(me with Ty Mansfield, the man who started this great movement)
A couple weeks ago, I was asked for some input and reflections about the Voices of Hope project, which I was filmed for on November 16. A little while later, after the podcast was released, I listened to it. This episode of the North Star Voices podcast was about the filming of the project, the feelings and impressions that those involved had on that day.
I figured the podcast would be spiritual, but, like the filming of the project itself, I didn’t expect it to be THAT powerful. For the sake of some confidentiality (because of Google and stuff) I’m not going to mention most people by name, so this post will mostly be a summary of the thoughts and feelings from the podcast.
One thing that I absolutely LOVED was mentioned by at least eight of those interviewed and I wholeheartedly agree: The community, the brotherhood, the bond, the camaraderie, and the family there was tangible. Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s in those moments that I can glimpse Zion. Reo, one of the cameramen (who does not experience same-sex attraction), made the comment, “I feel like I'm in the temple right now.” Multiple people noted how strong the Spirit was; one Voices of Hope participant noted that it was because people are testifying that there is hope through Jesus Christ. Reo also noted that it was because there was so much love, acceptance, and understanding of the Atonement present at those filming locations. A different participant noted that earlier on in his journey, he believed he was the only “gay man” trying to live the gospel. I can say from experience that I’ve felt that way before too and I know many people who have felt that way. However, it’s not true! As this participant said, “You are not alone! There are a lot of us!” Another participant said that he went through withdrawals in the days following his shoot, because his life was so mundane compared to the power he’d felt at the shoots. One of the project’s coordinators noted that the camaraderie was an unexpected (yet very welcomed) byproduct of the project. I am grateful to count myself as part of this brotherhood and this Voices of Hope family.
Another common theme in the podcast was how much the Lord provided the participants with words to speak. One participant is not a native English speaker, so he was worried about being able to convey all that he wanted to in his second language. However, he said, “I didn’t lack any words.” A couple others, though native English speakers, had similar worries. One of them, reflecting on what he’d said, noted that it was what he would have wanted to hear if he had heard it while he was struggling. The other said that he had prayed, “Wilt thou give me the words to speak?” He testified that he had been given those inspired words. Like them, I had been a little worried about having said everything right or having said enough. A few things have brought me comfort in that. First, while talking to Ty Mansfield after my shoot, he noted that even after writing “In Quiet Desperation” and “Voices of Hope”, he still had much more he wanted to say. Also, he noted that when he wrote “In Quiet Desperation” he didn’t expect to get married in this life. That comment reminded me that my story will never be able to be told in full during this life, because I’m continuously writing it. Another thing that brought me comfort is this blog. I am free to share my thoughts and reflections about my SSA and other things in my life and be able to share my testimony at all times.
Another one that I’ve brought up a few times became a common theme. It was mentioned multiple times how SSA is not a weakness. It is a blessing and strength. William Seger (who wrote “Why Me?: A Gay Man's Struggle for Love and Family”) noted that it is a blessing! He continuously reminds a young man he knows that it is a blessing. However, where that young man is, he cannot see it. William’s wife referenced Ether 12:27 in supporting her husband. Another participant said, “Learn to love it! Love yourself! Enjoy the fact that you see others differently! ... Don't let the world tell you who you are. Tell the world who you are!” I absolutely loved that!
Here’s another point I wanted to bring up… it was emphasized my multiple people in the podcast how much agency plays into this. William Seger mentioned agency twice during his snippet and emphasized how we choose what we want to become. The gay lifestyle is not the only choice. As noted previously, you choose who you want to be! Don’t let the world decide who you want to be! Don’t let their lies tell you that you are less than you are. One thing I loved that I said was this: “You are more than your mistakes and your weaknesses... they don't define you... your weaknesses can be your strengths.”
The podcast ended with some words from the project’s coordinator. He noted that even now as they’ve filmed forty participants, we have no idea how far this project will reach and what the impact will be. Eventually, they would even like to do videos from other countries (England, Thailand, Chile, etc). He quoted Joseph Smith in saying, “No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing.”
Finally, the podcast ended off with a clip of Elder Jefferey R. Holland from October 2011 Priesthood session of General Conference. I remember this distinctly. I was in Calgary at the time and it had been a hard time for me, but this re-energized me: “Satan cannot directly take a life. That is one of many things he cannot do. But apparently his effort to stop the work will be reasonably well served if he can just bind the tongue of the faithful ... I ask for a stronger and more devoted voice, a voice not only against evil and him who is the personification of it, but a voice for good, a voice for the gospel, a voice for God. Brethren of all ages, unbind your tongues and watch your words work wonders in the lives of those “who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.”
I have a testimony of this work. Just like any other kind of missionary work, the Lord will support this. And above all else, remember that through the Atonement, it gets better.
PS: Here’s a link to the podcast. Yours truly is featured at the time marker 49:40