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. Average American

    Frankly, I am sick of signing on to MSNBC and finding articles about gays. I don't care if someone is gay just stop flaunting it,
    rubbing it in everyone's face. Just shut up and live your life the way you like.

    What is your problem MSNBC? Why are you promoting the gay lifestyle. Is the author gay and beleives he/she has a forum for promoting your gayness. Focus on something else. If you want a meaningful number of people to read your articles, focus on the 95% who are not gay.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Um...

      Dude... While I agree with you, this is GNN, not MSNBC. Or are you trying to make a bigger point about GNN?

      September 25, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  2. msadr

    Those darned religious people! Constantly fighting against selfish perverted behavior. Always telling us we're wrong and warning us of consequences. If we could just get those haters out of the way. Then we could all do whatever we think is right. Wouldn't the world be so much better then? LOL! Proverbs 12:15 – :The way of a fool is right in his own eyes. But a wise person is one who listens to counsel."

    September 25, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • RightBackAtcha

      Those darned atheist people! Never fighting against selfish perverted behavior. Always telling Bible Believer we're wrong and warning us of consequences. If we could just get those haters out of the way. Then we could all do whatever we think is right. Wouldn't the world be so much better then? LOL!


      September 25, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  3. ironman1995

    hey Sky tag, sorry that will not work, i have been a member since 1975, served a church mission,ect ect, so dont write something you cant back up, read Elder Delbert Stapleys letter in jan 1964 to Gov Geore Romney, that will wake you up, its not the ONLY TRUE CHURCH as members say over and over again, iam free from its hold on my heart and brain and wallet, ps free for 2 weeks , its great

    September 25, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  4. Amy

    To the people saying Mormon is a cult, are you looking at LDS? or FLDS? Im a active member is canada of the LDS. And I am so happy to see him, being loved for who he is. The FLDS is an organization of people that took the LDS and made their changes. The only thing we do the LDS that you main find wierd, is we dont drink anything that could do harm to our bodies. We are the same as you.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Bob Smith

      No, you're in a cult too.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • JF

      BULL CRAP!!!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Mormons Wear Blinders

      It baffles me how otherwise normal and intelligent people can believe stories made up by Joseph Smith about large groups of people who supposedly lived in the Americas for which there is absolutely no credible trace of evidence, stories they would immediately reject if it wasn't from their church. Giving up Mormonism doesn't necessarily mean giving up God, it just means giving up Joseph Smith's alcohol-inspired craziness.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  5. dzerres

    I knew plenty of these gay Mormons when I lived in Salt Lake in the '80's. Wow, do they have issues of denial, self-respect and self-loathing. Being a gay Mormon is like being a Jewish concentration camp guard at Auschwitz. I'm sure there were some but you have to ask yourself: why?

    September 25, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  6. Ken

    I did learn something about the Mormon Church which I didn't know, that they don't pay Church leadership, Bishops, clergy, etc. I have also heard that Mormons are required to give 10% of their pre-tax income to the Church in order to remain in good standing within the Mormon Church.

    Is that true? If so, what do they do with all of that money?

    September 25, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Brad Willis

      They fund anti-equality ballot measures like Proposition 8.

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

      For whoever practice any religion will know that the Mormon aren't the only one that ask for 10%. it is in the bible. That money belongs to god it's to built temples and help others. The church is very organized and offer's great help in times of disaster for people . You will be in good standard with the lord because not one knows if you are really paying your 10%. And it's right not one gets pay for their service in the church, you received a priceless gift on helping your fellow man.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  7. daphne

    Life is so beautiful. Maybe you want to check out

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    September 25, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  8. D.B.

    Welcome to Men on Scripture. Where we look at scripture from a male point of view.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  9. SciGuy

    Tom, why would one deny oneself that which God heartily approves–s3xual love between husband and wife?

    September 25, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  10. Quinn

    It's sad that he feels the need to return to a place that hates him. I completely understand why because it was part of his growing up. But it's sad the Mormon church is so filled with hate and lies.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  11. john

    Come on my fellow Gays , after all these years some are still looking for validation from organized religion , The key to happiness is self acceptance and just knowing that you are all right as you are without any judgments from any religion . The gays are making progress in society , I am patient but happy to see the work in progress . Wake up my fellow GAYS !!!! IT'S OK TO BE GAY !!!!!

    September 25, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • SciGuy

      What causes you to think God loves everyone the same?

      September 25, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • C'mon

      yah this so called god has to send someone to hell lol he obviously didn't like lucifer lol

      September 25, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • John Richardson

      Hey, SciGuy! I was just talking to god and you are right! He really, really HATES pseudo-intellectual posers, especially those who try to suck up to him in the process. Turns out that those are the ONLY people destined for hell!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      SciGuy is a hypocrite.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  12. Eric

    Even those who favor a theocracy must cringe at the thought that a religion other than their own would be in charge. Since niether the Ten Commandments (the only thing in the Bible actually written by God) nor Jesus mentioned this subject, it cannot be Their top concern.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  13. cut

    Acceptance is the key to a harmonious universe. Until we can accept each others differences, the world we live in is doomed.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  14. Johnson

    I recently watched
    "8 The Mormon Proposition" and was shocked at the degree to which the Mormon Church can affect Government Policy. It is indeed terrifying to think one of them could be President. There is no way Romney could ignore the request from the Prophet (the head of their Church) or his soul may not become a Spirit and God. They donated $23Million to support Prop 8, most of the money coming from Utah.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Bob Rock

      Money well spent. Better than sending it to rebuild Haiti. At least we kept the money in the U.S.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • abc

      "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has filed the final report of its contributions (all of which were non-monetary) to the ProtectMarriage coalition. The report, submitted in advance of the Jan. 31 deadline, details in-kind donations totaling $189,903.58.

      "The value of the Church's in-kind contribution is less than one half of one percent of the total funds (approximately $40 million) raised for the "Yes on 8" campaign. The Church did not make any cash contribution."

      September 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  15. Bob Rock

    I bet Mitt Romney will dump his wife any day now and declare himself "out of the closet"!

    September 25, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Jose Wan Sekiavich

      Sorry, Romney is not gay. He couldn't pass for being gay if he tried!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Bob Rock

      Jose, you know him at a personal level? Stop covering up!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  16. Ken

    Churches should embrace all people as Jesus embraced all people who sought him without reservation. So too, should all Christian churches who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, follow his example of acceptance. All who seek a closer relationship with God and Jesus Christ should be welcome into any of our faith communities with open arms and without our judgement. God is the only one with the power to judge, not us.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • ROGER

      that kind of embrace is called a cornhole

      September 25, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Glenn

      Jesus accepted those who were willing to repent, turn away from evil. He never just 'accepted' everyone. There were and are conditions for being accepted into his Church.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  17. Bob Rock

    Being gay and religious is akin to being a Nazi Jew. There were a few of those, like Hitler. It makes sense!

    September 25, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • ROGER

      i was going to say christian atheist but same point

      September 25, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Bob Rock

      Actually, there are many atheists in church leadershio roles. Old "Rats" Zinger is one of them. Easy money, atheists are not stupid!

      September 25, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  18. Porchia


    September 25, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Bob Rock

      Don't you find another gay article shocking?

      September 25, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  19. Cindi

    Anyone who identifies as gay and claims to be a Mormon is such a self-hater. Far scarier than the mythical “Gay Agenda” is the myth being successfully perpetuated by the Mormon Church that they are normal, Christian people. Do you know any Mormons? It is a CULT! They use mind manipulation over their own flock, tell members that horrible things will happen if they do not obey the church and only dropped Polygamy after the Federal Government put the screws to them. Come on America, it’s not the Gay Americans that we should be so afraid of it’s the lunatic religious fanatics that are the real monsters.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Bob Rock

      All religions are cults, by definition.

      September 25, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Jeff

      Most Mormons lead a more moral life thsn most Americans. Better family structure. Most don't smoke, don't drink, spend time with their kids. I know a few Mormons and they are decent people. Bet you hate Donny and Marie Osmond.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The Mormons I've met are hypocrites who treat others as if they were inferior. They were selfish, self-centered, nasty people out for their own good and not much else.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Atheists don't believe in anything

      Too bad for you, bob rock, that you don't know what a cult is. Open your mind and do some research.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  20. Greg

    Paul had his 'thorn of the flesh". None of us select our own personal temptations - but we are free to choose how we deal with them. Some are just more visible than others. Remember, if it was easy to overcome, it would not be a real temptation.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So you deny yourself s3x with your spouse?

      September 25, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • SciGuy

      Tom, why would one deny oneself that which God heartily approves–s3xual love between husband and wife?

      September 25, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Are you saying you're not tempted by s3x with your wife? Why should that be acceptable? And if it is, then why should a gay person be denied s3x with the person he/she desires? Why did your god give him/her such desires, then? Why shouldn't he/she be allowed to have a legal spouse with whom to have s3x?

      How do you know your god approves "heartily"? Because the Bible says so? Gee, I wonder why that is. Maybe because the Bible was written by a bunch of straight men.

      September 25, 2011 at 10:17 am |
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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.