Charlie Bird: Coming Out and Coming Into God’s Light

Wed Jun 10 10:00:59 EDT 2020
Episode 84

In February 2019, Charlie Bird published an op-ed through the Deseret News that revealed two secrets: 1. He was the man underneath the Cosmo the Cougar suit that made national headlines and led NBC Sports to dub 2017–2018 the “Year of the Mascot.” 2. He is a gay member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Next month, Charlie will release a book called “Without the Mask,” and on today’s episode we talk with Charlie about what the gospel continues to teach him as he embraces a life that is very different than the one he planned for himself.

Connecting with God has helped me see that my faith and my orientation are not mutually exclusive. They are both integral parts of who I am and if I try to reject either one of those, I’m not really me.
Charlie Bird

Charlie Bird—the viral face of BYU during his years as Cosmo the Cougar—made waves across the nation in February when he came out and revealed to BYU fans that he is gay. Now, in Without the Mask, Bird reflects on how his identity has strengthened his testimony and how he views his sexual orientation in conjunction with his faith in Jesus Christ.

Alternating between memoir and teaching chapters, Bird's touching and authentic prose chronicles his decision to openly share that he is gay and to remain active in the faith. Highlighting the challenges Bird has faced along the way, the book also shares the blessings he's learned to recognize through his sexual orientation. Charlie feels deeply the importance of maintaining a relationship with God and hopes this message will "spark healing, bridge gaps of understanding and inspire hope" for other LGBTQ readers and those who love them.

Popular Videos of Cosmo Dancing:

Deseret News op-ed written by Charlie: "Guest opinion: Everyone loved me as Cosmo the Cougar, but would they love who I was behind the mask?"

Show Notes: 
2:31- Being Cosmo the Cougar
7:01- Coming Out to God
11:46- The Words We Use
14:55- The Joy of the Told Story
17:19- No One Right Way to Respond
22:12- “The Adversary Works Best in Darkness”
24:32- One Day at a Time
27:00- Daily Bread
28:58- “Bridle Your Passions”
31:59- Spiritual Work
34:09- Latter-day Saint and Gay—A Continual Effort
38:14- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Morgan Jones  0:00
In Charlie Bird's new book, Without the Mask, he begins with a letter to the reader and explains what inspired him to write. "I want to write a book that might help a dad better understand his son or give peace to a mother who has been crying herself to sleep at night. I want to write a book for the youth leader who isn't sure how to create a safe space for LGBTQ youth while still teaching true gospel principles. And for the bishop who doesn't know how to support families that are day by day breaking apart. I hope reading my experiences will spark healing, bridge gaps of understanding, and inspire hope." In short, Charlie concludes, "I pray that, for someone, this will be the book I never had."
Charlie Bird was Cosmo the Cougar at Brigham Young University from 2016 to 2018. He received national acclaim for his multiple dance performances with the BYU Cougarettes. As Cosmo, he performed on stages across the country, including the ESPN College Football Awards. NBC Sports dubbed 2017 to 2018 "The Year of the Mascot" in honor of Cosmo's character and performance. Charlie received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and is currently back in Utah to pursue a Master's of Social Work from BYU in an effort to become a licensed clinical therapist.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so excited to have Charlie Bird with me today. Charlie, welcome.

Charlie Bird 1:45
Thank you. I'm very excited to be here.

Morgan Jones  1:47
Well, I have looked forward to this conversation. I feel like I say that every week, and I genuinely mean it, but this one especially. This is a topic that I've wanted to tackle on this podcast for a long time, and I've just been waiting for the right opportunity. And, Charlie, you have written this incredible book, and I just am so excited for people to get their hands on it because I think that it is exactly what people need at this time, whether it be those who love people that are in your circumstance, or those that are in your circumstance. So the first question that I have for you is that the title of this book, Without the Mask, obviously ties in to how people best know who you are, which is that you were Cosmo—basically the Cosmo that went viral all over ESPN. So I wonder, how did your experience as Cosmo change your life? And ultimately, how did it inspire this book?

Charlie Bird  2:53
Yeah, I wish there was a way I could describe how much I loved being Cosmo. I mean, obviously, I love to dance and do flips and perform and connect with people, but the experience of Cosmo was so much more than that. And I got to represent something that's so much bigger than me and it was just so incredible. It really helped me grow into myself. The confidence I gained as the mascot was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. Another really big lesson I learned is that being myself is the best conduit to success. So when I wore the mascot suit, I would take on a character, but I found that I was best able to entertain and uplift people when I infused Cosmo with my real, uninhibited personality. And that's kind of what led me to start dancing with the Cougarettes. As far as inspiring the book, there was one experience I had as Cosmo that stuck with me, in a way very different from the usual excitement or thrill or meaning that came with the role.
I remember one football game, this little kid ran up to me and he had a little plastic football and he asked me to sign it for him, so I scribbled Cosmo's signature and we were passing it back and forth next to the concession stand. And his parents came up to me and we had a conversation—I say conversation—Cosmo can't talk. So it was mostly just me listening to them and kind of nodding my head. But they were talking about how much their son looked up to Cosmo and how all he wanted for his birthday was a poster of Cosmo. And the mom said to me, "Thanks for being such a good role model for our little boy." And as I was walking back down to the field after that, I couldn't help but think about the night before. I actually hadn't slept at all. I stayed awake through the whole night. And I was just laying there paralyzed with this fear, this worry, that I would never find true acceptance in my community because I'm gay.
It was so sobering to think that this very same community that made me feel most like a superstar was the one that made me feel most alienated. And this conversation with this mom of, "Thanks for being a role model to our little boy," I couldn't help but wonder if this family knew who I was without any masks, if they knew I was gay, would they hate me? Would they still let their son look up to me, knowing who I really am? I actually never planned on telling anybody I was Cosmo. I really liked that secret, and I wanted to keep it. And I also never wanted to come out publicly as gay. The way I saw it, the people who needed to know did, and I could just kind of live my life. But after I graduated, I could not stop thinking about that experience, and this weird dynamic of the same community that bolstered me and lifted me up as the mascot was the same one that caused a lot of pain.
I also couldn't stop thinking about myself at 14 years old, trying to figure everything out alone with no visible role models to give me any point of reference. So one day, this thought came to me that I should publicly come out as both Cosmo and gay. And I was like, "No, no, no, I do not want that." But I had a very profound conversation with my older sister. And I started praying about it. And I felt very strongly that God had given me such a large platform as Cosmo so that I could help with both of those things—to educate my religious community on how to better support LGBTQ individuals, and to give representation and a point of reference to other people like me, trying to reconcile faith and orientation. So shortly after coming out, I started writing.

Morgan Jones  7:00
Amazing. I have to tell you, one of my favorite parts of your book is the letter at the beginning that you write about why you wrote this book, and that it was the book that you wish that you'd had. And I think that that's such a pure motive for wanting to write something like this, because so many of us wish, for various reasons, that we could go back and be what our younger self needed at the time. But then to do it for someone else, I think is such a selfless, beautiful motives. So, Charlie, today we are going to talk about your sexuality. And initially, this is something that you really battled until you had an experience in the Washington DC temple—which is one of my favorite temples as well. Can you tell listeners about that experience? Because I think that can really set the stage for the conversation that we're going to have today.

Charlie Bird 8:01
Of course. I really like that you use the word "battled," because that's exactly what I did for a very long time. I spent the majority of my life fasting and praying for God to change me. And I would read pamphlets and do psychological exercises and just spend so much mental and emotional energy trying to purge myself of same-sex attraction. And it left me so exhausted.
After returning home from my mission, and realizing it didn't make me straight like I expected it to, I started to sink back into a really dark place. And at this time, LGBTQ issues were so prevalent and pressing, both in the Church and in society, and I couldn't escape it anymore. It just seemed like it was everywhere. And I felt confused. I kept looking around for someone to give me answers or tell me what to do, but all I found was more and more confusion. So one day I started thinking about a scripture—James 1:5, it's very well known, especially in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'd say arguably the most well-known scripture. But it says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let them ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not."
I realized at this moment that I had asked God to change my nature, but I had never asked for guidance or wisdom on what it was. Until that time, all of my prayers regarding my orientation were fear-based and formal, kind of like these desperate pleas for God to fix me and change me, because I'd always lived under this impression that God hated this part of me. Until that moment, I'd never before considered that maybe there was a purpose behind it. And I'd never even asked if I should accept my orientation, or how to better understand it.
So, I ended up saying that prayer in the Washington DC temple. I was on an internship for my undergrad living in DC and it became the most spiritual experience of my life. I essentially came out to God. I mean, I know that He already knew, but I had never come to the Lord with an attitude of, "Here I am, this is me, and I won't run away or hide from you anymore." As I prayed, I had this beautiful experience where the spirit testified to me that I was created by God. And I realized that He didn't hate me, and He wasn't ashamed of who I am, and He hadn't messed up when He made me. I felt so strongly that I have Heavenly Parents, that I really am a child of God. And that was something that was always really hard for me to believe.
It was hard for me to connect to God's love because I felt like there was no way He could love me. But as I was praying, I felt for the first time ever that He really did, and He knew me and understood me, and that there is the place for me in God's kingdom. This was a huge turning point for me. Honestly, it was the fulcrum of my whole life, because it taught me that I didn't need to be ashamed of who I am. But that I can move forward in faith, trusting that God knows my soul and that He can guide me on this journey to understand more about who I am and how to move forward.

Morgan Jones 11:44
Beautiful. Thank you so much. Charlie, you start the book by addressing a term that we often use within the church, which is the term "same-sex attraction." And I will be honest, even as I was introducing you it was hard for me not to use that term because that's the term that we traditionally use. But you talk at the beginning of the book about why you prefer "gay" to "same-sex attraction." Can you explain why that is?

Charlie Bird 12:15
Yeah. Initially, I also felt most comfortable identifying with the term same-sex attraction. It's also commonly referred to as SSA, like the acronym. And many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints identify that way. Initially, that term made my feelings seem safer and a little more manageable, but as I got older, I began to notice that for me, it made same-gender attraction feel like a temporary condition or a problem that was constantly chasing me, like this looming dark cloud that wasn't—I don't know, it just stressed me out, honestly. And I also began to notice that outside of a church setting, nobody really knew what it meant and the acronym was pretty unknown.
So that's kind of what led me to feel more comfortable identifying as gay. And I get that there's stigma that sometimes comes with that label, but I really like that gay is the only widely accepted term that implies my orientation without being solely focused on sex or sexual attraction. Sometimes people ask me why I need to label myself at all, and really it's just because labels are how we communicate information about ourselves. And it's often necessary for me to communicate this part of me. So I go with gay, because I want the way I describe myself to convey something more than just my physical attraction. It feels more representative of the essence of who I am. My romantic attraction, as well as how I interact with others and the way I perceive the world and unique aspects of my personality. So I guess when I began labeling myself as gay, I started putting less emphasis on sexual orientation, and more emphasis on all parts of who I am, and that just helped me feel a lot happier.

Morgan Jones 14:13
That's such a powerful explanation, and I think it's true of so many things in our lives. I just had a conversation the other night with a friend of mine and she was talking about how she had let herself be sad about one aspect of her life for the first time ever the night before, and she was like, "And then I instantly felt better." I think so many times, allowing ourselves to acknowledge something that we are experiencing, whether it's something good or something hard, is so powerful. So I love that you emphasize the importance of embracing all of that experience and letting that be a part of who you are.
In the book, Charlie, you write, "Maya Angelou once wrote, 'There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.'" And then you said, "Thankfully, I've also learned the inverse of Miss Angelou's words to be true. There is no greater joy than releasing the untold story inside you. By coming out and sharing my true self, I've found joy sweeter than I had ever imagined." And I found it interesting, Charlie, as I went through your book to realize how many of the different formative experiences throughout your last few years have been coming out to the people closest to you. And I wondered why that coming out—and I guess this kind of goes back to what you were just talking about with labeling, but—why is coming out important? And why are those experiences so sacred? They seem sacred to you.

Charlie Bird  15:51
I would say that absolutely they were sacred to me. And I hold them so dear to my heart. In fact, I never came out to anyone without praying about it first and I went in with a spiritual mindset. They are just so sacred and beautiful to me. I'm a firm believer that vulnerability builds connection, and when I was in the closet, I was hiding a lot of myself and putting up some really strong walls. And over time, that started to greatly affect my ability to connect with the people that I love the very most. I got to the point where I was hiding so much of my life that I couldn't be myself around my family and my friends. I was putting so much mental and physical and emotional and spiritual energy into trying to reconcile faith and orientation, and I was holding on to all of that alone, which made me feel like I had to basically live my whole life alone. I went through times where I experienced a lot of depression and self-loathing that were stemming directly from my orientation, and coming out allowed me to tackle those hardships with a support system. And it's so liberating and encouraging to be accepted as you are.

Morgan Jones 17:18
Yeah. One of the things that touched me the most as I read these different stories, whether it was with your sisters or your friend, the thing that impacted me was recognizing that there wasn't one right way to respond. And I loved how you kind of emphasized, especially with one of your sisters, you called it, what was it that you called it?

Charlie Bird  17:42
The "Anne Approach."

Morgan Jones 17:44
That's right. That's right. And I love that because I think, you know, the way that I would respond to a situation is different than the way that my sister would respond, but that doesn't mean that one of those ways is right and one is wrong. So I wondered if you could share a few of the things that your loved ones did to make you feel safe and loved when you did open up about this part of your life. And what did you learn from that about how our responses can be different, but that there are multiple right ways to respond in any given situation?

Charlie Bird  18:19
Yeah, I've had some pretty dramatic coming-out experiences with my family and friends—in different places, in different ways—and you're right, each one was a totally different conversation. I love the "Anne Approach," which I love joking with her too, because I'm like, "Anne, I'm going to tell everyone about the Anne Approach." Because it was so effective. So basically what she did, she just watched me and she knows me and she's emotionally intuitive. And she noticed the ways I was talking about girls I was trying to date and she just had this thought that I might be gay. And rather than coming to me and just kind of like blasting that on me and asking me point-blank, at the time I would have completely denied it, that would have been a terrible approach. But she just started studying and she was reading blogs and educating herself on how to best support gay members of our church. And at the same time, she would give me little hints that if I was gay, that I would be safe. She never assumed I was or put me on blast, but she did things, visibly, to show that her love was unconditional. And that made it very easy for me to come out to her when I was ready. Looking back, even though each one of my family members responded a little differently, there were some common themes that really helped me.
Things like expressing love, asking questions, and honoring agency. If I can just give a few examples, when I came out to my mom, she expressed perfect love, and I understood that there was nothing I could ever be or do or say that would make her recoil from me. And that helped me trust our relationship. And it was amazing to feel that Christlike love. It reminds me, actually, of a scripture in Moroni 8, where it says "Perfect love casteth out all fear." That's what my mom gave to me when I came out to her. I wouldn't say by contrast, because all of my family members showed me love, but when I came out to my dad—he had a hard time understanding a lot of things—but he really did his best to make sure we kept open communication. In fact, our initial conversation after I first came out to him lasted over six hours. And then, moving forward, we've had, honestly, probably thousands of conversations about who I am and what I feel and what I need. So him asking questions was so helpful for our relationship.
And then finally, this idea of honoring agency. I think of my little brother Sam. I came out to him while we were hiking Mount Kilimanjaro—and it's such a cool story—but there was this moment when it was finally kind of hitting him, and he said, "Well, what are you going to do?" And I was honest, I said, "I don't know." And what stuck with me most was that he said, "Well, you know what, I love you, and I don't care what you do, because I trust you." And I needed someone to say that. He didn't give me unsolicited advice or try to fix my life. He just told me that he trusted me to make my own decisions, and in my ability to follow the Spirit as I move forward. And that really helped me so much.

Morgan Jones  21:48
I think that's so cool. And I think it's so neat to see how these different people, they all responded in different ways. I think also, to your credit, like with your dad, where it is hard to understand on his end, that you were patient with him and gave him grace. And I think that that grace has to be given both ways. Charlie, you talk in the book about the danger of shame, and that, oftentimes, it's fear, guilt, and shame that can be even more harmful and painful than people's actual reaction. So dreading the way that people are going to respond that then causes even more pain than if you actually were to express these things. And so you talk about how Satan's desire is to have us keep these things inside of us, and to hang on to that guilt and that shame imagining up all the possibilities. Why do you think that that is so harmful?

Charlie Bird 22:49
I think the adversary works best in darkness. While Christ would have us come to the light and be united and faith-filled, Satan wants us to feel sequestered and alone. These feelings of worthlessness and doubt and confusion can get really amplified when they are tucked away and hidden. I've been blessed with an incredible, supportive, and understanding family. But before I brought my true self to light, the frame of reference I lived in was built out of fear—fear of rejection, and fear of disappointment. And Satan used that fear to keep me in the dark. And that's exactly what happened. I was so scared and paranoid and I would build up these fabricated scenarios, and it was so damaging to me. Like I said, when I actually did come out to my family, I was met with love and support and trust. And so, as I said previously, vulnerability builds connection, and in order to feel God's love and the love of others, I think a lot of times, we have to share some of the scarier parts of us. And I don't think that's just true for coming out as gay. I think that's universal. Hiding our struggles stems from the idea that love is conditional. And that, if someone knew something about us, they wouldn't love us anymore. But I don't believe that's how love works at all. God's love is unconditional. And I saw that when I finally stepped away from the shame and into the light.

Morgan Jones 24:28
Beautiful. Thank you so much. Another thing that I really loved in your book—you talk about how your parents were divorced. How old were you, Charlie, when your parents got divorced?

Charlie Bird  24:41
It was kind of a process from the ages of 13 through 19.

Morgan Jones  24:48
But you talk about how watching your mom's response to that divorce taught you several lessons, and one of those lessons that I especially loved was you talked about how she taught you to take things one day at a time. So rather than trying to worry about things way far in the distant future, to take each individual day, day by day, and I wondered why that lesson is particularly important, right now in your life.

Charlie Bird 25:20
Yeah, I feel like my future is pretty ambiguous. I mean, there's not really a roadmap, and historically, the plans I make for myself have changed very dramatically. I mean, I always planned on becoming straight and marrying a woman and raising a family. And that's like—that's not going to happen. But losing that ideal for my life was really, really difficult, and it left me pretty emotionally stripped, and it was easy to feel out of place and, again, start dwelling on fabricated, almost doomsday scenarios. My mom kind of had a similar experience after my parents got divorced, and I watched how taking things one day at a time really helped her to stay grounded and focus on what was most important.
There was so much faith in that approach. This idea of, of truly, wholeheartedly trusting in the Lord, I would have never imagined myself where I am now. In fact, back in the day, I considered it the worst thing ever, if anyone ever knew that I was attracted to men. But here I am, living a much happier and more fulfilled life, and I really believe that the only reason I got here was because God led me day by day. He gave me direction and inspiration and support as I was ready for it. And it took me to this really beautiful place. And there are still a lot of gray areas for me, and there probably always will be, but that's something I'm going to keep with me. Because I have faith that as I take things one day at a time, I will continue to be led where I need to be.

Morgan Jones 27:01
Charlie, I think that is such a powerful lesson. And it reminds me of Elder Christofferson's "Daily Bread" videos where he talks about how the Lord gave the Israelites just enough for each day to carry on. And I think that the Lord is trying to teach us something through that, which is that often he only gives us enough to get us through that day. And I know for me, there are some things in my life right now that are a little bit tricky, and sometimes I catch myself mourning things that are in the distant future when I don't actually know that that's how things are gonna play out.

Charlie Bird  27:43

Morgan Jones 27:44
And so it's like, "Why am I mourning that now?" I loved that principle in the book, and I think it's applicable regardless of what you're dealing with in your life. It's like, don't get ahead of yourself. Don't get upset, or allow yourself to get rattled or thrown off by these things that have not even happened, and may not ever happen.

Charlie Bird 28:07
You know, I think that might be strategic. Because if God would have told me five years ago that He needed me to be where I am now, I would have freaked out. I would not have been able to handle that at all. Like I said, it was the worst thing in the world for anyone to find out my secret. It really helps me trust that His view is so much more all-encompassing than my own, and that He's gonna take me where I need to go, and I don't have to worry about that scenario. Because the scenario of me coming out and divulging the secret was nothing like what I imagined it to be. It was something so beautiful, and sacred. And so, I'm glad that we just get daily bread.

Morgan Jones  28:56
Yeah, thank you so much. Another thing that I think is so cool is that you talk in the book about how you grew up around horses, and that that experience brought new meaning to a phrase in the scriptures that we hear a lot. But I had never thought about it the way that you talk about it in the book, and that is Alma's counsel to "bridle your passions." Can you share, Charlie, some of your thoughts on that and the things that you learned about what that means from working with horses?

Charlie Bird 29:27
Yeah, absolutely. When I was growing up, the scripture in Alma 38 that says "bridle all your passions" kind of became my personal mantra as I was trying to change my orientation. I was thinking like, bridle your passions, restrain them, strap them down, choke them out. But the thing is, that never worked. And it usually just made me feel crazy or out of control, because I was always still gay. When I was younger, my family had this horse named Buck, and he was my least favorite horse. We had like these wonderful, nice horses that I loved to ride, but then there was Buck and he was so powerful and headstrong, and he scared me so much. But eventually, as I got a little bit older, I learned how to ride him, and how not to fight against him, but how to use a bridle to guide him and work with him. And once I figured that out, all of his power and strength could be channeled into efficiency and grace and productivity, and he was such a good horse. So that experience kind of taught me that to bridle does not mean to forcefully restrain or suppress, but it means to guide in a healthy way and understanding that helped me start to move forward.
When I was trying to cut off a part of myself that I can't control, I always felt stagnant and exasperated, but once I started communicating with God and asking how I should accept and guide this part of me, I immediately began to feel an increase in love. In fact, that's exactly what Alma says. He says, "Bridle your passions that ye may be filled with love." And by doing that, and trying to accept who I am and guide it and set boundaries and always recalibrate and see where I'm at and where I'm going—that's actually shown me that, in a lot of ways, being gay can actually be a strength and a blessing to me.

Morgan Jones  31:31
So cool, and such a good analogy. It kind of goes back to that question that you realized that you had never asked in the Washington DC Temple of, "What do you want me to do with who I am?" and channeling that into something that's powerful. Because the Lord can use us just as we are, and I think that's such a cool analogy. In the book, Charlie, you write, "Each time I put in spiritual work and seek for God's answers without fear or hesitation, I receive guidance no matter how impossible my questions may seem." So I wondered, what does spiritual work and seeking look like for you? Because I think that looks different for all of us. And secondly, what have you learned about God's desire to communicate with us each individually?

Charlie Bird  32:26
With the risk of sounding a little cliche, I think, for me, a lot of spiritual work is just using the tools that I've been given and that I know how to use. Doing things like searching the scriptures and praying. But I have to do it in full faith that God loves me, and that He has answers for me. I have to have an unshakable knowledge that I can connect with God. And you know, the scriptures tell us, whoever we are, whatever we've done, God's hand is extended still. And that's why I said, "Seeking for God's answers without fear or hesitation." In the book, I shared the story about the first time I read the Book of Mormon through the lens of being a gay disciple of Christ. That experience was so powerful to me because it was incredible to see how the scriptures were able to help me gain really personal answers. And it sounds so wild that the Book of Mormon can give spiritual and practical advice to a gay man in New York City, but that's exactly what happened for me.
I felt so strongly that God wants to communicate with me. Occasionally I've received answers and it was almost like this feeling of, He'd just been waiting for me to ask. And I know that He wants to share things and help me on my journey. But I can't connect to that if I'm discounting an important part of who I am, or trying to hide things from him. But on the flip side of that, when I come to God in full transparency, believing that He loves me and will lead me, that's when I really start to connect and find guidance.

Morgan Jones 34:09
Thank you, Charlie. Another part of the book, which, I think this is one of the most powerful statements that you make, just because there was a part of me, as I was reading, where I was like, "Okay, so what are you going to do?" Kind of the same thing as your brother said, what are you going to do?
So in the book you write, "Some people might think I'm crazy, but I'm proud to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I cherish the sacred promises I've made to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ and build the kingdom of God. I know being gay means I will probably have to grapple with spiritual complexity, but so far the wrestle has made me stronger. Whether male or female, black or white, gay or straight, gospel truth resonates because all are children of God. I have many unknowns, but both the Lord and His called servants have assured me that there is a place for me in His Church. My faith outweighs my fears, and my desires outweigh my doubts."
Charlie, I think that is such an incredible statement and one that is powerful. I think we could break down every part of that statement and talk about it for a long time. But before we get to our very last question, I just want to ask you how you have come to reconcile those two things, and how that's a continual effort, because I imagine, it's not just like one day, it's not a one-time decision. It's something that you're constantly working out between you and the Lord. So how have you come to reconcile those two things?

Charlie Bird  36:14
Right. I want to thank you for recognizing that because it really is a continual effort. That almost goes back a little bit to the "daily bread" conversation we just had. That's probably my most asked question, "What are you going to do?" And honestly, I don't know if I can say exactly what my life's gonna look like, because my life looks nothing like I originally anticipated. But as far as how I reconcile faith and orientation, connecting with God has helped me see that my faith and my orientation are not mutually exclusive. They are both integral parts of who I am. And if I try to reject either one of those, I'm not really me. But accepting both of those, and seeing how they live together, and how they wholly occupy the same space, has given me the capacity to serve others in a very unique way.
I think it helps me be more Christlike, and it makes me rely on the Lord and it makes me think about how, "You know what, I'm in this ward, and I'm gay. So who can I connect with? Like, who needs gay Charlie in this ward? Who needs my ideas? Who can I connect with that maybe somebody else couldn't?" And I think when you take a step back, that's kind of what it's all about, right? Each of us helping one another and holding strong in the faith of Christ, who strengthens and lights and heals and uplifts us. So I don't know, I have a hard time saying exactly where I'm going to be. I never want to be a poster child or a benchmark, but I've felt called to share my story, and if it can be a point of reference for someone to latch on to and figure out more about themselves, that's really my ultimate goal.

Morgan Jones  38:14
Yeah. Charlie, I heard you speak a few months ago and I was so touched by this idea of being who you are, all parts of you. So you talked about different things that make up who you are. And I think that if we could all look at ourselves that way, and be like, "Heavenly Father made me this way, for this reason, and He wants me to be of service or of help to other people for this reason. He wants me to be an instrument in His hands for this reason," I think all of us would be better utilized by Him, and we would find greater fulfillment and greater joy. So I admire the way that you have sought to do that. To that point, Charlie, what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Charlie Bird  39:09
I really believe that Jesus Christ knows us personally. We say "the atonement," but the atonement is the power of Jesus Christ. It's His knowledge of who we are and shared experiences in our lives. And I trust so wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ knows exactly who I am, and what it's like to be me and because of that, He knows how to help me move forward. So to me, being all in means constantly seeking to improve and come closer to Jesus Christ. Living the gospel means trusting that Christ really is my personal Savior, and understanding that peace and strength come through His power. It means reaching out and being brave and extending grace and treating everyone as who they are: a divine child of Heavenly Parents.

Morgan Jones 40:08
Charlie, thank you so much for sharing that with us. And thank you so much for being so open about your whole story. I think that this is an important message, and I think that it will bless so many people's lives, so thank you.

Charlie Bird  40:23
Thank you.

Morgan Jones 40:26
We are so grateful to Charlie Bird for sharing his story on today's podcast. You can find Charlie's book, Without the Mask, in Desert Book stores on July 27, but it is available now for preorder on desertbook.com, and you can get a 15% discount code when you preorder the book. Thank you to Derek Campbell of Mix at 6 Studios for his help with this episode, and thank you for listening.
Please join us again next week, and in the meantime, if you've enjoyed what you've heard from this podcast, please leave us a review or a rating on Apple Podcasts. We love you and we'll be with you again next week.

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