Unto Dust Shalt Thou Return

Nathan R. Kitchen

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Twelve: Do not rush to excommunicate same sex married couples all at once. We don’t want to rush to do this. It will make it look like a witch hunt.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy: But eventually they will need to be excommunicated.

Directions for executing the November 5th exclusion policy at the local level.
Regional training meeting for Bishops and Stake Presidencies.
From the notes of President Walt Wood,
attending as a member of the Mesa Mountain View Stake Presidency.
Mesa, Arizona
January 2016

If one were to ask what could make the church safer and welcoming for LGBTQ+ people, the honest answer would be to affirm marriage equality and self-determination of gender identity.

Therefore, before we can address the matter of LGBTQ+ safety in the church, we must first acknowledge a rainbow stained-glass ceiling in the church. You will bump up against this ceiling when you marry someone of your same sex or transition.

Nathan Kitchen
Special to the Salt Lake Tribune
August 23, 2019

The moon was rising in the east as I parked my car on the side of the road in one of the remaining rural neighborhoods that pocket the Town of Gilbert, Arizona. The pastures, horse properties, and acre homesteads showcase old money and legacy Mormon families. This island is the seedbed of all four of my stake presidents since my move to Arizona in 1998, who from this seat presided over the new growth suburbs that surrounded them. For twenty-two years, I was a witness to the administration of Church government from this ultra-conservative pocket in the suburbs, where the echoes of the 1850s Mormon Reformation and the Ezra Taft Benson era still inform power today.

I stepped out of my vehicle and noted my direction. With no streetlights, the moonlight guided me as I made my way along the dusty shoulders of the road towards the home of my stake president. Before he moved here, he was my neighbor in the outlying suburbs of the masses. Ten years ago, I met with him in his home and spent a Sunday afternoon training him in his duties as a newly called second counselor in the bishopric in our ward. But tonight I was called to his new home here for another reason.

Large old growth trees surround his property. It is a walled fortress, with a keypad for entry through an iron gate. As I stood under a tree there on the side of the road, I squarely faced his house and reflected on all the events that brought me to that moment in time.

I felt the Spirit wash over me, telling me it was time.

I bent down and cast off the dust from my feet, brushing my shoes with my hands and wiping the soles of my feet as I spoke the words of an ancient Mormon rite, almost as old as the restoration itself, passed down to me while a missionary in Alabama.

But I was not finished, I still had one more place to go.

When the exclusion policy dropped on November the 5th, 2015 my stake president came to my home and said, “If you ever marry a man, I will excommunicate you.” He then continued, “Please don’t make me do that to you.”

I understood that the exclusion policy would brand me an apostate if I were to marry, triggering a mandatory disciplinary council. But the outcome of such a council was not spelled out in the handbook, only that a disciplinary council must be held.

However, here in my living room the stake president already pronounced the verdict.

It was suddenly clear to me that I was in danger and my children were in danger from a policy that would later be cast as given in love.

My family was collateral damage to the church’s unsuccessful public politicking against marriage equality.  Having lost the war on marriage equality on a national level, I observed they were now prepared to bring their prejudice, harassment, and discrimination home to roost, making sure that the marriage equality protections of the Constitution were wiped away internally by punishing legally married Latter-day Saint same sex couples under the banner of protected religious freedom. The church was prepared to enact wide-scale spiritual violence.

For me, as my Stake President sat in my home, that meant that the church was prepared to unseal my children from me—remove my children from me for eternity if I were to marry according to my orientation. It was pitting the love of my children against the love of a future spouse. It was using my love for my children and the promises of being connected through the sealing power in the heavens as a means to control my behavior as a single gay man here on Earth, in ways they would never do with my straight peers.

I immediately knew that being at church was unsafe for me and for my children. The church was my spiritual home. However, public worship at the church building would put me in the orbit of priesthood leaders who were carefully watching for my marital status to change, so they could pull the trigger. It all seemed so macabre to me, that in my moment of personal worship and renewing my covenants I would be surrounded by men in my spiritual home who were just calmly waiting to spiritually murder me.

This is not the first time I have been collateral damage to church policies and procedures. As a young man, I was part of the second generation of gay men in the modern church, a generation who in the 1980s were silently shuttled into mixed orientation marriages with the promise that it would all work out, and if it didn’t then that means you weren’t strong enough. I was seventeen years old years old when I was unwittingly, as a minor, pulled into this church-wide slow-motion conversion therapy program.  I was promised by my bishop that if I was faithful and obedient, served a mission, and married a woman in the temple that everything would turn out all right.

Instead, like all forms of conversion therapy, this path exacted a heavy physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual toll. The promises I built my life and the life of my family upon collapsed as the church abandoned my generation of mixed orientation marriages. Everything I had built on this foundation of sand came tumbling down as I began to tell the truth about my sexual orientation.  

In this collapse, not only was I meeting parts of myself for the first time, but so was my wife, children, parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, and friends. For five years after I came out, my wife and I grappled with what this all meant for our family. It was a time of loss for both of us and with this loss we experienced denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

As life re-calibrated around us, it was clear through the heartaches that the institution of marriage we had built together for 23 years, would not survive this.

After spending some time working on myself to finish clearing away any post-divorce trauma that may have stood in the way of being emotionally available for someone else, I was ready to date with the intention to marry again. Only this time, I would have the privilege to marry according to my orientation. Even though my first marriage failed due to irreconcilable differences surrounding differing sexual orientations, I still understood both the tangible and intangible benefits of the institution of marriage—the holiness of deep love, fidelity, and care. These physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health benefits of marriage are things that you can try to explain to others, but they are not understood very well until they are experienced.

I approached the dating process like a nerd missionary, complete with a finding, teaching, and baptize pool. I had the advantage of being old enough and experienced enough to know what would and wouldn’t work for me in a relationship. I expanded my dating pool search outside of Arizona, with the thought that love isn’t necessarily bounded by geography.

After three years of serious dating, I began to wonder if there really was anyone out there for me. And then, one November evening on OKCupid, I met Matthew Rivera, from Seattle. We hit it off immediately and as the days turned into weeks, turned into months, I knew I had the real deal with Matthew.

After a wonderful year of dating, meeting each other’s friends and family, and letting my children form their own relationship with Matthew, we knew it was time. We went to the mountains, climbed our favorite peak, exchanged rings, and proposed marriage to each other. We were ready to blend two families into one in love.

Two months later, I got another call from my stake president to see if he could come over for a visit. He said he was bringing the bishop this time as well.

I invited them in, and we had a really good discussion about Affirmation and our lifesaving work around the world. My stake president told me he had a nephew come out as a transgender woman and that he was struggling to understand. By this time, I had been elected as President of Affirmation: LGBTQ Mormons, Families & Friends. We talked about resources in both the church and Affirmation. As we talked, I noticed that my stake president could not stop looking at the ring I was wearing that Matt gave me when he proposed.

He finally said, “I see you have a ring on. Brother Kitchen, has there been a change in your marital status since we last talked?” I told him I was engaged, but not married. The mood changed in the room and he reiterated that marriage to a man would make me an apostate of the faith and he would have no choice but to excommunicate me. I said, “lucky for you, you don’t have to make that decision today.”

I stewed on this for a few weeks, and then one Thursday while at work, the day before April General Conference weekend, I got a call from the Associated Press asking me to comment on the breaking news that the church just rescinded the 2015 exclusion policy. I told them I had no comment at the moment because I had just logged on to the church website and was reading about this for the first time myself.

From what I was reading, this was big. Really big. I told them I would call them right back as soon as I could digest this information.

Stunned, I hung up the phone and joined with Affirmation’s rapid response team to craft an immediate statement from the organization.

But first, I paused and sent a quick text to my stake president, “Great news! The First Presidency just rescinded the exclusion policy. Same sex couples in the church are no longer considered apostates.”

He texted back, thanking me for the information and said he would follow up to learn more about this development.

That was the last time I ever heard from him.

There is so much joy as you prepare to marry the love of your life. In the middle of our wedding prep, I received a text from my newly called stake president.  He was an attorney at a local well-known firm. I knew him well as we had been in leadership together in our ward over 10 years ago. At the time, he was the Elder’s Quorum president and I was the second counselor in the bishopric. In the years since, he rose through the ranks and had been called as the new stake president earlier that year.

I knew him to be highly conservative and very much about obeying church leadership without question. He practiced the letter of the law in church government, which plays very well to the Arizona church here in this corner of the vineyard.

In his text he casually recalled “the good times” we had together when I was in his ward, and then asked if he could come over to catch up. We set a date of September 24th, just two months before my wedding. Knowing him, I knew in my gut that this visit he painted as a social call would be anything but. However, I felt that here at the beginning of this relationship, I needed to take my stake president’s stated intentions at face value if we were going to build any kind of trust with each other.

I talked with Matt about the upcoming visit. I asked him if he would mind not coming over that evening. I wasn’t ready to bring him into a situation with so many unknowns. My stake president needed to earn the privilege to meet and know Matt. As a PhD in history and religion, an Episcopalian, and a former evangelical Assemblies of God member, Matt had a standard idea how pastoral care was appropriately administered to the Body of Christ. As he witnessed Mormon pastoral care through me, my kids, and our Mormon friends he was often shocked at the proclivity for inappropriate boundary crossing by our ecclesiastical leaders.

Instead of feeling at ease about this visit, I felt a spiritual prompting to assemble a support team. This small band of friends all graciously agreed to be available that night for me.

At the appointed hour of the visit, Matt sent an encouraging text. I alerted my two best friends Heidi and Emily as well as Laurie Lee Hall, who was serving with me in Affirmation’s executive committee as senior vice president, that I was about to go into my meeting with the stake president. I put on some Paul Cardall hymn arrangements and asked God in prayer that I would be accompanied by His Spirit in my home during the meeting.

Ten minutes after the appointed hour, there was a knock on my door. There stood my stake president with a man from my stake I did not know very well. I invited them in with a handshake, and as we walked to the living room my stake president said, “Your bishop didn’t want to come with me tonight, so I was able to round someone else up to be my companion.”

I found that curious. My bishop had accompanied my previous stake president to my home and had some affirming words concerning sexual orientation. I knew my bishop to be a good man and was disappointed that he declined to come with my new stake president that night.

I directed both men to the loveseat and I sat in the recliner opposite them. My stake president immediately said, “Move over,” pointing to the adjacent couch, “I’ll sit there,” pointing to where I had just sat myself down. Desiring to be accommodating in these first moments of our encounter, I obliged this aggressive request and moved to the side couch. My stake president was now in the center of the room, which my literary brain immediately identified as foreshadowing.

He then began recounting that moment when I went to his home ten years ago to train him how to be the “best second counselor in a new bishopric.” He said he appreciated that and realized the wealth of information that I had to pass on. “You were such a treasure in our stake. I looked up to you.”

He continued, “I was surprised to hear you separated and divorced. What did your wife think when she learned you were gay?”

I drew a hard line boundary at this question. I told him that as husband and wife we had much to talk about and work through during those days, and that we did then and still do treat that period with tenderness and confidentiality.

He continued to press, “Oh come on, there must have been animosity. How are things today, do you get along? Do you fight with each other? Surely you still have some hard feelings you would like to share.”

I knew this tactic, but was not going to take the bait. I was unsure why he was trying to stir up unhealthy drama between me and my former spouse, especially at this point in time where we had healed enough to have a working relationship.

Moreover, he was not invited into those respected spaces that we existed in as husband and wife, our vulnerable conversations in the park, by the canal, by text, or our partnership in figuring out what this all meant to our marriage and our children. He did not deserve entry into our 23-year-old institution of marriage and I certainly was not going to let him recast it now as a train wreck.

I told him that my former spouse and I had an amicable relationship and we worked well in co-parenting our children.

Seeing he was not making headway, he asked me about Affirmation. I was relieved, because here was a subject that I was excited to talk about.

I talked about how I had been invited to BYU to speak on campus with administrators, faculty and students about how to build better relations with the broader LGBTQ community. I spoke about our suicide prevention efforts within Affirmation that has saved many lives and that the church had given us $25,000 to fund a suicide awareness and prevention program. I shared how I met with the presiding bishopric, and after talking about how we care for LGBTQ members around the world, Bishop Davies leaned forward and said, “You know what you are doing? You are ministering just as President Nelson has talked about. Keep it up.”

Rather than engage, he frankly said, I’m really not here to talk about Affirmation. I’m here to talk about you.”

He asked me when my wedding date was. I told him November 30th. He said, you realize that you will be committing a very serious sin in the eyes of God when you marry. I reminded him that the church no longer considers same sex marriage an act of apostasy.

He said, “Nevertheless it is still a serious sin, and you need to know that I will follow the handbook to excommunicate you once you marry.”

I said, “Why? As president of Affirmation, I have the chance to see many stakes around the world where the stake president will not hunt down and excommunicate the same sex legally married couples in his stake.”

He said, “You want me to ignore the handbook and counsel from the brethren?”

I said, “I am asking you to follow your conscience in your care and love of same sex married couples in your stake like other stake presidents do.”

He then asked why I wasn’t attending church. I told him that it was not safe to do so when it put me in the orbit of my Arizona priesthood leaders who were just waiting to excommunicate me once I legally married.

He said that was nonsense. If I came and brought Matt with me, he would be the first to put his arms around Matt and heartily welcome us to church. I said that this act might welcome us into the physical space, but the underlying culture of exclusion behind those smiles that he was threatening here tonight, was far from welcoming.

He asked me if I still wanted to be a member of the church; I told him absolutely, I had a testimony of the restoration and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had a great belief in the sealing power between me and my children.

He sat back, arms folded and said, “Ah, I see—that’s it. You’re in it just for familial reasons.”

I was amazed at his disrespectful assessment, how he wanted to dismiss the sacred depth and breadth of my beliefs and experiences built over a lifetime in the church in such a manner.

He chuckled and then said he could not see that I held any respect for the gospel or had a testimony because I was choosing to marry a man, contrary to the teachings of modern-day prophets. I told him that was an unfair judgement.

“I hold one of the most basic tenets of Christianity,” I explained, “I have hope. I exercise hope that the children of God will someday be ready to accept LGBTQ people as full and equal persons in the church.”

He said, “Even if the church changes sometime in the future and allows same sex marriage, and I suppose that it may, what you are choosing to do in this moment is against the will of God. That is a basic tenet of a testimony of restoration which you choose to ignore.”

I said, “Mormons are really good at looking at their visible minorities in the church and telling them in their pain of exclusion that one day in the future things will change. This happened as recently as when the Blacks were excluded from the priesthood before 1978.”

“However, The Book of Mormon teaches that ‘men are that they may have joy.’ Not joy at some future point in time, but joy in this life and joy right now. What I do in Affirmation is minister to LGBTQ Mormons who are caught in this zone of exclusion and rejection while the church is waiting for some future event of inclusion. There is real pain and suffering now in the margins and this is where the work of Christ is. This is my space of ministry.”

He then asked me why I even wanted to marry a man, was it just so I could have sex?

I was astounded by his question. I corrected him and said that getting married is not just about sex.

He paused, then smiled and said, “But in fact, yes it is.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was baffled that I had to educate my stake president about the physical health, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health benefits of marriage. I shared that even in a mixed orientation marriage, I learned about the great benefits and safety of marriage. It was not “just about sex,” and to reduce the institution of marriage down to sex was an offensive and misguided mischaracterization.

He then asked me if I thought I could be married to Matt and live the law of chastity by not having sex. I was angry at the inappropriate questioning and that he was so obsessed with sex.

I redirected him by asking a question in return, “In your opinion, can two men who live in total fidelity within the bonds of legal marriage live the law of chastity?”

He said no.

He then said, “I wish you wouldn’t marry. You are better off not married. You can get all the social support and health benefits right here from the members in your ward and stake.”

He then asked, “You know Tom Christofferson, the gay brother of Elder Christofferson?

I answered, “I know Tom very well. I know him personally.”

My stake president then said, “Come be the Tom Christofferson of our stake, leave Affirmation and use your leadership skills to bless our stake instead of using them to lead Affirmation.”

Over the years I have heard about priesthood leaders weaponizing the stories of Deseret Book published gay authors such as Tom, Ben Schilaty, and even Charlie Bird, but here in my own home it was my turn to experience this phenomenon first hand. My own stake president was weaponizing Tom’s story. It was an unsafe feeling, and it felt like a betrayal.

I then said, “I bet you do not counsel the young men and women of our stake not to marry and just live their life instead in service to their ward and stake members.”

He said, “Of course not, because they are not gay.”

He then said, “Look, the President of Affirmation cannot be married and still be a member of the church.  You are a very powerful and influential man. I knew this from the days you were still leading in our stake. Now you lead over ten thousand people in Affirmation. WE cannot have the president of Affirmation be married to a man and also still be a member of the church.

When he said “we” it suddenly dawned on me what was happening. I paused, then asked him point blank, “President, have you received direction from the Brethren to come here to tell me this?” He smiled, looked over at the guest he brought with him and said, “I am visiting you tonight by my choice.”

This didn’t really answer the question. It felt like a skilled deflection

I reiterated, “Affirmation exists to create safe spaces of love and hope for LGBTQ people. We do not take any positions on doctrine. We focus on the “one” who needs burdens lifted, we mourn with those who mourn, and we comfort those in need of comfort.”

“Go back and re-read all my writings and press interviews, I only share my experiences, and speak about how words or actions affect me personally or the members of Affirmation. This is a healthy way to react when someone is hurting you.”

We had both gotten a bit heated by this point, and the stake president’s silent companion over on the loveseat looked very uncomfortable.

My stake president then raised his voice and reiterated that he could not allow me to be a member once I married and that he would follow the handbook to remove my membership once my wedding day occurred.

I then said, “If you are truly here under your own volition, you should really talk to your area authority and Salt Lake for a little background on Affirmation before you go excommunicating the president of Affirmation.”

He turned his full body my direction and said, “Brother Kitchen, you must follow the law of the Lord, not the law of the land in this matter.”

He then looked me squarely in the eye and said, “As your stake president, I invite you not to marry.”

At that moment, time suddenly stopped and the Spirit immediately descended upon me like fire. It was literally as if the center of my chest was on fire.

I can count on one hand the times the Spirit has spoken to me in clear, audible words.

One of those times was when I was sixteen years old. I was in my bed before sleep, reading from Third Nephi in the Book of Mormon of Christ’s appearance to the Nephites after his resurrection

As I read this account, the Spirit rested upon me and as clear as day told me that Christ loved me and knew me personally as he did the little children in Third Nephi. It was so overwhelming to hear the voice of the Spirit that summer night as I sat in my bed awash in tears. I knew at that moment that God and Christ lived.

And now tonight, upon the stake president’s invitation, the Spirit suddenly entered the room and immediately spoke to me once again, as clearly and audibly as one man speaks to another, “This invitation is dangerous and he is wrong to ask this of you. This invitation is not the will of God in your life. Do not heed his words. This is not the path God wants you to take.”

I was momentarily struck silent. Those unexpected words were so strong and so powerful.

In disbelief at the disconnect between the voice of the Spirit and my stake president’s invitation, I sought clarification from my stake president.

“President, just let me clarify: you are inviting me not to marry?”

He smiled, stammered and said “Well, yes.”

A second time the Spirit powerfully enveloped me with what again felt like fire. He spoke, saying, “This is not true. This is not an invitation from God.”

He then showed me a vision of a seventeen-year-old Nathan sitting in the bishop’s office in tears, coming out to his bishop in 1986 only to be invited to be obedient, go on a mission, and marry a woman in the temple and everything would “be all right,” followed up with glimpses of the consequences throughout my life of the effects of my decision to follow my bishop’s invitation in 1986.

The Spirit then said clear as day, “Do not accept this invitation. It is not from me. Do not live the rest of your life alone and bound to the opinion of this man. I have spent a lifetime preparing you. Now go forward with no fear. Your marriage is blessed in me. You and your children are protected in me”

I cannot ignore this experience with the Spirit. This is cherished and protective personal revelation, an experience I cannot deny. I had received an irrefutable and powerful confirmation from the Spirit that God approved of my path and smiled upon my upcoming marriage to the most wonderful man I have ever known. Any fears I had of spiritual violence upon me or my children were swallowed up in Christ.

In that moment, I had received all the answers I needed.

This was my gift from the Holy Ghost that I prayed for earlier that evening. I knew the stake president had felt the Spirit as well. I could see it in his demeanor. As a missionary, you learn how to recognize when the Spirit has entered the room. A friend of mine who works with my Stake President called me later and asked me what in the world went on in my meeting because the stake president was saying it was one of the most spiritual experiences he has had. And it should be, but it will be many years until he understands exactly why.

I stood and invited the men out of my home. It had been an intense meeting culminating in a visit by the Spirit. The poor companion to the stake president looked as if he had been hit by a truck.

As I escorted them to the door, the stake president said, “I’d sure like to get to know you better. I’d like to take you to lunch and be friends outside of a stake president relationship.” I was silent. These felt like half-hearted words. I knew these words were empty, and time proved that out. There were no lunch dates or social calls to get to know me better.

He stopped at the door on his way out and pointed at my prominent wall hanging of Doctrine and Covenants 109: “Establish a HOUSE of prayer, fasting, faith, learning, glory, order, a house of God.” He then turned and pointed to my display of wall hangings: “Serve with Valor” and “Return with Honor.”

He shook his head and commented, “You are doing good things here.”

Again I was silent as I shepherded them out the door and into the night outside.

After they left, the emotions of the moment hit me and tears flowed freely. I went to my desk and immediately wrote down this experience so I could remember the exchange and the words of the Spirit to me. This was revelation to me that I was compelled to record. As I wrote this experience down, my support system came back on line. Matt drove over and offered his love and support in a pastoral system that seems so foreign to the Christianity he knows. Heidi and Emily sent their words of wisdom and comfort.

Finally, the voice that summarized this experience in greatest empathy was that of Laurie’s. As a transgender woman both forced from her employment as chief architect of temples for the church and excommunicated for living authentically, she understood with clarity what was happening here.

She tenderly wrote:

“I fully understand when the church that you love and served; unnecessarily paints something so positive in your life as wrong, so wrong that they feel they must erase you. But God is not in this spiritually violent act. I understand how it feels when they tie your prominence in Affirmation (earned from hard selfless work on behalf of others) to the reason they must disenfranchise you. This is not the gospel of Christ, their fruits betray them. Furthermore I understand the very real grieving that you do experience as you mourn these actions and I mourn at your side. However I assure you that no administrative action on the part of these men can ever separate you from the love of God, or the blessings, relationships, and hoped for promises that you cherish through your faithfulness to God and the covenants you made with Him. No institution has that authority. I and many hundreds who understand these things proudly stand with you and Matt and rejoice in the life commitment you will make. And I believe our heavenly parents smile upon your goodness, fidelity, and love to each other. As always, I am here to talk. love, Laurie.”

These were my angels on this side of the veil.

Matthew and I were married under a lemon tree in our backyard on November the 30th, 2019.

After emerging from the shadows of the closet dripping in shame ten years ago, here I was this bright Fall afternoon standing tall and proud before God, surrounded by family and friends, making a public commitment to the man I dearly loved and chose to marry.

Later that evening as the celebration began winding down, I found a quiet moment to reflect with great tenderness upon my seventeen-year-old self, a young man desperately trying to make sense of his place in the world, making the best life decisions he could with the information available to him at the time.

Today I honored him.

A few months later, the texts from my stake president began again. Now that I was married, he wanted to get me alone in his office. I always would ask him what his intentions were, because I knew what his intentions were now that I was married, but I wanted him to be honest about what his agenda was. No one should ever walk into a power imbalance without transparency and honesty. His unwillingness to be forthcoming and his attempts to isolate me in his office were met with my invitation to come over to my home and meet Matt, or grab a bite to eat in public. I remembered he expressed interest in these kinds of things when he visited my home before I was married.

After a few months of these types of exchanges, this text arrived from my stake president:

>Nathan, I want to invite you to participate in a membership council. Is there a date in the coming month that you are available?

Finally his intentions were clear. My stake president was ready to excommunicate me as promised, or using the new term that had been just release a few months previous, “withdraw my membership.” What he didn’t realize is even though he attempted to insert himself into the center of my story, he actually was an extremely insignificant part in the grand story of my life.

Ever since my freshman year when I studied the Book of Mormon in seminary, I have been drawn to the teachings of Lehi to his son, Jacob. God created all things, both the heavens and the earth, “And all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon… Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.”

Most of my life was lived as a life being acted upon because I was a gay man in the church—from the scared seventeen-year-old boy sitting in tears confessing his homosexuality to the bishop to my current stake president’s struggle to excommunicate me for marrying the love of my life.

Lehi teaches that our first parents proactively acted in the Garden of Eden. Presented with good and evil, they exercised the very human right to choose, and in this act of informed consent, they fell. But in this action it was not a loss, but wisdom. Our first parents fell that men might be, and men are, that they might have joy.

I cannot deny what the Spirit spoke to me about my marriage that night. I cannot deny that the Spirit blessed my upcoming marriage with Matt, there in the face of my stake president’s invitation to not to marry. It was the burning of Pentecostal fire, it was the sudden sound from heaven as of rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where we were sitting.

I cannot deny that the Spirit spoke words to me so audibly, so clearly that I rushed to my desk once my stake president left to write them down: “This invitation is dangerous and he is wrong to ask this of you. This invitation is not the will of God in your life. Do not heed his words. This is not the path God wants you to take.”

This is my knowledge—and the spirit of revelation and my lived experiences are the fruits of my tree of knowledge in my own Eden.  And like my first parents, I have partaken of the fruit and know it is time to leave. And like my first parents, this leaving is not a loss, but wisdom. This is not the end, but Eden is not where I will find joy in my life with Matthew. Eden is not my salvation, but in the end it is through Christ, and Christ alone, who will accomplish my exaltation.

Driven from the garden by prejudice, harassment, and discrimination, it was now my time to act and not be acted upon.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is bigger in time and more inclusive in vision than any one person, administration, or policy.

In time, people, administrations, and policies return to the dust, but Christ has risen from the dust, eternal in his love and care. And I know that through Christ, and Christ alone, I will rise from the dust alive in Him.

This is who I follow and who I will put my trust in. I can and I will follow Him in dignity and grace, arm in arm with my beloved Matthew whom God has given me and me to him.

I often wonder if our first parents left Eden with poise and certitude that they had made the right decision. I believe they had.

They knew that their act was an act that would lead to joy.

I believe they knew exactly what they were doing.

As do I.

The moon had now cleared the horizon as I left behind my stake president’s house. I had one final destination to go.

I drove to the stake center, and parked the car next to the stake offices. Most of my time serving as a stake leader happened on this side of the building. However, just opposite the stake offices were the bishop’s offices where I spent seven years serving in in two bishoprics.

I walked directly to the front of the building, and faced the chapel. As I stood on a large rock decorating the landscape, I again spoke the words that I had just recited at the house of my stake president.

“Having been directed by the Spirit, I stand at your threshold having previously given my testimony of the holiness of my marriage and the equality of LGBTQ people in the body of Christ and have been rejected by you. You have received me not and instead seek to violently cast me from the fellowship of the Saints. Therefore, in the name of Christ I leave you, and in this leaving, I leave you a cursing instead of a blessing. I shake off the dust from my feet as a testimony against you, your policies, legalism, prejudice, exclusions, stubbornness, and hard heartedness. 

I weep for the Church that she must continually watch her children reject and persecute their LGBTQ siblings, as did Sariah with her own children. I weep that the Brethren cast their siblings who wear the coat of many colors, into a pit and sell them for silver as did the children of Israel with Joseph.  

I shake the dust from my feet concerning you and your house and will trouble you no more. And when my spirit and body shall again reunite and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, I will meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah and stand witness to the harm and death you and your Brethren have brought to the tender LGBTQ souls and their families who Christ entrusted to your care in mortality. It is there you shall witness in astonishment as my family takes our place with the Saints at the right hand of God. You will there marvel at the Love of God you so grossly misunderstood and so soundly rejected to your peril here in mortality.  Amen.”

I bent down, and shook the dust from my shoes with my hands, and I wiped their soles clean on the grass as one wipes their feet on a mat before entering the house.

I felt such an enveloping sense of relief and happiness. There were no tears, no regrets. It was a peace and stillness in my soul.

I then drove to a park by the wayside, took my bowl of warm water that I had prepared earlier at the house, the white towel, and oil, and walked to a secluded bench. There I completed the dusting of the feet rite and removed my shoes and washed my feet with water and then anointed them with oil.

I returned home, and there was Matt, in bed reading a book. He looked up and smiled. He knew I had gone out that evening on a personal errand. Earlier that evening he was intrigued as he watched me fill a bowl with water, and gather a towel and oil. But how can one explain this Mormon of all Mormon things to someone who has never been Mormon?  But somehow he innately understood. He gave me the space and the grace without question, because he knew whatever I needed to do was important to me.

And it was. And so it was.

I leaned over, gave him a kiss, and told him thank you. He smiled and in his smile all was right in the world. The future was so bright. We had a lifetime of mountains to climb and vistas to share just waiting for us.

I told him I had one more thing to do before bed.

I walked to my computer, opened the completed QuitMormon electronic packet containing my scanned notarized resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and pressed


6/12/2021 Post script:

Today my story was picked up by the Salt Lake Tribune in Peggy Fletcher Stack’s thoughtful article about excommunication.

Excommunication is a complicated and multi-layered process for sexual minorities in the church who choose to marry in a way that the church considers a “same sex” marriage.

There is one critical correction to my story as it was originally printed that the Trib will correct later today.

The Trib reported that I was excommunicated. However, I terminated my membership before my membership council was held. This is a highly critical distinction for the sexual minorities in the church and a way we can take back our power in such a gross power imbalance.

The excommunication process for legally married same sex couples in the church is just a formality, because the verdict is pre-decided in every case. So instead of participating in a prejudicial system, many choose to terminate their membership instead of going through the raw, spiritually violent act of excommunication where nothing you say will change the outcome.

Your marriage certificate is also your excommunication certificate.

After the policy was enacted, I enjoyed full fellowship in the church but only because I was single. Both my stake presidents during that time would continue to visit my home and threaten to excommunicate me if I ever married a man.

This constant threat of excommunication is an intimidation factor widely used today as a measure to control the behavior of sexual minorities in the church. The threat of no longer belonging to your spiritual home if you marry is a fear factor causing much stress for Latter-day Saint sexual minorities.

After my marriage, I was summoned to a membership council (both by text and certified letter) but like many legally married couples in the church who today face this, I chose to not be intimidated and immediately terminated my membership taking back my power in a system built to efficiently and automatically remove same sex married couples from the church.


12 thoughts on “Unto Dust Shalt Thou Return

  1. I actually have somewhere to go, so i wasn’t going to read the whole account. But your story grabbed and pulled me in. As a straight LDS man, I am forced to admit that I used to buy into the whole church belief about gay people, sanctity of marriage, and other BS. But I retired from the Air Force after 21 years, and began a further 22 years with the federal government. Both experiences taught me all I needed to know about accepting people of different races, religions, colors, creeds, and all that stuff they say. The church teachings began to form a large, puss-filled carbuncle in my head, and one day I told my wife that I was done with the church. That was almost 15 years ago, and I am free at last. Also, this is our 50th year of marriage, so… Carry on. I wish you the best of luck with your life with Matt.

  2. I stumbled upon your writing this evening and felt blessed and comforted in what you wrote. I was raised in Mesa, AZ, one block east of the Temple. I knew I was gay as a youth. but kept it hidden especially in my interviews with the bishop and stake president. I served an honorable mission in Mexico and witnessed many spiritual happenings. My gay feelings were put aside because I wanted to do all I could in serving an honorable mission. After graduating from Mesa, Community College, I attended BYU, earning BS degrees in psychology, Spanish, and health education. I also earned a commision in the US Air Force. After 28 years of marriage, my wife learned of my desire for men and kicked me out on a cold January night in 2000. She said I was no longer worthy of her or my family and that the Lord would punish me. Because of the paperwork for my excommunication was lost in the mail since I moved to a different city, I am a member in name only. (My children have asked me not to remove my name from the church records.) My father once said that the church is true, it is the members that aren’t especially how they treat others. My children love and accept me because I taught them to always show love and acceptance to everyone and not be judgemental. In the Air Force, I learned that one “a crap” could wipe out a thousand honors. The church is the same. One sin can wipe out all the good that a man has done.
    Matt, I have attended Affirmation Conferences and have wanted to meet you. Your story here has helped me to love and honor you for what you are doing. May the Lord continue to bless you and yours in your life.
    David Wayne Baker

  3. Pingback: LDS ‘excommunication’ is a term from the past, but the pain, shame and anger are still very much present – Alex V Dare

  4. Pingback: LDS ‘excommunication’ is a term from the past, but the pain, shame and anger are still very much present – Rexburg.us

  5. Pingback: LDS ‘excommunication’ is a term from the past, but the pain, shame and anger are still very much present - Techbyn

  6. Pingback: LDS ‘excommunication’ is a term from the past, but the pain, shame and anger are still very much present – Alex V Dare

  7. Your story reflects your bravery. When I read of your encounter with the stake ptin your home…..how he used fear and intimidation against you….I was reminded of the Steven Weinberg quote:

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    I wish you and your husband all the best in your future.

  8. Your story confirms one very critical observation I have made during the twenty or so years that I was an active member of the LDS Church: some Mormon leaders, whether at the local level, or at the General Authority level, seem to have no reservations about violating the boundaries of members they have chosen to interrogate or investigate. This is especially likely when they suspect a member in their jurisdiction is, to use a relatively new term, ‘same-sex attracted’ (SSA). Having experienced their uninvited and unwanted attention myself, I could relate to your story at a level which brought back memories I would prefer to expunge.

    In my case, I have been living with my partner in Indiana for over forty years. We first met in Las Cruces New Mexico in the late 1970’s while I was working at a military installation on the east side of the Organ Mountains. I knew then that he was the one with whom I would choose to spend the rest of my life. I took promotional transfers to Huntsville, Alabama, and from there to Indianapolis where I was joined by my partner-to-be in 1980.

    Unfortunately, I encountered active Mormons at my workplace and in the neighborhood where we first lived in Indianapolis. And Mormons can be very nosy, especially when they suspect their neighbors and/or coworkers are actively gay. So, one nosy Mormon neighbor asked point-blank if we were a gay couple. I was out of the closet at work, and many of my coworkers had already met my partner; only the few Mormons among them wanted more details.

    Beginning around the late 1990’s, full-time Mormon missionaries were ringing the doorbell at the home we had purchased in 1986 and asking for me. My partner had already had enough of the Mormons thanks to aforementioned nosy neighbor, so he always turned them away. But this was getting to be tiresome, so I followed instructions i had found at Mormonnomore.com, a website that had been created by the late Kathy Worthington of Salt Lake City, and which is still being maintained by her circle of friends. I requested in writing that my name be removed from Church records. I also retired from my civil service job at the end of that year. Since taking those actions, we have had no more unwanted contacts from Mormon busybodies. And, in 2014, we travelled back to New Mexico where we were legally married. (We chose not to get married in Indiana because the notorious homophobe, Mike Pence, was Governor at the time.)

    Of course, TBMs will insist their only interest is to assist me in returning to the fold. I guess the fact I was an RM who successfully completed a 30-month full-time mission in East Asia, and a former student at BYU during two of the last years of President Wilkinson’s reign of terror, makes me more of an embarrassment than might otherwise be the case. (Check out Anti-Homosexual Policies at BYU at connellodonovan.com)

    One additional point I must make here: Growing up in the Church in Denver, Colorado, my Bishops and other Church leaders were an inspiration to me. I still have fond memories of that more innocent time in my life.

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