Saturday, August 6

Disney, Gay Mormons, and Happily Ever After

There's something awesomely magical about watching a Disney film unfold. Over and over and over again, the protagonist faces life's struggles with head held high. Reaching deep inside, he (well, usually she) learns something new, overcomes impossible odds, finds friends in unlikely places, dreams enormous dreams, and finally, after a full 90 minutes of struggle, reaches the coveted Happily Ever After.

But while Disney films may inspire magic and lift hearts, protect morals and preserve childlike imagination, their happy music and fairy-tale endings belie a much darker side.

And I'm not talking about secrets or hidden messages.

I betray my childhood with the statement that comes next.

Happily Ever After is a lie.

But it's more than just a lie. I already knew that the Happily Ever After of a Disney story was a fairy tale. Enchanted taught me that, along with Frozen's candid assertion of the absurdity of marrying someone you met the same day.

And yet, while a few recent films have added tongue-in-cheek references to its fantastic reality, Happily Ever After is still central to the Disney franchise... and the vast majority of Disney movies still pay homage to its power.

It's unlikely that Walt Disney could have imagined how influential his films would become. What began with Snow White and Cinderella has grown to become a cultural icon... to the point that today's world - my generation - grew up fed with Disney stories. I knew the songs for every movie, watched some of them dozens of times... and since I was old to enough to dream, dreamed of my own Happily Ever After.

While the idyllic Happily Ever After may be an obvious stretch of reality, it has shaped my culture. Today, even though I laugh at the tongue-in-cheek references where Disney makes fun of itself, I find that I actually believe in Happily Ever After. And so does most of my generation.

And on the outset, that doesn't sound too bad. Disney's Happily Ever After comes when I give my best effort. When I do everything right. When I wish upon a star, try harder than ever before, put myself out there, serve and work and give everything I have. And then, shortly thereafter, I find my true love and we spend the rest of our lives in Happily Ever After - a gift from the universe as proof of my effort. It pushes me to try harder, to believe in God, and to ask for blessings and miracles. It gives me hope when times are hard, and it encourages me to literally give everything.

But what about when I apply my belief in Happily Ever After to real life? Real life lasts a whole lot longer than the 90 minutes of a feature-length family film. What happens when the promised Happily Ever After doesn't come?

And what about when even getting to Happily Ever After seems impossible by following God? When 90 minutes, or just as many years, have passed and the future seems just as impossibly bleak?

And here we find the darker side of Happily Ever After. Disney teaches that anyone will get Happily Ever After if they work hard enough... and that those who give their all *deserve* it... sooner rather than later.

And when it doesn't happen? When Happily Ever After doesn't come in the Disney world, it's because I haven't truly tried hard enough. Or, more likely, because a seemingly-good-but-actually-evil villain stands in the way.

Either way, someone is at fault... because I haven't gotten what I truly deserve.

It's a lie.

And yet I believe it...

Along with everyone else in today's world.

It's easy to connect the dots and see how a universal belief in Happily Ever After is ravaging those whose lives are more complicated than the Disney model. Like mine - I'm only attracted to men and I definitely feel like I have given my all for years. If I believe that God (the Universe) will give me Happily Ever After (usually interpreted as marriage and eternal bliss with someone I love) while I'm still young, then anyone who tells me otherwise, or stands in the way, is the evil villain.

Disney teaches that I deserve someone to love who loves me back. That I should work my hardest to achieve it. And that nothing should stand in the way of love, raising a family, and having someone to come home to.

Reality is different.

Reality is that following God will help me find greater happiness than any other alternative. Reality is that I deserve better than just mortal love... and that God's love and presence can actually compensate for not having love here in life. Reality is that it is through His Grace (and not my work) that all blessings come. And that I am the only thing that can stand in the way of His love.

And the final reality?

Happily Ever After isn't something I receive. It's not a gift that someday God or the Universe will give me, the result of finding someone to love, or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It doesn't come with "I do" at marriage to someone who loves me back. It's not even the reward given by God at the end of putting in all I can.

That's because Happily Ever After isn't something I get, find, or obtain.

Happily Ever After is something I *become*.

It's finding the happiness that God has.

It's becoming like God.

And that's both why it could never be gifted from on high... and why turning away from God to find it will never work.

That's why putting in all my effort isn't ever enough. That's why I can ask God for blessings and the prayers seem unanswered as my life gets harder. That's why I face insurmountable trials that smash me flat.

Because I'm not like Him yet.

And if I haven't yet become Happily Ever After, it's simply because I still have more to become. And this trial, this blessing, this life was designed to help me become like Him - so of course God wouldn't just take it away.

There is one extra complication:

God does actually promise me the Disney Happily Ever After.

Just on a different time table... and according to His ways.

He promises that, eventually (sometime before the Resurrection), if I've done my best for my entire mortal life (a whole lot longer than 90 minutes), I'll find someone I love who loves me back with whom to have a family.

But just because God promises a Disney ending does not mean that a marriage like in Disney movies = Happily Ever After. As I said before, Happily Ever After is not an action or a gift. It is something I become, and nothing else.

And now & in the meantime, He promises that I will find greater happiness by following Him than any other alternative... even if another path seems to offer exactly what I think I want.

Those are powerful promises. They're especially intense given how badly I want a family of my own. And how I can't remember ever really being attracted to a woman. And how old I am in Mormon family culture. And how alone I've spent most of my life. And how difficult it is for me to even make and keep friends, let alone find a spouse.

God doesn't promise that I'll become Happily Ever After today, or tomorrow, the next day, or even fifty years down the road. He doesn't claim that life will be easy, idyllic, or fair. He doesn't claim that happiness won't seem possible somewhere else. He requires total sacrifice of everything I hold dear, every dream I dream, every wish of my heart.

And He promises that I really will become Happily Ever After - as I slowly change and become like Him.


  1. Awesome. You and this post. You fight a tremendous battle with inspiring faith, courage, and endurance. Stay strong and faithful. You are going to be an incredible Happy Ever After.

  2. Thank you for your strength, courage and eternal perspective.

  3. Thank you for this! This is something I've been thinking about lately, and you put my thoughts into words beautifully. I want you to know that I really look up to you. Keep being a wonderful example!

  4. Thank you so very much for your honest and well thought out perspective. Strength and peace be with you. You are a beautiful soul.

  5. I really enjoy the posts I read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences, and life. One of the things I have come to believe is that charity really is the answer. God's life is not Disney perfect either. How many of his children live him? How many hate him? And how many are indifferent to him? Yet he loves us anyway and, I believe, satisfied in that love. He rejoices and sorrows with us, but that love is what, I believe, gets him through our lives. His happiness can not be dependent on me. That is why becoming like him is the point of life. I am right there with you, while there is no Disney perfection, there is something to strive for. :)

  6. Hi David, Mormon guy, your example is incredible!! I know that you WILL find your happily ever after, maybe sooner than you think. I've seen it happen for several people in your situation, and they have created incredible families and lives, because they stayed true to the faith.

    Thank you for your stalwart example, and helping others believe!!

  7. Thank you for this post. As a 32 year old never been married person in the church, it's definitely difficult because it does seem like everyone else my age has their happily ever after. I always need the reminder to work on myself first. Thank you.

  8. I've believed this too. I love "happily ever after". I am inspired by happy endings because I believe that they happen - even if not in this life. It is hard when one sees that things are not going to work as we had hoped, but when we "become" like God, I think we learn to trust Him and to know that everything will be okay.

  9. Love this post. The goal truly is to become.

  10. You are wise beyond your years. When my "happily ever after" collapsed and my life seemed to fall apart, instead of trusting in the Lord and holding on to the iron rod, I decided that since I had followed all the rules and was rewarded with an adulterous spouse, that I wasn't going to be LDS anymore. This only led to more misery, turmoil, agitation and despair. Through prayer and searching I found my way back and am so blessed. Twenty-six years later and still in the process of becoming. You have articulated what we all have to deal with in such an insightful manner. Hang in there. You are in my prayers.

  11. Hi David, I agree with your observations here. I think thAt many of us expect to find our own happily ever after. And when we don't find it we think we have done something wrong. But actually we probably done everything right... our life is journey full of darkness and light. Both gives us experience- -- and that's what we are really here gathering... and thru it all learn how to unconditional love ourselves and others.


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