My brother sent me a rough cut of a soon-to-be-published latest YouTube video. I watched it, and immediately sent him a list of tips for talking to the media.
It was obvious -- his video was going to go viral.
A few days later, "A Gay Mormon Coming Out," was released on YouTube, where my brother announced that he has same-gender attraction, but plans to continue living as a faithful member of the LDS Church, even if it means being celibate for the rest of his life.
His unique and courageous video instantly landed him national interviews with well-known TV programs, radio stations, and publications, and suddenly my brother was in the public spotlight. It didn't hurt that he had filmed friends' and family members' reactions as he told them he was gay. My mom's jaw literally dropped, which is hilarious, regardless with what you believe about the Church.
When my brother first told me he was gay (the term he prefers, so I will use it), it wasn't nearly as important as my follow-up question: "What does this mean for your beliefs in the LDS Church?"
His answer was simple. "I know it's true. I can't deny it." Then he proceeded to tell me that unless he was inspired to do otherwise, he planned to live a celibate life.
My little brother always planned to have lots of kids. He talked about it all the time -- how he wanted a big family. And here he was, going through a trial that was just now being more openly addressed in Mormon culture, that literally made his dreams of a large family seem impossible in this life. Today, he walks BYU's campus as a sort of unique crusader, where many Mormons can't grasp how he could possibly be gay, and others can't grasp how he could possibly be Mormon. He's stuck between two worlds of misunderstanding.
He walks that path because he knows this Church is true, and he believes in the The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
I always believed in the proclamation, but now it took on new meaning for me. Do I believe in its teachings so strongly that I would forgo my dreams in this life in order to be blessed with one in the eternities? After some major soul-searching, I can thankfully answer, yes. But I may never know courage like that of my brother.
"All human beings, male and female—are created in the image of God"
All of us.
"Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny."
Each of us.
"Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
Gender is part of our purpose.
"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."
I feel the Spirit when I read those words, as does my brother.
My brother is quiet now about his dreams of having children and a companion in this life, because he believes he'll have a chance in the next. For now, he concentrates on bringing comfort to other Mormons who feel same-gender attraction, so they know they're not alone. He finds joy in sharing his talents, bearing his testimony, and thinking about a future with Italian greyhound puppies (the deer/rat breed our family loves to pieces), as well as being the best uncle he can be... to, uh, my sister's kids. Mr. Right hasn't shown up on my doorstep yet, so fingers crossed Captain Moroni has a hot brother waiting for me in the next life.
My brother and I were both raised in an amazing family that was centered around our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and because of that, our foundation through trials is that much stronger. Sure, it's not perfect (water balloons in the face or a punch in the gut were known to happen on occasion), but it's clear to us that our family is an incredible blessing.
Families set a firm foundation. Families are inspired and ordained of God. I'm so grateful to be a part of the Lord's eternal family.
What Mormons Believe: Families
And then, after taking up too much of her time already, I had the nerve to ask her if she would consider writing a guest post for the Family Proclamation Celebration, and just maybe consider doing what she does like no one else: make a video about the Proclamation? To my utter astonishment, she accepted without hesitation!
Initially, I approached Jolie because from what I could tell, her "What Mormons Believe" videos weren't circulating where I would generally have taken notice, and they needed to be! She does an exceptional job to help educate others about Mormon beliefs, in an incredibly entertaining way.
I later came to find out that Jolie writes and produces each one herself. Alone. In her backyard - extremely professional I might add. With that, I set out with the intent to expose my readers to her delightful work on YouTube. And now, you know. (read bio below)
Now, don't let me give the impression that Jolie's videos aren't being seen - quite the opposite. Just this past June, after only four months of going public, her YouTube channel, What Mormons Believe, hit 100,000 views! And let me just say, I'm not surprised in the least. Currently, as of this posting, she has 1674 YouTube subscribers.
I sat down with Jolie over dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, which is just around the corner from Disneyland where she was working that day. Three hours of in-depth conversation with Jolie Hales was simply not enough. I'm pretty sure I did more talking than she did.
Jolie is one of the most vibrant and fascinating young LDS women I have ever met, willing to use her gifts to build the kingdom of God, by speaking truth boldly and nobly. I was uplifted after spending our time together, getting to know about her, her family, and finding out what makes her who she is today.
We share, passionately I might add, a desire to boldly and credibly educate others about the Mormon faith, and a willingness to take on the more sensitive issues surrounding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when necessary. (You can just imagine our conversations.) Except that Jolie does it with so much more poise and flare! She is beyond adorable, but more important she is incredibly articulate when sharing her beliefs with those not of our faith. I'm so incredibly happy to have met her and spent the time I did to get to know her. I feel blessed to now consider her a true Sister in Christ, and a friend for life.
I would encourage you to watch all of her videos, paying close attention to her matter-of-fact style, and speaking in ways that non-members can understand, which will help you better explain some of the more 'touchy' parts of Mormonism, to your own family, friends, and those you come in contact with, who might ask you difficult questions. (15 currently) I only see positive things happening, as we all become more comfortable speaking about our faith, and particularly those parts that affect the family.
Jolie Hales grew up in Utah, where she received her Bachelor of Arts from Weber State University studying electronic media and vocal performance. Her love for visual storytelling soon drew her to California, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts in film directing from Chapman University.
Since her youth, Jolie has written and directed a number of films earning her awards at festivals around the globe, including a Student Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation for her short film, Latter-day Fake, a comedy about a guy who pretends to be a Mormon after falling in love with a Mormon girl. Jolie loves musical theater, and has twice performed the role of Mary in Savior of the World, and she wrote the script for an original Irvine Stake production, The Errand.
Jolie recently finished a two-year term as Ambassador of the Disneyland Resort, which enabled her to appear in hundreds of television and radio interviews around the globe. Her familiarity of being both behind and in front of the camera combined with her testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led her to create the new YouTube channel, "What Mormons Believe," where she explains the matter-of-fact truths behind LDS beliefs in a light-hearted, personable tone. She currently resides in Orange County, California, with her two mini greyhounds, Savvy and Comet.