Chapter 5: Bishop Randall

The old lady sitting across from me at the Health Center at BYU-Idaho was nothing like the therapists in the movies.  Her wrinkled skin hung loosely on her bony frame, and her long white hair was wild and gave the impression of a mad scientist, rather than a psychologist.

“So, what can I do for you?” her voice rasped like she had once been a heavy smoker, and she peered down at me over the top of her glasses, her clipboard and pen in hand, ready to write down notes on whatever I said.

“Well, I have same-gender attraction, and I want it to stop.”  I said.  The scratching of her pen on the paper seemed to be screaming out in the silence that followed that statement.

“I see.”  She finally managed to squeak out. “And how long have you recognized these feelings?”  Her voice was so scratchy it was hard to understand what she was saying.  Her beady eyes were looking at me again, blinking far too often, watering like she was about to cry.

“As long as I can remember,” This meeting was far too awkward…  “Junior High, I guess.”

“You guess?”  This time her voice sounded like a screech from an angry bird.  Did she have a cold or something?  This meeting was not going well for either of us.  I tried to focus on what she was asking me, responding as well as I could.  Her questions ranged from my family life to my personal life; and from my childhood to the present.  Each of my answers were met with the awkward silence as her pen scratched ever onward.  Never before had I heard such a scratchy pen.  She seemed to be writing a novel on her notepad about each of my answers.  Finally, the heat in the room beginning to overwhelm me and send me into a dreamy daze, she set down her clipboard and pen, and looked at me again, her watery little eyes squinting at me over the brim of her glasses.  “We normally refer people in your situation to male counselors, is that ok with you?”  She asked.  Her voice seemed to be coming from three directions at once.  A little disoriented from this odd sensation, I agreed.  She asked me if I had any questions for her, and then thanked me for my time, informing me that the center would be in touch with me promptly to set up another appointment, with a male counselor next time.

******

I had been sitting in the ROTC offices on the top floor of the Science Building for hours.  My feeble attempts at conversation with the ward secretary sitting at the desk were short lived and painfully awkward.  I had read every poster about the army there was in this small, oddly shaped reception area.  Even the two wheelchairs which were always hanging around had stopped being a source of entertainment for me.  I wondered for the umpteenth time what could possibly warrant such a long meeting with the bishop.  It must be serious and/or one of the people in there needed to learn how to stop talking.

At long last, the door opened and a young lady, a fellow student came out and cheerfully said her goodbye, and it was finally my turn to meet with the bishop.  I greeted Bishop Randall and stepped into the small, cluttered office that belonged to one of the ROTC faculty.  On weeknights and weekends this room, with its books on military law stacked to the ceiling along all four walls was transformed into the bishop’s office for my student ward at BYU-Idaho.  Because basically the entire population of students there were LDS, the church (which owns and runs the school) saw no need to build the church buildings required to serve all of us, and so on Sundays, the chemistry labs were turned into gospel classrooms, the lecture halls were transformed into chapels, and we would sing hymns and preach with the periodic table of the elements at the front of the room.  Upon my arrival to Rexburg for school, I had found some humor in this fact, but by this time its novelty had worn off, and it was completely normal to have to move a microscope to make room for my scriptures on the table during Sunday School, and meet with the bishop in an office that was not his own.  I looked around this cramped office and clues about its owner began to surface.  Horseshoes were nailed to the wall.  Pictures of two small children, a boy and his younger sister littered the space around the computer monitor.  A beautiful woman smiled from a frame smashed between two framed pictures of the children.  Red flags and banners from the man’s university of choice hung from the ceiling and turned the harsh fluorescent light a strange rose color.  Every surface of wall had a picture, poster, book, or horseshoe on it.  The peeling white paint was hard to spot beneath it all, and the effect was overwhelming.  I drew conclusions about the man who worked from this office, and tried to separate those from the man who was currently enveloping the chair across from me.

Bishop Randall was not a small man.  His cheeks were rosy, and wrinkles had begun to form across his forehead.  He reminded me of Santa Clause.  When he smiled I could feel the positive energy seeping from him.  His exuberance was childlike and endearing; his happiness was infectious, and I couldn’t help but feel calm in his presence.  We sat studying each other for several seconds before he finally said, “I have no idea why I have called you in here.  I just had a feeling I needed to meet with you.  Do you know why I have called you in here?”  The moment I had been dreading ever since my incident in the math lab with the tutor was here.  I knew exactly why he had asked to meet with me.  He was going to help me with my same-gender attraction problem.

“Yes,” I said, “I have been having a hard time with guys since I’ve been up here at school.”

“What do you mean?” He asked, kindly.

“I mean, I am attracted to guys, and it has been a problem the last month and a half that I have been in Rexburg.

“Ah.” He said.  He then proceeded to interrogate me about my childhood, my parents, and especially my father.  I explained to him that I had never had a really solid relationship with my dad.  He and I were very different.  He liked sports, was in the military for 13 years, and loved camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities.  I, on the other hand, had much more in common with my mother.  I liked reading, sewing, doing crafts, listening to classical music, and other such things.  While I did have a good time camping and fishing occasionally, they weren’t something I did willingly, and were definitely not on my list of things I love doing.  As far as sports were concerned, I had about as much interest in them as a die-hard farmer has in living in Midtown New York.  I hated sports and loathed any time that I was forced to play them.  Being a military man, and because of our very different personalities, my dad would occasionally raise his voice at me over things I didn’t quite understand.  Despite this fact, my father was always very careful to apologize for his actions later, and sit with me and explain why he had become upset.

As I explained all of this, I began to suspect where Bishop Randall was planning on taking the conversation.  I was familiar with Sigmund Freud and his theories about where Homosexuality comes from.  Eventually, he asked a question that took me off guard.  “Would you say that your father was abusive?”

“Absolutely not.” I said immediately.  And I meant it.  I never have, nor do I now believe that my dad was abusive in any way.

“I hate to say this,” Bishop Randall explained, “But he was.  You said yourself that you are scared of him.  By raising our voices at our children, we, as fathers, are exercising unrighteous dominion over them.  Righteous priesthood holders in this church are commanded not to exercise unrighteous dominion over our children.  By ruling you with fear, your father has created a disconnect in the way your brain works.  You told me that you feel like your brothers and even your sister get along with your dad better than you do.  Your father doesn’t show as much love to you as much as he does to them.  Your father has abused you, and because you have never had love from another man, you crave it.  This yearning for manly love has taken over and become sexualized for you.  That is why you have been feeling attraction to men.”

“My father is not abusive.”  I finally managed to say.

“That’s what everyone who has been abused says about their abuser.  It’s a normal response to feel like that, but the fact is that he is abusive.  You told me that yourself tonight.”

“You are wrong.  My father is an amazing man.”  I told him.  I wanted to leave.  I was exhausted and annoyed, and done with our conversation.  He once again told me I was wrong, and urged me to confront my father the next time I was home and call him out on his abusive and unrighteous actions.  In a silent fury I thanked him for his time, and left, fuming all the way home.  How could this man tell me that my father was abusive, this man I had only met in passing once before tonight?  How could he dare to sit across a desk from me and claim to know things about someone he had never met?  How dare he insult my father like that?  Sure, I’m a bit scared of my dad sometimes, but not because he is abusive.  This hefty claim weighed on my mind for several days.  I tried to consider it plausible.  My Dad is a very good man, though.  Never abusive.  He is fun to hang out with.  He is a fantastic father and teacher.  He provides for his family the way he should.  Just because he and I are very different, and don’t quite understand one another doesn’t mean that he is abusive and exercising unrighteous dominion over me by ruling me by fear!  I could hardly sleep that night thinking about it.  I couldn’t believe that a bishop, a spiritual leader called by God, could sit there, look me in the eye, and claim to know so much.  I knew that I would never be able to talk to him freely again.  He had lost my trust.  No, I did not like Bishop Randall with his jolly face and his rosy cheeks.  I could never like a man who could make such serious claims about someone I loved so much.

One good thing came from my meeting with Bishop Randall.  He had urged me to meet with someone in the counseling center on campus about my problems.  I promised him that I would.  He had then lost my trust, but he had already reminded me of and reinforced a solution I had been throwing around for weeks.  He had provided the small nudge I had needed to gulp down my doubts and fears and take the brave step of obtaining professional help.  I would meet with a therapist, and I would start the very next day.

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One Response to “Chapter 5: Bishop Randall”
  1. Mark says:

    If you in anyway felt afraid of your father, or he ruled your decisions through fear and not persuasion, in a way he was abusive. Emotional abuse is a real things that sometimes takes us a long time to recognize. I didn’t recognize and still have trouble seeing it in my own father, but he is at times emotionally abusive. He rules with fear. Making things that I hold dear to me socially, seem like stupidity and not important. This is emotional abuse, and is not a healthy relationship. I forgive my father of this, because I know that no one is perfect. He is a good man in every other way. However, children should never be ruled by fear or devaluation. It has lasting consequences.

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