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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. cantilever

    'scuse me, but referring to Mormans as Christians does seem a bit odd.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Debra

      Why?

      September 25, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Jim

      Cantilever - only if you also think it's odd to refer to pomegranates as fruit - it may not be exactly what you grew up with, but it's a fruit just as much as an apple is

      September 25, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • cantilever

      'cause it's a nineteeth-century cult invented by one ambitious preacher, in a country where the religious clientele was Christian. Heck, Adoph Hitler called himself a Socialist.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Sari

      Jim–good response! I'm going to steal that and use it often. 🙂

      September 25, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Observer

      cantilever,

      Actually, Hitler was a believer. He was raised as a Catholic and believed in God.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • cantilever

      Observer, with respect to Hitler, I wasn't discussing his "religion." I said he used the LABEL -National Socialist- that earned him the greatest audience among potential followers. Just as the writer of the Book of Mormon referenced Jesus to attract a "Church." By the way, Hitler had no active belief in anything except his Teutonic-myth fantasies of himself.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  2. CSX

    ok, in a cult and a Sodomite. Where is the news? Evenso, with his unread KJV Bible, he is a sinner, openly.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Observer

      Get an education. Most heteros are sodomites. Open a dictionary.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  3. loJenk

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1kkOCaXmLw&w=640&h=360]

    September 25, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  4. Pop

    The bible has warn people many many times. Don't break God's law.

    if gays want to open gay church open it then.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Observer

      There are FAR FAR more Christians who commit adultery by remarrying than there are total number of gays, but don't expect hypocrites to pick on their own.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • KAJD

      If you go by the bible, everyone breaks His law every single day. If being gay is against God's law in your eyes, then surely being George W. Bush who has orchestrated the death of hundreds of thousands of people with his warmongering crowd, is a far greater sinner, as are all the greed-ridden Republican leaders who would rather see a corporation hold on to their profits than educate a child born into poverty.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  5. George

    Is it just me or does this guy look just like Dave Faustino from Married with Children.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  6. Anne

    Well, at least he's not a woman! Heaven forbid! (or at least the LDS do)

    September 25, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  7. FARGO

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCvXCF2MN0o&w=640&h=390]

    September 25, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Chucko

      Ha Haaaaaaaaaa!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  8. Jeanneboo

    It is sad that he still believes that if he falls in love and consumates that love that he is sinning.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  9. SANDY

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n16PpvdpMXo&w=640&h=390]

    September 25, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  10. Old Goat

    he looks like "Bud Bundy" from Married with Children...

    September 25, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Chucko

      Grandmaster B!!!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  11. Susej

    I'm not gay but I am an Atheist. I came to read the comments from the Christians. Now that I am out of Christianity, I can see where the hate comes from. I couldn't see it when I was a Christian.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Me

      I second that.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Sari

      Agree!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  12. Kevin

    What is the point of this article...to show that Anderson Cooper can continue to influence "the education of America"? Or is it to quietly undermine Romney and Huntsman? This article could have been written about any church, any religion and all atheists.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • John Richardson

      Undermine Huntsman? I diodn't realize there was anything there to undermine ...

      September 25, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  13. Andrea

    Why do you make a social issue your life style?What are you doing in your bedroom is your problem..Leave people alone, dont involve religion in your habits.In our days life is pretty tough we face different problems look around your l, read.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Religious Sects

      I agree, don't make your religious habit a social issue or lifestyle. What you do with religion is your proplem, leave people alone.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • John Richardson

      Sorry if you're bedroom issues are all problems, Andrea. But by all means, leave people alone and the world would be a better place if no one involved religion in their lifestyle. But as long as people want to be religious, it's no one's business to say who can and can't be.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  14. Terrence

    At 8:39 this Sunday morning there was a bit on a pastor whose church gives back money to the congregation. Our church RockPointe Church of Leander, Texas under the leadership of Pastor Shayne O'brien has told parishioners to take money out of the offering box if you need to feed your family. Also, he hands out envelopes from $1.00 to $500.00 to the parishioners with the provision that they can't keep the money, can't give it back to the church but must distribute it to the needy in the community.

    September 25, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Nick

      I generally dislike the concept of church and I don't believe in Jesus aside from a historical point of view (that he actually existed) but that sounds like a great thing you guys do at your church.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • LuisWu

      I agree with Nick. I too believe in Jesus only as a man in the historical sense, but he was all about helping the poor and the down-trodden. Wish more churches would practice what they preach. Sounds like yours does. Kudos to you and your church.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • JB

      A lot of people assume that the money that is given to the Lord's church simply vanishes or is used to pay the bills. More often than not, that money is freely given to those members in need.

      Acts 2:44-46

      44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

      September 25, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  15. Nick

    A gay mormon or any gary christian is so odd to me. Its like trying to belong to a group that hates you for who you are. Kind of like black republicans.

    September 25, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Nick

      *gay

      September 25, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • valno

      what a perfectly stupid liberal point of view you have... You seem to have developed a stereotype. You just want to hurt and divide.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Kevin

      That is one of the most ridiculous postings! Herman Cain just won the Republican Florida Straw Poll.

      What you just wrote is extraordinarily ignorant!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Layla

      I think I have to agree with the other comments to your post. Your bias is showing. As a liberal, why would you try and divide people?

      Ah, to win an election!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • myklds

      The church does not condemn gays but (only) the act thereof.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Luigi

      Sounds to me that you don't understand what a Christian is. You may have been fooled by the actions of people who call themselves Christians but don't behave like Christians. I suggest (1) expanding your horizons and observe more. Look for what isn't so obvious. (2) Actually read the New Testament. If you don't want to do all that, try Galatians 3. It's pretty short.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • LuisWu

      Nick – I totally agree. Most religions don't accept gay people. The Republican party only accepts black that act like whites... as tokens. The tea party is openly racist (watch some of their rallys on you-tube and read the signs they carry). You hit the nail right on the head.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  16. tutuvabene

    I guess all the epistles (especially Romans) of St. Paul don't apply anymore.

    September 25, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Gumby

      The day is coming when none of that immoral bible will apply anymore. That will be a good day for humanity.

      September 25, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • LuisWu

      They never did apply to anything other than ignorant old myths from a primitive culture.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  17. Religious Sects

    So this guy is an Oxymoron.

    September 25, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • pauly

      no, he's an oxyMormon...

      September 25, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Religious Sects

      pauly ... LOL nice one!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  18. B17

    This guy sounds like the perfect replacement for Warren Jeffs. The Mormons had better not turn their back on him.

    September 25, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • myklds

      Obviously, you know nothing about mormons.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  19. Jacob Mathews

    If you are gay or laesbian, you are not following christ. Pure and simple. This is not hate but fact. Dont try to twist the Bible and say that it is Okay to be gay based on the word.

    September 25, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Gumby

      The bigotry and hatred of Christianity.

      September 25, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • JT

      You don't follow 90% of the OT either....you hypocrit.

      September 25, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Religious Sects

      If you are following Christ & the literal words of the Bible you are not following reality. This is not hate but fact. Pure and simple.

      September 25, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • mS

      is it okay to stone your children when they swear...and ps james 4:12-13. Who are you to judge? If you are a follower of christ then do as he pleases and love all and dont judge. Maybe stop reading cnn blogs and start really tapping into what jesus wants.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • scott501

      Thank you for speaking on behalf of Christianity. I will neve step foot in a church again because of your comments. Explain that to God on judgement day.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • myklds

      Theres nothing in the Bible that condemns gays, but (only) act thereof.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Chucko

      So are all the preachers that molest children following the bible, too?

      September 25, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • LuisWu

      Why would ANYONE, gay or straigt, follow a mythological, invisible, supernatural man in the sky? The bible is just ancient mythology. Period.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • ladydaisy

      Truth is: NOBODY follows Jesus! It's impossible to follow his teachings and live the life it's said he lived. For instance, do you offer your other face when someone slaps one? Do you telll (and also practice) people to give away all their money and go preaching? Jesus was socialist! Are any of you AMERICAN PEOPLE willing to be socialist? I don't think so, especially republicans who are the majoritiy of fanatic Christians in this country. By the way, christianity in other countries has quite a different concept (don't judge it based in what happens in the U.S. – a country of fanatics).

      September 25, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  20. Jesus

    Take it from an Ex Christian who branded himself with a 6 inch cross tattoo.............. Religious concepts are all lies. Atheism is not peechy keen.... It's just more realistic. What you see is what you get.

    September 25, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Gumby

      Bingo!

      September 25, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Same here just minus the tattoo. Welcome to reality. 🙂

      September 25, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Layla

      I'll keep praying for you, dude. I've got Jesus. What've you got?

      September 25, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • LuisWu

      @Layla – He has reality, an open mind and freedom from being sucked into a fantasy world by an archaic old book of mythology.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • nogod

      Jesus is your imaginary friend. I had one of those too when I was 4. Then I grew up.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • JB

      @LuisWu – Following your logic, Socrates and Plato didn't exist either.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Flash

      JB: "Following your logic, Socrates and Plato didn't exist either."

      So what? Who cares if Socrates or Plato existed? If they contributed any wisdom to humanity... VERIFIED beneficial concepts... then fine - that is what we can go learn from. There is nothing VERIFIED about supernatural fantasies.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
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