As LGBTQ+ Mormons, we are forced to seek out our own truths and make decisions about our faith and our lives that most Latter-day Saints do not have to make. The light and knowledge that we gain along the way may not lead us to take the same path, but perhaps the destination is the same.
By Joel McDonald
The topic at the last Affirmation Spiritual Gathering was “light.” Those in attendance shared what brings light into their lives. We discussed how to bring light to others. We took time to reflect on the topic and on the words shared. It was an uplifting time with likeminded people who share similar trials. I always enjoy these monthly online gatherings. If you haven’t yet attended, I encourage you to take part.
Since that gathering, I’ve been thinking about light in my life. Over the past year, I have asked often in prayer for direction. The last couple years have been a time of personal and professional change. I have come to terms with failure, and I have taken advantage of opportunities. I, like so many who take part in Affirmation, also struggle with my faith and my relationship with the church. I have many questions about all these things. I have been seeking for light.
The first verse of Lead Kindly Light often comes to mind. It goes:
“Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.”
As we sing these six lines, we recognize the trials we face and our dependency on God. We also express our humility. We recognize that we do not need to know all solutions to all our problems. We recognize that we do not need to know all the answers to all our questions. We only ask to know enough to take the next step in our lives. By the end of the spiritual gathering, I realized how true this is for LGBTQ+ Mormons.
Finding Our Own Light
As LGBTQ+ Mormons, we exist in a place of conflict. There is a Plan of Salvation that we understand will lead any faithful man or woman back to the presence of God. It is a simple, well-defined, plan. I have fond memories of drawing it out on poster paper while teaching the plan as a missionary. While every person faces their own trials, the plan includes a way to overcome those trials. Understanding the plan helps many to live happy and healthy lives. Many refer to this plan as the Plan of Happiness. Unfortunately, for LGBTQ+ Mormons the plan isn’t so simple. For many of us, the plan even causes unhappiness.
The LDS Church no longer believes that being gay, lesbian, or bisexual is a choice. Yet, the plan taught has not changed. We have seen some positive change. But, this is little comfort to LGBTQ+ Mormons. The church still teaches them that they must deny their attractions and identities. For most Latter-day Saints, marriage and family are at the core of their faith and happiness. The church asks LGB members to deny themselves this same type of happiness. This forces us to make hard decisions. Sometimes we end up having to choose between our faith and living honest and happy lives. Some choose celibacy. Some opt to enter into mixed-orientation marriages. Some are unable to remain members of the church but continue to attend. Some find they have to walk away from the church completely. There are many paths that we take, but all these paths begin with not knowing where we fit into the plan.
This not knowing where we fit into the plan forces us to seek our own truths as individuals. We have to determine the best path for our physical, spiritual, and mental well-being. We have to gain our own light and knowledge. We must allow our truths to light our own paths, and the truths of others to light theirs.
Fear and Faith
Move Forward with Faith was the last lesson of the year in Priesthood and Relief Society. The lesson focused on overcoming fear with faith. Within the chapter was a story from President Hinckley:
“Long ago I worked for one of our railroads whose tracks threaded the passes through [the] mountains. I frequently rode the trains. It was in the days when there were steam locomotives. Those great monsters of the rails were huge and fast and dangerous. I often wondered how the engineer dared the long journey through the night. Then I came to realize that it was not one long journey, but rather a constant continuation of a short journey. The engine had a powerful headlight that made bright the way for a distance of 400 or 500 yards. The engineer saw only that distance, and that was enough because it was constantly before him all through the night into the dawn of the new day.”
As LGBTQ+ Mormons, we face a lot of uncertainty. Many of us face varying degrees of fear. There are many things which we have to decide for ourselves. We may overcome those fears with faith. The plan for us is not as simple or well-defined as it is for everyone else. I don’t believe this means we are any less loved by our Heavenly Father. I believe He still desires for us to return to Him and receive all that he has in store for us. We may not be able to see the entire journey. But, if we seek the light enough to take one step forward, to move through the darkness of our uncertainties, I believe we’ll get to where we need to be.
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