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 don't believe a word of it! It's all political posturing.
I hope you're right, if not, this world is doomed ! ! ! !
I guess when you run out of women to marry you gotta open the floodgates?
You nailed it...
Let me see! Its an election year and the flip flopping etch-a sketcher Mitt Romney wrote and endorced this article to manipulate and influence prospective gay voters! You're a good businessman Mitt! Just tactical and clever! Just the other day Mitt said he supports a woman's right to choose! Better be careful Mitt because your conservative base might jump ship and back Obama!
Seems like a losing wager to me. Betting to gain gay support at the cost of losing gay hating evangelicals (yeah yeah, we all know you only hate their sin)
When Romney was Progressive he supported Domestic Partnerships, now he follows Rush Limbaugh's rules and has flopped to the far right. He wont win anyway, there are not enough Corporate Management or Mormons to make that happen, he has alienated EVERYONE because he lost his Soul and his OWN Voice and now he is just Romney the Robot.
A mere Smoke Screen, they fear having their Tax Exempt Status pulled because of their strong Political actions against a segment of the American population. The Shock Therapy is one of their "healing" methods to cure the Gay. Does that continue today or is that only in Utah?
Pray-The-Gay-Away is still an active therapy practice
Can't let the shock therapy comment go; it's not true.
oh Ned my dear Ned...it sure as heck did happen!! at BYU no less!! they were shocking men and women "gays"...
Did Mitt have shock therapy? Maybe that's why he keeps changes his mind on issues ever other day.
You would have to be a Gay Teen in the 1970's to really understand that SHOCK therapy did go on- on the downlow, showing hard core man on man action and then ZAP a shock when you see it.
Who would have thought that there were gay cultists out there?
Hate to say it, but the truth is, the mormon church leadership will command their followers to do anything that gains the church political favor. Why did they abolish polygamy? Why did they shift away from racist policies? Politics and money. If it was truly about belief, they'd still be mostly racist polygamists.
Mormons are nice people with good hearts, but their leadership is not.
They denied black people admission to their church, but when the Supreme Court threatened to take away their Tax Exempt Status they had a "Vision" in the 1970's that said Black people could join their cult. The money they have put into fighting against Gay Marriage should be TAXED, that is what they really fear loosing their big perk of not paying taxes.
They never denyd black people admission into the church. There have been black members since its foundlings. The LDS Church was a huge supporter of the civil rights act. You are extremely uniformed on this matter. While the blacks did not hold the priesthood until the late 70's there were many many black members of the church.
Joseph Smith actually did purchase slaves so he could set them free.
Nair...so blacks could not have the "priesthood" and could not enter the Temple and could not acheive the highest level of "Heaven" sure they could attend...but even 12 year old kids had more "power' than any adult black male...and where o where did you get that the church had "many many" black members?? what percentage was there... was it .00000001 percent? before because even now it cant be more than 1% in the states...missionaries were told to NOT give the black people discussions!! go back to FAIR or FARMS please!!
this is news?
Hmmmmm.....is this just being thrown out there only until Mitt gets elected..Then back to business of gay bashing by the church?
The policy of the Mormon church hasn't changed one bit. We have always been taught to love God's children and gays who really know Mormons know that we are far less judgmental than other Christian religions. We believe that God has defined marriage as being between man and woman and that this family unit is central His plan for His children to return to live with Him.
I'm raising the BS flag on this post. If this evil cult was so open to others, they wouldn't have funded such hateful actions such as Prop 8 in CA, Prop 102 in AZ and a host of others...all with the sole purpose of preventing gay people from having the same rights and responsibilities as others. Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. At least I'm honest about saying I hate this cult. I know lots of nice people who happen to be members, just as I know lots of nice Catholics, but the churches are evil and hateful.
wow Tyler that is sooo far off base... are you gay? then you would never know what the gays in your religion have gone thru...i frequent a BB that relates just how "nice" your religion is to the gay community! it aint pretty! gays have been excommunicated(lucky them) and young kids have been thrown out of the house... Prop 8 was a PR disaster for the church. no sir your religion is and has been VERY intolerant of gay people!
Tyler–how much does the church pay you to post "new truths" in an attempt to make believe the past never happened? Love all gods children? Please. My son was banished from a Mormon play group because they found out I was not LDS when they saw me drinking a cup of coffee.
Except, it is not the church's place to define it legally. Legal marriage and religious marriage are two separate things.
Oh, and choosing to believe in your definition of marriage is choosing to love unequally. To follow up with actions that deny equal rights is to oppress, no matter who you choose to blame for the idea.
The content in this article seems fairly slanted. Much more space is given for those saying the LDS church is changing than for official church position and doctrine.
I'm sure this comment board on this article will be a favorite place for people who have been offended by church positions or by church members to post unbalanced and hateful things. One of the downsides to comment boards. But, as a member of the church, my position is that we try very hard to love all people (and help people feel that) while still trying very hard to keep God's laws in our faith. When people pay too much attention to one side of that, you get an unbalanced picture. And you get people who misunderstand.
As if anyone needed any more proof that Mormonism is a phony cult that masquerades as Christian.
Yeah, whereas Christian sects such as Baptist and Catholic are clearly much more reality based and reasonable – LOLOLOL.
You just defined ALL religions....phony cults. Nothing more, nothing less.
News flash!!! EVERY RELIGION IS A CULT.
Go to Mormon.org, meet some real Mormons, and then judge.
Hmmm, sounds like a plot to make Romney more appealing. Shady as Romney
I myself am a Protestant, which tries to keep the genuine doctrine of the Early Church.
I don't hate and judge gays outside the church (even inside the church I don't hate them, but there they need a special treatment). It is only, if they want to join the Christian Church, they have to repent before.
Assumed my workmate, relative, neighbour, etc. would be a gay, I would treat him friendly nevertheless. Only if he would go to church, I would admonish him privatly and tell him he should repent.
Why should a gay church member repent?
Gayness is one of many sins, which is an indicator for our alienation from the Lord, the eternal God, which has made heaven and earth. Inside the Church there should stay only people, which are reconciled with God.
A church, which wants to be connected with the genuine Early Church, has to keep this.
A church, which tolerates gayness in her midst is no Christian Church, but has apostated from her Lord.
I repeat, I don't refer to gays outside the church, but inside the church.
Gays, outside the church, I shall not admonish, but treat kindly (however, if a talk about Jesus develops, I may confess the truth, that God, the Father, delivered his Son for our sins and raised him from the dead for our justification, in oder to set us free form every sin and give us a life of love and righteousness).
Everybody, who hates and judges gays, should ask himself, if he is sinless and consider that even the sinless Jesus did not judge the sinners, but offered the gospel of deliverance, in oder to set them free:
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Dear gays, Christ died for your sins and suffered a horrible death for you, furthermore he resurrected for you, in order to set you free. Can you remain gay regarding Christ's atonement for you?
I don't think a gay is worse than a Congressman !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And I forgive you for being so damned stupid.....
I am a protestant too, and you said word for word what i was thinking when i read it. well said and blessings.
If being gay is not a choice then how is it a sin when someone is born gay? I do agree that marriage should be between a man and a woman but if someone is born gay, you have to accept them for who they are but you can't expect them to repent or rehabilitate like Ms. Bachmann and her husband have tried to do! If its a mental, physical or biological disability, then you can't force them to change or demand that they repent for what they were born into!
Which church do you belong to?
show me in the NT where Jesus railed against being gay? here you say Rainer:A church, which tolerates gayness in her midst is no Christian Church, but has apostated from her Lord....no my friend if jesus was here he would say that ALL are welcome in His church. ALL.. that includes gays rainer...nice try with the.."i would be friendly to them...but not at church"... that sound Christ like? ...it sure does not to me....you have to go back to the OT to find anything in the Bible against "laying with another man" Liviticus i think>>> Jesus would never keep gays out of His church! better go back and read the NT again!
Just read Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 1, that is yet enough to know, how God considers gayness.
@Rainer: Lets just consider for one that you are correct about god existing. Now consider the time that the bible was written...do you not think it is possible that your god might have changed its mind about gays?
well Lee...i knew you could not n show me where JESUS railed against gays... that was Paul who was NOT Jesus...i said where JESUS said it was a sin...not Paul!!
I meant Rainer in the last post!!
And you still have not answered the question. You are a coward.
What a line of crap. Being gay does not mean that you catch it like a cold. It is something that you are born with. One question that no one can answer is if being gay is a sin why does God love everyone. You mean to tell me that he doesnt love you because you are Gay. Show me in the bible where it states being gay means you well go to hell. Yes it does state a man lying with a man, I get it but then again how was the bible written, individuals interpretations......think about that before making a$$ of yourself!!!
I will forgive them once they have disbanded and are no longer an organized religion.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will never disband. The church is here to stay.
The fact is that the book of mormon written in the 1800s by a man named joeseph smith is not the word of God.
I don't vote for scientologists or mormons. This republican will wait till 2016.
Come on Pete. Every religious text is written by man. The books in the bible are written by men inspired by god. Who is to say that smith was any different than Paul, Luke, etc...
"The books in the bible are written by men inspired by god."
The books in the bible were written by men inspired by their own imagination, and older myths from their time
Hey Lee...Ole Joe "tranlated" with a PEEP stone...that sound like it is "inspired' from God? And just where did those pesky little plates go??? and the "witnesses" only saw the GOLD PLATES" with their "spiritual eyes" OY VAY what a crck o poopoo
I dare you to read the Book of Mormon and then decide for yourself if Joseph Smith was not inspired to translate the Book of Mormon. The story is amazing. I know the Book of Mormon is true and that the only way the Joseph Smith could translate the Book of Mormon is by the power of God.
thats it Riley... just bare you testimoney...and the BoM is easy to disprove...there were no: horses or steel or many other things the BoM says were here in the New World at the time of the BoM... nope it was all a JS ruse to get the money andd the panties!! just sayin!
Good Job Pete! Stick to your guns man! You deserve four more years of Obama!
Oh Puleeeze! Mormons know their hateful ways (blacks, gays, etc.) won't get Romney elected. This is 100% bull and 100% politics – but then I repeat myself...
Jez, do you how many active Mormons do you know personally? I invite you to get to know them better. I promise you will see that they are MUCH different from how you view them now.
They are simply trying to win votes for Rmoney. Don't be fooled.
What's the difference of gayship and friend ship ????????????????Anyone knows,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
What is really going on ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,don't understand,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
But ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,it's Ok ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,if that doesn't hurt others,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,who really cares,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Wow....now Romney even has the Mormon church pandering to gays for him!
Mormons have always been very "gay friendly".
We are all sinners. Being "gay friendly" does not mean condoning it.
Mormons are nice,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Thanks for a respectful post. I agree.
mormons believe God punishes humans by darkening their skin at birth. (Look at the legacy of cain)
The "darkening of skin" comes from the Old Testament, right there in Genesis.
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.