I have a friend who decided to leave the Church a while ago because he was gay. We knew each other casually in the mission, but at that point I didn't know that he was attracted to guys. After the mission, we lost touch, until a little while later when I read his coming out letter and subsequent decision to leave the Church.
As I read his letter, mixed emotions flared within me. I felt his pain. I knew what it meant to sit in an Elders Quorum and hear jokes that could be offensive. Or to receive dating counsel and advice from someone who, even with good intentions, has no idea what I am going through. And to feel totally, completely, and terribly alone... in the one place I feel like I should feel loved and accepted.
But I also knew that he had a testimony of the gospel. And I have a testimony of the gospel. And anyone with a testimony of the gospel knows that happiness comes through obedience to gospel principles. He knew the Church was true when I had seen him last, and a testimony doesn't just disappear. When the Holy Ghost testifies of truth, it causes a physical change in your soul - spirit and body - that can never be undone. When you receive a witness of the Holy Ghost, you can't forget the truth you learn. And nothing can prove it wrong. The only way to go against it... is to simply choose to stop believing.
So he had chosen to stop believing. And as I continued to follow his life, I saw how the friend I once knew - an optimistic, kind person who always highlighted the best in others - had changed. At first, he expressed the feeling that leaving the Church and having relationships with guys had finally freed him from the chains of conformity, and made him happy. But, as time went on, I saw a different story. He began swearing, drinking, criticizing people around him. And when I talked with him, I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice that he was absolutely miserable.
My friend's choice caused me to look at my own life and wonder what kept me going. We're the same age. We served in the same mission. We have similar likes and dislikes. I've realized that the difference is faith. He dwelled on the things that people said and took offense. I thought about the promises that God had made to me. He dwelled on fulfilling his urges today. I had faith that God would fulfill His promises to me today, tomorrow, and in the future. He felt like the Church should change to meet his desires. I know that the gospel, no matter what I am going through, has the power to help me overcome all things.
Faith is what caused the pioneers to leave their homes and walk across the plains. Faith moved them from their homes across the sea, through Kirtland, on past Nauvoo, to Council Bluffs and Winter Quarters and to the Salt Lake Valley. Faith pushed them beyond when the prophet called them - to settle in places from Canada to California to Mexico. And when life was hard and they buried their children in the snow, faith gave them the strength to keep moving. To know that God would fulfill His promises.
I don't know what the future holds for me. I know that it probably holds a lot of struggles, a lot of pain, and a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. But I also know that God can be there with me, if I have faith in Him and keep His commandments. And if I know that He is there, that He loves me, and that I am moving in the right direction, then there is nothing I can't do.