Woman who had lived lesbian lifestyle brings hope to Mormons with same-sex attraction through LDS Church's new website

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8 2012 8:00 p.m. MST

But for the most part she has remained behind the scenes, often using her pen name, Erin Eldridge. But now she is coming forward using her own name and being shown on camera in the new website, with hopes that the story of her journey will give hope to others who find themselves feeling trapped between their sexual orientation and their LDS beliefs.

"I'm not trying to win an argument here, or to change anyone's mind who has found happiness and peace with their sexual orientation, whatever it may be," she said. "I'm reaching out to those who are not happy with their orientation, who don't want to be gay, and who want to free themselves from overwhelming desires that create conflict."

To them, she says, her message is simple: "There is hope."

And the best way for her to deliver that message, she believes, is through telling her own story, using her own name.

"I don't want Latter-day Saints with same-sex attraction to feel ashamed to tell other church members about what they're dealing with or have dealt with," she said. "It is so important to open up to others, to feel supported, loved and accepted. I'm hoping that by appearing on the website and talking about my experiences openly it will help others do so in more private settings."

And because of the message of the site, she hopes others can speak about their feelings to family members, church leaders and friends in an environment of increased love, understanding and support.

"This is a significant issue in people's lives, and I'm glad we're talking about it, and I'm honored to be part of the conversation," Campbell said. "We need to be empathetic, especially with young people, and try to understand what they're going through.

"Everyone's journey is different," she continued. "I'm trying to help those who are attracted to the same sex, who choose not to self-identify as gay, and want to work toward marriage as best they can. They feel it is important to hope for a future family, where they can be married as husband and wife, serving as father and mother in the home. And if not in this life, certainly in the eternities."

Campbell acknowledges that not every Mormon who experiences same-sex attraction feels that way. But many do, and they become discouraged by the growing worldview that if you have attractions to the same sex that means you're gay and the only way to happiness and fulfillment is through gay relationships.

"The message they get from the world is that the only option you have is to accept these feelings, that to do otherwise is to deny who you are," she said. "There is no room in that mindset to consider other possibilities. You're just supposed to accept it, embrace it and realize that this is as good as it gets for you.

"But there are some who can't bring themselves to do that," said Campbell, who holds a master's degree in counseling, specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy. "It's like one woman told me: 'I don't want to hear that it gets better. I want to hear that I get better.' "

These are the people to whom Campbell reaches out with her message of hope.

"I'm not talking to the person who has these feelings and chooses to identify as gay," she said. "I'm talking to Latter-day Saints who have unwanted attractions."

Campbell knows all too well about those attractions. She felt them in high school and began acting on them in college. Later, she says, she "kept feeling like it wasn't the life God wanted me to live." That desire to live the life God wanted her to live eventually led to Campbell overcoming her desire to remain in a relationship with a woman. Slowly, she was able to leave that relationship and return to full activity in the LDS Church, which teaches complete sexual abstinence outside of marriage and does not accept gay marriage.

"I was prepared to be celibate for the rest of my life," she said. "I made up my mind that I was going to be a Mormon nun, and I was OK with that. To be honest, at that point in my life celibacy seemed better than being married to a man for the rest of my life, much less eternity."

In her 30s, however, she met the man she would later marry. "Honestly, I'm sure he's the only man in the world I could be married to," she says.

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