Turning Point in Los Angeles

That wedding was 1997. I wanted to cover my family in one section. Now, back to 1985. I took a new job and moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in August 1984, during the Summer Olympics. During the period from 1984-1985, a lot happened. First, I left my roommate behind in San Francisco because it just wasn’t working out. I got tired of scraping him off the street after another drunken motorcycle accident, him sleeping with everybody under the sun, and the occasional physical abuse.

I decided that I would live alone in LA for awhile and just sort things out. I got interested in religion again. There were a lot of religious radio stations in Los Angeles, and it was something to listen to in the car while stuck in the endless traffic. I was particularly attracted to what you might call Christian rock and electronic music, and the preachers who, rather that rant and scream, delved deeply into Biblical passages. It got me studying the Bible again. I bought a dictionary of Greek words from the New Testament, so I could study the words in their original meanings. I learned that over the years, the sectarians had taken nearly every critical word in the Bible and changed its meaning. I discovered that if you take the words back to their original meanings, the Bible teaches a completely different doctrine than what you hear from the religions of the day. It fact, it is much closer to the teachings of Joseph Smith.

This didn’t stop me from dating. I went to a lot of different bars all over LA. There are several gay districts, as there are in San Francisco, each with their own character. West Hollywood is home to all the pretty boys who came to Hollywood in search of a career. Everybody is model-perfect and very stuck up. In the San Fernando Valley, where I lived, the people were much more open, real, and friendlier. I quickly made friends, and despite my intention of living alone and sorting things out, I found myself in another relationship. This one was shorter and a lot more violent. This guy threatened everybody who didn’t do what he wanted with a gun. After a couple of months, he quit his job and expected me to support him. One day I came home from work to eat lunch and found him gone and all my valuables cleaned out. For months after that, I received letters for him, and bills and letters demanding money coming from all over the country. From the best I can tell, he left LA and headed east. Last I heard, he was somewhere in Texas.

At this same time, I was heavily into working out and fitness. We lived next to a big hike and bike trail and I bought a pair of roller skates. My whole fitness adventure came crashing down one day when I fell down and shattered my left wrist.

This was a real down point in my life. I had just been robbed; a relationship had failed miserably; and I had just broken my wrist. To make matter worse, I sensed that something illegal was going on at work. I remember laying on my bed and praying to God. I basically said:

“I have made such a mess of my life trying to do things on my own, and living my life for myself, I am going to, from now on, I am going to dedicate my life to you and your service. I’m not asking you to take over my life and make decisions for me, but I, here and now, make a covenant to dedicate my life to your service. I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll say what you want me to say. I’ll do what you want me to do. I’ll see what you want me to see.”

I opened up and made myself completely vulnerable and pliable in the Lord’s hands, come what may. I was ready to make that kind of commitment.

Then, in the coming months, things started unfolding. I got laid off from work because I was complaining too much. I later found out that I was working, not for a software company, but a giant international money laundering operation. I got out just in time. They gave me a very generous severance and sent me on my way. Immediately, I was contacted by another former employee who wanted to go into business developing software. We have a fairly successful business creating what is now called GPS software, like Garmin and Tom Tom. We were one of the early pioneers in the business. With our product, you could use a touch screen to get detailed driving directions from any address in the US or Canada to any other address or point of interest. We later went out of business and sold the company, but we had a good run while it lasted.

I was also receiving a great deal of inspiration and spiritual guidance. I wanted my wrist to heal up, and once, while attending a prayer service at one of the local gay churches, I was standing in a circle, praying for a healing for my wrist. I felt a surge of the Spirit in my wrist, a sense of warmth and high vibration, and I heard my bones literally go “crack” and “crunch”. And I knew my wrist had been healed, and I praised God. I visited my orthopedic surgeon for a follow-up visit a week later, and he said it was completely healed, and then proceeded to congratulate himself and tell me what a great doctor he was. I’m sure he was a great doctor, but there were other forces at work here, as well. Lesson learned: You don’t have to be a church member to exercise your priesthood. You don’t have to have a companion or follow a set procedure. You don’t even need oil. These are nice, but not necessary.

I joined the local Affirmation chapter. It was a group of gay Mormons and ex-Mormons, meeting together in a social setting. Many of them were closeted and afraid to give their real names for fear of being excommunicated. The church is known for sending out spies to infiltrate organizations such as this and get names to turn in for future excommunications, witch hunt style. How do I know this? I knew a man who worked for the church to infiltrate polygamous, fundamentalist groups in Salt Lake City. We started a little group of gay Mormons, ourselves, and we soon found ourselves with “suspicious” peopled snooping around in our Sunday meetings. They would come and pretend interest, ask a lot of questions, then leave, never to be seen again.

 

Reconciling with My Parents

Since we are talking about the family, let’s talk about my parents. After telling them about my excommunication, I hadn’t been in much contact with them for many years. However, in 1997, after Thom and I had been together for 11 years, my brother in New Jersey married his current wife and they invited both of us back for the wedding. The whole family was there: all my brothers and their wives. Everybody was nice and friendly to us. I really think that when people saw Thom and me together, they realized that we really belonged together and accepted us. Thom and my dad had a long talk together, and I don’t know everything they talked about, but they came to a reconciliation and acceptance.

 

Introducing My Brothers

I was living out along the beach in San Francisco. My brother, just younger than I, was in town on a tour of duty with the Navy. He came by the apartment to visit. I didn’t know whether he would accept me, but I figured that he would accept me if he was willing to come by and visit. He showed up in his Navy white dress uniform. He was a blond-haired, blue-eyed man in his late 30’s, early 40’s. My roommate went nuts. I was my roommate’s type, but my younger brother even more so. But, my brother took it all in stride, and there was no problem. We had a good visit, and I was on the way to coming out to each of my four brothers. This was the same brother who used to help pick up my toys and hand them to me when I couldn’t see them. We were a year apart, and we went through scouts together. We finished our last years of graduate school together. He was always the natural leader, and I was always the scholar. I have to tell another story about him. When Thom (whom you will read about later) and I moved to Palm Springs, this brother came out to visit again, as he was moving to nearby Riverside. He wanted to go out for the evening, but failed to ask us to recommend a bar. He wound up at one of the most infamous gay bars in town, Daddy Warbucks, home of naked wrestling and drag shows every Sunday afternoon. He came home and told us all about it. He realized it was a gay bar, but it didn’t bother him. Gay bars are fun, and even straights have a good time there.

A year after this, I found out through the grapevine that my youngest brother was gay. He is 13 years younger than me, so we were almost from two different families. Once on a trip back to Portland, I phoned ahead and told him I wanted to drop by and introduce my new boyfriend. I didn’t think he’d have a problem with this, but, when I came by to see him, he wasn’t home and wouldn’t answer the phone. We never made contact until about 10 years later. By then, his life had stabilized somewhat and he was in a relationship. Thom and I came for the commitment ceremony, and I hoped this would be the start of a good dialog with him. But, he hasn’t wanted to communicate much over the years, and I don’t know why. I know there is an age gap, but at our age now, that shouldn’t be much of a barrier.

My third brother is a very talented artist and photographer living in New Jersey. He is married to a woman who is a top executive at a large drug company. They are both very liberal new age types, and have sent us various letters of love and support. My family has never been that cohesive. We see each other at weddings and funerals and the occasional family reunion, and we brothers get together and have a great time together. We say we want to get together and do this again, but we never do. Next year is my mom’s 90th birthday, and we are planning a huge family celebration.

I have been in a relationship with my partner, Thom, for 27 years. I haven’t discussed him yet, but he is a respected member of my family and is planning on coming to my mother’s celebration this year.

Thom has been doing extensive genealogy research for his family and my family over the years. He is in better touch with my long lost relatives through ancestry.com than I am. My fourth brother and the last one to be mentioned is a conservative, active Mormon. He built an apartment for my mom in his house, and they live across the street from the chapel in a very Mormon neighborhood in Provo. He has always been nice to Thom and me. I think he realizes that being together for 27 years says a lot for our stability, and he is accepting Thom in our family, but more importantly, he is accepting us as a couple in our family. When he saw all the research that Thom has been doing, he suggested that we accept Thom as an “honorary brother” in our family. You can’t get any better than that. All of us boys take after our father. People say we have the “Crane charm”, and also my dad’s weird sense of humor. This particular brother is the funniest of all.

Seeking the Relationship I Never Knew I Wanted

I realized that, despite an unhappy marriage, I really was the “marryin’ kind”. As much as I treasured being alone, I wanted a companion. I never heard of gay “lovers” before. I thought it was a lonely, promiscuous life, but I soon learned otherwise, and I really wanted to have a companion.

Perhaps it was because I felt guilty and wanted to punish myself, or just naivety, but I got involved in a series of abusive relationships, one right after the other. On several occasions I was literally in fear of my life. I have had my car stolen, my credit card stolen, my credit rating ruined, thrown out of my car and beaten up on the side of the freeway, my missionary suits stolen, the Swiss watch I got on my mission stolen, threatened at gunpoint, irreplaceable books stolen. Somebody stole my identity and opened up a phone account, charging it to me. I have been lied about, maligned, exposed to dangerous diseases, etc. You will meet adulterers, fornicators, liars, psychotics, narcissists, rapists, sadists, child abusers, welfare cheats, and peeping toms. And, (shock!) all of the above, Gay ex-Mormons.

It’s nice to think of the gay community as a bunch of good, but misunderstood people. Realize that there are also a bunch of alcoholics, criminals and perverts blended into the mix as there are with any human mix. And, do not make the mistake of thinking that being subjected to discrimination and intolerance makes a person more tolerant and less judgmental.

This may be another reason that I ran into trouble with many of the people I met. I was riding on a crowded bus in downtown Seattle, on my way to work. Let’s just say that the bus was filled with the type of people who usually ride a city bus, and the reason why many people refuse to take public transportation. I prayed for a special endowment of the Spirit, if you will, for lack of a better name, that I might see all people as our Heavenly Father sees them. He gave me that gift some 30 years ago, but He forgot to take it back. Something happened to me that day, and I saw everyone on that bus in a totally different light. I wasn’t riding on a bus full of old ladies, minorities, disabled people, and homeless people, with the occasional business man trying to keep as far from the rabble as possible. I saw a bus full of gods and angels. I looked around me and saw the people in a completely new light, as I were god and they were my children. I was filled with love and admiration. They seemed to look back at me with an inner recognition, as well. I will never forget that experience, and that experience has never left me.

But, it does have one serious downside. Deep down inside of us is an inner goodness and shining beauty that often blinds us to the evils that may lurk on the surface. I got hurt and betrayed a lot, because I saw only the inner goodness and forgot to look at the outside. We have to judge the whole man, not just the skin, and not just the inner beauty of the soul. We must worship the creator rather than the creature. But, each of us is a part of God. We carry that potential within. We are creators, though sometimes our creations — our exteriors that we have created — are not so pretty to behold.

“Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God …” D&C 76:61.

The economy turned sour in Seattle, so I moved from Seattle to Silicon Valley in order to get a job. With no family to move, I was able to be more flexible. I was involved in a same-sex relationship. The guy was smart and talented and had a Master’s degree, but for some reason he just couldn’t get a job of any kind in Seattle. He had blown through his unemployment and I was supporting him, along with supporting myself and paying child support, which didn’t go to my kids, but bought an awfully nice telescope for my ex-wife’s new husband.

Coming Out to My Parents

I was so proud of how the trial went, and my new resolve that I wanted to contact my parents and make a clean breast of everything. I felt that the lie was finally over, and I wanted to confess everything. They didn’t take it so well. My father was angry, he saw what he thought was my future with all its potential going down the drain. At first, my mother was crying. My father said: “See, you’ve broken your mother’s heart.” That and that alone almost did it. I came within a hair of turning my back on this new lifestyle and returning to my old ways. If he wanted to use a wedge or a hammer against me, that was it.

But, I didn’t back down. The next day and I asked my parents if they wanted me to come to church with them. My mother said: “I don’t care.” And, she said it with such indifference that I couldn’t believe she was my own mother. It was like hearing it from a total stranger. I did go to church, expecting to hear a little of the “peace of the Gospel”. That was what I longed for and needed to hear. Instead we were treated to a lecture by their bishop on ward politics.

I live my life by the Spirit. I make my own decisions, but I always run them by the Holy Ghost. For me the light bulb is either on or it’s off. So tangible it is for me. But on that occasion and for the next several years I got nothing. Just the one assurance that I was on the right path and everything was going to work itself out. I realize now, that I had to make my own decisions and “study it out in my own mind”, as the Lord told Oliver Cowdery, and then ask God if it be right.

Excommunication — Trial by Love, Trial by Fire

Shortly after moving out of the house, I was excommunicated from the church and my wife filed for divorce. After comparing notes with other guys, about their trials, I learned that my trial was far different than most. I really dressed up for my trial and approached the whole thing with the utmost respect and dignity. No screaming. No fighting. No recriminations. No pleading. I had made my peace with God and was determined to take whatever I had coming. I even reached the point in my own mind, and I think we all have to do this, where I was even ready to defy God, if necessary.

The words of the following scripture in Mosiah came to my mind:

2:37. I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.

2:38. Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

2:39. And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.

2:40. O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.

2:41. And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

I didn’t really know at this time how God felt about any of this, but I was prepared to stand before Him and not shrink from His presence, but say: “This is my choice. I know it’s right for me. If you don’t like it, then send me away, and I will take whatever punishment you see fit to give me.” Now remember, this was before I ever sought the mind and will of God of this matter. But, I had made a choice, and I made that startling realization that for the first time in my life, I actually made a choice on my own behalf, and not to please somebody else.

It felt so good to breathe free air that all the pain and hardship up to that point was worth it.

Going into the trial, I didn’t really care whether they excommunicated me or not. I knew I made the right choice for me, and I was fully prepared to walk away from the church or continue with an active and faithful membership. During the trial before the Stake President and High Council, my bishop spoke on my behalf. They asked my wife if she had anything to say. To my great surprise and amazement, she spoke on my behalf and told them what a good church member I had been. Even the night before, we went home teaching together, and I was talking a man out of leaving the church. I had totally forgotten about that incident, but she didn’t.

When they asked me to speak, I told them that I knew there were other men in the church in my same position. I never slept with them, but they needed to be on the lookout for them and help them. They divide up the panel of high councilmen into six who speak for you and six who speak against you. Three or four of those speaking for me did so. I do not remember what they said, but only ONE spoke against me from the other side. He was crying and pleading for them to let me remain in the church. He said I was a good man, and should not lose my membership. But, he said “rules are rules”. This told me that the Letter of the Law told him “yes”, but the Spirit of the Law told him “no”.

I was excused from the room while they took a vote, and then I was let back in. They had voted to excommunicate me. I can’t describe the feeling in the room at that time. I felt like I was at a funeral. There was a lot of crying. Every single one of the men on that board came up and embraced me. Every single one. There was one particular man who came up. I don’t remember seeing him before. He just seemed to come up out of nowhere. He was a frail, little, old man with white hair. When he hugged me, I never felt such love from another human being before in my life.

I still didn’t know how God felt about my sexuality. But I had the strongest feeling from the Spirit that what had taken place was right, and that I was on the right path. If you look back at the passage from Mosiah that I quoted earlier, I did not fit this description. (1) The Spirit was in me, and I knew it. I was not an “unholy temple”. (2) I did not feel the urge to shrink from God. Instead, I wanted to enter His presence with boldness and confidence, not in a spirit of guilt or rebellion.

Trial Separation

After our last move to Seattle, in 1979, I just couldn’t take it any longer. I moved out of the house provisionally to see whether I really wanted to break up and pursue a relationship with a man, or whether it was just a passing phase. At the same time, I was finally fulfilling an interest I had in bodybuilding. I was still in my mid-30’s and, never having done any sports, I was not particularly proud of my body. I discovered bodybuilding, however, and began to build up my muscles and take pride in my physical appearance. I also started running. It was the 80’s and everybody was into fitness. My employer sponsored free club memberships. For once, I felt the confidence I had been lacking, and realized that I could have an interest in sports and fitness, and that not all sports had to involve a team and a moving ball which I could not see.

With my new body and confidence, I had no trouble meeting men. It took some time for me to adjust from being a loner to having friends. Sure, some of these were superficial friends, but not all. It was at this time that I discovered several very important things:

(1) I was gay, but not all gays fit into the stereotypical mold. In fact most did not. And gays are very interesting people to talk to. They knew a lot of influential and interesting people. And, they are far from the sleazy image portrayed by the press. Most of them were forced out of their homes for one reason or another. They have used their talent, creativity, and resourcefulness to create lives for themselves. I went to a concert of the Seattle Men’s Chorus. A group of outstanding musicians. I could appreciate and identify with their skill and talent. They taught me that being gay was not dirty or disgusting. It’s not easy. It’s very challenging. If you do it right, it’s a lot of fun. If you do it wrong, as I have seen many do, it is lonely and depressing. I suppose it’s the same for all people, gay or straight, but, I have been to gay bars and straight bars. Gay bars are a lot more fun.

(2) I got out of my comfort zone, lost the anger, lost the poor self image, and realized that I did have a lot of love to give. This was something I never realized before. I considered myself an angry, hateful person, but that was by no means who I really was. Honesty, starting with yourself, is truly the first step on the road to happiness. And, when you live authentically, you are on the road to wholeness in body, heart, mind, and spirit. And, this is the definition of holiness.

(3) I wasn’t as much interested in having sex with men as I was in talking to them and sharing deep emotional, mental, and spiritual bonds. This was something I had longed for all my life, and I sensed that others longed for it, too. Sex is a powerful way to communicate, and an added extra to everything else, but if sex was the only basis for a relationship, or all there was to life was a series of one night stands, life was shallow, indeed.

(4) I also realized that I could let this get out of hand and take over my whole life. I couldn’t let that happen. I had a family to think of, bills and child support to pay, and I still had a career that I loved and wanted to pursue. I have seen many gay guys get trapped in what I call the “Peter Pan” syndrome. They never want to grow up. They just want to live the rest of their life in some fictional never land with other lost boys. I had too much to live for to fall into that kind of trap.

(5) Even with all my problems, mistakes, and misadventures, I was happier than I had even been previously in my life.