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VOICES OF HOPE

DANIEL & EMMA

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Daniel was born and raised in the Midwest. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Brigham Young University-Idaho and his Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. He met his wife, Emma, at BYU-Idaho. They married in the Manti Utah Temple and have 3 children with their fourth coming in 2020. Daniel currently works in Salt Lake City as a librarian.

 
 

Daniel

Daniel is a life-long member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints having served a full-time mission in the Philippines. He began being public about his sexuality over the last year and has experienced an outpouring of love and support. His desire is to help Church leaders better meet the needs of LGBTQ+ members and help LGBTQ+ individuals find their place in the Church and their unique role in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Daniel is an unashamed fan of Harry Potter and Disneyland. He also enjoys reading, history, genealogy, dance, volunteering on the board of his local library, and road trips with his family. He most especially enjoys reading and telling bedtime stories to his children and stay-at-home dates with his wife.

Emma

Emma grew up in Riverside, California. Her passion for family led her to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. Emma currently lives in Utah with her wonderful husband and their three dynamo young children (and one on the way). Emma is blessed to work as a full-time mom, which she enjoys more than anything. She loves mothering, marriage-ing, baking, cooking, reading to her children, music, and family history work.

 
 

Watch Daniel & Emma share their story

 
 
 

MY STORY OF HOPE

BY DANIEL

There are pieces of my story that are similar, if not the same, as other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, I grew up in a Latter-day Saint family with a lot of siblings and with the traditional mother and father. I did relatively well in school, played sports, and participated in many forms of the performing arts I was an active member of the Church, attended seminary, served a mission, went to a Church university, married the love of my life in the temple, obtained a graduate degree, started my career, had children, and so forth. From an outsider’s view, my life could look pretty good and even privileged. In many ways, they’d be right.

They would also be wrong.

For over 20 years I lived a life of secrecy, fear, shame, loneliness, resentment, and sadness. I lived in a prison of silence. Depression, anxiety, and isolation were constant companions. Despite all the good things in my seemingly stereotypical Latter-day Saint life there was one thing that just didn’t fit: I am gay.

It is a simple sentence - only three words. However, as only those who have personally experienced the meaning of that three-word sentence will understand, it is only after many hard and laborious years that I am finally able to acknowledge this part of me whole-heartedly and unapologetically. It doesn’t mean that it’s not vulnerable and fear-inducing when sharing it, but it does mean that I am finally living my life - my whole life - like God intended and wants me to.

I don’t claim to have any answers. I only have my experiences. I share my story in the hopes that it will touch the heart of even one person who may find strength and hope in it, and that someone who may be in the place that I was five years ago will know that there is a way back and that they are not a lost cause. I firmly believe there is always hope, even in the darkest hours of one’s life. That hope is found through the Savior, Jesus Christ. My story is how He, and others, saved me. My story is one that is still unfolding. I share only a small portion of it.

Different from the Rest

I grew up in a small, tight-knit Midwest community. Everyone knew everyone. It was a great place to grow up - as long as you fit within the mold that was given you, which I did not. My parents are converts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had five boys and one girl. We were the only members in our little town at one point, which gave us plenty of opportunity to talk about the Church and the gospel with neighbors. For many, we were the first members they had ever met. We were a strange but respectable family. We were people of faith who believed in working for what we had and being good citizens. From the outside my family seemed to have it all together. Just like every family, however, we had our struggles.

My mother survived being physically and sexually abused by her father as a child. My father had grown up with parents who were generally good people, but who were absent from his life for the most part. My parents grew up in a time when family problems were ignored. My parents loved their children. They tried very hard to be better than their parents, and they were. They loved their children the best they knew how and taught us many important life lessons and skills. However, stereotypical gender roles were held firmly in place in our home.

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Growing up With Unhealthy Masculinity

It was from a very young age that I knew something was different about me. I was made aware of this by other boys who would say that I acted like a girl. My mannerisms were more effeminate. I was timid and gentle. My feelings ran deeper than other boys. I had a natural interest in things that were not stereotypically “masculine.”

I was naturally drawn to the performing arts; dance, music, theatre, and singing. Performing quickly became my love and passion. This did not sit well with other boys my age, and I was constantly bullied. I found myself unwelcome and unwanted. Where I grew up there was a deep-rooted problem of unhealthy masculinity. Boys were expected to play sports or participate in equally "masculine" activities. Emotions such as sadness, fear, and affection were not allowed for boys to show openly. Boys didn’t cry. My family held similar ideas of the meaning of masculinity.

As I got older the bullying intensified. I was unable to make friends with or connect with other boys. It was once pointed out to me by a family member that none of my friends in school were boys, and I felt ashamed about this fact. Starting in 5th grade I began having bouts of depression and self-hate. I would find myself thinking about and obsessing over some of the boys in my class. Ironically, they were the boys that bullied me the most. I desperately wanted to be friends with the other boys. I was obsessively self-conscious about myself-how I dressed, how I looked, my physical features, how I talked and interacted with others. I would purposely avoid participating in activities out of fear of making a mistake and being bullied as a result of that. I missed out on many opportunities growing up due to my fear of rejection.

Living in a World of Fear

It was the summer before I entered 8th grade that I was first exposed to pornography. It was a traumatic experience. I was not prepared for what I saw, but it didn’t take long for the addictive behaviors to settle in. The level of fear and shame I lived with increased exponentially that summer. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I just didn’t know how to get help.

What was most terrifying about my first experience with pornography was that I found myself interested in the men. The subsequent fantasies were also focused on the men from the pornographic videos I had viewed. It was confusing. I felt more keenly the fear and shame. The accusation that so many had made against me seemed to be true. The question “are you gay?” passed through my head. I defiantly answered “NO!” but in my heart I knew the truth. I wasn’t about to let anyone know the thoughts and feelings I was having. My mind wouldn’t allow me to believe them myself. To vocalize them was to make them real. It also meant complete and total rejection from everyone I knew.

The fear wasn’t necessarily about telling my parents about the pornography use, though that was scary, but mostly out of fear that it would mean I’d be outed about my attraction to other boys. I feared that if I came out to my parents they would kick me out of their home. I feared I would be excommunicated from the Church. I feared I’d get beaten up and relentlessly bullied by the other boys at school. I prayed constantly that God would take away my attraction to other boys-you know, the whole “pray the gay away” scenario that just about every LGBTQ+ Church member has gone through. Those prayers went unanswered.

I became bitter toward God. How could he do this to me? Why would He allow me to experience these attractions if it was in complete opposition to His plan? What was the point? Did I do something to be punished with this curse? What did I do to deserve this? Why does God hate me? Maybe it’s my destiny to go to hell. If that’s the case, then why even try? What’s the point of trying when your ending is already determined? What’s the point in living? These questions ran in an endless circle in my head growing up and were supplemented by the hurtful things said at home, in the Church, and at a school.

Yet, there was something inside that kept me coming back to the Church. I’m sure part of it was desperation to try to conform to perceived expectations in order to find love and acceptance. I think it had more to do with knowing in the deepest levels of my heart that it was true. Despite the turmoil going on inside of me, despite the anger I felt toward God, and despite even the moments when I wanted to give up there was a small voice that always followed me saying, “You know it’s true,” “You have to stay,” “Where else will you go?” “You know I love you,” “You belong here.” It made it all the more frustrating. How could I belong in a place where I felt like I didn’t belong?

What I was seeing and hearing and feeling was contradictory to what this voice was telling me. I was engaged in a constant internal war. I felt hopeless inside of the Church, but I could not deny that I knew in my heart that it was true. How could something that seemed to teach that who I am was wrong and evil, that seemed to hate and condemn my very existence, be true? At the same time I could not deny the spiritual experiences I had growing up such as the feelings of peace and love I experienced when I prayed, or the incredible connection I felt when going to the temple, or that every time I listened to the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith I felt in my very bones that he truly did see the Father and the Son, or that when I read the Book of Mormon I felt a stirring in my soul that it spoke the truth, or that The Family: A Proclamation to the World rang true in my heart, and I looked forward to the day when I’d find and marry my sweetheart in the temple. I truly believe that it was these truths that kept me anchored. Even when I was in the darkest points of my life, it was these undeniable truths that kept me in the Church.

The Mission

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I arrived in the mission field excited to start working. The first few weeks were amazing, and I loved being able to immerse myself in a new culture and language. It was about two months into the field that things spiraled downward. Around this time I was sexually assaulted by my companion several times (at the time I didn’t understand that this is what was happening). I didn’t resist his assaults. My body froze and even experienced arousal. My brain, though, was screaming that what was happening was wrong and I didn’t want it. I desperately wanted to stop it but couldn’t seem to be able to. Years later, with a lot of therapy, I learned that mine was not an abnormal reaction to being sexually assaulted. (It’s actually quite common.) However, at the time it happened, I felt that it was completely my fault and I was to blame. Finally, after one of these assaults, I experienced a breakdown. I was riddled with guilt, shame, and fear. I told my companion that we needed to tell the mission president about what was going on, and he agreed.

After a zone conference a few days later my companion and I privately met with the mission president. Since my companion did not feel confident speaking English, I did most of the talking. I told him what had happened, but because I felt like I was to blame, I told him that we had both willingly participated in what happened. Despite all the internal protests I truly felt that because I didn’t stop it I bore equal responsibility. My mission president said that he would need to counsel with other leaders before he decided what to do. He separated me and my companion that night, and I went home with a new companion. I was paralyzed with fear that I’d soon be going home. The idea of going home was more than I could bear. To go home because I’d done something like this was beyond shameful. I truly felt in my heart that I’d be rejected by my parents, the rest of my family, my home branch, and everyone else in my life. I had no idea where my life was going.

A short time later, I met with my mission president who said I would be allowed to stay on my mission. I was relieved and grateful. However, I carried the shame of what had happened for the rest of my mission and I saw those events for the rest of my mission through the lens of that shame. I was frequently assigned to very remote and poor areas where the Church was small and had seen little success. It was hard work with few results. I saw these assignments as a punishment from God for the sins I thought I’d committed. My efforts always seemed to fail. I watched most of my fellow MTC missionary friends experience great success. I felt that I deserved this punishment. When I returned home I kept a tightly sealed lid on what had happened. I acted as if my mission was successful and nothing but a spiritual feast - when in reality, I felt it was a complete failure.

The Internal War Rages On

For the duration of my mission and for several months afterward I had not viewed pornography. I felt happy about this and desired to continue staying away from it. However, while living with one of my brothers for a short time, I found myself returning to it one night; it was a terrible night. My world came crashing down around me as I realized that I had relapsed. I fell into a deep depression the next day and felt totally numb. I hated myself and let shame engulf me. I couldn’t understand what had happened on my mission. It would come back to me at all hours of the day and night. The trauma I didn’t realize I’d experienced kept hitting me over and over while pulling me deeper into my pornography addiction. I knew for certain by now that I was gay, but I couldn’t acknowledge it.

While dealing with this struggle I was in the process of applying for college. I was encouraged by a friend to apply to BYU-Idaho, and after being accepted I started school in January 2010. I was excited for this new adventure and threw myself into my studies and trying to make friends. I had a lot of success at first, and I felt genuinely happy. Even in these moments, the war inside me raged on. I wanted so much to tell someone, to have a friend I could talk to. I prayed constantly that God would lead me to someone who I could confide in.

Finally, in my second semester I decided to speak with my bishop about my pornography addiction and my same-sex attraction. I also confided in a roommate that had become a good friend. I was terrified to do it, but I needed help. Both my bishop and friend were compassionate, loving, understanding, and accepting. They listened to me as I expressed my pain, fear, and shame. It was the first time I had ever openly admitted my same-sex attraction and pornography addiction. The bishop met with me regularly, loved me, and encouraged me. The subsequent months were some of the best I’d had in my life. Sadly, this bishop was released after that semester. I continued to make progress, but I made a few mistakes that led to my relapsing. First, I didn’t talk to the new bishop about my addiction or come out to him. Second, I moved to a new apartment complex and didn’t talk to the new bishop about these things there either. I regret those choices. That could’ve been a turning point for me, and I could’ve received the help I needed before things got worse. However, I made the mistake of once again isolating myself which led to me crossing lines I never thought I’d cross.

I read everything I could get my hands on about LGBTQ+ issues and the Church. I would listen and read articles and talks by Church leaders. I was craving for something, anything, that would give me hope that I am lovable or acceptable to the Lord and that I had a place in His Church. I found myself doubting everything I knew and believed about the gospel, the Church, even my Savior. All the feelings of self-hatred returned. I think back now and I know that my use of pornography and other actions was really a desperate plea for help. I wanted to feel like I had a place and a purpose, because I did not feel like I had a place in the Church or my family.

Yet, once again, there was that small, pervasive voice within the deep chambers of my heart that continued to say, “I am here. I love you. You belong.” No matter how dark my thoughts became or what choices I made, no matter the anger and resentment I inwardly directed towards God or the Church - that voice was always there; gentle and loving and keeping the tiniest spark of hope alive in me. It would not let me forget my testimony of the gospel. There was a time that I hated that voice. I had moments when I hated that I had been born into the Church. If I hadn’t been born into the Church I would have never known these truths. I would have been able to live a gay life in peace. I could live that life without the condemnation of knowing I was breaking commandments and covenants. I resented that God would do that to me and angry that He would allow me to be gay and know these truths.

Meeting My Future Wife

In the spring of 2012, I had decided I was done trying. I was done trying to date. I was done trying to find a spouse. After all, I was in no place to date or marry. I was viewing pornography and acting out in other ways regularly. My depression, anxiety, and shame were at an all time high. All those questions I asked and shameful, hateful messages I had directed toward myself when I was younger, once again permeated my thoughts. I was questioning my place in the Church and even my place in life. God had a different plan for me. It wasn’t a week after making this resolution that I was introduced to the woman that would become my wife.

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I still remember the moment I first talked to Emma. I’d been given her number by a mutual acquaintance who encouraged me to text her. I was desperate for friends and for connection, so after several minutes of internal conflict I decided to give it a chance and text her. She responded! And not only did she respond but she agreed to meet! I was excited and very nervous about what was coming.

The next evening, I bought a chocolate cupcake from a local bakery and took it over to her apartment. What better to break the ice than with chocolate? I felt apprehensive as I knocked on the door, but as it opened, my eyes fell upon a beautiful and kind face. I distinctly remember gazing at her beautiful eyes, bright smile, and her hair of light brown, soft curls. I was caught off-guard by something I had never felt before - an attraction. It was the first time I had felt an attraction for a woman. I felt instantly connected to Emma; it was easy to talk to and be myself around her. When I left her apartment that first night, I felt a joy I had never experienced. I wanted to see and be with her again.

The following days were a whirlwind. I wanted to be with Emma as often as I could. I felt like I had finally found a woman that I was genuinely attracted to and she was attracted to me. It wasn’t long after we met that we were dating, and after three weeks we were engaged. I felt starstruck. However, I simultaneously felt fear and shame. I was withholding from her the fact that I was gay.

I felt many times that I needed to tell her while we were dating and engaged. I knew it was wrong to hide it from her, but I was so scared of losing her. For the first time I’d found someone who I connected to, enjoyed being with, felt safe around, and loved. The best part was that those feelings were reciprocated. I was too scared to lose this, and my past experience - or what I’d been conditioned to fear - was that I would lose her if I came out and told her I was gay, not to mention my past. So, I kept it a secret. I was ready to take it to the grave. I was afraid of losing the feelings of love, connection, acceptance, and belonging. I was afraid of losing what I saw as my only chance at happiness within the acceptable bounds of the gospel and the Church. I never once thought or prayed or hoped that getting married would “fix” or “cure” me of my being gay. I knew from my studies that this would not happen. I just wanted to love and be loved and have a family. I thought that coming out would mean losing all of that.

I deeply regret not telling her. I wronged Emma on so many levels and in so many ways. Looking back, if I had only told her from the beginning it would have worked out. She would have stayed. She loved me, and I could see that. She has an understanding and compassion so few in this world have. She loved me for me, and she would have willingly worked with me on my struggles and addictions if I had only told her. I could have prevented so much pain, hurt, anger, trauma, and sorrow for her and for us if I had just talked to her and been honest from the start.

Fear and shame are incredibly powerful forces. They are paralyzing and entrapping. They hold a person hostage. That is exactly what happened to me.

I believed the lies I was telling myself - that I was worthless, and to tell my secret would mean losing everything. I couldn’t lose Emma. Losing her would be like losing part of myself. With her I feel complete. However, by not confessing to her what I had done I committed a terrible injustice against her. In many ways I deprived Emma of her agency. Over the past four years it has been a long, hard, and ugly road to get to where we are today.

A Marriage of Happiness and Trials

The last seven years of marriage have brought the greatest joys and most painful sorrows. Emma and I have had some great times together. I have laughed with her more than anyone else. She gives me a reason to smile and have hope. We helped each other graduate from BYU-Idaho. Emma supported me through graduate school. We have moved six times and lived in three states in our seven years of marriage. We have welcomed three beautiful, healthy children into our family. They have been the source of some of the greatest happiness we have experienced.

There has also been incredible pain and sorrow. I have been unfaithful, dishonest, and deceptive to Emma. I have betrayed her in the worst possible ways, shattering her world and breaking her heart. She has had countless sleepless nights, therapy sessions, support group meetings, and meetings with priesthood leaders. She has spent years feeling alone, abandoned, and forgotten. Her recovery has been filled with tears, anger, pain, fear, anxiety, and depression. She has had to navigate the road of betrayal-trauma. If she had chosen to leave she would have been justified in doing so.

Being in a mixed-orientation marriage is not easy. However, I do believe that we have one of the strongest and most rewarding marriages. Our marriage has gone through more than most. We have walked through the deepest pits of hell and the darkest abysses. We have been figuratively burned to the ground and raised from the ashes to be made into something beautiful, beyond anything we could have imagined.

We do not have it all figured out. We do not have all the answers. However, we have a hope that all things will work out for our good. We have faith in our Savior that He is helping us. We have faith that through Him all things are possible, including our marriage. There are many in the world that will say that our marriage cannot work and is destined to fail. After all, how can a gay man be attracted to a woman? I don’t love Emma because of her gender or her body parts. I love Emma for Emma. I love her for WHO she is not WHAT she is. I truly believe that this has allowed us to reach a level of intimacy that many other couples never reach.

Our life together has been a constant battle of beating the odds. We are accustomed to not fitting the mold society tries to put us in and proving people wrong.. I feel confident in our battle against the odds in being successful in our mixed-orientation marriage. How can I be confident? Because of the faith I hold that Christ is able - through His infinite atonement - to heal, forgive, strengthen, encourage, guide, and change our very nature. That doesn’t mean He will take away my same-sex attraction. As a matter of fact, I believe that He gave it to me. Without it, I could not accomplish the work He as for me. I would not be the person I am today or who He needs me to be without my same-sex attraction. I truly believe that Emma and I accepted the path of a mixed-orientation marriage before this life. Sacred spiritual experiences have confirmed this belief.

Being Called as a Witness

Over the past five years, I have worked on addiction recovery, healing and recovery from trauma, healing my marriage and rebuilding trust with my wife, and finding my place in God’s Kingdom. This has been painfully difficult. I hear hurtful and misinformed comments and statements made by both members and leaders of the Church. They still hurt, and they always will. However, I believe I, and all of God’s LGBTQ+ children, have a place. After all, I am God’s child, too. I, just like anyone else born on this earth, chose the side of Christ in the pre-mortal life. I fought the same battle in heaven that my straight brothers and sisters fought. I showed the same level of courage and faith. I kept my first estate as faithfully as anyone else. Why wouldn’t I have a place in God’s Kingdom on earth?

I believe that I belong in this space and that I have a purpose. I believe that God has a plan for me, and part of that plan is for me to be gay. Does that mean I will be gay forever? I do not know and, frankly, I don’t care. It is a moot point. What I do know is that over the past few years since my coming out I have felt in my heart that God has a work for me to do.

Part of that work is to become a voice for LGBTQ+ members within the Church. I don’t know exactly what that means or what it looks like. I do think that part of it is to show love and acceptance to my fellow LGBTQ+ members no matter where they are on their journey in life. I believe it means to be open about my sexuality with Church leaders and to be a source of help to them. I believe it means speaking up in situations inside and outside Church meetings when something is said about LGBTQ+ that is incorrect or hurtful. I believe it means being a resource and a friend that both LGBTQ+ members and other members can look to for support. I believe it means that I stand up and declare that I am here and so are others like me and that we need to be ministered to, loved, embraced, and heard. I believe it means taking the risk of being hurt and hated just as Christ was in life.

If I am able to help just one child, youth, young adult, or couple, then it’ll be worth it. If I can help them feel just a little less alone in the world, then I will feel like I have made a difference. I can’t help but feel that if I didn’t come out and be a voice then I would be held accountable to God because I had an opportunity to help someone else suffering in a prison of silence and didn’t. Coming out and speaking up about being a gay member of the Church and being a voice for those who don’t have a voice of their own is how I can live my baptismal covenants. “Ye are...called...to bear one another’s burdens...and...mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses to God...that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you.” (Mosiah 18:8-10) This is what believe I have been called to do. My place is following this call to action given in the Book of Mormon which is to love and help others. When I do that, I am being a witness of God and His love for all His children. Especially His LGBTQ+ children. This allows for the Spirit to be poured out more abundantly among His children.

It has been expressed to me by some that telling my story should be discouraged. To do so may lead others to think that it’s okay for them to go and to the things I did and then repent later. After all, if I can do those things and come back then they can, too. Will there be individuals who think this way? Maybe. Should that stop me from sharing my experiences? Absolutely not. That’s what got me in the mess I got into in the first place. Shame loves the dark. It loves isolation. It was when I finally began talking about it and bringing it into the light that the shame dissipated. It was bringing it into the light that freed me from Satan’s grasp. I tell my story for the person who is where I was - to let them know that there is hope. There is light and peace and happiness ahead. You are not a lost cause. You are loved and wanted and needed and have eternal value and worth. To hide my story would be hiding my testimony of the power of the Atonement. It would be hiding my faith in and love for the Savior. It would be hiding my candle beneath a bushel. I believe God would rather I lift up my light so that it can shine to light the whole house.

My Cross to Bear

I want to conclude by sharing an experience I had while reading Matthew 10:38: “…and he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” After reading and pondering on this passage, a sacred insight came to me.

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Each person has a cross they must choose to carry to be a disciple of Christ. Part of my cross is being gay. That is a large portion of the weight of the cross that God has asked me to carry. The choice is mine alone if I’m going to accept and carry it.

It’s a heavy cross, but so are the crosses that each of God’s children are asked to carry. It’s no surprise that many decide to give up and stop carrying their cross, because it can be exhausting, discouraging, lonely, and painful. Even Christ Himself at one point asked if it were possible to not have to carry the cross given to Him.

The great thing is, I don’t have to carry mine alone. As a matter of fact, I never do, even when it seems like I am. Christ is there with me. He carried it first. He carried and still carries the weight of THE CROSS by Himself. He carried the cross of the world - in other words, the cumulative weight of all the crosses of God’s children - all so that I do not have to do it alone.

My cross has already been carried, so now He can help support me. He already walked the path so that now I just need to follow it. And if I drop my cross for a time because it feels too heavy to continue He’ll be holding it until I am ready to come back and start down the path again. He won’t complain or resent me for leaving Him with it, and He won’t refuse me or shame me for leaving. He knows the weight and pain of the cross I’ve been asked to carry. He’ll rejoice in my return and help get me started back down the path - no questions asked, because He loves me. It doesn’t matter to Him how many times I drop my cross. It doesn’t matter to Him how long I leave Him there holding it. All that matters is that I return and keep trying. He will never give up on me, never stop loving me, and will always welcome me back.

And when the day comes that my journey ends, He will rejoice with me and take my cross from my shoulders, and I will be free from its weight forever. But He won’t be; He will continue to carry my cross for the rest of eternity, so that I don’t have to. And that is why I am, and always will be, eternally indebted to Him.

Until that day comes when I lay my cross down at His feet, I intend to continue to carry it. I have hope that as I continue to act in faith by keeping my covenants He will continue to strengthen my resolve. There will be times when I am tired and discouraged, but He has placed friends and family in my life who love me and will help me to keep moving forward. In return I have a hope that sharing my story will help other LGBTQ+ feel the love the Savior has for them. His love is not exclusive. It does not require a person to be at a certain level of righteousness. Christ’s love is unconditional and infinite. He wants me as I am and where I am. There is no place His love cannot reach.

I know that I have a place in His kingdom and a role to play in His work. God did not make a mistake when He created me. I am gay for a reason. I do not know all the reasons why, but I know that the day will come when He will give me all the answers, and I will see that it was done in perfect love.

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REWRITING THE STARS

BY EMMA

You know that feeling when you have someone who questions your every decision? They’ll go along with you to be kind, but you can see in their eyes that they believe you’re making the wrong choice and are bound to fail. This is what it can feel like to be married to a gay man. At times, it seems like everyone is watching Daniel and me, just waiting for our marriage to fail. Of course, we know better. But, for even the strongest couples, it can be draining to deal with this opposition every day.

It was truly an answer to prayer when, at our first North Star conference, David Archuleta performed “Rewrite the Stars” from The Greatest Showman. In that setting, the lyrics hit Daniel and I harder than they ever had. “…who can stop me if I decide that you’re my destiny?…It’s up to you, and it’s up to me. No one can say what we get to be. Why don’t we rewrite the stars? Changing the world to be ours.” It was a very sacred experience between the two of us and our Savior whose spirit and love we felt so strongly. He wants us to succeed just as much as we want to succeed! Our ways are not His ways. Just because the world can’t make sense of our marriage, doesn’t mean that we’re doomed. Quite the opposite, actually.

Last year while reading the Book of Mormon, I gained a new appreciation for the story of Nephi being commanded to build a ship. It felt like this section of scripture had been specifically written for Daniel and me. Our marriage is the ship that Nephi was asked to build. Just as Nephi had to go up to a mountain to receive the knowledge on how to build this ship, Daniel and I have to go to the temple often and pray together even more often to know how to build our marriage into a vessel of curious workmanship that can take us to our promised land: eternal life.

Side by side and with the Lord at the helm, we are breaking down the status quo and rewriting the stars.

Growing Up

I grew up in Southern California. I am the youngest of six, which is how I became equipped with the stubbornness needed to deal with all the opposition in my life. My parents divorced when I was eight years old, which made me feel out of place pretty much anywhere I went. Thankfully, my family continued to be strong in the gospel which became a very important part of my identity from early on. I had a strong testimony and never missed church or seminary. In fact, one day while my mom and I were out of town visiting family, we got up early that morning and she drove me to the nearest seminary building so I could maintain my 100 percent attendance. I didn’t do this because I was trying to appear a certain way to people. I did this because I truly wanted to. I enjoyed seminary and learning about the gospel.

At age 15 I received my patriarchal blessing. During my blessing, I had a very strong impression that my husband was on his mission. I also knew that our relationship would be hard. At the time, I didn’t understand what that would look like.

During the next three years of my time at home I became more and more drawn to the LGBTQ community. I remember having a Young Women’s leader who was young and divorced. The rumor was that on her honeymoon, her ex-husband told her he was gay. I don’t know how much of that is true and I never heard any more detail, but I remember thinking, “So? Did she leave him just because he was gay? Or did he just marry to try to ‘fix’ himself and when he realized it didn’t work he wanted out?” I really wanted to understand what happened because his sexual orientation didn’t seem to be a good enough reason for divorce to me. However, to everyone else in the room, it definitely seemed like a good enough reason. I didn’t say anything, but I wasn’t buying it. Many of my very close friends were gay and I thought to myself that they would make some of the best husbands! In my experience, they were clean, well-dressed, smelled nice, enjoyed a good chick-flick, never objectified me or other women, didn’t follow the typical and sometimes harmful gender roles, often had me laughing, were incredibly empathetic, kind, sassy, great listeners, and even better advice-givers. Now, I know that this isn’t how every gay person is, but like I said, this was my personal experience with them that led me to the conclusion: I liked my men as straight as I liked my rainbows. As far as I was concerned, they were the best kept secrets and I was determined to marry one. I wasn’t sure what that would look like or how it would work, but I knew if anyone could do it, I could. Remember that stubbornness I talked about earlier? It morphed into a very, very strong will.

Of course, having crushes on my gay friends usually ended in heartbreak and while I never gave up on the idea of marrying one, I did start to date other “regular” boys. Eventually I graduated high school and went on to college at BYU-Idaho where I continued to date. No matter how kind or polite the boy was, I would always come home feeling empty. I wanted that connection that I had felt with the boys I grew up with.

My Knight in Slightly Tarnished Armor

It was my 5th semester and I was off-track. It was my first off-track semester that I stayed in Rexburg. A couple of days before the first Sunday in my new ward, I went through a very dark time. Suddenly a darkness seemed to overcome my life and consume my thoughts. I felt complete loneliness and despair - so great it didn’t feel like I could ever feel happy again. It felt suffocating. I isolated myself from my roommates and was going to call my dad to tell him I wanted to come home. I decided to hold off until Sunday. I would go to church and ask the bishop for a blessing and then see if I felt any better. Sunday came and I went to church. At the beginning of sacrament meeting, it was announced that the bishop was out of town. I started to panic again. However, as I sat through sacrament meeting and then Sunday school, I started to feel that darkness be replaced with light. I was starting to feel joy again. When Relief Society started, the Relief Society president got up to open the meeting. Since it was the first Sunday of a new semester, she asked that we all stand up one-by-one to introduce ourselves. She wanted us to say our name and what we looked for in a future spouse. I was in the second to last row and heard things like a nice smile, a hard worker, a cowboy, tall, etc. When it was my turn I stood up and said that I liked effeminate boys. We all had a good laugh and I became well known in the ward for my attraction preferences.

The next evening, we met up with another apartment to have FHE. Two girls excitedly came up to me and told me they had the perfect effeminate boy for me. He was a dance major for crying out loud. They had several dance classes together and were good friends of his. They told me his name and asked if they could give him my number. I agreed but didn’t get my hopes too high. The next day he contacted me and we planned to meet the following evening. The next evening, I heard the doorbell ring and went to open the door. I will never forget the feeling I had when I opened the door and our eyes met. It felt like coming home. We saw each other every day after that. Being with him felt so different than any other dates I had been on. Spending time with him made me feel secure and happy. I could tell that he truly liked me and was attracted to me and so whether he was gay or not didn’t matter to me. Every once in a while, we would be talking and he would open up about some things that he had dealt with in the past. They never seemed like big deals to me, but I could tell they bothered him and I couldn’t figure out why. Although I had no idea the deep shame Daniel was experiencing, I would definitely see glimpses of it. They were difficult moments. I couldn’t put my finger on it and, unfortunately, I decided to not focus on it, which caused a lot of heartbreak later on.

During the next few weeks we talked constantly. Some of our most favorite dates during this time consisted of simply walking around Rexburg hand-in-hand, talking. Eventually our conversations turned to marriage. We each prayed about whether it was right or not. I knew deep down that Daniel was the person I was going to marry.

I knew that he was the person that I felt strongly about being on a mission when I received my patriarchal blessing. As I prayed to Heavenly Father I told him that Daniel was the person I wanted to marry. As I sat and listened to the Spirit, I was told that it would be hard. But I was also assured that this is something I had prepared for before I came to earth. Again, I didn’t understand what that would look like, but I made my decision to marry Daniel because I knew this choice would bring me the most joy in the end.

For Better or Worse, In Sickness and in Health

On August 24, 2012, we were sealed for time and all eternity in the Manti Utah temple. We were in the honeymoon phase for about two days before really ugly things started to surface. Our marriage had some incredibly sweet ups and lots of horrible downs for the next two years.

On my 22nd birthday we found out I was pregnant. Several weeks later we found out we were expecting twins! It was terrifying but so exciting. We were poor college students and our closest family member was over 500 miles away. On September 2nd, I gave birth to premature, 4 lbs. fraternal boy/girl twins. They were practically perfect in every way! Daniel and I were immediately and completely in love with them. Bringing them home after two weeks in the NICU was like Christmas morning. We were so excited. But soon, the realities of having two newborns started settling in.

The next six months were some of the loneliest and darkest days of our lives. We had very little help. We were completely sleep deprived. Our twins were both colicky and projectile vomited on everything all day long. Not only would they not sleep at night, they would scream and scream. I remember taking them to the doctor hoping to find some relief. The nurse reassured me that the doctor would give me some tips to help them. The doctor did absolutely nothing for me or for them. It was a horrible, horrible time. But, looking back I can see how the Lord was preparing us. We needed to learn to work together as a team without the help of others. We needed to learn to turn to the Lord, because He was the only one that could help us endure what was to come.

The week of my 23rd birthday I was prompted to look at my husband’s computer while he was at work. What I saw on his computer made my heart stop and go ice cold: Gay pornography. I remember thinking there’s no way this could be true. Somehow someone in our building got onto our Wi-Fi and for some reason their search history was showing up on Daniel’s computer. And then I started to feel sick to my stomach as I realized that if what I was looking at was true, my life would change forever. I knew we’d need counseling that we couldn’t afford. And then my worst fear set in: did Daniel marry me to try to “fix” himself? Did he actually love me? Was I going to be a single mother to two babies? All these thoughts were going through my head all day until Daniel came home and we got the twins to bed. We sat on the couch together and I remember thinking, I don’t have to bring this up. Maybe if I don’t bring it up we won’t have to deal with it. I really didn’t want to know the truth. I was terrified. However, I worked up the courage to ask him about what I saw. He denied and denied and denied. The more he denied the more my heart sank. I could tell he was lying. Finally, I started to leave the room knowing he wasn’t going to tell me the truth.

As I stood up to leave, Daniel stopped me and told me the truth: “I’m gay.” After the shock settled a little, I only had one question for him, “Do you love me?”

His answer was, “yes” - and I could tell he truly meant it. We talked for a long time and I asked a lot of questions. I felt good. Of course, I felt sad that he had lied to me from the beginning, but I knew he loved me. Our marriage would be fine. We set up an appointment with our bishop later that week.

The evening before our meeting with our bishop, Daniel sat me down and told me there was more. I could tell he was terrified. After some hesitation, he finally told me that he had acted out with other men, both while we were engaged and married. I remember as soon as the words came out of his mouth, my heart stopped beating and my ears went numb. I had both tunnel vision and tunnel hearing. I wanted so badly to cry but I just couldn’t bring myself to. I thought of the home I grew up in: not a whole lot of male influence. (I don’t mention this to hurt anyone’s feelings, this is just truly what my exact raw thoughts were at this time.) The little interactions I did have were always very negative. Did this set me up to fall for someone who showed me red flags time and time again? I thought for sure that any girl who grew up with good male role models would be able to see the red flags that I had ignored. So, was I being prepared for this? Like a pig for slaughter? Was my only purpose in life to be treated horribly by men so I could be the one pathetic enough to stay with someone who had been unfaithful to me and help him back to the covenant path? If this was my purpose, what did that say of how Heavenly Father viewed me? I finally said out loud, “Heavenly Father hates me!” (I realize, now, that all of those thoughts I had were lies straight from the pits of hell - but as you can imagine, that’s kind of where I was at this point.) After that, I laid down on the couch, turned away from Daniel and fell asleep. I don’t remember if Daniel said anything else to me; I don’t remember anything else from that night except the overwhelming weight of desperately wishing I had never existed.

I was so grateful the next night when we were able to go meet with the bishop. I still wanted our marriage to work but, at this point, I wasn’t sure that was even possible. I was really hoping for some guidance. Our bishop was so kind and loving. He never tried to give advice on subjects he didn’t understand. He just loved unconditionally which is what Daniel and I so desperately needed at that time.

Soon after, Daniel and I were meeting regularly with priesthood leaders. The more we talked about our story to priesthood leaders, the more love we had for each other and the more healing took place. We were seeing a counselor at this point which was going really well. All of the walls that Daniel had built up throughout his life were crashing down. He was free to be himself. He didn’t have to hide behind shame and secrecy anymore. The only person he cared to please at this point was his Savior. I watched my husband faithfully seek out Heavenly Father’s will and do it. I watched as the Savior changed the very nature of my husband. As a result, Daniel and I grew closer to each other than we had ever been. He was finally able to love me in a way he hadn’t been able to when he was drowning in shame.

When we went to talk to the bishop for the first time and Daniel began the repentance process, his healing was well on its way. Mine was just beginning. Even though things were really great for Daniel and I, there were a lot of things I needed to work out. I had betrayal trauma which is very similar to PTSD. I remember a particularly difficult day Daniel was at work and I was at home with my five-month-old twins. They were playing in their bouncers and I was trying to study my scriptures. I say, “trying” because it was very hard for me to focus. I felt so sad and lonely. I had so many questions. I felt so scared about my future. My mind was racing and I was getting very discouraged. I felt like Abraham Lincoln did when he said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go.” I truly had nowhere else to turn but to my Savior. So, I knelt down on the floor of our tiny apartment and said the most sincere prayer I have ever said in my entire life. I cried and cried. I remember feeling so angry towards God. How did a sweet girl like me end up in a mess like this?! I had lived the gospel the best I knew how growing up. I went to church every Sunday, attending all of my church activities and fulfilling all of the callings asked of me. I didn’t know how to say what I needed to using eloquent prayer language. So, I didn’t. I just spoke what was in my heart even though it came out choppy. The hymn Where Can I Turn for Peace came to my mind and I started to cry the words to that hymn. I soon felt the warmest hug around my whole body. Our living room became full of angels that I could not see but could feel. (I have since learned through a very sacred experience that those angels - whose presence I felt so strongly - were my pioneer ancestors. They are becoming some of my closest family and friends.) I still didn’t know how my future would work out. I didn’t know if Daniel would relapse. I didn’t know if our marriage was even possible. But in that moment, none of that mattered; I was loved by many on the other side and I was not alone.

Around this time, Daniel had his disciplinary council. People always talk about how those meetings are filled with love and the spirit, and while this is so true, I never want to be part of one ever again. I stood in front of a room full of men and shared my testimony of our Savior and His ability to heal my husband (not from being gay, but from his sickness of addiction). I shared with them my love for my husband and my desire to stay by his side through this healing process. The decision was made that Daniel would be disfellowshipped. We no longer had the priesthood in our home, but our home was filled with the Lord’s spirit like it had never been before. I could feel it and I was so grateful.

One morning, not too long after, Daniel woke up and told me of a dream he’d just had. It was more than just a dream; it was a vision from the Lord of our future, which gave us strength to keep going. He was walking up to the temple doors and reached his hand out to open them. He turned and saw me running up to him. He asked me, “are you ready?” I answered excitedly, “yes!” And together we walked hand-in-hand into the temple. And that was the end of his dream. We sat there that morning feeling so much reverence and joy it’s hard to put into words. It was a truly beautiful experience.

Dreams Come True

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At this point, the twins were 6 months old and were becoming great little sleepers. We had the spirit in our home and we all were thriving. Soon we found out I was pregnant with our third child. We decided we should move closer to family to have some extra help with having three children under two years of age. We chose to move closer to Daniel’s family in Iowa. Looking back, it was just what we needed. Daniel was able to attend an addiction recovery meeting out there, we had a wonderful branch president, and Daniel was able to work part-time close to home while obtaining his master’s degree. This allowed us to have a lot of family time which was very healing for all of us. It was also very eye-opening. Being so close to where Daniel grew up and being around his family allowed him to see things that were very helpful for him in overcoming his addiction. He was then able to set appropriate boundaries with his family that were necessary for my healing.

On January 29th and on my 24th birthday, I gave birth to our little baby girl. She was a symbol to Daniel and I of the miracle of the Savior’s atonement and love. She was a light in our lives after a very dark period and so we named her Eleanor which means “shining light.” There wasn’t a cloud in the sky the day she was born.

Soon after, Daniel was restored to full fellowship in the church. I still remember when he came home from his meeting where the decision was made he was different in such a good way. Not only did he have the priesthood power, but he was worthy of it. And I could tell. It worked out that the Sunday he gave Eleanor her baby blessing was Valentine’s Day. It was perfect.

When Eleanor was almost one month old and the twins were 17 months old, we all drove two hours to the closest temple which was Winter Quarters. Daniel’s mother came along so she could watch the children while Daniel and I did a session for the first time since he had received his temple recommend. As soon as Daniel got up to the door he realized that the temple in his dream was the Winter Quarters temple! He looked at me before he opened the door and asked, “are you ready?” and I so excitedly answered, “yes!” And together we walked hand-in-hand into the temple.

North Star

Soon after these experiences, I started to reach another rough patch. I had been triggered and I couldn’t seem to work through it. I started to be led to Instagram posts and blogs of other couples who were also dealing with pornography addiction. They were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well. Everything they posted was so inspiring and educational for me. This was where I learned that I had betrayal trauma. I was so excited to learn that I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t crazy for choosing to stay. Yes, my husband had done terrible things, but I was able to see that he was sick.

A lot of my pain and fear came from my uncertainty that our marriage was even possible. I knew we both loved each other and were both keeping our covenants so why couldn’t it work out? It seemed like from the world I was hearing that gay men who married women were denying who they really were and such a marriage would only lead to an unsatisfied life. From members of the Church it seemed like I was hearing that a gay man marrying a woman was going against what the prophets have taught because they discourage gay men marrying women in order to “fix” themselves. While I agree that entering into marriage for that specific reason would go against divine counsel, I knew Daniel hadn’t married me to “fix” himself. So where did that leave our marriage? Soon my searching led me to North Star, where I learned something even crazier: we weren’t the only couple on earth who was in a mixed orientation marriage. Our marriage had a name! It all felt so validating and comforting. We had been certain that we were the only couple dealing with this experience. How grateful I am that we were wrong! I watched several Voices of Hope videos and remember hearing one husband mention that at the beginning of his healing process he focused on his addiction and not the same-sex attraction (SSA). He explained how that wasn’t enough for him; it wasn’t until he started focusing more on his SSA that he was really able to heal. I realized that Daniel and I had only been focusing on his pornography addiction. I talked to him about this but for some reason we just weren’t ready to focus on the SSA.

So, I continued to read the pornography addiction recovery pages I was following - soon discovering that many of these couples lived in Utah. I looked up the program they were implementing and most of their meetings were, again, in Utah. Daniel and I knew that we needed to move to Utah to get more help for me. Within a month, Daniel found a job that was in his field and I was able to find a home in our price range. Things continued to work out and soon we were living in Utah and receiving significantly more support as far as the addiction and betrayal trauma were concerned. We saw many, many therapists who helped so much until we reached the point where we had done everything we could to conquer and heal from Daniel’s addiction. Now it was time to deal with the SSA, which was obviously very painful for Daniel because of the shame he endured growing up.

We decided to look into North Star once again and found that they had a conference coming up. We went to the conference having no idea what to expect and came out completely changed for the better.

We had gained a sense of community that welcomed us with open arms. We talked openly with other couples in our situation and it was so healing. During our first conference, we decided to go to different classes for a session. I sat next to two women and we soon began talking. They asked me about my story and as soon as I opened up to them about what I had been through over the past two years, I started to cry. The woman next to me put her arm around me and said, “It’s okay.” I immediately stopped crying as all my walls went back up. I started to nod in agreement and was feeling dumb for being so vulnerable. She quickly leaned toward me again and clarified, “It’s okay to cry.” My walls crumbled into nothing and I had a really good cry. I finally allowed myself to feel sad. In today’s society, we’re so quick to say to people when they’re hurting, “It’s okay! Just be happy! Have a positive attitude!” etc. I was so uncomfortable with negative emotions that I couldn’t ever get over anything.

My Perfectly Imperfect Joyfully Ever After

As I have submersed myself in the scriptures and continue to build my relationship with my Heavenly Father and Savior, I am learning many truths that apply to my life: 1) My decision to marry Daniel was not some preplanned punishment for not having male role models growing up. 2) People who are sick with addiction can deceive even the very best people. 3) I was never a pig for slaughter. I am a very valued, very loved daughter of a perfect Heavenly Father. 4) I was chosen for this mission in life, not because I was pathetic enough, but because I am strong enough. I prepared for and chose this as my mission in the pre-mortal life. 5) Heavenly Father asked this of me because I am a very strong and devoted daughter of God. 6) I loved Daniel before I came to this earth. 7) I am the only woman Daniel has ever loved. He chose me out of all the boys and all the girls in the world. 8) Daniel is the only one who can make the choice to keep himself on the covenant path. That is not - and has never been - my responsibility. 9) It doesn’t matter what other people say or think of my marriage to Daniel. He is my choice and I’ll continue to choose him for the rest of eternity because, dang it, I want to! I don’t need to prove or defend my decision to anyone. 10) And finally, I’ve learned that not only does my Heavenly Father not hate me, but He loves me so much and so perfectly that He sacrificed His Only Begotten Son so I could live with Him again someday in a state of eternal joy.

I’ve had many glimpses of that joy in my marriage to Daniel. I’m grateful we have had to work so hard at our marriage; we’re stronger because of it. While I still deal with triggers and very dark days, I’ve found that they don’t last as long and are not as dark when I keep the Savior and His gospel at the center of my life.

It wasn’t until we started opening up about and owning our story that the love of the Lord started to pour down on us like a waterfall. I know firsthand that the Lord truly loves his LGBTQ children. Daniel plays a very important part in the kingdom of God. I feel so blessed to have married him. He is one of the most kind and empathetic children of God I have ever met. I love going to him for guidance. I love working alongside him to make our house a home. I love parenting our beautiful children together. He’s truly my best friend. I’m learning that he has these incredible attributes because of his SSA. If taking away his SSA meant taking away the wonderful characteristics that I love the most about him then I would say, “forget about it!” I am grateful for who Daniel is, who I am, and who we are becoming together as we follow and have hope in our Savior.

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Daniel & Emma appear in the North Star music video that debuted at the Annual North Star Conference, March 2019 in Salt Lake City.