"Are you going on a mission?"
For most LDS boys this isn't even a question. Of course they're going on a mission. Of course they're going to devote two years of their lives to the Lord in selfless service to preach the word of God to people on all corners of the earth. It's what is expected. Not only this, but they were raised with a fire in their belly to serve the Lord and their desire to do so is bursting.
Now don't get me wrong, I have a burning desire to serve. I want to devote those two years of my life to serve a mission. I love the Lord. I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I have a testimony as strong now as I ever have in my life. But putting that aside, it chills me to the core thinking about leaving on a mission. With my unique set of circumstances, as a gay mormon, the idea absolutely terrifies me.
First and foremost, I'm not as worried about the actual mission as much as what I am supposed to do to get there: the temple covenants. To the best of my knowledge (as I have not gone through the temple and made those covenants myself) after making those covenants to the Lord, the consequences of having homosexual relations are a lot more severe than having just made the baptismal covenants. When you make those sacred covenants, you are promising to keep the law of chastity until you are able to legally marry someone of the opposite gender (again, to the best of my knowledge). For someone who is vitually in no way attracted to women physically or romantically, this is an incredible chasm between where I am right now and where God wants me to be. I could never make covenants to a God I loved so much unless I trusted myself enough to know I could keep them.
That being said, if I did serve a mission, it leaves these four options for me:
1) Marry a woman that by some miracle I found attractive emotionally and physically.
2) Marry a woman I know I'm not attracted to emotionally or physically and hope the marriage stays together.
3) Marry a woman and then get divorced because I couldn't make it work and then eventually become excommunicated because I desire companionship with a man.
4) Live a life of celibacy and devoid of companionship.
To me, and I'm sure many of you will agree, the only one that sounds even remotely hopeful is option number 1, and to be honest, the least likely to happen. 3 out of 4 of those options sound incredibly miserable, and the only one that sounds remotely good has roughly a 95% fail rate. With this logic, a mission isn't setting me up for happiness, it's setting me up for misery.
Though the temple covenants are what makes me the most hesitant, the mission does scare me as well. I am going to be with a male companion 24/7 7 days a week. What happens if I develop feelings for a companion? What if I get too self-conscious about my companion thinking I'm gay or finding out I'm gay? What if he makes fun of me, feels uncomfortable around me, or dislikes me because of it? That idea stresses me out as well.
When people ask me if I'm going to serve a mission, and I say no, it's not because of lack of desire in any shape or form. I want to serve the God I love for the church that I have found to be true. It's because I don't know if I can trust myself enough to keep the temple covenants when I come home and I'm scared of developing feelings for my companions.
That being said, a mission isn't entirely out of the question. I am still praying earnestly about the path my life is supposed to take, and if God says that is a mission and I can trust myself to keep those temple covenants, that is what I will do. But I know that as of right now I am not in a position to serve because I couldn't trust myself quite yet to keep those covenants if I made them.
Everybody has a different set of life circumstances. Some people don't leave on missions, some people come home early, and some serve the full two years (or 18 months for women). Whatever their circumstances are, they are all legitimate, whether you know the reasons to them or not.