Saturday, October 27, 2012

"I Don't Think I Slept"

Wow! It’s been a week since I did my blog post about my same-sex attraction. First of all, I want to thank everyone who has shown me support in that time (even if all you did was “like” the post on Facebook). It means a lot to me to know I have that support, because, I’ll be honest, last Saturday was the scariest day of my life!

It’s been amazing though! Some of the aftermath has been absolutely miraculous! This is actually going to be the first of hopefully many posts I do about being an SSA Missionary (SSA=Same-Sex Attraction). So, here it goes:

Saturday night, the day I posted about my SSA, I got a message on Facebook from one of my friends (let’s call him Steve). He’d read my post and told me about his brother who deals with SSA. Steve told me that he had found out about his brother’s SSA during his mission. He told me, “I knew he had some struggles, but had no idea that was it. I don't think I slept that entire week. I couldn't concentrate. I had no idea what to do. I felt at that point in my mission everything was going great. I knew everything I needed to do to help my investigators, but I had no idea how to help my brother. I just didn't want to lose him. I don't want to lose him.”

I texted Steve and a couple days later he came over to my apartment. We talked for probably about an hour. He told me where his brother was at spiritually and I told him about my SSA. The answer to his question, how to help his brother, was difficult to answer, because I’ve been there before when someone you love chooses to act on their SSA. In the end, I told him, “Love him. Make sure he knows you love him. If he doesn’t know that, he will have no reason to come back to look to the church for support when he needs it.”

Before Steve left that night, I lent him my copy of “Voices of Hope” and told him to read a story out of there. After he left, I realized how much I felt like a missionary. Despite not having a name tag or spreading the gospel in a typical sense, I felt like a missionary. And just like any missionary, love is the most important tool you can have for your investigators. Love will show in your actions as you try to help them come to the Savior, whether they deal with SSA or not.

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Same-Sex Attraction

August 20, 2010 – Brampton, Ontario – Heart Lake Apartment
I was just a greenie missionary at the time. My trainer, Elder Call, had become a very fast friend of mine, which I was not accustomed to having. That night, we were retiring to bed after companionship prayer and personal prayers. As usual, as we lay in our beds, we started talking. I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but we ended up talking about same-sex attraction. Somehow, in the conversation, I felt a push from the Spirit to tell him something that I had never told another person before. For the first time in my life, I had told someone that I dealt with same-sex attraction. Now, by saying that here, you know too.

Since that fateful day in Brampton, which changed my life forever, I have told many more people, including my immediate family and many close friends and roommates. There are many reasons I have decided to write this post at this time, which means I’m “coming out”, a decision I can’t take back. I’d like to start with a very simple one: hope. Hope is actually the thing that I want to get across the most here. Recently, I’ve been reading a book called “Voices of Hope”, which was compiled by Ty Mansfield (PS: The YouTube video on this link is Ty Mansfield talking about his book… it is so powerful).

Voices of Hope
In the introduction to “Voices of Hope”, Ty talks about how the stories of those who are living the gospel and living with same-sex attraction get lost amongst all the conflict surrounding this issue. In the media, we hear of gay pride and rainbow flags on one extreme. On the other extreme, we sometimes hear of individuals who are so ashamed of how they feel that they choose to take their own life. Only a page into the book, I knew that I wanted to stand up and be a witness of the truth… of living the truth. So many people are deceived into believing that because God loves them (which I know He does) that they are free to act on their sexual urges towards members of their own gender. It breaks my heart to hear of that, especially when it involves those that have the truth of the gospel.

As I’ve read stories of others who live with same-sex attraction, I am inspired to live a better life. Their examples truly bring me hope. It also has been a blessing in my life to have friends who also live with same-sex attraction, who know how I feel. Before this summer, I didn’t have any close friends with same-sex attraction (I knew of two people, but I wasn’t close to them). However, I prompted to join an online support group for those who struggle, called North Star. Through North Star, I was able to learn about a support group that meets in my area on a weekly basis. As I started going to meetings each week and as I began to spend time with the men there, I began to feel a sense of brotherhood. In ways that my “straight” friends couldn’t, they understood me. I felt less alone. I felt like I belonged.

I’ve also been blessed to be the one to give hope as well. While a friend of mine (let’s call him Benjamin) was visiting me, he told me that he dealt with same-sex attraction. Almost with a laugh, because I hadn’t seen it coming, I reciprocated and told him that I had similar trials. Benjamin is a convert. Having previously been in the gay community, that’s what he’d been exposed to. He didn’t know (or thought he didn’t know) any members of the church that lived with same-sex attraction. Just the fact that he had a friend who also dealt with same-sex attraction was a powerful means of him feeling hope. Hope is powerful and just the knowledge that you’re not alone in the world can give you such a great amount of it. Knowing that there is someone you can turn to when you’re family, friends, priesthood leaders, or counselor don’t understand (despite their best intentions) can be a life saver (for some people that can be taken literally).

Next month, I will be participating in filming for a project that North Star is doing as an extension of Ty Mansfield’s book. The Voices of Hope Project will include hundreds, maybe thousands, of testimonies of men and women in the form of video or written essays. I’ve decided to participate in order to give hope to my brothers and sisters. As Ty Mansfield quotes on the page linked above “they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) The world has powerful voices coming from it, but we have the Lord on our side. We have the gospel. We have hope from the Atonement.

I feel bad for the people who feel the need to define themselves by their sexuality. After telling one of my friends (let’s call him Tim) about my same-sex attraction, he told me about his sister. Tim’s sister had her records removed from the church so that she could pursue a relationship with another woman. He told me that she let her sexuality define who she was. I like what Tim said after that. He told me not to let my sexuality define me anymore than he lets his sexuality define him. I don’t know heterosexual people who make it a point to define themselves as straight. However, it seems commonplace for homosexuals to define themselves as gay or lesbian or bisexual, in a way that it controls who they are.

I’m putting myself out there by writing this post, but I don’t want same-sex attraction to control my life. Sure, it is an aspect of my life and who I am, a big aspect maybe, but not the only aspect of who I am. I don’t like the term “gay”. To me, it denotes acting on those attractions. Regardless of labels, these attractions are only part me. I am a writer. I am a student. I am a friend. I am a son. I am a brother. I am an uncle. I am a returned-missionary. I am a Mormon. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a child of God.

In the end, I believe that only those last two labels matter: I believe in Christ and I am a child of God. Recently I went to a fireside about same-sex attraction. At the fireside, one of the speakers said “God has already labeled us His.” I found this statement powerful. The most powerful, perfect being has claimed us. His is the only label we need. We are His children. We are His saints. And if we are willing to take a step of faith and do what He asks, He will do amazing things with us.

This is a Gift
Maybe this seems contradictory that something so difficult and controversial could be seen as a gift, but it’s true. I think I have begun to understand what Paul meant when he said that “when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) Sure, it’s still hard to live with same-sex attraction sometimes, but I have noticed some of the blessings it has given me.

For example, I noticed recently how I am able to connect with other men on a deeper level than “Sup, dude?” Granted, there are straight men that are able to connect with other men too, but they are rare. I feel that because of my same-sex attraction, which came about because of my desire to connect with other males, particularly my peers, I am able to connect with my guy friends more.

I am just beginning to understand what the Lord meant when He said, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27) Just a month ago, I called same-sex attraction one of my weaknesses. Now I also consider it ones of my strengths, which has taught me and helped me to learn about myself.

The Atonement
I want to finish off this “coming out” by talking about the Atonement. In “Voices of Hope”, Ty Mansfield references President Packer in saying that “any truth not connected to [the Atonement]…is insufficient.” I have seen and heard other media on the internet about homosexuality and the church and it disturbs me when they do not mention the Atonement of Christ. Alma taught that “[Christ] will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.” (Alma 7:11) Even the Savior during his mortal ministry said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Shortly before His crucifixion, He also said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

I know that the Savior died for me. I know that through His Atonement I can find peace and comfort in the trying times of my life. Though I may deal with anxiety, depression, autism, and same-sex attraction, none of them are too much for the Savior and the Atonement to handle. I have accepted that I may not be healed from one or any of them in this life, but that’s okay, because I know that as I live righteously, I will be blessed with comfort through the Holy Ghost.

I have one last request before I finish off (I know this has been a long post already). If you know someone who is struggling (with same-sex attraction or with any trial) please share this. I want my testimony of the Atonement to help as many people as it can. You are not alone and even your bad experiences can be used for your good. Have hope in the Atonement and “let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” (D&C 123:17)

Thank you for sticking with me through this long post. Remember that through the Atonement it gets better. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.