While on My Journey Here Below

By Andrew Harvey

Be sure to also listen to Andrew share his story. Watch video here.
Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to convert parents, Andrew is the fourth of six children. He served a mission in South Florida then attended Brigham Young University—Idaho, where he received a bachelor’s degree in communication. Andrew now works in the home décor and design industry. He is a teacher in his elders quorum and does public affairs in his stake.

Growing up a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it seemed a good portion of my life was figured out: at eight I was baptized, at 12 I received the Aaronic Priesthood, at 18 I graduated from high school and seminary, and shortly afterward I submitted papers to serve a full-time mission. I achieved many of the milestones in a young Mormon man’s life. My plan was to return from my mission, finish a bachelor’s degree, find a beautiful loving wife, and be sealed in the temple. To me everything was “straight” forward, but in reality it isn’t that simple because I experience same-sex attraction.

From a young age I had a fascination with gay men. This captivation was more than glimpses of Richard Simmons and Liberace on television, although I seemed to be glued to the TV when they were on (in part because of my weakness for short shorts and sequins); it was those men I witnessed in everyday life, those who clearly lived the homosexual lifestyle or who I somehow knew did (almost as though I developed my “gaydar” early) that really captivated me. I’m not sure what it was but I always looked up to and admired them.

My wonderment wasn’t even anything sexual—I was too young to understand that. But as I grew older this awe was more than just some youthful respect. I knew the gospel was true; I was taught it and I understood it. Although I did not fully understand my feelings I knew any sort of immorality did not align with gospel principles so I pushed my emotions aside, altogether ignoring them. Focusing on the gospel and disregarding my homosexual attractions seemed far too easy, after all; I knew the Church was true, and I was going to serve an honorable mission and marry in the temple.

Upon the Rod We Can Rely



I always had a desire to serve a full-time mission. I saw it as a good place for spiritual and emotional learning. I had a desire to share my faith with others in a way I had never done before. Wanting to make the Lord, my family, and my stake president proud, I made a commitment to myself to serve an honorable mission. Full of wide-eyed optimism at 19, I left for my mission to South Florida.

Within the first few days of my life as Elder Harvey I realized the various challenges of missionary work. It was everything and nothing like I expected at the same time. My concerns caused me to turn to the Lord and strengthen my desire to conscientiously serve for the full two years. As the mission progressed I grew, and so did my love for the work. I followed mission rules as I was determined to return with honor. With this greater sense of commitment I strived to be a better missionary despite any obstacles I faced.

Late one fall evening, filled with excitement after a successful teaching appointment, my companion and I cruised on our bicycles down North Flagler Drive in Ft. Lauderdale, aiming to make it home by curfew. My spiritual high was coupled with the warm ocean breeze as I continued the motion of pedaling home faster and faster. Traveling down the dimly lit street approaching downtown I noticed bright lights and bustle through a shop window; it seemed to be a fun event. Upon further inspection of the activity I realized it was a boutique art gallery filled with wine-sipping men and walls saturated with homoerotic art. It was a brief moment but it seemed to play out in slow motion.

As I looked into the gallery window I longed to be inside among people I felt some sort of unexplained connection with. The unknown was intriguing. I was reminded of my commitment and kept pedaling, needing now to catch up with my companion. My feelings that I didn’t fully understand had surfaced. It was almost as if for that brief moment I lost focus and “cast [my] eyes about as if [I] were ashamed” (see 1 Nephi 8:25). But like many other times I convinced myself of what these feelings weren’t, pushed them aside, and kept pedaling onward.

It seemed on my mission I encountered many crossroads. Sometimes the choices were between better and best or right and wrong where I could knowingly go against mission rules and commandments. It was on my mission where I truly realized not only the importance of obedience but also how greatly choices influence our lives. As Lehi taught his son Jacob, I was free to choose liberty or captivity (2 Nephi 2:27). I could choose to allow something to upset me or find the humor in it and move on. I could choose to preach the gospel and love it or sleep in and then work on my tan. The blessing of agency became so apparent. I was in charge of my life; yes, me. And so, on my mission I decided to love the gospel I preached and accept my beautiful farmer’s tan!

When Temptation's Pow'r is Nigh



In summer 2005 I attended my first semester at BYU—Idaho. I was excited to continue with my education, especially since I knew what degree I wanted to pursue. Being clear on studying communication was important to me because I was uncertain for a while; I now felt I had some good direction. I knew BYU—Idaho was a place I could grow and feel the spirit. I knew I was supposed to be there.

I thrived at school. I took my studies seriously, served in my ward, participated in extracurricular activities, had a fun social life, and even went on a few dates. I was blessed for being there.

Although I was doing well in many aspects of life things were not ideal. Ignoring my feelings of attraction to other guys was an unhealthy way to deal with them. Not accepting this aspect of who I was resulted in some challenges. I allowed pornography to creep in my life. Prior to my mission I never struggled with it—it wasn’t as accessible as it is now, and I was in the mindset to avoid it. I was taught that it objectified women and warped one’s perceptions of physical intimacy.

I justified my behavior as I didn’t see, in this case, how women were being objectified. My actions allowed my feelings to surface, but not in the positive way I should have handled these emotions. My attraction to men was much more present in my thoughts and the desire to act out physically increased. Whether I accepted what was happening or not, what I had long held back was now materializing.

At the end of 2008, after a great sojourn in Idaho, I returned home to Vancouver where I obtained work at the leading arts communication firm in the city. It was now life in “the real world” as it was time to apply what I had learned. It was exciting to have a job that I thoroughly enjoyed, working with great people and surrounded by the arts. I was making some decent choices in my new career and everything was coming together for me.

Work was great; I was learning lots, progressing well, and my employer was pleased with my efforts. I felt as though I had found my niche. All was going well in life. I had the privilege of working alongside some of Canada’s premier talents. I was able to work with local, national, and even international media. With many clients in the arts it was not uncommon to work alongside media and performers who were part of the gay community. Once again my fascination surfaced. I was so intrigued by these individuals and their talents that I truly was drawn to them.

Simultaneously, things were going well at church. I was called as the institute president for the Vancouver area and became heavily involved in planning various activities. My testimony continued to grow and I enjoyed the company of my peers. I casually dated from time to time and developed a few crushes along the way. Similar to when I attended BYU-I, these were genuine crushes; I really liked these girls and hoped some sort of relationship would develop.

Dating, however, felt stagnant. I went out on several dates with a few girls in particular, but things never progressed. I wondered why this was happening and who, if anyone, was to blame. Imperceptibly I would tell myself it was not due to my same-sex attraction—that it was just how it was. And perhaps it was just how it was; clearly I was not ready for a relationship, for I had not properly and healthily faced my feelings.

As far as appearances went it seemed I had it all together for someone my age. I was really happy and truly blessed, yet the pattern of unmet needs was present. In searching for the missing piece I slowly started to act out sexually with other men. No longer was pornography enough. Pornography seemed to meet needs for a small moment but it literally left me cold and empty.

Physicalizing my feelings with another happened little by little; justifying my actions was never difficult. It started with casual backrubs—they were great, and it was surprising that something so simple could fill a void. Quickly my level of comfort changed and I needed more. I never felt like I was the one to make the first move, but I wasn’t a victim by any means. I put myself in these situations and wanted them to go places where I could find what I felt was missing. In what seemed quicker than a wardrobe change during New York Fashion Week these innocent backrubs advanced into something far greater, to the point that I crossed lines I felt would be hard to come back from. This only made me think, “I’ve gone this far, why would it matter if I pushed the boundaries more?” So I did. Even as I continued to physicalize my feelings I still couldn’t admit to myself what they were; it was something subconsciously apparent but never on the surface.

By 2010 I was still performing well at work but I was no longer enjoying my job. Many factors increased my internal level of stress, and like same-sex attraction, stress, too, was being ignored. Even my colleagues noticed something was a little off. I was not the same Andrew who would sing throughout the office and burst into spontaneous dance. Despite challenging deadlines at work and feelings of unmet expectations in my personal life, a romance began to blossom. One of my best friends was a smart, talented, and fun girl. We did almost everything together. In some senses I was finding all the fulfilling aspects of a relationship but without any great commitment. I really liked this girl and feelings started to increase.

A strong and assertive person, she questioned me about where we were going and explained she wanted more out of our friendship. I, too, wanted something more, or at least I hoped for it. After our conversation we began dating. Over the course of the next week or so I am sure she was pleased with our new status. I, however, was having a difficult time with it. Occasions arose where we could be a little more physical, and any sort of physical gesture like hand-holding or gentle caresses seemed so contrived and put me out of my element of safety. So how could I manage to kiss her? I wanted to but felt so restrained. Here I had this beautiful girl in front of me but it seemed so unnatural for me to kiss her. More importantly, I knew if I did our relationship would progress further, her feelings would deepen, and I would ultimately break her heart. Internally I was reeling with discomfort, yet this was something I had always wanted. I was greatly troubled. How could I lead this wonderful girl on when I knew it wouldn’t end up working? I felt it wouldn’t work because I hadn’t dealt with or understood my emotional needs and wasn’t being honest with myself, let alone her.

Shortly thereafter I ended our relationship. From this point on things were certainly not the same, and it was sad that we completely grew apart. It was better for both of us. Although I still had not fully come to terms with my same-sex attraction, this relationship helped move me to acknowledging it. I learned a bit about my attractions to the opposite sex and, more importantly, the same sex. Slowly, yes very slowly, I was coming to terms with my sexual identity.

As I began to better understand myself, and with things at work being somewhat depressing due to unfulfilled hopes and feelings of stagnancy, I sensed the need to move on in several areas of my life to find the balance I longed for. I quit my ideal job and moved back home to figure out interests, careers, and relationships—simply put, life!

In a lot of ways it was a great decision. I was able to take some time off, reflect on what I wanted, and check some things off on my bucket list. Immediately I connected with one of my contacts from the local newspaper and I began to freelance for them. It was good to have this as an outlet and to do something I loved. During this time things were steady with church but there was certainly no spiritual progression; again, I gave a good outward show. I started once again to physicalize my feelings, essentially picking right up where I left off. This time I questioned if I really was gay, but somehow I still thought of reasons why it couldn’t be. I filled my time with positive things; I exercised a lot and filled the remaining time with hobbies and the newspaper.

My mom began to question if I was doing okay. She asked if I was depressed. But I wasn’t depressed; I understood my actions and owned them. Once again I was finding enjoyment in life but I was not in the best of places. I was struggling to deal with my attractions, not knowing how to properly address or even fully admitting to them. Yes, something was a little off, but even I didn’t fully accept what it was.

Thru Mists of Darkness We Must Go



I developed a great love for the people and cultures in South Florida where I served my mission. There was a real richness of people from the Caribbean and South America. Since returning home I had had a desire to go to Haiti and work among the people there. Presently I found an organization that worked mainly with orphaned children in Haiti. I signed up and was off in Haiti for a time.

In Haiti I had a great spiritual resurgence selflessly giving and being in awe of the other volunteers. There were so many admirable people who were “no respecter of persons” (see Acts 10:34), willing to give aid no matter someone’s condition.

I began to study my scriptures more carefully and became closer with the Lord. I reflected a little on where I was going and where I wanted to be. I didn’t come to a full understanding but felt comfortable with the closeness to the spirit of charity I was living.

Upon my return from Haiti I continued to attend church and serve in my callings. Despite this I started to feel detached from church and other young single adults in my ward. I felt we were at different stages in life and I couldn’t find a connection with them. However, I was able to make connections in other areas. Now, I wouldn’t call myself a flirt, though perhaps my friendly nature is often mistaken for flirting. I am half decent in expressing a gently embossed eyebrow, a subtle “smize”, and a gentle glance over the shoulder with a slight smile. All these are clearly far less forthright, pathetic, and desperate than the “bend and snap” (seriously, does that even work?).[1]

The fact I continued to act out on my same-sex feelings—and more so than before—did not help my feelings of being out of place at church. It was easy to feel at home in one and push away the other; justifying it all was not difficult. Sure, my actions were something I knew went against the commandments, but they also felt so right to another part of me. I’m not sure if this is why I didn’t feel guilt, but it seemed my new moral code was a hybrid of gospel principles and my homosexual desires. The more I acted out, the greater the wedge grew between the Lord and me. I still attended my meetings and served, but I had checked out altogether. I loved the Church and I had a strong testimony, but my church attendance became more cultural than conversion-based.

It was at this point in an interview with my priesthood leader that, for whatever reason, he asked me point blank if I was attracted to men. I answered him in the affirmative. This was huge! I had openly admitted to him—and more importantly to myself—that I had these attractions. Perhaps he had reason to ask me this question. Maybe he saw the signs. I like to think these signs were manifested more in my lack of concern over spiritual matters than in my dramatic flair and impressive recollection of Barbra Streisand lyrics.

From there things changed. What had long been pushed away and ignored I could now accept, or at least acknowledge. My priesthood leader was loving and understanding. He did all he could to assist me, yet he was very frank: he mentioned I could continue to sit on the fence by attending church and acting out on my feelings or make a choice between the two. He told me about a book, Voices of Hope[2], but I had no interest in it; I was going to figure things out my own way.

It seemed I quickly went from struggling with how to accept my feelings to a soul-searching struggle contemplating what I truly wanted out of life. This was even more challenging than the former inner battle. Because I had a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and had now come to terms with my sexual orientation I felt a genuine conflict. It was as if I were being physically pulled between two conflicting worlds; I literally felt torn. For a time I became frustrated with the whole situation. I couldn’t see how God would not allow me to be with someone I loved. After all, love knows no boundaries or gender. I planned to live the gospel standards; the only difference is I also planned to include a man in my life. I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too—low-fat vegan cake, of course!

Shortly after this I started a new job in home décor and was thoroughly enjoying it. Once again I was finding pleasure in my work. One aspect of my life was falling back into place while my spiritual side was fully falling apart. Although I had been attending church, not living the gospel standards had allowed the influence of the spirit to slowly subside in my life. My views and opinions were focusing a lot on the doctrines of men. I tried maintaining a positive outlook on my situation, a hope that somehow the gospel and my feelings of same-sex attraction could be harmonious.

My Pathway Clouded O'er



At the beginning of 2013 I was feeling completely disconnected from my young single adult ward, so I decided to start attending my home ward. This also seemed to be a good transition if I wanted to leave the Church altogether, as no one would notice me leave. My bishop at home had become aware of my situation, and he, too, was loving and kind. I was open and honest with him, yet I was still unsure what I wanted. Things with work became busier and my travel schedule became more hectic. Due to being on the road for weeks at a time my church attendance suffered. Even if I was home for a week I found something else to occupy my time. Not attending church became so easy; after all, I was busy traveling for work.

I had practically made up my mind that it would be right for me to forget the Church altogether. I knew I would have a happy life in the Church; after all, it is true. But I questioned how I could incorporate my same-sex attraction, which I had ignored for so long. The two did not seem to mesh. On the other hand, if I fully pursued a gay lifestyle I knew I would lead a cheerful life but not have what seemed to be the burden of being the “gay Mormon.” As my priesthood leader had counseled me earlier, I couldn’t sit on the fence forever. Making a decision was much better than feeling the uncertainty and turmoil of indecisiveness.

Despite these conflicting feelings I was, miraculously, feeling a sense of security. I felt that I was being watched over and prayed for, as I certainly wasn’t doing any real praying myself. No matter what my decision ended up being I knew things would work out.

In July 2013 I was away on business in Atlanta, Georgia. I was lying in bed late that night perusing Facebook. Earlier that evening I posted something on my wall, a rare occurrence. This post caught the attention of my friend, Tom. He was in my ward at BYU-I. I knew him because he taught Sunday School and we occasionally attended activities together. We hadn’t connected for some time. From that small post Tom was inspired to send me a message inquiring how I was doing and what I was up to. We began messaging back and forth for a bit and then Tom asked me the big marriage question. After dodging his persistence, I put down my guard and typed, “I’m gay.”

What Tom told me next really shifted my perspective. Tom too experienced same-sex attraction, yet he was fully living the gospel with a calling and current temple recommend. Now I knew such a lifestyle choice was possible, but I still questioned how it was. I finally had a connection I needed, someone to relate to and someone who could understand me. Sure, I had heard of people living the gospel with same-sex attraction, but none of it was real to me. Since I knew Tom personally, he made it something tangible.

I picked up the phone and called Tom. We spoke for a good while. We talked about our different experiences and how we both got to where we were. Tom was sweetly empathetic and genuine. His approach was something I needed. It gave me someone to relate to, someone who understood me and who I could speak to. It was a direct answer to prayer—certainly not my own prayers, but the prayers of others on my behalf.

With this new paradigm, the answer I thought was so clear no longer seemed to be the solution. It didn’t change overnight. I still faced conflict and continued to act on my feelings. No one knew of the strife I faced, how I was baffled between the gospel and alternative lifestyles. Other than Tom, I wasn’t positively being encouraged to keep my faith in the forefront. Contrastingly, I was being energetically encouraged to do otherwise. Tom was persistently supportive and helpful to me. In further conversations with him I explained that I had a testimony but was not converted. I was experiencing what Elder Bednar described in the following:

“As members of the church we all need to be true to what we know. I believe every member of this church has a testimony. A testimony is what we know to be true, not intellectually, but by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“I am not so sure every member of this church is converted to the Lord Jesus Christ—because as we are increasingly converted we become more consistent and true to what we know. So, it’s one thing to know it’s true; it’s another thing to consistently be true to what we know.

“The members of the Church need to have more than testimonies, they need to be converted. And that produces a spiritual fruit in our lives—if you will—that’s evident to other people, and they will inquire. And we should never be ashamed to give a reason for the hope that is in us, which is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ.

“So, that’s perhaps a more elaborate way of saying, we need to live what we know. It’s more than being an example; it’s living what we know. As we do that, in a world that’s becoming more confused, and where evil influences are evermore pervasive, that goodness will shine and people will be attracted to that light.”[3]


‘Twill Safely Guide Us Through



Despite having this realization, over the next several months I continued to act on my feelings of same-sex attraction, but with greater emptiness and lack of fulfillment. The Spirit and Tom persistently and patiently worked with me. I loved the gospel and wanted it to be part of my life, but still somehow hoped this included being in a relationship with another man. I finally came to a point where I needed to make a choice. I saw that I could no longer sit on the fence.

During a conversation with Tom I knew I needed to speak with my bishop. It wasn’t anything Tom forced on me; perhaps what he said and what I knew to be true worked through the Spirit and gave me this insight. I finally had a desire to change. Shortly after hanging up the phone I made a choice and acted upon it. I called my bishop and scheduled a meeting to visit with him. I was nervous about the impending appointment, but I knew it was what I needed to move forward.

The time soon came to meet with my bishop. He showed love and listened openly as I explained to him my reason for our interview. I shared my concerns and my desire to change and hoped this longing would allow the Atonement to take effect in my life. At the end of our discussion I sensed the difficult part had just begun. I felt strengthened from our meeting yet so inadequate. At the time I didn’t think I possessed sufficient faith to even repent. Yet as I left the Church building that night, across the peaceful parking lot stood the Vancouver Temple. There was no fanfare, but now I felt this brightly lit, simple edifice was where I wished to be. I knew that it was possible to return again.

I knew the reality of the Atonement and I had faith in Christ, so perhaps the deficiency I felt stemmed from the lack of spirituality in my life. I went home and sincerely prayed that I would have increased faith and that my desire for change would be sufficient. I essentially cast my burdens on the Lord with the hope my heart and appetites would be centered in God.

With Earnest Prayer and Hopeful Song



I found great hope in repentance. There were many occurrences of pleading in prayer as well as simple conversing with my Father in Heaven where insight was gained and where the peaceful stirrings of the Spirit strengthened my hope and desire. Prayer helped greatly, and the shift in my behavior helped give more pertinence to everything. I began purposefully attending my church meetings, keeping the Sabbath day holy, studying the scriptures, and serving others. Over time I found my thoughts and desires were directed more to God, as if a fresh and optimistic adventure were taking place. I found the ambition to align my goals with the gospel. It was all really exciting as I could see the transformation take place, even when I previously doubted the possibility. The more I submitted my will to God the more freedom I felt. It was not that my feelings of same-sex attraction vanished, but I found how I could balance fully living the gospel and experiencing these attitudes.

Although change was taking place there were no simple steps to repentance, no boxes to check off to ensure I was progressing. It was a challenging battle. Some days I felt like I’d made no progress or that I didn’t measure up to where I wanted to be. I shared my progress with Tom he provided encouragement. My bishop was there to support me along the journey as well. Most important, my continued faith in the Lord was constant and always accessible. I had more fully come to know of his Atonement. Not only was I being healed from spiritual death, but Christ was also strengthening me in my journey. Days of discouragement and doubt would turn to peace and reassurance if I allowed them to. The Atonement was a sweet blessing that offered so much hope along the way.

I have to be careful what I long for, and I have to make choices that bring about positive results. I know such happiness comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is safety and surety in keeping the commandments and following the living prophet. Sure, challenges arise, but the Atonement never stops taking effect. I have learned to trust in the Lord more and to function with faith. I seem to have a pretty good success rate when I do. I’m not sure what is ahead in my journey, but I feel such a sense of peace for the future. I know that as I exercise faith in the Savior in all things and act, rather than be acted upon, things will work together for good[4].

“And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?

“And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:23-24).


 
 
 

[1] “Smizing” is an art form popularized by American model Tyra Banks. “Bend and snap” is a comically flirtatious gesture introduced in the movie “Legally Blonde.”

[2] See Ty R. Mansfied, Voices of Hope (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011).

[3] Bednar, David A. “Elder David A. Bednar Talks about the Ministry of an Apostle” lds.org. 25 August 2010. https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/elder-bednar-ministry-of-an-apostle?lang=eng.

[4] See 2 Nephi 2:26; Romans 8:28.





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Brother John
26 Sep, 2014

I appreciate your style and expression of the challenges of SSA combined with the reality of the struggle and the focus on the word of God, the iron rod. As a man who has walked similar paths, knowing success and failure I have found that the daily scripture study is what keeps the Spirit in my life and my desire to be active in the church alive. Constant effort and the blessings of the sacrement for cleansing my heart and feelings and repentance offer me the sustained hope of eternal life through the Atonement. You do a beautiful job of showing it is a way of life to CHOOSE to daily come unto Christ and feast on his words and be strengthened and fortified that we not be overcome by the fiery darts of the adversary. Although I long for that same male companionship, I have learned to put my trust in the Lord. God bless you my brother, thank you for adding your voice to those of the rest of us in the "Voices of Hope Project" as a light unto the world. Hugs!



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