Leave it to Beaver(ton)

We were still living in a very small branch, but we were growing. Part of the Beaverton branch contained the West Hills of Portland, and some very wealthy and prominent people moved into what became the West Hills Ward. These people were prominent community leaders. One family had a number of boys my age. We studied in Sunday School together. They knew all the answers, but I didn’t. However, I wanted to be one who knew all the answers, so I studied with them, asked them questions. We used to go on seaside retreats together and discuss the deep things of the Spirit up through the night. These brothers were well-connected to some leading families of the church, and the brothers all grew up to be well-known church authors. I consider myself lucky to have known them.

As I approached the age of 12, they taught us in primary that we needed to prepare for the Aaronic Priesthood. I didn’t even know what it was, but my primary teacher gave me a list of interview questions I had to answer and a list of scriptures to study. I was used to the interview questions they ask you in the Boy Scouts for ranks and merit badges. You have to know your stuff backward and forward. I was ready to be grilled. I was very nervous going in to my interview, but I passed, and was ordained a Deacon. After that, something happened to me. It was from this point on that I became very interested in reading and learning the Gospel. Most of the Deacons were cutting up in Sacrament Meeting, but I sat bold upright and didn’t move a muscle. I was so taken by the Spirit, and more impressed than I’d never been in my life. The Priesthood was something very real, and holding it and fulfilling my calling became very important to me.

By this time, I was really starting to feel different. Before puberty, I was very interested in girls. I thought their pretend games of playing house or school, or putting on a backyard drama or circus, were far more interesting than the boys’ games of war and violence. I hung around the girls at school. I tried to dress nice for them and try to get their attention. Back then, it was a big deal for men to dress up, and we all tried to out-do each other. I went to school dances, but I was shy and didn’t drive a car, so that put me at some disadvantage. My parents sent me to dancing class, where you got to meet and dance with all kinds of young ladies and learned how to be polite, dress well, and treat the ladies like ladies. This was good, but I felt like I was going through the motions. My heart wasn’t in it, and I didn’t see the point of any of it. I figured that someday I would magically change and would be magically attracted to women, but my “girls are icky” phase that boys get in middle school began, but never went away.

I was active in the scouts from age 8 on up through boy scouts and explorers. Somewhere along that line, I developed an attraction for other boys. I wanted a deep physical, spiritual, and emotional connection, but I had no idea even what that specifically meant. I never did anything. I never said anything. I just remember day-dreaming over people I saw downtown or at school. I would fantasize about being with them doing what? I didn’t know what. There was no what. I didn’t know what to do, much less what “sex” was.

In scouting events, such as when we spent an event night at the YMCA, or spent the week as guides at the Seattle World’s fair, I remember fighting the urge to look at other guys in the shower. I didn’t do it, but it was a struggle. In the meantime, I never had sex of any kind. I checked the guys out in the shower at the high school gym class once. My interest was obvious, and I got teased about it a couple of times, but it was no big deal. I remember one really hot guy telling me and a friend from church that he was walking down the road and some guy wanted to pay him for letting him take pictures of him. He said he wouldn’t do it, and we both agreed that it was a bad idea. Another time, a couple of really hot football players in my Physics class started talking about going to the movies and some “queer” put his hand on one of their legs, and they beat the crap out of him.

I had seen pictures of gay men in magazines like Life and Look, but decided that couldn’t be me. I didn’t want to dress up like a women or act like a woman in any way. The media still persists in putting out these stereotypes, and the average person thinks that all gays are like this. These images only added to my confusion, frustration, and isolation. I literally thought I was going crazy. Some people have problems and externalize them, blaming society and the world at large. I was the type of person who internalized my problems. Everything that happened to me was my fault.

Vision, Cowboys, Space, and Christmas

As a young child, I had bad problems with vision. I remember falling down stairs all the time. I couldn’t see depths, so I assumed that when the rug ended and the floor began, there would be a drop off. So, I always tested with my foot. My little brother used to help me find my toys when I dropped them and couldn’t see to find them again.

Just before I started school, my mother wanted to have the elders over to administer to me so I could see better. She said later that while the blessing was taking place, she felt the whole house was crowded, like it was full of spirits or something. I remember getting the blessing, I did well in school. In fact, I did really well in school. I don’t know whether I was really smart or just tried harder, but I always got into the top reading groups, the advanced classes, and the honors classes. At home, I used to take my school readers and read to my brother. My mom thought I was a better reader than I really was. I just had the story memorized.

I sensed being different from an early age. I just wrote it off to having bad eyesight and everything that followed from that. I was no good at sports, so I didn’t like them. I enjoyed reading and playing music. I took piano, and after that several other instruments. My dad said that if I joined a band, it would take me a lot of places. He was right. I got to march in parades, get into games for free. Once, I even got to travel from Provo to El Paso, TX to play with the BYU band at a football game. We got to see Mexico, also.

My brothers liked to watch cowboy shows and cops and robbers on TV. I couldn’t stand them, but I loved science fiction. I watched Superman, Rocky Jones. Tom Corbett, Flash Gordon, and all the rest. I read every book I could find on astronomy and wanted to go on the first trip to the moon. My dad’s brother gave me a microscope for Christmas, and that opened a whole new world for me.

Speaking of Christmas, my parents gave my an LDS Missionary Bible for Christmas one year, and a Triple Combination the next Christmas. I read them both several times, took them on my mission, and have them in my nightstand, right to this day. I read and re-read them constantly and always get new meanings from them. One thing that struck me the first time I read them was that the scriptures taught many things they taught weren’t being taught in my local branch. I overlooked the differences for the first couple of readings, but after my mission and after listening to people, who really knew the scriptures and spoke from a deep knowledge and conviction, explain them, I realized that I needed to know that the book actually said, not just what people in my local branch taught about the book. The Book of Mormon is a marvelous book, but other than a few historical accounts about Nephi and Moroni, little if any of the doctrines taught in the book are actually taught in church. I saw this and wondered as I studied the Book of Mormon at BYU. In Gospel Doctrine class at BYU, I would call this to the attention of class members, who then laughed at me. I learned to keep studying, keep praying, and keep my mouth shut.

What Attracted Me to the Church — Making Sense through Music

I was attracted to the singing and the music of the church. People in our branch used to sing the hymns with enthusiasm. I learned most of the words by heart, and they took on a special meaning for me.

We thank thee O God for a prophet, to guide us in these latter-days

My grandparents sang this song on a record. They walked into a dime store, once, and wanted to record their voices. It was the only song they knew. This hymn always reminds me of them.

There is beauty all around, when there’s love at home.

Again, this reminds my of my grandparents. They were really in love.

Trials make our faith grow stronger. Truth is nobler than a crown.
We will brave the tempest longer, thought the world upon us frown.

We used to sing this song in Sunday School. I didn’t know why the world would frown upon us, but it made me proud and it made me think that we must be doing something right. The time to be worried is when you as a church try so hard to fit into the world, that you forget what you really stand for.

Today while the sun shines, live to be true
Constant and faithful all the way through.

I wanted more than anything to live the Gospel and to be constant and faithful to it. It wasn’t until I later attended religions classes at BYU that I learned that the Church and the Gospel were not one in the same. The Gospel is everlasting, but the Church is only temporary. It was about that time, at college, when I saw many Mormons (in name only) lying and cheating the students, that my loyalties became divided.

When I saw how the students were treated, I wrote a little song about it. The melody should be familiar:

We thank thee O God for the profit, we made off the students this year.
It’s keeping two cars in the driveway. It’s keeping the fridge full of beer.
No, things aren’t so good here in Utah. We’re poor with a capital “P”.
So, thanks, Lord, for sending the money, so bail out the economy.

I decided at that point to embrace and remain true to the Gospel, and tolerate the church merely as a social institution, and also as a gathering place for some of the most wonderful people I ever met. I was in love with the members. I revered some of the General Authorities, like LeGrand Richards and Harold B. Lee, but didn’t think much of the church as a whole.

Do what is right, let the consequence follow. Battle for freedom in spirit and might.
And with stout hearts, look ye forth to tomorrow. God will protect you, then do what is right.

In Aaronic priesthood, we used to have monthly lessons with a theme. One of the themes was “Be honest with yourself.” Another one was: “This above all, to thine own self be true. Thou canst not them be false to any man.” In Primary, in the Co-Pilots, Pilots, and the Guide Patrol, we learned the importance of following the compass. In Scouting, my dad taught me how to steer a boat in a straight course by fixing on the goal on the distant shore and constantly making the necessary adjustments. The D&C advises us to be wise and take the Holy Spirit for our guide. To be valiant is to follow your testimony of Christ, despite all indications to do otherwise.

Put your shoulder to the wheel, push along.

My aunt says this was my favorite song in church, growing up. She says I used to sit on the front row and sing it at the top of my lungs. I have always had a penchant for putting action into words. Talk is cheap.

Humbly kneeling, sweet appealing, ’twas the boy’s first uttered prayer.

Every young Mormon child is familiar with this story, and with the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. These were always great examples to me of being valiant, as I mentioned above, and sticking up for the truth. The lesson I took away from the life and story of Joseph Smith was not that he was some kind of special demi-god, evolved far beyond us ordinary humans, but that if it could happen to him, it could happen to us, provided we follow the same principles he followed. The D&C promises as much.

O that we in the day of his coming may say, I have fought my way through,
I have finished the work, thou hast sent me to do.

I have always felt that my life had a mission, much as I feel that everybody’s life has a mission. We all have work, and rather than wait for somebody to tell us what to do, let’s be about our father’s business.

Growing up, I had all kinds of relatives in all different kinds of churches. My dad’s stepmother was a Baptist. I attended Baptist, Nazarene, and Presbyterian Bible school. Our cub scout pack met in a Congregational church, and I attended some youth programs at the local Methodist church. So I wasn’t a stranger to Protestantism. Oh yes, our neighbors were Lutherans from Wisconsin and we went to church with them a couple of times. Their pastor had all gold teeth, and I wanted to have all gold teeth so I would be a good looking angel, once I got to heaven. My step-grandmother gave us a book of ABC Children’s Bible Stories. For every letter of the alphabet, there was a story about a Biblical character or event that began with that letter of the alphabet. I was particularly taken by the phrase used to describe Abraham. He was “a friend of God”. I was amazed that a man could not only be a servant of God, but a friend of God. I wanted to become of friend of God. I later discovered that God wants us all to become his friends.

As Branch President, my uncle always went to Salt Lake City to attend conference. Back in those days, there was room in the Tabernacle for all the ward and branch leadership. I knew a little about Salt Lake City because I had aunts and uncles and cousins there and because we listened to Richard L. Evans and the Tabernacle Choir. That was part of what got me first interested in music.

My dad’s grandmother was still alive and she was a Pentecostal. My Pentecostal great-grandmother married her second husband, a really funny Italian guy, early in life, but Grandpa Galanetti did not convert. He used to say the Mormons on Sunday morning made more sense talking for 1/2 hour than the Holy Rollers did talking for 2 hours.

One year, my uncle returned with a picture of the church’s General Authorities. I looked at the First Presidency, recognized David O. McKay, then down at the Presiding Patriarch, which the church no longer has, the Presiding Bishopric, the Assistants to the Twelve. But what really caught my eye were the Twelve Apostles, for some reason. I was very interested and very curious about them. I used to love reading about the Apostles in the New Testament, and about the apostles in the church today. I added a new line to my little set prayer that I said every night: “… please bless the Twelve Apostles …”.

My mother was a member of the church. My father had not joined at the time, but he did attend church from time to time, and even stood up and bore his testimony in our little branch in Beaverton, OR. After my dad came home from WW II and the Korean War, we moved to a little one bedroom house in Beaverton. We had a large service porch in the back, and my dad hung up three Navy cots on the wall for us three boys. We had our own bunk beds. When we moved in, the house was unfinished. There were only studs separating the bedroom, living room, and kitchen. When several family members got the measles, my parents hung up blankets to the walls to keep out the sunlight, and everybody who had the measles slept in the one and only bedroom. My parents were concerned about my eyes. They didn’t want me to get measles, because of my eyes, so I slept in the living room and was not allowed in the bedroom. I never got the measles.

 

Small Town Boy — White Salmon — Guaranteed not to Turn Pink in the Can

I spent my youngest years living in the very small towns of White Salmon and Klickitat, Washington. My mother’s side of the family was LDS, though somewhat inactive. My uncle was the branch president, and his father, my grandfather, who immigrated with his family from Sweden to Utah to join the church, sat up on the stand every week. We were only 20 or so members, meeting in a rented grange hall. I never went to a ward meeting in any kind of chapel until I was about fourteen.

My mom, and three of us boys who had been born at that time, lived in a small trailer behind my uncle’s house. He was single and took care of his two elderly parents. Later, when my grandmother died, he married. Our family moved to Beaverton, OR for their excellent schools. But I showed an early interest in school, and my parents wanted to enroll me in kindergarten, but Beaverton had none. So, I went back to White Salmon and stayed with my aunt and uncle and my grandfather while I attended kindergarten. My grandparents raised their 9 children in a small log cabin in Alberta. This little house in White Salmon was the first real home and the first indoor bathroom my grandmother ever experienced.

We lived right across the street from the school, on what in now Academy Street in White Salmon. Back then, the town was so small, none of the streets had names and nobody locked their doors. The school yard was a huge grove of pine trees. Some of the trees had bars between them. You would hang by your knees. You could also easily climb up on the trees and nobody could see you. The old school building had two huge slides used as fire escapes, from the second story down to the ground. It was a sure sign you were a big kid if you could climb all the way to the top of the slide by yourself, and slide down, sitting on a slick sheet of waxed paper. That was our playground. In the school complex stood an old wooden gymnasium. One night it burned down, and we could feel the heat of it, all across the street.

In our back yard was a cherry tree. We used to climb the tree in summer and eat cherries until we got sick. Behind the cherry tree was a field we played in, and behind the field, a forest. I used to walk up the road, past the forest to my friend’s house. We went to kindergarten together. Up behind his house was another field and another forest. Once, I went walking up there alone, and some big boy came rushing up, grabbed me, tied me to a tree and called me a “queer”. I didn’t know what the word meant, and I doubt if he did either. I think he just liked bullying smaller kids. I asked my parents what the word meant, and they wouldn’t tell me.

But, I’ve never liked that word, since. It is a pejorative to me, and will always be such. The so-called “gay community” revels in the word “queer”, however, and when I object to its use, these preachers of “tolerance”, somehow become most intolerant. I have little use for them. They never helped me, and do not speak for me. They are like yet another cult. They make pronouncements, which then people must agree with. But, if you don’t agree, you are ostracized. This is no different from the religions many of us left behind. Take the abbreviation LGBTQ. This stands for five different groups of people who have nothing in common except their victimhood. I don’t belong to this group because, when presented with an opportunity to become a victim, I refused to let myself be victimized. I chose, instead, the path of personal responsibility, and I consider myself, not a victim, but a victor.

I liked the small and friendly atmosphere in the White Salmon Branch. I liked knowing everybody. I liked knowing we were a minority in the community. People were serious about their church membership. With the whole town against you, there was no place for “sunshine Mormons”, or “latter day ain’t’s”. I liked the way nobody in the church teased me, bullied me, or made fun of my eyesight. My cousin, who lived in a nearby town, used to introduce me as her “little cross-eyed cousin”. That hurt. And when anybody commented on that, even later in life, I went back to being a helpless little 3-year old, alone in the world. I know what it’s like to be bullied. I learned it from an early age.

I was bullied and passed over by the kids at school, and in the neighborhood. I learned to get over it, and this is why I have no sympathy for people who start whining because people persecute them for being gay or transgendered, or whatever. I’ve lived with it for longer than they have, and was bullied for more reasons than they have. I got over it, and so can they.

If you are in any way different in society: handicapped, too smart, too dumb, too fat, too skinny, too good-looking, too ugly, breasts too large, breasts too small, endowment too large, endowment too small, wrong race, wrong religion, talk with an accent. You name it. People will look for a reason to bully you, and if you don’t find a way to stop it from being a game for them, they will continue. But, what I loved about the church was I never had to fight those battles — at least as a young child. As an adult, it was a different story, but I had the maturity to handle it then.

My earliest memories are of going to the children’s hospital in Portland and getting my eyes operated on. After the operation, I had to keep returning to see Dr. Hill for follow-up visits in the hospital. I remember asking my mother about the other children I saw at the hospital. She told me that they were “crippled” and couldn’t walk and needed crutches and wheel chairs to get around. She helped me say my prayers every night, and we added a new phrase to the set litany: ” … please bless all the poor little crippled boys and girls..” This is not politically correct today, so please don’t take it out of the context of the 40’s. But, these experiences at the hospital and the experiences of praying for the handicapped, plus the experience of being slightly handicapped, myself, had a profound and significant affect on my life, as we shall see later on.

Introduction — The Fiercely Independent Team Player

I was born the oldest of 5 brothers. When I was born, I was a large baby and my mother was a long time in labor. She lived with her parents in a small farming community outside White Salmon, WA. My father was off fighting WW II. White Salmon had a very small hospital. If you ever saw the movie “Big Business”, the hospital in that movie was larger than White Salmon hospital. So, we went across the Columbia River to Hood River, OR, where I was born. It was a hard labor and a hard delivery. My mother’s eyes and my eyes both hemorrhaged. I was left with damaged eyesight. At one point in my life, I had 20/20 eyesight using glasses, but most of the time, my eyesight has been poor, even wearing glasses.

If you believe in astrology, and I don’t much believe in it, but according to “the stars”, I was born in Sagittarius with Sagittarius rising. This is supposed to mean that I would be very independent and freedom-loving. I would be my own person, independent, adventurous, and have a laser-like focus on whatever goal I pursued. One New Age philosophy has a motto for each sign. The one for Sagittarians is this: “I see a goal. I reach that goal. I see another goal.” I rather like that motto, but before I learned this lesson about me, I was very much opposed to goals. And, I think the reason for this is that the goals were always chosen for me and imposed upon me by outside parties. When I learned to choose my own goals, I was very much happier working to achieve them.

My independent mentality is also moderated by my willingness to cooperate and get along with others. I am very uncomfortable being at cross-purposes or having disagreements with those around me. Taken together, I am willing to be a team player, but first, I need to be convinced that I am following my own goals and my own motivation and my own purposes, which also happen to coincide with the group’s goals, motivations, and purposes.

Why go off on this tangent? Because this will help you better understand my life and why I made the choices I made. This all figures into the story.

Also, I am not writing this story from a victim’s perspective. I am writing this from the perspective of a person who has faced my share of life’s battles and overcome them. Or, at least, I believe I have overcome them. I am hoping that, in writing this, I will reveal more of myself to the “me” who thinks he already knows everything, but probably doesn’t. I also write this to introduce myself to you, and in so doing, I have several purposes in mind.

1. To show you that we don’t all fit in the same mold. You may encounter Gay Mormons or ex-Mormons and try to fit us all into the same mold, because the church and society at large try to get us to see everybody in the same mold. This would be a mistake, and I hope this biography vividly demonstrates that fact.

2. To show you that not everybody passively caves in to the dictates of society and religious institutions, but we can and do fight back. There are people that I greatly admire in this life who also fought back. You will meet some of them in this biography. These were my teachers. They taught me how to balance my desire to “get along” and “follow the rules” with the desire to make my own choices and think for myself. I learned from these people by talking with them, asking very pointed questions, and by observing them.

3. To show you that many of the things you were taught to be real, but never did more than blindly believe, actually are real. Somebody needed to come along and find out these things for himself, and point them out to others. In some areas of life, I am not a “get along” guy. I am a fearless adventurer, independent observer, and as my school teachers described me: “an aggressive learner”. All my life, I wanted to be somebody who KNEW, not just believed. From the standpoint of society and its churches and institutions, belief can be manipulated, but knowledge is dangerous.

4.To show you that in no way do I consider myself as better or having more potential than anybody else. Everything I have done, I believe anybody can do. I have been shown, in a very spiritual way, the potential each of us have. If we really could see each other as I have been allowed to see us, we would bow down and worship each other as gods. This is not very productive, however, because as Gods, we have God’s work to do, and God can only do FOR us, what God can do THROUGH us.

  • Who’s going to change our hearts so we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually? God’s going to do that.
  • Who’s going to create the kind of society that will establish Zion in our midst and create the kind of Terrestrial conditions and law such that Christ will be pleased to return and dwell among us? God’s going to do that.
  • Who’s going to drive the dark forces out of our midst, and literally “seal the door where evil dwells”? God’s going to do that.
  • Who’s going to raise us up at the last day in the resurrection? God’s going to do that.
  • Who’s going to make us equal to the task of reinventing ourselves, our relationships, and society as a whole? God’s going to do that.

Faith Crisis Defined

People act like questioning one’s faith is a bad thing.

Faith SHOULD always be questioned. PROVE everything and and hold fast to that which is good. And the corollary to this is, if it is not good, get rid of it.

The problem, as I see it, is people have NOT been questioning their faith, but simply taking everything on faith. There is a subtle difference. But, one day reality, as it is always prone to do, creeps up on them and forces them to make a decision. This is known as a crisis.

Faith Crisis 2

I had a “faith crisis” of a different kind. It wasn’t because of church history, polygamy, Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, etc. My faith crisis came early on when I became converted to the church from the scriptures and the early writings. I became converted to a gospel, not a church. I believed that the church was best suited to implement the gospel of Jesus Christ, which has the potential to change men’s lives. Joseph Smith’s teachings about the fundamental god-like nature of man, free agency, and the principles of Zion that would transform society. All of this got me very excited about the possibilities of the church and its future mission.

This started to unravel when I moved to Utah and started college. I found a people who didn’t live, much less believe their religion. I found a church that was more interested in preserving the status quo and in damning its members to a life of mediocrity rather than lifting them up beyond the conventional norms of society. Instead of true prophecy and revelation, I find conservative talking points sugar-coated in Mormon-speak. I see no evidence of the keys their leaders claim to possess. They can’t even explain the Priesthood, or its ordinances. They cover their ignorance of the significance of the temple in a veil of secrecy.

I feel to say with Mormon: why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why have miracles ceased? It is because faith is not present, and all has become as if there had been no atonement made.

There is no faith in the church, and I have no faith in the church, and those who do so have misplaced their faith, and when the storms rage, and they are swept off their sandy foundation, they cry about a “faith crisis”.