At the end of October, David Archuleta performed with the Temple Hill Symphony Orchestra in front of 3,000 people on back-to-back nights on the grounds of the Oakland California Temple.
In between songs, the 30-year-old singer from Utah shared personal experiences and messages of choosing faith amid trials and knowing there is a place for everyone in God’s family, said Debbie Bromley, one of Temple Hill’s communications directors.
“He was brilliant in the way he did it,” Bromley said. “It was very organic. He wasn’t preachy at all. He was just sharing these beautiful messages of hope and faith, and I think it resonated with a lot of people.”
Latter-day Saint missionaries began teaching several people as a direct result of the concerts, Bromley said.
Archuleta said he was honored to perform and wanted to help people see the deeper part of themselves as children of God.
“It goes with what I try to do, even in my pop shows, even if I’m not singing hymns and straight up talking about Christ and the gospel,” Archuleta said. “I can help people feel his light and look within themselves to feel his love.”
It’s been six months since the former “American Idol” star and popular music artist opened up about his Latter-day Saint faith and his sexuality and called for compassion for the LGBTQIA+ community in an Instagram post.
Since then Archuleta has continued to tell his story and figure out his future. He says he will continue to live his Latter-day Saint faith and give devotional-style performances like he did at Oakland’s Temple Hill.
In a recent interview with the Deseret News, Archuleta discussed the key turning points of his journey to reconcile his sexuality with his Latter-day Saint faith. He said he wants to be open and honest about his life, honor his religious beliefs and urge more compassion and understanding toward those in the LGTBQIA+ community.
Living his faith
Archuleta’s Latter-day Saint faith remains very important to him.
“I still go to church every week. I still study and pray every day. I still meet with my bishop to keep myself on track. I still go to the temple,” the former full-time missionary said. “Nothing has changed other than the fact that I don’t date women.”
Archuleta says he goes out with guys in the same way he went out with women — not in a sexual way.
“Being gay doesn’t translate to sex,” he said. “It’s just who we naturally connect with and have a bond with, the same way any heterosexual, faithful Latter-day Saint would want to bond and connect with someone.”
By telling his story, Archuleta hopes others like him will know they don’t have to suffer in silence or leave the church.
“There needs to be a way of knowing you can come as you are, live life as best as you can and still follow God, even if there aren’t clear answers right now,” he said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that same-sex attraction is a sensitive issue that requires kindness, compassion and understanding, according to ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
The church addresses the following points regarding same-sex attraction on its Newsroom website:
- The church does not take a position on the cause of same-sex attraction.
- Feelings of same-sex attraction are not a sin, but acting on it is.
- While same-sex attraction is not a sin, it can be a challenge.
- Those who experience same-sex attraction or identify as gay can fully participate in the church.
The church believes that the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people, President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles, told young adults in 2014.
“Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them,” President Ballard said. “With love and understanding, the church reaches out to all God’s children, including (those with same-sex attraction).’”
Archuleta was in second grade when he first noticed his feelings weren’t like his friends.
When friends spoke of being attracted to the opposite sex in junior high school, Archuleta couldn’t relate. He was doing his best to suppress other feelings of attraction.
“Why are my feelings not just for girls?” he thought to himself, feeling embarrassed. “I don’t understand what’s wrong with me.”
The singer thought he was supposed to get a crush, just like the title of his 2008 hit song.
“Here I am known for a song called, ‘Crush,’ and I always had such a hard time relating to the song because I didn’t understand what it meant to have a crush,” Archuleta said. “People are singing along and telling me how they are relating to it and dedicated to their crush, and I was like, ‘I can’t relate.’ I don’t understand what it means. I’m crushed because I had blocked out those emotions, starting from a young age, because I was like, ‘That’s wrong.’ If I don’t know how to have those feelings for just girls, I don’t understand this. Every time my friends would talk about it I would get uncomfortable.”
Coming out to his mission president
From 2012-2014, Archuleta served as a Latter-day Saint missionary in Chile.
Before deciding to serve a mission, Archuleta imagined that dedicating his life to the Lord’s work would help him feel “cleansed” and “sanctified.” But after a year and a half, he said he felt “broken” and “devastated.”
“I didn’t know what to do anymore. How many times have I prayed and fasted? How many times have I read my scriptures and tried to keep my thoughts focused on the Savior and towards God, and it’s still there? He’s not hearing or doesn’t care about my prayers,” he said. “I just couldn’t take it anymore,” he said.
The first person he confided in about his sexuality was his mission president, an ecclesiastical leader who supervises the missionary work of young men and women.
“I realized I needed to be honest about what I’m going through that I feel so guilty about,” said Archuleta, who feared his confession might mean the end of his mission.
The mission president reacted with love, compassion and understanding.
“He didn’t say, ‘Well, here’s how you can work on it, or here’s how we can change it’ ... nothing like how to fix what I thought was broken,” Archuleta said. “He said, ‘David, this must be one of the most important days of your life. Just know that I love you and you are doing a great job. Keep doing what you are doing.’
“It was the first time I thought, ‘Maybe I’m OK and I don’t have to understand fully what’s going on, at least right now.’”
‘I was in this dark cave’
Following his mission, Archuleta knew he was more attracted to guys than girls, but thought he could still have a happy Latter-day Saint marriage and dove into dating.
He said he almost married on three different occasions, and bought a wedding ring each time, but each relationship ended when he experienced a repeated cycle of emotions involving anxiety, anger and resentment.
“I had to be honest with myself. ... I was with a girl, once again working toward marriage, and my anxiety attacks were getting so bad. My anger was getting so bad. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this to this girl.’ It’s not fair to put someone through this just because I want to look like I’m doing the right thing. I need to deal with this,” said Archuleta, who said he sought help through therapy.
“She was so cool. I said, ‘I’m sorry, I know that you know I’m bisexual. I thought that’s why this would work ... I think that’s why this has been so hard for me because I’m trying to pretend that’s not the case.”
After that relationship ended, Archuleta said he became “numb” to most relationships in his life and began to question his faith. He wondered if God had abandoned him and even considered taking his own life.
“I couldn’t feel anything for about a month and a half,” he said. “I felt like I was in this dark cave. I couldn’t see anything.”
The power of prayer
Despite his depression, Archuleta continued to pray. One day he finally felt God’s presence and immediately dropped to his knees. He pleaded for the Lord to take away his same-sex attraction. Heaven’s response shocked him.
“God said, ‘David, you need to stop asking me this,’” Archuleta said. “He said, ‘I don’t see you the same way you see yourself. You need to understand this. You need to understand my purpose for you.’ He gave me permission to make mistakes.”
About a week later, he was working in his yard when he felt another answer to his prayer.
“God came and said, ‘David, you know I trust you, right?’” Archuleta said. “‘I want you to share what you are going through right now.’ I knew exactly what I needed to say.”
June’s Instagram post
That’s when Archuleta posted on social media about his journey, telling fans about his realization that he didn’t have to give up his religious beliefs just because he was open about his sexuality.
“People in the church think they need to choose one or the other, because you can’t do both. So a lot of people who are gay, bisexual, etc., they want to fit in, they have a testimony and want to belong, but they don’t know how, so they leave,” he said. “I was at that point too. ... Then I realized, ‘No, this is exactly where I need to be, but maybe I need to help, maybe I need to have more conversations because I don’t think this is how God wants it to be. ... He loves all his children.”
Archuleta’s decision to come out publicly was positively influenced by Charlie Bird, BYU’s beloved mascot Cosmo from 2015-18. Bird later came out as gay in a guest opinion piece published in the Deseret News. Archuleta was encouraged after reading Bird’s book, “Without the Mask: Coming Out and Coming Into God’s Light.” Instead of seeing his sexuality as a burden, Archuleta saw it as a gift.
“It gave me the perspective that I needed,” he said of Bird’s book.
Generally speaking, the response to Archuleta’s June announcement was supportive and positive, he said.
“Everyone was so respectful,” he said. “I was overwhelmed by how compassionate everyone was because I know that isn’t always the case. I felt like that was God’s way of saying, ‘David, this is to let you know that I’m here with you. You are not alone.’ I literally felt like angels were helping me.”
He said it’s allowed him to feel comfortable in his own skin as a Latter-day Saint.
“I feel like I don’t have anything to hide. I don’t have to hide that I’m attracted to guys. And I don’t have to hide that I still love God, and I trust in him as he leads me in this territory I never imagined I would be in,” Archuleta said. “It’s nice to know that I don’t have to let him go because the negative thoughts and voices in your head say you have to. I feel like it’s maybe the closest I’ve ever been with him.”
What does Archuleta hope Latter-day Saints will understand about his journey?
First, he said, the LGTBQIA+ community is everywhere.
Before coming out, Archuleta was acquainted with five LGTBQIA+ members who left the church because they didn’t feel they belonged.
“I didn’t know about them until I opened up myself, so the fact that we just let all five of these people leave and no one asked, ‘Whatever happened to this person?’ because in the back of the mind, maybe we kind of assume that we don’t want to talk about it,” Archuleta said.
After Archuleta came out, a handful of members he didn’t know in his Latter-day Saint Young Single Adult congregation sent him private messages to thank him. Each one said they were going through the same thing but were too scared to talk about it openly.
Church members could help by learning how to talk about something that affects members in their wards and homes, Archuleta said.
“Please be compassionate. It’s something a lot of people go through silently because they are too afraid. That’s why I feel like we need to talk about this,” Archuleta said. “I didn’t want to come out. I don’t want to make a big deal, like ‘Look at me.’ But I knew I had to and I needed to let other people know they are not alone.”
What does Archuleta hope the LGTBQIA+ community will understand about his journey with the church?
“I know there’s a lot of hurt, a lot of negative experiences that you may have had yourself with religion,” Archuleta said. “But please know that that’s people’s lack of understanding of what you go through, because they don’t know what it’s like. And maybe you’ve done everything you can to not have it and it still is there. ... But maybe by choosing to have faith, and choosing to come to God from where you are, no matter where you are in your life ... choose to have courage to still seek God and have faith in him to show people that you don’t have to be atheist in order to accept who you are.”
‘My Little Prayer’
Last month Archuleta released his first children’s book, “My Little Prayer.” It’s based off a song by the same name that he says came to him in a dream.
Archuleta’s daily goal is to pray each morning and night. One night he fell asleep before he could say his prayer and had a dream in which he was singing his prayer, he said.
“God was communing with me in music. He didn’t use any words,” Archuleta said. “As we were communing back and forth, he said, ‘Get up and write this down.’ I was like, ‘But I’m sleeping. How do I get up from a dream?’ He said, ‘If you don’t get up now, you will forget it in the morning.’”
“Even though we don’t always get the outcomes we hoped for, we can still be happy and things can still turn out OK. God shows us that maybe we needed a different perspective on what we were asking for.” — David Archuleta, speaking about prayer
Archuleta woke up and said the music was “as clear as a bell in my head.” He recorded it, not changing a single note.
The singer kept the music to himself for a while before realizing it as given to him to share with others. He released the song during Christmas in 2016.
When the opportunity came to write a children’s book, “My Little Prayer” felt like the right fit to Archuleta.
“It was one of the most excited ‘Yeses’ I have ever given because prayer is such a big key to my life,” he said. “I would love to teach kids how to pray and how to have a relationship with God.”
Along with building a relationship with God, the book conveys messages of how to learn from unanswered prayers and that prayer is more than just asking for things.
“Even though we don’t always get the outcomes we hoped for, we can still be happy and things can still turn out OK,” Archuleta said. “God shows us that maybe we needed a different perspective on what we were asking for.”