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A Powerful Letter to Mormons from a Gay Member of the Church: "We Are Your Brothers and Sisters"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I'd say I'm a run-of-the-mill Mormon boy and fit the mold here pretty well in Provo. I was born to saintly parents, decedents of pioneers, who taught their children the gospel in its purity throughout our lives. As I grew, my testimony developed as well. I've exercised my priesthood worthily. I earned my Faith in God award, then my Eagle, then my Duty to God. I played on a varsity team in high school, graduated at the top of my class, and received a full-tuition academic scholarship to BYU where I'm part of the choral program. I served an honorable full-time mission and I've literally indexed thousands of records and discovered hundreds of names of my ancestors which I bring to the temple every week. The most important aspect of my identity is that I am a firm believer in the divinity of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of His restored Gospel.

And, I'm attracted to other men.

I hope that this last detail hasn't changed your perception of me, but if it has, perhaps we should examine why.

I've observed that when an openly gay member of the Church stands at the pulpit, there's an underlying unease, as if the individual must be acting on their feelings in an inappropriate way. Perhaps this is a generalization on my part, but I have noticed that thought pattern. Additionally, a nice dose of toxic masculinity makes us the brunt of jokes.

I wish that straight members would recognize how difficult it is for us to stay. I find myself within crossfire between the forces of the world and members of the Church, which is painful to say the least. I'm considered a sell-out by the mainstream LGBTQ community because I choose not to act on my feelings for moral reasons, and I can't seem to fit in easily at church because same-sex attraction is so often cast in a negative light.

I came out to my parents a year before I left on my mission because I didn't know if gay people could even serve; members of the Church had given me the impression that such an action was vile and dangerous. But I was received with love. I was embraced by my parents, my bishops, my mission president, every one I opened up to. Once I found my footing, I started reaching out to other gay members of the Church and discovered incredible support. I started a blog, thegayrm.blogspot.com, to share my experiences and testimony of Jesus Christ. I have interviewed with The Salt Lake Tribune in defense of BYU, where my professors and peers have been so loving when I share my experiences with them.

You don't hear my perspective often because most gay voices in this age are loud and proud, while those of my variety tend to stick to ourselves. I hope it doesn't remain this way. There are thousands of members of the Church just like me who are struggling to consecrate their hearts to the Lord. The commandment to do so is extended to straight members, too.

It can be easy to feel marginalized or unwanted in a culture where traditional marriage is the pinnacle of righteous success. I assume that many gay members of the Church fail to recognize the unique gifts they bring to the culture from which they feel ostracized.

Followers of Christ who experience same-sex attractions are forced to make a choice that most Saints are unfamiliar with. They must choose between romantic relationships and their relationship with the Savior. Because of this, those who choose Christ participate in consecration, giving their hearts to the Lord. While many single members of the Church often find themselves under fire from their leaders for not dating enough or not being valiant enough in their pursuit of marriage, gay members of the Church must put their energy into not falling in love or fostering romantic relationships.

Is this a fair struggle? Probably not. But every person on this earth, including Job and the Savior, experiences unfairness. When I think about how unfair my struggles are compared to others, I remind myself of Christ's suffering on the cross and my burden seems so much lighter. We live in a fallen world, so while it's painful to see so many around me fulfilling their potential while enjoying romance, it's how it has to be. It kills me to see my LGBTQ brothers and sisters walk away from the gospel. I understand their decision, however, as a part of my heart yearns for deeper connections with other men. When I see guys with their arms around girls cuddling on BYU campus, I wonder if they understand how fortunate they are.

I want straight members of the Church to know that there are far more LGBTQ Mormons than you'd assume. There's been some in every ward I've ever attended. We sit next to you in your classes and hear your lessons on eternal marriage in Sunday School. We are your brothers and sisters, and while the work of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, we have special contributions to make whilst building the kingdom of God.

The Church is divinely true. Christ lives and loves us. We all must strive to keep the commandments as no one can be exalted without the saving grace of the Messiah. No one can live a lie when they are true to Him. The Lord recognizes the struggles of LGBTQ Saints and honors their sacrifices for the gospel. I hope our culture will shift and do the same.

- Tristan

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