Recently, I wrote about my struggles as a gay man in the Church. There, like everywhere, my LGBTQ friends and I have received numerous pieces of repetitive advice.
Until we consider the real implications of our statements, actions, and policies, we are not prepared to minister to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
“Please stay and worship with us”
Many of my friends and I desperately want to worship with our Mormon brothers and sisters because we love the gospel. But an invitation to worship rings hollow when our “core characteristic”  has been officially labeled a “satanic perversion”  and desires “counterfeit.” It is spoken from the pulpit often. For example: Recently during sacrament meeting I invited a non-member gay friend to church. A Utah mission president was giving a talk. In it, he declared that the election of a non-member lesbian mayor of Salt Lake City was an example of “secret and abominable things happening in the very heart of Zion.” Do you think that my friend ever wanted to come back?
This negative messaging happens regularly to our LGBTQ youth both in church and in seminary. “You can certainly come on the youth trip – if you sleep in a tent all by yourself.”  “The brethren have definitively declared that ‘same-gender attraction’ is not biological in origin.”  “We can’t invite your son to that activity – how can we protect our kids from getting attacked?”  Of course they stop attending before adulthood. It’s why even apostles admit that this church may not be safe. 
“Your situation is no different than the singles within the church.”
A friend stated succinctly: “Single people may pray every night to find someone to love. Celibate gay people pray every night NOT to find love.” Imagine that every time in your life you had a childhood crush, an innocent teenage flirtation, or even any desire to have a fulfilling relationship as an adult, you had to bury it down with feelings of shame and disgust.
There is a world of difference between not having a partner now, and being told that you are fundamentally flawed and broken because even your inherent desire to ever have a partner is evil. To stay fully within the church, I must voluntarily turn down honorable individuals who would be good companions – so that I can eat dinner alone for the rest of my life. I have been explicitly told by a general authority that “If I keep my covenants, that on the morning of the first resurrection I will fall deeply in love with the first single sister that I see.” I’m essentially told I’m a replaceable variable in an eternal equation, acceptable just as long as the parts fit together in officially sanctioned ways.
That can’t be true, can it? Does earnest love, commitment, service, devotion, and fidelity truly not sanctify when between two individuals with Y chromosomes? Are gay dudes just shellfish while God observes kosher? “Thou shalt not partake” even when they look really good coming out of the ocean? 
“Follow Elder Oaks’s counsel- stop considering your ‘attraction’ to be the defining fact of your existence.”
The Proclamation on the Family is central to Mormon discourse. Families in mortality and eternity are defined as the reason for our heterosexual existence. Homes and workplaces and churches are filled with pictures and conversations and lessons about families. How can I NOT persistently ponder my status? Until leaders and members conceptualize “same-gender attraction” in the same terms as their own feelings towards spouses and family, there will be a continual disconnect.
“Increase your testimony, stop thinking about it and just follow your leaders.“
Local and general authorities are earnest. But on LGBTQ issues, they have explicitly and continually taught the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. They solemnly proclaim each iteration to be the word of the Lord and encourage strict obedience. But quietly, they admit they simply don’t know what to do and concede there is very little hope.  Each “prophetic” statement implying knowledge and direction on God’s LGBTQ children cedes credibility and lessens trust. All this tells me is that our leaders are operating under lesser light and knowledge and true revelation is needed.
President Spencer W Kimball movingly described the process of seeking needed revelation. ”Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired…most revelations come when a man is on his tiptoes, reaching as high as he can for something which he knows he needs, and then there burst upon him the answer to his problems.”  On answers to LGBTQ questions, is the Church reaching upwards or fearfully grasping backwards?
The disconnected between current Church position and the lived LGTBQ experience reminds me of Captain Moroni and Pahoran. Captain Moroni was a righteous leader, a “strong and a mighty man…a man of a perfect understanding.”  During a time of devastating wars (Alma 59-61), Moroni condemns the governor Pahoran and forcefully calls him to repentance. In his response, Pahoran kindly corrects Moroni, who, while exceptionally righteous and had the spirit of revelation and prophecy (3 Ne 3:19), was far removed and speaking from emotional prejudice based on limited knowledge. Moroni did not receive truth until he actively (albeit inadvertently) sought it directly from the source, then listened and changed.
We need to ask more questions. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?…if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit.” 
My Testimony: I will go and do
As a gay man in the Church, I hold on to what I DO know.  During my missionary service and beyond, I saw that obedience to inherently good principles brought practical benefits. I know that a marital relationship in earnest is one of the great, if not greatest, mechanisms of love and learning in this life. I know that honest love and “concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion” is sanctifying and decreases the selfish impulses of the natural man.   I know that I will eventually have to stand before God and explain the actions of my life based on what I know, and that I won’t be able to outsource my conscience or choices to a conference talk, Ensign article, or policy. I will be directly asked “With what you knew, what did you do to help others?”
While writing this piece, a insistent impression has filled my mind, giving new meaning to a well-known exhortation: “You cannot rely on the testimony of others.” While difficult, and sometimes terrifying, I must seek for further light and knowledge in humility…and individually.
I am doing my best to follow this testimony and align myself with the will of the Lord. Right now, operating from love includes being open to an honorable male partner in my life. I will fill my life with fellowship and service to those around me. I will try to emulate Pahoran’s example to not operate from frustration, fear, or anger, but as President Uchtdorf encouraged, to operate from love. 
I will battle the persistent thoughts that a plan of happiness in mortality that by design doesn’t include “the least of these” is no plan at all. I will fight the feelings of cognitive dissonance after temple worship. I will fight the desire to die and achieve a terminal resolution. President Hugh B Brown consistently felt that “religion should help us here and now; that we should not have to wait until after we are dead to get any benefits.”  I will continue to daily seek for the voice of the Lord in the scriptures, to search, ponder, and pray. I will highlight the best of the church while kindly correcting instances of limited understanding and prejudice. And I will continue to attend church, wearing my colorful socks.
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This In My Own Words story is a contribution from Let’s Love Better, a Facebook group dedicated to helping people learn to better share love, while fostering an atmosphere of understanding. When we know better, we do better.
 Church Public Affairs Interview with Dallin H Oaks and Lance B Wickman, August 2006
 Spencer W Kimball, Acting Presiding Apostle “New Horizons for Homosexuals”, church-published pamphlet, 1971
 April 30, 2017, 11:45 AM. YSA Ward in Salt Lake City. Mission President name withheld.
 Conversations with many parents of LGBTQ teens. One example of many. This still happens currently, and directly relates to pervasive misconceptions as well as ineffective (or non-existent) top-down leadership directives on LGTBQ youth.
 My CES full-time seminary teacher AND my CES full-time institute director at a university- just a few years ago AND personal priesthood leaders, even today. There is a larger discussion here relating to current CES messaging that is often contrary to the official positions of the church.
 Mormon Stories, Interview with parents Meg and Jake Abhau, April 25, 2017.
“You Knew What I Was.” By Common Consent. Comments by Kristine, 9:45 am, and Rexicorn, 9:56 am, April 16, 2018
 Very much yes. If you like James Bond. Or British blondes. Or Freedom.
 Spencer W Kimball, Letter to Edward L Kimball, March 11, 1963, quoted in Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball. Edward L Kimball. Deseret Book. Salt Lake City. 2005.
 Captain Moroni should get tons of royalties….
 Dieter F Uchtdorf “Acting on the Truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” Leadership Training Broadcast. February 11, 2012.
 Jeffrey R Holland “Lord, I Believe” General Conference Sunday Afternoon Session April 2013
 Gordon B Hinckley “What God Hath Joined Together” General Conference Sunday Morning Session April 1991
 Ezra Taft Benson “Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships” General Conference Sunday Morning Session October 1982
 Dieter F Uchtdorf “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear” General Conference Sunday Morning Session, April 2017
 Hugh B Brown An Abundant Life. 2nd Ed. Signature Books. Salt Lake City, 1999. P 136.