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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. Ron

    Hey! I didn't know Bud Bundy from Married with Children is Gay

    September 25, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  2. denvervet

    Well an honest Mormon! How refreshing. Many Many may follow. Unfortunately they will be dispized.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  3. Rainer Braendlein

    OMG!

    Motivated by the above article, I made same small research on the LDS in the Internet. It was the first time in my life that I occupied myself with this "belief". I got shaken and shocked.

    Incredible: The LDS believe that Jesus Christ was conceived by real physical se-xual intercourse of God with Mary. That is pure blasphemy. The LDS believe God is nothing more than an advanced human being. That is outrageous. Moreover they believe every Mormon could become like God himself.

    Yet this is enough to condemn the LDS as a horrible cult. A Christian bishop would say the following: "I condemn the LDS-heresy in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!"

    Mr. Mayne is twofold guilty:

    First, he is member of an awful cult.

    Secondly, he is gay.

    (the Christian God condemns gayness as a most heavy sin. Every gay should repent right now (this second) and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, in order to get set free by the releasing power of Jesus' death and resurrection. Dear reader, maybe you will die this evening and then it will be too late to believe in Jesus, who can make you righteous. Do it right now, when you read this lines. By any other action (delay) you put at risk your soul's health.)

    September 25, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • SCAtheist

      Come on now. Your religion is just another cult.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Norma

      thanks for your article. I never knew that about the LDS. We need to pray for them.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Punjab83

      A belief is just that... And if I am not mistaken, when did one sin out trump another sin? Aren't they all the same, just different ways to do them? I guess, if you had to put them in order... I would think Murder trumps being gay... but I guess being a realist hinders my conclusion.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Chris

      Now go and learn about the mormons from a real source that isn't out to demonize them. Seriously, people don't go to a football player to learn baseball... yet they go to all sources to learn about mormons... especially sites who hate and demonize them. You want to learn something go to mormon.org.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • repulsed

      You are every reason I believe religion in any form is the biggest lie perpetrated on the human race. Your so-called god is one screwed up dude if he thinks people like you represent his majesty. You are everything that is wrong in this world.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • The Truth Shall Set You Free

      It seems to me that you are rather shallow but as a person and a Christian. First, you say you don't know much about Mormons and then you outline what they believe. As a an active Mormon and the son of a gay man whom I love dearly, I can tell you what you've said is untrue. I was born and raised in the LDS church and never has any of what you said ever preached. However, I doubt that you'll take my word for it, but yet will believe the word of many who agree with you. Secondly, as a Christian I have to disagree with everything about your post. As Christ did die and atone for our sins so that we may have the ability to repent and return unto him, he has never made us a judge. Did Christ not say judge not, least you be judged? Did Christ not say a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another? Too many Christians are quick to condemn and slow to remember ALL that Christ lived and died for. He died for us all – regardless. He is our judge and has commanded us to be humble as a little child, love one another, not to judge and support sinners regardless of the sin. Love the sinner, hate the sin and let us not forget, he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone. I pray we may all love one another regardless of who/what we believe in.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Max

      Your assertions about the LDS faith are almost correct. The manner in which the infant Christ was concieved is speculation. No-one knows how exactly this occured and I suppose it is imposible. The important thing is that Christ was concieved part human(able to suffer for mankind and die) and part god(able to conquer death and give the ultimate sacrifice). The assertion that god is an advanced human is partly correct though twisted. The assertion of the LDS faith is rather that all of mankind is a spirit child of god. Which means that we can, through Christ's atonment, overcome sin, hate, jelousy. We can develop the pure love of christ. Through Christs atonement we will be ressurected. Indeed we can become like our hevenly father.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Scott

      No, the Christian God does NOT condemn gayness as a most heavy sin and many of us HAVE accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  4. dan

    I am not saying he isnt a good man... he just shouldnt be a leader in a judeo-christian-LDS church

    September 25, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  5. 21k

    imagine how much simpler life would be for him if he just acknowledged that religions of all stripes are just made up stuff. why would a being that created the entire universe from nothing(and each and every one of us) allow hitler to murder 6 million innocent followers? to make some strange point?

    September 25, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • HoustonVol

      Or why would a supreme being that wants to be worshiped allow the creation of all of these religions in his/her name? Then have these same religions fight over resources, kill one another and compete to survive instead of worshiping him/her? All of these religions worship the same being. Yet they fight about how to worship this being based upon differing dogmas written by man to support the rule of man. You have to ask yourself who are you really worshiping?

      September 25, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  6. CNN Stories

    "an openly gay Mormon" LOL

    September 25, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  7. Abraxas

    Why on Earth would anyone belong to a religion that so roundly condemns them? That makes as much sense as a freed slave turning around and worshiping the god of his former master. Oh wait...

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

      Ignorance at it's best. Mormons don't condem the gays... just the act. Go out and learn something will ya.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  8. gary

    Now if he could just stop being religious he could be a fine man. God is pretend, just a myth ... like dragons and trolls.

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

      Sorry, Dragons are real.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  9. Beth

    This is shocking....look at that frosted hair!

    Why are gay guys always so overgroomed?

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

      Its not his hair, its a toupee'. Look closer.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  10. scott

    Well, Mormons are heterodox to begin with i suppose...still not right I say.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  11. Jon

    I am I the only one who is sick of these kinds of stories. CNN....we don't give a sh1t!!!

    September 25, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  12. Robin Bush

    DOES IT REALLY MATTER THAT HE IS GAY? Not to me... I would go see him in Church......

    September 25, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  13. dinabq

    The article does not say this man is in a gay relationship. Even if he lived in a state where gay marriage was possible, I doubt the LDS church would be so accepting.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Chris

      He is not in a relationship. The church would not allow him in the position if he was. The church loves the sinner, but not the sin. Having gay tendencies in of itself is not a sin, but acting on that is (hence why he is able to serve in the church). The church will not support gay marriage ever... it still views it as a sin and will never condone it. Any hope of that that he has is a misunderstood one of church doctrine. The world may change, but eternal principles do not.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • HoustonVol

      Religion does not love the sinner. Religion loves the sinners' money.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  14. martinmunson

    I spoke with Mitch Mayne at wickedimproper . com and he was very candid. Good luck, Mitch!

    September 25, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  15. dan

    I agree, christians should be tolerant... However, we are all sinners... the bible says that man lying with another man is wrong... When people ask for forgiveness they should ask God to help them to turn away from sin... NOT EMBRACE IT... I do not believe people are born gay. They make a choice, the same as a person who kills, lies, commits adultery, hate other choices they had. I believe it has to do with the environment they were raised in... Or they simply tried it and liked it better than the other choice. That isnt the purpose of my post... my purpose is to say that a man who embraces sin and doesnt try to walk away from it, and thinks its ok... shouldnt be leading a congregation or be in the leadership of any god jn heaven type of church.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • gary

      there is not a shred of reason to believe in the bible, any deities or demons ... it's all a big lie; a myth, folklore, etc.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • michelle

      you cant' be serious!!! what is wrong with you people!! why would someone want this for themselves???? I think i am going to be gay to make my life incredibly hard... oh yeah someone is really going to do that! God DIDNT write the bible, MAN did!!! And they did during a time where there was really no explanation for anything that is scientifically proved or disproved now. Seriously, that magician from vegas can walk on water too lol....

      September 25, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • dan

      Gary, there may be no reason for you to believe but I have my own and it is mine... The mind is a powerful thing... you probably think seeing is believing... I went to a part of Africa where men havent ever seen an airplane and do not believe they exist... just they way I didnt believe the red clay they burried their sick in could cure the cancer of their villagers.. to me I just I say you are close minded... to you I have an overly active imagination

      September 25, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • michelle

      Now when someone claims to be the son of god he is usually a cult leader... well how do you know jesus wasnt a cult leader and the disciples not his followers! and umm the virgin mary, yeah right!!!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Jesus Believer

      I love a real believer with discernment. Not many can see through these blasphemous "believers of god" these days. Was feeling disgusted till you hit the nail on the head of his revolting story! have a blessed Sunday everyone. Kill the sin, don't kiss it...lest you be demon....

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

      This is just another attempt at man trying to "improve" on what God has already set forth in perfection. One more denomination to pile up against Christ's one and only church.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  16. Sonya

    Joseph Smith must of been on LSD when he founded LDS!!!

    September 25, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Chris

      What are you... 3?

      September 25, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Sonya

      Nope, a wise and educated 44 year old!

      September 25, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  17. Punjab83

    God isn't real. For those of you who believe, take a step back and REALLY think about it. I mean, REALLY think about it. REALLY, REALLY think about it.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Sonya

      I agree!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • dan

      so all of the atoms and molecules that could possibly lead to life just happened to come together and form a living earth... to much coincidence for me... God and Science dont disagree...

      September 25, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • JB

      As a believer, I think you're right! If I REALLY, REALLY think about it...He's even more real.

      John 3:16

      16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

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

      I would like to see your reaction if God is real when you meet Him after you die.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Punjab83

      Ok now... from other angles REALLY REALLY think about it.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Of course you would, Jay. That's what people like you do here every day: rub your hands together and lick your chops at the thought that those who you dislike and who disagree with your interpretation of Christianity will roast on a spit in hell.

      It's your hell–YOU burn in it.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • gary

      @ Dan and JB ... just because you can't understand or explain something is NOT evidence of a deity or demon. It IS evidence of lazy minds; minds too lazy to study and learn and understand ... it's so much easier to just quit and say, "god did it!". They used to say that about the sun moving across the sky.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Sonya

      All religions are full of contradictions and all religions are responsible for the death of millions of people.....why? Because my imaginery friend is much better than your imaginery friend!!!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Oh come On....

      @JB

      Using Bible quotes to "prove" the existence of Gawdalmitee is like quoting "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to PROVE the existence of Santa Claus.

      Does it ever cross anyone's mind why Gawdalmitee would need MAN to write GAwd's "rule book"? I mean if God is so omnipotent and all-knowing, why then wouldn't Gawd just have quarterly/annual message deliveries given to ALL mankind simultaneously? Ever fathom why people of other faiths have "Gawd's Rule Book" too?

      Man created God in the image of himself......

      September 25, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Sal

      I don't think you're giving as much thought as you say you are.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  18. really?

    this is about the mormon church trying to ramp up its members for monthly 10% cut of their member's paychecks. if they approve the LGBT community, their so called leaders in provo, utah should step up and condemn discrimination against LGBT.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • buddy1437

      didn't you read the article? The church leadership isn't paid, so ramping up membership does nothing for them

      September 25, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  19. Wired

    Is he also conservative? than he can hate himself TWICE as much!

    September 25, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  20. Bob Rock

    There are many atheists in church leadershio roles. Why not a gay atheist leading the Mormon church in San Francisco?

    September 25, 2011 at 10:09 am |
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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.