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.
Explain it to me: What’s Mormonism?
“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 guess they would say anything and do anything to get a Mormon in the White House, then they will try to take away our caffiene and alcohol, and of course our birth control. We better think about this one. Because the rich will only benefit if this man gets in.
Nobody better take my caffeine! Riot time. Tippin cars and lattes right and left.
I must have missed the time Romney abolished caffeine, alcohol and birth control in MA when he was governor.
I hate those stupid Mormons!!! Why do they have to be so healthy! Damn them for NOT drinking tons of caffeine, alcohol, and choosing to have children! What a "weird" cult. They are healthy, smart, successful, attractive people. I HATE those evil Mormons.
It may be generating some hope that they Mormon Church is showing some signs of progress, and this should be encouraged. However, according to news reports they are out here right now in Maryland expending efforts to repeal the marriage equality act which was just passed by our General Assembly. It would not surprise me if they are also doing this in Washington State. Since they are still trying to prevent our families from having the same legal rights that they themselves take for granted, their asking for forgiveness from the LGBT community is breathtakingly premature.
Pretty sure they are not asking.
Misery loves company. Plenty are working really hard to take away that happiness, because of their own misery.
In survey after survey, Mormons are among the happiest and brightest groups in the country. They must be doing something right.
Ignorance is bliss.
Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.
Were you the source or someone else?
I cannot claim it but was encouraged to repost it often by the originator. Hopefully you will do the same(copy and paste is a wonderfull thing!)
I would be glad to do that, but would like to give credit where credit is due. Do you know who was the originator? I don't like to cut-and-paste someone's brilliant work without acknowledging.
I'm a Christian and I don't believe any anything you have written. You sound pretty angry though.
Brian, you don't believe reality but you DO believe fantasy and myth. You sound pretty stupid to me. Personnaly, I'd rather be angry(even thoe I'm not)
Observer, His 'name' is Colin, You will probably find his postings throughout this blog.
God gave me golden tablets last night that said "better to have a gay son than a republican son".
Hey, you should start your own religion. Its the best way to make money.
Or a Mormon one!
I'm a Mormon that has both. And I wouldn't want either one of them to change. They are great young men.
Seek ye the mind's eye! Find ye then the eye's mind! Once there, stay a while! Bleeding hearts do throb for heavily weighted undulations of ever to inwardly revolve with not much whimpered bitterness and they will even and always proclaim them not their deadenedness sarcasms. Search your vents of one's vintage-aged rationale! Hunt down the lying shames and rid one's self of zealotism! Corner ye the markets before others have their will to blindingly stake a claim via their shallowed integrations! Ride high amidst the banyon tree's branches! Ever careful and ever mindful and ever conceited ye be while ever in denial are the unbelievers' eyeing minds!
April 16, 2012 at 9:50 am
Rather than inculcating our children with the primary-color simple Sunday school legends and myths most people do, might I suggest the following ten comandments to enable them to think for themselves.
1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must.
2. DO NOT think that claims about magic 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 get frightened when you want to "look 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 goblins 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 I 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 Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born 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” 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 sometimes think that, if we first taught our children these simple guidelines, any religion or other supernatural belief would be quickly dismissed by them as quaint nostalgia from a bygone era. I hope we get there as a species.
Hmmm, looks familiar.
@Colin I think that's the point.
I hope 'the originator' doesn't mind. It is worth reposting again again again....
And what does High Priest/Bishop Willard Mitt Romney have to say about this? He is one of the top 98 highest ranking officials of the Church after all. Does he agree with this apparent shift in policy?
Top 98 highest ranking officials? WHAT?? He was, at most, a Stake President, putting him on equal footing with about 3000 others.
Romney is not any kind of ranking church official let alone 98th. Your info is wrong.
My step-mom's first husband was a Mormon. She allegedly left him when he wanted a second "wife". It wasn't until my dad passed away that we found out she didn't divorce her first husband. Her first husband claimed he divorced her to marry his second wife. No divorce record was ever found. They both committed bigamy and got away with it. In the meantime, it has caused tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses to untangle the estates of her first husband and my dad's. It's time to reign in the Mormon church or ban it entirely.
I'm sorry, but this is crazy person behavior, not Mormon behavior. Mormons do not believe in any form of plural marriage and have not practiced it for 120 years.
just because your step mom and her husband were too stupid to file paperwork doesn't mean a church needs to be banned. Mormons don't practice polygamy or bigamy. In fact you are excommunicated if you are caught doing it.
blacks and now gays, mmmmmhhhhh. Can someone say little church of prospected Gods. Some how among everyone else God gave them the right to judge. Their religion period is hell.
you are judging right now. Whats the difference?
You misunderstand. It is not the way you think it is. There are large groups of individuals in the church who express their own opinions. I have watched the church closely and have never found them to be judgmental. However, people inside and outside the church lob judgments in both directions like people do. Go easy on people and your judgment will be easier as well.
Official Declaration – 2 of the LDS Church (1978) states:
"We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel."
The LDS Church has always had doctrine that promotes the well being of all people. It opposed Slavery and paid the price for it during the time of slavery and intolerant members left the church when Official Declaration – 2 was published. Perhaps the author of this article will review General Conference talks that promote the acceptance of the GLBT.
Being Gay, Lesbian, etc ... does not necessary mean a life of promiscuity. We are all unique and whatever our perceived state of being, we have challenges to our own faith and the faith of others.
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." – Brigham Young
Oh, yes, the conference. I have lived in a two heavily LDS areas, and it is always amusing around "conference" time how many new "talking points" everyone gets. It's like no one can form their own opinion until conference time. Sad, really, to not know the difference between right and wrong without some old white man telling you.
Colin – Who was Cain when Noah set sail?
In 1836, Joseph Smith had a letter published in the "Messenger and Advocate" – a Mormon newspaper.
It read, in part:
"...the first mention we have of slavery is found in the Holy Bible,...And so far from that prediction being averse to the mind of God, it remains as a lasting monument of the DECREE OF JEHOVAH, to the shame and confusion of all who HAVE CRIED OUT against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Ham in SERVITUDE.
I can say, the CURSE IS NOT YET TAKEN OFF FROM THE SONS OF CANAAN, neither will be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come; and the people who INTERFERE THE LEAST WITH THE PURPOSES OF GOD in this matter, will come under the LEAST CONDEMNATION BEFORE HIM; and those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the DECREES OF THE LORD, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do his own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel"
Do you want to know what the official Mormon doctrine on gays and lesbians?
Check the following link:
For years Mormons had their beliefs and way of life and tried as best as they could, to stay out of other people's lives. This I found admirable and reasonable, until...
Until 3 years ago in the state of California when Mormons sponsored a bill to reverse prop 8. This came as a surprise to me. For years Mormons lived peacefully in harmony with the code of honor, leave us alone and we do the same. The challenge to the prop 8 violated the covenant of ‘live and let live’ doctrine. The reversal also angered the gay community in Southern California and beyond as it was evident by daily demonstrations across LDS temples in the region.
To suggest the LDS church is softening its stance on gay rights (as this article suggests) is ludicrous. Church has had a conservative view of certain issues and its share of controversy with racism, polygamy, baptizing the dead without consent, is to name the few. Softening on gay rights is farfetched and unbelievable, to say the least.
This article is just trying to soften church’s image to help the GOP presumed nominee to pander to the liberal voters. I noticed the presumed nominee has no hard stance on many issues and flip flops as needed; now I am learning the LDS church is abiding by the same principal.
Please do not discount people’s ability to make sense of things and read between the lines; they are smarter than the author thinks.
Everyone should realize that this is not Church PR. The Church had nothing to do with this article. The author, who is not Mormon and does not represent the Church, contacted a couple of members who expressed their own opinions. Ido give credit to the author for asking an official church representative to clarify.
When pigs fly...
What an embarrassing stunt to grow the LDS rolls. Pathetic! These freakshows believe that Black people are cursed... That Joe Smith read the word of God from some Gold Plates he found in upstate NY, but couldn't produce them when questioned about it.
He was a Mason and a Barnum and Bailey style showman who wanted to be famous! He incorporated Mason traditions into Mormonism to make it seem really edgy and secretive. Only the phony, martyr, attention deprived L. Ron Hubbard beats Joe Smith as one of the biggest fraudsters in American history!
He was a 14-yeard old boy
So now a mormon man can marry his male cousin also?
Now look what you've done. Poor mormongirl is reduced to just shouting 'no' at all you fools.
Michael yours and others ridiculous claim that the church would make a policy change to assist a politician get elected is simply stupid. The priesthood being available to all males regardless of race was announced in 1976 and has not been reversed. The priesthood being withheld form blacks was never an official church policy simply BAD practice put in place during a very dark era in our country. Blacks actually held the priesthood at the turn of the 20th century.
So, why isn't the priesthood available to women?
Then please explain the following letter penned by members of the LDS hierarchy (the prophet and the 12) in the mid 20th century as a response to a a Mormon questioning the official racist doctrines:
"From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it is has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Neg.roes are not ent.itled to the full blessings of the Gospel.
"Furthermore your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Neg.ro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous."
– George Albert Smith J. Reuben Clark, Jr. David O. McKay
Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." – Brigham Young
I am a Mormon. I am not gay but I have straight friends and some friends that are gay and I respect them both. I do not bash them or make fun of them and they respect my own beliefs. Many comments by readers to this article are extremely distasteful and are untrue regarding the Mormon church. Would we see such hate in articles written about Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Athiets, and so forth? I don't think so. I respect other churches beliefs and NEVER make fun of them. This article talks about being Christlike. I strive every day to be more like Christ. I would encourage readers to be more respectful in thier comments, ESPECIALLY if they profess to be Christians themselves.
Hell naw, same comments on EVERY article, nothing sacred around here.
Well, they changed their minds about black people, so why not gays! Everything is so set in stone with them, until the backlash begins. Then they suddenly have this inspiration, realize they are in the wrong, and try to back peddle. If you are going to hate me, then hate me. Don't try to cover it up to save face.
In Christianity, this idea of making corrections when you've been wrong is called "repentance." Most people view it as a good thing.
I see now how Romney can be the "etch-a-scetch" guy. It's all part of his con..oops..religion.
Backlash has been around since the church was founded. The church will NOT change their views on this subject. Mariiage was made for a man and a woman, and to the guy who said we as a church deny basic rights such as medical care? NO WE DON'T. We believe marriage should be between a man and a woman as it was in the beginning. God did not put a man and a man on the earth. I believe that all people should have the right to medical care and all that comes with it. What I don't agree with is the marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman.
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.