I am an openly gay, active Mormon. I have a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I have an equally strong testimony that I am just as my Father created me—a gay man. Both things are intertwined into the DNA of my soul so deeply that you could not extricate one from the other without destroying who I am.
I grew up being taught that I could not be both gay and Mormon. For years, I felt like a man with a foot in two worlds that didn’t intersect. Believing those words, I tried living my life as a gay man without honoring my Mormon heritage; I also tried living my life as a Mormon man without honoring my orientation. Both left me fractured.
I have come to understand that although there are those who tell me otherwise, the two worlds of being gay and Mormon do intersect—and I, along with the millions of LGBT Mormons like me, am that intersection point.
Today, I strive to live my life in a way that integrates my religion with my orientation. Health, happiness and wholeness does not come from honoring one part of myself at the expense of the other. It comes from uniting them and recognizing that I am whole, and that I am exactly who and where I am supposed to be.
And while I love my Mormon religion, I believe we can do much better at creating a welcoming place for all of God’s children, including LGBT individuals. We can do much better at following our Savior’s example:
“…he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
~2 Nephi, 26:33”
On August 14, 2011, I was sustained as the executive secretary in the Bishopric of my home ward (congregation) of the San Francisco Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). You can read more about that calling here
On Sunday, November 10, 2013, I (along with the rest of the bishopric) was released in good standing. Bishop Fletcher, the Bishop under whom I had the honor to serve, relocated to another state—and as is customary in the Mormon faith, the bishopric was released with him.
It’s an interesting time to be a gay Mormon. The Church policy of November 2015 and subsequent ‘clarifications’ have made it challenging for many members (gay, straight, and everywhere in between), and many have left, or are in the process of doing so. You can read more about my position on the policy here
Leaving the Church is a totally valid and understandable path to take for many right now. No one should stay in a relationship—whether with a person or an institution—when it becomes toxic spiritually, emotionally, or mentally. And this policy has indeed created a toxic climate for many.
Yet I stay. I stay because I remember what it was like to be the scared 12 year-old gay Mormon kid in the pews on Sunday, and not see myself anywhere on the Mormon landscape. I'm a far cry from being a perfect role model, but I will claim and own both my orientation and my religion—for my 12 year-old self, and for those youngsters who sit in terrified in the pews today.
My choice to stay in no way diminishes anyone else's decision to depart—we are all needed, we are all called. Some of us pushing from the inside, others pulling from the outside, and still others catching those who leave. All are equally valid roles.
One thing I’ve learned is that as a gay Mormon, my life is unusually full of people who aren’t shy about telling me how I should live my life. On any given day, it seems I can’t be gay enough for the LGBT community, and I can’t be Mormon enough for my Latter-day Saint friends and family.
While other people may have strong opinions about how I should live, in the end the only opinion of me that matters more than my own is that of my Savior. It is to my Savior that I have primary allegiance and in Him that I have built my faith. My allegiance to and faith in Christ comes before allegiance to or faith in any institution or human, independent of their title or role in my life.
I believe every single one of us is equal in the eyes of our Savior, regardless of orientation, ethnicity, gender–or any other marker we use as humans to define differences between ourselves and others. As such, I don’t believe it is ever my job to condemn, criticize, or mock another. My job, as my Father’s son, is to walk beside you as you learn the lessons life is intended to teach you; to celebrate your joys with you, and to lend a hand when you stumble. The true spirit of love we have for one another is kind, patient, and doesn’t demand its own way. It doesn’t scold, condemn, or criticize.
I am most certainly an imperfect human–but this is the spirit I think our Savior wants us to strive to achieve throughout the human family, and it is the spirit that I continue to endeavor to bring to my entire life–and most certainly my faith.
For my Mormon fellows who feel on the ‘outside looking in’ for any reason—and certainly my LGBT Mormons and allies—I extend you a personal invitation to join me on Sunday. If you find yourself in San Francisco, come and sit next to me.
I’ll even save you a seat.