By Ellen Koester (also published at her blog http://the-noncommittal-philanthropist.blogspot.com/)
In December 2011, I was at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple doing baptisms. It’s one of my favorite temples in the valley, and it was here, during its open house before its dedication, that I first gained my testimony of the temple. Naturally, it holds a near and dear place in my heart. I was sitting in the area where you wait your turn to go into the font. There were a lot of people there that day… I think it was a Saturday, so I had a while to wait. So I decided to do some praying.
At this time in my life… my mission call had been rescinded only a few months ago. I had moved into a new ward, and I had been given a new temple recommend. I should have been on top of the world, but was instead in a really dark place. The only thing I ever seemed to pray about was my sexual orientation… I swear I had worn out the carpet in my bedroom from pacing and kneeling. And until this day in the temple, I had only prayed for God to take away my attractions for women, because I didn’t want them. I took to heart Elder Packer’s words from his October 2010 General Conference talk “Cleansing the Inner Vessel”, “Some suppose that they were preset, and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father.” (this is the exact transcript from the talk given during General Conference. You can watch the talk, and read the edited talk here.) Because of this talk, I believed that my attractions were somehow a choice… and that somewhere in my soul there was a switch that I could flip, so that my attractions would change, and that I could become sexually attracted to men, instead of women. Sometimes, I would switch my wording, thinking that that would solicit a different answer. I would ask God to give me attractions to just one man. Just one man, and he would be attracted to me, and I to him, and then we could get married, and I would finally be “normal”.
That’s how I prayed. It’s almost masochistic. And every time, I felt the same feeling. Cold. Miserable. Empty. I couldn’t understand why. So that day, when I was praying in the temple, I threw up my hands, in quiet desperation, and instead asked like this, “God… is it ok for me to be a lesbian?” And immediately after those words left my “mouth” I had an overwhelming feeling of warmth. Comfort. Assurance. Love. The feeling was identical to the feeling that I had when I first prayed about the Book of Mormon. I was stunned. There was no other emotion. So I asked again, mostly to confirm that I had heard the Spirit correctly. I got the same thing. So I went out on a limb and asked, “God, do you want me to be celibate? Do you want me to be alone?” No. A very clear no. But the Spirit continued… it testified, clear as day, that I needed to get married. That I needed to prepare to have a wife, and to have a family.
That day, I received a testimony of personal revelation. I didn’t really believe that the average, everyday person could receive revelation from God through the Spirit. But that day, I gained a testimony. But more importantly, I received a testimony that I am created just the way I’m supposed to be. That God created me in His image (or should I say in Heavenly Mother’s image… but my feminism is for another day). That revelation saved my life.
I want to make it very clear, that I am not claiming to receive revelation for the Church as a whole. No way. That power lies with Thomas S. Monson, the Prophet and President of the Church, and in him alone. But, I do believe that God gave me this piece of personal revelation, because He knew that I needed it. So that I wouldn’t leave the Church in frustration (which I had seriously considered). And so I wouldn’t feel the need to take my own life. Because for a while, I genuinely thought that it would be more pleasing to God, to have me dead in a box in the ground, with my virtue still intact, than to continue in this life living dishonorably, and unworthily. Because I still believed, that regardless if I stayed chaste and celibate in my life, I would still be considered less worthy than the straight, married woman with 5 kids, at the day of Judgement.
I’m not alone in my thinking. While I am no longer in that state of mind, because I have finally come to accept myself for who I am, there are countless young LGBT Mormons who are going through this line of thinking. Too high of a percentage of them end up attempting to take their own lives, and too many of them succeed. We are losing my generation of Mormons, because they believe that they have no place in this Church… they believe that God would love them more if they died, instead of living a full and meaningful life.
I want to make a difference in the Church. I want to make a difference in my community. I want to help. I want to be a resource of Christ-like love, and acceptance. Because the only “tolerance trap” that exists on this earth, is to believe that people only deserve our “at arms reach” tolerance. People deserve so much more. You deserve it. I deserve it. Your sons and daughters, deserve it. Your brothers and sisters deserve it. The young woman in your ward, the neighbors down the street, the kid in your history class… they all deserve it.
Love one another. Treat others as you want to be treated. These are principles that every person, from any faith or walk of life can embrace.
Ellen Koester is a university student studying political science and communications. Born in DEfiance Ohio, she converted to the LDS Church after moving to Utah. She finds peace and comfort in the Gospel, but struggles to find her place in the Church at large.