I had another missionary companion, who was everything I tried to avoid in my life up till them. He was a popular football jock in school. He was popular and good with people. I hated being around people. But, we used to talk a lot and he helped me and answered a lot of questions I had about life. He was the first person I ever felt I could talk freely around. The mission president told me once that this elder was a “follower” and I was supposed to make him a “leader”. I always thought things the other way around, that he was the leader and I was the follower, but maybe the president saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Every senior companion I had over me, and every junior companion that I trained rose to leadership in the mission. I feel proud to have known them all, and that perhaps I made even a tiny difference. I have profound respect for the LDS missionaries even to this day.
This missionary companion and I discussed attraction between men several time, and he told me about a gay man who was a church member from San Francisco who was sent up to Ogden to live with his family, and basically “dry out”. He told me about gay sex, and a little bit about the lifestyle that he had learned from this man. I don’t think this companion was gay, himself, because he constantly talked about his girl friend, and was devastated when she sent him a dear john letter. Nevertheless, there was something unspoken between us. We never talked about it, but there was something in the air. We used to wrestle out on the church lawn. The church was a house with a private back yard. We used to have special picnics together with other elders, and there were always this bond between us. Sometimes we fought, and the fights were the kind of fights that two lovers had.
He shared the following poem with me. I thought deeply about it and applied it to myself. It took me many years thereafter to fully understand and follow this message:
The Man In The Glass
Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
There is a bond that exists between men who live, work, play, fight, or sacrifice as a group. This is why fraternal societies and brotherhoods were formed. This is the secret behind the Priesthood, from which all these societies derive. This is why football players unashamedly show public affection on the field. This is why missionary companions are close. This is why soldiers mourn over the loss of fallen comrades. Look up the lyrics to the song “My Buddy” and “Danny Boy”. Study the words. If they don’t bring a tear to your eye, then in my opinion, something is wrong with you. Have you ever sat by Priesthood quorums in the General Priesthood Meeting of Conference and not felt the power of the group when you are set in order? Scientists have discovered that besides sexual pheromones, men’s sweat contains pheromones that attract other men in a non-sexual way but makes them want to cooperate with one another. There is nothing sexual about this, but our society has conflated this natural male “teamwork” attraction with sexual attraction, suppressed it, and labeled it “homoerotic”.
This is not to exclude women. There is also a gender bond that exclusive to women. I would label these two things “brotherhood” and “sisterhood”. They are not the same. They serve different purposes, but they are equally necessary and equally powerful. In my opinion, the church lost a great deal of its vitality when they absorbed the Relief Society and Priesthood quorums into the mainstream of the church, instead of expanding and enhancing their roles. Somebody has lost the vision.
The old African proverb was right. It DOES take a village. But the “village” consisted of one large extended family of parents, grand-parents, aunts and uncles. There was an organization along family and gender lines. Some of this we would consider sexist and patriarchal by our standards, but it enabled primitive peoples to survive intact for thousands of years. Some of us who grew up in small towns in earlier days know something about this. We had cousins to play with, aunts and uncles to teach us, and grandparents to give us love and the wisdom that only comes with age. We don’t have that now. Our families are scattered all over the country.