When I struggled most with addictions to pornography, felt worse as a gay mormon than the sludge of the earth, and couldn't even bring myself to pray, inside my heart I still had the wish for a miracle. The wish to be clean... to be made whole... to be normal.

In the scriptures I feel a kinship to many of the people who undergo suffering in life... but perhaps no one more than the lepers - men and women physically cast out of their homes and families because of leprosy. Leprosy in the times of the Jews was viewed almost exactly as homosexuality was by me on my hardest days... and it had almost the exact same effects. An incurable curse of uncleanliness... an unspoken and unspeakable condition that divided me from humanity and feeling loved or understood by mankind. Except that, unlike the lepers, who could be seen and upon whom others could take compassion... no one could ever see my sores... there was no one to share my pain.

In 2 Kings, chapter 5, the scriptures tell the story of a man named Naaman. He was a good man... but he had leprosy... and he was miraculously healed through non-miraculous means.

1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.
2 And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.
3 And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
9 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Someone asked me this week what my solution was. What had I done that had tamed the dragon of homosexual desires and freed me from the draw of pornography and the grasp of addiction? I've tried hundreds of ideas - reading books, writing journal entries, buying good music, getting priesthood blessings, dating, trying to make friends with guys and fix old relationships, and making convoluted deals with myself to reward good behavior and punish bad. But none of them worked. They all seemed to give me some strength, and they all seemed initially to be the answer to my desires... but in the end none of them stuck. I found myself in the same hole as before. And, in reality, the answer was right in front of me all along.

For most of my life, I had the same misunderstanding that Naaman did. Like leprosy was to him, homosexuality seemed to me an unbearable and unusual trial - something that merited an unusual miracle to set me free. I wanted a priesthood blessing that would make me fall in love with a girl, or a set of unique therapeutic techniques that would leave me never wanting to see pornography again. That didn't happen - the same way Elisha didn't come out and strike the spots to make him clean. 

I saw very little success until I tried one last thing - focusing on the basic principles, the Primary answers, of the gospel. And not just focusing on them, but making them into the fabric of my life.

In Preach My Gospel it says that a study of doctrine will change behavior better than a study of behavior will change behavior. In my mind, I visualize my spirituality and ability to keep the commandments as a long line compared to the topics of the gospel. I was on solid ground around my testimony of the Book of Mormon, my belief in the prophet, my commitment to the temple. But where pornography and all its attendant demons lay, there was a massive chasm that stretched down into the abyss itself. 

For a long time, I tried to fill the abyss by throwing rocks in it. I'd pick up a technique like turning off the Internet in my apartment, and toss it in, hoping that it would suddenly cause the chasm to rise. Um... it doesn't take a geologist to tell me that's not going to happen. 

But any kid on the beach can tell you there are two ways to fill, or dig, a hole. 

When you dig a hole in the sand, you dig straight down. But eventually, because the sand relies on other sand laterally to support it, and the undersides are slowly eroded by water exposed by the hole, the sides of the hole collapse in an ever-expanding ring. The same thing happens with many problems in the gospel. Let them grow deeper and deeper, and eventually the problem that was once small will erode away everything. I've known men who bore powerful testimonies as they began to struggle with same-gender attraction... or who were just facing offense in the Church... but who gave in to it and years later told me they didn't even believe in God.

Filling a hole, or building a mountain, works the same way. You can try to build upward, but the higher the sand pile, the larger the area it covers. And because in the gospel it becomes easier to grow the more righteous you are, filling a hole is easier... and makes more sense... by focusing on simply increasing faith that is already there nearby. When I learn and apply principles of the gospel, my faith "spills over" into other areas - because the gospel is related.

Obviously, there were things I had to still focus on. Throwing caution to the wind because I do my scripture study is foolhardy. But it wasn't until I started truly focusing on the "little" things - prayer, scripture study, church activity, serving others, and sharing the gospel - that my demons and my hole of faith began to shrink. But that is how it worked for me. And as my faith has grown, it has set me free.

I'll include a major caveat. I'm not talking about scripture study where I sit down and read for ten minutes before sleeping, or prayers said quickly before bed. Those never had the power to change me. No. I needed much, much more, over a much longer period of time. One of the scriptural meanings of the number seven is "a whole lot." Naaman had to wash a whole lot of times in the river Jordan; I had to do a whole lot to begin to see results from filling my hole of faith. And the results I saw weren't complete and total change, but an increased perspective and faith in the Lord that He would fulfill His promises. Either way, it was worth it. My scripture study was daily, and combined with more time on Sunday translated into literally hours of personal reflection and writing each week - trying to see personal stories and meaning in the scriptures even when it was hard to stay focused. My prayers lasted sometimes for hours - written and spoken and voiced conversations with God on every topic under the sun, learning about Him and His will in my life. It meant that I took personal responsibility for as much as I could in Church, and actively reached out and included others even when I felt left out. I opened my mouth and shared the gospel even when I felt awkward and out of place. 

I think the biggest initial shock and investment was the amount of time that it took to actually live the gospel and do the small things enough to make it work. It took me at least 15 hours each week to do just the basics - earnest prayer, meaningful scripture study, reflection, and journaling - not even counting spontaneous service and missionary opportunities. I found I had to plan out my day and week or I would end up turning down social invitations because I needed to take the time to pray or write or study. But I wanted to change who I was - enough that I was willing to wash in the Jordan as many times as necessary... and over years, slowly, it has changed my life.

Unlike Naaman, however, I'm still washing in the Jordan today... and I'll probably have to wash in it every day for the rest of my life. I still have to worry about the pull of pornography jumping from the shadows, and attraction taking center stage in my mind. I may be attracted to some men for the rest of mortality. But every time I read the scriptures, pray, or turn to the Lord in faith, He strengthens me... and I am that much closer to being the man He sees in me. I'll get there someday. But I'm pretty certain it will take a whole lot more than washing in a river seven times.
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