Can a gay and active Mormon have a divine mission? I went through a time in my life at one point where I wasn’t exactly sure. But I’ve come to very firmly believe that the answer to that question is yes!— a very meaningful mission that pleases our Heavenly Parents.
What is a mission? I recall two beloved members of my ward returned from serving their mission as a couple, called to be mission presidents. During a recent sacrament meeting, I listened to their story. Their talks were exactly as you would expect. They spoke about their 3 years of service and the faith, hardships, and miracles they experienced. They spoke of learning to love others more fully and learning to follow the spirit as it directed them in their stewardship. As they gave their reports to the ward I couldn’t help but reflect on my mission, and my struggle to know what it might be, now that things were different—now that I am a gay and active Latter Day Saint.
I used to think I knew what my earthly mission was, more or less, and I considered it quite often. You know, to draw closer to God by loving everyone as He does. Then three years ago I was finally ready to be honest with myself about being gay and my world changed. For a while coping with that difficult reality consumed nearly every waking moment and focusing on my earthly mission was put on the back burner while I concentrated on surviving this crisis.
During that time of intense struggle and soul searching getting out of bed was a major accomplishment. For a while, I was a shell of a person. I truly did not see a way for me to continue to live. Ending my life became an option I considered for a short time.
Eventually, through prayer and support from a couple of close friends I got my bearings back and along with that came the familiar pondering and questions about my earthly mission. Now, as a gay and active Latter Day Saint, what is my earthly mission? I began to plead with Heavenly Father to teach me, to guide me, to show me how to understand and faithfully fulfill my earthly mission that seemed to have taken an unexpected and unwanted detour. And thankfully—and this may come as a surprise to some—being a gay Mormon does not suddenly erase my love for all of the teachings and testimony that will be a part of me forever.
I recall the prophet Jonah had a divine mission. Like him, I did not want to do what was being asked of me. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, but that’s exactly where the Lord wanted him to go. That’s where his specific talents and strengths were needed. I did not want to be gay and certainly did not want to be a gay Mormon, but that’s exactly what the Lord is asking of me. In time Jonah saw the wisdom in going to Nineveh. He went and many people, including himself, were greatly blessed. I wonder, is it possible that there is a specific reason I have been given this mission as a gay Mormon?
As I look back over the past three years since coming out I am discerning that even though my circumstances have changed, my mission is exactly the same as it has always been; to draw closer to Christ and to learn to love as Heavenly Father loves. I see that I still have all the same opportunities to seek to have and follow the spirit in my life. For example, shortly after coming out I began to feel impressed to consider pursuing a same-sex relationship. I prayed fervently and sincerely to know God’s will for me on that subject. After much pondering and consideration I felt the spirit teach me that being in a same-sex marriage would be a gift and a blessing in my life. Now, as a wife, there is an added dimension to my earthly mission; to love, serve, and cherish my wife every day. Sometimes this is really hard. Like, really, really hard. My wife and I have been married for 5 months. She had back surgery just over a month ago. My compassion, patience, and caregiving have definitely been put to the test. I give myself a solid B-. But I will add that my skills in the last couple of weeks were better than in the first couple of weeks so there has definitely been improvement. And isn’t that what our earthly experience is all about? Getting better each day by relying on the Lord? I can honestly say I have rarely prayed harder than I do when I pray for guidance to be kinder and more filled with charity towards my wife. Part of my earthly mission is to follow the example of the Savior and to increase my capacity for kindness, charity, sacrifice, forgiveness, patience. Being married is a very specific kind of classroom that allows me to learn these lessons like no other classroom can.
Another part of my earthly mission is to learn from hardships and to accept blessings—especially the ones that are unexpected. After initially coming out some of my family and friends had a difficult time understanding why I was making the choices I made. A number of hurtful and judgmental comments were made. Two friends stopped having any contact with me. A couple of others expressed verbally and in writing disdain with my obvious lack of faith. Though I admit it was all pretty minor compared to what some gay Mormons experience, it was nonetheless, very painful for me, and sometimes still is. I guess you could say those are some of the hardships of my mission. All those experiences did and still do require that I humble myself before the Lord to seek for peace in my heart and love for those who judge me.
There have also been little miracles. One of my sisters told me she felt peace after hearing my story. Miracle. My visiting teachers have genuinely and sincerely sought to understand my experiences and choices. They have expressed incredible friendship and love. They threw me a bridal shower that was attended by several women in my ward. Miracle. Part of my earthly mission is to be in community with others, to love and support them as they love and support me. I have had the opportunity to meet several other gay Mormons who have had almost identical spiritual experiences where the Lord has blessed them to know they are loved by Him and that they should pursue the righteous desires of their hearts including being in loving same sex relationships. At just the time when I prayed for courage and resilience, being able to meet them and hear their similar stories provided the lift and strength I needed. Miracle.
Every day I kneel before the Lord and ask to better understand my earthly mission. Every day I ask Him to guide and direct me. Every day I ask Him to teach me and lead me in my life, in my marriage, in my work. As I do my best to follow His promptings I sometimes fail and I sometimes succeed. Mainly I just try to do better than the day before.
Someday, when this life is over I will return to my heavenly home. I imagine myself giving a report to my Heavenly Parents about my earthly mission. My report will include the challenges, the miracles, the experiences of faith, love, joy, and sadness. And I hope in the end, through all the ups and downs, good and bad, I will have become more like my Heavenly Parents, filled with more capacity to love everyone. I hope to be able to say I faithfully fulfilled my earthly mission and that many people, including myself, were greatly blessed because of it.