Gay Mormon from Idaho Falls makes national news in extraordinary NPR interview

Jamison Manwaring, who grew up in Idaho Falls the youngest of eight children in an observant Mormon family, appeared Sunday morning in a 9-minute interview with Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin, also from Idaho Falls.

Manwaring, still a faithful Mormon, tells National Public Radio the story of his attempts to suppress his attraction for men, including completing his LDS mission and returning to Idaho Falls to date many women.

Helping explain the family’s experience in the interview is Manwaring’s brother, Josh, who learned of Jamison’s feelings eight years ago when he found a book on the topic in a Jamison’s closet.

Three years ago, Manwaring came out at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

“We decided to just tell everybody — all my siblings, in-laws — and ended up having just an awesome experience because they didn’t say those things that I had kind of believed about myself,” Manwaring says. “That it was evil, or that I was evil, or that it was a perversion. They just listened, and they said ‘We’re so glad that we know, and we wish we would’ve known a long time ago.’ ”

Manwaring says his LDS upbringing taught him “that a family and family relationships are the most fulfilling things in life.”

“Not only do I want a family, but there’s nothing else to do besides having a family,” he says. “Because all my friends are married now. It leaves you with nothing in your life.”

Two weeks ago, Manwaring published a 7-minute YouTube video, intended for his friends who didn’t know he was gay. The posting has received about 12,000 hits.

Judging by the setting, it appears that Manwaring has left Idaho Falls and works in a large city, though neither he or Martin’s reporting mention him leaving Idaho or where he now lives. Martin’s news peg: Last week’s Supreme Court argument on overturning California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage. The LDS Church helped finance the campaign for the law.

“This is not a choice,” Manwaring says on YouTube, adding that he’s been through therapy and would take a “magic pill” to make him straight if one existed. “I would take the pill because I’ve always wanted a traditional family. But there is no magic pill.”

On his hopes for having a family, he says, “I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t have the opportunity to really fall in love with somebody and to share a life with them.”

Manwaring says he feels welcome in his LDS ward and plans to live out his life as a Mormon, with the hope that the church continues to evolve.

“I’m heartened by the changes my church has made in its acceptance of gay people,” he says on YouTube. “I love my religion. I’ve given years to fulfill its mission and to serve its members.  And I look forward to being in a church that accepts me, even if I’m gay.”

In closing his video, Manwaring says he understands people will be surprised and saddened. “I, too, have been saddened by this news, so that’s OK….You can reach out to me and we can talk about it. I’m the same person you knew; you just have a piece of information  you didn’t have from before.”

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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