"I was going to be the best wife ever," she said this week with a small, rueful laugh.
But Barbara always knew there was a part of Lester she'd never reach, some secret, private place filled with thoughts and feelings he'd never share.
In 2006, after 25 years of marriage, it all came out - or rather, Lester did. For most of his life, Lester struggled with his attraction to other men, avidly seeking help and reading literature from organizations that claimed to help gay people become heterosexual or to help weaken attraction to others of the same sex.
The material he received did more harm than good, Lester said, which is why the couple demonstrated outside Evergreen International's Salt Lake City headquarters on Tuesday morning. Evergreen is a resource for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that, according to its Web site, helps people "diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior."
The demonstration was sponsored by Soulforce, a national social justice organization focusing on the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
"I almost didn't come today because of how angry I am," Barbara said. "It's like telling me: 'OK, you're straight, but you have to be a lesbian.' "
"It's bizarre; it's cruel," she added.
A representative of Evergreen, which was closed Tuesday because of its summer hours, said the organization couldn't comment; Evergreen had not received official notification of the event and none of its representatives had attended.
Evergreen wasn't the only organization Barbara and Lester hoped to reach. Barbara and Lester, a seventh-generation Mormon, both grew up in the LDS Church and were active members throughout their marriage.
But when Lester came out last year, everything changed, Barbara said. The couple divorced in late 2006, and for Barbara, the transition from intimacy to friendship was difficult. In her pain and confusion she turned to her church friends for support and peace. Instead, she said, with rare exceptions, she found only overwhelming fear and discrimination.
"I was told, 'It's too bad you can't love Lester anymore, and that he won't be the father of your children for all eternity,' " she said in her speech.
She added that she received hateful e-mails from church members she barely knew, condemning her for standing by her husband. For Lester, the alienation was more intense.
While Barbara doesn't think the treatment she received is indicative of the LDS Church as a whole, "I don't believe I'm the only one who's experienced this," she said.
A statement issued by LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter noted a 1991 church declaration stating homosexuality to be sinful. However, the statement continued by quoting a 1999 article by President Gordon B. Hinckley published in the church's Ensign magazine: "Our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married."
The LDS Church is not associated with Evergreen International.
Some members of Tuesday's small crowd sympathized with Barbara and Lester's experiences.
Sally Nielson of Salt Lake City attended the demonstration with her partner of five years, Joielle Adams. While she has never been through any programs that aim to "cure" homosexuality, she says she has many friends who have.
"All it did was create a worse situation with people involved and more emotional damage," she said. She said organizations such as Evergreen need to find a more loving approach, something "more Christlike."
Nielson, who was raised in the LDS faith, said she definitely is no longer a member of the church.
"If there are much more loving circumstances, it would save everyone a lot of pain that way," she explained.
Ariana Siennick, Nielson's sister, also attended Tuesday's event. She echoed much of what Barbara and Lester said of their family when she said, "I think her [Nielson's] coming out has helped our family grow and reach its potential."
This message of support is what Lester and Barbara are trying to spread to organizations such as Evergreen and to the LDS Church.
Lester, who has been both excommunicated and reinstated in the LDS Church within the past year, said he still considers it a significant part of his life.
"If the Mormon Church can be more Christlike and welcoming, then that's where I want to worship," he explained. "The Mormon Church doesn't have to change; they just need to be welcoming of diversity."
But Evergreen International does need to change, he said, particularly toward those who fail its programs.
"They need to have a parachute [for those who fail] that allows those men to land softly and feel validated," he said. "There's nothing wrong with being gay."
* LIESL GOECKER can be contacted at lgoecker@
sltrib.com or 801-257-8605. Send comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.