I was never the same as my other friends growing up. I didn’t have obsessions with boys and was way more concerned with my girlfriends and sports. As I grew older, I started noticing my feelings toward women. I always justified it by telling myself I simply had a deep love for my friends. But deep down inside, I knew that there had to be something more that I didn’t want to admit.

I always thought that being attracted to the same sex was a choice, and I knew I would never choose that. 

When I started high school, things really started to become noticeable. I developed very strong feelings for my best friend that grew so strong, I knew deep down what was happening. I still couldn’t quite admit to myself what was going on. I remember writing multiple journal entries throughout high school that stated, “I have a secret about myself that no one will ever know.” I planned on living my life without truly admitting to myself what was really happening.

I graduated from high school and played softball at Snow College for two years. In my freshman year I became really close to a great friend. I didn’t recognize my initial pull to her as being a romantic attraction. And even if I did recognize it, I wouldn’t have admitted it. Things escalated very quickly with this friend and me. Strong feelings developed, and I knew we were going down a road that I didn’t want for myself—a road that would keep me from serving a mission, which had been a dream since I was a child. I decided to end our friendship, but I did it in a way that I regret. I was so ashamed of the feelings we had developed for each other that I ended up blaming everything on her and remained in denial of what I was dealing with. I now know the importance of not only honesty with others, but also honesty with myself.

I served in the Michigan Lansing Mission. It was truly the greatest time of my life. My mission was everything I had dreamed it would be, and my testimony soared to a point beyond what I thought possible. I gradually noticed more attractions toward women. At first it wasn’t a huge issue for me, and I just kept striving to ignore it. But I started feeling really guilty for having these feelings.

I returned home from my mission and knew that I needed to talk to somebody. I had overwhelming guilt. Although I’d never acted on my same-sex attractions, that didn’t take away the pain and the realization of why those feelings needed to be felt. I first came out to my psychologist. This was the first time that I had ever verbally come out to anyone, even myself. I cried for hours. I couldn’t stand the thought that this was something I could be dealing with. I felt a lot of relief finally telling someone, but I instantly panicked that since I had officially said it, then that made it a reality. I went through many times of denial and disbelief. But the more I talked about it with others, the more peace and comfort I felt from receiving so much love and support.

Although the pain still remained, I started to realize the crucial turning point my mission had been for me in my life. It helped me to finally face the issue head-on, which would have been much harder for me if I had just logically married someone and then figured it out years into my marriage. I started to feel extremely grateful for the experiences that I had, despite the pain and anguish they caused me.

I only told five people within those six months of coming out to myself. Talking to my psychologist was the greatest help I received. He gave me many tools to use to help me turn this into a good thing about myself and how to come to a full acceptance of it. Initially I thought that this would be easy. I would follow Jesus Christ and either remain celibate throughout my life or find a man and be open and honest with him so we could work through a marriage and figure out how to live this life together.

However, I soon came to understand how hard this was really going to be. I hit a sort of crisis about eight months after coming out to myself. Reality finally set in with what my life was most likely going to look like. I just remember feeling so stuck. I felt that I couldn’t take the loneliness of not having someone while living in the gospel, but I also felt that I couldn’t live in a gay relationship because of my testimony and the knowledge God has blessed me with about His sacred plan. I started pondering the possibility of suicide. I remember thinking and feeling that God would be more forgiving and accepting if I had taken my life to get out of sin than if I had lived a life in sin. It was a major struggle for me.

As I pressed forward, I received many sacred and spiritual experiences that have changed my life forever. As I attended the temple, prayed, fasted, and spoke to many friends and loved ones, I started receiving very sacred answers that led me to the path that I am on today.

One of those spiritual experiences happened while I was praying. I felt an overwhelming peace come over me.

God spoke to me, saying, “Stay with me, just a little longer. Just stay with me.”

I knew at that moment that He was there and that if I stayed a little longer, I could not only manage life but also thrive.

Through these sacred experiences, I received a very strong answer from God telling me that I needed to share my story. This absolutely terrified me. I felt that I was not only supposed to help others in similar circumstances, but also help educate members on this topic, the reality of what people deal with, and how to best respond and love them through it.

I received many reactions as I started coming out to family and friends. The simple words “I love you, and I will love you the same no matter what you choose” were the most empowering and strengthening, beyond any lecture, advice, scripture, or quote someone threw at me. The feeling of unconditional love kept me stronger in the gospel than anything else could have. It made me feel safe, and that feeling of love and safety gave me the courage and strength to stay on the path that God wanted me to be on.

The most helpful reaction from any leader, parent, family member, or friend is simply love. I have a testimony of this because without the unconditional love from my dad, brother, sister, family members, friends, and leaders, I would not be where I am today.

The act of love, empathy, and understanding, or even the desire to understand, will do more than anything else.

By sharing my story, I desire more than anything to help others navigate their lives while dealing with similar circumstances and to help loved ones learn how to respond. Although it’s one of the hardest things I have had to work through and that I will continue to work through, it has changed me. And I believe it will continue to change and transform me into the being that God desires me to be.