Scott Mackintosh found his beliefs about homosexuality being challenged when his son, Sean, told him he was gay. Scott learned that he needed to understand his son in order to truly love him. His journey is a story of hope and healing. Scott and his wife, Becky, have seven children.
I’m an outdoors kind of guy—always have been. I grew up living and breathing hunting, skiing, playing sports, and fishing. Now that I’m old, I’ve had to give up skiing; it’s too hard on my knees. As a young boy I’d choose camping over Disneyland. I longed for anything in the outdoors. I felt that time spent in the mountains could only add to a person’s life.
I wanted to spend every waking moment in the mountains but my mom had different plans for me. I had to go to school. I had household chores and responsibilities such as folding clothes, vacuuming, dusting, and pulling weeds. To make matters worse I had the assignment of washing dishes four nights a week and every other Sunday. My parents were horrible for expecting such responsibility from a child. (In all seriousness I could not have been raised any better; I appreciate the many lessons that were taught in my home).
I was the fourth of five children, with two brothers and two sisters. All three boys were Eagle Scouts. All three served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All five children married in the temple. Yep, it seemed as though my parents didn’t have to do anything but check the autopilot button every once in a while to make sure it was on; the rest just fell into place. Although I am being somewhat facetious, this set me up with the belief that I would have no issues in raising a family; life would be nothing but bliss.
Starting a Family
I received a strong confirmation of who I was to marry. It was little Becky Court from down the street. We had known each other since elementary school. We married in the Salt Lake Temple on September 22, 1983. We have seven children—three boys and four girls.
I enjoy being a husband and father. We have spent a lot of time in the great outdoors. We raised our children on a little farm. We rode horses and were actively involved in
4-H. I coached my boys in wrestling for 17 years. They did all of the things that I loved to do and now, as I reflect, I wonder if I gave them much of a choice.
My hope was that if they enjoyed doing the things that required adult supervision, such as hunting and shooting, they would have to let me tag along. My plan worked perfectly; this was validated by my oldest son, Tosh, who sent me a letter while on his mission expressing that he felt badly his companion didn’t have a very good relationship with his father. He thanked me for spending more time with him than most young men get in a lifetime. This was a father’s payday moment.
Of course, when raising a family, reality sets in. There are ups and downs, but for the most part nothing too earth-shattering had happened. Life was good. I loved my family, though, I hate to admit it, that love was often based on conditions. I demanded obedience. The Lord knew just what I needed to learn.
“That’s Outside My Boat”
In June 2011 I attended an annual company sales meeting, eager to learn how to better my sales skills. In a classroom setting my mind usually wanders, but this day I was all ears listening to a story—a true story—of a sportscaster named Charlie Jones. Charlie was assigned to announce the 1996 Olympic rowing, canoeing, and kayaking events—an assignment that left him less than thrilled because, he thought, “Who watches the rowing, canoeing, and kayaking events? Only the rowers, canoers, and kayakers…and their families!”
Instead, Charlie’s interview with these Olympians ended up being one the most memorable of his career. And what I didn’t know was that—two-and-a-half years later—this story would significantly change my life. In preparing for the broadcast, Charlie Jones interviewed the rowing team by starting with basic questions like:
“What if it’s raining?”
“What if the wind blows you off course?”
“What if you break an oar?”
The answer to every question was the same, “That’s outside my boat.”
Finally, Charlie asked the rowing team what they meant by their repeated answer, “That’s outside my boat.” They explained that they focused only on what they could control, and that was what was going on inside their boat. They refused to waste energy focusing on things outside the boat and out of their control.
When the sales meeting concluded it was obvious by the chatter in the room that everyone was impacted by the story. I seriously thought, “Great story, but it doesn’t really apply to me.” I dismissed it and that was that.
A Shocking Revelation
Later that year, my entire family was home for the Christmas holiday. I was happy to have my children—all seven of them—home. Sean is number three in the family and the middle son. His three-week holiday was quickly coming to an end and he would soon be heading back to college in Hawaii.
On the night before he was to leave, precisely at 11:11 p.m., my wife and I received a personal message via Facebook from Sean. I opened it and began to read. He cut to the chase pretty quickly. After telling me and my wife how much he loved us he dropped a bomb. He told us there was no sense in beating around the bush, that he might as well come right out and let us know that he was gay.
I blurted out some things that in retrospect I am very glad he was not around to hear. The damage may have taken many years to repair. I didn’t care about his feelings, and he obviously didn’t care about mine. He certainly didn’t care about anyone in our family; clearly the only person he cared about was himself! In my uneducated way of thinking about this topic, I was sure that selfishness was the single cause. I was certain that this sort of thing was brought on from delving into pornography. Why else would he choose such a vile and disgusting way of life? I’m now embarrassed of my ignorant thinking.
I messaged Sean right back and told him to come home immediately so we could talk. He was out visiting friends and saying his goodbyes for another year. I was furious and again told him to get home now! He said he would gladly talk to me but that it would still be a little while before he’d be home. I anxiously paced the floor awaiting his return. By midnight he was not home and I angrily went to bed.
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. when my wife crawled into bed next to me. She had been talking to my son for the past few hours. She briefed me a bit on their conversation and then I got up to go see him. She begged me as I left the room to be kind and considerate. I assured her that I would.
I knocked on my son’s door and he opened it to find my outstretched arms offering a heartfelt hug. I spoke only for a moment and made a slight joke about something to ease the tension. Then I said, “We can talk another time, it’s late.” I went back to bed and tossed and turned for a while trying to figure out what I was going to do to “fix” my son.
Hours later I was at work and he was on a flight for Hawaii. Every so often over the next year I sent him an email suggesting that he give God equal time and to study “good things” instead of filling his head with the gay articles he was reading. I had it all figured out—he should get rid of these silly notions he had conjured up in his head, get married, and raise a family. We weren’t getting any closer in our relationship and I was spending my time on deaf ears. They seemed deaf, anyway, because with every scenario that I addressed he answered with a comment like, “Dad, don’t you think I know about that? Don’t you think I’ve read and studied about this? I’ve known that I was like this for nearly my entire life, and you think that these emails you keep sending me are going to fix me?”
I had not taken into consideration that while this was new to me, he had been dealing with it for many years.
The following Christmas we didn’t get around to talking about “it.” I didn’t want to bring it up, and maybe if I didn’t it would go away.
Two years from receiving the shocking news, Sean was home once again for Christmas. I’m a big outdoorsman and an avid hunter, so like any good father would do I took Sean and my younger son, Skye, coyote hunting across the state line. (No hate mail, please. We didn’t shoot anything; they outsmarted us).
On our four-hour drive back home we talked about hunting, school, and life in general, but I could tell that he wanted to talk about “it”. Finally, Sean said, “Dad, I thought we were going to talk—really talk.” I don’t remember who started what, but all of a sudden we were delving into everything we had both held in for the past two years.
I wanted so badly to fix the situation. That’s what I did as a father—I fixed everything. That was my job, and this was just another “fix-it” project. At one point in our conversation, I asked, “Why would you choose this lifestyle?” I was met with a look of shock as he replied, “Are you serious? Why on earth would I choose to be associated with one of the most misunderstood and hated groups on the planet?”
His answer resonated deeper than anything said in our prior two years of sending messages back and forth. This made sense! Although I had read many articles stating that same-gender attraction is not chosen but is something people are born with, I couldn’t get it through my thick skull until that moment. Finally we were actually able to have a really good conversation where we really talked and listened.
The Game Changer
Then it hit me. The story of Charlie Jones that I had heard several years prior came flooding back into my mind. Now it made perfect sense to me. It applied to this situation. It was a game changer.
For the next few days I began to take an inventory of what was actually in my boat. I had focused my energy on fixing my son only to discover that I had done a great job of raising a wonderful young man. The things he was going through were outside my boat. Nothing I could say to him would “fix” him and would most likely damage our relationship. Therefore, I took the fears and worry out of my boat and placed them in my son’s boat.
Next, I pondered my ability to judge. I was his father and felt that I had that right. My mind reflected back on my Christian upbringing where I learned that Jesus Christ is the judge. I realized that I needed to stop judging Sean. It wasn’t my job to judge; Jesus Christ had taken that role upon himself. So I took that out of my boat and placed it in my Savior’s boat.
As I focused on what was in my boat, I realized that I had only one item left: my ability to act instead of to react. I then split this ability into two categories: to act harshly or to act with love. Because I had placed judgment into Christ’s boat, I realized that the only thing left in my boat was to act with love. I thought to myself, “I can do that!”
I have a wonderful son whom I love dearly, and our relationship has drastically changed for the better. Our relationship is now stronger than ever because I no longer focus on what I cannot control. Instead, I focus on what’s inside my boat—love.
 See Charlie Jones and Kim Doren, That’s Outside My Boat (Charleston, SC: BookSurge Publishing, 2008).
10 Nov, 2014
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I love your advice on determining which things you have control over. Those are the things we will account to God for.
10 Nov, 2014
Scott, thanks for sharing this. I remember the talks you and your wife gave at a fireside, and I was deeply touched then as I am now.
God bless you and your family
11 Nov, 2014
I loved reading that. It is quite a journey, isn't it?
Dina Leavitt, "McKinney"
11 Nov, 2014
I don't know if you will remember me I was the little girl who lived down the street from your family. I was a freshman when you were a senior at Brighton, I just remember you as this really big guy, in fact one time I was in the main hall at school and I hollered hello to you and you looked around and I told you to look down and there I was! What a wonderful story, it warms my heart when you can see the progression of a man moving from the natural man to a true man of God. Unconditional love is the very key to becoming more like our Heavenly Father, and you have exemplified that in your understanding, empathy, and acceptance of your son, you are such a lucky Man. In my own struggles in life I have always come to the same conclusion that when we love without condition and truly have acceptance and empathy for each other we can overcome any set of challenges placed before us. Can I end in saying that I loved your family dearly, your dad was the best bishop ever! Send love to them,
11 Nov, 2014
As always - beautiful