There are two things I knew to be true about myself while I was growing up:
I was a Hebrew-speaking Hasidic Jew.
I am gay.
But I’ve learned that regardless of what we may experience, when we trust God’s will above our own, our lives can turn out better than we ever imagined for ourselves.
I moved to New York to go to school when I was a teenager. I started noticing a beautiful chapel near my school. I was really drawn to it, and as I took a closer look at it one day, I saw the words, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Because I was Jewish, I decided I probably shouldn’t go anywhere near it again, but I never forgot how intriguing it was.
A few years later, my grandmother in England encouraged me to learn English and to pursue my studies. I had always been very interested in other cultures and religions, so I started studying them.
I eventually researched the name of the Church I saw in New York. I read about the Book of Mormon and decided to order a copy. I honestly thought it was fantastic. I really resonated with it and wanted to learn more.
This is when I started being drawn to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which didn’t make my parents or the Jewish community I had grown up in very happy with me. But I felt something different about this Church and knew I wanted to pursue it.
I ended up reaching out to missionaries in my area. The thing that intrigued me so much about the Church was that instead of being told what was true and having beliefs forced on me, I was encouraged to pray and receive knowledge and a testimony that it’s true for myself.
And I did.
After I gained that testimony, I asked to be baptized. The missionaries asked me, “Are you willing to endure to the end and keep the commandments?”
I said yes, even though at the time I didn’t fully understand everything that question entailed.
After being baptized, I continued to learn more about the Church. After a few periods of partial activity, I completely broke away from Judaism. Since then, I have strived to be a fully committed member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Now that I’ve learned more and have been a member of the Church for a few years, I understand better the concept of “endure to the end,” especially when life is hard and when I don’t always understand the reason behind my circumstances.
Because I experience same-sex attraction, sometimes I struggle to comprehend what Heavenly Father has planned for my life in the gospel. For me, the need to live the law of chastity can be difficult to understand and painful to apply at times, because it’s hard imagining I might be single throughout my life. I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to get married or have children in this life, but I want to, and I keep my mind open to being sealed in the temple if that is Heavenly Father’s plan for me. But regardless of when, I know those blessings will be fulfilled eventually if I follow His will and not my own.
But what do I do until then when the journey gets hard or confusing?
Here are a few practices that help me keep moving forward with faith:
When I received my endowment in the temple, I found the ordinances and covenants I made to be absolutely beautiful. I realized so much about the purpose of my individual life and Heavenly Father’s doctrine He has given to His children. I’ve realized that everything He asks of us—every commandment and law—is to help us have eternal families and become like Him, especially the law of chastity.
We’re taught to follow the law of chastity because sexual intimacy is a sacred experience that should be reserved for a marriage ordained of God. When I look at the bounds the Lord has set with an eternal perspective, I am able to accept and follow His commandments. In striving to live and understand the law of chastity, we realize the godliness and sacredness of sexual intimacy. And we are filled with more love for Heavenly Father, for ourselves, and for those around us (see Alma 38:12). We are also able to keep the Spirit with us and experience the blessings of lasting confidence, joy, peace, and happiness.
With an eternal perspective, I can choose to both acknowledge my sexual feelings and follow Heavenly Father’s plan. As I accept and love myself and choose to honor His commandments at the same time, I can be sure of receiving His promised blessings. I know He has a purpose and a plan for me. And I’ve also realized He wants me to feel His sacred power in my life as well. As I have learned about His eternal plan, I truly understand that we can experience godliness in many ways, not just through sexual intimacy. I feel Godly power when I’m partaking of the sacrament, when I’m serving in the temple, and when I’m sharing the light of Christ with others.
By keeping Heavenly Father’s commandments and the covenants I have made with Him, I can feel godliness, fulfilment, peace, and joy in so many other ways.
Since receiving my endowment, I’ve often wondered why I experience same-sex attraction. I’ve prayed for answers so many times. And as I’ve spoken with stake presidents and bishops and with Heavenly Father over the years, I’ve come to understand that we don’t know all the answers yet. He hasn’t revealed everything to us. God is perfect, but as we see in the Book of Mormon, He doesn’t reveal everything at once.
For example, when He told Nephi to create two records of his people for a “special purpose,” Nephi didn’t know what the purpose was, but he followed His commandment anyway (see 1 Nephi 9). Then, hundreds of years later, Joseph Smith gave the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon to Martin Harris, who lost them. As Nephi teaches, “The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto fulfilling all his words. And thus it is” (1 Nephi 9:6).
The Lord works with us and reveals truths according to our needs in the time that is good for us (see 2 Nephi 28:30). And that knowledge may not come in our timing—it will come in His. He knows better than us because He is our Father and He knows all. I know I have a place in His plan. And I have faith in His plan over mine. Regardless of what I may not understand right now, I know He will reveal all things one day (see Doctrine and Covenants 101:32–33).
As my journey continues today, one thing that helps me have the fulfilment I need in life is having deep connections with family, friends, and ward members. I don’t know if I will be married in this life, but I hold onto promises in my patriarchal blessing that say I will enjoy family life. And through the connections and friendships I have made in the Church, I have found fulfillment in that promise already because of the joy and happiness I get from those relationships—they are my family. We are all a part of Heavenly Father’s family.
Our souls are wired for connection, and that longing to connect is often at the heart of sexual feelings. Connection, close bonds, and friendship are such an important part of finding joy, and fulfillment as a member of the Church in this life, regardless of your circumstances.
We all need connection. I really believe in ministering because it’s all about connection. I love ministering to people, and I love it when people minister to me. I find so much joy and acceptance and love when we are strengthening each other. I often feel the Savior’s love mostly through those around me—my loving relationships keep me close to Him and strengthen me.
I can’t see the future no matter how much I want to. So when I look at that phrase, “endure to the end,” it can feel daunting at times. So instead, I have found it helpful as I try to endure to the end to also “enjoy to the end.” Because we are meant to have joy here on the earth (see 2 Nephi 2:25), especially when we follow the Lord and His will for us.
And although I get frustrated at times with imperfections of others and in myself and about the things I don’t completely understand, I know that we are all here to progress and become perfected in Him. We are simply Heavenly Father’s children, and He simply wants us to come home to Him. And He has provided a way for us to do so.
Even though I have no idea where my life is going to go at times, I do know that Heavenly Father will guide me to joy. I don’t focus on the future—I focus on taking life one day at a time with Him. And as I continue to grow, I am constantly gaining different perspectives and having different experiences that help me keep moving forward in faith and finding my purpose.
I know there are negative perspectives outside the Church regarding Heavenly Father’s doctrine of ordained marriage. But I just know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true more than anything else.
I know it’s true.
I’m so glad I trusted God and became a member of His restored Church. I’ve seen so many blessings in my life from being faithful. Not just from obeying the law of chastity, but from accomplishing my Church assignments, keeping the Word of Wisdom, paying my tithing, and doing all of those things the Lord asks us to do.
When I am wholeheartedly in the gospel and when I look through the lens of an eternal perspective and spiritual progression rather than a limited perspective, I feel such incredible peace and joy that doesn’t compare with anything else. The blessings I experience from the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings I am promised outweigh anything else, and they are worth everything.