“Growing up in church taught me about love, about God, about trust, about faith, and about personal revelation. Ironically, it taught me all the tools I needed to challenge the doctrine and policies the church promoted that contradicted what I believed to be true. When I could no longer rely on the church to teach me truth, I had to rely on what the church taught me about how to find answers for myself.”
My name is Brayden Sloan and I live in Livingston, Montana with my beautiful fiancé and her three kids. I grew up in a large family in the Mormon church where I devoted my heart until feeling the pressure to choose between my love for God and my love for my now fiancé. I feel a deep connection to the promote love movement, as I have come to learn that the greatest truth that can be shared on this earth is love. I share my story with the desire to spread love and hope to others who might feel they have to choose between God and the love they feel in their heart. I hope to share with others the joy that I found in learning that true love, the kind that truly comes from God, does not demand any such choice and that above all, YOU ARE ENOUGH!
1. Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Polson, Montana. I currently live in Livingston, Montana.
2. Tell me a little bit about what you spend most of your days doing.
I spend most days working as a therapist with at risk children in an elementary school. When I am not working I am spending time adventuring and exploring with my beautiful fiancé and her three boys. In my private time I enjoy writing music, playing guitar, reading, and taking walks by the river. While I am extremely out of shape and out of practice, I also enjoy playing sports when given the opportunity.
3. Give us a little insight into your backstory/upbringing…
Well, my story is a long one but I will do my best to summarize. I was raised in a large, religious family. I am the youngest of seven children and was raised by wonderful parents who taught me what true love and respect looked like. They taught me that I would know it when I found it and that all my fears and anxieties about intimacy would go away when I found that right, wonderful young man to marry in the temple. They were half right. I knew it when I found it, like an arrow to the heart, but it was not at all according to “the plan” I was given for my life. I was taught that there was one absolute truth and one plan for salvation: to get married to a man in the temple, have children, and live a faithful life serving in the church. And boy, did I believe it. I devoted my life to it, nearly went on a mission for my church, ended friendships and relationships that were not in align with that plan, spent much time in solitude. If I were any other religion, I probably would have become a nun. I threw myself into my religion, trying to escape the depression and guilt I felt of never quite fitting the mold of a good “molly mormon”. I was taught there was one path to happiness and it was following every step and principal of the church – reading your scriptures, praying, going to the temple monthly. So I read every chance I got, prayed constantly, attended the temple weekly, chasing that ever elusive happiness.
I spent many years in agony feeling as though God had placed upon me some cruel and unusual punishment, some unbearable life challenge to have found my soulmate in a woman. I felt like Abraham, being asked to sacrifice the person I loved most and I painfully submitted for many years until I was forced to confront my beliefs about God. Could God really be such a cold and punitive God to create me with these undeniable feelings and then tell me if I acted on these feelings I would be an “apostate”? Did he really expect me to either live a life of solitude or live in a loveless marriage with a man in order to attain “salvation” (this was the counsel given by church leaders to gay mormons at the time)? Could these feelings that set my soul on fire, that brought so much light and healing to my heart really be “wrong” or “sinful”? No! I could not believe that. This was not the loving God my parents taught me to believe in. So when my church came out with a policy further excluding gay members of the church and children of gay parents and told me that it was from God, I felt hurt and betrayed. I had devoted my life to a church that was making it clear they would never accept me. I felt as though my choice had been taken from me. The woman I loved had three wonderful boys, actively involved in church, that I loved dearly. I could no longer make a choice for myself without taking away their choice to be active members of the church, if that was what their heart’s desired. Needless to say, it was a long and painful journey and what felt like an impossible choice to make. In the end I had to return to my roots of trusting in God; I had to let go and let God. It was terrifying but flash forward a couple of years, and I am humbled and overwhelmed to say that my loving companion and I are happily preparing to be married this summer and her children are happy and thriving as well. We are still navigating what this all means within the church and are awaiting our expected “ex-communication”. We have been blessed to have both positive and negative responses from those within and outside of religious circles.
As far as religion goes, I am taking it one day at a time, focusing on my relationship with God. It has been a process of learning to trust in my inherent worth as a daughter of God, learning to believe that I am enough, just as I am, trying to undo the messages I have internalized all my life. I often still feel torn about how to use the path I have been given to best affect change. On the one hand I feel demoralized and degraded when I attend church and hear the messages about traditional families and homosexuality as a sin and do not want to support these messages; on the other hand, I don’t want to miss the chance to reach any young mormon boy or girl struggling as I did, believing that they are not meant for this life and would be better off taking their life than “sinning” or living a life of solitude and internal conflict. This is why I have connected so deeply with the message to promote love: It does not matter if you are mormon, muslim, buddhist, or atheist – Every human being is worthy of love. Whether I attend church, meditation groups, or chose to worship in the mountains, my truth, my religion is love. My mission will forever be to make sure every individual knows that they are enough, they are not broken, and they are absolutely worthy of love.
4. What is your religious background?
5. On a scale of 1 – 5 how supportive was your family when you came out?
6. Why do you feel that the simple message of the Promote Love Movement is important?
Everyone is worthy of love. No one is too damaged or broken to be loved. Love is the healing balm of the world and without it, we are all broken. Love saves, love heals, love creates unity. No one should ever feel that the love they feel is wrong. Love is the greatest gift and power God has given us as human beings. I believe if we learn to use it as He intended, we can create miracles in a broken world.
7. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone if you knew that today was going to be your last day to live?
Let go and love.
8. Why do you think it is important to be your authentic self?
You cannot fully love others until you can fully love yourself. You cannot fully love yourself without embracing all the pieces that make you whole.
9. How do you feel like growing up in church played a part [positively or negatively] in shaping who you are?
Growing up in church taught me about love, about God, about trust, about faith, and about personal revelation. Ironically, it taught me all the tools I needed to challenge the doctrine and policies the church promoted that contradicted what I believed to be true. When I could no longer rely on the church to teach me truth, I had to rely on what the church taught me about how to find answers for myself.
10. Do you still attend church/religious gatherings?
11. Top 3 books/documentaries/podcasts that have helped in life?
I remember the first podcast that really hit home for me was listening to a podcast by John Delin about the suicide rates of LGBT mormon youth. I understood exactly the pain described by LGBT mormon youth and remember finally saying to myself, “this is not right”. Listening to more “mormon stories” podcasts and hearing others struggles and stories with the mormon culture helped me to feel less isolated and to find my voice. Reading books about self actualization also helped me to recognize that I was stuck in my life because I was not being honest and living congruently or authentically. Another book that helped me was reading about the life of Mother Theresa (sorry I am terrible about actually remembering the names of books). This helped me to recognize that sometimes you may have to step outside of the confines of religion in order to truly promote love and to truly reach those in need of love.