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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. ODIESMAMA

    There are two types of religious people – the type that follows the Bible and the type that manipulates the Bible in ways to make whatever is going on in their life or society acceptable. If you're in the first group, a sin is a sin, period. We're ALL sinful, but the leaders should not be someone who chooses to continue to live a lifestyle conflicting with what the Bible teaches (not pointing fingers at the gay community – the straight community has plenty of issues too). If you're in the second group, take a gander at Revelations 22:18-21.

    The bottom line is, Religion is about honoring & worshiping God. Unfortunately, modern society has valued the things that are pleasing to man at a higher level than what is required by God.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  2. Susan

    I knew a LDS whose brother was gay. He was ex communicated from the church. His own sister even condemned him. She said his gayness was a sin. The brother died and the sister was happy that he now has a new opportunity to repent for his
    gay" sin . She told me in order for him to get into heaven he must repent. I am disgusted beyond words that a family, a church and friends would treat him this way. The God I believe in is a forgiving God who loves unconditionally like any Father should. Shame Shame Shame on the church of LDS. I wonder if their holier than thou judgments of Gods children will sit well with Christ.....Good luck Mormons

    September 25, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • mormon martin

      remember the flood? Not a real nice god. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? Not real nice. Remember the 10 plagues of Egypt? What god are you referring to? Remember...well, you get the point, don't you? God is not just a big fat guy that loves everyone and is jolly and laughing. That's santa claus. God has a temper. Fear him.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • steve g

      mormon martin, i can pick and choose sections to support only my side of the story too, way to be dumb ❤

      September 25, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Susan

      I am not a religious person and the reason is because of churches like this. Church is not suppose to be a "good ole boys club". It is suppose to be the house of God. How humans can sit in judgement of other human beings and ex communicate them from the house of God is down right disgusting to me. You can quote the bible stories any way you like . The one verse that sticks in my mind is this:
      For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

      — John 3:16

      September 25, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Emily

      Wow, you really don't understand who we are and what we stand for. Our beliefs are based on principles of the doctrine of Christ and not the law of Moses. You even got the name of the church wrong. How can you shame my church, based on an article that was written to show hope in a controversial topic, never mind that Utah Mormons are so single minded. I on the other hand am a strong member, I am friends with gays, lesbians, transgenders, and bi's alike. I don't wish them to die and repent, like that girl you were talking about. That girl obviously doesn't understand the principle that God loves everyone as she was taught thousands of times in primary. She truly believes there are exceptions to that rule, probably based on the fact that her sunday school teacher is highly against it. Yes, we don't believe that you can receive the highest of glory in heaven, but we do believe that LGBTs can achieve a kingdom of heaven. I understand the principle, but I do not make it a goal in life to become a perfect person as that girl has in mind. I make it a habit to make a better person of myself, and show kindness to everyone no matter what they claim themselves to be. So you see, as a whole, we are not shameful. Shame on you for not understanding the huge mile marker that this article is trying to convey. YOU are missing the point, and shame on you.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • LDSman

      Susan – a truly sad story to hear about. The church teaches unconditional love for others – as did the Savior. I've known a few individuals and stories from others where a member of the church chose a different path. A majority of the situations I've seen/heard lead to unconditional love for that individual and not hatred. This is what the leaders of the church teach – and you are invited to see fir yourself next week during the LDS General Conference broadcasts (check LDS.org for more info)

      September 25, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Susan

      Emily, The marker that I noticed in this article was that this man is only accepted because he is not in a gay relationship at the moment and if he goes back to a gay relationship that his acceptance may be denied. As for my friend, I never said she was happy her brother died, what i said was she was happy that he now has the opportunity after death to repent for his gayness. Im slightly amused Emily that you would place shame on me for misunderstanding your cult. You state how you have gay friends, etc. Isnt that mighty big of you considerinig you are against everything they stand for. LOL, you claim to show kindness to everyone so I must thank you for the kind words in trying to shame me for "misunderstanding, what a good decent Christian you are! You might want to look at LDSman's comments, he invites and you just condemn like the hypocritical cult member that you are, in mho

      September 25, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • anSus

      @Susan

      Honestly, When I read your post, I was a lil bit carried until the latter part, it made me think you are just making a story to channel your hate towards the church and justify it. And your subsequent comments/replies had took away my doubts.

      But in fairness, you know so much about the church. I'm thinking now that your story was not entirely made up. I think all of it was true except the main character was dead.

      Apparently, he lives and was able to post here still, to channel his remorse, anger and hate to the church that ex-communicated him because of engaging in gay relationship. While his sister told him that she would rather be happy if he dies so that he will have the opportunity to repent. Right Susan?

      September 26, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  3. stevie68a

    A preacher thundering from the pulpit, is really the man behind the curtain, as in the Wizard of Oz. He knows no more of god than you or I. He's been brainwashed with the same nonsense as his parents. To understand the trickery of the mormon faith,
    break the code of the "Angel Moroni" as this: Angel means "Fairy", "moron", "I". You can fool most of the people some of the time
    but you can't fool all of the people, all of the time. To quote a christian saying, "vengeance is mine" sayeth the lord.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  4. grist

    It is beyond me how a person can belong to a religion whose holy book calls for him to be stoned to death for being who he is.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  5. Javinka

    Yet another glaring example of the hypocrisy of christianity and religion in general...............

    September 25, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  6. stubbycat

    Mormonism, gay or straight, is a problem for humanity. When Jesus walked the earth, he taught the science of Spirit and Love. He taught that man was wonderful as God's pure ideal, and not the material representation we seem to be. He taught that we are spiritual and complete. Mormon teaches the opposite. Mormon isn't real, gay or straight.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • msadr

      What?!! No he didn't! Christ taught the exact opposite – that we are sinners and definitely NOT complete. He taught we need a sacrifice to atone us, which was the whole point of the cross. Don't know what Bible you're reading!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  7. GetErDonee

    Being gay in the Mormon church makes sense. The Mormon church also believed (and some still do) that having multiple wives is also ok. The Mormon church really isn't all that moral – they are self serving and is all about control over people who don't have a clue.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • LuisWu

      Not to mention the preachers that marry 14 year old girls.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Sandy

      Get your facts straight. No one who practices polygamy is a member of that church. Those who choose to follow that lifestyle are removed.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • D.C.Mormon

      Thank you for classifying me as clueless and controlled. Could you be more judgmental? What about Catholics, Protestants, Baptists. Or are all Christians clueless and controlled? If you don't believe fine, but don't cast your opinion around until you have spent the time to base it upon a real inquiry, not just newspaper clippings.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  8. Lokust

    @Jim Gay acceptance agenda? Wouldn't that be a decent human being agenda? Since the alternative is bigotry, hate, ignorance, intolerance, etc – things that no intelligent person has.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • LuisWu

      Bingo!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  9. LDSman

    As a member of the LDS church and a former ward executive secretary myself, at first I found this article a bit disturbing. However, the final paragraphs provided some needed clarification. Per the article, Mayne is not in an active relationship (i.e. He is not living in sin). He has expressed an open desire to serve in the church and can do a great service in helping others understand. The calling of executive secretary is an administrative position to help with appointments/schedules of the ward bishopric. To call it a "leadership" position might be viewed as incorrect by some. However – the calling does require the approval of the congregation and the Stake Presidency (a Stake is comprised of 7-9 wards).

    September 25, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  10. Rusty

    I he thinks that gay is being cool...Let him read the bible...He is full of it..He must a have missed a passage for his own life..He is now Christian at all.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Susej

      Drunk already?

      September 25, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • LuisWu

      How about you get a brain. Who cares what the bible says. It's archaic myths. Like hundreds of others. Written thousands of years ago by ignorant, primitive people. Use logic and reason for a change and you'll see that.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • steve g

      or here's a thought rusty....shake off that rust, learn some grammar, and get over it because obviously he has otherwise he wouldnt be in a high position in the ward........tard.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  11. GayandProud

    Gays aren't the problem, religious people are. How many Gays do you see oppressing religious folk? The intolerance is one-sided.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  12. Hm.

    This guy will probably be ex-communitcated from the church.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  13. Jim

    Amazing - yet ANOTHER article pushing CNN's gay-acceptance agenda

    September 25, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Scott

      Amen to that!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Yet another Steve

      You're right! There's a gay agenda! Even now they're gathering their (fabulously dressed) forces and plotting – yes, plotting! To break into every straight home in the country and......and.....redecorate! And do your hair and nails! Bwa-hah-hah-haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      September 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  14. nogod

    It's funny how someone can believe fully in a god they've never seen or have a scrap of proof of, but they can laugh at people who believe in ghosts and aliens and other gods just like their own.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  15. mormon martin

    gays are riding a slick shaft all the way to hell. Enjoy the trip. Your only pleasures in this existence will be temporal.

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

      Typical Christan – very bigoted and arrogant.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Punjab83

      Typical hater... Jebus would be so proud of you

      September 25, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • diggadubdbu

      The mormons that hate the most, turn out to be the ones hanging out at gay bars.

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

      Gays are human you dingleberry, and who are YOU to call THEM monsters. I'm a strong member of the Jacksonville Ward in the North Little Rock Stake of Arkansas. Gays are just like everyone else, working, loving, and living. SHAME ON YOU, IF I EVER MET YOU I WILL LOSE CONTROL AND I WILL NOT HOLD BACK MY AGGRESSION TOWARDS YOU. DOING THAT IS SINFUL AND YOU WILL BE THE ONE GOING TO HELL, GOD WILL NOT LOVE A CHILD WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND HIS PRINCIPLES. YOU DAMN VIGILANTE. I'M SURPRISED YOU EVEN CALL YOURSELF A MEMBER OF OUR CHURCH. GO TO HELL AND I'LL WATCH YOU FROM MY PLACE IN HEAVEN.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • abc

      mormon martin, I really hope you are not a Mormon, just using that name to stir up trouble, and Emily, you don't sound any better than mormon martin. The LDS church doesn't teach anything you two are spouting.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Yet another Steve

      Would that be YOUR slick shaft?

      September 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  16. can

    Yet another article on gays .

    September 25, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Kevin O.

      No, it's another article about Mormons.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  17. taino

    "I don't want tolerance... I don't way acceptance." What is that all about? This guy is beyond confused.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • C'mon

      lol

      September 25, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • John Richardson

      He perceives condescension in those terms and has a point.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  18. CSX

    Manufactured news for an agenda of destrcution. What about the adulterer Mormons? The fornicating Mormons?
    Do not they have a voice?

    September 25, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  19. Possum

    The bible has been twisted far more by anti-gay people than anyone. Most those who twist it up don't even know the context of the scripture they are repeating like parrots. Individuals can be gay or lesbian and still follow Christ just as much as any other Christian. If you believe otherwise, you are not following the correct teachings of Christ.

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

      The bible is just an archaic old book of mythology. Period. It doesn't matter who or how it's twisted. It's still ridiculous.

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

      Do not refer to a book you do not know. Twisted? A child understands it.

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

      My child called BS on the bible. I let her have that belief.

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

      (grrr...this was a reply to a post that seems lost now. The system posted my reply as a first comment instead)

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

      @CSX – I've read the bible, both the old and new from cover to cover. So I know plenty about it. Ridiculous old myths, written thousands of years ago by members of a primitive society. All primitive societies have their myths and legends, the bible is just one of hundreds, maybe thousands. I use logic and reason to live my life by, not archaic mythology.

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

    Only a man of God should thunder from the pulpit the gospel. He at the pulpit should be removed.
    There are so many counterfeit churches, rushing people to hell.

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

      Gullible much?

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

      ALL churches/cults, whatever you choose to call them are counterfeit.

      With so many religions, everyone's going to some other religion's hell. anyway.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Yet another Steve

      I love it when people use pseudo-biblical language, and end up sounding stupid.

      September 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
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