VOICES OF HOPE
Stu grew up in American Fork, Utah, and was raised in the LDS church. Currently studying English Composition at the University of Utah, he wants to someday work in the medical field. Stu’s favorite activities include hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and almost anything else done outdoors. His trials have led him to view life as an adventure, and he loves sharing it with his friends and family. Stu believes the Atonement is real and applies to his life every day. He knows that prayer and a relationship with his Heavenly Father has been critical to his happiness.
Full Interview (46 Minutes)
Highlights Interview (11 Minutes)
AND THEN MAY WE STAND STILL
We moved to American Fork, Utah when I was nine years old. I was excited to move to a new town and make a new group of friends, but gaining friends in the small town of “AF” was much more difficult than it had seemed in Salt Lake, Minneapolis, and Omaha, where I had lived previously. After a few months in school, it became apparent I didn’t fit in with the rest of the kids. The friends I’d hoped for were not forthcoming.
I had a few things going against me. While active and playful, I was thinner than most of the other boys my age. Legally blind in my left eye, and very impaired in my right, I wore glasses with lenses so thick they magnified my eyes two or three times their normal size. As if the aesthetic alone wasn’t problem enough, the poor eyesight rendered me hopelessly uncoordinated. I was completely inept on a basketball court, soccer field, or baseball diamond. Sports were little boy religion in American Fork, and I couldn’t be part of the orthodoxy.
A shadow fell over my life during that first year in AF. Not content to simply ignore me (which was hard enough), boys my age, most especially those in my new LDS ward, seemed determined to bully, intimidate, and tease me. In my nine-year-old mind, school and church were warzones. I started avoiding the other kids. I would stay in the classroom at recess, preferring books to bullies. I insisted to my parents I was ill as often as I dared. Normally enthused and affable, I became withdrawn, sullen, and sad. The world seemed dark, and I felt alone.
My parents were keenly aware of what was going on (as parents so often are). They prayed for me and urged me to pray. They spoke with my teacher. They tried to teach me to improve at sports. They always tried to affirm my worth. They asked other parents to have their sons play with me. They reminded me, often, that I was a son of God, and that He loved me. They spent many nights worrying and discussing and feeling powerless to help their oldest and suffering son.
One morning my mother drove me to school. I had dragged my feet that morning, evidently terrified of the difficulties that waited for me at school. In my procrastination, I had become late for class. Mom didn’t chide. She knew what I had been going through. She dropped me at the school and watched me slowly, begrudgingly walk toward the building, shoulders slumped and head hanging.
She began to cry. She started to say a prayer, an echo of the same prayer she had been uttering for months. Her refrain was simple. “Please bless Stuart. Please watch over him. Please help him feel peace.” She felt so desperate and helpless in her pleadings with her Heavenly Father. His response to her that morning was at once a gentle rebuke and an overwhelming comfort. The Spirit whispered into my mother’s heart: “He was My son before he was yours.”
The Latter-day Ideal
Life was difficult in those first two years in American Fork. My self-worth threatened to give out entirely, and I sometimes wondered how I could go on. Yet, as the weeks and months passed, I slowly gained friends who appreciated me as I was. The consistent pain and fear that had struck my core slowly dissipated, and I started to feel happy. By the time I finished junior high, I was surrounded by quality people who shared my values, were kind, and with whom I felt safe and natural. Many of the friendships I made when I was 12 and 13 remain my closest friends to this day.
Going through that brief period of trial in my childhood cemented in my adolescence a solid belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believed wholeheartedly in prayer. I believed in the Bible and Book of Mormon and read them regularly. Most of all, I believed myself to be a son of God. My own quiet answers to prayer confirmed the pivotal answer my mother had been given about me the morning she had watched me walk to the school. I had felt His presence sustaining me when I was weakest, encouraging me to continue when I felt like I couldn’t. God’s reality to me from that moment has never been in question, nor has my relationship to Him.
I had a very particular, elevated idea of LDS living—and I was on the right track to attain it; I was baptized at eight; I was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood at twelve; I advanced in that priesthood every two years following; I served in my quorum presidencies; I received my Eagle Scout; I was involved in extra-curricular activities and felt like I had no shortage of close friends; I graduated high school and seminary; I attended mission preparation classes; I served an honorable full-time mission in Everett, Washington, and genuinely loved every minute of it. Life was going according to plan. Next, I would find a “choice daughter of Zion” (as described in my patriarchal blessing), and be sealed to her for eternity. Then I simply needed to have kids, finish college, and live happily ever after. The world had a simple algebra to it, and I was following the equation to the letter.
But underneath it all, I was aware of this ever-present oddity, this anomalous reality that I couldn’t quite shake: I was attracted to other guys.
I had wondered before even moving to American Fork about this oddly different part of me, aside from the eyesight and the reading and the rest, which seemed unique among my peers. I felt the first emotional attractions in early childhood and the physical pull when my body began to develop in puberty. I was confused and frightened by those attractions, but I chose to ignore them and did so effectively. While the attractions were reality, they simply didn’t fit into the equation of the ideal LDS life I yearned to have. The life I wanted to lead was so completely undone and threatened by something like same-sex attraction (SSA) that I shut it out. For a time, that wasn’t too difficult.
I was surrounded by lifelong friends who affirmed me, with whom I felt safe, with whom I felt at home. We all kept in touch during our missions and became college roommates after our missions. I dated women. I considered myself “one of the guys.” I went to school and began to pursue a career in medicine. I was happy and content. But a storm was slowly building in the back of my mind, a tumult of fear and frustration that was only gradually entering into my consciousness. It was just waiting for the right time to be unleashed.
The Breaking of the Dam
As the years passed, one-by-one, my closest friends began to marry. I was immensely happy for them. But as is often the case with newlyweds, many of my married friends retreated into the mythical land of wedded bliss, and were almost never heard from again.
I missed my friends a great deal as they began their families. They had been part of my life—nearly been a second family of my own—since I was twelve years old. While I maintained relationships with each one of them, I started to feel increasingly cut off from them. And my dating ventures, while fun, were not really progressing into anything serious. I couldn’t break the three month barrier with any girlfriend. I was generally frustrated by dating and felt discouraged my life wasn’t progressing the way so many of my friends had.
Around this time, I took a job as a security guard in a large storage vault up a canyon overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. I would travel to the canyon from Provo—an hour-long drive—and spend all night alone in this man-made cave. I spent the nights reading and doing homework. In the morning, I drove the hour back to Provo and attended school. I went home which was empty while my roommates were away in their various responsibilities, and tried to sleep for four or five hours before I had to get up and try again.
After months of working, school and insufficient sleep, things in my life started to deteriorate. Imperceptible at first, I began to starve emotionally. I was alone all the time. I knew no one in my classes, rarely saw my roommates or family, and spent the night in a dark cave in a dark mountain in a dark canyon. In that moment, when there seemed to be walls barring me from the rest of the world, the walls inside me began to disintegrate. When I was denied all the healthy connection I had enjoyed to that point, the walls I had erected to protect myself from my attractions crumbled.
One night, alone and cold, the attractions I had felt and so long ignored seemed to crash against the bulwarks I had built against them. It felt like a dam inside me broke, and there was one flooding, rushing thought that swept over my whole mind: “I am gay.”
The words, the thought, were poison to me. I was repulsed. But I no longer had a choice to ignore it. I was distraught and hopeless. What could I do? Despite all my best efforts to live a life according to the gospel, despite all the dating, the mission, the hopes for a family, the kept covenants, I was in the clutches of this horrible reality. And I couldn’t possibly cope. I felt so weak.
Nowhere to Run
Bereft the ability to ignore the problem, I ran from it instead. My classes and school were filled with attractive men. Each one was a reminder of this cancerous, toxic thing that was consuming me. So I stopped going to school. I once went on a date with a girl I really liked, but was distracted by an attractive guy I saw in the course of the night. I was mortified. So I stopped dating. Church began to be a reminder of how unworthy I felt. So whenever I could, I skipped attending church, citing my graveyard shift as the reason.
My life was fraying. My grades, once respectable, dropped precipitously. Any future career prospects seemed unimportant and increasingly unattainable. Whatever spiritual life I had so treasured was gone now. I so loathed and reviled the attractions inside me that I felt like a vile sinner for merely having them. I couldn’t even bring myself to come before my Heavenly Father in prayer. I couldn’t abide the company of my friends and family. I was convinced they would somehow find out, see the self-loathing and horror shining through my eyes. They’d be ashamed, I thought, appalled and eager to abandon me. Disconcertingly, those closest to me did start to notice something was wrong.
I spent all my energies simply keeping others from finding out. I was terrified that I’d simply blurt it out spontaneously in a moment of desperation, even worried about talking in my sleep. I constantly wore a winning, fake smile, and anytime I was asked if I was okay (far too frequently for my comfort), I simply said I was tired. The story worked, because initially my only relief was in sleep. And I slept as often as I could, sometimes 12-14 hours a day when opportunity allowed. But soon my attractions began to haunt my dreams, and sleep evaded me. I was waking up in cold sweats and would be incapable of finding sleep again. My life was hardly a life, yet my attractions continued to intensify.
The “Day People,” my closest friends, family, and all those thousand nameless masses I watched and envied throughout Provo, seemed to operate in a different reality than mine. They were worried about normal things. They dated, did homework, laughed and spoke of their futures. They planned, they dreamed, and they set themselves at those dreams with passion. Those that dreamt while I walked caves knew a life I yearned for. But I had needs that were keeping me from that life.
Speaking of the love the Savior had for those who sin, President Spencer W. Kimball made the observation that “Jesus saw sin as wrong, but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual” (“Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Ensign, Aug 1979). I didn’t understand it at the time, but the overwhelming drive to connect with another man emotionally, physically, and otherwise was based in a perfectly normal, healthy need that wasn’t getting met. Without all the connection I had grown up with, I was starving emotionally, and so I felt like making a mistake was somehow inevitable. But I wasn’t even aware that I had needs. All I knew was the temptation and the drive.
I felt that I was a walking liability to my parents, brothers, and friends. I felt it would be far better for them if I were out of their lives, rather than subject them to the terrible reality that was swelling inside me. A feeling of powerlessness and loss of hope had completely paralyzed me. All options had been taken from me; my career, my family, my faith, my future, all seemed to be slipping from my grasp. I was at the end of my strength. If I had no future and was a larger liability than an asset to those I loved, my course became clear. I had one last option open to me—my life needed to end.
The Cliff’s Edge
That’s how I found myself standing on the edge of a cliff late one spring night. I was deep in the heart of a mountain canyon, surrounded by tall, dark pines and peaks. I was removed from everything. There was no light, no people. A numb, familiar ache in my heart softly throbbed, but I was otherwise emotionless and calm. The air was cool and my hands chilled as I stood there, pressing the metal of a knife blade against my neck. There was a cold, clinical calculation to this moment. I was prepared for it.
I had prepared every detail. My roommates thought I was at work. They often went days without seeing me, so it wouldn’t be readily apparent I’d be missing. I’d planned to fall down the steep, remote slope after completing that final task, so once I was discovered missing, search and rescue would recover my body, rather than some random passerby. I had written a letter that would be found in my desk when my loved ones started going through my things, but it wouldn’t be found until well after I’d passed.
So there on the edge of that abyss, I breathed deeply for the last time. I counted down from ten. At two, my hand tightened instinctively, ready to make a hard, fast flick of the wrist. Blood started to seep down my neck.
And I was stopped.
It was an idea more than an image, but I understood with a startling reality some of the repercussions of my impending death. I saw how badly wounded my parents and brothers would be, how lost and devastated my friends would be. Their grief, I was shown, would be greater, longer lasting, and more profound than I had ever imagined possible. I knew I was loved. I hadn’t realized just how deeply.
While the well of love drawn from my friends and family ran deep, I was staggered by what I next felt. I felt a presence of love from my Heavenly Father. He reminded me that He was there, that He knew what I was facing, and that I was His son. The feeling was so pure and so contrasted against the overwhelming darkness I’d been feeling for months that I collapsed to my knees. The knife fell from my grip. I sank to the rocky ground and cried. In my need, in my most desperate moment, God had stepped in and given me what I needed to press forward.
Yet life afterwards scarcely seemed easier. I stepped away from that ledge and the months plowed on. While comforted by the heavenly intervention that kept me from taking my life, I still felt desperately lost, confused, and alone. I felt like the one option I had to affect my future or to relieve myself from pain had been taken from me. I was living, but only for others.
The needs President Kimball mentioned were still completely unmet. I needed others. I needed to process what I was going through, and I needed to talk to someone—anyone—about it all. I turned to the minefield and anonymity of the internet. I started chatting with men who were LDS, many of them returned missionaries. They said they were eager to help in any way they could. I felt a wave of relief washing over me. Someone else knew what I was going through. They were going through it too. I wasn’t alone! Some invited me to meet, though I declined at first, preferring the pseudonym and protection of Internet anonymity. But the desire to connect was strong, and I felt I needed the support they offered.
It became gradually apparent that many of these people had no intent to console or befriend. There are countless lost men and women, LDS and otherwise, out there in the world whose masks lure others in for their own gratification and to satisfy their own appetites. There seemed to be predators on the prowl everywhere I went—spiritual crocodiles, waiting beneath the surface when a weak, famished person nears to drink. I had deep emotional needs, and I didn’t have the vaguest idea how to meet those needs. I didn’t even have the understanding or vernacular to label them as needs. I simply had an impulsive, insatiable and desperate thirst, and I was willing to drink anywhere I could.
That “thirst” led me, in all innocence, to seek help and understanding from dangerous places and people, and resulted in some of the most grave, serious mistakes I’m likely to ever make in my life. After a certain threshold had been breached, there was little to keep me from continuing. I was profoundly unhappy and worldly voices repeatedly insisted that “being true” to the feelings I was having would bring me the happiness I desired. Despite the experience on the mountainside, I still felt far removed from my Heavenly Father, unworthy of the love He demonstrated to me—now more than ever.
The poor decisions I was making didn’t invite any form of peace into my life, but they were powerful sedatives. I reached for anything that seemed to curb the constant ache in my soul. It was like I was sleepwalking through a nightmare. While I would no longer take my own life, I certainly didn’t want to live. All avenues seemed impossible, my current life untenable. I became bitter and withdrawn. My normal, optimistic self was replaced by a cynical, morose person I no longer recognized. I again felt at my limit, powerless and unable to take another step on the steep road in front of me.
“You’re Not Being True to Yourself”
“You’re not being true to yourself.”
I had heard variations on the phrase countless times. It was a standby favorite of men I heard justifying lifestyle choices made counter to their current or previously-held religious beliefs. I had tried the phrase on once or twice myself, though I never really felt compelled by it. But a friend of mine, gay and unreligious, used it with me in a way I’d never heard before: “Stu, you’re religious. You believe in God, and that’s important to you. You’re ignoring that part of yourself. You’re not being true to yourself.”
My journey through SSA has consisted of small moments of awakening. In this case, that moment happened because a friend perceived I was out of balance in my life. He was absolutely right. It was like I’d looked up to realize a riptide had pulled me hopelessly far from a shore that had always felt like home. So I prayed, and tried to bargain with my Heavenly Father. I promised to be as perfect as I could be in the gospel. In return, I demanded of Him to somehow make a life in the Church feel possible, that repentance was possible. I wanted happiness—that ideal life I’d always wanted.
I kept my end of the bargain. I did my hometeaching early in the month. I paid my tithing, read my scriptures, and attended my meetings and ward activities. I fulfilled my calling as best I knew how. I ceased any and all activities that would further compromise my relationship with God, and prepared myself mentally and emotionally to approach a priesthood leader about the mistakes I had made.
Significantly, I found North Star, a “place of community for Latter-day Saints dealing with issues surrounding homosexual attraction and gender identity who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” This online community was a breath of fresh air. There were so many people out there who knew what I was going through. They offered words of hope and encouragement. Unlike the shady, dangerous corners of the internet to which I had previously turned, North Star felt safe and encouraging. It was so amazing to feel understood, to feel loved, and to feel accepted when I could hardly stand to accept myself. They helped me approach my family and tell them the truth. My parents and little brothers were amazingly loving and supportive. They handled it so much better than I had ever thought possible!
And while I welcomed the support, some things weren’t improving as I thought they might. After four months of being “perfect” in all those outward, quantifiable ways, I was still frustrated and unhappy. I still hated who I was, hated my attractions, and hated the life I was leading. At the end of those four months (largely because I stillwasn’t meeting the needs I had), I didn’t see the results I had hoped for. And I felt done. I believed in the gospel, and yet figured that its blessings were beyond me—that there was no place for me in it. I called a gay friend and told him that I was done fighting. I had done all I could do.
The next night, I begrudgingly went to a Christmas party being held by some of the men I had come to know online through North Star. I was uncomfortable and nervous, and intended to leave shortly after showing up and offering some obligatory hellos. But what I saw changed my life.
I saw families—happy families. There were men who were well-adjusted, comfortable with their lives and themselves. They sometimes spoke openly about SSA without shame or embarrassment. Their wives seemed happy, fulfilled, and equally unashamed about what their husbands experienced. To my shock there was a young guy there about my age with a girlfriend! She was beautiful and dynamic—I’m sure she didn’t struggle for attention from men. Yet of them all, she chose this guy, knowing about his struggles. And they had no bearing on her boyfriend, who was just as dynamic. He was successful, confident, and comfortable with his attractions. I went home, bewildered, unable to comprehend what I had witnessed. These people were thoroughly, unapologetically happy. They were settled in their lives and in the gospel in ways I had thought completely impossible. I didn’t know how they did it; I only knew I wanted it. It was a new, more realistic vision of my ideal LDS life. There was something to hope for.
Again, Heavenly Father had stepped in to spare me from a desperate mistake. That night I knelt by my bed more humble and earnest than I had ever been. I didn’t come to strike a bargain with God, nor to demand or ask “Why me?” I simply went to Him and thanked him for what I had seen. I asked if I could possibly have what those people had. An undeniable “yes” came bursting into my mind and heart. The warmth that overwhelmed me was more palpable and fulfilling than I can catch in words. I was infused with a hope and a promise. I could be happy. There were no more specifics than that. But it was enough for me.
The Long Road
That night, with its accompanying prayer, granted me the courage necessary to approach my stake president with my mistakes. He was loving and Christ-like. There was no shame or even disappointment in his eyes. There was only serious concern and deep love. Requisite with the choices I had made the year previous, a stake disciplinary council was convened—the single scariest and most intense experience I’ve ever endured. Yet there was nothing punitive or negative about the council. Surrounded by men I had known most of my life, I told my story, choking through tears and pain. The Spirit in the room was more intense than anything I’ve ever felt. It was what I imagine it will feel like when I finally am able to see my Savior, to embrace Him. I was disfellowshipped but I felt so comforted by the love I felt. Such was the power that followed me as I took the difficult steps necessary to follow the road I wanted.
That road wasn’t easy. Over the ensuing months and years, it wasn’t entirely clear exactly how I was going to achieve the inner peace and happiness I had seen in those men at the Christmas party. Upon being reinstated in the Church, I felt clean and pure. I felt loved and supported. I had enlisted the help of my amazing family—two little brothers and two wonderful parents—who, while not with full understanding, yet with full hearts, were fiercely loyal to helping me along my journey. I needed their support, because the attractions and emotional impulses hadn’t waned in the least. I still had deep-seated needs that I was struggling to understand and meet.
While I was undergoing the repentance process, I found solace in the mountains. Nature offered me a place to commune with God, to feel the power of His creation, and to feel His Spirit. It was my replacement temple, and I became truly dependent on getting into nature, getting away from the tumult of society that was so confusing and stressful.
The tumult of society was loud. So many voices outside of the Church insisted that dating men was the only way to be happy. Their words seemed to only confuse and obscure my future. Whatever can be said about the Adversary, it can be said that he’s good at what he does. The Adversary was trying to rob from me the thing I most needed: hope. Even after I had accessed the power of the Atonement in my life, after I had felt the joy and rebirth that comes from repentance, he was still effectively trying to steal away any seed of hope that had managed to take root in my soul.
I had a nagging fear that I was still, in part, living my life for others, that my decisions regarding SSA were somewhat superficial. My LDS life was all I had known. But what about the millions of people who lead lives with same-gender partners who seemed happy and whole? Was it impossible for me to have that because I knew about the gospel? I wrestled with the self-doubt and the fears that cropped up often.
“You Know We’ll Love You”
My mother helped significantly one weekend while I was at home visiting. In the car, on the way to help her with grocery shopping, we started some innocuous conversation about life. I don’t remember what about exactly but, suddenly, she burst out with one of the more surprising non-sequiturs of my life: “Stu, you know we’ll love you no matter what, right?”
I was confused and asked her what she meant. “If you chose to lead a gay lifestyle, we’d still love you. We’d still accept you. We’d respect your agency. Don’t get me wrong—we’d be devastated and saddened, and it would be really difficult for us. But you are and always will be our son, and we accept you wholesale.”
While unexpected and unsolicited, Mom’s words were inspired. It was exactly what I needed to hear. In that moment, she effectively offered me a chance to own my decisions, and make them independent of my family. I still thought I knew what I wanted—a life in the gospel of Jesus Christ—but I could establish that for myself. It was an inspired moment. My parents, imperfect and flawed as any of us are, have spurred many of those moments. And I couldn’t have traveled this journey without them and their inspired insight.
Thus encouraged by my mother’s attitude, I prayed hard about the dilemma I saw before me. I felt I had three tough options open to me: live an openly gay lifestyle away from the gospel, live a single life in the gospel, or attain temple marriage to a woman. But which could I possibly choose when they all still seemed untenable? The answer came from an unlikely source. A young SSA man had written into a popular LDS blog citing how impossible it would be for him to stay single in the Church, surrounded on every side by families. A commentator, a person who had left the Church, said simply, “We tend to underestimate ourselves and say that it would be impossible rather than excruciating. It’s not impossible. And when has God shied away from asking excruciating things of His children?”
I knew he was right. Elizabeth and Zacharias waited nearly their entire lives to bear a son they were promised. Nephi was told to kill Laban. Alma was imprisoned. So was Joseph Smith. Moroni watched his people and his father exterminated. Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Every person who has or will live on this earth will face a crucible designed to stretch them to the limits of their endurance, their own personal “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor 12:7-10). That may happen more to those that seek to follow Jesus Christ because there is, in reality, the presence of an Adversary who does not accept faith without a fight. If God asked me to sacrifice the life I had expected, that was of little surprise; He’s asked so much more of so many others.
I realized that I needed to stop putting parameters around happiness or faith or discipleship. From an early age, I had regarded success and happiness as something attained from external sources: degrees, missions, ordinations, callings, titles, paychecks, marriage. While those things can, to varying degrees, bring happiness or contentment into our lives, the prerequisites for joy are much simpler: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Plainly put, the key to my happiness lies in my relationship with my Savior, and nowhere else.
Whatever I might face in my life, I knew that I could be happy. But I also felt like the worthy things I had hoped for—marriage, kids, and a life in the Church I love—were possible. That has been a tremendous blessing. But I knew I could be happy in the moment without them. If they came in this life or the next, I could have peace (see Matthew 6:34; Proverbs 3:5; D&C 59:23).
It’s so difficult to summarize so intense a collection of experiences into a few pages. This journey has been the most formative and most difficult experience of my life. There’s nothing that can compare. One thing that is certain, there was no one experience, no one prayer, no one relationship, or group, or counselor that changed my experience overnight. Mine was not an Alma or Paul experience. While there were a few watershed moments (as related here), most of my growth has come piecemeal, almost imperceptibly. But one day, as if I were measuring myself on a wall, I realized how much I had grown. Things that had been difficult and harrowing a year before were now simple. And through dating, prayer, and consistent, dogged work, I realized my beliefs were completely my own. My relationship with my God was not contingent on anyone but myself, and my happiness my own responsibility. After years of pain and growth, I finally felt my life was back in my hands, and I had grown to love myself. Yet my life had changed slowly that I was almost unaware I had progressed at all.
“And Then May We Stand Still”
“Stu, what do I do?”
I had never heard Andy Liddle cry. I had never heard him sound so desperate, so alone, so scared. And I didn’t know how to begin to respond. Andy, one of my closest friends in the world, had developed melanoma—a skin cancer—a few months before. He had just heard back from his doctor. The prognosis was much worse than they had previously supposed. Instead of a good chance of living a decade or more, my dear friend had no more than a year to live. In his desperation, he had called me, seeking for relief anywhere he could find it.
What do you say to someone who’s dying? “Just have faith. God’s in control. Everything is going to be okay. Remember the eternal perspective.” While true, all the typical, trite, gospel-centric platitudes seemed so hopelessly inadequate. I said a quick, silent prayer. “Please help me say something—anything—to him that will help.”
Throughout the years I had been quietly struggling, I had found a specific set of scriptures and thoughts that had helped me. They leapt to mind. I started to share my thoughts with Andy. One was Doctrine and Covenants 123:17:
“Dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”
And there was this one in Alma 33:11:
“And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son.”
I told my dear friend that I had been going through a trial, myself. But I had learned one overwhelmingly important truth. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, even when the world is bleakest, and life seems spent, God would always reveal His arm when my power had given out. Even when I was convinced I was alone, that I wasn’t worthy to even utter His name, my Savior loved me, and was always there. I didn’t know what the future would hold. But I knew that life would be alright. I don’t know how much those words comforted my dear friend, but Andy died four months later, seemingly at peace and eager to progress in the next stage of his life.
As he was lying in his bed in the weeks before he passed away, I remember saying a prayer, in tears, asking my Heavenly Father to bless and watch over my good friend and his family. A quiet answer spoke peace to my heart. I remembered what had happened to my mother back when I was in fourth grade. I knew God remembered Andy Liddle; he was God’s son well before he was my friend.
In the moments of greatest weakness, when the world seemed to have crumbled around me, when I had almost forgotten what peace or light tasted like, when I was about to collapse, God reached in to gently pull me up, to strengthen me, to encourage me forward. For every time I was able to witness this happening, I imagine there were ten such moments happening beyond my perception.
In recent years, my attractions have hardly diminished at all. Yet I barely notice them. I’ve learned how to recognize and meet important emotional needs, how to be patient, and how to wait on the Lord. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, one thing I will always continue to do, I will always hold on. I know that even when facing the dark precipices in my life, even when the night and hope have grown darkest and I have done “all things that lie in [my] power,” then I can simply “stand still with the utmost assurance to see the salvation of God and for His arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17).