Jun 13, 2012
Amy interviews Mitch Mayne about his experience as a gay man in Mormonism and his decision to be a visible leader in his local congregation.
Mitch’s Facebook Page
Mitch’s Anonymous Article: You Know Who I Am
CNN Piece about Mitch’s Calling
Podcast: Play in new window
By Heather C.
This was a terrific podcast. Major Kudos to Amy for an excellent interview with even some difficult questions. I would have hoped to add:
1) “Do you feel any resentment towards the church for forcing you to choose between your two biggest loves: The Church and your partner? If not, how do you reconcile that?”
2) (possibly related) “Do you agree with The Church’s doctrinal stance about homosexuality (that it is an abomination)? If not, do you think Jesus has anything against same-sex couples? If yes, do you think believing Mormon homosexuals should live celibate lives?”
3) “What advice do you have for those who believe in the church but do not want to live celibate lives for fear of being alone, lonely, etc?”
Not sure if I would have dired to ask them but those questions were burning in my mind while I listened. Thanks for a great one!
Hi Richard– wow, tough questions. Let me see if I can do your intellect justice!
1- Holding resentment for me is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die. There just isn’t room for it in my heart if I’m really being my best and most authentic self. Where I do get frustrated is watching other MoHos be excommunicated for being their authentic selves–primarily because this is NOT doctrine, it is NOT policy, it is an active deliberate choice made by local leaders–and one that, in opinion, really doesn’t reflect the best parts of Mormonism: christlike love and compassion (even if we think the individual has sinned).
2- I’m not so sure that our doctrine says “abomination.” Where I do disagree is with the standpoint of change/aversion/repression therapy for LGBT individuals. Science tells us that those approaches don’t work–and in fact, are harmful and actually lead to increased depression and suicide risk. As a faith, we see the hand of God in scientific improvements–I’m confused as to how we can ignore science on this subject and instead pretend we live in a world of “what we’d like to think is real” instead of “what is.” As science continues to demonstrate truths about homosexuality, it is my prayer that our faith will also adopt them. As far as living a celibate life is concerned–for some, that may be an okay choice. For many, it doesn’t work. I think each of us has the right (and responsibility) to work out our life path personally with our Savior, and not let it be defined by anyone else, independent of title.
3- I think I covered that one above!
Thanks for taking the time to answer. I loved your final comment on point 2:
As far as living a celibate life is concerned–for some, that may be an okay choice. For many, it doesn’t work. I think each of us has the right (and responsibility) to work out our life path personally with our Savior, and not let it be defined by anyone else, independent of title.
I wish more church leaders would think this way, and be as vocal about it as you are. Maybe that day will come. I sincerely hope so.
I enjoyed the podcast but sadly your experience in Mormonism is not the norm for the lbgt community. A person close to me would not even listen to the podcast because of the teachings of the church regarding homosexuality. Its caused such deep seeded homophobia. Mitch, do you really feel you can change the church from within? What happens when you do find another partner? How will you make that choice? You’re an amazing person and I wish you all the best.
Aw, Natalee, thanks for the kind words. I understand about your friend–such a shame, really, since one of the things this life is all about is learning. To shut down that part of our spiritual growth must really disappoint our Savior.
Do I think I can change things? I think we’ve already made a huge stride forward with the example we’re setting in the Bay Ward and here in the bay area as a whole. I’m starting to see other wards follow suit–one from the midwest, and a couple on the east coast. Let me be clear, this is cultural change, not doctrinal change (thankfully I’m not responsible for doctrine). I think many wards and individuals stand ready to stop the practice of excommunicating LGBT members, regardless of where they are in their personal lives. If that were the only change accomplished, I’d welcome it with open arms.
As for my future romantic life, see my comments above.
And thank you again. We need more like you.
i just texted Mitch re. questions for him that are coming in and he plans to catch up with everyone this weekend!
The LDS Church believes that homosexuality is an abomination and a lifestyle that is chosen by individuals. On the other hand, you said that you realized you were gay when you were 4 or 5 years old. It appears that you did not “choose” to be gay, contrary to the church’s opinion that homosexuality is a choice.
How do you reconcile this disparity?
I think he already covered that pretty well, but maybe he’ll clarify even more in a comment. From what he said in the interview, it seems to me that he doesn’t consider that particular “doctrine” to be of god. But I suppose I had a similar question to yours, so hopefully he won’t mind expounding a bit.
See if my answer above helps. Note that not ALL leaders of the church agree that it is a chosen life. One very vocal one seems to think that, for sure. But others have answered with, “We don’t know.” While imperfect, a much better step in the right direction.
Excellent podcast. The best so far in this excellent series. Thanks to Mitch and Amy.
To me, the most interesting thing about Mitch’s testimony was its contribution to the neverending and always emotionally fraught question: Are Mormons Christian? In my opinion, it would be hard to think that people like Mitch are not. The same is true for many other Mormons.
There is also a second question: Is Mormonism Christian? The theological answer is no. The core of Christian doctrine was defined seventeen centuries ago in the Nicene Creed, which has been continuously affirmed ever since by virtually all Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox. Mormonism — at least in its traditional Utah LDS form — does not affirm the Nicene Creed. It therefore seems naive for anyone, Mormon or non-Mormon, to be shocked that people are reluctant to just forget about it.
But the last word goes, as it should, to the Savior Himself. In John 10:14, Jesus says, “I know my sheep, and mine know me.” I think that’s a warning against trying to label any individual as Christian or non-Christian. It’s none of our business. And it shouldn’t matter anyway. God’s command is to love everyone — EVERYONE — as we love ourselves.
WTH? That comment (except the first paragraph) sure came out of left field! Why bring up the Nicene Creed? Why discuss if Mormons are Christians? Who the heck cares? And what does this have to do with Mitch’s Voices interview? Very strange.
But since you brought it up, are you inferring that the people who believed in and followed Jesus before the Nicene Creed were not Christians? Is the Nicene Creed supposed to be an addendum to the Bible that somehow – by some gross injustice, maybe by Satan’s evil plot – just never was adding to it? Seems to me it should be stapled inside every single Bible ever sold – maybe added as a preface or final “book” after Revelations. It appears that, according to you, it is mandatory reading – at least on the level of the Bible itself.
Mitch’s description of his relationship with Christ was very moving to me. He talked about several other things as well, and different people will naturally be more interested in some parts of the interview than in other parts. I find Mormonism’s relationships with other faiths to be an interesting issue, so I took special notice the parts of the interview that touched on this.
In response to your question about pre-Nicene Christians, I do not mean to imply that they were somehow not followers of Christ. But as any movement grows and matures, it naturally seeks to define itself more clearly. This is why the Nicene Creed, and other creeds, remain of interest to many people today.
I understand that the Mormon tradition has often taken a negative view of the creeds of traditional Christianity. Of course, anyone has the right to his or her own opinion. I intended no offense.
None taken on this side.
Thank you, not only for this interview, but for what are you doing. You are very articulate. You have answered well. I have some clarification question. To be fair I need to tell you a bit about myself before I ask them. I am raising my four kids with their gay mother whom I was married to for 17 years and now divorced for over three. I love that I am a Mormon. I do not attend, because of this issue. I don’t want my kids attending a church that does not teach them to honor their mother. Although I have never asked them not to attend, but I am very grateful they have chosen not to. But there will always be part of me that yearns for the church to reconcile this issue. That said these are the questions.
In your mind what does the churches resolution of this issue look like?
How do you reconcile giving such a large portion of your income to an organization that is choosing on a large scale not to improve acceptance of it’s lgbt members,in fact given documents like “the Divine Institution of Marriage” and talks given by Elder Oaks about how passing gay marriage would mean that the government will force the church to preform gay marriage in our temples, in these cases using their great power to spread faults hoods to encourage members to give of their time and means to take rights away from lgbt families? In addition your discussion of the Boy Scouts. The church was quite open that if the Boy Scouts lost their case and had to allow gay men be leaders, they would pull there support, which is the vast majority. Some part of your tithing goes to support most of the boy scouts, and likely a big reason the boy scouts took this case to the supreme court was that they would have lost their biggest supporter, and would have stopped being the organization they are today as a result.
What will you do if and when you fall in love with another man and you are still in the Bishop brick?
These questions may sound biting, but please understand I am not asking them to trap you. I respect your opinion and really want to know what you think.
Hi Gail- thanks for the questions. There are many like you, who remain culturally Mormon yet don’t attend–and that makes me sad. Really, though, it’s sadness for the loss of YOU to the faith, not so much the loss of the faith to you–if that makes sense. Divergent viewpoints and voices are needed–there is more diversity in our Father’s kingdom than we even have the remotest ability to comprehend in our mortal state. What a wonderful day it will be when that is reflected inside our religion as well.
Tithing: Deeply personal subject for all of us. Two major philosophies. First, I do believe that we have a responsibility to ‘give back’ when it comes to our financial resources. Some members now choose to donate their tithing directly online to the church humanitarian fund, which helps guarantee that money go for aid to real people–like victims of Hurricane Katrina. Others choose to do that and combine donations to other organizations, such as The Family Acceptance Project, to a sum total of 10% of their income. Then during tithing settlement, show those donations and look at it as a full tithe.
A second school of thought is those who believe that giving back is the right thing, and once we’ve given our 10%, our hands and hearts are clean. If the organization chooses to use those funds for less than righteous purposes, that is something that they, then, will be accountable for and will have to explain to our Savior.
I think both are good and fair approaches–tithing is so personal, I think we owe it to ourselves and our Savior to figure out what works best for us.
Relationships: I’ve often said on this one that I don’t have the crystal ball. I don’t know if that will ever happen for me again. I have agreed to be completely transparent about it, if it does, and that’s the best I can do. I won’t commit to a life of celibacy nor would I advise anyone to do that. We, as humans, can’t really use the terms “always” or “never” with any degree of certainty–only one among us could make that kind of deep promise. What we can promise, and what I have promised, is to always live my life in accordance with what *I* understand my Savior’s will for me to be.
Besides, what happens to me personally is kind of not important to me. I can’t live my life in the “what ifs” of tomorrow and the “should haves” of yesterday. For right here, today, this is an opportunity for me–and that is where my time and attention are focused. (Wow, living in the present–the Buddhist in me is coming out…lol!)
Thanks so much for asking those questions, my sister! Keep the faith!
Mitch,Thank you for answering so thoughtfully and comprehensively. I also thank you for being willing to open up on such personal topics. I have asked very personal questions in a very unequal forum. Your identity in this setting is completely transparent were mine is not scrutinized at all. No one cares if I reveal anything about who I am or even lie about who I am. So I understand it is a bit unfair for me to ask any of these questions. It is with that understanding that I post this follow up.
Concerning your relationship status. How does it make you feel that as far as the church is concerned your worthiness for this calling and many others is contingent upon your relationship status? If one of the best things in the world ever happens in your life the church would see you as unworthy to have this calling. Also how do you feel that the only way you would be worthy or perhaps qualify for many other callings in the church ie bishop, stake presidency, I think high council would be to enter a mixed orientation marriage which even the church does not recommend because of how unhealthy and violating it is?
Thank you again Mitch for your willingness to engage here.
Hi friends- thanks so much for your questions. I will respond this weekend. We’re in the throes of launching Mormon versions of a LGBT youth suicide prevention program that is occupying much of my time. Love your questions, but this needs me right now-we lose too many to suicide. More to come, and much love to all of you!
Whew…A part of me wants to shout “Hurray for Mitch!” and a part of me wants to shout “WTH is he talking about?”
This week’s interview with Mitch really hit home how disconnected the church is. I just listened to 5 hours of Benji Schwimmer’s story yesterday from Mormon Stories. Both Benji and Mitch are talking about the exact same church and yet it sounds like they are talking about 2 different organizations.
Mormons who believe in the church, believe their prophet is inspired by God. Doctrines should come from top down and not from the bottom up. If God inspired this church and we believe He inspires His Prophets, then I believe He should have told His Prophet at the beginning to love everyone, to include everyone, to help everyone reach their highest potential and not wait for community outrage to get the ball rolling on an issue. Changes to a true religion shouldn’t come because of laws and community advocates (polygamy…blacks in the priesthood etc.). It should come from God.
It sounds like Mitch is “lucky” to live in a community that will accept and include him. However, most Mormon Branches, Wards, Stakes, Leadership etc. in the rest of the world does not follow the same procedures as Mitch’s Ward. People have been reprimanded, disfellowshipped, kicked out of college, excommunicated etc. for “having gay tendencies and desires” and/or “acting on them”. In Benji Schwimmer’s beautiful story I learned, according to his podcast interview, that as of 2011 there’s a new policy that doesn’t allow gay members to serve in church callings related to children such as primary teachers, scout leaders, youth leaders etc. They can’t even serve on “splits” with the missionaries to teach the gospel! I think I understand that this even applies to members who admit they’ve had tendencies. Even if that person were to marry into a heterosexual relationship and have children, they will never be able to serve in those capacities for the rest of their life. So sad and breaks my heart! (I want to research this more)
Mitch has had a loving partner for years which means he probably has, according to the church policies, “transgressed” since he’s “not married” and yet he serves in the bishopric? I don’t even think a heterosexual, non-married man who lives intimately with a woman would be allowed to serve in the bishopric. (forgive me if my assumptions are wrong)
It’s good to see some sort of progress. I hope that the Mormon church will accept, include and learn to love the LGBT community and members. Thank you Mitch. You are a pioneer in this movement. However, these disconnected and variable policies, depending on where you live and who your leaders are, just deepens my belief that the Mormon religion is not true. It’s a fantastic and beautiful organization for many reasons. I loved growing up in the church, though I have not gone back for 10 years. I will not emotionally, financially and physically support an oranization that doesn’t truly love and respect all individuals the way I believe God does …if there is a God …still considering.
Thank you Amy and Mormon Expression Voices for all your hard work.
Mitch, there was one questions that i failed to ask but maybe you can answer it here: recently LDS Living had a mixed orientation couple on the cover (gay husband, straight wife) and there have been several bloggers that are for lack of a better term “selling” traditional marriage as a solution to the things that they want in life and in a family. I personally know people that were taught “just get married and this temptation will cease to exist and you will be happy”. We know this isnt the case with 99% of these contrived marriages. Years later church officials vocally came out against rec. marriage as a solution to “SSA”.
It seems the Church is beginning to adopt this belief again though, based on their magazine article and the gay members that are choosing to marry heterosexually. Of course they will say its their choice but the msg is loud and clear-gay people CAN choose traditional marriage and CAN be as happy as they want to be.
What are your thoughts on this message emerging again?
I’ll agree to take him (and Ty Mansfield) at face value. And with that, wish them the best of luck. If they’re truly able to be successful in their heterosexual relationships, then they’re not really “gay,” are they? Science calls that “bisexuality,” and my experience has been while people fall all over the place on the Kinsey continuum, it’s relatively few who land in the middle–most of us are pretty firmly tipped to one side or another.
What I fear: There are a great many MoHos out there who, due to explicit and implicit messages and encouragement to ‘change,’ that will read this along with Ty Mansfield’s story and think there’s a way to change who they really are, based on a faulty belief that they should actually try because they’re broken/damaged. And, given there is no evidence that demonstrates change is possible (or that homosexuality is a choice), they will fail.
(Sidebar: Science has proven that attempts to change orientation are actually damaging to individuals, especially those highly motivated by faith-based reasons).
Then, when they fail, their feelings of inadequacy deepen, and the messages often from those they love change from “Come on, you can do it!” to “You just didn’t try/pray/fast hard enough.” Self esteem sinks even lower, well meaning friends and often church leaders) seem disappointed, and depression ensues–and this is where we end up seeing MoHos take their own lives.
So good for Josh Weed and Ty Mansfield, if they are indeed among the small percentage who fall in the middle of the continuum. However, for the remaining 90-something percent of LGBT individuals this sends a confusing and dangerous message.
Excellent response. Exactly what I was thinking. (That is it works for them he is clearly bi, not gay.)
Mitch and Amy, thank you so much for taking the time to do this episode. I really enjoyed it.
I can’t see how a gay man who has relationships with men, can possibly be “worthy” to have any calling in a ward, unless the relationship is utterly non-physical.
The ward Mitch attends appears to be in apostasy. This isn’t Mormonism.
I agree but I think Mitch made it clear that he is not currently having sexual relations with men. That is a thing of the past. For now at least.
I’m sorry. I missed that point. Mitch did say that the Bishopric were not interested in pursuing whether or not gay (or straight) individuals were obeying the law of chastity, but would leave this up to the conscience of the individual. I’m not sure how that would work if one partner confessed and the other didn’t. I’m not sure it would work in a worthiness interview either.
I got the feeling throughout this interview that what is being practiced in some Bay Area wards isn’t Mormonism. It’s a splinter group that is being used as a test case by SLC. That just affirms to me that Mormonism is not divinely inspired. Mitch’s claim that the church has been lead by the actions of grassroots campaigners contradicts the official doctrine of the church; that it is being led by Christ through inspired leadership. A true believer in the LDS church would not claim Christ needs to be leaned-on before he reveals truth. I don’t believe Christ was behind the priesthood ban. It was wrong. It don’t believe Christ was behind its removal.
So much of LDS doctrine has been wrong. Would a church led by Christ wait for social norms to change before standing up for what is right? No.
As a gay man I simply can’t understand how anyone who accepts they were born (created) gay can come to terms with current and past LDS policy on homosexuality. The church was clearly wrong, and still is today when they reject gay marriage and ask gay people to remain non-sexual beings for life.
Mitch, is the church led by Christ or not? Are church leaders inspired? If they are, perhaps there really is no place for gay people in Mormonism. If they aren’t, the church is a lie.
Who is to say it is not the church that is in apostasy for condemning gay relationships? There really is no good evidence that God condemns homosexual relationships either in the scriptures or in modern revelation. Remember Christ never condemns homosexuality, nor the ten commandments, nor the Book of Mormon, nor the D & C, nor the Pearl of Great Price. The only places in the scriptures we can find condemnation of homosexuality is the writings of Paul and Leviticus. We as the church reject almost all of what Paul says about sexuality. He claims that you can serve God better if you remain unmarried for instance. Given that you must be married to be a bishop or many other leadership callings, it seems that we do not believe that God was with Paul when he said this. Also, he claimed that the only reason to get married is if you can’t keep your pants on. Given our teaching that the only way to head to the highest degree of glory in the here after is to be married, I would guess he screwed the pootch on this one too. So given his record on the topic of sex I am not inclined to give him much credit on this one. By the way he also said women should not speak in church. I am not sure I buy this one either. Now when it comes to Leviticus the only thing that I can find in that book that the church still teaches as doctrine is a few times where one or another of the ten commandments are quoted, other than that I find things that if anyone would try to preach or heaven forbid do in church today they would likely not just be excommunicated but physically removed and rested. Now you may be saying that we have the Proclamation on the Family, and we do, but I challenge you to tell me anything in that document that says anything against homosexuality or homosexual relationships. Besides I have a very hard time finding any of the brethren referring to it as scripture or doctrine. Now Mr. Poof can you help me understand why even if Mitch was involved in a physical relationship with a man that it would make his ward out of line with what God would want?
The LDS church opposes sex out of marriage. Since the LDS church also opposes same sex marriage, and does not recognize those SS marriages performed civilly, it therefore opposes any sexual contact between men.
LDS church leadership says Mitch’s ward is out of line with God because that ward is not in line with LDS doctrine and LDS leadership. Since the LDS leadership are those who decide doctrine (through inspiration supposedly), and Mormonism functions as a top-down organization, any ward that decides they can let certain behaviors slide because they don’t agree with the position of church leaders is in apostasy.
If the LDS church is lead by inspired men who are advised by Christ himself, THEY say Mitch’s ward is in apostasy because that ward opposes the leadership of the Mormon church. If the church leadership is wrong on this matter, their credibility as Christ inspired men of God is doubtful.
If you consider the huge number of things LDS church leadership has been wrong on now and in the past, it’s incredible that anyone can possibly believe the LDS church is true, let alone a gay may who has been told all his life by these people that he is evil and chose his sexuality. Either the church is true or it isn’t. There can’t be doctrines that are inspired of God but which are wrong.
Gay people KNOW for a fact that these men are not inspired.
As with so many LDS members who can’t agree with LDS doctrine or policy, Mitch is not living as a Mormon, yet he still calls himself a Mormon and claims to believe in Mormonism. If you disagree with Mormon doctrine and policy you admit the church is not led by inspired men.
Perhaps Mormonism is not in line with what God wants. Then perhaps Mitch is correct in his beliefs and actions (turning a blind eye to certain “sins”). You can’t believe in Mormonism as the true church while failing to abide with LDS church policy and doctrine. If it’s true, follow the brethren. If it’s a lie, get out.
Man alive this is a very black and white way to look at the world. Yes there are church members that look at the church like this, but it seems pretty sad way to make life choices. If goodness is only goodness if it rides with perfection, how would someone choose to be friends with someone, or what company to work for, or what romantic partner to be with, or what country to pledge elegance to. Any mistake someone made would mean they were not a true friend. Any time a partner neglected to share some detail would make them untrue. I have chosen to work for a company that provides housing for adults with developmental disabilities. I chose this company because it believe it gives good care for the clients and it is good to its employees. I have worked here for 6 years during this time I have seen the company make choices that in my opinion do not serve clients and are not good for the employees. I still love working here even though it is not perfect. By the same token to say that unless everything the church does is obviously straight from the mouth of God than there for it is faults seems a stupid way to decide whether to continue your involvement. Not that I don’t think there are good reasons to discontinue one’s involvement, but this is a very poor method and to be broadly applied it through out your life would make you friendless, homeless, and completely untrusting of any institution or person that you may have the opportunity to put your trust in.
Your friendship analogy would be different if that friend claimed they were inspired of God and everything they say is correct and should not be questioned. Any “friend” like that should be avoided like the plague.
yes. he was very clear abt this. his last relationship ended well over a yr before his calling and his is currently single and abstinent.
but your anger is noted.
I’m so completely puzzled and confused by this interview. I think there is a huge disconnect. Since when was being called as Executive Secretary considered being called part of a Bishopric? Never. Look it up in the handbook. Bishopric’s are a bishop and two counselors who are High Priests. As a leader we called people to that position to reactive them typically. I do not mean that to insult anyone but isn’t that common knowledge? I think so. I’m just left thinking wow really, as I know the position of homosexuals and the leaders of the church are diabolical opposed. Many are fighting hard to change that and paying high prices. This one leaves me thinking someone is being used by the church and isn’t quite aware of it. Sorry for the direct statement but… I know your likely a good dude Mitch whether your part of the LDS PR machine or not, and I’m thinking are.
I’ve been an executive secretary twice, and both times it was expressed by the Stake President who called me that I was part of the bishopric. The second time they called me, the bishop even knew that I was gay.
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