A Personal Introduction to the Voices of Hope Project
by Ty Mansfield
While I’m thrilled with the success of the book Voices of Hope: Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Same-Gender Attraction that I compiled and which was published by Deseret Book in the fall of 2011, 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.
The book has a fantastic array of inspirational messages from respected gospel writers as well as Latter-day Saint men and women who have direct and personal experience with the issue of same sex attraction-and there are many more stories to be told.
As a compiler it was agonizing to try to pick and choose from the many faithful voices that could be included in the quite limited space the publishing constraints of the printed word naturally have. And even the essays I had to choose from I now know are a mere drop in the bucket. Since the publication of my first book, this most recent book, and LDS Living magazine’s publication of my wife’s and my story, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have since contacted me to let me know that they have a similar story. What a difference from the day when, as a young BYU student coming to terms with my shame and isolation around this issue, I had difficulty finding anyone faithfully living with this experience. There are many, many other stories out there that need to be told, and there’s a growing number of people desirous and ready to share them.
Expanding the Cause
In order to best solicit, curate, and promote these faithful voices, North Star International, along with some motivated sponsors, have launched LDSVoicesofHope.org where we have video testimonies as well as an expanding collection of written personal essays.
We have engaged a talented and experienced production team to help with the project and on Friday, August 31st 2012, filmed the first set of individuals and couples—with many more to follow. Our initial goal is for the website to be a repository of a thousand voices of faithful Latter-day Saints dealing with these issues, sharing their stories and their faith—why they’ve chosen to embrace the restored gospel and how they’ve found peace and resolution in that decision.
The following is the introductory video that is also included on the homepage of the website:
Purpose of Voices of Hope
While homosexuality is a sensitive, complex, and controversial issue, my conviction is that there is a way to respond this issue in the way I believe our Eternal Heavenly Father desires of us: with both heartfelt compassion and uncompromising devotion to eternal principles. We accomplished that with the book, and I believe we can continue to do so with the even more ambitious Voices of Hope website.
Under the umbrella of North Star International, a non-profit educational organization, this initiative’s purpose is to provide a vehicle for those individuals who not only have found answers in the gospel of Jesus Christ to address the role of same-sex attraction in their lives but to share their stories of process, strategy, setbacks, joys, struggles and triumphs as a means to help others along their own journey toward a similar outcome and the banner of their true identities as children of our Heavenly Father.
One of the benefits of new web technologies is the entire process can be collaborative and conversational, rather than in a one-way format of traditional media. Rather than a speech, it becomes a conversation. People coming to the site to seek guidance can, in return, add their own witnesses to those already on the site. People whose stories are posted to the website may choose to allow their readers (or viewers) to contact them or post questions.
Our plan, and our earnest prayer, is that this site will inspire, uplift, guide, motivate, educate and, at its highest and best sense, ultimately help save lives of those who have falsely and tragically come to believe that, for happiness in this life, they must choose between extremes. We hope the site will eventually be a living testament and echo of the prophet Elisha’s hopeful cry, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (see 2 Kings 6:15-17). Not only are there hosts of people on this side of eternity who live and are willing to share their witness of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel, but there are hosts on the other side of eternity who stand as “angels round about [us], to bear [us] up” (D&C 84:88), championing our cause.