The most common question I am asked is “How do I follow personal revelation AND remain faithful in the church?”
This might seem like an odd question, unless you have personally received revelation to date someone of the same gender, or revelation to pursue hormone replacement therapy, or revelation to support an LGBTQ friend or family member on their path. Such revelations have become a more common occurrence since 2018 when President Nelson gave his first General Conference address as our new prophet and declared, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” In subsequent talks, he urged us all to learn how to Hear Him and Let God Prevail. If you know an LGBTQ Latter-Day Saint, then you probably know how much they strive to follow God and the prophets. As a result, many faithful LGBTQ members began seeking further direction from the Holy Ghost, hearing God and letting Him guide our lives.
However, the way many of us are being guided doesn’t seem to flow with the current policies of the church. We are then faced with two options: ignore our personal revelation and maintain our status in the church, or follow our personal revelation and leave the church. I would like to suggest a third option. Faith requires us to trust in God, not to trust in a certain outcome. And sometimes the way God allows us to learn to trust Him is by being the only thing left that we can trust.
I discovered a BYU devotional address by Elder Holland when I first received promptings to lean into my relationships with women. I was looking for answers, wondering why God would ask this of me. I recommend that you read the talk in your own time and listen to what the spirit can teach you personally through it, but I want to share some quotes that were answers for me. The address is titled “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence.”
In this quote, he talks about acting on personal revelation.
“After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine. You may, like Alma going to Ammonihah, have to find a route that leads an unusual way, but that is exactly what the Lord is doing here for the children of Israel. Nobody had ever crossed the Red Sea this way, but so what? There’s always a first time. With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet.”
This statement spoke to me, as the path I was being guided on was an unusual one. I had not seen anyone choose to be openly gay and continue to remain active in the church. Elder Holland’s words rang true: there is always a first time. I could choose faith over fear and wade in with both feet. I didn’t anticipate all the small but profound lessons God would teach me while I’m walking down this path with faith. I am learning about God’s character. I am learning the purpose and scope of the atonement.
I am learning how to love others as Jesus did. I am learning how to forgive fully. I am learning how to repent and receive grace. I am learning how to trust God instead of trusting in an outcome. I am learning how to create peace. I don’t know where this path will end up, but I do know that it is where God can teach me, where I can become more like Him, and where I can consistently practice faith over fear.
The next quote testifies of personal revelation.
“I believe that in our own individual ways, God takes us to the grove or the mountain or the temple and there shows us the wonder of what His plan is for us. We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord’s will for us and to know that He loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after they happen. But that is not the way of the gospel. That is not the way of a Latter-day Saint who claims as the fundamental fact of the Restoration the spirit of revelation. Fighting through darkness and despair and pleading for the light is what opened this dispensation. It is what keeps it going, and it is what will keep you going.”
As I read this, I felt assured in my heart that the visions of hope for my life and the nudges I received were revelations from God. It provided me with confidence to continue seeking further light and direction and to keep going even when I didn’t understand where the path could lead. I still don’t know exactly where God is taking me. However, I am realizing that it may not be so much about the specific endpoint; rather, it is more about learning of God’s character, trusting Him, and refining myself that really matters.
So to address the original question: how do I follow personal revelation and remain faithful in the church? You can start by letting go of either-or thinking, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You choose to follow personal revelation and remain faithful in the church. You may have to find a route that leads in an unusual way. This may come with consequences that vary depending on your ward and stake. Your local leaders' responses are unknown and out of your control, which can be terrifying to the natural man. But maybe that’s part of what God is teaching you. Trust Him and do not fear the unknown or try to make the unknown known. Just do what He is asking of you. Have courage and know you are not alone, as there are many LDS LGBTQ folks stepping into this unknown in faith. God is teaching us all.