Thayne Jasperson is a Utah native, a graduate of Springville High School, a former contestant on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and a member of the cast of one of the biggest Broadway musicals of all-time, “Hamilton.”
And he’s a Mormon.
Jasperson, who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina, has been a member of the "Hamilton" ensemble since the show began, but also understudies for three other roles, including King George III.
The actor, dancer and singer has been open about his faith. Nearly one year ago, Jasperson collaborated with the New York-based speechwriting company The Oratory Laboratory in order to share his story and his witness of a Savior.
In a recent email interview with the Deseret News, Jasperson opened up about his journey of faith — explaining that while he still has questions and trials, he has found beauty in continuing to try.
DN: Have you always been a member of the LDS Church?
TJ: I have always been LDS, yes. Although in my adult life, there was a time where I felt like maybe I couldn't belong because of life choices. Thankfully I got out of that and realized that God's love is for us all. I searched other religions and ideas. None of them felt right. The more I searched, the more I realized the truth was all right here, no matter how difficult it may be to follow.
DN: What role did faith play in your growing up?
TJ: Faith Is something I've more recently been tapping into. I always had faith, but really searching to build a testimony has increased my faith. I love our Savior. He is of utmost importance to me. I struggle hard to follow him always, as I'm a natural, carnal man, but I know he lives. I know he loves and accepts me and all of us. I feel it's important to include "us" because his open arms are there for all to embrace.
DN: In an interview I read with you, you attributed the amazing talent that has come out of Utah in part due to the LDS Church. How has being a member of the church encouraged you to use your talents?
TJ: Talents are increased a lot through the LDS culture. I'd assume it's because of the scriptures telling us to build upon the gifts we've been given and using them to find your way through unbeaten paths. We are meant to share the gospel once we are converted to it. I'm thankful that my talents have taken me outside the safe zone. My courage grows the more I desire to share our Redeemer’s love with those who may not yet realize his importance.
DN: You served a Mormon mission. Where did you serve? What were the biggest takeaways from your mission? How has that experience influenced your career?
TJ: I served my mission in Rosario, Argentina. It was the most magnificent time of my life ... hard ... but worth it. I loved harmonizing with my companions when we'd sing at people's homes. I worked with (a family) through their conversion. The joy I feel knowing that they still believe and follow the Lord is more than I can explain. I still message them regularly. I recently asked them to share their testimony to me. If you've never done that, try it. It's powerful.
DN: How did you decide to audition for “So You Think You Can Dance?” What did that experience teach you about yourself and your abilities?
TJ: SYTYCD was auditioning in Utah so I had no excuse not to try out. The experience taught me that I could hang outside my "country boy." It also helped me escape a time when I felt lost and needed a helping hand. I know that God came through for me; he reached into the murky waters and pulled me out. I'm so thankful for that.
DN: Walk us through the journey from “So You Think You Can Dance” to “Hamilton." Did you ever think you would end up on Broadway?
TJ: After (the SYTYCD) tour, I played Ren in "Footloose" at Tuacahn. Playing Ren reignited my love for singing and acting. I feel that I always saw Broadway in my future life, it was just a matter of when. Luckily, I've had some fantastic shows I've done and hope to continue!
DN: Is it hard to maintain your standards and integrity in this industry?
TJ: Living with different standards definitely can be tricky. Luckily, the alcohol/drug thing is easy for me to stay away from. Granted, I've had my times and experiences, but when I wanted to call quits to all of that, it was simple. My challenges lie in other areas.
DN: You are overcome with emotion in (a YouTube) video as you talk about the Savior. What have you learned about the Savior through your experiences? How has he become personal to you?
TJ: The Free Speech video was a beautiful experience for me and a turning point in my call to serve. I was in a very spiritual moment of life where I was seeking the light. A scripture made an impact on me, Matthew 10:32, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." I had a new purpose. I realize just how important it is that we share of him. Learning of him and following him the best we can is what's most important in this life. I love my (our) Savior deeply. I am often overcome with emotion when I think on Jesus Christ.
DN: How have you overcome doubt with faith?
TJ: Doubt for me is constant. (President Dieter F.) Uchtdorf told us, "Doubt your doubts." That has brought new methods to my thinking. Questions can be great if we decide to learn from them. When we seek wisdom, we find it. A scripture I often say to myself is D&C 88:63: "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Starting with that before I seek answers to questions of unbelief, starts me off right by inviting the Lord in the journey. What better way to receive enlightenment than with his spirit, his presence to stimulate our intellectual synapses?
DN: (You have said that) you had a testimony and you believed, but that you were struggling with reconciling your faith with your feelings of same-sex attraction. How did you handle that?
TJ: Yes, I am attracted to men. It has been a life trial in learning to maneuver. One of the greatest things I've learned is that it is OK. That it won't go away and that it is here to shape, mold me the way our Father has designed for me. Now, where to go from here? That is the life question I face. Our paths are all different and I know that we are given challenges to help us grow. I'm grateful that I'm attracted to men because I have become more compassionate, less judgmental, understanding of others' downfalls. My faith has increased greatly as I continue to learn what God wants of me. Someday I want to speak more with others who face the same thing and help them feel at peace and learn how to trust in the Lord and follow. ...
DN: Why have you stayed in (or come back to) the LDS Church?
TJ: I searched many religions, ideas, churches. I found that none follow as closely to what Christ taught as does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All have good things and many people have righteous desires, but the actual power to work in God's name has been restored to the earth. ...
Without being asked, Jasperson included the following about his convictions:
TJ: My first thoughts when you ask me about the Savior bring me to sing, "Our Savior's Love, shines like the sun with perfect light." Music rings through my ears when I think of our brother, our example. I imagine the choirs of angels and the glories they must constantly sing in his praise. I think of his charity and never-ending hope and grace. He was born humble, lying in the straw of a manger. He followed the beckoning of his mother when he was about his Father's business, humbly. He reentered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, humble again, on a donkey as King of the Jews. He fulfilled his duty as he approached crucifixion, humbly, never spouting a harsh word. ... Jesus Christ, came to show us the way.
I love him. I pray that I will forever praise him and share with others that I am a believer of our Lord. It is fact. It is history. It is not myth. He is our Redeemer. Though I may struggle greatly ... I will show him I love him and feed his sheep. When I cannot lead by a sufficient example (which is most of the time) I will still lead by belief and share that he lives. I pray that I will not be afraid to speak of him and bring others to his light.