All That I Have

By Garrett Ferguson

Read also Garret's wife essay 'My Roller Coaster Journey.'
Additionally, watch Garret and his wife share their story. Watch video here.
Garrett grew up in Denton, Texas—a town known for its art and music. He loved living on the border of the big city and the country which allowed him to experience both. After high school he served a two year full-time mission in Poland where he learned the Polish language, experienced a different culture, and grew in ways he didn’t know were possible. He recently graduated from Texas Tech University with a Master of Architecture with an emphasis on sustainable design. He hopes to make the world a better place through the buildings he designs. He married his wife about halfway through school and lives to spend every second with her and their nine-month-old baby.

Just a Game?



Most people don’t seem to have many memories of being six. I do—I really wanted to play baseball. It looked like a lot of fun, and so many of the boys I knew were already participating in sports. I knew how baseball worked because I had gone to Texas Ranger games to see them play. At six years old the concept of athleticism—being able to excel in a sport—didn’t factor into my decision.

My parents signed me up for tee ball, and I looked forward to playing on a team for the first time. Getting my first uniform was a particularly memorable experience. It was a new world—new clothes that fit funny and new equipment that I had never seen before. I remember staring in confusion at the men’s cup that came with the uniform and wondering how on earth it would fit into my pants which already seemed unusually tight. It was a new world for me, but I was excited about it.

I don’t specifically remember much of my time on the team, but one memory does stand out. After one of our games, my coach pulled me aside and began working with me one-on-one. I guess I hadn’t understood one of the fundamentals of the game quite yet. During this lesson he taught me about making sure that the bat connects with the ball while swinging. After some instruction, I hit the ball and hit it hard. It went hurtling over the field and seemed to keep going. He shouted triumphantly, “There you go! Now why couldn’t you have done that during the game?” I didn’t know, but I was ready to try now. I could do it—I had just seen myself compete with the best of them. It was a fun year, and I still have such gratitude to my coach who took the time to teach and work with me one-on-one.

Unfortunately, my love of baseball was about to take an abrupt detour. When baseball season came around the next year, due to changes to the birth date requirements, I was placed straight into the “minors” without ever having participated in coach pitch—the standard progression for most kids. All the other boys in the league were bigger than me and had at least four years of baseball experience. I had only had one. The field was much larger and it was extremely intimidating.

I tried my best, but not for long. It was apparent that my best was nowhere near the same skill level of these giants who in my mind resembled the professionals I had seen at the Rangers games. I had no friends on the team and felt so completely alone. I realized that it’s not fun to try and try and look like the worst one out there.

It didn’t take long for my parents to recognize what was going on. I would hide so I wouldn’t have to attend practice and would beg them to not make me get out of the car to go play. Mama and Papa bear must have gone to the league and explained to them how the age requirements were hurting me. They let me drop down to coach pitch where I actually knew a few boys from school. I was much more on par with my teammates, but the coach yelled and yelled at us. I still don’t respond well to being yelled at—in fact, I absolutely hate it. After getting my end of year trophy I decided I was done and would never go back. I didn’t pick up another ball of any sort for years.

These experiences cemented in my mind a feeling of inferiority and fear. I felt that if I tried to play sports others would know that I wasn’t like them, that I wasn’t as good as them, that I wasn’t manly enough to play. That was all I ever wanted—to be accepted and regarded as an equal. This problem only compounded as I grew up. Everyone else kept improving their skills while I sat idly watching the distance between us grow. I was alone and an outsider.

A State of Duality



As I continued to grow up I started to feel an increased attraction for other guys, and it left me feeling even more isolated. I believed I couldn’t talk about it with anyone because I was sure no one was going through the same thing. In my mind I was the only one. Eventually, however, I found friends that had the same tendencies as me. We knew just enough to get into trouble. One of them introduced me to pornography which would become a serious stumbling block for years afterward.

During this time, I wanted everyone to continue to see me as the perfect church boy who excelled in school and had lots of friends. For the most part I was successful convincing others that the careful façade I had constructed was reality. I hid what I believed was my “true” self from everyone except my gay friends. I lived in that state of secret duality for five years, and it took a greater toll on me than I would have ever guessed.

I felt so confused and conflicted as I tried to decide which half of myself was the “real” me. I had lived a double life for so long that I didn’t know who I really was. Was I the perfect church boy people thought I was? Part of me genuinely wanted to be. Or was I the homosexual who would much rather be with a guy than with a girl and who craved acceptance from his male friends? Living in a state of duality was a very dark place for me, and it left me feeling more lost and confused than ever.

I believed that there was no way that I could have these feelings of attraction for other guys and still be a good member of the Church. The very idea seemed impossible. In my mind I either had to choose to be gay and denounce my faith or I had to pretend that these feelings weren’t real. Neither of those options seemed to fit me. I felt lost—completely and utterly lost. I had no idea who I really was or who I even wanted to be. I remember at one point some words President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke regarding the perils of pornography were deeply impressed upon my mind by the Spirit: “You will lose yourself…” As those words came into my mind, I knew he was right. I decided to begin the repentance process and speak with my bishop.

My Conversion



Although I was initially extremely nervous to speak with my bishop, I quickly realized that he was full of love and wanted the best for me. Instead of being greeted with judgment and shame, he showed great love and compassion. Among other things he suggested that I attend counseling—a decision that I am still grateful for. He also helped me realize that I didn’t have a personal testimony of the gospel and that I needed one if I was to go on a mission or decide which life to lead.

Gaining a testimony was surprisingly hard for me—much more difficult than I had initially anticipated—and I never felt more lost and alone than I did during this period of my life. Initially, I thought that surely I could read the scriptures, pray about the message they contained, and receive an immediate response that God was real and that I should follow Him. It wasn’t like that at all. It involved constant studying and prayer and a lot of repentance. Progress seemed slow, if not absent sometimes. I worked closely with the bishop over the course of a year.

I desperately wanted to know whether God was real and, if so, to have Him in my life. I needed the hope that there was something more for me—and I was willing to give up whatever I needed to find Him. At some point I decided that if I were to gain a testimony, I had to give the gospel a try. I had grown up in the Church but knew that if I really wanted to know the Church was true I had to live by its precepts. I decided to try and keep the commandments in every way that I knew how—church attendance, tithing, law of chastity, all of it. That was the only way I could find out for myself whether it was true.

I did just that. I studied the scriptures twice a day or more, and lived every law to its fullest. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed before—really wanting to know if the Church was true and if God was real. I believed that He was, and I sure hoped that He would answer. A few weeks after this decision to live the gospel I received my answer. I was sitting in Sunday School when my answer came. The teacher asked a question and when I responded I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling envelope me. The invisible cloud that surrounded me was almost tangible. I knew that God loved me, and I knew that I was in His church. Knowing that I was no longer alone, that God loves me individually, changed my life forever. I knew that I only had one choice if I wanted to live in harmony with what I now knew to be true. I knew that I could never go back to living my previous lifestyle and that following the commandments meant more to me than anything else. I felt the redeeming power of the Atonement purify and cleanse me for the first time since I could remember. I was ecstatic, and it showed in my countenance. I felt like I was literally glowing.

Once I received my testimony, all I wanted to do was serve a mission. It took work and time to get prepared beyond the initial conversion I had just received. It involved meeting with a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy so they could determine if my repentance was genuine and if I was prepared spiritually and emotionally to serve a mission. Prior to meeting with the Seventy, I felt the terrifying feeling of desiring to serve a mission but knowing that my previous actions may have prevented this desire from becoming a reality. Gratefully, I received permission and was able to leave on my mission shortly thereafter. I went because I knew the gospel was true and because it had changed my life.

I was able to share my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, the one thing most valuable to me, with the people of Poland for two years. They taught me more than I would have ever guessed. I realized how I had taken for granted the most basic, fundamental truths—why we’re here, where we’re going, and what happens after this life. I remember looking into people’s eyes and seeing their longing for these answers that I had been taught since childhood. I wanted them to feel the same love from God that I now felt so powerfully in me. I was no longer alone. I wanted them to know that, and that He is constantly watching over us. I could testify of this with power and authority because I felt His influence in my daily life. Often I stood in awe of the man I was becoming because of His atoning grace. I was in a better and happier place than I had ever thought possible.

The Test



The mission flew by, and I loved almost every second of it. I was strong. I felt close to the Holy Ghost and understood His promptings. I saw people’s lives change before my eyes and I grew to love complete strangers, hoping that they could feel the same love that I felt every day. The day my mission ended, I remember it became extremely difficult to read my scriptures every day—a habit that had meant so much to me on my mission and before. I remember receiving the distinct prompting to read my scriptures “or there’ll be trouble.” I didn’t heed the prompting as I should have and would only read a few verses right before I fell asleep hoping that that would be enough. It wasn’t. The struggle with pornography that I dealt with for so many of my teenage years suddenly returned. The feelings of attraction for other guys that had been significantly diminished for most of my mission and the year or so preceding it also returned—and stronger than ever.

Since I had now started school in Lubbock, Texas, I began working with the bishop there. I thought that these issues had already been dealt with and felt such despair at their return. I did my best to live worthily and live the commandments, but I would often fall short of my goal. I tried dating a few girls and nothing seemed to go anywhere. I would have a crush on a girl and suddenly lose all interest in and attraction to her only a few weeks after we would start dating. It was the most frustrating thing on the planet. I would often pray intently to be able to like girls the way I wanted to like them—the way I was “supposed” to like them. I thought the girls I took out were incredible, and I wanted so badly to feel attraction toward them. It drove me crazy that I couldn’t. I knew I was supposed to marry a girl, a righteous woman who had similar standards and ideals. I wanted so much to have those feelings for women, but the feelings would never come that way. Somehow I knew any serious relationship I committed to couldn’t be forced, and that any future relationship had to be with a woman if I was to stay worthy and live my faith.

I eventually came to the decision that I would rather live my life alone, unmarried, and in harmony with God’s will than do otherwise. That was a big turning point in my life, where I was able to make the decision to give up all of my sin and carnal man in exchange for worthiness. I knew that I was choosing God above all else and deciding that my future would never involve living a homosexual lifestyle in any form. I was choosing God’s will over my own. I saw this as my Abrahamic test—a test that would determine if I was willing to give up everything I loved or wanted and to accept God’s will. In my mind I was choosing the one thing that scared me most—living a life alone as a celibate man. However, I knew God loved me, and I trusted in His plan for my happiness. Ironically, after making that choice I felt anything but loneliness, despair, or sadness. God was pleased with my actions, and I knew it. I felt it. I wasn’t alone as long as He stood by me—as long as I stood by Him.

Finding Sallie



It was surprising how accepting that I may never marry was so liberating for me. The Lord and I both knew that I was doing my best, and as a result the pressure I felt to date disappeared. I made that decision in the fall, and didn’t date anyone again until a New Year’s dance later that year. That was when I saw Sallie again. Sallie and I knew each other from past years working together at an LDS youth camp called Especially for Youth. I had always been attracted to her gorgeous smile and contagious, fun-loving attitude. When I saw her at the dance I decided I would give it a try. It was so much easier dating Sallie because it was my decision—it was something I wanted—not because I felt a pressure to get married.

Things progressed pretty quickly, and I actually knew that I was probably going to marry her in the first month or two we were dating. However, I still had so many questions, many of which seemed to have no answer. How could I marry a woman when I was attracted to men? Could we have sex? Would I lose interest in her like I had with all of the other girls I had dated? I just didn’t know. I was unsure if a successful relationship was even possible, but I knew that I wanted it.

As the relationship progressed, I could feel that Sallie loved me, and I was falling in love with her more and more every day. It was incredible. The impossible seemed to be happening. For example, I recall one time when we were kissing after our date and I started to feel aroused. It works! I exclaimed in my head—one question was suddenly answered. I was overwhelmed with excitement both physically and emotionally. It was one of the greatest moments of my life—my first erection caused by a woman! (And yes, I hope you’re laughing along with me.)

The relationship continued to deepen, but it still was difficult as we tried to figure out how it could work and what would happen if we did get married. We both decided during this time that we would be completely open and honest with each other. I never wanted to feel like I was lying or hiding anything from her—which was hard for both of us at first. We had a conversation where I almost used a single breath to tell Sallie that I loved her for the first time, that I wanted to marry her, and that I experienced same-sex attraction. (I’m working on my subtlety).

That set a foundation for our relationship where we can talk openly about my struggles without fear of rejection or shame. The double life I lived during my adolescence had been filled with lies and secrecy. I vowed to never bring that into my marriage. That openness and honesty has been a true blessing to us and has been noticed by others. Sallie’s aunt once told her that most people aren’t able to achieve level of honesty we’ve cultivated until being together for 30 years or more. I’m grateful that we have that already built into our marriage.

Finding Others and Getting Support



That summer, I decided to look online for resources, and I saw that a guy named Ty Mansfield had written a book on the topic, sharing his own experience with same-sex attraction. Not only was it amazing to find someone else who was striving to live the gospel, but I had already met him through Institute classes! He lived in the same town as me! I reached out to him and he introduced me to a group of other LDS and Christian men who all experienced SSA and who had similar values. He helped me realize that I'm not the only one—something I had been wanting for years. That group and the support, as well as what I’ve learned about myself and how to stay healthy, has forever changed my life. I am stronger and happier than ever before. I don't have to pick sides anymore, but have found a way to accept my feelings of SSA and remain worthy in the Church. I'm able to understand where it comes from and how it affects me.

I also attended an experiential weekend called Journey Into Manhood where I met others like me from all across the country. They all seemed to share my story but were from different walks of life. I met a few doctors, a nurse, a baker, and other men who I would have never guessed dealt with same-sex attraction like me. Together we worked to understand the experiences that we had faced and how that affected us now. I saw other men, people that I looked up to and thought as real men, voice that they were just like me. That feeling of acceptance and no longer being alone in the world continued to grow.

Sports can still scare the hell out of me, but it wasn’t until recently that all that changed. A friend learned I was trying to learn about football from someone else. He had already worked so generously to teach me basketball at my request. I loved being able to start working through the fear that had held me hostage for so long. He looked at me and said, “You know you don’t have to like sports, right? It doesn’t make you less of a man.” I don’t know if he understands the power such a simple and empathetic comment had on me. He accepted me for who I was. He knew my struggles and didn’t expect me to hide them or suppress them. They are what they are, and that’s okay.

All I That Have



God has blessed me so much for the decision to place His will above my own. By choosing him over all else, giving Him all that I have, blessings have poured into my life that I could never have imagined. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to love a woman like I love Sallie. In fact, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t. She is a direct answer to my prayers and is so much more than I could have asked for. She’s so incredibly perfect for me that it astounds me sometimes.

I’ve often wondered why I experience same-sex attraction. Why would God give me such a difficult thing to deal with? While I don’t know all the answers, I can tell you that I have learned to remain close to Him in order to stay strong. My weakness has become strength through the grace of Jesus Christ. I strive to remain close to Him by reading my scriptures every day and maintaining an eternal perspective, and I know that one day, if I remain faithful, I will be able to stand before God and tell Him that I am worthy and that I gave him all I have. This struggle has actually brought me closer to God and helped me remain humble in His presence.

I love the Lord, and while I don't understand this struggle completely, I do know that He loves me and that I am closer to Him because of it. I now know that I am not the only one who deals with same-sex attraction, and that I don't have to deal with it by myself. I know that I can still live the gospel to its fullest without having to suppress or ignore a part of me that is so very real. I know that I have grown and become a better man through the hard work of counseling and support groups. I know that I am breaching a barrier of vulnerability where people can be honest and courageous enough to talk about their own struggles and discover that they're not alone.

I live the gospel of Jesus Christ and I know that He loves me. I’m giving Him all I have and doing my best—and that is all He asks.





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G. Walker
11 Nov, 2013

This is a great article Garrett. We are lucky to have you and Sallie as friends. We love you guys.


Rick Hall
3 Dec, 2013

What a beautiful touching testimony! I agree that God is mindful of us, loves us, and knows us. Thank you for sharing.


WL
3 Jan, 2014

Your story matches mine. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your courage and testimony. Thanks.



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