Journey To Gay (And God Gives An Answer)

By Ellen Koester (also published at her blog http://the-noncommittal-philanthropist.blogspot.com/ )

In December 2011, I was at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple doing baptisms. It’s one of my favorite temples in the valley, and it was here, during its open house before its dedication, that I first gained my testimony of the temple. Naturally, it holds a near and dear place in my heart. I was sitting in the area where you wait your turn to go into the font. There were a lot of people there that day… I think it was a Saturday, so I had a while to wait. So I decided to do some praying.
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At this time in my life… my mission call had been rescinded only a few months ago. I had moved into a new ward, and I had been given a new temple recommend. I should have been on top of the world, but was instead in a really dark place. The only thing I ever seemed to pray about was my sexual orientation… I swear I had worn out the carpet in my bedroom from pacing and kneeling. And until this day in the temple, I had only prayed for God to take away my attractions for women, because I didn’t want them. I took to heart Elder Packer’s words from his October 2010 General Conference talk “Cleansing the Inner Vessel”, “Some suppose that they were preset, and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father.” (this is the exact transcript from the talk given during General Conference. You can watch the talk, and read the edited talk here.) Because of this talk, I believed that my attractions were somehow a choice… and that somewhere in my soul there was a switch that I could flip, so that my attractions would change, and that I could become sexually attracted to men, instead of women. Sometimes, I would switch my wording, thinking that that would solicit a different answer. I would ask God to give me attractions to just one man. Just one man, and he would be attracted to me, and I to him, and then we could get married, and I would finally be “normal”.

That’s how I prayed. It’s almost masochistic. And every time, I felt the same feeling. Cold. Miserable. Empty. I couldn’t understand why. So that day, when I was praying in the temple, I threw up my hands, in quiet desperation, and instead asked like this, “God… is it ok for me to be a lesbian?” And immediately after those words left my “mouth” I had an overwhelming feeling of warmth. Comfort. Assurance. Love. The feeling was identical to the feeling that I had when I first prayed about the Book of Mormon. I was stunned. There was no other emotion. So I asked again, mostly to confirm that I had heard the Spirit correctly. I got the same thing. So I went out on a limb and asked, “God, do you want me to be celibate? Do you want me to be alone?” No. A very clear no. But the Spirit continued… it testified, clear as day, that I needed to get married. That I needed to prepare to have a wife, and to have a family.

That day, I received a testimony of personal revelation. I didn’t really believe that the average, everyday person could receive revelation from God through the Spirit. But that day, I gained a testimony. But more importantly, I received a testimony that I am created just the way I’m supposed to be. That God created me in His image (or should I say in Heavenly Mother’s image… but my feminism is for another day). That revelation saved my life.

I want to make it very clear, that I am not claiming to receive revelation for the Church as a whole. No way. That power lies with Thomas S. Monson, the Prophet and President of the Church, and in him alone. But, I do believe that God gave me this piece of personal revelation, because He knew that I needed it. So that I wouldn’t leave the Church in frustration (which I had seriously considered). And so I wouldn’t feel the need to take my own life. Because for a while, I genuinely thought that it would be more pleasing to God, to have me dead in a box in the ground, with my virtue still intact, than to continue in this life living dishonorably, and unworthily. Because I still believed, that regardless if I stayed chaste and celibate in my life, I would still be considered less worthy than the straight, married woman with 5 kids, at the day of Judgement.

I’m not alone in my thinking. While I am no longer in that state of mind, because I have finally come to accept myself for who I am, there are countless young LGBT Mormons who are going through this line of thinking. Too high of a percentage of them end up attempting to take their own lives, and too many of them succeed. We are losing my generation of Mormons, because they believe that they have no place in this Church… they believe that God would love them more if they died, instead of living a full and meaningful life.

I want to make a difference in the Church. I want to make a difference in my community. I want to help. I want to be a resource of Christ-like love, and acceptance. Because the only “tolerance trap” that exists on this earth, is to believe that people only deserve our “at arms reach” tolerance. People deserve so much more. You deserve it. I deserve it. Your sons and daughters, deserve it. Your brothers and sisters deserve it. The young woman in your ward, the neighbors down the street, the kid in your history class… they all deserve it.

Love one another. Treat others as you want to be treated. These are principles that every person, from any faith or walk of life can embrace.

Ellen Koester is a university student studying political science and communications. Born in DEfiance Ohio, she converted to the LDS Church after moving to Utah. She finds peace and comfort in the Gospel, but struggles to find her place in the Church at large.

13 comments for “Journey To Gay (And God Gives An Answer)

  1. Meg Abhau
    July 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Great post. Great great great!! I read it twice.
    “People deserve so much more. You deserve it. I deserve it. Your sons and daughters deserve it.”
    Thank you for this.

  2. Becky Coombs
    July 14, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Thank you so much, Ellen. I am deeply moved.

  3. Anonymous
    July 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    This is really, really great. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience. I just wish everyone in the church believed that personal revelation can trump church policies.

  4. Gina
    July 17, 2013 at 6:27 am

    I was so happy for you when I read the part about the confirmation you received in the temple.

    The part about ending your life to save your virtue gave me chills. I’ve heard that several times before, and it makes me so sad. I’m glad you are past that. (Hug)

  5. Clark
    July 19, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I applaud your post, but must correct you that God does not want you to find a wife, for homosexual activity of any kind is a sin. He wants you to find a husband, for only heterosexual relationships can last for eternity, and no such homosexual activity will ever be accepted as right within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      July 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      I encourage Ellen to do what God tells her to, over what any one or any church tells her. The church has been wrong about many things but God will never lead her astray if she puts her trust in him.

      • Clark Herlin
        July 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm

        Nope. God gave us the Church to lead us to righteousness. Any actions must conform to what official Church publications say, or it is sin and Satan was heard and not God. God will never tell anyone to enter a same-sex relationship, for that is sin (see Handbook 2, section 21.4.6 on LDS.org).

        • Daniel Parkinson
          July 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

          I prefer to trust God over the church handbook.

          • Gina
            July 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

            Amen.

    • Ellen Koester
      July 26, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Clark, I encourage you to read my comment at the bottom (I posted a new thread, so that this one wouldn’t get too thin)

    • Maria de Los Angeles
      May 29, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Clark, go back to your patriarchally defined la-la-land. :-)
      And, Ellen follow your heart and the spirit of revelation. Church policy is only that, policy! It has been wrong before and it’s wrong on this issue.
      The Gospel of Christ is loving and compassionate… We must remember it.

  6. Ellen Koester
    July 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Clark, thank you for voicing your opinion on the topic of homosexuality (same-sex attraction), and on my experience in the temple. I genuinely appreciate it, and I welcome dialogue from both sides. Let me reply to what you have said.

    God doesn’t want me to find a husband. It is official Church policy to not advise gays and lesbians to enter into a heterosexual marriage. From time to time, you’ll see some that can enter a heterosexual marriage honestly, and I support them in doing so. But I could never do that honestly. I wouldn’t be able to love that man, and fulfill his needs in the way that he deserves. It wouldn’t cure me, and it wouldn’t curb my attractions for women. I wouldn’t be happy, and he wouldn’t be happy.

    I didn’t inquire of the Lord if homosexual activity was sinful when I was in the temple that day. I asked if it was ok to be a lesbian. The Spirit testified to me that it is. I then asked if God wanted me to stay celibate, and to get married. The Spirit testified that I was not to stay celibate, and to prepare for a wife. If there is one thing that I have learned about revelation, is that everyone is going to receive and interpret revelation differently. And I won’t know if I’m correct (see it with my own eyes) until I die, and pass through to the other side of the veil.

    All I know is that I am still alive. I was fully prepared to kill myself in the name of God, in order to preserve my virtue. That is a dark place that too many LGBT Mormon’s go to at least once in their life. I know that God would rather me be alive, than dead in a box in the ground.

    Are you aware of the story of Nephi and Laban in 1Nephi 4? Nephi was not yet a prophet. His father Lehi was still alive, and receiving revelation, as was Jeremiah in Jerusalem. Nephi received “personal revelation” to kill Laban, which as I’m sure you know, was (and still is) contrary to the official and established revelation, “Thou shalt not kill.” given by Moses in the Ten Commandments.

    There are records of black men receiving patriarchal blessings (pre 1978), where they are promised temple marriages and the priesthood. These blessings were re-done with different patriarchs, yet the promises were repeated.

    I’ve come to see the Church as a terrestrial framework necessary to access a celestial glory. It provides us with tools (scriptures, prayer, temple ceremonies etc.) and opportunities (callings, service etc.) that allows us to deepen our relationship with Heavenly Father and become more like Jesus Christ. The Church will never be perfect because it is run by imperfect men, and we do not have all of the fullness of the Gospel (AofF 1:9). The Gospel is perfect, because it is of God, and when we have the privilege to cross to the other side of the veil, we will truly be in paradise.

  7. Jeremiah
    July 30, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Ellen, thanks for being your mature response to Clark. I still have visceral reactions to such ideology/opinions and I really appreciate the example you set with your response.

    I appreciate the stories my fellow LDS LGBT brothers and sisters are sharing, for they echo mine: when we ask God directly about how He wants us to conduct our lives the answer has been resoundingly consistent – “love yourself because I love you, be faithful and choose life with a spouse who you’re attracted to.” This message has come out of the mouths of more than “two or three” witnesses and I imagine will continue to come. And while I genuinely appreciate the cognitive dissonance this reality causes our straight brothers and sisters (having been there for years and years myself) I no longer feel it expedient to tailor my life so that they are comfortable. I think that is fair. Thank you for a good example.

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