In this episode of RiseUp, Nick Galieti interviews Rod Olson in a very candid discussion of the challenges of living an active LDS lifestyle while identifying as being homosexual (or what some describe Same Sex Attraction.)
Born and raised in Northern California, Rod was introduced to the Church as a young child through his mother, who became a member following his parents’ divorce. Rod served a full-time mission in Houston, Texas, studied musical theater at BYU (where he was a member of the Young Ambassadors as well as an instructor at the Missionary Training Center), and performed professionally on the stage in New York City. After a 13-year hiatus, during which time he worked in New York and Los Angeles in the brand development and shipping logistics industries, Rod retured to his entertainment roots and is now a producer in Los Angeles.
Rod realized early in life that he was gay, and at 10 years of age, unbeknownst to his mother, made an appointment to talk about it with his Bishop. As he matured, Rod knew that his homosexuality was not going away. He eventually came out to his parents and spent a decade pursuing short- and long-term relationships with men. Toward the end of this period of self-discovery, Rod fell into addiction. It stripped him of everything—love, relationships, career, friends, money, health, and even hope. With nowhere to turn, Rod entered a 12-step program for gay addicts that, along with the gospel, he credits with saving his life.
Rod has been sober for nine years and active in the Church for eight. Since returning to full activity, Rod has served as executive secretary to three bishops, in an Elders’ Quorum presidency, as stake Public Affairs Director and as a Gospel Doctrine instructor. He currently serves as Ward Mission Leader, a Priesthood teacher at the Los Angeles Federal Prison, as well as a veil worker at the Los Angeles Temple.