I spend a fair amount of time at the gym. Working out has become part of my spiritual practice for me–it’s an almost meditative state where I can simply ”be” in my own body, and when I use my earphones I can play music that helps me feel insulated and private even when I’m in a room full of other people. I find as I exercise my body, my thoughts become more distinct, my motives become more clear, and I am better able to respond kindly to those around me because I am more centered.
Once in awhile, I get interrupted by well-meaning personal trainers offering advice on technique and form when I’m working out. Sometimes they’re right, but sometimes they’re not. Either way, I’m invariably surprised when someone approaches me and shares what they see to be the definitive right answer to a question I’ve never asked them. I can understand their motives, because once upon a time I, too, was someone who was certain I had the right answer for everyone’s problems and I was compelled to share that right away! Suffice to say, my certainty and need to be right didn’t always score me a lot of points with the humans around me. One thing I learned is unsolicited advice is seldom welcome.
Sometimes the same thing is true of those of us inside faith communities, including Mormonism. Based on fierce certainty that our way is the right way, and our God is the right God, we can feel entitled to share our enlightenment with those around us without considering the question, ”Did they ask?”
What works better for me today is striving to embody the peace and mindfulness I get from my spiritual practice and staying close to my Savior–while allowing others the dignity to walk their own path. Sometimes it means people will ask my opinion about things of a spiritual nature or beyond, and sometimes not. Either way, for me, it’s more like living a gospel of attraction instead of a gospel of promotion. After all, I try to look to my Savior in all things, and one of His mantras was, ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” It certainly wasn’t, ”I stand at the door and shout and will continue until you open up and do things my way, and if you don’t open it I’ll shout even louder!!”
When I’m at my best–meaning I’m really putting the principles of my spiritual practice into my actions, words, and deeds–I’m a lot better equipped to deliver the message my Savior would have me deliver, and I’m pretty certain He’ll bring the people into my life who may learn from me–and me from them.
I continue to learn to be honest with myself. I will not use my spiritual practice as an excuse to change others or tell them how to live. They have a Savior too, and it’s not me. Trying to control how other people think and act disrupts my spiritual center and moves me away from my Savior. Instead, I strive to promptly admit my missteps and then put the focus back where it belongs: on me and my connectedness with my Savior.
Besides, I’m starting to believe that how I respond to someone’s lack of interest in any message I might deliver is a far more powerful demonstration of my commitment to my Savior than any lengthy (and unasked for) testimony I could deliver.
Today, I will strive to bring my spiritual practice to life in my thoughts, words, and deeds–and allow others the dignity to walk their paths without my interference. Only when my focus is on my own spiritual growth can I genuinely be who my Savior wants me to be–for myself or anyone else.
I am Mitch Mayne. I am an openly gay, active Latter-day Saint.
I was raised in Idaho, and baptized into the Mormon Church when I was eight. I left the church for many years, due in large part to my parent’s divorce. In my mid-20s, I returned to the church of my own accord, knowing full well that I was gay, and that someday I would have to find a way to reconcile my sexual orientation with my faith.
For many years, I was fractured: I believed I was a man with a foot in two worlds, and that I belonged in neither. But as I’ve grown in my testimony of my Savior and my confidence in who I am, I’ve come to understand myself as a man with a foot in two worlds–who very much belongs in both. From August 2011 through November of 2013, I served as the executive secretary of the bishopric of the Bay Ward within the San Francisco Stake.
I currently remain an active, happy and whole gay Mormon–just the way I am.