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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “28b – We Want to Come Back”

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28b – We Want to Come Back


“What’s changed, however, is not the LDS church’s attitude toward gays, but gay attitudes toward the LDS church. Now, perhaps more than ever, gay Mormons — or ‘Mohos’ as some call themselves — with the help of a handful of maverick local church leaders, are seeking to bridge the divide between their religious and sexual identities.…

John Burlison was excommunicated in 1981 after he proclaimed at a Mormon priesthood meeting that LDS forefather Joseph Smith was not a prophet. Yet after three decades away, one Sunday last year he found himself at a ward in Kensington, Md. ‘I am apostate, excommunicated, gay and atheist,’ he said. ‘I am welcome in the Kensington Ward.’

Burlison said that his excommunicated status prevents him from speaking in front of the congregation, paying his tithing or holding any callings. But as a married gay man, he would rather stay excommunicated than leave his husband to officially rejoin the church. ‘It gives me a tremendous amount of freedom and sometimes I need that freedom,’ he said. ‘It can be a place of strength.’…

Mormon officials, meanwhile, have conveyed divergent views on homosexuality. At the August 2010 General Conference gathering of the LDS church, Boyd K. Packer, a senior leader in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — an upper echelon of Mormon leadership — said that homosexuality is not an inborn trait. ‘Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?’

Yet a few weeks later, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, another top official, seemed to cushion Packer’s statement by saying that the church doesn’t know the cause of homosexuality. ‘God loves all his children, and because he loves us, we can trust him and keep his commandments.’

For Mormon gay rights advocates, the inconsistent rhetoric is evidence that there are deep disagreements about the status of gays at the highest level of Mormon leadership. ‘I think that church members get mixed messages, because church leaders are sending them mixed messages,’ said Kaimipono Wenger, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego and an amateur Mormon historian. ‘The difference on Prop. 8 and Mitch Mayne is because the organization doesn’t know what it wants to do on the issue.’…” (Naomi Zeveloff, “Gay Mormons challenge church,” Salon.com, June 11, 2012)


“But I have to say that in my visits to Salt Lake City to talk to huge PFLAG groups, I saw an emerging generation of parents and siblings of gay Mormons who are insistent that Mormon family values extend to gay family members as well. I’m hopeful – probably more hopeful for gay Mormons than I am for gay Catholics, in so far as changing doctrine is concerned. Throughout history, Mormonism has adjusted – sometimes radically, as with race – to meet the temper of the times. They aim to please – and to grow.…” (Andrew Sullivan, “Will the Mormon Church Ever Accept Gays?” thedailybeast.com, June 15, 2012)


“This weekend data analyst Anne Nicholl and I were privileged to present two workshops on HRC’s groundbreaking survey ‘Growing Up LGBT in America‘ to over 100 attendees of the Affirmation Annual Conference ‘New Frontiers’ in Salt Lake City.  Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons is a group dedicated to LGBT individuals from every background and situation, united in the shared experience of a spiritual and/or cultural heritage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon). HRC has been engaged with Affirmation for years now. We have held strategic planning meetings with their leadership at HRC headquarters, partnered around Prop 8 protests, and have attended many of their gatherings and promoted their work to our faith networks.

This year I saw something I hadn’t seen before among the Mormons who attended — an unapologetic desire for reconciliation with their LDS roots. Everyone who attends Affirmation is not a practicing Mormon and many have had deeply painful experiences inside the church including being excommunicated for being LGBT or LGBT supportive.  Yet despite these experiences, the Mormons I met share a desire for reconciliation.  Their faith is a critical part of their identity and they are not about to give it up.  As John Gustov-Wrathall, a Mormon theologian and leader in Affirmation explained, there is ‘a desire on the part of gay Mormons to come to terms with their past. . . . We [have] dared to insist that we did not have to choose between being gay and Mormon. We dared to believe that the integrity of our souls allowed that ‘we, through our faith, may begin to inherit the visions and blessings and glories of God.’‘

These Mormons were ready for reengagement and their meeting in Salt Lake City demonstrated such a commitment.   They worshipped at Temple Square, they held testimony meetings, and they brought some of the most prominent Mormon leaders in the LDS community, including football legend Steve Young and his wife Barb Young to the conference.” (Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign, “LGBT Mormons Claim Their Faith,” www.hrc.org/blog, September 17, 2013)


“Another clue can be found in the church’s family-friendliness and its’ bringing LGBT kids back into the fold. Why not LGBT parents? Salt Lake City has the highest rate of same-sex households with children of any metro area in the country, at 26%. Gay Mormon kids have significantly higher rates of suicide than gay non-Mormon kids. Many are still thrown out of their homes when they come out to their parents, and Utah foster parents often won’t take in LGBT kids. About 40% of Salt Lake City’s homeless young people are LGBT. If Mormons were to support the right of gay parents with kids to marry, and support LGBT kids by not kicking them out or attempting to make them straight, those would be enormously family-friendly changes.

Many LGBT Mormons want to stay in the church, and their families and friends want to support them. It is within the church’s power to become the world’s first truly 21st-century global religion, accepting of same-sex marriage, and fully embracing of LGBT members of that faith. Will it listen for the word of God?” (Matthew Breen, “Mormons, God and Gays,” Advocate, March 5, 2014)


“An answer to Sherri [Park]’s prayer, Sit with me Sunday’ was born when this retired teacher (who still volunteers her services) found herself face-to-face with a lesbian student expressing how much she missed church–but had no one to go with her. Sherri responded by creating ‘Sit with me Sunday,’ an event which occurs several times throughout the year and consists of a traditional Mormon volunteering to be a church companion on a Sunday for a returning LGBT Mormon — who may otherwise not feel comfortable going back. Last December almost 400 Mormons in congregations across the country participated, and the event garnered local media attention.…” (Mitch Mayne, Huffington Post, March 13, 2014)


“The recent outreach effort to Mormon gays and lesbians in one Seattle LDS congregation was a ‘tremendous success,’ with attendance swelling to three times the usual number, according to participants.

The overwhelming turnout for the Oct. 19 meeting at the Washington Park LDS Ward was the result of a widely distributed letter from that congregation’s bishopric, inviting less-active members to come to the special service.

‘There is a large community of members, gay and straight, who have yet to meet each other,’ the letter read in part. ‘Please come join us. Your faith and your fellows need your strength, your testimony and your unique perspective on our gospel. You will be valued and welcomed as a part of our ward family.’

Molly Bennion, who is the women’s Relief Society president in the Washington Park Ward and spoke at the gathering, noted that many people stayed after the service for a ‘linger longer’ — a kind of greet-and-eat event — and some asked if they could attend that Mormon ward instead of their own.

‘I heard nothing negative from the regularly attending members,’ Bennion wrote in an email. ‘Most seemed genuinely delighted and proud to be in our ward.’…”(Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Seattle Mormons’ outreach to gays yields a spiritual feast,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 21, 2014)


“The testimonies collected here are not typical LDS testimonies.

These are the testimonies of individuals who have had to wrestle mightily as they came to terms with the discovery that they were different from their peers in their sexuality or gender identity, with all the complexities that that discovery created for their self image, their relationships with family, and their membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

These testimonies are not edited or expurgated. They are presented here as they were presented to us when we reached out to the membership of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends, asking them to share their testimonies. Spanish-language testimonies have been translated into English, but the original Spanish-language text is provided in an appendix at the end.

All of these testimonies are snapshots of a single moment in time. They show where these individuals are now, as of the compiling of this collection. They give a glimpse into where these individuals have come from, but there is a road ahead that remains unseen. 

Some of these individuals have been excommunicated, or have been subject to other forms of Church discipline. Some remain active with their membership intact. There are different relationship statuses represented here: single, in marriages with an opposite-sex spouse, in relationships or marriages with a same-sex partner or spouse.

All of these individuals have wrestled with doubt. Many left the Church for a time, feeling that it was impossible to reconcile their sexual orientation or gender identity with their faith. Many of those eventually found their way back. Some individuals might have left the Church, but held onto their testimony and their faith, seeking to continue to live as many Gospel principles as they could without the support of a community of faith. Sometimes faith was jettisoned completely, and then testimonies were rebuilt as individuals tested and proved one principle of the Gospel at a time.

Some individuals describe experiences of rejection or isolation at church. But many also describe Church leaders and members reaching out to them in love, and supporting them in whatever way possible. Almost all express a yearning to be of service in building up the Church of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God on earth.…”

“On February 19, 2006, my little brother died. He was hit and killed by a man driving an SUV while my brother rode his bike home from work. He was the only blood family I had that I loved and who loved me fully. We were best friends. He was my only sibling. His death, while it nearly destroyed me, brought back to the church. When he died I had questions and I was angry at God. I needed to know why God allowed it to happen, why we were here, what was our purpose. I asked the pastor of my Lutheran church and he told me ‘You will find out when you die’ or ‘Ask God when you get to Heaven’. Neither answer was sufficient. I finally got answers from my manager at the McDonalds I worked at. He was a family friend and out of anguish one day I asked him my questions and he could give me answers that brought me peace. He went to his car, and retrieved his copy of the Book of Mormon that he had used when he was in seminary. He handed it to me and told me to read. So I took it home and read it. I found peace in that Book. Peace I hadn’t known in quite a while. Peace that saved my life.” (Tiffany Beach, Rochester 4th Ward, Rochester, NY)

“I want to express my feelings in relation to our position within the church, as members of it, because we are all children of God and we have a great work on this earth. The Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but how can we express this love when we have to deny our essence and hide our identity? Really today many members who are attracted to people of the same sex are hidden, living in torment, and for no other reason than that we want to serve our heavenly Father, thus seeking our divine purpose. We can not get married because we can not live a lie, pretending to love someone we do not love.

As members of the church we want to be free, free to live our lives. We are beings of light and have great love to give our neighbor. I ask you to ask for a revelation from the Father and seek ways to bring our lives into focus within the church and not allow more people to fall into darkness. Truly I tell you that many of our brothers do not feel accepted, and are lost in the world of vice, and many more live double lives within the church. We all have a divine purpose which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I know that our father has not yet given a revelation in relation to us.

I have not lost hope of one day reaching the highest degree of glory. I would be willing and eager to serve an eternal mission, and would search for God’s children, wherever he sent me. We truly have much to fight for. And even if I found someone of the same sex to establish a relationship with, I would never leave the church. I would live its principles and stick to it, and only because I know it is true. I know that every commandment I fulfill, the Lord will bless me, as he has promised.” (Juan Feliciano Carmona Eguía)

“In 2014 I got to know a group of Mormons whose sexual preferences are the same as mine. They made me remember that I am a Son of God, who loves me as I am, and we all have a divine purpose in this world. It was no coincidence that I came at this time!

Being currently disfellowshipped in the Church and attending merely as a spectator without being able to participate in many things and being deprived of blessings is horrible. My leaders no longer greeting me with love, being seen with cold stares, when members of my ward turn away or cross to the other side of the street to avoid saying hello when I walk past, as if I were contagious, has been extremely discouraging to me, so much so it had caused me to be inactive.

Fortunately I was able to meet a small group called Affirmation, and leaders and members of the Church who support LGBT people in their wards and stakes. We conduct conferences and activities. And what I like is it is a totally LDS environment. I have the opportunity to talk and share this beautiful feeling with other members of my stake, inviting those who are disfellowshipped, excommunicated and inactive to return to the Church by sharing my testimony and the great love the Father has for us. He has made us instruments, given us talents and gifts among other things, to share and not be hidden. We can do many things and there’s no limit on what we can do to help and to contribute to the Church.” (Edgar Alcivar Estrada, Jalapilla Ward, Orizaba, Mexico)

“I know I spent most of my teenage years crying out to God to either take away the gay or kill me in my sleep. I did not want to live being gay, I felt that I had failed my mortal probation and there was no point going on. In the end I fell away from the church believing God didn’t give a crap about me, how could he? Surely a loving Father wouldn’t ignore the cries of one of his children who desperately didn’t want to be evil. So that must mean he didn’t love me. I fell away for 20 years and I had a great time! Pompeii had nothing on the life I lived and it was great! But there was always that niggling in the back of my mind….

I am back at church because my Heavenly Father has made it very clear this is where he wants me to be. I believe revelation regarding the purpose of my gay brothers and sisters will come one day, and I hope that one day our Father will be merciful and allow us to have the companionship of civil marriages. I do not believe being gay is an eternal aspect of my personality but I do believe my Father in Heaven made me this way, and He had a reason for it… I just don’t know what that reason is.” (Scott Grover, Enfield Ward, London, UK)

“I love God and want to make my life an offering to him by doing good continually. I have nine young kids to take care of and shape into loving, responsible adults. I have a wife I try to love more than myself. I have a ward and civic community where I look for needs I can fill. And I have a heart that I try to incline continually to God.

When I’m at church learning the doctrine and hearing the testimonies of others, I feel peace. I’ve wondered whether I should attend a more “gay-friendly” church, but it would be a problem that I wouldn’t share their beliefs. I believe God’s authority was restored through Joseph Smith and is held by our prophet today. People ask me if I’m waiting for the Church to change its policy on LGBT people. I’m not. I have, essentially, asked God the question I stated above, of whether He’d let me follow Him the best I could, and feel like He sends me love and nurturance, welcoming me to come along, even while I don’t understand everything about His ways. I love the Church for what it is, that it builds and improves my life. I’m grateful I can raise my children to live full lives of service in the Church, and to make covenants with God. There are more than enough blessings available to me and my family and I feel grateful.” (Taliatha Palmer Holmes, Hutchinson Ward, Wichita, KS)

“Over the last 5 years in Affirmation Argentina I have known LGBT Mormons begging to be helped, listened to, and included. We want to be in the Church because despite everything we know, we want to fulfill gospel principles and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Roxana Lopez, Villa Muñecas, Ward, San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina)

“I became inactive about six years ago because of the discomfort of not being able to tell my true sexual orientation. So I distanced myself. I remember what my bishop told me, whatever happens always remember your promises and never stop using the garment.

Today I participate in Affirmation Chile, to continue strengthening myself with other LDS members.

I know this is the true Church. I believe in the President, the Apostles and other General Authorities. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” (Rodrigo Hernán Gallardo Massieu, Simón Bolivar Ward, Santiago, Chile)

“I’ve always had same-sex attraction. There were many sleepless nights with the hope the attraction would go away. However, the attraction never went away. For a minute I doubted, but reading the Book of Mormon and attending church I felt the Spirit testifying to me I needed to be in the church of Christ. I know the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. I know I have a loving Heavenly Father. I stay because I know the gospel is true. I stay because I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I stay because I know President Monson is a prophet of God. I stay because this is the truth. I can’t ignore my same-sex attraction. I thought it was a defect in me. But it’s actually made me a more loving caring person.” (Roger Sanchez, Roseburg Ward, Roseburg, OR)

“I used to live and study in Utah, and I slowly became unfaithful where I finally was not religious at all. I knew of organisations such as Affirmation but found it not applicable to me, it’d be in hope to find a romantic interest.

About 10 years later this returned missionary that’s me found my way back to church, aching to feel the Light of Christ again and once again not to feel alone, to start a new journey of compassion, love for myself and others, to understand what forgiveness is, a journey to be an advocate and help leaders and members in the church in any way possible, receiving light and understanding about us children of G*D that are part of the wonderful LGBTQI community.” (Martin Juul Sörensen, Whitechapel Ward, London, UK)

(“LGBT Mormon Testimonies,” Affirmation, LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends, September 2015)


Gustav: My spiritual experience happened in Salt Lake in August of 2005.  It completely took me by surprise.  At that point in my life I anticipated that I had been done with Mormonism for a very long time and I was never going to be involved in Mormonism.

Prince: When had the break come?

Gustav: The break had come in 1986.  I had actually had a spiritual experience at that time in which I felt that the Lord was prompting me to resign my membership in the Church and leave.  That was a surprise to me at that point too.  So that had been nineteen years earlier at that point.

I had a very powerful, spiritual experience in which I felt the Lord very clearly telling me, “It’s time for you to come back.”

Prince: Was this solicited on your part?

Gustav: No.  It was very upsetting to me at the time that I had this experience, partly because I had no idea what it meant.  At that time the only way I envisioned coming back was leaving my husband.  At that point also, my sense was that nobody in the Church would want me back.  So I actually was very upset.  I wept at the time.  My response to God was, “I don’t understand why.  How does this make any sense?”

At that time I didn’t tell anybody about this spiritual experience that I had had.  I certainly didn’t tell my husband; I certainly didn’t tell my parents.  I kept it completely to myself.  But over the following month or so I continued to feel this prompting that I needed to come back to the Church.

At one point the prompting that came to me was, “All I am asking you to do is go to church.  I’m not telling you to leave your husband, I’m not telling you to do anything but just come back.”

Prince: Had you resigned your membership?

Gustav: I had formally resigned my membership.  So that was in September of 2005 that I had that prompting.  The thing that I have to say about it is that since I had had that prompting in August, I had felt this presence of the Holy Spirit in my life that was profound.  Up until that moment, I would have described myself as an agnostic or maybe even an atheist.  I felt this presence of the Spirit in such a way that I knew that God was real and that this was coming from God.  Even though the content of the prompting was deeply disturbing to me, the presence of the Spirit was such a peaceful, powerful thing for me.  I realized that I wanted that presence of the Spirit in my life.  I never wanted to be without it again.  When the Spirit said to me, “All I’m asking you to do is go to church,” I said, “OK, I can do that.  I can handle that.”  I knew that if I ignored this prompting, that I was going to lose the Spirit.  I decided that I wanted the Spirit in my life, and so I started going back to church.  It took me another month to get up the courage to actually do it.

There is a whole Divine Providence story that I could tell you about my coming back, but ultimately I started attending in October of 2005, in Minnesota.  After I had been attending for about a month or two, I formally met with my bishop to tell my story and tell him why I was there.  I think he was the perfect bishop to be there at that time.  He was very supportive of me.  I have been active in that ward for ten years now.  I have gone through two bishops since him.

It was sometime after that, January of 2006, that I was starting to read the Book of Mormon again and was starting to pray daily and was beginning to experience a renewal of my spiritual life.  At one point I felt a very clear prompting from the Lord, saying, “Pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the LGBT community.”  So I began to pray for that.  That began to be a regular part of my daily prayers.  My sense was that the Spirit was saying that the Spirit was going to be poured out on the LGBT community in a way that it hadn’t been before, and that as a result of this we were going to start seeing more LGBT people coming back to the Church.

What I have discovered since then is that not only have LGBT Mormons who had left the Church been coming back, but people who have never had any connection with Mormonism who are LGBT are converting.  Affirmation has had a number of people who have been coming to us and saying, “I am not a Mormon, but I believe in it.  What do I do?  I am gay, I have a partner; what do I do?”…

I would ask everybody that I knew, “Is there anybody else in my situation?”

Prince: The situation being that the Spirit had brooded and brought them back?

Gustav: Right.  Everybody said to me, “No, you are the only one that I know of.”  So I thought, “OK, that’s interesting.”  At that point I was leaning more toward North Star, in terms of organizational affiliation.  I wanted to be active in the Church, and North Star was mostly people who were celibate or were in mixed-orientation marriages and who were not in a same-sex relationship.

Prince: Was Evergreen still around then?

Gustav: Evergreen was still around.  Basically, the word from Ty Mansfield was, “I empathize with your situation, but we can’t really have you in the organization.  Your presence would be disruptive because we are trying to encourage people to not do what you are doing, which is to be in a same-sex relationship.”

So for a number of years I had this experience of being this oddity of being a gay man in a same-sex relationship who had a testimony and was active in the Church and who felt the Spirit.

Prince: And you had no adverse response from the local ecclesiastical leaders?

Gustav: No.  It was positive.  When I met with my bishop for the first time and I told him my story and said, “Here is why I am here”—I’ll tell you that before I went to him, I was scared to death of what was going to happen in that meeting with him.  In my mind, the greatest heartbreak for me would have been for him to tell me, “You are not welcome here.”  At that point I had come out to my parents as having a testimony again, and so my parents were fasting and praying with me before I met my bishop.

After I had told my bishop my story, he said to me—the first words out of his mouth before he said anything else—“You are the fulfillment of prophecy.”  I said, “What do you mean by that?  How so?”  Then he plopped open his Old Testament and read that passage from the Book of Joel, about how in the Last Days the Spirit of the Lord will be poured out on all flesh.  He said, “This is a sign that the Lord is starting to wrap things up.  The fact that you are here is a fulfillment of this prophecy of the Spirit being poured out.”

Over the years, gradually I started to run into other people where were in the same boat.  The earliest person that I know of is Tom Christofferson.  His experience was in 2006, which was about a year after my experience.  That was when he started being active in the Church.

Prince: Independent of your experience?

Gustav: Independently.  When Tom and I met for the first time here, when we had that Affirmation board meeting almost three years go, that’s when Tom and I connected.  I asked him, “What’s your story?”  He told me about coming back to the Church in 2006.

Prince: Was it a similar story of a brooding Spirit?

Gustav: You’d have to ask him to get the details.  But my sense of it was that the Spirit was at work on him and that he was coming back in much the same way that I had come back.…

At the end of 2012, Randall Thacker ran for president of Affirmation.  He won, and in the beginning of 2013 we had our meeting here.  At that point my feeling was, “Let’s lead Affirmation in this church-positive direction.”  I immediately got pushback on that.  Ultimately what it came down to was that I said, “OK, I’m going to start a group within Affirmation that will be LGBT folks who want to be active in the Church.”  I talked to Ron Schow and a couple of other people.  I talked to some of the LGBT folks that I knew who were interested in such a group and said, “Let’s get this started.”  We named it “The Prepare Group.”  The naming of the group was deliberate.  There is a hymn that we liked, “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare,” and there was a sense that the Lord was going to prepare a place for us.  But part of it for me was also that we needed to prepare for when the Lord opened things up for us.

It started small.  We invited a couple-dozen people to join this group.  It gradually built over time, and now we have over 400 people who are members of this group.  When we have asked questions about their journey, large numbers of these individuals were talking about spiritual experiences that they had had.

Prince: Independent of each other?

Gustav: Independent of each other, right, and all of them were since 2005.  So if you had to figure out when did the Lord—it’s interesting because I talked to another guy who I was put in touch with by Bill Bradshaw.  He’s an older guy.  I think he is either retired or about to retire.  He told me about a spiritual experience that he had recently, in which the word that he got from the Spirit was, “A key has been turned.”  It was his sense that the Lord had done something.

Prince: How recently?

Gustav: This was since 2005.

(John Gustav-Wrathall, October 17, 2015)

Gustav: When I talked about the idea of publishing guidelines for church leaders on how to welcome and minister to and with individuals in same-sex relationships, Elder Christofferson asked me if I had ever written a full account of my ward’s and my leaders’ dealings with me.  I said that I had not written it all down in once place, that I had written about it in bits and pieces, in different talks and in essays on my blog, and so on.  He said, “Would you write that down and submit it to me?” thinking that that might be the kernel of some kind of written statement about things that wards can do to welcome people.

When I talked to him about the idea of having a church-sponsored study of this issue that would be comprehensive and that would bring in the best experts from outside, in different fields—scientific, therapeutic, doctrinal, scriptural, and so on—what he said to me was, “We are aware of a number of different studies.  We have never contemplated having something that is that thorough and interdisciplinary.”  He sounded like he was interested in that.

(John Gustav-Wrathall, December 9, 2015)

Jeppson: After living in the inner-city ward for a few years, the place where we were living was sold and we had to find another place to live.  We lived slightly farther out of the city, which ends up being a suburban ward with a lot of families and kids.  The tone really did shift.  They are still very polite, but not overly warm.  Just polite.

Then, I had stood in the circle when my grandson was blessed.  When the time came for the third and last of the grandchildren, who was named after me—I only have one daughter, and this was her last child—I went in to the bishop here to get permission to stand in the circle, and he wouldn’t give it to me.  He went to the stake president, and the stake president agreed and he wouldn’t do it.  And yet, the other grandfather has a son who is living with his girlfriend, but he was a bishop so he was able to give his son permission to stand in there, while Mike and I flew to Utah, and sat there and watched it.

On the personal level, those are the things that really hurt.  They really, really hurt your soul.  It’s so hard just to show up.  When a bishopric is changed, it’s always a kind of giddy anticipation of the changes in the ward and the things that can happen and new possibilities and new ways of looking at the ward again; but for us, when the bishopric is changed, it’s a time of panic.  You don’t know if you are ever going to be safe again.  If it’s going to be awful, then you are going to have to make a choice.  You’re either going to have to go underground or you’re going to have to move someplace where you think you might be accepted better—or, just simply start attending somewhere else where you might be better accepted.

So as a gay person, you always feel like a refugee.  You don’t really have a home.  You can’t participate fully unless you are invited to on some level, but in the ward I’m in now, in three-and-a-half years I haven’t been allowed to say a prayer, nothing.  I can’t serve in the Bishop’s Storehouse, helping out.  I can’t do anything.  I cannot do anything except show up.  So the way we inoculate ourselves is to go to Sacrament Meeting when we can, but we stay out of classes, because in classes people feel they can say pretty much anything they want.  The dialogue is acceptable, and I’m just feisty enough that I know I’m not going to keep my mouth shut.  Church is not the place for me to get into that sort of thing, so we attend Sacrament Meeting, and that’s pretty much it.

For a participatory church—and I’ve worked in ward and stake callings my entire life—to be relegated to the outside like that is like being a refugee.  You’re a stateless person in the Church, and that’s hard.

A lot of the old-time Affirmation people, when I start talking to them, their anger is much more deep-seeded than the gay issue.  They rejected the Church, it has hurt them, it has done all kinds of things to them and they can’t get through it and past it.  The activism of Affirmation in the past was nothing more than a way for them to vent their anger for other issues.  The question would always come up on the mailing boards, “If the Church changed its policy overnight, would you return?”  The answer as almost universally, “No.”  That wasn’t really the only issue.  It might have been a catalyst, but it wasn’t the only issue.…

How many times have I been asked the question, “Why do you bother?  Why do you keep going back after all this?  You’ve been through a lot.”  The feistiness of it is that I just feel like I have to be there.  I have to show up.  Some days you just don’t feel like going to church.  There are just those days.  You know you’re not going to learn anything new.  You know what you’re up against.  You know it’s your own personal worship usually, and that’s about it.  And the reality is that there are days when I wonder if even that is worth it, and then I say, “But you know, there are other people in there that have got to see us there.  They have got to see us in our shirts and ties, sitting there next to each other in church.”  There are some wonderful people out there.  Everybody knows LGBT people in their family and their friends by now, and they need to put a face on it.  They need to be given the chance to deal with it.  So I don’t care if they just stare at our heads every Sunday.  That’s fine.

(Buckley Jeppson, October 5, 2015)