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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “26a – Leaving the Faith”

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26a – Leaving the Faith


“The church’s support of California’s Proposition 8 and its overall stance on homosexuality are the main contributing social factors causing people to leave the Mormon faith, according to a recent nonscientific survey.

The study conducted by Mormon Stories, a nonprofit support community committed to helping Mormons in faith crises, found most frequently that there are various factors in most people’s decisions to lose faith in the Mormon Church. However, the four most common factors contributing to disbelief are ceasing to believe in the church’s doctrine and theology, studying church history, losing faith in Joseph Smith and losing faith in the Book of Mormon. The three principle social issues for people leaving the faith are the church’s stance on homosexuals and Proposition 8, women and race.…” (“Poll: Mormon stance on gay marriage causing loss of faith,” Q Salt Lake, April 13, 2012)


“My little brother Emmett was recently denied his wish to serve a 2-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church), because he revealed that he could not teach that gay marriage was wrong or that gay people or relationships were any different than heterosexual ones in the eyes of God.…

Even though he himself was heterosexual and was keeping all church standards, and was a profoundly sensitive, caring, socially conscientious, scripturally knowledgeable, spiritual person, the answer was no, he could not serve a mission. He was told that he needed to fast and pray until God told him he was mistaken. Instead of causing a big scene Emmett in characteristic form quietly accepted the answer and began looking for a new direction in life.…

What will happen when the sea change that is happening across the western world creates a social landscape where more and more regular Mormons tend to believe that gay and lesbian people are just normal people who are actually being discriminated against? I believe my relatively shy but incredibly brave little brother is at the forefront of this phenomenon.…” (Sam Clayton, “My Little Brother’s Mission,” NoMoreStrangers.org, March 19, 2013)


Bradford: The letter of excommunication, there was no “we are grateful for what you did for the Church.”  I put a lot of energy and time into building things, but there was not a word.  It was “how disappointed God is in you.”  That hurts.  It doesn’t matter how you feel about them; still it’s hurtful.

I had to give up my income to come out of the closet.  Most people don’t have to do that; they can keep working.  I had to actually stop and put everything on the line.  I didn’t know—I might have lost my choir, I might have lost my family.  I didn’t think I’d lose my family.  I don’t know.  I had to put it all on the line, the whole thing.  It’s scary.  Then you get divorced and you have alimony payments and child support payments, and I didn’t have a job.  But I was ordered to pay based on my income when I had a job.  So that was hard.  I had to figure it out.

My life after that just opened up.  It was crazy.  I can’t do anymore—I have too many things going on, way too many at this point.  I’m not religious at all.  I don’t believe in God anymore.  I was very much in the Mormon Church and believed the whole thing, and it was quite a process for me to go through that and, in essence, say, “What do you really feel?” and to let that happen.  It took me a few years of soul searching to come to a place where I felt at peace with that.

Prince: When you let go, did you drop into the abyss, or did you drop two inches and find out it wasn’t bad?

Bradford: You say let go; I felt like I was jumping off a cliff, and then I realized I had wings, so I never dropped.  I just started flying.  It felt, when I jumped off—there is that moment when you don’t know that you have wings.  That’s scary.  I remember it very, very well.  But now it’s almost funny to me.  Everybody says this: “What took you so long just to step over and find your life?”  I think what the Church does is inexcusable.  

(Bradford, October 10, 2015)

Rich: More and more families have said, “We don’t understand; we will live with the paradox of not knowing what God really thinks about this.  I cannot, however, leave my child alone because in my heart I love him, regardless.” 

(Richard Ferré, March 29, 2015)

Wendy: After the initial two or three weeks of that letter coming out, when people were so loving and so sweet to us, it was almost like the emotion and the feeling that they felt when they read the letter went away, and they were just left with the thought, “That kid’s gay.”  After a month or so, stuff started happening that was horrible.…

So then, I started speaking out in his defense.  People have labeled us “activists” or “gay advocates,” but to me, I am just supporting and defending my child, which any parent should do.

Parents started keeping all of their kids out of my Sunday School class.  They asked repeatedly to have my husband released as Elders Quorum president.  There were petitions going around, getting signatures so that Jordan wouldn’t be allowed to go to Boy Scout camp, even though Tom was planning on taking off of work to be his tent mate, because we knew people would be very uncomfortable having their kid sleeping next to the gay kid, even though they had done that for years before anybody knew he was gay.

I would walk around a corner of our church building and I would hear people talking about us.  I remember thinking, “Gosh, how much are they talking about us that I don’t happen to overhear?”  These were just a few moments.  It was things like, “If he is going to scout camp, my son is not going.”  Or, “He’d better not hit on my son, or they’re going to hear it from me.”  I just remember thinking, “My son has way better taste than your kid!”

I would walk into Relief Society, and women who had their bags on the ground would pick them up and put them on the chair next to them so I wouldn’t sit by them.  Fast and Testimony Meeting felt like a verbal flogging of my family—all about the Proclamation on the Family, all about what marriage is supposed to be.  When the whole Chick-Fil-A thing was going on, the testimonies, goodness!  This one woman got up, and she was an older woman in her late 60s or early 70s.  She said, “I had the opportunity to go to a certain establishment this week.”  Everybody knew she was talking about Chick-Fil-A.  “I waited in line for two-and-a-half hours for my chicken sandwich, to show support.  It was wonderful, because there were pastors from other churches there.  People held umbrellas to shade us because it was hot.  People passed out water bottles.  It felt like such a Christian community coming together.  And those people”—she was talking about gay people at this point, and she used air quotes from the pulpit—“those people, they just get diseases they choose to get, and die.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.”  That’s how she ended it.…

Our stake president’s wife—it was at a stake conference, because they attend another ward—had come up to me and given me a hug.  She said, “Sister Montgomery, we love you and we love your family.  But you make a lot of people uncomfortable, so it might be good if you’d just not come to church for a while.”  I remember just standing there stunned, like I wasn’t sure I heard her right.  I didn’t even respond.  I know we make people uncomfortable, but I had never heard of anybody being disinvited to church.  We have current temple recommends.  We are active members.  We have served in every auxiliary available to us.  I think I just said, “OK, thanks,” and turned and walked away.  I didn’t even know what to say.  Afterwards, I thought of a million things I should have said; but I’m glad that I didn’t respond in anger.  I don’t have anything to be ashamed of when I see her.  She doesn’t even look me in the eye anymore.  She has to know how awful that was to say.  We have a sign outside every one of our church buildings that says, “Visitors Welcome,” but we don’t really mean that.…

Wendy: Our first bishop in the ward we were in, where everything came down, was a kind man, but he had no idea what to do.  He even said as much.  In the first meeting we met with him he said, “I have no idea what to tell you.  We love your family and we love you, but I don’t know what to tell you to do.”

Greg: Was it he who reacted to the sacrament incident?

Wendy: Yes.  The first time we met with him, when he said, “I don’t know what to tell you to do,” he gave us an Evergreen pamphlet—I had no idea what that was at the time—and referred us to a counselor in LDS Family Services.  That was in March or April of 2012.  The first time the sacrament thing happened was after we put the letter out in August.  It was probably October of 2012.  It happened four different times with four different people.

Greg: Describe what happened.

Wendy: We have five kids.  Our youngest, at the time this was all happening, were six.  We have twins.  So we would sit towards the back of the chapel in case they were disruptive, so that we could take them out.  We had this brand new deacon, and he was our oldest, and I loved watching him pass the sacrament.  I felt like such a proud mom, and so I was always watching where he was.  He was probably six rows ahead of us, and he had handed the tray to a man in his 60s, and the man kind of put up his hand and shook it to say, “No, I’m not taking it.”  I saw that happen, and I’m sure the deacons see this happen a lot for whoever is not taking the sacrament, for whatever personal reason.  So I didn’t think anything of it.  The man was sitting by himself; it wasn’t like Jordan had to reach around him to more people.

So Jordan moved to the row behind him and handed the tray to that person.  Jordan got back maybe two rows, and this man beckoned another deacon over, and took it from that deacon.  I think the hardest part of watching that happen—Jordan doesn’t know a quarter of the stuff that has happened.  I would never tell him, because it would break his heart.  We have been able to shield him and protect him from a lot of the negative stuff, as much as possible.  I know it’s not 100% possible.  But I couldn’t protect him from that.  I couldn’t make him not see that rejection of a worthy boy.

I have sat in church so many times and been hurt or disappointed, frustrated; but I have never been enraged, and I was then.  I wanted to stand up and punch him in the face.  I looked up at the bishop.  I saw him watch that happen.

I went into the bishop’s office as soon as Sacrament Meeting was over.  He was in there by himself and the door was open, so I just closed the door and said, “I know you saw what happened.”  He said, “Yes, that was really unfortunate.”  I said, “I don’t need you to call him out over the pulpit or publicly embarrass him, but will you say something to him?”  The bishop just sort of looked down.

Greg: Say something to the man or to Jordan?

Wendy: To the man that refused the sacrament from Jordan.  When he paused and hesitated I said, “You know Jordan is worthy to pass the sacrament, right?”  He said, “Yes.  I don’t even question that.  I know he is.”  I said, “So what’s the problem?”  He kind of stuttered and was like, “I’m not sure.  I don’t know what to do.”  At that point, that was where he said, “You’re just one family.  I can’t upset the entire apple cart for just one family.  I thought, “You’re not going to help us.”

It happened three more times, with different people.  After the fourth time, Jordan said, “I’m never going to pass the sacrament again.”  I can’t blame him, not even a little bit.  The fact that he had it happen twice, three times, four times, and he continued to pass the sacrament shows his character.  I think if that would have happened to me even once, I wouldn’t do it again.

He came home from church, put his head in my lap, and sobbed.  I’m tired of watching his heart be broken by people who should know better.

Since we have been in the new ward, we have asked his Young Men’s presidency, the bishopric and the entire stake presidency, over and over and over again, to get him involved in preparing the sacrament as a teacher.  He was a teacher by the time we moved to the other ward.  We would arrive at church twenty minutes early, at least, so that he would be available to help prepare the sacrament.  That’s a difficult thing to do when you have five little kids, but we did it every week.  There were times I walked up to the sacrament table myself and said, “Do you guys need any help?  Jordan is here and he can help prepare the sacrament.”  It wasn’t these boys’ fault; they said, “We have a schedule and a rotation.  We all have our jobs doing this, but we need to make sure we get him on the schedule.”  The boys were nice.  They weren’t trying to exclude him, I don’t think.

At least once a month, my husband would say, “We’ll talk to the Young Men’s presidency or the leaders and just say, ‘Can you get him involved?  He has never prepared the sacrament as a teacher.’”  They would say, “Yes, we really need to get him involved.  We’ll get him on the rotation.”  But it never happened.  Never one time, when he was fourteen and fifteen, did he ever prepare the sacrament.  We even mentioned that to Elder Christofferson and he said, “That is not right.”  I said, “I know.  I know.  Asking for equal treatment is like asking for special treatment, if you are gay.”

When Jordan turned sixteen, the bishop called him in for his birthday interview and said, “So, Jordan, are you excited to be ordained a priest?”  Jordan said, “No, not really.”  I don’t think the bishop was used to hearing that.  He said, “Well, Jordan, why not?”  Jordan said, “Bishop, what’s going to happen when people don’t take the sacrament because I am the one who blessed it?”  The bishop said, “Jordan, that would never happen.”  He said, “Bishop, it already has.  When I would pass the sacrament as a deacon, people wouldn’t take it from me.”  And the bishop knew those stories.  We had told him when we moved into the ward.  The bishop had no response.  He had nothing he could say.  So Jordan is almost seventeen at this point, and he has yet to be ordained a priest.  He has no desire.  I don’t want to set him up for further hurt and further rejection, but I want so much to even one time see him bless the sacrament.  And he is worthy to do it.  It’s just so unfair—not that things are supposed to be fair.  I get that, but when it could be more fair and more balanced, nothing is done to make that happen.

(Wendy Montgomery, March 14, 2015)

Lee: She [his wife Carol] mentioned the missionaries being pulled out of our home.  The day that film was shown to the Relief Society and Priesthood was the day I walked out, and I haven’t been back.  I’m now a Unitarian and I’ve found my niche.  I’m really happy there.  It’s great to be in a room full of a bunch of liberal Democrats in a religious setting, rather than Republicans.…

Carol: I mentioned in the essay my friend who had a sister who was gay.  She was a convert, and they announced in her ward that anyone who was against Prop 8 was of the devil.  That was what she learned at stake conference.  She quit the Church.

(Lee and Carol Oldham, January 14, 2015)

Wayne: Here’s something else that was interesting.  In the year or two following, Sandra and I were asked by various groups to come and talk to them about our experience.  We always talked not really in terms of AIDS, but also the issue of homosexuality as it had impacted our family.

Sandra: Whenever we were asked, I said, “I won’t talk about AIDS primarily.  I have to speak about homosexuality.”

Wayne: So what was interesting, Greg, was that in that year or so, we were asked by five different church groups to come and talk to them about our experience.  The Episcopalians invited us a couple of times, the Presbyterians invited us, the Baptists invited, the Methodists invited us.  I suppose the fact that I knew people at the university who belonged in those congregations may have had something to do with it, but they reached out to us and were interested about what we had learned.  No Mormon invitation ever came to us.  Never did.  I admire those Latter-day Saints who, when they have had family members dealing with this, would go to their Sacrament Meetings and their Sunday School classes and bring the issue up and express their opinions.  We were so much in the vanguard, as it were, and had felt such shame about it during the time that Brad was alive, that it wasn’t until much later that I developed enough courage to start talking about it with Latter-day Saints.

(Wayne and Sandra Schow, January 4, 2016)

Williams: The thing that, more than anything else, really demolished my testimony was polygamy—more than the gay stuff, more than anything.  It was reading Mormon Enigma by Linda Newell, and it was Helen Marr Kimball’s testimony about being groomed to be the Prophet’s wife.  Heber [her father] sat her down and told her that she needed to do this.  She was writing about this as a believer, as someone who believed in polygamy.  What she said seared itself into my brain.  I memorized it and I’ve never forgotten it.  She said, “The Prophet promised me that I would secure the exaltation of myself and my entire family.  I willingly sacrificed myself to purchase so great a reward.”  This was a 14-year-old girl.  That moment, reading that, was it for me.  Then, I went back and read more and saw the whole dynamic, and I re-read Doctrine and Covenants 132; and all of a sudden God—Jesus—was talking to Joseph and telling Emma, “my handmaiden . . . if you don’t comply, I will destroy you.”  Those things put together were ultimately what demolished my testimony.

After my testimony had been destroyed, then I could be gay.  I couldn’t be gay, acting on it, before that, because if I did, I would have felt all that pain and all that guilt, and it would have crushed me.

You see this pattern over and over again with religious men.  They don’t intellectually reconcile their faith and their orientation and a healthy manner, and then the leave or get expelled from their faith, and they get into really high-risk behaviors, whether it is drugs or sex or whatever, because they are fucked up in the head about all of this stuff.  They can’t sort it out.  And that would have been me.  That would totally have been me.  So I had to know it wasn’t “True.”

I have come to a different understanding of that now, about what truth is.  I have a more nuanced, mature view of religion now, but not at that time.

Prince: Did you realize before or after the separation how necessary the separation would be?

Williams: I didn’t know until it happened.  I prayed all the time, I fasted, and I had spiritual experiences that were really profound.  I remember waking up one night and God had spoken to me in a dream.  God spoke to me and said, “I am so much greater than any idea, than any religion, than any philosophy.  I am grander that anything you can conceive.  It is impossible to take me, to put me into a box, to package me and market me to the masses.  I am beyond all of that.”  I woke up with my heart pounding, at 3 a.m.  I could feel an adrenaline surge that was moving through my body.  So all of these little spiritual experiences let me go.

I drove to Provo Canyon, beyond the Provo Temple, and I watched the sun come up.  I drove down at 6 a.m. and people were at my stake center.  I could feel the collars and the starched shirts and the ties and the noose, and that they were there getting ready, and I felt this liberated thing happening to me.  I listened to this Indigo Girls song called “Closer to Fine” that was on the radio.  The lyrics were, “The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.”  That was profound.  When you are a Mormon, you get profound spiritual insights coming at you from all over the place.  Here it was, and it was amazing!  I remember listening to Indigo Girls, an out lesbian band, and their harmonies were so beautiful and so intricate and so gorgeous.  I thought, “These are two lesbians, and they are creating such beauty.  There is just no way that they are evil.”  It was clarity.

(Troy Williams, March 30, 2015)

Yates: So the election happened, and when Prop 8 passed, I was shocked.  I just couldn’t believe it could happen.  I was pretty devastated, pretty shocked.  When you support something strongly, you just think it’s going to go your way; and I just couldn’t believe it actually passed.

People at church were just so exultant and so happy and so righteous that we had done this wonderful thing, but I just felt sick.  It was during that time that I started listening to podcasts and doing more research and finding out more history.  Over the period between 2008 and 2009, I pretty much wrote a letter to my bishop and told him the whole story about how I felt about the whole thing, and that I wanted to be released from callings, and that I didn’t think I would be attending anymore.

I have a disabled daughter who was about 30 at the time, who lives with me, and she wanted to continue going to church.  I didn’t tell her everything that I knew.  So I was supporting her, and I was driving her back and forth to church, but I quit going in 2009.  It was all from Prop 8.  I pretty much lost my testimony, and I have spent all this time following the issues.  I have read a lot of history.  Your David O. McKay book is on my bedside table, waiting to be read.  So I knew who you were when Carol said, “Have you heard of Gregory Prince?”  “Yes!”

But that was how I ended.  Prop 8 did it for me.  I just was appalled.…

I was very alone.  I felt very alone.  There was a Sacrament Meeting a few weeks before the election where we had a high council speaker.  He basically laid it out that anyone who was against Prop 8 was following Satan, was Satan’s minion, and was on the road to apostasy and Hell.  At that time I thought, “Well, if that’s how I am viewed, I clearly don’t belong here.”  I just couldn’t believe it.  I had raised my three kids in the Church and I had been an active, faithful member for thirty-two years at the time.  I had been in many auxiliary presidencies, and on the stake level as well—stake Primary president, in the stake Relief Society.  I just sat there thinking, “I guess I don’t belong here.”  I had been talking myself out of that the whole time, but then somehow when he said that—you know, sometimes you just hear something that clicks, and it was that stake high councilor telling me that clearly, if I supported the defeat of Prop 8, I was one of Satan’s minions.  I thought, “Well, that’s it.  I guess I’m done.  I don’t belong here.”

It was a long process.  It was three or four years of pretty much grieving and feeling like there had been a death.  I remember singing the hymns in that Sacrament Meeting and thinking, “I am going to miss this.  I am going to miss this so much.”  But looking back now, I feel like I’m just relieved to not be trying to fit into some things that I always knew were wrong, but I kept telling myself, “There will be an answer someday.  It’s going to be OK.  Everything is going to be all right.”  But I just knew then that I couldn’t go back.  And I really haven’t.  I’ve been back for a couple of blessings and other occasions, but for the most part I haven’t been back at all since 2009.

(Jennette Yates, January 16, 2015)