It was only after my disaffection that I was able to see a pattern in my life indicating that I was not strictly heterosexual. This is part of a series of posts as I try to account for all the pieces to the puzzle of my sexual orientation. By documenting the pieces of the puzzle, I hope to be able to put the picture together. Only by being as completely honest with myself as I can will I be able to understand who I am. This fourth post in the series will deal with the first year of my mission.
I think missions can be particularly difficult for the homosexual. All day, every day, is spent with with other men and specifically avoiding women. You are told to love your companion and love for one's companion is a highly prized attribute. As I mentioned in my previous post, it can also be compared as preparation for marriage.
I think these puzzle pieces will begin to define the picture of my sexual orientation, perhaps we are finally getting to the corner and edge pieces. Dump, dump, dump . . .
I entered the MTC and was shocked to discover that we had communal showers. After my fears concerning communal showers had been relieved concerning the BYU dorms, it never crossed my mind that there would be communal showers at the MTC. They came to be known in my MTC district as the "Tree of Life" due to their construction of a single pole with shower heads protruding from it. I woke up thirty minutes earlier than required at the MTC so that I could avoid the traumatic experience of a communal shower. I also discovered that there was a separate handicap shower in the bathroom, which I used. However, that didn't stop me from finding reasons to wander into the bathroom later in the morning, when everyone else was communally showering, to watch.
After having been in the MTC for 4 weeks, a new batch of elders arrived, and a rumor erupted that one of the new Elders would tap dance naked in the bathroom because of the great acoustics. There definitely was a tap-dancing Elder in the new group. However, I never found him to be naked when I wandered into the bathroom while he was tap dancing . . .
Out of the MTC and in the real world, I had a difficult time transitioning to missionary work, due to my introverted nature. It became particularly difficult with my second companion, who was also a fairly young missionary, because he wanted me to take more responsibility in the companionship. We actually had a great companionship and became quite good friends. After one particularly difficult morning tracting, he offered to give me a blessing. After the blessing, he gave me a hug, and it felt wonderful. It felt very much like the good-bye hugs I got from my best friend when I left for BYU. The hug actually made me feel much better than the blessing. A few days later, I asked for another blessing, probably because I knew I would get another hug afterwards. Although I didn't admit it at the time, I suspect I allowed myself to have difficult days on my mission, just so I could convince him that I needed a blessing (and a hug). Admitting that, now I feel manipulative . . .
I served in a Russian speaking mission under a Russian-born mission president. He was excited for us to learn about the Russian culture and encouraged us to participate more fully in it. While with my second companion, our zone planned a trip to the Russian bath house. Basically the Russian bath house experience consists of a sauna, where you sit around naked with the other guys until you sweat your brains out, and then you go jump into a cold pool of water. Then you return to the sauna to repeat the process again and again. This supposedly removes the impurities from your body. To help get those toxins out, you also take damp branches that are covered with leaves and hit each other with them while you are in the sauna. I was very nervous about the trip, and the majority of the Elders were completely naked. Luckily there were several who wore shorts the entire time (perhaps they were also gay?), so I didn't feel too uncomfortable leaving mine on and participating in the festivities (although I had fully planned on forgoing the sauna and shower just so I could keep my shorts on). I still spent a good amount of the time indulging my curiosity and enjoying the view of the naked elders, with the shorts hiding the evidence of my arousal. (As an aside, I later learned that the main organizer for these trips to the Russian Bath house was actually a gay Elder in our mission who wanted to get the naked men together). After the trip to the Russian bath house, I wrote in my journal:
Satan was working really hard on me today. But it was from a different, older approach. He wasn't working so hard with fear and depression but rather with my mind's focus and leading it to paths I'd rather avoid. I had to pray several times for divine help to avoid temptation.My fifth companion and I also had a great companionship. We worked hard and tried to include the Lord in all of our decisions. This companion was also a very touchy companion and gave me regular hugs. I really enjoyed his hugs. My companion was Zone Leader and always going on splits with other companionships and making overnight trips to a distant city in our zone to conduct baptismal interviews. It was probably a good thing that we weren't able to spend more time together.