Saturday, December 17, 2016

Preparing for a Mission with Same-Sex Attraction

Going on a mission is a daunting proposition for anyone. Long hours of often fruitless labor, isolation from mainstream entertainment and culture, distance from family, spending 24 hours a day with a stranger, facing rejection, and desperately trying to help individuals and families keep commitments and change their lives to align with Christ's will is not easy. 

When you experience same-sex attraction, many of these issues are accentuated. The vast majority of LGBT individuals experience some form of emotional disorder at some point in their lives (can you blame us?), and serving a mission with a mental illness is extremely difficult. In addition to that potential issue, many missionaries who experience same-sex attraction are terrified that they'll be living 24/7 with someone of their same sex for extended periods of time, with good reason! While some believe that they might not be able to control themselves (which honestly is rarely a problem), most have reservations about the torture they might experience should they be attracted to their companion. 

This is a valid concern, one which should be taken into consideration. I was blessed to not have attractions for my companions, but other missionaries...yeah...ANYWAY - If this is your main concern with going on a mission, I don't think you need to worry too much. 

However, mental health is not to be taken likely. If you think you might be experiencing a disorder of some kind, I heartily suggest looking into counseling. You have nothing to lose (well, except some dough) by seeking professional help. Another thing to take into consideration is that every mental health professional is proficient in particular aspects of counseling, so it make take a couple of tries before you find a therapist that's right for you. There's nothing wrong with making your progress your first priority - counselors will understand if you seek help from someone else. 

Additionally, speaking with your bishop is vital. There are often resources he can make available to you that will enable you to combat your mental illness. He also can give you inspired advice on how to handle your attractions. However, it's important to remember that your bishop is most likely not a licensed professional and should not be relied on as such. He is a mortal man with an inspired calling. While he can help you meet your spiritual needs, there is a limit to how much help he can offer for your mental health.

Another resource is your parents. I can't speak for everyone, but in my personal experience my parents have been deeply supportive of my efforts to stay true to the gospel and they respect my struggles. Likewise, your parents can offer you similar affirmation (for the most part - obviously some parents aren't prepared to handle such situations). Having a support network is absolutely necessary to being a healthy Christian experiencing same-sex attraction.

This connection is also vital in combating addictions. I can honestly say that I've never had an issue with pornography and entered the mission field free of addictive behaviors. Unfortunately, many of the saints I've interacted with have this burden when they start their missions. Don't be ashamed of this; know that you're not alone. Again, your bishop is gold when it comes to your spiritual health. I'm told the Church's "addiction recovery program" (ARP) is very helpful as well. I plan on writing a post specifically geared to pornography, but I needed to put this little blurb in here.

Something that has helped me tremendously is the temple. Last night I interviewed a young man who recently returned from his mission because I wanted to know what sustained him during his service. He adamantly testified that the temple was the main source of strength and motivation for him. After coming out to his bishop, he was advised to attend the temple every week before his mission. This was quite a commitment as the nearest temple was hours away. However, by taking his bishop's advice my friend was able to gain a strong testimony of the divine truth manifested in temple work. During times of trial on his mission, he was able to remember the Spirit he felt within the walls of the holy temple, which gave him the might to push on.

Similarly, I've gone to the temple every week since I've been home from my mission. It certainly provides an incentive to not act on my attractions in an inappropriate way (I still listen to Britney Spears, okay? Get over it). I know that I can't have my cake and eat it too, so I've chosen the temple over a homosexual relationship. Likewise, you can find strength and motivation by doing temple work or even pondering on the temple grounds. I promise you that.

So, there aren't a ton of resources for prospective missionaries experiencing same-sex attraction in particular, but I've found a few videos on YouTube that you may find helpful:

The Church's official website,, is great for understanding same-sex attraction. Hopefully the Church will continue to develop resources for those struggling with their faith and feelings. For now, I'll do my best to help out.

So here's a little list to go over.

1. Talk with your bishop
2. Talk with your parents
3. Seek professional counseling
4. Attend the temple and participate in family history efforts

These, of course, are in addition to the expected preparations dictated by your Church leaders (i.e. developing a testimony of the atonement and gospel of Christ, learning to live on your own, budgeting, physical fitness, etc.).

For those who have served missions while experiencing same-sex attraction, is there anything that has helped you in your journey? Comment below!

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