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  • Writer's pictureJaycee Knox

My Mormon Experience, Part 1

Looking back, I've come to realize that my relationship with God was my first abusive relationship. The teachings and expectations of the Mormon faith led me to believe that I needed to alter an inherent part of myself in order to be accepted and loved. This realization was painful, but it also became the catalyst for my personal growth and liberation.


Growing up as a Mormon in a small community while dealing with a rare disease presented numerous challenges that shaped my identity and resilience. While being part of a close-knit religious community should have provided a sense of belonging and support, it unfortunately added to the difficulties I faced due to my bleeding disorder and later, my sexuality.


The Mormon faith is deeply rooted in values such as family, unity, and service, which undoubtedly hold their own beauty. However, they also brought unexpected difficulties. Despite being surrounded by a community that sometimes struggled to fully understand the uniqueness of my condition, there was comfort in knowing that I belonged to the one true church on earth. I found solace in the belief that God would take care of me and that following His will would lead to a happy, healthy life.


I was taught that embracing God's teachings would cultivate a life filled with pure joy. Yet, as I went on this path of spiritual connection, self-doubt unexpectedly emerged. This marked the beginning of my tumultuous relationship with God. I was assured that living according to divine guidance would result in happiness, good health, and a family. However, the more I strived to adhere to these teachings, the more it fostered within me a deep-seated distrust and self-hatred. I was even led to believe that any misfortune I encountered with my Hemophilia was a direct consequence of my disobedience toward God. I also carried the weight of blame for my family falling apart and my parents' divorce.


Living with a rare disease like Severe Hemophilia A already made me stand out from my peers. The constant medical treatments, hospital visits, and physical limitations made it difficult for me to fit in. Despite these challenges, I began to embrace my uniqueness and educate my schoolmates about Hemophilia. However, it was the intersection of my religious upbringing and my personal journey of self-discovery that truly tested my strength.


When I turned 12, I entered the Aaronic Priesthood (the young men program 12-18), and a booklet titled "To The Young Men Only" was handed to me. It was a sermon, written by Boyd K. Packer, aimed to guide us young men as we navigated various aspects of our growth and sought to better understand ourselves. Over time, the content of the booklet has undergone modifications, but its fundamental emphasis has always been on promoting abstinence from activities like masturbation, with potential implications linked to homosexuality. This topic was repeatedly discussed and emphasized.


In addition to this material, we were enlightened about the perceptions surrounding masturbation and its possible connection to homosexuality. However, it was not presented without a glimmer of hope. We were told that these "tendencies" could be managed and even reversed through discipline and spiritual devotion. The message painted a picture filled with optimism for young followers who were striving towards righteous living, regardless of the circumstances they faced.


As a teenager, I battled with depression, but I felt unable to fully seek help from my family. I believed that if I were to ask for support, I would have to reveal that I was the cause of all my struggles because I had been engaging in masturbation. This sense of shame and guilt forced me to hide my true self, hoping to fix myself in secret. In high school, I came to terms with my sexuality and realized that I was gay, I felt conflicted and confused. The teachings of the Mormon faith, which I had grown up with, did not align with my own feelings and desires.


I felt I could not tell my family, because I was taught that this was very sinful. I went through the motions of the Mormon faith, advancing up the ranks in the church and fooling those around me with who I was. In an attempt to reconcile my faith and my identity, A few years after high school graduation, I made the difficult decision to move away, with the hope of returning to Ohio one day as a symbol of hope for my family, friends, and peers.


I moved to Provo, Utah, often referred to as "Happy Valley." At the time, I kept my true reason for moving a secret, telling everyone that I was going there for school. In Provo, I hoped to "pray the gay away" and conform to the expectations of the religious community. I believed that if I tried hard enough, I could change my sexual orientation and find acceptance within the church and my hemophilia would be better and I would finally be happy.


When I was in Utah, that is when I decided to come clean to my bishop and seek help with my sexual identity. My bishop in Provo encouraged me to attend an addiction recovery program organized by the Mormon church, with the aim of helping me overcome my struggles with masturbation, because once I overcame masturbation, my homosexual thoughts would go away as well.The format of the program resembled that of an AA meeting, where individuals would sit in a circle and share their names and addictions. However, instead of finding solace and support, I found myself feeling even worse about myself.


As I participated in this program, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of shame and guilt. The constant focus on my “addiction” and the pressure to overcome it only intensified my negative feelings towards myself. Hearing others share their stories of success and progress made me feel like a failure as if I was the only one unable to conquer this so-called "sin."


Unfortunately, instead of finding the help and understanding I desperately needed, this program only added to my emotional pain. The feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing grew to the point where I resorted to self-harm, cutting myself as a way to cope with the overwhelming emotions. It was a dark and difficult time in my life, as I struggled to find a way out of this cycle of shame and despair.


Looking back, I realize that the approach taken by the addiction recovery program was not helpful for me. It failed to address the underlying issues and emotions that contributed to my struggles. Instead, it reinforced the harmful belief that my worth as a person was tied to my ability to overcome this “addiction”. It took time and a different approach to healing for me to break free from this destructive cycle and find a path toward self-acceptance.


Coming out to my family was incredibly daunting to me, as I carried a deep fear of rejection and isolation. Witnessing the experiences of my gay Mormon friends, who had bravely shared their truth only to be met with rejection and become subjects of the Mormon rumor mill, intensified my apprehension. The thought of potentially facing the same fate filled me with anxiety and uncertainty. I only wanted acceptance and understanding from my loved ones, but the fear of being cast aside and subjected to gossip and judgment stopped be from opening up to them.


I made the decision to go on my first date with a man, with the support of a Gay Mormon Provo group I found online. However, what should have been a step towards finding love and acceptance turned into a nightmare. I became a victim of sexual assault, an experience that left me feeling shattered and devoid of hope. This traumatic event became a turning point in my life, forcing me to confront the damaging effects of trying to change who I am in order to fit into a mold that was never meant for me. It was a painful realization that I could no longer deny or ignore - I needed to embrace my true self and find a path towards healing and self-acceptance.







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To all those who may be grappling with their identity or facing challenges, I want to offer this message of hope: It does get better. Though the journey may be difficult and filled with pain, there is always a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Embrace your authentic self, surround yourself with the love and acceptance of those who truly care for you, and never forget that you deserve happiness and fulfillment. Reach out to those who genuinely embrace, support, and love you, for they will be the ones who help you navigate through the darkness and into a brighter future.


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