By Sam Beach
I joined the church originally when I was 18 years old. I was raised by an atheist and an agnostic. I was taught there was no God and religion was a waste of time. My dad was an abusive alcoholic. In an effort to avoid him, I began attending a Bible study after school on Mondays during my senior year of high school. Soon I was invited to attend church on Sundays with a friend who was Mormon. I agreed. I didn’t know what the Mormon church was. I had never heard of it. All I wanted was to be away from my dad. I attended for several months, took the lessons and eventually was baptized. My parents refused to attend my baptism. I was a member of the church for 2 months before I went inactive. I went to a charismatic church for a couple of years and then went to a Lutheran church. I didn’t think about the Mormon church. I was inactive during the whole Prop 8 thing. I remember feeling angry at the church briefly for it.
I guess some retrospect is needed. I knew when I was 9 years old that I was a boy. I knew by 12 that I liked girls. I didn’t realize until I was a teenager that the world really did just see me as a girl. I didn’t realize that if I was a girl, and I liked girls that made me gay. I saw myself as a straight boy. When I was 18 and joined the church I didn’t really consider my orientation or identify. I did however know that 3rd hour was uncomfortable for me. I hated Relief Society. I didn’t belong there. When I left the church that was my relief. I didn’t have to wear a skirt or pretend to be anything.
On February 19, 2006, my little brother died. He was hit and killed by a man driving an SUV while my brother rode his bike home from work. He was the only blood family I had that I loved and who loved me fully. We were best friends. He was my only sibling. His death, while it nearly destroyed me, brought back to the church. When he died I had questions and I was angry at God. I needed to know why God allowed it to happen, why we were here, what was our purpose. I asked the pastor of my Lutheran church and he told me ‘You will find out when you die’ or ‘Ask God when you get to Heaven’. Neither answer was sufficient. I finally got answers from my manager at the McDonalds I worked at. He was a family friend and out of anguish one day I asked him my questions and he could give me answers that brought me peace. He went to his car, and retrieved his copy of the Book of Mormon that he had used when he was in seminary. He handed it to me and told me to read. So I took it home and read it. I found peace in that Book. Peace I hadn’t known in quite a while. Peace that saved my life.
Three years later, in August of 2009, I returned to the church. Shortly after, I came out as at first bisexual and then as gay. I was accepted. I found acceptance in the small ward I was in in Florida at the time. I found they loved me regardless. I moved back to Rochester in 2014. I was accepted, loved, welcomed. I was supported. I was given a calling and included. In November of 2014, I finally came out to my bishopric and told them I identify as male. It took time, prayer, and persistence. But in March of 2015, my Ward Counsel voted and decided to allow me to attend Elder’s Quorum. They recognized the pain caused by trying to force me to attend Relief Society. Now every week I have a class for all 3 hours. I am welcome in all of them. My ward does not call me Sister because they know it bothers me. I am grateful for my ward, for my membership in the Church and for Jesus Christ.