be. If you wish to print it, feel free, though I would prefer you not do any editing. If you print it, I would like a dozen copies of that issue to share with friends. My mother lives in Provo, not very far from your offices, but she already knows, so that is no problem. Others will be greatly surprised!!!
David C. Martin
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