"Let me tell you something Ashly, one of the most painful, soul ripping things that happened to me, was the day I took off my garments. I can’t even begin to tell you… did I have a testimony? Apparently I did. Because, when I took those garments off, and I still have the picture in my head of those garments laying in a heap on the floor. When I took them off I knew I wasn’t going to put them back on."

After being sexually abused as a child, Cheryl dealt with many trials in her younger years. Eventually she left the church, and grew to hate it.

Cheryl experienced many small miracles that pushed her back to the church.

This is her story of coming back.



I am so excited to have you on my podcast. I listened to your podcast with Papa Ostler many months ago. And it was so powerful to me. I think it was actually the first podcast that I listened to from Papa Ostler. And it was so inspiring to me, like, I sent it to my husband, and I just, it was so amazing. And I feel like I'm meeting a celebrity interviewing you because you're just you're so just awesome. And so funny.



I do have fans in other states.



Well, you’ve got another one here from Utah. So, tell me a little bit about your, you know, childhood days with your first kind of experiences with the Church. Did you have a testimony at an early age? Did you not what that looked like? And you know, early church experience?



Okay, so let's start. So, I was adopted when I was seven, and my original parents were drug addicts. And so, the Hills adopted me. And that was, I think I was in foster care for a year. And then my dad is like Utah, Mormon, like pioneer one of the first pioneers to come across the valley with Brigham Young and like, he's on the statue, the heritage place, whatever it's called. So anyway, so we're like, so Mormon, so LDS, or whatever you want to use these days.

So of course, I started going to church immediately. I wasn't excited about it, it just seemed like another thing I had to do that had nothing to do with getting back to my mother, because my mother was present back and forth. And then when they put me in foster care, I didn't see her again after that. And so, I was kind of angry already. So, I'm already angry at six, okay. It'll be a common theme as we go through. So, they started taking me to church. And so, a year later, I was baptized, and I wasn't happy about that, I actually had to get a spanking to get me to be baptized or a beating, if you will, because my childhood revolves around a lot of traumatic abuse, sexual, physical, spiritual, emotional. And so, them being staunch, old school, Mormons, and LDS, you know, so that started, and I didn't want to get baptized, I remember that. I got forced into being baptized. And so, we're doing, you know, we're doing the thing. At that point. I was like, I don't know, I don't think I had a testimony. I had a little one, because I must have because when I came back to the church, you know, 30 years later, it felt like coming home.

So, you know, I’m doing the things. And of course, if you don't do them, you get in trouble. You know, we had to go to church, every Sunday, we had to go to Young Women's every Wednesday, or, you know, as we got older, we had to go to seminary, and I actually liked seminary, but everything was done by the force of the hand. You know, if we cut up during scripture study, we got whipped. And when I say whipped I'm talking about like, with a belt, you know, bear butt.  So, there was a lot of force, and I was very stubborn, willful, rebellious, marched to my own drum in a time when children didn’t march to their own drum. My grandmother and my aunt lived with us, and it was children to be seen and not heard. That was not my thing. I was constantly getting in trouble in church because I picked up quick and so you know, I get bored. By the time I got to Young Women’s, I was bored. You know, I knew all the basics. And so, I had a little smart mouth and I discovered drugs funny enough by somebody in the church, and you know, so we would smoke weed out in the amphitheater then, you know, come in for an activity or quite often I would come up to a youth activity drunk because I hated it. Yeah, crazy. And you know what? Nobody cared. They didn't care.

My mom was really verbally abusive. She’d punch me she, you know, like it did not matter. I was a dumb idiot. Stupid. She wished she never adopted me. These things went on. So, here's the messed-up thing. As I'm getting sexually abused by my father, my brother, my sister, at the same time, I'm being told, “Hey, you got to obey the law of chastity.” What?  Are you gonna beep out if I cuss ‘cuz I have a hard time talking without cussing


I’ll beep it out, you're good.


Okay. Okay. Because if you hinder my speech, it'll be hard for me to get it out.


Okay. No worries.


You can't go through what I went through and not cuss. But so, you get the point. You know, there was lots of abuse, there was a lot of conflict about. When we’d sing “There Is Beauty All Around”, “When There's Love at Home.” I'm like, “what love? Love, really? Are you kidding me?” So, it really, really twisted my head. When I thought about getting the nerve up to say something. I couldn't because my dad was the ward clerk, which is all of the clerk position right now used to be just one. And so, my dad's office was right outside the bishop’s office. My sister babysat for the bishop, older sister, and she was one of the ones doing the abusing. So, you know, so here I am. I'm like, you know, nobody can help. I can't say anything. I'm just this awful kid. This troublemaker, this mess because I don't sit still. I am a smart aleck I, you know, classic acting out when you're being abused. You know, as we all know, now that you know, nine times out of 10 that kid's got ADHD or some abuse is happening. And I apparently was screaming it, you know, but I couldn't say it. It is really kind of weird. And so, the church got all messed up in my head.

You know what with that, but the drag use started – there’s this cute boy. And this is funny because I'm gay. There's this cute little boy that I liked at church – his name was Wayne – and he was in my Sunday school class. And he was also in the same grade. And he introduced me to pot, weed, marijuana. But anyway, and so I you know, I did that. And it was like, cool. peace, you know, and then my brother introduced me to alcohol and other drugs because he was the drug dealer for the school, so we're all whack at this point.

So, I'm getting drunk and doing speed to play basketball. And you know, and all this, because I'm trying to try to grasp what's going on in here.  Here's another like, mind breaker for me, is I'm sitting there in church now. You know, I just started when I'm seven, you know, so I'm not used to you know, having to hold still and constantly getting my ass kicked, constantly. And when I got home, you know, because it was too much for me, but they would teach us in Primary. This is the worst thing you could do to a kid, your earthly father, and your Heavenly Father, try to picture your Heavenly Father as your earthly father. I'm like, oh, you know how long it took me to pray? Do you have any idea how long it took me to pray? I, even when I came by the church, I couldn't pray I still can't play very well, like, on my knees and stuff. You know, but I'll chit chat with God when I'm walking around or whatnot. But I mean, to do that to a kid, when their parents, especially their father is abusing them. Who you know, I mean, I'm surprised I didn't grow up and be agnostic or an atheist. You cannot do that to a kid.  Well, the way my earthly father was loving me. I didn't want to have anything to do with a Heavenly Father. You know, and so I couldn't grip. So, when you asked me if I had a testimony, I don't think so. But then I'm one who is just so obstinate and so as time went on, and we got into Young Women's and what was happening was my mom was talking bad about me and Relief Society. This is probably my saving grace. Though I didn't know it at the time. There were a couple of women in Relief Society, who actually asked to be teachers in Young Women's just so they could teach me just so they could be a Young Women’s with me and help me. And yeah, this woman saved my life. She saw whatever she saw. And then there was another lady, as Lisa used to tell me, she's like, you and your brother, you just look like you need hugs. That's it.

Along that way, you know, and so I'm starting to settle down and her daughter ended up being my best friend. You know, and so I get to go over there and take a break and they started figuring some stuff out and, and I went, you know, I would flippantly mention it, whatever, and Glenda went toe to toe with my mom one day, she was a brave woman. Nobody went head-to-head with my mom. My mom was a mean, nasty, bitter woman. And she just constantly wanting to put me just I, my brothers and sisters were great. And I was a piece of poop, you know? Now, I've been raised by these very strict Mormon people, you know, and you feel me on this right? And I get to 16 and I could recognize someone trying. So because they're trying, I try, you know, so I'm listening in Sunday school, I mean, in Young Women's, you know, and then I listened in Sunday school because that's another adult who hears my mom bashing me and decides to go and see what is so horrible about me and my little brother, Larry, Larry, just following in my footsteps, but he wasn't brave enough to have that mouth I had. I mean, I had a mouth. That's what was so upsetting, and probably began to bring on the drug abuse is I was so outspoken. I'm still outspoken, you know, and I say what I mean spiel. And I say what I mean, and, you know, don't come to me, and ask me, if you look fat in a dress, because I'm gonna tell you yes, if you do. I mean, you know what I mean? Like that truthful. Not being able to say no, or to tell somebody, what was going on in my home, really did damage to my psyche also. So, I started praying, I'm writing in journal and doing all the young women stuff, you know, they start praying, I'm just like,


you know, okay, are you there? I mean, I mean, really, are you letting this happen? Like, you know, I struggled. And so, one day I decided to be, I was just like, being a smartass. And I was like, okay, okay, I'm gonna go out to the woods. And I'm gonna pray about the Book of Mormon. And because we had woods across the street from my house, we played him all the time. So, I think I'm funny. So, I go out in the woods, and I don't know, they asked me what I was doing, and I said I'm going out in the woods. I'm gonna go pray like Joseph smith. And I was being a smartass. So, I went out to the woods. And I sat out, then I looked around me, and I said, why not? Just check this out. So, I got on my knees, and I prayed and yeah, the Book of Mormon was true. I was like, Well, damn, okay. Well, how do you feel like that? So, I get up out of the woods, and I'm, like, starting to be, I started to be a better person. I don't fight with my parents as much, you know, and because I used to scream, I scream at the top of the steps. And I would just cuss. I was cussing when I was five. But, you know, and I'm sure that's because of the way I was brought up.

But anyway, so I, you know, I sing in the Young Women's things, and I'm going to seminary and, you know, to do the scriptures chase to win I'm actually memorizing the clues and instead of just memorizing them to find the Scripture, I'm like, trying to figure out why that clue goes with that scripture, I'm gonna start being a little bit nicer to the people are younger than me, I was really mean, a bit of a bully in church, really, because I was just angry at the world, you know, and on top of that, I was a tomboy, and I didn't like wearing dresses. So, you know, there's just everything. The church didn't have a chance with me. You know, there's my mom, my dad acting and everybody's like, he’s so humble, he’s so gentle, your dad is so spiritual. And I'm thinking, Yeah,



I did want to ask you/ We can come back to this later. But there was something recently that happened with the church, and I'm sure you saw it with the sexual abuse that happened in the church and the churches helpline. Did you see that?


Yeah. Yeah.


I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on that,



I think it was great. Yeah. I think that's great. When I did it – I was getting to that part of – but when I finally came out and said something… You want to get to this, we'll get to this, you're


gonna want to hear this,


We can put a pin in that question. But I think that it’s very fitting,



I think that's great. In my case, we end up taking my dad and mom to church court. My oldest brother who's like it was, you know, the youngest kids are always like, the brothers are heroes, you know. So, he's always reading his book of Mormon. He had no idea was going on a house, he didn't find out till he was married and had two kids. And when he found out what was really going on, he was not okay. But we ended up you know, having a church court and my dad admitted everything, and she just kept calling me a monster and a liar, you know, but the way she abused me, she didn't abuse the other children. So, it's like, always in the back of my head. She knows, she knows, you know, especially the older ones are so judgmental. And especially back then, it was just insane. It was a mind blowing. My teenage years and my younger, they were mind blowing with the, with the contradiction, and I finally get up the nerve. And my friend Lisa, she's in Texas. So, I go visit her and I unload on her. She goes, I was wondering, and so we go tell her bishop. And her bishop is just ticked and just like, wow. And I think I was 19 at the time, they swear that they're going to handle this, you know that because this is the second time, I think I tried when I was 16, too and it just went and nothing, nothing, you know, just like I didn't even say anything.

So, then I tried again when I was 19 in Texas and that bishop did something and guess said something to the next to my bishop at home and my parents said that I was lying and making up because they took my car away from because they took the car away. You know? If I ever said anything I was like, and then so they just, they never asked me. Nobody in the priesthood ever asked they just assumed that you know, whatever. Okay, so finally I went to college, to BYU Idaho because it was, you know, you have to go to school, or you have to get a job. So, I was like, Okay, I'll go to school.

So, I went to college to BYU Idaho, or Rick's college at the time. And I met a boy, this part sucks. So, he was going on mission and I, you know, and we got engaged, whatever, and I thought, okay, he's safe. You know, at this point, I have no idea I'm gay. No clue, whatsoever. My mom told me because they all thought I'd be the first one to get married because I was always with boys. They thought I was boy crazy. And I just loved hanging out with my brothers. I love hanging out with dudes, you know because I was a tomboy. And I had a few girlfriends, but the relationships are so intense, the friendships are so intense, only like one or two friends, which is actually a characteristic of BPD, which I have, I would find out later I have but anyway, so he felt safe, you know, he was very righteous. And he was an OK kisser. So, you know, I was like, we decided to go on missions, and I put in my paperwork, and I, you know, you have to go get a physical. So, this is still heartbreaking to me to this day. So, I go to get a physical, and they gave me a girl physical. It was painful. But at the end of thing the doctor informed me that I wouldn't be able to have children. Now, everybody who knows me, knows that all I wanted to do, from the age of 11 on – I was babysitting at 11 until midnight, you know, with newborns, I mean, like, I was the kid or so the ward.  My oldest sister used to babysit, and they would –at the age of 11,-- members of the ward would start calling me to babysit, and she lost her babysitting gigs. And I got them all. Like, I was crazy good with kids. It's insane. You know, and I love children. And if you asked me, and you've asked them my whole life, all I wanted to be as a mother of six children. I was gonna do it right. I was gonna break the chain. I was gonna show my dumb parents how you did children.

So needless to say, that is the information I was told. And so, Kurt goes on his mission, and I come home, I’m in Idaho. So, I come home to Georgia, and I do the interviews and everything. And at that point, keep in mind, I just got told I couldn't have any children. Growing up in a church, I used to say to them all the time, “Oh, wow. Well, I want the kids, but I do have to have the husband”, and it would upset the women, you know, they would get so mad. I'm like, “Well, I don't really want a husband. I just want the children”, you know.

So, I go from my mission interview. And in that moment, when they say is there anything that you don't feel good about, you know, whatever is going on. And at that moment, I take my deep breaths. And I say if anybody's gonna listen to me, it's gonna be right here, right now. I've got to stake, I’ve got the bishop that you know, behind that is the Stake President. And the Stake president is actually, his son was like one of the few people I liked, you know, and that Stake President, he was a really good guy, you know, and he ended up actually leading the church court later, like five years later, but so I tell the bishop, “Yeah, I've got I've got a few things on my mind.” So, I tell them, I was molested by my father, you know, my entire childhood, and the beatings from my mother and everything. And you know what he says to me, “it's okay. You're forgiven.” I'm forgiven!? He says to me, I'm forgiven. Now. I'm like, okay, you know, and I got it out. And I was like, that's good. Am mind you, nothing happens from that interview. So, I get on my mission, and I am telling you, girl, it is one knock down after another.  The fact that I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a freaking miracle.

And then she was the one that picked me up out of the rubble. So anyway, so at this point, you know, I'm just a mess, and I hate the church and, and again, these little, small, small little tender mercies if you will, or people doing like just this “Wrinkle in Time” of a kindness. And people don't understand how important it is because all that crap and all that meanness and all that all the stuff that happened to me and all the times I was shunned and whatnot, just as a child and a young adult, and three people were nice to me for five minutes, you know, basically, but those three things made a difference. Those are the things that kept me hanging on internally, though I didn't know it, you know, because I was 16 the first time, I tried to kill myself. And then I tried to get on my mission, you know, I mean this. So, my life is dotted with suicide attempts too, but he says, Sister Hill and my backs to him, I don't have a tag on, and I feel a chill go through my spine and he says, “Can we talk?” and I'm like speechless which is not something that happens to be very often. And he takes me into a room, and he says he would like to release me, and that I've done more in eight months than most missionaries do in their entire mission.  They're gonna send me home on a medical leave. And I freak out. One because I could feel the spirit and I hadn't before you know, like, like that was crazy. And second so relieved that someone's going to let me out of this because they kept pushing me to know I'm not paying for it, the church isn’t going to paying for it, they’re trying to force my father to pay for it. He was trying to force my dad to pay for me to go home and I would refuse to go home. And then I discovered that I love meth. You know, you're in trouble when you end up with a drug of choice. You know, like I did alcohol. I didn't really ever like weed. But I did. I discovered black beauties in high school, which is speed. And then there was crank, you know, and in 2000 meth came out. Freaking love meth, not even gonna lie.  But anyway, I mean, I don't anymore. But I'm just like, it was just like, like your brain when I'm, you know, like, you did heroine.


So, at some point, I tried to kill myself again, I was in my 20s.  Anyway, so I tried to kill myself. I'm in therapy. And it got to be too much. And we got to the point where you're supposed to confront your abuser, which there's different stages of therapy to do to heal. So, we're at the Confront Your Abuser stage. And I've gone through all the therapy in this stage I'm at and I'm like, I tried to kill myself, because I can't do it. Because, and this is what's messed up. I love my dad so much, that I would rather kill myself, then bring that to light and mess up his church membership. Because the church was so important to him. It was his life. And so, I just opted to kill myself instead.

Well, when that happened, my girlfriend at the time, calls my oldest brother and tells him, Because I never I wouldn't say anything to my family or whatever.  My youngest brother below me, and my sister above me, she knew, and obviously the oldest sister because she was doing an abusing and the middle brother knew because he was doing the abusing to me too. But all of a sudden, the whole family circles around me.  Erica calls Dwayne, and says, “Hey, your sister needs help, you've got to help her.” And so, she tells him what's been going on. And he immediately takes it up and says -- see, and here's another little twinkling, the wrinkle of time, where someone in the LDS church shows that their righteousness comes shining through in a moment, when I need to see it. I couldn't I mean, I'd like to just like, get a general conference and just say, look, kindness, reaching out to those you think don't deserve it, or those that you look down on, when you look at somebody and you snarl or you're like ick, or oh, they're horrible. That's the minute when you need to reach out to them and show them some kindness. Those five or six different moments in time for me, saved my life, and it saved my testimony.

And so, my brother, Dwayne leads the pack. And, as luck would have it, the State President at the time, believes me, for the first time, in my entire life, someone in the church that is in an authority position in the priesthood, believes my story, believes what I have to say, it was beautiful. And again, and what's heartbreaking is that when I take my names off the books, it is that Stake President that brings me the paperwork. And he's looking at me and he's so sweet. And he was so kind, but I did not want to be a member of a church that let my mom stay a faithful member that that allowed her and all the evil things that she did to me and knowing that what my dad was doing to me and punishing me for it instead of telling him, you know, instead of taking care of things, and this man and they disfellowshipped my dad, and that's fine. That's okay because I didn't want them to excommunicate him. In fact, I kind of did myself harm, because in the end, they asked me if I had anything else to say and with tears in my eyes, I begged them not to communicate him. I said, Look, he's a good man. He's got a good heart what he did. And he admitted to doing it, you know, so that was good. You know he admitted to it.



Was he reported to the police ever?



No.  Back then, it wasn't something that was talked about or brought up, you couldn’t report it to the police.



I want to hear how you have come back to the church after all of those experiences with how like I need, like, I want to hear how that



so well, see, I'm telling you, what I'm telling you is these little peppers, these little wrinkles of time, throughout my life, and they're few and far between. But they hit at certain moments, you know, my brother, at the most crucial, uncomfortable moment, just he hadn’t been married very long, he decides to go ahead, he goes through, and he handles it through the church. They asked me about the police, and I was like, you know, to me, that doesn't do any good. Now, if I was actively being abused then yes.

My sister-in-law, Angie, her mother was the secretary for the prophet at the time. So, it got when she found out she told her mom, so it got all the way up there, you know, and that was the beginning when things started; the church started recognizing that that is a possibility within the church and you know, one Bishop, who I grew up with, and my sister babysat, he apologized to me later. See, there's another Wrinkle in Time. He comes to me, he apologizes. And he's like, I didn't know what to do. I had no idea. Your parents were swearing that you were lying because they took the car away. And you were acting out all the time. And I didn't. I didn't know. I didn't. I was too young. And he, oh, he apologized, his heart was broken. And I could see that. And again, another beautiful moment, you know, and so yes, it's all this crap, in this day and time is for every five or six people that screw up, just one person that doesn't but goes above and beyond that extra mile. And when you asked me how can I come back to the church. It's these people and in the people that the Lord sent to me, in Athens, Georgia. I mean, I was so filled with love, like I had never, And the Lord just kept coming at me. But I'll tell you that story.

So, I wrote my name off the church books, and the girlfriend was with, like, wanted me to do it. And I, I did it. I would seriously urge anybody that's thinking about that to think so hard about that. Because, again, when you do that, any bit of protection that you have, because of your membership to the church, you lose it. And right after that I no longer had a conscience. I became a meth head drug addict.  I’d hate the church. But if you talked bad about the Mormon church, you got punched. I had a girlfriend that says, like, someone was saying they'd find out that I grew up Mormon, you know, they say, oh my gosh, how many wives does your dad have? And, and I was just like, and I get angry. And if anybody said anything, or something stupid, I lived in Georgia. So, the Baptist, they hate the Mormons, and they wrote books about them, or you know, bad things, and they would just always, and I would just one girlfriend, she wouldn't let it go. And I told her, and I punched her in her face. And I went What is wrong with me? I said, I have taken my name off the books. I hate to church. I hate everybody in the church, except for my brother Dwayne. You know, and Lisa Walton. And even Lisa wall and she turned on me. When she found that I was gay. I wasn’t allowed in her home anymore. And this was the woman that saved my life when I was 19. She's one of my wrinkles in time. It was right after that, that I decided to write my name off to take my name off the books. And I was probably in love with her, and I didn't know it and her husband, you know, and then I told him I was gay. And I was going to visit them, and they told me not to come, that I had too much influence over their children. This happened three more times. You know, my brothers and sisters took my nieces and nephews away from me because they said I had too much influence and they didn’t want them growing up gay, how ignorant but that was the ignorance of the LDS back then, you know, in the 80s and 90s.

I reached my rock bottom finally. Mom had died. And I started shooting up. I tried reaching out and trying to fix our relationship. Like for the last 10 years of her life, you know, and I would her and get an answering phone and every other month and I sent her birthday presents. And she did. We had a 10-minute conversation two days before she died. And she talked about my sister and her grandkids.  She died two days later. That was it. And I started shooting up. And I was again, suicidal. I'm surprised I'm alive. I have, I tried not to drive when I was high because I didn't want to kill anyone. You know what I mean? I was a very well-behaved drug. I had rules. But um, you know, and I came back, my house was destroyed, you know, for my house was destroyed. And the girl was in Alabama and, but it was her and her voice and it was crazy. And so, as I laid there on the ground, my entire life in rumbles because of the house blew up. If the firemen had already come and put it out, and I was pulled up, and I was so high, I'd been up for weeks and shooting up and you know, I was completely lost. And I laid on that ground and I cried, and I screamed, and I screamed for hours, hours. For two, three hours, I lay there, nobody called the police. Nobody. I’m living in a trailer and there was like, in the house, you know, there's a trailer next to me and a house across the street. Now, every neighbor could hear me, I know they could, because it took a month for my boys to come back.  A month.  And I screamed hysterically. And as I scream, they're in tears. And I thought both of my dogs were dead. Ended up being just one died. But Diesel who would been my lifelong and I had gotten him when I got off the streets. I was homeless when I got Tyrone.

The last time I tried to kill myself, someone saved me again. I was in Georgia and my whole family turned against me. And I decided I'm just gonna walk in front of this big rig. I say no more taking pills. No more standing in front of a gun. No more, driving yourself off the road, you know, no more trying to drown yourself.  Nothing. You're gonna step in front of this big rig and there's no way you'll live. And as I had to step off the curb, and I don't know if this person was real or not, I mean, to this day, someone touches me and says, “there's a hospital behind you. Why don't you go into it.” I turn around and look and there's the hospital behind me. And I don't see anybody, but I go to the hospital, you know, and they, they admit me, and they put me in a crisis unit and they end up with Tyrone homeless. So, when I got myself from being homeless, Diesel was my reward.  I got a house with a girlfriend. And so, I got the dog, you know, I never had really had a dog before. So, I got Diesel. So, at this point, Diesel's like six or seven years old, he's been through all these drug binges and roam up and down and up and down from house to house. You know, I give somebody my food stamp card just to take care of my dog, you know, while I ran the streets, and I think that my longest relationship, my dearest friend is dead too. And I've lost everything. It's obvious. And I'm screaming, I'm crying, I'm hysterical. And in that moment, I begged the Lord to save me.


Because I don't know what else to do, you know. And I begged Him, and I say, I promise I will never do drugs again. But please help me, please keep me from dying. Because at that moment, I knew if I got up off the ground, I would go kill myself, I would, I would, I was gonna kill myself. I had drugs in my bra. I was gonna take a big shot, and just do it. And I knew that if I got off that ground, that's what I was going to do. Because I had nothing to live for anymore. I mean, and I begged the Lord to save me. And I promised I wouldn't do drugs ever again. And as I'm lying there, saying that peace comes over me. And I totally get up. And I tell my friends, I need to, I need to go to the hospital. They need to admit me into the crisis unit.

They take me around there, and we're high as kites, you know, and we don't know what to do or where to go. And everybody that stayed at my house that did my drugs that I helped with their diapers, and I took care of their kids when they were too high to take, you know, I had a kid room in my house for children. And I had I had a whole backyard full of toys and play stuff. My house is where you brought your children. If your husband or your boyfriend was beating you up, or are you wanting to get you were too high and your kids weren't safe you can bring them to my house and make sure they were safe.  Always kids for me, always kids. And even in my worst, I made sure the children were safe. And I'm in the hospital. I'm in there like two or three day I'm in a crisis unit. And obviously, I'm detoxing, and I'm out of my mind. I am like, I barely even remember it. But there comes a call three days in two to three days and it's from my ex-girlfriend, and she says Diesel's alive. I couldn’t even tell you what that meant to me.

To me, that was the Lord giving me a reason to live you know, and I didn't know it at the time but Diesel being alive is what made me come back to life. And I threw the biggest huge fit, they had let me out. I was like, you’re gonna have to call the police. I said but you're gonna need let me out. And I was like no about and I said, Look, I'm fine. I said I'm fine. And he asked me all the questions they have to ask somebody, and I said, I've been in here the past 72 hours, so I can release myself and I got out of there and I ran to get my dog, and I got my dog. And I stayed sober. I was in Rome, and I stayed sober. And you know, nobody is like, how can you do it and I ended up and nowhere to go. All my friends had turned against me except for my ex-girlfriend. She's letting me stay. She had a RV or whatever, a camper. And so, I stayed on the couch in the camper and with no, I slept outside with diesel. I mean, I just laid on the ground. I've got pictures of me and Diesel laying on the ground together, because I was just so happy to have Diesel back.

And in that moment, while I was there, Angie called me. And I don't remember how she found out I might have told her when I was in my out of mind brains, but Angie says hey, Dwayne, just got a bonus check. And he said that I can use that bonus check to buy you some clothes and you know, and things free for you. She said, so I'm gonna come down there and take you shopping. And I'm like, oh, you know, and I thought that was so cool. She come to visit me a couple of times. And I was so whacked out. She showed up in Rome a couple of times. And when I was like, really whacked out and I think she knew that my mom's death wasn't good for me.

But anyway, she's taking me to lunch one time when I was so high. She was like “are you high?”, I'm like so high. But she didn't judge. She didn't judge you know, she bought me pack cigarettes. Let me smoke them on her back porch and went and took and let me get some cup of coffee I couldn't get on Sunday, but we got on Saturday putting refrigeration I could have it on Sunday. And she's like super LDS, you know, like, so she doesn't end up taking me shopping. She ends up taking me home to Ringgold, which is just right next to Tennessee. So, what she says is okay, so the Wizard of Oz is like my favorite. I'm obsessed, you know, grew up obsessed. I have. I even have collector cups in my house. And so, her daughter's her twin daughters who I hadn't seen since they were babies. They were doing the play The Wizard of Oz. And she says, “Hey, how about if I come get you, and I bring you home for the weekend.” And she says I'll take you shopping here in Tennessee, you know, in Chattanooga, where all the malls are, and she says “you can go see the girls play. But you have to go to church with us.” I was so desperate for company and safety. And my niece is doing the Wizard of Oz. And you know, we I love children. You know, I love my nieces. I hadn't seen him in 15 years but and I said bet. And she came and got me and bless her heart. She's like, I will buy you a pack of cigarettes, but she gave me the money to buy cigarettes, you know, and she stopped on the way to let me smoke and, and everything and I I went to church in my new shorts and a hoodie. So, she made me go to church. When I walked into that church, it felt like coming home.


It felt like coming home. And when the first hymn started. I found myself singing it without the book in my hand, just in tears, cascading down my face. And I jumped up and ran outside and smoked a cigarette and walked home. But you know what she says to me, she says Cheryl, she goes elder Monson is the President prophet of the church now. And I'd always tell her when I was my mission or what I was, you know, she’s, my sister-in-law. I said when Elder Monson become prophet of the church, that's when I'll come back. She says to me that weekend, “I've got two things to tell you.” She goes, “Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of church”, “and what?”, and then she says, “and it's okay to be gay and Mormon.” I'm like, “you’re lying”, you know, you’re lying and whatever. So, she takes me back. You know, in that moment, I felt something, you know, I felt something, you know, but I'm still full of anger. And on top of it, I've lost everything. But I did make a commitment. And because I grew up in the church a promise to the Lord is a covenant. So, I sit through people smoking meth around me, having nowhere to sleep, laying on someone's floor with roaches crawling over on it, my friend that was with me, her boyfriend, is the one who blew up my house, she gets over, then she falls off. I bet I'm drinking alcohol, but I'm not doing drugs. And then I do a big fat line of cocaine, looking for a place to live. I have a disability check. I was on disability. And so, you know, but I'm not doing meth, and that's what I promised not to do. You know, but I'm using alcohol. But I'm not doing that. And I'm staying in this house. And they're smoking meth in the living room. Like, I don't know it, you know, and I can go out there and that promise was strong. You know, it might, I was angry a little bit, but I wasn't tempted, and it was sitting there and like that promise that I made was so strong, and it stuck. So, I'm looking for a place to live. And I can't and I find this cool place and it's, you know, in a garage and then at the last minute and falls through and I can't find anywhere to live, and I can't find anywhere to live and I'm like, I've got to find somewhere to live, you know. And so, I get on the computer and I'm looking for a place to live, and I put in, you know, 25 mile radius, and actually it was a, it ended up it was a 250 mile radius, but I thought it was 25, you know, and all of a sudden, all these places pop up, and there's $300 a month, like, including utilities, and it's $400 a month, you know, and it's these sublets for summer. And they're in Athens, Georgia, which is, like 250 miles away from Rome, or whatever, you know, it's like really far away from Rome, it's like, two hours away. And it's two hours away from my family. And I thought to myself, you know what, go do this. And never in a million years, it occurred to me that this is some Jesus stuff.

But so, I decided that for I'm gonna go to Athens for 90 days, I'm gonna get clean all the way clean, I'm gonna get strong, you know. And I'm going to move away from all my friends and all my families, and I'm going to just get back to health, and then I'm going to decide what I'm going to do. I'm turning 50 at the end of the summer. I'm 50. And I have lost everything. The only thing I have is the clothes on my back, and my dog. That's all I have to my name.

So, I'm still not gonna go to the Mormon church. But I feel God in my life. I'm okay. And I've been a member of lots of churches because I guess I love church. You know, I liked church. I was Baptist. But you know, so that's in there. And did I have a testimony? Not one I was aware of you feel me, you know, like, because you can see it, you can see it coming. It's there. They're there.

And let me tell you, so the Seventh Day Adventist, they have so much in common with the Mormon doctrine. Their stuff is deep, too, you know, I loved it until I found out they were vegetarians. But I went to the Bible study and Bible study and their preacher, he was one on that I call bright and shiny. I can see people, the pure in heart, it's a gift I got after I got baptized, but I think I've kind of always been that way. But he was just so bright and shiny the pastor, you know, and I thought, okay, he's bright and shiny. He's legit, he's sincere, you know, he loves God. And so, I joined his Bible study and, and I love this Pastor Jeff, and another lady who used to pick up drug addicts and take them to Bible study, that's how I got into it was one of my drug dealers went.  I start walking with Diesel, you know, we take long walks, just smoking and I start I started talking to God.


And we're just, you know, I'm talking, and I feel that He's answering, you know, I'm just, we're just, I'm just chatting to Him, you know, and trying to get some direction and trying to know what, what to do and where to go. And, and I tell Him, “No Mormon church”. One day, so I'm talking to my sister, Angie, and I'm asking her if she has any friends and in Athens, they know people all over the United States, you know, but they don't know anybody in Athens. And I'm like, so I'm walking around, and I get on the bus, and I jump off. And I'm like, oh, man, this isn't my, you know, I got off too soon. And when the bus pulls away, in front of me, the Institute for Georgia for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  And I’m like F, you know, I'm just like, but the bus stop is on the other side of the street, right in front of the building. So, I actually have to walk across the street, you know, and as I'm walking across you, I get mad I go, No, I’m not. So, I actually walk all the way to the store. Because I refuse to go stand in front of the church building where the bus stop is, this is how bad I hate the church. And I refused so I walked all the way like five miles or wherever all the buses meet and I'm exhausted, I sit down and I'm trying to figure out what bus I need to ride to get back home and as I get up, I get almost get ran over by two Mormon missionaries on bikes. And as I get on my bus, two separate sets of missionaries get on the bus, more Mormon stuff again.  So, then I get home and I need some food at the food pantry, the people that bring the food or whatever is a member of the LDS church. Something like that. She's in my ward, but I don't know that at the time, you know, and it's like the fourth LDS thing. And I call Angie. And I say something to her, and I go this is crazy. And this is just crazy. And she reminds me that it's okay to be Mormon and gay. And that hits me like a thunderbolt. I tried all these other churches, you know, and, and I remember the feeling I had when I walked into her ward building, and I go Yeah, no, I don't think so. Angie. And as I'm walking Diesel and I'm frustrated and I'm nervous, and I don't know what to do, you know, and I'm there alone and Diesel is starting to come back to life. He was very, he was very lethargic pretty much so he started wrestling on the on the grass stuff and so we go take a walk, and as I'm walking, and I look at the sky and I say to Him “what? You want me to be Mormon again?” And I kid you not, when the most soft and loud and bold – I don't know how to tell you – was a resounding yes. I heard the word yes, like the Lord Himself was standing next to me. He said, yes.  And I stopped in my tracks, and I said no. I said No.


I say no, no, no, no, no. And, as I look, I see an old couple, and this is Georgia in the summer of Georgia. And Georgia is the most humid city, Georgia is the most humid state in the United States. And it's hot and it's awful. And here's this old couple sitting on my steps, and I was brought up to respect my elders. And I'm sitting there, I'm so angry. I'm like, I can't not open the door. They're out there in the heat, you know? And they're an older couple and I opened the door, and I'm like, what? And I look at them, and they're so sweet. Look, I said, you can come in for a minute. I said, what do you want? Why are you on my doorstep? And I'm trying to intimidate because at this point, I’d been doing drugs, so I have like, maybe seven teeth in my mouth. Right? I'd only been off drugs for a little bit. I had been on the street for 10 years. And I look again, and because I was raised in the church, you know, what an older couple with the name tags. The President is who they are. And I looked at them. I said, Are you the Mission president? And his wife, I guess, the North Atlanta, Georgia mission, and they're like, well, yes, we are. So, I ask them “what you were in a Zone Conference and the bishop told you to stop by here?  Or my brother and my sister-in-law called or like...”, “No.” And I said, “so you were out? You know, you had a meeting?” No, no. I said, “So you mean to tell me that you came all the way from the mission, which is like, two hours away, and just happened to drive over to this area and knock on my door?” And you know what they said? They said, yes.  They said, yes. So, I stood there stunned and angry, stunned, and angry. They said, Would you please. And I just, I didn't believe them. I didn't believe them. I didn't believe them. Because I knew I was Angie.

So, I call Angie and it wasn't Angie. And she's the only one that knew I was in Athens. Like, nobody knows where I am but Angie and Dwayne. Right. And so, there's like, no way. And so, I said, Well, I guess and knowing the Lord had told me, yes, you know, and I'm angry. And I'm like, I guess, but it has to be women, because I don't like because, you know, I hate the priesthood. You know, I've been hating the priesthood, and I'm gay. So, you know, I'm hating men. And I, you know, and I'm gay, but I really never really hated men. I just didn't like to date guys, you know, whatever. I'm not that lesbian. And I tell him, it has to be two women, at least, you know, and so, but I'm like, but no, but I mean, you know, I, they probably won't last, I probably won't even let him in the door. They must have prayed on my front porch.

But anyway, so a little while later, the Bishop calls and invites me to church. Obviously, they called him you know, they knock on my door. And outside there are these two red faces and two of the mousiest, dowdiest, frumpiest looking sisters I've ever seen.  Plain and frumpy. So, you know, so no way, I’m ever gonna think they're cute, right? The Lord is not gonna send me cute girls because I liked cute girls then you know, and but just so plain. And so, Utah Mormon looking, you know what I mean? Just that Little House on the Prairie look.  Karissa don't get mad, you're beautiful now. I'm saying that because she'll listen to this podcast. I don't want her to get her feelings hurt.

So, I open it up and asl what do you want. And they're like, well, the mission president sent us and said that, and you know, and they're just like, trembling. They would tell you themselves. They were trembling. And I opened it up because you know their faces are flush. They're on bikes. They were on bikes, and they weren't even in my ward. And in Georgia, the wards are like 20 miles long, you know what I'm saying? Like, five or six miles to get to me, you know, and so I let them in, you know, we talked for a minute, and I'm just not happy. I let them know. This is just not what I want to do. But I'm doing it, you know? Because I can't get out of my mind that yes. I can't get it out of my mind, you know? And so, I am the angriest, pissed off, and I am gay, and I’ve got a girlfriend. I went and got me a girlfriend after he told me I had to go to church. So, they're shaking. And they say, well, what do we need to do? I said, you need thick skin and you better be praying. I said, you better get on your knees, and you better come back with thick skin. And I said and I was like, don’t bring me no lessons. Don't bring me the missionary lessons. You come with the Spirit. You got to teach me by the Spirit. And I said I’ll know, so don't try, and do that, you know, and I said, you better pray before you walk in my door.

They said they were so scared, they were shaking. And so nervous, and they didn't want to come back. And they were scared to death, you know, but they came back, and I let them in. And they're like, their lessons were five minutes long sometimes, like, they'd say something, and I would, and I would feel what they like, I knew they were teaching by the Spirit because I could feel it, like these little zings. And I would get upset. And I would go, okay, that's, that's good. All right, you can say a prayer and go, and I'd kick them out in five minutes. And then, and then there were sometimes when they would come and I was, I was kinda like, like, they challenged me to listen to a talk or whatever. And I'm like, I don't want to, I didn't want them to play videos, because I'm like, that's not how you teach. Don't teach me what videos because that's lame teaching. I was, like, tough on them. I'm like, you come prepared, and you teach, you know, and you can't use videos. They said, okay, but will you watch this video, you know. And so, I found myself watching a video that they had asked me to watch.

And so, when they came back, and this is what's cool, they come back and it occurs to us, Sister Taylor told me, she's like, one time they were in the car, and they were getting ready to get out. And they knew they had prepared the wrong lesson. And so, they had to pray, stop and pray and ask the Lord what, what you needed to hear that day. And they came in, and what had happened is I had read ahead, like I listened to that, listened to that talk. And so, I followed the other links and read the, you know, the scriptures that went with it, and whatnot. And, and so what they had prepared was a follow up on that video. And I had already done all that. And so, they had to come back in. And they were like, telling me that they were in the car, and they didn't think I’d believe them. And that they had a lesson prepared. They needed a few minutes to, to prepare, you know, to figure out what, and I said, what are you gonna do this, and we're just gonna look through the scriptures until we know what the Lord wants us to teach you. And they're like, we don't understand, though. And I started laughing. I said, because what you were about to teach me, I already read on my own. And so, it was like, it was funny, you know, and, but I'm still mad, like, you know, I'm still angry at them, you know, and they finally gave me a church.

And I go to church, and its Mother's Day, my least favorite day of the month. And I'm angry because I didn't want to be there. And it's Mother's Day, and I'm there. And I'm still smoking, and I can't leave because I got a ride, and I’m just pissed it, they're having a dinner thing. And I'm just angry. And there's a lady that looks like she comes from the same world I did; she was a black lady. And she looks like she doesn't want to be there either. Like, oh, so I go sit next to her, you know, and we're talking about the missionaries, she's meeting with the boy missionaries, and we're not, I have my own set of missionaries, and we're talking and whatever. And I'm, you know, in getting to know each other, and I hear a baby crying, you know, and I look around. And I see a baby, on the stage unattended, maybe five, six months old, crying, and I look around and nobody's paying attention to this baby, you know, and I forget that it's been 30 years and that I look like a recovery, drug addict, and a criminal. You know, but my instinct, I'm at church, and my, my inner instinct is just go get the baby and pick her up, you know, and I do. I, you know, looking around looking scary as hell, mad as hell. And I go and pick up this baby off the stage. And I pick her up and I bring her back to the table. And you know, she stops crying, I'm just playing with her and not even conscious how this must look to anybody else, you know.

And the mother is in the Relief Society presidency. They all see me pick up her baby, she starts to freak out, and her husband walks up. And he happens to be the Gospel Principles teacher. Right? Which is where all the converts go for class. And he looks at her and he looks at me and he looks at their baby, Julia. And he says let it be, don't do anything. And she's freaking out. She's like, this stranger, just picked up my baby, she's got her.  And Will says to his wife, he says, Julia is not crying, and she's holding her. And he said the Spirit told him to just trust us. And I held the baby for a little while and she stopped crying. And then I looked for the mom and I saw Stephanie go over towards there. And I said, “Oh, is she yours? Like she was crying, and I didn’t see anybody around you, and I just, you know, I just picked her up” and she said, thank you. And she told me, they told me later – and that’s the Will and Stephanie in my podcast, by the way, that's them. The people that changed my life. Yeah. So oh, it just went from there.


The Lord did so many things. I got a blessing from Will. I told the girls don't ask me to be baptized, I'll be baptized when I'm ready to be baptized. And as the months progressed, and I was still angry, and I didn't want to be there, but I kept going and, and progressing. And one day I decided that I didn't want to drink coffee anymore. They challenged me to the Word of Wisdom. And I accepted it, you know, and so I said, okay, you know, coffee is the first thing I started when I left the church. And from coffee, I went to cigarettes and cigarettes, I went to alcohol, alcohol went to drugs. So, I thought, it's a good idea.

And I’m still dating this girl, and they bring up the Law of Chastity next. So, I'm telling the girl and she's a Christian, about, you know, I'm taking the lessons and this and that, and then I tell her that I probably want to be baptized. And she freaks all the way out and shows her true colors. I'm so glad I didn't. Because at this point, I'm like, back and forth. This girl was a good friend of Sherry, one of my exes. This is, Sherry was the love of my life. And I was probably the most unlovable convert that ever stepped into the church. But I wasn't really a convert, but they all thought it was because everybody actually thought I had been excommunicated. Oh, and that pissed me off. And that set the date back further.

And I went back and forth, I've only been solid for about two years. And when I passed over the Utah State Line, I decided that it would be sacrilege to smoke. Like, because every time I get upset or stressed out, or some emotional mess would happen, I'd have taken another milestone, I'd freak out and relapsed not on drugs, but on coffee and cigarettes and I every time I want to rebound. But every time I got mad, you know, the Lord because I'm gay. And it was too hard. And in Athens, I wanted to kill myself and at some points, while I was still in Rome, I was laying, I fell completely apart. There was a moment when the righteousness the you know, like, an angel represented, and then the devil represented me. And in that moment when I was in Rome, and I was in the laundromat, and I had to decide, and like it was the, it was the lieutenant from the gang that destroyed my house.

I was hanging out with gang in Rome, I was like, G-Ma, what they called G-Ma, and I was the mom to all the gang and it was like three or four different games that were coming, they would be safe in my house, and I’d wash their clothes, and I feed them and I put them back out on the street, you know, and they caught me G-Ma and this boy, who had put a flag in my house, it was for protection. Like, no one's supposed to mess with me. Not any of the gangs, you know, he walks into the laundromat, and I sensed evil, and I had been sober two weeks at this point. I mean, I couldn't even figure out how to work the washing machine. And he comes in, and I'm falling apart. And I'm like, please, is there anybody in Rome that is not doing drugs that can come help me? Because I can't I just I ceased to function. I was frozen. And in that moment, Stevie, who was in the hospital and his wife was having triplets. He had gotten clean, moved to South Carolina, got married, and was having triplets. And he was a worst-case scenario of any drug addict I've ever seen. He was like, at the very bottom of, he was a mess. And he called me and says, are you okay? And in that moment, I felt spiritual warfare. And I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know what any of it meant. And I, I was on my knees in the middle of the Family Dollar parking lot. And I had hit my knees. And Steve, he said, I'm here for you. And he was having three babies. He was in the hospitals, his wife was in labor, having babies. And he calls me and there was no way that couldn’t have been for the Lord. You know, there's no way that couldn't have been from the right side, you know, of the Jesus side and Freddy was from the devil side and in that moment, I knew that I was supposed to make a decision that I had to choose right then was I going to be on the Lord side? Or was I going to be on the Satan side because if I did, if I went back to that side, I would never come back out. I knew that in that moment. I knew it and on my knees in a parking lot and I wasn't. Mormonism had nothing to do with it was just, you've got to pick it on my knees in the parking lot. And then I fell on my face. And as I cried, I said, I pick you. I picked the Lord. I picked Jesus. I was crying. And nobody was around me. It was just me and the Lord and the Devil, and Satan. And I said, I pick Jesus. I picked the Lord; I picked the spiritual side.  And I got up and walked back into the laundromat, and I did my laundry. There is always a moment even when you're not in the church, even when, you know, like, I had been aware, over the last five, six years, that Satan and Jesus, the Lord had been fighting for my soul. It is an ongoing battle. And in that moment, I felt the strength of both. Like they both wanted me so bad. And I didn't know why. And I have no idea why, you know, I'm like, what is so big? What's the big deal? Why are they fighting? You know, and it happened three more times. I met a girl in Boston.


And the Spirit flashed through my mind before a moment of intimacy. And again, there’s like this spiritual warfare over and over again. And now, I mean, I’m from Utah, you know, it's like, I know that we from other states think that Utah is the Mormon Mecca. You know, I grew up like the feeling that, you know, my dad was from Utah, and I loved my dad's family, they were like, some of the best times and the easiest times of my childhood are here in Utah, were here in Utah. And of course, some of the worst memories were here in Utah because of my mission.  But the minute I crossed the border, the minute I cross the state line, I knew I wouldn't smoke ever again. I knew I wouldn't drink again; I knew I will be a drugee. And I knew I would be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I needed to be an out loud member. And it wasn't about gay. Yes, I'm gay. And I'm celibate five years running and said, I'm going to quit to church, I don't go to church for weeks, or been one of those idiots from Athens. You know, my friends from Athens will call up and Okay, was the last time you went to church, are you reading the Scripture, you know, or deciding to come to Utah. That's, that was huge, too. I mean, that was all Lord directed.

And since I've been here, it was like, the Lord filled me up. And Athens gave me so much love, and so many friends and so much direction. And I had to make that choice. And everybody has to make that choice, you know, and my choice was, be alone and choose the gospel, or don't be alone and don't use the gospel. And confirmation so strong, that you could feel His presence in the room when I was told, if you choose the gospel, you will be alone. I will not let you be alone, but you won't have a partner. And I tested the gospel. And in that moment, and after that moment, I never understood what tenfold meant. You know, you hear people say in the church growing up, like, oh, He blessed you tenfold. And I thought that was like, Yeah, whatever is tenfold when I chose the gospel. And the Lord told me, I wouldn't be alone. tenfold, there are the people I have too many friends. There are too many, you know, I mean, like, I, I have to hide in my apartment sometimes. And the Lord blessed me with tenfold I, there are times when I feel you know, I feel alone, like I can't do, I can't go to church by myself one more time, you know, I grocery shop by myself, I do this by myself, I do this by myself. But the thing is, is that that's my fault. You know, He's put so many people in my life that all I got to do is say I'm lonely, I feel lonely or, and I've got a dinner invitation. Or I have a friend in Provo. And like some of my friends are here in Utah that were from Georgia, there's like five families. They all live in Utah now. Right?

I'm like, you know, the Lord has got me so hard. Because I chose the gospel. It's not about being gay or not. I mean, the fact that I'm alone and living this life, you know, is my choice. It's not my choice to be gay, but it's my choice to choose the gospel. And He's not letting me be alone. He said, I would be your friend. I thought He was like this old fat perverted guy, and I wouldn't talk to him. And He's like this really cool young guy, you know, with a really beautiful wife. But it's okay. Because you know, what some of these members do. They take me out on dates. Like, they used to say, okay, they'd send their wives, take me to the movies, and their wives were paying, you know, the husband will pay for the meal and the movie, you know, and he go, okay, you need to go take the time to Carolina on a date, and sometimes the boys will do it too. But it was just so cute. Because they would have their wives take me out on a date night, okay, and take me out on a Cheryl date. And one time. She was a Relief Society president, and this is how wonderful the members can be. You've got to put yourself out there. You know, you've got to, you know, I mean, like I said, I'm lonely. You know what I miss is going out on dates and you know, what they those people did. They sent their wives to take me out on dates. She’d called them dates. And this lady, she was a Relief Society president right. And um, she walks into Relief Society, and she says, I had my first lesbian day last night. She tells the whole Relief Society. And that's what I'm talking about. That kind of boldness, that kind of support.

Yeah, you know, and, and I promise you, there were five or six ladies, you could hear them visibly groan. And they wouldn't even look at me like I'm a drug addict and a criminal and, and homo and, and it wasn't just the gay thing, you know, you get shunned for all those things. You know, I'm single, you know, I'm in every group, any spot that you have that someone's that they get shunned by the church by members who are snooty-patootie or who aren't living the Christ, Love thy neighbor, love everybody. So, I was gonna get shunned no matter what you know, but the thing is that for every, every handful of assholes in the church, the one or two or three now the Lord sent me tenfold. But here in Utah, I have a handful. But the thing is, is that for every one of them, they make up for it. You know, I mean, they make up for it. I've got Matthew, I have been so hesitant about joining the LGBT LDS stuff, the North Star stuff, and I couldn't get anybody to go with me. And I wanted to go to the meet and greet. And I was terrified. Because as bold and outgoing as I am, I have, I still have all the rejection, so I'm still scared. And my friend Matthew, straight as the day is long, goofy as heck, he's the one that goes with me. And I put it out on the church website, you know, would someone, please go with me. You know, would anybody want to go with me. And nobody would. Matthew goes, so cute. It's so funny. And he goes, and he supports me, and he's my best advocate. And he's so bold about it. And he will hug me in front of it. Like, we were on the stand together. And I was like, a testimony meeting. And it was one about music, he gets up on that set. And he's just, he holds me and kisses me. And like, like, holds me kisses my head. To the whole time, until it was my turn to share my testimony in front of the entire church. Like I love this woman, lesbian drug addict, whatever, you know, and single, and his wife is sitting in the congregation with a smile on her face, just like these two idiots, you know, but um, but that's what I'm saying.

You have to just go above and beyond and people, people who've left the church, they come back, you know, I mean, we all at some point knew it was true. There's a little testimony in everybody, because we wouldn't be so pissed at the church, if we didn't have a testimony, if we didn't get disappointed. Those who are atheists, those who are anti-Mormon, those who are the angriest are the ones that had the testimony. And they're the ones that got hurt. And they're the ones that got offended. And it is our job as valiant Latter-day Saints. It's our job. And let me tell you, I was not a touchy-feely person. But the Lord puts so much love in me, he had so many people love me. And crazy love, like love that you just doesn't even make sense. People that befriended me that you know, I mean, I turn this rich, snooty Ward, and to the most non-judgmental, loving people. And if there's ever another gay person that ever makes the presence in Athens Second Ward, they are going to get the heck loved out of them. And it was like one of the most least likely wards that you would think. Now one of those Richie Rich wards where everybody tends to be – I don’t want to generalize, and I'm sorry – but it just seems to be you know, the people that aren't used to like the poor, broken drug addict, I mean, I was coming in smelling like smoke, and I’d cuss and I was like me, and they'd love me anyway. And they kept on and kept on and kept on and I pushed him away, and I cuss at them, and they would chase me down the street. I mean, I'll be driving away, and Will would chase me down the street. Come on, Cheryl, tell me why you don't want to go to church, you know, pregnant women knocking on my door, hey, children, sending me messages, you better get your butt to church, just like they would not let go. And that is so important. Without them, I would have made it back, how I came back to church.

You've got to give Him a chance to get His people, the ones that are the people. You know, because even they were surprised one friend. She's a busy lady, Young Women's president. She's busy. She's got kids going to college, kids coming home from she's in everything and she's just super busy. And I was going to therapy, and I didn't have a car, so I had to have a ride. And then all of a sudden, for like two months, Barb had an open schedule every Thursday. She took me up and for back and forth for an hour and a half back one way and she would take me.  And she's like, I don't have any idea. She's like, but I have nothing to do for like to the next three months, yeah. And each month to come and she's like, I can still take you. And then she took me until all of a sudden somebody else was able to take me. And then somebody gave me a car, you know?




I came back because the Lord wanted me to and so that I can help others come back. Yeah, the Lord made sure that I got all the love that I didn't get when I was younger.



Yeah, that's so beautiful. Is there any last thought that you have as we're closing too, that you just want to pass on to maybe somebody that is had a bad experience in the church? What advice or counsel would you give to somebody that maybe had a similar experience and is struggling to have a relationship with the church?



If somebody comes at you, and they come with you light and love, you know, not everybody in the church is bad. In fact, there's so many good people that I'd say, let them try giving them a chance. Your brother, your sister, somebody, anybody listen to one person and be open about your pain.

Vulnerability is a strength. Me being weak and me being what I call weak, me being a baby maybe in soft, all those things that I have fought my entire life not to be those moments of vulnerability that I allowed myself to express even though they came in anger is what opened the doors for those to love me.

So, if you're angry at church, if you're pissed off because brother so and so did this, or sister so and so did this. Let me just say when the judgment day comes, I don't want to be the one standing next to Lord and saying, I quit You because sister Smith hurt my feelings. That's what keeps me from getting offended. There are people that love they love they love you. They will love you. But they can't love you if they don't know there's something wrong with you. So, rage against, get mad. Your ministering sister shows up. You said you know what? I can't stand the church because blah, blah, blah, blah.  By saying that that gives her an opportunity to help you heal. You cannot be happy being this angry. The anger that we hold for the church when we're angry at a church, that doesn't feel good.

So, what my advice is open your mouth and talk. Open your mouth and tell people what your particular problem is. And you I don't think you have to be nice about it. I wasn't. I hit the bishop. I punched him. Any dude that came near me. I'm like, get away from me and I slug them. Well, they took that as a love tap and it ended up being a love tap. I mean, it ended up being that these men surrounded me with love. And they start hitting me back. I mean, you've got to open your mouth and tell people why you're mad. The Lord helps others through others, right?

The Lord can't help fix you if you don't tell people what's wrong. That is the biggest rock of contention is just being angry and only focusing on the offensive. I could be bitter and angry. I could be I've got every reason to be bitter.



It has been such a blessing having Cheryl on the podcast. Cheryl is such a light and I want to be her granddaughter. She is so amazing. But I just feel truly blessed to hear her testimony and for her to be able to share all of her experiences with us and Cheryl, you are amazing. Thank you so much. I also want to give a shout out to Lauren Rose. She has been a tremendous help on this podcast, and I couldn't do it without her.