Preston Jenkins, a junior studying public relations at UVU, was the second of nine kids in his LDS family. Preston knew that he was born gay. When he hit puberty, he couldn’t relate when other boys were talking about girls.
“[Being gay] is just one piece of the big puzzle that is Preston Jenkins,” he said.
Preston went on to serve a mission in Japan, where he came home early because of a personal experience.
“When I came home early, I was pretty inactive, pretty angry against the church. I had a lot of personal disdain for the church that I didn’t act out on. I thought everyone was judging me, but when I chilled out a bit… I realized that nobody cares. I realized that after that experience that I was projecting judgment on them…Most people treat people with kindness at church. Maybe I’m naive, but I’ve lived a lot of places, been in a lot of congregations and that’s been my experience.”
Shortly after returning home, he came out as gay to his family, but his sexuality was the least of their concerns. To his family, all that mattered was that he made it home safe and healthy.
“I developed PTSD in Japan and my mental health tanked, so that’s where their worry was,” Preston said.
When Preston came out to others like his bishop and priesthood leaders, he was met with acceptance. But, there were a few people who weren’t quite as understanding.
“You hear stupid comments that people make…I came to a crossroads. Am I going to be mad when somebody says something that’s not tactful or give them the benefit of the doubt? Most people don’t mean harm,” he said. “Most people don’t want to be mean or thoughtless. If they were just made aware, they’d be more sensitive. I decided long ago to not care when people say stupid things…just let it go. I don’t think it’s intentional. No one intentionally tries to harm or be rude.”
Five years later, Preston had the opportunity to finish his mission in Atlanta, Georgia. As he was leaving, the controversial 2015 policy came out.
“Afterward, I learned about all the ripples caused. I didn’t understand why people were freaking out so much. It was a reason, an excuse for people to poke at the church…If the commandment is chastity, it should be the same no matter how you’re breaking it,” Preston said.
Preston discussed how researching further can help one understand the church better. Not just in this policy, but in all its doctrinal teachings.
“Learning what we actually believe gives me peace. There’s so much power and clarity there; people would understand if they read, rather than parroting what others say. There’s lots of doctrinal misunderstandings,” Preston said.
One of those core doctrines that Preston likes to study is the one on marriage and family.
“As a gay latter-day saint, it’s my weak spot, something I don’t understand. I would study it as much as I could….[I’ve learned that] God didn’t make up chastity to torture his gay kids, it’s older than God. That’s something he knows and adheres too. He wants to tell us how to become like him,” Preston said.
Preston talked about why he stays in the church — it’s where he feels he belongs the most.
“[I stay] because it works. God the Father created a plan for us to become like Him and that plan is stacked in our favor. Jesus Christ really did what the doctrines claim He did; He took the punishment for my sin and felt all my pain,” he said.
When I was baptized, I received the gift of the Holy Ghost, meaning He can be my constant companion. He is good company. Those three men, the Godhead, are wonderful people, worthy of adoration, worship and discipleship. They want me to succeed in life and are eager to help. They do not cause the problems but rather offer solutions, strength and perspective. I used to believe all that just because my parents and church leaders said it, which is fine because that’s how anybody learns anything. Then I was sexually assaulted and developed PTSD. I spent some time away from my faith while quite unhealthy, angry at God and religious institutions.
When I was finally ready to heal, I came back to God. I studied the doctrines for myself and discovered that they were still true, a deeper more personal understanding. There is power to heal, grow, change, etc. all through Jesus Christ. His gospel, his teachings work. I wish more people took the time to study those teachings and live by them. Christ Himself said, ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).’ I’ve never felt more free than in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Preston said.
Read more Latter-day LGBTQ+ stories here: https://www.uvureview.com/front-page/recent/artsculture/latter-day-lgbtq/