Church leadership post for an openly gay Mormon
Mitch Mayne, who is openly gay, hopes his newly assumed Mormon leadership position will increase understanding.
September 24th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Church leadership post for an openly gay Mormon

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Early on in life, Mitch Mayne knew exactly who he was.

He would race home from school to watch reruns of “Star Trek” and swoon over his crush, Captain Kirk. At 8, after his parents converted, he was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith he embraced. Even after he drifted away from the LDS Church following his parents’ divorce, he came back to Mormonism on his own in his mid-20s.

It is where he feels spiritually at home, irrespective of the fact that, for the past 10 years, he’s been openly gay.

“I’m a man that lives in two worlds that a lot of people don’t think intersect,” Mayne said. “Both sides of myself exist in me. It’s part of my DNA, part of my makeup.”

Actively Mormon and openly gay: It's the sort of combo that might leave people wondering. After all, the LDS Church teaches that homosexuality, specifically if same-sex attractions are acted upon, is a sin. And the church has actively backed measures to ban same-sex marriages.

Now, Mayne finds himself in the spotlight as he embarks on a journey he says “belongs to all of us.” In mid-August he was selected, or called (as Mormons say) by local church officials to serve in an LDS Church leadership position in San Francisco.

Mayne’s appointment may have generated attention, but he’s not the first gay Mormon to assume a leadership role in the church.

In Seattle, Washington, and Oakland, California, gay men have reportedly served in LDS Church leadership roles, Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote in her piece about Mayne in The Salt Lake Tribune. What makes Mayne unique, Stack said, is that he "may be the first local LDS leader to announce his orientation over the pulpit.”

Late last month, from the pulpit, Mayne revealed - to anyone who didn't already know - who he is:

"I am a gay Latter-day Saint.

"I don't want pity. To pity me is to make me a victim. I want understanding. To understand me is to love me as an equal.

"I don't want tolerance. If I am tolerated, I am disliked in some way. I want respect as a fellow striving child of God - an equal in his eyes.

"I don't want acceptance. To accept me is to graciously grant me the favor of your company. To accept me is to marginalize me with the assumption that I am less than you. I am your peer. I am neither above you nor below you."

Mayne shared these words during a farewell address to the Oakland ward he long attended, amid an announcement that he would be leaving because he had been named the executive secretary to the bishop of the Bay Ward. It is a role in which he'll offer administrative help but also take part in shaping congregational work.

“While that’s not a big accomplishment in and of itself,” Mayne said, “it is a remarkable accomplishment for the simple fact that maybe for the first time, a man was called to a priesthood leadership position not in spite of the fact that he is gay, but partly because he is gay.”

For those unfamiliar with LDS Church vernacular, a ward is essentially a congregation or, to use Catholic terminology, a parish. Various wards fall under the auspices of a stake, the rough equivalent of a diocese. In this case, the Bay Ward is one of three wards that make up the San Francisco Stake.

The LDS Church, which entrusts local leaders to determine local callings, does not pay clergy, nor does it send would-be bishops to seminary. So Mayne, like the bishop who called him to serve, is a volunteer who works for the church on top of his full-time corporate communications job.

Don Fletcher, an ophthalmologist, said that when he was called last month to serve as the bishop and leader of the Bay Ward he wanted to make sure every Latter-day Saint in his ward knew they were welcome, including the vast majority who weren't showing up. Of the 950 members on the books, only 150 were appearing in the pews.

Because the Bay Ward serves a geographic area in San Francisco that includes the famously gay, rainbow-flag-waving Castro neighborhood, it stands to reason that a segment of those not attending church are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Among those who have been absent are members who grew up steeped in Mormonism, faithfully served as missionaries and have families still active in the church. For Fletcher, making members of the LGBT community feel comfortable enough to walk through his congregation's doors is personal.

Fletcher has a gay family member with AIDS and says he has seen firsthand how isolating that can be in the Mormon world.

“I love my church and have a lot of faith, but culturally we haven’t done a good job in dealing with people who are gay when they face life challenges,” whether that be coming out, depression or struggles with suicide or illness, Fletcher said. “I wanted to address it in the ward I live in.”

The response in his ward, and from other Mormons he has heard from, has been nothing but positive, "uniformly, no exception," the bishop said. And, he added with a laugh, in the past month he’s broadened his own knowledge – or, rather, his lingo base - learning about “the ‘Moho community,' Mormons who are homosexual. That was a new one to me.”

The LDS Church's top leadership, and by extension many Mormons sitting in pews, heavily supported the campaign behind Proposition 8, the 2008 California initiative to ban same-sex marriage, which is currently tied up in the state’s high court.

Church doctrine says members should avoid sexual relations until marriage, which only can exist between a man and a woman. But the church’s involvement in the Prop 8 battle, and the Mormons who financially fueled the effort, created rifts in wards, spawned protests outside LDS temples and pushed some members, likely already on the churchgoing fence, out the door.

The Oakland First Ward, which Mayne attended for more than a decade, held a series of meetings to help heal those post-Prop 8 wounds. He said he sees his new church position in San Francisco’s Bay Ward as an extension of such bridge-building and a positive evolution from where he once was. The appointment will allow him to do extensive outreach in the LGBT and Mormon communities.

“It’s been hard to be a gay Mormon,” Mayne said. In the course of his life, he said he came out "no less than three times to bishops and stake presidents, and each time I was pushed back into the closet. … This is an opportunity to take my own pain and challenges and make it an opportunity to help. How can I not do that?”

He and Fletcher have already seen dividends from Mayne's calling. On a recent Sunday, Fletcher said he looked out to see seven formerly absent members take their seats in the pews because Mayne is there.

“I talked to a couple that hadn’t been to church in 20 years,” Fletcher said. “I’m not reinventing doctrine. I’m just trying to put in place what Jesus Christ would have us doing. … Even if you’re in a gay relationship and have no interest in living all the commandments, you’re still welcome in church, by all means.”

The development has stirred up discussion far beyond California. In one week, Mayne said, his personal website, which links to a blog in which he writes openly about who he is, received 30,000 views from 67 countries.

“I’m not a lone wolf on this,” he said. “I just happen to be a face of it. … There is a place for everyone at our savior’s table.”

But not everyone is as confident that Mayne’s calling will make a difference.

“I’m conflicted about this,” said Eric Ethington of Salt Lake City, the founder of the LGBT blog PRIDEinUtah.

“On the one hand, I view this as a positive step forward for the church, a church that has a history of extreme persecutions against the LGBT community,” he said. “But on the other hand,  I worry about LGBT people … because the church teaches you that you cannot reach your full potential and have full acceptance in the church unless you marry someone of the opposite sex.”

Ethington was raised in the LDS Church and says he was kicked out of the house when he came out at 17. He later closeted himself and married a woman in an LDS temple, only to divorce a couple of years later after realizing he was kidding himself.

“I can’t share (Mitch’s) optimism, but I share his hope,” he said. “Whether the church is ever going to change its policies, that’s a question for (LDS Church President) Thomas Monson. But one thing I hope the church will do, and maybe Mitch can help with this, is educate local leadership. Some kids are gay. … And that’s OK.”

Ethington pointed out, though, that Mayne, who was in a longtime monogamous relationship until a year ago, was only able to get his church calling because he’s not currently with someone.

“If he falls in love again and wants to be with that man, he won’t be allowed to serve,” he said.

Matt Mosman, a high councilor with the San Francisco Stake, said that if Mayne were to find himself in another romantic relationship, there would be an expectation that he would step down.

But the expectation that Mayne will abstain from premarital sex while in a leadership role, Mosman added, is no different from what would be expected of a single man who is not gay.

“The idea that a gay man who is not currently active in a gay relationship could serve actively in a high-ranking calling – that is a policy in the Mormon church that you could argue has been around since the church’s inception,” said Mosman, who works in corporate development.

For now, Mayne looks forward to his service and to promoting conversations and understanding. He will not, however, commit to a life of celibacy and hopes, “for all my gay brothers and sisters,” that same-sex marriage will someday be an option.

“I’m not saying I have an intent to go out and sin,” he said. “Here’s where I am; I am able and willing to serve. But I don’t have a crystal ball and don’t know what the future holds.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Homosexuality • Mormonism • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (1,700 Responses)
  1. JD

    I hope this helps other gay Mormons to come out and to feel love at church. I am a gay Mormon and I know of many others. As a teen, I definitely would have benefited from more understanding, love and support at church. When you live in a Mormon county you look to other Mormons and the church for answers and help. I hope the church speaks more publicly in support of it's gay members so that they can feel more welcome at church.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  2. janetperry

    I agree with ad, who gives a rat's ass who is gay or not, we have much more important things to be concerned about. I am so sick of this kind of grans standing. PEOPLE DON'T CARE!!

    September 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • steve g

      and yet here you are "not caring" enough to read the story and make a comment..

      September 25, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  3. kimsland

    Can ANIMALS go to church now?
    Come on, we want donkeys and sheep in church.
    Oh wait.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Fred1

      Well back when I was a Christian with whole church seemed to be filled with noting but donkeys and sheep

      September 26, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  4. ad

    OK, in these tough economic times when our liberties are attacked every day and financial security pilfered every minute, I will be damned if people care about who the f*** is gay or not. CNN thinks of some rather idiotic stories to put on the front page. It just shows CNN is owned by the same corrupt banking kabal who just want to divert people's attention and energies in non issues.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  5. Colin

    Number of passages in the Bible that promote independent thhought, intelligence and rational enquiry – Zero

    Number of passages in the Bible that promote blind acceptance and belief based solely on another's word – 350

    September 25, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • elihu202

      Likelihood that believing in no god makes you smart, thoughtful, interesting, or fun: Zero.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • John Richardson

      What was that thud? Oh, it must have been elhu202's bumbling attempt at witty response!

      September 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  6. Rod C. Venger

    I'm disgusted. This 'man' opines that it's okay to pick and choose which commandments they will obey. He said "Even if you’re in a gay relationship and have no interest in living all the commandments, you’re still welcome in church, by all means.” we're all human and we all at times fail to measure up, but he's saying that you can choose to defy God and still be welcome. The commandments are mere suggestions. Human failing I understand. Defiance is another animal altogether. But that's what San Francisco is all about...defiance. Statistically, only 80 of the 800 no shows in that ward are mohos. The other 720 see what's wrong in that church and refuse to take part in it. Good call.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Gumby

      All Christers are cafeteria Christers, you included. Take the beam out of your eye.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Observer

      EVERYONE justs picks and chooses from the Bible. That's why you don't hear Christians trash other Christians by quoting Bible verses about getting divorced.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • StevieBoy

      ".... what's wrong in THAT church.." Are you serious??? Tell me what's right with ANY church, hypocrite! Open you eyes and mind and drop religion altogether and stop being a blind, weak sheep!

      September 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  7. Tom

    This article is retarded.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • davec

      CNN is not happy unless they are stiring the pot and creating divisions...

      September 25, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  8. Dennis

    Mormons are soft on monogamy but Hard. on Gays.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  9. Alex

    We SHOULD HELP the GAYS because they are SICK in the HEAD, Typical MORMONS TWISTING the LORDS WORD to CONFORM to their SINFUL lifestyles. The WORD CONFORMS to NOBODY. MORMONS have TWISTED the BIBLE for YEARS and the ONLY reason their still around because its EASY to find a SICK individual who wants to HAVE MULTIPLE WIVES and say it all in the NAME of our SICK RELIGION. So im NOT surprised they support GAYS because at the END of the DAY it ALL ABOUT MONEY not RELIGION. MORMONS are BIGGOTS of CHRISTIANITY.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Observer


      The Bible presents Solomon as the wisest of men.

      1 Kings 11:2-3 “Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines.”

      Guess again.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • JJ

      People like you really scare me with your sick, twisted ideas. Seriously dude, get help.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Nathan

      You also probably know that mormons left polygamy in 1890. the fact that you hang on to this proves that you look for any reason to hate a group of people. Even if that reason is 120 years out of date.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • puresmokey

      Not sure who the biggest bigot in Christianity is, but you're a runner up, buddy.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  10. Colin

    Gay Teenager: God, you made me gay. I can no longer deny the urges I am having. Why, oh Lord? I have been a good person all my life. My family and I have kept your commandments and attended church every Sunday.

    God: It’s all part of my “grand plan” for you. Your small mind cannot comprehend such matters.

    Gay Teen: But God, the Christians are telling me I am a sinner and will burn in hell, but you made me this way. I cannot help it. I think you owe me an explanation. I am truly frightened!

    God: I was moving in mysterious ways.

    Gay Teen: What the hell does that mean?

    God: Well, I make thousands gays every day, just so I can wait until they get to puberty and crush their hopes for a normal life. My Christian followers on Earth complete the misery by tormenting these poor children. Then, when you die, I can send you to burn forever. Pretty mysterious, hey?

    Gay Teen: I can’t believe what I’m hearing?

    God: Yeah, it’s pretty rare that I speak so frankly. Look, if it makes you feel any better, tell yourself it’s Satan’s work. Satan is trying to tempt you away from me.

    Gay Teen: But you’re god!! You can stop Satan.

    God: Ok, you’ve got me there. Look kid, the truth is, I don’t exist. I never have. Wasn’t it obvious to you that you made me when I seemed to love all the same things you do and hate all the same things you do? Haven’t you noticed that those who disapprove of you say I disapprove of you and that those who support you say I support you? Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Gay Teen: That’s a shame, because I intended to give you a free pass. To still believe in you despite hating myself. I have been taught to believe in you and never to question it, and I accepted what they said when they told me it was wrong to doubt.

    God: Well, look at it from my perspective. How long would I last if I positively promoted healthy skepticism, independent thought and rational investigation? You people would see right through me in a minute.

    Gay Teen: Ok. I have to go now. My parents, Christian friends and teachers have all disowned me. I need to work out what to do.

    God: Good luck. I’ll say a prayer for you. Hey – even I need a god sometimes

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

      Stupid rhetoric -Sounds like Obamma playing the part of God....

      September 25, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • kimsland

      Funny but that's just not real.
      Because everyone knows god is make believe.
      The ones that pray to their fairy tale god are just scared or weak or just want money or power over other scared and weak people.

      There is no god, and I'm 100% positive.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Observer

      It's always entertaining to hear someone utter their wisdom and not even know how to spell the name of the president of the United States.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Peace2All


      Hey mate... another great post !




      Colin made a great post. What, like this is not exactly somehow accurate about a lot of Christians, and the Christian dogma about gays...?

      Give me a break, dave..


      September 25, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Gumby


      September 25, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • ringo

      "How long would I last if I positively promoted healthy skepticism, independent thought and rational investigation?"

      Jews have been around for about 4000 years, thanks.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Janet

      I actually found it very interesting. 🙂 As a non-active Mormon I found this article to be very up-lifting and a step in the right direction for the church. I'm not gay and am a firm believer that we must all honor who we are truly are. If the church continues to open it's hearts and doors to all... no matter what the orientation, I would consider being active again. Unfortunately there are too many "old school" Mormons that will prevent this from happening. (For now.)
      This might be a small step... but a step it is in the right direction.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Colin

      Ringo – exactly my point. In the absence of skepticism and fuelled by blind, passive acceptance, it could last indefinitely.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • ringo

      Um, no.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • elihu202

      It's straw man fictions like this that make atheists feel proud of themselves. Weak.

      September 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  11. Jim

    Hey you, do you want to be famous and popular?, here is the formula:
    Be a gay and have something to do with a religious group, CNN will make you famous.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  12. 123


    September 25, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  13. Can't disconnect

    How do you disconnect from this thing?

    September 25, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  14. JW

    The Mormon church that convinced CNN to run this story, along with lots of other recent stories and TV ads, forgot the end part: Vote for Romney, he ain't so different.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • inTheDogHouse

      That is not true. The church does not endorse any political candidate, even a Presidential one.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Peace2All


      " That is not true. The church does not endorse any political candidate, even a Presidential one. "

      Hmmm... yeah, sure.


      September 25, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  15. mike kawasakino


    September 25, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Veritas


      September 25, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Peace2All

      @mike kawasakino

      Hmm... How buddhist, hinduish with a smidge of christianity of you.

      I agree with -Veritas posting above.


      September 25, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  16. The True Gospel

    The word of Jesus proclaims wholesome acceptance in his teachings but also clearly made it known that though in HIM there is acceptance toward all men without degrees, "YOU and I as sinners MUST turn from our chosen lifestyles (SELF-GRATIFICATION and PLEASURE) and by daily living RECEIVE his own lifestyle by the reading of his words without diluting it to suit your lust. Matthew 15 verse 8 is the WORDS of Jesus, "These people worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me". Luke 6:46 this same Jesus said, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? The ONE and ONLY goal of Jesus is for us men to be like HIM but when YOU filled with the lust of your heart denounce that CALL of Right Thinking and godly living and live by your own standards then have you denied a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That personal relationship is VERY vital if you claim to have received CHRIST. You want to come into his house (HEAVEN) but you've refused to leave by HIS standards. Galatians 6 verse 7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Proverbs 14 verse 12, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death”. You surely would not allow a drug addict to come live in your home if his refuses to meet the standards of your home and that is if you have room for him for shelter? Certainly you would not because you know that his poor CHOSEN habits in your house would become contagious or infectious in the lives of other precious ones who live in your home. It’s the same lesson Jesus wants us all to understand though HIS loves each and every one of us without degrees, you cannot come into his abode with a lifestyle that is deplorable and not honorable. You get to know someone you love by having a relationship (Friendship, Wife, Husband, Children) with them and without a mutual relationship there is no bond existent between two persons. We all know this. "Believing with Doing what Christ says is not Believing at all". It’s like you find a job at an establishment but when you start working there you refuse to follow the guidelines and policies of that establishment, what do you think would happen? You certainly would be fired or terminated from the establishment or company. The Concept of Christ teachings is being diluted by many people in order to suit their pleasure or choices in life because his teachings doesn’t make them feel comfort at all because their sins and pleasures. John 3 verse 16, “And this is the verdict, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”. Luke 6:46 says "But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws”. John 14 verses 15 “If you love me keep my commandments”. These are the WORDS of Jesus undiluted.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Veritas

      I guess there is always these "dogma barfs" in cases like this. Some brain dead religious freak feels compelled to dump a whole bunch of nonsense words to impress us how much he has memorized from his fairy tale book. Sad really.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • sunnysmom

      Wow, you spent all this time preaching this paragraph, seriously? If you are so "Godly", why not "love thy neighbor" and shut your mouth and let God sort it out when the time comes.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Gumby

      Never trust a commenter who has the words "The True Gospel" as their handle.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Joe

      I hope you are aware that Jesus NEVER ever said even one thing about gays in his entire ministry. Therefore there are no anti-gay commandments to be followed. And please don't tell me that Jesus was referring to the Hebrew laws of Leviticus, because then you are going to have to explain why you don't practise slavery and animal sacrifice along with some other inconvenient "commandments."

      September 25, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Fred1

      Get real, you said it yourself, we are all sinners you can’t turn away from “SELF-GRATIFICATION and PLEASURE” . All you can do is ask forgiveness, so if it’s unavoidable why not enjoy it? Either way you get forgiven

      September 26, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  17. WOW

    The article should read……. An actively gay moron belongs to the Mormon cult!

    September 25, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  18. Rainer Braendlein


    The LDS worship the God of se-xual greed, which is Satan.

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

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

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

    Mr. Mayne is twofold guilty:

    First, he is member of an awful cult.

    Secondly, he is gay.

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

    Of course, there are a lot of other serious sins beside gayness, which cause God's wrath. Nobody should condem gays, but offer them the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are a lot of other sins beside gayness, which cause God's wrath. We are all sinners and need the gift of God's righteousness. Nobody should point a finger on gays and condemn them, but repent of his own sins like gays should repent of gayness.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Peace2All


      Still fighting the battle of who has the 'right' and 'true' brand of Christianity, I see.

      Rainer... you continue to battle with all the other thousands of denominations of Christianity... and... all of the other world religions, and when you guys get done... let us know 'THE TRUTH.'

      Too funny...


      September 25, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Joe

      The "Christian God" does not condemn gays or gayness. Jesus never once even mentioned the subject. I'm sure you are among those who believe that Christ was omniscent and infallible. So, how could he forget to mention something so important? Maybe because it isn't important at all?

      September 25, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  19. berysax

    I have no problems with gays, and religion as long as they bug me, but why join a church with a book that says your bad?!? Don't even try and argue it doesn't say that. The word sodomy came from the Sodom and Gomorrah story in the bible. It's just doesn't seem right.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Observer

      "sodomy" is a word that applies to gays and heteros. Look it up. It's highly likely that the majority of heteros engage in it.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  20. Giuseppe

    Is today gayday? Must not be any news. Who cares.

    September 25, 2011 at 11:03 am |
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