Ask Mormon Girl: I’m an out gay Mormon serving a mission, and I need help.

Just over a year ago, I stood at the back of the first-ever Mormon temple in Kirtland, Ohio, and witnessed a choir of gay Mormons sing “How Firm a Foundation” with a grace and power that would make the Mormon tears roll down your face.  And next to me stood a young gay Mormon man, nineteen and red-headed and freckle-faced, who’d travelled across the ocean from Europe, just to be in the company of other gay Mormons.  Just to be understood.  And as tears rolled down his freckled face (of course), he asked me: “If they could see us”—they being, I don’t know who, perhaps Church leaders?—“don’t you think they’d change their minds about us?”

I didn’t have a good answer for that.  But I fell in love with him (of course) the way forty year-old Mormon feminists can’t help but fall in love with nineteen year-old gay Mormon men who are preparing to serve their missions.  And I’ve been writing to him from time to time, as his friend and sister Mormon.  Which is what we do for one another.

This week he sent something of an SOS:

I’m not doing so well. I’m struggling to get along with my companions, who I have so little in common with.  And the “no hug” rule really hurts, since I tend to connect readily with women, and a hug comes naturally to me.

Not to sound like a spoilt child, but I need wisdom.  Bigotry exists, and people have formulated ideas that are hurtful, and I’m desperately trying to be graceful, but I am what I am and I won’t be made into something I’m not.  A lot of positive changes have come through service so far—forgiveness, trust, reliance of myself, strength for the underdog—I just need wisdom on how to make it through.

Now, it’s not at all unusual for missionaries to send out the occasional SOS.  What is unusual is the young out gay Mormon man who sends himself on a mission because he loves his faith in and through and despite the challenges it presents to gay people—and the misunderstanding and even, yes, cruelty he has experienced from other Mormons.

What does one say in such a situation? What is the Mormon community prepared to say to young people who say both “I am what I am” and “I am willing to serve”?

We Mormons like to think of ourselves as people who have all the answers.  But sometimes—perhaps more importantly—Mormons are people who show up for one another as we wait for things to work out.  And we show up for each other just because we are Mormons.  Just because at some point in time we heard a story about a young man who took his hard questions into a grove of trees and got on his knees and put them to God, and we fell in love with the story. And the story is a beautiful part of us still.

We love each other for falling in love with that story and for giving hours, days, weeks, months, and years of our lives to the faith it inspired, rarely stopping to count the costs.  We show up for one another with what we think are good answers, which may actually be mediocre answers, or not really answers at all.  We show up with dinner ready, or maybe just a paper plate of cookies, or a rootbeer and a hug.  And we sit on the curb and wait.  And that showing up for each other in itself is sacred.  Because in this fragmented world, it means something to belong to a people.  Just read what it says in Mormon scripture–Doctrine & Covenants 128:  that “welding link” that holds us all together is the “very bold” doctrine that makes this tradition so sweet.

Are we bold enough to offer that sense of belonging to one another, even when in humility we must admit we don’t have all the answers?  This week, I got mail from newbie Mormon feminists in Mexico, young Mormon women in faith transition in Russia, and a good soul in Asia trying to mentor a young gay Mormon man there who really wants to serve a mission. And who am I?  Just a Mormon girl who has had her ups and downs.  And what is this?  A free WordPress blogsite.  Where 5000 people stopped in last Monday trying to come to grips with the impacts of pornography on Mormon communities.

It’s all so mysterious to me—the way this faith brings us all into such intimacy with each other’s lives, the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of us awake late tonight showing up for each other just because we are Mormons.  What I want to say to my young missionary friend is that 1) God has a plan for everyone and 2) I will make a plate of cookies and sit on the curb with you and while you figure out where that plan takes you.

And what I want to say to everyone else is 1) help! and 2) people, get ready!  Because all the questions we first-world multi-generational pioneer-stock-and-proud-of-it Mormons are having now, questions about history, gender, sexuality, belonging, and belief, they’re coming soon—like yesterday—to the rest of the Mormon world.

What do we say to them?  What do we say to each other?  For this, I’m relying on you, sweet readers.  It’s your turn now.  Talk to my gay Mormon missionary.  Talk to the young gay man on the other side of the world who loves his faith and wants to serve a mission.  Don’t lecture.  Don’t harangue.  Give a little love that will carry this elder through, and I’ll print out your words and send them on to him.

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.

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91 Comments

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91 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: I’m an out gay Mormon serving a mission, and I need help.

  1. utahcanadian

    When I was a missionary, and my fellow sisters and I longed for physical closeness with the opposite sex, Heavenly Father provided for us in our need and our obedience. We had long handshakes with the elders as often as we could, and occasionally I dreamed of hugs with close male friends and felt fulfilled and comforted in the morning. Realize that the rules are for your protection. Whether you have sexual feelings for the opposite sex or not, there are still concerns for the feelings they may develop for you, and for the appearance of inappropriate relationships.

    And as for your nerdy companions, you don’t need to “get” all their cultural references. Just realize that they are often feeling like fish out of water, just as you are. That you understand that and can find good qualities in them to appreciate is what you need to love them. Learning to deal with annoying companions is one of the great lessons of a mission, so experience and develop as much as you can in this sphere. As for negative views you deal with, when people feel your love, it is harder for them to so guarded or hard-hearted towards you. This is a great secret of missionary work: your love and concern for others can open their hearts to the Spirit, whether companion, member, investigator, or stranger. Whether you are concerned that they are prejudiced against you for who you are, or for their misconceptions of the gospel, the principle is the same.

    • sarah

      I think it’s interesting that the rule of hugging the sisters doesn’t make sense in his case– it makes about as much sense as a rule that says sister missionaries should not hug each other. So while our openly gay elder has to be on his gaurd to avoid romantic hugs, he _also_ has to (unfairly it seems to me) be on his gaurd to avoid friendship/supportive hugs from the sisters. I’m sorry you have to go through this, elder. Sadly, i do not see it being resolved quickly and well, and very probably it will be misunderstood by many, if not most people, during your mission. I look forward to the day when the missionary hug rule (not to mention the housing rule) will be based on sexual orientation, not gender. In other words, openly gay elders be able to not only hug straight sisters, but to have straight (but not narrow) sisters to have as companions and roommates.

    • Elder – I am so proud of you and your willingness to serve the – You are brave and I can understand that being brave isn’t easy – but you know and we know that what you are doing is right – Our beautiful church has said that we love you – and we respect you –
      I’m straight – and there are many people in our church that i don;t get along with – but you know, the gospel is true, and I know that the Lord loves me and I keep my Temple convenant –
      Love and Peace

  2. NDM

    First: Elder, we love you. Thank you for your willingness to serve.

    Second: You have been reminded often that you are an ambassador for the Gospel. Fairly or unfairly, people will judge the Church by what you do, and how you do it. Perhaps consider that you are also an ambassador for gay and lesbian Latter-day Saints. How do you want your companions, mission president, and missionary friends to one day complete the sentence, “I served with a gay elder, and he was…”? Good report is precisely how “they” will come to see you and everyone else for the choice souls you really are.

    As for companions you have nothing in common with, welcome to missionary life. Of my fifteen companions, none were much like me at all. I might have chosen to become friends with one; all the rest I would have written off as “not my kind of person.” What a blessing that was! I learned to respect and even love people from different backgrounds, to value interests and viewpoints I had not considered worth valuing before, to see the child of God behind the personal quirks, the funny accent, the passion for things that meant nothing to me. It was a great step in self-discovery as I learned to love people from a wide range of backgrounds, Roll with it, learn, and remember that your companions will learn and respect as much about you as you learn to respect about them.

    • NDM, you are right on track! I also had companions that were NOTHING like me… but dang it, you sure learned to love them.

    • Meidi

      NDM, your comment is just perfect! Also, the need to learn to get along with others who are very different from yourself will not end after your mission; you will often face similar challenges at work, in community organizations, in church callings, or even in your own family! There will always be people who you feel as though you have NOTHING in common with, but if you continue to try you can find common ground and accomplish common goals with all sorts of disparate people.

  3. Dolly

    Dear Elder: You are so good. You are my little brother, 20 years ago. For the next 20 years, and the rest of his life, here is what I know. You are a gift from God to the rest of us. You have so much understanding in your one single human heart that is lost on most people. So many lonely people will come to rely on you and your love for them will mean the world to them. The Savior’s and the Father’s love is what you feel for them. You want them to feel it and you are a conduit for that love. The rules will keep that all sorted out. People will continue to be baffled by your commitment to God and a living prophet and it will testify of a maturity that is not easy to find in 20 year olds, 30 year olds and even at 40, when you died. It’s annoying when people don’t get it but all the sweeter when people do. The nerds want to be accepted also. You gave so much of yourself and your time. You regret that you didn’t have time for everyone and you are misunderstood and judged and that you judged others too. They need your prayers and your example of humility and courage as much as you need(ed) mine. When you fumble, it will not be unnoticed but it fuels your compassion tank even more. You will never regret one day of keeping the rules. It’s hard for straight people too. Love and service have a way of creating intimate bonds. Pure intentions get mocked and abused by cynics. In the end, the rules will have provided a ton of peace. I love you so much. I miss you terribly. Love always from one of your many big sisters. Dolly

    • Lisa

      I’m one of the many big sisters and echo everything Dolly said so beautifully.

      Dear Elder,

      You are more than you can know and loved beyond imagine. Please hang in there. And by there, I’m mean hang on to what brings you to God, where ever that may be.

      with much love and admiration,
      Lisa

  4. Katherine

    You’re not spoiled just because you’re having a hard time and are reaching out for some advice. That’s humility, Elder, and it seems you’ve got some of it! And that resolve there about who you are? That’s not bragging or pride or any those other things people will call it to put you down. That’s *conviction*, the second best kind in fact (after conviction of your faith in God). There are so many people in this world that don’t know who they are, that ARE being made into what other think they should be. I spent most of my life that way. You know who you are, a son of God, and you’re out there trying to help others learn who they are (son and daughters of God), to help them find that same conviction in themselves. Some of them may respect you for knowing yourself so well and not being afraid. Those that do not, may think twice the next time (and there will be a next time) a gay missionary crosses their path. It’s gonna be tough, for the trailblazers it always is, and that is why your humility is so wonderful too! You have friends to turn to who want to help, and congregations of unmet strangers cheering you on with prayer. When times are the toughest you have and can continue to reach out for support, and it will be given! We may not have the answers, but advice and comfort can be found! You seem to have incredible strength to put with it, so know you are loved and admired by at least this one sister Fighting the good fight is hard enough, and you’ve got more than one!

  5. I honour you for coming out and letting people know you are gay. I honour you for serving a mission. I’m not sure what wisdom I can offer you, but what I will say it that being openly gay and serving a mission will hopefully help others realise that church membership and being gay are not incompatible as some have thought.

    I cannot really understand what you must experience at times through the ignorance of others. Perhaps even me trying to be supportive may come across as ignorant in some way.

    The only wisdom I can offer is that Heavenly Father and Mother love you, as does the Saviour. I get comfort from Romans 8 where Paul writes that nothing can separate us from the love of God:

    38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

    39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    It is easy to read such words and have them in out minds, but for me until the Spirit burned them and wrote them into my heart and being they were not quite so real. Then once they were in my heart and being a real power came that allow me to carry on. Not that things suddenly became easier, but strength was there to carry on.

    • Stacey Bobka

      Hello, I’m not trying to be controversial or mean or whatever but being openly gay is never going to be okay with the church. The prophet and apostles came out with the proclamation to the family which clearly stated that marriage was between a man and a woman, and that’s the family which is central to the plan of salvation. It specifically talked about gender. That came from our prophet who receives revelation from God. It’s pretty clear where the church stands. If anyone’s interested President Packer and Elder Holland have given conference talks about this subject and they explain it way better than me. Just trying to shed some light.

      • Stacey: I think you misunderstand what gender means. I think the Church now accepts that being gay is a reality. Please visit their website mormonsandgays.org.

      • Stacey

        askmormongirl, I did go to that website, just to see where you were coming from and it specifically said that while being attracted to the same sex is a reality and not a sin, acting on it is a sin. So I’m gonna go with no the church doesn’t agree with actually practicing being gay. The church is awesome about loving everyone and not judging or discriminating against people, but we believe what we believe.

      • Wade

        Being openly gay means you aren’t keeping it a secret; you aren’t living a lie. It does not mean you are breaking the law of chastity. I assume you aren’t aware that there are openly gay men now serving in various bishoprics of the church. There have been articles written about it; very positive articles about that. So why the beef with this valiant, God-loving young man who is serving the Lord, full-time, for 2 years?

      • Wade

        Stacey, you do realize the prophet Brigham Young said God would NEVER change his mind about Blacks and the temple and priesthood, don’t you? I’m not so sure the church won’t change their mind on homosexuality. Maybe. Their position and their language about it has already evolved in many ways over the past decade or so.
        I’m not saying I’m right. I’m just saying, leave open the possibility that you don’t know everything, and God is ultimately in charge; not a piece of paper in an art frame.

      • stabkey@yahoo.com

        I can see what you’re saying but its not a piece of paper its revelation from God, specifically for our day because of everything that was going on, this issue in paticular, they met and studied and prayed and the proclamation is what came of that, scripture from God, that’s why I say what I do, and im pretty sure it wasn’t God who told brigham young he was never going to change his mind

        Sent via DROID on Verizon Wireless

      • Let me be a bit more blunt. Stacey there is a difference between being openly gay and having sexual intercourse with someone (of either sex). Thus to be openly gay as Mitch Mayne is means that they don’t try to hide who they are or how they feel.

  6. rebecca

    I dont have anything profound to say to you, dear gay mormon missionary. But just that I love you. I don’t know you. But you have sisters and brothers in Christ who are rooting for you, who believe in you, who value the YOU that YOU are. you are not alone. God has a plan for you. Some people are stupid. The gospel is true, and beautiful. And there are people who you have never met, that are cheering you on, that support you, that are on your side. There are a great number of us who are on the cutting edge of things when it comes to our Mormon culture, feminists, people who believe in gay rights, scholars… and like any creature as it matures, there are growing pains. the church is in the middle of that. Ditto the sitting on the curb with a tray of cookies while you suss it out. I’ll bring the extra hot chocolate. *appropriate virtual hugs*

  7. LDS LGBT Adult

    Former MTC teacher here to say that the white handbook states that missionaries should refrain from inappropriate contact with the opposite sex, it does not specifically say not to hug. A missionary who just came through our branch recently pointed out that a heartfelt, non-sexual hug is NOT inappropriate, it is completely appropriate! And I agree. Dear fellow-GLBT mormon, hug away! ;) I’ve been in your shoes, and you need a hug.

  8. I mentor a student who was in a similar situation. He was faithfully preparing to go on a mission and I knew he was gay. I was worried, not because I feared that he was doing the wrong thing, but that people on his mission would be cruel and not understand his desire to serve while being gay. Eventually we talked about it and he was proud to be gay, proud to be LDS, and proud and excited to be going on a mission. How can you thwart enthusiasm like that?

    He went on his mission, did the very best he could, and people were not kind. He was doing what he believed God wanted him to do and people were cruel and not understanding. He came home a few months later with a medical discharge. He was suicidal. It was heartbreaking.

    Today he has overcome his suicidal feelings (with medication and therapy) and is back on track in life – going to college and preparing for grad school. He is still LDS and faithful. I worry about his future in the church. I worry that if he were to decide to leave or take a break that it would cause him more pain and obviously he can’t give up being gay.

    So my advice here, from my limited experience, is that the SOS from a gay missionary might be different from an SOS from a straight-but-struggling missionary. Gay and perhaps bisexual missionaries may feel a huge internal conflict that straight missionaries are not burdened with. Their calls for help and support are going to be different and perhaps more urgent. Many young adults will experience a crisis of identity, but with gay LDS missionaries, it is their identity that they themselves and others may perceive as the problem. Your missionary may need professional help that his companion and mission president cannot give.

  9. Neal

    The fact that you’re there; that you’ve made the sacrifices and met the standards means you are qualified for the work. That doesn’t mean others will necessarily look at you with the respect and caring that they should; but knowing YOU are in the right, and that you’re doing what the Lord wants you to do gives you a power over those who are negative or unkind. I can only think of the scripture where Christ said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Sometimes those persecutions come from with the ‘kingdom’ itself, and those can be the worst kind. But know this – there are many thousands of gay Mormons out there just like you, and WE support you, we love you, and will pray for you daily. Keep the faith. Stay the course. The Lord will not forsake you.

    With love,

    Neal

  10. Jayce Cox

    Dear Elder
    Please know that you are not alone. Please know that you have courage many of us can not even comprehend. Remember that there must be opposition in all things. I was in your shoes nearly twenty years ago, and the hurtful times still stick with me. This is a time of great challenge, use this time to draw closer to your Heavenly Father, pour your heart out to him. Pray for the spirit to guide your responses to unkindness. It’s OK to let people know how their words can be mean and hurtful. Your duty is to respond with love and charity. This time of trial is temporary, and you will be all the wiser and stronger for it. You are worthy of the greatest blessings, and wise to reach out. There are thousands of us willing to listen, our prayers will reach you. Talk to your mission president, be frank and gentle, direct him to http://www.gaysandmormons.org. Your openness will be helpful for so many, and in ways you cannot now even comprehend. You did not choose your feelings, but you did choose to serve. You are an amazing young man, and a pioneer. I commend you and thank you!
    Your life matters and your service will be remembered.
    Your Brother in the Gospel
    Jayce Cox
    Montana

  11. Rosalynde

    Loads and loads of love to you, friend. You are a pioneer blazing a new and incredibly important trail within the Church. I’m so sorry that people are being cruel. We should be honoring you, supporting you, and giving you our everlasting gratitude for doing the hard and crucial work of carving out a new Mormon identity within the church. You do not need to be perfect all the time, and there may be times when you need to withdraw from the vanguard. But if you have the desire to serve God in this capacity — not only as a missionary, but as a faithful gay missionary — then you are qualified for the work. I truly believe that you were meant to do what you are doing. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making the church a better place for my children. Love and more love to you.

  12. Maria DSL

    Dear Elder,

    With all the love in my heart I want to thank you for being courageous, and I want to thank you for being you. I want to let you peer into a window of Mormon support from an experience I had last night with some couples from my ward family. It is sad that those of us who are on your side (members of the church who support you and accept you, who are trying to communicate and emulate ‘loving one another’, who wrestle with the notion of why it’s taking so long for people to understand) are in a position of feeling like we have to send covert signals to those other members who we feel might be on the same wave-length as us. This happened last night with some people from my small inner-city ward in the east and at first we were all testing the waters and seeing where the conversation was going, but once we realized we felt the same, I wish you could have been in the room to witness the outpouring of support for you (manifest in so many ways, from people wanting to express their hurt, their longing, their love, to having to fight to get a word in edgewise!). We don’t have a loud and overpowering voice right now (unless it’s at small like-minded sunday night dessert gatherings), but we are out there and we are praying for you and we are talking about you with the other members of our ward families, and we love you so much and we are on your side. I want you to keep this in mind when times are hard, because I have to keep it in mind too. Last night was the spiritual outpouring that I needed and my heavenly father knew that. I was feeling alone and feeling like I had no one to talk to and lo-and-behold I was able to connect and feast upon the support and encouragement of others who I didn’t know existed in my own ward. We are here and we love you and our voices are getting louder, though as reverently as possible ;)

    Love Maria DSL

  13. Maxilu

    Dear Elder,

    Thank you so much for your service!

    I’m bisexual, and I served a mission. It was difficult, keeping my eyes in place while my companions wandered around in their underwear. (I had kind of the opposite problem when it came to hugging. I’m very much a “no touchy” type of person, and I learned to be the first one through the door with a handshake to the various ladies of the house, because otherwise they’d insist that “Sisters hug”).

    Here’s the thing, like everyone else has said, missions are a time for you to be a “fish out of water”. It’s true for every missionary I’ve ever met. You’re forced to be joined at the hip with a person you may not like and you may not understand. You’re thrust into a strange culture, and you’re facing constant rejection. (At least I was.) But, the beautiful thing about missions is that they are a wonderful opportunity to learn that not everybody is like you. As frustrated as I got with companions who didn’t believe the MDD I was diagnosed with as a child was a thing, as uncomfortable as I saw the elders being around the openly-gay elder, as bull-headed as they were about their world views, they still changed.

    When I look back on my mission, the greatest good I see that happened from it was an increase in compassion and understanding amongst the other missionaries I served with. It was able to reach out to my companion when she had post-partum depression with the utmost love and understanding, because I know what it’s like to hurt inside and not have those who should be supporting me understand. And yes, I’m seeing those who were uncomfortable around the flamboyantly gay elder stand up for gay rights, because they know what a good person he is.

    Missions are hard. For everyone. The best piece of advice I can give came to me on my mission–”You’re going through the thorns now, but when you look back, you’ll be able to see the roses”.

    Good luck, Elder. And God bless.

  14. Q

    One of the great challenges of missionary service is patience. It can take much longer for the lives of others to change than the few short months a missionary may spend in an area getting to know the people there. It doesn’t mean the missionary isn’t making a difference, it just means he/she doesn’t always get to see the difference that was made. You are making a difference just by your dedication, even if you don’t see it yet.

    I say this because I grew up having very uncharitable attitudes toward LGBT people. The turning point in my thinking about LGBT issues was after my mission when a fellow missionary came out. I didn’t even know him all that well, but I did know him well enough to admire and respect the attitude and dedication he showed as a missionary, which allowed me to take what he had to say seriously. He came out publicly in an editorial published in the BYU newspaper, and endured some fairly nasty letters to the editor in response, but the courage he showed in doing that made a big difference to me, and possibly to many others. (Jared, if you happen to read this, thank you again. With the passage of time, what you did matters to me even more.)

  15. No answers here, and no advice. Just love, admiration, and virtual hugs for who you are and for your courage and strength and willingness to serve. Thank you.(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((big hug)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

  16. I think I am feeling something of what you are feeling. I left the church 12 years ago because I saw it as fundamentally incompatible with my (homo)sexuality. I felt called to return to the church last year and have been attending my local ward for six months now. The experience has been a big net positive—wonderfully loving ward members and leaders, close friendships struck up, a calling as Primary chorister, the realization that the church has a lot to offer me in terms of spiritual growth.

    But there are still moments of enormous disconnect. Moments when I stop in my tracks at church and think, what am I doing here? What is this out-and-proud gay man doing in a Mormon chapel? It seems existentially wrong. The good little Mormon boy who doesn’t want to rock the boat or offend anyone or get on the wrong side of authority pops up.

    The best response I have found for myself, which I now offer to you, is that this particular form of suffering is holy because Jesus underwent the same thing. The very nature of His being was at odds with the religious establishment and pieties of His day. So incompatible that they killed Him rather than face the truth.

    Like yourself, I feel called to labor in the Mormon vineyard. Spiritual angst will be part of that calling, until we effect the kids of changes our Heavenly Parents have in store for the church. The angst means that we are doing our work and that the Savior—who mourns with all those who mourn—is close by our side.

  17. Katy Bettner

    Sweet Boy,
    I would give you a long hug. You are loved. You are valued. You are brave and a hero. No matter where your journey takes you in these next years you have touched and will continue to touch and enrich the lives of those you meet and even those of us you don’t meet.
    The fact that you “keep coming back” will have an impact. You strengthen my faith and I am in awe of you and your conviction. When my husband and I decided to become temple going members our biggest concern was how we could reconcile our beliefs about Christ and the Gospel with our church’s stances on gender and sexuality.
    We prayed about it and felt a peace. W know that we will be led by the spirit to respond appropriately. We know that we will be buoyed up by others who share our concerns and desires to see change.
    Knowing that there are men and women like you testify to that truth. You support my testimony by bring you. Thank you, thank you. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  18. Melissa

    Dear Elder – first, I’m giving you a gigantic, tight internet hug. {{{HUG}}} You are a hero on a quest, and every hero has a time of loneliness and suffering, a time when he doubts himself and the wisdom of his quest. And you have the added great and terrible pressure of being An Example. You not only have the same pressure that every hetero missionary has, but the deeply burdensome responsibility of being An Example of a faithful gay Mormon. Everything that everyone has said here is true, you WILL make an impact. You WILL soften hearts. But man oh man, is it a hard path. At times it’s going to feel like the only ones on that path with you are the Saviour and your Heavenly Parents. But you have a bunch of us, scattered all across the globe, who can’t literally be on that path with you but are cheering for you. Who love you for who you fundamentally are. I’m so proud of your conviction. I’m so proud of your self-knowledge. You’re doing a brave thing and are respected for it.

  19. Wade

    Dear Elder:

    I have nothing wise to say here. My mission was difficult at times. Really difficult at other times. And really, amazingly glorious, at other times. (There are a lot of “times” in 2 years). I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to be you. Only you know how you’re doing, and what the world looks like through your eyes, and how your companion, other missionaries, the mission president, other Mormons, and the world make you feel.
    You are likely tougher than me. I just want to say good luck. Be yourself. Stay close to God. He’ll see you through this. And thank you for just being you. One day, you’ll look back with fondness for these 2 years.
    I love you. God certainly loves you. And so do many, many people, even those whom you’ve not yet met. Serve God and love your neighbor. That’s what it’s all about.

    Peace and good luck.

    -wade-
    Utah

  20. Jim H

    Dear Elder.

    I spent most of my own mission with companions that were not “my kind” of people. I learned several coping mechanisms that served me well. I decided I can’t change anyone but myself, so that is the only place I can make things better.

    First, I learned to talk about a million topics that would not have interested me otherwise. I learned that when my companion said something about a sports team or music group or place or person that I wasn’t interested in, that he was opening a door for me to know him better and learn to love him better. I learned to use the phrase, “Tell me what you love about…” Maybe I couldn’t relate to my companion that loved shotgun competitions, but when he talked about sitting in a duck blind with his dad, suddenly that relationship was meaningful and I grew an appreciation for something that never would have interested me otherwise.

    Second, I learned that the biggest thing I have in common with all the other members of the church is that we all are trained to appreciate feeling the holy ghost. So the more I learned to be spiritual myself, the stronger my ability was to build that one connection I did have in common with them.

    These two coping mechanisms helped me immensely on my mission, but they have been even more invaluable since I returned home and started building the same relationships with ward members. They are valuable life skills that have served me well my whole life.

  21. Eric

    I don’t have much to offer, as I come from a generation where if I had friends who were gay I never knew it. So I have no idea what you’re going through with that issue and can say only that life is never easy for pioneers.

    But I did have a son who went on a mission who found a challenge in dealing with his companions. He had very little in common with his companions as well, and two of them had serious behavioral/mental issues. I don’t think that he kept in touch with any of them after his mission (although he did keep in contact with his mission president and a few of the missionaries who weren’t companions). Even so, he found having companions a good learning experience, and that’s always a good thing, so my main advice would be think about what you can learn from your companions even if you don’t like them. And know as well that there are many in the church you love you and are praying for you.

  22. JMC

    I feel compelled to reply to this post!

    As a gay former missionary, I can tell you (Elder SOS) that it is not easy. Not easy being a missionary, not easy being gay, and certainly not easy being a gay missionary! But hang in there, and you will survive and be better for it.

    On my mission (gosh was it really 7 years ago?), I was never comfortable telling anybody that I was gay (despite having come out to several friends before I left). My Mission President was from the rural South (easily mistakeable for a fire-and-brimstone Baptist preacher) and made me too scared to talk about my sexual orientation. I was convinced he would send me home if I ever told him, so I kept silent for two years.

    In retrospect, I’m not sure whether it would been easier to talk about being gay with people or whether the negative reactions from people would have been more trouble than its worth. But I see that Elder SOS is already out, so best to use the opportunity for the better; I don’t think two years of keeping complex emotions bottled up is healthy anyway!

    Regarding some of the difficulties mentioned, its important to remember that many people will reject and dislike you for a variety of reasons. I was a misisonary in Siberia, so people disliked me because I was American, discussing religion, Mormon (even worse), Russian was obviously my second language, I even had a gun pulled on me because I wouldn’t drink Vodka! Dealing with rejection is part of the job description and you can’t take things personally. Now if hostility comes from fellow missionaries/companions, then talk to your Mission President. There is (or should be) a zero tolerance policy for bulling and harrassment. Elder SOS, you may not feel like it at the moment, but there are wonderful people all over the globe, Mormon and not. You will meet some of them and form great friendships.

    Finally, regarding companions, EVERY missionary has companions that are difficult to get along with. I cannot think of a time in my life I have ever had to be around the same person for so long. People aren’t even around their spouses that often! I promise, you will eventually have a companion that isn’t so bad and in fact you may become friends. Some of my best friends are still former missionary companions. One of them shockingly came out to me after the mission!

    Just a short experience, but my mission was a unique one. I was paired with my first companion, my trainer, for 5 months. We became good friends and he was like an older brother to me. When he was transfered and I was paired with my second companion, I did not enjoy change. Just when I thought I had the worst companion ever, and life would be miserable (in a very teenage dramatic way), I went on a “split” with the District Leader from another city. It was one of the worst days of my life. This guy was just aweful company, and I was about 95% sure he had mental health issues. Needless to say, I was happy to go back to my old companion who had up to that point been driving me nuts. I realized that as bad as I thought things were, thank goodness I wasn’t paired with Elder District Leader! And I was able to resolve some of the issues that bothered me and we even became friends.

    Finally, being a gay missionary, because of your unique perspective and life experiences, you will have the opportunity to touch and reach people in ways that others cannot. And just remember that there are a lot of people rooting for you!

  23. Jon

    Dear Elder:

    I’ve been where you are. I know the difficulties you face. I stuck it out for the full two years. I have subsequently served in ward and stake leadership. So I speak from your experience, and more.

    I know you are where you are, and you’re trying to make the best of things. You’ve had lots of encouragement from other posters here. So I will give you another and a longer-term perspective. It may seem less encouraging than some of the other posts, but it is reality and you need to know it.

    Your experience shows why it’s generally not wise for gay men and women to serve missions. We face tremendous challenges and difficulties which, in my experience during and after a mission, senior LDS leadership do not comprehend and are reluctant to address publicly. Nor did you comprehend these challenges until you discovered them for yourself. Others may have warned you in advance about this; if so, obviously your enthusiasm for service led you to disregard those cautions. You would not be alone in doing so. The pressure for young men to serve is relentless, I know. But it ends up putting people like us in extremely difficult situations. As a result, many end up leaving their missions early, some voluntarily, some sent home for “giving in” to conduct too tempting in mission circumstances to resist. It’s not my place to tell you that you should leave your mission early, but it is an option if you find continuing difficulty.
    Details will change but the challenges will continue after your mission. I’ve had multiple LDS leaders tell me this is the single most troublesome issue the church faces today, because it “has no answers” for gay members. And they are correct. My bishop and stake president both told me that there are only three choices for gay Mormons. First, remain in the church and be celibate for life, which they both said was inhumane and unrealistic to expect. Second, marry someone of the opposite sex and grit your teeth and hope it works, which they both said was almost always disastrous and the church itself now advises against this option. Three, leave the church and find the best spiritual path for oneself along with the love and intimacy that is most natural and fulfilling.
    While some senior leaders say the standard of behavior is the same for everyone, this ignores the fact that current LDS teachings rob gay people of any hope for a relationship or marriage in this life. The concept of homosexuality does not fit within Mormon theology in a way that gives gay people full equality of opportunity, service, privileges, or respect. A senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy told me personally that the First Presidency and the Twelve are unanimous that there can never be any change to what he called the “fundamental, non-negotiable” doctrine that marriage is only between man and woman. As long as this remains true, gay people will remain unequal in the LDS church.
    Official teachings about homosexuality are muddled and contradictory and reflect personal beliefs of individual leaders, including the emerging theory that God will “fix” faithful homosexuals in the next life by making them straight. Apart from the fact that this contradicts Alma 34:34, it confirms a religious world view and culture which can’t allow gay and Mormon to live side by side equally. Any reconciliation must involve significant restrictions on and compromises by the one of those which yields to the other. If you remain LDS, you must accept this as your future.

  24. This may sound a little insensitive, but my advice would be to take President Hinckley’s father’s advice to “forget yourself and get to work”. The questions you are asking and feelings you are feeling are valid, but they will reduce in magnitude as you forget yourself and start serving others. Just remember that even if you give service your whole heart, these people you serve (strangers, investigators, other missionaries, or members) will sometimes still break your heart – but you just keep on serving them. Try to do lots of little things: shine your companion’s shoes

    A mission is the only time you have that can seriously forget about everything – money, time, school, work, relationships (yes, even sexuality) – and focus on other people. Enjoy that time while you have it because you’ll have a whole lifetime to come of preoccupation with personal issues.

    Keep your courage and stay strong!

  25. Julia

    Dear Elder,

    I have no real advice, except my strong belief that God our Parents love you and want your happiness and success. I did not serve a mission myself, but I understand from other’s that the work is arduous and boring at times and living 24 hours a day with a person frays even the best intentioned nerves.

    I don’t know how your relationship is with your Mission President, but if you feel that he might listen to your concerns, I would actually ask if the rules of contact with women be adjusted for you, since the contact has no sexual connotation to you. It’s a rule to protect the heterosexual 19 year old and does not seem to apply in your case.

    Here’s a long distance hug from a sister who doesn’t know you but loves you in Christ. I am so proud of you, for believing and for wanting to share this belief and make your place in the church. This church needs you and we are so blessed to have you.

    {{{HUGS}}}

    Julia

  26. Philosophical Missionary

    Dear Elder,

    I would like to share something with you that at first light may seem irrelevant to your situation, but that I believe is deeply connected. In a letter to Robert Thornton, a philosopher of science, Albert Einstein wrote the following:

    “I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is—in my opinion—the mark of distinction between the mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.” (Taken from Don Howard’s “Albert Einstein as a Philosopher of Science”)

    Why do I share with this with you? Because you, my dear friend, are like the philosopher among scientists. You understand that God loves all his children and you see “all his children” rather than simply individuals. My guess is that your companions and those you interact with daily are probably not granted such a beautiful vision. It can be difficult to see more than those around you, for they will not listen to you, mock you, and even try to hurt you (just as in Plato’s Allegory of the cave). Yet, you will be continually motivated by this beautiful sight and you know it is your mission to share it.

    Brother, while I am not gay, I was an LGBT empathizer on my mission as well as a more historically informed elder about the church (as I would guess you just as well are). I remember how difficult it was to talk with companions about these issues and can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been had I been gay. That said, I want you to know that you are capable of serving a mission, that you are worthy, and that you carry a better understanding of a truth of this gospel than many of those around you. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

    I simply end by saying if you ever feel that you are in an unhealthy situation, if you feel you have lost your testimony, please don’t continue to endanger yourself and talk to your mission president about alternative plans, whether it be serving in the office or coming home. On my mission, the cold treatment of my trainer led me to lose belief in the core doctrines of the church. Furthermore, when I returned home, I learned that I had lost 40 lbs. from my 6’4″ 165 lb frame and was suffering from severe depression. I quickly met with a counselor, returned to my LDS university, and continued to go to church each week. I now have regained my testimony, though I still walk the path of a philosopher.

    Whether we choose this path, I am not sure. What I am sure of is that it blesses others. Elder you have already become a light to so many and will continue to be a light to those who struggle. Work hard, be the best at what you do, and do not give up the truths you hold so dearly. And most of all stay safe and smile to all those around you, for you are blessed with a precious knowledge shared to few.

    Your dear friend.

  27. hang in there, elder! there certainly are a lot of odd missionary rules. i believe they are there for your best interest, so as the GLBT MTC teacher said earlier, as long as the hug is appropriate, GO FOR IT! i know your mission president and wife can also help in that department. i remember looking forward to those hugs as a missionary. i admire and respect your commitment to serve a full-time mission. i have every confidence that you are doing a great job (especially with the gamer companions)! lots of love to YOU for being who YOU are.
    xo,
    jill

  28. I’ve learned something this year: a friend doesn’t have to be someone who DOES understand you, they just have to be someone who TRIES to understand you.

    I often turn to a quote by Willa Cather from her novel “O! Pioneers.”
    “It’s by understanding me…that you’ve helped me. I expect that is the only way one person ever really can help another.”

    We bond over trying to understand each other and the struggles we’ve faced. Because that’s what Mormons do. We reach out and try to understand others because we know that God understands them and we ultimately want to be like Him.

  29. Chris

    We love you.

    When I served my mission, it was hard at first to make sense of what I was doing. I was conflicted sometimes trying to understand my sexuality, and being around people who didn’t share my perspective was hard sometimes, but I was grateful for the time I had to represent Christ and put my own feelings, ideas, and concerns on the backburner for a while, and focus on the people I was serving. I tried to teach them about the hope they could have through the atonement of Christ because that was really all that I knew. That did not mean I ignored who I was or pretended there were things I did not understand. But I tried to be humble enough to accept my life, and my mission, without all the answers. I think it is extremely important to be genuine and honest–that we don’t know all the answers, not even close, so it is not right to pretend we do. But we do know that God will help us through it, and the Holy Ghost is there help guide us toward truth and understanding one small step at a time.

    Your complicated situation is exactly what can make you a powerful missionary, because in one way or another, the people you teach are dealing with the same complicated, conflicting, human struggle. They don’t need someone to tell them we have all the answers to everything–if they join the church believing that, they will be facing disillusionment later on. Because of your life, you are in a better position to listen: listen to the people AND your companions, then tell them you love them, that God loves them, and that because of Jesus Christ, we can get through all of this together. That is all you need to do. You are not in charge of converting anyone inside the church or out. Let God take care of that. Your job is just to love. That’s all.

  30. I am going to write this very carefully. I am a returned missionary, married with two kids (and one due any day). I’m straight, if it makes any difference. My little sister is not, if THAT makes any difference. All that said, serving a mission was one of the hardest, most challenging, most heartbreaking and most rewarding things I had ever done up to that point. (Becoming a mother has since replaced my mission for that coveted top spot.) I did NOT get along with my trainer all the time. I just knew that I wasn’t what she wanted me to be, and it broke my heart. I was in a three-way companionship once that bordered on cruel (where I was the cruel one for six weeks, and then the victim for the next six weeks. Karmic payback, and a VERY valuable lesson.) There were companionships where I cried every single week in companionship inventory, and companionships where I comforted my inconsolable junior companions as THEY cried every week.

    This is your time. This is your time to see what Heavenly Father wants you to be. When you say that you are what you are, and you won’t be made into something you’re not, I think I know what you’re saying. I think you’re referring to your sexuality. That said, LET him change you in other ways. Let him make you humble, meek, submissive, obedient. Let him make you into His tool. Relish that change. On my mission, I learned to NOT be the girl who flirted with everybody. I learned to NOT be the girl who relied on her companions as a gauge of her own self-worth or success. There are so many amazing things you are going to learn. We all “lock our hearts” for those two years. Best of luck to you, and GOD BLESS. May He bless your efforts. May He bless your tracting time. May He bless your teaching time. I wish for you what I wish for all missionaries – success, and a homecoming rich with the knowledge that you did you best, and could have done no more.

  31. Rachel Hamrick

    Please know you are admired and will be an inspiration to many many many people!

  32. Phil

    Dear Elder,

    As a convert to the Church who struggles with same-sex attraction as well, I would like to thank you for your service to your fellow men as a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a trait about ourselves that may not necessarily be desired, but in so many ways it can be used as a gift. It is tough when we have this feeling of conflict that may make us feel the want to go against what the Lord has taught us, but our endurance to the end in what we truly believe will bring us so many blessings in the long run. I lived a life for a time as a sexually-active gay man and was miserable. The Church helped turn my life around, and I have found more peace and joy than I ever have before. I wish you the best in your time serving, and that you may be worthy now and in the future. Let Him guide you.

    Your brother in the Gospel,

    Phil

    • Phil, where did you get the idea that the Elder “struggles with same-sex attraction”? That is a thought-control term that has been popularized by people with a pernicious agenda. There is a phony sympathy, “Aw, you are struggling,” which really masks a sinister value judgment, ” you are not OK as you are, so you must be struggling.” The implication of “attraction” (instead of saying “gay”), is that this is just a temporary condition…and maybe you can get over it…if you just keep struggling. That may be how you view things for yourself, but it is not fair to label someone else as “struggling with same-sex attraction.”

  33. melodynew

    Dear Elder,

    I’m offering up a prayer for you and for your companions. Right now. God bless you.

    With love,
    Melody

  34. AJH

    Hello Elder.

    I commend you for serving as a missionary. I commend you for living your life in such a way that qualified you for that missionary opportunity. Your willingness to serve and make great sacrifices so that you can serve has not gone unnoticed by Heavenly Father and Jesus. They stand behind all your efforts and will continue to give you blessings you need to overcome the challenges you face.

    Don’t worry so much about what others think or do. I know it’s hard not to take things personally, but in the end what matters is how you respond and how you represent yourself as an individual and a child of God. You should not feel the need to change who you are based on what others perceive as ideal. Even those who want you to be something different have their own flaws, challenges, and are not close to being that ideal person.

    You will encounter individuals throughout your life who will be vastly different from you. But remember this, all individuals are a child of God and all individuals are entitled to the same level of love and respect that you desire. Since I am a very nerdy girl, I can tell you that these individuals you serve with have face complex challenges as well. Nerds are not seen as particularly valuable in our society and are generally the crux of jokes and bullying. Who ever you serve with, look for the positives, learn and grow from them. You will be amazed how another perspective can help your own grow and develop into something much stronger and even more beautiful.

    Your “nerdy” sister in the gospel.

  35. Lisa Murphy

    Dear Elder
    You are stronger than you realize. God loves you and is so pleased with your decision to serve Him. You knew that serving a mission would probably be the most difficult experience of your life…God knows it too. Though difficult, your mission will also be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life. Stay close to the Lord and allow His holy spirit to work through you to convert others to His gospel. Know that Brothers and Sisters in the Gospel as well as other strangers love you and are praying for you. <3

  36. Jones

    I wish I would have held more hands (male and female ) in support and hugged more on my mission. Sometimes giving that extra love and support is more important than keeping the rules.

  37. Ex-missionary gay here: Honey, just come home from your mission and move to a nice, equality-minded city like Seattle or San Francisco or Los Angeles or New York or, or, or…

    You need to process who you are and figure out what life plans you may have in store before you spend every waking moment bringing people to the gospel.

  38. Porter

    Elder, I appreciate and share the comments of love and compassion above. But I feel compelled to tell you to come home. You are serving a church that has publicly and repeatedly expressed antipathy towards homosexuality through its support of Proposition 8, and in firesides and conference talks too numerous to mention. Although recently the church has made efforts to soften its image on this issues (largely in response to the backlash on Proposition 8) the primary message has not changed: you can only be both gay and Mormon if you are willing to commit yourself to a life of celibacy and loneliness.

    You are acting as an emissary for an organization that opposes everything you are, and everything you can be. Please stop. Please stop providing legitimacy to this bigoted organization. Come home Elder. Find other ways to serve. Fall in love, build a good happy life outside of Mormonism. Be happy.

  39. Teju

    First of all, let me say that being gay is just one piece of who you are. You are so many things. Don’t let one part get so blown up that you can’t see the rest of yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying pretend you aren’t gay. You are and you don’t need to be ashamed of it, but when we hyper focus on one trait, it’s unhealthy.

    Secondly, the problems you described don’t have to do with being gay but being human. But missions are a funny thing. They throw us into a strange set of rules and abnormal circumstances. Learning to deal with people and accept people, despite differences, is an art many are still struggling with. Pray to love those you serve with as well as those you teach. Nothing can be done about the hugs. It’s only two years, you’ll live. We all did.

    Finally, serve honorably. Control yourself. Stay focused on why you came out and be proud of the service you give. It will enrich your life forever. I’m rooting for you!!

  40. jan caroline engelsman

    Imma go hug the FIRST missionary I see next!. Full on hug. You guys are all so good. This all just makes me peeved.

  41. Jared

    I wish I had a true pearl of wisdom to offer but alas, I do not. What I do have to share is a passage of scripture that has touched me, helped me, and gave me peace on more occasions than I can count.

    Doctrine & Covenants 121:7-9

    7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

    8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

    9 Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

    Seek refuge in the Scriptures, Elder. Pray for the opportunity to be strong and compassionate. Endure these trials well and God will exalt thee.

    You are in my prayers.

  42. Th.

    .

    There’s no one great thing to say.

    We can only be there for each other.

  43. Hey Elder! First off, thank you for your service!!! Im sure that Heavenly Father is so happy to have YOU serving in His vineyard! He knows you, He loves you, He understands what you are going thru and He STILL NEEDS you to find and teach those of His children that are waiting for just YOU to find and teach them! I’ve been in your shoes and I always tried to remember the saying…” I never told you it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it!!” Stick it out if you can, Elder… Remember that when the clouds break, the sunshine always follows!

    Remember the early Saints and everything they went thru, all the sacrifices…? Remember that even Joseph Smith went thru so much pain and trial for the gospel’s sake. You are not alone!!! So many of us pray for you daily, personally and in every temple, all over the world. You have been endowed with GREAT POWER, with talents and characteristics that will bless many people in and out of the Church. Go forth Elder…SERVE… with ALL your heart, might, mind and strength! I have no doubt that your personal sacrifices (on all levels) will be rewarded!! Take it from one who has walked in your shoes…I know Heavenly Father needs you in the kingdom…He needs all of us, gay, straight, black, white, etc… So chin up!!!
    Much love and success in whatever you decide…just know that you are loved and valued, no matter what!!!

    ~New York

  44. Jessica

    Dear Elder,

    As an Episcopalian who has found much to love about the Mormon faith, please know that I’m sending ecumenical love and prayers across the ocean to you, my friend. Your wide-open heart and gritty determination and bravery, bravery, bravery are reflections of the God that we both love.

    I’m wishing you peace in the struggle and comfort for your loneliness, and that the angel-wrestling you’re now in the middle of brings every good thing in the end.

    xx.

  45. mandaberry

    Dear Elder,
    When I was a little girl having surgery, alone in my hospital bed, I reached up into the night, full of faith and asked Heavenly Father to hold my hand. And He did. I felt it.
    Today, when I feel lost and alone, curled praying in my bed at night, I ask Heavenly Father to hold me, and He does and I feel it.
    I will pray for you to have many of those reassuring hugs from your Heavenly Father who sees and cherishes all of you.
    And I THANK YOU for being who you are and doing what you are doing. You are in my heart. .

  46. Dear Elder: I am so proud of you! Keep up the good work, be patient, and above all remember, God knows you, God loves you, and you are doing this work for him.

    Hugs from me,

  47. Mom of 3

    I am so proud of you. Although hard you are pushing through this. Heavenly Father will bless you for your faith and obedience. You are a very strong person because Heavenly Father will never get you something you can’t handle or overcome.
    I was overcome with emotion as you shared your story. I think of me, a 40 something mom who is married with 3 boys and active in the church. I as well love the gospel but feel inadequate and unworthy. This is part of my plyte. Thank you for sharing. I love missionaries. We have them often in our home. So often I would love to hug them gay or otherwise. I don’t know. All I know they as you are ,are in the Lord’s service. What a blessing for us and you. Thank you for your courage.
    Bless you,
    All my love,
    Mom of 3

  48. M. E.

    Dear Elder,

    I must say, you are braver than I am. I served a mission and was extremely closeted. But you have something great going for you that many other missionaries aren’t yet facing: you have accepted your true self. D&C Section 4:3 states “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.” Many missionaries forget that THEY were called to the work, not the projection they think their parents or mission president would like them to be. When you are true to yourself and the beautiful son of God that you are, who has been put in your mission/area/companionship right now at this moment, to connect with specific people each hour of each day, then the Holy Spirit can work through you to change lives. YOU have been called to this work. The things that make you, you. Be proud of who you are, where you come from, and your dreams of the future. As you realize your true potential and worth you will feel the connection with people you are striving for. Hugging is part of who you are, so do it.

    Be true to yourself, with honest and pure intentions, and let the pieces fall where they may.

    Good luck, and may God bless you in you times of struggle.

  49. Parker

    Forget yourself, and go to work.

  50. Dear Elder,

    Thank you for the courage to reach out and ask for what you need. I am sending you love, compassion and positive energy. I am holding you in my heart. Please appreciate yourself for your strengths, for your wisdom, for your willingness to be who Heavenly Father wants you to be and to do what He wants you to do. It is not always possible to receive the appreciation that at times we feel we need so much from others. But we can always appreciate ourselves.

    I’m a therapist…close your eyes and focus on following your breath in and out. Bring your place of peace into your your mind’s view. Use all your senses to re-create it. It may be a scripture, the Christus, a hymn, a place in nature. Relax into it. When disturbing/annoying thoughts come to your mind, acknowledge them, lovingly say good-bye to them and return to your breathing and then place of peace. Avoid judging yourself or others. Give yourself and others compassion. Remember, thoughts and feelings are just mental images. They are NOT your identity. You are a son of Heavenly Father. That is your identity.

    Blessings. You are in my heart and prayers. And it is obvious by the many comments that others are holding you close in their hearts, as well. Take comfort, my brother.

    Judith

  51. Understanding101

    Dear Elder,
    Reading your message brought so many emotions to the surface that I had suppressed deep within. My mission was a hard one, I too am a gay return missionary. I served with all my heart. The Gospel is so True that even my own carnal desire I was able to suppress. I had never experienced that before. I felt like I was actually able to Preach the Gospel with all my heart. In the beginning is was very tough! I really loved the sister missionaries! Secretly I wish that sisters were in my district just so I could speak with them. I found out later that I was able to connect quickly with women then men, so I used that as a tool to talk with women on the streets. I really know how lonely it is in the mission, trust me I do. I just kept going, when I would fall, I would get back up and keep going not acknowledging the fall by not living in the past. I was depressed in the beginning of my mission but it eventually went away. Us gays are emotional and need loving reassurance. I relied on Heavenly Father so much. That’s when you realize that you KNOW he is there and that He loves you. My testimony came when I completely was alone and conviction came in my testimony because I truly believed it. I know that I didn’t serve a mission for any but myself in the sense that it provided my testimony – something that I can never price. I know it’s hard. Just trust The Lord, talk with Heavenly Father as if he was right there next to you always. Know that once the mission is over you will see that it was the easiest part of your life.

    Elder, I’m a gay return missionary. I know that the Gospel is true. I know Heavenly Father listens to my prayers. I know he gives me peace when it becomes unbearable. I know it’s humiliating to say your Gay sometimes but I feel that’s even more conviction. I love you Elder for serving. I really do. Thank you for serving my Lord. He has a plan for us gays. We just don’t know what it is. I know it’s lonely. Honestly, strengthen yourself in The Lord. And Laugh because you make your mission what it is. Have Fun. Do fun things. Again, love you Elder.

  52. Courtney

    I wouldn’t want to pretend I have a clue what hard times this missionary is going through, but as a former missionary my self I remember times when it took all my strength to get through the day. Missionary work is as hard as it is good, and somehow we are supposed to forget ourselves and delve right in. The Lord is with us always, but for missionarys it is different, the Lord is with us always with extra guardian angels in tow- I really believe this. There were days when it seemed that prayers were answered in double time, and miracles were just around the least expected corner. He hasn’t forgotten you, and will send hugs and tender mercys in the most unexpected ways.

  53. Linda

    Has anyone shared the website link to mormonandgays.org? This is put out by the church and is really, really good. I think they should use it in the MTC as part of their training, for both gay and non-gay missionaries. Hang in there Elder!

  54. Melody

    Dear Elder,

    I said a prayer for you and your companion today. God bless you.

    Love, Sister Newey

  55. She-ra

    I’ll give the same answer here that I would give anyone–gay, straight, or otherwise. When you’re on a mission you are a representative of Jesus Christ, but also the church. The rules are strict and EVERYONE has rules that chafe them, but the thing to remember is that anything and everything you do will have ripple effects down the line. It will impact future missionaries and the members’ relationship with them. One person breaking the rules means added pressure to future missionaries to break the same rule.

    Those of us who have been on missions know that:
    a) There will always be those encouraging us to break the rules, and
    b) There are rules that are actually culturally offensive to people we are serving, and should be changed.

    Some of the rules exist to keep the mind spiritually focused. Some exist just so the mission president can keep some semblance of order over a hundred teenagers, but the MAJORITY of the rules serve to protect the church from lawsuits or from accusations that would defame the church. That’s part of the reason that you and your companion can only separate when there’s a bathroom involved. So there’s a witness to every alleged action.

    The problem with something like hugging is that it does open the church to lawsuits. All it takes is for one person to say something sexual occurred (even if it’s one-sided), or for a girl/woman to think “I’ll bet he’s not totally gay. I bet I could get some movement down there,” and all of a sudden the door is open for rumors, gossip, and even litigation.

    The thing all missionaries need to come to terms with is that you are first and foremost a missionary. Whatever personality attributes you have or life you left behind–or even who you are attracted to–has nothing to do with the work. It doesn’t matter if you’re attracted to the same sex as you share the gospel. What matters is if you change the conversation to be about yourself and start walking up to female members and saying, “I don’t want to have sex with you, so we can hug.” The missionary message is gone at that point, and now everyone is just looking at you… and thinking about sex… maybe imagining you having sex, or wondering if you plan on dying a virgin. Or a male member who is gay might seek out the chance to hug you and make it personal… and on and on and on.

    The point is, that when you’re on a mission, you represent the Gospel and the church, and you also need to protect both. It’s just how it is, no matter who you are, what you like, or what you would do if you were home with your family. Being gay makes the dynamic more interesting, but it doesn’t change it. If you cannot represent the church honorably and protect its interests, they send you home. Because one person does make a difference, and when you have a tag on, it’s the tag that people remember when all is said and done, not necessarily the individual.

  56. Becca

    I love this post, I love the sweet and sensitive replies to it, and I love that conversations like this are becoming more and more common.

  57. Hi cutie Elder,

    I was recently released from serving in a relief society presidency in my YSA ward, and one of the most powerful things that I gleaned from that experience, in getting to know the sisters in my ward, was that we were all so much alike. There is a big age range in our ward, and very different lives being led, but no matter how our circumstances were different, they were not. But bigger is that we are so much alike in our trials, but we insist on bearing them ourselves. Most people are lonely. Lonely in their feelings, lonely physically, lonely in knowledge, lonely in misunderstanding or assumption, lonely in the Gospel, etc. And most people don’t know or understand how to express that or work through it in a way that isn’t alienating. Our loneliness, our aching, our discomfort, and our sadness are all things that a. tie us together, and b. tie us to our Savior. This, like so all mortal things, are part of the atonement. It’s why our Savior condescended, so he could empathize, and be with us in our hard times, and our joy. I err on the side of loneliness. I am a bit of an outlier with little desire to accomodate those who would have me apologize for being exactly who I am. And as hard of a lesson as it is to learn, people will always form opinions and ideals about you based on things that don’t have anything to do with you. It has happened generationally to my family. But I am who I am for a reason. And what’s amazing is that I get to be happy, grow and become better independently of what others feel or think they know about me, and it is because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The opportunity to know my Heavenly Father, to have a personal relationship with my Savior, and to top it off receive constant revelation from the Spirit is a buoy, and I know that I am not alone. I never am. And you, Elder, never are either. And the best thing about all of this, is that you are on the Lord’s errand. You are sharing His gospel of peace, and happiness. The same peace and happiness that you are entitled to. Choose happiness, and love yourself. Love your companion. It’s the craziest thing, but it gets results. Love and serve your companion. Even if the best you can do is not loathing him. Take it a day at a time. Sometimes you have to level the playing field. We are talking square one, “we are both children of God trying to do our best.” We are all the same.You have that in common. You are well loved, and well looked after. The Lord loves you, as do we.

    xolizzy

  58. Savs

    I think you are the most courageous person I have ever heard of. It takes strength to cross continents and oceans to share the gospel in such a frightening world, but it takes even more strength to do that and be true to yourself amid so much opposition. But you have nothing to worry about really because you are clearly valiant, unafraid, and unashamed of the gospel of Christ. With Gods help and the support of people who love you for who you are, you will weather this storm and come off conqueror, little brother. Godspeed!

  59. Jill

    I don’t have anything amazing or profound to say to you, but wanted to say that never forget you are wonderful and the outpouring of love to you on these posts has to help illustrate that to you. I can’t imagine dealing with the difficulties you are facing and am amazed at your strength. Keep close to the Lord as that is the only person in the world that truly understands what you are going through and what you need. My favorite scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:13. ” …but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Personally I hit a point in my life that I struggled with how this could hold true because my sufferings and problems in my life were because of the choices of another person, not a temptation that the Lord had given to me, but I have come to understand another aspect of this. The Lord will give us the strength we need to get through whatever happens in our lives. He expects us to do all we can do, which is incredibly hard at times, but he will never let us deal with something that we can’t handle. He will make up the difference when we fall short. The Lord knows how strong you are and will help you be stronger when life gets hard and you need to have some extra strength. Lean on Him and He will be there for you.

    I don’t know you but I love you for your courage and your strength and the fact that you are my brother in the Lord. Don’t let the struggles you are going through pull you down. Turn to the Lord and let Him help you bear the burdens you have been given.

    Sending Love from an unknown friend. :)

  60. xenawarriorscientist

    Whenever there’s a lot of advice or opinions flying around (I mean church life generally, not specifically in reference to this thread…) always remember: people’s problems or beefs or bizarre proposed solutions are quite often not about you. They’re about them.

    This holds true for church leaders too. There is no shortage of GA quotes (Brigham Young and Bruce R. McConkie in particular) stating that black men would never, ever, ever get the priesthood, or at least not until Jesus came and personally ordered it to be done. They were saying these things right up until the DAY that the ban was lifted.

    Well, joke’s on them.

    Other commenters have pointed our quite correctly that our theology has no place for gay people and leaders think that will never change. That’s ok, leaders can think that. (ps. Church leadership tends to present a united front in the face of controversy until “suddenly” everything changes. I have heard enough to make it very clear that church leadership is far from united on LGBT issues.) And anyway, they used to be united in thinking there wasn’t any place for black people either. The reasons for our anti-black “theology” turned out to be cultural. I feel a lot of that same culturally-driven current happening with our anti-gay theology.

    There were a lot of things that went into the ban’s lifting, but black members themselves played a big part in it. Darius Grey was the first black kid to go to BYU. Part of his BYU experience was the delight of being invited to go see a “civil rights” movie screened there, at the tender age of 18 or so, that turned out to be “Civil Riots,” a John Birch Society-inspired ‘documentary’ about the civil rights movement being a front for a communist invasion of the United States. He somehow stayed with the church after that, although if I remember correctly he transferred to another university after that (no surprise). He went on to do big things in getting leadership to pay attention to the problems facing African-descended members in the church. Like organizing Genesis Group and stuff.

    If you’re able to check out websites, see if you can get a look at blacklds.org. It’s by black church members for black church members (as opposed to an official church site). It’s very honest about the history. It’s been a really helpful resource for this nerdy straight white girl with a kid and a job. Things can change and they do, but they don’t happen without people like us. We are so happy to have you.

  61. Kaci

    Having served a mission, and knowing about all the “rules” I get how some of them do seem quite silly at times… and yes it does seem silly for a gay elder to be able to live and hug the other elders, but not the sisters… however, I don’t agree that there should be any rule changed to allow gay missionaries to be able to hug the opposite sex. Here’s my example: As I walked the streets in over 100 degree weather from morning till night in the very poor parts of Argentina, we as missionaries got thirsty every once in a while–as one can imagine. As easy as it was to accept a drink of water or “juice” from a member or even a nice family offering us a drink, we just were not permitted to drink tap water. It was a rule in our mission. Why? Because many missionaries have gotten sick from drinking the water. There were a good number of native (Argentine) missionaries serving with us. They are used to drinking their own water, however, this was a mission rule, therefore, they also had to follow it. You see what happens, I noticed, is when one of my companions accepted the water or “juice” (which was really tap water mixed with powder) she is ruining it for the rest of the missionaries.. I was always the “mean or weird one” who had to decline such an offer from a very generous family who most of them lived, literally, on dirt floors. If all the missionaries kept this simple rule, there would be no confusion and members would just know that we aren’t to drink the tap water. Sounds silly, I know…but if you start making exceptions to rules, like “well because you are gay you can hug the sisters” things WILL start getting way out of hand.. and then things will happen… because these boys are only 18 and 19, some will say, “well I’m gay too so I want to hug the sisters as well…” Whenever there was ANY exception made to the rules on my mission, things always got out of hand. And until the prophet comes out and says we are okay to live a gay lifestyle, we must continue to live a non-gay lifestyle, because that’s the law of chastity, and allowing a gay elder to live with sisters is not helping him to overcome his struggle…but permitting him to break the law of chastity. So it’s okay for him to room with girls and hug them and see them get dressed or come out of the bathroom in a robe just because he is gay? As Mormons, we accept ALL and as of now the rules of God haven’t changed to allow those that do or don’t struggle with certain things to break rules—If someone doesn’t have a problem with drinking and never chooses or has ever drank and never will, still should not be hanging out with other people who drink, even if ALL they are doing is drinking–not swearing etc.. so why should a gay person be allowed to live with girls, just because he doesn’t have a problem at looking at girls??

    • Wade

      Kaci, I’m not sure if I understand what you’re saying; Are you saying that we’re not supposed to hang out with people who drink, simply because they drink? Because that sounds ridiculous, considering the company Christ was often found keeping in the New Testament.
      I don’t know anything, but I think you misunderstand Christ’s Gospel and his message.
      Simply, if I understood you correctly, I whole-heartily disagree.

    • Mormongirl

      For being a returned missionary, you sure are rigid and narrow-minded. Everything about your post screams “LETTER OF THE LAW” rather than following the “Spirit of the Law”. I’m pretty sure what the author was asking for was encouragement for this faithful, yet conflicted young man – not a soap box on how rules are rules are rules. I have family members that unfortunately choose to drink. Should I not hang out around them for their choice to do this? Never even tried it myself and never will, but I love my family and will not disown them for their lifestyles. God wouldn’t want that. We are told to learn to be in the world but not of the world. It’s impossible to isolate yourself from imperfect people. Finally, if you think some random elders would take on the claim to homosexuality, just to be able to hug girls, you must be super ignorant. Obviously, homosexuality is a big controversial deal in the church, and I assert that no young faithful man would want to take on that claim, along with all the hate and misunderstanding, for something so little, like hugs – especially if they’re on their missions for the right reason.

  62. Tell him to be himself. Otherwise people he is supposed to teach will not recognize him from the preexistence.

  63. Dearest Elder,

    You are so loved. Beyond all the doctrine, the things we know and the things we don’t, the ordered lines and the disordered minds, lies a perfect, loving, kind being, the roots and branches of this religion. He doesn’t throw stones, he sees the weak and the brokenhearted, and he seeks to heal and bless those others have forgotten. When I am down and out about the imperfections of man, I remember Him. I know he loves me no matter what. I know what His doctrine really stands for.

    You are doing a fantastically wonderful thing that will bless you and those who come in contact with you for the rest of your life (and beyond). Right now you are in the trenches. It can be HARD. And discouraging. I remember wondering how in the world so many people got to the point that they could call themselves “returned missionaries.” :) But those experiences, good and bad, changed me, refined me in ways nothing else before or since has done. Those experiences made ME notice the weak, see the brokenhearted, just as He sees them. I have a whole breadth of knowledge of and compassion for some of the trials of humanity that I didn’t have before. I am so much more inclusive. It has made me who I am. And who I am wants to heal every broken heart I can possibly do. Hang in there. Your challenges are not easy. You have unique gifts due to your circumstances that may help you touch people no one else can. You are there for a reason.

  64. Karen

    Dear Elder, I say a prayer every day that has really helped me spiritually and emotionally. ” God, grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can and the wisdom to know the difference”. My only other advice would be to follow your inner wisdom. You know in your heart what is right, When the going gets tough try visualising Jesus Christ at your side and think what unconditional love he would be showing you, his gentle hand on your shoulder giving messages of support and acceptance. It is my prayer that you find the path that is right for you. You cannot control the behaviour of others, only that of your own. Any judgment is their problem, leave it with them and focus on the wonderful human being you are. All the very best in whatever you plan to do. I pray mostly that you will find peace. Karen

  65. Hermana Mango

    I was a closeted lesbian on my mission and I loved my mission because there was no pressure about dating or sexuality. You were told to turn that part off and that was fine by me. It was the first time i didn’t worry about being gay because I had such a strong focus on the work. I was attracted to a few people, but then I would just put it in shut down mode because I was serving the Lord. Some of my companions were great and a couple were difficult to get a long with. Enjoy your mission.

    I currently am engaged to a Mormom girl and we don’t go to church, but we both reflect very fondly about our missions. The mission is hard and amazing. Be in the moment. You will never have this experience again.

  66. Tatiana

    Dear Elder,

    1. I love and admire you for your service to the Lord and His kingdom.

    2. Missions are just hard. I struggled and cried through a lot of mine. I was ultimately grateful for the opportunity the hard times gave me just to draw closer to my Heavenly Father. Sometimes I felt he was the only one who understood me and what I was going through.

    3. Best of luck! No matter what happens, I don’t think you will ever regret having served so selflessly.

    Your Sister in Christ

  67. Dear Elder,

    I can only imagine that many conflicting things going through your head right now. I’ve been in your shoes, and it’s a difficult path to come to terms with being different from the Elders around you. I’m an proud, out gay man but I’ve been through a long journey to get to where I am today.

    As a former missionary and former MTC teacher, my best advice I can give is to love people. That begins with a love of self, and you should never doubt for a moment that you are any less than another missionary.

    I struggled as a missionary, and told my mission president and more importantly, my Heavenly Father about my conflicting emotions and feelings. Both listened patiently and reassured me I was worthy to serve (I was).

    I learned so much as a missionary, especially about people who lived differently from me and my family. That’s had a huge impact on my life, as well as learning to see the world differently through a new language. Don’t be the kind of missionary who goes away from home and doesn’t learn anything about the people and their culture.

    You have some unique challenges, but you can meet them. You have the power to make your mission what you want it to be. It’s ok to feel conflicted, and not have all the answers. I think recognizing that can only make you a better missionary.

    Alex

  68. Dear Elder,
    You are a Brave young man, you have parents who have raised you well. What Courage you have, to Know who you are and to say YES to go out and Preach the Gospel still. Everyday you wear the Armor of God :

    Ephesians 6:10-18

    14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
    18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
    You are a Pioneer in your own right, and there will be difficult times, reach for the Armor that surrounds you daily, and reach out to friends you can trust, like you have done, they will sustain you. If you need more help than that, and you are feeling depressed or feel like you will harm yourself , PLEASE , I emplore you to call the crisis line or go to the nearest ER, YOU are a Valuable Child of God, here on earth at this time to teach others, much more than wonderful message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You are not alone, you are among many friends, and you may include me as one of them who is your friend.
    Be Well young man, and know that when the journey is through , the angels will all sing
    ‘All is Well, All is Well’, ‘ Where none shall come or hurt or make afraid!!! All is Well, All is Well’ I long to hear those words myself, you are not alone Dear Friend

  69. I wanted to share an essay by Eugene England, “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel”, with this dear Elder. Here is a link http://www.eugeneengland.org/why-the-church-is-as-true-as-the-gospel
    It was written in the early 1980′s. I have loved the insights Eugene England offers to us less then conventional members who love the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost is our perfect guide. Heavenly Father is good and loves his children. Kandee

  70. Natasha

    I don’t struggle with SSA, but I do know what it’s like to feel like the odd one out in a religion I love. I struggle with infertility and have suffered several miscarriages. I pray and pray, but my arms remain empty while others receive their blessings against similar odds. As I deal with my pain, I’ve learned to be more compassionate. One of my best friends is a gay Mormon. He is one of the most compassionate people I know. Please pass on this message to this missionary. Finding out one of my best friends was gay just made me understand him more. His trials have caused him to be very refined. I am a better person for knowing him. You, young missionary, may have already given someone the gift of becoming a better person and not know it. You have strengths, and the Lord knows them. He sent you there. You serve him, and he never leaves you alone. He may let you struggle, but struggles make us stronger no matter the outcome. I may never be a mother, but I know I’m not alone. I know you aren’t either.

    My husband also had a hard time with his companions. I was a senior in high school while he was sending out an SOS. He’s geeky. He kept having sport jocks for companions (not all sports jocks are like the companions my husband had, but it illustrates the stark personality differences). He was really struggling. He told me later that his mission turned around after he got a geeky companion that he understood and that understood him. It was December 2004.

    After we met and while we were dating/engaged, we talked about that time in his life. I shared my side of the story. I was struggling because I’d just had friends hurt me. One was a young man I really liked. While praying about this young man and trying to understand why I felt he was so important to me, I received the prompting that I should pray for my future husband on his mission. I was shocked. I did as I was prompted, wondering how this related to the young man I knew and for whom I cared. I later learned this young man I really liked was wondering if he should go on a mission. I thought, “Oh, maybe that’s what it meant. He needs help making this decision.” I felt really strongly that this young man was someone important. (And he is, we are still friends).

    After I met my husband, I learned the power of prayer on a whole new level. God had me praying for someone I’d never met and who didn’t know I existed, and that prayer (and I’m sure many other prayers from people who already knew my husband) changed the course of his mission. It become a powerful example of the love Heavenly Father has for both of us.

    Why do I share this with you?

    Because God provides. Ask people who care about you to pray for you. Culturally, I don’t think we do this enough. It’s scary to ask. Ask people who you really trust to pray for you on your mission and mention specifically what you need. Joanna Brooks is right, we don’t always have the answers, but we can wait together. I wish you luck, young man. You are valiant. I know because you do worry about so much. Please know, someone you don’t know is praying for you.

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