Gay Mormons


Mormons urged to stop shunning gay family members

Sexuality » Affirmation official recalls how his aunt kicked him out.

By Rosemary Winters
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 09/18/2009

Robert Moore knew his long pause on the phone already had given him away. At age 19, he acknowledged to his aunt, "yes," he was gay, something he had known since the fifth grade.

She responded: "You can't come home."

Moore, who lived with his LDS grandmother and aunt in a small Oregon town, bought a bus ticket to Portland and spent the next five months homeless. He never knew his parents and had grown up thinking of his aunt, 13 years his senior, as a sister. But now she insisted his gay "lifestyle" would be a negative influence on her two kids.

"I was so scared and I didn't know what to do," Moore said Friday in Salt Lake City. "We can no longer keep kicking our youth to the curb like trash. We are all children of God."

Moore, now 29, is young-adults director for Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons. On Friday, the group, in town for its 30th annual conference, called on LDS leaders to reach out to Mormon families -- and their clergy -- and provide clearer direction on how to respond when a daughter, husband, wife or brother comes out as gay.

But Affirmation is not waiting for the church to lead the effort. It has launched a new campaign ,"Keep Them and Love Them," centered on an informational Web site that is a work in progress.

Affirmation supports Mormons -- active and former members of the faith -- in being openly gay, calling their sexual orientation a "special gift from God."

Executive Director David Melson acknowledged this has created areas in which his group "disagrees" with the LDS Church, but said both can agree on the importance of families.

"I believe strongly that families can be together forever," said Melson, an active member of the faith. "We want to find areas we can work on together."

In recent years, church officials have stated they don't know what causes same-sex attraction, saying no one -- not parents or those who experience such feelings -- should be blamed.

"Above all, keep your lines of communication open," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, urged in a 2007 Ensign article. "Open communication between parents and children is a clear expression of love, and pure love, generously expressed, can transform family ties."

Holland wrote that gay children "are welcome" to stay at home. But parents have "every right to exclude from [their] dwelling any behavior that offends the spirit of the Lord."

Another support group, Evergreen International, which aims to help Mormons "overcome homosexual behavior," also has a conference in Salt Lake City this weekend. LDS general authority Bruce C. Hafen is scheduled to address that group this morning.

Affirmation has been seeking a formal meeting with a high-ranking LDS official -- the church has suggested the family services commissioner -- for more than a year. On Friday, Melson said the group has had "informal" discussions with some lower-level members of LDS Family Services.

"They're guardedly open," Melson said, "and accepting to what we're proposing."

An LDS Church spokesman declined to comment Friday on the prospects of a meeting or Affirmation's campaign.

George Cole, Affirmation's assistant executive director, said young gay men and lesbians who don't have support from their families are at higher risk for depression and suicide.

In Salt Lake City, 42 percent of homeless youths (ages 15 to 22) who visit the Volunteers of America Homeless Youth Resource Center are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a survey conducted last winter.

His first night after being kicked out, Moore slept on the streets, beneath a shop's awning. The next night he tried a park bench but was awakened by police officers. He discovered a couple of youth homeless shelters and spent the next five months bunking there. He found a job and got an apartment.

Moore briefly reconciled with his grandmother before she died in 2003. His aunt -- who asked him if he was gay after she read one of his personal letters from a friend -- still hangs up the phone when he calls.

Land of the Misfit Mormons

They're outsiders, but they're not exactly rebels.

Salt Lake City Weekly by Jamie Gadette

Feature - December 1, 2005

David Adler thought he had joined the ultimate club. After years spent struggling to fit in, the self-described social outcast scored an invitation to hobnob with the spiritual elite. A former missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he learned all of the temple secrets necessary to gain acceptance anywhere in the world. Adler served a mission to Santa Maria, Brazil, where he prayed daily for God to “fix” him. A devout Mormon, he believed that, with enough sacrifice, the Savior would help him overcome his sexual orientation as a gay man. It turned out that God had other plans.

Plagued by suicidal thoughts, Adler cut his mission short and returned home to meet with a counselor through LDS Family Services. To his surprise, the church-sanctioned therapist told him, “Sounds like we just need to get you laid.”

Instead, Adler flew to China, where he taught English, visited historical landmarks and logged countless hours online searching, once again, for a place to fit in. That’s when he found Misfit, an online community for Latter-day Saints proclaiming itself a haven for outsiders within the LDS religion. Members distance themselves from LDS culture, challenging stereotypes of how a “good Mormon” should look, act and think, while also upholding the faith’s basic tenets. They won’t light up a Marlboro or shoot tequila but don't subscribe to blind faith either. It seemed like a supportive audience for his ongoing identity crisis.

“I felt like they were going to provide me with an arena where I could say, ‘Yes, this is something I’m dealing with,’” he said. At first, his instincts were right on. Members, listed under assumed names, offered supportive comments, noting that as long as he didn’t act on his homosexual urges, he was welcome in the church. After months of intense introspection, Adler arrived at a personal crossroads. He saw only three choices: He could either ignore his emotions and get married, commit suicide or embrace his sexuality. He published his coming-out letter on a personal LiveJournal site read by his friends and family last fall:

“Well, people, I guess this is as good a time as any for me to just get clear with you all. I’m gay. It’s been a long, confusing road to come to this declaration, and I’m not quite sure where everything will take me in the future. Frankly, it’s been something that I’ve needed to say to those who I’ve led to believe I was straight for a long time. I know that a good portion of you might not understand why I’m choosing to take this road, but let me tell you this: The only choice I’ve made in this matter is the choice to stop fighting that which would have eventually gotten the best of me. I can’t help but feel that this is the way God made me and intended for me to live.”

Weeks later, Adler announced his sexuality on a post to Misfit Mormon, along with an invitation to participate in FHE Family, an online forum and intellectual group formed in support of gay Mormons at all levels of the community. This didn’t sit well with the other misfits. One disgruntled member accessed Adler’s personal LiveJournal, then cut and pasted Adler’s account of a steamy sexual encounter, the details of which led other site members to such responses as, “Wow. That was genuinely sick. I guess he really did give up,” and “Definitely don’t write things you’re not proud of.” Adler was floored.

“I felt like a modern-day leper. I asked them, ‘How can you possibly marginalize me when you feel you’ve been marginalized all your life?’” he said, trying his best to stay calm. “I just couldn’t understand how these people, who are supposed to be the most supportive members of the church, could not assist me.”

Frustrated, Adler blocked the most offensive, or in their case, offended members from his friends list and stopped visiting the site. The experience had him questioning the true meaning of “misfit.” The online forum seemed filled with people who dyed their hair blue, sported piercings and tattoos, and voted as straight-party Democrats against Republican-majority rule. Few members, however, showed any serious dissent against the norm.

“It’s all a farce, in my opinion,” Adler said. “They aren’t out for any kind of social change. They aren’t standing for anything substantial.”

Misfit Mormon co-founder Cory Bailey disagrees. The 23-year-old library clerk considers his burgeoning subculture a source of strength for people who might otherwise abandon their relationships with Heavenly Father. Dressed in red-tartan pants and a navy hoodie emblazoned by a hand-painted Misfit Mormon logo, Bailey blends right in at an indie music venue or warehouse art exhibit. His attire is far from shocking, but it’s hard to picture him taking Sacrament in such disheveled gear. Bailey feels his attire means more than mere appearances.

The Misfit Mormon mission statement includes a quote by LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley stressing the importance of individuality. Site members follow his directive, encouraging each other to flaunt their unique personalities, albeit in a controlled fashion. Think outside the box, but don’t break it in the process. Do that, and you might be confused for an antisocial deviant trying to bring down the dominant culture. Misfit Mormons prize individuality achieved through deep introspection and moderate debate, not pot-stirring rebellion.

But before members can wave their freak flags, they must pinpoint the factors that lead them to misfit status and how they might reconcile deep-seated differences with spiritual beliefs. Such discoveries are hard to come by, which is why members log significant time online discussing topics ranging from premarital sex to unsubstantiated rumors about Brigham Young plucking the scriptures from a hat. For the most part, their online conversations steer clear of fashion.

“It’s not all about the way you look,” Bailey said, scratching his prickly blond beard. “A misfit is someone who struggles with the dominant culture of Mormonism and is in need of an outlet or subculture. We’re here to pick up people who are living in sin and to help them through hard times.”

Bailey launched Misfit Mormon in 2002 after hitting rock bottom. He had just returned from an abbreviated LDS mission. Like Adler, suicidal thoughts sent him packing for Utah. Only Bailey’s problems had nothing to do with sexuality. He struggled with bipolar disorder, a battle his bishop advised taming with scripture and hymns.

“That just doesn’t suffice, honestly,” he said, scoffing at the notion of treating severe depression by reading Matthew, Luke or Alma. “You need people who understand what you’re going through. Living in general is really tough without the proper support group.”

Growing up in Blackfoot, Idaho, Bailey never wanted for support. He placed his trust in the LDS Church, respecting strict Mormon parents by “choosing the right.” When Bailey’s siblings rebelled by experimenting with Pabst Blue Ribbon, he bowed his head against temptation. His belief in God never wavered. However, he slowly lost his connection with his church-going peers. In high school, he gravitated toward non-LDS classmates, preferring their company to that of hypocritical Mormon teens who partied on the weekends. Disgusted by drugs and alcohol, he joined the local Straight Edge movement, eschewing illegal substances and promiscuous sex. But when his clean-living friends started busting skulls to solve their problems, he opted out. “I wanted something more in line with my spiritual beliefs,” he said.

Bailey turned his ideal toward the Internet. Along with Misfit Mormon co-founder Eric Bennion, he developed a thriving online support network based on religious devotion. Newcomers log on with an explanation of their misfit status, usually followed by specific questions about the culture. One member posed the following query:

“When I first joined the church, I had a lengthy discussion with a high priest in my ward about eternal sex. He sat me down (I was 16 years old) and explained sex in the Celestial Kingdom and so on. He wrapped it up by saying, ‘So when it comes down to it, our whole purpose here on earth is to have sex.’ I’m wondering if there is anyone here who has heard of this and has some info they could share with me. I think it makes sense, but I’d like to hear from some of you guys, if possible.”

Responses ran the gamut. “My friend said this is not doctrine. She also said that just because prophets say it is so does not make it doctrine,” wrote one respondent. “What’s wrong with eternal sex anyway?” asked another. “Many people outside the church get a real kick out of saying we believe in eternal sex and pregnancy, but official LDS doctrine does not justify such claims, while it does not explicitly rule them out,” another wrote.

Despite the obvious emphasis on Mormonism, the forum is open to people of all religions and even to atheists. Respect the site’s strict policy against Mormon-bashing, and you, too, may participate.

“I really do believe in freedom of speech,” Bailey said, adding that he tries to run the site on a democratic platform. “I think you need conflict of opinion in order to progress.”

Conflict is in ready supply on Misfit Mormon’s discussion boards. For the most part, arguments unfold as respectful debates. But when it comes to heated topics including abortion and homosexuality, all bets are off. Bailey thinks this tension stems from fear—and ignorance.

“When I first heard about homosexuality, I took on a sort of slippery-slope philosophy, like, ‘What’s next? Animals getting married?’” he said, shaking his head and adding that he no longer jumps to such wild conclusions. “I don’t exactly agree with the lifestyle associated with being gay, but I need to learn a lot more about it.”

Bailey generally follows the church’s stance on homosexuality, however he’s always willing to support those struggling to reconcile sexual desire with spiritual beliefs.

Bennion also sides with the church. However, until recently, he wasn’t clear on its official position.

“I never really had to think about it,” he said, adding that casual attitude changed when his father came out three years ago, ending a 25-year marriage, leaving him with many unanswered questions. Then a student at LDS Business College, he approached his seminary teacher who showed him the church’s position set down in a bishop’s handbook.

“The interesting part to me is that homosexuality is no different from the sin of adultery,” he said. “It’s not a sin until you act on your urges.” The Misfit Mormon community operates on a similar philosophy. Abide by their rules, and you’ll always be welcome. So people like Adler can jump on and express themselves, but only to a certain extent.

Adler doesn’t mind playing by the rules. He understands that the church is only as perfect as the people who fill its pews.

“I’m not going to judge the church because a few individuals happen to be freaks about certain issues,” he said. “I know the church has a hard time with things like feminism, intellectualism, homosexuality and a lot of scientific theories. But there is a lot to be said about leadership and the difficulties of controlling people.”

Paul Toscano knows full well what happens when “controlling people” get out of control. The Salt Lake City bankruptcy lawyer was excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1993 for publishing contentious scholarly articles. One of the so-called “September Six,” the group of six Mormon intellectuals tossed out of the church for challenging its teachings on feminism, authority and history, Toscano’s story grabbed headlines for years. The experience exacted a harsh toll on his family. His wife Margaret was later excommunicated in 2000 for professing feminist beliefs. He’s still cautious.

“I shouldn’t have agreed to discuss this,” he said. “This is going to get me in trouble.”

After logging onto, Toscano was not impressed. The comments seem very uninformed, he said, adding that most of their questions could be answered with a quick trip to the library. In fact, he believes everyone, misfit or not, could benefit from researching the church’s history on their own.

“We [Mormons] tend to change without admitting that we’ve changed,” he said, adding that while the church has shifted its position on issues like birth control and polygamy, its leaders prefer to downplay new policies. “It’s a tough deal, because change like that means that we were wrong, and how could we be wrong when we’ve been led by God this whole time?”

Toscano believes such loaded questions motivate LDS Church leaders to discourage members from expressing doubt of any kind. Participation in church governance is often frowned upon. He adds, however, that their intentions are good and pure.

“They are narrow-minded because they want to do God’s will,” he said. “But there’s room in the Scripture for both views, and there should be room in the church for the people who hold them.”

Toscano doesn’t regret publishing his controversial papers. He still respects LDS teachings but wishes the experience could have yielded a different outcome. A dialogue with church leaders would have been better than getting kicked to the curb.

“If this is the true church, it’s not going to fall apart when Paul Toscano writes an article,” he said. “If God is for us, he cannot be against us.”

While the members of Misfit Mormon are in no way challenging church doctrine, they engage in debates centered on serious doubt. Toscano is encouraged by their willingness to discuss taboo topics—even if their conversations unfold under a cloak of anonymity.

“To the extent that any Website or group of Mormons gather in the name of Christ to better understand their religion is a very good thing,” he said, adding that exchanging information is productive whether or not it leads to social change. Besides, just as he doesn’t have the power to bring down the church with one head-turning paper, Misfit Mormon likely won’t create a shift in the dominant culture. “I don’t mean to be judgmental, but it seems to me that they’re straightening deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.

Considering the majority of those logged onto Misfit Mormon treat the term "rebel" as a near-obscenity, it’s obvious they aren’t trying to rock the boat. When a City Weekly query addressed to one member leaked onto the open forum, the backlash spoke volumes. “Tell them that if they are looking for sensationalistic anti-Mormon stories that they need to look elsewhere,” one wrote. Other, more reactionary statements, expressed the same goal: Far from children of the revolution, Misfit Mormon members simply want to be recognized as individuals who strive to maintain true to the gospel.

Dan Wotherspoon, editor of Sunstone magazine, a publication which advocates and facilitates open exchanges about the Mormon experience, doesn’t think Misfit Mormon promotes any kind of rebellion. He sees the site as symptomatic of a larger trend, mainly the need to self-identify as the next generation of Latter-day Saints.

“They’re just standing up for who they are,” he said, adding that their cause is similar to the one taken up by young members of the Jewish faith informally known as Generation J, a hip label that refers to 20- to 35-year-old Jews who sometimes question a faith they are expected to embrace. Unlike their parents, they face unprecedented options in an increasingly secular world. Like the members of Misfit Mormons, many seek answers that will bring them closer to God. Wotherspoon adds that labeling them as “Generation M” might be a bit premature. Compared to religions dating back thousands of years, Mormonism is barely old enough to walk, let alone encourage widespread exploration of its central message. He’s certain that the need for Mormons to stand apart from the greater culture will fade as more and more Latter-day Saints develop a stronger sense of self.

Wotherspoon thinks that the Bloggernacle, a name that has been adopted by the LDS blogging community to describe the Mormon portion of the blogosphere, has given young, faithful members a way to unite and announce, “We are not our father’s Mormon church.” Wotherspoon understands the drive to carve a separate identity, but he views their path as somewhat misguided.

“There’s a sense that they’ve bought into the stereotype that the only real Mormon is the kind you see portrayed through the general conferences—the missionary with the white shirt and tie,” he said. “This may be a sort of self-hating move. In other words, even though they declare affection for the church, there’s got to be some part of it they are really, viscerally against. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need these types of qualifiers to define what kind of Mormons they are.”

However, it might be necessary for the church to redefine itself. Certain social movements have forced LDS leaders to revisit official proclamations that, as Toscano pointed out, are not set in stone. If the church wants to recruit new members, perhaps it should keep with the times.

Dennis Potter, a Mormon theologian and professor of philosophy at Utah Valley State College, is optimistic such change is possible, albeit at a slow, steady rate.

“Don’t expect massive change too quickly. You have to remember that Mormonism is fairly new when compared to most other religions,” he wrote by e-mail. “That said, two decades after the civil-rights movement, the church abandoned its racist policy regarding the priesthood. That’s fast when compared to changes that took centuries in the Christian church.”

Potter doesn’t necessarily agree with the notion that Misfit Mormons are uncomfortable in their own skin. In fact, he thinks they might be more confident than members too timid to show their stripes.

“I believe there exists a much wider variety of Mormons than we normally acknowledge,” he said. There are less-active Mormons who still accept the basics of the Mormon narrative. There are practicing Mormons who don’t accept all of the narrative and/or practice. There are self-identified Mormons who attend other churches. There are Mormons who are orthodox and practicing but who wear earrings and tattoos.

Bennion can relate to those afraid of revealing their true identities. As a teenager, he put on a front to please his parents. He wore all the right clothing, said all the right things and stood as a fine example for his younger siblings. For a time at school, however, Bennion dropped the act and joined his friends for drinks.

“I had a buddy who kept a container of rum and Coke in his locker,” he said, noting that he was the sort of young LDS hypocrite Bailey shunned in Blackfoot, Idaho. “I spent the whole year buzzed.”

Bennion cleaned up his act before serving an LDS mission. Now, he steers clear of alcohol. However, he doesn’t pretend to be perfect. He doesn’t pretend to be an example.

“I’m a very liberal person and that just doesn’t fit into LDS culture,” he said, adding that his political and social views in no way drain his spiritual strength. “Do I go to church and feel good about being there? Yes. Do I have to be a conservative thinker? No.”

Neither Bennion nor Bailey apologize for who they are. If Bailey wants to wear red-tartan pants to church, he can still honor the word of God. When he protests the war in Iraq, he’s not breaking an article of faith by going against kings, rulers and magistrates.

“Part of being subjects in our democratic society is questioning those who are making wrong decisions—especially when those decisions affect our brothers and sisters and are killing them,” he said. “I feel we should even pray every time the prophet gives counsel. A lot of people think the prophet is infallible. That’s not the case. We need to continually question our beliefs and seek answers.”

Adler wonders why such questioning isn’t applied to gay Mormons. He thinks that if the church can re-evaluate its position on birth control, polygamy and priesthood for African-Americans, then certainly it can reconsider its policies on homosexuality.

“According to the process of revelation, the prophet had to pray about such significant changes,” he said. “Well, based on what I’m seeing now, I don’t think the leaders have really prayed or asked the right questions about whether or not it’s OK for God’s gay sons and daughters to be involved in the church as active, temple-attending members.”

If LDS teachings change only under severe societal pressure, Adler will be waiting a very long time. Even if that day arrives when every state legalizes gay marriage, the church may never yield its position. For now, Misfit Mormons will love the sinner but hate the sin.

Adler takes comfort in the idea that while he’s unique, his struggles are not.

“I had to come to a place where Adam did. According to the Mormon tradition, Adam was faced with a decision to either stay in the Garden and never progress, or go against one commandment and further the world’s population,” Adler said, adding that either way, Adam risked enormous loss. “You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”


Mormon in legal gay marriage faces cutoff


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY -- A gay man who is a lifetime member of the Mormon church could be facing disciplinary action and excommunication after legally marrying his partner in Canada.

Buckley Jeppson, 57, said he's been informed verbally by a senior church leader that his life is incompatible with the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that a disciplinary council will address the matter.

Jeppson, of Washington, D.C., married Mike Kessler in Toronto on Aug. 27, 2004.

It is believed that if Jeppson is excommunicated, it would be the first time a Mormon in a legal, same-sex marriage was punished by the church, said Olin Thomas, executive director of Affirmation, an advocacy and education group for gay Mormons.

Jeppson said that over the past five months Nolan Archibald, the senior leader - or president - of a group of Mormon congregations in the Washington area, has encouraged Jeppson to resign his church membership, which would avoid disciplinary action.

Jeppson is unwilling to do that.

"It's not going to be my choice to deny my heritage and my faith," Jeppson said in a telephone interview from his home.

Contacted by The Associated Press, Archibald declined specific comment, saying he has a sacred duty to keep matters involving church members confidential. "I would like to say, it's a total misrepresentation of the conversation we had," Archibald said.

The Mormon church only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman, Salt Lake City-based church spokeswoman Kim Farah said. Where other forms of marriage are legal, only those in heterosexual marriages could be members of the church, she said.

Baptized church members promise to live the principles of the Gospel, Farah said.

"If the person later decides to reject these core principles, they have the right and freedom to do so," she said. "However, they cannot reasonably expect to reject the most fundamental teachings of the church and still wrap themselves in the cloak of church membership. Of course, they would be welcome to continue to attend church services."

In the Mormon church, disciplinary action is taken when church leaders believe a person's behavior or actions are incompatible with church teachings and threaten to damage the church.

In the past, members have been excommunicated for reasons ranging from criminal acts to scholarly works in history and theology that contradicted church claims. Excommunication means that a person is removed from church rolls and can no longer take the sacrament, teach or preach in church or go inside church temples.

Copies of letters written by Jeppson to Archibald, which Jeppson gave to the AP, indicate the men have been discussing Jeppson's choice - resignation or disciplinary action - since November.

Jeppson does not expect to prevail in any disciplinary action, nor does he expect the church to accept same-sex marriage. Given the choice, Jeppson said his preference would be for the church to ignore him.

"I'm not attending in a dress or wearing a boa or anything," Jeppson said. "I show up in my suit and white shirt and split after sacrament meeting. I just want to participate and I want to worship quietly in a safe place."


Gay, Mormon, married
Mixed-orientation LDS couples count on commitment, work and love to beat the odds
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune

OREM - Ben Christensen, who is gay, knows the odds are against his marriage. Jessie Christensen, who is not, knows it, too. Still, the Christensens are cautiously optimistic that their mixed-orientation relationship can work.
    They were not naive, stupid or ignorant about the risks they faced when they married in the LDS Temple nearly five years ago. Before he proposed officially, Ben told Jessie about his homosexuality. They talked a lot about it. They prayed about it. They both felt it was what God wanted them to do.
    Now Ben and Jessie have two children, 3-year-old Sophie and 2-month-old Timothy. They have shared their experiences with other Mormon mixed-orientation couples who have established a community in cyberspace. In the past year, Web logs dealing with their issues have proliferated. The conversations are wide-ranging, poignant and often eloquent.
    Brigham Young University students, Sunday school teachers, missionaries, at least one Relief Society president and even the occasional Mormon bishop talk about trying to change, their temptations, addictions to pornography, guilt and denial as well as faith, their marriages and their notions of eternity. The story of Mormon gays who have left marriages and the church is well-known, they feel, while their attempt to balance both in an open, realistic way rarely gets much attention.
    There are, of course, reasons for that.
    A gay man marrying a heterosexual woman "is just wrong," says Craig Steiner, an activist who was married for 12 and 1/2 years and has two sons.
    "You are not being true to who you are and it traps women in an unhealthy relationship," says Steiner, co-director of Wasatch Affirmation, a support group for Mormon and former Mormon gays. "The church is making these men think they can win and they can't."
   Statistics seem to back him up.
    Idaho State University professor Ron Schow has studied LDS homosexuals. Of 136 he surveyed in 1994, 71 percent were returned missionaries and 36 had tried marriage. Only two of the 36 were still married.
    "Many of these mixed heterosexual/homosexual marriages, even when they do not end in divorce, result in marriages in which there is no true intimacy nor a mutually nourishing relationship," Schow reported.
    Naturally, Ben and Jessie hope their eyes-open commitment will prove to be the exception.
    Ben had been through therapy before and after his two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That helped him resolve issues with his father and other men, but it didn't diminish the strong attractions he felt for other men. He doubted those would ever go away. He felt strongly that God wanted him to marry anyway.
    Jessie had few illusions about the magic of "I do." She had watched her parents' marriage teeter on the brink of dissolution over her father's addictions, but the union grew steadily strong and healthy through years of commitment, work and love.
    As they went ahead with wedding plans, Ben's resolve occasionally faltered. He wanted more than anything to marry Jessie. But was it fair? Was it right?
    "I didn't want to marry her just to prove to myself and others that I was normal, or to avoid hurting her feelings, or because it was the right thing to do. I wanted to marry her because I loved her and I wanted to be with her. Which I was pretty sure I did," Ben wrote last year in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. "What it came down to was making a decision between doing what my heart wanted or doing what my libido wanted. I wished I could have both, but I knew that was impossible."
    Later, he received a kind of divine assurance, urging him to "Jump. Jump into the big, scary, unknown darkness. Don't look back."
    And so he jumped, and he doesn't regret it.
    Sexual intimacy is something they have to work on, they say. Sometimes it's a problem, many times it's not.
    Right now Ben is happy, but he knows there may be periods in his marriage when he might not be. He hopes to weather those downtimes and, he says, "not make any rash decisions."
    Sometimes Jessie is scared about the future, but she doesn't spend much time worrying about it.
    They agree that openness is essential.
    That's why Jessie encouraged Ben to use their story in his creative-writing class. She approved his publishing the Dialogue piece, "Getting Out/ Staying In: One Mormon Straight/Gay Marriage." She has no problem with his going public about their delicate balancing act.
    "I don't think God really wants us to lie in order to make people think we're 'normal,' but Mormon culture sure expects us to," Ben writes.
    Few other Mormon gay bloggers are as candid about their identities as Ben and Jessie.
    That's because the emotional costs of openness are real. The LDS Church says it's not a sin to have same-sex attraction, only to act on it. Still, very few men or women want to stand up at church and say, "I'm gay," even if they are doing what the church recommends. It violates a strong social taboo.
    Ardent Mormon
    Landon, not his real name, dated his future wife at BYU, but the relationship did not progress from friendship to romance in a conventional way, and she became frustrated. On the eve of leaving for medical school in the Midwest, he told her he was gay. It was the first time he had told anyone, including his family. She said she had suspected as much but that it didn't matter. She loved him anyway.
    Eventually, she moved to the Midwest to be near him and see if they could "deepen the relationship."
    He promised he would always be faithful, even if attracted to men, and so they married four years ago. Now they have one child and another on the way.
    Sex is "more complicated than for most other people," Landon said in a phone interview. "Concessions are made. That's the nature of making an unconventional relationship work."
    He doesn't believe he chose to be gay, so he doesn't feel guilty about having same-sex attractions. He agrees with the LDS Church's distinction between desire and actions and is trying everything he can to resist those desires, or even overcome them.
    The key to being hopeful, Landon says, is believing that "God has an individual answer to me. God will grant me 'miracle upon miracle.' "
    At first, blogging was his wife's pastime. Then they started a family blog and finally, she suggested he create his own blog to explore homosexuality and Mormonism. He began writing about his experiences, his thoughts about the church and his feelings of isolation. It was therapeutic.
    "I could make it anonymous. I could have others respond to my ideas. I could serve other people and give advice," Landon says. "I have made a number of close friends that I could never have known because I am completely closeted."
    Someday, he believes, he will no longer have homosexual attractions. But that might not be until he is resurrected from the dead.
    "The purpose of sexual attraction is supposed to be for procreation. That's part physiological and part psychological," Landon says. "It is something that can and will be changed in order to become like God."
    Another Other
    Jason (not his real name) thought he was just a late bloomer because he didn't have the normal feelings for girls. By eighth grade, he realized what was going on, so he told his dad, who downplayed his concerns. Two years later, they again talked and both knew these attractions to men were not going away.
    At 16, he told his best female friend. Her grandfather had died of AIDS after leaving his family, so she was keenly aware of the issues. She was kind and empathetic and encouraged him to talk with his Mormon bishop, who directed him toward LDS Family Services.
    With the help and prayers of his female friend, parents, bishop and therapists, he decided to serve an LDS mission. He was "100 percent honest" with church leaders about his feelings before he left, he says, which didn't stop them from sending him to South America.
    "It was a great experience because I saw it as an opportunity to really build my relationship with other men in a healthy way. Through the Lord's help, I was able to develop a lot of masculine qualities and hatch some very genuine friendships that have been of great value to me subsequently," Jason says. "Contrary to common misconception, I was never attracted to my [male] companions, and there was very little risk of problems arising from my attractions. It was a wholesome, formative experience, and was a paramount time period in my development and manhood."
    After he returned from his mission, the friend in whom he had confided became his wife. They now have a 2-month-old daughter and recently moved from Utah to the Northwest.
    "The special circumstances of same-sex attraction have made us extremely close," Jason said in a phone interview. "Closer than I think either of us could have been in any other relationship."
    Jason has accepted his gayness and doesn't care if it never goes away.
    "My attractions are as potent as any normal male's. I feel stirrings for other men with the frequency that men feel sexual stirrings, and let's be honest, that's a lot," he says. "On the Kinsey scale, I'm as gay as they come."
    As Jason anticipated making love to his wife for the first time, the thought was repulsive. He had a gnawing anxiety that he wouldn't be able to do it. But he was.
    "I am surprised at how fulfilling my sex life is with my wife," he says. "It definitely exceeded my expectations."
    In conversations online, Jason uses the name "Another Other" to symbolize his outsider status. He doesn't belong to the straight world because of his attractions to men, but he's not part of the gay community because of his marriage to a woman.
    "I am accepted neither by the normal Joe nor by the group that shares my plight," he says. "To one I am an anomaly, to the other I'm some sort of traitor to the cause."
    He started his blog,, so people could know there are options other than celibacy, a totally gay lifestyle or "marrying a girl to see if you can get better."
    Voices in the gay ex-Mormon community are very loud online, Jason says. They are adamant that the church's position is wrong and that living as a gay man is the only viable, authentic choice. Jason disagrees.
    "I wanted to disprove the idea that those that got married only did so because they hadn't accepted their gayness, or were in denial, and that their marriage would inevitably end in failure," he says. "I wanted people to know that there is hope for genuine happiness, which is something I honestly feel every single day."


Steve, the Mormon American Princess

By Albert Goodwyn
Published: February 14, 2008

Mormon-American princess Steven Fales told me he actually is a member of the cult Church of the Latter Day Saints. In his cabaret show now at New Conservatory, he tells us what it was like growing up gay in highly conservative Utah, while maintaining a devotion to his religion. I will have to say that his intra-song patter about acceptance was a little like preaching to the choir these days, but his singing was wonderful. He describes himself as a “baritenor” and has professional music training. The tenor holds the main part, classically, and a baritone is a lower voice, just above a basso. Steven’s voice commands and dominates, especially when he takes off his shirt.

He sang show tunes, rock and country standards, with a twist, including some of his own compositions. His “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Escorts” parodies the whole gay scene of pretty boys who make more money by being arm-candy than they can at a regular nine-to-five job. “Money! Money! Money! I Wanna Be Rich” is a takeoff from the Broadway hits Mamma Mia and Stop the World. I Want to Get off. He evoked Evita with strains of “Don’t Cry for Me Salt Lake City.” His compositions also wandered into references to Jesus Christ Superstar and Desperado by the Eagles.

Steven’s singing was generally flawless and engaging. His patter was tendentious and no longer relevant in The City. We all know that growing up gay is difficult. This material might be shocking or inspiring to an adolescent in North Dakota, but it has become like a litany of “poor me” by now. Still, Steven’s voice, stage presence and delivery transcend the self-centered pleadings, especially since he denoted one set of songs as “Narcissists Anonymous.” We already got the point, even if some of his personal recollections are poignant, but he is worth listening to as a singer, and the humor in his compositions is clever and incisive.

Mormon American Princess continues through Feb. 24 at New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Tickets ($15 to $28) are available by phone at (415) 861-8972 and online at


Overcoming A Startling Confession Through The Power Of Love And Forgiveness

April 29, 2008

Months ago, 2News revealed a serious problem that was happening in Utah parks. “Cruising,” refers to men looking for other men to have anonymous sex. Now, in a special report, a Mormon family is forced to deal with a starling confession while overcoming the unthinkable through the power of forgiveness.

Kim and Steve Smith began life together like many other couples. They were best friends, they were in love, and they were living what some would consider a Mormon fairy tail.
The two were married in the Salt Lake temple. Steve was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and after just a few years together, they brought two beautiful boys into the world.

“We had a very full and very wonderful life,” said Kim. “Our relationship was very fulfilling and wonderful, except, in a sexual way.”

Kim says for nearly a decade the physical intimate part of their marriage was at best, disconnected. And after years of frustration, finally, they arrived at a breaking point.

“So, the morning after our ninth anniversary, I said, ‘we have to figure this out,’” said Kim.

Kim describes the conversation that morning as frank and painful. As they talked, Steve revealed something that he had kept for years. As a teenage boy, he had been sexually abused.

And unfortunately, the news got worse.

Steve confessed to Kim that for the last three years, he had been “Cruising.” In other words, Steve was secretly and randomly having sex with other men.  

“It’s easier to get mad, it’s easier to get angry,” said Kim. “I was able to see past the anger and not let the anger effect my decisions at the moment. That’s not to say there hasn’t been anger or frustration or heartache or sorrow. All of those emotions have to come. But not at that moment.”

Kim says it was that decision, to refrain from immediate anger that saved her family. Her husband was gay; even so, they re-committed themselves to the marriage.

 Why didn’t she leave him? still a question.

“I don’t even know myself, except I’m grateful with every fiber of my soul that I didn’t,” said Kim.

Determined to keep her family together, Kim knew very well that the next step was forgiveness and it would not come easy.

A trust had been broken, a love betrayed, and just as the wounds were beginning to heal…

“The worst fears were recognized and we discovered that I was HIV positive,” said Kim.

She had received the disease from Steve, which meant instead of fighting solely to keep their marriage and family together, there would be an entirely new battle, as they fought to save their lives.

In a documentary, Steve said in tears, “I do still feel guilty of infecting my wife….who’s innocent.”

That interview took place more than eight years ago. In the final months of his life, HIV turned to AIDS for Steve. The effects were devastating. His once handsome face turned pail and gaunt. His once athletic body turned to skin and bones.

Again, it would be the person he hurt the most that would be right by his side.

Kim doesn’t expect others to understand why she chose to stay by Steve.

“You didn’t live my life. You didn’t fell my emotions, nor did you share my heart, nor did you share a life with this wonderful person,” said Kim.

In his final days, Steve would barely have the strength to leave his bed. His final words were that of a man who knew exactly what he once had, and sadly, what he was about to lose.

Kim said, “He was conscious and he said, ‘I hope you know how perfectly I love you….and…I don’t want to leave.’”

It’s been nearly eight years since the passing of Steve Smith. His family is moving forward as they gain strength from looking back. Their experience reflects the words of their favorite hymn;

Be still my soul, thy best, thy heavenly friend, through thorny ways, leads to a joyful end.

Kim says Steve was a talented musician and artist. He adored his family and was a good father. She says she knew she was the love of his life. Her hope is that Steve will be remembered for all the good he did in life and not the mistakes.


Out-of-state money floods to Prop. 8

John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, July 28, 2008

When Bruce Bastian of Utah stood up Saturday night at a San Francisco dinner and wrote a $1 million check for the campaign against Proposition 8, he made it clearer than ever that November's ballot fight over a ban on same-sex marriage won't be a California-only affair.

Supporters of the effort to ban same-sex marriage already have taken in more than $1.2 million from out-of-state contributors for the fall campaign. And even before Bastian, a co-founder of the WordPerfect software company, opened his checkbook, gay and lesbian rights groups and their supporters from around the country had put more than $1.3 million into the fight against the ballot initiative.

"This is a campaign that's important to the entire country, not just California," said Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, sponsor of the fundraising dinner that brought more than 750 people to the St. Francis Hotel on Saturday. "The result will have effects across the United States."

Those national concerns are echoed from the backers of the same-sex marriage ban.

When the state Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22's ban on same-sex unions, it opened the way for "nationwide legal chaos" and allowed gay rights groups "to force their radical redefinition of marriage upon the nation," according to a statement from the California Family Council, one of the supporters of Prop. 8.

The outside money is arriving in supersized chunks. Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs group headed by James Dobson, has given more than $400,000 to the Prop. 8 campaign. The American Family Association, out of Tupelo, Miss., has contributed $500,000. The Knights of Columbus, a national Catholic men's organization headquartered in New Haven, Conn., has put $250,000 into the campaign.

The opponents also have cast a national net for donors. The Human Rights Campaign, which works for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights out of its Washington headquarters, has raised more than $570,000 for the fight against Prop. 8. Another Washington group, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has given $200,000. David Maltz, a Cleveland businessman, has donated $500,000 to the anti-Prop. 8 effort.

With more than three months to go before election day, the outside money on both sides of the ballot battle will just keep coming.

Concerns about that money is what persuaded Bastian to get involved.

Bastian grew up in a conservative, Mormon family in Twin Falls, Idaho. He went on a mission for the church and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Mormon-sponsored Brigham Young University. But he has been at odds with the church's view on homosexuality since coming out as a gay man.

The Mormon church has spoken strongly in favor of Prop. 8. In a June 20 letter, the church's top leaders called on California Mormons to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time."

That means something, Bastian said at Saturday night's dinner.

"One thing I learned as a Mormon was that preaching costs money," Bastian said. "The Mormons will raise a lot of money to support Proposition 8 in November."

Bastian, who lives in Orem, Utah, felt he had to level the financial playing field.

"You can't change people's minds. They have to change them for themselves," he said. "If people are shown the truth and have fear taken out of the equation, I believe they will stand up for what's good and fair."

Until the mid-1990s, Bastian was chairman of WordPerfect, a software company he founded with Alan Ashton, his faculty adviser, after he graduated from BYU. Since merging the company with Novell in 1994, he's spent much of his time working with arts groups in Utah and for gay rights.

He decided to make his $1 million contribution in the middle of the campaign dinner as a none-too-subtle challenge to others to step up and contribute to the anti-Prop. 8 effort.

"I know there are people waiting in the wings and I wanted to nudge them, to inspire them," he said.

Bastian has worked closely with the Human Rights Campaign, raising money for a number of its causes, said Joe Solmonese, president of the group. He even has an annual fundraiser for the group at his home in Orem, which Bastian described as the reddest of red counties, with a higher percentage of Mormons than Salt Lake City.

"He's always been there to help, even though he lives in what's probably going to be the last state in America to benefit from marriage equality," Solmonese said.

This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Preaching is costly work
Growing up Mormon, I learned how to raise money. So here’s $1 million to fight Calif. amendment.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Editors’ note: The following are remarks made by Bruce Bastian on July 26 at the annual HRC dinner in San Francisco.
IT IS VERY good to be here with you tonight. I appreciate the invitation.

Before we go any further, I will answer one question you may be asking. Am I a Mormon? No. But I grew up as a Mormon. I was one of those young men in white shirts and ties that would ring your bell and try to convince you to convert to Mormonism. I went to Italy, had doors slammed in my face often and learned rejection fairly quickly.

When I was younger, so many years ago, I was probably what you would call homophobic. All I knew that being gay was wicked because my church told me so. Like so many who we call homophobic, and perhaps especially because I was trying to hide my own feelings, I felt a lot of fear and then anger and then hate toward anyone who was gay. Well, maybe except for Liberace.

I had to learn who I was and then have the courage to be who I am.

As a Mormon, I grew up learning lots of scriptures. There is one in the New Testament I think is particularly valid. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Only when I learned the truth about being gay could I accept myself and feel “free” to live an honest, happy life. So now I can look at myself and not see someone wicked just because I am gay.

We are in a historic time. We have fought for basic equality for many, many years. In the last decade, we have fought for what some thought might never happen — full, marriage equality. We have won some battles but lost many. Now here in California we have perhaps one of the most important battles for marriage equality in the history of our community. We have a battle line that we have won, but perhaps only temporarily if Proposition 8 passes in November.

SO WHAT DOES that matter to me?

I am from Utah, not California. I have no marriage prospects. To be honest, I don’t plan on getting married again. I don’t even have any close friends in California who are getting married. But what about my kids? And their kids? My nieces, nephews and extended family? Just as important, however, what about the millions of kids out there still waiting to discover their sexual identity?
My feelings about sexuality have changed greatly since I was a Mormon missionary. Those changes happened because I learned the truth. I deeply believe that our path to full equality depends very much on how quickly and how well we teach others the truth about who we are, how we feel and how we want to live our lives.

One thing I learned as a Mormon was that preaching costs money. Mormons are very good at raising money. They do it mostly with guilt and fear. But they raise it — a lot of it. Unfortunately, the Mormons will raise a lot of money to support Proposition 8 in November. That makes me angry because I think the Mormon Church should stay out of my business.

I am here tonight to announce a gift I am making to the Human Rights Campaign, 100 percent of which will go toward opposing Proposition 8 here in November. I want to make it clear that I chose to give this to HRC. I do it without regret. I am making this gift because I believe in and trust HRC and their work with the Equality for All Campaign. I do it because I believe that together we can really make a difference.

THIS IS A crucial year. The decisions made by voters this fall will have a lasting impact on our lives and the lives of those who come after us. I believe we must do what we can to make sure those decisions are based on truth. Preaching does indeed cost money. So, with that in mind, I am announcing my gift of $1 million to oppose the passage of Proposition 8 in November.

I believe we are all better people for being here tonight. Because, if we are united in our goals, we are stronger in our quest, and we are each stronger as individuals. Together we are unlimited.
Remember, we are fighting for truth.

We are fighting for true equality.