VOICES OF HOPE
DAVID & CHARLOTTE
Parents of four children and grandparents of two, David and Charlotte have learned to trust the Lord as they seek to provide love and support to their son, Adam, who experiences same-sex attraction. The Maughans choose to build on a foundation of faith that allows them to find peace and joy in their journey. Even when others around them cannot help, they know the Lord gives answers and shows them the way.
David and Charlotte live in Avon, Utah. They are the parents of four children, three daughters and one son. They also have two beautiful grandchildren. Their son Adam, experiences same-sex attraction. This has created a lot of opportunities for growth for their family. By choosing to remain faithful to the living prophets and the teachings of the gospel, they have a foundation of faith that has allowed them to find peace and joy in their journey as they allowed their son the ability to make choices in his life. They recognize that unconditional love for their son, has been the key to navigating this journey. They share their story with the permission of their son, Adam. He is supportive of them sharing their journey, in the hope that other parents will benefit and find peace in their perspective.
Full Interview (58 Minutes)
Highlights Interview (11 Minutes)
YOURS IS NOT TO FIX. YOURS IS TO LOVE
From the time I was a little girl, I dreamed of being the mother of a little boy named Adam. My husband and I met and fell in love and were married in 1984. I finished a degree in piano pedagogy at Utah State University while my husband, David, worked. I graduated in June 1986, just five days after giving birth to our first child, Kelsie Lyn. Just over two years later we added a second daughter, Natali Charlotte, to our family. Life was full of joy and we loved watching our children grow and learn. About four-and-a-half years later we welcomed Adam into our family. I was elated to finally have my little boy—my Adam. I’d waited and longed for the day when I would hold him in my arms. Having this little boy exceeded any expectations of joy I thought possible. He was a very happy baby and brought a new dimension into our family. Almost five years later, we welcomed another daughter, Abby Joyce, into our family.
As our children grew, David and I were amazed to see the strong bond of love between them. They laughed together, played together, and worked together. They were truly each other’s best friends. As the years went by this continued. There were very few moments of contention among our children. Overall there was a feeling of love and unity in our home.
Adam was a fun child to raise. He had a fun personality and always kept us entertained. By the time he was two years old he could sing “I Am a Child of God,” right on pitch. He made amazing pop-up birthday cards and was always very creative. He started writing and illustrating little books when he was young. He loved to invent and create things using his vibrant imagination. He built the best “basement forts” to entertain his little sister and her friends. Along with his creativity, he was thoughtful, caring, and sensitive. Early on, Adam developed musical gifts; he learned to sing and play the piano.
Pornography and Healing
Our family life continued much like any other normal family. We were happy and close to each other. However one day, several years into our marriage, my world turned completely upside down. I was confronted with the fact that my husband had a pornography addiction. This rocked the very foundation of my world. This was something that happened to other people—not me. But here I was—one temple marriage and four children later—discovering something terrifying to me. I wanted to run away and hide. I wanted a new start. I wanted this all to go away, and I wanted it gone now.
I remember being totally devastated the afternoon my husband and I drove into our church parking lot to meet with our bishop. I didn’t want to be there but my heart needed to be there. I needed healing. I needed help. I couldn’t believe that I was coming to the church for these reasons. As a lifelong member I had always lived the teachings of the gospel and never dreamed that I would “need” the bishop like I needed him that day.
The bishop was waiting for us in the foyer when we arrived. He could see that my burden was heavy and he took me in his arms and held me while I sobbed. Through this man I felt the arms of the Savior around me that day. That experience was the beginning of a road that taught me I could do hard things.
My husband and I entered into counseling, and I remember writing in my journal that I would give it a few months to be fixed and gone from our lives. I couldn’t do it if it went on any longer than that. Actually, I didn’t even think I could make it that long.
I was wrong.
One of the lessons I have learned is that healing happens in the Lord’s timing. I learned not to issue ultimatums to the Lord. He knows me, he knows my loved ones, and he will guide us in our journey. He sees clearly the end from the beginning. He knows the things that need to happen to change hearts—mine included. No matter how desperate I was for those changes to happen, no matter how desperate I was to have them fixed immediately, I had to put my trust in my Heavenly Father and wait for his arm to be revealed.
A couple years before this our daughter taught us an important lesson she learned from the Disney film, Lilo and Stitch. In the movie they talk about ohana: “‘Ohana’ means ‘family’. ‘Family’ means nobody gets left behind.” This became a family mantra. Through this difficult experience we learned that even when someone seemed to forget about ohana by his or her actions or decisions, the rest of us would remember. That is why we pulled together as a family. We knew that together we were strong; together we could do this.
Looking back, we see that the trial of my husband’s pornography addiction was actually a stepping stone that allowed us to learn lessons invaluable in our healing process in other difficulties we’ve encountered. I learned to understand the Atonement in a way I never would have had I not experienced this pain. I always viewed the Atonement as a vehicle for sinners to gain forgiveness. I never needed to access it from any other direction. I knew the joy that comes from repentance because I had experienced that. What I hadn’t experienced was the real and piercing pain that comes from the choices of another person. It was through my husband’s addiction that I learned to see the Atonement in a whole new light. I came to an understanding of how the Atonement can heal wounded hearts.
I believe each of us has to learn how the Lord communicates with us. As I read the scriptures, I saw how he dealt with his sons and daughters here on earth. I learned how he communicated with them. I tried to apply some of those same learning techniques in my life, and as I did he taught me how he would communicate with me personally.
Mosiah 24:13-15 became a source of comfort and strength:
“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.”
This scripture has become very personal to me. I have a sure knowledge that it is true. The Lord has lifted my burden at times when I felt engulfed in darkness. I know he can and will do this because I have actually lived it. I learned lessons about forgiveness, the Atonement, and a different way of looking at trials. Instead of asking, “Why me?” I learned to ask, “What does the Lord want me to learn from this experience?” I learned that this was worth the fight. I could do hard things. I learned that I could be happy in spite of poor choices my husband was making. Now when I look at my husband, I feel an inner peace that has come from a long, hard road of trials and experiences. I realize how happy I am that I made the decision to stay with him. I am thankful that I chose to love him rather than leave our marriage. Some days it was not easy to stay. Some days I wondered if I could make it through the pain and heartache. But I became acutely aware of the enabling power of the Atonement in my life. The Lord did ease my burden, even while I was in bondage.
I want to clarify that my husband and I—together—decided to share his struggle publicly through this venue at this time. We have seen that his addiction, his subsequent recovery from that addiction, and the lessons we learned along the way have been valuable stepping stones in helping us with this next journey, and that in order to speak with authenticity it was worth sharing this struggle with the world.
A short time into dealing with my husband’s pornography addiction, we discovered Adam had been exposed to internet pornography while doing research for a school paper. We set up filters and other safeguards to help him avoid being confronted with that again.
Adam and I had a close relationship. Every so often I asked how he was doing with the pornography issue. I knew Adam well and I sensed that he was still not in a peaceful place with this. We talked about some of his concerns. I recognized some of the things he would talk to me about had to do with men. That was startling to me.
I asked Adam if he felt he was attracted to men. He assured me he wasn’t. (What son wants to tell his mother that?) I don’t think he was ready to admit that to himself at the time. He was still trying to come to grips with the whole thing. He had heard a lot of negative things about “gay guys,” and he knew those things didn’t describe who he was.
Once when meeting with our stake president concerning my husband’s addiction, I asked him about the possibility of Adam being attracted to men. I could hardly utter the words at the time. I remember asking him, “Would God really send one of his sons down here with this challenge?” I couldn’t comprehend that. It was something I wrestled with. I still didn’t have a real confirmation that Adam experienced same-sex attraction; it was just a feeling. I definitely didn’t want to label him with that so I tried to be supportive from the viewpoint that he had a problem with pornography.
A short time later Adam started attending the church-sponsored addiction recovery classes with my husband. This was a positive thing for both of them. The meetings were a place where they could feel the Spirit, be open about their struggles, and learn from other men who were dealing with similar issues in their lives. It was a place where they learned more about the Atonement.
Mission Preparation and Service
Adam started preparing his mission papers. He worked closely with our bishop. He was delayed a few months from when he “should” have gone, but time passed and he received a call to serve in the Indiana Indianapolis Mission. We were excited because this was the same mission my husband had served in. Until the time Adam left he continued to meet routinely with our bishop and stake president. I still didn’t understand the extent of what Adam was dealing with.
Adam entered the mission field on January 4, 2012. He completed his time at the Missionary Training Center and then flew out to Indiana. We loved the letters we received from him. Like every other “missionary family” we looked forward to those Monday emails with great anticipation. Adam’s letters were always uplifting and filled with the Spirit. He had wonderful experiences and quickly learned to love the people of Indiana. He often expressed testimony of how he knew the Lord was guiding him in his work.
Prepared by the Lord
That May I was prompted to begin learning more about same-sex attraction. It started when I read an LDS Living article featuring Ty and Danielle Mansfield. I came home after running errands one day and there it was on the front page of the magazine. I can actually remember gasping out loud! I immediately read the story and then hid the magazine. I wanted to talk to my husband but I needed time to digest what I’d just read before sharing my thoughts with him. I wasn’t worried his reaction would be bad; I just thought he would think I was crazy! The next day I went to the bookstore and bought In Quiet Desperation. I was trying to learn all I could before sharing with my husband, so I didn’t talk to him about this. The Spirit was teaching me and preparing me for what was coming in our lives.
About a month later we learned Adam was dealing with depression. I was quite surprised because Adam had not been a depressed kid. He was always happy and positive. I didn’t connect the dots at first but I was comforted to know Adam had a loving and supportive mission president who was working closely with him.
Over the next few weeks Adam worked with counselors in the mission field. I started to connect the dots. I hesitantly decided to approach my husband with what I thought was going on. He didn’t freak out; he just wasn’t sure what to think. I gave him the LDS Living article and we started discussing things I’d learned from my reading. We were trying to reconcile all of this in our minds because what we’d learned about gay people growing up was far different from who we knew our son to be. We were preparing for the possibility, but we were not ready to put this label on Adam.
I was in contact with Adam’s mission president and his wife. I realized the possibility of Adam returning early from his mission was real. I worried about the repercussions. I worried about the difficulties of dealing with real or perceived judgments from ward members and others he knew. I feared he was dealing with same-sex attraction and that this was causing torment in his life. I was fearful because I had no idea where to start handling something like this.
The day came: Adam’s mission president called to tell me Adam was coming home. My heart sank. I pleaded with the mission president to tell me why Adam was so depressed. What was causing him so much pain? I needed to know how to help him. I felt like I was being handed a new baby with no instructions on how to care for him. This was not how our plan—or Adam’s plan—had been laid out for his life. I felt like I needed some direction because I didn’t want to waste precious time trying to figure it all out. If same-sex attraction was at the root of his depression, I wanted to get right down to supporting him in dealing with it.
Of course, because of confidentiality, his mission president couldn’t tell me, but I told him that I had my suspicions. He asked me what I thought the problem was and I told him, “same-gender attraction.” He confirmed that I was exactly right. I didn’t even cry because the Spirit confirmed to me that coming home was the next step that needed to happen in Adam’s life for him to be able to deal with all of this. I wanted desperately to talk to Adam. I wanted to tell him that everything was going to be alright. I wanted him to know that we loved him—no matter what.
I asked his mission president to encourage Adam to be open and honest with us when he got home. His president suggested that, with my consent, he would tell Adam we knew of his struggle—that I had presented it to him as my concern, and that he had validated that concern. He would then be able to assure Adam that we still loved him, that we would be there for him, and that he need not fear rejection from our family. We decided that this would at least facilitate Adam being open and honest with us about his same-sex attraction so that we could get him needed help and support upon his return.
In my conversation with his mission president, I came to the clear understanding of the reason Adam was called to serve in this particular mission. It was one of those tender mercies sent to a mother whose heart was in turmoil. Adam’s mission president said someone close to him experienced same-gender attraction, so his heart was open and prepared to support our son. He understood the pain and conflict that feelings of same-gender attraction cause in the lives of those who experience it. I felt deep gratitude for a loving Heavenly Father who revealed to me the great love he has for my son.
The mission president assured me that Adam had served honorably and valiantly—that he had given more in his seven months of service than many do over their full two years. Adam had been very open and honest with him. They had a wonderful relationship and had had many heart-to-heart, knee-to-knee interviews and talks over the past weeks. I was so thankful for that. I was thankful for a priesthood leader who could deal compassionately with Adam and who was willing to invest time into helping my son heal. He assured me of his confidence in Adam. He expressed his love and appreciation for the wonderful missionary Adam had been. He assured me that his heart was right with the Lord and that he was going to be okay.
Then, a day filled with many emotions. We were excited to welcome Adam back home. We greeted him at the airport with “Returned with Honor” signs and open arms. We were so proud of him. We loved him so much. We wanted him to know that. We hoped that all the family unity and love we had would be enough to support him through this difficult transition.
Our immediate family met that night with our stake president for Adam’s release. He was a new stake president and had only been in this position for about two months. We didn’t know him very well but had confidence in his calling. As parents we hoped for words of comfort and healing for all of us, especially Adam. We approached his office with some hesitancy and feelings of anxiety. This was a place none of us anticipated being in, but here we were and this was the next step.
We all fit into his office and the door was closed. We sat there and the stake president stood up and said, “Well, this is how we release missionaries. We thank you for your time of service and thank you and your family for the sacrifice of allowing you to give that service.” He told Adam he could go home and take his nametag off. At that the door was opened and we left his office. I was in shock. I seriously felt like I would burst into tears. But I had to keep a stiff upper lip. I had to be strong for Adam. On the way home not much was said. I was deep in thought. I realized that this was wrong. It was very hurtful. It felt so empty, so hollow. We had taken our family there hoping to gain comfort, and instead we came away empty-handed. I felt it, and I realized that we all felt it.
I was upset, but I didn’t want to let that show. I had great respect for the office of stake president, but we had just been let down by ours in a huge way. Things had been handled in such a cold and uncaring way. I was heartbroken. I realized that I had to tell our son I was disappointed. I knew he felt it, too, and I felt strongly that he needed to know I was not okay with how this was handled. I was dealing with a double-edged sword, so to speak. I had been hurt and my son’s tender feelings had been hurt. But I knew that the right road was not to dwell on harsh feelings toward our stake president. I didn’t need that barrier and I knew Adam didn’t need it, either. I saw clearly Satan’s plan to remove us from a foundation on which we needed to stand. We were at a loss for answers. We were going to have to rely on the leadership of that stake president to support us through this difficulty.
I talked with Adam in his bedroom after we got home and expressed my feelings. I hugged him and cried with him. I told him I was extremely disappointed with how this was all handled. I hoped we would have started with a prayer to invite the Spirit. I’d hoped that our stake president would offer some words of hope and comfort. I’d hoped Adam would be able to share his testimony and a little bit about his mission and the love he had for the people of Indiana. Maybe my expectations were off the mark, but those were things we had experienced when our daughter returned from her mission. None of those things happened with Adam. It seemed to validate that Adam was wrong for coming home early, and that the offering he had given was not enough. It was very hurtful.
I share this experience not in an effort to make our stake president look bad, but for two entirely different reasons. First, I plead with local leaders to become educated on the topic of same-sex attraction so they can compassionately and gently work with individuals and families in their stewardship who experience this challenge. Second, I want to show that we had opportunity to become offended and turn our backs on the Church because of the pain we experienced at the hands of our priesthood leaders, whom we looked to for comfort. I know this is a common thread for parents and individuals dealing with issues surrounding same-sex attraction.
Over the past couple years several more hurtful things have happened. It’s been tough! We’ve had times we could have just chosen to walk away. We sought priesthood counsel to get help for us and our son. No one had any resources to offer us. We left stake and ward offices with empty hearts and hands. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness were abundant in those first days and weeks when no one had resources to offer us. We felt as though we were in the depths of hell as we watched our son begin to go down a road that led him to darkness. We struggled because no one would—or could—give us anything to grab on to—not even a thread of hope.
We learned to rely on the Lord. We learned that when we felt like everyone else had turned their backs the Savior was still there for us. He was waiting to give us the answers and help we needed. He would not leave us comfortless. We began to understand that Adam was his son before he was ours, and that he loves him and knows him more perfectly than we do. Even when no one else would help us, we knew that Christ would guide our feet and our thoughts to find the answers we needed for our son. We learned to forgive those who didn’t understand. We learned to search out and seek resources for ourselves. We learned to listen to the guidance of the Spirit to know what Heavenly Father wanted us to pursue.
It was heartbreaking to realize that for years our son had been dealing with this on his own. We’d always hoped to have an environment in our home where our children could feel safe and comfortable talking to us about anything. In spite of our best efforts Adam still chose to try to overcome his challenges this without burdening us. Over those years his negative self-talk took a huge toll. He heard others around him say things that were hurtful about people who had the same feelings he did. This made him all the more determined to keep his secret. People in our ward and family recognized what an amazing person Adam was and would often talk about it. When he heard these positive things he would think, “Yeah, but if you only knew my secret you would realize what a monster I am.” Satan led him to believe that if anyone found out his secret they would turn on him and reject him.
We began to talk openly, and Adam revealed he was bullied in school. We didn’t know about it at the time. Because of his talents and the things he chose to be involved in—basic qualities that made him who he was—he was bullied. He bore that burden on his own. That was heartbreaking for me to find out. He should never have been subjected to this kind of treatment. Bullying is never acceptable.
Our family became acutely aware of people around us who talked negatively about gays. They painted awful pictures with the words they said. I remember thinking they couldn’t be further from the truth. We came to believe same-sex attraction was not a choice. Why would someone choose this path? Why would Adam choose to be put in a place where he would be ostracized and looked down on? It didn’t make sense. We know feelings of attraction for the same sex are very real. This understanding helped us move forward so we could better support our son.
We prayed hard about what we could do to help him. We learned this was Adam’s journey, not ours. Though we were deeply affected by his decisions, those decisions were his to make. We learned that he probably wouldn’t make the choices we wanted him to make all the time, but that was okay. By trying to see things through Adam’s eyes we learned a lot. We were able to step back and allow him to try to figure out how he was going to navigate this part of his life.
Words from Heaven
While trying to figure out how to help Adam we realized we were focusing on how we could “fix” our son. I had an overwhelming experience while attending the temple. I was in the celestial room praying for peace, help, guidance, and answers. These words came very clearly to me: “Yours is not to fix. Yours is to love.” It was a powerful message. I received it and I pondered it. Many times I felt I didn’t know what to do for my son, and now the answer was so simple and clear. I could absolutely do this. That was easy. I could love my son. We, his family, could do that. That was our part. Suddenly my burden felt much lighter.
Since that time I have pondered those words over and over again. I am thankful to have come to that understanding. I know that I can do my part by loving my son; the rest is in the Lord’s hands. I know he is the one who created and made Adam just the way he is. I know he knows the lessons Adam needs to learn and the lessons we need to learn. I know he can and will guide us on this journey. I trust him to do that.
In the weeks following Adam’s return we experienced a roller coaster of emotions. We watched his life begin to spin out of control. We were sad when Adam chose to stop attending church. We watched him become more and more withdrawn as he slipped into a very dark place. It was distressing to see this happen. We did everything we knew how to keep a good relationship with him. Satan was battling for his soul and he tried to convince Adam that we would not continue to love him.
Shortly after his return home we were able to get Adam into counseling. He was apprehensive about it at first but he developed a good relationship with his counselor. During this time Adam had experiences that were very difficult for him. He began to isolate himself from our family and others. We feared he was becoming suicidal. We saw Adam getting into a more dangerous situation and we felt totally helpless. I experienced many sleepless nights, crying and worrying about if he was going to be alive the next day. I woke up one night when my worries were so real that I actually planned Adam’s funeral. It was a horrible place to be in. It is still terrifying to me that I felt I was actually going to have to bury my son because of this. No matter how much we tried to get him to see that we loved him and always would, he didn’t seem capable of internalizing that love. It wasn’t enough.
After Adam had a counseling session via Skype one afternoon, I caught up with him in our family room. I could tell he was overwhelmed. I asked him about his session and he told me his counselor was quite concerned. He felt like Adam had arrived at an unsafe place, meaning that Adam was suicidal. They’d talked about this in a couple of their earlier sessions, but this time Adam had actually made plans of how he was going to carry this out. My heart was full of fear. With Adam’s permission his counselor called us that night and we talked about the possibility of admitting him to an in-house facility where he could get some intensive counseling. I admit that I was quite distressed about the idea. I couldn’t imagine my little boy’s life had come to the point that he needed this, but we all felt it was a real possibility.
The night before Thanksgiving in 2012 we admitted Adam to an in-house psychiatric unit. Thankfully this wasn’t done against his will. I think he was relieved to get some help. At that point we were all desperate for some intervention. In spite of the relief we felt leaving him there, my heart felt like it was breaking in two when I turned to walk out those doors, leaving Adam on the other side.
In the time since Adam has made a lot of progress. He has allowed himself to learn that he is not a bad person because of the feelings he has. He never chose those feelings, but they are very real. He learned that those feelings don’t define who he is. He started to remember that there were a lot of other things that made him who he is. His focus started to change. Instead of everything being about same-sex attraction, Adam began to express himself through talents and gifts he had been given from the same loving Heavenly Father who also gave him this challenge. He re-learned how to have passion for life. He learned that he has—and always will have—the love of his family. He is happy. We have a wonderful relationship with him. We are blessed.
On the one-year anniversary of his admittance to the psychiatric unit, Adam released a video on YouTube called “Giving Thanks 2013.” The video is a celebration of his life. In the video Adam talks about his experience with same-sex attraction. His motivation in making the video was to help others who are contemplating suicide. He wanted to help them see that things can and will get better.
Adam regained hope and happiness. We are thankful—thankful that we made it through those horrible days, weeks, and months when Satan tried to destroy him and our family. Satan tried to convince Adam that life was not worth the fight. These were times when we didn’t know if the sun would ever shine for us again.
Our experiences have taught us several important lessons:
Unconditional love is the key. It is the key to unlock hearts and souls. Love has been the healing balm in our journey. Satan has tried hard to throw all kinds of fiery darts to destroy our family. He understands that family love is the cement that holds hearts together. He wants to break that love down wherever and however he can. It comes back to ohana. We’ve talked a lot about our need to stay on the same team in this battle. Our team is our family.
Satan wants to use this challenge to break us apart. To counteract those attempts, when we feel uneasy about something that has been said or done, we try to come together and talk about it. We all know that this is not an easy journey. Sometimes it is hard to step up and say, “Hey, my feelings have been hurt,” or, “I don’t feel good about something that just happened,” but that is how we stick together and remember what our goals are. It is a struggle in many ways, but we know that we are all working for the same outcome. We want to be together forever. Communication is a key that helps us stay focused on the love we share as a family.
Be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is an essential element in this journey. We’ve all had to learn how to forgive each other. This was a hard lesson, especially at the beginning when everything was so raw. As we worked to understand each other better this got easier.
We aren’t perfect communicators. We don’t always express our concerns and feelings in a clear way. When those situations come up, we learn to forgive each other anyway. We need to be patient with each other as we navigate this road. There have been misunderstandings and miscommunications that could have easily been deal breakers. But we have learned to offer forgiveness to each other, and it has brought a very peaceful feeling into our family.
We’ve had to learn to more readily offer forgiveness to others. Many people have said very hurtful things. Some who we looked to for support just didn’t seem to care. Some didn’t seem to want to learn anything about our situation so that they could better support us. Many have made comments that have cut us to the core. We had to learn to be forgiving and to do what we could to help others better understand the things we were experiencing.
In the scriptures we are instructed, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). That used to seem impossible. This experience has shown us that the Lord teaches us line upon line, precept on precept. His plan for us leads us to become more perfect when we listen and follow his will. Our hearts have been opened to understand how the Savior loves his children and how we can get past the barriers that keep us from showing love to others. He has taught us that forgiveness brings peace and joy.
Stay with the church and stay with your child. This is quite a battle and there are forces trying to pull us from our foundation. Many—including my family—can attest to experiences where great hurt has been inflicted by others, often, unfortunately, by fellow members of the church. Satan wanted us believe that we had choose between our son and the Church. This is false. The teachings of the gospel bring a sure foundation for all of us to stand on. Our son knows where we stand. He knows what we believe. He wouldn’t ever ask us to leave the church; he wouldn’t want us to.
I have seen two extremes of parental reaction. Some parents exhibit such empathy that they feel they must weaken their dedication to the gospel in order to support their children. I don’t believe this is ever helpful. On the other hand, there are parents who turn their backs on their children who experience same-sex attraction. It is heartbreaking to see the damage this choice causes. This rejection is devastating to the one who is already struggling. When an individual is trying to come to grips with feelings of same-gender attraction, they need a safe refuge. They need the love and support of family.
There are a lot of questions we don’t fully understand the answers to, but we know that the Lord does and he is always there. He will guide us and help us because he loves us and our son, Adam. I believe answers will come through the living prophets when the Lord sees fit to reveal them. We have taught our son the teachings of the gospel. From the day he was born we have taught him that he is a child of God. There’s never been a day when he’s doubted that we know the Church is true. Adam also worked to have a strong testimony of the gospel. He still loves the gospel. As his earthly parents we have given him the understanding that the Lord wants him to have. His Heavenly Father gave him the gift of agency. That gift is not ours to take away. One thing that has brought great peace is understanding that our happiness is not dependent on the choices that our son or anyone else makes. The teachings of the gospel bring us peace in our journey.
Share what you have learned. When my husband’s pornography addiction surfaced I went into a period of isolation. I didn’t want anyone to know. I felt so alone. I felt helpless and hopeless. That is what Satan wants. He wants us to feel alone, like there is no one to turn to. That way he can keep us in a dark place. If he can get us to isolate ourselves he can keep us from progressing. If we never talk about our trials he can keep us from gaining support and answers from others who care and have walked a similar path.
As we brought caring priesthood leaders and eventually trusted family and friends onto our support team, we gained strength and determination. I learned not to isolate myself. This knowledge helped us when we started on this journey with Adam. We immediately sought out a support group. We were blessed to find North Star. There we connected with a solid group of parents who were willing to reach out and share their experiences with us, parents who were doing exactly what we wanted to do—holding fast to the truths of the gospel while still loving and supporting their children. One of the most valuable lessons we’ve learned is that loving our son unconditionally doesn’t mean we condone or support any decisions he makes that are contrary to what we believe. It simply means we love our son. The parents in North Star have shared a lot of wisdom with us. We are forever thankful.
How Healing Happened
Like most parents of children who experience same-sex attraction, we had tons of questions. To find answers we prayed for guidance and then we started researching in an effort to learn as much as we could about the subject. We read books and articles. We watched Voices of Hope videos. They calmed my heart and served as evidence that God is in charge of each individual’s journey.
We attended firesides and conferences. We tore down walls that had been built up over many years of misinformation. We learned to love deeply many individuals who experience same-sex attraction. We learned truths about who these men and women really are. They are people who have an array of talents and interests. They love the gospel and believe in the Savior. They are kind and good people. They are individuals who have struggled for years trying to reconcile their feelings with the faith they embrace. They are sons and daughters of God. They are people who need and deserve our love and support on the journeys they travel in this life.
We attended the temple frequently seeking to know the path that the Lord would have us take. We came to rely completely on the Savior and the promptings of the Spirit to guide our path.
Part of our growth came by letting go. We let go of expectations that we had for what our life should be like and for what we thought our son’s life should be like. At times this was painful, but as we let go of those things we allowed the Savior to heal us. We came to understand and accept that Adam was here on earth for his own journey. This was about him, not us. Even if his journey looked different than we had first imagined it to be, it could still be good and we could still have happiness and peace in our lives.
Finding Joy in the Journey
For many years, before we knew about Adam’s experience with same-sex attraction, I thought that the worst thing I could ever imagine was having a gay son. I can tell you today there are things that are much worse. When we first found out about Adam’s feelings we felt like Alma:
“But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree” (Alma 36:12).
Now we resonate with another part of Alma’s experience:
“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20).
That joy came as we gained an understanding that this isn’t the worst trial out there. That joy came through the blessings of the Atonement. The Savior lifted our burden and made it light.
Our joy came because we stood together as a family and chose to love unconditionally, a joy that wouldn’t have been possible if we had made any other choice. Now we see this experience not as a trial, but a blessing. Because of this blessing we have come to understand the Atonement at another level. We have come to know the love that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us individually.
We are confident that the Lord gave us this “trial.” We’ve had many faith-shaking and faith-building experiences over the past few months. There were times when no one around us would help us. We spent many sleepless nights crying and pleading with God for answers. Those nights were especially frequent in the first months.
But it was during those times that we learned the Savior is there for us when no one else is. In those darkest hours we were reminded that Adam was God’s son before he was ours.
The Savior knows perfectly how to guide us, and we have the faith to know that he will.
 See Ty and Danielle Mansfield, “Living with Same-sex Attraction—Our Story,” LDS Living Magazine, May 22, 2012.“Giving Thanks 2013 HD,” YouTube video, 5:00, posted by “adavidanthony,” November 27, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDHCUZ9mlX4.