The Fourth Path for Gay Mormons

crossroadIn his nicely-written blog post “I Have Not Chosen to Be Celibate“, Ben Schilaty outlines  the three possible paths that many think are the only options available to gay Mormons:

  1. Find an opposite-sex partner and stay in the Church.
  2. Leave the Church and find a same-sex partner.
  3. Stay in the Church and be celibate.

However, there is a fourth path for gay members, depending on how you define “staying in the Church”. If you can consider “staying in the Church” to include participating in Church meetings and striving to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, even under Church discipline, then you can consider a fourth option of being in a same-sex relationship or marriage. There is a growing number of gay members who want to be married to someone of the same sex AND stay connected to the Church and live the gospel of Jesus Christ to the fullest extent possible (just like anyone else in the Church).

It is no longer true that all members who enter a same-sex relationship automatically leave the Church and become antagonistic toward the Church. There is a growing number of members in same-sex relationships who continue to love the Church and strive to live the gospel, and who are struggling to maintain a precarious balance along the precipice between Church membership and living an authentic life as a gay son or daughter of God.

I know several in the DC area who are active members of their wards and who are in a same-sex marriage or relationship. While they do not hold temple recommends, they participate in Church meetings and serve in their wards to the extent that their bishop and stake president will allow them to. They have family home evening, study the scriptures, and pray, and do the best they can to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, just like any other active member of the Church.

Ben mentioned in his post that he was involved in organizing a support group for gay members in his stake, which is really great. I really applaud anyone who does this, and the stake presidents who are supportive. My stake in Virginia has sponsored such a group for years now, and has my stake president’s hearty endorsement. However, the one problem with this support group, and others like it, is that it doesn’t include those who want to be in a same-sex relationship AND stay in the Church. The numbers of such groups are seeming to dwindle, because the options of celibacy or opposite-sex marriage are insufficient for a majority of gay Mormons.

It seems to me that there is a great need to have a place to support members who are in same-sex relationships (or who want to be) and who want to stay in the Church. They probably need support more than anyone else, and are the most vulnerable to feeling ostracized and pushed out of the Church. Instead of saying “good riddance” to these brothers and sisters, we should be trying to strengthen them and support them in their desire to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives to the fullest extent possible.

This subject has caused me to ponder how we can better reach out to gay members who are (or will be) in same-sex relationships/marriages and who want to stay in the Church. Many bishops and stake presidents are doing their best to do just that, trying to stop the hemorrhage of gay members leaving the Church. If such support could be provided in a wider way, then I believe a significant difference could be made in the lives of many.

We must also remember that we are a Church of continuing revelation. This doctrine is embedded in the gospel as the Ninth Article of Faith. By very definition, continuing revelation means we have to consider that the current policy and practice of forbidding same-sex marriage in the Church could be done away with, in the due time of the Lord — just as the once-considered unchangeable doctrine of forbidding priesthood and temple blessings to members of African descent was done away with in 1978. Within the next 5-10 years, perhaps when Elder Holland becomes president of the Church, we could very well see such a change take place.

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9 thoughts on “The Fourth Path for Gay Mormons

  1. Great post — I definitely have wondered why it was just assumed that people in same-sex relationships would automatically leave the church.

    That being said, I also wonder about this post, because it seems to dance around one of the main issues I see. Here, you say:

    There is a growing number of members in same-sex relationships who continue to love the Church and strive to live the gospel, and who are struggling to maintain a precarious balance along the precipice between Church membership and living an authentic life as a gay son or daughter of God.

    The elephant in the room is priesthood roulette — where one’s Church membership really depends more on whether one’s priesthood leaders believe same-sex relationships are excommunicable offenses (as the institutional church appears to want them to be.)

    Certainly, there are still the examples of many LGBT Mormons who continue to live the gospel and attend church while not being members, but then the language of this essay has to change to accommodate them. What is the precipice of Church membership if you’re not a member? What is the meaning of staying in the church or leaving in the church vs one’s membership status?

  2. Yes, priesthood leader roulette is a real issue affecting gay members. Even if gay members are living a chaste and celibate life, the bishop or stake president could still consider them as apostates, or as a threat to the primary children or youth in the ward — such ignorance! My former stake president in DC/Maryland is a stake president that gay members should avoid because of his McCarthyistic witch hunts to purge gay members from him stake.

    When a same-sex married couple announced they were moving to DC, I immediately warned them to avoid that stake until a new president is called. However, they found the perfect home right within the boundaries of the stake I warned them to avoid. The last I heard, the stake president has been harassing them and threatening to take disciplinary action. This is what I mean when I say that gay members on the fourth path are “often struggling to maintain a precarious balance along the precipice between Church membership and living an authentic life as a gay” member. Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter whether the stake president excommunicates them. They can ignore the action, and proceed to attend their ward and be examples of Christ-like love, with or without official membership.

    On the other hand, you can get wonderful stake presidents and bishops like I have had in Virginia, who provide sanctuary and refuge for gay members fleeing other stakes. These leaders not only show compassion, but are even willing to risk their own status by extending callings to members in same-sex relationships, assigning them to speak in Church, and doing what it takes to include them in the Church family. When I moved from Virginia back into DC (and my former stake with the stake president I mentioned earlier), my Virginia stake president immediately invited me to keep my records in his stake. I have been so grateful for the sanctuary he has provided me and the loving Church family he has allowed me to continue to be a part of. It’s great, until these leaders get released and are replaced by less compassionate priesthood leaders. This game of roulette is going to continue to be an unfortunate reality for gay members until the Church officially ends its prohibition of same-sex marriage.

    There are definitely a number of excommunicated members I know who stay active in the Church, even though they are no longer members. I have heard wonderful stories of bishops and stake presidents who are loving and welcoming to these individuals and truly desire them to be part of the Church family. The Affirmation Executive Director, John Gustave-Wrathall, is in a same-sex marriage, excommunicated, and also loved and welcomed in his ward and stake. There are many other examples that I know of where this is occurring, and the number seems to be growing. It is precisely because of priesthood leader roulette that gay members on the fourth path need greater support. I hope we can do more to create a strong community of those of us who choose this path.

  3. You’re still regulated to the back of the Chapel, still don’t take Sacrament, still don’t have a Priesthood or the right to Temple Recommendation – so we keep the faith, nothing more but nothing better!

  4. Simply a contradiction in terms. Living authentically in a same sex relationship and wanting to still affiliate with the church. I left church yrs before i had any hint that down the track I would meet and fall in love with another woman. Church policy is quite simply wrong and predjudiced on the matter. Anyone gay and still associating with the church , is quite simply sending a message that it’s ok.

  5. The issue is one of shaming—that starts as soon as you are aware of being different and you quickly hide who you are so as not to be shunned. Acceptance is critical for children and their sense of self-worth. That’s where the self hatred starts and it festers through the years. It causes you to feel you are not lovable or worthy of love. Shaming is actually a form of emotional bullying and it’s wounds fester long after physical wounds have healed and scarred. There is a 5th option—remove the power any “arm of flesh” has I’ve you and believe you are not only worthy of love but have a right to be loved. You can still fully live the Gospel of Christ outside of the Church and be authentic. Ultimately you must trust your own relationship with God and gain a hope in Christ by loving and serving our neighbors and the least of these. I will trust in Christ’s mercy and grace and he only grants it—not a prophet, apostle, stake president or bishop controls that—only he stands at the gate. The Church may “catch up” but this is your time in mortality—you are not only worthy of love but also being who you are, unashamed before God and man. Stop the shaming of your life and your love—walking away from the bullying leaders does not keep you God’s love and plan for all His children.

  6. Shelley, I disagree. I think gay Mormons in same-sex relationships and marriages who stay active in the church are actually sending quite the opposite message.

    LovinglyAnon, thanks for the post… As someone who’s been in “the fourth path” for almost 13 years now, I can say that this is the option that’s been most sustainable and most life-giving to me.

    I’ve observed a definite evolution over the years in my ward and with my leaders at all level. Initially I encountered some skepticism. I knew it might take time for both church leaders and ward members to realize that I was there for exactly the same reasons as everybody else… To grow in my relationship with God and to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ. Today my ward has become my sanctuary… Literally the one place in the world where I feel completely, 100% safe being both openly gay and openly, faithfully Mormon.

    I’m in a different place in my spiritual journey than I was when I resigned from the church in 1986. At that time in my life, I needed to grow as an individual and come to believe in myself. My time away from the church was an indispensable part of my journey to wholeness. When I came back to the church in 2005, my personal relationship with God and my belief in myself were strong enough that I was not easily shaken by negative attitudes I might encounter among church leaders or members, or by things like the church’s involvement in Prop 8 or the Nov. 2015 Handbook Policy. That self-belief and that relationship with God are critical to our evolution as spiritual beings, and you don’t necessarily need to leave the church in order to develop it. But whether you find it in the church or out of the church, I believe it is critical for LGBTQ Mormons to find it.

    I did come to a point in my journey where in order to feel whole, I needed to reintegrate my long neglected testimony back into my life and see where it would lead me, what I could learn from it. I was able to look at everything through new eyes. Reading the Standard Works again from beginning to end (by now several times) enabled me see everything from a new perspective. And I have experienced a depth of connection to the Spirit and to God I never believed possible in life… Unlike anything I’d ever experienced in all my years away from the Church, or anything I’d ever experienced when I was a member of the Church in good standing.

    When I was a young, naive, TBM who served a mission, that was a period of incredible spiritual growth. When I crashed and burned and almost committed suicide after my junior year at BYU and resigned from the Church, that was a necessary step forward on my spiritual path. When I found a husband and found a rich, happy, fulfilling life away from the Church, that was a step forward on my spiritual path, a step that brought me to a place of greater self-knowledge and wholeness. When I responded to the deep hunger for “something more” and came back to the Church, having assurances from God that he would be with me in that journey and that he would make a place for me, that was a big step forward too.

    I look at this as an incredibly complex journey where we are all in motion. I am in motion. Other LGBTQ folks are in motion. The Church is in motion. We’re all progressing. We’re all part of a plan created by God and ratified by us whose whole purpose is progression, learning and happiness. I am so incredibly grateful to be a part of this process of redemption and progression.

  7. LGBTQIA+ people who have the misfortune of being members of the LDS Church have a single task: survive that toxicity just long enough to escape. Don’t spend one extra second in the deadly embrace of the church. You deserve far better than a lifetime of shame as a third-rate Mormon.

    Frankly, they don’t deserve you. Get out and live authentically.

  8. Todd, thank you for your comment. What you said is beautiful in a way. However, keep in mind that many of us have benefitted greatly from being in the Church before we came out, and we want to enjoy those same benefits again as authentically gay people. But that will require change, a major change in the Church. Not only do we need the Q15 to change Church policies and teachings, but we need the rank and file members to cast out bigotry and misunderstanding.

    The only way this is going to happen is for those of us who feel called to this work to stand up and be counted in the wards and stakes where we reside. We need to set the example of what great people we are, and prove that all the negative stereotypes are not true for us. We need to show the Church that gay members can form stable, loving, and committed relationships and families, according to the core values we share as Mormons.

    Change in the Church is already in motion. The more of us who can be a part of this movement will accelerate the change. I predict in just 5-10 years same-sex marriage will be accepted in Church. Maybe even Official Declaration 3 will be canonized revealing that there was always a place for us in the doctrine of the Church and in Heavenly Fathers Plan for ALL of his children.

  9. I think that the trouble that is largely being ignored here is that the church won’t ever receive revelation on the acceptability of same-sex marriage or romantic relationships. Why? Because there’s no place for it in the Plan of Happiness/Salvation/Redemption, doctrinally or even logically. Heavenly Father is perfect, and He married our Heavenly Mother. We don’t know hardly anything about Her, but we do know that Heavenly Father must’ve followed a natural process in marrying her, like we follow – getting to know Her, dating Her, courting Her, and finally, marrying Her. Unless one wishes to argue that something exists outside of the path of Perfection that our Father followed, I hardly think there’s a way to solidly establish based on the 9th Article of Faith AND all of God’s word that such a thing is possible. It would make God a liar, and all His word, too. I’m not speaking as a zealot here, I’m merely speaking plainly. Being a gay Mormon, sometimes I wish the above words could be true, but for one wishing to remain valiant in discipleship to Christ, it’s impossible for such words to ever be true, now or ever. Hugs to everyone here… ❤ ❤ ❤

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