My Experience, Strength and Hope
Honoracle Mention, 2005 Affirmation Writing Contest
It may be difficult for someone, outside of my situation, to understand why a woman who has never yielded to "the enticements of the flesh" with another female would find herself in such great turmoil from an emotional and spiritual standpoint.
In the church manual "Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems – Suggestions for Ecclesiastical leaders" the First Presidency clarified the parameters of what the Church considers to be Homosexuality: "Homosexual problems include erotic thoughts, feelings, and behavior directed toward persons of the same sex." According to the leadership of the LDS church, there are no homosexuals only those struggling with homosexual problems.
Everything I'd seen read or heard about the gay community prevented me from identifying myself with this group. I thought, what do male prostitutes; drag queens, intravenous drugs users, etc. have to do with me? My impressions about the gay community made it impossible for me to conceive of any positive outcome within the framework of a gay lifestyle or even acceptance of my unwanted feelings.
I had not undergone any formal reparative therapy, only self-imposed efforts to change. I had no forum and no confidant; only the loneliness and feelings of separateness associated with self-loathing. My attempts to purge these thoughts and feelings from my mind and heart were futile.
It was very frustrating for me because I'd read the apostle Paul's declaration "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
I remember one emotional evening I asked my younger brother, "Do you think it would be a sin for me to act on my attractions?" He answered, "Why are you asking me? That's between
you and God." I know it sounds so simple a thing to ask of God but this solution had never occurred to me.
In LDS theology, the words of the prophets and the scriptures are God's word. In my mind, God had answered my question many times over. In D&C 1:38 it says, "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." In the face of this doctrine, where could I gather the courage to offer such a prayer?
I searched through secular books and questioned others about their sexuality in an effort to gain insights into my own. I spoke to religious leaders from various churches. Though not always praying aloud, I feel I kept a prayer in my heart at all times, asking God to help me resolve my inner conflicts.
One afternoon I spoke at length with a pastor at a local Metropolitan Community Church. I explained to him I had been trying to escape my feelings through the use of drugs and that I didn't think this temporary solution is how God would want me to live. He told me his personal story about how God let him know he was OK as a gay person. He opened up the scriptures to me in ways I'd never looked at them or perceived them before. We ended our visit with prayer. When I stood to leave, I actually felt lighter on my feet, as if a huge weight had been lifted.
When I got in my car I said to myself, "You always pray for the answers to your questions but you never wait to hear the answer." With that in mind, I took a moment to just be still.
I don't know how to express the majesty of the experience that followed but to put it into words as closely as I can, I felt, "You're OK and I love you very much."
When you experience dual attractions, it's difficult to fit into either the gay world or the straight scene. I told my therapist I felt like I was walking a tightrope on a daily basis, unable to comfortably disclose all of myself with any group I'd encountered. He referred me to a support group for questioning women. Unfortunately, this group of women did not help me to solidify my sexual identity. Given my therapist's assertion that the GLBT community highly values diversity and inclusion, I thought the comments on many subjects from women in the group were judgmental. They referred me to a religious reparative therapy group.
I was very impressed with the facilitator of the women's support group at Evergreen. I particularly enjoyed hearing her bare personal testimony of the Savior and his role in her life. Even though I could not put my finger on anything negative about this program, something in my gut told me I shouldn't be there. Again I felt confused. So I began to pray about the course my life was taking. The answer came clear and pronounced, "Did I not speak peace to your mind...? What greater witness can you have than from God?" (D&C 6:22-23).
Then in June of 2004, I went to a Pride Day event for the first time; I rode on the float for Metropolitan Community Church. As we passed protesters of gay marriage and homosexuality, I felt sorry for those people. What kind of person has nothing better to do than rain on someone else's parade? In the past, I would have hid my head in shame and felt separate from God and his love for me. However, that day I thought, "You can't take my God away from me, not with your words, your demeanor, your signs or your banners." I have to say no matter where I go or what I do in the future that experience was invaluable to me. It showed me that God is not something other people can give or take away from me and that God wants a relationship with
One of the nicest experiences I had involving members of the gay community occurred while riding a Trax train downtown just prior to the presidential election in November 2004. Two gals across from me noticed my Don't Amend pin. I asked them if they'd had a chance to sign a Don't Amend (the Utah State Constitution) petition, they said yes. I gave them each a pin. I was proof reading a poem I'd been working on, and decided to let them read it. They both liked it, and one asked, "Are you family?" I didn't know what to say, and then she qualified the term by asking, "Are you gay?" I answered, "More bi." She responded, "You're family." These two words filled me with a sense of being accepted.
Feeling right with God and feeling right with your religion of origin are two very different things. I continued to struggle. I began to dismiss the promptings I'd received. Surely, I misunderstood. The Lord would not guide me on a path contrary to the direction of his gospel.
During the 2004 Christmas season, I attended a ward activity with my sister. Members reenacted different scenes from Christ's life. A member dressed as a shepherd spoke asking, "The Savior of the world is born this day, in an animal bin?" At that moment, something clicked. It doesn't matter that the revelation I received for my life doesn't make sense in the context of the LDS gospel. The birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in an animal bin doesn't make sense either, yet this hasn't hindered my faith in Him.
I know there are many in the church who would say I have been deceived but I did nothing more or less than Joseph Smith who followed the counsel in the scripture: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).
I no longer believe that the LDS church has a monopoly on principles such as faith and truth. In fact, the only thing I can say with any assuredness, Christopher Reeve and Abraham Lincoln have already said: "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion."
I'm grateful for common denominators. When I'm trying to love someone who is very different from me and connect with them, I'm always able to find something we have in common: a place to start. I believe it's because of God's grace that walls are being torn down and people are listening to each other. Even if they can't agree, where there's dialog, there's hope. I pray for peace on a global scale and begin that endeavor in my own heart.