By K nayR
Logan, UT, USA
One day some friends and I rode our bikes to the top of a small mountain. As I am not particularly fond of bikes and certainly not riding them up a mountain, I hesitated and complained. My complaints increased when I saw the trail—it wasn’t even paved! Not only was it not paved, there were sticks, rocks, pine cones, tree stumps, and whole, fallen trees covering the trail. All those things either kept the tires from gripping the trail or forced me off my bike in a not-so-graceful and not-so-painless way. Needless to say, I peddled onward and upward, climbing higher and higher with burning legs, a few scrapes and bruises, and a thumping heart I thought would burst from my chest.
Several times during the bike ride, I looked ahead to see what I thought was the summit. When I arrived at those points, I realized the altitude I gained only helped me see the path ahead with greater clarity—we still had a ways to go and more altitude to gain! Even at times when I was sure the summit was near, I arrived to those points time and time again, realizing over and over that the summit was still miles and miles away. Reaching the summit sometimes seems an impossible task.
So it has been with my battle of same-gender attraction (SGA): just when I think the end of my pain and trials of SGA are near, I realize the altitude I gain as I struggle onward and upward helps me see the path ahead with greater clarity—it’s going to be a life-long struggle with few immediate rewards.
At these moments of shattering realization, I am humbled to know that the true test is not simply enduring, climbing a little higher, or hanging on a little longer. Elder Henry B. Eyring once pointed out:
“The test a loving God has set before us is not to see if we can endure difficulty. It is to see if we can endure it well. We pass the test by showing that we remembered Him and the commandments He gave us. And to endure well is to keep those commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us” (“In the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2004, 16).
So the test is remembering Him and keeping His commandments no matter what happens as I climb upward, no matter what questions remain unanswered, no matter the sweat, the tears, the scrapes, the aches and pains, and no matter what others might think or say as I do what I feel I must to draw nearer to my God.
Another test I face is living with my convictions despite those who make eloquent appeals to appetites of intellect and psyche, or despite those with pressing political agendas demanding social conformity, and despite those who once pressed forward that now toss up their hands exclaiming, “It can’t be done. Why try?”
About living with our convictions, Gordon B. Hinckley stated:
“Inner courage is a necessary virtue of those who follow the Lord… It takes courage to be a man or woman of integrity when those around you forsake gospel principles for expediency or convenience. It takes love in our hearts to speak in peaceful testimony of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who would mock Him and belittle and demean Him. There will be times that demand courage for each of us because disciples of the Lord are to live with their consciences. Disciples of the Lord are to live with their principles. Disciples of the Lord are to live with their convictions. Each of us is to live with his or her testimony. Unless we do, we will be miserable and dreadfully alone” (“Living with Our Convictions,” Ensign, Sep 2001, 2).
It is certainly convenient to follow the path of least resistance by flowing with the social trends and knowledge of our time. However, I must live with my convictions: I know there is a God who, in wisdom and love, established guidelines to govern appetites and passions. He promises blessings to those who yield themselves to true, eternal principles. I “believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). When I live contrary to that knowledge, as President Hinckley said, I feel “miserable and dreadfully alone.”
About convenience, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that everyone would come across “temptations of an easier way, with an offer of ‘convenient Christianity.’” However, he also points out that, “Life was very inconvenient for [the Messiah], and… it will often be so for you and for me when we take upon us his name” (“The Inconvenient Messiah,” Ensign, Feb 1984, 68). And so I knowingly choose a life of inconvenience because I took upon myself His name. I trust that rewards eventually come as I strive to “submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord,” and as I strive to “stand as [a] witness of [Him]” who “visit[s] [his] people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:14-15).
Regardless of the inconveniences, I cannot understand how a God who professes a loving character and kind disposition allows me to experience attractions for men which cause me pain, and how those who proclaim discipleship to that God of love and kindness lack love and speak so unkindly about this issue. Like the once atheist C. S. Lewis, I sometimes think, “If God were good, He would wish to make [me] perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But [I am] not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both” (The Problem of Pain, p. 16).
I’d like to point out the fallacious logic of such thinking through a personal experience. Recently, at a time when I reached what I thought was my breaking point, a time when I felt Heaven was sealed and no love or help could ever flow there from, I turned to my home teachers for a priesthood blessing. They don’t know about my struggle, but they didn’t need to know to offer counsel that restored love and help from Heaven (or rather restored my hope that there is love and help from Heaven). As I recall, they counseled, “Find the good in the trial you’re experiencing.” At first I didn’t understand what good could come from feeling attracted to men. I tossed the counsel aside. But as the pains continued to increase, I decided to give it a try. After a lot of thought, sincere supplication, and late-night soul searching, like the pioneers of the Martin Handcart Company, I concluded that this trial is a “price [I pay] to become acquainted with God,” and is “a privilege to pay” and like them “[I am becoming] acquainted with [God] in [my] extremities” (as quoted in David O. McKay, “Pioneer Women,” The Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, 8). Because of these attractions, I turn to my God more humbly, with greater sincerity, and with an ear to “hear what the Spirit saith” (see Rev. 2).
In his “Parable of the Unwise Bee,” Elder James E. Talmage resolves fallacious thoughts concerning God’s goodness and ability to stop pain. Like the trapped bee in his parable that stung the hand of him who tried to free it, due to my own “shortsightedness and selfish misunderstanding” I often view the “hand that would have guided [me] to freedom” as the hand of a “foe.” Elder Talmage went on to say, “We are prone to contend, sometimes with vehemence and anger, against the adversity which after all may be the manifestation of superior wisdom and loving care, directed against our temporary comfort for our permanent blessing” (see “Three Parables—The Unwise Bee, the Owl Express, and Two Lamps,” Liahona, Feb 2003, 36).
One of the lessons I am learning in my mortal education is humility and trust. Since the time I felt converted to the gospel, one of my only prayers is that He might remove these attractions from me. That is what I have prayed for every day, sun up to sun down. It has been the subject of nearly every fast and is the central focus of my hopes as I attend the temple. I used to reassure myself that if I would live with a little more exactness and with a little more righteousness, God would then be obligated to heal me.
Such thinking led me to hate myself when the attractions did not change. I hated the way I felt, I hated what other people said about my situation, and I hated myself. However, my faith and hope recently took a turn for the better. In a General Conference address, I listened to Elder Dallin H. Oaks teach about the healing power of the Savior—he cured men and women of leprosy, blindness, and all forms of illness and disease. If he could cure them, surely he could cure me. When he did not, I thought either he is not, or he cannot. Never did it occur to me that he would not. Elder Oaks taught:
“We can be healed through the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood… Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us… The healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ—whether it removes our burdens or strengthens us to endure and live with them like the Apostle Paul—is available for every affliction in mortality” (“‘He Heals the Heavy Laden‘,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 6–9).
In my greatest disappointment (living with these attractions despite the Savior’s ability to remove the attractions), I am learning a lesson Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s daughter once learned. His daughter Mary ran for president of her seventh grade class. Those who loved her most encouraged her. She was confident she would win the election. However, she lost the election. Disappointed, she arrived home where her mother was waiting to comfort her. As Sister Holland recalled, Mary said, “Mother, will you just pray with me?” They knelt and Mary prayed, “Heavenly Father, I promised you I’d do anything if I could win, and now I must show how to be a good loser.” She continued, “I don’t want you to be my servant anymore. I just want to be yours” (“The Inconvenient Messiah,” Ensign, Feb 1984, 68).
Like Mary, I promised God I would do anything if I could just win. In other words, if this burden would be removed, I would serve him however and whenever—I’d do anything for him. But now I must show him I can be a good loser, that I can lose my will for his, and I can exercise faith in him when it is difficult and inconvenient to do so.
I no longer want him to be my servant; I want to be his. I want to live a life of inconvenience because like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and others, although I receive not the rewards of my faith at this moment, I am persuaded the rewards will come (see Heb. 11). I no longer expect he will remove this burden from me, but rather I am becoming as a child, “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love” and I am more willing to “submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [me]” (Mosiah 3:19). As I climb onward and upward toward the summit, Walter Bonatti’s words ring true, “Mountains are the means, the man is the end. The goal is not to reach the tops of mountains, but to improve the man.”