Truly Happy Now

 

Name Witheld


The events in this article are factual, but the name of the author
and others involved have been changed for reasons of privacy.


I thought that living a homosexual lifestyle would help me feel fulfilled. A timely phone call from a family member helped me remember where I could find real happiness.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with same-sex attraction. As a young teen, I felt confused by what I felt toward other males but never acted on it—I knew doing so would be contrary to gospel teachings. But all that changed when I attended a university far from home and made a deliberate choice not to participate in institute or attend church.

Among new friends whose standards were different than the ones I’d been raised with, I felt safe enough to talk about my attraction to men—something I’d never felt comfortable doing with my parents. To my surprise, this wasn’t a huge shock to my friends—or to others I began telling. They were very accepting, and I began to convince myself that there was nothing wrong with a gay lifestyle. Within a short time, I found myself in a relationship with a male co-worker. Although it didn’t last long, it had opened the door for me to consider other same-sex relationships, even though I knew my actions were contrary to Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness, which I had known all my life.

I began feeling a deepening lack of selfworth and experienced some major depression. I hoped that once I could be open about who I was and my choice to live a homosexual lifestyle—once I could just “get it out there” as the way I wanted to live— those feelings would go away.

One Sunday morning, as I was lying in bed and feeling particularly down, one of my relatives called me. I began crying when I heard her voice and told her how miserable I was. And then I blurted out my news before either of us could say anything else. I’ll be forever grateful for how she responded.

She told me that part of the reason for my misery was that my actions weren’t in harmony with what I knew to be true. She also reminded me that our family was praying daily for my return to the Church.

It was a bold move on her part—for some people, that reaction might have pushed them over the edge. I later learned that my relative felt prompted to call me that morning and say the things she said—they were exactly what I needed to hear, and she said it with such calmness and love that I didn’t question her motive.

She then said something that touched my heart more deeply than anything I’d felt in a long time: “When this life is over and our family is sitting together on the other side, we want you there.” The truth of the doctrine of eternal families pricked my heart. I didn’t want to be separated from the people I cared most about, and I knew that based on my current behavior, I would be.

She then asked, “If I find help for you, are you willing to talk to the people who can offer you help?” I agreed.

I realized that what she was asking me was whether I was willing to change. I was, but over the next several weeks and months as I moved toward that change, I anticipated that my life would be nothing but an exercise in endurance. Yes, I was willing to try to obey Heavenly Father’s commandments, but I didn’t think that in this life, anyway, I would feel happy or accepted. I certainly couldn’t expect the fulfillment of family life. I got used to the idea that the next several decades would be a matter of getting through life—alone—as best as I could.

What I didn’t take into account in my expectations was how kind Heavenly Father is to His children and how much He is willing to bless us when we obey. The phone call from my relative was, of course, a significant blessing. But as I chose to repent and live the way He has asked His children to live, He continued to bless me in many ways—ways I never could have anticipated.

Finding a Counselor

In the days following the phone call with my family member, she contacted LDS Family Services. Although the counselor I first met with there was not a good fit for me, I was soon able to meet with a second therapist who I connected with and who I felt I could trust. I sensed that she cared deeply about me not just as a client but also as a person. She wanted to help me have a productive and happy life.

Additional support continued to come through my relative. During this time, she and I corresponded regularly. I shared my feelings and struggles and sent her articles she could read to better understand what I was going through. I knew that I had a wonderful confidante in her.

These two sources of support were critical at this point because I knew I would need to make changes in returning to a life in harmony with gospel teachings. Many of my friends who embraced homosexuality—either for themselves or in family members—were offended that I felt I needed to change. They didn’t think it could be done, and they thought I was being critical of them in deciding that this wasn’t the way I wanted to live. I knew leaving friends behind would be difficult, but even in the small strides toward repentance I had made so far, I had felt a sense of relief. I knew I needed to keep going or I’d be right back where I started.

Working with My Bishop

A second great blessing came in the form of a kind and compassionate priesthood leader. My bishop had come to my home once before when I was completely inactive and had asked me if I would accept a blessing. I agreed. When my therapist asked me his name and I told her, it turned out that she knew him personally. He agreed to come to her office, where I was already comfortable, to meet with me. She stayed in the room while I told him about my struggle, and then she let us meet privately. It was a very warm “handoff,” and because my counselor and bishop handled this coordination so compassionately, I felt a great sense of trust and acceptance from both of them. I began meeting with my bishop regularly after that and working toward repentance. Through it all, he was exceptionally sensitive to the Spirit and kind to me. In many ways, my good bishop saved me.

Feeling Hope in the Atonement and the Love of My Heavenly Father

Nearly a year later, my bishop suggested that I needed to go back to the temple. Although I was endowed, I hadn’t participated in temple worship for nearly 10 years. I wasn’t paying tithing, though; I was barely getting into my career and didn’t have much money. Moreover, my company was merging with another, and I was about to lose my job. I would probably have to move. But my bishop encouraged me to be obedient so that if I did move, I could do so having resolved my past with my priesthood leader and not have to bring it up again. Although paying tithing required a great deal of faith, I obeyed. After faithfully paying it for a time, my bishop determined that I was ready and worthy for temple worship.

He, my counselor, and a good friend from work who was LDS accompanied me to the temple. I will never forget the intensity of what I experienced that day: a feeling that I was home. I felt Heavenly Father’s love more deeply than I ever had before. And this distinct thought came into my mind: whatever sacrifices we make in terms of earthly pleasures or appetites, whatever we give up for His sake, He will repay us beyond what we could ever anticipate. That was certainly true of being in His house that day.

I did end up moving for work. I knew no one in my new city, and because I had lost the support structure of my counselor and of the bishop I had worked so closely with, I was very lonely. I went to church but didn’t really get to know members of my ward. But there was a temple nearby, and I knew I would feel at home there. I went frequently and clung to the strength I gained in attending. One particular morning I sat in the celestial room praying for help—help with my continuing struggles with same-sex attraction, help in my new home, and help with my loneliness. As I sat there I felt the love of Heavenly Father more intensely than I have ever felt it in my life. I knew that somehow everything would be OK. That spiritual reassurance helped me move forward.

I knew, after all, that I had made the right choice and that my life was moving in the right direction. Still, the attraction to men that I felt had not gone away. I decided that this could either consume me or just be part of me, something that I managed. That was my choice. I knew from experience that defining myself by it would lead to misery. Having gone through repentance and having had that burden lifted from me through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, there was no way I wanted to return to that life. I moved forward hoping to be able to manage the attraction and be at peace.

Of course, the love of my Heavenly Father was the greatest feeling and most important validation I could have received. But in His goodness, He continued to bless me with people in my life who helped, loved, and welcomed me.

Finding Acceptance among New Friends

Some of those people came in the form of true friends. In my first efforts to develop friendships, I struggled with an unhealthy dependence on others and as a result pushed some people away. In time I came to know a couple in my ward that offered the support and camaraderie I needed with appropriate boundaries. The husband knew of my problem and although he didn’t struggle with samesex attraction himself, he understood it—rather, he understood me. He saw me as a person and not as a lifestyle or as a challenge. He didn’t let my struggle scare him away or prevent our friendship. To me, that was huge. Occasionally in the past, when people had learned of my struggle, they turned away, which was tremendously damaging. (If members of the Church struggling with same-sex attraction can’t find acceptance in the Church, they’ll seek for it elsewhere, and the world tells them to embrace their attraction and see it as who they are.) This man’s acceptance and genuine friendship filled a void for me.

Finding Love

In time, as I became better friends with this couple, I also became acquainted with a young woman they knew. I had dated a few women in recent years, trying to follow Heavenly Father’s plan for His children to marry and have families. Although I doubted marriage would be a blessing for me in this life, I wanted to be obedient and trusted that Heavenly Father would bless me for it.

As I got to know this woman, though, things were different. I found myself falling in love with her. We dated for several months. As we started talking about the possibility of marriage, I felt I needed to tell her about my past—and about my continuing, but managed, struggle with same-sex attraction. I was nervous about doing so and gave it a lot of thought, but I also knew that if we were talking about getting married, she had a right to know. I also trusted that if she were right for me and if we were supposed to be together, it would work out. When I finally told her, she patiently listened and then said that it didn’t affect the way she felt about me. Within a short time, we became engaged and were married a few months after that.

Of course, marriage is not right for everyone who struggles with same-sex attraction. At one point, I didn’t know if it would ever be a possibility for me. It is certainly not a cure or therapy of any kind. But for me, I found that my burden had been lifted sufficiently to pursue marriage. My struggle with same-sex attraction rarely comes up these days. She knows of my challenge—something I still face from time to time but am able to manage—but it doesn’t define our relationship. I love her very much and am grateful to Heavenly Father for sending her to me.

We’ve now been married for several years and have three children. My life is as close to perfect as I ever imagined it could be. That doesn’t mean we don’t have problems— everybody has problems—but there must be “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11) so that you can enjoy the days when you sit and look at each other and think, “Wow, we have a good life.” Without a doubt, my family is the greatest blessing Heavenly Father has given me, a blessing I never could have anticipated at the outset of this journey.

I also acknowledge that not everyone’s story will follow the same path. I know some people who struggle with same-sex attraction experience the burden being lifted entirely; they’re able to overcome it. That’s not the case for me. I still struggle with emotions or thoughts from time to time, and it takes strength and energy to manage them. I also know people who may not have the blessing of having it somewhat alleviated, as I have. I don’t know why people face challenges—this one or any other—with such different outcomes, but I do know that our God is not a cruel god. And I know that obedience brings peace.

The reality of my decision came down to this: I knew that if I obeyed, Heavenly Father would somehow compensate my efforts and allow me to make peace with my situation at some level. Subjecting myself to God’s will brought that peace. I saw Him work in my life. I felt His Spirit and found strength through the Atonement of His Son because I was trying with all my might to be obedient—not to make the attraction go away but to be obedient. Faith precedes the miracle, and the miracle for me was that my burden was made lighter.

Even though I had once resigned myself to a life of endurance, I have happily been surprised by blessings I never imagined were possible. I know that Heavenly Father will bless us beyond capacity when we have the faith to rely on Him and His Son in doing what They have commanded us.

Editors’ Note:

The author of this story eventually found happiness in marriage, but marriage is not a “solution” or “fix” for same-sex attraction. The pamphlet God Loveth His Children, prepared by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explains:

“In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender. While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life. However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children.

“Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing.”

God Loveth His Children is available in several languages from store.lds.org, from your local distribution center, or by download from www.lds.org/same-gender-attraction.

Spiritual Anchors

As I said in this article, having lived with same-sex attraction, I know that people can’t always control what they feel, but I have learned that all of us have ultimate control over what we do. Sometimes people argue that living a homosexual lifestyle isn’t a big deal because they’re just doing what feels natural. But we know from the Book of Mormon that “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19). For some people, driving 150 mph may feel natural. Others might have inclinations to steal. That doesn’t make those things right. Everybody has impulses, thoughts, and feelings that they have to manage. Learning to manage our appetites and submit to God’s will is part of why we’re here in mortality.

Here are a few things that anchored me when my struggle was severe:

  • The Kindness of Others. When I was first coming back to the Church, it was difficult for me to sit through a three-hour meeting block. My memory of gospel teachings had faded, and it was hard to get back into them. I often came late and left early, and I never spoke to anyone. But an observant and kind ward member made a point to seek me out and say hello. It was a small thing for him to say, “Hey, how are you doing?” But his Christlike approach mattered a great deal to me.
  • Reminders of the Savior. When I first decided to repent and change my life, I felt very lonely—and very numb. I knew I was on the right track and making the progress I should be, but I had to abandon friends (or, in many cases, they abandoned me). I had a lot of time that I needed to consume in positive ways. I decided to buy an inexpensive picture of the Savior and made a project of finding the right frame and making this display beautiful without being costly. I hung it above my fireplace, and when I felt down, I would sit in my living room, listen to good music, and look at the picture. It’s funny that a little thing like a picture could anchor me, but it did. It reminded me of what He had suffered.
  • The Temple. The temple, as I mention in my story, was a lifeline for me. There I always felt at home. It was the place where I could most easily and purely feel Heavenly Father’s love for me.
  • Music. Music has always been key in my life. I regularly found—and still find—peace in the hymns of the Church.
  • Uplifting Quotes. I experienced a rough period a couple of years after returning to church activity. During this time, I would search the Gospel Library on LDS.org for an uplifting quote to get me through the day. I would pick a word or topic— perhaps service or compassion—and start looking through material until I found a quote that rang true to me for that day. I did this every weekday for close to a year. Although I haven’t done that for several years now, I still keep some of my favorite discoveries on my desk at work.
  • A Plan. What I have found is that there has to be a plan in place for the rough times. That plan is even better if it’s written down. You promise yourself that you will execute your plan whether you feel like it or not. When things are overwhelming is the worst time to figure out how to cope. Make plans when you’re strong and execute them when you’re feeling weak.