Excommunication: A Spiritual Experience
By Terence Spencer
It is difficult to know where to start so I guess I’ll begin by telling a little bit about myself. I grew up on a farm near Aurora, Nebraska. I was the third of three children, having a brother three years older and a twin sister. I was raised by very good parents who loved us and set good examples of hard work and a love of God and the church. Although I always hated school, I did good in most subjects. My main reason for hating school was that I didn’t like being cooped up in a building during daylight hours. Although I was not a popular kid I did fit in well and got along with nearly everybody, this could be because everyone was afraid of my sister who they knew I was close to.
As a youth I enjoyed many hobbies such as raising pigeons, ducks, geese, exotic pheasants, and fishing. I also started a FFA project of raising purebred spotted hogs with my father and sister. The hogs taught me a lot about responsibility and hard work. I was also very dedicated to the church I loved and was raised in [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons)]. I held many responsibilities with the youth programs and sought to show God that I loved Him.
When I turned 19 I decided to serve the Lord and His church as a missionary for two years. I will always be thankful for being raised a Mormon and for serving as a missionary. I learned many valuable truths and had spiritual experiences that I will always be thankful for. With this in mind, one might expect me to have been quite happy and content with life. The truth of the matter was that from my early teen years I was wracked with much guilt, denial, and self hatred. I put up a good outward show and many called me smiley and would comment on my cheerful countenance. Inside of me there was a very damaging, ugly war. The war was about being born homosexual and being taught that I was letting Satan rule my thoughts and life. I was completely believing of all that I heard church leaders say and was not trusting of my own thoughts because I thought Satan was controlling them. Before I even knew what masturbation was, I found myself addicted to it probably by age 13. Although I pictured naked men in all my thoughts while masturbating I never admitted to myself that I was homosexual. I had convinced myself that admitting this would bring defeat and a complete demonic possession of my soul. I was blessed with some kind of instinct which told me that in order to survive I had to deep this inner war completely to myself. As I look back I can see that if I would have told my parents or church leaders I would have been subjected to great pressures to cure me which would have ended in failure and a loss of my faith and a total degradation of my soul. I am quite certain the result would have ended in me eventually blowing my head off with one of my father’s guns. Thankfully this is not the road I took, but far too many youth do.
Year after year of praying and fasting for this inner war to end did not bring it to an end. I stopped masturbating for 1 1/2 years hoping that would make it go away since I had heard the church leaders say that this was what caused it. I dated women and tried to focus on them, constantly trying to suppress my inner feelings. I convinced myself that if I served a two year mission for the Lord that after my mission He would consider me worthy of His help and take the battle from me and bless me with heterosexual desires. My mission came to an end and there was no change in desire. After several years a wonderful lady asked me to her company Christmas party. She made my head spin with love for a few days and I was quite excited that change was finally coming to my life. This lasted for several days and then the feelings were back strong as ever. We did date for some three years before I finally decided to bring it to an awkward ending. I never had sex with her and I was grateful I did not. I can imagine how she would have felt if she knew I was trying to cure myself by using her. I know now that it would not have cured me anyway since I have met many married homosexual men. I have even heard of church leaders counseling gay men to fool around with women and essentially use them to cure themselves. How would they like to be used this way?
Somewhere in those years I also finally gave in to my first real sexual experience with another man. It was not a relationship of love but merely two men wanting to express a part of themselves in a limited way. It brought a mixture of feelings. All I expected was guilt, shame, and more self hatred, eventually I brought these upon myself, still trying to invoke change and cure. Before these feelings came I experienced a feeling of a great burden being lifted from my soul. This confused me because it felt good, not evil and dark. I can know see that what I was experiencing was the inner joy that comes from finally being true to myself. Even though I finally had to admit to myself I was homosexual I was still convinced that I needed to repent and cure myself. Somehow I had the ability to know whether another person was homosexual or not by looking at their eyes and body language and this helped me meet a lot of men similar to myself. I soon became addicted to 10 minute sexual relationships. They were usually anonymous and with men like myself that wanted to feel needed and loved by another man but couldn’t afford to become entangled in a relationship because they were still in the closet. These relationships although exciting, are dangerous and keep a person from developing meaningful relationships that last and progress.
I finally met one man that wanted some kind of a relationship and I couldn’t hold myself back. He loved himself and therefore he could love and help other people also. He listened to my mangled soul and helped me sort through my feelings. Oh how I wanted to be like him, to love myself and be able to help others, to have self confidence in myself and to feel like a real person instead of a trembling basket case. He was literally a blessing from heaven. He was an actor and his work soon took him elsewhere, I will always be thankful for his help and love.
At this time I was still looking to the church leaders for knowledge on the subject. Then one Sunday I was listening to the President of the Mormon Church who is also sustained as a prophet of God (someone who talks face to face with God about the problems on Earth). He was speaking about the woes of the children of the Earth and finally touch on the subject of homosexuality. It was obvious by the tone of his voice that he was irritated by having to address this subject. I listened ever so closely to someone I believed was a prophet of God. But instead of revelation from God on the subject he sputtered out only ignorance, “we don’t know why you’re this way” he said and he might as well have said “and we don’t care enough to ask God” he then proceeded to tell what “GRREEAAT blessings” were in store for us if we would live celibate lives, even though the church teaches that this is contrary to God’s plan of happiness and that a person cannot reach the highest kingdom of heaven in a celibate state. Things didn’t add up! Needless to say instead of hearing meaningful revelation all I heard was ignorance.
It wasn’t long after this that my sister’s marriage started to crumble and then she came to the realization that she was a lesbian. She did what she could to try to save the marriage. During this time she told me and a few other family members what was going on in her life. I was very surprised and saddened because I knew what she would be going through the rest of her life. I also shared with her my secret war, she was shocked! For her it was different, she had a much greater ability to think for herself and living in California, was exposed to a more open minded people. She eventually ended her marriage, got together with the lady she loves and has been incredibly happy. She also searched out several incredibly helpful books and a website for gay Mormons, she shared these with me. These sources gave me a great deal of support and helped me start to think for myself. What a great experience it is to learn how to think for yourself and to recognize answers to your prayers that are clear and meaningful. Through all of these experiences I am finally able to love myself and not punish myself. My spirituality has increased also. I have finally come to a point in my life where I want to get all the lies out of my life. This purging process started with the church.
At 33 years old I finally decided it was time to tell the church about my life and how it doesn’t match with their teachings. It was something I had been dreading since my first sexual experience which I knew they would excommunicate me for. I told my bishop and he referred the issue to the stake president, since I held the priesthood. Just before I went in to talk with the stake president I was being overcome with fear so I went into the chapel to pray for help and calmness. My prayer was answered immediately. I had a one hour talk with him and told him I was a practicing homosexual and told him about some of my experiences. We didn’t see eye to eye on anything but it was not an unpleasant experience. He told me that there would be a church trial and there would be most of the members of the High Council and Stake Presidency there as well as my Bishop (15-20 people).
My trial came April 18, 1999. Before it happened I was reviewing some of my notes and a dear companion stopped by and said he was praying for me and offered his support. I went into the church knowing that it was probably the last time I would enter as a member of the church. Nervousness was again starting to set in which would have made me a weak, trembling, basket case. I went to the chapel and prayed for calmness and guidance from my Father in Heaven and again it came instantly. I proceeded to a room and met with the Stake President again for a few minutes and then was led into the High Council room were the room was FULL of men staring at me, as I entered they all stood up and stared at me with concerned looks. I smiled at them and walked to the back of the room with a slide projector and some notes. We all sat down and then they told me that I was accused of disorderly conduct for a member of the church and that I was a practicing homosexual. I said “that’s correct.” While I was looking around at who they all were I spied one whom I had had a sexual experience with. He had a lot of problems looking at me. I could sense that he was even more uncomfortable than I was. They then asked me many questions and I was given time to present what I had prepared. Some of my answers and statements did not reflect very positively of what the church leaders in Utah had said concerning homosexuality and I told them it showed their ignorance. This got them very concerned and made them feel a need to defend them and their statements. After about three hours I could see the whole thing wasn’t going anywhere but in circles and a trench was forming around the circle, so I said that I wasn’t going to have my life shaped by ignorance and if the Prophet didn’t produce something in the form of “THUS SAITH THE LORD…” that it would be nothing more than one man’s biased thoughts on the matter. They finally asked me if I had anything else to say, and I warned them that if they caused any youth to end their lives or ruin their souls with drug addictions because of their ignorance and judgments that God would hold them accountable. I was then led to another room and sat there with my Bishop for 1/2 hour while they decided my fate as a church member. I then was led into the room and they all stood staring at me with even more concerned looks. We sat down and they told me that their decision was to excommunicate me and told me a bunch of do’s and don’ts and encouraged me to order my life so I could become a member again. They all gave me a hug and told me they were praying for me and then we went home. I thanked them for their concern, fasting, and prayers. I must say that it was a court of love like they said it would be, it just wasn’t a court that we saw eye to eye on, and I got the distinct feeling that they wanted to get the court over with that day because a new stake was being formed and the Stake president was being called to the new stake and they wanted this messy thing done so that the new stake president didn’t have to deal with it. I also got the feeling that the Stake President would rather follow a handbook of instructions so that he didn’t have to follow the Spirit. Even though I left feeling this way, I still consider my excommunication a spiritual experience. I have never had so much help answering difficult questions in all my life and never have I had fear removed from me so quickly so that the spirit could still work with me.
About six months after my excommunication I was having problems with my companion of five years. I basically was having a problem with the lies that lay within our relationship. I hadn’t overcome my addiction to quick sex and many partners. The longer our relationship progressed the more awkward it became to be truthful or to bring the relationship to a close. When our relationship had deteriorated pretty bad I finally came to a point where I knew I had to be truthful and fair to him. As we were talking things over I realized that nothing else that we were talking about really mattered, and that most of the problem was from the festering lie within me. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but I finally told him of my sex addiction. In a very understanding and loving way he suggested that I try out a Sex Alcoholics 12 step support group. I have now attended several meetings and have found them to be extremely helpful. I told them that I didn’t intend to give up sex but that I did need some help to end the rampant promiscuity that ruled my life. I now am working on viewing people as brothers and sisters rather than favorable or unfavorable sex objects. My companion and I are still together and now enjoying an improved relationship and I am finally free of big lies in my life. It is amazing to see all the pain and grief that all this self hatred and lies for what I truly am caused. It is also nice to bring an end to my acting career (as a straight man)! Anyway this is where my life has taken me so far and I am enjoying the happiness that is increasing more all the time as I purge the lies from my life.
The New Beginning