Growing up, I always loved going to church. My entire extended family were primarily members of the church, so I grew up knowing nothing else and was willingly obedient to church rules and guidelines. I loved the structure of the church. I loved knowing exactly what my future held and which path I was to follow. “Fathers are to preside over their families… and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (The Family, A Proclamation to the World). I was going to get married and then have children and be a stay at home mom, for that was what was expected and divinely appointed of me.

Even though not required of women, I had always wanted to go on a church mission. It was commanded of men to go on a mission for 2 years at age 18 and optional for women at age 19. However, being the independent person I am, I saw this as a challenge for myself. If men were commanded to do it, why shouldn’t I be? Why wouldn’t God expect it of me? Why shouldn’t I reach higher and show God my dedication and love for Him? This was my mode of thinking. So in 2013, I was called on a mission. A couple of weeks after my 19th birthday, I went to the Missionary Training Center(MTC) for six weeks before my real mission started. The hours leading up to me being dropped off at the MTC, I was a mess. I was extremely nervous and didn’t feel good. All growing up until this moment I had felt like this was what I was supposed to do. Why was I feeling this way? Push through and pray and you’ll be fine Kira.

When I got there, we were immersed in class all day. I forgot about the sick feeling in my stomach until we settled down for the night. For the next few nights, I prayed for hours asking God to take away this feeling. I read my scriptures constantly, prayed constantly, and was strictly obedient. I was told if I did those things, I would overcome anything. Five days went by. I had lost weight. I couldn’t sleep. I started making excuses to go to my room so I could cry for hours. I met with my leaders and each of them said to keep praying and I would overcome it in a couple of weeks. I felt inadequate and guilty. I prayed and prayed and prayed. “God, I’m sorry. I’m trying. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Please help me so I can do your work.” I finally saw a counselor who was an amazing, loving individual and told me that I should listen to myself and do what I thought was best for me. I told him the only relief I got was thinking about going home. He was supportive.

After only a week, my parents picked me up and drove me home. I cried the whole way home. I had lost 10 lbs in the week I was there. I came home and cried for a good week. I remember hiding from people walking by, not wanting to talk or explain why I was home. Coming home from a mission early is frowned upon in the church. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t live up to my own goals and standards, God’s expectations and the expectations of the church. In my mind, I had failed everyone. This is where my depression and anxiety started.

Fast forward three long, excruciating, depression and anxiety-ridden years. Sunken face, bags under my eyes, red and dry from crying almost every night. During these three years I tried to make up for my failed mission. Got married, tried to get pregnant (for a year, with no luck), and attended church as much as possible. I couldn’t hold a job because of my anxiety and I had no confidence in myself. My self-worth was almost nonexistent. I didn’t want to live anymore, though I was too scared to kill myself. Another thing I couldn’t go through with. The moment I started thinking about painless ways to take my own life was when I knew something had to change. I decided to get rid of everything that gave me this unbearable anxiety. At the top of the list was the church. I decided to step away from it and discover my own spirituality and what I believed in. I felt instant relief.
It wasn’t easy.

I was told Satan had taken hold of me and I wasn’t doing things according to God’s plan. I constantly second-guessed myself, but I always felt better focusing on the things I knew I believed in. Love and acceptance. A life where there weren’t any judgments because people loved each other that much. I believed there was a different path for everyone and that we should respect each path.
Fast forward to now.

I spent the last two years evaluating myself and growing as the person I knew I was deep inside. I had opened my mind and found myself. I wasn’t going to church anymore but instead focused my spirituality on love and how I could show my love to others. I now have a son who is my biggest joy and who shows me day to day what real, unconditional love is. Almost a year ago, I came out to my family as a gay woman, feeling the happiest I had felt in years, knowing this is who I am. After coming out, I was called a monster, unfit to be a mother, a disgrace in God’s eyes. But with my mindset on love, I couldn’t be deterred from my happiness. The God I believe in loves unconditionally. Since coming out, since finding my own spirituality, since choosing love and acceptance, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m vulnerable, life is still hard, and I go through trials every day, but I have had so much growth. I’ve met the most incredible people with like minds, who believe in love. I have experienced more love than I’ve ever felt in my whole life and I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.

This is who I am. This is what I believe in.
I Believe in Love.