Are you gay, lesbian / experience same-sex attraction and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If you are, I know the dissonance and pain you may feel between how you feel towards people of the same sex and your faith. It may seem almost insurmountable the disconnect between the two. How can I be a Mormon and gay. Do I have to give up the church and it's teachings and eventually be with someone of the same-sex or can I just work really hard and be the best I can be and my same sex attraction will go away and I will be heterosexual, be married in the temple, and have a great life. Do I need to go the celibate route, live alone the rest of my life, and God will reward me in the eternities? These questions I hope to address in this blog post.
Growing up gay and Mormon all of us knew and know that ultimately we would have to make a very important choice in our lives. This choice would be one where we would either trust in our leaders and live a a celibate life or, God willing, have a mixed-orientation marriage. These choices both seemed bleak but for me I felt that if it was God's will it would all work out. So I suppressed my feelings and would not accept their reality. I had low self-esteem and I had a fear of being outed. I was afraid that this dirty secret that I had hidden up would somehow surface expose me and destroy my life and my relationships. This I can imagine happened to many of you or is currently happening to you. For me it lead to a very dark time one where suicide seemed the only option to my pain and anguish. For many of us sadly that became their end in this journey of mortality. So what are we to do. I have seen people reject the church and it's teachings completely. I have seen people try there best and be miserable in the process, and people who are actually quite successful and happy.
The advice I give is my own and may not work for everyone. Ultimately everyone needs to work with God to find their own unique way through mortality. I offer four steps in the process of accepting your reality and moving in the direction God would have you go.
1. Come out to yourself and to God.
2. Come out to close family and friends when the time seems right.
3. With the help of God, learn about all possible paths in your life. Even ones you may be extremely uncomfortable with.
4. Make a decision with God on how to proceed with your life. It may be for a short time it may be for a lifetime but commit to God and remain prayerful and trusting in His guidance.
1. Come out to yourself and to God.
Using my own experience I hope to convey what it is that helped me. Starting from puberty I felt a desperate struggle inside of me of what I presented to the world and what I felt. The months and years went on and through my trials I began to realize something. I had never asked God about what he felt about me. Truthfully, I had just assumed from what I implied from my priesthood leaders and society in general. One day, I decided I would find out for myself. I wrote about the experience in my coming out story which at the beginning of this blog.
"I kneeled down one night and prayed to my Heavenly Father. I asked him if these feelings were acceptable in his eyes and whether or not he still loved me even if I was attracted to the same gender. What followed would change my life. A wonderful, indescribable warmth filled my chest and spread to the rest of my body. I knew at once it was the spirit and that God accepted me for who I was and would always love me. All my life I had not only lived in fear of others rejection but God's rejection. I found out, beyond a shadow of doubt, that God loved me and accepted me for who I was. I came out of that spiritual experience with the knowledge that God accepted me."
So my first piece of advice is not to assume how God feels about your attractions. Ask him yourself, develop that relationship with him and find out that he loves you unconditionally. This changed my life and led me down a path of healing and I know it can change yours. Even with God's acceptance, it still does not answer many of the other questions, but it can provide a foundation to build one's life off of.
2. Come out to close family and friends when the time seems right.
The next step I would recommend is one that could take a very long time. This step involves, with the help of God, learning to accept yourself and then ultimately coming out to your family or close friends. Research has found that the process of coming out is beneficial for the man or woman who does so. Not only will it strengthen your self-esteem it will also make the relationships you have with others more genuine. When you have a core group of family or friends you have come out to it can then help stabilize you not only emotionally and personally, but also spiritually as well. I understand that for almost everybody this is something that is very difficult and terrifying. Sharing something you have kept secret for so long and that has negative connotations in Mormon culture lays bare to everyone a place that is raw and can be easily used to harm you. But this is a necessary step.
If now does not feel like the right time, wait. Ask God what he thinks and be patient. If you do not feel safe sharing this part of yourself with family, colleagues, friends, or church members. I would recommend some support groups such as Mormons Building Bridges, USGA at BYU, Affirmation, NorthStar, etc. It's important to find someone that you can share with who won't judge you or put you down. Mormons Building Bridges has been building a roster of LGBT friendly people in wards throughout the country that also might be a good place to check. http://mormonsbuildingbridges.org/roster/
Ultimately do what is most comfortable to you and come out in a safe environment. I promise that although it may be the scariest thing you may ever do. It will also be one of the most freeing experiences that you will ever have. Trust me, a weight will be lifted off of your shoulders. Even if others do not take it well. You will feel much more genuine and much more true to yourself and God.
3. With the help of God, learn about all possible paths in your life Even the ones you may be uncomfortable with.
The third recommendation that I give is to find out what to do next. I have seen two polarized sides when it comes to this and not very much people in the middle. Although there are some. One side talks of the importance of following the Prophets, Apostles, and the official policy of the church whether it be through a mixed-orientation marriage, which is no longer recommended because of the negative consequences of the decision, or celibacy for the rest of your life. The other side tells you to be true to yourself and have a same-sex relationship and get married if you are able. What I see as a problem is that sometimes people on both sides see each other as enemies or lacking in one respect or the other. Some on each side say that they are right and everyone else is wrong. But what does God say to you on this matter. If our hearts and desires are pure he says, "Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh receiveth;and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened." 3 Nephi 27: 29.
My advice is to go to our Heavenly Father and ask Him yourself. I encourage everyone to learn from both sides, learn of the struggles and failures but also the triumphs and successes. One can do this successfully using a computer but also personal experience. Some websites to check out are www.ldsvoicesofhope.org and voicesoflove.org.
I grew up thinking that LGBT people were immoral deviants who I should never associate with. Come to find out after following many promptings from God. They were actually just normal people. Just as moral or immoral as straight people. Learn in safe environments about either side. I encourage you as you go on this journey of learning and growing to not hold anything back from Him. Do not put qualifiers or exceptions, trust in Him and let Him teach you and lead you anywhere He sees fit. Follow the Law of Chastity when learning about this and always seek to have the spirit with you.
4. Make a decision with God on how to proceed with your life. It may be for a short time, it may be for a lifetime, but commit to God and remain prayerful and trusting in His guidance.
The answer might be one you felt like you should do all along. It might be completely different. It might bring fear, it might bring hope and joy. If it be from God he will provide a way, he promises this, the fruit will be good and God will sustain you. If ultimately it is not the way God wants you to go, you will have confusion, a loss of clarity, and the fruits of those actions will be bad. Ultimately I encourage you to have faith in God and know that He has a plan for you that will bring you happiness and that God will provide a way for you to accomplish it. Follow the law of chastity as it applies to all members and relationships, God is not a respecter of persons. Maybe if it is God's will you will marry a person of the same-sex and have a deep and loving relationship with them, and build a family together, or you may be asked to go the opposite route. He even may ask you to wait and remain celibate. Remember to trust in God's will for you.
Some people may say that God will never say anything against what the prophets and apostles have said. However we know in the scriptures that this is not the case. When Nephi was told to kill Laban in the Book of Mormon. This action was murder, plain and simple, something that all prophets have said is a grievous sin. But God had Nephi do it because he had a greater plan in the action. Ultimately, God is the place from where all truth flows. Christ due to the atonement is the light of truth. The Apostles and Prophets are men, which means that they are imperfect and they may use their own understanding until a new revelation from God comes. Although they are called of God they ultimately are not the source of all truth. You all are entitled to personal revelation for yourself. God will guide you as you pray on the words of the leaders of the church.
This process will take time. It has taken me many years and each step was long and filled with ups and downs. I promise you that those trials will strengthen you. Looking back on my life now I realize and have grown to understand through my trials what Peter spoke about in 1 Peter 1:3-10
3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4) To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5) Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, through now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.
7) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, through it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8) Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
9) Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
10) Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
The trials of my faith have been more precious than gold. I have grown closer to God and I have gained greater insight and understanding in my life through those trials. I know that God loves each and everyone of us and that he seeks that best for each of you. This decision is between you and Him. I can't tell you which direction is best for you because I don't know your reality. There is one person who does and that is Jesus Christ.
That decade of my life between puberty and when I turned twenty years old was a definite trial of my faith in God. Whether He knew me and whether He actually cared was my struggle. Peter writes "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth" My trials are much more precious to me than anything I have ever experienced and they have led me to a place of love, happiness, and joy that I would never have imagined just two years ago. I found my joy in a place I never expected that I would. Whatever trials lie ahead of you I know that God will be with each and everyone of you as you work out where He wants you and where your happiness in his Kingdom is. I encourage you all to remain active in the church. Whether your path leads to celibacy or a loving relationship with the man or woman of your dreams, whether they be of the same sex or not. You have many people cheering for you on earth and in heaven and I know God will never fail you.