By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Kevin Kloosterman, a former Mormon bishop, said he “came out” last year – just not in the way that many people associate with coming out.
“I came out and basically made a personal apology to (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) folks for really not understanding their issues, not really taking the time to understand their lives and really not doing my homework,” Kloosterman said in an interview with CNN.
Though not speaking on behalf of the church, the then-bishop stood in front of a crowd of gay and straight Mormons at a November conference on gay and lesbian issues in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered.
Donning a suit and tie, Kloosterman was visibly shaken, struggling to find the right words as tears welled up in his eyes.
“I’m sorry – deeply, deeply sorry,” Kloosterman told the group in a speech that was captured on video. “The only thing I can say to those of you who have been so patient, and have gone through so much, is for you to watch and look for any small changes with your loved ones, with your wards (Mormon congregations), with your leaders. And encourage them in this repentance process.”
Kloosterman’s apology was just one example of what many Mormons and church watchers see as a recent shift in the Mormon community’s posture toward gays and lesbians, including by the official church itself.
Though the church’s doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed, and the church remains opposed to same-sex marriage, many say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including voicing support for some gay rights.
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Students at the church-owned Brigham Young University recently posted an “It Gets Better” video about the gay and lesbian community there, while a gay Mormon in San Francisco was selected last year for a church leadership position.
A new conference series on gay and lesbian Mormons – the same one Kloosterman addressed last year – is seeing an uptick in popularity.
Church spokesman Michael Purdy would not comment on whether church members are changing their stance toward gay and lesbian issues but said in an e-mail message: “In the Church, we strive to follow Jesus Christ who showed immense love and compassion towards all of God’s children.”
Purdy wrote, “If members are becoming more loving and Christ-like toward others then this can only be a positive development.”
‘It is definitely getting better’
The Brigham Young students who taped the pro-gay video this month were contributing to a popular video series meant to inspire hope in young people who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality identity.
The video featured students telling stories of being gay at Brigham Young, sharing tales of heartache, loss and even suicide.
“It kind of is a very different world to be gay and Mormon because it feels like neither community accepts you completely,” said Bridey Jensen, a fifth-year senior and acting president of Understanding Same Gender Attraction, the group that posted the video.
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“We put out the message for youth that are going through this, and we want them to know that we were them a few years ago, and it gets better and there is a place for you,” she said.
Though chastity is a requirement at Brigham Young, gay and lesbian students say they are under more scrutiny. The school’s honor code says that “homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates” the code.
But Jensen said reaction to the video, which has been viewed almost 400,000 times on YouTube, has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
Carri Jenkins, an assistant to Brigham Young's president, told CNN that the production of the video is not a violation of the honor code and that the students will not be punished.
The honor code, Jenkins said, is “based on conduct, not on feeling and if same-gender attraction is only stated, that is not an honor code issue.”
Jensen said that while gay and lesbian Mormons face a tough road, she sees a shift toward greater acceptance. It is definitely getting better within the church, she said. “They are not so quick to judge. They understand that they don’t understand everything. I am glad I can be a little part of it.”
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Some scholars of Mormonism, such as Columbia University’s Richard Bushman, said they see the very existence of such a gay rights group at Brigham Young as a step toward greater acceptance of gays and lesbians.
“The last 10 years have been a huge sea change in terms of willingness to accept homosexuals,” Bushman said. “Gay kids are still going to have a tough time in the church, but this level of acceptance and acknowledgment – that is really that last decade I would say.”
Most gay Mormons point to 2008’s push for Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage in the state but has faced legal challenge in the courts, as a low point in the relationship between the church and gay and lesbian community.
Mormons make up 2% of California’s population, but they contributed half of the $40 million war chest used to defend Proposition 8, according to a Time magazine report.
The church’s Proposition 8 activism angered many gay rights groups around the country, with some labeling the church “bigoted,” “homophobic” and “anti-gay.”
But church officials pushed back against the perception that the Proposition 8 backlash has provoked a Mormon softening on gay and lesbian issues.
“Many positive relationships have come from the Church’s experience in supporting traditional marriage in California,” Purdy, the church spokesman, said in an e-mail exchange with CNN.
Purdy draws a distinction between being against same-sex marriage and against equality for gays and lesbians.
He reiterated that the church was “strongly on the record as supporting traditional marriage,” but he said its stance should never be used as justification for violence or unkindness.
“The Church’s doctrine has not changed but we certainly believe you can be Christ-like, loving and civil, while advocating a strongly held moral position such as supporting traditional marriage,” Purdy wrote in an e-mail message.
“We do not believe that strong support of traditional marriage is anti-gay,” he wrote. “We love and cherish our brothers and sisters who experience same gender attraction. They are children of God.”
Church doctrine says that sex outside marriage is a sin and can lead to excommunication. Since gay people cannot be married in the church, any sex for them would be premarital and, therefore, sinful.
“The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear,” the church’s website says. “It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.”
Openly gay and a church leader
Mitch Mayne seems to relish his role as a lightning rod.
Mayne, an openly gay Mormon who blogs about homosexuality and the church, received the calling – a term Mormons use for being invited into a church position – in August.
Mayne is now executive secretary in a San Francisco ward of the church.
“I view myself as gay and being completely whole as being gay,” Mayne said.
Many observers of Mormonism say Mayne’s calling marked a unique moment in church history. Purdy said that Mayne’s appointment is “not unique,” but it’s hard to find precedent for an outspokenly gay executive secretary.
Mayne said he sees his job as building bridges with the gay community in San Francisco and showing them “there are pockets in the Mormon Church where you can be yourself.”
The biggest obstacle toward building those bridges is the threat of excommunication, said Mayne, who told CNN that in some wards just being gay can lead to expulsion from the church.
According to church doctrine, a formal disciplinary council can be called at the request of church leader.
While the leaders of the church mandate councils called for murder, incest or apostasy, it has a long list of reasons to call a disciplinary council.
According to the church’s website, the list of reasons includes “abortion, transsexual operation, attempted murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, intentionally inflicting serious physical injuries on others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations. …”
Some wards are observing that guidance while others aren’t, Mayne said.
“Here in the Bay Area ... we are no longer seeking out LGBT members of the church and excommunicating them,” Mayne said. “Our role is to bring people closer to the Savior, so if we are routinely excommunicating people, then we are really not doing our job.”
Mayne said he believes the challenge is to convince church leaders that they don’t ever have to excommunicate gay members.
And he said the Proposition 8 campaign was the “least Christ-like thing we have ever done as a church.”
“Not only did we alienate gays and lesbians, but we alienated their parents, their friends, those who support them – the ripple effect went way beyond the gay community, and I don’t think we were prepared for such a negative fallout,” Mayne said. “I think the church deserved the black eye they received.”
He added, “As a result of that really horrible time, I think we are entering a really good time to be a gay Mormon. It is getting better.”
‘Mormonism doesn’t simply wash off’
When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks, the City Council of Salt Lake City listens. At least the council seemed to in 2009 when it voted on an ordinance to make it illegal to discriminate against gay and transgendered residents in housing and employment.
"The church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage,” church spokesman Michael Otterson told the council.
Shortly after the church’s expression, the City Council approved the measure unanimously.
Many gay rights activists said they saw the move as an olive branch after the Proposition 8 debate.
“The tone and the culture is evolving, and the way the LGBT people are being treated is changing. I don’t think the church’s policy has caught up to that change in culture,” said Ross Murray, director of religion, faith and values at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “The Mormon church hasn’t gotten nearly as politically involved as they had since 2009.”
Though Murray sees the church lobbying for anti-discrimination laws as a positive step, he said the church’s shift is more about style than substance.
“It is going to take a lot of intentional effort to actually prove they are different,” Murray said. “That burden, because of the really public nature of their support of Prop 8, falls harder on the Mormon church than others.”
Joanna Brooks, a popular Mormon blogger and president of Mormon Stories, a nonprofit group that facilitates conversations on Mormon issues, echoes Murray’s sentiments.
She said she sees the church’s stance as challenging gay Mormons to choose between the religion they most likely grew up with and their desire for romantic companionship.
“Mormonism doesn’t simply wash off,” she said, adding that the church can’t make it that “either you are gay or you are Mormon, or either you support gay rights or you support the church.”
I will say this about the LDS Church (even though I disagreement with organized religion in general), the Salt Lake Temple is freaking beautiful. They can sure build amazing structures.
The San Diego Mormon temple is also beautiful. Google it and see for yourself.
being tax exempt lets u create things of great value that are of no use to the gods u pray too....
lavish churches etc are vial
You mean the dead processing plant? 90% of the temple is use for baptisms for the dead. The living don't really matter. And yes, mormons do not excommunicate someone for just being gay. But then what to do with them?
Yeah that was built with your money – my money that I worked hard to earn. I long for a day when all these monuments to abuse come tumbling down. Americans should be on the streets rioting that supernaturalist organizations are tax-exempt.
Here we have a story of how one charlatan group is competing against the others for acceptance by the LGBT community, but we are not fooled. It wasn't two years ago their robotic foot-soldiers were out aggrandizing for the black and Hispanic vote in California to prolong further the subjugation and human-rights violations of gay people in California.
Mormons are ridiculous, and so is their stupid magic-underwear and ludicrous golden tablets. Religion is a pox on humanity; a disease of the mind.
I've always liked most Mormons. Weird, sure, but to an agnostic who thinks all religions are weird, it's just another quirky little culture. They're usually really nice people. I'm not gay, but their stances there keep me well away from the church. I hope they can really fix this for themselves, I'll have a lot more respect for them.
I agree.. Personally, I think that it's due to the infancy and fantasy of their belief.. They don't have the longevity that the other religions do, and the details are obviously bat-sh!t crazy, so they compensate.. Throw in a few thousand years and some centuries of inquisition and crusades and the like, and they'll be as obtuse as the christians and muslims.. However, I'd prefer that they stay the way they are and convince the believers of other religions to be as cautious and reserved as their example.
Nailed it, momoya!! The mormons that I know are generally very nice, polite, and respectful (and, having lived in utah for a while, I've known a lot of them). However, due to the fact that they're perceived as a "crazy religion" by most christians in this country, they have to remain a bit more humble. If mormonism is still around in a few hundred years, I bet the followers will be just as self-righteous as the christians.
After seeing the cover photo I'll have to go and have some anti-puke medicine.
Agreed save some of thoses anti-puke meds for me.
I'm actually more sickened by you.
Mmmm...Divine Manisfestation...Modern Day Revelation...Be accepting of black skin...Be accepting of gay people...Moroni is turning in his grave!
Why would he do that? Believe it or not Joseph Smith was an abolitionist and believed in equality for blacks – he even gave the priesthood to a black man. It wasn't until Brigham Young came to be the prophet that the views on blacks changed. Brigham Young was a bigoted man with many weird ideas – many of which were refused by the church.
“In the Church, we strive to follow Jesus Christ who showed immense love and compassion towards all of God’s children.”
I don't recall Jesus saying it was ok to kick out of the congregation anyone who didn't agree on some things with the leadership at the time. How many lives has this religion (and others) ruined by crushing any dissent ? People give their whole lives to this religion only to be unceremoniously shunned and cut from family ties for the rest of their lives. Reminds me of the Pharisees, not Jesus.
Next, we will hear that the church is becoming sin-friendly. Though I agree with the concept of loving everyone irrespective of their behavior but you cannot accept sinful behavior. Church don't dilute your message of Holiness and Purity.
How is being born gay a sin? Is it a sin to be born left-handed?
Oh – wait...For some of these fundiots, it was wrong to be left-handed. And remember when being born black was a mark of Cain?
Atul: If it is not a choice, how can it be a sin?
more liberal gay bashing????
Finally a religion that is moving with humanity instead of against it. I think I will convert to Mormonism now.
Wow, wait till the Tea Party folks get wind of this... they'l hate the Mitt even more.
That is CNN's intention...of course.
um...nothing has changed except for the perception of the church. "oh hey look...maybe they aint haters after all." from where i sit...church policy and opinion still hasnt changed. what has changed is the lable of "GLTG hating bigotous mormons." seems to not stick after the fingers came off the lable.
oh well...w/e, it doesnt really matter what everyone else thinks...we're still gunna keep rolling like we was.
maybe we was the wrong term...maybe i should've said I.
Right, Mormons gay friendly – just like my family members that think I'm the worst person in the world because I'm gay and will have nothing to do with me. Sure... They love gays about as much as the tea party loves obama!
Gay New Network
Wow, Mikey, so incredibly clever.
So much for the "social" conservatives vote for Romney. Guess they are locked out of this year's elections and that is good news.
duh – everybody and their mother ought to be gay-friendly – come on – god is all like "come as you are" – if god ain't judging then why do we humans insist on it
What if He judge s later :)
Maybe all these Mormons coming about will change god's mind on gay people.
What, you think he won't make so many of them now?
Hey, what do you expect from a church whose idea of "Traditional marriage" is one man, and many women? They are just thinking if they get a man into the white house, maybe we can bring back Polygamy.
Show me a church who does not have their same belief in one man and woman for marriage? At least the LDS church is trying to understand and grow with their congregation.
I live in SLC, and although not Mormon I do know they are growing probably faster then most religions in understanding and acceptance. Look at the history of the Catholic church and see how long it took them to get in 2,000 years.
As it should be. What is wrong with polygamy? If 2+ consensual adults agree to be in a loving committed relationship who are we to judge their love?
That's patently false. The mormon church's definition of marriage is one man, one woman. Polygamy was abolished 120 years ago. People seemed to be hung up on polygamy and the mormon church, while within the church, it's rarely if ever given any attention, except in very infrequent historical comments. It's a non-issue.
Sorry Ned. The LDS church only stopped the practice of polygamy. Practice is not the same as belief. Mormon men are still allow to be "sealed" (eternally/spiritually married) to more than one woman. A Morman man just can't be legally married to more than one at any given set of time while alive. To be more clear, say Morman man X's first eternal wife dies and later he marries a second wife. The second wife is also "sealed" to him just the same as the first.
"The Family: A Proclomation to the World" is a great source for the LDS Church's official definition of marrage. It reads: "Marriage between man and woman...". It does not state a limit on numbers.
Hope you didn't vote for Obama...he and Mitt share the same belief system when it comes to marriage: one man, one woman!
mmh,,,,It's hard to understand why GOD made man and woman,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
It's very easy to understand.......there is no "god." Gays are born gay and bigots chose that life.
TO MAKE MORE GAY PEOPLE, SILLY!!
To be honest I still want my records erased, and I have wanted them erased for a long time. Religion in general to me is a joke.
Then do it...no one except yourself is stopping you.
"Mormonism doesn't simply wash off".
To any gay Mormon who is struggling with the issue, I would say the following.
Yes it does "wash off". It is mere belief, like any other supernatural belief. Second, there is nothing wrong with you. Your desire for love and acceptance is every bit as healthy, wholesome, and welcome as that of we straight people.
It may be hard for you to see it now, but one day the very people and beliefs that make your life such a misery now will seem as distant and irrelevant to you as the children who called you "fat, fat, the water rat" at kindergarten. They are small minded people driven by fear of the unknown.
Might I suggest you measure your Mormon beliefs against the following guidelines and see how they do.
1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, elder or minister tells you that you must.
2. DO NOT think that claims about magic, miracles and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.
3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.
4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars want to prohibit you from looking under the hood.
5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and ghouls and believing in any of them does not make one moral.
6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should you believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.
7. DO realize that you are only a Mormon because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in a family in the one part of the World that “got it right”?
8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of God,” “God is outside the Universe” or “God moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered wrong.
9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?
10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.
I wish you well. It pains me to see good people tormented for no other reason than being who they are and harming nobody. Stand up and fight back. Nothing comes from being a passive doormat. To the extent Mormon doctrine cannot accept you, it must change or be rejected, not you, because you are a person, it is a mere belief.
who are you,,,why do you believe you are right ????????????
Good post Colin!! Some excellent points. I wish they would teach this kind of stuff in schools so kids would stop killing themselves. Too much hate and judgement in the world for people to not have the tools to understand and deal with it.
Such a good reply Colin, I agree with you fully. I am a former Mormon, born and raised in the church. 8 years ago after a lot of study on science and the church's history, I realized I was crazy to think there is some supernatural being in "heaven", distant yet intervening in my life, yet not. Evolution, the big bang (recently mocked in the April 2012 General Conference address by Elder Nelson), nature, entropy producing complexity made a lot more sense and was much more likely than the existence of God and the truth claims of the Mormon church. I don't want to believe something because it eases my mind or makes me feel good or someone tells me to, I want to believe because I have reason to. My "spiritual experiences" I thought I had I now realize are emotional responses to environmental stimuli, much like feeling good at a rock concert or when I hear a motivational speaker. Investigate the church – if it is true, the truth will emerge. Don't listen to the arguments that we should not be "too intellectual about it or think about it too much" – ridiculous. Telling someone not to think is just a control technique to make sure your faith is not shattered. Now that I am outside the church looking in, I see how ridiculous it is and I see life in technicolor. It's a wonderful thing only experienced briefly, and I'm going to make the most of it.
Well said Colin. You make some really good points that all people should think about.
Well said, Colin, very well said.
Thanks for the eloquent post. Critical evaluation of ideas is far more useful and liberating than blind faith.
Thank you Colin- well said. Thankfully there are a few people in the world that understand the truth- were are not all doomed by fanatics that can't see clear lessons from science and history.
We go to church, why? Because we want to better ourselves as people. Nobody is perfect, and everyday (as a mormon myself) I try hard to better myself. The Church isn't made to your "liking" it's made for what is right. That why we are given the 10 COMMANDments (which every church has) if the church was built for your liking then there would be no room for improvement, now would there? because all of us would be right and perfect. I love the gospel and I love being a mormon! I just hate to see people say negative things about what I love and believe in.
I'm sure the LDS leadership will have a "divine revelation" making gay OK once it becomes profitable.
Like how God told them it's OK to let black people into the clergy the exact same year they completed construction on their first temple in a land full of dark skinned people.
That's it! Congratulation!
It must be quite frightening to have Rainer agree with you. Doc
Truly hell has frozen over.
It would be for me
Well put. It's all about profit these days.
I remember living in Utah when they broke into television programmin for that revelation from God. I also remember when the relevation from God came that it was ok for African Americans to attend BYU. I have good friends who are mormon and we dont discuss religion we have our own beliefs. But I remember when we were flying out of Utah one time and the pilot said that we were out of Utah airspace and back in the USA and alcoholic drinks can be served. So glad I dont live there anymore
You understand that a temple isn't profitable, right? The church builds temples to strengthen individuals and communities, and does so at incredible expense to the organization.
LDS assets are estimated at some $30 Billion.
Is it not true that every Mormon must attend an annual meeting in which they have to prove that they've ti/thed 10% of their total worth, lest they lose their temple blessing?
If the LDS aren't interested in making their temples profitable, why must congregants pay to attend?
Mormons are told : "if a dest.itute family is faced with the decision of paying their ti.thing or eating, they should pay their t.ithing." (Lynn Robbins, General Conference, April 2005).
Jone – if temples aren't profitable where do they get the money to build them?
I'm not sure where you get your ideas but they are not true. What amazes me if why America itself discriminated against colored people. Why did America change their stance? Because we are all God's children and he loves us all. The Lords ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His timing on everything...not ours.
Well put Riley! All these people so easily forget about HISTORY and the fact that our ENTIRE country was discriminating against minorities during that time frame. Of course it was wrong and the church changed their stance, as did the US. Did everyone forget about segregation? Yet you all talk crap about blacks not being allowed to attend BYU?
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.