The hymn of sin


Open ‘bible’ with you are loved saying. Original graphic made by Walker Hardy.

On Sunday morning, the bright, early sun warmed my face as I opened my crusty-filled eyelids. The 10 seconds of grogginess and squinting my eyes open made me forget about everything that awaited me as soon as I stepped out of my 12 x 12 safety box, painted light blue with a glass picture above my headboard of the one and only, Christ almighty. 

I stumbled downstairs in my parents’, middle class, typical suburban home. Going into the kitchen, my nose tingled from the sweet smell of bacon, the hot sting of greasy bacon oil and my ears, ringing from my father’s voice reciting the Book of Mormon. I ate the burnt bacon and the slightly undercooked eggs while attempting to ignore my father’s ongoing conversation about how God has shaped him and how marriage should be. I tuned it out, attempting to think about anything else, but every wall, every direction I turned, it seemed Christ was symbolized everywhere, with no escape. 

Trying to find any excuse to get out of going to Sunday service, I whimpered “I’m sick, I don’t feel good,” and my parents thought they knew what I was doing. They told me ”We know what’s best for you” — which was forcing me into a religion I didn’t trust. My thoughts spiraled into “What’s wrong with me?” leading me to a place where I was subconsciously told to hide myself every time I opened my eyes for a new day. 

As I treaded back upstairs after hearing my parents’ advice, I put on a mask, hiding myself as I started to pull on my over-sized black slacks. The chafed neck from the stiff white-collared shirt turned my neck red and raw, something that had developed from continuous wear. Pulling it tight, buttoning at the neck, I felt suffocated from the collar and the tight black tie around my throat. My body knows this feeling of discomfort and angst — it was time for Sunday service. 

At this point I’m 14-years-old and have never been more confused. I felt a certain way about my sexuality that didn’t align with what my family held to be true. Other than listening to what the Mormon Church was saying about men; who they should be, what they’re required to do or what characteristics they should have, I subsequently didn’t know anything else. 

All I knew is that the church didn’t support gay people, it’s a blur for most followers, a smidge that they’d like to erase. With no outlet for the unknown sexual attractions I felt, I was completely unaware of what being gay was or what that meant. I just knew it wasn’t positive.

On the homepage of the Latter Day Saints, they shed some light on their no-stance opinion.  “Let us be clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that ‘the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is.’” 

Published in The American Journal of Nursing, “Comprehensive Sex Education for Teens Is More Effective than Abstinence” written by David Carter, found that practicing abstinence, like the misinformation the church tells people of the LGBTQ+ community to do, is less effective than “comprehensive sex education.” 

As I dreadfully walk through the dark, red, rustic brick walls, I listen to the clinking of my black dress shoes on the cement. I focused hard on the sound made by my leathered shoes in order to ignore the whispers “go with the girls” remarked by younger boys once I stepped inside God’s house. The safest part of church is the hour-long congregation, but once it’s over, my heart races for what’s next. 

We split into workshops, and I sit down in the corner of a church room with other younger boys for two long, grueling hours. We are continuously told, week after week, what is considered a sin, what isn’t and the gray areas through Mormon bible stories, yet nothing was new today. 

Surprisingly, as I listen to what the Prophet is preaching to us today, my eyes become blurry from continuously placing myself into all the categories of being sinful, wrong or considered freakish, just because I know I like men. 

Looking down, I broke eye contact with the Prophet and exited mid-lesson. You were never supposed to leave during a lesson, but I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t pretend to identify and nod along to altering beliefs, and I never spoke up before because everyone knows what’s happening in each other’s lives in the church — like wildfire, drama spreads. If I was already feeling insecure about being here at the Latter Day Saints church, imagine how much more it would hurt to be pure fuel to the catastrophic disaster that coming out would feel like in such a religious community. 

Once service is over, leaving church usually feels amazing. Leaving the dark dungeon feels like breaking free, getting a full breath of air and no longer feeling suffocated anymore. I unbutton the first three buttons of my dress shirt, pulling the tie from left and right and loosening the tight knot. I felt somewhat free, yet couldn’t get a full breath; something deep down wasn’t sitting right. 

Stepping into the gray minivan, we start the 15-minute drive home. Driving down Peyton Drive, I just look up into the light, baby blue sky, partially covered by whispering brown pine trees that line the street, emulating a sweet smell. 

I was at peace, but I knew I was never going to be back in that God’s house. The idea of telling my dad before my mom made me sick. I knew he was going to be disappointed that I wasn’t following in his footsteps or even my brothers. It was like being sat down in the middle of a room with an absence of light, I felt like an outlier with a secret that couldn’t be told.

The Mormon church teaches “marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.” Noting ‘His,’ meaning God’s plan, is not everyone’s plan. 

Every time I thought of saying something, especially to my mom, I was overcome with feeling actually ill; my torso trembled from fear; my palms would sweat, my teeth clattered; I almost couldn’t speak. 

After getting back home, I isolate myself into my safety box on the second floor of the suburban household. Physically shaking, at 14-years old, I go into my mothers room and ask if she can come to my room. I start with “So church has been really, really hard and it’s more than just being there.” Stumbling over almost every word, I finally get a full breath in. Looking at my mom into her loving blue eyes, filling my heart with courage, I utter …

“Mom … I’m gay.”

Walker Hardy can be reached at [email protected].