I believe we are born with great potential to receive love and give love. And even with the best intentions from family, friends, and ourselves, we can be wounded in these relationships. In my story of being a gay Mormon, these unattended wounds for so many years hindered my ability to give and receive love with family, friends, God, and, most importantly, myself.

I was raised on an Idaho family farm as the middle child of seven kids. I have incredible memories of working alongside my dad on the farm and watching him unselfishly serve others and strangers. As a teenager, I often became annoyed at his kindness and would selfishly say, “Let them change their own flat tire. We have work to do.”

I had the most beautiful mother, a very classy woman by any standard. But her ability to give love and receive love was greatly hindered by her bipolar disorder. As a child, I watched my mother’s goodness and motherly qualities suffocate as she desperately fought for a healthy thought process and behavior. Over time her behavior became more extreme, and I didn’t know if she was going to be kind that day or throw things violently.

My middle- to high-school years were very difficult as I tried to understand my gay feelings on my own.

In fact, I couldn’t even admit to myself these attractions even though I was looking at gay pornography starting at age 12.

In school I was an easy target for teasing and was oftentimes called “gay” or “faggot.” I felt I was well liked by the other kids, but it’s sad how a few mean comments can destroy a young person’s confidence, which can take years to rebuild. I tried my best back then to stay positive and laugh things off, but unseen pain and loneliness can slowly erode one’s sense of worth.

When I started my freshman year in college, I changed my major from accounting to agriculture because I thought, “People won’t think I’m gay if I’m in a more masculine major.”

It’s crazy to think I would change a career based on if I looked more masculine or less gay.

My roommates that first year of college were my springboard in regaining confidence in myself and making friends with other guys. They, too, were agriculture majors, and we had an awesome time being farm kids at college.

I cringe to think how up and down I was emotionally with these roommates. They had every reason to exclude me from their friendship because I took offense easily and didn’t have the confidence to add to the friendship. But they loved me anyway. They included me in their activities, and when they knew I was having a bad day, they often would doggy-pile on me and make sure I was “one of the guys.”

I served a mission in Taiwan and loved it. It was just God, the mission experience, and me. And a month before I was to return home, I could finally admit to myself my gay attractions, and I made the decision that when I returned home, I would talk to my bishop.

I hit the ground running after my mission. I started dating girls and received great counsel and compassion from my bishop about my attractions and love life. But life became more difficult when my mother committed suicide, and I struggled to find employment due to the economic downturn. My gay attractions were becoming more difficult to understand and deal with.

Life kicked me in the gut, so I began to explore my homosexuality by dating men.

For the first time I understood why heterosexual couples fell in love and what that actually felt like.

But deep down, spiritually, I felt God wanted something different for me.

So I started the repentance process, and Church discipline followed. It was through these events that I realized I was blissfully unaware of how limited my happiness was. It was limited for two reasons: my inability to give and receive love, and my disobedience to God’s will. Life took on new meaning when I discovered a better way to live the gospel.

First I needed to learn why and how God loved me. And I needed to learn why and how I should love God. I believed God loved me, but I needed to feel it from Him. So each day for months, I walked to the middle of a grain field, studied the love of God, and then prayed. I didn’t worry so much about prayer etiquette, but I talked with God as if I was talking with a friend.

Gradually, God began pouring out His love upon me in that field. I began to understand why He loves me, and I actually felt it.

The knowledge that God loved me completely, regardless of my mistakes or weaknesses, was so healing.

And as I continue to try to be like Him, however small the changes, the greater access I have to God’s love.

I also needed to learn to love myself. I had wounds in my life, caused by others or by my own actions, that seemed to tell me I wasn’t worthy of love. Feeling God’s love for me was the foundation for letting me love myself. If God could love me with my shortcomings and sins, surely I could learn to love myself. God opened my soul to see the goodness and potential within me.

Confidence came through the help of therapy, guidance from God, and doing hard things. And this earned confidence gave me permission to love myself.

I also had to let close friends and family completely see me and love me. I had to let these people into the darkest places of my life that I vowed to take to my grave. But my healing needed them to see these wounds, fears, and insecurities and yet still love me. Yes, I was worried I’d be rejected, but God put people in my life who could love the good and ugly parts of me.

Once, after my dad gave me a father’s blessing regarding understanding my homosexuality, I embraced him and while crying said,

“Dad, I need this from you. I need you to hug me more often. I need you to tell me that you love me more often.”

It was so scary to let my dad see that side of me and to acknowledge what I needed from him. But that single moment held such healing properties and greatly strengthened our relationship.

Letting people see me as I really am and allowing them to love me increases my capacity to receive love and give love.

As I began to be more obedient to God’s will, He also enlarged my capacity to give love and receive love. Through several sacred experiences with Deity, I learned that a relationship with a man was not God’s will for me in this life.

So this begs the question, now what? Am I doomed to live a life of misery and loneliness as I try to live a celibate life? Is my choice to remain single and try to be celibate emotionally or mentally healthy, or even possible? Here are my three responses to that:

  1. Through intimate experiences with God, I know I am to stay in His gospel in the Mormon Church. And that includes keeping the commandments found therein. God hasn’t shown me what my life will look like in 5 or 20 years from now. He’s only shown me what it must look like today.
  2. For me, there were pros and cons to either entering a gay relationship or living a celibate life. I know I’m foregoing certain benefits by choosing not to enter into a gay relationship. However, there are aspects of joy and peace that come because I am trying to live God’s will that I didn’t feel while in those gay relationships.
  3. I can have a fulfilling daily life when my daily activity is founded upon talking with God, learning and applying gospel doctrines and principles, and following spiritual promptings throughout the day.

Trying to live a single, celibate life as a gay member in the Mormon Church is difficult. There are sacrifices made, lonely nights felt, and sorrow that the eye cannot see.

But God has blessed me with moments where I emphatically say I am here to stay the course.