VOICES OF HOPE
Raised in the Church, Myrna says having felt the Spirit when she was young helped her return after a time of inactivity. The second of six daughters, she’s thankful to parents who always gave her opportunities to work through her same-gender attraction with love and compassion. Although her dream of becoming the quarter-back for the Dallas Cowboys didn’t work out, she enjoys a fulfilling life with her family and friends in Davis County, Utah.
Myrna was born and raised in Utah and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is second in a family of six daughters. She has always been active and enjoyed sports. She always had a secret dream to be the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys but girls didn’t play football in the “dark ages”. She enjoys a fulfilling life with her family and friends in Davis County, Utah.
Full Interview (37 Minutes)
Highlights Interview (9 Minutes)
TO WALK IN FAITH
The reason I am sharing my story is in hopes that parents can feel of the important role they can play in their children’s’ lives, even into adulthood. I always felt my home was a safe place and my parents gave me many opportunities to feel the spirit to the point that when I had a spiritual dream, I knew the source of it and had to return to the church. So even if you feel your words are falling on deaf ears, or that all the energy to follow God and the prophets to raise your children is too hard and not working, I testify that it is working. Keep up the work and you will see the fruit of your labor, someday hopefully in this life time.
For the last thirty years, I have struggled with same sex-attraction. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love my husband and my daughter. I work hard to keep my covenants. As I look back on my life, I see a pattern of events and circumstances that have led me to this place of peace. The world will say I am living a lie and that I am not being true to myself. They will say that I cannot be truly happy or free. They are wrong.
During my youth, I wondered what I had done in the pre-existence to have feelings not in line with the truth of the gospel. I grew up in a loving home where we were taught the gospel of Jesus Christ in the structure of the true Church. I had many experiences to feel the spirit and gain a testimony of the gospel. My parents shared their testimonies often and I felt love from a Heavenly Father. My patriarchal blessing said I had chosen my parents and wanted to come into their home. I was cared for and loved.
So why did I struggle with same sex-attraction?
The struggle has been inward and silent beginning in Junior High when I first realized my feelings for other girls. Knowing it was wrong, I never acted on my feelings. When I moved away from home to attend college, I realized the seriousness of the problem and went to the counseling center for help. I was attending a church school, so I was hopeful about receiving the right sort of help. Instead, the therapist told me I had two options: either accept the feelings or pretend they didn’t exist. If I accepted the feelings, I would be kicked out of the school and would be excommunicated from the church. I walked out of that meeting devastated. I thought there had to be another way to deal with this struggle besides simply ignoring it. But unable to find any answers and knowing how much this would hurt my family if they knew, I decided to hide my struggle. So I cloaked myself in silence. I couldn’t share my pain with anyone.
Then I met someone. I felt so strong about her that I couldn’t keep her out of my life. We weren’t ready to tell our families, so we hid our relationship. While at school. I lived a double life, one with my girlfriend and one as the good Mormon girl in front of my family and longtime friends. I dated guys to hide my secret and even brought one home to meet my family. At the time, I thought I was happy because I didn’t have to wrestle with my feelings. I justified that this was the best I could give right now, my options were limited. What else could I do but live my life this way?
Looking back now, I realize I was not happy. It was the beginning of a deep depression and a destructive self-image that has taken years to slowly erase. I felt inadequate at best and suicidal at worst. There were many times the spirit told me I was on the wrong path, but the right one seemed too hard. I was accepted among the gay community and I thought the community of the church would never accept me, nor would I feel comfortable there. People go where they feel accepted. I mistakenly thought I could never fit in with members of the church. I stopped going to church altogether when I was not at home. I could feel knowledge slipping away. It was as if I was in a funnel and the world kept getting smaller and smaller as I got nearer the bottom. I did not feel worthy of the love of God.
I became addicted to over-the-counter drugs to mask my feelings. My grades suffered and I became ‘past feeling’ like Laman and Lemuel in The Book of Mormon. At this point, I thought it would be better to end it all. I checked out a book from the library on how to take a life and studied ways to do it. Cowardly, I wanted it to be painless and fast as possible.
One weekend, I went home and somehow the subject of suicide came up in conversation. My dad made a statement about the selfishness of suicide. His passion and hatred for it sank into my heart. I went back to school thinking I couldn’t do that to my father whom I loved and respected so much. Still, I suffered and slipped farther down the funnel I had created by my choices.
One day, I blew out the ligament in my knee and ended up in the hospital. The injury was serious and unfixable in those days. Suddenly the entire direction of my life changed. My life had been sports, and while on the court or field, I had always been the happiest in my life. I lived for the time I could play and forget everything else, all the pain, confusion, and depression. I had been working on my degree to teach gym. Now all that seemed to be over. I cried myself to sleep that first night in the hospital, wanting to take as much pain medication as they would give me. I hoped I would never wake up.
I kept asking myself “What now? You have made such a mess of your life, what are you going to do now?” One night, I was thinking about such questions and a song from primary started going through my head. “I hope they call me on a mission.” I loved that song and as the words came to me, I began to cry. Then I started praying like I’d never prayed before. I plead with my Heavenly Father and told him how sorry I was. This was the first prayer of my life where I felt like I was really talking to someone. For the first time, I felt hope that I could change.
That night I had a dream. I was in heaven and a man asked me when I was coming. I could not see his face but he kept asking me the question over and over again. I didn’t know what he was talking about but as I walked around, the place felt peaceful, familiar and my heart rejoiced as I talked to people. When I woke up, I asked a nurse if they had a Bible or Book of Mormon. I stayed up the rest of the night reading the scriptures and asking Heavenly Father what it all meant. The answer became clear. Although it would be a painful and long road, I needed to serve a mission because I had promised someone I would bring to them the gospel.
With much fear, I went to the bishop on campus and confessed the issue of drug misuse and turned to scriptures and prayer. I left my girlfriend and returned home. I attended the singles ward while filling out my papers. I knew I should confess my sexual sins and that I couldn’t fool the Lord, but the words of the therapist still haunted me. I thought I would be excommunicated and then I would not be able to serve a mission. So I tucked my past away and those feelings and thoughts greatly diminished as I served my mission. When repentance was taught, I still felt shame, but I worked hard and felt good about the mission I had served. I found the man I had promised to find in my dream.
When I came home, I continued to be active in the church and began dating. One night at a dance, I saw a man in the crowd and couldn’t take my eyes off him. As I moved through the room, I always knew where he was at any given time. This had never happened to me so I finally asked him to dance. We ended up spending the rest of the evening together talking about many things including the church since he was not a member. That night, he kissed me and for the first time I had those sorts of feelings that in the past I’d only felt towards women. We began dating and he started coming to church with me and meeting with the missionaries. After joining the church, he asked me to marry him. I knew I should wait tell he could take me to the temple to be married because I could not be sure it would happen after we were married. I prayed to my heavenly Father and told him I knew marriage was to be between a man and women and it would be easier for me to stay in a marriage if I had these strong romantic feelings for the man. I told Him I was willing to forgo the temple marriage if it didn’t happen after my wedding in order to fulfill his law of the proper marriage. When we were sealed in the temple, I was elated.
My husband and I struggled with infertility for many years, but we finally had a beautiful little girl to bring home. I thought I had licked my past. I had good friends that were women, but I always kept a barrier up to keep my feelings safe. I served in many positions in the Church, but none required getting really close to anyone.
Then I was called to a presidency in the stake and suddenly, I was scared again of working so closely with other women. I feared I would not be able to do it. Still, I didn’t want to turn down a calling so I said yes. Besides, no one knew, not even my husband. I feared he would leave if he knew. But Heavenly Father, knowing my fear, told me in my setting apart to not be afraid to get close to the other ladies. In faith, I served and did not have the trouble I feared. At this point, I gained a testimony that I could have good, healthy relationships with women without the confusion of my earlier feelings. My self-esteem grew, my faith increased.
I became particularly close to one friend. I felt safe around her and we had a relationship built on honesty. My feelings for her never crossed the line, yet she was able to get closer to me than anyone had for a long time. Her friendship helped my self-esteem grow. She taught me how to deal with my child’s ADHD because she shared the same struggle. We both worked in the healthcare industry and we had a lot in common, most importantly our testimonies of the gospel. We supported each other in keeping those testimonies strong. Her friendship would prove vital in the coming days.
Life was good; the past was long gone. I had a testimony of the gospel, a loving family and good friends. It all came crashing down one day when my girlfriend from college knocked on my door. We talked for a while and I thought naively that we could be friends. I was mistaken. Soon, she was asking me to leave my husband and family and live with her in another country. I was grateful for the strength of my testimony and all the experiences I’d had with the spirit. But I would be lying if I said it was not tempting and I struggled with the offer for a little while. One day at church, my friend asked me what was wrong. I tried to shrug it off as nothing but she knew me to well. She kept asking but I didn’t know what to say at first. After texting back and forth, I finally told her. She said she wasn’t surprised, she’d already figured it out. Now I had a friend to talk it over with and through several conversations, she helped me realize I loved my husband and family and I knew the church was true. This is the life I really wanted. With strength, I turned down my past girlfriend. When she tried to kiss me, I told her we could no longer see each other. It was difficult because I still had feelings for her. But my testimony was stronger.
When the ordeal was finally over and my girlfriend was gone for good, I felt that all was well. But my friend was not done with me. She asked me if I’d ever taken care of everything with a bishop. I had not. I tried to justify it at first with many different excuses but my friend simply reminded me of the steps of repentance. She was right. She offered to go with me but I said I needed to do this alone. As I waited outside the bishop’s office, my stomach churned and my palms were sweating. I was on the verge of walking away when the bishop’s door opened and he saw me.
“Hello!” he greeted me and I knew there was no escape. As I walked into his office, the spirit hit me and I started crying and was unable to talk for a moment. I prayed for strength and my body became calm and I shared with him my story. I could tell immediately that this was not what he had expected to hear from me, but the spirit was strong and he showed love towards me. He told me the past was done and then asked some questions about the present and my feelings on same sex attraction. I explained my position and how I loved my husband and family and believed in God’s eternal plan. I wanted it no other way.
With great love in his voice, he said, “Then let’s move forward.” I asked if I could go to the temple. He replied, “Please do, go as much as you can.” When I left the bishop’s office that day, I felt years of pain slide right off my shoulders. I wanted to skip out of the church, I felt so light and free of the chains I’d carried for years. The bishop and I had talked about what I needed to do and I went home and put those actions into place. I make sure each morning, even if I only get a few hours of sleep, to get up and read my scriptures and say my prayers. I keep away from music that turns my thoughts wrong. I am careful to not dwell on certain thoughts.
I thanked my friend many times for helping me take that final step. Then her life became really busy and I could tell she became uncomfortable with the subject. I understand how hard the subject can be for many people. She finally asked that we not talk about it anymore and that she needed to spend more time with her family. So it happened that the one person I could confide in was no longer available and I felt hurt and alone. It had been so helpful to open up to someone. One day when I was feeling rejected, I prayed to understand why this outlet had been taken away. While I was reading my scriptures, I came across this scripture in 1 Nephi 7:12:
“Yes and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.”
The spirit impressed upon me that my faith needed to be directed at the Savior and no one else. I recommitted myself to reading and studying the scriptures more faithfully. Yet I continued to ask for the feelings to be completely taken away, but that did not happen. I realize now that was not the right thing to ask.
I became depressed again and when my husband asked what was wrong, the spirit prompted me to finally open up to him. So I told him everything and when I finished, I was astonished that it had finally come out of my mouth.
My husband thought for a moment and then asked, “How do you feel now?” I told him my struggle now mostly consisted of seeing someone and finding them attractive before catching myself and changing my thoughts.
“That’s the whole of it now,” I said. He admitted to also having thoughts like that about women before pushing them away. We talked about not acting on those feelings and then my husband said something I will never forget. He told me to drop it at the Lord’s feet and go forward. I had repented and not acted again. “Let it be,” he said. That night I told the Lord I was going to leave it in His hands. I felt greater love for my husband and wondered why I had kept the secret from him for so long. Since then, our relationship has grown stronger. I can share my real feelings and not have to watch out for what I say. We are closer than ever before.
Looking back, I can see the pattern of God’s hand in my life. My knee injury led me on a mission. My mission strengthened my testimony and led me to seek a man to marry. We moved into a house near a friend who would help me through a crisis and give me courage to finally clear things up with my bishop. When she faded in my life, I learned to turn to the scriptures and prayer and finally to my husband.
Now my journey has led me to the North Star International group which has helped me know I am not alone. There are others that struggle with same sex attraction and want to stay active in the gospel. This has brought me great peace because I truly thought I was alone. I’m amazed how much difference this knowledge has made in my outlook and my self-esteem. I know I have a Heavenly Father that loves me and wants me to be happy and successful. Today, it is no longer a daily struggle or even a weekly one. It does not intrude upon my life every moment. Those feelings do not define me.
I hear the world say I was born this way and that I need to embrace it. I hear others lecture that the church should change their doctrine and accept same-sex relationships. I know these ideas are false; you do not need to embrace it, you have a choice, and the church will not change because God’s plan is eternal and we need to work within the plan.
I am a faithful member of the church who still struggles at times with such feelings. But through faith in the Atonement, I work hard to stay true to my covenants. I am sharing my story in hopes that others will not feel alone, that they too might gain the peace to keep up the fight. Those of us who struggle with same sex attraction have been too quiet. We have allowed the world to tell us we cannot be good members of the church and that Heavenly Father will never forgive us. If we don’t stand up and tell others it is possible to stay true to our covenants while experiencing same sex attraction, I feel more wonderful souls will follow the ways of the world and join the gay community. . People go where they feel accepted and loved. If we can’t help others feel loved and accepted in the church, we are not fulfilling our baptismal covenants. We can love them and allow them in the church as long as they follow the commandments of God.
When I walked into the foyer of the Missionary Training Center all those years ago, I saw a picture of Jesus Christ with his arms stretched out. Underneath it read, “I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.” I testify that it can be a hard road at times but the peace you receive from the Savior makes it possible to live a life acceptable to Him and Heavenly Father. In the past, I had relied on other people because I had no faith in myself. Now, deep trust in Heavenly Father has given me faith in myself. I don’t ask why anymore, I just move forward “Steadfast in Christ.” He took my sins upon him and I love Him for that selfless act. I go forward in faith taking solace in the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland when he spoke of same sex attraction. “I do know that this will not be a post-mortal condition. It will not be a post-mortal difficulty. I want that to be of some hope to some.” I look forward to these feelings being taken away with great anticipation.
Until then, I walk in faith.