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.”
All I know from the mormon church here in Mexico is that they make better parents,Families, citizens, employees, students, etc etc Im not a Mormon but all the mormons that I know are good people.
And good robots.
changing? i highly doubt it. they will always be a cult of white polygamist bigots
Why the unwillingness to allow for change? Why not applaud positive efforts?
at least you don't seem bigoted in your response....
I can only hope you are trolling, because the idea that someone can be this ignorant is just so sad.
I am not a Mormon, but to profile every member of a church as being a member of a very extremist minority not even recognized as a part of the Mormon Church is ABOUT as ignorant and hateful as it gets. Mormons banned polygamy in the 1800s – the fundamentalist sect to which you SO eloquently referred is an offshoot branch the Mormons refuse to recognize.
The logic behind your statement is the same logic that causes people to think that all Christians are evangelical baptists who hold hateful posters up at army funerals and that all Muslims are terrorists. Read a book, get some sense, and please, until you do, refrain from spewing stupidity on CNN.
Thats right, they will always be white male bigots and polygamists...even the women are men....who are white male polygamists...who have children somehow that are also white male bigots and polygamists...and a cult, did I mention that, yes a CULT....not the baby horse, no, but a CULT...the word other christians use, true christians...again its not a cult like a baby horse or even a trojan horse with secrets inside...and bigotry...and white...and polygamy....and not a baby horse...
You people are all judging one apple in the orchard. No on is perfect, not you, not me. The Church will NEVER change their mind about gay marriage. We love ALL people no matter their choices in life. Why don't people get that? You judge us Mormons who are kind, gentle, loving, moral people trying to live our lives as Jesus did. What is wrong with that? Seems like the people posting hate filled posts are the ones that need to take a step back and look at their own lives and stop criticizing people who actually have a positive influence in society. I say again....do your homework on the religion before you go out there and criticize. By homework, I mean Stop reading stupid stuff on the internet that is totally untrue! You want to know the real us.....go to LDS.org and read read read until the anger leaves your soul!
"The Church will NEVER change their mind about gay marriage. We love ALL people no matter their choices in life. Why don't people get that? You judge us Mormons who are kind, gentle, loving, moral people trying to live our lives as Jesus did. What is wrong with that?"
Because you are not being loving and moral by denying gays their civil rights!
Yes their civil rights and since you probably don't know what that is here you go....
-–Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.
-–Creating a "family partnership" under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.
Estate Planning Benefits
-–Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.
-–Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.
-–Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.
-–Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse – that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse's behalf.
-–Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.
-–Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.
-–Receiving public as-sistance benefits.
-–Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.
-–Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
-–Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
-–Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse's close relatives dies.
-–Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
-–Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.
-–Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
-–Making burial or other final arrangements.
-–Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
-–Applying for joint foster care rights.
-–Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.
-–Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.
-–Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only."
-–Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.
-–Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.
-–Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
-–Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.
-–Other Legal Benefits and Protections
-–Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).
-–Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).
-–Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can't force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.
-–Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.
-–Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.
-–Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.
Whaddayoo mean, 'you people'?
I did go to LDS .org...where all you get is the milk!! the meat ya gotta wait till you are in... LSDS .org is where i learned aboyt Ole Joe 33 wives...11 to married women...many teenagers too...polygamy? thats were Emma was supposed to "approve" Joes other wives... she didnt approve of ONE...and all the other wives were supposed to be virgins... at leats 11 of them were not! is that what you want in the CK? lote of other wives so your "husband" can have "relations" with them? OY VAY!! AND DONT GET ME STARTED ON kOLOB!!
I can assure you I hold no ill will toward Mormons – That does not mean I have to agree with you.
You are my hero. Thank you for saving me a LOT of typing.
The only reason the Mormon church is putting this out now is to get the gay vote for Romney. If (big if) he becomes President they will revert right back to their prior stance.
The mormon church is NOT putting anything out there!!!!! A few people are.....NOT THE CHURCH!!!
This has been the Church's stance since the beginning. Joseph Smith taught that all men are equal (long before anyone was claiming slaves could possibly be equal) The church has always taught acceptance, love, and loving the sinner, not the sin. There has been no change in Church stance or doctrine. Now, many members are actually following it better, but there has been no change.
Sadly, you are probably not that far off. LDS took a serious PR hit for it's prop8 rhetoric and they are still doing damage control. That being said I would not be surprised if there were individual bishops within LDS who honestly feel this way..... the only difference is they are probably getting support from the church rather then being told to keep it to themselves.
In the end, I don't really care why they are doing it, positive steps are positive steps and anything that takes religious groups away from trying to get its internal beliefs forced on non-members is a goo thing.
Oh Please! This is all just a temporary stunt to get their mormon official into office. Romney is Mormon and Mornon's have historically hated gays and blacks actually. It wasn't until the late 70's maybe even the 80's that the Mormon church allowed blacks into their temples officially.
Don't be fooled by this deceptive tactic which let's their historic choices and stance on the issues speak louder then their words today.
Hello, they were always allowed in the temple, they just didn't have the priesthood. Do your homework!
We were allowed into the temple to sweep and do dishes and the like.
i do not believe you mr Kloosterman
1. It is ALL about the election.
2. It is ALL about the money that they can collect.
Period. End of story.
How in the world will Mitt ROmney as president get money for the church???? What a dumb comment! He already pays 18% of his income to charity. what do you think that when he becomes president he will start giving 90% to the church?
When they admit that Joseph Smith swindled them, then I will listen. Otherwise, they are still crazy in my eyes. Creepy crazy.
This is absolutely a positive sign for sure, but 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.
You know, I think that the Big Bang shows that there must be a creator. I guess different people can have different opinions. Coupled with what we know about quantum mechanics, I reason that for the Big Bang to exist, there must have been an observer to observe it existing. Matter as we know it does not exist until an observer sees it. This makes me believe that something other than matter-energy underlies the universe: intelligence or consciousness.
"I don’t think the church’s policy has caught up to that change in culture,”
Fun Fact: CHURCH POLICY DOESN'T CHANGE TO MATCH THE "CULTURE" It stays true to what is right, not what is fashionable.
I know that's gotta be wishful thinking on your part, son...
Sam, I think it is FAR MORE accurate to say "CHURCH POLICY DOESN'T CHANGE TO MATCH THE "CULTURE" It stays true to what is right-wing, not what is moral or correct"!
But I agree with melikeydrinkey – I believe that God is loving and quite constant. It is human beings who try to interpret God's will and force their lame ideas on others .... and just keep getting it wrong. Watch "Dogma" – silly comedy, of course, but you will learn more about the nature of organized religion from that movie than just about anything.
the best way to reduce the population is that all become gays....2012 if now all at wwwTheDimensionMachineCOM
Not a new idea but I like it the concept. China has cities with no woman cause they go to work for Apple Computer.
Which of the following is a silly story only a naïve child would believe and which is a "cherished religious belief" that must never be criticized or questioned?
Harry Potter stared into the big black hat. Inside were magic gold tablets – which nobody else would ever see- which told Harry the secrets of the Universe, of life, death and the afterlife. They explained to him how, if he wore certain magic underwear, he would be protected from evil spirits in this life and in the end times. AND
Joseph Smith stared into the big black hat. Inside were magic gold tablets – which nobody else would ever see- which told Joseph the secrets of the Universe, of life, death and the afterlife. They explained to him how, if he wore certain sacred underwear, he would be protected from evil spirits in this life and in the end times.
no one ever saw? check out "Three Witnesses" and "Eight Witnesses" you have to scroll down a little if your small brain can manage it.
12 people is a few greater than 1. Moses was the only one who saw the burning bush.
I give up.....which one?
Yes BetterOpinion, 3, 8, or 11 "witnesses" to magic gold tablets in a big hat is very convincing. I now see the error of my ways. How are those extra planets doing? Found any evidence of the Jews colonizing America yet? Magic underpants ok? Satan and Jesus still brothers?
I wanna get voted into Gryffindor.
hey better...how many "witnesses wer subsequently excommunicated? and how did they "see" the plates??? WITH THEIR SPIRITUAL EYES!! NOT WITH THEIR REAL EYES!! KEEP TRYING...SOME OF US ARE MORE EDUCATED IN THE mORMON DOCTRINE THAN YOU WOULD KNOW!
Let me ask all commenters this: Is it wrong for vegetarians to vote for legislation that bands meat production? Is that discrimination against those who eat meat? Are you going to call vegetarians haters and bigots for doing this?
The church's stance is moral purity. Sin is sin and all the politically correctness and rally's cannot change that. We are fool's are we not? All rhetoric and sophistry combined to justify error instead of seeking holiness and godliness. So much false doctrine abounds in these posts that I wonder of the state of the nation and how far we have departed. We have become like the jews of old who fought against the truth when it came to them in the form of their Savior. I wonder how the people would react if the Savior were to come to them now as a mortal.
The way in which we reach to others, all being sinners, is through love and compassion. These times are like Sodom and Gomorrah and instead of seeking to justify the gross act we should be looking to change our natures for the better. Indeed, we should be concerned for the state of the nation. It is sin like these that bring the downfall of nations.
Ok, gay people, look what you're up against. Can you imagine even trying to meaningfully converse with such a person as Thomas? And he probably represents about 90% of Mormons. How I despise the poisoning effects of religious indoctrination.
"These times are like Sodom and Gomorrah and instead of seeking to justify the gross act we should be looking to change our natures for the better. "
I hope you realize that Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with gays, it had to do with bad hospitality, it even states it in Ezekiel. It's time for Christians to put away their prejudice and bigotry and give gays their civil rights!
They just spent massive amount of money pushing prop 8 in CA, and we're supposed to believe this?
I'm sure it's just a coincidence that their boy, Mitt is running for pres this year.
Are people this dumb to believe this?
The only reason this story is being circulated is that the Mormon Church will do ANYTHING to get one of theirs into the White House. They have a strident and vicious history of being anti-gay and have spent/donated MILLIONS to fight against the GLBTQ community for decades. I don't believe for one second they are even, in the slightest of ways, considering changing their vehement anti-gay positions/preaching. This is political maneuvering at its worst! They are trying to lessen the anti-Mormon sentiments that Mitt is facing and trying to defuse any connection between Mitt and anti-gay activists (the Mormon Church being one of the biggest and most outspoken of these!) MITT HATES GAYS. THE MORMON CHURCH HATES GAYS. THE GOP HATES GAYS. WE CANNOT TOLERATE THIS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. FREEDOM AND EQUALITY FOR ALL!
Hey...they changed their stance on blacks back in the 70s. I'm a gay man but a hopeful gay man. I'm not a Mormon but have faith that one day this "issue" of the LGBT community just won't be an issue any more, anywhere
Gay people as a group DO NOT have such short memories – we will NOT and should not forget what the Mormon church has done to us!! O'bama 2012!!
Freedom and Equality for all? Does that mean Mormons? I am sure you were SOOOO excited to see the first black president elected. I am just as excited to see the first Mormon president in the white house! I hope you will be just as "tolerant" of Mormons as you are of all other minority groups. MITT 2012!!!
They don't mind making up morality as they go, look at how they changed their rules on polygamy.
all you haters.. quit it out.... the mormons are no worse than all the other deluded religion.
there is no god, figure that out and get on with your lives.
sheesh. all this hubub about a mythical creature like the easter bunny and the tooth fairy. (the rock and the cable guy, please forgive me)
No worse, just weird!
I guess when you have had something shoved down your throat as many times as the Mormons have, you have no choice. You can picked and demand all you want, but you can't make people love you.
This story is great. If these religious nuts keep getting softer and softer then they can stop calling themselves "catholics", "christians", or "mormans" and start calling themselves people. Then the human race can get on with it's progress.
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.