I often wonder why I meet so few men who are in my situation and want the same things that I want. Recently I spoke with my friend Peyton and he remarked that I was only one of two men with same sex attraction whom he has met who are still active in the Church. While I have met several more men who are active in this past year, it seems that the majority of the members whom I have met and have homosexual feelings (at least in my experience) are not active in the church.
Not only that, but in conversations with some of my close friends, it seems that homosexuality is a big stumbling block for more people than just those who struggle with it. I have had several friends leave the Church over things like this. What is it that makes them turn their backs on the Gospel? I often worry that maybe I am letting myself think some of the little things that might lead me away. What can I do to prevent that?
Well today I had an interesting realization. In Priesthood we were talking about coming unto Christ and how it is our choice to do so. I was reminded of this scripture in the second chapter of 1 Nephi:
16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
From reading this verse, it would seem than Nephi had some of the same doubts that his brothers had. And why shouldn’t he? He was a human being just like anyone else. He too had to learn line by line, precept by precept. He specifically says that his heart was softened and he therefore did not rebel like his brothers. But here is where I find something interesting; what he did do was pray. Both he and his brothers were unsure of the truthfulness of the things their father was saying, but Nephi chose to pray and ask as opposed to murmur as his brothers did.
The result? His heart was softened so that he might believe. It gave him the strength to support his father. Laman and Lemuel’s murmuring only served to push them farther and farther from their father (and therefore his teachings) and eventually they were unable to believe anything that their father or brother said. They had sign after sign, and even heavenly visitors, but it was not enough to counteract the damage that their complaining and ill-speaking did. Later it was said of Nephi “Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.” (1 Nephi 3:6) Powerful stuff.
I shared this in priesthood to point out that in coming unto Christ, we all have a choice. It is up to us to make the decision to do the right thing and seek truth. As I re-thought about this message, I saw how it applied to my life. A few years ago I struggled very hard to know what the Lord wanted me to do with my life. I knew that I was attracted to men and that the feelings were very real and didn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. So in order to understand his will, I prayed about it. Was I really supposed to live the way the Prophet and Apostles were telling me? Was I still loved by my Heavenly Father?
The answer was yes. I didn’t understand why, but I knew the right answer. More and more as I have lived it, I have learned a why or two, and that has helped encourage me and keep me on the right track. What I now realize is that the Lord softened my heart to His teachings because I was willing to pray and ask. Now, that is not to say that those who leave the church are not asking. But I will say, most of those I know who struggle with feelings of same gender attraction and have left the church have been people who have murmured long and hard against the Church. I believe that they prayed. I am sure that they did. Some of them I know prayed about it. However, keeping that angry, murmuring place in their hearts took its toll and eventually poisoned them against what they once held sacred and dear.
This also stands true for those I know who don’t struggle with homosexual feelings. My friends who have left the Church behind did so after a long time of increasing antagonism toward the teachings of the gospel. Again, I know not everyone does this, but I have sadly seen many people drive a wedge between themselves and God. Murmuring, complaining, and attacking the church will not allow you to feel the spirit and will not bring peace. The Holy Ghost is a spirit of love, not contention.
For those who are struggling in your testimony, I invite you to let go of your anger and pray. Ask for help. It will come, but only as you are willing to let go of the contentious feelings and not murmur about your leaders and the principles of the gospel. No, the members of the church aren’t perfect. And no we shouldn’t seek to obey blindly. Ask questions. Seek answers. But do not expect to feel love for people and ideas which you constantly attack. If you honestly believe in the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you will not allow any action or any social standard come between you and the Lord. If it makes you feel like you can’t take the sacrament or attend the temple, it needs to go.
I am grateful for the example of Nephi. I am imperfect and I often have questions and concerns about what the Church does and how it does it, but as I seek guidance through prayer and resist the urge to speak ill of that which I love so much, I am strengthened. You can be strengthened in the same way. I promise it works. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Come to the Lord with your troubles. He will soothe your soul and bring peace.