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. Stephan

    The Latter Day Saint Movement founder, Joseph Smith, believed in polygamy......with that said, how can Mormons believe he was a prophet of God if "The Bible" condemns polygamy? The Bible is apart of a serious of Doctrines/Convenants that mormons follow as their belief. Even though polygamy was discontinued by the church of Latter Day Saints in the 20th Century......it just goes to show you that Joseph Smith was/is a False prophet!

    September 25, 2011 at 5:32 am |
    • Blursd

      It's hard to believe from your statement that you've ever even read the Bible. The Bible condemns polygamy ... are you serious? There are dozens upon dozens of examples in the Bible of "righteous" men and prophets in polygamous relationships ... many of which were supposedly directly commanded and ordained by God.

      What Bible are you reading ...?

      September 25, 2011 at 5:42 am |
    • Stephan

      Are you reading the New Testament?......

      September 25, 2011 at 5:45 am |
    • Blursd

      Typical for a Bible thumper ... "I'm going to focus on one thing in the Bible by ignoring all the other passages that contradict the viewpoint I want to have, and apply that reference incorrectly and out of context." I am unaware of any explicit prohibition of polygamy in the New Testiment ... Especially given the fact it was practiced and condoned in the ancient Christian church. The official policy of monogamy wasn't firmly established as official dogma until over 100 years after Jesus' death. But you're right ... We should ignore facts.

      September 25, 2011 at 6:12 am |
    • how's that

      Stephen, what you wrote is called disinformation or propoganda, something to suit your agenda.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  2. dave

    with all that is going on in the world...this is worthy of front page coverage?

    September 25, 2011 at 5:32 am |
    • needNewGov

      This story was only previewed on the home page. Just like "whatever celebrity said what" article. Don't like CNN, go back to FOX.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • needNewGov

      This story was only previewed on the home page. Just like "whatever celebrity said what" article.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  3. Nicholas

    I agree with Ryan Booth completely. War in Libya, UN in session, the US might go broke, and many other world events take precedence over marginalized religious individuals.

    September 25, 2011 at 5:30 am |
  4. Ryan Booth

    Why CNN? Why do you post this as your biggest story on the front page? I have defended you guys in the past and I am seriously disappointed. I mean, there has got to be more important things going on in the world other than a gay mormon. So he's gay, he can't drink, and he is a bible humper. Whoopty doo.

    September 25, 2011 at 5:25 am |
    • kimsland

      Since there's no such thing as an intelligent 'Belief' story, as far as I'm concerned this fits right in.
      I agree the church should ban gays, they should also ban heterose.xuals as well, ideally then no one will turn up to their pathetic make believe crazy house.

      A world without religion is a world in peace.
      Don't be a scared church fool, be a free non prejudice and caring intelligent person.

      September 25, 2011 at 5:40 am |
  5. Nicholas

    The LDS Church calling (or position) of Executive Secretary should not be considered a leadership position. The role is akin to a supervisory clerk or an administrative support specialist. Offering spiritual guidance and acting as shepherd do not fall under his jurisdiction, thus the term "leadership position" is a misnomer.

    September 25, 2011 at 5:21 am |
    • ironman1995

      hey nick, yes it is not like a Bishop, but he does have ot have the priesthood to do that calling

      September 25, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  6. bill mcmasters

    if i was a southpark character, i guess i would say that mormonism is kind of gay, so it all works out.

    September 25, 2011 at 5:15 am |
    • Atheists don't believe in anything

      So that means you're gay.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  7. hueygunner

    Now, I see why Christian churches are putting FULL GOSPEL in their names.

    September 25, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  8. me

    Damn he is HOT !

    September 25, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  9. Mike

    Heh, the LDS church isn't really accepting him:


    I lived in Salt Lake City for years, this is just a publicity stunt. Lets not forget the LDS church's role in Proposition 8:


    One of the more discriminatory religions on the planet.

    September 25, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  10. REhab is for quitters

    mormans are just flat out strange in there beliefs, including magic underwear and thinking black people had no soul up until years ago when they *changed there mind*. .......

    September 25, 2011 at 5:03 am |
    • skytag

      I've found that most people who make these kinds of comments have a lot of misconceptions about Mormons, primarily because they get their information from non-Mormons.

      September 25, 2011 at 5:19 am |
  11. Jay

    CNN HAS a pro gay bias in so many ways, its almost like they hired Anderson Cooper to run non-stop rants on pro-gay stuff disguised under things like bullying. He finds these obscure story and then runs it like it was major news. Its odd at best and uncomfortable to say the least because he prides himself on "keeping them honest" but isn't he just a little to close to the subject for honest journalism???????

    September 25, 2011 at 4:59 am |
    • ROGER

      and don lemon. We all get what we deserve eventually so the best thing we can all do is live clean lives and set examples for our children with love and self sacrifice.

      September 25, 2011 at 5:13 am |
    • skytag

      What does Anderson Cooper have to do with this story?

      September 25, 2011 at 5:21 am |
  12. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    Is he a pitcher or a catcher?

    September 25, 2011 at 4:58 am |
  13. Tom Bing

    I think he is wearing makeup..

    September 25, 2011 at 4:44 am |
  14. James

    I like what the bishop says about gay person's in relationships being welcomed at church regardless. I am gay and Mormon and living in the west, everyone I knew growing up was Mormon-including government, school, business, and friends. Culturally, there is a lot of progress for the church to make on helping their gay members. I know so many gay members and most are great people and would benefit much from the love and acceptance and support of other members of the church. Everyone's path in life is not the same.

    September 25, 2011 at 4:36 am |
  15. Robert Monroe

    I don't find the gay life very appealing nor the straight life either. I was brought up in an open minded to very liberal family. When there is unconditional love, there is acceptance. I will take some things but one thing I'm grateful to my parents for, is that they did not pass down generations of religion/ crapole' to their children. They, especially my father, taught me to have a mind of my own.

    September 25, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • John Richardson

      @celtichunter7 ?????? What would possess you to say something like that about people you don't know?

      September 25, 2011 at 4:37 am |
  16. conrad

    I find funny people who the religion only when is convenient to them
    I personally don't care what people do or fk with

    I just wish all this gay talk stop cuz is so annying

    September 25, 2011 at 4:14 am |
    • Dierte

      When will people learn that their religion is independent of their individual beliefs? You get to be a Mormon *OR* Gay, but not both. The two are mutually exclusive. If you think you can be both then you are lying yourself about what it means to either be Mormon or Gay.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • Robert Monroe

      than stop tuning into it and it will go away.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:28 am |
  17. dave

    Did CNN turned into an LGBT advocacy blog this past few days? I know there's a liberal bias, but what's up with the pro-gay articles coming out in the past few days?

    September 25, 2011 at 4:12 am |
    • jbopp

      Welcome to the new era, Dave.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:18 am |
    • PeaceOut

      The past few DAYS? Exactly how long have you been reading, CNN, dave?

      September 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  18. BurstBubble

    In my opinion, this church teaches fear and not love. In their scriptures( Doc. and Cov.) it also talks "about wolves in sheep's clothing I pretty much believe / see Thomas S. Monson as a wolf teaching fear and not love and therefore is a profit and no I didn't spell that wrong. I wish these people this religion the best. I am really surprised they don't kick out this profit? I guess they are too busy being sheep?

    September 25, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • Reason

      As someone that is actually familiar with the words of Thomas Monson I am utterly confused about how you could think that. Go to mormon.org and read some of the things he's said in context, when people who are anti-mormon aren't picking and choosing for you, and you'll see that his focus is always on serving and loving people. He preaches charity, not fear.

      Don't you realize too, that if you look at some of the things other prophets have said in the Bible, they do talk about things that could make a person fearful, like destruction, damnation, etc.? But that was never their main point either. They testified of much more important things. One of the main things Mormons (LDS) people are taught and believe is to search out the truth for yourself. Why don't you give it a try?

      September 25, 2011 at 4:32 am |
    • Sofie Freesia

      @ Burst: Purely and said, your opinion.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:47 am |
    • Dan

      Wolves in sheep's clothing refers to false prophets and was also a concern in bible times and can be found here and there in all books of scripture across many if not all religions. Hopefully it helps. The best advice I have is in the book of Galatians when Paul taught about the "fruit" of the spirit (of Christ). I believe its chapter 5, I may be wrong. Speaking of prophets, he says "[. . .] By their fruits ye shall know [prophets]". As you well-know I'm sure, the scriptures are very parabolic, especially after Christ. In this example, how can you know an apple tree is an apple tree? By its fruit. It's got apples on it. Simple enough. Look at other prophets. What do they yield? Moses brought forth the 10 commandments, Aaron brought the Aaronic Priesthood, so did Melchizedek, Paul, John, Mark, etc brought their teachings, Look at the teachings of Tom Monson. Does he teach to be a better people? To raise ourselves to a higher standard? To serve others? To live clean? Thats the way I look at it. I can't tell you what teachings (let alone what church) is right, but I can tell you how to find out. In the words of Paul, "By their fruits ye shall know them".

      September 25, 2011 at 5:00 am |
  19. Tom Bing

    I guess we as a race of humans have become so caught up in this lifestyle that we have forgotten that it takes a male and a female to make a baby. Funny thing is, that this type activity was called a mental disorder before it became cool to be a someone with ,,, issues that probably need to be handled by a mental health specialist.. 

    September 25, 2011 at 4:01 am |
    • jbopp

      Thanks, Tom. I needed a good laugh.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      I guess that, if you think making babies is the only thing being human is about, pretty much ANYTHING else would seem like a waste of time to you.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • John Richardson

      Mindless procreation is THE basest form of living.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      another case of I.D-10-T (idiot) syndrome...education is required or you will never understand that what you and society and the church once considered to be a mental illness has since been discovered to be NATURAL

      September 25, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • jamesquall

      a big swing and a miss by Tom!!!

      September 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Walt Richey

      Has it occurred to you that beleiving: that virgins can give birth, in people coming back to life after being killed, and boys digging up golden bibles in New York may be considered by some to be indicative of a mental disorder?

      September 26, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  20. Bud Tarken

    What a joke people trying to convince themselves they need religion like this to feel hope and love. IT's sad seeing someone gay still have to beg and crave for thier "church" to accept them. It's a no brainer folks, the church and religion of all sorts is pretty much a bunch of garbage. Wake up, be a good person...believe in yourself and what's right things will be just fine. Gay people catering to whatever religion to be accepted is just nonsense and should show you why your not religous in the sense of all these rules/guidelines/sins our so call religous leaders brain wash you with.

    September 25, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • Jimmy

      Yeah...believe in yourself...not God...not others...It's me me me! If they must beg, beg God for forgiveness for their sins. Yes...The bible has laws,rules and commanments....Just like we have our laws...then again...do away with all of those and lets go by the trust system and hope everybody behaves accordingly...Like this is going to happen. These rules/laws are there for a good reason. If we do away with religion, well, slowly more people are loosing faith and COINCIDENTLY our planet is going to pot. Go figure! If your parents didn't teach you about religion...They have failed you. It is not craming it down your throat if they only try to teach you. Brainwashing and teaching is not the same thing..never has...never will be.

      September 25, 2011 at 5:15 am |
    • Walt Richey

      The world is a mess because of religion. NEWSFLASH: Religion has nothing to do with God. Religion is about money and influence.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
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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.