When I was single and attending my YSA ward, many of my friends and I faced a lot of challenges as we strived for the blessings of eternal marriage and family we learn about in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of these friends were single much longer than they wanted to be, others had gotten married but were suddenly widowed or divorced, and others faced serious health challenges that imperiled their chances of getting married or having their own children.
In different ways, we were struggling to keep our faith despite lost hope and shattered dreams.
At first, when I got home from my mission, I was hopeful I would get married soon. I had recently accepted that I experience same-sex attraction and decided that I would faithfully stay on the covenant path and have optimism about my future in the gospel rather than give up. But dating women was still a challenge. And as the years after my mission stretched on, my hope in getting married receded and instead felt like a practical impossibility.
I had a testimony of the doctrine taught in the family proclamation,1 but it was sometimes painful to read because the beautiful eternal family it described just didn’t seem possible for me.
I wondered where my friends and I fit in Heavenly Father’s plan.
The Lord Is Aware of Us
One night while I was weighed down by my trials, I had a dream. In the dream, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love. I dreamed that God invited me to ask Him for food, and I dreamed I went to bed and arose with that food miraculously provided. The dream was so vivid that when I woke up, I was almost surprised there wasn’t food waiting for me at the foot of my bed. The dream left me with an absolute conviction that God had and would continue to nourish me.
The dream stuck with me all day, and I had a vague recollection of a story of a worn-out prophet in the Old Testament who went to sleep and woke up to a meal provided by an angel, but I couldn’t remember who he was. I wanted to locate the story in my scriptures that night, but I felt prompted to open the Ensign and browse through it first. As I opened the magazine, I noticed a beautiful painting on the inside back cover.
The painting was An Angel Came to Elijah, by Walter Rane, and it portrayed the exact Old Testament story I had been trying to remember.
I was shocked. What were the odds?
The story I had been looking for is found in 1 Kings 19. The prophet Elijah is exhausted from constantly being on the run. He is ready to give up and asks the Lord to take his life and then lies down underneath a juniper tree to sleep (see verse 4). He awakens to find water and warm bread, which he eats, and then he goes back to sleep. Then, a second time, an angel awakens him and says, “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (verse 7). And as he does, he eventually “went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights” (verse 8).
To my further astonishment, in the same issue of the magazine, there was a faith-promoting article about same-sex attraction.2
I was in awe of the Lord’s care for me. The Holy Ghost confirmed that these inspired words from others were perfectly timed and meant for me. I could not deny that God was mindful of me and would provide for my needs if I continued to follow Him.
Following Jesus Christ Is the Key
Like Elijah, I sometimes felt that my journey was too great to bear. But I felt so loved and understood by the Lord in that moment. I knew that He understood my circumstances and that my suffering mattered to Him. And if I partook of the spiritual sustenance that only He could provide, I would receive strength to continue my journey.
I’ve learned through both trials and spiritual experiences that the many bumps on the road and detours in life don’t stop us from having a place in Heavenly Father’s plan.
I learned that living by faith in Jesus Christ is the ultimate life plan! If we are walking by faith and keeping our covenants, no matter our personal or family situation, we are moving forward in His plan.
Walking with Christ
Just like I and so many of my friends in my YSA ward struggled to have faith in the future at times, I know many people now who are in unique circumstances that make them feel like they don’t belong in God’s plan of salvation. But as my friends and I have deepened our devotion to the gospel and relied on the Savior in our plans for our lives, we have felt and witnessed His love, guidance, and miracles.
As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” No matter what disappointments, unfulfilled expectations, or struggles come our way, if we walk by faith and cherish our covenants, we are not only fitting perfectly in His plan for His children, but we are also “encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15).
Although we can be anxiously engaged in following Christ and doing His work (see Doctrine and Covenants 58:27), His plan is not meant to make us anxious anytime our lives don’t go as we planned. Instead, he wants us to rely on Him, make covenants with Him, guide one another back to Him, and experience joy and growth through our unique experiences in mortality.
That is the essence of God’s plan: to lead us along the covenant path and to welcome each one of us back into His loving arms. And as we follow Him, we can most definitely see that each one of us does have a place in His plan.
1. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
2. “My Battle with Same-Sex Attraction,” Ensign, Aug. 2002, 49–51.