Like many of the Northern Lights readers, I spent much of my youth in denial about my same-sex attraction. I was under the impression that if I just lived good enough, and prayed hard enough, the feelings would go away, and I could be “normal.” And like many of the Northern Lights readers, by the time I reached my early twenties, I realized that my burden was not going to be lifted from me. I suppose I first came to this realization during the second year of serving a full-time mission. I lost a lot of motivation to serve during that second year, and every day, until the day I was released, was hard work. I supposed I experienced a sense of despair when I considered the bleak future that awaited me once I returned home. I had spent my whole life expecting that I would grow up, get married, and have all of my trials resolved so long as I served the Lord and kept the commandments. The closer I got to the end of my missionary service, the more numb I felt about the future.
Those first several months as a returned missionary were not pretty. I had no interest in dating (obviously) and no plans to attend school. I worked a warehouse job and was glad that I rarely had to interact with anyone. I’m sure my parents were worried, but I couldn’t confide in them because, in my estimation, I dealt with an unspeakable evil.
In the two years that I was away serving a mission, the internet exploded in popularity. I was amazed to find that households, just like universities, could be connected to the internet 24/7: no more dial-up modems! While still in partial denial about my attractions (I certainly never considered myself to be gay), I spent a great deal of time trying to learn more about homosexuality and those who experienced it. Somehow, I stumbled upon a website containing stories of Jewish and Christian men (and even some women) who experienced same-sex attraction. Wow! Other religiously devoted people could acknowledge their attractions and still remain committed to God and his commandments.
It’s seems almost silly to me now, but at the time this was an intense paradigm shift. I had no concept of gay + gospel. All representations of either, so far as I was aware, precluded the other. I had never heard of a gay person who was religious nor of a religious person who was gay. For years, I assumed that the day would come when either (1) I left the church to pursue “a gay lifestyle” and ended up miserable because I’d abandoned my morals or (2) I maintained a facade of Christian devotion but would feel dead inside because I was living a lie. Obviously, neither option was appealing. Sort of a “glass darkly” perspective on life.
But my bleak outlook changed the day I read those stories of other Christians who experienced homosexual feelings. It showed me that I had created a false dichotomy. That day, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a long time: hope.
Even at that moment, I realized that I still had a lot of questions about what the future would bring (including questions about marriage, church participation, and spirituality), but I told myself that no matter what, I would stop believing that my feelings of same-sex attraction were (1) my fault, (2) a punishment from God, and (3) an obstacle to happiness.
In the years since, I had my share of ups and downs, like all young adults. In time, however, I resolved most of the angst and worry, and I suppose that I now live a rather mundane, happy life–the kind of life I wouldn’t have even dreamed were possible for me all those years ago. When I was asked to participate in the Northern Lights community, I was hesitant at first. I didn’t think that I had anything very interesting to say on the topic of homosexuality, religion, and spirituality. But then I agreed to participate BECAUSE my life is such that I DON’T have anything dramatic to share about my life. It was stories like that, of men and women who found a way to resolve their conflicted feelings and find peace, that helped me, and I figured that if my story can do the same for someone else, then it’s worth the small effort it takes me to share it. That’s my hope: that we can all learn to have more love for and patience with ourselves, and then, by extension, have greater love and empathy for others.