The day I was released as bishop was bittersweet. I loved serving the members of my ward, and had spent six and a half years total in the bishopric. In that calling, I learned so much about Christ’s invitation to lay our burdens and pains at his feet and to allow him to succor us in our afflictions and life experiences. I had no idea how much I still had to learn about doing that myself.

A few months later, I discovered a website that would change how I understood the power of the role the atonement could play in helping me face my own challenges. Voice(s) of Hope features the stories of individuals, parents, and church leaders whose lives are touched by the issue of same-sex attraction. Never before had I heard such sincere and heartfelt testimonies of the Savior from people who were facing unimaginable life experiences. Never before had I considered the possibility of addressing my own experience with same-sex attraction, yet here were stories of Latter-day Saints experiencing the same things.

“Christians can’t be gay,” I’d convinced myself. I’d known from an early age, through adolescence, through converting to the LDS faith, serving a mission, marrying in the temple, and having a family that there was this deep part of me I’d resolved to take to my grave. The shame I felt for being gay drove me to keep it a secret from everyone in my life. I never expected I would I tell another person.

A few days after finding Voice(s) of Hope, I told my wife of 15 years (at the time). Her first response was, “I’m so sorry you’ve had to carry this hurt by yourself for your entire life.” My new bishop and stake president said similar things after disclosing to them. Two months later I found myself on a panel at a conference in Provo for those interested in the junction of faith and feelings put on by North Star International, the organization that produces the Voice(s) of Hope video and essay project. Next to telling my wife I experienced same-sex attraction, telling my story in a public setting was perhaps the hardest and most vulnerable thing I’d ever done.

Fast-forward a few years, and I am looking forward to attending my third North Star Conference where my wife and I have met others whose life stories resemble ours. The conference is a place where we have felt the Savior’s love for His children so strongly and has helped us come to a greater appreciation for those who are gay or transgender. On Saturday, March 18, church leaders can attend the morning session at no cost. Ally Isom is the keynote speaker that morning, and she will be sharing her experience in managing the team that developed the Church’s new website MormonandGay.LDS.org. There will be a session introducing the topics of same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria for church leaders as well as a panel moderated by Kurt Francom of Leading Saints. Details and registration at Conference.NorthStarLDS.org/Church-Leaders.

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