Finding peace, happiness and fulfillment as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction or identify as LGBT can be a difficult and complex process. How do we SSA/LGBT saints fit into the Gospel plan? Why are we the way we are and what is God’s plan for us? This article seeks to answer some of these questions, and to urge my fellow SSA/LGBT saints to awake to their true potential and arise to their critical role in building the Kingdom of God and establishing Zion.
AWAKE AND ARISE: A CALL TO ACTION
President, North Star International
WE HAVE AN ETERNAL PATH TO SPIRITUAL PEACE AND SALVATION
Why are we the way we are? Why were we born into this world with the complex and wonderful bundle of characteristics that make us who we are? Why were we born with knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Billions of people have been born unto this earth who do not have this knowledge. In fact, according to scientists, more than 100 billion humans have been born on the earth. Why is it that we, out of those 100 billion, were given the gift and the responsibility of a knowledge of the gospel? And, most critically, what does that mean about our responsibilities and obligations while we are here on this earth and beyond?
The Why? question is central to everyone, but perhaps especially to all of us in the SSA (same-sex attraction) and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) LDS communities. Why? Why am I the way I am? What is its purpose, and what is its meaning for my life and God’s plan for me?
Our dear friend, Tom Christofferson, perhaps best articulates our challenge:
“We often feel like we are caught between two truths: the truth of the Gospel and the truth of us as LGBT LDS people. These sometimes feel like incongruent, irremediable truths.”
That We May Be One:
A Gay Mormon’s Perspective On Faith and Family
We know, however, that truth cannot conflict. Rather, truth is circumscribed into one great whole. As such, if something does not seem to fit, it means that there must be a piece missing from our understanding. This is why our mission at North Star could be summed up as working to help our brothers and sisters find the understanding that creates an eternal bridge between these two seemingly incompatible truths. It is time for us to grasp this understanding and awake to our essential importance in building the Kingdom of God and establishing Zion.
GOD HAS LONG PREPARED YOU FOR THIS LIFE AND ITS CHALLENGES
Eons ago, all of us “were born of heavenly parents and reared to maturity” in the preexistence, long before we arrived on this earth” (The First Presidency, The Origin of Man, 1909). During those eons, we were raised, taught, and prepared. The Doctrine and Covenants makes clear that, “even before [you] were born … [you] received [your] first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:56).
From the Book of Mormon we learn, “In the first place [meaning the preexistence], being left to choose good or evil, therefore, having chosen good and exercising exceedingly great faith you are called…” Alma 13:3. From this we learn that during our time in the preexistence, we spent eons of time, we were reared and taught, we were allowed to choose between good and evil. Through our choices of what we studied, learned and applied, we were formed and honed into the beautiful and complex beings that we are today. We were prepared, and prepared ourselves, to come here and serve the Lord. We were hand-crafted for our work in this estate.
“During the ages in which we dwelt in the pre-mortal state, we developed our various characteristics, we showed our worthiness or lack thereof and our abilities.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection , 50–51) What does this mean for us in answering the question of why we are the way we are?
People come to this earth with different interests and personality traits. Some people like math and some like science, some like music, some are better at art, some are more analytical, some are more compassionate. All of these differences have a purpose. What is that? It’s because we purposefully developed every one of these traits before we came here. We spent ages learning, choosing, developing, exercising faith. Everything that makes us us is on purpose. Our combination of talents and perspectives makes each one of us unique. We were hand-crafted before we came here to be placed precisely where we needed to be and where our Heavenly Parents needed us most.
“Knowest thou not that thou art a spark of deity struck from the fire of his eternal blaze . . .? Knowest thou not that eternities ago thy spirit, pure and holy, dwelt in thy Heavenly Father’s bosom and in his presence and with thy Mother, one of the queens of heaven surrounded by thy brother and sister spirits in the spirit world, among the Gods?”
John Taylor (The Mormon, as cited in Daniel H. Ludlow, comp., Latter-
day Prophets Speak (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1951, p.8).
THE PURPOSE OF LIFE IS CLEAR
What is the purpose of life, anyway? That really encompasses two questions. What is the purpose of life generally and what is the purpose of our individual, specific lives? The purpose of this life, generally, is God’s purpose, which is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) Everything that He does is to further us, to make us the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be, and to bring us to joy, because we know that “Men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25) Our whole purpose for being here is to become more like our Heavenly Parents whose purpose is to further us and to make us into our best selves.
Each life on earth is a process of purification and sanctification, of learning and focusing, and honing yourself to be the best and most effective instrument of God’s purpose that you can be.
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
To be clear, purification is not always easy or pleasant. When discussing this process, the scriptures employ analogies like the “refiners fire” and “fuller’s soap” (Malachi 3:2). Being refined by a fire hot enough to literally melt rock so the valuable parts can be extracted and the dross – the worthless parts – can be discarded, does not sound like a pleasant process, does it? Nor does the process of being cleansed with fuller’s soap. Fuller’s soap was a caustic concoction used to “full,” or to deeply scour cloth with the purpose of making it perfectly clean and pure.
“Love one another, as I have loved you.”
But our refining and cleansing is a central purpose of our life, and it happens through the process of living – our experiences, our joys, our sorrows, our encounters with each other. It is through this process, one planned and designed just for you, that we become more like our Heavenly Parents.
Our Savior advanced this principle powerfully in his last instructions to His disciples just before He performed His atoning sacrifice, as recounted in John 13 – 17. It is in these last instructions that He tells us that we are to become one with God – that we are to live so that the Savior can be in us, as He is in the Father. We do this by loving one another as He has loved us. If we love Him, we are to use our agency to keep His commandments. And what are the primary commandments to which all others appertain? To love God and to love one another.
This concept of agency is critical to understanding our purpose on earth. What is an agent? An agent represents and carries out the will of the person they represent. During our brief, probationary existence on this earth, our purpose is to become God’s agent – to do what He would do. Just like a talent agent with a mission to advance the interests of their client, for example, our purpose is to advance the interests of our “client,” our principal. In other words, to fulfill God’s plan in bringing about the eternal salvation of all mankind. This means becoming the very best we can be, and helping others do the same. Through our choices and through our experiences we become increasingly purer and become more like our Heavenly Parents – which means what? We become agents of other people’s exaltation, purification, and learning as well.
The twin pillars of this existence are the Fall and the Atonement. These two pillars created this earthly estate where we can exercise our agency to develop ourselves and others. “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25) Because of the wise and courageous choice made in Eden by our dear Mother, Eve and Father, Adam following her example, we came to this earth.
“And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that He may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon…” (2 Nephi 2: 26)
The second great pillar of our salvation is the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. Because of Him, we are freed from the effects of the fall and are given this probationary estate wherein we are free to use and develop our agency, to learn good from evil, and to become one with God. We are free to become whatever we want, and all things are given them which are expedient unto man, (2 Nephi 2: 27), which means no matter where you’re born, no matter what situation you’re born into, the way is there for you. There is nobody who is born without a path to salvation, without a path to joy.
And what is our reward for fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives? In a word, everything. We will receive all that our Father hath and will become heirs to the Kingdom.
THE PURPOSE OF YOUR LIFE IS ALSO CLEAR
The general purpose of our lives is clear. But what is the specific purpose of your life? What has God called you to do? What is your mission? God wants us to become the best version of ourselves and to bring us to joy. We also know that God wants us to work to become more like our Heavenly Parents.
The truth is that each of us are born in a manner, time, and place that was meant for us – and only us. The circumstances of your birth were explicitly designed with the “foreknowledge of God the Father” to bring about your perfect development, growth, and learning (1 Peter 1:2). God placed you exactly where and how you are supposed to be, with your personality traits, your abilities, your intellect, your love: all the things that make you you. It is these things that together God has given you so that you can further His divine will.
“To carry forward His own purposes among men and nations, the Lord foreordained chosen spirit children in the preexistence and assigned them to come to Earth at particular times and places so that they might aid in the furthering of the divine will.”
Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New
Testament Commentary, 2:268
If we think about the circumstances of our birth, where and when and how we are born are just as purposeful as all of the things that make us up, our personalities and characteristics. The circumstances of our birth really have two parts to it. One is the inner circumstances; what kind of person am I? What are the things that make me me? And the other part is the outer circumstances. When are you born? How were you born, what country, what century, what family?
So, what does that mean? That means you were born into a time, manner, place, family, century, continent that is meant for you to bring about your best development, growth, and learning.
The second purpose of your specific life is to further the divine will. And what is that will? To bring about the immortality and eternal life of mankind.
What all this means is that we are placed exactly where and how we are supposed to be, along with the personality traits that we have, whether we’re good at art, math, science, empathy, intellect, all the things that make us us, as well as the time, manner, country, continent, family, place, of our birth. All of these things are purposeful both to bring about your exaltation, to bring you forward into the best you that you can be, and also to further all the people around you, all the people you come in contact with, and your stewardship within your space. That is why you were born.
“The very nature of each person…requires that the [circumstances] of birth would fit the caliber of his or her person…Thus to bring about birth into mortality there must have been a plan to calibrate birth in a lineage and manner best suited to the need of potential growth and development in the Second Estate.”
Elder Alvin R. Dyer, The Meaning of Truth, pp 23-24
Each and every part of you,
including your same-sex attraction, is an inextricable part of what makes you God’s perfect and unique instrument for fulfilling His divine purpose
I have spent a great deal of time thinking about what makes me me. And I realized that I have an unusual balance of traits. I am courageous. I am strong. I’m adventurous. I’m analytical. I’m intelligent. I’m curious. But I am also compassionate, sensitive, creative, empathetic and nurturing. I have this balance of traits that I don’t think is typical of non-SSA people. As I’ve worked with so many of you in this community and hear your stories, there is a common theme. Even as children, we say, “I wasn’t like everybody else. I didn’t like the things they liked. I wasn’t good at the things that they were good at. I had a different perspective. I had different tastes and interests than the typical person.” Why?
“My brothers and sisters, I truly believe that those of us born with SSA have been uniquely blessed with a powerful and unique combination of capabilities and perspectives. I think that our very otherness” is part of our essence and can be a great source of strength. If we were born into mainstream society, we would have developed a vastly different perspective. We would be very different people. There is power in living at the edges of the bell curve.“
I believe that our SSA is an inextricable part of who we are; God knows that and has brought us into this world at this time and place to use us as unique tools to further his kingdom and establish Zion. Some tools can do almost anything. In our home, for example, we use the humble kitchen knife as a universal tool for everything from a screwdriver to finally tighten up that annoyingly loose handle on the kitchen cabinet to a pry bar to extract the jar of pickles that somehow got stuck to the shelf at the back of the fridge an embarrassingly long time ago.
On the other hand, some tools are highly specialized and can do only one thing. They are unique and purpose-built. For example, I love to do woodwork and scroll work in particular. I am currently making my wife a walnut keepsake box with intricate cutout patterns on all sides. I could not do this with a kitchen knife. Well I could, but it would look more like something I did in kindergarten and would not make a great gift. No, in order to make this box and bring it into reality, I need very specific and purpose-built tools – a specialized scroll saw with very specific features, and blades and sanding tools that can only be used for this kind of project.
I know many of us who, right now, are suffering because of our SSA, find it may be hard to accept that our sexual attraction is part of God’s plan for furthering His Kingdom. I see this over and over in our Voices of Hope video series – the heart-wrenching personal stories that so many of us have in common. So how could this possibly be a blessing and part of God’s plan for us?
I spent much of my life asking the same question. But I have come to realize that my SSA has several benefits that help me fulfill my life’s purpose. For example, a lack of sexual desire for women puts me in a unique and useful position in both my personal and professional life. My judgment and my actions are not clouded by desire. This enables me to interact with and treat my sisters in Zion as their advocate, as a man who can relate to them in different ways simply because I am not distracted or driven by my sexual desire for them. In our current #MeToo moment in history, I count this as an enormous benefit in doing the work of our Lord.
I also see and interact differently with my brothers than does a typical male. I have the ability to draw close to them in a righteous, spiritual bond that is different than others. This means my views and perspectives, my very diversity of thought, bring a different perspective in fulfilling all of my roles as man, husband, father, counselor, and friend.
As I look back over my life, I see the tremendous impact that my being gay has had on my family, on my friends, my spouse, my community, my country, the legal system. Me being the way that I am, my very existence – our very existence – is an agent of transformation.
So, why was I born gay? Perhaps this fantastic bundle of characteristics that I have only comes in that package. Maybe it is that I can’t be both strong and courageous and nurturing and empathetic and sensitive without same-sex attraction coming with it. I don’t know. If that’s the cost, I’m all for it. If that’s what creates my unique perspective and abilities, this balance of male and female energies, this thing that makes me me, then I’m okay with that because I know that the Lord has prepared a way of salvation for me.
We are also truly agents of transformation in our society, in our families, in our country, and in our communities. Because when people encounter us, they encounter the very blade of the scythe that separates the wheat from the chaff. Knowing us requires more than it does the average person. My family has been greatly affected by my being gay and have largely loved and supported me. They became better and more Christlike people. Others in my life were not that way. They were rejecting and cold and exclusive and I believe their souls were wounded because of that. I believe that is true of every person that we meet, that we are literally an agent of other people’s purification and sanctification – that either they step up or they step down because they encountered us.
I counsel and encourage all of you, my brothers and sisters, to think deeply about your SSA and the role it plays in your life and the role God designed it to play in your life’s purpose. Pray and ponder on these questions: Why are you here and why now? Why are you on this planet, in this place, at this time, with your totally unique characteristics, and how can those further the Kingdom of God?
I believe that this act of faith will be rewarded manifestly.
AWAKE AND ARISE!
I think one of the greatest evidences of just how powerful we ar e is how hard Satan tries to diminish us and to define us as something we are not. Our adversary and the philosophies of men seek to define us by one, very narrow aspect of what we are – our sexual attractions. Why is that the thing that defines us? Why is that the thing that makes us us? It isn’t! I believe that it is our unique bundle of characteristics, this balance of traits that make us powerful, that happens to come with same-sex attraction. By defining us only by our same-sex attraction, it pulls away our power and makes us less than what we are. It defines us in terms of what we cannot do and what we cannot have. That is not what we are – it is how Satan keeps us from shining through with the power that we do have.
“How many more brothers and sisters need to take their own lives before we act? Before we introduce the world to a new narrative? Before we seize the hallowed ground upon which our SSA/LGBT brothers and sisters can take their stand as God’s children and work faithfully to bring about Zion? I say no more! Not one more!”
The world would tell us that because we experience SSA, our lives have to be lived a certain way – that we have to act on those attractions and find a same-sex partner. Why is that the only legitimate choice for us? Why is it that this world that celebrates free choice and says that love is love is love, does not recognize that our choice to live according to Gospel Principles is just as legitimate as their choices to live their lives the way they choose? And why isn’t the love that I share with my wife in our mixed orientation marriage just as valuable as theirs?
When we define ourselves by what we are not or what we cannot have, we eat away at our true potential. It also leads to ideas of shame and self-hatred, and that is where this epidemic of suicide and shame and despair and depression comes from. We need to write a new narrative – to assert that there is a different path for us, that we are not merely our sexual attractions. We are powerful agents of transformation. We have perspectives that nobody else has because of our same-sex attraction and those wonderful characteristics that come with it. But most importantly because of our life experience.
What are you going to do to bring this about? Why are you here and why are you now? Think about what your life is like, what situation you’re in, what your ward, your family, your community, your job. What can you bring to bear that nobody else can? Why has God put you there and made you his agent in that space? Because all we have, my brothers and sisters, is time and the only way we can spend that time is by the choices that we make. Those choices can either further other people and ourselves or they can tear other people down.
It is time for us to AWAKE and ARISE.
“Awake and arise from the dust, put on thy beautiful garments. Awake and put on my strength O Zion.”
This beautiful bundle of characteristics that make us us, are our garments and our strength. The dust from which we must arise is the falsehood of Satan and the philosophies of men. It is time for us to define ourselves and to take up our rightful place in Zion.
I pray the Lord’s blessing on all of us as
we take up this call to action.
President, North Star International