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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. TaraP

    You NEVER hear a MAN whine, complain or nag...Unles he is GAY....

    September 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Lenny

      or the Speaker of the House.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • mr sunshine

      youve never heard a straight man complain?

      September 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Seriously

      "You NEVER hear a MAN whine, complain or nag"

      Try telling that to all the straight men that fought for African American civil rights. There was a lot of complaining till they got their rights.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You've never been near a straight man who has a cold or a hangnail. I doubt any straight man has any interest in you, Tara. Come to think of it, I doubt ANY men do.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Tara's uncle-daddy

      Get in that kitchen and make me some sandwiches woman.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Joe

      It didn't sound to me like he was whining. You on the other hand...

      September 26, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • RayJacksonMS

      Oh I'm sure all sorts of men have complaints about you.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • SciFiChickie

      "You NEVER hear a MAN whine, complain or nag...Unles he is GAY...."

      Wut the Frell eva...

      I hear Straight guys whine all the time, I caint get any pu*ie waaahh..., I gotta pay child supportwaaahhh,
      why caint I drink & drive without gettin arrested waahh, I got caught cheating waahh

      ALL MEN WHINE

      September 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  2. danvass

    God is the head of the church! This gay dude has nothing to do with God's church, my church! say hi to satan for me! lol

    September 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • sam

      The last 3 letters of your name seem to be working out for you.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  3. Ed

    Gay this, gay that...what the hell? JUst live your lives and stop pushing this agenda on every front. You want to know why people are turned off by the gay culture, it's not what you do in your bedroom, its because you are in every one's face badgering them to accept your lifestyle while you do not accept those who disagree. Its the obverse side of the same coin... it gets very tiring.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Robert

      Your comment is more obnoxious and pushy than the entire article. Nobody forced you to read it.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • sam

      Translation: "Ah gotta click this here story and come get upset about TEH GHEYS."

      September 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Joe

      It appears you're trying to push a certain lifestyle onto him now.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Yup

      "its because you are in every one's face badgering them to accept your lifestyle while you do not accept those who disagree."

      Can you imagine if African Americans or women didn't get in your face if they would have their civil rights now? They have to get in your face because they are fighting for their rights moron!

      September 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  4. jimbo

    You have to remember that the LDS church is a business concerned with bringing in as much money as possible. It only makes sense to put a gay leader in SF to recruit more gays that wouldn't otherwise spend their hard earned money on the LDS church.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • asdf

      yeah they have their work cut out for them. Pretty much the LDS church has few peers when it comes to dislike and distrust from the gay community (rightful so).

      September 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  5. asdf

    Ultimately the desire to recruit overrides the desire to exclude for most religions. Especially the more cult like options out there.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  6. LEE

    I find it funny as I read over the comments of others and see the ignorance of others.. And you wonder why people keep a distance from organized religion, to many people passing judgment on others. If god made everybody equal, then man makes everybody unequal. I guess some people are only happy when they make others as miserable as they are.. Look back through history on how many cultures, people and races that was preached as God not approving of, but they believed that god created everything too.. Closed minded people miss so much from others.. OK I done and off my soapbox.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • c

      Lee -absolutely beautiful. God did make everybody equal.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  7. Keith Stone

    Just remember, I'm always smooth.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  8. John Winfield

    Sleep with dogs and you will surely get their flees...

    September 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • John Winfield

      *fleas...

      September 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • srsly

      Yeah, I hope he doesn't catch that straightness.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • phoodphite

      So you're not using the once a month drops. No wonder these things are spreading around. At least rub yourself with Rosemary or cedar oil as a deterrent.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Haha, phood!

      September 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  9. Saved

    We should watch doing GODS work and judging this man and others like him. We all know this is a moral issue and we as humans have a difficult time legislating morality this is an issue better left to GOD. We will all be judged in the end by GOD not by each other. The Bible teaches against this type of life style and that GOD will judge all. I say this raise you children morally and just and pray often that they understand that choises that the make have everlasting consequences.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Rick

      Saved: How is orientation a moral issue? Is hair color? Eye color?

      September 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Robert

      "The Bible teaches against this type of life style"

      Really where in the bible is it against two loving individuals having a long term committed relationship with each other? It doesn't. Oh let's see first you'll bring up the sodomy issue which included straight people as well and had to do with rape, not a loving partnership. Oh, then you’ll try to bring up Cor. and Romans but most likely you don’t get that this is about pagan sex rituals worshiping a pagan god. Plus when you factor in that the word homosexual was added later to your bible. It's funny how christians will do anything to hold onto their prejudice and bigotry.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  10. Who Cares

    Just like Polygamy, the church will change it views to fit socially accepted principles. You want to be gay? BE GAY! Pretty sure YOUR God will not reject you...

    September 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • c

      Yeah; it's called hypocracy.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  11. Maximus

    Glad to see that gays are making some headway with the Mormons.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  12. Makurosu

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFLGJyXG-UQ&w=640&h=360]

    September 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  13. Bob

    Turn it off
    Like a light switch
    Just go click
    It's a cool little Mormon trick
    We do it all the time

    When you're feeling certain feelings that just don't seem right
    Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light

    And turn 'em off

    September 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I give it a 9 out of 10. It's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  14. xeno

    I've lived in a few heavily Mormon areas, and the people are generally pretty outwardly friendly, but their world view is incredibly small and defined by church leadership. If you take your child to school wearing above the knee shorts with coffee in hand, it's a scandal. If you drink "energy drinks" and regularly smack your kid upside the head, that seems to be just fine. My point is, if leadership tells their members to do or believe something they will. The leadership of this church does nothing without political or monetary gain, so once it becomes profitable for politically savvy, they will announce the acceptance of gay people, and all will follow suit. Hopeful, but disturbing that people can't make these decisions for themselves.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Who Cares

      Couldn't agree more. Just like they did with polygamy...

      September 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • IssJrB

      Perfect ! I couldn't agree more!!

      September 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • c

      Several years ago I went to D.C. and stayed at a Marriot Hotel. They have the book of morman in every room. Out of pure boredom I started to read it. Not knowing anything about them at the time- I actually thought I was reading some kind of fanciful old world mythical fiction novel. The book talks about how this supernatural angel (Maroni) guided Joseph Smtih to go dig up this golden book that he translated; which became the book of morman. Smith explains how some people called the Jaredites (the white people) and Lamanites (Indians) migrated somewhere from or near the Tower of Babel, through the Middle East, all the way to South America and somehow these folk end up north America. Well ; a great war took place and of course the white people won. you don't read about the Indians beyond that point. At some point this Moroni leads Smith to Palmyra , New York to dig up this book which the Mormans sort of meshed up with a little bit of the christian Bible, Jewish and American history and some other stuff. Now I'm all for freedom of religion; but this thing is off the chain. Frankly; I don't see how any sane person gay or straight could fall for this gibberish

      September 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  15. Al

    Hey BX, it's also an abomination to eat rabbits or to wear wool and cotton. While I wish that everyone would give up this silly mythology, I'm glad to see that the church is starting to bend – just like it eventually did after public opinion finally turned against slavery...

    September 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • VonDoom

      If you are talking about the LDS church, it doesn't bend. They just know how to hide really well. It's still doctrine that plural marriage (polygamy) is commanded by God, minorities had their skin turned dark for going against God and all the wacky things you hear about Mormons. I was raised in it here in Utah and know it very well. I ended up leaving right before the time when Mormon men are "called" on missions because logic started to take over in my brain. Mormons here honestly believe that a Mormon will become president of the USA one day and this will signal the beginning of the second coming. The state of Deseret will be reinstated as well as plural marriage by decree of "the lord". Their version of the rapture is quite unique. They can say they don't believe in any of this anymore but it's still technical doctrine and that has never been changed. Mormons believe that one day they will be able to follow doctrine again.

      Mormons outside of Utah are actually quite different than Mormons here. They don't feel that the religion has to be as rigid but here, towns and counties are still taken to court all the time because they literally write laws that beer cannot be served or sold on Sundays.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Your an idiot!

      Vondoom....you are a complete idiot!!! You are just bitter and mad at the church because none of what you say is true, and I know from first hand experience!!!!

      September 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gosh, look at all those exclamation points. I guess you've proved you're right.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  16. razor

    This is an abomination of the word of God...complete lack of any biblical understanding..he should be ashamed of himself

    September 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • sam

      Your att!tude is an abomination. Grow up.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  17. JR

    deluded

    September 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  18. Eric

    This church makes the appropriate distinction between orientation and activity. He is a celibate gay person, which is the closest gays can get to attempting to appease religious concerns.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  19. Makurosu

    I have a feeling this guy will be speaking at an ex-Mormon conference in a few years, and the Mormon church will be as silent as a tomb about it.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  20. Concerned

    You do not represent the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or his Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. You are serving the god of the earth not the God of Heaven.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.