This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I frequently encounter an attitude that if a person is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and Mormon, the only healthy option for them is to leave their faith. The sooner the better. If we choose to stay active in the LDS Church, we are seen as fraternizing or collaborating with the enemy. We may be pitied or occasionally ridiculed.
Of course many LGBT people are believing, active Mormons, and not necessarily just because we were born and raised in the faith. In my years of involvement in Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends, I have encountered enough LGBT people who have converted to Mormonism after coming out to confirm that the faith can have validity and power for us, too.
The Spirit is at work in the lives of ordinary LGBT people, and occasionally leads us to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. About one in four LGBT Mormons still identify as believers and choose to be active in the LDS Church, according to a recent Affirmation survey even after the church's emotionally devastating 2015 decision to bar children living with same-sex couples from baby-naming ceremonies and baptisms and declare members in gay marriages to be apostates subject to excommunication.
Ask us about our relationship with Mormonism, and many of us will answer, "It's complicated!" It is complicated, even for many who have left the church but still carry LDS beliefs and values with them. Many of the active LGBT Mormons I know are among the faith's strongest believers, LGBT or not. They tend to be bridge-builders who cherish positive relationships with their devout Mormon co-believers, even when they don't see eye-to-eye with them. They have a faith that teaches them to hope all things and endure many things. They focus on love as the truest manifestation of religion.
Those of us who both embraced ourselves as LGBT and embraced our faith as LDS historically have gotten little to no encouragement from the church or the LGBT community. We have had to rely solely on ourselves. But that is slowly starting to change. In 2012, the LDS Church launched, and later relaunched, the "Mormon and Gay" website. And while the site is not inclusive enough by a long shot, it at least encourages listening and opens up a space where Mormons can claim their identity as LGBT.
Now the Human Rights Campaign, one of the preeminent LGBT rights organizations in the U.S., is launching a new resource that opens up a space where LGBT people can claim their identity as Mormon. The guide contains stories of active LDS LGBT people and LGBT-affirming families, outlines some of the theological challenges related to being LGBT and Mormon and offers tips to help navigate some of the social challenges related to coming out and dealing with feelings of internal conflict. It directs readers to online and real-world community resources such as Affirmation, Mormons Building Bridges, the Mama Dragons, North Star, the LGBTQ Therapists Guild and the Family Acceptance Project.
LGBT Mormons themselves will, ultimately, play the most important role in finding answers to the most difficult questions in the space where Mormon belief and LGBT experience coexist. There may not initially be any one answer that works for everybody, but all can be strengthened and enriched by fostering a space where individuals are free to seek, love, learn and grow into the full measure of their creation. As the LDS Church and as LGBT community organizations are increasingly finding consensus around fostering this middle space, we will all be blessed.
John Gustav-Wrathall is president of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friend