Introduction and Preface to the 2017 edition.
Changes over the last forty years have in many ways been breathtaking. Salt Lake City, like cities across the nation, now has numerous pro-gay legal statutes, some of which would not be on the books without the public endorsement of LDS Church leadership. Salt Lake City government is currently presided over by an openly lesbian mayor.
Astonishingly there is an unofficial organization for gay students and allies in Provo for gay BYU and Utah Valley University (USGA). And even more surprisingly, you can find a brand new gay community center housed in a historical Victorian house directly across the street from the new Provo Temple
To date Provo City has hosted three Gay Pride Day celebrations seeing thousands of attendees at a downtown parade and festival where gays mix with allies and many of whom are even supportive BYU professors and instructors.
On the national level we have gay marriage and equal legal protection for gay and lesbian couples approved by the supreme court – an achievement I didn’t think I would live to see.
But on the local as well as national level, there are substantial pockets of resistance and even backlash to these rapid cultural changes. There are numerous public officials and judges that are openly anti-gay with a recent troubling uptick in hate crimes against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals. The real grunt work of ensuring legal equality and protection is far from over.
The more rural parts of Utah as well as the nation remain systemically entrenched in an institutionalized mindset not much beyond the 19th century view of homosexuality. While the more metropolitan domains are now relatively safe territory for the LGTBQ communities, prejudice, bigotry and even hostility still prevail, particularly in many of the smaller towns and outlying areas. Although these people are for the most part some of the most solid and bedrock “good” people anyone could ever know, they are often remain entrenched in the perception that homosexuality is evil, a mental disease, or a perversion. Today they are unlikely to step forward against their local gay bashing bully or speak out against the nasty rhetoric of the town’s anti-gay politician or church leader.
At first glance, Prologue might appear outdated—a time-locked historical footnote. It is far from that. The document is as relevant today as it was forty years ago when it awakened a university and a church with a systemic shockwave. It remains vital for all where current changes have not yet penetrated misconceptions and misunderstandings of homosexuality.
Fear and ignorance are formidable barriers to enlightenment.
There are still thousands of young gay and lesbian men and women in far flung areas that feel isolated and alone in their private struggles to come to terms with their sexuality. They clearly get the messages from their parents, preacher, bishop, teachers,– and especially their piers — that to disclose their sexuality would be self-destructive. They have no support group, no sympathetic counselor or minister, not even a parent or sibling they can confide in. The more fortunate ones perhaps have a friend with whom they can share at least some of this huge emotional burden.
As a young teen in the 50’s, in a small rural town, I thought I was the only one with these powerful and compelling drives. I didn’t dare talk to anyone about it. When I discovered the word “homosexual” and then with great anxiety looked the actual word up in the dictionary I was thunderstruck with the overwhelming notion that I was quite possibly the devil incarnate. How could such a devout young LDS man reconcile this overwhelming discrepancy of good and evil? There was no person or any literature I could turn to for the help and information I desperately needed. It was profoundly troubling and gut wrenching.
Today thanks to the internet, a resource library is just a few clicks away for a similarly frightened teenager trying to grasp the complex and powerful forces that seem to be taking over their life. That he or she can quickly access valuable information, gain an understanding, and find support can make a crucial difference almost instantaneously. This benefit is not only transformational, it can be life saving.
Prologue can still contribute in this way as it has in the past to both a better self-understanding, and additionally reveal valuable insight to LDS parents, friends, teachers, and Church leaders who are struggling themselves to understand a son or daughter, a friend or student, or a member of their ward.
Shortly after Prologue was originally published my friend Ron, a returned missionary, sent a copy to his devout parents who had disinherited him after he came out to them. They reluctantly promised to read Prologue but delayed, not believing it could be worthwhile. Many months later as they were traveling east from Utah on vacation his mother pulled it out of her purse and started to read it to her husband as they drove. After a few pages they pulled off the road, stopped and together they read the entire document. They immediately turned the car around and drove in the opposite direct to their son’s home in California. They arrived unannounced on his doorstep. When he opened the door in complete amazement they grabbed him in their arms and in tears asked for his forgiveness.
That these and other such lives are significantly altered when a source for invaluable information is available makes the endeavor to keep Prologue accessible on the internet an important contribution to understanding homosexuality for Latter-Day Saints. If one life can be changed or saved, or a single false notion abandoned, it makes all the difference in the world to that person.
Nothing could be more essential than conveying a positive and supportive message to the gay Mormons confronting the complex aspects of being gay. Where forty years ago, fear, ignorance and hostility prevailed, today in the Church an historical foundation beginning with Prologue has been laid and upon it understanding, compassion and hope.
AUTHOR’S PREFACE – 1989 PRINTING
I was pleasantly surprised to be asked for an updated introduction to Prologue. I had thought by now it would have been superseded by some other more relevant and current writing. That it has survived more than a decade must be some commentary on its usefulness and veracity.
The responses to it through the years have been overwhelmingly positive. Certainly there are those it has rankled. That was expected. But many lives have been affected for the better. I like to think that it was perhaps helpful in widening a tiny crack in the rigid position held by the Church. Officially not much has happened but unofficially the Church seems to have backed away from being so vindictive and judgmental. To that degree, less damage and pain is being inflicted upon many lives. This is not to say that it’s no longer a bruising experience to be gay and Mormon. It’s the stuff nightmares and tragedies are made of. Well-meaning but ignorant counselors, Bishops and Stake Presidents continue to inflict needless trauma on already troubled lives.
Now the specter of AIDS deepens old fears and prejudices. New dragons appear before old ones are slain. This one will distinguish the true Saints amongst us. Mormons are suffering and dying of this pestilence and many are doing so entirely alienated from their families and the support the Church could and should be offering. Carol Lynn Pearson’s book Goodbye, I love You is a landmark in where the Church should really be on this issue. It’s no longer just theological conflict and social stigma. We’re dealing with disease and death. Can the latter-day saint cope with the latter-day leper?
It’s high time the Church got beyond perceiving being gay as self-inflicted. At this moment there are literally thousands of outstanding youths coming up through the ranks of the Church who are just beginning the realization that they are homosexual. Ahead of them is a perilous journey. Their chances of receiving harm rather than help from the church are great.
It was concern for these young people with lives still ahead of them that produced Prologue. We wanted a better life for those that were to follow. But that was just a small beginning. Enlightenment will not come spontaneously to the Church on this issue. It will change only when pressed to do so. Much more must be done if future generations are to be spared the pain and heartaches we went through. The straightforward truth is the best antidote to ignorance.
More is in the works. But in the current project , I do not have the assistance of my good friend Howard Salisbury. Without him Prologue would not have happened. I had the great good fortune of meeting this extraordinary man while still in my youth. Our merged efforts to shed some light on the difficulties of being gay and Mormon culminated in Prologue. We came from different generations and perspectives. Often we disagreed on central issues. Together we shared the gamut – from a scandalous excommunication and ruptured friendship to creating a beautiful retreat that gays from all over the world could enjoy. He died of a heart attack shortly after Prologue was completed. Many of the struggles of his life are contained within those pages. That he lived till its completion is mystical.
Lee Williams was singularly helpful in his skillful criticism, contribution and editing of Prologue as well as the initial production and printing. My good friend Diane generously donated her skill and time in typing the manuscript through its numerous revisions. Many others offered their helpful comments and suggestions. I am blessed with a very wise and considerate family that supported me in the project.
In a larger sense, Prologue is the story, the struggle and the questioning of every gay Mormon. It literally comes from the experience of the hundreds, possibly thousands of gay Mormons who shared the experiences of their lives with us. It is not just the writing of one or a few. It is authored by the words of thousands. It was originally published anonymously to dissuade the Church from trying to discredit it through character assassination. The tactic was successful in blunting the original witch hunt response by the Church. In the end, the Church had to pay attention to the contents. The enduring power of Prologue is that it is the voice of all engaged in this struggle. May the voices of many continue to be heard in this dark wilderness of prejudice and ignorance.
Cloy Jenkins 1989
I had reached the point where I could no longer be satisfied walking across the campus muttering conversations to myself. The scenario was so predictable it was boring and the outcome so involutional it was frightening. A friend, a colleague, a Church authority, or a student would, in all seriousness, make some statement about homosexuality that defied any consideration of reason, research or intelligence. Circumstances made it difficult or impossible to counter in any way. The opprobrium against homosexuality in the Mormon culture and the particular paranoia of it at Brigham Young University reduced my options in these circumstances to that of a passive listener, a position I came to detest. A self contained rage of retorts that followed became increasingly dissatisfying. I am not the soap box orator type nor some radical subversive inflamed with a kinky cause celebre. I simply find it difficult to endure a climate in which emotional bigotry and ignorance hold sway over reason and experience, where answers are shouted from the pulpit before the right questions are asked and where solutions are declared in the clinic and lab before the problem is understood or even defined.
Few subjects are as misunderstood as homosexuality. Few subjects evoke such emotionalism and hostility. The world is essentially in the dark ages on this subject as even the top experts agree. The Mormon culture lags far behind as born out by the lecture given by Dr. Reed Payne to his beginning psychology class at BYU in the Spring of 1977. This lecture again threw me into interminable mutterings and no resolution came until I finally set down in writing a reply to his class presentation.
My letter to Dr. Payne has given me hope. For the first time in years I can quit muttering. I know Dr. Payne disagrees with some of my comments and is troubled by others, but he and his colleagues now know more about homosexuality than when the lecture was given. Hopefully the response which they are now preparing will be a contribution to our understanding of homosexuality and will address the central issues which for too long have been ignored, handed over to moralizing or scripturalizing and generally relegated to simple formulas. We need a responsible, well reasoned dialogue on these issues and not a picky academic criticism of my letter.
I showed the letter to my family and many of my friends. Their response was enthusiastic and they were soon sending it to other families, friends and Church authorities. Needless to say the response – at least those I hear about – have been mixed. That most of them have been favorable has given me hope that in the long run wisdom will prevail. Perhaps now others will be encouraged to come forth with their views and experiences. An emotional prejudice has held center stage far too long. We as a people have not been wise. The cost has been immense in terms of human lives and suffering. We must not perpetuate that kind of evil.
Provo, Utah 1977