Monday, December 27, 2010

The ultimate obscenity...

This past summer, my wife and I made the most difficult decision of our lives. After decades of a mixed orientation marriage, she the straight wife and I the gay husband, we decided that divorce was our only option. We love each other and had built our relationship on a foundation of integrity and fidelity, but the emotional and spiritual cost of sustaining that relationship had become too great.

The task of meeting with friends and loved ones individually to explain our new situation seemed overwhelming. After much thought and prayer, we decided to invite family and friends to our home and tell them together, answer questions, and provide some degree of understanding as to what led to our decision.

Several days before our planned meeting, our bishop invited us to meet with him. After cordial introductions, he informed us that if we continued with our gathering, he would consider us in apostasy and would initiate disciplinary action against both my wife and me immediately.

This came as a shock. My wife and I were devoted members of the Church and had served in a variety of leadership positions including relief society president and bishop. We had in no way said or done anything to bring us at odds with Church doctrine or leadership.

When pressed about his reasons for this ultimatum, the bishop’s answer was direct. He told us that it would be permissible to hold the meeting to tell people that we were divorcing, but we could not tell people that I am gay. Saying the word “gay” in a personal context was entirely unacceptable.

Last month my friend finally mustered the courage to bear his testimony in Fast Meeting. He had attended his ward intermittently for over five years and had found spiritual solace there in a way that provided him comfort and sustenance. He wanted to share with these friends and neighbors why he didn’t attend with them regularly. Standing at the pulpit, he candidly admitted that he at times didn’t seem to fit in and as a result felt uncomfortable. “And why don’t I fit in?” he asked. His answer to the rhetorical question was simple and to the point. “I don’t fit in because I am gay,” he stated softly.

A week later my friend was asked to meet with his bishop. In a brief interview he was told he could not speak in church, lead public prayers, nor sing in the ward choir. He was advised that until things “blew over,” he could participate in no meaningful way in his congregation’s spiritual life. He too had said the word “gay.”

While I believe general church leaders when they say there is room for all of God’s children within the Latter-day Saint community, that message is not communicated in practical terms when it comes to those of us who are gay members of the Church. Not only must we be able to answer the temple recommend questions appropriately, we must also promise to never use the word that describes much of what we are. Instead we are told to use euphemisms like “same sex attraction” or “the sin against nature” or simply “sexual deviant”.

The problem with this is that words mean things. If I am going to have a place in the Church and our community, I must be allowed to say what I am so that others may know who I am. So long as the word “gay” remains the ultimate obscenity, ignorance about gay people will continue to proliferate and hate will inevitably abound.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The phrase "better the devil you know" comes to mind. Perhaps the most upsetting thing about the state of gay men and women in the church is the stigma you describe. Homosexuality as the unspeakable does no good. The resulting depression, self-hate, and occasional suicide are far worse than anything that could result from a dialog based on love, in my opinion.

  3. So what happened with your planned meeting? Did you go through with it?

  4. I must be and am obviously very naive. What an entirely different face of the Church experiences like this reveal, as opposed to the "we are tolerant" face that was put on after the Packer fiasco at Conference. And to think that this gathering was to be in your own home, not on church property! Another crack in the wall ...

  5. I can't believe this! Since when is the use of a word reason for disciplinary action? This is absurd! This is local priesthood authority running in fear!

    So what happened?

  6. We went ahead with the coming out party. The bishop agreed we could hold the meeting and tell people about my homosexuality so long as we cut back the invitation list significantly. In the spirit of compromise we agreed and did so.

  7. It's stories like this that reinforce my reluctance to ever share with a bishop what I'm going through. That's just shocking.