Ty and Danielle Mansfield on their wedding day in 2010.
In 2003, Ty Mansfield wrote an essay for a class at BYU about how he—a member of the LDS Church who has experienced same-sex attraction—had found peace through the gospel of Jesus Christ. That essay resulted in a book, In Quiet Desperation, that made Ty's private struggle public. In 2011 he published an anthology on the same topic, Voices of Hope: Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Same-Gender Attraction.
Same-sex attraction is a sensitive and complex issue. We feel it is important to try to understand how we can better meet the needs of friends, family, and Church members who experience SSA. Ty and Danielle graciously shared the following story as a first step in creating a more open dialogue about same-gender attraction in the LDS community. We are in no way suggesting marriage is a catch-all solution; we recognize everyone’s experience is different. This is simply one man’s story of finding fulfillment and happiness while living in harmony with the gospel.
I hadn’t originally intended to be so open about my feelings of same-sex attraction. When I was first approached about the possibility of including some thoughts in In Quiet Desperation, I was hesitant. Although I had worked through a crisis of faith around the issue and felt a lot of peace, I was quite private about whom I opened up to. I still felt some shame given the cultural taboo around it and I was concerned about how people would respond.
However, I also knew that through my experience I had gained some spiritual insights I hoped could be of help to others. I agreed to tell my story with the assumption that, if it were published, I would use a pseudonym. I felt trust in the love the Lord had for me and in the path I was on, but I didn’t have the same trust in people, given the climate of cultural attitudes around this issue. The thought of blowing the doors off my privacy felt so overwhelmingly vulnerable that I just didn’t feel I could go there.
As the book was going through the editing process, the theme of being a witness started to show up more frequently in my personal scripture study. I kept thinking of Alma’s declaration that covenant disciples are to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [they] may be in” (Mosiah 18:9). The Spirit impressed upon me that the power of my witness would be diminished if I used anything other than my real name. I felt there was only one right choice for me in that particular situation.
I had pretty much concluded that I probably wouldn’t marry in this life, and I had come to a place where I was okay with that. I had let go of any personal or cultural pressure to marry and was content to stay single. Then I had an experience in which I felt prompted to continue to prepare myself spiritually and emotionally for the blessing of marriage and leave the rest to the Lord. As much as I felt I wouldn’t marry, I tried to leave it an open question and to trust in God. I felt good about that spiritually, but I continued to experience some emotional ups and downs.
Some time after that, I was earnestly seeking additional divine guidance. I was feeling frustration around some deep emotional connections I had developed with another guy, and it hurt that I couldn’t have what a part of me really wanted. I needed some spiritual reassurance. It was general conference time, so I wrote down some of my most heartfelt questions and went into the Saturday morning session fasting.
As soon as the opening prayer was given, I was completely enveloped by this spiritual feeling. I hardly remember anything that was said during the session, but the feeling was unlike anything I’ve ever felt. For nearly two hours, all the hurt, the pain, the confusion, the frustration were completely gone. In their place was this feeling of divine love I had also never experienced. As a part of that, there was a feeling of what I perceived as pure celestial love and desire to be with a daughter of God in the most holy, connected, and uniting of ways. The world’s portrayal of love and romance seemed so shallow and “false” in comparison. With the feeling came the words: “Just stay with me. If you do, this is the feeling you will someday feel—and it will be a permanent part of your being.” And then suddenly, as the end of the session approached, the feeling left. I didn’t know how I would eventually grow into that feeling as an integral part of my being, but I trusted that God would lead me there.
I experienced some gradual change over time as I continued to try to stay close to and be led by the Spirit and as I sought other various means of personal growth. As I did so, I went from believing I probably wouldn’t marry in this life, to believing I probably would marry but later rather than sooner, to then believing it would be sooner rather than later, until I finally met Danielle and had a strong impression that she was the woman I would marry.
In this area and so much of my life, I feel I’ve had to live the principle President Boyd K. Packer taught of going to “the edge of the light and [stepping] into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two” (That All May Be Edified (1982), 340). We have to put Him first today, taking the necessary steps of faith today, and simply trust Him to take care of tomorrow. It’s only been through my learning and living that principle that the Lord has slowly been revealing to me His plan for my life.
© LDS Living, May/June 2012.