My name is Joann. I am from, and live in Taiwan. Since I came to terms with my sexuality this year, it has been a freeing experience but at the same time I started to struggle with church. I felt betrayed by the church’s teaching. I felt that my faith fails me because I was always taught to “overcome” this “trial”. I thought even if my sexuality didn’t change, the atonement will strengthen me and makes me a better and happy person. But it didn’t. After struggling for almost 20 years, I didn’t get better but started to get worse and have suicide thoughts, I knew there’s something wrong.
When I realized Heavenly Father wants me to accept myself as who I am, I felt free and empowered. But then I got angry with the church and leaders. Why would they teach me something that actually hurts for so long? All these years’ struggling, I blame it to them. I got bitter at church when I heard some testimonies. “Really you called that sacrifice? You called that a trial? You have no idea…”
I wanted to rebuild my life. I don’t want to be a sore loser. But no matter how hard I try, how much I tell myself to be positive and pray to be happy, there seems to be something missing and I fall back to depression all the time. (I testify homosexuality is not just about attraction, it’s about survival.)
Last week I thought about an article I read from Liahona a long time ago. It talks about healing from sexual abuse. (April 2017 read the article here) I read it again and found a lot of similarities to my situation. Here’s one paragraph that said,
“Hannah (name has been changed) experienced sexual abuse early in her childhood. Like other victims, she grew up feeling like she was a terrible person who had no worth. She spent most of her life trying to serve others enough to make up for her feelings of not being “good enough” for Heavenly Father or anyone else to love. In her relationships, she feared that if anyone truly knew her, they would think she was as awful as she believed she was. She experienced an intense fear of rejection that led to being afraid of trying new things in life or doing simple tasks like calling someone on the phone. She was blessed with a talent for artwork but gave up on it for fear of not being able to handle criticism.
For over 50 years her feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, fear, anger, confusion, shame, loneliness, and isolation guided her daily decisions.”
I thought to myself, what she felt is exactly what I felt most of my time growing up! But the difference is that I was not abused by someone, I was actually abused by the church teaching on homosexuality. Yes, the church speaks of love. But in reality, what they teach made me feel I’m not worthy of love. I was shocked and almost couldn’t believe I was actually abused…and by church.
Here’s another paragraph that talks about healing.
“The idea of forgiving is often difficult for victims of abuse to hear and is often misunderstood. If they think of forgiveness as letting the abuser off the hook or saying that what they did doesn’t matter anymore, the victim won’t feel validated. While we are commanded to forgive (see D&C 64:10), in situations where the harm is deep, healing typically must begin before the victim can fully forgive the abuser.”
I realize I need to be healed from the hurt I got from church. I need to be healed so I won’t be sour or bitter. Eventually I need to forgive the church. I changed my prayer and pray to be healed so that I can forgive. When I did that, I felt so much peace. I feel new strength coming from me. I feel less bitter. A missionary experience actually helps me to understand better about my relationship with church.
I had a very hard time with one of my companions. I thought she’s so hard to be around and most of the time I was just tolerating her. If I could have done better, I wish I could be more patient with her, listen to her and really try to help her instead of thinking her slowing down the missionary work. I realize even though we have such huge difference, I need her testimonies when we teach and she need mine. We couldn’t achieve the success we had without each other.
That’s how I understand my relationship with church now. For the past few months I was just tolerating church. I got triggered a lot. But I need to realize church is just like my companion, who has flaws like me. I love when Susie talked the about church as an institute that needs atonement and repentance. It just resonates with what I feel about needing to forgive the church.
Now I feel more hope. I feel that I’m being healed and I’m forgiving church now. I might still get hurt in the future, but I know I’ll just treat that as my companion, who I need to be patient with. I know I need my companion just like I need church. I hold onto things that helps me (right now my favorite part is personal revelation!). As I come to this realization, I feel that my attempt to rebuild my life is finally working! Negative, sour feelings about church is replaced with peace. I have more faith in Heavenly Father’s promised blessings for me, including being with my dream girl sometime in the future or next life! I figure that even if it’s in the next life, it already gives me a hope for a “better world.” And if we are eternal beings, I believe that I’m actually already deeply loved by someone now that I haven’t met! Just thinking of that makes my heart explodes with happiness!
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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.