Thursday, March 15

The Mask of Anonymity

Elder Cook gave a CES Fireside a few weeks ago that caused me to take pause. I was live-tweeting the event with some of my Twitter friends, using the hash tag #CESFireside. It seemed like it was going to be a good fireside. And then Elder Cook started talking about anonymity. 

The tweet I wrote says, "Elder Cook tells us to avoid any pretext of anonymity. That strikes home. I'm anonymous." And it only began to outline the thoughts that raced through my mind.

Elder Cook's talk focused on how anonymity could give people a mask behind which they could hide their identity... a mask that falsifies their persona and makes it seem like "no one else will know." It's the mask of pornography, of online chat rooms, of nameless hook ups, and one night stands. A mask that turns people into demons. And, in order to combat the issue at hand, he asked us to unmask.

Within the hour, I saw his counsel begin to be applied in the social world. A handful of Twitter accounts changed names to be real ones instead of pseudonyms. Avatars changed to match real people. It's telling that I even noticed; I don't follow anyone on Twitter.

I found myself wondering what this talk meant for me, and, at large, for all of us. Elder Cook did say, "Don't wear your heart on your sleeve or be superficial," but I still found myself wondering if it meant I had to drop my anonymity, if only because I didn't want to be someone who rejects the words of the prophets simply because I don't think they apply.

Before I went to sleep that night, still somewhat distraught, I prayed for guidance... for the ability to understand what Elder Cook meant, and the Lord's will for me.

In doing so, I had to honestly take stock of my emotions. Would I be willing to open my heart and soul and name and family to the world? One part of me could see huge benefits in doing so. It would be far easier, at least if everyone knew... but there's the problem of having to tell people who didn't get it the first time. That's awkward. And being open with the world would make it easier to take a more visual stand for faith. There are a dozen things I can't do anonymously. I could use my experiences, and the faith and testimony I share here, to build my own family and those around me. The more I thought about it, the more I could see pieces making sense... and I realized that, even with the stress it would place on my family, I'd be willing to do it if God asked me to.

But there are also positives to staying anonymous. The ability to help people who've never met me and value anonymity. A better ability to relate to readers can put themselves in my shoes because they aren't distracted by my age, where I live, or what I do each day. Peace in my family's life. I already get enough hate mail; it's nice that I'm the only one who gets it. And the ability to leave my trials behind when I go through my day. I sometimes go days without thinking about this blog, even if I keep my email open to check if someone has a pressing question. And it's awesome that, in most cases, attraction doesn't cross my mind. And no one, obviously, ever brings it up.

I prayed for guidance, listened, and then fell asleep. I've been listening ever since, waiting for an answer to confirm or deny the decision that I made... to keep going forward with faith, in the same path the Lord had already made for me. And then, a few days later, I was listening to some music and "Because I Have Been Given Much" came on.

The words of the song are amazing. I can't quote the whole song here because of copyright issues, but this is the phrase that I had been waiting for:

I shall divide my gifts from Thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

My gifts from God comprise everything He has given me in life. God only gives gifts (only good fruit comes from a good tree, and good water from a good fountain), and He gives them with the intent that we will do good. But not just haphazardly... according to His design.

That was my answer. Who do I share my gifts with? With every brother that I see who has the need of help from me. I don't need to shout my trials and blessings from the mountaintops. At least not now. I just need to share them with the people I can touch, and God will do the rest.

Elder Cook was speaking to me, and warning me of the dangers of anonymity. Explaining the demons that anonymity could bring. And in the same tone, the Spirit affirmed that the mask that I have on is a different mask. It doesn't make me likely to do or say things I would regret among the people I know and love. I wouldn't cringe to share everything with the world or tie it to my name. And I feel confident that I'm at least trying my best.


  1. I personally think that the mask of anonymity is only an issue when used to hurt or cause offence. I follow Middle Aged Mormon Man on blogger and he had the same dilemma but has remained unknown

  2. I thought with the words of the song were saying were the exact opposite of what you chose or what the spirit said.

    I can't argue with your feeling of the spirit. And while I'm a VERY open person, I too don't need to shout my woes high on a mountain top. :)

    But someday will you? I hope so.

  3. It seems you should only become not anonymous when you can handle it, and when you think it will help yourself and others. That may be the impetus you need: to help others. I think one has to be in a really strong place to begin to do that, and only he can know when that is. The more people we know like you, the more people will talk about it and help those who are younger...or older and need help. Good luck!

  4. Whether you choose to remain anonymous or put your name on this blog, I'll still read it! I'm here to support you either way.

    As for me, I chose long ago to throw the mask away. I felt like it was just another mask to hide behind and it wasn't serving me any more.

  5. Thank you, so much, for sharing your gifts. SSA is not an issue for me or anyone in my immediate circle (that I know of), but like Paul (who did not see fit to indicate what his affliction was), it's not the specific trials that make you who you are: it is the way you respond with faith to those trials that gives you power to help inspire others. I have been so inspired by the strength of your testimony and the faith you show through this blog. Isn't it a wonderful blessing how 'dividing' your gifts in this way increases them! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Wow, what in interesting topic for a CES Fireside! I will have to go back and look it up. And this was a thoughtful post I quite enjoyed.

    In reading your last paragraph, I was struck by an interesting idea:

    "And in the same tone, the Spirit affirmed that the mask that I have on is a different mask. It doesn't make me likely to do or say things I would regret among the people I know and love. I wouldn't cringe to share everything with the world or tie it to my name."

    Elder Cook is talking about (as I understand from your summary--I've not checked it out, yet) anonymity as a vehicle to do things we would otherwise regret, but think about what those things might be in the context of your blog and whether those really deserve to be "regretted." You've weighed the costs and benefits and decided that you would "regret" being open about yourself in a public forum, but why should that be regrettable?

    I'm confident you're doing your best as you say and am not trying to contradict your decisions. I just think it's an interesting angle to think about. Generally, I'm a fan of greater openness myself (I really don't see how ANY improvement in the cultural milieu of the Church can come as long as homosexuality is shunted, either directly or through self-censorship, from general attention), so that's the prejudice I'm coming from.

  7. I have to say, I find it very impressive that you would take that counsel to heart the way you did. When I first started reading your blog, I wondered why you had chosen to remain anonymous. But your past answers to that question were so thoughtful and sensible. So when I read this post, I really thought that you would pretty quickly conclude that it didn't mean you, just because you've put so much thought into the question already. I read on and realized that maybe I do that a little too much...I assume I've already had revelation on a subject or that a particular topic doesn't apply to me. I'm obviously missing out on some great experiences by doing that.

    Just to clarify, I'm glad you are remaining anonymous. It hasn't lessened the impact you have on me at all. I learn something every time I visit. And I thank you for it.

  8. I am grateful for your blog, and for your thoughtful posts. I think the value of remaining anonymous for the present is high. I appreciate how you took the time to receive current revelation on an issue you had considered before. Many things are for a particular season, and it is important to check in to see if the season has changed.

  9. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and openness, albeit as an unknown-named person. I respect your decision to be anonymous and can see how it might actually help more people this way.

    I've followed your blog here and there, but I don't think I've ever commented, so hello! (Since this post is all about unmasking ourselves, my name really is Kate. No big surprises there.) A certain part of your post struck a chord with me, and that's why I'm posting. You said that God only gives good gifts, and He gives them with a design. I've been struggling to see a certain gift of mine as a good gift (or even as a gift at all) and as something intentional or divine. Maybe I struggle with it because I don't yet understand it--I don't yet know how to use it as God would have me use it. Maybe it's because it makes me different, and people don't always know what to do with different. Sometimes I wish I were anonymous on my blog so I could talk openly about it, but at the same time I know this is something for me to keep in my heart for now. Reading your post I saw how sometimes we stay anonymous or hold back out of fear and other times we hold back out of wisdom and spiritual guidance. There's a big difference there, and it seems like you're being wise and guided in your decision to remain anonymous.

    So ultimately I wanted to thank you for helping me give gratitude for my gifts, even if they currently are confusing and sometimes very frustrating. I know they are from a well-intending Heavenly Father, and I am trusting that I'll soon see their true beauty and know how to use them as God intended--to bless the lives of everyone around me.

  10. I recognize that there are several pros and cons worth noting when it comes to blogging about this issue.

    My incentive to remove the mask of anonymity was based off a statement Ty Mansfield made in his book "In Quiet Desperation" (which I don't have on me at the moment) on the subject. I am sure he has faced some back lash due to revealing his identity, like many people do regardless of where they stand on this issue. But being able to relate and to have a real face back when I was first coming to terms with my orientation was a big help.

  11. I just now came across your blog. I admire you and what you're doing. You didn't ask, but here are my 2 cents, for whatever it's worth. The idea of anonymity in the talk, I think, is geared toward those who would use it to fool people, or hide behind it because they are too "chicken" to be honest with people. However, there are times when anonymity is a tool for good, where you are not trying to keep the truth from people, but you are trying to use the truth to reach out to people, and help them in a non-offensive manner. That is what I think you are doing. This subject is highly volatile in today's world/culture, and especially so in the LDS world. Not many people can come to agreements regarding homosexuality - for various reasons. Your anonymity is not to fool others, but to allow others, and your own truths, to be "themselves" and honest.

    I see that as a huge difference between what you are doing, and Elder Cook spoke about. I heard his talk as well, and considered how it could apply my own blogging/facebooking/twittering.

    Thanks for the time to ponder these things right now.

  12. Perhaps I lull myself into complacency but I consider the anonymous person whose detraction, distractions and discontent is the problem, not someone who openly wears the full armor of God. You are the latter.

  13. The way I see it, what you do is like putting words of encouragement in a bottle and setting it off on the ocean. You have no direct wish to negatively influence anyone, and your hope is that your inner musings (which you are not comfortable sharing with the world at large under your own identity) will help someone else in the same situation. At this time, you are doing much good, and no intentional harm. So there doesn't seem to be any problem with you remaining anonymous. I refuse to put my name on my blog as well, because it's not ME that's important, it's the topics I TALK about that are important.

  14. I think Elder Cook is on point when he talks about anonymity. But I think it's worth noting (and I think Elder Cook would agree) that sometimes anonymity can be appropriate. For example, articles in the Ensign that have the byline, "Name Withheld." I just thought I would throw that out there. It can be prudent to remain anonymous for confidentiality or safety. So don't feel too guilty.

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth. I was just going to say the same exact thing.


Comment Rules:

(G)MG is how I write to you. Commenting is one way to write to me.

If you want your comment published: No swearing, graphic content, name-calling of any kind, or outbound links to anything but official Church sites.

In addition, comments must be 100% relevant, funny, uplifting, helpful, friendly... well-written, concise, and true. Disparaging comments often don't meet those standards. Comments on (G)MG are personal notes to me, not part of a comment war. You are not entitled to have your ideas hosted on my personal blog. There are a zillion places for that, and only one (G)MG.

And I'd suggest writing your comment in Word and pasting it. That way Blogger won't eat it if it's over the word limit.