I know. I understand. I remember.
You are hurting. You are alone. You are afraid of who you are.
You are filled with dread, horrified about what Mom and Dad would think. Scared about what the family would say and do if they knew who you were. If they knew the real you…
Even more harrowing is the fiery terror of a disappointed God. Of everlasting torment in hell. Of an earthly failure that will poison the rest of your eternity.
I know. I remember the feeling.
From my vantage point, I see very clearly how you got to this place of despair. This sense of hopeless unworthiness has been building since your childhood. Your heart shrank inside your chest when Grandpa called gay people “pigs.” You shuddered in your core when Mom scorned President Clinton for letting queers into the military. Your body tensed with anxiety when the other guys told gay jokes at scout camp, along with the implicit approval of chuckling youth leaders.
Even now, you often reflect on past conversations in seminary about that gross abomination: homosexuality. And you can still recall the stunned intrigue that stayed your breath when you overheard a conversation between shoppers in Deseret Book, nodding their mutual agreement that AIDS was God’s divine punishment of homosexuals.
But most demoralizing, by far, must have been the words of President Kimball in The Miracle of Forgiveness. He made you feel like a pervert. Inherently evil. Completely disdained by God. At age thirteen, you dropped to the ground in anguish when you read those heated paragraphs—it was as if Heavenly Father’s smile darkened into a sneering frown that day. The gates of heaven slammed shut. The air around you transformed to tar. You began gasping and choking on your own soul. And I know that those words, almost ten years later, still haunt you, every single day of your life.
For nearly a decade, earning the blessing of heterosexuality has been your greatest quest. Every Church calling enthusiastically accepted; every meal skipped in fasting; every hour spent in prayer has been—at least to some extent—part of this monumental effort to transform your sexuality. You surrendered to God’s will, hoping for the miracle to occur. You had faith that your righteous desire would be rewarded, and your patriarchal blessing confirmed that a wife and family were in your future—if only you could be good enough.
And now, fresh from a two-year mission, it seems that your worst nightmare has come true: you have ultimately realized that your request is not to be granted. You have bloodied your knuckles against the doors of heaven. You have prayed ceaselessly into the darkness. You have spent your whole soul petitioning God…yet nothing has changed. Now, all that you are left with are the burning questions: “How can this be? What have I done wrong? How am I supposed to go on?”
I speak, not as a prophet from a distant past, but as a voice of experience from a not-so-distant future.
First of all, it is true that your homosexuality is a part of who you are. To resist that fact is to resist reality. Just as your eyes are blue and your hair is brown, you are a gay child of God.
Second, you might be right: your family may never accept you like you wish they would. I know that is not an easy thing to take in. Your family means everything to you, and you’ve invested your life toward making them proud.
But even without their support, please know that you are not alone! You will meet compassionate people who will give you comfort and strength. You will encounter other parents of gay children, and you will hear them express their equal love for all of their offspring. Someday, you will hear an enlightened Mormon father say, “I want the same thing for my gay kids as I do for my straight kids: I want them to be free to love whomever they love, and I want them to be happy.” You’ll look up and see the love of God shining in his eyes.
Which leads me to my third point. Please know this: whatever it is that God may be, above all, God is Love. Right now, the fear of God’s wrath constantly fills your heart…but just for a moment, sit and think on this: If God is all-knowing and all-loving, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. God cannot be offended by something he created. And he can hardly be disappointed by one of his children living his truth.
All your life you have heard that the Church is true. But consider for a moment this fact: the Church is not perfect. They have been wrong in the past, and they will be wrong in the future. Earlier prophets declared that the Church would never abandon polygamy. When Africans were given the priesthood, Bruce R. McConkie said to forget things that previous prophets had said. “We spoke with a limited understanding,” he admitted. Don’t let another person’s misunderstanding of your nature make you hate the person you were born to be.
I know you are afraid of who you are. You are afraid of what you will become without the Church guiding every aspect of your life. Will you lose your humanity? Will you lose your soul? You are fearful that, deep down, what they have told you is true: that you are inherently filthy and evil.
You worry that your goodness will disintegrate without the tether of the Church, but I am here to tell you otherwise. Perhaps the biggest life-changing event in your future will be the moment you realize that your goodness is inherent to your very being. Never, never believe anyone who says that the nature of the soul is wickedness. That is a gross dismissal of the intrinsic divinity that every human being possesses.
The desire to love and be loved; compassion for other beings; the appreciation of beauty; the wish to do good in the world; the willingness to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort—those are not religious tenants. Those are human traits.
And finally, consider the notion that faith is not the practice of convincing yourself of something you know, deep down, to be false. True faith is trusting in what you know, deep down, to be true. Perhaps spirituality is less about following a list of rules and transforming into something else, and more about cutting through self-delusion and living the truth that you have been presented in this life. Maybe it is about reaching inward and discovering the divinity inside of you.
Take a step into authenticity, no matter how confronting it may seem. Then take another. Follow Truth into the mysterious eternity expanding all around you. There, is life beyond your wildest imagination.
Of course things won’t always be easy. Living life to its fullest comes with the full spectrum of human experience. I can tell you, you will know the bliss of love. You will witness the resplendent beauty of what it is to be alive. You will also suffer times of heartache and loneliness, though probably none so great as the desperation you feel right now.
Stepping into your own life comes with responsibility. The choices you make will be yours to own, and decisions won’t always be black and white. But each path you choose will bless you with a lesson to learn and wisdom to share. Be honest with yourself. Do your best. That is always good enough. I forgive you for the supposed missteps you will take—they have taught me the things I know today.
A world in which you are fully accepted awaits you. In that reality, the love you have in your heart will be honored, not vilified. You may have to look outside your own community to find such a world, but that is okay. There are people who will be inspired by your willingness to live your truth. In that space, you have things to accomplish. You have people to help. You have good to do. Learn to love yourself and you will bless the whole world.
And if it so comes to pass that you are called to stand before the judgment bar of God in some future realm, I believe that appearing before him having lived a life of bare honesty and truth will prove far more meritorious than reporting on how deeply you succeeded in hating yourself. From his celestial throne, a being of Love, Wisdom and Truth could do nothing but honor those qualities in you.
Remember that. Rest in that. Take a breath, and then take a step.
Your future self.