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David Archuleta opens up about his LGBTQ+ journey and how God told him to come out publicly

“I know this is a controversial topic and a lot of people have assumed things about me,” he said

Former “American Idol” David Archuleta is reflecting on his journey as part of the LGBTQ+ community. The singer came out in 2014 as gay to his family, and seven years later, he took social media to share with the world his sexual orientation publicly.

After going viral, in an interview with TODAY, the star reveals how he feels after sharing the news. “I was shocked, because I thought, ‘OK, this is probably going to be a bigger deal, maybe I’ll get 30,000 or 40,000 likes, if that,’ because I know this is a controversial topic and a lot of people have assumed things about me and tried to label me in the past,” he told the publication. “But it exploded. I didn’t realize all the media outlets were going to talk about it, but the way that they did, it was so respectful.”

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The 30-year-old Honduran-descent and Nashville resident also said he was worried about how the LGBTQ+ community would react to “the intersectionality of religion in his coming out post.” According to Archuleta, he thought about how “they’ve been treated” by some religious groups.

“A lot of conservative Christians follow what I do because that’s my own upbringing, and I’m still involved in that community,” he said. “But everyone on both sides … I was just amazed at how supportive and loving everyone was generally, for the most part, and for me, it was just a huge tender mercy.”

The Miami-native said he always felt different. “I always felt like my feelings were different, starting from a younger age, and I just thought maybe I need time to figure this out, and I’ll be able to understand this better or work it out,” he said. “I didn’t really want to be honest with myself because I was always embarrassed, and really, I was ashamed to feel that way. Just growing up in a religious household, the idea was, ‘Oh, this isn’t OK. It’s not right.‘”

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According to the media outlet, in 2012, the singer decided to embark on a mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile. “In terms of my feelings and my attractions, I thought if I’m there and I’m not focusing on anything else but serving God, then this must be the solution to fixing why I feel the way I feel,” he said. “Because I’m really trying hard to fix this. I really love God, and I really want to be close to him and do what he asks me, and so if he didn’t want me to have feelings for guys, I didn’t want to have them.”

Although Archuleta was utterly immersed in his religious mission, he started growing feelings for other men. “I’m not wanting these feelings. I’m not trying to have them, and I’m not even focusing on them, and they’re still coming whether I want them to or not,” he revealed. “I’m not focusing on guys and how attractive they are and anything, but it doesn’t get rid of, just walk by someone, or just look at them and all of a sudden you just feel that boom. And so I was just like, ‘I’m broken; I must have done something wrong,’ and I got to a point where I was feeling so embarrassed and so guilty.”

“I really love God, and I really want to be close to him and do what he asks me, and so if he didn‘t want me to have feelings for guys, I didn’t want to have them,” Archuleta said.

Tormented and overwhelmed, David decided to come out to the mission president. “I guess I was expecting to be sent home from my mission or be counseled on how to overcome these feelings or how to fix it,” Archuleta said. “But my mission president, he didn’t tell me I needed to fix it. He didn’t tell me how to change. He didn’t try to correct me. He just said, ‘This could be the most important day of your life, Elder Archuleta.’” After the singer received those words, he decided to come out to his family.

Accepting he can’t change how he feels, Archuleta shared the Instagram post that changed his public life forever. “I was literally outside doing my yard work, pulling weeds,” he recalled. “I kind of went through a faith crisis for a month when I was in the process of breaking up with this girl I was in a relationship with. But I felt so disconnected from everything. My anxiety had gotten so bad. I was like, ‘I don’t even remember how it feels to be close to God or to even have feelings for anybody ... I don’t even know how I feel about myself right now.‘”

“When I had that prayer, God just said, ‘David, you know I trust you, right? I want you to post about what you’re going through right now.’ And it was just so clear what I needed to say. I knew exactly what I needed to say, but I feel uncomfortable saying it because I like to keep to myself — especially with this kind of stuff. But I just knew I had to.”

Archuleta’s fan base and church members immediately applauded his courage.

“Having a courageous, beloved, public member of our religious community come out as LGBTQIA+ is fostering empathy and bridging gaps of understanding,” Charlie Bird told TODAY.com via email. “There is a strong ‘us vs. them’ mentality when it comes to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. When David came out publicly, he challenged that narrative for many people and helped them realize ways they can offer love and support. I’ve heard a lot of people having conversations they’d never had before. Overall, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m so glad there is more visibility in this space.”