Sister Lisa Clayton is one of the biggest reasons I have stayed active in the Church. She showed us glimpses of our futures, filled with free thought, postgraduate education, careers, and motherhood. She allowed us to have an opinion, and did not shut down a conversation when difficult questions were asked, or when alternative opinions were voiced. She let us think, pray, ponder, and learn. She allowed us to come up with our own conclusions. She gave us freedom to choose.
At the end of class I gave her a letter. Sister Clayton will not be back next semester to teach, because she will be in the Toronto Canada Mission serving as Mission President with her husband. I have all the hope in the world that she will be a resource, a mentor, and a guide to those 19 year old sisters. Because that's exactly what she was to me.
I just wanted to say how thankful I am for you, and for you're class. I signed up for Institute this year with hesitation... I've had less than positive experiences in Institute, and in the Church, so I walked into your classroom filled with doubt and trepidation.
In all honesty, I expected your class to be full of lessons on a "woman's place"... in the home, nurturing the children and supporting our husbands in their careers and Priesthood callings. The Church has really been hammering the idea that a woman's greatest achievements and honors come from motherhood, and I expected the class to mirror those talking points. I was pleasantly surprised every week.
Your lessons allowed for discussion, free thought, and personal opinion... something that I have been hard pressed to find in my classes and meetings as someone with alternative opinions. You allowed us to blaze our own trails, march to the beats of our own drummers. While some of us will choose to stay at home, most of us will go on to post graduate education, and careers that allow us to fulfill our mortal responsibilities and desires, while also allowing us to exceed our eternal destinies. Thank you for empowering us with these possibilities.
You asked me a few months ago in an email what I see upon my horizon... what I see my future brings. At the time, I was unsure of how to answer... the answers are anything but simple or typical. But they begin with my patriarchal blessing. The biggest thing that stands out to me is this:
The world is in commotion. There is a multitude of opinions, motives, and desires in conflict, and it is difficult for a seeker of truth to know who is right. The grace of God has given you the answer. Be grateful for the knowledge and testimony He has given you.You see... in December 2011, right after my bishop and stake president revoked my mission call, I was in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple in South Jordan. I was in the baptistery and weeping uncontrollably. I was begging for God to take my same sex attraction away. I did not want it. And every time I asked, I was met with a tidal wave of despair and hopelessness. I believed the words of my bishop... that I was defected. Broken. Unclean. I planned on the trip being my last temple attendance. I was planning suicide.
And then, suddenly, I asked, "Is it ok for me to be gay? Is this how you made me?" The floodgates burst open, and all of the love, support, and joy I've been praying for, flooded into my body. This revelation of love and confirmation that God did indeed love me, and made me this way was not the only one. I felt strong impressions to find a wife, and to have a family... but most importantly, I was instructed to stay in the Church. My Heavenly Mother, and my Heavenly Father validated my hurt feelings, but They told me to "stay a little longer." So I'm still here.
I firmly believe that the revelation was from God. Satan cannot penetrate the walls of the temple, and his misleading messages cause doubt and fear. This was the farthest thing from fear and doubt. This was my spiritual rebirth.
My Patriarchal Blessing goes on to tell me:
You have been reserves to come to Earth in the dispensation of the fullness of times in which you now live, in order that you could assist in the preparations for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You will be able to accomplish the purposes for which you were sent to the Earth. There are significant purposes and circumstances where you'll provide very valuable assistance in accomplishing the work of the Lord.I now know, 3 years later, that my true mission is here. Being active in my ward. Being a leader with Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends. My mission is to quell the untrue myths about LGBT people. I am here to show that we are just as good people, just as good parents, and just as good disciples of Christ as our heterosexual and cisgender brothers and sisters.
I do not claim to be receiving revelation for the Church. I want that to be clear. But I do want to stress that my Heavenly Mother and Father told me these things so that I would stay. Stay in the Church, but also to stay on the Earth. In mortality. I didn't know it then, but They needed me to be here to help the change in the Church to flourish and grow.
So... my horizon has a wife. Foster kids. A career in public service. A temple marriage. Ward/stake callings. Maybe even a few books. Pretty normal if you ask me. And hopefully, in 5, 10 or 20 years it will be seen as normal by everyone else.
Thank you for all of your love and support. You will be a fantastic asset to all of those sisters. Empower them to be who they are, to think for themselves, and help them grow into the strong leaders we will need in the future.