In light of both recent events (i.e., the TLC special “My Husband’s Not Gay”) and long-time trends in the SSA/LGBT world, I wanted to say a word about what I think might be called “the benefits and risks of visible ‘role models’.”

The benefit of role models is that they give us a visible way of seeing how something can be done in practical terms. I think of the story of the child who was afraid at night and came into his parents room for comfort—they told him that God would protect him, to which he replied, “I know God will protect me, daddy, but sometimes I need somebody with skin on.” When I was first coming to terms with and sorting through my sexuality, I hungered for people to talk to who could give me practical advice, or just to see that it was really possible to live a healthy life in the faith, whether or not there was a shift in my attraction to men. All I was getting, though, was either statistics and pseudonyms on the “faithful” side or, on the “other” side, tragic stories of “mixed-orientation marriages” (MOMs) and hyped up stories of how liberating and happy people were who were finally “true to themselves” and pursued same-sex relationships. It wasn’t helpful—or, even more than that, it was discouraging and sometimes depressing.

The risk of role models is the internal tendency to compare, and then shame ourselves because we’re not what we “should” be, or for other people to use others’ stories to compare, pressure, coerce, manipulate, etc—which can also induce shame, and shame is toxic to growth.

ideals and goals can be a light to guide ourselves by, or a stick to beat ourselves with

I heard a saying once that ideals and goals can be a light to guide ourselves by, or a stick to beat ourselves with. The benefits and risks of role models are inherent not just in that they exist, but rather in the way we relate to them, or the ways in which others relate to them and communicate that to us in problematic ways.

One of the problems with this as it relates to the SSA/LGBT community is that there’s often a double standard. As much as the stories of me or Josh Weed, or potentially those now in this TLC documentary, either have been or have the potential to be mis-used to “should” and, hence, shame someone into conformity (which is ultimately what the LGBT community seems to be most concerned about, particularly as it relates to impressionable and vulnerable youth—a valid concern, even as much as I feel there’s been horrible hypocrisy in the way that has been communicated), I don’t want to be “shoulded” or coerced or manipulated by happy same-sex couple stories or tragic “MOM” stories as a way of somehow delegitimizing my own story—or, my “sham marriage” as many many LGBT folks and their affirmative allies have repeatedly called it.

At the end of the day, while role models can be good—and, preferably, a diversity of them that provide different ways or looking at or approaching paths forward—it’s our personal responsibility to relate to those role models in a healthy way, to not use them as a “stick” to beat ourselves with as we compare ourselves… and, ultimately, to seek the Spirit as a personal guide, because our path may not look like ANY of those role models.

I love the words of Elder Richard G. Scott on this:

“Throughout the ages, many have obtained guidance helpful to resolve challenges in their lives by following the example of respected individuals who resolved similar problems. Today, world conditions change so rapidly that such a course of action is often not available to us.

“Personally, I rejoice in that reality because it creates a condition where we, of necessity, are more dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through the vicissitudes of life. Therefore, we are led to seek personal inspiration in life’s important decisions” (“To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, November 2009)

Nephi had to build a ship that was unlike anything anyone else had built before, so he had to ascend the (temple) mount oft, to commune with God and seek the guidance of the Spirit:

“Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.

“And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.

“And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord” (1 Nephi 18:2-4).

This personal, revelatory process is the best “role model” for any of us, because only the Lord can guide us in a way that not only blesses us with practical guidance but also the peace and assurance that the direction He gives us will lead to joyful, eternal ends. In the Lectures on Faith, the Prophet taught,

“It is essential for any person to have an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to the will of God to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life. It was this that enabled the ancient Saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more enduring substance (Heb 10:34).”

I believe that. We must have the assurance that our choices are in accord with Divine will in order to have the fortitude to see important decisions, commitments, and covenants through.

All this to say, having “role models” can be good or toxic, depending on how we relate to them or how we use them as “tools” to “should” ourselves or others in unhelpful—and potentially even harmful—ways. But with or without role models, or positive examples, the best way is always to ascend the mount oft to commune with God and seek His Spirit for direction to navigate our own lives “after the manner which the Lord… [and] not after the manner of men” might show us.

Leave a Reply

4 comments

  1. avatar

    Karen

    It feels like you.can’t resist taking pot shots at the lgbtqi community. It is almost an aside, but it is there. It seems condescending and again it seems a form of ‘othering.’. Lots about not listening to ‘those’ who would share bad mixed orientation stories or successful same sex marriage stories, not as much about not using successful mixed orientation marriages as role models. Your disdain for.the lgbtqi community comes through, Ty, and it feels manipulative.What is lacking seems to be any humbleness, or any attempt to .build bridges. You brush aside the.proposition 8 pain that was inflicted upon the.lgbtqi community by the mormon church, instead focussing on their reaction. You are smart, you know how to.write something so it will stick in.people’s minds. Your agenda is clear, even while North star officially states that it doesn’t promote mixed.orientation. marriages. I.don’t expect you to.publish this.

    • avatar

      Ty Mansfield

      Karen, I’m not sure what you’re even talking about. It seems like you’ve entirely missed the point of this post. I do not wish to demonize people in the LGBTQ community, and I certainly don’t feel disdain for the LGBT community as a whole. I do, however, feel disdain for double standards, and I don’t believe that calling out those double standards is manipulative.

      The whole point of this post was to be careful about how we “use” stories, either against ourselves or against others—and that applies to how folks may use mine or others’ stories in ways that may be coercive or hurtful. I think that’s wrong. I also ask and expect for the same respect from others who would “use” gay or post-MOM stories in ways that are manipulative. I think this is a huge blind spot of many in the LGBT community. I’m not clear about what ways you think I wasn’t humble here, but I would certainly like to see more humility there.

  2. avatar

    Jimmy Merrell

    Thanks Ty,

    This has been my journey. As I was counselled by Elder Bednar in a 4 hour meeting once, that I was not to write his words, but to write what the Spirit told me. I have applied that to my journey. I am a single man and may or may not get married in this life. I was also told by another General Authority Elder Hafen that being single would not preclude me from entering the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom and that is something that was confirmed to me as well by the Spirit. I think it is important not to look to the world for understanding about God. Thanks again for this reminder. ForeverSTRONG!

  3. avatar

    Karen

    Ty, thanks for responding. I understood the point of your post – and appreciate that you are suggesting that folks don’t use your story to coerce others. That was in there indeed. But it was clouded by, yeah, the disdain that you have. Even saying that you would like to see more humility ‘there.’ As you have said in the past, it is not the whole LGBTQI community that you are talking about, but the more ‘militant’ faction, not a word that I would use but it is a description but some would. My question remains about trying to understand the militancy, rather than pointing out how ‘they’ are not as humble as you are. I suggest again looking at reasons for the militancy – the hurt, the rejection, the terror faced by many gay people, most from the sounds of it. Now if there were a religion that was saying, hey, we are gay but we choose to live straight lives because we believe living a gay life to be fundamentally wrong, I could see why some in the gay community would lash out, absolutely. Does that make sense? No one in the TLC show says it, no one even in Voices of Hope videos says it but it is not for some innocuous reason that Mormon gay folks are choosing to live straight lives – it is because again, they feel that living a gay life is against God. Now if I’m gay and living a gay life, yeah, I’m going to react to that with all the ferocity that years of oppression and hatred have created in me. Instead of looking at the damage done to the LGBTQI community by Mormons (and again, yes, other religions), the response seems to be ‘why can’t they be more humble and more accepting of those of us who think the lives they are living are not right and not the path to true happiness’ rather than, and this is huge, attempting to make up for the years of oppression that has resulted in you know in many, many suicides. Does it make any sense at all to you that when you have gay people not living gay lives because they believe it is against God’s will and is evil, then just maybe people who are living gay lives are going to react at least a little bit negatively? I keep repeating this because it has never really been answered and I am really really trying to figure out why this is not clear. Gay Mormons may feel ‘oppressed’ by some in the gay community but certainly no more than the oppression that gay people have faced at the hands of the Mormon Church.
    As a side note, is it wise for gay men in straight marriages to be having sleepovers at their homes and camping with other gay men? This is surely akin to a straight married men doing the same with straight women or a straight married woman doing the same with straight men.
    And finally, I believe that one of the links on Northern Lights is to a blog by a young transgendered Mormon woman – she has been self-admittedly suicidal and it sounds like her ward is doing little more than telling her to stay out of the Relief Society meetings. From reading her blog, I am terrified for her. Can someone from Northern Lights – perhaps a transgendered person – reach out to her? I actually fear for her life. Thanks, Ty.