On June 10 at the Rexburg Tabernacle, Preston Jenkins, author of “This Boy and His Mother,”  presented what he has learned through his experience as a gay member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by studying doctrine, discovering therapy and developing a relationship with his wife.

The cover of "This Boy and His Mother," Jenkins’ book. Photo credit: Cat Menlove.
The cover of “This Boy and His Mother,” Jenkins’ book. Photo credit: Cat Menlove.

Jenkins was borne by his mother and the Savior, according to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and himself. With their help, he was able to make it through what he refers to as the “dark ages” of his life. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jenkins knew he was gay in high school, and always thought it was something he would keep between himself, his future wife and God.

However, every time he had that thought, immediately following it came the thought from the Holy Ghost that one day he would need to talk about his sexual orientation.

Now he has and spoken in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, in addition to his recent talk in Rexburg.

“It was a wonderful spiritual feast,” said Jess Ambrose, a junior studying communication.

The Rexburg Tabernacle where the “Do I Belong” event was held. Photo credit: Cat Menlove.
The Rexburg Tabernacle where the “Do I Belong” event was held. Photo credit: Cat Menlove.

The central theme of his experiences centers on a principle from the Book of Mormon found in Alma 42:27:

“Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.”

“I didn’t heal much until I wanted to,” Jenkins said.

The Doctrine

In a world where many seek freedom in self-expression, John 8:32 offers an alternative: “The truth shall make you free.”

The principle that doctrinal truths come in pairs helps others to understand this. When a principle is separated from its pair, it’s likely misunderstood, according to Jenkins. 

Jenkins gave some examples:

— Faith and repentance

— Baptism of water and baptism of spirit

— Love and law

Similarly, seemingly contradictory ideas can coexist, but within a hierarchy:

— One is always greater than another. One is good, but the other is greater.

— Testimony can be good but conversion is better.

— Authenticity can be good but discipleship is better.

— The LGBT community can be good but Zion is better.

Understanding these principles’ differing levels of importance brings clarity, according to Jenkins. 

A phrase that always frustrated Jenkins was, “Jesus knows what you’re going through.” 

“Oh great,” Jenkins said. “So now not only am I suffering but I’m causing someone else to suffer too?”  

After months of thinking, praying, fasting and taking this question to the temple, Jenkins’ older brother called him.

“Don’t you know a little of what He went through?” his older brother said.

That was the other side of the card he’d been dealt. Jenkins’ experiences had helped him come to know Christ instead of just knowing about Him.

Knowing about Christ is good, but knowing Christ is better, according to Jenkins.

His mother

“…She bore to her son her testimony of God’s power, of His Church, but especially of His love for this child,” Elder Holland said in his October 2015 general conference talk, Behold Thy Mother. “In the same breath she testified of her own un-compromised, undying love for him as well. To bring together those two absolutely crucial, essential pillars of her very existence — the gospel of Jesus Christ and her family — she poured out her soul in prayer endlessly. She fasted and wept, she wept and fasted, and then she listened and listened as this son repeatedly told her of how his heart was breaking. Thus she carried him — again — only this time it was not for nine months. This time she thought that laboring through the battered landscape of his despair would take forever.”

Preston and his mom, Cheri Jenkins. Photo courtesy of Preston Jenkins.
Preston and his mom, Cheri Jenkins. Photo courtesy of Preston Jenkins.

Not everyone is meant to be a first responder, according to Jenkins, but his mother was his first responder. Her teachings and testimony helped change his heart.

Even though he wasn’t as close to his father, his father played a critical role in supporting his mother so she could be there for him. When asked how individuals can support struggling loved ones, Jenkins responded that anyone can support the first responders, even without personally being the first responders.

After driving all night from Provo to his parents’ home in Las Vegas, yelling at God the entire way there, Jenkins thought he had a good enough reason to skip church —but it wasn’t a good enough reason for his mother.

She pulled together some of his dad’s old clothes and other hand-me-downs and off they went.

He had buzzed, orange-dyed hair and looked as if he hadn’t slept all night — because he hadn’t.

“I wanted to hang a sign on him that said, ‘he’s going through a hard time, please be careful,’” his mother later told him. 

Really, everyone needs a sign that says that, according to Jenkins.

In sharing her concerns with her bishop, his mother shared that Jenkins was angry at God, and even to the point of yelling at Him. 

“Cheri, he’s praying,” the bishop said.

Jenkins realized he couldn’t recall the last time he felt God’s love. His therapist asked him about his mother’s love and Jenkins laughed it off, suggesting that God can’t just plagiarize his mother’s love — that was hers. Right?

He relayed the conversation to his mom over the phone while laughing about the idea.

“Do you think I have enough love for this?” his mother said.

The job of onlookers when supporting someone going through extreme challenges is to be clean so God can work through them uninhibited, according to Jenkins.

Sexual orientation and marriage

Jenkins, 30, is married to Taryn Jenkins, with their first child on the way. But he didn’t always see how it could turn out like that. 

They tried dating in 2018 after he returned from completing his mission, but because he was more focused on checking off boxes and following a non-existent timeline set by the unseen forces of society, things didn’t work out. Some examples of those checkboxes included holding hands by the third date and picking names for your children by the fifth date, according to Jenkins.

Jenkins decided that when he saw an attractive man, he’d find joy in identifying that at their core, those feelings of attraction were good. He could save them for his wife one day instead of feeling guilty and hating himself for having them.

“I cannot control my attractions,” Jenkins said. “But changing your heart is something that’s in your power.”

The second time they began dating, which eventually led to marriage, they were able to have extremely candid conversations about relationships, what really mattered to them and what they wanted because they were “just friends.” 

Preston and Taryn Jenkins. Photo courtesy of Preston Jenkins.
Preston and Taryn Jenkins. Photo courtesy of Preston Jenkins.

“We do this as a culture, I don’t think every culture does this — We sexualize everything,” said Andra Hansen, a BYU-Idaho communication professor who attended the event. “Everything is about the physical, sexual aspect of it and I don’t want to minimize that … but I think we make it so much about that, that it starts to feel really binary. Like, it’s either-or. Either I’m this or I’m that … And it’s like there’s a lot of levels of being true to yourself that (Jenkins) was able to reveal nuance there.”

These conversations brought them closer together spiritually, emotionally and intellectually in a way that physical intimacy was the next natural step. 

He was able to see her soul. Christlike attributes are more important than attraction, according to Jenkins.

“Attraction cannot be the foundation,” Jenkins said.

Preston and Taryn Jenkins. Photo courtesy of Preston Jenkins.
Preston and Taryn Jenkins. Photo courtesy of Preston Jenkins.

Jenkins and his wife received mixed reactions from the LGBT community about their mixed-orientation marriage. Some thought he wasn’t being true to himself and others had “you do you” attitudes.

“I wouldn’t even put it in our top three (biggest issues in our marriage),” Jenkins said concerning his sexuality.

Jenkins shared in response to audience members’ questions that he plans on being open with his children, in an age-appropriate way, about his sexuality and life experiences.

“I was very grateful for his response to that question,” Hansen said. “Because I thought, we’re in such a mood to just like, shut it down, don’t deal with it, take it off the shelf. It’s a fear-based mentality that isn’t gonna promote faith. You might get compliance but you’re not gonna get faith.”