Recently, reconnecting with an old friend left me realizing that the Lord’s will is sometimes daunting and scary…I could lose everything…but it is all His, and I have been put here for His purposes.
Finding the Church
My journey to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church) is not a straight path. I was baptized Catholic as a baby. For most of my childhood, I learned Catholic doctrine, and attended Church somewhat regularly. We weren’t a strictly religious family, but religion was discussed. One of my favorite memories of my Catholic upbringing was bedtime stories with my Dad, when he read me a children’s picture Bible. Predictably, my favorite story was David and Goliath (I of course identified with David).
But growing up, the Catholic Church itself did not capture my attention. I grew bored with Church. At this time, we had moved to North Carolina and I was introduced to an early-morning Baptist Bible Study in middle school. I attended it and for a while was completely wrapped up in it. I misunderstood what was being said, though. I somehow got the idea that God was a magic genie that would grant my requests if I just accepted Jesus into my heart and told other people about Him. I didn’t even know what “accept Jesus” meant. I just knew I had a list of things I needed accomplished, and God seemed to be just the task-master to run my errands. Needless to say, this didn’t work, and I grew disillusioned with the concept of God.
In high school I became an agnostic. I worshiped science. I wanted little to do with God and questioned whether He even existed. It wasn’t until college when I joined a Presbyterian Christian group on the advice of my close friend and mentor, that I earnestly asked the question of God, “What is Your plan for me? Why am I here? Do You even exist? What do You want me to do with my life?”
This earnest question asked in the middle of the night while on a camping retreat with the Reformed University Fellowship group led me to receive my first witness from the Holy Ghost. I felt an incredible presence…a feeling of comfort, joy, and knowledge. I knew God existed. I could no longer be an “agnostic”, because at this point, knowledge had been poured into my mind.
Gradually, I came to understand the concept of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World. I attended a Presbyterian Church. But then a number of things occurred, the most significant of which was my gender transition.
I began to realize who I was and who God wanted me to be. I began to step into manhood for the first time, and I reached out to my Presbyterian pastor and asked for his support. He denied it. He told me in a loving way that he could not condone what I was doing, and that I really should rely on Christ and the community for support in deciding not to go through with the gender transition. He was asking me to defer my personal medical care to a community…that goes against everything I believe in…politically and spiritually.
I left the Presbyterian Church, and sadly, I left the people in it behind as well. I joined the Methodist Church, which was on the surface more accepting, but I realized about two years into it that they were accepting of “transgender” people for the wrong reasons. And there were a number of other beliefs of theirs that I directly disagreed with. I left the Methodist Church, and was content to not join any more churches ever again. But then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints found me.
I was on the internet looking for random things on various search browsers and LDS.org or other Mormon sites kept popping up. I ignored it at first, until it happened again…and again…and again. I could no longer ignore it–it was clearly a sign from God. I checked it out. Many of the LDS beliefs were my beliefs already. I ordered a Book of Mormon on Amazon.com for something like $0.89, not realizing they were free. I read the rest of the Old Testament so that I could judge the Book of Mormon by that standard. I contacted the Missionaries. But most importantly, I prayed. I prayed earnestly, as I had in college when I was looking for verification as to whether God existed. As I had when I was asking whether I should transition, whether it was a sin to be intersex. And as I had those two other times, I received the same witness from the Holy Ghost.
This Church has revolutionized my life. I am realizing everything that God wanted me to be. I am becoming the man He designed me to become. But I realize that this is not the end of my journey…it’s just the beginning.
Recently I reconnected with old friends from the Presbyterian Church….who knew me by a different name, when my voice was pre-pubescent and my body looked different. I went to dinner with them and shared my books with them. I prayed for a fulfilling experience, and man, did I receive it.
I explained that I rejected the “gender fluidity”, the “entitlement”, the railing against fake “privilege” that the LGBT movement was exhibiting. I explained that they are turning a medical condition into a social movement, to the detriment of the 1% of the population who is born like me. I explained they are making it harder for churches to make policy on these issues, and they are making it harder for conservatives to wrap their minds around what should be the same as any other disease.
And then I explained that I was still “stealth”. That’s not exactly true–many of my friends know who I am and what disorder I have, and more importantly know who I “was”…though I don’t see myself as having two identities and think of my life instead as one continuous thing, not a “new start” as of my transition…it’s hard for others to see it that way. And the knowledge of who I “was” can be considered somewhat dangerous. But regardless, to my Church, to my newest friends, I am “stealth” because they never knew me by any other name.
So as we reconnected in that noisy restaurant, one of my old friends looked at me as I explained the above, and suddenly it got incredibly quiet…as if everyone was whispering at once. I heard his voice exclusively, as if it were in my own head. He said, “I know you want to keep this under wraps right now, but there will come a time when you can’t. When it’s going to become public to people–probably a lot of people. And you need to know what you’re going to do when that happens.” I had goosebumps. I knew the Holy Spirit was using this friend of mine to communicate a very important message, because at that moment, I heard the Holy Spirit say,
“For this Purpose…”
I can fill in the blanks after that. When the disciples asked the Savior why a man was born blind (did his parents sin or did he sin before his birth?), the Savior said that neither was correct, and that he was born blind, “So the works of God might be made manifest through him.” (John 9:3)
For that purpose, was this man born.
When Jesus invoked Genesis 2:24 in an explanation of marriage, he said, “For this purpose does man leave his parents and cling to his wife, so the two shall become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:5)
For that purpose, people were created in two different genders, so they could be joined together for time and all eternity.
In America in the late twentieth century, a woman and a man were told by doctors that they could not become pregnant. They had a baby in a hospital in the midst of a snowstorm. He was only their second child, despite a decade of trying to become pregnant. His outward appearance gave no indication of his inward brain activity, and science had not yet developed to the point where such a thing could be determined, anyway. He was labeled a “girl”, and raised as a “girl”, despite obvious behavioral and physical difficulties. Through tremendous pain and social pressure, and after painstaking research and prayer, he discovered his true identity. He joined a Church that had the authority to ordain him with the Holy Priesthood, which Power extends from eternity to eternity, and which has the Lord’s work as its central focus. It is given to men only, not by men, but by God. This young man received his Patriarchal Blessing, which confirmed to him in a message directly from God what he had always truly known. He was, is, and always will be a man. He is the Lord’s man. He will do the Lord’s work.
For that purpose, I was born.
If I step out of “stealth,” I could lose everything. If I go “public”, there is a chance that out of misunderstanding and fear, my privilege to act on my Priesthood could be taken from me. But I know that the Priesthood will never be taken from me, even if my privilege to act on it might be. The only way it can be taken from me is if I fail to honor it and drive it away, through personal iniquity.
Interestingly, on the eve of my interview with the Bishop to obtain the Aaronic Priesthood, the lesser priesthood, I knelt at my bed and wept. I pleaded with the Lord, “Oh Lord, I don’t want to lose the Priesthood. Please, don’t let him call into question my identity. Please, don’t let the Bishop ask questions because I don’t think he’ll understand. He wouldn’t know what he would be doing.” I paused in my prayer, and realized that I was petrified of losing something I had never had. You have to understand–I never cry. I never cry. This had me weeping like a child mourning over the loss of his father. This was a deep-felt, intense grief that I could not explain. If that wasn’t a testimony from the Holy Ghost that this was truly the Lord’s Power, I don’t know what could be. But regardless, I listened to the Holy Ghost that evening, and I reflected on Jesus’ own words. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23: 34) And after pleading that the cup should pass from Him (the crucifixion), He stated, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22: 42) I echoed the Savior’s words that evening in my own prayer. I fully understand that Jesus was praying that he would not have to experience the full brunt of every sin ever committed and every hardship ever endured by every human being who ever lived and would ever live in the entire Earth…and I was praying that I wouldn’t be denied the Priesthood. There’s obviously a difference. But I was trying to emulate the Savior, not claim my hardship was equal.
No question came up. The questions in the interview were standard, and I “passed.” The same occurred for my Melchizedek Priesthood interview (the higher priesthood). The same occurred for my Temple interview. The same occurred for my Patriarchal Blessing, and the same might occur for my marriage, though at that point, my wife will of course know about my medical condition, and she might feel the need to bring it up.
I don’t know what would have happened, were those questions to arise. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, if I just explained the medical condition. The important thing is, the exposure of my condition is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. I now know that for this purpose, I have this disorder. So that I can bring the Light of Christ into darkness. So that I can be the Lord’s hands and feet, and exercise my Priesthood for His work. So the Glory of God can shine through me.
Will it be painful? Probably. There will be people who misunderstand, who are maybe even driven to violence. There will be loss of privacy when “a lot of people,” as my friend stated, discover my condition. I don’t need to pray that the cup should pass from me, though, because I have already been told. “For this Purpose….”
Not my will, but Thine be done.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.