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Church leadership post for an openly gay Mormon
Mitch Mayne, who is openly gay, hopes his newly assumed Mormon leadership position will increase understanding.
September 24th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Church leadership post for an openly gay Mormon

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Early on in life, Mitch Mayne knew exactly who he was.

He would race home from school to watch reruns of “Star Trek” and swoon over his crush, Captain Kirk. At 8, after his parents converted, he was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith he embraced. Even after he drifted away from the LDS Church following his parents’ divorce, he came back to Mormonism on his own in his mid-20s.

It is where he feels spiritually at home, irrespective of the fact that, for the past 10 years, he’s been openly gay.

“I’m a man that lives in two worlds that a lot of people don’t think intersect,” Mayne said. “Both sides of myself exist in me. It’s part of my DNA, part of my makeup.”

Actively Mormon and openly gay: It's the sort of combo that might leave people wondering. After all, the LDS Church teaches that homosexuality, specifically if same-sex attractions are acted upon, is a sin. And the church has actively backed measures to ban same-sex marriages.

Now, Mayne finds himself in the spotlight as he embarks on a journey he says “belongs to all of us.” In mid-August he was selected, or called (as Mormons say) by local church officials to serve in an LDS Church leadership position in San Francisco.

Mayne’s appointment may have generated attention, but he’s not the first gay Mormon to assume a leadership role in the church.

In Seattle, Washington, and Oakland, California, gay men have reportedly served in LDS Church leadership roles, Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote in her piece about Mayne in The Salt Lake Tribune. What makes Mayne unique, Stack said, is that he "may be the first local LDS leader to announce his orientation over the pulpit.”

Late last month, from the pulpit, Mayne revealed - to anyone who didn't already know - who he is:

"I am a gay Latter-day Saint.

"I don't want pity. To pity me is to make me a victim. I want understanding. To understand me is to love me as an equal.

"I don't want tolerance. If I am tolerated, I am disliked in some way. I want respect as a fellow striving child of God - an equal in his eyes.

"I don't want acceptance. To accept me is to graciously grant me the favor of your company. To accept me is to marginalize me with the assumption that I am less than you. I am your peer. I am neither above you nor below you."

Mayne shared these words during a farewell address to the Oakland ward he long attended, amid an announcement that he would be leaving because he had been named the executive secretary to the bishop of the Bay Ward. It is a role in which he'll offer administrative help but also take part in shaping congregational work.

“While that’s not a big accomplishment in and of itself,” Mayne said, “it is a remarkable accomplishment for the simple fact that maybe for the first time, a man was called to a priesthood leadership position not in spite of the fact that he is gay, but partly because he is gay.”

For those unfamiliar with LDS Church vernacular, a ward is essentially a congregation or, to use Catholic terminology, a parish. Various wards fall under the auspices of a stake, the rough equivalent of a diocese. In this case, the Bay Ward is one of three wards that make up the San Francisco Stake.

The LDS Church, which entrusts local leaders to determine local callings, does not pay clergy, nor does it send would-be bishops to seminary. So Mayne, like the bishop who called him to serve, is a volunteer who works for the church on top of his full-time corporate communications job.

Don Fletcher, an ophthalmologist, said that when he was called last month to serve as the bishop and leader of the Bay Ward he wanted to make sure every Latter-day Saint in his ward knew they were welcome, including the vast majority who weren't showing up. Of the 950 members on the books, only 150 were appearing in the pews.

Because the Bay Ward serves a geographic area in San Francisco that includes the famously gay, rainbow-flag-waving Castro neighborhood, it stands to reason that a segment of those not attending church are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Among those who have been absent are members who grew up steeped in Mormonism, faithfully served as missionaries and have families still active in the church. For Fletcher, making members of the LGBT community feel comfortable enough to walk through his congregation's doors is personal.

Fletcher has a gay family member with AIDS and says he has seen firsthand how isolating that can be in the Mormon world.

“I love my church and have a lot of faith, but culturally we haven’t done a good job in dealing with people who are gay when they face life challenges,” whether that be coming out, depression or struggles with suicide or illness, Fletcher said. “I wanted to address it in the ward I live in.”

The response in his ward, and from other Mormons he has heard from, has been nothing but positive, "uniformly, no exception," the bishop said. And, he added with a laugh, in the past month he’s broadened his own knowledge – or, rather, his lingo base - learning about “the ‘Moho community,' Mormons who are homosexual. That was a new one to me.”

The LDS Church's top leadership, and by extension many Mormons sitting in pews, heavily supported the campaign behind Proposition 8, the 2008 California initiative to ban same-sex marriage, which is currently tied up in the state’s high court.

Church doctrine says members should avoid sexual relations until marriage, which only can exist between a man and a woman. But the church’s involvement in the Prop 8 battle, and the Mormons who financially fueled the effort, created rifts in wards, spawned protests outside LDS temples and pushed some members, likely already on the churchgoing fence, out the door.

The Oakland First Ward, which Mayne attended for more than a decade, held a series of meetings to help heal those post-Prop 8 wounds. He said he sees his new church position in San Francisco’s Bay Ward as an extension of such bridge-building and a positive evolution from where he once was. The appointment will allow him to do extensive outreach in the LGBT and Mormon communities.

“It’s been hard to be a gay Mormon,” Mayne said. In the course of his life, he said he came out "no less than three times to bishops and stake presidents, and each time I was pushed back into the closet. … This is an opportunity to take my own pain and challenges and make it an opportunity to help. How can I not do that?”

He and Fletcher have already seen dividends from Mayne's calling. On a recent Sunday, Fletcher said he looked out to see seven formerly absent members take their seats in the pews because Mayne is there.

“I talked to a couple that hadn’t been to church in 20 years,” Fletcher said. “I’m not reinventing doctrine. I’m just trying to put in place what Jesus Christ would have us doing. … Even if you’re in a gay relationship and have no interest in living all the commandments, you’re still welcome in church, by all means.”

The development has stirred up discussion far beyond California. In one week, Mayne said, his personal website, which links to a blog in which he writes openly about who he is, received 30,000 views from 67 countries.

“I’m not a lone wolf on this,” he said. “I just happen to be a face of it. … There is a place for everyone at our savior’s table.”

But not everyone is as confident that Mayne’s calling will make a difference.

“I’m conflicted about this,” said Eric Ethington of Salt Lake City, the founder of the LGBT blog PRIDEinUtah.

“On the one hand, I view this as a positive step forward for the church, a church that has a history of extreme persecutions against the LGBT community,” he said. “But on the other hand,  I worry about LGBT people … because the church teaches you that you cannot reach your full potential and have full acceptance in the church unless you marry someone of the opposite sex.”

Ethington was raised in the LDS Church and says he was kicked out of the house when he came out at 17. He later closeted himself and married a woman in an LDS temple, only to divorce a couple of years later after realizing he was kidding himself.

“I can’t share (Mitch’s) optimism, but I share his hope,” he said. “Whether the church is ever going to change its policies, that’s a question for (LDS Church President) Thomas Monson. But one thing I hope the church will do, and maybe Mitch can help with this, is educate local leadership. Some kids are gay. … And that’s OK.”

Ethington pointed out, though, that Mayne, who was in a longtime monogamous relationship until a year ago, was only able to get his church calling because he’s not currently with someone.

“If he falls in love again and wants to be with that man, he won’t be allowed to serve,” he said.

Matt Mosman, a high councilor with the San Francisco Stake, said that if Mayne were to find himself in another romantic relationship, there would be an expectation that he would step down.

But the expectation that Mayne will abstain from premarital sex while in a leadership role, Mosman added, is no different from what would be expected of a single man who is not gay.

“The idea that a gay man who is not currently active in a gay relationship could serve actively in a high-ranking calling – that is a policy in the Mormon church that you could argue has been around since the church’s inception,” said Mosman, who works in corporate development.

For now, Mayne looks forward to his service and to promoting conversations and understanding. He will not, however, commit to a life of celibacy and hopes, “for all my gay brothers and sisters,” that same-sex marriage will someday be an option.

“I’m not saying I have an intent to go out and sin,” he said. “Here’s where I am; I am able and willing to serve. But I don’t have a crystal ball and don’t know what the future holds.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Homosexuality • Mormonism • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (1,700 Responses)
  1. niceguy

    I dont have nothing against gay as a person, everybody is free and they can do whatever they want. But I have a problem when Gays try to be a good believer, because that is not possible. Bible says clearly that that a sin. Apostol Paul mention that few time.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • Michael

      So you are for the freedom of others, except when they want to believe in magic just like you? You guys will dwindle your base down to such low numbers your religions will barely exist, Atheism is on the rise because they don't tell you to have faith in magic afterlives, and it does not discriminate against anyone.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:01 am |
    • Michael Wong

      "niceguy" is so right. Gay people are sinners because they disobey a part of the Bible that God really MEANT, unlike the parts about loving money, eating pork, working or buying on the Sabbath day, executing your children if they swear at you, etc. Everyone knows that God didn't really mean those other parts. But the part about gays: he MEANT it! So don't disobey that one part of the Bible, folks! It makes you a sinner!

      September 25, 2011 at 7:07 am |
    • scott501

      Who are you to say who can be a believer? How arrogant. How does their belief affect you? Who even cares what you have a problem with?

      September 25, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Gumby

      Ignorant Christian bigot, playing God and determining who is and who cannot be a "true believer". Just remember, every time you point a finger at someone and shriek "You're not a true believer!!!!", there's another believer pointing his finger at you saying the exact same thing. I find it highly amusing that none of you can agree on what your bible says, and all of you think your own individual interpretation is the One True Discernment, but you all claim that Christianity is the only true faith. Maybe that's why your religion's numbers are declining by a million per year here in the U.S. Thanks to the internet, more and more people are learning just how silly, fractious and ugly Christianity (and all religion) really is. Thanks for playing your part.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • SciFiChickie

      OH PLEASE!!! Show me the commandment that says "Thou shall not be gay". OH wait you can't there isn't one. But I can show YOU the 4TH comandment. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (What are your doing online on Sunday???), & how about the 9TH Commandment. Thou shall not Bear false witness (don't Lie). So by your logic you can break a commandment by posting online on the Sabbath, & you would still condemn someone who would rather be an abomination, than break a commandment & lie about who they are & who they love... (By the way in Hebrew the definition of Abomination – different from tradition) Wasn't the bible originally in Hebrew??? Why is it the most judgmental people are SO CALLED Christian's who have never really read the bible for themselves? You Sir are the reason Christians have a bad name...

      September 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  2. RichardSRussell

    Beaten wives claim they love their husbands, too, which is why they don't leave, no matter how bad the abuse gets. Sad there, sad here. Tragic even.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • Doug

      On the other hand some folks seem to like abuse, in this man's case he is very mistaken with what he thinks the members of the church think of him.. I grew up Morman and I too am gay, but I want nothing to do with Mormans or their cult.. The speak here of acceptance, really ? I reject every lie they stand for !

      September 25, 2011 at 4:02 am |
  3. pete

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster offers the embrace of his Noodly Appendage to all – come and feel the power of his big balls.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:46 am |
    • Jesus

      A gay Mormon? That's an oxymoron! Kind of like a Jewish Nazi Or a Black KKK member.

      September 25, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Gumby

      RAmen!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Atheists WIll Be Dorks

      Flying Spaghetti Monster Facts:

      1) Has many serious followers who do good in the world
      2) Not recently and obviously invented by man
      3) Has ancient written accounts written about it that date back to the beginnings of written history
      4) Even people all across the world and far back in time without direct knowledge frequently talk about sky noodles

      Atheists are such dorks. Can't you come up with anything better? I suppose it's fun for a bawdy laugh, if you're into puerile humor...

      September 25, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Jimmy

      You believe in the flying spagetti monster? How crazy is that? you silly athiest.
      Take the athiest test to see if you are a true atheist. google "the athiest test" and see how you do.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  4. Bo

    @Fact: What makes you sure of your salvation?

    September 25, 2011 at 3:46 am |
    • Michael

      They just "Feel it" and "Know it", just like every religious person claims on the face of the earth. You can't all be right, but you all can sure as sh1t be wrong.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • Jesus

      Every time I sit down to a delicious meal I salivate. Hence, I am confident of my ability to salivate. Salvation? Isn't that part of the typical religious hucksters' scam routine. The routine designed to separate you from your cash.,

      September 25, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  5. Michael

    HAHAHA You are part of a religion that HATES you for being YOU. Brainwashed nobody, suckers are a dime a dozen.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • John Richardson

      And he may well change that religion.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:40 am |
    • Michael

      @John, So to you is it the word of a God, or the words of man that change as society decides what is moral and not moral?

      September 25, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • John Richardson

      The various words that have been put into various Gods' mouths are ALL the words of humans.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:26 am |
    • Jesus

      Mormonism has morphed from a child molesting polygamist Black and gay hating cult into a mainstream religion. Mormon leaders after Smith simply followed the cash. They dumped polygamy to gain statehood for Utah and in 1978 decided that Blacks were OK and didn't have to turn White to get to heaven. Both major changes in their religion's dogma brought in lots more cash.

      September 25, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  6. Justin from Springfield, Mass.

    This story is inspiring. It's cool to hear that the Mormon religion is becoming increasingly tolerant.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • Jesus

      Not tolerance at all! It's a simple matter of that religion morphing its doctrine to follow the money. 10-12% of the population is gay. That's a great demographic to con out of their cash. Mormon leaders can see that!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Quinn

      Good one! LOL

      September 25, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Eve

      this is not tolerance. If he's in a relationship he can't hold the position. it says so right in the article. What the article doesn't go into but should is if he's allowed to take the sacrament, visit the temple, or even pray at meetings. Mormons who sin aren't allowed those things and by their own doctrine being gay is a big sin. It even says so in the article. Remember how much they threw their weight behind prop 8?

      September 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  7. Fact

    Mormons have no hope to start with because they have no salvation as they have rejected the plain teachings of the Word of God. Read the Bible and accept it authentically. The world knows you use the same vocab as Christians but you mean totally different things. You deceive others knowingly. Stop it. Truth is universe-more important than your membership as Mormon. You have chosen your false church over God. Get out of the pit by asking Him for help.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:00 am |
    • Lin

      Mormons absolutely DO believe the Bible is the Word of God. The entire church is studying the New Testament this year in Sunday School, just like we studied the Old Testament last year. Whoever has been telling you that we do not believe in and love the Bible has grossly misinformed you.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:31 am |
    • John Richardson

      You really should stop chortling over other people's supposed lack of salvation. Seriously. For your own soul's sake.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:34 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      ALL religions rely on faith, which is the world's worst decision-making technique. That's why they all disagree with each other, even tho each one claims to be divinely inspired and 100% true.
       
      They can't ALL be true, but they CAN all be false. That's where the smart money bets.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • ljd

      Fact, you are an argogant idiot and just as blind to loving others for good deeds. you don't have to believe in any other religious views out there, but you ought to see the good in people, and the LDS church is full of great people. I am not close to a perfect person, so I'd like to tell you to eat a fat one

      September 25, 2011 at 4:50 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Actually Mormons will lend a helping hand nor a praying hand but a helping hand! While I don't support the mythology of any religion, I do appreciate that these people at least attempt to do some good instead of just offering false, useless prayers.

      September 25, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • Gumby

      The commenter "Fact" nicely demonstrates the evil of religion.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • SciFiChickie

      Before you bash a religion I suggest you do some research.

      1st. the name of the Mormon church is: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints".
      2nd the Mormons study not just the Bible old & new testament they have the "Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Chirst"
      3rd. Mormons don't like to be called mormons, They preffer to be called Later Day Saints, Mormon is a derogatory on thier Sricpture.
      4. Jesus taught "Judge not least ye be judged", & "Let ye with out sin cast the 1st stone",

      So, what gives YOU the right to say who is & is not a "True Follower" of Christ?

      September 26, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  8. Fact

    America's greatest disease for all time = self-affirmation in the midst of hellish sinning
    Some humans really want autonomy all the way to hell. Cult Sodomites.

    September 25, 2011 at 2:54 am |
  9. yada

    Well this is a different news story.

    September 25, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  10. mishi

    Gay Mormon Gets Excommunicated, Loses Family, Takes His Own Life....
    http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/gay-mormon-gets-excommunicated-loses-family-takes-his-own-life/news/2011/09/23/27456.....
    Yeah, Mitch. Like you said, it's hard to be a gay Mormon. Tough to be a Jewish neo-Nazi too, I hear.

    September 25, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  11. john leddy

    Its all b ulls hit, free yourself from it.

    September 25, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  12. when

    Maybe he would feel more comfortable with the Catholic religion. There gays are completely accepted. You can even be a priest while in a relationship. AND he won't have to spend eternity populating a planet with spirit children.

    September 24, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Tubular

      spirit children?
      I think somebody is projecting here.

      September 24, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I wish somebody would explain to those Catholic priest in "relationships" that you can't populate THIS planet starting with children.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:55 am |
  13. kimsland

    Mitch Mayne gay and goes to church?
    Next atheists will go to church?

    Mitch understand the church is NOT for you (or anyone with sense really) Churches are backward and not inline with today's society. And you want to continue going there? Why? Leave Mitch before they burn you as a devil worshiper or something outrageously ridiculous. You gays friends (brothers and sisters?) must think you're mad, I know I do.

    September 24, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • knn

      When society is no longer in line with "church," it's time to take cover.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  14. Reality

    Gay or straight, Mormonism is still a business cult fronting as a religion !!! And it was founded by one of the great con artists of all time, one Joe Smith with his mythical horn-blowing friend Moroni.

    September 24, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Jesus

      I have scoured the upper NY State area looking for those golden tablets. Where the f are they? Are they part of the delusion?

      September 25, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  15. when

    The mormon church won't let them serve if they are in a gay relationship but I gaurantee they will happily require them to give 10 per cent of ALL income to the church. The mormon's view of eternity is: the MAN gets his own planet and he and his earthly wife get to populate it with spirit children for etern ity. What plan do they have for gay couples in etern ity? This is a cult that at one time was blatantly racist against black people, believed in polygamy and God only knows what else. They also believe Jesus and satan are brothers. If the gays in a relationship can't serve and are given no spiritual plan in etern ity but are completely obligated to pay their 10 per cent, I'd say the mormon church has found yet another resource to pad their billion dollar bank accts period!

    September 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Joseph

      It's sad that you have that perspective. You should learn more about the Church at Mormon.org, not just rely on whatever you google about weird "mormon beliefs."

      September 25, 2011 at 3:10 am |
    • Michael

      Mormons are a bunch of brainwashed retard3d racists.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:46 am |
    • ljd

      Michael, I am not perfect, so I'd like to happily say you are a damn idiot if you believe that, you stupid ass hater. Let me bet, you're probably some "born again Christian" who pays supports your leaders car, house, and gold.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:56 am |
    • Michael

      @Ijd I am not a Christian either b1tch, I don't believe in magic.

      September 25, 2011 at 6:31 am |
  16. Central Scrutinizer

    You stud...

    September 24, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  17. Chedar

    Now this mormon will be the only man in their religious believe that won't take a wife much more than multiple wives the mormon doctrine requires.

    September 24, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • News Flash

      Multiple partners, duh.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • Joseph

      Multiple wives aren't required. Google Official Declaration 1.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:13 am |
    • ljd

      Chedar, stop smoking crack, you idiot. You are confused. Stop being a social terrorist.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:58 am |
  18. Pili

    If he manages to make Mormons understand, he'll be a hero.

    September 24, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Yep!

      September 25, 2011 at 3:38 am |
  19. *frank*

    This young gentleman's sexuality and spiritual beliefs are his own business, but he really should button his shirt.

    September 24, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • says gramma

      He'd better wear his rubbers outside. I hear it's raining men!

      September 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Jesus

      Maybe that's his way of seeking out other gay Mormons. I wonder if it will eventually be OK for gay Mormons to be polygamists? I guess that the Mormon leaders will have to run the numbers and estmate the cash intake that could flow from such a change in dogma.

      September 25, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Yet another Steve

      Why should he button his shirt? Make you uncomfortable? Maybe have an effect on you that makes you squirm?

      September 25, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  20. Keith

    Romans 1:27,28 and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned with lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemingly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    September 24, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • mishi

      A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 ).... Yeah, whatever.

      September 25, 2011 at 2:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Bible quotes mean nothing in the real world!

      September 25, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • Keith

      TruthPrevails, What is truth? Truth according to who? You? Certainly not me. Change your handle to maybe "Truth as I see it"? or maybe "Deception Prevails".

      September 25, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
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