I am a gay member of the church and have been disfellowshipped from the church for eight years. Through all these years I have remained active in the church. Even though I have thoroughly repented and been in full compliance with the hyper-religiosity and everything my bishops and stake presidents have asked me to do, and was living my life fully in alignment with church standards, my multiple attempts to be reinstated have been denied over and and over. It has always been very puzzling to me, since my whole experience as a member my whole life, and serving as a bishop for four years, taught me that church discipline is not intended to be like this. Church discipline should always be done in love, maintain the dignity of the individual, and for the repentant it should be brief. Even if someone has been excommunicated, after a year they can be re-baptized if they have been repentant.
There are several reasons why I think my case has gone on for years and years. First, I should clarify that my disfellowshipment was not due to any illegal or heinous behavior. However, I have been told that while the sin was relatively minor, because I was a bishop, the penalties are much higher. Though I was only disfellowshipped instead of excommunicated, the Office of the First Presidency intervened with my stake president’s decision and mandated that my discipline last a minimum of five years. Normally, disfellowshipment lasts no longer than a year, and it is almost unheard of for the church employees of the Office of the First Presidency (who hold no priesthood keys) to interfere with the decisions of stake presidents who hold the priesthood keys for church discipline within their stakes. The fear of having First Presidency scrutiny of my case has deterred my three stake presidents over the years from reinstating me, even after the five-year minimum was met. Combined with some other factors, it has been a continuously unsuccessful effort to try to be reinstated.
For all these years, I have been so puzzled and confused why I would keep getting denied reinstatement. I started to wonder if the Lord was rejecting me and keeping me out of his kingdom because I am gay and therefore unworthy. I almost started to buy into that flawed perspective that being gay means I am broken and worthless. However, as I did a lot of soul searching and countless hours on my knees in prayer, the spirit confirmed for me over and over how much the Lord loves me and wants me in his kingdom. I am not broken or diseased, but of unlimited worth to my Heavenly Father. And not only does he want me in his kingdom, he is already including me in his kingdom, whether or not the church reinstates me.
So if the Lord wants me in his kingdom, why doesn’t the church want to reinstate me and put me to work with multiple callings like I have always had my whole teen and adult life? It has taken me a long time to figure it out, but now I finally understand. All along the Lord has been trying to tell me that I need to stop trying to fit into the Mormon cultural mold. God created me as a gay man, and he has a special mission for me to perform as such. The longer I try to pretend to be heterosexual and fit the Mormon mold, I am only delaying my mission as a gay son of God.
Though I really do miss taking the sacrament to renew my covenants, serving in various callings, and participating in the uplifting and inspiring rituals of the temple, the Lord has a greater work for me to perform. No longer am I to strive to be reinstated in the church or to attempt to fit my life into the confines of Mormon cultural norms. My calling and mission is to be a pioneer, and forge a new trail — to create a new pattern by which LGBT members can thrive in the church, living the gospel and living life in full integrity with how God created us.
Obviously, there is still much I need to figure out as I continue on this mission. But I am grateful to the Lord, because I have sensed his hand in this, helping prepare me and transition me out of the unhealthy life I was living trying to conform to Mormon heteronormative patterns. It has already been an amazing journey getting me here to this point, and there is still a long way to go. And I am loving this adventure!