Sunday night this week was great! After having a great day with some friends after a friend’s Melchezidek priesthood ordination (PS: Congratulations again, Phil), I went to the annual North Star Christmas musical fireside. Such an amazing, powerful, spiritual experience!
I arrived with my friends just in time for it to start. Immediately, I felt a sense of peace as I saw the faces of familiar people, many of whom I’ve met in person, but also many that I had only met online. As the fireside started, I pegged a word to the feeling I had. I texted my Dad that I was at the fireside and then said, “I feel at home here.” His reply struck me: “Saints united in a righteous cause… the Spirit there… Sounds like Zion.”
I knew he was right. I could recall the scripture I’d memorized years ago in seminary: “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18) “One heart and one mind”… isn’t that exactly what I was feeling in that room? Isn’t that what I’d felt just a few weeks before at the AMCAP conference? Isn’t that what I’d felt for months at my Evergreen group? I remembered once telling Garrett about my feelings at an Evergreen meeting. “You wouldn’t expect the Spirit to be so strong in a room full of men that the world would call ‘gay’,” I’d said. And yet, that’s what I felt. Why? Because we’re striving to live the gospel.
As difficult as it can be sometimes to be attracted to men, I have felt some of the strongest testimonies among my SSA friends. They’d have to be the strongest… otherwise we’d fall into what Lehi called “forbidden paths” (1 Nephi 8:28) Add this to another reason why I’m grateful to be “gay”: my testimony is not what it probably would have been, had it not been for my SSA. What if we could have that unity of purpose and testimony in our elders’ quorums and relief societies? Imagine how the church and the world would change. Honestly, I think the church wouldn’t have to put out websites like this one (“Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction”) to teach us to love each other unconditionally (PS: I plan on doing a blog post in the future on this new church website… I want to explore it more first). It would be inherent and intuitive.
As if the feeling of home/Zion wasn’t powerful enough for me, I was blown away by the musical numbers and the three speakers. In particular, I felt the Spirit wash over me when my friend (let’s call him Keith) sang “Silent Night”. Keith has an AMAZING voice and especially having gotten to know him over the past few weeks and learn from his story, I know very much of his testimony as well and I know that he has a powerful testimony of the Atonement and of Jesus Christ, of whom he sang.
I was also very moved by the words of Steven Frei, the president of North Star, who spoke at the close of the fireside. One part of his remarks really struck me: “Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph knocked. Now, Christ knocks at our door. He is our true Voice of hope.” Of course, with the North Star community, the phrase “voice of hope” has a lot of meaning to us. However, Ty Mansfield also mentioned in his book (and on the introduction video to the upcoming website) that the greatest Voice of hope (and the one that all of our testimonies, as part of the Voices of Hope project, point to) is Jesus Christ. He was born so that He could fulfill His mission as the Savior of the world. He came to give us all hope. He came to be the purest Voice of hope that any of us (no matter what we experience in our lives) can look to.
I bear testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one we worship and reverence in this Christmas season. It is because of His birth and death that we are able to find peace and meaning in this life. And, as always, it is through that infinite Atonement that it gets better.