Cedric De Concordia

Since participating in the Voices of Hope project last November 2012, I have experienced a renewed faith, strength and courage to share my story with more within my circle of close friends and eventually with all of my friends and relatives on Facebook. The responses, received since my video was posted, have been overwhelmingly positive. Friends in the Church whom I met more than a decade ago and who have moved away suddenly wrote me to tell me how proud they were of me and how my story has helped them understand more of the Atonement and the Lord's tender mercies for His children. One of them particularly touched me. A brother from our stake wrote me an email after watching my recording with his wife. We did not know each other that well. We would just politely say hi to each other other at stake conferences, or activities. He shared with me how my video has helped him and his wife to feel more hopeful for their young son who is also experiencing same-gender attraction and has come out to the family not too long ago. I have not expected anything of this nature when I followed the prompting to to go Utah to record my story with Voices of Hope. I did not expect to have this kind of reach. This experience has taught me the ever importance of owning our life story and of sharing it with whoever wants to hear it. By so doing, I and them are uplifted and inspired in ways not thought of up until then. Thank you to the crew that works tirelessly and sacrifices of their precious time to make this God-inspired Voices of Hope Project possible. You have given us a voice. You have given us and the world hope!



A Reader's Feedback

While most of our recent postings have been related to the Voices of Hope website project, it was the book that started it all and for which this FB page was originally established.

The following is some reader feedback from Berea Mama via Amazon.com January 15, 2013 5 of 5 Stars:

"My mother in law had me purchase this for my husband. He loves it. He feels like he has finally found a place in the church, that someone understands everything he goes through. This book is helping him strengthen himself and move forward. He is learning the things he needs to move away from unwanted SSA and live the life he wants to. Thank you, Ty Mansfield, for standing up and being one of the solitary voices brave enough to publicly speak about SSA!"



Brandon's Experience

Brandon, a young man who recently saw the Voices of Hope Project preview video with Blake Fisher, shared the following with us about how the Blake's story impacted his life:

I want to share two experiences I had that are a testimony to the power of the Voices of Hope Project.

First, I decided to share the video on my family's private Facebook page. I felt like this would be a good opportunity to open up the dialogue. Many members of the family have held some false ideas and misconceptions about SSA and people who experience it because of an Uncle who broke apart his family and turned his back on Temple covenants to pursue a gay lifestyle. I was pleasantly surprised by the response to my post from several individuals, but particularly touched by this comment from one family member:

"I think these sites would help my cousin. Could you send me the link to the full interview when you have access? I'm excited that the church is putting out so many loving messages. He's probably my favorite cousin because he's the most tender and loving boy I know. If I had one wish for him it would be that he could feel the full power of the love Heavenly Father has for him. Your friend sounds really great and brave."

Here is at least one soul that will be touched by these efforts.
The second experience actually does not belong to me, but to my girlfriend. She has talked to her parents a lot about SSA because of several of our close friends who experience it, and also because of our involvement with organizations, such as North Star. Her Dad initially had very little understanding about SSA and was less than thrilled at some of our connections with people who experience it. After he watched Blake's video, something in him completely changed. He had a newfound love and understanding that we agree could have only come from the Spirit.

I am excited to see what will happen with the project as the ripples begin to spread. I believe this project is inspired of God to help all people, not just those with SSA, to gain a more complete understanding of the love God has for them.



"We are all in this together"

Michael, a participant in the Voices of Hope project, wrote this today on his newly created blog:

Life is like Christmas everyday. we just need to notice the presents that Heavenly Father delivers to us on a daily basis.

I hope everyone feels the same way. I hope that you wake up everyday seeing the beauty of the world. Seeing how lucky and fortunate we are. To have the privileges we do. To have the amazing families and friends that we have. the freedoms....the luxuries. It's amazing! He spoils us rotten! I say we thank him as often as we can! we need to be better at seeing all our many wonderful blessings! life is wonderful. i truly believe life is supposed to be hard and grueling.. but we're supposed to find joy in it. That's our task...to live righteously, and to find joy in the tough times.

It is no secret that I have battled what many call "Same Gender Attraction" for many years. I still to this day hate that name. The name has an uncomfortable feel to it. It also makes it sound like that is all you're attracted to. Am I attracted to males? Yes. I am just as attracted to females. What is attraction? What defines it? Can you only be attracted to one thing? I say, no. I am attracted to many things... kindness, patience, tolerance, humility, strength, and compassion. The list could continue. Am I also attracted to physical things? I sure am. I find fitness to be attractive. People who make an effort to present themselves in their best light. All of these things are "attractive". So I don't like to label myself with "Same Gender Attraction" otherwise I would need a big deep breath and fast tongue to label myself that I have.... "male-female-kindness-generosity-faith-optimism-honest-caring-thoughtful-cheerful-serving-attraction". Many years ago I decided to open up and reach out to those who were battling this "Same Gender Attraction". That was over 3 years ago. During that time in my life I was facing many false rumors so I decided that if people wanted to talk about my life and the way I chose to live it, I would tell them about it in my own words and not allow others to taint it or spread faulty assumptions. Since then, I have met some of THE most incredible people. I am honored to say that I have formed healthy relationships. I have been able to reach out and find those who felt they were suffering alone. I was able to make then feel comforted...make them feel loved. Let them know that there is someone else out there who understands the confusion and fear. I know that, through these bonds with others, my life has been blessed. I know that in return, I have blessed theirs. I truly believe that through being open and honest about the things we weren't sent to face and struggle with in our own lives... that we should reach out and find those who are in the same boat. We are REQUIRED to lift one anothers burdens. We are ALL brothers and sisters. We are all sons and daughters of a loving and gracious Heavenly Father who created us and allowed us the wonderful opportunity to come to Earth and gain a body. Heavenly Father knew that when we were sent down here to Earth that we would suffer. That we would feel pain and anguish. He knew that Satan was going to do all he could to try and make sure that we dont return back to live with the one man who loves us most. So I ask you this. Have you been trying to be Christ-like? Or have you been influenced by the powerful adversary who will not sleep until we are brought down to his level? Have you been tricked into forming unhealthy or unkind habits that could be hurting one of your brothers or sisters? Think about that.

Everybody loves a good story. Everyone loves a juicy tid-bit of information. I am one of those people. However, there is a difference between a good story and gossip. One uplifts and provides entertainment, the other, destroys relationships and reputations. Gossip is the poison of mankind. Gossip is the one thing that can spread faster and hurt more people than a fire or natural disaster."

My name is Michael Scott Sandberg. I am not a perfect individual. I am flawed with weaknesses and temptations. I have been spoiled rotten by all the many blessings I have received. I have incredible talents. My abilities in tennis, cooking, baking, photography, and being a good friend have all surpassed my expectations. I have been blessed with an incredible family who is a loving support system for me. They are my rock. They are my source of comfort and strength. I have been blessed with the worlds most amazing friends. People who see the individual as a whole, and not just as something that is a part of me but doesnt make me who I am. I choose to be, who I want to be. I set the rules. So who do I choose to be? I am a defender of truth. I am an example. I am a light and a source of strength. I am fearless. I am caring, thoughtful, generous, fun, resilient, faithful, and strong. I am a firm believer in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With the knowledge, guidance, and comfort that I have gained from going to church faithfully each week as well as the direction provided from my patriarchal blessing, I KNOW that I will succeed in life. I know that I will become an incredible husband and father. I know that there is someone special out there for me. Who will look at me, and love me for who I am. She will be a source of comfort and love. She will be my rock and will be the remaining pieces of the puzzle that I am missing in my life. She will complete me. She will be the mother of my children. I cannot wait to be a father. I can't wait to be in love or to share my life with someone for eternity. Do I come with weaknesses and flaws? I do. Who doesn't? I deserve to be happy.

"We are all in this together. Don't waste your time trying to bring down others or make their life harder. Seek out to help those who might need help or a friend. Be the type of person you wish was in your own life. Stop the suffering. Love One Another."



"Turning Weaknesses into Strengths."

Of the Voices of Hope project, one man just sent the following post which he entitled "Turning Weaknesses into Strengths."

For the last year, I have felt my hope draining out of me. The sunset of my life was happening as I was nearing 30 and I did not know how to prepare for the 60 years or so of night time.

I had worked hard to accomplish my goals. I was a great student. I learned and mastered instruments. I served a mission. I came home and finished a Bachelors and a Masters Degree. During that busy time, I served faithfully in the church in many callings. I met hundreds of people and tried to make their lives better. I bore my testimony and tried to follow the Spirit to teach and serve them. I got a job and started earning enough money that I could pay off all my debts and start saving for a house.

All the way along, I worked on the goal of ridding myself from same gender attraction. I thought that if I was good enough and determined enough, I could make it go away. I went on tons of dates, trying to find the girl that would be my match and I could get married. I kept it secret, only telling a few friends and leaders when I couldn't bottle up everything anymore. I felt shame and embarrassed knowing that within a few years, I would have to explain myself. I would have to admit that I'm not a normal man. I would have to face the fact that I would not be getting married. I would no longer be able to be the strength to others as I had been. Everything that I had done to build my life to what it was would be wasted because I had failed in creating a family and moving forward with the plan of salvation. I was stuck. I did not believe in leaving the church. I did not believe in committing suicide. I did not believe in living a homosexual lifestyle. Although all of these starting crossing my mind as choices I could make.

I was mad that the Atonement would not change me. Why have faith in it if it couldn't change me and fix me? Why work so hard at loving others, when I loved the wrong way and could not be loved in return. Why was there not a spot for me? Why was I meant to be lonely, depressed, and losing my mind? Why was I sinking into giving into temptations that would only lead me to more frustration and self loathing? I was holding on to my hollow life, still working, still serving in callings, still making friends and pretending I was okay.

That is where the Lord came to get me, to bring me back, and to giveme Hope and purpose in my life again. A bold friend got involved inthe Voices of Hope project and was not afraid to post it for all tosee on Facebook. For days, the Spirit brought me to see those postsand prompted me to send him a message. I was scared, but I sent amessage to open the door. He responded with love and acceptanceinviting me to come meet friends doing interviews for Voices of Hope the next day. The timing was perfect. I decided that I would go andmeet them. Their testimonies were strong, their faces were smiling,they were full of contagious hope. I caught on quickly and loved beingthere with them. I did not want to leave. I came back the next day andthe day after that. They had no shame or embarrassment. They stillrealized the blessings of this life and were able to communicate themto me so that I could see them clearly too.

This was a changing point for me. One that I still don't fullyunderstand other than that I know that I have no reason to feel shame.I can still grow and change certain things in my life that will bringme more happiness even though I cannot take away the burden. I couldbe strengthened to carry it. I could help strengthen others to carryit as well as any other burden that life had placed upon them. I saw afew steps ahead of me again, and that has given me the courage to press on and try again.

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