On the first morning as an exchange student in Utah in 1986, Tomas Ambt Kofod stopped right before beginning to eat when he realized his host family had gone silent at the breakfast table. “I thought, ‘What’s going on?’” he recalled. “Blessing the food … was a completely new thing for me.”
Tomas soon grew accustomed to the rhythms of religious life in his Latter-day Saint host family’s home. He even attended early morning seminary with his host siblings—and took the opportunity to ask all the questions he could. “I think I drove my teacher crazy sometimes,” he admitted. “But I asked questions.” As Tomas began to experience spiritual impressions, he didn’t dare tell anyone.
For Tomas, living in a place where Latter-day Saints were the majority sparked his interest in the faith but also became an obstacle to fully accepting it. “There’s this pressure around you,” he said. “It is kind, but it is a very tangible pressure. You kind of have to hold your own.” Things began to change, however, after Tomas returned to Denmark. “When I got home and people would kind of speak not so kindly about Mormonism,” he noted, “then suddenly I would be the defender and the role had completely shifted around.”
Gradually, Tomas began to build his own spiritual life. The same year he was accepted to acting school, he began to read the Danish copy of the Book of Mormon he’d been given. He soon noticed a difference in his life. He later wondered how God saw those early stages of his spiritual growth. “He [must have] thought, ‘At some point Tomas will ask the question,’ which is ‘Are you there? Am I connected to you somehow?’ It will not be just the ‘I would like a little miracle thing here.’ But I think those little miracle answers played their part in me having faith to ask the big question.”
In 1993 Tomas began asking those big questions, received a spiritual witness, and was baptized. Taking on the new identity proved difficult, however. Shortly after Tomas joined the Church, the theater that sponsored his acting school performed Angels in America—a play with a gay Latter-day Saint character—which drew attention to his faith. People asked him questions and some took issue with his responses to the point that his relationships became strained.
“It felt like the whole school was against me,” Tomas said. “I was the strange person for four years. … I was more looked at as ‘the Mormon’ than as the person, Tomas Kofod.” Feelings of isolation took the joy out of his studies. At times, he wondered if it would be better if his Father in Heaven would simply take him back home. “I wasn’t considering suicide or anything like that,” he recalled, “but I was done with the world.” During those difficult years, he looked to Christ for help enduring the “giant leap … from Mr. Popular to Mr. Extremely Weird and Strange with only little family support in religious matters, only going on my faith, and the courage I could muster.”
As difficult as it was, though, Tomas’s training helped him in his later religious service. Not long after his graduation, he was cast to play Jesus Christ in the Church-produced film The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd. When the time came to film a scene portraying Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Tomas found that the very isolation and pain he had felt after joining the Church gave him some small way in which to connect with Christ’s anguish.