My name is Wagner Silveira Santos, I’m 29 years old and a member of the Mormon Church since 10 years ago. I live in Vitória da Conquista in Bahia.
I had been involved with men before becoming a member of the church. I was in denial. I didn’t accept myself as I was, so I lived in constant conflict with myself. I wanted to change and to not do things that were wrong for me. So, I met the missionaries, got the lessons. I wished from the bottom of my heart to change my life. I read the Book of Mormon and, after a long time, received an answer to my prayers about it.
It was not easy for the missionaries to baptize me. This was a disappointment. I was born and raised in an evangelical home, and it all cause a lot of confusion within me.
My family did not want me to be baptized. The said the Mormon Church was a cult. I decided to be baptized anyway. I was looking for a change in my life. I craved it. I had prayed and received an answer, so I did what my heart told me to do. I was baptized without them there.
For some reason, I had decided not to tell the missionaries during my baptism interview that I had been involved in homosexual relationships. I didn’t feel bad about it. I did not feel like a sinner. To the contrary, the feeling immediately after being baptized was wonderful. It was an incredible experience, like nothing I had ever experienced before in my life.
At that moment, I knew what I was doing was right. The most incredible thing was that I did not feel like I was attracted to men. I thought, “My God! I’m healed. I’m free.” I felt pure, clean, and without sin.
But everything was not a bed of roses in my life…
Everything began to change when I decided to submit my mission papers. I felt ready. I felt ready because I felt like someone else. It was not like before, because before my sexual orientation was controlling me.
It was not immediate, but the joy I had felt was gradually fading. Again I found myself thinking of men.
Anyone serving a mission must go through an interview, starting with their bishop. I went through the interview with my bishop at that time and everything was going well until he asked me if I had ever had a homosexual relationship. I said no. I felt so bad about not telling the truth. I wanted to serve a mission, and I wanted to do so clean and pure with nothing to worry about.
Then, in a second interview, I decided to speak up about the truth. The bishop asked me if it had been a long time since I had been in a relationship with men. I told him it had been, long before he baptized me. After, he said, “Wagner, you’re not going on a mission.” This was a tremendous shock for me. Everything was in turmoil for me. I went through another interview and was placed on probation. Worse, I could not take the sacrament during that time, or do other things at church. Still, I stayed firm in my faith and in the church.
However, everything changed at church. People were looking at me differently as if I had done something really wrong. I was accused of being a pedophile, which was like a stan through the heard because I had always loved the children. I even helped members of the ward with caring for their children. It didn’t make any sense because I had a lot of love for this family.
This episode never left my mind. It marked my life because I had never suffered such bias before.
I left the church after that. I was away for two years before I came back. The members convinced me to come back, so I did. There remained an existential conflict in my life as I struggled with my homosexuality. I struggled constantly to keep myself steady. I went through a disciplinary council again, and I was disfellowshipped for almost a year. I wanted to change. I did not give up. I wanted to win this battle. Eventually, I was returned to full fellowship and was given a calling as Sunday school president. I taught in seminary, institute, and primary. I also tried to submit my mission papers again, because I felt once more prepared to serve a full-time mission.
Once again, everything went downhill. My bishop approved me for missionary service, and then I went to interview with the stake president. He said he would send in my papers. I was so happy because I thought the time had come for me to serve as a missionary. Then, the stake president called me to a second interview to tell me that it would be better for me to serve in the church locally. He said he had prayed about it and felt he should not send my mission papers in. I wouldn’t be receiving a mission call.
Again I was disappointed with everything. I was trying to do the right things, preparing myself for this special time in my life to serve a mission. After my conversation with the stake president, I felt alone without any foundation. I left the church again but later came back because of my love for the gospel. I felt called back to church.
My return to the church was different than before. I felt empty, alone, and without any support. Sometimes I felt depressed and had suicidal thoughts. I felt like all of this had only one end. That’s when I sought the help of a professional who was able to help me. I was finally able to understand who I am and accept myself.
Today, I am a determined person. My mother supports me. I no longer attend church regularly. I live my life.
Today, I want to be able to help those like me who feel prejudiced and don’t have the support they need to be who they really are in life.