22908_000_011I was certain Heavenly Father had given up on me. How wrong I was!
There was a time in my life when I believed there was no hope for me—no future—and that I would never come close to being a righteous daughter of God. This resulted from the fact that I felt same-sex attraction and acted on it. I wondered if I could ever be free of the bondage I was in.
I joined the Church at age 21 and was an active member until I started acting on the confused feelings I had experienced for many years. I knew the Lord did not approve of my actions, but I was not willing to give them up, so I stayed away from the Church altogether.
The turning point came when a friend visited me shortly after returning home from her mission. She noticed that there seemed to be a coldness in my home and that I seemed different somehow. When she questioned me about this, I admitted my problem to her. She urged me to see my bishop.
I resisted at first, but inside I knew I would never be happy as long as I continued my behavior. I decided I wanted to be close to the Lord more than I wanted the lifestyle I was living, so I made an appointment with my bishop. When the time for our interview arrived, I tried to act cool and nonchalant, but my heart was pounding. I felt humiliated, ashamed, and frightened. I was sure the bishop would be uncomfortable with my disclosure and would ask a few cursory questions before ushering me out the door.
Instead, he listened to my story with compassion and concern. After we discussed my situation at length, he urged me to attend all my Church meetings and to meet with him regularly. He encouraged me to spend time in fasting and prayer, and he said he would do the same so that he would be prepared to offer me the counsel the Lord wanted me to receive. What affected me most of all was when he told me, “Sandra, Heavenly Father loves you. You are His child, and He wants to help you.”
The Spirit of the Lord confirmed the truth of those words, and I was overcome. My understanding of the gospel was relatively new at that time, and I had been sure Heavenly Father wanted nothing to do with me. But that wasn’t true—He loved me! He understood my challenges far better than I did, and He would help me repent and return to Him! I left the bishop’s office with a lighter heart.
I started coming back to church and taking the first steps of repentance. It wasn’t easy to break away from the lifestyle I had been living for so long, and there were times I felt discouraged and overwhelmed, wondering if I could continue along this new path.
But I soon realized what had been missing from my life for quite some time—the influence of the Holy Ghost. Church became an anchor for me, a safe shelter. I followed the counsel my bishop gave during my meetings with him, and eventually the Spirit was able to operate more fully in my life.
Many years have passed since that first meeting with my bishop. I wish I could say that I never again struggled or felt same-sex attraction, but that would not be true. What I have gained, however, is the strength not to act on those feelings, as well as the sense of peace I craved for so many years. Any desire I have had to act on this temptation has been overshadowed by a stronger desire to serve the Lord. I have come so far, and while I do not know if my healing will be complete in this life or in the next, I do know that God is aware of my efforts, that He is actively involved in my life, and that He will bless me with a complete and total healing when the time is right.
Through my experience, I have learned key principles that have helped me in my struggle. These principles can be applied by anyone seeking to overcome a moral weakness:
Trust in the Lord. In the world there is a debate over the origins of same-sex attraction. Yet Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches that regardless of our personal susceptibilities, we are responsible for our thoughts and behavior: “Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of ‘nature and nurture.’ All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior” (“Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 9).
To overcome this challenge, trust the Lord and obey Him. He knows how to succor you and will give you the strength not to act upon your temptations, whatever they may be (see Alma 7:12; Alma 13:28; Alma 34:39; 1 Cor. 10:13). Isaiah 29:16 [Isa. 29:16] asks, “Shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” Know that your Creator understands you perfectly, and He knows how to help you. As you turn your heart over to Him and submit fully to His will, He will heal you in His own due time (see 3 Ne. 18:32).
Fast and pray. Pray unceasingly and “with all the energy of heart” (Moro. 7:48). Fast and pray for protection against the adversary and for deliverance from unholy thoughts. Do not assume that the way will be easy, for no matter what you do, Satan will desire to ensnare you. Be on the alert always (see Mosiah 4:30). Invite the Spirit of the Lord to be with you constantly, and strive to be worthy of it. The companionship of the Holy Ghost will speak to you in a still, small voice; listen to the promptings and obey them.
Remember who you are. Remember that you kept your first estate; otherwise you would not be on earth today. Remember that Heavenly Father loves you and wants you to come home to Him and receive all the blessings He has in store for you. He will be your great encourager if you will only give place in your heart for Him.
Do not attach labels to yourself or others who struggle with this problem. We all have temptations, but they do not define who we are. Know that having this particular challenge does not make you an “evil” person. As you commit not to act on these attractions, and as you immerse yourself in righteous thoughts and activities, you can be worthy of all the Lord has to offer. The freedom you find will be sweet to you.
Read and ponder the scriptures daily. Make this a priority. Through the words of the prophets, the Lord will bear you up. Sincerely liken the scriptures to yourself (see 1 Ne. 19:23). As you do so, you will make yourself more receptive to the promptings of the Spirit of the Lord, which will guide you in the paths of righteousness.
Change your environment. Gain the strength to resist temptation by leaning heavily on Heavenly Father and listening to the voice of the prophets. I made myself more receptive to their counsel by cleansing my home of harmful influences. I stopped watching immoral television programs and gave up inappropriate movies. I threw out tapes and CDs with suggestive lyrics and books with immoral plots or profanity. I removed anything and everything that was not wholesome and clean. I displayed pictures that reminded me of who I really am, and I immersed myself in the scriptures and other edifying books. These things have enriched my life in ways I could not have imagined, and now I never miss what I have forsaken.
Choose righteous associations. Most people tend to become like the individuals they spend the most time with. I urge you to distance yourself from those who see nothing wrong with same-sex attraction. Avoid places frequented by those who are involved in this lifestyle. Quit your job if need be. This is a battle for your eternal exaltation—and battle is a fitting word.
Lean on family and friends who see what is best in you. The members of my ward have been wonderful friends to me. As I have reached out to them, they have responded in kind, and I have learned much from their caring examples.
Seek counseling from your bishop and, if necessary, a professional therapist who shares your values. They can offer support and help you through your challenges. If needed, your bishop can refer you to LDS Family Services for counseling or for information about local resources.
Heavenly Father loves each one of us and wants to rescue us. His arms are outstretched toward us “all the day long” (2 Ne. 28:32). He provided the Atonement of His Son so that we might be released from our respective prisons.
I cherish the peace I have found in my own life as I have emerged from the bondage that held me captive for so long. I have learned that Heavenly Father loves us more than we can imagine and that if we allow Him, He will help us in our struggles. How grateful I am for that knowledge and for the freedom I have found as I have followed His counsel.
Help Is Available
“Through Christ and his church, those who struggle can obtain help. This help comes through fasting and prayer, through the truths of the gospel, through church attendance and service, through the counsel of inspired leaders, and, where necessary, through professional assistance with problems that require such help. Another important source of help is the strengthening influence of loving brothers and sisters. All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness ‘to bear one another’s burdens’ (Mosiah 18:8) ‘and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal. 6:2).” Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 13–14.
LDS Family Services provides professional counseling to members as well as consultation to Church leaders assisting members. Contact your bishop or branch president for more information, or visit www.ldsfamilyservices.org.
More on this topic: See A. Dean Byrd,