I re-read Ty Mansfield’s introduction to the Voices of Hope video series yesterday and felt all my muscles tensing and had to stop. It isn’t all bad, but it isn’t all good, because it is incomplete. The conceit of the website’s introduction seems to be based on the common yet limited supposition that everyone can sustain a healthy lifestyle by strict accordance with current LDS Church policies and procedures around sexuality. This begs the question: Should the goal for this life be strict obedience or sustainable mental health? This seems to be a fundamental difference of thinking, within the LDS-LGBTQI/SSA community. (Tangential question: Is sustainable health, a concern of mortality alone and therefore less important than obedience in an eternal sense?)
And that’s not to say that they are mutually exclusive . It is clear that for some, strict obedience is part of a sustainable healthy lifestyle. And for others, it is not. For some, strict obedience means a kind of solitude that is demonstrably detrimental to long-term health. For others, strict obedience is the only way that they will be able to live with themselves, literally. So which should be the #1 priority, health or obedience?
It seems the best service we can do for one another across the LDS-LGBTQI/SSA spectrum is to help one another understand ourselves well enough (via dialogue and personal revelation) to really feel self assured in knowing what our own #1 priority is and why it is. And to help remove the shame and guilt around those for whom obedience and health are mutually exclusive. And to not shame or guilt those for whom they are not mutually exclusive. The deeper point is that we need to be supportive of each individual according to their unique idiosyncratic needs, temperaments, dispositions, genes, etc that impact their way of managing the tension between the demands of health and obedience.
In his intro to the VOH series, Ty says, “there is an ever-increasing need for “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who can speak about positive and healthy alternative responses to same-sex sexuality than what is portrayed as possible in the popular discourse.” While I agree with his assessment that there is a need for more voices to tell their own stories, I am uncomfortable with his polemical conceit that his project needs to exist as a means of opposition to others’ stories. That either-or thinking has got to stop. It is the problem. If someone has found a sustainable confluence of health and obedience, great for them! But let’s take the time to carefully understand what it is about them that makes these two objectives work together. What unique aspects of their life and psyche allow them to make it work? And what unique aspects of others’ lives and psyches make the confluence of the two priorities untenable? Granted, this line of thought and questioning also pushes into the tough question of whether or not the gospel as presently constituted really is a one-size-fits-all gospel. That is an uncomfortable question for us Mormons, but tough questions are what push the restoration along and invite the mysteries of the kingdom to be unfolded. (D&C 42:61, 65)