The Paradox of Being Gay and Mormon
I prayed and prayed to not be gay — but I am. Now I realize the church was wrong.
In 2012, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — finally feeling the pressure — launched a website to reach out to those in its flock who might feel “same-sex attraction.” The original URL was MormonsAndGays.org. Note the semantics there: “Mormons” and “gays.” Two groups. At war. The site was an attempt at rapprochement. (In response to much pushback, the church has since updated it to MormonAndGay.org — though the old URL functions as a redirect, and the content itself remains mostly the same.)
At least the Church was trying something. The site was a jumble of “authentic accounts” of “real Mormons” who “experienced” same-sex attraction. All admitted feeling torn between faith and carnal impulse, but all towed the Church’s line: They were faithful, celibate Latter-day Saints holding out in hope and faith for further light, while apostles intoned with genuine sympathy that doctrine was immutable.
At the time, I was 23. I’d just returned to South Africa from Minnesota, where I served in a full-time proselytizing mission for the church, and was trying to navigate feelings that were yanking me all over an emotional minefield. I had long admitted to myself that I was gay. (Well, I didn’t use that term. It felt too political. I preferred “same-sex attraction.” It was more passive; something that happened to me without my consent.)
My mission had made me more orthodox and zealous in my faith, and I genuinely loved it. Mormonism was a feeling that pervaded my experience and connected me to the divine in tangible ways. I felt the presence of the Spirit in my life. I felt led. I had real purpose. I felt sincerely happy.
But still, I felt an uncomfortable tug from the awareness that my life was not pure, that it was sullied by these urges. I wanted a family. I wanted love. I wanted to be in love. But I couldn’t have that. I believed that, for whatever reason, God had chosen to give me this trial (Abrahamic in scope) and my lot was to shut up, keep the faith, be celibate, and await the cure in the afterlife. It was God’s will.
MormonsAndGays.org was a salve to the itching fear that my sexuality would…